Sting vs. Mami – Desert Rose remix/mash-up…
The approaching silhouettes jog towards us, as fast and steadily as horses, and yet with all the co-ordination of string-puppets. Their joints seem to bend in all directions at once, their feet clomp heavily in the desert dust like suet puddings being thrown against a wall, and their noses point towards the sky with all of the arrogance (and smell) of the Great Unwashed.
Crispin looks on fondly. I suppose with their wobbly hanging necks and lofty attitude, the camels do have a little in common with his pet cockerel and brood, back at the mansion.
“Mr. Dry!” a voice hails, from the leading beast. “What a pleasure that you bring company to see us on this fine day!”
As he draws closer, I can make out a tall figure in black robes from head to foot, with barely his eyebrows visible inside the turban and headscarf. In fact he even has dark glasses on over that. A long curved scimitar is in his belt, and a large semi-automatic rifle is strapped to his shoulder.
“My cousin,” Crispin says. “Asum al Dj’eBraah.”
“But my friends call me Sandy!” the man booms. The camel sags, all knees and hips at the same time, and its legs concertina beneath it, allowing the robed individual to leap off energetically. “I see you penetrated the Well of Our Souls to get here. Are the Squidmorphs hatching?”
“Very much so,” Crispin nods, scratching the hole in the seat of his trousers.
“Our souls were very nearly penetrated as well,” Ace agrees.
Asum al Dj’eBraah leans over the edge, cupping his ear, with a critical expression.
“Yes,” he says, straightening up. “They sing for their salvation! But by the sound of it, no luck today. They will be dead larval vulture pickings by noon.”
Vultures?! Eewww – are there no cute fluffy animals anymore? Or are those elusive lovable critters just a Facebook fantasy? Everything here, unless it’s a chicken, seems to be a slavering bloodthirsty monster…
“Cool,” says Carvery Slaughter, the biggest sentient bloodthirsty monster on the current page of events. “I’d like to see that.”
“I think you may enjoy the Noonday Lounge in that case, Mr. Slaughter,” Crispin acknowledges. “But that is four hours away. Let us enjoy what the Eight a.m. Lounge has to offer first.”
Asum – or Sandy – peels off his Ray-Bans and unwinds his headscarf, greeting us with a wide, toothsome grin. He is a handsome, aquiline man with brooding dark eyes, no doubt a legacy of Rudolph Valentino’s creation. The kind of model male that women hate to love, and men love to hate.
Didn’t they call him ‘Vaselino’? I’m sure I read that on Wiki…
“It is quite a circus you have been missing so far this morning, Crispin!” he announces, and seems to end every statement with an exclamation point. “We have seen robbery, trespassing and worse. The Surgeons of Justice are looking forward to collecting some hands today!”
“Hands?” I whisper, in enquiry.
“The hands of thieves,” Crispin returns quietly. “Not the clockwork variety. But be careful. Where there are thieves, there are also my grandfather Higham Dry Senior’s men, collecting bounty. It can create conflicts of interest between the Lounges. My grandfather wanting complete subjects for his flying experiments. The court-appointed Surgeons wanting their dues first, in guilty body-parts. This is why the bounty hunters are all a hand short already. The Surgeons of Justice insisted on a demonstration of goodwill, to collaborate with inter-Lounge criminal proceedings. A thief must be proved to have stolen from my grandfather first, to be extradited intact.”
“What about Mr. Lukan?” I ask. “Who has he stolen from, technically?”
“Technically?” Crispin repeats, pondering. “Well, technically – YOU, Miss Bellummmm. Seeing as you were looking after the golden clockwork hand at the time.”
Me?! I gulp. What sort of punishments lie in wait for a criminal taking Dry property from a pizza-delivery girl? Or possibly, even – from a just-employed secretary to one of the Dry family? God – my housemate Miss Fuck-Nuts is going to be pissed over that one, if she ever wakes up… she’ll accuse me of trying to steal Carvery Slaughter from her next…
“All right, Sarah,” Carvery interrupts my thoughts, immediately putting psychotropic pictures in my mind of his consent to the concept. “Let’s see you wrap your legs around this great big hairy thing.”
“Hmmm?” I look over at him, nonplussed, to see him patting the neck of a large white camel – which appears to be chewing tobacco, drooling yellow slime. “Oh – well, it can’t be worse than riding a Pizza Heaven scooter…”
Oh, but it is. Clambering aboard, I lurch into the air on what feels like a drunken Bucking Bronco.
Thank God I’ve already been sick…
“Well done!” shouts Sandy. Homer is hoisted across his pommel, thrown under a blanket to shade his mottled gray wizened skin from the baking sun. “We will head straight for refreshments, in the Spice Market!”
I glance warily over at Crispin, adjusting himself in the saddle of his mount. Worrying that perhaps he looks a bit too uncomfortable. I notice Ace and Carvery nodding at one another also, in a meaningful fashion.
“And then we will visit the tailors!” Sandy continues, prodding his ride into forward motion. “Get you some new breeches made up, Crispin!”
“With an elasticated maternity panel?” Ace suggests, nastily. “Feel any kicking and squirming yet, Crispin old buddy?”
“If he starts looking at little knitted squidling-rompers in the market, I’m out of here,” Carvery concurs.
…Maybe Carvery Slaughter wouldn’t be such a great candidate to sperm-jack, I find myself thinking, unwittingly. My mind wanders further down this precarious footpath of fantasy. You’d expect even the most unwilling of DNA-donors to have a heart, at the end of the day. But perhaps it’s not the case… Ace sounds like he’d be more sympathetic, though… he might be the sort to pick up where a less responsible man left off…
My camel stumbles, and I pitch forward onto its neck. It continues onwards regardless, as I slip round to cling underneath, terrified of tangling with those bulletproof knobbly knees.
“Sarah, stop showing off,” Ace remarks. “You look like a sloth.”
“Down!” I try to command the camel, hanging on grimly. “Stop! Lie down!”
Eventually, the beast seems to get the idea – or I just wear down its patience – and it stoops slowly to the ground again, with a flatulent groan. I scrabble to get back on board, before it can change its mind.
Now – what was I thinking about? I squint to focus on my travel-companions’ receding backs, as they vanish into the shimmering heat-haze. Oh, yes – who would I rather be left holding the Squidmorph-baby by…?
Well, to be honest, being abandoned by any of them would be considered a win. It would suggest at least some sort of interaction had occurred previously.
Which is a hundred percent more than I’ve racked up in my life so far…
My camel is in no hurry to catch up. I try a lethargic bounce up-and-down on the blankets, and a kick of my heels.
“Yah!” I shout, because that’s what they say in the movies. Hoping it means ‘Go Faster, Stupid!’
But my ride just sighs, and breaks wind again morosely.
“God, no wonder nothing grows around here,” I grumble. “I think I’ll name you ‘Captain Farty-Pants’…”
“Sarah’s got a squidling!” I hear Ace shouting, up ahead. “I can hear her talking to it, and thinking of baby-names!”
“I was talking to the camel!” I shout back. “How do you make it go faster?”
“You impersonate the roar of a Maneless Camel-Eating Lion!” calls out Crispin’s cousin, over his shoulder. “And then they run, like the desert storm winds!”
“What?” I cry – but am immediately drowned out by an Earth-shattering rumble directly behind me. It vibrates my toes, knocks my knees, dislocates both my hips, cracks my spine like a whip, and pops my ears, like two bullfrogs belching.
“Yes!” Crispin shouts, as I feel my animal go rigid with fright. I have the presence of mind to grab hold of the fur on the back of its neck, with both hands. “Just like that, Sarah Bellummm!”
“Good to know!” I reply in passing, as I overtake them all like a hirsute missile – hanging on for dear life.
Wow. Sandy wasn’t joking. These creatures certainly can move, when they want to…
Lawrence of Arabia, at the well (Peter O’Toole) – Enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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