The Grid with ‘Texas Cowboys’ from 1994…
Not wanting to encounter Hermit Squidmorphs again being the first on my personal list, I hurry out of the bivalve basking-beds in the surf. I don’t stop hurrying until I’m a considerable distance from the shoreline.
“That’s where we should be heading anyway,” says Carvery resignedly, wading out after me. “Got to pick up a Pumpkin, before she turns back into fertiliser.”
“But we don’t have any spare parts,” Ace replies, shaking water out of his own Stetson, and putting it back on.
“I can see two sets, from where I’m standing,” Carvery remarks, looking from me to Homer and back again. “I’m sure between them, they could manage on fifty percent each. Sarah’s never going to use half of hers anyway, and Homer only wants to look good in a thong.”
“You are thinking very practically, Mr. Slaughter,” Crispin concedes, to my annoyance. “But it may not be necessary. Our mother keeps many spare parts preserved in ceramic jars aboard her Great Barge, as is traditional. If Sarah Bellummm can summon the powers now within the clockwork hand, which appears to be favouring her, I’m sure those organs could be restored to full working order.”
Gosh – I don’t know if I’m capable of that. The clockwork hand still seems to be very much under its own command. But the idea is preferable to donating my own…
“Good idea,” says Carvery, apparently thinking likewise. “Wouldn’t want Sarah thinking her innards were about to see any action. Whether she’s attached to them at the time or not.”
It hadn’t crossed my mind, but I blush anyway. Damn. I wonder if it’s too late to volunteer?
“Do you hear that?” Luke cuts in, interrupting my thoughts of loss of virginity by proxy. “Something’s coming.”
We strain our ears. I’m sure I pick up on a distant roaring noise.
“Sounds like the Nine a.m. fighter jets,” says Ace.
“We should make a move,” says Crispin. “We would not want to be sitting targets, for whatever approaches.”
The thought is mutual. We head further up the beach into the shade of the date palm trees, only slightly startling some donkeys, who are cooling themselves out of the sun.
“Hooome,” says Homer, pointing at them.
One reaches out obligingly, to sample the tip of his finger.
“This might be a good time to practise your sidesaddle indeed, Homer!” Crispin agrees, as the donkey masticates the fingertip lethargically. Embarrassingly, my stomach growls in empathy. “It is no harder than riding a camel. Everyone, find a mount.”
I find a docile-looking albino donkey that regards me guilelessly from under its white lashes, and after falling off the far side only three times, I manage to scramble aboard, and stay upright.
Crispin is the last to clamber astride, and the patchwork herd as a whole, even those without riders, sets off in the direction of the pyramids. Their conical, hairy ears have a life of their own, waggling and signalling and rotating independently, like little radars.
I’m missing Paris already, and its soothingly clement weather. Another dose of desert heat is not what I needed today, even though my wet (and still enchanted) clothes are already drying to a crisp against my sore skin.
“They’re circling way out over the sea,” Luke reports, looking behind us, as we proceed at a lumpy jog across the patchy desert. “What are they doing so far offshore?”
“Maybe they’ve spotted a flying rickshaw,” Carvery suggests.
There is the barest hint of a shadow passing over the sun, and the fat gray donkey plodding along to my right is suddenly gone. I can hear the echoes of its braying on the breeze.
“What was that?!” I shriek, staring back at the spot where its hoof-prints in the sand abruptly end.
The second time I feel the rush of air, and hear a clack-clack-clacking sound, before another donkey vanishes skywards.
“You know what you said about sitting targets, Crispin?” Ace begins, as the donkeys, panicking, start to run.
And this time I see the shadow clearly, spreadeagled on the sand as it approaches, and hunch myself low over my brave little donkey’s neck, as she accelerates to a full bolt.
“Do not worry, Sarah Bellummm!” I hear Crispin calling out to me, my ears full of donkey-mane. “There is no methane here! The Pterodactyls will be unable to ignite a flame!”
“You’re not riding behind Homer!” Luke shouts back at him. “There’s enough gas emanating from his mule to light up Miami!”
As if on cue, Homer squeals as his mount leaves the ground, tail-end first. He topples forwards over its ears, with a rip of peacock-blue satin – landing rather neatly across Luke’s lap on the donkey behind.
“Geddoff!” yells Luke. “My feet are almost dragging along the ground already…”
Ace draws up alongside and grabs Homer by the bustle, hoisting him off Luke’s overloaded and short-legged ride, and tossing him unceremoniously onto the next available mount.
Again – I can’t control that feeling of envy at being manhandled by Ace Bumgang. Why is it, whenever I need rescuing, I get the psychopath with the donor-organ-harvesting fixation?
Well, at least he’s efficient, I think – as Carvery catches up and sideswipes my donkey hard, so that the nose-diving Pterodactyl I hadn’t seen coming misses, and ploughs into the dust with an almighty crash, right where I would have been.
Maybe he’s got a killer’s ego. Nothing is allowed to do it better than him…? I should have paid more attention to research during the Criminology module of Forensic Anthropology, instead of playing Draw My Thing online…
The stampeding donkeys trample the fallen Pterodactyl thoroughly as we make our escape. The roar of a Nine a.m. Lounge jet hits us instead as it cuts across our path, banking sharply, and another Pterodactyl is gunned down out of the sky.
“Is this what they mean when they say ‘Everything happened at once’?” Luke calls out.
“Quite literally, Mr Lukan!” Crispin replies. “All at the same time!”
“Everything is not happening at once!” I shout back irritably, spitting out bits of flying mane as I cling to my donkey’s neck. “I am still a virgin, you know!”
“Glad to hear it, Sarah Bellummm!” says Crispin.
Oh, yes. I’d forgotten about his ulterior motives…
“We should dismount,” he announces. “Before the fighters begin carpet-bombing.”
“But,” I puff, trying to slow my juddering and panting donkey down. “We don’t even have a carpet with us at the moment…”
The jet banks again over the beach behind, looping around for another pass.
“That’s not what it means, Dumb-ass,” Carvery warns, jumping from the back of his steed without stopping. “And it doesn’t mean they’re about to deliver one, either.”
“Better pray they don’t have napalm yet.” Ace follows suit.
From the belly of the approaching aircraft, a thin blazing line drops silently to Earth.
“Too late,” says Luke.
Hypnotised, I watch as the glowing ribbon falls – and where it strikes, the dust explodes, in incendiary plumes of yellow and gold burning death…
The trampled Pterodactyl erupts, its carcass rising up briefly like a phoenix, before it disintegrates and disperses throughout the fireball as black ash.
I’m dimly aware of Crispin’s hand reaching out to seize my ride’s mane as he gallops past, yanking us out of the flight-path, and over the edge of a large gully into an incredibly muddy river…
Above us, the trail of meltdown destruction continues until the jet peels off and doubles back, leaving a vapour trail across an azure sky already filling with black smoke.
“That was close, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin’s voice says.
I realise my teeth are chattering, and I’m not the only one. My albino donkey, still clamped between my terrified legs, is now a grayer shade of mud and trembling with shock.
“You know what this means, don’t you?” says Ace.
“What?” asks Carvery.
“Everyone in the Six a.m. Lounge is now off their tits on Guinness ambulance fuel.” Ace waggles his hand, as if holding a pint glass. “Drunk rickshaw pilots galore, and goat curry on the menu.”
“Justin Time must have leaked,” Carvery muses. “I would, if I was married to that trigger-happy ho. Everywhere.”
Homer is looking down at his ruined prom dress and crying like it’s the end of the world. Luke is undoing his bow-tie and cuffs, evidently feeling that the time to be in formal attire is well and truly over.
I remember what Crispin’s cousin Sandy said to me, about the Nine a.m. Lounge…
‘They look forward to the day they believe that the taxmen and regulators will flatten our haven of peaceful business…’
What if they can’t wait any more and have decided to hurry things up, now that they have the fuel as well as the the firepower?
I look down at the glowing clockwork hand, clamped around my wrist. Full of rabid Zombie Nun spell.
Probably not much use against napalm.
“Crispin,” I say, seriously. “I don’t think this is just fun and games anymore.”
He looks solemn.
“I believe you are right, Sarah Bellummm,” he says, heaving a sigh. “There has not been a full-scale conflict between the Lounges in my lifetime. But the signs are hard to ignore.”
“You think?” I reply, trying to rein in my distress. “The occupants of a gun-toting war-zone get the recipe for unlimited fuel and napalm, and you’re considering that they might just sit happily in their jungle with ambulances that work and functional oil-lamps that don’t smell of Guinness?”
“Not to mention that you’ve now got a megalomaniac undead elderly relative with a fort full of piss-drunk military on his hands,” Ace chips in. “They could declare war on just about anywhere – and not even remember doing it by tomorrow morning.”
Crispin stands up, and his darkened face is unreadable against the sun and the backdrop of burning napalm.
“This is why not all business competition is healthy!” he roars, and my donkey jumps, its nerves in almost as bad a state as my underwear. “Without regulating, people just run about doing as they please, manufacturing anything they like! Recreational alcohol that contains no recreation! Junk food items that are all junk! I will not have it!”
And he stamps off upriver, like a toddler who has had his last balloon burst on his birthday.
“Monopoly,” Luke repeats under his breath.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have said that about his Grandpappy, Ace,” Carvery remarks.
“What?” Ace turns his palms skywards. “He is old, and undead.”
“Hooome,” says Homer, pointing after his brother sadly.
Crispin is already a grumpy black silhouette, against the distant pyramids.
“Yes, let’s go,” I agree, and move to help the bedraggled Homer to his feet. “We’ll go and find some of your mother’s nice clothes for you to change into.”
Homer has to be helped onto the back of my surviving donkey, too distressed to walk, and I coax it along the river bank gently, while he whimpers, with not one mention of anything being Goood.
Ace, Carvery and Luke trail behind.
“I’m getting a really weird sense of deja-vu,” says Luke, thoughtfully. “Aren’t you?”
“Nah,” Ace grunts. “You mistake me for a wise man, Luke.”
“The only deja-vu I’m getting is one about a big alien sucker tentacle,” says Carvery, and I glance back to see him taking out his Taser and squinting at it. “I think this might be out of charge…”
“Still got one cartridge, though,” Ace points out, indicating the shotgun strapped to Carvery’s back.
“Yeah, saving that, though,” Carvery reminds him, loud enough to remind me at the same time. “In case those donor organs up ahead try to run away.”
I scowl at him. Before I can turn around again, behind them I spot the distant dot of a jet fighter as it drops from its stacking loop in the skies above the sea, and dips for another approach up our muddy gully…
“Like now?” I reply, as the advancing engine roar meets our ears.
The others turn to look, and swear.
“Fuck,” says Carvery. “Everybody down!”
Homer gives an indignant squeal, as I push him off the donkey back into the water.
Still on my feet, I wrench angrily at the stubborn clockwork hand, but it won’t budge from my arm.
“Do something!” I shout at it. “Anything!”
“Get down, Fuckwit!” Carvery is shouting at me in turn.
This time, there is no line of liquid fire as the aircraft bears down upon us. Worried, I turn and look to where Crispin is trudging onwards, up ahead.
Maybe he’s the target…
“Crispin!” I yell in warning.
But he ignores me – or can’t hear me…
The stupid clockwork hand just glows in a radioactive fashion, but does nothing.
“Even if you can only do zombie nuns!” I beg of it. “Do something! Blow something up! Change something! Stop acting like costume jewellery!”
A metallic twang slices through the air, and there is a scream behind me.
I look upwards just in time to see the jet soaring away, carrying off our taxi-driver Luke – on the end of a long, barbed steel cable.
Original trailer v.2 for ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ – Enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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