Marshmallows, Tea, and Apple Trees

Quick Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or the world they inhabit. They were created by the fabulous people at Zombie Orpheus for their equally fabulous RPG, Masters of the Metaverse! Special credit to Chris Ode and Christian Doyle for coming up with this incarnation of Richard Gatling in the first place. Be sure to tune in to Twitch.TV/zombieorpheus every Monday at 6PM PST to see more!


It had been a long day and he was sore from all the riding, and the rather sticky marshmallow landing. How had that happened any way? On moment he was trying to round up some escaping zombies and the next he was hurtling out of the sky covered in marshmallow and what appeared to be a nut butter of some variety while his boots smoldered. He wasn’t sure what was more disconcerting, the lost time or the confectionary goo wedged in his ear canal.

All he wanted to do was stretch out by the fire, listen to the zombies quietly moan themselves to sleep, and spend a little time working on the design for his latest invention. As Professor Gatling approached the warm glow, he saw that he was not alone. Sitting with her back against her bustle, which she had removed and was using as an ersatz cushion, was Miss Emily Dickinson. She was completely absorbed in her writing and did not even look up as he approached and sat down across from her. In fact, it was some time before she finally acknowledged him.

“Professor Gatling.” she said without a hint of surprise, “I appreciate your silence. It is difficult to write in the best of circumstances and practically impossible in the midst of unnecessary conversation. Speaking of which, where is Johnny Appleseed?”

He smiled slightly and gestured over his left shoulder. “Last I saw of him, he was heading down to the river to wash his feet and talk things over with some of the local wildlife. It has been a trying day for everyone so I suppose he needs some time to relax, just like the rest of us.”

She nodded and made as if to return to her writing. She stopped suddenly and looking up with an expression of slightly pained effort said, “You seem to be working on something as well. Is it something you wish to discuss?”

His smile widened at this and he sat forward while Emily appeared to wince slightly. He could tell that the effort to be social was a strain on her but was so touched that she should make said effort that he endeavored to make the encounter as worthwhile as possible.

“Why yes I am Miss Dickinson! I thank you for noticing and asking. You see, I have decided that while I am, as yet, unable to prevent my mobile solar powered Gatling Shower from producing anything but boiling water I might as well make the best of the situation. Therefore, I am attempting to create an attachment for said shower that will allow the device to dispense piping hot tea or coffee, whichever beverage you might prefer.”

Glancing up he saw that while her expression had not changed, she also had not left and so took that to be positive sign of her continued interest in the discussion. Taking a few steps forward, he produced his latest diagram and showed it to her before taking a seat beside her. Pointing to each section as he described it, Professor Gatling introduced Emily Dickinson to the future of hot beverage dispensary.

“As you can see, this chamber will rotate at the end of the pipes and allow each section to fill with boiling water. Prior to that the operator of the device will insert small cartridges of tea leaves or coffee grounds into each section of the chamber. Once the tea or coffee has brewed sufficiently for the drinker’s taste or preference the beverage can be dispensed with a simple pull of this release trigger here. No more pots of coffee left to brew for ages, no more kettles of tea gone to waste for want of people to partake in them. With this device,” and here he thrust a finger at the sketch of the finished product, “a single drinker can make the exact quantity of beverage that they might desire at any given time.”

“I look forward to seeing the final design then.” She stood and gathered her things, “And now I must say good night.”

“I hope I have not done anything to offend you Miss Dickinson?” Professor Gatling said, rising from his seat as she did.

“Not at all Professor, I simply wish to continue working on my poetry. While you have shown yourself capable of quiet, other members of this group have not and I can hear him coming now.”

He nodded and smiled, “I see. I do admire your ability to write Miss Dickinson and would not keep you from it.”

Emily inclined her head and gave a brief, small smile. “Well, yes. I do not often share my poetry as you know, but I will admit it is pleasing to have someone who understands the drive to create things outside of ourselves.”

“In that respect, Miss Dickinson, I believe we might just be quite similar.”

She nodded and walked off into the darkness, her feet making no noise as she disappeared. Professor Gatling shook his head in amazement. He had to admit, as talented a poet as she might be she scared the living hell out of him.

“Hey there Professor!”

“Jonathan. You appear to not be wearing any pants. Is there a reason why?”

Johnny Appleseed plopped merrily down beside him and grinned.

“Sure. They were wet from the river and I needed to dry them off. I got them right here!” And here he reached up and pulled a bundle of fabric from under his bowl and waved it at the Professor. He then shook out the pants and laid them out beside him on the ground. Tucking his knees into his chest, Johnny pulled his shirt over his legs and, looking quite pleased with his handiwork, turned back to Professor Gatling.

“So, what’s that you’re working on? Something for me?”

“Not precisely, but perhaps one day you might be able to use it as well.” Professor Gatling set his sketches aside and looked out toward where the zombie herd was sleeping.

“How come you’re always inventing Professor? I would have thought your first contraption would have set you up for life!”

“Well, Jonathan sometimes the first thing you make doesn’t do what you hoped it would. You’re too young to remember the war between the states.”

“You might think so.” a quiet voice muttered behind him.

He turned, “What was that?”


“What did you say?”


“I thought I heard -“ Professor Gatling squinted at Johnny who was doing his best cherub impression, “Never mind. As I was saying, my first invention didn’t quite have the impact I had hoped it would. However, I am confident that my future ‘contraptions’ as you call them, will be far more successful. So I must continue creating!”

“Fair enough! Well, I tell you, I am looking forward to getting back to Yosemite. It will be nice to get back to some trees and I want to check on the apple trees I planted last time.” Johnny drummed on his knees with both hands and whistled tunelessly.

“Yes, I too am looking forward to seeing the natural wonder of the Kingdom of Yosemite. As well, I am curious to get to know King Theodore better. He seems like quite an interesting individual.”

“You think so? Seems like a bit of an idiot to me.”

Professor Gatling suppressed a laugh and turned back to his young companion. “Well, I grant you the man has an unusual manner. But I do find him intriguing. In my lifetime I have had the pleasure of meeting many intellectuals and great thinkers. This King Theodore is the complete opposite of them.”

“Like I said.” Johnny stretched out and flopped back onto the ground, “An idiot.”

“Jonathan, surely your pants are dry at this point.”

“Oh? Oh. Oh right!”

Professor Gatling got to his feet and stretched while Johnny flailed about on the ground next to him. At last he stood up and finished buttoning his pants with one hand while adjusting the bowl on his head with the other.

“Jonathan, tell me. Do you ever get tired of planting apples? Do you ever wish to do something different? To be something more than just someone who plants apple trees?”

Johnny blinked and looked at him in a confused manner. “I don’t understand the question.”

“Do you ever tire of planting fruit trees? Do you ever long to plant something different? A bush? A fern? Perhaps some good old creeping English Ivy?”

“You don’t like apples?”

“I didn’t say that I-”

“Why don’t you like apples? Apples are tasty and sweet. Apples are nutritious. Apples are versatile. Apples smell nice. Apples make apple pie. What’s wrong with apples?”

“Nothing! Nothing is wrong with apples. I simply wondered if you ever wished to plant something other than apple trees, if you ever wanted to do something more than what you are known for.”

“No. I’m Johnny Appleseed. Apple. Seed. Apple. I plant apple seeds.” Johnny folded his arms and looked thoughtful for a moment. “I did plant some peach trees once. In Yosemite as a matter of fact! But it wasn’t the same. Naw, I like apples and I like apple trees.”

“Fair enough. It is a fine thing you do Jonathan and I am glad to know that you are happy doing it.”

The two stood in companionable silence for a time, looking up at the stars in the clear night sky. At last the Professor took a small watch surrounded by a rotating barrel from his pocket. Winding the barrel counterclockwise several times he set his wake up call for sunrise before replacing the watch back into his coat.

“Well, Jonathan, shall we take our rest? We still have several hours of riding ahead of us in the morning.”

“Sounds good to me!” Johnny grinned up at him and the two walked off toward the campsite, Johnny singing as they went.

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