Daft Punk, from Alive 2007 tour – Touch It/Technologic…
We catch up with the others, where the zombie businessman Crispin Dry is waiting at the edge of an even larger pit.
“As you can all see, demonstrated by my brother Homer,” he says. “And I use the word ‘brother’ in the loosest of terms – the pendulum, installed over four hundred years ago by a previous owner of the estate, has a mind of its own. There may also be a family of giant monitor lizards still living in the pit underneath, but no-one visiting the site from the Animal Cruelty Department has reported back on their welfare for quite some time.”
The rush of air above the pit is interceded by Homer N. Dry, petrified, clinging to the shaft above the inverted crescent blade, as it whooshes past us. Remarkably, his stolen blonde wig and pink dress are still intact – although the white crochet shawl, fluttering in the draft, now looks a little tattered, and worse for wear.
“Ouuuuch…” groans Homer, his yellow zombie eyes enormous in his ravaged gray face, passing again on the return swing.
“There is a lever to stop the blade,” Crispin informs us. “But it is on the far side. One of us has to make it over there in order to operate it. Homer, unfortunately, has only made it halfway.”
“Easy enough,” Ace remarks.
“Yeah,” Carvery agrees, cocking his head, as if sizing up the distance. “Even easier to throw one of the girls across.”
“I’m too pissed to throw anything straight,” Ace tells him, and exaggerates a crossed squint. “Check out my eyes, buddy.”
“You look fine to me,” says Carvery. “Let’s throw Sarah.”
I only resent being volunteered, because I was thinking of giving Carvery Slaughter a meaty shove over the edge first, in the name of domestic justice.
“Hasn’t this property always been in your family, then?” I ask Crispin, to change the subject, and avoid showing myself up. “I assumed it was.”
“Sadly no, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin sighs. “It was bought by my grandfather, a designer of weapons of modern warfare of the time, and then passed on to my father, also in munitions. But before he too died, my father said that neither of his sons had earned the honour to take their place at his right hand – my brother being the flamboyant wastrel you see before you now – and I had not only forgone the family business tradition, but I had also failed to marry and produce the next in line. On his death, it was stipulated that we still had to earn that right hand status, within the decade – or the property will be turned over to the National Trust.”
“But you’re rich – you‘re the owner of Dry Goods Inc,” I say. “Surely you’ve earned it by now?”
“Financially, it is possible,” Crispin nods, gloomily. “But finding my father’s right hand has proved less simple. It was a clockwork hand, made by the finest Swiss watchmakers, passed down in the family for many generations. It holds the key to our family’s true knowledge and wealth. The selfish bastard hid it, somewhere on the estate. And so far, neither my satellite land surveys, nor Homer’s rummaging in Mother’s closets, has been able to unearth it.”
“He didn’t leave a map or anything?” I demand, and he shakes his head, unevenly.
“No clues?” Luke chips in, enthralled. “That’s what I came here for, from Nigeria. To seek a fortune.”
“I hate to butt into the history lesson, but there still seems to be a trio of gun-toting household staff on our tail,” Carvery points out. He’s right. The grumbling and coughing of the Frittata family seems to be getting closer. I can hear them scolding one another, over the earlier pit of spikes. “Is this conversation getting us anywhere, or am I going to have to take drastic action?”
“Action with extreme prejudice, I suppose?” I suggest, and let out a squeak of fear, as he grabs the back of my collar.
“Remind me – what do you weigh?” he asks, and dangles me again experimentally, by the scruff of the pyjamas. “Thought so – you two fellas. Grab her legs.”
“What?!” I yell, as Luke and Ace each get hold of an ankle, and suspend me, between them and Carvery Slaughter, like a human skipping-rope.
“If you survive, it’ll be something exciting to write in your diary, won’t it?” says Carvery. “On three… no, two… fuck it. Now!”
The three of them swing me back, and then violently into the air over the pit. I feel myself spin on release, seeing a brief flash of blackness below, and the terrifying face of Homer N. Dry swinging towards me on the pendulum above – and I continue to rotate in midair.
Is this what it’s like to fly?
Until after what seems like an age, I crash onto a gritty stone surface, on the far side, still rolling over and over, my forearms instinctively shielding my face.
“Home…!” cries Homer weakly, hurtling by, in my wake. It sounds as though he is deteriorating…
“The lever, Sarah Bellummm!” Crispin calls out to me, authoritatively. “Push it back into the wall in front of you!”
The noise of the Frittatas in the distance takes a new turn. Now, they seem to be chanting. I can’t understand what they’re saying, but the atmosphere is suddenly ominous. It’s almost monastic in tone, putting images of Voodoo priests and strange blood-letting rituals into my head.
“What’s that noise?” Ace Bumgang wants to know. “Sounds like those Tibetan throat-singers, on Youtube.”
“Mrs Frittata and her sons are a little superstitious,” says Crispin, vaguely. “But in a jolly way – translated, it’s all just a bit of Hi-ho, hi-ho, off to work we go, kind of thing… Concentrate, Miss Bellummm!”
I get to my hands and knees in agony, and crawl forwards. True enough, a large lever sticks up out of the floor, at about thirty degrees to the wall, where a recess in the stonework shows its intended position.
I push on it hard, but nothing happens.
“It’s stuck!” I shout back.
“The compression switch at the top!” he tells me. “You have to squeeze it, as it goes in!”
“No comment…” Ace coughs.
Luke’s hands go to cover his groin automatically, as if out of nervous habit.
I glance angrily at Carvery for his reaction, but there is no expression in his face or body language at all – just the usual endemic evil, as he watches, arms folded.
Not even another rude remark?? It’s as if he knows what I believe about his personality, and deliberately acts the opposite, to thwart me, making me doubt my own sanity…
I get to my feet to provide more leverage of my own, and find the smaller lever at the top of the big one. It clicks shut as I close all of my fingers around the handgrip, and with my weight behind it, the larger lever starts to shift upright, back into the wall.
A horrible metallic grinding and screeching sound almost deafens us, and I’m sure half of the screech is poor Homer, attached as he is to the source of the cacophony. Four centuries’ worth of dust pours down onto him as well, as cogs previously hidden high in the ceiling trundle down, locking the pendulum into a final, static position.
As the lever I’m pushing also locks into the wall, the blade of the pendulum revolves ninety degrees, its upper edge now spanning the width of the pit – giving the others a means to step across.
“Now we must split up,” Crispin orders. “There are four tunnels ahead, seven of us, and only three of them…”
“Ooh – is that Pimm’s o’clock?” says my nameless housemate, making me feel thirsty again already. Twat – is she still here? It’s like being trapped in a confined space with a case of bad intestinal gas…
“…They cannot cover all tunnels. I suggest two groups, a three and a four. That way, at least one of them, possibly two, will be on a wild goose chase down an empty tunnel, while we will still outnumber and outwit the remainder.”
“Good plan,” Luke approves. “Does your… brother know his way around?”
“After his antics earlier tonight, definitely,” Crispin nods. “I suggest you and he, partner up with the gentleman and his young lady…” Here he indicates Carvery Slaughter and my housemate Whatserface… “While I will lead Sarah and – Ace, is that right?”
Ace nods, and my heart does the bossanova.
“Homer, I suggest we aim for the usual Friday-night meeting-point,” says Crispin. “Sarah Bellummm – Ace – follow me.”
I gulp. Finally – alone with Ace Bumgang! And he’s drunk! And there’s also a zombie with us, but at least it’s not Carvery playing gooseberry…
I try to forget that the zombie in question happens to be the eminently eligible Crispin Dry, who has been so nice to me thus far – and focus all of my thoughts on the possible outcomes I’ve stored up in my fantasies for this eventuality…
Unfortunately, it’s on these occasions that my social skills fail me. Which I don’t understand. I can talk endlessly to Mr Wheelie-Bin, at the body farm. Obviously it’s a bit one-sided, but I would have assumed that the actual practise of talking to a dead guy would be the same as talking to a live one. Only it turns out, I’m apparently wrong…
“So, er – good time at the Summer Ball?” I venture, bobbing along to keep up, with Ace’s longer stride.
“Not bad,” he says.
And that’s it. End of conversation.
My brain works overtime trying to think of the next thing to say, until I’m hearing so much gobbledygook between my own ears, that I wish I was a million miles away from my own company as well. Even the creepy chanting of the Frittatas, somewhere behind us, seems to make more sense.
“I have often wondered,” Crispin’s deep monotone muses, a little way ahead. “Whether my father hid his special clockwork hand in one of these tunnels.”
“Are there any more traps down here?” Ace asks.
Why does he sound more articulate when he’s talking to someone else? It’s not fair…
“There are a few,” I hear Crispin say, just as there is an odd sensation of no floor, where I put my foot down in front of me. “But not as big as the last two…”
His voice seems to recede rapidly into the air above, while I begin to realise that I’m falling right into one of those aforementioned traps… which contrary to discussion, seems to be exactly my size…
Fan edit of opening scene ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ – enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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