The Cosmic Carbon Cycle Cash Machine

Carbon_cycle

See Wikipedia

“I say, Jeeves!” Prime Minister Cloney Tamarind shouted one morning during breakfast, spluttering Krave crumbs all over his recently-updated Facebook status. “What’s this filthy rumour that we’re not producing more carbon? How are we supposed to charge people for something we don’t actually deliver?”

“So what’s new, dear?” Mrs Tamarind muttered, sipping her Chai Red Bull. The word ‘charge’ causing her to make a mental note to replace the batteries in her bedside drawer, after yet another all-nighter with the PM away at his desk, playing Draw My Thing and Words With Infidels online.

“I don’t know, Sir,” said Jeeves dutifully, topping up the Worcester sauce bucket in the modest silver breakfast table cruet, with the ceremonial watering-can. “I’m only your Tesco’s delivery driver.”

And he left the receipt on the table, before being strong-armed out of No.10 by the children.

“Someone is spreading lies about there only being a finite amount of carbon on the planet!” the Prime Minister said grimly, narrowing his eyes at a post by Markiplier about the conspiracy of squirrels, as he bit suspiciously into into his peanut butter on crumpet. The crumpet duly squealed, and got down from the table in a huff to go and powder her nose, and he hollered after her. “When you come back, Miss MoneySupermarket, I want you to schedule an emergency meeting with… with… the chap with the briefcase who reads out my annual bank statement to me, and some top scientists! Preferably ones that are not in the middle of writing their autobiographies, speaking at TED talks, or filming for the BBC!”

***

“This is how it works,” said the PM in his Ovaltine Office, while Deputy PM Rick Shaw took notes and wrote a song for the bluegrass band he was planning to run away with on his imminent retirement at the next election, and Miss MoneySupermarket changed the most senior scientist’s nappy. “We tell the public that we’re still producing too much carbon. And carbon is a bad thing. It makes the air smell like poo and we all have to wash our cars more often and Hollywood actresses tell our children not to eat it as it’s bad for your image. So the public feel guilt. That’s the emotion we all need them to feel because it makes their wallets fall open more easily. And they give us more money, and we promise to clean up the carbon we make every day to power their homes and cars and let them lead happy lives with happy Facebook status updates saying how much of the planet they’ve saved today by walking the dogs instead of calling them a taxi. And now I’m being told we don’t make carbon. It exists in different states and goes around and around by itself like a rotisserie chicken, which incidentally, if left on the spit too long, turns into a block of black stuff that is essentially carbon. So how are we not making any new fucking carbon?!” His voice became the shrill squeak of a Clanger. “How do we claim there’s a carbon footprint when I can’t show them even a fuzzy Youtube video of a giant fucking footprint? How do we stop the damned carbon that we do have from degassing into the oceans and decaying out of plants and dead things back into the soil and reproducing into armies of adopted celebrity children and their godforsaken acres of burger meat that they grow up on, so we can prove there’s a problem? How do we make it get off its carbon bicycle and off the geological ring-road? I swear I can hear the same carbon atoms laughing at me every time they pass out of the Queen’s bottom on parade!”

“Well,” said the most senior scientist, once he was back in his pram and holding the official Talking Stick. “In order to actually create carbon, you would require an alchemist.”

“Like the chap on Harley Street who writes out my wife’s prescriptions – Doctor Theophilus Hoodoobeggar?”

“Even more powerful than that, sir.”

“Wonderful. Find me such a person.”

And within a short interval, wherein there was popcorn, crisps, a brief performance by Shakespeare’s Sister, and Deputy PM Rick Shaw had his Large Coke confiscated for burping carbon atoms in a sarcastic tone of voice, a small waxy-complexioned individual with a foreign accent was ushered in and asked to sweep up the crumbs. This was minutely embarrassing when it turned out that this frumpy individual with the odd knee-socks and pink housecoat was Head of Alchemicals at the University of Southampton (Ten Years Since Last Burned to the Ground).

“Tell me, young man,” began Cloney Tamarind, once the brush and dustpan were discreetly taken away from Professor Nagy and he had been furnished with a chair, one with built-in cushions and tie-dyed antimacassars, courtesy of the children. “Is it possible to make carbon out of thin air?”

“If that air contains, for example, traces of methane, CO2, volcanic aerosols,” said the young professor dismissively, swinging one leg over the arm of the comfy chair and loosening his early-morning pyjama-bottom wedgie.

“Remind me to have a word with the Queen about rogue volcanic aerosols on parade in future,” the PM muttered aside to Miss MoneySupermarket, who was now on dustpan duty, giving him a very sour look from under her falsies. “But Professor Nagy – tell me, how do we make carbon from nothing? We’ve been telling the public about our overproduction of carbon for decades. We can’t have them all going on Wikipedia and finding out that no matter how much we dig up or burn, the Earth just – sucks it all up away again.”

“Oh, you don’t make something from nothing.”

“I think you underestimate politics and taxation, young man.” Prime Minister Tamarind wagged a finger, until the Deputy PM managed to wrench his own hand free and return to drawing a picture of an eye from a tutorial on DeviantArt. Eventually, this would become the logo of his bluegrass band, and hopefully BMG or Virgin would copy it and have to pay out royalties. “You are Head of Alchemicals at a top… an outstanding… a not very recently burned-down University, at… is Southampton a real place? I always thought it was like Mordor, or Narnia… rumours of organised football matches being played, huge, balding men roaming loose, wenches roaming looser… nothing else… anyway, you must know something useful, yes?”

“A very clever deduction,” said the Professor, and lifted his top hat to take down his elevensies, which with foresight he had brought with with him. As he opened his packet of cheesy Quavers and dunked them in his Earl Grey, he announced vaguely. “I can make gold, of course. But not what you are interested in.”

“GOLD?” everyone else in the room echoed, including an Ovaltine burglar who was hiding camouflaged in the chandelier above them, in a silver rhinestone ninja gi, and Jeeves from Tesco’s, who had forgotten to pick up his plastic carrier baskets.

“Not out of carbon, I hope!” the Prime Minister clapped a hand over his mouth, and this time Deputy PM Rick Shaw had to use a baby-wipe to clean the smear of L’Oreal For Gender Neutral Persons What Shave Often aftershave balm off his fingers before returning to his Nintendo 3DS, now playing Monster Hunter Ultimate in a team with Kim Jong Un. “Excess carbon is worth more than gold in guilt extortion value terms, I hope you realise.”

“No, not carbon.” The Professor unwrapped a complimentary chocolate mint from a private stash purloined from the coat-check girl at Bournemouth Spearmint Rhino.

“Then what do you make gold out of?” demanded Miss MoneySupermarket, speaking out of turn and still on her knees, elbow-deep in shag pile carpet, probing for popcorn kernels.

“Platinum.”

The groan in the room was audible. In fact it was so audible that Audible automatically deducted its monthly Amazon account payment from the entire Conservative Party, as a result of trying to sneak a free download.

The ninja in the chandelier began to cry, and was heard Skyping his mother in Malaysia, who was apparently not in the best of moods either judging by the verbal lashing that ensued.

“Fine, as soon as Jeremy Clarkson has finished scraping all the platinum off the roads of the UK and Isle of Man with his tongue, you can have it and turn it into gold for all I care,” the PM seethed. “What I want right now, is a shit load of carbon. I want to be able to show people a carbon mountain on the News at Five. I want those Bigfoot hunters to find a carbon footprint so big that it’s only identified by the corn on its little toe proving to be Alaska. Fetch me someone who can make carbon out of nothing. Fetch me – fetch me – Boba Fett!”

The groan, still fading into echoes around the Ovaltine Office, abruptly became a gasp. And then a horrible, gagging, choking, furry noise, as Miss MoneySupermarket had inhaled the sheepskin rug, right from under the most senior scientist’s bottom…

To be continued… 😉 xxx

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Niche marketing – the psychology behind success

Yesterday, I caught a few minutes of Real Housewives of Vancouver, where business-minded Mom ‘Ronnie’ was in a design planning meeting, regarding her idea for a new wine brand that she proposed to call ‘Rehab’.

The ad agency were asking all the right questions, which Ronnie really didn’t seem to understand. Who was the product aimed at? What was the story behind it? What image or personality did it have? What occasion would it be suited to?

Ronnie, like many first-time writers I’ve spoken to, didn’t want to tie herself down to a ‘niche market’. She wanted an instant, across-the-board success. “It’s for everyone” she said. “People drinking at home, or during the day, or getting ready to go out…”

Nothing starts out aimed at ‘everyone’ unless it’s toilet paper.

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No comment… 🙂

The problem isn’t the concept of ‘niche marketing’. The problem is the widely-held misconception of how niche marketing works. The intent and purpose of ‘niche marketing’.

The misconception is that you ‘find your niche market’ and only target them as your consumers. This is only correct if your product has age restrictions, usually enforced by law.

Let’s say you are a science fiction author who wants to break into the crossover sci-fi romance market. You have penned the equivalent of Star Wars. You immediately want to reach “everyone” as Ronnie stated.

You don’t start with everyone. You start with the design concept for your one perfect reader in the whole world. Just one.

And then you make everyone else in the world want to be that reader.

Your one perfect reader is the hottest guy (or girl) on the science campus. They wear designer loafers bought on eBay and own an epic collection of zombie t-shirts from online artists. They’ve met Stephen Hawking. They drink cherry brandy and Coke because it tastes awesome. They prefer DeviantArt to Pinterest, listen to Calvin Harris, and their ideal party weekend would be a trip to Vegas to see Britney Spears live in residence. They own at least one of the original Star Wars branded pieces of merchandise. You never see them play or hear them bragging, but you just know they’d thrash you at pool or poker. They’re an expert on the moon of Enceladus, and will tell you all about it while making you the best vegan Pad Thai noodles that you’ve ever eaten in your life.

Does that reader sound appealing to a sci-fi author? Damn right it does. And probably to some other potential readers as well. Who are Googling Pad Thai recipes as we speak.

Vegan Black Metal Chef: Pad Thai

Here’s another example. Cristal champagne. Originally commissioned for Russian royalty in the 1800s, with a bottle designed to defy assassination attempts, it wasn’t available to the public until 1945. It was so exclusive and its potential market so tiny, that to drink it became a badge of honour. And by the turn of the 21st century it was starting to be sloshed over mixing decks by high-profile DJs and poured all over hip-hop girls in hot tubs by rap musicians. Its niche market went from ‘virtually no-one’ to ‘virtually everyone’.

Tupac Shakur ‘Thug Passion’ – also the name of his Cristal/Alize cocktail

But that took 60 years, I hear you wail!

It doesn’t always take that long. If the design for your perfect reader is enviable enough that everyone wants to become that reader, then reading your book – like drinking that wine – will by proxy make them that reader. In their minds, at least.

With alcohol, very few people want to see themselves as the lonely idle bastard sitting at home in a string vest and one shoe on, watching Homes Under the Hammer while their cat slowly expires of mange and unpaid bills drop onto the mat. That’s someone who primarily (frequently) wants and needs toilet paper. That’s ‘everyone’.

They want to see themselves at the front row on the Strip surrounded by Cristal and close friends who never throw up on them screaming themselves hoarse watching Britney Spears live, while she announces mid-performance that there’s a really hot guy right in front of her and she likes his zombie t-shirt. In fact, she’d like him to take it off so she can wear it home.

Britney Spears live, Las Vegas, in a jazz club stylee… niiiiice…  🙂

See? The niche market is not your enemy. It’s your consumer’s aspiration and future adventures. You’re just there to hold the door open a tiny chink, and allow everyone else a brief glimpse of where they could be.

The Dos Equis beer commercials spell it out for you 😉

Around the World in Eighty Days Yeller Brick Road – Chapter Eight

Chapter VIII

In which Pissepotout Talks Rather More, Perhaps, Than is Prudent

Filch soon rejoined Pissepotout, who was lounging and looking about on the quay, as if he did not feel that he, at least, was obliged not to see anything.

“Well, my friend,” said the detective, coming up with him, “is your passport visaed?”

“Ah, it’s you, is it, monsieur?” responded Pissepotout. “Thanks, yes, the passport is all right.”

“And you are looking about you? For a good time, perhaps? The Villa Negra is within half a day’s reach by camel from here.”

“Yes; but we travel so fast that I seem to be journeying in a dream. So this is Suez?”

“Yes.”

“In Egypt?”

“Certainly, in Egypt.”

“And in Africa?”

“In Africa.”

“In Africa!” repeated Pissepotout. “Just think, monsieur, I had no idea that we should go farther than Paris; and all that I saw of Paris was between twenty minutes past seven and twenty minutes before nine in the morning, between the Northern and the Lyons stations, through the windows of a car, and in a driving rain! How I regret not having seen once more Pere la Chaise, and the circus in the Moulin Rouge and Champs Elysees!”

“You are in a great hurry, then?”

“I am not, but my master is. By the way, I must buy some shoes and shirts. We came away without trunks, only with a carpet-bag, and bought little in Paris other than a selection of emergency gimp-wear for my master’s nightly restraints.”

“I will show you an excellent shop for getting what you want.”

“Really, monsieur, you are very kind.”

And they walked off together, Pissepotout chatting volubly as they went along.

“Above all,” said he; “don’t let me lose the steamer.”

“You have plenty of time; it’s only twelve o’clock.”

Pissepotout pulled out his big watch. “Twelve!” he exclaimed; “why, it’s only eight minutes before ten.”

“Your watch is slow.”

“My watch? A family watch, monsieur, which has come down from my great-grandfather! It doesn’t vary five minutes in the year. It’s a perfect chronometer, look you.”

“I see how it is,” said Filch. “You have kept London time, which is two hours behind that of Suez. You ought to regulate your watch at noon in each country.”

“I regulate my watch? Never!”

“Well, then, it will not agree with the sun.”

“So much the worse for the sun, monsieur. The sun will be wrong, then!”

And the worthy fellow returned the watch to its fob with a defiant gesture. After a few minutes silence, Filch resumed: “You left London hastily, then?”

“I rather think so! Last Friday at eight o’clock in the evening, Monsieur Flogg came home from his club, and three-quarters of an hour afterwards we were off.”

“But where is your master going?”

“We are on our way to the Emmannuelle City to see the Great Ooze,” Pissepotout answered, “and we stopped here thinking to pass the night.”

“Why do you wish to see Ooze?” Filch asked.

“I want him to send me back to Cannes, and the master I think wants him to put a few brains into his head,” the little dog replied, cheekily.

The detective appeared to think deeply for a moment. Then he said:

“Do you suppose Ooze could give me a clue as to where your master is really heading?”

“Always straight ahead. He is going round the world.”

“Round the world?” cried Filch.

“Yes, and in eighty days! He says it is on a wager; but, between us, I don’t believe a word of it. That wouldn’t be common sense. There’s something else in the wind.”

“Ah! Mr. Flogg is a character, is he?”

“I should say he was.”

“Is he rich?”

“No doubt, for he is carrying an enormous sum in brand new banknotes with him. And he doesn’t spare the money on the way, either; he has offered a large reward to the engineer of the Mongolian Falcon if he gets us to Bombay well in advance of time.”

“And you have known your master a long time?”

“Why, no; I entered his service the very day we left London.”

The effect of these replies upon the already suspicious and excited detective may be imagined. The hasty departure from London soon after the robbery; the large sum carried by Mr. Flogg; his eagerness to reach distant countries; the pretext of an eccentric and foolhardy bet – all confirmed Filch in his theory.

He continued to pump poor Pissepotout, and learned that he really knew little or nothing of his master, who lived a solitary existence in London, was said to be rich, though no one knew whence came his riches, and was mysterious and impenetrable in his affairs and peculiar habits.

“Well, I can tell you anything that is in an English Blue Book, Pissepotout, although those fellows nowadays write a lot of nonsense. When I was in the Diplomatic, things were much better. But I hear they let them in now by examination. What can you expect? Examinations, sir, are pure humbug from beginning to end. If a man is a gentleman, he knows quite enough, and if he is not a gentleman, whatever he knows is bad for him.”

“Monsieur Philanderous Flogg does not belong to Blue Books, Monsieur Filch,” said Pissepotout languidly.

“Mr. Philanderous Flogg? Who is he?” asked Filch with rhetorical tact, knitting his bushy eyebrows. The tactic succeeded.

“That is what I have come to learn, Monsieur Filch. Or rather, I know who he is. He is the last Dark Lord of Kessel’s grandson. His mother was a Devourer, Lady Magaroth Devourer. I want someone to tell me about his mother. What was she like? Whom did she marry? You must have known nearly everybody in your time, as man of the world like Monsieur Flogg, so you might have known her. I am very much interested in Monsieur Flogg at present, as I have only just met him.”

“Kessel’s grandson!” echoed the old detective. “Kessel’s grandson…! Of course… I knew his mother intimately. I believe I was at her christening. She was an extraordinarily beautiful girl, Magaroth Devourer, and made all the men frantic by running away with a penniless young fellow, Charles Musgrove Flogg, Esq.a mere nobody, sir, a subaltern in a foot regiment, or something of that kind. Certainly. I remember the whole thing as if it happened yesterday. The poor chap was killed in a duel at Spa a few months after the marriage. There was an ugly story about it. They said Kessel got some rascally adventurer, some Belgian brute, to insult his son-in-law in publicpaid him, sir, to do it, paid himand that the fellow spitted his man as if he had been a spatchcocked hen. The thing was hushed up, but, egad, Kessel ate his chop alone at the Conform Club for some time afterwards. He brought his daughter Magaroth back with him, I was told, and she never spoke to him again. Oh, yes; it was a bad business. The girl died, too, died within a year. So she left a son, did she? I had forgotten that. What sort of man is he, this Philanderous? If he is like his mother, he must be a good-looking chap. I could not tell, beyond his tin faceplate and iron gag earlier.”

“He is very good-looking,” assented Pissepotout. So that was the story of Philanderous Flogg’s parentage. Crudely as it had been told to him, it had yet stirred him by its suggestion of a strange, almost modern romance. A beautiful woman risking everything for a mad passion. A few wild weeks of happiness cut short by a hideous, treacherous crime. Months of voiceless agony, and then a child born in pain. The mother snatched away by death, the boy left to solitude and the tyranny of an old and loveless man. Yes; it was an interesting background. It poised the man, made him more perfect, as it were. Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic. Worlds had to be in travail, that the meanest flower might blow…

Filch, for his part, felt sure now that Philanderous Flogg would not stay overnight at Suez, but was really going on to Bombay.

“Is Bombay far from here?” asked Pissepotout.

“Pretty far. It is a ten days’ voyage by sea.”

“And in what country is Bombay?”

“India.”

“In Asia?”

“Certainly.”

“The deuce! I was going to tell you there’s one thing that worries me – my burner!”

“What burner?”

“My gas-burner, which I forgot to turn off, and which is at this moment burning at my expense. I have calculated, monsieur, that I lose two shillings every four and twenty hours, exactly sixpence more than I earn; and you will understand that the longer our journey…”

Did Filch pay any attention to Pissepotout’s trouble about the gas? It is not probable. He was not listening, but was cogitating a project. Pissepotout and he had now reached the shop, where Filch left his companion to make his purchases, after recommending him not to miss the steamer, and not to handle any products which were not pre-packaged, and hurried back to the consulate.

Now that he was fully convinced, Filch had quite recovered his equanimity.

“Consul,” said he, “I have no longer any doubt. I have spotted my man. He passes himself off as an oddly perverted stick who is going round the world in eighty days.”

“Then he’s a sharp fellow,” returned the consul, “and counts on returning to London after putting the police of the two countries off his track.”

“We’ll see about that,” replied Filch.

“But are you not mistaken?”

“I am not mistaken.”

“Why was this robber so anxious to prove, by the visa, that he had passed through Suez?”

“Why? I have no idea; but listen to me.”

He reported in a few words the most important parts of his conversation with Pissepotout, leaving out mention of the Emmannuelle City and the Great Ooze. About the existence of those, he held doubts.

“In short,” said the consul, “appearances are wholly against this man. And what are you going to do?”

“Send a dispatch to London for a warrant of arrest to be returned instantly to Bombay, take passage on board the Mongolian Falcon, follow my rogue to India, and there, on English ground, arrest him politely, with my warrant in my hand, and my hand on his shoulder. Er, my other hand. I have two of them, as you see. Neither of which will be in any of my pockets at the time.”

Having uttered these words with a cool, careless air, the detective took leave of the consul, and repaired to the telegraph office, whence he sent the dispatch, which we have seen, to the London police office. A quarter of an hour later found Filch, with a small bag in his hand and truncheon down his hosiery, proceeding on board the Mongolian Falcon; and, ere many moments longer, the noble vessel rode out at full steam upon the waters of the Red Sea.

Around the World in Eighty Days Yeller Brick Road – Chapter Six

Chapter VI

In which Filch, the Detective, Betrays a Very Natural Impatience

The circumstances under which this telegraphic dispatch about Philanderous Flogg was sent were as follows:

The steamer Mongolian Falcon, belonging to the Peculiar and Ornamental Company, built of iron, of two thousand eight hundred tons burden, and five hundred horse-power, complete with on-board casino, bordello and swimming-pool, was due at eleven a.m. on Wednesday, the 9th of October, at Suez. The Mongolian Falcon plied regularly between Brindisi, Italy, and Bombay, India, via the Suez Canal and was one of the fastest steamers belonging to the company, always making more than ten knots an hour between Brindisi and Suez, and nine and a half between Suez and Bombay, but not yet fast enough to cross the ten or twelve parsecs to Kessel in a single run.

Two men were promenading up and down the wharves, among the crowd of natives and strangers who were sojourning at this once straggling village – the farms were not nearly so well cared for here as they were farther back. There were fewer houses and fewer fruit trees, and the farther they went the more dismal and lonesome the country became. But now, thanks to the enterprise of M. Lesseps, a fast-growing town.

One of the men was the British consul at Suez, who, despite the prophecies of the English Government, and the unfavourable predictions of Stephenson, was in the habit of seeing, from his office window, English ships daily passing to and fro on the great canal, by which the old roundabout route from England to India by the Cape of Good Hope was abridged by at least a half. The consul was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow lovable. At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, something eminently human beaconed from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into his talk, but which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face, but more often and loudly in the acts of his life. He was austere with himself; drank gin when he was alone, to mortify a taste for vintages; and though he enjoyed the theatre, had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years – not since his dearest Sybil had turned her infatuated eye away from him, and onto the undead husk of the cussed Dorian Gray instead. But he had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove.

The other was a small, slight-built personage, with a nervous, intelligently-represented face, and bright eyes peering out from under eyebrows which he was incessantly twitching. He was just now manifesting unmistakable signs of impatience, nervously pacing up and down, and unable to stand still for a moment; as if, like Lord Albatross, he were caught short too far from the privy.

He was not easy to describe. There was something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. The consul never saw a man he so disliked, and yet he scarce knew why. ‘He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point. He’s an extraordinary-looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way. No, sir; I can make no hand of it; I can’t describe him,’ he thought.

This was Filch, one of the detectives who had been dispatched from England in search of the bank robber; it was his task to narrowly watch every passenger who arrived at Suez, and to follow up all who seemed to be suspicious characters, or bore a resemblance to the description of the criminal, which he had received two days before from the police headquarters at London. The detective was evidently inspired by the hope of obtaining the splendid reward which would be the prize of success, not to mention the Employee of the Month plaque which would adorn the wall above his desk; and awaited with a feverish impatience, easy to understand, the arrival of the steamer Mongolian Falcon.

Here and there, the road began to be rough, and the walking grew so difficult that the detective often stumbled over the yellow bricks, which were here very uneven. Sometimes, indeed, they were broken or missing altogether, leaving holes that natives jumped across and the consul walked around. As for the detective Filch, having no brains, he walked straight ahead, and so stepped into the holes and fell at full length on the hard bricks. It never hurt him, however, and the consul would pick him up and set him upon his feet again, while he joined him in laughing merrily at his own mishap.

Presently they sat down by the dockside, near a little boat, and the consul opened his basket and got out some bread. He offered a piece to the detective, but he refused.

“I am never hungry,” he said, “and it is a lucky thing I am not, for my mouth is only painted on, and if I should cut a hole in it so I could eat, the straw I am stuffed with would come out, and that would spoil the shape of my head.”

The consul saw at once that this was true, so he only nodded and went on eating.

“Tell me something about yourself and the country you came from,” said the consul, when he had finished his dinner. So Filch told him all about London, and how gray everything was there, and how the cyclone carried him here to the queer land of Suez.

The consul listened carefully, and said, “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call London.”

“That is because we have no brains,” answered the detective. “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of lesser flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.”

The consul sighed.

“Of course I cannot understand it. If your heads were all stuffed with straw, like yours is, you would probably all live in the beautiful places, and then London would have no people at all. It is fortunate for places like Suez that you have no brains.”

“So you say, consul,” asked Filch for the twentieth time, “that this steamer is never behind time?”

“No, Mr. Filch,” replied the consul. “She was bespoken yesterday at Port Said, and the rest of the way is of no account to such a craft. I repeat that the Mongolian Falcon has been in advance of the time required by the company’s regulations, and gained the prize awarded for excess of speed. She is no piece of junk, I can tell you.”

“Does she come directly from Brindisi?”

“Directly from Brindisi; she takes on the Indian mails there, and she left there Saturday at five p.m. Have patience, Mr. Filch; she will not be late. But really, I don’t see how, from the description you have, you will be able to recognise your man, even if he is on board the Mongolian Falcon.”

“A man rather feels the presence of these fellows, consul, than recognises them. You must have a scent for them, and a scent is like a sixth sense which combines hearing, seeing, smelling, and nonsense. I’ve arrested more than one of these gentlemen in my time, and, if my thief is on board, I’ll answer for it; he’ll not slip through my fingers.”

“I hope so, Mr. Filch, for it was a heavy robbery.”

“A magnificent robbery, consul; fifty-five thousand pounds! We don’t often have such windfalls. Burglars are getting to be so contemptible nowadays! A fellow gets hung for a handful of shillings!”

“Mr. Filch,” said the consul, “I like your way of talking, and hope you’ll succeed; but I fear you will find it far from easy. Don’t you see, the description which you have there has a singular resemblance to an honest man?”

“Consul,” remarked the detective, dogmatically, “great robbers always resemble honest folks. Fellows who have rascally faces have only one course to take, and that is to remain honest; otherwise they would be arrested off-hand. The artistic thing is, to unmask honest countenances; it’s no light task, I admit, but a real art.”

Mr. Filch evidently was not wanting in a tinge of self-conceit.

Little by little the scene on the quay became more animated; sailors of various nations, merchants, ship-brokers, porters, fellahs, ticket-touts and minicab drivers bustled to and fro, as if the steamer were immediately expected. The weather was clear, and slightly chilly. The minarets of the town loomed above the houses in the pale rays of the sun. A jetty pier, some two thousand yards along, extended into the roadstead. A number of fishing-smacks and coasting boats, some retaining the fantastic fashion of ancient galleys, were discernible on the Red Sea.

As he passed among the busy crowd, Filch, according to habit, scrutinised the passers-by with a keen, rapid glance.

It was now half-past ten.

“The steamer doesn’t come!” he exclaimed, as the port clock struck.

“She can’t be far off now,” returned his companion.

“How long will she stop at Suez?”

“Four hours; long enough to get in her coal. It is thirteen hundred and ten miles from Suez to Aden, at the other end of the Red Sea, and she has to take in a fresh coal supply.”

“And does she go from Suez directly to Bombay?”

“Without putting in anywhere.”

“Good!” said Filch. “If the robber is on board he will no doubt get off at Suez, so as to reach the Dutch or French colonies in Asia by some other route. He ought to know that he would not be safe an hour in India, which is English soil.”

“Unless,” objected the consul, “he is exceptionally shrewd. An English criminal, you know, is always better concealed in London than anywhere else.”

“You take care of the passports and the visas,” said Filch. “Let me deal with the miscreants.”

This observation, nonetheless, had furnished the detective food for thought, and meanwhile the consul went away to his office. Filch, left alone, was more impatient than ever, having a presentiment that the robber was on board the Mongolian Falcon. If he had indeed left London intending to reach the New World, he would naturally take the route via India, which was less watched and more difficult to watch than that of the Atlantic.

But Filch’s reflections were soon interrupted by a succession of sharp whistles, which announced the arrival of the Mongolian Falcon. The porters and fellahs rushed down the quay, and a dozen boats pushed off from the shore to go and meet the steamer. Soon her gigantic hull appeared passing along between the banks, and eleven o’clock struck as she anchored in the road. She brought an unusual number of passengers, some of whom remained on deck to scan the picturesque panorama of the town, while the greater part disembarked in the boats, and landed on the quay.

Filch took up a position, and carefully examined each face and figure which made its appearance.

Presently one of the passengers, after vigorously pushing his way through the importunate crowd of porters, came up to him and politely asked if he could point out the English consulate, at the same time showing a passport which he wished to have visaed. Filch instinctively took the passport, and with a rapid glance read the description of its bearer.

An involuntary motion of surprise nearly escaped him, for the description in the passport was identical with that of the bank robber which he had received from Scotland Yard.

“Is this your passport?” asked he, looking the French poodle up and down.

“No, it’s my master’s.”

“And your master is…?”

“He stayed on board.”

“But he must go to the consul’s in person, so as to establish his identity.”

“Oh, is that necessary? My master is rather inextricably tied up at the moment.”

“Quite indispensable.”

“And where is the consulate?”

“There, on the corner of the square,” said Filch, pointing to a house two hundred steps off.

It seemed scarcely a house. There was no other door, and nobody went in or out of that one, but once in a great while the gentleman consul of today’s adventure. There were three windows looking on the court on the first floor; none below; the windows were always shut but they were clean. And then there was a chimney which was generally smoking; so somebody must live there. And yet it was not so sure; for the buildings were so packed together about that court, that it was hard to say where one ended and another began.

“I’ll go and fetch my master, who won’t be much pleased, however, to be disturbed.”

The passenger bowed to Filch, took out a lockpick and a crowbar with a sigh, and returned to the steamer.

Menopause in Black: A Zombie Parody

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

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Death Face: A Zombie Parody

Yello vs. Death Race – The Race/movie montage mash-up…

The cliff-face approaches with terrifying speed, and our flying rug seems to gird itself for further acceleration, as the gap closes.

“Well, that’s only a million vampire bats per mile,” says Carvery. “In Chiroptera terms, for that size of cave, it’s practically deserted.”

I’m stunned. Carvery can do division – without a calculator? And did he just use the species terminology of the bat family?

“Don’t you mean Desmoda Rotunda?” Ace queries. “I read online that they roost with up to nine other species of bat. That’s potentially ten million Chiropterae per mile over all, with only one in ten being a blood-sucker.”

My mouth is open at this point, which in less than a minute, might be inadvisable.

“Ace – you can read?” I repeat, disbelieving. “In Latin?!

“Remind me of this conversation, if I ever agree to join these two for a dudes’ night out on the town,” Luke says aside to me. “That kind of careless talk can close a woman’s legs, before she’s even had so much as a sniff of the Rohypnol.”

“There is room for speculation about the exact number of vampires in the cave,” Crispin concedes. “Considering particularly that it is pitch black in there.”

And with that, the pitch black engulfs us, like a giant, stinking shroud of tar. My mouth, still agog, snaps shut just in time.

The air vibrates with the flutter of membranous wings, in every direction. As one, we all dive under the tattered blanket, which had previously held us captive.

“Can’t this thing go any faster?” Luke demands.

“You are joking, I hope?” I say, the sour wind stripping tears from my eyes, like a cheese-grater against my face. “How long until we reach the Nine a.m. Lounge, Crispin?”

There is a distinctly surprised silence.

“Nine a.m., Sarah Bellummm,” he replies. “Of course.”

Of course. Stupid stupid girl…

The rolled-up rugs beneath us press deeper into my spine with the gravitational forces, as the lead rug pulling our flying rickshaw cranks up another gear.

But that implies that we’re going over five thousand miles an hour… assuming he means, Nine a.m. today…

Something bounces off my knee, and I hear Homer squawk indignantly.

“Did you feel that?” I hiss, desperately. “They’re dive-bombing us!”

Yesss,” Crispin agrees. “Stay under cover…”

The squawk is echoed, deeper and hollowly, somewhere behind us – and repeated twice more.

“They aren’t the only ones,” Ace points out. “Sarah – pass me the torch.”

I hand over the Trevor Baylis, and Ace points it briefly into our slipstream.

“Here they come,” he reports.

“What?” Luke asks. “The bats?”

“Nope.” Ace passes the torch to Carvery, who takes a look in turn. “Three zombie Pterydactyls on our six. Big ones.”

Braaaiiiiinnnssss,” Homer moans, clamping both hands over his frayed ears.

“They’re not going to get your brains, Homer,” Carvery says calmly, putting the torch between his teeth and re-loading the shotgun again. “If they’re fast enough to catch up, they’re fast enough for target practice.”

I risk a look over the seat-rail, and see the formation of three giant winged pursuers, against the dim light of the distant cave entrance behind us.

The view is suddenly blocked by a frenzy of fluttering, and an evil, snub-nosed snout with beady eyes appears over the railing. Before I can even gasp, a needle-lined yawn lunges directly for my face…

“Fuck off,” Carvery grunts, and with a crunchy squeak, the hungry critter disintegrates messily under the butt of the shotgun. “She’s ugly enough already, without a vampire bat beard.”

“Thank you,” I remember to say, after what seems like quite a few moments of waiting for the shock to wear off.

“Don’t mention it,” he remarks, turning the gun around to point the muzzle outwards, over the back of the seat. “I mean it. If you ever mention it to anyone, I’ll kill you. And Miss Fuck-Tart, your housemate.”

Oh yes. Why do I keep forgetting about her?

Idly, I wonder if she’s starting to smell, and if anyone back on the Great Barge in the Five a.m. Lounge has noticed…

The leading Pterydactyl opens its beak in another yammering, jabbering caw – and then belches flame.

The blast of heat almost cooks my tongue onto the roof of my already terror-dried mouth.
In the afterglow, frazzled bats shower from the air, trailing smoke, like dud fireworks dropping out of the sky.

“My God, they’re armed,” Luke whispers.

“And fully operational,” Crispin acknowledges. “Their teeth have turned to flint after so many centuries undead – and they make a spark by agitating them, which ignites the methane created by the bats in the cave. It protects them from the blood-sucking, burns off excess gas before it can reach critical underground levels, forms a light-source for them to hunt by, cooks their prey, and also de-louses them in the process. It’s really quite fascinating.”

A second Pterydactyl clacks its jaws a few times, and sears the cave wall with another billow of incendiary fumigation.

“Remind me never to go out on the pull with him either,” Luke adds.

“Maybe they fancy a bit of fast food?” Ace suggests, as a third flame almost passes right in front of us, covering our blanket with lumps of squeaking, furry charcoal.

“Burger van’s closed,” says Carvery, and takes a shot at the nearest Pterydactyl, to the left.

A gaping hole appears in one wing, and it pinwheels out of control, bouncing off the walls and disappearing under an avalanche of peckish, bloodthirsty bats.

Meanwhile, another flaming belch from the middle pursuer lightly singes one of our rolled-up rugs on the back of the rickshaw, which promptly starts crying.

“I’m pretty sure floor coverings shouldn’t soil themselves,” Ace comments, and tries to switch places with me. “Sarah, you can have the wet patch.”

I hear the sobbing emerging more loudly as I shuffle reluctantly along the bench. I try a conciliatory pat or two.

“There, there,” I murmur, meaninglessly.

How do you reassure a captive flying carpet?

Another fireball explodes overhead. A flaming bat plummets from the roof, straight through the hole in the middle of our blanket. Homer screams.

“Why do I smell Crispy Chicken Balls?” asks Luke.

“It’s just Homer, saving himself the trouble of going for the full operation,” says Ace, and crawls downward to try and beat out any remaining flames. “Pass the wet rug, I’ll see if I can damp it down.”

Gratefully, I roll the sodden carpet towards the foot of the rickshaw, which hisses as it traverses the groaning Homer.

Carvery fires again, but the Pterydactyls are learning, and take evasive manoeuvres.

Braaaiiiinnnssss,” Homer pleads. “Sarah BraaaiiinnnsssGoooood…”

“I think Homer wants to eat your brains, Sarah,” Ace reports back.

“Don’t see why not,” says Carvery. “It won’t exactly spoil his dinner later.”

“I think my brother means, you should use your brains, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says, quietly. “Trust your feelings…”

Use my brains? I boggle, momentarily. All my feelings are currently telling me, is I’m starting to recall that I was rather violently air-sick on this rickshaw earlier… and the similar self-control by the captive rugs isn’t helping…

“Heads up, Carvery!” Luke shouts.

Carvery swings the shotgun like a club, slamming an enormous bat into the wall, and to the voracious mercy of its own kind.

“You have to watch the bats, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin guides me. “They are a hive. They work as a unit, if you observe…”

I strain my eyes into the darkness ahead of us. There seems to be a swirling ahead, a gyroscopic sensation in the air – a corruption of the horizon… a tilting…

My eyes adjust to the vortex of skin and fur awaiting us, deeper into the cave.

“Oh my God,” I breathe, “They’re going to try and flip us over…”

It’s a whirlpool of wings and teeth, creating a deadly torsional slipstream. And as I stare in horror – under the blanket, something runs straight up my leg.

“Baaa…” I begin to scream, but it is already skittering past my chest, and to my utter shock, clamps over my mouth.

My second thought is even worse than ‘Bat’.

Squidmorph!

But there is no battery-acid odour, no larval tentacle looping around my neck… and as my mind frantically tries to reconnect with the petrified paralysis in my limbs, I see the glinting, and recognise the scrape of warm metal against my lips and teeth.

The clockwork hand!

I peel it away from my face and stare at it, while Carvery drops back down onto the bench to re-load.

“These are the last of my cartridges,” he says.

I barely hear him, my thoughts racing.

How did I make this thing work before? I remember getting angry – something about a curtain tassel…

Yes!!

“I am a virgin!” I shout, gripping the clockwork device in both hands, like a .44 Magnum.

“You’re going to die a virgin,” Carvery nods sagely, still slotting in cartridges.

I let his words go over my head, and sit up. More bravely, I try to raise myself higher, up on my knees. I point the golden clockwork hand into the deadly darkness ahead of us, at the danger as yet unseen by the others…

“I am a virgin!” I yell, more deliberately. “And I am not afraid to use this!”

“God, Sarah – get a room,” Ace groans, still somewhere further down. “No, Homer, I’m not going to look after it for you. You get your own pockets…”

Why won’t it activate?

“Come on!” I urge. “What do you want from me?”

“Have faith, Sarah Bellummm,” Crispin says, soothingly.

The vicious vortex of conspiring, co-operative Chiropterae gets closer – closer…

A shriek from one of the last two Pterydactyls behind me freezes my blood, and I feel its intake of breath at the nape of my neck, hear the clicking of its flinty teeth as starts to summon a spark…

…And suddenly everything seems to slow down. We are still hurtling along the tunnel, still surrounded by whirling bloodthirsty bats – but my mind is now at the eye of the storm, seeing everything, thinking clearly…

…I drop back on my haunches, and raise the clockwork hand high above my head.

The fireball erupts, and every gemstone on the clockwork hand lights up, again akin to a disco-ball. Instead of turning into a flying rickshaw barbecue, the flames shrink as rapidly as they exploded, sucked into the unknown potential of the clockwork device.

Carvery shoots the startled Pterydactyl, and it takes a direct hit to the sternum, barrelling into its remaining wingman, sending them both crashing into the depths of the cave.

I point the clockwork hand in front of us, hoping now for a miracle.

“Go ahead,” Crispin whispers. “Make my day.”

“Ummm…” I murmur.

The pinky and index finger of the clockwork hand uncurl, and pause, as if awaiting instructions.

It can’t possibly be that obvious…

I clear my throat. The stones in the clockwork hand are glowing malevolently red, like lit-up fire-opals. The roar of the circling bats is almost deafening.

The rickshaw starts to tilt and struggles to right itself, lopsided by the angular updraft.

“Fire?” I suggest, timidly.

And then it seems that the world explodes, as everything at the end of my arms flashes a blinding, brilliant white…

And of course, the Death Star final destruction, Star Wars: A New Hope – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Mediastinum Impossible: A Zombie Parody

Jay-Z vs. Limp Bizkit – 99 Problems/Nookie mash-up

Several things seem to happen at once. Luke and I both scream, but due to our manacles attaching us to the walls, go nowhere other than to dangle from our chains, while the tiled floor rapidly recedes downward. Carvery drops the chainsaw, favouring to retain the gun in his other hand, and grabs the edge of the toilet bowl to halt his fall, and the metal bunk upon which Homer is still unconscious merely tilts a little, apparently bolted to the tiled surface as well.

“If that’s the Well of Our Souls down there…” Carvery begins.

“Don’t remind me,” I say through gritted teeth, twirling on the end of my one restrained arm. “What are they up to now?”

I look up. There seems to be a commotion in the square.

“I don’t think that little incident was our captors’ fault,” Luke replies. “They’re not happy either…”

To my concern, I see Ace Bumgang being prodded around sharply with sword-points on the glass ceiling above our heads. He skips out of the way, and glancing down at us past his feet, stamps a few times on the glass.

“Look away,” Carvery says, hitching up the shotgun again. “Time for that escape attempt…”

I close my eyes just before he fires, picking up the hint just in time. Chips of glass spray down onto our heads, and a huge crack shoots widthways in turn. Ace does a back-flip from a standing jump, and as he lands, feet together, on the spot above the metal bunk, the great fracture feathers outward abruptly, and he punches through.

His Caterpillar work boots just miss the zombie Homer’s face, scraping his gray ears on either side, as he lands astride him.

Two unwary bystanders from the citadel square plummet by, in the centre of the room – shrieking piteously and scrabbling the air for non-existent handholds.

They seem to continue falling for a very long time…

I gulp.

“What now?” I ask. Other angry city-dwellers are waving their swords at us from the perimeter of the bottomless room above. “Do we have a plan? Are we going up or down?”

“I think the only way we’ll be going up is as dog meat paste,” Ace remarks, and Luke yelps as a cutlass-point nicks his knuckles, still clamped in their restraints. “They think you’ve got voodoo, Luke. Now would be a good time for the old hocus-pocus, if you’ve got any.”

“Do I look like Mister Dynamo to you?” Luke splutters.

“Well, you are wearing a hoody,” Carvery points out.

“And you played Old Harry with the security guards at the University campus all right,” I say, encouragingly. “Do it again.”

“That’s just a load of old tricks and nonsense,” Luke sighs. “Nothing beats the use of good old-fashioned force.”

Unexpectedly, the mechanical grinding groan echoes around us again – and Homer’s bunk, still attached to the wall with no floor, crawls inwards once more.

“What the fuck?” I cry. “We’re STILL getting crushed in this stupid crazy room?”

“Best it’ll do now is scrape us off the walls,” Carvery agrees. “Except Luke, of course. He’s facing it, so he’s definitely getting squished. Unless his secret magic wand that he’s not telling us about works in his favour, of course.”

“Man, if my magic wand could stop that wall, my wife would never have kicked me out of the house forty years ago,” Luke grumbles. “I would be President of Nigeria now, not a taxi-driver for drunk medical students.”

“Oh, God,” I sob. “Where’s a Flying Carpet when you need one…?”

Of course!

I try to remember. What had Justin Time done to summon the flying rickshaw?

“Sarah,” Carvery warns, as I whistle a few bars experimentally. “This is no time to play Name That Tune.”

“I disagree,” Ace counters. “Let me guess… is it Don’t Fear The Reaper?

As the bunk carrying Homer and Ace approaches a few more inches inwards, with an unsteady wobble, all I can do is hope that I was right.

But didn’t it take a while to respond? Like, the distance between two Lounges… with another lump in my throat, I recall there was another apparently bottomless fall involved back then as well…

“Where’s Crispin?” I ask Ace. “What have they done with him?”

“I wouldn’t worry,” says Ace, wryly. “From what I could tell, all this was his idea.”

“What?”

“Do you remember that spy movie? The re-make, with that short celebrity cult guy with all the sunglasses and teeth. Hanging around in rooms where they don’t have security cameras installed. The opening scene. I think it’s what they call a Mole Op. Weeding out the bad guys from your own team.”

“What?!” I repeat. “He can’t think that! Haven’t we all been trying to help…?”

The three guys exchange looks.

“Well, forgive me for saying, but Luke’s a Nigerian jewel thief compensating for the fact he can’t satisfy a woman long enough to keep a roof over his head,” Ace continues. “And Carvery has been leaving big dents in anything female crossing our path since we started. Madam Dingdong didn’t need a tip after we went to her Sauna And Spa, put it that way. And I basically humiliated the zombie guy’s mother. Apparently it’s rude not to give a four thousand-year-old zombie queen a seeing-to when she’s asked nicely, and I should have spiked my own drink and taken one for the team instead of the other way around. Who knew, right?”

I can’t believe it. I must be desensitized from living around all these psychopaths and abusers.

“All sounds perfectly normal to me,” I grumble at the wall, which I’m currently facing on the end of my wrist-chain, at the back of the sink.

“Yeah, zombies have morals and ethics, what a bummer that turned out to be.” Out of the corner of my eye, Ace sits sideways across Homer’s stomach and swings his feet over the precipice, evidently unconcerned about about potential squid hatchlings. “And you – well, you summoned Atum, so of course they’re going to be pissed at that.”

“Atum?” I exclaim, nose still to greasy ceramic tile. “I had nothing to do with that great mythical monster turning up!”

“They don’t see it that way. What they see is a male-DNA-motivated obsessive female virgin, who works with dead bodies. According to them, that makes you a necromancer.”

“Necrophiliac,” Carvery corrects him. “Nothing romantic about it, buddy.”

“And Atum – well, basically, he’s… er…”

“The spirit of the first gamete,” Luke interjects, in sombre tones. “I warned you, Sarah Bellum – be careful what you wish for.”

“Great.” Carvery is nodding, as red-faced, I rotate on the end of my chain to face into the shrinking room once more. “First, I thought it was bad enough being trapped in a room with a hormone-riddled idiot necrophiliac. Now it turns out, it’s a hormone-riddled, sperm-jacking idiot necrophiliac, who’s haunted by the gigantic vengeful manifestation of the first ever spermatozoa.”

“Yeah,” Ace says, sourly. “That’s the last time I knock one out to internet snuff porn.”

“I told, you, Ace – that stuff’ll give you nightmares,” Carvery tells him. “Sometimes while you’re awake. Making you do stuff that you’ll want to deny later.”

“If you want to know what denial is, it’s a big river that you should be floating down, in a large padlocked packing-case,” I snap at him.

“Oh, I’m just as pissed off as you are,” he remarks. “I’m hanging by one arm from a toilet in an underground torture-chamber, on the basis of some speculation by superstitious zombies, and the failure of a taxi driver with persistent erectile dysfunction to come up with a miracle.”

“That’s what she said,” Ace and Luke both agree at once.

I heave a sigh.

“Well,” I begin, annoyed that I’m twisting back around again to face the wall, “we do have what they want. We’ve got the clockwork hand – even though it’s not doing much other than scratching my ankle at the moment. We’ve got a copy of Mr. Dry Senior’s diary. Do you think they’d let us fall to our deaths?”

We all look up at the threat from above. Hmmm. It does appear that most of the prodding with swords and shouting is for appearances’ sake.

Luke tests his chains, which squeak against their metal rings in the wall.

“Carvery Slaughter,” he says at last. “How good is your aim, with that shotgun?”

Oh. Shit

Mission Impossible (1996) fan trailer – enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

ParaNodule: A(nother) Zombie Parody…

White Zombie vs. Billy Idol – White Wedding Zombie mash-up…

“Cut us free,” Luke suggests.

For a moment, I actually wonder if there’s a Squidmorph concealing itself in my own lower intestine. Everything below the waist threatens to explosively migrate, as Carvery looks from the chainsaw in his hand to my arm chained up at the back of the sink, speculatively.

“I think I might be able to amputate your arm at the ear,” he agrees.

“Er, let’s not rush things,” I squeak, hurriedly. Why isn’t the clockwork hand helping us?! Stupid thing, running and hiding up my trouser leg like that… “What plan do we have?”

Carvery sighs, bored once more, and goes back to sit on the edge of the lavatory

“If you cut us down, we might be able to brace that moving wall between us,” Luke continues, nodding towards the metal bunk and the unconscious zombie Homer N. Dry against the – presently static – deadly tiled wall, opposite him.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” I worry, squinting up at the dank glass ceiling, where the dwellers of the Eight a.m. Lounge are still watching our predicament from the town square above. I’m sure I see some cash exchanging hands as well, and as I seek out and find Ace Bumgang looking down on us from overhead as well, I notice something else. “I have a feeling any cutting that happens down here as an escape plan, is going to be replayed out there as well. They’ve got Ace at sword-point!”

Carvery and Luke look up to confirm. Yes – Ace’s hands are now bound roughly with rope. He’s a prisoner as much as we are, and as his captors see us looking, they make threatening motions with various knives and cutlasses towards him.

“So?” Carvery grunts. “Less dead weight for us.”

The plumbing gurgles again, and this time seems to come from the toilet.

“God – flush, man!” Luke groans.

“Wasn’t me.” Carvery raises his feet and swings his legs. “Maybe this wall moves as well…”

But instead of a grinding of invisible cogs and the traversing of deadly chamber-ware menacingly into the room, there is another gurgle, and a splosh. A fountain of acrid water spurts out of the bowl between Carvery’s legs, and bubbles across the slimy floor.

“Eeeww!” Carvery jumps up. “They have some crack cowboy plumbing in here.” He hisses as he tries to brush the water from his trousers. “Ow…”

“What?” Luke asks.

“I think they’ve overdone the Toilet Duck.” Carvery wipes his hand on the wall. “It’s burning through my trouser-leg.”

Alarmed, I look at the pool of water trickling over the tiles, as it creeps towards me.

It’s black. It smells of battery acid. And it’s fizzing

“The plumbing in here must lead to to the Well of Our Souls,” I whisper. “Carvery – that’s not Toilet Duck. It’s Squidmorph ink!”

“What do we do?” Luke moans, rattling his chains hopelessly.

“Whatever you do,” I begin, “don’t let it…”

A massive tentacle whips out of the bowl, showering the interior of the cell with burning droplets – and whips straight around Carvery’s ankle, turning him upside down and shaking him.

“Don’t let it what?” he jokes, as his head is bounced repeatedly off the disgusting floor. “Ow… ow… ow…”

“Don’t let it…”

“…GET HOLD OF THE CHAINSAW!” Luke shrieks for me.

The chainsaw, on cue, flies out of Carvery’s hand as he is pounded deliberately against the wall, and spins wildly across the tiles. It hits the wall close to Luke, and with a squeal he snatches both feet up off the floor, grateful at least for now that he is suspended higher up the wall on his manacles.

“Oh, no you don’t,” Carvery snaps, as the tentacle drops him unceremoniously and flails around instead to find the escaped weapon. He leaps back onto the hooked appendage, trying to hinder its attempt to arm itself further. “Bad calamari!”

“Luke!” I shout. “The chainsaw – see if you can slide it over here…”

“You’re crazy!” Luke squeaks.

I reach out encouragingly with my free hand.

“If I can get free, we can beat it,” I say, beckoning. “Just nudge it over this way. And, er, try not to switch it on. Or this escape attempt will be over very quickly…”

Luke nods, and with one eye on the ongoing battle between Carvery and the tentacle, stretches out carefully with one foot.

“Yes!” I urge, patting the floor in front of me. “Over here…”

Luke times his soccer touch perfectly. The perfect speed, the perfect curve, the perfect amount of spin…

…And the tentacle, with a whip-crack, detaches Carvery violently, sending him flying backwards onto the bunk on top of the unconscious Homer, and barrels towards me like an express train…

My hand closes around empty air – as inexplicably, the chainsaw rears up above my head. With a flick of its hooks the giant tentacle switches on the whirring blade, with a roar…

I close my eyes.

The second roar echoes around the cell, and I’m suddenly swamped in a coating of tepid, sticky, oozing, suffocating slime.

Oh, God – I’m like the bad magician’s glamorous assistant. Sawn in half… drowning in my own entrails!

“Aaargh!”

But surely I shouldn’t be able to cry out? Or to still feel that stabbing in my ankle, from the tenacious golden clockwork hand, hiding up my trouser-leg?

I open one eye, tentatively. Just in time to see Carvery walking over to flush the toilet.

The last remnants of scaly, blubbery skin vanish down the pan. Carvery turns back to look at me, and I see Mrs. Frittata’s shotgun in his other hand.

“Gun must have dried out properly,” he remarks. “Just in time.”

“You had the gun on you all along?” I exclaim, shaking now more with rage than with fear and revulsion. “Where were you hiding it?”

“Down my pants,” he scoffs. “Right behind my knob.”

“Well, that’s reassuring,” I snap. “Knowing that you can conceal an offensive weapon behind the one you already have.”

Even while retaliating, I’m aware of consciously trying not to picture the implied scale of the aforementioned deadly Carvery Slaughter attachment… Stupid traitorous hormones!!

We all look up. Some more cash is grudgingly exchanging owners above us in the street, but Ace is still upright. Thank God…

Homer’s bed grinds another three inches inwards, across the floor.

“I don’t understand,” I whimper. “We’ve got the diary – we’ve got the clockwork hand. What are they waiting for? Why are they torturing us?”

“I think they’re still waiting for the heathen magic,” Carvery reminds us. “Sure you don’t have any voodoo on you, Luke? They‘ve even provided you with a half-dead zombie to start you off.”

“They’re crazy!” Luke yelps. “You’re all crazy…”

I start to get pins-and-needles in my ankle, at the location of the clockwork hand. And as the wall inches closer inwards again, evidently working now over shorter consecutive periods – like the road-markings approaching the end of a freeway – the tingling starts to heat up. It feels as though a candle has been lit under my foot.

“I don’t know about you,” I mutter, “but something hoodoo is happening down here…”

The tiles on the floor around me start to click rhythmically, and seem to slide against one another like a picture-puzzle. The walls bulge, organically this time.

“Dude,” Carvery remarks. “There’s a weird light shining out of the toilet…”

Before he finishes speaking, the room revolves ninety degrees.

The light gets brighter, gradually outshining the daylight from above. The onlookers in the citadel square overhead back away, covering their eyes.

“Fuck!” Carvery suddenly exclaims, still looking into the toilet-bowl, like a lightweight freshman on his first Rag Week night out. “It blinked!”

Luke’s shaking stops. As he breathes out calmly and the light in his own eyes changes, it is apparent that perhaps he does have a little knowledge of the occult…

“It’s a scrying bowl,” he states quietly. “It’s Atum. He’s keeping his Eye on us. And on the clockwork hand – and on the little book.”

“From the toilet?” I can’t stop myself from scoffing. “If he’s the most all-powerful god of all creation, surely he’d find somewhere better to watch us from?”

“Careful what you wish for, Sarah Bellum,” Luke warns.

And the entire floor suddenly drops away, beneath us…

Toilet scene from ‘ParaNorman’ – a must-see, zombie-fan family fun! 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Fermat’s Womb: A Zombie Parody

Britney vs. Bloodhound Gang – Unusual Uhn Tiss mash-up…

“It’s a trick,” Luke gasps, before I can open my mouth to protest. “They still want the information on the clockwork hand. He’s here to deal with Homer – or any alien squid-monster that pops out – if it looks like there’s any chance I can tell them what they want first.”

Carvery just grins.

“One possibility,” he agrees. “What do you think, Sarah?”

I pull ineffectually on the chain securing my arm behind the dirty sink.

“I think you’d jump at any chance to be the only armed man in a room with two restrained prisoners and an unconscious zombie,” I reply. “It’d give you the opportunity to live up to your name, Carvery Slaughter.”

“Could be, could be,” he nods, turning the page of the tiny diary. “Could be all of the above. Where did you get this copy of Mr. Dry Senior’s diary?”

“That was given to me to look after!” I hiss through gritted teeth, half-truthfully this time. “And you shouldn’t be reading it – as usual…”

“It’s all in code anyway,” he shrugs. “Code and little drawings. Like he was playing Draw My Thing online. On his own, in a little notebook. Or Hangman. Anyway, you missed one. I might be down here to defend Homer, in case you two manage to get loose.”

“Still sounds like a win-win for Carvery,” I grouch.

“Well, unless you’ve got anything on either of you that beats a chainsaw, it’s not exactly an evenly weighted contest, is it?” Carvery sighs, and sounds almost bored. “They could have let me down here unarmed and I’d still have the upper hand, no pun intended. I think they gave me the chainsaw just because they like a bit of theatrics. Plus it deters any onlookers considering a bit of treason after breakfast.”

Luke starts to twitch. It’s slight at first, but gradually becomes more spastic and uncontrolled. I wonder if he’s being bitten.

“Are you okay?” I gulp, wondering about the size of fleas or body-lice that might be encountered down here.

“Maybe he got the Ex-Lax treatment after all,” Carvery remarks. “You might want to turn your head away, in that case. And maybe tuck your feet in.”

“Let me out!” is all Luke screams. “It’s not what you think!”

“Maybe he’s got a Squidmorph too,” Carvery suggests. “Keep your legs crossed, Sarah. It might look for somewhere new to hide after getting flushed out prematurely…”

“Why are we chained up anyway?” I ask suddenly, as something occurs to me. “In a completely inaccessible underground room, beneath a glass floor in the public square above, with everyone watching? Surely there’d be no need to chain us up – unless it’s ‘torture by withholding use of nearby toilet’…”

Carvery looks down between his own legs at the offending piece of bathroom furniture, which he is currently employing as occasional seating in our stinking, subterranean tiled cell.

“Maybe there’s a way out, is what I’m saying,” I continue. “Maybe they’ve had people escape before.”

“Maybe it’s fear of whatever imaginary magic they think Luke himself is withholding,” Carvery replies, nodding towards the spasmodic Mr. Lukan. “He doesn’t look too happy now. I can picture them placing bets on something exploding out of him fairly shortly, laxative or no laxative.”

The worrying silence seems a bit more hollow for a moment, and I’m sure a sense a distant rumble. Like an earthquake.

“Did you feel that?” I ask. “I’m sure the Earth just moved.”

“Sarah, I’m nowhere near you,” Carvery grumbles. “Control yourself, for God’s sake.”

Before a retort comes to mind, there is another judder, closer this time. It has a mechanical edge to it.

And then a horrible fingernail-on-slate noise – and Homer’s metal bunk scrapes two inches inwards into the room.

“That wall just moved!” I exclaim.

The scraping sound is still echoing away as Carvery gets to his feet, crosses the cell, and crouches to inspect the floor under the steel bed.

“There are scratch marks here,” he reports, after a moment’s dark silence. I can see his eyes follow the direction of the scoring, across the width of the room. “It looks like it’s been moved before…”

“It’s their Joker,” Luke pants, rejoining the conversation from his current delirium.”Or their ace – whatever you want to call it. If the zombie fails – or the squid-monster – or the psychopath in the room – the room itself is the final device…”

“Ah,” Carvery muses. “And there was I, thinking that being stuck in a room with a hormone-riddled idiot necrophiliac was going to be the definition of Hell. And what an incredible smell you’ve discovered down here, Sarah? I can see that not improving, over the next hour or so…”

The distant rumble vibrates along the plumbing again.

“We have to do something!” I cry, trying to suppress some very real hysteria now creeping up on me. “And God – what’s wrong with him??”

Luke is shaking again, and suddenly lets out a stifled scream – this time with no words.

Carvery clicks his tongue disapprovingly.

“That’s what happens when you don’t breathe through the contractions, dude,” he warns. “Take your time, and let the suspect chocolate-flavoured medicine do the hard work for you…”

“I think he’s really sick!” I interrupt, but a new scraping sound joins in – this time a metallic, hurried skittering noise over the tiles. “Oh, no – what’s that now?!”

“Where?” Carvery asks, reaching for the chainsaw.

“Something’s running around on the floor…” I begin, and the noise increases in volume.

And then I scream in turn – as something hard and unyielding snaps around my ankle like a clamp!

“It’s got me! It’s got me!” I shriek, kicking out at first, not brave enough to reach down with my free hand – not wanting to risk losing that as well.

“Great!” Carvery enthuses, cheerfully. “Which bit of you do you want cut off?”

But it doesn’t feel like a Squidmorph tentacle. Not this time. Homer is still supine on the metal bunk. Luke is shuddering on the end of his manacles, his violent spasms now reduced to a trembling shiver, as if from non-existent cold.

The Thing seems to latch itself shut around my right leg.

“I can’t see what it is,” I moan.

“Pull your trouser-leg up, Dumbass,” Carvery says, leaning down to look – chainsaw at the ready.

Shaking in fear, I tweak the sweat-drenched fabric up a little. And something glitters…

“Cover it up,” Carvery snaps. “Quick. Before they see it.”

“Why?” I squeal, dropping the fabric from my fingertips at once. “What is it?”

“Well, it’s not an electronic tag,” he grins, tapping his own ankle in indication and winking. “Looks like Luke was hiding the clockwork hand on him all along.”

“Like I said,” Luke manages to whisper. “It doesn’t belong – to anyone. It chooses you.”

What? What does he mean?

“It’s chosen you, Sarah,” he adds, rolling his bloodshot eyes towards me.

“Maybe it knows you were meant to be looking after it.” Carvery squints up at the glass ceiling. “I wonder if Crispin guessed that too, and threw you in here for that reason?”

“I was planted in here?” I conclude, shocked. “To get the clockwork hand back?”

The metal bunk scrapes further inwards on the tiled floor, with another mechanical groan. Homer stirs flatulently and mutters again, in his convalescent slumber.

There is a sudden whiff of battery acid in the fetid air…

“I don’t think they’re going to let us off that easily,” Carvery grins.

Fermat’s Room, trailer – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

The Uvula Strikes Back: A Zombie Parody

The Beastie Boys vs. Bob Marley – Could You Be Intergalactic mash-up…

“What took you so long?” Ace asks, when I catch up with the others.

The underwater cavern could be described as ‘forbidding’ – only it’s more than forbidding. It’s the full Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted notice, Jesus-is-Watching-You sign, and restraining order.

That’s how forbidding it is.

I can already sense my brain-stem drafting out its Diminished Responsibility plea for the condition that this diving-suit will be returned in.

“I slipped,” I explain, knowing that I’m not even in the neighbourhood of the truth, let alone close to it. “And, er – I dropped my harpoon gun…”

An explosion in the water between us causes similar in my trousers, as the weapon being discussed – in this case, Crispin Dry’s harpoon gun – fires at something behind me. I turn to face a giant, yawning, vicelike claw, lined with exoskeletal barbs.

It freezes in its apparently ready stance to snap around my neck, and then abruptly withdraws into a cloud of sand and bubbles.

“Rock Scorpion,” says Crispin, over the radio. “We must keep moving.”

Heading deeper into the tunnel, we climb over a jagged outcrop of white limestone stalagmites. I look upwards, half expecting to see similar stalactites overhead… but the cave is so vast, the ceiling is hidden in darkness, and drifting ocean silt.

“Are you sure the Sea Centipede who dug this tunnel is dead?” Carvery Slaughter asks, voicing something I was wondering about myself.

“Fairly certain,” Crispin replies. “She was not too bothered about us clambering over her teeth just now, so if we survive the journey all the way along the alimentary canal to the other end, I think we can safely assume that ‘dead’ is her current state.”

“Really?” Carvery points his harpoon at the nearest wall, and fires. It goes fairly deep, sending up dark shards of old rotted carcass into the almost stagnant seawater. “Guess so.”

“What’s an alimentary canal?” Ace asks. “Do we have to get on another barge? Because the last one kind of did me enough damage for today.”

“Nah, you don’t need a barge on an alimentary canal,” Carvery tells him. “It’s a misnomer. Not so much like a real canal – more like a flume.”

“What, one you ride on a rubber ring?” says Ace.

“If we spot one on the way, you’re welcome to it,” I mutter under my breath, but forget that they can hear me over the radio.

“I wouldn’t try it, if I were you,” Carvery replies to Ace, ignoring me. “It’s over-rated.”

“I’ll let you ride shotgun,” Ace suggests.

Carvery seems to ponder.

“Not my cup of tea,” he says at last. “And anyway – judging by the size of this mother, it’d be like throwing a couple of Tic-Tacs down a well.”

We continue to pick our way carefully through the darkness, the only illumination being from the lights built into our own diving helmets.

Another giant Rock Scorpion lunges out into our path, and this time I get a better view as it swings for Homer. The segmented carapace is black with yellow underneath, spotted like a leopard, and those giant claws are highlighted with angry red Go-Faster stripes. It reminds me of an old Formula One, John Player Special-sponsored Decepticon Transformer.

Ace’s harpoon flies into its side, and sticks in the join between head armour and thorax. It immediately turns back, scrabbling to try and dislodge the piercing, and forgetting about Homer N. Dry – who minces onward happily.

How can he still walk like that underwater, in that dirty great diving-suit? It must be the added buoyancy… I feel as though as I’m doing a Pingu impression, myself…

“See that light ahead?” Crispin announces, and we all strain to see anything through the murk. “The exit is about another hundred yards or so, and we will find ourselves at the bottom of the subterranean dock, for the Eight a.m. Lounge.”

It sounds hopeful, and we put in a renewed effort. I’m relieved to see Carvery and Ace re-cocking their harpoon guns, just in case.

I wonder about that mysterious creature who rescued me back on the cliff-face, stealing my own harpoon gun in exchange. What would a man with a fishtail want with a harpoon gun? Surely if there were any danger to him underwater, he could just turn his tail into legs and run away up the beach somewhere?

Or maybe they don’t do that in this reality… perhaps Disney made it up…

“Watch it,” Ace’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “I just stepped in something squishy.”

I look down, the beams of my head-lights sparkling off the sand and dirt swirling up from the sediment. The floor has taken on a bobbled appearance under the muck, like a huge puff-patchwork quilt.

“It was one of these blobby things,” Ace continues, kicking his foot into another. It breaks open, like a deflating balloon, and releases inky black liquid and greenish slime into the water. “Maybe the giant centipede had a big peptic ulcer problem.”

“I hope so,” Carvery remarks. “Because otherwise it looks like we’ve taken a wrong turn at the buffet car, and found where they’re hiding the caviare.”

The Empire Strikes Back: Mynock Cave Scene (original) – Enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords