Chapter 1: Spit Shine: The Liquid Legend
The nights were hot; the days even more so. The bright sun beat down on the land and the ground sizzled. Spit Shine heaved a breath as he wiped the ink from his brow. He was dying, and fast. He had no time to dilly-dally. His journey had taken too long already.
Spit Shine was a strange creature with an even stranger life. He led a life of hiding, welcoming the damp, quiet darkness. Blackened walls and shadows were his friends.
His townsfolk took refuge in what they called “Tin-Tin Tubes,” an abandoned sewer system. Spit Shine had once called it home and now he missed it.
“Don't be having a home no more,” Spit thought as he dragged himself toward the glass chest, his shining savior. Within it, aqua blue liquid invitingly shimmered, beckoning. It was almost in reach.
“Finally! This be my fix, be getting my life back,” Spit thought as he inched toward it. He couldn't help but remember the amazing journey he'd been on. No one would ever believe the things he'd encountered, not even his mother.
“Sweet ’ems! Time ta be getting up!” Her voice was a little ragged and worn, stressed. Spit rolled over, covering himself with his patchwork blankets. He had no desire to be awake, no reason to see the world around him.
“What be the point,” he mumbled into his sheets as he listened to his mother shuffle across the wooden floorboards of their modest home. She took a quick break from cleaning to sit on the edge of his bed.
“Come on, kiddo. You got plenty of life ta drag your feet through; plenty not ta be sad about. This be the time of your life. You should be out having fun and playing with friends.” She pulled the covers from his face. Spit quickly jerked the covers back over his face.
“Ain’t got any friends! I’m a freak. An outcast,” Spit mumbled into the covers.
“You’re not a freak, ya jus’ be a bit different—“
“‘A BIT!’ A bit different! I be the laughing stock of the town. I’m ugly and dumb.”
“No, you’re not. Some people jus’ make mistakes.” Again, she pulled the blankets from his face. “Now get ya arse up ’n go play!” She stood up and began cleaning again.
Spit made many mistakes, none of which were life-altering like his last. He’d been in bed for a week now; his mistake had cost him dearly. His depression was obvious; his big green eyes sagged lifelessly, his hair was disheveled, his face was as pale as moonlight.
Spit stepped out on to his small balcony. Overlooking his village he could see everything all the way to the far wall. Surrounded by tall pitch-black walls, his town was shrouded in shadow. Lit by the dim lights on every corner, the town was every shade of grey. Wooden shanties and shacks filled the streetscape, some unbalanced, made of flotsam and jetsam of the Tin-Tin Tubes. Some homes looked like haphazard piles of trash, but their occupants were skillful at converting the interiors to utilitarian residences.
Only recently had the Elders made travel beyond the Tin-Tin Tubes forbidden. Not that long ago Fairies were able to surf on the waters just outside the city in Flood Town. Spit’s father Tin had been one of the most fearless riders. After he and a few others went missing, the Elders forbid anyone to leave the town. Only those designated “warrior” held the pass to the gate.
Legends told the story of the first Elf fairy to take refuge within the Tin-Tin Tubes to escape the dust of a malevolent storm that covered the world, destroying almost all life. Fairies told tall tales of that storm and how it lasted months devastating human civilization.
Spit cared not for such tales. He cared for his lost wings and pride. As he ventured into his dim town, he realized his fellow Elf fairies pointing, talking and laughing. Fairies were not always nice. Sometimes they were downright malevolent.
Then he heard it: The laugh he dreaded. A fat laugh that gargled in its own saliva.
It was Franklin. He was the only fat fairy anyone had ever seen. Some say that when he was born, his parents tried to abandon him in a food storehouse. The provisions would have lasted years but with Franklin inside, they only lasted days. Until Spit’s unfortunate accident, Franklin was the laughingstock of the town. All the laughing went on behind Franklin’s back; the fairies were too afraid to laugh in his face for fear of being eaten or sat on. He was the largest Elf fairy of them all.
“Look what we got here, boys! Finally got the courage ta step outta that dirt-can ya live in, Wingless?” Franklin goaded Spit as the three fairies around him began to laugh.
“At least I be havin’ an excuse for not being able ta fly. What’s yours, Fatty?” Spit retorted as he watched Franklin’s face fill red with rage.
“Oooohhhhhh!” Franklin’s little friends egged them on.
“What did you say, ya little wingless, deformed freak?” Franklin said as he puffed up his chest, taking a step forward.
“What? The fat clogging ya ears? I can always heal. You...well...you will always be a big, fat, arrogant arse.” Spit said as he stood his ground. He was never one for backing down, even if he knew he couldn’t win.
“Let’s see who the arse be when we find out if a wingless fairy can still fly,” Franklin taunted.
“Once again ya be proving your intellect with that remark. Of course a wingless fairy can’t fly," Spit said, just realizing Franklin’s intentions.
Spit braced himself as Franklin become redder and redder. Franklin lunged at him but Spit was too quick. He dodged to the side. The three friends cheered on the fight as Spit dodged Franklin’s fists of fury. Spit wasn't for it; he knew he couldn’t take on this fat fairy by himself. He dodged one last time and took off running, weaving through back alleys until he was sure he’d lost him. The only good news was that he was close to his destination.
Dusty was Spit’s best friend. He was only a year older than Spit, yet he owned his own house for as long as Spit could remember. Dusty’s parents died in a Tin-Tin collapse, and he was permitted to stay.
Dusty fit his name quite well. His house was full of dirt and dust. He loved tinkering with things, and he often made contraptions that simply didn't work. Sometimes though, they worked all too well. But most of his inventions sat around collecting more dust.
Spit walked into the upper half of the house. It looked like a shop with counters and walls of items; junk lay all around, and dust covered the countertops. A small sleeping area was nestled between the piles.
“Dusty!” Spit called out. Only seconds later he heard rock scrape against rock and the mumble of Dusty’s voice: “Down here!”
Spit hopped over a counter to find a small hole in the floor off to one side. A light flickered from the hole and then an explosion reverberated. Black smoke spiraled from the hole as Spit fell back, trying not to inhale.
“Dusty!” Spit cried out as he jumped through the smoke.
Black soot was everywhere. The light bulbs overhead barely shone through it. Under a light at his desk sat Dusty, calmly brushing the soot off the light and himself as he turned to see Spit. Dusty’s shocked expression was barely visible. He coughed a black cloud of smoke.
“Oops!” Spit started laughing, as did Dusty. “Dusty Trails! How’s things?” Spit asked.
“Wait… I know that voice,” Dusty said, clearing his eyes. “Spitzzy!” He jumped from his stool to wrap his arms around Spit. “How ya been? Well, other than… ya know...” Dusty said as he took a step back to get a better look.
He gazed into Spit’s eyes. One eye was green and unaffected; the other, while still green, was cloudy, and his nose was missing a triangular chunk from its center. His left ear was no more, nothing but scar tissue. One last dominating scar pulled his bottom lip down slightly and to the left. Other smaller scars riddled Spit’s face.
“I been better,” Spit grumbled.
“Well, don’t ya worry ’bout that, my friend. Ol’ Dusty’s here ta help. Made you a little something while you were getting some beauty sleep.” Dusty turned to his work desk.
“You didn’t have ta go ’n make me nothing,” Spit said.
“Oh, come now! Best friend in need, guy’s gotta do the deed. How me not gonna help ya out?” Dusty looked through his stuff. Junk went flying as he searched, throwing things about.
“Now I was reading in my old tech books, had to dust them off but I found something you might jus’ be interested in. Came across this stuff called Oozmium glass. This glass be having quite the history, book reads: A mysterious glass box, unknown in origin, rests where the world ended. The elixir of life resides in the only thing powerful enough to hold it, Oozmium glass keeps the elixir safe at all costs. This book tells a tale that the glass contained the start of life after the dust settled. Anyway, this Elixir if ya doesn’t know is a cure-all. An’ I jus’ happen ta stumble on this little clue as ta where it be. The clue… AH HA!” Dusty yelled as he pulled something from a heap of junk.
He turned to Spit. “Your new grappler. Check it out.”
It was a sleeve with stone gears and tubes woven through it, its fabrication was near perfect, light enough to not weigh down the sleeve, but strong enough to not break with any force any fairy could apply. The sleeve ended at the shoulder to form straps filled with thin wire. The sleeve was covered with copper strips. Spit wondered how Dusty managed to find copper, let alone work with the stuff. Spit slipped his arm down the sleeve. As his hand emerged, it was covered in plasma. It was cold as it froze to his hand, sending an ice cold pins-and-needles pain up his arm. He saw green tattoos thicken and slither around his fingers and across his hand, then up his forearm like a snake.
“What the?!” Spit shouted, shocked.
Dusty laughed, “Now I shoulda told ya, but it’s permanent.” Dusty said.
“Yea, probably shoulda told ya that, but you ain’t gonna wanna take that thing off. Not only is it amazing but if I ever figure out how ta make it even better than it is, you jus’ bring it here an’ I can upgrade it,” Dusty said.
“Permanent! Are you nuts?” Spit yelled.
“Hmm. Last time I checked…yea.” Dusty laughed.
“Very funny.” Spit shook his head in disbelief. Nothing was too far-fetched for Dusty.
“Well, how do we work this thing?” Spit asked in resignation.
“That's simple. Jus’ think it an’ do it. The grapple hook is tucked away at the end of the sleeve.” Spit raised his arm to the wall. There was a sudden, loud squeal as the hook shot from his arm into the wall. It was a three-pronged hook with one joint for each prong.
“Now you’re probably wondering what the green plasma stuff is, right?”
“Na, I thought that was normal,” Spit said sarcastically.
“Uh huh,” Dusty said with no expression, as they both broke into laughter. “Ok, the green is actually what powers the tech. A clever little compound someone wrote down in one of my tech books. Neon shrooms, salt, shadow berries, and a wall snail’s slime make this amazing stuff. I don’t know who figured it out, but this stuff can power pretty much anything you can think of.”
“Snail slime…. Really?” Spit said with disgust.
“Just be glad I got some. Them Brownies are like gnats, everywhere they’re not supposed to be and a million of ‘em in one spot. Feels like its getting worse every day, Spit. Every time I go out into the outer tubes it’s like there’s ten times more of ‘em. They will find the city one day. I just hope we can find a way out by then.” Dusty said
“A way out? You say it like we’re all planning on leaving here?” Spit asked, confused at the idea.
“You like it down here? Nothing but dark, dank, smelly, rotten trash down here. Don’t you wanna enjoy the good stuff up top?” Dusty said as he looked up closing his eyes as he imagined what it would look like.
“Up top? You think there is something above the Tin-Tin Tubes?”
“I don’t just think, I know, I’ve seen it… but we’ll talk about that in a bit, more important is getting you trained with that grappler.”
“So I take it you made this for me cause I be having no wings,” Spit said as the hook zipped back into his sleeve.
“Yea ’n nay. See, that's what I been reading about. I don't know if your wings ever be healin’. If this Elixir is real, then it will most definitely heal you. There be only one bad part: That Oozmium glass box lies above the Tin-tin tubes, above the ground, even above the trees. See, been reading up on it an’ it says the Oozmium box rests at the very place the world ended. It be at the top of an ol’ age building; the tallest building in the only ol’ age city left standing.”
“How do we get there?” Spit asked.
“That be the problem. I can take you through the Tin-Tin Tubes, but once you get out in ta forest you’re on your own. You’ll know the trees from drawings and books. From there it shouldn’t be all that hard; jus’ climb a tree an' look for the tallest building…. I would go but it’s already risky enough the both of us leaving the city," Dusty said.
“Well, then, what we waiting for? Let’s get a move on.”
“First you gotta learn how ta use your grappler.” Dusty climbed up the ladder, out of the soot.
They soon found themselves in front of the “trash wall.” It was a pile of scrap blocking off the wharf. Few knew why the trash wall was made. Those who did know wouldn’t speak of it, and those who didn’t made up stories. One such story was that a snarling beast roamed the wharf; but Dusty and Spit had been there plenty of times and never saw any monster.
Dusty removed a panel from the wall while Spit kept watch. They slipped with ease through the small tunnel they had made years ago. This was their sanctuary, a place to get away from everyone, to enjoy peace and quiet. The dock extended to two small house-like structures; with years of work, Dusty and Spit had taken all the junk out of the houses. It became a home away from home for them, a place to relax without worry.
“So how am I gonna be training with this thing here?” Spit asked as he made his way to the rail of the dock. The water was still without so much as a ripple.
“See those posts holding up the dock?” Dusty pointed. “I want you to get from one to the other without touching the water.”
“Easy enough.” Spit said, all too confidently, as he aimed his grappler at the top of the post. It shot out, missing the post by a few feet, hitting the wall far behind it. He tried to pull it back without unhooking its prongs, only to be pulled over the rail. He fell into the water, and it took a moment to unhook himself. Dusty laughed. Spit shot the grappler onto the rail in front of Dusty, causing his friend to jump.
Once back on the dock, Spit was ready to try again. He took aim and shot his grappler. It grabbed the post. Spit was overjoyed as he attempted to pull himself toward it, but he went too fast and smacked into it, sliding down into the water. Dusty was quite entertained, but it didn’t take long for Spit to get the hang of his new grappler as he jumped from one post to the other without a problem.
“Thank you for this, Dusty, really. I don’t know what I’d ever do without you.” Spit said as they relaxed for a moment on the dock. Dusty looked away, almost in shame, and swallowed hard.
“Always here for you buddy, you know that.”
“Hey, umm, I know this is gonna sound stupid but did I cry when it all went down?” Spit asked.
“No, you were as tough as nails… I can’t help but blame myself for that day. It’s all my fault,” Dusty said as he stared off in shame.
“Don’t blame yourself, I should have never played that joke on Franklin. He would have never tried to get back at me… ta think this all happened over a stupid joke,” Spit said with remorse.
“You got too much heart, ya know that,” Dusty said as he walked back to the trash wall. Spit followed as they journeyed to the gate.
Spit followed Dusty closely through the back alleys. Hidden in the shadows, they made sure to keep their footsteps quiet to avoid sensitive fairy ears. As they reached the end of the alley, Dusty peered out to make sure no one was around. He darted across an open square toward a thirty-foot gate and found safety in a shadowed corner. Once Dusty was out of sight, Spit took his chance. He ran out into the lit area surrounding the gate as Dusty picked the lock to a small door on the gate itself.
“Hurry up!” Spit whispered as he pressed against the wall.
“Damn it! Shut up!” Dusty hissed back. The lock was unlike any in the city. He needed to focus. After a moment the door popped open for them to slip through unnoticed. Or so they thought.
Moments later Franklin huffed and puffed into the square, looking to make sure no one was around. He had caught sight of the pair and knew something was afoot. As he made his way toward the now unlocked door, a shadowed figure stepped from the dark alley.
“Where do you think you’re going, young Franklin?” a mature voice inquired.
Franklin jumped as he turned to see the Elder before him.
“Elder, oh umm. I’m going home, why?”
“Looked like you may have been headed for the gate,” the Elder said, knowing that Dusty and Spit had gone through the door only moments before.
“No, just thought I saw something funny over here is all. I’ll be making my way home now,” Franklin said.
The Elder watched him until he disappeared behind a corner, then relocked the door. “Stay safe, you two,” he muttered. The Elder was head of the city council, which kept order—among other things—within the town. “I fear you’re in for a long journey.”
“Have we never been here before?" Spit asked as he walked alongside Dusty on an extra-wide ledge. Below them was nothing but darkness. The place was void of water, a tube made to hold water but it was bone dry.
“Listen, ya gotta keep this hush-hush. If anybody finds out we was here, outta the city, they’d ban us,” Dusty warned.
“Kinda like the time we found that hidden passage ta the Wharf. Oh, an’ what about that time we found our little water well?”
“Okay, Okay! Ya get it! No need ta rub my face in it. As far as I know we be the only ones ta know about this place,” Dusty said.
“An’ ya checked it out, right? It be an exit, right?”
“Yep. Leads straight in ta the forest, but there may be a little problem. There might be a dragon using the exit chamber as its home.”
“Yea, I classified it as a sewage dragon. You should see this bad boy, pitch black with yellow evil eyes. Nasty-lookin’! I believe it was once something else… not sure what, but the chamber it lives in has cages all over the walls and the cage that’s torn open is the dragon’s den. I was wandering around when I saw it its yellow, glowing eyes emerge from its den… that was a scary day.” Dusty laughed
“Nasty? Sewage dragon? Does anything phase you? You’re killing me here!” Spit sighed.
“Don’t worry. We jus’ gotta be super quiet. No mistakes.”
“Really, no mistakes? Did you forget who you’re talking about here?” Spit asked rhetorically.
“Ohh...right. Jus’ don't worry,” Dusty said with a smile and patted Spit on his back. Their conversation stopped as they drew deeper in to the Tin-Tin Tubes. The deeper they went the more dangerous it got. Brownies roamed in packs and larger creatures hunted for any sound in the dark.
Their hair stood on end at the sound of long, grizzly nails scratching the walls. The rumble of a hungry stomach and the screams of dying creatures could be heard for miles in the deep resonant tunnels of the Tin-Tin Tubes. Dusty finally stopped at a door. It was as large as the gate. Dusty pointed up toward a barred window, spreading his wings he flew toward the bars. Spit aimed his grappler to follow. The hook shot out with a tiny squeal of sound. Seconds later, Spit too was on the ledge of the window.
He looked into the room to see nothing but darkness. Spit shot his hook into the ceiling, swinging out into the air, hanging there for a moment. All he had to do was simply think of lowering himself and seconds later his toes touched the chamber’s solid floor. Dusty was a genius, he thought. He watched Dusty move through the darkness as if he’d been here a million times. Spit quickly followed him, rounding the corner of a huge metal pole to see Dusty in the center of the room. He was looking up at something as Spit moved closer.
A sudden voice rang out: “Ya think I didn't see you two nerks leave through the gate!” Spit and Dusty ran to see Franklin standing on the barred window ledge. “Ya think you’re getting out o’ this one, ya little snots?” Franklin shouted.
Dusty looked over to Spit with a worried face. Before Franklin could move, the dragon burst through the bars, swallowing Franklin whole as the bars came crashing down. The dragon’s large feet smashed into the ground and cracked the tiles. It let out a roar as its glowing golden eyes stared them down. The pitch-black dragon with rust-colored spots all over had a huge tail and wings, but its body looked starved. Franklin left a fat lump in its belly.
“Run!” Dusty screamed as he took off into the darkness.
Spit didn't have to think. He shot his hook into the ceiling. The dragon lunged for him as he sped upward. The dragon must have thought it ate Spit as it continued on into the darkness. Spit looked for Dusty but couldn’t see anything. He could hear the dragon thrash about as it detoured after Dusty. He heard glass smash into the ground as things went flying.
The bong of metal being hit sounded throughout the room. The dragon let out a roar of rage. Spit turned and on the far side of the room, a stream of glowing, neon-yellow liquid poured from the dragon’s mouth. Dusty flew above it, and a moment later the dragon venom hissed and bubbled and melted the floor into nothingness. The dragon lunged forward as it swatted at Dusty and missed.
Dusty floated in the air, proud of himself, as the dragon spun around. Dusty never saw it coming. The dragon’s tail swiped him, sending him flying into a wall. Spit saw Dusty bounce off and fall toward the giant hole left by the dragon’s acrid acid.
“NOOO!!!” Spit screamed as he watched Dusty fall into the black hole. The dragon held onto the edge as it stretched its head down into the abyss.
Rage filled Spit as he let his hook release. Before he hit the floor, his hook snapped into the far wall. He went speeding toward the wall only to let go halfway, aiming at the dragon, which was still looking downward. He had a perfect shot to the back of the dragon’s head. The dragon let out a roar as it turned to see Spit speeding straight at it. Spit’s heart raced as the dragon lunged at him. Luckily, the wire was arcing Spit over to the back of the dragon’s head.
Spit tried to stop himself by putting his feet out, only to see each foot meet the dragon’s nostrils. The dragon roared as the impact forced Spit’s feet up its nose. When the dragon threw his head back, Spit’s feet jolted out and he was dragged up the dragon’s head. He stood up, holding the grapple wire as if it was the dragon’s reins. The dragon, still shaking its head, was headed straight into a wall. Spit yanked back on the wire in hopes the dragon would pull up. No luck; the dragon crashed into the wall. The sudden stop sent Spit flying, and he was thrown to the floor, rolling like a rag doll.
Spit quickly thought to release the hook. Seconds later, it snapped back into his sleeve. He was unaware of where the dragon was as he rolled, he realized something was different. He was no longer on the floor; the surface Spit stood on was sleek and shiny, a long, flat stainless steel floaty table of some kind.
Suddenly the fearful Spit found himself staring into the dragon’s golden eyes. The dragon roared as it lunged at him before crashing into the edge of the table. All the glass beakers and tubes on it rattled as it then flew into the wall, sending Spit flying. His back crashed onto the cold tile floor. He opened his eyes, only to see a large beaker filled with black falling toward him. Fear filled him once again as the glass broke on top of him, the black ooze covering his body.
“Am I dead?” Spit thought as he floated in darkness. “This can’t be. Death is not my destiny. Open your eyes, damn it! Open ’em!” He peeled open his eyes to stare at the black and white tiles.
“Shouldn't there be black liquid all over the floor?” He reached out to lift himself off the floor. As he reached out he noticed his hand was covered in oozing, slimy black liquid. It seemed to have no definite form as it shifted and swirled.
“What is this?” As he stood, he couldn't help but notice his feet, which were now stumpy and also covered in the black ooze. It seemed to have changed his body.
A rumbling, hissing sound sent chills through the black liquid that covered him. They rippled down his body. Spit looked up to see the dragon’s golden eyes staring him down again. He watched the faint glow of yellow get brighter until neon yellow acid came streaming toward him. There was no time to move out of the way.
He was doused in it.
“Strange,” Spit thought, as he felt no pain. He watched his liquid skin absorb the horrid spew like a sponge absorbs water. The dragon’s foul acid had no effect on his new protective coating.
“What is this?! I...AHHHHH!!!!” Spit screamed in pain as he fell to his knees. A new kind of pain grabbed his heart. His heart felt as if someone squeezed it tightly enough to forge a diamond. His eyes faded to darkness as the dragon moved forward, fixed on him.
The pain suddenly stopped as the dragon ate him, choking him down as it tilted its head back. But the dragon began to cough and hack. Its body spasmed. Its muscles turned to mush, and it collapsed on the floor. Black tentacles shot from its back, grabbing the dragon’s head and pulling it back until its neck snapped. As the dragon went limp, the black liquid devoured it from the inside out. Spit was left in a pool of black ink as he stood and watched the ooze climb back up his body. His new liquid skin had protected him but it seemed to have grown even thicker.
“Great, now what I be? Either way gotta find that Elixir,” Spit said to himself as he walked to the center of the room. He let out a deep sigh.
“Can nothing go right? My best friend gone, my wings gone, and now, my whole body! Why?” he yelled as he fell to his knees. “Something’s gotta go right, right? I’ll find that Elixir, I’ll get myself back to normal.” He got back to his feet. “I’m sorry, Dusty.”
He stared into a large hole in the ceiling. At least a hundred feet above him he saw some sort of hatch. Spit got down on all fours and launched himself in the air. He jumped, to his surprise, a good twenty feet before he came crashing down.
“Wish I still be having me grappler,” and as he thought of it, his three large, stubby fingers shot out from his arm. His fingers smashed into the wall. His hand was still connected to a black liquid wire.
Spit sent his hand speeding toward the hatch. Despite the distance, he could feel the hatch rattle as his hand made impact. He pulled himself up incredibly quickly until his strange new body slammed into the hatch and broke through it without effort. Spit came crashing down on a floor of soft green.
Spit had never seen grass before. The grass melted away beneath his hands and feet as he rose. All around him were massive trees, taller and thicker than anything he had ever imagined, and full of color. Their smooth bark was copper red with yellow vines growing around the trunks and underneath the bark. The leaves at the tops were green and blue with touches of every color imaginable. The forest was incredibly beautiful.
With each step, Spit knew his black poison was killing the lush green grass. He felt that same pain and fell to his knees screaming. He had to find that Elixir, and fast, for he felt like he was dying. But after a moment, the pain passed. He still felt weak and worn, but the initial shock was over.
Spit looked up a tall tree and aimed for the highest branch he could see. His hand shot out, but its speed was not as great as when he first used it.
As he zipped higher and higher, the sound of a sweet lullaby found his ears. He seemed to fall into a trance. He rocked back and forth as he stumbled across a high branch toward the inner workings of the tree. The leaves let in tiny beams of light, the branches intertwining to fashion a beautiful grotto.
How could Spit be surprised by any magical world, when he came from one? A pool of crystal clear water sat at the grotto’s center, rippling as a small stone skipped across it. There, at the opposite edge of the pool sat a young male creature. He appeared to be a fairy, but the water at his feet boiled and steamed, and his hair was ablaze with thick flames of brilliant orange and yellow. It was a strange flame; it wasn’t if the flame had taken hold of hair. No, the flame was his hair. His body was sienna red, and he had no wings.
How can this be? He be a fairy, must be? Spit thought as he stepped closer, realizing this creature was making the beautiful music. His whistle was unlike anything Spit had ever heard before.
“Umm, hello!” Spit called out to the boy.
The fairy's eyes shot open; they were aflame like his hair.
“MONSTER!” The fairy shouted as bright red and blue fire wings sprouted from his back. He took off into the tangled branches.
“Wait! I'm—I’m not a monster!” Spit yelled as he gave chase.
He was fast on the fairy’s trail. He jumped over and slid under branches until he found the tree’s center, which had a hole through its middle. The fiery fairy dived down without stopping. Spit paused at the edge and saw nothing but darkness.
Still, Spit jumped in, with nothing more on his mind than finding out who that fairy could be and proving that he was friend, not foe. Spit fell faster and faster until fear finally took his heart. He tried to grab on to a wall to slow down. It didn’t work, and he dug out dirt and rocks, flailing from wall to wall.
He finally could see a bright glow below. He caught sight of the young fairy and just beyond him was firelight. The closer Spit fell the more immense it became. It was a raging pool of fire, with red, orange, blue, green and white flames swirling. The fairy dived in as if it were a pool of water.
Spit panicked as he grew closer, and then that familiar grip took hold of his heart. His scream was muffled as he fell in. Balls of fire splashed everywhere as he sank like a rock. He felt no pain from the burning fire; only from his heart. The pain stopped as he reached the bottom of the pool. He couldn’t breathe.
He swam through the fire like it was water, and after a moment he reached the surface to fill his burning lungs with air. Oddly, the fire did not seem to burn him or even feel hot. His new skin was an odd beast, he thought, as he climbed out of the fire pool on to the soft, earthy ground.
A tunnel lay before him but the fairy was not in sight. Spit was worn and sore; he felt that he didn’t have much longer. He dragged himself through the tunnel. The farther he went, the louder the sound became.
It was the sound of a celebration: Cheering, singing and laughing met his fairy ears. How he had stumbled upon this strange place was a mystery; finding his way out would be difficult and possibly dangerous. Yet, before him lay a beautiful little city. Sparkles filled the air around him.
“No, not sparkles… embers,” he realized. Embers of every color.
Small huts were filled with the colored light of fire. Fairies blew fire from their hands while others set off fireworks. The city was filled with life and laughter. Spit watched as the fireworks shot upwards. The city lay within a hole in the ground, covered by a large plate of extraordinary glass, one-of-a-kind glass. Now Spit was sure he was in the Fire Fairies city.
“I thought they be jus’ a bedtime story. Jus’ a storybook, but here they be. Wonder what else be real from the books?”
The orange-hued glass could only have been made by Fire Fairies. From the outside it was said to look just like the ground, but from the inside Spit could see reflections of all that lay below it. The glass let things leave through it as if it were nothing more than air or water, but nothing could enter through it. Some fireworks even flew through the glass.
An ear-piercing scream drew Spit’s attention; one of the fairies had noticed him. It didn't take long for the rest of them to take notice. After a moment of shock they started throwing balls of fire at him. The fireballs broke into tiny sparks of flame as they crashed into his skin. Spit held up his hand.
“NO! Wait! Stop! Jus’ listen ta me for a moment!” he yelled, but most retreated to their homes or flew through the glass.
“I mean you no harm! I’m not a monster!” he yelled, but no one listened. He wished for a way to leave. The only way in was through the fire pool, and the only way out was through the glass, but that wasn’t an option for him. Spit was stuck.
“AHHH!!! Will my luck never change?” he yelled.
“Luck? Did you call me?”
Spit almost jumped out of his skin at the squeaky voice. He turned to see a little fairy’s head poking out of a hut. The young girl boldly stepped out toward Spit.
“You're not afraid of me?" Spit asked.
“Should I be?” Luck said as she stepped toward Spit in an attempt to touch him. Spit jumped back.
“NOO!” he yelled as she withdrew.
“What? What is it?"
“I-I be knowing what will happen ta you if you touch my skin.”
“What happened ta you?” she asked.
“Not sure. Some inky black liquid fell on me as I was escaping a dragon and now I be trying ta find a cure. Be looking like a monster but I’m an Elf Fairy. I think I will die if I don’t find what I’m seeking. I’m searching for the last old city that’s said ta hold an Elixir. Do ya know how ta get there?” Spit asked.
“No one ever pays attention to me because I’m so small,” Luck explained. “I listen to everything and I know things I’m probably not supposed to. I’ll show you the way. Follow me.” Luck began to skip through the city.
Little did they know the Elder Fire Fairy had followed Spit and was listening in the shadows. When Spit and Luck left, he hurried into his hut, approaching a stone pedestal topped with a crown of sparkling embers. He pushed the embers aside to reveal a dark steaming liquid a-swirl in a basin, colors twisting and turning within it. The Elder dropped a large ring fashioned of solid diamond into the fluid, and a bubble formed within its center. He blew on the bubble, sending ripples through the fluid, before speaking.
“A monster knows of the Elixir. It must be protected,” he said.
The bubble rippled back a voice.
“A warrior is already scouting the city. He was told to guard the Elixir.”
“Hydro? Send more if there’s time, he may not be enough. Capture it alive; it’s a monster unknown to me. How does such a creature know of an artifact’s location? We must find out if it knows of other artifact locations. The survival of every Fairy population is at stake.”
“We will consider,” the bubble rippled before it popped. The Elder returned the diamond transmitter to a pouch tied around his neck. He then shook his hand over the top of the pedestal and a new layer of tiny sparking embers covered it again.
Spit followed Luck until he felt the pain again. He fell to his hands and knees and screamed. Luck turned back in shock. She ran over but stopped herself a foot short before reaching him. A few fire fairies poked their heads out from their huts to watch the strange creature .
“What happened? What’s wrong?" she asked as Spit used all his strength to raise his hand to warn her back.
The pain lasted twice as long this time. Almost as soon as he was able to breathe again, he thought he might just pass out the next time.
“Oh! I’m so tired.”
“Tired? Well, that just won’t do. You'll need your strength. Come with me,” Luck said as Spit found his feet to follow.
She walked up to an odd little hut, not nearly as tidy as most of the others. Luck turned to make sure Spit was following, and although he was dragging his feet, he caught up. Passing through a curtain strung with tiny glowing embers, they entered a medicine shop. Purple smoke filled the air around them, mixed with a strange aroma that Luck said smelled of mint and banana leaves. The scent was intoxicating to Spit. Sparkling potions filled the shelves in every color imaginable.
“Aura!” Luck called out in her strongest voice to the shopkeeper. “It’s me, Luck, and I have a friend who needs your help.” An old Fire Fairy emerged from the back room. Her hair was a fading flame; her spark wasn’t as bright as it had once been.
At first sight of Spit, her eyes widened but she let out no scream. Spit couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were pure white, with no fire-red iris. She began to withdraw, but Luck grabbed her hand.
“Please, he needs your help.” Despite her words, Spit couldn’t help but feel more like a monster every minute. “He needs his strength back. You must have something that can help?”
Aura grazed over the shelves with her hand guiding her. She pulled a small bottle of dark green liquid off the shelf and gave it to Luck before retreating to her back room.
“Don’t mind her, she’s shy and doesn’t interact much anymore,” Luck said.
“You sure about that? Could just be me,” Spit said with an ironic smile. Luck placed the tube of green liquid on the table before him.
Spit wrapped his liquid black fingers around the vial. He tossed the whole thing in his overly large mouth and crushed the glass, feeling a swirl of energy wash down his throat. Energy filled his body as the curious potion did its work. He looked up to see Luck’s shocked face.
“Didn’t that hurt?” she asked.
“No. Only pain I been feeling has been my heart,” Spit said. “Let’s go. I don’t have much time left.” Luck turned and began walking, but without the skip in her step.
In a few minutes they reached a tunnel that emitted a blue glow. The deeper they went, the brighter the glow became until they reached the edge of a small cliff. Beneath them rushed a blue river of steaming hot plasma.
“We call this the lava tube,” Luck said.
“Why we be here?” Spit asked.
“This tube ends at the junction of all the underground tunnels of the city. It’s the end of the line, the back way home. But you can go against the current too. That will get you out. You can ride it on a piece of glass."
“Won’t be needing it,” Spit cut her off. He thought of his father surfing the waters of the Tin-Tin Tubes.
“Thank you for all your help. I won’t forget you.” He readied to jump in.
“Hey! Wait! Umm, when you get your Elixir, why don’t you come back ta visit me?”
“Yea… yea, I will. Jus’ remember I be looking quite different, and my name’s Spit.”
Spit jumped without looking back. He was thrown about as the plasma river took hold of him. Thrown into the tunnel walls, he only caught a few seconds of air as he occasionally grazed the surface. He couldn’t see anything in the thick, hot, blue river.
Suddenly he slammed into a grate. Trying to grab onto it but it was no use, it was coated in the slimy plasma. Passing through it, Spit was thrown down a waterfall of blue, splashing into a new, slower river of water. Floating to the surface, he noticed a small ledge like the one he and Dusty had walked along not too long ago. This could be his way out.
He launched his black, three-fingered hand into a concrete wall and pulled himself out of the plasma onto the ledge. As got to his feet, he felt it once again. Pain squeezed his heart, crippling him onto his hands and knees. He screamed. The unbearable pain seemed to last even longer this time, but it eventually subsided. Spit found his feet, caught his breath and began his trek through the tunnel in search of a way out.
It didn’t take Spit long to find the same type of hatch that led him into the forest. He shot his hand into the hatch and broke through it with ease. He crashed to the ground and realized all around him was a dusty black desert; giant structures loomed in the distance. These structures had to be the Old-age buildings; they belonged to the race from “Before the Dust.” Spit headed in that direction. Wings would have come in real handy now.
When he reached the city, he was exhausted, and the rock-solid earth covered with criss-cross patterns confused him. But before Spit could even think of where to go, two very large stomps rumbled the ground beneath his feet. Spit turned to see two large black feet.
Six long toes with extremely nasty nails stood before Spit. His eyes followed long black legs up to a body. Its underbelly was hardened with black scales; its wings and back were covered in dark blue feathers. Its head was almost flat, with mossy purple fur coming to a point at the sides of its head like ears. Its red beak was flat and long. The giant bird let out a screech as its head shot toward Spit. Spit had no time to move as its beak grabbed his good left arm and ripped it away. He watched, without pain, as the bird tilted its head back to swallow his arm.
“YOU DIRTY ROTTEN NERK!” Spit yelled. The bird cocked its head and returned his stare.
Rage filled him as he shot his remaining hand at the bird. His three thick fingers wrapped around its beak. The bird tried to squawk as it stomped its feet and flapped its wings, but Spit held on tight as he was lifted. The bird panicked as it lifted off the ground, dragging Spit behind it. The bird flew through the city with great speed, slamming Spit into the buildings they flew past.
Spit reeled himself in, not an easy task as he ricocheted off each building. He reached the bird’s back, making his way along its feathers, grabbing handfuls as he went along. Spit felt its body spasming. The bird moved drunkenly until it took a sharp turn straight into the window of a building. The glass broke into a thousand pieces as the bird tumbled across the floor. Spit was thrown into a thin metal wall.
Spit was dazed but found his feet. He held his head, waiting for his eyes to focus. The bird was being devoured from the inside by Spit’s black ink arm. As his eyes focused, he caught a glimpse of the last bits of bird. But Spit had no time to stand around and watch, as he stumbled through the building. His eyes were still blurry, he was weak, his lungs burned and his head throbbed. He wanted to collapse.
Then it hit him, again, harder than ever. His heart stopped. Pain filled every inch of his body.
“I'm done. I’m dead.” Spit dropped to his knees. Seconds later, he was brought down on his hands. He had no strength to fight it. He felt too tired to scream but somehow his throat opened and a loud howl echoed through the building. Tears poured from his eyes. He never knew he was capable of crying until now. All his life he had wondered what it felt like, and now he knew. The pain left him huffing and puffing for breath.
Seconds later a new sound filled his ears.
A high-pitched squeal rang through the building, followed by what sounded like a bulldozer crashing through wall after wall. A moment later, the wall next to Spit burst apart and he flew across the room. He tumbled across the room until he hit the far wall.
“I’m so over this,” he mumbled as he pulled himself up from the floor.
He could hear this new beast roar in rage. It tossed a large column aside as if it was nothing more than a small stone. Spit noticed the large window to his left, and a large wooden bookcase to his right. Straight ahead, a large tree grew through a crack in the building. Before Spit got far, the creature landed on top of the bookcase. Spit looked up to see the drooling predator. Its legs were short and covered in ochre hair. Its back curved, arched with a fat belly. It used its arms as another pair of legs. They were huge, bulging with muscle. The dark orange hair on its forearms was like long, thin, hard scales. The beast rested on its knuckles, which were blackened with dried blood. The edges of its knuckles were just blood-covered bone. Its ugly blue face was covered with what looked like white paint in the shape of its skull.
To think Spit had been called a monster! This one stared him down before launching off the bookcase. Spit watched as it slammed onto the floor. Rattled by the vibration, Spit almost fell. The beast slammed its arm into the floor not five feet from Spit as it roared in his face. Spit could feel his liquid skin blowing away from him as the beast’s hot, nasty breath hit.
“Oh, this is gonna get ugly,” Spit thought as the beast lifted its other arm off the ground.
Spit grappled with one of its arms, jolting toward the beast as the arm came crashing down. He let go as he flew toward its face. As he brushed past its cheek, he grabbed onto its ear and shoved his foot down into it, breaking its eardrum. The beast roared in pain as it thrashed about; blood poured out of its ear. Its hand came around to grab Spit in its large, fat fingers. The beast squeezed Spit, but Spit felt no pain as his liquid skin spread through the beast’s fingers.
The beast sent Spit flying. Spit twisted in the air until he slammed into the window, spreading across the window like butter on toast. The beast rushed forward, slamming its fist into the glass and shattering it violently. Spit was sucked out the window with the glass. The beast tumbled out behind, catching itself on the ledge.
Spit quickly shot his hand into another window, his three fingers cracking three small holes in the glass. The liquid wire pulled tight as Spit slammed into the glass. As he pulled himself up, he noticed pieces of glass sticking out of his body. The beast was not in sight.
“Now how I be getting outa this? Wish I had another hand with another grappler.” He looked around but nothing was close.
A few trees were growing crookedly out of chinks in the building, but none were within reach. He hung there for a moment, looking around, when he felt fresh pain close in.
“No! Not now!” he screamed. His body went limp, and his fingers slipped from the window.
Watching the tiny black “monster” fall from the building piqued the curiosity of a fairy who sat atop a snow-white creature on the summit of the building. As the wind blew through the beast’s fur, soft white powder lifted into the air.
“YAH!” the fairy commanded. The white beauty leaped off the building onto a long girder projecting from the building’s side. It galloped across it to the end, then launched itself toward a building to the left. It reached out, just barely taking hold of the ledge, nails digging in as its feet found their footing. It ran along the edge of the building.
The creature propelled itself off, diving down toward the tiny black dot that was Spit. It ripped through the air with great speed and as it grew closer to Spit, its nails extended, its mouth opened and drool poured out. This too was a bloodthirsty beast, and it flew past Spit, just barely missing him with its long, sharp nails.
Spit quickly shot his hand into a window, sliding down the glass until he jerked to a stop. He turned to see the beast dig its nails into another window, its glass shattering as the white terror slowly came to a stop as well. Then the beast launched toward Spit, its paws smashing into the glass as it climbed faster and faster until it was in a vertical run. Spit didn’t know what to do as he watched the beast come running, followed by a shower of broken glass and white powder. He was stuck with only one arm. There was only one way to go.
Spit made his choice. He dropped from the window and charged down the glass toward the raging white beast. He shot out his hand to latch on and rip into the beast’s face. Spit leaped over the beast and he heard someone yell “Snow!”
“Snow! That must be its name… that means someone is controlling it.” As Spit fell behind Snow, he pulled his liquid wire tight, ripping it from the glass. Snow fell in a shower of shards, bits of his white powdery coat fluttering in every direction.
The beast turned with rage as Spit reeled himself in. Spit held his feet out for protection as he slammed into the beast’s face, his left foot smashing into its upper lip while his right slipped into its mouth. Before the beast had a chance to bite down, something crashed into them, sending them smashing through a window. Glass splintered everywhere as they crashed to the floor. Spit bounced off a few more metal surfaces until he finally hit the floor again.
Before he stood he found those same dirty ochre legs standing before him.
“That’s it, I've had enough of all these monsters!”
The bony-knuckled beast lunged forward, and before Spit could react, two large white legs rumbled the floor near his sides. The two grappled each other as Spit dodged their stomping legs. He found the broken window and backed onto the crushed glass. But Spit was a little too close. As he looked down out the window, Knuckle Bone’s foot smacked into him, sending him flying out the window.
As Spit tumbled out, he caught sight of an enormous green vine hanging from a tree several stories up. He reached out for it, grabbing it with his one and only specially-modified hand. He squeezed hard to stop but at first seemed to rip at the vine. He managed to control his hand and stopped higher up.
Another window shattered. Spit instinctively wrapped his legs around the vine. Knuckle Bone fell from the window, reaching for the ledge with no luck. Snow watched as it slid down the glass to its death. Then, Snow’s eyes slowly found Spit dangling from the vine.
“Oh! Come on, give me a break!” Spit said as he began to shimmy up in a panic. But he gained only inches at a time as Snow stared and huffed a breath as it turned into the building. Spit climbed as fast as he could with one hand. Snow charged through a broken window next to Spit. Spit could feel its claws pass through his skin as the beast fell.
The vine thrashed violently as Snow grabbed hold below, Spit struggling to hold on. As the vine settled, Spit rappelled in a heart-pounding panic, feeling Snow rush after him. A moment later, he could feel the heat of its breath and hear its jaws snapping at his heels. It was almost on him and there was nothing Spit could do. The beast bit off his left leg and spat it out as it continued after him. Spit watched his leg fall to the ground far below. He could no longer climb with only one leg and one arm. It was over.
“I'm done for!” His grip failed him. Snow's mouth opened with welcome as Spit fell into darkness.
It only took seconds for Snow to climb the vine and make its way into the tree and through its branches. The tree was only a floor below the roof, and with one big jump, Snow latched its large claws onto the ledge. Snow climbed on to the roof, coughing and hacking. It slammed its fist onto the ground. Spit was lodged in Snow's throat, and with a final, expletive cough, Snow sent Spit tumbling onto the grassy ground. Snow cleared its throat one last time, shook off some cold powder from his coat, and stared at Spit. Spit tried to stand, only to fall onto his right knee, having forgotten that his left leg was no longer there.
Snow's fists came slamming down next to Spit with its face only inches from him, roaring. A voice rang out: “EAT IT!” But Snow withdrew as its teeth snapped. Spit put up his remaining leg to defend himself. The beast's snapping teeth took the leg, and swallowed.
Snow thrashed about, roaring, as it smashed its fists to the ground in pain. It’s pure white fur began to melt and fade to black, and black liquid began oozing from its large, fierce eyes. Even its saliva turned black, dripping down in unctuous bubbles. Its body began to shrivel as its fur slowly melted, and before long Snow was nothing but skin and bones. The once beautiful beast crashed to the floor, dead, and a small fairy fell from the beast’s head as its body concluded its decay.
Spit collapsed on the grassy rooftop. It was stunning. Small trees dotted the edges, and two ponds were surrounded by lush, miniature plant life. It was like a forest, only his size.
At the far end of the roof was the thing Spit was after, and he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was just the way Dusty had described. He began dragging himself toward it. Inch by inch he grew closer. He was near his prize, his cure. Its blue liquid invitingly shimmered, welcoming Spit at last. It was almost in reach.
“'N’ where you think you’re going?” a voice spoke.
Spit twisted around to see what could only be a fairy stumbling to his feet. But he was so different from the Fire Fairies. His skin was translucent. His insides were a viscose blue filled with air bubbles. It seemed as if he were made of water. His hair was soaking wet. Even his clothes were wet.
“No monster will ever be touching that Elixir,” the fairy said as he pulled a long blade from his back.
“You got ta be kidding me! Can’t I be getting a break here? I'm a Fairy, like you… only…different!”
Spit watched the Water Fairy step closer. He raised his blade.
“Not happening!” Spit yelled as his hand shot out to grab the blade.
Spit pulled the blade toward him with the fairy still attached. He used all his strength to force the blade into his body. He wasn’t going to let it cut off his last extremity.
“What the—!” The fairy yanked his blade back. There was no blade, just a handle.
“I’m not a monster,” Spit insisted. He watched the fairy throw away the handle as he laughed.
“Yea, ‘n’ I be a Fire Fairy.... no blade, don’t matter. You’re still not reaching that Elixir or my name isn’t Hydro the Guardian,” the fairy boasted as he sauntered toward the glowing glass chest.
“NO! Please, you must help! Bad things have happened ta me.... I be an Elf fairy!” Spit yelled, but Hydro laughed again.
“Yea right, I been around for twenty-four years ‘n’ I’ve never heard that one before,” Hydro snapped. “You be a pool of bubbling lava.”
Hydro reached the glowing glass.
“I be having nothing ta kill you with ‘n’ I be making sure you’re not gonna get your lava hands on this here box, so if that means I be having ta destroy it... so be it.” Hydro began to push the chest toward the edge of the roof. “Then I be bringin’ ya back to the Elders ta answer for what you’ve done.”
“NOOO!” Spit screamed as his hand shot out. His stubby black fingers broke through the Oozmium glass. It cracked with ease despite the belief it had mystical properties, was it Spit’s new skin?
The Elixir began seeping through the cracks; Spit could feel it rush over his fingers but he held on. Hydro was shocked. He pushed harder and faster. The Elixir spilled onto the grass, and it grew instantly and flowers blossomed. “NO!” Spit yelled again.
“It’s mine, I’m so damn close! This isn’t happening, IT’S MINE, DAMMIT!” As Spit clung to the chest, it started to tip as it slid over the edge.
Hydro looked back at Spit.
“Bye-bye," he said as he gave the box one last send-off. It fell, and Spit held tight as he was dragged along with it.
“Could things be any worse for me? If I be drinking the Elixir now I probably be dying on impact, but if I be waiting until we hit the ground, the Elixir could drain away. What do I do?”
Spit, the Oozmium glass and the Elixir smashed into the ground. Spit didn't remember a thing. He opened his eyes to see a large piece of the Oozmium sticking from his chest. He pulled it out, feeling only a slight twinge of pain. His heart raced as he noticed the Elixir being absorbed by the paved ground. He had no choice; he licked up the Elixir. It wasn't much, but it would have to do. Now the Elixir was gone and the precious Oozmium glass was shattered.
Spit felt guilty for about three seconds, until he felt everything changing inside of him. Spit watched as his arms and legs re-grew. He could feel his own face once more, his wings – oh, his wings! They were his arms and legs — not the ink monster’s —but somehow were still covered in black ink. He felt the liquid tighten to his body, his body, not the ink monster’s, but still, on the outside, black liquid flowed and swirled on the surface of his opaque skin. His bulkier right hand retained three fingers, a permanent reminder of his misadventures, while his left hand grew all five.
“This can’t be! Will I never be normal!?”
Spit fell to his knees, staring at his hands. He sat there listening to the beat of his heart. It thumped and thumped, but nothing held it, no tight grip, and no unbearable pain. He was healed, even though his skin was forever changed. The ink monster was gone. In its place, a new breed emerged. Spit had become the first Ink Fairy. What a tale for Mother!