There once was a reader
Who got to part two
Without having read
Part one fully through
Don’t read like that reader
Or you’ll wind up perplexed
And have no understanding
Of what happens next...
Mindy lived in an old white colonial on the outskirts of town, at the base of a hill near the old cemetery. The paint was chipped and stretched in broken ribbons like birch bark, and the shingles slanted on each other haphazardly. While incredibly unpopular with the neighbors, they were some of the simple images that Mindy had come to associate with home. Inside, the floors were uneven, and sloped from one room to the next in a kind of hardwood topography. The windows were mostly originals, meaning the views outside were warped into colorful murky outlines by the uneven glass. Sometimes old things like doorknobs or wall tiles or even ceiling lights would just fall off without warning.
Mindy made her way to the living room and collapsed on the couch, which groaned as she situated herself. She turned on the TV and closed her eyes.
A loud, nasally, gravelly voice came from the adjacent room.
“Miiiindy!” it screeched.
Mindy screamed, and clung to the ailing couch in terror as slow, deliberate footsteps approached the room. Mindy screamed even louder as the voice’s owner revealed itself.
Standing in front of her, glaring at her nefariously, was a harpy. Not a prepubescent gossip monger, to whom the term was applied earlier, but rather a very real, mythological Greco-Roman winged monster. Her teeth and talons looked razor-sharp, and her beady eyes were blood red. It cackled wildly as Mindy screamed and screamed and screamed like any reasonable person would in her unfortunate situation.
“Behold! I have kidnapped your mother,” it growled, “for I am the great antagonist of your doomed story!”
The foul beast seemed delighted with its vile self introduction, but its smugness was short lived as Mindy’s fear seemed to evaporate.
“What?” asked the beast, “What’s up? Why don’t you seem so terrified now?”
Mindy shrugged, “You just identified yourself as the antagonist...”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“You just kinda killed it, that’s all. You seem a lot less threatening now that you’ve flat-out identified yourself as the antagonist.”
The harpy glared at Mindy in loathsome fury, before bursting into tears.
“This...is...my...first...time...antagonizing anyone!” she sobbed. “I...was...trying...so...hard!”
Mindy scrambled. “Well, you were doing a great job for a while!” she said with a smile.
“Yeah! I was scared out of my mind!”
The harpy smiled through her tears, “Thanks” she whispered.
The harpy cleared her throat and put on the meanest face she could conjure, “Now, like I said, I’ve kidnapped your mother and I’m gonna do something so friggin’ atrocious I don’t even know what it is yet! JUST YOU WAIT AND SEE!”
And with that, the harpy crashed through a window and flew away, cackling.
“Oh come on! Didn’t I just tell you to leave me alone?!” exclaimed the old man, as Mindy ran through the farmer’s market.
“I believe you!” she yelled “I believe this whole story thing!”
The old man sighed, “What happened?”
“A harpy...like a winged, demonic creature, just crashed into my house and kidnapped my mom!”
“Well that’s not particularly surprising.”
“Do you mean you knew this was going to happen?!” shouted Mindy.
The old man shook his head, “But I was sure that something would happen. After all, it would be a pretty awful story if there was no conflict whatsoever. Something had to happen.”
Mindy’s frustrations only grew with the old man’s indifference. “So what do I do now?” she asked.
“Well, let’s look at the situation. The harpy, a symbol of slow, pitiless torture, has captured your mother, a shining symbol of maturity.”
“That seems ridiculously oversimplified.”
“It is, but this is how these things work. So, is there someone who harasses or otherwise-”
“The catty girls at school,” said Mindy, “pretty much live to harass me.”
“Ah, now this is starting to come together. So it seems to me that you must overcome those who harass and tease and torment you, and in doing so you shall find maturity and adulthood as a reward.”
“What? Isn’t this just about me killing the thing or something?”
“Of course not!” yelled the old man, “These external events are also- conveniently- a reflection of the internal conflict going on in your mind and your heart! This is how stories work! And I’m your old man guide so I know what I’m saying!”
“...being a protagonist kinda sucks.” muttered Mindy.
The old man smiled, “You’re not just a protagonist now, you’re a hero! You can do this, I know you can. Now please, stay away from me.”