Title: The Cirqus Voltaire (1/??)
Distribution: www.fanfiction.net, and Gotham PM at ezboard. Anyone interested should just ask and can expect a positive answer.
Spoilers: Relies on Clayface's story from "Batman: The Animated Series", rather than the comic books. Familiarity with the Disney animated series Gargoyles is helpful, but not required.
Feedback: Always encouraged, often answered if meaningful, whether positive or negative.
Disclaimers: Clayface belongs to DC Comics, Kids WB and the Cartoon Network, the producers of the two Batman serials, the talented artists and voice actor, etc. Sapphire is inspired by one of the characters appearing in Gargoyles and Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles, which is copyright Buena Vista Television/The Walt Disney Company.
The Cirqus Voltaire, the ringmaster, and certain other characters are _very_ loosely inspired by the pinball game of the same name. No infringement of these copyrights is intended, and is not authorized by the copyright holder. All other characters are original, as is the story.
Summary: Against his will, Clayface has been drafted into a twisted circus that seems to defy natural law, surrounded by people stranger than he. But perhaps he can become the first to escape the Cirqus with an unlikely friend's aid.
She looked down on the man sprawled on the floor. He didn't appear to be coming out of it. Taking a glass of water, she carefully poured a small amount onto his face.
When she took the glass away, she was surprised, and not by the lack of reaction on his part. Some of the water had tricked down into his open mouth, but he didn't splutter or cough it up. Instead it pooled there, like rain in a ditch.
"Interesting," she murmured. Perhaps there was some blockage in his throat? Experimentally, she lowered a finger into the man's mouth. It encountered resistance, and she withdrew it slightly. What was in this man's mouth? It was as if someone had wedged a sponge into the back of his throat.
"_Very_ intriguing," she muttered.
That was when his hand shot up and grabbed hers by the wrist, and she gasped.
He turned his head to one side and spat out the water before looking up again. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he asked hotly.
"You can speak," she said. "Amazing!"
He couldn't see her very well. The lighting was poor, and she had a red hood over her head, so that all he could see in the shadows were a prominent chin and the merest hint of sharp cheekbones. "Yeah, I'm pretty amazing," he said sarcastically. "Who are you?"
"Well," she began to say, but he was sitting up. His attention turned to her hand, as her wrist was still held tightly in his own hand. And here the lighting could not disguise her.
"Who are you?" he repeated. "_What_ are you?"
His first thought had been that she was wearing a glove. But his senses told him this was not the case. This was her hand, and it was blue. Not only was her skin a vibrant shade of blue, but she was missing a finger, _and_ her fingertips were pointed.
Gently she extracted her hand from his grip. "I realize this all seems very strange to you right now . . ." she said.
"No shit," he growled.
"But you will have plenty of time to understand what has happened to you," she went on. "To you and your memories."
He looked blankly at her. "My memories?"
She nodded. "They will return to you in time, I promise. They always do." Slowly she took her hood in both hands and lowered it.
He was distracted by what he saw. If there had been any doubt before, it was dispelled. This woman, if she was really a woman, was not human.
Her face, like her hand, was blue. Her thick hair, however, was a bright red, and it cascaded down in waves. Her ears were slightly pointed, and he thought he saw what looked like fangs when he looked between her slightly parted lips. "Whoa," he said, astonished.
"Here I am called Sapphire," she told him simply. "And no, I am not human. I am a gargoyle."
"A gargoyle?" he asked, trying to process this. "You mean like those ugly statues they put on buildings?"
"Yes," she said, sighing, "although most gargoyles you see are only that, statues. My breed is a dying one."
He scratched his head. "You said Sapphire is your name 'here'. It's not your real one? And where is here, anyway? What am I doing here?"
She got off her knees and stood up; without difficulty he did the same. "I have been called by other names, yes," she said, "but here, Sapphire will do. I rather like that name, actually. And as for where here is, I cannot with any certainty tell you our location. We are always moving from place to place, and as you shall find, we are unable to go out into the world and see it."
"Welcome," she said quietly, "to the Cirqus Voltaire."
He looked less than impressed. "A circus? What are you, one of the freaks?"
She did not appear angered by his remark, but she folded her arms and sniffed. "I will forgive that comment," she told him, "because you are in a strange place and do not remember how you came here."
"Like hell I don't," he told her, remembering the night before. "I bought a cheap ticket for this circus of yours, I watched the show, and I left." He put a hand to his head. "Don't remember what happened after that, though," he added.
He was startled when Sapphire grabbed him by the forearm with both hands. "You remember going to the Cirqus?" she asked excitedly.
"Yeah, of course, why?" he asked, looking at her hands on his arm. "And what did you mean before about my memories?"
"Astonishing," she whispered. "You still have your memories. Your name - do you remember that?"
He looked a little guarded. "Yeah, I do," he said, "but I don't know if I should tell you."
"Then don't," she immediately replied, leaning towards him. "The ringmaster has made a miscalculation," she murmured to herself before looking into his eyes. "No matter what," Sapphire told him, "do not tell anyone your name. Do not, in fact, give any inkling to anyone that you have your memories."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" he retorted.
"You have been abducted," she told him finally. "You should have no memory of your previous life. If you were to let it be known that this was not a success, your advantage would be gone. So please, don't speak of it."
"Fine," he muttered, "but it doesn't matter. As soon as I find the tent entrance, I'm getting out of this place."
"I'm afraid it doesn't work that way," Sapphire cautioned him. "You will not find an exit, no matter how long you look."
He looked at her like she was crazy. "This is nuts," he started to say, but they were interrupted.
"Ah, our new guest."
Both looked at the entrance to Sapphire's quarters. There stood an equally strange apparition - a tall, thin man with sunken eyes, a red frock coat and a top hat. And like the woman next to him, his skin was the wrong color, only his was green. "Who are you?" the abductee asked.
"I am the ringmaster," the new arrival told him. "This is my Cirqus, and all will be explained to you in due time. Sapphire?"
"Yes, sir," she said, looking down.
"Be careful with this man," he warned her. "He is very strong. He is also quite talented. He will be an excellent addition to your magic routine."
"Her what?" the first man asked, bewildered.
"Yes, sir, I see," Sapphire assured the ringmaster.
"Good. Would you like to know your name, my friend?"
He almost told this weirdo where he could stick his name, but Sapphire's words sounded in his head, and he began to wonder if playing along wasn't the best choice. "Yeah," he merely said.
"Sapphire," the ringmaster said, "meet Presto. Presto, Sapphire."
"My name is _Presto_?"
"Presto-change-o!" the ringmaster replied with a joviality that seemed to mock him.
"I already have an assistant," Sapphire reminded him. "Why do I need another one?" She looked worried. "You're not getting rid of Delphine, are you?"
"No, of course not," he assured her. "Delphine is just fine. Presto isn't going to be your assistant, Sapphire; he will be your prop."
"Presto has a great gift, Sapphire," the ringmaster explained. "One that will work well with your magic act. You see, Presto, you may not realize it at the moment, but you have an amazing power. And while you may not remember who you are or where you came from, your body still remembers how to use this power."
"What's that?" "Presto" asked, playing dumb.
"You can change into any shape."
Sapphire's eyes widened. "Truly?" she asked.
The ringmaster nodded. "Sapphire here will help you access your abilities. By the next show, I trust?"
"Well, I don't know," Sapphire said doubtfully, although Presto figured she was lying, since she knew he had his memories.
"By the next show, Sapphire," the ringmaster told her, and the tone of his voice became positively frigid.
She stiffened. "Yes, sir," she said.
Whatever her role was in this sideshow, Presto realized, she wasn't this man's partner. She was his subordinate, and evidently not a very loyal one, judging from what she had told him earlier.
"You see, Presto," the ringmaster went on, suddenly pleasant again, "Sapphire here is our resident magician. She doesn't really have much in the way of magical ability . . ."
Sapphire glared at him.
"So it's mostly sleight-of-hand, parlor tricks, the usual deceptions. That's where you come in, Presto. The two of you will make the audience _think_ that she's casting a spell to transform you into an animal or something, but in reality, you will make the transformation on your own when she gives you the cue. Got it?"
"I think so," he responded. "I do all the work."
The ringmaster cackled, and Presto stared at him. That had not been the laugh of a sane man. "That's right, Presto. You're the wand with the flowers stuffed inside. You're the top hat with the hidden pouch. I think you'll do just fine here." He adjusted his hat slightly.
"When is the next show?" Presto asked.
"When I say it is," the ringmaster replied. "You'll see that time, like our clowns, is very funny here." Smiling broadly, he bowed his head slightly. "Remember, Sapphire, I want him ready in time for the next show," he added, warning her.
Then he disappeared.
Taking this time to examine his surroundings, Presto saw the walls were curtains, but it was hard to tell where the openings were. Obviously the ringmaster knew, since he'd just slipped through one.
"I hate it when he says that," Sapphire was muttering. "My talents are not 'negligible'. Not great, but not so weak as he makes out. I have been here long enough, why cannot he give me my due?"
"Is this the big top we're in?" he asked.
Sapphire hesitated. "Space is also very funny here, Presto."
He grimaced. "Can he see or hear what we're doing now?"
"No," she told him. "He grants us considerable leeway, since he knows we cannot get out."
"I want to test that theory later," he replied. "But please, do _not_ call me Presto when we're alone."
"All right," she said. "What should I call you?"
He considered this. "When's the last time you left this place?"
"You do not fully understand," Sapphire said patiently. "I have never _left_ this place, as you say. The last time I was outside was the last day I was free."
"Life without parole," he murmured. "When was that?"
"My last day?" she asked. Her eyes seemed to look far away. "I was in France," she finally answered, "and the land was in chaos because that fool Napoleon had escaped from the island of Elba. The year was 1814."
"You're shitting me," he said, disbelieving.
She put a clawed hand over her heart. "It is the truth," she said.
"Do you realize how long ago that was?"
Sapphire frowned. "I have a guess," she said. "We do not see the sun and moon here, and there are no clocks. Time moves as the ringmaster wills it, within these walls that bend without breaking. And the aging process holds no sway here, so we don't even have that to rely on. By doing so," she told him, "the ringmaster keeps us continually off-balance. One of the ways he does so, anyway."
"And of course, new arrivals do not have memories, and so are not able to tell us the time. Normally," she added, "they do not remember. But you, sir, you can tell me. When is it?"
"What's your guess?"
"I would say," she said thoughtfully, "that it has been over forty years."
"That's a long time to be trapped in here," he told her.
She sighed, and despite her apparent youth - she looked younger than he - he detected a note of great weariness. "I became used to time's vagaries a long time ago."
"Well, maybe so, but your internal clock is way off, like you said. When I went to that circus tent," he told her in all seriousness, "the year was 2000."
Sapphire looked astonished, then appalled. "Almost two hundred years," she whispered. "Two centuries as one of that human's trained monkeys." Her eyes began to glow with a red light. "How I despise that human," she growled.
"Whoa, nice special effects," he said.
Her eyes dimmed. "It is a trait all females of my breed share," she said. "Thank you for this information, Pr - I'm sorry, you still haven't said what I should call you."
If she'd been in here for two hundred years, he didn't think she would know who he was, so there probably was no harm. "They call me Clayface," he told her.
"Clayface? How odd."
Whatever else weird things happened in this place, he quickly discovered that, as the ringmaster (and what was with people's skin in here?) had said, his control over his body's ability to metamorphose had not been affected. And after looking at him for just two minutes, already Clayface could replicate the ringmaster's face, which he did for her benefit.
She took a step back. "Incredible!" she gasped, amazed. "And you can do that whenever you feel like it?"
"Yep," he said. "No magic here. Just a body that had things done to it that should never have been done."
"I see," Sapphire replied. "And it's not just your face? You can change everything?"
By way of reply, he turned into her, complete with the red cape that still hid most of her body.
"Unbelievable," she whispered. "In so short a time? Your capacity for mimicry is astounding."
"Thanks," Clayface said. "My whole body is made of this weird clay-like substance. I don't have bones or organs or anything. I used to be a man, but not any more."
"I understand," Sapphire replied in a flash of insight. "So when the water I poured went into your mouth, it remained there because there was no throat for it to go down. And I thought there was some blockage in your mouth."
"Well, you could say that," he said, smirking.
She smiled wryly. "Yes, I suppose I could. And," she realized, "that's why the ringmaster was unable to take your memories. He must not know the true nature of your power, Clayface."
"What are you thinking?"
"He has many powers, among them the ability to detect powers in others which he deems valuable to his stable of circus acts," she explained. "When he saw you, he knew you could change shape. But he didn't know why, I think. He probably just thinks you're a regular human with the power to transform. A human, that is, with a brain."
Understanding arrived. "So he zapped my head with his powers, but since my body doesn't work that way . . ."
"It didn't take," she finished for him. "If he did it to your whole body, though, it might succeed. That's why you _cannot_ let anyone know this."
"Not anyone?" he asked. "Not even your fellow prisoners?"
"Our fellow prisoners," she corrected him quietly. "And no, Clayface. The more people who know a secret, the more likely the secret is no more."
"You're right," he agreed. "You seem pretty excited about this."
She smiled a little. "I would like to see the ringmaster taken down a peg some day. He is an especially insufferable member of his race."
Sapphire removed her cloak and folded it. Now Clayface could see the rest of her body. "Wow," he said. "You have _wings_?"
The membranes, he saw, were a light shade of purple, and she had little blue extensions like small claws where the wings peaked the highest. He also discovered that her feet were also clawed, and she had just three long toes, almost like an ostrich. And just because he no longer had a penis didn't mean he couldn't appreciate a woman's body. She had nice legs and breasts. She wore a black sleeveless dress with a high neck and slits on either side below the waist for her legs and . . . tail. He spotted a tail slowly weaving from side to side.
She turned around slowly so he could see her wings. He saw that enough fabric had been cut out of the back for them to fit. "I have to exercise them a great deal," she told him. "I have not glided on them for, it seems, over one hundred and eighty years."
"Gargoyles cannot fly," she told him. "We find a high enough place, and we allow our wings to carry us on the winds."
"Cool," he said.
"Anyway," she went on, "we might as well get comfortable. Since you already know how to use your abilities, we can spend the time until the next show talking. I can tell you whatever you wish to know about this cursed place, Clayface, because unless you are able to take advantage of the ringmaster's error, you could be here a very long time."
Clayface definitely didn't want that, he knew. "Has anyone just tried to beat this guy down?" he asked as he sat down.
She chuckled mirthlessly. "I did, of course. Several times, in fact. He can't be killed. I'm not even sure if he feels pain. You can try, of course. He practically expects it from the more powerful people he abducts. You'll see."
He had a hard time believing anyone could defeat him, but then again, the Batman had done it. And if this guy's powers were really so great as to mess with time . . . "I'll get out of this place, don't worry," he assured her.
"I hope you do," she said sincerely.
Clayface grinned. "I think I'm gonna like you."
She smiled. "That's good, because with the secrets we will be keeping, I may be the only friend you will have in these walls."
"You probably don't need a friend like me," he told her. "I'm not too nice a guy on the outside."
"Well," she said calmly, "I'm not so nice a woman, either."
"Then we understand each other."
To be continued . . .