more information, to receive a free copy of this work as a Word,
or Text attachment, or just to comment
Approaching Ashton, Iowa : Early 21st Century, October.
The Judge at their second trial had seemed to have only two
options with regard to the hapless Casper and Blossom Titwilleger.
He could bring back hanging, or he could try burning them at the
stake. Fortunately for the reluctant visitors from Iowa, a gentlemen
from the Home Office had intervened at the request of the
Titwillegers British law firm, "Snatchet, Grabbet & Scarper Q.C." The
Home Office Rep had pointed out that a public execution in Leicester
Square of two tourists might possibly cause some damage to the
reputation of the British travel industry and thereby harm the
country's balance of payments. The Judge, much against his will, had
been prevailed upon to consider a second attempt at deportation,
adding an impassioned, "...AND STAY OUT!" to the normal sentencing
formula. This time, the U.K Government had taken no chances, and had
sent the Titwillegers home by Royal Navy Destroyer, handcuffed and in
leg-irons, with an armed S.A.S escort. For Casper, in spite of the
discomfort he had been through, it was all made worthwhile as,
released from his restraints, he made his way down the gangplank,
solemnly kissed the New York ground and mouthed with heart-felt
relief, "God Bless America."
Not that the U.S. had been any more kind than England in those
first few days. Admittedly, The Statue of Liberty had not thrown her
arms up in horror as they passed by, but the stoic operatives from
the F.B.I had not been ecstatic about their return to the shores of
their Homeland. Casper and Blossom had provided their, by now,
polished response, "We don't know", to all questions and had been
finally, if grudgingly, released to find that the tabloid editors
were possibly the only people in the country who were pleased to see
"The Wacky Wizard of Iowa", as he had been dubbed by leading
journals up and down the land, sat in brooding silence, watching the
scenery pass by, hidden by a huge and unlikely looking beard, Casper
was on a train bound for home. He knew that whatever the eventual
outcome of his recent adventures, one thing was certain; he would
never fly or go overseas, again.
Distantly, Casper listened to the radio, scanning the news.
Had he been right to insist that they travel separately? That she
take the bus? He felt guilty but safer. There was no news of wildly
inexplicable traffic accidents to be heard. But when one was
obviously dealing with a Witch, a brimstone-blackened servant of the
Anti-Christ such as Blossom, it was wise to take precautions. Weeks
of incarceration had made things clear, there was no other possible
explanation. Blossom Titwilleger, bearer of his name and love of his
life, was a foul sorceress. He did not know what to do first,
exorcise her or divorce her. He knew that he was going to do one of
them as soon as he got back to Ashton.
Blossom Titwiliger had managed, with the help of a baleful
glare acquired after many years of matrimony, to get a seat on the
Greyhound to herself. She managed to radiate a scornful indifference
to her situation that she was in no way feeling. Casper had always
been different; he seemed to like stuffing dead things a little too
much, but now he had gone totally crazy. There was no other
explanation for the way her husband was behaving. It was plain
weird. He would not come near her, jumped when she spoke and the
rest of the time stood around praying, mouthing incantations and
crossing himself. She knew that brother Wilbur did that sort of
stuff, but at least he made a good living at it, never let it
interfere with daily life. Now, she did not know what to do, her
life felt like her furniture; transformed, scattered and thrown out
of routine. Casper and she had been just normal folks. Now they
were treated like some sort of alien life form. It was all very
The bus swerved wildly like her thoughts, having picked that
precise moment to get a puncture. Whilst the driver was outside,
cursing his fate and the mother of every bus mechanic he could think
of, Blossom made her escape.
She just slowly got off the bus and walked away. There had to
be more to life than this, and she was going to find it.
After everyone disappeared there was a moments silence. The
notable, the great and the ingrates, all were silent. They had lived
with Surd, with his bad jokes and general bad habits for decades.
His voice, his posture, his actions were central to their existence,
Now, he was gone, without even saying goodbye. They all felt a little
afraid. Even Al Capone's voice had lost some of its usual roughness
as he spoke,
'Any of youse guys wanna play cards?'
'What's the point?' asked Richard the Third.
COMS, in an attempt at historical fairness, had provided the
medieval monarch with a hump that constantly appeared and
disappeared. Now, the undulations of Richard's back were the only
movements in the room. Scarface Al could not answer.
What was the point? They were entertainment models with no one
to entertain anymore. They had no purpose. They all decided to wait
for something to happen, about two minutes later, something did.
The great blue bolt of necromantic energy scared through the
Martian air and crashed thunderously into the centre of the bar.
The blue light, changed shade, great fizzing charges of violet
skipped across the ceiling, sensing, searching. Then the light began
to wane. The shapes of figures gradually became discernible, glowing
eerily, detaching themselves from one another, becoming individual.
At last, the light abruptly vanished, depositing its newly shimmering
They were an awesome sight. An ancient culture, lost for over
a thousand years, living again. Rugged men, powerful women dressed
in rich plaids, with plaited hair and blue tattoos, had kept an
appointment, coming armed to the teeth, just in case. Slowly,
suspiciously, they parted, keeping their ancient and beautifully
lethal weapons ready for use, weapons whose effectiveness was proven
by the human heads that hung from their costumes.
After a while, a space cleared among the visitors and a woman
strode forth, their leader. This woman almost outdid Queen Sharon
for grandeur. It was fortunate that the personifications had been
exposed to the side effects of Merlyn's linguistic spell, for the
tongue that she spoke was long dead.
'These are my people. Merlyn summoned us.'
Wyatt Earp, who was nearest, spoke up for his personified
'Howdy, folks! We're sure happy to entertain friends of
One of Sir Bastable's first-generation cronies stepped forward,
hand out-stretched, smiling as he spoke.
'They call me Lancelot du Lac. Pleased to meet you.'
The visitor did not take the offered hand.
'My name's Kinata. Where's Merlyn? Are we too late?' She
"Where are they?" The Purple Thingy hated tardiness, especially
when it suspected that there was an orange tentacle involved in it
somewhere. The Orange Thingy, did its best considering its gruesome
appearance, to look vaguely innocent. Once again, the Purple Thingy
tried communication with Will's sword and once again there was no
"Where are they?"
The Purple Thingy impatiently saved up its speculations on the
whereabouts of its hired heroes. Instead, it turned its acid-
dripping eyeballs onto the vast surface that was more than equal to
even a Thingy's vision. Spoggle was certainly impressive, in an
extraordinary kind of way. It was huge, massive, tremendous; quite
simply the largest planetary mass in the Universe, or one of them.
There were actually eight such spheres scattered throughout
existence. All equally mind-boggling in scale, all exactly the same
in size, down to the nearest micromillimeter, all a rather dull
opaque shade of grey.
Whatever else the creators of Spoggle had thought about, it had
not been providing a brightly decorative touch to this area of
creation. No planet or planets were so mysterious as this vast drab
sphere, none knew what happened on it surface, what trials, what
dangers. Not even the combined efforts of a convention of multi-
colour Thingies' would dare to breach its secrets. Many had gone
beyond that grey outer atmosphere, in search of the MADID or the
strange glory that attends a discoverer. None had returned.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the absence of factual
information, myths had sprung up, Galactic gossip had flourished and
no legend was more potent than that of the MADID and its powers.
No one knew what it looked like, but everyone knew that the MADID
could do anything. Perhaps it could even explain the riddle of the
planet's name. The Purple One thought. "Spoggle", the word was said
to be a statement; popularly believed to be a profound but
indecipherable comment on the nature of life in the universe, yet
since it matched no known tongue, no one had ever been able to
translate it. Spoggle; the name was like everything else about the
place, an enigma and chief amongst all its unanswerable questions was
just who had created it or its seven identical copies?
Once the universe had been full of Gods. It was as if someone
had opened an academy for existence engineers and everyone had
qualified at once. All wanting to go out and try their new powers of
life, death and creation on the poor unfortunates invented as play-
things for their amusement. Thousands of these Gods had vied with
each other to show their talents, and more and more unlikely races
and worlds had been called forth to exhibit some imagined refinement
or piece of deified one-upmanship.
The Thingys had known many of these gods personally and had
tried to avoid their pretentious arty posing whenever possible. But
none that they had met had ever claimed responsibility for Spoggle.
Spoggle seemed to have always been there, before anything else, when
all was just darkness or nothingness, the eight grey worlds spun
ponderously in space. Spoggle's mysterious creators, like all the
other universal creative artistes had long disappeared, but perhaps
their fate was something more than a retirement home for clapped out
Gods, with endless supplies of hot-cocoa available and interminable
arguments over who had won the latest board game. There had to be
more than that to the creators (or creator) of Spoggle. It was
obvious that they were much more powerful than any showy run-of-the-
mill deity. Maybe the human and his companions would find some clue
to their location, which brought the Thingy back to Its original
"Where are they?"
Aldershot, England: Early 21st Century, September.
'Where are they? That's what I'd like to know.' Cecil Bland
was once again venting his petty self-righteous fury for an
unlistening audience of one.
'Where's who, dear?' Primrose Bland did not let her attention
wander from the Bible she held in her hand, "The Official - Church of
mystic Enlightenment Via the Fundamental Freakout and the Love of Jesus:
Sourcework of Spiritual Peace". The five hundred dollar deluxe bound
edition had been a personal gift from Wilbur Prince and had come
complete with addendum detailing his thoughts on an upbeat
interpretation of the Hereafter. Not for the first time, Primrose
touched the hand-writing on the fly leaf with trembling hands and a
feeling of reverent tenderness, not many people could claim to have a
personally autographed edition of the Bible, signed by a contributor
to the good book. Primrose did not care that Wilbur's contribution
came centuries after any other, because for Primrose, Wilbur was
greatness personified. She felt that what he had to say was of far
more interest than some stuffy old apostle. Meeting Wilbur had
altered Primrose's life, although some parts of that life remained
'They're not a who; they're a what.'
'What's a what, dear?'
'Traditional, good, old fashioned moral values. Where are
Cecil had more reason than most to ask the question. Nothing,
in his rigidly brought-up background, had prepared him for the events
set in motion by his decision to swap homes with the Titwillegers.
He had half expected to come home and find incantations written in
blood over the lounge and the remains of a sacrificed goat on the
kitchen table. Instead, thankfully, things about the home had
remained as reassuringly nondescript as when they left. A detailed
police search of the American's luggage had offered up no reading
matter more dark and satanic than "The Taxidermist", quarterly.
Of course, the fact that the dreaded Casper and Blossom had not
ruined his home did not mean that no damage had been caused. As far
as Cecil was concerned they had ruined his life. The publicity had
made things very difficult at the "Ministry of Ag and Fish", he had
been called to account for his actions by that oily twerp of a
Minister in person. It had not been a pleasant meeting; as far as
the civil service was concerned, Cecil Bland had been implicated and
tarnished by his inexplicable involvement in, what had nearly become
a major diplomatic incident.
Problems at work though, were only the half of it. He was
persona non grata at the golf club, had been black-balled at the
Conservative club, and had been told point-blank that he had lost all
hope of ever becoming a mason. It was a sign of the times, the
disintegration of moral standards, standards of decent Britishness
which had eroded to the point of extinction as far as Bland was
concerned. It was probably something to do with the importation of
burger bars and racy American films all those years ago.
To make things worse, the nightmare consequences of his holiday
choice showed no signs of diminishing. The news had been announced
eagerly of the disappearance of Blossom Titwilleger. Conspiracy
theorists already pointed to her assassination by British Security
Services or the CIA covert operations unit. Both organisations
vigorously denied their involvement, a fact that only increased the
general publics suspicions and the media's appetite for sensation.
"IS THIS MAN BLOSSOM'S LOVER?" The morning headlines had
screamed, featuring a picture of Cecil Bland that looked distinctly
unerrotic. His family had not seemed to bother about the revelations.
Primrose had dismissed thoughts of her husband having a lover with a
level of amusement that had done nothing for his ego. Even little
Camilla had been unsupportive, hardly stirring from her copious
writings, her scrawls bound for the attention of yet another Prince
family member, that peculiar youngster called Sulphur.
The whole world, or rather, the whole of Cecil Bland's world,
was going mad. It was time for action, for a true Brit to defend his
hearth, his home and his livelihood. Cecil Bland was not going to
take this lying down. Drastic measures were called for.
The energy bolt that hit the spaceship, thoughtfully provided
by the Purple Thingy, had looked suspiciously orange. The Purple One
dismissed it from Its minds, just contenting itself with a long
It was all very well for the Thingys to get impatient, but the
adventurers had covered an unimaginable distance. It was
unsurprising that they were feeling somewhat travel-fatigued as they
resumed their physical shape, vital bits of their reformed anatomies
felt as if they had been tossed round more than a grain of rice in a
The ship's bridge was hugely impressive, the latest in
spacecraft design by one of the few benighted races that needed this
laborious means of transport, a mixture of the technical and the
homely. For every hardworking bank of flashing lights, there was a
potted plant or some other personal touch. This was not how ships
looked in films. There was none of the sterile gleaming neatness of
some movie vessels or the lived-in depressing grunginess of others.
All was spic-and-span, looking slightly like a suburban cottage owned
by a mad scientist or wealthy industrialist, out to rule the world.
Will could have done without some of the designer's house-proud
flourishes. The chintzy curtains that masked the billboard-sized
viewing windows were a bit much. But it was somehow comforting to
sit in a captain's chair shaped like a sofa rather than a metal
bench. It was quite nice to have a biscuit barrel by his side, full
of double-choc cookies and custard creams.
Certainly, the adventurers needed something to ease their
return to form and consciousness. Looking blearily around the
bridge, Will could not escape the impression that, somewhere along
the route, they had all stopped off at some terrific party; they
definitely all looked as if they were battling with the ultimate
hangover. The drunken analogy was carried further as Will struggled
to speak with a tongue that seemed fifteen foot thick and forty foot
'I wonder where we are?'
The voice of the purple Queen suddenly sounding in his head
gave the human a terrific shock. It had seemed so long since he had
last heard from the graven image, or thought about the Queen's
"You are on a vessel that I have provided for your entry into
"You mean you haven't opened the curtains yet?"
As if gripped by a pair of powerfully impatient hands, the twee
hangings were thrust aside revealing mullion windows. Will did not
know what he expected but he had looked forward to land-masses, to
stars and stunning views. All that he could see was greyness.
"Do the windows need cleaning?"
"Why?" the sword sounded peevish.
"In front of you."
"What! That grey stuff?"
"I hope you're providing a map."
"No map exists."
"What are we supposed to do? Ask for directions? Excuse me,
we've come to steal the MADID. I hear it's really valuable. Can you
direct our spaceship please?"
"You may not be able to use the spacecraft on the surface.
There may not even be one."
"Well. I'm not walking. My contract said nothing about a
The Queen ignored Will's statement. He was now an official
hero. He would do whatever needed to be done. In a few brief words,
Sharon's image detailed what was to come next.
While this was going on, the others waited patiently for Will
to speak. No one interrupted as his face tripped lightly through its
telepathic tango. Even Sir Bastable was mute, sensing, inexplicably,
that something was going on. At last, Will pointed at the screen.
'What is?' Surd asked.
'The grey stuff.'
Grendella was unimpressed. 'It looks a bit drab.'
'It doesn't look like a planet to me,' commented Abel.
'Its a very big planet.' Sulphur hoped that he would not have
to explain everything in life to the father, as he had to the son.
'It makes Neptune look like a pebble,' Balidare shook his head.
'I can't say that it's a nice view. What happens next?' asked
'We sit down. The ship moves. We get there,' Will summed up
what Sharon had told him.
'Well', Sulphur wagged a talon in warning, 'I just hope that
it's that simple.'
The Purple and Orange Thingys ware solemnly silent as they
watched the ship start on its journey. Within a minute it had
disappeared, totally enveloped by the greyness.
"What do we do now?" stenched Orange.
"There's nothing we can do now. We've got them here. They do
the rest." Farted purple.
"So we just stay here. Wait for the outcome."
"We watch and we wait. Yes."
There was silence for a very long time.
"I'm bored," slimed Orange.
"So am I," admitted Purple.
"Let's go have some fun. Come back later."
"Okay," agreed Purple, "but remember, this time it's for the
future of the universe, so no cheating."
"Would I cheat?" came the scandalised reply.
Things had seemed to be going well for the heroes. The vessel
effortlessly breached the dull atmosphere and morale was on an
upturn. Then a powerful voice spoke, echoing out of the mist:
"Conditions compromised", and suddenly, the ship faded into nothing.
None of them even got a chance to scream as they fell, still seated
in their comfy chairs. The grey fog slivered eagerly into their open
mouths, probing their insides and choking out their life.
For a moment Will blacked out. Then, as if from somewhere deep
inside, he heard the voice speak again, "Parasitic organisms
Instantly, Will stopped floating. All around him were thick
transparent walls. Nearby, dimly through the haze, he could see
Sulphur, also suspended in some sort of long clear tube. He could not
see the others but somehow knew that they were out there, also held
captive, probably cursing his name. Then the voice spoke again.
"Stage one initiated."
It was the last thing he remembered.
Will was lying in bed at home. A new law had been passed: "THE
WILL BILL", decreeing that a human being could stay in bed as long as
they liked, could eat whatever they liked from the GRUB machines,
however unhealthy. Could shower for hours without worrying about
rainfall statistics. A human could even take a lift just for one
floor. It was a lovely dream. Then he woke up.
The first thing that Will noticed was the smell. It seemed to
stride over in heavy boots and say "What are you sniffing at pal?"
before head-butting him between the eyes. The stench was terrific,
more noxious than a pair of Thingys' used Y-fronts. It took a while
for Will to collect his senses; he was too busy trying to breath. As
time passed, he slowly got used to it. His eyes still ran in torrents,
his insides still slipped about like a skate-boarder on butter and his
chest still flapped about like a sail in a cyclone but at least he
had stopped vomiting. Then he did something really brave, he stood up
and opened his eyes. It was not a pretty view.
He was lying on a mountain of refuse, stacked up to a
staggering and unlikely height. All around him, for as far as his
watering eyes could see, similar piles of garbage thrust their way
into the grey air. This was no haphazard collection of junk. That
was obvious from the careful layout and arrangement of the mouldering
mountains, as well as from their content. Each pile seemed to
contain a planned assembly of discarded items. Will momentarily
thanked a merciful fate for not depositing him on the decaying mound
of soiled nappies that formed his nearest neighbour. Finally, he
managed to climb to his feet, slipping and sliding on a surface made
up of neglected plastics. He opened his mouth, suffering a full
infusion of the richly fetid air as he called his comrades, but after
a while, Will gave up. There was no response. He was alone.
Wherever the glass tubes had deposited the others, it did not
seem to have been in the vicinity. This then was to be the first
test of his leadership, finding someone to lead. Being Chairman of
Heroics INC. was not going to be easy. He realised that he had never
been truly on his own before, and shook slightly with fear of the
unknown. Then he decided to try and contact Queen Sharon, reasoning
that, if in doubt - scream help, seemed like a reasonable policy, and
with this in mind he reached down for his sword.
Up to this point, things had just been bad, but now they got
much worse. The sword and Band of Intangibility were gone. For a
while he searched with eager panic, but they had vanished. In their
place was a leaflet, stuck in the belt of the overalls that Surd had
given him, it read: "THESE ITEMS HAVE BEEN CONFISCATED BY OUR CUSTOMS
DEPT. WE DO HOPE THAT THIS DOES NOT CAUSE ANY INCONVENIENCE, AND
THAT YOU ENJOY YOUR STAY ON SPOGGLE." Will stood glumly, sloshed in
the face by a cool bucket of despair. He hated being a hero already.
On the Road , Iowa: Early 21st Century, October.
The van had once been painted in outrageous primary colours.
The blazing orange stars, green unicorns, bright pink flowers and
indigo peace signs had been shiny new, but now, like their owners
they were faded and out of date. It was surprising, if not amazing,
that they were still around at all.
The band were called: "The Misbegotten Sons of Hades". To have
called them The Misbegotten Pensioners of Hades would, perhaps, have
been more appropriate. Like the crumbling van they were relics of
the Sixties, of a time when people had talked of free love, of free
everything, in the long ago days before the flower children grew up,
became lawyers or accountants and started charging with a vengeance.
Now the only thing that seemed truly free was the band's spirit.
Too arthritic to trash even the most inoffensive motel room, they
contented themselves with anarchic memories of the past.
The lead singer's name was "Starchild" Perkins. It had once
been Nigel but he had changed it to make a statement about his
oneness with the cosmos. A oneness brought about by rather large
amounts of hallucinogenic drugs. He was sixty-three. The last time
he had tried to smash his guitar, he had put his back out. That was
some time ago, when Clinton had been president.
Once, Starchild and the others, consumed by lysergic acid and a
desire to preach a musical gospel along the lines of, "Let's be nice
to each other" and "Don't be heavy", had almost been famous. They
had even managed to have a hit record in 1969 - "The Breakdown
approaching the Station", but although their finest hour did
occasionally stray on to the oldie stations, it had somehow escaped
the transition to classic status. No one seemed to get misty-eyed
and tearful as they listened to Perkin's sandpaper voice sing: "It's
emotional derailment, points failure of the heart." The group's lack
of musical immortality probably had something to do with the fact
that their music and lyrics were awful. But a want of talent had not
stopped other groups getting on and Starchild felt that it was more a
lack of luck, rather than lack of skill, that had impeded their
He took his eyes off the road momentarily, glancing in the rear-
view mirror at the other band members. They had met in high school,
and had first played together in 1962. Things had seemed simpler
then; it was possible to move without aches and pains for one thing.
They had been together for longer than most marriages, longer than
some lifetimes. He had watched their long hair turn grey or fall
out, and their fingers become gnarled around the strings of their
guitars. Like old marrieds, they had become close to each other.
Wives came and went, but there always another tour in the clapped out
"Cosmic Van", another chance to sing "The Breakdown" in some rundown
Once enthusiasm had motivated them, recently it was the need to
pay the bills and the alimony that kept the boredom at bay. As they
sang the same songs, again and again and again, to kids that did not
care, so young that they thought "a Vietnam conflict" was number 32
at the local Oriental takeaway. Of course, there were moments
that made it all worthwhile. Some well-preserved matron would
approach them with shining eyes and fond memories of the desires of
her youth, of the time when she had dreamt of Starchild's company for
a few brief minutes; of a time when his body, had been lean and
stringy, filling his hip-hugging loons in a way that had moved young
girls to an almost religious frenzy of devotion; an all too brief
moment of deification, before the Osmonds came along. Starchild had
been 'The Quiet One" the one with the smouldering looks. Now, that
wiry body had turned to fat and the eyesight dimmed, needing the help
of heavy-duty spectacles offstage.
The band were out of steam, out of time, out of era. Something
would have to be done. Maybe it was time to give up, to call it a
day, to cut their thinning hair and finally sell out, settle down.
Not for the first time, nor for the twenty thousandth and first,
Starchild found himself searching the road ahead, looking for a sign.
There was a woman walking by the roadside; a large woman in a floral-
print dress, not your average hitch-hiker. He looked closer, finding
something strangely familiar about the way she moved, about the look
in her electric eyes. Then, he felt the thrill of recognition shoot
through his body, galvanising his foot on the brake and prompting an
explosion of protest from the back of the van.
Starchild did not listen, he did not care. His attention was
taken by memories of a face that had become heavier, more rounded and
lined, as had his. He had not seen her for almost four decades, but
he knew who she was: Blossom Pimpleknocker, his old high-school
best place for traditionally published works on the NET remains....