By Sean Dillon, who is the new talented editor at Arcbeatle Press. Get the autographs now.
Art by Bri Crozier, who is just really damn good at what they do.
Oh, and this one is a bit darker than the others. Still a comedy story, still good fun and VERY GOOD, but delves into a few things that might not be for you today! Use your discretion :).
Go On, Toddle Along
An Exciting Adventure with The Tourist and Ashlyn Oswin
TW: Implied rape invocation, racial slurs.
As the Black Pyramid dematerialized, it made the groaning wheezing sound typically heard when Crawling plays on the radio. The sky was an evergreen cloudless blue as the remains of the moon were shattering down towards the orphanage of disabled puppies. There were a number of reasons why the moon was destroyed, among them being the belief that using nuclear weapons actually solves problems. As highlighted by the charred remains of a number of unnamed puppies who just wanted love and affection, this is not the case.
As the Black Pyramid hurtled through the bloody recesses of time and space, the destruction of the moon was not on Ashlyn Oswin’s mind. There were a number of more pressing things that she was dealing with, the least of which being the dead. For starters, there’s the Black Pyramid itself. As anyone who has been within it first notices, the interiors are far too large to fit within the exterior proportions. Not that they were all that large compared to a typical pyramid, but there was a slight size increase compared to what one would expect. They were designed with an air of gothic, albeit a gothic inspired by someone who has never experienced a work in the gothic tradition. Which is to say that there were a bunch of bones scattered around the walls and there weren’t that many sources of light. At times, Ashlyn could barely see a thing.
Then, of course, there was the woman she was traveling with. Most people called her the Tourist, if only to stop her from going on a long, rather tangential speech about how no one could ever know her true identity as it was forsaken to the cruel horrors of the universe, horrors which she fights day in day out, without want for reward, recognition, or friendship, Horrors that have taken so much from her, so many she cared for, and so forth. She would then go on to list these people at length in a way that made her seem like the true victim as opposed to those who died horribly. (Notable examples include Rey Taylor, who was turned into mush by traveling to a parallel universe of magic talking ponies, Mary Jones, who asphyxiated after resetting time to its proper place, and Dina Noble, who had some rather unfortunate experiences she, in the Tourist’s telling, begged to forget.)
The Tourist was a lean, almost cockroach-like, older woman, roughly in her early 50’s, and showed it. Though her hair was a curly brown done up in a pompadour and her skin smooth as a chameleon, beneath her eyes, inside her soul, was someone who constantly did the right thing, no matter the cost. Even if she had to kill, slaughter, maim, or exterminate to get it done, she would do what she deemed was necessary. The Tourist was dressed in a black trench coat (which she considered putting spikes on before rejecting it due to not being able to make it work with the trench coat’s fabric), black pants, a white shirt, a black tie, black sunglasses with circular frames, a cigarette perpetually hanging out of her mouth (though Ashlyn never saw it lit), and pink ballerina shoes. Her black jackboots had not yet arrived. Indeed, they were five years late despite her having a time machine that could arrive at the exact moment they were shipped mere moments after being ordered. Which was a shame since the Kreesus Man was the only thing that brought her true joy. (Well, that and hate fucking.)
“Something on your mind,” asked the Tourist. This was not done out of genuine curiosity so much as it was a calculated move in service to a larger scheme. Her traveling partner was in a bit of a mood. It was the kind of mood where it would be allowed to simmer if not questioned, and explode if it were. The traveling partner was a young 20 something with short brown hair cut into a bob just slightly long enough to barely miss the shoulders. Much like the Tourist, she was lean albeit more athletically so. More a dancer than cockroach (these were her shoes after all). She had the face of a movie star just waiting for her big break as opposed to the school teacher she ostensibly was. The Tourist’s current traveling partner, much like her previous partners, was dressed in a rather short blue skirt that emphasized her breasts, a frilly bow behind her head, and some basic high heels. She exuded an air of kindness and generosity. And yet, there was a wicked smile beneath the sweetness. It was a very Hufflepuff smile, the kind that no one suspects until there’s a sword coming out from you. You’d see the sword coming, Hufflepuffs always stab people in the front. But, as with the case of most self-proclaimed Ravenclaws, you’d be too busy lapping up your own cleverness to notice it happening. It was this, among other things, that ultimately pushed the Tourist towards asking the question to her traveling partner. She was, after all, always in the mood for a good old fashioned hate fuck.
“Well,” said Ashlyn after a moment’s thought, “I’ve been thinking.” Well, that’s a problem, thought the Tourist. Best fix that after the hate fuck.
“Thinking about what, love?”
“About these adventures we’ve been having.”
“W-what do you mean?”
“Well, to stick with some of the more recent ones, there was that robot you pushed out of a hot air balloon made out of the flesh of orphan street urchins.”
“To be fair, I did it because his robot army was plotting to overthrow the Queen of England and his death was the only way to stop them.”
“Then there was the pacifistic death bot you taught the necessity of killing.”
“Only other death bots! Besides, everyone knows pacifism never works. If anyone ever tried it, they would soon realize the futility of the deed. There are evils in this world who would rather all of us die. Barbarians just waiting to overthrow our freedoms, take away our friends. I needed to teach it the futility of pacifism before it got itself murdered by the hard truths of the world we live in!”
“And then we blew up the Enchanted Wood.” Ashlyn, notably, did not name the horrid sight, the blackest gnome, who, along with a pair of peg wooden dolls, helped them in their... adventure in the Enchanted Wood.
“Bah! Better to blow up all fairy tale lands then let them be converted by the Dredded foot soldiers of the Robotmen!” She perked up, hoping her traveling partner picked up on her pun. If she did, she was confused by its relevance to the nature of the Robotmen. They were not so much jack booted thugs of an authoritarian police state who dealt in order through subjugation, but rather an insidious threat dressed in utopian ideals with a fascist undercurrent simmering beneath the surface like a bag of cocaine that has just been ripped open in the insides of a Floridian man trying very hard not to look suspicious and failing miserably. Even then, the pun worked better in prose than spoken verbally.
“And then, you ruined my date with Graelyn because you were, and I quote, bored.”
“Well, that date was going to crap anyways.” The Tourist had to be careful with this next bit. Go too far, and she leaves forever without the hate fuck or attitude adjustment. Not far enough, and the plan’s ruined.
“Then,” Ashlyn continued, on a roll with her list of adventures, “we helped a bank kidnap and brainwash an intelligent life form.”
“Oh come on, it wasn’t that intelligent. Plus, the stock market needed it. Do you know how many corporations could have lost .02% of their net growth?”
“But what really hit me was our most recent adventure. It started when we got into an argument over the ethics of our adventures. A lot of our adventures have had what can only be described as… terrible results.”
“And I told you,” with an emphasis on you that only a Scottish sounding person can pull off, “that this is a hard world that requires hard decisions. Sometimes, there are only bad choices and we must pick amongst them.”
“Right, that’s what you said. And then, you put me in charge of our next adventure. We landed on the moon in the not too distant future and discovered it had been infected with carnivorous giant spiders.”
“Truly, a realistic thing to encounter in the vastly cruel cosmos.”
“We were trapped on the moon along with a platoon of Space Marines.”
“Who deserved all our support, as all troops do.”
“Who then died.”
“A tragic, but necessary sacrifice.”
“Leaving us with their nuclear weapons to defeat the Spiders.”
“And I left the decision up to you. Luckily, you made the right call in the end. Who knows what those dreadful spiders would have done if left to roam the universe.”
“Except… I almost aborted the bomb.”
“…YOU WHAT!” The Tourist was furious. Her traveling partners were typically stupid by design, but never to this degree. How could she let her down like this. The Tourist would have to scrap her sooner than she expected if this was the level of fuck up to be seen. She calmed herself quickly. There was still the potential hate fuck after all.
Ashlyn was not to be detoured. “I got a sense from them that they weren’t inherently hostile. That they reacted to us with violence because the Marines shot first. Were we to leave them alone, they would have lived peacefully on the moon. Who knows what cultures we’ve murdered, what lives they lived. I was about to abort the bomb when something hit me. Something made a horrifying amount of sense, such that I didn’t have enough time to abort the bomb. About not just that adventure, but all our adventures. It had been nagging at me for quite some time until then, but when it hit, I was awash with a sense of overwhelming clarity.”
The Tourist was starting to sweat. “So what are you saying?”
“I’m saying that somehow, every element in our adventures is connected to the television show Doctor Who. That’s what I’m saying.” Shit, thought the Tourist. On the bright side, at least she’s never heard of Lady Aescalapi… Axeliu… Ascelopolis… That woman I had a drunken one night stand with after helping Better Living Industries defeat the Fabulous Killjoys.
“It is… only a coincidence! I do not even know who David Tennant is!” There was a bit too much emphasis on the word coincidence for Ashlyn to believe that it was. That, and the Tourist was moving a bit too close to Ashlyn for her liking. “Besides, we’ve had adventures that weren’t inspired by Doctor Who. Remember the time we stopped those reds from stealing the Martian death weapons? Or the time we sacrificed my own people for the safety of the universe. Or the time you got kidnapped and ravished by the Immortal Transphobe while I teamed up with my evil past self (who I had no idea even existed) to fend off the space police who were miffed because I created all life in the universe?”
“Ok, I think that last one happens to a different member of the, for lack of a better term, fam,” though Ashlyn did make a mental note to kick the Immortal Transphobe in the balls should they ever meet, “but I damn well know those are all plots to Doctor Who stories.”
“Erm... so what?” said the Tourist with a hint of desperation poorly disguising itself as flippancy, “So what if these stories are all like Doctor Who stories? Surely we can live and love happily! Besides,” the Tourist shifted her position such that she was very close to the Black Pyramid’s one door, barring any potential escape (not that one would want to leap into the veins of time), “if you want to avoid the story of Doctor Who, then this is the perfect opportunity to subvert it! Surely you remember that in that story, the Doctor and his companion drifted apart. But here, Here! We can come closer together. We can do what you always wanted to do: make sweet, hot passionate love! You’ve made the hard choices I make every single day. You understand the necessity of the world we live in. The cruel nature of life! I can make things so much better for you!”
And for a moment, Ashlyn paused. Not for long, of course. Where she the other one, the one she was blatantly ripping off, she might’ve been tempted to give the Tourist a snog and a hate fuck. She might’ve even done it. (Though, in the other one’s defense, were their roles swapped, she would’ve thought the same of Ashlyn.) But there was one thing that prevented her from doing so, the thing that was number one on her mind. It wasn’t so much that they were ripping off Doctor Who as it was the way they were doing it. Their story wasn’t fully Doctor Who per say. It was a bit grimmer, a bit darker, and a bit more fascist than a typical Doctor Who story (which usually aired towards a naïve liberalism). And she knew full well where her story would end:
A woman who died to inspire a hero to do dark, awful things to bring her back. The Tourist would rip time asunder and betray her own people in the name of the Lost Lenore. What drama, what consequences would there be to this tragic affair? This ancient story. This fairy tale. Obviously, they wouldn’t be able to be together in the end. Such stories never allow for the lovers to be together in the end. They would be separated. Usually, such things would be something along the lines of Orpheus and Eurydice, but their adventures would never allow something as light and fluffy as that to happen. It would have to be darker, and Ashlyn had an imagination. The Tourist’s people would offer a trade. Ashlyn, it would turn out, could birth machines such as the Black Pyramid because of some technobabble that only made aesthetic sense. If the Tourist were to allow them to use her as a means of reproduction, to create more, better traveling machines, then her traveling partner would be allowed to live (pacified, of course, so she wouldn’t run off). If the Tourist did not, Ashlyn would be killed. The Tourist would agonize over the decision, but in the end she would make the hard decision. She would say yes to her people and allow Ashlyn to live forever in bondage. It was, after all, for the greater good.
Not wanting that ending, Ashlyn asked a very simple question before landing the coup de grâce. “What’s my name?”
“What,” the Tourist retorted with a small laugh within.
“My name. We’ve been traveling for so long, surely you of all people must know my name.”
“O-of, Of course! Of course I know your name!”
“Well, what is it?”
“It’s… It’s… It’s… Cassandra?” Ashlyn responded to the wrong answer by punching the Tourist in the face. There was a rather nasty shiner on her left eye and the doors to the Black Pyramid were wide open. The Tourist almost fell out, but she held onto the frame of the entrance with great difficulty. She was too focused on holding on for dear life to form coherent sentences, only making snarls and animalistic growls that had the vague outline of language. Ashlyn raced to the console that controlled the Black Pyramid with great difficulty. But it was as if there was a corridor of air helping her along towards her goal lit up by actual lights. The Tourist was starting to lose her grip by the time Ashlyn reached the console. The Tourist gave her traveling partner a look which pleaded for mercy.
“Oh fuck off! Fuck off you twat! And forget you ever met me!!!” And with that, the Tourist fell into the veins of time, left adrift in the past, present, future, and neverwas while the doors of the Black Pyramid slammed shut. Ashlyn sighed, slightly relieved. Self-preservation, even for someone with her character, trumps horniness in the end. Ashlyn looked around. The interior of the Black Pyramid had shifted slightly. No longer the design of someone who had listened to far too much Linkin Park, now it looked like the design of someone who listened to far too much My Chemical Romance. There was still an edge to the design, but it was a different sort of edge, one that allowed for Queen, Janelle Monáe, spadging on sigils, and other queer things. The bones were still there, but there was an artfulness to their design, and they weren’t the only ornaments affixed to the walls of the Black Pyramid. Moreover, Ashlyn could actually see what the majority of the Black Pyramid looked like. There were posters of rock bands, bookshelves full of stories waiting to be annotated, a jukebox with a guitar leaning on it. Ashlyn looked at her surroundings and was pleased. She was less pleased by the clothes she was wearing. They just weren’t her style. And so, she traveled down the corridors, which seemed deeper than they once were, perhaps even diving into infinity, knowing instinctively where to go.
It had been a rough few months since Colonel Eliezer Levenston-Stalworth had been commissioned to defend the British dominion over India. They had recently locked a fusilier the troops called The Big Crazy for repeated misconduct, not the least of which being preventing several high ranking officers from doing what needs to be done to boost morale and keep those wogs in line. Natives, the Colonel corrected himself, we’re supposed to call them natives. However, he has been making a lot of ruckus as of late and has threatened to murder the next man to enter his cell. Sure, it was because he was being held without charges and forcibly having his hair cut to below regulation, but he’s been a troublemaker for so long. The Scot needed to be taught the proper British way of things.
Furthermore, the natives were beginning to revolt against the various platoons sanctioned to bring order to this fertile, savage land. They did not appreciate the troops slaughtering their cows to make steaks out of, nor did they like being stripped naked and beaten with sticks for daring to protest their lot in life. They had begun to form resistance groups under a fool named Gandhi who thought that non-violence could actually stand a chance against the might of the British military.
And to top it all off, a race of sea-wogs had surfaced and had aligned itself with the natives. They claim to be intellectually superior, but if they were, they would have used their technology to aid in suppressing the encroaching Nazis, natives, and other lesser peoples. (On the bright side, some of the men had rustled a herd of cows, so steak would be on the menu tonight.) All these things were on the Colonel’s mind when he heard news that a strange woman had been found nearby. He recalled his old ally the Tourist who helped fight against the barbarous hordes of Yeti and the insidious might of the Robotmen, who dared to subvert the glory of the British Empire. Perhaps she could help with their little problem.
It was reported that she was found lying unconscious on a mound of manure with a robot standing next to her. It was wearing a dapper hat and holding a box slightly smaller than a pair of Jackboots in her size…
Alice River was in the twilight of her spring when the death bots attacked. She had been teaching History for the past ten years. She was beloved by her students, the faculty, and had even been in meetings with several Labour and Liberal Democrats, though she herself was a member of the Scottish National Party. Her courses typically consisted of walkthroughs in various pre-English civilizations and how they led to the modern world, with a direct focus on the fictions told in those eras such that it was unsure by those who hadn’t taken her courses if she was actually a history teacher at all. Those who did knew she was always talking about History.
Her husband, Roland Williams, was a nurse who worked at a nearby hospice. When he started his medical career, Roland had wanted to be a doctor. However, as he began his medical degree, it occurred to him that his strengths were in assisting those in need. He could do a diagnosis like no one else, but he was stronger doing the equally complex work of organizing a hospital to have all the right people in the right place, to keep the patients comfortable in between the doctor’s visits, and to guide them to the next stage in life. He had been friends with Alice since they were kids and it was only before they went to college that they realized their feelings for one another. (Indeed, they were the last people in their small town to realize that.) They were married a year after they graduated college and loved each other for all the years that followed. They never had kids (Alice was infertile), but that didn’t dampen their relationship (bar one fight before they got married).
What did dampen their relationship was the death bots attacking. One of them struck Roland in his right shoulder. He was lucky to have survived. Practically everyone else was dying, Alice could hear the screams of her students, her fellow faculty, and all the other people wandering the university grounds. She was awash with dread and misery. The only thing keeping her going was her husband, who was screaming in pain. Fortunately, one of her students was with Alice and was able to help carry her husband to a safe location. The student’s name was Bob Potterson, and she was a rather odd student. Officially, she wasn’t a student at all. She couldn’t afford to go to college, so she worked in the cafeteria serving chips to the students. On her off hours, Bob would sneak into various lectures held in the university. The one she cared about the most, however, was Alice’s. There was a small degree of a crush to this (though Bob recognized that such a relationship wouldn’t work out), but it was mostly due to how invigorated and excited Alice was about history, about the people who once lived, the stories they told, the stories lost, all the things that make us who we are. It always put a smile on Bob’s face. Alice, when she found out about Bob, let her stay on and acted as a personal tutor. She liked Bob’s smile and how she asked seemingly obvious, yet unasked questions.
The three found themselves in one of the classrooms. It wasn’t that large, roughly large enough to fit forty students at a time. But it was enough to keep Roland alive. He weakly told the two that he was going to be okay, but his voice refused to lie to them. On a normal day, such an injury would mean Roland would lose his arm. It would take him years to relearn all the things he did with just one arm. He would have to stop nursing for a while, maybe forever. Alice would still be there for him, maybe take a semester or two off to help with the early transition. But it would still hurt.
Fortunately, this was not a normal day. For as Alice was tending Roland’s wounds as best she could, a wheezing groaning sound akin to a dying llama filled the room. The three were awash with a wind from nowhere. In its place, landing precisely atop the tables, was a Black Pyramid. In the direction facing the three was a door with a novelty maple leaf for a knob. The door opened rather smoothly; in its frame was a woman. At first, she was silhouetted by the light from within, almost blindingly bright. But as she stepped closer, they could make more of her out. The woman was dressed in a purple suit with a loose black tie dangling around her white shirt. She was wearing a bowler hat with a small bisexual flag stitched to its rim. She was wearing a fashionable pair of flip flops with a smile on their heels. She had a tattoo on the left side of her neck of a raven flying high. Her hair was cut in a bob just long enough to not reach her shoulders. She was lean, she was confident, and she had the closed smile of someone who had just recently thought about the prospect of space-age wiccan polyamory.
Alice was intrigued by the woman, but somewhat weary of the Black Pyramid. There was an implication of banal cruelty to its design. One of someone who thought brutalism wasn’t brutal enough. And yet, the woman inside seemed to subvert those expectations. She was like the imaginary friend everyone had, the one who wanted to overthrow the government because it was a bit too cruel. Roland was a bit too dazed and confused to have an opinion. Alice seemed at ease with the woman, so he tried to relax. But there was something about that smile of hers that made him think of dashing adventurers who get too close to danger and leave too many wounded behind. Though, again, he was a bit too dazed to have a full opinion. Bob, on the other hand, had a toothy grin on her face. She could tell the woman was her kind of people. She stood with a confidence Bob wished to have in herself. She was sure Helen would be fine with a threesome, right?
(Unbeknownst to Bob, Helen was already in the Black Pyramid, along with a bunch of other students, faculty, and people in the line of death bot fire. A clever plan all things considered, evacuating as many people as possible so the death bots will think they have murdered everyone and move on to somewhere else. That way, mostly everyone will live. The woman thought about the life she was about to go into. About all the places she could see. If danger came, she’d meet it as best she could. Sometimes, she thought, violence is necessary. But only a twat thinks it’s the only solution. Who knows, she thought, maybe I’ll run into her again. And then she laughed in her head and turned towards those outside the Black Pyramid with a polite smile on her face.)
“Hello. My name’s Ashlyn Oswin. Need a lift?”
Copyright 2020 Arcbeatle Press and James Wylder
Any resemblance to persons living or dead, fictional or real, or events past or present is either purely coincidental or done firmly within the grounds of loving parody.
Any attempt to use this story to make weird claims on a wiki argument thread should probably be grounds to ignore any other arguments from the user making those claims forever. Just saying. It's an April fools story, I mean really.
Poet, Playwright, Game Designer, Writer, Freelancer for hire.