This is a Weirdverse story.
‘I’m certain you’re running out of ideas by now,’ sighed Karl, looking up at the multicoloured monstrosity before him. A large yellow and red and green crooked house, with the entrance being a gigantic grinning clown head, a tongue acting as a red carpet. All around the base of the house were multiple jack-o-lanterns, a reminder of the holiday the house was made for. Above the clown’s head was a banner reading: “The Lemon Possum’s Fun House! £5 Entry! Make it through and get a year’s supply of sweets!”
Karl the Kangaroo then looked down to see The Lemon Possum who owned the Funhouse, now wearing the straw hat and striped jacket of the archetypical barker. ‘I suppose this was the suggestion of your new friend “The Ringmonster”?’
The Lemon Possum chuckled. ‘What’s the matter, Karl? Is the mighty kangaroo frightened?’
Karl sighed as he remembered his previous encounters with the Lemon Possum. When the little creature had attempted to convince him to make games promoting unhealthy diets. When she invaded his house just to remind him of his troubled relationship with his adopted daughter. When she had kidnapped him just so she could torture a poor half-pizza-half-human woman. When she teamed up with a sadistic beast called “The Ringmonster” just to irritate him and others.
Whatever she was doing with this funhouse, thought Karl, I can’t let her have the last laugh.
‘Very well,’ said Karl, ‘I’ll have a go. When I win the year’s supply of sweets, I’ll dump them in the ocean just to see the look on your face when I do.’
‘I’m not giving you any of my money.’
‘Five pounds,’ the Lemon Possum repeated, holding out her paw before slapping her palm with her fingers.
With a groan, Karl reached into his pocket and pulled out a £5 note. As soon as he did, the Lemon Possum sprung up towards his hand and took a bite into the note, snatching it away with her teeth. ‘Thank you,’ she said as she tucked the note away in her pocket.
Karl walked towards the giant clown head and swore that its mouth grew larger as he entered.
Suddenly, Karl found himself in pitch blackness, that clown mouth entrance having vanished. A cold wind dominated the inky void, making Karl involuntarily shiver.
Then there came the laughter.
A cacophony of laughter from several different voices. Deep, booming laughter, high-pitched laughter, laughter that sounded like it was sped up, even what sounded like a mixture of laughter and throat coughs.
As the laughter got louder, the room was bathed in lurid red and yellow lights, illuminating a hall of mirrors, each mirror showcasing the source of the laughter. Clowns, their palms pressed against the panes of glass, chuckling away.
Karl folded his arms. ‘Is that the best you have?’
One mirror disappeared, revealing a wooden door underneath an “EXIT” sign. ‘If this is getting too scary for you,’ came the disembodied voice of the Lemon Possum, ‘you can always forfeit.’
‘As if I would,’ sneered Karl, before spitting in the direction of one of the mirrors.
The clowns vanished and most of the laughter stopped. Karl still heard chuckling, coming from a single source.
All mirrors were completely blank except for one, one showing a female kangaroo, one that Karl had barely seen in his life yet was far too familiar.
Karl had waited for an opportunity to speak to his mother his whole life, mentally rehearsing everything he wanted to say to her. When she was standing right in front of him, her grin slowly turning into a scowl, he stood silent.
‘Why aren’t you dead?’ Karl’s mother snarled at him.
Karl swallowed, looked up and said, ‘I know this is a trick, possum. This…’
‘I wanted you dead, Karl,’ his mother continued, ‘Everyone wants you dead. Everything would be a lot better if you were dead.’
Another female kangaroo appeared in the mirror next to Karl’s mother. A teenager dressed in a black tank top and matching boots. Sadie, Karl’s adopted daughter.
‘She would have been better off without you, Karl,’ the mother continued, ‘she was only happy when you were out of her life. Why don’t you just get out of everyone’s life so you can get what you deserve?’
Karl turned around to see the mirrors behind him filled with flames, and the shadow of a man with a goat’s head. A figure he had seen before and dismissed, yet at that moment made his stomach sink.
When he turned around, he saw another figure he had faced before: a young woman with completely white skin, eyes and fangs as grey as stone and glowing blue tattoos covering her arms.
‘Your mum wants you dead, Karl,’ she sneered, ‘why don’t you let me help you with that?’
‘If this is about the prices…’
‘Oh no,’ laughed Emily, shaking her head, ‘I just think it’s amusing to see you squirm.’
‘Well, nothing you do will…’
‘Did I see a tear?’
‘I’m certain I saw tears when you saw your mummy! What I showed did affect you!’
‘You….’ Karl’s hands shook. ‘You did not…’
Emily laughed. ‘The Lemon Possum was right about you. You’re as pathetic as she says you are!’
Karl lunged for Emily, only for her to stretch her already elongated claws so she could escape the mirror and grab Karl by the throat. She pulled Karl into another room, one that looked like the living room of a Victorian mansion. The walls were lined with crimson wallpaper with golden stripes, the furniture consisted of two armchairs and a sofa coloured the same crimson and gold as the walls, and illumination was provided by a roaring fireplace.
‘This is my own little house of horrors,’ said Emily with a wide grin, ‘what do you think?’ She gestured towards a door, one with that “EXIT” sign above it. ‘Though, if you’re scared…’
Emily chuckled again. ‘You know, if you walk through that door, people will at least appreciate your honesty…and your common sense.’
‘I’m not letting the Lemon Possum win.’
‘If you didn’t want that, you wouldn’t have gone in at all.’
The exit door vanished, replaced by a wooden one more fitting for the setting. It slowly creaked open.
‘Must I do this, Your Evilness?’
Emily walked towards the door. ‘Yes, come on in and terrify him!’
‘But I look ridiculous!’
Emily rolled her eyes. ‘No you don’t, you look terrifying, now…’ She turned to notice Karl hopping away into a hallway. ‘He’s getting away! Go get him!’
That was the last thing Karl heard Emily say as he did what he rarely did – hopped – and explored the halls of Emily’s house of horrors. He looked at the multitude of doors before him, and reminded himself to avoid any with an “EXIT” sign.
‘Prepare to meet your fate!’
Karl turned around to see who Emily was talking to: a pale white creature like her, with similar grey eyes and fangs, only taller and thinner, towering over Karl. It had tentacles where there should have been legs, one of its eyes was a worm crawling out of its socket and in its right hand it clutched a hatchet.
‘You were right; you do look ridiculous,’ said Karl, arching an eyebrow.
The monster threw the hatchet onto the ground, threw up his arms and walked back to where he came from.
Karl picked up the hatchet, saying to himself, ‘This might come in useful.’
Feeling a small smidgen of relief from being more armed, Karl threw open a random door and stepped inside.
He immediately received a custard pie to the face.
‘Roll up, roll up!’
As Karl rubbed the cream away from his eyes, he smelled popcorn and elephant feces, he heard calliope music, he saw multicoloured lights, sights and sounds and stenches that made him feel like a weak little joey again, confined to cages for the amusement of humans.
‘I’m not…’ Karl looked down and saw that he was dressed as a clown, with a purple jumpsuit with white polka-dots, a yellow ruff, and shoes too big even for his colossal feet.
‘See the world’s most pathetic kangaroo!’
Karl raised his hatchet, only to find it had transformed into a balloon model of one.
Standing right next to Karl was a fat monster with a tall top hat and a red coat, looking over Karl with three yellow eyes. The Ringmonster, a creature Karl had met, yet still rendered him barely able to move.
Images of early childhood flooded Karl’s brain. Standing before circus audiences, shuddering at their laughter. He danced, the only thing that brought him joy during those days, but even then, some children in the audience thought it funny to throw discarded food at him.
He imagined his mother in the audience, laughing along with them, yelling that he should have died.
Snapping back to reality, Karl looked at the audience watching him perform. It was mostly made up of little blob monsters and little demons that looked like they came from Halloween clipart, but three members, all on the front row, stood out. The Lemon Possum, still wearing her barker outfit. Emily, with a grin showing all her grey fangs. Then there was one other person: a young woman about the same age as Emily, fully human but when Karl recognised who she was, he shuddered.
He had seen that woman on the news. She was wanted for murder.
That woman – Acacia as Karl remembered her being called – leapt from the audience and walked towards Karl, pushing the Ringmonster aside as she did so. ‘You could leave right now,’ she said to Karl, gesturing towards another EXIT door, ‘People won’t think less of you if you do. You’ve made it longer than most people who’ve tried to win the prize.’
Karl felt his leg twitch, as if it was demanding he run through the exit and go back home. That, he told himself, was what most people would do when a wanted killer was staring at them right in the face. Just looking at her made Karl feel like he was going to vomit.
She held a broken bottle in her hand.
Karl seized her by the wrist, holding the balloon axe as if it were a real one.
Acacia laughed, dropping the bottle to the ground. ‘Well, well, you never do give up, do you?’
The Ringmonster faded. Emily and the Lemon Possum faded. Karl was back in his usual clothes and standing in a black void again. No-one except him and Acacia.
‘You’re persistent. I like that,’ said Acacia, in a voice that wasn’t her own.
‘Wait,’ growled Karl, ‘I know you.’
‘Yes, we’ve met before, haven’t we?’
That shark. That shark from “Wonderland”. Not Derek or Jenny, the one with blazing red eyes. He was speaking through Acacia. Karl was even certain Acacia now had his eyes and teeth.
‘I’m slowly getting stronger, Karl,’ said Acacia, or what was using Acacia to talk to Karl, ‘and I have my friends to thank for that. Don’t you think that Emily has so much potential? So do you, in fact.’
‘What are you saying?’
‘Join me, Karl. Join me so I can finally be released onto Earth. Then we can get revenge on the humans that have made our lives so frustrating.’
‘If you think….’
‘But it’s the humans’ fault your mother left you to die! She wanted to be like them!’
‘Don’t you dare…’ Karl shook his fist.
‘You passed the test, Karl. You proved that even when facing your greatest fears, you still carry on.’
‘I only did it just to spite your little friend.’
‘I’m sure you’ll like her once you get to know her. Once you help us dethrone the Mad Hatter, release me into the world and finally show the humans…’
‘Shut up!’ Karl yelled, balling his fists.
The shark laughed. ‘Well, maybe Sadie will be more willing…’
Karl grabbed Acacia by the shoulders and said through clenched teeth, ‘Don’t you dare come anywhere near her or I’ll…’
‘You are just so perfect,’ said the shark, before Karl let go, ‘Claim your prize. Leave. Consider what I said. I know you’ll turn around eventually.’
Suddenly, Acacia shuddered.
‘Just…’ She held herself tightly before collapsing onto the floor. ‘Just go away.’ Karl could tell that was her own voice.
Acacia vanished, and in her place was a mountain of chocolates, cakes, ice cream tubs, gumdrops, wine gums and even a big bowl of lemon posset.
‘Keep it,’ growled Karl before he found himself back on the wet grass, no sign of the Lemon Possum and her funhouse.
He turned around to see people – humans – walking down the street. Parents taking their children trick-or-treating.
He imagined them lying on the road, dead.
The thought made him laugh.
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