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.
“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.