The Really Really Real Adventures in Capitalism
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Brainy Brian hadn't startled that bad in a long, long while.

He'd been waiting in his big swiveling chair, turned away from any potential customers, as was his usual. It really sold the reveal — perhaps one of his favorite parts of this job was doing that big dramatic turn in the arm chair, and seeing the surprised and bewildered faces of his customers. Well, when they were that fun. Some customers just weren't fun. But when it worked, victory was sweet. Needless to say, this was not one of those times that it worked. But instead of the not-working coming in the form of an unimpressed businessman who just wanted to get down to specifics and figure out how much to pay, it came in the form of a young girl wearing an outfit that screamed danger, and flooded him with a sense of impending doom.

It was eldritch purple, and exploding sun yellow, layered in stripes of apocalyptic portent. Her childish figure portrayed malice, her poise was that of a viper ready to strike. Her eyes were as round and sharp as bullets, her hair sat on her shoulders waiting to be soaked in the blood of her victims. Worst of all, she was wearing a top hat.

With a "W" on it.

Every instinct Brainy had told him to run.

"Hey, mister? You here with me?"

Brian was frozen with fear, and contemplated why he hadn't already ejected the Headspace and returned to his physical body.

"Maybe an introduction would help. Hi! I'm Dr. Isabel Helga Anastasia Parvati Wondertainment the Fifth, Pea Aech Dee. And you are?"

She stuck a light brown, ethnicityless hand over the aquarium desk and directly into Brainy's nose, at which he flinched and sunk deeper down into his chair. "D-Dr. Wondertainment?"

"That's right!"

"The Dr. Wondertainment?"

"I'm one of them, yes!" Something about her bright, uncontrollable smile, her cutesy stature, and her wide-eyed gaze made her a little less frightening. That, and she was speaking utter nonsense. That, and she seemed like she didn't recognize him at all. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Brian pushed himself back up his chair, and shook her hand with both of his. "There we go! And you are?"

"I'm — ahem," Brian recovered from a voice crack. "I'm Dr. Neurosis!! Your trustworthy supplier of all things soul-binding and vessel-making! Are you h-here to place an… I'm sorry but who are you really? Not to be rude, or anything."


Brian wondered if this was a big enough breach in protocol to get him reprimanded, but… "I just have to know, because, see… if my memory serves me right — and it doesn't have to! I could, uh, I could look it up right now, wait for a second…"

Dr. Neurosis turned around and pulled a tablet from atop a small stack of filing cabinets. After a few tippity-taps on the screen, he said: "A-ha, yes, I'm right! The current Dr. Wondertainment is Judy Papill, and the Dr. Wondertainment before her was Holly Light. You couldn't possibly be Dr. Wondertainment, you see? And we, uh, we don't deal in — oh gosh I'm sorry, but, we just can't serve customers without knowing who they are, you understand? We need a way to keep track of customers, in case anything gets…" The chair slowly swiveled to place Brian facing towards Isabel again, only to see that she had that puckered up face of a baby about to burst. "…Defective, but, but they don't! Not often, not often at all, it's just a safety precaution, and, and… oh, please don't cry, I just need to know who you are, that's all!"

"Fine. You're right. I'm not Dr. Wondertainment, am I." She turned halfway away from Brian, and wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "I'm just Isabel Helga Anastasia Parvati Won— or, just Parvati. The Fifth."

She sniffled once more, turning further away from Brian with a dramatic placement of her right arm on her forehead and her other arm outstretched, like a cheesy soap opera moment.

"I'm… I'm sorry, but… I know your name, but who are—?"

"I'm glad you asked!" Isabel spun around, all evidence of crying wiped from her face and one fist in the air.

"I… I had already asked several time—"

"My story is a tragic one — one filled with lies, deception, drama, romance — actually not romance — slapstick violence, eventually real violence… suffering, hatred, love, doodooheads, dogs? Well, corgis, at least, and everything inbetween! Except romance, as previously stated. It all started with my show, my very own show. You might have heard of it."

Isabel struck a very fittingly over-the-top pose, angling her head into the sky, one arm stretched upward, taking a single knee and giving the renaissance-painting face of someone being stabbed.

"The Real Adventures in Capitalism."

Without shifting her pose, she slowly looked over at Brainy, whose eyes were wide and invested. All anxiety and fear had been washed away with stellar theatrics — a trait that Brainy admired in anyone and everyone. However, he was missing the expression the young Dr. Wondertainment had hoped for.

"No? You don't recognize it?"

Brainy frowned. "No, I haven't heard of it, sorry. Wonderful so far, though!"

"Thanks! Well, the most important thing you need to know about my show is that it's the most important one ever. Unlike every other show in existence, The Real Adventures in Capitalism had a purpose. And do you know what that purpose was?"

"No, enlighten me, please."

It was to make children happy. Now, I see that look you have. Aren't a lot of shows supposed to make children happy? But no! As a businessman, you must understand that most shows aren't supposed to make people happy! What are shows supposed to do, then? You've probably guessed it already:

Sell. The main goal of any show is to sell. But not mine. My show was only to make kids happy.

It was a free experience that never made Wondertainment a single cent. It was nonprofit. The company only lost money on making it. Isn't that sweet? Personally, I'm surprised companies are capable of kindness at all!

But it wasn't just for any kids, it was for Factory kids, ooo! With a capital "F", ooo! The Factory! I'll admit that I've never actually seen The Factory in person, but I think I have a good idea. Boom! Bam! A factory is built, for what original purpose we do not know. But, like any company, at some point, the human elements of it fade into the background. The company gets a spirit of its own. A malicious, vengeful spirit, wanting to get back at the world for its biggest sin — keeping the company from making money.

Rawr! Bash! Somewhere along the line The Factory decides it doesn't need humanity anymore, for anything but a resource. Cling, clang, shackles are tied to all the workers — workers who will escape no longer, protest no longer, and live no longer. Their existence is work. Their every waking moment is work. If they didn't have to sleep to maintain efficiency, every sleeping moment would be work, too.

Sob, weep! Everyone hears about this horrible tragedy, and subsequently cries a river, shouting in agony at the horrible cruelty of this world! Waaa! Why, God? Why would you allow this to happen?

Of course that's short lived, as eventually everyone sees that their mandatory five minutes of sympathy are up and they can go back to buying Factory products at their local supermarket because it's "necessary" (almost always a stand-in for "convenient"). Somewhere, after years and years and years, someone catches wind and finally finds it within themself to do something.

This man, to my knowledge, is someone by the name of Polaroid Pete. That's neither here nor there, really. Click, whir! The gears start turning. "How do we liberate the people in The Factory?" thinks Pete. "Hmm blah blah idea idea we should make a TV show!"

Spurred on by the support of his Movie Monster peers, he starts a Film & Broadcasting Department project, something to reach the kids in The Factory! But but but, how do you target a TV show at people with no access to television screens of any sort? Easy! Dreams.

With the help of some Oneiroi people, "Wood Star Studios", Pete can make his wildest dreams come true. They hire some voice actors and animators, and they set to work creating a series that will net them no money — well, except that it might get them some really sweet pea-arr. But who's counting, right?

In an effort to make their main character be Dr. Wondertainment while still being relatable to the kiddies, they invent, drum roll please… me! Dr. Isabel Helga Anastasia Parvati Wondertainment the Fifth, Pea Aech Dee, was born! To make me even more wonderful and mystic, I am a reincarnation of "the Wondermaker", some elder whatever that made the first fire or something, and I have a conflicted dad named Reginald who leaves me and my brother at an early age — oh, and for some extra family drama, my brother is sick and twisted and one of my main bad guys. Seems we handled our daddy issues differently, teehee!

Snap, action! They filmed, they broadcasted. Thousands of unsuspecting sweatshop youngsters were treated to their first tastes of hope in their horrible, miserable little lives. And inbetween work shifts, or when they came close to each other when shoveling coal, sometimes they were able to exchange whispers about the weird shared dreams they had been having… of someone, a girl, an Isabel, beating up the bad guys. Teaching them to love everyone no matter their race, sexuality, or gender. Aww, how cute! And useless!

So one day, after stopping the apocalypse, it must have dawned on me, though I don't know how long it took. I was sitting in a big bean bag, surrounded by all my Jeremies — those are the corgis — I was thinking, what a load of poopy! It was clear that I wasn't real! Something about my noodly arms, or the way my voice wasn't always synced up with my mouth perfectly, or how I sometimes slightly changed colors when people looked away and then back at me. Something like that said to me, hey, wake up you doofus, all your parts are made first of underpaid animators and second of the shaky collective conscience of children!

Learning this was distressing, to say the least. I hadn't slayed the Scarlet King? It did occur to me that that was pretty violent compared to my other adventures. Maybe that was the Factory children dreaming things up themselves? I don't pretend to know how things work!

Hmm, hmm. I thought long and hard about it. I smacked my hand in my open palm — like this, whap — and made this big smiley face like I'm so good at doing, and I stood with my legs kind of apart — like this, doink — and I looked towards a camera that didn't exist, and I said, in my best motion-lines inspiring voice, yes, I know what I'll do!

But I didn't.

Year after year of visiting the children in their dreams and cheering them up as best I could just… stopped being fulfilling, and become sorta boring. Not to mention depressing. From kids, to teens, to adults, they started to forget about me. Or, not forget — I talked to at least one of them every night.

They began to ignore me.

The hope was going. Once, I had been an icon of liberation — she'd killed the Scarlet King, just this girl! What else could she do? Liberate us from the Factory?

Ahaha, what a laugh! Ohohoho, what a jest. Eeeheehee.

What a joke.

And with that, I knew I wasn't helping anyone anymore. There was nothing I could do, just tending to people's psyches! I was in their heads, and they were in the real world — getting tortured, day in and day out. Many died. Many suffered worse than that.

It took a great exertion of will, but I was able to leave them. I felt that I was abandoning them, but I knew what I had to do. I could not help them in their dreams anymore. Not substantially. I didn't know where the walls were… when I wasn't in their heads, it was all black, but I knew that my only chance was to venture out. So I ran.

I ran and ran, and sometimes flew with one of my wacky gadgets, ready to ram through the wall of consciousness that kept me in this dreamworld. I would get out. I would get out.

Crash, kaboom! My shoulder hit something hard and sturdy, but it tore as easy as green screen! Ooo, woah! A whole world opened up to me — a world I would later discover was Oneiroi West, though that does really make me wonder if there's some kind of Oneiroi East, North, or South. Is there? Don't answer that, actually, it's more fun just to wonder. Aaa! I had to squint at the bright suns against the green and purple sky. Where was I?

Oneiroi We— wait I just said that, whoops-a-daisy, heehee!

Nah, I'm gonna say it again, like it's a big reveal. Pretend like it is. Okay, one, two, three…

Oneiroi West!!

Now the rest of this story's filler, really. I wandered, discovered some people who were interested in knowing I existed. Stumbled upon Wood Star Studios, met my voice actor — wasn't that interesting! — and asked around. Did anyone know a way to become real? Some people got a little offended when I said they weren't real, but oh well. Few eggs to make an omelette, am I right?

Someone, somewhere, knew what I was talking about. And you know what they said? They said they knew someone who could give people bodies, but it — oh no! — required a ritual performed in the real world, and then the performer of the ritual goes to see him. What a challenge! What woe! Would I ever be able to finish my quest?

Well, obviously. With a little bit of help from some people who knew legit magic, alakhazam, alakhazoo, they did the ritual but sent me in their place! And that was, let's see… ten minutes ago? Maybe a little more? 'Cause the person they told me to find…

"…was Dr. Neurosis, trustworthy supplier of all things soul-binding and vessel-making!"

Isabel flung jazz hands out, and had a big open-mouth smile. Brainy applauded.

"Bravo, captivating! Mysterious! Intriguing! I loved it!"

"Thank you, thank you," Isabel bowed.

"So, you're a dreamform resulting from the strong iconography you left with Factory workers?"

"Honestly I have no clue, I just happened. Draw whatever conclusions you will!"

"I just think it would be some kind of amazing to get someone to research — er, ask you about it! You know? I wonder how many other times this has happened! Well, well, well, uhh… yeah, so… there's just one issue."

"And what would that be?"

"See, my employers don't let me do jobs… err, ahem. For free."

"Yes, yes, I know. Trust me, I'm paid for."

"Paid for." Brainy said it with some skepticism — rates were… quite high, after all.

"Some people really wanted me alive. Is that so hard to believe? Eehee! You should see some moneybags be forwarded to your greedy little accounts presently."

"Really? Well, that would be a big surp—" A phone that may or may not have been there before suddenly started ringing, with a repeated PEPPER, PEPPER, PEPPER, PEPPER. "Ah, oh, um, sorry, I have to take this. Please wait?"

Isabel nodded a lot, and Brainy picked up the phone.

"Hey, Pepper! What's going on? … Hmm? … Anonymous source? They can do that? … Well I guess magic does make anything possible. How much? … What?" Brainy gave Isabel a shocked glance, and then turned around in his chair to continue the conversation in private. Some mumbles and whispers later: "Alright, goodbye Pep, thanks for the info."

He hung up.

"Th-that's — you know how much it costs, right?"

"What can I say? I'm feeling generous, teehee! So, when does it happen? When do I become real?"

"W-well! Usually we have to work together to dream up a new body, but seeing as you're a wandering soul with a dream body already, this should be easy! I can make you real whenever you'd like, just give me the word."

Isabel walked up to Brainy's desk, mashed her hands against his cheeks rather forcefully, leaned in, and said: "The word."

"Alright, then! This is so, so exciting! Aaa, I can barely stay in my seat! Now, the last step is, where do you want to pop out?"

"Don't worry about that. My friends have a trap set up that'll suck me towards it when I become real, you just gotta put me in the real world in the first place. I'm ready to go, doc! Are their seatbelts? Will it hurt?"

"Ah, it might sting and tingle — stingle, if you will, eheheh. Give me a second to compose myself. I have to do a little… well, actually, could you turn around? This next bit is supposed to be a trade secret, people aren't usually around to see me do it."

Isabel shrugged, and obliged. Behind her, she heard sounds that made her really want to check over her shoulder — flowing liquid sounds, tumbling solids sounds, bubbling and flittering bird sounds. A shout, an "ouch" from Brainy, followed by that sound of a cup getting slowly filled up. Finally, a loud clunk.

"Alright, you can turn back around!"

She excitedly bounced back towards Brainy, and before she could see anything, she heard and felt a loud click, like that device that chiropractors use to correct kinks in your neck. Her whole body jolted, and she was surrounded by a bright, swirling light.

"It's going to take a bit longer than usual, because it also has to process your soul."

Her feet slowly rose off the ground, as the light swirled faster and faster around her.

"Oh, oh me oh my! I can't wait!"

"Heheheh," Brainy chuckled, "what's the first thing you're going to do when you get real?"

"Hug everyone! And then I'm going to eat ice cream — a lot of ice cream. I'm gonna pop cherries into my mouth like one of those Greeks getting fed grapes. I'm gonna pet a dog, and then a cat, and then a ferret! I'm gonna kick a bucket over, just for the hell of it. And then, I'm gonna meet up with my friends," she looked directly into Brainy's eyes, "and we're going to kill bad guys."

Brainy's smile stayed on his face, but its intensity lowered by just a notch or two.

"I'm sorry, k-kill?"

"Of course! How else will they learn their lesson?"

"Heheh, heh, a-alright, I mean, I guess I'm not one to judge."

"No, you shouldn't be." Brainy's smile lowered just a bit more, and the lights around Isabel grew brighter and brighter. "You know what I'm going to do to those Factory runners? Those foremen, hmm? I'm going to pull out all their teeth, one by one. After that, I'm going to crush their two eyes — or three eyes, or however many eyes they have, one after another, with my own thumbs. I'm going to tear their jaws from their stupid doodoo heads, and I'm gonna put the biggest, brambliest stick I can find all the way down their throat. And when that's all over, I'll slice their bellies open, and leave them there. I think that would be deserved. The least I can do, really."

"Heh, heeh, I uh, I thought you loved everyone?"

"Oh, doc, you misconstrue my words! I said to love everyone no matter their race, sexuality, and gender. Never did I say anything about status!"

The swirling lights were just beginning to push Isabel's limbs into the real world, crawling up from her hands and her legs.

Brainy gulped.

"A-a-and who exactly are the… bad guys?"

Isabel gave him a confused and slightly amused look. "There are those that suffer, and there are those that don't. Isn't it obvious?"

Brainy's smile was all gone, wiped clean by someone who reminded him — in some sick and idealistic way — of him.

"You know what? You were totally right. I'm not Wondertainment. The best Wondertainment does is make a TV show. You know who I am? I'm a hero. They don't have the courage to put on their big girl panties and get their hands dirty. So no. No longer am I Dr. Isabel Helga Anastasia Parvati Wondertainment the Fifth, Pea Aech Dee. No longer am I Isabel Helga Anastasia Parvati the Fifth, either. No, I need a clean slate."

"You're changing your name on a whim?"

"Don't you understand whimsy? Oh, ooo! I think I've got it. From now on, call me… Mrs. Redd, two dees, in honor of someone I never really understood until recently." As the light crawled up her neck, she took one last look at Brainy, and smiled her big, toothy, sparkling white smile. "Thanks for the help, and be seeing you, Marty. Teehee!"

With a final bright flash and associated pop, she was gone, and Brainy Brian / Smarty Marty / Dr. Neurosis only looked at where she had just stuck her tongue out at him with an overwhelming sinking feeling. Murderers begetting murderers. He felt like he was about to throw up.

He reached a slow, shaking hand around the side of the desk to an ocean blue button, and pressed it down. "If, if someone, c-could you get Iris on the line? I, I… I have something that I think we need to talk about. I — what? What do you mean all the money's gone? … A calling card? Wait, whose hand?"

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