Sasha & Digweed remix of Leftfield’s ‘Song of Life’…
The palm trees form an avenue at the bottom of the broad stone steps, leading to the water’s edge. My brain is trying not to register the pyramid-shapes on the far bank. It’s an optical illusion, I tell myself. Some sort of ultra-modern virtual reality art installation…
Carvery is crouching on the sandy flagstones, testing the groutless joins, with a strange-looking Swiss Army kind of tool, full of identically-shaped blades. He squints at the thinnest one critically, as it barely slides in and out of the gap.
“Thinking about how many bodies you could fit under a patio this size?” I observe.
“I think it’s fully-booked already,” he remarks, straightening up. “Now where’s the little gray tranny off to?”
The zombie Homer N. Dry (trailing grubby white crochet and bedraggled locks of blonde Sunday wig) has made it down the steps – only falling on his face twice – and is scampering lopsidedly towards the riverside.
As the sun clears the pyramids on the horizon, the shadows in the water reveal a ship moored. Very similar to the one in the painting, but it looks as though it has had some work done since the original. The demonic totem at the figurehead is still there, and the prow is the same – but instead of the sails, it now features a raised houseboat deck – and a paddle-steamer propulsion system.
“I hope they’re expecting him, whoever it is,” says Carvery, as Homer lives up to his name, homing in on the vessel. “Or this is going to turn into Death on the Nile real fast.”
“There they are!” a distant figure shouts, from the same direction. “Carver – Sarah – down here!”
It’s Numb-Nuts, my housemate. Waving at us, from the deck of the ship.
Of course, she would still be alive. Seeing as she hasn’t spent at least the last hour in the company of girlfriend-batterer-in-denial Carvery Slaughter. A couple of zombies, an immigrant taxi driver, and a drunk Ace Bumgang wouldn’t pose any comparable risk to her safety…
Homer leads the way up the rope-suspended gangplank, and once aboard, I’m cannoned aside by Miss Fuck-Tart launching herself at Carvery, making weird abandoned-stray-cat noises as she burrows into his arms.
“Whatever…” he sighs.
Could he sound as though he could even care less?
“Glad you have made it, Sarah Bellummm,” says that zombie voice, which makes my spine tingle, and I turn to see Crispin approaching. With a tray of drinks! It seems like hours since that last Gin Sling… “Welcome to my Five a.m. Lounge.”
I try to concentrate on downing the drink, keeping my nose in the glass, and not on devouring him with my eyes. And what a sight for sore ones he is…
“It’s very impressive,” I say at last, replacing the empty glass again. “You have a great home entertainment set-up here.”
He waves a hand dismissively.
“Just the basics, just the basics,” he moans. He gestures for me to join him on a couch, in the prow of the ship. Wading birds dart in and out of the reeds on the riverbank, and delicate insects skate across the water’s surface. “Mother insisted that we drop in regularly, so it was necessary to make visiting arrangements as simple as possible.”
“Oh – she’s still alive?” I surmise. I swat a mosquito as it lands on my arm, settling into the satin cushions.
“No. Just demanding,” he sighs, and turns towards me, leaning in. “I seem to remember that the last time you and I were on a couch together, we had some unfinished business, Sarah Bellummm…”
But before that thought can be followed by any action, a shadow falls across us – and Luke, the Nigerian cab-driver, slumps onto the end of the sofa.
“You know, my ancestors probably built those things,” he announces, pointing towards the pyramids.
“There is a certain resemblance, indeed,” Crispin agrees. “Perhaps we can introduce you to them later…”
“Home… Gooood…” a familiar zombie-groan interrupts.
Homer emerges from a door to one of the suites in the houseboat section, changed now into Diana Ross red sequins and trailing a feather boa, and waddles away to the bar. Carvery and Whatsername have disappeared somewhere else on the ship. I’m wondering how long it will take for bits of her to start floating past.
But also – isn’t there someone else, that should be in our group…?
“Ace Bumgang!” I say in recall, far too loudly, as Luke spills his Tequila. “Is he here too?”
“Sure, sure…” Luke brushes himself down. “He’s being ill over the starboard.”
I get quickly to my feet and hurry to the far side of the boat, overlooking the water. Ace is leaning on the railing, forehead on forearms, groaning as much as any zombie.
In fact I have to check as I approach, that he still looks comparatively alive. A bit pale, perhaps…
“Seasick?” I greet him, timidly.
“Hangover,” he replies. “I yacked up in the water just now, and a crocodile ate it.”
I join him and look over the side of the ship, greeted by the yawn of another giant reptile. A number of them float lazily, treading water in the slow current beside the boat, like bad-tempered logs set adrift.
Well – I guess they give the monitor lizards a bit of healthy competition…
“Did you have any trouble in the tunnels?” I ask. “I lost you guys quite early on, I think.”
“Don’t remember a whole lot,” Ace admits. “Just that it was really dark.”
“Makes it more fun that way,” Carvery butts in, thumping each of us in the spine, as he appears from behind.
I start at the intrusion, bumped roughly against the railings – and Mr. Dry Senior’s leather-bound diary jolts loose from the waistband of my loaned-from-Crispin, silk Paisley pyjamas.
“No!” I gasp.
Before I can make a safety-grab, it slips under the wrought metalwork, tumbles downwards – and lands with a faint slap, in the middle of a crocodile’s back.
“What have you dropped?” Carvery wants to know, looking over the side. “Still hiding stuff that might be interesting? Where did you steal that from?”
“It was given to me to look after!” I hiss through gritted teeth, echoing myself from earlier.
“Then I think you ought to be looking after it a bit more carefully, don’t you?” he remarks. “Hop over and pick it up.”
“I’ll never reach that far!”
“We’ll just hold you by the ankles – right, Ace?” Carvery looks across at him, and grins. “Won’t be the first time today.”
The crocodiles shift menacingly in the water, and the leather-bound diary gives a tantalising wobble.
“All right, but not for too long this time,” Ace agrees, straightening up. “I’m gunning with all the power of runny custard this morning.”
I look from one to the other, with obvious concerns.
“I haven’t dropped you yet, have I?” Carvery teases. “Saved your life more than once already.”
“That’s because he’s saving it for later,” Ace adds. “You haven’t had a ride in the trunk of his car first. You wouldn’t want to miss that.”
My housemate, Twat-for-Brains, would think this was all so much delightful flirting. Probably how she spends most of her spare time in Accident and Emergency, between abusive boyfriends…
“Hurry up, Sarah.” Carvery grabs the back of my waistband, and I shriek, scaring myself, as he tilts me over the side. Ace takes hold of the scruff of my collar at the same time, angling my head down towards the water, and I find myself succumbing quickly to the forces of gravity. “Before your borrowed book swims away by itself.”
I look down at the spiny scales and jaws of Death, the blood rushing in my ears and pounding in my temples, as I’m lowered gawkily below the railings.
“It’s all right, Sarah,” Carvery calls out, and gives an evil snigger. “You can see if you’re any good at Croc-Whispering, while you’re down there.”
Keep still – nice crocky…
Another great trailer – ‘Jewel of the Nile’ the original – enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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