The Brigadier-General’s Address

July 27, 2015

The Brigadier-General turned to face the room, still polishing his glasses. “Gentlemen,” he muttered, “the situation is rather grave. Quite simply we are running out of bullets. The Quartermaster assures me that we have barely a few handfuls left. I suggest we keep these for use in case of dire emergency or in times of our most urgent need. You know, one left in the chamber and thousands of the great unwashed rampaging towards us. Last stand against overwheming odds, all that. So, there can be nothing else for it. We are going to have to step up our strategy. Harsh language and overbearing demeanour are going to be your go-to tools from now on. Now I know what you are going to say, belittling comments aren’t much use against a big smelly enemy oik rushing towards you brandishing a fist and bent on giving you a good hard slap, but let me tell you, when it comes to tone and posture a little goes a long way. All you have to do is stand your ground and say something like ‘Oi! Have some respect, you horrible little urchin’ in the correct tone of voice and even the most combat hardened battle veteran will be quaking in their boots and surrendering themselves to you.

“Now of course there will be casualties, in the beginning especially, but what we have in our favour is sheer weight of numbers, and there are plenty more of you coming up through the recruitment camps so don’t you worry about all that. Let me tell you, the sight of a hundred thousand men all standing shoulder to shoulder, chins up, chests out, fingers pointing, all shouting ‘Go back and hide under your mama’s skirts before you get hurt!’ in unison is a beautiful sight to behold, believe me, and one which will make even the most fearsome opposing army stop dead in their tracks and think twice about putting another tippy toe forward. I just know that all of you are going to pull together with me on this and make our army proud.

“Gentlemen, this is a historic moment. We are going to be the first totally gun-free army in something like several thousand years, not counting the dark ages where they used a lot of pitchforks, or so I’m told. Sure, you can wave them around above your heads, even point them at people if you feel like it, but you are not allowed to actually shoot anyone, on pain of court marshall and possible death by glaring squad. We must treat our remaining bullets as the valuable commodity they are. Now the boffins upstairs assure me that taking firearms out of the equation will significantly lower our carbon footprint, which should please our corporate overlords considerably. Now let us pray.”

And with that he sank to his knees and bowed his head and began to reel off all the sponsors and commercial partners that had got them this far, and all who witnessed it were humbled and awed by his faith and diligence.

Ant Trumpet

July 12, 2015

AntTrumpet

True Love

November 25, 2014

Arnold had learned to communicate in tones of pure desire. Hmm. She’s lovely. I’d like to eat her plimsoles and put chewed up crayons in her underwear. I wonder if she has any argyle sweaters I could chew on. She looks toaster-licking tasty. Maybe we could lick toasters together. I’m sure she has a really nice tongue. Mmmm. Just imagine her rolling that lovely pink juicy Bubblicious around inside her mouth. Ooh mama. He had to stop thinking these wicked thoughts in case his head exploded.

Audrey stared lovingly at the Staffordshire Bull Terrier staring at her from across the park. He seemed cute but particularly eager to please. Just look at him. His rail is wagging like nobody’s business, dammit. Still, there was something just a little strange about him, an almost imperceptible but definitely Machiavellian gleam in his big black puppy dog eyes. Yes, you’re very cute but no thanks. One last look. Don’t force yourself. She glanced back and instantly regretted it. All she wanted to do was take the little bugger in her arms and cuddle him until he was happy.

But it was too late. Mistress was already tugging at his lead. No stop, please stop. Let me stay with my one true love. I want to stay with this interesting smelling female here. Come on, please. I know you feed me but enough is enough. Oh, the agony. Wrenched away from the one I love and who loves me most. Oh, the torment. Sigh. Hey ho. Come on, then, let’s go. Do you think they’ll have dog biscuits where we’re going?

Captain Space on Mars

November 14, 2014

Ladies and gentlemen, for your delectation and amusement, the Mercurial Mobile Theatre would like to present the new serial adventures of Captain Space on Mars.

At the controls of his Astrocopter Captain Space mopped his brow. Phew! That had been one hairy mission, but he had pulled through. He munched a tasty Vito! bar.

On the dashboard a light winked menacingly. Captain Space flipped a switch. “Yeah, what?” A speaker crackled. “This is Earth calling. We’re in a bit of a fix.”

The Televiewer warmed into life and was soon filled with the hirsute features of Professor Spekelbaum. “Ah, Captain,” he intoned, “I have some very bad news.”

Captain Space braced himself for the worst. “Your old arch-enemy Doctor Xang has escaped from his maximum-security planetoid and is hellbent on hideous vengeance!

“There’s worse, I’m afraid.” Captain Space steeled himself. “It appears the nasty felon has filched the UN Mind Gun and is intent on using on you personally!”

“As you already know the Mind Gun is an ultra-top-secret device and in the wrong hands could easily meld the minds of men. I’d better jet up there to join you.”

Zounds! So that cosmic terror Doctor Xang was loose again then, eh? There was only one man in the universe who could put a stop to his little scheme: Captain Space!

Klang! The earthcraft docked and the rotund figure of Professor Spekelbaum clambered aboard, followed by a vision of utmost loveliness. “Meet Doctor Gruber.”

“Doctor Scrubber more like. What’s a woman doing on board my ship?” growled the Captain. “I’ll have you know I’m an expert in Spectral Thermodynamics!” she retorted.

“Doctor Gruber is the only person in the universe who can deactivate the Mind Gun,” explained the Professor. “So you had better be nice to me or I shan’t,” she added.

“Harrumph! Well I don’t suppose I have any say in the matter. Just don’t go fooling around with things inside the Astrocopter.” Doctor Gruber glared at him angrily.

“Strap yourselves in, folks. We’re heading out.” Captain Space gunned the engines and Astro copter roared off into the sky in a magnificent spacewards arc.

So I would say Thermionic Nuclides were the solution.” “But Professor, you’ve overlooked the Alpha wave problem.” Captain Space yawned. This was dead tedious.

The Spectrum Oscilloscope pinged once. Captain Space leapt to his feet. “Right. We have reached the heart of outer space. I’m off to bed. See you in the morning.”

Dr Gruber watched him leave. How did this irksome bozo get command of a spacecraft? But she was a consummate professional with a job to do. She’d deal with it.

The Astrocopter lay dormant, cradled in the void of infinite space. Strange craft were approaching, attaching their snakelike tentacles to this heroic vessel.

Captain Space was dreaming. DG: Help! Please save me! CS: Unhand her, you ruffian! DX: Aieee! Captain Space! I must flee! PS: Look, the Mind Gun! Let’s go home.

Doctor Gruber awoke to find the ship over run by Doctor Xang’s robotic minions. Using her girl guide utility knife she prized open a ventilation screen and crept inside.

Captain Space awoke to find himself tied to a stake in cargo bay twelve. The lights had gone out and he stood there cold and shivering in T-shirt and skimpies.

Professor Spekelbaum awoke to find himself taking tea with Lucretia Borgia. “You know, I have admired your work for ages,” she purred. “Have another cup of tea.”

Doctor Gruber raced up the ventilation shaft as a ball of flame engulfed the stateroom below. Doctor Xang clearly didn’t pull any punches. She would have to tread very carefully from now on.

“Okay you can stop now I’m getting a trifle peeved here. Plus my nose is getting dashed itchy.” The Prof and the Doc certainly had a strange sense of humour.

Lucretia licked her lips and continued. “I like a man who uses his brain. I find it ever so… stimulating. Are you sure I can’t tempt you to an almond slice?”

Dr Gruber paused to think awhile. She would have to keep moving. It was only a matter of time before they found her and she had no desire to end her days just yet.

A spotlight went on in a far off corner of the cargo day and a thousand dwarf-like dancing lizard girls appeared and started to gyrate. The floorshow had begun.

Professor Spekelbaum gazed at the green children playing by the orange sea. He couldn’t put his finger on it but there was something not quite right about this.

Dr Hilary Gruber (professional scientist and Girl Guide) was rattled and she didn’t care who knew it. Doctor Xang and/or the Mind Gun were on board, no question about it, which spelled trouble.

Captain Space was puzzled. The dancing midget lizard girls were crawling all over him and it tickled. This was a really clever prank, even for two scientists.

Lucretius sighed and ran one long, razor-sharp fingernail down his chest. “You humans are such frail creatures.” The flowers beneath her feet slowly wilted away.

Dr Gruber stared out of the observation port in astonishment. How on Moon had Doctor Xang managed to assemble such a huge fleet of Imperial class frigates so soon?

The Lizard girls had transformed into a mob of reptilian stockbrokers clutching crocodile skin briefcases dancing a sullen conga around the Captain’s chest.

The Professor’s mouth felt dryer than a Temperance League whist drive. It couldn’t possibly be safe to drink the sparkly purple liquid in his goblet, could it?

“Now think, Hillary. If I were Doctor Xang (and thank Heaven I’m not) where would I secrete myself?” It was obvious. In Captain Space’s Space Captain Command Chair.

The tiny lizards merchant bankers were filing end of fiscal year tax returns by semaphore and beating a stately Morse code tattoo in their tiny tap dance shoes.

The purple poison water lapped around the shores of malcontent whistling “Stop Now Bertie (Screamed Matilda)” while waves of stony dread bounced like pebbles.

The shaft was hot and grimy but Hilary just kept on climbing. The bridge couldn’t be far away now. She discarded her sweat drenched jacket and watched it fall.

The Cabaret was hotting up now. Tiny creatures danced and sang and leapt screaming to their deaths through flaming hoops. It was extraordinary spectacle.

Pebbles had hearts and souls and ideas too. But since it took them millions of years to formulate a simple sentence their conversations were a little one-sided.

The corridor levelled out. Hilary rounded a corner and stared down at the bridge. There in the Captain’s chair sprawled the hideous tentacular form of Doctor Xang.

The stumbling exomorphs fell laughing to the floor. Captain Space hadn’t enjoyed himself so much in years those spectral invertebrates sure knew how to party.

Professor Spekelbaum couldn’t believe his eyes. The pebbles were crying! He picked one up and cradled it in his palm. What’s the matter, little pebble? “…I…”

Doctor Hilary Gruber thought long and hard. What would the great Professor Peabody have done in a situation like this? Probably sit tight and let the real men do their thing. But there weren’t any real man anywhere near.

Captain Space cursed himself as he realised he had come out in sequin hotpants and matching bra. Surely no girl could take him seriously in a get-up like that?

Lucretia surfaced from the deep. The Professor found myself wondering if pebbles ever fell in love. He threw one and it landed with a plop in purple gloop.

Doctor Gruber yelped as the floor beneath her melted and she plunged downwards into the eager tentacles of Dr Xang. “Darn it, Hilary you’ve been hallucinating…”

“Ladies and gentlemen welcome to the Captain Space experience!” The Captain found himself onstage, gyrating to a glitterbeat as the lizard audience looked on.

“Come on in, the water’s lovely,” cried Lucretia, waggling a carefully manicured tentacle at him. Professor S was beside himself with joy. She looked gorgeous.

Doctor Gruber awoke strapped to an operating table in MedBay. To her left the Professor. To the right… ew! Did the Captain really wear those frilly floral panties?

Captain Space could feel the music flowing through him as he whirled around that greasy pole. The audience stared, open-mouthed. They adored him and it felt great.

His many years of service were useless to him now. Throwing caution to the wind he cast away his socks and shoes and waded out to join his only true beloved.

Okay Hilary, what now? Both men are away in slumberland – the Prof has a huge grin on his face and the Captain is rolling about moaning. Can’t see anyone else.

Someone had to tie us down (unless is a hallucination) so we’re not alone. No, ignore the lizards crawling up the walls, you know they’re not real.

Think, Hillary. The Mind Gun operates by releasing Alpha particles of discrete luminosity in a y-axis charged to the resident base frequency of the target brain.

So if we take the coordinates (x,y) and multiply them by the inverse root coefficient (o,y,o) we arrive at the formula (5y/72s-1)*x2/abz=w (w = input power.)

Subtract log (x,y) to allow for n and compensate for fluctuations in cabin pressure and we arrive at… Dammit Hillary! Stop thinking about sticky treacle pudding!

Mmm. Gallons of hot sticky chocolate sauce running down the walls and all over the little lizard things. Stick a cherry on top and you get Black Forest Gecko.

A chocolate coated lizard licked her ear. Hillary winced. Come on she was a profligate cytologist with a job to be getting on with… Whoah hey, that tickled.

Captain Space found himself in a backstage dressing room with Doctor Gruber. What sort of hideous nightmare was this? He felt strangely uncomfortable in his slinky gold lame nightgown.

The Gruber thing was speaking. “Listen, you freak. None of this is real. You are in Medbay aboard the Astrocopter and Doctor Xang is using the Mind Gun on us all.”

Professors Spekelbaum found himself alone in the dark with the disembodied voices of Dr Gruber ringing in his ears. “We are caught in a spiralling vortex of unreality,” she told him.

A curious notion crept over the Professor. What if all this was all one huge Mind Gun mind game? That would really put them in a fix. How could they possibly escape?

The Gruber voice droned on and on. This was becoming exceedingly tiresome. Not only had she barged aboard his ship without asking, now here she was invading his dreams.

“Great ersatz transducers!” exclaimed Hilary. She had it! If the Marshtuple Flangewidget Theorem held true then all she had to do was phase align her Alpha waves!

Hilary awoke with a start. It had worked! Or had it? The walls were still crawling with lizards. Synaptic overhang? Or some other form of cognitive dissonance?

“The next thing to do is to free myself and return the others to some semblance of conscious reality,“ mused Hilary. Around her the lizards squeaked furiously.

Hillary slipped a hand free. If medical school had taught anything it was that there were few surgical bindings that could tie a girl like her down for long.

Hilary shook the Professor vigorously. “C’mon, wake up! It’s only a matter of time before my brain phases back in with the Mind Field and I am rendered blotto once again!”

“GADZOOKS!” shrieked Captain Space. “THE LIZARDS ARE AFTER THE FAMILY JEWELS!” It was true. There on the table, crawling with lizards, lay the best silverware.

The lime green boat drifted lazily through the purple sludge. Lucretia had never looked more gorgeous. But the Professor was preoccupied. Was this all a dream?

Hillary had just finished loosening the Professor’s straps when the Medbay doors disintegrated under heavy laser fire and twenty Xangbots streamed into the room.

The sky turned red and heat seared the Professor, who found himself falling, deeper and deeper into the darkness below. Something warm grabbed him by the hand.

Multicoloured fireworks burst into the night sky as Captain Space hit the stage in hula skirt and feather boa. He looked gorgeous and he knew it. The music swelled: he opened his mouth and began to sing…

Song of a Space Captain: I’m bold, I’m brave, I love to rave, seen damned near every planet. So don’t you tell me to behave, ’cos I’m the Captain, damnit!

TO BE CONCLUDED…

Untitled Limerick

October 29, 2014

There was a young man from Peru
Whose limericks stopped at line two…

The Street Walker (hooker haiku)

October 27, 2014

On too-high heels
Make-up caked like mud
I smile at you endearingly

The Bag Snatcher (a haiku)

October 27, 2014

I am a wolf
You are all sheep
You won’t know I’ve been until it’s gone

The Recalcitrant Shoplifter (a haiku)

October 27, 2014

You slap my wrist
But I will return
To justify your insurance

Gay for Pay (a haiku)

October 27, 2014

My asshole burns
With righteous indignation
Please pay me in the usual way

Zugswang (New, Enhanced, Improved! version)

October 1, 2014

It was twenty-eight o’clock on the longest day of the year so far and still the sun had not set. The Professor tapped his watch sadly and turned to look at me.

“There is nothing for it, I’m afraid. Someone is just going to have to come up with a new value for Pi. Otherwise none of our clocks and watches will ever work properly again. I’m not the right man for the job, heaven knows, but maybe someone else is.”

This was all very well, but not what I had come here to find out. I shrugged and affected my best look of weary resignation. The Professor leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially,

“The datastream has become corrupted.”

I waited for him to finish.

“Take this egg, for instance. Each egg displays an internal memory of collective consciousness and an interrelated symmetry of form. When a freshly-laid egg is foisted upon us it not only exhibits a holistic form that we recognise as an egg, with yolk at its centre and shell on the outside, it also contains encoded within it, in universal genetic library data format, all the information necessary to produce a damn near infinite stream of the little blighters.”

He paused for emphasis. I sat there and twiddled my thumbs.

“What happens now is anybody’s guess. But eggs will never be the same again.”

To prove his point he threw the egg against the wall. It bounced once, then slithered to the floor, flexing itself gently. After a moment or two of eggy hyperventillation a crack formed, widening into a long red orifice out of which slithered a small brown furry thing with many legs. It rolled over on the carpet wiping green gook off itself with its legs and sniffing the air blindly.

The Professor strode over and dispatched it to Kingdom Come with one stomp of his size ten desert boots.

“I’m not too sure what that thing was, but sure as eggs ain’t eggs it wasn’t anything that we would recognise as a chicken. Assuming that it could replicate, and that it might find a similar mate with compatible genetic coding we can be fairly sure that whatever offspring their coupling might produce wouldn’t look much like an egg. Also assuming that its own genetic blueprint was capable of issuing instructions on how to actually copulate and not just sit there masturbating furiously behind the sideboard. Oh, I’ve seen them do it, believe me. Makes a frantic mess on the carpet. I have lost several cleaning ladies over it.”

He removed his glasses and started to polish them. “Do you know what the worst thing is?”

I shook my head.

“If you try to make scrambled eggs with them it comes out completely the wrong colour and tastes absolutely ghastly. I keep trying but I think I shall just have to give up soon.”

He was sweating heavily now and stopped to wipe his brow. I turned and looked at the breakfast table and for the first time began to comprehend the strange logic behind the pattens of broken crockery and glass surrounding the large and heavy butcher’s knife embedded at the centre. I was forced to conclude that the Professor, genius though he might once have been, had fallen into the same trap as the rest of humanity, confusing general distortions in the very fabric of reality with his own natural, if newly enhanced, internal hallucinatory state. The difference being that scrambled eggs in the latter category are ultimately still very much like scrambled eggs, whatever colour they appear to be and no matter how many tiny arms or legs they happen to be waving at you.

I looked up and saw the Professor wriggling around on all fours licking the table legs. If there was any solution to this problem I was beginning to doubt whether he might be of any use whatsoever in helping to find it out. I left him rolling on his back amongst the broken eggshells and went into his study.

The room was small and very brown. Brown books with brown spines filled the brown shelves that lined the nicotine-stained wallpaper that covered the walls. Even the dust had a brownish tinge to it. I picked a regulation brown notebook from the shelf at random, sat down at the antique oak desk and began to read.

The volume was entitled:

ZUGSWANG, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust the Subtle Shifts in Perception that Plague Us All

and it began:

“It was around five thirty on a Thursday afternoon in early August when I first became aware that something was wrong. There could be no doubt. Someone, somewhere, had set off the Reality Device.”

My heart leapt. Here, finally, was concrete, first-hand evidence from someone intimately involved in The Project. Keep it together now. The clues are in here. I just have to stay focussed long enough, find the truth and retain the basic information. I read on.

“The clues were all there. Enhanced colour perception. Loss of depth perception. Heart palpitations. Sudden momentary loss of breath. All the symptoms of fatigue and disorientation that we had observed in every one of our test subjects, only now it was happening to us. All of humanity was affected, simultaneously and permanently. There could be no going back from this. That was why we had signed the Noncommittal Treaty with those of our closest neighbours and allies who had helped us develop this project. The technology must have been leaked to our enemies, either the plans or a prototype, though the man from the Ministry had informed me in all sincerity that all such things had been destroyed. What then? Perhaps…”

The words began to swim before my eyes.

“…we should take a nice swim in the lake, said Heidi…”

No no no no no! Not now, just when I was getting close to finding out what had happened to humanity all those months ago. But it was too late. The notebook had already transformed into a cheap and gaudy paperback. I leaned back in my swivel chair and stared out across the sunlit terrace. It was chilly but there were people frolicking in bathing suits down by the sea shore. A waitress approached and placed a glass of what appeared to be iced tea on the trestle table in front of me. Wasn’t so bad. Looked like Brighton. Now what was I doing? Reading something important, I was sure of that.

“Naomi wandered over leading her Shetland pony. Boris says we should meet him down by the cove later, she whispered huskily. In the meantime let’s go looking for buried pirate treasure out on the moors!”

I took a sip of iced tea and read on…

This story was originally written in 1999 and appeared in a slightly different form around that time on the MutantFiction Yahoo group. It was first published here in January 2010. The beginning was revised in October 2014, again based on older material.


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