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Fate of Liars
Dr. Skirchoff’s story starts two months after a great discovery is made on Fluzz, the flat planet. A great discovery that sounds too good and too bad to be true at the same time. But in the year of 2116, anything is possible and nothing is impossible. Dr. Skirchoff’s story is not a very long one -- it only spans a single day, but it may as well be the most well-known day in the history of the town, the county, the state, the country, the world, the Milky Way galaxy, and the entire solar system. On this particular day, August 24th, the sun rises and the day begins with Dr. Skirchoff being only minutes away from receiving three million dollars. When the sun rises the next morning, Dr. Skirchoff will be long gone. But that does not necessarily mean his story is forgotten; in fact, his legend will be told for centuries to come.
Dr. Skirchoff is always a nervous wreck before doing things in public. He is known for freezing up the second he walks onto any stage. Today, his audience consists of a thousand people and the dictator of the world, the Diesector. As he bites his lip, Dr. Skirchoff peeks onto the stage and carefully adjusts his tie. Nervously, he fiddles with the small bottle in his hands. He takes the cork off the top, then puts it back on. He shakes the clear liquid inside and stares into it. The liquid is a finding of his own -- it can be poured onto the boulders that border Fluzz at any time, and all the boulders will be dissolved, granting all people access to the edges of the planet. Gravity outside of the planet will also become non-existent; in other words, anyone who falls off the edge will fall downwards forever, until they reach another surface. The people will be able to see the entire universe. Dr. Skirchoff knows it is a dangerous substance, and if people find out about it, deaths will multiply rapidly. Still, he tells no one about it, but keeps it with him at all times, just incase a time comes at which he needs to use it.
Dr. Skirchoff glances at his watch; he will be going on stage soon. His eyes dart around and he sees the blinding light shining on center stage, where he will be standing in seconds. He sees the large audience where there are hundreds -- maybe even thousands! - of people with eager faces. He sees the dictator of the world, the Diesector, sitting in the balcony. Dr. Skirchoff knows that the Diesector is the one to impress. If the Diesector is not satisfied, Dr. Skirchoff will be dead before he can run off the stage. Dr. Skirchoff shakes the thought out of his mind and tries to think positive thoughts -- It’s all for me. The audience, the stage, and all the luxuries. I’ll give a flawless speech, the audience will go wild, and I’ll become a billionaire.
“Dr. Skirchoff, it’s time for you to go on,” his manager Gregory calls out. Then, leaning into Dr. Skirchoff’s ear, he whispers, “Good luck.” Dr. Skirchoff nods in response and stuffs his bottle back into his pocket. Gregory shivers and watches Dr. Skirchoff open the curtains and step out onto the stage looking bold and confident. Goosebumps erupt all over his body and his cheeks burn red with anxiety. What if Dr. Skirchoff fails? Both of their careers will be over.
Stop worrying, Gregory thinks. Skirchoff will do fine, and the speech will all be over before you know it. And besides, he knows he isn’t the one going up on the stage and giving the speech. Why are you the one worrying? Gregory thinks.
The large auditorium is completely filled up. Voices of curiosity and excitement come from the crowd. A blinding light is shone on the very center of the stage, and a loud cheer of claps and whoops greets Dr. Skirchoff as he walks up to his spot on the stage with a cheesy grin pasted on.
Dr. Skirchoff takes a deep breath and looks around the audience as the cheers die down.
“Thank you for having me here today,” Dr. Skirchoff begins in a solid, clear voice. He scrambles through his papers and gets them organized. “First I would like to thank my manager, Gregory, and all of my friends. I could not have made it here without them,”
The crowd claps one more time, this time even louder than the first. “I am here today to introduce all of you to the great discovery I made just two months ago. All this time, we have known that our planet, Fluzz, is flat. That is something that Christopher Columbus found out long ago. But now, I have taken his findings to the next level! What you may not have known is that on the other side of our planet, another world called Earth exists!” More claps erupt from all sides of the auditorium, and Dr. Skirchoff cannot help but look around and soak in the praise.
Just then, he spots someone in the audience who is not is clapping. He is not smiling, and he is not whooping. He is sitting back in his chair, with a frown. Dr. Skirchoff, who has forgotten his glasses when walking onto the stage, tries to figure out who the person is. But the person’s face is blurry, and Dr. Skirchoff cannot get a good look at the person before the claps die down and he must continue talking.
“All my life, I have been a sailor. On my latest trip, I was transporting some American goods to Europe in order to trade it with some other fine things. I trade and travel for a living, so this is my only way of providing for myself. However, somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, my navigating system stopped working. It beeped and the arrow on the compass started shaking and unstabilized. Then, things got even more strange - a whirlpool erupted out of the calm, easy sea. At this point, I -- um -- I…” Dr. Skirchoff drifts off. He is staring into the eyes of the man that had not been clapping. The one who had had a stern look on his face, and the one who had not whooped for him.
Suddenly, Dr. Skirchoff’s vision is not so foggy and uncertain anymore. He can clearly see who the strange man is -- it is Dr. Brunner.
Trying to ignore Dr. Brunner’s presence, Dr. Skirchoff attempts to continue his speech.
“I -- I -- I was, well, scared out of my mind, and -- um -- screaming in fright and -- pleading God to forgive me for, um, whatever it was that I had done wrong in my -- past. And, ummm,” Dr. Skirchoff rubs his forehead with his fingers and tries to focus.
“Go on, go on,” Gregory mutters from backstage. Dr. Skirchoff glances back at him, and Gregory waves his hands as a signal to continue. Dr. Skirchoff gives a quick nod and looks back at the audience.
“And, well, I thought that I would -- um, -- die,” Dr. Skirchoff says, his voice no longer strong, but shaky and weak. “But just then -- well -- um -- I’m sorry, I’m having a little trouble focusing…”
Just then, Dr. Skirchoff hears Dr. Brunner’s voice.
“Skirchoff,” the voice whispers. “Skirchoff,” the voice says, a little louder. “SKIRCHOFF!” the voice screams. Dr. Skirchoff shudders and tightens his fists. Cold sweat trickles down Dr. Skirchoff’s forehead. I am going to survive. I am going to die. Please take me into heaven. Please put me in hell. Dr. Brunner’s voices whirl around and he hears a scream in his ears. But then, the voices fall silent, and Dr. Skirchoff sees that Dr. Brunner is still simply sitting in his chair in the audience. Suddenly, Dr. Skirchoff realizes what is going on. He is hallucinating. The voices aren’t real, Skirchoff thinks to himself. You’re the only one hearing them -- they can’t harm you.
Behind the stage, Gregory keeps his eyes glued to Dr. Skirchoff, trying to send him mind messages. “Fight through, keep talking, you’re almost there,” he murmurs. “You’re doing fine,” This is Gregory’s last chance to find money and provide for his family. Dr. Skirchoff has promised him to give him half of the money he earns through his living as a famous scientist. It means everything to Gregory that Dr. Skirchoff succeeds.
Meanwhile, Dr. Skirchoff tries to continue his speech. “But just then,” he starts, trying to block out the voices that are wailing and screaming in his ears. Before he can continue, however, Dr. Skirchoff sees Dr. Brunner running in his direction. Dr. Brunner raises a knife in is face and screams words that Dr. Skirchoff cannot make out.
In horror, Dr. Skirchoff reaches out his hand and tries to touch Dr. Brunner, but his hand simply goes through air -- he is still hallucinating. Dr. Skirchoff tries to make Dr. Brunner’s vision go away, but his mind continues to play tricks on him.
All of a sudden, the visions and voices disappear. Dr. Skirchoff returns to reality, where he only sees the audience and Dr. Brunner sitting in the crowd. No knife, no screaming, nothing.
But then the visions and screams return.
They zap away before a blink of an eye.
Dr. Skirchoff’s heart start burning, and pains flare up inside of him, as if someone truly is stabbing him with a knife. Dr. Brunner’s evil, grinning face appears in front of Dr. Skirchoff’s eyes. Dr. Skirchoff knows it is not real, but he cannot take it anymore.
“IT WASN’T ME! IT WASN’T ME! I DIDN’T FIND THE OTHER SIDE! IT’S ALL A LIE!” Dr. Skirchoff screams, not able to control himself. “I DIDN’T FIND THE OTHER SIDE, I DIDN’T FIND EARTH, AND I DIDN’T FIND THE PORTAL! NONE OF IT WAS ME!”
The real Dr. Brunner’s eyes widen in the audience. What’s happening?
Gregory closes his eyes, hoping that when he opens his eyes, he will be in his bed and realize that this is all a bad dream. But when he opens his eyes, Dr. Skirchoff is still screaming with blazing eyes. His voice is still blaring over the microphone, and the audience is starting to get suspicious and panic.
I need to get out of here, Gregory thinks. I’ll be caught guilty along with Skirchoff by the Diesector and I’ll be put into Fluzz jail. I can’t be put into jail; what will my family do?
Gregory looks around. No one is in sight. Slowly, Gregory creeps over to the door. He places his hand on the doorknob and turns it silently. Before stepping out, Gregory turns back a last time. His eyes wander over to the small opening in the curtain, where he can see Dr. Skirchoff, completely unaware of what he is doing.
“I’m sorry, Skirchoff. I have to do this,” Gregory whispers. Then, he swings the door open and breaks into a fast sprint, never looking back, and never to return again.
“I DIDN’T FIND THE OTHER SIDE, BUT I KNOW WHO DID,” Dr. Skirchoff screams. By this point, all hallucinations are gone and have been replaced by guilt and fury. “IT WAS HIM,” Dr. Skirchoff points his finger at the real Dr. Brunner. The audience gasps and looks in Dr. Brunner’s direction.
Dr. Brunner sits at the edge of his seat with a stern look on his face. His eyes are big and desperate; his eyebrows are furrowed and his veins are pulsing on his wrists. He doesn’t know what will come next.
“MY BROTHER DESTROYED MY FUTURE. MY VERY OWN BROTHER, DR. BRUNNER. DR. BRUNNER FOUND THE OTHER SIDE AND THE PORTAL, NOT ME!” Dr. Skirchoff continues.
Dr. Brunner rises out of his seat. “You don’t have to do this, Skirchoff,” Dr. Brunner says, trying to keep a steady voice. “You were helpless and needed to make money. Your only hope was to steal my idea. You’re my brother, and I’ll forgive you this once. We can both forget that this moment ever happened,” he says, trying to keep a steady voice.
Dr. Skirchoff steps away from the microphone and begins walking towards Dr. Brunner. “Are you mad? People don’t just forget things! I don’t know how things are on Earth, but this is Fluzz, and on Fluzz, you can’t just erase memories!” he shouts.
“I’m not saying we can completely forget this -- that’s not possible. But maybe we can put it behind us and start over. We were never close as brothers, but this is our chance to change,” Dr. Brunner says, his eyes softening.
“You’re right. We were never close as brothers. You were always the “favorite child”. Mother and father were so proud of you. Not once did you come home without a perfect paper in your hand, or without some friends trailing behind you. But nothing can reverse the past, you arrogant fool,”
Dr. Brunner stops dead. His hands clench into fists and his eyes turn to tiny slits.
“I understand that life has been hard on you, but you have refused my offer to start over, and now, what am I supposed to do?” Dr. Brunner growls. “Simply allow you to steal my victory when you will not even accept my peace? Go back in my seat and listen while you continue your speech? Or do you now expect me to find out how to time travel so you can steal that discovery from me as well”
“Brunner, you are -- you know what? It doesn’t matter. None of this matters anymore, because whether you or mother or father know it or not, I am not an idiot, and I will prove it to you!”
Dr. Skirchoff reaches into his pocket and takes out the small bottle with a cork over it. He takes the cork off momentarily, and immediately, a blue, illuminating circle of light erupts out of the ground and surrounds Dr. Skirchoff and Dr. Brunner. Strong winds begin to blow within the circle of light, knocking Dr. Skirchoff and Dr. Brunner off their feet.
Dr. Skirchoff cackles. His discovery is success! The light gets brighter.
“Wait, what is that? Stop it and get back here right this instant!” The Diesector calls out. But he is too late. The light gets brighter.
Dr. Brunner shakes his head in fright and screams for help, but it is no use -- no one can see him and the whistling of the wind covers his voice. The light gets brighter.
The light gets brighter.
The light gets brighter.
The light gets brighter.
The light zaps into Dr. Brunner and Dr. Skirchoff’s bodies, and when it settles down, the two of them are no longer in the auditorium.
Dr. Brunner’s eyes flutter open and he finds himself in a vast plain -- grass sways all around him and he cannot see anything but more grass miles around. Have I been unconscious? he thinks. He looks around and sees Dr. Skirchoff towering over him with his arms crossed.
“Ah. I have been waiting for you to wake up,” Dr. Skirchoff scoffs. “You were unconscious for so long, I thought you would never wake up! Weak Fluzzling.”
“Where are we? Give me an answer now!” Dr. Brunner demands.
“We are on the edge of Fluzz. I have transported us here. The boulders on our left side span the entire planet. They are meant to keep us on the planet and prevent us from falling off the sides to who-knows-where. Maybe I didn’t find the other side of Fluzz, and maybe I’m not the smarter of the two of us. But during the course of my time trying to succeed as a scientist, I found this,” Dr. Skirchoff says, holding up the small bottle that transported himself and Dr. Brunner to the edge of Fluzz.
Dr. Brunner bolts up at the sight of the mysterious bottle. “What is that?” he asks in a loud, panicking voice.
“Don’t worry, Brunner, just trust me,” Dr. Skirchoff replies in a sing-songy voice. He shakes the bottle a bit, and the clear liquid inside lurches around.
What is that? Dr. Brunner thinks. It can’t be something good. Dr. Brunner locks his eyes on the bottle Dr. Skirchoff is holding and throws himself onto Dr. Brunner. With all his might, he tries to slam him to the ground and get a hold of the bottle before it can cause any more trouble.
“Give me the bottle, Skirchoff,” Dr. Brunner murmurs, pinning Dr. Skirchoff to the ground.
“Never,” Dr. Skirchoff replies.
“Give it to me now,” Dr. Brunner repeats. “You’ve stolen my discovery, you’ve claimed it as your own, and you’ve taken my identity as a sailor who got stuck in a whirlpool which lead him to a portal and pretended it was you. You’ve pretended to be someone who you’re not, so even if you kill me and survive and avoid getting caught, your guilt will swallow you up and backfire sooner or later. Neither guilt nor lies are things you can cover up with money and wealth. So--”
Dr. Brunner is cut short when Dr. Skirchoff grins and kicks his legs up at Dr. Brunner’s ribcage. Yelping in pain, Dr. Brunner tumbles and loses his grip on Dr. Skirchoff. Dr. Skirchoff hops up and sticks his tongue out at Dr. Brunner, mockingly. But before he can make a move, Dr. Brunner is back on him, this time holding him against the boulders.
“Give me the bottle,” Dr. Brunner barks.
“It’s mine -- I searched for it, I discovered it, and I’m going to keep it,” Dr. Skirchoff cackles. But just then, he sees the Diesector walking towards him and Dr. Brunner. The Diesector is here for me, he thinks. Behind the Diesector, there is an army of robots marching in unison. They are all headed for Dr. Skirchoff. I don’t have much time, he thinks.
Dr. Skirchoff sighs. He looks at the world around him -- he sees miles of swaying wheat, fields dead grass, and the infinite, gray sky. He realizes that nothing will ever change. He will always be a thief. He will always be guilty. He will always carry this burden. He will always live in depression.
The vast plain seems to be a vision in black and white, but Dr. Brunner’s eyes are screaming in color. Screaming in worry. Screaming in fury. Screaming in something that words could never express. Dr. Skirchoff looks into Dr. Brunner’s eyes a last time and says in a grave voice, “I’m sorry, but I have to do this.” Then, before Dr. Brunner can reply, Dr. Skirchoff pulls his arms free. He rips the cork off the bottle. And without hesitation, he pours the liquid the boulder behind him.
Instantly, all the boulders dissolve.
Dr. Brunner’s jaw drops. “I don’t believe this,” he mutters. “This can’t be real,”
“Goodbye, Brunner,” Dr. Skirchoff whispers. Then, before Dr. Brunner has the chance to figure out what is happening, Dr. Skirchoff pushes him off the edge of Fluzz, and he falls into the dark, empty universe. He’ll be dead for sure. No one knows where he’ll end up. Maybe he’ll fall forever. Maybe he’ll land on some other unknown planet. Maybe -- Dr. Skirchoff’s thoughts are interrupted by the sounds of the Diesector and his army arriving.
“We have come for you,” the robots chant. The Diesector has an evil grin on his face.
“Oh, Skirchoff,” he whispers sweetly. “If only you hadn’t lied to me, your great dictator. But now, what can I do? It was your mistake, not mine.”
“Please, Diesector. Just kill me! If this is the way things must be, then please, great dictator, just let me die so that all this suffering can end for me!” Dr. Skirchoff pleads.
“I’m sorry, Skirchoff, but it is my job to give you the most dreadful, most painful torture possible. If I didn’t, no one would be afraid of me, am I correct?”
Dr. Skirchoff continues to sob at the Diesector’s feet. “Just kill me, just kill me, just kill me…” he murmurs through tears.
“Get him!” The Diesector commands to his robots. “And take him away into the darkest, smallest cell of Fluzz jail, where he will be held without food, water, or warmth to stay until the day he dies!” Two robots step forward and lift Dr. Skirchoff by his arms. They hoist him off the ground and Dr. Skirchoff desperately flails his legs, trying to get back in control of himself.
The robots march Dr. Skirchoff off. Dr. Skirchoff looks back at the Diesector with wide eyes as the robots continue taking him in the opposite direction.
“PLEASE! I’M SORRY! I’M SORRY! JUST KILL ME!” Dr. Skirchoff screams, but before he can say anymore, his world goes black.