Pepper's Lament

rating: +58+x

The Hall of Humans Extraordinaire was gloomy with the light of dawn, and dusty from the foot traffic of the day prior. Today, the Circus would be quiet and contemplative. Their stay at this location had come to the end of four days, and that meant that the Circus was going to be packing up and moving soon. However, due to a scheduling error, Herman Fuller's Circus was stuck with something that rarely happened; downtime. The Circus need not be packed for another two days, as the next location had not been fully staked out just yet. Most people would stay in their rooms or around the mess halls, others would choose to pack early anyways, and others would walk away from the Circus to hike outside the fairgrounds. But now most were asleep still, enjoying one of few days where they could sleep in and enjoy their dreams. Brainy, however, was to work.

After cleaning himself off as best he could with a spigot by Nixie's tank (the only one at head level, and Brainy had yet to discover the location of any showers), and changing his clothes with a uniform provided by Manny, Brainy set himself to janitorial duties around the Circus. He expected to need to ask for help at some point today, but there were several jobs that Brainy felt would be self explanatory, and he would rather get things done earlier than later. As such, Brainy had entered the dim, dirty blue tent of the Hall, ready with a mop and water, several sprays for various stains and other uncleanly offenses, soaps of all kinds, and rags galore. His white janitor cart, becoming somewhat brown itself with disuse, clinked and jostled over the rough terrain of the grassless fairgrounds. Brainy assumed that the cart seemed so unused not because nobody cleaned around here, but that it was a shared job. Now it was his job, though. He'd better be good at it, too. Brainy had never been very close with any Mechanical Merrymaker back in Wonder World!™, and he'd never stuck around to see them do their job, so Brainy felt rather in the dark on the matter. Not that he wouldn't try his best. He simply expected to be reprimanded for something he didn't know he had to do.

With the worst expected, Brainy set valiantly forward. He'd be sure to keep each and every stall in the Hall simply sparkling. Dusting this and that — an ornamental assortment of jewelry in one stall, a wooden mannequin in another — and spraying and scrubbing other things — namely a metal sign promoting Zoltan's third eye act — Brainy eventually came to a mirror. "Eugh," Brainy exclaimed, "has no one ever bothered to clean this grubby thing?"

It sat on a stand, leaned back on one leg, in the back of a small circular stall. Tall black candles ran in a crescent behind and around it, all unlit but melted with use. "Pepper's Haunted Mirror!" a sign boasted, "Just [    ] to see a real life ghost!". Space was left for a cost to be written. Currencies and prices changed depending on the location of the Circus. All the same, this one seemed less worn than others. A new act? Whoever Pepper was, they clearly didn't take good care of their props. The mirror had smudges, dirt, and other marks all over it. Fortunately, it was glass, and glass was pretty easy to clean. Brainy put down the cart's handle, grabbed the spray, and got to work.

A scrub here, a wipe there. A spray all of everywhere. In less than 10 minutes, Brainy could actually see his own reflection. Appreciating his own work, Brainy waved at himself. Brainy remembered when image was everything. He appreciated being somewhere where people seemed to revel in the more disgusting and unruly of looks. It was truly a weight off his back.


"Huh?" Brainy's thoughts were suddenly interrupted. After several seconds of standing in place, Brainy began to search for the source of the voice. No one else seemed present… each stall of the Hall was clearly empty. Brainy turned back to the mirror and jumped. "Gee monetley!" Staring back at Brainy was the visage of a pale blue teenage girl with braided pigtails and a dress that Brainy had only ever seen people wear in pictures and at costume parties.

"Sorry to startle you, just, no one ever cleans my mirror." Her face didn't look all that sorry. "Besides, I didn't think we had a janitor." Her spectral presence slowly leaked out of the mirror and stood just in front of Brainy. "You new?"

Brainy waited a second as he processed the image before him. "Uh… yeah, I'm new. Never seen a real life ghost before, though! Thought the haunted mirror thing was just a bit." Brainy backed away slightly examining the area around the mirror for any tricks.

"Nope, it's really me."

"Well," Brainy said with satisfaction after having picked the mirror up off of its stand and putting it back down, "you're pretty."

"Ugh, I was hoping that getting bought by the Circus would ensure that I didn't get hit on by older men."

"Hey! Okay, first of all, A, you're older than I am, and B, I am not old."

"You look old."

"Oh and C I wasn't hitting on you, I was complimenting you, and if you're stuck up enough to not be able to take compliments than I will be on my merry little way." And so Brainy fiddled his various cleaning apparatus back into his cart, and went on to the other stalls. Turning back, the mirror had gone silent and normal once more. Brainy frowned, but only for a moment. Then, back to work.

Thinking the interaction over, Brainy worried that he had forgotten to take his pills that morning. Thankfully, a quick run over of his breakfast in his mind dispelled that illusion.

Brainy vacuumed one of the dorm trailers. One of the guest talents, someone local who they picked up to work with the circus for a bit, had just moved out. One day until everything got packed up again. The trailers were going to be cleared and used as storage space, and Brainy was going to help vacate one of them — or push everything far enough to the side that they could store more things in there. There were numerous dead insects and spiders and other various bugs in this one. "The guest must have had a pretty exciting show," Brainy thought.

In vague recollection, Brainy remembered one of those videos he saw in the Toy Tinker break room. Someone, yellow with black hair, had put on an old VHS of the Little Misters performing on tour with the Circus. After the Circus had changed their image, Brainy remembered. It was a popularity stunt — the Little Misters thought it was so cool of the Circus to shape up like that, they used their own celebrity-hood to bring attention to the new, improved Circus of the Disquieting. Their lineup went a more spooky, disturbing route to fit in with the Disquieting part of the Circus's name. The songs they came up with for that tour wound up in their first Halloween album, "A Nightmare Subverted", who's Disc 1 was a lot more family friendly than their Disc 2. Not only was that a crazy month long stunt they pulled, but it was one of the first real rebellions against Dr. Wondertainment from the Misters. This was all before Holly Light was in charge, and the last Dr. Wondertainment was a bit more cowardly and concerned for image. Where Holly Light has taken up a "freedom and retribution" policy, the previous Dr. Wondertainment, Cornelius Młynarczyk, thought it best to shield the Wonder World!™ populace from the controversial decisions and situations surrounding the Misters' existence and role in the Wondertainment brand. Thankfully, that's all been sorted out, and the Little Misters have a lot more creative license now. Decidedly un-Wondertainment sometimes, but they do still put out the yearly kid's album.

When they were on tour with the Circus, Brainy thought they might have stayed in a trailer just like this. Must have been a bit funny — this was a Circus that at one point tried to copycat the Misters, when the namesake's Herman Fuller was in charge, and that resulted in a copyright battle. Literally. Herman Fuller conceded after some hour or something of robot pursuit. The Misters must have had some fun, joking about that kind of a past. But now the Circus was a frequent buyer of Wondertainment candy and products. The new owners, Manny and whatsername (Brainy didn't make it through the whole VHS), had really repaired a lot of bad relations.

Dismantling the bed, out of which a tarantula and several centipedes fell, Brainy chuckled as his comparison became apparent. In the same way that the Misters had rebelled, Brainy was doing his own rebellion against his previous life. Against the Dr. Wondertainment brand. Finding his own feet, his own nature. The world seemed much bigger than Wonder World!™ had felt. There was a point that he believed that was all he needed. All the pastels, the candies, the shops and toys and the rides, rollercoasters, the Wonder Tower, the tourists. But the world was so much bigger than that. He couldn't even really put it all together, just how big it was. Not that he didn't miss the cityscape. Or the products. Or the break rooms, the casual banter. Or his friends. 3T and Tongue, Ribbit, Holly. Pinwheel.


Brainy sat against the wall, a bedpost in one hand and a screwdriver in the other, and stared at the opposing beige doors that could open the back of the trailer so it might be loaded. He missed it all. He didn't need his old job back, though. He had a new job. Rides. Not that he had had any ideas yet — his brain wasn't geared towards rides, he was still stuck on toys. He should have made them a gift shop. The Circus didn't have a gift shop yet, Brainy could have made that. If he proved himself as competent at what he set off to do, he could ask for that to be his next assignment. Then he could be a toymaker again. A Toy Tinker, somewhere far from home. With the clarity that only came from hindsight…

"I overreacted."

And not only that, but he had not done his best to judge the motivations and feelings of others. Basic things that everyone had been taught. He had not approached Polly on her own, he had not asked her why she did this, he did not give her any chance to excuse herself. He had become emotional, overreacted in front of a whole crowd, and then forced himself into an exile because he was being too unruly. An exile that, Brainy figured, he very much deserved, but did not do any good for him. They even paid him. They even gave him the Tourist Trap, a wonderful house, to be his time away. They even… let him make a new toy.

Several disturbing images passed before Brainy's eyes. Several, maybe more than several, things that Brainy wished to forget.

Brainy held his head in his hands.

Brainy should have taken his meds.

Brainy hit his head on the wall several times.

Brainy took another two hours just to dismantle the bed.

When Brainy came out of the trailer, someone Brainy didn't recognize pushed him on his back and yelled at him, but he couldn't hear what they were saying. For once, Brainy knew that no one could beat him up worse than he did himself. Brainy probably deserved this anyways.

The Circus was finally packing up. The tents had been collapsed and rolled up. The stands had been broken down, the rides (though they were few) deconstructed and their parts stuffed into the backs of extradimensional vans and trailers. Candy making machines, catalogs, costume racks. Just about everybody had something to do, and the process was made easier since Brainy had cleaned everything the two days prior. Some, but not many, had given Brainy gratitude for his work. Many others either never got to thank Brainy, or, Brainy suspected, ignored his existence. At any rate, Brainy was unable to make any casual conversation unless you count being directed and given chores, or asking for tasks to do. Disassembling stalls in the Hall, gathering several documents from around the various locations, helping take down the light and sound systems from the Big Top.

Eventually, there was nothing left to do, and everyone had packed in. The Kaleidoscope was being readied to bring everyone to their next location, and people had taken positions as drivers or passengers. Some even rode on the tops of vehicles, throwing caution to the wind. Others had their very own vehicles, towing nothing, just because they were either that important or that wealthy. Brainy, however, neither drove, rode, or passengered. No, Brainy instead was shoved in with the luggage.

He attempted to make himself comfortable amongst the metal components of some spinning contraption and the woolen rug of some circus act. The whole place was horribly dusty, and too dark to make out nearly anything. The faintest of glows came from the crack where the back doors opened. Brainy breathed deep, and buckled down for what was expected to be a near ten hour car drive. He situated his small suitcase — a gift from Manny which held only his tiger stripe suit, blanket, pills, a piss jar, and currently a sandwich — into a nook next to him as the rumble of the truck started up. "Here goes," he said aloud, "ten hours."

The first hour passed without incident. Brainy had passed the time by trying to think of a ride. His mind was unfortunately clouded with other, less welcome thoughts though, which made it hard for him to focus. He was having trouble forgiving himself. For good reason, he thought. But it did make his life a bit harder. "Everyone deserves happiness," he told himself. He believed it. He really did. But he couldn't feel it. Brainy tried to do something he'd never done before… Brainy tried to meditate.

His mom told him about it once. You were supposed to sit, close your eyes, breathe, and try and clear your mind of any thoughts just by focusing on your breath. She told him that if he couldn't really clear his head, then he should try to just make all his thoughts be about his breath. It would nearly amount to the same thing. So he counted them.

1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… 9… 10… 11… 12… 13… 14… 15… 16…
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4…
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and.
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &…
Hmmm, hmm hmm hmhmmm, hmm hmm hmhmmm, hmm hmm hmhmmm…
Daaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa~!
A rapatat tat, daaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa,a rapatat tat, daaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa, a rap, tat, tat! Ha reebo, ha rahbo, ha rack tat, tat, a rapatat tat, daaaa, ha rahbo, ha rack tat, tat, a rapatat tat, daaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa, a rapatat tat! Ha woogie boogie, ha waggo baggo, ha reebo, ha rahbo, a rapatat tat, ha BOOOOOHHHHH daaaaae mioooonnn, a bapa dabbo, la pappa pappa pappa pappa dabbo, roh? Roh! Roh? Roh miiiOOOOONNNN, daaaa, dot, dot dodaaaa, dot dot da rabba, bo babba, bo rabba babba tat a rap tat daaaa, da rabba, bo babba, bo rabba babba tat a rap tat, a schcooby dooby, a schooby dooby, reeeeeeeeeeezzzzziduuuuuuue, miiion, BOH mion, BOH dae mion! BOH —

Someone laughed.

"Boh… buh… wh-who's there?!"

The feminine, youthful laughing grew only higher.

"I'm sorry, I thought I was alone, uh, I'll shut up… stupid…"

"No," snrk, "no it's fine," tss tss tss.


Brainy, now looking more closely, could make out a faint blue glow from beneath a cloth covering.

"Yeah it's me, you dingus. What were you doing?"

Brainy blushed, but it's not like Pepper could see it. "Singing! It's called singing, for your information, and I don't much appreciate being eavesdropped!"

"What? It's not like I could help it, I'm stuck back here same as you."

"Well why didn't you tell me?"

Pepper shrugged, but it's not like Brainy could see it. "I don't usually like talking, especially not with people I don't really know."

"…Oh. Well, I'll shush then. Sorry for singing…"

"No! No, it's fine, okay? You can sing. And, you know, you may have been a bit, heheh, silly, but you do have a nice voice."

Brainy blushed only more. "Th-uh, thank you."

"No problem, dork."

Another ten minutes passed in silence, and Pepper's glow subsided. The room was once again dark, except for the crack, and silent, except for the rumble of the engine. "Well," Brainy said, "it's going to be another… many hours, you know?"

No response.

"And I know I may be a stranger, but everyone starts as strangers, so that's not such a solid criteria for not talking to someone. I know I'm going to be bored to death if I don't have something to do, and you're here, so… well, would you like to talk?"

The room remained silent. Brainy sighed, and tried to lay back down.

"I'd like that." The glow came back.

"Oh! Good!" A pause. "Well, uh, what do you have to talk about."

"Get me out from under this cloth, first. I can't really look at you, or apparate, from under here."

"Oh, of course!" Brainy got up and nearly split his head open on something hard and sharp. After several crashing noises, and oodles of tripping over the unseen obstacles in the pitch black rough terrain, Brainy made his way over to Pepper's faint blue glow.

"Man, don't kill yourself over me, jeez."

"No, it's fine, it's fine!"

Brainy, after struggling with the cloth snagging on nearly everything, removed the sheet and saw the gleam of Pepper's recently cleaned mirror. Staring back at him was an inquisitive, judgy looking teenage girl. "Here we are…" Brainy began to lift the rather heavy mirror up and out, but slipped and let it drop.

"Holy shit, man! I don't know what happens if you shatter my mirror! Jesus!"

"Sorry, sorry sorry sorry, it's just so dark in here…"

"Oh my god, maybe this is a bad idea —"

"No, no there is a way to do this. Look, you glow, right? Now that the cloth is off of you, come out of the mirror, and you can be my guiding light for me to prop this thing up."

"Alright, don't lose your footing…"

Pepper climbed out of her mirror like someone getting out of a pool, and illuminated the space with a dim blue light. Suddenly endowed with the ability to see and find footholds, Brainy heaved the mirror up and out of its recess in the luggage and propped it against a large sign that read "Baker Bailey's Breadilicious Bouncing Baklava!". Afterwards, at Pepper's request, Brainy helped maintain the mirror's stability by piling other heavy bags beside and in front of it.

"There we are!" Brainy sighed with satisfaction, and laid back on several metal pipes used for the scaffolding of the big top.

"Well, okay, here I am."

Brainy clapped.

"Thank you, thank you. Okay, so, here's a question that's been bugging me. Why are you back here?"

"Well, why are you back here? You've got just about all the same rights as I do, you should be up front somewhere."

"Hard to fit a mirror in a car seat, you know."

"Not that hard to fit a mirror in one of those passenger cabins they have."

"Well… that's true."

"I just don't see why you're back here. And without much protection, either! You're in a mirror, that could just, break! That seems so unsafe! Unruly! Disrespectful!"

"Well, I'm just… I'm not friends with many people, they think of me as more of a prop than anything."

"Well that's just rude."

"It's okay."



"Mean and rude and I don't like it."

"Heehee, tss."

"What? What did I say?"

"You just have a funny way of talking."

"O-oh. Do I?"

"Yeah, you really do. It must be some Wonder World thing."

"Tee emm."


"Wonder World, tee emm. You missed the trademark. And if I was really a stickler, you didn't really emphasize it correctly either. It's supposed to be Wonder World! Tee emm."

"Wonder World."

"No, Wonder World!"

"Wonder World!"

"Yeah! Tee emm. Wonder World! Tee emm."

"That's so weird."

"No it's not! It's enthusiastic. Wonder World! Tee emm is a happy place, and we represent it with the name too."

"It's also trademarked."

"In a market as big as the multiverse, you want any and all intellectual properties to be copyrighted. Copycats and thieves are everywhere."

"But you're not even selling it."

Brainy looked confused. "What does that have to do with it?"

"I…" Pepper paused. "Well I'm not sure. I don't know business practice very well. But it seems nonsensical to copyright something you're making no money off of. It's a city, for cripes sakes."

"Harumph. Foreigners just don't get it. Ask any local and they'll help you understand."

"You're a local, and you're not helping me understand."

Brainy only rolled his eyes. "I don't feel like it."

"Okay, fine. Anyways, you didn't tell me."


"You didn't tell me why you're back here."

"Oh! Uh, well… nobody really invited me up front."

"Yeah, they wouldn't have to, you can just go and find a seat."

"Mmm, well… nobody really wanted me up front…"


"No, it's true. I was having trouble finding people who didn't look all… scary at me. Even Tinkles looked a little hostile. I didn't know what to do, so I uh… I bunked back here. Figured I'd get out of everyone's hair that way."



"That's sad."

"Not much sadder than you, they don't even treat you like a person."

"Well, the people who know me do."

"Like who?"

"Well, Zoltan sets up across from me, and we talk sometimes. Lolly's made it a point to visit me every location we're at, at least twice. Usually at night, because she says my glow and 'ghostly appearance' are cooler then."

"Makes sense."

"It's not an excuse to not visit a friend in the day, though."



"Well that's a little sad."

"Eh, whatever. I get by."

Pepper reclined into a seated position, parts of her dress and arms phasing through scrap metal and rope.

"Uhh…" Brainy inspected her. "Can you feel that?"


"You're passing through things."

"Yeah, I can do that."

"So why sit down? Does it feel better?"

Pepper shrugged. "No, not really. It's just something people do, and I've kept most of my habits from when I was alive. Like breathing, and talking at a normal pace. Sighing. Walking instead of drifting. Maintaining an appearance at all. I don't have to do any of it, but, it makes me feel more human than if I didn't."

Brainy twiddled his fingers and looked down and to the left. He also bumped his leg up and down to some unheard beat. "Uhh," Brainy began, "I have a question."


"I don't want to be rude, I bet you get this a lot —"

"How'd I die?"

Brainy nodded shamefully. "Well, how'd you get stuck in a mirror, more like…"

"Ugh, well, I caught pneumonia. Died. My parents couldn't bare to part with me at such a young age. They bound my soul to this mirror so they could talk to me. It was pretty nice, all things considered, but then they died, and I was stuck here, and I've been treated like an object since. Maybe 'cause I am one, in a way."

"Well, your parents sounded nice."

"If they were so great they would have thought this out and not trapped me in a mirror!" Pepper sighed. "But they were nice, yes. Only the best intentions, you know. All that crap." The two sat in silence for a couple of minutes. Brainy couldn't figure out what to say. "Well how about you?"

"What? What about me?"

"How'd you end up here?"

"I already told you, no one wanted me up —"

"No no no, not here in the back of an extradimensional truck, here in Herman Fuller's Circus of the Disquieting. Ex-Wondertainment, too. How's that work?"

"Well… wait, who told you I was Wondertainment?"

"You did?"


"You were mumbling to yourself in that first hour. I caught a couple things, Wondertainment being one."

"Oh… oh, I'm sorry, I do that. I talk to myself a lot. Helps me think."

"I get it."


Pepper raised her eyebrows at him.

"Oh, right right, okay, why I'm here. Uhh… well, okay, so, I wasn't always Wondertainment. I'm… not a Wondertainment local, really. I'm a foreigner."

"Oh really?"

"Yeah, really. I was born outside of Wonder World, tee emm, and that's why I've got no Wondrous properties."


"Yeah, when you grow up in Wonder World tee emm you get Wondrous. Weird. Wonderful. Magical. I never got that. That's why I'm just… a normal person. It's made me feel a little weird, but I met someone like me. Thomas Timothy Thompson, but we called him 3T. He wasn't Wondrous either, but he was local. Sometimes that just happens, and it's terrible for someone. We always try and make them feel welcome and accepted, but it does things to someone's self esteem when they're different like that. And there's always the people who don't help, which is always in poor taste. Meanies, they are. There are meanies wherever you go. You get nicknames for your Wondrous traits, but 3T, poor 3T, he didn't have any, but he had a really nice name, so we just named him 3T. That's why I was named Smarty, too. Because I was smart. Am. I'm smart. So everyone's always told me, anyways."

"You seem smart."

"Thank you. But, my dad was Wondertainment, and he was Wondrous. On a business trip he met my mom, and they had me, but dad went back to Wonder World tee emm, and he didn't take my mom with him. He was a Candy Catalyst, and I never met him. Wish I did." Brainy sniffled a bit.

"You okay?"

"Yes! I am, I'm sorry, I've just been stuffed up lately, don't pay attention to it. Anyways, uh, where was I… oh, right. So, I was an only child, and my mom was a single mom, so she had it real hard, but she did really well. One day, when I was really little, she left to get groceries, and…" Brainy sniffled again, "and I don't know what happened. But, it was night, and she never made it back. And then it was morning, and she still wasn't there. It took me another day to decide that I had to go look for her, but I'd never explored the city, and… and I just ended up wandering forever."

"Oh, Smarty…"

"So, I, uh, I did what I did best, and that was make things. With legos, and cardboard, and whatever I could find. I made them and I sold them to people to make money, which I would use to buy food, and that's how my days went. I was… I was in a bad place, when Wondertainment found me again. Said they'd been trying to find me, said they wanted to offer me a job. I thought it was a dream, you know? I never believed in Santa Clause, I never believed in the tooth fairy, and I never really believed in my mom's tall tales about my dad. At some point I figured it was easier to say he was magic than tell me that she'd slept with someone some night and didn't know him, or, or something like that. That he was off making other children's lives better, and that's why he couldn't stick around. But it was real." Pause. "It was real. And Wondertainment found me, and housed me. I wasn't really raised by any set of parents, but I had my own house and all my neighbors helped me out until I was old enough to have a job. Several babysitters would come to my house to check up on me, and sometimes stay the night with me. It was nice. It felt like a dream. Like I had dreamed forever. Like I'm still dreaming and never woke up."

"I mean, think about it. Stress does unimaginable things to a person. It's more likely that I'm laying in an alley somewhere, either drugged up or just plain crazy, lost in my own hallucinations, but… but it's just been going on too long for me to really think that anymore. It's taken a long time, but I'm ready to believe magic is real. That this isn't all some kid's fantasy. I'm pretty sure it's not." Brainy took a deep, shuddering breath. "But that's, that's my story, heh. Circus hired me to make rides after that, but I'm a janitor until I can think one up. That's it."

"I mean, I'm sorry to hear that."

"It's okay, I'm okay now."

"I know, but still."


"But you didn't really answer my question."


"How'd you get here?"



"Oh I'm so sorry!"

"Don't be, it's okay."

"I get sidetracked so easily, I'm sorry."

"Just get on with it already you doof."

"Okay, okay, umm…" Brainy looked dumbfounded. "I…" He waggled his jaw. "Hey, I'm so sorry, but, that's something I'm not ready to talk about."


"I'm sorry."

"No that's alright. We don't know each other too well."


"So it can wait."


The tension was tangible.

"Well… look at us, eh? Two people who ended up in the Circus probably by complete accident."

"Heheh, sorta."

"Fallen from grace, us two!"

"Mmm, yeah."

"Hobos on the road with the Circus, yeah. Sorry I can't hug you, I'm sorta, you know, intangible." Brainy frowned. "Oh, and sorry I called you old, and thought you were hitting on me." Brainy's brow furrowed even further. "Uh… and thank you, you know, for saying I was pretty. I appreciate it." Brainy tapped his feet and looked toward the floor. "Uh… Smarty?"


"What? Yes, hobos. What of it?"

Brainy shot up and began to pace as best he could on the uneven ground. "Homeless!"

"Yes, hobos, homeless, same thing."

"You, you don't have a home."

"I don't."

"And you, you're a ghost! You haunt things!"

"Hardy hardy har, sure thing, buddy. I sure do haunt things."

"And you want to be treated like more than an object, you want more than just sideshow, you want people to notice you, even though you push people away."

"Heyy, stop it with that. You're not my therapist. Shut up with that."

Brainy clapped his hands together and danced for a hot second. "Pepper!"

"What? What is it?"

"Pepper Pepper Pepper Pepper!! I have it! I have one!"

"One what?"

"A ride idea — Pepper, Pepper, how would you like a home? Not this mirror, not your own stall, but Pepper, a house."

"Don't tell me this is going where I think it's going."

"Oh, oh but it's gonna be great."


"Pepper! How would you like a haunted house?"

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