Houjun Liu

Norman: An Epic Tale in N Parts


Hi there, internet traveler.

The time is 2015/2016, I was either in 5th or 6th grade. At that time, I was barely beginning to be actually comfortable using the language of English.

One of the ways I practiced English, which is also a habit I continue to do today, is to write. I write mostly expository prose now, but, back then, shining with childish naïvete, I decided to write a multi-part story as a means of practicing English.

At the time, I was fortunately supported by four very helpful adults—ESL instructors, teachers from the local government’s ESL program, local students, family friends—who have supported me and edited this silly story as a means of helping me better my command of English.

Ironically, this story is set in 2018, I think, two years after when I wrote it. Its now 2022, almost 7 years after. Make of that what you will.


Norman, an epic tale told in N parts

Written by yours truly, Houjun Liu, circa 2016.

Edited by: Lynne Zummo, Dorit Hahn, Susan Cole, and Jennifer Fan.

Typesetted: May 10th, 2022. Menlo Park, California.

Prologue: James Peter

On a sunny day, in a small house at 1623 Wesson Ave, James lay on a dirty, tiny bed. Suddenly a dog was in James’ sight. James stood up, stared at the dog. It was a small, brown, white, fuzzy dog with a tiny stump. The dog walked around James’ bed, looking silly.

“Let’s call you Norman! It is a good name for you!”

“There is no dog allowed in my house, get’em out! RIGHT now, or I will get YOU out!” shouted Mr. Miller.

“Dude,” a voice came from James’ mind. Mr. Miller, the owner of the Wacky Hair Salon, who is James’ uncle, barged into James’ room, continuously shouting.

“Get’em out, RIGHT NOW! NOW! YOU HEAR ME?”

James, staring at Norman, just didn’t care.

Norman seemed to not understand all this. He followed Mr. Miller to the window, and … just as suddenly as he had come in, he was thrown out by Mr. Miller.

While Norman was wandering around, James started crying.

Months passed…

Part 1

On a cold winter afternoon, Mr. Miller is sending James to an orphanage as punishment for doing “bad” things. James just doesn’t understand this. He SIMPLY wants Norman to come back!

When they arrive, James finally realizes why he didn’t have parents. The truth is dreadful: his dad went crazy from programming in binary code.

“I will go crazy, too,” James thinks. “It is not an easy job, no sir.” His mom’s situation was even worse, for she was killed by the African disease Ebola.

He trudges into the front building with Dr. Brains, and sees children that had been starved, gone mad, and even had been wandering around hopelessly! Many questions flew into James’ mind: Will I go crazy, too? Will I be starving, too? Will I also be wandering around like a zombie?! Feeling scared, he starts to wander, feel hungry, and starve like the other kids ……

“Wait ! NO, I can’t do that,” thought James.

Dr. Brains takes James to walk around the orphanage, he realizes it is actually a better place to be rather than 1623 Wesson Ave. He sees cats, he sees ducks, he sees horses, he sees a playground, and he sees…


Part 2

Dr. Brains, who looks bewildered, is staring at him.

“How can you know him? You just arrived here!”.

“Long story…,” explains James. “I once met the dog, and he was thrown out by Mr. Miller from where I used to live.”

“So, this is PART of our orphanage. As you see, it is big. We now should thank the donor, who passed away, Dr. James Rover Peter…” There is a little pause, then Dr. Brains continues.

“Who is YOUR dad!”

They continue walking until they get to a building labeled ‘EDU_K-4’.

“This is the K-4 grade educational multifunctional building,” explains Dr. Brains, “where you will be staying for half a year. Then you will move to this building for study.”

Dr. Brains is now pointing at a building labeled ‘EX-EDU_5-12’.

They continue to walk until they get to another building labeled ‘OPH_LV #20312’. It is a small, lovely building, much like an apartment. “This is where you will live, in room # 20312_004,” says Dr. Brains while he hands James a key. Then he gives him a packet, which reads: Vanilla orphanage grand rules and schedule.

“This is all you need, good day! I will leave you here.”

James watches Dr. Brains until he is out of sight.

He walks straight into the room. It looks clean, neat, like a 3-star hotel. There is a twin size bed, a desk, and a restroom. He sits down and starts to read the packet:

Chapter 1: Grand rules

Welcome to Vanilla Orphanage! This is a place where you can enjoy yourself, explore yourself, and get prepared for the world!

But, there MUST be some rules in our orphanage to keep you and your classmates safe.

First of all, you MUST not run in the front building.

Second, no talking is allowed while a grand meeting is taking place (see chapter 2 for more info).

Third, follow your schedule all the time.

Fourth, if you have an emergency, use the emergency call phone (You don’t need to dial it, it will automatically connect to Vanilla Orphanage Hospital). But if you can walk and speak normally, go to Vanilla Orphanage Hospital for more help.

Fifth, the use of a regular telephone is only allowed three times a day. If your teacher calls you, it won’t count. You can only use a regular telephone for calling inside-the-orphanage friends, no outside call is allowed. To see the interior telephone numbers, see chapter 3.

Chapter 2: Grand schedule + your personal schedule

Grand schedule

Your personal schedule

Meet me every OTHER Sunday at 15:00 at grand office starting 1/2/2019.

Grand meeting will take place every first day of the month at the big hall in the front building. Everyone will attend the grand meeting; it lasts the whole day.

Dinner, Lunch, and Breakfast will be served at Front Building.

Dr. Flynn (k-4 Sciences) 4242-5000-2525 Dr. Jones (5-12 Sciences) 2134-1000-1045 Dr. Foster (k-4 Math) 2456-6206-6200 Ms. Garcia (5-12 Math) 1341-4000-4012 Mrs. Newman (k-4 Talk-it-out assistant) 2563-6374-7407 Mrs. Willems (5-12 Talk-it-out assistant) 8908-6997-9000 Dr. Brains (Headmaster) 2563-0035-3526

Part 3

A brief day, he does whatever he is told, follows the schedule, does the work. But, something that amazes James is that the food is actually YUMMY.

He does enjoy eating at vanilla orphanage. Normally, it is like a buffet, but a limited one. You only can have one serving of meat, 2 vegetables, a delicious main dish (e.g. cooked rice, cooked noodles …).

By the table, James sees students laugh at each other, talk with each other, and, from far away, he sees a little brown-white puppy is running to a girl with curly hair, and stops.


It is funny that the girl asks exactly the same thing as Dr. Brains asked:” How can you know him?” He explains the whole story why he knows Norman and asks his very own and very first question to the very first student he meets at the vanilla orphanage: “How did he get here?”.

“Long story,” says the girl, “he first arrived here because of our save the dogs project, Calvin and I found him.”

“And who are you? I’m James”.

“Sorry, I forgot about that, my name is Amelia!”.

A tall, black haired student comes and joins them. “Hi there, what’s up? I heard someone mention my name.”

“Oh, we were just talking about the dog. Our new friend, James, gave him a name: Norman,” responds Amelia.

“Guess what?” asked Calvin, “I taught him Chinese!”.

“Oh interesting, show us!” says Amelia.

“狗儿,请来一下; I told him to come.” Suddenly, Norman comes and starts running around Calvin. “你的名字叫做 Norman; I told him that his name is Norman,” says Calvin. The dog starts moving around in a funny way, which James feels weird about. “Oh, don’t worry about that, that’s the Funny-Brown-Hula-Stump-Wiggle-Wag-Dance that I taught him,” Says Amelia.

Part 4

Dong, dong, dong, dong…… The school bell rings, everyone gets up to do everything they need. It’s Sunday. According to Dr. Brains, James needs to meet Dr. Brains at the grand office.

When he arrives, Dr. Brains says nothing but a greeting, and he hands James a slip of paper that says:

The organization of Brainiacs: 52345 Brainful way, North town, CA 94780

“What is the org…”. “Stop! I will explain everything right after!” explains Dr. Brains. “Just remember what this parchment says!”

He hands him a telephone, and says, “Dial 52325, when you hear a beep, dial 900. Answer every question it’s asking you.”

He does what he is told, then a girl’s voice says: “Welcome to the new member registration center of TOFB, or the Organization of Brainiacs. Please answer the question: What is your address? “James states the orphanage’s address. “What is your reason to join?” Dr. Brains says quietly,” Invited.”

Who invited you?” James answers:”Dr. Brains.” “ Welcome, again, new member. Please take the blood needle that appears in front of you and use it to poke your left ring finger.” James does this, and the voice says, ”Thanks for joining! Please hang up the phone!”

“Understand this?” Dr. Brains says, ”Let’s go!”. “But, go where?” asks James. ”T-O-F-B,” replies Dr. Brains. They walk straight into a box, where James spots a device. Dr. Brains pushes a button on the device, and suddenly, James feels dizzy. They are spinning. They spin faster and faster. Finally, he hears a pop, then, suddenly, he falls into another device which is like a poison chamber. He and Dr. Brains open the door, and he sees a small, transparent house that reads T-O-F-B.

Part 5

They walk straight into the house, and see a small elevator that is made out of glass. While they walk into the elevator, James feels something is seriously wrong. First, this is a one-story building, and unlike the 5th avenue apple retail store, it has no underground floor. Second, the elevator has NO button, how can Dr. Brains go anywhere with this elevator?

Dr. Brains seems solemn, he carefully looks at the emergency speaker, then, suddenly, James hears a loud CRACK. Then the elevator starts getting darker and darker. After 5 seconds, it is not transparent anymore.

The elevator starts to go down deeper and deeper. Then a screen pops up.”Hello, WELCOME to the Organization of Brainiacs. Please scan your card…” says a voice. He doesn’t have a card!! He looks around to find Dr. Brains, but, he is gone!

“Where else can he be?”James thinks,”there is no way out!”. Suddenly, smoke fills the elevator, James first doesn’t realize what it is, but suddenly, he knows it.”Oh oh!” thinks James, ”IT IS GAS!!!!!”

Chapter 2: T-O-F-B

Way underground, Dr. Brains hesitates. “OOOOOOOOOOPS! I forgot James in the elevator..” , he thinks, ”and the killer gas X03-00 would be deadly.”

He rushes to the “hacker center”, and shouts, ”You guys! STOP the elevator! And STOP the gas! Open the doors! Clear out the gas! He is NOT a criminal!”

Everybody freezes, and some whisper, ”Oops, x03-00 gas can knock a human out in 10 seconds”.

Part 6

Back in the elevator, James barely has time to call the emergency. “Does Dr. Brains mean to kill me?” he thinks, ”or is this a test for me?” He has more things to worry about than that. However, the good news is that Dr.Brains and his team hurry to the elevator just in time, which is when he gets knocked off. They give him the medicine that will neutralize the effect of the gas, and then they hurry to prepare the WELCOME event of the new T-O-F-B members in this season.

Soon after, James wakes up, safe and sound. Dr. Brains is right by him.

“Sorry for the accident, but here, welcome to T-O-F-B”, Dr. Brains says with a little smile.

There is a little awkward moment when he and Dr. Brains both try to say something, but no sounds come out. It doesn’t last long, just a few seconds. Then Dr. Brains continues, ”The Organization of Brainiacs is a little like what you see in the movie M-I-B. We basically are the only legal group in human and alien law that can meet, communicate with, and study the aliens from outer universe. You know one of our aliens: Norman. He actually can speak Hidoeneese AND English.”

“But what is Hidoeneese?” James asks.

“Hidoeneese is the language of the Hidonipothan.” Dr.Brains says.

“And what is Hidonipothan?” he asks, again.

“Long story short, it’s kind of an alien tribe. Later at breakfast, Norman will explain. By the way, he likes his name Norman.” Dr. Brains responds.

“What? Breakfast? It’s already morning?” James asks.

“Well yes, you have been knocked out by gas for almost 12 hours, and now it is 6:00 in the morning,” Dr. Brains says, ”you still can get about 3 hours rest. Everyone in T-O-F-B sleeps late and wakes up late. And one last thing, I will give you the NEW MEMBER #04 packet so you can learn more about T-O-F-B.”

He hands him a packet, just like the packet in the orphanage. But it is hand written.

Welcome, new member, we are proud that you are here. As the founder of T-O-F-B, I will introduce you to the few basics of daily life.

First, you all have an outside “job”, which you will still perform. Since you are a child, AS I KNOW, we will just keep you up-to-date and call you via the headphones that we will give you. We won’t interrupt your class, unless it is an emergency, I promise. You will be meeting once a month so it won’t affect any of your grades.

Second, in T-O-F-B, we treat any child like an adult. It means a large work load, but you can also access any part of our centre freely with your BNPS. But in some areas, we want you to have adult supervision.

Your supervisor is:

Grave Hono ( Dr. Brains, as a substitute name in the human world)

We will give you a map and what you should do later.

Dr. Ranboro


Part 7

He falls asleep……… He dreams about aliens attacking the centre, and only Dr. Brains, Dr. Ranboro, Norman, Amelia, Calvin and a guy who he didn’t know survived. He thinks it’s just a dream, but what he doesn’t know is, this day is coming closer and closer.

“Wakey, Wakey!” Dr. Brains shouts, laughing” JJJJJJJJAAAAAAMMMMMMMEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!”. James finally wakes up, and mumbles, ”What the heck in the world was this?”

Dr. Brains seems to be confused. “You didn’t recognize my voice? Wake up, Buddy! Get dressed! The welcoming party is waiting!!”.

He gets dressed, hurries to follow Dr. Brains, and they go outside to a “secretive” room that is labeled “G—CHECK, BNPS ROOM”. They go in, and he sees a bunch of devices that are new to him. He sits down, just as Dr. Brains ordered, and Dr. Brains brings a needle to his face, straight into his eyes. “Watch out!” James shouts. He doesn’t even have time to think, as the needle goes in and out of his eyes. Dr. Brains says, “Good, we already got the DNA, scanned the iris, scanned the brain map. Ok, 2 last things, then we are good to go!” He does a bunch of scans on James’ finger, and he enters a password into a machine. “Ok, one last thing. Print your BNPS and tattoo it to your shoulder!” Dr. Brains says. The machine reads “bring human to the tattoo station …… step 3/5”. Dr. Brains orders him to put his shoulder into a cylinder. He feels a little pressure and his shoulder pops out of the machine. He sees a little piece of metal on his shoulder and it reads ”TOFB.1029358612.JP/////////” The machine also prints out a metal card. “Don’t lose it!” Dr. Brains says, “it is your ID here!”

They walk out of the room and into the elevator. It is an elevator like the one in the TOFB’s entrance. The one that changes color and transparency, only much more slowly. When it tells him to scan the card, he knows better than to not do so. The elevator seems smart, and it asks “Homo, and James! Morning! Which level area do you want to go to?”. Dr. Brains responds, “Dining room number three, formal, both of us”. The elevator responds with a “TOFB wishes you a pleasant day!” When the door opens again, they enter a large area, like the first level of a 5 star hotel. Everything is white: people’s clothes, the ground, the staircase, the light, etc,. He sees Dr.Brains’ clothes change to white! He says, “Dr.Brains! Your outfit changed color!” “Yours did, too!” Dr. Brains responds. James looks down at his clothes. His had actually, as Dr. Brains said, changed color and texture.

They eat their breakfast—salmon, soup and broccoli, and Dr. Brains announces to him, “OK, now let’s do some work stuff”. They head back to the living area, and they wash themselves. Then they head to the meeting area. Norman, Dr. Ranboro and the other guy James sees in his dream are waving to James-and-Dr.Brains-in-the-black-suit-and-a-tie.

Part 8

“So”, Dr. Ranboro says, “Welcome! Thank you for joining the organiza………?!!!>?*&%*&^%&^%%∆˙ßå˚µß∂˙”. FFF! A small arrow flies though the walls and hits Dr. Ranboro, making his words into nonsense. “å∆∆߬—å˚å!!!!!!¡¡¡¡¡¡?¿!¡……Jams…….main sq……is com…..tel..hom……nnnoor…….¡¡¡!!!???¿¿¿å∂ß˚˚˚˚∆ƒå˙”, he says. James can barely understand, but he knows one thing, they will tell him about the main sq…whatsoever.

“Let’s jump into the topic,” Norman says. “The main sq… is actually an attack called The Main Square Rattle, or what we call TMSR. It’s started because another kind of alien, The Froakan, wants to use humans as slaves, own the TOFB AND the Hidonipothan.The only way to stop that is to get the battle-rattler and rattle it. But if The F’s got the rattler and rattle it, well, we will all freeze and do what they want, like a bunch of zombies. The state of being a zombie is called ratling. Sadly, there isn’t a known cure yet for ratle. But Dr. Brains is working on it! Lastly, the battle-rattler is locked in the Ratle Mountains. And the only way to enter the Ratle Mountain is by using Dr. Ranboro’s key. Otherwise, you will have very little chance to get out alive! And that’s why they shot Dr. Ranboro. As a matter of fact, the arrow is poisonous. If we don’t send him to hospital now, he will become a baby in 72 hours.”

Talking about Dr. Ranboro, James notices Dr. Ranboro’s hair getting darker and darker from the old-man-white. They send him to the hospital about 5 minutes later.

Chapter 3:That’s called war

After another ride on the “TOTP—0111”, which is the “squeeze box” to get to the North Town, they are back at Dr. Brains’ office. But something weird has happened, only students in OPH_LV # 40000 - OPH_LV # 49999 are still in the orphanage. Dr. Brains tries to find out why, but he can’t. And that’s when all of the humans in the orphanage hear a gigantic laugh coming from nowhere.”HHHAAAHHHAAAAHAHHAAA! This is your day, Homo, your death ceremony!HHAAHAHA!”

Months passed again……..

Part 9

The daily live is almost the same as before, just that a part of the students in the orphanage is missing. But live is still very simple. Tasty food, friendly teachers, and visits to TOFB every other week.

One day, James is in his math class.

“So when 2 is raised to the……”

“Beep! Beep!”

His secret headphones from TOFB send a message request to him.

“Beep! Beep!”

“Didn’t that Ranboro guy say they won’t interrupt our classes?” James thought.

“And let’s do some prob….”

“Beep! Beep!”

James requests a bathroom break and answers the headphones in the boys’ restroom.

“It’s an emergency!!! The Froakans are getting closer to the rattler!!! Help!!!! James, take Homo and get here now!” Norman cries.

As fast as he can, he rushes to Dr. Brains’ office, grabs Dr. Brains and locks him and himself into the TOTB-0111.

And as fast as lightning, they are here, in the North town.

They rush into the elevator, he swipes his and Dr. Brains’ card and rushes to Dr. Ranboro’s office.

“Quick! They will rattle it in like…like 20 minutes and we will all ratle!!!”, Norman hollers.

And again, as fast as lightning, they get war-dressed and get into the fastest transport system in TOFB.

As James looks down, he is wearing a strong iron chest plate that reads ’T-O-F-B///////The Smarter one’. And on his shoulder, there is a cord which extends from his Digital ID to the chest plate. There is a screen in his chest plate that is unbreakable. There is a soft protection layer, then there is a swimming layer, then the pressure layer, an iron pad, an air supply on his side if the enemy spreads poisonous gas, and an armor on the outside.

Amazingly, these things only weigh 1 pound and fit perfectly.

He is war-trained, so he knows exactly what to do with this fancy outfit. The screen is the main control, the outfit will detect the environment and change to the perfect layer.

Uploaded ate 10/25/2015 [sic.]

Part 10

The ride seems to be long, but it’s actually only 5 minutes. They will enter the Ratle Mountains from the North End, which is the second-safest route into the mountains without Dr. Ranboro’s key.

And there they are, in the Ratle Mountains. They are led by Mr. Giose, who was the other guy in his dream when he came to the TOFB the first time. The other four warriors are Norman, Dr. Ranboro, Dr. Brains and James. The first 20 miles are short and boring. Nothing happens. But after the 29th mile mark, they enter a cave.

The cave is dark. There are only few lights flashing. They are not worried, until they hear a scream.

“OOOOOOO! Eeeek!”

“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! ZZZ! ZZZ…ZZZ..ZZZ…ZZZ…ZZZ…zzz…” The voice is getting smaller and smaller.

“It is the sleeping spider! It will knock out a human in NO time!” Mr. Giose shouts.

James and the whole crew know what to do. They press a few buttons on their screens, and their helmets of their armor dissolve into the air. What is left behind, is the air filtering system.

“Three! Two! One! It’s gas,” Norman says, playfully.

Dr. Brains spreads out the SSG gas, which will, hopefully, knock out the sleeping spider.

That wastes a LOT of time. Before they know it, they all starts to ratle.

It is James who feels it first. He feels extremely and uncontrollably happy. He starts running around and talking to other people in a rude way. To himself, it feels like as if he is drifting into unconsciousness.

Then the same happens to Dr. Brains, and then Norman, followed by Mr. Giose. Luckily, Dr. Ranboro called the TOFB’s team 2 to come for help before he changes, too.

I never knew what happened after this incident until the year of 2021. Since James was ratling, he couldn’t remember the whole year of 2020. He recovered on the day of 10/26/2021. Dr. Foster, who works at the orphanage AND at TOFB found a cure using Chinese Herbal Tea.

Well, let’s jump into the time machine. Backward to 2014!!

Chapter 4:Childhood

We jump into the time machine, and swoosh. Here we are, in the year of 2014. We are standing in front of 1623 Wesson Ave. It is a sunny day. The Peters are getting ready for a trip to Africa. James greets his uncle, who will look after the house while they are gone. Mrs. Peter is packing hastily. And Mr. Peter is bringing his computer, because, weirdly, he is starting to like CODING in BINARY CODE. Nothing more to say, so here the story goes.

Part 11

“Hurrrrrryyyy!” Mr. Peter shouts. “Or else we will be late for the plane!”

The Peters hurry to the bus stand, waiting for the airport express.

After about an hour ride, they finally arrive at the San Francisco International Airport.

They check in. And they hurry to the security check. At the security check, Mrs. Peter thinks she forgot something. Yes, she forgot to bring ANY medication for the disease Ebola.