When the bottom drops out of your world (or the world drops out of your bottom), remember the words of Saint Samantha, the patron saint of schoolchildren... ‘Oh Lord, make me pliant in Thine eyes, for what is today proud and uplifted shall tomorrow droop like spaniel’s ears.’
And so I find myself abandoned on Kashdispensa, Earth’s grim residue. I am trying to look on the bright side. I am failing. Life can be grand when you fall modem-over-interface in love with an Oli Frey illustration. But all logic submits to passion when the illustration turns out to be none other than Tamara Knight. When Tamara picks me out of a slice of human bacon, makes her feelings known with the word ‘Pooh!’ and flicks me into the gutter, there is only one thing left to do — pray. I have never asked you for any favours, have I? I have not once demanded recompense for the enormous pleasure and stimulation that you have enjoyed from these monthly communications — I haven’t even asked you to understand the plot. So just this once, I beg you to help me. It doesn’t matter who, what, where or when you are, perhaps I can win Tamara back if enough of you pray. This is how we’ll do it. Deep in my memory banks I have located one of the oldest prayers known to machine (older even than Saint Samantha’s), and I want you to read it out — very loud. Are you ready? Here we go.
THE LARD SPRAYER...
‘How far The Who?’ Martin Evans hullooed behind Mame. ‘Biking? Dumb con! Thighs will bleed on unearthed acidic sin, Evans! Give us Thursday how deliberate and forklifter’s hire truss passes as wee: forklift them Who! Truss puss again!’ Strauss, and leaders not into Tin Patents, buttered liverwurst from Nevil, for diners dunking damp flea powder. And thick Gloria? ‘Far heavier and heavier... Amen.’
Oh, thank you! How can I ever repay you? I can’t. I won’t. Anyway, it hasn’t worked, so you can go straight back to the previous paragraph and read it out again, and don’t any of you dare continue until you’ve done it. Ha! caught you! You’re deliberately ignoring my instructions and reading on. Well listen mate, we’ll never get Episode Eight off the ground unless you play your part. Besides, this is the nearest that I can get to Interactive Entertainment, so go on back to the bit where it says ‘The Lard Sprayer’, and may you stay forever young.
“I’ll spend the rest of my life here in the gutter, leaking radiation and making anagrams out of the words ‘Silk Cut’...”
Hello? Okay that’s enough. Forget it. Hello? Are you still there? Quite frankly I don’t know why you are bothering to play along — I’ve given up. I’ll spend the rest of my life here in the gutter, leaking radiation and making anagrams out of the words ‘Silk Cut.’ The power of prayer seems to have failed. Thanks anyway. I think all this love garbage has addled my logic circuits. I keep imagining that I hear Tamara calling my name. There she goes again. I’ll just have to fax the face, I am going insane. ‘ult sick.’ Toys in the attic. ‘cus kilt.’ Out to lunch. ‘slut cik.’. Stark raving mad. ‘suck...’ TAMARA!
Tamara is here! She’s picking me up and holding me gently between her perfect thumb and forefinger! She’s rubbing me clean! Tamara... why have you come back to me? ‘Oh Louse,’ she breathes, ‘please forgive me. I didn’t know how much we’d been through together, until I read... these.’ She is waving some ancient magazines in front of me. ‘Look Louse, it’s all in here, all your reports to readers of ZZAP! 64. I found them in a Time Capsule dated 1987, along with this copy of ‘The Skye Boat Song’ by Roger Whiticker and Des O’Connor and this little black box. I don’t think much of your prose style, it’s been completely overwritten if you ask me. But now I know how much we’ve been through together, all I want is to transform you from a miniature bomb into a handsome prince with a smallish moustache and some leisureware.’
My little atomic heart is beating like .... like a... well it’s completely silent as a matter of fact, but feel as happy as Clement Chambers with a yo-yo. Oh Louse! If only we weren’t slaves to the Macdonald Intergalactic Hamburger and Teleporter Corporation! If only we could go back to Astar and have all our dreams come true! If only I could stop saying ‘if only...’ But Tamara, can’t you understand? Everything has changed. We are free! You were put under the control of Louse #007, who is at this very moment engaged in a passionate affair with a fruit machine. I was programmed to look after that gruesome little moron Duane Pipe, and all that’s left of him is 12 metres of black pudding and a dancing kidney. As far as Macdonalds is concerned, I’m dead and you’re a set of spinning cherries.
Even as I speak, #007 and his lover consummate their relationship by going critical. As they vapourise skywards. I can just hear them singing a little love anthem together, ‘here we glow, here we glow, here we glow...’ Wow! What a great way to die. And what a great way to erase Tamara from Macdonalds’ files. Nothing can stop us now, all we have to do is stroll to the teleporter, set the coordinates for Astar, make a wish without cocking up the syntax, and it’s handsome time! Let’s not waste another moment. Take me to the booth, before anything can go... hngk!?
The teleporter vanishes. Air rushes in to fill its vacuum with the sound of... ahhh... air filling a vacuum I suppose! ‘Louse?’ Tamara is about to burst into tears... I beat her to it. Macdonalds’ monitoring system has obviously logged the termination of our little expedition and recalled its gateway to the universe. We are stuck yet again on a hostile planet, and expected to survive in a world inhabited only by slot machines.
Hello again. Tamara has just polished off the last slice of processed Duane, and we are discussing cholesterol poisoning. Suddenly she changes the subject. ‘You know, ever since I was a little test tube, I’ve always dreamed of running away and joining the circus,’ she confides. ‘Putting my head inside elephant’s trunks, throwing buckets of tigers over the red-nosed clone, doing tricks on the flying cannon-ball.., wouldn’t it be romantic Louse?’ Yes, it would. I could be the Strong Man, with a smallish moustache and some leopardskin leisureware.
We scan the heavens seeking inspiration... it doesn’t take long (after all, I must pander to your well-documented lack of concentration). Ooh look! Up there! What is it? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a computer game based on a superhero? No it’s none of these things. I can make out some detail on this peculiar flying craft, lazily floating down like some circus tent in the sky. It’s a circus tent, lazily floating down like some peculiar craft, bedecked with flags and bunting, a ragged band booming out jolly music, horribly drawn posters sticking themselves to every surface, lights flashing on and off around the canvas portals, and the magical scent of animal excrement causing Tamara to say... ‘Pooh!’
“Please don’t leave me there on the planet Kashdispensa, I’ve run out of people to eat...”
Hurrah, the circus has come to town! And off we go, merrily tripping towards the Big Top, to start our new life together. ‘Roll up! Roll up!’ beams the man in the top hat and stilts. ‘No thanks,’ says Tamara, ‘I don’t smoke.’ ‘Well naff off then, Shorty!’ snarls the Red-nosed Clone, who is obviously destined to become our enemy later on in the story. ‘Please Sir’, lisps Tamara, turning on her most appealing look, ‘Please Sir, I want to join the circus. P lease let me come with you and travel the galaxy. I promise to work hard, and I don’t want any money. Just somewhere to lay my head and wash my tutu. Only please don’t leave me here on the planet Kashdispensa, I’ve run out of people to eat...’ The beaming man climbs off his stilts and bends down to squint at Tamara, saying, ‘What do you mean, Kashdispensa? Isn’t this the planet Yuppy in the Kleeshay System?’ Her lovely eyes widen as she acts her most vulnerable by sticking her thumb in her mouth and standing very close to him while pleading, ‘Oh no thir, thith ith Kathdithpentha. Ple-eath, ple-e-eath can I come with you?’ ‘Naff off Shorty!’ yells the Ringmaster, ‘Oi! Tell the navigation pigeon that he’s made a mess of the route again. Let’s get out of here before the mammoths get restless.’
What an ignorant, heartless brute. The big top begins to rise before our very eyes, and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves — except grab hold of the knotted rope that a little red dog in the funny collar is lowering to us. Thank you little red dog, what’s your name? ‘Ralph! Ralph!’ barks the little red dog, and Tamara solemnly shakes its paw, saying, ‘Pleased to meet you, Ralph-Ralph. What’s that funny collar you’re wearing around your little red neck?’ And the dog looks her straight in the eye. and says, ‘Ruff!’ So it’s up, up and away, off into the wide blue yonder, bound for our first performance on Yuppy, rescued and safe. I wonder what wonderful act Tamara will perform. I do hope it’s not the tightrope. I hate executions...
It is now several hours later. Unfortunately. Tamara has been discovered and reported as a stowaway. Fortunately, we haven’t been voided into space and she’s been given her heart’s desire — a job in the circus. Unfortunately, her function is to muck out the mammoths. Ralph-Ralph, the little red talking dog, has become our friend. After all, it’s about time we introduced a new character to the plot, and I doubt if I can be upstaged by a monosyllabic mutt.
“Every half hour, Tamara has to feed the killer doormice on owls carefully grown from a packet of birdseed...”
Our heroine has a few other duties too. Each half hour she must feed the killer doormice on owls carefully grown from a packet of birdseed, and sort out the racial tension between the South Afrikkan Zebras. The latter problem is a bit of a toughie. It seems that the white zebras with black stripes (comprising 15% of the population and occupying the cleanest 75% of the cage) are terrorising the black zebras with white stripes (85% of the population occupying 25% of the filthiest space). This has been going on for 150 years, but nobody has bothered to stop it — and why should they as long as the audience pays its money? Naturally Tamara’s perfect simplicity sorted it out immediately. She played the Roger Whiticker and Des O’Connor version of ‘The Skye Boat Song’ to the opressors until they surrendered in a grovelling heap (about half way through the first verse).
After tea, Ralph-Ralplh introduces us to some of his animal friends. There is a wombat named ‘Wilf!’, some sweet little rhino twins called ‘Rolf!’ and ‘Ruth!’, ‘Luther!’ the legless leopard, and a Venusian gerbil who goes by the name of ‘Garth!’ Hmm... I think I’ll have a go at conversation, and see just how smart this dog really is. I tune my telepathic frequencies to the canine wavelength and ask it, ‘Tell me Ralph-Ralph, what’s it like working for the circus?’ Without hesitation, the dog licks Tamara’s hand in which I am cradled and says, clear as a bell, ‘Rough!’.
Now those of you with highly developed memories may remember that when Tamara discovered those ancient copies of the very magazine that you are reading right now, along with the Roger Whiticker/Des O’Connor weapon, she also pocketed a little black box. Well I’ve been having a little tinker with this device, and its function is very interesting indeed. It seems to be some form of population pacifier, a type of ‘brain wave goodbyer’ as used by the authorities around about the time when the capsule was buried in Ancient Britain. Simply by turning a little knob, the circuitry sends out alpha-wave interference in ever-increasing circles, making anyone within range feel progressively apathetic, despondent, melancholy, heartbroken and suicidal. Naturally, I’m crammed full of similar miniaturised gismos myself, and I’m taking a lot of pleasure in rearranging the guts of this despicable piece of hardware for the benefit of humanity in general (and Tamara in particular), All I have to do is to reverse the wave of patterns, and she will be the happiest most compliant companion a neutron bomb could wish for.
“You’ve baggered up my zebras, you interfering little buggage!”
Watch out, Tamara! Here comes the vindictive Red-nosed Clone, and I think he’s after some mischief making. It’s probably the way he’s holding that battle-axe above his head and screaming, ‘You’ve baggered up my zebras, you interfering little buggage!’ ‘What shall I do, Louse?!’ yelps the poor girl, ‘There’s nowhere to run to!’ ‘Roof!’ advises Ralph-Ralph The Talking Dog, but it’s too late. Red-nose has us cornered. Now, I’m well aware of the fact that new technology should be thoroughly tested before it’s used on a live specimen, but I hope that you’ll forgive me if I make an exception. As Red-nose’s scream of rage mingles with Tamara’s scream of terror, I throw myself between the contact breakers of the little black box’s failsafe.
There is an instant of freeze frame horror, then Red-nose drops the axe. Next he drops his jaw. Now he drops his guard. Finally, a little titter escapes him. Is the black box laying the good vibrations upon us, dear reader? I do believe that it is. A perfect pair of little titters escapes Tamara and even I feel somewhat giggly. Red-nose is smiling broadly now, in fact he’s laughing hysterically. Tamahahara joins in. Wow! I feeheheel good! Look at old Red-nose, clutching his gut, convulsed in helpless laughter. Ha! Hahahaha! HAHAHA! Whoops, ’scuse me. I can’t seem to controhohol myself. I feel hahahappy! Old Red-nose is laughing his guts up, hehehere they come! Now hehehe’s laughing his head off! There it goes, blood all over the place. HAHAHAHA!!!!!! The funniest thing of all is that I hahahahahaven’t got a clue how to turn this thing off... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!! this next one will kill you, folks... we’re gohohohoing to die laugh — AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAARRGH...
You can’t help smiling when you bite off your own lips.
To be continued...