The Uvula Strikes Back: A Zombie Parody

The Beastie Boys vs. Bob Marley – Could You Be Intergalactic mash-up…

“What took you so long?” Ace asks, when I catch up with the others.

The underwater cavern could be described as ‘forbidding’ – only it’s more than forbidding. It’s the full Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted notice, Jesus-is-Watching-You sign, and restraining order.

That’s how forbidding it is.

I can already sense my brain-stem drafting out its Diminished Responsibility plea for the condition that this diving-suit will be returned in.

“I slipped,” I explain, knowing that I’m not even in the neighbourhood of the truth, let alone close to it. “And, er – I dropped my harpoon gun…”

An explosion in the water between us causes similar in my trousers, as the weapon being discussed – in this case, Crispin Dry’s harpoon gun – fires at something behind me. I turn to face a giant, yawning, vicelike claw, lined with exoskeletal barbs.

It freezes in its apparently ready stance to snap around my neck, and then abruptly withdraws into a cloud of sand and bubbles.

“Rock Scorpion,” says Crispin, over the radio. “We must keep moving.”

Heading deeper into the tunnel, we climb over a jagged outcrop of white limestone stalagmites. I look upwards, half expecting to see similar stalactites overhead… but the cave is so vast, the ceiling is hidden in darkness, and drifting ocean silt.

“Are you sure the Sea Centipede who dug this tunnel is dead?” Carvery Slaughter asks, voicing something I was wondering about myself.

“Fairly certain,” Crispin replies. “She was not too bothered about us clambering over her teeth just now, so if we survive the journey all the way along the alimentary canal to the other end, I think we can safely assume that ‘dead’ is her current state.”

“Really?” Carvery points his harpoon at the nearest wall, and fires. It goes fairly deep, sending up dark shards of old rotted carcass into the almost stagnant seawater. “Guess so.”

“What’s an alimentary canal?” Ace asks. “Do we have to get on another barge? Because the last one kind of did me enough damage for today.”

“Nah, you don’t need a barge on an alimentary canal,” Carvery tells him. “It’s a misnomer. Not so much like a real canal – more like a flume.”

“What, one you ride on a rubber ring?” says Ace.

“If we spot one on the way, you’re welcome to it,” I mutter under my breath, but forget that they can hear me over the radio.

“I wouldn’t try it, if I were you,” Carvery replies to Ace, ignoring me. “It’s over-rated.”

“I’ll let you ride shotgun,” Ace suggests.

Carvery seems to ponder.

“Not my cup of tea,” he says at last. “And anyway – judging by the size of this mother, it’d be like throwing a couple of Tic-Tacs down a well.”

We continue to pick our way carefully through the darkness, the only illumination being from the lights built into our own diving helmets.

Another giant Rock Scorpion lunges out into our path, and this time I get a better view as it swings for Homer. The segmented carapace is black with yellow underneath, spotted like a leopard, and those giant claws are highlighted with angry red Go-Faster stripes. It reminds me of an old Formula One, John Player Special-sponsored Decepticon Transformer.

Ace’s harpoon flies into its side, and sticks in the join between head armour and thorax. It immediately turns back, scrabbling to try and dislodge the piercing, and forgetting about Homer N. Dry – who minces onward happily.

How can he still walk like that underwater, in that dirty great diving-suit? It must be the added buoyancy… I feel as though as I’m doing a Pingu impression, myself…

“See that light ahead?” Crispin announces, and we all strain to see anything through the murk. “The exit is about another hundred yards or so, and we will find ourselves at the bottom of the subterranean dock, for the Eight a.m. Lounge.”

It sounds hopeful, and we put in a renewed effort. I’m relieved to see Carvery and Ace re-cocking their harpoon guns, just in case.

I wonder about that mysterious creature who rescued me back on the cliff-face, stealing my own harpoon gun in exchange. What would a man with a fishtail want with a harpoon gun? Surely if there were any danger to him underwater, he could just turn his tail into legs and run away up the beach somewhere?

Or maybe they don’t do that in this reality… perhaps Disney made it up…

“Watch it,” Ace’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “I just stepped in something squishy.”

I look down, the beams of my head-lights sparkling off the sand and dirt swirling up from the sediment. The floor has taken on a bobbled appearance under the muck, like a huge puff-patchwork quilt.

“It was one of these blobby things,” Ace continues, kicking his foot into another. It breaks open, like a deflating balloon, and releases inky black liquid and greenish slime into the water. “Maybe the giant centipede had a big peptic ulcer problem.”

“I hope so,” Carvery remarks. “Because otherwise it looks like we’ve taken a wrong turn at the buffet car, and found where they’re hiding the caviare.”

The Empire Strikes Back: Mynock Cave Scene (original) – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Splat: A Zombie Parody

Depeche Mode vs. Duran Duran – I Feel Loved/Save A Prayer mash-up…

“We will have to climb a little way,” Crispin points out, over the two-way radio. “But it is not treacherous.”

Hmmm – not exactly what I was thinking… The opening of the giant tunnel in the underwater cliff-face is still a good thirty or so feet above the floor of the ocean shelf we are currently occupying, in our deep-sea diving-suits. And as we draw closer, I see more of those juvenile Burrowing Sea Centipedes popping disturbingly in and out of the vertical surface of the limestone.

It’s rather like watching a demon-possessed Hornby train-set.

“After you,” I say warily, to Ace Bumgang.

I don’t like the idea of either him or Carvery Slaughter bringing up my rear at the moment. Not while they’re armed with harpoon guns, particularly.

So I hang back, until even the zombie transvestite Homer N. Dry is in front of me, his Geisha wig now slightly lopsided inside his diving-helmet. I watch carefully where he places his hands and feet in the limestone wall, observing the safest potential route upwards.

The water provides a little buoyancy, even though the diving-boots are weighted, for ease and stability of traversing the sea-bed.

“Watch out for the Cannibal Corals,” Crispin’s voice warns. “They are more territorial than you might think.”

I snatch my left hand away from a pit in the surface, as a young Centipede head emerges from it, scattering limestone sand into the ocean current. It pauses, before heading out across the surface of the wall, on its many articulated legs.

It passes over the living branches and folds of a Coral outcrop, which instantly reacts, extruding some whitish tripe-like fleshy mantle from within, attacking and enveloping the intruder. Within seconds, the struggling seven-foot-long Sea Centipede has been stripped of all living tissue, leaving behind a fragile shell of exoskeleton.

Within a few more brief seconds, the segments of remaining shell are washed apart by the current, adrift on the tide.

A giant Brittlestar or Basket Starfish picks its way carefully over the wall’s surface in the meantime, ominously, like a passing tumbleweed.

I can almost hear the Mexican bandito flutes…

Crispin and Carvery have reached the summit, and turn to assist Ace next. As I look up, the great shadow of a Manta Ray emerges from the tunnel over their heads, soaring above us silently, like a stealth bomber.

All of my internal organs scrunch into a messy knot, until the long whip of its deadly tail finally curls out of range and vanishes, in the direction of the Deep Ocean Trench.

One at a time, Ace and Homer also complete the climb, and disappear over the top into the giant tunnel.

“Did you see that?” I hear Carvery say, over the radio. “Something moved back there…”

“Stay vigilant,” Crispin’s voice advises. “Wait… yes. Do not make any sudden moves…”

I freeze in my ascent. Does that order even include me?

What’s going on up there?!

For the next few moments, I hear nothing. My brain goes slowly and horribly numb.

What are they doing?

Are they still alive??!

I decide I will have to risk a peek, or stay clinging to the underwater limestone cliffs for ever. Determinedly, I reach up with my right hand, for another hand-hold. And then another, levering myself upward in the heavy boots…

A Sea Centipede bursts out of the rock at eye-level, and I swallow my scream, wary of pissing off Carvery Slaughter any more than I already have – if he’s still around to act on it, that is.

But that’s not the worst of it…

The juvenile insect seems as startled as I am, and lunges. With the sound of hailstones against a windowpane, dozens of armoured legs stampede around my diving-helmet, treating me to a close-up view of the long pale undercarriage of the creature, and its almost mechanically-moving segments as they wrap around and around…

It drags me off-balance, away from the limestone cliff, and I lurch backwards towards the sea-floor once more, scrabbling to try and grab the wriggling beast as it runs all over me in a territorial frenzy.

And then just as quickly, it is torn away. By what, I can’t see – and I’m still falling.

Until something closes on my upper arms from behind, like steel pincers, halting my sinking progress through the waters. What on Earth…?

My journey suddenly reverses, and at an alarming speed, I shoot upwards again.

…Right to the top of the wall I was climbing, and the entrance to the tunnel. Where I’m deposited gently onto my feet once more.

In the distance, I can see the others moving around by the flashlights set into their headgear, in the darkness ahead. But what just…?

The pincer-sensation is released, and I manage to turn around, trying to ready my harpoon gun. Just as I raise it level, it is abruptly snatched from my grip.

I gasp in shock.

For I’m gazing into the green eyes of the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen – who has no diving-gear, no shirt on – just a snake tattoo, and a bit of strategically-placed seaweed – and my harpoon gun, in his right hand.

He blows a kissing salute on the two forefingers of his other hand, and grins – and then is gone, with the powerful flick of a muscular silver tail – which nearly sends me over backwards again.

“Watch out for the Humungous Rock Scorpions,” I hear Crispin saying, as I wonder if there‘s anything else new left to see in the world now. My mind is reeling. “They respond well to a show of strength – our harpoons may need to be deployed here.”

Well… if that isn’t just bloody typical…

Mermaid-spotting in the original ‘Splash’ – enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

20,000 Legs Under The Sea: A Zombie Parody

Moby vs. Dr Dre & Snoop Dogg vs. Jamiroquai – 3-way mash-up…

“Target acquired, Sir!” comes the shout again from the crew, on the bridge of the Colossal U-Boat, The Great Nematode. “Orders, Sir!”

Captain Rima Glottidis puts his eyes to the dual magnifying scope beside the 3-D underwater map. The unravelling beast of a sea-parasite, whose territory we have crossed into, now spans the spherical projection.

The Captain twists dials and turns knobs. I worry that there will be nothing left of The Great Nematode before he makes a decision, as further vibrations jar the giant hull.

“We must ensure that your subterranean route to the Eight a.m. Lounge is not blocked,” he murmurs, tapping commands into the touch screen controls.

I reach for Crispin Dry’s hand, for reassurance, and feel his cold zombie fingers curl through my own.

“Ready the Chthonic Sonar!” Captain Rima suddenly barks, and crew-members spurt into action. He raises his head and looks towards us with a steely gaze, no sign of uncertainty in his features at all. “It will not destroy – but it will disperse. And in the event of Atum’s presence, it will not register to him as an act of aggression.”

“I respect your decision, Captain Rima,” Crispin concurs with a nod.

“You may find yourselves having to confront any remaining hostiles face-to-face,” the Captain warns, and Crispin merely concedes again with another subtle nod of understanding.

What? Face-to-face? What does he mean?

“Sonar ready, Captain!” hails the crewman manning the weapons console, turning a key beside a large green button. The u-boat rocks and lurches, like an overweight pigeon landing on a rotating washing-line.

“Maximum power!” orders the Captain. “One pulse!”

“Aye, Sir!”

The crewman strikes the green button.

I suddenly know how a dog-whistle feels. It’s as though a high-speed tornado has just shot through all of my bones.

The unravelling Abyss Tapeworm on the projection reacts, contracting once, and then cracking like a whip. The Great Nematode tilts dangerously, foredeck-down. We, and the crew, have to brace ourselves at the consoles.

“Again!” shouts Rima. “Second pulse!”

“Aye, Sir!”

Again, the terrible sense of disruptive distortion rips through me. The parasite contracts again, like a coiled spring of intent…

“Fire again!” the Captain roars.

A third pulse of the Chthonic Sonar is discharged, and it feels as though all sorts of bodily fluids are following suit. For one terrible second, the Abyss Tapeworm remains coiled to respond…

…And then spontaneously breaks apart. The Great Nematode slowly rights itself, as the segments of the parasite drift gently outwards across the 3-D map, on the current.

“Bogey neutralized, Sir!” the confirmation report finally reaches our ravaged ears.

“Received,” Captain Rima replies, curtly. He turns to Crispin. “Some of those pouches will be mature. You will have to exercise great caution on the next stage of your journey.”

“Understood, Captain.” Crispin turns back to the communications console. “And the transmission you intercepted?”

“I think it best if we lie low on the edge of the Deep Ocean Trench until it can be fully de-coded,” says the Captain. “Which means you can reconnoitre with us if so required, after the Eight a.m. Lounge.”

“Do not delay your mission on our account, Captain,” Crispin tells him.

“It is a privilege, Mr. Dry.” Captain Rima’s smart nod of acknowledgement is almost a bow. He glances at the diagnostics of the u-boat. “It seems that our hull breaches are almost fully repaired. Allow me to escort you to the air-lock.”

As we turn to leave the bridge, beckoning to Homer to detach himself from the crewman’s pole and join us, the officer who had been sent after Mr. Dry Senior’s diary returns.

“No luck, Sir,” the officer apologises. “Mr. Slaughter, the guest in question, believes the diary may have been left behind in the Six a.m. Lounge – at Madam Dingdong’s Bring Your Own Towel Sauna And Spa.”

Oh, no…

*  *  *  *  *

We meet up again with Carvery Slaughter and Ace Bumgang as we reach the airlock, where a range of diving-suits and equipment is stored, ready for use.

“You have patched up the hull of The Great Nematode well, as I understand,” says the Captain. “Your hard work is appreciated, men.”

“Nobody wants uninvited eggs laid in his premises,” Carvery remarks, giving me a nasty wink. “Just because some big old hermaphrodite worm thinks it looks like a good incubator.”

“If women ever figure out how to do that, we are fucked,” Ace agrees. “Talk about woman’s inhumanity to man.”

Damn – there goes most of the other half of my future fantasy plans, regarding Ace and the accessibility of his DNA…

“You will be able to make it to the subterranean level of the Eight a.m. Lounge from here on foot,” the Captain continues, gesturing at the display of underwater gear. “And here I must leave you all, and return to my duties. There is the small matter of arrangements to recover Mr. Dry Senior’s diary, from the Six a.m. Lounge. Officer Lyra will assist you.”

On FOOT??!

Captain Rima Glottidis does not elucidate further, merely clicks his heels with a nod, and departs.

I feel as though I’m in a daze, trying to take in the concept, even though the deep-sea space-suits with their fishbowl-shaped helmets are self-explanatory.

“We’ve got to cross the sea-bed?” I ask, weakly. “In – just those things…?”

The Great Nematode is too large to dock closer,” Crispin explains, as Officer Lyra unhooks a diving-suit and holds it out, ready for him to step into. “And there are many residents in the Eight a.m. Lounge who would not approve of it surfacing in their vicinity. Different ocean-bound regulations apply here. We cannot afford too many perceived declarations of war in just the one morning, you understand.”

I note Ace and Carvery grinning at each other knowingly, as they shrug on the huge protective suits over their Naval uniforms. Carvery still has Mrs. Frittata’s shotgun, which is sealed up in a special additional watertight holster, and strapped to his leg. Homer is hiking up his Geisha kimono quite cheerfully, and tucking it into his undergarments to fit inside.

Officer Lyra holds out a slightly smaller diving-suit for me obligingly, and with great trepidation and dread, I step inside.

It’s not so much wearing the suit, as being encased in it. It is stifling and claustrophobic, like being zipped up and buckled inside a watertight sleeping-bag. Only after the helmet is clipped into place and the hiss of the heavy oxygen-canister starts, initiating a draft of cool air which circulates around me in the suit, do I feel any relief from the sweltering incarceration of it.

“This way,” Crispin’s voice prompts, and I realise there is a two-way radio built in also. “We will undergo pressure compensation in the airlock.”

Officer Lyra presses a sequence of buttons on the wall, and spins a wheel to open a vault-like door, and we file into the bare metal cell. Lyra salutes our departure, and closes the door again behind us.

“What now?” I ask, as we shuffle around.

Crispin indicates for us all to grab hold of a strap from the ceiling, like being in a subway car.

“They flood the airlock,” he says.

A light starts to flash overhead, and valves open all around the walls, at ankle-height. Suddenly water gushes through, swirling and rising rapidly.

“Your suits will compensate for the pressure automatically,” he continues, and I’m aware of my own suit apparently inflating, while the water-level in the airlock advances above my knees.

Even though I’m dry inside, it doesn’t feel normal for a human being.

“Now I know how the little plastic dude in the fish-tank always feels,” Ace comments, the water now up to his chest, and already over my shoulders.

“You’ve certainly achieved his exact look,” I reply, before the foaming water bubbles up past my face, momentarily obscuring everything.

Once it is above my head, I can see. I’m surprised how much everything looks the same underwater – just – slower.

When the tank is full, the light stops flashing, and turns green.

“We can still communicate,” Crispin reminds us, after a short silence.

It is followed by the very definite sound of radio-transmitted flatulence. Nobody owns up to it, although we all exchange suspicious glances, to see who might be suffering the side-effect of extra gas in their air-supply.

Fortunately, the outer doors slide open.

“Before we leave,” Crispin adds. “You may now arm yourselves.”

He opens a previously unnoticed cabinet just inside the outer doors, which is revealed to be full of harpoon guns.

“Cool,” Ace remarks.

“Is that all?” groans Carvery, but takes one anyway. “What are we doing now – Colossal Squid acupuncture?”

“There will still be Great Abyss Tapeworm eggs adrift in the water,” Crispin reminds us, as we step out onto the gangplank. “Some may be mature, and looking for a host. Plus the usual sharks, giant octopus, maybe even Colossal Squid indeed, Mr. Slaughter…”

…Not to mention Carvery Slaughter now armed with a harpoon, I think to myself, and try to make sure I don’t have my back to him, at least…

I take a first look at our surroundings. The u-boat, The Great Nematode, towers over us like an entire mobile underwater precinct. Beyond it is a bottomless blackness, which must be the Deep Ocean Trench. And we are standing on what is essentially a shelf on the edge of that trench, a rocky, sandy, weed-and-crustacean coated outpost of sea floor.

We must be just close enough to the surface to benefit from a little natural blue-tinged light from above, although our visibility in all directions is probably less than sixty or seventy feet.

“There!” Crispin points, and we all turn. A large white shape floats innocently on the current – resembling a huge, plastic, supermarket carrier-bag – until something indefinable wriggles within. “It may look benign now, but if that larva is ready to hatch, it will start to eat its way through the hull of any vessel passing through.”

The egg drifts out of range, into the darkness of the trench, where it abruptly vanishes.

“Of course, some will be eaten by larger predators first,” he concedes.

I feel as though I’ve just had to swallow a stone. I hope none of those ‘larger predators’ like to pop out of the Deep Ocean Trench for a stroll…

We proceed slowly away in the opposite direction across the sea-bed, only the resistance of the water pressure around us our main hindrance. Shoals of small fish dart by, and the occasional lobster flaps between the rocks – but nothing menacing seems to occupy these particular waters – so far.

“Something just ran over my foot,” Ace says, behind me. “There’s another…”

The sand beside me erupts, and a six-foot-long, many-segmented exoskeletal insect scurries in front of me. I scream, without thinking.

“Great, now I’m deaf, from electronic audiofeedback,” Carvery says. “One more scream out of you, Sarah, and the only way you’ll be getting out of here is as a dolphin-friendly, harpooned tinned twat.”

“We are close to our destination,” Crispin announces, as another multi-limbed critter hurries past, and disappears under the sand once more. “These are the juveniles of the Burrowing Sea-Centipede. The tunnels of the adult Centipede should be in the cliffs ahead.”

Sure enough, a craggy pale limestone wall gradually appears through the waters in front of us, peppered with caves, and sprinkled with self-anchoring sea-creatures, many of which could be mistaken for plants.

“How big are these adult Sea-Centipedes?” Ace wants to know, saving me the trouble of asking for myself.

“We must aim for the largest tunnel,” Crispin announces. “It leads to the subterranean docking platform. But do not worry. The Centipede that burrowed this original tunnel is long dead.”

“Not that it makes any difference around here,” Carvery chuckles. “I’d quite like to see a Zombie Centipede…”

I can’t say I agree with him – as we approach the underwater cliff-face, and an almost perfectly circular cavern, fifty feet in diameter, looms above us…

The original 1950’s trailer for ‘20,000 Leagues Under The Sea’ – enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Cremaster Tide: A Zombie Parody

Tone Loc vs. Kylie – Can’t Get Wild Thing Out of My Head mash-up

“Shouldn’t we do something?” I ask. “Isn’t there – an emergency in progress? An evacuation procedure, or battle stations alert?”

“Sarah,” Ace says carefully. “We’re in a submarine.”

“Mr. Bumgang is correct,” Crispin agrees. “And the best thing to do under the circumstances is to remain calm. If it would take your mind off things, we can always move to the Games Room.”

“I wonder what it would be like to play darts underwater,” Carvery remarks. “Probably got to be really sure you’re aiming for the dartboard and not the walls…”

I don’t understand these guys. Surely the worst case scenario on a u-boat has to be sabotage?

“I really would be more comfortable knowing what is going on,” I announce. “Can’t we go with Captain Rima to the bridge?”

But Crispin merely gets to his feet and offers me his arm.

“Shall we, Sarah Bellummm?” he says. “The Captain will alert us if there is anything we need to know.”

Oh, when he puts it like that, of course… I jump to my feet and latch on, like a friendly limpet-mine.

“Forget it,” Ace grunts, as the optimistic Geisha Homer N. Dry sidles up to him, on his block-soled slippers.

Homer takes a speculative look at Carvery Slaughter in turn – but it seems, from that one frosty exchanged glance, that even zombies have an instinctive sense of self-preservation. So the gray Geisha is resigned to trouping along unescorted, as usual.

We head down some further stairs, and find ourselves at the foredeck of the u-boat. In a vast leisure-room, where some off-duty officers – as quirky and exotic-looking as our Captain – are partaking of a quiet drink, and a game of dominoes. A panoramic glass window reveals what on first glance look like stars… but they move, changing shape and colour, or ripple and fluoresce, and I realise they are alive, the deep-sea denizens of wherever-we-are…

I go to stare out at the inky depths, while Ace and Carvery head for the Air-Hockey table, and Homer homes in on the spotlit karaoke stage.

“What do you think, Sarah Bellummm?” Crispin Dry asks me, appearing at my side.

“Breathtaking,” I admit, wondering how thick the glass is – now that Ace seems intent on sending the hockey puck off the table, with a bet on how many drinks glasses he can smash within a minute. “And you have all of this on your doorstep – virtually…”

“Oh, there is nothing virtual about it, Miss Bellummm,” Crispin replies. “It is all part of the family’s hereditary munitions trading routes. The highest bidders can afford to tear holes in the seat of the pants of time and space – if it means getting their hands on the best technology before the competition does.”

“So now you’re no longer in the weapons industry, you just use these access routes and locations as your… your…” I forage for a word. One that means ‘showing off your substitute manhood to impress women.’

“My droit de seigneur, Miss Bellummm?” he suggests.

“I don’t know what you mean by Dry to Say Nyah, but it certainly looks like a big show-off Nyah-Nyah-Nyanah-Nyah to me, when you put it that way,” I remark.

“How kind of you to notice,” he says, with that devastating half-smile of his.

But before I can think of a smart reply (to be truthful, that could have taken me the best part of a week) Homer’s karaoke rendition of Gooood Vibrations is suddenly interrupted by a low pulsing siren, and the disco lights are switched off, to be replaced by an all-encompassing red-blue phasing alert.

“All hands to the bridge,” Captain Rima’s voice announces over the tannoy. “That is all.”

The off-duty officers jump to their feet, and hurry over to what I had previously thought was a dance-pole, to the left of the stage. One at a time, they grasp it and slide downwards, disappearing below the floor.

“Let’s go!” says Carvery, and he and Ace follow suit.

“We should attend too,” says Crispin, as Homer waddles quickly after Ace and Carvery. Can’t say I blame him… “Just do as I do.”

I watch him grip the pole, hand over hand, and slide below deck. Once the coast seems clear, I reach out and try to cling on likewise, sloth-like.

“Too tight, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin’s voice rises to my ears. “Loosen your grip.”

I do as bidden – and the floor of the deck below smacks into my coccyx like a demolition ball.

“Well done,” Crispin greets me, and hauls me upright, as I wonder if I’ll ever walk again. I’ve lost all sensation below the ribcage, but as he sets me on my feet, issues of Instant Pain are filed from multiple complainants around my anatomy. “This is the bridge.”

Officers are attending to various consoles and 3-D displays, showing not only the earlier underwater ‘maps’ but also the layout of the u-boat. Sections of the diagnostics flash alarmingly, or are lit up red, in ways that remind me of Crispin’s home security back at the mansion – when he was looking for the security breach.

“We have intercepted a partial distress call,” Captain Rima Glottidis announces, directing Crispin to look at a readout on a console. “We have a location and the first five codewords. However, these codewords in another sequence also form a scrambled declaration of war. So without the rest of the message, we cannot act in a fully-informed response.”

“And the sabotage?” asks Crispin.

“We have hull breaches in a number of our flotation tanks,” Captain Rima continues. “But no arms signatures. I believe the breaches may be parasitic.”

“It is spawning season,” Crispin agrees, in a pondering tone. “We are not within Atum’s consecrated waters, I hope?”

“Our charts say no,” the Captain assures him. “But – Atum himself could easily mislead us, if he so wanted…”

“Of course,” Crispin nods. I sense the tension in the air, taut like the elastic in a pair of control-top pantyhose on a Hull school dinner-lady.

“So what’s the plan?” Ace asks. “Go and check out this place where the partial distress call came from?”

“That is our first priority, indeed,” says Captain Rima. “Because our response would be to launch recovery vehicles, in that instance. But in the alternative declaration of war, by whichever Lounge initiated it – our obligation is to launch a pre-emptive strike. Have you upset anyone, on your journey so far this morning?”

We all exchange dubious glances.

“I think Madam Dingdong might be missing a few knick-knacks,” says Carvery quietly, jerking a thumb meaningfully at Homer N. Dry, who is currently preoccupied with alternative entertainment uses for the pole we have just entered the bridge by.

The rest of us mumble agreement, keen to delegate any responsibility for an ‘upset’ thus far.

“I suggest that the engineers focus on the hull breach,” says Crispin. “Mr. Slaughter and Mr. Bumgang – your expertise there would be appreciated.”

“Dude, I can fill a six-foot-by-six hole faster than you can blink,” Carvery remarks.

“You won’t even see the welding-marks on any cut-and-shut of mine,” Ace chips in.

“Excellent,” Captain Rima booms. “Officer Lyra will show you down.”

A small dark gentleman appears next to Captain Rima and bows smartly, and the two guys follow him out of the bridge. My stomach lurches in panic.

Whatever happens down there – I hope at least their DNA makes it back intact…

“Who is analysing the distress call?” Crispin continues.

“I am handling it myself.” Captain Rima moves aside, so that we can see the console more clearly. But I don’t recognise anything about the hieroglyphs on the screen – except…

“I’ve seen these drawings before!” I cry out.

“But my dear, that is impossible,” says the Captain, patiently. “This is top-secret code.”

“In the diary – your father’s diary, Crispin!” I insist. “I’m sure of it! The one that was in the room with the clockwork hand…”

“Where is this ‘diary’?” Captain Rima frowns, looking from me to Crispin, and back again.

I rack my brains.

“I think Carvery had it last,” I say. “In his pocket. Yes!”

Captain Rima beckons to another officer.

“Go after Lyra, and see if either of the men in his team have Mr. Dry Senior’s diary on them,” he orders. “And check their quarters also, for the same. There may be other codeword sequences listed in it, relevant to this transmission.”

“Sir – yes, Sir!” The officer hurries away.

“Sir!” Another officer, by one of the 3-D spherical maps, calls for his attention. “Unidentified bogey dead ahead, Sir!”

The Captain and Crispin move swiftly to look, and I dart after them.

A massive blob shape appears glowing in the projection field, and as we watch, begins to uncoil, into an even larger, seemingly endless helix.

“It is the parasitic saboteur I feared,” Captain Rima says. “The Great Abyss Tapeworm.”

“Are you sure?” I ask. “It looks like Atum… from what I recall, I mean… God help us.”

“I think I have the experience required to recognise monsters of the deep, Miss Bellum,” says Captain Rima, curtly.

“And if it is Atum, then we are indeed at war,” Crispin points out. “Not even God will help us, in that case.”

“Bogey closing, Sir!” a voice hails the Captain again. “Standing by for orders to attack, Sir!”

The helix of the beast in the virtual map continues to unwind and extend, gradually filling the field of the 3-D projection, like an unravelling ball of yarn in a basket.

“We will shortly be surrounded,” Crispin notes aloud. “You had better be sure, Captain Rima.”

“Stand by!” shouts the Captain, but I notice a single bead of sweat emerging onto his forehead from his turban, as he studies the map. My heart contracts in terror.

He’s waiting for something… which means he’s not sure…

‘Crimson Tide’ trailer – enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

The Hunt for Rectal Oedema: A Zombie Parody

The Prodigy/Rihanna – Smack My Umbrella mash-up

I can well believe the need for a high tide. Goodness – the upper surface of the boat as it emerges from the depths stretches the length of the docks as far as I can make out, in either direction. Even with the smog drifting a few feet overhead, it is still quite a distance.

“That’s a sub?” Ace gasps. “Holy shit.”

“Don‘t,” Carvery grunts. “Reminds me of something Miss Fuckwit greeted me with after work once, suggesting we should try out. Luckily there were no batteries in the house, or I’d have had to fake a slipped disc again. The amount of total crap she keeps hidden in her wardrobes… just the stuff she thinks is needed to set the mood now is like playing Ann Summers Buckaroo.”

“Sciatica,” Ace nods. “That’s a good one. Good excuse to lie on the beanbag chair with a beer playing Metal Gear Solid all night, and tell ’em to go play with their toys on their own.”

“I can fake Metal Gear Solid too,” Carvery grins. “Just leave it on demo and lock the door to the den, while I read a bit of Dean Koontz and get some sleep for once.”

“I’m stealing that idea, dude,” Ace tells him.

A thud on the roof of the rickshaw interrupts, but Carvery simply puts the muzzle of the shotgun to the canopy and pulls the trigger. There is an unearthly shriek, and the body of a Seven a.m. Lounge zombie crashes onto the cobbled dock behind us, as we head onwards along the pier.

“Women,” Carvery sighs. “Way more trouble than zombies.”

“Not if you treat them the same,” Ace points out. “Oh, wait… you DO treat them the same.”

A figure appears on the gangplank from inside the enormous submarine, as we finally pull up and tumble out of the rickshaw.

“This is our u-boat’s captain,” Crispin introduces us. “Rima Glottidis – Captain of The Great Nematode.”

The man, who looks strangely exotic for a Naval officer, bows very formally. He is dressed more as a nobleman of the desert than a member of the military, and sports a well-groomed beard.

“Just the five of you today, Mr. Dry?” Captain Rima Glottidis asks of Crispin, in a clipped baritone. “I must have been mistaken – I was expecting seven.”

“It has been a night of many surprises, Captain Rima,” Crispin confirms. “I will fill you in en route.”

“Then let us not delay.” Captain Rima steps back, and gestures inside. “Time and tide waits for no man.”

The interior of the u-boat is brightly-lit and carpeted, not how preconceptions of sound-stage constructed movie-sets of submarines have been ingrained in me. It’s more like being in the inside-cabin section of a very swish ocean-liner.

The drawbridge closes behind us, and Captain Rima picks up a white courtesy telephone receiver from the wall just beside it, as massive wheels and bolts seal us within.

“Make ready to depart,” he orders simply, and replaces the handset. “And now – this way. The guest quarters you will find pleasing, I hope.”

*  *  *  *  *

I would have found them more pleasing if I didn’t find myself alone… some nautical nonsense about underwater gender segregation. My new fantasy of being away at sea, in some romantic clincher with either Ace Bumgang or Crispin Dry, cannot resolve itself to the four uninterrupted blank walls facing me. It would have been so perfect – locked in a u-boat, God knows how many leagues under the sea – no escape for either of them… er, I mean us…

The suite is comfortable – more than comfortable. The white walls have gold accents to match the gold fittings in the bathroom, and dark blue wool carpets, and the only sound is the faintest distant humming of the submarine’s propulsion system. There is not even the sensation of movement to detract from how inviting the crisp linens on the bed look, and how long it feels since I last slept… or rather snoozed, back in the hospital emergency room last night… but I resist.

No. No going to bed alone, I scold myself. Not when Ace or Crispin might only be the thickness of a wall away…

But it is the uncertainty of what the adjoining rooms might contain that prevent me experimenting with any tapping on those walls, Morse-code style. Maybe some unknown zombie naval officers, or even prisoners, are my neighbours for the journey. Or worse – I could find myself on the end of a Carvery Slaughter sleep-deprivation shotgun solution, or hours of helping Homer N. Dry attempt repairs to his new Geisha wig…

Worst of all – when I try the door – I am locked in.

Reluctantly, I eventually curl up in the cool sheets. With no idea where we are going – or at least, what the Eight a.m. Lounge has in store.

*  *  *  *  *

A brisk staccato rapping noise on the cabin door rouses me, and I am instantly alert.

“Are you awake, Sarah Bellummm?” Crispin’s unmistakeable zombie drawl hails me from the far side.

Yes! I check myself hurriedly in the mirror, and instantly regret it.

I do indeed still look exactly like a scrawny pizza-delivery girl, who has fallen into a hen-house, crawled through rank underground tunnels, stumbled across desert sands, toppled off the roof of a giant Oriental fort, and accidentally stabbed a middle-aged Victorian streetwalker.

I try to wipe the scabby blood from my face with a corner of Lady Glandula’s robes, which are not so much worse for wear as fully ravaged. I attempt to tweak them into a more alluring position, but only succeed in finding a mess of more blood, and dried vomit. Oh yes. A scrawny pizza-delivery girl who has also been repeatedly sick…

I cut my losses and give up on my turn-out. Maybe accessibility will trump appearance.

“I am awake, Crispin!” I reply loudly. “What is it?”

The door opens, and I am ashamed. He has made some attempt at personal grooming of his own, having brushed the dust and grime off his fine black suit, and his gray zombie countenance is far cleaner than my own.

“I was just going to freshen up,” I add, alarmed, and scurry into the en-suite, slamming the door.

“Oh, good, Miss Bellummm,” he coughs. “You will find clean apparel in the airing cupboard. Captain Rima Glottidis has requested our attendance in the Mission Hall.”

“Mission Hall?” I repeat, splashing water onto my face and arms. Urgh. Not so much cleaning it off as moving it around…

“We need to discuss plans to retrieve the clockwork hand, Sarah Bellummm,” he explains. “As you were so keen to pursue the matter, I thought…”

“Oh – yes, yes – of course!” I cry. I chase the soap around the basin ineffectually. “I will be right out!”

And I dunk my whole head into the warm water, hoping for the best.

*  *  *  *  *

I am finally presentable for the first time since last night. Now wearing a u-boat issue tailored navy-blue trouser uniform with gilt buttons, and my slowly-drying hair scraped back into a bun secured by bobby-pins borrowed from Homer’s own wig, we follow Crispin through the bowels of The Great Nematode.

Halfway, we meet up with Ace and Carvery, who have also both been issued clean uniforms. My dormant DNA-seeking hormones spring to attention like internal hunting-dogs. Damn them… I am also irked by the fact that their uniforms seem to be higher-ranking than my own plain blue one…

Homer N. Dry is the only one of us who has not required a clean-up, having only recently had the full attention of all the skills of Madam Dingdong.

“You look like a singing telegram,” Ace greets me.

“You look like a strip-a-gram,” I snap back.

“You wish,” Carvery chuckles. Who still looks like a lady-killer, in all senses of the word.

We find ourselves in a long conference room. A porcelain tea-set is on the far end of the table being attended to by a servant, and Captain Rima beckons to us to join him.

“My suggestion is that we take the Northern approach to the Eight a.m. Lounge,” he begins, and an illuminated spherical 3-D map appears in the centre of the room. I can make neither head nor tail of it, except for the virtual shapes of swimming whales and giant squid glowing within, and what might be shipwrecks flickering at the lower peripheral edge. “We will moor at the subterranean docks, and you can make an undetected entrance in the most convenient manner for your destination.”

“Where are we going, exactly?” I ask.

“The Eight a.m. Lounge, dumb-ass,” Carvery reminds me.

“I was hoping for more detail,” I mumble.

“The detail only becomes apparent on our arrival, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says. “Time does not work in the same way between the Lounges. All that is certain is the time of day on our arrival. Everything else is fractal.”

“We are making good progress,” Captain Rima assures us. “Tea?”

We all concede our thirst, and sit down to the dainty cups and saucers.

“Finger?” the Captain asks me directly, and I feel my eyes widen in horror – before daring to look down at the plate of crumbly sugared shortcake.

“Thank you,” I barely whisper.

“Have you considered what the risks might be, should your fugitive Mr. Lukan unlock the powers of the clockwork hand?” rumbles Captain Rima, as he takes the seat at the head of the table.

“It is of no consequence,” Crispin says dismissively. “Atum would not allow it.”

“But the wrath of Atum would have far greater consequence,” the Captain points out.

Crispin shrugs.

“Here today,” he muses, and finishes his biscuit. “Gone tomorrow.”

Gooood,” Homer nods, sipping his tea, with his own little finger crooked upwards.

The rest of us sit in bemused silence. My mind is racing. Are they talking about Atum the giant river-god? I daren’t ask what the wrath of the colossal sea-serpent would entail…

There is a slight judder, tinkling the china on the tea-tray, and the distant hum of the propulsion system becomes a faint jarring vibration.

Captain Rima exchanges a look with Crispin, and beckons to his servant. The servant picks up a second tray upon which is a white courtesy phone, and brings it to his side.

The Captain picks up the receiver.

“Status report,” he orders, and listens. “I see.”

He replaces the handset, and gets to his feet.

“I am afraid I must leave you and attend to the bridge,” he says, and clicks his heels smartly. “There is a minor issue to address. Please make yourselves at home.”

And he strides out.

“What does he mean, a minor issue?” I ask. A second judder clatters a silver spoon out of the sugar-bowl.

“Well, as he is attending to it personally,” Crispin ponders. “It sounds like it could be sabotage. Would anyone care for a digestive? Chocolate Hob-Nob?”

Trailer for ‘The Hunt for Red October’ – enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

To celebrate Friday 13th, today’s episode brought to you by Adam Sifre’s zombie horror comedy, I’ve Been Deader:

Being undead never felt more alive.  Fred’s just an ordinary zombie until one day he eats — er, meets Aleta and learns a trick.

“Special thanks to Lisa for not only plugging the book, but reading it (twice) and making edits and formatting corrections before it was picked up by Taylor Street Publishing.  Thanks in large part to her, I’ve Been Deader is ready for the big time.  So don’t blame me.” Adam Sifre, author (under no duress whatsoever…) 😉

The Leg of Extraneous Genito-Urinary Medicine: A Zombie Parody

The Prodigy/Pendulum vs. Limp Bizkit – Voodoo People/Rollin’ mash-up

Almost immediately, we are inspired to run. The sound of stampeding feet seems to come from all directions in the maze of alleyways, accompanied by the angry shouting of the Seven a.m. Lounge denizens – which sounds exactly as though it comes complete with cleavers, butcher’s knives, pitchforks and flaming torches attached.

“Ruddy Six a.m. Loungers!” I hear a cry, too close for comfort. “Sneaking up on us – with your fancy flying hearth-rugs, and hocus-pocus!”

“I don’t suppose you want to try out your Lady Glandula impression on them, do you, Sarah?” Carvery asks me as we pause for breath in the shadow of a doorway, with a nasty grin. “Seeing as you’ve still got her dress on. That’d put the heebie-jeebies up them all right.”

“You may not have noticed, but I’m lacking a certain limb to complete the job description of Quim of the Damned,” I retort. “I’m a bit short in the alien tentacle department.”

“I’m sure there’s a piece of gizzard left over from that woman you just skewered that we could stick up your nightdress,” he suggests. “I bet no-one here has seen the real thing. You could get away with it.”

But I’m distracted from answering by another immediate fact.

“Where has Crispin gone?” I demand, looking around.

But as I look back again – Carvery has also vanished. Into the smog, the shadows, thin air – I have no idea…

Oh, God. Do I stay put? Do I run??

“There’s one of ‘em!” a voice cries, and I see torchlight at the end of the alleyway.

I take my chances, and run. Blindly. Anywhere.

Hoping that any turn I take doesn’t lead to a…

…Dead end…

I feel as though the endless brick-wall alleys are turning into those dreaded tunnels, back in the Three a.m. Lounge – or was that the Four a.m. Lounge? What bloodthirsty maneaters could turn up here? Monitor lizards? Crocodiles? More of Crispin and Homer’s eccentric zombie ancestors?

The winding routes make me dizzy, and the crossways bring tears to my eyes. Which way? Which way? I run onwards, hoping to find my way at least to the river, where maybe I could reach the safety of the rickshaw and flying carpet…

Trying to stay one step ahead of the noise of angry residents, I double-back after one left turn and hurry back the way I came, only to realise – too late – that I can hear running feet also approaching the same junction.

I try to double my speed, hoping to bisect the crossway before anyone else reaches it…

…And collide with a mass of tanned muscle, smelling of Sea Breeze fabric softener, and Lotus Blossom massage oil…

“It’s me,” says Ace, taking his hand off my mouth. He obviously knows my scream reflex too well by now. “Where is everyone else?”

“I don’t know, Ace,” I sob. “We got separated…”

I try to fling myself into his arms, tragic-heroine style – but he steps aside too quickly, so that I merely deflect clumsily off the wall.

“They’ll be around somewhere,” he shrugs. “Come on.”

So I’m resigned to stumbling along hurriedly in his path, hiking up my skirts gracelessly. God… Why is it never like the movies? Why hasn’t he swept me off my feet and carried me to safety?

How much more obvious do I have to be??!

A sound like a gunshot startles me from my thoughts of romantically fickle injustice, and the rickshaw pulls up abruptly at the next junction, the flying rug rearing up like a stallion, pawing the air.

“Quickly, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin calls out from the driving-seat. “We will have to meet the others at the water’s edge. The turning tide means that our transport to the Eight a.m. Lounge will not delay much longer.”

“Can’t we take the flying rickshaw to get there?” I ask, as Ace and I scramble in on either side.

“The rickshaw will not leave its driver behind in such a state as Mr. Time currently is,” Crispin explains. “I am afraid Mr. Time has already found his bed to sober up in at one of the Seven a.m. Lounge’s delightful constabularies. So we will take the optional transportation route – which hopefully will put us back on the path of Mr. Lukan, and the stolen clockwork hand. Now – hold on tight, please…”

And the rug strikes out again at the crack of the whip, jerking us into forward motion once more, as two legions of Seven a.m. Lounge residents converge on our spot from both directions.

Looking behind, I see them charging in pursuit, throwing half-bricks and other missiles. And from above – I’m fairly certain that they are on the rooftops too…

“What about the other two?” Ace asks. “I think Homer stopped to try and buy a hat.”

Crispin mutters something that is probably a curse against cross-dressing.

“…Father would never forgive me if I left the little painted trollop behind,” he grumbles at last. “He knows his own way about… probably the safest of us on his own here, he is so popular amongst the seamstresses… Hang on. I know where he will most likely be found.”

And we turn hard right, out of the labyrinth of alleyways into wider roads, dodging horse-drawn cabs, and startling pedestrians.

Oh no – this looks like the way back to the marketplace…

“It’s all right, so long as they think we’re still back there around the houses,” Ace points out. “Whoa, watch out for the flower-seller… never mind. She looked old anyway…”

“There’s Carvery!” I cry. “Over there – fighting with that Geisha-girl…”

“THAT is no girl,” Crispin remarks, grimly.

I look again.

Ohhhh… And it doesn’t look like they’re fighting, on second glance. To be honest, it looks as though the Geisha-girl is refusing to leave a shop by hanging onto the doorway for dear life, in spite of Carvery tugging on the other arm…

“Homer!” I hear Carvery yelling. “It’s not even your colour! Let go of the stupid hat and let’s go!”

Homer, who has evidently just had ‘the full works’ at Madam Dingdong’s, is indeed painted, primped and preened beyond recognition. The white face powder. The rose-red cupid’s bow of a mouth. The black hairpiece, complete with ornaments. The fabulously decorated kimono…

Gooood…” Homer protests.

He scrabbles at the doorway of the hat-shop, as Carvery makes a heroic effort, and hoists the skinny transvestite zombie over his shoulder – in exactly the way I so wished Ace had done with me – before running towards us in the rickshaw.

“Go!” Carvery yells, dumping Homer on the floor at our feet, and jumping in.

“Well done, Mr. Slaughter,” Crispin says, and I sense his relief – at having the difficult job of corralling Homer done for him, so efficiently.

The rug twitches into life again, and this time we soar over the market-stalls, taking a different route towards the river.

“Ace, buddy,” Carvery greets him. “You smell like a cheerleader’s gym locker.”

“Dude,” Ace frowns at him. “You just gave a fireman’s lift to a zombie drag queen.”

“Meaning?” Carvery raises an eyebrow.

“Meaning, you smell like a cheerleader’s armpit.” Ace dodges as Carvery aims an elbow at his head, meaning I get it in the ear instead.

“Ow!” I yell indignantly.

“Please, do not fight amongst yourselves,” Crispin urges, trying to concentrate on steering the flying rug. “We are nearly there…”

And not a moment too soon. Already we can hear the angry mob closing in, and deliberately-aimed roof-tiles bounce off the canopy of the rickshaw.

“Can’t we go higher?” I ask.

“Our transport is rather more low-profile this time, Sarah Bellummm,” says Crispin, and I spot a glint of streetlamp reflected off the river in the distance, as we near the water’s edge. “And like I said – it will not wait around, due to the tide.”

A great creaking and groaning sound reaches our ears, and the end of the road where it stops at the riverbank suddenly darkens, eclipsed by the rising of a strange monolith from the river itself. Water cascades from its sides, and for one terrible moment I believe that the river-god Atum has arrived, to decimate the city with its omnipotent eye of doom…

But instead of scales, the shape is covered in riveted metal plates. As we approach, a drawbridge lowers from it, onto the pier alongside.

“That is our transport to the Eight a.m. Lounge,” Crispin announces. “The Colossal U-Boat – The Great Nematode.”

Street-chase scene from The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Shallow Gravy: A Zombie Parody

Bob Marley vs. Soft Cell – Is This Tainted Love mash-up…

The reins are jerked clean out of my hand, as the collision with the street lamp catapults me from the roof of the rickshaw, sending me flying backwards with no control whatsoever. The only thing I keep hold of is the driving whip, and as I arc heels over head, pulled inescapably down by the force of gravity, my arms fly up to protect myself against the eventual impact.

It is softer than I expected – warm, crunchy, squishy – and briefly, also screaming.

Makes a change from hearing my own scream, I have to say…

But as I recover, and attempt to get up, I’m aware that some terrible incident has occurred…

“Justin!” I hiss, desperately. The rickshaw has stopped, evidently due to loss of whipping and steering. “Justin! Come here, quickly!”

The inebriated former rickshaw pilot rolls out of the passenger-seat of the cab, and tries to rearrange his legs. I don’t think the word ‘quickly’ is currently in his vocabulary.

Looking back down at the issue on the ground, I notice that the grotesque twitching has already stopped, and a sizeable puddle has also formed. But my conscience kicks in anyway, although even I’m aware that it’s arrived too late to the party.

“Um, Miss?” I croak, stepping aside as the dark puddle heads towards my own feet. “Are you all right, Miss?”

I wonder if maybe I should try to work the driving-whip free, or whether I should leave it in situ. Or does that only count if the victim is still breathing? Damn, I can’t remember…

…And worse, I think I can hear footsteps approaching… are those shapes forming in the smog ahead of me?

“Justin!” I squeak, looking over my shoulder again, at the rickshaw pilot rolling around in the dirt. “Hurry up!”

And then yell in terror, as a hand clamps around my elbow.

“Oh, dear, Sarah Bellummm…”

“Crispin!” I cry out, in relief. My underpants don’t even want to know about it.

“Nice one, Sarah,” the much more unwelcome Carvery Slaughter joins in, leaning over to have a look. “You’ve made a Streetwalker Kebab.”

“Shutup, shutup!” I panic. “It was an accident, I fell off the roof of the rickshaw.”

“So this should have been you, splatted on the ground?” Carvery asks, disappointed. “What a shame. And I would have missed it, too. Oh, well – better luck next time.”

“Where are Ace and Homer?” I ask, ignoring him.

“Ace is having the stress of meeting Lady Glandula earlier massaged out of him at Madam Dingdong’s,” Crispin replies, and my heart sinks that little bit further. “Where Homer is also currently indulging in a make-over session. They will catch up with us soon. Ah. I see that Justin Time has also fallen off the wagon.”

“You mean rickshaw?” I venture.

“No, I mean he is drinking again, Sarah Bellummm.” Crispin lets out a zombie sigh – a cross between a hiss, and a death-rattle. “Well, hopefully he will have sobered up enough by the time his services are next required. Or when Grandpappy catches up with him, to find out the results of his flying experiment. Do you have anything interesting to report in that department?”

“Crispin,” I say, patiently. “There is a dead woman on the ground, with our driver’s whip stuck in her…”

Carvery yanks it free. A stream of blood droplets arcs anaemically into the air between us, like an apologetic low-rent fountain.

“…A dead woman on the ground,” I amend, meaningfully.

Yesss,” Crispin acknowledges, at last. “We should move her somewhere more respectable…”

“How about in the river?” Carvery suggests.

“An excellent idea, Mr. Slaughter,” Crispin agrees. “But currently the police in the Seven a.m. Lounge are very keen on dredging the river regularly to fill their tea kitty, rather like looking for spare change down the back of a sofa. We will take her somewhere indoors, where passers-by will be less likely to stumble across her, tripping and hurting themselves.”

Crispin and Carvery hoist the poor woman between them, and carry her to the rickshaw, where they make a wrapping around her from the smaller rug, which Justin Time had been using as a blanket. Hopefully that means it does not have any special powers – although the power of divine resuscitation would certainly have come in handy.

Justin is currently snoring into the cobbles. Carvery wipes the driving-whip on his jeans, and tucks it underneath the snoozing rickshaw pilot.

“There are many small boarding-houses and derelict buildings near here,” says Crispin, as they hoist the body between them again. “This way.”

We hurry along the narrow alleyways, away from the riverbanks. Passing bawdy calls from windows, and ragged, solitary market-stalls and sellers of less definable wares. It seems like the least maintained part of the Seven a.m. Lounge.

“Here,” says Crispin, and we go through a low doorway with only half a door and one hinge attached to its remnants, finding ourselves in a filthy abandoned hovel.

Only a small square table and a bunk with one dirty sheet left on it occupy the space. A rat’s nest is in one corner, and mice run out from under the sheet, as Crispin and Carvery deposit the body upon the bunk. Crispin tugs the rug free like a magician with a tablecloth, so that the body rolls face-up on the sheet.

I try not to heave.

“Thank you for helping,” I say, timidly – my conscience vaguely aware that the poor lady’s state is still my fault.

“Not at all.” Crispin passes the rug to Carvery, and seems to size up the body with his eyes, while his stomach rumbles loudly. “It seems a pity to let the spare parts go to rot and waste. Do you have any sharp instruments on you, Mr. Slaughter?”

“Only always,” Carvery shrugs, and shoves the rug into my arms, while he starts going through his pockets.

“What?!” I explode, for possibly the hundredth time already, since last night. “You’re not going to… to… harvest her organs??! For your stupid zombie cure experiments??”

“Not exactly,” says Crispin. “They may also be necessary to revive your housemate. Miss… er… Whatever Her Name Is.”

Ohhhhh… I’d forgotten all about Whatserface. Currently entombed on Lady Glandula’s barge, suffering from a fatal snakebite/zombie mauling/possible Taser burn…

“Well, I’m not going to stay and watch,” I say, repulsed. “I’ll be back at the rickshaw checking up on Justin.”

“You’d rather be back with a questionably drunk witness, and where the murder weapon is, than hanging around with your two most reliable alibis?” Carvery asks, handing Crispin what looks like a Swiss Army knife. “Sure – enjoy your stay in the Seven a.m. Lounge, Sarah.”

I so hate it when Carvery is right… Instead I hover uncomfortably in the doorway, keeping a look-out. Trying to ignore the squelchy sounds, and the men bemoaning the fact that Ace is not here – who has many cargo pockets on his overalls, which could be made use of for transportation.

“Are you nearly done?” I call, nervously. “I think I hear company coming…”

“Stall them, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin orders. I hear a rip. “We need to fashion a carrier-bag out of this poor woman’s apron…”

I stiffen as the footfalls draw nearer, and hope that I block the part of the doorway that the remains of the door doesn’t.

“Hello, young lady,” says a voice. “Business slow today, is it?”

I look at the two swarthy gentlemen in horror. Both in black, wearing dusty bowler-hats, I can’t tell if they are tramps, businessmen, undertakers, or police officers…

“I’m guarding this room,” I hear myself say, defensively, and a feeling of greater horror overtakes me, as I realise what my mouth is trying to persuade my brain is a good idea. “There’s been a terrible murder. We’re waiting for the police to bring reinforcements.”

“The police, you say?” One of the men takes out a notepad and pencil. “What sort of murder? Nice and gwizzly? Fwont page nooze?”

“Fwont… er, front page? I should think so,” I nod, getting my head around his fascinating impediment smoothly. I tap the side of my nose. “They say it was, erm… the work of – The Whipper.”

Oh, my God. I can’t believe I just said that out loud.

The Whipper, eh?” He scribbles frantically on his pad. “And what has the dweadful Whipper done here today?”

“A poor defenceless woman,” I tell him. “Eviscerated in her bed…”

“Eviscerwated?” He sucks in his breath between his teeth. “Oh my. Woger, I think we may need the photogwapher – huwwy back to the pub, wake him up, and don’t let the other hacks know we’re onto a biggy…”

“But Ted – what if they won’t let him leave without paying his slate? They only listen to you…”

“You know I can’t cawwy the gweat fat oaf and his equipment on my own, Woger…”

“I’ll be here,” I assure them, as they both look at me like hungry puppy-dogs. “You can both run and fetch him, and I’ll make sure no-one else gets first look…”

“You, my girl, are a diamond,” says Ted. “One more thing – this Whipper – does he have a first name? Weginald? Wichard?”

“I’m sure it’s not my place to hijack the real name of The Whipper,” I say, shaking my head, as Woger – I mean Roger – drags him away.

Jack is weally the name of The Whipper, you say?” he calls out, disappearing into the smog.

“No, er…” I begin, weakly, but they have gone – shouting about keeping something a secret. Damn it

“Have they gone?” Carvery asks, jabbing me between the shoulder-blades. “Let’s go. By the sound of it, those two couldn’t keep a secret if they put it where the sun doesn’t shine.”

“Good work, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says, much more approvingly, emerging behind him with a large, handmade, bloodied linen bag. “But I think Mr. Slaughter has a point. The residents of the Seven a.m. Lounge are rather more curious than cautious, and the whiff of gossip will have them out like a pack of hounds…”

“It’s them!” a distant voice suddenly hails, echoing along the alleyways. “The invasion has started – from the Six a.m. Lounge!”

“Ah,” Crispin continues. “It sounds like my brother Homer and Ace Bumgang have caught up with us. No doubt smelling distinctly of Madam Dingdong’s Bring Your Own Towel Sauna And Spa Eau de Toilette.”

Trailer for the original ‘Shallow Grave’ with a young Ewan McGregor…

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

The Malpighian’s Nephritis: A Zombie Parody

Sugababes/Numan ‘Freak Like Me’ mash-up & video…

Instead of joining in the screaming as we plummet – presumably – to our inevitable deaths, down the endless mountainside, Justin Time takes out a hip flask and unscrews the lid, for a large swig.

I don’t know whether I run out of breath, or the frustration with his lack of physical panic gets to me first.

“We’re going to die!” I shout, hoping for a reaction.

“A purely existential assumption,” he shrugs, the air passing by at speed causing his driving-cape to billow, from the slight movement of his shoulders. He takes another slug from the silver flask.

“But – I don’t want to die!”

“Then don’t,” he grumbles, and mutters, although I still hear him. “Stupid girl…”

So frustrating! The things you have to put up with, when you no longer have a Carvery Slaughter handy, with a gun…

Mr. Time puts away his flask, smacks his lips a few times, and then lets out a strange, piercing, eerie whistling sound. It echoes off the rocks and along the miles and miles of valleys, obscured by mist.

“What was that for?” I ask.

“Thought that was the noise we supposed to make,” he says, surprised. “Before ‘splat!’ You never watch Roadrunner? Higham Dry Senior, he love that cartoon. He throw people off roof all the time, having Who-Make-The-Best-Wheeeeee-Splattt-Noise competitions. Very funny.”

And he sighs, reminiscently.

Damn. I thought he was summoning his magic flying rickshaw, or something helpful like that…

“I suppose we should try for the Seven a.m. Lounge, then?” I hint. “How do we find it?”

“Oh, you can’t miss it. It got big neon sign and an arrow, saying ‘Seven a.m. Lounge’. And you just dive straight in.”

“Really?” I strain my eyes hopefully, through the all-encompassing gray mists.

“Yes.” Justin Time nods. His long whiskers trail straight upwards, in the rushing air. “Right next to sign pointing straight down that say ‘Certain Death’. Make sure you not aim for that one, if you struggle with concept of existentialist existence.”

I spend the next few minutes desperately scanning the obstinately unoccupied air all around me, for any hint of neon illumination.

“Are we nearly there yet?” I demand at last, my patience having been tested to snapping point.

“I was thinking it should have been two, maybe three minutes ago,” Mr. Time remarks. “Oh well. Perhaps there is a power cut. Or someone pull wrong switch when going to toilet. It happen two, three, sometimes five hundred times a day…”


“Big fort,” Justin Time mutters, as if I’m an overly-critical, nagging Great-Auntie. He reaches for his flask again resignedly. “Lots of soldiers use same toilet.”

“But… but… b…” I realise I’m now doing that thing called ‘blustering’. Or is it ‘bumbling’? No… I’m sure one of them means ‘lost for words’ while the other means ‘couldn’t find their own arse even if their head was up it’…

At times, I feel as though I need a word for myself that means both at once…

“Oh, no,” Justin Time chirps. “There it is…”

And his boot certainly does find my arse – a head of any description up it at the time, or not. I somersault through the air, and only have a split second to glimpse the glowing green and blue flickering glass tubes spelling out ‘Seven a.m. Lounge’ before I tumble into the circle of pitch blackness beneath.

I get an even briefer glimpse of the other red sign, pointing down the way we were previously heading – but all I see of it is the word ‘Death’ before I am sucked into an apparent vacuum of darkness.

“Justin!” I shout. My words are whipped away, and do not seem to travel with any great volume at all. I can neither see, hear… nor smell the rickshaw-less pilot.

Did he make it through? Is he behind me, somewhere in this black Hell-hole?

Or is he drinking his last minutes into oblivion… no doubt before making a record-breaking ‘splattt’?

And then I have the most terrifying thought… the Seven a.m. Lounge – what if this is it?!

Just more tunnels! Sucking one along twists and turns indefinitely, like being inside the innards of a gluttonous vacuum cleaner! Supposing this leads nowhere?! Following this invisible giant intestine for ever, around any corner of which could be the final giant acid-bath of a stomach…

How long before I pray aloud for the end, and the sweet mercy of total digestion?

The tears are milked from my very tear-ducts by the controlled and continuous drop in directional air pressure, and my ears pop their own wax like corks from Cristal.

It will be my fingernails next, I find myself thinking. Then eyeballs… then the hair from my follicles… like a slow-motion, deep-space piece of human jetsam…

“Crispin!” I cry out my last words, I believe – sucked right from my mouth, making no sound at all. “Help me, Crispin Dry! You’re my only hope…”

Relentlessly, the walls of the tunnel whoosh by, unseen…

*  *  *  *  *

My feet strike something solid, and gravity suddenly reasserts itself, jolting me awake from the semi-coma where consciousness had been drawn out of my body in turn. I am upright, in darkness still – and the surface I am standing on feels wobbly and unstable.

My arms flail instinctively, scrabbling at the air around me for purchase. Nothing – until the very tips of my fingers, and typically blunt, chewed nails just graze the unmistakable feel of brickwork. But as I snatch my chafed fingertips back from the bite of baked clay and mortar, the surface I am standing on lurches – as does my stomach.

“Where am I?” I cry out, feeling the bubbling hysteria already gathering lubrication at the back of my throat and nasal cavity. But at least my voice has returned! “Crispin Dry! Justin Time! Over here!”

“Oooh,” I hear a strange, clipped English voice nearby. “Sounds like there’s a fish-and-chip cart hiding down this alleyway…”

Not the first thing I was expecting to hear, by a long straw…

“Fish and chips!?” I repeat, stunned.

“See – told you!” says the voice, now drawing nearer. I think I can make out the faint glow of a bobbing torch or lamp approaching, and through what I can only describe as a pea-souper of smog, the yellowish light flickers faintly off the tall narrow brick walls flanking me on either side. “Bloody interlopers!”

“Let’s get a closer look at the competition,” a nastier voice remarks. It sounds like it comes with sharp edges and blunt instruments attached. And possibly, industrial-sized deep-fat fryers…

I look down, in a panic, as my eyes adjust slowly to the gloom. I’m about six feet off the ground, standing on…

…Standing on…

The back of the rickshaw!


And the rug is still harnessed, undulating idly at the front – as if taking a light snooze.

Fear propels me into action. I reach down and snatch up the long leather reins. My left hand finds the driving-whip, stashed in a holster down the side.

Without waiting to seat myself traditionally down below, I whirl the whip wildly around my head, and flick it down violently, hoping to alert the flying carpet.

It does more than that.

The whip cracks like a gunshot in the narrow dank alleyway, and the carpet rears up. The rickshaw tilts in turn – and if it wasn’t for my hand on the reins, my now prone position would be on the pavement. Not still on the top, with my toes frantically gripping the canopy.

“Look out!” shouts the first voice. “It’s an invasion – from the Six a.m. Lounge!”

“Let’s leggit!” yells the other. “We’ll need reinforcements!”

“Forward, er – Oh Great Flying Carpet!” I order, in my most imperious voice. Trying to sound a little bit like I imagine the zombie Lord Higham Dry Senior would chivvy one of these along – or scary zombie queen, the Lady Glandula de Bartheline.

The rickshaw rights itself, and I do indeed find myself moving forward. And at what a pace!

We leave the alleyway up on one wheel, and through the smog find I am hurtling through a street-market. It is dark, like night, but the darkness seems to be a factor of the heaviness of the sooty fog, and not of the time of day.

Stall-holders scream and scatter upon espying the flying carpet charging their way, including butchers, flower-sellers, ironmongers – where IS this place?!

After decimating a hundred yards of market-stalls, it occurs to me that the rug can do more…

“Up, Great Flying Carpet!” I command, sticking with the theory that flattery will get me everywhere…

And it does…

We – or rather, I, and the carpet-propelled flying rickshaw – clip the tops of the last few stalls, and soar over the rooftops.

In the paler gray fog above the streets, I make out narrow streets, a strange domed cathedral, a clock tower – and a great river…

It can’t be…


“Down, Oh Great Flying…” I whisper, and the carpet dips towards those iconic banks, and the promenade.

“Hrrrrmmmph?” a strange voice pipes up. “Oh, nooooo. We here already?”

A smaller rug below me on the rickshaw moves aside, and a decidedly-smelling-of-moonshine Justin Time pops his head out, empty hip-flask in hand.

“How did YOU get here?” I ask, amazed.

“Well, obliviously…” He waves an arm in a drunken, all-encompassing-in-every-context-of-the-word gesture. “I whistled for the flying run, and he come rugging, innit?”

And he burps, worthy of any river-bound foghorn.

I’m so flabbergasted, staring down at him from my perch standing atop the rickshaw’s canopy, that I completely forget that we are still barrelling along apace.

Or to look out for the crossbar of the street-lamp, as it cracks into my sternum like a poleaxe…

The Magician’s Nephew, by CS Lewis: Fanmade book-trailer, with original illustrations 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Crouching Tibia, Hidden Duodenum: A Zombie Parody

Awesome mash-up – Talking Heads/Michael Jackson, Once in a Lifetime/Don’t Stop…

I’m horrified to see both Carvery Slaughter and Ace Bumgang pick up spoons, along with the zombies, and the overgrown bounty-hunters.

“What?” Carvery asks, meeting my eye over his serving cranium of chilled monk’s gray matter. “I already ate my way through half a dozen deadbeats trying to munch on me earlier.”

Good point… I switch my gaze to Ace, trying to appeal to what must be his very well-hidden inner gentle nature. Maybe he’s under Higham Dry Senior’s mind-spell after all…

“I’ve definitely eaten worse things, for a bet,” Ace grunts, spoonful of monastic brains already in hand. “Not to mention – even those pizzas you deliver sometimes, Sarah.”

“Gross, man,” Carvery scoffs, his mouth full. “I told you what she does with the cheese, didn’t I?”

“Yeah,” Ace shrugs.

“But – I didn’t tell you what she does with the pepperoni…”

“I’m full,” I announce, suddenly finding myself on my feet. “And, er – I’d like to use the little girl’s room…”

“This look like a spa to you?” Higham Dry asks, his eyes rounder than ever. “This is a fort! Built for fighting men. Not for wussy ladies. No little girl’s room here. Unless you count cupboard under stairs. I should maybe check it again – last time I look, goat asleep in there.”

I sink miserably back down into my seat, and try not to watch, as the others finish up their breakfast.

“Everybody done?” Higham Dry asks, and is answered with a series of belches. “Good! We go for tour of fort. Oh dear. Mr. Time, help an old man up. Him old leggy gone to sleep again. Sit down too long.”

The sniffling rickshaw pilot dries his mouth on his napkin, and his eyes manfully on his sleeve, and hurries around the table to take the elderly zombie’s arm on one side, while the guard takes the other, lifting him out of his chair between them. His legs appear to be locked in a sitting position, drawn almost up to his chest.

“What am I supposed to do like this – levitate? Like Maharishi on mushrooms?” Higham Dry Senior squawks. “Sort it out down there!”

Justin Time and the guard exchange a look over the old man’s braided white head, and then shake him up and down vigorously, like a salt-cellar.

“Ung-nungnung-nung-nung-nung…” Higham Dry jabbers, and suddenly his legs shoot out straight, with a pop of cartilage. “Ooohhh… ahhh… That was fun! Do it again!”

“We don’t want your legs to drop off altogether, Grandpappy,” Crispin chides, gently. “Not like the last time you visited the Five a.m. Lounge.”

“No, quite right. Very lucky, crocodiles too fat to swim away with them fast enough,” Higham Dry agrees, allowing his aides to set him down onto his feet. “Now, we go on tour! Follow the crazy old fool, everybody.”

*  *  *  *  *

“Here is barracks!” Higham Dry announces proudly, as the giant studded oak doors swing aside with a groan. “Pooh! Smell like sleeping-bag farts, no? Many soldiers bunk up in here.”

I can well believe it. The many parallel avenues of bunkbeds, four high, disappear to vanishing point in the far distance.

As we step inside, those occupants who are currently off-duty leap to attention – from bunks, floor, and even slop-out bucket…

“Hello, hello,” Higham Dry Senior waves regally and proprietarily, before strolling in, one hand behind his back, in typical hierarchical-visitor fashion. “At ease, soldiers. You!”

His finger whips out from behind his back and points suddenly, at one of the men evidently caught half-asleep.

“Is it Dress-Down Friday?”

“Not any more, Lord!” the terrified soldier squeaks. “But I believe yesterday was Friday…”

“So – you sleep in your party frock, hmmmm?” The old man scans the unfortunate soldier up and down, taking in the floral hair adornments, and sequinned tube dress – not unlike Homer’s from earlier on, only blue.

“There was a birthday,” says the soldier, wretchedly. “I was the entertainment…”

“Ohhhh… like in It Ain’t Half Hot, Mum, hmmm?” Higham Dry nods, sagely. “Very clever, very clever. You improvise, good work. You invite me next time, yes?”

“Yes, Lord!”

“And you…” Crispin’s grandfather turns to another soldier, whose blankets heaped on the bunk behind him suddenly contort violently, and sneeze. “Did I mention that we do not have a Bring Your Children To Work Day, not even once in the whole calendar?”

“Yes, Lord,” says the second soldier, grimly.

“Daddy,” his blanket solemnly joins in. “I need you to wipe my bogey.”

There is a deathly pause.

“What is ‘bogey‘?” Higham Dry’s brow furrows, turning to Crispin.

“Booger, Grandpappy.”

“Oh, thank goodness.” The old man’s face brightens. “We have enough people camping out here without finding bogeymen under the beds as well. Issue this soldier with clean handkerchiefs. And some colouring-books, for his non-existent children. Homer! That dress is not in your size. Put the poor man down. We move on – leave our hard-working boys in peace, no?”

*  *  *  *  *

“This is laundry,” says Higham Dry. “You must all be very careful in here. Never know what come out of it.”

The reinforced black iron door slides open, and a giant ball of pink steam unrolls from within. He sniffs, suspiciously.

“Smell all rosy, like lady flowers,” he muses, wrinkling his nose. “Usually, smell of napalm and sweaty jock strap in this room. Occasionally, smell of goat, chewing on socks. Many sock darning needed. What you call this, naughty boys?! Why it smell all lovely for a change?”

A handful of white-aproned, shirtless muscular attendants rush out of the steam, line up and bow in front of us.

“Laundry day, Lord!” the middle one cries.

“You not trying to make Guinness today?” Higham Dry demands.

“Only if it turns out that the secret ingredient is Lotus Blossom fabric softener, Lord!”

“I am very confused, my man-shorts never smell like Lotus Blossom.” Higham Dry shakes his head. “What are my soldiers going to do, prancing around smelling of lady flowers?”

“There was a mix-up, Lord,” the attendant grovels. “Our usual Sea Breeze softener was delivered to Madam Dingdong’s Bring Your Own Towel Sauna and Spa, and the Lotus Blossom was given to us in turn.”

“I cannot have my soldiers smelling girly, you go to Madam Dingdong and you rectify immediately,” says the old man. “And bring back my favourite towel while you there.”

“Yes, Lord.” The attendant bows again, and scurries out of the laundry.

“What a shame, no luck on Guinness brewing yet,” Higham Dry sighs, as he leads the way back out. “But never mind. We go up on roof. Get away from girly smell.”

*  *  *  *  *

The walls of the fort are sheer – as is the mountainside. We are so high up, that clouds below us obscure the ground.

However many miles down THAT is…

“Now, Mr. Time,” the ancient zombie Higham Dry announces. “We discuss your flying carpet kleptomania.”

Two of the bounty-hunters seize Justin Time’s arms, and hoist him onto the battlements.

“I hope you study art of flying very closely,” Higham Dry chortles.

“Lord, have mercy!” the rickshaw pilot sobs. “I only meant to help… I am very fond of my own little aerobatic rug…”

“Well, we see if he come and save you now,” Higham Dry says cheerily. “Maybe he more loyal than his owner, hmmm? You hope.”

“Is this necessary?” I plea of Crispin. “Look at him – those are real tears coming out of his nose and everything…”

“Oh, is the young lady volunteering to join Mr. Time?” the old man interrupts, and I suddenly find my elbows grasped by the third bounty-hunter, and my feet deposited on the edge. “It a long way down. You be at Seven a.m. Lounge before you reach the bottom.”

I try to look over my shoulder to see if anyone is coming to my rescue.

“It’s true, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says, unexpectedly. “Just look for the exit to the Seven a.m. Lounge on the way down, and we will meet up with you there. I have a feeling the boys are keen to continue the tour as far as Madam Dingdong’s first.”

“What?” I cry, as Ace and Carvery both nod their agreement. “You’re ditching me, to go to some – Bring Your Own Towel Sauna?”

“Plenty of towels here for everyone to take along,” Higham Dry nods. “But I need witness to report if Justin Time able to fly unaided now. So you go with him. Crispin and Homer and the boys catch up with you later. Bye-bye!”

And with a shove – both Justin Time and I pitch over the edge.

As I tumble, I just catch a glimpse of their faces over the brickwork, before the view is swallowed up by the zombie-gray mist.

“You’re not screaming,” I say, to Justin Time’s rictus of horror nearby.

He seems to wake up, and scowls.

“I was waiting for you,” he says, annoyed. “Ladies first.”

Oh. Of course…


The heartbreakingly amazing ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ clip…

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Indefinable Bones and the Temples of Gloom: A Zombie Parody

Stevie Wonder vs The Stranglers – Golden Brown/Superstitious mash-up…

Reluctantly, I pick up the tiny bone-china cup along with the others, and prompted by Higham Dry Senior, we all drink.

It’s not bad. Rather like Chai tea, with some sort of fermented kick. I hiccup, and immediately start to feel light-headed. Wow – this is better than a Sloe Gin Sling! The men around the table exchange more knowing looks at the taste, and grin at each other.

Maybe it’s moonshine. Perhaps they’re spiking it with whatever the soldiers are supposedly trying to brew in the laundry, having lost their Guinness rations – to a Caribbean chef and an alcoholic goat…

“How do you plan to get the clockwork hand back?” I ask of Crispin between mouthfuls, who is seated to my left. “Luke could be anywhere, back amongst those pyramids. Or could have been eaten already.”

Crispin dabs his mouth with a linen napkin.

“I imagine that as a treasure-seeker, he will be most interested in its worth, rather than its powers,” he tells me. “So it would make sense to anticipate that he will take it somewhere that its basic mineral value can be estimated. In which case there are few such places he will find any direct route to, from the Five a.m. Lounge.”

“But what if he’s interested in its powers?” I press him. “What is the worst case scenario?”

“If the worst case scenario arises,” says Crispin, “I would suggest we enjoy our last meal, and look forward to the next instalment of my grandfather’s flying experiments.”

“Does this have anything to do with the giant river-god?” I ask. “What was its name?”

“Atum,” Crispin murmurs, in an even more hushed voice. “Everything has Atumic significance, yes.”

“You said it had been taken before?” I remind him. “What happened?”

He gestures with his spoon, in the direction of the bounty hunters.

“Those clockwork hands worn by our breakfast companions,” he begins. “…Were based on the original, made under the Dry family’s supervision. There were only ever intended to be four, in total. And the three you see here have remained intact on their wearers since the day they were wrought. On a number of occasions in the past, however – the original has been… misplaced. Sometimes only down the back of the couch, or left in coat pockets in strange cloakrooms. But in a few cases – stolen.”

“Stolen?” I repeat, horrified.

How could they be so careless, with such a precious family heirloom?

“Yes – by grave-robbers, or amoral museum curators – the occasional power-crazed super-villain,” Crispin whispers. “Even an entire cult, once or twice. Fortunately none of them were able to unlock its full potential, before it was recovered.”

“But if it’s so important – what’s it doing just knocking around loose on your estate?” I demand. “Surely it should be locked away for safekeeping – in a bank-vault, or some sort of anonymous high-security storage facility…”

“Ahhh – but that is the first place they would look, Sarah Bellummm,” he murmurs. “Turning up with their safecrackers and cat-burglar skills, and whatnot.”

“So what do we do?” I ask, again. “Do we have any way of tracking its movements?”

Crispin looks uncomfortable.

“It was lost for a great deal of the time, Sarah,” he admits. “Electronically tagging it would have been a foresight indeed, if the technology were available the last time it was seen.”

“That reminds me.” Carvery Slaughter puts his foot up on the table, hikes up the leg of his jeans revealing a cuff around his ankle, and scratches around it. “You’re welcome to this one. This is probably giving the Old Bill a proper headache right now.”

“We will catch up with Mr. Lukan,” Crispin reassures me, as Carvery puts his foot back down again, and continues eating. No-one seems to have taken offence – but then, Carvery is the only one who has a gun at the table with him. “No-one has succeeded in getting away with it before.”

“But there’s always a first time!” I snap, my voice rising above the gentle tinkling of bowls and cutlery.

“Ooohh!” Higham Dry Senior’s eyes sparkle, and I shrink in embarrassment. “You looking for your first time? You have to give an old man more notice… it take a while to get this bad boy warmed up.” He looks down at his robes, below the table. “I have to get the special key to wind him and everything…”

“I must apologise for Sarah Bellummm, Grandpappy,” Crispin says. “She is exhausted already after all the running around this morning.”

“Shame! But you perk up quickly with proper breakfast inside you. You have a sweet tooth, maybe? I get the staff to bring dessert early.” He snaps his palest gray, almost white zombie fingers at one of the servers by the tea urn. “Bring the chilled monk brains! Young lady here need energy, for her first time on Mister Whizz.”

“Monkey brains?” Ace repeats, slowly, as the server bows and heads back to the kitchen.

“No, not monkey brains!” Higham Dry’s face scrunches up in disgust. “Filthy things.” He taps his own temple meaningfully. “Monk brains. Nice and clean, no naughty thoughts allowed. Make you feel like superhero, mmmm?”

“Maybe we could cut dessert and go straight to the flying experiments?” I suggest, weakly.

Higham Dry Senior’s eyes widen, like emerging quail’s eggs.

“You so keen!” he approves. “But we finish eating first. Then have a little tour of fort.”

I wonder if it’s going to be anything like the tour of Crispin’s mansion earlier… and then all my thoughts are scattered, as a large silver platter is placed in the centre of the table.

“Oohh,” says the old man. “We have the whole choir today!”

Chilled monk brains – served à la tete

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, food scene – enjoy *hic* 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords