Rammstein vs Lady Gaga: Du Hast/Telephone mash-up…
“What do we do now, Crispin?” I ask, my voice by now only marginally less hysterical than the Sinclair C-5 concept.
“We disembark,” Crispin announces. “Quite rapidly…”
None of us need to be told twice. In fact, I think being told the once was pushing it.
We scramble out hurriedly over the restrained and thrashing rugs – while in the true spirit of battle, our pilot Mr. Time reaches for the sky, and surrenders.
“Parlez!” he cries, lapsing into the language of longevity.
“Crispin,” I pant, as we scurry away, along the battlements of the enormous fort. “Those bounty hunters – they all have…”
“Yes, clockwork hands,” he agrees. “I know.”
“But they are…” I look down at my own hands, flexing them. “Attached!”
“That does not mean they have more power than the original,” he replies. “Although they might outnumber it…”
We follow his lead to a grand archway set into the rooftop gatehouse, barricaded by more guards, and a portcullis. I’m expecting more hard negotiations – but our approach is punctuated by a shout, from high above.
“Crispin!” hails the high-pitched, crackly-as-old-wallpaper voice. “And Ho-o-o-merrr… What do I owe this pleasure?”
“Yes, yes,” Crispin calls out to the unseen speaker, sheepishly, as we draw to a halt. “Hello – Grandpappy…”
“Grand-what?” Ace asks, as Carvery snorts.
“My father’s father,” Crispin coughs. “Higham Dry Senior.”
Higham Dry! Is this who the stillborn Dry sibling in the pickle jar was named after?
A wisp of cloud above the battlements moves, and we spot a pigtailed, white-haired ancient old man, in black and emerald green dragon-embroidered robes, leaning over the parapet squinting at us.
“What-what-what?!” Higham Dry Senior repeats, taking in our group. “So many guests! Is it my birthday?”
“Why do I get the feeling that you’re not well-known for remembering family birthdays, Crispin?” Carvery smirks.
“You interrupt my experiments!” Higham Dry cackles. “But I be right down…”
He ducks down and disappears momentarily, and reappears again with a fat hen in one hand, and a cannonball in the other.
“Now – which one will hit the ground first?” he announces, and we leap aside – as the cannonball and chicken both sail over the brickwork.
It’s a close one. Mainly because the hen is chained to the cannonball, by one leg.
“Stupid chicken,” says Crispin’s grandfather, shaking his head sadly. “If she learn to fly faster, then maybe she beat cannonball. Okey-dokey – here I come…”
And he steps off the ledge. My reward for screaming, is another cuff around the ear from Carvery, and a wince from Ace Bumgang, who is still clutching his bleeding arm.
But Higham Dry Senior merely drifts gently to the ground, his robes inflated around him like a Disney-esque parachute.
And looks mightily pleased with himself too – I can see where Homer gets his self-confidence from…
“You see any Jedi Master do that?” he asks, sniggering. “Maybe – but I don’t watch all of the series. Sooooo… you like my experiment? Chicken wasn’t always fixed to cannonball, but too many chickens just fly away. Did you know they can fly? Who knew, right? But one day, I will find a chicken who can move faster than a cannonball. Then that be really fast food, no? Come downstairs. We make chicken soup.”
“Your grandfather…” Ace begins quietly, as the portcullis raises for us. “Is he a zombie too, or just really old?”
“Oh, he passed away many years ago.” Crispin taps himself on the sternum. “It’s all clockwork in there. Have you ever seen Sucker Punch? Kind of like the soldiers in that movie. Only harder to kill.” He sighs. “It’s not like Mother hasn’t tried…”
“Oh, you been to see the Lady Glandula de Bartheline?” Higham Dry Senior’s hearing evidently hasn’t deteriorated a jot. He leads the way down some stone stairs, illuminated by candle-lit wrought-iron chandeliers. “Blood-sucking harlot. How is she these days?”
“Much the same, Grandpappy,” Crispin admits.
“Yay,” Ace seconds him, sorely.
“Slept her way out of the primordial ooze, she did.” Higham Dry Senior’s carved bone walking-stick clatters along the stone floor ahead of us, at quite a respectable pace. “Jumping from body to body like a secretary at staff Christmas party. She still hanging onto the last one? It run out of entropy quite soon, I think.”
“Spending most of her time dormant, yes,” Crispin confirms.
“I thought it very quiet around here lately. Nice and peaceful.” Higham Dry nods. “But when she find a new one she likes, you wait. It be all boiling oil and crocodiles and embalming people alive again.”
We find ourselves in a vast galley kitchen, designed evidently to serve the mountainous fort. You could have fitted Silverstone race track in it quite comfortably.
I glance at Ace to see if I can gauge his attitude regarding the subject of indoor drag-racing possibly crossing his thoughts, but his I-am-not-the-Stig poker-face is as inscrutable as ever.
I imagine what other secrets those dreamy brown eyes might also be hiding, and sigh…
…A billy goat trots past us along the longest granite worktop I have ever seen, breaking wind happily, while chefs with cleavers try to catch up with it.
“Oh, what a shame, goat escape from bathtub again,” Higham Dry Senior sympathises. “We have a new chef from foreign place, I don’t know where – I think maybe Basildon? Chef Reggae Reggae. He promise us recipe for goat curry. We been trying to marinade this goat in Guinness for three weeks already, but it drink it all every time, then run away. So we stuck with chicken soup for now. And the barracks very upset, all Guinness gone, they trying to make their own in the laundry. Not good. They blow it up nearly every day, trying to figure out secret ingredient. But as a result, we now know how to make napalm, so something good come of it.”
“How do you catch the goat?” I ask.
“We wait for it to fall asleep with big hangover, then just follow smell,” Higham Dry Senior shrugs. “Simple… All of you, come with me. You all look very peaky. Need chicken soup.”
I realise, as the cooking smells in the cavernous kitchen envelop us, that I haven’t eaten since Crispin’s strangely erotic food game, when I arrived at his mansion last night – and my stomach rumbles disturbingly. Yes. Food would certainly be welcome…
“I’m full,” says Carvery, picking his teeth, and finding what appears to be a fingernail, extracting it thoughtfully. It gives me an unpleasant lurch in my own gut. “Zombie Nando’s.”
“Don’t know if I’m up for eating anything yet,” Ace grumbles. “Not since Sarah puked on me as well.”
“Everyone feel better after soup,” Higham Dry assures us, and hands the failed speed-chicken and cannonball to one of the chefs. “Oooh, look who joining us for breakfast… just in time too! We go to dining-room…”
I look around to see the miserable flying rickshaw pilot, Justin Time, being hustled in by the three scarily larger-than-life, faceless bounty hunters. Higham Dry Senior gestures for them to follow as well.
The dining-room, a short walk from the kitchen, is another vast room, its vaulted ceiling supported by many pillars. Twin candle-sconces on every pillar give the impression of each having glowing eyes, watching all proceedings in this particular room.
Higham Dry hobbles rapidly to a throne-like chair at the head table, and two guards mysteriously appear at his sides. It is evident by the change in atmosphere that we don’t have permission to sit yet.
So we hover nervously, while Justin Time is deposited in a prostrate heap, sobbing, on the carpet-runner in front of him.
“He was stealing those flying rugs himself, as you suspected, Lord,” the first bounty hunter rumbles, in his unearthly deep voice. “And holding them to ransom.”
“Ooohh,” Higham Dry smiles, nodding his elderly glee and rubbing his hands together, which crack like a bag of walnuts under a lump-hammer. “You very naughty boy, Mr. Time! What I do with you, eh?”
“Be merciful, Lord!” Justin Time cries, his mouth full of thankfully less sapient carpet. “I was testing our security measures – an example of where improvements might be needed…”
“Hmmm, where have I heard that before…?” Higham Dry Senior ponders. “What was that film with the also very naughty children… Oh yes, Mission Without Permission! I don’t fall for your weak excuses this time, Mr. Justin Time. I think maybe I show YOU an example, of my Jedi mind powers…”
“No…” Justin Time pleads. “Not that… anything but the mind tricks, Lord…”
“You!” Higham Dry Senior points suddenly, with a tremulously wizened forefinger. “Yes, you, the Calvin Klein poster-boy, with the shotgun. You are under my spell, you hear me?”
Carvery looks over his shoulder, just in case there is another gunman in the room, and then shrugs.
Higham Dry points to the biggest guard, on his left.
“Kill this man.”
Carvery shrugs again, and blows the guard’s head off.
“Ooh.” Higham Dry rattles the finger in his ear. “That was loud!”
“Doesn’t prove anything.” Ace, Crispin and I all state the obvious.
“And you!” The old man points at Homer. “You, now, are under my spell… Now dance! Like a sexy concubine!”
Homer shrugs in turn, and pirouettes away around the pillars, shedding his last ostrich feathers – giving it his all.
“Oh, God,” Ace mutters. “This is going to be a long morning…”
Trailer for ‘The Men Who Stare At Goats’ – enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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