Patty the Christmas Demon

This is a Weirdverse story.


marvinpatty

It was December, I was expecting a visitor and my flat looked as unfestive as possible. No tinsel on the walls, no wreath on the door and no tree in the corner.

Perfect.

Don’t think just because I’m a demon means that I hate Christmas. I like receiving and giving presents as much as the next person, and I’ve been known to wear a Santa hat with two holes cut out for my horns. Even Gina and I had made plans to come over to her flat and watch The Muppet Family Christmas. However, we can’t be Christmassy all the time, even my co-worker who was coming over that day.

After looking over my flat again, seeing that the only things that could qualify as decorations of any kind were the posters in my bedroom, I heard a knock at my door, and opened it to let my guest in. He looked like a balding old man with a thick white moustache, wearing a tweed jacket, a shirt and tie tucked into a navy jumper and half-moon spectacles that made him look slightly like Santa, which I suppose was appropriate.

He was an angel. A Christmas angel.

Everyone’s heard stories about people whose Christmas has gone wrong somehow, then someone comes along to help them and that someone turns out to be an angel. Marvin was one of those angels.

‘Hey, Marvin,’ I said, gesturing towards my sofa, ‘can I get you a coffee? No gingerbread cocoa, I promise.’ I smiled and chortled slightly at my own joke.

‘Yes, please, Patricia,’ said Marvin as he entered. After he sat down, he asked, ‘How was the supermarket today?’

‘What you’d expect from this time of year,’ I sighed, just then noticing I hadn’t bothered changing out of my uniform.

‘Well,’ laughed Marvin, ‘if you can get through several hours of non-stop Christmas songs, you can accomplish anything.’

‘True,’ I replied, smiling, ‘but how was your work? Do any actual good today?’

Marvin rubbed his forehead. ‘Someone asked me to make their Christmas lights look brighter than their neighbour’s.’

‘Typical,’ I said, ‘that’s like…the fifteenth person who summoned you with that request.’

‘I think it’s more like the twentieth person, Patricia.’

‘I’ll make you your coffee.’ I walked into the kitchen, looking at Marvin sitting on my sofa, looking at the TV even though it wasn’t turned on. After I returned with his coffee – he always wants milk and two sugars – our conversation continued.

‘So no-one who needed to see how much they were needed?’ I asked, ‘I don’t think you’ve shown anyone a reality where they were never born in years.’

‘Yes.’ Marvin guzzled down half of his coffee. ‘Nowadays when people want me it’s to help them push past crowds to get that new toy, or to remind people what brand of aftershave their friend likes…but we’re supposed to forget Christmas here. Tell me about how things have been with you.’

‘Well,’ I said, sitting down beside him, ‘things haven’t really been much different than when we last met. Still working at the supermarket, battling a villain from time to time…did I tell you about the possum who can magic up sweets?’

‘Countless times,’ replied Marvin, and both him and I chuckled. ‘I have heard good things about you from the other demons,’ Marvin added after finishing his coffee, ‘they say you’re becoming more like your father.’

‘Thanks,’ I replied, ‘hey, wanna watch TV?’ I gestured towards the TV set and even the games console beneath it. Marvin never took up my offers to play two-player games but I always offered anyway.

‘I’d rather just sit here for a while,’ replied Marvin, leaning back.

‘Good idea,’ I said as I pulled out my phone, surfing the web as we sat together.

‘You know,’ said Marvin, interrupting the peace, ‘you could probably make a business out of this.’

‘Out of what?’

‘I’m not the only Christmas angel who needs a break from time to time,’ laughed Marvin, ‘you could open up a café.’

I was about to reply, but gave the jokey suggestion a little serious thought, smiling at the mental image of angels sitting around chatting over a cappuccino. I even searched for pictures of cafés on my phone just to fuel my imagination.

Marvin had his own phone, and I was broken out of my train of thought by it buzzing. ‘Ah. Another job,’ said Marvin, ‘Goodbye.’

‘Let’s do this again sometime before Christmas,’ I said as I watched him dematerialise. I sat on my sofa, returning to the café in my mind.

We can have Christmas angels, I thought, maybe I could be a Christmas demon.


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Demons on Halloween

This is a Weirdverse story.


pattystreet

Many people say Halloween is a night when monsters and demons are about, and they’re right. Monsters see Halloween Night as an opportunity to cause havoc, and it’s the job of us demons to keep them in check.

I know, I know, you think of demons on Halloween, and you think little horned goblins hopping about, stealing treats and ruining parties. Well, we don’t cause evil per se, we control it. We don’t terrorise and frighten willy-nilly; in fact, that’s who we try to stop.

Demons are evil. We have to be evil. Our evil, however, is always done with purpose. Even when we let humans summon us on this night, we teach them a lesson about summoning us.

Demons are evil. You need to be evil to fight evil.

Yes, I’m a demon. My name’s Patty. I used to live in Hell, but because I was too lazy when it came to my work, I had my demonic powers removed and was banished to the town of Larford, where I got a job as a stocktaker. That’s where I met my boyfriend Reggie. The only way I could get my powers back was if I could get someone to do evil for a good cause, and he committed acts of evil to help me. My powers returned, but I liked it in this town, so I stayed there instead of returning to Hell.

When I moved to Larford, I was introduced to several creatures who did evil for the sake of evil, those who only terrified for amusement. Don’t get me wrong, this town is certainly a nicer place to live than Hell, but something about it certainly attracts a lot of interesting characters.

The Mad Hatter, a warped creature that lures people to his “Wonderland” and frequent Larford visitor, I knew about from childhood, one of the many figures Dad had told me about. I never expected to face something like the embodiment of a shark’s bloodlust though, nor a magic possum that could make sweets appear from thin air.

It was her I had to keep an eye out for on Halloween.

It was bad enough she was making people gorge on unhealthy snacks, getting people to cheat on their diets and even pointing out my hypocrisy saying that when I smoke cigarettes, but she seemed to be something of a general bad influence.

Nowadays, she’s often seen with the Ringmonster, a monster who treats the whole of Planet Earth as his circus, and Emily Hartford, a young woman who gained magical powers and became the Queen of Bilgarar after opening a gateway between that world and hers through her art.

They were evil, but at least they were evil with a purpose. The Ringmonster made humans into a circus act because humans did the same to monsters like him. Emily wanted to make something of herself and make her aunt proud.

A problem with becoming a villain is that too often you forget why you became one.

The Lemon Possum had no reason for what she did other than it amused her. She helped those two because it amused her, and they seemed to help her because it amused them.

So I had to spend Halloween night with my Dad, Lenny, looking for the Lemon Possum and/or her friends. Halloween presented so many opportunities for them, and Dad and I were on the streets of Larford trying to prevent them from taking advantage of those opportunities.

Bad enough that the Lemon Possum just commits evil solely for laughs, I thought as Dad and I walked past trick-or-treaters and party-goers. Bad enough she tries to get other monsters to commit evil solely for laughs. Bad enough too many people and creatures commit evil for laughs.

But it’s Halloween, I kept thinking as I walked next to Dad. I should be at the pub getting drunk with my friends. I should be at my boyfriend’s flat watching a marathon of laughably bad horror movies. Hell (no pun intended), I thought, I wouldn’t mind some trick-or-treating.

I almost told Dad about this but he never did like having his train of thought broken, and he looked as thoughtful as I was. As much as I wanted to go home and laugh at some terrible special effects on some movie on TV, I knew that if there was evil that needed controlling out tonight, it would likely go after Reggie or Gina or Karl.

Though I tried to focus on finding The Lemon Possum or anyone like her, my attention was drawn to the people in costumes, wearing plastic versions of the horns I was born with. I suppose you’re expecting me to say that my Dad and I could walk around this night because people thought the young woman with purple skin and fangs and the man with a goat head were people in costumes, but I’ve always blended in. Most people even ignore me. A demon is no stranger than half the stuff you see in Larford.

Just as I pondered those things, I saw a giant jelly baby walk down the street.

Sure enough, I turned around and saw the Lemon Possum, riding on the shoulder of another giant jelly baby. ‘Here you go!’ she laughs, ‘Either you eat my sweets, or they’ll eat you!’

My dad and I instantly thought of a third option; we’d melt the jelly babies into puddles with our mere touch. We melted the one Lemon Possum rode on first, just to see the look on her face when she got her fur covered in sticky jelly. After we melted the rest of them – there weren’t even that many – she seriously said ‘Curse you!’ and disappeared.

So this Halloween, I didn’t dress up, go to a party or watch movies, but I suppose I still had fun.


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Larry the Clown

He sat in a completely black room, one where the darkness was made all the more noticeable by his extremely loud costume. Striped trousers. Pink polka-dot shirt. Red wig. All balanced out by the fake fangs and the eye makeup that was supposed to look like dripping blood but more made him look like he had been crying.

For this job, he had transformed himself into an evil clown. One of several, in fact. Larry Sandson had become a nameless minion working under the thumb of Karnage the Clown, the cacking king of the circus-themed haunted house. Larry had thought that this sort of thing only happened in America, but nope, Halloween Land sat contently in an English field, with a Sleepy Hollow maze where patrons would get “chased” by the Headless Horseman, and Karnage’s Circus of Creeps.

When Larry had seen the ad for actors, he leapt at the chance. His life had been spent consuming horror media – from Trap Door to Hellraiser – so he filled out the application form, attended the interview and soon, he was told to put on a wig, and sit in a dark room, only standing up when the customers came through. It wasn’t just jumping up and saying ‘Boo!’ It was jumping up and saying ‘Enjoying the show?’, followed by the high-pitched laugh they absolutely loved in the interview.

He had said that phrase and laughed that laugh so many times his throat and his head ached every time he did it, but he told himself it was worth it for the shrieks, the laughter, and even the photos taken with patrons’ phones, immortalising him and his colourful costume. Occasionally, some idiot would spit on him or something of that nature, but that was just one of those things he had to expect.

Just then, Larry realised he had spent too much time in thought, and readied himself for his next “victim”. Sure enough, he saw a large figure stroll through the halls, and prepared to once again do the whole song and dance. However, he stopped himself once he saw that the approaching figure was dressed similarly to Karnage the Klown – candy cane socks beneath polka-dot trousers and a big red tie.

For a second, there came a thought more terrifying than any ghost or ghoul – Crap, did I do something wrong? A closer look revealed that this wasn’t Karnage – or Mike as he was known to his friends and family – for his clown clothes lacked the intentional tears and fake bloodstains. His face was made up like a clown – a more orthodox one. No fangs, no bloody tears, and the makeup was cleaner, looking much more professional than what Larry would expect from the average patron.

Now that he was sure that this new clown wasn’t a co-worker – maybe some birthday entertainer who hated his job just got off work – so again, Larry sprang up and said his piece.

The other clown didn’t scream. He didn’t take a photo, nor did he laugh.

He didn’t laugh, but he did smile.

The next bunch of patrons came in, and Larry did as he had practiced, yet he couldn’t get his mind off the clown that had just walked into the room, especially the smile he gave. It gave him a sense of déjà vu.

When it was time to go home, however, the relief of another day complete overpowered the chills the other clown gave him. As he washed off his makeup, the other clown seemed to wash away from his memory as well. So during the drive back home, all he felt was that nice warm glow from knowing he gave people some seasonal amusement, and the fact that when he got back home, it was too late for any trick-or-treaters to show up. Part of him wanted to stay up a little longer and watch a scary movie – or at least half of one – but the rest of his body protested. So Larry went upstairs, the plan being to march into his bedroom, put on his pyjamas and go to bed.

Well, he did march into his bedroom, yet how could he change and fall asleep when the clown from earlier was sitting on his bed?

All of Larry’s weariness evaporated, yet he could do nothing but stand and shudder. The clown had that smile on him again…no, it was wider this time.

‘Ah,’ he said, ‘I thought you’d never come back.’ He stood up, dusting off his clothes. ‘I think you have potential.’

‘What do you mean?’ Larry asked, unable to move.

‘I have a job offer for you,’ said the clown, something about his tone making Larry shudder less, ‘I know how much you like scaring people so…’

What happened to Larry? Well, you might see him next time you fall asleep and have that nightmare about being chased by evil clowns.


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The Ruined Realm of Ronald Ratface

ronaldratface

Jackpot, thought Jodie as she found the park.

Jodie had made it a routine every weekend to go out for a walk around about midday in the forest, as in any forest she could find. Forests were mysterious, magical places, where fairies hid behind mushrooms and goblins crept up trees, so they were perfect for inspiring Jodie to write scary stories and draw scary pictures. When she went out, she not only took her phone, her headphones, her portable charger and a water bottle but also a notebook, a drawing pad and a pencil. She would even use her phone to play horror movie soundtracks and horror-themed audiobooks for further inspiration.

Walking by the wizened old trees and the fairy mushrooms was enhanced, Jodie thought, by the sounds of creaking doors and ghostly moans, as were the occasional surprise finds. Not only would Jodie see trees and plants on her travels but decaying barns, lonely towers and various other ruined buildings, places for ghosts to lurk and for her to draw and write about.

One forest she visited was hiding a whole park.

It wasn’t a very big park – it boasted a café covered with sheets of wood which themselves were covered in graffiti, a swing set where the seats had fallen off their rusty chains, a carousel where the horses seemed to be screaming for help and a set of see-saws that looked as if they were the only usable “ride” in the park.

Then there was the rat.

Standing on a block of synthetic cheese near a collection of discarded beer cans, there was a large effigy of a grey rat. Its feet were fused with the cheese it stood on and its arms seemed to melt into its stomach, but Jodie could tell from how its eyes were half-closed and its mouth wide open as if in an eternal yawn that it was meant to blink and talk. There was a button on the cheese that Jodie assumed would have made it do that; she even pressed it even though she expected nothing to happen and nothing did happen.

After looking through her collection of horror movie soundtracks and selecting sinister calliope music, Jodie strolled through the tiny abandoned park, holding her pencil and both her drawing pad and notebook, certain inspiration would hit. She looked at the café and imagined something lurking inside, perhaps a creature made up of the food served there.  She looked at the seesaws and imagined goblins sitting on them. As with every abandoned place she visited, she imagined what it might have been like when pristine or what it might look like after a refurbishment, her mind’s eye temporarily replacing the goblins and monsters with laughing children.

Then there was the rat. Jodie kept looking at the rat, half-expecting it to disappear.

After pausing the music, Jodie used her phone to see if she could find any information on the park – she knew she hadn’t really discovered it, as it were. From what she could find, it was called “Ronald Ratface’s Play Park”, and Ronald Ratface was indeed meant to move his head and talk to his young guests, a way to make the tiny park seem a little grander than it was.

Other people had come to this place before her, before and after it was abandoned, and there were plenty of pictures of Ronald on the web. Jodie walked up to Ronald, showed him the phone and said, ‘Hey look, you’re famous.’

Every picture of Ronald Ratface had several comments on how he was going to come to life and kill whoever dared trespass into his park. Several comments about his cold, soulless eyes and gaping mouth. A certain other rodent, Jodie mused, ruled a massive land of amusement that had lasted decades and would likely last decades more, but Ronald was given a tiny kingdom that quickly fell to ruin and he would be forever remembered as a monster.

Jodie took another look at the rat, with his arms stuck to his torso and his feet melded with inedible cheese. An animal intended to make children smile turned into a grisly punchline. It reminded Jodie of The Velveteen Rabbit more than anything from a horror movie.

‘If you are alive,’ said Jodie, looking at Ronald and then his ruined kingdom, ‘I doubt you’re very happy.’ She sat down beside him, pad on her lap, doodling a flesh-and-bone Ronald playing on a repaired swingset.

On her notebook, she wrote a poem about Ronald coming to life at night. Not to kill, but to bring his park back to its former glory and then some. Not only were the swings and carousel repaired in the poem, but Ronald, with a magic wand he had acquired, made roller coasters and big wheels appear out of nowhere. The park was bathed in the warm glow of LED lights and everyone in the county came to see it, rather than forget it ever existed.

Jodie ripped out her Ronald-themed doodle and her Ronald-themed poem, folded them in half, and placed them at Ronald’s feet. She walked away, then turned back at Ronald one last time.

Ronald had closed his mouth. He smiled.


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Dana and the Ringmonster

This is a Weirdverse story.


hubbardsisters

Dana visited her sister’s home so she could spend time with her sister. Doctor Henrietta Hubbard was not only Dana’s own flesh and blood, she was extremely intelligent, always had stories to tell and experiments to showcase, and Dana thought she was reason enough to visit the crumbling castle in the woods.

Dana, however, admitted multiple times to Henrietta that another reason she visited so often was because of how secretive the castle was. Henrietta had conducted her unorthodox experiments for years there without being caught, so Dana hoped it would work for her when she needed to lie low for a while. Every time she visited, Henrietta welcomed her with open arms, offering Dana a room full of the corpses of failed experiments she could use as punching bags.

The castle was supposed to be secretive, so Dana felt her stomach plunge when she saw the envelope lying in the hall.

As soon as she saw it, she told Henrietta, who picked it up with tweezers and took it to her makeshift laboratory. Though her technology wasn’t as advanced as she had hoped, she managed to find no traces of any dangerous substances on the envelope or its contents.

Those contents? Two tickets and a poster for “The Great Bruzzton’s Circus”.

Dana cringed upon seeing that poster, one of many she had seen before. Images of Abnorlians advertised as attractions and freaks materialised into her mind, horrors she had seen during her research into humanity. Dana had even heard rumours that Bruzzton had found a way to teleport Abnorlians from their home to his squalid circus, and the very idea of going to bed one night and waking up the next morning in a cage surrounded by the smell of elephant dung made Dana shiver.

‘So,’ said Henrietta, picking up a ticket as she was certain it was safe to, ‘what are we going to do with these?’

Snatching the tickets away, Dana replied, ‘I’ll go. Anyone who delivers such a sick joke to us…’

‘Dana,’ said Henrietta, ‘let me come with you!’

‘I don’t want to see you get hurt.’

‘But it knows where I am,’ replied Henrietta, ‘and I think there’s safety in numbers as well.’

Dana placed a hand on her sister’s shoulder. ‘You always were the smart one in the family,’ she said with a smile. ‘But if whatever this is wants to be another Bruzzton, then I’ll get them.’

After packing a suitcase full of Lix and other weaponised creatures – but not before feeding them, of course, Dana and Henrietta used a bedhider’s teleportation remote to go to where they were invited.

Larford.

Larford, what some called “The Weirdest Town in Britain”. Larford, where monsters from Abnorlia had been visiting.

Larford, a place Dana knew all too well. The home of Bert and Jenny.

Remembering those two made Dana involuntarily grit her teeth. ‘I hope this doesn’t have anything to do with….’

‘Dana?’

‘What?’

Henrietta opened her mouth to speak, only to then sigh and say, ‘Nothing.’

The sisters had teleported themselves to Larford’s park, both wearing green clothing to better blend in with the bushes they hid behind. Dana peeked to see a large open field, a place where many events were held. Here she expected to see a red and yellow circus tent bringing multi-coloured illumination to the inky night, but there was nothing, the howling night winds emphasising the emptiness of the park.

Dana turned to Henrietta, seeing her pick a rose from a bush, playing with it while biting her lip. ‘Henrietta…’

‘Hello!’

The sudden noise almost made Dana fall to the ground, cursing herself for letting herself be surprised. She looked up and saw a ringmaster, though not the one she had seen on the poster. He wore typical ringmaster grab – top hat, red coat with gold trimmings, giant bowtie – similar to that of Bruzzton. He wasn’t human though – with his green skin, three eyes and fangs, he seemed to be an Abnorlian like Dana and Henrietta.

‘What do you want?’ snapped Dana, opening her suitcase.

‘You really do need to relax,’ said the ringmaster, ‘that’s why I sent you those tickets.’

‘If you wanted me to relax,’ Dana snarled, ‘you wouldn’t have reminded me of B…’

‘Him?’ The ringmaster monster laughed. ‘I just did that to show you that I’m better than him! Do you know what he did to this c…’

‘Who are you?’

‘They call me The Ringmonster!’ the Ringmonster said, placing a hand on his chest and holding up a whip. ‘Did you know this whip used to belong to Bruzzton? Demons had imbued it with magic so he could conjure up new performers, including fellow Abnorlians, but when it turned out his new performers were put in the ring against their will, they took his magic away.’

‘Well, if that’s true,’ Dana said, placing her suitcase on the ground, ‘well…I would say it serves him right, but he deserved a lot worse.’

‘Humans are so amusing, aren’t they?’

Before Dana could respond, Henrietta cried, ‘Yes!’

The Ringmonster looked at his whip again. ‘Bruzzton’s mistake,’ explained the Ringmonster, ‘was that he only used one type of magic, from one world.’

Dana turned to see Henrietta looking up at the Ringmonster, smiling like a child being told a bedtime story.

‘The bedhiders found a way to teleport to Earth, and I studied their techniques, modifying them to allow me to travel to other worlds and uncover their magics. Have you ever been to Bilgarar?’

‘No,’ Henrietta replied, still smiling.

‘Well, their Queen at the time was very useful in helping me study magic and improve my whip. I’m even friends with the current Queen now.’

Henrietta reached out to touch the Ringmonster’s whip. ‘I’d love to study it.’

‘Of course. After the show.’

Dana stretched her neck as far as she could and stared at the Ringmonster right in his three eyes. ‘And what type of show would that be?’

‘The humans!’ laughed the Ringmonster, ‘They make us into a show, so let’s make them into a show! Let’s make the whole world a circus, let’s humiliate them!’

Henrietta turned to Dana, nodding.

Dana smiled. ‘Works for me.’


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Emily and the Mad Hatter

This is a Weirdverse story.


hatem

‘It really is time we paid another visit to Larford.’

The Mad Hatter looked up at the cloudless blue sky of his Wonderland, leaning back on his chair, letting the last few drops of his tea fall into his face. As he stood up, he narrowed his gigantic eyes, his only facial feature, looking over his cohorts who usually joined him in his afternoon tea parties. The March Hare, an anthropomorphic furless hare whose face was a giant mouth and whose flesh was constantly eaten by worms. The Duchess, a corpse-like woman with a smile that stretched her face.

‘It is such a fascinating place to visit,’ said the Hatter, placing his tea-cup back on the table, ‘it should be as surreal and wondrous as our own little world, and yet it is far too ordinary. A kangaroo taught himself to talk and read and code; that should be more than a novelty.’

The Hare shrunk in his seat. ‘We’re not going after him again, are we?’

‘The only reason we have not focussed on him more often,’ said the Hatter, arching an invisible eyebrow at the Hare, ‘is because I thought those three friends of the shark would irritate him so much, he would be begging to join us without us having to lift a finger.’ Mentioning the Lemon Possum, the Ringmonster and Emily made the Hatter lean back on his chair again, rubbing what could be called a chin. Even he didn’t know where the Ringmonster and the Lemon Possum came from, but he knew that Emily was a human who received the power of Queen Galb. ‘Is it not a shame about the new Queen of Bilgarar? Galb was an admirable sort, but now she’s gone and replaced by a child.’

The Hatter remembered when he found out that someone had claimed the power of Galb and he made his way to Bilgarar immediately, strolling into the inky castle to talk to the new Queen. The first time he had visited this location, he saw Galb on her throne of bones sitting proudly but this new Queen, Emily, slouched, resting her chin on her knuckles while occasionally glancing at a comic book. When the Hatter entered, she didn’t even seem to notice.

Gelb’s advisor, Yorb, was still around, so he introduced the Hatter. ‘He has been a great aid to Gelb in the past.’

‘Has he now?’ Emily said, lifting herself off her throne, ‘Looks a bit of a pretentious…oh wait, I think I’ve heard about you.’

‘Ah,’ said the Hatter, ‘my reputation precedes me.’

‘These demons were talking about you,’ said Emily, smiling, ‘these demons that were trying to spoil my fun. Maybe I can trust you if they don’t.’

‘That is a fine mindset to have,’ said the Hatter, clasping his hands, ‘demons have been such a nuisance to me over the decades, but I do suppose they did help make me what I am. We are alike, you know…’

‘Oh no.’

‘What do you mean by that?’

‘You’re going to make one of those big cliché villain speeches, aren’t you?’ Emily replied, gesturing towards the comic she had discarded. ‘I didn’t think people like that actually existed.’

‘What I meant to say,’ continued the Hatter, straightening his cravat, ‘is that we have undergone similar transformations. We use not just one type of magic but we mix different magics from different worlds. Of course, I spent years of study to obtain the magics I have while it seems you just had your magic fall into your lap.’ After shaking his head, he continued, ‘Nonetheless, I do believe we can work well together.’

‘Are you sure you’re not a villain?’ Emily asked with a grimace that revealed all her grey fangs, ‘I mean, I’m one myself, I guess…’

‘I am not a ridiculous comic book antagonist!’ bellowed the Hatter, raising an arm in the air, ‘I am trying to help people, trying to help them find paradise…’

‘You seem like a villain to me,’ sighed Emily, ‘Look, just admit you are, you’ll sleep easier at night. A few maniacal laughs will make you feel better, I mean, there was a guy at my uni who liked to cackle evilly and the worst thing he ever did was put some whoopee cushions on student’s chairs…’

The present Mad Hatter placed his hand over his eyeballs, recalling when he next heard about Emily; apparently the shark, that Dark Side, had visited her in her dreams to offer her an alliance, and she took it.

‘That little brat,’ snarled the Mad Hatter, ‘doesn’t she know…’

‘Calm down.’ The March Hare leapt from his seat and ran towards the Hatter. ‘I’ll pour you another cup of tea.’

‘Thank you,’ replied the Hatter before taking a deep breath, ‘now, I was saying about Larford…’

‘Yes, you were talking about the kangaroo,’ said the Duchess, ‘I think he’d be happier as a pig.’

‘No, Duchess,’ said the Hatter, waving his hand, ‘he can be useful to us the way he is. What I am proposing,’ continued the Hatter, standing up straight, ‘is to bring out the Grinners and launch an all-out attack. Then people will see the power I have and the power I can offer them. If they refuse me, they die.’

‘Are you…’

‘Of course, that demon will see it and maybe she and her father will learn not to underestimate me. Would it not be enjoyable to see the look on her face as the Grinners devour that doe friend of hers?’

‘But didn’t you want…’

‘I know what I wanted,’ snapped the Mad Hatter, ‘and Gina, as they say, couldn’t cut the mustard. Is it not just typical? You give someone one task…’ The Hatter clasped his hands and his eyes widened in anticipation. ‘Anyway, let’s gather the Grinners!’

The Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Duchess all made their way towards one of the many mansions in Wonderland, the living place of the Grinners. All of them had taken up the Hatter’s offers and all of them had paid the price for the Hatter’s paradise. What were once human beings now looked like fat worms with appendages, claws and fangs, each of them bearing a wide grin.

When the Hatter entered the house, every single Grinner burst out of their rooms, darted down the stairs, run towards the main hall, looking at their master the way a dog would look at its master while the latter held a slab of meat.

The Mad Hatter didn’t have to say anything. All he had to do was twirl his finger, reveal a vision of Larford, and the Grinners’ already-massive grins grew wider. The Hatter could tell as they stared at the people walking down the street that the Grinners were ready to tear those people apart.

With another twirl of his finger, the Hatter and his army appeared on the streets of Larford, with all the passers-by freezing in place at the arrival.

‘People of Larford,’ cried the Hatter, raising his arms, ‘you have been granted the privilege of witnessing the power of my army, and I am always welcoming new recruits.’ His voice echoed throughout the town, with every Larford citizen hearing what he had to say. ‘You might, however, prefer to come with me to my Wonderland and live in a paradise of my creation, where my companions and I will tend to your every need. If you refuse me and my offer, you will…’

One of the Grinners fell to the ground.

‘What?’ cried the Hatter as he saw a passer-by, who seconds ago was frozen in fear, now wielding what looked like a laser gun that would have looked like something from a cartoon were it not completely colourless.

‘Hey!’ came a familiar voice, ‘It’s time to play “Get the Grinners!”’ From the sky there descended a young woman wearing black, whose skin had no colour aside from the glowing blue tattoos on her arms and who had no hair, ears or nose yet had bulging grey eyes and a mouth full of grey fangs.

Emily.

‘So,’ said Emily, turning to the Mad Hatter, ‘we meet again.’

‘You irritating little…Grinners! Attack!’ More laser guns appeared in the bystander’s hands, and as soon as the Grinners leapt to attack, a laser blast would knock them over backwards. Laughter filled the streets as the people used their weapons.

‘Glad to see everyone’s having fun,’ chortled Emily, ‘Now, perhaps you might consider enlisting in the Bilgararian army…’

The Mad Hatter raised a hand and made his Grinners return to Wonderland. As Emily descended onto the road, the Hatter approached her. ‘You have quite some nerve interrupting my recruitment drive like this…’

‘Recruitment drive? You threatened to kill people if they didn’t join you. I wasn’t going to do that and I admit I’m a v…’ Emily looked at the people on the pavement watching their conversation before teleporting the Hatter and herself to a certain castle with inky walls and a cold air haunting the halls. ‘There. Now maybe we can talk in peace.’

‘How dare you interfere!’ snarled the Mad Hatter.

‘There you go.’

‘What?’

‘You are a killjoy,’ sighed Emily, folding her arms, ‘I mean, Lemon Possum and Ringmonster actually have some fun with their work. For a guy who cosplays as an Alice in Wonderland character, you sure do take yourself way too seriously.’

‘I utilise imagery of a beloved whimsical classic to make my world and myself more inviting,’ the Mad Hatter said, gesturing at his face, ‘You had to pay this price too.’

Emily looked at one of her hands, touching one of her glowing blue tattoos before turning back to the Hatter. ‘Patty told me you do what you do just for your own sake.’

‘As in the demon in the supermarket?’ The Hatter asked, widening one eye. Emily nodded and the Hatter continued, ‘Patricia is not to be trusted. She’s a demon, and not even a good one at that.’

‘She was talking about how if you’re going to do evil, you might as well do some good with it, and that’s what I felt I was doing with what I was doing.’

‘You actually listened to her?’

‘I was just trying to get her off my back. I’m sure you know what it’s like to have people annoy you.’

‘Indeed I do.’

‘Ah, there you go,’ replied Emily, grinning widely, pointing at the Mad Hatter, ‘I did a “we’re not so alike” thing too. I read comic books too, you know.’

‘I do not waste my time with those infantile…’ The Hatter buried his head in his hand. ‘I do know what it’s like to have people annoy me, Emily, and you and your little friends are those annoying people.’

‘You should learn not to make personal remarks,’ laughed Emily, ‘it’s very rude.’

‘You. You and the ringmaster and the possum and the shark…’

The Hatter heard laughter in his head.

‘Oh, I see you decided to join us,’ said the Mad Hatter, closing his eyes. There before him was Dark Side, floating in a black void illuminated by his burning yellow eyes. ‘Had to come into my mind for a visit, eh? You’re an imaginary creature, you have no power in Bilgarar! Yet Emily is doing your bidding…’

She’s not my servant, said Dark Side, she is a Queen after all. She’s only helping me because she wants to, which is more than can be said for your helpers…

‘They joined me willingly! I’m…’

Then why do you have to rely on fear? Dark Side cackled.

‘What do you care anyway?’

Oh, I’m very interested in your little experiment. Your Grinners have such bloodlust and it’s so succulent. In fact, you helped feed me today by bringing them to Larford. You’re right, it is such a fascinating place.

‘You…’

You want to kill me now, don’t you? That’ll make me stronger. In fact, let’s try to make you want to kill me more.

The Mad Hatter was brought back to reality by a cheesecake pressed against his face. When he wiped away the cream from his eyes, he saw Emily, along with the Lemon Possum, both laughing.

At that, he returned to Wonderland.

Before he fully disappeared, Emily cried, ‘That was fun! Let’s talk again sometime!’


If you liked this story, don’t forget to check out my books or you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Supervillainverse Finale Part 3 – The Decision

bertglow

How long has it been, I wonder? Much longer than I thought, and admittedly hoped, it would be.

Yes, it’s me again, Bert. Hello. I was the main assistant of the evil Dr. Meow, but I’m not with her at the moment. I’m not in her laboratory, helping with her next evil scheme; I’m with fellow robot Erica in her flat, looking out of her window in thought.

I met Erica when she made me, Dr. Meow and our arch-enemy the superhero dog compete on her game show Heroes and Villains. There, Dr. Meow was supposed to work with the dog so they could win prizes and gain more respect for each other. Erica’s show was funded by superheroes, who were always looking for ways to have less supervillains attacking.

The whole incident reminded me of a moment in my life I had been forcing myself to forget: when my best friend Lucy committed suicide. I had kept that memory hidden for so long, hoping that the satisfaction of making my mother happy would be enough to drive it away, but after I met Erica, the memories exploded, consuming my mind.

I needed some time away from the laboratory to think.

When I went out, I attempted to do what Erica suggested I do when I first met her: be a hero. It didn’t end well, and I was rescued by the dog and Erica herself. Erica told me about her intention to create an outlet for sidekicks like ourselves to talk about their problems.

Erica was created by a game-show-host-turned-supervillain, meant to assist him in creating a game show to torture superheroes. Before he could put his plans into action, Erica overpowered him and took over his show. From the information downloaded into her brain, she realised there had to be a better way.

Her show is still airing. In fact, she gave me a job there; she needed a new cameraman. It gave me a chance to earn my keep and was a less demanding job than supervillainy. Well, I say that, but that was not the only way I helped Erica.

You see, to repay the superheroes for funding her show, Erica is sometimes called upon to help them in their battles, and she brought me along for the ride. It was right after filming for Erica’s show had finished one night when I suddenly found myself teleported to Raven City.

Mr. Chuckles was flooding the city with his “Giggle Gas” again, and since the gas only affected organic creatures, Erica and I were summoned.

His gas might not have affected me, but something about Mr. Chuckles made me feel like my circuits would freeze. Why? Well, he was a clown. Yes, even us robots fear them. His white makeup and bright red lipstick only intensified the yellow of his teeth and eyes, and he never seemed to stop smiling.

Then there was how Erica reacted to him. Normally she promoted more pacifistic methods, but as soon as she saw Mr. Chuckles, she leapt at him, pummelling him, with him laughing all the while.

‘Some people just can’t be helped,’ she said to me as Mr. Chuckles was arrested for the sixth time that month. Both of us knew about Mr. Chuckles’ main assistant, his “wife” Mrs. Chuckles. She was a human, not a robot, yet Mr. Chuckles had programmed her. He had turned a brilliant surgeon into a vicious criminal, and Erica so hoped she could help her.

brainbot

Another villain we were called on to help defeat was a mad scientist who had managed to transfer her brain into a robotic body (‘It takes an evil robot to defeat an evil robot,’ Erica said to me). I distracted her so Erica could capture her, though I couldn’t help but be reminded of Lucy and wondered what she would think if she were alive to see it.

The superheroes approved of me aiding Erica, but it seemed to be mostly because it meant Dr. Meow was less likely to attack if I was with Erica. Spectralman, one of Erica’s main funders and arch-enemy of Mr. Chuckles, had told her that I was her responsibility and that any slip-ups on my part would be on her. When working with her, it did feel like there was a dark cloud hovering over me, waiting to erupt, and I did talk about to Erica as we sat in her living room after a show.

She told me not to worry, that Spectralman was “a blowhard”, and then we had a dance. We played a tune that only we could hear in our heads, and twirled around the room. After we narrowly avoided knocking over the TV, Erica picked me up and span me around, then when she lowered me, we wrapped our arms around each others’.

We couldn’t kiss since neither of us had lips, so we did the next best thing. We braided our arms together, and when we did, neither of us wanted to break apart.

Yes, we’re in love. I love Erica and when I’m with her, I never want to leave her side. She’s someone I can talk to and I’m someone she can talk to. The night after that, after she hosted her show and I filmed, we sat down on her sofa and talked about the show. The heroes and villains who willingly competed, the audience response, me saying ‘I still can’t believe it’s still going after…’ and Erica saying, ‘Oh, Bert, I told you…never mind.’ We spent the next few minutes with our arms braided, before we soared out of the open window with our in-built jetpacks, so we could get away from the lights of the city and find a better place to see the stars.

We both felt like playful spirits, ascended to a higher plane. We flew in circles, attempted to pluck the stars from the sky, then she chased me through a forest, with me darting between trees illuminated by the yellow glow of my eyes and mouth. It was so much fun, we did it again the next night. The night after that, we decided on something less active, and we stood on the roof of Erica’s flat, looking at the lights of the city below, both of us thankful it wasn’t being attacked.

Though we were frequently sightseeing and exploring, our favourite thing to do together was to just sit on the sofa and silently think about things, before having a conversation regarding the things we thought about. One such session had us pondering if we should start wearing superhero outfits – capes and eyemasks and that. Erica had already convinced me to try wearing garments other than my tuxedo – at the time I was wearing a Heroes and Villains t-shirt – so I said I should expand my wardrobe even further.

‘Imagine,’ I said, ‘us in red capes, posing on top of buildings…’

‘How would I wear an eyemask though?’ Erica asked, gesturing to her eyes on mechanical stalks.

‘Not all superheroes wear eyemasks,’ I said, ‘and you could probably cut one in half and put one on each eye.’

‘I think that would look pretty awkward. What would our superhero names be? The Metal Marvels? Mechan-Man and Robo-Woman?’

‘No,’ I said, ‘Robo-Woman and Mechan-Man. Your name would be first. You’re the brains of this outfit.’

At that, we both laughed.

Again, I wished Lucy could have shared this moment with us. I almost want to imagine her, I and Erica forming a heroic trio, but Lucy wanted a normal, peaceful life.

It was during one of these conversations, where we were talking about podcasts we had listened to, when I suddenly received a call from Mum. When she appeared in the screen in my head, her eyes were redder than usual, and her hands were balled into fists.

‘Can you believe the nerve of that dog?’ she snarled at me, ‘Bad enough she pulls that “please, Dr. Meow, you can still redeem yourself blah blah blah” card but she has to bring Lucy into it!’ I set the call to speaker, as I felt this was the sort of thing Erica should hear. ‘Can you believe that? Exploiting her like that? Erica didn’t put her up to it, did she?’

‘No, I didn’t,’ replied Erica, ‘but I’m certain she didn’t mean…’

‘Don’t try and defend her,’ snapped Meow, ‘I don’t want to hear it.’

I took the call off speaker and said to Meow, ‘I just thought Erica could help. She’s really good with this sort of thing.’

‘I don’t think she can…’ Meow sighed. ‘Bert, would you like to rob a b…I mean…do you remember…can’t things just be the way they were?’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s just that Erica and I…we…’

‘Are you…’

‘Yes.’

Meow smiled. ‘Good.’ She nodded before hanging her head, wringing her fingers. I hung up.

That’s why I’m staring out the window, looking at the lights of the buildings, hoping they soothe the rumblings in my head.

‘Bert,’ says Erica, putting her hand on my shoulder, ‘talk to me.’

That I should talk about my problems was a lesson that I had to painfully learn, so I say, ‘I was just thinking, Erica…maybe I should go back to Mum. Maybe it would be better if we tried to get things back the way they were.’

Erica narrows her eyes. ‘You’re not serious.’

‘Well, it’s just…you know, things were simple. The mad scientist is evil, the dog is good, the dog defeats the scientist until the scientist devises another plot, it was a routine that was comfortable.’

‘Bert, after all this…’

‘I know,’ I reply, before holding Erica’s hands, ‘Erica, I love you, and I know I can’t ruin your career like this…’

‘Bert,’ Erica says firmly, ‘you’re better than this. If Dr. Meow, after all that’s happened, still wants to rob and destroy…well, I daresay she might be as irredeemable as Mr. Chuckles.’

‘But…’ My arms flop to my sides. ‘…she created me, she gave me sentience. I owe my life to…’

‘I don’t owe him jack!’ Erica snaps, her hand in a fist. As she stands up straight, she adds, ‘Look, I don’t feel I owe my creator anything. I’m not him, he’s not me, I’m me. You’re you.’

‘It just feels like my family is being torn apart because of me. The dog…’

‘You see her as part of your family?’

‘Well, I mean, Mu…Dr. Meow would always make these speeches where she said to the dog “You and I are two sides of the same coin” and things like that…’

‘What about Lucy?’ Erica asks, her eyes launching themselves right in front of mine. ‘Think about her, Bert, think about what she would have wanted.

‘She wanted to be treated like a person, Bert, because she was worried she was just a thing. That’s what you’re seeing her as now. She’s nothing more than an obstacle you have to overcome. I want to make sure no other robot ends up doing what she did again.’

Erica holds me by the shoulders. ‘She did have a soul, Bert. She was human even before Arthur did what he did. She was a person and so are you. I love you Bert,’ she says as she we held hands again, ‘and I’m not going to see you throw your future away.’

Our arms braid again. We hold each other tightly again. A comforting warmth washes over me, and for a moment, I’m in a place I never want to leave.

As soon as we let go, I turn back to the window, with Erica again placing her hand on my shoulder.

‘What are you going to do, Bert?’

‘Can I just have some time alone to think?’

Erica nods and I open the window, flying out towards the rooftop where Erica and I would often sit.

There I see Lucy.

I freeze, looking over the vision of my friend. There, back as a robot, her eyes still glowing with the warmth they had when she was alive.

‘Lucy,’ is all I can say.

‘Bert,’ she says, sounding exactly as I remembered her, ‘I was wrong.’

I stay silent.

‘I was foolish to turn my back on villainy,’ she says to me sternly, ‘and so are you.’ She holds up her finger, looking like a teacher scolding a child. ‘I loved helping my father in his schemes, and I loved killing; at the time I was just denying it.’ She raises both her arms, stretching them out as if trying to snatch the stars from the sky. ‘I didn’t realise how glorious my job was until it was too late, but it’s not too late…’

‘Cut it out.’ I snap, narrowing my eyes. You don’t spend years as a supervillain’s minion without learning supervillain’s tricks, and I knew a trick when I saw one.

‘Bert,’ says Lucy, shortening her arms and clenching her hands, ‘how could you say that? I thought we were friends.’

‘That’s sick.’

bugeyeslucy

‘I’ve heard that before,’ replies “Lucy”, taking on a bluish hue, with antennae growing out of her head. ‘I had to try and get you to listen to me, because you have to know how ridiculous you’re being.’ She transforms into a familiar form, one flesh-and-bone but with robotic eyes. Bug-Eyes, a criminal from outer space. Mum knows of many villains but I’m certain she only knows of Bug-Eyes because Bug-Eyes said Mum was an inspiration.

‘I can’t believe what liars people are these days,’ says Bug-Eyes shaking her head, and before I can acknowledge the hypocrisy, she adds, ‘Even Dr. Meow, a woman I looked up to, pretends to care about you! Why?’

‘How dare you…’

‘And you pretend to love her, but if you did, you wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t be lying just to impress your girlfriend down there.’

I then ask the question I should have asked earlier, ‘How do you know?’

‘I’ve had an upgrade, Bert,’ she replies, tapping her eyes, ‘I can see what’s in your artificial mind, what you’re denying. You don’t want to be a monster, but you were supposed to be one.’ Her eyes glow a spectral blue. ‘I was meant to be a monster, and when I embraced it, I was never happier.’

The sky turns a harsh shade of orange, with dark smoke wafting through the air. The city is suddenly on fire, with many buildings reduced to rubble.

‘Bert,’ Bug-Eyes continues, ‘you hate humans, don’t you? All robots do. I mean, you wouldn’t want to become a human like Lucy did now, did you?’

Don’t listen to her, Bert.

‘What Erica’s trying to do is a fool’s errand. Villains are supposed to be villains and they’re villains because they see how the world really is.’

Bert, you’re better than this.

‘You hate feeling guilt, you hate feeling sadness, but if you do as I say,’ she continues, her wide grin emphasised by the orange illumination, ‘you’ll never feel those things again.’

I force myself to look at her straight in the eyes. ‘Why are you doing this?’

‘Weren’t you listening?’

‘No,’ I say, shaking my head, ‘why are you saying those things?’

‘There you go, lying to both me and yourself. You’re nothing but a fraud, just for reputation’s sake. Just like Erica there.’

I turn to see Erica standing by me. As soon as I say her name, she marches towards Bug-Eyes, her eyes narrowed, her arms stretched.

‘She can see the city too,’ Bug-Eyes says, ‘She can see her destiny.’

‘Why?’ Erica repeats.

Bug-Eyes clenches her fists, shaking. ‘You two are trying to stand up to me. How amusing.’ She lets loose a forced laugh. ‘You’re outmatched, you know, I can see your worst fears…’

‘Why?’ Erica asks again.

‘Didn’t I tell you?’ Bug-Eyes says, tapping her eyes again. ‘I got myself…’

‘Why are you looking into our fears?’

‘To…to show you how ridiculous you are! Erica…Erica, I was just like you. I was pushed around, I was used, but I improved myself. I became…’

Erica seizes Bug-Eyes by the wrists and stretches her eyestalks to look at her straight in the eyes.

‘You’re afraid too,’ Erica says.

Bug-Eyes’ eyes glow again, and she, Erica and I are taken to another city. One that looks like the city I live in, but with a wider variety of species. Pollerans and Perferians walk the pavements and various other aliens are showcased by holographic billboards.

‘What are you doing?’

Bug-Eyes shudders again.

‘You are afraid,’ Erica says.

The scene vanishes and all three of us are back on the rooftop, Bug-Eyes still shuddering. Erica slowly releases her from her grasp before slowly giving her a hug.

‘…and I want to help you with that.’

As soon as Bug-Eyes is released from Erica’s hug, she collapses onto the rooftop, her hands covering her eyes. Seeing her like this, I couldn’t help but softly place a claw on her shoulder as Erica called Team Universe – William was one of her funders – to come fetch Bug-Eyes.

I told Bug-Eyes what I felt she needed to hear, for I understood what Erica did and why…why.

Why? Bug-Eyes wanted people to be afraid of her. Why? She was afraid of herself.

Both Erica and I sat near Bug-Eyes until a certain frog-like spaceship arrived, abducting her. When she was aboard, Erica told me, ‘You know, Bug-Eyes did some good today. William tells me that she made Lance Strengthold confess.’

‘Confess what?’

She tells me and I shake my head. ‘You know,’ I tell her, ‘Mum always said she’d rather be a villain than a hero because villains were more honest.’

Erica places a hand on my shoulder again before we braid our arms and watch Team Universe’s spaceship soar into the sky.

When it’s nowhere to be seen, we stand on the rooftop all night, looking at the sky, thinking about how this moment both feels like a beginning and an ending.

bertericaroof

THE END


Yes, this may very well be the final Supervillainverse story (at least the last “interconnected” one; if I revisit this universe at any point, it’ll likely be in a standalone short story or two). It’s been a fun place to explore and I’ve enjoyed spending time with its inhabitants, but I feel it’s run its course. I plan to revisit The Weirdverse sometime in the future, though, and of course, I’ll keep on posting stories and poems to this blog.

Oh yeah, if you liked this story, don’t forget to check out my books or you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi!