Augromme, the skeletal elephant

The elephant pen was a scabby affair. There were four elephants in all, two sows and two bulls. They mostly kept to themselves in dreary, masticating silence but occasionally they would fight one another, spearing each others’ flanks with their tusks, twisting their long noses in skin-husking, death grips. The instigator was usually Augromme, the undead and partially zombified male.

Ernt Rauchebaum was, ostensibly, the Elephant Keeper at Drutherstone’s circus but he had spent the past 90 years cultivating his opium habit and had recently taken several villainous sabbaticals leaving more than several circus chores unattended. Ungulen, the groundskeeper, usually wound up cleaning and feeding the elephants.

Augromme, the undead elephant, was brainsick. He rarely knew where he was or what he wanted to eat. He stomped with frustration around his small enclosure, unsure of what to do next in any situation. His addled mind — for indeed his brains had begun to deteriorate into something green and gelatinous– fired off indiscriminate orders and ideas that he was never able to bring to forbearance despite his beastly size and determined attitude of elephantdom.

Augromme recalled recently having chased a little girl in circles. It felt good to do that. He wanted to do it again. His tusks hadn’t tasted blood in a few years and he was eager to exact murderous pleasures from somewhere, anywhere. But as his small eyes darted around, all he saw were his three other elephantpanions. He liked them. Sometimes. They were hairy and warm and occasionally he felt like they were a family. Then some bolt of searing mania would strike and he would attack them viciously until Ungulen or another carnie roped him down and poured lavender wax in his ears — never a good feeling and yet, something about it made his nerves relax.

Augromme paced energetically several times and then rolled back down on his haunches, amazed at something in the sky.

valley crabs

“Delicious,” sucked Drutherstone. A heap of membranous shells grew at his elbow. The shells had a catching quality to them, still outfitted with little spines and naturalistic curvatures. It was almost as if the shells found some comfort still being huddled together and were frightened to part ways even as they were periodically swept into the trash.

Ungulen closed his eyes, wrapped his mouth around a claw and slurped. Valley crabs were his absolute favorite and he had spent many solitary hours collecting them off the oozing green lakeshore down in the valley earlier that morning. The mountain of shells in front of his seat at the table was tremendous. A monument to his enjoyment and and an honest day’s work.

Marrionetta stuck out her tongue and gagged for the fifteenth time that night.

“What’s wrong, love?” Ungulen’s lips shimmered. “Not good enough for ye?”

Marrionetta fixed Ungulen with a haughty and sarcastic stare which produced a sound like billiards colliding. “I’ve dined on the finest crustacea on several continents so don’t condescend to me, Ungy.”

Ungy rolled his eyes.

She continued, “I just find it disgusting you could eat these sad little tacks that have done nothing but roll around in groundsmuck all their lives, not to mention whatever skim finds its way out of Drutherstone’s sinuses.”

In response, Ungulen smacked a fat plug of crabmeat out of a tubule. Drutherstone too merely picked his teeth.

Drutherstone, Ungulen, Marrionnetta and Goren Hargus sat around the round table, eating under the swaying silhouette of an oil lamp. Outside the mess hall, night closed in, in its greenish way.

This was a private dinner. All the other employ had been banished both from the discussion and from the intoxicating fumes of boiled slime crabs. A lever boy or two had managed to steal hot specimens from the pot, their fingers singeing and warting up all the way back to their barracks. Otherwise, the party remained undisturbed.

Goren Hargus was the first to conclude his appetite. “So,” he announced. “Shall we review the financials?”

a highly organized and efficient psychopath

It was the morning after Dr. Lorelei had seen the little girl with brown hair being chased by the elephant down in the sinkhole. In the relative comfort of The Emerald House, he rose from his creaking cot, dreary and hungry, fearing the sort of breakfast that would be available in his new abode, the accursed circus.

He rifled through the mania of discarded items around the room. His tunics, his briefcase, a clattering pile of empty bottles — all Drutherstone’s mezcal — paperwork on lost experiments, several of his favorite knives, and numerous pharmaceuticals. Dr. Lorelei knew his own habits well enough. Typically a highly organized and efficient psychopath, Lorelei was sometimes given to bouts of animalistic and explosive rage, especially when change was in the air and drink was in the blood. He made a mental note to tidy things up later. He also knew that soon he would need to reinstate his honed routine of Personal Dispossession. This consisted of self-inflicted pain — in carefully measured intervals — to conjure that sublime and acute state of dissociative thinking. In his dissociated state, he found himself to be as rational and objective as a blade’s edge is gleaming and sharp. An ideal frame of mind for his scientific work.

Outside, he slid carefully down the muck covered grade of the hill. Everything was so humid and greenish, he noticed. The rides were rusted to a blue-green hue, the ubiquitous muck shimmered with verdant, oily swirls. Even the grass seemed the greenest that green could be. It was fecund, wet, and inviting in its own way. A lusty pull that seemed to typify circuses and other impermanent clusters of occultae.

He found the public mess house easily enough. The concomitant blur of both the circus’s staff and its performers were writhing in a mass all around it. Liquor was already flowing freely even though the sun had barely winked out of the teal fog of early day. A vein of barbarism snaked through the familial din. Hard punches and snarls constituted salutations all around. Even the women seemed to be baring too many teeth than could reasonably fit inside their fairer heads. Lorelei did not see Drutherstone anywhere and yet he felt certain that the Clownmaster’s pneumatic discharges were all around them.

A plate was slopped together for the Doctor and he barged back up the hill, completely unaware that vicious Marrionetta had clocked him. Standing aloof, she was thoughtlessly lighting matches and tossing them into the strata of oozing footprints. The orange coals of her eyes burned through the steaming morning sunlight.

Drutherstone’s Mezcal

Dr. Lorelei poured himself a small salut to celebrate the acquisition of The Emerald House. The liquid tasted sweet with anise but there was an alkaline after-choke, probably due to the fact that the rancid alcohol was brewed in a rusted out canister on the grounds of an accursed circus.

Dr. Lorelei now poured heavily from the brown bottle and drank deep draughts of the stuff to achieve either drunkenness or brain damage. Though, arguably, the latter had already been done. Even he knew his experiments represented something insane. But, fortunately, Lorelei did not possess the moral compunction to stop himself from trying.

As he sucked down the dry, disgusting swill, he watched a scene play out beneath his window. In the murky green of evening, a little girl with short brown hair was crying and hurrying along the inner perimeter of a massive, rectangular sinkhole. The sinkhole was nearly as long as a rugby pitch and her small, 10-year old legs could barely carry her through the thick grass, especially as it was wet from the thin, freezing rain.

Dr. Lorelei swiftly recognized that the little girl was in a nightmare. The nightmare had transported her here to Drutherstone’s circus. He wondered what petit triste in her real existence had transmuted her spirit to this idiotic and buffoonish place. He refilled his glass with the burnt mezcal and continued watching her.

She was running as fast as she could which was not very fast at all. She was screaming for help because, behind her, one of the circus’s enormous, skeletal elephants — the one with the dead eyes and zombified skin — was chasing her and chasing her and chasing her and would not stop for it was a massive, undead fury. He thought, if the elephant overtook her, she would probably just wake up in bed. Safe and snuggled in covers lightly soaked in the sweat of her terror. So it would be better then that the elephant should overtake and mash her into the ground. But no. Somehow in her nightmare logic, her fat little legs, wicking this way and that on the waxy grass, carried her just beyond the maniacal elephant’s tusks, trapping her in unending fright for many tours around the sinkhole.

When Dr. Lorelei went to refill his cup again, he noticed that the bottle had changed. Just another quirk of battening down in a whimsical, horror circus. Bottles could change their labels at a moment’s notice. The new, decorative label depicted the small child herself, running amok ahead of the charging elephant, Drutherstone’s Mezcal in curling gold script.

“Nicely done,” thought Lorelei.

Marrionetta in Full Tilt

“Drutherstone, you pathetic wince of a cock!” Marrionetta strained so abruptly and with such force that several of her strings sang a final note of tension and popped straight out of her skin, carrying off little flecks of flesh.

“Netta, calm down, for the last time…”

“Calm!” she screeched, “Down!?”

The full tilt jostle of her mosaic body slammed towards him. His cock winced.

“The Emerald House is mine!” she thundered. To make her point plain, she began to destroy the furniture. Drutherstone’s top hat came under her control and she tossed it out a window.

Drutherstone sucked his teeth. Wordlessly, he turned around and egressed from The Emerald House. He retrieved his hat from the green muck. His throat issued a large slime ball. Then he reentered the house containing their disagreement.

“Don’t throw my hat.”

“I’ll murder you. I’ll sever your neck with piano string. I’ll quit. I’ll move to Arabia! Janus Tewditch still knows how to appreciate me.”

“Janus Tewditch is broke and he married his contortionist.”

Marrionetta turned purple, mottled pink and finally settled on a piqued beige. “He’d put me in his act.” She snapped her woody fingers. “Like that.”

Drutherstone sank to his knees and took her hand in his. She let him kiss her hand while she stared at the ceiling. “Please, Netta. This is temporary. Just let the doctor stay in the house and pay some exorbitant rent for a while. I’ll buy you a bracelet. You know how badly we need the money. We’re off peak this century.”

Marrionetta removed her hand from his and tapped his forehead with calculating malice. But she was thinking about it. Soon, she crossed her arms. It was a complex crossing given the hinged nature of her being. Many angles seemed to intersect within her intersections and the grain of her stood out, lithe and beautiful. She was in major disrepair but an underlying elegance shone through the grime and the disappointment.

“A pretty one. Big big rubies.”

“The biggest,” Drutherstone intoned.