Chapter 29

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

On her way back to Far Far Away, Quackling stopped by the place that was always as sunny as summer. The land of cats and ibises. Out of all her friends she missed Grizzly the bear the most.

Now bears were from beyond Far Far Away but in those crazily crowded woods anyone could end up as neighbours. Quackling had friends big and small, but wasn’t too sure about bears to begin with. After all, they kind of had bad press and ate things. Plus, Grizzly was big and tall, taller than all the creatures of the land. Grizzly knew very well what the neighbours thought. Did they say, be careful? How could anyone fall sleep with a bear next door, right? He grinned, flashing his beary bare canines that outmatched those of even Great the Dane.

Back then, Grizzly didn’t speak much FarFarish. He used to say that Bearish was the most beautiful tongue in all the lands. All throaty growls and roars, Quackling thought, unconvinced. Fortunately, he turned the GRRRRRs into lucrative work, guarding millions of dollar’s worth of cauldrons and potions by moonlight each night, for a rich witch with a twitch.

But by day he was friendly and friends with absolutely everyone. A smile for the scruffy ibis up the tree, a clawshake for the grumpy old bear down the road, a light-hearted prank for the sleepy sloth at the corner store. They all knew him by name. Grizzly especially loved stopping to talk to little ones but was gentle and careful so as to not frighten the parents. It’s different here, he sighed, back in bear country mama and papa bears get angry if you don’t stop to play with their baby bears! They’d say, but he’s so cute and oh-so-grizzly!

Grizzly missed home and wasn’t a huge fan of the crazily crowded woods. These trees are crap and flap about in the wind, he complained. Where I used to live we had proper trees, you know, tall and strong ones. It’s ugly too. Where I used to live we had a beautiful garden and very nice roses. Where I used to live…

There’s a bear in there
And a chair as well
There are people with games
And stories to tell…

Reaching for a branch, he’d snap off a bit of wood to shape into yet another DIY pipe. Disgusting! Quackling coughed, as smoke rings merged into little clouds around them. He smoked so much that he huffed and puffed like an old wolf (so they discovered, on a friendly race across her favourite haunt – the graveyard). It’s very bad, I know. I need to quit, he’d always say. But I’m addicted.

Between puffs of smoke, Grizzly sometimes talked about bear country. I saw arrows and spears flying not far from me, he said. Our cave is safe but I feel sorry for others out there. Tribes are fighting everywhere and lots of bears are being killed. Some come to us but we don’t have enough room for everyone. The little ones are so innocent… but no one here cares about bears. He growled, angry and heartbroken at the apathy.

So great was the contrast between the bigness of his heart and the smallness of hers. Feeling guilty, Quackling could never quite bring herself to ask her friend whether bears really mauled more than other creatures. It didn’t feel right either, dipping bread in the same bowl, to ask what this bear thought about the palatability of birds and other edible creatures.

That’s all folks. The end.

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Chapter 28

Long long ago, in a land far far away…

peacock

Unsurprisingly, Pretty the Peachick wasn’t the ideal companion for the road. It started something like this. Hi my name is Pretty the Peachick. My nickname is Princess Pretty, the Peachick. My name means that I’m pretty, which of course I am. What about yours? Oh, Quackling? You mean you’re a quack, quack quack like a duck? Like the ugly duckling? LOL. That’s so ridiculous.

It got worse from there. They came to a river. Quackling started dipping her feet in the water, getting ready to swim across. Alas! Pretty could not swim. Argh, all the ducks I met were so jealous of my prettyful, colourful feathers, she snarled. So much prettyfuller than their boring shades of grey. They were oh-so-jealous that they never taught me to swim!! I could show you if you want, Quackling offered. (Uh, or you could just, you know, fly across… right?) Show off, Pretty put her head high up in the air. Swim! Where did you ever get such an idea. You make it sound like I want to be an ordinary quack like you.

Uhhh, Incy Wincy interrupted. I don’t want to tell you off, but I don’t think you should be telling this kind of stories. What if Pretty reads it, you know?

Oh well to cut a long story short Quackling remembered her promise to the cockatiels who helped them both. They got back to Far Far Away without murdering one another.

That’s all folks. The end.

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.