by Vincent Daemon
These Days Are Not The '70s
“That sonofabitch is fuckin’ me for the carnival. I’m tellin’ ya he’s doin’ it on purpose!” bellowed Corman at Walter Paisley, infuriated that John had stopped to take an injured person to the hospital. And poor Walt had merely been sitting there, peacefully eating his lunch, sitting next to Quacks, the nine-hundred and seventy-five pound duck, whom he’d developed quite the personal and deep bond with. Walter would share his lunch with the poor mutant fowl every day, often engaging in a kind of communication, talking to him. The duck always leaned his bill just outside the cage, right onto Walter’s left shoulder.
“He’s a good kid, Corman, not some self-centered douche like you. What was he supposed to do, leave the broad lying there, sick or whatever the problem is, in the middle of the road, freezing?” Paisley said this calm as could be, taking a bite out of his sandwich, then letting Quacks have a nibble. “Would you really have left her there, Corman? For real?”
“You’re goddamned right I would’a. The back of that truck smells like bear shit, which is gonna cost me extra, goddamnit. He’s gettin’ it back there late...more money. Fuck his pay, and his bonus, too.”
“Calm down you cranky old shit. And you know as well as I do there ain’t no ‘bonus’.” Walter was one of the few who Corman allowed to speak to him in such a manner; they’d been working together some fifty-plus years. “The kid is being a good citizen, and it’s the Holidays, lighten the hell up. The bear is here, it’s calm-ish, but not happy, I can tell you that. Bad idea Corman. Bad idea.”
Corman glared from beneath his furrowed brow as Walter continued. “The Zoo is clean, the animals fed, cages washed. That kid is here seven days a week, then you don’t even know what he goes home to. You pay him just enough so that he is eligible for food stamps, yet he comes in every day and takes your annoying shit. Day in, day out. An’ he has for years. Be thankful you have the fucking kid, or you’d be screwed. You probably ain’t gonna have me much longer as it is. Hell, you been takin’ advantage of him, an’ me, for years, since Harold-Ray passed. Give him a fucking break, huh?”
Corman looked annoyed. He knew Walter was right, though it literally sickened his Scrooge-like sensibilities. “You said everything is done, cleaned? They’re all fed, changed, whatever it is you guys do?” None of the animals liked Corman, his demeanor so offensive as to really upset them sometimes, and he knew it, so avoided virtually any and all dealings with them, as much as possible. He just knew how to acquire the strange ones.
“Yeah, I told you it’s all finished. When Johnny comes back we’ll finish stringing the lights up, then we’re callin’ it a day. Ain’t nothin’ happening until the carnival tomorra anyways.” He handed the rest of his turkey and cheese sandwich to Quacks, whose bill continued to rest peacefully on Paisley’s shoulder, despite the projection of Corman’s obnoxious presence and behavior.
“Well, I’m callin’ it a day now. See you tomorrow morning. And make sure he got that truck back, goddamnit.” Corman turned and headed towards his Hummer.
“I’m sure the truck’s fine, ya rotten bastard,” Paisley grumbled under his breath. “Right Quacks? Everything is fine, buddy.” He gently rubbed between the ducks eyes and got up. He figured he should probably go and check on Cyimir the bear, knowing the poor creature’s over-tranquilization would soon be wearing off, and it may not be the happiest of animals to awake and find itself in an environment completely unsuited for its needs. At least it was cold.
Cyimir was struggling himself to a disoriented wakefulness as Walter checked on him. “Poor guy, I just want you to know this had nothing to do with me. Blame that shit Corman. Hell, tear him to shreds for all I care. Poor bastard, ya.”
The bear growled a low rumble of what seemed like agreement to Walter’s words and apologetic empathy. Cyimir struggled to his feet, still shaky from the tranquilizers. The at-first cautious but otherwise peaceful bear suddenly scowled angrily and made quite the threatening sound, though not toward his new caretaker friend. The look in the bear’s eyes turned from innocent and lost to borderline rage as he curled his maw into a ferocious snarl, giving Walter quite the start. He turned to see what had suddenly disturbed the bear to that state so suddenly.
He couldn’t quite make out what he was seeing, but it seemed to be something large and lurching, hunched and reeking of sulfur, assorted unknown toxins, and rotting flesh...and Walter could hear it moving around just behind the main office building, almost see the haunches of its shoulders over the rooftop.
This immediately sent the caretaker’s red flags up on high alert. Somethin’s not right stirred through his mind as he turned the corner slowly, carrying only a mop handle for self defense. “Goddamnit,” he mumbled something about this being the closest thing to a weapon he could find at that moment, shaking the mop in frustration.
He turned the corner to see a most vile beast that had torn the cage of the six-foot blind penguins open, and was actively in there with them, knee deep in the leftover bits of torso, wing, and head that the thing had not crammed yet into its gullet, vomited up, and re-consumed. Two of the initial eight penguins were trying to waddle off, their blindness causing them nothing more than calamitous harm. One made it, bumping into every possible thing in its way, but still managed to get loose and disappear into the woods.
Paisley charged the beast with the mop handle raised, prepared to bash its skull in, until it turned and roared at him with an ungodly-pitched, otherworldly sound, stopping the penguin’s attempted avenger dead in his tracks, mop handle dropped to the ground as all his limbs went numb with fear.
This thing dropped its fresh kill and began to charge at Paisley, who somehow snapped out of his immobility, avoided looking into its dreadfully asymmetrical and misshapen eyes, and ran back to the front of the office, to let Quacks free. It looked as if everything else was already dead.
The cosmic monstrosity followed with vigor, enjoying the hunt, while at the same time fighting for its own breath, almost having a gurgling asthma attack in its excitement. That didn’t slow it down any, however. It had a definitive mission.
As Paisley nervously fumbled with the keys to the duck’s cage, the beast and the polar bear caught full glimpse of each other. A complete silence fell over this bizarre bestial war zone as large snowflakes began to fall from the slate-grey sky.
Simultaneously both animals released their most ferocious battle cries, the creature from beyond Time charging the bear’s cage and tearing the thick stainless-steel bars asunder with nary a problem. There was almost something cartoonish about it as Paisley kept looking over his shoulder while battling with the huge ring of unmarked keys.
The bear and the creature began to grapple with one another, throwing slashing punches and gnawing upon each other with their equally immense mouths. The bear howled in repeated agony as the creature grasped it by its throat and tried to stuff the bear’s head into its stinking, drooling maw.
The creature howled in agony after being stabbed in the back by the fallen mop handle. Paisley had retrieved it, snapped it in two, and used the longer and pointier half to lance the thing from behind. The creature immediately let go of the bear’s throat, the bear falling to the ground with a loud thud and wheezing for air, much as the creature also seemed to be doing as it came for Paisley. Just then, from out of nowhere, the cosmic hell-spawn was knocked on its ass by the immense wing of the nine-hundred-and-seventy-five pound Quacks, defending his lunch-buddy to the hilt.
So confused was the ever existent comet-beast, and so gasping for something other than air, wheezing and coughing, that it just hopped off into the sky, much as it did after being startled before attempting to devour Debra Hill.
Quacks came over to him in its own slow waddle, and covered Paisley with its wing.
The bear let itself calm, cool down, then just wandered out of its broken cage and into the swiftly falling twilight.
“Corman ain’t gonna like this,” Paisley stammered out with a chuckle before falling asleep under the warm safety of Quacks’ wing, covering him from the falling snow.
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