BobbleCon 2020
rating: +32+x

Bobble the Clown sat up and coughed, the long, violent hacks jerking him forward. At the apex of his choking, a small transparent fish came free from his throat and dropped onto the ground, flopping around in desperation.

He was on a beach — long, near-endless, with snow-white sand and oil-black water, stretching on as far as Bobble’s grey eyes could see. It wasn’t a natural formation, obviously, given the straightness of the shoreline. It was as though it had been set out with the world’s biggest ruler.

Wait, this didn’t make sense. This didn’t make any sense at all.

He’d started off his big evil plan! He’d had the Pelican, the Laugh is Fun guy, hell, even the Speaker of Alagadda on his side! He’d gathered up some disposable bodies, set out to start property messing with the human race, and then…

And then…?

And then nothing. A complete blank in his memory. What? Had God reached down and smote him or something? No, no. If there was a supreme being with the ability to crush Bobble like an ant, he’d have done it long ago.

He pouted, crossing his arms and legs. This was bullshit! Where was his BobbleCon 2018?! It was supposed to have been a veritable banquet of blasphemy and slaughter. And here he was in Nowhere, Nowhen. Where was this place, anyway?

Looking down, Bobble saw a few companions down in the sand with him. The fish that had somehow found itself in his throat — now dead, rest in peace — a human skull with the jaw ripped away, and a tiny tortoise making its way across the beach.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Bobble reached down, flipped the tortoise on its back, and started walking.

Relishing the squeaking of his footsteps, Bobble put his hands behind his back and took in the landscape — actually, no, he didn’t do that, because there wasn’t any landscape to speak of. Just endless black and white. There weren’t even stars in the sky above.

He wasn’t in the physical world, that was for sure, nor the psychospace. Those places weren’t nearly as boring as this, unless you found yourself in Greenland. He had an inkling of where he was, but he truly hoped it wasn’t true. If he was right, it was worse than being in Greenland.

Much, much worse.

”HALT”

Bobble stopped, turning on his heel to face the voice coming from behind him. People! Goodie, goodie. He’d always considered himself a people person.

The speaker was one of three — floating figures, clad in seamless steel armour, wide staring eyes painted onto the fronts of their helmets. Rotating silver wheels hovered directly over their backs.

”IDENTIFY YOURSELF, CLOWN - ARE YOU OF ONEIROI, OR ARE YOU A FRIEND OF SENSE AND LOGIC"

The clown smiled; he could see straight through them. Literally, he could see straight through them — each of the figures had a small hole going right through the center of their chests, like a donut, and through the hole the landscape behind them could be seen. It was a brave look! Even Bobble had to admit that.

“Hello, hello, my dear friends!” he said, bowing deeply with a flourish. “My name is Pierrot Mercury, and I think you’ll find that I’m on the side of whichever of those is the right option.”

The knight-things shuddered angrily, the clattering of their armour like hail against glass.

”DO NOT TRIFLE WITH US, CLOWN - THE KNIGHTS OF REASON ASKED YOU A QUESTION AND GAVE YOU TWO POSSIBLE OPTIONS - YOU MUST CHOOSE FROM THOSE OPTIONS - A THIRD OPTION WAS NOT PRESENTED”

Well, Bobble certainly didn’t want to offend the Knights of Reason. They seemed like very reasonable people, hence the name he imagined, and he was one-hundred percent definitely probably sure they would help him out once he explained his tragic situation.

“But of course I’m on the side of reason and logic. I mean, look at me! Clowns are notoriously logical, hence why the Man tries to keep us down.”

He suddenly got the distinct feeling that three blades were at his throat. There were no physical objects, of course, but this wasn’t the kind of place where that would be a hindrance. Here, the idea of a sword was just as good as the actual thing. Better, even.

”YOU THINK US STUPID, DON’T YOU”

“Yeah,” Bobble giggled.

A moment of silence settled over the beach, interrupted only by the perfectly rhythmic sound of the tide coming in every 2.3 seconds. The Knights of Reason hung there, so still in the sky it was as if they were being strangled by invisible nooses. Bobble grinned: oh, he didn’t know where he’d been, but he’d missed this.

The Knights came for him.


Taking a seat on the corpse of the most portly Knight of Reason, Bobble considered his next move. Clearly, he’d somehow ended up in the Dreamlands, and that was most definitely not his favourite place to be. There was no point in violence or cruelty when a good deal of it was just against figments of your imagination.

Chewing what was still in his mouth, he sorted through the information he’d obtained from the leaders’ brain. These Knights of Reason were a part of some sapphire organization dedicated to colonizing the Dreamlands, having put themselves into permanent comas for that purpose. Seemed dumb to him, but he supposed that if that was part of their faith, he had no desire to judge.

The home of reason was the head, the home of emotion the heart — hence their removal of that deficiency from their dream-forms. Very poetic, very deep.

Ideally, Bobble would have liked to hitch a ride home, but these Knights weren’t fit for that purpose. As permanent residents, the concepts comprising them would just come back together somewhere else in the Dreamlands rather than waking them up in the physical world.

What he needed was a tourist, a transitory visitor like himself, but with a body of their own waiting for them.

Bobble swallowed, savoring the last few fragments of information as he digested them. Ah! There was something interesting! A settlement belonging to these Knights, not far from this idea of a beach.

Worth a look, at any rate. Maybe he could send a postcard.

As he skipped over the other two corpses and off into the distance, Bobble contemplated just how miserable it must be to be someone other than him.


This place was a marvel, thought Nino, but he was simply too incompetent to make use of it.

The Citadel of Forms he’d discovered this time was a sprawling landscape of apartment buildings growing out of each other like the branches of a tree, a veritable mosaic of urban life you could never find in the real world. A blue cuboid sun hung in the sky above, bathing the entire city in an ocean glow. Every now and then he’d spy the silhouette of a civilian crossing the streets, always in a straight line.

Nino sighed. His subconscious could produce something like this, but he couldn’t paint it to save his life. Why couldn’t he just transfer what he saw right now to a canvas? Why couldn’t his useless hands just do their job, damnit?!

He sat on the edge of one of the buildings, swinging his legs over the side as he tried to memorize everything he could see. Even if it was a futile endeavour, he needed to at least make the effort for when he woke up.

“Hey, champ,” came a voice from behind him. “Having a tough time?”

Nino glanced behind him — and once he saw the thing there, he flinched so hard he almost went toppling over the side of the roof.

“Woah, woah, woah!” chuckled the clown good-naturedly, grabbing Nino by the arm and pulling him back up. “Don’t wanna go waking up early now, huh?”

“Sorry, sorry,” Nino panted, doing his best not to look directly at the painted man in front of him. He’d never had a specific fear of clowns, not really, but having one sneak up on you in the middle of your dream was still like something out of a horror movie. “It’s just … you surprised me, you know?”

Again, the clown laughed. “I get what you mean, I get what you mean, buddy. Sorry to give you a fright there. Name’s, uh, Bubble - I’m part of your subconscious, friend.”

Nino furrowed his brow. “My … subconscious?”

Bubble smiled. “Well, of course. This whole place is your dream, ain’t it? Who else am I gonna be?”

It was true. For a few months now, Nino had been experimenting with lucid dreaming, trying to find inspiration for his paintings. The places he’d found himself in, like this city, were outstanding — it was sometimes hard to believe they’d come from the mind of a hack like him.

“Oh, okay,” smiled Nino weakly. “Bubble, right? What are you … um, what do you want?”

Well, said Bubble, taking a seat on the side of the roof just as Nino had been moments ago. “Like I said, pal, you struck me as a fella in need of a heart-to-heart. Real sad face, you know? And I’m part of you, so you can trust me when I say this stuff.”

Nino sat down again, wiping the imaginary sweat from his imaginary brow. After a few seconds of silence, Bubble nudged him with his shoulder.

“Penny for your thoughts?” the clown said.

Nino looked at Bubble. “If you’re part of me, shouldn’t you already know what the problem is?”

His companion blinked, grin frozen on his face. “Uh. Well, um, sometimes it’s best to vocalize your — our issues, you know? Of course I know what the issue is, but the important part is that you acknowledge your difficulties.”

Sighing again, Nino looked down at the streets below. “Well, I’ve been having trouble with my painting. I’ve not been getting much in the way of success — no, that’s not it. There’s no success. I’m a failure, man. A fucking failure.”

“Aw,” tutted Bubble, stifling what looked suspiciously like a yawn.

“And — and I’m barely able to pay the rent right now, and they’re bringing that up, and Lisa is always pissed off with me…”

“Lisa?” Bubble drew out the word, as if savoring the taste of it.

“My girlfriend. It’s — Jesus, man, it’s all fucked.”

“Please, please, just Bubble is fine,” the clown stood up, stretching upwards like a shadow in the sunlight. “Listen, friend, I’ve listened to what you have to say and this is my perspective.”

Nino took in a deep breath. What wisdom did his subconscious mind have to impart upon him?

“You’re absolutely right. You’re fucked. Your life is awful, and it’s about to get substantially worse. Too bad, so sad.”

Huh?” Nino turned to look at the clown, only to find himself falling over onto his stomach.

He winked — he tried to blink, but he couldn’t quite manage that. Something was wrong. There was a taste of mercury in his mouth. Something was dripping into one of his eyes. He couldn’t breathe right. He couldn’t move. The closest thing to speech he could manage was a high-pitched squeal.

All he could see was the oversized shoes of the clown standing in front of him. A second later, they were joined by a bloodstained brick falling from above.

“Sorry, champ,” cooed the clown, each syllable dripping with insincerity. “I’m a long way from home, and I need you to give me a ride.”

Nino moaned.

Bubble cackled. “Sorry, sorry! I didn’t quite get that, buddy ol’ pal! Please to repeat? Please to repeat?!

With all the strength he could muster, Nino looked up at his attacker. He had no trouble screaming after that.

The clown was smiling — no, more than that: the smile, the wolfish grin had spread over his face to such a degree that all his other facial features had shriveled down to tiny beady black eyes and a recessed skull-like nose. The skin around his mouth had torn, tiny black branches of wood poking out from the gaps, crimson blood belching forth without reserve.

Bubble reached for Nino with two hands, and half-a-dozen others that emerged from beneath his multi-coloured jacket. Within a second, they were upon him, each one wrapping around his skull. Eyes and mouth blocked, all Nino could do was scream his muffled scream.

Now, whispered Bubble. We’ve got a little hole here, but we gotta widen it a little if I’m gonna take a seat. Also, this is unrelated, but do you know where I can get a postcard?

Nino thrashed as much as he could, but much like him that didn’t amount to much.

"Guess not. Well, here we go!"

Fingers started digging.


Nino Calvano woke with a start, coated with sweat. He panted for breath, the details of his dream already fading from memory.

Jesus. Jesus. Whatever it was, he’d never had a dream like this before. Nightmares, sure, but nothing that felt so real. His body was responding like it had been in genuine danger. It took him a few minutes just to get his breathing under control.

Lisa had clearly already woken up, leaving him alone in the bed. That was fairly common these days, ever since the money from the paintings had …

Shit.

Nino squeezed his eyes shut, trying to recall what he’d seen while he was asleep, the landscapes he knew would make fantastic paintings.

Shit!

He’d messed it up again. There was nothing. He had nothing. He was nothing.

Next time, he couldn’t mess it up. He just couldn’t. The rent, Lisa, his paintings, his money, his failures … the problems swirled like a hurricane. For the last few months, he’d constantly felt like he was seconds from being swept away.

Positive affirmations, Nino reminded himself. Positive affirmations. He had to remember what Ms. Devon had said.

Joints cracking, Nino forced himself out of bed and walked over to his wall-side mirror. A sad, droopy face looked back at him. Bagged eyes and an unkempt, spreading beard. But he couldn’t lose himself in negativity.

He took in a deep breath and spoke words he didn’t believe.

“Everything’s going to be fine,” he said, as soothingly as he could manage. “Everything’s going to be fine.”

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License