You awake in your prison cell. Naturally, the first thing you think to do is ask the clown beyond the bars to let you out. “Turnkey,” you croak. “A word.”
The clown is walking past on his way to important business when you stop him. His face is painted pale, hiding a grizzled mug beneath the white mask. His beady black eyes bore into you. Three tufts of hair radiate from his crown, one blue, one green, one yellow. His nose is a bright red orb of rubber, yet this is not his most garish feature- his rainbow striped robes fall past his ankles and conclude at his comically large red shoes, which honk with every step he takes.
“Do you remember me, child?” the clown grovels, clutching your iron bars. You are appalled; who is he to call you a child?
“Not at all,” you reply assuredly. “I am quite confident that we have never met.” The clown mutters something under his breath and moves on. He is gathering sticks from some vessel beyond your sight. He carries them to the vacant cell across from your own, and gets to work. Soon he has a quaint campfire going.
Once more you beckon to the clown. He angrily stands up and moves to your bars. “Do you remember who I am?” he asks. You shake your head. “Well,” mumbles the clown, thinking for a moment. “Do you remember who you are?”
An odd question- you had never considered it before. You ponder the question and its implications before responding. “Why yes, I think I do. I am Weery Scrybe.”
“And what are you?” the clown pries.
“Tired,” you decide.
The clown nods, pleased by your answer. He returns to his fire, poking at the flames with his iron rod. “I remember you now,” you begin to realize. The clown turns to you expectantly. “You are Gainzo, the demonspawn, Clown Prince to the Hellscape.”
“Very good,” says Gainzo. He does not rise from his campfire.
“Will you let me out of this cell now?” you ask politely.
“You have built this prison with your own selfish desires. Only you may free yourself from it.”
Of course, you think. You retrieve the key from your pocket and open the cell door. Gainzo beckons you to share the fire; it would be rude to decline. As you step into the light you see hundreds of prison cells up and down the narrow hall. The screams of the tormented echo throughout the complex. You take a seat by the fire and enjoy a brief eternity alone with your thoughts. The flames welcome you, imploring you to share a quirky tale- or to hear one. But the notion of such stories reminds you of the world you so love, waiting beyond the prison. “Can I leave?” you ask.
Gainzo gestures to an imposing iron door at the end of the hall. “The real world is that way,” he says listlessly. “But haven’t you heard?” The blank look on your face tells him that you haven’t. “It’s the end of the world. Don’t you read the papers?” he adds, annoyed.
You stand and cross the hall. The universe awaits; you will not waste your time locked up in prison. You fling open the door and take a moment to gaze at the crumbling paradise beyond. On second thought, you’ll stay a while longer.
“Never mind that nonsense,” you say, returning to the fire.
“No need to shed tears over the universe ending,” Gainzo smiles sweetly. “Let’s sit by the fire and tell stories of past victories, of dungeons of death and the brave heroes who cleared them, of monsters and mages, of a sparkling kingdom and its remarkable citizens.”
You smile. The corpses of the common splatter the hellscape outside, but in stories around the campfire, the ordinary stand taller than gods.