Chapter Ten – The Spy
I’m quickly realizing that this ‘novel’ has nowhere to go but down.
They see something shining like a jewel and it turns out to be a snake. I would mock this, but it turns out that the snake is covered in jewels. So….I’m going to mock it anyway. A snake covered in jewels? That’s pretty stupid. But the snake slithers right up to them.
Joey and Maya were frightened and in shock. The snake was very beautiful (page 47).
When you’re frightened and in shock because of something you think is going to kill you, you don’t notice that that thing is beautiful.
Hoppy pokes his head out, sees the snake, and then ducks back down into Joey’s pocket. This makes it obvious that he doesn’t like snakes. How Maya even notices this, given that he’s a tiny grasshopper and the large, possibly poisonous snake has her attention, is beyond me.
Maya was shocked and watched Joey…but Joey opened only his mouth in disbelieve (page 48).
That’s ‘only opened’. And that’s ‘disbelief’.
“What is this place? First we meet a grasshopper who talks and now we meet a snake who talks. What’s next?” Maya wondered. (page 48)
This might just be me, but if I was magically transported into a different world and I met a talking grasshopper, I would not be even remotely surprised if any of the other creatures could talk as well.
The snake introduces herself as Arabella. Arabella explains that she works for a great king, drawing out some of the letter ‘s’ in her speech. Not all of them, just some. Arabella says that the king will give them awesome treasures, like the jewels she wears.
Suddenly Joey shouted “Yes! I also want these gems, diamonds, and the money. Don’t you realize Maya, once we come back home I could buy everything I want, even the new skateboards and the video games that I wanted for such a long time.”
Joey continued, “Forget the lagoon Maya. Let’s change course and go direct to that great king and get from him all the riches, gems and the money. Let us follow the advice of the fortune teller and have a rich future.” (page 49)
Words fail me. I feel bad, I really do, because instead of sporking this all I really need to do is quote pretty much everything and let the putrid pestilence stand and fail on its own merits. How am I supposed to make fun of this? It’s like kicking someone after you’ve already beaten them unconscious and tied them to the train tracks.
And no, I have no idea why he calls the snake a fortune teller.
Arabella smirks. Snakes can’t smirk. But suddenly they hear the cry of an eagle. Everyone freaks out, because holy shit, eagles don’t exist in real life! Wait… Anyway, Arabella mentions that she hates the eagle, she doesn’t know why the eagle is around, but the fact that the eagle’s around means that something important is going on and she wants to find out what that is. I have no idea why she’s expositing like this.
Then the seven doves fly down and tell Maya and Joey to follow them. This makes Arabella very Suspicious.
There’s a poorly drawn picture of Maya. Her lips are too big, her nose is too long, and her forehead is disproportionate with her head.
Maya has a Feeling to lift her hand up, and a dove lands on it. I hate Feelings. Hate them. Essentially, it robs the characters from having to make their own intelligent and difficult decisions, because they have Feelings, and Feelings, of course, are Never Wrong.
The golden-tail-feather dove introduces herself as Libertine. She begins to exposit about how Maya needs to fulfill her destiny (gag) and Arabella is possessed and serves Apollyon, the King of Darkness. Maya asks what it means to be possessed, which is a concept that most people don’t struggle with. The dove explains that it means that a spirit lives inside you and controls what you do. The dove exposits for awhile longer and flies back to the tree. Then Arabella pipes up and tells them that they shouldn’t listen to the doves, and going to the lagoon will only lead to disaster, blah blah. Joey asks her how she knows this, and Tesch uses the single most….unique…dialogue tag that I have ever seen:
“Because I am a part of it, “Arabella sizzled. (page 53).
Sizzled? Really? How the fuck do you ‘sizzle’ dialogue, unless you’re anthropomorphic frying pan? Also, the quotation mark being attached to Arabella instead of ‘it’? Yeah, that’s how it actually appears in the book. Proofreading? What’s that?
Arabella continued, “Here is my ‘aphorism of trouble’, my statement of truth for you: ‘Over seven bridges must you go’! You have to successfully pass seven stations of temptations to reach the lagoon! Hear me! Hear me! ‘Heaven and Earth’, hear this aphorism saying by the great Arabella: ‘Over seven bridges must you go’!” (page 54)
Where to begin? The obvious first: this isn’t an aphorism. Even if it was, what exactly is the point of saying ‘aphorism saying’? That’s almost as stupid as the title “Manos: The Hands of Fate”. Also, Tesch seems to be trying to deliberately enrage me by throwing in little bits of Destiny and fortune-tellers. Sure, let’s just telegraph the entire story before it actually happens, why not?
Joey says something sarcastically which isn’t actually sarcastic, and it’s not even close, so that’s another drink. Maya says that they need to go to the lagoon, and Hoppy nods in agreement. How, precisely, would you see a grasshopper nod? This is not an oversized grasshopper. It’s tiny, and it’s poking out of Joey’s pocket. I think we need to add a drink for every time Hoppy does something completely unrealistic. Anyway, the sometimes-omniscient narrator tells us that Joey has already decided that he’s going to go visit King Apollyon. In other words, he’s going to pull an Edmund.
Then we get these idiotic quotes:
Maya knew what Joey was thinking because his past history showed clearly that Joey always tried to get what he wanted (page 54).
Reasonable, although we don’t have any examples of this actually happening, we’re just told that it has happened. But this is immediately followed by this:
Maya and Joey had made their final decision not to follow the advice of Arabella to get riches, success and money but instead to follow the doves (page 55).
Ignoring the fact that that sentence is one of the worst sentences in the English language, how have they made their final decision? You just told us how Joey has secretly decided to sneak off to the White Witch’s castle to get more Turkish Delight!
They walk for awhile. Joey notices his watch has stopped. Maya thinks it’s nothing. But Joey wonders if the fact that his watch has stopped means that his compass isn’t working either. GASP! And no, they don’t actually test the compass to see if this is true. After all, it’s not like they’re relying on it at all.
Maya is jealous because Joey has already made a friend, in Hoppy. Slave, rather. Anyway, the doves land in a glitter tree and then start falling to the ground. Turns out that this is not just a glitter tree, it’s a POISON GLITTER TREE. The horror!
Maya cleans the glitter off the doves – the poison doesn’t affect her, I guess – and the doves are very thankful. They’re fine, too. Apparently all you need to do is brush the poison glitter off and then you’re fine. But I’m starting to wonder if they should be following these doves. You’d think that reasonably intelligent creatures would be able to tell the poison glitter from the regular glitter.
One of the doves makes a cryptic comment about how the ‘spies of darkness’ will try to end their mission. Great. Now they have a Mission?
Shit. Now there’s a Prophecy as well?
So they get to a swamp. There’s a frog. It starts talking to them. With the help of a lot of unneeded quotation marks, the frog says that there is a Legend that says a brother and sister, called ‘The Encouragers’ (really? No, really?) would show up and help the ‘Land of Maradonia’ fight back against the ‘kingdom of darkness’. The clichés mount rapidly. He pointedly says that Apollyon is Evil and then starts to tweak out because the legend has come true and he has seen the coming of The Encouragers. And there’s another quote that is truly too amazing for me to have made up:
I can already smell the smoke of the burning fire when your last test, the ‘burnt offering’ is successfully completed and the people of Maradonia are inspired, stimulated, and reassured by the actions and by the success of ‘The Encouragers’ (page 62).
I can’t really improve this with snarky comments, so I’m just going to say that I giggled very immaturely at the thought of Maya and Joey stimulating the people of Maradonia.
The frog introduces himself as Oraculus, and then the semi-omniscient narrator tells us that Arabella has been following them and is listening in. Joey is very excited to be an encourager, but Maya starts to tweak out a little bit. And thus follows probably the most amazing speech I have ever seen. This speech could win Oscars. I want to deliver this as a monologue on Broadway. It’s that good. Observe:
“Listen Oraculus, my name is Maya and I am fifteen years old and this is my brother Joey. He is fourteen years old and his is a fashion freak if you understand what that means. [snip] I am only a teenager. I don’t have a boyfriend and when I went once to the movie theater and was holding hands with a very nice boy from the neighborhood and Joey told my parents about it, you should have seen my father. He got so angry that he forbid me to set my foot into any movie theater alone and made his final decision that our family will not install the ‘internet’ in our house, if you understand what I mean. We have only local television in our home and I am dreaming about my own cell phone. Everybody in my class has one, except me. I feel that I am cut off from the real world. I am alone! I have nobody! I am sitting here in this dirty swamp and listen to a grasshopper (page 64).
I have a feeling that Tesch is channeling a lot of angst into her author insert. Also, that ‘listen’ instead of ‘listening’? Yeah, that’s in the book.
Anyway, Maya continues for two more solid pages, has a serious breakdown (not kidding, Tesch describes it exactly like that), starts crying, and gets all shaky and out of breath. Finally she calms down and gets to the crux of the matter:
“And I do not want to talk or listen to you any more unless you answer this one question, ‘Why is it that the sun is not moving, like normal’? “ (page 65).
Yes. That is her grand question. Not about Apollyon. Or the doves. Or their Destiny. Or the Prophecy. Or the fact that they found an underground portal to an alternate universe. Nope, Maya is desperate to discover the science behind the unmoving sun.
Oraculus explains that it’s because the sun never goes down in Maradonia. He goes onto explain that you can spend a thousand years in Maradonia and when you get back to the US only one day will have passed. So Maradonia is Narnia, essentially. In Tesch’s words:
The ‘Land of Maradonia’ is a land between lands or let me explain it with these words ‘a space between spaces’ and you came bodily into this land (page 66).
No, I didn’t leave out any commas or periods. This is exactly what the book is like. No exaggeration whatsoever.
Finally Joey says that he wants to be an encourager and all that.
Oraculus explains that the eagle is called Sagitta and serves King Ruach, which sounds awkward, so I’m going to call him King Roach. Oraculus exposits that King Roach has four servants (Sagitta is one of them) and they can all fly and they can see everything in the entire land and also see every single thought that every single creature in the entire land has. I wonder, then, why Roach doesn’t rule the world. That ability is incredibly overpowered. The frog explains that Maya has faith and Joey has imagination and this potent combination means they are encouragers and have Powahs. He also says that there’s a king of Maradonia, apparently, named King Astrodoulos. I now have no idea how Apollyon and Roach fit into this picture. Apparently, Astro King dove into a pool of blood and now he’s indestructible. Joey wants to visit this pool and become indestructible. Then he sees Arabella and starts screaming. Yes, the transition happens just that abruptly. Not that I would call it a transition. Then Arabella takes off for ‘Mountain Peak Glacier’, which sounds like a national park instead of a fantasy location. But at least this time Tesch isn’t spelling it ‘peek’.
Oraculus enters a trance and says they need to go to the Poseidon Stone Plateau. He further exposits about other things that are going to happen to them but I’m not interested in spoiling the story. He spends two more pages providing nothing but exposition and there’s six or seven sentences that are so horribly written, so lacking even the basic competence that the shittiest of published writers have, sentences so atrocious that Robert Stanek would give a Beretta a blowjob before he wrote them. Essentially, after awhile they will bathe in the pool of blood, become Mary-Sues, and lead the world against Apollyon. And the knowledge that all the stars are going to align in their favor horrifies them:
This was just too much for the siblings and both of them started to cry bitterly after they heard the message of Oraculus.
Joey said “I don’t want to die! I want to go home. I don’t want this ‘Abaddon Dude’ to kill my sister and me. We want to go home” (page 78)
Yeah. Abaddon Dude.
Then suddenly a hush falls over the swamp. And…the chapter ends.
*That is not a typo.