Morning again. Looking out over the parapet of The B.U.I.L.D.I.N.G., starting the morning ritual of coffee, alcohol, tjbang sticks, and occasional blackouts.
Behind me, METALMAID is showing last night's entertainments to the elevator and is being way too cheery about it. (Note to self: diagnostic the metal !@#$ as soon as Dr. Yesterday gets back from Antarctica) The ladyboys are sore and complaining but have been well paid for their time and trouble.
Poor dears. I'm not usually that excitable, son. It's just that, after what happened to me, I need to know that I'm real again.
Reality is what you make of it, of course. But when you've been zapped by a rogue scientist that used to work for a "hospital" (read: prison) for cartoon characters whose grip on our reality ended over twenty years ago, and can't get back where they came from, you'd probably be more than a little excitable once you got your ability to eat, drink, !@#$, and use complex machinery and electronics again.
Gods know I sure have.
I spent two days in Bridgewater. After my first night, which sucked, even with the massive, pillow-sized earmuffs I pulled out of my belt of tricks, I woke up still Tooned.
I showered under guard, lest the patients try and mess with me. Not that I was even remotely worried, of course, but I walked out with an unbloodied nose and non-molested bunghole, still a Toon.
I had breakfast, still under guard, in their crappy kitchen. Cartoon eggs and bacon, much to the consternation of certain porcine Toons. It was rather amusing and sad to hear one of them stutter his way through an attempted riot, put down with eerie efficacy and ghoulish enthusiasm by the Toonified guards.
And when I was done and begging for a proper cup of coffee, which they would not !@#$ give me for "medical reasons," I was still just a Toon.
However, unlike the other Toons, I might someday turn back to normal again. As such, I was not a patient (read: inmate) and could therefore go where I wanted, though not without guards.
That said, after I got the general layout of the place I wanted to be on my own, so I bribed the guards to let me have the run of the extremely creepy central yard. I told them I'd call them when I needed them, and to expect it to be a while.
I had some business to do, which I didn't want the guards around to !@#$ up.
You want to know what a place is really like? You find a native. So if you're stuck in a hospital, or a prison masquerading as one, it's the same story. Find the one who's been there the longest, or as long as anyone, and you've got the map you never knew about. .
My guide turned out to be a familiar face. A blue dog with an off-kilter hat, bowtie, and a lazy Southern drawl took one look at me, nodded, and walked me where I needed to go.
What he showed me made me genuinely sad, which is saying something. I've never seen so many dead-eyed people outside of a medical evac center after a terrorist bombing. Shell shock and disbelief mixed with dread and the surreal wonder that you're still alive after it all.
And when you don't believe you're alive, anymore, self-destructive behaviors become a new way of life. (Not that SPYGOD would know anything about that, son. But I digress.)
The non-haunted parts of the basement were the worst. The ghosts were so !@#$ scared of what was going on down there that they stayed out. Alcoholism, drug abuse, and sexual predators were rampant, all done with the knowledge and aid of guards clearly on the take.
It makes sense, as my guide was kind enough to explain. Bridgewater's other claim to fame is that it's the only facility (apart from the lair of the evil Doctor Feelgood) that has the unique and sophisticated equipment needed to turn real things into cartoons, so "animated persons" could use them. It also allows human guards to be turned into cartoons for a couple hours at a time (what they call "getting a Toon-Up") so they can fully interact with their charges.
So who's to know if a human guard takes along a few bottles of hooch, some dope, or something else special along for the ride? That's just between them and the Toons they sell it to.
Money? Oh yes. You see, the Toons all have access to the money they got from that settlement. But they can't spend it in here, so they have guards spend it for them, and I have no doubt they're taking more than expected off the top.
The Toons even have gang wars in here, except they're based on weird, homemade religions revolving around the magic television they came out of. As near as I could tell from what my guide told me, half the patients think the magic television needs to be returned to, and the other half think they can remake the world to match what they had back at home.
My guide said there were other, weirder notions floating around, but by then I'd had enough. I'd seen a group of guards smack the !@#$ out of a patient just for laughs. I'd seen a talking shark nodding off in the basement, surrounded by the screaming ghosts of long-dead mental cases and not caring. I'd seen three bears hold down a dog for a cat who wanted to make a point about "respect."
(Note for the uninitiated: cat sex hurts)
And to top it off, I'd been !@#$ing unable to vomit the entire time, watching this near-perfect system of !@#$ unfold itself around me like a body does when you cram lit dynamite up its !@#$.
So I grabbed my guide, slammed his blue face up against the wall, and asked him how dare he, how !@#$ing dare he, not do something about this? Me, I might change back any moment and thereby get out. But he was here for the duration, and how in the name of happy unholy !@#$ could he just let this happen around him?
This had been going on for thirty years. Did he not realize this? Most drug pushers get out after ten. Did he not realize that?
What in the Gods' name did he imagine he was being punished for?
Blue dog whimpered and stammered something about me not understanding. And I smacked him upside the head with my free hand and explained that, no, I did understand. I'd been in prison before. I understood how control mechanisms and feedback looks worked.
I know what it's like to get eight-balled into something awful, and to tell yourself that, as bad as it is, it's just the way it is. And you have to accept it because it's just the way it is. And it isn't going to get any better.
And you know what? You're right, little doggie. It doesn't get any better.
Not until you make it better.
"I'm not going to fix your problems for you," I said, letting his blue ass drop: "But if you don't fix this, no one else will. You got the power, (NAME REDACTED). You've always had it. Use it."
Of course, he had to holler after and insist that I was a dirty !@#$ !@#$ son of a !@#$ with my head up my !@#$ and no !@#$ understanding of the true !@#$ of the !@#$. But every time he cursed it was with less conviction. I knew he'd heard what I'd said. I knew he'd felt the truth of those words.
I knew the die was cast.
I blew off my guards, stole some water and bread, went back to my room, upended the desk against the door frame as best as I could, and put the bed between it and the wall so no one would be getting in without a fight.
Then I spent the next day and a half reading the Bible according to (NAME REDACTED), and listening to the riot outside. For a little while I was worried they might lose their nerve, but I guess the realization of being stuck in a hellhole for almost 30 years "for their own good" must have struck like a brick to the jimmy.
I heard screams, but this time they were human, and I smiled.
On the second day, I went to sleep and woke up as myself, again. I ventured out into bloody and burned hallways and the sight of "real" cartoons herding corrupt guards into the central area. The caregivers had been let out as soon as the riot went off, as they weren't the real targets.
The guards on the other hand, oh my gods. Hell has no fury like a pissed-off Toon.
It was elementary, really. If the tooninators could turn real things into cartoons for a few hours, then it could turn Toons into real people for the same amount of time. That's probably why the guards had so many keys and locks on them.
Too bad they didn't expect a fight, anymore. If they had, they might have survived. But at least they died rich.
(Eating money is bad for you, though.)
The Toons saw me as I came in. I nodded to the guide and the doc and kept walking. They parted and let me.
I also made some calls and told the agency that oversaw the Institute that they were not to interfere. This was now a COMPANY matter, and as far as the COMPANY was concerned, it had to play out the way it was meant to.
(That's the more genteel way of putting it, of course. My version involved a lot of anger, profanity, and threats to use SPYGOD VISION over the telephone.)
That was a day ago. Now I'm looking across the river at Bridgewater and seeing it burn. My Agents tell me the All Stars left some time ago, taking the equipment with them. They left the money they didn't stuff down the guards' gullets behind, but something tells me they won't be needing it where they're going.
Researchers who specialized in breeding rats for experimental studies eventually discovered that, once the population had stabilized, and was working perfectly, all you had to do to !@#$ things up was introduce one more rat. Just one more, and the perfect system collapsed around itself.
Sometimes they even did it for fun.
Am I the bad rat or the good rat, this time? I can't say. All I know for sure is that, unlike the big government that helped spawn that nightmare, I didn't micromanage a gods!@#$ thing, thus condemning those poor, funtastic folks to yet another U-bend of dependency, decadence, and devastation.
I just did what I do best: !@#$ !@#$ up, for America, at taxpayers' expense. The rest is between me, the Gods, and the Hoboken fire department.
(SPYGOD is listening to Welcome Home (Metallica) and drinking coffee like it's going out of style)