Nirvana vs. Dead or Alive – Spins Like Teen Spirit mash-up…
“Justin Time!” a voice hails, and then, rather predictably I feel: “Traitor!”
“Who have you upset now, Justin?” I ask, struggling to my feet, brushing sand and alien squid-goo from my clothing.
“Bah, it is only my cousin,” Justin grumbles. “Everyone, meet Seymour Time. Seymour, meet everyone. There, introductions made.”
The wiry dark individual, in the combat trousers and red bandana, armed with a crossbow, sidles out of the tree-line at the top of the beach, eyeing us with the sort of suspicion reserved for doorstep salesmen.
“Your wife has been asking after you, cousin!” the newcomer greets our coolie-hatted rickshaw pilot. “She has tortured at least six good men to death already.”
“She is here?” Justin’s voice becomes a desperate squeak.
“Not now, she got bored, went fishing,” Seymour shrugs, and shoulders his crossbow. “Ah, Mr. Dry. A privilege to see you, sir.”
“Mr. Seymour Time,” Crispin acknowledges, straightening up. “Can you take us to the medical facility? My brother Homer needs attention. He has just delivered a pair of bouncing baby Squidmorphs.”
“You’re telling me,” I groan, having just performed service as ‘the bouncee’ – still trying to clean slime from my ears.
“Good man! That would kill a lesser person. Yes, you must come to the field hospital. That blanket will make a stretcher.”
“Of course.” Crispin arranges Homer on the old blanket. “Sarah, call the others, to assist.”
Reluctantly, I shade my eyes to seek out Ace, Carvery and Luke, who have wandered further down the beach to look at the blaze going on in the forest.
“Hey!” I yell. “We’re moving on!”
* * * * *
We trudge along the barely-there footpath through the jungle, the sad ravaged gray sack of skin and bone that is Homer suspended in the blanket between Crispin, Carvery, Ace and Luke. Seymour leads the way, and I follow behind with Justin Time, who is decidedly jumpy, and flinches at every waving leaf.
We emerge from the trees into an open encampment of khaki tents, some haphazardly marked with blood-red crosses. Men wearing a mixture of combat fatigues and Hawaiian shirts are occupied with moving crates of supplies, transporting patients from one tent to another, or playing croquet on the small air-strip.
“Good thing you didn’t choose to land here,” Seymour remarks. “The Colonel hates it when you mess up his game.”
“He’d have been even worse off, trying to catch a hatching Squidmorph,” says Justin wryly.
Seymour shouts in foreign, I don’t know what, and a few others hurry over and guide us to the largest temporary shelter.
As our eyes adjust to the gloom, lamps are switched on, and Homer is lifted and transferred onto a polished steel gurney – far cleaner and more hygienic than the one we just left in the Eight a.m. Lounge.
“Poor guy, he looks like the world dropped out of his bottom,” says Seymour. There is a flurry of activity, as people are lathering up their hands and being tugged into scrubs left and right. “We will need more than one donor, it appears.”
“I have organs here.” Crispin produces the linen bag from inside his jacket, containing the spare pieces of unfortunate Victorian streetwalker.
I blush horribly, from the inside-out. Seymour opens the bag, and sniffs the contents.
“These are lady-parts,” he observes.
“They were intended for another patient,” says Crispin. “But they are all we have to offer.”
“I don’t think Homer will complain,” Ace points out, while Carvery seems to be taking far too much interest in the array of surgical saws on the nearby trolley.
“Proceed,” Seymour shrugs, handing over the bag to a nurse, before turning to look me up and down. “You – Miss Hot-Limps. You are not sterile enough for this environment. Go to the outdoor shower and wash that Squid ejaculate off. Take some clean scrubs with you.”
I’ve seen enough spontaneous surgery already, after my housemate’s revival back at the University, and the streetwalker‘s impromptu dissection. I’m not sure I want to watch zombie quacks perform a sex-change on top of that.
I’d rather be back on the Body Farm, waiting for things to rot in peace. Not watching them get recycled and bounding around ghoulishly afterwards. Privately, I wonder how much of Crispin is original, and if he’s hiding something physiologically hijacked of his own up his sleeve – or anywhere else on his person…
“Now,” I hear Seymour saying, as I turn to head back outside. “Clean this V.I.P. patient up. Someone find the XY to XX re-plumbing diagram…”
“Ah,” Luke joins in, evidently fascinated, in his own cultural way. “I can see clearly now the brains have gone…”
I head back out into the sunshine with my armful of folded clean outerwear, just missing a golf-ball as it zips past my nose.
They seem rather playful for a warring tribe, here in the Nine a.m. Lounge. To my right, a one-legged man in a wheelchair is drinking something out of a cut-off Wellington boot. To my left, two soldiers sit playing dominoes, a wireless playing Barry White’s ‘My Everything’ crackling between them.
The shower is a Heath-Robinson-esque contraption under a large rainwater-collection barrel, shielded only from the world by a curtain rail. A rickety wash-stand proudly features a sliver of enthusiastically worn-down soap, a completely flattened long-handled scrubbing brush, and a bloodstained wire-wool pad.
I gulp. Some quite possibly psychotic ablutions have been performed here.
I step onto the non-slip rubber mat on the bare earth, and turn on the creaking tap. Jungle-tepid, gray-tinted water sputters from the colander overhead. I’m not sure it has the power to move any of this rapidly-thickening sludge from my person, but I pull the curtain around, and strip off the heavy Naval uniform anyway. The stupid clockwork hand, now dormant again, is currently clamped around my wrist, inextricable, like an OTT piece of Gothic bling.
I make the most of the remaining soap. Although I think I’m only making the hard brown bar of goodness knows what cleaner, rather than it cleaning me. I can see why the wire wool pad is here… but I use the matted scrubbing brush instead, vainly trying to achieve the slightest squeak of cleanliness against my own skin. At least the soap smell is surgical enough under the grime… maybe sandalwood, or pine. Perhaps smelling like a tree helps a soldier to hide in the forest…?
“It looks like Homer will recover, Sarah Bellummmm,” that devastating familiar voice interrupts my thoughts.
“Er, really?” I rub the feeble suds from my eyes to see Crispin standing in the shower cubicle with me, fully-clothed and apparently unaware of the half-hearted cascade of dirty water. But he looks so downcast, I try not to make an issue of the fact. “That is good news…”
“I am not sure that having ovaries and a uterus will benefit him,” Crispin sighs. “It is enough that he goes around dressed in Mother’s clothes, without asking if they make him look fat and getting depressed on a monthly basis as well.”
“Mmmm,” I agree, vaguely. Damn! Why didn’t I pick up a towel beforehand? I try to make myself as small and modest as possible behind the long-handled scrubbing-brush. “Have you, erm, yourself, ever had any – transplants?”
“What?” His head raises from his introspective gloom. “No, Sarah Bellummm. I have only been dead a fortnight. Nothing has fallen off – or fallen out – yet. But Homer has put himself through the wars. This is at least his third alimentary tract replacement. He did himself terrible damage when I first found him in the shed, surviving on broken beer-bottles and hedgehogs.”
“Oh dear.” I try not to picture Crispin reduced to such monosyllabic unsophistication, forgetting his mansion and vending machine empire, chomping on rats and fast-food wrappers at the bottom of some alleyway garbage skip. I shudder, wondering how long such a deterioration took to set in.
“We will have to find other bodily replacements for your housemate, Miss, Er… back on Mother’s barge in the Five a.m. Lounge,” Crispin adds, apologetically.
“Oh yes, her… umm…” I nod quickly. One of these days her name will just pop into my mind, I reassure myself. “Can she be revived?”
“The ambient spells aboard the Great Barge will keep her suspended for a little while, by proxy,” he tells me. “Mr. Slaughter and Mr. Lukan have gone to rummage in the medical waste bins for any identifiable rejects which could be utilised. Although I think Mr. Lukan is convinced the entrails of a goat could be substituted, and Mr. Slaughter does not seem to be enthusiastic at all.”
“What about Ace?” I ask, recklessly, perhaps rebelling against the intrusion onto my al fresco toilette.
“He has been asked to look at a problem with one of the ambulance trucks, since his suggestion that human organs could be substituted with a 50cc water-cooled two-stroke engine,” Crispin sighs. “It is a good thing my Grandfather, Higham Dry Senior, is not within earshot. He’s always on the look-out for alternative technology to clockwork organ replacements. He would shanghai Mr. Bumgang away to one of his surgical sweat-shops in an instant…”
I have no time to respond, as the end of his sentence is drowned out by the low whir of a siren, getting louder and higher, like the whine of a giant hornet.
“Air-raid!” someone shouts. “Incoming rickshaws, twelve o’clock!”
“Quickly, Sarah Bellummm!” Crispin grabs my hand and tries to pull me out of the cubicle. “To the shelters!”
“But…” I make a desperate grab for the clean scrubs, clutching them to me defensively as I am hustled out into the open. “I’m not rinsed off yet!”
Arrows and spears are already thudding into the ground, as we race for the half-submerged corrugated-iron Nissen hut entrance. I am shoved unceremoniously inside, where the pitch darkness makes it impossible to see anything, at first.
The drumming of arrowheads off the iron roof, under its thin covering of earth, is almost deafening, while I attempt to pull on the cotton scrubs. It’s only when I find myself lacking a head-hole that I realise I must have put my legs down the sleeves, and have to start over.
A loudspeaker somewhere outside joins the sound of the siren.
“Camp update: Mr. Crispin Dry and his naked lady-friend, Hot-Limps, have made it to the air-raid shelter in twenty-two seconds,” the announcer says, cheerfully. “No more bets please, and the initial figures say we have only one winner in this morning’s race, not including the sweepstakes… And now, some music. Another track from the walnuts of love, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones – this one goes out to all of you with wives and girlfriends – let’s hope they never find out about each other, so we can all enjoy a little more of that Brown Sugar…”
M*A*S*H movie trailer, Donald Sutherland et al – enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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