Thirteen Tales From Another World
The Tale of the Big Red Button
Meanwhile on an island paradise in another dimension.
“You never think about the metaphysics of the universe?” Dr. Callyco was drinking a juice from a silly straw as he sat on a barstool. “Like our angels and demons real, do gods exist, so on?”
“Well… We’ve encountered all three of those…” Dr. Cutie Pup was on the stool next to him. He looked thoughtful as he tried to recall. “And you arrested at least two gods.”
“Uh! No! That wasn’t what I meant!” Dr. Callyco waved his paws.
“Uh huh.” Dr. Cutie Pup grinned cheekily. “And we’ve been to like at least seven different afterlives all with contradictory existences on our ca- experiments.”
“Okay, so this stuff exists.” Dr. Callyco shrugged. “But have you ever gone about trying to scientifically research it.”
“Yes.” Dr. Cutie Pup stated flatly.
“Look can you pretend this is not something we have a ton of experience in for five minute so I can finish the intro?” Dr. Callyco flailed around.
“I mean I could.” The pup just gave the smuggest smile. “But then I’d be lying. And you know good mad scientist kids don’t tell fibs.”
“Ugggh fine.” Dr. Callyco huffed. “I’ll just get to the thing. Tonight, we have Jak. And the jackalope is going to get involved in a little experiment. All it takes is the press of one little button. Well, actually it’s like a really big button. Like really really big! Anyway, I bring you our seventh tale.”
Thirteen Tales From Another World
The Tale of the Big Red Button
It was strange for Jak to find himself back on campus again. But the university turned out to be useful to him, and so he had returned to education. The place had changed so much since he had last taken any classes. Not that he didn’t fit in. The brown and cream colored jackalope was still in the group that was considered ‘college aged.’ Walking around the campus in a tank top, jeans and a pair of shoes he didn’t stick out from any other students. Even if he was on the later cusp of the normal age for college there were still plenty of students older than him.
The jackalope looked around. He was outside looking between the different buildings separated by fields of grass. It was a little embarrassing, but he was slightly lost. This place was big. The entire campus spanned at least five miles. He was familiar with the area that his classes were in. Those were all in the Fine Arts building. But, he wasn’t looking for a classroom. He was looking for his professor’s office. He had been asked to come by during office hours to go over his last piece.
You would think that the Fine Arts professors would have their offices in the Fine Arts building, or at least somewhere close by. But nope, they were on the completely opposite side of campus. An area Jak had never really explored at all. Thank goodness he still had the map they had given him when he first started attending classes. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled-up note. After unfolding it he had a map of the campus. He looked for something to identify where he was, but it was hard. There were no notable landmarks and the buildings all looked similar.
“Well, it looks like I’m completely lost.” Jak gave a wistful sigh. “With no way to tell where I am who is to say what kind of shenanigans and misadventures I might get into.” He walked looking around as he spoke then paused outside one of the identical buildings. There was a sign directly in front of the building. It read ‘West Library.’ He looked at the map and found it immediately. “Oh.” There was a note of disappointment to his face. Not that he was hoping to wind up with an excuse on why he couldn’t make it to office hours. Sadly, much like the West Library, every building had a sign outside labeling what it was. It would take some very willful choices to get lost. He could ‘lose’ the map, but now that he had already looked at it, he couldn’t lose it on ‘accident.’
With no further reason to put off the coming meeting Jak looked down at the map. His professor’s office was in the archeology building for some reason. It looked like the fastest route from where he was would be to go through the Arcane Studies building and then he’d be right across from it.
Wait, Arcane Studies? As in magic? Wasn’t this some kind of respected institution? How many scandals must there be when a student would suddenly change their major to ‘Magic’ without telling their parents and then getting their degrees. What did they even do in Arcane Studies? Potions? Spells? Did you need some kind of permit to use magic? Hopefully not or Jak might be in trouble for some of his past deeds. Going through the building was the fastest way to his destination so there was no reason Jak couldn’t take a peek into some of the rooms as he went.
Jak walked up to and entered the Arcane Studies building. The inside of it looked like a plain ordinary school building. Classrooms and lecture halls filled the place. It was all surprisingly normal. There were a few labs, Jak could see into the windows into those. Even most of those looked like normal chemistry labs. Well, this had been a letdown.
Except, the last lab Jak passed on his way through the building had something different. Something promising? Or maybe that wasn’t the right word? Tempting? That was a good word for it. The lab was mostly normal, except for the fact that there was a small pillar sticking up in the middle of the lab with a big red button on it. Jak couldn’t help himself, he quickly entered the lab to get a closer look at the button.
Now, in cartoons and stuff big red buttons usually did bad things. But those were cartoons. Anyone who saw a big red button in real life was going to want to press it. Making it that big and that red was begging someone to press it. Who couldn’t resist the temptation? So obviously, anyone who designed big red buttons in real life would make sure only good things happened! Like it just being a fancy control for turning the lights on and off. Only a complete idiot would make an actually dangerous big red button.
Though, there were some signs that pressing it might be a bad idea. There was an intricate circle drawn around the entire pilar. Many shapes were drawn inside of it, but it was easy to see the five-pointed star that made up the majority of the circle. This was a pentagram with a bunch of other symbols drawn in. The hair’s on Jak’s neck stood up, sensing some kind of danger. But… It was a big red button! And besides, what was a button going to do in an Arcane Studies lab? They studied magic or something right? Since when did magic come with big tempting buttons? That was a science thing. Jak stepped into the circle with the button.
“WAIT!” A voice shouted as Jak neared the button.
“Eh?” Jak’s long rabbit ears twitched and he spun around. It was very hard not to break into a fit of giggles with what he saw. He wasn’t alone in the lab. There was also an elderly badger. What was funny, was that the badger seemed to be making his worst possible attempt at cosplaying a wizard. He was wearing what was clearly a bathrobe. He had a staff that was a plastic Halloween prop. And apparently in old age he had not been able to grow facial hair himself as he had a big fluffy white beard, which Jak could clearly see the straps holding it to his face.
“Don’t press that button!” The badger shouted.
“Don’t press what button?” Jak asked.
“That one!” The badger pointed at the big red button. “It’s the only button in the room!”
“Press this button?” Jak asked.
“Right that button!” The badger yelled.
“Got it I’ll press this button.” Jak reached a hand out, he intentionally stopped a few inches before touching the button.
“What!? No! I said don’t touch it!” The badger shouted.
“Really?” Jak withdrew his hand and held it to his chin. “When I asked if I should press it I would have sworn you had just said-“
“You know what I meant.” The badger huffed. “Do you just walk into random places and start pushing buttons on things you don’t understand?”
“Well…” Jak thought for a moment. “I can’t say it’s a situation I come across often. So gonna give a hard maybe.”
“Do you have any idea how dangerous this is? This is the Demonology Lab! That button turns on the magic circle!” The badger explained.
“You can turn on magic with a button?” Jak grinned. “That doesn’t seem too bad.”
“Did you not hear me say Demonology?” The badger asked. “The button is dangerous!”
“Well in that case someone should really label this thing.” Jak nodded sagely. “I mean, if this thing is dangerous there should be some kind of warning.”
“I would think the fact it’s a big red button would be warning enough.” The badger in a bathroom argued.
“Ah, so definitely no joint studies with the psychology department then huh?” Jak crossed his arms. “This is practically begging to be pressed!”
“Will you just leave the button alone?” The badger asked.
“Relax, I just wanted to look at it.” Jak insisted. “You’re the one being pushy right now. Not me.”
“What do you mean? You had your hand out just a moment ago.” The badger argued.
“Just lending a hand when you told me to press it.” Jak tried.
“I told you not too press it!” The badger insisted.
“Well, you did now.” Jak shrugged. “Earlier it felt like you were really pushing me to do the opposite.” He paused. “Wait, I already did push… I know I can do better than that.”
“What?” The badger stated flatly and just stared at Jak. His blank expression radiated confusion.
“Relax, relax.” Jak said as he leaned back and rested against the pillar. “I’m just pressing your buttons. I mean come on, it’s a big red button you don’t think I’d really touch something that dangerous, do you?”
“You fool! You’ve doomed us all!” The badger shouted and quickly dove under a table.
“Huh? What?” Jak looked around, and then immediately felt a shiver go down his spine. Jak was just a relaxed kind of guy. He body had just moved on autopilot to try and lean against a wall while he had fun with someone. But, the only thing to lean on was the pillar with the button… And so he had just pressed the big red button. “Well…. Boop.” Jak’s ears folded back.
The pentagram and circles lit up brightly, and a circle of fire erupted upward all around Jak. The fames reached all the way up to the ceiling. There was no way out. Then suddenly Jak felt himself start to sink into the floor. He looked down and saw the floor had now rippled like the surface of a lake. Instead of the linoleum floor of the classroom though there was a murky image of some place full of stone and fire. Jak could hear cackling voices coming from the other side. Was… Was this a portal to where he thought it was? WHY WOULD ANYONE MAKE THAT!?
Jak struggled to free himself, but that only sped up the speed at which he sunk into the floor. No matter what he tried there was no escape. His antlers and ears were the last thing visible before he disappeared into the floor. Then, the circle stopped glowing, the flames vanished, and the floor returned to normal.
“Well… That wasn’t so bad…” The badger crawled out from under the table he had hidden beneath. “I wonder if there’s enough money in the department budget for a ‘Do Not Touch’ sign.
Meanwhile, Jak was not having the best of times. After going through the portal he found himself in some kind of cage. It shined from the flames that erupted from the ground all around the area. But, there was something weird. It didn’t look like any kind of normal metal. The surface of the cage was really inconsistent. It was like it was all crunched up.
“Look what we have here?” A voice cackled.
“A new visitor?” Another one giggled.
“Oh, what fun we’ll have.” A third one chuckled.
“Now hang on…” Jak’s ears twitched. For some reason, the three voices had all been somewhat higher pitched than he expected. “Whatever you’re thinking, let’s… I mean, you’re making me feel a bit cagey here. Going to be hard to have a conversation.”
“Well yeah you should feel cagey! You’re in a cage!” One voice shouted.
“Dude, that was the point he made a joke.” The second voice replied smugly.
“Wait, really?” The first voice asked in surprise.
“Your life on the line, and you’re making puns?” The third voice asked. I like you mortal.” And with that the sources of the voices appeared.
They were far less intimidating than what Jak expected. The voices belonged to three beings that were no bigger than mice. They had short horns, tails ending with a pointed tip, claws on their hands and teeth, wings, and odd colored skin. They were obvious demons. But based on their proportions they looked like demon children. Very tiny demon children.
“So what? You want to just let him go?” The first imp who had gray skin asked.
“That would definitely be an unexpected direction. And we do enjoy the unexpected.” The second imp had green skin.
“Maybe.” The third one, who seemed to be the boss of the group had red skin. “You! Mortal! Tell me, how do you feel about causing mischief and chaos.”
“Well… I mean, I do enjoy a good joke.” Jak was feeling less threatened by the second. “And I may have caused by fair share of mischief.” He looked around. “I gotta say… When it comes to the bad place I didn’t expect he-“
“I don’t think you know where you are.” The red skinned imp interrupted. “Well… Let us be the first to welcome you to the Infernal Realm of Heckles.”
“Heckles?” Jak asked, completely dumbfounded.
“Heckles.” All three demon imps nodded at the same time.
“We thought about calling it Heck, or just the Infernal Realm, or maybe Infernia… But everyone agreed those all sounded ridiculous.” The gray skinned imp explained.
“Yeah, there was a big vote and everyone decided Heckles was the most meaningful name. Way more appropriate.” The green imp nodded.
“I see…” Jak chuckled. He couldn’t help it. He just felt so relieved. “I’m guessing you don’t torture people forever here.”
“Oh, definitely not.” The red skinned imp spoke. “We don’t do torture in our own home. That’s bad Feng Shui.”
“I don’t think that’s how Feng-“ The green one started but was ignored.
“But we certainly do all kinds of torture!” The red imp rubbed his hands together, “We’ve tied shoelaces together. Replaced cans of nuts with cans of spring-loaded plush snakes. Sneak whoopie cushions onto people’s seats when they’re not looking. And occasionally secretly fill soda cans with potions that temporarily shrink or make people younger. Oh yes! And of course, we are quite fond of causing all-out pie fights to break out among the mortals! It takes quite a bit of work but once the cream is flying the show is worth the result.”
“None of those are… Actually, that bad. They’re just harmless pranks.” Jak laughed for real this time. “I mean I’ve done some of those. Can’t say I’ve caused a pie fight before. That sounds like it’d be a lot of fun. And delicious to clean up after.”
“Oh, it is…” The red skinned imp looked thoughtful. “You say you have done such things? Tell us, if we deem your schemes worthy we will release you from the cage and allow you to join us in our next act of chaos.”
“Well let’s see…” Jak thought for a moment. “I mean I got here after accidentally pressing a button when I was just messing with a guy seeing how many puns I could make about the fact I was pushing his buttons. I have some friends that… Certainly enjoy a certain of flavor of pranks. So, one of them, I got him a cupcake on his last birthday but surprised him with a potion that turned all of us into toddlers and made us tiny so the cupcake was huge. Then there was the other time a friend turned into an otter. Well, that one wasn’t really my fault. But I did ask him ‘otter’ he was up to. For some reason he didn’t appreciate the joke. I told him he otter be careful but he went berserk for some reason.”
“Yes, yes, your sense of humor is aligned with what we believe in. Very well…” The red skinned imp grinned. “What is your name kindred spirit?”
“Most people just call me Jak.” The jackalope grinned.
“Very well Jak. I’m Baphy.” The red skinned imp pointed at himself. “Those two knuckleheads are Pogo.” He gestured at the gray imp. “And Bathazael von Tenebrae vi Abyssia Ninth of his name.” He gestured at the green imp. “We just call him Teny rather than that whole mess.”
“Yo!” Pogo held up a hand.
“Welcome to the team!” Teny replied.
“Now then Jak.” Baphy grinned and placed extra emphasis on the jackalope’s name. “Let’s get you out of that cage so you can join the fun.”
“I’d greatly appreciate that.” Jak nodded. As soon as he spoke, he realized that his clothing was starting to get loose on him. “Ah, I walked right into this one huh?”
“You sure did.” Baphy grinned.
“Just means I’ll have to think of something to get you back later.” Jak stuck his tongue out as he shrunk. His clothes fell off of him as his fur receded. Beneath the fur it was revealed he now had bronze colored skin. His small rabbit tail grew out into a demon-like tail just like the other imps. He soon no longer had paws, but his hands and feet were still tipped with little claws. His antlers shrunk into tiny horns that were barely more than nubs. It was hard to say if this was from his transformation into a demon imp, or if it was because he was also getting younger. He had to be around seven years old now. Wings started to grow from his back. But Jak didn’t get a moment to examine his new body before the clothes he had been wearing fell and folded down over him. This did lead him to discover that he could see in the dark, but with fabric everywhere there wasn’t much to make out.
It took Jak a few minutes to wriggle out from beneath his clothing again. He was a tiny demon kid just like the rest of them. Well, he supposed imp was really the more accurate description. He stopped for a moment, hesitating at being naked. But, such a state had become somewhat normal since making a certain friend and it didn’t take him long to get over it. And as he looked around, he immediately saw one benefit to his new imp form. It was trivial for him to fit through the holes of the cage and get out. He walked over and started to climb up the edge, only to have the cave crumble beneath him and then suddenly tip over on his side.
“What?” Jak fell down onto his bottom and looked at his hands in amazement. “I didn’t think being a tiny imp would make me jacked.”
“What? No!” Teny the green imp walked over and offered out a hand to help Jak back up onto his feet. “What would make you think that.”
“Well, the cage just sort of fell over…” Jak stood up and brushed himself off.
“Well, it is made of tinfoil.” Pogo explained. “I mean it’s about the only thing light enough we can make a cage out of to drop over people. Though, first time someone has just randomly appeared inside the cage.”
“It was tin foil…” Jak stared at the tipped over cage. He had never made physical contact with it. He noticed it looked weird but he was in a fiery place with demons that he now found to be mostly harmless but did not know that at the time. Who knew what kind of strange material it might have been made of and what harm it could have done. But no, it was just tinfoil. The imps had never really trapped him… Or anyone else they had tried using the cage on for that matter.
“Besides it wouldn’t be very funny if the person was stuck in the cage.” Baphy smoke as if it was it should have been a given. “We are creatures of chaos. Not schoolyard bullies.”
“Yeah, there are rules!” Pogo shouted.
“Three of them in fact!” Teny gave a shout.
“You’re one of us, so you should commit these to memory.” Baphy started. “First rule, our acts of chaos should never cause anybody to get hurt. Second rule, there has to be reason or method to it. You can’t just go randomly turn a mortal into a mouse and call it a prank. You gotta do something that sets them up to get themselves transformed. Even if it’s as simple as putting a bucket of transformation potion above a door so it spills on the next person. There has to be a punchline.”
“Like… Inviting someone to come along with you with the unsaid implication they’d turn into a young imp if they said yes?” Jak had figured out the punchline to his transformation. “You really are impish little things you know that?”
“Well duh! We are imps!” Pogo shouted.
“He was making a joke.” Teny gave Pogo a light tap on the head.
“He did” Pogo looked confused. “I don’t get it.”
“And the third rule.” Baphy rolled his eyes. “Is that the target always has to be someone who will take it in good nature. If you pull a little prank that causes a kid to breakdown crying on the playground, you’re not a demon, you’re just a jerk.”
“I see…” Jak paused. “Wait, how did you know I’d be a good sport about this? Apparently, I just popped into your cage unexpected.”
“And immediately made a pun about cages.” Baphy grinned. “Hearing that and taking one look at you was all I needed in order to know you belonged with us. Honestly, we’re running out of targets that don’t break rule three and out of ideas for pranks in general. Some fresh blood is just what we need. So… Tell me, do you have any ideas of any jokes? Or of people who would be a good target for them.”
“Well…” Jak considered for a moment. The answer was obviously yes. But the main problem was he had too many ideas for jokes and for what friends to play them on. “I might have a few things we can do.”
“Great! We can start immediately!” Baphy flapped into the air. “Let me get a portal open to the mortal plane. Oh, I should probably teach you do that. Basically, you want to draw a circle in the air with your tail then fly in a little loop passing through the circle, coming above it and back down.” Baphy demonstrated as he spoke and a glowing circle appeared in the sky.
“Alright time for fun then!” Pogo flew through the portal first.
“Ahhhh this is gonna be great.” Teny flew after him.
“Well, you coming?” Baphy grinned down smugly at Jak before flying through the circle himself.
“You know an adult should really urge these kids not to cause so much trouble.” Jak grinned. “But since I’m not one anymore there’s no reason not to play devil’s advocate.” With that he flapped his wings, took off the ground and flew into the portal after the others.