Little old Billy was playing and he fell down a hole, a big hole, deeper than anyone knew. He fell for a long time into a strange place, where houses were inside-out and animals were purple. It was hard to live there. Billy, Billy fell into the garden of a man who could speak forwards, backwards and diagonally. He had rainbow petunias that Billy ran through, and Ms. Clock kept ringing, ringing but no one understood. Billy got out of the confusion, no one could believe it, the people all looked like stardust…

In dreams, things are different.

Still Eating Oranges

Bad Horrible Comics presents:
Jugboy the hitman horse.
Still Eating Oranges

Bad Horrible Comics presents:

Jugboy the hitman horse.

Still Eating Oranges

When the butcher went missing no one knew what to think. “Hmm,” said Mr. O’Bannion. He asked the butcher’s wife but she hadn’t seen him, and the blacksmith but he was odd and unhelpful. Later Mr. O’Bannion stood on the street corner in the dead starry night, pipe in his hand smoking, street lamp overhead flickering, dogs nearby barking, a slow vehicle moving past. “A-ha!” he said.

That morning Mr. O’Bannion went to the blacksmith and told him to cough up the blacksmith: the wiley butcher had swallowed him whole and taken his place! No one had expected the blacksmith to be a pretend person. The blacksmith and butcher went back to their jobs and Mr. O’Bannion smoked his pipe at the end.

Still Eating Oranges

Collapsed in sand I was dying, and mouth was dry. On a dune a striding object silhouetted toward me, look of a man and an animal—a warthog-man. In delirium I felt him drag me. I came into shade and plants at oasis water’s edge, the warthog-man held my head over the water to drink.

The warthog-man brought back life to me in the next days. He fed plants to me, his bird friends fanned me. He did not speak my language. At night he did not sleep, I saw him looking into the desert. One day the warthog-man gave me a camel and provisions. He stared from his oasis at me riding away, back to civilization.

Still Eating Oranges

I was an invincible knight. Arrows and blades pinged off my armor like pebbles and castles crumbled before my strength. But even an invincible knight has to make that scratch.

So I got myself recruited by a local prince (I can’t give names) to defend his fief. He realized pretty quick that I was more efficient than his whole army put together. To save money, he downsized and put me to work alone. Bandits and such stopped even bothering to harass the villagers, let alone the castle. But the fired knights weren’t happy about their drop in class and pay, and they conspired to overthrow the prince and lock him in his own dungeon. I knew about this and could have stopped them, but I thought they had a point. So I didn’t show up for work that day.

Pretty soon another nameless prince hired me. He had more imagination. His first plan was to use me to annex the neighboring fiefs, but I let him know that, despite my reputation when I was younger, I didn’t do that stuff anymore. So he used me as a deterrent. He put all his defense spending into his economy, and converted his land and people into a production machine. He cornered every goods market. His neighbors were crippled. The work was easy and the pay was good, but I felt guilty. So I left one night.

I didn’t make any friends working for princes. Most people stayed away. Even the princes themselves only had me over for dinner once or twice. I kept to myself, eating apples under trees and such. I didn’t really enjoy fighting, anyway. Poetry was better. So I gave up on the soldier idea. I took a job as a milkman for a little hamlet, far away from anyone who recognized me as an invincible knight. The brisk mornings were nice.

Still Eating Oranges