To Succeed is to Fail: Chapter Six
Fear me not.
Alas, this is the last chapter that will begin with my utterance of the phrase.
Because this is the last chapter.
So, who am I?
My identity shall be revealed in the end; but, for now, I shall delve into the final paragraphs of this tale. An intense amount of falling action will soon to follow, leading to a clever, crafty, and somewhat unbelievable denouement.
Many things in life are unbelievable.
Did you believe, upon finishing the first chapter, I would start every subsequent chapter with "Fear me not"?
Did Judy believe, deep down, she really was helping the enemy the entire time?
In the world of evils and lesser evils, isn't everyone an enemy, to some extent?
But the natural corollary to a world where everyone is an enemy is that everyone is also a friend.
Part the Sixth -- To Fall is a Quiet Thing
Judy gaped. "Get off me!" she yelped at the witch, her little Acara body crushed under her adversary's weight. She began to fear her life was on the line.
The witch did as told.
Staring at her assailant, Judy panted heavily, struggling to regain her breath.
"I'm sorry," the witch started, "but I had to prevent you from making a huge mistake."
"What kind of mistake?"
"Freeing the zombies of the curse."
"I thought so," Judy snapped, her face scrunched out of disdain. "I figured you were the terrible witch who put them under the curse."
"Everything is done for a reason -- not one action is performed in which there is no motive, ulterior or otherwise."
"And your motive lies in the fact you're evil," Judy replied indignantly.
"Everyone is evil to an extent..." she trailed. "Oh, forget it. Look, let's start over." The witch extended a hand of friendship. "My name is Melisma Phonic. Let me tell you a story..."***
Ah, look how things come together.
I told you the asides would have special significance near the end.
Can you think back to Aside I? Can you imagine how it relates?
Regardless, Melisma tells Judy a "story". She weaves a tale of evils, of passion, of adversity... of the first, second, and thus far unknown third asides. Aside III is a first person account Melisma tells Judy, cleaned up a bit here and there, with further information of my own added to improve the flow.
Hopefully, it will increase your understanding of the overall plot, and untangle a few more mysteries.
Well, unless you've already solved them... ***
Aside III -- In the Peeling Face of Adversity...
The people of Neovia thank this mysterious witch for stopping the raiding, stopping the ransacking, stopping their screaming...
Well, perhaps the lattermost point has been spoken too soon.
They now have a different reason to scream.
In the center of town, where the seemingly miraculous event has just occurred, a cacophony of wails soar into the air; repulsive creatures have replaced the rogues.
Their skin is peeling and gray; some have pupilless eyes; other have limbs poking this way and that.
"Oh my Fyora," a young man shouts amid the cries. "They're a bunch of freaky zombies!"
"Zombies can't move quick enough to harm you and your possessions!" Melisma replied.
But yet, people see this move as negative.
The witch realizes what she must do: she has to take these members of the living undead to some relatively unknown place, some area where they cannot damage others, where she can cast other spells onto them.
Using her magic, she lifts the entire bunch into the air. She then soars into the skies, a firm grip held on her pungent horde.
Looking for a sanctuary, she comes upon an old sight.
It's a mansion, just southeast of the main strip in the woods.
She takes her creatures down there -- it's of some sentimental value to her. Once, she hid a small key under some floorboards here.
Alas, the key disappeared about a year ago. She observed, through her magic ball -- the same artifact used to see Judy accept the zombies' quest -- a small Lupe named Hector take it.
That was alright. It really wasn't wholly necessary or important to her any more.
In addition, the Lupe had injured his foot on an uprooted nail -- a situation undoubtedly caused by Melisma's meddling -- having caused the parents to circulate rumors about hauntings and such as to try to drive kids -- and anyone, really -- from entering the place.
Even better a sanctuary, now.
It was to this mansion she took the zombies.
The witch proclaimed her wish to destroy them.
"No!" the leader of the group burst out. "This is unfair! You have to give us a fighting chance! Hasn't anything like this ever happened to you -- someone wanted rid of you, and they didn't give you a chance to escape?"
The witch thought about it, and agreed, professing something about some lab ray scientist once. "Fine," she grumbled. "I command upon you the confines of the shadows. Step into the light of the moon, or into a residential complex, and you will cease to exist in this world."
"Then, how are we ever to contact the outside world?" an Aisha asked.
"You won't!" she roared.
"We have families!"
The witch thought about it and sighed. "Fine. You may write in letters, letting one float into the air per year. If you're lucky, someone will find it and deliver it to whomever you wish."
She was met by ambivalent stares from the zombies.
"And, for your enjoyment," she finished, "every year on... I don't know, Halloween -- you're zombies, after all -- this grand mansion will auto-magically become reupholstered, looking beautiful and fancy. Feel free to throw a party, or something."
A small Usul in a quiet Shenkuuvian accent wanted to voice her opinion. "Can we--?"
"NO!" the witch roared. "I've been generous enough already. Now go, go lurk in the shadows. Go, before I change my mind and destroy you all right on the spot."
They all scrambled away.
She felt content, soaring back off into the sky. She returned to her little cottage in the dead of night, staring out at the surrounding swamp one last time before bed. ***
Part the Sixth Continued
"So," Judy began slowly, "those zombies are all criminals?"
"In short, yes."
"I don't believe you," the Acara pouted.
Melisma sighed. "I figured you'd be hard to convince. If you really want them to get their item, fine."
A tad shaken, and a sense of uneasiness washing over her -- Judy had gotten the witch to concede far to easily -- the Acara unlocked the control panel box and lifted off the metal casing. She flipped the switch to open the side panel, and with a hiss it promptly opened.
Melisma reached inside the panel and retrieved the object she knew Judy was after.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Judy asked, envisioning the Shoyru possibly stealing the necessary item.
"Finding the capsule containing the zombification liquid to give to you," the witch replied.
Judy hopped down from the machine and, glaring at Melisma, put on the gloves Hoshi had given.
"It's good you have gloves," the old witch said as she placed the blue orb in the Acara's covered hands. "This a dangerous object."
"How can I be sure this is really what I need?"
"I told you, I once worked on this machine," Melisma returned. "And of course," she concluded, "you could always drop it here and see if it explodes. It's very volatile."
Hoshi had said to treat it with extreme caution. "Fine," Judy said. "Will you be accompanying me throughout the entire rest of my journey?"
"Yes, for your safety," the witch confirmed. "And for my safety, I have to return to my little home among the swamp and grab something."
And then the two exited the scientist's old house. Melisma, flying into the depths above, carried Judy toward the cottage deep in the woods.
When the pair arrived there, the witch promptly entered her little abode. "Wait here," she commanded Judy.
Because she was bored, Judy decided to play with the Ghostkerchief she found. It was such an interesting Petpet, yet the Acara knew she could never afford one.
Melisma returned from her home a few minutes later with a staff. "My most powerful staff!" she exclaimed as she raised it into the air. "Given to me by Ilere herself."
Her voice startled the Acara, who had been so engrossed with the Ghostkerchief she forgot where she was. "Sorry," Judy apologized. "I was just playing with your Petpet."
"Bring him along," Melisma instructed. "I've trained him over the years -- he could be a valuable asset." She winked.
Judy had to smile as she picked up the Petpet and put it in her pocket. It seemed content there.
And then the two were off, toward the old mansion southeast of the woods. ***
Here we are, listener. The very last section of the main storyline.
If you wish to know what happens, stay.
If you want to save yourself from a lifetime of melancholy absurdity, leave.
It's up to you.***
Fredrick delighted in seeing Judy return with the orb.
And then he scowled at the other thing she brought with her.
"WITCH!" he yelled at Melisma.
"X," the Shoyru responded nonchalantly.
The Bruce ran up to Judy. "Judy," he started melodramatically, "how could you betray us like this?"
The other zombies murmured amongst themselves.
"She didn't betray you," Melisma piped in. "I had the orb you so desperately desired," the witch continued, making things up as she went along, "and she came to me. I made her bargain the piece for her word that... that I was allowed into here."
"I suppose I did say she should bring the thing despite the costs," Hoshi said, a forlorn quality in her voice.
"Alright, fine." Fredrick was not in a mood to squabble further. "Just hand the orb over." The Bruce extended a flipper.
"Only if you tell her," the witch suddenly interrupted, "why I had to lock you all in here."
"Well..." Fredrick trailed. "You are evil and all--"
"Oh, shut up, Fredrick," Jakie yelled to his boss as he stepped forward. "Just tell the truth. We all know quite why we're here." He turned and faced Judy and the witch.
"Humongous, what are you doing?" the Bruce inquired with a raised eyebrow, his tone almost a shriek near the end of the question.
"Telling the truth," the Aisha said. "Something in seeing Judy -- fresh, alive, ecstatic -- made me happier, made me want to change my ways." He sighed. "But it's probably too late for that." Staring right into the Acara's eyes, he continued. "You see, we were all once a band of criminals -- thieving, ransacking, destroying -- storming villages all over."
"Mr. Xantum there was 'X'," Jakie continued, "the leader of our group. He always painted a giant 'X' over the home of a destroyed household. I was his second in command, and I'm sorry to say I committed some pretty heinous acts as well. Hoshi, there," he pointed to the Usul, "was his third, the most intelligent member of the group."
"Alright, Jakie," Fredrick interrupted, also turning to face the living pair. "Now that you know the gist of what happened, we might as well tell you the rest..."***
Feel free to insert the information from Aside I and Aside III here.***
Judy realized his and the witch's stories bore remarkably striking resemblance. It was true, then -- they were monsters. Not just in appearance, but in personality.
"And now," Fredrick finished to the guests amongst the living, "we must destroy the two of you."
"What?!" Judy exclaimed anxiously as she saw them draw their weapons.
"What do you mean what?" Hoshi asked. "Do you think we stand unarmed? We had plans to continue our devastation when we were set free, you know."
Melisma stepped forward. "This is going to get ugly, and fast," she whispered to Judy.
Immediately, a stream of fire leapt toward the Acara from some Korbat. Luckily, Judy managed to dodge it.
A shot of hot vapor erupted from Melisma's hands.
This was getting all too intense.
And then Judy found herself being lifted into the air. She looked down.
It was Jakie.
He carried her upstairs, dodging all the blasts he could -- as a member of the living dead, the ones that did penetrate his flesh didn't hurt too much -- and laid her on the floor next to a window.
"Will I ever see you again?" she asked him, her eyes tearing up.
"Probably not," he replied casually. "Goodbye, Judy," he said to her sadly as he punched a hole through the window and sent her tumbling out of it."
She hit the ground outside hard, but she could still stand up. The Acara looked up at her savior. "Jump!" she called to him desperately.
"Run!" he yelled back to her. "If I jump, my bones will break for sure." The Aisha disappeared from view.
And then Judy decided she probably should run, for then she heard a giant rumbling coming from inside the house. People were shouting and screaming. Bad things were happening...
When she thought she was at a safe distance, Judy turned around and looked at the old mansion...
Just in time to see the entire place go up in smoke.
With an assaulting bang, the mansion disappeared -- there was nothing left but its foundation. Dust clouds circled the ruins of her childhood play place. All of the wood and brick -- and creatures inside -- had burned away into nothingness.
"They're all gone," she started, still in shock. And then she leaned against a nearby tree and began to cry. The month of Storing was young; she had known them all for only an evening, yet she still wept heartily for their departures.
"Fredrick, Hoshi, Jakie," she said, especially discontented over the lattermost name. "They're gone, now."
It must have been the orb, she reasoned. One of them must have used it, effectively destroying them all.
It was probably Melisma. "Oh, Melisma," Judy wailed as she hid her hands in her face. The Shoyru was right all along. And now she was no more.
At the hearing of its master's name, the little Petpet in Judy's pocket began to wiggle.
The Acara had forgotten it was there.
She retrieved the Ghostkerchief and looked at it. The little thing saw how much she was crying, and, upon wiping her tears, danced for her.
Perhaps this what what he was trained for.
The thought perked her slightly.
Judy traversed home, her new Petpet strolling behind her. He was very tame, like the ones for sale at the Spooky Petpets Shop she couldn't afford, and he responded to the name "Melisma", the name he knew by heart.
Judy realized the Ghostkerchief was really the only solid evidence proving that this entire evening had happened, save maybe for Hector, if she ever chose to contact him about it.
The Acara arrived home. The candy was, as were the wandering children, all gone. She shivered; the Month of Storing air was unusually crisp.
She went immediately to her bedroom and slipped under her covers, her new Petpet resting on the foot of her mattress.
Judy fell asleep almost instantly, dreaming about the night. ***
There, listener, you have the entire tale.
It was a tale of deception and desolation, magic and mystery, zeal and zombies.
Now, who am I?
I am no one in particular, yet everyone all together.
Something so insignificant, you forget it governs totally over your entire life.
In short, I am the voice of every single character -- I am the essence of the narrative itself.
"To succeed is to fail" is not only a quote, it is a philosophy. I subscribe to this philosophy, and it is part of me. I am it. I am everyone who succeeded, yet failed.
Judy succeeded in her quest to retrieve the orb for the zombies, yet, while doing so, failed in her quest to save them.
Jakie succeeded in saving Judy, yet failed in saving himself.
Fredrick succeeded in becoming one of the most terrorizing villains of the Woods, yet failed in his quest not to get caught because of his actions.
Hoshi succeeded in conveying the necessary information for Judy to succeed, yet failed by giving too much information -- "despite the costs."
Hector succeeded in reconnecting with Judy, yet in doing so failed to really reconnect with the Acara.
The beast behind the tree succeeded in getting work, yet, because of that, failed in all subsequent actions of his own life.
Edgar succeeded in getting free labor, for a while, but thereby failed in getting his zombification ray working.
Finally, Melisma succeeded in destroying the zombies who destroyed so many, yet failed by, in the process, destroying herself.
Do you see what I mean when I say I am everyone?
Don't look at me like that, listener.
Now, when was I created?
Was I created as a figment of Judy's subconscious mind as she slept that night, for she wanted an exterior voice to provide her mind with a clear narration of events?
Was I created from some magical instrument under the possession of Melisma?
Did I create myself spontaneously, and simultaneously, when I weaved together the parts of this tale?
I answer "maybe" on all accounts.
Who am I really?
I'm a ghost from another time, from a different past, from an uncertain future. My role, to convey this tale, is now fulfilled. Therefore, I am insignificant. I am whomever you wish me to be, dear listener.
Aside from this... I think you know the answer.
...not to be feared.