lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
[personal profile] lb_lee
Okay everybody!  This Reverend Alpert story was kludged together using prompts from [ profile] brin_bellway, [ profile] peoriapeoria, and [ profile] meepalicious.  It was sponsored by cloudiah and [ profile] brin_bellway! (As a side note, yes guys, you can divide the cost of a story if you want!) Enjoy!

The Curse of Opposites

“You know, I could’ve sworn that the central church was that way,” Perfection remarked.

Alpert grimaced but kept moving forward. “Work first.”

“You really want to cross Dorothy Ives?  That woman’s even colder than you are.”

“I am answerable to the Gestalt, not Dorothy Ives.” A wisp of smoke drifted past his ear.

Perfection rolled her eyes and passed him. “Your pack’s on fire.”

She let him stamp out the flames himself, which he did with a look of mild annoyance.  The fire scorched nothing more than a sock, but the burn marks on the canvas spelled out, “GO.” Alpert scowled at it.

“Poor woman,” Perfection said. “Give her a break.”

Alpert dug around in his pack and found the source of the fire: the Fool card again.  He scowled at it, then tossed it aside. “Fine.  But work first.”

The sign had originally read, “Chelm: 5 miles,” but someone had added so many zeroes that they ran off the edge of the sign.  Also added were many iterations of, “Turn back!  Turn back!”

“Cheery,” Perfection said.

Alpert frowned. “I could swear I’ve heard of Chelm…” but he shook his head.

They made it to town in good time, and found a scene of chaos.  Everyone was walking on their hands or crawling on their hands and knees, speaking nonsense at the top of their lungs.  No one paid Alpert or Perfection the slightest amount of attention.

“Damn,” Perfection remarked, wrinkling her nose. “This place reeks of obstinacy.  Curse, do you think?”

Alpert snapped his fingers. “Chelm!  Yes!  I knew I’d heard of it before.  It’s famous for the local curse of contradiction.”

“What, like everyone does the opposite of what they mean?”

“Basically.  Very powerful; it’s lasted for generations.”

“Couldn’t someone just cast the curse again?”

“That’s the genius of it.  Actions aren’t a binary; there are many ways to reverse something.  What’s the opposite of murder?”

“Resurrection,” Perfection replied instantly.  Then she frowned. “No, wait.  Birth?  Pacifism?  Killing the opposite person than you mean?”

“You see the problem.”

Perfection closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. “Well, as long as we don’t live here, it shouldn’t affect us.  It seems to be embedded in the people, rather than the village itself.”

“Well, that’s a relief, anyway.”

Then a small child approached them.  She was dressed in clothing intended for a tall magistrate, and she spoke to them in the voice of an adult.

“You are most unwelcome here.  We have no need of your skills.”

They paused, and Perfection asked, “…you mean you do need us, right?”

“No,” the child said, with a broad smile of relief, glad to be understood.

“To break the curse?” She asked, even though Alpert didn’t look enthused at the prospect.

But the child said, “Yes.  You mustn’t remove the beast.”

Perfection and Alpert looked around.  There were many ordinary animals running around, and people acting like animals, but none that really qualified as ‘beast.’

“We keep it out in the open,” the child explained. “It’s a great symbol of our township and its reputation, and we’re very proud of it.  The beast fits in perfectly.  You could never deal with it, right?”

Alpert raised an eyebrow at Perfection.  She flexed her claws and smiled, showing her fangs.

“I’m sure we could handle it,” Alpert said.

“Horrible.  Please leave.”

The girl walked away, and Alpert and Perfection followed obediently behind.

Of course, the child didn’t take them on a direct course.  They wandered all over the town, the sights of which included…

A dance in town square that involved rapid switching of partners and kissing.

Men in lavish gowns, arguing over the price of cloth. (The buyer kept trying to talk up the price; the seller tried to talk it down.)

Women in dapper suits having a bicycle race.

A temple that fed lavish feasts to the animals and bread and water to the people.

Many couples, triads, and romantic polygons too elaborate to name, picnicking in a graveyard and smiling. (Half the food seemed to be given to the dead.)

Despite their odd behavior, everyone seemed content.  Perhaps they’d been cursed so long that they’d adapted and this was normal to them.

Finally, they came to a huge, baroque cage, in which resided…

An adorable little puppy.

Perfection squatted down on her haunches and put her hand through the bars. “Aw!  Come here, cutie!”

The dog wriggled towards her and bathed her claws in a frenzy of lickings.

“As you can see, it’s a ferocious beast,” the child said. “Fearsome and terrible, it runs riot through the streets, haranguing the populace.”

Perfection and Alpert looked at the puppy, which wasn’t wagging its tail so much as its whole lower half.

“Sit!” Alpert said.

The puppy promptly sat.

“Roll over!” Perfection said.

The dog executed a perfect roll.

“I see the problem,” Alpert said, rubbing his chin.

“We aren’t accustomed to ravening beasts,” the child said pleadingly. “We don’t want to treat it kindly, but our traditions…”

“You said this town’s been cursed for generations?” Perfection asked.

Alpert nodded. “They must’ve adapted, so the puppy’s behavior must seem horribly bizarre.”

“But how could it have come from somewhere else?  It’s so young—”

But the child was nodding emphatically. “Somewhere else!” She denied.

Alpert’s eyes widened. “You’re worried the curse is breaking down!  You don’t want me to break it, you want me to strengthen it!”

The child looked immensely relieved to be understood. “No, not at all.”

Alpert stood in through for a moment.  Then he announced, “I will gladly do this… but my associate and I need everyone right here.”

The area was immediately deserted.

“You’re getting the hang of this,” Perfection noted, scratching the puppy’s ears. “But you’re not actually going to curse a puppy, are you?”

“Of course not.  Even if I could, I wouldn’t dare do it with a curse of contradiction in place.  It’d just go haywire.  Not that it matters; I’ve always been dreadful with curses.” Alpert eyed the puppy appraisingly. “I wonder if it would normally be an unbearably disobedient dog, and the curse warped it around?”

“I don’t know,” Perfection said, and her smile was all sharp teeth and full lips.  Over time, she had grown to sound more and more human, but now her voice held demonic temptation—to lust, to greed, to frailty and chaos. “But I bet if I try very, very hard to be a good girl, I can undo it.”

By the time Perfection was done, the puppy was an adorable little hellhound, howling, rolling filth, and refusing to obey anyone.  The townspeople were thrilled, so much so that they chased Alpert and Perfection out of town with torches and pitchforks.

“And never come back!” They shouted, and slammed the gate shut.

“Wow,” Perfection said. “That’s our best reception yet.”

While Alpert dusted himself off, his burnt pack came sailing over the wall, barely missing his head.  It hit the ground with a heavy thud, and they found it to be stuffed with fresh produce and food.

“We’ve got to come back here one of these days,” Perfection said, hefting it since it was now too heavy for Alpert to carry. “They pay good.”

“Indeed,” Alpert said with a smile. “Nice people, once you get used to them…”

They headed towards the central church.

Date: 2014-04-26 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Made me giggle! ;-p

Date: 2014-04-27 12:01 am (UTC)
brin_bellway: forget-me-not flowers (Default)
From: [personal profile] brin_bellway

(Is "nearly missing his head" supposed to mean that it hit him, or was that a typo? Or possibly a variant of "near miss" with which I was not previously familiar?)

Date: 2014-04-27 01:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
D'oh! It was supposed to be BARELY missing his head; after the pay he got, I dare say getting conked with that bag would've been more tragic than comedic! It's fixed now; thanks for the catch.


Date: 2014-04-27 05:30 am (UTC)
ext_12246: (Default)
From: [identity profile]
;-) The curse escaped from the story, at least as far as your typing fingers. Fun!

Date: 2014-04-27 06:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Sometimes my brain moves faster than my sense!


Date: 2014-04-27 04:18 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Oh, this one was so much fun! Thank you for posting.


Date: 2014-04-27 06:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Reverend Alpert was getting so dour, I decided he desperately needed a stupid silly case just as a palate-cleanser. Glad you enjoyed!
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