“Step right up, step right up, ladies, gentlemen and individuals in general!” The squawky voice of the clown rang over the general hubbub of the Carnival. The clown was standing in front of a complicated-looking sideshow, and looked much like a normal clown that Alice recognised. Red nose, bright blue tufts of hair at the position of the ears and the top of the head, white painted face with greasepaint patterns and a wide grin. They were wearing an oversized pink bowtie, and generally clown-like clothes, from the gigantic shoes to the striped tights and shirtsleeves, overlaid with some kind of… what were those fluffy sleeve things called? Strange padded shorts?
She was frankly relieved that they weren’t wearing a codpiece, to go with the whole doublet-and-hose getup, along with the various tassels and bells that dangled from their clothes.
As she watched, the clown offered a passing family of A Librarians a chance to play… whatever that game was. They seemed to politely refuse, and the clown waved them goodbye with a level of fluidity that suggested that they had no bones at all, rather than simple hypermobility or something.
“Wanna play a game?” Nik’s brother asked. Liz and Ed both nodded eagerly, and the attention turned to Alice.
Alice squirmed under their stares for a moment. “Sure, why not.”
– – –
“Aha! Customers! Welcome, welcome, Liz, Ed, guest one and guest two! For just a ticket each, you can have a chance to win a most fantabulous prize!”
“Um, how does it work?” Alice asked. It didn’t look any less confusing closer up.
“Well, Miss Sir Madam M’lud, it’s perfectly simple! First,” the clown started explaining, “you throwject a n-manifold quorth in a zorthwards direction – towards the third regression of the imaginary position of the-”
“Okay, forget I asked.”
“Certainly, Reverend your Grace Highness Doctor Ma’am.”
“Follow my lead, Alice,” the fortune teller said with a grin, stepping forward to the counter of the game tent and picking up one of the brightly-coloured plastic water pistols that lay there, handing the clown a ticket at the same time.
He took careful aim, and threw the gun in an overhand throw, sending it sailing through the air into the interior of the tent. It hit the bright red and white bullseye, which swung away, and with a creak, the platform beneath the lobster opened, sending it falling into a tank of water with a splash. Within the tank, the lobster carefully donned a tiny tweed hat and put a white glove over its left claw, before selecting a club from the minuscule golf bag next to where it had fallen, and, after a moment’s deliberation, sending a small white ball flying through the water towards the flag at the other end of the tank.
“Yess,” Nik’s brother hissed. “A Fore Claw.” With a grinding noise, the caterpillar tracks on each side of the tank started to move, and the tank, complete with lobster, slid slowly to the right, revealing a glass gun barrel, which fired the tiny golfball at another target, this one green and white. With a popping noise, the ball exploded as it hit the target, bursting into five smaller balls, each of which started running down a series of wooden tracks set below the green target.
They reached the bottom of the ramps and corkscrews, and with a sudden twang, the mechanical crossbow that stood at the bottom of the series of tracks went off. This sent a wooden ring flying into the air, where it bounced off the right wall of the tent and landed over the top of a coconut perched on a tall stick hammered into the ground. This wobbled and fell, rolling down a ramp, through three separate rings of flame, before it came to rest in a bowl at the bottom of the ramp. The coconut cracked open, and within it was a small bird, which flitted up to the counter, perching before Nik’s brother.
“YOUVE WON THE GRAND PRIZE!!!!1!! ONE HUNDRED POINTS OMG XD THAT WAS TOTES AMAZEBALLS!!!!!” the bird blared, a mechanical voice like a foghorn filling the air, far too loud for its tiny form.
“Well done, Sir Madam Mister Duke!” the clown exclaimed, clapping their rubbery hands together with a series of unnerving slapping noises. “Which of the grand prizes do you want?” With this, the clown gestured at the vast array of stuffed toys in a multitude of strange and distressing shapes hanging round the side of the tent. Some of them even had labels on. ‘ARTICULATED PLUSH MORPHBEAST WITH REALISTIC FELT BLOOD AND FULLY REMOVABLE ORGANS! PULL THE CORD TO HEAR IT SCREAM!’ wasn’t exactly what Alice had in mind, when she heard ‘stuffed toy’, but to each their own, she supposed.
“Oh wow, they’ve got a stuffed toy Hound of Tindalos! You can see all the terrifying angles and everything.” Nik’s brother was examining a purple plush monstrosity that seemed to coil in impossible dimensions, and wasn’t even fully attached to itself, or indeed anything else.
“So which of these…?” Monstrosities, Alice thought.
“Liz, you or Ed wanna pick one?” was his response.
“Ed wants to get this one!” Liz pointed at a writhing collection of fabric tentacles that seemed to lack any visible body. “It’s a Seething Thing, and he likes those!”
“Right you are, kiddo.” He gingerly picked up the Seething Thing and presented it to the clown. “One of these, if you may.”
“An most excellent of choosings, sir madam thing!” the clown burbled happily.
The fortune teller handed Ed the stuffed toy monstrosity, and he replied with a thumbs up.
“Aw, it’s no problem, kid. Demonstration for Alice, toy squidbeast for you.”
“What about me?” Liz asked.
“You got to scare the Ringmaster, so I’m gonna get you two some candyfloss. Made with real candy. And real floss.”
Alice grimaced. “Ew.”
“Hey, next you’ll be telling me that hotdogs aren’t made with real heat!”
“That makes no sense.”
“Your face makes no sense. Now, Ed, Liz, Alice, where do you want to go next?”
“Candyfloss!” yelled Liz.
“You got it, kid. Now, where did Twelfth wander off to? She’s probably chatting with some Bookbinder buddies about the fun times they had a thousand years ago.”