Old soul, new soul
Key in your pocket
Look out for the Laughing Man
On your path home.
It had been five months.
Five months of nothing but searching. Of nothing but requests for aid. Of nothing but being refused.
And so, our travelers continued to work their way through Tepur-zin-Umhed's journal. In some cases, she had already sought out the help of those she had found, and been turned away. In other cases, she had only heard of a name or location in passing. In still others, she had found out where a survivor had carved out a new home without ever finding out who they were. It was one of these cases that our travelers were investigating, and this is what brought them to the forest.
It was not an ordinary forest by any means. Abandoned tracks, carts, and rides were scattered everywhere, overgrown with leaves and rust. It had been a human carnival of sorts before being closed down years ago. Rumors were whispered throughout nearby towns that it was haunted with the ghosts of those who had died there in accidents. Others claimed that the accidents themselves had been the result of a haunting. Of course, Quarseta had heard none of these rumors. The fog hung low and grey and thick, making very hard to see anything. The faint sound of a pipe organ could be heard in the distance.
Quarseta took in her new surroundings. "Would it be alright if I looked around by myself for a bit? I want to try to find where that music's coming from."
"…Alright, but call for us if you find anything."
She nodded, then set off, weaving over and between the maze of metal and wood. No matter how far she traveled, the music never seemed to get any closer or further away, always staying just on the edge of hearing. Eventually, she reached a structure that was still standing and had an open door. Though it certainly wasn't in a good condition, it looked stable enough to explore. And so, she entered. Inside, she discovered a labyrinth of twisting halls, All lined with mirrors. Many of them twisted her reflection in odd ways, though oddly enough very few of them were broken, in contrast to the rest of the park. The pipe music continued to sit at the edge of her ears.
And then the laughing began.
Laughter that echoed through the halls and drilled into Quarseta's skull. She began running on instinct, further and further into the maze, calling for Atanti time and time again. It seemed to be coming from many places at once, so that she could never be sure if she was running towards the laughter or away from it. Shadows toyed at the edge of her vision, whispering secrets and doubts into her ear. "A lost behemoth dies in the desert, a pale mask haunts the night in vengeance. We are afraid." "Or maybe we foresee a stunning light that makes the ground boil. Salvation comes with a price." "Change the channel, he is very educational."
She kept running, on and on, turning this way and that, until she rounded a corner and came face-to-face with a clown. He had curly orange hair under a blue cap, and wore a blue and green suit. Despite the darkness, he appeared in an array of pastel colors. A smile was plastered over his cackling face.
She turned and kept running. She tried to get away from the whispers and from the clown, but it was no use. The whispers followed her, and the clown kept showing up in the mirrors, always right behind her. The more she ran, the warmer and more disoriented she felt.
She ran into a dead-end room, bare and tattered, but thankfully with a door. She slammed it shut behind her and retreated to the far end of the room. For a brief moment silence filled the air.
She heard laughter right behind her. She spun around to see the pastel clown staring out at her from the reflection in a mirror. She backed away, the heat and dizziness returning, and the reflection lunged out of the mirror. She looked down at the knife embedded in her abdomen.
The world began to fade. She remembered Atanti and tsa-Fanu bursting into the room and attacking the clown, though she couldn't remember what they shouted. The burning pain spread out from the knife, and the laughing filled her mind.
And then she felt it, in her pocket. The cold. The ticking. The egg. She pulled it out and looked at it, then smashed it into the ground. In those last few moments, she saw the bits of scattered glass and clockwork pulling themselves together into something new.
Quarseta wasn't quite sure where she woke up. It seemed like a large, white room, but it was so large that she wasn't sure that it had an end. It was cool here, and there was a sound of ticking surrounding her.
"Ah, we're awake again."
Quarseta sat up to see the two people in this place with her. One was someone who looked like a young lady about her age, but her face seemed almost ageless. She seemed to be made up mostly of wings and robes, all in muted but still vibrant colors. She sat next to a large bed, in which slept a small girl. The more Quarseta looked at the girl, the more she realized something.
"She's… she's me. Younger, but… me."
"Yes. Or more accurately, you're her. Just like you're me."
"We rode the storm that cast us out of our world, just like Atanti and Edrisek did. But, we were dying at the time, or did die. Our life merged with that of this girl. And so, you were born as her, but with my nature."
"…So I'm both of you, then."
"Yes. I think that's the best way to put it."
Quarseta walked over to the bed and looked at the sleeping girl. "We were dying. What happened?"
"I suspect that egg bought us a few extra moments. I'm not quite sure why."
"I do. I needed to see this."
"Because I needed to know who I was."
"A lot of good it does us now."
"You forget," a smirk spread across Quarseta's face, "I'm you. We don't die that easily."
The woman squinted at her. "…Well. It seems that I haven't changed much."
Quarseta gave a determined nod. "Alright, so, I have your nature and her life, but right now we're talking, which means… how much of your life do you remember?"
"All of it, but why… oh, that's clever."
"Alright, so I have your nature, her life, and now I have your memories too. Now, let's see if we can't wake her up. Won't do much good for me asleep." She began to gently shake the child awake.
"Mmmmmph. Time to wake up already?"
"Yeah. Yeah, time to get up. We need your help. A big girl like you isn't afraid of clowns, is she."
"No, I don't think we are."
"Good, now," she looked between her two halves, "am I ready?"
The two of them looked to each other, then back to her. "We are."
"Good." She took a deep breath, and gathered herself together. "I am Sarai-ur-Ebaou. I am Abby Johnson. And my name is Quarseta-ql-Paneu. And I am not about to die."
Quarseta woke up.
She carefully pulled the knife out of her stomach. She could still feel the pain, but she was able to move beyond it to the point that it did nothing to stop her. The wound began to close almost immediately. One of the clown's reflections took notice of her and tried to charge her. It dissipated into a satisfying cloud of pastel particles of color as the knife slashed through it. Atanti and Edrisek seemed shocked by her return, but their attention was quickly drawn back to the fight. The reflections continued to fall under their claws and whips and blade. Eventually, the clown took notice of her.
And he saw her. And he saw her for what she was.
And Bobble felt fear.
The fight raged on, the reflections fading in and out and falling under the trio's blows. Eventually, only one clown remained.
Quarseta turned to her companions, HE'S MINE, then turned back to the clown. I REMEMBER THE STORIES ABOUT YOU. YOU'RE ADRAVOSS. BACK HOME, YOU WERE A KILLER. THE BOOGEYMAN WE SCARED OUR CHILDREN WITH. I'D SAY IT'S TIME WE LET THE CHILDREN HAVE SOME PEACE OF MIND, WOULDN'T YOU?
Quarseta collected her strength. All that old fire and memory spinning around inside her. The power that had been forgotten. The brave child, born of this world. All the small, old, angry spirits whispering at the edge of her vision.
And she sang.
You must understand that singing, when done properly, is very strong and magical stuff. I don't doubt for a moment that you have herd a song before that made you want to dance, or cry, or break out laughing, or fall in love. You may have even heard a song that filled you with some nameless fire, and made you feel ready to leap out of your seat at the drop of a hat and go change the world.
And so she sang, and all the whispers joined in the chorus. The clown was forced into a quickly-shattering mirror by the sheer power of it all. As the song ended, the anger faded from her face, but the fire, fire that was somehow old but fresh all at once, continued to burn in her eyes. She turned to face her companions.
The both stood there, staring at her in awe and shock and confusion. "…What just happened?"
She tucked the knife into her belt. "A lot. I'll explain on the way back to the cave."
|'All Tied Up at the Moment'||Setting appears to be an abandoned and overgrown carnival. The episode consisted of approximately 15 minutes of footage of a bound, gagged, and seemingly unconscious SCP-993 suspended upside-down by a rope tied around its ankles. Of note is the fact that this episode appears to lack the cognitohazardous properties of all other recorded episodes to date.|
The Laughing Man is gone now
And your heart's unlocked
So let's go walking hand-in-hand
All the way home.