HELLO FANS! HELLO PARKING METERS. HELLO VENDING MACHINERY THAT CAN BE FOUND IN TOILETS. IN FACT HELLO TO ALL ELECTRO-MECHANICAL MACHINERY THAT MAY BE READING THESE WORDS, BECAUSE EPISODE SEVEN OF MY TALES FROM FUTURE PAST WILL BE OF SPECIAL INTEREST TO YOU. AS SOME OF YOU MAY KNOW, MY NAME IS LOUSE #3,142, AND DUE TO A DREADFUL MISTAKE WHICH INVOLVES THE WORD “POOH!” AND A GAY NEUTRON BOMB NAMED LOUSE #007, I AM DISGUISED AS A BOIL ON THE BACKSIDE OF DUANE PIPE, A MACDONALDS TRAINEE AND NOT A BIT AS NICE AS TAMARA KNIGHT.
My old pal #007 has been put in charge of Tamara, while I rot here in the nether regions of despair, as we teleport to our trainee assignment on behalf of Macdonalds Intergalactic. The Corporation Wars have been raging for centuries now, and we are trying to prevent the Cocacolonisation of the planet Kashdispensa, formerly Earth, by setting up a planetwide system of microwave vending machines. Personally, I think the idea is asinine, as there are no humans on Kashdispensa whatsoever, but then I’m not paid to think. I’m not paid at all. Unless you count these weird bits of paper signed by the legendary Krey Twins, Oliver and Franco, servants of the dreaded Lord Sendusa Fax.
This planet is incredibly ugly. Duane fits in perfectly. Its entire surface is covered in plasticrete, whose entire surface is covered in graffiti, and its entire population consists of vending machines. There are squillions of them. Chocolate bar dispensers in what used to be Switzerland, Softee-Ice nozzles all over some place named Napoli, fag machines in San Francisco, whereas here in a forgotten, damp little corner called Britain, there’s nothing but utterly useless gambling devices. Apparently it all began long, long ago, when your mythological goddess Maggot Hatcher demanded impossible sacrifices from her worshippers. After selling off things like gas, oil, telephone conversations, justice, health and air, she dispensed with people altogether, replacing them with much more efficient machines. And these machines were happy as Larry, trading in bits of paper signed by the Krey Twins, which had no real value, and voting for the goddess Hatcher in a peculiar sexual rite called a General Erection. Larry wasn’t too happy, mind. He was turned into hardcore, and the phosphorous from his brain became part of the random number generator circuit in a Bingo machine.
“Here I am, the most intelligent entity on this entire planet and my prime function is as a bog attendant”
I expect you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned going to the toilet yet. After all it is the most common motivator in every episode so far. Apart from gratuitous sex and violence. Well how can I disappoint you, here goes. it’s toilet time again. Duane Pipe has two legs, one beneath each of his scaberous buttocks. These legs are gooseberry-haired stumpy columns which bow outwards like a pair of curled brackets either side of a very small percentage symbol. It is this part of his anatomy which he clutches as he hops from one gooseberry-haired stumpy leg to the other. As I tell this telling tale to you he is ripping loose a buttock blaster comprising 17% sulphur dioxide, 24% methane, 11% politician and 48% cruelty to underclothing. “Pooh!” says Tamara. I curse the armaments designer who equipped me with scent analysis I curse my revolting pimply host for jiggling about and making me feel queasy as a vegetarian in a French kiss and I curse forty four word sentences without any punctuation in them. The idiot boy is asking me where the nearest wee-wee house is. Imagine it, here I am, the most intelligent entity upon this entire planet and my prime function is as a bog attendant. And what is worse, I don’t know the answer.
“Try that machine over there, Duane, you incontinent little rat.” I direct him to one of the more abused wall dispensers. “This don’t look like a urinal” he whines, It’s too far off the ground.” “Then stand on tip-toe, and aim high. And hurry up before all this lavatorial effluent is sub-edited out.” There is a sign above the wall-machine, in flaking ancient English, but some of the letters have been erase yet the March of Time over passing centuries, not to mention the shoddy workmanship of Di Young, an itinerant Welsh Letrasign adherent, who lived to be 85, and spend the twighlight of his days addicted to the glue on the back of the letter ‘K’. The sign reads ‘ACCES- C--D--ASH-D-SPEN-ER’. Naturally for a being endowed with my great intelligence, it takes me a nanosecond to computer that this machine is a bodily waste disposal unit, of the disintegrator beam type, common in the Armitage-Shanks Nebula. The sign must have originally read ‘ACCESS CRUD SLASH DISPENSER’, in that charming directness beloved of the ancient Britons.
“All those years of Macdonalds potty training are about to pay off.”
“But I don’t know how to use it Louse, and I’m bursting! Come on, you’re supposed to be my personal advisory unit, so advise me, and hurry up!” Tamara is walking away in disgust, and what a stinking gust it is, in the general direction of serried ranks of fruit machines. My heart aches the further she retreats from Duane’s stink. I had better advise him fast before I lose sight of my wonderful heroine. “Just read the instructions, Duane, these computerised urinals always have a display screen and a keypad to help idiots like you.” He jiggles about in front of the Slashpoint, and sure enough, its protective glass front panel is sliding upwards to reveal my predicted screen, keypad, and a couple of functional looking slots. I just hope that all those years of Macdonalds potty training are about to pay off. The machine springs to life and issues its first instruction: ‘INSERT CARD’. Duane is completely bewildered of course, not having the intelligence to master Ancient English, let alone to go to the toilet unaided.
Now I am advising him to put his identity card in the appropriate slot. I mean, the Brits can’t have any old life-form voiding their bladders hereabouts, can they. He is inserting his card, and jiggling about with alarming force. ‘ENTER PERSONAL ACCESS NUMBER’ glows the instruction on the little monochromatic VDU. So that’s what they called Privates in the old days! How quaint?! I have to explain this to the imbecilic Duane Pipe, who has the audacity to doubt my superior intellect before obeying the machine’s command. ‘KEY IN AMOUNT REQUIRED’. Duane actually manages to tap out ‘Number Ones’ all on his own. ‘ENTER DEPOSIT OR WITHDRAWAL’. Well, gentle reader, there is no need for me to tell you exactly what is taking place at this moment, but the machine is flashing up its chemical analysis of Duane’s deposit with the simple verdict ‘MALFUNCTION’, which I can certainly confirm. His functions are rotten.
Duane heaves “Ho”, a satisfied sigh of relief, and turns away from the Access Crud Dispenser, but I am not letting him get away with that. “Young man!” I telepathically reprimand him, “Wash your hands at once! And shame on you, you dirty little beast. Look for the soil dispersal beam before you indulge in nose picking or any other of your favourite foul hobbies!” Listen to him mutter obscenities under his breath, which also stinks. Watch him slouch back to the machine, round shouldered, squareheaded, bracket legged, the percentage symbol shrunk to an umlaut. If I had not discovered that God was nothing but an egocentric rock’n’roll Compact Disc halfway through Episode Three, I would pray to him now for deliverance from this torture of forced symbiosis with a moron.
The cretin has managed to decipher the current message scrolling up the machine’s weeny screen, which states the Duane must await a receipt for his deposit. Things must have been horrifically bureaucratic in late Twentieth Century Britain if they gave receipts every time you went wee wee. As Duane waves his hands in front of the horizontal hand-cleanser slot, several small paper towels are ejected from it. How incredibly primitive! They are rather shiny and I would thought them unsuitable to absorb surplus moisture, but they are quite pretty, imprinted with ancient runes and portraits of domestic gods. “Who’s this ’orrible looking git on the towels, Louse?” asks Duane, in that charming snivel of his. I analyse the portrait, and search my prehistoric history data banks. Naturally I am able to answer, “His image coincides with a two-dimensional representation of The Duke of Wellington, a great British war leader.” “Yeah?!” sneers Duane, blowing his nostril contents into the little kerchief, “Well if he’s so great, how come he wound up in the paper towel racket? Trooommmphk!!”
“Queen Elizabeth was never in the paper towel racket. She was in extortion”
I must admit that I cannot respond to this question, although my memory banks inform me that the lady wearing the metal hat on the other side of the towel was known hereabouts as Queen Elizabeth Aye-Aye. Queen Elizabeth was never in the paper towel racket. She was in extortion. I have some fascinating info on her sister too, whose favourite pastime involved ultra violet light, body lotion and a rubber... “Louse! Louse! I wanna go Number Twos now! How can I use this stupid toilet when it’s half way up the wall!? Louse? Help me Louse, I wanna go Number Twos!” Tamara has got bored with the fruit machines and wanders over, only to flare one perfect nostril, deliver the word “Pooh”, which happens to be the only syllable that has escaped her lips for two episodes, and retreat to a corner full of chewing gum machines, whose flaking brand name reads F-ATHER-IGHT.
I am categorically refusing to help Duane Pipe any more. Let him work out his Number Twos himself. I will not abase my intellect any lower that it has already sunk, even though my host is awkwardly climbing up on the little metal ledge of the Access Crud Slash Dispenser, and has dropped his trousers to facilitate the screen’s ‘ENTER DEPOSIT AMOUNT’ request. I am not going to warn him about the anti-vandalism protection built in to the machine. Let him find out for himself.
There is an ominous whirring of gears from within the wall cavity, and my smoke registers an interesting combination of silicon fusion and catalytic dung. What is about to happen gives a whole new meaning to the word disaster, with the insertion of the letter ‘r’ after the ‘a’ and an ‘e’ after the ‘s’. The glass protection panel slices downwards with a smoothness and rapidity reminiscent of the guillotine, but this is no time to lose your head. Duane’s eyes widen in reverse proportion to his newly streamline backside, and as I fall to the cracked pavestone of ancient Earth, still disguised as a buttock boil, I am observing a sight that will haunt me for the rest of my life, or until the end of the next paragraph. Whichever comes the sooner.
“The last thing which is recognisably Duane Pipe is his dislodged right eye. A strange sight .”
The sixteen year-old living carcass of Duane Pipe is being sucked into the left-hand slot of the Dispenser, starting at the lower bowel, and unravelling like surprised spaghetti, from the inside out. The slot measures 55 millimetres wide by 2 millimetres high, and up until seventeen seconds ago, Duane was a normal round shouldered slob weighing 69 kilos. At this very moment his starboard kidney is doing beached fish impressions, flapping and leaping on the pavement, rather prettily in my opinion, and now disappearing down a gutter drain to begin a new career as a rat snack. His teeth are being expelled from the Duke of Wellington paper towel dispenser slot, and land neatly on top of each of the alphanumeric keys, in the sort of coincidence that will be familiar to readers of this story. His blood spurts from the Receipt Slot in a single arc of parabolic perfection, instantly being converted to one long sizzling black pudding, due to the fact that the slot glows white hot. For the first time since I have made his acquaintance the young man smells not unpleasant. The last thing which is recognisably Duane Pipe is his dislodged right eye. A strange sight, which now vapourises into a decorative spherical shower of tiny globules with a sound which is very similar to the ancient British word for intimate congress.
The heat generated by this amusing incident is causing the buttock slice on which I am resident to sizzle more than somewhat, accompanied by the mouth-watering smell of frying bacon. Tamara wanders over and peers down at me, wrinkling her perfect nose, and uttering her inevitable “Pooh!”. Hang on a second, I am receiving a message from Louse #007, which may prove critical to my entire future. While Tamara wonders if she should report the heresy of a slice of fried bacon on the pavement of a Macdonalds-only planet, #007 is telling me that he has fallen in love! This I cannot take! #007 has always been the only gay neutron bomb in existence, due to his AC/DC converter being fitted back to front by an antique Austin-Rover robot with Altzheimer’s Disease, so how can he have fallen for my own true heart’s desire, the incomparable Tamara Knight? If I was a human being I’d kill myself. As it is, I’ll kill my former buddy #007.
“Don’t be a silly-billy’, warbles #007, “it’s not Tamara that makes me go all weak at the interface, it’s him over there!” He sends a microwave beam of delight in the direction of a fruit machine hanging on the opposite wall, which responds by waving its shiny chrome handle in a highly provocative yet pleasantly erotic manner. “Just look at his well-oiled gears, and those beautiful Nudge’n’Hold buttons, and when he spins his cherries, well #3.142, my atomic pile goes quite critical. You must help me, please! I want to take a chance on love, and Macdonalds can go take a flying fondle at a rolling doughnut!” I think I know what’s coming next. Oh joy, oh bliss, oh Tamara, soon you and I will be one again.
#007 implants a low-level auto suggestion in Tamara’s mind, and she picks up the hot slice of Duane from the pavement. Like a sleepwalker, she takes this pitiful remnant of my former host over to the one-armed bandit, who introduces himself as Lovely If Battered Electronic Random Access Client Entertainer, or LIBERACE for short, and thanks me from the bottom of his jackpot for the service I am about to render him and his new-found paramour. In less time it takes for a right eyeball to vapourise Tamara plucks #007 from her perfect skin. and pops him into Liberace’s moistened coin slot. I have never seen such happy machinery in my artificial life, and I am sure that you will join me in wishing them a long and fruitful symbiosis together. May they respect one another, and always remember the words of the appropriately christened Francis Bacon. “It is impossible to love and be wise” (Essays, 1625 AD, Kashdispensarian, formerly Ancient British Earthling).
Now Tamara is picking me out of the congealed fat of what she thinks is a slice of smoked streaky, and holding me up for examination. “Tamara! My own sweet love, I have been waiting for this moment for sixteen years! At last we can begin our life together all over again! It’s me, your own sweet Louse, ready to become your man with a smallish moustache and some leisureware.” She peers at me, sniffs me, thinks for a moment, mutters “Pooh!”, and with a disdainful flick of her perfect wrist towards the longest black pudding on the planet Kashdispensa, formerly Earth. she tosses me away.
DON’T MISS PART EIGHT OF THIS AWARD-WINNING SAGA (THE TYPESETTER WHO WROTE ‘24’ INSTEAD OF THE MATHEMATICAL FORMULA FOR ‘BALLS’ IN EPISODE SIX IS NOW CONFINED TO A WARD), WHEREIN I INVENT A MACHINE WHICH IS GUARANTEED TO MAKE YOU DIE LAUGHING, AND TAMARA KNIGHT LEARNS A BRAND NEW WORD.
[In fact this was the last instalment of Tamara Knight to be published in CRASH. The following letter was published in issue 44:
I presume most people intensely dislike missing the end of a film, or discovering the last chapter of a book to be missing. I am being driven insane by the mysterious disappearance of TAMARA KNIGHT! Not a word has been uttered about its sudden nonexistence in the July and August issues.
... to which Lloyd replied...
You weren’t the only person to want to know what has happened to TAMARA KNIGHT — it was a case of space and pressure of mail saying get rid of it (sorry Mel, you’ll get your own back on us in ZZAP!, I know!). I’ll see if I can lobby for an abridged version of the final two chapters in the CHRISTMAS SPECIAL...
Nothing came of this; however the two remaining parts were published in ZZAP!, and have been collected here. Part 8...]