Dr. Coralon Johnson. A perfectly ordinary name, but to me, it’s more than just that. A brilliant mind, a cruel scientist, not quite a toon, but never a cog. Some say he was the result of a freak accident. Others think that Dr. Johnson did it to himself on purpose in a strange experiment. No one’s quite sure how it happened or what he looked like before; but whatever he was, it’s impossible to tell now.
It’s with the doctor that this story begins. Like I said, no one really knows where he came from to start with, but everyone was pretty aware of his existence when he committed a crime that no one could ignore.
We knew it was him because he left us a message on Flippy’s desk for us to find the next morning. If we didn’t surrender Toontown to him and his army, he’d send Flippy into a state of agonized sadness. Permanently.
The bravest of our kind set out to rescue mayor Flippy, but none of them came back. What’s more, after what seemed like a lifetime to the rest of us, Dr. Johnson sent more of his forces against us. Forces that were quickly recognized.
No one had the heart to fight back against their loved ones, however corrupted they may have been turned. Dr. Johnson threatened to do the same to us if we didn’t surrender, as if holding our mayor hostage wasn’t enough to convince us. We had no choice but to give in.
I was small when it happened. Strange, stitched-up creatures resembling neither toon nor machine but something twisted in between dropped from the sky. At their touch, our colorful homes faded to gray and melted into disgusting corporate buildings that made the cogs' invasion seem like child's play. The once-blue sky became shrouded with gray smog as the buildings along the street turned into dirty factories. Nowhere in Toontown was safe from the abominations’ touch; every estate, every garden, and every playground slowly decayed into despair.
Perhaps the most insulting of what happened is that Dr. Johnson went back on his promise. He refused to return Flippy to us, and continued to threaten him in order to get his way. We had no idea of knowing whether Flippy was even still alive.
It wasn’t difficult to turn the survivors of the takeover into workers for his corporation. Since that day, I’ve been working for Dr. Johnson against my will. I’ve never seen him; only the orders of the subordinates of his subordinates, underlings that he would barely consider worthwhile to keep alive. Yet they were strong enough to keep us toons in check. No matter how insignificant we may have been, we were workers, what kept everything more important up and running. He couldn’t afford to lose us. We were part of the larger clockwork that held his business together. One slip-up and the whole clock stopped functioning; and if we allowed that to happen, our mayor Flippy and the keys to what was once Toontown would be lost forever. Dr. Johnson would reign terror on the scattered, confused toons, and only hasten the construction of the invincible tyranny that he intended to build.
My job was perhaps the least desirable of all that were distributed: cleaning up after the cogs’ messes as they ritualistically littered, vandalized, and maimed our once-beloved city. Sometimes they threw things at me; an abandoned oil can, old pieces of metal, the occasional razor-sharp needles they used for claws if they were especially spiteful. In time I learned to avoid these things, and as long as I dutifully mopped up the puddles of mercurial oil and piles of dust, no one would hurt me.
Friends were a luxury I had long grown unused to having. I never knew when one of them would slip up and be taken away to be turned into one of our oppressors. I couldn’t trust anyone with the few secrets I had, and in turn no one did the same for me.
It might have gone on like this for the rest of my life, but for one incident that disrupted the flow of order. I accidentally stumbled across someone who I shouldn’t have, according to Dr. Johnson's laws. More than my tattered brain could imagine was presented to me, and soon enough, I found myself in a situation that was much too large for me to handle alone. But in the end, I wasn't quite alone after all.