On the deck of the Good Ship Lollipop, Captain Pigheart and No Hands Mick take some air.
‘Gaargh, tis a morn’ o’ uncanny brightness Mick’
‘Have ye taken ye daily measurin’s yet cap’n?’
‘I’ve me scan o’ the horizon and the pairin’ o’ compasses afore me yet’
‘Just strappin’ on me measuratin mitts’
‘Knit ’em to ye wrists in that clockwards method’
‘Let’s take readin’s!’
‘Mick, I admires ye enthusiasm’
‘Never more enchanted by nature than when takin’ her bearings cap’n’
‘Oh ye are a child o’ science and Madame Mer indeed’
‘Place ye instrument upon the breeze’
‘Quotidian matters such as these keep a man sane at sea’
‘Right you are sir, now shalls we extend together our vanes?’
‘Slight tilt to ye weather-cock I’d not noted previously there Mick’
‘Tis a sensitive matter’
‘Unusually sensitive judgin’ from the rise in its bulb’
‘Verily, for ye salty breeze does pluck at me arrow’
‘Whence comes that wind?’
‘X – tis from the region in which we’ve buried our trove’
‘Ye speakin’s’re true, I’ll note it so’
‘Zephr’s be most welcome, see how they do titillate our barometric globes’
‘Beasts on ye horizon sir!’
‘Come Mick, let us stow our tools and make ready with cannon’
‘Delicate now, for our tackle’s delicate’
‘Eschew ye care for the sake of our lives’
‘Fear not cap’n, on closer peeking tis but a rock’
‘I beg your pardon’
‘Just saving what I see’
‘Kiss my arse’
‘Look who’s all touchy’
‘My arse, your face’
‘Oh grow up’
‘Perhaps we should start again’
‘Quickly before I stab you with something’
‘Raking it all over again am I?’
‘Sometimes I really dislike you’
‘Unless you’re going to buy something, can we just go please’
‘Vases, great big stone garden vases’
‘eXpecting something more masculine?’
‘You can buy whatever you want’
‘Zebras! Huge plastic zebras’
‘And if you get one you’ll never get back in the house’
‘But it would great in the front garden’
‘Don’t start that again – it’s retail time’
‘Everyone thinks you’re a dick’
‘Going now… Bye’
Ahoy folkses of the sea. Tis me birthday and for fun, and a mate, I’ve recorded me Birthday Party Adventure for ye pleasure via the medium o’ YeTube. It features party games, disappointing gifts and a beast. Feel free t’enjoy, or if ye prefer here’s the written version: Captain Pigheart’s Birthday Party.
The trees were burning. The flames leaped from one tree to the next, rushing up the avenue like autumn followed by winter. The dead blackened trunks crumbled to ash and were blasted into the air. The wave of incineration struck the window, glaring into an eerie whiteness punctuated by muffled thumps as the pane absorbed the shock. Gradually the smoke and dust cleared. Through the scratched glass the world was barren and shrouded in red. In the distance the fire-front could be seen reaching the horizon.
“Excellent,” declared the titanic black chair as it swivelled round, “three minutes and eleven seconds to utter destruction”. Tremulous Gutshank peered up at his master perching on the black seat, “yes sir, that’s one hundred and thirty-three seconds faster than the last world”. His master’s face was only just visible within the mass of fur surrounding him in his command chair. Gutshank checked the time nervously. “Yes, my doom has been imposed upon this world and its pitiful squealing populace. No more shall their artistic abominations infest the aesthetic sensibilities of the universe.” Gutshank fiddled with his watch while his master continued to ramble. “Doom from above, doom from below, doom from behind their homes where their children played in the green sand ground down over aeons by the relentless tides of their now dry and dusty seas.” Gutshank coughed politely.
“And their insipid stain is now wiped from the galaxy’s diverse blouse of existence- Gutshank, do not interrupt me as I wax lyrical upon the fate of my enemies”. His High Lord Ethereality of Maximum Terror, Vermouthinator looked down from his high seat of destruction at the quaking serf below. “Fetch me a martini, upon this instant, lest I cast you into the vacuity without,” he commanded, the sweep of his arm taking in the wasteland outside. “But sir, it’s been two and a half minutes since you changed the terms of existence on this planet – they’ll be here soon” Gutshank persisted. “Gin, vermouth, an olive.. a glass. Immediately!” Vermouthinator’s voice reached its quavery peak as he shrieked “a chilled glass – chilled! Not cold.”
As the weevilly Gutshank scurried from the room his Maximum Lordship sighed, and with a vast furry fist depressed the button which spiralled his chair back down to the floor. The view outside was still magnificent, an aura of death hung over the plain outside. The Life-Punchinator was almost ready for its ultimate purpose, to destroy Galaxy Team and whatever worthless planet they occupied at the time. Gutshank was right: they would soon be here to interfere with his progress, despite their own science provenance. It seemed unlikely that they would be especially concerned about the twittering inhabitants of Gockley IX. It was a small planet with an only recently sentient population of bird-analogues who had barely mastered growing trees in rows and shitting paint onto stone canvasses let alone contribute to the Sentience Shoal.
And yet still Galaxy Team would insist on interfering. Perhaps if Vermouthinator hadn’t pushed their former leader, Alpha Strangemind to the brink of despair (and just over it) they wouldn’t be quite so passionate. It had all been a bit of a game once. Vermouthinator and Gutshank would travel across space conducting experiments and making perfect martinis. Occasionally that required large scale experimentation (like the gassing of the Gimp-Muddlers on Kungly Prime). People didn’t always die (although everyone on Kungly Prime did).
It was after the Olive Debacle that things turned nasty. It was a simple scheme – turn the Mediterranean into a giant martini. That part had gone well. But when Vermouthinator and Gutshank had entered the secondary phase of morphing the great cities of Europe into olives, Strangemind and his Galaxy Team had come flying at them, severing the crucial streams of laser juice as they pumped the cities full of oliveness. Things had rather escalated after that: Belgium was left a smoking crater; the Beastlie Boys stole Vermouthinator’s skin; he released a video of Alpha in bed with a hooker named Causal Orgasm (who knew she had super-powers?); Alpha declared a personal war while negotiating a divorce settlement. So war it was.
“We have a reading on the Vortex!” cried Gutshank, artfully skimming the martini tray to his master as he leaped to the Observation Column’s control panel. The Vermouthinator’s seat spiralled high into the dome as Gutshank spun the elevation wheels. He desperately wobbled the glass to keep its precious fluids in a matching counter-spiral lest it be lost. Shaking off the pangs of motion sickness he sipped at the ginny nectar and arched an eyebrow at the growing speck of light arrowing towards the demisphere of glass. “Soon, soon. Come close into my Enpunchinating embrace you fools. Aye Alpha Strangemind, never more shall you and your mutated spawn infringe upon the dominion of all that is due to The Vermouthinator Master Vibrantine and Earl of the Decadent Liquid Realms.” He chuckled into his martini. With the final test complete (and Gockley IX now suitable for dust-farming) he felt confident that he would soon be removing Galaxy Team for good.
The Vortex had grown larger during The Vermouthinator’s unusually brief speech, much larger. Gutshank noticed a small, almost unnoticeable light flashing on the control panel, in an unobtrusive almost apologetic way. Almost like it didn’t want to be noticed, didn’t want to get poor Tremulous in trouble, get him flayed or inserted into another body. Maybe Gutshank should follow suit. He carefully stuck a post-it note over the light. “All controls re-routed to your command chair my Ascended Lord of the High Thought and Action, you have complete control sire.” Looking up through the crystal dome overhead Gutshank could see the distinctive eagle-mounting-a-lion shape of the Vortex closing in. It cruised over the billowing dust clouds and through the black rain, finally rearing up and presenting its fearsomely armed underside to the quailing Gutshank and the now maniacally giggling Vermouthinator.
Vermouthinator activated the communicator and bellowed into it, “Goodbye Strangemind, you shall plague me no more!” The Vortex’s weapons swivelled towards the villain’s base and Alpha Strangemind’s familiar teacherly tones echoed through the base, “Damn you Verminator. Another planet crushed beneath your spiteful boots. In a million years those birds might have been ready to share their music with the rest of the Shoal, but now they never will.”
“Indeed, and had they not insisted on waking me early in the day with their incessant wittering they could still have done,” replied Vermouthinator, “but like you they just couldn’t resist interfering with me – and now you shall share their downfall.” With the air of a fur-clad conductor he jabbed one long finger down onto the firing button on his armrest, “prepare to be enPunchinated!” The vast machine in their hideout vibrated and hummed, lights rippling up the inside of the dome in waves. Huge doors opened underneath the dome and extended equally enormous articulated arms ending in massive grasping fists.
There was a painful choking sound and the humming became a throaty growl and the entire dome shuddered. “This is most irregular, if you could just hold on a moment.” Vermouthinator stabbed wildly at the controls, slamming his fists into the buttons. Alpha’s voice came back through the speakers, “Normally I wouldn’t feel any obligation to mention it, but the generators at the rear of your facility appear to be overheating. It looks very much like we won’t be needed here at all.” The two arms began waving about, punching drunkenly at the rain.
“No, wait. I’m certain we’ll be able to destroy you momentarily.” Vermouthinator clenched his fingers tightly and screamed, “Gutshank, what the hell is going on down there?”
“I’m terribly sorry Master, but all my controls are slaved to yours -oh, what’s this? There’s a little light here which is flashing – just under the fist-power drive – is that a problem?” Tremulous nervously enquired. The martini glass bounced off his head and shattered on the floor.
The Vortex rotated in the sky outside and retreated to a good viewing distance while Vermouthinator screamed in frustration and hit the descend button on his chair. As the spinning throne tossed Vermouthinator onto the floor the machines pumped and ground their way to a roaring climax of tearing metal and throbbing energy. The red light had been joined by a mosaic of its fellows casting a red strobe over the villain who kicked Tremulous Gutshank all the way to the emergency exit (helpfully denoted by a flashing green light above the door). The safety doors gave way to the Wyrmwood, Vermouthinator’s ship.
The Life-Punchinator’s began randomly punching energy fists into the air and ground around the base, smashing the dome and its foundations. The pugilistic battery grew faster until the Life-Punchinator finished itself with a powerful one-two to the planet’s mantle and detonated in a white-hot cone of energy. The Wyrmwood was flicked into space by the force of the blast, which obscured it from the Vortex’s sensors. Gutshank struggled to regain control of the ejected ship as it veered dangerously close to one of Gockley IX’s moons. Not an easy task when being beaten about the head by your enraged and bitterly disappointed master. Gradually the Vermouthinator’s rage subsided into sulking and he sank deep into his furry robes until he could bring himself to speak without cursing. “Gutshank, tell me you at least had the common decency to salvage the cocktail trolley”.
Ahoy mateys, tis as always a sublime wonderment to me that I’ve any mateys remaining, given the horrible atrocities which beset us on our adventures. Well done to ye for surviving so far. It’s been some while since I put me face near yours and leered suggestively; since that occasion it’s been made clear that I ought to do so from a distance. And so this update, to fill ye in on the wonders, aye the things I’ve seen (if only in ye tedious two dimensions).
New stories! Aye, new tales from meself and also me compatriots in the babbling arts:
First off, me Stowaway Adventure – a short tale about why ye should rarely accept hitchhikers aboard. Naturally it does not end well.
It’s entirely likely to have escaped ye notice (though I flatter meself that it has not), but ye captain’s been diversifyin’ his literative prattlin’.
Franklyn de Gashe, the roguish time travelling serial killer returns with a tale of Shakespearean re-enactment, albeit with cyborg zombies and quite a lot of drugs in The Theatrical Entertainment. I do hope you enjoy it, I found it enormously fun to write. It’s only his third full length story. There are more stories lined up for him, so if you do like the rather nastier dark-hunoured stuff please keep an eye out.
Much of my time has been taken up pondering the potential joys and excitement of dysfunctional and weird superheroes in Galaxy Team– an umbrella I guess for the adventures of Alpha Strangemind and his mutant kin against the enemies and beasts out there. So far we have only two to relate to you: The Beastlie Brothers and The Life Punchinator. However, there’s an obscene amount of backstory to be revealed and some of that should be out shortly. I’m having fun with them.
Other than that, Alex Trepan‘s kind of on the backburner due to serious problems between my brain and the concept of plot but I’m pleased with the first two bits.
Something that’s been amusing me far more in between ‘proper’ writing are the Alphabetic Dialogues. I’m terrible at dialogue and so write almost exclusively in first person – this is my exercise in fixing it. The Alphabet Game is an improv theatre sport framework which seemed ideal for getting some dialogue practice in. They’re short and possibly funny. Many of the characters from other stories will appear in them. (I scribbled about the game here on the MissImp blog where I also write oddments about improv comedy.)
Finally there’s poetry – it’s not a natural form for me but I have found the 140 character restriction of Twitter, plus getting angry at work to be very stimulating. I’ll publish collected lumps of Twitpoems on here occasionally, but they’ll all be in the @shankanalia Twitter stream too along with some bitter anger – follow away!
Now – would anyone like a badge? A badge with the Captain on? A badge that looks like this… Really? Cool! Share my stories with your friends or something nice like that and I’ll send you one in the post. Remember to tell me where you live though.
Oh – not finally! There’s also improv comedy which is all about stories of course, but occasionally I get a chance to do a solo story which I adore (the opportunity, not necessarily the story). There’s some other fun ones around but either I can’t find them or they ain’t up on YouTube yet – if you enjoy them I’ll post them regular-like.
Alpha Strangemind and The Krayfish find themselves in a stand-off. (The Krayfish is a hive entity who exists mainly in a bucket. Of crayfish. Well, he/it is the crayfish – put enough of them together and they get smart.)
‘Come any closer and I’ll nip off your pointies’
‘Don’t threaten me you scabby prawn’
‘Eventually you will grow weak and I shall destroy you and your freakish children, Strangemind’
‘Fresh fishmeat for the table. That’s all you are Krayfish’
‘Gashing you open is only the start of my plans for you’
‘Ha! As soon as you lay your slimy shell fists on me I’ll be as chitinous as you’
‘I’ve far larger crayfish to call upon who will hammer out your weak meat’
‘Just try me, prawn’
‘Keep up the taunts Strangeskin. I’d step off that puddle of fish vomit if I looked like you’
‘Let’s get down to it. You, me and a Swiss Army knife’
‘Move one inch closer and I’ll swarm!’
‘No Krayfish, you see I’ve brought Mu-Tant Ra-Koon with me, and he’s quite capable of kicking your bucket’
‘On my word I never had planned to harm you, ah ha, haha…’
‘Perhaps you forget your place Krayfish’
‘Quell my fears old frind, stand down your fur-boy’
‘Relieving myself of the advantage? I think not’
‘Supposing I were to supply you with certain nuggets of information that might tease your interest?’
‘That could well be another matter’
‘Underwater there have been murmurs of Dementia…’
‘Volupine Dementia? That vicious witch’
‘Well, that sounds like a yes’
‘eXplain to me your sources and we may grant you some leeway’
‘You’ll need to do more than that. I know when and where she’ll be’
‘Zealous bitch. Done’
‘And my product will be unharmed’
‘Brain Jam – you call that a product?’
‘Can’t complain about a profit Strangemind.’
“Paris 1993 [Eiffel tower] Thursday July 22rd 17:53 [same shot of the Eiffel tower with a vast spaceship hovering over it]. The first recorded appearance of the intergalactic space villain, self-dubbed ‘Vermouthinator’ (over two hundred appellations to his name have been recorded – all honorific titles, apparently self-created as an expression of his extreme egotism). Vermouthinator contacted all humans on Earth directly, simultaneously entering their minds instead of all forms of traditional communication. His message was short and cryptic and has been pieced together from a variety of surviving sources [montage of confused Parisians]:
“Greetings human filth. It is I, the Ineffably Wondrous Lord of the Demiverse, Sculptor of Wonder, Imbiber of Galactic Fluids – the one and only Vermouthinator. Congratulations are due to your mixologists and cocktailliers. It is martini time.” [photograph of a martini glass]
This initial contact may have been mis-calibrated in either its force or content. Certainly the overture while apparently contemptuous, did not speak of an intent for the carnage that ensued. While all of humanity received a message (albeit in English, which was wasted on many), the area immediately around Paris, in a roughly 1000 mile radius was particularly affected by the intensity of the communication [map with big red circle]. Religious fundamentalists appeared to take the brunt of the damage, suffering from the now well-documented ‘Mental Expulsion Trauma’ (see appendix xii).
In summary: the contact forced a paradigm shift upon those affected. Undeniable evidence of non-terrestrial life or the sudden telepathic contact so vastly exceeded their supposed realities that their natural mental plasticity (the ability to compartmentalise irreconcilable information) was unable to cope. The result: their mental states were forced out of their physical structures to a point 14 inches to the left of their skull [image of a ghostly brain hanging above a mannequins shoulder]. It is notable that individuals suffering from schizophrenia and related disorders were less likely to be fatally affected.
Of the affected individuals 98.995% are now deceased, their vegetative states determined permanent. Rumours persist of sentient plants and animals who were within that 14 inch translocation range [photograph of ‘Benny the Signing Dandelion’ and ‘Aquat, the Scholarly Squirrel’]. Few of these cases have been verified, nor have the accounts of sightings of Alpha Strangemind and the Galaxy Team in heavily affected regions apparently armed with “high-tech butterfly nets” [artist’s impression of techno-net].”
The film jerks to a stop, black streaks overtaken by white which flicker over the curious figure hunched before the screen. He is tall and thin, dressed in a fake silk dressing gown with a dragon cheaply embroidered on the back; his feet and ankles are bony and uncovered. With a snort of disgust he spits on the concrete floor and stabs the button on his arm rest which re-starts the film. The shadows cast by the television throw his long body back across the bleak room; his head tails weakly off the top of his shoulders. The shadow is no trick of the light: his head really is tiny. This is Pip, first child of Anne and Doyle Humpester; Galactobrain to his fans; Milkymind to his brothers; Bollockface to his enemies. The last is cruel but apt observation. He stands and hurls his Kit-Kat mug across the room. It falls short of the opposing wall and shatters on the concrete sending a coffee slick into the cracks.
“Oi. You can clear that lot up right now mister,” the door flies open to reveal the voluptuous figure of Comely Strangemind, wife and partner to the legendary Galaxy Team patriarch Alpha (formerly Mr and Mrs Doyle Humpester). She stands there with her stark black mask in place but otherwise wrapped in a towel, steaming from the shower.
Pip whirls around, his eyes bulging in surprise. They’re the biggest thing in his head, which looks exactly like someone’s taken a tennis ball and stapled a pair of poached eggs onto it. He bursts into tears. The way his face is squeezed means that his tear ducts are unnaturally pressed against his cheek bones and the tears spurt forward like windscreen washers.
Comely crosses the room and crushes her son to her breast, “Oh Pip, you must stop watching that.”
“I just hate him so much mum, it’s all his fault…” his tears soak into Comely’s towel. Quietly Comely extrudes a length of tail-like flesh and scoops the broken mug up and into the waste basket by the door. She sits down and pops Pip on her knee where he continues his bitter sobbing.
Pip is one of only twenty-three human survivors of the ironically titled Vermouth Thursday’s Mental Expulsion Trauma. At the time of the Vermouthinator’s fateful message he had been seven, an outwardly normal boy (if rather tall) with extraordinary mental powers. He had been instrumental in the development of Galaxy Team since before he was born and so had been involved in some of his parents’ earliest experiments on he and his siblings.
On Vermouth Thursday Alpha and Comely had strapped Pip into a device of their devising intended to map and amplify the already prodigious mind he possessed – the augMentation. Pip was a willing participant, keen to expand and develop the neoScience of Galaxy Team. His mind was wide open, the virtual tendrils of their machinery exposing and teasing apart his mind. When Vermouthinator blasted out his greeting to humanity Pip’s mind was naked and vulnerable. The words blasted into him, amplified a billion-fold by the augMentation. Unlike the millions who died almost instantly, the extraordinary mental prowess enabled him to find an escape from the endless reverberations of alien inanities. He tapped into the Quantum Occlusion (which shielded the village of Llandwi-ge-Hw from outsiders) and ejected his mind past the 14 inch limit. He went too far. Bent around the Occlusion, it strained his mind and the physical matter of his brain out into space and beyond. The stream of his ideation found its entangled particles and flowed around the converse edge of the universe, re-emerging into real space inside the Small Megallanic Cloud where it discovered structure sufficient to accommodate his mind, though massively dispersed.
Despite Alpha’s best efforts they had been unable to reverse the process – Pip’s brain was no longer located in his body – it was a galaxy two hundred million light years away. On Earth the shell of his head had buckled, cracking and collapsing unable to tolerate the vacuum within. Somehow he still controlled his body though it was some weeks before he fully integrated his disparate mentality between the stars. When he did regain the power of speech it was a huge relief to his parents who had almost ceased their experiments on their other offspring in concern. With the return of speech came a darkness born of the deep space in which he now lived, and despite being only a child, he swore vengeance on Vermouthinator.
Anne had grown used to finding Pip watching the news reports of Vermouth Thursday over and over again. Despite his galactic intelligence he just could not find it in him to forgive Vermouthinator for destroying his face. That he had likely gained immortality at the age of seven by replanting his consciousness in another galaxy was small comfort for a young man who ought to be chasing girls like the Beastlie Brothers (though hopefully with more success). All of Comely’s attempts to steer him away from revenge had failed. It seemed the only thing to do was to help him avenge himself.
“Pip, we know he’ll be back one day, people like him always come back.” Pip judders with rage and the force of tears firing upwards from his eyes.
“He’s not a person mum, we don’t know where he’s from or what he is.” Pip’s fingers begin to jerk in a complex pattern of virtual keystrokes and command gestures.
“Let’s try and find out shall we? You know your father’s been working on the Vortex. We could go and find him, out there.” The holographic screen appears in the room before them, engineering designs, molecular structures and anatomical diagrams flash away with a single gesture from Pip. A detailed image of the Milky Way resolves itself in the air and streaks past to reveal the cloudy mass of stars that compose Pip’s mind. They pierce the outer halo and streaks of stardust. Comely cannot help but wonder what part of Pip’s mind they are looking at. What happens when a star dies in his mind…
Pip’s tears dry up and his face takes on a distant, calculating aspect. He points at a cluster of stars and the view zooms in to show a star with its orrery of planets gliding by, “I wonder if he’s in me.” The thought makes Comely’s second skin crawl under her towel.
Aye, day came for me once more, to rub me thumping noggin in its brightness. The light was partially eclipsed by blurry, bobbin’ shapes dippin’ in and out of me vision. My ears were subjected to a frantic squeaking and whistling. Yarr, twas like being stuck in a child’s recorder recital. And yet the tilting of the ground beneath me told me I were not stuck in that wretched place – I was at sea. My vision cleared, resolving me confines into the all too familiar prison décor of vertical bars and me captors into a gang of prairie dogs. This were an ill turn. I’d heard tell of a roving ship crewed by unlikely beasts but I’d not thought meself luckless enough to fall prey to them.
I snarled at them in me most fearsome manner. Twas pretty fearsome, for following a nasty incident with Discombobula Dentata (see ye Orthodontic Odyssey to learn o’ me distress), I’d had to have me teeth replaced. The only teeth available had been the sharpened mouth spines a savage tribesman. Suitably cowed, the bobbing and weaving desert rodents released me.
Merely standing set off a ripple of dipping dogs. I was starting to get seasick when I spotted a mallet to me right. Good fortune favoured me, for tis the side on which I have fingers. I seized it and laid about the prairie pirates. Whenever one of the little savages popped up I whopped him back down. I slowly made me whalloping way to the gunwales, fending off their sprightly charges with me hammer of righteousness.
I’m rarely a man of god, but there’s just something about being kidnapped by yipping rodents that invokes the Old Testament in me. Once I’d hammered every last one of them (it took a fair few whacks to inhibit their reflexive springing) I released the dinghy. I’d no desire to sail off with their ship – I’d no crew and the wheel was only knee high. I heaved meself over the side and balanced precariously on the little craft.
I was about to set off when I heard that damnable chitterin’ from the deck and looked up just in time to see an articulated beam spin out from the vessel and swing down in an arc upon me. Me last sight were of a vast hammer’s head being ridden by a screaming prairie dog with gold teeth as it pounded down onto me. Damn prairie dogs.
‘Come on, I’m going to kill your black pieces’
‘Do you mind, I’ve just sorted the pieces out’
‘Everyone knows white goes first’
‘Green Jeremy. Green!’
‘Have you seen any two bits?’
‘I have seen a million Lego pieces, none of which you selected’
‘…Just want to make a tree.’
‘Lego’s for fun’
‘My god, fun? FUN? Let me tell you about fun’
‘No daddy, let’s just play Lego’
‘Oh we’re beyond that – never mix the colours!’
***Push forward through time, Jeremy is 35 and further on in the game***
‘Queen to Rook 4’
‘Really Jeremy, you surprise me’
‘That’s not a bluff, besides you’ve taken your finger off it’
‘Unless you plan to talk all day, why not execute your brilliant strategy’
‘Will you stop tossing all the pieces in the box together!’
‘eXtricate yourself from that, bitch’
‘You can’t put them together – there are compartments’
‘Zealous today aren’t we’
‘All I want is to keep it tidy’
‘Beat me and I’ll let you’
The timbers of the Good Ship Lollipop splintered about me as the balls pounded into me stern. I bellowed to bring the ship around, for the wind was catchin’ us pretty and presenting us unfavourably to our foe. Smoke and cries filled the air between our two vessels – gaargh, twas the sneering upstart Captain Aaaarsbeard’s Cankered Whore which spat at us with her iron bile. I’m a proud man, but not too proud to admit fault on them exceptional cases where there’s no one else to blame. I cannot say the same of Captain “Moose Merkin” Aaaarsbeard, whose vexatious behaviour had earned him a sinking.
He was a petty and whimsical type, much given to the kind of ego massage as’d shame the most devoted onanist. And like most folk o’ so piteous a disposition he was also excessively sensitive. Not as ye might think in regard to his naming (Aaaarsbeard’s the family name), for while the man was bald as a vinegared lime his breeches overflowed with hedgey hirsutitude. Gaargh, the sight may taint the pleasure a man might take in packing his pipe. Tis said he once so terrified the Duke de Vulva-Beard (who ye may recall from the appalling Island of Merkin) that he was escorted from the Duke’s palace in a box lest his hairy tendrils infest the Duke’s dreams. I’d once seen him plunge into the drink while whorin’ along the pier of Butochrie (a charming town ye may wish to visit); his lower half ballooned and it took nine stout wenches to squeeze the water out of his man-britches.
Nonetheless, we’d been mates for many a year. For we had a common foe in the vile Admiral Lucius Kneehorn whose blind obedience to naval law had spoiled many a booty-hunt. Much time had we spent at cards, dice and wench plotting vengeance on the prissy seaman. Twas natural for us to dine whilst spinning the tales of our feats and daredevil adventuring. Me own cabin is filled with treasures and whatever remnant organs we’d been able to retrieve from the beasts we faced down. But Aaaarsbeard’s walls were adorned with fanciful portraits of himself astride (for example) the gaping socket of the cyclopean giant or nestlin’ twixt the diaphanous frills of a fish-maiden.
Me eye took in the veritable panorama of braggery while me hook idly traced the outline of those shapely scales, for twas life size, ye could almost smell the salt. Gaargh, how fondly I recalls them nip-nips, for twas me own Neptuney love. Me eye darted across further paintings and the theme grew clear – twas my past and my victories, not those of Captain Aaarsbeard. I knew ’em all for tales of me own life save that of the picture o’ Aaarsbeard shakin’ the claw of a bestial figure I knew to be the Pirate King (self-proclaimed for he’s a buffoon and more crab than king). Twas his only glory and a poor one at that. I’d not groom him were he twice the man I be, though his extra limb-ing might well produce such calculation; tis not in me nature.
The smugness on his face (in flesh and in oils) drove me to a tentative baitin’. “Yarr,” I remarked, “tis amazing how close our adventures be twined.” Aaaarsbeard chose not to be abashed and instead of admittin’ manly-style that his was a wall of false and stolen glory, he lashed out with a cutlass in his hairless fist. Me riposte was swift though me reach was not: twas with a figurine of a bountiful dwarf that I defended meself. I knew I was at a disadvantage bein’ trapped within the furry man’s cabin so I bounced the marble midget off his face and put his desk between us. It caught him hard across the cheek and drew a tear. Had it not, we might perhaps have laughed off the insult and resumed our duck à lobster. Pride me lovelies – tis a terrible thing.
While making an honourable rear-wards exit I drew me own blade and we sliced metal rainbows in the air. Being a better man in all respects (save the aforementioned wholeness) I kept him at the tip of me sword and flipped his ugly ornamentation at him with the curve of me hook. The flying cruets (for he’d a collection to rival a Condimentiary nun’s) distracted him for long enough that I could slice the piscine-maiden from out her frame and tuck her into me sash – she were coming with me. Thus emboldened I took the fight back to Aaaarsbeard. There was much in the way of parrying and poking as we danced out of the cabin and across the deck.
The course of battle turned against me when the coward urged his mates to join the fray. When lunging with slightly too much effort I found me peg leg wedged and came under heavier slashing. I’d no choice but to resort to an underhanded move. I threw me sword in the air and, as it hung there awaiting the call of the earth beneath it, I seized a fist-full of his beastly trouser-fluff and yanked with all the might a man used to tuggin’ rope can. Aaaarsbeard fell. And screamed. An unearthly howl as unlike the man’s natural tenor as a kitten is like a cockle. I seized me chance, snatched me cutlass from the air and wrenched me leg from the deck. His men were beside ’emselves as I dived over the rail, still shaking their captain’s nether fur from me fingers.
And so we are at battle with one another, neither to give quarter until t’other apologises for their faults – imagined or otherwise. Our vessels are equally matched and fast running out of both cannon and shot. Twould likely result in a deadlock, except that before visiting with Aaaarsbeard the day before I’d acquired a small barrel of monkeys to amuse the crew. Even now we’re catapulting the flaming macaques into Aaaarsbeard’s sails. Victory is in sight, as is me beautiful uncreased merwench.
The Grim Bastard has suffered a fatal blow amidships. She’s like to meet Mr Jones on the ocean floor, unless the varied beasts of the deep tear her asunder. And yet, escape is not so simple for Captain Ignatius Pigheart and No Hands Mick…
I “I think me peg’s grown stuck.”
M “Jammed tight twixt ye plankings, Captain”
I “Kelp be damned! Tis poor timing”
M “Lever up ye planking and make yeself free”
I “Me leg’s too short t’function as a pivot – aye I needs more lever than me thigh can offer”
M “Nay cap’n, ye should not doubt yeself”
I “Oh Mick, ye confidence does ever boost me self esteem”
M “Perhaps once ye ship revolves as she sinks ye weight’ll pull ye free”
I “Quench ye tongue – me weight’s that of a dainty wench, with the muscles of a man”
M “Right ye are cap’n.”
I “So, ye waters lap at me prosthesis”
M “Tis the way of a sinking”
I “Unhand me man, I’ve every chance o’ extractin’ meself”
M “Very well cap’n, but perhaps tis time for ye crew to ready ye minor craft?”
I “Watch me drown from afar will ye Mick?”
M “eXitin’ a water-bound vessel’s no shame for an honest mate”
I “Ye be one o’ them, or a loyal mate Mick?”
M “Zoogonous was me mother, and ye knew her well – so ye should also know well that I’ll be with ye till ye lungs fill with the cold blood o’ the ocean”
I “And that’s just the reassurance I were needin’ Mick. Me thanks”
M “Be brave Ignatius, for the end’s near”
I “Could ye stand a last rum with ye captain?”
M “Do mermaids lust after pirates?”
I “Evermore Mick, evermore. [pop] Here, drink ye this”
M “Fine rum, it has the burn of quality attained only by maturin’ within’ ye detachable peg leg flask”
I “Good lord Mick – I’m free”
M “Hop now Cap’n, hop like ye’ve never hopped before!”
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