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
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