Episode XXVI: Twilight of the Student
High school. Senior year. The last moments of my childhood are dwindling away like the stars in the sky.
All things come to an end. Even the stars. But love conquers all. Love can ignite the stars.
“The end…this is not.”
No truer words have been said by the famed paper Jedi. Today is the end of something. Something important. But today is also a new beginning.
The importance of endings, beginnings, and love is personified by the stranger sitting across from me at the cafeteria lunch table. He stares at me with features like my own.
“Hi, my name’s Jimmy,” he says, cautiously. Mind if I sit with you?”
“Sure, go ahead.” I extend a hand as he pulls out a chair and scoots close to the table’s rim.
Sorry, I’m getting waaaaay ahead of myself. I’m too antsy about tonight to be writing anything down. You guys must be totally lost right now. Let’s just start things off at the beginning of the end, one more time….
“I can’t believe it,” I breathed. I stood next to Sara, marvelling at the success of Operation Rogue Wug.
“The Rebellion’s Death Bomb,” Sara confirmed, brushing off her hands. The Death Bomb is, of course, the fully operational water balloon shooter capable of putting an end to any paper creation put in its path. Up until our last case file, it had been a power only attained by Supreme Liter Coke and his Knights of Pen.
“This could be what we need to take down the Knights of Pen,” I remarked with awe.
Sara nodded. “It’s a shame that the entire team got captured for it.”
We hadn’t heard from the Rogue Wug team since they made the desperate bid for the Death Bomb’s plans. They had managed to text us the plans, but given that they hadn’t been able to contact us over the course of the next several hours, we could only assume that they had been captured by the Knights of Pen.
At the forefront, of course, was my old friend Kellen. So much had changed so quickly, our friendship turned into turmoil. I was suspicious that Supreme Liter Coke was behind it. After all, he had brainwashed so many of our own side. I hoped Jacob, Frankie, Noah, and the others were okay and… you know, not getting brainwashed.
I was glad Sara, acting leader of our Rebellion, was still here. However this ended, we would be in it together. Just like the Rogue Wug team.
Of course, they had also managed to text us a different photo: a map to the last Wishing Skittles. Now Supreme Liter Coke and the Rebellion each had directions to the Wishing Skittles. SLC was probably sending his goons to protect it right now.
Honestly, the Wishing Skittles had been one of the biggest problems in the history of McQuarrie Middle School. Deep down, I didn’t mind that they were finally running out. It was time for this all to end.
“It’s time,” I told Sara. “Call the McQuarrie gang.”
Of course, there weren’t too many people to call: just me, Sara, Dwight, and the Bounty Hunters. Everyone else had either been brainwashed or captured by Supreme Liter Coke.
“Y’all better have a good reason for asking me to be on two death missions in one week,” Vernon drawled, brandishing his Cut Bane. The rest of the Bounty Hunters, seated around the table, grumbled with agreement.
“First off, nobody’s dying,” Sara said. “Second, thanks to you and your Bounty Hunters, Rogue Wug was a success. Tommy, if you would.”
I stood up and opened the nearest door—a closet. Reaching in, I rolled out the newest resource in our arsenal.
“Woah,” whistled Vernon appreciatively.
“Our own Death Bomb,” Vanessa noted. “And this one has wheels.”
“The reason for that,” Sara continued, “Is so that this is not… well, a ‘death’ mission. With this on our side, we have a good chance of penetrating the base.”
“I’m not wheeling that dang thing around,” Vernon interjected.
“Fine,” Sara said. “Tommy and I will do it. Your job is to clear the way for us to the Wishing Skittles.”
Vanessa raised her eyebrows. “We can do that. But it’s not exactly going to be a picnic. The Knights of Pen could be ready for an ambush, water-gun-style. And several of them are brainwashed former Bounty Hunters.”
“Whoever they are, we need to get to the last Skittles quickly,” Sara explained. “Supreme Liter Coke could be moving them out right now. So, who’s with me?”
I raised my hand, but the room was silent for a moment.
Vernon exhaled. “Fine.”
I pulled the map out of my pocket and held it up to the group. “The last Wishing Skittles are hidden by Supreme Liter Coke at the place where everyone is brainwashed.” I looked at the group. “We need to go to Tippet Academy.”
“Brown,” Dwight said.
Harvey’s Comment: A pitiful attempt, losers.
Tommy’s Comment: How did you even GET this case file?
Last Dance of the Pens
“No wonder so many of our allies have turned against us,” Tommy mused. “Supreme Liter Coke has been brainwashing them at Tippet Academy. I thought that was a joke.” To say that I was underwhelmed by the brainwashing would not be true: it was terrifying. But at the same time, when there’s a candy that can make anything come true in an instant, expectations for what’s normal kinda goes out the window.
“It could be the Wishing Skittles, too,” I pointed out. “Ugh. This thing is heavy.” Tommy and I were tentatively rolling along the Rebellion’s Death Bomb, which, with a few modifications, I had made portable enough to transport with us. Now, having arrived at Tippet Academy, I couldn’t help but feel like this might be a mistake.
I was at least glad to be with Tommy. There was nobody that I would rather have at my side for a desperate mission against an inevitable origami nemesis.
Of course, we were escorted by Vernon, Vanessa, and the rest of the Bounty Hunter gang, which was a bit more comforting. Dwight hadn’t come with us. I couldn’t say that I blamed him. He did have bad experience with this particular school, after all.
It was a Saturday night on the weekend, but as we rolled up, Tippet Academy’s doors were unlocked and open. Tommy looked at me confusedly. “The Wishing Skittles,” I guessed. “They must have used them before storing them here to give them access.”
“Um, hypothetically, couldn’t they have used them to set traps?” Tommy wondered.
“I hope not. I mean, it doesn’t really seem to be Supreme Liter Coke’s style. They seem to like to take us on in person.”
“You’ve got that right,” Vanessa agreed. She strode through the front doors. Tommy looked at me and shrugged. We followed her in.
The hallway lights were already on. It was eerie to see the school so empty. The structure reminded me a little bit of McQuarrie.
According to the map, the Skittles were stored in the cafeteria. I guess they blended in well there. Go figure.
Ahead of us, Vanessa slowed down. “This is the cafe,” she whispered, gesturing ahead to the door on the right. We lined up, backs against the wall. I tried to keep the wheels on our Rebellion Death Bomb quiet.
“I’ve got a bad—” Tommy/Foldy-Wan started.
Vanessa glanced back at Vernon. He nodded.
Water squirters and water balloon machines blazing, we charged into the cafe.
We were not disappointed. The Knights of Pen had turned over the cafeteria tables and were ducking behind them as they threw water balloons our way. I gripped the Fortune Wookiee tightly—one water balloon and it would be all over for my faithful puppet. I didn’t see Supreme Liter Coke or Grand Admiral Drawn. I guess they had other evil plans to pursue.
“Mwrooaaaar!” I/Fortune Wookiee said. I tossed a water balloon to Tommy, who swiftly put it in the launcher and sent it toward a table sheltering the Knights of Pen. Quavondo’s eyes got as large as pizza boats as it crashed into him and his Knight of Pen.
“No! It’s ruined!” cried Quavondo.
Alongside Tommy and me, the Bounty Hunters fought valiantly, sending streams of water toward our brainwashed friends: Harvey, Mike, Cassie. I felt a surge of hope, but suddenly, Vernon yelled out. A water balloon had knocked him off his feet as his Cad Bane puppet took a solid dose of H2O. Jim, Knight of Pen and leader of Supreme Liter Coke’s Honor Guard, pulled the dazed Vernon out of the room.
“No!” yelled Vanessa.
I ducked as a water balloon was thrown my way. I looked over to see a brainwashed Murky waving his Knight of Pen around.
“Sorry about this, Murky!” I shouted, turning the Rebellion Death Bomb and sending a large balloon his way. It hit him square in the chest.
Despite all of our efforts, the Knights of Pen were slowly wearing us down. Vanessa took a hit from multiple water balloons thrown by Cassie and Lance. Cam the bounty hunter took a stream of squirt gun power right to the face. Other Knights of Pen pummeled Tommy and me with water balloons. I tried to duck behind our Death Bomb, which creaked with each hit.
But, then, just as things were looking hopeless…
“GAH!” Lance cried, soaked. From a door behind the cafeteria counter, the Rogue Wug squad emerged, blazing with squirt guns. Noah, Jacob, Frankie, Dan, Chippy, Jack. They had evidently escaped the brainwashing goons. There were a few signs of struggle. Dan was breathing heavily, Jack’s glasses were disheveled, and Chippy’s hair was soppy.
“Origami, y’all!” Chippy cried.
“Took you long enough!” Vanessa shouted, standing up. “You had to make a big entrance.”
Frankie laughed. “It’s good to see you too, Vanessa.”
With that, the tide of the battle turned as the Knights of Pen faced water attacks from both sides. Knight of Pen after Knight of Pen was demolished with some good ol’ aqua. With each puppet destroyed, the Knights looked like they had lost a source of power. There wasn’t much fight after the puppet was lost.
I stayed next to Tommy and the Death Bomb. We supported each other. The Knights were intent on the Death Bomb and it appeared to be their main target.
Jacob looked at us, impressed. “A mobile Death Bomb? Even better than Drawn’s. Heck, it’s better than a Death Shredder.”
“You would know,” Noah quipped. Jacob pushed his brother’s head down as a water balloon narrowly missed his brow.
“You’re welcome…” Jacob growled, playfully.
It was working: only one Knight of Pen was left. Harvey.
Vanessa, Tommy, and I walked toward him. The Rogue Wug team stayed poised behind the cafeteria counter.
“Idiots,” Harvey sneered as the rest of the Knights of Pen–though puppetless–clambered over to his side. “Defeating us does not defeat Supreme Liter—”
“Where are the Skittles?” I interrupted.
“What?” Harvey blinked.
“The Skittles,” I repeated impatiently. None of the Knights of Pen answered.
“Answer her!” Vanessa demanded. Tommy pointed the water balloon launcher their way, which seemed to help the case.
Harvey hesitated, conflicted. For a moment, I thought I might have seen some of the friendly annoyance that would had been mildly endearing so long ago. With great difficulty, Harvey pointed over to the cafeteria fridge.
“The fridge?” Frankie asked. “Really?”
“We didn’t know,” Harvey shrugged. “They could’ve gone bad.”
Leaving Tommy and Vanessa in a stalemate with the Knights of Pen, I walked over. I hopped the counter, slid my way past Dan, and grabbed the refrigerator handle. With a deep breath, I opened the door. It was time to end this.
There was nothing there.
I turned to Harvey. “Very funny,” I said. “Wh—”
But Harvey looked as confused as I did. “Where are the Skittles?” The Knights of Pen around him muttered with nervousness.
“They’re not there?”
“We checked earlier!”
“Who took them?”
“Hey!” I yelled, trying to get their attention back. “Look, we have a Rebellion Death Bomb catapult with plenty of water balloons, and Tommy is not afraid to use it! If you don’t tell us where the Skittles are, I will—”
Behind me, the Rebellion Death Bomb suddenly snapped and collapsed, sending water balloon spray rocketing across the room. The poor thing had taken a lot of pressure from all sides.
Tommy wiped the water off of his brow. “I’m okay.”
“Okay, we don’t have a Rebellion Death Bomb catapult,” I continued. “But we have… um…”
“Water guns,” suggested Vanessa.
“Right. We have water—” I started.
“Sara,” brainwashed Mike interrupted. “Someone took the Skittles. It wasn’t us.”
There was a momentary silence. With horror, I realized I believed him. And if that was true… someone else out there had the Skittles. But who?
“Why should we believe you?” asked Tommy pointedly.
“You shouldn’t,” Harvey said slowly. “But I promise… this wasn’t… this wasn’t us.” He looked at the other Knights. “We should go.”
And so we watched them go. The Knights of Pen. Finally defeated.
Peace and Justice…For Now
After our encounter with The Knights came to an end, everything kind of went radio silent, which was just plain weird. I’m not saying that it wasn’t good, (I hadn’t been that stress-free in forever), just strange. After dealing with this sort of thing for years on end, it seems unusual not to have Star Wars finger puppets hanging around.
Most of us got back into a semi-normal routine. I started leaving Foldy-Wan at home. The brainwashed members of Supreme Liter Coke’s team slowly came… well, not totally around. But they did the normal school activities they always did. Mike hit his first homerun. Cassie sang at a concert. Harvey annoyed us all. Normal stuff.
A couple months had passed. After these last two years (it’s felt like a decade, to be honest), I think we were all starting to put the whole origami war thing behind us. It felt more like a bad dream, and we all just wanted to move on.
But then there was a shift in The Force.
One day on the way to lunch, I had to drop some books off at my locker, and when I opened the door I found an envelope that had been pushed through the slits. I assumed it was from Sara at first, but when I saw what was written on the front, I shoved the books into my locker and ran to the cafeteria, letter in hand.
By the time I sat down at the lunch table, I was completely out of breath. For a minute there I thought I was gonna have to play charades, which is never a good idea when Frankie is around.
“You just run a marathon or something?” Frankie said, ever so sarcastically.
I didn’t answer. I just tossed the envelope onto the table.
“What’s that?” asked Sara.
“Well, it looks like a letter to me.” Noah replied.
“No dip, Sherlock.” Frankie said as she nudged Noah.
“I had to drop some books off at my locker before lunch,” I started, “and when I opened it, this letter fell out. I thought it was from Sara, but-”
“The handwriting is too neat?” teased Frankie.
“Ha ha, very funny Boyd.” Sara said as she grabbed the letter. “What the heck? It’s like somebody cut out letters from a magazine and spelled out ‘Lomax’.”
“Oh, I saw that on this one horror movie, and this kid–”
“Shh!” Noah said as he cut off Frankie. “Just read it already.”
Sara handed me the letter. I cautiously broke the seal and dumped the contents out onto the table. It was a roadmap…and a puppet.
“Oh boy, here we go again.” sighed Sara. “Who is it this time? Origami Max Rebo?”
“I don’t think so…” I said as I picked up the puppet. “It’s Darth Maul.”
“Clone Wars Darth Maul, to be exact,” chimed in Noah. “See? He’s got the cool robot legs.”
“Yeah, but what does Darth Maul have to do with a map?” asked Frankie.
“I’m not sure,” I said as I unfolded the map. “But it can’t be good.”
“Looks like a map of Lucas County.” Sara said. “There’s McQuarrie, the QwikPick, Old Smugwick Manor and Museum, and Glen’s Fair Price Store.”
“There’s a circle around this patch of woods. Isn’t that where that old factory is?” asked Noah as he pointed at the map.
“I think so,” I replied. “But why would someone want us to go there?”
“I don’t know, but the magazine letters are a big red flag.” Frankie cut in. “A big red flag for a–”
I sighed. “I guess there’s only one way to find out.”
The Man in the Shadows
For the past few weeks, I’ve had the same single dream. It always begins the same way. The alarm beeps. 9:00 AM. The ground shakes, and Origami Yoda is talking to Dwight as though that isn’t the weirdest thing in the world. And that it’s totally normal when Dwight leaves his room and hundreds of other finger puppets storm from the drawers and leap from the window sills.
They joke around, laugh, and sing. Dwight’s 5-Fold Yoda becomes friends with the normal Yoda, battles occur between those two and evil Yoda clones. Then Dwight brings home a new puppet of Darth Paper. The dream ends with the roar of a vacuum and me waking up in a cold sweat.
I’ve noticed that this dream happens before something bad is about to happen. It happened before the Week of Papertine, it happened before Cut Bane. It happens every dang time. Kellen shared the same sentiment…
He still hadn’t turned up since the incident at Tippett. For two months, we’d had no contact with him at all. Could he be pure evil? Was he dead?????
To make matters worse, his parents wouldn’t let us see him when we’d asked. We could hear him playing video games up in his room. But alas, sometimes dead pure evil people like to play video games.
I opened up to him about my dream long ago. He said he had major Deja Vu over it. He showed me a file he had written about it, full of scribbles.
It was the same exact dream.
Anyways, it happened again, and this morning I woke up in a cold sweat. My eyes were red, and I was breathing heavily.
I don’t know what the dream means. Maybe it’s supposed to tell me something? Or maybe it’s just there to remind me of Kellen, the traitor. Whatever purpose it has, it’s a bad one. I hate it.
Tommy had to convince me to join him on a journey to the factory. I mean, we go on adventures like this all the time, but he said this one had a very-very-very special reason: to find Drawn and Coke. Still shaken by my dream, I got dressed and ready to head out. We walked across town with Jacob, Noah, and Frankie.
The factory has been abandoned for years. We’ve been there before. At least, I felt like we had. Maybe in another dream.
It’s exterior has been overtaken by moss and grass. There’s this after-stench of sweetness, the vines on the sides of the factory looking almost rainbow.
We got in through a “door” cut into the wire fence surrounding the entire perimeter of the factory. The wire cutters laid on the side, a puppet on one of the handles. I learned later that the fish-like creature with Yellow skin and red eyes was “Bannamu.”
The interior was no better. The floor was sticky, this sweet smell was almost cavity-inducing
Tommy took my hand. He was getting shaky. His face turned into a frown as this sense of unease formed over us.
“Thomas Lomax…” A voice boomed. “Sara Bolt. Jacob Minch. Noah Minch… Ugh, I’m not doing anymore of this.” A voice echoed through the factory.
Frankie’s eyebrows furrowed. “What about me?”
“…and Francesca Boyd. There. Are you happy now?”
“Where are you?” I exclaimed. We were looking around now.
Kellen stepped forth holding the water bottle with the blue eyes and grimace, and a puppet with red eyes and scowl. Someone in a hood stepped forward with him.
“Welcome to the Wishing Skittles Factory.” ‘Drawn’ said. He smiled, “Hey, Sara.”
“Dude, I know where we are. I was asking where you were.”
“Oh, we were just hiding, Supreme Liter Coke, and I.”
“Why did you bring us here? Tommy said, holding up the origami Maul and the envelope.
“Oh, that wasn’t us.” Drawn stated. Tommy looked shocked, and I kept looking at Coke. This was the first time any of us had seen him, and he was hooded. Mysterious.
“We thought this was a trap,” Jacob mentioned. “We thought we were gonna be like, tricked by you two.”
“Oh, heavens no. Not yet. We thought the same thing about you.” Drawn said. Coke nodded at this in agreement.
A cough echoed through the building. Everyone turned to look at eachother.
“Dang it.” A gruff voice echoed through the factory. He stepped out of the shadows. Yet another hooded guy. He was tall, and looked like some stupid cosplay of “Torn up Lando.” The cape had holes and cheeto dust on it.
“Quavando?” Tommy asked.
“First of all, ouch. And no.” the man said. He took off his hood, revealing a chiseled face with a scar on his cheek. He looked like a homeless Chris Pratt. His fingernails were covered in dirt.
“Why is there a homeless dude listening on our convo?” Noah asked.
“You guys don’t even recognize me, huh?” the homeless guy asked.
“No. Not really.” Drawn said.
“Wait…” I paused in realization. “Captain Micah?”
“Formerly Captain. Now, just Micah.” His eyes glowed orange with cheeto dust.
Frankie and I walked up to him, looking him up and down.
“Weird, you don’t look anything like him.” I said. Frankie felt his arm and raised her eyebrows, mouthing the word, “Wow.”
Noah groaned. “I’ve got muscles, too.”
“Yeah. Your brain and your butt.” Jacob snickered. “But check out this guy.”
Micah eyed me. “I don’t look like I used to because I’ve been trapped here for years. I mean, I was trapped in this loop. Science Mumbo-Jumbo I can’t explain. Sorry.”
“No, it’s fine. We really don’t want to hear it.” Jacob said.
“Ouch, again.” He said with a snarl. “Well, anyways, do you guys remember those Skittles?”
“How could we forget?” Tommy asked, “Eat one, make a wish, it will come true.”
“Correctamundo,” Micah did finger guns at Tommy. “Anyways. I brought you guys together today so we can eat the final skittles, forged in the mixers of this factory, and wish away the EU.”
We were all silent, looking back and forth at each other like Luke nodding to Lando during the Sarlacc Pit scene. Then, Jacob broke the silence:
“What the #%*@ is an EU?”
The Strange Case of No Origami Yoda
“EU…You mean like the Expanded Universe?” Noah asked. Of course he would know all about that. “Star Wars Legends?”
“In a way, yeah. That’s actually a perfect way to think about it.”
“You’re a bit late, then. Disney already wished away the EU.”
“Oh, yeah, and I’m still not happy about that,” Kellen…err…Drawn, said. I still wasn’t used to that. “How about you wish the EU back instead?”
“That’s not what I meant!” Micah shot back. “I mean our universe. This is the EU.” Micah made a sweeping gesture. “This building. This town. This state. This world. This universe. It is all the EU. An Expanded Universe that shouldn’t even be here.”
Wait, wait, wait. Hold up. I’m pausing my case file entry right here.
Destroy the universe? I’d been evil, sure. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, and I’ve had my share of maniacal plans. But destroying an entire universe with the Skittles? That had never even crossed my mind. How sick and deranged would one person have to be to even consider that?
“You can’t do this, Micah,” Tommy shouted, incredulous. “Do you realize how big this is? This isn’t you pranking us, or destroying origami or something stupid like that. You are literally destroying our universe.”
“Stop this, Micah, or we’ll make you stop,” Sara ordered. She clenched her fists and held them at the ready.
Drawn and Coke stood next to the five of us. “I’m with them on this one. I don’t want to be destroyed,” Drawn said, with some of Kellen’s trademark uncertainty. Coke just shrugged.
A change came about Micah. He lost a bit of the swagger he had when he’d first emerged. He fidgeted, almost nervously. “Well, yeah, of course you guys don’t think it’s right, and you never will.” He seemed almost sad about what he was doing. It could be from my past, but I knew the difference between pure evil and evil actions. He kept pacing back and forth around the factory, rubbing his hands together. “What you guys don’t understand is that none of this was supposed to happen.”
“What are you talking about?” Tommy asked.
Micah wandered next to Coke and Drawn. He took the soda bottle and the puppet out of the human Drawn’s hands.
“Hey!” he shouted. “Those are ours!”
Micah tossed the soda bottle behind him, where it bounced slowly around the floor. He simply let the puppet Drawn fall to the floor. “These things are way too important to you guys.”
“I’m intrigued, Micah,” Noah said, crossing his arms. “Besides, they’re symbolic or something. Don’t change the subject.”
“You don’t get it, though. They should be important to me.” Micah turned toward the seven of us, finally focusing. “I know this may be a shock, but there are other universes. Like, parallel ones. Universes that are like this one but just slightly different.”
There was silence. Noah broke it. “So…like…the multiverse?”
“From comics?” Frankie added. “I mean, yeah, sure, if it works for comics, why not us?”
Micah snorted. “You mean this doesn’t phase you?”
“It’s not the weirdest thing that’s happened to us,” Sara said.
“I brainwashed half of them,” Drawn said.
“Huh.” Micah continued. “Okay, so, I come from a different universe. In that universe, I needed help. Help from Dwight, actually. I’d heard about Origami Yoda and how he’d helped all of you. I heard about Tommy and Sara. I’d heard about Harvey and his turn to the light. How Mike wasn’t a crybaby, the Cheeto Hog, and all of the puppets from Darth Paper to Emperor Pickletine. I reached out to Dwight during the field trip to Washington D.C. I told him all of my problems, and he told me he’d send Origami Yoda as soon as he could.” He paused.
“Origami Yoda never came.” These words had a weight which echoed throughout the giant warehouse.
“Never came?” Frankie asked. “But why didn’t Dwight just send him to you?”
“He did, I think,” Micah replied. “Origami Yoda just never came to my school. I had no idea why. Our problems got worse, and worse, and worse, and eventually…my school came under Edu-Fun, and after that, it closed. I loved that school, too. Origami Yoda didn’t save it.
“I didn’t know what had happened until I learned about this other universe. The best I figure, Origami Yoda was supposed to come to us, but somehow he created this universe instead and left us out to dry. That’s why this place simply shouldn’t exist.”
“You’re kidding,” Noah murmured.
I looked around, and the information affected each of my friends differently; Tommy couldn’t stop blinking, and stood completely still. I think Sara nearly started to cry. Frankie just crossed her arms and glowered. Noah sat down hard on the ground, trying to process all of this information. Drawn laid down on the ground and covered his face. Coke was the only one that seemed to not be fazed.
As for myself, I put my hands together and tried not to pass out. It’s not everyday you find out there’s infinite universes; and more than that, you find out your universe isn’t supposed to exist. Nothing that’s happened in this universe was meant to happen. Everything, from my attack with Papertine, the Bounty Hunters, Noah’s fall to the Dark Side, how close me, Noah and Frankie have become…it’s a mistake.
But he didn’t say Papertine, did he? He said Pickletine.
I turned towards Micah. “I never had a puppet called Emperor Pickletine. He was called Emperor Papertine. So, why the change?”
Micah sighed, sadly. “Pickletine wasn’t your puppet. He was wielded by Harvey during the same field trip I met Dwight on.”
“He stole Jacob’s puppet?” Frankie said. “Jerk.”
“Jacob didn’t go on the field trip. Neither did you, or Noah.”
“Well that’s stupid,” Noah mumbled. “What, were we sick that day or something?”
“As far as I know, the three of you don’t exist in my universe. At least, not like you are now.”
Noah choked. “Oh.”
Somehow, knowing that made things even worse. Our universe wasn’t just a mistake; we were too.
Micah explained further. “I don’t quite know how you three came to be so important here. Something is different between my universe and this one. It’s really kind of cool, if you think about it.”
Frankie stormed forward and grabbed Micah by the shirt collar. “By destroying this universe, you’ll destroy us with it. You knew that, didn’t you?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s just like flipping a switch. You won’t feel anything.”
“We won’t exist!” I shouted, finally letting my anger bubble to the surface. “Tommy, Sara, tell him!”
Tommy and Sara had both been very quiet. They seemed like they were in a daze, trying to sort through everything Micah was saying.
“You’re not…real?” Tommy asked.
Frankie released Micah’s collar, and backed up. “What?”
“We’re not real…” Sara said, quietly. “But, we feel real.”
“It’s an illusion.” Micah stepped forward, with an almost kind look on his face. “A universe that shouldn’t exist, created by a choice that should never have been made, leading to consequences no one could predict.”
The warehouse felt small and claustrophobic at that moment. I can’t even explain what I was feeling. Was it sadness? Fear? Disbelief? I don’t have any idea.
Micah ran his fingers through his hair. “I know it’s hard to hear, but we seriously have to reset the natural order of things. Fix things. The way they were meant to be. You have to understand. I need the Skittles. I also need you all here, so thanks for coming.”
“Yeah, sure, thanks for having us.” Drawn stood up, ready to turn around and leave. “Come on, Coke.”
“Don’t leave!” Micah shouted, all of a sudden. “Please stay here!”
“Oh, so you could tell us that nothing we’ve ever done actually matters?” Frankie asked, fuming. “It’s all just some cosmic joke?”
“Well, no, not really,” Micah said, shrugging sheepishly. “I need you here to actually perform the action. All of you. The heroes, like you guys, and the villains, like Drawn and Coke. I have the Skittles with me already.”
Micah snapped his fingers and a pedestal materialized, with a bowl full of Wishing Skittles on top. It was a huge bowl, easily holding hundreds of Skittles. Enough to destroy a universe.
“Thank you all for coming to my base. You could call it…Starskittle Base.”
Noah glowered. “Wow. Puns? Now?”
The Change Occurs
By Drawn, or Kellen
You might be wondering if I knew anything about this. The answer is; yes. It is absolutely amazing the things Supreme Liter Coke knows. I just wanted to play the fool at the moment. It was to my advantage, obviously.
I…agreed with Micah. Ever since Tony D. Struction joined the school with Jango Fortune, things had felt very strange. Like, we weren’t in our own skin. Come to think of it, I didn’t even remember anything from before Tony came. Like, I had just started. I knew how to act, how to think, who I was…but that was it. Everything since then felt like it was added on; dreams coming out of nowhere, history that I didn’t know. It all felt plausible enough, but once I thought about it they didn’t feel authentic. Micah’s was the most logical solution; we didn’t exist as we are now before Jango Fortune
Maybe…we shouldn’t exist. From what I’d learned about the old universe, we screwed things up just as much as we do now. In that universe I’m a wimpy sad-sack who can’t get a girl to save his life, just like I was before Coke helped me to overcome that weakness. It turns out I’m just like that in every universe, and none of my friends, or enemies, for that matter, are any better.
Micah’s thinking is too small.
I slowly stepped towards the bowl.
“We’re not helping you destroy the universe,” Frankie shouted. “Right, guys?”
Noah and Jacob immediately agreed with her. Tommy and Sara still didn’t know what to think, and me and Coke shrugged. I was now within arms reach of the bowl.
“Seriously?” Frankie asked. “You want to let this maniac destroy everything?”
“No, no, of course not,” Sara said. “It’s just…a lot to take in.”
“Well, we have to stop him, right?” Noah asked. He held his hands up, like he was ready to punch whoever got in his way.
Tommy was still frozen, thinking about everything he’d just learned. I’ll admit, I was sympathetic to him. I’d done the exact same thing when I learned about the issues. But I knew he was going to make the wrong decision.
Jacob put his hand on Tommy’s shoulders. “Tommy. If Micah does what he says he’s going to do, he will destroy us. Me. Noah. Frankie. Who knows who else? Please, please don’t let that happen.”
Those words seemed to give Tommy resolve. He snapped out of his stupor and stood next to the Minch twins. “Okay. You’re right.” He looked Micah dead in the eyes. “You can’t destroy them. We won’t let you.”
“I was afraid of that,” Micah sighed.
Before anyone could react, Micah popped a Skittle into his mouth and Noah, Frankie, Jacob, Tommy and Sara disappeared. He turned to me and Coke, who were now right next to him.
“It looks like I’m going to have to find some different good guys. How about you? Are you in?”
“You need to think bigger,” I said. “It’s not just the EU that needs to be destroyed. It’s the multiverse that needs to fall.”
Before he could react, I picked the bowl of Skittles off of the pedestal and ate a Skittle; lemon-flavored, in fact. Me and Coke disappeared from the factory with the Skittles of mass destruction, leaving a dumbfounded Micah behind in the factory.
Being teleported by a Wishing Skittle is a strange feeling; there’s a blink, momentary vertigo and once you open your eyes you’re in another place. That’s exactly what happened once Micah wished us away and we found ourselves sitting outside of McQuarrie Middle School. It had to be intentional, that he sent all of us here; Micah was a psychopath with a flair for the dramatic.
I was trying really, really hard to wrap my mind around everything I’d just heard. Of course, Micah could just be insane, but what scared me is how genuine he sounded. And with the fact that all-powerful Wishing Skittles existed, I just had to imagine that anything was possible.
But a whole other universe? Universes, to be exact. And we were in the wrong one.
I couldn’t begin to imagine what the other universe might be like. From what Micah said, me and Tommy existed in this other place. What were we like? Did we get along? Were we boyfriend and girlfriend, like we were here? What was Other Me doing right at this very moment? Did she know that other universes existed?
Trippy didn’t begin to describe it.
I stood up slowly, taking stock. I looked around at my friends, people I’d thought were completely normal people. Well, normal-ish, because, you know, origami. Now, though, I couldn’t help feeling strange. Tommy felt like…Tommy, I guess. But Jacob, Noah, and Frankie seemed different. After Micah had revealed everything about them, it was hard to see them as anything but different.
I helped Tommy up and brushed some grass out of his short hair. He smiled at me, but it was a sad smile. A tired smile. I hugged him.
“When are we heading back?” Noah said, jumping to his feet. He had a determined scowl on his face, like he was ready to punch anything that looked at him sideways. “Frankie, come on.”
Frankie kicked Noah in the shin. “Can’t we stop for one minute?”
“Ow,” Noah moaned. “Of course not! We have to stop Micah. Let’s go.”
“Why?” a defeated Jacob questioned. He was lying on his back, looking up at the sky, which was cloudy. I couldn’t imagine what was going through his head at the moment.
“Why?” Noah repeated, in disbelief. “Why? Jacob, he’s going to destroy us all.”
“Not all of us will be, according to Micah,” Jacob murmured. His voice had an edge as he said, “Isn’t that right, Tommy?”
“Hey, wait a second,” Tommy said, defensively. “I didn’t ask to be put here.”
“Micah made that crystal clear,” Frankie said, sitting up. “None of you did. And yet, here you are. Stuck with the rejects like us.”
“You guys aren’t rejects,” I reassured. “You’re real people!” I meant it, or at least I thought I did.
“We’re a byproduct, Bolt,” Jacob sneered. “We. Aren’t. Real. So what does it matter if Micah wishes us away? You won’t remember us, we won’t remember existing and everything is wrapped up in a nice little bow.”
“How can you say that?!” Noah said, horrified. He pulled Jacob to his feet and glared at him.
It was here that I noticed the differences in the Minch twins; they were the exact same height and had the same face shape, but Noah seemed lighter than his counterpart; his hair was brighter, his skin tanner, and he seemed to have way more energy. Jacob was paler, had darker hair, and a weight surrounding him that had never been more pronounced than it was now. These differences became more pronounced as a fight began.
“I can say that because it’s true,” Jacob sniped.
Noah held his ground. “We’re people! We live here, we breathe here, we have lives here!”
“Lives that shouldn’t exist!”
“We have things to live for!”
“You have things to live for!” Jacob bellowed. “You, Noah! You’re the funny one, the smart one, the one that everybody liked as soon as he came in. I had to work for it, and people still don’t like me. You get to be a hero, while I have to prove that I am one. You got the girl we both liked, and I’m left alone! It doesn’t matter to me now, Noah, because it’s always mattered before. I can stop caring. I can stop being a pariah. I can just…stop.”
Needless to say, a silence fell on the group. Everyone just sort of stared at Jacob. How could someone we considered to be one of our best friends still feel like that? As I stopped to consider what he said, I felt so much guilt. We’d tried to make Jacob feel forgiven for everything he’d done, but it obviously hadn’t been enough. How he’d been able to carry that inside him for so long, I don’t know.
“Jacob?” Frankie asked, now standing. “What do you mean?”
Jacob, now breathing heavily, groaned. “You weren’t..I didn’t…ugh.” Jacob looked at Noah, who still looked dumbfounded at his brother’s confession.
“Jacob, um,” Noah said, fumbling with his words, “He, uh, liked you too.”
Frankie looked understandably awkward. “Oh.”
“That’s not the important part, anyway,” Noah said, putting a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Bro, you know I love you, right?”
Jacob sighed. “Yeah, I do, it’s just-”
“We do a terrible job of showing you we love you too, man,” Tommy said, stepping forward. “I’m so, so sorry.”
“I’m so sorry you felt so alone,” I said.
“I’m sorry it took the end of the world for me to admit it,” Jacob said.
“Now I know what we have to do,” Tommy said, resolutely. “Jacob, I’m sorry, but we aren’t letting you stop existing. No matter what Micah says about ‘right universes’ or whatever, I will do whatever I can to keep this one going. We want you to stay around, buddy.”
“I’m with Tommy,” I said, holding my boyfriend’s hand. “You’re not getting away from us that easily.”
Jacob grimaced. “No, guys, I didn’t say all that to make you sorry for me-”
“We live here too, you know,” Frankie added.
“We’ll save all three of you,” Tommy confirmed, “and anybody who exists here. Micah doesn’t get to decide who lives and who dies. You all might have come out of nowhere, but we’re all still people.”
Noah smiled. “Jacob…does this mean we can go back to the factory now?”
Jacob had started to cry a bit, the first time I’d ever seen him do so. He smiled as a few tears rolled down his pale cheeks. “Fine. We can save our universe.”
An Uneasy Alliance
We made our way back to Starskittle Base and met up with Micah. He was sitting on a throne made of cardboard boxes, an origami Crimson Dawn Maul in his hand. How dramatic could one guy be?
“Micah, we’ve come to bargain!” Noah announced.
I raised an eyebrow. I thought I was the leader, here.
“Oh, really?” Micah stepped down from his throne, a handful of skittles in the hand opposite OrigaMaul. “The Fold Order is dead. The Knights of Pen have dissolved. Our only enemies are two kids with the power to alter the universe, and one of those kids is your former best friend. I don’t think this is a tricky situation.” He popped a skittle into his mouth, and the two tyrannical teenagers poofed into the room.
“I hate these freaking skittles.” Kellen mumbled.
“What is this Jedi devilry?” Drawn exclaimed in reply.
“So what’s our battle plan?” asked Frankie, eying Coke and cracking her knuckles.
“Way ahead of you, Fred.” interrupted Micah.
“Not important.” Micah raised his hands as tons of skittles spilled between his fingers. “I wished for the skittles to come to me. They’re powerless. If you want the chance to say your goodbyes before I erase this silly universe, you’ll unmask Coke and bring the traitors to me.”
I grumbled. “Since when do we take orders from bad guys?”
Sara shrugged. “We are at war, honey.”
Tommy glanced back at her. “Did you just sorta-quote Revenge of the Sith?”
“A surprise, to be sure. But a welcome one.” Kellen chimed in. Then he blushed. “Right. Dark Side. Sorry.”
“Remember who’s in charge, Campbell,” Supreme Leader Coke sneered. “Wouldn’t want you to wet your pants again.”
Kellen blanched, nodding. “Um, yes, Supreme Leader.”
Coke removed his hood.
“I thought Coke was a puppet!!” Sara said.
“I thought Coke was me!” Dwight yelped, suddenly arriving on the scene.
“Coke was an ideaaaa….” The voice roared. “The spirit of hope deterred. But the true puppet master…the one true Emperor…is me.”
Jacob Minch materialized into the room.
“What the hutt?” Jake cried. “That’s…me!!”
“Your doppelganger.” Emperor Minch cackled. “A version of you from another world in the multiverse.”
“Is anyone else bored?” Noah yawned. “The multiverse, wishes come true, evil twins, time travel, reality checks… I’m burnt out.”
“Yeah, let’s just go home.” Frankie gripped his hand as we started to walk away, snatching the bowl of Wishing Skittles from the slack-jawed Micah.
“But…but…” Micah groaned. “I was supposed to be in charge!”
“You were a pawn, you idiot,” Emperor Minch said, grinning. Nothing seemed to faze him at all. He felt really evil, but also really, really, really confident. “You think you would have access to the most powerful Skittles in existence and get to hang on to them? Pathetic.”
“Well…what are you planning on doing with them?” Micah asked, nervously.
“What a true villain would do,” Minch gloated. He paused, letting the drama take hold of everyone around him. “Become the all-powerful ruler of every universe ever, of course.”
Noah and Frankie stopped, suddenly. “You want to what now?” Frankie asked.
“Rule the multiverse and everything in it. And to do that I’ll need those,” he gestured to the bowl in Frankie’s hand, “So…”
Emperor Minch snapped his fingers and the doors to the factory slammed shut. He snapped his fingers again and suddenly, the factory was full of some familiar faces. But, they were faces that I’d never wanted to see again. It felt like Emperor Minch had every single villain we’d ever faced behind him.
Harvey’s Cousin JC.
Mr. GCF-less Soapy.
Someone I didn’t recognize, but somehow I knew who he was; Elijah? And he had a Lord of the Rings puppet? Weird.
Every villain ever created was here. Not only did that have Star Wars puppets, but I saw figures from Lord of the Rings, Marvel, DC, I mean you name a franchise, and there were at least a dozen puppets for it. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before.
“Too bad you couldn’t put it into action.” continued Emperor Minch. “Should you even try bargaining? Look at you. Imbeciles. Morons. You’re outnumbered 10,000 to 1. Surrender now, and I promise I won’t completely obliterate you.”
He was right. We were outnumbered. I looked around. Sara. Noah. Jake. Frankie. Micah. There was no way out other than surrender. I started to step forward, but-
At first, nobody knew what it was. I thought it was just some really loud thunder or something. But then I realized that it wasn’t raining. And that Micah was chewing on something. He silently pointed at Sara and put a finger to his lips.
He used a Wishing Skittle.
It wasn’t thunder.
It was marching.
The doors opened. Hundreds of faces. Some new, and some old. I didn’t even recognize most of them. Somehow, though, I knew their names:
Quavondo, Mike, Cassie, Lance, Amy, even Harvey. All back on the side of the good guys.
Megan, who also called herself Fred.
Yodamaster and BobaFett1212.
CJ the Bus Driver.
Kurt Blum? Matt Yen? How did I know these people?
It was everyone.
They all stood in rows, armed with puppets and mirroring the villains army exactly. Micah had used one of the last Wishing Skittles in the universe to bring all of our allies from across the multiverse together so they could fight. After this, Micah shoved the bowl out of Frankie’s hands and sent it skittering to the floor, in the middle of the factory.
Emperor Minch and I locked eyes. Simultaneously, we shouted:
Hundreds of kids and puppets collided, shouting, punching, spraying silly string, and throwing water balloons every direction imaginable. It was impossible for me to figure out who everyone fighting was. It felt like every single person I’d ever met in middle school was here, fighting either for us or against us. It was absolutely insane!
The main objective was to get the Skittles away from Emperor Minch and his army. It sounded simple, but with this many kids trading punches it was easy to lose your bearings and end up with a fist to the stomach.
Just from where I was standing, in the middle of the battle, I recognized several of the fighters. Right in front of me, Harvey’s evil cousin JC was chasing down someone who looked sort of like Harvey, but he had Harvey’s mom’s glasses on. Pseudo-Harvey shrieked, as JC caught up to him and threw him to the side. Suddenly, though, Megan/Fred jumped in and ignited a blue toy lightsaber. JC immediately turned aside and took the challenge, igniting his own lightsaber. He dueled Megan/Fred in a lightsaber battle that would rival any of the movies. Except, you know, the lightsabers were plastic.
As I passed them, I could hear them taunting each other. “It’s good to see you again, sis. How’s life been treating you at this loser school?” JC shouted.
“Better than it’s treated you, Dork Side,” Megan shot back.
They’re brother and sister? Huh.
JC knocked Megan to the ground, and was ready to deliver a severe blow, before Adam Minch jumped in the way. “Come on, guys!”
Bus Driver CJ, Cam the Bounty Hunter, a guy named Peyton who had an origami Gollum, and Noah jumped to Megan’s defense and helped her stand. “You’re outnumbered, JC,” Adam Minch proclaimed.
“Oh, so now I’m the high-school supervillain?” JC asked, incredulously.
I guessed that they could handle him.
To my right, some guy with an Iron Man puppet was wailing on a couple kids, next to a girl with what I assumed was O-Rey-Gami. They both turned to attack a bad guy with a discount Papertine.
“You can’t defeat me, you imbeciles!” Papertine guy shouted. “I am all of the Origami Sith!”
“And I am all of the Origami Jedi!” O-Rey-Gami girl shouted back.
Iron Man puppet guy shrugged. “And I am Iron Fold.” The Papertine guy was so intimidated he ran off, and I never saw him again.
I considered my objectives in this whole thing. I really didn’t want to fight anybody, but I knew it all needed to stop. I looked around and I saw the bowl of Skittles, lying untouched in the middle of the fighting. I knew that that was the thing that could stop all of this, so I bolted towards it.
As I made my way across the battlefield, I saw Minch running towards the bowl in the dead-center between us. I attempted to follow him, but I was tackled by Drawn from behind.
“Where do you think you’re going, Lomax?” he shouted, holding me to the ground. “I should’ve done this a long time ago…”
“In a galaxy far, far, awa- Hey!” I said as he ripped Foldy-Wan off my hand. He crumpled it up and threw it behind him, but before he could say anything else, there was a CLANG!
Kellen fell to the ground as Sara helped me up. She had hit him on the back of the head with a can of silly string.
“Thanks, I owe you one.” I said. She had caught Foldy-Wan mid-air and handed him back to me as she pulled me up. “No problem. Now let’s kick some butt.”
We stood back to back, two cans of silly string each, and let loose. I saw the Iron Man kid fighting alongside a kid with a Batman puppet, Mr.GoodCleanFun was using a replacement Soapy as a slingshot for water balloons, and Noah and Frankie were tag-teaming a Sauron puppet, while Gandalf dealt with a paper mache Balrog.
I ducked a punch and passed the Iron Man and Batman guys. “I hate to say this, but who are you guys?” I shouted, curious.
“The name’s Alan,” Batman kid shouted. “You’d be surprised how much practice I’ve had at this type of thing.”
“Yeah, well, join the club,” Iron Man kid said. He elbowed somebody in the nose. “I don’t know why I’m here, but I know I’m here to help…somebody.”
“Thanks for helping us, then!” I yelled, gratefully.
After the silly string ran out, I threw the cans to the ground and ran towards Emperor Minch, but Kellen once again blocked my way. He was now holding a machine labeled ‘The Death Shredder’. He would’ve been an easy target, except for the fact that Tater Tot and Mark the Dropout were his bodyguards. I managed to work my way over to a girl wielding a Hulk puppet, who said she would “deal with them.” She and a Wolverine kid worked together to take the two bigger guys down. It was really impressive, suddenly.
All of a sudden, Vernon O’Brien came thundering past me, riding a heavily tricked out Death Bomb like a wagon!
“Vernon! What are you doing here?”
“Those dang Knights tried to brainwash me, but I got out and fixed this up!” he hollered, rolling towards the Death Shredder. “YEEHAW!”
He flicked a switch on the side of the Death Bomb, and the catapult launched a giant water balloon at Kellen and the Shredder.
“No!” Kellen screamed. He dived out of the way, but the Shredder got the full impact. The weight and force of the exploding balloon toppled the evil machine. And just for good measure, Vernon rolled over it, making sure it stayed down.
“Thanks, Vernon!” I shouted.
“Not a problem, Tommy!” He rolled off, to wreak more havoc, I’d assume.
Merry and Pippin puppets helped make a path for me as I waded through the battle towards Emperor Minch, who was right on top of the bowl of Skittles. He picked up the bowl like a trophy, and I froze. The most evil kid I had ever met now had the most powerful candies in the multiverse in his grasp.
“Tommy boy! Great to see you again,” the Emperor sneered.
I took a moment to take stock of how monstrous this new Jacob Minch looked. He also looked wilder than the Jacob I knew; his hair was pitch black and stuck out in crazy angles, he had bags under his eyes and his skin was so pale it was almost white. It was Jacob if he’d been in the Twilight Zone. Definitely Sith Lord material.
“We never got a chance to catch up when I revealed myself,” He kneed me in the gut. “I’ve been looking forward to this.” He raised his hands, ready to pummel me, before he was shoved to side himself.
“Get away from him, you freak,” Jacob Minch, our Jacob Minch, ordered.
I stood up, rubbing my belly. “So…I’m still confused?” I asked.
“Multiple universes, man,” Jacob said, shrugging. “I still can’t believe I look like that in a different universe.”
“That’s hurtful,” Emperor Minch said, setting down the Skittles. He cracked his knuckles and immediately threw a few punches at both of us. “I consider myself to be the best me there is.”
“Is everyone in your home universe this ugly, or is it just you?” Jacob sniped.
“I’m one of a kind, baby,” Emperor Minch replied, smirking.
“Where do you even come from?” I asked, dodging a punch. “Who are you?”
“The Real Jacob Minch, my friend. Some might even say The Original Jacob Minch. This guy here? He’s milquetoast compared to me.” Evil Jacob kicked Jacob in the shin and cackled. “I mean, have you even burned down a building yet?”
“You’ve burned down a building?” Jacob asked, horrified.
“Several, in fact. Nearly died on my last one. I’m still not entirely sure how I’m still alive, but waste not want not. Thanks to that Micah guy, I’m here now in this stupid place. I miss when everything was more confusing. Chaotic. That’s when I was at my peak, let me tell you.”
Jacob sucker-punched his mirror image in the chin. “Shut up, you idiot!”
“I know I am, but what are you?” Emperor Minch replied, rubbing his chin. “We’re the same person, Jacob Minch. I’m just better.”
Jacob punched him again. “No, we’re not!”
“Of course we are!” Emperor Minch caught Jacob’s fist and threw him backwards. “You’re Jacob Minch. In every timeline I’ve seen, Jacob Minch is an evil, vindictive loner who never got over a bad break and dedicates his life to messing with everyone else. That’s how it is, and that’s how it always will be, as long as you’re Jacob Minch.”
“No!” Jacob jumped up, and in a flurry of movement shoved Emperor Minch to the ground, pinning him, and threw punch after punch at his doppelganger. “I’m Jacob Minch! I’m a good guy! I’ve gotten redemption. I have friends. I have a brother who loves me. And I will never be a villain again!”
The villain stopped laughing and looked momentarily scared. “Well, I wasn’t expecting that.” With a new burst of energy, Emperor Minch kicked Jacob off of him and dove once again for the bowl of Skittles. Jacob did the same, and both grabbed a handful and were ready to shove them in their moves before a small envelope materialized from thin air and slammed into Emperor Minch’s face.
“Not again!” he shouted, as he dropped the handful and fell to the ground.
The envelope fluttered to the ground, and the lip folded open, and a little ear popped out, soon followed by the rest of a small green body.
I blinked. Origami Yoda…was REAL?!?!?!?!?!?!?
The Last Act
There was a simultaneous gasp throughout the crowd, and people began to murmur amongst themselves, trying to decide if it really was the Origami Yoda.
“Gawking, you must all stop,” he said, plainly. He waddled over to the bowl of Skittles, and, somehow, using the Force, lifted the Skittles up into the air, out of reach from everyone else. “Enough candy, you all have had. Cause cavities and bad breath, it will.”
“You’re real?” I asked. The focus of the last however many years of my life (I’ve lost count), the subject of over thirty case files, was now standing in front of me on invisible legs, talking. This had to mean he was real, right?
“To see you, good it is, Tommy,” Origami Yoda rasped. “A haircut you need again, I believe.”
“But…how?” I asked. Everyone around me seemed to be as confused as I was by the now-talking puppet, but Origami Yoda seemed unfazed.
“For the case files, I thank you,” Origami Yoda said, talking slowly. “Page-turners, they were.” Origami Yoda looked around at all of the kids around him. “Heeded my words not, did you? The shroud of the Dark Side has fallen. Wars do not make one great.”
Suddenly, Origami Yoda hopped up and landed on the finger of the one who had started it all. Dwight had stepped into the center of the battle, and looked far more solemn than I had ever seen him before.
“Please stop, all of you,” Dwight pleaded, quietly. I don’t know how, but as soon as Dwight spoke everyone calmed down. “The fighting needs to stop.”
As Dwight finished speaking, the crowd around us started to disperse. Both ‘armies’ started to shrink, as the various members I didn’t know started to vanish. They just kind of shimmered away, like a hologram. It was kind of creepy.
First, it was the Iron Man kid. I heard him mutter “Emily’s not going to believe this…” as he vanished. Then, it was JC and Megan/Fred, still locked in a lightsaber duel. Then, group by group, the armies lessened.
Micah pushed his way through the crowd, with panicked on his face. He was headed straight for Dwight. By this point, Origami Yoda’s voice had made its way back into Dwight’s mouth, and he mumbled something about Frosties and chocolate chip pancakes.
“Why didn’t come for me?” Micah asked, despairingly. “You were supposed to help me.
“Worry not, Captain Micah,” Origami Yoda’s voice crackled. “Taken care of that, I have. Safe, you will be, now.”
Micah smiled, seemingly at ease for the first time since I’d seen him. With that, he faded away as well, and the only people were me, my friends, Kellen, and Emperor Minch.
As I looked around, I saw the confused faces of middle-schoolers who were way out of their league. Aside from Micah, these were all people that had been, or still were, my close friends. Just in the last week, they’d been the bad guys. Now, though, I could tell they were sort of…waking up.
Quavondo pulled himself to his feet, after he’d been knocked down in the fight. Vernon O’Brien, who’d led the Bounty Hunters, now stood by himself, not sure which way to turn. Noah and Frankie just hugged each other, trying to block out everything else. Lance tried to do the same with Amy, but she ignored him. I’ll never know how they got together.
“That was eventful,” Harvey scoffed, as he brushed himself off.
“Where’d everyone go?” a bleary-eyed Cassie asked. “They were here, but…”
“I believe they were force projections,” Harvey said, pushing his glasses up. “You know, from The Last Jedi? A lot of people were upset that was in the movie, but only the real fans-”
“Shut up, Harvey!” Kellen shouted. He was curled up in a ball on the floor. I think he’d been crying. “I’m just glad they’re gone.”
“And why would a traitor like you be happy about that?” Noah interrogated, advancing on him.
Kellen sniffed. “I don’t know. I…just…don’t want to fight anymore.”
Jacob stepped in front of Kellen, blocking Noah. “Lay off.”
Noah narrowed his eyes. “Jacob, he’s a traitor. He’s a bad guy, and–”
“So was I,” Jacob said. “And so were you. And Lance. And so were quite a few people here. But we’re good now. I’m good now, because of you. Because of all of you. Kellen made a dumb choice when he became Drawn. I get that. But, if he wants to come back…” Jacob turned and extended a hand to the slumped over Kellen. Kellen sniffed, took it, and stood up. “I think we should let him. He did the same for us.”
Kellen immediately blurted out a long line of apologies. “Guys, I’m so, so sorry. I don’t know what came over me, it just seemed like the right thing to do, I was tired of being the lame one, and–” He looked right at me. “Tommy, especially…I’m sorry. Can you forgive me?”
For a split second, I considered it. Why would I forgive Kellen? For the past few months, he’s been orchestrating the Knights of Pen, letting them take over McQuarrie just so he doesn’t have to live in anybody’s shadow anymore. How insecure would someone have to be to do that? But, then I remembered that Kellen has been my best friend, pretty much forever. The fact that he felt so insecure should have been something I noticed, so I could help him through. He shouldn’t have tried to destroy the universe, obviously, but I think I can chalk that up to hormones.
The split second was over.
I hugged Kellen immediately. “Of course, dude. I’ve missed you.”
Kellen hugged me back. “Oh, sweet. Sorry about the whole universe thing.”
I hugged him tighter, ignoring the little Harvey voice in my head calling out just how awkward this situation was. Emperor Minch shifted, uncomfortably. “So…we were kind of having a final battle, here…?”
Dwight cleared his throat. “I created Origami Yoda to do good,” he paused, carefully considering his words. Once again, that was very out of character. “I folded him so I would be able to make a positive difference in people’s lives. This is not what I wanted. Hundreds of people fighting for no reason, actually hurting people. This isn’t right.”
He started to walk around, looking at everyone around him, Harvey first. “It started when Harvey made Darth Paper, and it just got worse from there. People were actually acting as their puppets personas more than they were acting as themselves.” He looked pointedly at Jacob, Vernon and Mike, who had gone full Palpatine, Cad Bane, and General Grievous, respectively. “That’s when it got out of hand. Factions started to form, and people legitimately hated other people just because of stupid finger puppets. Friends, and heck, even families were torn apart because of these things.” Again, he looked at Jacob and Noah. Noah shuffled, nervously. “This shouldn’t have happened. None of this. We need to go back to the beginning and start anew.”
Everyone seemed to be listening. Why had all of this happened? But before anyone could respond, Emperor Minch had to go and ruin, of course.
“You know Dwight, that’s really, really sweet,” he said. “But you know, my head still isn’t totally healed from that sidewalk, and origami bad guys, origami wars, that’s kind of my thing, so…”
Leaping into the air with powers beyond that of mortal middle-schoolers, Emperor Minch snarled as he grasped a heaping half of the skittles and tossed them into his mouth. A giant cage materialized around Noah and Frankie, still holding one another in a loving embrace.
“Let them go!” Jacob shouted.
“You are NOTHING!” Emperor Minch roared. “A pale shadow of everything I could be!! Held back by the attachments of a child! Your beloved classmates, your feeble brother, and your pitiful little crush will all fall before the might of the Sith!!!”
“You’re a middle-schooler with delusions of grandeur and a bad case of vampire-skin.” Noah quipped. “My brother is ten times the man you are, you freak.”
The Emperor growled. “Noah Jekan…of all the worlds I’ve seen, never have I had the dishonor of calling you my brother.”
Frankie sneered in turn. “You’re missing out!”
Noah blushed. “Thanks, honey.”
Emperor Minch curled up into himself as if he was surrendering. Then, with a flash of his wild jagged grin, he sent a pulse of Force lightning at all students in the area.
“All that time in the World Between Worlds…you can’t help but end up with side-effects,” he said, his voice harsh and rough. “You will all fall beneath my power and the Minch Dynasty will rise! NOTHING WILL STOP THE RETURN OF THE MINCH!”
A blast of lightning sent Jacob–our Jacob–across the room. He flinched involuntarily, then collapsed.
As for me?
A jolt of lightning blacked out my world.
If ever we needed a hero, now was the time.
Revenge of the Jedi
My eyes opened. I scanned the room around me in a haze, feeling a lump in my throat. Noah and Frankie. Tommy and Sara. Dwight. Kellen. My friends. My family. My redemption story.
I would not let it fall.
Shaking with rage, I stood tall. The voices of those who came before rung in my ears.
“Luminous beings are we.”
“Just another day at McQuarrie Middle School.”
“In the end, prevail, love will…”
“I like nuts.”
“The end…this is not!”
I turned to face Dwight and Origami Yoda.
Dwight smiled in my direction, tossing me what remained of the Wishing Skittles. “You were my best friend, Jacob. Fulfill your destiny.”
Origami Yoda nodded his wise little paper head. “The Force, may it always be with you. Rise.”
Emperor Minch scowled in my direction. “Your love of your friends is a weakness. You will join me. Give me the skittles. Help me wish for our grand domination…or your loved ones will be destroyed.”
“No better way to show them that love than by getting rid of you,” I said, resolutely.
“Try me.” The Emperor cackled. The cage surrounding Noah and Frankie began to close in. Noah shrieked. Frankie shoved at the metal bars, attempting to pry the cage open–to no avail.
I walked over to my demented doppelganger, standing beside him as I joined his Skittles to my own. Emperor Minch’s eyes flared with evil glee. I cautiously opened my mouth.
“I wish for all the Jacob Minches in the universe…” I started. “…to end.”
The Skittles factory roof began to crumble. Large pieces of ceiling and walls came crashing down around us. The starry night sky illuminated the faces of my brother and Frankie.
“NOOO!!!” The Emperor screamed, clutching my shirt collar with both hands. His eyes grew wide with horror. He pulled out an origami version of Darth Sidious… The Original Emperor Papertine. “IF YOU DO THIS, YOU’LL NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN!!!!! YOU LOVE THEM!!!”
I turned to look at them. Their eyes met mine. I smiled.
Grabbing the collar of his robes in retort, I hoisted my evil self into the sky as a dark portal tore its way through the starlight. With a smile, I ripped Emperor Papertine in two and kicked the shrieking Emperor into the abyss.
Jacob Minch and Emperor Papertine were no more.
My foot slipped on the ground as I struggled to stand my ground. I took one last glance back at my family. McQuarrie Middle School.
I let the portal take me.
The Curtain Call
Jacob was gone.
Somehow, he’d sacrificed himself for us so that Emperor Minch wouldn’t win. The enemy was gone, totally. But that meant that one of our best friends was gone too.
“Jacob…” Noah gasped. The cage surrounding him and Frankie had disappeared along with Emperor Minch, and now they were free. The first thing Noah did was fall to the ground, crying. Frankie put her hand on his shoulder and cried too. We all cared for Jacob, but it was unquestionable that those three had had an incredibly strong bond. I couldn’t imagine what they were feeling right now.
“Time, it is,” Origami Yoda said, sadly.
Suddenly, the world around us rumbled. “What was that?” Kellen asked.
“That is Emperor Minch’s Final Order,” Dwight said. “Once he stole that handful for the cage, he also wished for the world to crumble.”
“You mean…” Sara started.
“Our universe is dying, anyway?” Frankie finished, amidst sobs.
“Yes,” Origami Yoda said. “But the sacrifice of Jacob Minch, a passageway it has created. Now, free to live, we are, because of what done, Jacob did.”
“Everyone has to eat a Skittle and wish their way to safety,” Dwight explained, picking up the bowl, which was once again on the floor. “We may not live in this universe anymore, but we’ll be able to make it back to the original one.”
“But will we remember any of this?” Noah asked, tears streaming. “Will we remember my brother?”
Origami Yoda was silent for a moment, as the world rumbled again. “Always in motion, the future is. But…Noah Minch, remember the TRUE Chosen One, you will.”
Noah stood up, rubbed his nose, and with a sense of acceptance, breathed deeply. “Okay. Then let’s do this.”
“Is everyone in agreement?” Dwight asked. As he looked around the room, everyone nodded, ready to take the chance that Jacob had given us.
There was a moment of silence as Dwight passed around the bowl of Wishing Skittles. I looked around and could tell that, for once, everyone was in agreement. What had happened to us? Why was there so much fighting and hate over a few finger puppets? Dwight was right. There was no reason for it to go this far. As the bowl came to me, I took a Skittle and held it in my hand. How could such a little thing cause so much trouble?
Once everyone had a Skittle, Dwight got back up on the crate. He held up his Wishing Skittle.
“For Jacob Minch,” he said,and put it in his mouth.
“For Jacob!” Everyone repeated, before eating their own Wishing Skittle.
Sara and I locked eyes for a moment. She was crying. Then I noticed that I was too. I could hear sniffling and sobbing all throughout the crowd, but everyone knew what had to happen. I put my arm tightly around Kellen on one side and my other arm around Harvey. Dwight began to chew, and so did everyone else. The last thing I remember was watching Noah and Frankie holding each other tightly, slowly fading away.
And, quietly, I made one final wish.
Origami Yoda and Dwight
The big question: Is Origami Yoda real? Well, of course he’s real. I mean, he’s a real finger puppet made out of a real piece of paper.
But I mean: Is he REAL?
Now, I know what you’re all wondering. “Oh, no!! The Expanded Universe is TOAST!!! All our favorite characters are one with the Force!”
First off, you guys are over-dramatic. Second, we’re fine. Really. For the past few years, we’ve been able to live out our lives as normal kids. I’ll always remember how my brother died to get us here. Without him, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Jacob Minch is the true hero of this story.
Frankie and I and everybody else are still around. I guess Micah was just wrong about us; maybe we did exist all along! I don’t know if we’re in Tommy and Dwight’s original universe or a parallel universe or the same old universe but without the McQuarrie gang, but here’s the gist: We go to McQuarrie High, now. All of us. It’s a big school. Sometimes people never meet each other even if they’re only one classroom away from one another. While that’s pretty much the case with us and the OG McQuarrie students, I’m just glad that wasn’t the case with Frankie and me. There is one weird change; for some reason she’s obsessed with Middle Earth. I have no idea what that’s all about.
“Hey, Chosen One.” Frankie nudged me as I walked out of my algebra class.
“I don’t think I’m the Chosen One anymore…” I shrugged. “I’m pretty sure that ended up being Jacob in the end.”
Frankie smiled. “I didn’t mean THE Chosen One. I meant MY Chosen One. Chosen to be my guy…my boo…my man.”
“Your man?” I tried to hold back a grin, miserably failing as always. “You know, we are starting to send in our resumés. I was thinking…”
“Claremont University?” Frankie’s eyes shimmered as she gave me her signature puppy-dog look.
“How do you do that?” I laughed.
“Hmm? Read your mind?” Frankie punched my arm. “I know all the tricks up your sleeve, Mr. Minch.”
I patted the small box in my pocket. The box–and its precious contents–were safe and sound. That night was going to be the biggest night of my life. One Ring, one knee, one question. “Not all my tricks, Ms. Boyd…” I smirked. “Why would you say that?”
I suppose you want to know how Tommy and crew are doing. They seem happy. All through high school, it was hijinks and mayhem and studying and paper folding. Tommy and Harvey wrote a book together. I was first in line for a signed copy. I can’t tell you what the book was about…but in this case, let’s just say it was a very strange story…
Sara and Tommy are going strong. Kellen and Cassie, too. Heck, Harvey and Rhondella became a thing after the sophomore dance. It’s a crazy thing, watching all these people grow up, grow apart, grow closer together. I feel like I’m watching them on TV or something. We don’t get to interact with them. They don’t even know our names. Yoda’s rules. You know how he is.
Oh, I guess that’s a good point, too. How’s the ol’ Paperwad, anyway? Well, he finally got to take care of that problem with El Capitan, and according to his last letter, he is now traveling the multiverse in the Mail-lennium Falcon, swooping in to save those in need. Vernon and JC went with him. (Only God knows how they managed to fit in that tiny little envelope).
This epilogue is weird. I mean, REALLY weird. Even by McQuarrie’s standards. I know that Show, Don’t Tell is a thing, but it just doesn’t make sense here. The life of the McQuarrie students is one big show. One I hope gets told from generation to generation, just like a certain saga from a galaxy far, far away….
The big question: Where do we go from here?
I’ll be honest; I have no clue. Surviving the rest of middle school and high school without my twin brother has been hard enough, but real life? That might be even harder.
Things are still complicated. Supposedly, every single version of Jacob Minch got erased with the Wishing Skittles. But that still doesn’t explain how an individual looking just like my long-lost brother (and myself) was sitting across from me at my designated table in the cafeteria, taking a whopping bite out of a rocky road ice cream cone with sprinkles.
“So…you’re Jimmy, huh?” I said, “What’s your last name?”
He paused. “Jimmy…Skywalker.”
I raised my eyebrows.
Jimmy burst into a fit of laughter. “I’m kidding!! Sorry. I’m a big Star Wars geek. I was just doing the Rey thing. Anywho…” His voice trailed off.
I smiled, pulling out an O-Rey-Gami prototype I’d made. “You sure you’d be Jimmy Skywalker? You look more like a Palpatine.”
“O-Rey-Gami Papertine.” Jimmy grinned in satisfaction, gripping my finger puppet happily and lifting it into the air. “This is awesome, man! Thanks!!”
“No problem, bro…” I paused. His eyes. His dark brown eyes. I knew it was Jacob. Somehow.
“So, did you watch season 3 of The Mandalorian?” Jimmy asked.
I blinked back warm tears—emotionally cathartic tears, mind you. Not boo-hoo tears—and reclined in my seat.
We had a long chat about Star Wars and Marvel and DC and Middle-earth, just like we used to.
He may not remember me. Or Frankie. Or himself, for that matter. But Jacob was home.
We all were.
THE END THIS IS.