TAMARA KNIGHT has arrived on the planet Astar, in order to wish her miniature neutron bomb adviser into a perfect lover. The trouble with wishing-planets is that they take everything so literally. I know, I am a bomb, and I have just struck us dumb, as well as causing Tamara to give birth to a pair of goats. I’ll never say ‘You’re Kidding’ again.

Tamara Knight

Part Five by Mel Croucher

Why is it that whenever I find myself in dire straits, the only successful communication that I can achieve is with you, the reader of a prehistoric, non-electronic publication called ZZIT! or CRABS or some other such nonsense? I mean, what have you ever done for me? Yes — you! Can you transform me into a human being? Of course you can’t! Can you endow me with a small moustache and some leisurewear? Not a chance! Can you conjure up our former travelling companions, Jimi Hendrix and Pinnochio? Not on your... just a moment... the door of the Macdonalds teleporter is swinging open, and out steps a long-nosed wooden puppet and a half-Cherokee former-guitarist from the Ike and Tina Turner Band. We are saved! And if it is anything to do with you, my splendid reader, I thank you from the bottom of my power-cell. Yes you.

Now I am not a vindictive bomb, for a bomb that is...

Our two travelling companions seem to find Tamara’s sorry state highly amusing. Indeed, they are rolling about the surface of this planet, giggling and failing to control their mirth. This cannot be right! Aren’t they supposed to be saving us? Now I am not a vindictive bomb, for a bomb that is, but I admit to you, gentle reader from my distant past, that I am a wee bit disappointed by their attitude. They might come to a sticky end for mocking my poor, mouthless, virgin-even-though-she’s-delibered-a-brace-of-goats Tamara. Not to mention the birth mark on the back of her neck, which is my current disguise and location. I can’t even turn myself into something more practical, because us Macdonalds neutron bombs are symbiotic, and if we can’t communicate with our poor human hosts, we ain’t worth spit.

They are trying to regain their composure, sucking down the last of their childish guffaws, sniffing back their snotty sniggers, Jimi wiping tear-crinkled eyes and Pinnochio wiping the sap from his knot-holes. I doubt if Pinnochio has got the sense to say the right thing and get us out of this mess, he’s only got a wooden head, but at least Jimi Hendrix has a modicum of intelligence. After all, he was once a neutron bomb advisory unit like me, when he was disguised as Jimminy Cricket. Jimi wipes his eyes, and pulls himself upright, slapping Ptnnochio on the back between bouts of laughter. He recovers himself enough to say, Son of a bitch... this is sick! and promptly turns into a wiry brown puppy, with shaggy hair and a Fender Stratocaster round its neck, curiously sniffing at a large hillock of vomit.

You know, I sincerely regret wishing him a sticky end, this planet seems able to misread my thoughts as well as literalise my words, and Jimi has turned his attention to Pinnochio’s leg. I think he wants to make friends with it. Well I never! says the incredibly stupid puppet, and vanishes from the plot forever. The puppy wanders off wagging its curly little tail, towards a playful group of sodden cats and dogs, presumably conjured up by an idle comment about the weather.

That leaves Tamara and my silent self quite alone again, with nothing to do but relay our predicament to you. I mean, just how can we wish ourselves eternally happy, after I have rendered her speechless with a rather hasty You don’t say, and then hushed my own mouth? Maybe we can communicate our wishes in letters of fire on tablets of stone, or plant them out in corn-seed and wait for Spring, or etch them in icy Morse-code on the arctic seas. On the other hand — is there a biro lying around somewhere?

All we have to do is to make a properly constructed wish on this planet, and all our dreams will come true. Is that too much to ask? Everything? Of course, I can’t advise Tamara of any of this, deprived of my telepathic powers. I can’t even tell her that I am programmed to explode by the end of the next page, if she does not fulfil todays’s quota of Macdonalds Teleporter Booth sales. She is just sitting here, on this kettle of fish which appears to be some sort of fine, staring at the twin baby goats, who demand milk. I wish they would stop it, because every time they bleat what sounds like Baah!, a piece of soap, snatch of music or interior of a public house matersalises.

Something catches her eye, over there behind that thrashing pile of suffering catfish. There, in the far distance, we can just make out the figure of some sort of mono-pedal humanoid, hopping awkwardly towards huge mounds of amputated feet. In the circumstances, I am not in the slightest bit surprised. Tamara ‘shoes’ the kids away, and wades through fish whose mouths are filled with unmelted butter. She waves her perfect hands, and snorting through her perfect nostrils, heads towards the receding back of the humanoid, but it does not see her. So off we go, heading for the foothills, carefully avoiding that disgusting horde of mickles doing something quite unforgiveable to a muckle.

Perhaps the one-legged pogo-humanoid can open his mouth without putting his foot in it.

Far be it from a cynic like myself to hint at optimism, but perhaps the one-legged pogo-humanoid can open his mouth without putting his foot in it. Perhaps he can bite his tongue, mince his words, help us. Perhaps not. The sun nudges the horizon, throwing long shadows across this insane landscape. A rat scampers by,demanding to be smelled. Some little cotton socks chase after it, demanding to be blessed. I begin to feel really sorry for your graphics artist as our pathway explodes, due to some wickedly mined Ps and Q. Towards the horizon, waves of Russian religious paintings wash the shore, as far as the icon sea. Wolves arrive at doors. Rainclouds change into teapots, never raining but pouring. The half-light of dusk obscures the hopping humanoid, but Tamara struggles on. She really is wonderful, up to her thighs in stinking wriggly toes, and she will not give up, the indelible in pursuit of the implausible.

I am glad to report that she avoids the man with the twelve inch pianist, and several other antique but cheap jokes. I know it’s Episode Five already, but I’m wondering if it was such a good idea to exist in the present-continuous. I mean on the plus side it gives the impression of immediacy to, say, a reader of 20th Century Earth-type ‘Zzits’ or ‘Crabs’, but on the negative side of narrative prose, I haven’t got time to think about the future before it’s past. Bombs need sleep too. Bombs spend most of their life asleep. I once went to school with a nice little bomb called Alma Geddon, who slept underground for forty years without doing a stroke of work, and it wasn’t the end of the world. Until she woke up, that is. It’s hard to be a bomb sometimes. Tamara trips over the humanoid.

It writhes among the severed feet, trying to remove a fork from its vulgar trousers, and vowing never to use that particular Anglo-Saxon expletive again. I am dismayed to see that it is obviously male, and not only sports a small moustache but also writhes in leisurewear. He catches sight of Tamara, who is leaping up and down, pointing to the area of smooth skin where her mouth used to be. Hi there! says the humanoid, and immediately apologises as we shoot up into the air. Whoops, look, hang about... er, I mean, please can you help me? Tamara takes the noose from her neck, and chafes me severely in the process, then grabs hold of the thrusting fork, which instantly ceases motion. Oh thank you, thank you, young lady, I can’t tell you how much I... No! cancel that one... an omnibus vanishes just before it reaches your stop somewhere in the galaxy, as usual. I’ll be darned if I... Tamara grabs him by his single leg, and hauls him out of the path of a giant sewing machine which charges towards the horizon stitching everything in its monstrous path. The humanoid begins to cry. Tamara feels like crying too, but it’s not the same without a mouth to pucker, so she cradles his head on her lap ,as he sobs and moans, and sucks his thumb. Now he sucks her thumb. I must admit, between you and me and the other thousands of readers of thc best-selling computer publication on your poxy planet. I feel somewhat jealous. I long for the time when I too can sob and moan and have my head cradled in her lap, but I am still a super-intelligent bomb disguised as a blemish on the back of the neck of the only perfect entity in the galaxy. Tamara bends to hear what this weedy uniped is mumbling, her long mane brushing his miserable face, and I catch some rambling story about him being a journalist working for the Dali Express, arrived on Astar in a Macdonalds Teleporter Booth. Unfortunately his first words on arrival were to do with his leg being pulled. Swearing did not help. He raises his head, extends a shaking hand towards Tamara’s lovely gobless face, and says, This is all some horrible mistake. I’m just a newspaper man...

I am watching the look of blank amazement on his face, as the headline ‘Gotcha!’ is printed across his lifeless brow. The sheets of cheap newsprint flutter from her lap as my hostess leaps up, startled by the humanoid’s transformation into crumpled origami, the thoughtless paper head remaining in her hand, its wordless paper mouth still encircling her thumb. Her eyes widen, her hands tremble, she touches me here at the nape of her neck with her free hand, but I am helpless. I cannot advise her. I am not even sure that dreams should come true. Perhaps they are better left as dreams. In total frustration, Tamara Knight rips up the sheets of newsprint, a howl of despair muffled somewhere inside of her perfect throat. And then she pauses, an idea forming in her perfectly confused head.

The Whole of Page Three of the Dali Express consists of a snapshot of the planet Titsenbum.

The whole of Page Three of the Dali Express consists of a snapshot of the planet Titsenbum, with the headline ‘Saucy Starbirds Say Castrate Rapists Now’, but what’s this on Page Four? There is a small item concerning the ancient religious martyr Saint Samantha. It seems that her bra-less blouse has appeared in a shimmering vision to some simple peasants in a grotto, and preached to them in fluent Iranian. The headline runs ‘BLOUSE PREACHES SHI’ITE.’

Tamara totters to the safety of a haystack, carefully removes a needle, hardly disturbing the camel passing through its eye and sits herself down where the yellow stalks make interesting patterns on her skin. She appears to be tearing up the headline very carefully, and laying out the individual letters in a line. I am waiting with growing excitement. I think that she has the basis for a really great board-game here, wherein players could take turns to make intersecting words using little squares with letters printed on them. It could be called ‘Monopoly’. But all that is for the future, when I become a man, and live happily ever after with Tamara Knight.

She stares at the letters for a few minutes. as the sun sets, and tries to remember her spelling lessons from when she was pre-programmed inside her test tube. Slowly, meticulously, she spells out the phrase ‘LOUSE HAS SPEECH’. The remaining letters blow away on the wind, causing a very confused rastafarian whippet breeder named I’I BERT to materialise far far away. Tamara my love! I communicate with joy, How absolutely brilliant!

And true to my words, the foothills turn into diamonds, huge gold-framed mirrors appear in serried ranks, spotlights punch the sky, celebration fireworks explode in joyous patterns, laser beams flicker and dance, a thousand volcanoes erupt and the sun goes nova... oh dear. I really must get this bit right or we will be incinerated before we can share our first kiss. I gather my thoughts, sift them through my sentence parsers, and slowly annunciate, Tamara, please do not interfere with what I am about to say, ahem... (for the first time in three episodes, Tamara is clad accidentally, and in only a strip of lace around her fetlocks, but even a hem is a start) ... I wish that the sun which has just gone nova and is frying the landscape reverts to its former stability and that the recently erupted volcanoes become gentle tufty hillocks again.

We’re allowed as much gratuitous violence as we want, but smut is out.

The sun obediently beams, gently. So far so good. The volcanoes implode and become gargantuan pubic mounds. Ah well, you can’t win them all, and surrealist readers will find some satisfaction hereabout. I wish that Tamara’s perfect mouth is returned to its former perfect place, and that her honour and virginity is not affected by her giving birth to a couple of goats. Tamara whoops Yipee! with delight, and every living thing on the planet urinates simultaneously. Careful baby, long ago on planet Earth an editor sits poised, blue pencil in hand, reminding us that this is a wholesome publication. We’re allowed as much gratuitous violence as we want, but smut is out.

So this is it! At last! Tamara, you must now wish me into a perfect human male companion for yourself, maybe with a little moustache and some leisurewear thrown in, so we can live happy ever after, without the risk of me going critical and detonating every few hours. Tamara is taking a deep breath, which is one of the most beautiful sights in the universe, she is clearing her mind of all spurious thoughts (which doesn’t take long), she is patting my tiny roundness affectionately, and now she speaks slowly and clearly. Dear Planet Astar... (Several million parking meters, and an army of Vulcan Added Taxmen appear) No, no, forget that (The word ‘that’ disappears from the memories of all sentient beings in this sector of the galaxy) This is Tamara Knight speaking, and I would like you to grant me a wish so that the little bomb on the back of my neck and I can live happy ever after. OK? Alright... (Every signpost turns due East. Ten batallions of the Red Army march into sight singing the Horst Wessel song. Bottles of brown table sauce cover the landscape with pungent goo.) Oh Louse! It’s hopeless. I wish none of this had ever happened and we could start all over again... oops!

...I’ll leave you now, dear reader of earthly computer magazines called ZZIT and CRABS. Maybe we are en route to a place of specks of dust, slimeballs, swirling gases and a universe about to be born, where we’ll have to wait a little less than 69 billion years for you to exist again. Maybe we’ll arrive on the planet Astar, and I’ll say something like You’re Kidding, and we will exist in the same time loop for ever. Maybe I’ll detonate before the end of this paragraph because Tamara has fallen down on the job, and I am so designed to punish her. Maybe everything will work out just ... OH NO! We can’t possibly be here! I don’t believe it...