The Sea Slug and the Showman
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“Why are all the halls robin-egg blue in this place?” Spratz asked as he and his siblings were rolled down the halls of Site-17 in their dolly cart. “How many robin’s eggs were butchered to paint these walls, you ovicidal maniacs?”

“Pale blue is a calming colour, which is very important around here,” Luna Valdez, their assigned researcher, replied.

“Walls not made from canvas, painted all one solid colour, toilets that don’t empty into a truck – this place is a madhouse!” Spratz proclaimed.

“It’s a lot quieter than the Circus,” Wilby, or SCP-3717-2, remarked. “Kind of lonely, actually.”

“Well, that’s actually related to what we’re doing today,” Luna said. “It’s in everyone’s best interests that our residents stay sane, which is why we don’t like to keep you in solitary confinement unless it’s absolutely necessary. You are permitted social interaction so long as at least one guard is present in case of any unexpected anomalous reactions. Before that though, we introduce you to each of the other residents one at a time so we can observe you under carefully controlled -”

She was cut off by a pair of giggling preadolescent girls zooming past the dolly. One of them had had much of her body replaced with incomprehensible paratech, the other held wormholes to uncharted regions of space in her eyes, neither of which were the sort of thing one wanted around new anomalies.

“Girls, get back here!” a researcher called as he chased after them.

“Simon, what the hell?” Luna asked.

“What am I supposed to do, tackle them?” he shouted as he ran around the corner.

“Yes! Fight! Fight! Fight! Contain them with your fists of fury!” Spratz screamed.

“It’s okay, no harm done,” Luna said with a relieved sigh. “But that’s actually a perfect example of what I was talking about. Those two are great for each other. We fully encourage our residents to develop supportive relationships with one another.”

“I’d rather we just skip straight to testing to see if we can kill 682,” Spratz said. “Because I can.”

“You’re not going to meet 682. How does everyone and their conspiracy theorist uncle know about that thing?”

“The Serpent’s Hand likes to use it as anti-foundation propaganda, how your attempts to contain it only cause more harm than good,” the twins replied. “So who are we meeting then?”

“His designation is SCP-1867. He’s a sapient, telepathic sea slug, but don’t mention that to him. He’s under the delusion he’s still a 19th-century British adventurer by the name of Lord Theodore Thomas Blackwood. We’ve found it best just to humour him as he tends to disengage with you if you bring up the fact he’s currently a sea slug. He actually used to be kept at Site-19, but since he’s harmless they sent him here to free up some resources.”

She came to a stop in front of a room with a plastic slider under the viewing port which read, ‘SCP-1867, A Gentleman’. She tapped her security card to the black reader beside the door, and since they were in a low-security wing the containment cells didn’t have access control vestibules so she was able to roll the Punkz right in.

“Hello Lord Blackwood, how are you today?”

“Right as rain, old girl, though that’s hardly a wonder given the nature of my accommodations,” SCP-1867 replied from his aquarium. “I see you’ve brought me some more curios to appraise. Splendid!”

“Yes, we’ve given them the designation SCP-3717. They’re -”

“Homunculi, and poorly made ones at that,” Blackwood harrumphed. “I do hope the alchemist who created them had his guild licence revoked.”

“He never got it, technically,” Wilby replied. “He’s called the Amazing Zoltan because it’s amazing he’s never been arrested or sued for alchemical malpractice.”

“Hmmm. Fully endowed with powers of mind and speech? Perhaps I spoke too soon,” Blackwood said. “Do forgive me, and let us have proper introductions. I am Lord Theodore Thomas Blackwood, Viscount of Westminster, member of the House of Lords and Brigadier in the British army as well as an avid gentleman scientist, both freelance and in the service of Her Majesty’s Royal Foundation for the Study of Curiosities and Phantasmagoria.”

“…We’re freaks!” Spratz introduced himself and his siblings.

“Specifically, we were attractions in the Den of Freaks at the Circus of the Disquieting,” the twins added.

“Good God, you don’t mean Herman Fuller’s Circus of the Disquieting, do you?” Blackwood asked. “You have my pity then, my humble Homunculi, for I myself once had the displeasure of encountering that disreputable vagabond.”

Luna immediately cleared her throat.

“Not to be rude, Lord Blackwood, but I was hoping we could keep the conversation focused on the Circus’s more recent -”

“It was Fall of 1888…”

“Too late,” she murmured as she hung her head in resignation.

“I had come across The Pond to pay old Teddy a visit. The trip was a bit spur of the moment, and since the first ship available was headed to Boston, I decided to take it and make the journey to New York by land; take in some of that renown New England autumn foliage, you know. The first half of the trip was marvellously scenic, but whilst I was somewhere in Connecticut I found my eye curiously drawn to garish posters advertising something called Herman Fuller’s Circus of the Disquieting. I’m not normally taken in by such drivel, and I swear on my watery grave that some sort of hypnotism was afoot, but I nonetheless decided to attend."

"Oh, was it actually just a nickel to get in?" Spratz asked. "Because whenever old people tell stories everything only cost a nickel, but even taking inflation into account I can't imagine Herman charging so little."

"If memory serves, admission was precisely one dollar. Now -"

"The nerve! That's twenty nickels! Do you know what a nickel could buy back then? Do you? I'm asking, because based on what I've heard everything cost a nickel, which makes zero economic sense."

"Spratz, please, he's telling a story," the twins admonished.

"Thank you, deary," Blackwood nodded. "Where was I? Ah yes. When I arrived, the fairgrounds were all a bustle with folk of every local ilk looking to escape the dreariness or hardships of their lives for an afternoon, and Herman Fuller did not disappoint. Enormous striped tents, flames in every colour of the rainbow, and the most enchanting music that seem to be everywhere and yet come from nowhere. I suppose it was quite a bit smaller then than it is now, and its attractions perhaps not quite so queer, but by Jove, it was a jolly good spectacle. There was a man with a thousand voices performing one heart-wrenching aria after another, a mummified mermaid I would have sworn was just a simian and a sturgeon sown together if it hadn’t moved and cried of its own accord, and most curiously of all there was a boy with an upside-down face.”

“Did they call him Boyie back then?” Spratz asked.

“I’m afraid I never did catch his proper name. But never mind all that lads. It was the Big Top show that brought Fuller and I blow to blow. Let me tell you, Herman Fuller loved the role of Ringmaster. He stood in the spotlight, proud as can be in his top hat and red-tailed coat, the most preposterously verbose and verbosely preposterous poppycock rolling off his tongue as he presented each new marvel. For the fourth or fifth act, he brought out an enormous bear; nearly as big as an elephant on all fours and nearly as tall as a giraffe on its hind legs. Gave it some cockamamie backstory about being frozen in an iceberg from an age long past, and then produced a tricycle so tiny I had to squint to see it."

"Did the bear chase him around while he tried to escape on the tricycle?" the twins asked. "That would have been funny, but I can't imagine Herman ever doing something like that himself."

"Regrettably no. If I recall, the act consisted mainly of Fuller trying to convince the bear to ride the impossibly small contraption, but then the whole audience was aghast when the beast broke free from its iron leash and produced a roar so loud it nearly blew the tent free of its moorings. I could see in the creature’s eyes that its heart was filled with anger from its long captivity and torment, and I won’t say I didn’t pity it, but I could not remain idle and let it maul so many helpless innocents. I leapt from the stands, shouted at the ursine horror to draw its attention away from the crowds and -”

“Did it eat you?” Spratz asked. “It ate you, didn’t it? Please tell me it ate you I NEED SOME CARNAGE!”

“No lad, not on that day or any other did a beast get the better of Theodore Blackwood,” the sea slug chuckled smugly. “No, I just drew out Dr. Moth’s particle destabilizing pistol, good for only one shot you know, and fired straight at the great brute’s brow and blew a borehole straight through its brain. It was bloody brilliant if I do say so myself. Of course, Herman didn’t see it that way. You’d think he’d’ve been grateful to me for saving his life and the lives of his audience and employees, but oh no. He said it had all been part of the act, and I was a damnable fool who had ruined his show and murdered one of his star attractions. He demanded substantial recompense, and I of course refused. I called him a liar, told him that I had been around my share of beasts, wild and tamed alike, and there was not a single doubt in my mind that that poor creature was about to go on a rampage."

"Fun fact: Since Icky and Manny took over, rampages at the Circus have a gone down a full forty percent," Spratz said.

"Well, Fuller looked like he was going to go on a rampage himself, but the threat of Dr. Moth’s pistol – already out of munitions, unbeknownst to him – was enough to keep him at bay. He put on a slick, snake oil salesman’s smile and began to compliment my bravery and marksmanship, and suggested a compromise of sorts. With two snaps of his fingers, a bullseye target was rolled into the ring. He picked it up and twirled it on his finger, saying that if I could hit the center target in one shot whilst it was in motion, he would consider our debt squared. But if I missed, or refused his challenge, I would become indentured to him in servitude. Now, truth be told he really had no way to enforce the terms of such a ridiculous challenge, but I’ve never been one to back away from a wager."

"Some might call that a problem, sir," the twins said.

"Ugh, you sound just like Deeds. Regardless of the rationality of it, I agreed, but only on the condition that should I win the bear would be taxidermied and sent back to England at his expense. Fuller agreed without hesitation, and with a sharp whistle he tossed the target up into the air into the waiting hands of two acrobats. As they swung around the trapeze with grace and speed, the target was tossed between them in a blur. Fuller presented me with the rifle I was to use. I examined it thoroughly to assure no trickery was afoot, and when I was satisfied I went to take my shot. Given what was at stake I took my time, steadying my hand and studying the movements of the acrobats. I aimed straight for the center of the ring, and once I saw the target leave the acrobat’s hand I nearly pulled the trigger, only to hear the familiar empty click of Moth’s pistol against my own head! Despite holstering the gun myself, Fuller had used his prestidigitation to relieve me of it when he handed me the rifle and then attempted to murder me with it."

"Yep, that sounds like Herman," Wilby nodded.

"I socked that rapscallion square in the jaw, knocking him down into the dirt, much to the audience’s delight. With the rifle locked on him, I called him a despicable dastard for trying to murder me from behind, in front of a crowd with women and children, with my own gun no less, and after we had made an honourable agreement. He was a liar and a cheat and a murderer, and a vile knave all around! And then, holding the rifle with only one hand and seeing the target only in the periphery of my vision, turned it away from Fuller and fired into the ring.

"The target landed straight up, with a smoking bullseye clear through its center."

"So the talent that would have made you an excellent circus performer is the same one that saved you from it? Is that ironic? It sounds ironic. I'm going to say it's ironic."

"Ironic or not, the crowd erupted into cheering and applause, and calls for Fuller to be tarred and feathered came soon after. At this, Fuller sneered at the crowd and said ‘I’m a bit short on tar I’m afraid, but fortunately I’ve no shortage of feathers!’. He took off his top hat and a biblical flock of white doves burst forth, outnumbering the audience a thousand to one. It was pandemonium as the crowd attempted to flee the vortex of flapping wings and more unmentionable nuisances, but once we were out the Big Top along with all the other tents and wagons vanished in a twinkling, leaving nothing but a flurry of fluttering snow-white feathers in their wake.

"And that my lads was the first and last time I ever encountered Herman Pandareus Fuller.”

The room was silent for a moment, no one quite sure what to say.

“For the record, we can confirm none of that,” Wilby said at last. “Not even the middle name.”

“Noted,” Luna nodded, though she did not actually bother to write anything down.

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