Standing at the top of the main staircase Boon examined his fingers. They were short, stumpy with no claws and a brighter, sharper white then they had ever been. His fur usually looked somewhat grimy, few people realised that polar bear fur was actually translucent and only looked white if the bear was standing on a snowy surface.
Now however it was the pure unadulterated white that could only exist in a cartoon or comic and never in real life. It was quite nice, but the total loss of two fingers was somewhat disconcerting. He was also ridiculously jolly looking, his uniform was crisp and terribly old fashioned. His features were warm and friendly, he’d gone fully toon now but at least he was holding it all together. He was focussed on playing the part of the solid, practical, dependable sea captain of this elegant steam ship. At least that was what he’d been aiming for and for now it was holding.
The main atrium and the rooms to either side where secure. The shelter area at the base of the main room was safe. Most of the passengers and stewards were toons now but at least they hadn’t lost their minds. Aesc the purser was running things down there. The golden fleeced ram was moving amongst the passengers, serving drinks and talking quietly, helping to keep everyone focussed on being passengers.
He was dressed in a crisp navy blue uniform with silver buttons that made him look as if he had just stepped out an 1870s steam ship. He was accompanied by Stephen, their only human crew member and the chief steward along with the wolf/dragon VritraX, the crane Ekkehard and Revya the lynx whose peculiar, first person manner of talking was very endearing and soothing.
Starting to descend the stairs Boon reached for his radio to try and call Kyrio again. His dinosaur security chief had gone silent but Boon’s hand closed on empty space. Of course, steam ship captains didn’t have radios… sighing he looked around, considering sending someone up to find out what had happened to security. But anyone he sent was liable to lose themselves in another theme if they crossed into it.
From what Aesc had told him the main restaurant had dissolved into a Wild West shoot out, albeit one involving all the food from the buffet. Glaze, the hippogryph and his assistance Felinus and Flinty where now the “Sheriff and his deputy’s” and everyone else had taken sides as they flung food around left right and centre. Pausing Boon frowned at the open door to the ballroom, it made his eyes hurt just looking. Colour just ended at the door and everything was black and white inside and everyone seemed to be incredibly simplistic versions of themselves. Black and white lines, wearing gloves and everyone was in a tuxedo or ball gown as they danced.
Nidonocu, the leader of the band was standing on a dais at the back of the room leading the band! The band itself now all appeared to be living, toony instruments that were playing themselves with white gloves that floated around. As he watched he saw a pair of white gloves wander out of the ballroom. VritraX hurried up with a broom, the wolf-dragon tried valiantly to shoo the gloves back inside but he zigged when he should have zagged and the gloves slid themselves over his hands.
In seconds all the colour drained out of the wolf’s body. His crisp, white stewards uniform transformed itself into a tuxedo and his fur and the definition of his body washed away and with a jaunty click of his heels he whirled into the black and white ballroom to join the dance.
Boon backed away from the ballroom doors and rubbed his chin. That was a pretty strong theme. He wasn’t going to be able to break through that, especially if there were gloves on the loose. Toon gloves where the most dangerous sort of toon infection vector around.
Boon was stopped on the stairs by a concerned looking group of passengers. He’d met them all earlier that evening, Barcode the skunk was dressed in a casual dinner jacket and was accompanied by Fory the otter, Blue who was a very large blue and green dragon, Aeron the fox, Revolutions the cat, Dimitri the snow leopard and Tahoma the gryphon.
“Captain,” Barcode said by way of stopping him, “Can you tell us when this toon incident will be contained?”
“We are doing our best sir,” Boon tipped his hat, “We have contained the outbreak as you seem by creating stable themes where we can. My chief engineer has the lower decks secure as a Bee Hive theme and we are establishing the steam boat saloon theme here in the main public spaces.”
“That’s nice for you,” Aeron interjected, “But we are all turning into toons,” he held up one hand, revealing his stubby toonish paws and then gestured at everyone else, “This is bad captain, how did toonpaint get on your ship in the first place.”
“I still don’t know,” Boon said patiently, “Security are investigating, but the main thing here is to make sure we all stay alert and don’t let ourselves be drawn into anything chaotic.”
“But what…” Revolutions started to ask when an explosion at the far end of the atrium shut him up. Everyone turned to look and Boon felt his lower jaw drop open in shock as what looked like a swarm of ferrets boiled out of the passageway that led to the starboard passenger cabins.
The mass of chattering critters bowled over Aesc and Revya, the pair of them subsumed in seconds. Everyone could see it as they shrank, their clothing dropping to the floor and two more excitable, bouncing toony weasels burst out to join the rest of the crowd.
The walls of the sedate, calm tea lounge where dissolving, trees were starting to sprout out of table and chairs as other passengers were caught up in the whirling band of dooking critters.
“Upstairs, everyone,” Boon shouted, pointing up the steps, “Go, we can’t let that get us, if we get pulled in we’ll be lost for good.”
Aeron, Barcode, Dimitri and Fory started up the stairs but Revolutions and Tahoma panicked and ran for a closer door. Boon made a futile effort to grab them then started up the stairs after the others. He glanced back in time to see the door Tahoma and Revolutions were approaching burst open. It also led to the passenger cabins and as Boon had suspected the whole area must have been compromised.
Tahoma cried out as a wave of brightly coloured butterflies engulfed him and Boon froze for a moment and watched as the bright blue gryphon broke apart into motes of colour. For a moment they hung in the air before they started to flap and swarm, developing the features of butterflies that joined the others.
Revolutions fate was somewhat less breaking apart and more big, hulking and feral. The cat’s body dropped to all fours, their steamship lounge suit tearing and ripping as their hands and feet turned into hooves and the giant boar threw back their head, tusks gleaming and roared. Boon sprinted up the steps, racing away from the lowest level of the atrium as the wild woodlands theme that had consumed the passenger decks took it over.
Boon reached the landing for the middle deck. To his right the world of black and white old time, silent toon world had leached out of the ballroom. He avoided it and started up the next set of steps and was in time to see a large, orange weasel pool toy pounce Barcode. The doors to the pool and health spa were wide open and a small horde of bright, shiny, inflated toys with handles and valves were spilling out.
Blue stopped to try and pull Barcode free which was a mistake. The skunk was already inflating, his ears and tail bursting into comedically sized inflated black and white vinyl. The effect swiftly spread to Blue, the dragon emitting a startled squeak as his whole body ballooned to twice its normal size. Scales cracking and thwaping with a rubber sound as they transformed into vinyl and large handles pressing up out of his back. Shaking his head Boon thundered onwards, he jumped over a sky blue and silver pooltoy that tried to pounce him and landed on the steps and raced upwards.
Dimitri, Aeron and Fory had reached the top landing where things were quiet and relatively normal looking. Except for the bright light, pervasive toony cheeriness and the fact not a one of them looked like a normal person. Looking back Boon shook his head, his quiet, controlled toon environment had dissolved entirely. The bottom floor of the atrium was now a wild forest land and the swarm of ferrets and butterflies were flitting back and forth. The remaining passengers down there wouldn’t last long, they were all losing themselves to the wild, unexpected theme shift.
The horde of pool toys were advancing on the black and white old-time ballroom theme. It was a full on war of pooltoy vs old time black and white toon. Shaking his head Boon backed out onto the deck with the snow leopard, fox and otter. Pulling the door to the atrium closed Boon turned to look cautiously up and down the promenade then sighed.
“Ok outside is still pretty normal, we really should get to the bridge. It is a smaller area, we can hold ourselves stable there and keep calling for help.”
“Ok Captain, lead the way,” the snow leopard started forward then stumbled, pitching forward onto his hands as his legs suddenly sank into the deck. Boon and Aeron surged forwards as if to grab hold of him but backed away as they realised the deck had formed a large, grinning mouth.
“Oh dear… uhm… sorry Dimitri…” Aeron muttered pulling the polar bear back with him. The mouth twitched into a serene smile then brought it’s lips together and started to suck.
The leopard mewled and squirmed but his legs were being drawn onto the deck. He was losing dimension, his feet and calves were emerging from below the cheerfully sucking lips as a flat painting on the deck. Boon and Aeron edged around the struggling feline until they were forward then hesitated, watching as Dimitri struggling against his fate. It didn’t take long for the lips to slurp wide over his shoulders and then pull his head down until he was gone.
Moments later the finishing touches to the two dimensional frieze of paint in the shape of Dimitri was complete. For a moment it was still then it started to change, growing shorter, the detail simpler. He was reduced to a simplistically simple toon shape. Gloves, a hoodie for clothing and bright blue eyes that blinked and came alive. The weird toon lips smiled and made a satisfied murmur and faded back into the deck. Dimitri meanwhile slid across the deck and up the wall and after a moment of posing raced off along the outside of the super structure, no doubt answering some inbuilt call or desire.
“Come on Fory,” Boon said after a moment, “Let’s get out of here before he comes back with friends or something.”
“No,” Fory shook his head and walked back to the door, “Sorry captain, but… if I am going to get tooned I’d rather pick what happens to me.”
“Don’t” Aeron called out, making as if to run towards the otter but he yanked open the door to the atrium. Waiting on the other side was Barcode, the skunk was entirely shiny now, his body made of vinyl and full of air. He smiled at the otter and reached out his paws, closing them about his neck.
“Oh yes, hello Barcode,” the skunk chirped happily and as he pulled his hands away he revealed an identical latex green collar snug about the otter’s neck.
“What…” Fory reached up to grab his neck, “I want to be a pool toy not bleep an otter bleep, what… bleep…”
With every repetition of bleep in his speech Fory changed. His clothing melted away, his fur turned black, a white stripe crept down his back and he started to bulk up. As his fur lay down, transforming into vinyl he bloated, filling with air, spreading until he was an identical copy of Barcode. Both skunks stood for a moment staring at one another, bleeping happily and swaying from side to side. Then they turned to stare at the captain and Aeron.
“Join us,” one of them said, bobbing up and down in the doorway.
“Yes, come be Barcode,” the other one bleeped happily, “Step inside, pool toys are good.”
Boon and Aeron backed away and Boon murmured, “They can’t come outside, the pooltoy theme is probably confined to a location near the pool. Let’s get to the bridge and watch out for those weird lips forming.”
Leaving the happy encouraging cries of the skunks behind Boon led the way down the deck and up a set of stairs to the wing of the command deck. He was halfway to the entrance to the bridge when the door to the security wing opened behind him. Aeron cursed and stumbled backwards and Boon span to look at what had come lumbering out between them.
“Oh Kyrio, there you are, we need to…” Boon trailed off and gaped at his security chief. The blue dinosaur had a strangely vacant look in his eyes, actually no, his eye sockets were vacant, empty holes of darkness. He was also sopping wet, dripping with a thick layer of white emulsion that was eating through his clothing, leaving the raptor like dino nude and stumbling.
His thick black crest of feathers was also melting, the white paint was spreading across the top of his skull, seemingly devouring his feathers and blue scales alike. Paint surged around the base of his neck, up across his muzzle leaving him with just a bare skull and a clacking lower jaw. Boon shook his head and took a step backwards, watching in horror as the rest of Kyrio’s body was consumed.
Limbs were left as stick thin bones held together by no visible means. His ribcage and lower torso were empty space all organs and flesh painted over, hollowed out, reduced to nothing more than a skeleton. The white pristine nature of the security chief’s bones darkened, growing aged and fossilised as if they had lain beneath the earth for eons. As the fossilisation process reached its conclusion a flickering green light erupted into being behind the dinosaur’s eyes.
The interior of his skull burst alight with a fel, infernal flame and with surprising speed Kyrio lunged at Aeron. The fox yelled and tried to pull away but the dinosaur pulled him against his chest and his rib cage curled open and then closed about him. Struggling against the cage of aged ivory Aeron’s tail hung down and he managed to push one arm out but he was bent double and lacked the strength to push free.
Kyrio’s head turned slowly and he stared with those infernal eyes at Boon then with a sudden turn of speed span around and skittered back through the dark door to security. Aeron’s shout for help were cut off and Boon backed away from the spreading portal of darkness. He could see dark black lawns, granite tombstones and a dark sky. Security had clearly succumbed to a proper halloween themed area so Boon bolted for the bridge. He hadn’t managed to save a single passenger so far, all he could do was hold onto himself and hope, hope that someone had received his earlier distress call!
Woo Hoo and I am back!
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