Herman Fuller Can Shove It Up His Ass
rating: +112+x


The Bottomless Pit wasn’t Jeffrey Hubble's usual watering hole. Its clientele was mostly comprised of tourists, truckers and other passers-through. Locals seldom ventured there, and when they did it was usually for less than respectable reasons.

Jeffrey was grateful for the bitter February cold that allowed him to conceal his identity under heavy clothes without suspicion. Nevertheless, he had waited until after dark until heading to the disreputable dive, parking several blocks away and cutting through alleys to make sure he wasn’t seen.

When he stepped inside he left his scarf in place, scanning the entire room for anyone he knew. Squinting in the dim light and thick cigarette smoke, he recognized no one but the barkeep, a barkeep who knew how much his customers valued their privacy and could be trusted not to snitch.

Satisfied with his anonymity, he made his way to the back booth. He had been told two men would be waiting for him there, one tall and skinny and the other tall and muscular. The booth was occupied by two men, but there was also a young woman with them, and his contact had made no mention of that. Jeffrey took another look around the bar, just to make sure that these were the people he was supposed to meet with. The larger man whistled sharply at him and waved him over.

Jeffrey swallowed nervously and sat down to join them. There were four pints of ale already on the table.

“We ordered for you; hope that’s alright,” the larger man said, his tone making it clear it made very little difference whether it was alright or not. Jeffrey’s eyes widened as he was now able to see that this Man had an Upside-Down Face.

“Of course it’s alright. Why wouldn’t it be?” the slender man asked rhetorically, raising the pint glass and taking an exaggerated sniff. “This is some fine brew. I don’t believe I’ve ever had pumpkin ale before. Made from local produce, from your own farm if I’m not mistaken, Mr. Hubble.”

Jeffrey sighed and pulled down his scarf.

“Yeah, that’s me. I don’t suppose you’d be inclined to tell me who you are?” he asked.

“No, we would -”

“Herman P. Fuller, of Herman Fuller’s Circus of the Disquieting, the greatest show in the all the worlds! A pleasure to make your acquaintance,” the second man replied enthusiastically. The Man with the Upside-Down Face shook his head. “This is my bodyguard, Manfred Mannington Mandarino Mansfield.”

“We’re partners, and that’s not my name.”

“And the striking young lady beside him is -”

“Herman, if you introduce me as Leslie Van Dyke one more time I swear to god -” she said.

Veronica. Her name is Veronica,” Fuller said. “She's nobody, don't worry about her. I know you were only expecting two of us, but when Veronica heard we were heading to The Bottomless Pit she insisted on tagging along.”

“Sinning Jessie is supposed to hang out here. I’ve never been with a tulpa before, and I’m hoping she and I can go bumper to bumper,” Veronica said as she sipped her ale. “Hubble, how does this whole tulpa thing work anyway? Will just thinking about her attract her attention or do I have to say her name three times or something?”

“I… listen, I don’t want to be rude, but I was hoping we could just make our little swap and then be on my way,” Hubble replied.

“Oh yes, of course. Who are we to say no to a Karcist?” Herman asked with a smug smile.

“I’m not a Karcist!” Jeffrey whispered, grateful for the ambient drone of conversation, hum of the furnace and blare of the jukebox that made it nigh impossible for anyone to overhear them. “I’m not even a Sarkic anymore, not really. You can't tell anyone about me, ever! Neo-Sarkics don’t take kindly to apostates.”

“And how exactly did a small town, Midwestern farmer end up becoming a Neo-Sarkic?” the Man with the Upside-Down Face asked.

“Does that matter?”

“For what you’re asking, you bet it matters. We didn’t come here to get fleeced, and if your story doesn’t add up we’re walking.”

“If you really need to know, I came down with lung cancer a while back. Being from Sloth’s Pit, I knew magic was real, so I figured there had to be some kind of magic out there that could cure me. My search eventually led me to the Wanderer’s Library, and from there I was able to locate a Flesh Carver. I begged him to cure me, promised him anything if he would. He asked that I pledge my soul to Ion.”

“Hmmm. Sarkics aren’t known for being evangelical. I’m pretty sure they disown kids born into Sarkicism more often than they let in outsiders,” the Man with the Upside-Down Face said. “What made you special?”

“Apparently, the guy had been looking for an apprentice for some time to help him with his work. My botanical skills and my knowledge of the supernatural made me a decent candidate for Flesh Carving, and my desperation made me easy to control. He cured me, and in exchange, I was to serve as his apprentice for seven years. After that he would have sponsored my entrance into his House as an Orin, but… Neo-Sarkics are really weird. Most people agree that they’re evil, but everyone can agree they’re weird. I declined his offer and came back to Sloth’s Pit. Now I have a wife and kids -”

“My condolences,” Herman said.

“- and I just want to put all this weird Sarkic stuff behind me and have a normal life with them. I’ve removed all my grafts, reversed all my mutations, and pulled this little bastard out of my guts.”

He reached into his coat and pulled out a glass mason jar, inside of which was a coiled white worm. Herman immediately grabbed the jar and held it up for inspection.

“That’s what you wanted right? An Akuloth, His Sacred White Worm. It can cure any illness and boost regenerative abilities, enough to let you live forever if you’re skilled enough. It can also produce mutagenic enzymes, but unless you’re a Karcist I wouldn’t recommend that.”

“And you just plain don’t want it anymore?” Veronica asked sceptically.

“I need to sever all ties with my Sarkic past. I am burning that bridge forever.”

“Is that so?” Herman asked. “Then what, pray tell, is that?”

Herman nodded over to a bulletin board across from them. Among its many posted items was a newspaper clipping of Jeffrey, along with his son and daughter, standing proudly next to an enormous pumpkin.

“Biggest pumpkin in the whole county, literally broke the scale, yadda yadda yadda. Are you telling me you grew that with nothing more than good old American hard work?”

Jeffrey groaned.

“Okay, maybe I’m still using a little granola Sarkicism to boost my crop yields, but I have completely renounced Neo-Sarkicism. I’m dedicated to being a good husband and father now, so yeah, I’m providing my family with the best life I can give them, but I don’t want anything more to do with worms or tentacles or turning people’s bodies into actual temples!”

“Manny, what do you think?” Fuller asked.

The Man with the Upside-Down Face stared intently at Jeffrey for a moment, so much so that he couldn’t shake the feeling the Man was prodding into his very soul.

“I think he’s telling the truth. The worm’s probably genuine,” the Man replied. “I still don’t think this is a good idea.”

“That’s why I’m the boss and you’re a Freak I let out of the Den to intimidate people,” Fuller said, examining the jar with intense interest. “So what’s the deal with this thing, Hubble? Do I just swallow it or -”

“Oh no. It takes too long to work its way down, you’d suffocate. You’re going to want to insert it rectally.”

Herman and the Man with the Upside-Down Face looked at him in disbelief, while Veronica burst out into laughter.

“Veronica, you shut your mouth this instant!” Herman ordered. “Hubble, that’s not what Neo-Sarkics do, is it?”

“No, they do a big ritual and cut an incision into the torso and let the worm crawl in,” Jeffrey replied. “But they’re pretentious assholes. Why go through all that when -”

“When you already have a pretentious asshole!” Veronica laughed.

“Veronica, I said shut your mouth!”

“Listen, it’s up to you. If you want to cut a big enough hole into your torso for this thing to wiggle in and then wait for it to heal you, that’s your business. All I know is that if I had had a choice, I would have just let it in through my butt.”

“And how did you go about removing this little guy?” Manny asked.

“Rectally. I passed it like it was a tapeworm,” Jeffrey replied. “It’s a slimy fella, so it’s already lubricated. Honestly, it will be painless.”

“And once it’s in, it will just work its magic?” Herman asked.

“Well no, if you let it it will gorge itself on your blood and grow like a tumour. You need to have enough mastery over your own body to limit its food supply, send it hormonal signals and whatnot. You can do that, can’t you? I was told you had studied Sarkicism.”

“I’ve studied a little bit of everything my good man. I can shepherd flesh and craft clockwork with the best of them. Why, when I was a boy -”

“Don’t get started on that, otherwise we’ll be here all night,” Manny objected. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a velvet case, opening it to reveal a pocket watch adorned with Mekhanite symbols. “This is what we’re offering in exchange. It’s pure beryllium-bronze and was designed, hand-crafted and blessed by a Mekhanite Priest. It’s intended to ward against Sarkic spiritual attacks, but if you keep it on your person long enough it should cleanse you of any lingering Sarkic forces. Not even the most powerful clairvoyant will be able to tell you used to be a Flesh Carver.”

Jeffrey gingerly accepted the case and picked up the watch by its chain to examine it. It was a thing of exquisite beauty, clearly crafted with both love and skill. He opened it to see that its glass face proudly exposed its inner workings, ticking away as faithfully as their craftsman.

“Huh. It burns a little. I guess that means it’s holy. Frankly, I deserve worse,” he said.

“We have a deal then?” Herman asked with a hopeful, crooked smile.

“I just want to make it clear that the deal is final, and if anything goes wrong with that worm I’m not responsible for it. It worked fine inside of me for years so if you can’t control it that’s all on you.”

“Yes, yes, buyer beware. Don’t you worry about me, son,” Herman said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“We have a deal then,” Jeffrey nodded, pocketing the case inside of his coat. “Thanks for the ale, fellas.”

Picking up his pint, he left for the other side of the bar.

“A broken wind-up toy in exchange for eternal life,” Herman chuckled. “Am I the world’s greatest con artist or what?”

“You’re something, Fuller,” Veronica said with a roll of her eyes. “Oh, that’s her! That redhead at the bar, it’s Jessie. Wish me luck, guys.”

Fuller gave her an absent nod, his attention focused on his recently acquired prize.

“What do you think Manny? Should I insert it… the way he said to?”

“Not until after a few more rounds of ale.”

“… Agreed.”

Several days later, an anemic and delirious Herman Fuller lay in his bed with an obscenely bloated stomach.

“Bernie I don’t know what you’re so upset about it’s not like she needs all four paws,” he mumbled.

Manny and Veronica stood over him, staring down at him with disgust.

“Traded a priceless Mekhanite artifact for an intestinal parasite. World’s greatest con artist indeed,” Manny said with a sad shake of his head.

“How can they expect us to return books on time when the Library’s outside of Time?” Fuller raved. “It’s a scam!”

“Should we help him?” Veronica asked.

“Percy, why won’t you let me have it on credit? You know I’m good for it.”

“We’ll probably regret it, but yeah,” Manny said. “Come on, help me get him to Tinkles.”

Manny lifted him up and stood on his right to support him, while Veronica stood to his left.

“Dear Lord, I seem to have sprouted two extra heads. One of them’s upside-down!” Herman complained.

“Just try to stay calm Fuller, we’ll get you fixed up in no time,” Manny assured him.

“Hey, I can watch Tinkles pull the snake out of his butt, right?” Veronica asked with a devious smile.

“We’ll let everyone watch,” Manny smirked back.

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