We are officially post-Apocalyptic…

At the first annual ‘1066 Walk of the Dead’ Hastings zombie walk…

Welcome to my personal 2012 round-up…

Two eye operations (resolving four years of eye infections and one year of sleep deprivation), three live zombie events, one Book Fair, one new 83-chapter parody novel blogged all the way to completion and published, four first dates, fifty pages of non-explicit quotes from my older books compared to prose and scenes in the Fifty Shades trilogy analysed very kindly by the legal office of Random House (who initially stated their author had never heard of my books, but investigated anyway, to assure me later that the list of similarities must be coincidental), the world didn’t end (and neither did the superstitions of everyone who believed they saved it), a very recent and encouraging response from the BIG romance publisher, DS-10 said she doesn’t need a dad around because watching Jeremy Clarkson and the lads on Top Gear tells her everything she needs to know, new cousins, family weddings, fantastic reunions, one stone and two dress sizes dropped, an unprecedented variety of editing and formatting jobs (from true-life books to cultural thrillers to creative self-help therapy to more zombies), accidentally deleting Sophie Neville’s blogger image source file for Funnily Enough four days before Christmas while trying to clean up unused duplicate images on Google+ (doh!), managed to pass yet another year without either having sex or watching any soap operas / reality TV / celebrity game shows, one charity book contributed to and associated book trailer made (New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan), around 165 Youtube clips and mash-up tunes shared on this blog, from Reaps007 to movieclips (I don’t have a problem, really), meeting Olympic gold multi-medallist Ben Ainslie and remembering what it feels like to be star-struck on that occasion, around 1000 sunset photographs / 370 zombie photographs / 240 family photographs / 7 cat photographs / 5 hedgehog photographs and 1 photograph of my car (not by a speed camera, I have to say)…

Wishing you all a happy and merry and peaceful post-Mayan-Apocalypse future! 🙂 xxxxx

The Youtube trailer for ‘New Sun Rising: Stories for Japan’ shot and edited by yours truly…

Excerpt of the sequel to The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

“Sarah!” yells Giraldis, owner and head chef of Pizza Heaven. “One Chinese Meat Feast for Bumgang & Sons’ Breaker’s Yard with Garlicky Dough Balls!”

I drag myself away from the pizzeria TV screen’s 24-hour Disaster Zone News & Commercials channel, pull on my George & Mildred peaked open-face crash helmet, and go to retrieve the dark blue insulated bag from the counter.

“Do you think you’ll be able to deliver this one and return within eight hours?” Giraldis asks me, sceptically. “Whenever I send you over that way, you either break down, or get lost in the dark coming back.”

I try to control my blush under the shadow of the crash helmet. Surely I’ve never hung around for that long, on an official delivery? I mean – there was that one time with the puncture – okay, I had to drive up and down the unkempt verges maybe ten or twelve times before I got one, within motor-scooter-pushing distance of Ace Bumgang’s site office…

“If you weren’t my wife’s favourite nincompoop…” he grumbles, as I head for the door. “Why can’t she collect stray cats like any normal menopausal old baggage? Why do I get the one who loves village idiots…?”

I leave his familiar grouching behind, humming to myself, as I lug the full carry-all outside to my scooter and kick open the old top-box.

Fully sterilised top-box, I might add, since the incident in the park on Saturday morning. I even swabbed it for microbes at University earlier this afternoon. Although Professor Fauces said some unrepeatable things about the two-stroke oil leaking out of it onto the Forensics lab workbench.

I stuff the bag inside and slam the lid, the thrill of actually being summoned by Ace Bumgang almost outweighing the thrill of finding out that he’s still alive. I’d have been pleased to hear from him dead or otherwise, but finding out he’s alive and delivering a pizza to him on the same day is better than Christmas, as far as I’m concerned.

I swing my leg over the seat and slot the keys into the ignition, and am just about to turn them to start the engine when a crack on the back of my crash helmet startles me. I look over my shoulder.

Braaaiiiinssss,” hisses the almost-skeletal zombie petulantly, cupping his bruised mouth.

“NO,” I say, firmly. “Bad zombie! Back to your wheelie-bin!”

He gives me a hurt glance with both eye sockets, and drags himself backwards a few feet, before hesitating. His right leg is still locked in a foetal position from the confines of the reinforced plastic dustbin, and he is using a tree branch as a crutch to aid his poor mobility.

I sigh. That’s all I need. A stalker of my very own, cramping my style.

“Look, I’m sorry what I said about your wi… your toup… I mean, your hair,” I continue. “We’ll catch up tomorrow. I’ll bring lunch. But right now, I have important things to do.”

He slumps a little dejectedly, and his incriminating scalp-merkin falls forward over one eye socket, as if dropping his chin and pouting with his non-existent lower lip.

Shaking my head, I start the engine and pull away, leaving Mr. Wheelie-Bin sulking at the kerb.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have led him on… how was I to know he was actually paying attention all that time, under the silver birch tree at the Body Farm? Such a good listener…

I glance back before I turn the corner, and see him trying to insert himself into the street-bin outside the pizzeria. Or perhaps just dry-humping it, as it rocks in a half-heartedly embarrassed fashion.

A good listener… but maybe not that intellectual…

I skirt wide to avoid the undead dog-walker dragging his definitely-dead dog across the road, still on a leash. Creatures of habit, the same as when they were alive. Some of them don’t even seem to know they’re zombies. They seem to be addicted to queuing, for one thing. Especially at cash-point machines and bus-stops, but with no idea what they’re doing there when their turn comes.

“Maybe the afterlife is full,” I mutter, overtaking a zombie in a mobility carriage, who has by now apparently forgotten how to dress himself. “One out, one in.”

The wooded country lanes outside of town heading for the breaker’s yard are quieter, but it’s the blood pounding in my own ears which is deafening. When I think how many times I’ve done this journey before, just to wait around the perimeter optimistically with a pizza-box, until Giraldis phones up to shout at me and ask where I am… this time it’s official…

I reach the gates in the ten-foot, barbed wire-topped fence, and find the padlock open. I push my scooter inside, park it up, and take the delivery-bag out.

God, my knees are knocking like castanets…

The many car-shells are stacked either side under the trees, forming an avenue leading to the static site office. Nothing like the zombie entrepreneur Crispin Dry’s swanky Dry Goods storage-container facility on Seafront West industrial park – but that hasn’t yet had the same effect on me that this place has.

Maybe it’s the fact that Ace Bumgang is very much alive compared to Crispin, which is what I’ve always found the most challenging part of human interaction to be. And I’m not sure Crispin can be trusted anyway. He certainly has some strange ideas about undead longevity, involving virgin organ donors, and calamari implants…

A crash sounds from beyond the pale green office unit, and a car body jerks into the air, which is then shaken like a pit viper’s rattle.

Yes – speaking of calamari

The site office door swings open in response to the racket. Ace strolls out, pulling on some purple latex gloves with the sleeves of his khaki overalls loose, tied around his waist. My pulse rate goes supersonic at the sight of the white vest underneath, stretched taut across his impressive musculature, and I struggle to balance the pizza-box while my hamstrings try to liquefy.

Oh, boy – I’d trample the entire faculty to a pulp to get first dibs on his autopsy…

“Drop it!” Ace orders sharply, and terrified, I comply – before realising he’s not talking to me.

Hoping he hasn’t yet noticed, I recover the delivery-bag and totter towards the office door, while he heads around back. I wonder whether to risk a peek around the corner, or stay put and wait for his return.

A bent alloy wheel skims over the roof above my head and bounces, straight through a hitherto intact Volvo windshield. I jump, startled, and before I even recover, I feel the chin-strap of my crash helmet abruptly tighten and I’m jerked bodily off the ground, flying backwards over the office unit.

“You can drop that too, Liss,” says Ace at ground-level, mildly, while I flail about, twenty feet in the air, clinging to the Pizza Heaven delivery-bag. “That’s just dinner arriving.”

“Oh, it’s you, Sarah Bellum!” says General Lissima – Cutthroat Liss – and I find myself dumped unceremoniously on the ground again, my crash-helmet twisted almost at ninety degrees to my face. “I hear you let my husband get away with Swiss watchmaker’s special clockwork hand. Silly billy.”

“Quite,” I say, stiffly. I straighten my helmet and struggle to my feet again, while Ace rescues the Chinese Meat Feast and Garlicky Dough Balls. “Never employ a billy goat as a pursuit vehicle.”

Lissima’s alien sucker tentacle retracts back into whatever portal it occupies, leaving behind only the traffic-stoppingly beautiful General herself – still in her Nine a.m. Lounge uniform, and currently locked inside a large tyre inflation cage.

“You can let me out, Mr. Bumgang,” she says with a smile full of pointy teeth, as he passes her a slice of pizza through the bars. “I won’t run away.”

“You can come out when you stop smashing up the place,” Ace grunts, sitting down on a stack of wheels. “If I wanted a half-human wrecking-ball, I’d ask for one.”

Ooh – maybe he’s immune to her flirting! My hopes ascend a little.

“How did you get out of the Five a.m. Lounge?” I ask, once I’ve managed to unbuckle the George and Mildred and uncrick my neck. “I thought you’d drowned…”

“Higham Dry Senior dropped us back on the aircraft carrier, and then the bounty hunters gave us a lift in exchange for the flying carpets,” says Ace. “So what’s this about Carvery? Crispin’s using him as office furniture, or something?”

“More like office coat-rack,” I reply. “He’s got him on display, next to his art. High-Velocity Spatter.”

“Sounds like he’ll be right at home,” Ace grins at me, and all of my leg muscles quit at once, dumping me on my butt right into the hole in the middle of a tyre. “Don’t act all shocked, I’m kidding. So – looks like we’ll have to get the clockwork hand back if we want Carvery walking around and talking again?”

“Yes,” I grumble, trying and failing to extract myself from the rubber tyre. “What I was thinking exactly.”

“Cool.” Ace looks at his watch. “I’ll lock the place up when we’ve finished, and we can go.”

“What – right now?” My mouth, agape, could easily house a startled puffer-fish. “Tonight?”

“What?” Ace frowns. “Don’t tell me you’ve got better things to do.”

I look down at my Pizza Heaven work fleece, and my George and Mildred, looking forlornly back at me from the ground by my still-struggling feet, and shrug.

“Do I have a choice?” I ask.

“Well, not right now,” he points out, kicking the tyre imprisoning my posterior. “You’re going nowhere without a good greasing-up first.”

“Crispin Dry will be looking for it as well,” General Lissima reminds me cheerfully through a mouthful of pizza, while Ace’s words play havoc with my fantasies. “To stop his home from being bequeathed to the National Trust. Nowhere to store undead relatives without big old rambling estate.”

“Yeah, imagine what the National Trust would do if they got into all of the Lounges?” Ace muses.

I try not to picture it, but for some reason I’m thinking of school trips and gift shops…God… just imagine…

“The queue to visit the Tank in the Eight a.m. Lounge would be insurmountable. They’d have to bring their own toilet-paper…” I breathe, horrifying images crossing my mind. “And you’d have to stop children fishing for hatchling Squidmorphs in the Well of Our Souls, to hide under their teacher’s seat on the bus…”

“Exactly,” he nods. “I don’t think Crispin’s going to prioritise Carvery being anything other than a fancy stone sculpture to impress the office skirt with.” I feel myself redden, having just agreed to join the ranks of office skirt at Dry Goods House. If Ace knows about this, he’s obviously using it as a further dig. “So we need to catch up with Justin Time first. And Liss knows where all of his girlfriends live, so they’ll be the first places to check out, obviously.”

“Maybe not Miss February,” the General suggests. “My husband won’t want to catch her Ten a.m. Lounge jungle bottom.”

“So we’ll start with January and skip February,” Ace tells her.

“What are you saying?” I ask. “Justin really was dating the whole Playbunny calendar?”

Lissima snarls, and tries to swallow it down with another mouthful of pizza, after catching Ace’s eye.

My jealousy reflex twinges. I wish it would stop. She’s happ… well, married, and he’s not interested in anyone special yet anyway! If this wasn’t going on right now, he’d be off to Gentlemen Prefer Poledancers, just like normal… But I can’t seem to switch it off.

“Look at this way,” says Ace. “Poetic justice. We’ve now got to go and be nice to lots of women who might be concealing Justin Time and the clockwork hand, in order to help out Carvery Slaughter, who uses women as punch-bag therapy. Maybe he’ll appreciate it.”

“Yes,” I reply. “I imagine he’ll want to go round afterwards and thank them all personally.”

Good God, that would be Carvery Slaughter carnage… sounds like poetic license, not poetic justice…

From the corner of my eye, I see General Lissima looking at Ace more thoughtfully. Yes. Clearly thinking along the same lines, only with a different agenda…

“So, you going to eat up?” she urges. “You too, Sarah Bellum. Don’t want to get stuck with the catering en route.”

“Catering?” I gulp, and reach for a slice as Ace proffers the pizza box. “Not the caterers that Crispin was talking about? The vending machine competition?”

“Never know,” she grins, nastily. “Maybe you get Frogs’ Legs Special.

* * * * *

…As to what I’ll be parodying, you’ll have to wait and see 😉

Buy the original on Amazon here: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available on Smashwords for all other devices and online reading

Genre Jazz II: Worldbuilding and popular Romance

In the last post I was talking about parody and mash-ups in fiction as a form of new fictional world creation out of existing fabric. Worldbuilding doesn’t end at sci-fi, fantasy and steampunk though.

Reading popular romances lately is a bit like entering a Bridget Jones theme park. Perky secondary characters, unlikely-sounding tycoons who don’t wear high-waisted Simon Cowell trousers or drive Bugattis, or work in real-world industries like Bill Gates – and everything has so much emotional ‘significance’ – from the town or city it’s set in, to the memories inspired in the heroine by the ancient family coffee-pot being utilised to pour a non-significant cup of Java.

Now, I’ve done my share of chick-lit, five years ago with ‘Death & The City’ in 2008. It’s ‘psycho-chick-lit’, and the reason that the lead character notices everything, looks for significance in everything, and analyses everything, is that she’s a self-monitoring, OCD, psychotic-psychopath. I was aiming for a genre mash-up of Bridget Jones meets American Psycho. There’s a reason it’s over-written and contains too much TMI, and that’s because, in my personal experience, learning to filter reality from psychosis takes a lot of self-monitoring, and the best way to portray it realistically was not to filter or edit. Unfortunately, a psychotic can’t go back and edit their thoughts, or their nightmares, so they’re stuck with them, like a demon-possessed mental train set whizzing from one illusion to the next, reinforced by pattern-matching at every station stop.

I did eventually do a cut-down version that readers could skip through, (the Cut to the Chase edition) but more out of experimenting with ebook formatting than out of pity for readers. It’s my own book, basically I wrote it to remind myself to focus on reality and not head off down the path of antidepressants and antipsychotics. So I pick it up once in a while to remind myself of what it used to be like, and how to avoid going down that route again.

I don’t think the eventual sequels will turn out the same – like the lead character Lara was trying to do, I’m running on a different personality now to the one I was escaping at the time. One that doesn’t get out that much, but definitely a saner and less scary one 🙂

Writing it was my own personal journey of self-help, as well as a fictional outlet for a lot of ‘what ifs?’ regarding my job at the time in nightclub security. Ten years previously I was also a bar tender, with another personality. And the kind of preconceptions the public had about that kind of person working in the industry. I could do the real job at night, dealing only with what was in front of me and quoting the licensing laws at people, and during the day I wrote all the delusions up (my own, and of the occasional drunk customers) in the form of fiction. My main relationship was with my car, in which I did up to 300 miles a week, all at night on empty roads, so that was a major feature and place to happily delude myself with new stuff to write down when I got home. And my holiday-romance daughter, who has since turned out to be equally interested in fantasy things, writing about undead carnage, Youtube, heavy metal, and dreaming about what it would be like to have a split personality. Luckily, I can tell her that’s all completely normal, because I went through the real thing.

So as you might guess, seeing a lot of TMI and mental ramblings, delusional thought-patterns, anthropomorphic significance of inanimate places and objects (i.e. scene-setting red herrings), stalking behaviour, and denial of real-world issues glossed over in romance fiction is a bit weird to me. If I was back on the other side of events in my life, it would all act as reinforcement – telling me Sure, be a stalker, or encourage creepy guys, there’ll be a happy ever after before you know it. Funny how that never happens in real life. Which is why I left Death & The City: Book Two somewhat open-ended to be continued later after the two protagonists agreed on a deal. I haven’t even reached that stage yet emotionally myself to know if there will ever be a significant other with whom to do that sort of, er, research…

Lots of writers debate about the problems of writing sex scenes. I don’t even know if I should be writing love scenes. I don’t have the experience. So writing to me is all just ‘what ifs’ – not based on reality. There’s no such person in my life to base it on, and never has been.

In a way it’s good, because I don’t have to worry that anyone would ever recognise themselves in a male lead in one of my books. Background characters for sure, I get inspiration for those everywhere – but even those better know I made most of their character traits up, because I was too busy listening to the voices in my head most of the time to hear their chatter 😉

Anyway, after Death & The City, subs, waiting around, and then discovering broadband, writer sites, the social networking of the internet, and self-publishing – and after a couple of career changes, then becoming a full-time writer and editor – I started looking back into an old teenage ambition to write category romance, without the psychoses (or zombies, real or imaginary). But since picking up a number of the trad published rom-coms and chick-lits to read through over the last couple of years, it appears that the world of trad romance has also lost the plot (while I was away really losing it and getting it back again) so to speak. Lost it in favour of first-person ramblings and red-herring significance attached to everything, combined with a designer label shopping channel, Oddbins wine-list, men with no latex or stalker allergies, and cars that have blown themselves up on Top Gear.

So out of the shock of that, came this year’s parody (of many books and movies) The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum – a more readable, reader-friendly epic about a love-struck idiot who’d take any man at any time of day, dead or alive, given the opportunity…

But it is curious, as to how every romance I’ve picked up in the last eighteen months breaks every rule in the book (the book in question being my fave How Not to Write a Novel by Mittelmark and Newman), as well as indicating that the romantic aspirations of young women today are being influenced more by the need for mental health intervention than for wedding lists and family planning advice. Some women who have been through the real thing (mental heath issues, not romance) don’t relish the portrayal of behaviour which leads to restraining orders in real life, suggesting that it should be deployed to achieve happiness. Or that happiness is a man. Happiness is not a man. Happiness is knowing who you are when you look in the mirror – and I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean it literally.

In proper romances, as I recall, the *sane* lead character does not find themselves fascinating to the detriment of all other storyline, action and dialogue. They engage with other characters, their family, work and the world, yes – but mainly, they engage with the Plot. They do not engage with the socks their Great Auntie knitted every time they wear them. They do not gush over the French chandeliers. They do not drool over technology which will be redundant by the time the book is published. They put on regular socks (if they must, but the wearing of clothes generally is usually accepted as a given), they walk into rooms in which the reader assumes the lights are on unless told otherwise, and they do not show themselves up as gold-diggers by doing an inventory of the hero’s apartment and all his gadgets.

There’s another good reason for this. Like wandering around inside the mind of a psychopath, which leaves you wanting a cuddle and a Paracetamol, wandering around inside the mind of any verbose woman for too long leaves you wanting a bit of mystery back in your life. Fuck the Great Auntie’s socks and Mister Tiggles the cat. If all you can picture while reading is the author’s fantasy man, fantasy wank, fantasy shopping trip, fantasy best friends/sidekicks, how much she hates her day job and her boss, and the number of Nigella Bites cooking shows she watched while detailing every meal she wishes she was eating instead of writing and attempting to diet, it’s like spending too long in the company of someone addicted to personal revelations and co-counselling. Which should really be left to people with actual problems and issues that they need help with. Not the kind of thing you can get the answers to by pulling the petals off a daisy instead 🙂

In other words, chatty is fine. Self-absorbed (in silence) is fine. Self-absorbed chattiness, no. Ouch. Bad author. That’s not romantic escapism at all. That’s a recipe for insomnia and psychotic episode flashbacks. If your character is not going to come out as a psychotic who has been (or will be by the end of the book) prescribed everything on the a la carte trolley from Mellerill and Largactyl to Olanzepine and Citalopram, tone it down. One in four of us would like to have a bit of escapism into what it’s like to think straight. Not what it’s like to live in a world where the heroine thinks exactly like us and gets away with it, without turning purple by the end and fatally believing she can fly.

So that’s the internal world of the heroine, being done to death everywhere I look. But what about the external world? The theme park version of every trendy setting on the planet?

If you must name a specific town or place, please go there first. People live there, who will see a theme-park candy-coating a mile off. There is a certain beach I would not want a moonlit romantic tryst on, for fear of stepping on a hypodermic needle or getting deafened by the noise of the regular doggers under the pier. You are allowed to create unnamed fantasy places where people live by simply not referring to them by name, or inventing one if you must. People use the phrase ‘going into town’ when they go out, or ‘going to the beach’. If your town or village is a character and also a real place, why is it a character? Is it historically significant to the plot, or was frequented by a relevant historical figure? Is it haunted or paranormal in some way? Are you marketing it as tourist material to the residents? Remember, that giving an existing location a characterisation not yet known to the residents in real life will raise eyebrows – even more so if you give the general public themselves a new and improved reputation of any sort.

As a writer, I have my reasons for going psycho. But as a reader and consumer, I would like to read things once again which make me experience what it’s like to be romantically sane for a while. Interesting, but normal. And not in a comparative, unresearched, patronizing, I’m normal because the girl next door is sectioned kind of way…

Indulge me 🙂 xxx

Genre Jazz – niiiiice…

Fan re-edit of ‘Splash’ trailer in a political thriller stylee – that’s what I’m talking about...

Writing parody mash-up on here made me realise two things: (1) That it’s my strongest point writing-wise so far, and (2) Youtube kicks everyone’s ass! 🙂

Yes, for a bit of sideline gossip, the day after publishing The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum last week, I heard from the top worldwide romance publisher. With suggestions for tweaking my submitted example of work (containing no zombies) and using my ‘accessible’ romance writing style, so that I would suit one or the other of their imprints. On a bit of a high from finishing the 135k-word Sarah Bellum Zombie Adventures epic earlier than expected, I was planning on having a few months’ break from blog chapter postings anyway, so the prospect of re-writing a shorter chick-lit of around 55-65k sounds like a way of passing the time. So I’m looking into it and reading their latest releases.

Trouble is, I keep thinking of new stuff I want to parody 🙂

Something that’s inspired me lately, is the trend on Youtube for re-edits of trailers and movie clips, by fans. My brothers and I used to do our own re-dubbed voice-overs for Star Trek when we were kids, on an ancient VHS with a Play/Rec/Dub setting. Must have been the earliest invented!

I don’t just mean ‘re-edits’ as in, a fan’s favourite bits of the movie. I mean where they’ve changed the implied genre, or storyline, as in the political-thrillerised version of ‘Splash’ above. That’s really creative, and the great thing about Youtube is everyone can share and appreciate a different slant on what Hollywood does.

It has been done in books already – most notably with ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ by P.D. James, and ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Two different interpretations of the same Jane Austen romance. James took the original characters from ‘Pride and Prejudice’ but not the original book or prose, and penned a murder mystery in place of a happy ever after – but her imitation of Austen’s style is spot on, so it is the genre which has changed, but not the voice as such.

Grahame-Smith took the original text – legally, as it is in the ‘public domain’ meaning out of copyright worldwide – copyright expires in most countries at the wonderful-sounding date of ‘death (of the author) + 70 years’ or in a few cases ‘death (author) + 100 years’ – and added butt-kicking martial artist zombie-killer action to it.

If you plan to do similar, as in either of these examples, make sure the original content you are planning on mashing up is in the ‘public domain’ (as defined by the time-spans above). Public domain does NOT mean ‘the characters have been discussed in the Daily Mail’ or that they have fan pages on Facebook, or profiles on Wiki.

Parody as made by National Lampoon, and the Barry Trotter books etc, is a reworking of a genre, or recognisable copyrighted current franchise – but with new characters, which may sound and act similar to the originals, and also importantly, with jokes in. Although ‘parody’ is still not recognised in all countries (some consider it copyright infringement where readily identifiable, and deem them not publishable, as with fan-fiction), many books and films, especially fantasy/humour (including Pratchett’s Discworld series) pay homage to earlier works in ways that the reader or viewer can identify with.

For this to work, the parody element – the tribute, or homage – has to be something that connects broadly with the audience… Hell, I’ve just realised it sounds like I’m on a podium at some really dull masterclass 🙂

That’s the bare bones of it. The part I’m supposed to be discussing today, is the genre twist option. Where, like P.D. James, you take an old tale, and tell it for a different audience. I hear that very kinky things are currently going on in the world of crusty old romances at the minute, never mind murder mysteries and zombies. The difference with kinky stuff, is you knew it was going on anyway – just that the doors were closed on the reader most of the time, and people didn’t floss or shower back then. Mmmm…

Anywho…

Supposing, for example, you took Sherlock Holmes and re-wrote him in the style of Bridget Jones’ Diary? Or Frankenstein in the style of a CSI: Las Vegas police proceedural, analysing all of the body parts going missing? I’d like to see Kathy Reichs do that one… It was done fantastically with Johnny Depp in ‘Sleepy Hollow’ – so it’s not an entirely new concept (just look at the action-style on show in the latest Sherlock-themed TV and movie releases), but potentially a form of almost-unexploited literary mash-up yet to reach the mainstream humour of bookshelves.

However, you’ll have to run to catch up with the kids on Youtube:

Brokeback Titanic re-edit by wingtsun20

🙂

Deja Voodoo: A Zombie Parody

Britney v. Rihanna – Take a Piece of Me mash-up…

I wake up eventually. It’s already Monday morning.

I can hear my housemate, the newly-christened Frankenminky, singing in the shower. I strain my ears, suspiciously. Is that Somewhere Over The Rainbow she’s murdering in there? I’ll definitely have to watch her…

By the time I had recovered the Pizza Heaven scooter, it was covered in sticky finger-marks, candyfloss, bogeys, and several thoughtful parents and dog-owners had used the insulated top-box as a diaper/baggie bin.

It still runs though.

I check my phone, which I’ve left on charge all Sunday, by the look of things. Holy Hell – a hundred and seventy-one requests on Draw My Thing? I don’t really have that much of a social gaming problem, do I?

And one voicemail – from Dry Goods, Inc.

Well – he can definitely wait. I have no idea how I’m going to explain the loss of the clockwork hand this time…

I peel myself off the bed, and go to push Miss Nipple-Nuts out of the shower.

* * * * *

I ride to the Body Farm in a blue funk. Passing Bumgang & Sons’ Breaker’s Yard brings my mood even lower. And as for the D.I.Y. store, with its advertising billboard announcing a sale on patio slabs and cement – I can’t even look at it.

I enter the code at the gate for the Farm and let myself in, leaving the scooter to trudge up to my favourite silver birch tree, and even more comforting wheelie-bin. Eyeing some of the exposed body tags warily en route.

“Hands up any zombies here?” I say, but they’re all either asleep, or very good at play-acting.

I lift up a tarpaulin to check. Pooh. Maybe a zombie with a hygiene problem. If it’s true where we get half of these subjects from, that wouldn’t be unusual. I think we have the highest rate of scrofula victims per capita of the entire civilised world, on our little smallholding. Where do tramps go when they die? They get an open-air burial in a different sort of park.

Slumping down under my favourite tree, I take out my sandwiches and unwrap them. The sight of limp white crustless bread and lemon curd makes me want to burst into tears. No chilled monk brains. No cheese made from billy goat. Just plain old bread and sickly sweet yellow goo.

“I’m glad none of you are zombies,” I say out loud. “Too damn noisy by half, they are.”

I munch on my sandwich, and pull out my phone, with another gaming notification.

ANONYMOUS HAS SENT YOU A CHALLENGE ON DRAW MY THING. CLICK TO ACCEPT.

I tap on the screen, glad for another slice of reality as I know it.

An inverted triangle appears on the app, covered in scribbles. Five letters.

Dubiously, I count on my fingers. Most likely another illiterate twelve-year-old being rude.

I stick the remainder of the sandwich in my mouth, and send a request for a letter clue.

P appears as the first letter. Ohhhh – maybe they’re just really bad at drawing… I enter the letter E, and click on Send.

WRONG. GUESS AGAIN.

“Huh?” I try looking at the scribble from all angles. “Illiterate and crap at drawing?”

While my mind boggles, the message reminder on my phone flashes up again. Comforted and emboldened by the proximity of my beloved Mr. Wheelie-Bin, I switch to Voicemail to listen.

“I think we have some unfinished business, Sarah Bellummm.” The sound of Crispin’s disembodied voice on my phone still manages to send shivers down my spine. “If you would like to drop by my office at your convenience, we can conclude the interview.”

“He’s still serious about offering me a job?” I remark, to Mr. Wheelie-Bin. “I have a feeling that losing the clockwork hand won’t go in my favour… Mind you, trying to shove a giant squid up my bottom doesn’t exactly go in his…”

I look at the Draw My Thing challenge again, and to pass the time while considering my options, type in the letter N.

WRONG. GUESS AGAIN.

“It’s nice to know he’s alive, I guess,” I ponder, dubiously. “And that he’s checking up on me too…”

I glance in frustration at the game screen, and completely at random, try a letter T.

WRONG. GUESS AGAIN.

“Crap,” I mutter, and send a request for a hint. “I mean, it’s not every day a girl meets an eligible bachelor – dead or alive…”

HINT: LETTERS 3 AND 4 ARE THE SAME.

There is a noise, beside me. I freeze.

Did I imagine it, or did the wheelie-bin just rattle?

Putting my phone away, I sidle a little closer.

“Um…” I say, looking around quickly for any other evidence of undead activity or pranks in the Body Farm, but there is only the usual rustling of dead leaves, dead skin, beetle-husks and rotted clothing on the breeze. “Er… Mr. Wheelie-Bin?”

The square plastic garbage container vibrates again, followed by a definite scratching sound from within.

Bravely, I find the longest stick I can (which, being in over two acres of conservation woodland, is pretty long), and use it to poke the lid open.

Nothing… well, I suppose it would be more conclusive if I actually looked inside…

I drop my eight-foot branch, and creep closer, clearing my throat.

“Is anybody home…?”

The smell hits me first. It’s… it’s… well, I was going to say indescribable, but as it happens, it’s a lot like the barracks in the Six a.m. Lounge. Sleeping-bag farts, I think Higham Dry Senior described it. With a hint of coffee and dead thing, whoever said that as well.

It’s not as if I’m unused to it. Just that it seems particularly ripe and pungent today – or maybe some of that is me, and my nervous tension…

I’m just about to peer over the edge, when there is a glooping sound, and a dark, rancid slime bubbles out and over the side.

“Gosh,” I say, politely, looking down into the upturned eye-sockets. “I hardly recognised you…”

Barely holding together at all, the skeleton gropes its way out into the sunlight. A t-shirt hangs apologetically from his twisted torso, and one of his legs seems to be locked into a foetal position from his stay in the bottom of the garbage container.

The only thing that seems to have lasted the ravages of decay and exposure is that wonderful shock of copper hair, hanging from his scalp as it flaps on the side of his battered cranium, and my pity goes out to him.

Domestic violence is a terrible thing. Hmmm. Carvery Slaughter is probably better off wherever he is. Being a garden gnome somewhere, I suppose.

“You’re looking well,” I say, encouragingly. “In fact…”

I frown, as he lists weakly in the wheelie-bin, like an X-rated, morning-after Oscar the Grouch. Or Davros on a bad day – in need of a pampering session.

Doesn’t his hair look a little too bouffant for this stage of deterioration…?

I take out my Cramps University notebook, and flip back through the pages.

Hair – no change… hair – no change… hair – no change…

I look back up at him, in growing disgust.

“Your hair…” I begin, and watch as the breeze has no effect on its uplift and pattern at all. “…Is a wig!”

All this time! A badly-attached toupée!

It doesn’t even cheer me up that I will be getting an ‘A’ for my research, that I have spotted one of the mythological corkers that the academic staff like to test out on the Forensic Anthropology undergraduates.

I feel cheated. I feel conned. The rose-tinted scales have fallen from my eyes.

“You, sir,” I announce. “Are a liar and a cad!”

And I storm off, head in the air.

I’m not sure what ‘cad’ means, but I always assumed it was a golfing insult, implying that they weren’t good enough to play, just to hunt for the more qualified men’s balls. It feels appropriate right now, as fuming, I head back for my scooter.

Perhaps Crispin can make me a better offer, after all…

* * * * *

I recognise Debbie, Brain-Dead Blonde Mk II, in the Customer Services lobby of Dry Goods, Inc, but she doesn’t recognise me.

I suppose the yucca plant pot on her head, smashed deep into the front desk isn’t helping, but her left arm flaps out anyway and buzzes me through, as I ask to see Crispin.

His office door is already open at the end of the corridor when I show myself through.

“Sarah Bellummm,” he greets me, rising to his feet behind his own desk. “So glad you accepted my invitation…”

But I freeze in the doorway, staring at the opposite wall.

“What is THAT?” I demand.

He looks hurt.

“My art, Sarah Bellummm,” he reminds me. “High-Velocity Spatter. I thought you liked it.”

“Not the painting.” I point. “That… him.”

Alongside the painting, is the black onyx Carvery Slaughter, complete with shotgun.

“Ahh – Mr. Slaughter.” Crispin gestures for me to sit on the black leather sofa by the coffee table as before. “I rather like him as office décor, don’t you? You can hang your coat on him, if you want.”

“I got dressed in a hurry,” I say, stiffly, taking the seat ungraciously. “This is all I have on. Er, underneath. Just me.”

“Intriguing,” he echoes, in a low voice. “Would you like anything from the vending machine? Let me get you a coffee. Or – is it too early for a Sloe Gin Sling?”

“Definitely too early,” I say, pleased with my self-control, although the nape of my neck is itching in paranoia at sitting with my back to Carvery Slaughter. Stone statue or otherwise. “Um. How is Homer?”

“Having the time of his life, the precocious trollop,” Crispin grumbles, hesitating over the keypad of the state-of-the-art black vending machine. “Mother’s wardrobe hasn’t seen so much action since she posed for the Ancient Egyptian equivalent of Hello magazine.”

“Er, Crispin,” I say, twiddling my keyring in an embarrassed fashion. “There’s something I need to tell you…”

“No, Sarah Bellummm,” he interrupts. “Let me apologise first…”

“It’s not that…”

“…Lady Glandula de Bartholine was my greatest inspiration – more so than the munitions business that the male line in my family dominated, as you may have guessed,” he blurts out, and turns to face the window, unable to meet my gaze. “I was her star pupil, her brightest hope – and her devoted patron…”

I don’t know how much more icky and uncomfortable this monologue is going to get, so I sneak occasional peeks over my shoulder at Carvery, just to check he’s still a statue. Still a man-beast, but still a statue.

Mmmm. Pity you can’t get DNA from onyx…

“…It was my honour to serve her and keep her in the manner to which she was accustomed…”

If only I hadn’t lost the stupid clockwork hand – if I’d known he was going to end up displayed back here…

“…Provision of certain sacrifices, at regular intervals…”

My phone buzzes inside my fleece, with a notification. I pull it out.

ANONYMOUS SAYS: DO YOU NEED ANOTHER HINT?

“…Now with Homer, I imagine those services will become redundant, except for…”

I tap on YES to pass the time, and wonder if Crispin has forgotten about the coffee he offered me.

HINT: YOU EAT THIS.

“…At least once or twice a year, usually at the solstices…”

My brain slowly unfreezes as I stare at the app on my phone screen.

Inverted triangle. Covered in random scribbles. Five letters beginning with P. Letters 3 and 4 are the same…

My hand shaking, I feverishly type in the letters I, Z, Z, A after the P, and hit Send.

“…Of course, fulfilling the role of secretary would be neatly killing two birds with one stone, if that doesn’t sound too selfish of me…”

Before the app can respond, a text message arrives. My heart pounding, I open it.

IF YOU’RE OFFERING, MINE’S A CHINESE MEAT FEAST.

“…You don’t need to give me your answer straight away…”

It’s from Ace Bumgang.

I squeal out loud.

“Hmmm?” Crispin turns and looks at me. “Are you quite all right, Sarah Bellummm?

“Yes!” I gasp. Both of my hands are shaking now. He’s alive! Oh my God! “Er – I think I just need that coffee, Crispin. If you wouldn’t mind…”

“Of course, how foolish of me.” Crispin turns back to the vending machine. “Cream, sugar?”

“Yes, please.” How can I keep him distracted? “And perhaps some fresh air in here? And – do you have anything to eat? Maybe I just feel a little faint.”

“Anything my lady wants,” says Crispin, gallantly, typing away on the keypad, and reaching for the remote control for the windows and blinds. He suddenly seems very pleased with himself, although I can’t think why.

I reply quickly to the text.

MAYBE LATER. AT CRISPIN’S OFFICE. HE’S GOT A STONE COLD CARVERY SLAUGHTER ON DISPLAY. JUSTIN TIME HAS THE CLOCKWORK HAND.

“…I understand you might want more time to think carefully about my proposal,” says Crispin, a strangely intimate tone in his voice. “But your knee-jerk reaction has given me great hope already…”

Ace replies immediately.

I’LL SEE YOUR STONE CARVERY, AND RAISE YOU A MRS. TIME. SHE’S KICKING UP A NICE FUSS IN THE TRACTOR TYRE INFLATION CAGE HERE AT THE BREAKER’S YARD.

Ace has General Lissima hostage! And she most likely still has the little leather-bound diary! How did he manage that…?

Actually, not that hard to figure out – if he wanted to take me hostage, all he’d have to do is blow gently in my ear…

Crispin sets out a lovely arrangement of coffee and cream-filled strawberry jam scones on the low table, on a tray decorated with a single pink-and-white Oriental lily, reflecting the edible colours of the scones and filling the room with its spicy perfume. But my mind is racing.

Who is the most likely person to track down that thieving rickshaw pilot?

Yes! His wife!

And then – we’ll have the clockwork hand. And then – I’ll figure out how to change Carvery Slaughter back into a human being. Which might be necessary, I justify the idea smoothly, for if my housemate Frankenminky turns out to be a bit too little of Miss December, and a bit too much of Summer Jaundice…

I send a quick reply, under my napkin.

I’LL BRING YOUR PIZZA ORDER AT 5PM.

“…And then, we will take a tour of the premises, so you can find your way around,” Crispin is saying.

Ace answers again, promptly.

COOL. BY THE WAY – YOU WERE WRONG. THE ANSWER ISN’T PIZZA. X.

Eh? I frown at the message before closing it, and the app screen pops up again, with its response to my guess on Draw My Thing.

WRONG. GUESS AGAIN.

“Crispin,” I say, to hide my confusion and images of triangles with scribbles now dancing in front of my eyes – besides, I feel as though I haven’t really contributed much to the conversation so far, and should make it at least look as though I was paying attention. “It’s my turn to apologise. I’m afraid Justin Time has run off with the clockwork hand…”

“If it’s not one thief, it’s another,” Crispin shrugs, and treats me to his lopsided smile. “And Justin Time is just a great big pussy.”

Hmmm… I put my phone away, and sit back to enjoy my nice coffee. Of course, I’ll have to accept the job of secretary now – if only to keep an eye on Carvery, and ensure access to him when I get hold of the clockwork hand. I wonder how grateful he might be, if I was the one to save him for a change? There’s always a chance Justin Time might turn up here too. Negotiating some holiday, or another… But Ace Bumgang is alive! And wants pizza! And – is drawing very rude things on Draw My Thing!

You eat this’ he said! I have to hide my blush behind my sticky napkin, and get my phone out to re-read his last text message just to make sure. And I notice the ‘X’ on the end of it for the first time – and my brain swims alarmingly.

“I think I really should be going,” I smile, my mind now just pink fog. “Thank you for a lovely – er – interview.”

“Promise me you will consider my proposal carefully, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says, gravely.

“I will,” I promise, sincerely, and hope he repeats it at some point soon, so I know what he’s so serious about.

But until then – I have other priorities. I drop my napkin into the waste basket, and before I get to my feet, I do a double-take.

All that the waste basket contains otherwise, is a note saying:

TAKE OUT TRASH.

Strange… isn’t that what was in his other waste basket, in the cellar…?

I recall the deep cellar under the mansion, and its refrigerated collection.

Dry family members in suspended animation, infected with the zombie curse. Waiting for Crispin to come up with the definitive cure, tested out on Homer – now fully recovered, and Queen of all he surveys… but that’s not all the note reminds me of.

What about his supposition that take-out delivery boys and girls are a good source of virginal donor organs?

Am I still just potential Take-Out Trash to him?

I get to my feet slowly. My brain now feels like it’s whirring and clanking as much as Higham Dry Senior’s clockwork braaiiiinsss.

“Could I start work tomorrow?” I ask, coughing to hide the tremor in my voice. “Shall I turn up for nine a.m? Or is that a bit too – warlike?

“I’ve always found that the working day is more civilised depending on the company one keeps, not the time of day,” Crispin beams, and offers me his hand.

I shake it, but have to resist the urge to snatch my own away too quickly.

As I hurry back outside to my scooter, a glance backward confirms that the seagulls have found some more pickings on the beach, outside Crispin’s office window. Looks like he gets through a lot of his own staff, not to mention other people…

I won’t be coming back here just to keep an eye on Carvery. I’ll be back to watch him as well.

Maybe with a shovel, and a plot marked out ready, at the Body Farm.

In fact, now I think about it – there’s a nice wheelie-bin going spare. Prime position.

Under the silver birch tree…

Trailer for the original ‘Deja Vu’ by the great Tony Scott… Enjoy…

…ROLL CREDITS:

THIS PARODY OF MANY SCENES WAS INSPIRED BY…

From film & television:

Secretary; 9 1/2 Weeks; Body of Evidence; Pretty Woman; Star Wars; Phantom of the Opera; Lara Croft, Tomb Raider; Dangerous Liaisons; Batman; Blade Runner; E.T, the Extraterrestrial; Home Alone; The Goonies; Raiders of the Lost Ark; Labyrinth; Romancing the Stone; Disclosure; The Chronicles of Narnia; Stargate; Jewel of the Nile; Return of the Jedi; Queen of the Damned; Pride and Prejudice; The Graduate; Pulp Fiction; Dirty Harry; My Fair Lady/Pygmalion; Death on the Nile; Octopussy; The Magnificent Seven; The Life of Brian; Big Trouble in Little China; The Men Who Stare At Goats; The Lost Boys; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Shallow Grave; The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; The Hunt for Red October; Crimson Tide; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Splash; The Empire Strikes Back; Alien Resurrection; National Treasure; Beetlejuice; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Lawrence of Arabia; Sex & The City II; Casablanca; District 13; Casino Royale; Saw; Fermat’s Room; ParaNorman; Mission Impossible; Journey to the Center of the Earth; A Town Called Panic; Jurassic Park; Death Race; Men in Black; M*A*S*H; Good Morning, Vietnam; Dad’s Army; Full Metal Jacket; Apocalypse Now; It Ain’t Half Hot Mum; Time Bandits; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; Stardust; The Tourist; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Tomb Raider, Cradle of Life; Cowboys and Aliens; Frankenweenie; Iron Man; Transformers; Pirates of the Caribbean; The Chronicles of Riddick; Bedknobs and Broomsticks; True Lies; Déjà Vu… and many, many more…

From books (not filmed or produced for broadcast at time of writing):

Fifty Shades of Grey © Fifty Shades Ltd

The Magician’s Nephew © C.S. Lewis

Forever indebted to the work of:

Henry Gray F.R.S. and H.V. Carter, M.D. – for Gray’s Anatomy, 1858.

You have been reading ‘The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum’ now available in ebook from Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, and in paperback. Coming soon to Nook, Kobo, Sony and other online retail outlets. See the ‘Books’ pages (top of this blog) for details. Hope you enjoyed it, and thanks for all of your Likes and Shares over the last eight months! 🙂 xxx

True Lice: A Zombie Parody

Pink – ‘U and Ur Hand’ original video…

Thank you, Justin!” I remember to say, retrieving the clockwork hand, while he rolls up the little doormat and tucks it under one arm. Although I’m not sure I fancy another stroll through the hen-house, mingling with the monitor lizards again straight away – Higham Dry Junior might have to wait until I’ve at least had a lie down and several Sloe Gin Slings before getting his toy back. “How can I repay you?”

“Oh…” He pauses and looks thoughtful, and it occurs to me that making open cavalier offers to the rickshaw pilot might be unwise. “I like your little clockwork thing…”

“What?” I was right.

How stupid am I? I can’t give him the clockwork hand!

“Yes, with the little sparkly light,” he says. “I saw you pointing it at aircraft carrier. Flash-flash. Good for signalling.”

“Oh…” Relief bursts inside me. Fortunately, my bladder and everything else in there is empty. “The Trevor Baylis torch! Yes, of course…”

I pull it out of my pocket and pass it to him. He gives it an experimental twirl and a click on-and-off, looking very pleased.

“This good for busy air-traffic,” he says. “I make special sequence for ‘Get out of way, Stupid!’ But not tell anyone else what it is…”

“Phew,” I say, holding up the clockwork hand. “For a moment, I thought you meant this…”

“Oh, really?” His eyebrows go up. “Well, if you insist…”

And he snatches it from my grasp, and runs out of the front door.

“You get back here, Justin Time!” I yell angrily.

“And don’t forget, your friend promised to cook me dinner as well!” he calls over his shoulder. “Goat curry!”

Damn, damn, damn! And as I hurry after him, I hear an engine start.

Oh no – the Trevor Baylis torch was attached to my keys!

I tumble down the impressive stone steps, as my poor little Pizza Heaven scooter races away down the drive.

“No!” I shout, struggling back upright and spitting out gravel. Already, I’m getting flashbacks of musical push-along cart, and Old MacDonald Had A Farm. “No, no, no!”

“Has he gone?” Frankenminky asks, appearing in the doorway. “I didn’t even get his number…”

Something nudges me sharply in the behind.

Old MacDonald had a goat

“Baaahhh,” bleats the billy goat, giving me the drunken eye.

“Right,” I say. “I’ve ridden camels, clams, donkeys and doormats today!”

I grab the goat by the curly horns, and lean forward to whisper in its bearded ear.

“We are going to follow that scooter,” I tell it. “And in exchange, you will not become my housemate’s special, Goat à la Soggy Cheerios!”

I just remember to lift my feet off the ground, as the indignant billy goat bolts. We skid at the end of the driveway, and give chase down the main road.

How could I have been so stupid?! I should have learned by now that he isn’t to be trusted!

Justin must know we are on his tail, because he takes a short-cut through the park on the way into town. A park full of Saturday morning strollers, duck-feeders, and unwary fairground visitors…

Oh no – so many innocent bystanders…

My billy goat pounds after him untiringly, stopping only to divest a small child of its ice-cream.

The scooter, meanwhile, has become stuck on the Merry-Go-Round between a Cinderella pumpkin carriage and a fibreglass rocket, and Justin finds himself giving rides to children who pull on his whiskers and insist on calling him Ali Baba.

“Stop!” I shout, once my goat has polished off a ball of candyfloss and a blue raspberry Slurpie.

“Haha!” Justin cries, finally managing to kick the scooter free of the ride, and vanishing into the mirror maze.

We clatter after him, like the proverbial bull into a china shop. A china shop full of incredibly sticky children, and the occasional excitable puppy.

“I know you are in here, Justin!” I shout at my many distorted reflections. I already know what my goat is thinking – it’s thinking that maybe that last Guinness was one too many. “I can smell the two-stroke oil! Give back the clockwork hand! That was given to me to look after!”

“Can I pat your horsey?” asks a little girl with Elastoplast covering one lens of her glasses.

“My Dad says your pizzas are always cold,” adds her brother informatively, who is wearing a striped jersey with his spectacles, in a typically mean parental act of inferring that their child resembles Waldo.

“Well,” I say, while the billy goat receives his scratch around the ears magnanimously. “You tell your Dad that when his tips turn out to be legal tender in this country, maybe his pizzas will magically turn up on time.”

“Just in time?” says the little boy.

“Where?!” I look all around, but only see more reflections. “Where’s Justin Time?”

“Who?” asks the little girl.

“Creepy man, evil laugh, riding a motor scooter.” I struggle for descriptions that match First Grade interpretation. “Ali Baba!

Both the children point, to a gap in the mirrors that only small (and possibly bifocally-enhanced) eyes would notice.

I see a flash of Pizza Heaven top-box whizzing past.

“Tell your Dad the next pizza is free,” I say, and spur my steed to follow. “With onion rings!”

We gallop out of the maze, in time to see Justin and the scooter mount the Helter-Skelter, going up the spiralling slide the wrong way…

I race to the gate, but the attendant blocks my path and tells me my goat isn’t tall enough.

“No!” I scream, as Justin reaches the top, revs the tiny engine, and opens the throttle.

The Pizza Heaven scooter flies through the air, high above the funfair.

The billy goat butts the attendant out of the way, and we dash for the steps…

In slow motion, I watch the poor little work scooter falling, falling – the poor children beneath running, scattering, as fast as their slippery socks will allow…

We’ll never reach the top before it…

The scooter lands smack in the middle of the bouncy castle, which nearly folds up double. And then springs back up, catapulting Justin Time far over the treetops beyond, and out of sight.

“Jump!” I shout at the billy goat. “He mustn’t get away!”

But instead, my billy goat merely joins the queue at the top of the steps, to slide down the Helter-Skelter the more usual way.

“Oh my God, you are such a pussy!” I grumble, once we reach the bottom.

The goat takes no notice, but rewards itself with a bag of popcorn from a passing Disney princess.

“Never mind,” says the princess’s big sister, as she starts to cry. “Look up in the sky – at the lovely rainbow…”

I look up too, and pretty soon I’m crying as well.

Horseback/motorcycle chase scene from ‘True Lies’ – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

Big Knobs and Broom Closets: A Zombie Parody

Iron Maiden vs. Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Ancient Mariner/Relax mash-up…

No, Homer…” Crispin sobs, as his brother wobbles a little, sliding off the plinth. He gets to his feet, to confront Homer. “You aren’t strong enough – you haven’t even been a woman that long! Let her take a younger body!”

Homer looks offended, and drawing himself up a little straighter, slaps Crispin across the face.

Stunned, Crispin holds his jaw in silence. Pom-pom tinsel dangles from his ear.

“I think you asked for that, Crispin,” I remark.

A projectile from the aircraft carrier takes out the main ornamental pedestal beyond Luke and Beneficience, still lost in their starry-eyed romantic reverie, a leader into the second round of fire.

“I did not ask to be blown up, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says, rubbing his chin.

He already sounds more like his old self.

“You deserve that too,” I snap, crawling over to Whatsit, my housemate, and giving her an experimental prod. The resulting whine is more telling than an electrocardiogram result would be. “If Homer wants to be a zombie queen, he’s entitled to be the top Queen, wouldn’t you agree?”

Goood,” Homer approves, but does give his old gray body a rather regretful glance.

“Um, barge is still under attack, people!” Justin Time points out, from under his tenacious captors. “And Atum is still hanging around out there!”

“Maybe he wants a sacrifice…” Crispin ponders, and shrinks as we all glare at him. “I was only going to suggest the goat – maybe the donkey…”

Something golden roars up out of the whirlpool between the two ships, and lands with an almighty boom in the middle of the damaged deck.

“What did I miss?” asks the prodigal clockwork cyborg, Higham Dry Senior.

“Grandpappy?” Crispin exclaims.

“Higham Dry?” I cry. “You’re alive!”

“Not just alive,” he chuckles, like an inkjet printer with the hiccups. “Look what I found.”

And he raises his injured arm.

Or should I say, previously injured.

Where there had only been a scraggy, bony stump, there is now a complete and seamless sleeve of golden armour adjoining the rest of the Swiss watchmaker’s body of invention, at the end of which is mounted…

The bejewelled clockwork hand!

“Turned out this thing mighty useful,” he says, flexing the fingers. His eye-slits gleam red, bright and powerful like lasers. “It grow back rest of armour and everything. Don’t even need special key for Mister Whizz now…”

Ooh – maybe too much information…

“What happen to dirty great squid?” he asks.

Hoooome,” says Homer, patting his belly.

“Really?” Higham Dry strides over for a closer look. His eye-slits change to blue, and scans Homer up and down. Alarmingly, the X-ray effect certainly does reveal the outline of the squid impossibly coiled in Homer’s insides. “Wow. Well, you can wear her clothes all of the time now, my boy! She not going to come out and play for a long time after all that that exertion. Hold out your hand.”

Homer offers his ragged zombie hand, with the chewed fingertip inflicted by the donkey earlier, and Higham Dry Senior raises the special clockwork hand to meet it.

The tiniest, briefest spark passes between the two.

Ouuuuch,” Homer acknowledges.

And then he changes.

The fingertip grows back. His raw wounds close up. His patchy old skin granulates, and unwrinkles. The hollows between his bones fill out, and teeth reappear in the gaps in his jaw. And finally, perhaps more worryingly, his recent surgery apparently prolapses.

“Whoops,” says Higham Dry. “Maybe give you a bit too much help downstairs.”

“Ah, there’s the old boy I remember,” Luke observes. “Still doesn’t look right on a dead white fella, but I think it suits you better than trying to pull off a high-C, Homer.”

Homer shrugs, apparently pleased with the result either way.

Can’t say I blame him. He definitely has the Dry family good looks…

“Now you, Crispin,” Higham Dry says sternly. “You need to go home and have a good long look at your boots. In the naughty corner.”

“Grandpappy…” Crispin begins, and is interrupted by the altar exploding, in another battery of fire.

“Oh yes,” I interject, timidly. “I kind of declared war on the Nine a.m. Lounge.”

Higham Dry turns, in time to see several large warheads launching skywards from the aircraft carrier.

That doesn’t look good…

“Oh, well – no rest for the rickets,” sighs the zombie cyborg. “Okay, boys – let’s go and spoil their sports. Put Mr. Time down, we catch him again later.”

The three bounty hunters get to their feet obediently, leaving Justin spreadeagled, head still under doormat. One by one, they each summon a lightning-bolt, and disappear into the skies, on the trail of the warheads.

“Before I go…” says Higham Dry Senior, and he turns back to face me, unscrewing the clockwork hand.

“No…” I try to stop him – but as it detaches, a new armoured hand grows in its place, out of the sleeve of armour. I can see the tiny cogs and ratchets and springs slotting into place, as it rebuilds itself.

“This belong to other Higham Dry,” he says, and an eye-slit flares, in an approximation of a wink. “You remember where you found it, yes?”

“Yes,” I say, accepting the clockwork hand once more. Feeling around in my pockets past the Trevor Baylis torch on my keyring, I produce the long-forgotten scrap of felt plush that used to be a toy rabbit.

“That’s the one,” he nods. He flexes the new hand, as the joints close over the knuckles. “Clever men, these Swiss watchmakers. They succeed where ancient Pharoahs and their old spells fail. Make something that live for ever.”

He takes a step away from me, with almost a salute.

“And you boys…” he says, waving vaguely at the zombie Dry brothers. “You clean up this mess before you leave, hmmm?”

Flames burst from his back-plate, and he soars away after the bounty hunters, leaving a glowing vapour-trail.

“You should go on ahead, Sarah Bellummm,” says Crispin, and seems unable to meet my eyes. “Justin Time can take you both back to the house.”

“What about Luke?” I ask. “And…”

I don’t even know whether I should mention Ace and Carvery.

“Mr. Lukan has plenty to catch up on with Mrs. Lukan,” Crispin assures me.

Already, I can hear how that is getting on…

If he wants to be a librarian, he can damn well BE a librarian!”

Over my dead body!”

“Mr Time!” Crispin summons the rickshaw pilot. “Take the two young ladies home, if you please.”

Before Justin is even on his feet, the still-burning side of the Great Barge falls away into the whirlpool, dragging the rest of the rigging with it.

“It not that simple,” the rickshaw pilot grumbles, hugging the innocuous doormat to his chest. “This only special prototype…”

As I look at him, a harpoon streaks between us, embedding deeply in the deck. Its cable, leading back down into the swirling, bottomless depths, tightens.

The barge tilts even more steeply over the abyss.

“Quickly, Mr. Time…!” Crispin prompts. “There may be an Easter holiday in it for you!”

Over the noise of roaring water and creaking timbers, the sound of an ethereal singing reaches our ears – but it isn’t Luke. It’s the same singing I last heard in the Well of Our Souls – and other voices are joining in, forming a mysterious and beautiful choir…

“Cover your ears!” Justin Time warns, pulling his torn coolie hat down, and tying it under his chin. “It feeding-time!”

“Crocodile feeding-time?” I ask, pulling my housemate Frankenminky to her feet.

“Pardon?” he says, pointing to his ear, and I mime snapping jaws with my outstretched arms. “No, not crocodile feeding-time. Baby Squidmorph feeding-time!”

I look down at the churning river, to see dozens of thin pink tentacles, like angel-hair, flying up out of the water and attaching to the ruined deck of the barge, with their little juvenile grappling-hooks. The surviving attendant zombies cling to anything still nailed down, in mortal terror.

Justin kneels on the little doormat and beckons for my housemate and I to join him. We squeeze up, in an uneven trifecta.

“Why have they come here?” I ask. “Was Lady Glandula – I mean, the squid part – their mother too?”

“Hmmm?” He adjusts his coolie hat. “Oh no. The babies stay in underwater creche for years, herded by mermaids. Occasionally with visiting rights by their Daddy.”

And he waves a hand upward, at the looming shape of the river-god, Atum.

“Ahhh…” I say. “Now I think I know what her problem was…”

“Put clockwork hand here,” says Justin, tapping the middle of the small mat, which has a woven geometric pattern. The deck of the barge lurches sickeningly. “Now – just got to turn it in direction of home…”

The index finger uncurls and the little gemstones light up, as the rickshaw pilot rotates the clockwork hand.

The gray clouds in the sky billow outward suddenly with the distant whump of aerial explosions. Either the demise of the warheads, or of Higham Dry Senior and the bounty hunters…

I check Crispin and the others who are remaining behind. Homer has stuffed his pom-poms into his ears against the Squidmorph-song, and Luke and Beneficience have done the same with what’s left of the dried flowers from the altar – but it hasn’t stopped them arguing. Carvery Slaughter is still an immovable onyx statue – damn it

Crispin is tugging on the harpoon in the middle of the deck, trying to remove it. Unwillingly, I feel the hot guilty blush creeping over me, knowing exactly how a merman Squidmorph nursery-nurse would have got his hands on one of those…

“Ah, that seem to be working!” announces Justin Time, pleased.

I look down at the mat. The clockwork hand is alight, with a full spectrum of colours.

“So pretty!” says Frankenminky. “Like Somewhere Over The Rainbow…”

I throw her a suspicious glance.

“Oh,” Justin Time nods in approval, as the beam of rainbow light arcs up out of the clockwork hand. “You travel this way before, young lady, yes?”

And we leap into the sky, just as the timbers of the deck fall away beneath us.

I’m aware of passing by Atum’s giant paternal eye, and then we’re above the scudding clouds. Distant lightning bolts and vapour-trails show where Higham Dry Senior and his men are still battling any Nine a.m. Lounge fighter jets that have managed to take off.

The little high-speed mat chases the rainbow, as it arches above the Earth.

“So…” Justin says, crossing his legs more comfortably and steepling his fingers. “You come here often? What your name, young lady?”

A passing Boeing jumbo jet aircraft with the Iron Maiden logo drowns out the answer. I nearly fall off the mat, as a loud belch in my ear out of nowhere is followed by a friendly nibble on my newly-chopped hair.

“Don’t mind him.” Justin pats the billy goat, who has managed to join us with only one forefoot on the mat behind me. “Maybe we celebrate with goat curry later!” His face turns hopefully back to my housemate. “Can you cook?”

We dip below the clouds again, once we pass the zenith of the rainbow. Rising up to meet us, I recognise the huge mansion on Crispin’s estate – his Cadillac outside – Luke’s taxi – and yes!

My little Pizza Heaven scooter!

Slightly less reassuring, is the way the rainbow seems to end at one of the chimneys on the crenulated rooftop…

“Hold on!” says Justin. “Turbulence! It going to be bumpy landing!”

Everything is suddenly coughing and spluttering and Guinness-burp scented darkness.

God… how Father Christmas does this five billion times in a night is beyond me… it must be something in the sherry…

We land with a crunch.

“Everybody okay?” says Justin. “We nearly took wrong turning! Old fireplace bricked up back there. Don’t want to end up like Santa Claus. Now, where is door?”

I put out my hands tentatively, and feel splintered wooden sticks.

Are we in the kindling store?

“Here it is!” Justin kicks open the door, and the billy goat, now quite sooty and blackened, trots outside happily.

I crawl out into the daylight, onto gleaming parquet flooring.

It’s Crispin’s entrance hall. Behind me, the door to the vast cellars is locked, alongside our own escape door…

“Oh, look at the poor things!” says Frankenminky, holding up a snapped broom handle, shedding birch twigs.

The broom closet?

Hmmm. I’m going to have to keep an eye on her…

Fan re-edited trailer for ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

The Ridicules of Chronic: A Zombie Parody

Peter Gabriel vs. Gnarls Barkley – Crazy in Your Eyes mash-up…

He’s not wrong about that. Lady Glandula as a human zombie Queen was intimidating enough. Minus the corporeal shroud of Crispin’s mother, into which her mantle had somehow been squeezed, she’s just a giant evil-looking cephalopod.

Its purple iridescent eyes seem to zoom in on me as it slides back onto the deck, crushing the already-rotting remains of its former human hermit-shell unheeded, leaving a trail of vile slime.

“Yuck!” I struggle, trying to free myself from Crispin’s grip on my hair. “Crispin, that’s not your mother! It’s a Squidmorph!”

“She has been my mother as long as I can remember,” he says distantly. “I have to save her.”

“Well, why don’t you volunteer?” I suggest, and managing to free an arm, flap around wildly until my hand closes around the hilt of the last, smallest knife on the altar.

Yes! Even though it’d barely core an apple…

Reaching behind my head, I make one desperate slice.

My ponytail of hair bunched in Crispin’s grip shears off. Suddenly released, and sporting a new asymmetric bob, I run.

The giant Squidmorph moves to block my path, and I jump over Justin Time and the bounty hunters – far less nimbly than General Lissima did, getting a groin full of billy goat forehead for my efforts – aiming for my one and only hope.

“Higham Dry!” I call out, finding the elderly zombie in his clockwork armour still suspended from the crocodile-feeding platform. I grab the railings in one hand and reach out to him with the other. “Let me help you!”

“That very sweet of you, young man!” says Higham Dry, his bionic transformation evidently stopping short of improved optometrics. “Crispin still making crazy philanthropist talk up there? Trying to Save the Squid, and not for dinner?”

“I’m afraid so,” I reply, straining my arm to reach him.

I risk a glance over my shoulder. The Squidmorph, lumbering and ungainly without its human carrier, slithers towards the altar, where Crispin is waiting to greet it with outstretched arms.

“She won’t last long without a body,” Higham says, coughing. “But they get very angry the longer they wait. Pump out lots of adrenalin, move like bolt of diarrhoea! Better to run away first. Not have to outrun squid – just have to outrun all of your other enemies. Any port in a storm for squid!”

“You can help!” I plead. “Crispin is your grandson! You can talk some sense into him!”

“You flatter an old man, my boy…” Higham Dry Senior’s robot grip slides a little – the wrong way. “But sense is all just a matter of perspective.”

He looks down into the swirling darkness.

“No!” I shout.

Too late.

The golden armoured figure vanishes silently into the abyss.

I look up angrily at Atum, blotting out half of the sky.

“Why don’t you do something?” I yell. “You’re a god! I thought gods were omnipotent!”

Under his alien gaze, I feel very small indeed.

It occurs to me that the meaning of ‘omnipotent’ is not necessarily the same as I’m important

“Screw you!” I snap, and turn to size up my chances.

One giant hermit squid – check; one Oedipally-fixated zombie entrepreneur and his pole-dancing transvestite zombie brother – check; one formerly-estranged and now reconciled couple serenading one another (aahhh) – check; one housemate, name as yet unremembered – check; one renegade rickshaw pilot coveting a doormat – check; three bounty hunters that it would be unwise to touch without rubber boots on – check; one drunk billy goat – check; one albino donkey – check; one girlfriend-battering psychopath turned to stone (damn it) – check…

I look down to see what I’m armed with. A knife that wouldn’t give blade envy to a teaspoon. A Trevor Baylis wind-up torch in my pocket. No clockwork hand, and no little diary full of special symbols. They both went overboard, with Ace and General Lissima.

“Do not worry, Mother,” I hear Crispin telling the Squidmorph soothingly. “She will not get away.”

Both look at me, and my grip tightens on the knife.

They must have a weak point – an Achilles’ heel…

I wish Ace Bumgang was here. He’d know. He seems to have time to spare, looking up strange wildlife on Wiki.

I look sadly back down into the bottomless whirlpool, and across at the Nine a.m. Lounge aircraft carrier, tilting in towards us on the far side. Another fighter jet slips off its chocks on the upper deck, pitching into the blackness below. A brief fireball denotes its demise before it is swallowed up.

My foot slips on the Squidmorph’s trail of slime, and I glance back again to confirm, seeing Crispin chanting and splashing her with water from a terracotta jug, evidently to ensure she doesn’t dry out before finding a new host.

They need access to the Deep Ocean Trench… We just have to ensure the first thing the young Squidling sees is the ocean… Maybe these tentacle chicks have something against dry land…

Nothing. I’m getting nothing from this. No ideas at all…

“You had better come here, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin calls. “You will require lubricating as well.”

“Yes,” I agree, absently. “A large Guinness WD-40 would be about right…”

I look at the aircraft carrier. No longer running on Guinness.

Running on napalm.

I take out the Trevor Baylis torch and wind it up. Is it dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash? Or the other way around? I flash the light a few times at the other ship, half-heartedly.

Still nothing. The net of captive flying rugs on its deck flaps, trying to escape.

“Hey – Justin!” I call out.

“I never touched it!” Justin Time cries, slightly muffled under his captors and my housemate.

“How do you declare war on another Lounge?”

“Oh, that easy!” His nose appears from under the crush, his coolie hat somewhat crumpled around it. “You just make first pre-emptive strike!”

Fucknot the easiest thing done from a wooden barge with apparently no firepower. I need something to make the occupants of that dirty great military ship angry…

“As you wish, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin’s zombie monotone alerts me again. “But it will be much more painful this way.”

A tentacle lashes out towards my foot, and I jump. Higham Dry was right about something else.

They DO move damn fast when they’re desperate…

“Do not exhaust yourself, Sarah Bellummm!” Crispin cries, while I do laps of the deck of the Great Barge, dodging the slapping and groping tentacles. “You must conserve energy to survive the transition!”

“Not number one on my list of priorities!” I shout back.

“You will see immortality through her eyes!” he adds.

“She’s going to see tempura batter and hot chilli dipping sauce through mine!”

The giant Squidmorph lassos itself around the mast and tries a belly-flop from a great height, scattering the remaining zombie attendants – and eating one or two which get too close.

I only avoid her by grabbing part of the sail rigging Ace had swung from earlier, and slashing it with my little knife, so that the rapidly-ravelling rope hoists me up into the air, as the sail unfurls again in turn.

Swinging from my new perspective on things, I spot something down on the deck of the Great Barge that I had completely forgotten about…

I look out over the crocodile-feeding platform. Ace’s own rope still dangles there.

As the Squidmorph lunges up the rigging and hauls herself higher up the mast once more, I let go, and try to land in a professional stuntman’s tuck-and-roll, only succeeding in getting one of my feet caught around my ear. Meaning I scrabble, strained and crabwise, across the deck towards Justin Time and the others.

“Help!” cries my housemate. “This donkey keeps eating my hair!”

“Jolly good, carry on, Dobbin,” I pant, and snatch General Lissima’s peaked Naval officer cap from the floor.

“Um, Sarah…” she asks, managing to angle her head under the tussling heap so that she can see what I’m doing. “Why are you stabbing that hat?”

I thrust the tiny knife into the crown as many times as it takes to make a deep, ragged rip.

“I am declaring war!” I announce.

And just as the Squidmorph hits the deck again behind me, I run for the railings, and jump onto the crocodile-feeding platform.

My momentum means I skid the rest of the way, and have to make a desperate, split-second leap – grabbing the rope…

I pirouette outward, over the yawning, watery abyss, and I judge the apex of the swing – the point of zero acceleration in either direction – then spin the General’s ravaged officer hat across the gap.

It flies – and as I swing backwards, it dips. My heart sinks in unison.

Atum moves, turning to watch its progress.

Just as the backs of my heels crack painfully back on the crocodile-feeding platform, a sudden updraft of air from the whirlpool lifts the declaration of war just high enough – to skim over the railings of the Nine a.m. Lounge aircraft carrier, and vanish aboard its upper deck.

Either they’ll respond – or I guess they might celebrate. Hopefully with fireworks.

Depending on how popular she was.

“I don’t understand your reluctance at all, Sarah Bellummm.” Crispin is rolling up his shirt-sleeves – although I don’t see the point, they’re already stained beyond Cillit Bang guarantees. “You looked so at home in Mother’s clothes earlier today…”

Oh, boy. Does he have issues…

Hoooome,” says Homer indignantly.

“Yes, yes,” Crispin replies, exasperated. “They suit you too, Homer… but no matter. There is still the first option.”

The first option? What does he mean?

“Help!” shrieks my housemate again, as a tentacle latches around her ankle and tugs.

Oh – crap.

I vault back over the railings from the platform, and dive across the deck, catching hold of her wrists.

“Let her go!” Justin Time snaps. “Shameless hussy!”

“I thought you wanted a new girlfriend, Justin?” I huff, trying to brace myself against the donkey.

“Maybe…” he sulks. “But… she need a boob job first…”

“They’re in the wheelbarrow over there,” I promise, truthfully. “Help us!”

Justin sighs, and kicks out at one of his bounty hunter captors, who promptly delivers a small warning lightning bolt which each of us feels, and makes a real mess of my underwear this time. The donkey brays, the goat bleats, and the Squidmorph squeals, and retracts her tentacle.

“See?” says Justin. “Never mix water and electricity.”

“First rule of home D.I.Y…” I echo vaguely.

“Carvery used to say that,” says my housemate, looking past me at Justin with admiration.

Blimey, she moves on fast. What happened to ‘Where’s Carvery?’

He’d have finished off this fat old squid in a jiffy… so depressing…

The fat old squid in question doesn’t seem to be affected by electric shocks for long, and has its tentacle around my housemate’s leg again before our own pins and needles have worn off.

“Get your suckers off my girlfriend!” shouts Justin Time, as we both make a grab for her arms.

I hear Crispin’s voice, now sounding agitated.

“I am sure she will still let you borrow them, Homer…!”

The tentacle performs the whip-cracking manoeuvre, and my housemate is wrenched out of our hands.

“No!” Justin and I both shout. The bounty hunters pin us both to the floor.

The Squidmorph dangles the screaming Miss Numb-Nuts triumphantly in the air, high above the sacrificial altar.

“Now, Mother!” cries Crispin, his black eyes strangely aflame.

My housemate is slammed down onto the wooden plinth.

“Ow!” she yells, annoyed. “I bit my tongue!”

Crispin responds by drenching her with another bucket of the lavender-scented water, and while she splutters and coughs indignantly, the Squidmorph appears to coil itself, like a tensing spring…

I can’t look – I turn my head away. How could Atum allow this? Or did he already collect his dues, with Lady Glandula’s human body?

“Soulless…” I murmur unhappily, and wonder why the sky has suddenly, silently, without warning, turned from gray to blinding white…

The great mahogany-coloured planks of the deck splinter deafeningly beneath us, as the whole side of the barge explodes.

The central mast pitches into the river, every blood-red sail burning like the flags of Hell.

More gun turrets aboard the aircraft carrier swivel to face us after the first deadly assault, across the void.

“Holy ship!” Justin tries to burrow deeper under the bounty hunters. “Who piss the wife off now?”

But even more horrifying is the scream that comes from the altar – but it’s not the scream I was expecting.

“NOOOO!!” Crispin shrieks hideously.

Unwilling, I follow the sound of the cry with my scorched eyes, dreading what carnage I might see…

Miss Knobhead is on the floor by the altar, her nose bloody, her consciousness debatable. Crispin is on his knees alongside, clutching his hair in shock. And upon the plinth itself…

What?

Homer – clutching his pom-poms to his nearly concave gray chest. Smiling.

No squid… I look everywhere. Was she indeed blown up, as I had hoped?

Homer sits up slowly, and surveys us all with a regal – slightly smug – air.

“Oh, I see,” Justin Time scoffs. “He in too much of a hurry to wait and inherit his Mother’s wardrobe.”

“You mean…” I begin, and spot the telltale trickle of black squid ink down his skinny leg again. “Homer – you volunteered?

2004 trailer for ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’ – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

Prostates of the Caribbean: A Zombie Parody

Chase & Status vs. Nero – No Problem/My Eyes mash-up…

We start to slide across the deck as the Great Barge tilts. Alongside, the Nine a.m. Lounge aircraft carrier also leans inward, with the centrifugal pull of the vortex appearing, mid-river. The heaped-up dinosaur skeletons take a dive from its upper deck into the abyss, followed by one of the jets, parked too close to the edge.

“Hold on!” I shout at my housemate, halted as my legs entangle with the billy goat. Apparently, it could remain upright on a sheer drop. “Grab onto something!”

The something she finds, with her groping clumsy hands, is Justin Time under his heap of bounty hunters. Justin squeals indignantly.

“I am a married man, Madam!” he yells, playing his loyalty card as it suits him.

Lady Glandula lashes out with her tentacle, anchoring herself to the main mast. Higham Dry Senior clamps onto her with his one mechanical-armed grip, trying to drag her away.

“You don’t want a little reconciliation with your god?” he says, gesturing over the side with his other scraggy zombie arm. “Surely it’s nothing personal… just good for business!”

Below us, in that watery whirlpool, the gigantic Eye is rising, scattering the sunbathing crocodiles.

For the first time, I see genuine panic cross the zombie Queen’s face.

“No!” she cries. “I will not enter the limbo of Darkness and Shades! Give me the rest of the Incantations!”

“Only your frail human form is in debt to Atum, Mother!” I hear Crispin shouting, but I don’t see him. “Let it go! Take a new body!”

“Frail?” Higham Dry grumbles, straining on his cyborg chassis. “She is testing the limits of WD-40 here, I tell you!”

“This frail human form is what gave birth to you, Crispin!” she yells.

“Exactly!” says Higham Dry. “The rest is just indestructible hermit calamari!

Over by the ravaged altar, Beneficience is on her ample knees, sobbing. Luke reaches her with his hands outstretched in supplication, still singing, like a taxi-driving absconding angel.

And beyond, General Lissima has finished dismembering the attendant zombie from its grip on the clockwork hand. She snatches a long-bladed knife from the altar in the tip of her tentacle, and turns her attention to the struggle between Higham Dry Senior and Lady Glandula de Bartholine.

“Hey, folks!” she taunts, waggling the golden clockwork hand, and the leather-bound diary. “I have something you want! Who is the better haggler?”

And she leaps quickly aside, laughing, as they both lash out covetously.

“Give me those Incantations, witch!” shrieks Lady Glandula.

“You going to feel Higham Dry’s foot in your barnacled bottom, young lady!”

Damn – where is Ace?! And what about Crispin…

Suddenly I have no need of concern with the latter, as an arm in a torn bloody shirt loops around my shoulders from behind, extracting me from the billy goat’s legs.

“Thank goodness you are all right, Sarah Bellummm!” he greets me. “I believe we still have time…”

“Yeah, he’s right there…” I say, pointing at Justin, under the increasing heap of bounty hunters, my housemate Miss Numbskull, albino donkey and inebriated billy goat. “Do we need him to get us home?”

“Not Mr. Time,” Crispin corrects me, pulling me to my feet. “Time in which to perform the ceremony. Before Atum recovers his dues.”

“What?” I ask, and find myself being dragged over to the altar.

General Lissima evades capture by Higham Dry Senior and Lady Glandula, sliding on her knees under their flailing limbs like a breakdancer under a limbo-stick, making it look effortless and elegant as she leans back almost parallel to the floor.

The second she is clear, she pivots sharply into a kneeling stance, and unleashes one devastating strike with her own tentacle. The knife-blade flashes – and Higham Dry’s exposed zombie hand flies off, severed halfway up the radial bone.

“Who is your Daddy now, old man?” she grins, back-flipping upright and twirling the sword into a blur on the end of her tentacle, like a Wild West gunslinger. “Bet this clockwork hand looks even more attractive to you, hmmm?”

“Quickly, Sarah Bellummm!” Crispin sweeps the remaining artifacts and accessories from the surface of the wooden plinth. “Lie down on here.”

“How about no!” I gasp. “I haven’t signed a release form for any elective surgery!”

“I have to save my Mother,” he states, obstinately.

“It won’t be your Mother!” I shout back. “It’ll be me, Sarah Bellum! With an ancient evil zombie squid parked up her!”

Crispin picks up a knife, and advances.

“That’s the only Mother I remember,” he says sadly.

I back away, around the altar. Who’d come to Sarah Bellum’s rescue? I look all around, desperately. No sign of Ace, damn it… Homer is still hanging for dear life onto a pillar, looking like a cheap date at Peppermint Hippo. Luke and Beneficience are lost in one another’s attention, for the first time since 1971. My housemate, struggling on the floor with the bounty hunters and Justin Time, is probably at less risk than she ever was in the company of Carvery Slaughter – who is still a black onyx stone statue.

I sigh. Judging so far, Carvery would have been my best bet for salvation. Even if he’d used that last shotgun cartridge already, I’m sure he’d have found another way of putting me out of my misery before I became a deadly Squidmorph cavity…

If only I could get hold of the clockwork hand – perhaps I could turn him back?

But otherwise, I don’t see any point in crying for ‘help’. The mathematics just don’t seem to be in my favour.

I just remember to sidestep in time, as Crispin makes a grab for my arm.

“I thought you wanted me for yourself, Crispin?” I try reminding him. “The old cure for zombies you wanted to try? Sleeping with a virgin?”

Crispin hesitates, and my hope flares.

“I am glad you are willing, Sarah Bellummm,” he remarks. “But…”

“But what?” I try an eyelash flutter, for the first time, and only succeed in making myself dizzy.

“Present requirements are more pressing,” he says, regretfully. “And virgins are not too hard to come by. Especially in the fast-food home delivery business.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I am sure your replacement at the pizzeria will be equally inexperienced,” he adds, with a wink.

The nerve of him! As if I’m as disposable as… as… a burger carton!

Now only clamped onto Lady Glandula with his armoured fist, Higham Dry struggles to remain upright, and the mast creaks with the strain.

“I am waiting…” hints General Lissima. “Nobody want to make me an offer? Atum looks like he got all day, but I don’t.”

The giant eye of the river-god is rising slowly out of the whirlpool in the river, gradually blotting out the misty sun in its veil of storm clouds. Crocodiles who weren’t quick enough to escape the vortex tumble down his sides into the depths.

As I dodge another grab by Crispin across the altar, General Lissima sighs impatiently, and with an impossibly high leap onto the mast, strikes downward with her sword.

The very tip of Lady Glandula’s tentacle is sliced free, with a terrible scream.

“Mother!” Crispin shouts, as Lady Glandula and Higham Dry Senior hurtle past down the sloping deck, still entangled. “Grandpappy!”

Hoooome!” cries Homer, hugging his pillar, like a cheap floozy.

General Lissima laughs, and scuttles after them, jumping over her husband and the bounty hunters en route.

“So keen to walk the plank!” she squeals happily, as Lady Glandula’s injured tentacle halts them at the railing right where the crocodile-feeding platform is attached, high above the swirling abyss. “Now, who wants to negotiate? Who wants to swear loyalty to the Nine a.m. Lounge first?”

“Never!” spits Higham Dry, clinging to the platform with his remaining mechanoid arm, cradling his stump protectively.

“No great loss,” General Lissima shrugs. “All you boys over at the Six a.m. Lounge interested in is beer and sauna and clean socks. And persecuting my husband, which is very naughty.”

“The Incantations!” cries Lady Glandula pitifully, her terror at the proximity of Atum evident, while she scrabbles to hold onto the side of the barge. “Give them to me!”

“Hmmm, but what are they worth, Lady Bathtub?” the General muses, twiddling the little book between her fingertips. “I already have a ship. Don’t need yours. What else have you got? And don’t try to fob me off with any of your undead pets. I have plenty of those too.”

Luke reaches the end of his song. But this time, Atum remains, his all-seeing omnipotent eye taking interest in the proceedings as they unravel below his gaze.

Beneficience takes Luke’s hands in her own and sobs into them.

“Forgive me!” she beseeches him, still on her knees at his feet.

“My dearest,” he says gently. “I am so proud of you, in spite of our differences… You have done such a good job with Corporal Punishment…”

“He is your son!” she blurts out. “I raised him – for you!”

“I know, my dearest,” he says soothingly, and pats her a little awkwardly on the gilt-frilled turban.

In the touching moment of distraction, Crispin vaults over the altar, and seizes me by the hair.

“Now, Mother!” he shouts. “While there is still time!”

“No!” I scream, and flounder for a good excuse to delay things. “I’m not sterile!”

“I don’t think you have anything I want, do you?” General Lissima smiles down at the crocodile-feeding platform, and twirls the sword again, preparing to strike.

There is a swisshhh through the air overhead, and one of the blood-red sails on the mast abruptly furls, lopsidedly, its rigging pulled sharply by a swinging counterweight.

“Gotcha,” is all Ace says, as he plucks the General neatly from the deck, too fast for her to react – and then, on its outermost swing, he lets go of the rope.

I gasp, as the two of them vanish over the side, into the boiling darkness below.

Again, with the jealousy problem… Why not me, Ace Bumgang??!

Ow – I wince, as Crispin twists my hair in his fist, holding me captive.

“Mother!” he calls out again.

Lady Glandula drags her despairing gaze from the bottomless depths beneath her, and seems to focus once more on her last chance of salvation. A new body…

Mine!

Yesss, Crispin…” she croaks, and starts to haul herself back onto the deck.

Higham Dry Senior looks on, helpless, and apparently weakening inside his special clockwork armour. The red glow in his eye-slits looks as though it is fading.

“Nobody want to help an old man?” his mechanical voice echoes, wryly.

“Nobody want to help a pizza-delivery girl?” I mutter.

Atum’s giant eye blinks.

Waiting.

“Sing it again, Gaylord,” says Beneficience, breathlessly. “Sing it – like you used to…”

Luke smiles benevolently down at his wife.

“‘You must remember this…’”

Beyond the crocodile-feeding platform, something flashes upwards out of the water, with barely a splash of foam.

“You are very scrawny,” Lady Glandula hisses at me, as she slithers over the railing.

I see the metallic twinkle and the blur, whirring in the air, like something out of the Wild West.

“Yes,” I agree, bravely. “I am a fidget.”

The zombie Queen opens her mouth to respond to my insolence, but only silence emerges.

The silence unrolls across us all like a deathly flood.

“‘As time goes by…’” Luke’s heavenly voice croons.

Lady Glandula was never destined to hear it.

Her human body crumples onto the floor.

The head rolls slowly backwards, and plummets from the end of the platform, alongside the retracting, sword-wielding tentacle that had finished her.

I swear an echo of the General’s laugh flits upward, snatched away in turn by the breeze.

“Typical Nine a.m. Lounge mercenary!” Higham Dry grumbles. “Rush off leaving job half done! There still a dirty great big squid up here, young lady!”

Original ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ trailer – enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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

Transmogrifiers: A Zombie Parody

Nat King Cole – ‘When I Fall in Love’ original…

“Quite a nice patio ornament,” says Crispin, mildly.

That’s if you make it as far as the new body,” says Higham Dry Senior’s voice, from within the impressive exoskeleton of finest Swiss watchmaker’s armour. “Without becoming tapas!”

Only one of his arms armoured in the incomplete suit, he gives a yank on the captive tentacle, overbalancing the zombie Queen, and upsetting Beneficience’s careful dried floral display around my still-inert housemate.

Crispin’s cousin loses her tether, tosses aside the olive branch, and seizes a large knife from the altar, advancing on her restrained husband, Luke.

Is it too late to agree to mediation and couples therapy?” Luke suggests, as she raises the knife.

No!” I shout, and am dumbfounded, as Crispin echoes my cry.

Both of us dive to Luke’s salvation, with differing agendas.

Murderer!” I shout.

Not without the formal ceremony!” Crispin hollers.

While Crispin wrestles with his cousin for possession of the knife, I thrust the burning torch at the attendant with the clockwork hand, before he can intervene again. He dodges to the far side of the altar, causing me to collide with the body of Miss Air-Head, as I struggle to reach him.

Give that back!” I squeal at him, digging into Whatsername‘s ribcage with my elbow as I flail forwards. “It was given to me to look after!”

A hiccup beneath me almost goes unnoticed.

Sarah…” says my housemate. “What’s going on? Where’s Carvery?”

Oh, God – not now!

Get down, get down!” I hiss at her, pulling her clear of the plinth. “Sshhh! They want to use your body as a zombie Queen Squidmorph host! They mustn’t know you’re awake!”

That queen over there?” She points over my shoulder.

No, no – that’s Homer. Remember? He just wants to be a prom queen,” I reassure her. “That one, over the other side. Being dragged around by her tentacle, by the big angry cyborg. Long story.”

Why is there a goat and a donkey watching?” she asks. “And who is that man with his head under the rug? Where is Carvery?”

I really don’t know which of those questions I’d rather answer least.

I have to get the clockwork hand back, and try to get us home!” I whisper, hurriedly. “Ace is here somewhere…” Oh, yes. I spot him surreptitiously attempting to untie Luke from the wooden cross – while Crispin and Beneficience fight over his potential as a sacrifice – kicking out at any attendant zombies who interfere. “The man under the rug is…”

I have a brainwave, and hurry over to Justin Time. He is pinned to the floor by the booted feet of two of Higham Dry’s bounty hunters upon his driving cape and still at gunpoint by the Naval officer, resolutely hiding his head under the small mat.

I lift up one corner, and he screams.

Justin,” I greet him. “Can you summon the rickshaw?”

My wife smash all of them up already!” he rages. “I am grounded!”

But I’ve seen rugs, captive on the aircraft-carrier outside…” I begin. “Is that your wife General Lissima’s boat? The big Naval ship? Could we get away from here on just a flying carpet?”

You should be so lucky!” Justin scoffs. “You never sneak one past her! Believe me, every day I have tried! Sometimes four, no, six times a day!”

Lady Glandula is using her attendants as ammunition, seizing the poor helpless zombies by the legs and battering them against Higham Dry Senior’s armoured hull. He deflects them effortlessly, scattering spare parts. My housemate screams as a dusty skull rolls over her foot.

Perhaps you should be the one thinking about mediation and counselling?” Higham Dry’s robotic voice chuckles, as he gives her tentacle a whip-crack, causing her to drop the enormous urn she had been poised to throw.

The gods and I do not see eye-to-eye!” she spits.

Shouldn’t have declared war on him while you were alive, then, should you?” Higham Dry replies, winding her tentacle around a pillar to deliver a body-blow. “You wouldn’t have had to run away to Egypt in the first place. Or had the most important Incantations taken away from you.”

Atum took everything!” she roars, and the pillar crumbles as she contracts the tentacle, breaking free. “To the bottom of the ocean! Everything that was mine! My country! My culture! My business! My empire!”

I can see where Crispin gets his monopoly fixation from,” Ace’s voice joins us.

Ace!” I gasp. “Where’s Luke?”

Said he was going to sort out his marriage.” Ace looks dubious. “I hope that means he’s got a bigger knife than she does.”

I look across at the altar. Crispin and Beneficience are still tussling with the sacrificial tools. Having disarmed one another several times already, they are now down to the hooks and the leather belt-roll, in a stroppy Tug O’War that I can clearly see harks back to their childhood as merely playful cousins.

Of Luke, there is no sign.

I need to get the clockwork hand back,” I say. “I think it might be able to stop them…”

I have a better idea,” says Justin Time’s Naval officer guard. We look up in surprise, and she pulls off her dark peaked cap. Before I can react, she has twitched the little leather-bound diary out of my hand. “How about you all wait here with Higham Dry Senior’s men, and I’ll get the clockwork hand back?”

General Lissima!” I cry out. No!

I told you,” Justin Time groans into his comfort-rug, as his wife runs off with the precious diary, grinning. “I try to sneak one past her many times! She always one sucker ahead!”

Over by the pedestal, Crispin and Beneficience knock the remainder of the floral display off the altar, and roll around inelegantly on the floor.

Mine!” shrieks Beneficience, currently on top, with Crispin compressed beneath her suffocating bosom.

Yield!” Crispin manages to blurt out, before his head disappears again under an enormous polka-dot corsage.

Play nicely, kids,” Ace remarks, a statement which does something else weird to my ovaries. “Should we do something?”

Oh, yes, I’m thinking – but it’s probably not appropriate right now.

I wouldn’t even know whose side we’re on at the present moment,” I admit.

The one where none of us ends up with more alien squid tentacle butt plugs than we started out with,” Ace reminds me.

I glance up at the three bounty hunters guarding us, wishing I knew what their weaknesses are…

“‘When I fall in love, it will be for ever…’”

The tussle at the foot of the pedestal becomes a frozen tableau.

“‘Or I’ll never fall in love…’”

Beneficience raises her head uncertainly.

Gaylord?” she snaps. “Is that you?”

Homer, ever vigilant for a song and dance number, hurries to the foot of the steps leading up the pedestal, and gestures upward with his pom-poms.

At the top, his bow-tie and cuffs straightened, a single dead rose from the altar clutched between his hands, Luke is singing to the rafters.

Ooh, that lovely!” Higham Dry Senior the cyborg approves, windmilling an unfortunate zombie attendant in each hand like a nunchaku expert. “It take a hard woman to reject a man with great big lungs like those!”

Crispin struggles free from beneath his plus-sized cousin, and looks wildly at the vacant altar and suspended wooden cross of torture.

Nooo!” he cries, pitifully. “The ceremony – all ruined!”

No!” screams Lady Glandula, now using her tentacle to defend against Higham Dry’s attack. “Make him stop!”

Yesss,” hisses another voice, and I look in its direction to see Mrs. Time, General Cutthroat Liss, clockwork hand in her grasp and stripping the flesh from the zombie still hanging onto it with her own tentacle.

The gray skin and connective tissue slides off the bones easily, like a well-cooked spare rib.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch Man v. Lunch again…

I’ll go after the General and the clockwork hand,” says Ace, close to my ear. “You stay here with Whatserface and find a way to distract the bounty hunters.”

How?” I demand, looking at my useless companions.

Justin Time with his head still stubbornly under the pointless rug. My housemate Shithead, huddling up between the drunk billy goat and the albino donkey. And an even less helpful Carvery Slaughter – turned to stone. My heart sinks.

I don’t think you can retrieve DNA samples from stone… what a waste…

Oh, Gaylord…” says Beneficience, a tear in her eye and clasping her breast, as Luke sings on. “Can you forgive me?”

The panels in the great wooden pyramid start to creak, and slide apart, allowing bright shafts of sunlight through. Slowly, the structure retracts into the deck of the giant barge.

You’ll think of something,” Ace assures me.

I give up. What do Higham Dry’s bounty hunters really want…?

As a last resort, I snatch the rug from Justin Time’s head, and spin it away across the deck as he scrabbles to retain it.

Justin Time is escaping!” I yell. “Trying to steal that doormat! Stop him!”

It works – the three bounty hunters launch themselves after the errant rickshaw pilot, and pin him to the floor. Ace dashes off in the other direction.

It’s nothing!” Justin Time protests, struggling. “A trinket! A souvenir! Nothing special! Not prototype, or anything important like that!”

The last of the panels is now flush with the deck, and my housemate squints up into the daylight.

Oh, no,” she moans vaguely. “It’s going to rain.”

Pop Quim, hopscotch!” says Higham Dry, throwing another unlucky zombie, javelin-style, at Lady Glandula. “If a man sing up a storm, who remember to bring umbrella?”

Nooo!” she shouts. “Make him stop singing!

I look up at the sky, into a gathering funnel of gunmetal-gray cloud. The Great Barge, usually as steady as a rock, begins to quiver.

Not bad, lovely boy…” I echo. My voice is barely audible, even to my own ears. “Louder…”

‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’ trailer – Enjoy 🙂

Read on for more mindless mayhem – see below…

The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

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