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:
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.
“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.
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
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