The Horror! The Horror!

Boz and Slasher were crouched behind a clutch of dustbins looking into the cool, wide eyes of an all but invisible ninja.

“I’ve got the others to safety in the woods. Now all we have to do is join them and not get caught on the way. Follow me.” And with that she disappeared.

“Er, Flo. We can’t see you.”

“Hang on.” Dark Flo rummaged around in the nearest dustbin and returned triumphantly clutching a crumpled front page of the Beano, No 2275 from February 22nd 1986, depicting Dennis the Menace and Gnasher. She produced a large safety pin from the folds of her Shinobi shozoko. “Pin this to my backside. Carefully.”

“You’d better do it, Slasher. I’m too petrified.” Boz was indeed quaking. “She’s more terrifying than that Captain Tierrasmedias.”

“Shush. Now, come along. And keep low.”

After an age in pursuit of the waggling comic, crawling and pausing and melting into the shadows, the trio reached a hole cut neatly in the chain link boundary fence. Beyond it small paper flags of all nations, on wooden sticks, marked the location of various booby traps.

“Boz, pick up the flags as we pass them. And for Cod’s sake look where you’re putting your feet. Both of you.”

Having reached the edge of the woods they could breath again. Dark Flo led them through the undergrowth and followed a muddy ditch deep into the forest. Until…

“Boz! Slasher? We’re all here.” Ginsbergbear popped up in front of them and Phoebles pushed past him to rush at his comrades. There was whispered jubilation and hugs all round. Flo had an arm each around Phoebles and Ferdy, but Boz stood alone, quivering.

“What’s the matter, Boz?” enquired Ferdy.

The ginger cat turned. His hands were shaking and staring eyes glistened.

“This obscenity has to be ended. It stops here and it stops now. Flo, get them to safety. I’m going to finish him tonight. Just me. I can’t ask anyone else to do it.”

“But Bozzy, we don’t do that…” began Phoebles.

“Now, Flo!”

The ninja began ushering the protesting chums away. She glanced back, an anxious look in her tearful eyes, but she obeyed the command.

Once he was alone Boz slid down into the foul dyke. He stripped off his shirt and wallowed in the mud until his fur was caked and umber. Only his bloodshot eyes were visible against the growing darkness. He returned to the gap in the wire fence. Inside the stench of putrefaction seemed stronger than ever. The demonic amber glow from braziers and blazing torches danced intense shadows about the compound. Clashing gongs and booming drums drowned out all other sounds in a satanic cacophony. Capitáno Tierrasmedias’ drug crazed horde was working itself up into a frenzy before descending on the hapless defenders of liberty and freedom. Boz slithered unseen towards Les Augrès Manor.

After a while he was inching towards something indescribable that blocked his path, something with a Dayak Parang sticking in it. Boz pulled out the machete, wiped the blade on his trouser leg and tested its weight. Perfect. He crawled on.

A spectral figure rose slowly behind one of the dodo statues, eyes glinting gold in the flickering firelight, matted fur blending into the darkness. Boz strode up the steps to the mansion and sought out the Capitáno’s lair. The sofa was unoccupied. An empty Tennents lager can rolled noisily across the floor, coming to rest at his feet. The prostrate Napoleon lay in front of him on a moth-eaten kilim. A skeletal matchstick body, luminous skin stretched taught over bone, appended the globular head it no longer strove to support. Face to the ceiling, wide sightless eyes sunk deep into the skull, the deranged, hyperactive brain had finally drained all but the last vestige of vitality from its wasted host. The lips moved imperceptibly, were they trying to form words? Boz leaned towards the toothless mouth and suddenly a claw like hand grasped his shoulder, dragged him close.

“Crows’ blood!” it cried in anguish. Then, a rattle in the hollow throat, and Capitáno Tierrasmedias was gone.

Boz heard the padding splayed footfalls, the swish of a tail, the clicking of claws on bare floorboards, approaching at speed. He dropped the parang and legged it.

 

The Routemaster was still where they’d left it, partially burned out, but the radio and battery had escaped the fire.

“Versailles this is Bald Eagle!”

“What? Who?”

“Smee, is that you? It’s Boz here. Dump everything you’ve got on the Jersey Zoo. I want that abomination flattened, wiped off the face of the earth.”

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No Hammerhead Sharks?

Smoke from incense burners and josticks curled in serpentine swirls about the room, their mixture of pungent aromas masking a sweeter, pervasive and much more disturbing smell, the lingering stench of decay.

“Has no one heard of Febreze?” exclaimed Phoebles

“I would discourse with Mr Boz,” said the capitáno, “the other one is irrelevant. Feed it to the hammerhead sharks.”

“Now just hang on one minute.” Phoebles’ response was urgent if a little squeaky.

“We have no hammerhead sharks,” replied Nimitta.

“Why not? Well, feed it to something.”

There was a movement in the deep shadows behind Capitáno Tierrasmedias and a figure stepped into the half-light, a figure in a grey homburg, black mask and gabardine trench coat.

“Sla…” began Phoebles.

Boz kicked his ankle.

“Perhaps he could be returned to his cage whilst your minions source a suitable carnivore.”

“I value your advice as always Mr McGoogs. Take it away.

“Now Mr Boz, are you familiar with the works of Nietzsche?” Silence. “Übermensch?” Still no response. “I shall explain. I am become Superman. Or to be more accurate, I will become Superman as soon as my brigands can find me a phone box in which to change.” Boz remained unenlightened.

“Milne then, have you read anything of his?” asked Tierrasmedias. Boz brightened at the mention of a more familiar author.

“‘You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes,’ said Pooh. Well we are coming, Mr Boz. We are coming.”

“If the person you are talking to does not appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in this ear,” replied Boz.

“Deep, Mr Boz. Profound. I can see that we will get on spiffingly. Sit.”

 

The captain had talked for hours.

“There can be no justice in war. Your dragon slayers like Beowulf, St George, John Lambton did not prevail because they were chivalrous and bold, they won because they were harder, more persistent and more brutal than the dragons. Your revolution did not succeed because you were just, but because Mr McGoogs here was more devious than the Government. Our counterrevolution will not succeed because we are patriotic, but because we have the greater force and will not fail to use it. Your countercounterrevolution will not founder because you do not have right on your side, but because you are weaker than me. Might and badass commanders win battles. And I am the biggest badass of them all.”

“But we must strive for justice and freedom and equality,” replied Boz.

“Why? I am going to win. I am going to win because no horror is inconceivable if it brings me victory.” Captain Midlands grew tired of the conversation. “Go now.”

“I will escort the prisoner back to his pen,” said McGoogs, “Perhaps tomorrow…”

“Leave.”

 

Slasher and Boz walked at a steady pace across the compound, the stench of burning tyres hanging on the still air, the sound of clanging cymbals and subhuman howls drifting from behind the bike sheds.

“What in hell are you up to, Slasher?” demanded Boz.

“That nutter is doing more damage to his own side than he is to ours. I have been manipulating him.” Replied McGoogs.

“Well it’s got to stop.”

They reached the big cat enclosure and stared, stunned into silence. The cage had only one occupant, Nimitta, bound and gagged. There came a whisper from somewhere behind them.

“To me. Now.”

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Captain Midlands

“We’ll be reaching the old Durrell Zoo pretty soon,” said the Navy Seal, “That’s where we’re based. Best drive straight up ter the entrance. The perimeter’s heavily booby-trapped, lay-holes, pitfalls and the like.”

“Stop the bus,” Boz called through to Phoebles in the driver’s cab. “Me and Phoebles will go in on foot with Nimitta. Ginsbergbear, Ferdy, get this charabang off the road and behind a hedge or something. Stay hidden. If you don’t hear from us in the next twenty-four hours call up Rotskagg and mount a rescue.”

 

The walk was considerably further than Boz had expected, but at least Ferdy and Ginsbergbear were a safe distance away. At the unguarded main gate a sign began ‘Welcome to’, but ‘Jersey Zoo’ had been scored through in blood-red paint and overwritten with ‘RAGNARÖK’. Nimitta ushered them quickly past the derelict visitors’ centre. All the buildings they could see were in ruins, enclosures broken open and everywhere forest was reclaiming the park. Hideous corpse like shapes dangled in the trees. Dark smoke hung above the camp, illuminated from below by the menacing ochre glow of numerous, unseen fires.

Small groups of clustering humanity began to emerge. Few at first but growing in number until a horde of savages surrounded them. Many wore tattered vestiges of uniform, some had not bothered, all were tattooed and armed with assault rifles and machetes. They hemmed in on all sides. Boz and Phoebles were pushed and pummelled. As they were bound and dragged the pair realised, with mounting dread, that Nimitta Matram had drifted away. He was not to be seen anywhere.

Frogmarched towards a row of animal enclosures they were tossed into a big-cat cage and the gate was slammed shut behind them, with a decisive clang. Happily the big-cat was long gone.

“I don’t think this lot are going to respond to reason,” said Phoebles.

“We demand to be taken to your leader,” shouted Boz to the scoffing, receding crowd. He turned to Phoebles. “It’ll be all right. When we don’t reappear Ginsbergbear will call up Rotskagg.”

There are times when an excess of optimism is taken as a challenge by the fates. The crowd returned and opened the cage door. In they pushed the trussed and helpless Ginsbergbear, followed by Ferdy.

“About to go extinct for a second time, eh, Mr Dodo?” leered a particularly unsavoury captor with ‘Who Dares Dies’ freshly carved and oozing blood across his barrel chest.

“Bugger!” said Boz.

 

Nimitta appeared early next morning,

“HE will see them now,” he addressed an anorexic urchin who had been standing watch since first light, “just the cats. The others stay here.”

Unbound, but roughly handled by the mob Boz and Phoebles were goaded towards Durrell’s old residence. Les Augrès Manor was more or less intact. A pair of dodo statues, chipped, weathered and stained, yet still noble survivors, flanked the approach.

“Ferdy would like them,” observed Phoebles.

An aye-aye squatted near the front door watching them suspiciously. While Nimitta marched them up the front steps the crowd hung back in awe. The interior was squalid and dark. It took several minutes of adapting to the gloom before the cats could make out any detail at all.

“I have brought them as you required, sir,” said the Petty Officer, apparently to an empty, echoing void. A momentary draught through an unglazed window lifted the tattered sacking that did service as a drawn curtain and a shaft of bilious light illuminated the far corners of the room.

Capitáno Tierrasmedias was slouched on a threadbare sofa facing the gutted carcass of a Sony KV-1320UB Trinitron TV set. His emaciated body, naked but for a filthy pair of boxer shorts, appeared barely capable of supporting his ravaged skull. He clutched a tin of Tennent’s in one hand and a sturdy iron chain in the other. The chain snaked down to a spiked collar which restrained the attentive Komodo Dragon reclined at his feet. He did not look at the new arrivals.

“Mr Boz, you came, as I knew you would.” There was a pause while the captain’s laboured breathing rattled around the room. “Omniscience is a terrible burden.”

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Fluffy’s HQ

fluffy-hq-s“See Captain Midlands out would you, Miss Defarge”

The petite Hit-Girl held the door for the visibly ruffled officer and motioned for him not to dawdle.

Lord Fluffy, who had not been officially ennobled, yet regarding his self appointed title as no more than his due, addressed Mad Jack:

“So what have you to offer, and what are you doing on my island?”

“One was holidaying with one’s other half and Jack Jr when your invasion began. These revolutionaries will be planning a counter attack. One knows them, fought them on the barricade in Cable Street. Thought one might be able to help.” Mad Jack frowned, “You had that secretary long? She seems a bit short and furry to be a ‘Miss Defarge’, what?”

“Thérèse? I got her from a local secretarial agency when my personal secretary went down with alcohol poisoning. She’s pretty efficient and a wizard at filing my top secret papers.”

“Hmm… Well… Now about these guerrilla chappies you’re having so much trouble with; one thought one might lead a sort of Chindit type force into the bush to hunt them down. Tally Ho and all that. Lots of sweaty testosterone fuelled bravado. Good for the old ego.”

Thérèse popped her head round the door.

“Just nipping out for lunch. Can I bring you anything back, Lord Fluffy?”

“Skinny Latté. The captain here will be gone by then, so he won’t need a drink.” Thérèse had ‘things to do’ in her break and she would return a little late.

“Now Mr Jack, you’ve given me an idea. Thérèse, get Midlands back… Oh damn it! It’ll have to wait till after her lunch. I was thinking I’d send Captain Midlands off into the jungle with your rag-tag circus. He deserves a change of scenery. How would you like to sort out the lack of progress up north instead? I’d make you a major.”

“Oh…” Mad Jack Belvoir was less than enthralled. Lord Fluffy put an arm round the Hussar’s shoulder and ushered him towards the door.

“Take your time and give my offer some careful thought. I will send my adjutant round to your rooms in half an hour for an answer.”

Mad Jack looked startled.

“Yes, I do know where you live. And I’m sure you will come to a sensible decision.”

That afternoon a fluffy grey and white kitten gambolled innocently along the footpaths of La Collette Gardens, chasing a leaf between the park benches with their slumbering tramps. Losing interest in her game, she scampered up a nearby tree and sitting on a low branch plucked at a dead twig. It came loose. Carefully she removed the twig from the secret hole that it plugged and peered within. It contained a memory stick, which she quickly pocketed. After a cautious glance round to ensure she had attracted no unwarranted attention the kitten replaced the twig and returned to the ground. Off she skipped in search of new fronds to chase.

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Intelligence Gathering

Ferdy had landed his Cierva in a field several miles to the west of Jersey’s capital and hidden it in an improvised hayrick. He had borrowed a bicycle, found propped up in the nearby farmyard and was peddling into St Helier cunningly disguised as an onion seller. The deserted streets looked as if a tornado had passed through. Empty crisp packets and greasy newspaper fluttered like tumbleweed along the highway, crushed soft drinks cans piled up in the gutters, doors swung on creaking hinges and bedding hung out of hollow windows. An unseasonably cold, lonely wind wafted mournfully through the town. Nearing the General Hospital the intrepid dodo was surprised to hear the rousing strains of Rule Britannia being bashed out on a concert grand that had been pulled out, minus its lid, into the car park. He leaned his transport against some railings, adjusted his Basque beret and hung two strings of onions about his neck. Tentatively he peered through the main gates. A grizzled character in paratrooper’s uniform stood at the piano, tapping one foot as he played, whilst a curvaceous Lionheart, having removed her mask, and enticed into a wild fandango by two of the Kittens of Chaos, twirled dangerously close to the flames of several fiercely burning 2CVs. A roaring fireball erupted from one of the tiny exploding fuel tanks and Ferdy sprang back into the soft arms of…

“Haave a carre Meesterrr Ferrdinand Desai.”

“Er… I am just an innocent onion seller. Oh… Consuella? You shouldn’t creep up on people like that.”

“Eet ees best we keep a low profile. Come away from thees demonic scene. Arre you rready foorr a cup of tea?”

 

The pair sauntered inconspicuously down the road to the opera house and then crossed over to the small café where Consuella had established her clandestine HQ. They settled at an inside table for two and Consuella called over to a trim waitress.

“A larrge plate of crroissants pleeze dearrr and a pot of tea foorr two.

“Thee girrls have been working harrd on some of thee highest rrranking officerrs of thees invasion forrce. They have brroken alrready Union Jack and Captain Brritain and, as you obserrved, they arre currrently softening up Lionhearrt. We have learrned much of theirr plans.”

Ferdinand frowned. “Are your activities strictly ethical?”

“Hno pain eez involved Meesterr Desai. Anyone succumbs in time to catnip, pole dancing and thee prromees of sex.”

“Hmm. So what have we learned?” whispered Ferdy, leaning across the table in a conspiratorial manner.

“Here’s your hot croissants ma’am. Tea’ll be a second or two, once it’s brewed.”

“Thank you Ellouise… Hwe do not have much time. Theirr High Command is prressing theez insurrgents to crrack on and complete theirr occupation of Jerrsey. Thee long terrm plan eez to install a puppet government and apply foorr interrnational rrrecognition as thee trrue Grreat Brrritain in an allience with the Imperrial Tyrrany of Sarrk.”

Another explosion rocked the café.

“I hope the Kittens are being careful,” said Ferdy.

“I ham going to pull thee girrls out. We will forrm thee corre of a guerrreella rrresistance een thee mountains.”

R & R for The Kittens

After a morning of vigorous rehearsals the Kittens of Chaos were relaxing, feet up on the tables of a street café across the road from the Opera House. Half emptied glasses of Absinth clinked, hookahs bubbled, a scorching sun beat down, though a dark and mysteriously threatening cloud was rolling in eastwards from across the bay.

Slowly a hideous if melodic wail became discernable above the sounds of the bustling street. The caterwauling was accompanied by the thrumming of powerful diesel engines and the rhythmic crunch of marching feet. Up Gloucester Street from the Esplanade two slow moving Hummers with Browning M2 .50 calibre machine guns mounted in open turrets on top, their faded camouflage obscured beneath a riot of corporate logos wound their way towards the performers. The vehicles were followed by long straggling lines of figures in assorted superhero Lycra and a half dozen Scottish pipers. As the force neared the opera house the ogling kittens could make out Captain Britain, Union Jack and Lionheart heading the infantry, with Captain Midlands jogging to catch up and wheezing slightly. In the main body of troops were several Captains America and Blackwidows, a Thor, Ms Marvel and a Wolverine in papier mâché mask, with the rest made up of a rag-tag of shimmering blue and scarlet Lurex bought ‘as seen’ from a T.J.Maxx post event Halloween costume sale. Some of the Kittens became agitated.

“Miss!”

“Señorita Starcluster! I think you should come and see this.”

“Mmmm, they do look hunky. And so many of them.”

“Cool it Trixie, a lot of that musculature looks like latex to me. It’s all rippling in the wrong directions.”

“Hnow girrrls…” Consuella Starcluster, the tambourine virtuoso and manageress of the infamous troupe, in FAI Isabelino Cap and loose fitting open neck blouse, leaned over the balcony above to reveal the deep cleft between her ample bronzed breasts. “Thees lot loook like trrrouble. Go and appearrr frrriendly, thrrrow flowerrrs and keesses. But have caution.”

“Oh miss…” A diminutive Batcat, looking remarkably like Fifi-Belle in a bin liner, appeared in the café doorway festooned with ammo belts and staggering under the weight of her Spas combat shotgun. And behind her, Supergirl in laddered tights, hefting a loaded RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher. “Can’t we just blast them?”

“Not foorr now, dearrr. Lets zee hwhy they’rre herre feerst.”

 

And so it was that for the next fortnight or so every performance at the Opera House was sold out, café lights burned long into the night and hotel bedsprings all over St Helier twanged until dawn. The British Imperialist Corporatist Army’s advance across Jersey was halted.