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Not My Circus: Chapter 23

by GengarIsBestBoy


Chapter 23: Get Busy Living or Get Busy Crying

Keith couldn’t see where he was running through his tears, but he didn’t care. His emotions were running too high to care. At some point, the hospital-like air of the memory lab had faded into the warm air of the HQ.

His limbs felt like they weighed tons. He couldn’t breathe at all, despite the air rushing in and out of his lungs. Everything felt like a blur, like he was living inside a memory. It felt like the world around him wasn’t real. His senses also felt dull, like he wasn’t even there at all.

His chest rose and fell dramatically. His heart felt like it was going to explode. And, there were points in time when Keith saw his hands and could swear that they looked two-dimensional. Even when he didn’t look like a cartoon character, he felt like he was outside of his body—like he was merely an observer of his life and not the one in control.

He ran and ran and ran, but when he opened his eyes again, he wasn’t on floor 50. No, the walls were flooded with colorful shapes and stripes that were incredibly overwhelming. At that moment, he almost preferred the dull hospital aesthetic to this.

He took a breath—or tried to, anyway. Okay, just calm down, said his voice of reason. He was trying to ignore the dullness of his senses or the feeling of not being in his own body. Frantically, he looked around for a place to sit down.

As if the universe actually heard his cries for once, he found a little bit of space under a water fountain. He climbed underneath and brought his knees to his chest.

Breathe in, breathe out, he told himself. But it didn't seem to be working. The bright colors, reliving his own memories, having to see his father die again... it was all too much. Tears flowed out again as he accepted that it was hopeless.

Do you need help?

His head shot up, and to his surprise he found Avery. But they were no longer solid; they were back to being a faint glimmer, a patch of space that seemed to glow.

He was… confused. Wasn’t Avery angry at him? But he nodded anyway.

There was a shift in their presence; it felt like they were sitting down next to him. Follow my instructions. We’re going to breathe in a pattern: in for 5, hold for 5, and out for 5. Okay?

Keith nodded again, still hyperventilating.

Breathe in… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

It was hard at first to get his lungs to cooperate. But by the count of 4, he had it under control.

Hold… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

He was as still as a statue.

Breathe out… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Keith felt some tension and stress release from his body. But he was still really jittery.

Good. Now, let’s repeat this until you’ve calmed down.

He and Avery went through several cycles. It took about 5 cycles for him to calm down completely. The entire time, Avery never judged him. They never judged him for taking so long, or for slipping up occasionally.

After the last exhale, Keith opened his eyes. He didn’t see them, but he could feel Avery smiling softly.

“Thanks, Avery,” he said, before he looked down. Now that his head was clear, something was weighing on his mind. “Uhh, Avery? Do you…” he could barely get the words out. “Do you hate me?”

Avery shook their head. I do not hate you. ‘Hate’ is such a strong word, and I do not even think I am capable of such a feeling. No, I don’t hate you. But your actions do have consequences, and you must accept that. You seem to make a lot of unwise decisions. But that is alright. That is why I am here.

Keith was in awe. It was the most he had ever heard them speak. He completely ignored the fact that they basically called him an idiot—because it was true.

And then, like a blown-out candle, they were gone.

Keith finally came to his senses. The dream-like haze over his head was gone. And even though the pain of losing his father did not go away, he felt a little better now. He wasn't ready to go through that character development at the moment, but maybe one day he'd get there.

But now, he noticed that this place felt… strange. He stood up and looked around. This floor was completely empty. He stood on his tiptoes and peered over the edge of a balcony. It seemed to be empty everywhere else, too.

And now that he wasn't panicking, he could actually figure out where he was. This floor wasn’t anything like floor 50. It was less formal, and oddly more like a shopping mall. Actually, it might have been a shopping mall; he saw signs for gift shops and novelty tees. But all the shops were closed down, just like everything else.

It made no sense for a shopping mall to be in a headquarters, but nothing made sense in his life anymore, so he didn’t even question it.

There was something hauntingly beautiful about empty places that were usually bustling with people. His photographer's brain was screaming photo op, and it was then that he remembered stuffing his phone into his hair. He took it out and snapped a few photos from different angles.

But when the beauty of abandonment faded, guilt took its place; he realized that something was wrong here. This place was supposed to be busy and loud, and yet it wasn't.

Whatever had happened here, it was probably his fault.

He noticed something else, too, which distracted him from his negative thoughts: there was an unusual amount of weight on his back. He reached over, to suddenly feel small hands gripping his own.

As he pulled Molly off of his back, he let out a sigh of relief.

She gave him a little wave and a big smile. “Hi!”

“Hey, Molly! I’m so glad to see you!” He said as he rustled her single curly hair. Molly was getting to be less of an annoying freeloader and more like a… niece, almost; there was still so much he didn’t know about her, and yet he felt some kind of affection toward her.

But now that she was here, he was confused. “Wait a minute, how did you even get here?”

She shrugged. “I followed you.”

That left him with more questions than answers, but he didn’t ask any of them.

“Anyways, I missed you!" she said as she hugged him. "You were gone for a little while… Miss Sylvie said it was about an hour and a half—whatever that means.”

Huh. It hadn’t felt like it was that long. Honestly, it didn’t feel like time existed when he was in there.

Molly’s face suddenly changed to something more serious, which was unusual for someone like her. “Keith, I heard you talking when I got here,” she said, her voice lower than usual. “Who were you talking to?”

“It was… well…” he wasn’t sure how to explain it, or even if he should. But she looked up at him with big curious eyes, so she was clearly expecting an answer.

“Well, when I came home from the factory, you weren’t the only one who followed me home.” He booped her on the nose. “There’s a… ghost that’s been following me.”

Molly’s face lit up with wonder. “A ghost?!”

Keith nodded. That was the simplest way to explain it, anyway. “Yes. Their name is Avery, and they’re a friendly ghost that’s been helping me out.”

For a brief moment, he felt Avery’s presence. It felt warm, in the same manner as a parent.

“Whoa, that’s so cool!” she beamed. Keith saw a little flash of light go over Molly’s head, like Avery was stroking her. But she didn’t seem to notice.

Keith chuckled. “Yeah.” He looked around, wanting to change the subject. “Where are we, anyway?”

“Uhh,” Molly said, “we’re in the HQ, obviously.” Keith rolled his eyes.

After their conversation ended, the two just stood around for a minute or two. Keith wasn’t really sure what to do—he could run off and possibly get lost, or wait for his fate to catch up to him.

It seems that he didn’t have a choice, though. When he heard two pairs of footsteps and two pairs of clicking hooves, he knew it was over.

“Hi everybody!” Molly exclaimed, waving to Sylvie, Rei, and Flax. They seemed to ignore her.

“Keith!” Sylvie cried, coming right up to him. “Keith, are you okay? We’ve been looking for you?” Her ears were turned down, and her tail wasn’t wagging as it usually was.

Flax hung behind. There was a certain look in his eyes—a swirling mix of regret and guilt.

As for Rei? Keith could sense a sharp-toothed smile under her hood. She looked vengeful, merciless.

And all Keith could ask himself was: Why? What made her hate Earthlings so much? Was it some personal experience, or was it some grand conspiracy that every non-Earthling held?

Sylvie continued to look down at him, expecting an answer. He snapped out of his thoughts. “Oh… um… yeah, I’m fine.” He quickly gestured for Molly to stay quiet—hopefully quick enough that nobody would suspect anything.

“Are you sure? The machine malfunctioned… Vos told us that you were reliving all of your memories, and that sounds like it was painful.”

“No, no, I’m good,” he reassured once more.

“Oh… alright.” She paused, looking around nervously. “Well, there’s at least one good thing that came from all of this: now you can remember where you’re from! And now we can get you home!”

Keith cringed and sucked air through his teeth. “Yeah, sure…” Keith’s stomach dropped as he continued. “Umm, can we go back to the ship? There’s… something I need to talk about.”

Sylvie’s face shifted, although it was hard to read her expression. “Alright. We can go back—”

Suddenly, she stopped, her ears swiveling as she looked around. Her unclear face shifted into a more recognizable emotion: fear. The fear spread to Flax, who shifted on his hooves nervously, and Rei, whose vicious smile faded.

Molly voiced the thoughts that Keith was too afraid to ask. “What?” She asked. “What’s happening?”

And then, it appeared a few feet away from them. The void.

It appeared as a little black ball—just a small patch of emptiness, no bigger than a grapefruit. But make no mistake: this wasn’t merely a dark spot in his field of vision. No, it was like a glitch in reality—a part of the world that simply ceased to exist. And, most of all, it filled him with absolute terror. It was something that his Earthling brain simply could not comprehend. His thoughts were immediately scrambled while looking at it.

Keith was so terrifyingly engrossed in the void that he didn’t even notice when he started screaming. He didn’t notice when everyone else started screaming too. He didn’t even notice the ground-shaking footsteps or the gargoyle that jumped over his head—that is, until the void disappeared.

He was suddenly snapped out of his daze. Everyone was. They all looked around, confused to see a gargoyle standing where the void was. He had a bright orange vest, a translator necklace, and a belt full of futuristic-looking weapons—which suggested that he was some kind of security guard. In his hand, he held a strange device that looked like an oversized sewing needle.

Had he… sewn up the void?

The gargoyle had a furious look in his eyes. “Why are you still here?” He boomed. “You should have left a long time ago!” It made sense that they would hear the news late, considering how closed off the memory lab seemed to be.

Sylvie stuttered, trying to take the blame for a mistake she hadn’t made. “But—we just—”

“No time!” The gargoyle snapped. He pointed a claw to an emergency exit as more security showed up. “You have to go, now!”

With little time to process any of this, Keith followed behind everyone through the emergency exit. His thoughts were all cluttered and jumbled together, and he barely even processed the trip down the emergency exit.

But if there was one thing he couldn’t get off of his mind, it was that soul-sucking void. If it was that terrible on a small scale, he couldn’t fathom what it would be like on a large scale. He couldn’t imagine that thing tearing reality apart.

Was that what was happening all across the multiverse? And it was all because of him? Gosh, he was such a horrible person.

~~~

Previous: Chapter 22

Next: Chapter 24


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GengarIsBestBoy says...



I was gonna title this “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying” which is the title of a Fall Out Boy song, but then you guys would’ve thought that I killed Keith (again) so I changed it slightly




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Thu Feb 29, 2024 5:37 am
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OrabellaAvenue wrote a review...



Today, I will be reviewing using the
Flower

method!


Smell The Flowers...
Introduction and first impressions!
Hi there, Gengar! I'm so sorry for the delay in my review. I didn't forget, but oh goodness I've had absolutely no time as of late! But anyway, I'm here now.

Oh and what a chapter! It was well worth the wait, I'd say!

Avery helping him calm down was so wholesome and sweet, and the fact that Molly was just following him is so funny. And oh boy is there a lot of bad things happening right around now. Makes me even more anxious to read the next chapter!

Thorns
Thorns can be prickly, but people still love roses. What might be improved?

I feel like I don't have much to say here... This is actually the last section I worked on because I couldn't really find much to say. XD

I feel like the fact that Rei hasn't done anything or really said anything yet is throwing me off a bit? Like, why hasn't she done anything? Granted, I don't even know why Earthlings are so "bad" or whatever it is, and what she could possibly do, so maybe there's a reason she hasn't yet. Or, you know, she hasn't had time because they're all in a bit of a hurry. Or maybe there's another reason. But the fact that she hasn't done anything is a little off-putting. This may not matter depending on what happens, though, so take this with a grain of salt.

Another thing I thought I'd say is that I thought the gargoyle was evil and I didn't realize at first that he was trying to help, so that also threw me off a bit. That might just be me being a poor reader, though. Plus, I think the first impression we get of him is good because we're seeing this through Keith's perspective, and I'm guessing that's what Keith thought of the gargoyle as well. (I don't know if that last sentence made sense, sorry :) )

Colors!

Everyone loves colors. What was amazing about the piece?

The entire time, Avery never judged him. They never judged him for taking so long, or for slipping up occasionally.

I love this. I love this so much. I'm not quite sure why? It just seems... I don't know. Meaningful. Very meaningful. I think that's just, like, a relatable thing to be grateful for? Personally, I have social anxiety, and I worry constantly about people judging me. I think these lines are a comfort. It's comforting to know you're not being judged by someone. Even though I'm not Keith, you've done a very good job making him a relatable character, and when he's distressed, I am too. It's obvious how much this means to Keith that Avery is like this, and I think that makes it's meaningful to the reader as well.

And then, like a blown-out candle, they were gone.

I really love this imagery. For anything disappearing, it's amazing, but the fact that Avery is so translucent and frankly quite mysterious, I'd say going out like a candle really fits them! Flames are already kind of wispy like I imagine them to be, but I like to think it symbolizes them as a light. They act a lot like a mentor, and they can try to shine a light on what Keith needs to do.

He booped her on the nose.

Awww! This is just! Awww! I love the relationship between him and Molly; it's so cute I love it so much!! Her being like his niece fits perfectly, too! ^^

And ohhh dear what's Rei doing with that vicious smile? What's going to happen??! I wanna know what she thinks and what she's going to say!!! Great cliffhanger; I wanna know so bad!!!!

All this doubt and guilt is just hooking me in, and now my heart is bleeding. I just want it to all be okay!! Give him back his dad, save the multiverse, solve everything, is that too much to ask? I just wanna tell him, "Keith, you're not horrible, you are here, you are good. You're strong and you'll get through this."

Basket of Flowers
Closing thoughts

This is getting really sad... I feel like a fair amount of this is based on experiences I've had lol. Are you doing alright, Gengar? This seems kind of heavy and I remember you had some heavy stuff on your wall too. (You don't have to respond. I just thought I'd ask. ^^)

Thank you so much for writing and sharing this! I'm in love with this story and I can't wait to see where it goes! (That being said, take your time, especially when life interferes. Trust me, I get it.) I love all your characters, and I love your style of writing! You have such an amazing way of balancing the funny with the serious, and you mix it together so well! Thank you again, and have an amazing day/night!!




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Thu Feb 15, 2024 1:20 pm
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vampricone6783 wrote a review...



Hello there, Gengar! I'm reviewing using the YWS S'more Method today!

Shalt we commence with the possessed S’more?

Top Graham Cracker - Keith relives all of his painful memories and runs, attempting to escape his past, but inevitably, it will follow him.

Slightly Burnt Marshmallow - Maybe “seemed” would be better for “seems” when Keith is talking about his fate coming up to him, but if you like it the way it is, then you can leave it.

Chocolate Bar - I love that Molly was still there for him. She still cares, even when all of the others may not after finding out the truth about Keith, and that’s sweet. In the very end, they’ll always have each other. :> I also like that Avery helped calm him down and didn’t yell at him. That’s all Keith needed.

Closing Graham Cracker - I would have thought the others already found out about Keith’s memories, but they still haven’t. Goodness, it’s going to be all the more heart-wrenching when they do. I’ve enjoyed reading this chapter and I will be certain to read the other tomorrow, so that I may find out what will become of Keith.

I wish you a wonderful day/night!




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Thu Feb 15, 2024 1:57 am
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Spearmint says...



It made no sense for a shopping mall to be in a headquarters, but nothing made sense in his life anymore, so he didn’t even question it.

Bahaha I'd say that's character growth already ;P





'This must be Thursday,' said Arthur to himself, sinking low over his beer. 'I never could get the hang of Thursdays.'
— Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy