I had a feeling of de ja vu as the sun beamed down apon my face through open curtains. I rolled over and looked at the clock. 10.34am. I stared at it in peaceful dopey silence. Then yesterday came back to me. And all the stuff that came with it.
"Fuck" I whispered softly under my breath. I had less that a day left to live. The least I could do was have a long lie in. I pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep.
I was awoken to the sound of the front door opening. I checked the clock and saw that only 20 minutes had passed since I drifted of. It occurred to me that I really didn't have to sleep, since this body wasn't strictly obeying the rules of physical law. But my mind needed rest otherwise I would have a breakdown or something.
"Alice" Shouted Rob in the hallway and I shot out of bed, all thooughts of slumber swept away. This was the straw, my one last hope that I might get out of this. If Alice had managed to catch King, to kill him, then It would possibly be the sweetest moment of my entire afterlife. But It was a lot to hope for.
I opened my bedroom door and ran out. And saw her face. It was not the face of a happy camper. It wasn't even a camper. It was the face of someone who had been left behind and has to spend the weekend locked in a basement with a bunch of rats.
She looked up and saw me. And shhok her head. I knew not to expect miracles, but that still doesn't stop you hoping, hoping something good will happen, for once in the stinking fucking weekend, just one ray of sunshine…
"I'm sorry" she said, and with that, I finally accepted that I was living on borriowed time. Ay sunrise tomorrow, I would be somewhere else. Some where very unpleasant by all accounts.
We sat in the living room, drinking tea, that old british standby and solution if things go wrong. About to lose your soul and spend an eternity in Hell? Have a cup of tea and everything will be better. Strangely enough it did help.
"So what happened?" I asked, still dressed in my dressing gown.
Alice took a sip from her tea. She didn't look the least bit wet and nor sgould she. She did have exact control over everyone of her molecules.
"After King jumped, I couldn't bear the thought of losing him, so I jumped."
"I was going to follow.."
"No, it's just as well that you didn't. Your current body, your current status in this universe is unknown to sat the least. Maybe you wouldn't have died. But maybe you would."
We stayed quiet for a moment.
"So what happened?" asked Rob.
"As soon as I hit the water, I already knew I was too late. I caught a glimpse of him swimming dwonwards and I followed. The currents were suprisingly strong, but I managed to chase after him.
But then the water, which was pretty impenetrable to start with, became a dust bowl. Muck and dirt started to surround me. I lost my basic sense of direction. I mean, me?"
"Do you think he cast a spell, like a hiding incantation?"
"A lot simpler than that. Once he reached the bottom he must have started digging at the silt furiously. Then when he had created an underwater dust storm, he probably walked off while I was caught in the middle of it."
"Is it possible that he drowned? Or maybe died from the cold?"
Alice shook her head. "Not a chance."
"Well he's got to surface sometime, right?"
"That's just it" I said miserably. He doesn't. He can stay under water, walk all the way to the ocean if he wanted to. He knows all he has to do is wait until tomorrow morning and he's home and dry. Pun intended."
"What about that mad spell he was doing, the one when he was looking for that girl in the club?"
"Truthfully I'm not sure. It might be slightly tied into Pauls current situation, but I fear It won't be enough to lure him out. Paul will still lose his soul evein if King doesn't complete the spell."
"Well what about your beeper?" Said Rob, clutching at straws. I was grateful for his optimistic support, but I 'd already ran this througjh my head, all the permutations."Like how we found him in the club? When the bouncer got his eye injured. We've still got that"
"Yes, but who is he going to meet at the bottom of the clyde? Whose future timelines is he going to influence or change. There's nobody to interact with, to have a knockon effect with that the caretaker can pick up. Apart from fish and the occaisonal lost shopping trolley, theres noone else down there"
We sat in slience again, drinking our tea.
"Well" I said, "I'm going back to bed."
"Paul, you can't just give up."
"What else can I do. What else is left to do? It's over Rob. We lost. Game fucking well and truly over. That was our chance, our last chance last night, and it's gone."
Rob and Alice looked at me, unsure of what to say.
"All that’s left is for me to make my will, say my goodbyes and try to mend old bridges. And watch the hours tick down"
"Chrsit, I'm sorry. I wish there was something we could do to make it better."
"Well there isn't. So now I'm going to drag my carcass ass nack to bed."
I started walking away and got as far as the door when I stopped. I paused for so long that Alice and Ronb must have thought that I died there and them, the fastest case of death ever recorded.
"Paul?" said Alice.
I turned round and walked back top them.
"You know what Rob?"
"What?" said Rob cautiouslly. I probably had that mad look in my eyes when I get really angry or really excited. His eyes never left my cup of tea.
"Yeah." I looked att he pair of them. "I mean, nothihngs changed. Barring amiracle, at sunrise tommorow I die. Again. Abd thi sis my last day. So you know what?"
"What?" said Alice.
"I…we are going to go out with a bang. Fuck sitting in bed moping all day. I mean. In Alices handbag, we've got unlimited amounts of cash, right?"
"And I want to make things up with Kate. And Archie. And Rob, you've still got your contacts looking into Samantha Frosts party?"
"Right then. This is going to be my last day on earth. It's also going to be my best."
Alice and Rob looked at teach other.
"We, lady and gent, are going to have the best fucking day of our entire lives. For one day, we're going to live like kings. At the end of it I'm going to be dead, but fuck it, I'm going out with a bang. Sound okay?"
"Well yeah, I guess.."
"Good then, it's agreed. We are going to party like its 1999!"
Alice smiled a puzzled smile, then laughed. "Fair enough. What.s first?"
"First of all" I said, "We chuck this tea dopwn the drain and get some quality stuff. This tastes like lukewarn urine. Withoutt he appealing foamy mustache."
"No offence Rob."
"nah, you're right enough. But as far as good lukewarm piss goes, it's the best"
I emptied my cup out the window (soaking an old woman who dressed like fisherman in a white squall during the hottest days of the year. She would think it was raining and feel strangely justified and leased that after all these years she had been proven right.) and felt good.
At last, since this weekend began, I had been following someone elses lead, been reacting to other peoples moves. Now I was in charge. And I liked it. A lot.
"Gentlemen." Alice shot me look. "And lady". Sjhe smuiled. 2let us party"
The first stage in planning and executing a large party is a) having lots of money and b) having lots of friends. Unfortunately I had neither. I did, howeever, know people who had both.
I had a quick shower and got dressed. Me and Rob watched the football highlights while we waited for Alice to have a shower. I also felt that she might be contacting the Caretaker and letting him know of out status and our current plans. I didn't think he's be over enamoured with my plan but fuck it, I was the one spending their last day of Earth so the least I deserved was a small treat.
She came through to join us and we switched the Television of.
"Okay" I said, "How long does that money in your bag last for?"
"At least 24 hours, maybe a bit more. Then it'll gradually evaporate and dissapear."
"And how much can it produce?"
she paused. "I guess…as much as we need. An infinite amout"
Robs eyes widened. 2Yes!"
"Hold on their cowboy. This isn't a credit card. This is a serious creation of stuff from nothing dtype affair"
"Yeah, but you can do it."
"Then we're set. Okay here's the plan. Rob, I want you to phone your contacts and offer them serious cash."
"How much? A hundred?"
"Think big for chrsits sake Rob. Make it two."
"Right you are"
"Alright, we're going to go shopping, pay a few visits to some old friends and hopefully go to the biggest social event of the year."
Alice gave me the look.
"An ddon't you give me the look. I know it's not your fault and it's sure a s hell not my fault. Tell me me now, right now. Can you find King?"
She looked tired. "No"
"Then we stick to my plan. Rob?"
"Get the wheels"
he got uot of his chair and walked to the door.
he turne dround.
"I've got an idea"
He loked at me, then smiled as well.
"What are you'se smiling at.
I looked at her. "Time to phone a taxi"
"I don't know about this" said Alice. We were sitting on a black cab, the road sailing past us. It was a pleasant Sunday Morning, the sun out but not as high or as powerful as before. A cloudy haze seemed to have settled over the city, seeping the heat from the sun. You felt like you were looking at things through a net curtain.
"C'mon Alice" said Rob, visibly excited. "Whats the problem?"
2It's just not roght"
"What's the problem" I said. "For one day we're going to make everybody we meet very happy. Over the moon happy."
"And tommorrow? When all our…goodwill has evaporated?"
I looked out the window. "You've got a have some sort of hangover after a party. Theres always a price to pay for having the time of you life."
"We're here said Rob, practically jumping up and down in his seat like a fat kid going to Macdonalds with an all you can eat voucher.
The Taxi pulled of the motorway and parked next to the car dealership. This one was very exclusive, very posh and dealt almost solely with top of the range cars. Like fearrais. And Porches. And any luxury sports vehicle you couls name.
"My friends " I said, putting my arms arounf their shoulders as we stared out the taxi window, "We have arrived.
After giving the taxi driver the biggest fare of his life ("one word of advice mate - Spend it today, because you don’t't know what will happen tomorrow") we walked up to the showroom.
"Hold on" I said stopping just before the door. "I think we're going to have to have a change of outfit here"
"I thought you said you didn't want to use magic to create stuff"
"I don't, but we can't go in there looking like this." Rob was wearing a pair of bermudas and a bright orange t-shirt. I had on blue jeans and a checked shirt. Alice looked sexy as usual.
"C'mon Alice, do your thang and change us like before"
"into the type of people who are about to buy a £500,000 car."
She nodded and there was that same feeling of disoriantation as before. A slight wavering, of reality being reshaped ever so slightly.
And we had changed.
Alice was wearing a killer dress that either screamed respect me or slut depending how you wore it. Alice made it work. Me and Rob had been given super slick armani suits. The creases on my trousers looked sharp enough to cut rock with. Our hair had been swept back as well in a rather dodgy style 80's yuppie type. I looked at Alice and pointed at the hair.
"Hey, you wanted to looked rich and gullible. That's what you've got"
"Cool" said rob, turning around to look at his arse in the reflection.
"Alright" I said pulling him round, "Lets not look like we're in dads wardrobe for today shall we"
he looked slightlly shameful, but still had a goofy grin on hihs face. "We'll pretend you're the inbred brother who only get's let out once a year"
Rob continued to grin.
We walked through the doors and into a worl;d where dust did not exist apparently. Everything gleamed, shined sparkled. Even the plants reflected back at you.
The room was large and oval shaped. One wall was made entirely of glass, which was of course cleaned with ruthless efficency. And situated in the middle of this was 10 cars. Though to cal them cars was wrong. Thses were akin to portraits on a gallery wall, works of art designed to be loked at, admired, possibly very gently, very gently touched. But never to be sat in. Never to actually be droven around. But we were going to do it anyway.
A rather greasy person who seemed equally shiny as everything else around us came up hurridley from behiond a desk.
"Hello good lady and gentlemen."
He took Alioces offered hand and kissed it then shook mine and Robs hands. I desperately wanted to wipe it on my rouser leg after, but resisted. Rob looked at his, perhaps stinned that he could see his face in it.
"now, how can I help you?"
Alice raised her eyebrows at me. The man, called Marcus, looked at each of out faces, trying to work out who was the real money man and who was simply hanging on.
"I'm intrested in purchasing a car" I said.
His eyes came to rest on me, like a ball finally coming to rest in a roulette wheel. My reflection gazed back at me from his eyes. And his face . And any part of his body.
"Oh. And what type of model were you looking for sir?"
"I was hoping for a very fucking expensive one to be frank"
"Ah. And how much is Sir hoping to spend?"
I looked at Alice and she dipped into her bag. This was a bit tricky I realsied. I hadn't fully thought this through and it struck me that paying for this in cash might not be an option really. Technically we could take half a million from her bag, but how could we do it in fron of marcus here? I looked at Alice and wondered what she was going to pull out.
However she didn't produce money at all. She took out the shiniest cold card I had ever seen. I literally treflected every thing fron the reflective surfaces, becomining an infinitte reflective source. My mind defied the laws of physics to take a stab at something that shouldn't exiist, but they decided not to bother.
Marcus looked at it with something like a prophet finally sees the thing he has worshiped all his life. Ir was the ultimate Bank card.
"if you'd like to check this out I'm sur you will find every thing to be in order"
She hand ed it over and carefully, ever so carefully, he took it with ashaking hand and walked into the office with it.
"What was that card?" I whisopered.
"Don't ask. And don't ask how it worls either Rob"
Rob had his mouth open and primotly shut it again, going badt to his now defacto stupid grin.
I looked round at the only pther customers in the building. An old man with a fierce looking face was looking round dragging his rather reluctant looking son round. The boy didn't look old enough to shave let alone drive a weapon on wheels, but father knows best.
Marcus came back out of the room looking even more slick than ever. His eyes had the look of epiphany a devout religious person must get.
He also had dollar signs in his eyes. Not literally of course. That would just be weird.
He handed the card over to Alice (rather reluctantly I felt) and Alice put it back in her handbag.
His eyes followed the card all the way into the dark pocket. I don't know what it was he had seen on the computer nut he was now our official brother/father/son/lover. This guy would not let us leave this shop without us buying something.
"Please, come" he pleaded and walked over to the cars. They were fancy and smart looking, but nothing really that screamed sex at me.
He didn't stop at the cars however. He kept walking past them until he reached a doorway with a thick red curtain as a divider.
He pulled the curtain back and a security guard appeared on the other side.
"It's okay" said Marcus to the guard, "This group are gold class"
I wasn't sure what it meant but I liked being part of it.
The guard looke dat us again and reapraised us. I noticed the old man looking over curiously at us as we were swept through the door. I guess he was rich, but not quite rich enough.
We walked through and found ourselves in another show room. This was quite different to the one out front.
A bottle of champagne had been placed in a bucket on a beautiful carved mahogany table. Paintings hung on the walls and I had the feeling I was in aroyal dining room. But ther was no dinner rable. Sitting in the middle of the room was a selection of the most beautiful cars ever created. Some looked bizarre, others functional, but they all screamed sex.
"Now this is what I'm talking about"
We walked towrds the cars. Ferraris, porches, aston martins, all different models, designs that looked like you should be planning a visit to the moon.
"These are the very, very finest automobiles the country, dar I say it the world has to offer" said Marcusas we walked. "Some are prototypes, some specifically built for a previous owner. They are all unique and all are deerving of your attention."
A ferrari spun round with shard fins coming out of the back giving it a shark look, another was painted black, but this was a special sort of paint. It seemed to be a 2 dimensional silohette until you got close to it, then it's edges appeared.
A fierce looking animal with rivets and armour seemed to have stepped out of a post apocalyptic future. There even seemed to be mounts for guns, should you wish.
Alice walked past the cars, Marcus nipping at her heels like a faithful, yet annoying dog tha tyou know will end up humping you leg.
He had clearly spotted the customer with credit and was giving Alice all his undue attention, so me & Rob were left to wander round ourselves.
We sipped from our flute glasses, though Rob had downed his in one and was already on a refil.
"Not bad, eh?" he said, tracing a finger down a Maclaren F1 car and nodding when he noted there was no dust.
"Not bad at all" I agreed. But I found it hard to get fully into the spirit of things. It seemed slighly forced, a manufactured almost desperate sense of happiness. I'd felt the same thing at some truly appaling New years eve parties.
"So, what do you think you'll buy?" asked Rob.
"I'm not sure really. The ferrari is defineltly up on the list, but the adam west bat mobile has definitley got kitsch appeal"
"Perhaps…we should get a car each…?" asked Rob in an innocent, yet highy pointed question.
"Nice try sunshine, but this is my day, moi, so I get to choose one car and we all have to fit in it. I'll know it when I see it"
welloked up and saw Alice gesturing at us and waving us up to join her."
"Wonder what's up?" mused Rob finishing his glass and going again for a refil. The old butler gave him a disaproving look, the way a cook might when somebody obvously abuses an all you can eat offer. Rob seemed oblivious.
We wandered up to Alice and Marcus, who was rubbing his hands in nervous excitement.
"I belive I have foung your moror vehicle my good man"
She pointed to an alclove in the wall. And I saw. Rob joined me. Saw us looking, turned and nodded his head in acknowledge ment at the car he saw. "cool fucking car!" he said slighly drunkenly.
I smiled and nodded at Alice.
Alice smiled back at me, then at marcus. "We'll take it"
Marcus smiled at everyone and I swear had a small orgasm on the spot.
He tried to speak a few times before spluttering out "Congratulations" and wiping his forehead.
"Cool fuking car indeed" I said, my good feeling starting to return with a vengance.
Marcus dissapeared into a tiny dot in the rear view mirror, waving frantically like he was at a wedding as we drove off. I felt a bit sorry for him. Sure, he was a slimy git, but he was going to discover that whatever electronic credit he thought he had, it would dissapear like ice in the sun. On the other hand, he was a slimy git and you could argue he got whatever he deserved. He vanished from view and was gone.
We, however, weer currently sitting in what looked to me like the coolest invention known to man. Rob drove, I sat next to him and Alice was in the back, tranced out, possibly trying to explain how she had to spend nearly a million pounds in one place on one item that would soon cause utter confusion and frustration. And we weer supposed to be keeping a low profile? Still, it was my day and I could die if I wanted to. Plus, it was a really cool car.
If you can imagine what would happen if the hotrod from Grease had an affair with an old classice caddilac. And if you could continue the metaphor by imagaing a Ferrai making love to a Stock car. And if their children met up and had sex. Then the product of that taboo relation ship, taking the best part of it's parents, then…you probably still haven't come close to what this baby looked like. But at tleast you would have a map and have a rough idea of how to get there.
That, that was the car we bought. Not one person didn't look or gawp ot out right think about hijacking us and stealing it. It was that sort of car. Abd it was mine. For at least the better half of a day anyway.
We drove down the motorway back to Glasgow. The weather had started to build up even heavier clouds and the heat seemed to just be turned up a notch more every 5 minutes. If ther was one flaw with the beast, then it was tha tit didn't have an airconditioner. But that's why they invented windows anyway so a cool breeze poured through the fully open windows, but I could still feel the sweat on my back sticking to my shirt.
"So what's nextPaul?" asked Alice, clearly back from her talk to the afterlife. She looked slighly putout.
"Did they give you a hard time about this?" I asked
"No, well, yes, a little…but they don't understand. It's different down here, more alive than you can possibly remember. That's the problem really. The greatest minds in the univsere, that can remember the genetic DNA code of every creature that ever walked or swam on earth and they've forgotten what it is like to be human."
"We'll I don't want to get you in trouble"
"Ah, screw 'em" she said with a wave of her hand.
Me and Rob exchanged looks.
"What?" said Alice
"I don't think I've ever heard you swear before"
"Hmm, maybe you two are a bad influnce me" she said with a sly smlie. "What's next on the agenda anyway?"
"Well, I don't know about you'se but I'm quite hungry."
"Yes" sais Rob, "Buying obscenely expensive cars does usually give one a ferocious appetite I've found"
"Then. It's agreed. We're going to have afternoon lumch. And not in a poxy burger bar either."
"Pizza hut?" asked Rob
"No, my man, something better than that." I turned round to Alice. "use your doohicky think in your purse and find us the most exclusive insanely expensive restraunt in Glasgow. Somewhere that even a film star would start a swaet after seeing the menu prices"
"I'll see what I can do" .She pulled out her faux organiser and pressed a few buttons. 2lets see now…procey, ex[ensive, ridculouskly expensive, obscenely expensive…ah ha." She look up at me.
"You found one?"
"I've found one"
"Are you sure this is the right place?" asked Rob.
"This is is the address. This is the place"
we were standing outside a rather decrepit looking building. Wasteland surrounded us on all sides for about a block, then the first buildings that didn't look rat infested appeared.
"Are you sure you're sure?"
I could understand rob's suspicions. The building in fron of us was at least 80 years old, with moss and bird droppings competing for places on the walls. Some bricks were blackened, as if a heavy fire might have broken out at some time during it's life.
The doors were hevey industrial bank safe looks beasts, but suprisingly there was no graffiti. Nit even a small "Jeannie luvs Bobbie" tippex pice of vandilism. For a while I used to think that someone was paid to actually go around public buildings or shelters and write those three words on it. It seemed to be everywheer I looked. I suppose iyt was possible Jeannie and Bobbie travelled round from place to place, leaving there message and moviong on. It was romantic in a strange not in the slightest bit romantic way, you know. And it was a nicer message than "Susie sucks big cocks!". That lost some of the childhood innocence I felt, though possibly I was simply getting to old. In any case , this solid greay shiny door had nothing on it. The very fact if gleamed so brightly should have been a beacon to every young vandal in Scotland. Hell, I even felt a small voice telling me to go on, just pit your initials on it, do it small and nobody would even notice, but for christs sake write something on it, deface this beautiful clean reflective door somehow! Perhaps I sdhould see a doctor.
"So lets jus testablish this for those, i.e me, who are a little slow on the uptake. This," I poinited at the building, "is the most exclusive restraunt is Scotland?"
"In Britain actually."
I looked her in the face to see if this was some sort of strange joke. "You have got to be taking the piss"
"Look, we're here now , lets just knock the door and ask if we have the right place."
"Oh yeah, I'm sure the shotgun that will poke out the slot and blow us away will have come back soon etched on the barrells"
"You've got to know in a special way. You can't simply hammer on the door. They'll jus tignore us if that's the case"
"And do you know the 'special knock'?"
"Hold on" she said looking at her small book again. It had changed back from an electronic organiser into a small notebook.
Rob look furtively around, as if expecting a drug squad to scream round the corner and put us in manacles.
"Allright" she said walking slowly up the steps and examining her book closely, "allright. Here goes"
Rob was subtelt pointing himself in the direction of the car and was trembling as his muscles tended them selves ready for flight.
I was worried myself and I knew I was going to die at the end of the day. But that doesn't mean I wanted my face blown off with a shotgun.
Alice walked right up the the door, held up her hand and clenched it into a fist. She studied the book one last time before slipping it into her bag. Closing her eyes and mumbling to herself like a kid at school trying to remember a french phrase, she pulled her fist back.
The sound seemed more metallic than I should have. She pulled her fist back again, raised it and..held it, frozen in in the air. Rob gave a little involuntary yelp and my eyes darted towards him, them back again. My mouth felt incredibly dry, but I couldn't remember the exact mental exercises to prioduce saliva.
Still she held her hand up, eyes closed, lips moving silently as if counting to herself.
I back at Rob, then Alice, then the door, then back at Rob, repeat and continue.
"What's she waiting for?"hissed Rob in a quiet almost theatrical stage whisper.
Then, very, very gently, she rapped her kuckles on the door, so it produced barely a sound. She opened her eyes, turned round and gave us the thumbs up.
I gave them back automatically, but what the hell we were 'oking' about was mystery. Perhaps the fact that we hadn't been assaulted. Yet.
We waited in silence for around 3 minutes. Alice staring at the door as if trying to will it open with her mind. And hell, who's to say she couldn't. The normal rules certainly do not apply with her. Me And Rob stayed transfixed in out spots, not budging an inch. I was about to say something, when Alice quickly turned round, shaking her head. She put her finger to her lips in a shush gesture and turned back to the door.
I was starting to get pissed of now. Did everybody simply forget that someone was on a time table. A fairly short time table at that. I didn't envision standing outside a derelict build staruesque for the next 3 hours. MacDonalds was beginnimng to look a better option every minute.
Suddenly, the door swung in ever so slightly. A tall thin crack of warm light spilled out on the stairs which were still in shadow. I could just make out the sliver of a face as something was whispered to Alice.
She whispered something back, pointing at me and Rob, then pointing to her bag.
The 10th of a face looked at her, then possibly me and Rob, though it was hard to tell. I couldn't be sure if I was looking at a balloon with a felttip face on it or a mannequin. Some thing was murmured back to Alice eventually and the door opened imprecentbaly fdurther.
Alice stepped in and the door quickly closed again with out a sound.
I looked at the door, then at Rob, who was looking at me with a look on his face that said he had had enough weird David Lynch shit for one day. I shrugged, but didn't speak. He pointed his thumb back to the car.
I shook my head, pointing at the door, reminding him that, hello, our friend and financial backer had vanished through a sinister black door.
We turned back to the building and waited.
Five minutes passed before the door slowly opened again and Alice quickly walked down the stairs. The door remained open I noticed.
She approached us, her face looking distinstly disgruntled.
"Fucking snobs" she said bitterly.
"Whoa nelly" I said, genuinely shocked. I hadn't heard her swearing since…ever. 2What's the matter? What's happening.
"They say that the luncheon isn't for lower classes. It's strictly for the elite"
Rob looked relived. "Listen, if they don't want us, fine. I know a nice little café that makes the best fry up on a Sunday. If we hurry we can just make the late brunch."
She looked at him puzzled. "Listen, your friend, Paul Turner, is about to experience his last lunch on earth. The idea was we would experience the best of everything. Your fryup idea, while I'm sure it's nice, does not sound like the final lunch a convict would order"
He looked surprised by this outburst. He should do. My face was an exact mirror.
"I thought you didn't want to do this in the first place?"
"I didn't. But we're on the road now so we might as well see it through to the end."
It sounded lame and she knew it as well.
"That's hardly the most airtight piece of logic I've ever heard."
"Alright, maybe I am enjoying myself slightly and maybe this isn't the wisest option and maybe I have been spending too long on earth and my perspective has shifted. But you know what?"
All I could do was nod and smile.
"Fair enough, but if they're not going to let us in because we're not classy enough what's the point of standing outside?"
"Hold on. They're not going to let you two in. I was invited from the first second."
Rob looked slightly miffed. "Well, what do you want us to do while you have the most expensive lunch in the land? Wash the car? Look in bins for discarded hamburgers?"
"No, you two are going to join me inside. Just not through the normal entrance."
Me and Rob looked at each other. The wheelie bins suddenly looked quite appealing.
We watched Alice walk up the stairs, wave at us, then slide through the miniscule crack of the opened door before id slid silentley shut.
"I'm not sure about this." Said Rob.
"Look, it'll be fine, let's just walk away nice and slowly, like we've been rejected."
"We have been rejected."
"Then we won't have to act. Come on."
We walked to the ludicrously expensive car, got in and drove off until the building was out of view.
"Right," said Rob, "Where are we going exactly?"
"Turn right here and try to find a parking space."
People stopped to turn and admire or shake their in heads in disgust as we slowly crawled along the road looking for a space next to the pavement.
A mini suddenly sped of from the kirb and Rob accelerated to the open spot.
"Bloody hell Rob, I don't thinl we're going to fit"
"Course we are. You're talking to the master of parralell parking so a little more faith would be appreciated."
Regardless, I clenched my teeth and prepared for the inevitable grind of metal being wrench against other metal.
Rob turned the car off. "What did I tell you. You can't teach that. Class bit of parking."
I opened my eyes and saw that we had indeed managed to park in the space. Even though our car was almost 2 and a half times bigger than the mini, he had squeezed us in.
Except he hadn't parked the car sideways along the kirb. We were facing the shop window. I opened my door carefully and got out. Half the car was on the pavement and the back end was sitting sticking out on the road.
Cars and pedistrains were having to swerve to avoid hitting us.
I looked at Rob. "Are you fucking nuts?" I said in a calm voice.
"Look" he said as he got out as well and locked the doors. "I know it's a bit unorthodox but we don't have time to fanny about and find a proper parking space. Hell, the chances of finding one that would accommodate this beast are nil. And you are on a timer."
People were beginning to mutter and I saw a couple of people starting to walk up the pavement towards us.
I grabbed Rob. "Let's go before we get arrested."
We walked waway quickly until we reached the corner then bolted like the hounds of hell were at our feet.
After we were sure no onewas following usm we walked down a coule of sidestreets and alley ways until we came to a larghe chain link fence.
There was about 20 yards of wasteland and there in front of us was the Restraunt we had been rejected from. But we were facing it from the other side, the back of it with bins and skips overflowing with bags of rubbish, some split open and oozing rotten food substance.
"I guess the clientelle don't se this side of the buisness very often" said Rob, his nose rankling at the smell drifting towards us.
The plan which Alice had cooked up was rather dissapointing and straightforward. Instead of using her 'magic' or transporting us in or turn us into something else ( she can't hide our body language or lack of class), she went back to basics.
We were to go round the back, prise open the bathroom window, sneak in and walk casually to her table as if we were simply visiting the bathroom.
Apparently our lack of social graces wouldn't matter once we were in, because clearly the management couldn't admit that rif raf had managed to sneak in without them knowing. As a result, they would have to accept us or we could make a scene.
There was also no security round the back. This sounded very odd to me, for such a highly respected restraunt, but she said it would make customers nervous if they saw security camaras and armed guards with dogs patrolling outside. It sounded stupid to me, but hey, it wasn't my buisness so what did I care.
"Can you see the window?" asked Rob.
"No, just bins and skips."
We were crouched down next to the fence, searching in vain for this window. Not for the first time, I wished I hadn't bothered with this exclusive meal idea.
"Found it!" said Rob
"It's down the very bottom. Next to the bin bag with the rats"
"Great. More rats" But I looked anyway and sure enough, a small 3 pane window, almost hidden by the trash was just visible. "The toilet must be down a floor then."
"Yeah, should make it easier to get in if nothing else."
"Alright, are we going to do this? Last chance to back out."
Rob looked at the building, pondering. I could tell he was torn between going back home and pretending this whole weekend never happened and wanting to kniow what was going to happen next.
He looked at me. "Like the lady said, Fuck it. I want my dinner."
"Then lets go get some grub."
We made sure no cars or people were on the road in front of the building, then scaled the fence.
The ringlets were shiny and new looking and I wouldn't have been surprised if the Restraunt supplied them. No barbwire at the top though, maybe because it was to prison camp looking.
We reached the top and scaled down the other side. As soon as we touched the bottom we huddled down to the dry earth, even though we were plainly in sight for all to see.
"What now?" said Rob.
And we did. The wasteland was bigger than I first thought. The ground was uneven and bumpy. Pieces of metal and junk threatened to trip us u pat any seconds. Ron ran with his head down, arms pumping just avoiding obstacles a secong before he barralled into them.
I kept glancing at the back door, fearful that some kitchen porter was going to chuck out a bag of rubbish and see two guys running hell for leather.
An old girder, orange and flaking parts total eroded away lay in parts in front of us. The first one we jumped together, like horses on a steeplechase. The next part was in Robs way, but he cleared it easily. The one approaching me was far to big to jump easily, but I didn't want to divert my course so I ran even faster, overtaking Rob for the first time, tensed my muscles and jumped.
I thought I hadn't made it and my left foot whicj was trailing caught the edge of the girder but my natural momentum carried me over and I landed safely. I glanced at Rob and saw he ws giving we mock applause with his hands.
I give him the finger and we ran the rest of the way on mostly even ground before we reache the bins.
The first Skip was a bit to close to the door, but the second one was further away from the windows. We needed to get out breath back though, so we chose to hide for the moment.
We sucked in huge lungfuls of air that was sour and smelled of roten fruit. I tasted wonderful to my oxygen starved lungs.
Rob had his hands on his knees, his head held low as if he was going to be sick. And then he was.
He wiped his mouth and gave a greasy smile. "Better out than in" then was sick again.
I couldn't stop laughing. "You unfit bastard. You'd think we just ran the London Marathon."
"Hey screw you. I have'nt run this much since I was 5 so cut me some slack."
I just smiled at him and felt the stitch in my side leaving. I wasn't sure if it was because I was in a supernatural body, but I felr fine. Maybe I was being a bit harsh on Rob. If the situations had been reversed I'd probably be puking my guts out as well. I certainly didn't have the physique of a decathlon athlete anyway.
"Alright, I'm good" he said. Thankfully he had manged to avoid getting any sick on his clothes, though his trainers were a different matter. With any luck nobody would notice or maye Alice could whip up a new pair.
We turned round to the small window at ground level. Then we noticed the rats. Rob had been right. There wasn't just one. Or three. There was a family. Or a pack. I've never been one to know the plural of things I have no inyerest in or indeed things that repulse me. All I knew was that there was a lot of rats. There must have been at least 20 all crawling out of bins or tearing open bags. I was surprised the mangement never dealt with them or maybe it was simply impossible to eradicate them.
Strangely, they took no real notice of us. Only the one closest, the one on top of the bin bag we would have to move if we were to crawl into the window was glaring at us as if we were thinking of stealing it's food.
"What the hell are we going to do?" whispered Rob out of the side of his mouth.
I wasn't sure really. I sure as hell wasn't going to go crawling around on the floor with a bunch of rats not one meter away from my face. But we had come so far. Surely we couldn't turn away from a bunch of rodents.
Then Rob, in one of his unusal, nay, unique moments of inspiration came up with a plan.
"Step back a bit please"
I duly obliged and watched as he walked slowly around the bag, the rats eyes never leaving his. He licked his finger and held it up, nodding to himself.
"What does that mean?" I said, gesturing at his still raised finger.
"haven't a clue mate, but they do it in the movies all the time"
He walked back to me, looked at the binbag and rubbed his hands.
Then he tensed up, his body going stiff before he took 3 quick paces and booted the binbag away.
The rat could see him advancing gave a quick hiss before scampering of the bag. It ripped open right down the middle and spread rubbish all over the ground next to the steps leading up to the back door.
The rats saw the food lying unattended and swarmed over it, including the one who had claimed it earlier. I swear it looked back at us and gave us an evil glare that said 'if I see you in the gutter I'm going to crawl up your arse boyo' before trying to salvage what it could.
Rob turned back to me, a large smile on his face. His right leg was covered in sauces and bits of unidentifiable food.
I pointed at it and he shrugged his shoulders.
"let me guess. Fuck it."
He gave me the thumbs up and we turned to the window.
I was worried that the rats were squeking so much over the rotten food that one of the staff would come out to check on what was going on, find us trying to break in and shoot us on the spot.
We crouched down and soon our knees were damp with whatever liquids had seeped in the ground. One of those cases when ignorance is the better option, though I could smell urine.
The window was rectangular and had 3 dirty panes in it. It seemed to swivel upwards, but was jammed shut.
We peered in to see if anyone was actually using the facilities. I could just make out 6 cubicles and the sinks. I guessed the urinal was directly below us. That would at least explain the stench of pish, but I wasn't that comforted by it.
"What do you think?" I asked Rob, "Anyone home?"
He peered in closer, rubbing the glass and giving his shirt a long sooty black smear on his arm. "I don’t think so. The cubicle at the end has it's door close though, but I can't tell if it's locked or not.
I peered closer holding my breath but I wasn't able to see the vacant/occupied sign.
I pulled back and Rob did likewise. "I don't know. I mean, it looks empty, but what happens if mr moneybags is in their doing a large shite? How's it going to look if he opens the door and finds us dangling through the window?"
Rob looked at his watch. "We can't wait forever though. And what happens if their isn't anyone in there? This could be our best chance."
I looked at him, then back at the window. "alright, lets just do it, before I lose my nerve." I examined the seal round the bottom of the window. "We're going to need something to prise this open though."
"Aha" said Rob and dug in his back pocket. He produced a small pen knife that looked as offensive as a joke from a christmas cracker.
I didn't bother to hide my lack of appreciation.
Rob looked at me osurly. "listen, I know it's small, but the blade will still cut in under the window and we'll be able to prise it open. Anyway it's not thesize, it's what you do with it. You'd know about that, eh?"
He lay on the ground and started chipping away at the bottom of the pane. The blade slipped in and he started to wiggle it back and forth, trying to wedge the pane open.
I turned round to check on the rats and was alarmed to see that almost all the food was gone. They were at the stage of foraging for the last scraps before coming back to the bins and right next to us.
I turned back to tell Rob to hurry whe ni saw him opening the window outwards and upwards.
"No problem" said Rob.
"Christ, that was quick. What about the lock?"
"yeah, I'm not sure what happened to that. It just started to budge and I thought I heard something snatch." He looked at the underside. "Ah heres the answer." He pointed at the bottom of the frame.
The lock had actually rusted bright orange and had solidified onto the window itself. Rob had simply snapped it of the wall.
"You know, for such a classy joint, this place really looks like a dump"
"you're telling me. Right, you go first and I'll lift you down"
"Why don't you go first?" said Rob suspiciouslly.
"Listen, the rats have almost finished their feast, do you want to be the next course?"
"I'll go first, eh?" he said quickly and started to clamber in.
he swiveled his body so his legs went in first. The window was wide but quite narrow and his buttocks got stuck on the jamb of the window.
"Help Paul! My arse is stuck! Push me!"
I grabbed his shoulpers and pushed him but he seemed jammed.
"Open the window further!"he moaned, trying to sueeze himslef through.
I prised it open as far as it would go. I didn't want to open it anyfurther in case the whole thing broke off.
All of a sudden, Rob stopped moving.
2What is it?" I asked.
"Bloody hell, I think someones coming. Pull me out Paul!"
I tried pulling him, but if anything there was more resistance.
"You’re to far gone! You'll need to try and get through it.
"I'm try but my fucking arse is stuck in case you'd missed it! Hurry up, push me then, he's getting closer!"
His legs were dangling just above the urinal, but couldn't quite make purchase with anything to assist him.
I gave him one almightyupush and he gritted hi teeth and shoved as hard as he could. His bottom finally cleared the window and suddenly he slipped down quickly. With me pushing he shot through the window and had to grab on to the ledge.
"iyou might have told me it's a fucking drop!"
"Let go, the guys almost here1" I said, hearing the footsteps myself. I couldn't close the window if his fingers were there.
2oh, christ" Rob maoned and let go. He fell about 3 feet straight down and right into the urinal.
I closed the windop and watche das he pushed himself back, but the door was already opening and the man was insiede.
Rob, with no time to hide, unzipped his trousers and started taking a piss. The man walked past him and straight to the sink without even looking. I peered through the window. Rob glanced up and scowled at me. The front of his clothes was covered with sick, rotten food, old sauces and now a healthy mix of urine and tilet cleaner.
I gace him the thumbs up and stared at the man.
He was washing his hands and trying to get something of histrousers.
I looked back at Rob and pointed at he cubicle. He nodded but pointed at his penis and mouthed 'I'm in the middle of a piss'. I put my hand to my face, then regreted it since I felt something slimy when I took it away.
I lloked back at the man who was walkimg back.
He stopped behind Rob, still trying to get something of his suit. I crept back slightly in case he seen me.
2I'm telling you pal" he said conversationally, "never date a girl whos' got no concept of hand/eye coordination. Goddamn little clutz." I peered in. The man looked like a classiv buisness man, all armani suits and playing golf with the big shots.
Rob grinned weakly. "Tell me about it" and turned slightly so the man could see someof the mess on him.
"Jeezus, what happened to you?"
Rob shrugged and was maybe about to something when the guy cut him off. 2tell me about it. I hope you're getting some action in the sack, 'cause otherwise unless she's a hottie she ain't wort it."
"Christ, is that the time, I'm meanta be in a phone conference."
"I like you kid, you're straight talking. We'll do lunch"
and with that he walked out the bathroom, still rubbing his suit.
Rob finished his piss and zipped up.
I opened the window again. "all clear?" I asked.
"Yeah, it's allclear, unless someone doesn't tell you there's a wall of pish just below you"
"listen" I said trying to hide a smile, "how the hell could I know the urinal was there. Come on, help me down before someone else comes in."
I clambered in the same way as Rob, though I managed to get through the window with out to much trouble.
But I found my self in the same situation as rob, dangling above the urinal. The gutter was unusual big, giving it the impression there was a river of urine below me.
"did you have to pish just below the window?"
"l;isten I didn't exactly have time to think what I was doing, y'know?"
I was thinking that I could maybe swing backwards and try and reach the floor. I really didn't want to land in Robs pish.
2Christ paul, watch out!" rob shouted and pointed at the window ledge.
The large rat that had been on the bin bag was crouched right next to my fingers and seemed to be preparing it self to bite. Visions of it jumping on my face flooded me, and I used my right hand to swat it away.
"ah, fuck off you!" I shouted, losing my legendart composure. Then I lost my grip. All my swinging about caused me to slip off and I landed back first in the urinal.
I sat up quickly but the damage had been done. I stood up and looked at my back. From head to troe I was wringing, covered in pish and cistren water. I glared back at the window, but the rat had dissapeared
Reob started laughing.
"Hey, this isn't funny. How am I supposed to walk out there like this?2
"Christ, look at me."
I stareted laughing slightly, then I could feel mt self buckling and soon we were both howling and crying. I went to wpe my eyes before remembering where they jhad been and my reaction set of Rob even more.
Eventually we got controal and it must have been just dumb luck that nobody heard us or came in.
We started to run the taps and tryied to wash ourselves up.
"Ah, it's good to have a giggle as my auld maw likes to say"
2yeah2 I said looking at the urinal, then the window. 2Shit!"
2What is it?"
"Look! The windows still wide open"
it was still at the exact same angle I had left it at to get in. ie wide open.
2Well I;m not clambering over that urinal again. I've just gotten clean again." That was a bit dubious as he still looked mawkit, only less so than before.
Not that I was much better. "I don't even know how we'd get up there to close it."
"Ach, nobody will notice it anyway. The smell of shite, the smell of rubbish. What's the difference?"
"yeah, you're probably right. And we must have kept Alice waiting for ages"
2Come on. Lets get ready to meet our public"
We both gave ourselves another quick wash, but truthfullt neither of us cared at this point. I was prepared to get chucked out the front door a second after we walked out, but who cares? We madeit in andthat was what mattered.
"Lets go" I said and walked through to the door.
If I'd looked back I might have seen a few eyes staring down at us from the window as certain scavangers smelled better food in here than outside.
I opened the bathroom door and walked out into one of the most luxurious hallways I had ever seen. It reminded me of a corridor of a sea liner. A thick lush red carpet was on the floor and I could feel the softness even through my shoes. The walls were painted gold and every few yards was a painting with a small vanity light on top of each one. Varnished doors were inset into the wall, leading to offices or other toilets.
I turned to look at Rob and he had the same gormless expression on his face that was presumably on mine. From a derilict building containing smackheads, we seemed to have wandered into the QE2.
My eary thoughts about being turfed out didn't seem quite so rightous. If anything, he though of being chucked out simply seemed embarrasing.
We walked down the hall until we turned a corner to the right.
2 large doors barred our way and we good hear the general chit-chat of customers and the low buzz of background music.
Thiis was it. This was where we would be found out. What the hell where we thinking? Going out there dressed like this.
"listen, Rob, I don't know if this is such-"
"Paul, someones coming! Behind us!"
We peered round and saw a large looking man in a tux. His shoulders were so broad they nearly touched the walls as he lumbered towrads us.
I didn't fancy trying to explain to him hiw we got in.
If we got caught in front of the customers, then at least they couldn't give us a savage beating.
"oh, christ.." I opened the door and prepared for the most humiliating experience of my short, yet suprisingly interesting life.
And it happened again. That strange feeling of a heatwave, of reality bending slightly to accommodate something that was plainly impossible. And the impssible thing was that our clothes, our hair, our bodys were perfectaly clean again.
Robs shirt had never looked newer and my shoes even had the rips repaired in them.
We looked at each other in something like wonderment.
The door opened behind us and the bouncer just cleared the edges.
"Excuse me gents" he rumbled and actually changed his direction so we wouldn't have to move.
We started to walk across the room, trying to look like we knew where we were going. Clearly this was Alices doing, but I couldn't see her.
The room was huge, with no floors above us. The roof simply extended up to the top, giving the place a cavernous look. Tables were laid out simply and with the minimum of fuss. There wasn't even a carpet, only oak floorboards. The place was impressive, but certainly not where you would expet the crème de la crème to eat.
Rob grabbed my arm andpointed across the room. I sensed more than saw Alice waving her glass of wine.
We made our way over to her and were relived to see that two seats were waiting for us.
2 waiters appeared out of the background and pulled our chairs out for us. They handed us a wine list, whick was written in some language whicj looked like mandarin. I wasn't even sure what the currency was in the prices.
"Eh, I'll have what she's drinking"
"Me too" said Rob quickly before he was about to be offered the menu.
"An exellent choice sirs" the senior waiter said. He turned to Alice. "Is the lady expecting anymore guests, or shall we bring the menus"
"Yes" said Alice taking a drink of wine, "this is my party complete. You may bring the first menu"
He nodded and seemed to drift of without walking, like he was on casters.
"I take it you're the deus ex machina who saved our butts there" I said gesturing at our clothes.
"All part of the service. But I nearly didn't sense you'se. I t was only your overpowering paranoia and embarresment that I picked on."
"hey" said Rob, "how about that. Your natural messed up mind actually saved us for once."
We proceeded to tell her how we got in and the troubles we had. We both glared at her when we told her about the urinal.
"I didn't say it was going to be easy. And you're in now, so relax."
The wine arrived and the waiters poured us a glass.
I tasted it, but it seemed a bit bitter to my tastes, though having nothing else but buckfast to compare it to didn't make me the number one judge in the world.
Rob drank his in one go and poured himself another.
"how much is it?" I asked, looking at the bottle.
"half a mill."
Rob spluttered in his glass.
"That’s it Rob" I said patting him on the back, "look inconspicuous"
"half a million pounds per bottle?!"
"Half a million pounds per glass" she said, with a wicked glint in her eye.
Now I spluttered out my drink.
"Amauter" said Rob.
"You must be joking!"
"No, on average it's £500,000 per glass. You get roughly 6 glasses from it and each bottle costs £3,000,000. You do the maths."
I looked at the stain on the tablecloth. "That stain is worth more than you will ever make in your life Rob."
He looked at it like it was the shroud of christ. "And it doesn't even taste that nice."
"No wonder this place is exclusive" I looked around and actually looked at the other diners. Most, unsuprisingly were drinking water, but a few were drinking the good stuff. It was hard to see faces in the dimly lit rooms, but I made out a few famous people, though even they would be claiming bankruptcy after a few lunches in this place.
The waiter came back with 2 others, each carrying what seemed to be a very large telephone directory.
They placed it as gently as possibe in front of each of us, but even so they must have weighed a ton and a satisfing thump could be heard as they placed them down. I swear the table sagged slightly under the combined weight before righting itself.
"If the Lady and gents would like to peruse the starters and let us know when you have made your choice"
Alice shooed them of with her hand while looking at the tome and they skulked off back into the dark corners. It was beginning to look spooky the way they did that, like wraiths from Lord of the Rings.
I looked at my book. On the fron was the legend Starters in gold calligropy writing. Underneath it were various other words and symbols, presumably saying the same thing.
I opened the cover and was shocked to see the size of the font. The writing was miniscule, tightly packed together words that just managed to stay on the page. The writing wasn't printed out either. I ran my finger over the letters, feeling the uneven surface of the ink. The writing tsayed in the same style and size rmarkably, but you could see that unevenness crept in from time to time. I couldn't begin to imagine how long it would have taken to write, let alone all these books. I glanced at Robs and saw it was in a similar style of writing, yet different enough to tell it had been done by anothers hand.
There was a large A at the top of the page, then the names of various foods followed by a brief description.
I flicked through the book at random, stopping at odd foods I had never heard of; "elkwood pie - a delicious natural dish from the jungles of Nagulia, Africa; The parangue aquatic creature - an extremely rare fish, only 10 belived to exist in the world. So unknown that it has never been properly catalogued"
I flicked back and forth through the pages, amazed at the choice and variety. I looked over at Rob. "What you going to order?"
"I dunno. Have you seen whats on the very last page though?" he said with a grin.
I turned duly to the page and scrolled down to the very last dish in the book: "zzzzzzzzz - the name does not translate into english well, but this antlantean dish was famed for is fierce nature and even tastier eyeballs"
I looked at him. "They don't mean Atlantis do they?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know, but I'm ordering it man. Can't go wrong with eyeballs."
"What is this place Alice. Is this some sort of rich mans joke? Ordering fantasyu creatures that don'y exist?"
"Everything in this book existed or has at one time ran across the planet."
"But the sheer choice, the volume of food. Surely it can't all be kept here."
"you'd be surprised how deep this place goes. Don't forget the turnover in this place."
The waiter came back to the table, appearing as he always did without warning or sign. "Are you ready to order yet?"
"Yes" said Rob, slightly drunk now. "I'll have a olate of your finest zzzzzzzz please" and closed te book with a large thump.
"Excellent choice sir. And for the Lady?"
"The dra'ch nar, but please tell the chef that iwant it cooked for 2 minutes and 45 seconds only. I know that this unusual compared to the standard 2 minutes 50 seconds, but I belive it is robbed of the texture by leaving it in to long."
"The lady has excellent taste and experince in these matters. Out chef always welcome comments and advice from guests."
He turned to look at me. "And for the gent?"
I had been to preoccupied looking for celebs and wondering what Alice was talking about to actually sit down and look at the menu. I hastily opened the book in the middle, scrolled down the page with my finger and said, "The mazart nebula please"
The waiter raised his eyebrows at that. "And has sir brought his own flame retardant suit?"
I looked at him and made a small laugh until I saw he was serious. "no," I replied quietly.
"we will of course provide you with one then. An excellent, and if I may say, adventorous starter. I await your main meal with baited breath."
He clapped his hands quietly and minions (as I started thinking of them) appeared, taking the menus away and giving us more wine.
They dissapeared and we were left in our own company again.
"Spooky guy that" I said pouring myself a drink.
"Ain't that the truth" slurred Rob
"Jesus are you drunk already?"
"No1" he said sharply and rather loudly.
Alice looked and poked about in the forest of jugs, cups and bottles that was the centre of our table. "Here" she said, pouring a dark hot liquid in a fine china cup, "have some coffee"
2Don't like coffee" said Rob sulkily
"This is good coffee and if you don't sober up, you're going to be out of your head for the rest of the day and we don't want that"
he took it off her.
"Drink" she urgerd him.
In a fit of petulance he swigged the whole cup in one go, whicj thankfully had cooled down and wasn't scalding.
He laced it back on the table like a hardened drinker with a shot glass.
His smiledlazily at us, looking even more drunk than before.
"What was in that "good coffee"? pure whiskey?"
"Give him a few seconds"
His smile suddenly dissapeared and his eyes went wide open. He blinked a couple of times and blew out his breath.
He motioned to his throat. 2water" he croaked.
Alice already had a glass of the liquid with ice in it and he downed it in one gulp.
He wiped his mouth and looked at is with clearm if slightly watery eyes. "wow, that was good coffee."
"how do you feel I asked.
"sober. Stone cold sober. What was that."
"Pure coffee, straight from the most potenet crop in the world. Most folk call it detox"
"Well now, I'm sober I can start drinking again." He said happily and reached for the bottle"
"I think not" said Alice, removing it just out of his reach.
"You're not the boss of me"
2No, but you and there's no nice way to say this, are a lightweight whe nit comes to alchol"
]He looked genuinely annoyed at this and was about to say something when he changed his mind and leaned back in his chair. "nah, you're right, ther's no point in denying it."
He looked round at the other tables, his face registering famous people he had seen in the movies. "yeah, we're with the in crowd now…"
He trailed off and had a double look at somebody. 2Jesus, look!" he stage whispered.
"Who is it?" is aid as I was about to tutrn in my seat.
"Don't turn round! He said quickly.
"Who is it then?!" I said, getting annoyed
"It's only fucking samantha Frost!"
"really" and was about to turn round, when Rob held up his fingerand shook it. I looked at him and gave him the traditional screw you gesture with my finger and turned blatantly round in my seat.
Not that she was aware of anything going on around her. She was deep in conversation with some guy who looked about 60. They were playing footise under the table and holding hands, their faces inches away from each other.
Even in the darkness and from this distance I could see she was wearing a red cocktail dress that should have looked ordinaary, but on her figure seemed exquisite. The shape of her legs, the way her hair was falling like water on rocks over her shoulder.
I blinked and turned back quickly, aware I was getting a huge erection. I poured what was left of the water into a glass, drank most of it and poured the rest over my groin.
"Yeah, she's some woman" said Rob in a faraway sounding voice.
"Who's she with though?"
"Albert quinn" said Alice unexpectedly.
"who's he?" said Rob quickly
"a buisnessman, not quite Bill gates, but he's in the top ten rich list for europe"
"Figures she's go for someone like that. Successful, rich, big mansion. Even if his balls are probably drooping down to his ankles, she'd rather be with him than me."
We both sighed.
"And can I say how pathetic the pair of you are."
We started to protest, but she cut in. She pointed at me. "You should know better, considering you have a girlfriend and a happy realtionship."
"What relationship.2 I muttered darkly under my breath.
"And you" she said pointing at Rob, "you've been after this holy grail for so long, attending one of her partys that yuou haven't stopped to ask yourself if that's still what you want."
Rob held up his hand in the form of a mock puppet "okay. Self, do you want to go to Samantha Frosts party? Yes, yes I do, thanks for asking. And how are you? Not so good really. Why don't you use your other hand to wipe your arse. It's not pleasant down there you know."
"Okay point made" said Alice wearily.
"hey, talk to the hand sister. That wasn't me. But honestly Alice, lok at her"
She rolled her eyes in a way that she had better humour him or he wouldn't let it go. She turned round and looked at her for a good half minute. Then the strangest thing happened. She started blushing. A warm redness came to her cheeks. She turned back and took a long drink of wine.
She saw me smiling at her. 2What? She'd atractive but nothing special."
"Yeah. Sure. Now sau it in a voice that actually belives it." She shook her head, but she was still blushing.
"yeah, she's some woman" said Rob in that faraway voice again.
There was a sound of a clattering of dishes and a waiter appeared pushing a trolley towards us. 2 large plates wereon it covered with a classix silver bowl.
They puklled up to the table and started laying clothes and cutlery next to Alice and Rob.
The head waiter bowed at me and said, "Our apologies for the delay in your starter sir. It has proved…harder than we first expected to produce one as quickly as we would have liked. Rest assured, your Nebula will sone be with you."
I nodded and inwardly wondered what I had ordered.
The preperations were completed and the waiters caried the 2 dishes from the trolley and situated them in front of Alice and Rob.
The smells were mixing together, but Alices smelled quite nice, something like steak possibly. Robs, on the other hand, brought back memorys of the skip and bins out the back and you could tell he was thinking the same thing. Perhaps yo had to be drunk to really enjoy this dish, like a good kebab.
The waiter lifted the bowl of Alices starter and there was a perfectlu normal steak, smaller than your average one, though possibly still too much for a starter. Still it looked as nice as it smelt.
The waiter walked round and reached over Robs shoulder to lift the lid. Rob had a face on like pandora just before she opened the box. He know he wasn't going to like what he found in there, but he had to see. Hell, I was curious as well.
The lid was raised and a waft of steam and mist drifted upwarsd to be tron a part from the fans far above us.
I looked like a very large bowl of soup. Slightly green, with an oily green slick look to it on top. And of course the smell of fish which was even more powerful now. But It was a bit of an anticlimax really.
Then the first eyeball drifted up. It was a hige thing, about the size of a dinner plate. Entrails slowly waved back and forth and the pupil seemed fixed on Rob. Then it was pushed over by another eyeball, this one better cut, with no nerve endings dangling. It too seemed to gave at Rob woth it's dead blank look, befiore submerging again.
The waiters out the lids on the tolley did a little half bow and vanished into the darkness.
"Enjoy" said the head waiter in all seriousness before vanishinhg himself.
Alice was already getting stuck into her steak. 2Mmm, this is great. Paul, do want a taste?"
2Ah, no." the eyeballs had made another reappearance and was making my stomack a bit queasy.
"what the hell is this1" whispered Rob fiercely.
"it’s what you ordered."
"I thought it was going to be somethng like fish and chips."
"It is a fish." Alice picked up a small placard that came with the dish. "Apparently these eyes are an aphrodisiac." She winkesd at him.
The smell was starting to waft round the palce despite the fans doing there best to draw it upwards and away from sensitive noses.
"Oh gog, Samantha Frost is looking over this way! And she's got a look of disgust on her face! The only look she's ever given me and it's one of disgust! Why the hell is this so pungent?There must be something wrong."
"you're meant to eat the eyes quite soon after the lid's been lifted." Said Alice, "They're the strongest smelling. The liquid in the bowl should help dispell it as well."
I saw a couple of the bouncers talking to one of the waiters and looking over at us. 2Listen Rob, the management are starting to get some supspicious looks on their face and they're staring at us."
He went to turn round.
"Don't look! That'll make it worse. You'd better eat some of it or they'll think you didn't know what you were ordering and are in fact some jakey who crawled through the bathroom window."
"I am a jakey who crawled through the bathroom window and no way am I eating that."
One the eyeballs flipped over showing it’s red nerves and organs. Rob stifled a dry vomit.
"Pauls's right. Just take one bite. That's what some people do anyway when they're out to lose weight. It would probably look suspicious if you ate all of it anyway."
"Not much chance of that happening, I can tell you right now."
2Fine, but take at least a bite or they'll be onto us."
He groaned and turned in his seat to look at the bouncers and groaned again.
He picked up a fork and tried to see which eyeball had the least organs growing out of it. The slightly neater one seemed the better bet so he raised he fork, closed his eyes and stabed it right in the middle of it's eliptical pupil.
He opened his eyes and reached for a knife and gingerly started to saw of the tiniest of fractions of the edge of the eye ball.
"It'll need to be bigger than that to satisfy them."
He looked up with such a face of pure misery that I bit the inside of my gum so I wouldn't bray laughter right in his face.
He took the knife and moved it fractionally in.
2Just a little more" said alice with a deadpan face , but we all knew she was enjoying this.
He moved it an infintismly tiny bit further in.
"Allright, that would satisfy me if I was in charge and looking for possible imposters."
He started sawing, the liquid splashing arounf the edges of the bowl. It was suprisingly tough and took him at least a minute to get this tiny sliver of the main eyeball. Half the liquid seemed to have sloped on to the tablecloth, no doubt more £1,000,000 stains.
Finally, once the operation was complete he raised his fork with the small piece of eyeball on the end of it and made the major mistake. Instead of just swallowing it, then having a drink of wine (or coffee in his case), he decided to pause. And look at it.
William Burroghs once said the the naked lunch is whe nyou stop and actually look at what is on the end of your fork. That's what Rob did. I fely dry heaves coming on for him as I lookd at that glistening piece of fisheyeball, dripping fluid, blood, water and other unknown liquids.
He looked up and saw that the head waiter had reappeared in the background, not next to the table, but not back in the depths of the room either. Just standing there, watching and wondering if these two people really were upper society despite their seemingly limitless cash.
Me and Alice were mesmerised, as did half the diners. The smell and general commotion of hgetting the sliver cut off had resulted inus being the center of attention.
He blinked, raisd the fork and put it in his mouth. Then he closed his lips, pulled the fork out and very delibare=tly didn't chew it. He just swallowed, a couple of times as it slid down his throat and finally he put his fork back on the palte. He grinned weakly at us.
I looked up and saw the head waiter, apparently satisfied we were indeed his kind of people. Everyone else went back yto their own dinners and the bachground noise was suprisingly loud by the very fact of it's absence for the past 5 minutes.
"I'm proud of you Robert."
"me too rob", isaid patting him on the shoulder."that you would do that for me, so my last day wouldn't be ruined. That shows what a pal you are."
"What can I say. I'm too generous for my own good."
Just then there was a distant shout. It was muffled, but still audible and coming from the direction of the toilets. All the dinners looked up, supriosed at the this outburst.
There was the sound of someone half running/half walking up the corridor.
He pulled open the door furiously and got one step in the dining toom.
"fuckin-" he managed to utter before a bouncer unceremoniously bundled him back through the door.
Throught the frosted glass I coould make out 2 silohettets talking in low deep voices, one frantic and opointing, the other a low bass.
A door opened again, but this time it was from the kitchen and it was my starter. And if I thought Robs was bad, mines was worse.
The waiters wore what resembled welding masks and 3 of them peshed a specially converted troley towards me. It’s sides were black and sooty and no wonder. In the middle sat whatlooked like a samll volcano. Fire licked up into the darkness above and occasional sparks would shoot out, never further that the trolley, which had protective see through glass raised so no innocent diner would get a firebomb in her hair.
Even from this distance I could feel the heat and see small lava flows swirling down fron the mond. A couple of tomatos seemed to have survived the worst of it, but they soon caught fire and were engulfed by the lava.
The orange light projected shadows on the wall, which danced jerkily.
While they were walking towards us, the door to the corridor opened quickly and the bouncer emerged. He was about to shout something when he rememberdwhere he was. He sidnaled two of hie collegues and they rucshed throug the door and were gone. Noone noticed though as everyone had turned to look at my starter.
Even in this most hard to please exclusive place, this was not the norm. Or maybe they had never seen anyone commit suicide by hot curry before.
The trolley reached us and I began to sweat furiously. Alice of course remained unflustered, but even she edged her chair round to be sligtly away from it. Rob was the closest and he was practically a river as beads freely ran of him. But he didn't look to well either.
"You alright Rob" I said in a loud voice. The crackling of the mini volcano and general excited chatter had made it more akin to a nightclub.
I turned to Alice. "wjat the hell isd this."
She looked at the small card.
"Apparently it's a form of curry made from fresh meteorites from space."
"But that's lava!" I said in a high pitched voice. "How the hell does anyone expect me to eat lava!"
"It's a form of liquid curry. Very hot apparently. But you're right, it's probably te same temprature as some volcanos"
I looked at the head waiter. "Surely no on has eaten thi sand lived1"
"oh yes sir, numerous people. Why one man lived for a month, though he was in a coma and I belive his vocal cords were destroyed."
I looked back at the dish, bubbling and flowing yellow and orange rivers of flames in the specially converted heat blasted bowl. They had made no attempt to remove it from the trolley and I got the impression that it would set the table on fire if they did.
A minion was waiting in the background with a fire suit, minus a mouthpiece of course.
"listen, I'm sorry, but there's no way I can eat this."
There was a short pause and the crowds voice died down. The only sound was the volcano bubbling and setting side dishes on fire.
"excuse me sir?"
"I can't eat this."
"you did order it sir."
"Yes, I know, but you can't possibly expect me to consume this…natural phenomenon1"
"Yes sir I do. You pciked the dish, we created it. Do youknow how hard iot was for chef to create this dtarter?"
emotion was beginning to creep into his voice for the first time. Suddenly the fish eyes were looking good. Well, maybe not actually.
"They say he may regain his eyesight" the Head waiter continued, "but he will never have children again"
I looked at him, his already sinister looking face made positively apocolyptic in the dancing light." I'm sorry"
He paused again, before sighing. Then a look came to his face.
"You did know what yo were ordering didn't you sir?"
This was tricky. This was were me and Rob, well me anyway since he had eaten part of his starter, would be found out. I knew it was going to end like this.
The crowd were starting to disperse, glaring at me and walking back to theie tables or te toilet.
Before I could say anything though Rob came to my rescue.
Though not in the way I exopected. His cheeks suddenly bulged and he looked green even in the orange light. He swallowed but unsuccessful and he let forth a tr=orrent of sick right into his bowl with the fish eyes. Everything he had drank or eaten in the past 24 hours came up in that flow of non stop puke.
Whe nhe was finished he wiped hios mouth and looked at the bow in disgust.
It was fair to say that the game was well and truly up. Posh people simply didn't vomit into their dinners. He didn't even bother to look up to see if Samantha Frost was looking at him in even more disgust, but she had already left with Albert, the sugar daddie.
Their came a shriek from the back and a woman pushed open the heavy door so it slammed against the wall, knocking a picture of the titanic on to the floor and smashing the glass.
She paused whe nshe got into the dining room, looking round wildly.
Then she shouted the one thng no Restraunt manger eber wants to hear. 2Rats!!!" and she ran for te front door.
The following sequence is still a little hazy in my mind and I may get the order of things mixed up slightly so bear with me.
Apparently, after me and Rob left the bathroom, the rats outside started smelling food drifting down through the door leading into the corridor down through the bathroom door and out the window.
Intrigued, they poked ther noses in and promptly fell in to the bathroom. And this cycle continued untill the mens bathroom was swimming (literally in some cases as the urine gutter was practically a swimming pool for the rodents) in rats, some 100 of them.
The funny thing is that in the cubicle where me and Rob wondered if anyone was in, it turns out there actually was. Some old boy had too much off the £3,000,000 wime and fallen asleep. deEp asleep. He did awake, however, when one of the rats decided to start biting his fingers.
He awaoke, scremed, ran out of the cubicle, screa,medagain, ran out of the door and was about to alert the management when the bouncer caught him.
However, his screams attracted more rats, who followed the previous established cycle of looking in, falling in and adding to the large collection in the bathroom. He had also left the bthroom door jammed shut in his haste to escape, which the rats hadn't quite noticed yet but soon would.
Meanwhilem Rob,m who was feeling very well and had just been sicj in his fish soup was starting to get angry and didn't want to look at his starter anymore. He tried to lift it and put it on the troley next to the mini volcano, but in his weakend state only succeded in lifting it to the lip oy the guard on the trolley before tipping it over and puring the entire contents onto the vocano.
This had a curious effect. There must have been somethng flamable in Robs meal, because as soon as the liquid touched the volcano a huge gout of flame shot upwards, knocking diners of their seats, including me =, Rob and Alice. In fact Rob being the closest was blown back the furthest and was lucky not to do himself serious injury
The flames shooting upwards had also set the fans on fire, which were now depositing flames onto other diners and the floor. The fish eyes incidentally flew of in oposite directions, one smashing a window, the othetr knocking out a woman who had the misfiortune to turn around at just the wrong time and received a faceful of fisheye for her troubles.
The waiters were trying to reacjh the fan and put out the flames by waving their hankerchiefs at it for the most part.
One particuallrly dedicated waiter stood on the trolley to try and raech the off switch. He almost reached it too, but then his shoe went on fire and jumping of he happened to tip the trolley over, spilling the volcanoe onto our table and promptly setting it on fire. We hastily back away as the starter ate away at the carpet and started blackening the woodwork on our table.
While this was going on or just before it, the bouncer, who had by now enlisted 4 others al armed with nothing more than brooms went to the bathroom to deal with the vermin.
Except by now there was at least 200 as the squeaks of distresed rats drew more rats who were seeing what the fuss was, fall in, and start squeaking themselves.
The bouncers noticed the door open and so di the rats for the first time. Sensing that this might be a possible escape to freedom, they raced out en masse, towards the startled bouncers who expect a couple of mice. Quite rightly worried about diseases and other less savoury aspects of rodents, they turned and bolted, breaking the doors leading into the trestraunt clear of their hinges.
The flood of rats followed them out and into didning room.
Diners who were walking calmliy to the exit in as sensible manner despite the fires, saw the sea of rats and ran screaming for the front door which was now wide open, letting out smoke and distresed diners.
The rats sensibly followed the crowd to freedom away from the fire and scampered off into the night.
We decided now was a good time to leave as well. The fire was starting to spread and somebody in the back had pulled the fire alarm. Showers of water started cascading down, though on the mini volcano it simply turned to steam.
The head waiter had narely moved an inch since this all started and I noticed hiseyebrows had been burned off. He didn't seem to care. He was staring at us, at me really with a face of pure hatred and anger ifelt like defending myself. Then I saw the mess and decided this wasn't the best time to get into a discussion about social classes and how it's wrong to percioeve people by how much they earn.
"well, thank's for the starters" I said, "but we''' skip the rest."
"Gotta run." Said Rob.
"Eh, I'll pay for…" she waved her hand, "eh, all…this" she finished. She left her golden credit card on the table and we quickly walked to the front door.
"By the way" said Alice just before we walked out thefront door. "the dar'mach was escellent. My comp[liments to the chef"
He stared at us, steam actually rising of his scalded brows.
"Tell jhim hi marciu, eh, his fish eyes were shite. And be thankful I'm not going to report you to watchdog."
His eyes tightened together and we quickly sped out the door.
Outside chaos reigned as people who were not used to evacuating buildings on fire with plagues of rats tried to phone their limos and drivers.
Almost everyone was one mobiles, the men ordering cars or helicopters, the woman gossiping to aqauntances about their dreadful experience. It seemed the restraunt wasn't ging to have a good word of mouth after this.
Someone, probably one of the kitchen staff, had actually the sense to contact the fire brigade. In the distance, the telltale siren was getting closer.
Alice heard it as well. "our cue to leave."
Me and rob nodded and we made our way througjh the crowd, shaking our heads in disbelief at the service and goings on on there.
The bouncers were talking to the head waiter as well and seemed to be scanning the crowd. We kept out heads down and prepared to make a break for it if necessary.
Most people were walking to the main road anyway, so it was easy to stay in the middle and try to look like we belonged.
Suddenly, an arm shot out and grabbed Rob, spinning him round.
"Hey, buddy, what the hell was that all about!"
It was the man from the toilet, his mobile to his ear.
"tell me about it. Goddamn rats and fires. Is this what I paid 10,000,000 for? I don't goddamn think so."
"They're hetting there asses sued, I'll tell you that much right now. Listen buddy, you'll back me up. Give depositions, be a witness, te usual legal bullshit."
"eh, sure, I -"
"Great, great! Listen call my office and we'll get something set up" and off he went to accost someone else while he talked into his mobile.
The crowd reached the road and we turned left sharpish and quickly walked across the road and past another corner so that we were out of sight.
"Phew!" said Rob, "Well that was interesting"
"I get the feeling we won't be getting invited back" alice said with a grin.
"Ah, it was awful anyway." I said. "but I'm still hungry. Who's for burgers?"
"I'll second that" said Rob.
"To be honest, I think it's the best option."
We walked into the neatest fastfood franchise we could find and had our meals, rob munching his down in a couple of minutes, though I wasn't far behind. Alice declined anything and sat atching us eat like savages and shaking her head.
"Where to mext bos?" said Rob between slurps of his coke.
"There's a couple moer stops I want to make, but after that I'm open to suggestion. Alice, any news on King?"
"I'm afraid not. I checked in while you two were devouring your cows and there hasn't been any news. He's vanished for the moment."
We sat in silence, Rob and alice looking at me.
"Hey, it was always a long shot. It doesn't mean we're going to spend the rest of the day moping about it"
They put on their smiles, fake as a bottle tan, but I appreciated the gesture and once we got the momentum going again, they'ed start to perk up. That was the beauty part about emotions. You couldn't be endlessly happy, but you couldn't be endlessly sad either. The only people who had apernament grin on their face were lobotomised.
I looked at my watch. 6.02pm. Time was marching on. "Right, let's get going."
We cleared our rubbish into the bin and walked to the car. And promptly stopped once we turned the corner.
Our vehicle was surrounded by police, RAC men, other car owners and a large truck with flashing amer lights that had hooks and chains on the bumper.
"Oh jesus" said Rob.
Alice stared in amazement."What happened? I left you two alone for 10 munutes.
"Actually, it was a lot longer than that." She glared at me. "We were in ahurry and couldn't find a parking space. We improvised."
"yeah" said Rob, joining in. "Listen, we knew you couldn't sit at the table by yourself for too long if we werr supposed to be in the toilet. I had to hurry, so…I improvised"
2Improvised?1" she reapeated.
The cops were standing back, plinly admiring the car, though some were shaking there heads at the obvious cost of it. The cars on either side of ours were unable to get out as one had a tree at the back of him and the other a large truck, it's owner missing at the moment.
"What are we going to do?" I asked.
"We write of our £50,000,000 car. That's what" she was clearly angry, though why I wan't sure. She really was starting to change the more she spent on earth, becoming more human.
"Aw man, can't we jus tgo up and explain?" rob looked guted at the thought of losing the car, though we could only have driven it until tomorrow morning, the nditch it.
The guy in overalls got one of the police men to sign a bit of paper, got into his truck and started easing carefully away.
The chains pulled taught =with a metallic clink and the car bumped of the pavement.
"Rob held his hands up to his face in mock horror. Oersonally, I wasn't that bothered. The novelty of spending millions of cash, while nicem was starting to wear off. And what did I care really? I wasn't going to see it again after tomorrow morning.
There was only one thing to do.
"Taxi!" I shouted and held out my arm.
Naturally, Alice was theone who finally managed to hail down a cab. Qwe got in and sat down, the others and driver looking to me for directions.
"Should we go back and get my car?"
"Nah, it's too much hassle and time. We'll just go straight to my next port of call." I turned in my seat. "Motherwell please mate, derry road."
"Who lives there?" asked Rob as the car drove off.
"An old friend."
I chapped the door hard 3 times. There was no answer so I chapped it again another 3.
There was the sound of someone coming down the stairs in a hurry and muttering to themselves.
2Alright, alright, give me a second."
The thought occuredto me that they might actually be in bed together, but that thouhgt was too horrific to contemplate.
The door opened and ther was Arcjhie Adams, a look of shock on his face.
"Paul!" he said in a hihg voice.
"Archie my old chum, mind if I come in." I walked right past him before he could say a word. "these are my frioends, Rob and Alice."
They looked a bit akward but followed me in anyway.
"Oh, eh, hello, there, come in" he said as the ywalked past him.
He closed the door and came through to the living room.
The place had been tidied up considerably, but there was still dents in the wall and some of the ornaments didn't match up. A large crack ran up one of the windows.
We stood in akward silence.
2I see you got your windows fixed"
"yes, yes, a guy I know, fixed them quick and cheaply" he took of his thick glasses and rubbed them on his junper. A large black eye was apparent, partly hidden by his frames.
I looked at him. And truly duid not know what to say. This was the guy who had let me down so many times, got me sacked from work, nearly killed by his wife, ultimately had me out on the streets where I met my demise. I was ready to chew him out, give him and his wife a piece of my mind.
But I looked at him, rubbing his glasses looking disheveled, a man on edge. One of the frames of his spectacles popped out and landed with a thunmp on the carpet.
He hastily picked it up and popped it back in again. "Bloody specs are always falling to bits."
2have you thought about new ones" asked Alice gently.
"yes, but my wife, nora, shewants us to save up for lazer treatment to have the hairs on her legs removed, so you know, that takes priority."
Alice nodded with a look of blankness.
2yes" he looked at me.
I looked back at him. 2you poor bastard"
Jhe blinked. 2you poor, poor bastard. I think I've got it bad, but you, you've got it worse."
He looked at me, maybe ready to challenge me, then let his shhoulders drop, all the fight gone from him. 2You're right" he slumped onto the couch, £you're right. My life ios shit"
We all sat down, though Alicewent throughto the kitchen to get a glass of water for him.
"Where is Nora ?" I asked.
2At the bingo. Theres a new guy who calls the number. I hera her talking about him to her friends."
Alice came back with the water and handed it to him.
"Thanks love." He took a sip. "The other week, when we were…you know."
"io know" I said hastily, not wanting the mental picture of Archie in the sack but powerless to stop it.
"Well, she started saying his name. 'jeffery' she would say, 'jeffery'. Thenb she staretd calling out ball numbers. '88', '21', oh, please be '69'."
Robs faced scrrewed up like he'd just eaten a lemon. "euggh"
Alice gave him a look, but arche didn’t seem to have heard, or if he did he didn't care.
"I think..i think she might be seeing him. That she's saving up this money to elope with him."
"Your money, archie, your money. She hasn't worked since 1978"
"oh, I don't know what to do…"
we sat in silence, not sure what to say.
"You're going to leave her"
I wondered who had said it, because it wasn't me. It was, in fact, Alice, doing specfically what she was ordered not to.
She didn't look at me, but started right at Archie. "Listen to me Archiebald Adams. That woman does not deserve you. And you are right. She is sleeping with the man called heffery hunt."
2I knew it" he sobbed, not even bothering to question how Alice knew so convincing and authriotive was her voice. Plus he probably already knew anyway.
"What you're going to do is get the money from under her bed, the one she keeps in her suitcase stuffed into tights. And you're going to leave her. Now. No waiting no fuss."
"where will I go?" he said weakly.
"your parents, until you find your feet" then you get a new job and start your life over."
"I don't know…"
"Do you love her" asked Rob, in a rare moment of insight.
He looked down at his feet. His silence spoke volumes.
"Well" said Alice.
2I don't know…."
2Then you get everything you deserve" she sat up. 2Come on paul, Robert. We're wasting our time."
Me and Rob looked at each other shocked. We followed her lead though.
"You know what to do. You've heard our advice. You know it to be true. I won't waste another second on the likes of you when there are so many other souls to save" she walked past the couch and reached the livingtoon door whe nshe stopped.
2You know, you Archibald Adams and all the other Archibald Adams of the world. You deserve your Nora's. You deserve each other."
He stood up s sharoply it was like watching a jack in the box.
He froze, glass in hand shaking with rage or frustration. Then he hurled the glass through the newly replaced window pane, leaving a jagged hole with cracks running away from it like a spiders web.
"I may, be apushover, a drunk, a quiter, a layabout, a general worthless bum, but nobody, NOBODY deserves to live with that bitch, especially not the Archie j Adams of this world!"
is eyes were hot and watery looking.
"Exactly1" said Alice, walking quickly towrds him, taking his arm, "She doesn't deserve you and you certainly don't need her. You do still have the fire in you, it was just extinguished for a while, but never fully out. Now, while you've still got your rage, leave. Get the money and leave."
"I will!" and he raced of up the stairs.
Me and Rob stood with our mouths open.
"Did you know he was goind to do that?" asked Rob, looking at the window and smashed glass.
"I knew he needed a push, something to trigger it. I was jus the spark."
2I've never seen him act like that before"
2Perhaps you never said what he wanted to hear then."
And I wondered, if inviting me home to his house, seeing the state of his life, if he wanted me to shake my head in disgust, to tell him what he already knew. Perhaps I wasn't quite the good friend I had made myself out to be.
Archie came back down the stairs, a hastily packed suitcase amd bag with him.
"That was quick" I said
"The suitcase has been packed for a while. This" he said, patting the bag, "This is our, my, savings."
"Alright then, shall we go" said Rob.
"Just one last thing. Boys, and girl, all that you see ub thi shouse belongs to me. I paid for everything, the hopuse is in my name as is the insurance policy. I, basically own everything in here"
He walked over to the cupboard and pulled out some tools, hammers, large mallets. He held them out in front of him. "And I want you 3 to help me destroy all this."
We looked at him.
2Atre you sure?" said Rob
"no, I'm not. I can't say how I'll feel about it in the future. But right now this is what I want to do. This was prt of my old life. And call me bitter, but I don't want to leave it for her. Join in if you want."
And with that he dropped the other tools on the ground aoart from th ehammer, waled up the the wall unit and started smashing crockery of the shelves on the the floor. Th eplates smashed with a satisfying crack. He started beating at the wooden uniyt until splinters started flying of the straucture. The top shelf started to cave slightly, then brokje with a herty snap. The middle shelf broke much more easire and the plates spilled of to be stamped beneath his feet.
He didn't even bother with the hammer for the bottom one. Just started booting it with his boots until it too broke and splintered. Finally he stopped looking at the mess he had created. The unit looked as if 20 hungry pit bulls had been set loose on it. Crockery dust drifted round the ruined stricture from the plates. The he gave it one hefty boot an dthe whole unit fell on it’s side, finally breaking apart into a collection of smashed fire wood.
It fell with an almighty bang.
He turned round his eyes with a slightly wild anything goes look. He started eyeing up the television , the stereo, the couch, but helook left his eyes and he dropped the mallet.
"That…that felt good."
He walked round thecarnage and out the front door. We followed behind.
"Shouldn't youleave a note."
He pointed his thumb at the mess inside. "I think she'll get the message"
"What about the door?"
"Leave it open he said, walking through the garden and not looking back. "If anyone wants to nick anything, let them. Its' all shite anyway."
Wewalkled ont onto the street and Rob called for a taxi using the ususal number.
Meghbours peeked out of windows at the commotion from the house and Atrchie cheerful waved at them.
He reached into the bag and took out a bottle of whiskey. He opene the lid and was bout to take a sip, when he stopped, put the lid on and laid it gebtly next to the sagging garden gate.
"Archie Adamson" are you giving up the drink? You really are a new man."
2Get a grip of yourself Paul. Nora's going to want a drink whe nshe finds out that I've left, so I'm giving her this bottle, the last thing she will ever get freely from me." He shook his head at me. "give up the drink. You must be getting soft in the head paul."
I couldn't help[ but smile.
The taxo screeched round the corner, and came barrelling down the road. Th egut was convinced that we were his retirement plan.
"hget in my frioends, get in. where to? Somewheer far away?please? London? P[aris?" his face had a pleading look, desperate for that big fare.
"I', afraid not. Only as far as Milingavie.
Ron frowned. Isn't that where Karen lives"
"yes it is. Its' time I told her the truth."
Archie, who had gotten in the cab as well, pulled another bottle out of his bag. He offered the top of the bottle. 2Drink?" he said to me.
"I took a large swalow and we drove off
Karens parents lived in Milingave and were relatively well off. Her father was a pilot, her mother an eye doctor. As a result they were very rarely at home, which suited both partys down to the ground since they couldn't stand the sight of each other.
Therefore, thouh they bought Karen her own flat for her 21st birthday, she actually spent more time at her parents house unless they were there. Which was very rarely indeed.
Which is why we pulled up outside Karens parents house, expecting to find a bedroom light on or possibly the living rooms one.
What I found was every light on, windows open, the garage door half shut, and the back porch light fully on, blazing like a spotlight.
Archie, who had chucked his case in his parents house along with the money, then ran back out again like a teenager with no explanation had decided to join us for the rest of the night. We, that is me, Rob and Alice had silently decided not to tell him wha twas really going on and how I would be dead by tomorrow sunrise. Far too lomg to explain and convince him.
We got out the taxi, and again Alice gave the driver the most absurdly huge tip.
"Do you want me to wait?I can wait. No problems."
"no, that’s' fine Ronald. If we need you, we will call. You"
"just me remember. No one else. Day or night. No one else."
"yes just you."
"okay" he looked back at us, a nervous look on his face, watching his meal ticket walking away from him. The n he drove of, very slowly, watching for any kind of hand gesture that might alert him we had changed our mind.
2What are we going to do about that guy" I whispered so Archie wouldn't hear. Him and Rob werer looking at Karens parents housem drinking whiskey and admiring the size of it.
"What canwe do? The monet will dissapear no matter what I do."
2canb't you, I don't know, bend the rules sligtly."
"I can't ' bend' the rules. I have to obey them."
"Seems to me you only obey the ones you agree with."
She gave me a funy look, but I walked off befire she could say anything back.
We walked up to Rob and Archie.
2it’s some house Paul!" said Archie excitedly.
"yes…" I didn't know what to say, 2it's very…big"
And it was. £ floors, 6 rooms, a living room, a dining room, 3 toilets, numedrous cupbpards and an attice that could and would no doubt be converted in the future.
Not that I had seen any of this. Sinec I had never actually been inside it. Karen had adopted the policy that It was better that I never meet her parents. Ever.
I asjed why and she said they simply wouldn't lioke me.
How do you know.
I jsu tknow.
You don'y know.
I do know.
How do you know then.
I just know.
These were the sort of logocal and entertaining discussions that I could be expected to look forward too in our old age.
Once, whem we were in the early stages of dating and marriage seemed a possibility, I enquired how she would hide me from her parents in the church.
She said she would hier an actor to paly my role in thewedding, though obviously she would be married to me and not the hired actor. Even now, I'm stil not sure if she was joking or not.
" come on we had better get inside quickly before the neigbours think we're casing the joint" we walked up the large wood varnised door and rang the bell.
There was a sound of someone running up the stairs, clearly away from the door.
I waited a minute before ring the beel again, this time chapping the knowcker as well.
I smiled at my group, 2shes' probably just putting on make up"
They nodded their heads. It occurred to me that maybe her parents were both home. Maybe at the same time. Maybe even having their yearly sex session. I always privately suspected that her father wopre his airplane captains hat in bed. Or maybe I was sligtly perverse.
"Give us a drink." Rob muttered to Archie.
2Away, you've had ebough" whispered back Arcie.
"I've had ebough?! You've drank half the bottle!"
"it's my bloody bottle to drink out of"
"Shut it the pair of you." I said. Something strange was going on. No one had answered the door yet. "Rob, gheck the drive way to see if theres any cars there"
he wanderedof, still muttering about drink.
2No he shouted, so loud I think hald the street heard him, "only a merc"
That was karens car. And her parents weren't here so they definitly weren't home. Perhaps she was in with another man? Surely not. But you never knew. And she had been acting odd recently.
I knocked the door hardr and rand the bel as well.
"alright1"a voic epractically screamed from inside. Even though it was high pitched, irecognised it as karens.
She hastily came down the staiors, seeming to stimble at one poimnt. She sounded qute emotional. Maybe someone had died? Maybe it was the way I had treated her recently, especially with her thinking that something was going on with Alice. Not that I wouldn't go wth alice, because undeniably she was very attractive. I wondered if she scould read minds. Too late now. I turned to look at her and she smiled back, but her eyes danced in a playful way.
I turned back to the door, blu=shing slightly. If you're in my head, I thought, get out. Out, out. There she should be gone now. But what if she wasn't. how would I know. Thiswas stupid. I felt nuts for even thinking these thouights. But then coming back to life after dying was pretty nut s as well.
Karen finally reached the door, undid varius bolts, cains and locks. It took a fully 20 second sfor every security measuse to be undone. She goes Fort Knox ob the door and leaves windows and the Garage open. Something wasn't right.
She opened it a crack and saw Rob first.
2Rob, hi, what do you want" she said quickly. Her nose and eyes looked red as if she had been crying.
He nodded to his right, at me.
She opend the door open a litle further and poj=ke her head out slightly.
She aw me for te first time since she opend the door and her eyes bulged.
Her whole face sort of went through a sytrange transformation. At first as shock, then disbelief, then shock, the anger, then joy, the shock, then startled, then shock, maybe surprisement, then finally another variation of shock.
We watched this remarklable acting tour de force. If she had wanted a part in a film and wanted to show of her ranfe of emotions I would have hirde her in a seciond. Well, only if you wanted your actress yto look shocked.
2hi" I ai, holding my hand up and giving it a little wave.
"AAARGGGHHHHMMYGGGOODDARGH!!!" she screamed and ran away from the door, up the stairs as fast as her legs would go and roundthe vcorner. Weheard her bedroom door close shut with a thump and more lock being engaged.
Her from door swung inwards, banging gently against the wall.
"Do you always have this effect on woman Paul?" asked Archie
"Usually" replied Rob.
"And I was aking him for advice on relationships" saidArchie, and took a swig of whiskey.
We entered the house and closed the dor quickly before anymore neighbours were disturbed and think there was a murder going on.
The house was incredibly disheveled looking. I couldmn't belive that her parents had left it in this state.
Large muddt footsteps were imprinted in the livingroom carpet. Tools and spades were lying on dining tables, clods of grass still on the ends of them. In the middle of the kitchen stretched across the floor was a large plastic taurpaulin, with more dirt and grass on it. Kitchen drwers wereleft open and most of the windows were as well.
We walked through the rooms, baffled.
"Do you think there was a burglary?" asked Rob.
"No, nothing seems to have been stolen" said Alice, looking around. "The place is just..very messy."
We stood in the middle of the carnage staring around. Then I noticed that everyone was staring at me. "What?" I asked defensively.
Archie nodded at the stairs, leading to Karens room.
I made a face like I'd eaten bitter. "Wel, maybe I'd better give her more time, you know, get her composure back."
They stared back at me.
Alrihgt, alright, I'll go up and check on her"
Slowly I plodded away, stepping over puddles and large divots of mud, until I reached the stairs.
I took a deep breath. I knew this was going to be hard, but I truly didn't think it would be this difficult. But then, there isn't an easy way to tell your girlfriend that you want to break up. I could have taken the easy way out after all. I'm going to be dead tomorrow, so I could easily have avoided her until then, just le ther think that I was the faithful boyfriend, for ever devoted.
But that wouldn't be right. And though I don't think she would be forced to go into a convent to keep her self true to me until she too died, it would be unnecessary for her to wonder if she should have said anything before I left. In a way, I kind of hoped she was in bed with someone else. Then I could be the indignant one, take the high ground and say, you girl hath betrayed out love for the last time and taken out my 18th century pistol and challenged the blighter to a duel at sunrise.
Nut I knew she wouldn't. she simply wouldn't. So once again, I have to be the shit, the bad guy.
I walked up the stairs slowly, noticing that not a single one of thgem creaked. Surely a sign of an expensive and well maintained house.
I reached the top and saw that there were 10 doors, all closed. The nit occurred to me that I had no idea which room was her's.
I decided rather tah ncall out, trial and error would be better so I went to the first door and opend it.
This was clearly her parents bedroom and was rather kinky looking. A huge mirror was on the ceiling above the black leather water bed. The image of her father wearing a pilots cap came back to me and I shuddered involuntary.
Hastily closing it I moved on to the nest doors. A cupboard that ran so far back, it probably constained mnore floor space than my living room, a bathroom with giant toilet, another, smaller nathroom, with a bidet, and finally a locked door.
I chapped lightly on the door. 2karen?" I said softly.
A whimper came for the other side.
"Karen, what's up? You can tell me, honestly, I'm here for you." What was I saying? You can't say that with the girl you're about to break up with.
"Go away! You don't exist1"
this was becoming strange. She was angry at me? What had I done? Surely that fight yesterday morning couldn't still be upsetting her? "Karen, ket me in. We need to talk."
"No! go away!"
"Karen it's very important I speak to you."
"Go away!" she screamed, "You can't be here1"
"For christs sake, are you still angry about that fight we had?"
"Go away!you're dead!"
"Look, just let -" Wait a minute. Did she just say I was dead?
"wait a minute. Did you just say I was dead?"
"You are dead!" she said in a victorious, if slightly crazed voice. "exactly. You are dead. Now go away!"
Karen, I am plainly not dead since I'm having a bizarre conversation with you behind your bedroom door. Let me in."
"No! Go away!" I was beginning to think that io was talking to a robot Karen that only had 3 phrases which could be mixed and matched to create 10 sentances. The problem with toys like that was they sentances never made semse. If the cudly bear said, I'm hoing for a picnic, the nfair enough. But then it would say, I'mpicnince hoping going buy my brother from your local retali store. All as con.
I turned my attention back to Karen. 2I'm not leaving 'til you see me."
"No! Go away! You're dead1"
"yeah, yeah" isaid, turning away and walking back down the stairs. The group were in the kitchen now and tidying yup the place slightly. All thewindows weer shut now, so at leas tno one could have heard her mad screams.
"So how did it go?" askd alice
"did you not haer the one way madness."
"Now trhat's uinfair Paul"said archie, "you don't know what the girls been through."
"yteahm I know, but the weird thing was that she kept on sayog that I was dead."
"Ah" said Rob. Him and Alice exchange da look.
"Alice looked at Archie. "Litened she said, purtting a hand on his shoulder, 2You're probably the best ut of all of us when it come sto dealing with angry and confused women."
"20 years practice, man and boy2 he said propudly, like a surfer showing of the stub where his leg got bitten of by a shark.
"Why don't you go up and try and talk to her. Calm her down, maybe get her to copme down."
2oh, I don't know, she seems awful emotional.2
2exactly, and you know hiw to deal with that, you're the best ewuiped out of all us"
"Wel, maybe you're right. Though I' dbetter take another rbottle of whuiskey up in case she wants a drink."
Alice nodded, and afer rummaging about in his bag for the cheapest bottle of whiskey and giving Rob a warning glare of hands off, he wandered up the stairs.
"Okay, what's goig on here?" I said, taking Archies still warm seat.
Rob looked at Alice, giviong her the go ahead to explain it.
"Well, Paul it seems -"
"we know where the zombie is!" Ro=b blurted out and Alice looked crossly at him.
"Sorry" he said meekly.
"Yes, as I was saying,"giving Rob another look, "we belive we know wher your cadaver went too."
They stayed silent. "Well, where is it? Don't keep me n suspense."
"this is just a theory remember. We will need to check with Karen to confirm this."
"I think that whe nKaren came to your flat, it stirred something in your undead state that caused it to come to life, if only briefly for a short while"
"Yes, maybe your emotions were running so high when you were talking to her, that some sort of link was established with the corpse and it re-animated it."
"you must remember, thisis all new to me as well. This is an umprecedented situation. We think that the undead you, which we will call Paul 2 from now on for simplicitys sake, effectively awoke and walked into the hallway.
It sdaw the gfront door open and walkd out, got in the lift and made straight for Karens car."
"why would it do that?"
"Possiblt subconciuosly you wrer thinking you should go with her, or chase after her. Paul 2 opicked up on that and carried out those desires."
"But wouldn't it try to attack her, tery to…eat her brains.?"
"Let's be clear here. Zombies do not exist, dspite some people persisting with thelabel.
"Hey" said Rob defensively, "Is it dead? yes. Dioes it walk about in a shufling manner? Yer. Ergo, it's a zombie."
"right, so what happened next?"
"We think Paul 2 got into the car somehow and his, maybe in the back."
2Yeak, Karn's lock is broken on her car. I always said to her it would be nicked one day."
"Karen then leaves yor flat, gets in the car and drives here only to find Paul 2 in the back."
"But she thinks paul 2 is you. And so she invites paul 2 in to he rhouse"
"What happens next is speculation. But I belive after they went in, she probably talked to Paul 2 abou the problems she was having with your relationshiop. And the nwhat ever magic was reanimating him left and he was simply a corpse again. "
"You don't think theyt had sex do you?" asked Rob.
"Then, I - what? No, I don'yt think the yhad sex."
"Because that would be realllllt rank if they did."
"Shup up Rob"
"What happened next is that Karen started to panic and possibly started to notice the disheveled look of Paul 2, with parts of yor body missing, etc an dthe general smell."
I was actually a bit ffended that Karen hadn't been instantaneouslly able to tell the f=difference.
"In her paniced state and thefact she had a rather decayiong looking corpse on her hands, ibelive she buried Paul 2 in her back garden."
"Yes, judging by the garden tool, dirt and the alrge open grave in the back green containing Paul 2, I belive it to be an educated guess."
2Tried to bury me!"
"That;s all those soaps mate" sait Rob, 2They'll always bury a body in the back and patio it over before that even think of calling thepolice. Or even check for apulse."
Bloody hell! I need to see this." I walked through the kitchen and opened the pation door. It squeaked on it's metal runners and I winced, fearful that the neighbours would be peering at me.
But I needn't have worried. The fence seperating the back property was clearly inspired by germanp prison camps. It must have been 12 feet high and suronund by thick greem pine trees. No worries of anyone seeing anything.
The sun was atually blocked out by the high fences, casting the back green in shadow. Another reminder if I needed one that the day was beginning to end.
I could clearly make out the grave thopugh. In my mind I pictured the classic cemetary hole, perfectly rectangular and 7 foot deep. Not this one. This was like a bonb had gone of. Karen had decided to dig a hole close to the pation, then had a cange of mind and started a new one on the centre of the gardemn. It was a hap hazard semi circle, with mouns of earth freely scattered aaroundit. Vclods of dirt had acciidently smashed through window panes in the greenhouse and stuck ti the fences.
I walked over, carefully avoiding the first poorly thought out hole. As I approached the lip I began to sweat and get a sickly feeling.
It wasn't as I f I hadn't seen the corpse before. But that was when I thought I had a good chance of getting King and getting my life back. Now I was doomed to die tomorrow morning and what I saw in that hole would be me, roughly 9 hours from now.
I stepped up an dlooked in. We mus thave disturbed her whuile she was filling the grave back up. My upper torso and face were hidden and I was thanlful for that small mercy. But my lower half was still sticking out of the dirt, my legs askew and one lying practiaclly out of the hole. Ther was my foot, minus my toe which a rat had enjoyed and hopefully choked on.
So thisws how I ws going to look whe I was gone. No fancy funeral, no cruise boat or viking ship. Just lying half in, half out of a poorly dug hole. It wasn't even deep eniugh to hold a dogs bone, let alone a body. A good heavy shower and I would end coming back up to the surfce, floating aroud on the back lawn like a morbid bath toy.
I didn't eve nknow if that was my bofy. When my time ran out, would this body dissapear? Would my soul go to that body, or would I b trapped in this one. That was a scary thought. Being embalmed or cut oen while I was still concious but unable to do anything. I shivered and tried to expel such thoughts out of my head.
Perhaps they woyuldhave to hold twp funeral one for me , and one for my post death fuck up body. I got angry and started kicked a clod of dirt awa yin fristration. I sailed in a clean arc and went straight through another glass of the green house.
I sighed and walked back to the kitchen.
Rob and Alice were still sitting there, and then I notice Karen and Archie, his arm round her shoulders in a comforting gesture. They actually looked a good coulple, tough he was 20 years her senior and drank more alchahol in year than a fish did water.
"hi" I said, in a de ja vu moment.
She started crying them ran up to me and hugged me tightly. I patte dher back in a hopefully comfortig, yet non comittal gesture. Then she slapped me clean across the face. "That's for putting me through this ordeal1"
She stared crying again hugging me again, before kissing me full on the lips.
There ws silence in the kitchen as the group lloked away or at the floor while we kissed.
"Anyone want a drink?" asked Archie.
2Yes" we al said at once and suddenly we all broke into laughter, even karemn who still looked a bit bemused.
we were sitting down in the living room, drinking karens fathers brandy from thick crystal tumblers. We were sitting on the couch and she was holding onto my free hand, Rob and Archie were on the other couch and Alice had taken the big armchiar, or the captains chair as I liked to call the best seat in any house.
Archie had managed to talk her out of her room and that was a small miracle in itself. He would have ben an excellent hostage negotiator, though he's probably end up having to break of every 10 minute sto buy more beers from a local off licence. Still, I wasn't able to talk her out of her room, so he must have done something right.
Apparently he told her that yes, Paul was alive and yes, he knows there's a strange body that looks like Paul, but everything will be eplained. He confided in me before we went in to theliving room, that he didn't know wjhat she was talkkig about, but his years with Nora had taught him never disagrree with an angry woman. Sound advice.
"So" started Alice, "you probably want an explanation of what's going on here."
She nodded and I notice Archie nodding as well.
2You see, there's been a terrible misunderstanding"
Karen nodded and squeezed my hand. I gave 3the slightest of squeezes back,, how could I break up with her right now?
"What happened is…" and here her face tookj on a pecuiler look, like she was going to say or taste something that shge had no option but to say, simply because there was no better alternative. I also noticed Rob, nodding his head uop and down furiously andi knew that what ever was going to come out of her lips had been formulated in his head, which by default meant that this explanation was going to be as realsitic as the Loch Ness monster piloring a UFO.
She cougheed. 2What happened is…that Robert, "she acknowledged him with a nod, "is working on a new film as as pecial effects srudent."
"Special effects Supervisor" he butted in
"the film is a horror called Zombie High2
2Zombie High 4: the college years, to give it the full title"
2Thank you Robert" said Alice sternly.
2Oh yeah, I think I;ve seen the first 2" said Arcgie.
Rob and Alice exchanged a look that said, how the hell can he have seen them if we jus tmade up a franchise.
2Did you do the effects in the first film?"
"er, yeah, yes, I did."
2yeaj, a bit shoddy looking I thought. Not very beliveable. Bllood looked fake."
"Now, look, I -"
"getting back to the item at hand" Alice said loudly, "For the film Robert is working on, he had to create an animitronic Zombie, that would speak and walk around."
Karen nodded, as was Rob.
2As a small joke, he based the design on paul, and left it in the spare room to scare him. Unfortunately, some of the wiring went a little haywire and the dummy robot ended up walking out of the flat…" here she visibly gritted her teeth, " and by sheer chance, found your car, climbed into it and hid in the back"
I put my free hand to my face and held back my groans.
2And that is what is lying out your back, in the hole." She sat back and T=Rob gave her a subtle thumbs up.
Karen nodded. So was Archie. It was impossible to tell if they belived it or not. I know I thought it was a crock of shit, but hey, that was me.
Katen put down he rdrionk. 2It actually all makes sense."
"it does?" sad rob.
"Yes. When I arrived at my parents house, igot the fright of my life whe ni saw Paul, or the dummy I thougt wa Paul." She squeezed my hand. "I tought he looked a little unwell. But I invited him in and had a cup of tea and a good talk with him. It I mean"
2Oh?" I said.
"Nothmng I want to talk about just now. Then all of a sudden the dummy, right in the middle of my comnversation, keeled over and land ed right in the cats dinner. The thing is, just before it, he said "jesus, that's one big fucking rat".
Riob shrugged. "it's a comedy. When you read it in context, it's funny" "Well, I went to feel fopr pauls pulse and when ther wasn't one, I freaked out.
I was going to phone an ambulance, but then paul ,the dummy got up and started walking around. I rushed back in again and aked him how he felt. Bu the tuirned round and stated saying 'Brains, mus thave brains'. He looked really scary."
Rob looked at alice with a 'I knew it, I knew zombies existed' look.
She looked back with a 'shut it or I'll kick you imn the balls' look
I lloked at Karen with a 'jesus, you were mnearly eaten by a zombie and you don't even know' look.
"it was really good design work Rob, though I think I wigjht have ruined it slightly."
"Thanks. But, what do you mean ruined it?"
2Well, I got really frightemed so I ran away and grabbed the first thng I could find, which was ths spage that was lying in the cupboard. The dummy followed my into the hall and I was really, really scar4d. I mean, I thopught I was in a horror film.
So I got my spade and whacked the dummy right on the side of the head."
I winced. Thisi was my body that we were talking about. I hoped that if I did make it back to heaven, the state of your physical body wasn't carried over.
2What happened then hen?" siad Archie.
"Thewhole jhead came off in one go and went flying through into the livingroom fire place.
"Me and Rob both groaned.
"I'm sorry, but I really didn't know it was a special effect.2
2it's okay, really." Said Rob. "So, the nyou buried it?"
"We first I had to retriebcet he head as it was on fire."
2On fire1" I nearly shouted, letting go of her hand.
2Yes, we've got a coal fire. She pointed at the fire in the wall. We all turned round and looked at the vast archwaym and the size of the actual grill where flames shot up rpund fake coal. Tou could cook a full cow on a spit it ws so big.
"the fire wsas on full burst because it’s on a timer, so I had to find the switch to turn that off, wthe ni had to puit out the actual flames of the head so it took a while."
2how badly burned is it?2 I asked, know ing the answer.
2There's not much skin left and it's very, very bklackenned. I think all the teeth are still there."
Well that was that as far as getting my body back, if in some great turn around I found King an was transported back to my body. Wopuld I die instantly? Or would I be forced to walk around with my head under my arm, like all those medival ghosts that wander around castles in kids films.
"Carry on" saud Alice
"Well, I was quite freaked by the whole experience. It's not everyday your boyfriend (and I involuntryally winced at that) turns into a zombie and trys to eat you. And I really didn't want to cal the ambulance or poilce. So I thought the best option was to bury the body. And try to forget the whole experience."
"Which was where we came in" I said.
2yes, I was in the middle of digging the second hole when the door went and I saw you"
2Hence your paniced state" said Rob.
2So wha twas wrond with the first hole" said Archie, still playing catch up.
"That's where the head is being buried."
we sat there , drinking brandy and lost in our own thoughts. For myself, I was thinking that no way could I break up with this girl now after mentally scarring her for life.
"Dioe anyone want another drin, then?" said Archie
2Yes" was te inified cry
"I'll go to my bag and get some whiskey. Thios Brandys not really my cup of tea"
Karen got up. "no don't use yours. I'm faily sure my mother keeps abottle under the kitchen sink. "
"are you sure? I don't want to be stealing now?"
2its' not stealing if I'm giving it to you archibald."
"Just archie, hen. Just archie"
"Ok. Archie" she said with a smile. And the went through to the kitchen. They semed to be getting on like a house ob fire. As soon as they had turned the corner me, Alice and rob started whispering furiously.
"A fucking zombie!" said Rob, "I knew It"
"it's not a fucking zombe, as you so elequently put it Robert. It's…an anomaly"
I lloed at Rob. 2What was all that shite about working on a movie?she knows you work in the supermarket stacking shelfs for christssake.1"
"Hey, she belived it didn't she?"
"Only because she wanted to I thionk.2 I lloekd at Alice., 2I can't belive you went along with that story."
"It was the best we could come up with at short notice." She said defensively. 2What were you intending to do Paul. Tell her the truth?"
2No, but surely there could have been a better excuse than that."
"You think of one then" said Rob, getting slightly cheesed of at the abuse his tale was getting.
I paused. 2that's not fair. You're putting me on the spot."
2Well so were we" said Alice. 2now stop complining paul. Everythings worked out allrioght.2
I spluttered out my brandy onto the carpet. 2worked out all right?! My head is missing from ny body, has a large spade shaped dunt in it and is apparently deep fried. You call that all right?"
"Relatively speaking I mean."
"well I'm not a happy bunny, I can tell you that much."
Archie and Karen came back into the room and we put on a collection of smiles so plastic and seethrough that we could have been presenting a shopping channel.
"Ehm Rob?" said archie.
2What? And I'm telling you, if this is about stealing your booze, I never touched it."
"no, not that. Your wee special effect seems to be up and a bout again."
2What1" we all said in unison.
2Yes" said karen, "maybe you should come and take a look.
E walkled through to the kitchen and looked out the pation windows. The sun was totall bolocked out by hopuses and trees now but, unlike the night befire there ws no clear sky or stars. Clouds had started piling up like waves on a surf and were distinctly black looking.
But even in the poor light we could all see me headless body staggering around he back yard. It wpuld walk a few feet, stop and bend down and search with it’s hands for something, then right itself and repeat the move eslewhere.
"It's looking for it's head" Rob said in a sickly voice.
Only Karen and Archie were watching the show with l;arge grins on there face.
2I've got to hand it to you Rob" said Archie, "That's great robotics. Very realsitic body movements. You should apply for yon Robot wars."
2Yes, it's very inventive. Jus tlike something from America. How much did it cost you to build."
"Oh suprisingly litle, finnily enough"
Me and rob lookd at Alice, but she was in her 'zone' mode talking to the caretaker and letting them know what was going on.
And I couldn't helop thinking to myself, so that's what I would like if I was zombie in a film. I was quite impressed with myself, considering it was my first ever zombie part.
The body bumped intp the fence, started feeling the woodwork and sidling along the wall.
"Could be a bit dangerous id it walked out onto the street or road though, eh?" said Archie.
2Yes, and you'd need to make sure children didn't see it"
We were both still looking at Alice when her face suddenly came to life.
Sge gave us a nod and a look that said 'I know what to do, I'll deal with this."
"okay, well I think we should shut down your robot, Robert."
2Cyborg. It's a cyborg. Half robot/half human."
2Whatever. I think it's time to pull the plug. Rob?"
"could you get the taurpaul;imn that we saw in the dining room"
"got it" and he scampered off.
"Archie and kate, I'd like you two to stay in the living room. It could be dangerous and I don't want anything flying off and hitting anyone on the head."
I thought Karen might object to being ordered about in her own home but she and archie were out the door practically before Alice fionished her sentence.
2What about me?"
"you're going to hold him while I shut him down."
"Will it take long? The spell?"
"No, but it's complictaed, but all you have to do is grab him."
Rob appeared with the plastic see through sheeet, leaving a trail of dirt and grime on the carpet and just barelly avoiding knocking things over.
2okay" said Alice, "you wait in here. When you see us give the signal, you come out with the taurpalin and we'll wrap up the body."
"what happens if it come's alive again?" he asked.
"trust me. It won't"
"that's what you said thelast time." He muttered under his breath but if she heard she didn't say anything.
"Ready?" she saud to me.
2As I'll ever be when you're about to kill your own headless corpse."
She opened the patio door slowly so as to avoid the metal squeaking and silently slipped out into the backgreen. I followed closely behind, my eyes glued to the walking corpse.
"Okay" she said in a quiet voice, "I want you to grab Paul 2 from behind. Try and pin his arms to his side."
"is he strong? Like, supernaturallly, strong?"
"probably. But so are you. Remember?"
I hadn't actually. I kept on mentally dialing down my rather spooky status as not dead, not alive, more my own sanity than anything.
"I'll distact him and you can sneak up on him."
"Wait, I -" but she was already gone, walking slowly and calmly to the right of the green.
I set out to walk to the extreme left when I noticesd earth being displaced from the first hole Karen dug. I looked closer and saw my head, gnawing away at earth and trying to free itself. I caught a glipse of blackened skin and paerl white teeth jawing away furiously and shivered. I hate dto do it, but I carefully but my shoe on the forehead and pushed it back in the earth. The jaws seemed to click away faster and I would be genuinely worried if the teeth gor ahold of my toes.
I pushed deeper, twisteing my foot to help screw the head in deeper, then walked away from it.
The body was in the middkle of the garden, but noticablyt closer to the head I had just pushed back under.
I stood where I was, not sure what to do.
Then Alice whistled, a low bass sound. The body instantly turned in her ditrection and started in her direction. His arms were raised in classic hammer horror zombie fashion.
I heard achap a the window and turned to see Rob pointing at the hole where the head was. It had somehow manged to work it's way out quicker than before and half the head was actally sitting out of the hole. There was no features even resembling mine as all the skin was charred black. I thought I detected a smell of burnt meat though.
Unfortunately, Robs kcking had alereted the body and it now turned in his direction.
Alice whistled again and it stopped and swivelled back and forth, unablt to decide where it wanted to go.
Alice made a frantic hand signal pointing at the body so I carefully crept up to it, making sure I was alays behind it and pounced.
I grabbed both hihs arms and pinned them behind his back, but the right came loose and elbowed me in the face. My vison swam for a second before I resaserted in my grip, thighter this time.
Alice walked quickly up to the front of him, and stopped. She semed to be looking for some thing on the bady.
"Hurry up Alice! I can't hold him all day1"
she ignired me, kept looking at variosu parts of the body, mainly concentrating omn the centre. Them, she drew abck her hand, lookinh like she was getting ready to give some one a really good punch.
And punch she did. Her fist came hurtling forward, right in the middle of his chest. Clenched hand punched right through the dirty shirt into his body.
Paul 2 went rigid for a second, then started rocking furiously back and forth. Twice I thought I'd lost my gro, but siomehow managed to keep it firm.
Her hand went deeper and soon her arm up to just below her elbow was inside the body, like a hand in a large jar of sweets.
The biody was shaking even harde now, but just when I thought I'd totally lost my grip, she pulled her hand out triumphantly, priducing an organ dripping with blood so darjk it could be black.
The body seized up, twitching a little before falling limp in my hands. I held onto him, in case it was a ruse or something but alice indicated to drop him.
My girge was rising as I saw blood run down her arm as she held up the heart and whispered words that I couldn't quite catch, but made me nervous.
The organ seemed to glow slightly, though that could have been the last of the light catching it, then it was just dark, dripping blood onto the body and grass.
Alice dropped th ehraet on the played body and looked at me. "It's done."
I stared at her arm, so dark in contrst to he white skin that it could be a glove she was wearing.
She turned and signaled on Rob to come out. He duly did, white faced. I wondered how much he had seen of that and suspected everything.
2You twp put the body and head in the taurpaulin while I get cleansed"
She walked away before either of us could say anuthing."
"Dude" sauid Rob, "that was brutal."
"hey, I was right here" I said helping him to spread the taurpaulin on the grass." And don't forget, that's my heart. I'm well and truly fucked now if I ever did get back into my body."
We picked up the body, carefully so the heart wouldn't roll of it. Neither of us wanted to pick it up.
I nooded a the head, whicjh ahd thankfully stopped moving at the same time as the body. 2Get the head would you?"
"Fuck off. You can touch your own goddamn creepy head"
"It's not alive anymore. It's just a head."
"Yeah, you're gonna win meover with the argument that because the head isn't chatterinf away, I'm perfectlt okay with severed noggins. I repeat, you pick up your goddamn head."
2Fine". I got up and went over. It really did look horrible, all black and melted with dirt and god knows what ground into it. And the smell was still coming from it, of burnt bacon.
I put my hands down tenderly and carefully got my fingertips on the sides of what I presumed was the cheeks.
Then I tugged and pulle dthe head out of the hole. Skin began to slough slightly inder my grip and I gagged slightly before hurrying to the body and dumping it next to it. Blackened skin was stuck ti my fingers after I dropped it and I hastily wiped it ob the the grass, macking retching noisres in my throat.
We hastily wrapped up the body and once it had been rolled up a good few times I sytarted to feel better.
Alice walked out, now free from any blood with Karen and Archie.
"So it's turned off now?2 said Karen.
She ws lookig at Rob as she said it and he nodded.
"So what are we going to do with it.?" Asked archie.
2Well I think Roberts got to bring it back to hios home, to havce a look at it and find out what happened with it."
"Er, yeah, faulyy wiring or something."
"Could somebodyt help me fill in these hole's though" asked karen
"No bother hen. Me, Rob and Paul will happily do it for you." He went back into the house and carried out 2 spades and a plastic sort of pooper scooper. He handed the meteal spade to Rob, and the green plastic thing to me.
2Sorry paul, there was only two spades. It's just as good though. Come on." Alice and Karen went back inside while we heaved the dirt back into the holes. They wern't very deep, but even after we had fattened out the dir and wade them even, you could plinly tell that there was two large patched with no grass on the immaculate lawn.
"She can say q dog came in and dug it up." Said Rob.
"Pretty big hole for one dog" I said.
2Lets make it a pack then" said Archie.
I didn't really care by this point. It had been a long day and I was feeling tired now, not to mention a little depressed.
We staggered back into the kitche to find cups of tea and coffee waiting for us.
2the least I could do" said Karen and gave me a small kiss.
I nfelt like saying it was the least you could do, considering you were the one who dug the bloody things and was planning on using me as fertilizer to grow roses, but again who cared. I was past caring.
We sat in silence and drank our tea.
2your parents rich Karen?" asked Archie
"well, they're well off. Why?"
2the biscuits. Choclate hobnobs. Usually I' dsave them for close family. But if you're giving them out to strangers, then it's a sure sign of wealth."
He nodded wisely and grabbed another biscuit quickly in case she decided to take his advice and give us crackers instead.
It was decided that calling a taxi would have been a bad idea since eben the most understanding of drivers would probably blaunch at the idea of putting a body in the trunk.
Thankfully, Karen was happy to stick around with is and offered the services of her Mercedes.
So, after tidying up the house and making sure windows and doors were secured we went to fetch the body.
It was something of a surprise to find it still lying there, motionless. Too many horror sequels had made me very wary of scary things being 100% dead.
Karen was in her car and had driven it as close to the front door as feasible. At the end of the day, if neighv=bours wanted to snoop they would snoop and there was nothing that could be done about it.
Th ecoulds that were opiling up had now dominated the skyline, blocking out any sunlight or stars.
2So much for my last sunset" I muttered to myself.
Slight dtos of rain were falling, almost untoicebale but they made te taurpaulin slightly greasy to hold.
Me and Rob got the back end, while Alice and Archie took the front. We akwardly carried it through the pation doors and the kitchen, struggled a bit round the bend at the hallway then reached the front door.
The head was clearkly noticeable as a large lump in the otherwise smooth body shape.
Keran had the boot open and after a couple of practice swings, we threw it into the trunk. The front end went in smoothely, but the feet hit the side if the car and nearly spilled out before we rushed in to press and squeze it in the boot.
Karen tried to close the boot and it wouldn't shut, so we pushed and mauled the bodt like putty until it ws fairley wedged in. the boot closed this time with a slam and didn't bounce open.
Karen wnt to look the back door while we washed our hands. Then we departed, with a decaopted heart;ess body in the boot.
Alice sat up front with Karen, while me, Rob and Archie sat in the back. Th erain ws coming down harder now, leaving fat dropplets of water exploding on the windowscreen and roof.
By the time we reached my and Robs flat, the raion was torrential, bounding of every surface iyt could find. Inside the car the sound waas deafening, a machine gun burst that never ended. It was however perfect weather to bring the body up to the flat as most people were rushing to get inside and couldn't see beyond 3 feet anyway.
We goot out te car and were instantly soaked. Karen popped the boot and we struggle to get the body out, Th eproblem was we had wedged it in so tightly that we were having to really pull to get any sort of movement. The rain was making metters harder as it was imposible to get a good purchase on the slick plastic.
Alice ended up subtely using her magic or simple strength to get the body half out. We all heard a few bones in the body giving a sickening crack as she firced the body into an unnatural shape.
"I hope we didn't break it1" shouted Archie over the rain. His glasses were like minuture waterfalls as te rain cascaded down.
"Nah!" shouted rob, his t-shirt stick9ng to him like it was painted on, "It'll be allright1"
We levered the body out and as quickly as we could ran to the falt ebtrance and some shelter. Rob usesd his keys to open the door and we rushed in to a welcome blast of heat.
Getting the body up the stairs was probably the hardest part of the exercise. The elevator was still out of action, so we had to manhandle the body, which by now was soaking wet, ass well a sthe pastic taurpaulin beginning to tear.
At every step it seemed ready to slip out of our collective grasp and rattle down the stairwell like some extreme bobsleighing event.
Though I was sure the body was definitly this time 'dead', it seemed almost wilful in it's reluctance ti turn corners or bend out of shape so everybody had to rearrange their grip.
Finally though, we made it to or door and we used it almost as a ramming rod once Rob had turned the key to unlock the door to push it open and thow it on the floor.
Rob closed the door behind us.
2Well that went well.2 said Karen., who hadn't actually carried anything since we arrived at her door.
Everyboy looked at her blankly before we picked up the body and caried it to the spare bedroom and hurled it in on to the floor. Here was a large thump and another crack of bones snapping but nobody cared by this point.
We shut the door and staggered through to the living room.
2Thank god that's over1" said Rob
It occurred to me that the corpse would still be there in the morning, but I didn't want to be the depessing realis tone of the group and left it alone.
"Any drink?" askd Archie.
I pointed at the kitchen.
"Any towles?" asked Karen.
I pointed at the cupboard.
When they left the room, Alice waved her hand and we were instantly dry again. Rob gave a lazy thumbs up but any novelty value of Alices strange powers had long since worn off.
Archie and Karen came back in at the same time, him with a tray and glasses of whiskey, her with a pile of towels.
She handed them out to us wand we made a quick show of pretending to dry ourselves, though it was plain to see we didn'y have a drop on moisture on us. Even my eyes felt dry. Karen looked at us suspiciously but didn't say anything.
Archie handed out the drinks. 2Cheers" he said.
We all echoed the gesture and took a sip. Outside the rain xcame down in sheets, a rythmic tattoo on the windows.
I loked at the clock and saw it was 10 minutes to midnight. Acording to Alice, I had until sunrise before I would pass on.
Rob noticed the answering machine was blinkig and went over to check hismessages. He hadn't attended work over the entire weekend, so he was probably getting a cherful your fired from the manager.
"So" said Alice looking a t me closely. "How do you feel"
"Fine. A little tired, but fine."
"Have you got a cold sweetheart?" asked Karen as she came over and felt my forehead.
"Er, yeah, just a small one. Listen Karen, we should tal-"
2Bloody hell1" shouted Rob from the hallway.
We turned round as one.
He was writing some thing on a notepad before ripping it off and runnuing through. He had the biggest grin I had ever seen. Nice to know my impending death wasn't depprseing anyone.
"What is it?" aske dArchie. 2Good news?"
"only the best fucking news we've had al weekend!"
Karen frowned at his language.
"That was my pal, my contact from the store."
"The shelf stacker?"
2Yeah, he actuallt came through. We've got the address of Samatha Frost birthday party1"
"Fucking hell1" shouted Archie and downed his drink.
Karen frowned again.
"Robert" said Aslice, 2maybe Paul doesn't want to go to the party since he;'s not feeling so good."
2Yes, he did feel quite hot" added karen.
Rob and Archie loked at me like kids with a toylist who finds santa clause right in front of them.
"Alice, karen, Archie, Rob…we are going to that party if it kills us."
Archie and Rob high fived, then dashed of to get changed.
"Samatha Frost?2 said Karen. "But I can't meet her like this2 she indicated whatr she was wearing."
"Vcome on" said Alice, reluctantly acceptimng that we weren't going to stay in, "I've got some clothes in a suitcase you copuld borrow. I think they'll fit you."
The thing is, I really did feel tired and a little sleepy. But I didn't know if that was jsu tmy mind playing tricks or my bod ystarting to shut down. I gave myself a good slap in the cheek and jumped out my chair.
If this was to be my las tnight on earth I was bloody going to make sure I enjoyed it. I went through to my room to get changed.
Alice had mnaged to kit Karen out in a blue dress shich reache ddown to her heels. Aliec had gone for a strapless short black dress wgich was jet black.
Me and Rob wore tuxes that didn't exist in out wardrobe 2 minutes ago. Alice also had the foresight to create one for Archie and we cliamed it was an old roommates. We looked =in the bedroom mirroe and perhaps wouldn't have passed for 3 Sean connerys, but we weren't george lazenbys either. The only thing that ruined the effect was Archies glasses which he refused to tak off.
"It's amazing how well it fits" said Archie and karen at the same time.
They both laughed then said "Jinx" at the same time. The nthey laughed again and hugged eaxch other.
I looked out the window and saw the darkness and rain come lashing down. " how are we going to get to the car in this downpour with out getting soaked."
"No problem said A;ice and appeared in the living room with 5 enormous umbrellas. Ronb opemed his up and it was like looking at the millenium dome.
"It's amazing how prepared yopu are Alice. I'm never that organised" said karen.
"Years of practice" aid Aslice handing out te rest of the brolleys. That wasn't the opnly think she'd thought of. She'd also ran the address into her small organiser, wgich now resembled a mobile phone, but years ahaed of it's time. It turned out that samantha Frost was indeed javing a partya that address
"Where is the party?" asked Karen the designeated driver .
"you kow wjhere the King mansiomn I, dow nhelensburgh way?"
2I think so."
"Thatr's where it's at."
"Wait aminute? " I said, " The King mansion that we passed couple of dayus ago."
I shook my head and looked at Alice. 2I s someone up there handing out the irony pills to fate?"
"It's strange I know. Do you still want to go."
"More than ever"
We left the flat. I remebered the last time I seen it alive. This was trhe las timei would see it dead.
The rain hadn't eased is the slightest and the odd rumble of thunder overhead wasn't very welcoming either, but we didn't get wet tahnks to our ludicroouslly large umbrellas and Alice doing somesubtle magic to dry us once we were in the car.
Archie sat up front with karen this time as he climed to know a shortcut to the old King mansion. I sat in the back, betweenm Aice and Rob. The clock on the dashboard read 12.45 am and I knew this was my last official day, if you counted living for 6 hours an actuall day. The roads were empty for the most part, as workers went to bed early to try and get some sleep for the early start on Monday morningm the start of another working week. I wondered what I would be thinking right now if this hadn't happened. Probably depressed that I had to wade through another 5 days before I reached the sanctuaryof the weekend. Then I remembered I wouldn't have had a job anyway and felt a little better.
Chill out music p[layed through the radio as we left glasgow behind, crossing the erskine bridge and havin gtaht strange de ja vu effect of being here before. King jumping of the bridge. Alice following. Perhaps I should have jumped as well. What diiference would it have made anyway in the grand scheme of things?
The toll booth had been repaired suprisingly quickly and we had no trouble crossing over and driving down the motorway towards balloch and the start of Loch lomond.
Thunder still rumbled above us and occaisonal lightning bolts streaked across the sky, illuminating the large forrest of trees that surrounded the road.
This was where we got lost slightly. Archie told Karen to pull in at the Lomond Park Hotel and follow a sirt road that would read us right to the back of the mansion. Unfortunately in the pouring rain and darkness, one patch of dirt rpad can loak just likes a dirty field path and so we ended up driving for a mile before Archie admited that we shold have been there by now.
Then Rob suggested that we turn at a 90 degrees right angle and drive parrallel and diagopnaly from the way we just came. Karen tried her nest but with 2 copilots and we chipping in advice we wandered hoplessly of the beaten path. Only Alice said nothing, sitting behind karen with a small smileon her face.
I turned to her." Can't you help us?" I whispered.
Sh shook her head." For all my powers, I don't have a compass. I can say where places are, but that doesn't mean I know how to get there. Especially If I don't know where we are right now."
I groaned and turned back to thefront to see a startled cow running quickly out of yte way as opur headlights illu,minatded it. It mooed in annoyance before wandering off.
2Whare the hell are we?" I asked.
"A field. A cow field, I thnk."
"oh, I hope the cars not going to be muddy."
2not much chance of that with this rain".
The merc crept slowly forward then changed direcion, then again, all of us looking for something, any visible sign.
2Go straight ahead Karen" said Alice in the voice that she used when time was short and she needed results quick. Karen obeyed and drove he car into more darkness.
2Ah2s aid Archie, now-"
"Turn right in 5 secionds" alice siad cutt8mng him off. Her voive sounded dead, artificial. "Then lurn left now. Straight on. And turn right."
The head;ights illuminated trees and we wound ourway through them. Everyything semed to be getting brighter and I twas just our lights.
We turned a long hedhe and there was te mansion.
"Incredible " aid Archie, 2How did you know?"
"she shrugged, "Lucky guess" she leaned into me. 2and that really wasthe last favour I'm getting tonight. The caretaker appreciates your situation, but far to many rules have been broken for our frivalous escapades. Jher face indicted that was his term, not hers.
"It's okay really. We're here now, nad I don't intend to leave unless it's in a bodybag, so no need to contact him again. And thank you."
"For being you. For understanding and helping me. " I squezed her hand and she squeezed back, smiling.
Th eothers were still giving directions, trying to find a parking space.
"byu the wall2 said Archie"
"No, we can get closer than that. Go round the corner."
Rain made the view through the glass murky and wavery, but I could see light streaming out of every window. Decorations were visible through the klarge glass archways. Cars surrounded the builiding like leaves round an oak tree, scattered far and wide. We finally dceided to park on the grass next to a large fontain. The rain had caused the water in the fontains bowl to overfkflow and a small burn was flowing from it down to a drain.
We got out, out umbrellas up before we were clear of te ddorway.
For te first time I could see just how big a place this was. Large turrtets on the roof gave the plaxce a look of a castle, but you could also mistake it for a church from a different angle with the tall steeples. It was a mishmash design, that almost worked in the darkness, but would surely look scizophrenic in daylight. But hen, it's designer was a nut job, so it made sense.
Flags on top of poles werer sodden and lay wet and lifeless. More lightning illuminated clouds above the mansion, gioving it a suitable haunted house look.
There was also a small road system at the frot gate as cars arrived and left at the same time, almost in sycrnised style.
We walked to the front entrance, blending into a large crowd of people walking towrds it.
There didn't seem to be any real security at the door, only a large black bouncer who seemed to have a permanent snarl on his face. Possibly there was more security at the front gates, which we handily bypassed thanks to our unintended drive in the woods.
We walked through the doors without any problems and through a large archway.
To the right a large hall had been set up to accommodate coats and umbrellas. In fact, looking in as we handed out own brolleys in and received a token, I saw a sea of open umbrellas of all different sizes and colours. It reminded me of some controversial modern art piece.
We walked through the next door into the main hall and found ourselves in an arena, a huge cavern with a roof that was only suspected of being there it was so high.
The place was crowdeed and clearly this was the main event room. A famous dj was playing popular music on a raised platform and hald the crowd seemed to be dancing, the others talking. We made our way to the bar and ordered out drinks, which were thankfully free considering Alice had no more money to give.
We stood there, Karen and Alice at my side, while Rob and Archie stood at the bar ordering drink after drink.
There were a lot of famous people milling around, wandering back and forth, drinks in hand, but they didn't seem to be socialising. They seemed to be looking for someone.
Just then, Alices beeper went off and she wandered off to look at it. That left me and Karen alone for the first time in the night and I decided it was time to tell her how I felt about her. That I liked her, as a friend, but I didn't love her.
"Karen." She looked at me. 2how are you?"
"Good. It's a good party, don't you think?"
2Yeah, it is. Listen, thers something I've got to say to you. About us."
"wait, before you continue, there's something I want to say first."
"well, wait, let me-"
"no, really, I need to say this now Paul."
I paused and saw she wasn't going to give up. 2okay, Karen. What is it?"
"I've met someone else."
"oh." That floored me slightly
"yes, I'm sorry to do this to you so suddenly, but I just feel that it's time we moved on."
"well, yes, if that's what you want, I'm happy"
"I'm glad you see."
She gave me a hug and smiled over at someone.
"So who is it?" I asked.
I sprayed my drink out over a waiter who smiled and wiped his face with a hankerchief before refiling my drink. 2Aechie!2
2Yes, I know it's sudden, but we jus tseemed to bond over the pas tfew hours. He told me about his horrible wife and I told him about my fears that I had killed you."
"I think I love him."
I sprayed my drink again, this time on an expensive looking painting. I didn't know what to say. From being let off the hook, to finding out I'd been beaten by a 40 year old alcholic. So I said the only thing I could say. 2congratulations."
Archie camne over and put an arm round her shgoulder. And I didn't feel the slightest twinge of jealousy or bitterness. Just happiness.
2Seroiusly" I said raising my glass, "Congratulations."
"Thatnks Paul. You're being a real gent about this."
Some one tapped me on the shoulder and I turned round to find Rob pointing furiously.
"look!" he said, pointing into the middle of the crowd.
"What? Who is it? Samantha Frost?"
2no, even better. Lyn burst1"
2What ?" I said in disbelief. Not lyn from my old work, the most staid quiet boring woman I had ever met. But I twas. There she was in the middle of the dance floor, dressed in high pvc boots and a tight leater top with metal studs in it.
We walked over to the floor wher she was gyrating against some 20 something woman.
"lyn1" I shouted above the music. It was amazing how noisy it was over here, yet 20 yards away, it was barely background tunes.
She turned round, her face sweating and fierce looking.
"paul! She said and gave me a hug, her sharp metal studs on her breats digging into me. 2And your friend Rob" she gave him a similar hug and I saw pain in his face as well.
"What are you dioing here?2 I asked
"I'm a dominatrix. You?"
"I died. Enjoyiing final few hours on earth."
We stood there, making smiling faces and not really sure what to say.
2Well, enjoy dominating" I said.
2Okay. See you later." And she was into the crowd, swallowed up by hungry dancers.
Me and rob headed back to the bar.
"that was bizarre" I said getting the drinks.
"I dunno. I thought she looked quite sexy."
"you always had odd tastes. Speaking of which, did you know about karen and Archie?"
2Eh…" he took a fast drink of his bottleed beer.
2Come on. I won't be angry."
"well he did ask. And I said to him that I thought you two were breaking up. So it was my gift to you. You don't have to be the bad guy."
2but Karen and Archie…?"
"oh I think they make a cute couple.2 we looked over and saw them kissing. "Unless they make out right in front of you which is rathe rdisturbing looking."
"well at least nothing else can shock me." I looked around and saw alice walking quickly towards me.
"You're not going to believe this."
"I know, but it's cool. I'm hapy for karen and Archie."
2What?" she said and saw them still kissing. 2eww. No, it's King. He's in this building. Right now. And he's going to kill Samantha Frost.
I stared at her in shock.
"Another drink?" sugeested Rob
"he's really honestly here1"
"Yes, I just finished talking with the caretaker. Apparently a lot of people suddenly started to be killed years before their time. And they all happen here, in the next half hour."
2How do you know he's going to kill Samantha Dfrost though?"
"I think she's the final piece of the spell he's going to do. If he wants to avoid going to hell, he has to kill her. Remember all the photo's we seen in his carridge?"
2yeah, there was lots of photo's and pictures on the wall."
"I belive because she is p[robably right now the most beautiful and desirable person in societys's eyes, he's going to kill an dmutilate her, completing the spell."
"Is that why the party's in Kings mansion."
"I think that was just a cosmic coincidence, but it might have helped made up his mind of who to kill."
I looked at my watch. 3.30
"we've still got plenty of time before sunrise to find him."
"Not really. Once he kills her, all bets are off. The spell is completed and you die again, wether it's sunrise or not."
"Does nobody stick to the rules anymore?"
"Do you know where she is" asked Rob.
2Noones seen her since the party started. I think he's got her somewhere in the house and Is waiting to kill her"
2Wait a minute?2 I said. 2Why not just kuill her now?"
"I think he has to wait until she officially turns 23. Acciordinh to our records, that's today at 4.01am."
"Holy shit.2 aid Rob. "What the hell are we waiting for." Hre made to leave but Aliceheld him back.
"Hold on Robert. We don't have the time to look round every room in this place. It's to big. Acordinh to the revised records, she gets killed up there." She pointed at a balcony that over looked the hall."We'll go up there and wait. As soon as one of us see's her, grab her and run."
2Let me guess, she has to be killed in front of collective society for te spell to work?"
"I huess so.. or maybe he jus tget's his kicks that way."
"What about Archie and Karen. Should we get them to help us?"
No leave them. The more people that know, the greater danger we put them in."
They were still on the dance floor kissing. It was still disturbing.
"Come on" said Alice.
We walked up the circular stairs that led yp the balcony. A few people were standing talking, but it was really not a good place to stand. Better balconys were on the throtd and foutrth floors, with seats and couches.
"Should we maybe have a quick look around, see if we flukely find him?" I asked.
2no, it will be just likethe nightclub all over again. We can't risk getting sideytravcked or held up by crowds. We wait."
So we did. Alice to the left and down a couple of steps, me and Rob to the right, trying to look inconspicuous.
The minutes passed and soon it was a minute before 4. Rob sifled a yawn. I looked over and saw Alice nodding.
2right rob, this is it. Get ready." We both huinched down slightly, like sprinters on a track.
A few people walked past us or roujd us, through the hallway. We jumped a few times, theequivalent of a couple of false starts.
Somwhow, I was surprised though, when on the hour he actually appeared, jus twhe nhe was supposed to. Samatha Frost was clearly druigged and her eyes were rolling in her head. She had trouble sytanding and King was holding onto her solidly so she wouldn't fall.
People down below noticed her straight away and started rushing towards the mand the stairs, demanding to know where whe had been all night. But only me, rob and Alice were close enough to reach them first.
As always in thes esituations, time seemed to slow. Though I actually wondered if this wasn't Kings doing, because I swear time did begin to slow down.
A second passed, possibly two, before me and Rob rocketed forward.
I was slightly ahead of rob and kings head turned slowly to see me. Recognisition dawned on his face and he looked suprsied as I was that we were both here at the same time.
He raised his free hand and I saw he had a large dagger, with inscribings and various markings on it. Blue light seemd to rise and ebb fron it, like the tide smashing onto a beach. It wa sclearly the knife je intended to use to kill Samantha. I ryshed head first at him, and might have grabbed her, if King hadn't realsied it at the same time. He held his knife up to his chest and with his knuckles clenched back handed me across the face. My momentum was stopped uintantly and I crashed back wards with a snap ogf my head into th erailings overlooking the fllor.
He held his kinfe up again, a triumphant look on his face. But he hadn't seen Rob coming from behind me. His knife p-lunged down, but Rob grabbed samantha firnly and hauled her sideways. Th eknife slashed down and penetrated robs arm, cutting him savagely, but he didn't stop and in a seciond he had her free of kings grasp.
They fell at the stairs and might have fallen head first down them if Alive hadn't been ther to catch them both with a strength that belied her size.
Time seemed to twang again and suddenly everything was flowing quickly again.
I looked at my watch 4.02. "yes!" I shouted.
"No1" king practiavclly screamed. His kinfe flasshe donce, twice brightlyy, then died, it looked hot to the touchm but no light eminatted frim it.
By now, lots of people had rushed up the stairs and taken samantha Frost and rob into te collective safety of the group. No one was going onto th elanding though. Except Alice who walked calmly and methodically forard towards King.
"Now you're going to get it1" I said.
His fac eflashe dat mine and his eyes narrowed. "maybe I am. But you're not going to be around to see it."
He walked quickly topwrds me. I tried to backpedal on the floor but ye railings blocked me. He ran up and kinked me square on the chest.
2mno1" shouted Alioce, but I twas too late.
I crashed through the wooden posts and flew backwards through the air, landing on the floot with a crack. My head snapped backwards on te ground and my vison doubled. Th ecrowd of people on the floor ran away to the doors. I heard te record on the turntable being whipped of with an unproffesioanl screech.
King moved quickly and jumped down land perfecytly next to me. He stood over me and crouched down.
"You little fuck." He said, spittle landing on my face, 2do you even know what you cost me. All you wante dto do is save your pathetic litle life, go back to your menial slave like existance. Me, I was going to be a king. I should let you live so you can suffer it." He paused. "but on secind thoughts, I' d rather just gut you like afish."
He raised his blade, now dark and dull looking. I looked rou dand made out karen and archie in the crowd. She was screamion, and runnning forward but far to far away to do anyuthing. Archie was running after her. Alice was still above , to far away to save me. I caught a glimpse of Samantha Frost with her arms round Rob. Ui smiled at that.
King raised the blade to his highest point and was about to bring it down when I heard a sound like a dull echo.
Light sopilledout fron something behind me and I looked backwards.
It was as if a set of doors had opened in this air. Light and smoke drifted out of it, sparkiling and dancing. It was the lift I had been in before. King looked at it in surprise.
Then the Nomad shot out. It's pure white wings in perfect contrast to black machince parts of it's body. It flew like a bullet straight at king. He sctreamed and tried to stab me with his blade but it ws too late. The stalliomn head with the rioby red eyes barrelled into him and sent him flying against the wall. He crashed into uit 7 feet up and crumpled to the ground in a cloud of plaster and dust.
The nomad swooped up and round, stretching it's wings to full size.
People on the crowd stared upat it, some awed, some frightened. It didn't make a noise but swooped down to me and trotted across. It lowered it's nuzzle and I petted it's firm metalic skin.
"hey you>" I whispered, "good to see you again."
Theer was a sound of moving rubble and king stood up shakily. Dust had turned his face sahen white. But blood pumped from a large gush in his head, a red river running dow nhis cheek.
"That's…" he said I a voice that had almos tno stregnth, 2cheating"
"I think you're in no position to talk" the voice came from Alice, who floated down from the ruined balcony and bannister, land ing gently next to me and the Nomad. "you cheated me once." She pulled out a small needle.
"No, wait" king croaked, genuine fear in his voice since the first time I met him. 2let's talk. Noone has to die here."
"You’re right. But you're already dead." she lifted the needle and it morphed into a long spear, the handle black, wih a silver blade that looked almos twhite in the light.
"No! No1" king screamed, blood coming from hi s mouth.
"Alan King. I pronounce you dead." she said calmly. The nshe threw the spear with a look one part anger, one part satisfaction. It saild throgh the air fast as a bullt and ounched through kings chest. He flew back slightly and was impaled on the wall.
He screamed, but nbo legible words coukd be made out. Cracks started to run up his face, letting light and =blood out. Soon his skinand clothes were indistinguioshable. Light shone out and I thought I could jus tmake out his eyes, for brief moment looking at me with fear. Then there was flash and he was gone, along with the spear.
Alice walked ove rto me and bent down petting the nomad.
"I sthat tye Nomad I rode on."
2Yes" she said smiling.
"I thought you couldn't call in any more favours for me."
"I lied" she said.
"Som wha thappens now I asked." Weakly
£"shh, everything wil be alright." She said gently.
"but what about my old body? It's ruined."
2Shh." She touched her lips with her finger, then touched mine. "trust me."
2you know Alice. I never thought death would have such a cute smile."
I looked over and saw Karen and Archie coming over, holding each other. Rob came over as well, his shoulder still bleeding. Samantha Frost kept hugging him.
2you save dmy life."
"Yes I did, but now I have to check on my friend."
2And I thought you were jus the guy who puked in his fish soup."
I smile and things start to trne ligyter, like a televison with to bright a picture.
2Alice, everythings starting to fade."
"Trust me" her voice echoed in the light.
So I did.
I closed my eyes and drifted off asleep.
The last thingf I remember anyone saying was a stranger saying "what a party!"
I fall into the whiteness and oblivion
I awoke to the feel of watewr on my face. I turned over, wanting to go back to the light, but the cold is preventing me from going back to sleep.
I oopen my eyes and find myself in total darkness. Then objects start to come into focus. I'm still struggling to remember where I am whe ni notice the body next to me. Th erain falls on my face and helps waken me up as I turn him over.
It appears to be an old homeless man. A deceased old homeless man, judging by his staring eyes and lack of heartbeat. His face looks anything but peaceful through. His eyes look like someone who witnessed thegates of hell themsleves. Then realsied they were going through them. His face looks familiar though. mAybe if you took away the beard…
Then everything rushes at me. All the memories of te past weekend. I fall back onto my ass, landing on a newly formed puddle, semding splashes onto rats that run away.
Everything comesback. Everything. The aferlife, King, the murders., me lying on the floor of the mansion.
I ook aroun dand realsie I'm back in the alley, back where all this started. Kings definitly dead this time though.
"Alice?" I ask into the darkness, but there's no reply. She's not here and I can't help but be glad. I'll see her eventually, but not for a while yet. I llok up at the sky smiling.
2Thankyou2 I say in a small voice and stay that way for a minute, simply feeling the rain on my face, the sensation of being alive, of having my life back.
I take one last look a tking before I leave. I'm not sure whaa tto do. Spit on his face, kick him in the balls, close his eyes? In the end ileave him as he is. He's no part of my life now and is simply not an issue.
I walk away, soaked to the skin but feeling like I'm on fire, lie I'm bounding with energy. Like I'm alive.
I always knew how I wanted to die. I never knew how much I wanted to live.
I wasn't the only one to reatain memorys from that weekend. Although none seemed to have the crystal clear accuracy I had, everyone had vague feelings or memorys of sometihng strange occuring.
When I got home Rob, Asrchie and Karen were all waiting for me. They all hugged me and comngratulated me, but none of them were exactly sure what it was they were celebrating.
They simply had an intuition in the middle of the night and came round. I toasted them with some whiskey and told them that the best thing they copuld do is go wioth there gut feelings, at least for the weekend anyway.
Archie proclaimed his love to Karen, even though he had just met her. Karen said the same and both knew I was fine with it. The kissing still had that eww factor.
The front door went and none other than Samantha Frost was there. I asked her in and she was clearly bemused with the whole situation. When she saw Rob she went straight to him and checked his shoulder. He exopected his arm to be cut badly as well, but ther wasn't a mark. She to had awoke in the middle of the night and felt an urge to track down a man called Rob Grey who she knew was a hero. He blushed. Then she said she also knew never to give him fish soup and both of them wrinkled their noses in disgust at that. But she invited him to her biorthaday party that she was having on Sunday and kissed hiom goodnight.
She looked at me and her look indictaed that she knew I knew something about what was going on here and she would want answers evenbtually.
I gave her a grion and she kissed me on the ckeek and left.
But for all that I was happy and seemed to remember everything, ther was something I was forgetting.
It took me an extra hour and when I did I sprayed my beer over the wall. We had decided to hold an impromptu party as Archie ahd phoned up his wife and told her he wouldn't be back. He hung up on her to the sound of language that would make and army seergant tink twice.
I asked karen for he rcar keys and told the mi would be back later. The ydidn't even question it, jus twisjed me luck as I ran out the door with the keys.
I prayed I wouldn't be too late.
It took me 30 minute sto drive to Edinburgh and another 20 minutes to find the street. The clock on the dashbopard said 6.27am. there was road work going on in the residential area and a large cue of cars had fiormed even at this time of te morning, weekend workers trying to ge tout of their scheme. He clock read 6.28
I parked the car squintly on a double yellow line and raced across the road, hearing horms beeping and people shouting as I left the car in an illegal parking zone.
I ran across pathways and gardens, feeling my directuion with half remembered memorys and instiint.
I saw her at the corner. Jogginging, with blonde hair and the grey top on. She had personal stereo on and wa jogging away from me.
And I remembered. Everything.
I ran faster, winded and out of breath but still increasing speed.
I saw the car turn the corner, accelerating quickly to avoid the large cues that the road works were causing.
I sqw the kid running out on the road, going to his paper run. Th edriver seeing him and spinning his wheel top turn the car of te road and into a garden.
Right in wher lisa was. She saw the car for the first time, barreling like a stock car towards her. She didn't even have time to form a word.
I jumped grabbed her shgoulders and used my momentum to carry her out of the way. The car clipped my ankle, breaking it.
It spun us aropund slightly, but he car had passed, haeding into a hedge, but doing no more damage than decapitating a Gnome.
We fell to the groun droughly and rolled, me gritting my teeth as she land ed on hy ankle. Our rollong stooped and we lay there, tangled in each other as she stared at the car, then me, the nthe car.
"you.. you..you saved my life." She said shaikly and in wonder.
"no problem, eah!!" I tried to stand on my ankile and cried out ion paim.
"Wait don't move, let me see if it’s broken. I'm a -"
"Doctor" I said finishing her sentnce.
She looked at me again, closely. 2Do I know you? Your face seems familiar."
"maybe you've seen me arround but if you want to ge ta cup opf coffee we could ge tto know one anoter."
2Aren't you busy saving damsels in distress?" she said with a smile I had falle nin love with in te afterlife as she helped me to stand
"No. I'm free all weekend."