A Circus of a Wreck
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Phone_Red.jpg

A sudden crack broke the silence of a vast, infinite plane of the white landscape known to the Clowns of the Circus of Disquieting as the Phoneyard, a series of "hubs" for pick-ups and quick travel. Here and there, patches of various landscapes seemed to sprout from nothing out of the blank world, from dry deserts to fog-filled forests; spatial duplicates of past Circus Grounds that now served another purpose apart from performing. All sorts of giant phones laid strewn across these mini bubbles of scenery, wheel dials, cellular flip phones, and even poor quality cups-tied-to-a-string; some of these had never been Picked Up, and were now left to slowly fade and decay as the immobilized Fun-Lovers withered from Milk Deprivation. Others popped into a hub and winked out to another place within instants. The sounds of an exit were similar to a firecracker and party horn going off simultaneously.

Bang-TOOT!

Bang-TOOT!

Bang-TOOT!

Over and over.

Bang-TOOT!

Again and again.

FWOOO-OOO-OOP! ZING! DING! DING! DING!

Or perhaps more like a carnival mallet game?


In a pick-up hub resembling a deserted, dusty grassland, twelve dozen red phone booths sat alone and abandoned. They were all older models of Fun-Lover transportation. Very unreliable prototypes. Most of them were shoved away into this particular, funny graveyard; some still had the remains of an unfortunate rider inside. This particular joint wasn't even in service anymore; it was more of a dump than anything else.

But, like any old phone number, there was always that one person who dialed something wrong and called it instead.

FWOOO-OOO-OOP! ZING! DING! DING! DING!

A smoking, crackling, spinning scarlet rotary phone popped down out of thin air and landed with a resounding thud on the loose dirt.


"Eugene, you're back!"

WOWWEE! WOWWEE WOWWEE WOooowwWHEEE-ee-ee-eeeeeeeee Crackle, crackle, crackle.

"Ack, Pius, stop groping me!"

"Sorry, Eugene; you were just a ball of goop a few seconds ago!"

"Dammit, it's dark in here. I can't see squat!"

"Hold on! Let me help!"

"Argh, Pius, not the spotlight! Not the spotlight! Tone it down!"

"Sorry, Eugene! Here, I'll guide you to your seat!"

"No, Pius! You're burning my eyeballs out, for Freak's sake!"

"No, really, just let me—"

"Pius, quit it!"

"Eugene, will you—"

Shove. Splash!

Drip…drip…

"…Dammit, Pius, this stuff stains."


Eugene and Pius the Clowns sat facing each other in roller coaster-esque safety seats within an enormous phone receiver (also known as Mortimer the Fun-Lover) as Entry of the Gladiators played as wait music. Pius was rocking his head back and forth in mild content; Eugene was cringing as he tried to block out one of sixteen songs that had been looping continuously for the past five hours of waiting. He could tolerate "Pink Elephants on Parade" to an extent, but whenever he heard the electronic remix of "Entrance of the Gladiators" he wanted to fill his ears with Herman Fuller's Marvelous Molasses.

The solitary scene resembled something similar to the bilge of an old ship; it was dark, echoey, and partially flooded. When Mortimer had landed, it had badly cracked the inner lining, sending Clown Milk fuel into the compartment. A leak was bad news for any Clown attempting to get home. The volume of Milk lost due to a leak proved disastrous for the window of time one could expect to be picked up; all Fun-Lovers broadcasted a waiting signal to the nearest available open pick-up line, and when the Milk dried up, so would the call. So far, Eugene and Pius had been sitting for nearly seven hours, sitting in the sweet, tarry substance, cramped, hot, and generally miserable.

"This… stinks." Eugene wrinkled his nose in disgust as he continued to breathe the arid air of sour Clown Milk, a slightly sweet, but more noticeably rancid, stench of chloroform and rotten eggs. "Did Mortimer bust a pipe or something?"

"Yeah, looks like," Pius said concernedly, moving his hand over a seam running through the right side of the cabin; black ooze gurgled through the crack, making thick splish-sploosh echoes as it dripped into the pond that covered the two Clowns' shoes. "Oh, Mortimer, what did you do to yourself this time, you poor Fun-Lover?" Pius talked to the ceiling. Splish-sploosh. Splish-sploosh.

"When we get back to the Circus, I'm gonna get Mortimer Fine-tuned." Eugene groaned with exasperated malice.

"Oh, come now, Mortimer's not deserving of that." Pius said. "He's just having connection problems."

"What are you, a Fun-Lover sympathizer?" Eugene snorted. "Such a Progressive Pius."

"Hahaha. You're so funny, Eugene."

"I gotta be. It's in the job description."


"What Hub did we end up in? Takin' them a bit long, don't you think?" Eugene twiddled his thumbs.

"The default line is the…Lake I believe?" Pius recalled. "But you're not getting seasick, and we're sure not bobbing, so we're probably in one of the Fields right now. I'd ask Mortimer for a ping, but he's still obviously broken, or malfunctioning, or whatever a Fun-Lover does when it has problems."

"So we just have to wait now?"

"Pretty much."

"Okey-dokey then." Eugene eased the tension in his shoulders a bit. "Wheat Fields, eh? It's sure seen it's fair share of fiascoes. I wonder how Toby's been doing lately?"

"Busy as ever, I imagine. Don't forget, he's in charge of the cornfields as well."

"Yeesh, poor guy. Getting all the weirdos out of that Twisty Maize.."

"Oh, you have no idea. Remember that time when Jesters somehow ended up in there? Kept scaring the living daylights out of everyone and anyone who popped in. Lines became unstable and we almost had a reemergence over Wiltshire."

"Little bastards would have made one hell of a crop circle when they came out." Eugene smirked, lost in thought.

"We had to go summon Samuel to weed 'em out," Pius continued. "Took a month to regrow all the Connections."

"Frickin' familial squabbles."

"Stupid Jesters and their Shufflers."

"Hahahahaha."
"Hahahahaha."

"Haha."
"Haha."

"Eh-heh…eh-heh…huhhhh….."

"Huh."

"Ugh, there's not even a window to look out of in here. The Lake actually has a nice view, and the fields don't look half-bad in the summer."

"You're not exactly traveling first-class right now, Eugene. Emergencies and such, remember?"

"Well, it could be better, but I won't complain."

"There's something new."


"What happens to Clowns when we start to decompose? Do we end up looking like whatever we were when we decided to off, or what?"

"Don't say things like that right now, Eugene, your pessimism is infectious." Pius said, looking down at his feet.

"Ah, come on, lighten up," Eugene said smartly. "Hey, Pius, quick, let's play a game. What am I?" Eugene's head split in two, each sprouting a ridiculously frilly cap n' bells that jingled furiously. The red and black hats attached seamlessly to his heads, like the crest of a rooster, and the fronds shook on their own like rattlesnake tails. Four pairs of eyes glowed iridescent blue and his voices rose as if he had just inhaled a tank of helium.

"You're a Jester, aren't you?" Pius guessed not bothering to take a look.

"Awww, man, you're no fun," Eugene squeaked irritably. His heads turned back into that of a single, now disgruntled, clown.

Pius shifted his leg in annoyance as he tried to get into a comfortable position again; it was really starting to get cramped in the cabin now.

"You've been twitching around non-stop, Pius, yeesh. What's the matter? Jitterbug worked its way inside you?"

"I don't have parasites, Eugene," Pius said irritably as he brought his left knee up. "I'm trying to—"

FPPPPPTTTT. A long, drawn-out, rather rude-sounding noise reverberated throughout the cabin.

"Jeez, Pius, hold it in, will you? It stinks bad enough already."

"That wasn't me, that was—"

GLOP.

A huge bubble of Clown Milk forced its way through the crack of the cabin and burst, showering a not-so-fresh mist of tar over Eugene and Pius. The exterior flatulent noises continued to sound.

Eugene grimaced. "Man, Mortimer, pull yourself together. We're counting on you here, buddy."

Pius gently patted the side of the cabin.


"…AND THAT'S WHEN I WENT IN AND TOLD THAT FREAK; FREAK— HEHEHEH — HEHEH — shit. HEheh! Heheh!!! Hurgblblblbl!!! Blrrrrrrbbb!! I'm losing it. I'm losing it. No. No, no, no, no! Pius? Pius? Pius? Pius? Pi? Apple? Cherry? Whipped cream in the face? Dammit!!! Pius!"

"Pius?"

Pius awoke with a start as he neared his fourth consecutive day with Eugene inside of Mortimer's receiver. Their Fun-Lover wasn't getting any better, and the two Clowns weren't getting any more sane. More leaks had sprung into the cabin, and the air was becoming more and more saturated with near-narcotic levels of Clown Milk.

"Hey, hey! Pius! Why you got that thing over your… faesh…eh?" Eugene was gesturing towards the gas mask Pius had spawned to mask his mouth and nose.

Pius groaned in weakness and exasperation. He opened his sleep-filled eyes slightly. "Get your mask on, Eugene," he mumbled.

"Heheh, you look…funny! Geheheh!" Eugene's left eye twitched and spasmed; it then swelled disproportionately to form the eye of a fly. "Bzzzzz-eheheh."

Pius sighed and promptly backhanded Eugene across the cheek. "Get your mask back on," he snarled. "You're inhaling Clown Milk vapor." Even as he said this, Eugene sucked in another mouthful of Clown Milk air particles and entered another fit of uncontrolled giggling that was quickly smothered by the mask that clasped over his nose with a honk.

"Ouch! Damn, Pius, what was that f—" Eugene cut himself short. He felt the re-attached face cover. "I went loopy again, didn't I?"

Pius merely glared a cold glare back.

"Sorry." Eugene slumped back down in his seat, taking deep breaths of semi-filtered, stale air. There was an uncomfortable three minutes of silence.

"So… Pius?" Eugene asked.

"Yes, Eugene?" Pius sighed.

"I'm tired."

"You and me both, Eugene. You and me both."

CREEEAAAAAAAKKKK

"OH, SHI—"

BLOOSH

RATTLE RATTLE RATTLE RATTLE-Rat-rat-rat-rat-raaaaaaaaa


Sqwee, sqwee, sqwee, sqwee

Ba-chunk, ba-chunk, ba-chunk, ba-chunk

Sqwee, sqwee, sqwee, sqwee

Ba-chunk, ba-chunk, ba-chunk, ba-chunk

"BluuuhYEECK!"

Eugene pushed himself up onto all fours as he found himself soaked from head to toe in milky mud. Even as he started to stand up, the tarry, spoiled Clown Milk stuck to his hands like cement, making him stumble several steps forward before landing face first into a patch of dried-out grass. The ground was surprisingly warm.

Sqwee, sqwee, sqwee, sqwee

Ba-chunk, ba-chunk, ba-chunk, ba-chunk

A few paces away, Pius lay eagle-sprawled and winded, bewildered as he looked up to white expanse of nothingness above, while he felt the black swamp clinging to him from below. He tried to lift his head up, decided it wasn't worth the effort, and then let it roll into the sludge. After a few moments, he groaned and looked to see what was making a noise similar to a car that was bumbling across a rocky road with a bad suspension.

"What the—"

Mortimer was stumbling back and forth on what looked like two over-sized wooden mannequin legs, which was odd, considering the rest of the body was a giant, scarlet rotary phone. Clown Milk was spurting through the number holes and through the knee caps and ankles of the Fun-Lover, and it was emitting garbled, electronic babbling through the receiver. Finally, milk shot out of the seams of the phone, and Mortimer flailed wildly like a person in the electric chair before slumping on its behind with the phone crashing dial wheel first into the crusty dirt.

You— ha-a-a-a-ah-ave — ZeEeeeEro — Nine — Massage new theeeerr…aaaapeeeeeeeesss Mortimer gave one last twitch, then went limp, sparks buzzing as they shot off from the machinery. Pius gawked in horror as he watched the Fun-Lover collapse and fizzle out.

Eugene made his way back to Pius, squinting his eyes as he adjusted to the whiteness of the Hub's boundaries, grass and dirt still sticking to his lip like he was a cow grazing in a pasture.

"Where— in the Freaking name of Manny — did Mortimer—" He cut himself off as he saw the smoking wreck of a broken Fun-Lover lying in the dead, withered grass. "Oh, shit."

Shoes squelching as he walked his way over, Eugene moved to help Pius up.

"Well," Eugene grunted with effort as he yanked Pius' arm, "This is definitely not the Wheat Fields." He looked around and examined the mass of phone boots scattered around the arid landscape. "I don't even recognize this Hub. Where the heck are we?"

"Your guess is as — ow — good as mine," Pius grimaced as he was pulled free from the gloop. Now that he had a better angle, he could clearly see how badly damaged Mortimer was. "Dammit, Eugene, how could this happen? Where did Mortimer go wrong in the landing?"

"I have no clue," Eugene said, shaking his head, eyes shut tight. "Ugh, can't Morty fix himself? What happened to the fail-safes that came with him? Those things are standard issue!"

Mortimer let out a low, foghorn bellow, blowing the back hatch of the phone off to reveal the complex array of Milk sacs, tubing, and wires that made Phone calls possible. What should have been healthy, pumping lines of fuel were limp, punctured, and in some areas, completely severed.

Pius drew closer, wary that the already-battered components might burst any moment. He gingerly picked up a portion of tubing that should have led to the control board.

"It's… been clawed." Pius said in befuddlement and confusion.

"Clawed?" Eugene said incredulously. "How the freak did— Clawed?"

"And bitten, too," Pius said. "Look, those are teeth in there." He gently took his hand away; a dozen or so denticles clattered onto the ground.

"Where did those come from?" Eugene's jaw hung open.

"I'm trying to find the connecting lines, hold on." Pius brushed away a curtain of sacs in the front and worked his through the interior, feeling around as he went. His eyes extended out into stalks and followed suit. It was an incredibly bizarre picture, like a snail trying to find its way through the dark. He cringed. "This is disgusti—" He suddenly jerked and gave a shout of surprise.

"What is it?" Eugene asked startled.

"There's something fuzzy in there," Pius moaned, his hand and eyes still inside the phone system. "I can't get a grip on it."

"Fuzzy? Where is it?"

"Whatever it is, it cracked two of the Milk circuits and broke the top one clean in two. It's caught on the third."

"Are you gonna try and remove it?"

"I'll try."

Pius slowly began to jiggle his hand back and forth in an attempt to dislodge the foreign body inside Mortimer. His mouth was clenched in anticipation. Eugene surmised about how strange it was seeing his partner's eyestalks looking like eels while still attached to his head. He shivered involuntarily.

"Damn, we can be downright weird."

"Oh, yuck!"

Pius' hand exited the tangle of organic and inorganic components, clutching a black and red mass about the same size of his hand.

"You got it!" Eugene cried.

"That — was — terrible." Pius said; his hand was death-gripping the thing he had removed, despite his mind screaming at him to throw it away.

"So, what is it?" Eugene asked impatiently.

Pius shakily commanded his fingers to un-clench, and opened his hand to examine the ball of fur. Eugene's grin vanished on the spot. Pius groaned.

"So that's why he broke. He had that thing with him when he transformed."

"Freaking hell, Mortimer, I told you that that was a terrible thing to play with to pass the time."

Eugene swatted the gopher out of Pius' hand in contempt.


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