Chapter 27

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

Ever wonder what happened to Great the Dane? Here’s the story. It wasn’t influenza, as such. The black dog had magical powers. There was a ring of bad mist in the air he breathed – ever stronger in badness when he puffed out big whooping sighs. Invisibly, insidiously, inevitably, his aura consumed weary souls. In time, he would convince them to go on a pilgrimage, to a healer far far away.

Of course the condition was incurable. Even if a healer did exist, he or she sure did not live at the castle. Great the Dane was a single-minded dog, loyal to the giant even after his expulsion (ah, at least that part of his story was true… well, you know what they say, the best lies can almost be mistaken for the truth). By accruing a stack of fresh, hopeless prisoners for the dungeon, he was hoping to redeem himself in the eyes of his master. He was bouncing with excitement, merely at the thought.

Grand plan. Oh, if only it was so easy! You see, his powers were as unpredictable as Mr Game and Clock’s hammer. Each night, Hypnos would put the whole creature, including the badness within, to sleep. There was always the chance that the badness, being the lazy thing it was, would forget to wake up and be stuck in dreamland – sometimes forevermore; sometimes for a time, a time, or half a time.

Anyway, it didn’t matter that the magic within was sleeping soundly at present. Great the Dane invested wisely in his friendship with Quackling. She followed him to the castle willingly. Him, wagging his black tail; her, wagging her own little grey one behind him. They almost reached the sickly, stinking, slimy moat.

It was one of Quackling and Incy Wincy’s old friend, a cockatiel with red cheeks, who saved her in the nick of time. Her brother, a cockatiel with redder cheeks and yellower feathers, was also tricked. The cockatiel flew far and wide to find her sibling. Small and nimble birds they were – the giant was no match as he tried to chase them, grasping desperately, wanting to crush them with his thick clumsy fingers. He could only shake both fists, shouting curses into the sky, as they disappeared from his sight. The chase caused quite a stir. In those moments of chaos, several others managed to escape the castle too.

Now the pair were back for revenge. The birds were angry – their eyebrows thick with rage, eyes zoomed and locked into their target. Swooping in unison, they blinded the dog with a double drop attack. Argh, what is this sticky white yellow substance on my eyes? Then clawing into his black coat, one on the left, one on the right, in no time at all, the siblings sent Great the Dane limping, whimpering pitifully into the distance.

Later around a warm fire, the cockatiels explained everything to Quackling. Together with the other escapees, they celebrated with song and dance, late into the night. Early the next morning, each creature packed a pack of fur or feathers for the long and arduous journey back, back to their own separate lands. Only Quackling and another escapee named Pretty the Peachick were from Far Far Away, so naturally they were to be travel companions. One cockatiel took her aside (truth be told, Quackling could not tell one sibling from the other) – hey, I’m pretty worried about Pretty the Peachick, she had a rough time back there. Do us a favour and bring her back safe and sound, won’t you? Sure, promised Quackling, thanking and farewelling the pair as they parted ways.

That’s all folks. The end.

Chapter 26: Spidery Specials

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

STOP! These are like, the worst stories ever! Said Incy Wincy. Fine. So Quackling dug up some silly spidery stories full of sing-alongs. Two unpublished, forgotten, long-lost stories from long ago, when the spider was still incy wincy. When  Quackling used to tell fairy and quack tales to make her laugh. When Incy used to cry because she hated nap time 🙂

Story one goes like this.

Once upon a time there was an ugly quackling. It was so ugly that it went and hid in a bush. Then it got dirtier, and even more uglier. All the other quacks laughed and sang, trolololololol!

Everyone else in the room can see it,
Everyone else but you…
You don’t know oh-oh!
You don’t know you’re uuu-gly!

Heyyyy, that’s not nice! Said Incy Wincy. Shoooo, get away from quack quack, I love ugly and dirty. See, I love rolling around in the mud. Round and round, round and round… all the way to town. And I’ll put some mud on you Quackling, hehehe! Nooooo, yuck! Aww, said Incy, all disappointed. But messy is my favourite!

Story two goes like this.

Once upon a time there was a wolf. What’s the time Mr Wolf? It’s nap time, the wolf shrilled happily. Yay, nap time, my favourite! Said Quackling. She quickly went to bed. After awhile Quackling found herself in a pot! Mmm, quack quack soup, my favourite! Mr Wolf slurped. But Incy came along and said, wait what just happened, I HATE nap time! The wolf pounced on Incy and almost gobbled her up. Watch out! Cried Quackling. Yet Incy just did nothing. Nothing but sing that is.

Today I don’t feel like doing anything
*whistle whistle*

I just wanna lay in my web…

Then Mr Wolf said, what’s that silly song? You loser, Incy hissed, it’s not the silly song, it’s the lazy song. And Incy started to sing it again. And again. And again. On repeat. Until Mr Wolf was so annoyed and ran away. Argghhhh, this is my worst nightmare!

Quick Incy, get me out of here, cried Quackling. I’m in a massive boiling pot of soup! Too bad how sad. Nah, I’ll help you. Incy climbed nimbly up a branch and hung over the pot by a thread of her web. Hold on quack quack! The web was too slippery. Stop spitting Incy! I’m not spitting and wow your anatomy is terrible. It’s called a spinneret and it’s not even from my mouth. Whatever. Quackling tried and tried to grab on, but it was no use. She was resigned to her fate. Oh I wish I could fly, Quackling lamented. Then Incy sang another song –

I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day,
Spread my wings and fly away…

Wait, that’s it! I can fly! I can fly! Quackling flew out and she was free. Happy endings are nice, aren’t they?

That’s all folks. The end.

Chapter 25

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

The wind blew and the leaves rustled. Change was in the air and Quackling moved on to a new phase in her queer, queer influenza. For all intents and purposes, as far as anyone could tell, she was normal. Hyper-normal, in fact.

She slept early and woke with abnormal burst of energy. She talked animatedly and socialised, made her nest clean and squeaky enough to attract tons of rats (rats are clean, okay?!), fished for food without complaint, then roasted them with delicious herbs and spices, quacked some songs, and was even training her water legs to move faster on dry ground.

She felt the best that she’s felt in years – you know why? Because she felt nothing. That’s right, hurray! No more sadness, no more love. She thought nothing. No unhappy pasts or unhappily ever afters. There was just the present, and her incredible self-satisfaction at being incredibly self-sufficient. Nothing, no one, could affect her anymore. She was careful to be kind and friendly to everyone. But friends sucked and she sure didn’t need any to be highly functional. And as long as she was functional, who cares what was going on in her heart? Then the wind blew and the leaves rustled.

That’s all folks. The end.

Chapter 24

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

Neither the illness nor the friendly dog went away.

Quackling went to the Lost and Found. I lost something important. I need it to help me find it. My motivation, that is.

The bird’s small brain was as scrambled as a scrambled egg. She couldn’t concentrate properly; not even long enough to tell quack tales. Um, so…

That’s all folks. The end.

Chapter 23

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

The next day Quackling sat at the same branch waiting. She waited, and waited. Great the Dane offered mugs of tea and coffee whilst they waited. They did some ten-thousand-pieced jigsaw puzzles together. He held rolls of yarn as they knitted and yarned. He fiddled with strings on his fiddle and she sang along. They read stacks of books, whilst they waited some more. A day passed, a week passed. A month passed, and another. No one came and nothing happened. Finally, he had enough. Come on little quack, he tugged gently at her dangling legs, let’s go! Whoever you’re waiting for sure ain’t coming. Whatever you’re waiting for sure ain’t happening. And you know,

Hope deferred maketh the something sick!

Says who? Still, Quackling didn’t want to make anything sick so she let Great drag her along by the feet. On the way they passed some Black Day festivities. History goes that once upon a time all creatures of the night, sponsored by planet conservationists, gathered in protest of the annual Snow White Night. How colour-ist, inequality! Inequality! They hissed. Black Day was born  – a day to appreciate darkness. A day where all great lights are dimmed, where vampires sing blood-curdling love songs (I have died everyday waiting for you…), where werewolves waltz wickedly with witches, where the the three blind rats offer blind dating specials at their Dans Le Noir complete with a complimentary serve of ratatouille (just be careful you don’t end up kissing a dementor).

Maybe it was from going out too late. Or from wet feathers on her head? Disrupted electromagnetic fields? More than one apple a day? Not enough lemon water? Or kale? Hope deferred? Or maybe Great the Dane had a particularly infectious and exotic strain of avian-canine influenza. The very first symptom were the whooping sighs. Then Quackling’s mind became as hazy as a soggy, foggy, groggy day. Her vision was equally unclear – uh and how about these flashes and floaters? True to his word, the dog hardly ever left her side. Not to worry, he reassured, the inconvenience and lack of life is merely short lived.

But it got worse. The fairies who usually swept her off to dreamland kept nodding off themselves. How lazy! But whether they did their job or not, Quackling was weary every morning. She didn’t want to move, not even to preen her feathers to make them more beautifuller. Even brushing and flossing her serrated toothless bills was too big of a task to even contemplate about. Oh, if only the fairies would just let her be! Living careless and free in dreamland forever… in Hypnos’ land of green greens, sparkles, bloated blue and (definitely masculine) puffy pink fighters. If Hypnos didn’t want to keep her, maybe the hooded brother with an oversized robe could help. Maybe she just needed to ask him really really nicely?

That’s all folks. The end.