The Ma Bird Phenomenon
Story by Clockwork Charlie, D19Mo5Y2o00
A streak of light shot through the darkness from above, a bullet in the dark cave. Stalactites and stalagmites were the natural décor of this dank, underground dwelling. Victor gazed at the ceiling, pondering how he had gotten in to this.
Flyy wasn't there, he remembered. He had been searching for Flyy when he stumbled onto this place by accident. He had been looking skyward, not even paying attention to where his feet stepped, when he plummeted into the cave. Victoids normally had fantastic leaping abilities, but he found that he had sprained an ankle on the fall.
Victor looked down once again at the sun bleached skull he had first noticed when he fell. Despite the lack of ears, he recognized it as the head of a long since dead Victoid. He stood there, gazing into the empty sockets, not that Victoids had very distinct eyes anyway. Hadn't Vance said he was separating from the tribe to go to Idznak the past year, right before he left? The elders had warned him that Idznak wasn't the best hunting grounds for a Victoid, but he had left anyway. And here he was.
The skull fell to the ground with a crack as Victor's gaze sharpened and ears perked. He had heard the pitter-patter of some beings feet. He hoped the being was a bit friendlier than the last skullmonkey who had passed here.
"Hello? Is someone up there?" Victor yelled to whoever he had heard.
"Well all be. Someone trapped in the ole Victoid hole. Now how, pray tell, did you get in a predicament like that? There's been talk of a new Victoid inhabiting that place, so your lucky I came along before the evil thing could gobble you down!"
"Well, er, to be honest. I... am a Victoid." These words were replied by silence.
After a long silence, the being finally responded, "well, I suppose there's a first time for everything." With that, Victor saw a vine tumble down. He extended his long arms and gripped it and began to pull himself upward. When he had finally emerged from the hole, the two of them stood motionless, the rescuer studying the rescued and the rescued studying the rescuer.
Surprisingly enough, the being who had saved him was a skullmonkey! The eyeless creature stood gazing, and Victor noticed a dial on the side of his head with an antenna shooting out.
The monkey broke the silence. "As surprising as it is for me to see a Victoid who isn't about to gnaw me apart, I'm sure it's a surprise for you to meet a skullmonkey who would rather help than scare children. You don't seem like the kind to slaughter the man who just saved you. I'm Jerry-o." Jerry-o stuck out a hair-ridden paw. Victor gripped the paw with his large bony claw and shook.
"I'm Victor. I left my tribe awhile ago to study the creatures all across Quater's worlds. I fell in here while looking for my buddy, the Unbelievable Drivey Flyy."
"You mean, you know of a third member of the Drivey family!" exclaimed Jerry-O. Victor just nodded back. "For the past hour I have been observing a strange being through my telescope. I think this may be your Drivey friend."
They chatted together as they trekked to Jerry-O's house. Victor couldn't keep his eyes off Jerry-O's metal plate dial thingy. Finally, his curiosity got the better of him.
"So, what's up with that metal thing on your head?" asked Victor, while waving his hand over it, causing an electrical disturbance.
"Oh, this? That is my multi-functional ultra-sensory implant. It helps me control some of my science projects from a distance and enhances the natural senses. If I may ask you something, how did you loose your left ear?"
Victor gave him a puzzled look and rubbed his read, remembering that he had permanently lost his ear. "That? I can answer you in three words. Ynt-Death-Garden."
When they finally reached Jerry-O's place, they ascended a large, spiral staircase. Victor looked around the comfy, yet scientific, abode. He saw some interesting things, a microscope, a root preserver, a typewriter, and a window with a telescope.
"Look into the 'scope. Hopefully, your friend will still be there."
Victor ambled over to the scope and peered through. Sure enough, Flyy was hanging underneath a gnarled tree branch, sound asleep. Near him was a strange potted plant.
"He's there, alright."
Victor stood at the scope, adjusting it, focusing more on that strange plant. He shot out of his gaze when Jerry-O yelled from behind.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" called Jerry-O from the top of the staircase. Victor dashed away, following the simian.
When the reached the tree, Victor took the lead and seemingly dashed upward, his ankle feeling much better by now. Upon hearing Victor's approach, Flyy jolted awake. He fluttered down to his friend and perched on his shoulders. Even though he now had Flyy again, Victor continued to climb to the branch where Flyy had been only a few seconds ago. He had to see that strange plant. Realizing that Victor was still climbing, Flyy expanded and flew the Victoid up to the branch. Victor parked himself right next to the potted plant and ran a hand over it. It was a large ball like thing with loopy growths that stemmed out of the pot. Jerry-O finished the ascent and sat next to him.
"Hit it," he said, with a grin.
"What did you say?" asked Victor, surprised.
"Or kick it, whichever. Trust me."
Victor looked at Jerry-O for a while, then shrugged. He raised his claw, clenched in a fist. He brought it down forcefully on the plant. Victor recoiled, surprised, as the plant sprung back, revealing a bird like head.
"Ma!" yelled the bird/plant.
Jerry-O began to chuckle as Victor glared at the thing. "That, my friend, is NOT a plant, but a Ma bird. They bundle themselves up to confuse predators that would love to feast on their flesh, but will not even touch vegetation. And if a herbivore begins to nibble on it, it will reveal itself as a bird. Its only downfall are omnivores."
Victor opened up his fanny pack and began to sketch rough concept drawings of the Ma bird on a sheet of klay parchment.
Jerry-O continued over the scribbling, "According to myth, Ma Birds give off a sort of regeneration ability to whoever awakens it. Quater's magic, if you will. It is said that if you awoke a Ma Bird and somehow got injured or even killed on the same day, you would awake at the spot the Ma bird is currently resting at. Of course, no one's brave enough to test the myth."
Victor wasn't really giving Jerry-O his undivided attention, he was too busy messing with the Ma bird. He gripped the spherical midsection of the bird and shook it, making a sound like loose change in a FwaPiggy bank. The Ma bird gave him a queasy look before coughing up a fat worm. Victor almost plopped the delicacy into his mouth, but before he could, Jerry-O gripped him by the shoulder to restrain him.
"Victor, are you not aware that worms are a rare come by? Almost extinct! This is only the first living worm I've seen since the Evil Engine days! Until now, I thought I'd only see worms in the worm graveyard!" Jerry-O bent down to gaze at the worm, wriggling its way across the branch. He got a little too close, though. The worm sprung into his wide eye socket. His eye lid clenched down in pain, Jerry-O began to panic as it slithered in his skull. "Oh! Oh!!! Get it out! Kill it!"
Thinking fast, Victor grabbed the dial to the sensory implant. He put it all the way to zero. Since Jerry-O could no longer feel the wretched worm, he was able to get himself to open his eye. He stuck one hand in and yanked out the wriggling fiend. He held it in a vice like gripe and began beating it against the tree.
"I'll teach you to stay outta this eye!" he yelled insanely as the worm splattered into pus and bile in his paw. As Jerry-O adjusted his dial again, he noticed the dumbfounded glare he was getting from Victor. Jerry-O attempted to end the awkward moment, "So... have ever, er, how long have you been on Idznak?"
"Long enough to know that now's when I want to leave. I'm pretty sure I've seen all the sights here. Including a great reunion between the Drivey family."
"How do you plan on leaving?" questioned Jerry-O.
Victor nervously glanced about, making sure no one was listening in. "What do you know about Omega halls?"
Jerry-O pondered for a second. "I know that Quater made them illegal after the big Rr problem of the second age."
"Lets say I was to stumble opon one that has yet to be sealed off, how long do you think it would be until Quater found out and cut off access?" questioned Victor hopefully.
"Well, Quater is all-seeing, so if he intended on doing something, he probably would have put a stop to it by now," replied the skullmonkey, a little confused.
"Good, then let's go!" Victor yelled as he leaped out of the tree, Gliding with Flyy. Jerry-O hoisted himself down, branch by branch, close behind. When they reached solid ground, Jerry-O had to sprint to keep up with his flying friend.
"Just...One...Second!" Jerry-O yelled out, under heavy breath. Flyy stopped. "Let me get something." He reached down into his fur (which had created a natural pocket) and pulled out a remote. He pressed a red button above a screen which read 'send' over a small self portrait. Sure enough, a red contraption came flying out of his window of his house, which was by now only a few feet behind them. Victor stared speechless as the thing wrapped around him, accommodating his size and shape.
"Do you... make those?" Victor asked the Jerry-O, thinking about the thing the elders had found over Idznak.
"Indubitably!," responded Jerry-O enthusiastically. "Why, I have a whole supply of the suits! I loose them from time to time. Why? Have you seen one before?"
"I was the lucky Victoid who flew one!"
The hum of the motor ended their conversation as a helmet flew over Jerry-O's head. The machine had special customized helmets for an array of beings. He lifted the visor as the wingspan went fully out. This time it was Jerry-O who had the lead. He flew along with Victor for a portion of the journey before he parted his separate way.
Victor cut off half the trip by venturing into the depths of the underground canals where they came to the Amazing Drivey Finn. He was more than happy to give a ride to the friend of another Drivey. After navigating past the dangerous water mines, Victor again parted with his company. With Flyy resting on his shoulder, he set off for the trek to the Death Garden.
In no time at all, Victor was on the very outskirts of the giant forests of the garden. From there, he knew how to reach his exit point. He gently patted Flyy until he awoke, stretching his wingspan in a yawn. He's love to drop in on Bainn, but that would take valuable time, so the duo flew up towards the spot. Victor extended a claw and gripped the knob for the first time in weeks. He carefully stuck one head into the hall. Olhama Bob wasn't there. He must of thought I was as good as dead thought Victor. He tip-toed into the hall and examined the door. Victor wished there was a distinct marking system on the door. But a Rr wouldn't need something like that, its superior mind can hold the memory needed to remember where the doors were made to lead. If they could create passageways with their mind, then why use literal doors at all? Maybe they like the look of the architecture. Victor tip-toed further down to be sure to get a completely new place. When he was satisfied with the look of a door, he opened it.
He saw plain grassy fields and a few abandoned farmhouses, and the stench of lots of herd animals drifted up to him, but other than that there was little life. He shrugged and leaped in. A smear of grass stain marked his fur as he plopped into the soil. Victor brushed himself off and got a better look around. The little amount of the herd animals suggested that they had wandered off from a larger group. There was a sign posted to Victor's right: Welcome to Fwah Ah Population: BertBerts, and lots of 'em
Victor looked around. The grassy fields were like sand dunes covering the outstretching plane. He sure didn't see lots of 'BertBerts.'
Hadn't his tribe traded for some strange foods called Fwa and Fep Gerkins? This certainly was the land of Fwah. The Fwa ones were very tasty, but he had vomited at the mere whiff of the Fep.
Victor sat down and pulled out a sheet of klay parchment to sketch the herd animals- probably Fwa Cattle. When he was satisfied, Victor wandered across the empty country side for awhile before he came across a sign stuck deep into the green klay field. It was a directional map, for it had arrows pointing every which way. One arrow pointed to the west and read 'To the plains of Choppen' while another pointed forward and read 'To the kingdom of Fep.' It was while he was studying the sign that he began to hear the slight pitter-patter of hoofs coming towards him from over the plain. Victor went into a sprint, anxious to meet a new being, maybe even an intelligent one! He hardly had to run far before he caught his first sight of the being, a colorfully dressed slim figure riding atop a pack animal.
"Hey, over here!" cried Victor at the top of his lungs. At the sight of his wolf-like fangs and dangerous appearance, the being gasped and pulled out a sling shot. Victor ducked just in time as a pebble ricocheted off of the hard ground where he had been just a second earlier. After a few more rounds were fired, Victor pulled out a klay parchment and wrote the words 'peace' with his claw. He held the sign above his head, unsure of what the being would do in response. Being a Victoid sure had its downsides.
After waiting behind the protection of the hill for nearly five minutes, he finally stood up and began his approach. At the second sight of the creature's face, the being aimed his slingshot, almost sending Victor ducking once again for the safety of the hills, but the being relaxed and pocketed it. Victor gave a sigh and slowly walked down.
The purple-clothed being finally spoke. "Victoid beasts no wanted in Fwah Ah, or in Fep, or in Choppen for that! Victoid given one day for he to leave, or he be pounded to death be Fwa stampede." Victor expected no less from the slingshot-wielding dissident.
"Not much here to study, anyway. If I may ask, why is this land so empty?" Victor noticed that the being constantly had his eyes on his fanny pack.
"And what care it to the evil?" he replied sternly and impatiently.
"If you can believe, I actually haven't come to kill or destroy anything, only to study the creatures in this world."
The being crossed it's arms and thought for a moment. "If I tell you this, will I be left to be on my way, and you leave?"
"If that is what I must do to get some answers..." Victor replied, rubbing on his steam ridden goggles.
"Very well. They left in fear of... Tickberger!" the being said with an evil grin. "Now, if I be pardoned, I go on my way." With that, he smacked the animal and went riding slowly away.
While he was passing over the hill, Victor yelled to him, "For the record, who are you and what are you riding?"
The being halted briefly. "I be Chippenkibber of the Choppenpops, and this is my Fwa Oxen. You better be left soon, too. The quickest way out would be the path you taking right now. That Tickberger would do our work in Victoid extermination!" Chippenkibber laughed at this and rode off.
After walking for a bit in the direction of the Kingdom of Fep, Drivey Flyy awoke and gave him a boost. With the help of Flyy, Victor probably shortened his travel by an hour or two. The exhausted Flyy rested on the back of Victor while they approached a sign that read 'Welcome to the Kingdom of Fep!' Victor took his first look over to the royal grounds. The first thing that caught his eye was the long trail of smoke blanketing the sky...
The royal grounds, much like the plains of Fwah Ah, were completely abandoned. The palace, which was now smoldering ruins, was merely rubble. Something had been there...
Victor was pulled out of his train of thought by the voice of some injured being. "Help me!" it yelled. Victor spun around to the direction of the sound. It was coming from the palace ruins! Victor rushed to the voice, where he found a toppled wall, only a hand peeking its way through the rubble. A thick cloud of soot disguised the being's coloration. Victor hesitated no longer. He used his large claws to quickly rip away the layer of rock. After a little digging, Victor saw the being's face. He had a mustache and little squinty eyes on either side of his long nose. The being wore a little hat on his bald head and a vest for his four arms. The being forced his grimy eyes open to look at his rescuer.
"It's a funny world when a Victoid is the one who saves your life. The name's Breaker Brak, my friend," said the being in a croaky voice. He held out a pair of right hands, and Victor took both of them and shook.
"It's nice to meet someone who doesn't panic at the mere sight of my face. What happened here? Tickberger?" Breaker Brak simply nodded at that. "A whole kingdom burned to the ground," Victor muttered as Breaker Brak had meanwhile gotten up and done some rummaging. He looked up briefly.
"Ya, too bad," he said plainly. "Guess some just aren't in Quater's favor." He held the rim of his vest in his four arms, then did some more rummaging.
"Don't you feel the least bit vengeful? If it was me, and the place where I grew up had just been blown to smithereens, I would probably be driven to feel the need to slay the Tickberger. What about you?"
"Slay the Tickberger?!! That'd be suicide!" yelled the astonished Breaker Brak. Without Victor even hearing, he added, "in more ways than one." After he lifted another rock, Breaker finally found what he was looking for: a half-conscious BertBert. He took his upper right hand and gripped the back of the being's necked and squeezed. The being let off a distorted groan as Breaker's fingers became claws and lodged themselves under the skin and into the jugular. Victor heard this and came rushing to Breaker Brak's side.
"Thank Quater, another survivor! Did you..." Victor stopped mid-sentence. He stood with his mouth slightly agape as Breaker hunched over the dry body. His hunch was so large it reminded him of the pictures of Glenn that Bainn had showed him. It appeared as if something big was in his back and it wanted out.
Breaker gave him a dumbfounded glance. "What do you care? Victoids are an evil species."
"That is an undignified generalization," Victor said as he slowly backed away. Breaker gave him a cold stare.
"So be it." With those words, Breaker reared back, the skin of the BertBert who he had called Breaker Brak burst open. (He had heard Tickbergers were born of envy, but to steal another's skin was disgusting even for something that evil.) The thing expanded into its full height, towering above the Victoid. A fat abdomen filled with fresh blood, the tick-like thing was supported by two pairs of segmented legs, while a third attached at the midsection and went out into a razor sharp tip. Its head resembled a disembodied brain littered with eyes. Two main eyes extended from stalks that curved around the head ending in the black slits that were the eyes. Twin appendages hung in front of its mouth and went into fang tips. Its neck was protected by a stubby pair of claws. It was the Tickberger, in all its infamous glory.
If he had never had met Drivey Flyy, Victor never would have had a chance from the beginning. Every creature alive has a natural tendency to avoid Tickbergers, and Flyy had been wary of Breaker Brak from the beginning. As soon as his suspicions were confirmed, Flyy hoisted his hairy friend as far away as he could get, and at speeds Victor didn't even know any Drivey could reach.
The Tickberger, or Breaker, was not about to let the Victoid get away with its life. Victor's life would make it stronger. With the leg-power of a gargantuan flea, Breaker leaped great distances, closing the gap between it and its escapers.
Victor glanced back nervously only to see the Tickberger in mid air, its legs flailing behind it, its head reared back, and fangs protruding. The Tickberger slashed one claw at its prey, forcing Flyy to drop Victor in order to save him from ending up like Vance. The Tickberger also plummeted to the ground. He used a flat rock on the fields to give his jumping legs better kick-back. Flyy was flying downward toward his Victoid friend when the Tickberger leaped back into the sky.
Victor lay on the ground, rubbing his head from the fall, when he heard a squeal and then the plop of something hitting the ground near him. He looked beside himself, but what he saw crushed him. Flyy lay there, one wing neatly torn off. Victor cradled his Drivey friend, still barely alive. As Victor wiped away a tear, he heard a disturbing insectoid clicking. As he rotated his head to face the evil, the tip of his snout nearly brushed the fangs of the Tickberger. Rancid breath poured into Victor's nostrils.
Not hesitating a moment longer, Victor dashed under the beast and scrambled around down to a plain where Fwa herds had been abandoned. Victor was well aware of the Tickberger as it became air-born over his head. The Fwa Cattle nervously backed as the massive evil lurched toward them. It grabbed one in its fore claws and devoured it. Then it returned its piercing gaze to Victor. It stood in front of the massive Fwa Herd as Victor encircled the plateau. The Tickberger did not follow in the chase, but instead lifted his head above the herd to gaze at the Victoid. He would let his prey think it had the upper hand.
Victor stood on the opposite side of the remainder of what once my have been a great herd. There, he carefully placed Flyy in some protective shrubbery. He scoured about until he found a good sized rock. He gripped it in his claws and hurled the weapon at a near by Fwa Cattle. The animal screeched in pain and anger. He picked up a few more rocks and through them until their attention was shifted from the Tickberger to himself. The furious cattle walked slowly towards him, revenge glazed over their eyes. That was when Victor showed his Victoid side. He reared back and bared his teeth and claws, letting out the most fearsome scream the Fwa Cattle had ever heard. The all yelled out at once and reared around, fleeing. This caused a chain reaction in the whole herd. The plan was working perfectly. He had started a Fwa Stampede.
The Tickberger didn't like this. His victim was done having fun. This meant business. The Tickberger didn't bother to jump over the herd, for he would just land at the edge and still get trampled. He wouldn't get far ahead or to the sides of them. So the Tickberger reared back and bared its pincers at the oncoming herd and struck. The first few lines went down in a mess of blood and gristle, but the more rows that came down it, the more he had trouble keeping balance. He finally could stop the stampede no more and attempted to make a great leap. And he would have made it, too, if its hind legs hadn't snagged on the oncoming steers. The Tickberger plummeted head first into a rage of hoofs clattering against klay. Victor watched as a claw rose above the mass of klay and feet that trampled the Tickberger. The claw swiped madly, but eventually fell limp. The stampede lasted but a minute, more or less. When the Fwa Herd had gone off into the horizon, Victor crept carefully to the pale overturned Tickberger. Each eye was squeezed shut, its cold body deflated. Victor stood there for what seemed like a long time, gazing at his foe. He glared at the evil embodiment. That was when everyone of its dreadfully black eyes opened in unison. Victor fell back as it re-positioned itself, back on its feet. Color began to return to the possum. In the back of his head, Victor heard the Tickberger's voice pulsate.
"You think this is some kind of game?" it croaked angrily. "You want to play some games? It's the end of the line! I want your essence!" It bared its fangs and began to lurch down. Victor swiped a claw and made a large gash in one that oozed with pus. The Tickberger's agonized yell echoed through Victor's mind. In a blur, the Tickberger lifted its fangs and brought its open mouth down on Victor.
It happened so quickly that shock that Victor didn't even feel the immense pain. He lay in the gullet of the Tickberger, his legs amputated, as bile caressed his open flesh, slowly burning it away. He was being digested. For a second he almost passed out from the sudden surge of pain, if it wasn't for the evil voice pounding in his head.
"Don't leave us now the party's just begun!" it said in a laugh. Victor felt himself slipping away. He had lost all hope. "You thought you could interfere, and look at you now! Ha! Your mother eats Fep Gerkins! I'm off to Choppen next, then Fwah Ah, then wherever space carries me. The whole world is on my warpath! But first, I'm going to finish that little friend of yours. I'm going to eat his flesh off and let him bleed dry!" Victor's anger built up. He wasn't dead yet. He couldn't let it get to Flyy. Victor floated idly. He began to propel himself with his bony arms. The massive gullet of the Tickberger was black with evil, pumped with sludge. He focussed his remaining energy on clawing through the flesh. He began to slash at the leathery flesh, ripping veins. Moans of pain echoed in his mind. The finally found what could've been the heart, but was instead a black mass which pumped sludge through its body. He opened his tooth filled jaws, and in one swift movement, clamped down on it like a vice. And then he gave out. The world before Victor went black.
Victor opened his eyes to find himself on a funny little table. Jerry-O was standing next to him with a scrub bucket and a sponge which he dabbed on Victor's forehead. Victor leaned up and immediately recognized the place as Jerry-O's house.
"So... it was all...a dream?" said Victor, somewhat dazed. He looked through his blurry eyes at Jerry-O, whose expression changed from grim to delight.
"I can assure you, that was no dream. If found you by the Ma-Bird, somewhat delirious! You kept mumbling about a door and a Tickberger, and that you had to go back to save your friend." Jerry-O was busily working as he spoke.
The memory pounded into Victor's skull like Slappy the Hamster finding his newest victim. "Flyy!" screamed Victor as he leaped off of the table he was resting on. Before he could get to the door, Jerry-O grabbed him by the shoulder and stopped him. Jerry-O rotated the shaken Victoid to face a little black covering.
"This used to be the covering for the Sacred root," mentioned Jerry-O as he lifted it, revealing a perch where the deflated Drivey Flyy rested.
For the first minute Victor was at a loss for words. Then he finally yelled, "Flyy!" again, except this time it was joyful. "But how..." thought Victor aloud.
"I have a confession to make," said Jerry-O, who stood behind the reunited friends. "I was too curious to leave when I separated from you on your way to the Omega Rr door, so instead I took a different path, expecting to meet you at the death garden. By the time I arrived, you were just entering the door. So I knew where to go when you were mumbling. I just went in the door that was wide open. I found this little guy shivering in a bush, one wing partially shredded. With a little help from tissue regeneration chemicals in the science center, and some transplant flesh from a Glidey Bird, I was able to fix him right up. But I never saw any Tickberger."
"But it couldn't have gone away! I slayed it! And nothing could devour a carcass that big! And no one in their right mind would drag it away!" Victor fell silent in contemplation. "Maybe an evil like that will never be destroyed. Only driven away." And with that, he scooped up Flyy into his arms. He didn't realize it then, but if he would have ran his hand over his head, Victor would have found that he had both of his ears. "How long was I out?" asked Victor.
"For about a day or two. I think certain creatures have a different reaction to death," Jerry-O responded, leaning back into a chair. Then Jerry-O added, "You should congratulate yourself! Your the first Victoid, or being for that matter, to survive being in the gullet of the Tickberger."
"And I never want to do it again," said Victor as Flyy perched on his shoulders.