Figure I'll start off the archival of my gems with something that's fine for all ages.
Dusk fell in Diamond City. A group of near-circus-misfits made their way towards the city's Old England-looking town square. They carried, flat along their heads, a cross - with a young, black-haired girl in an ornate red dress tied to it.
The girl stared blankly up at the darkening sky, fading from purple to red from east to west. More specifically, it was the moon hanging in the purple that held her gaze. It wasn't just any phase of the moon: it was the waning crescent. She remembered being told that she was born at dusk, underneath the waning crescent - and it was at the same hour, under the same moon, that she would die.
As a witch, some part of her worried this day would come; but she dismissed the fear as irrational. This wasn't Salem, Massachusetts. Nobody burned witches anymore. And even if they did, she assumed no one would be fool enough to get near her and try. She figured her ominous reputation would precede her.
She would never have guessed that it would be her "friends" at WarioWare, Inc., for whom she purposely toned down her foreboding atmosphere, who would be her executioners.
What's worse, she told them when she would be vulnerable. It seemed a harmless bit of information, that she slept during the day. Up until then, everyone had assumed that she never slept, apparently because she never blinked. At all.
She had never realized how useful that little misunderstanding was, until now. She had no idea how they'd gotten into her mansion without her hearing it, how they'd dressed her in her normal street clothes, or how they'd tied her to this crucifix so tightly it was cutting off her circulation - but they'd done it.
In quick succession, the crowd carrying her came to a stop and shoved the base of the cross firmly into a small plot of earth. They scattered wood chips and scraps of paper there; in her plain sight one of the latter said: "an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee."
She resisted the urge to look up and sneer at them. None of them was religious. None of them even cared about such trivia. This quote was merely randomly - and carelessly - pulled from the "Good Book", put there just to annoy her. Well, she was above that. She knew for absolute fact that nearly all of the bible was a heap of imagined trash.
Then she remembered where she was and what was due to happen to her, and the dismissal turned back into hopeless despair.
"Any last words, witchy?" an Italian voice asked. She didn't lift her head to see the fat treasure-hunter and his merry band of misfits. Instead she blankly stared at the paper mound under her, wondering to herself whose idea was it to do this.
Was it those two freaks, the crazy old doctor and his equally mercury-contaminated granddaughter? Perhaps not. Even being servants of science, they had no vendetta against her magic.
Perhaps the alien, who'd tried before to oust her for the evil little girl she is? No, that was merely to draw attention away from his own dark side.
More likely, it was the cat, Spitz. She had a terrible history with him, dating back to her search for a familiar. This could be payback.
Then she snapped to and realized it didn't matter whose decision it was. She was about to die, and there was no changing that fact.
"Whatever you say. Or don't, that is." The plumber's familiar Wa-ha-ha sounded as he struck a match.
She felt terribly alone, and betrayed. There was no one on her side; all the people she'd considered friends were about to execute her.
"Where's Red?" she asked suddenly, glancing up at the crowd in front of her. There was still her faithful familiar. Somehow just the thought of him still out there, whatever happened to her, sort of lightened her heart.
The whole group looked surprised. Wario dropped the match. "You... you're about to get roasted, and you're worried about your pet?"
"There's nothing wrong with that!"
At that, he chucked his piratey laugh. "Oh, don't worry, witchy. You'll see your little friend soon enough."
That shot a pang of dread through her heart. What had they done to Red? Had they killed him already? Or was there still hope for him? She blinked once as another match was struck, and marvelled at how deeply she cared for him, to be worried about him when her own life was at sta-- about to be taken from her.
The match landed at the edge of the pile. She squeaked in shock as the fire flared up immediately. This... this was her worst nightmare, and here it was, really happening.
She struggled helplessly against the ropes binding her, bending her legs as the flames began to lick at her shoes. She didn't realize it, but she was crying, tears falling freely down her face. "Why?" she begged. "Why this? Why me?"
"Because," a few voices muttered, "you deserve it."
She bit her tongue at that, hard enough to draw blood. It was true. She was pure evil, and she revelled in it. Even now, the thought of repenting didn't cross her mind as a possibility. Good was not her way, and that's something that won't change about her. She let her feet dangle, feeling the heat slipping up her legs. This was the end for her, and she accepted it.
"This is taking too long, eh? Hand me one of those oil buckets."
What? she'd nearly called out. She had no idea which was worse: being slow-cooked or deep-fried. It looked as if she'd have no say in the matter.
She screamed when she heard the bucket slosh and felt cold liquid splash onto her. Curiously, the heat seemed to rescind rather than eat her. She opened one eye, and then the other, and it turned out that the fluid in the bucket... had just been ordinary water.
"April Fools!" the group yelled at once, following it up with raucous laughter. "Oh girlie, the look on your face!"
She merely stared at the bucket. What had just happened was taking a while to sink in.
In a Diamond City News van a few miles off from the town square, two reporters sat, bored.
The basset hound yawned. "Slow news day, Rocky."
The dalmation nodded. "I couldn't agree more, Ken."
All of a sudden, a huge fireball exploded in the town square. The two dogs glanced at each other, and then reached for the newscasting equipment. Rocky took the camera and began to record.
"This is Ken reporting from the corner of Coal and Twinkle Avenue, where we have just seen a gigantic fireball detonate in the town square. We are going straight to the center of the action."
No sooner had they gotten a mile away when a crowd, literally ablaze, ran past them.
"My fur coat!" a young woman yelled, holding the flaming garment and searching for a means to put it out.
"My 'fro!" a man dressed for disco dashed off, frantically slapping his head in an effort to stop the fire.
"My dignity!" a young Chinese man skittered away, trying to cover himself where his clothes were burning off.
"Our ratings," Ken chuckled off to the side. He turned and addressed the camera. "How unusual!" he stated the obvious. "What is the root of this peculiar phenomenon? Excuse me, Mr. Wario, sir?" he asked the plumber as he ran up. "Can you tell us what caused this fire?"
Despite his flaming behind, Wario seemed all too happy to oblige the reporters. "It's just Ashley," he replied calmly. "Witchy can't take a joke." He then took off running again, screeching "My ass! My beautiful ass!"
"And there you have it, folks. Such power unleashed over a mere prank."
"It must have been one heckuva prank, Ken," Rocky added his two cents.
A little boy ambled past, seemingly oblivious to the fact the helmet he wore was on fire. "Look here, folks," Ken pointed him out. "In all the chaos, there is still someone who is able to remain calm. Child, how are you able to stay stable in the midst of this panic?"
9-Volt raised an eyebrow at the reporter, and just shrugged. "Wario Land II physics," he explained. "We'll be okay."
"Well, isn't that special."
The trio suddenly snapped to an awful sense of doom that began to fill the air. "But we won't be," 9-Volt went on, "if we don't get outta here!"
As he ran off, the two reporters stayed where they were, pondering whether to stay and continue with their story. But the foreboding in the air suddenly turned to iron, and they wisely hightailed it away from the area.
Ashley sulked in the center of the town square, stewing in conflicting emotions. At one end, there was pure relief at the fact that they had never intended to burn her alive. But there was also pure fury at their ill-minded deception.
They probably didn't know how great her fear was of being burned at the stake, but that more than likely had no bearing in it. Cruelty and complete disregard for others' feelings were the cornerstone of the twisted acts people pulled with April first as their excuse for doing them. Acts that on all the other days of the year may be considered near-criminal.
It was different from what she practiced. Vastly different. The evils people performed on this day were supposed to be considered in good humor. After suffering, and in some cases nearly being killed, the victim was supposed to join his tormentors in a good chuckle, or else he was an "uppity square".
But that was something she couldn't stoop to, after what they had just done. She didn't care how old or time-honored the tradition of conscience-less practical joking on this day was. She was not one to be toyed with.
They would pay dearly. They would wish they'd burned her while they still had the chance. And if they lived, they would retain their moral compass on April first instead of casting it away, lest they yet again suffer the way their victim had.
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