By Andrew R. Duckworth
Of course it wouldn’t end. And how could it? I had yet to find a cause to the madness and had yet to find a cure. Instead, I would endure this overlapping of reality with the dreamworld several times, the first two previously documented. And it seemed as though each new experience in this whimsical overlapping would be even stranger than the time before. Such was the case with my experience at the mall.
The mall… that was an experience. Imagine combining the Mesozoic world with a circus and the Ancient Roman world. That would be, I suppose, the short of it. Yet, I feel as though should anyone have experienced things similar, it would be a great disservice not to fully detail the event.
I was at the mall with my wife. We were enjoying the benefits of several sales occurring at the same time. But walking along one floor of the mall and along another can take a lot out of you, particularly if you have spent long periods blaming long workdays as an excuse for not staying in shape. So, what better way to rest up than the food court?
It was just after noon and we were both hungry, so we stopped by a pizza place and grabbed a few slices and sat down at a table. I had the bags from various stores we had shopped at next to the table. And right as I had finished my slice of pizza and felt that the day was going well, a clown came up to the table.
Occasionally, the mall has little weird events for kids, so I at first took this as some mall event where a clown engages with an audience. I still wasn’t happy about it, drawing attention to me and my wife at our table. But I glanced around and noticed that the tables around us were empty.
“Say fella, whatcha got in the bag? Woopy-hoo-hoo!”
The clown had some weird Make-up job. Half of his face was ornately painted like a clown’s, the other side was solid blue. His wig was bright pink and on the tip of his nose was a tiny foam book.
“Um, well, we’ve been shopping.”
“You and who, fella? Haha-hoo-hoo!”
I looked across the table. My wife had disappeared. Perhaps she had stepped away to the bathroom.
“My wife, but she must have stepped away for a sec,” I said. “Look, buddy, I appreciate that this is your job, but, we really don’t appreciate it, so if you can move on to… well, another table with people… wherever they are…”
“You and who, fella? You and who? You and who? Who-who-kachoo?”
I now fully realized what was happening. Some sort of merger of the dream realm and reality. Yet again.
“This is some sort of dream thing, isn’t it?”
“Oh look at this!” The clown said, peering into my slightly opened bag near my seat. “Free shirt! Free shirt!”
“Oh! Free shirts” I heard a voice from somewhere not far off. “Free shirts, everyone!”
“Free shirts?” A higher voice questioned. And this set off a cascade of voices. Soon a line was forming behind the clown.
The clown bent down and grabbed a shirt that seemed to appear out of nowhere. It was a weird pink and yellow polkadot t-shirt that I am fairly certain I would never grab even if given money to do so.
“Thanks, buddy!” The clown said as he ran away from the table.
Others from the line grabbed shirts that seemed to materialize out of thin air, all of them just as wild and strange. They all gave a “thank you” before darting off and just disappearing. And finally, the last in line. It was an old man in a toga.
“I am the Jupiter man,” he said in a gravelly voice.
“Look, I need to find my wife. I know this is some sort of weird dream-thing and I’ve got to snap out of it. So, if you’re not here to help with that, just keep on moving, fella.”
“Follow me,” he said, as if not hearing a word I said. He carried a golden staff with a carving of a hot-air balloon at the top. Each time it tapped the ground, rather than a small tapping sound, it made the sound of a bike horn.
“You have been out on an adventure,” he said as we stepped away from the food court.
“No,” I said, matter of factly, “no I wasn’t. Just shopping.”
“Your court says hello,” he said before cackling. “The velociraptors that exist here can’t see you. Don’t sniff them.”
“Um… okay, I won’t,” I said. “Can’t say that is a thing I would ever do, to be honest.”
I looked over the railing to the floor below. At first, I thought perhaps ‘velociraptor’ would be code for something else. Apparently not. On the floor below was a large pack of them, bipedal feathered hunters looking this way and that way, stalking, as if smelling prey.
“Those really are-”
“Velocity vectors, why repeat?”
“Yeah, but, since this is some sort of weird dream vs. reality thing, they can’t hurt me, right?”
“Not if you smell the coffee first.”
“Okay… yeah… I’ll just smell the coffee first,” after all, why not just go right along with the nonsense? “And where do I get this coffee? Is that what you’re leading me towards?”
“Look, if you don’t tell me where we’re going-”
“Shhhhh!” The ‘Jupiter man’ held up a finger (more specifically, he held up his finger attached to his body).
A loud, thunderous roar shook the ground I stepped on. Smoke began to billow out of one of the anchor stores just ahead but smoke obviously from some sort of smoke machine. A red light began flashing above the entrance.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” a booming voice over a loud speaker called out, “it is my privilege to introduce to you… have you been shopping yet? Shopping can be fun in the right telegraph. Just launch your steak at the front door and the bunnies will be by to pick them up.”
The smoke still poured from the entrance of the anchor store. And with it came a dolphin larger than any other with the arms and legs of a person. It opened its mouth and let out another massive roar.
“Sit and watch what happens,” Jupiter man said, keeping his stoic expression.
I continued to look on. The velociraptors from the first floor grew massive wings from their backs and flew towards the dolphin-person-thing. But just before they could go in for the kill, the dolphin-person-thing turned into a large banana with a human face.
“Hahahaha! I caught ya! I caught ya!”the banana shouted as the raptors, confused, looked at each other.
“What is this pardon?” one of the raptors squawked. “It looks like a riptide!”
“Ignore it! It’s the kind of band that the devil listens to!” another raptor called out.
With that, the pack of raptors flew into the air and out the windows at the top of the mall, escaping into the sky.
“Stop smelling them!” Jupiter man shot me a wicked glance.
“I didn’t sniff! What the hell?!”
“We’re going to meet Banana Apollo!” Jupiter man said. “When we approach him, say your name is Tiger Boot. He will know.”
“Yeah, so, my name is Alan.”
“Silence, hunger carpet!”
“I thought you had some clue or something for me! You know? Something that could lead me out of this crap! Instead we’re going to see Banana brains!”
“Bananee Nannee Popo! Let’s go!”
I followed him to the massive banana with a human face.
“Introduce yourself, hunger carpet!”
“My name is… let’s see, what was it? Tiger Boot,” I said.
“The fierce coward of legend!” Banana Apollo said. “Three glasses of pimento, comin up!”
“Apollo wishes to know how you have come to be in this place.”
“What?” I questioned. “I don’t even know that!”
“Bruuuuuh!” Banana Apollo said with annoyance in his eyes.
“I just end up in some dream-reality thing… hell, I don’t even know what causes it!”
“Sounds like somebody needs a shave!” Banana Apollo said. “Hang up. I need to get my glasses fixed.” A large tube of lipstick materialized out of nowhere and began applying itself to Banana Apollo’s lips. “Sorry, teeth get chapped. Anyways, where are you right now?”
“Apollo wishes to know where you are,” Jupiter man said.
“Yes, I can hear, thanks!”
“Oh, come on, bruh, don’t split on me now,” Banana Apollo began laughing. “Get it? Split? It’s hilarious! Anyways, where are you right now?”
“My name is Alan actually.”
“Oh, no!” Jupiter man put his palm to his face. “Now you’ve done it… now you’ve done it.”
“Allow me to attempt to speak to you in your language,” I said, deciding to do something I hadn’t tried yet. “The dump trucks are like sizzle hams! With a belt out of tomatoes, the sun tanks a tuna!”
For a moment, both Banana Apollo and Jupiter man stood speechless. Banana’s eyes were wide, his mouth open in amazement.
“Your Boot friend has an incredible gift for expression!” Banana said. “My, my, my, my apple pie!”
“You got lucky, square dance!” Jupiter man whispered to me.
“Okay, okay, okay! I’ll tell you a secret!” Banana said. “It’s an ancient riddle of the banana people. The boots you wear are in the air, and Tiger sits on crowns. Don’t let pie get in your eye or soldiers turn to clowns!”
“I don’t know what any of that means,” I told Jupiter man.
“Think, square dance!” Jupiter man said. “Think with your hammer gravy!”
“Okay, okay! Tiger… sits on a crown… the King Tiger? King Tiger bar and grill?” I asked.
Jupiter man’s eyes got wide and he nodded with a weird smirk.
“Okay, so, other side of the mall… and the clown? What, the clown that came to my table?”
“Creatures! Creatures!” Banana practically howled with amazement. “Now you’re on the number 87!”
“So, wait… the clown knows something… and now, I can find him at King Tiger?”
“You no longer speed my aid, shepherd frog,” Jupiter man said as he patted my shoulder. “Take my raptor and go to the free clapper! Find the clown and you will easy cheesy on the other end!”
I had assumed all of the raptors had fled. I was wrong. Out of the anchor store came the largest of them, nearly the size of a horse, with a scar on one of its eyes. It stepped towards me.
“Climb upon my back, space human!”
A sattle materialized, and I climbed on top.
“Hold on tight!”
The raptor began speeding down the pathway to the other end of the mall, passing by various stores.
“Mortician says ‘Hello!’” the raptor said with a deep voice and began laughing as it continued darting towards the other end of the mall. I ignored it. We were getting closer to King Tiger and I was sure I would deal with enough upside down nonsense when I got there.
We came upon the statue of the Tiger surrounded by a golden crown with the sign in front: “King Tiger Bar and Grill.”
“Off, Space Man! Off!”
I climbed off the raptor and the raptor scampered away.
Music began playing outside the restaurant, circus music.
“Step right up, ye conveyers of kleptomania! See the amazing topple people and the circle bar!” A loud speaker called out. “And FREE SHIRTS! Get your free shirt and shorts and mashed potatoes right here!”
I walked into the restaurant. No one. Not a soul was there, just like the rest of the mall. But then the clown showed up and showed out, doing cartwheels out of the kitchen and into the luxurious dining area.
“Woopy! Woop! Woop!” The clown did somersaults and finally landed on his feet. “Ta-da!”
“Okay, clown, tell me how to get out of here!”
“Clown? Why would you call me that?” The clown, who had the same appearance as I saw him last, questioned as his eyes welled with tears. “You know that’s not my faith! I’m offended!”
“Yeah, I really don’t care,” I said. “You’re really just some dream thing, and I need to find my wife. So, tell me how to get out of here!”
“Tripping over coconuts, aren’t ya?” The clown said. “Fine! You want answers? Go find the Koi King! Let him correlate the whispers of a horse!”
“Oh, no ya don’t!” I said. “No, no, no, no, no! You have answers and I need to get back to reality! So, show me the way outta here!”
“The Koi King is in the toilet!”
“I don’t care about the Koi King!” I said. “Get me the hell out of here!”
“The Koi King is in the toilet!” The clown repeated. “Jeez! Can’t you read? Isn’t your name Fred?”
“I hate you right now…”
“The Koi King is in the toilet!”
There was no getting away from this. The only option I had was to go into the restroom and hope to god that the Koi King was the only thing that awaited me. So, I took a look around. Sure enough, a blinking sign said “Koi King” above a hallway which I assumed would lead me to the restroom.
“Thanks for nothing” I said as I walked toward the hallway.
The hallway stretched on and on. Doors led off on either side, hundreds of doors. Eventually, I found the door, the same door I experienced in another dream-reality overlap experience at my therapist’s office. Above the door was a sign reading “Piper knows best.” I wasn’t sure why.
When I opened the door, it led me into a large pagoda garden, the same one from my previous experience. The Koi King was here. But, before, my therapist had been there to hand me
Peanuts which summoned the Koi King. He wasn’t anywhere to be found. And so, I was on my own to figure it out.
A walkway led to the koi pond. It looked empty. I looked around the place. Deserted. It seemed dead. Everything was shades of gray where it had been lively before. The sound of whipping wind met my ears.
“I had a good run, scooter,” the sound of an old man came from behind me. I turned to see a wrinkly man sitting on a park bench.
“Where is the Koi King?” I asked. “I have to find him in order to get out of here.”
“You’re smellin’ him, kid,” the man said. “But I tasted the bitter bones and out I went with a sharp lamp.”
“You’re the Koi King?”
“Sure am, Brian.”
“It’s Alan,” I corrected.
“Have you smelled the coffee lately, Brian?” the Koi King asked.
“Okay, Banana? Raptors? Clown? Coffee? What in the hell is all this?”
“Bring me to the water, Brian.”
“Bring me to the water. I have one last in me, I portion.”
If it would get me out of the dream-reality overlap quicker, why not? I helped him off the bench and over to the water. He stepped in himself. But as he lay down into the water, he began to sink. He sank until I could no longer see him.
“Call him by his name!” A loud booming voice called from overhead. I looked up to see Banana Apollo hovering in the sky where the sun should be.
“None too dweller, huh Brian?” Banana said with a grin. “Call him by his name!”
“What? Koi King?”
The second I said it, bubbles began to rise from the pond, large bubbles. And out popped the head of the Koi King.
“Aha! And so I return!” The Koi King said, returned to his fish form and in the regal manner he had spoken in when I visited him previously. “I am past your bedtime, Brian! And I have returned to pop open the pickle jar of dancing sunflowers.”
“Sure, just get me the hell out of here!”
“Do you know why the eagles nest was in the crow shed?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Because the strobe light got the butter biscuits! Hahaha-hah!” the Koi King laughed. “I like jokes! Jokes are quasi-purple!”
“Could you please just tell me how to get out of here and back to my wife?”
“Sure! Why didn’t you just ask before, Brian?”
“Listen closely… the clown in the town came tumbling down and fell beyond the stars… the only one can make the trip to beat the one called Lars!”
“You are ignoring the most important dog… pet him! Now!”
“Grandstand brick castle!” Koi King said. “Lars is its name!”
“And what is a name?”
“Lars… Lars is his name… are you trying to say that he’s been forgotten?”
“Cling burgers, Brian!” Koi King said cheerfully. “Cling burgers!”
“So, if someone just tells him his name, he won’t feel forgotten anymore?”
“Ja! Ja! Ja! Das ist richtig!”
“Interesting… so, why didn’t you ever tell him?”
There was a brief pause.
“I can’t!” Koi King said. “My mouth is a pancake oven! Goodbye!”
And with his departure, I never saw the Koi King again. His last words were… ridiculous to say the least. But he had given me, yet again, the tools I needed to leave the topsy-turvy world… I hoped.
Back down the hall I walked to the dining room. There, the clown had taken a seat and was petting a miniature tiger in his lap. The tiger’s tail was wagging about like a puppies and, sure enough, gave a few barks.
“So… the pumpkin patch get loaded?”
“Yeah, how bout that pumpkin patch, Brian,” the tiger questioned in a deep tone before snickering.
“I met with the Koi King,” I told him.
“And how the mock strata?”
“Told me a few things,” I told him. “Like how people had forgotten your name, Lars.”
There was a moment where he only looked at me. A tear trickled down his cheek. I pitied him.
“They never could remember my name,” he said, with a normal, unanimated tone. A sad tone. “They never remembered me. I could never be what they wanted me to be. I was always a clown. But I was also Lars. I had feelings. I was human.”
With that, the poor soul faded into nothing, as if he had never been. And as I stood looking at the now empty chair, I felt a bit sad as well. A bit sad for the clown… but something else as well.
I turned to see a waiter.
“Sir, can… can I help you?”
“Um… no, why?”
“Well, you’ve been standing there for a moment. The manager had me come over. We just wanted to make sure that you had been taken care of.”
I looked around at the now lively dining area. Every table was filled. I had been released from that dream-reality hell.
“Everything is fine,” I answered. “I just need to make my way back to my wife.”
“Is she already seated?”
“Oh, no,” I said. “She has already left. I just had to use the restroom. Thank you though.”
In the food court, my wife was sitting at the table I had left, guarding the shopping bags.
“Are you okay? You were in the bathroom for a while.”
“Pizza didn’t agree with me,” I said. “I think we should probably call it a day.”