CHAPTER SEVEN: The Little Magic Boy

Joshua’s eyes met Darkovkar’s.  In that terrifying moment, the boy could swear that time and space around them had inexplicably slowed to a halt.  After a moment or two, he came to realize that this time distortion was not a remark of cheap narrative flourish, but was a thing that was literally happening around him.  He blinked his eyes, but was otherwise unable to move from his position.

“Joshua,” the Chaos Witch said with a twisted smile.  Though she was definitely pretty scary standing before him with a Wizard’s Crossbow in one hand and a Wizard’s Flamethrower in the other surrounded by several thousand demons armed with Wizard’s Brass Knuckles and a little black one with a single Wizard’s Grenade, Joshua observed that she and her posse were subject to the same temporal anomaly and all were frozen in anticipation.

“What’s going on?” he asked, his voice taking on a cool and mysterious echoing effect..  “Why do you know my name?  Why can’t we move?”

“It’s because we have a very special bond that was secret until this moment,” she explained. “Are you surprised!? Did you know!?”

“I didn’t know.”

“EEH HEE HEE HEE!!!” Darkovkar cackled, very proud of how good she was at secrets.  “But for realsies, everything I’ve been planning and scheming has led to this exact scenario, Aggro Crag and all.  I’m pretty fucking hyped right about now.”

“Can I ask you some questions, Chaos Witch Darkovarkar?” Joshua asked.  “I have a staggering number of them.”

The Chaos Witch Darkovkar thought for a moment, then shrugged.  “Sure, I think you’re entitled to a quick Q&A sesh.  This little anomaly is going to wear off pretty soon, though, so make it quick.”  She closed her eyes and groaned for just a moment.  “Uh, and you can probably just call me Eliza.  The whole Darkovkar thing just feels weird coming from you.”

“Why are you such an evil monster?” he began.  “Killing people is such a rotten thing to do. I just don’t really get your whole lifestyle in general.”

“MOST PEOPLE DON’T!” she smiled.  “Anyway, that one’s a little complicated and you’re not ready to know that whole truth.  Suffice it to say that if you went through the terrible and tragic magic backstory I did, you’d also be an evil murdering psychopath.”

“I see,” Joshua frowned, observing the frantic scene frozen around him.  He noticed Grizzlewick the Demon had leapt out of his stone head and was presently frozen in the middle of sick slam dunk on the nearest Basketball net.  “So what’s our relationship then, Chaos… er, sorry, Eliza? Are we… family?”

Eliza sighed with great exacerbation.  “Okay, that’s… ALSO really complicated.  I didn’t know you were just gonna come right out with all the Big Questions! Come on, Joshua, I can’t tip my whole hand to you just yet!”

“Am I going to die?” he followed up.  “From this, I mean. I know death is an inevitability for all of us,” he clarified and suddenly felt pretty bummed.

“NO!” Darkovkar shrieked.  “No, Joshua, I’m quite certain you will escape from this pickle without a scratch. You’re a very clever little magic boy, after all.”

“How am I going to do that?” the little magic boy said with a frown.  “I feel like I’m kind of screwed here.”

“FIGURE IT OUT!!!” she screamed at him, though she couldn’t help but be delighted at her inadvertent reference to another classic Nickelodeon program.  “One more question!  We’re almost out of time!” As she said this, Joshua noticed the grenade demon begin to pull the pin in very, very slow motion.

He thought hard about what his last question should be.  Up until yesterday, he had spent all of his days laboring away underground.  His only impression of the world outside came from his uncle’s awful stories and from brief glimmers of sunlight he’d happened to catch on his way to the dinner table.  His Hell Wish with Bothersnatch the Demon changed all of that.  It was through his planning and initiative that Joshua found his life tumbling towards chaos.  It was also Bothersnatch who encouraged Joshua to ignore the threat of the Chaos Witch, and who suggested Joshua sneak onto this Mountain of Nostalgia in the first place.

Joshua felt a deep, sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, though he couldn’t put his finger on the exact cause.  It came on as a sudden wave of anxiety, like he had overlooked something that should have been completely obvious.

“What’s the matter?” Darkovar hissed.  “You look as if some terrible realization has just dawned on you!!!”

His heart racing, Joshua felt time slowly returning to normal around him.  Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Courtney Manderlie slowly beginning to take a step back.  He could barely make out the terrified faces of the student body witnessing this incredible spectacle.  Then, he noticed someone else.  In the rafters behind Darkovkar, barely visible outside of a glowing reflection from its eyes.  It was a tiger.  But it did not appear to be aggressive.  Instead, it was frozen with its paw held up in the air, as if drinking from an imaginary vessel.  All at once, Joshua snapped back to his present dilemma.

“No more questions?” Eliza frowned, disappointed.  “Damn, I’d expected this to be more exciting-”

“What does the Big Cup do?” Joshua asked sternly.

The Chaos Witch did not answer immediately.  She thought a moment, then her face broke into a sinister smile.  As movement slowly began returning to the world around them, she met his eyes once again, and answered his question.

“Why don’t you find out?”


Botchersnatch pushed and shoved through the crowding demons, needing to get to the frontlines before something happened to Joshua. He goofed up real bad when he blurted out that the kid was trying to nab the Big Cup. Now every demon in the school was going to punch him to death and it was all his fault.

It’s not like he cared about Josh or anything. There was a hell wish to grant, and if he botched that they’d both be stuck in the hell zone. Saving the only friend he’d known since before he got stuck in that ruby prison had nothing to do with any, stupid. 

Something was wrong. He was pushing and shoving everyone he could as fast as he could but wasn’t getting anywhere. His demon feetsies were just slipping and sliding in place on the gym floor. When the crowd cleared, Bothersnatch saw why. A buff turquoise colored demon in a burnt letterman jacket was holding him in place. 

“Going somewhere?” Chad said.

“Uh, no. No.” Bothersnatch gestured towards his disguise: A pastel unicorn sweater he’d stolen from a Fun Buncher. “As you can see, I am just a hapless human child, blundering into danger. Don’t mind me!”

Chad ripped the sweater to tatters with a swipe of his clawed hand, revealing Bothersnatch’s cool dragon tattoo underneath.

“Oh,” Bothersnatch said. “Ah. Hey Chad! Weird meeting you here! Is that a new facial scar?”

Chad ran his hand over the burn marks covering his whole face. “Yeah. It is. …A kid snuck up on me and did a flaming uppercut on my face. Now I’m disfigured for life.”

“Oh yeah! I saw that!” Bothersnatch laughed. “That was HILARIOUS! Oh man. You shoulda seen the look on your dumbass face!” He tried his best to mime how stupid Chad looked and started laughing again.

Chad’s grip tightened, becoming painful. “I don’t think you get the problem, broseph. That was an imagination technique. Kids aren’t supposed to know about those. It’s too dangerous. They’re loaded with more imagination than anybody! If this spreads, the school might start fighting back, and then we’re in trouble.”

“You mean YOU’RE in trouble!” Bothersnatch tried to knock Chad’s hand away, but wasn’t strong enough. “I’m not one of you!”

Chad flicked Bothersnatch across the chest and sent him crashing backward onto the floor. He bent down over him, sneering.

“You mean that?” He pointed at Bothersnatch’s dragon tattoo. “Do you think believing in the dragons means ANYTHING? You think that changes what you are? You’re a demon, jackass. You were created to serve the Chaos Witch, and that’s what you’re going to do.”

“Fuck you!” Bothersnatch scrambled to his feet, terrified of getting into a real fight with a turquoise. “I’ll do what I want! I’m going to go back to school and be a wedding photographer and you can eat shit!” 

Chad slugged Bothersnatch in the gut and made him spit up a handful of purple blood. 

“Think whatever you like,” Chad said. “At the end of the day, you can’t escape your nature. You are, after all, a puppet.”

The room was spinning. It was all Bothersnatch could do to stay on his feet. “What are you talking about…?”

“Figures that a broken purple like you can’t put the pieces together.” Chad shrugged. “You ever wonder why a nobody like you got a ruby prison? For one measley bank heist? Kate put that idea in your head. She set everything up so we’d have a guy on the surface. Someone weak enough not to trip all the demon sensors. That way we could steer things the way we needed when the time came.”

Bothersnatch stared at him, feeling hollow. He remembered the night he robbed the bank, thousands of years ago. Kate wanted to run away, just like he did. If only they had enough money to escape and start fresh, it wouldn’t be a problem. The thought that maybe Kate was waiting for him was the only thing keeping him going in all that time he was buried under all those rubies. 

“You’re lying,” Bothersnatch said. “Kate wouldn’t do that.”

Chad pulled a lump of stone crystal from his pocket. It was a hell gem. He squeezed it in his fingers and whispered into it.

“Stop hitting yourself.”

Without meaning to, Bothersnatch slapped himself in the face. 

“Stop hitting yourself.”

He hit himself again, and again. Bothersnatch staggered back as Chad repeated the command until his face was bloodied.

“Fun, right?” Chad said. “Kate put this together. Smart girl. Smartest in the whole Black Ops division. She even found a use for a defect like you. If hell wins this war, it’ll all be ’cause of her.”

Bothersnatch spat. “What do you want from me?”

“Hmm?” Chad hummed. “Oh. Nothing. By all means, keep doing what you’re doing. Grant that hell wish. Help the little magic boy drink from the Big Cup. I just thought it would be more interesting if you knew you didn’t have a choice in the matter. You never did. Maybe after the ritual is done I’ll have you kill the kid. That’ll teach you for looking at my girl.”

Bothersnatch reeled back to throw a punch, but his arm froze mid swing. Chad pocketed the hell gem with a smirk.

“Anyway, I gotta get going. A real demon like me always has lots of responsibilities to take care of.”

Chad turned on his heel to march off. Bothersnatch struggled to move but couldn’t budge. More than ever before in his life he was helpless. There was nothing he could do. He muttered a prayer to the dragons, asking them to help if they hadn’t truly abandoned him.

That’s when Horbert and Oxwald Manderlie exploded through the floor of the gym on a hover scooter, knocking Chad on his ass and freeing Bothersnatch from paralysis. 


“AH-WOOOOOOOOGAH!!!” Horbert roared as blindsided demons flew in all directions.  “HORBERT UNLEASHED!!!!”  He leapt off of the scooter, fist engulfed in a glowing red aura of pure rage (and a pinch of black chi), and brought it thundering down upon a horde of First Rank Special Op Ninja Demons, wringing the earth clean from beneath their feet and casting the entire lot without mercy into the fiercest depths of Hell itself.

Oxwald clumsily readied his bo staff, tripped on his way out of the scooter, and flailed pathetically as he haphazardly flung his prized weapon across the room and landed directly on his face. “Nobody move!” he commanded, muffled by rubble.


“Uncle Horbert!” Joshua yelled.

“Dad!?” Courtney groaned.

“JOSHUA!!!” yelled the voices of Horbert, Oxwald, and Bothersnatch in tandem.

“Mr. Manderlie!?” Bernard shouted.

“Bernard!” Oxwald called back, hopping to his feet.

“Bernard,” Rodney said calmly, urging his pupil to back down.

“CHAD!” Kate yelled suddenly, running to her unconscious boy toy.

“Josh!” Wilfrit called, a twister made of squirrels building up steam around him.

“Wilfrit!?” Joshua called back.

“Sis!” May yelled, pulling away just as she was about to deliver the killing blow to a defeated Ricard.

“RICARD!!” Montgomery Murderdeath shouted, pointing dramatically at the Big Cup.

“BOO!!!” Seymor yelled, tied up with rope and guarded carefully by a gaggle of anxious goblins.


“What are you doing?”

“I’m watching all of the chaos unfold around us.”


“JESUS, EVERYBODY SHUT UP!!!” Darkovkar yelled, firing a real gun into the air, instantaneously commanding the entire gymnasium into a deafening silence.  “SERIOUSLY, WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PEOPLE IN HERE!? I’M LOSING TRACK OF WHAT’S EVEN HAPPENING!”

“Uncle Horbert has come to rescue me!” Joshua explained, attempting to nonchalantly swipe the cup from the girl next to him. She slapped him away like a territorial house cat.




Joshua Milton’s jaw dropped.  He couldn’t bring himself to believe that his uncle, who had only ever displayed to him love and support and the bare necessities like in the Jungle Book song, would pull a heel face turn at the eleventh hour and bump elbows with the nastiest supervillain who ever lived.  “Uncle… Uncle Horbert!” He teared up.  “You can’t be serious! She’s a horrible witch, you can’t possibly be taking her side!”

“OKAY, THAT’S RUDE…” the Chaos Witch interjected.

“I WARNED YOU, BOY!!!” Horbert yelled, cracking his knuckles and sending sparks flying as he did so.  “YOU’LL REGRET HAVING EVER ABANDONED ME IN THAT SHITTY CRYSTAL PRISON!!!”

“That prison was really cool,” Oxwald mumbled, ferreting through the horde of jaw-dropped children in search of his beloved staff.

“AND YOU!” Darkovkar yelled, pointing at Courtney.  “PUT THAT DOWN! IT’S NOT YOURS!!”

“Yes it is!” Courtney called back, holding the Big Cup snug against her chest.

The Chaos Witch didn’t even know what to say in response to that.  Was it actually Courtney’s cup?  The young girl had said so with such confidence that Darkovkar wasn’t actually sure.

“Joshua!” Bothersnatch yelled suddenly.  “Drink, you idiot!!”

Joshua Milton froze.  Everybody was so thirsty to see him drink from this stupid cup, but none had proven thirstier than the thirsty demon thirsting before him now.  “Bothersnatch…” He called.  “Tell me something.  Are you really and truly my friend?”

“Of course I am!” the purple demon called back, insulted by the accusation.  “Goddamnit, you might be the only real friend I’ve ever had in my life!” He looked away to hide the tears forming in his eyes.

The little magic boy could feel the demon’s authenticity.  In the crowd, a few “aww”s droned out from students, goblins, and demons alike.  Quite unexpectedly, Joshua felt himself beginning to tear up as well.  “And I can trust you, right?” He wiped an eye.  “You’re not going to betray me, right?”

Bothersnatch tried to ignore his former lover cradling Chad’s unconscious body in his peripheral vision.  “Losers like us gotta believe in each other.  Cause Hell knows that nobody else is gonna!”  Bothersnatch the Demon let the tears roll down his cheeks.  He wasn’t afraid to cry anymore. “Once you drink from that cup, our Hell Wish is over.  But that…” He clenched his fists and beamed.  “That doesn’t have to stop us from having each other’s backs!”

“I trust you, Bothersnatch!” Joshua called out. “I’m going to drink from the Big Cup!”

“No!” Murderdeath called out, but suddenly fell to the floor completely petrified.

“Silly Monty, you’re bringing down the mood!” Floria Maplehorse whispered to the immobile professor, dragging him stealthily into the shadows and whistling a merry tune as she did so.

“ENOUGH OF THIS!!!” Horbert roared, raising his fist into the air and charging it with an energy that shook the school such that it seemed to risk collapsing entirely.  “THIS IS MY FINAL PUNCH, YOU UNGRATEFUL CHILD!!  THIS IS THE POWER OF CHAOS!!!”

“Courtney!” Joshua yelled.  “We need to drink, it’s the only way!”

Courtney Manderlie darted her panicked eyes in every direction and found herself starting to lose footing due to the imminent punch.  “Are you sure about this!?”

Massive chunks of the mountain began to crack off and fall to the ground below.  Joshua grabbed her by the hand.  “You can trust me!”

“TIME’S UP!!!” Horbert yelled, unleashing every last ounce of legendary Ripofski fury that had ever flowed through his veins.

The Aggrocrag crumbled, and Joshua fell. He clung to Courtney as they plunged thousands of feet towards the floor of the gymnasium soundstage. 

“Aw geez!” Joshua remarked. “This is a bad!”

Courtney fired her grappling hook gun to zipline to safety, but it fell short of connecting with any of the billions of stone gargoyles decorating the walls. 

“Welp,” she said as she discarded her grapple-gun. “Looks like we’re gonna die.”

“Not if we drink from the Big Cup!” Joshua said.

“I dunno Squirt. The Chaos Witch was pretty psyched for you to do that. Probably not a good sign.”

“My demon bestie told me it’s fine!” Joshua said, growing annoyed. “That’s good enough for me!”

Courtney glanced at the ground, which threatened to splatter them sometime in the next minute or so. “Ugh! Fine! I guess there’s nothing to lose.”

Exasperated, the Manderlie triplet tossed back a swig of the Big Cup. It was a couple seconds before she started screaming. Tendrils of eldritch void reached out and pulled every molecule of her body into the cup, leaving only silence.

Joshua made a face, having no idea what he expected. He whipped around in the air to glare at his demon bestie. “Bothersnatch!! What the heck!!”

“I don’t know, man! Geez!” He said. “This whole cup thing was your idea!”

The ground rushed closer. Joshua swam through the air to grab at the Big Cup as it pinwheeled in free-fall. He stared at the floor as it rushed toward him. At this rate, the gravitational impact would no doubt smash his little boy body into itsy magic bits. He peered inside the cup.  Somehow, a mouthful of ichor was still pooling at its bottom. 

There was no telling what just happened to Courtney. Maybe it was worse than hitting the ground real hard. Joshua looked at Bothersnatch one last time, thinking about the Hell Wish that still threatened to harm his only friend, and he drank from the Big Cup. 


If Joshua were asked to describe what it was like to be sucked inside the Big Cup, he would compare it to the time Uncle Plart ran him over with the vacuum cleaner. He got jammed somewhere between the rotating bristles and the filter. They didn’t find him until the next day when Horbert grew concerned about why it was taking Joshua so long to prepare breakfast.

Also, contrary to what the name suggests, Joshua felt that the Big Cup was actually rather small considering how much it hurt to squeeze every one of his atoms to fit inside. 

It wasn’t much better once he was all the way in. The pain stopped, but then it got weird. He found himself standing in a maze of mirrors, facing an infinite kaleidoscope of Joshuas. Most of them were shouting over one another, imploring Joshua to do something he could not understand. One by one they aged, growing wrinkled and hairy and decrepit. Joshua looked down at his hands and watched his entire body crumble to ash. The wind swept him up and scattered him across the breadth of the universe.

With no body, there was nothing to do but wait for the heat death of the universe. It grew so cold the universe contracted. All the little bits of Joshua were mushed back together, crushed with the rest of the cosmos into one compact little magic boy. Then he got dumped on the floor.

“Ow!” Joshua said. 

“Hey, there he is,” Courtney said. She was sitting in a bean bag chair and eating caramel popcorn out of a big Christmas tin. “Took him long enough.”

Joshua blinked. He was standing in what appeared to be someone’s messy apartment. A small purple dragon in an apron and sweatpants was sorting clothes out of a laundry basket.

“Uh,” Joshua said. “Where am I?”

“Inside the Big Cup,” Courtney said with her mouth full. “Duh.”

“What’s with the dragon?” He said. 

Courtney shrugged. “I think he lives here.”

“How very astute, dear child!” The dragon said. “My name is Expositonio! I was chosen by my people to abide inside the Big Cup to act as guide for whomever ventured inside! I am here to answer all of your questions, heehee!” 

“Oh. Cool.” Joshua felt like he had accumulated a lot of questions in a short amount of time. “Okay. First question: What the fuck?”

Expositonio puffed up his scaly chest. “Well, as you know, the Big Cup is a very important relic because it contains all the magic power of the Elder Dragons. It was meant only to grant those purest of heart with strength in times of great need…”

“Oh God.” Courtney groaned. “You got him started again.”

“When the Chaos Witch Darkovkar ascended, we knew it was only a matter of time until she attempted to claim our power as well! Thus, my people, crafty as they are, set a trap! We changed the magic of the Cup so that it would act as a prison for whomever was stupid enough to drink from it! And thus, we captured Darkovkar and saved everyone from her tyranny forever!”

“But she got out,” Joshua said. “It didn’t work.”

“Well, nobody likes a smartass!” Expoistonio said. “Did you think of that? Huh?! If you’re so great at criticizing other people’s plans, how about YOU come up something better!!” He picked up his basket and stormed off in a huff. “Then I can have a turn at telling YOU how BAD you are at saving the world!” He slammed the front door of the apartment, knocking a family picture from the wall. There was one last muffled shout of ‘asshole!’ from the hall, and he was gone. 


An initial search of the apartment yielded nothing that would likely interest the layperson, but Joshua Milton was anything but lay. Every detail, from the cream-colored carpeting to the gratuitous wall posters of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Cowboy Bebop, was captivating to him.  He never dared to dream he’d see himself in a real air-conditioned room, but there he stood, curious and excited.

Courtney finished an hour-long shower and came out in one of the dragon’s finest silk bathrobes just as Joshua pried open the refrigerator to get a glimpse of what was surely real, edible food. “Already looked in there, it’s all gone bad,” she said, plopping down on Expositonio’s favorite recliner.

She was right.  Somewhere in the sea of Chinese takeout containers and tupperware filled with terrors to which no man should have to bear witness, there came an unspeakably foul odor.  Quickly slamming the door shut again, Joshua staggered back and fought the urge to vom all over the place.

“So what’s the plan now?” Courtney asked, grabbing a handful of M&M’s from the tiny bowl on the mahogany side table.

“What do you mean?” Joshua asked.  “We’re safe, aren’t we?”

“As far as we know,” she said.  “But you’ve been whining about this thing ever since we met.  What exactly was your plan for when you actually got here?”

“I thought it would give me huge muscles,” Joshua explained, delicately running his fingers across every pieces bit of silverware in the drawer.  “But now that we’re here, I’m actually a little worried it won’t give me huge muscles at all.”

“Hold on,” she said, reclining backwards so far that her head dangled behind her and she could meet Joshua’s gaze.  “You just assumed this thing would give you muscles?  Did you have any idea what this cup actually did?”

“Listen, it’s complicated!” he moped.  “I made a very impulsive wish and I didn’t have much of a choice at that point!  But yes, if I’m being honest, I really didn’t know very much about the Big Cup except that it imprisoned the Chaos Witch for several decades.”

There was a long pause.

“Joshua.” Courtney said very sternly. “How and when are we planning to get out of here?”

The little magic boy found that he had no answer for her.  According to Expositonio, this place had been designed to entrap the most powerful witch in existence for all eternity. That wasn’t still the case, was it?  Surely it wasn’t so complicated that a resourceful pair of magical children couldn’t puzzle their way out.  “I… I don’t know.”

“But I do!” The door flung open and Douglas P. Wilson did a Cosmo Kramer slide into the apartment.  The studio audience cheered uproariously and gave wolf whistles as Douglas smiled and tipped his ten gallon hat in acknowledgement.

“Douglas P. Wilson!” Joshua and Courtney yelled in perfect unison.

“Folks, I got good news and bad news,” he announced, resting his thumbs behind his gun holsters like a cowboy does.  “Good news is, you’ve successfully evaded the Chaos Witch’s evil clutches.”

“See? We’re safe!” Joshua said with crossed arms.

“Bad news is, this is honestly just the worst case scenario,” Douglas continued and lit up a cigar.  “I’ve only got a limited time here, so you folks better listen good.”

“Wait, how are you here?” Courtney Manderlie asked, thoroughly confused.  “I thought you were dead?”

“Oh, geez,” Dougie P. said, scratching his head. “Look, this little doggie can fill you in on the nuances later, I’m really blowin’ a lot of magic talkin’ to ya like this.”

“Are you a ghost?” she asked anyway.  “Were you in the cup all along? Does Principal Jaffles know about this? I have so many questions!!!”

Checking his watch nervously, Douglas P. Wilson gave in and gave a full and detailed explanation of his telepathic abilities and the situation regarding Joshua’s mother and even recapped some of those flashbacks from the last chapter even though it wasn’t really relevant now.

“Do you get it now, little lady?” he finished, thoroughly exhausted.

“Yes, I now have a full and complete grasp of the situation,” Courtney nodded.  “I don’t know who Plart or Crickery are though, so that whole segment went a little over my head.”

“Well anyhow,” Douglas said.  “Now I’ve got even less time to explain things, so please listen carefully.  First off, I gotta teach you the last verse of my dirge.  It’s my favorite verse of them all.”

“Oh, that’s right!” Joshua piped up.  “This way I can get into your tomb and get that amulet or whatever!”

“It ain’t gonna be that easy, now.” Douglas sighed.

“Why?  It’s just in the dungeon, right?”

“It’s… Look, just remember this verse, alright? Ain’t got time to explain!”

He cleared his throat and the room dimmed as a spotlight lit up on the school founder. He pulled out a microphone as a beautiful piano melody played him in.

My name is Doug Wilson and I’m here to say,

This has gotta be the sickest dirge ever made,

Three verses, crackin’ curses, makin’ Darkovkar pay,

Now open up ya fuckin’ tomb ‘cause now we’re fixin’ to slay!


He dropped the microphone which made an awful noise.

“Thank you,” said Joshua, immediately committing it to memory.

“Anyway, y’all gotta find a way out of here,” Douglas continued.  “Ya got the smarts fer it, that’s fer sure, but make sure y’all don’t trust a word that dragon says.  He ain’t what he seems.”

“You mean that grape dragon freak?  Expo… what’s his face?” Courtney asked with great curiosity.  “What do you mean by that?”

“What I’m sayin’ is- GRAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHH!!!!!!” With a horrific scream, Douglas P. Wilson’s spirit was banished back from whence he came.  Joshua and Courtney’s jaw dropped as their purple dragon friend returned, hoisting his laundry basket in one arm and holding out a palm full of eggplant parmesan in the other.

“Damned ghosts,” he sighed.  “Sorry about that, friends!  Now, let’s talk about getting you home, shall we?”


“You kids should be more careful,” Expositonio said as he ushered them out into the apartment hallway. “That ghost almost got you! It’s a good thing I came back when I did. This is why I always keep a big pouch filled with delicious eggplant parmesan on my body at all times. Ghosts hate Italian food, you know.”

“I don’t think we were in any danger,” Joshua said. “The ghost of Douglas P. Wilson is one of the many wonderful friends I have made since I started attending this school.”

“That’s just what he WANTS you to think.” The dragon fumbled with his keys and locked his apartment. “You can’t trust ghosts! They’re dangerous!”

“Yeah. He told us not to trust you,” Courtney said. 

Joshua felt a rush of panic. “Don’t tell him that!”

Courtney shrugged. “Why not?”

“Because Doug told us not to trust him!” Joshua said, exasperated. “We could have bided our time to subvert his scheme and escape! But now he knows that we know not to trust him!” 

Expositonio gave Joshua a wounded look. “That’s exactly the sort of nasty rumor a ghost would spread. I would hope a bright, tiny child like you would know better than to listen to it!”

“I’m just going to lay this out, Josh,” Courtney said as she pushed the elevator call button. “I’m siding with the dragon.”

“Why?!” Joshua said. “What’s wrong with ghosts??”

The elevator dinged open and they all walked inside. 

“They’re scary, for one thing.” Expositonio started counting off his claws. “They remember all sorts of bad things about the past and never shut up about it. Don’t you think it’s better to focus on the future? No use crying over spilt milk, I say! …OH, and they control that shadowy Organization Enigma. Doesn’t that sound really bad and ominous?”

Joshua’s stomach lurched as the elevator descended. It felt like it was going much too fast.  

“Dragons are way cooler,” Courtney said. “They run the government. They created the Magical Wizard Army. We worship them at church. If you can’t trust a dragon, you might as well start questioning a lot of basic assumptions we make about society.”

“And no one wants that!” The dragon laughed. “It’s much better not to think too much about any of those things.”

Joshua felt frustrated. He liked Douglas P. Wilson. He wore a large cowboy hat and taught him about the Principles of True strength. Plus, he knew Joshua’s mom. Maybe there was a chance Joshua would get to see his mom again if he listened to Doug. It sucked to have his faith in a weird cowboy ghost challenged like this. Every time Joshua felt like he was getting a handle on life outside of his uncle’s mansion it felt like it got more convoluted and silly. 

The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. The three of them entered what appeared to be an ancient temple. Massive stone reliefs depicting over-sized cups was a running decorative theme.  

“What is this place?” Joshua wondered. He had never spent much time inside of magical cups before, and this looked even more bullshit than usual. 

“Oh, this?” Expositonio swept his arm with a flourish. “THIS is the inner sanctum. It was designed to protect the souls of the Elder Dragons from Darkovkar while she was trapped inside the Big cup. The only way to escape to the outside world is to venture inside and ask my ancestors to release you.”

“What’s with all the skeletons?” Courtney said, kicking a stray rib cage across the floor. 

“Now that you mention it,” Joshua said. “There DO appear to be an awful lot of skulls and bones lying around.”

“Uh.” Expositonio frowned. “Well, there’s this whole Dragon Prophecy thing. The only one intended to get to the end is the predestined Chosen One of purest heart. If you don’t fit the bill there’s a good chance you’ll die.”

“So it’s like a video game,” Courtney said. “Sick.” 

“Wait,” Joshua said. “How many other kids died in here? How many others drank from the cup before we got here?!”

Expositiono retreated into the elevator. “Anyway, good luck!” He pointed a key fob at the temple doors and beeped it. The massive stone slab doors began to rumble and grind open, crushing the bones of the dead. An elaborate multi-layered dungeon was revealed beyond. 

Courtney cracked her knuckles. “I bet I’m the Chosen one,” she said. “I’m TOTALLY pure of heart. Well. Purer than you, anyway, Pipsqueek.”


The two children beheld the incredible gauntlet of extreme physical challenges that unfeld before them.  There were swinging vines, shifting stone blocks, alligator pits, at least twenty-seven laser grids, and a large slide adored with a sign that said “This Slide Will Kill You Unless You Collect 100 Coins”.  It all looked very challenging.

“This is a bit nostalgic, eh?” Courtney remarked, stretching her calves.  “That first time you hobbled up to us, it was just all kinds of wacky obstacles.”

“Right, except I don’t feel any more equipped to deal with this than I did then,” Joshua admitted, kneeling to inspect the miles-long grind rail they were meant to traverse in order to even begin tackling the challenge.  “I can’t possibly imagine a scenario wherein I survive this hell.”

“Geez, Debbie Downer over here,” Courtney rolled her eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Joshua pouted, and curled into a ball.  “I’m supposed to be some kind of big hero, and I’d really like to be, but instead I’m just scared and confused.”

Taken off-guard by the sudden melodramatic tone the small boy had taken, Courtney Manderlie heaved a sigh and leaned down to put a hand on the tiny child’s puffy wittle head.  “Dude, relax.  First of all, I totally got this.  Second of all, you gotta stop putting all this pressure on yourself to have big muscles or whatever the hell.”

“It’s not just me,” Joshua mumbled with his face buried in his legs.  “My mom and dad were pretty much the coolest people ever, and everyone keeps telling me I’m some kind of chosen hero.  I’m pretty sure if you solve this challenge you’ll die a whole lot.”

“Who the hell keeps calling you a big hero?”

“JOSH THE HERO!!!” yelled an unstable, shaky skeleton with a cowboy hat.  “It’s me, Dougie P!  Possessing  a skeleton!  See?” He pointed to his big cowboy hat.

“Mr. P, why don’t you let Courtney be the Big Hero instead?” Joshua muttered.  “She’s way more cut out for it than I am. She’s a badass and does rad stunts and has way more muscles than I do.”

“She ain’t the one destiny-bound to the Chaos Witch, ya goofus doofus!”  Douglas shouted through clattering teeth.  “Listen, you gotta stop cryin’ like a lost piglet an’ get yerself up that obstacle course!  Every second you spend in here is–”

He was interrupted by Courtney roundhouse kicking his skull into the alligators, who were all too happy to devour the ghost-flavored ball of bones.

“Fuck that guy,” Courtney said.  “Josh, you’re a very brave, very small boy, and there’s probably a lot you’re capable of that doesn’t involve big muscles or cool Ninja Warrior stunts or fantastical magical powers.  You can’t let just let some deado tell you you’re supposed to be something you clearly don’t want to be.”

Joshua Milton hadn’t considered the possibility that he didn’t have to listen to all of these adults telling him how to do everything.  Why should Uncle Horbert disallow him from attending the family playthrough of Final Fantasy IX?  Why should Oxwald make him run around looking for diamonds?  Why should a weird cowboy guy coax him into throwing himself at mortal danger?  Why should Darkovkar have anything to do with him at all?

“As for the family thing?” she continued, idly doing kick flips with her skateboard.  “Screw that, too.  My mom’s a big celebrity and my dad’s… well, you know. Lovably incompetent, you might say.  But me?  I just do whatever I feel like.  If you obsess over copying someone, you’ll just be living the exact same life as somebody else.”  She folded her arms and stared into space.  “And what the hell would be the point of that?”

Joshua sat in silence for a long, awkward moment.  Expositonio nearly entered the room with some refreshing breadsticks and some of his world-renowned homemade marinara sauce, but read that the mood wasn’t right for it, so he slowly retreated to snack on them from a safe viewing distance.

“It was always my dearest wish to be just like my parents,” Joshua said.  “That’s how I’ve always lived my life.  That’s what kept me sane while I spent every waking moment of my childhood mining diamonds.”

“Well, what if you could be anything you wanted?” Courtney submitted.  “What if you didn’t have a legacy to follow?  What would you want to be then?”

“I have no idea.”

Courtney smirked and strapped on her helmet (because every Rad Lion knows that safety is the most important).  “Well hey, you took a little step forward.  Anyway, what I want to be is someone who’s conquered the shit out of this playground they call a temple.  Wouldja mind keeping time for me?”  She tossed Joshua her smart phone, who very nearly slapped it onto the stone floor in his panic to catch it in time.

“You’re not afraid of dying or whatever?” Joshua asked, opening the appropriate App for the job.

“You said it yourself,” she laughed and went pink in the face just a bit.  “I’d make a killer chosen one.  Why not act like I already am?”  She rolled up to the rail and poised herself to grind.

“Wait!” Joshua hollered.

Courtney sighed.  “What now, pipsqueak?”

Joshua Milton gave his friend a reassuring thumbs up.  “Good luck!”

She stared for a moment, raised a brow, and then broke out into a nasally laugh that echoed through the temple as she began her descent into the obstacle course.  Joshua spectated, suddenly very content to be sitting on the sidelines once again and to be sharing greasy breadsticks with a dragon man.


Murderdeath lay on the ground in a bloody heap.  His breathing was slow and raspy.  “I can’t believe you’ve done this…” He said, coughing up blood.  “To think… Organization Seventeen had slithered this deep into the school…”

“Oh, quit your pouting,” Professor Muffin chuckled in his tiny black robe, extinguishing his cigar on Montgomery’s hand to anguished screams while purring sadistically.  “The prophecy was always meant to come to fruition and you were an absolute fool to try and oppose it.”

“We’ve nearly finished preparations for Phase 2, your Chaos Majesty,” said Floria Maplehorse, similarly adorned and sealing a cardboard box with duct tape.  “Things are about to get fucking crazy!”

“Excellent!” Darkovkar giggled, kicking her feet enthusiastically.  “I’ve been excited for this chapter of the Dragon Prophecy since first I laid my evil little eyeballs on it!”

“Bridget will find out about this,” Betrayus threatened through clenched teeth.  “She’ll expose the whole lot of you traitorous bastards!  She and Enigma will put an end to your god-forsaken prophecy!”

“Bridget is totally clueless,” Professor Jaffles chuckled, filling out an evil shipping label.  “By the time she suspects any of us, the Big Cup will be far, far away and the world will already be bending to our whim.”

“It’s not… too late…”  Murderdeath growled, slowly reaching for his nunchakku wands.  “I can still… end this…”  Before he could reach them, a squirrel leapt onto his hand and bit it clean off.  “AAAAAAAGGGGHHH!!!”

“What a fucking troublemaker,” Wilfrit Pippers said, emerging from the shadows. Mischievia faithfully delivered the severed hand to her master. “I think it’s about time to put an end to the insufferable dickleberry’s sad little story.  Would you like to do the honors, Number Three?”

Another hooded figure stepped forward holding an enormous wooden mallet.  Montgomery Murderdeath’s eyes went wide and his jaw dropped to the floor.  “You… even you!?”

The figure removed her cloak.  Beneath it was a young beauty with silky white hair and a BIG eyepatch.  It was General Krishmiss Snowbell, the leader of the Magical Wizard Army and supposedly the Chaos Witch’s mortal enemy.

“What does this mean?” Murderdeath coughed.  “Why… why would you do this!?”

Snowbell smiled in Darkovkar’s direction and shrugged.  The Chaos Witch chuckled delightfully in response.

“Guess she’s evil, too!” 

With one decisive strike to the skull, Montgomery Murderdeath’s story came to its tragic conclusion.

One thought on “CHAPTER SEVEN: The Little Magic Boy

  1. I always love it when a lot of online serials that have kind of a devil-may-care and cynical attitude allow some legit, sincere heartwarming emotion to seep in, later.
    Much like Bothersnatch, it’s like they grewed up and learned to feel safe showing emotion.

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