As we promised two issues ago when the Sabre Wulf Map Competition results were announced, here is the short story which accompanied the entry of Charles P. Cohen
There are two casualties of society,
Those who cannot use a computer, and
Those who live in a Fridge.
(Charles Cohen 11/8/84)
The stench of the jungle finally reached my nose. It came as such a shock that it took several seconds to realise its significance. My eyeballs rolled to behold the view. In a flicker of Neurons my previously incapacitated brain oriented itself to my whereabouts. The Jungle — a clearing of some magnitude. Trees, plants, black things with holes in the middle, bristling with bristles and coloured with colours.
Within me, something stirred. Lunch, I reckoned, but no, it was only my heart beating fast. Fear swept through my body, and out of my feet, as a voice, low and fearsome, rumbled through the trees.
’Welcome, mortal, to the stench filled jungle of ACG. ’
It sounded like Terry Wogan — perhaps this is Alton Towers.
’I am the guardian of the Jungle and its air freshener. You have been selected to carry out the task of collecting the four parts of the Amulet of ACG. If you complete the task beset you, the Amulet, cast in gold, will be awarded to the best mapper of the Jungle.’
‘What do I get?’ I retorted respectfully.
‘The air freshener, infidel. However, I may also consider releasing you. So, morsel of Swiss Cheese, prepare to be spewed into the Jungle.’
I did not like the idea of being spewed anywhere, but replied cordially, ‘Thank you, Terry.’
As I was transported, or whatever, I am sure I could hear him sobbing. I can’t think why — I didn’t insult him — whoever he was.
Every muscle in my body seized up as I was spewed into the Jungle. Soon, however, my legs unknotted themselves and I became aware of my surroundings.
I was in a similar clearing to the last one, but with one major difference. I was wearing some really ludicrous clothes.
Upon my head was a pith helmet, and I was clad in khaki. My instincts told me I was mad, but the label on the shorts read C&A 100% Cotton. Figures. Only C&A could produce something like this.
Next came another major revelation. Hanging loosely on my back was an elongated letter opener. Perhaps Mr. Wogan isn’t so evil after all — this will be useful for opening coconuts and passion fruit.
At that time I was still in a daze, but as sure as eggs are eggs, I was not alone. The ground in front of me heaved and a small hole appeared. From it emanated a nasty-looking creature, resembling a spider. Without thinking I drew my letter opener. Stab, stab, swipe, schylik! It disappeared. This was not the last time I would see the thing, as more appeared all the while, and suffered the same fate.
I noticed something in an alcove on the other side of the clearing. It looked remarkably like a pith helmet of the sort I had on, sitting on a pile of wood.
Gadzooks! — a grave! Another unfortunate had also ventured here and been reaped. In a mark of respect I crossed it, but as I picked it up — splat — it had gone.
At same moment another fiend appeared. This time a very vicious looking bush fire, sweeping across the clearing at me.
Seeking a way out, I dashed blatantly through a gap in the trees...
UPON leaving the clearing I met another fellow human person. I first caught sight of him running from the East, waving frantically with spear and shield. I reasoned that he may have been in peril. As he approached, a snake-like something appeared directly in his path. Being the civil and public spirited person that I am, I called to him to look out. He seemed to take no notice, and then had the audacity to walk unharmed over the creature.
Assuming that he understood the Queen’s English, I exclaimed, ‘That’s good. How do you do it?’
There came no reply. He just ran at me. Again, letting my instincts take over, I drew my weapon and stabbed at him. Too far away. l inadvertently returned my sword to its sheath. As I did all went black, I was thrust backwards and slammed into a wall of trees. He was still advancing. I stood up, drew my swordly thing and... The bounder just waddled off in the other direction.
‘Um Bongo,’ it uttered just as a Hippo passed it.
Hippopotamus — a big, purple, hairy lump of an animal, bounding towards me like a sloppy puppy. It looked too cute to stab, but maintaining my stiff upper lip attitude, I poked it just for good measure. As it raced by, I felt a twinge of guilt.
Presently I reached a corner, and took it to be faced by yet another corner. As I rounded the latter, more nasties appeared, this time a scorpion and a rather moronic looking parrot. A short slaughter later, I found myself headed North, around several disorienting passages and into a clearing not unlike the one from which I started.
Similar, that is, except for one thing. In the corner, glimmering in sunlight, was a quarter piece of the extraordinary Amulet. I hastened towards it.
THE air was filled with a dulcet tune, and the voice of the guardian reappeared.
’One piece is all that you have found, collect three more and outward bound.’
‘Very nice, Terry,’ I whispered, sarcastically.
‘Shut up, and get on with your impossible task, crouton features.’
At that I was returned to my normal insane condition and dwardled off, by now feeling rather fatigued.
So my travels continued, for a short time anyway, because I came across an extremely odd oddment, in the shape of a very odd bottle. This bottle was in the shape of a man, and about the size of an Action Man. Bravely, I unscrewed the head. Why, I don’t know, I mean I’m not getting paid for this (you sure aren’t — Ed). Within the bottle lay a liquid. Goodo — I thought — perhaps it’s tea. So I drank some.
’Extra Life!’ bellowed Terry Wogan.
‘Spot on!’ I replied, not quite knowing what he meant.
After that brief, but very poignant encounter, I trotted off again, slaughtering innocent animals, prodding hippos and generally savaging the savages.
Soon I stumbled over something new. A monstrous flower in the middle of the path. When I first saw it, it was only an iddy little thing, but as I approached it burst into flower, a big yellow obtrusion onto which I trod.
That I regretted. For as soon as l squashed it, I was left immobilised for an uncomfortable period of time (— so what’s new)?
Still, after my bout of immobilitis, I was back on my blistered feet, flying along at a cracking pace, until...
’GADZOOKS!’ was my first word. The shock was so great I nearly fainted.
As I passed yet another corner, I waltzed straight into an enormous wolfy thing, spurring and gleeping and running with great power. With nowhere to turn, I drew my letter opener in a pathetic last stand. An Englishman should go down fighting. I did too.
As I cascaded across the undergrowth, I half expected to see Terry Wogan descending from the trees, releasing upon the foul creature the wrath of ten thousand mutant space invaders. To the contrary, however, he just laughed and commented to the effect that I was incompetent. What a liberty! I shall never listen to his radio program again! Sabre Wulf indeed!
When I had got over that minor trauma, I meebled off again and eventually reached a forbidding mountain range. How I managed to reach there, I don’t know — the Jungle is more confusing than the Barbican.
After obtaining another potion thingy, I clambered along the side of the mountains, hoping for a way out. Sure enough, there was one, but before I took it, I ran into another triffidy thing, this time a blue one.
Whizzo! — I became super fast and invulnerable! Double Whizzo!
I sped off at double speed, all over the place, and presently arrived at a nasty’s hut. The door was open, but on trying, it appeared I could not get in! I decided to wait for tea time, when I was sure they would return. However, none appeared, so I thought it better to depart.
IT is now a long time since I wrote last. Since then I have obtained a further two parts of the Amulet.
Each time I get a new piece, Terry Wogan cuts in with his tune and piece of insane poetry. I never knew he had it in him. Come to think of it, I wish I’d never found out.
I’ve found plenty of things around here. Little ponds are all over the place, but I don’t have any swimming shorts, so am unable to bathe. Objects of all sorts are in abundance.
As regards food, I’ve been really disappointed by the lack of exotic fruits, and women are in short supply too. On that account I wouldn’t wish this place to my mother-in-law. For some (Percy Throwup) this place is paradise. Being an avid watcher of his spot on Blue Peter, I’ve been able to identify many plants.
I have discovered three different triffid variants. One, a vile mauve, causes wholesale de-orientation. It takes a real mental effort to do anything in this state. There are red ones too, which slow one down and make one invulnerable for a short time. This is all very well but, as a matter of patriotism, I’d rather be dead than red.
The final triffid plant is the most boring. It returns one to one’s normal useless mode. In my opinion that’s not on. It never happened to Tarzan.
My present position is in a corner bordered on one side by a stone wall. Perhaps it is the lair of Wogan. If I get there with all four pieces of his wotsit, perhaps he will lend me his air freshener.
EUREKA! — I’ve found it! The final quarter of the Amul-whatsit!
Now to find the keeper chappie — the final chapter, the end, finis etc. I’ll soon be free to go back to my modest flat in Islington and read the Financial Times with my slippers on! Spiffing — what?
I’m nigh certain that Terry is situated in the cave to my left. I can see it now — the front page of the Daily Telegraph — Islington Business Man Escapes Stench Filled Jungle of ACG.
Perhaps an O.B.E. is in order. Me — an O.B.E. — perhaps even a Knightlorehood. Here it is. The cave. The Guardian’s lair! Nearly there. Oooh.
’Who are you?’
‘I’m the Guardian of the air freshener of the gate. ’
‘You’re not Terry Wogan?’
‘Terry who? I see you have the whole of the Amulet. Good. You may advance.’
’Does this mean I can go home to my wife, overdraft and O.B.E.?’
‘Certainly not. ’
‘I say, that’s not cricket — I’m a British citizen, I command certain rights. I —’
‘Shut up you posh twerp. I don’t care it you’re the Queen’s uncle. You’re going on. ’
’The Underwurlde. ’
’Is Terry Wogan there?’
’English cretin. What’s he got against the Irish?’
And so ended the last page of the Charles P Cohen diaries, which were found lying outside the cave of the Guardian by another poor fool had had passed through the Jungle on his way to the Underwurlde. He managed to Data Post it to us before so going.
Where are they now, these heroes? Hopping around in their suits of armour, no doubt, mapping books and diaries in hand...