Re-Flex v. Bill Hicks v. George Carlin – Politics of Dancing mash-up…
The darkness after the flash is even darker, outlined in red and green, imprinted with the pattern of the blood vessels in my own eyeballs. The air is still rushing past, our flying rickshaw now soaring unimpeded, as straight as an arrow. And the clockwork hand is dull and lifeless, its power absorbed from the Pterydactyl flames completely spent. The only new sensation is a strange tickling, as if the air is full of downy-soft feathers, or warm snowflakes.
There is a mechanical whir beside me, and I recognise the sound of the Trevor Baylis torch being wound up, before the beam clicks on again.
“Great shot, Fuckwit,” says Carvery, grudgingly. “That was one genocide in a million.”
The torchlight bounces back off hundreds of thousands of little white skeletons, scattered over our blanket on the rickshaw, and hanging as if at roost from the ceiling of the cave. Carvery holds out a hand to catch a tiny bat skull as it drifts by. It is perfect in every detail, clean and as dry as – well, dry as a bone.
Carvery blows on it, and it vanishes into a powder.
Halloween snowflakes, indeed…
We exchange a look, and he gestures at the golden clockwork hand still gripped in my own, with the barrel of the shotgun, still in his.
“I’m saving one cartridge,” he says. “So if you ever point that thing at me, just remember that I’ll blow your fucking head off.”
“She’d probably enjoy that,” Ace Bumgang replies. “It’d be the first time anyone’s blown anything of hers.”
Carvery nods wryly, and hands me my torch back. It’s still warm from his hand, and I get a guilty thrill, recalling that Ace handled it briefly as well.
I wonder how much viable DNA I could recover from either of them touching it? I wish I had an evidence bag, or a surgical swab on me…
“Not far now,” Crispin’s deep voice intones. “Remember – the clockwork hand’s power can be renewed – always.”
“I think I see the light,” Luke confirms.
We stare into the distance, the endless reams of skeletons now starting to thin out a little. Ace clambers back up from the foot of the rickshaw for a better view, brushing white bone dust off his distractingly muscular arms and bare chest.
Oh – what I wouldn’t do for some of that DNA…
“You missed a bit,” Carvery says. “Looks like you’ve done whiz.”
Ace checks the crotch of his Naval uniform trousers, bemused.
“Not that kind of whiz.” Carvery points at his nose. “You got a go-faster speed stripe right there.”
Ace’s brow unfurrows in comprehension, and he rubs his face with the back of his arm.
“If I did snort this stuff,” he says, between wipes, “would I turn into a vampire?”
“You could try, Mr. Bumgang,” Crispin ponders, mildly. “I am sure, after the blast, all traces of rabies and other diseases will have been eradicated.”
Ace shrugs, looks at the remaining white residue on his hands, and tests it out on his tongue.
“What’s it like?” Carvery asks.
“Bit like a fart in an old people’s home.” Ace rubs a finger around his teeth, into his gums. “Menthol and Werther’s, with a hint of coffee and dead thing.”
“Sounds like the secret ingredient for brewing Guinness, that they might be missing in the Six a.m. Lounge,” Carvery remarks.
“What, old people?” I repeat.
“We’ll just tell them to substitute menthol, Werther’s, coffee and dead thing,” Carvery reassures me. “Although knowing Crispin’s Grandpappy, most likely they’re already using dead thing, of one species or another.”
“And old people,” Ace agrees, dusting the last of the powder from his hands. “Speaking of old people and dead things, Homer’s not doing too well down there, Crispin. He keeps trying to pull bits of himself off. And not for fun.”
Crispin immediately crouches down by his brother’s side, to check his current state.
“He still needs medical attention,” he announces, grimly. “We must hope that the Nine a.m. Lounge residents are amenable today…”
“Nine a.m. Lounge?” a strange, muffled voice cries out in alarm.
“Who said that?” Luke yelps.
“I can’t go to the Nine a.m. Lounge!” The almost-familiar voice sounds like it is shouting through… layers and layers of wet carpet…
“Ah, Justin Time,” Crispin greets the stowaway. “What treason have you committed now?”
The disgraced roll of carpet thrashes around in the footwell of the rickshaw, and bursts open, to reveal the whiskered, runaway, bounty-hunters’-most-wanted rickshaw pilot, Mr. Justin Time.
“You left me in the Seven a.m. Lounge!” he practically broils. I’m not sure he’s even close to sober either. “Do you know what they did to me, in their cold stinky little gaol cell?”
“I’m sure you will elucidate us anyway,” Crispin encourages, concentrating on his brother’s position and seeing that he is comfortable.
My heart seems to heave a sigh of empathy. Oh, if only Crispin hadn’t been so keen on the idea of me taking up his job offer… he really is the nicest corpse any woman could wish for…
…If she wasn’t also being constantly distracted by the thought of arrogantly good-looking live male genetics, I remind myself, as Ace wipes his hands clean on my sleeve.
“Don’t,” Carvery mutters. “You’ll only get your hands more dirty. You don’t know where she’s been.”
“They gave me A Nice Cup of Tea,” Justin Time fumes. “And asked if they could contact my wife for me! If my wife ever finds out where I am, I am a dead man! No offence, Mr. Dry… But we are not talking about an unreasonable woman here! We are talking about a homicidal maniac! Have you ever been married to a homicidal maniac?”
The men all shake their heads. Both Carvery and Ace pointedly step away from me, as if denying any such detailed association.
“No,” says Carvery. “But we’ve met Crispin’s mother.”
“Yup,” Ace grimaces.
“I’ve been married, but not to a homicidal maniac,” Luke says, gloomily. “To a sex maniac.” He sighs. “Just not when I was around, sadly.”
“You see?” Justin splutters. “That’s the sort of woman I would be a happy man to be married to! But what do I get? I get the Medusa, the Furie, the Siren, the witch-beast from Hell… and the pasty desk clerk with the badly-made suit at the gaol, is sitting there offering to send a singing telegram to tell her where I am and inform her that I am quite well enough to collect! Hah! To collect my bones and suck out my soul and flay my skin into a sail for her Ship of Doom!”
“Are you sure that you and Crispin aren’t related in some way?” Ace says, quizzically. “Does she ever turn herself into stone at all? Or keep pet zombies in red leather pants with no ass to them?”
“I wish!” Justin Time rages.
“I bet they offered you Marriage Guidance as well, bro,” Luke sympathises. “The elders at my village told me I’d have to sacrifice a white cock to satisfy my old lady. I told them she was getting plenty of that already, from what I’d heard… And not the sort I could afford to sacrifice and get away with.”
“Unfortunately, Mr. Time, we are most definitely heading for the Nine a.m. Lounge,” Crispin tells him. “But perhaps you could remain under cover until we have disembarked.”
“This is costing you, Mr. Dry!” Justin snaps. “I want Christmas and New Year off!”
“But you don’t celebrate Christmas and New Year, Mr. Time,” Crispin points out.
“No, but my girlfriend in New York, it a very big thing for her,” the rickshaw pilot wheedles. “She puts on this little frilly negligence with all tinsel and flashing lights in, and a strawberry liquorice rope instead of a…”
“I’m actually starting to like him,” Carvery grins.
“Yeah, me too,” says Ace.
Suddenly, the darkness fades to misty gray. I switch the flashlight off. Instead of bare rock and desiccated skeletal matter, evidence of creepers and other greenery indicates that we are nearing more hospitable depths.
We all shade our eyes, at the first flash of daylight…
The flying carpet decelerates as we burst through the foliage, disturbing unseen birds and animals by the noise of their cries and squalling.
“Stupid rug!” Justin Time dives to grapple with the harness, reining in its enthusiasm for the outside world. “Not above the jungle canopy! This is a war zone!”
“A war zone, Crispin?” I repeat, aghast.
I recall those two strange planes that had flown low over the Eight a.m. Lounge, and what Sandy had told me. Damn! I need that diary, out of Carvery’s pocket…
“You’d barely notice,” Crispin shrugs, but I recognise his look of discomfort. “Most of the folk here just go about their usual business…”
A whistling in the air is punctuated by a rapid succession of thuds, and our rug and blanket bristle with acquired arrows, in a passable porcupine impersonation.
“Dude, your trousers are on fire,” Ace tells Carvery.
“Quick!” I say, leaping at any opportunity to rummage in those pockets. “Take them off…”
Carvery looks down at the burning arrow sticking out of the steel-lined toecap of his boot, at an apologetic angle.
“Why do I get the flaming arrow?” Carvery wants to know, twisting it free and tossing it over the side of the rickshaw, in flagrant disregard for the local ecology.
“…Their usual business being, shall we say, a gung-ho approach to home security,” Crispin finishes. “Mr. Time! We need somewhere safe to land! My brother will not last much longer in the air!”
All of us hunker down as more arrows arc overhead, and I crawl downward, to be with Crispin at Homer’s side.
“What is it?” I ask in a low voice. “Should he be that colour?”
Homer’s deteriorated skin seems to be uniformly weeping a strange, purplish sweat or mucus, accompanied by a smell not unlike a blocked drain. His consumptive belly is distended, as if inflated by a surgical pump.
“No bump to the head has caused this,” Crispin tells me, to my private relief. “We need to be near salt water. Mr. Time! Take us to the shoreline!”
“Ohhhh, no!” Justin Time shakes his head and purses his lips. “I’m not going near any open sea! Straight into the jaws of Death for me, that is!”
“What would you rather risk?” Crispin asks him. “A possible chance encounter with your wife? Or a very definite encounter with an adolescent Squidmorph, in need of immediate liquid sustenance?”
I try not to recoil in horror, knowing what Homer means to his brother.
All that time, it wasn’t my own hysteria for once, bringing up thoughts of the dread larval sea-parasite – here it is, festering in the most obvious incubator it could find…
We break cover from the jungle, and the sunlight is too painful at first to reveal our new surroundings.
But as the rickshaw churns up bleached white sand and driftwood, and the salt spray from the surf smacks me in the face like a dissatisfied pizza-delivery customer, I can make a rough guess.
I’m not prepared for the view, as my eyes adjust to the glare.
“Whoa,” Luke gasps.
It is a picture-postcard tropical beach – deserted, almost pristine. Sprouting coconuts are washed up on the damp sand. Emerald-green islands of all shapes and sizes stand like sentinels in the sapphire-blue sea.
Only a forest-fire burning cheerfully perhaps a mile to our right, pumping the perfectly still blue skies full of black smoke, spoils the scenery.
“Hmmm,” Ace remarks. “Smells like Guinness napalm to me.”
“Do not wander far,” Crispin warns, as Luke, Ace and Carvery disembark to explore, and Justin fusses over the rug, plucking out arrows. “These are indeed times of hostility between the Lounges. Nine a.m. is of particular umbrage to many.”
I ignore the others, and help Crispin to lift Homer into a more level position.
“What do we do?” I ask. “What does he need?”
“Nothing, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says, taking his brother’s hand and patting it. “We just have to ensure that the first thing the young Squidling sees is the ocean – and that we do not get in its way…”
Homer’s belly starts to squirm and rumble in an unearthly fashion. As I look down, a trickle of black ink appears down his bony thigh, followed by a whiff of battery acid.
“How long does it…” I begin.
There is the sound of a champagne cork popping, and a glistening white streak across the sand.
Far out to sea, a thunderclap records the breaking of the sound barrier – only then followed by the waterspout of an entry-point, on the horizon.
Homer’s belly subsides, like a deflating Whoopee cushion.
“…Wow,” I say, because there doesn’t seem to be anything else suitable.
And then, because Crispin is there, I move to officially check the state of Homer, the patient.
“Careful, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin warns. “Sometimes there is…”
An insurmountable force throws me backwards off the rickshaw, and I land flat on my back in the very edge of the surf.
Warm slime seems to envelop me, and I blink it away to stare directly into the flat iridescent eyes, and anemone-like pink tentacles, of a newborn Squidmorph parasite.
“…A twin,” Crispin calls out, unnecessarily.
I gulp, as the parasite arches its spine, revealing a scorpion-like tail.
“Hello,” I say, wondering where this ranks in Famous Last Words.
It freezes mid-poise and stares back, then blinks obliquely.
“Hello,” it says, quite clearly. “Mother.”
And shoots from my hands, like a bar of soap in a gym shower.
“I’m not your mother!” I yell.
Only the distant thunderclap answers me.
Great, I think. That’s going to take some explaining, when it comes looking for me in sixteen years’ time…
Alien giving birth scene from ‘Men in Black’ – Enjoy 🙂
More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum
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