Bingo in Bedlam, Part IV
by Justin Teerlinck
The story so far: Bingo, a mysterious time traveler from the future, has been released from the Victorian madhouse Bedlam with the assistance of the Mrs. Amanita and a writ from the House of Lords. But Dr. Poppit and his nightmarish creation, the robot Excalibur, are still in charge at the Bethlem Hospital for the Insane.
As soon as Bingo was ensconced within the coach, Mrs. Amanita turned to him, laid a hand on his shoulder and whispered, “Sleep.” He awoke sitting in an out-sized leather chair in a study or drawing room with an oval, oak table as its centerpiece. Clouds of blue smoke wafted from a long-stemmed pipe that Deputy Inspector Harrison was laconically puffing. His drooped eyelids came to life and he stroked his voluminous walrus mustache, aiming the pipe in the direction of their visitor. “He is roused from his slumber. Have you brought your pipe, Mr. Bingo?” Bingo shook his head, noticing the solicitor, Mr. Forsythe, in another chair seated opposite Lady Amanita. “Clever lad! Clever!” guffawed the policeman. “Boy! Fetch this man a pipe! Load it with the sweetest fruits fit to enter a man’s vents.” Lady Amanita’s son Agaric immediately appeared, and then silently ran from the room. He arrived a moment later with an extremely ornate long-stemmed pipe that appeared to show embossed angels and demons flitting about on the bowl. The longer Bingo looked at the pipe, the more the figures appeared to move. It was unclear if the creatures were making sport or engaged in mortal combat.
Mr. Bingo placed the already-lit pipe to his lips and inhaled deeply. All eyes turned to their visitor. He felt his heart race and heard the beating of drums. He leapt to his feet. Everything in the room appeared sepia-hued.
The rotund solicitor, Mr. Forsythe, let out a friendly laugh, placing a hand on his enormous belly and exhaling an infinite cloud of blue smoke as he did so. “Who are we, you ask. We are not of this world. The question, my boy, is this: who are you?”
Deputy Inspector Harrison turned to Mr. Forsythe, and Bingo saw their lips moving, but all he heard was a series of squeaks and clicking sounds that had no precedent in his experience. His hands began to tremble and sweat poured from his brow. Everyone was smiling and laughing. It was as though they were speaking an ancient language not only foreign to him, but to all humanity. Bingo opened his mouth but the power of speech failed him.
All of a sudden Bingo smelled damp earth, and his feet were sinking in soft mud. A cool, moist, gelatinous force enveloped his body. A kaleidoscope of geometric green and sepia images encased his vision. He let out a scream. “I’ve lost my mind, I’ve lost my mind! I am mad!”
A hand was holding his, but it wasn’t human. It was clammy, gelatinous, yet somehow soothing. His heart began to slow. Bingo looked up to see Lady Amanita towering over him. She seemed to be a hundred feet tall. The ceiling of the room was replaced with the undersides of giant, brown mushrooms, their gills inhaling and sighing out air in some kind of gas exchange. Limbs were enfolding him. A voice was soothing him. “It’s alright, Bingo. It’s okay. Shhhhhhh. You’re safe. No one will hurt you. Be calm. There, there. There, there.” Bingo felt a series of vibrations as these words were “spoken.” He didn’t hear the words, so much as feel them in his gut simultaneously with the calming vibrations. There was a light, pleasant tapping sensation all over his body, analogous to the purring of a contented feline. It was as if he was being coddled by a giant, clammy cat.
“Shall we sing?” said a voice. There was a murmur of approval. An unearthly yet oddly melodious set of notes repeated themselves, bypassing the ears and directly entering Bingo’s overtaxed mind. He felt the word “light” repeated over and over.
“There, there, Mr. Bingo. I am Mother,” said the amorphous lights that had been Mrs. Amanita, anticipating the question before it was asked. “Not your Mother. Just Mother. Light Mother. You too are light.” Bingo laughed at this, then hyperventilated, then laughed even harder. There were tears running down his cheeks. His dilated eyes were like cups of black tea, inscrutable pools masking their depths.
“Little darling, humans are like small animals to us, fragile, simple, innocent--trapped so long in one form,” said Lady Amanita, holding each of Bingo’s cheeks. “You are like puppies, warm, little puppies.”
“This one is not silly. This one shall help us find our brother. You will, won’t you Mr. Bingo?” Bingo turned his head and saw more undulating lights and shapes. Through his overwhelming synesthesia, he realized this was Agaric, the child from the madhouse tour. “I’m sorry I hit you, Mr. Bingo. You will help us. You will save us. And I will free you.”
“You are not mad. You move quickly. You are warm, and rapid. You and your people are predators. Our power is to bend light and dark. We cannot move as you do without severely taxing our life force. Will you help us?”
Bingo blinked his eyes and he saw dense blue fog. The ground under him felt more solid. He blinked again. Now he was sitting at the oak table in the drawing room, his hands clasped with Lady Amanita to the left and Agaric to the right. The circle was closed by Mr. Forsythe the solicitor and Deputy Inspector Harrison, and Mrs. Amanita’s little girl Galerina. The only source of light emanated from a candelabra at the center of the table. A Ouija board was carved into the center of the table, near which a small, rounded stone sat. In the corner of the room loomed an ancient grandfather clock, its pendulum swaying back and forth. Bingo looked around and saw that all of his new friends had resumed their human form again. There was still the vague smell of damp earth. It was clammy hands that held the warm, pulsing hands of Bingo.
Mrs. Amanita gave Bingo’s hand a squeeze. She could feel his animal fear through the saline perspiration running from his hands into hers. She leaned into his ear and whispered, “Don’t break the circle, Bingo. That’s all you have to do. Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.” Bingo gulped hard and nodded.
“We are present,” Lady Amanita called out in a loud, clear voice. “We are light. We are one. We are here to part the veil between worlds.” Upon uttering these words, a cold gust of wind whooshed through the room, though the windows were shut tight, causing the candles to flicker. The ominous grandfather clock gonged twelve times, signaling the onset of the witching hour.
All in the room let out a pained sigh. “Spirits, tell us where lies the body of our fallen brother?” The stone trembled and then moved to the number five, then zero, then nine, then one. Then came a word: MALDEB. “Is that the name of the one who killed him?” The board answered: NO. “Did our brother die by violence?” YES. “Did Dr. Poppit kill him?” YESYESYESYESYE--
Just then, Lady Amanita’s eyes rolled into the back of her head. She let out a long gasp, followed by a maniacal laugh. The sound of thunder could be heard outside, and the wailing of the wind as the window shutters banged against the house. The hands of the clock rapidly moved backwards.
“Be quiet, I like this whore’s frame. I will use it. I will use her like I use Poppit. Tool. You’re all my tools. I will kill you all and take you to my master.” A laugh came from Lady Amanita and as she opened her mouth she vomited forth a cloud of moths that flew into the room. Her teeth and eyes were black.
The demon seemed amused by this. “You think you can use the power of The Whole against me? I will put you in a hole!” With that, it screamed with a loud squeal, like a pig being killed. Galerina began to cry. Lady Amanita’s body wrenched free of the circle and she levitated and hovered over the table.
“Close the circle, don’t break the circle,” shouted Harrison over the din. Mr. Forsythe kept chanting. A gale force wind threatened to knock them out of their chairs. The demon continued to laugh. “Name yourself demon. By the power of The Whole, by the Truth and the Light name yourself! Name yourself!”
With that, Lady Amanita fell to the table. The grandfather clock gonged. The windows exploded, and the clock pitched forward to the floor with a thunderous crash. Mr. Forsythe broke the circle and stood up. “Our dear brother, Aldous Brandywine, return to us! Return to The Whole! Take your revenge on them who killed you! Destroy them.” Then, he toppled forward on to the table, and the candles went out, and all was silent as the grave.
Lady Amanita and Mr. Forsythe were revived with smelling salts and a few drops of Mrs. Right Away’s Tincture of Opium Cure-All placed on a sugar cube. (Truly, Mrs. Right Away makes a restorative tonic that can surpass the samplings of every age of mankind.)
Bingo, the children, and Deputy Inspector Harrison were dazed; the room was destroyed. Seeing Bingo’s worried look, Lady Amanita gently patted his arm. Her voice was soft, but strong. “All is well, Mr. Bingo. This form weakens us. We must be expeditious in our use of it. I must thank you for lending your strength to the circle. Your spirit is strong. You saw our true form, yet you did not run as some have.”
“It was more like a draw,” said Forsythe. “This demon, Malfeeson, is a potent evil born of a more potent evil. The next battle will be yours to fight. We cannot join our spirits to yours in that fight. You will not be able to draw on our strength, because you are not part of The Whole.”
“It won’t be when the time comes, and when it does come, you will seldom have a more powerful ally. All you must do is wear the scabbard into battle, and believe in the power you have. You must carry no other weapons with you, or this--the most powerful one of all--will fail you.”
“No, there is something else,” said Lady Amanita. “Agaric, come here.” The boy came forward and smiled. He had a serene look on his cherubic face. Lady Amanita bent to one knee and smiled. She whispered to him, “You know what to do.”
Agaric approached him and tugged on his pant leg. “It’s alright, Mr. Bingo. There is no pain. You will understand, in time.” He smiled, nodded, and held out his hand. Something compelled Bingo to take it. As he did so, he felt a powerful jolt, like an electric shock. When he regained his senses, the boy was gone, and the hand that touched him was balled tightly in a fist.
Mrs. Amanita took his hand in hers. “Easy now. Easy. The boy is not dead. He has left behind one form and taken up another. Beings like us cannot die. You will take him with you, and when you have tried and failed, and all seems lost, you will eat him, and in so doing you and those around you will know your true form, and your true strength. For although you are a more primitive breed of creature, you also are a being of light. Once you do this, Agaric will eventually return to us.”
Deputy Inspector Harrison stepped forward. “Time is running out. You must now return to Bedlam. That is the abode of this creature, Malfeeson. He must be defeated. You will receive no help from the mortal authorities of this world. Our ability to use them is extinguished and the forces of evil are arraying them against us. Even now, the police and the courts make their way here to destroy all of us. When the demon revealed itself to us, it also saw who we are. Our disguise is now useless. We are marked. Only by putting an end to this madness will you free the people of this corporeal world from the terror of the dark.”
“No,” sighed Amanita, “Not Excalibur, but an army of Excaliburs lies in wait to destroy you and to capture the city of London, and then the world. They would not simply do away with the mad; they would enslave all mankind to a demon overlord.”
“We tried to free his spirit from its chains,” sighed Harrison. “He has not returned to The Whole. We fear he may be lost forever, or imprisoned in a dimension whose tortures you do not dare imagine. Know this,” he said much more quietly. “Should you fail in your task, you and all you love will be taken to a cruel place where there is no hope of rescue, a void where no light can ever enter. Should that happen, we, the People of the Light, will be forced to abandon this world to its fate. We are too weak to defend it now, and once the Damned take over a world, they consume that world entirely.”
Just then, a gunshot ripped through a window. Mr. Forsythe gripped his chest and fell to the ground. They ran to the window and looked outside at an assembled phalanx of uniformed police. They watched as a cannon on a two-wheeled artillery carriage was being drawn up. Mrs. Amanita kissed Bingo on the cheek. “There is no more time. It has begun. You must go. There is a horse waiting for you at the back of the house. It will know where to take you.”
“We will meet again in another life, Mr. Bingo. Be calm. All will be well.” Just then, a powdery burst of mortar and brick caved in part of the room. Mrs. Amanita and Deputy Inspector Harrison ran to the gaping hole in the wall with pistols in hand as the sound of loud rifle reports peppered the building. Bingo lowered his head, placed the mushroom in his pocket and ran out of the room and down a narrow flight of stairs. Just before he reached the back door, another shell rocked the entire house. Bingo felt certain he had abandoned his new friends to their doom.
He found the horse just as the police began to storm the building. He leapt into the saddle, ducked low and took off at a gallop over an open green as first one shot, then another snapped through the air past him. He made it to a small wooded glade, passed through it, and raced off into the countryside, away from the forces of perdition now massed against him.