Report 27: Return of the Clown

Sir,

There’s been an incident. Not something involving Alexandra Melmoth– at least, not directly– but something I think is significant nonetheless. It happened out in the woods, at the cabin where Jase Peterson and Possum Reynolds held Alexandra back at the beginning of all this. I don’t know yet if that’s significant. It may have just been an isolated place to carry out an act they didn’t want interrupted. I’ll find out soon. But first, let me tell you what happened.

I was catching a few hours’ sleep at the Fat Beaver when I got a call from John Cheveyo. I hadn’t heard from him in a few days, but I knew that the Rangers had been keeping an eye out for Alexandra on the reservation. They’re also working on something with Heyoka involving the Mountain Door. I need to pay some attention to that, as soon as possible. Alexandra’s condition has taken precedence over my deal with the Sad Man, but if that Door opens again and I haven’t found him a solution to the problem of the Black Mirror Brute, another couple will die.

At any rate, their routine patrols for Alexandra are what clued them in to the incident: they’d been making periodic checks of the cabin. It’s a place she knows, and a good hiding place besides. So when Hototo pulled up to the place and saw a light in the window, he thought he’d found her. No such luck.

But this isn’t my story, it’s his. Turning report over to Somnambulist Recall, for a transcript of Hototo’s exact words as he told the story to me.

[SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION BEGINS…SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION BEGINS…SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPTION BEGINS…]

Agent X-23 (groggy): So it wasn’t Alexandra?

Alo Xenotype Designate Mark Hototo: No. Almost wish it had been, though. Might not have smelled so bad.

Alo Xenotype Designate John Cheveyo: Might have left you a lot deader, though.

Hototo: Came pretty close as it was.

X-23 (sips coffee, sighs): Maybe you should just tell me what happened.

Hototo: Yanaba’s grumpy tonight.

X-23 (takes another sip, raises cup): This will help with that. Now, you were saying…?

Hototo: Right. I could see a light in the window from a distance. So I called it in and went to see what I could see. When I got a little closer, I heard a voice. Kind of sing-songy. The tune almost sounded familiar, but something about it set my teeth on edge. Like nails on a blackboard, you know? There was medicine in it. Black medicine.

So I pulled my gun and snuck right up to the window. Two figures inside, male. One of ’em was a big sucker, bald, kept to the shadows. But the other one, the one who was doing the singing, him I got a good look at. Tall, rangy fellah. Kinda fancy, but he’d maybe seen better days. Sharp dresser, but a little gaudy. Purple jacket, looked like the color had faded. Wavy brown hair, kinda mussed. The one thing about him that didn’t look disheveled was this big handlebar mustache. That, he had trimmed, waxed, and perfect. Sound familiar?

X-23 (nods): Sounds like Jackson Curry. Go on.

Hototo: So the fancy man… Let’s just call him Curry, okay? I think we’re all pretty sure that’s who we’re talking about here. So Curry was holding this big book in his hands. Looked like a scrap book, or an old-timey photo album. Pages were a mess. Filthy. Notes sticking out all over. But he had it open and I realized that whatever he was singing, he was getting it out of that book.

Then I noticed that he was standing over something laid out on that rickety old table Possum and Jase had in there. Something wrapped up in a sheet. Hard to see from the window, but it was sorta… wriggling. Not moving, understand. It laid there dead as a brick. All the movement was on the surface, like there were a million angry worms writhing around on it. But it wasn’t worms. It was the flesh knitting itself back together on the thing. Because it was getting bigger, starting to fill out in bits and pieces. And as it did, I realized that I was looking at a body.

Once I knew that, something clicked in my head, and I recognized that song Curry was singing. The tune of it, the basic rhythm, was the same as the song we use here on the Mountain to sing the dead off to the beyond. But it was twisted around. Discordant. The words sounded like the Old Alo, but… wrong. Not backwards, exactly. Sideways, maybe. It was wrong, whatever it was, and that’s what was messing with my head. But just as I was figuring that out, and I mean right at that split second… The body sat up.

I stumbled back. Might’ve let out a yelp.

Cheveyo: Understandable.

X-23: But I’m guessing unfortunate?

Hototo: Yeah. Yeah, they heard me. The big one started for the door, and I hauled ass back toward the truck. Sounded like he was behind me at first. But then a scream came up from inside the cabin. Anguished. Not Curry. Sounded like somebody waking up in Hell. I heard a crash, and chanced a look back over my shoulder. The big guy had evidently gone back in. I heard Curry yelling something. Couldn’t make out much of it. Definitely heard him shout the name “Billy” at one point. Also… And this doesn’t make sense. But also, I thought I heard him say “doodle.”

[SOMNAMBULIST TRANSCRIPT ENDS.]

And that’s that. Hototo got back in the truck and retreated until his backup arrived. But by the time they returned to the cabin, Curry and his entourage were gone. Speaking of whom…

I think it’s safe to assume that the big one was your Deep Joe, sir. “Billy,” I’m assuming, is that Level Twelve psychic malignancy Curry subdued when he infiltrated HQ. And if your story from Timothy Danforth is to be believed, I think Hototo heard right. Curry was performing some sort of necromantic rite in there, to revive his old henchman Doodle the Clown. It seems he really is “getting the band back together.”

Which brings me no closer to finding Alexandra, or to finding a way to deal with the Black Mirror Brute. But I thought you’d like to know.

– Agent X-23, signing off.

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About Mark Brett

Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at https://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at http://dorkforty.wordpress.com/. View all posts by Mark Brett

One response to “Report 27: Return of the Clown

  • Mark Brett

    Clint, you’re exactly right. Remember me telling you that somebody had robbed Doodle’s grave? Happened just after that business with Billy. Well, now we know why. Can’t say I haven’t been expecting this. Danforth told me he’d be repeating himself.

    But it occurs to me that I’ve still got a little of Danforth’s story to go. So let me get right to that. I’ve got a feeling that you’re going to need to know this. Now if you’ll remember, Danforth had just found out that Curry was taking the care of his circus attractions a little too far. Feeding people to them. Conducting ritual sacrifice. That sort of thing. So Danforth decided to stop him. And I’ll let him take it from there…

    *************

    With Curry due back at the carnival that night, I knew I had to move quickly. So, leaving Doodle to his drunken reveries, I found my way to Curry’s personal wagon. At one time, I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere near it. But I’d long since become a familiar face to the tight-knit crew of roustabouts and carnies that populated the grounds of the World of Wonders. They were used to my periodic inspections, and Curry, ever eager to prove his charges’ well-being, had long since instructed them to give me free passage whenever I turned up. One of them, a dangerous-looking roustabout named Charlie, had even taken to greeting me with a cheerful wave. Rather a nice fellow, once you got past his rough manners. If he’d known what I had in mind that day, of course, I doubt he’d have been quite so friendly.

    I did have to skulk a bit to gain entrance to Curry’s wagon. But not so much as I feared. Security no doubt became a bit lax when the boss was away. So I was able to make my way to Curry’s home with little difficulty. And, once there, I put to work a skill I’d picked up in my dealings with less welcoming carnivals: I jimmied the lock. I’d expected Curry to have more formidable defenses, honestly. Considering the man’s reputation amongst students of the Hidden World, I was braced to fend off some manner of vile necromancy. But, no. No, all the secrets he’d gathered… or at least the ones he chose to keep close to hand… were secured behind a simple padlock. It is often, I have found, the small oversights that bring the mighty low.

    I entered in search of one thing only: a means of ridding the world of the Spawn of Yig. It was a desperate plan, I admit. I had no idea if I’d find what I was looking for. But despite his reckless reputation, Curry didn’t strike me as the sort of man who would call up a thing he could not put down. So I searched. And soon, my eyes fell upon an item I’d had no idea they’d see: Curry’s grimoire.

    I’d heard it dismissed before, by disapproving mystics and incredulous scholars. But I rather liked it. He’d created a working, functional book, translating the sometimes-esoteric writings of the ancients into plain modern English. I described it to you earlier, I believe: a battered old artist’s sketchbook, stained through heavy use and indexed in his own hand. I could have sat with it for hours, and very nearly did. But I feared discovery, so I found the section I needed and resisted temptation on the rest.

    I was not, at that time, much practiced in sorcery, but I grasped the essentials of the incantation. The tones and notes I would have to hit, the necessary rhythms. The Yig-Song. You understand the nature of it, I’m sure. The sound resonates with the Yig frequency. Opens a door. An answering song sounds from the other side, drawing the Yig-Spawn in. And once he’s through, the sorcerer sings the door shut. The difficulty of it is that the Yig-Spawn must be kept in one spot long enough for the door to open. Which means it must be caged, cornered, or rendered unconscious. Those conditions, Curry had provided for me. So off I went to sing his star attraction away into the ether.

    For that, I had to enter the Freak Tent. There were still a few workmen on hand when I arrived, setting things up for the show. So I proceeded in my usual ministrations to the attractions. The intelligent performers weren’t on-hand yet. But the animal attractions, those that had to be kept in cages, were already in place. I checked them for wounds, examined the food prepared for them, all the inspection procedures the carnies were accustomed to. I needed them to think that everything was normal. I needed them to leave me alone. Eventually they did, and that’s when I made my way to the Yig-Spawn.

    He was sleeping when I approached, his half-human head resting on one of the voluminous coils of his body. He looked almost peaceful. That was not to last. I cleared my throat and began the incantation. At the first word, the Spawn’s eyes snapped open. He swung that great head around, swiveled it on his sinuous neck. Our eyes locked. His face contorted in a mix of fear and pain. He snarled, hissed. Then, without warning, he launched himself at me, crashing against the bars of his cage. They shook, bent. But held. The sudden attack was startling nonetheless, and I may have faltered for half a second. Stuttered in shock. I didn’t think so. But I wondered. Wondered if some slight slip, some imperfectly-formed syllable, might have been the cause of what happened next.

    Which is to say, nothing. No door opened, no demon choir sounded from the other side. And yet, still I sang on, the words gripping me in their power, my mind slipping ever deeper into the timeless void of Yig. The song’s effect on the Spawn, however, was far more visceral. He grew madder by the syllable, hissing, slavering, jaws clenching and snapping, eyes wild. He continued to throw himself into the cage, desperate for me to stop. And with each new crash of meat into steel, I cringed. Cringed, even as I drifted off into the void, helpless slave to an outer calm that belied the panic mounting somewhere deep within. So on I sang, and on the Spawn went, ever more crazed, throwing himself against the cage with increasing vigor. The bars shuddered and bent, threatening to give way. And as I finally ran out of words, they did.

    The Spawn of Yig burst free, sliding silently out of the ruined cage, eyes fairly glowing with rage and madness. I staggered back, still half in the void, and he rushed on, barely sparing me a glance. I thought, for one heady hopeful moment, that he might spare me now that I’d stopped the accursed singing. But no such luck. As he moved past, he swung one mighty arm around and back-handed me into a tent pole with such force that it snapped. I slipped into unconsciousness, the world going black as the tent collapsed around me.

    I woke to screams, and the smell of smoke. Jackson Curry stood over me, hair wild, face contorted with rage.

    “What the hell did you do?” he shouted.

    I mumbled something unintelligible in return, mind still floating out in the void. He slapped me, hard against the cheek.

    “LISTEN!” He lifted me by my lapels, his face filling my vision. I remember one pulsing vein on his forehead, and locked my eyes on that, his expression too fearful to gaze upon.

    “You done something to my snake-man, and I need to know what it was so I can stop it!” Another slap. “TELL ME, you sonnuvabitch! Tell me, or I swear to god I’ll put a knife in your throat right now!”

    So I told him. Told him everything I’ve told you. And when I was done, he dropped me. The anger leaked out of him, and his shoulders slumped. “Dammit, Danforth. Dammit. You cain’t just do the incantation. Yig don’t work like that. You need fire. You need blood and cum. Death and life, offered up in sacrifice. That door don’t just take Yig away. It takes you, too.” He sighed. “Well, alright then. Alright. You’re gonna get your wish, you self-righteous prick.”

    He looked up at his burning circus, at the corpses littering the midway, at the crying women left naked and bleeding all around. “I already got the fire, and the snake-man’s providing all the cum you could want. I’m just gonna have to give up the blood my own self.”

    He squatted down next to where I sat, half in this world, half in the next, and grabbed my face, turning it toward him. “You listen to me, though. When I’m gone, there ain’t gonna be nobody to clean up. Nobody but you. You see them women over there? It ain’t gonna be long before they start birthing snakes. And that’s on you, my friend. You stop that happening, however you gotta. The world ain’t ready for it yet. It ain’t ripe. And you take care of my freaks, too. Keep ’em safe. Get ’em home. And if you do all that, maybe I won’t kill you when I come back.” He slapped me again. “And I WILL come back. You mark my words. I will come back.”

    And then he was gone, off to finish what I’d started. I stumbled after, only half-aware. My memories of what followed are spotty, incomplete. Mostly impressions. I remember smoke. Fire. Screams. I remember the Yig-Spawn when we found him, ravaging another poor unfortunate woman, his breath coming in heaving, rasping hisses, his motions desperate, choppy, manic. And I remember the woman, eyes wide and rolling, given over to the ecstasies of the Serpentine Fire even as her physical shell was suffering abuses best-left undescribed. She was quite mad, and I think that was a mercy.

    Then Billy was there, hovering over them, the eyes of his left head glowing lightly. The Spawn’s motions slowed. His breath became less ragged. The rape didn’t cease, I remember that. But it became less frantic. He was… taking his time with it, god help us all, moving with an obscene slowness, head thrown back, tongue flicking at the air, growling moans escaping his lips. I remember looking away, then, unable to bear his victim’s suffering any further.

    But this was the distraction, of course. The opportunity for the incantation to begin. And so it went, Billy keeping the beast focused on its own pleasure while Curry sang it away. His voice, I remember, was deep and pure. Beautiful, even as it sounded the savage syllables of Yig. I drifted along with the tune, my own mind so recently lost in its coils, and the world dropped away. When the door finally opened with its wide, sucking yawn, I sighed. A pressure I hadn’t even noticed released in my head, siphoned off through that gash in space. The Spawn dropped his victim, leaving her to writhe madly in the dirt. He gave in to the door’s call, and was gone. Curry followed, but less easily. He fought it every step of the way, staggering, stiff-legged, singing the song to close the door behind him.

    I moved forward, too, and might have wandered through myself, had it not been for Doodle. The commotion had stirred him from his drunken stupor, it seems, and the fire had driven him from his wagon out into the midway. I saw him out the corner of my eye, a shambling blur, moving with great speed toward Billy. He had something in his hand. A crowbar, I realized, as he raised it and smashed it into Billy’s right head. Billy crumpled and fell to the ground, the light slowly fading from his eyes. I paused at that, staring blankly at the tiny form lying, twitching, on the ground. Then Doodle snatched him up and ran, laughing, off into the night. The door pulled at me still, but that distraction delayed me just enough. As I turned to follow Curry through, he sang the final word from the other side, and the door snapped shut behind him.

    Curry came out of it all a hero, of course. The official story, the story I perpetuated in the press, was that a wild animal had gotten loose, and that he’d given his life destroying the beast. It wasn’t a lie, after all, and it seemed an appropriate tale to weave, all things considered.

    And then I set about doing as he’d asked: I took care of his freaks. Relocated them, established habitats for some. And made it my business to learn how to return the rest to the locales from whence they came. Curry’s grimoire was great help with that. Yes, I kept it. Rescued it from his wagon before it burned. I never mastered the book. But I studied it over the course of several years, and used it to do what needed to be done. Those experiments, and accidents associated with them, are the source of my current timeless state. But as I said at the outset, that is a separate issue, and not one you need concern yourself with. The only reason I mention it at all is the insight it’s given me into the nature of Curry’s return.

    He’d put the plans in place long before he met his demise. Conducted the proper rituals, and prepared the necessary place of resurrection. Going off to Yig complicated matters, made the route more circuitous. But the real problem is his method. It was a ceremony of unfinished business, designed to bring the subject back for the sole purpose of resolving an unfinished life’s work. Curry certainly qualified for that. But he took so long to come back that he now has to rebuild everything he had before. He’ll be putting the World of Wonder back together, gathering attractions, whether it makes sense to do so or not. He’s trapped in a methodology conceived nearly a century ago. Of course, that makes him no less dangerous. He came to me, Chief Roberts, not long before you yourself did. He retrieved his book. And despite my efforts on his behalf, he made good on his promise.

    Speaking of which… I suppose it is time we said goodbye.

    *************

    And that was it. I blinked, and he was gone. Don’t know what I was dealing with there. Some kind of echo, maybe. Something left over of a man who spent too long living outside of time. I put the whiskey down and went out back, and I found a fresh grave. Going to get a team up there to exhume it sometime soon, after I finish up something here in Lab D.

    The message came through loud and clear though. Curry’s out to put his act back together. Which means he wants his Yig-Spawn. I think Alexandra might be more than he’s bargaining for on that front. She’s not some half-breed product of cosmic rape. She’s a portal to something bigger. Of course, he might be counting on that. All that talk about the world not being ripe worries me. If he’s decided it’s gotten that way since he’s been gone, Alexandra might be exactly what he’s looking for. We just don’t know enough to say for sure, Clint. And you know how much I hate that.

    – Chief Bill Roberts, signing off.

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