The 2020 Event |The Sideshows|

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Universe W-2020: The Sideshows 1
March 6th, 1987
The Legend Of Tiny Tim

That’s The One

“Jym’bah-k, the sun approaches the horizon. I really must get going. The boy why stowed away with me, where is he?”

“You mean,” with one bushy eyebrow raised, “your son?”

Yes! that’s the one. Where did it run off to?”

Smoke And Ash

From within his cavern he hears it – the whisper, the cackling, the pollutant mouth noises of the Hairlessfut. Darkness surrounds him inside his home; he wades through it until he can feel the cool breeze of the mountains whipping across his weathered face. As the smell of the forest mixed with a slight hint of smoke and ash graces his nostrils, he knows what he must do. With a leap and a grasp or two, he begins to ascend the mountain.

Intelligent Ape Creatures

Where indeed. Off in the jungle, out of both eye- and earshot of their respective fathers, a young Charlie and Tim-nah’tee sit upon the bank of a river, casting their lines in hopes of catching something fine. The water is crystal clear, the current the only hindrance in the two friend’s search for river fish, visually speaking. A butterfly with iridescent violet wings flutters by before landing on Tim-nah’tee’s furry head; there it sits undisturbed until he lifts his pole behind his head and casts, startling the insect into fluttering off to a patch of red, purple, and orange flowers rooted a few feet away. Charlie, eyes caught by the beautiful little flutterby much unlike the fish in the river by their bait, sets down his pole. He leans over and reaches for the thatch catch basket, looking inside only to find it utterly empty. He lets out a sigh, feeling a large hand pat him on the back not even an inhale later.

“Do not worry Hairlessfut, there will be plenty of fish to catch next time.”

“I know… that’s why I sighed,” mumbles Charlie, eyes trained on the water babbling by below them.

“Oh? But we had a wonderful day Charlie, even though the fish didn’t bite. We’ll do it again when you come back next week… you do wish to return, don’t you?”

Charlie folds his arms, the sleeves of his littleman suit creasing. “Yes, more than anything, Tim. I don’t want to have to come back though, I want to live with you guys. I love it here, this island is so incredible, so magical… my home is jus–”

“Your home is your home, Hairlessfut. It is important for you to go back to it. Come, the sun is nearing the horizon; soon we won’t be able to find our way back.”

“Is that really such a bad thing?”

“That depends… can you kill a spotted nightprowl with your bare hands and a fishing pole?”

“Um… no, I don’t think I could.”

Tim-nah’tee smiles. “Me either, so we’d best get a move on!”

Young Charlie returns the smile as the ‘Futs stand and proceed back towards the village, the largest coastal settlement, nay, the only settlement on the entire Isle of Fut. The island, coincidentally shaped like a foot complete with five increasingly smaller islets where the toes would be, is something of a well-kept secret; only about ten humans across the surface of Earth know of its existence. A tropical paradise akin to the Galapagos Islands due to the uniquely evolved flora and fauna, this island has been separated from the rest of the world ever since its conception in the early days of the cataclysm that gave life to what we know as Planet Mediocrity. A thick fog emanates from the ocean in a ring around the island, merging with the clouds above and becoming one, giving off the appearance of a monumental never-ending storm, a trick of the light that couldn’t be more misleading if it tried. The majority of aeronauts are afraid to fly anywhere near the supposed monsoon, let alone through it; in fact, only one human’s ever had the balls, funding, and influence to pilot a plane into the plume of water vapor until he punched through to the other side. Shortly after realizing what he’d discovered, the man devised a plan to assemble a crew and sail a ship to the shores of the mysterious island, hoping to raid and pillage all the oddities, resources, and whatever else the cherry island had to offer them. It was the man’s destiny; if God didn’t want him to rape the island, why’d He let him find it?

His crew was comprised of ten men, including himself. The mates were all trained in multiple forms of martial arts, survival, sharp and blunt weapon combat, as well as attaining mercenary-level aptitude with firearms and explosives. The mates were more than well equipped to overcome any challenges or obstacles waiting for them in the underbrush of the lush jungle… is what they thought, at least. There was one detail, one tiny little asterisk the cabal of conquistadors did not account for that threw a rather large monkey wrench into the metaphorical nuts of their plan – the race of eight-foot-tall intelligent ape creatures that call the island home.

Two return trips and a sunny day later, the seaborne aeronaut is somewhat patiently waiting on the beach for the current form of his sperm to come wandering out of the jungle so they can get back on the water already. ‘That damned child.’

Like two slow-moving bats out of hell, Charlie and Tim-nah’tee emerge from the forest, fishing poles in hand and an empty catch basket balanced atop the latter’s head. The boys approach their father figures, their smiles returned by one of the adults whilst the other holds his maw in a stern scowl. Upon seeing the emptiness of the basket, Magnus grows even further unimpressed and leaves the group to prep the ship for the journey home. In the midst of saying his goodbyes, Charlie hears his father calling to him with a certain get the fuck over here tone in his yells, inspiring a skip in the boy’s step. The Quatchfuts watch him go, waiting for their moment.

The GMS Horgan, a wooden seafaring masterpiece reminiscent of the eighteenth century complete with elegant exterior metalwork and fourteen or some odd sails crafted from a mixture of the finest hemp and flax, had landed on the shores of the Isle of Fut early this morning for the third time in far too short an amount of time. As the Horgan prepared for landfall, the elders had convened and the tribe had spoken; now, Jym’bah-k is forced to throw himself over a most decadent handrail after climbing the damp and slippery exterior of the boat in order to deliver the news to the captain, the very captain whose quarters is all the way across the massive barnaclish deck.

One unanswered knock on the door and he’s inside, greeted by none other than an empty desk and the stench of stale burnt tobacco. The old sage looks around and spots two chairs against the wall next to him. Sitting down on one and a half of these chairs, Jym’bah-k patiently waits until he hears the approaching weighted footsteps of a human in charge. Said human, slightly red in the face, is quite startled when he sees his slightly crouched visitor, but he quickly settles himself into an eerie state of calm when Jym begins relaying the message from the tribe.

Quite bluntly, Jym-bah’k states that Magnus is never to return to the island. Not only that, but any craft bearing his name shall never breach the fogwall again, lest it be swallowed up by the as of yet unevoked Wrath Of The Sea. The reason? The impurity of the black hole that is Magnus’s heart is dangerous to the Quatchful population of the island, especially so towards the impressionable Youngfut. Also, the very existence of the Hairlessfut is already raising a lot of existential questions amongst the tribe’s youngers that the elders just aren’t ready to answer yet; exile is really the best course of action for everyone involved.

Magnus tries to offer the ape sage currency, power, technology, weapons, human women, anything and everything he can think of to change the Quatchfut’s mind, but Jym’s whistle stays dry. So dry, in fact, that he simply relays the message a second time in the exact same tone before turning around and heading towards the exit. A flicker of hope is lit deep within the bowels of Magnus when the apeman turns around at the door, but it’s quickly extinguished when he’s told that his son Charlie is more than welcome to return, but only when he’s able to make the voyage by his own terms.

Unable to keep up the threateningly calm mask that he wears, Magnus storms across the captain’s quarters and slams the splintery old door with the force of a hurricane, clipping Jym’bah-k’s ass as he slowly walks out. Sounds of a muffled tantrum can be heard erupting from the quarters as Jym begins to search the vessel’s upper deck for young Charlie, the sage going as far as asking for help from Magnus’s crew members. Unfortunately though, the ship begins to depart before the boy can be found, forcing Jym’bah-k to trust that Magnus will be honest and relay the message in full.

Jym leaps from the stern of the ship and lands on his beach with a tumble, damp sand caking his fur like mudpies. The tribe joins the weathered Jym’bah-k in watching the soppy carbuncle of a thousand chopped trees sail off into the darkness that forever looms over the horizon. After thoroughly picking the sand from his fur, Jym gathers the rest of the tribe’s elders and they all head to the Mokka Grove to prepare for the upcoming religious ceremony. Back on the ship, a frigid wind of the approaching nightfall blows the fishing hat off of young Charlie’s head.

A knock on the door followed by not only one, but two more knocks startles Magnus from a chairnap. At first he says nothing, struggling to keep his nose breathing from audibly rustling the hairs of his mustache. The fear of his mind beginning to leave him halts its encroachment when the knocking is repeated, followed by the sounds of a boyish whine.

Boiling internally, “Come in already, will you?”

The small, frail little thing enters the room and noticeably puts effort into shutting the door behind it, trying its best to do so silently but failing miserably. Its hairless prepubescent face is covered in a trying, gay little grin that makes Magnus feel both uncomfortable and indescribably disappointed. They just stand there for a moment, the awkwardity building until the man can bare it no longer.

“What do you want then, brat?!”

“Well,” Charlie squeaks, gulping. “I wanted to thank you for taking me futfishing again. I really like these trips we take together.”

Magnus takes a moment to discern the importance, the necessity of this dragged out interaction, but he dredges up nothing. “That’s… great, I guess. Anything else?”

“Um, well… when are we coming back?”

Magnus’s eyes light up like Vietnam War-era napalm strikes. “Did… Jymbo didn’t speak to you before we left, did he? A few of my crew reported that they saw the ape looking for you.”

“No, I went to my room and sat in the corner like you told me to. I must have missed him,” says Charlie in a gradually less audible voice.

Magnus, eyes locked in a squint, says “I see… very well.” He sits up straight and dusts off his already spotless captain’s jacket, then, “Well he and I had a little chat before we departed from the lovely Isle of Fut. Much to our mutual disappointment, he told me that, due to the blasphemously inappropriate relationship between you and Tiny Tim over there, you’re no longer allowed on the island.”

The deafening shockwave resulting from the audible shattering of Charlie’s hopes, heart, and happiness kills the large plesiosaurus trailing behind the boat. The boy stands motionless, tears welling up in their ducts.

“I’m afraid the Quatchfut tribe fears that you’re going to grope the young ape lad inappropriately, and quite frankly, I agreed with them. You never know what a young huma– sorry, Hairlessfut is capable of when it’s not being watched, especially you, Charles. They told me that I can come back whenever I want, and I think I may well return once more. You know, to get that full Isle of Fut experience. Without you, of course, you fucking psychopath.”

Magnus offers his son the most genuine of false smiles until it, er, he leaves the room in a fit of misery. Feeling confident, Magnus spins his chair around and puts his feet up on a cushioned ottoman made of gorilla bones. As if by instinct, he locates a cigar buried underneath a pile of maps and lights that puppy up as he begins pondering his next financial venture. Maybe something with smells or something with hair, who cares; the dollars will flow regardless.

Game Trail

The light of a distant campfire shines like a dim orange star, the forest below appearing to reflect the infinity overhead. He looks up to the moon floating in the heavens above, lighting the valley just enough for his eyes to make out a small foothill near the glow of the fire. A deep breath of cold night air is drawn in and held. Eyelids dominate his vision for a few moments until the air is relinquished, the forest seeming somewhat brighter now. He advances through a game trail and starts down the mountain.

The Isle Of Fut

Right around the arch of the Isle of Fut, hidden deep within the heart of the dense jungle, lies a secret fruit grove. This is the sacred Mokka Grove, birthplace of the Quatchfut tribe’s holy sacrament. Every eight years of a Quatchfut’s life, and once at age twenty, a religious ceremony of sorts takes place in which the Quatch’ and a guide both eat of a Mokka Fruit, the planet’s sole species of psychoactive fruit. The voyagers embark on a tremendous four-hour trip in which their consciousness merges with that of the Universe, giving them the opportunity to learn lessons that cannot be taught in any other way. When they come to, they feel as though their minds have aged for infinite eternities while their bodies have gone untouched by time, only growing slightly hungrier. The ceremony takes place within a cavern dug into a hillside located just a short walk away from the grove. The location of the cave is known only to the elders; it is up to them to guide the Youngfut to their sacred place and teach them the lessons and traditions so the ages-old culture can be passed down and correctly taught to posterity.

Tonight, Jym’bah-k proudly sits across a large stone table from his son in this very cavern, one half of a Mokka Fruit cupped in each of their hands.

Tim-nah’tee watches his father lower his dome and touch the flesh of the Fruit to his forehead. He begins chanting, quietly at first until the reverberations of his whoops and howls begin to shake the plantlife growing through the cave’s walls. Tim takes a good look at the purple flesh of his fruit before touching it to his own forehead and joining his father in the shamanic chanting. A pressure reveals itself between Tim’s eyes as he does this, spreading to his temples as a whirring, rushing feeling overtakes his body. The spirits of the Ancestorfut wake and gather inside the hallowed cavernous temple as the Quatchfut mystics sing the song of their tribe – then, silence. Father and son look up in unison and their gazes meet in a moment of true synchronicity before the fruits are devoured, sweet juice and purple flesh spraying until nothing but the pinkish-white rind falls to the ground as the bodies of the voyagers do the same.

A certain trance sets in as Tim-nah’tee becomes aware of a slow dance of vibrant purple lights taking place within his own mind. This being Tim’s second time venturing into the spirit realm, he is taken immediately, the rest of his world melting away until the last bit of his physical awareness drips off into the nothing in which it floats. Jym’bah-k, being much more experienced in the ceremony of the holy fruit, finds himself reinhabiting his body almost immediately. Even from deep within the temple, the old sage can feel the rapidly approaching shockwaves, can smell and the faint odor of chemicular combustion that’s punching its way through his jungle, one ancient tree at a time.

A Bottle Of Pink Juice

At first, there is nothing; no lights, no darkness, simply the numb perception of a sole pocket of nothingness that dwarfs the scope of Existence itself. A single cosmic light appears, orange around the outside with a glowing scarlet core. Another appears, this one green and purple, and then another, and even one more, all the colors of the visible spectrum manifested into glowing orbs of light off in the distance. A sky full of stars flashes into existence as the perception, the spirit, floats through the kaleidoscopic space, seeing everything and nothing at the same time. It approaches a small rock topped with a purple-skinned ape sitting upon a gilded throne, a spear held in one hand and a bushel of fruit in the other. The ape hurls the fruit into The Void and begins to devour the spear, a torrent of red liquid oozing from its smiling maw as it feasts.

The bushel scatters and the spirit is drawn to a white fruit. He follows it through the cosmos, passing by a pod of rainbow-skinned whale creatures with seven horns sprouting from each of their tails, a swarm of large metallic beehive structures, and whatever else may currently be traveling through the cosmic realm of Psychedelia, this highest of subjective dimensions. The fruit freely floats about until it finds a planet to merge with, the watery rock embracing it like a mother with open arms.

Following germination, three mighty statues depicting wise old apes sitting cross-legged rise from the soil before animating into three living apes with glowing white eyes. A white-skinned hairless child appears before them, walking out from beneath the surface of a great ocean with bruised skin, three teeth, and a tuft of hair missing from its battered head. The child is taken in by the apes before it is cast back out into Existence, a bottle of pink juice in one hand and a piece of wood with a tree carved into it clamped to the other. The child returns to the ocean as the wise apes return to their pedestals, sinking back into the ground from whence they came.

The Universe begins to fade away now, piece by piece, planet by planet, star by star, until there’s nothing left but nothingness once again. Tim-nah’tee, no longer in spirit form, looks down to see that his body has returned to him. What appears to be a trap door opens before him, releasing a miasma followed by a yellow-furred feline creature with four ears, a single whisker, and two tails with six and a half spots each. The beast floats in the nothingness with Tim-nah’tee as it devours a large rainbow crystal that wasn’t there when the creature first appeared. Tim gazes in lush, astonished amazement as he watches the otherworldly creature twirl about and devour its feast. What can but shouldn’t be described as a few moments of appeased crunching and silence go by before the creature locks eyes with Tim-nah’tee and asks if he’s going to say something.

Telepathically.

At first, Tim fears that the Mokka Fruit destroyed his mind; the voice appears in his mind’s ear without warning and repeats itself several times before giving the young Quatchfut a chance to answer. Stunned, our monkey keeps silent, leaving the leopardish thing to repeat itself again and again, refusing to relent until Tim finally screams out an uproarious, “YES!”

Then, “…What are you?”

The beast tells Tim-nah’tee that it does not matter, and that his first question was very stupid.

“What am I doing here?”

Tim is served a memory of himself eating the Mokka Fruit and becomes aware that the feline being is attempting to communicate telepathically, but Tim just isn’t shuffling the deck. Then, a thought crosses his mind suggesting that the beast only exists right now for a very specific reason: to have this conversation.

“Tell me what you must tell me, spirit,” boldly.

The creature takes another bite out of its crystal and stares at Tim, offering nothing more as a response.

Caving, Tim telepaths, ‘What do you need to tell me?’

Tim wonders why he left out the spirit that time before realizing the creature needs to show him something. Tim wishes the creature would be more forthcoming, which causes it to laugh. A few more moments pass by.

‘What do you need to show me?’

Between them, a large foot-shaped island materializes into The Void. A luminous spark ignites a gigantic fire at the heel of the island, the blaze spreading up along the arch and tracing the entire perimeter. The jungles, and everything within them, are consumed by death and destruction before Tim’s eyes.

Still not quite grasping telepathy, he has a thought asking him whether he wants to live and escape or die with the rest of his kind.

‘I want to live, please!’

The spirit of the nightprowl stares Tim down as the concept of being imbued with a great power floods into his head, a power strong enough to protect his body from the harsh blaze.

A moment of contemplation. ‘Wait, that will not do. I must save my tribe, or at least as many of them as I can. It’s what my father would want, he’s given me everything. Given everything to all of us. I need a stronger power, feline; is it possible?’

The beast holds a soul-piercing stare as clouds of vapor continue to flow out from the existential trap door below it. Sure, it’s possible, Tim-nah’tee learns, but he may not be capable of harnessing such a power. Tim asks again and again, spoon-feeding the apparition its own medicine until the ‘prowl screeches and starts dry heaving. With a sly wink, the spirit of the jungle hacks up a pitch-black blob, lobbing the shapeless form directly at Tim’s head. Upon contact, Tim is forcibly cast backwards into infinity, falling through the canyon of nothingness, questioning the spirit creature that was once before him as he plummets through the abyss.

After an endless eternity of falling, the spirit of Tim-nah’tee crashes back into his body, finding himself alone in a slightly hazy cavern.

Twilight

The Quatchfut adolescent stands up slowly, still very much under the influence of the Mokka Fruit. He looks around the spinning room to see that the walls are squiggling, as if they were composed of snakes and nothing else, as if they’ve been composed of snakes. The flames of the torches sconced along the walls seem to be dancing in perfect unison, each flicker of the fiery ballet bringing their plasmic forms closer and closer to Tim’s essence, his soul is exposed to the world like a heart upon the sleeve of a Hairlessfut. Our boy dashes, crashing through the low hanging vines at the cave’s entrance to find himself greeted by twilight. He looks up into the sky to see a thick, noxious cloud of black smoke emanating up from the jungle, visible only because of the orange glow piercing the canopy.

All around Tim-nah’tee, bathed in the moonlight, the foliage is green and alive. Yet something doesn’t seem right; there’s a smell in the air, a nose-wrinklingly nauseating, but almost pleasant smell of… what? Such a mixture of the familiar and the foreign paired with the Psychedelic compounds cruising through his brain creates nothing but confusion, insecurity, and a calamitous sense of anger and destruction in the mind of young Tim-nah’tee. Without thinking twice, he sprints into the forest, his unusually dark shadow trailing close behind him.

He eyes the blaze before he breeches the clearing of the Grove. A towering inferno the likes of which is feared by Dante himself stands before the young Quatchfut, engulfing all but four of his tribe’s miracle trees. What were once tall, strong towers of age-old life are new being reduced to nothing more than charcoal and soot, one by one, to be swept away by a gust of wind in a matter of days. A fire, just like the one currently consuming his home, ignites within the broken heart of Tim-nah’tee. He howls into the night, WHOOPs and screams, tears pouring down his face only to be evaporated before they can fall by the heat of this confounded conflagration. The entire religious side of Tim’s life is being incinerated before his eyes, and by whom? Who in their right mind could commit such an evil, ghastly act against all that is good and living?

Tim’s screams are returned by two creatures at the other end of the Grove. He looks forward with his saucer-sized pupils and spots two soot black bipedal things, coated in fire, screaming and howling and heading right for him.

‘Of course,’ Tim thinks to himself, balling his fists and preparing for battle. ‘The demons have returned for my homeland…’

Demons Sent From Another Dimension

What was once considered Quatchfut society before it was burned to the ground by jealous outsiders was never a very superstitious civilization. Parents did not lie to their young about witches hiding out in the woods or about goblins and gremlins that eat naughty little children in order to scare them into acting right; they simply taught their offspring the correct way to live. That being said, they did have one story that was passed down from generation to generation about life before the species had found their home on the Isle of Fut. In the olden days which followed the Zeroc exodus and the hard reset of humanity, the Quatchfut sought shelter underground. They found it, as the Earth is hollow, and you know what else they found? A fierce subterranean race of bipedal reptile creatures who called themselves the Klorveckx. These monsters believed in servitude and punishment rather than love and freedom, and they enslaved the Quatchfut race for as long as they could – that is, until the Quatchfut figured out how to escape from the dastardly realms of Inner Earth.

The thing about the Klorveckx, though, is that they’re about as intelligent as they are misguided; at some point in the convoluted past of the species, they genetically modified themselves to be born with totally fireproof scales that excrete an extremely combustible oil, which enabled them to set themselves on fire as a combat tactic. Whenever a group of the stinking, hairy Quatchfuts got too rowdy or weren’t working hard enough, the bipedal, tailless lizardmen would set themselves ablaze and grapple with the apes, often leaving their victims with massive burns and infections, if they lived through the encounter at all. This was all at a time when the Quatchfut’s intelligence hadn’t been fully developed, you see, so they listened when the Klorveckx said that the burning monsters were actually demons sent from another dimension to wreak havoc on them for not serving their masters well enough. They listened every time.

Today, this story has been reduced to a myth, a faded memory that none of the remaining members of the currently dwindling Quatchfut population was ever made to endure. However, when under the influence of the Mokka Fruit, up means down and two plus two equals the rings around planet Saturn, leaving a lot of room for misinterpretation of perceived events; in this case, Tim-nah’tee witnesses two large creatures blitzing towards him, two monsters covered head to toe in flames, and he decides right then and there that the Klorveckx demons have returned for him and his tribe.

Sand And Water

‘… and now they must pay for what they’ve done.’

Imbued with the power of the cat spirit’s hairball, Tim-nah’tee leaps forward and grabs the leg of one incoming demon, slamming the blaspheme to the ground. Tim climbs on its back and lifts his fists, bringing them down with the force of a thousand meteor strikes over and over until there is nothing left in the soil but a skull and a backbone. Using this to his advantage, Tim grabs the base of the spine and stands up, locking eyes with the other demon. As if he was holding a medieval flail, Tim reels back and whips the skull of his deceased foe into the skull of his animated foe, both skulls exploding into a billion burning bits and pieces on contact. Tim-nah’tee spits and pounds his chest before the gravity of the situation bares its weight on his shoulders: with the short amount of time he spent fighting, not only have the walls of fire began closing in around him, but his hair is also beginning to smoke. It will combust soon; Tim has two options: tear through the miles of smoldering jungle in front of him and reach his village, or take a detour to the shore and circumnavigate the blaze.

Considering the fact that sand and water don’t burn nearly as well as jungle burns, Tim trudges into the incinerator of a forest and bobs and weaves his way back to the beach, dodging fiery bits of vines and bounding over every burning bush he comes across. The sand at the end of the jungle is beginning to conglomerate into a liquid, glassy substance from the pure heat of the island-wide fire, catching Tim by the foot and force-feeding him a mouthful of sand. His muffled scream, accompanied by the unbridled, wretched pain, is the only thing, the only sensation that keeps him conscious long enough to drag himself into the ocean, the salty water extinguishing his burning coat and washing the sand from his mouth. On the dark side, this instant transition from unbearable heat to chilled ocean water saps Tim’s energy and consciousness, leaving him to float alone not only on the cold ocean, but also in an emotional stew of rage, sadness, confusion, despair, and fucking rage.

When he comes to, the fire has all but died down and the island, the only home Tim has ever known, is entirely reduced to rubble.

Gingerly, the last of the Quatchfut tribe drags himself out of the ocean. He attempts to stand up but falls right back down into the sand, the thin layer of ash topping it dirtying what remains of Tim’s fur. He stands himself up and hobbles down the shoreline towards his village, or at least, whatever’s left of it. The moon is approaching the horizon when he reaches his familiar section of beach, the sun’s reflected light providing our fallen hero with enough luminescence to see that he’s far too late. Charred corpses of the Youngfut and the Elderfut are scattered among heaps of ash, a once thriving village utterly decimated. Just as Tim-nah’tee is about to embrace his deep, bottomless sadness, a sharp pain strikes him in the neck, and he falls to the ground. Right before he fades into darkness, he makes out the silhouette of a sole Hairlessfut approaching him from the ruins of the village.

Coyotes

Stepping only on rocks and fallen logs, he slowly creeps through the forest towards his destination. His body is warm though the air is cold. His mind races as his legs carefully carry him over hill after hill. He spooks a band of coyotes huddled together at the summit, their frightened yelps creating a moment of silent anticipation among the Hairlessfut at their campground. They are completely unaware of him, but he can see them all. Perfect.

Tiny Tim

“Is it awake yet?”

“Dunno. I keep throwin’ bananas at it but it won’ fuckin’ move.”

“A’ight, hold on. Lemme zap it.”

BZZZT “GRRAAAAAHHHHHH!”

The two men exclaim their joy in unison.

“Ayyy, there ya go! Wake up bigfoot, it’s the last day. Clean up crew ain’t comin’ ‘til least nightfall, you got one more performance before daddy’s boys come back for your hairy ass. So, yeah, wake the fuck up,” the human condescends upon Tim as he slaps the shock baton in his hand.

A few days ago, a groggy, stiff Tim-nah’tee was woken by a very turbulent rumbling in complete darkness. His foot stung, his head was pounding, and his dark side was desperately trying to regain control, but the body was still far too weak. Within a few moments of waking, that odd, sharp pain bit into his neck and he was out cold, yet again. This cycle of waking to darkness, followed by a darting neck pain tackling him back into sleep repeated itself at least a dozen times before Tim finally awoke to a set of metal bars. The cage was not large; it gave our Quatch just enough room to stand up and bump his head on the ceiling.

The cage stood, and still stands, in the middle of a large red and white striped circular tent, keeping Tim alone with his very dark thoughts until the two men, and I use that term lightly, appointed as his trainers paid him a visit. They taught him how to fear a shock baton and how to do tricks in exchange for measly scraps of food and water, spending an entire twenty-four hours of life they’ll never get back juicing the patchy-haired biological miracle of a creature with electricity to get their jollies and payslips. The next day, Tiny Tim performed for a crowd of fourteen humans. The day after, six. Today is the final day of the one and only Skunksville Permanent Circus Attraction, and you better believe Mister Bahrleigh is going to get as much of a return on his investment into the ape man as possible. With only a few hours until showtime, Tim realizes that he needs to figure his own way out of this demented situation.

Shortly after the trainers leave the tent, the one and only Mister Bahrleigh waltzes into the center ring. A short and stout man clad in vertically striped pants with a puffy blouse and a top hat that would make Abraham Lincoln want to go to the theatre, he steps forward, cane in hand, towards Tim’s prison. The two lock eyes before Mister Fancyfuck looks his newest attraction up and down for the first time, chuckling to himself as he turns back to face the entrance. The man offers some obnoxious remarks about the blasphemy of the valley town being turned into a reservoir before spinning back around and slamming his cane into the cage. Tim doesn’t even blink, instead leaning forward and gripping the tenuous bars with his massive hands. The rage boils, but the pot has a lid.

His face within breathing distance of Mister Bahrleigh’s, Tim says, through a mouthful of clenched teeth, “Release me, you pitiful abomination of aged flesh and regretted life choices.”

Bahrleigh stares for a moment, then, “You… you could talk this whole time?”

Tim is silent, speaking volumes through a hot puff of air from his nose. He removes his hands from the now slightly bent bars and sits back down, legs folded.

Bahrleigh audibly swallows and slowly backs away, his pupils shrinking down to the size of the point of a freshly sharpened pencil. “I-I-I see. Well, erm, I uh, I would, b-but, I… I misplaced my keys!”

Tim looks up at the geriatric grandmaster with the most uncaring expression ever expressed on a face, bipedal or otherwise.

Remembering that he has a train ticket to Anywhere, Buthere to buy, the proprietor of Skunksville’s most permanent circus quickly evacuates the premises. A few moments later, the sound of rubber tires peeling out of a dirt parking lot brings a small grin to Tim’s otherwise melancholy face. That was the mastermind keeping him prisoner here? That spindly old yellow-toothed cretin? It really is no wonder why this was their first meeting.

Tim takes a few deep breaths and closes his eyes to meditate. When he opens them back up a few hours later, he’s surrounded by darkness, save for a dim light shining through a small hole poked into the cloth covering his cage. All is quiet; normally before a show starts, Tiny Tim is treated to the neurotic chattering of the audience, their diapers filled with anticipation and the waste products of salty, sugary concession snacks, but today, nothing. They must be doing a dress rehearsal for the final performance, how charming. Tim sits in wait in his cage like a dog in an empty suburban household for what feels like only a few minutes, and then darkness accompanied by a high-pitched noise. A bout of loud tapping follows the screech and a shockingly familiar voice begins to boom on the other side of the pierced veil shrouding Tim in his cell.

“Lady and gentleman, I am obligatorily proud to welcome y’all to the final performance of Bombastic Bahrleigh’s Circ de la Circ! I’m your host, William der Waffe. Since we have such a… sizeable crowd tonight, we’re going to skip right ahead to the final act of our show! Also, everyone else beat feet and you two showed up before I could finish packing, so here we fuckin’ are!”

A hesitant clapping fills the void.

“Aalll right! So, without further ado, I give you…” as he prances over to the center of the ring and grips a corner of the cloth, “Tiny Tim, the real-life bigfoot!”

Will yanks away the old, spotty cover to reveal an empty cage, complete with extensively bent bars on the side facing away from the seats. The audience, a man named Louie and his daughter Daisy, offer nothing more than a confused silence and raised eyebrows. Will would have noticed the missing bigfoot if he had turned around to face what he was introducing, but it’s not his job to do so. He’s the announcer man and the ringmaster, and he hardly gets paid shit as it is.

“This mysterious creature was found by our scrappy, exuberant founder Mister Bahrleigh whilst he was on an expedition deep into the jungles of a long-lost island called Bigfootlandia seven years ago. He single-handedly wrestled this creature into submission, the nutbar, then had him boated into the country and carried by a train right here to Skunksville! Alas though, the train had a tragic accident in Upstate New York and Tiny Tim escaped, cursed to roam the local forests alone for seven long years until he finally found his way back to us. Lady and gentleman, I again give you…”

Will turns around and finally feels the sting of this most prickly of predicaments. “… I… I give y-you… ohhhh fuck me.”

Will’s eyes dart back and forth a few times before his spotlight begins to shake. One audience gasp later and the large contraption comes crashing to the dusty, hayish ground faster than Will can even come to terms with what the hell’s happening right now. Surrounded by darkness, Will’s suddenly sweaty hands fumble around to ready his stun baton and… yikes, that wasn’t pretty. Let’s just say that he never found his stun baton, and when the fallen, broken spotlight flickers back to life a moment later, the two members of the audience are greeted by an empty cage and nothing more.

Louie throws a vice-grip on the back of his daughter’s neck and drags her out of the auditorium, the noises of her kicking and screaming held underwater and drowned by the cacophony of dirt-lot peel-out filling the air for the second time today. A few hours later, when the four members of Horgan’s cleanup crew show up, they find nothing but a flickering stage light and a battered, bloody, empty cage. When the light goes out, only one man escapes.

And the rest, as they say…

Echoes

“…is history. Soon after, the remaining denizens of the sleepy town that was once Skunksville were huffed, puffed, and tossed out of their homes as the valley flooded, creating the Wanapo Reservoir’s little brother, our very own Skunksville Reservoir. They say Tiny Tim escaped into the forests of Quarryville that night, and he’s been here ever since. Allegedly, if you listen really closely out here at night, you can still hear him whooping in the distance, searching for more of his own kind that he’ll never find.”

The crackling of the campfire is met with the cracking open of a can of Pssst Blue Ribbon beer, which is then accompanied by a belch. Tyler rolls his eyes as he takes another swig to recover from Sam’s cheesy story. Jack, on the other hand, is staring wide-eyed at his big brother.

“Does he really live in these woods, Sam? Have you ever seen him back here?”

“Why?” Tyler croaks. “You wanna protect my sister from him? Twerp.”

Jack’s face turns a rosy shade of red that complements the glow of the fire quite nicely. Sam smiles at his little brother before lighting a joint with the campfire and taking a small puff. A distant WHOOP echoes through the night air, widening Jack’s eyes even more. Tyler shoots a nervous glance as Sam, but dude just chuckles and shakes his head.

“See? I told you guys he was real, and now he’s comin’. Just kidding lol, it was probably some coyotes or something. Tyler, pack a bowl, would ya. This jay isn’t going to last much longer, and we have a tent to hotbox. You’re more than welcome to join us inside, Jack.”

“Nah I’m okay, I don’t do that stuff,” defends Jack, lowering his stare to the fire. He’s petrified, and the coyotes can smell his fear.

“Oh, you don’t have to, but suit yourself!”

Sam and Tyler stand and proceed towards the tent, sparking their bowl before they even get inside. As he’s zippering the tent, Sam calls out, “Tell Tim I said hi!”

Jack lasts a few more minutes before petrification turns into fear and the distant yipping of a band of coyotes convinces him to run into the tent at full speed. He busts into the contained cloud of calm giddiness, decreeing that he won’t be getting eaten by any fucking coyotes tonight. Through the ensuing laughter, the tent is zipped shut with the force of a frightened teenager and remains so until the morning.

Off yonder on the foothill, Tim-nah’tee smiles and cups his hands around his mouth, offering the young Hairlessfut one final WHOOP before he begins his trek back to his cave on the other side of Bored Mountain. Once inside, he curls into a ball and falls back asleep to the soothing soundtrack of a pleasant summer’s eve.

Long live the legend that is Tiny Tim.

Fin


Black and Purple Cloaks

I am alone in The Void with one more loose end to tie up; what better a way to tie off a loose end with another end just as untaught?

A puff of smoke appears from within The Void. It clears to reveal a mysterious mystic adorned in black and purple cloaks.

He looks up to me and says, “Finally, you’ve called.”

I have. Listen, you said you didn’t want to be stuck in the branch universes anymore. Well… something was released into the main universe, something dark and very powerful. It came from the gullet of a seventeenth-dimensional cat creature an–

“Ah yes, I believe I’m familiar. We play blackjack and eat toxic berries under the green moonlight every other Twoosday.”

No shit? Invite a brother next time. Anyway, said cat creature expelled something into the body of a Quatchfut; said Quatchfut no longer needs something. Can you remove it and hide it somewhere?

“I certainly hope so, else this may be my execution.”

‘Clever boy,’ I think to myself.

“And where shall I hide your dirtiest of laundries?”

In a bottomlessly deep pit beneath a very specific warehouse. Being yourself, I believe you know of which ‘house I speak.

“I do now… hol’ up. Is this… this isn’t the inspiration behind that whole monkey suit nonsense in that other universe, is it?”

…just do as I say.

“Very well,” with a sinister smile as the cloaked man fades.

A moment later he returns to The Void, silently staring.

What is it?

“When shall I remove this something? The life of the Quatchfut, nay, this entire Universe is a clusterfuck, a dredge to wade through.”

When he escapes the circus, but before he reaches the forest. You know, somewhere along the dash across the lakebed. And make it painless, would ya? The poor bastard’s been through a lot.”

“Indeed. And when shall I stash this something away?”

Immediately. There are plans in store for that ‘house, yes, many plans indeed. Eh, anything else…?

“Yeah, what’s my payment?”

Your… payment? ‘He must be joking.’ You mean other than the fact that you’ll continue to exist here?

“Yes, other than that.”

Well… I can give you… you know what? I don’t even want to spoil it. You’ll play a role in something bigger, how ‘bout that?”

“Deal,” he says. “‘Twas a pleasure, Highest One Writing.”

That is was.

With a puff of smoke he’s gone.

I am alone in The Void.

All is as it should be.