Your Call Is Important To Us
rating: +45+x

“No ma’am, thank you for calling. You have a disquieting day now. Bye bye,” Gary said, ending the inter-dimensional call with the flip of a switch on his antiquated switchboard. It wasn’t easy what he did, redirecting radio signals and landline calls from wherever they were supposed to go to his little phone box, but he did it eight hours a day, every day.

The IV running from his arm was a constant reminder that the infernal machine was powered by his own blood and beating heart. The wires running out of the ports on the back of his neck were a memento that it used his own wetware to make up for its lack of modern electronics. The shiny silver bell crudely grafted onto the side of his face a mark of his eternal slavery to it.

But hey, at least it had got him a job.

A light on the switchboard began to flash, letting him know of an incoming call.

“Hey there, this is Gary Gorham of Herman Fuller’s Customer Service. How may I be of assistance?”

“Ah, yeah, hi,” a distressed male voice said on the other end of the line. Wherever he was calling from, it sounded windy. “I’m calling because I bought a pack of your anti-gravity balloons…”

“Ah, the Amazingly Ascending Aviator’s Anti-Gravity balloons. An excellent purchase. Are you having some trouble getting them to work?”

“No no, they’re working really, really well,” the man replied. “I made a whole bouquet of them to see if I they could lift me up and…it turns out they can.”

“I see. Now sir, if you had read the instructions on the package you would know that those balloons aren’t to be used outdoors unless they’re tethered to 10 pounds of weight per balloon.”

“Look, I’m not going to sue you or anything I just want to know how to get down! I must be a couple miles high already and if I keeping floating up the air will be too thin to breathe!”

“Sir, I would suggest letting them go one at a time until you start gently floating down.”

“Well I sort of tied them all together, and I can’t untie them, at least not with one hand. I can’t pop them either; these things are insanely tough.”

“Yes, our anti-gravity balloons are made of the same…”

“THEY’RE MILKING CLOWNS!” a hysterical guest screamed in the background. “THEY’RE MILKING CLOWNS!”

“WELL NEXT TIME KNOCK BEFORE YOU COME BARGING IN!” an irate Clown shouted in response. “JERK!”

“…did that person just say you were milking clowns?” the man on the phone asked.

“No, they said cows,” Gary assured him. “City slickers can be a bit a squeamish at times. Getting back to your situation, I would recommend cutting the balloons off one by one.”

“I don’t have anything to cut with.”

“Then you’ll have to chew through the string or ribbon holding the balloons,” Gary said. The bell on his face rung harshly, letting him know another call was coming in. “Sir, I’m going to have to put you on hold for a moment, but I will be checking back in with you. Just do your best to chew through the strings, okay?”

“Okay. Just don’t hang up.”

“I won’t,” Gary promised. He saw that the new call was from the Employee Hotline and quickly switched connections. “This is Gary Gorham at Herman Fuller’s Employee Helpline. How may I be of assistance?”

“Hey Gary, it’s Eugene,” a Clown said on the other end.

“Hey Eugene. What’s up?”

“I’m calling from Ikea. That Ikea. You know the one I’m talking about?”

“I do. What are you doing there?”

“Well Pius and I are still banned from the Utterly Bazaar so we thought we’d give this place a look.”

“I’m here too!” Pius shouted into the receiver.

“We’ve loaded up the Clown Car with a butt load of stuff. We must have driven a hundred miles through this store today. I was worried it might piss the staff off but I think it’s small enough that they perceive it as a fat-mobile. Those slenderman knockoffs really creep me out though.”

“Did you know there are normies trapped here?” Pius asked. “Like a lot of them. They look like they’ve been here for a while. Should we tell someone about that or…”

“I’m sure it’s being looked after,” Gary said. “So why are you calling?”

“Well that’s tangentially related to Pius’s point,” Eugene replied. “The normies were pretty freaked out to see a Clown Car driving around. I laughed at them for being dumb enough to get stuck in here, but, ah…”

“You can’t find the exit, can you?”

“It’s not that I can’t find it. I just…haven’t found it yet.”

“You have your Kaleidoscope keys on you, don’t you? Just open up a door…”

“We can’t find a door. Not just the exit; no doors period.”

“I see. Well, the Clown Car has doors on it so you could probably use those.”

“But then we’d have to leave the Clown Car behind!”

“We can’t leave the Clown Car, we only have three payments left on it!” Pius objected.

“So what do you two expect me to do?” Gary asked.

“I don’t know, just tell Icky and Manny where we are. If we don’t find a door before they close we’ll stash the Clown Car somewhere safe and leave it behind. We’ll come back in the morning and try to find a door to bring it through.”

“Eugene, we've got company!”

“Oh God, the normies are swarming us! They want the car! Back you savages! Pius, get the Bazooka!”

“But it only shoots cream pies.”

“They don’t know that you idiot!”

“It’s polka-dotted and has big pink balloon letters spelling ‘KABOOM!’ on the side. I think they’ll know it’s not real.”

“Let me know how this turns out fellas,” Gary said, hanging up and leaving the duo to yet another misadventure. He was about to check back in on balloon guy, when another call came in. This one was from the Complaint Line. “Oh boy.”

He cleared his throat and put all his energy into maintaining a happy voice.

“Thank you for calling Herman Fuller’s Customer Complaint Line. My name is Gary Gorham and I…”

“I brought my kids to see your Big Top show last Tuesday and despite being advertised as such it was not family friendly,” a woman said in a petulant tone.

“I’m sorry to hear that Ma’am, what was it that…”

“REMEMBER EVERYONE, THIS IS JUST A DRILL,” somebody shouted from outside, followed by the whirring of a large drill. “I REPEAT, IT’S JUST A DRILL. NOBODY PANIC.”

“I apologize for the interruption. Last Tuesday, you said? Oh, was it the part of the act when they force fed the guy sugar until he exploded? I know that may have been overly visceral but…”

“No, that part was funny,” the woman replied. “I’m upset about those lesbian clowns openly making googly eyes at each other in front of my kids.”

“…Seriously?”

“Yes seriously!”

“Well Ma’am, it’s not like they were having sex on stage. They make jokes and innuendos, most of which go over the kids' heads. At most there’s a peck on the cheek or a pat on the butt.”

“The dark haired one pulled a kitten from under the other one’s skirt and they both went on about how much they love pussy!”

“Which is funny! Ma’am, listen. It’s…”

“OH GOD, IT’S NOT A DRILL! I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL! EVERYBODY PANIC!”

An uproar of panicked screams, animal calls and the buzzing of a rusty chainsaw briefly overwhelmed the call.

“What the hell is going on there?” the woman asked.

“Just another fun-filled day here at Herman Fuller’s Circus of the Disquieting,” he replied. It was the standard response to such questions. “Ma’am, it’s the twenty-first century…wait, is it the twenty-first century?”

“What?”

“It’s just that time moves differently in different universes and it can be hard to keep track of. Regardless of the exact the year, you can’t expect people not to be themselves just because you find it offensive.”

“I am a paying customer! When I take my kids to see a circus act I have a right for their impressionable minds not to be bombarded with homosexual propaganda!”

“Ma’am, believe me when I say that I am truly sorry that in a show featuring a man being blown up, an alcoholic elephant, and a Clown with literally explosive diarrhea, the part you found offensive was the consenting, loving relationship between two adults. Have a disquieting day.”

He hung up before she could respond, and switched back over to the Customer Service Line.

“Hey balloon guy, how are you doing?”

“I’ve chewed through a couple of strings, and I think I’ll be buoyant after one or two more, but I have another problem. I’m getting close to what I thought was a cloud, but now I can see it’s actually made of cobwebs. What the hell is that?”

“Hard to say. Few men venture to such lofty heights. Who knows what strange creatures dwell so far up in the stratosphere.”

“You’re not helping!”

“My apologies. Just do your best to steer clear of it,” he suggested. The bell on his head rung again, and he saw he had a call coming in over the Clown Transportation Services Line. “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to put you on hold again.

“Herman Fuller’s Clown Transportation Services, how may I …”

“GARY? GARY IS THAT YOU?” demanded an outraged and fast-paced voice. Though it had been years since he heard it, Gary recognized it immediately. “GARY, YOU LET ME THROUGH THE KALEIDOSCOPE THIS SECOND OR I SWEAR TO THE BROKEN GOD I WILL SKIN YOU LIKE A LOVESICK FUN-LOVER, EVISCERATE YOU AND STUFF YOU FULL OF CURDLED CLOWN’S MILK AND THEN HANG YOU UP WITH YOUR OWN ENTRAILS LIKE A MARIONETTE!”

“Who is this?” Gary asked with a coy smile.

“GODDAMMIT GARY YOU KNOW WHO THIS IS! I PROMISE YOU, WHEN I GET BACK TO MY CIRCUS YOU ARE DEAD, DO YOU HEAR ME? YOU’RE DEAD, MANNY’S DEAD, ICKY’S DEAD, THE ZOMBIE GUY WHOSE WHOLE SHTICK IS BEING DEAD IS DEAD! ALL OF YOU ARE DEAD! YOU WILL RUE THE DAY YOU DOUBLE CROSSED…”

“I’m sorry sir, but we appear to be having some kind of connection problem. For some reason you’re coming through as a pathetic, delusional deposed despot calling from a dilapidated phone booth that you're probably using as both a shelter and lavatory.
“You want to threaten me, come here and do it to my face you bastard. Have a disquieting day.”

“GARY?! GARY DON’T YOU DARE HANG…”

“And blocked,” Gary said as he permanently severed the connection to that particular dimensional backwater. He took a deep breath to readjust himself for the next call. “Thank you for calling Herman Fuller’s Business line. How may I help you today?”

“Hello Mr. Gorham, this is Victor Chan from Marshall, Carter, and Dark.”

“Ah yes, lovely to hear from you again. What can I do for you?”

“I’m calling because I have a crucial update from our SCP operative regarding…”

“FOR THE LOVE OF GOD QUINCY SLOW DOWN!” someone screamed outside.

“I TOLD YOU I CAN’T DRIVE STICK!” Quincy shouted back. There was the sound of a car crashing, an engine exploding, and some fireworks shooting off through the air and blowing up.

“MY GOD THERE’S BLOOD EVERYWHERE! Mostly inside us, but still: THE HORROR!”

“…is everything okay over there?”

“Just another fun-filled, ah…yeah, I’m sure everything’s fine.”

“Gary, you got a sec,” Icky asked as she stepped into his display case.

“Sorry Victor, I’m going to have to put you on hold for a moment,” Gary said. He turned around to see Icky, with her hair frazzled and her face and clothes covered in gun powder residue. “You okay boss?”

“It’s a little crazier than usual out there but nothing I can’t handle,” she replied. “So Manny still hasn’t found anyone to replace Saccharina so I’m going to need you to order some candy from Wondertainment. I’ve got a list right here. Make sure you tell them to mark the Tattletale Truffles as private. Last time we gave those out it ruined a lot of relationships and I’m pretty sure one poor bastard got sent to Gitmo. Also, see if we can make an appointment to design some custom magic tokens for the midway. Bailey told me that Canada has glow-in-the-dark toonies and I’ll be damned if a semi-real country has more whimsical currency than we do.”

“Sure thing. Hey, I’ve got Victor on the line and I think he’s calling about the Essie caper. Do you want to speak with him?”

“Yeah, put him on the speaker.”

“Hey Victor, I’m back. I’ve got Icky here with me and I’ve put you on speaker phone.”

“That’s perfect. Icky, our SCP operative has confirmed a date and time for your operation,” Victor told her. “This Saturday night at 10 pm, our operative and another guard will be the only Foundation personnel in the facility. He's confident he can slip a tranquillizer in his partner's coffee, and once he's out our operative will shut down all the cameras, locks, and other security features in the wing holding your Virtuoso. He'll then drug his own coffee and drink it to provide a suitable alibi for himself. He assures us that everything will be good to go by 11 PM and that he and his partner won’t wake up until after midnight. That’s your window of opportunity, twenty-three hundred to zero hundred hours this Saturday. Is that clear?”

“Victor, that’s awesome. Thank you so much,” Icky said. “I’d love to talk more but I have a possibly attempted vehicular homicide to deal with so if you’ll excuse me.”

“Wait, there’s one more thing,” he said. “I have a couple of other clients who have some wares they’d like to try to sell you that I think would be excellent additions to your Circus. Would you like me to arrange a viewing?”

“I…”

“Icky!” Yume cried as she ran up to the display case. “Come quick! One of Ripley’s sea monsters escaped from the Funhouse! Manny’s fist fighting it to keep it away from the crowds and Gabriel’s trying to calm it down but Lolly’s riding it like she’s at a rodeo and it won’t stop bucking…”

“Victor, I’ll run that past Manny but I’ve got to go. I’ll talk to you later,” she said as she dashed out of the glass phone box.

“Hey Gary, just out of curiosity have you guys ever consulted any type of actuary about the potential risks of your attractions, because it seems like that’s something you might benefit from,” Victor asked.

“No, Icky and Manny tend to make decisions from the gut, heart, or whatever vital organs are available, and they haven’t steered us astray yet,” Gary replied.

The wails of the Nessie-esque sea monster echoed across the fairgrounds as the beast did battle with an upside down faced man and two excessively exuberant Clowns.

“Right. I’ll talk to you later then Gary.”

“Wait wait wait. Before you go, what year is it?”

“…2017.”

“Thank you. I knew it was the twenty-first century. Take care of yourself, Victor.”

“You too Gary.”

Gary ended the call and took a look at the list Icky had left him.

“Let’s see; 24 crates of cheeping peeps, variety (both colours and songs), non-screaming. 24 crates of glowing gummy bears (the non-radioactive ones). 16 crates of bubble breath gum oh my god balloon guy!” Gary immediately put the list down and switched back to the Customer Service line. “Hey there, sorry about keeping you on hold for so long. How are you making out?

“Balloon guy?”

The line was dead.

“He, ah, he probably just dropped his phone,” Gary assured himself. He sat silently in contemplation until the next call came in. “Thank you for calling Herman Fuller prize support. I’m Gary Gorham, how may I be of assistance.”

“I won this prismatic magic eight ball thing that actually tells the future and I told some friends about it and they must've told someone about it over the phone or online or something because earlier today these spooks showed up at my house,” a panicked young man answered him. “I didn’t let them in and now there’s like a S.W.A.T. team or something getting ready to break down my door. I’ve barricaded the entrance and armed myself with an accent lamp. What do I do now?”

“Don’t try concealing it anally.”

“What?!”

“We’ve had people try that in the past. They find it anyways so it’s not worth it.”

There was the sound of glass breaking, a soft thud and something hissing.

“Oh god they just threw in some kind of gas can. It’s spraying red gas that tastes like peppermint and batteries! I can’t remember my iPhone unlock code!”

“Well you’ll have to go to the genius bar for that but…”

He heard the door breaking down and men shouting as they stormed into the room.

“This phone’s live!” someone shouted. “Who is this?”

“Certainly no one anomalous,” Gary said as he immediately cut the connection.

But of course it was someone anomalous. It was none other than Gary Gorham, the

MASTER OF TELEPHONESIS!…

Esis!…

Esis!…

Esis!…

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