more information, to receive a free copy of this work as a Word,
or Text attachment, or just to comment
On another part of the planet, Balidare was also getting
used to celebrity status. It was not at all enjoyable. As he ran
away from a growing crowd of locals, each with a great beaming
smile on their face, he tried to understand just what had happened
during the past day.
Awakening on a gently rolling hillside, he had quickly taken
in his surroundings and had been in no way disturbed by them. It did
seem a little odd, at first, that the soft sweet-smelling grass was
tinted a rather fetching shade of blue, and that the sky was subtlety
streaked with green, but he was on a new planet and soon accepted it.
It had been very nice indeed to stroll across the softly-sloping blue
downs, the slight breeze blowing air that was intoxicating
in its freshness, the two suns, glowing emeralds brightly
distant in the sky, gently warming and caressing his skin.
He had not concerned himself with the absence of the others,
preferring to just enjoy the tranquil solitude, the sensation of
being in some alien Elyisum field. Even the town when he had seen it,
nestling comfortably in an Arcadian hillside, had looked peaceful and
inviting. An almost fairy-tale place. He had turned his feet
towards it, walking not with impatience, but taking his time,
stopping to brush his teeth in a small sweet-tasting, green stream,
to wash his hair, and change his clothing from the carefully chosen
stock in the metallic case that he had managed to retain halfway
across the universe.
His first contact with a rustically dressed local had gone
without incident. The fellow could be described as a native pastoral
ideal. He was playing, badly, an instrument resembling a flute, his
thick digits struggling with the fingering, as he lay tending a flock
of slowly grazing round shaggy creatures. This "shepherd" was vaguely
humanoid in shape, resembling Balidare in compact, stout build. His
skin was roughly bronzed to a golden texture, he had large glittering
green eyes, a great flapping droopy nose and ears that splayed out
like an elephant. But by far, his most striking characteristic had
been his huge, ecstatic smile. The row of perfect yellow teeth had
been almost dazzling. Here at last, Balidare felt, was a creature
that had all he needed out of life. There were no strong jealousies,
troubles or emotions to cloud that brow. There was just utter
contentment. The local had nodded politely as Balidare had passed,
obviously unperturbed by the arrival of a stranger. On his way to the
town Balidare repeated this experience more than once, meeting
creatures dressed as merchants or shepherds, males and females. All
gave him the same beaming grin, the same happy nod of welcome. There
was another curious custom of greeting that the Elfen noticed on his
way to the town. Each nod of welcome was accompanied by a rap on a
small black cube that everyone wore around their belt.
The town from the inside was as much of a fairy tale chocolate
box image as from afar. He had had no trouble walking through one of
the many thick stone gateways and had his first conversation with a
local. The man had described his people as the "Boxemics", tapping
his cube as illustration, as he spoke in perfect, though thickly
accented Elfen. Balidare recognised Merlyn's handiwork and asked
after his old friend but had been disappointed to find that he was
the only stranger to arrive in living memory. The brightly grinning
Boxemic had been thrilled to help with directions towards the centre
of the town.
Balidare had found himself dawdling on the way, enjoying the
neat cobbled walkways, the brightly painted tyrolean-style buildings,
grouped together with medieval closeness, looking like they should be
made out of gingerbread. The frequent cobbled squares with well
laid-out trees providing the bluary, with children happily running
about providing the noise, and usually an imposing, heroic statue of
some local dignitary called "a caretaker" providing the civic
grandeur. Most of all, Balidare delighted in the warmth of the
smiles on everyone's face. After millennia of dealing with
humanity's miserable, self-pitying visages, the feeling of universal
contentment had soothed some part of the Elfen, deep inside. He had
found himself marvelling at their constant ecstasy, wandering if they
ever got face-ache from all that grinning, but all the while, he
returned the Boxemics beaming greetings in kind. To his great
surprise, he had found that happiness was catching, smiling radiantly
back at the townsfolk, forgetting, for a while, his supposed
ugliness, his coarse dwarfish skin. He felt at one with the bustling
joyful crowds that thronged the busy streets, at one with their sense
of pleasure. He forgot the MADID, forgot his dislike of Grendella,
forgot his pain at not going home, forgot all anger and bitterness.
This delightful town could be a new home.
It was at this moment, when his pleasure was most intense, that
a richly-clad Boxemic man approached. The man had been following
him for quite a while, and he wore the habitual Boxemic smile with
just the slightest hint of nervousness, his eyes were just a little
anxious and his skin was just a little clammy. But, for Balidare,
all was finally right with a world. The Elfen had gone beyond such
negative emotions as suspicion. He had taken the "welcoming" scroll
the Boxemic had offered without a thought, not registering the way
that the man had perked up as the scroll entered his hands or the
speed with which the man had distanced himself.
Balidare had even opened the scroll, had absently scanned the
illuminated hand-written script with shining eyes, lettering that
CELEBRATE YOUR GOOD FORTUNE CITIZEN.
YOU HAVE WON THE LOTTERY. AS HOLDER OF THIS SCROLL,
YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN AS CARETAKER DESIGNATE.
AFTER TRAINING, YOU WILL ASSUME OUR HIGHEST POSITION
AND WILL BECOME RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONTINUED
HAPPINESS OF OUR PEOPLE. A MUCH LOVED
AND HONOURED STATE.
THE MINISTER OF CONTINUOUS RAPTURE.
Balidare had sensed nothing disturbing about the scroll. It was
only fitting that a being of his obvious wisdom and experience should
be recognised as worthy of high office, and there seemed no trick in
keeping these creatures happy. The hard task would be making them
miserable. He had placed the scroll in his bag and turned to other
matters, to getting a wonderfully neat and tasteful room in a
charming inn, to eating the most sensational meal, cooked perfectly
to his torturous instructions and to drinking rather a lot of the
local potion, a nectar that seemed to taste of fermented delight. All
had been lovely beyond belief. Balidare, like all Elfen, was a
hedonistic creature at heart. He had been scared to sleep, to let go
of the day, but sleep had come, sleep that caressed and fed his
He had awakened in the perfect room, consumed the perfect
breakfast, and laid back to luxuriate in the perfect bed and had
started to read the local paper.
"IT'S OFFICIAL!" blared the headline. "Our beloved Caretaker
has only a month to live, the scroll patrol has been alerted..." On
and on with the same story. In his pleasure-sated state, Balidare had
not had the patience for dull local politics. He had showered,
dressed and gone for a stroll, amongst the same crowds, with the same
ever-present smiles. Buoyed up by euphoria, the Elfen had not
noticed the slight glint of hunger in the Boxemics bright eyes as
they watched him pass, or the slightly impatient sharpness of tone
with which they rapped their boxes. All in all, it had come as an
intensely disturbing surprise when everyone had started to chase him.
Eventually the Estapoppi had carried Will to the foul-smelling
surface, had pointed him to the nearest sign and had rushed back to
their subterranean labours. The sign that they had pointed out was a
plain wooden direction post. It seemed to be new, or at least, newly
painted. The words were plainly stencilled in black on a white
background: "THIS WAY TO THE MADID", the sign had said. Will had let
his eyes follow where the sign pointed, making out the distant white
shape of another sign, positioned in the cleft between two mountains
of rubbish. He had found himself briefly wondering why he had not
noticed the signs before, but quickly moved on to self congratulation.
"This is going to be childs-play," he thought. But that had been
days ago. Long days of clambering over foul rubbish, of no food or
water, of dealing with the constant clinging smells of the mounds,
the foundation stones of Estapoppi empire. Occasionally he had a
distant Estapoppi for company, scuttling or bounding across the
surface of a mound with effortless ease, ceaselessly working, but
Will was without the generations needed to adapt himself to
travelling over the detritus-composed environment, for him it was
hard going. Every time he reached a sign, he found himself, hoping
wildly that it would say, "HERE IT IS". But every time there was just
another sign in the far-off distance, another goal to wearily reach,
this quest business was turning out to be no fun at all and murder on
the legs into the bargain.
By the end of the third day, the mangy mountains of garbage had
started to thin out. By the fourth they were behind him, and by the
fifth even the smell had started to ebb. He could look back and see
the mounds far behind, the neat row of signs marking his route and
look forward to another row ahead of him, seeming to go on for
infinity. For the past day the signs had been all there was to look
at. He was crawling slowly over nothingness, or what seemed like -
nothingness, the bare smooth surface under his exhausted body, the
sky above, all were exactly the same dull shade of grey. Apart from
the receding junk mountains behind him, this was a landscape of total
emptiness. No rock, no river, no creature, no sound. Nothing! Only
one human, nearing the end of his physical and mental tether, and a
perfectly laid out row of newly minted-signs.
Somehow Will stubbornly kept going, picking himself up as he
collapsed from fatigue, again and again, onto the flat and
textureless ground, forcing himself forward. He had to keep going,
he had responsibilities, he was a leader. Somewhere out there the
others might need help, might indeed be on the verge of death. He
started at the word, still thrashing himself with remorse at the
thought of the horrid death that he had caused, at the end of the
hapless Estapoppi, the poor slob that had just been doing his job.
Not for the first time, he felt thankful for the chance to continue
his own job, thankful to whatever benign deity - or possible purple
Queen - that had ensured that he could speak fluent Estapoppi, aware
that it had been his use of their language that had saved his own
life. He shuddered at the thought of what would have happened if he
had not been able to communicate, turning his thoughts back to
putting one callused hand in front of the other, getting his sore and
bleeding knees to follow his onward scolding, pleading bidding.
It seemed like forever since he had left the last sign, an
eternity filled with pain and unending weariness but now the next was
"Come on!", Will's mind screamed at his exhausted body, "just
one more and we can sleep."
After another age, he reached the sign, his fatigued mind
taking time to realise that something was wrong, that this sign was
"ARE YOU HAVING FUN YET?" It mockingly read.
'No!' was all that Will managed to whisper, before his body
took him up on his promise and rushed thankfully into slumber.
He dreamt of Queen Sharon. She was holding a box labelled, "THE
MADID", was giving him a prize, and saying "Well Done" and "Thank
you". The sky was blue, there was a sound he recognised from video
as birdsong. All seemed lovely. Then, the Queen's stomach opened.
A little demon Queen lived there, with ravening fangs and jagged
'It's all been a trick. APRIL FOOOOOL!!!' She spitefully
Then those claws raked his body and he woke up.
Will hurt everywhere. Even the bits of his body that he did
not know the Latin names for, felt like they were showering in razor
blades. He raised his head, hoping for some sign of existence, of
day or night, of seasons, but all around was still the same grey
nothingness. He wondered vaguely if he were dead, if he was just
being masticated by a Estapoppi's insides, but he knew, really, that
this could not be true. He had not lived that sinful or interesting
a life, to rate such pain in the Hereafter. The sign above his head
made him momentarily forget the vigorous protest of his physique, and
rise in astonishment. "TO THE MADID", it said. He was sure that it
had not said that before. Had he been hallucinating? Or was he
hallucinating now? Certainly something had changed. He looked ahead
at the row of signs; there was something that he could not place, a
subtle difference. After nearly an hour of staggering ahead, of
searching his still weary brain, he realised that the markers were
pointing to a wall, to a round blob of red in the centre of a wall.
Neither had been there before.
Deep inside, one last store of adrenaline gave up its contents,
giving a last desperate surge of power to his muscles. Will
quickened his pace, his tyrant mind forcing his limbs forward,
reminding them that this was their last chance. It was a long way to
go, but lying down forever was the only alternative.
On the Road, Iowa. Early 21st Century, October.
It was hard to see who had been more astonished by the reunion.
The rest of the members of the Misbegotten Sons of Hades, or Blossom.
It had been over thirty years and none of them had weathered that
well. The damage done to Blossm's figure by years of suburban
comfort had been more than matched by the "Sons" use of drink and
drugs over the years and neither had acted as an elixir of youth.
Still, the "boys" in the band, as Blossom had called them,
without a hint of mockery, looked as good to her as the day she met
them in the corridors of Calvin Coolidge high, and they in turn could
see the remnants of the beautiful, spirited woman, who had seemed to
promise so much. A woman who caused many a lonely hour of spotty
teen-angst amongst the male population at the time.
Not for an instant did they connect their new passenger with
the blue-rinsed hair and the blushing cheeks of a twelve-year-old,
with the woman whose disappearance had prompted a storm of media
attention. Only that morning, they had heard the story on the radio,
how this woman had been denounced by her husband, called a spawn of
Satan and blamed for all his recent troubles. Only that morning,
Casper Titwilleger had engaged the old established Iowa lawfirm of
"Gredi, Graspin, Bastaards & Billings" to handle his divorce. It was a
big story: Starchild was even thinking of writing a song about it.
To them, this woman, this treasured relic of their pre-erotic
past, was not known as Titwilleger. Her name had been Pimpleknocker
when they had last met and high school reunions had never featured on
the band's list of must-do's. Now as the band and their passenger
resumed their journey, there was the chance to catch up.
'Whatever happened to the freak?' Eric "Moonglow" Matisowitz,
band drummer, wildman and general fuzzed in the head individual
mumbled with interest.
'The freak?' Blossom was trying to be helpful and charming, she
was grateful for the ride and the chance to meet old friends,
especially ones that she had had a young married's crush on, but the
name meant nothing to her.
'Yeah! The freak. You must remember!' Moonglow was becoming
insistent but his enthusiasm did nothing to dispel her puzzlement.
The comments of Bassist George "Goon" Gaddis or keyboard man
Fletcher "Stumpy" Carlisle did little to help clear things up.
'You know. The weirdo.'
She turned to Starchild for clarification.
'I think they mean the creep', he offered. It did not help.
'I still don't.'
'The goofy guy.'
'The guy that had the hots for you. The jerk that you used to
think was such a waste of space.'
Moonglow butted in.
'The loser who helped out in your dad's store, who liked the
dead animals an' stuff.'
Suddenly it was depressingly clear.
'Oh, him.' She said quietly.
The Band were excited now, carried away on the kind of trip
that did not rot braincells, a nostalgia trip.
'God, that guy was such a case.' Starchild shook his head,
'Weird-d-d-d city!' Moonglow agreed.
'A total spazmo,' giggled Stumpy.
'What d'yer say happened to him?' asked Goon.
'I married him.' Blossom said, trying to keep her voice matter-
After thirty-nine years together, the band were used to
'BUMMER-R-R-R!!!' They all said in unison.
Blossom had to agree.
'You're telling me,' she nodded.
She felt the comforting touch of Starchild's hand on hers.
Felt the strength in his shrivelled, craggy arms as she leaned her
head on his shoulder.
'Talking of weird guys,' said Moonglow, who had really
forgotten altogether what they were talking about.
'Whatever happened to your brother?'
'Now he really was a dork!' Goon and Stumpy, nodded aged heads.
'Did he end up in the pen like we said he would?' Queried
'Or the army?'
'He was such a thug.'
'He's a preacher in California.' Blossom quickly put them out
of their misery.
'He's got his own T.V. show, his own church, makes fifty
million a year.'
There was a stunned silence. Eventually with a shocked
expression of wonderment, Starchild spoke for them all.
'Life's a bitch, isn't it?'
Blossom gently nodded.
'As I said, you're telling me.'
Wilbur Prince, lard bucket of God, was beside himself with
fury. He had not minded his sister throwing away her life, had not
minded her marrying that idiot into the family business, did not give
a damn what she did with her private life. But when she started
being called a "mistress of Satan", when she got her stupid fat face
plastered all over the press and when the publicity was damaging the
Lord's work, and, more importantly, business, it was time to act. He
picked up the phone and did the only thing that an upstanding
citizen, loving brother and devout Christian could do in the
circumstances. He phoned some business associates and had a hit put
out on his sister. Then he went back to reading Primrose Bland's
latest fan letter.
'Hey. You want to know somethin' really freaky?' Starchild
Blossom smiled; for the first time in a long time, she was
having fun. They had just sang her song, the one they had written in
high school: "You're a bitching chick Blossom, but stop playing
possom on me...", it was awful in the way that only early 'Sixties
bubblegum pop could be, but it had been written for her and she
was very fond of it.
'It's so amazing. With all this stuff about the past,'
'We're going home.'
'Where do you live?'
'Not our home. The old place. Your home. We're gonna play
Ashton. Isn't it great?"
Blossom's smile froze on her face. She felt buffeted over the
head by the wicked cosh of disappointment. Ashton was the last
place she wanted to visit.
'We could all visit the old high school.'
'Why! are you hungry?'
Starchild looked especially puzzled by her answer, so Blossom
'They tore it down in the 'Nineties. It's "Bob's Side o'Beef
on a Plate" now, "burgers and ribs for hungry people".'
There was a startled silence in the van. However decrepit they
had got, however much they had changed, the band had always had an
image of the old town staying the same.
Moonglow perked up.
'Well, you could visit Casper. Talk over old times.'
'Somehow, I don't think he'd enjoy that.' Blossom's reply was
Claude Billings was one of the most highly regarded, and
expensive, lawyers in the state. He cultivated an air of folksy
distinction, "Out-Twaining Twain" as he called it. This policy had
worked spectacularly. His office was an image of tastefully
restrained opulence, a shrine to his legal success. In this room, he
had dealt politely and sensibly with murderers, rapists, arsonists,
every kind of violent criminal. That was before he had decided to
try divorce work. Now his office was mostly filled with gibbering
madmen. On the surface, Casper Titwilleger did not look mad, he did
not look like he had that much character. But what he was saying was
purest loony tunes.
'You've got to find her. She's dangerous, possessed by the
'Most people are when they get a divorce, Mr Titwilleger. It's
'She has to be stopped.'
'I wouldn't worry. As far as divorce goes. Our firm is the
'The devils will protect her.'
'We have to find out which firm is representing her before we
start slandering them.'
'We have to find her.'
'Half the newspapers in the country are looking. Don't worry.'
'Worry!' Casper fixed him with a wide-eyed fanatic stare. 'Of
course I worry. If we don't find her, she could destroy the world.
Believe me, it's worrying.'
'If you want we could hire a private detective for you. I have
a woman in mind who's done a lot of good work for us.'
'Yes! Yes!' The taxidermist was beside himself with sweaty
eagerness. ' Tell her, it's her chance to save the world.'
As he lifted the phone, Claude Billings felt suddenly
exhausted. Tired of all the oddballs, the dealing with fools, that
went into earning a legal crust. He was sorry that he had taken
this case, sorry that he had been attracted by the publicity, sorry
that he could not think of a way to get Titwilleger out of his
office. The phone rang for a long time. Then someone picked it up.
A familiar voice growled abruptly at the other end, and suddenly,
Billings did not feel weary or sorry anymore.
'Hi Munday. It's Claude Billings. Can you drop everything?
I've got a case you're gonna love. The client says you can save the
Will's tiredness had outstripped the bonds of mere reason some
time before. Now only the zombie-like slow motion of his limbs and
the freeform mind-games in his head kept him going. For several
hours, or so it seemed, the large red blob had been taunting him,
had even adopted a spiteful demonic face to do so. "Lie down and
sleep you loser", it suggested. "Lie down and die", it demanded.
"Your friends are all dead", it informed him, over and over again.
Will did not pause for an instant, just kept crawling forward
at a pace that would make a snail seem like a hyperactive leopard,
his dry lips, too sore and cracked to reply to the scarlet tormentor.
Closer and closer came the blob, and more and more sarcastic grew
its taunts, until Will was close enough to make out the fact that it
looked like a red button. After a few minutes he could even hazily
read the small lettering on the sign above it: "PRESS FOR THE MADID",
"Press," thought Will, "I'm not just going to press. I'm going
to punch its bloody face in."
As Will finally got within reach and felt the relief of striking
out as his fist connected brutally with a solid metal surface, he
realised that it was really just a button after all. A button
that slowly pressed down. There was a slight pause as Will waited for
something wonderful to happen. Suddenly, brutally, the button connected
and an electric shock seared through him. Lifting him off the floor and
depositing his body, fizzing and rippling from the effects of the energy
bolt, almost six feet away.
As he slipped, once again, into unconsciousness, he heard a
chiding inner voice say. "Not again! I don't know why you ever
bother to wake up", and more than that, he heard another sound, one
that seemed to be moving towards him from above; the boisterous sound
of happy laughter.
best place for traditionally published works on the NET remains....