The Men Behind the Curtain: Part 1

The following is an excerpt from something I’ve been working on for the last year. I’ve been eager to show people what I’ve been up to, so I’ve decided to share a few chapters. Out of context, these chapters serve as excellent short stories. Since this first chapter is over five thousand words, I’ve decided to break it down into bite sized little scenes. This will be the first. Please forgive it’s rough shape. I never edit while I’m writing.

This piece is from my novel The Dark Parliament (name pending). It’s an R-rated tail where the imagination of an orphan day-dreamer is pitted against the nightmares of adults. So without any further ado here’s:

The Men Behind the Curtain: PART 1

The space echoed with a low electrical hum, a chorus of gears droning in unison. Colossal machines cycled out of sink. Metal sprockets turned. Sparks popped as they ground together. Chains cranked in the distance. The walls reverberated with the creaks of rusty pendulums.

Teddy’s cage rocked back and forth. The bars cast shadows across his fur. He reached out to touch one. A spark slapped his paw away. His button eyes adjusted to the dark. He reviewed the dimensions of his living quarters. The floor was curved, a stainless steel bowl. The bars bent out. The cell was egg shaped. It hung from a giant hook, fastened to a long chain, strung through a conveyer belt.

Teddy peered through his bars. The chamber was as vast as the echoes had him believe it was. An endless chute of dangling pods, prison cells on threads. The tracks spiraled up the chute, a galaxy of chrome dots twinkling into the sky.

“Pssst,” a voice said from someplace close.

Teddy spun around to search for the source.

The occupant of the neighboring cell was a mass of pink satin. She rest her chin on the summit of her hooped skirt. Her tiara rest lopsided atop her golden locks. Her silk gloves were in a frenzy. She was knitting a long scarf. It fluttered through her bars.

“Pssst,” the voice repeated.

Teddy looked over his shoulder to find a large white rabbit in the cell behind him. It sniffed the air. Then it kicked at its ears. A golden chain dangled from the rabbit’s vest.

“Pssst. Down below you fuzzy little wank rag.” The voice called out.

Teddy poked his head through the bars.

“Wocka wocka,” the voice drew out his A’s with downward inflections. As if to say, “Hubba hubba.”

Teddy raised an eyebrow. He could make out a powdered wig behind the bars of the pod below. The figure sat cross legged with a crushed top hat in his lap. His neck was framed in ruffles, his shoulders pink with velvet. When the figure looked up Teddy caught the glint of a monocle.

“Fozzie Bear?” The figure asked. His skin was bleach white. His cheeks were rosy-red with blush.

“Is that my name?” Teddy asked, looking for a sign printed somewhere on his pod.

The figure cackled at the bear’s audacity. He said, “You know, the Muppet who pulled a rabbi out of a hat?”

“What’s a Muppet?” Teddy asked.

“You my dear bear.” The figure pointed. Frilly lace jut out from his coat. He said, “You’re a born entertainer, all cuddly and apple bottomed.”

Teddy wrapped his paws around the bars. If he was an entertainer, was this to be his stage? He spotted the coat tails beneath the figure’s legs, “And what are you?”

The figure hit its head attempting to stand. He said, “Greetings and salutations, I my fine furry friend am Chester Checkers, the last of the Dandies.”

Teddy sucked his puppet chin into his mouth. “Dandies?” He asked.

Chester tapped his chest, raised his chin up high, “A proud people whose homeland was decimated by the fearsome Crimson Queen, the mistress of all things red. She stole our lands, gutted our culture and raided our wardrobes. She drove us all as mad as hatters.”

Teddy tapped his paw to his mouth. Dare he ask, “Hatters?”

Chester rolled his eyes, “You know,” he began to sing, “A very merry unbirthday to you. Who me? Yes you!”

Teddy gave that a slow nod. This must have been a regional dialect. His button eyes hadn’t the faintest twinkle of recognition.

Chester’s smile shrank. It did not disappear. Teddy reckoned the Dandy’s cheeks were incapable of frowning.

Chester looked the bear up and down. He asked, “What’s your earliest memory?”
Teddy tried to count his memories on his paws. He realized he only needed the one. The bear shrugged, “This conversation with you, just now.”

“Ohhh.” Chester raised a theatrical pinky to his lips, “Well welcome to the neighborhood Mr. Cuddlesworth.”

“Is that my name?” Teddy pawed the fur of his chest.

The Dandy perked up, “It could be if you wanted it to be.”

Teddy rubbed his chin. He considered the name based on its cadence, unaware of the meaning, it sounded good.

Chester clapped, his posture straightened, “Oh dear bear, will you permit this humble Dandy the honor of naming thee?”

Teddy nodded. Why not? After all, this Dandy was his best friend in the whole wide world, being that his world consisted of a spinning mobile of hanging cells.

Chester tongued his cheek, deep in thought, “Now a name can be a right powerful thing. It’s what enables them to summon us from the ether. Cuddlesworth is a fine anchor but first we’ll need a bow and then a deck.” Chester interlocked his fingers and gnawed on his nails. He said, “We’ll need a name with power, with dignity. Something that conveys the raw animalistic nature of the grizzly.” Chester flicked his wrist in revelation, “What about Percival?”

Teddy made a so-so gesture with his paw.

“But he was a legendary knight of yore–” Chester protested.

Teddy shook his head. Percival was not happening.

Chester’s chin sunk to his chest. He perked up, “How about Francis?”

Teddy tapped the felt of his puppet teeth. The name didn’t taste right either.

Chester threw his hands up, “He was a monarch of the Renaissance.”

Teddy shrugged, “What’s a Renaissance?”

“Don’t be daft.” Chester ran his fingers down his cheeks coating the tips in blush. He regarded them with horror, as if he’d drawn blood. He said, “Lucien Fopling Cuddlesworth?”

Teddy shook his head.

“Bastion Foppington Cuddlesworth.”

Teddy rolled his button eyes.

“Pierre Tushbottom Cuddlesworth.”

Teddy sat down and let his feet dangle over the side of his cell. They were going to be there for a while.

Chester bashed his head against his bars. Teddy wasn’t sure if this would harm the man. It didn’t look like it was helping him. Chester stopped. He tapped his crushed top hat. It straightened in an instant. He blew the dust off the rim and placed it atop his head. He pulled at the bill. This had to be his thinking cap. Chester took a deep breath and raised his chin, “I have it.”

Teddy leaned through his bars.

Chester said, “From this day forward you shall be known as Thaddeus Von Cuddlesworth the third.”

Teddy nodded. This was a good name. “But why ‘the third’?” Teddy asked.

Chester jabbed a finger up in the air, “Because it was my third idea.”

Teddy reviewed the number on his paws, shifting back and forth from one to the other, “It was your sixth idea.”

“Third sounds better.” Chester waved his hand through the air, “There’s magic in the number three. The trilogy. The trinity. The holy hat trick. Yes, Thaddeus Von Cuddlesworth the third it is.”

Teddy grinned. They had accomplished something. Then it dawned on him to ask, “And what am I?”

Chester rest his hands on his waist. He said, “An Idea, of course.”

“And what’s all this then?” Teddy waved his paw over the bars, the pods, the bottomless chamber that stretched on forever.

Chester gave it all a passing glance. He shrugged, “Oh that’s just this big horrible thing. Try not to think about it.”

Teddy’s pod shook. It jerked forward. He fell back. There was a clicking overhead. The bear’s pod started to move away.

“Where am I going?” Teddy cried out.

Chester bit his lip, “They’re going to see if you’re a good idea or a bad idea.” He clutched his bars, “Just do whatever they say, but don’t say whatever they do. You got that?”

Teddy shook his head, “They?”

“The Dark Parliament,” Chester said as his compatriot shrank out of view.

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