Tomb Bather – Cradle of Afterlife: A Zombie Parody

Prodigy vs. Beastie Boys – Voodoo Sabotage mash-up…

The pink glow becomes red as we take the exit almost on our side, and we remain at an acute angle as the chute becomes a twisting, accelerating helter-skelter downwards, pressing us back into our seats on board the boat.

Just when it seems like the hull is about to disintegrate, screaming in protest, we fly out of the far end, and plop neatly into a still, subterranean pool. The jolt almost knocks us overboard.

The high roof of the cave glimmers with surface reflections from the cool – and thankfully clear – water.

Are we in another Lounge?” Carvery asks, leaning over the side to squint down into the depths. “Looks like it’s seen better days…”

I follow his glance. Far below us, I can see walls and pillars, even broken statues and stone stairways, relegated to an underwater tomb. Small shoals of pale pretty fish dart between the wreckage.

My father did not frequent the Lounges,” Crispin replies, his zombie monotone echoing hollowly around the cave walls. “He was not a man of leisure, and only visited what he knew as the Boardrooms. Where munitions business was conducted.”

Doesn’t seem to have helped these guys,” Ace remarks.

Rumour has it that the Atlanteans declared war on Atum,” Crispin shrugs. “It was foolhardy of them, to say the least. I know my father spent many years trying to analyse their plans, trying to distil what they imagined would work – but of course they never stood a chance. One tiny earthquake, and they vanished without trace.”

Why would they declare war on a god?” I ask, curious.

Atum represents unfinished business in the creation of the world,” Crispin reminds me. “An advanced culture that wants to stay ahead of the game does not want to see progress elsewhere.”

Like running a monopoly,” says Luke, darkly.

Quite, Mr. Lukan.” If Crispin has taken offence at the remark, he doesn’t show it.

It’s rather melancholy, looking down into the ruins of the ancient city. I wonder if there were any undead survivors, and how they would exist for all these centuries…

A flash of silver tail and snake tattoo behind a pillar causes me to choke on my own tongue.

I saw something!” Ace announces, before I can speak. “Like a shark!”

Did I imagine it?

There should not be any danger, Mr. Bumgang,” says Crispin. “But we will have to swim our way out…”

Not more Hermit Squidmorph eggs?” I say, warily.

No, they are not indigenous to this region,” Crispin reassures me. “The mature adults are too big to nest here. They need direct access to the Deep Ocean Trench.”

Gooood,” Homer approves, obviously as relieved as I am.

The best way out is from the feeding sites of the Great Flatulent Clams,” Crispin continues. “They come to filter microbes from the underwater lichens, which is why the water here is so clear. But they return to the shallow seas to convert the dormant chlorophyll to sugars in the sunlight. If we catch them at the right time, we should each be able to hitch a ride out of here.”

Can I be the one to say…” Carvery begins. “…Flatulent?

They continuously emit bubbles of oxygen, Mr. Slaughter,” says Crispin. “Which is how I imagine you will all breathe underwater, without scuba apparatus.”

We exchange looks.

Follow me,” he says, and steps ashore, onto a rocky outcrop.

Nervously, I follow.

There might be no sharks down there… but there might be a harpoon-gun-toting fishtailed-man-babe, whose motives are not as clear as the water is…

Hey,” Luke says, as we pick our way over the rocks, around the perimeter of the cave. “Do you think there is any Atlantean treasure lying around? Anything of archaeological value?”

If there was, I’m betting that the Dry family beat you to it,” Carvery replies. “You’re more likely to find it buried back in that dusty old mansion of Crispin’s, than anywhere here.”

It does look as though what remains of the great city is now just bare stone foundations, and the occasional ruined statue. Not so much as a broken urn or piece of crockery is visible.

I don’t know what Luke was expecting to discover… brass-bound chests? Giant pearls? The kind of thing you see in a dental surgery waiting-room fish-tank… well, the diving-suit would be useful, come to think of it.

We will have to climb the wall here to the next part of the caves,” says Crispin, pointing up towards a narrow gap near the roof, where a rock-fall has divided the underground air-space. “Homer – jump onto my back, and hold on tight.”

Hooome.”

Yes, Homer – eventually…”

The rock wall gives Ace and Carvery no issue at all, and even with Homer piggybacking along in his peacock-blue prom dress, Crispin navigates the handholds deftly. Luke grumbles about the prospect of arthritis.

I’m not as young as I look, you know,” he says, as his slipping foot finds my ear for the second time.

Working legally since 1971?”I remark, recalling the chase across the rooftops of the Eight a.m. Lounge. “From that, I’m guessing you can bend the truth in more ways than one.”

Somehow I keep up, my fingers blistered and bleeding, and crawl after the others through the vertiginous gap, to the far side.

Down there,” Crispin points, to where a slight bubbling is visible on the surface of the water. “We are in luck, Sarah Bellummm – the clams are grazing.”

We scramble back down the rock-fall to the water’s edge. I find myself scanning the depths, looking for any sign of tattooed, silver-tailed merman – imaginary or otherwise…

They are quite safe to approach,” Crispin is saying. “The oxygen is emitted from a clear respiratory tube near the hinge of the shell. You should be able to grip either side. When they decide to move, allow them to lead. They always take the shortest route to the open sea outside.”

As if to demonstrate, Homer wades happily into the shallows, fully-dressed, and disappears beneath the surface.

Okay – at least it doesn’t look as though clothing will be a hindrance this time. I glance regretfully at Ace and Carvery, who have only rolled up their Stetson hats and shoved them into their boots.

Then I swallow the ball of nerves and bile threatening to rise up the back of my throat, and follow Homer into the water.

The weight of my clothes soaking through drags me down easily, and I blink, into depths which are remarkably clear. I can see Homer hugging a great frilled bivalve, and I paddle my way forward to the next, following the trail of bubbles.

The respiratory tube looks remarkably like a snorkel mask, pointing slightly upward of a shell about three feet wide. I find handholds in its ridges, and tentatively move my face near to the tube’s outlet.

I get a shock, as it strikes out, clamping to my face. Suddenly I’m breathing pure air, deep underwater.

Maybe they need the carbon dioxide to activate the chlorophyll in their diet? It’s most bizarre. I feel as though I’ve been attached to an artificial lung…

One by one, I see the others joining us, and just after Crispin enters the water, I feel my ride twitching, and pushing off from the bottom.

Here we go, I think. Should I close my eyes? Kick my legs? No – let them lead, Crispin said…

Homer overtakes me, his fatter mollusc pumping out a jet of water to propel itself through the caves, and we leave the rocky ledge and head deeper.

I can feel my panic rising up again. This can’t be right – not deeper underwater, surely?

What if it’s a trick? What if they’re dragging us back to a nest of hatching Squidmorphs?

Out of the corner of my eye, I swear I see the flash of silver tail again…

We enter a tunnel of pitch darkness, and my fear is now on full Red Alert. I’m already imagining tentacles emerging from every crevice. I shake my sleeve upward a little, so that the glow from the clockwork hand around my wrist gives out some reassuring light to see by.

Even worse, my Flatulent Clam seems to be flagging…

Breathe, I will it along. But it starts to slow to a drift, and worse – the air-flow drops.

Damn! Just my luck to pick one that’s on a diet!

And then I feel it hiccup – with a definite waft of Sloe Gin Sling.

Oh God – I’m the first human to get a Great Flatulent Clam drunk, on my own breathalyser-breath!

I can see daylight at the far end of the tunnel, and both Ace and Homer now way ahead of me. Luke shoots by, a trail of seaweed flying from the side of his buff clam, as it jets past smoothly.

I kick my legs desperately, but then even the adhesion of the respiratory tube fails, and my ride is suddenly a dead weight.

Holding my breath, I have to let it go, and try to swim forward on my own.

Without the clam’s propulsion, it suddenly seems like a very long way indeed. And the enchanted clothes I’m wearing feel like ballast, dragging me down and holding me back. I close my eyes in defeat.

I’ll never make

An arm locks around me abruptly, knocking the last of the air out of my lungs, and I shoot forward once more.

How?? Not – the merman…?

I feel a respiratory tube pushed in front of my face, and take a blessed gulp of air before it moves away. My hand is guided to grasp the back of another clamshell. Has the mysterious merman brought reinforcements…? But as I turn to look at my rescuer, the shock is even greater than that.

Carvery Slaughter??!

I almost cry out all of my precious breath again, and looking irritated, he gives me another slug of oxygen from the respiratory tube. I take one, and push it away quickly, knowing the fate of my last steed to be my fault.

I’m never drinking again…

Fortunately, Carvery’s bivalve is a speedy one, and we quickly exit the tunnel.

A few exchanges of air-supply later, we break the surface of the sea, as the clam arrives at its basking-beds, in the shallows of an idyllic shoreline.

I can’t even look at it, backing away from Carvery in the waist-deep water, in shock.

The word you’re searching for is ‘Thanks’,” he prompts me, pulling his cowboy hat from his boot and straightening it out, shaking the drips off before putting it back on.

What?” I gasp. “You can’t stand me. Why did you save me – again?”

Do you want the honest answer?” he says. “For later. The only set of spare female donor organs we seem to be able to hang onto around here are inside you. Keeping you alive is the best way of keeping them fresh.”

I take it back. I’m going to drink and drink until my organs are pickled…

Good, we all made it,” Crispin’s voice interrupts our awkward stand-off, before I can threaten to tear up my donor card. “We should head inland, where we will be less exposed.”

Exposed to what?” Luke asks. “Where are we?”

Up on the rust-coloured sandy beach already, Ace Bumgang points.

Look,” he says. “The Five a.m. Lounge.”

We all look. On the horizon, the unmistakeable outline of the pyramids are jutting heavenward, like an omen of our future.

The time-line has been corrupted,” Crispin says. “Potentially, we could encounter anything…”

Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life trailer – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

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Chyle and the Chocolate Fascia: A Zombie Parody

Ace of Base vs. Michael Jackson – ‘Cruel Thriller’ mash-up…

Behind us, the caterers’ boat slows even further as it happens upon the unexpected tide of frogs.

We wait, the tension unbearable, to see the fate of the re-introduced creatures.

And then there is a loud, resentful Ribbet.

The rest of the batrachian Sisterhood take up the call, and the uncertainty of the advancing caterers becomes clear.

A first brave frog hops onto their bows, and a gloved hand reaches out to knock her aside.

Should we do something?” Ace asks.

A long adhesive tongue lashes out and attaches to the caterer’s wrist.

Which detaches with a pop of carpal bone, followed by an unearthly scream…

Yes,” Crispin replies. “Full speed ahead, Mr. Bumgang!”

Ace opens up the throttle of the outboard motor and we beat a hasty retreat along the tunnels, to the backing music of empowered frog song, and dismembered catering competition.

I hope that is the last we see of them,” I breathe at last.

The frogs, or the caterers?” Luke asks.

Both,” I answer.

The words of the caterer I encountered in the Eight a.m. Lounge are branded into my brain.

You are a secretary for Crispin Dry and Dry Goods, Inc, and a traitor… More fast-food delivery boys and girls have disappeared before you than you can possibly imagine…’

Why are they so hostile towards you, Crispin?” I ask. “I thought business competition was healthy for the economy?”

That is what is generally taught, indeed,” he replies.

By your father?”

Ahhh,” he muses. “My father – had some very strange notions of everyday business. The munitions business was his forte, which meant fuelling and arming the most inflammable of business competition. Sadly he did not share the concept of ‘healthy competition’ – like our unfortunate rickshaw pilot Mr. Time, he felt there was no profit in co-operative peace treaties… so I was forced to find my own way in such troubled waters. Only to find myself accused of monopoly.”

Surely not,” I remark, shocked.

Vending machines of high quality are in demand by the consumers, but they annihilate employment in the food industry,” Crispin sighs. “That is why I always have to be on the look-out for saboteurs, and vandalism – those cut-price pirates who supply sub-standard stock to the users, accessing my machines without permission…”

The food poisoning at Cramps University?” I conclude, horrified. “Sabotage by catering staff?”

He nods, in his endearing lopsided fashion.

Yesss, Sarah Bellummm.” He spares me a sad, wonky smile. “I knew you were an intelligent woman.”

But what has this got to do with a pizza delivery girl? What was the caterer trying to tell me? My paranoid subconscious rants, but I cannot put it into words.

Probably just further propaganda by an embittered competitor, I tell myself…

Crispin claps his hands twice, and pink lighting illuminates the sour-smelling tunnels, as we speed ahead.

I think we may have taken a wrong turning,” he ponders. Adjoining exits whisk past, as myriad as a honeycomb in either wall. “We have gone back on ourselves.”

How far back?” Carvery asks. “We’re still heading downriver from what I can tell.”

Several hours, Mr. Slaughter,” says Crispin. “It is a junction, as we encountered earlier beneath the Eight a.m. Lounge…”

So we could end up in any of the Lounges?” Ace asks. “Wouldn’t be too bad – I think I left my keys in Madam Dingdong’s Sauna and Spa at the Six a.m. Lounge.”

I’m not sure I fancy the Seven a.m. Lounge again,” says Carvery. “Bunch of flower-selling crazies.”

I was looking forward to the Elevensies Lounge,” says Luke. “A nice cup of tea would be just the thing right now.”

Having seen what the Elevensies Lounge considers to be a cultural weapon already, I’m not convinced of that myself…

There is no knowing. Hang on,” Crispin warns. “We are about to hit the Flume…”

Goood,” says Homer, bouncing up and down excitedly in his seat.

I grip the side of the lifeboat, just in time, as we hit the brink of a fall, and plummet…

The lifeboat spins, out of control, hurling us deeper into the Earth, and the flashing pink darkness.

I can still make out the various exits as they flash past, some of which are even signposted:

Cold War.

French Revolution.

War of Independence.

McDonalds v. Wimpy…

Oh, Crispin,” I murmur, reaching out to squeeze his hand.

Yesss,” he agrees, distantly. “My father kept his business channels open…”

What the Hell is that noise?” Carvery asks.

I strain my ears. Over the rushing of the water, an electronic tinkling can be made out, a tootling and parping, oddly familiar and yet out-of-place.

My apologies,” Crispin coughs, clearing his throat. “One of my father’s major sponsors was The Library of Elevator Muzak.”

Psychological warfare?” Ace scowls. “That’s below the belt.”

Does anyone even know what a Samba is?” Carvery scoffs.

The lion king?” Luke squeaks in terror, trying to hide behind Homer’s prom skirts. “Where?”

We experience the G-forces as we hit bottom and level out, still rocketing forwards. My stomach is informing me that travel-sickness is imminent, and I wish I had a boiled sweet handy.

Maybe one of those pink ones…

Here, Sarah Bellummm,” says Crispin, appearing to sense my discomfort, and he hands me a chocolate-coated cinder toffee bar from inside his jacket. “One of my vending machine empire’s most popular snacks.”

Thank you.” I tear the wrapper eagerly and bite into the crisp sugary centre, salivating with relief. Mmmm – so crunchy and delicious…

As I recall, you liked your nibbles crunchy,” he hints in a low voice.

Ohhh, my…

Is it far now?” Carvery asks.

If it’s a pee break you want, we’re sliding down the biggest toilet in the world,” Ace tells him. “Go over the side – I just did.”

We’re not showing any sign of slowing down.

War of the Roses.

Falklands Conflict.

Safeways v. Morrisons

Look for an exit marked in red, Mr. Bumgang!” Crispin shouts.

We just passed Woolworth’s…” Ace reports. “I see it – Strategic Occupation of Atlantis?

That is the one, Mr. Bumgang!”

And the lifeboat lurches again, meaning I nearly see the snack bar twice…

Boat trip scene from Tim Burton’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

The Tourniquet: A Zombie Parody

Deadmau5 vs. La Roux – ‘Ghost in for the Kill’ mash-up…

Change of course?” I repeat, while the crew rush in with their axes raised. Bits of violin and spangly nylon underwear fly around wildly. “Can we do that?”

We can, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says, as a nun’s head bounces across the deck between us, a beaded thong caught over one ear. “What do I own in Paris, Captain Dartos?”

Everything below sea-level, Mr. Dry!” the Captain calls out, from the helm.

A flute whistles by, embedding itself in a life-preserver strung from the wall.

Perfect,” Crispin nods, curtly. “Behind you again, Sarah Bellummm.”

I turn quickly, and just see the tuba arcing overhead before everything goes dark and echoey.

I can’t even lift my arm to swing my own axe.

Great, I think. Sarah Bellum dies, trapped by a bell-end.

I’ll never hear the end of it at University…

Help!” I shout, but only succeed in half-deafening myself inside the brass convolutions. “Let me out!”

A clanggg from the outside denotes the expiry of another set of sisterhood false teeth. Eardrums already numb, I let out another scream as I’m lifted bodily from the deck, inside the giant tuba.

I manage a glimpse down past my feet as I feel the instrument swaying, only to see the upturned gray faces of clambering zombie nuns with glowing green eyes, scudding clouds, and beyond, the ripples of distant blue sea…

Help!” I scream again, picturing a subsequent plummeting to a watery grave. “Pull me back in!”

The tuba lurches, and I fill my lungs, trying to increase my body area in contact with the surface…

And then it is shaken abruptly, and I shoot out backwards with another yell.

Sorry,” says Ace, as I tumble heels over head, back onto the deck. “Thought you were a nun.”

In all senses but the religious,” Carvery says, elbow-deep in another zombie. “…She is.”

Any luck with those organs?” Luke asks, holding a clarinetist at bay with the loops of his axe.

Not a sausage,” Carvery sighs, shaking the drips off. “Whatever spell Sister Jaundice used on her Superiors, it only did a Green Slime Reduction on their old carcasses. Crispin, wherever we’re going, I hope you have a REALLY big hole in the ground ready and waiting.”

I am indeed ahead of you there, Mr. Slaughter,” Crispin replies.

The air-balloon progresses at speed, whipping tears from my eyes, while the crew adds to the pile of musically-inclined gnostic zombie corpses amidship. But undead members of the elderly orchestra keep coming, scrambling over the sides.

I shouldn’t have wasted the magic in the clockwork hand on changing this stupid dress.

I try to wipe green smears off the silk, and struggle back onto my feet. I could be standing here in a cheap cosplay Wonder Woman outfit, an itchy pink patent thong, half a suit of Swiss watchmaker’s armour, and be turning all of these zombie nuns into…

I glare at the clockwork hand, hanging onto my wrist.

Not even one speck of magic left?” I demand of its dull and inert gemstones. Nothing. It might as well be a bangle. “Nothing of any use at all? Wow, sometimes, you really…”

A shadow falls across me, and I look up into the glowing green eyes of what I can only assume was the Mother of all nuns. Mottled, wrinkly and warty, and raising her conductor’s baton. She opens her mouth, like Donald Sutherland in the final scene of Invasion of the Body-Snatchers…

Ribbet, she says.

“…Suck!” I continue angrily.

The baton strikes, gashing my forearm – as the gemstones in the clockwork hand open, and the green glow pours into it from all sides…

Screaming like banshees, the enchanted undead life-force drains from every remaining nun, shaking and vibrating them right off their feet. Black robes smoking, they shrink and shrivel alarmingly.

The gemstones close with a whoosh, now illuminated like evil radium.

Suddenly, the deck is hopping mad.

Well done, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin approves, lowering his axe and moving quickly to attend my bleeding arm, thoughtfully tying a monogrammed, embroidered handkerchief around the wound. “Frogs go down a treat in Paris. Easier to explain than nuns turning up in the sewers, too.”

The crew exchange their axes for buckets, and are soon scooping up frogs left and right.

The nuns were frogs!” I gasp. I look down to check my clothes. Phew – still silk and cashmere… perhaps the clockwork hand can only do one thing at a time… “I mean – before they were nuns! I didn’t cast a spell! It sucked the magic out of them!”

Ah.” Crispin picks one up and dangles it thoughtfully, while it blinks a benign yellow-and-black eye. “Then let us consider ourselves fortunate that you have already dealt with Sister Jaundice, the witch. I will make a note to have the nunnery in the mountains investigated, to see what else may have occurred there.”

No wonder the organs weren’t right.” Carvery wipes his hands on his cowboy denims. “Nothing but out-of-date frogspawn.”

No wonder they never stood a chance against the Sunday School Choir,” Ace grunts.

Be careful with that power, Sarah,” Luke whispers to me, as I try to cover the glow around my wrist with my sleeve. “You don’t know what the witch was practising. Turning a man into a zombie is one thing. All that takes is low wages and a bad marriage. Just ask my wife! Turning other living creatures into zombie folk? That’s amassing a cheap Army.”

I glance at the zombie entrepreneur Crispin Dry, as he drops the frog into a passing bucket and wipes his gray fingers, on another monogrammed handkerchief embroidered with a cockerel.

Yes,” I agree. “We wouldn’t want that sort of thing to catch on…”

Approaching the Seine, Mr. Dry!” Captain Dartos reports.

Ooh – I hurry to look over the side. White clouds part, and a river sparkles as it divides the Most Romantic City on Earth…

Well done, Captain,” Crispin announces. “Prepare to offload nuns… sorry, frogs…”

Can we stop here?” I ask. “I know it’s not the Elevensies Lounge, but – I’ve never been to Paris…”

That’s because if you set foot here, the city’s reputation for love and romance would drop too far below average for the tourist industry to survive,” Carvery tells me, resting his elbows on the railing to my left.

Oh, I don’t know,” Ace muses, appearing at my right. “It’d be like allowing the World’s Biggest Loser into a casino. Suddenly everyone else feels marginally luckier, regardless of how they’re actually getting on…”

All I know is I’m currently flying over Paris, with two fit guys dressed as cowboys standing either side of me. Meaning regardless of what they’re actually saying, all I’m hearing is Non, je ne regrette rien…

No – I quite agree,” Crispin’s voice joins us. “It may not be the Elevensies Lounge, but there are parts of the city I will be happy to show you, Sarah Bellummm. A small diversion. We will be taking one of the lifeboats, Captain Dartos! And after you have dropped us off – perhaps check the nunnery, in the mountains…?”

Right you are, Mr. Dry, sir!”

I try to gird my excitement as we climb into the smaller boat suspended from the side of the air-ship, only slightly dampened by the buckets full of anxious frogs surrounding us.

On the Captain’s orders, the ropes start to lower us steadily towards the surface of the river.

Oh my God – I’m in Paris! And not to deliver a pizza!

Is it true that you shouldn’t drink the water here?” Ace asks.

How much water do you usually take in your alcohol?” says Carvery.

I’m in Paris! With Ace Bumgang! My innards are knotting like voluntary sausage-skins. Not to mention the undead heart-throb Crispin Dry… and even more darkly and reluctantly, Carvery Slaughter… stupid traitorous hormones… if I had to pick one man, for my currently-overloaded fantasy, it should really be the one I’d survive longest in the company of…

Goood,” Homer approves, opening a lace parasol against the balmy sunshine.

Luke and Crispin free us from the ropes, and Ace starts the small outboard motor.

Where are we dumping the Sisterhood of Tolerance and Frogs’ Legs, Crispin?” asks Carvery, nudging one of the croaking buckets. “Right here?”

Not yet, Mr. Slaughter,” Crispin replies. “You will see a large overflow ahead at the second bridge, Mr. Bumgang. Take us to it, if you please. We will release them there.”

I soak up the view across the rippling water. Other boats chug along, some carrying tourists – real people! Not Lounge-dwellers… we pass under the first bridge, where to one bank, a great iconic structure looms.

The Eiffel Tower…” I breathe.

Yup,” Carvery affords it a glance, and sighs. “Reminds me of Las Vegas…”

Er, Crispin,” Luke interrupts any mood of romantic reverie. “Some weird-looking guys over there seem to be taking an interest in us…”

We turn to look at the other small boat in our wake. Four occupants pretend not to notice, swathed in scarves under their trilby hats and dark suits with gloves, no doubt to protect their sensitive green and purple-marred skin from the daylight…

I’ve seen someone like that before…” I recall aloud. My adrenalin surges, much to the annoyance of my kidneys. That head, as it rolled across the floor of Casabladder… “Yes! In the Eight a.m. Lounge, Crispin! Looking for you…!”

Try not to make it look as if we are spooked, Mr. Bumgang,” Crispin suggests. “But perhaps a little faster…”

Our boat burrows into the water and glides ahead smoothly. The shadowy pursuers accelerate in turn, to follow.

Who are they?” Luke asks.

Caterers, Mr. Lukan,” says Crispin. “I am afraid they take issue with the existence of vending machines in the workplace.”

I knew it! I knew he couldn’t be in debt – it was just a jealous food-industry rival!

Oh, they reckon you’re stealing their business,” Carvery remarks, thinking alike. “I get that from turfers, lawnmowers and landscape gardeners all the time.”

And divorce lawyers and undertakers?” I query.

The overflow,” Crispin repeats, as we approach the second bridge. “Take the exit straight into the tunnel.”

Into the sewer?” Luke exclaims.

What?” Ace scoffs at him. “You never rode the poo flume before?”

We turn sharply, and the daylight is replaced by darkness and dankness. Homer closes his parasol and produces a fan instead, fluttering it delicately under his nose.

Are they following?” I ask.

Ace looks over his shoulder.

They’ve slowed down a bit,” he reports. “But yes.”

Keep going,” Crispin orders. “There is a corner ahead – once past it, we can release the frogs. It may hinder them a little further.”

Ace pulls on the rudder, and as we complete the turn, the rest of us each grab a bucket of Paris-ready Jambes de Grenouille.

My sleeve hikes up, and the green gemstone glow from the clockwork hand illuminates the dark tunnel eerily.

Good luck, Sisters,” says Carvery, tipping his bucket-load over the side. “You’ll need it.”

Bon appetit,” Luke adds.

The fetid water burbles and plops, as I add my contribution to the endangered French batrachian population.

Hoooome,” says Homer sadly, releasing his own.

Straight ahead, Mr. Bumgang,” says Crispin, once the last frog is liberated into the subterranean streets. “Let us hope that the harvesting of delicacies is enough to distract vengeful caterers…”

I look down at the clockwork hand.

I suppose, if not – those delicacies could soon be turned back into rabid zombie nuns…

But remembering Luke’s words, I pull my sleeve back down again firmly.

Besides – it’s Paris.

I still might get a proper date here, one day. And I know what I’d rather see on the menu, next time I visit…

‘The Tourist’ official trailer – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

Scardusk: A Zombie Parody

Tom Petty vs. Kanye West – Learning to Touch the Sky mash-up…

Mist gathers on the yellow dirt road as we ascend to higher ground, and the air noticeably cools, a relief from the relentless sun. I notice Crispin looking up at the scudding wispy clouds, worried.

“There is a short cut to the top,” he says. “But it is guarded, as a strategic outpost. With this fog, we could be at risk.”

“We could be at risk IN this fog,” Luke points out.

Shifting shapes are already forming on the path up ahead, and I hear a faint dragging over the stony ground, akin to the noise of a heavy suitcase hauled by a weary traveller.

Ahhh,” Crispin muses. “These people are usually of the least concern to most visiting the Ten a.m. Lounge… but taking recent events into consideration, perhaps avoiding them should be taken as advisory.”

“Who are they, Crispin?” I ask, while Homer skips ahead foolishly.

Through the wreaths of mist, dark robes flutter.

“They are the Sisters of Tolerance and Forgiveness, from the nunnery in the mountains,” Crispin replies. “By the look of things, the orchestra, taking a morning stroll.”

A bass drum with a large hole in it rolls down the path right past us, trailing green smoke. It strikes a rock on the way, and a disembodied gray head bounces out of it, shedding wimple and spectacles.

“I get the feeling Sister Jaundice didn’t like orchestra practise much either,” Ace remarks.

Green eyes glow dimly through the fog, as the undead Sisters move gradually closer.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been less pleased to see a bunch of virgins,” says Carvery. “Present company excepted, Sarah.”

“Glad to hear I’m still your Pubic Enemy Number One,” I mutter.

The ground at their feet seems to bubble in an unearthly fashion, preceeding their approach – but then I hear the croaking, and the tide of panic-stricken frogs bounds ahead, parting like the Red Sea as they pass by our own little group.

“Where is this short-cut again, Crispin?” Luke asks brightly, as the nearest nun lurches in his direction, dragging an acoustic guitar behind her. “Before I’m Tolerated and Forgiven with Extreme Prejudice?”

And then the guitarist nun’s head explodes, scattering glittering green slime. A set of false teeth clangs off my breastplate.

“I thought you were saving that last cartridge?” Ace says to Carvery.

“Wasn’t me,” Carvery shakes his head.

“The Hill-Dwellers,” Crispin points up into the trees.

We look. The next movement I see is small and fast – and a feathered spear skewers the next two nuns, like a shish kebab.

“They’re children!” I exclaim, spotting several small, round, black-eyed faces in the ferns. Two are blowing raspberries, and one turns around and drops a farting moony.

“Otherwise known as the Children’s Sunday School Choir,” Crispin says apologetically, as a volley of water-balloons slows the encroaching nuns down a little.

“Let me guess – they hate music practise too?” says Ace.

“How dangerous are they?” Carvery asks. “On a scale from Ewok to Chucky?”

“I would say, Mad Max III: Beyond ThunderGoonies…?” Crispin hazards, waggling a hand uncertainly.

“Then let’s go,” Carvery says. “Rather the ThunderGoonies than Sisters Silent Order Hill.”

And we leave the yellow dirt path, scrambling up into the bracken underneath the trees, while the occasional twang of catgut and honk of brass section behind us punctuates the stand-off between orchestra and choir.

The forest is steep, and carpeted with slippery pine-needles. More than once, Homer has to be rescued from holes among the tree-roots, and his blonde cheerleader wig is lost in the brambles.

“Seen a few booby-traps,” says Luke, pointing out a net high in the branches as we pass under it. “Resourceful, aren’t they?”

“Getting out of Sunday school requires some cunning, Mr. Lukan,” Crispin agrees.

Ace and Carvery navigate the uphill rocks and fallen tree-trunks with the same ease that Ace demonstrated on the rooftops of the citadel in the Eight a.m. Lounge, hopping, skipping, jumping and somersaulting from one foothold to the next. I trail behind, lugging the rest of the Swiss watchmaker’s armour wrapped in the small and useless rug.

If only it was a flying rug – I’d be up this cliff in no time…

“Pity I don’t know how you really work,” I mutter to the dormant clockwork hand, clipped around my wrist as usual. “I’d make you enchant this rug to fly…”

I blink. One of the gemstones in the clockwork hand winked at me. Glittery green, like the magic from Sister Jaundice’s cello-bow.

I should have known it would absorb some of that…

“Nah…” I say aloud, warily. “By the look of things, her magic only does frog’s legs and zombie nuns. I don’t think I fancy it.”

“You are referring to the witchcraft,” Crispin says, overhearing me, as he and Luke help Homer over another tree-stump. “You are right to be cautious. Channelled through the clockwork hand, I have no idea how it would be magnified.”

I gulp. He’s got a point. Everything that the clockwork hand has absorbed so far has been regurgitated at a magnitude many thousand times over.

And if the spell Sister Jaundice was about to cast had been intended to destroy Atum, what that small glittery green glimmer in the works of the clockwork hand could do now is anyone’s guess…

“She seemed nice,” I say, and he shoots me a quizzical look. “At first, I mean. Not evil at all.”

Liar, my conscience pricks me. You thought she was competing with you for Crispin!

“Her career ambitions may have been genuine,” he says, generously. “Perhaps she had a small problem with constructive criticism.”

“Oh.” This hadn’t occurred to me. “So you don’t think it’s unusual that a witch would join a nunnery?”

“Not at all, Sarah Bellummm,” he replies. “Judging by her reaction to the unfortunate General Winslow’s remarks, I imagine she joined the Sisterhood to avoid the stress of romantic disappointment in life.”

I suddenly feel quite cold all over. Yes… and judging by her reaction to the snake-god Atum, and what I’ve recently heard that HE represents, I expect she had rather a large bone to pick with romantic disappointment…

More pity the poor nuns, I think. The sound of an explosion behind us, and the whooping of the junior Sunday School Choir, makes me think it’s probably not a good day to be a nun, all in all.

“But you have nothing to fear there, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin continues. “I think that your self-control in her shoes would have been admirable.”

What? What does he mean by that?

My reaction to romantic disappointment in life?

Or my possession of a deadly spell-casting ability?

“Er…” I say, but I don’t know where to begin on that one. “Thanks.”

Crispin looks satisfied, anyway – but I… I can’t put my finger on it. What is he suggesting?

“Whoa,” I hear Ace’s voice, ahead of us. “Is this it?”

We hurry to catch up, and emerge on a hilltop clearing. It ends abruptly, with a sheer drop of eroded cliff-face. The end of the winding yellow dirt road can be seen curving up to it, around our short-cut through the wooded hillside.

A gangplank is installed over the precipice.

“Our ride should be here.” Crispin produces his little opera-glasses, and scans the horizon. “The wind has been brisk, and they will have been in the slipstream of the tornado…”

“Perhaps they were IN the tornado,” Carvery suggests.

Then the view abruptly vanishes, as a colossal shape rises silently out of the gorge before our feet. Ropes restraining a multicoloured silken aeronautical envelope loom above us, creaking a little.

“My apologies for sneaking up on you, Mr. Dry!” a voice hails from the deck of the wooden barge suspended underneath the balloon. “We had to sail in beneath the mist. Very poor visibility today. You are on foot? Where is the Diablo?”

“I had company instead this morning,” Crispin replies. “We have taken a stroll via the scenic route.”

“The boys in charge of valet servicing will be disappointed!” The side of the airship lines up with the gangplank, and figures on board secure it with ropes before opening the gate.

“Permission to come aboard?” Crispin asks, formally.

“Permission granted, Mr. Dry.”

We file across the plank. I do my best not to look down.

“Captain Dartos,” Crispin greets the pilot of the airship. “May I introduce Mr. Bumgang, Mr. Slaughter, Mr. Lukan, and Miss Bellummm. Homer, of course, you know…”

The swarthy Captain, in the shiny black cap and navy-blue fisherman’s sweater (with leather elbow-patches) gives us a little nod.

“A pleasure to fly you,” he says, as the crew untie the ship. “Make yourselves at home. Homer, show Miss Bellum to the Ladies’ cabin, so that she may rest and freshen up if need be.”

Homer eagerly complies, and I find myself hustled to the far end of the deck and through an oak door, inlaid with Mother-of-Pearl.

On the far side is an elegant suite furnished with chaises longues and mirrors, with leaded windows to make the most of the view. I take a last look out at the Ten a.m. Lounge, where the retreating hillside is smoking, punctuated by flashes of burning green glitter as the Sunday School Choir continue to negotiate their singing class grades with the charmed zombie nuns.

Homer bounces around the cabin happily, finding a giant powder-puff on the large dressing-table, and coating himself liberally with talc. Herself… I’ll get it right at some point.

I head for the washroom, and the mirror describes pretty much what I expected. More mud and green slime than Sarah Bellum. I shed the medical scrubs, and prise off the armoured torso underneath before helping myself to the hot water and scented soap.

Homer bursts in wearing a pink frilly housecoat and a new Cher-style long red wig, and drops a great heap of things on the floor.

Goooood,” he says, before exiting again.

I’m not so sure that ‘good’ is the word I would have chosen… I pick up the first item, which turns out to be a fuchsia pink patent leather thong with a front zip opening, and gulp.

Why do they keep all this stuff on board? Is it Homer’s? Is Crispin into this sort of thing? How will neon-coloured pigskin undergarments increase my chances with men generally? Of course, I don’t want to end up like Sister Jaundice – repressed, unfulfilled, frustrated, angry, blaming the gods, and squished under a falling house…

And of course, there’s all this armour belonging to the unfortunate Swiss watchmaker to haul around as well… perhaps I could tie it all together with something in that little rug? I sigh, and rummage in the heap of clothing further.

The clockwork hand winks repeatedly at me from my wrist, with its green glittery potential to do harm.

“Homer,” I grumble to myself, holding up a Wonder Woman outfit. “You have got to be kidding.”

I straighten up and shake my head, tossing it back onto the pile.

“You want to do something useful with that magic?” I ask the clockwork hand, as it sparkles away on my arm merrily. “Turn this heap of junk into something suitable to wear…”

There is an obliging puff of green smoke, and I jump, at a bang no louder than a champagne cork.

Hmmm – maybe it didn’t absorb as much of that nasty magic spell as I thought?

When the smoke clears, a neatly-folded pile of cream silk and cashmere appears, complete with elegant footwear and understated underthings.

…Wow. And then I catch sight of myself in the mirror, and get a bigger shock.

It’s even done my hair and make-up! I look like the actress out of Some Like It At Tiffany’s, or whatever it’s called.

I take it back – that was a LOT of magic…

But that’s not all.

Where the segments of Swiss suit of armour and the dismal small rug were lying, there is now only a tapestry clutch-bag, and a gold charm necklace.

I pick it up curiously, and dangle it in the light.

The single charm is, of course, a tiny, one-armed suit of armour.

“At least it’s better than frogs and zombie nuns,” I concede, immediately transferring the little leather-bound diary into the clutch-bag, and pull on the enchanted attire. “Hmmm. It might look like La Senza, but it still chafes like pink plastic pig thong…”

Pushing the discomfort to the back of my coccyx as well as my mind, I finish dressing, and clasp the necklace around my neck. Fortunately, the suit of armour as a charm doesn’t weigh the same as a suit of armour at full size.

I pick up the clutch, and step out of the bathroom.

“Goodness, Homer,” I greet him. “Ready for the prom?”

He gives a coquettish twirl of full-length peacock-blue satin, fanning himself like a débutante.

There is a knock on the door.

“Are you girls decent yet?” Ace Bumgang’s voice calls through, and my heart responds like a hamster in an exercise-wheel. “If not, hurry up. Got another situation out here.”

“Just coming!” I reach for Homer’s hand, who totters along behind in sequinned slippers, as we hurry back outside.

Ace is already heading back towards the others, who are looking over the side of the wooden air-ship when we emerge. Leaving Homer straggling, I try to catch up with him.
Only Crispin spares my new turn-out a second glance when I join them.

“Very fetching, Sarah Bellummm,” he whispers, giving me a dark thrill.

Ace and Carvery are still in their cowboy outfits, and I’m aware of feeling a little resentment that my own sartorial efforts don’t have the same effect on them as theirs are having on me.

…Which could be due to the issue of the zombie nuns hanging onto the ballast underneath the air-ship, I note, as I peek over the edge.

“Can’t we cut them loose?” Carvery asks.

Through the clouds below, it’s clear that we’re now over open sea.

“We are already ahead of time, Mr. Slaughter,” Captain Dartos tells him. “If we drop the ballast, we will jump forward even further, and lose our place in the schedule completely. The timetable will be totally awry.”

One of the glowing-eyed nuns tries to crawl higher. A trombone is bent around her oddly-angled neck, hindering progress slightly.

“Maybe they just want to put on a little concert for us?” Ace suggests. “Spread the word of the Lord.”

“Well, I didn’t think they wanted to join the Mile High Club,” says Carvery sourly.

“You hope,” Luke adds. “Might be the best opportunity to get your hands on a set of virgin organs for your girlfriend.”

“I don’t think she plays the keyboards.” Ace shakes his head.

A liver-spotted, wrinkly nun-hand reaches up the side of the ship, grasping the air for another handhold.

“Virgin or not, I think they might be a bit past their Use By date,” Carvery remarks.

A set of bagpipes drops out of the skirts of the nearest nun as if to illustrate, braying as they fall towards the ocean below.

Hooome!” Homer clutches himself in sympathy.

“Behind you, Sarah Bellummm!” Crispin shouts.

I turn, just as a double bass is raised over my head, blotting out the sun, and I open my mouth to scream…

…But it appears that the zealous elderly nun has overestimated her superhuman zombie strength, as the weight of the instrument reaches its zenith and continues with its own momentum, toppling her slowly over backwards with a look of undead surprise. Captain Dartos runs in with an indignant cry, and more helpfully, an axe.

The look of surprise and disappointment on the nun’s face is still evident as her head is sent flying over the side, off the steel toecap of his boot.

More disappointment is evident from the groans of her Sisterhood, as they remain clinging to the ballast.

“We cannot introduce this metaphysical type of infection to the Elevensies Lounge,” the Captain says, holstering his weapon. Ace and Carvery haul the rest of the nun’s body over the side, managing to knock another doomed groping climber loose in the process, and Luke does the same with the abandoned double bass. “If they cannot be stopped, Mr. Dry…”

“A detour. I understand,” says Crispin, grimly.

“What do you mean, a detour?” I ask.

But his expression is cold and distant. A scream from one of the crew alerts us to further hostile presence already aboard our ship.

“Where’s that Sunday School Choir when you need them?” Luke mutters.

“Oh, that would be chaos, Mr. Lukan,” Crispin replies. “They get terribly air-sick, require more clean underwear for a single journey than the luggage allowance permits, and are always asking to stop for chicken dunkers and ice-cream.”

“There is only one solution,” Captain Dartos continues, while the others seize more axes from the emergency points by the ballast ropes, to arm themselves in turn. “The logical solution!”

“Do what you have to, Captain,” Crispin agrees. “We will cover you.”

The Captain runs to the helm, leaping up the stairs four at a time.

“What’s happening?” I ask as Crispin hands me an axe, which I nearly drop straight through the deck at my feet, scuffing a satin-covered toe. It’s far heavier than I expected.

“Change of course, Sarah Bellummm,” he tells me.

I look up in time to see the Captain spinning the tiller already, and the great air-ship tilts.

The door to the Ladies’ cabin at the far end of the deck swings open, and several nuns shuffle out, groaning and trailing musical instruments entangled with neon Lycra hen-night party-wear…

‘Stardust’ pirates fan trailer – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

The Wonderful Wrisberg of Oesophagus: A Zombie Parody

Utter genius – Army of Darkness vs Straight No Chaser – Toto’s ‘Africa’/movie mash-up

General Winslow’s response to the performance is a slight nod, at which the rest of the encampment applauds politely – if somewhat nervously.

That is not too shabby, lovely boy,” growls the General. “But I does not want you pandering to that old tea-dance black-and-white minstrel image. We is not the occupying hordes anymore, we is culturally integrated now! How about something exotic? Something what harks back to your roots in the Sahara Desert?”

Sahara Desert?” I mutter. “‘Working legally as a taxi-driver since 1971’?”

That means an encore, Mr. Lukan!” Corporal Punishment hisses. “Be careful not to overstrain your voice! The General is – very demanding!”

Luke beams and turns to Crispin at the piano for a musical prompt, whose shoulders are slumped, at a loss.

Toto?” Luke suggests.

Where?!” Sister Jaundice shrieks, looking down and snatching her feet up off the floor either side of the cello, and unwittingly displaying her striped woollen nunnery stockings, under the long skirt.

Crispin nods, flexes his hands, and launches into the opening bars of ‘Africa’.

Oh, dear. I hope all the keyboard exertion doesn’t wear down those talented undead hands of his…

More like it, more like it…” mumbles the General, and the rest of the audience heaves a collective sigh of relief.

A sudden breeze flaps the stage curtains, and the scenery-hands hurry to secure them.

Funny… I didn’t think the audience sighed THAT hard…

Homer and Miss December sway rhythmically beside the piano, taking up the backing vocals.

Corporal Punishment,” I whisper. “What were you just saying to Crispin?”

A family matter, Miss Bellum,” replies the Corporal gravely. “The discovery of the armour here potentially solves an old mystery.”

What mystery?” I ask. I’m all too aware of the chafing inside the stolen breastplate, under my medical scrubs.

The mystery of what happened to the last person wearing it, Miss Bellum.”

What…” I begin, but then I remember the rows and rows of burial mounds beyond the cabins. “Oh, dear…”

Yes, Miss Bellum.”

One of the Dry family?” I venture.

The finest Swiss watchmaker, Miss Bellum.”

I gasp. No wonder the clockwork hand had been pinching me, and wringing and squeezing so painfully! With the body of its maker lying right here – somewhere…

I wonder what horror and torture the poor watchmaker had endured here in the Cult of Atum, under General Foramen Winslow’s ruthless regime – whether he was forced to sing himself hoarse, tap-dance to death, strip-tease down to the bone…

My bladder shrinks another two centimetres, as I glance at Ace and Carvery in the wings beside me, dressed in their Chippendales’ cowboy outfits.

Suddenly, I feel as though I now know the meaning of the phrase ‘Danse Macabre’…

And I don’t even speak Swiss…

You!” the General is shouting, over the music. “Sister Bandy-Legs! Is you playing a cello or trying to light a fire?! Stop sawing away like a lumberjack! Put some soul into it, damn you!”

Sister Summer Jaundice blanches, and tries to sit more elegantly.

I imagine it’s not an easy task, with two feet of wood wedged between your legs…” I murmur.

Ace and Carvery look at me.

No different from riding a horse, Miss Bellum!” replies Corporal Punishment.

That’s what I always tell them,” Ace remarks.

No point telling them,” Carvery says. “They’re usually too busy screaming to listen. Just wear ear defenders instead.”

If the General had ear defenders, he wouldn’t know if she was playing along badly or not,” Ace agrees.

Exactly.”

General Winslow glances down at his wrist, and I note the ornate watch he is consulting. Stolen, the indignant thought occurs to me…

The wind springs up again, yanking one of the curtains free from its ropes. The nearest stage-hand leaps to tame it, and ends up swinging ineffectually on the end of the gilt cord against the rising gale.

That’s quite a dust devil,” Ace grimaces, holding onto his Stetson.

It is no dust devil,” says Corporal Punishment. “It appears that Mr. Lukan is hitting the right notes.”

The General is rising slowly to his feet, as Luke starts the chorus.

That’s right, my boy…” murmurs General Winslow. “Keep singing…”

Behind him, on the horizon, I see a familiar whip-like shape also rising out of the dust, gradually gathering mass and speed, as it approaches the river – directly towards us.

Distant trees and shrubs are torn from the ground in its wake…

It’s a cyclone!” I cry. No-one in the audience seems to be taking notice. “We have to get to shelter!”

Corporal Punishment stops me, with a hand on my arm.

What are you doing?!” I demand. “Are you mad?”

No, Miss Bellum,” he tells me. “Wait and see…”

He’s crazy… but I stand firm – or as firm as my jelly-legs permit – while the weather phenomenon towers above us, blotting out the sun.

I look in utter frustration at the clockwork hand clamped around my own wrist.

Now would be a good time!” I shout at it.

But it merely glitters, and does nothing.

The scream of elephants and braying of cattle is barely audible above the roar of the twister, as it hits the far riverbank and forms a waterspout…

Where it remains, the muddy waters of the river raining down on the stage and the audience, along with the occasional monkey limb.

The rearmost four rows of seats in the audience are decimated by a falling bullock.

Keep playing!” orders the General. “Louder!”

Luke closes his eyes, and opens up his lungs.

The cyclone’s rotation gathers speed in its static position mid-river, like an upright washing-machine entering the spin cycle.

And in the hellish darkness at the centre of the waterspout, glimmering through the murky rush of water, a giant Eye slowly ascends…

Atum…” I breathe.

It is a Summoning!” Corporal Punishment shouts in my ear, as we cling to the side-supports of the stage, against the buffeting wind.

The gigantic river-god rises higher and higher inside the water-spout. There is a strong smell of brine, and a barnacle the size of a saucepan ricochets off the hidden breastplate under my clothes, knocking all the air out of my chest.

Keep playing!” the General yells. “Even you, Bandy-Legs!”

Sister Jaundice leaps to her feet, tossing aside the cello, which concusses Miss December.

My legs are not bandy!” she screams, pointing at the General with her bow, her eyes flashing angrily.

And I mean, literally flashing… green, like traffic-lights…

Almost apologetically, the clockwork hand opens from its death-grip around my wrist.

It’s too late, I hear myself thinking before I can grasp and level the illuminated clockwork hand, as the line of green fire from Sister Jaundice’s eyes crawls down the bow, and leaps straight into the General’s heart.

There is a bang, and a puff of green smoke and glitter, quickly washed away by the rain from the tornado.

All that remains of General Foramen Winslow are his boots and hat.

Crispin is still playing – and the others are still singing, eyes closed as if in a trance.

The clockwork hand only uncurls those deadly fingers as she aims the bow a second time – towards the river…

Too slow, I’m thinking, as I see the line of green fire moving down her arm again…

I hate musicals,” she glowers. “And I hate crazy megalomaniac Generals. But I really REALLY hate giant, omnipotent snake-gods…”

Then I remember the last thing the clockwork hand absorbed, as Carvery reaches for his Taser and shakes his head, hesitating.

Can’t mix water and electricity,” he grumbles, stamping into the considerable puddle on the stage.

As a last resort, I look upwards into the sky desperately – yes – and point the clockwork hand straight up above my head.

First rule of home D.I.Y…” Carvery mutters.

There’s no place like home!” I scream.

The massive bolt shoots from the clockwork hand, lighting up the sky, turning the entire landscape white – except for the witch-nun Sister Jaundice and her green fire, poised to strike the river-God in his watery prison…

A blackened village hut comes crashing down onto the stage, its grass roof smoking ominously. Cello splinters and imploded green glitter fly everywhere.

Aw, Sarah,” says Ace. “Did you have to squash Miss December as well?”

That’s almost two full sets of human organs you owe me,” Carvery adds. “And a few extra pounds of silicone butt and boobage.”

The door of the burned hut swings open with a creak, for a dazed elderly villager to emerge, his make-do diaper around his ankles.

Jeez…” says Carvery, organ collection quickly forgotten.

Someone get this man a nice big leaf!” hollers Ace.

Ribbet… croak… ribbet

I turn to see a webbed forefoot reach up out of the General’s right Army boot, and a batrachian amphibious brown warty face with a waxed moustache follows, burping imperiously.

Crispin’s hands hesitate over the piano keys, and his eyelids flutter over his jet-black eyes. Luke’s voice fades uncertainly. Homer stops swaying, and looks around.

Hoooome!” he squeaks, pointing at the pom-poms sticking out from under the lightning-struck village hut.

As soon as the last note of the tune echoes away, the storm abruptly ceases. The cyclone and waterspout silently collapse, and for one split second, the river-god Atum is looking down at us accusingly, with his all-seeing alien eye.

Then he is gone, with a serpentine flick back underwater. A neverending tidal ripple follows.

He looks really pissed off,” I observe, as the last few raindrops fall, and the broiling sun returns.

Well…” Carvery ponders, and then shrugs. “He’s just been sucked up out of nowhere… and then the witch tried to blow him out at the last minute. Where do I even begin?”

The tea-vala has picked himself up from where he was sheltering under his tea-tray. He surveys the scene briefly, and claps his hands.

Strike camp!” he cries. “Moving on after lunch – Frog Leg Soup!”

The former General makes an optimistic leap for freedom, straight into an awaiting silver samovar. The lid clatters down, drowning out his final, outraged ribbet.

I hurry to Crispin’s side, as fast as the top half of the stolen armour encasing my body will allow me. The clockwork hand has immediately clamped around my wrist again, like a mechanical Chinese Burn torture device.

But it’s not the first concern on my mind any more.

Crispin,” I say gently. “Are you all right?”

He looks my way, but doesn’t seem to focus.

Please don’t say it, I think. Please don’t say

Braaainsss,” he groans, blinking, and my heart plummets.

His hands, weakened and groping, reach up to my shoulders, as my own eyes fill up with tears.

We’ve come so far… why did it have to be while he was playing music? That wasn’t the piano-related fantasy I was having at all…

Braaainsss,” he repeats, his voice getting louder.

No, Crispin,” I cry. “No, no…”

He heaves a sigh, both leaky lungs whistling in harmony.

You used your braaainsss, Sarah Bellummm,” he says. “I couldn’t be prouder of you.”

The tears pour down, and if it wasn’t for this stupid armour holding me rigid, I would have collapsed into his arms in relief.

Be careful,” he warns. “You will go rusty under there.”

Of course – he knows about the armour…

The watchmaker?” I query. “Was he related to the Dry family?”

No time,” he shakes his head. “We must hurry. Our ride to the Elevensies Lounge will be early, in the wake of the tornado.”

I move to help him to his feet, but he brushes off my assistance, his strength returning.

Thank goodness…

What happened?” Luke is asking, squinting into the ten a.m. sunshine. “Did I get the part?”

You sang up a storm, bro.” Ace claps him on the shoulder.

Yeah, you slayed ‘em,” Carvery adds, retrieving his cowboy hat from inside the grand piano and putting it back on. “Let’s go. Where are we going?”

The yellow road to the north,” Crispin tells us, pointing beyond the stage. “To the hills. We have a hot-air balloon to catch – to the far side of the world.”

Sounds familiar,” says Luke, vaguely, evidently still a little worse for wear. “Wasn’t there a tune, or something – Around the World in Eighty Days of Yellow Brick Road?

Closer to eighty minutes, I hope,” Crispin tells him. “No, Homer, leave the pom-poms. Keep the shoes, if you must. Will you be joining us, Corporal Punishment?”

The Corporal salutes stiffly.

There is much work to be done here, Mr, Dry!” he snaps. “Stolen property and Missing Persons to identify! Lots of filing and documenting!”

In that case, I look forward to your report,” Crispin acknowledges, and returns the salute formally.

The Corporal remembers something.

Take these,” he says, and pulls the lower half of the armour and the little leather-bound diary out from under his trousers. “I will inform you the moment I have any further intelligence on the fate of the finest Swiss watchmaker!”

I pocket the tiny book and accept the rest of the armour on Crispin’s behalf, tucking the parts under my arm.

I shall miss you, Corporal Punishment,” I say, sadly. “Won’t you, Crispin?”

Corporal Punishment is never far from my thoughts,” he admits.

My heart swells hopefully. He really is a family man under that hard undead exterior.

The Corporal shakes hands with the others.

Mr. Slaughter,” he says politely.

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here,” Carvery nods.

Mr. Stig – I mean, Bumgang…”

I rattle a finger in my ear, uncertainly.

Cuz,” Ace winks at him.

And Da… I mean, Mr. Lukan…”

Good to meet you too, son,” says Luke, gripping the Corporal’s hand in both of his own. “You will make a mighty fine librarian one day.”

President,” Crispin corrects, with a sniff.

Homer, of course, will only settle for a hug. The Corporal graciously accepts, before saluting again sharply – and then scampering away, like an eager meerkat.

The six of us remaining turn to face the hills, and step onto the yellow dirt road.

What will happen to the Cult of Atum without General Winslow?” I ask. “Will they disband now, and return to their homes?”

In my experience,” Crispin divulges, as we fall into an easy, if brisk pace. “They will have a four-day holiday with much feasting and dancing, and enjoy themselves so much that they decide to celebrate annually in order to remember the day of their freedom – requiring a committee, and a calendar of events and organisation. Leaders will be appointed, and much of the year will be invested in rehearsing – so I think, over all, the answer is no.”

Trailer for the original ‘Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, with Judy Garland – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

Chyme Bandits: A Zombie Parody

David Bowie vs. Jay-Z – Fame/99 Problems mash-up…

The cello-toting ex-nun, Summer Jaundice, is already strolling over to the dormitories on the far side of the square.

Hello,” she says to the Playbunny, Miss ‘Cynthia’ December. She sticks out a pale hand, attached limply to a very bony wrist. “I’m Summer.”

The calendar girl squints down through her cigarette smoke.

Wearing a lot of clothes for summer,” she remarks. “Where you from, the Himalayas? I bet you kick ass on the catwalks there.”

What’s the plan?” Ace asks, while Carvery merely watches the two women talking, as if wondering if they’d both fit into the same pre-dug hole in the ground.

We had better start acting like professional thespians,” Crispin advises quietly. “The General likes to hear music while performing his morning ablutions. I will practise some melodies on the piano, and you two – I don’t know, look like you are warming-up and stretching… Homer – well, of course, we don’t need to worry about him or her…”

Homer is already twirling artfully around the supports of the long porch spanning the length of the dormitory building, flapping his striped woolly scarf like the feather boa from earlier.

“…Mr. Lukan, do you have any skills? Any juggling or balancing tricks besides the waterskiing which could be put to good use?”

No, sorry.” Luke sighs. “I can sing a bit, I guess… ahem… ‘When I fall in love, it will be forever…’”

Our jaws drop.

Holy cow, dude,” says Ace. “You sound like Old King Cole.”

Nat,” says Carvery, glancing my way as I stare at him in turn, and he slaps me sharply on the forehead. “There – gnat. Wouldn’t want your head swelling any bigger.”

Oh.” I dazedly glimpse the squashed bug on the palm of his hand, before he wipes it on his trousers. “Cheers.”

I was aiming more for Louis Armstrong…” Luke grumbles vaguely. “Do you think he’ll fall for it?”

I don’t think you will have any problem fooling him, Mr. Lukan,” Crispin assures him. “That leaves Corporal Punishment and Miss Bellummm, who has already been mistaken for medical staff…”

Nearly a qualified Forensic Anthropologist, you know,” I say, a little hurt.

I think you two will be the safest to explore the camp and see if any intelligence on the river-god Atum is being kept here,” Crispin continues. “Corporal Punishment has the relevant knowledge, and Sarah Bellummm has the clockwork hand to protect her…”

Well, I…” I say bashfully, not entirely sure it’s picked me for that reason at all – but Crispin is decided on the plan.

We will rendezvous backstage,” he announces, pointing towards the tall building swathed in impressive drapes. “If you hear the music stop, or anything else alarms you, take the northernmost path into the hills, beyond the main theatre. Do not wait for anyone. Is that clear?”

We all nod.

Excellent.” Crispin straightens up, and turns towards the dormitories. “Would anyone care to join me for a little light rehearsal in the piano-room…?”

Ace, Carvery and Luke follow him into the building.

Ace and Carvery re-emerge, only briefly, to dump a dead body on the porch. Possibly of the previous pianist.

Some notes strike up. Homer carries on dancing regardless.

Honey,” Miss December says to him, as he pirouettes past her. “You’re really working that woolly scarf.”

This way, Miss Bellum!” Corporal Punishment urges. “I have long awaited the opportunity to investigate this cult!”

I follow as he leads the way around to the back of the building housing General Winslow’s cabin, checking doors and windows.

The subject of cults has been touched upon at University, certainly – from a Forensics viewpoint, usually regarding the best way to preserve the crime scene and identify all of the bodies…

I catch myself sighing again, thinking of Mr. Wheelie-Bin back at the Body Farm. If only I’d said ‘No’ to my housemate yesterday when she’d asked me to go to the interview in her place. I could be sitting under that silver birch tree now, doing my own homework, with a thermos of Mochacinno and a Rich Tea biscuit, catching up on one of our comfortable heart-to-hearts.

Such a good listener… and of course, is never jealous when I talk about waiting around for Ace Bumgang outside the breaker’s yard with a Chinese Meat Feast pizza…

And then I give a little squeak of pain.

The clockwork hand pinched me!

It’s as if it knows exactly what I’m thinking!

I believe many of the General’s recruits are buried here, Miss Bellum!” says Corporal Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here Punishment.

What makes you say that?” I ask.

All the burial mounds, Miss Bellum!”

I look to where he points.

The ground out back of the buildings is a giant molehill paradise. Some have little makeshift crosses or stones arranged on them. Here and there, an Army toecap sticks out, or a skeletal extremity.

Some are even decorated with the dead stems of floral tributes (the flowers, I assume, having been eaten by monkeys long ago), and the occasional stage prop, such as a moth-eaten top hat and cane…

The Corporal cups his hands to a grimy window.

It looks like a store-room, Miss Bellum!” he hisses. “What do you think?”

I try to clean the greasy glass with my sleeve, before peering in.

Maybe theatre props?” I suggest, prompted by our ghoulish backdrop. “Look, I’m sure that is a suit of armour in the corner.”

We will investigate!”

He produces another carved bone from somewhere in his uniform, and uses it to pick the lock on the door. As quietly as possible, we slip inside.

It does look like props…” I remark. “Look, a treasure chest – some maps – and it is a suit of armour…”

Corporal Punishment picks up one of the scrolls and unfurls it. After a second, he produces an eyeglass and screws it into his eye socket for closer perusal.

These are not props for the theatre, Miss Bellum,” he says, grimly. “These are genuine. They are the spoils of war.”

What?” I gasp.

I look around the room. All this treasure – and even edged weapons, dating back to Medieval times…

The General has been keeping the property of his unwitting recruits, it appears,” says the Corporal. “I see a Morningstar from the Elevensies Lounge in the corner there…”

Oh,” I look, but I don’t see the newspaper. “Are they Communists in the Elevensies Lounge?”

No, Miss Bellum,” says Corporal Punishment patiently. “Besides the point, but – the spiked iron ball and chain attached to a club. A Morningstar. A cultural weapon of the Elevensies Lounge.”

Ah.” I try not to look too long at the bloodstains, and the remains of desiccated brain matter. “Crispin did tell me they are very cultured there.”

Extremely, Miss Bellum.”

The Corporal continues poking around, looking for more academic material. Idly, I go to examine the suit of armour. It has some rather nice engravings and embellishments.

It must have belonged to someone quite important,” I remark. “A pity, there are some parts missing. It only has one arm, and no stopcock.”

A suit of armour with plumbing, Miss Bellum?” The Corporal sounds impressed. “That is technology unknown to me, I must admit.”

I peer into the empty shoulder-socket.

How very curious…” I muse. “It seems to be equipped for attachments – on the inside…”

Let me see, Miss Bellum!” Corporal Punishment is suddenly behind me and breathing right down my neck, giving me an unexpected thrill, and I step away obediently.

Goodness… all of the little hairs on my nape are standing upright…

This is bad, Miss Bellum,” he announces.

He’s not kidding. I don’t think there is room in my diary for any more male fantasies.

General Winslow might not know what he has here, or he could be holding it to ransom,” the Corporal mutters, half to himself. Gosh, he is very attractive when he is thinking aloud… “You know the story of the mad man, he runs around like a headless chicken shouting Wolf! Wolf! All day every day… until a wolf shows up, but nobody listens… it is also true of the cult-leaders, they preach much nonsense, but sometimes in the nonsense is an invisible truth…”

Is this something to do with Atum?” I ask, wondering how a huge carved bone through the nasal septum would affect potential intimacy.

I will have to Google that, when I get home…

It is somewhat relevant, yes,” says the Corporal. “Like I was saying, to those who would not bother to wait for prayers to be answered. I hope the General does not know what it is – unless he has the rest of it as well – because then the world is in very great danger!”

Ohhh…” I look it up and down, under its patina of dust. “Could we steal it from him?”

The Corporal’s pearly white eyes focus and re-focus, as his great academic mind grapples with the suggested solution.

Um,” he ponders. “Well, er, that would certainly… yes… Yes! Find something to wrap it in! And quietly!”

We emerge again into the quad nonchalantly, the Corporal’s stride a little stiff, while I’m now feeling decidedly reinforced around the chest and corset regions. The rest of the parts are rolled up in a small ornamental rug, which despite much whistling and coaxing seems to be of the Lesser Wiping-Footed variety, not the Great Flying Carpet sort.

And I swear the clockwork hand is getting impatient. It gave me at least one Chinese burn and pinched me several more times while we were packing up the suit of armour…

But I’m quickly distracted by the sound of the piano accompanying Luke’s impressive tenor, and – is that the cello playing along?

I can feel my ears burning already, as the thought of Crispin seated at the piano with another woman invades my mind…

And then the General himself appears briefly on his own porch, a pink towel on his head and a white fluffy bathrobe wrapped around him, cooling himself with a rice-paper fan.

That is not bad, my lovely boys and girls!” he shouts. “But let’s see if you is any good at putting on a dress rehearsal! All of you on stage in one minute, chop-chop! Get moving!”

The quad is suddenly a hubbub of activity, as hitherto unseen occupants of the theatre camp hurry out of various dormitories, setting out chairs and working on winching up the enormous curtains.

A white grand piano is wheeled out onto the middle of the stage.

Homer, honey!” I hear Cynthia’s voice calling. “Help me with these rollers!”

Backstage, Miss Bellum!” Corporal Punishment reminds me. “Quickly!”

Although there’s not much that’s ‘quickly’ about it for the pair of us, as we waddle over uncomfortably, and clamber the steps into the wings.

What do you mean when you say, people who won’t wait for prayers to be answered?” I whisper, as more stage-hands hurry back and forth. “Have they learned of the Shambles too?”

They have taken advice from the Incantations, but interpret them differently,” the Corporal replies. “From Incantation Seventy-Seven, One Hundred and Fifty-One, One Hundred and Seventy-One, and possibly others. They have replaced faith in the gods with science and technology. Even in planning for the afterlife, Miss Bellum!”

Why? It’s not as if they can take it with them…” I begin. A large scenery cut-out of the Great Pyramids is wheeled past me. “Who would be silly enough to think they’d need technology in the afterlife?”

You may have noticed, Sarah Bellummm,” that other voice joins us, and my quadriceps melt. “The afterlife is not something anyone can take for granted.”

Of course, Crispin,” I murmur apologetically.

For some reason, I’m glad to see that both he and the former Sister Jaundice are still in their regular clothes as musicians… Luke is looking very groomed, in a suit and bow-tie, very appropriate for his skills… and Homer, perhaps also appropriate for his own, is now sporting a cheerleader’s outfit and another blonde wig, matching Miss December’s quick change into her Playbunny cheerleader costume. Ace and Carvery, however…

Here my patellas completely lose it, and try to run away down my legs, past my metatarsals and out through my phalanges…

Both are dressed as cowboys. Well – the ripped denim jeans, boots and Stetsons are recognisable, although there’s rather less going on in the shirt department. Carvery seems to have on the remains of a white muscle-back vest, while Ace has donned an open leather waistcoat.

What have you two come as?” I try to sound cool and sarcastic, while worrying far too much about both of them wearing gun-belts, and whether or not the weapons in them are merely props.

Lunchbox Mountain,” says Ace. “Look, I’ve covered in glitter as well…”

I try not to make eye contact with his flexing biceps and deltoids. Carvery still has the shotgun with its last cartridge, and most likely has the Taser in one of those riveted pockets…

If this makes more money than paving and concreting, I’m throwing out the cement-mixer,” he remarks.

I realise that Crispin and Corporal Punishment have been whispering. Damn! Why wasn’t I paying attention? Damn my traitorous hormones for distracting me!

We notice as a deathly hush falls across the quad. The General has emerged from his cabin, followed by two turbaned attendants – one of whom is carrying the tea-tray, the other a large wicker fan.

Now finally dressed, in a khaki uniform, the General inspects every detail of the scene as he approaches.

Not bad, not bad, lovely boys,” he rumbles. “Sweep up that monkey do-do in the aisles, that’s right, chop-chop! Now let’s see what you band of vagabonds is hoping will entertain the troops! I want big smiley faces and jazz hands on the lot of you!”

Oh, dear. I can’t imagine any one of our surly troupe meeting those expectations. Except for Homer, of course…

Fortunately, Homer and Miss December are first out onto the stage, as Crispin plays a rousing introduction on the grand piano. Sister Jaundice is installed nearby, the cello wedged between the long skirts covering her bony knees, like a musical car-jack.

So,” I hear Ace mutter to Carvery in the wings beside me. “How come neither of those two…?”

Well, one of them’s Miss Plastic Fantastic,” Carvery replies. “And the other one is as deluded as this one.”

Are you referring to me?” I whisper, annoyed.

They look at me irritably.

No,” says Carvery. “Your dead housemate bitch back in the Five a.m. Lounge.”

Why do I get the feeling you want her to stay that way?” I demand.

One less mad woman in the world,” Ace shrugs.

Ah, okay. He does have a point… I’ve had to live with her, after all.

Homer, of course, gives a stellar performance with his pom-poms, and his high-kicks are far superior to Miss December’s tassel-jiggling. I just find myself hoping it’s all to the General’s taste. His reaction is inscrutable, sipping his tea through his waxed moustache, the peak of his cap pulled too low to read his expression.

Luke launches smoothly into ‘Me and My Shadow’ after his introduction by the two cheerleaders, and Sister Jaundice joins the piano-backing by scraping away enthusiastically at her cello-strings, trying to throw in the occasional jazz hand between strokes.

The General is still immovable. I’m glad I didn’t volunteer to wear the bottom half of the stolen armour under my hospital scrubs, because with this sort of nervous tension, it might be in danger of going rusty, the longer I stand here…

Time Bandits, original clip of ‘Me and My Shadow’ with Napoleon – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

It Ain’t Half Arsed, Mum: A Zombie Parody

Faithless vs. Yello – Sun to Me/The Race mash-up

The surface of the river ahead of us erupts with the gunfire of all three barrels in the speedboat’s turret. A rickshaw and its flying carpet making a low pass explodes into splinters, followed by a spitting fireball from its stock of napalm cocktails.

Get down!” shouts General Lissima.

We hurtle through the fireball as it rapidly burns itself out. Ace twitches at the controls, to dodge a flaming coolie-hat as it spins past his head.

The General hefts her own chain-gun, and takes care of another flying rickshaw as it pulls along the port side.

Behind you…!” I yell, as a third draws parallel on the starboard.

Cutthroat Liss keeps her eyes on her current line of fire, but her apparently independent alien tentacle shoots out backwards, straight through the side of the latest rickshaw, fatally piercing the pilot. Then it cracks like a whip, causing the pilot and his vehicle to disintegrate.

The flying carpet, unleashed, flaps quickly into the sky.

Stop that rug, Mr. Slaughter!” she yells, as her tentacle retracts. “The flying carpet whisperers will learn of our position!”

Yes, Ma’am!”

Carvery aims the turret guns upward, and another volley of deafening fire rips the unfortunate magic carpet to shreds. There is a smell of singed wool on the breeze.

Crispin, those are your grandfather’s men!” I say, grabbing his arm. “Why are they attacking?”

It is a clash of different cultures,” he says. “Nothing is personal. When one has alchemy but no technology, and the other has technology but no alchemy – without formal and incorruptible trade management, the world will always lapse into a betterment Tug o’War. These are merely the casualties of poor commerce.”

I get it,” Ace chips in, steering us around a burning tree-trunk floating downstream. “It’s like they’re both saying ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’”

And assuming the other one did it,” Carvery agrees, between shots. “Blaming with extreme prejudice.”

Quite correct, gentlemen,” Crispin nods sagely, although I have no idea what they are on about.

And whose side is she on?” asks Luke, jerking his head towards General Lissima, while still strapping on his other waterski.

Half on my mother’s side – a distant cousin, or some such.” Crispin waves a hand around vaguely. “The other half – who knows?”

He means, whose side in the war?” I hiss.

Oh.” Crispin contemplates a moment. “I think the answer is still the same.”

Wheeeeehh!” Luke leaps from the bows of the boat, and is soon surfing energetically in our wake, dodging bullets and flaming cocktails.

That’s the spirit, Mr. Lukan!” Cutthroat Liss approves. “Everyone should be having fun!”

And she blows two more rickshaws out of the sky.

I am having fun,” shouts Carvery.

Me too,” Ace agrees, steering for a moment with his knee while rolling a cigarette. “Especially watching her playing with that watering-can.”

General Lissima just chuckles, as she aims the massive chain-gun again. The barrels roll and the muzzles spit bullets relentlessly. The air hanging above the river is filled with smoke, rickshaw sawdust and cut pile.

Corporal Punishment has stopped praying, and joins Crispin and Homer and me as we sit in a row on top of the still-unconscious Justin Time.

Are you all right?” I ask him. “What was that you were quoting just now?”

Incantation Seventy, Miss Bellum,” he says. “An unnamed spell, but the purpose is clear to all who study them.”

I glance in frustration at the dormant clockwork hand, clamped around my wrist. It’s like it has a mind of its own. Rather than me being able to control it, I’m starting to worry that its reticent powers could mean the reverse is the case.

Are you sure there’s nothing in that book about this?” I persist. “I’m certain Mr. Dry Senior was implying that they are connected in some way.”

Oh, everything is connected, Miss Bellum,” says Corporal Punishment. “You have to recognise that not everyone can be bothered to wait for prayers to be answered, although they still go through the motions for appearance’s sake. They go to confession, they make the obligatory sacrifices. But the heavens can wait, they say. Here on Earth, time is money.”

Whffft?” says a muffled voice, and our seat shifts a little. “I knew it! You are selling me for spare parts!”

Your parts are safe, Mr. Time,” Crispin replies. None of us makes a move to get up, and Homer tries to wriggle into a more comfortable spot between the rickshaw pilot’s hamstrings. “Except perhaps from Mrs. Time.”

Hah, never marry a virgin!” Justin Time grumbles into the deck beneath his whiskers. “They are always hiding something. A homicidal tendency, a drunken father, a taste for human flesh, a tattoo of Jedward, a financially-crippling designer handbag habit…”

A big alien sucker tentacle?” I suggest, hoping no-one has noticed my burning flush at the mention of tattoos.

Oh, that not be so bad…” Justin mumbles. “Except she always getting it out in public, like the trollop that she is…!”

What is she, Crispin?” I whisper, while Justin continues to rant under our collective buttocks. “And your mother, begging your pardon? I mean, I know I’m not a fully-qualified Forensic Anthropologist yet, but I’ve never seen…”

I thought you knew, Sarah Bellummm.” Crispin sounds genuinely surprised. “The Sirens are well-documented.”

Ohhh…” I dredge my memories of early schooling in history and Greek mythology. “I think I recall – but tentacles were never mentioned…”

Of course,” says Crispin. “No-one who came that close survived to describe the tentacles. They traditionally kill their mates after fertilisation. Or sometimes just for fun, nowadays. Civilisation has a little to be grateful for.”

Ah.” I gulp.

I glance at Ace Bumgang, wondering if he knows how lucky he is to be alive.

Should I tell him?

No – maybe I’ll spare him the horror. For now…

After all, there might be a more opportune moment for him to be thankful to be alive, and in my company…

It looks like we are out of the Friendly Fire zone,” Crispin observes, intruding a little on my own thoughts of future human fertilisation. “We are nearly there.”

The sound of gunfire and screaming of rickshaw pilots has ceased. I risk a peek over the side.

Wheeeeehh!” Luke hollers happily, skipping over the last of the wreckage on the waterskis behind us.

The jungle has thinned out, and thank goodness – the littering of sacrificial corpses on the riverbanks is no more.

Instead, a scattering of rude wooden huts denotes villages, with women in saris beating clothes against flat stones, men in make-do diapers beating bony cattle and elephants with sticks, and children in nothing at all beating monkeys at Who Can Make The Best Silly Face.

They look so peaceful,” I remark.

Yes. The Ten a.m. Lounge is among the most benign,” Crispin agrees. “Not exactly neutral, but as close as can be estimated to neutral. The only conflict here is the Cult of Atum, and the renegade General Foramen Winslow.”

Is he dangerous?” I ask.

He is psychotic,” Crispin admits. “But of the type it is best to humour his delusions, for that is the only way to stay alive in his company.”

I will drop you off here,” Lissima Domina announces, as we approach another small jetty. “I have to take my wayward husband back to my ship.”

To the mothership?” Ace queries.

Back to Hell!” screams Justin, and is knocked unconscious again by an alien tentacle-wielded knife-butt.

Just a regular old ship, Mr. Bumgang,” she says, smiling. “I can’t be having my naughty spouse running around on dry land. Not even to see his Playbunny Boy girlfriend. Leave the controls to me.”

Rather reluctantly, Ace and Carvery leave their posts. Luke is also sad that his ride is over so soon, letting out a sigh, his skis sinking below the surface as we decelerate.

Corporal Punishment helps Homer to his feet, and Crispin offers me his arm.

Shall we, Sarah Bellummm?” he says.

We step ashore.

General Lissima’s boat turns and roars away again, back downstream into the jungle.

If anything, it is even hotter here than in the jungle. There is less shade, and the ground underfoot is closer to sand and dust than to mud. A few scrubby shrubs cling to the ground between the huts and shacks, but anything green has been stripped from them, by the livestock and the scavenging monkeys.

Serves you right,” says Carvery, as a chattering, boisterous monkey picks his pocket, and promptly Tasers itself.

Not for the first time, I’m glad I didn’t attempt that route.

This way.” Crispin gestures towards a dried-out track, marked out either side with bird skulls on sticks. Their feathers are strung between, on lengths of frayed old string.

It doesn’t seem to be a great indicator of this Cult being a peaceable one…

As we trek further, occasionally a piece of coloured paper flutters in the dust, or is caught against the scrub.

Luke picks one up.

“‘The winter of our discontent…’” he reads. “What is that – some sort of war propaganda?”

I rescue another, caught in a strip of bark.

This one just says ‘Alas…’” I add.

They are prompts, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin replies. “The discarded notes of Cult sermons.”

Not one of those self-appointed preacher cults?” says Ace. “That’s it, I’m not drinking anything they serve here. It’ll be a suicide by cyanide cult.”

The ramshackle buildings ahead are arranged around a square, the tallest, facing us, shrouded in a heavy red-and-gilt curtain. As we approach, we see an elderly gentleman, in a white turban, totter across the quad with a tea-tray to knock on the door of one of the lower buildings, which has a golden star on its door.

On the breeze, I swear I can hear a piano, and the sounds of someone practising their scales…

Your early morning call, General Winslow, sir!” says the tea-vala gently, rapping again on the door.

Early morning call?” repeats Carvery. “It’s ten a.m!”

Do not let them hear you making light of the time, Mr. Slaughter,” murmurs Crispin. “They are a delicate sort in the Cult of Atum.”

The distant voice accompanying the piano clears its throat, and starts afresh.

Ta-ra-ra boom-dee-ay! My knickers flew away!”

We exchange looks.

They went on holiday! They came back yesterday! Ta-ra-ra boom-dee-ay…”

Ace twirls a finger perpendicular to his ear.

The door with the golden star on flies open, and out storms a whiskered, well-built, middle-aged man in a string vest and khaki shorts, sporting a uniform peaked cap, and brandishing a cane.

I heard that, you naughty boy!” he roars, with an impressive voice that you knew was born to enunciate, not just speak like any old commoner. “I also heard you singing your scales with Doh-Ray-Me-So-Farty! You are lucky I have not had my first cup of tea or I would be right over there to give you a good hiding, yes I would! Tea-vala! In my cabin now! And bring extra sugar!”

Right here, General Winslow, sir!” The tea-vala picks himself up from behind the door, having kept the tray and its contents miraculously upright, and follows him back inside.

We are fortunate,” Crispin remarks. “It looks like a regular rehearsal day. On matinée performance days, the General has been known to execute both leads and their understudies before brunch.”

Ah, maybe that’s what this is for,” Luke remarks, handing over another of the slips of paper he has been collecting as we walked. “‘Casting for female lead and understudy. Must have good legs, high-C, and dance.’ What is a high-C?”

It’s what Homer’s got, since the operation,” Ace points out.

You could audition, Homer,” Carvery suggests. “Then we’d have a man on the inside.”

They’ll be none the wiser to that,” Luke agrees. “So long as they don’t look too closely at his high-C.”

Goooood.” Homer hops up and down excitedly, and turns begging eyes on his brother.

Crispin’s manly shoulders sag.

Yes, yes,” he sighs. “We can play along, Homer. It may buy us a little time in which to find out if they have any real intelligence on the river-god Atum’s recent actions, or if the Cult is merely a front for the General’s Broadway ambitions.”

Did somebody say Broadway?!”

We turn around. A skinny young woman, with chestnut-red braids, clutching a cello case, looks at us like one big hopeful question-mark. She wears big honest spectacles and a very Amish-style pinafore dress, a cross between Anne of Green Gables, and Corporal Punishment’s dream librarian pin-up.

Are you talent scouts?” she breathes. “Is this The Jungle’s Got Talent, Get Strict With Me audition tour?”

Ah, now I see how the General finds his recruits,” Crispin remarks. “Where are you from, Miss…?”

My name is Summer… well, it’s the name I’ve chosen since I ran away from the nunnery on the mountain, where I was called Sister Jaundice. And the best I got there was second fiddle in the nuns’ orchestra, for the children’s Sunday School choir. What I really want is to play on Broadway, join a conservatory, study at Juilliard, perform under Andrew Lloyd-Webber…”

I feel my hackles rising, catching me unawares as the bespectacled drama shrimp makes big eyes at Crispin’s expensive black suit.

Am I… am I getting jealous?!

I think you’ve come on the wrong day, my friend,” Luke interrupts, patting Homer reassuringly on the back, and I realise I’m not the only one feeling threatened. “Today we are auditioning for dancing girls.”

Oh.” The big blue eyes resemble Shubunkins lost in goldfish-bowls. “I can tap-dance…”

Strippers,” Ace cuts in.

And Playbunny Boys,” adds Carvery.

Ohhhh…” Now, Summer Jaundice looks decidedly less hopeful. “Don’t dancers need musicians?”

We’ve already got a pianist,” I say.

Gonnne,” says Homer, looking down at himself through the grass skirt, wistfully.

Luke pats him on the back again.

Man, that’s something you dead white boys just gotta learn. Use it, before you lose it.”

The invisible pianist in question starts up on cue, with an off-key rendition of ‘Anything Goes’… but by the reaction from the General’s cabin, it is quite clear that Anything definitely does not Go as far as musical talent is concerned.

That is one of my favourite songs and you has just ruined it, my lovely boy!”

The General bursts out of the gold-starred door again, this time armed with a revolver, his other hand holding a half-finished mug of tea. He marches across the square to the far side, kicks open the door to the dormitory opposite with his 13-hole Army boot, and empties the gun into the unseen room beyond.

The chorus of ‘Anything Goes’ ends with an open-ended B-Flat, by the sound of it struck heavily with the forehead.

Wow,” Summer Jaundice gasps. “The judges are really harsh!”

We still have a pianist.” I catch hold of Crispin’s arm possessively, remembering his Franz Ferdinand in the restaurant last night, and what nearly happened on that piano before the power-cut…

Not dropped off yet, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin confirms, coughing modestly.

A second door in the dormitory opens, and a completely different figure steps outside to light a cigarette, her blonde tresses in big rollers, wearing only white stockings and an oversized khaki shirt.

Now that’s the competition you’ve got to worry about, Homer,” Carvery remarks.

The strange woman turns and stretches, revealing a Playbunny tattoo on one lithe hip.

I hope you has been rehearsing, Miss December!” snarls the General, sipping his tea and scowling.

Cynthia,” she corrects him. “Only creeps call me Miss December. Creeps and creepy boyfriends, anyway.”

We has got a big day coming up! Entertaining the troops! I will not be having you lazy boys and girls spoiling it by sloppy rehearsals and coming down with the mumps and all turning up dead like last week! Poor old tea-vala spent the intermission sewing arms and legs back on instead of serving the tea! And Miss February has already cried off sick with the jungle bottom and called her agent to pick her up and still makes my life a misery with the long-distance phone-calls about her luggage not being returned! Now – what has we got here then?”

And the scary General turns towards us, and strides over.

Instinctively, we all salute.

Here to audition, sir!” pipes up Summer, as foolhardy as she is desperate, apparently.

Has you got a bikini in that cello case?” the General barks.

Just a cello, sir!”

Then I hopes you is good at ironing shirts and peeling spuds!” he shouts. His eyes move on to me, looking at my back-to-front field hospital scrubs. “What has happened to you, Sonny-boy? Did they sew your head on backwards?”

No, sir! Got dressed in the dark, sir!” I’m too scared to correct him as to my gender.

Well, at least you is honest as well as dimwitted. We can always use more medics. Can you tell a hand from a foot?”

As long as it is not on a monkey, sir!”

Good!” His gaze crosses over to Ace and Carvery. “What is up with you two Pansy-boys? Run away from the Navy, have we? Fancy a bit of singing and dancing instead, do we?”

Oh, the uniforms…” Carvery looks down at his. Ace is still shirtless. “We’re not absconders.”

Nah,” Ace joins in. “We’re strippers.”

I swear, my lungs contract all by themselves. I so do NOT need that image in my mind while trying to stand to attention in front of this terrifying and allegedly deluded man…

Ah,” the General muses. “Chippendales, eh? Well, I hear there is some market for that, especially among the other lovely Pansy-boys we has got here. And I see you has brought along some exotics. Something for everyone, whether they is into spear-chucking or limbo-dancing, no doubt. Looks like we can put on quite the variety show with all of you circus freaks here today…”

And then his eyes level with Crispin’s.

For a fleeting moment, there sees to be almost a spark of recognition – of FEAR – in the General’s eyes…

But then just as quickly it is gone, and the glassy stare of madness returns.

And what is you, errand-boy?” he growls. “A looky-likey act?”

Yes, General,” says Crispin, smoothly. “A lookalike act.”

Who plays the piano,” I squeak, before I can stop myself.

Fortunately, the General has priorities other than insolence.

Good,” he says. “I believe I has an opening for an ivory tickler.”

And he turns away, heading back for his cabin.

Yes,” Corporal Punishment remarks, as the rest of us all breathe freely again. He strokes the long carved bone inserted through his nose thoughtfully. “I can see his opening from here.”

Windsor Davies and Don Estelle from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum sing ‘Whispering Grass’ 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

Apophysis Now: A Zombie Parody

Grandmaster Flash vs. Tears For Fears – Shout the Message mash-up

“Hah!” General Cutthroat Liss smiles, baring some extremely pointed teeth, while she bounces Justin Time up-and-down by the neck, like a yo-yo on the end of her alien tentacle appendage. “Where is your New York pet Playbunny Boy now, Justin? She too busy twirling her tassels to come to your rescue?”

Hooooome?” Homer pricks up his post-operatively trans-gender ears behind his yashmak of striped woolly scarf.

“Her name is Cynthia, and she is not a Boy!” spits Justin, turning rapidly purple. “Of that I am almost certain! Fifty-fifty!”

“Perhaps we should go and visit her in the Ten a.m. Lounge now, hmmm?” Cutthroat suggests. “See if we can determine her qualifications once and for all?”

“We are heading for the Ten a.m. Lounge,” Crispin joins in. “Can we impose on you for a military escort through the Friendly Fire zone, General Domina?”

“Of course, Mr. Dry.” Cutthroat Liss grins even more broadly. “You are always welcome on my little skiff.”

“Hey,” Ace hisses at Carvery. “Maybe these tentacle chicks have something against dry land.”

“Was that ‘Dry’ with a capital D?” Carvery mutters.

“General Sunny-Jim,” Crispin turns to the visiting officers, who salute. “It has been a pleasure. “Give Higham Dry Senior my regards. Captain Mainlining – Lance-Corporal Pikey – I will see you presently, in the Elevensies Lounge.”

“The kettle is always on, Mr. Dry!” barks the Captain. “Come, Pikey. Before you catch a chill.”

“It’s the jungle, Uncle,” Lance-Corporal Layabout Pikey groans, slouching out of the static caravan after him. “I could strip right down to my long-johns, and not even catch a lukewarm…”

We follow them outside into what is indeed the beating tropical sunshine, and watch as the two Elevensies delegates march not-quite synchronously towards a small armoured helicopter in the middle of the field hospital site, and get in, still grumbling to one another. The awaiting soldiers flanking it salute stiffly.

Instead of an impressive engine turning over, or the rotor-blades even starting up, it is merely lifted up on long poles by the soldiers on the ground either side, and carried off into the jungle.

“I can see that moonshine fuel idea getting increasingly lucrative,” Ace observes.

“You will like the Elevensies Lounge, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says beside me. “They are extremely cultured when you get to know them.”

“Everyone I have met so far today is cultured, Crispin,” I reply. “Some of them from cultures I thought were completely extinct.”

I leave his surprised side, and run ahead a little to catch up with the loping warrior gait of Corporal Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here Punishment, whose nose is still buried in the tiny leather-bound diary of hieroglyphs, his stride now mysteriously managing to maintain a straight line, as if under a magic spell.

“You can read it, Corporal Punishment?” I pant, bobbing to keep up like a cork in a bathtub. “It makes sense to you?”

“It is very interesting, Miss Bellum!” he announces. “They are the Missing Incantations!”

“Incantations? What incantations?”

“Numbers sixteen, eighteen and nineteen, Miss Bellum!” He turns a page, still not looking where he is going, but walking confidently ahead nonetheless. “Numbers forty-eight and forty-nine! Numbers fifty-one and fifty-two! Number sixty! Number…”

“Numbers?” I ask, nonplussed.

“For going out into the day! For seeing in the dark! For not falling upon the icicle of frozen poop! For not succumbing to the spell of the Sirens! For hearing the word of Atum! For…”

“Icicle of frozen poop?!” I squeak, looking all around at the sweltering jungle in horror, before a vague concept of thermal dynamics reassures me that this is not an immediate threat. “Atum… did you just say Atum? Massive river snake thing, big scary eye, barnacles?”

“Oh, Atum is soooo over-rated,” General Lissima calls back over her shoulder, as she lovingly drags her husband, the unfortunate Justin Time, through the mud and undergrowth, occasionally slapping him against a tree. “Always turning up when things are half-done like a desperate theatre critic, saying ‘It’s not finished, wah wah wah’. Of course not, stupid great snake. You just show up too early, before Big Reveal.”

“There is a Cult of Atum in the Ten a.m. Lounge, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says. “Organised by a renegade General. He has been predicting terrible things about the Lounges and their stability.”

“He has also been trying to make Jack Daniels by distilling his own wee-wee, Miss Bellum!” Corporal Punishment adds earnestly.

“The horror…” I murmur. “He must be losing his mind…”

“Yes, Miss Bellum! Everyone knows Jack Daniels is not made from human wee-wee!”

“Er…” Something prevents me from asking the obvious, probably a sudden concern that I may have imbibed a Jack Daniels Sling or two in the past, when the Sloe Gin had run out.

I look behind us, to where Luke, Carvery and Ace are trailing behind, sharing the last of the pint-glass of failed ambulance fuel/potential Guinness substitute. Fortunately, they don’t seem to be paying attention to the conversation. And Homer is skipping along the path between all of us, having already made himself a grass skirt to go with his woolly scarf and mitten-slippers.

Or should that be ‘her?’ I can’t get my head around it. Perhaps if they’d given him a shave and a make-over too…

“Ah, here we are, my beloved,” says General Lissima, as we reach a riverbank and a wooden jetty.

“May you rot at the bottom of the deepest ocean!” roars Justin.

“Ah, does my husband need a nap?” croons the lady General, and with a flick of her tentacle knocks him unconscious, against the black prow of the large stealth motor-boat moored in front of us.

“Hey,” Ace chips in sharply. “You forgot to say ‘I name this ship’.”

“And all who sail in her,” Luke adds.

“He gets sea-sick,” she excuses him. “Much better that he sleeps on the way.”

And she tosses him aboard, like a sack of old spuds. The tentacle abruptly retracts and vanishes, into whatever hellish portal it occupies.

It’s nothing like the Great Barge in the Five a.m. Lounge – or even Crispin’s own paddle-steamer. This is a stripped-down small Naval ship, a speedboat armed with heavy artillery – is that a Gatling gun in the tower?? Oh dear…

“Carvery gets sea-sick too,” I announce hopefully, but nobody hears me.

“It is not licensed for casual passengers,” Cutthroat Liss warns. “So long as you are on board, you are considered crew. So if I give you an order, you say: Yes, Ma’am.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” everyone responds promptly.

Gooood,” Homer improvises, and she dismisses his impertinence with a wave of her hand.

“Very good. Let’s go. Ten a.m. won’t wait around for any old body.”

“You are coming with us, Corporal Punishment?” I plead. “I think that little book might be relevant to this clockwork hand thing…”

I hold it up under his pierced nose for inspection, the golden bejewelled device still locked around my wrist – and its gemstones still glittering malevolently with acquired Taser voltage.

“Oh, that is very pretty, Miss Bellum!” Corporal Punishment replies. “But no, I do not see it mentioned in the Missing Incantations yet.”

“There must be something!” I press him. “Please, you must tell me if there are any clues to what it is and what it is for! Because I think it might hold the cure for…”

“All aboard!” snaps General Lissima.

We fall into line, and shuffle onto the loose gangplank. She chuckles as we pass.

“There’s my good little shamblers,” she purrs.

“Do you know what a shambles is, Miss Bellum?” Corporal Punishment asks me, under his breath for the first time.

“It’s what we are?” I suggest, feeling unusually clever at anticipating some derogatory military remark.

He looks worried.

“I certainly hope not, Miss Bellum,” he replies. “It is a meat market for the remains of animal sacrifices, deemed unfit for consumption and prohibited in many religious sects. Incantation Fifty.”

“Fifty shambles of gray zombies would be a pretty tasteless meat market overall, I imagine,” interrupts Carvery, glancing from Homer to Crispin and down at me. “Drool much lately, Sarah?”

“She’s calling us animal sacrifices!” I hiss.

“Maybe she’s referring to zombies as being general consumers of sacrilegious meat parts,” he shrugs, pushing past and making a bee-line for the gun turret. “Sounds about right to me.”

“Waterskis!” Luke cries, and is suddenly hopping up and down in the bows like a kid on Sunset Yellow, a ski in each hand. “Oh, man, I have to try theeeeese!

I’m starting to worry that there isn’t anyone here who is taking the situation seriously…

“Mr. Bumgang!” General Lissima hails, and points to the controls. “How’s your driving?”

“How’s your holding on?” Ace grins.

“Then let’s make waves, Mr. Bumgang. Time to run the gauntlet!”

The gauntlet? I look down at the golden clockwork hand. But no – still nothing.

Damn it! And – is she flirting with him…?

I topple over sideways as Ace steers the boat around in a circle, mid-river, and find myself face-down in a lapful of black wool suit.

“You are in a hurry to perform a closer examination, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin intones deeply above my head. “We are not even in private yet.”

“No, no – just making sure you were, erm…” I hazard, trying to sit up but finding my hair snagged in his zipper. “Oh dear. I think we might need scissors.”

“I will pretend I did not hear that, Sarah Bellummm.”

I attempt to coax the strands of hair free from the zip tag.

“You know, Crispin,” I say, concentrating fiercely. “You really could be being a bit more helpful.”

“You seem to be managing admirably down there,” he assures me.

“No, what I mean is…” I tut to myself, as I release one single solitary hair, resulting in making the remaining tangle worse. “This is YOUR hereditary clockwork hand. Made in Switzerland by the finest Swiss watchmakers…”

“Why would I need that as well right now?” He sounds puzzled. “Your own hands are keeping me quite busy enough at the moment. You‘re not suggesting I need a prostate exam too, I hope?”

“No, Crispin!” I sigh in exasperation, fiddling and fumbling like an amateur acupuncturist. “I mean – why didn’t you ever learn anything about it, while your father had it? Why didn’t he teach you anything? What is it for? What’s its special purpose? And it better not be for better self-prostate examination, now you mention it… stupid thing‘s been hanging onto all sorts of parts of me when it‘s not blowing things up or turning them to stone…”

“That certainly does not sound like a necessary range of powers by which to perform prostate exams,” Crispin agrees, and sighs in turn, his undead lungs whistling sadly an inch from my right ear. “But you are absolutely right, Sarah Bellummm. My father was in mourning for so long over our first brother, that he never shared much of any knowledge value with Homer and myself. We had to try and guess what would earn his approval. Homer as you know, was a little far off the mark.”

Hoooome,” says Homer unhappily, seated beside Crispin atop the stocky body of the unconscious Justin Time.

It’s so frustrating… I pluck another hair free, trying not to lose my temper and vigorously jiggle the zipper with what would appear to be impatient enthusiasm.

“Why would you spend a lifetime looking for something when you don’t even know what it is?” I grumble.

“It is not what it is,” he says, patting my head somewhat inappropriately. “It is the hope of what it is when you find it.”

“Bogeys at twelve o-clock!” shouts General Lissima from the prow.

“Don’t think we want to go there,” Carvery complains. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see him installed in the gun turret, putting on some goggles.

Uh-oh

“Can we skip the Twelve o’clock Lounge? Or is it compulsory?” Luke queries, one sandal already off and replaced by a waterski optimistically.

“Full speed, Mr. Bumgang!” she snaps. “We will lose them in the Shambles!”

“Yes, Ma’am!”

The boat lurches forward as Ace opens the throttle. With a rip, I topple backwards this time, my freed strands now a frizzy hairball hanging over my right eye.

“What does she mean, the Shambles?” I demand, struggling upright once more.

“A place no-one should see or hear of,” Crispin replies, adjusting his fly modestly. “The place where unanswered prayers go to rot, and priests conceal their sins.”

“Miss Bellum…” Corporal Punishment beckons me to the starboard.

“What is it?“ I join him at the handrail. “Have you found something?”

There is an engine roar approaching low in the skies overhead, and again I see the two flat triangular jets passing.

“The planes are what take up all of our fuel in the Nine a.m. Lounge, Miss Bellum,” he tells me. “But they are not unnecessary against the saboteurs…”

Several flying rickshaws burst from the treetops, and I can just see their Six a.m. pilots lighting Molotov cocktails in the driving seats.

“They come to destroy evidence, Miss Bellum,” says Corporal Punishment. “Evidence that prayers alone are not the answer.”

He points to the riverbank.

Oh, God…

So many corpses…

So many hooves…

So many feathers…

“So many sacrifices, Sarah Bellummm,” says Crispin, joining us at the side of the boat.

“Oh, Crispin,” I say, my heart going out to him. “So many chickens…”

With a clomping of one waterski, Luke shuffles over to see what we are looking at.

His face slowly sets, as the grim scene sinks in.

“I knew it,” he mutters. “They all lie! The gods don’t want sacrifices! The priests just take your money! And then – they sleep with your wife!”

With that, he promptly throws up noisily over the side.

“Yeah, I love the smell of Guinness in the morning,” Ace empathises from the controls.

The rickshaw pilots launch their napalm cocktails onto the riverbanks, and the air is filled with the stench of burning feathers and fur.

Corporal Punishment downcasts his milk-white eyes and clasps his hands closed around the little leather-bound book.

My place of slaughter belongs to Him who is over the place of sacrifice,” he begins, solemnly. “I am happy and pleased with the altar of my father Osiris. I rule in Busiris, I travel about on its riverbanks, I breathe the east wind…”

What is he doing? Is he losing his mind as well??

“Clear a path, Mr. Slaughter!” orders General Lissima.

“Yes, Ma’am!”

…And I just remember to cover my ears in time…

Apocalypse Now original trailer – cinematic history…

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

Full Metacarpal Jacket: A Zombie Parody

The Trashmen vs. Skrillex – Surfin’ Bird/Bangarang mash-up…

The door of the Airstream opens with a creak, hinting at inefficient home-made WD-40 oiling the hinges. There is an accompanying whiff, akin to stale ale.

Enter,” summons a low voice.

Justin Time, now a skin bag of mostly knocking knees and chattering teeth, is hauled in front of the great oak desk within, between Luke and Corporal Punishment.

Four strangers sit at the desk. An imposing Oriental General with a monocle and clipboard. A rotund, ginger-whiskered Captain tucking into a pot of tea and a large cream bun. A young and skinny Lance-Corporal in a knitted scarf and mittens, arms folded sulkily, as if he wishes he was elsewhere…

And an exquisitely beautiful Afro-Oriental female officer in khaki fatigues, who rises to her feet slowly. While at the same time Justin drops completely to the floor and prostrates himself, as if he is hoping it will part and swallow him whole…

She speaks only one word, and with it, the fate of all in the room is apparently clear.

Tea?” she says sweetly.

Not a drop of it, you loathsome spawn of Hell!” Justin shouts, slightly muffled by the rather nice Persian carpet.

Three sugars, please,” Luke beams.

Black,” says Carvery.

White, no sugar,” says Ace. “You’re sweet enough to keep me going.”

She smiles and nods, and turns to the large, gleaming chrome vending machine. Another one of Crispin’s high-end refreshment models, no doubt…

Corporal Punishment?” she asks, over her shoulder.

I’m a giver, not a receiver.” Carvery shakes his head.

Hot water only if you please, General Domina, Ma’am,” Corporal Punishment acknowledges gratefully.

Not much fun you can have with that,” Carvery tells him. “Maybe inflict a few minor scalds and blisters… You need to get out more.”

Miss Bellum?”

I jump as she addresses me. I’m still wondering how to get that little diary out of Carvery’s pocket without him noticing.

Um,” I reply, wondering if my bladder can handle any more liquids today, or whether I should just wait for the next Sloe Gin Sling to cross my path, which would be preferable. “I could perhaps just nibble a sugar-lump…”

She nods, and proffers the bowl.

An immaculate set of tiny vintage engraved silver sugar-tongs perch on top of the sparkling white and brown cubes.

Thank you,” I murmur, helping myself to a lump. The tongs spring back and forth between my fingertips, suggestively. “Do you mind? I just want to admire these for a moment…”

Justin Time,” the monocled General Sunny-Jim interrupts, fortunately distracting everyone from my budding plan. “You have been brought before us to face the outstanding charges of flying carpet theft, distribution of counterfeit One Thousand Yard Stare Masters Degree certificates, and absconding without leave. And also charges of defamatory statements about our patron broadcast by you on Panic Stations FM, abusing your position on the field hospital radio. Do you have anything to say in your defence?”

Yes,” Justin tells the carpet.

Silence, when you are addressing the General!” bellows the ginger Captain. A glacé cherry vibrates, stuck in his moustache.

As I thought,” the General continues, turning the page on his clipboard, while Lissima Domina serves the tea. “Insolence and insubordinance as well. Do you deny the charges?”

Justin chews the carpet, but says nothing.

The General asked you a question, Mr. Time!” roars the Captain, rattling the teacups.

The spotty Lance-Corporal stuffs the ends of his woolly scarf into his ears, and pouts.

I…” Justin peeps.

SILENCE!”

Prisoner’s non-co-operation duly noted.” The General writes neatly onto his pad. “It appears we have reached an impasse. The options for your admonition facing us include collective forfeit, whereby the entire barracks is punished for your misdemeanours and you are thrown upon their mercy…”

Hear, hear,” bumbles the Captain, slurping some of his tea from the saucer, having swirled it around to cool it down.

Or you are handed over to General Lissima Domina for detention at sea and automatic loss of all flying privileges, for an indefinite period until your behaviour can be seen to be fully reformed…”

The carpet barely muffles a gulp. Back in her seat, General Domina merely smiles coyly at the mention of her name.

“…Unless our patron, Mr. Crispin Dry, has alternative suggestions of merit?”

A hopeful eyebrow is raised from the cut pile underfoot.

But Crispin’s expression is as gray and stony as it has ever been. Even my heart sinks on Justin’s behalf.

I have complete faith in the military justice system, Sunny-Jim,” Crispin replies, curtly. “Although I suspect that a woman’s touch is often more effective than wire wool and soap.”

Where have I recently seen wire wool and soap? I look down at my back-to-front field hospital scrubs, unable to place them already in my memory…

But the sight of the little silver sugar-tongs in my hand triggers something…

The coded diary! In Carvery’s pocket!

Now – if only I can recall which pocket he has it in… because I’m sure there’s also probably still something in one of the pockets that I wouldn’t want to be poking at with anything metallic…

Give me the wire wool and soap!” Justin’s voice rises from the floor. “Mercy!”

How dare you address superiors with suggestions for your method of torture!” The Captain is puce. “Lance-Corporal Pikey, I order you to throw your beaker of weak lemonade over the prisoner at once!”

The still-sulky Layabout Pikey picks up his brimming plastic cup, and tosses it across the desk, where it rebounds off the back of Justin’s ear with a satisfying bonk and a splosh.

Now what am I going to dunk my pink wafers in, Uncle?” Pikey demands under his breath.

I tend to agree with Mr. Dry,” General Sunny-Jim muses, poring over his notes. “So if you will wait a moment while we thrash out the finer details… I’m sorry. Detail the finer thrashings.”

And he beckons to Crispin Dry and General Lissima to peruse his clipboard.

Now, I’m thinking, sidling closer to Carvery. Now, now, now

Don’t you have some information to negotiate with, Justin?” Ace mutters meaningfully.

Mmph?” says the fluff on the carpet.

Yeah,” Carvery grunts, winking at Ace. “Something to do with the Six a.m. Lounge withholding their chemical capabilities, wasn’t it? Or was it the Nine a.m. Lounge withholding their brewery capabilities? I’m sure one of them might offer you asylum.”

That is what he is afraid of, Mr. Slaughter!” Corporal Punishment agrees. “The asylum is generally agreed to be worse than the confining to the solitary, with the wire wool and the soap!”

Now… now… now or never!

Sarah…” a warning voice interrupts my thoughts. “You are going to need considerably bigger forceps than those, if you are going where I think you’re going with them.”

I drop the little silver sugar tongs with a gulp, and kick them swiftly under the desk.

What forceps?” I ask.

Damn it all, already!

Carvery’s amber gaze is as deadly as usual.

One cartridge, remember?” He taps the stock of Mrs. Frittata’s shotgun.

Permission to speak!” Justin shouts into the carpet.

Silence!” The glacé cherry is fired abruptly from the Captain’s whiskers, whereupon it sticks neatly to Corporal Punishment’s khaki lapel.

But Justin leaps upright, and lunges for the shotgun.

And I swear Carvery just grins and hands it to him…

Say hello to my widdle friend!” shouts Justin.

Hello, Widdle,” obliges Lance-Corporal Pikey, through a mouthful of pink wafer.

Carvery and Ace both look at me automatically, and to the floor beneath my feet.

Not even a puddle big enough to paddle in,” Ace remarks. “She must be sobering up.”

I will be leaving now!” says Justin, waving the shotgun and backing towards the door. “And you will not be following me!”

There is a series of mechanical clicks, as both Generals, Captain Mainlining and Lance-Corporal Pikey all draw their weapons from beneath the desk. The Captain’s bayonet neatly impales an iced cinnamon roll, as he levels it above the tea service.

The skewered pastry oozes sugar syrup menacingly onto the French polish.

That might be inadvisable, Mr. Time,” says Crispin, straightening up. “As you can see, it appears you have only brought one cartridge to a bunfight.”

Justin lets out a yell, and raises his weapon, trying to pick a target as he jerks it back and forth.

Fuck’s sake.” Carvery reaches into his pockets and fumbles around. “Where is it… here, hold this…”

And he drops the little leather-bound diary right into my astonished hand.

Dude,” Ace says. “I’m sure I read somewhere that you shouldn’t Taser an armed man.”

It’s not for him.” Carvery finds his Taser. “He’s just stepped off the carpet onto the floorboards. We need a bigger widdle puddle…”

Corporal Punishment!” I gasp, and throw the tiny book. “The pictograms – catch!”

The Taser contacts stab into my throat, like the bite of a soulless vampire…

Every muscle in my body spasms, and the last cocktail I drank leaves via the emergency exit.

The gemstones in the clockwork hand clamped around my wrist immediately light up, and everything else slows down…

I see Justin looking down at the puddle seeping under his feet, and losing his footing on the polished floor… I see Ace diving in to give him a rugby-tackle followed by a wedgie, and Luke reaching out to grab the shotgun barrels and point them harmlessly towards the ceiling as he disarms the rickshaw pilot…

And Corporal Punishment’s long-fingered ebony-black hand closes in mid-air around the little diary, which he opens curiously…

I am still on my feet – how?

The stones on the clockwork hand glitter like disco-lights, and with a rush of pins-and-needles I feel the Taser charge rushing down my arm towards it, followed by a blissful numbness. But it still won’t let go, hugging my carpals like a bulletproof jacket.

Guys,” I say, feeling light-headed as I watch Ace and the shrieking Justin wrestling on the floor. “Why are you playing in my wee-wee?”

The door to the Airstream bursts open, and a figure is outlined against the daylight to be greeted by the impromptu floorshow.

Gooood,” the newcomer approves.

That’s more like it, Homer,” Luke greets him. “You look like a great big weight has been lifted off your lap…”

Ah, it appears I now have a sister,” says Crispin, as Homer steps inside, over Justin’s kicking legs.

An ugly sister,” Lance-Corporal Pikey notes.

…I told you it didn’t seem right swinging around on a dead white fella,” Luke adds.

It did upstage the dead white fella part,” Carvery muses.

Really, Mr. Dry,” Captain Mainlining remarks, lowering his rifle and retrieving the sticky bun from his bayonet. “A woman shouldn’t be running around the camp like that. Put some clean clothes on him, somebody.”

What?” I ask vaguely, my head still up in the clouds. I look down at myself. “It’s only pee…”

Lance-Corporal Pikey reluctantly parts with his woolly scarf and mittens, which Homer accepts graciously.

I find this plan of action to be satisfactory,” Crispin announces, checking the clipboard again. “Do you, General Lissima?”

Quite satisfactory, Mr. Dry.” She re-holsters her firearm.

I don’t know what’s bothering you, man,” Luke tells Justin, as he returns the shotgun to Carvery with the final cartridge still intact, and picks up his cup of three-sugared tea once more. “Your wife seems like a perfectly reasonable lady. I told you she couldn’t be worse than mine.”

Homer is managing to fashion a sarong out of the woolly scarf, and has put the mittens proudly onto his knobbly gray feet.

In the meantime, I notice Corporal Punishment turning the pages of the little replica of Mr. Dry Senior’s diary, his lips moving silently as he reads…

YES! He understands it!!

Mr. Time,” General Sunny-Jim announces, standing up along with the others. “You will accompany General Lissima Domina to the docks, to begin your detention immediately.”

Never!” cries the mutinous rickshaw pilot, as Ace jerks him to his feet, holding him by the elbows to face the officers.

There is a whip-crack, and a giant, familiar-looking, sucker-covered tentacle lashes out across the desk and coils around the gibbering Justin Time’s neck.

He’s the same whenever we have to go home,” Cutthroat Liss smiles, while giving her husband an intimate squeeze.

Luke’s teacup drops onto the floor, and his eyes pop in alarm.

Hey, Justin,” says Ace. “If it’s any consolation, I know what you’re going through. I think I’ve had her sister.”

Original ‘Full Metal Jacket’ trailer

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

Dad’s Armless: A Zombie Parody

R.I.P. Clive Dunn, January 1920-November 2012 – “Granddad” from 1971…

The Malawian Corporal Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here Punishment eventually co-ordinates his motile efforts in the direction of a rainbow-emblazoned Winnebago amongst the khaki tents, which looks very out-of-place in the Nine a.m. Lounge military field hospital.

A large satellite dish and a cluster of tannoy speakers perch on the roof. In the grubby window is a battered cardboard notice, upon which is scrawled (in red ink? Blood??) the words:

PANIC STATIONS – 911-999FM.

I have here a poem dedicated to Mr. Dry and Miss Hot-Limps!” Justin Time’s voice announces from within. “Ahem… ‘There was a young lady from Buckingham’ …Oh no. This cannot be right. I am reliably informed by Mr. Slaughter that Miss Hot-Limps is still a virgin…”

A strange man in safari shorts, with a tea-towel tied around his head against the jungle sunshine, sits outside smoking a pipe. A red sign hangs around his neck.

ON AIR.

Looks like he’s on more than just air,” I speculate. “More than gas and air, even…”

Corporal Punishment ignores the warning sign, and raps smartly on the Winnebago’s side door.

Open up!” he barks. “In the name of the General!”

The music inside lowers slightly.

What name would that be?” the voice queries, after a pause. “General Ignorance? General Incompetence? Or just General Sense of Purposelessness?”

Corporal Punishment draws himself up to his full – and extremely intimidating, primeval warrior-like – height.

General Sunny-Jim!” Punishment snaps. “Full name as you are well aware Mr. Time, General You Are Going Home In The Back Of An Ambulance Sunny-Jim!”

After another pause, the door in the mobile home cracks open, revealing the familiar face and coolie hat.

General Sunny-Jim is on visiting duty?” Justin Time whispers, and gulps. “From the Six a.m. Lounge?”

We are honoured to welcome all of our military ambassadors!” Punishment concurs. “Today, we are playing host to General Sunny-Jim, Captain Intraveinous Mainlining and Lance-Corporal Layabout Pikey from the Elevensies Lounge, and General Lissima Domina from the…”

Justin blanches so white, he almost illuminates the darkened doorway with his anaemic glow.

“…Lissima Domina…” he echoes, hoarsely. “Cutthroat Liss? Mrs. Reaper? The old lady?! The ball and chain??! The millwheel around my neck at the bottom of Davy Jones’ Locker?!!

Yes,” confirms Punishment. “Your wife is visiting in her official capacity today, Mr. Time!”

This I have got to see,” Luke chips in, appearing behind the errant rickshaw pilot, alongside Carvery Slaughter. “What are we waiting for? Let’s go!”

What? What is going on out there?” a woman’s voice calls from inside the trailer.

Nothing, erm, Mother!” says Justin, hurriedly. “My mother is here. She is not well. I am looking after her, you see…”

Justin…” moans another woman’s voice. “I’m bored. Come back inside…”

Your mothers both sound in good health to me!” announces Corporal Punishment. “Perhaps Mr. Slaughter could stay and entertain them for you?”

Carvery shrugs amenably, and cracks his knuckles.

You might want to check that they have their Wills written and in order first,” I suggest. “Just in case, Justin Time.”

The rickshaw pilot procrastinates in the doorway, apparently loathe to either leave, or to leave Carvery in charge of his harem of potential mothers/possible radio show fans.

Okay, okay – I come to stupid General’s office!” he snaps at last. “We will see if I am ripe for the reaping yet! Er – Mother – you stay in bed. Both of you. No catching colds while I am out. Or touching anything, without me.”

He hustles Luke and Carvery outside, and emerges into the blistering sunshine. But before he can close the door, Carvery’s foot is somehow caught in it.

Forgot something,” he says – kicks the door back open again, disappears inside – and locks it.

Damn!” I yell out loud, before Justin even has the chance. His mouth sags, in formation of whatever expletive had sprung to mind.

Yes,” he agrees, subdued. “What she said.”

But of course, I’m not thinking of the wellbeing of Justin Time’s female company. I’m thinking of that little diary in Carvery’s trouser pocket, and how I’m supposed to get Corporal Punishment to decipher it so that I can understand the supposedly important power of this stupid golden clockwork hand…

From what I understand, he won’t be long,” Luke reassures us, unexpectedly. “Let’s go. I want to meet your famous wife, Justin! See if she’s really as bad as you make out. I swear, no-one has beaten mine yet. I wish they would. Even Carvery said he would have to charge me for it.”

Between them, Luke and Punishment manhandle the sobbing rickshaw pilot/rogue disc jockey away from the Winnebago, as the music in the mobile home is cranked back up to full volume. It starts to rock erratically, on its hard-standing of paving slabs laid on the scrubby jungle floor.

Damn, damn, damn!

I hurry after the three anyway, and as I catch up with their longer stride, something thumps me in the spine.

Hey, where are we going?” Ace Bumgang greets me.

My heart and bladder fight to switch back to their rightful places again.

What part of his body did he just touch me with? I’ll be re-living that one in my mind at night for months…

We are going to meet Justin Time’s wife!” says Luke, cheerfully.

I guess he’s happy to meet anyone’s wife other than his own.

Cool,” Ace remarks. “Hey, I found out what was wrong with the ambulance. They were trying to make their own moonshine gasoline, and got the mix wrong.”

How wrong?” Carvery asks, suddenly catching up.

Luke was right. That was suspiciously fast… Maybe he keeps a stopwatch on him, and is trying to beat his own personal best.

Perhaps hanging out with The Stig too often has made him competitive…

Well, I reckon they’ve accidentally cracked the secret recipe for Guinness.” Ace pulls a pint glass from his trouser-pocket, two-thirds full of a black liquid topped with creamy white foam, and holds it out. “Siphoned from the reserve tank just now.”

Carvery accepts the glass, and sniffs it before taking a sip.

Yup,” he remarks. “That’s definitely not napalm. I smell a future peace treaty brewing.”

Peace treaty?” Justin Time splutters. “Noooo! No money in making peace treaty! They just not succeed in making cheap gasoline yet! You know the story – the man, who say: ‘I not fail seven thousand times. I discover seven thousand ways not to succeed.’”

Well, in the Six a.m. Lounge they’re failing to make Guinness, while here in the Nine a.m. Lounge they’re failing to make rocket fuel,” Ace remarks.

Yeah,” Carvery agrees. “How much money do you think that sort of information is worth? Properly worded, of course?”

How much money do you think the information that a certain rickshaw-flying Trans-Lounge operator is hiding that information is worth?” Ace grins.

An arm and a leg?” Carvery suggests.

And a head and a foot and two testicles and a man’s proportional representation!” Justin shouts. “It is not Guinness, I tell you! It is just bad combustion engineering chemistry, by amateur scientists and part-time amputee surgeons!”

Well, I’ve heard it called worse,” Ace shrugs.

In my experience, Mr. Time, if it looks like an elephant, smells like an elephant, and has a poacher’s head stamped underfoot like an elephant, it is an elephant!” announces Corporal Punishment, wisely. “Come to the Okavango Delta in flood season, and I challenge you to deny the existence of elephant, when it is staring you in the back of your screaming head!”

Anyway, anyway,” Justin Time recovers himself. “They give up on chemistry already. So no more failed jet fuel and they throw all evidence away, hah! Tomorrow, they convert all ambulances to gas power!”

Good, they can run on your hot air, Mr. Time!” Punishment approves.

Seems to be a popular opinion of you, Justin,” I remark, recalling damply the moment that Higham Dry Senior decided to test our ability to fly unaided, from the top of the mountain fortress.

Shame they don’t have a way of running on Sarah’s nervous bladder as well,” says Carvery. “They’d be unstoppable.”

And what was stopping you just now?” I bristle.

Just checking to see if Justin Time’s mothers had any organs on them that they didn’t need,” he replies. “Still looking for replacements for Fuck-Tits back on the giant barge, now that Crispin has used the ones you skewered earlier to save Homer.”

Oh.” I look at his hands, to check for bloodstains. Well – up to the elbows, could be normal for him on any given day. “Any luck?”

He shakes his head.

Nah. They’d had that thing done already, where it’s all been snipped and turned inside-out, and stuffed with silicone.”

I boggle.

Mummified?” I gasp.

A lot of effort to pass as anyone’s mother, definitely,” he nods, agreeing with me for once. “That’s why as a guy, in some cases you can only be certain once you’ve cut them open.”

They do like it up them, Miss Bellum!” Corporal Punishment confirms, tapping his bayonet. “Right up the fuzzy-wuzzy…”

First zombies, now mummies…” I groan. “I dread to think now what’s happening to… um… to your girlfr… Miss… er… Thingummyjig…”

To be fair, Sarah, I don’t think they like being called ‘Mummies’,” Ace informs me. “I think they prefer ‘Ladies’.”

No worries.” Carvery looks unconcerned. “The state we last saw Bruiser in, I doubt anyone could tell either way what she started out as.”

A Frankenminky,” I agree gloomily, echoing Crispin’s own mother’s opinion, and both the boys nod. “Oh – the General’s office. Is this it?”

A long silver Airstream is stationed in the shade, on the outskirts of the camp. As we approach, Justin Time visibly shrinks in direct proportion to its proximity, accompanied by the increasing volume of his knocking kneecaps.

Gooood of you to join us,” says that devastatingly deep voice, and Crispin steps ominously out of the shadow of an overhanging Strangler Fig. “Would you be so kind as to step this way?”

My own knees sympathise with Justin’s. Gosh – I keep forgetting how manly he is… I mean, was

Permission to squeak, Sir!” says Justin, jabbering now through his chattering teeth. Crispin glowers at him darkly, before deigning to nod. “Thank you, Sir! Er… eeee-EEEEEE-HHHK!”

Classic clips from “Dad’s Army” in fond memory – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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