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Thread: Fringe of Madness (story series experiment)

  1. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Razzazzika View Post
    ch3 was ok, not as good as the other two... especially not after I got to this: This is, of course, incorrect. She is actually quite attractive with large... tracts of land. That's blatantly ripping off of monty python. Tsk tsk tsk
    It is as blatant as things get. I just had this "She's got huge... tracts of lands" line from Monty Pythons in my head and decided against doing anything to mask that source, because I would rather give homage that everybody recognizes than just changing it into something else and pretend it was originally mine. Still, I think it is small enough to be just that - paying respect to the masters of madness that came before. Especially since what came after is my own.

    I also had to introduce the world in some more detail at this point, because I could not do fun stuff in short story format forever, without breaking the story into fragments that would not be combined again. I fully intend to write a little more at the seams between chapters, eventually turning them into parts of what will be the whole book. I hope you will like the way it continues from this point forward and say thanks for your reading and comment - it is always greatly appreciated

    Quote Originally Posted by Bilston Blue View Post
    Your intro before chapter three had me thinking of Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears A Who, about a world existing on a speck of dust, and how an elephant is trying to protect that speck of dust.

    I like what you've done here, and, apart from the concept you've developed, I think what I like best of all is how well you take the reader into your creation in so few words, which is a great skill to have.

    ...

    Good luck with this, give it the time it deserves.

    Scott.
    Now I have to look up that Dr. Seuss person and find out who they are. It sounds mad enough to be interesting!

    Also, I am glad you liked the chapter(s) and took the time to comment. I also appreciate the proofreading - I do indeed have some recurring habits of mispunctuation that need to be snuffed, out, sooner, or, later

    Quote Originally Posted by InsanityStrickenWriter View Post
    Ha, I loved the first chapter. An Inconvenience Store is absolutely brilliant. The second and third chapters were great too, of course, but I feel what you captured in the first chapter is on another level.

    I'm inspired by your madness to take my own madness to new heights. The other day I wrote a short story about a couple of pensioners sitting on a cloud sipping tea, so it may be difficult to reach much higher... but I'll try dammit!
    That sounds quite mad to me - if it's on this forum (because the admins hate external links) please feel free to add that link to the next post here or just send me a link as a private message so I can have a look

    Quote Originally Posted by InsanityStrickenWriter View Post
    I'm pondering- is your plot plan, (whether actually written down or simply thought about), to have the character from the first chapter as the protagonist, and the character from the second as the antagonost? I think it'd be quite interesting for him to shift everytime one of her clients makes use of a product, and eventually he gets so fed up of it that, in normal form, he hunts out the root of all the 'inconvenience' and finds her shop.
    I have a detailed plan for the plot with various optional twists whose implementation actually depends on feedback posts up to that point. I also have a big text file of random mad jokes I came up with, which I will use where applicable.
    Hoping not to create a spoiler - the antagonist has been introduced and is actually the world itself, trying to twist around the characters (existing and upcoming) to do its bidding, so they might be allies at one time and enemies at another. By the way inconvenience stores are a kind of guild franchise and quite normal, so nobody would even think of combatting them. Werecops, however, are considered a pest and looked down upon by the entirety of the common law-abraiding citizenry. This is actually something you will find in the dictionary on my blog at some point. He will not be put out so easily though and do his worst to make the town of Grinderburg a better place (as you will see in chapter 4).

    Quote Originally Posted by InsanityStrickenWriter View Post
    Anyhow- if you ever complete a novel, I'd happilly buy and read it. Or at least I would when I get back into a reading habbit. I'm just coming out of a month of Ican'tbeassedness. Thanks for the read and I'll be keeping an eye out for more of your work
    Well, there is probably no greater praise than "I'd buy it", so picture me with grateful dollar signs in my eyes and performing a deep stage bow in your general direction. I hope you will keep reading and commenting, because such is my life's blood as an author.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ladyhawk View Post
    I'm having a little trouble sleeping so I popped on to have a quick nose at the forum and stumbled across your post.

    I'm truly in aw at the madness of your story so far. It’s utterly bizarre yet strangely gripping. The first two chapters had me giggling (not something I do often when I read) or scrunching up my face trying to picture the characters and scenes because they were so… odd, yet a loveable fantastic kind of odd.
    Thanks, I'll give you a wide mad grin for that and free of charge as well (nobody would want to pay for it unless they mistook me for a highwayman). I'm glad you liked the style and shall endeavor to keep up the quality, even though I feel I have to improve on my descriptive skills. That way maybe you can better imagine the way people actually look, because I have a rather specific concept for that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ladyhawk View Post
    The third chapter didn’t hold my attention quite as much as the first two, then again, it is five thirty in the morning and I haven’t been to sleep yet. I think it deserves to be read again with fresh rested eyes.
    I have to admit it was more on the side of hard work than it was free-flowing enjoyment to make chapter 3. The jokes are a bit "throw in to make it less dry", because that's the simple truth. I might actually rewrite this at a later time, when I have more inspiration, but I had to introduce the world, before continuing with the story. Thanks for your criticism, because it really helps me to see things from other people's point of view, which I can't do at all on my own. I hope you will be around for chapter 4, where the werecop and Mag appear again, even though they won't actually meet. It will also be a good deal longer.

    To all of you my heartfelt thanks for reading and commenting!

    Yours faithfully,
    --MadBen
    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

  2. #22
    This is the last chapter of part 1 of the story. After hearing the criticism for it, I intend to write an improved version, that incorporates all 4 chapters. Please give me lots of feedback for this chapter so I know what needs improvement - thanks!


    Chapter 4

    Brave Man Johnson felt the blood rush through his malformed limbs, while watching his alter ego Barnaby Wereabout homing in on the sharp metal scent of crime that permeated the cool night air. As usual, he felt himself wondering about the small details. The source for his strength and speed he could understand. He attributed them to the occasional stray dog or feline that was unlucky enough to be briefly shrouded by the passing trenchcoat, never to emerge again. The slowly rotating ears were a bit of a puzzle, though more technologically versed people from other worlds would easily recognize them as some sort of bio radar. What truly bothered him though was the lack of sound, except for the billowing of the brownish black coat in the wind. Somehow his feet hardly seemed to touch the ground, as his sorry perversion of a canine form passed over it.

    In an alley not far away, a clown was running with growing desperation. The only reason his pursuers hadn't caught him yet, oversized shoes and all, was their shouts of "Get him!" and "Don't let him get away!", which left them winded and gasping. But everybody knew these things were traditional and who would want to do away with tradition, when it was the only thing within reach to turn simple craftsmen and laborers into the kind of people capable of wiping somebody's smile off with the required permanency. As he turned a corner, the clown collided headlong with the mangy chest of Barnaby Wereabout. His nose honking in alarm, he tried to jump backwards, his white makeup turning even paler, but two sinewy arms grabbed him and lifted him up inexorably, until his face was level with the werecop's and subject to his foul stench of stomach acid and eau-de-pissoire.

    "Your path ends here, evildoer!"

    "But," he began, but never had a chance to finish.

    Carter Bill was the first of the self-proclaimed mob to reach the corner, but he had lived in Grinderburg long enough to be wary of any suddenly disappearing noises. Before he could make up his mind about whether or not a good day's lynching was worth risking his own hide, a strange hairy thing bounced over the cobbles in front of him. It was generally round with a red wig on one half, but also with an overwhelming amount of red all around. As it rolled, a small part of the red detached itself and continued onwards down the street as if it had decided to leave the high risk life behind and make a better one for itself in a place where the grass was greener. Or where, unlike Grinderburg, there was any grass at all.

    The Fringeworld turned and the city was bathed by the first rays of madness from beyond the fogs of night. Today's light was tinged with red, for blood had been spilled that night. At least it had been far more blood than usual.

    Brave Man Johnson sighed as he awoke on his usual stack of rain-soaked cardboard boxes, feeling for all his boils to still be in their familiar places. At least he wasn't hungry now. Not that his were form would have resorted to cannibalism, but he was quite sure that after this night he would not want to eat anything for at least a day or two. At least nothing with little red wobbly bits in it.

    Mag stood outside her shop, scanning the street for late early morning customers, when something small and red collided with the tip of her ironshod boot. She picked up the red nose with care and carried it inside. After locking and barring the door, she carefully placed it on a shelf with a sign in red letters riveted to the bottom:

    "Warning: Cultist items. Use for incrimination of victims only!"

    The specter of the clown floated through the emptiness of ether, until finally shapes appeared in the far distance. When his drift had taken him even closer, he recognized the great scale of legends, the avatar of judgment. It was said to weigh the souls of the dead to decide their path beyond death. He should have felt awed, but the thing looked like it had just been nicked from a small girls doll house and then inflated by a mad god with severe eye troubles. It was pink and made of plastic and had little sparkly stars all over it. As if trying by every possible means to further exacerbate his state of metaphysical disappointment a squeaky voice called out from inside the strange toy:

    "If you are here for judgment you better come back next Tuesday. Our hurling-people-to-their-doom device has a slight malfunction, so it can only send you to despair. You know, usually you get to choose between madness and despair."

    "I always thought there was something like heaven and hell. Oh well, not that I'm really too surprised," the clown mused.

    "Where do you think you are? Does this look like the fairy godmother's castle of wishful thinking?"

    "Not unless she was five years old with really bad taste," he thought, but chose to keep it to himself. Aloud he said:

    "So what happens if I choose madness?"

    "Oh, nothing too fancy. You simply get reincarnated to live in the world again."

    After the scream of an ethereal launch at soul-breaking speed had died down, there was quiet for a while. Then the avatar of judgment mumbled to itself in a puzzled tone of voice:

    "He didn't even ask about despair..."
    Last edited by MadBen; June 22nd, 2011 at 04:59 PM.
    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

  3. #23
    Ideas are already spouting from my mind like...
    Mine is like a firework display, intermittently dull but sometimes so busy its hard to keep track.

    Will you be the next off the wall genius? I would love you to be.




    Just a silly idea, how about a 'fictionary.'

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by bazz cargo View Post
    Mine is like a firework display, intermittently dull but sometimes so busy its hard to keep track.

    Will you be the next off the wall genius? I would love you to be.




    Just a silly idea, how about a 'fictionary.'
    Some of my teachers thought I might be a genius, until my almost failing grades taught them otherwise

    Hmm, I like the idea of giving the Fringeworld dictionary a funny and memorable name, but fictionary sounds a little too... sane for my taste. But if you can come up with something a little less wholesome I'd be all for it
    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

  5. #25
    Indeed, the greatest madness the world has ever known is to willingly choose to return to it! Btw, you have yourself a dedicated reader and fan here, (just thought I'd point out the obvious). I may even, one day, try to steal a pair of your socks and make them the centre-piece of an altar of some kind. Wouldn't that be fun?

    That sounds quite mad to me - if it's on this forum (because the admins hate external links) please feel free to add that link to the next post here or just send me a link as a private message so I can have a look
    Wasn't originally going to post it, but I've gotten into a bit of a dilemma on what story to run with so figured I might as well:
    http://www.writingforums.com/writers...ml#post1443429
    Last edited by InsanityStrickenWriter; June 23rd, 2011 at 03:15 AM.

  6. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by InsanityStrickenWriter View Post
    Indeed, the greatest madness the world has ever known is to willingly choose to return to it! Btw, you have yourself a dedicated reader and fan here, (just thought I'd point out the obvious). I may even, one day, try to steal a pair of your socks and make them the centre-piece of an altar of some kind. Wouldn't that be fun?
    While you are at it you could torment the socks with voodoo needles so I might finally learn to dance! And now I have a story to read at that link of yours
    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

  7. #27
    I decided to change the size of posted segments, because the former chapters were somewhat disconnected from each other. This new part I is actually composed of chapters 1, 2 and 4 with some content added and the last part of chapter 4 (the clown meets judgment) removed. Chapter 3 will become part of part II, which I am still working on.

    Special thanks to "The Jaded" for the most detailed private message with hints for corrections and more but also to everyone who provided criticism and who kept reading the story. Please bear with me!


    Tales from the Fringe of Madness
    Part I

    In a universe as big as ours there is a place for everything to happen at a certain time and in a certain place. For eons beyond count it was satisfied with the simple life of matter and energy and watching it all from the comfort of an armchair that had miraculously survived the Big Bang, when all the other furniture had decided to become stars or had developed even more nebulous interests. However, as the universe evolved, grew a daring new goatee and came up with more and more ridiculous ideas for things to happen, it had to find new ways to deal with the problem of what-the-bloody-hell-is-this, which happens to be a state right next to paradox, but causes far more headaches. So it invented humans. Humans have minds that can dream just about anything and thereby give it a place to happen. Proud of its magnificent success, the universe then peopled countless worlds with all kinds of humans, mostly of the two-legged variant, but it had overlooked the most basic of rules. In a universe as big as ours there is a place for everything to happen and a place for it had just been found.

    When Mag opened the shutters and unlocked the door, it was slowly getting dark outside. Many of the clients that frequented her shop liked the darkness, so she opened at 7 in the evening and closed at 5 in the morning. The broad selection of items she offered ranged from mouse traps to stabbing knives, but she also had poisons in the whole range from dragonbane to really nasty laxatives. This is because her shop was in fact an inconvenience store, which required a special license and a certain tendency towards a dark and brooding personality with just the right dose of random cruelty. Mag sighed as she swept the dirt from one side of the shop to the other. Today was a Friday, so she left it in the corner next to the icebox. The doorbell clanged and a masked customer entered. She was sure that he was a customer and not a robber, because nobody dared steal from an inconvenience store. Who knew what the stolen money would do to you when it thought nobody was looking. Besides, she recognized him as one of the regulars and he was carrying a large package in the crook of his. Somehow it had the unwholesome look of a rather uncleanly person’s unfinished meal. She didn't have to see his face to know that he was not happy. He gingerly placed the package on the counter and cleared his throat. Mag hated it so much when they did that. She had considered placing a box of caustic throat sweets on the counter, but she couldn’t abide listening to the choking noises and had given up on the idea after only a few trials.

    “I would like to register a complaint,” the man remarked carefully and moved back several steps, while checking the floor for trapdoors.

    “I am certain, that I did not sell you a parrot,” she replied in the monotone she reserved for situations like this.

    “Sorry? No, it is about this horse's head. I was just about to put it...”

    “I have already verified that you are indeed a very sorry individual, but shop regulations clearly forbid customers to state the use of products acquired. Failure to comply may result in... inconvenience,” she interrupted him with her most acidic tone of voice, which was known for its ability to eat through corrugated iron. She even went as far as lifting her left eyebrow, which made the customer step back a little further, while checking if all his kidney were still in their usual places.

    “Well... I... wanted to use it, but it was... Well, you see it was... well... smiling. Really broadly. Almost like it was happy at the time of death. Can't do anything with it like that. Really sorry to be a bother.”

    Mag stretched until she towered at her full accumulated height of 6 feet 4 inches. She wore very thick soles, but did not try to hide the fact. It helped with discouraging bothersome individuals if they knew she was standing on 4 inches of steel-plated ironwood that had, over many years of practice, developed an unerring ability to home in on people’s privates.

    “I am truly unconsolable.” Her voice had finally assumed the pure sweetness that was the final straw for the already profusely sweating customer’s frayed nerves. “Please help yourself to a replacement from the icebox."

    The customer's eyes slowly followed her pointing arm towards the gently steaming black cast iron contraption. There were some vestiges of a biohazard sign stuck to its front, but it had corroded to the point where it spelled out nothing but promised everything, which was far worse. Later Mag wondered if this had been the reason for the customer's rather hurried departure, but probably it was the human arm sticking out of the top. There had been a special sale at the morgue on Wednesday. Slowly Mag stood up and turned towards the door leading to the cellar. She opened it ceremoniously and descended the stairs in solemn silence. The door to the cellar room itself was massive, but its hinges were well-oiled, so it swung inwards effortlessly. Mag turned and locked the door behind her, making sure the seal had shut tightly. Her hands began to twitch, then her stomach followed suit and finally her entire body shook as if she was being tormented by a million volts of electricity. And then she laughed. Slowly it rose in volume until the cellar shook with the manic intensity of it. The walls themselves seemed to twist into faces of woe as if to warn her of the one who might be listening, for he was ever searching and always hungry.

    In a different and in some sense even more inconvenient part of town Brave Man Johnson groaned and rubbed his pockmarked excuse for a face, until a measure of feeling returned to it. Nature had truly dealt him all the best cards to be the perfect beggar. On top of a sickly complexion and a tendency to attract boils like an old carcass draws flies, he had been given a name which from early childhood on had awarded him the kind of constant free surgical treatments that leaves you with few other job choices. Everybody simply loved to beat him up. As a matter of fact he had achieved such fame, that even thugs from other provinces visited the town of Grinderburg to give him a punch for good luck and to tell their kids about it. Most of them even paid the 10 pence fee for which he had a sign specially tattooed on his forehead. What most people didn't know was the fact that Brave was indeed courageous, but rather against his will and only when the change was upon him. It was the call of the wild that reverberated through his arthritic genome, triggering an inescapable response. As usual it started with the ears.

    “Oh no, not again”, he groaned... and changed.

    His eyes began to glow a faint purplish red, his boils shrank and vanished and his thick sausage-like fingers became slim and lengthened. But the worst part was always the trenchcoat. It seemed to pop out of his spine and rip through his skin, unfolding like the wings of some unholy nocturnal horror. When it was done he flashed his perfectly white canines:

    “Inspector Barnaby Wereabout is ready for the hunt.”

    Many years ago he had been bitten by a rabid policeman, who had chased him halfway across the city, before finally sinking his teeth into one of the more prominent boils on his left forearm and dying without ever letting go. In his death throes he had transmitted to Brave both his disease and his spirit, both of which reacted to a unique trigger: crime. Right now a crime was being committed and he was going to give chase. The bite mark on his arm glowed a fierce yellow and Barnaby Wereabout dashed into the night. Brave could feel the blood rush through his suddenly far less malformed limbs, while watching his alter ego homing in on the sharp metal tang of evil that permeated the cool night air. As usual, he felt himself wondering about the small details. The source for his strength and speed he could understand. He attributed them to the occasional stray dog or feline that was unlucky enough to be briefly shrouded by the passing trenchcoat, never to emerge again. The slowly rotating ears were a bit of a puzzle, though more technologically versed people from other worlds would easily recognize them as some sort of bio radar. What truly bothered him though was the lack of sound, except for the harsh snapping of the brownish black coat in the wind. Somehow his feet hardly seemed to touch the ground, as his gross perversion of a canine form passed over it.

    In an alley not far away, a clown was running with growing desperation. The only reason his pursuers hadn't caught him yet, oversized shoes and all, was their shouts of "Get him!" and "Don't let him get away!", which left them winded and gasping. But as everybody knew, these things were traditional and who would want to do away with tradition, when it was the only thing within reach to turn simple craftsmen and laborers into the kind of people capable of wiping somebody's smile off with the required permanency. As he turned a corner, the clown collided headlong with the mangy chest of Barnaby Wereabout. His nose honking in alarm, he tried to jump backwards, his white makeup turning even paler, but two sinewy arms grabbed him and lifted him up inexorably, until his face was level with the werecop's and subject to his foul stench of stomach acid and eau-de-pissoire. The clown briefly pondered praying to some convenient deity, but his vision was far too dominated by sharp teeth. Barnaby Wereabout wasn't a very god-fearing person either. For once he lacked the brains to fear anything. He might have become a follower, had there been a god of self-righteousness. However, had there been a god of halitosis, he would have surely become a high priest by sheer force of superior ability. Before his victim had a chance to pass out he shook him back into semi-consciousness and formed a wicked grin:

    “Your path ends here, evildoer,“ he snarled and the light in his eyes swelled, until it illuminated the entire alley with its sickly red glow.

    “But…” the clown began and spoke no more. His feet struggled for a moment longer as if his shoes had a mind of their own, then the somewhat shortened body flopped to the ground.

    Carter Bill was the first of the self-proclaimed mob to reach the corner, but he had lived in Grinderburg long enough to be wary of any suddenly disappearing noises. Before he could make up his mind about whether or not a good day's lynching was worth risking his own hide, a strange hairy thing bounced over the cobbles in front of him. It was generally round with a red wig stuck to one side, but then everything about it was quite clearly very red, which gave it a strange symmetry. As it rolled, a small part of the red detached itself and continued onwards down the street as if it had decided to leave the high risk life behind and make a better one for itself in a place where the grass was greener. Or where, unlike Grinderburg, there was any grass at all.

    The Fringeworld turned and the city was bathed by the first rays of madness from beyond the fogs of night. Today's light was tinged with red, for blood had been spilled that night. At least it had been far more blood than usual.

    Brave Man Johnson sighed as he awoke on his usual stack of rain-soaked cardboard boxes, feeling his boils and finding them all in their familiar places. At least he wasn't hungry now. After this night he would not want to eat anything for at least a day or two. Maybe he would even need colored glasses to ever look at food again. That is unless they were colored red.

    Mag stood outside her shop, scanning the street for late early morning customers, when something small and red collided with the tip of her iron-shod boot. She picked up the red nose with care and carried it inside. After locking and barring the door and putting up the death threat signs, she carefully placed it on a shelf with a sign in red letters riveted to the bottom:

    "Warning: Cultist items. Use for incrimination of victims only!"
    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

  8. #28
    Member Ladyhawk's Avatar
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    What can I say…? The chapters flowed with ease into one another. If I didn’t know any better, I would never have guessed they had begun their lives as four separate pieces. The story was gripping. The Scene’s were seen, the characters had life, and of course, the madness was felt.

    Great Job. I can't wait to read more.
    Last edited by Ladyhawk; June 25th, 2011 at 10:13 PM.

  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Ladyhawk View Post
    What can I say…? The chapters flowed with ease into one another. If I didn’t know any better, I would never have guessed they had begun their lives as four separate pieces. The story was gripping. The Scene’s were seen, the characters had life, and of course, the madness was felt.

    Great Job. I can't wait to read more.
    Thanks, I'm glad you liked it and hope you will keep reading and commenting

    To everyone who is reading the Fringe of Madness:
    Since I will now switch from former "chapters" to "parts" completely, there will be far longer intervals between content posts. Please bear with me and don't give up on the story
    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

  10. #30
    Oh well, I didn't expect to complete the whole part 2 today, but inspiration struck without warning and wouldn't let go of my hands. I took the time to work it over as well, so there shouldn't be too many potholes. As usual I hope you enjoy it and comment on the things you liked or disliked. Proofreading is appreciated even more! Anyway, here is part 2, which I (in my usual madness) decided to call chapter 2. But don't worry - I intend to keep the current structure for a while


    Part 2 / Chapter 2 (using the new structure)

    The fog thickened as the night drew closer to dawn. It wafted over plains and wallowed in valleys. It invaded remote villages and shook a fist at the mountains that dared defy it. In its memories of the distant past it carried secrets far beyond the ken of mortals. It had been there when the world was made. As a matter of fact it had been instrumental in its making. In that remote past it had signed its name in blood on the last page of a book called "Practical jokes for the adventurous accountant" just before dying from spontaneous anemia. The spirit of the once famous author George Snorewell now wandered the world it had helped create in the fateful moment, when the man's sanity had been shattered in one fell swoop. The dangers of occult literature are often underestimated and, believe me, there is nothing more occult than a book that can make an accountant laugh.

    The Fringeworld received its name by vice of close vicinity to the falls of eternal night, where the torrent of madness ever threatens to precipitate its drop into the abyss. However, for reasons yet unknown it only spins slowly, thereby creating day and night as the madness illuminates one side, while the other is swallowed in darkness. Seasons are caused by the cyclic changes in activity of the central volcanic mountains, where a large and hideously ugly demon is said to be smoking his pipe. This is, of course, incorrect. She is actually quite attractive with large... well, something definitely large. If you ever hear of a land where milk and honey flow, you might understand if you pay it a visit. But even though, mercifully so for the weak-hearted prude, the mountains are capped by snow, don’t bring your kids.

    The people of the Fringeworld appeared one after the other from the shattered dreams of poor Snorewell's mind, which had long since been a lively habitat of politics and science, both of which are close relations to insanity. Due to his unique interests and tragic demise, they ranged from all manner of men to practically all garden varieties of monsters and sadly included a lot of politicians and accountants as well. At this point I would like to point out, that I have no wish to insult accountants. You can stop pointing that knife at my left eye now. As I was about to say, many strange and ominous creatures populated the Fringeworld, which almost makes it a place like everywhere else, if it wasn't for small details. Basically Fringeworlders are far more literal-minded and like taking an idea much further than people of other worlds. Where normal people might accept or even adopt an idea, Fringeworlders would often marry, divorce and sue it for custody of the children as well. This brought about great discoveries and inventions such as telefission, the infernal digestion engine or the inconvenience store. But this great and progressive world was not without its problems and pitfalls. It had a date with the Grin Reaper and everybody had to do their part to save it from almost certain destruction.

    The first rays of madrise burned into the thick body of the fog and it recoiled. Shrinking all the while, it retreated back into caves and rabbit holes as well as the sewers and more shaded alleys of Grinderburg, for this city was the true center of the world; if not for its art and refinement, then definitely for its sheer concentration of insanity.

    Let us leave the Fringeworld and rise up to the level of the clouds, from where we can see beyond the rim of eternal night and far into the ocean of madness that slowly streams towards the abysmal waterfalls. Being your tour guide, I recommend that you now switch your senses to levels beyond mortal capabilities lest you miss most of sights. If you look up, you can sense rather than see the cloudmakers at work. They use brushes made of titan chest hair to paint the familiar shapes and colors with which to express the quality of the meal they had the day before. Since they usually live off high-atmospheric laughing gas, they favor pinks and greens. As we turn our senses back down, we should now be high enough to see not one large island drifting upon the sea of madness, but any number of them. Some are tiny and some are large, but they are all either slowly rising from or sinking into the mad waters, for, unlike the Fringeworld itself, they are nothing but short-lived ideas and dreams. Most are rather harmless and not even fully solid, but there are those that are determined to exist at any cost and they endure long enough to deposit some of their inhabitants on the shores of the Fringeworld. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that most dangerous beings are cute little puppies compared to humans. This concludes our tour of the ocean of madness. Please stop trying to smoke the clouds and fasten your shoe laces as we return to the Fringeworld and to the timeframe of our story, where we turn our gaze towards the east.

    The city of Lisp was known far and wide for its wise eunuch sages. It was generally rumored that they were to a man so sharp that they had, in fact, cut themselves. This happens to be true, even though there were accidental conversions as well. The people of Lisp had a long tradition of free speech and political assassination. You could usually use one to deal with the aftermath of the other. They also had the largest standing army of the Fringeworld and feared nothing and nobody, except for the most terrible of monstrosities. The troll outside the gate was a monument, a warning sign for all to see that there are strange things afoot in the world that can be quite deadly even to the more sturdy type of fiends. He stood frozen with a dumbfounded expression on his face, one hand raised above his head to scratch it and the other holding a large stack of papers. The original papers had long since rotted away, but members of the cultural committee of Lisp kept replacing them with new, if less dangerous, sheets of white. A large bronze plaque had been nailed to the troll’s kneecaps, almost depicting rather than proclaiming his horrible fate in stark gothic script:

    “Fill it out in quadruplicate”

    The troll had been doing his usual job, namely extorting money from people who wanted to cross the Great West Bridge of the road from Grinderburg to Lisp, when he had met his doom – a buromancer. His tectonic brain had been compressed, then fused and anybody who would have cracked open his skull would have found the fine coal strata of his mind turned into valuable diamonds. Against all odds the troll was not dead, but actually very much alive. His mind had felt the need to evolve beyond the lumbering pace of the body and was currently inventing calculus. In a few short years of further cogitation it would realize upon returning to its body that calculus removal might be a far better move. With all the muscles turned to coprolith and severely damaged knees, moving might prove rather hard to achieve, but then there were so many more problems a superior mind could keep itself occupied with. The troll incident had heightened the fears of buromancy to a point where it had changed the army of Lisp into what it was today. Instead of a small corps of well-bred soldiers with excellent education, the army now consisted of a huge bulk of illiterate numbskulls, who would readily answer a question for their name with “Yes sir!”. This, while rendering them quite immune to buromancy, also ensured that Lisp would never go to war; at least not as long as the city’s ruling sages didn’t wish to be cut some more. All in all it was a rather sensible arrangement, even though the art of buromancy was slowly sinking into obscurity as there had not been a true buromancer in decades.

    Currently our story brings us to the strange architectural jumble which is the temple headquarters of the guild of fraud religions. The guild members, while being aware that there is in fact just one god who tended to elude their grasp, had made it their task to create any number of false gods and religions that would cater to the usually more eccentric needs of the common people and to the weight of their own pockets. On this particular day the entire guild was in session, because they had to elect a new head priest. The previous one had died from a severe attack of Thetanus which, after initial symptoms of losing all your money to shady quasi-religious organizations along with whatever remains of your sanity, ends with explosive decompression of the cranial cavity. It was a common enough occupational hazard, so the butlers had simply cleaned away the gray matter and carried out the body and called upon the priests of the guild from all the corners of the world. Prime candidates for the post of head priest were the heads of the guild houses in Grinderburg in the west, Ding Gong in the east, Erum Shah in the south, Fløndern in the far north and, of course, Lisp itself. It began, as usual, with emphatic speeches about the qualities of the other candidates and why pretty much everybody would be more suited for the job than the current speaker himself. Nobody really wanted the job, because it came with the privilege of joining the council of sages as well. Being a fraud priest usually entailed having a sizable harem as well as other perks that depended on supposed masculine wiles. Suddenly losing two stones was a sure-fire way of turning into a theological lightweight in the eyes of both the guild and one’s own followers. In the end the issue was postponed, because the true reason for so many important members to actually answering the call for a summit was far more serious. Illicit Cucumber, head of the Lisp guild house, sighed and stepped forward to turn the discussion towards the fate of the world. While a fraud priest is by definition a self-serving bastard, nothing is gained by letting the very ground you are standing on slip into oblivion.

    “I would like to address the issue of the clowns and,” here he shuddered visibly, “the jesters.” he pronounced with disgusted gravitas. Noticing that he had everybody’s attention, he continued: “The borders of the world are fraying, while madmen roam our cities. Usually there would be nothing wrong with that, but they are making people laugh! In public as well! Worst of all, they are not even taking any money for it or doing at as part of some well-prepared ritual with proper cowls and chanting in a dark room. The Grin Reaper stirs in his sleep to wipe the smiles off their faces and to hurl the world over the edge of despair! It is our most holy duty to cleanse our cities of this sacrilegious rabble without further delay.”

    “Talk! Nothing but talk!” the representative of Fløndern proclaimed while wringing his hands in the way he usually used to convince his followers that the ice giants would have them all for lunch if they didn’t pay him more money, “What do you actually propose we should do? Fire and sword are so out of fashion, nobody bothers with them anymore.”

    Illicit, having expected the response, acted on cue: “I propose extreme measures. I have taken the liberty of forming a band of brave adventurers that will help us save the world. They will also make us all extremely rich.”

    His grin spread until it almost reached his ears, but was halted by a restrictive layer of fat just short of its destination. The result was such that not only children seeing it would have cried, but plants would have lost their leaves and lepers their boils. Still, they would have quickly picked them up again to feel less dirty under that naked gaze of absolute unadulterated greed. And indeed, the grin seemed to spread through the room like a contagious disease, until every eye had the glint of gold earned in the most unwholesome of ways. They all knew what needed doing, but still not how to accomplish it. Reacting to a wave of Illicit’s hand, the butlers opened a side door and an ill-tuned fanfare blared ominously. Then the squeaking started. It slowly rose in volume as five clowns marched into the room in perfect unison. As they lined up behind the lectern of the speaker, they each drew the tool they would use in their trade of mending a mad world. The first clown honked his nose and drew a chainsaw. His face was covered in a white mask and his head covered in a black cowl. The assembled priests cheered:

    “Yes! Let there be gore! Woe to the unbelievers! Let us fight clowns with clowns!”

    The second clown honked his nose and raised a crowbar. He wore a belt lined with lockpicks and various instruments of torture. The priests cheered even more loudly for that:

    “Aye! Let there be looting and brainwashing! Gold to line our pockets, slaves to join our cults!”

    The third clown honked his nose and plugged his ears. Around him the other clowns followed suit. He raised a tuning fork and hit it lightly against his own forehead. It hummed with slowly incrasing volume and began to play a tune. There was much shouting of “Woe! Woe!” and a rattling of teeth and shaking of bellies, for this was a piece of folk music from far away Angguish, where the general concept of creating a good song began with kicking a Yak in the privates until it started bellowing. The song would then finish with the cries of torment from the one who had kicked the Yak, as the beast was allowed to take its revenge. The people of Angguish were strict believers in justice, which made those of the bard profession both very respected and extremely short-lived. When the noise had died down and everybody had finally been convinced to stop trying to poke out their eardrums with whatever instruments were at hand, the fourth clown stepped forward, honked his nose and brandished a gag order from the high court of Nu’uhm, which lies far beyond the deserts south of Erum Shah. The Nu’uhm guild of lawyers had, like most people in the Fringeworld, a very literal approach to every aspect of the law, which for once, would have made a guild of assassins totally redundant there. And truly, by the time the clown had refolded the ominous paper, many of the priests had collapsed to the ground with blue faces; choking and gasping while holding their constricted throats. Practically nobody in the room seemed very eager anymore to see what would be the final act. Illicit, who had been prepared for each of the presented horrors, used the moment to further increase their dread as he raised his hands and proclaimed:

    “Over a year ago I have sent an expedition of daring semi-volunteers into the catacombs beneath this very building, where generations of leaders and unspeakable secrets lie buried. They were to break through the seals of forbidding and descend to the eighth level, where the chamber of unraveling awaits the unwary explorer. Finally, two weeks ago, one of the eight men reemerged from the staircase to the catacombs, carrying in his pack the vaunted and dreaded relic his group had been sent to appropriate. He died before he could speak his final words, but when the butlers cut him open to study the contents of his stomach, which is one of their more sociable hobbies, they discovered that he had lived off spiders and the occasional slow-witted rat for months. All his bones were broken, his limbs twisted and his eyes burned out. He must have opened the relic and was struck by its power. By force of unbelievable willpower or unholy coercion, he had crawled from the eighth level using nothing but his gums!”

    The final clown honked his nose, made a complicated gesture of protection and forbidding and presented the last tool. It was a small leather-bound book with glowing bright letters on the cover that spelled out two words:

    “The Truth”

    Half of the priests fainted at once, while the other half started to froth at the mouth. Illicit’s mouth opened and he cackled, then it became a chuckle and finally he laughed with pure malice, while the butlers carried away his fellow priests. Their minds had finally broken and they would probably never regain their ability to speak.

    “I told you there were unbelievable riches to be had, but why should I share them with the likes of you, who have no vision for a better future and no ability to endure! Woe to the world! Woe even more to those that will defy my will and fail! Before me and my army of darkness, even the Grin Reaper shall kneel down and beg for mercy. I, Illicit Cucumber, shall bind him with shackles of Truth and nobody will ever laugh about my name again!”
    "Fair enough, but to some people, getting Sherlock Holmes wrong is like offering
    a Bacon Butty to a Rabbi."
    -- Pilgrim

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