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The Question Of All Questions
I have only one person to thank for how great my life currently is: Gennaro Lombardi. If you’re wondering who this genius of all geniuses is, he’s the man who brought pizza to America. If you’re wondering what pizza could possibly have done for me, besides making me less hungry, then keep reading. You’re in for one heck of a story. It involves dragons, Shakespeare, an epic legend that no one believes, a stolen painting, one freaky dream, Evil People, my horrible name, and how I figured out how to be myself. And it all started with pizza.
“Flor, come down here THIS INSTANT and put your socks away or we are NOT going to go get pizza tonight!!” Mom yelled up the stairs. It felt like the sheer force of her words almost knocked me off my bed. Yes, “Flor” is my horrible name. It’s not even short for anything. I mean, it would be one thing if my name was Florence, and this was just a nickname, but no. My mom just had to be different. And now I have invoked her rage by forgetting I had socks in the laundry, and now I probably won’t get my all-time favorite food, the miraculous pizza pie. I threw down A Midsummer’s Night Dream, one of my favorites by Shakespeare, jumped off my bed, and raced down the staircase.
“Coming Mom!” I called, and almost tripped over my shoes that were lying on the ground right in front of the stairs. Mom was there, towering over me, frustrated.
“And I thought I told you not to put those there.” She told me, sternly, then walked into the kitchen to finish cleaning the counter, which already looked spotless to me, but apparently did not live up to her standards. I moved my shoes out of the way of the staircase and literally leapt down the tiny hallway in one gargantuan stride into the living room. My socks were sitting alone in the laundry basket sitting on the old, faded, used-to-be-banana-yellow-but-now-looks-like-someone-forgot-to-flush-the-toilet surface of the couch. My brother already put away all his clothes, so it was just my socks in an unusual array of colors, monkeys, Halloween motifs, and unicorns. I grab the basket and head back to my room.
“When you’re done, go tell your brother to get ready to go.” Mom said as I walked past. I muttered a “yes mom” and hurried up the stairs. I was going to get pizza after all! At lightning speed I dumped the basket on the chaos that was my bed and picked up all the socks and threw them in my drawer. If you can tell a lot about a person by the state of their sock drawer, then I am a total mess. A walking, talking, pizza-eating, Shakespeare-reading tornado, that wears socks meant for Halloween in November, and every other month, come to think of it. Anyway, I grabbed a pair of my socks to wear, and then walked down the hallway to my brother’s room. Or as he likes to call it, the “Dwightcave”. He’s been dead set on this ever since he started reading Dad’s old Batman comics.
“Dwight, Mom says get ready to go. We’re going to get pizza.”
“WHO DARES ENTER THE DWIGHTCAVE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION?!?!” came out from a chair facing the wall opposite me. The voice was booming, and trying to sound menacing, but it was more comical than anything.
“Your sister, Flor,”
“Oh. WELL YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOCKED!”
“Will you stop with the yelling and just get ready to go? I’m really hungry here,”
“Fine. Where are we going for pizza, anyway?” Dwight said, swiveling his chair around to face me.
“Where do you think? Benny the Dragon’s Galactic Pizza.” Don’t ask me about why my favorite pizza place has such a weird name. Legend has it (and I seriously mean legend. They put this on their cardboard boxes, plastic cups, paper plates, everything and anything that can be printed on) that the dude who first opened the place, Benny, believed so strongly in dragons and aliens that when he decided to open a restaurant totally devoted to his pride and joy (pizza!), he decided to name it after them. Then one day, he just disappeared, completely out of the blue. Most people believe that he just ran out of money and hightailed it out of here, but some of the stranger people around here say he was taken by a dragon. As you can guess, the paper products of Benny the Dragon’s Galactic Pizza choose the dragon point of view. Anyway, back to my conversation with Dwight.
“There again? We always go there. Maybe we could try one of the normal pizzerias in town. You know, that Pizza Dog place is supposed to be good,” said Dwight.
“Nope. I’m pretty sure they just try to copy Benny. But nothing--”
“Nothing beats Benny the Dragon’s pizza. I know. You’ve said that a zillion times before.” Dwight interrupted. I was very hurt by this. Do I really say that a lot? I thought to myself.
“Whatever. Just get ready,” I said, feigning indifference.
We were just about to leave, when suddenly the phone started to ring.
“Flor, go answer the phone please,” said Mom, who was busy tying her shoes. I sighed, in an overly dramatic fashion, and walked over to the phone and picked it up.
“Hey Flor, whatcha doin’?” It was my best (and only) friend, Kylie. She likes to talk in improper English more than Dwight likes the Dwightcave.
“We’re going to go get some pizza at Benny the Dragon’s,”
“Why do you always go there for pizza? There are tons of better places. Like that Pizza Dog place I heard is pretty dang awesome,”
“We go to Benny’s because their pizza is the best. Period. Nothing--”
“I know, I know. Nothing beats Benny the Dragon. You’ve said that, like, a million times before,” I most certainly do NOT!! I felt like shouting. But that would only make Kylie shout too. She has an anger issue, although no one has the guts to say this to her.
“Well, you want to meet us there? I don’t think Mom would mind,”
“Sure. My mom said she don’t really wanna cook tonight anyway,” Again with the English!
“All right. See you then.”
“See ya!” And then she hung up.
I walked through the glass doors of Benny the Dragon’s Galactic Pizza and the first thing I saw was a small brown mass that jumped up on me and pushed me on my backside and something wet started smearing across my face. I almost had a heart attack.
“Ugh, Peanut, get off!” I managed to say between getting licked by the current owner’s little brown beagle. In case you were wondering, the dog does not greet everybody like this. He only greets me like this because I’ve been coming here since I was five. We’re pretty good friends.
“Yo, Flor, you all right?” Kylie was hovering over me, looking totally grossed out by the dog saliva dripping from my face.
“Yeah.” I replied.
“Well, in that case, you might wanna go to the bathroom ‘n wipe all that…drool off.” I got up, put the squirming Peanut down, walked towards the door with the ladies sign on it, and opened the door. The only problem was that it wasn’t the ladies room. I mean, it was the same room, in the exact same place, but it wasn’t a bathroom. It looked like the inside of a castle. On a movie set in which a medieval princess who is really nice and pretty and such but something really horrible happens to her caused by an evil witch. There were long pieces of fabric draped on the wall that were embroidered with scenes of daring adventures by men in long flowing robes, and dragons setting fire to forests and knights. Tapestries, I believe they’re called. Ornate sofas, chairs, and tables were scattered across the room as if a stuffy old antique store suddenly came to life and spewed its contents all over the place. There were people in the room, too. They were dressed in long velvety-looking robes like the men in the tapestries and sitting on the ground in a circle, which I thought was weird, with all the not-so-uncomfortable-looking furniture around. I almost had another heart attack when I looked in the corner, because in the corner was a dragon. A real-live dragon, which probably breathes real-live fire, and likes to eat real-live humans. It was so gigantic it took up the entire corner and was covered in dull steel gray scales. One could liken how they looked to the texture and luster of sandstone that hasn’t been polished. It didn’t seem to notice me, because it was staring at one of the dragon tapestries wistfully, as if it knew that dragon and wished it were there too. I didn’t even notice the frail old man chained next to it, yet. Not until after the people in the velvet robes noticed me. But that doesn’t happen just yet…
“Has Benjamin succeeded yet?” Asked a man’s voice coming from one of the robed people, who was facing my way but did not seem to notice me. His face was covered by the hood of his long, pale gold-colored robe. Who the heck is Benjamin? I thought to myself. Something in the back of my brain was telling me it thought maybe I should go now, because these people didn’t look like the kind you would ask where the bathroom went to, or say anything to, or really give them any reason to notice you. But my feet didn’t want to move. I was still kind of in shock at what I was seeing. The voice in my head then said if I insist on not leaving, then I should at least not sit right in front of the doorway, and this time my feet listened. I managed to move closer to the side of the door, so now just my head was peaking out.
“N-no, sir. H-he said he needs a f-few more days,” a small squeaky voice answered. It was a girl’s voice, and she sounded very scared. I have assumed by now that the man in gold is the leader, partly because the girl seemed to be acting as if the man had a higher authority, but mostly because the man was the only one wearing a gold robe. The other six wore black. Goldie (this is what I’ve decided to call him, since it’s easier than “the man”) gave an overly dramatic sigh, kind of like the sighs I like to do when I’m upset.
“Very well, then. But tell him he better have the painting by then. Or else,” the way Goldie said the last two words sent earthquakes down my spine. There was something horrifying about it, but I don’t know what. The moment I thought the word horrifying, Goldie’s head shot up towards the door to look straight at me.
“What? Who’s that? Somebody, seize her!” Goldie shouted. The people in the black robes’ heads all swiveled towards me. Before I knew what was going on, they were on their feet walking hurriedly to me, and when they were about two feet away, my feet started to work again and I tried to run. I tried really hard. But I was too late. A hand grabbed my sweater and pulled me into the room. It didn’t even occur to me to try to do something about it. I just sat there, limp, letting the tall, black, velvety figure drag me along. When it dropped me on the floor, I thought maybe it was the girl who reported to Goldie, because the figure seemed too slim to be a guy.
“Now…what…do...we…have…here…?” Goldie put emphasis on every word in the sentence, and a dramatic pause in between. Does this dude have a flair for the dramatic or what?! I thought. Goldie bent over my face, but I couldn’t see his because it was covered with a shiny, foil-like gold veil. I really have no idea how he could see anything through that.
“What’s your name, kid?” He asked. I seriously considered saying “like I’m going to tell you!” but I was way too scared.
“Uh…….I-I’m Flor Hayes,” I said, like the girl who talked to Goldie earlier. But hey, the dude is pretty darn scary.
“Flor, you say? Is that short for something, like, say, Florence?” He said, slightly amused. This irritated me.
“I wish. But I suppose it’s better than my brother’s name,” I replied. My response made him laugh. Although I honestly don’t think Flor is better than Dwight. At least Dwight is in the vicinity of normal. Flor is way, way, way out there.
“Oh really? What could be worse than Flor!?!” He looked up at his robe covered people, who had circled around me, as if he was daring them not to laugh. Then the whole room was filled with laughter echoing off the walls and ceiling.
“Dwight,” I said. He looked down at me.
“Hmm...I suppose that is quite horrible. Now, tell me. What are you doing here?”
“Well, this room used to be the restroom and I needed to wipe some dog drool off my face. That’s all,” this made him upset.
“YOU’RE LYING!! WHO SENT YOU HERE? WAS IT THAT BLASTED-” He stopped himself short. One of the others was whispering in his ear. The robed figure then leaned away, and Goldie seemed to be considering what they said. “What I mean is…sorry for exploding like that. Sometimes I just get so worked up about nothing. I’m terribly sorry my…friend dragged you in here so…roughly. I’ll have a very long discussion with her later. You may go now,” the tone of Goldie’s voice had changed from on-the-verge-of-exploding to oh-the-weather’s-very-nice-today-isn’t-it? I was surprised when he told me I could go, but before I could protest I was picked up by two of the robed people when I noticed that by the dragon was a small, sickly, old man chained to the dragon. I didn’t have time to register what I saw before I was ushered out of the room into the hallway of the pizza place. I looked behind me at the restroom door, which was still adorned with the stick figure in a dress that signaled ‘Ladies’ Room’, even though it had been taken over by some cult with a Medieval Times fetish. I considered going back in to make sure it was all real, but I was too frightened. I walked out into the entrance and started to go left to the tables that my family and Kylie’s family were occupying. They were already chowing down on pepperoni pizza. This made me wonder how long I’d been gone. It felt like it had all happened so fast, but it could have been an hour, maybe more, for all I knew.
“Dude, you all right? We were startin’ to get worried ‘bout you,” Kylie said to me, an expression of concern on her face. Everybody was staring at me with the same worried look on their faces. I thought about telling them everything, but I figured it would make me sound crazy. In fact, I thought I was crazy. Why wouldn’t they agree?
“Yeah, I’m okay,” I decided on. I sat down and took a slice and started to eat. I was seriously freaked out by what had just happened. I wondered if I had just imagined it all for some reason, but why would I do that? And if I wasn’t imagining what I’d seen, then that was almost worse. Who were those people in the robes? Why was there a man chained to the dragon? Why was there a dragon there in the first place? Dragons don’t exist. Or do they? This made thought made me uneasy. The worst part was, even pizza didn’t make me feel better. That had never happened to me before. Little did I know that things were about to get much, much worse for me.
Later that night, when the whole house was quiet and dark and I was in bed, there was a little rapping on my window. I jumped at the noise, completely startled. I sat there a moment, then got up to go look. When I reached the window, I opened it and looked out. For the third time that night, I almost had a heart attack. I just barely got out of the way before a tall, dark, and slim figure leapt into my bedroom. It was one of the people in black robes from the former ladies room at Benny’s. He/she looked around the room, and then looked at me.
“Um…” I said. I thought about screaming, but I wasn’t sure what good it could really do.
“You’re Flor Hayes, correct?” It was definitely a girl. The girl that dragged me into the room, and talked to Goldie.
“We need to talk. About what you saw.” I stared at her. I was confused. Why did she want to talk to me?
“YoumeanhowyouwereallinthoseweirdblackrobesexceptforGoldieandtherewasthatdragonthereandthatmanwhowaschai-neduptoitwholookedlikeheshouldbelongdeadbynowandwhytheladiesroomwasn’ttherebutthatroomwas…? I said in one big breath. If I could’ve seen her face, I’m pretty sure she would have been really confused.
“Umm first of all, what did you say?!?! Second of all, who’s Goldie?” I had forgotten that Goldie’s name wasn’t actually Goldie, that was just what I had decided to call him in my head.
“Oh. I was just getting tired of calling the dude in the gold robe ‘that man’, so I just started to cal him…Goldie.” I was pretty embarrassed about this. There was a short awkward pause, then the girl burst into quiet laughter.
“I like that name for him. It suits him much better than Sal.” His name is Sal? What kind of name is Sal?
“So that’s his name?”
“Yes. But that’s not what I came here to talk to you about.” She hesitated. “I’m here about the Dragon.”
“What about it?” I asked. “Why did it have that man chained to it?”
“Well, I’m going to need to do a lot of explaining until I get to Benny. First of all-”
“Wait. That dude’s name is Benny? Like the dude who founded-”
“Yes. That Benny. But that’s not important yet. Can I explain now?” I wanted to know more about Benny, but I didn’t want to irritate the girl further.
“First of all, my name is Elaine. I work for the Dragon King.” Did she just say the Dragon King?
“Dragons exist, then? And they have a King?”
“You did see him in the Society’s new headquarters didn’t you?”
“You mean that gray one with the old man was the King? Why do dragons have a King, anyway? And were on Earth does a dragon live?” Elaine sighed.
“Yes, that was him. And he’s not just the dragon’s King. He’s technically the King of all creatures on Earth too, you just don’t know about it.” I seriously doubted this. “As for where dragons live, they live all over the place. You, once again, just don’t know about it.” I seriously doubted this too. “Now, back to my story. Like any King, he has enemies who want to get rid of him. This is where the Society comes in.” What the heck is this society she keeps talking about? “It was founded in the 1930s, by Sal the Overly Dramatic. Our friend Goldie, in case you were wondering.” Sal the Overly Dramatic! That makes the most sense out of all of this!! “It’s called the Secret Society of Evil People.”
“Um…the Secret Society of Evil People? What kind of name is that?”
“Sal may be overly dramatic, but he is not the most creative person in the world.” I thought about this, when something occurred to me.
“Speaking of Sal, if he started this thing in the 1930s, how is he still alive?”
“We’re not really sure. That’s one of the reasons I’m there. I’m undercover,”
“Why else are you undercover?”
“The entire point of the SSoEP is to rule the world, and rid it of dragons…and, well, pizza. They hate pizza,” this was really shocking. Pizza? How does one not like pizza? “As you might have already guessed, SSoEP has kidnapped the King. But that’s not he only part of their plan. You know the Museum of Science and Industry, correct?” Of course I did. It’s probably the best museum ever.
“Of course I do. Why?”
“Well, when Sal founded the SSoEP in 1931, nobody knew about it for about a year, maybe two. When the King got wind of it, he founded that museum, as a way of protecting dragon kind,”
“No offence, or anything, but how is a museum going to help anybody?”
“Because Sal doesn’t like science either. It was his worst subject in school so he developed a severe dislike of it. He won’t go near it for anything,”
“Not even to take over the world?”
“Nope,” and then I remembered something,
“Hey, who’s Benjamin?” I asked, remembering what Elaine said to Goldie (I still like that name for him).
“Well, Sal hired him to steal the Painting,” the Painting is the only painting in the Museum of Science and Industry. It doesn’t really have any value, no one important or famous painted it, and it was not very well painted. As for its subject matter, it shows the constellation Draco. That’s it. Don’t ask me why MSI (Museum of Science and Industry) has a painting. It just does.
“Why would anybody want that painting?”
“Because. That painting holds the ULTIMATE SECRET TO ULTIMATE POWER. Sal believes it will help him rule the world,”
“So then. What’s the ULTIMATE SECRET TO ULTIMATE POWER?” Elaine scoffed at this.
“As if I knew,” she looked around. “I should probably go. People will be waking up soon,” I hadn’t even noticed the fact that the sun had started to rise; I was so wrapped up in our conversation.
“One last thing that I want to know,” I said. “Why are you telling me all of this? What did I do?”
“The Dragon King thinks you’ll help. I don’t know why, but I’ve learned that the King is usually right. You need to help us. The world will never be the same if you don’t.” And then she hopped back out the window. I just stood there for a couple of minutes, in shock.
A couple of days later, I’m sitting in English class, and my teacher is reading A Midsummer’s Night Dream out loud. Normally, I would be the most attentive kid in class, hanging on to every single word, but ever since the events of last Wednesday, I’ve been in a sort of trance. I failed my math and history tests, was totally unprepared for the surprise pop quiz in science, and now I can’t even find comfort in my favorite Shakespeare play ever. I was feeling really conflicted about what Elaine said to me about how I needed to help her and the Dragon King, if that even happened. I didn’t know what to do. I seemed to be faced with a choice: believe everything I saw and heard and help the King and Elaine defeat Sal & Co., or denounce what I saw and heard as all one huge crazy dream and go with the flow. I secretly wanted to help the Dragon king, because a part of me believed in it completely. I also felt that the main characters in A Midsummer’s Night Dream would know what to do about it. They had no problems going off and doing what they secretly wanted to do.
That night, I had a dream. It started pretty normal at first, but it soon turned into what felt like a night mare at the time. I found myself sitting in a forest that reminded me of how I always pictured the forest in A Midsummer’s Night Dream. “Hello, there!” Said a man’s voice that seemed to be coming from all the trees surrounding me. “What brings you here, say?”
“Um…hello?” I said, deeply confused. “Is someone there?”
“I’m not just there. I’m everywhere!! In the trees, in the ground, in the night, in the sky…in your head. It’s a very nice place, your head. Very different than most heads I’ve been in. Horrible old scholars…absolutely no sense of imagination…” the voice replied. “Anyway,” the voice continued, “I’m here to talk to you. You seem to have a bit of a dilemma and I’d be happy to help,”
“What could you possibly do?” I asked, looking around to se if there was some one standing in the trees.
“I could offer you some good advice, if you’d like to hear it,” when I didn’t say anything for awhile, the voice said “You know, you’ve really got nothing to lose by hearing me out, but an entire world to gain,” I considered this. The man, or voice, or whatever had a point.
“All right fine,” I finally decided. “What’s your great advice?”
“My advice,” he said, pausing dramatically for a moment, “Is this, the Question of all Questions, the Riddle of all Riddles, the Puzzle-”
“Could you please just get to the point?!” I said slightly frustrated. What did he mean, question? How was a question going to help me? The last thing I needed was another question.
“Very well then,” the voice said with an exasperated sigh. “This is it: What would Flor Hayes do?” He said. When I didn’t say anything, he sighed again. “In other words, what would you do? When given the choice of believing the world is in terrible danger and actually DOING SOMETHING about it, or deciding it was a dream and forgetting about it and doing nothing, what would you do? Which one is Flor? That is my great advice. That is the Question of all Questions, the Riddle of all Riddles, the Puzzle of all Puzzles, the Decision of all Decisions. The thing that can change a person’s life for the better…or the worse.” and then I woke up.
“You want to do what?” Mom asked me.
“I want to go to the Museum of Science and Industry. Today,” I repeated myself. Mom stared at me. And stared. She’d been doing that a lot lately, ever since I came back from the bathroom on that fateful Wednesday night. She could tell something was bothering me. It was Saturday, the afternoon after my dream, and I had decided that Flor Hayes would DO SOMETHING, even if people were going to think she was crazy. I figured that if I went to the Museum, inspiration would hit me and I would suddenly know what to do. I know that sounds like a bad plan, but I was desperate. After a couple of minutes, Mom said
“I suppose. But you’d better ace every single test you ever get in school from now on,” Mom was very upset with me after I failed my math and history tests.
“Um, guys,” Dwight’s voice came calling from the living room, “I think we might have to go some other time,” Mom and I looked at each other in confusion and headed toward the living room. Dwight was sitting on the couch watching the morning news.
“This just in from the Windy City, apparently the Museum of Science and Industry’s one and only painting has been stolen. Authorities are reportedly very confused by the theft, considering the painting’s lack of value. The museum is now currently closed to visitors while police investigate. We’ll keep you updated on this story as more details come in. In other news, a Northern California fisherman claims to have caught a sea monster late last night-” Dwight turned off the TV.
“Well. I guess we’re not going, then,” said Dwight. I turned to look at him. This can not be happening, I thought. I went upstairs. Great. Just when I decide I want to help, I’m too late. When I get to my room, I flop on my bed. What do I do now? I let out a small groan when there was a tapping on my window. At this, I shot straight up and dashed to my window, opened it and stepped aside. A girl jumped in, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. She was tall and slim, and had very pretty white-blonde hair and blue eyes. She looked about my age.
“Umm…Elaine?” I said, confused. The girl smiled at me. She looked very different then I expected.
“Glad I’m so easy to recognize,” she replied.
“Well, you’re the only person I know who likes to enter through windows. But anyway, I was too late! The Painting was stolen! I didn’t really believe you until just today! I’m really sorry,” her smile faded, and was replaced by an expression of grief.
“I know. But it’s not just your fault. I should have come by sooner, but Sal was starting to get suspicious of me. I couldn’t risk it.” It was very nice of her to say it was still partly my fault. “But we still have a chance. They still have to figure out where the secret is, and probably what it means. I think it’s probably in riddle form,” Riddle…where have I heard that before? I thought.
“So then where are we going?” I asked.
“Where do you think?” She asked. “Benny the Dragon’s Galactic Pizza,”
We arrived at the pizza place to find it had a CLOSED FOR REMODELING sign on it.
“I guess you were right about coming here. I don’t remember this place ever being closed for anything,” I said.
“Yes. Now we need to figure out how to get in,” she replied, her face screwed up in concentration.
“Well, we could always get in your way,” Elaine looked at me funny.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean we could get in through the second floor window, of course. I’m pretty sure it’s just storage up there,” I pointed up at the building. Back when this place was just starting in the 1970s it was were Benny lived. Over time, it became storage.
“That,” Elaine said “Is total genius. I never would have thought about that,” she looked at me. “I suppose that’s the reason the King choose you. C’mon! We’ll have a lot of climbing to do,” she darted to the side of the building, and , naturally, I followed.
After what felt like ages of climbing and picking our way through the storage room (Who knew one pizza place could have so much stuff?), we found ourselves in the kitchen.
“So now what?” I asked.
“Now we take the Painting back, stop SSoEP from ever getting its hands on it again, and rescue the King and Benny,”
“Okay, great. How are we going to do all that?”
“I have no idea,”
“Wonderful,” We just stood there for a few minutes, Elaine thinking, and me just letting my mind wander around on its own, when finally, Elaine thought of something.
“Oh, I know! I’m pretty sure the painting would be in the room we were in last time, so then you could distract them away from it somehow and I could free the King and grab the Painting!”
“Okay,” I said, “But how am I going to distract them all for long enough that you could get the King free and get the Painting?”
A few minutes later I was walking towards the ladies bathroom, feeling like a total nutcase. The plan was that I would act like I was just wondering about what I saw go on in the place and that I knew nothing more than I did on Wednesday. While I was distracting them, Elaine would sneak in and free the Dragon King, because we figured he would be very helpful with the whole thing. We didn’t know much else after that.
“Hello? Is any body in here?” I called out, feeling a total sense of dread. Almost at once Evil People came out of the bathroom to see who dared trespass. They lunged toward me and brought me inside.
“Your Overly Dramaticness, look who we found outside,” said one of them, a boy, I think it was. Sal, who was sitting at a table in the corner and still wearing his ridiculous robe and veil, looked up.
“Ahh…if it isn’t that Flor girl again. Tell me, why on Earth would you ever think to come back here?” No kidding.
“Uhh…well…I was just wondering if what happened here was real, or I was just going crazy. But I guess it was real after all…” Sal didn’t say any thing for a while. Then he burst out laughing.
“Ha ha ha, do you realize what a terrible actor you are?!?! I don’t believe you for a minute! Now. What are you really doing here? Come to take back my painting, have you? Ha ha ha ha ha…oh this is too funny,”
“No! That’s not what I came here for. What do you mean your painting?” I said, wondering if I really was that bad.
“I mean, the Painting that was stolen from the Museum, of course! You did here that on the news, didn’t you?”
“Yes, but what do you want it for? It’s not worth anything,” I said, trying to keep him busy. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Elaine making her way slowly to the King.
“Not worth anything? Not worth-? Oh you really are clueless. This painting” He said holding it up for me to see, “Holds the ULTIMATE SECRET TO ULTIMATE POWER,” he looked very satisfied with himself.
“So then, what’s the secret to ultimate power?” I asked.
“Ah, that is the Question of all Questions, the Riddle of all Riddles, the Puzzle of all Puzzles, isn’t it?” He said. It sounded so familiar…
“But what’s the answer?”
“I haven’t found it yet. I know it must be on here somewhere, but where I can’t figure-WAIT! STOP THAT GIRL!!!” Of course we got discovered just before we got anywhere. One of the other Evil People, who had been paying so much attention to me and Sal’s conversation they hadn’t notice Elaine at all, rushed toward the Dragon King and grabbed the girl. “Oh... so this is why you are here. To set that thing free. Such a shame, really. We were having such a nice little chat. But that dragon is no good. Setting it free would cause to many problems. So that is why we shall feed you to my PET RABBIT! Good bye,” I remember thinking that becoming rabbit chow would be a horrible way to die, when it hit me. What would you do? That is the Question of all Questions, the Riddle of all Riddles, the Puzzle of all Puzzles, the Decision of all Decisions. The thing that can change a person’s life for the better…or the worse.
“WAIT!” I shouted. I was surprised to find that they did stop.
“What is it?” Asked Sal in a very rude way.
“I think I know what the secret is,”
“Oh really? What is it then?” Sal said in a voice that suggested he was humoring me. I wasn’t sure that he would like my answer, so I thought maybe I should take some precautions.
“Before I tell you, you have to make a bet with me. I’ll tell you what I think the secret is, and then you can look for it on the painting if you don’t believe me, and if I’m right, you have to let me, Elaine, the King, and Benny go. If I’m wrong, you can do what you want with us,” Elaine was looking at me like I was crazy. Sal considered my proposal.
“Very well then.” He said. “So what’s the secret?” I took a deep breath. Here goes nothing.
“The secret is to stay true to yourself,”
“I’m sorry?” He asked. He seemed slightly agitated by my statement.
“You know. Stay true to yourself. Be who you are. That would give you ultimate power,”
“My dear girl, don’t be ridiculous. I think I would have ultimate power by now if that was the case. ‘Being myself’ is not going to help me CONQUER THE WORLD!” Then something really weird happened. The ground started to shake, the walls looked like they were breathing, the ceiling started to fold in on itself, and the Dragon King had disappeared. I don’t really know how to explain what happened next, because there was so much going on. At first it felt like I was being pulled upward, but then I started falling to the ground. In an instant I was on the floor. I saw Sal standing there looking at the ceiling as it caved and then the tiniest piece fell on his head and he fell over on the ground, knocked out. I ducked my head in my arm, because it seemed like the appropriate thing to do in a situation like this, and then it stopped. Just as abruptly as it had started. I stayed still for a while, absolutely confused and terrified, and then I sat up. All the buildings in the area had collapsed, and I could hear sirens in the distance. All around me there were people slowly standing up and looking around at what had happened. I then remembered there was a giant dragon in this room that, now that there were no walls, people would be able to see. I got up and looked around, but I didn’t see the King anywhere. He probably already left. I then remembered that Elaine had been with me. I started to look around me for any sign of her, but I found nothing. I found several members of SSoEP, and Sal, who was groaning, but that was it. I really had no idea what to do, so I just started walking. I know that sounds like a bad idea, what with Sal the Overly Dramatic & Evil People Co. still there and everything, but I was seriously freaked out. I wanted to go home and sleep, because this stuff can make a person really tired. So that’s what I did.
I slept for a long time. And luckily, I didn’t have any weird dreams that made me contemplate the universe, or anything like that. This was good, because when I woke up, there was a giant dragon with shimmering scales that changed colors as it breathed slowly in the corner of my room next to my window. Reds, blues, greens, pinks, yellows, gold, oranges, purples, and colors I had never even seen before in my life danced around on its scaly skin. Standing next to it was Elaine and an old man leaning on a cane that looked vaguely familiar.
“Umm…Elaine? What’s going on?” I said kind of dazed from the strange sight before me and having just woke up.
“What? You do not recognize me?” Said not Elaine or the old man, but the dragon. Its voice was exactly how you would picture a dragon’s to be. Low and raspy.
“Are you…the Dragon King…?”
“Indeed,” I got up, hoping the King didn’t think I was rude for not recognizing him. The other times I’d seen him, he’d been a steel gray color, not all rainbowy and shimmery. I hadn’t thought that maybe he wasn’t like that all the time.
“So then…what are you doing in my bedroom?”
“We’re here to say thank you,” said the old man to the dragon’ left. “You did very well, better than even I could have done when I was your age.”
“Speaking of which, who exactly are you?” The man looked aghast.
“You don’t recognize me either?!? Why-”
“You can’t really blame her! You looked a lot different back there, you know,” Elaine said, coming to my defense. She gave me a quick smile.
“You’re Benn,” I said, finally realizing why he looked so familiar.
“Bingo! We have a winner!” Benny replied.
“But you look so…different than you did when you were all chained up. Both of you,”
“You would look pretty horrible too if you were 90 years old and hadn’t eaten in days,” Benny said.
“Fair point…but that reminds me,” I turned to the King.” How were you kidnapped in the first place?” I asked.
“Sal gave me the choice of coming with him or watching him destroy every single dragon in existence. Naturally I choose to come with him, buy my people some time until you came around.” Said the King.
“But why me?” I asked, this question had been bothering me since Elaine first told me everything. If he could smile, I’m pretty sure that’s what the king would‘ve been doing.
“Because I knew you would believe it. Your favorite work by Shakespeare is A Midsummer’s Night Dream, probably the most fantastical of Shakespeare’s plays. Your socks have unicorns, witches, and ghosts on them. You’ve managed to deal with the horror of a name that nobody really understands. Little things like these show that you’re willing to believe in things others pass off as not possible. Not to mention you like pizza, the food of dragons,” I thought about this all for a moment.
“Pizza is the food of dragons?” I asked. The king nodded. Once again, I think he would’ve smiled there.
“But enough about that, the other reason we’re here is I want to ask you if you would join my court. I need a little help with fixing the problems of my people sometimes. I believe you would be very helpful,”
“Me? You want me?”
“Yes,” I considered this for a moment. It sounded like it would be amazing. But what about Mom and Dwight? A little voice in my head said.
“I don’t know. I mean, what about my family?” I asked.
“You won’t have to leave them if that is what you wish,” said the King. I thought about it a little more.
“Okay then. I will,” I said. Elaine smiled at me again.
“I will see you soon, then, Flor Hayes. Goodbye for now.”
A couple of months later, here I sit, telling you all of this. So far, I have seen the Dragon King, Elaine, and Benny a grand total of four times, but that’s O.K. Being on the King’s Court is really quite amazing. If you were wondering, the Painting was returned in top condition on that Saturday. When Sal was hit on the head with that miniscule piece of ceiling he lost what little of his mind was left and is now in an insane asylum with the rest of the SSoEP. As it turns out, the earthquake at Benny the Dragon’s Galactic Pizza was caused by none other than the King himself, who thought it was high time he did something, and let out a huge roar. As for the secret, I was right! The King told me the first time I saw him after we talked in my bedroom. And, believe it or not, Benny the Dragon’s was rebuilt within the first week after the quake! It seems I’ll be eating my pizza there for a very long time…