Britney vs. Ke$ha – Tik Tok Three mash-up…
“Anyone fancy going back in to see if he’s all right?” Ace asks eventually.
We all stare hard into the darkening water. I dread to think how many vampire squid eggs have hatched by now, to create so much inky blackness down there.
“Maybe he needs a bit of guidance,” Carvery suggests. “Anyone got a light?”
A small part of my mostly-useless brain leaps to attention.
“Yes – yes, I have!” I fish the Trevor Baylis clockwork keyring torch out of my pocket, and wind it quickly. The light flashes randomly and intermittently, evidently a little damaged by the seawater, but I hold it close to the surface anyway – hoping that the blinking brilliance will penetrate the contaminated depths. I pray that he can see it… “Come on, Crispin…”
“Ho-oooo-ome,” groans Homer, unhappily.
A scream escapes me, as a single hand bursts forth from the water, clamping firmly around my wrist.
“Pull him out!” shouts Ace. “Attaboy, Crispin…”
Between us, we haul the zombie entrepreneur Crispin Dry out onto the subterranean platform. To my secret disapointment, still fully-clothed, although his fine black suit is showing signs of wear-and-tear from squeezing through the underwater rock-slide.
“Welcome back, dude,” Carvery greets him. “You look like you just escaped from New Jersey.”
“Are you okay?” I ask. “Oh, no – you’re hurt…”
Crispin sits up and thumps himself in the chest. Water gushes out from a fresh gash in his neck, and from unseen ribcage compromises under his shirt.
“I will be fine, Sarah Bellummm,” he says, he voice croaky and bubbling. “Let us continue. We must catch up with Mr. Lukan, and hope that he is still in possession of the golden clockwork hand.”
Hope that he is still in possession of it? But I’m too concerned with Crispin’s welfare to demand any further exposition right now. We help him to his feet, and I notice Ace and Carvery immediately checking out his rear view.
“Er, Crispin – that’s a pretty big rip in the ass of your pants,” Carvery remarks. “Didn’t feel anything gnashing on your own alimentary canal while you were down there?”
“Yeah, are you sure you don’t have any Squidmorph hitch-hikers in those trousers with you?” Ace queries, speculatively. “Feeling bloated at all? Any strange cravings?”
“The only desire I feel at present is for the light of day,” says Crispin. “If you look upwards, you will see our route to the Eight a.m. Lounge from here.”
We all look up at the rickety stairwell, the steps ascending around the walls in a spiral.
“Stairs,” Ace nods. “Cool. Doesn’t look too risky.”
“They are over three thousand years old,” says Crispin proudly, and you can sense the relief in the group dissipating slightly. “This used to be a freshwater well, until the Sea Centipedes burrowed through it from the Deep Ocean Trench. There is still an ancient rope-and-bucket system you might be able to make out, about halfway up.”
“No time like the present,” Carvery mutters grimly, and leads the way to the foot of the stairs.
Ace follows, and I hurry to catch up. My torchlight beam clicks on, evidently having dried out by now – and I shine it onto the mossy stone slab of the first step.
“Doesn’t look too bad,” I echo Ace, tentatively.
And promptly slip on the slimy green coating, cracking myself on the knee. Owww…
“Mind the weed,” says Carvery. “Bit slippy.”
“Thanks,” I grumble, and pick my way more carefully upwards.
There is no handrail – only a knotted, mouldy old rope slung through rusted iron hooks at waist-height around the wall as we climb. I reach for it only when footholds are uncertain, as it seems equally hazardous, and not likely to bear the weight of much more than a death-sliding mouse.
“What happens if someone comes down the other way?” I ask, all too aware of how narrow our worn path is, at frighteningly frequent intervals.
“The usual protocol is a Fight to the Death,” Crispin replies, from the rear. “But at certain points there is space enough for a polite nod, and sometimes a handshake.”
“What about creepy-crawlies?” Carvery enquires from up ahead. “Do they get right-of-way?”
“Not many animals use the stairs,” says Crispin, reassuringly. “There are certain times of day while the bats are roosting that it can become – unpleasant.”
I look up. For the first time, I see hundreds of furry bodies huddled together, suspended on the underside of the stone steps as they coil around the walls.
Ewww – no wonder so much moss and slime grows on these slabs…
…And a piercing screech nearly deafens me, as a great flapping shape swoops down, claws extended – and snatches two handfuls of the drowsy bats from their inverted perch…
“The Bat-Eater Owls do have unspoken right-of-way, though,” Crispin admits.
A second owl slams into Ace’s shoulder. He swipes at it, managing to keep his footing, and it is deflected straight into my face.
“Do I look like a bat?” I cry, as its hooklike claws scrabble in my hair, its inwardly-curved beak pecking at my scalp.
“I believe that’s a yes,” Carvery replies.
I grab for the unsafe rope to stay upright, my other hand waving ineffectually at my lively new headdress. The rope is as slippery as the steps. Useless… but I seize it anyway, badly grazing my already-chewed nail-beds against the harsh rock wall.
“You could try looking like a Pinstriped Leatherback Viper, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin suggests, and sounds like he’s being serious. “They are the next up in the food chain to the Bat-Eater Owls.”
“What do they sound like?” I ask, still trying to dislodge the hungry owl. “Do they hiss?”
“I suppose so, yessss…”
“Sssssssss!” I hiss loudly, flapping at the bird. “Ssssssss! Sssssssssss!!”
“Hhhhhhuuuuuussssssssssssssssssss…” a much longer and louder hissing noise interrupts my feeble efforts, and the owl disengages instantly, backing off with a squawk.
“Thanks, Homer,” I gasp, glancing behind me – but Homer is shaking his head silently.
He points at my hand, still around the safety guide-rope.
I feel it twist and writhe, under my grip.
“Aaarrrghhh!” I yell, snatching my hand away – and take one unwise step backwards. Onto poor Homer’s foot.
I grab for his arm as he topples over the edge of the stairs, but only succeed in detaching his last scrap of embroidered silk kimono.
And Homer is gone – into the darkness of the stairwell.
“NO!” I shout.
“Nice fumble, Sarah,” Carvery snaps.
HHHHHHUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSSSSS… The dreaded viper-sound is even closer, and is followed by an even worse one…
…The grating of loose stonework underfoot…
Original trailer for ‘National Treasure’ with Nicholas Cage – enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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