Fish Are Friends, Not Clowns
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The tall and imposing captain of the ship was smoking a pipe and checking the map with immense satisfaction inside his great cabin. He was surrounded by well-protected relics and trinkets from different eras and cultures, some acquired more dubiously than the others. A few even followed his steps with their eyes or hissed curses, but he paid them no mind. Soon enough, he and his crew would acquire a new asset that would make them the envy of the richest and most powerful men on Earth. He didn't even mind that he was transporting a Circus of freaks. They were only looking to make a buck, same as him. Business is business.

And speaking of business, they should be reaching the Whispering Isles soon. The captain left his cabin to speak with Mr. Fuller.

"The future looks promising, wouldn't you say?" asked the captain.

"Don't count your chickens before they hatch, Sullivan," the older man in a garish red and yellow suit retorted in a dry tone. "I'm investing a whole lot of money into this expedition, and based on little more than hearsay and a dingy old map. You managed to convince me, who knows how, but God help you if this turns out to be a rip off." He managed to pack enough venom into each word to kill an elephant.

Sullivan laughed nervously. Even though he was taller, broader and stronger than Fuller, he still felt incredibly small around that wrinkled viper of a man. "T-t-trust me. I'm not, ah…clowning around. Get it? Clowns? Circus?"

"Save the comedy for the professionals. You have another job to do, or so I'm told. How much time left until we find the asset and leave the Isles with it? What if the natives fight back, hmmm?"

"Don't worry, I brought more than enough firepower to take care of some natives with bows and arrows. The asset might be, ummm, a little harder to retrieve."

"I did not pay you to make excuses," hissed Fuller with a cold hatred. "You have all my resources and my most talented workers to help you deal with anything your frail mind thinks it can't handle, come hell or high water." He paused, and put an amazingly artificial smile. "Easy now, everything will be fine. For the sake of my wallet and your head, it better be fine. See you when we find the Isles. Try not to get scared off the side of the ship by seagulls. It would break my heart."

Fuller slithered out of the great cabin, a sinister grin on his face. Sullivan let out a sigh of relief. Several of his cursed relics began to chuckle at him in unison.


Soon enough, the ship reached the tropical coordinates of the supposed Isles, but found nothing except more water. Sullivan was hurrying to decipher a document he had pilfered along with the map, which he believed would reveal a Way into the pocket dimension where the Isles where hidden. Sullivan fetched the on board translator and begrudgingly allowed her bodyguard to come along.

In walked an old blind Albanian woman, her forearms fused together at the bones. She was accompanied by an oblong creature covered in many hands, which crawled around with surprising mobility. Despite her unfortunate deformities, the woman seemed to be in a serene mood and smiled at the captain.

"Ah, Sullivan. What do I owe the pleasure?"

"You see, Fran, I have this here document that I need to translate to help guide us to our destination, and I was told you are an amazing polyglot. Care to help me?"

"Of course I can. But why haven't you greeted Luana yet? She's here too, you know."

Sullivan look at the worm of hands suspiciously and with a fair amount of disgust, like it would strangle him a hundred times over if it so much as thought that he meant harm to old Fran.

"Sure. Come here, Luana. Just, uh…which hand do I shake?"

"Any is fine. Except the tiger one, for obvious reasons."

Sullivan shook hands with Luana, and the creature leaned in for a long and strange hug.

"Ah, so we are friends then? Excellent. I might as well grab some refreshments for Fran, in that case." The captain turned around, and the old woman just barely held back a big chuckle while staring sideways at Luana, who was pointing at herself as if to say "Who? Me?".

Refreshments were savored and the document was eventually deciphered. It turned out that some of the relics and trinkets that Sullivan had collected could be combined into a Key, which was specific to the Way for the Isles. Aside from the deciphering, the conversation between the three of them was mostly about their travels and the sights they had seen, but it was clear that Sullivan entered this lifestyle from a far more privileged background.

"Do you never feel like settling down? Maybe starting a new life away from all this pilfering and pirating?" asked Fran.

"I could ask something similar of you. But then again, you are, how can I say this…" Sullivan trailed off and averted his gaze.

"Too old? Too strange? Nonsense. That is all in the mind. I'm asking you because I think you still have a good chance of doing something better, you just have to believe it. Right, Luana?"

The worm of hands was distractedly juggling some random objects due to boredom and was caught off guard by the question. She almost dropped the objects, quickly put them back into their place and gave many thumbs up to Sullivan.

"If you two say so. Well, your services were useful, but it's time for you to leave. We will soon enter the Isles, so be prepared for the adventure of your lifetimes!"

"That is amazing, captain. But consider this: what use is there having a thousand adventures if we don't know what we will leave behind when we are gone? Now I excuse myself and wish you good luck."

Luana waved goodbye with her many hands and left with the cabin Fran. The cursed relics chuckled in unison at Sullivan again.


He looked around and around, until he looked at his back in a mirror and saw that Luana had attached a paper onto him with the following phrase:


The ship finally arrived on the Isles. The sand was fluffy and a pristine white, the water was clear and calm, and for miles in front of them stretched luscious forests of slender trees. Even now, the namesake sensual whispering of the location seemed to encourage them to come hither and indulge like there was no tomorrow. Unbeknownst to them, figures with glowing eyes watched them from the depths of the forests.

The captain led the expedition, using Uriel Fishbones' stretchable eye stalks to look out for danger like a scout. Motormouth was carrying an entire arsenal and supplies for the expedition inside him and making awful jokes to try and lighten up the mood. Fran and Luana searched the ground for possible dangers or clues. The Gnomes built a collapsible trap to catch the asset. Herman Fuller followed close behind, armed with a sword-cane and a pistol.

As they ventured further inside the forest, the heat became more intense and the light grew dimmer. Insects buzzed around, the muddy ground gave in with every step and one could not help but feel a creeping sense of paranoia. All around them creatures ate each other in ways typical and unusual, and after some time the sky was split by mighty thunderstorms. With all the extraordinary resources at their disposal, the expedition set up camp easily and rested with overconfidence. They did not expect what would greet them upon the crack of dawn.

Sullivan felt uncomfortable, like his sleeping bag was different. He tried to reach out for it and found that his arm were immobilized, as were his legs. In a flash of terror, he opened his eyes and realized he was tied around a log being carried by towering grey people with six arms and lurid masks. His mouth was covered as well, preventing him from screaming. He trashed and looked around for the rest of the crew in vain, and all he could hear was the godawful chanting of those freakish people. Soon enough, the log was placed in a vertical position inside a large clearing near the coast and he could take a good look at his captors.

They began to light up torches, spread around flower petals and perform bloodletting in a circle around a stone altar encrusted with jewels. Whatever this ritual was, Sullivan wanted no part in it. He began to stretch and fiddle with his arms until the ropes were loose enough for him to catch his hidden knife, at which point he cut himself free and ran away looking for the crew. He dashed through the forest, reached a cliff and heard a long whale-like roar coming from the ocean. Freezing behind a tree, he held his knife and hoped to God it was just his imagination.

Something began to push its way out of the water. Something massive and pitch-black, covered in seaweed and the detritus of a thousand empires. It climbed the cliff with tentacles like massive buildings and stared up at Sullivan with a cylopean, electric blue eye. The thing grabbed a large stone in one of its flabby clawed hands and began molding it like clay. The thing turned the stone into the shape of something resembling Sullivan's ship and placed it before him, then clapped a few times while still staring.

Sullivan didn't care. He ran away as fast he could, and through sheer luck found most of the crew tied to similar logs. He got out his knife and freed them as well, but he immediately regretted doing so for Fuller.

"What was that about more than enough firepower?" spat Fuller. "I swear, in all my travels, I have never seen a captain who allows his entire crew to get kidnapped! And by savages, no less!"

Sullivan shook, grit his teeth and pointed a finger right at Fuller ugly, hooked nose. "Listen here, and listen good. I just saved your sorry ass from getting sacrificed back there. And you know what else? You don't OWN me, or anybody else!"

"I own your paycheck, you ingrate! And if you don't do exactly as I say, you can look forward to sailing back home with empty hands!"

"I don't need your money! Right now, what I need to do is get my crew to safety! And I bet you need to as well, even if it's just because of your wallet."

"Fine, fine. We'll do it your way. Lead on if you're so brave."

"I'm not brave. I'm terrified. But I'm still a better fit than a slaver."

After a lot of bickering, Sullivan and the crew came up with a plan to rescue Fran and Luana. And Fuller was not going to like it.

Fran had been tied to the stone alter, and her bodyguard had been restrained far away. The godawful chanting, drumming and bloodletting of the natives increased in tempo along with the rainstorm and lightning. Along the horizon and above the canopies a looming shadow lumbered ever closer to the altar, unleashing whale-like sounds that only grew louder. After a time that seemed like an eternity, the leviathan stepped into the clearing, every step making a small earthquake.

The ritual stopped.

The leviathan stared at Fran.

Luana was thrown from a catapult right into the leviathan's eye and began punching like a mad motherfucker.

The natives stood ramrod stiff for several seconds, unsure if this was for real. A hail of smoke bombs from the sky answered their question. Uriel Fishbones came speeding in on a bamboo vehicle built by the Gnomes, using his eye stalks to trip up the natives and throw them inside Motormouth, who would spit them out one by one into a cage. Meanwhile, Fuller used a new version of the Mixing Rod to further aggravate the leviathan by spraying him with copious amounts of mashed up fruit pulp from the isle. When it tossed Luana away and chased after Fuller, he yelled profanities and ran as fast as his old legs could carry him, right into the cage that the Gnomes had prepared. He leaped out the other side before the metallic walls closed, hitting a palm tree at full speed.

"Hahahaha! You see? Herman Fuller always gets the last laugh!" he proclaimed triumphantly. A coconut fell from the palm tree and hit him on his head, knocking him out. The coconut bounced, hit a rock and cracked open, spilling its contents on the sand.

"I guess the old man finally ran outta juice!" joked Motormouth.

Everybody decided it was safer with the leviathan than with this nonsense.

After a long trip back home with their prize secured in a huge water tank, the Circus prepared their new show for the people of New York City. Flyers and megaphones went into the streets for days, and soon enough the tents were raised high up into the sky. Business was good.

Except if you asked Sullivan. He had been mulling over what Fran had told him before they entered the Isles, and it was getting to him. Well, if was being honest, it was changing the way he saw his life. All these years he had pilfered, stolen and taken what didn't belong to him and left terrible voids in people's lives for the sake of his comfort. Was he really all that different from Fuller, just because he stole relics instead of people? He could easily justify himself that way, certainly, but actually spending time with those Circus people on his ship had brought him a new perspective. He had no idea what life was about, but he knew it wasn't about owning things. And with the Circus' new show coming up, he had a chance to prove that.

He bought a ticket and sneaked into the section where he knew Fran, Luana and the other performers got ready for their respective shows. He carefully knocked on the door and prayed they would understand. The door was opened by Luana.

"Hi. It's me, the Sea Bitch," remembered Sullivan without malice. "Can I speak to Fran and the others?"

Luana made a "please wait" gesture. The performers quickly appeared, seeming more curious than apprehensive.

"Hi there, Sullivan. Care for a cup of tea? The show only starts in 30 minutes," offered Uriel Fishbones.

"Um, sure. But listen everyone, there is something very important I have to tell you all. It's about that thing we brought from the Whispering Isles."

"What is matter? It hasn't caused any problems to us. It's downright friendly," assured Uriel.

"Hold up. Are you telling us…you telling us…that there is something fishy going on with it?" joked Motormouth. A nearby gnome faked a heart attack at his horrible pun.

Sullivan pinched his nose and groaned. "Not exactly. Look, there is no easy to say this. We have to bring it back."

A "WHAT" came out in unison, with the exception of Fran.

"Why aren't you disagreeing? You aren't seriously thinking of helping him, are you? You are far too old for that, you know, and so am I." said Uriel.

"I am. Mr. Sullivan is finally understanding what I've been trying to teach him," smiled Fran.

"What the hell is she talking about? Returning stolen property might be right, but it never got me anywhere in life!" protested Motormouth.

"Guys, listen! Aren't all of you here because, at some point, you lost your way? And you had to make do with a home and family that wasn't your own? For some of you it worked, for others it didn't. That creature out there, it…it tried to befriend on the Isle. It's innocent, and we are keeping it here against its will. Doesn't that sound familiar? We have a chance to free someone from the Circus. We can either take that chance, or do nothing and be accomplices of Fuller. So, will you help me or not?"

Slowly but surely, each performer rose up, promised to help and shook hands. But Motormouth, as always, had to pipe up.

"What are the odds that it will go on a rampage, grab one of us and climb the Empire State Building?"

"These odds don't matter! Now listen closely, everyone. Here is the plan…"

Shortly after the ringmaster announced the leviathan and the creature was let out of its water tank, the performers stormed the stage and began undoing its shackles with the help of some Sullivan's cursed relics. The leviathan stood there, feeling a mixture of fright, anger and confusion. The captain tried to calm it down as the performers tried to convince the audience it was all part of the show. Fuller had been watching this through the cameras and felt bile rising up in his throat and his jugulars trembling. He grabbed his sword-cane and pistol, invaded the show and the pointed his weapons at Sullivan.

"Nice try. Did you really think anyone or anything in this Circus gets to leave without my say so? You should apply for a job as one of my clowns, you're really funny!"

Fuller kept his blade pointed at the captain, while his pistol was pointed at the creature. "That goes especially for that thing! I spent a lot of money on it, and these here shackles are meant to stay on! You want to know why? Because I OWN every last one of you!"

The leviathan's only reply was to take advantage of Fuller's monologue and sneak a long limb behind him. Fuller was smacked all the way into the water tank, where he met several of hungry sea lifeforms that had split off from the leviathan. The creature stared at the water tank with its glowing eye, and all the lifeforms ripped away Fuller's clothes. The humiliation didn't stop there, as the leviathan raised the slaver from the water tank, and several clowns began throwing pies at him instead of each other. Finally, the creature secreted glue from one its flabby hands and attached the naked and slimy Fuller to an elephant, then picked up a nearby torch to set the elephant tail on fire. The poor animal went bouncing wildly out of the tent, with Fuller begging for mercy and the audience laughing like never before. The leviathan took this opportunity to slink back into the ocean, but not before patting Sullivan on the head.

Fuller's pockets grew three sizes that day, but Sullivan's heart grew too big for the oceans.

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