“Sam,” I said as I gently shook his shoulder, “Sam, you need to wake up.”
Sam stirred on the sofa and winced when he tried to move.
“Whu-” was all he managed as he opened bruised eyes that reminded me of a panda. It was almost comical if it wasn't for the state the rest of his body was in.
He tried to prop himself up but his arms flopped uselessly as though there were no bones connected in them, which of course there wasn't.
“W-what happened to me?”
I looked him over and struggled to find the words.
Sam turned his head to look at his body and it flopped to the side like a ragdoll and rested at an awkward, unnatural angle that made my stomach go funny. I quickly straightened his head and propped it back on the cushion.
“Try not to move if you can,” I said in what I hoped was a reassuring voice, “what do you remember about last night?”
“I remember playing football with the lads, then we went on a pub crawl. We left our regular pub and Danny went down an alley to take a leak but didn't come back out. I went to look for him and came across a pub I hadn't seen before. There was a sign over the door depicting a rhino arm wrestling a poodle. I went in and...well it’s a bit hazy from there.”
“That explains some of it,” I said,” that pub is one of the Sometime Places. It appears in town every now and then, deposits people from other places and picks up new people and takes them to somewhere else.
“We found you walking down our road last night,” said Gianna, “and you collapsed in a broken heap. We carried you in and lay you on the couch.”
“When you were in the pub, do you remember drinking anything strange?” I asked.
“Now you mention it, there was this strange cocktail. It had a funny name.”
“Was it called Corpus Fractum?” asked Gianna.
“Could be, why?”
“It's Latin for Broken Body.” I said.
Sam swivelled his eyes to look down at himself.
“Ah,” he said, “Bugger!”
“What are we going to do?” asked Eric, “we can't leave him like that.”
“I know someone who can help.” said Gianna as she put on her jacket and left the house.
Eric and I tried to make Sam as comfortable as possible but it wasn't easy with all his bones disconnected. Sam closed his eyes and slept for a while.
“I'm thirsty,” said Sam when he woke up.
“I'm not sure that's a good idea,” I said.
“I can't remember, I just know that eating or drinking is supposed to be a bad idea when you're in this state.”
I shrugged and I got him a glass of water. When he drank from it, the water squirted out of his left ear.
“Ah,” I said, “now I remember.”
“What just happened?” asked Sam with a worried look on his face, “Why am I wet?”
“You see,” I started, “you're internal organs are broken too. Your, er, plumbing is a little off.”
“What do you mean the plumbing is a little off? ” he shouted but something behind me grabbed his attention.
“Who the fu-,” he shrieked, “Argh! Get that clown away from me!”
I looked over my shoulder and nearly soiled myself. In the open doorway was a clown. This was not a person dressed up in a costume, but a real, flesh and blood clown. It was one of the freakiest things I had ever seen. It's face was like a grotesque Halloween Clown mask that had been put through a cute cartoon filter. It hurt trying to work out whether I should be terrified of it or whether I should be giving it a cuddle. The clowns apparently lived in the abandoned fairground on the western outskirts of town. They mostly kept to themselves and little was known about them. When it spoke, I was surprised to hear a posh English accent.
#“OK, where is the patient?”
“Keep that, that thing away from me,” pleaded Sam, his limbs flapping as he tried to get away. All he managed to do was flop unceremoniously into a pile of twisted limbs on the floor.
“Oh dear,” said the clown.
Sam had passed out on the floor and it took three of us to unfold him onto the sofa.
“Right,” said the clown, “before we get started, I must warn you that what I am about to do is not for the squeamish. If you have any health conditions I advise you to leave the room.”
“I think we will be fine, Mr. Twinkles,” said Gianna.
“Mr. Twinkles?” I said stifling a laugh.
Mr. Twinkles glared at me and the humour evaporated and the laughter withered. The clown turned back to Sam.
“Hmmm,” he mused, “where to start? I am going to need a little help getting him undressed.”
“I'm out,” said Eric and left the house.
“You can leave his underwear on if that helps.”
Reluctantly I helped, but tried my best not to look at Sam or the clown. After we were done I stepped back to give the clown some room, though I wasn't quite sure why we were trusting it. I felt the colour drain from my face as I looked down at Sam's body, his ribs had shifted out of place and moved independently with each intake of breath. Worse than that were the lurid neon yellow boxers with the words “kiss me quick” printed in vibrant pink on them.
Mr. Twinkles held Sam's foot in a white gloved hand, it flopped forwards with no tension from the tendons to keep it rigid. He pinched the outer ankle bone between forefinger and thumb and proceeded to unscrew it. When it came undone the clown took a miniature socket wrench out of his inner jacket pocket and inserted it in the hole. After a few rotations, the foot began to pull itself back into shape.
Gianna and I exchanged an uneasy glance but neither of us could bring ourselves to leave the room. The clown repeated the process with the other foot and then moved up to the knees. Mr. Twinkles removed the kneecap like you would a lid of a jar. He reached inside and pulled out some elasticated threads and tied them together. With a hard yank the foot clicked back into place at the ankle. The process was again repeated for the other knee. The clown moved up to Sam's waist and started pulling down the boxers.
“I'm going to make a cup of tea,” said Gianna and hurried to the kitchen.
“Me too,” I said and quickly followed.
When I got into the kitchen Gianna wasn't making tea, she was opening a bottle of wine.
“Good idea,” I said and got two mugs.
“I thought you hated wine?”
“I do,” I said, “now pour me some.”
The wine had given us the confidence to return to the room. Sam looked a lot better, almost normal. Mr. Twinkles pulled Sam's earlobes downward and his mouth popped open like a hatch and his chin slapped his chest. I didn't look at what Mr. Twinkles did in his mouth, finding the cracks in the ceiling instead until there was the deep clunk of the jaw being fixed in place.
“One more and we're done,” he chuckled unnervingly.
I stepped closer and watched the clown put a finger behind each ear and pressed in. Each ear hinged open and he tinkered inside with a pair of long tweezers and some other small pointy tool.
“That should do it,” the clown smiled.
“Is he fixed?” I asked.
“Well his bones are all connected again, but now we have to work on the insides.”
“The insides?” asked Gianna.
“Sure,” smiled the clown, “haven't you ever wondered what your bellybutton was really for?”
“Here, let me show you.”
Mr. Twinkles poked a finger in Sam's belly button and twisted it anticlockwise. Sam turned inside out.
“OK that is enough for me.” I said and moved swiftly to the kitchen.
Gianna was already there pouring the rest of the wine into the mugs.
“Where did you find him?” I asked.
Gianna looked uneasy and avoided eye contact, so I stared at her until she gave in.
“Fine,” she sighed, “do you remember when I went out a few weeks ago and didn’t come back for two days? Well I went to a party at the old abandoned fairground. It was all psychedelic and trippy, something to do with gases floating over from the landfill. Anyway, some of the hallucinations took hold and pushed through into our reality. I kind of became physically surreal and couldn’t put myself back together again. The clowns helped fix me...mostly.”
“Wait, you went to a psychedelic party and didn’t invite me? That’s...hang on, what do you mean by they fixed you mostly?”
Gianna took her jacket off and flexed her arm, it moved completely freely, bending in directions that should not have been possible.
“Please stop that.”
“You kind of get used to it after a while,” she shrugged,” besides, my whole body is like that now.”
My train of thought started to explore what that could mean when there was a gasp from the living room. We went back in and saw Sam sitting up on the sofa. Mr. Twinkles was walking to the front door.
“There are some side effects,” said the clown as he opened the door, “but they are only temporary.”
With the clown gone we turned our attention to Sam.
“How are you feeling Sam?” asked Gianna.
“Ugh,” he said as he tested his limbs, “I feel really strange, like I have been turned inside out or something.”
I was about to say something but Gianna shot me one of her looks and I kept quiet.
Sam looked different, but until he stood up I couldn’t put a finger on it. Sam, who I figured was short for Samuel, was now short for Samantha.
“I need to pee,” said Sam and walked over to the downstairs bathroom.
The door closed behind him and Gianna and I waited. A few moments went past before a muffled scream came from behind the closed door.
“What the hell has happened to me? What are these?”
There was a following silence worried me.
“You okay in there Sam?” I asked.
“Okay? Man, I have boobies! Damn, now I can play with some any time I want to.”
There was a slight pause before he added, “Mr. Twinkles said that the side effects are only temporary, right?”
“Yeah, that’s what he said.”
“Okay, cool. I can deal with this for a while. Damn I need to pee bad.”
There was a brief silence before there was another muffled scream.
“Oh, my God! Where's my willy gone?”