Distant Reaches - Stanislow Fails Again

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Stanislow Fails Again

Stanislow Fails Again
Stanislow ‘ja Bernbrock was never the sharpest knife in the drawer. Art by Shay Plummer.

“Kitty will be perfectly fine,” Stanislow ‘ja Bernbrock says.

Kitty, Stanislow’s black Labrador retriever, lies dead in front of him and his best friend, Kristoop.

“As soon as I complete the final steps of this operation,” Stanislow announces, “tomorrow morning we will find Kitty more alive than ever before.”

Stanislow, wearing a blood-soaked apron, puts down his scalpel and dips his hands in a bowl of rat grease.

Kristoop stands beside him, observing the entire procedure in awe. They’re in Stanislow’s bedroom in his family’s mansion.

“So rat grease is the key step to bring Kitty back to life?” Kristoop asks, nervously examining the dead dog. They both wear the student uniforms of The Magist Imperial University, a prestigious school with an ungodly academic workload. They don’t have to worry about the workload, though, because they’ve both been born into families whose excessive wealth and influence preclude them from any consequence.

“The rat grease helps, but the most important step is to leave Kitty at the door of my mommy’s den,” Stanislow says, rubbing the grease into Kitty’s fur. “Tomorrow morning, without fail, I will be greeted by Kitty. Believe me: I’ve done this many times.”

“Leaving Kitty with your mother,” Kristoop says in awe. “I would’ve never thought of that!”

“Well,” Stanislow says, “I am the top student at the world’s most prestigious university.”

Stanislow is only half-correct: He’s studying at the world’s most prestigious university, yes. But he is not the top student. In fact, he’s the worst student. Thanks to his mother, a woman who is not only the steeliest of the school’s board of directors, but also a multi-industry magnate with influence in the highest political echelons of Amalcross, Stanislow’s opportunities in life are guaranteed despite his complete incompetence.

Stanislow wraps the dead dog in linen and, with Kristoop close behind, carries it through a long opulent hallway. They stop before a tall ornate door and Stanislow leaves the bundle of linen on the ground.

“Your life-saving procedure needs to be shared with the world!” Kristoop says.

“You’re right,” Stanislow nods proudly. “I’d totally write it down if I knew how to write. Now, let’s get some food — all this lifesaving is making me hungry!”

Our boys hop into Stanislow’s horse-drawn carriage and ride into town.

Their friendship is built on mutual respect and the shared leveraging of unearned privilege. Kristoop’s father, a wealthy and influential Amalcross senator borne from a long lineage of public servants, has a close working relationship with Stanislow’s mother. Over a decade, he fostered her business while she helped promote his own political power.

And when Kristoop and Stanislow were born, they were as inseparable as brothers — but, despite the hazel eyes, light brown hair, and freckles they both share, they’ve been told they’re not related.

The carriage stops under a bridge at a seedy yet vibrant shanty town they’ve been explicitly forbidden to visit. But our buddies ignore this rule because of the deliciousness of the fatty meat sticks peddled here.

There’s a long line of working-class people already waiting, but patience is one of the few things the privileged can’t possess. Stanislow and Kristoop march right to the front.

“If it isn’t Stanislow,” a voice calls. “I bet you killed another dog for your mommy to replace, hmmmmm?”

Stanislow, startled, looks over and sees a hunchbacked man, rags barely hanging off his emaciated body. He’s openly rubbing his crotch and cackling. Everyone ignores him except Stanislow.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Stanislow says. He stands up straighter and turns his nose up, “because you live in filth and look weird.” He tries to place his order, refusing to let this creature’s words weasel into his mind.

“Your mommy is lucky your dog is a black Labrador,” the man cackles. “Easy to replace!”

“Kitty is not replaceable!” Stanislow’s face turns red.

“Ignore him,” Kristoop pleads. “He isn’t wearing hand-stitched leather shoes.”

Kristoop and Stanislow were taught to judge a person’s worth based on how nice their shoes were, and this hunchbacked man’s bare feet are ankle-deep in brown pudding.

“You’re right,” Stanislow admits.

But instead of enjoying the fatty meat sticks under the bridge, Stanislow climbs right back into his carriage. Eating in silence, Stanislow tries to enjoy his greasy meat stick, but something feels off.

The next morning, Stanislow wakes up and opens his bedroom door.

“Good morning, Kitty!”

But Kitty is not there, which strikes Stanislow as odd. This is where Kitty always appears after all his procedures.


Stanislow hurries down the ornate spiral staircase, searching for his Kitty in the kitchen, then the den, then the living quarters. Exasperated, he glances outside to his backyard.

There’s Kitty! Nose down and digging amidst a flurry of soil.

Stanislow scratches his head. “Kitty never does that.”

Running to the backyard, Stanislow sees Kitty excavating waves of dirt. Moments later, Kitty sits up, something in his mouth. Stanislow crouches to examine it.

“Kitty? It’s another you! But— dead?”

Stanislow, in slow realization, thinks maybe… maybe

“Ah!” Stanislow leaps to his feet in triumph. “My procedure is so good, I made a dead copy of you!”

But Kitty is off to another ditch, where he digs up another dead Labrador.

“Another one?” Stanislow’s brows furrow as his two brain cells greet each other for the first time in years. “I know who can help me out.”

Kristoop lives in the mansion next door, but it’s still a distance away. By the time Stanislow has gone to Kristoop’s mansion and returned with him in tow, Kitty has dug up seven more dead Labradors. They don’t have much time before their first period class at Magist Imperial, but that’s irrelevant: They rarely attend class and still get perfect marks.

“Your procedure… made Kitty a daddy to other dead Kittys?” Kristoop says.

“Yes, that could be possible,” Stanislow says. “But there is another possible explanation… actually, never mind.”

“Say it!”

“Well, maybe,” Stanislow begins, “and stay with me — maybe each operation, Kitty dies. Then the next morning, the Kitty that greets me is a new, different dog. Again, this is impossible because that means my doctor skills are bad. And they can’t be bad because I’m the best.”

Images stream through Stanislow’s mind. A motionless Kitty beneath his greasy fingers. Kitty, the next morning, alive, but noticeably smaller and having forgotten his name.

Then other moments during which his competence was tested: cutting a ribbon for a bridge he designed, which collapses moments later; mixing a bright blue drink in a pitcher and serving it to people, who later get carried away on stretchers; flying a beautiful kite high above the trees, which then crashes through a window and impales a poor lady.

These images morph ultimately into the disfigured face of the hunchbacked man, mouth contorting, cackling, “You killed your dog(s)!!

Stanislow’s eyes widen, considering such an impossibility.

“You’re right, that could never happen,” Kristoop shakes his head.

Stanislow, world slowly tilting into disarray, races to his family’s butler, Harrisburg.

“Harrisburg! How come there are eight dead Kittys buried in the backyard?”

A pained look crosses Harrisburg’s face. He is not prepared for this.

“Uh,” Harrisburg says, “go ask your mother.”

Kristoop gulps.

Stanislow and Kristoop approach Mrs. ‘ja Bernbrock’s den. Her voice carries through the two-foot-thick carved wooden doors.

“Output was down this cycle,” Stanislow and Kristoop hear as they struggle to open the doors. “Which one of you broken dildos is responsible?”

Our buddies step into the den, a large room with walls covered in awards and certificates. Mrs. ‘ja Bernbrock sucks her teeth, raps her mahogany desk with her knuckles, and scowls at her trembling underlings.

Before any of them can muster a meager response, Stanislow opens his mouth.

“Mommy?” he says.

Mrs. ‘ja Bernbrock immediately turns to her son.

“How can Mommy help her baby boy?” she asks, kneeling to caress her son’s face. Her direct-reports all exhale with relief.

“Mommy,” Stanislow says, “why are there are eight dead Kittys in the yard?”

‘Ja Bernbrock looks away, carefully choosing her next words.

“Son,” she says, “you must be on track to discover cloning! And at a young age of nineteen. You’re so smart! Right, everyone?”

Her underlings all nod vigorously in agreement.

Stanislow’s face lights up.

“My dream is to be your doctor, Mommy.”

“That’s wonderful, son, but you must dream bigger than that!” ‘Ja Bernbrock gets up and sits back at her desk. “Besides, Mommy won’t be able to afford your healthcare services since your talents will be in such high demand.”

“Well, then I want to be all of your doctors!” Stanislow points to Bernbrock’s business associates. One faints. “I can even start now!” Another one bursts into tears.

“Now why don’t you two go off and play?” ‘Ja Bernbrock hands Stanislow a heavy case of gold coins — worth more than a decade’s salary for an average Amalcrosser.

During a lecture on astro-metaphysics, Stanislow barely pays any attention. Not because he’s stupid (which he is), but because, for the first time in his short, privileged life, he’s experiencing self-doubt.

What if he isn’t the brightest student of all time, who is naturally talented and can pick up anything on his first attempt? Has his mother, and everyone around him, lied to him about his abilities his entire life? And why? He knows there is only one place to get an honest answer.

Stanislow bolts out of the lecture hall and runs to the office of Professor Thumpling. She has the longest tenure at the university, and for good reason: She’s sharp, direct, and calls things as she sees them. Because of that, Stanislow’s mother has warned him to always avoid Thumpling. He’s neither spoken to her nor stepped foot in her office.

Until now.

Professor Thumpling, with a wild mane of hair and wearing an ill-fitting suit, is reviewing papers when Stanislow pops his head into her office.

“Come here to make fun of ol’ Thumpling, eh?” she shrieks. “To flaunt your privilege and wealth and make me feel like a worm?”

“No?” Stanislow says. “I just wanted to ask you a question.”

“Oh.” Thumpling drops her quill. “Um. Okay.”

“Am I the best doctor in this whole wide land?” Stanislow asks.

Thumpling squints at him, as if she’s contemplating one of the great unsolved problems in quantum Binding she’s so famous for solving. And then she doubles over with laughter.

Stanislow doesn’t know what he said that’s so funny.

“Wow, your mother’s really done a number on you,” Thumpling says when she can finally breathe again. “You’re far from the best. Despite your perfect marks and being captain of the medicine club, you’re actually the worst this school as ever seen in its three-hundred years of existence!”

Stanislow processes this revelation with a thousand-yard stare.

Well, we think he’s processing this revelation. It’s equally likely he’s simply standing there, completely void of any thought. Thumpling continues to wheeze with laughter, wiping away tears, when suddenly—

Thank you!!” Stanislow pumps his fists in the air and skips out of her office.

Thumpling watches him leap gleefully down the hall.

“What an idiot,” she mutters.

And then she starts laughing again.


For the first time, Stanislow feels like things make sense. He realizes he’s never seen the world so clearly. It’s like he’s been suspended in air his entire life and now his feet have finally touched the ground.

“Thumpling is mad,” Kristoop says as they walk through the halls in between classes. “Remember what our parents said about her?”

Stanislow deflates. “You don’t think she knows anything? I mean, she’s been a professor for a long time, probably for good reason.”

Kristoop tsks. “I heard she only got the teaching gig because her father knew someone who knew someone. She’s a phony, puts in zero work, and doesn’t deserve any of the prestige from this school.”

Meanwhile, ‘ja Bernbrock patrols one of her many mills, scrutinizing productivity. She’s the biggest supplier of grains to Amalcross and intends to stay that way. The workers — human, animal, and Uncanny, alike — fearful of her wrath, all work twice as fast when she’s around.

While she’s glaring especially hard at a terrified donkey, one of her direct-reports scurries up to her side.

“What do you want?” ‘ja Bernbrock snarls. “Can’t you see I’m busy inspecting these worthless workers?”

“M-m-m-m-ma’am,” the direct-report stammers, “Professor Thumpling told your son he’s the worst student.”

“What?!” ‘ja Bernbrock shouts. “I told her to stay away from him!”

The donkey rears and brays. Every worker within earshot drops to the ground, trembling. The direct-report squeezes his eyes shut and shields his face with his forearm.

“Actually, ma’am, your son, ma’am, went to her. He asked, ma’am, for an honest assessment of his medicinal skills, ma’am.”

“What’s he doing, throwing his life away? After everything I’ve done for him?!” ‘Ja Bernbrock roars, eyes white as fire. Someone nearby starts weeping. “Fine. She leaves me no choice. Start a rumor she has pictures of herself with underage Rilk’gar in her desk.”

Her direct-report is so shocked he opens his eyes and lowers his arm.

“Ma’am,” he says, “this is a very serious allegation. I don’t think it’s come to tha—”

DO IT!!!

Her direct-report flees.

‘Ja Bernbrock closes her eyes and breathes deeply, trying to settle her emotions.

The next day at school, Stanislow heads straight for Professor Thumpling’s office.

“Good morning, Professor Thumpling!” he calls.

But her office is completely empty. All the posters and overstuffed drawers are gone, leaving only stained bare walls and some lint in the corner. Stanislow’s confused expression gives away to a wide smile.

“She must’ve finally taken her vacation! I’ve noticed she worked almost daily. Must’ve been burnt out.”

As he walks to his morning class, he notices through a window the large crowd of angry people, holding signs that say, “Thumpling Go Home!”

Stanislow nods. “I heard she is from a far-away land,” he says to himself, smiling. “She deserves a nice trip to reconnect with her family.”

Though happy for Thumpling, Stanislow still feels something unresolved within him. He’s the leader of the school choir, having earned the spot after a rigorous audition process when a mysterious flu left a number of singers out of the running. Lending his vocal talents as the choir toured locally, he couldn’t help but notice that, despite all his standing ovations, audience members and even his teammates had wax in their ears.

“What if it isn’t because hearing a voice so beautiful and pure would permanently damage their hearing?” Stanislow wonders.

He decides to venture into the town of Stonestead to mingle with the blue-collar folk, even though his mother insists they have little culture and nothing to offer except disposable labor. Stanislow asks Kristoop to join.

“You wanna go to Stonestead?! But… they’re boot-stepping heathens!” Kristoop says, eyes glued to his feet.

“Yes! But not just anywhere in Stonestead,” Stanislow says. “I was thinking of Tavern Inn.”

Kristoop screams. “Tavern Inn! That’s where the roughest of hands go to socialize… and the worst is they have no manners! You’re asking for death!”

“Calm down,” Stanislow says. “If anyone kills us, Mommy will fix it.”

“But Stan,” Kristoop says. “If my papa finds out I’ve been down there—”

“Blame it on me,” Stanislow says. “I don’t care.”

Thus, Kristoop and Stanislow ride into Stonestead to get some answers. They stop outside Tavern Inn, a classic pub where all of the factory hands come to complain about their bosses.

Our two boys, in their school uniforms and smelling like lilacs, step inside. Before them, workers of all sizes and shapes nurse steins of grog, belching, cursing, and farting.

Kristoop trembles before the crowd. But Stanislow launches into his favorite song, belting out his tune so even the farthest dormouse crouched in the cellar can hear him.

What singing comes out is a cacophony of screeches.

“Shut the fuck up!” someone yells, covering their ears. Another patron vomits. The tavern parrot drops dead.

Kristoop, hiding behind his arms, steps up to defend his best friend.

“His voice is beautiful and a gift from the heavens!” Kristoop screams, his own fingers jammed into his ears.

Stanislow stops singing and turns to Kristoop. “Then why are you covering your ears?”

“Because there’s an itch really deep in there.” Kristoop says. “They’re wrong. Your singing is beautiful.”

“No,” Stanislow says, a grin overtaking his face. “They’re right.”

“Your singing is good. Trust me, I know good singing.” Kristoop says. “Oh… you stopped singing?” He cautiously pulls his fingers from his ears.

“It’s okay that my singing is bad. I always found it weird that I went from never singing to being the captain of the choir. Now it makes sense.”

Kristoop looks at Stanislow like he’s gone completely mad.

Later that day, while ‘ja Bernbrock is inspecting another mill, one of her underlings takes an hour to work up the courage to approach her.

“M-m-m-ma’am,” he says, “I’m afraid to inform you, ma’am, that more people have been truthful with your son.”

“Are you serious?” ‘ja Bernbrock roars. A walkway collapses from the sudden weight of millworkers throwing themselves into fetal positions. “Who? And where?”

“At the Tavern Inn. Thirty-seven shoe factory workers, two bartenders, and a parrot.”

“He wants to ruin his life, but I’ll be damned if I let him,” ‘ja Bernbrock mutters to herself. She turns to her cowering underling. “Take care of that pub. And tell all publications across the land to run a story that my son is the most skilled surgeon in the capitol.”

“Across the whole land? But some of the outer fringe towns barely know who you are. Why does it matter?”

‘Ja Bernbrock clenches her fist. “I don’t pay you to ask questions!”

And with that, so it is done.


The next day, Stanislow and Kristoop return to the Tavern Inn. But when they arrive, they see a new high-end restaurant called The Crystal Fork standing there instead.

“What happened to the Tavern Inn?” Kristoop asks.

Stanislow doesn’t answer. He storms inside the new restaurant to ask that question himself, but the entire staff greets him with confetti.

“Stanislow and Kristoop!” the head waiter cheers. “Please, take a seat. This twelve-course tasting menu is on the house, thanks to Stanislow, who has a beautiful singing voice, is also the university’s top student, and will be the best doctor in all the land!”

The staff ushers our buddies into the softest booth and hands them flutes of the finest wine.

“But what about the Tavern Inn?” Stanislow asks.

“Oh,” the head waiter says, “eminent domain. But don’t worry about them! Please, eat. Please.”

Two dozen plates land around Stanislow and Kristoop.

“I hate that I get showered with false praises, undeserved gifts, and niceties everywhere I go,” Stanislow bemoans as he shovels honey-and-plum-roasted hen into his mouth. “This is really good. It sucks.”

“What’s wrong with simply accepting it?” Kristoop says. “You have a great life. Stop questioning it and enjoy it.”

When Stanislow and Kristoop leave hours later, the sun hangs low in the sky.

“Let’s go to one more place,” Stanislow says.

They arrive under the bridge. “But we’ve already eaten,” Kristoop says, patting his belly. “I’m so full. And I don’t think that twenty-four-karat gold cake is agreeing with me.”

“We’re not here for meat sticks,” Stanislow says.

He marches right past the meat stand, toward the hunchbacked man.

But Kristoop pulls Stanislow to a stop.

“Stanislow,” Kristoop says, “I will not allow you to willingly engage with that depraved imbecile.”

“Why not?”

Kristoop sighs. “I can’t— no, we can’t… be seen with that monster,” he says. He nods at the hunchbacked man, who is now naked and covering himself with grease. “Papa will cut me off.”

“He doesn’t mean it,” Stanislow says. “It’s just an empty threat, like when Mommy tells me she’ll replace me with you if I misbehave.”

“I like my life,” Kristoop says. “I have all the toys I want. I play anytime I want. I’m gonna lead a huge business after we graduate. I don’t wanna mess that up.”

Stanslow gawks. “So I’m gonna have to talk to him myself?”

He points at the hunchbacked man, now pissing all over his bed of old papers.

“Let’s go home,” Kristoop says. “Please?”

But for the first time, Stanislow knows with a crystal clarity what he needs to do. He shoves Kristoop aside and charges straight towards the hunchbacked man, who’s now nibbling on his own rags.

“Back for more, heh?” The naked hunchbacked man cackles. “As long as you’re not out there killing more dogs thinking you’re the greatest doctor of all!”

Stanislow wraps his arms around the greased up, filthy naked man. “What’s your name, sir?”

The man is struck into a dumbfounded silence.

“You’re a weird one, kid,” the man manages to say. “Name’s John. You know, it’s been decades since anyone has ever asked me that.”

Stanislow and John proceed to have a long conversation… the realest conversation, in fact, Stanislow has ever had with anyone. They discuss school (of which both know very little), singing (of which both know even less), and medicine (of which both know almost nothing). Their conversation carries on for hours.

Finally, when the dark skies blink with stars, the conversation begins to wane.

“I should head back home,” Stanislow says.

“Thank you for the chat,” John says. He scratches the meaty part between his scrotum and his anus, then gives his fingers one deep sniff. “I’d love to continue tomorrow.”

Stanislow hops back into his carriage and rides it home, happily thinking over John’s remarks on the danger of his medical incompetence, the extent of his tone deafness, and how he just plain sucks as a human being.

The next day, Stanislow jumps out of bed, heads right into his carriage, and drives straight to the underside of bridge.

But John is not there.

“John? John?!”

Stanislow accosts the meat-stick vendor.

“Meat-stick man,” Stanislow says, “where’s John?”

“Who?” the vendor asks.

“The nice man living under the bridge,” Stanislow says.

“Um, I’m afraid he died last night.”


“He got sick and couldn’t afford healthcare,” the vendor says. “So, yeah. He’s gone.”

Stanislow howls and falls to his knees, throwing his hands to the sky.

“Please, Stanislow,” the vendor says. “You can have as many meat sticks as you want without charge. In fact, anything you want here can be yours. Please just don’t cause a scene, Stanislow, please! I have a wife and three daughters; I can’t afford to be disappeared!”

It’s raining heavily as Stanislow returns home. When he arrives, he marches straight to his mother’s den and throws the heavy wooden doors open.

‘Ja Bernbrock, nose in papers, looks up to see her distraught son.

“My baby boy,” she says, “what’s got you?”

“Mommy,” Stanislow says, “how come everyone lies to me about how great I am?”

“Stanislow, baby,” ‘ja Bernbrock says, “this mansion you live in. The school you’re attending. All the money you can use to buy whatever you want. The worries that never trouble you. Most people don’t have these things. You have it because you’re my son.”

“But I want to know if I’m actually a good doctor or not,” Stanislow says. “Or a good singer.”

“You’re the best doctor, baby. And the best singer.”

“You’re lying,” Stanislow says. “You’re like everyone else. Mommy, please: Tell me the truth.”

‘Ja Bernbrock sighs. She’s been afraid of this day for so long.

“This world can be cruel and unforgiving,” she says. “I started life with very little. I worked hard and did unspeakable things to get where I am now, and to give you what you have. It’s terrible out there. So I bend the truth to protect you from going through what I had to.”

“Mommy, I’m a big boy,” Stanislow says. “You don’t have to bend the truth for me. You can be honest.”

“If I say you are not the brightest student, or you won’t become the best doctor, then that means you might be just an average student or an average doctor. And I will not accept ‘average’ in this house.”

“Mommy, what are you saying?”

“If you are average,” ‘ja Bernbrock says, “then you are not my son.”

Stanislow discovers it is easy to run away from home when your mother’s love is conditional. That evening, he stuffs his knapsack with his essentials: the finest moisturizing eye creams, the softest and thickest toilet paper, and a stick he can use to poke things with. After giving a long farewell to his newest Kitty, who still doesn’t recognize him, Stanislow hits the road.

Stanislow rides his carriage for several days through several towns. Anytime he’s about to get off and someone recognizes him by shouting his name or the name of his mother’s conglomerate, he crawls back into his carriage and continues.

One day, Stanislow emerges from his carriage in a strange, small town, where everyone is dressed in brown sacks and nobody wears shoes. Some denizens notice Stanislow’s clean clothes and instead of shouting his name, invite him into one of their huts for warm soup.

Stanislow smiles. He’s home.

His new life goes smoothly. A small family living in a small hut takes him in. During the day, the matriarch shows him how to tend to their patch of stem tubers. At night he sweeps the floor. In between, he’s reminded how normal and ordinary he is.

One afternoon, while shooing vermin away from the stem tubers, Stanislow hears choking. He sees a man across the street, hands around his neck, face turning red. The man sees Stanislow and waves desperately at him.

Stanislow races across the street.

“What’s wrong? Please, tell me!” Stanislow pleads.

The man, frustrated, quickly pulls out a quill and scribbles on a torn parchment. Amidst more choking, he shows the word to Stanislow: “Choking.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t read!” Stanislow says. “Use your voice!”

A crowd is forming around them. The man grabs Stanislow’s shoulders and shakes him too hard. They both lose their footing, and the man falls atop Stanislow. Stanislow extends his arms out to break their fall, and the man’s gut lands squarely on Stanislow’s elbow with such force that—

“AH!!” A small bone launches out of the man’s mouth. The man, relieved, collapses on Stanislow. “Thank you so much, boy. I was sure I was about to die.”

The crowd around them shuffles with excitement.

“This boy saved that man’s life!”

“It’s a miracle!”

“He is a hero!”

It happens too quickly for Stanislow to figure out exactly what he’d done to win the praise of his new community. But after so much time being treated normally, Stanislow doesn’t think they are lying to him. In fact, the man who was struggling to speak can now speak. And Stanislow had something to do with it!

“Thank you, everyone. I’m happy that I could be of service,” Stanislow says to the crowd. He smiles, savoring this new feeling of earned accomplishment and reverence.

For the next week, Stanislow is the local hero of the village. Children come over and listen to his stories. Adults ask for demonstrations for alleviating choking, and Stanislow attempts to best recreate stumbling backwards and falling onto an elbow. The elderly smile and wave at Stanislow as they pass.

Stanislow feels the happiness that comes from knowing you are precisely where you should be. And he loves it.


One night at dinner, a huge boom echoes through the village. Windows shatter. Dust falls from the ceiling. Some detritus lands in Stanislow’s soup. He tastes it to see if the taste is okay. It isn’t. He looks up and sees that everyone has left the table.

Stanislow races outside to the square, where a crowd gathers.

“There’s been a horrific accident,” a short, bearded man cries. “We need help, especially anyone who has saved a life!”

Stanislow stands there with ceiling dust in his hair as all the villagers turn to him. He’s saved a life once, after all — he can do it again.

Stanislow steps forward. “I can help!”

The crowd parts before Stanislow as the bearded man approaches him.

“We’ll all be forever in your debt,” the man says.

“What happened?” Stanislow asks.

The man says, “Gas explosion at the orphanage.”

Stanislow feels something cold in his hand. Someone has given him a scalpel.

<em>The Tragedy of Aurelio ‘ja Lagavlin</em>: Act III, Scene 4
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