Alive 2007 – Around The World/Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger…
“Is it draughty in here?” I ask, the hope in my voice as steady as a margarine stepladder.
A rumble, like thunder answers me, and the room shakes. The picture-frames reverberate off the walls, in a staccato round of ghostly applause.
The cockerel pauses in his courtship of the soft furnishings, and looks out from behind his current coussin de jour.
The giant painting of the ship ripples outward, and then suddenly bulges alarmingly. And then a bright flash of light almost blinds us. Along with the sound of a thunderclap, which at first I mistake for Carvery Slaughter discharging the shotgun again.
“Don’t kill me!” I shriek, as the room goes dark and silent once more.
There is a pause.
“You wish,” Carvery replies.
A tinkling sound replaces the churning rumble, like the gentlest of wind chimes. And the painting gradually illuminates again – its surface alive, bubbling and criss-crossed with reflections, like translucent mercury.
“It is a curse…” I whisper.
“Parlour-trick, more like,” says Carvery.
The cockerel hops down from the armchair, his cushion of love forgotten. Instead, he struts up to the undulating surface of the living painting, eerily illuminated from within. He approaches, bobbing his head at the multi-faceted image, making keening and crooning noises.
Not six feet away from him, a white hen abruptly emerges from – no, through the painting. Sparkly droplets scatter into the air around her, as she skitters across the floor.
“Another hen-house?” Carvery suggests wryly, as the Casanova cockerel gives chase, circling around us in pursuit. “Looks like this is your department, Sarah.”
The avian pair do another circuit of the portrait gallery, and then both dash headlong into the silvery surface of the picture again, sending concentric rings out from their point of impact.
Carvery and I exchange a look.
“Ready to get more egg on your face?” he remarks.
“No,” I scoff. “I think we should wait right here.”
“Suit yourself.” He turns and knocks the cushion off the armchair, before sitting down in its place, drumming his fingers on the stock of the gun. “Let’s see what else comes out of that wall next.”
The gallery is quiet once more, just the play of light on the walls, from the mysterious mobile surface of the end painting.
Yes – what might come out next…? Chicken? Zombie? Monitor lizard…?
But it’s a familiar sound, that reaches us first. And not through the wall – from outside, in the corridor.
“Is that what I think it is?” I whisper, frozen still, and straining my ears.
Carvery angles his head slightly.
“Could be,” he nods.
“Hi-ho, hi-ho…” I murmur.
“Off to work we go…” Carvery grins. Oh, God… “I’m up for a bit of Ben and Jerry.”
The chanting draws nearer.
“I think I’ll chance the hen-house again,” I decide. “Don’t think I want to be the only one who brings nothing to the gunfight.”
Carvery looks down at himself, with a shrug.
“You brought me,” he says. “What else did you want – a wheel-gun?”
I think immediately of the Gatling in the basement. The armoury! And those tunnels – maybe there is another way into the bunker…
The cockerel’s head pops back out of the painting, looks at each of us, and disappears again.
There is a very definite creak on the floorboards, outside the door.
Carvery gets to his feet, and stands at my shoulder. Both of us facing the approaching danger.
“What am I, your human shield?” I demand.
“Soft landing,” he says, checking the gun briefly.
“Count to three,” he says.
He shakes his head and clicks his tongue.
“Useless,” is all he says, and the butt of the gun catches me right under the chin, flipping me neatly over backwards.
The surface of the painting feels like a tepid outdoor pool – barely any resistance at all. I feel it strike, envelop and transfer me through, all in a flash.
I’ve barely managed to draw a breath, having landed flat on my back on – not straw this time, but sand – when something lands right on top of me. Hot, hard, and smelling like traitorous hormones kicking in…
“Next time, when I say count, you count,” Carvery scolds, elbowing his way back off my body, and getting to his feet. “Right. Where are we?”
I push myself up, more slowly. A dim, golden light filters from a passageway ahead, onto pale yellow stonework. Smooth and architectural – not like the dark dank passages we were in before.
Looking back, for our point of entry, there is nothing but a blank stone wall. No magical painting, no art gallery – and thankfully, no Frittata brothers…
I grip a nearby ledge to pull myself to my feet, and find Carvery already staring at something, right where I had rested my hand.
I jump away.
It’s a sarcophagus. The face is painted onto the outside, with glamorous strokes of an Elizabeth Taylor retrospective.
Hieroglyphs on the walls swim into focus as I look around.
“I can’t handle this,” I breathe.
“You were the one who was talking about a curse,” Carvery points out. He knocks on the lid. “Anybody home?”
“You’re not funny.”
“I wasn’t being funny. Someone might want to be let out of there.”
“Or might be shut in for a reason,” I contradict.
A shadow moves in the passageway, and alerted, I cry out.
“I didn’t say Knock Knock,” Carvery jokes.
A faint voice replies, fading as if moving away from us.
“Homer!” I call. Relief floods through me, incontinently. “Wait!”
Leaving the spooky sarcophagus behind in the chamber, we head out after the pattering zombie. Oh dear. His pink dress is quite the worse for wear, and the crochet shawl merely a shred or two of white cotton.
“Homer, where are the others?” I ask. “And where is this place?”
Although twisting and turning, the passages are still light and sandy. And eventually, open out into a broader, pillared hall.
At the end, the early sunrise is starting to appear, glinting off a river.
“I think I’ll get a roof terrace like this one when I renovate my next house,” Carvery smirks.
Palm trees wave gently beside us as we step outside. Strange birds soar overhead.
Where the Hell are we?
“Home,” says Homer N. Dry, happily.
Scene from the original Stargate above – such a great film! Ooh, James Spader too… 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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