The clown’s appearance had pushed the performance to an unprecedented climax. The burly clown was nearly two meters tall and had exaggerated makeup painted on his face. Since the Hell’s Circus focused primarily on blood and curiosities, the clown’s performance was naturally no exception in exacting a kind of cruel comedy. No one knew that the clown on stage playing with other performers was once the strongest slayer in the entire Pure White Realm.
The light kept changing on Cui Zuojing’s face as the trapeze spread its wings and performed dazzling acrobats; the white tigers jumped through a ring of fire; a row of little teddy poodles held paws and leaped over a swan; the brown bears threw balls at each other; and the skirt of the eight-legged girl fluttered as she danced gracefully among the dwarfs dressed as gnomes, staging the story of Snow White.
Everything was so weird, but there was a kind of overwhelming charm in this grotesque and peculiar show.
A monkey dressed as a knight rode a giraffe on stage, holding several sharp daggers. Meanwhile, the two-headed man stood in front of the curtain with an apple on each head.
The monkey jumped off the giraffe’s back. After circling around the stage, it let out a shout and threw the dagger.
The dagger accurately pierced the two apples. The two-headed man took an apple each with his left hand and right hands. Then he pulled out the dagger and stuffed the tip of the blade into his mouth.
The cacophony of music and screams seemed to pierce the eardrum.
Such cruelty made Wang Que raise her hands to cover her eyes, her body shrinking into the chair. Xia Qiongyun also had to look away from the two-headed man. The same was true for many pilgrims. After having lived for so many years in modern society, simply because these people had to struggle in the Pure White Realm didn’t necessarily mean that they could face this kind of self-harming performance.
Both heads had swallowed the entire dagger, and red blood flowed from the cut at the corners of their mouths, carving a grotesque facsimile of the clown’s smiling lips. The two-headed man opened his mouths, showing the audience that the inside was empty.
The monkey still had three daggers left in its hand. It scratched its head, looked around as if uncertain, and finally made up its mind. It threw the remaining daggers, and the clown who was in the middle of applauding let out an “O” of surprise.
Pa pa pa!
The daggers’ speed was extraordinarily fast. The audience only saw the monkey raise its hand, and they roared when they saw the clown waving his hands in a panic. Then his body froze in a funny posture, and all three knives slammed into the black board behind his body.
Only Dong Zheng and Cui Zuojing saw his movements clearly. The direction of the daggers were actually off. But at the moment when they reached the clown, he caught them with his fingers and then pushed them into position around his body, slamming them in place on the board.
His speed was so incredibly fast that his series of movements was completed in an instant. So, the audience only saw the final result.
The monkey triumphantly flipped upside down on the back of the giraffe, climbed along its neck to its head, waved at the audience, and exited to a crescendo of music, giving up the stage to the magician.
Cui Zuojing didn’t take it seriously. During the time he was away, the circus had implemented large and small changes. The animal actors and the freak show actors had changed; only the clown, the magician, and the performances were the same.
Thinking about the meme that the clown had told him about, Cui Zuojing was vaguely concerned.
The reason memes were so dangerous was due to its aggressive transmission. The infected people could only be amnesticized if they wanted to restore themselves to how they were before.
The clown had said that the meme would only leave an image of itself in the memory of the infected person, thus guaranteeing that it would never die. But what if he was wrong?
Dong Zheng turned his head and saw Cui Zuojing leaning against the back of his chair with his arms folded across his chest. He was staring intently at the magician on stage, but judging from the tightness around his lips and eyes, he clearly wasn’t paying the least bit of attention to the magician’s performance.
“What’s wrong?” Dong Zheng asked in a low voice.
Cui Zuojing raised his eyes, meeting Dong Zheng’s gaze. Memes spread through eye contact, so when did he get it?
It was probably the moment when Dong Zheng pushed open the bedroom door in the mansion and their gazes met.
“The clown said you brought something out of the Space Box,” Cui Zuojing said in a voice that only they could hear. “Are you sure there is no danger?”
Dong Zheng was silent for a moment, confirming his encounter with Murphy. This series of events was something that the clown had arranged for him, but he’d never met the clown before. Even if Cui Zuojing had a good relationship with the clown, Dong Zheng couldn’t allow himself to leave his fate to the clown.
“I don’t know. I still don’t know much about her even now.” Dong Zheng actually didn’t want to talk about Murphy at this time. Right now, no matter what he said, Murphy would definitely hear it.
Cui Zuojing said, “What kind of meme is it?”
“In your memory, is there a very thin girl who likes to wear white dresses?”
Cui Zuojing thought for a while and said, “Yes, we were deskmates in high school. What about it?”
Dong Zheng’s eyes were bright. “Can you tell me more about it?”
“We sat at the same table. This young girl had a good grade from the county exam. At that time, we chose seats based on ranking and so we both had the best seat and ended up sitting together.” Cui Zuojing thought about it carefully and added, “She had no sense of existence, but she was pretty good. I often went to school very early in the morning to read and didn’t have time for breakfast. So she would bring me a little from the cafeteria…”
Seeing Dong Zheng’s expression, Cui Zuojing became less and less certain. Finally he closed his mouth and nudged Dong Zheng’s shoulder. “Is there a problem with that?”
Dong Zheng was silent for a moment. He was now completely certain that his previous guess was correct. Murphy would attach herself to the memory of the infected person. Once she spread, the only way to contain her was to use an amnestic method on the infected.
“She is the meme, who called herself Murphy.”
Cui Zuojing exclaimed, “Eh?”
His first reaction was “that can’t be right,” but then he realized that the people who were infected wouldn’t necessarily be able to detect the infection in themselves.
This was also the first time Cui Zuojing had come across memes. If this was the case, nearly the entire circus must now be infected.
Dong Zheng was in contact with other pilgrims during the card fight in the space arena, and those who were eliminated and left would have passed it onto the people outside the box…The spread of the meme may have now far exceeded their imagination.
“It was unavoidable, wasn’t it?” Cui Zuojing asked softly after a long silence.
“In the space arena, I was the only one who had the ability to carry her. She specially guided me to the safe room. The moment I saw here, I was infected.” Dong Zheng looked at the magician on the stage and said in a low voice, “She promised me that as long as I succeeded in taking her out, she wouldn’t hurt me.”
Murphy was still resting in his kernel, lying dormant in the corner of Dong Zheng’s spiritual world and quietly scaring people. Despite having been asleep, she’d been quietly constructing a secret network that already encircled this area.
Cui Zuojing no longer spoke. Verbal promises were mere words. Not everyone was like Chang Hui. Though she unscrupulously engaged in creating devil deals, she took her promises very seriously.
If Murphy’s purpose was as she’d told Dong Zheng and she just wanted out of the box, then she’d succeeded.
During his last pilgrimage in the Pure White Realm, Cui Zuojing had managed to spy on a corner of the world’s secret, but he’d never heard of such an existence. Of course, it may be that Murphy had already been trapped in the box at the time and couldn’t create waves. Therefore, it could only disappear from people’s sight.
After thousands of thoughts, he came to the same conclusion as Dong Zheng: there was nothing they could do.
Even if there was a way for them to erase her from their own memories, it was impossible to do this to all the people who’d been infected. In the end, they would only become infected again once they come in contact with those who’d been infected.
This was the scariest part of the meme. You can never really destroy it, just like SCP-8900-EX-“Sky, Blue Sky.” Once the meme had infected everyone, it would become a normal way of life.
“I need an assistant to cooperate with the performance. So who in the audience is the lucky person?”
The stage was covered with ribbons that the magician had transformed with the palm of his hand. The dwarf that had been turned into a pig was running around him in a panic. The magician looked around, tapped his cane twice on the floor, and finally fixed his gaze on a certain spot.
He quickly stepped forward, bent over at the edge of the stage, and gently stretched out his hand to the girl who was quietly sitting in the VIP booth. He smiled and said, “This beautiful lady, can you please come on stage and be my assistant?”
Everyone’s attention centered there, wanting to see which person in the audience was so lucky. Wang Que looked at the magician smiling at her, and her brain went blank for a moment.
All of the pilgrims were taken to the back to change their clothes into suits and dresses that completely matched the style of the circus. The same was also true for Cui Zuojing. Even Victor had on a black tie that the clown had especially prepared for him.
The pig was still squealing. Wang Que swallowed in horror and shrank up to refuse. But somehow, as if she’d been possessed, she couldn’t control her body. The hand that wanted to make a gesture of rejection ended up resting on the magician’s waiting palm.
Ahhh, no! I don’t want to become a pig!
Wang Que wailed in her heart. Her body was like a puppet on a string. When she stood up, Xia Qiongyun reached out and grabbed her arm, firmly preventing her from going forward.
The magician smiled and tapped the floor with his cane. Xia Qiongyin felt a burning sensation in her hand and, with a hiss, lost her grip. Meanwhile, Wang Que lifted her skirt and went on stage with the magician.
Dong Zheng immediately grabbed the handrail, wanting to get up. But Cui Zuojing held him down. “Don’t panic.”
Wang Que walked onto the stage amidst riotous cheers. She turned to Cui Zuojing and Dong Zheng, her eyes begging for help. Cui Zuojing nodded, jerked his head, and silently opened his mouth in a silent “Go.”
His approval was undoubtedly a balm of reassurance to Wang Que’s heart. Although she was still scared and confused, she was no longer as worried. She stood in the center of the stage, while the tall and handsome magician moved a black wooden chair behind her.
“Thank you for your cooperation, beautiful lady. What is your name?”
“Oh, your name is as beautiful as yourself.” The magician showed the chair to the audience. “Our next performance needs this chair. You may not know it on sight, but you must be familiar with its name. This is—Busby’s Chair!”
Cheers rose, but dread filled Wang Que’s heart. She knew what else Busby’s Chair was called: the Chair of Death.