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.
“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!”
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.
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.
…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
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