Archey Billiard is an imperfect man. His once earth-shatteringly impressive mop of curly hair has been reduced to a few clown-like tufts above his ears, with a single spiralling hair on his forehead. The moles and wrinkles of a ninety year old man litter his gaunt face. His upturned lips and deep set eyes communicate a single emotion at all times: glum. Archey Billiard is a very, very glum being. The epitome, the personification, the worldly embodiment of glum. At the end of a tough day of winching, Archey is on clean-up duty. He sweeps the paths, wipes the bathrooms and empties the corpse box of Winchward Beach’s award-dodging amusement park. In a bush on the far side of the park, Archey finds a dusty basketball. Written on it in marker are the initials HG. Archey considers that perhaps this basketball once belonged to H.G. Wells. It doesn’t seem to be particularly old, despite the dust. It could be valuable. Archey wipes some of the dust off with his scrawny old man hands. The ball pops. A freakishly lanky man, twice as tall as Archey and wearing a basketball jersey springs out of nowhere. Instead of a head, the man simply possesses a porcelain globe of the Earth, with Winchward Beach circled.
‘I AM THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTER,’ the man booms.
Archey wonders which one.
‘THERE IS ONLY ONE AND I AM HE,’ the man replies. ‘FOR FREEING ME FROM MY TOMB, I SHALL GRANT YOU THREE WISHES.’
Archey wishes for Marmaduke to have at least two more legs.
‘I’M NOT TOUCHING THAT THING.’
Archey wishes for his hair back.
‘DON’T THINK I’M TOUCHING YOU EITHER, FREAK.’
Archey wishes for a nicer winch.
‘YOUR WISH IS MY COMMAND.’
Suddenly a bright light erupts from elsewhere in the park. Archey hobbles towards it. His winch. It now has a bright blue tassel on the end. It surpasses Archey’s wildest dreams. He dares to dream greater. Archey wishes for a green tassel.
‘I SAID THREE WISHES,’ explains the Globetrotter, ‘YOU’VE HAD THREE.’
Archey feels that this is unfair. He turns to the tall man, puffs out his concave chest and then the man’s globe head collapses. Golden wish tokens fly in every direction. Light blooms. The Harlem Globetrotter’s body falls to the ground, now headless. From the light of his demise, a man in a torn purple suit pounces. Archey believes this is divine penance for wishing for two tassels when he should have been happy with one. The man’s razor sharp teeth dig into Archey’s neck, right where his second largest tumour is. Archey sees a chance. The man’s frenzied eyes lock with Archey’s and suddenly, somewhere deep in his animal mind, he understands he has made a mistake. Archey’s tumour explodes. The man is thrown back. He hits Archey’s winch, causing it to undergo ten full rotations. The roller coaster starts. The blue tassel falls off the winch. The roller coaster is still starting. It takes a while to start. The man in the purple suit, a dusty brochure still sticking from his front pocket, attacks once more. Archey has an aneurysm and dodges unintentionally. It appears an exploding tumour does bad things to one’s body. The man is thrown onto the rickety roller coaster tracks. Archey stumbles on after him. Bored, the Harlem Globetrotter gets up and leaves. The roller coaster starts. The cart hits the purple-suited man first, flipping him into the front seat. Archey follows soon after, pulverizing his right arm in the process. A blue tassel floats on the wind. As the coaster cart climbs the first incline of the Peanut Runner, the man wraps his elongated fingers around Archey’s delicate, half-exploded neck. He squeezes. Archey can no longer breathe. He squeezes. Archey can no longer feel the pain of his aneurysm. Helpful. He pokes at the man’s bloodshot eyes, careful not to actually hurt him. That would be rude. The man recoils in annoyance as the cart reaches the apex of the first incline. Archey grabs onto the handlebar with his good arm. The man grabs onto Archey’s jaw. The cart plummets. A blue tassel flies out of nowhere, plastering itself over the man’s eyes. He stumbles backwards, groping at it, and falls out of the cart. He hits the ground hard as the cart approaches the second incline. The man jumps impossibly high and lands on the side of the cart, the blue tassel now gone. He grabs Archey by the collar and throws him off. Archey lands by his winch, bruised and broken. The man follows after. He bends down and picks up Archey by his good, or at least still functional, arm.
‘Join my pyramid scheme,’ he whispers.
Archey nods vigorously as a bead of sweat runs down his arm. It hits the man’s hand and sizzles. The man lets go of Archey and jumps back in surprise. A blue tassel falls from the sky and lands on the man’s shoulder. He jumps again, now seemingly frightened of everything. Skittishly, he drops to all fours and gallops away.
Archey feels a kick in his side.
‘Get up,’ says Mr Legion, ‘You’re on the job.’