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by Justin Teerlinck
The story so far: Bingo, a mysterious time traveler from the future, has narrowly escaped an attack during a Victorian seance. He must now return to Bedlam to do battle with the demonic Dr. Poppit and his nightmarish creation, the robot Excalibur. You can also read the earlier parts here: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.
News of Bingo’s journey raced ahead of him. Reverend Loving and Mr. Pigg approached Dr. Poppit in his private study on the Bedlam compound. Reverend Loving was the first to speak. “He is making haste towards us, my lord. What shall we do?”
“We can eliminate him before he arrives. Mr. Pigg, release the mechanoraptor!”
“Must we escalate to suck extreme measures, so soon?” asked the Reverend. “After all, Mr. Bingo is our charge. He is said to be unarmed. The mechanoraptor is untested. Given the…er…mistakes made by Excalibur, can we afford the risk?”
“The risk lies with indecision, Reverend. We must strike our enemies precisely when they are weak. Mr. Bingo threatens our security. He will foment insurrection among the inmates. Pigg!”
“Right-o, guv’nar. I’ll ‘ave it in the sky in ten minutes.” With that, Pigg left the study at a brisk run.
“That is the kind of loyalty you should seek to emulate, Reverend Loving,” said Poppit.
Pigg ran to an outdoor shed and vigorously turned a crank in the wall that raised a false floor with chains and pulleys. A platform arose, revealing a most imposing figure. It was a flying metal automaton in the shape of a gargoyle. Unlike Excalibur, the fanged metal teeth, grimace and red growing eye of the mechanoraptor were clearly designed to strike terror in the hearts of all who saw it. Along with the teeth, opened mouth attached to hinged jaws, and predatory visage, four sets of steel, stiletto claws protruded from iron feet, terminating in barbed hooks. As Pigg stoked the coal furnace that powered it, a series of automatic bellows began to pump, their respirations making a sound like the hiss of an angry crocodile. Its cylindrical, ebony body was provisioned with a pair of imposing, over-sized, bat-like wings. Four openings below its chest revealed six-barreled revolvers to each hole. Projecting below its mouth, there protruded a nozzle—for what purpose Mr. Pigg knew not…
As the beast pumped its wings, steam jetted from two nostrils. Mr. Pigg trembled slightly. He pulled a lever releasing the chains of the automated killing machine and laughed. “You know what to do. Go.” With that, the mechanoraptor’s wings beat furiously and it ascended to the air, racing forward in search of warm-blooded quarry.
The mechanoraptor scanned the horizon with its single, pulsating crimson, cyclopic eye. Peaceful, slow-witted creatures fled in terror from its approach as it roved with a hunter’s vision over glens and pastures. As it came upon a gaggle of ducks enjoying the quiet solitude of a marshy pond, the beast skimmed low to the earth and hovered over them with the menace of a wasp. “You are a threat. Surrender immediately,” it said. The ducks quacked in response, and went about their business. “You have committed sedition against the state. Prepare for purification.” It then strafed them with a blast of flames from its mouth, immolating every duck in its path, until the final quack had been uttered. “You have been purified. Carry on.” A few fuzzy ducklings peeped and ran to the mass of burnt feathers that had been their parents.
“I am not your mother,” monotoned the creature before it moved on.
It spied a small clutch of baby bunnies peeking over their warren, turned around and swooped in faster than they could flee, leaving nothing but ashes in its wake. “Threat eliminated,” it said. A similar fate awaited a hapless, cud munching cow and the milkmaid tending it. “You have been purified.” A farmer who dared raise his musket was stopped with a few deadly accurate bullets from the pistols located in the mechanoraptor’s chest. “You have been purified.”
Bingo saw black smoke rising from several farms up ahead through the trees and heard the screams of terrified villagers. He heard the buzzing of insect-like wings, catching his first, unexpected glimpse of the hell-spawned beast as he entered an open field with no protection or cover. “Holy hell,” he said and urged his steed on. The mechanoraptor quickly turned in midair, its eye catching Bingo and his mount on the run.
“Threat detected,” it said and it pounced on them. It easily caught up to them, smoke and steam billowing from vents in its sides and rear. Bingo heard a click as retractable claws unhinged and snapped into attack position like bayonets. Bingo swerved his mount right, then left, zig-zagging over fields as the creature attempted to swipe at him with its claws. He ducked and caught a claw in the shoulder, nearly unseating him. Blood spurted from the wound. “Surrender immediately.” The monster backed off, then flew at them again, like a cat toying with its prey. Instinctively Bingo pulled the hilt from the scabbard gifted to him by his otherworldly friends, and prayed for a miracle. “I don’t know what good a hilt without a sword will do,” he thought. Instantly, it became a magical flaming sword with a shaft comprised of green flames. It hummed with the inner strength Bingo provisioned it with. Though he was awed by it, Bingo had no time to admire the weapon. He swiped at the beast as it came down again, severing a foot and claws. The mechanoraptor fired its pistols, but the shots all went wild as the creature was knocked off balance by Bingo’s mystical sword.
Bingo saw the fog tea fields and gates of Bedlam drawing close, perhaps only a quarter mile hence. The mechanoraptor attacked again, this time face to face, exposing rider and horse to its flaming breath. Bingo raised the sword again. It deflected the beast’s flames away from him. He took a well-aimed swipe as the creature buzzed over his head. Looking over his shoulder, he saw that he had severed one of its wings. The mechanoraptor collapsed to the earth in a cloud of dirt; the buzzing of its other wing ceased. “Ha! That’ll do you!”
Back in the study, Dr. Poppit and Reverend Loving watched the action through a telescope. “He draws near,” fretted Loving. “He has some kind of mystic weapon. What shall we do?”
Poppit laughed sarcastically. “The mechanoraptor is not through with our friend yet. Look.” They watched as a set of spider-like appendages appeared at the base of the monster’s body. It quickly rose on eight, spindly legs, rising from the dust like an evil phoenix. It scrambled with the speed of fifty horses, and cut off Bingo before he could reach the outer gates. “No mortal is any match for this machine. Mark me well, for one day one of these winged automatons will patrol each of our colonies, ensuring that British governance and loyalty to Her Majesty remains unquestioned.” They watched the beast grapple with Bingo’s horse, slaying it with an unforgiving metal pincher. Bingo was trapped beneath his horse as it collapsed. He pulled free and staggered a few feet before falling. “Look, his leg his broken. See how it drags. Watch, Reverend. He is about to receive his death blow.”
“I grow ill at the sight. It is a most uncivilized display, sir.”
“Is it? The Romans enjoyed the gladiatorial sport on all occasions.” He rubbed his hands together gleefully. “It was the preferred pastime of every caesar. I only wish we were close enough to see it all with the naked eye.”
“I’m afraid I do not share your passion, sir.” Dr. Poppit narrowed his eyes, and gave him a disdainful glance, then looked back at the field, transfixed with bloodlust. He watched the mechanoraptor slowly pace to within inches of its prey, as if savoring moment. Its pinchers lowered towards Bingo, who lay supine on the ground. Then they saw a flash of green light, then another. The beast took two steps backwards and collapsed, thick smoke issuing from its abdomen.
“What is this?” sighed the doctor. “No mortal weapon can defeat my soldier. Mr. Bingo must be allied with minions of Satan.”
“Is he,” asked the Reverend, “or are we?”
“Enough of your insubordination, old fool. You know what’s at stake here. Pigg!”
“Activate all of my mechanical shock troops. Set them upon Bingo and all of the inmates. Give them the order ‘tea and extra sympathy.’ Is that understood? No one is to be spared.”
“Surely you…you jest!” huffed Reverend Loving. “This is not the mercy killing of the insane we spoke of. This is barbarity.”
“The new age has dawned, my friend. The time for mercy has passed. We must exercise our steely resolve if we are to move forward and demonstrate our superiority to the world.”
“The world, sir? Our own government will not tolerate this open display of wanton cruelty. The world will bring armies against us.”
“Let them. Do not fear our government. I have political connections in the highest branches of our government. They secretly endorse all that will be done today. They understand that progress requires the purging of undesirable elements in order to bring an enlightened existence to all mankind.”
“You are mad. This is immoral. I will no longer be a party to this. You force my hand, my lord. I am leaving, and I am taking the inmates with me.”
“I am disappointed by your decision, Reverend. We have been through so much.” Dr. Poppit spoke with his back turned to the Reverend. “I thought you, among all my friends, would understand the necessity of expedient action. I underestimated you.”
“Indeed sir, nowhere nearly as much as I underestimated you,” said the Reverend.
“You may be right on that account, my god-fearing friend.” With that, Poppit wheeled on Reverend Loving. His eyes were coal black, as were his teeth, as they formed a malignant grimace. He opened his mouth, releasing a torrent of black moths into the clergyman’s face.
“No! No! It cannot be! You? What are you? A demon? Stay back, fiend! Stay back.” Dr. Poppit uttered a depraved laugh in a voice that was not his own. The Reverend held a tiny crucifix aloft, which Dr. Poppit slapped away with claw-like hands. As the Reverend continued backing away, Excalibur stealthily blocked his retreat from the room.
“Who am I, you ask? I am Malfeeson, the ruler of the human race. Bow before me, slave!”
“No. Impossible! Go back to hell, demon.”
“Excalibur, restrain this dangerous lunatic.” The automaton obeyed. “Commence correction.”
“You cannot do this. My family! You must listen to me.” After the Reverend was secured, a hatch opened and a tiny drill emerged, inching its way toward his forehead. “You don’t understand. Please. I’ll do anything. Anything! Spare me.” The Reverend was sobbing loudly.
“Anything?” said the demon. He held up a head to stop Excalibur.
“Do you renounce your primitive religion?”
“You toy with me. Surely that is not…”
“Very well, Excalibur commence—”
“Wait! I renounce it! I renounce my religion. I renounce Christianity.”
Malfeeson laughed. “Humans are so weak. You will do anything to save your own life. You are pathetic creatures, born to slavery, born to be ruled by cruel masters. The fate I give you is far more merciful that the one you deserve. Sadly, I lack the time I desire to savor your torments.” He waved his hand at the automaton.
For a moment there was a scream as the drill entered the clergyman’s brain, then, silence. “Stay close by me, Excalibur. There is work to be done.”
Mr. Pigg entered the room, his mouth open wide at the twitching corpse that Excalibur dropped to the floor like a sack of flour. “Remove this body at once!” snapped the demon, “or add your own to the pile…”
“One more thing…bring Miss Pepperflake to me.”
“Right away, sir. Right away.”
Inside the darkened, cold, stone corridors of Bedlam gas lamps flickered and an unearthly wind whistled through the walls. The inmates cowered in fear at the cacophonous din as a phalanx of tin soldiers clomped to their positions. Their pitiless eyes glowed blue for an instant, and then flickered before turning black as a moonless night. “We are doomed!” yelled Mr. Tuttle. “Doomed, I tell you! Doooooomed!” The other inmates also let out a pathetic peal of mad wailing, maniacal laughter and cries for help. Cries that were destined to fall on the deaf ears of their new, lifeless overlords. But was this army of devil bots destined to become the cruel overlords of the mad…or the wicked dealers of their destruction?
“Oh, shut your caterwauling, you sods, it’s just cleanin’ day!” barked the char woman. “Ain’t a day goes by wi’out you lot yelling we doomed. Doomed, doomed he says! Aye! We’re all doomed. Why not shut up about it then? Go pen a letter to Mr. Dickens, I say. About time, I say! Har, har! Doomed every day we is! Oh you lot! Well, I ain’t never heard a sadder bit o’noise than all that—urp.” Just then, one of the automatons snipped the char woman’s carotid artery as deftly as a seamstress cuts yarn.
“YOU HAVE BEEN COR-ECTED.”
Several of the devil-bots stood in strategic position, awaiting the flight of the inmates as the anticipated bedlam ensued within the forsaken corridors of Bedlam. Five other death-dealing devil bots marched outside to finish off Mr. Bingo, who lay tragically lamed on the battlefield. As they surrounded him, Bingo attempted to stand, but fell back into a crouch. “What I wouldn’t give for a front wheeled walker…or at least a quad cane. Where is a good occupational therapist when you need one? Let me die in battle, but not without experiencing skilled rehabilitation first!”
The devil bots each produced steaming cups of tea—filled with lethal doses of Mrs. Right Away’s Tincture of Opium Cure All and toxic strains of fog tea. “JE-SUS LOVES YOU, MR. B. JE-SUS LOVES YOU. WOULD YOU LIKE SOME TEA AND SYM-PA-THY? DRINK! DRINK! DRINK! DRINK! SWEET DEATH A-WAITS YOU.” As they approached, Bingo felt his strength ebbing. His leg was destroyed. He was bleeding profusely from his shoulder. His magic, green-flamed sword was dwindling to a flicker, like a faltering candle at the bedside of a terminally ill old man breathing his last gasps in the waning rays of a setting sun.
“All is lost,” our hero sighed. “Baron, where are you old friend? You left me here. I was to be educated on the culture of the Victorians. Sir, call me now educated! Why did you not return? Did you forget me? No future race will sing my odes like Byron. They won’t even know my name. Still, better to die in this century alone, a martyr to a lost cause, than to live a useless life as an unemployed therapist in my in-law’s garage. Death, sweet benefactor, release me now!”
“That’s it! Take the tea. Drink it, so I can have your soul,” said Malfeeson, watching from his ivory-towered study. Beside him, Mr. Pigg was not watching the changing scene unfold outside, but the one within. For now, the demon that was once Dr. Poppit had shed his pressed britches, ascot and top hat, for what could only be called…demon clothes. He was cloaked head to toe in black, with spiked boots, a jagged-edged cape, and a cane—nay, a scepter—crowned by a chrome skull with gleaming, red-ruby eyes. It nearly seemed to cackle with mocking laughter at Pigg’s witless, bumpkinesque stupor. Malfeeson momentarily turned to his henchman, revealing a countenance lacking in all human features. Glowing, demonic eyes masked by iron-sided spectacles, gazed upon the mortal standing before him. His lips curled back in in menace, and fangs—oh the fangs! His teeth had grown long enough to cow a ravenous lycanthrope into puppy-like submission. “Do you like my new…raiments, Mr. Pigg?”
Just then, as Bingo reached out to take a cup of tea, he felt heat from within his trouser pocket. “My manly strength and steely resolved has failed me, has my courage failed also? Have I wet myself like an innocent babe?”
A voice whispered to him: “You cannot die Bingo. We never really die. We transform. Eat the fruit of transformation.” In a flash, he remembered the sacred mushroom. He took it out, and smiled. He held it aloft. The devil bots temporarily creased their diabolical machinations. He bit the mushroom once, then twice. “It tastes like an ordinary mushroom,” he thought. Then, he swallowed the entire fungus. He suddenly felt energy coursing through him like bolts of lightning. His arms became over-developed, and bulged until he could barely put them down. He was standing upright, tall, taller than he’d ever stood. What was that thing brushing him, lightly teasing his rump? He looked around and exclaimed:
“IS THAT A HORSES’S ASS?”
Could it be? He felt four legs beneath him, terminating in four hooves, and he felt as though he could have has many hearts pumping the manly blood through his equine veins. Upon knowing his full strength, he was now possessed of a rage and a desire for conquest he’d never before experienced. His man-half bent down and picked up the torn trousers that rent to shreds as his horse-half shredded through them. “I won’t be needing these anymore.”
He raised his mystic sword-hilt into the air with one, ripped arm, bulging with pulsating veins like a locomotive. A cloud-to-cloud lightning bolt struck, as though approval of these deeds was sanctioned by mighty gods. Instantly, his sword shaft elongated to new heights, unleashing bursts of green flame into the air from its fiery tip. He let out a warrior yell that echoed off the hallowed halls of the ancient and corrupt lunatic asylum. As he did so, the automatons grew silent. Their tea cups temporarily trembled, then spilled on the ground.
“UH OH,” said one. Bingo sallied forth as a centaur, steed and rider become one. He twirled his mystic sword in the air, then brought it horizontal and lopped the teapot heads off of three of his amoral, iron sided attackers as easily as a child picking dandelions. Cogs, gears, steam, and springs burst out of the machines like so much bric-a-brac, along with copious amounts of tea. Stripped of their reasoning centers, the bodies of the beheaded automatons whirled and spun randomly, moving their pinchers, projecting and retracting their phrenological tools and other instruments until the last of their tea and steam—their life blood—was spilled.
The remaining two machines snapped at Bingo with their pinchers, and tried to bore at him with their cranial drills. Bingo rode circles around them, severing their limbs effortlessly until he decided to toy with them no longer, and slashed them to ribbons in a fit of rage. Next, he rode through the fog tea fields. He pointed the tip of his sword, with its reanimated powers, and wherever he did, green lightning bolts issued forth, exploding into the fields of artificially engineered tea crops and burning them to cinders.
“England deserves better,” he said. He emerged from a wall of flames like some avenging angel while the fog tea fields burned all around him. He paused before entering the gates of Bedlam. He saw Poppit—or what once was Poppit—standing at a window in the upper stories. He pointed the sword at the window but as he did so, Pepperflake appeared. Or rather something like Pepperflake. It was a flower with a human face! It was then that Bingo recalled what Lady Amanita had said: the mushroom would cause everything to return to its true form. Everything. Not just him. Everything.
Bingo ran inside the madhouse to witness a scene of complete chaos and abandonment of all reason. The inmates were running through the halls as the devil bots chased them. Some inmates put up a brave, but futile resistance, striking the automatons with the only weapons they had: their chains and manacles. But the clash of iron on iron did them no good, for their foes did not breathe the air of the living. The breath that animated them was hell-spawned, unleashed to torment all men with wickedness—starting with the weakest and most forsaken of men.
But there were signs of hope amidst the terrors, Bingo observed as other elemental creatures defended this poor lot. Mr. Steadfast the drunken sailor, had turned into the mermaid he always knew himself to be. He was pounding an attacking devil bot into dust with slaps from his powerful tail flukes. Mrs. Plumper had become a cow, and she trampled a machine as she made her exit from Bedlam. Mr. White, now a unicorn—with no maidens around to tame him— ran forward and gored several of the automatons with his spiraled horn. And by Jove if bellicose Mr. Tuttle had not transformed into His Majesty, King George III AND Jesus Christ, simultaneously blessing everything around him, whilst banging away with his royal scepter.
Bingo ascertained that the inmates had gained the upper hand before galloping to meet his nemesis in hostile combat. He slew several more iron devils that blocked his passage. Ascending stairs to the third story proved awkward at first with his newly quadrupedal frame. Silently, he again wished that there were occupational therapists available in the 19th century who might assist him with functional mobility training.
Upon reaching Dr. Poppit’s study, he found a bolted door; he reared and kicked it down with his hooves, neighing and whinnying—sounds that felt oddly appropriate, though they issued from his square-jawed, man-mouth. Inside, he saw Mr. Pigg, Excalibur, and the villainous rogue who was once Dr. Poppit, with his spindled, long-nailed hands over the lips of Pepperflake, who had turned into a human-sized flower.
“Ah, you remember my name! Soon, all mankind—and flowerkind—will know it,” he said, turning to Pepperflake, who whimpered softly. “They will call me by another name, first. Master of the Earth!”
“Not on this centaur’s watch,” said Bingo defiantly. Mr. Pigg, standing at the side of the room, raised a pistol. Bingo turned to him and ran him through with his green-flamed sword in the blink of an eye. With no further proclamations, he set to work slaying the rest of his adversaries. Just as he drew near Malfeeson, Excalibur raised an unknown appendage. Bingo’s sword flew from his hand, compelled by some invisible ether. “What?”
“Ha! Excalibur has an electro-magnet, and you held a magical sword with an iron hilt. Now I will smite you in front of your small, helpless friend, and after she sees you destroyed, I will starve her of light, water, and feed off her tears, her dry tears as all hope flees her innocent eyes.”
“Boo hoo hoo,” cried Pepperflake. “Boo hoo hoo.”
Bingo made bold to attack Malfeeson in the manner of a bare fisted brawler, but Excalibur intervened. Its demonic eyes cast their pitiless gaze on the weaponless centaur as his fiendish enemy laughed. Bingo punched the teapot head, denting it. Excalibur swiped at Bingo with its pinchers, but Bingo parried the blow. It came at him again, and Bingo placed the iron beast in a full nelson, but the devil bot turned around and sprayed scalding tea on Bingo’s arms. He released his grip and picked up a chair, breaking it over the automaton’s head. Excalibur enwrapped him with his many-fibered steel cables. Bingo burst his bonds, picked up the iron-plated fiend, tipped it upside down and landed it head first in a pile driver. Displaying inhuman agility, Excalibur got up again and used its diabolical strength to place Bingo’s neck in a vice-like grip, from which the kicking of his hooves and the pounding of his fists could secure no release. He face began to turn red, then purple.
“That’s it, Excalibur. Kill this dangerous lunatic. Extinguish him for-ever! Bwahahaha!”
Just as Bingo sight began to dim, he saw—or thought he saw—Excalibur’s eyes turn from black to their pre-diabolical undulating blue. His neck was suddenly released and he fell to the floor, gasping for air. “What? What is wrong with you? I told you to kill! Now, kill, goddamn you! Kill this dangerous lunatic! Tea and extra sympathy, at once.”
Excalibur paused, then rushed toward Malfeeson. “You are the dangerous lunatic,” said a voice that issued from Excalibur that was oddly familiar, and human.
“What? What voice is that?”
“An old friend, returned from the shallow grave you placed me in.”
“What? No, it can’t be. Brandywine? How did you…? Stop! Stop! I command you. I am the Master of this Realm! Obey meeeeeee!”
Dr. Brandywine, whose spirit now inhabited the shell of Excalibur, crushed the life from Malfeeson. As he did so, the demon form slowly melted away from the body it inhabited, that of Dr. Poppit, who returned to human form in time to utter a few last words with his dying breaths.
“I have transgressed the laws of God and man. I have usurped the powers of reason and supplanted them with mechanized and inhuman efficiency. Forgive me Dr. Brandywine. Forgive me, lunatic inmates. Forgive me, England. Forgive me…tea.” With that, he breathed his last sigh, and the robot arms of Dr. Brandywine laid him down gently.
“Give him a proper burial,” he said. “It’s the humane thing to do, old chap.”
Bingo nodded. He picked up Pepperflake, who was ensconced in a large flower pot and walked outside. “Where do you want me to plant you?” he asked the smiling flower girl.
“Anywhere in the sun, no shade please.”
“As you wish.” As Bingo planted her in the ashes of the fog tea fields, he noticed a cluster of red and white speckled amanita mushrooms at his feet. Looking around, he saw they were everywhere as far as he could see. A voice he felt more than heard said, “We have returned to The Whole.”
As he turned over a watering can on Pepperflake, there was a strange whistling sound and the wind began to blow, stirring up a cloud of ash. Bingo covered his eyes. When he opened them again, his old friend the Baron was standing before him. After the two time-traveling friends embraced, the Baron said, “Sorry for the delay, old thing. Did you have fun learning about Victorian culture?”
“Baron! What took you so long?”
“Ah! Well, you see old chap, I actually got a bit side tracked. You see, Lord Byron had a bit of trouble. Speaking of which, I asked him to write a missive to secure your release from Bedlam once I learned you were here. It appears all is well, eh?” They both looked behind them to a scene of the inmates gleefully sacking and burning Bedlam. “Now I understand where the term bedlam comes from,” said the Baron, raising an eyebrow mirthfully.
Bingo shrugged his shoulders. “I know we aren’t supposed to change the course of events but…oh well.”
“Change them indeed! What the dickens! Bingo, I say, you’ve become a centaur. Oh no, this won’t do. This won’t do at all.”
“Won’t do for what?”
“My plan. You see, we’re going to stop the signing of the Declaration of Independence with a few…uh…well-placed micrograms of LSD. You see, I was late because I needed to make a stop to Berkeley, California, 1966 in order to pick up 10,000 micrograms of high-grade Owsley blotter acid for the purpose we intend. I was hoping to disguise us both. I see now, that will be out of the question for you. But now we must be off! Quickly, my lad, into the Whistling Shade. Our chariot awaits.”
“We? You are mad, Baron! You said we shall not alter the course of events.”
“Well…that often applies, but in this case, events are misguided, and we must…er…help them along gently. You see, America is rightfully a Crown colony, and it should always stay so. We can avert a war, end a bloody, misguided revolution, and ensue that cricket will never be eclipsed by the vulgar sport of baseball on the American continent. Come with me to July 3rd, 1776 and save history by making it better!”
Just then, the flower with a face spoke. It giggled. “Is that your time engine?”
“What?” said the Baron. “You can see the Whistling Shade? It is supposed to be invisible. Hmmm. What are you anyhow, English rose?”
“Irish, more like,” corrected Bingo.
“Very good, then.”
“I suppose I must come with you to talk you out of this insane scheme,” said Bingo. “That is, if I can fit my equine bulk into the Shade.”
“Not to worry lad. Recall, the Whistling Shade molds itself around you, like a piece of…time taffy, as it were. Okay, are you ready?”
“I’m ready. Goodbye England. Goodbye Miss Pepperflake.” He leaned in and kissed the flower on her cheek.”
“Who will water and care for me now?” the flower girl pouted.
“England itself will take care of that, my little friend,” said Bingo. “Have no fear. You’re free now.” She smiled, and wished them both well.
“Alright Bingo, you remember how this works, yes? We must link arms and laugh like buffoons—which you should have no difficulty doing after your lengthy stay in the madhouse. It is only laughter that powers the engines of my time machine, and happiness that causes her to slip her moorings from this reality, and traverse to the next.”
Just as they commenced guffawing, Excalibur-clad Dr. Brandywine ambled up and tapped Bingo’s shoulder. “You forgot this, my friend,” he said, holding the hilt of his magical sword. Bingo and the Baron looked up in surprise, but the automaton with a human soul was touching them.
There was a breath of air, like a sigh. Then silence. In the blink of an eye, the three were gone, whisked away into the highway that connects all time and every place.
Not long after they were gone, the London authorities combed the wreckage of Bedlam and buried every trace of the mechanical monstrosities Dr. Poppit had created. Sifting through a pile of rubble, a constable found a blackboard with the words “therapeutic use of self” scrawled in chalk. “What do you suppose this means?” he asked his partner with a chuckle. As their backs were turned, a unicorn gamboled past them and into a sunny glade.
“Search me. Mad ravings? God only knows these lunatics got up to in here.”