When Jack recovered, he was in a new world.
He and the others had been transported to a floating island with a circus tent on it. They were floating through what could only be described as a storm of dreams. An infinite number of strange beings, objects, and locations appeared, changed, and disappeared all around them. A man with a revolver for a head shot a woman made of emeralds. She broke apart, transformed into a hermaphrodite with a bumble bee for a head, and shot a volley of stingers at him. A flock of violins whizzed past playing the Spring sonnet of the Four Seasons by Vivaldi. One missed a note and was cut apart by the bows of the others. A world made of flesh and machinery appeared. It seemed like it was going through Sir John Bagot Glubb’s seven stages of empire: the Age of Pioneers, the Age of Conquests, the Age of Commerce, the Age of Affluence, the Age of Intellect, the Age of Decadence, and finally the Age of Decline & Collapse. Then it disappeared.
All the Blue Nasties entered the Zone.
Fubsy the Clown sighed. ‘This cursed place….’
Loco Lobo looked about her and whimpered.
All of the civilians were crying out and huddling together.
‘What is this place?’ said Jack.
The Ringmaster smiled and opened his arms wide. ‘This is the Dungeon Universe! It is a universe between universes, made of psychic energy from every being in the Multiverse! It is our collective subconscious, a means of interdimensional travel, and an afterlife for souls forsaken by the gods! Glorious, is it not?! The little Zone which we use is but a droplet of the Dungeon Universe that we summon forth! This is a realm of boundless potential! Look into the storm! Your subconscious will show you what your waking mind is supressing!’
Jack looked into the storm and saw a first-person view of someone firing a light machine gun into a desert village.
Puck was looking at a locker room full of dead hockey players.
Mezu was looking at a little blonde girl crying over the bodies of her mother and father.
Sam was watching a first person view of someone aiming a revolver at a United States Border Patrol officer.
Billy the Cameraman was looking at a first-person view of someone filming an old man being stabbed to death by a slasher in a smiley face mask.
Marilyn was looking at a gold arena in a red desert. A gladiatorial game was taking place. A hundred dark elves, reptilians, cyborgs, and other fantastic beings were fighting to the death with bladed weapons. In the end, there were only two left: a standing vampire and a Grey on his hands and knees. The vampire looked up inquisitively at the first-person viewer. A red hand came into view and gave a thumbs down. The vampire raised his swordstaff and beheaded the Grey.
When Jack turned to look at Marilyn, she was already smiling at him. ‘A nightmare, darling. I’ve seen such gruesome things since the start of the Death Game. Only natural it would play on the mind, no?’
Jack slowly nodded. ‘Sure.’
‘Hold on,’ said Sam to the Ringmaster. ‘Did you say our universe was part of a Multiverse?!’
‘I did!’ said the Ringmaster. ‘You didn’t think that our little Horror Universe made up the whole of reality, did you? The Devil’s Circus and I have toured the Space Opera Universe, the High Fantasy Universe, the Cyberpunk Universe, and many more! The genres of the Multiverse are endless!’
Sam’s eyes lit up. ‘Is there a Conspiracy Theory Universe?!’
Puck raised her hand. ‘Is there a Post-Apocalypse Universe?’
Mezu raised his hand. ‘Is there an Anime Universe?’
‘No!’ The Ringmaster scowled. ‘That’s a medium, not a genre!’ He twitched his pointed moustache. ‘Well, I don’t really know to be sure! The Multiverse is like the American Frontier; most of it is unexplored! You can ask the United Worlds if you really want to know!’ He held his fist to his forehead. ‘What are you doing, Charles?! You should be killing, not talking! I’ve been humouring you all for too long! Alice!’
A brunette with reptile scales in a red dress skipped of the circus tent. She was followed by a line of clowns escorted by mimes holding Uzi submachine guns.
Alice curtseyed and spoke with an English accent. ‘Time for a tea party, Hatter? Jolly good!’ She beamed at Jack and the others. ‘What a lovely unbirthday cake!’
She unsheathed an obsidian dagger and slit the throat of the first clown in the line. A giant satyr crawled up from the side of the floating island. It bit down on the torso of the dying clown, sucked the soul out of their body, and tossed the corpse into the storm. The next clown in the line came before Alice, and a new one emerged from the circus tent.
Mezu shook his head. ‘If there’s a God, he’s sick.’
The Ringmaster bowed. ‘You’re too kind! So long as Alice keeps on feeding Pan, I can remain here indefinitely! Fubsy, Lobo, assorted slashers of the Death Game, you have no chance! Now die for art’s sake!’ He cracked his whip in the air. ‘Dungeon Special: Chimera Chaos!’
A dozen giant chimeras came flying out of the storm.
Jack pushed Marilyn down and fended off a hyena-lion. Puck chopped a bear-gorilla’s arm off. Mezu ducked beneath a crocodile-shark. Sam ran away from a spider-scorpion, reached the edge of the island, turned around, and sliced it in half. Fubsy the Clown withstood the headbutt of a killer whale-octopus. Lobo traded a hail of strikes with a honey badger-armadillo.
The chimeras flew back into the storm.
By the end of the attack, all of the civilians were dead.
She was looking at one of the bodies: it was Billy the Cameraman!
No one had thought to protect him! They’d always taken no notice of the guy!
Marilyn knelt next to Billy the Cameraman and touched his cheek. ‘Billy?’
His head rolled away.
Puck pointed her bladed hockey stick at the Ringmaster. ‘You’re dead!’
Jack wanted to butcher the Ringmaster too, but he couldn’t without endangering Marilyn.
Fubsy the Clown blocked Puck with his arm. ‘Leave this to Lobo and I! We’ve been preparing for this for years! Zone Special: Clown Clones!’
Out of Fubsy’s belly burst a thousand Fubsy clones. They rushed at the Ringmaster.
The Ringmaster cracked his whip at the Fubsy clones. More chimeras flew out of the storm and attacked the oncoming army.
The Fubsy clones spoke as one. ‘You can’t defeat me if you don’t know which one I am!’
The Ringmaster sneered. ‘There’s an easy way to find out!’ He cracked his whip at Loco Lobo.
All the chimeras swarmed on her.
‘No!’ The real Fubsy the Clown leapt and pushed Loco Lobo out of the way.
A dozen chimeras impaled him at once.
Loco Lobo howled.
The Fubsy clones disappeared in puffs of smoke.
Marilyn shrugged. ‘Mission accomplished, I suppose.’
The Ringmaster spat. ‘Fool! Such a waste of potential!’
A spiked mallet bashed his head in. Fubsy the Clown had snuck up behind him! He must have climbed across the underside of the floating island!
The chimeras flew back into the storm.
Loco Lobo barked happily.
Fubsy the Clown laughed. ‘That was easier than I expected!'
A king cobra ripped his throat out. Queen Cobra has snuck up behind him! She must have come out of the circus tent!
Loco Lobo snarled and bounded towards her.
Marilyn pointed at Queen Cobra. ‘It’s the Slasher Slayer!’
Blood streamed down from the top of the satyr’s head. It fell into the storm. The floating island began to crumble beneath them.
Queen Cobra ran back inside the circus tent. Everyone followed her lead. Loco Lobo dragged Fubsy the Clown along in her jaws.
Jack snatched up Billy the Cameraman’s camera.
He had been dedicated to his work, you had to give him that.
Jack ran into the circus tent.
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