After a long journey of awkward silence and farting poorly veiled by coughs they arrived at a ramshackle squatters camp. Made from a series of tarps turned into makeshift tents, it appeared as a boil on the horizon.
They got out and Riki lead to the biggest tent. The sound of the strange puttering vehicle had alerted their presence and lifting the flap of the tent a slim woman emerged. She thankfully looked normal and was an actual woman with long brown hair. Although she looked young her expression was weather beaten. She was pretty but there was a heaviness to her features that suggested something more to her. Her clothes were simple and looked homemade. A long flowing skirt and a earth coloured blouse with a flower pattern.
“Riki, you’re back!” She said as she hugged Riki, her smile was one of relief but then she wrinkled her nose as if she smelled dog shit on his shoe “Who are these guys?” She said with notable disdain.
Riki looked back smiling awkwardly revealing deep laugh lines. “Oh these guys, they kinda helped me on the road.”
“Kinda” Canard said.
“Yeah not really” Pookie said.
“Jersey, we can feed these strays right?” He smirked as if it was a challenge.
She looked at them but her eyes were far away like she was looking past them at the trouble coming behind them on the wind. “Sure” she said sucking her gums.
Not more than a minute later Pookie and pals were shovelling some stew made of a questionable meat into their mouths.
“What meat is this, tastes kinda…” Canard said poking his gums with his pinky.
“Rubbery?” Jersey finished his sentence.
“Your words” He smirked.
“Don’t worry it’s not people” She said pulling an unconvincing smile as she slopped some more of whatever it was into his bowl.
“Err thanks” He said.
Riki dipped bread into his stew and ate quickly without speaking. When he was done and the bowl was empty, and he looked full and happy he said “I guess you’re wondering about our super interesting backstory?”
“Not really” Pookie said without looking up from his stew.
Riki looked at Canard and Efron.
“Nah” Canard said.
“No” Efron said absentmindedly.
Riki looked at the dog like creature and it just barked.
“I thought so” He said. “Well you might not believe this but we all actually used to be in the circus, a long long time ago. But we split, “creative differences” and we never looked back. Now we work for ourselves, just entertaining folks, no killing necessary.”
“That’s fascinating” Pookie said unconvincingly as he leaned back in his chair. He closed his eyes almost falling asleep looking very full.
“What, the Ringmaster just let you up and leave?” Canard asked pointedly.
“Nah this was before his time.” Riki said.
“I see” Canard said, not sure what that meant.
“Well I guess you guys wanna get some rest” Riki said getting up from the table. “We’ve got some spare cots, it’s not the ritz but it’s better than sleeping with your dick in the dirt.” He laughed.
“What’s the ritz?” Efron asked.
The next day Pookie and the gang were fitting in as well as a gang of freaks can fit in in a group of geeks and beardy weirdies wearing dresses and make up. They were gathered in the big tent eating some breakfast, some kind of ok tasting slop made from grain and some kind of milk. The origins of which they didn’t want to press.
When suddenly out of nowhere, carried on the morning wasteland dry cool wind a strained broken voice called out.
“MY NAME IS BRANDON BERGBLATZSTEIN AND I SOLEMLY DO SWEAR MY UNDYING FEALTY TO YOU MASTER!”
Riki and all the other performers emptied out of the tent confused and ready for anything as they came out to see what all the ruckus was about.
And what they saw deeply confused them all.
Kneeling in the wasteland dirt was a young guy. His head shaved and cleaned and bowed like a penitent monk on a pilgrimage. His clothes simple and baggy.
It was the kid from the other day, one of the fumers that attacked Riki after his performance.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
The kid looked up and there was something in his eyes, a deep emptiness. A loneliness he couldn’t express with words and as he spoke it seemed like he was on the brink of tears. “Please, will you be my master and train me in the ways of tranny fu?”
“Tranny what?” Riki said.
“Please master, make me your apprentice.” The young lad asked.
“This some kind of trick, how’d you find me?”
“No trick, I followed you here.” He sighed “I- I just came here to learn, please I beg of you” Brandon said as he crawled on his knees taking Riki by the hand.
“You ‘beg’ of me?” Riki said confused. Riki drew his hand away. “Look kid, I’m nobodies master, I can’t teach you anything.”
“Please, I’ll do whatever you say!”
“Does this look like a school to you?” Riki stuck his tongue out of the side of his mouth as he thought to himself. “Look kid, it’s not happening, just get on out of here.” Riki walked away and gestured for everyone to return to their breakfast leaving the kid still kneeling there.
Pookie stared at the kid as all the others went back inside.
Later that night Pookie lay awake in his makeshift cot thinking.
He remembered being a kid. His head shaved as short as it would go, before he had the tattoos on his face. It seemed like yesterday he waited outside a brightly coloured tent with a group of other kids. Through the wind and rain they waited for days, some left, driven away by hunger or boredom or the acid rain until only a few remained.
Pookie remained, an expressionless child with no parents and no past.
Until on the third day the tent opened.
A jovial old man with a broad smile hunched over a cane. On closer inspection his smile was actually painted on and his mouth was almost completely obscured by a huge moustache. His face painted completely white with over-exagerated eyebrows arching all the way up his bald forehead. His head was bald but for a top not at the back painted red and at the side his hair puffed out. To top it off he wore a big red nose.
The children looked up at him with a mix of wonder and awe.
“Walk this way” The hunched old man said.
The old man turned and began to walk in an odd crabbing movement almost like a monkey or like his legs were made of wood leaning on his cane. The children followed him into the vast tent walking normally except for Pookie who took it upon himself to mimic the old man’s walk.
The children turned and laughed at Pookie who didn’t seem to understand. The old man too had noticed this from the corner of his eye and he stopped and turned to face the children.
“You’re all dismissed” He said.
The children seemed stunned and upset.
“Leave now” The old man said softly.
The children, upset bowed their heads and did what they were told. Pookie too bowed his head and began to follow the last child out.
“You there” The old man said. “What’s your name?”
Pookie looked up at the old man, his face heavy and emotionless he said “I don’t have one”.
“Hmm” The old man stroked his moustache and said. “Why did you walk that way?”
Pookie sniffed and looked about himself at the inside of the strange multi-coloured tent. Looking back at the old clown he said “Because you told me to”.
The old clown laughed and patted the child on the head. “Then you have passed the first test”.
Pookie looked up, his eyes filled with wonder but still he could not smile.
“YOU THERE! YES YOU, YOU IN THE SILLY HAT!”
A tall and lithe man turned, two bodyguards at his side with faces painted white, their lips and eyes daubed in black. The man himself wore colourful and foreign clothes and on his head sat an elegant turban made of a silken substance. His face was long and his eyes were touched with a black make up that stretched at the sides of his eyes making them look like the eyes of a cat.
“YEAH YOU!” An uncouth man said clinging to an oversized sword, his hair spiked up at ridiculous angles and his face locked in a weird grimace. “I HAVE TRAINED FOR FIVE YEARS TO DEFEAT YOU, TODAY I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE FOR THE DEATH OF MY BROTHER SOANOSKE HAMBURGERCAT!”
There was a silence that fell over the wasteland road. Two travellers encountering eachother as the wind blew across the desolate plains as red as the surface of mars.
“Never heard of him” The man in the turban said. “You must have me mistaken for someone else.”
“IMPOSSIBLE! YOU ARE HE AND YOU WILL DIE BY THE TIP OF SWAWRD TODAY, MY BLESSED ZAMPAKTO; MARVIN.” He said as he unsheathed the ridiculous overcompensating sword which looked like it was made out of hub caps and road signs. “WILL YOU FACE ME YOU COWARD?”
The man in the turban sighed. “If I must.” The man signalled to his bodyguards for them to stand down and without a word they stepped back and became almost like statues.
“SHINEI’!” The man with the huge sword and silly hair shouted as he charged the man in the elegant robes.
The guy with the huge sword leapt into the air and struck down with tremendous force but hit nothing. The man with the turban had completely disappeared within the blink of an eye.
“You should’ve trained longer” A mocking voice said that sounded like it was all around him. “Over here” The voice whispered right next to his ear.
But before the man with the huge sword could turn to face his assailant he was struck in the side of the neck by the strange man’s fingers.
“You will not speak a soul of my fingers of death” The man said.
The huge sword hit the ground and the ridiculous man thereafter, as dead as a door nail, his faced glazed into a stupid expression.
The man in the turban was rejoined by his body guards. “What a waste of time, I truly don’t know who he was talking about.” The bodyguards began to follow but the man in the turban signalled for them to stay. “No, leave me, I wish to drink alone, maybe a more worthy challenger might be summoned up by a cup of sake’.”
The bodyguards seemed to melt into the environment like they weren’t there, not saying a word as they did so.
The man in the strange clothes continued along the desolate wasteland road. He stopped at a dinky run down dive that seemed to be made of shipping containers and scrap. The wind worn sign on the outside named it as the ‘Rusty bullethole’. “Charming” The man said dryly.
He entered and took up a stool near the bar and ordered a drink from the bartender. He was a bald man with an eyepatch made from a tire with an unconvincing blue glass eye glued to it. While he waited he noticed a sullen young man with a shaved head nursing his drink.
“You here to drown your sorrows too?” The man in the turban smirked.
“Leave me alone old man” The kid said.
“Ole Brandon here is salty cos he got the hots for a girl that beat his ass!” The bartender prodded.
“She weren’t no girl!” Brandon chimed, he blushed when he realised what he said. “And I don’t have the hots for her/him!”
“Sure sure” The bartender chuckled as he spat on the glass he was polishing.
“A girl you say, was she quite skilled?”
“Look I told you, it wasn’t no girl, it was a guy in a dress”
“Just a bunch of freaks living up in the hills.”
The man in the turban smiled devilishly and asked. “I don’t suppose you could be more specific.”