Flushed!, excerpt 2:
Scratching the back of his scalp, Dee thought about what Hyphyn explained to him. “Wait.” He looked back at the drainage pipe that he dropped out of after flushing down the toilet in his house. Water flowed nonstop out of it. “What if I just wanna go home? How do I get back? I got the guys waiting for me.”
“I suppose we can send you back—”
Tongo interrupted. “But, if you are the one, you could save us. Save our land from such short lives...from what contaminates our land and condemns us to the skin condition you see before you.”
“What makes you guys all orange and glowing in the first place?”
“Upstream from us is the land of the Goyas. It is the Goya emperor, ever since the fourth dynasty of the Goya empire, that allows an enchanted substance to flow through this very stream we're standing it. This stream is the sole water source for the Bweebles. The Goya emperors use it to keep all the Bweebles too weak and feeble to rise up against the Goyas. We crave independence, but the Goyas keep us enslaved. From the moment us Bweebles are born the Goyas claim us as their possessions. We can't fight them. We mine the very mineral that allows them to enchant this river.”
“Wait...will what's in this river cause me to turn into you guys with the glowing orange skin?”
“Fortunately, you have not been drinking this water. It must be consumed. This stream is the only source of water. We use this water for everything. Our crops...cooking. It never even rains, so it's this stream that keeps Bweebles alive...yet it also limits our lifespan.” For a brief moment neither Dee nor the any of the Bweebles spoke. Hyphyn nearly pleaded with Dee. “Please...come take the challenge. Help us to not be slaves to the Goya anymore.”
“Well, what's the challenge?” His feet bothered Dee while submerged under the water. Looking down, he considered those shoes he spent so much money on...the money he worked so hard to earn. “Man...my shoes are gonna be ruined.”
“All you must do is complete the basket challenge or the drawing challenge.”
“The basket challenge? What's that?”
“There are a series of hanging baskets in which you must attempt to throw a ball into them without missing.”
“Sounds like basketball...which, I'm pretty decent at.” Although, the truth was that Dee struggled making shots and all the guys dogged him about it. He talked good and his form looked rather decent, but he rarely sank any baskets. When the other kids chided him about his sporting ability, he would never admit to stinking at the game...or any game that guys were supposed to be good at. “Wait...you said there was a second challenge. The drawing challenge.”
Hyphyn then added, “Oh yeah...there's a big debate among the Bweebles as to what the prophets meant, so we have both challenges set up. Although, I never really understood the point of the basket challenge. This is why we have two challenges. There is a drawing challenge. Draw an exact duplicate of the dragon sketched by our ancestors and if it's a match, then the dragon is said to come alive...a dragon with scales made of pure rubies. A small line in the prophecy was once discovered in an older scroll that said, 'And the Ruby Dragon shall be sketched and the king shall ride off on its shoulders. The original scroll didn't have that line, so some Bweebles believe it to be false.”
“Drawing...little orange dude, now that's what I do best. Can't I just take the drawing challenge instead? Cause truthfully, my shooting needs a little work.”
“I suppose you could do the drawing challenge first. We'll see what happens. If the Ruby Dragon does not awaken after the drawing, assuming you draw it correctly, then we'll have you do the basket challenge.” Hyphyn extended his hand. De'Angelo assumed he intended to shake hands, but the orange Bweeble kissed him on top of his knuckle. This seemed a disgusting thing to do.
“Is that what you little orange guys do? Kiss hands. I'm not a princess you know.” He wiped the kiss off on his shirt. “No offense, little dudes. So, where do I go from here?”
“Well, we have to deposit our payloads into the Goya wagon just up the hill, and then we'll lead to to the empty palace to undergo the challenge. You can walk with me in the lead.”
Glad to get out of the water, De'Angelo did just that and walked beside Hyphyn as he resumed leading the Bweeble workers out of the cave. A near growl shook the entire cave just as Hyphyn and De'Angelo were ready to step out of the entrance. “Arg! Where's the daily quota of phystia? Hyphyn, must we beat your children once more?”
“Dang...who's that?” inquired De'Angelo.
“That's Ganga...he's the head slave master for the Emperor. He works us hard and we have to be on time with the phystia. Or he beats our women and children. Sometimes even to death.”
“Man...that's so wrong.” De'Angelo shook his head. Upon leaving the cave he looked to see that two paths flanked the length of the stream. He saw a land with rows upon rows of grain and vegetable plants. In fact, to his immediate right was field of the tallest wheat he had even seen. Dee hadn't ever experienced too much in the way of farms, but he remembered seeing wheat fields when his family traveled to visit relatives. Unlike wheat back in his real world, the Bweebles grew a type that was higher than corn stalks or even sunflowers.
About a hundred yards away, at least it appeared to be that length, was a wooden bridge with railings that bowed over the expanse of the tiny stream. Another pathway that continued to the left from the bridge stretched upwards a hill where at the top waited a wooden wagon the size of a modern day dump truck. Tiny Bweebles, just children that would have only come up to his knees, with faded orange skin were huddled on the floor of the wagon, all fearfully eyeballing a man in a black cape, plated armor, and a helmet made from the skull of some animal. His face had a bushy black mustache and he had a scruffy face. Cheek bones the size of Dee's fist gave him the appearance of being made of stone. His skin was much lighter in color than Dee's. In his hand was a whip so large and so long it could easily deliver a painful blow to several Bweebles at once. The man was the size of a professional wrestler. His face stared at the workers just now appearing from the cave, and his beady black eyes held nothing but hatred and contempt for these Bweebles.
“Who is that with you, Hyphyn? He can't be a Bweeble.” As De'Angelo past one farm field, he noticed pipes sticking into the stream, which must have been pumping the water for these crops.
“He'll have to be destroyed.”
De'Angelo began fearing for his life. Certainly, he did not like the sound of being threatened with destruction. He asked Hyphyn, “Is that the slave master? And is that your children?”
“Yes...we better hurry it up.” Turning towards the hundreds of Bweeble men following behind Hyphyn all single file, he called to them, “Hurry up, Bweebles. Step it up.”
The slave master gripped the end of the enlarged whip. “If you love your children, you will be here by the time I count to twenty or I'll whip them. And there better not be a nugget of phystia left behind.”
All the Bweebles trotted while attempting to push their wheelbarrows through the unforgiving gravel pathway. De'Angelo walked slowly in comparison as the little orange men filed on past him. He didn't even pay attention when pushing through the towering wheat crops to his right were six soldiers dressed similar to Ganga, except they had dull, grey metallic helmets and no cape. Three were armed with battle axes while the other half had swords, all razor sharp and flat, and the soldiers surrounded Dee. One of the soldiers smelling as if he had been bathing in raw sewage, much like the magical drain of the toilet he fell into, held his sword against his throat.
With a grumble in his throat, the soldier threatened, “Don't move, strange lad. You obviously don't belong here. The Emperor doesn't approve of such. He keeps a check on all living beings in the conquered Empire. This here sword is so sharp, your head will be off your shoulders so fast, you won't even feel it. Come with us. Ganga will decide your fate.”
However, Dee questioned him. “How can I go with you? You just told me not to move. You guys believe in baths...cause you smell—”
“Forget how we smell. You won't be smelling much after Ganga gets through with you. Now walk Mr. Smart Mouth.” What was funny to Dee, his own mother occasionally said that to him.
“Okay...take me to Ganga.” The soldiers occasionally shoved him by the shoulder as he shuffled over the bridge, up the hill via the pathway, and worked his way around the front of the wagon. Harnessed to the wagon were ten Bweeble women all in what looked like dresses that were also overalls. They had tights along their legs all brown with rips through them. He watched as Ganga standing on the platform of the wagon lurched over Dee's head. As for the Bweebles with the wheelbarrows, they waited to unload them as their children were released to the ground below. Once all the boys and girls had vacated the wagon, the Bweeble men pushed each wheelbarrow up a ramp and emptied the phystia rocks. Ganga glared at the workers as hundreds of them added more and more of the Goya's precious substance into the wagon.
Ganga climbed up and over a ladder on his side of the wagon to stand next to Dee and the Goya soldiers. He called out, “Hyphyn. Come here.” Nervously, Hyphyn made his way, unsure of what Ganga was planning on doing. “Who is this intruder? And why were you late with my payload? You made our poor dear beasts of burden wait so long in the heat of this Sun...without a thing to drink mind you. Some may not survive the journey back to the Emperor's castle.”
“Sir, this is the one who the ancient Bweeble prophets wrote about. The one who would save us from the Enslavement times. He is Master De'Angelo...he goes by Dee.”
With a bellowing laugh that mocked the little Bweeble man, Ganga chided, “Oh...that! You must stop believing in fairy tales, you Bweebles. You will forever serve the Goya Empire.” Then, he scanned Dee from head to toe and brushed the top of his hair. “Hmm...how curious. You seem so much like the Hoquin's that the Second Emperor extinguished nearly a century ago. You are the great hope of the Bweebles? Ha! You're just a boy.” Addressing Hyphyn, he probed, “What makes you think this is your precious king from that ridiculous prophecy?”
“We don't know, sir, if he is. He must pass the challenges at the Empty Palace. Then we'll know.”
Rubbing his chin, Ganga questioned, “Are these challenges already set up?”
“Then...we'll take him to the Empty Palace and he will work to complete the challenges in the presence of myself and have these soldiers. As for you Bweeble miners, take your children back to your village. For being late with the payload we will set fire to the entire Bweeble wheat crop...starvation is almost a guarantee for some of you this winter. Now, get out of my presence!”
Hyphyn fell on his knees, shrieking in despair, “Please, Sir Ganga...don't destroy our crops.”
“It is too late. The soldiers had already set up the fire triggers. Turn and watch...watch the beginning of a famine to punish you Bweebles.” Smoke rose up from the center of the entire field and the fires spread rapidly. All the Bweebles cried as they considered the catastrophe unfolding before them. Wheat was the predominate source of food for the Bweebles and without it there would indeed be a famine.