Let's Get this Show on the Road!
rating: +62+x

In a quiet corner just outside the universe, bookshelves stretched to the heavens. Line upon line of them continued onward as far as the eye could see, and even further beyond that. From nowhere in particular, a soft light beamed down, just warm enough to be comfortable. At the same time, a gentle breeze rustled through pages, creating a soft whisper, reminding patrons that they were in a sacred place. Tread lightly, it said, for this is the Wanderer's Library.

A pleasant smell wafted through, carried by the wind. It came from a hollowed-out space in a particularly large bookshelf, which had been fashioned into a quaint little café. While patrons buzzed around it like flies, it retained the same quiet, dignified feel as the rest of the Librar-

"This place is freakin' awesome!" rang out a high pitched voice, followed by what can only be described as a 'squee'. The hyperactive young Clown spun around, taking in the scene with a smile on her face.

"Since when did the Library get an H.P Brewcraft? Can I get a Frapaccthulhu? Extra whipped cream, extra drizzle, extra existential horror? I can handle it, I'm a Clown," Lolly ordered as she juggled three books excitedly, before all three were calmly pulled out of the air by her companion.

"I think you've had enough sugar though," Icky smirked as she pointed at a small group of dark-robed figures sitting around a table, who were watching the pair with an intense gaze. "Remember darling, we're still on thin ice with the Library because of You-Know-Who. We need to be a bit more respectful."

Lolly noticed the mouthless docents (who enjoyed the coffee shop purely for the aroma), and stopped giggling. She put her hands behind her back and whistled, as if she hadn't been doing anything at all. The two turned back towards the counter, hoping the docents would be gone by the time they had finished their drinks.

"They give me the creeps. Or should I say…" Lolly pointed to a display case by the counter, which contained various baked goods. "The crepes!"

Icky tried to keep a straight face, but couldn't help but snicker.

Across the counter, an unamused barista tapped the cash register with a tentacle impatiently. "So it that a yay or nay on the Frapaccthulhu?" Lolly looked up at Icky with pleading eyes.

"Please? I'm already on a sugar rush, and if I don't get more I'm going to crash," she asked.

"Alright, one Frapaccthulhu with everything she said before, and a Yog-Espressoth, whatever size is the biggest." Icky relented.

The barista punched the order in, and uttered unknowable noises at a server, who began to pour dark liquids into non-Euclidean cups, all of which proudly displayed their Fairtrade certification.

The interior of the café was comfortingly normal, with just enough light to create a soothing atmosphere. The scents of freshly baked goods and hot coffee mixed together with bizarre and alien smells, bringing in patrons of the Library from all over the multiverse. One patron in particular, a human, cleared his throat and motioned for the pair to come over to his booth.

Lolly slid into the booth quickly, as Icky calmly took a seat next to her. The man across from them had dark hair, scruffy stubble, and an eyepatch over his left eye. He regarded the two coldly, before lifting a steaming mug of coffee to take a drink. As he did, he turned his hand, making sure to display a tattoo of a certain symbol.

"I was under the impression that we would be meeting the Captain herself," Icky said, trying to hide her disappointment.

The man spoke in a gruff voice. "She couldn't make it. Something about wrangling a kaiju for some zoo. The usual."

"That's the usual? What's exciting for you? I want to wrangle a kaiju!" Lolly said. "Also, who is this guy? He's not as cute as the Captain."

The man templed his fingers, responding curtly. "Munin, of the Nautilus. Second mate to Captain Nemo."

Lolly leaned forward, scrutinizing Munin, who didn't even blink his eye. "I'm pretty sure all those names are from a book. I don't think any of those names were real. Then again, my name's not real either so I probably shouldn't be so judgey. What is your real name anyway? Is it Jeffrey? You look like a Jeffrey. It's probably Jeffery." She sat back, and whispered to Icky, "Is his real name Jeffery?"

Icky shrugged. "That's hardly any of our concern darling. Munin— or Jeffrey or whatever— is here to inform us about the locale of our next show."

Across the table, Munin nodded. He reached into his jacket, pulled out a small brochure, and slid it across the table. "I'm still not sure why you want to perform there, of all places. You've got a whole Earth to entertain, don't you?"

"More than one, actually."

Their drinks arrived, each bearing an image of the Dread Cthulhu in the style of the Starbucks Siren. Icky picked up the brochure with one hand as she sipped her Yog-Espressoth in the other.

"But we can't keep calling ourselves the Greatest Show in all the Worlds without pushing ourselves to new heights, now can we?"

The pictures in the brochure showed a completely alien landscape. A mess of colors and shapes, all of them bizarre and disquieting. Vague figures, like fetal animals floating in rose-colored bubbles, strange devices with wicked curves and bright colors. Icky absentmindedly ran a fingernail over the image, revealing it to be scratch-n'-sniff. Cute.

"The Nautilus can get us there safely? I know the docents wouldn't be thrilled to see our entire Circus parading through the Library. Even Lolly's too much for them to handle on occasion."

Lolly looked up from her cup, and licked off a whipped cream mustache, "Yeah, sitting quietly isn't really my thing, which can be a problem at libraries. And Doctor's offices. And funerals. And…"

"He gets the idea, sweetie."

"I assure you, the Nautilus can go places even your Kaleidoscope can't. No world, realm, or plane is beyond our reach." Munin scratched the area around his eyepatch, briefly revealing a green light beneath it.

Lolly downed the remainder of her drink quickly. "Does this mean we're going on a road trip?"

"It will be less of a road trip than it will be a…" Munin paused as Lolly looked at him with puppy-dog eyes, and Icky raised her eyebrows expectantly. "…Yes, it's a road trip."

"Yes!" Lolly bounced in place with excitement.

Munin's expression remained as serious as it had been upon first meeting the two. "For my own curiosity's sake; how do you plan to be a Circus of the Disquieting when you're performing for people in a completely alien world?"

Icky hesitated for a moment, thinking. "I'm still working on that. But I do have an idea. Have you ever seen The Little Mermaid?"

Lolly's eyes lit up. "Oh, I have! I loved it when I was a kid, partially for the music and partially because all those half-naked mermaids made me feel funny for reasons I didn't understand yet,"

Icky shot her a perplexed glance, while Munin barely raised an eyebrow.

"Well I understand now, obviously."

The bow of the Nautilus sped through a technicolor void at a breakneck pace, propelled by jets of emerald green light expelled from the backside of the hull. Below it was a swirling ocean of lights and images of other times, places, and creatures.

"Wha'd'ya think of that view, Lollipop?" Rang out the voice of the Captain as she leaped down from the upper deck. Captain Nemo was a young woman with a proud stance. Over both of her eyes, she wore a strange band with various symbols woven into the fabric. On her head was a blood-red tricorne, signifying her status. "I'd challenge you to find a view so breathtaking as the eldritch plane before you."

"Eh, it's alright I guess." Lolly said, as she leaned over the railing on the port bow. She glanced disinterestedly at a technicolor leviathan, which breached a few meters from the ship, before turning back to the Captain. "I was expecting the Not to be a little more 'Mountains of Madness', you know? Iris said she was weeping blood and seeing through time after only eight minutes in here."

Icky appeared from below deck, dusting off her hands. "Everything's secured, for now at least. Manny's making sure that Eugene's taken his seasickness pills, and Bubblegum has already self-medicated herself into a stupor."

Nemo gave the pair what would have been a side-eye, if she hadn't been wearing a blindfold. "You two are sure you want to stay up here when we make the dive below the surface? I appreciate your courage, but it doesn't agree with most of you…"

"'Landlubbers'?" Icky suggested. The Captain shook her head, a sly smile on her face.

"You'll survive. But it's one hell of a sight to see." The Captain's look hardened. She barked a few orders to her crew, who were making the final preparations by tying down any loose equipment. "I haven't made a jump this far since Blackwood and I were smuggling supplies to the refugees of Kul-Manas. Last chance to back out, you two."

Lolly sighed dramatically. "The anticipation is driving me crazy! Let's do it!"

Icky turned to the captain with an excited grin on her face. "You heard the little lady."

Nemo nodded, and motioned to Munin, who was battening a hatch. Quickly, he shifted his eyepatch to the opposing eye, revealing an eerie green glow radiating from a freshly exposed orb. He called up to the other crew members, who all quickly did the same. Finally, Nemo lifted her own blindfold, revealing two emerald orbs of her own. The air suddenly grew tense, as if lightning were about to strike.

The scene blurred around the Nautilus, as it slipped below the surface, and began to pick up speed. Lights and images seemed to blur together as they continued onward. Nemo held her hands in front of her, taking hold of an unseen steering wheel with an iron grip.

Lolly tried to speak, but she found herself nearly paralyzed by the sheer speed they were moving at. She gripped Icky's arm tightly, as the latter gave her a comforting look. The Captain's arms moved to and fro, making split-second decisions to adjust the trajectory of the ship, or avoid monoliths which protruded from the sea. Still, they were accelerating. Light itself seemed to be dissolving and bleeding around them—

As suddenly as it begun, it ended. The Nautilus slowed to its previous pace as it surfaced, and Icky and Lolly found themselves releasing a deep breath they didn't realize they had been holding. Lolly slowly turned towards Icky, her hair still frozen behind her. Silently, she mouthed 'Wow', before collapsing backwards, giggling.

Icky too was left in awe. She turned to the Captain, who had begun to pull her blindfold back down. Nemo merely smirked, and walked up to the prow of the ship. "You're still conscious. I'm impressed. We'll reach your destination shortly. As for the matter of payment…"

Icky nodded. "I have a plan in mind. According to the pamphlets, carbon is pretty rare in this world, so it's used as a currency."

"And where we come from, it isn't. What's your point?"

"They also view arranging the atoms of it into crystal latices as one of the highest forms of art, which increases it in value even more."

Nemo's eyebrows arched beneath her blindfold. "Diamonds. Clever."

The Nautilus neared a large whirlpool, and slowed to a stop. Icky staggered forward, clutching the railing for support. She could already see the reflection of the world they were preparing to descend into. Her eyes gleamed with a mischievious determination.

"Ladies, gentlemen, and assorted Eldritch beings of all genders and the lack thereof, give it up one more time for Charlotte and her arachnid assistants!" Icky paused, as the audience chattered excitedly.

"And now, for our final act of the evening…"

The crowd of alien beings leaned forward in their seats. The Big Top was packed to the brim with attendees. Each one appeared to be a fetal animal, floating in a bubble of deep pink liquid that stayed suspended just a few centimeters from the ground. One or two reached a long, spindly limb out to grab a stick of cotton candy, which rapidly dissolved into the liquid.

Icky signaled to Lolly, who gave her an excited thumbs up in return from offstage, indicating that everything was prepared. "As you know, we have come to you from a far away dimension. So, we have no shortage of wonders to share with you. You've seen our freaks, but now we're going to show you…"

Lolly wheeled out a small cart, covered by a deep purple tablecloth, and stopped just in front of Icky. There was an unsettling squelching noise- like balloons being rubbed together- as the aliens pressed in once more to get a better look.

"… Something truly disquieting!" Icky whipped the cloth off of the cart, revealing a small white box, with a black tail protruding from the backside, ending in three golden points. The crowd broke out in whispers. Uncertainty, doubt, confusion.

After a moment, a smaller alien floated upwards in its seat, and called out in a shrill voice. Icky wasn't sure exactly what it was saying— the device they had been loaned by Marshall, Carter, and Dark only allowed for one-way universal translations— but the curious tone in its voice was universal enough that she understood all the same.

Icky smirked, and took off her hat. From it, she produced a cup, which was full of small orange objects. Each of them tapered to a point on one side, like an egg, which was lighter than the rest of it. Icky applied pressure to one part of the box, causing the front of it to swing open with a loud noise. She placed the cup inside, and pressed another part of the box with her finger.

There was a gasp from the crowd as the box began to emit a low hum, and the front of it lit up with an eerie yellow glow. Before long, there was a series of loud popping noises, as the orange objects began to jump wildly inside, as if they were in pain. After a minute or two, Icky opened the box again, and tiny white things began to fall out.

Icky beckoned to the smaller alien who had spoken out earlier, and Lolly walked into the stands to escort her down to the center of the Big Top, quietly assuring the young alien that everything would be alright. "Alright everyone, give it up for our brave volunteer! She's about to be the first to try this snack from our dimension, eaten across the world!"

Lolly took out a small paper bag, and scooped some of the snack into it, before drizzling it with an orange liquid, and covering it with a light dusting of some strange smelling powder. With a broad smile on her face, she held the bag up to the small creature before her.

Timidly, the alien stuck a limb out of its bubble, and grabbed a tiny fistful of the white material, which was surprisingly brittle and flaky to the touch. It retracted the arm into its bubble, where the food began to quickly dissolve. The alien hummed excitedly, and did a somersault within its bubble!

As the audience looked on in excitement, Lolly popped open the door of the box again, and jumped all the way inside. The popping noise from earlier increased in volume until it was nearly deafening, and the cart fell over, leaving the white box on its back.

With a sound like an explosion, Lolly shot out like a cannonball, sending more of the snack flying in every direction, showering down on the audience like snow!

A chorus of coos and shrill excited shrieks echoed through the Big Top once again as Lolly gently floated downwards, clutching a parasol, back to the center with Icky. As the audience applauded, she let go of the parasol and backflipped onto the ground.

"And we've got more where that came from!" Lolly said, giving Icky a wink.

"A round of applause for my lovely and beloved assistance, if you would be so kind folks," Icky requested. Instead of clapping their hands, the creatures produced a rapid stream of popping air bubbles in the outer membranes to signal approbation. "Lolly my love, seeing our crowd osmosising our earthly fare makes me think that they might be interested in seeing how you and I eat."

The crowd cheered their agreement.

"I know I always like it when our oral activities have an audience," Lolly added with a naughty smile and a pause for laughter, which was only filled with confused silence.

"Lolly, we talked about this, these creatures aren't going to get any sexual references," Icky whispered to her. Lolly nodded and went to fetch the prop for the act.

"You see folks, most creatures where I'm from can't just absorb food through their outer membranes. They have to open their maws and force sustenance down their gullets!"

This fact was met with a collective gasp of shock from the audience.

"Horrifying, I know, and we've got an exclusive demonstration set up just for you!"

The lights dimmed and the spotlight fell on Lolly, who was now holding a long, green… thing, which wrapped around her forearm like a bracelet. After holding it up for everyone to see, she placed the green object on the ground. Icky took out her hat and pulled out a large, white rabbit. It wiggled its nose in an endearing way, eliciting a few 'awws' from the audience.

Icky crouched, allowing it to hop to the ground, where it inched towards the green thing. The mammal sniffed around it, not seeming to take much interest. Still, something felt wrong about the situation. The ground slowly began to rise, ensuring that all of the audience members would be able to see. The air was tense, as if something were holding its breath, waiting for a moment to strike…

The audience began to whisper, confused by the lack of any apparent action. One or two of the aliens began to float upwards to get a—

Moving almost too quickly to see, the green object jumped to life, ensnaring the rabbit's head in its mouth. For an instant the horrified audience thought it was going to bite the animal's head off, but instead it unhinged its own jaw in a display of pure body horror. Its head seamed to split in two, each half independently wriggling down the rabbit's body, its throat ballooning to grotesque proportions as it swallowed its victim whole.

When the ordeal was finally over the green thing's jaws closed, sealing shut as if they had never been opened at all. The green creature was once again still as a statue, the only evidence of its crime being a massive bulge working its way down its digestive track.

The audience gazed in horror as the lump worked its way down the corkscrew length of its devourer. After a moment of this, the rabbit squirmed out of the creature's alimentary canal - disheveled but alive. In a shimmer of light, the rabbit transformed into a Clown.

"And the moral, boys and girls, is to always read your performance contracts carefully before you sign them," The Clown huffed in annoyance, marching out of the ring after being handed a towel.

"Thank you, Eugene," Icky called to him as he pushed his way through the audience, the aliens rushing to get out of his way. Lolly couldn't help but giggle as they bumped into each other, sending the smaller ones flying like inflated beach balls.

Icky picked up the green creature, where it coiled up on her hand. "Give it up for the marvelousssss, ssssspectuacular… Sssssssserpent!"

The snake turned and seemed to give her a dirty look for a second. One of its eyes flashed an emerald color, before it disappeared as a cloud of green smoke, to another round of cheers.

Icky and Lolly held hands, bowing deeply and springing back up. Icky tipped her hat, and turned as if to leave. "Alright, everyone, you've been a fantastic audience! But alas, all good— and disquieting— things must come to an end! It's time for us to bring this show to a close!"

There was a chorus of sad wails, and pulsing, sloshing noises as the aliens shook in their odd bubbles. Lolly played along, turning to Icky and giving her a tearful puppy-dog look.

"Aw, but Icky, don't we have time for just one other thing?"

Icky raised her hand, bringing instant silence. "Alright, I give in. I suppose we still have time for one more trick!"

On cue, a giant cylinder fell from above into the center of the Big Top, hiding Icky and Lolly from view. As it landed, there was a moment of confusion, as all the audience members could see were odd, distorted images of themselves. One or two aliens floated over to it, inspecting the odd monolith, which reflected their every move.

There was a sudden series of gasps as a new figure came into view, prowling around the perimeter of the monolith, twice as tall as any of the aliens. It was darkly colored, covered in strange orifices and glowing eyespots. It poked its head around the ground, as if taking in its surroundings for a moment, before suddenly turning and leaping into the stands!

Panic erupted as a dark, tripodal figure was seen running through the image, and escalated as two more appeared alongside it, sending aliens flying out of the Big Top in a panic as they felt something brush against their bubbles. The first dark creature roared triumphantly, before leaping into the monolith, shattering it into a thousand pieces.

Within a few moments, the aliens had almost all fled, leaving nothing in the Big Top, save for a few small, orange cats, purring contentedly in the center.

About a kilometer away from where the Circus had been mere moments ago, close to a river of dark purple liquid, Icky, Lolly, and a few crew members from the Nautilus and stagehands from the Circus were loading the last shipment of equipment back onto a small boat that would make its way back to the main ship. At the back of the boat, in the Captain's Chair, Nemo eagerly dug through a satchel filled with diamonds of every shape and size, a delighted expression on her face.

Lolly sat on top of a box as it was loaded up, giggling and shaking a small snowglobe styled after the alien race they had performed for. Quietly, she whispered to herself, "Best. Road Trip. Ever."

A small snake slithered up to the scene, before glowing a bright green color, and contorting in size and shape. In a matter of seconds, Munin stood where the snake had been. He glared at Icky silently, before spitting a tuft of rabbit hair out of his mouth.

Icky chuckled and slapped him on the back. "Thanks for being such a good sport. They really enjoyed it."

Munin huffed as he climbed aboard, a palpable tension in the air around him. From her perch on top of the box, Lolly smirked and called down to him.

"Don't be such a sour face. I'm pretty sure it was harder on Eugene than it was on you!"

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