To read the story from the beginning, start at the bottom of the page and work your way up. Sponsor-contributed material is in red.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
And so endeth Dozerthon 2003.
This has been quite the experience. I didn't think I could do it. But thanks to the encouragement of friends who sent e-mail and comments, I kept plugging on.
Once more, most heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who pledged. I know this seems kinda weird, but you still had enough trust in me and this project to make a monetary commitment.
So thanks for helping me extend a helping hand across the ocean.
And now, to sleep.
Chapter 40: Victory at Last
Once Lurok was eliminated, the wormhole collapsed upon itself. All was quiet.
And then the Chikpeas regained consciousness. “This sucks!” shouted Aventine. “We didn’t even get to win our first bout!”
“Well, you do still get the win on our record,” Chuodo replied.
“Sweet!” exclaimed Janita as she hi-fived Charity. “We’re going to be famous! My blog’s gonna get crazy hits now!”
November and Chuodo looked at each other. In an instant of telepathic contact, she learned what Chuodo had seen in the time visions he experienced while battling Lurok – that the future Chikpeas needed the energy they had drawn from their present selves to complete the desperate mission that they would undertake exactly one year from now.
So maybe this isn’t your day after all, thought Chuodo. I couldn’t have done this without you. And trust me, your time is still to come.
Chuodo smiled. As he got up and brushed the dust and glass and crumbs from his tuxedo, he could not help but smile quietly to himself at the way he’d single-handedly stopped the entire event using only a bobby pin, three inches of silver duct tape, a goose feather, and a badly-scratched LP recording of William Shatner’s song stylings – which was an incredibly lucky find, considering where he found it.
Chapter 39: Worlds Collide
The Chikpeas were astonished to see a vision of themselves from the future. Time had worn thin; they were all in the room together; regardless of present and future, they existed concurrently.
Their future selves looked drastically different. November had green skin, Aventine had a scar running down the left side of her face, Janita had wings and three arms, and Charity was now male.
The future Chikpeas grabbed the present-era Chikpeas and somehow sapped their energy, knocking them all unconscious. Then the future Chikpeas disappeared back through the wormhole.
At the same time, Chuodo began experiencing visions of the past and the future. He knew that if he didn’t end this deadlocked battle with Lurok soon, the entire fabric of reality could be torn asunder. So he tried accessing the power of telekinesis, which was newly available to him due to his symbiote’s awakening. He seized control of a few objects that had flown out of the wormhole: a bobby pin, a piece of duct tape, a goose feather, and an old record.
All these objects radiated destructive temporal energy. When Chuodo propelled them into Lurok, the resulting explosion eliminated the sorcerer werewolf completely from the timestream.
Chapter 38: Vortex
Finally, Lurok activated the sigils and drew in the collective emotional residue of Centralgate High into his very being. In mere seconds, the sorcerer werewolf pulsed with incalculable power.
Chuodo pitted his own mental power, bolstered by the reptilian symbiote that had just evolved into being, against Lurok.
The high school began to shake apart. So much energy was being thrown about that the very space/time continuum was beginning to break apart. A wormhole opened up, crackling with temporal energy. Objects from the past and the future, crackling with energy, flew out of the wormhole. A pirate’s saber collided with a locker and blew it apart. A hurtling jet pack blew a hole in the ceiling.
Chapter 37: Throwdown
As Chuodo approached Centralgate High with the Amazing Chikpeas, he pressed a button on his belt. Instantly, the clothes he had been wearing were replaced by his specially designed, fully tricked out Battle Tuxedo. He examined the tuxedo’s systems check on his digital watch readout – everything was in working order.
“Not that I mind,” said November, “but I thought you weren’t allowed to participate in the duel?”
“That changed when the bad guys started recruiting local talent,” Chuodo replied. “All bets are off now.”
Janita blasted open the doors to Centralgate High. Aventine created a solid light plow and rammed it through the herd of squirrel monsters that filled the hall. She hit with such an impact that she destroyed dozens of the beasts. Then Aventine created a rotating fan to blow the resulting brimstone straight into the face of the Mad Agriculturalist.
With blinding superspeed, Janita disarmed the Mad Agriculturalist before he could regain his bearing. Then she knocked him out with a quick flurry of body blows.
The Melting Man’s minions ran away in fear. Enraged, the Melting Man turned his power on the building itself. The hallway turned into molten slag, which would have incinerated the Chikpeas if Aventine hadn’t created a shield to cover them in time.
November picked up the Melting Man and flew him out of the building. Her telekinetic field protected her from his corrosive touch. She dropped him into the nearby ocean. And in the end, there was no Melting Man.
Chapter 36: Back to School
The Melting Man’s body throbbed with searing white heat. With every step, he melted the floor beneath him. He strode down the hallways of Centralgate High as his cult-like minions painted the sigil of the Purple Squirrel of the Apocalypse throughout the building. For weeks, the Melting Man had used the power of his alien patron to entrance teenagers into running away from home and serving him.
Through these arcane sigils, which the Earthlings mistook for mere graffiti, Lurok the werewolf sorcerer would draw the psychic residue of adolescent pain and alienation that stained this school over three generations. Some of Lurok’s peers preferred drawing power from the misery generated in hospitals or prisons. But Lurok understood that suffering is a subjective experience, and when you’re an adolescent, you think the world revolves around you. So the power of their suffering is magnified by their sense of self importance. And Centralgate High was practically bleeding with that emotion.
Once Lurok draws that energy into himself through the sigils, he will easily be able to crush these so-called Amazing Chikpeas.
The Mad Agriculturalist from planet Otnasnom was especially looking forward to battle. His lover, ‘Dogstar’ Brannigan, had already fallen to the Chikpeas. And even though they didn’t kill her, Brannigan’s career was most surely over after falling to rookies. He was so focused, he didn’t even mind the musty smell of the dozens of squirrel monsters that flanked everyone.
Chapter 35: Rescuing Charity
“We should reconnect with Charity first,” insisted November.
Chuodo transferred their conversation to a telepathic level. Can you detect her telepathically?
November cast her psychic perception over the town, seeking out Charity’s familiar thought patterns. Yes, I have her. She’s in trouble.
“Okay,” Chuodo said. “Lead the way.”
November led Chuodo and the rest of the Chikpeas to Charity. Fortunately, just before she was enveloped in ice, Charity used her telekinesis to keep an airway open. So she hadn’t yet suffocated within the ice. Also, her personal telekinetic field protected her from freezing to death. However, the field isn’t strong enough to break the ice.
Janita melted the ice away with a slow energy burn.
Chapter 34: The Herd Grows
Click. A flashlight suddenly shone on Jer and Matt, just as they were about to sling rolls of toilet paper over trees in a residential lawn.
Holding the flashlight was Janey Kaller, wearing a nightgown and jacket. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Before the busted TP bandits had a chance to answer, all three of them groaned in pain and began to convulse. Purple fur grew all over their bodies, horns grew out of their foreheads, and their flesh reshaped itself into a form that had yet to cease haunting Centralgate.
Lurking in the shadows, Lurok the sorcerer/werewolf finished his arcane chanting. Lurok growled a command at his new minions to join the rest of the attack herd.
I'm working out the plot, trying to figure out how I'm going to incorporate the remaining sponsor sentences. Now I need to eat breakfast. More story to follow...
Chapter 33: Gratitude
“Thank you for keeping me safe during my emergence,” said Chuodo’s reptilian symbiote. “Now let’s track down the rest of the Purple Squirrels.”
I've taken a break to talk with Matt, one of my two oldest friends. He's been reading the Dozerthon through most of its run so far, serving as my wing man and sending me encouraging e-mail when I was fading out. He's also co-sponsor of four sentences.
Anyway, here's the final 6-hour stretch. I've got three more sponsored sentences to incorporate into the Dozerthon saga, and they're some of the toughest to deal with. You'll see why in time.
Chapter 32: Slip of the Tongue
Suddenly, Chuodo hit the ground and began choking.
November reached to help him somehow, but Chuodo said, “Don’t touch Chuodo.” Then Chuodo opened his mouth wide, and a green-scaled, reptilian, thick forked tongue flickered out.
His giant lizard tongue had grown to full maturity, causing correspondingly enhanced vocabulary and calculus skills.
In fact, the tongue was actually a separate life form that had grafted itself to the interior of Chuodo’s mouth. This was a common practice among the two sentient races that populate the Rigel system. Throughout this symbiosis, the two life forms combine neural capacities, resulting in heightened thought processes.
Chapter 31: The Third Person
“Charity’s not answering her cell phone,” November said.
“That doesn’t mean we need to worry,” Aventine replied. “Right now, let’s worry about finding the rest of the bad guys.”
Meanwhile, Chuodo had stopped hiding his pained condition. In fact, he’s been talking openly about it for the past half hour. “Chuodo’s body can’t endure this strain much longer,” he said. “Chuodo will not find the medical technology that he requires on this planet.”
It’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I am wondering why he is still talking about himself in the third person, thought Janita. She also wondered why Chuodo kept spitting out dried out green scales.
Chapter 30: Charity’s Run
It was Charity who first encountered the newest team member of the Purple Squirrel of the Apocalypse. She was running toward Janita’s home, because it was the closest.
That’s when she saw the Mad Agriculturalist from planet Otnasnom. He was a trapezoid-shaped creature with squat legs and three arms. He wore silver overalls, goggles, and a utility belt with pouches full of bioengineered seed-based biological weaponry that was illegal throughout the galaxy.
The Mad Agriculturalist also carried a big, hand-held rifle cannon, which he fired at Charity. It spat out a wide cone of frost-covered ears of corn.
”I’m being attacked by cold ears!” cried Charity. It was such a barrage that even with her super speed, she couldn’t dodge them all. One ear of corn hit, and instantly generated an ice shell around Charity. She fell and slid across the street, trapped in a thick sheath of ice.
And so the score stood at 1-1 even.
Chapter 29: Torgo’s Last Stand?
Torgo held a shotgun while standing guard at his sister Evelyn’s house. As soon as he heard the pounding steps of the Thunder Lizard machine, he knew the final match had begun, and the other team was playing dirty by targeting their opponents’ loved ones.
But just as Torgo was preparing to make his last stand, the Amazing Chikpeas (minus one) arrived on the scene.
“Aw crap,” cursed Dogstar Brannigan. She had been counting on facing only one of the Chikpeas. She twisted a knob that swung one of the Thunder Lizard’s tails to bat Evelyn’s Ford Explorer at the Chikpeas.
Janita blasted the SUV into tiny shrapnel with an energy bolt. The fragments of metal bounced harmlessly off the Chikpeas, and Janita shielded Chuodo with her body.
Then Janita threw out another energy bolt that melted a hole in the Thunder Lizard’s outer armor. November hurled their energy glider at the opening, and Aventine molded the solid light construct into a gigantic, diamond-sharp javelin that plunged through the war machine.
Aventine leaped off the javelin, smashed through the war machine’s pilot window, and knocked out ‘Dogstar’ Brannigan with a single punch.
Saturday, July 26, 2003
Chapter 28: Chikpeas to the Rescue
The Amazing Chikpeas were on their way back to Centralgate. Chuodo had picked up a report on his police scanner about a dinosaur rampaging through neighborhood. Surely, this was the opening salvo from the Purple Squirrel of the Apocalypse.
So Aventine whipped up a solid light glider. November pulled it through the air, and everyone else rode the glider.
This included Chuodo, who was now visibly in pain. But he refused to admit to any discomfort.
“So let’s review what we know about the bad guys,” Aventine said.
“There’s going to be four of them,” said November.
“And they have purple squirrel monsters on their side,” said Janita.
“Do you know anything about these guys?” November asked Chuodo. He simply shook his head.
“Well, if we were our opponents, what would we do?” Aventine asked.
“I’d try to split us up,” November said.
“And how would you do that?” Chuodo asked in a muffled voice. His jaw was even more swollen than before.
A moment’s pause, and then they all said in unison, “Go after our parents.”
“But we can’t split up,” Aventine said. “We’d just make ourselves easier targets.”
“So you stay together and I’ll go rescue our parents,” said Charity. “I’m the fastest, and I’d stand the best chance of getting to everyone while evading the bad guys.”
Aventine sighed. “You’re right. Do it, then.” She and Janita hugged Charity, while November continued to pull the solid light glider.
“I’ll bring everyone to Chuodo’s cabin and then regroup,” said Charity. “I assume you’ll be kicking the crap out of the dinosaur thing?”
With that, Charity leapt out of the glider and hit the ground running and at well over 100 mph. She used her telekinetic ability to contain her backdraft. She didn’t want to pull a “Matrix Reloaded” and trash all of Centralgate with the wind she was kicking up.
Bob, one of my college buddies and the sponsor of the Dozerthon’s ending sentence, just sent a nice e-mail of encouragement. It really helps keep me energized to know that people are paying attention.
Chapter 27: The Thunder Lizard
Jer and Matt were heading out for another night of breaking curfew. Now that Centralgate High was temporarily shut down, they didn’t have to worry about getting up early in the morning. They had a full arsenal of toilet paper, ready to bear against the home of Janey Kaller.
Sure, there was the danger of being abducted or horribly mauled. But that just adds to the excitement.
Suddenly the ground started shaking, and a five-story tall reptilian beast with two spiked tails stomped through the neighborhood. It nearly crushed Jer and Matt underneath its clawed feet.
“Holy crap! It’s a dinosaur!” Jer exclaimed.
”Um, Jer, dinosaurs don’t have windows,” Matt said.
Sure enough, the ‘dinosaur’ was actually a robotic war vehicle, piloted by ‘Dogstar’ Brannigan. She was one of the host warriors for the Purple Squirrel of the Apocalypse, and she was about to fire the beginning salvo in their duel against their new opponents, the Amazing Chikpeas. Dogstar chomped the end off of a fresh cigar as she operated the jumbled panel of levers, buttons, and gears that piloted her Thunder Lizard Mark 20 war machine.
Taped to the front view window was a map of the town, with four red X marks. The marks had names written next to them: Atienza, Lee, Tam, and Tsujimoto…
This was my girlfriend's last work session at the computer. From now on, if I want a break, I'll need to make up an excuse for it. Now, I'm getting ready for the final stretch, with a full supply of Mountain Dew and the soundtrack to the Two Towers in the CD player.
Must eat dinner. Longer chapters soon.
Chapter 26: Moments of Reflection
While November let everyone know that she was now able to fly, she did have one other special power that she was keeping secret: she could read their thoughts. She thought they might suspect this, because her Uncle Torgo had previously mentioned to them that she had an unusually strong attunement to the alien collective mind that supplied their powers.
But none of her sister Chikpeas suspected. Still, November knew what they were thinking and feeling. How afraid Aventine really was. How much Janita needed money for her family. How much Charity wanted to leave Earth and explore the galaxy.
And poor, poor Chuodo. Even his telepathic shields couldn’t hide the presence of the alien life form that he contained within his body from her new sensitivity. She promised him she would allow him his secret, at least until the time was right.
November would not warn her sisters what their true role in the upcoming conflict really was.
Chapter 25: Training Montage
Night had passed, and by the next morning, the Amazing Chikpeas were fully immersed in training. With a healthy dose of improvisation, they converted their dance moves, which were already burned in their memories, into fighting maneuvers.
Already the Chikpeas had developed the talent of telekinesis, the ability to move physical objects with the power of the mind, to bolster their physical strength and resistance to injury. Now, they even learned how to specialize their ability to channel the mental energy that was provided to them by the Eldritch Benefactor.
November had developed the ability to fly. She propelled herself amongst the treetops and was so deft and maneuverable that she never disturbed a single leaf as she passed through. The freedom was exhilarating.
Aventine could now create objects out of solid light holograms. Her skills as a sculptor were every bit as sharp as her skill as a dancer. So in no time she was able to create intricate, glowing energy constructs. Since she was preparing for battle, Aventine practiced creating swords, battering rams, and shields.
Janita was able to generate energy blasts. She blew apart random trees with delight until Chuodo cast a disapproving glare her way.
And Charity developed the ability to move at blinding speeds, even faster than November when she was flying.
All the while, Chuodo guided their training. But he grew increasingly distracted by the burden that he carried. The pain was excruciating, but he could not reveal this to his students yet, for they needed to concentrate on honing their powers.
Because Torgo lied when he told them that the upcoming conflict would be easy and without risk. Quite the opposite was true, in fact. He knew the host of the Purple Squirrel of the Apocalypse were marshalling their forces, and he feared that he would not be able to stand idly by as a coach while the Chikpeas entered battle.
My girlfriend was using the computer for work stuff. But I'm back and ready to continue the story! Thanks for your patience!
Chapter 24: Brain Boost
The Chikpeas weren’t at all sure how much time had passed. Wasn’t this, like, their millionth game of Scrabble? And how could they have been drinking all this time. Even if they are guzzling wine coolers, the time spent drinking should have brought about vomiting, or at least unconsciousness, by now.
All the while, Chuodo smiled. While his new charges played Scrabble, he used his telepathic powers to slowly, gradually read and study their surface thoughts. He didn’t intend to invade their privacy. Chuodo simply wanted to increase his knowledge of Earth linguistics, so he kept the Chikpeas focused on mental tasks that employed their knowledge of vocabulary.
A side effect of this technique was that people whose thoughts were being read experienced a slowed perception of the passage of time.
He continued this until his lower jaw began aching to the point of extreme comfort. “Let us discontinue our merriment and seek dormancy.”
“Yeah, sleep’s probably a good idea,” Aventine replied.
Chapter 23:Torgo Is Not Pleased
Torgo grew weary of the non-stop elevator music, Scrabble matches, Pina Colada wine coolers, and philosophical debates.” So he left the Chikpeas to finish socializing with Chuodo and then begin their training.
Chapter 22: Getting to Know You
After a brief round of greetings, Chuodo invited Torgo and the Chikpeas into his humble cabin.
As soon as Charity closed the door behind her, Chuodo removed his knit cap, revealing long pointed ears.
“Are you a…,” Janita asked, “are you a-“
“Citizen of the Rigel System?” Chuodo replied. “The answer is yes.” His swollen jaw muffled his words somewhat.
Chuodo could tell that the Chikpeas had never been in the presence of a non-Earthling. So he threw an impromptu party to put them at ease. “Help yourself to anything in the icebox,” he said as he put a CD into the stereo player.
The sounds of harpsichords, violins, and moroccas filled the air. The tune sounded vaguely familiar.
“Wait a minute,” November said. “I’ve heard this before. Isn’t this Nelly?” Sure enough, Chuodo was playing an elevator music version of “Hot in Here” by Nelly.
Charity took out a few bottles of Pina Colada wine coolers and passed them out among her teammates. Then Chuodo brought out Scrabble for everyone to play. While they played, they shared their opinions on the difference between Earth and Rigel philosophies.
Everyone was having a good time. Everyone except for Torgo, who was starting to get bored.
Also, Aventine was frustrated because she didn’t have any vowels in her letter queue.
“You can pass if you want,” said an impatient November.
”Oh come on, November, I know Aventine would be able to solve this problem in no time,” said Chuodo.
Chapter 21: Meet the Coach
Every professional athlete needs a business agent and a coach. Well, the Amazing Chikpeas had an agent. Now he was about to take them to their coach.
Torgo took the Chikpeas to a forest that lay north of the city. He drove to a small wood cabin in the middle of a forest clearing.
After Torgo knocked on the door, a tall, slender man with pale eyes answered the door. He held an icepack to his swollen jaw. Sandy blond hair poked out from underneath the black knit cap that he wore. “Hullo?” he asked.
“Hi Chuodo,” said Torgo. “I’d like you to meet the Amazing Chikpeas. Chikpeas, this is Chuodo.”
Will you survive the Blogathon?
And now, back to the story…
Chapter 20: The Next Day
The next day, Centralgate High was closed down temporarily. After the horribly mutilated body of the janitor Julius Farbolg was found in the supply closet, the parents of Centralgate demanded that they keep their children away until the the culprit behind the wave of disappearances, and now this grisly murder, is apprehended.
Meanwhile, the police questioned all the dancers who auditioned for Heidi Fleiss: The Musical to investigate the equally grisly murder of John Stamos. Just as Torgo instructed, the Amazing Chikpeas kept their stories straight and simple, and certainly didn’t mention squirrel monsters or super powers from beyond the stars.
Chapter 19: The Amazing Chikpeas
“Okay…” said November. “I have another question. Why were we ‘activated’ now? During the audition?”
Torgo explained that their opponent forced the Benefactor’s hand by sending one of its minions to seek them out. That’s why the Benefactor empowered the dancers when it did.
Their opponent in the current Competition is an up-and-coming collective entity whose name translates into English as “The Purple Squirrel of the Apocalypse.”
“So now what do we do?” November asked.
“You get ready to take on the Purple Squirrel. But first, you need a catchy team name.”
The girls pondered for a few minutes. Then Janita said, “How about the Amazing Chikpeas?”
Then, “Sure, why not?” said November.
“Whatever,” said Aventine.
Charity gave a thumbs up.
“Okay, the Amazing Chickpeas it is. Chickpeas are popular in Andromeda, so we could score some good commercial deals there-“
“No no,” Janita said. “Not ‘Chickpeas.’ Chikpeas, with only one ‘C’.”
“Oohh… that’s not going to work so well. “Chikpeas with only one ‘c’ translates into ‘We’re a bunch of sweaty waffle spankers’ in the Pegasus star cluster.
“Oh no you don’t,” insisted November. “If we’re going to play in your whacked little sci-fi American Gladiators scheme, we’re going to have the final say in our affairs. Not you or Mr. Spock or whoever it is that gives you your marching orders.”
“And that’s final,” said Aventine.
“Maybe we should be reasonable here,” Janita countered.
But when Charity nodded in agreement with November and Aventine, the discussion was over.
“Very well,” Torgo said. “Anyway, sweaty waffle spankers are actually the ruling political party on planet Mechros. Maybe we can work this to our advantage…”
Chapter 18: What’s the Deal with the Toasted Cheese Sandwich?
A puzzled silence followed, and then Torgo continued his presentation.
He picked November and her dancing troupe –
“What do you mean, her dancing troupe?” objected Aventine.
“I didn’t mean ‘your’ in a possessive sense,” said Torgo, “I meant ‘your’ in a referencing context. As in ‘the dancing troupe of which you are a member.’”
Anyway, Torgo continued. He explained that being the host of the Eldritch Benefactor would be an instant ticket to fame on an unprecedented scale. Madonna and Anna Nicole Smith couldn’t even dream of hoping to attain such popularity. Hell, the endorsement deal potential alone would set up all of their families for generations.
“Hey, that’s a good point,” said Janita. “This deal doesn’t sound quite so bad now.”
Plus, Torgo continued, the Eldritch Benefactor is one of the most powerful players in the Competition. Its power would protect the young women from any kind of permanent harm as they fought their opponents.
“So when we all heard all those voices in our heads earlier, that was our… audience?”
“Exactly!” exclaimed Torgo. It seemed like his team was catching on fast now.
“Well,” continued November, “I heard this voice talking about how great toasted cheese sandwiches were? What was that all about?”
“Oh,” replied Torgo, “you mentally tuned in to a commercial that was beamed across the collective minds of the Benefactor. We have an endorsement deal with Ogrovash-7, the leading producer of toasted cheese sandwiches in the Rigel star system.”
Aventine rolled her eyes. “My career as an interstellar icon has just begun, and already I’m a sellout.”
“Hmmm…” Torgo pondered. “November, if you were able to tune into that broadcast, which wasn’t even meant for your minds in the first place, this must mean that you have an especially strong attunement to the Benefactor mind. That could come in handy.”
I was really started to run low on energy. But comments from high school buddies Matt and Jer have given me the extra boost I need to keep on truckin’. Plus, fellow Blogathonner Mike (of the College Park Blog Party, benefiting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund) is tuning in also. Anyway, on with the show…
Chapter 17: Exposition? You’re Soaking in It!
Torgo went on to explain that he is an agent of the Benefactor, selecting likely candidates for host teams.
“So why us?” November asked. She was really exasperated by this whole situation. “Why not a group of people who are actually used to fighting, like the Marines or English soccer fans?”
“According to our latest market research,” Torgo said, “neither group has as much intergalactic popularity appeal as spunky teenaged dancers. Besides, the last time the Benefactor used English soccer fans as a host, they almost destroyed Earth.”
“Seriously?” asked Aventine.
“You don’t actually believe the Russians were responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis, do you?” Torgo asked.
Chapter 16: Back to the Story - The Four Corners
So here’s the basic gist of Torgo’s Power Point presentation to November Atienza and her dancer friends… they are now the physical hosts of a powerful incorporeal alien entity which Torgo calls the “Eldritch Benefactor.”
The Benefactor is made up of subscribers across a countless number of worlds. These worlds belong to an intergalactic society that, roughly translated into English, is called the “Astral Shift Convention.”
Subscribers of the Benefactor seek entertainment by each projecting a tiny portion of their mental energy into host beings on a chosen world that is not a client of the Convention. Namely, Earth.
When the host is imbued with the collective mental energy of all the Benefactor subscribers, the host gains fantastic powers of body and mind. Since the host requires four human beings to collectively contain all this energy, the host is called the “Four Corners” (once again, very rough English translation).
Then subscribers get to enjoy watching their selected hosts battle with the selected hosts of other conglomerate entities.
“So basically, we’re like the intergalactic version of the Sims?” Aventine asked.
“Yep,” Torgo replied. “Pretty much. Although the Unreal Tournament 2003 game would probably be a better analogy.”
“Does this mean I can’t go to church anymore?” November asked. “Or am I now bearing the mark of a false god or something?”
“Well, I’ve been an agent of the Benefactor for years,” Torgo replied, “and I don’t catch on fire the moment I step into a church.”
The girls pause for a moment to let this all sink in. Then Janita speaks up. “So you’re saying there’s actually life on other worlds?!?”
Torgo sighed and clicked to the next Power Point slide.
Chapter 15: A Break for Some Serious News
CNN is reporting that armed men have seized the financial center of Manila, the capitol of the Philippines.
According to the report, the Philippines army has confirmed that the armed men are soldiers who are rigging the area with explosives. This follows a week of coup rumors.
This is worrisome, to say the very least. I hope this isn’t the beginning of some wider scale of turmoil in my family’s homeland.
Chapter 14: Call to Arms
While November and her friends learned about their true purpose in life, the Melting Man grew ever more enraged that his minion beast had been slain. Now, the sigils that his followers have been marking around Centralgate High are unprotected.
So the Melting Man put out the call to all his followers. They were to accelerate their plans. Soon, the entire world would know of the bleak message that they bear: ”BEWARE THE PURPLE SQUIRREL OF THE APOCALYPSE.”
Chapter 13: Into the Lair of Torgo
Torgo drove the dancers to his elegant two-story home in the hills of Haven’s Ridge, which lay in the outer boundaries of the western suburbs. It seemed like an awfully big place for a single, lifelong bachelor.
The foyer of the house was decorated with stuffed lizards, including something that looked like a horned komodo dragon. The den was connected to the foyer, and its door was open. The girls saw a framed and enlarged photograph hanging on the den wall, showing a younger, muscular Torgo shaking hands with William Shatner.
As she followed Torgo toward the basement, November noticed a tattoo on the back of Torgo’s thick neck. It looked kinda like the weird letters you see in the books that are based on those Lord of the Ring movies. But more swirly. How had she never noticed that tattoo before?
Aventine looked around at all the medieval weaponry that hung on the walls. She knew that Torgo was November’s uncle, but he couldn’t help wonder if Torgo was some kind of freak. The kind that they should be more afraid of than the purple squirrel beast that just tried to kill them.
In the basement, the dancers each sat at a corner of a diamond-shaped table. Torgo pulled down a projection screen on the wall, turned on a projection machine, and booted up the laptop that was connected to it. He clicked open a Power Point presentation titled, “Four Corners: Hosts of the Eldritch Benefactor.”
“Now, girls,” Torgo said, “it’s time to explain your true purpose in life.”
Chapter 12: Thoughts on the Run
“I can’t believe we actually fought that thing,” said November.
“And we have these super powers,” said Aventine.
“I can’t believe John Stamos is dead,” lamented Janita.
Chapter 11: First Victory
After about a minute a collective pounding on the lump in the torn stage curtain, the dancers backed off as a billowy cloud of brimstone burst forth from the curtain.
November waved the smoke away from her face and lifted up the curtain. The creature was gone.
“Where did it go?” asked Aventine.
“Did we kill it?” asked Janita.
“What was that thing?” asked Charity.
“I don’t know to All of the Above,” November answered. “Did… did you guys just… hear a bunch of weird voices?”
“Yeah!” said Aventine. “Like someone was piping a signal right into my head! But I couldn’t make it out. It just sounded like a lot of muttering.”
“Same here. And I got mad strength now,” said Janita as she flexed muscles she didn’t know she ever had.
Charity simply shrugged.
“I actually heard distinct words,” November said. “At first, I heard a jumble just like you. Then the jumbled voices merged together into a single booming message.”
“So what did he say?” Aventine asked.
November hesitated. ”He claimed there was nothing finer on this entire earth than a toasted cheese sandwich, but I didn’t believe him.”
“What? That doesn’t make any sense!”
“Actually,” said Uncle Torgo as he stepped to the stage, “there’s a very interesting story behind that. You see, back when-“
“Tito Torgo!” November shouted. “Did you see what just happened?!?”
“Shh, hush girl. I’ll explain everything. To all of you. But first, we need to get out of here before the police arrive. Help me up onto the stage.”
November and Charity pulled the portly Torgo to the stage. “Thank you girls,” he said. “Now let’s go through the back exit.”
The dancers followed Torgo off stage, just as they heard the echoes of running police officers approaching the performance chamber.
But before she disappeared behind the remaining curtain, November looked down at the stain of brimstone on the stage floor. “There’s no business like show business,” she whispered. And then she was gone with the others.
Chapter 10: Rush Into Battle
A cacophony of ancient voices stirred through every corner of November’s consciousness. Her partners all experienced the same bizarre presence within their own thoughts. At the same time, they all experienced a vigor and an energy that they had never known before.
Then the creature leaped at them. In the millisecond before impact, November looked over the thing that was about to attack her. The creature was about the size of a Shetland Pony, with thick purple fur. It had four powerful legs, blood-red steer-like horns, impossibly wide jaws, a sharp-quilled tail, and… puffy cheeks?
Now that November thought about it, it almost looked like a… a squirrel. Like the squirrel that was spray painted all over the dance studio back at school!
November never wondered why this was happening to her. She was calm, as if this sort of thing happened all the time.
Which was fortunate, because she was the squirrel’s first target. The beast lowered its head to gore November, but she would have none of that. The lithe dancer (which actually isn’t much of an identifier because all four of the young women were lithe dancers) leaped, turned her back in midair, and grabbed the beast’s horn on the way back down. As November landed, she smashed her feet through the stage floor and slammed down the leaping squirrel-beast.
Aventine executed a roundhouse kick that sent the beast flying for the backstage. As if on cue, Janita and Charity ripped down a stage curtain and entangled the beast in it. They whipped the curtain against the floor, battering the entangled creature.
Chapter 8: The Becoming
“STAAAAMMMOOOSSS!” cried out Benford Crawley in shock and agony as the headless corpse of his dear friend slumped before him. Then Benford realized that Rebecca Romijn was now single, and that took the edge of his remorse.
Meanwhile, the red-horned beast, slayer of high school janitors and sitcom stars from the 1980s, let loose with a screeching cry of bloodlust and fury. Then it attacked the other members of the audition judging panel.
The auditioning dancers ran toward the backstage and away from the monster. Everyone but November and her partners, that is. They stood still, bodies rigid, as if they were gripped by some invisible fist. Then their eyes started glowing with an impossibly blue energy.
The purple-furred creature paused its chewing of a production assistant’s left arm and noticed the strange display on the stage. “Ah,” it said. “I knew this would draw you out.”
The bodies of the Asian American dancers relaxed, but their eyes still glowed with energy. Then without thinking, they assumed martial arts stances, even though only Charity had any actual training in martial arts.
“Right, then,” the creature said as it spit out the production assistant’s arm. “Let’s do this.” Then it leaped toward the dancers.
Chapter 7: The Audition
The audition for Heidi Fleiss: The Musical took place at night at the insistence of the show’s producer, Benford Crawley. He apparently had a phobia of sunlight.
All the prospective dancing groups stood in formation, lined up like Marines in leotards. The stage was especially crowded because Crawley put out a call for quartets. Everyone had heard the rumors that the show was on the fast track to move from musical to movie, so every hungry dance artist in the state was in attendance.
November looked over the competition. Everyone looked more confident than her. They certainly all looked older than her. Then she looked at the two rows of judges, producers, gophers, and hangers-on who filled the first two rows of the theater’s central section. Why were there so many people in attendance? And was that John Stamos sitting next to Crawley?
And above the stage, something unnatural looked over everyone beneath it.
“Atienza, Lee, Tam, Tsujimoto,” called Crawley’s assistant.
November and her friends took the stage at the cavernous theater hall. The crowd became silent and four petite Asian girls in brightly color-coordinated outfits, soon to be known as the Chikpeas, took the floor and suddenly busted out in some dope hip-hop moves.
Whatever bad feelings the future-Chikpeas had during practice stayed in practice. They worked as a single, smiling unit and seized the stage in a deft kinetic display of synchronized back handsprings, aerial cartwheels, halos, and all-around skillful hip-hoppitry.
Then a purple-furred, red-horned creature leaped down to the floor and bit off the head of John Stamos.
Chapter 6: The Group
“Nova, you have seriously got to unclench.” Aventine Lee stomped on the wooden floor of the “Stepping Up” dance studio room to halt the momentum of her interrupted spin.
November hated Aventine’s nickname for her. Why don’t you just call me Crappy old Chevy car? she wondered. “I am relaxed,” she insisted to the self-appointed leader of their dance group.
Even though Aventine appointed herself leader, she was the oldest, and the only college student in the crowd. So it just seemed natural that she take point.
Aventine softened the tone of her voice, mostly because she had to catch her breath. “Then why are you keeping your back so stiff during the butterfly jumps?”
Neither of the other two dance members entered the discussion. Janita Tsujimoto heard about why November was so upset. Janita doesn’t actually attend Centralgate High, but she got an IM about it from a guy she used to date at November’s school. So she didn’t want to prolong the spotlight on what was bothering November.
On the other hand, Charity Tam simply kept practicing her dance steps, seemingly oblivious to the tension in the room.
Chapter 5: The Author Breaks Into His Story
Hello, it’s me, Mike, writer for Dozerthon 2003. I’m taking a break from the story as I figure out where I’m going with this.
I was supposed to figure out at least a general outline for the plot before I started. But I didn’t get several sponsored sentences until last evening, and I still have quite a few coming to me.
Plus, I was out dining and dancing last night for a birthday party (Happy birthday again, Ann Marie and Leslie!)
Anyway, I have about a dozen text pieces from big-hearted pledgers of the Dozerthon. There’s some great, fun stuff that people contributed.
That’s why I’m taking a break to figure out the story, because I don’t want to spend all day writing about November’s problems at school. Trust me, I’ve got much more fun stuff to tackle here.
And it’s not to late to sponsor the Dozerthon! You too can influence the fate of November Atienza, Uncle Torgo, Janey Kaller, Mr. Feffercorn, and maybe even Julius Farbolg if you’re into ghost stories.
More importantly, you can enjoy making me jump through your literary hoops like a crazy man.
Even more importantly, you can support the efforts of the United Way Philippines. Just click on the “Sponsor Me” link in the sidebar.
Chapter 4: The Janitor
November walked to the pick-up area, passing through an oddly high number of private security guards. With their sunglasses and stone-dead faces, it seemed like they were the only ones who weren’t mocking her.
She saw her mom’s Ford Explorer in the lineup of parents’ cars. November’s mom made a point to pick up her daughter from school, ever since the rash of disappearances around the school.
Meanwhile, the grizzled Julius Farbolg was having a hard time scrubbing the squirrel graffiti off the mirrors of the dance studio. He’d used every solvent in his arsenal, and there was nary a smudge. “What kinda spray paint is this?” he asked.
But he couldn’t come up with any answers. Julius tightly choked the handles on his service cart. He’s cleaned up after three generations of privileged brats, and every year they just get more and more disrespectful.
And how is he supposed to work with all the distractions about him? The girls of the school dance team are there, writhing around in their skin-tight leotards. How is he supposed to keep his head clear and focused on his work when he can hear the pattering of their bare feet and smell their sweat.
Impulsively, he shoved his supply cart out of the studio and returned to the supply room. His head throbbed, and he knew that it was finally time to put an end to all the disobedience and all the brazen displays of pride and temptation that he had to endure for three decades.
Julius entered the supply room and locked the door behind him. Finally, it was time.
He tugged on the light switch, and saw a hunched-over, wide-shouldered creature emerge from the shadows. It had thick, dark purple fur, red horns, and a thick tail of long porcupine-like quills.
The creature opened its maw, revealing three rows of dripping teeth. ”You are trying to disturb my sigil,” it spoke in a voice that seemed to drag daggers across glass.
Then its jaws widened to an impossible width and finally put an end to the burden of Julius Farbolg.
Chapter 3: The Libel
School is out, and the hallways aren’t silent anymore. Soon, the school dance team will be here, and November will need to move her practice to her private dance tutor’s studio.
November was nervous about the musical audition tonight. She’s been preparing for weeks, but in her mind she always figured that her Mom would forbid her from auditioning. After all, it was a musical about Heidi Fleiss! Good taste alone should have made this a no-brainer.
But her uncle Torgo, whose real name was Eduardo, tended to have his way in the family. At least, he has ever since November’s father died in an animal attack during a camping trip three years ago.
November had this creepy feeling around the back of her neck while she walked to her locker. It felt like people were staring at her. And what was with all the snickering? A snort here, a leering eye there. It’s probably just pre-audition paranoia, November figured. She always felt like she was being watching right before an audition.
Okay, so there’s a crowd of laughing kids around November’s locker. That’s no reason to think anything was amiss. But the crowd included the ace forward on the school basketball team, a frumpy little gnome of a freshman carrying a worn copy of the Player’s Handbook, and a long-haired kid who had to button up his flannel shirt to hide his “Legalize It” t-shirt from the teachers.
What’s so damn funny that it unites the jocks, the nerds, and the stoners?
The gnome notices November approaching and coughs an alarm that disperses the crowd of gawkers. Then November sees what everyone was laughing at.
There was a wad of one dollar bills crammed all along the crack of her locker door. Someone had taped a page from a porn magazine to the door, and taped a cut-out of November’s sophomore yearbook portrait, over the naked model’s face. Another piece of paper was taped beneath this, with the words “Best in the Biz” scrawled on them.
At least no one sprayed a purple squirrel on her locker.
November calmly removed the signs and the dollars, crumpled them together in her hands, and threw it all into the nearest trash can. Then she held her head up as she walked outside to where her mom was supposed to pick her up.
Being a dancer, she was good at being aware of her body language, and she wasn’t going to show any hurt feelings to the ghouls she had to go to school with. She cranked up her internal thoughts, going over her dance steps, drowning out the whispers around her.
Chapter 2: The Sigil
November was almost bored with sneaking out of class to practice her maneuvers in the school’s dance studio. She talked the instructor, Mr. Feffercorn, into believing that she had an advanced college-credit dance program with UCLA. So she was able to pop in pretty much whenever she wanted.
When she got to the studio today, two locksmiths were working on the entrance. A janitor was scrubbing graffiti off the mirrored wall, muttering “One day, I could teach these brats a thing or two…” all the while.
November took a close look at the tag sprayed on the mirror. It looked like a stylized, angular silhouette of a squirrel. It was purple, except for a pair of horns coming out of the squirrel’s head, sprayed in red.
“What happened, Mr. Feffercorn?” November asked.
Mr. Feffercorn smoothed down his combover, as he often does when he’s stressed out. “Some kids broke in last night and tagged the studio. This squirrel thing’s been marked all around the school lately. It was only a matter of time before it happened on school grounds, I guess.”
“Good technique,” November said, admiring the mark.
Meanwhile, Janey Kaller took out her cell phone during French class and started typing a text message: “h3rd N0vmbr’s h00kn ftr skl” – (English translation: “I heard that November’s working as a prostitute after the school day is over.”
Then she pressed the SEND button, and within a half hour, the word was beaming all over Centralgate, from cell phones and Instant Messenger windows, like a writhing mass of army ants marching toward prey.
Chapter 1: The Musical
”But I’m too young for prostitutes!” she said. November Atienza had to shout and whisper into her cell phone all at the same time as she left the girls’ bathroom. Noise carried pretty far through the hallways of Centralgate High, especially between classes when the halls were empty except for class-cutters like November.
“Don’t worry,” her uncle Torgo said between bites of a toasted cheese sandwich. “I’ve worked everything out. You’re going to be fine. This gig will be a big stepping stone for your career. Why are you whispering, anyway? You’re not cutting class, are you young lady?”
“Relax, it’s my lunch break,” November lied. “Tito Torgo, are you sure Mom won’t have a problem with this?”
“Of course not. Darling, you’re a very gifted young woman, and God gave you those gifts for a reason. Your mother and I both think this is the right thing for you to do.”
“But a musical about prostitution? Is it even legal for me to do this?”
“There are no laws against acting,” Torgo said. “And ‘Heidi Fleiss: The Musical’ is very tasteful, very well-written, and very buzzworthy. After the Chicago movie, every studio is hunting for musicals to throw on the big screen. And if you’re in on the ground floor, you can make it all the way to Hollywood. Trust me, just be at the audition tonight.”
November sighed. “Okay. I’ll be there. I have to go now.”
November ended the call and darted into the stairway to avoid a hall monitor.
Meanwhile, back in the girls’ bathroom, Janey Kaller, editor of the Centralgate Banner, stepped out of a stall and asked herself, “Was that really November talking about being a prostitute?”