A Circus Come To Not
rating: +30+x

“Pius, how do you keep getting us into these messes?” Eugene asked as he lurched over the side of the inflatable lifeboat, his face literally green from seasickness.

Though, it would perhaps be more accurate to call it motion sickness, as they weren’t floating upon an actual ocean. The body they were bobbing upon undulated up and down slowly and without rhythm, like a super-viscous fluid being frothed around in a bowl. The surface was a perfect mirror, but instead of the sky, it reflected an ever-shifting mosaic of scenes from every corner of Reality, stretching onwards without a horizon and seemingly to infinity. Though it looked fluid, if Eugene tried to cup it with his hand it would float into the air like smoke and sift through his fingers like sand. The strange sea was neither gaseous nor liquid nor solid, but rather a substance wholly alien to the known space-time continuum. As such, Eugene’s only perception of it was what optical illusions his brain would generate as it desperately tried to make sense of it.

“I hardly see how this was my fault,” Pius replied as he calmly read over the survival guide he had found among the lifeboat’s effects.

He glanced up briefly at the sky, which instead of a sun or moon or stars held a colossal, hyperdimensional tangle of multiverses, stretching from one end of the firmament to the other. Individual universes appeared primarily as midnight blue orbs stained with luminous webs, strung together like octopus eggs.

“If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even have the lifeboat and you’d be sinking all the way down to the Not Abyss. Do you know why this place is called the Not, Eugene? Because it’s Not our world, Not our universe, Not our multiverse and Not even our omniverse. We are outside of Reality itself, and the only reason it’s even remotely comprehensible is that this is just the surface of the Not and we can still see our own Reality from here. Now, if you go deep enough down that you can’t see home anymore, then your mind will shatter just from the sheer nature of the Not itself. Those are some truly unfathomable fathoms, let me tell you. Literally indescribable, utterly inconceivable and unimaginable, not a single mote of stuff down there that wouldn’t drive you absolutely bonkers just trying to wrap your head around it.”

Eugene retched, releasing a copious volume of glittery black Clown vomit out of his mouth and straight into the incomprehensible Not.

“Okay, well now there’s Clown vomit down there, and that I understand,” Pius conceded.

Eugene groaned as he flopped over on his back, his face still as green as a pickle.

“You’re the one who shapeshifted into a mouse and sent Bubblegum into a panic while we were in the Nautilus’s passenger hold,” Eugene reminded him.

“I thought she was passed out.”

“Well, why would you turn into a mouse in the first place?”

“It was cramped in there, so I turned into a tiny animal. It was a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It’s not my fault that a startled, hungover elephant accidentally knocked Danny over and his eternally enflamed head set the hold on fire. You were the one who screamed ‘abandon ship!’ and leapt out the porthole.”

“You didn’t have to follow me!”

“I didn’t, and neither did Bubblegum. If her head wasn’t stuck in the porthole, or she hadn’t been trumpeting like crazy, someone might have noticed we went overboard.”

“Well, like you said, at least you had this inflatable lifeboat on you. I’d probably be dead right now if it wasn’t for you.”

“Thank you.”

“What about the rest of the Circus? You don’t think they’re…”

“Unlikely. There was at least one fire extinguisher in the hold and the blaze hardly seemed out of control. The Nautilus is probably looking for us right now.”

“Fat lot of good that’ll do us. Space and Time are meaningless here. For all we know, they’ve given up the search, gone home, and our universe has already expired from heat death.

“Try calling Gary.”

“I doubt we’ll get a signal here.”

“Just try it.”

“Alright then.”

Pius reached into his pocket, pulled out a French-style rotary phone and dialled Gary’s eleven digit number.

Ring Ring

Ring Ring

Ring Ring

Ring Ring

“It’s ringing.”

“I can hear it.”

“Gary? Gary is that you?” the voice on the phone asked.

“What? No, I was calling for Gary. Who’s this?” Pius asked.

“This is Pius the Clown. Who’s this?”

“You’re not Pius, I’m Pius!” Pius objected.

“It sounds like you,” Eugene claimed.

“I do not!” the voice on the phone said.

“Pius, it’s just pattern screamers, hang up,” another voice that sounded like Eugene said.

“We’re not pattern screamers, you’re pattern screamers!” Pius screamed, in a very pattern like way, slamming the receiver down. “That’s why I like old phones; you can’t hang up angrily with a smartphone.”

“I think we should take stock of our supplies,” Eugene suggested.

“Good idea. We have one rotary aether phone that can only be used to call pattern screamers. We have this survival guide, How To Survive When Reality Doesn’t by Dr. Alto Clef.”

“Why is the cover just a crudely drawn bunny in a hat?”

“It’s memetic, or at least a meme. As for the essentials, we have 1,2,3,4… 23 pints of Clown's Milk.”

“You just carry nearly two dozen pints of Milk around on you now? Are you trafficking the stuff?”

“Well we get lost a lot, plus since we started ultra-pasteurizing it we don’t need to worry about it spoiling.”

“Pasteurized Milk is a Fun-Lover conspiracy to weaken us! Raw Milk is natural! Raw Milk is healthier! Raw Milk is delicious! Raw Milk is…”

Eugene’s rant was suddenly interrupted by his cheeks ballooning with more vomit, which he promptly expectorated into the Not.

“Uggghhh. Not that I’ll be able to keep it down, but how are we set for food?”

“Let’s see. I’ve got a bag of Circus Peanuts, some Cotton Candy, a couple boxes of Animal Crackers, still got some of Saccharina’s Sweets but I was hoping to hold onto them.”

“You always were too sentimental.”

“There’s Kettle Corn, Corn Dogs, Dog biscuits, Purple Fluffernutter Sandwiches (Lolly’s favourite) and… an apple.”

“A caramel apple?”

“No, just an apple.”

“Gross.”

“Plus, I’m sure you still have the Bazooka, so that’s an infinite supply of cream pies right there.”

“Wait, that’s it! The Bazooka!”

“What about it?”

“We can use it as a rocket engine!”

“Huh?”

“It’s Thermodynamics! We set it to make pies with extra inertia, fire them out the back, and that will propel us forward!”

“That is the greatest idea you’ve ever had.”

Eugene forced himself to his feet in spite of his motion sickness and retrieved the enormous bazooka from his tiny pockets. Mounting it on his shoulder and taking care to keep it level so they didn’t go plunging down into the Not or flying up towards the Is, he fired off a coconut cream pie.

The pie erupted forward with so much force it sent Eugene, but not the boat, flying backwards. Thinking fast, Eugene immediately shapeshifted into a giant anthropomorphic parachute with the bazooka tied up in his safety harnesses. He was moving fast enough that he was able to catch enough air (or whatever was floating just above the Not) to lift him up by several dozen meters. As he gradually floated back down, he was able to manipulate his position by blowing until both he and the bazooka gently landed back inside the lifeboat.

“Guess we should have secured it to something, huh?”


After they had completed the inventory of everything in their pockets, Pius decided to try his luck at fishing with a rod he had found.

“And what exactly do you hope to catch? It’s not a real ocean, remember?” Eugene asked, busying himself with trying to create a pivoting holder for the bazooka out of a unicycle and a few rolls of duck tape (not a typo, actual analogue tape rolls of numerous documentaries about ducks).

“Well, it’s the Not, so Not a fish,” Pius explained as he hooked the popped kettle corn kernel onto the fishing line. “Not a crab, Not a squid, Not a polyp, Not a sponge, Not a slug, Not an eel, Not a starfish, Not a jellyfish and Not a sea turtle. But at the same time, Not nothing.”

Casting his line, the popcorn kernel splashed into the Not with a good solid ‘splunk’. At the same time, a giant popcorn kernel suddenly appeared, dangling in front of them while held by only a hairsbreadth of thread.

“Ah…Eugene, do you see that?”

“I see it, Pius. Is that yours?”

“I’m not sure. Let me try something.”

Pius tentatively moved his line back and forth, only for the large kernel in front of him to mirror his movements.

“Eugene, can you see what it’s attached to?”

“No, the string just goes up for as far as I can see.”

Pius lifted his line out of the water, causing the giant kernel to disappear, only to reappear as soon as he let the lure drop below the surface again.

“I hope it’s not another pattern screamer. That last one was so rude, hanging up on us like that.”

“Wait, what?”

“Hey, bring it a bit closer. I want to try something,” Eugene ordered. Pius complied, manoeuvring his fishing line so that the giant kernel hung within reach of the boat. Eugene jumped and grabbed it, giving it a sharp pull. Just as expected, Pius felt a tug on his line.

“That is truly perplexing,” Pius said with a furrowed brow. “I wonder… hey Eugene, hold on tight!”

“What? Oh no, no, no, no!”

Eugene screamed as Pius reeled in his line, causing him to shoot into the sky and reappear bursting through the surface of the Not, dangling from the end of the lure.

“See Eugene, I told you I wouldn’t catch nothing!”


As Eugene huddled under a blanket and sipped Clown’s Milk in an attempt to calm himself after his brief Not exposure, Pius (who had made himself a tricorne hat out of an old newspaper, irrefutably making him the lifeboat captain) read aloud from Dr. Clef’s Survival Guide.

“Did you ever think about how weird the terms Humes and Kants are? Most scientific phenomena are named after the people who discovered them or Greek letters, but we named these things after Enlightenment Era philosophers as… what, a joke?

“Anyway, say you’re in a region with a low Hume level – or low Kant level, whatever, I never learned the damn system – you’ll know because a) the number on your Kant Counter will be low – I don’t know how low. Again, I never learned the system – and b) EVERYTHING WILL LOOK LIKE YOU'RE TRIPPING BALLS!

“Now, it’s possible you are tripping balls and reality is actually perfectly normal, so you’re going to want to do a little field sobriety test. First, stare at your hands. Keep staring at them. If your hands don’t look normal, then you’re tripping balls. Get yourself someplace safe – not a hospital – and enjoy. If they look normal, then that means you’re in a low Hume/Kant region and are probably fucked.

“I’ll be honest, getting yourself unfucked ain’t going to be easy. Talloran managed to do it though, so there’s some hope, right? Best advice I can give here is not to count on Scranton Reality Anchors. Hell, those things didn’t even help Scranton in the end, you know (You probably don’t know since this is all highly classified information)."

“Can you please just skip to something that might actually be helpful?” Eugene asked.

“I”ll try. Let’s see, next is a rant about how he thinks he might be in a nuthouse somewhere and all Reality is his delusion, making him God. Then he speculates on how Gears can be a robot and the Black Queen’s father at the same time, talks about some stuff from his Geo Sea days… yeah, I’m starting to think this isn’t an actual survival guide.”

“It’s probably not a good idea to take survival advice from a guy who would kill us if he had the chance in the first place. Where’d you get that book anyway?”

“I found it in a Bargain Bin at The Ikea that time we were there. The review on the back said it was must-read TV.”

“What?”


Ring Ring

Ring Ring

Ring Ring

“The phone’s ringing again Eugene.”

“I hear it.”

“Should I answer it?”

“No.”

Ring Ring

“I’m going to answer it.”

“Don’t.”

“Hello, this is Pius the Clown, whom may I say is calling?”

“I’m sorry, but the number you have dialled is imaginary,” an automated voiced replied.

“I didn’t dial anything, you called me.”

“Hang up. It's either a pattern screamer or a telemarketer.”

“All of our operators are currently disembodied consciousnesses trapped in an eternal hell of their own existential despair. Please, stay on the line.”

The phone began playing a dramatic if melancholic instrumental track as hold music.

“Are you actually staying on the line?”

“They said ‘please’ Eugene.”

“Ugh.”

The Is is what was Nevermeant, the Not what should have Been,” a deep, demonic voice said as it suddenly broke the melody of the hold music.

“Hello, who’s this?”

For all that Is, there is an Infinity more that could have been. It is not just. The Is hath no more right to Be than the Not. Some Not is Ought whilst most Is should be Not, yet the Is will rot to Not in time.”

"How are you speaking in bold?"

"Hang up!"

"…THE KING SAT ALONE ON HIS THRONE OF BONE, CONDONED BY THE CLONES OF STONE. BEMOANED BY THE KNOWN, GROWN FROM WHAT WAS SOWN, and the world felt like nothing, amen."

“I’m sorry, you have the wrong number.”

Click

"I told you it was a telemarketer."


“Alright, that should do it,” Eugene said as he completed the final inspection of his cream pie jet engine rig.

“Hey Eugene, what do you think these big monoliths are?” Pius asked, cocking his head at the peculiar protrusion of gleaming stone rising out of the sea.

“It doesn’t matter. If this jet engine works, we’ll be able to travel the Not until we find a whirlpool back to our Reality, then we can find the Library, and then the Circus, and then forget all of this ever happened.”

“Do you think they’re just like some kind of iceberg or something?”

“Next time Icky wants to travel outside all known Reality, I’m taking a personal day.”

“This one’s getting awfully close.”

“I’m telling you, I’m going to have to get Tinkles to up my dose of Clown Impulse Suppressant after this.”

“The more I look, the more real it becomes.”

“This is not where I thought I’d be at this point in my life.”

“And yet, I cannot look away.”

“Being shuffled across the Not just so that I can crawl out of a snake’s ass.”

“It’s hypnotic.”

“Pius, are you even lis – Pius, no!”

Alas, Eugene’s intervention came too late. The Monolith had drawn existence from Pius’s mere observation of it, entrancing him and becoming more and more real the closer it got. As soon as it was in reach, Pius reached out to touch it. The act of feeling it was enough to make it fully real. Luminescent cracks formed in a grid-like pattern all along the Monolith’s exterior, causing it to break off into a million pieces and evaporate into smoke. In its place was an entity of some sort, composed entirely of radiant blacks and vacuous whites, of three-dimensional shapes that only made sense as two-dimensional drawings, of particles and forces which could only exist in the mind but drove mad any mind that beheld them.

“Oh, it’s an egg or cocoon or something. That’s neat,” Pius remarked.

The entity landed with a splash into the Not, generating a tsunami that sent the lifeboat spiralling away from it. Both Clowns screamed in terror and Eugene puked from a combination of terror and motion sickness, looking up in horror at the colossal entity before them. Their horror only increased when the entity seemed to take an interest in them, swimming towards them and opening a large orifice to engulf them.

“It’s going to eat us!” Pius screamed.

“The hell it is! Why fill up on Clowns when you can skip straight to dessert?” Eugene asked as he aimed the bazooka/jet engine at the approaching monstrosity. “Eat Lemon Meringue you son of a bitch!”

Eugene squeezed the trigger and held it, producing a volley of pies at a rate of 700 rounds per minute (he had illegally modified the bazooka to be fully automatic sometime back when he realized the key to a good a pie throwing sketch was overkill). The inertially modified pies propelled the little lifeboat forward at fantastic speeds as it rode up and down the massive bow wave the creature generated in its pursuit. Though many of the pies disappeared down its cavernous cavity, they did not slake its appetite. The entity needed a conscious observer to ensure its continued reality. If it vanished from sight, it would cease to be all together, but with a pair of observers incorporated into its being it would become self-sustaining, free to go where it would.

As the tiny lifeboat and colossal entity skidded along the surface of the Not, neither seemed to be gaining the upper hand. Eugene steered as evasively as the jerry-rigged pie thruster would allow, but the monster would not be shaken. As if sensing its preys growing sense of hopelessness, the entity widened its cavity, eager to devour them and become real.

This, however, proved a foolish decision, as a beam of emerald green light was fired into its gaping maw, triggering a catastrophic explosion and blowing the creature into rapidly dematerializing bits. The blast was so powerful that the lifeboat was sent flying through the air.

Eugene and Pius thought for sure that this time they would plunge into the Depths of the Not, but they instead landed in the Crow’s Nest of the Nautilus. The pair looked up to see Munin staring down at them stoically.

“Eugene,” he said, in as polite a tone as he could manage, but Eugene was sure he sensed the man’s anal sphincter tighten in memory of their recent performance.

“Well, this is awkward.”

“You morons!” Icky shouted as she crawled into the Crow’s Nest, right before throwing her arms around the two wayward Clowns in relief. “I really thought we might have lost you this time! You have to be more careful!”

“Sorry Icky,” the pair apologized, slightly out of synchronicity with each other.

“It was Pius’s fault,”

“You’re the one who jumped ship!”

“You’re the one who caused a fire, making jumping ship the rational choice!”

“Enough!” Icky ordered. “Next time we travel through the Not, I’m locking you two up in a crate.”

“How’d you find us anyway?”

“We detected a Monolith breaking on our scopes from 80 000 grimnauts away,” Munin replied. “It’s a rare and calamitous occurrence that Icky assured us could only have been caused by the two of you. Luckily, we’re well prepared for Schrödinger Krakens.”

“Come on you two. I want you below deck and well secured before Nemo makes the dive back home.”

“Sounds good to me. The sooner there’s dry land under my feet, the better,” Eugene said, slinging the bazooka over his shoulder.

“I hope you two realize how lucky you are,” Munin said severely.

"It wasn't luck, I broke open a Monolith."

“The surface of the Not is not only vast but an ever-changing kaleidoscope, with distance and location having little meaning," Munin continued. "Anything, or anyone, lost typically remains so until it sinks beneath the surface and the very concept of existence ceases to –“

His melodramatic monologue was interrupted by a cream pie to the face.

“Sorry. Hair trigger.”

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