Alice Cooper classic – ‘Feed My Frankenstein’…
I scream, but the jet vanishes all too quickly over the blue horizon.
Desperately, I look ahead – Crispin is barely a speck in the distance, against the pyramids. And he looks like a bad-tempered speck too…
“What would they want with Luke?” Ace asks, as he and Carvery pick themselves off the riverbed, catching up with us to help the now hysterical Homer back out of the mud, and onto the donkey once more. “The dude’s harmless. I’ve seen more evil bones in a bagel.”
“Maybe they still think he’s a treasure-thief,” Carvery speculates. “They don’t take too kindly to that sort hanging around near their ancient tombs.”
“They don’t seem to be taking too kindly to anyone much at the moment,” I remark, looking up at the top of the gully.
Outlined against the smoke-filled sky, faces are appearing, peeking down at us over the edge. Gray faces, attached to lanky gray bodies in little more than loincloths. Five becomes ten, and ten rapidly becomes twenty…
“I don’t suppose you fancy giving them a bit more of the old Moulin Gris, Homer?” Ace suggests, as the ranks of slave zombies lining the river increase exponentially.
“I don’t think they’ll fall for that one again,” Carvery replies, as Homer looks thoughtful. “Even if he does have the right qualifications now, under that dress.”
Behind us, some of the slave zombies slither down the steep ochre bank, and form a line across the shallow riverbed.
“Guess we keep moving,” says Ace. “I hope Crispin knows what he’s doing.”
That’s what’s worrying me – but I don‘t mention it. The last time I upset Crispin, we all ended up chained to grubby bathroom fittings in an underground cell…
Herded by the surrounding gray zombies, we head further inland towards the pyramids, and to where our mud-filled trench adjoins the main river.
* * * * *
Lady Glandula’s wooden-hulled Great Barge is even bigger and more imposing than I remember. But that’s not all, currently moored on the riverbanks.
A giant gray steel aircraft carrier is now anchored alongside, almost parallel in size – and a row of Nine a.m. Lounge fighter jets are stationed along the runway of its upper deck.
“I don’t like the look of this,” I remark to Homer, and my exhausted albino donkey. “From what I’ve learned about inter-Lounge relations so far, I don’t think they’re here to borrow a cup of sugar.”
The aircraft carrier has already seen some action, by the appearance of things. Shattered dinosaur corpses are piled up at one end of the runway, and an industrial-sized fishing net full of captive flying carpets flaps helplessly on the end of its restraints.
“They’ve been busy, since getting their hands on moonshine fuel and napalm,” Ace observes, as he and Carvery catch up with us.
“Pity the other Lounges,” Carvery agrees. “Hey, maybe they’ve already neutered Lady Glandula de Bathtub. That would be a bonus.”
“Save you the trouble,” I remark absently.
Prodded onward by the slave zombies, we ascend the gangplank onto the Great Barge. Greeted by more of Lady Glandula’s attendant zombies from earlier, in their red leather chaps, we are escorted again into the huge wooden torchlit pyramid.
But instead of featuring Lady Glandula de Bartholine as a statue on the imposing pedestal as the centrepiece, there is the far more recognisable – and apparently still deceased – body of my housemate, Whatserface, supine on the wooden plinth at its base.
“Crap,” says Ace. “They found her already.”
“Not exactly, Mr. Bumgang,” says a familiar voice, and an equally familiar figure lurches into view, from behind the gory display. “We are just preparing for the Rejuvenation ceremony. Glad you could all join us.”
“Crispin?” I gasp.
He looks so different…
Instead of the expensive black wool suit I‘ve only seen him in thus far, he has changed – into something far more traditionally undead. Ragged, bloodstained denim jeans and a torn grubby shirt hang casually off his masculine zombie frame, in a way that short-circuits all of my mental strength and resistance.
It’s so deliberate… it’s so undeniably…
…Like your Mr. Wheelie-Bin, I hear his voice taunting in my brain, brutally.
“Who’s ‘we’?” Carvery asks him, warily, while my mind reels from the unexpected visual assault. “Is your Mum here?”
“No need to rush things, Mr. Slaughter,” says Crispin, calmly. A pair of zombie attendants are arranging earthenware pots of various sizes alongside Thingummyjig’s inert form on the plinth. “We are a few organs short, but I believe that suitable replacements are on the way. Sarah Bellummm?”
“Hmmm?” I respond, still in shock at his change of turn-out.
He smiles lopsidedly, knowing he’s delivered a blow below the belt.
How dare he? Knowing that I’ve got a soft spot for all those poor bodies, naturally decrepitating on the Body Farm…?
“You have assisted in surgery once already,” he reminds me. He moves towards the plinth and unrolls an embossed leather case, and I see the array of shiny hooks and blades glinting within. “Would you reprise your position on this occasion? Or would you prefer a more… passive role this time?”
I look from my housemate’s pale, waxlike body, to the golden clockwork hand clamped around my arm. Dreading to think what sort of impact zombie-frog-nun magic will have on her – organs or no organs…
“We can try,” I say loftily, pulling myself together. “If Carvery has enough charge left in his Taser to help resuscitate…?”
I glance at Carvery, but he shakes his head.
“I’m sure you can find a way to channel the power of my father’s right hand,” says Crispin, confidently. “If not – we have other resources here…”
“You are not sterile!” says a booming voice, and suddenly I’m drenched from head to foot. “That’s better!”
Blinking away the effect of the uninvited bucket of lavender-scented water, I can make out a huge shape waddling past me, from behind the taller pedestal in the centre of the pyramid. She resembles a fertility goddess in all the most generous ways, not so much wearing bright colours and patterns as swaddled and pleated into them, like a fat and jolly Christmas cracker, covered in ribbons, bows, tinsel and beads.
“My cousin, Beneficience Vassally Dry,” says Crispin, a hint of pride in his voice. “Beneficience has spent her life researching the phenomenon of witch-doctors, and their powers of suggestion on the superstitious mind. As well as raising the orphans she has rescued from their clutches…”
Corporal Punishment – of course…
“…Should all other technology and magic fail, Beneficence assures me that the old traditional methods still have their uses.”
Beneficience is setting out bunches of dried herbs and flowers around my housemate’s corpse, flicking infused oil over her from a small ceremonial flail, and scattering citrus peel alongside.
“Traditional methods of what?” Ace asks, quizzically. “Barbecue marinade?”
“I’m still full,” Carvery adds. “I had chilled monk brains for breakfast.”
“Speaking of braiiiinsss…” Crispin remarks. “Our remaining organs seem to be arriving. Just in time.”
We look round, and do indeed see Justin Time entering the pyramid. At zombie Naval officer gunpoint, pushing a small wheelbarrow.
“This is all that was recovered, on your instructions,” the captive rickshaw pilot grumbles angrily. “That old man, he was a very mean haggler. He wanted a new house with full indoor plumbing!”
“I’m sure it was worth it,” Crispin muses, as the wheelbarrow squeaks to a halt beside me. “Yes – these seem to be intact…”
“Oh, no, Crispin…” I murmur, in horror. “Not THOSE brains…”
The donor organs are entangled in a mass of Sister Summer Jaundice’s striped nunnery stockings, and bits of splintered cello.
“It is a fifty-fifty chance, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin announces, detaching a cheerleader pom-pom from the mess. “Miss December very kindly signed her donor card as well.”
“And you owe me a new girlfriend!” Justin Time spits, receiving a sharp nudge from the muzzle of the officer’s gun.
“Now, now, Mr. Time,” says Crispin, while Homer slides off the donkey and homes in on the rescued pom-poms. “There are eleven more months on the calendar. I’m sure you will find one to your taste before your wife obliterates them all. Um. Are these necessary for female resuscitation, does anyone know?”
“God, don’t give her those,” Carvery groans, as Crispin rummages in the wheelbarrow and holds a pair of silicone implants aloft. “She’ll never stop talking about them.”
“Mother might find them amusing…” Crispin ponders, but catches his cousin Beneficience’s disapproving eye. “Perhaps not. Sarah Bellummm, would you identify and prepare the heart and braiiinsss from this mélange?”
Reluctantly, I scoop the required replacements from the wheelbarrow and transfer them to silver dishes, plucking out chips of wood and strands of tinsel.
If only there was a way of telling if it is the musical witch’s heart or brain! Someone has to pay their share of the rent… but I don’t think I want to live with a housemate whose solution to disagreements is to turn the opposition into frogs. Or nuns…
But the sad soggy lumps of inactive tissue give me no clues at all. No puffs of green smoke, no flashes of glitter. Not even when Beneficience Vassally Dry wafts a stick of burning sage over them, mysteriously humming Follow the Yellow Brick Road to herself.
“Now, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says darkly, taking up the largest surgical knife. I gulp. “Shall I insert, while you stitch up?”
Homer twirls past with Miss December’s recovered pom-poms, and Beneficience continues her humming and chanting and air-smudging with the sage, as we commence work on Miss Frankenminky once more.
“What are you hoping for?” Ace asks Carvery, as they stand by and watch, with the armed guard and the still-grumbling Justin Time. “Boy or a girl?”
“I don’t think it matters,” Carvery replies. “I won’t be touching it.”
Within a short interim, once again Crispin and I are facing one another over the watertight – if still dead, and this time partially pickled – corpse of my housemate.
“Now,” says Crispin, wiping off his hands on those mind-numbingly ragged jeans. “To resuscitate her…”
“Oh,” I snap sarcastically. “You wanted her alive?”
“Well, of course ALIVE, Sarah Bellummm,” he echoes, without a hint of irony in his tone. “Mother is quite specific about that requirement. We can try some of your earlier suggestions… invoke a special god, say some magic words – we are already in a forbidden temple, obviously. Oh – and sacrifice an illegal immigrant. That was an excellent idea.”
A creaking sound reaches our ears from the ceiling above, and a dark shape begins to lower from the apex of the wooden pyramid.
“A very suitable idea,” Beneficience Vassally Dry concurs, in her bass rumble.
The shape appears in the torchlight as a large wooden cross, affixed to a wheel suspended by chains from the darkness overhead.
Bound to the cross, bleeding, but still breathing, is…
“Luke!” I cry out, before I can stop myself. “No!”
“Beneficience is quite sure that the ceremonial sacrifice method could work,” says Crispin. “Unless you have found a better way to control the clockwork hand, Sarah Bellummm.”
Our taxi-driver tries to raise his head from his chest, but is either unwilling or unable to acknowledge us.
I try to wrestle the clockwork hand from my arm, pressing on the gemstones, attempting to lever up the fingertips.
“What?” Beneficience explodes, snapping the building tension in the room, like a ripe carrot. “Crispin! You promised! I have waited since nineteen seventy-one!”
“Not now, Beneficience…” Crispin mutters.
But his rotund cousin is fuming.
“Not only did he leave me deserted, a virtual widow, he has made a mockery of my mission – by fathering bastard children to every witch-doctor he can find ever since! Sometimes even seducing them with a fish-and-chip supper! My favourite!” Beneficience throws her sage-stick to the ground, and jumps up and down on it petulantly. “You promised! You will have your revenge, you told me!”
“See?” Justin Time says triumphantly, slapping Ace on the back. “Perfectly normal! I told you, no-one is worse than my wife!”
“I’ll take yours any day,” Ace remarks. “Seriously.”
“I think Mr. Lukan found your methods of obtaining marital sympathy from the local elders and priests objectionable, dear cousin,” Crispin says, soothingly. “You will know your vengeance, as promised. But for now, negotiations take priority.”
“I’m doomed either way, Sarah,” Luke’s voice croaks, and I look up at his miserable limp form on the cross. “Don’t do it. It’s for the Queen…”
“How dare you! Runaway husbands should be seen and not heard!” Beneficience grabs an olive branch from the altar, and beats him soundly with it.
“Well, Sarah Bellummm?” Crispin prompts me, to the background noise of thwacking olive branch and shaking pom-poms. “How shall we proceed?”
How indeed… I give up on trying to activate the clockwork hand, my fingers blistered and raw.
And what did Luke mean…?
Before I can summon an answer, there is a flash overhead.
A lightning bolt appears from nowhere – inside the pyramid – and strikes out, earthing itself on every available downward surface. The pedestal, the chains suspending Luke’s wooden cross, the plinth with the body of my stitched-up housemate, which arches and contorts inhumanly… and finally, the floor.
Throwing up sparks, with the smell of scorched cedar.
Three flapping figures descend the bolt in a huddle, their coolie-hats and chain-mail masks all too recognisable, landing with a resounding thud.
The lightning fades as they turn to face us, swirling their capes outward, and folding their arms in an attitude of intimidating attention.
Oh, God – Higham Dry Senior’s Six a.m. Lounge bounty hunters…
A small white billy goat skids out from amongst their armoured legs abruptly, belches a large Guinness burp, and runs to hide behind our donkey.
“Damn, I nearly had him that time!” shrieks a wizened and familiar voice, behind the first bounty hunter’s cloak. “Er, help an old man up, somebody. Stupid knees only bending one way these days.”
Tim Burton’s 2012 ‘Frankenweenie’ trailer – enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords