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A Clown Walks into a Clock Tower




A Clown Walks into a Clock Tower


Kei didn’t know why she found herself at the clock tower of all places. She could have gone to a bar somewhere, or even home. But after seeing Tommy for the first time in thirty years, she didn’t want to be alone. Then she’d have to think about the way he’d looked at her.


She’d known it was going to be like that. Back when she’d known him, she’d been a different person. Literally. And even back then, Tommy had lived in an entirely different world than she had. He was optimistic, and always trying to see the best in people. So when confronted with the undeniable fact that Kei was a bad person, well, no wonder he’d reacted the way he did.


That had hurt him. She knew it would. Part of her wanted him to remember her as she had been. She hadn’t wanted him to see the person she’d become. But he would have kept looking for her, no matter how much she tried to avoid him. So it was his fault, really.


As much as she’d loved Tommy, she’d always felt the need to curate herself around him, to try to come off as someone better than she was deep down. Doug, on the other hand, wasn’t like that. He was just as shitty of a person as she was. Well, she’d been wondering why she was here, staring up at those giant hands which were now faithfully reading the time after all these years, and there was her answer.


Kei had made that happen. She’d given the city its beloved monarch back. She’d made a loser into a god. Kei didn’t owe Doug anything, and he owed everything to her. That made talking to him easy. No matter how bitchy, or vulgar, or shitty she was, he couldn’t blow her off. So she didn’t need to try.


The throne room just beyond the doors was dark, and particles of dust caught the green light oozing in through one of the small windows. Kei was just about to climb the stairs and wind her way further into the tower, assuming Doug was somewhere up there, when a familiar, slightly pathetic head of white hair popped up from behind a couch.


“Oh, it’s just you,” he said, the leather creaking as he flopped back down again. “I was worried for a second there.”


Kei sniffed the air. “Are you high?” she asked, approaching the couch to try to actually get a better look at him.


He chuckled. “...Yeah…”


Doug was lying horizontally on the settee, his awkwardly long legs hanging off the side. As he stared at the ceiling, he blinked repeatedly, like he was having trouble getting it in focus. He had even more trouble when Kei leaned over the back of the couch, her face directly above his.


“Where did you even get that?” she asked, pointing to the joint still pinned loosely between his fingers.


After thinking about it for a second, rolling the wheels of his shoes against the concrete absently, Doug started wheezing again. “You will never guess.”


“You’re probably right.”


“Taped to the underside of that coffee table,” he pointed lazily to the offending fixture, a rather old, wooden piece. “These little shits are everywhere. I think Bacchae hid them.”


“Bacchae?” Kei raised an eyebrow incredulously. “Don’t be ridiculous. That would make it over fifty years old. That is way past its expiration date.”


“I dunno, maybe it’s magic weed?” His jazz hands were not very convincing.


Kei sighed as he began the incredibly long journey of getting his hand to his face to take another hit. “Give that here before you pass out.”


“What are you gonna do with it?”


She glared at him. “I’m gonna shove it up my ass. No, I’m going to smoke it, moron. Now, scooch over.”


Though he shot her a weird look, with a great deal of effort Doug managed to make the world vertical again and handed her the joint. She flopped down beside him, before inhaling deeply and without hesitation. Then, sighing, she leaned back and closed her eyes.


“Gotta say,” Doug broke the silence. In her time with him, the very first thing Kei had learned was that Doug hated silence. “I’m a little surprised. Figured you were wound way too tight for this kinda thing.”


“Yeah, well, I had a rough day, so forgive me for trying my best to forget about it.”


“Whaza matter? Baby didn’t cry hard enough when you stole its candy?”


She didn’t know why she was doing this, why she was here, sharing a joint with the biggest rube she’d ever met in her life. And yet, despite all that, she found herself chuckling. “Do you really think I’m that evil?” she asked.


“Hey, it could be worse,” Doug’s head lolled a bit as he attempted to glance over at her. “You haven’t started tying damsels to railroad tracks yet.”


“Oh, well, at least I’ve got that going for me.”


“Yeah, I think the mustache would look pretty funny on you.”


It was the high, of course, beginning to kick in, but Kei couldn’t stop herself from grinning at the thought. They looked at each other for a second, then both burst out laughing. This could have lasted for a half-an-hour or for no time at all. But at some point Kei flopped her head back on the couch and stared up at the ceiling, listening to both of their giggles dying out sporadically.


Gradually, a thought occurred to her, but before she could firmly grasp onto it, Doug beat her to the punch.


“What the fuck am I doing here?” he asked, almost more to the room at large than to Kei herself.


However, since the room most likely wasn’t going to respond, that task fell to her. “Having a big old party. That’s your job, after all.” She was nearly surprised to hear the slight bitterness in her voice.


Doug didn’t seem to pick it out, however. “I still can’t believe you’re making me do this,” he shook his head.


“I still can’t believe it worked.”


“W… wait, wait, wait, hold on a second…” She could see the gears in his head slowly turning. Very slowly. “I thought you said something about our deal, a-and fate, and—”


“Oh, Doug. Doug, Doug, Doug.” A part of her deep inside was screaming at her to stop talking, but that bit was small compared to the rest of her, that was itching just to see the look on his face. that she shoved it aside. “I lied. That’s kind of a thing I do.”


“Man, I knew it. You did placebo me.”


“Okay, to be one-hundred percent honest, I don’t even really know,” she admitted. “Deals are weird sometimes. But nowhere in our deal did we actually agree that you would be Bacchae, just that you were bound to do something for me. Which means that while you were bound to try, you weren’t necessarily guaranteed to succeed. I, uh, I have the sneaking suspicion you might have been on your own for that one.”


“So you just threw me to the wolves and crossed your fingers that I wouldn’t fuck it up?”


“It was a gamble. But I like those, so it was one I was willing to make.”


“Holy shit.”


“What?”


“I just realized. You act like you’re all that and a bag of chips, but you’re actually a goddamn mess, aren’t you?”


“You’re one to talk,” she frowned.


He raised his hands in the air, an inch away from bonking himself on the head in the process. “Hey, I know what I am. But it takes one to know one, you know?”


As he leaned in to stare at her, Kei’s frown only intensified. There was something about the probing quality of his eyes that she didn’t like. They looked a little too green. “Well, isn’t everybody?” she covered, pushing his head back, and he nearly fell off the couch.


“Yeah, sure, everybody’s got hangups and problems, but I think that you, lady, are a full-blown, certified wreck of a human being, just like me.”


“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”


He laughed. “You’re doing it right now. Dodging the question, never giving a straight answer. Everyone is on a strictly need-to-know basis, even when there’s no reason for them to be. You’re just keeping everything on lock-down so nobody finds out just how fucked up you are.”


“How do you figure that?”


“Because I used to do the exact same thing.”


Kei opened her mouth to retort, but then she processed what he’d actually said and fell silent. If she’d been sober, she probably would have been able to talk her way out of this, but by this point she was having trouble stringing full thoughts together.


“Wasn’t really given a choice at the time, but it’s not like I really needed the excuse.” He looked down at the ground. “I think… one of my, no, most of my friends got hurt because of me.”


That hung in the air for a second, before Kei couldn’t stand it anymore. “Well, that’s the difference between you and me,” she said. “I don’t have any of those, so there’s no one to hurt.”


“So you admit it, then?”


“Admit what?”


“That you’re a total mess.”


“God, you’re still on about that? Alright, fine!” she threw her hands up in the air. “My cool, calm exterior secretly covers for the fact that I am a stranger to myself and constantly screaming on the inside. Does that make you happy?”


“Yes, actually,” he grinned. “It means there’s something else in there besides a cold-hearted bitch.”


“You’re wrong about that. It’s all bitch all the way down.”


But by that point he wasn’t really listening anymore. He started rambling again, which she’d seen him doing more and more frequently post-syrup factory. The kid she’d dragged along back then was a rage-fueled fuckup with a few screws loose. Well, those screws certainly weren’t tightening themselves back up as far as she could see, but she’d learned that when he wasn’t driven by single-minded revenge, he could actually be kind of… funny? Like, in a pathetic sort of way, of course.


“Actually, I just thought of something,” he changed the subject abruptly, which broke Kei from her thoughts. “You said before that you had no friends. Okay, well, okay, you’re looking at me like I’m a fucking idiot hear me out. How does this whole ‘friends with benefits’ thing work if we’re not friends, hm? Riddle me that, Batman.”


“Oh, well see, that’s simple really,” Kei explained. “Our ‘relationship’ is a close cousin.”


“Really?”


“You’re right, that was a weird analogy. What you and I have is what we adults call ‘hate-fucking’ and it is the only sort of sex I like to engage in.”


“Wow, you are a fucking mess.”


“Do I have to make-out with you to get you to shut up?”


“I dunno. I don’t get distracted very easily. Make it third base, though, and that might do the—”


He didn’t get to finish that sentence. Kei didn’t let him. She forcefully pressed her lips against his and grabbed his hand, slipping it under her tank top.


She wanted him to shut up. She wanted him to stop smiling. Above all else, she wanted to hate him, and she was getting worried that she might not. Because deep down, buried beneath the layers of weed-induced haze, she knew that she should not be doing this. Any of this. This was just going to make everything harder.


The truth was, she was growing fond of Doug Bailey.


And if she liked him, then how the fuck was she going to kill him?

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