His plan had succeeded.
The Dark Lord of the Metallophobia had followed Black Lotus and Little Monster through the paths of time and space to their own dimension. They had continued forward. He had managed to pull himself away from the pair, returning to an earlier point in the timeline.
As a dark presence, he moved through the area in which he found himself. The rickety sound of wheels moving on metal and wood, music box jingles, and incessant laughing surrounded him. He passed by a ring of plastic horses, rising up and down in a tented circle. Wooden booths lined the pathways to the center of this place. Above him flashed a glowing red neon.
Welcome to the Unamusement Park.
The Dark Herald continued after the sound of the laughter. There, near the center, was the source. A group of…clowns? A particularly large one was seated above them on what could only be called a throne. A metal mask obscured the top part of his face. All were staring at a large television screen that was playing reruns of Colonel Fluffums, the cartoon bear and his terrifying friends. The Herald observed in silence.
“What do ya mean you’re bored, boss?” one of the clowns spoke.
“It means what it sounds like!” Killer J. said, resting one leg over the arm of his throne, shuffling a deck of cards between his hands. “Card tricks, practical jokes, they are good fun, but when was our last heist?”
“About a month ago,” Another answered.
“And the last big ‘show’?”
“The Sect drove us off.”
“Exactly!” Killer J. said, throwing the cards at the cult gathered. He sat up straight on the throne, lacing his fingers together. “We need something new, something big, that will be the greatest punchline yet.”
“That is where I make my entrance,” the Herald said, taking inspiration for his shape from the audience around him. Pink and purple hair rose like a candle flame from his scalp. The imagery of the Dark Gods was…softened…and replaced with a colorful suit, the lapel adorned with the suits of the cards Killer J. had just tossed. His face was painted white, with two red lines over his eyes.
“Eh? Who are you? Where’d you come from?” Killer J. asked, his eyes squinting in suspicion as he leaned forward. “You look kinda like someone, I know…”
The Twisted Herald face broke into a grin, his teeth a bright blue color. “Me? Why, I’m just a jokester, like yourself. And I have a trick that will cure your boredom.”
As he spoke, the Twisted Herald reached into his sleeves, as if pulling something out from them. Dark smoke plumed out before the Herald took hold of it. The clowns jumped to their feet, looking concerned, but the Twisted Herald was faster. He shaped the smoke into a mirror, standing behind it as he pointed it at Killer J.
The Clown boss frowned, staring at his reflection. It looked like a regular mirror. “Is this it? I don’t get it.”
“This is but the start of your twisted journey,” the Twisted Herald laughed.
Suddenly, Killer J.’s reflection began to change, growing longer and warped as the mirror bent itself. Another mirror unfolded from the first, making the clown appear shorter and rounder. One by one, more funhouse mirrors unfolded, surrounding Killer J., each with the blue teeth of the Twisted Herald. Sensing a trap, Killer J. reached for his bombs, but his reflections caught his hands with chains. They reached out from the mirror, wrapping around his wrists. The reflection’s eyes started to glow as the mirrors cut him off from the outside. Soon, he was entirely encased in his prison.
Suspended by the chains, Killer J. could only laugh. “I’ll figure a way out of this! And then we’ll see who the top clown is. You hear me, you imposter?”
“Oh, we certainly shall. Though are you sure you are truly a clown?” Twisted Herald’s image in the mirrors taunted Killer J. Smoke filled the mirrors, and soon Twisted Herald was replaced with a hulking creature that Killer J. had never seen before. It was monstrous…But its motions mirrored those of Killer J.
“Nice trick. But my boys will break me out. You’ll see!”
The Twisted Herald threw back his head and started laughing as his image disappeared, leaving Killer J.’s protests to fall on deaf ears.
The clown cultists peaked their heads out from where they had been hiding, outside of Killer J.’s new prison. The Twisted Herald stood, while the ‘funhouse’ had been sealed up tight with chains. To finish off the new prison, there was a devilish clown face looking up at the sky, bars sealing anyone from entering it. The clowns clambered over the booths and rides where they had sought cover.
Sheepishly, one of them rubbed the back of his head.
“S-so, you’ve got a plan…boss…?”
The Twisted Herald smile grew wider. “I do.”
“You sure this is where Photon wanted to meet us, Stingray?” Icebringer asked, as he pulled his truck up to the Unamusement Park. “This is Killer J.’s territory.”
“These are the coordinates. But I’m not…Hey! Look, isn’t that her?” Stingray said, pointing at the Machine that rolled out as the gates to the park opened.
The Machine certainly looked like Photon’s, with the many different lenses and mirrors all around the outside, but its colors were muted, and it had a large saw in the middle. A top hat was placed right on top of the cockpit. The car pulled up to the two, a carnival jingle playing as it did so. The cockpit door opened and…
“Step right up, boys and girls, to Great Photon’s Wonderwagon! We got lights, we got illusions, and wonders of science you’ve never seen! I can’t make this stuff up, folks, it must be seen to be believed!” The archeologist said, the lights from her car projecting several illusionary Photons around her.
The two pilots were too shocked by Photon’s appearance to pay much attention to her words, or the number of other people stepping out from her vehicle. She was dressed up like some sort of magician, her face painted with Clownish makeup. She wore a green mask over her eyes. Clownish assistants danced and somersaulted around her, little more than a distraction as they surrounded the pair.
“Ph-photon? What happened?” Stingray finally asked.
“Walk this way, boys, and find out! You must be this high to enter the Unamusement Park. You’ll have chills, you’ll have thrills!” Photon put her arms around the two as she led them towards the park, before pushing them past the gate. “Just don’t get lost in the Hall of Mirrors! I’m still trying to find my way out!”
“Wait, what-” Icebringer turned to look around to find the gate closed. When he looked around, he was all alone. Photon was gone. Stingray was gone. He was surrounded by mirrors, the clowns dancing farther and farther away in their reflections. “Photon? Stingray?”
Stingray wasn’t doing much better, as he ran through the hall of mirrors. His reflection just continued to laugh at him. No matter where he turned or where he ran, there were just more mirrors.
The Twisted Herald grinned as he saw the changes his magic were having on the two pilots. Their faces were now painted with clownish makeup, just like Photon’s. Their clothes were more suited to the carnival than anything else. The two opened their eyes. Stingray had a large spade on his chest as he juggled spinning saw blades. Icebringer was holding a cone of ice cream with a club on the apron.
“Mr. Sawtooth. Mr. Brainfreeze. It’s showtime!”