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The Horse Prefect: “Frogmarch these bozos down to the nether regions of The Sea Bitch, and get them supping on some of last months man-y-pausey juice.”
Shin Detonator: “Which teat, Sir? September 1,2 and 3 are taken.”
The Horse Prefect: “Just have it going in till it’s squirting out from under their toenails.” They’ll have to break into October for that. Bit early, if you ask me. The Afro twins tell an audience of one:
Afro twins: “They are Shin Detonator.” Little rats. Now the Shin Detonator’ve gone, they don’t reply anymore. It’s clear, and I’m sorry, if they preferred it in the warrens, but it’s thanks to me we wired them up properly and only smoked them. My wife likes gas, but you get time to escape in a fire. They weren’t fleeing me, they had a home here. Was it the horse head covered in its own small science blood? A theatre show, put on at their scheduled return. A celebration of Shin Detonator. Horse head on a stick behind a bleeding waterfall. Some drinking cats were there too. Looked pretty impressive till the village arrived. They could tell me, if it were on The Thread. Or’s the waterfalling in front, only blocking out the audience, like some of the neighbours we caught the brotherhood shooting? Those orangey brown and black hairy ones, straying on campus when The Beeches shut the power lines down. They had spots like they’d been sleeping under the tar drip. It was the stage show. Poor horse, trapped behind with the stench, while the audience can sit back and enjoy The Prefect’s pollen. More than the ten count the school residents’ve been written to about, by generous order of the Dean. Everyone says it’s all been getting too female inside the fencing, but no, it was that stupid stage show, why they left. The pigs vault, I reckon’s been puff pollinating out of hours. You could blame their behaviour on illegal polluning, but I still think it’s the plays fault. No one else’s been out exposing the electrics and chewing up barb wire. Too many days awash in the entertainment tunnel’s, gotten Shin Detonator hooked on The Stagnants monthly cycle show. But honestly, it wasn’t the Stagnants running over the horses face and down the prompters shirt. It’s assumed by most, at first to be pissing blood, but that was corrected in the Dean’s Address, after his programme of entertainment broke down. Another Shin Detonator department sent to the groundsman, no doubt.
A hotel guest approaches the reception desk. A greasy young blonde girl hobbling up, quite clearly in, or pretending to be in, a no less tense and ovulating stupor than at the last desk. I suppose we’re expected to guess the reason. From behind the desk, that’s where I sit because I’m the receptionist, she grows an inch or two with each step. But then, so does everything. Looks like a cleaning lady, with hair that wiry and ill. She’s playing up. Probably just bored. If there was something wrong, she’d look us in the face. There’s nothing that bloody marvellous on the ceiling.
Shin Detonator: “So you want something to do? There’s not much, and no real comfort to be had, for anyone. Not the last, what? two years.” It’s longer, but to add and underline it, in these parts can get you twenty years under The Beeches. We were given a hard time at first, explaining their new mindset to the kids. Handed to us at the door by a man who kept his chin dipped to his chest, so to tip the front of his richly, from the ovarian pollen spores small science, crimson Rembrandt hat down far enough so that neither of us could see his face. It must’ve been down to his chest, as the crown pumped in and out as he spoke. Saying that, he didn’t speak much. Probably worried he might overstress a tricky non-schwa syllable too wide, and reveal that he was, as everyone in school knew, Underling. His Rockwell mother
told the afro twins, and once you’ve told the afro twins, you’ve told everyone. His painting smock was of the same colour and material, and he was so face on when we answered the door, him and the negative space around him were perfectly symmetrical. He was a big man too, not being Underling anymore, covering ninety percent of the view through the doorway. The stitching was also rich red crimson. Something the Rockwell mother’d never allow drape over her son. I must’ve had a slightly different angle to my wife, but we remember the picture the same. Over both his left and right shoulders was the tip of The Beeches, with a couple of silhouetted birds, definitely up to something. We couldn’t make out the species, but only dry species blackbirds are allowed on The Beeches at night. They overlooked the school playing field, and in my view at least, were traced in white semen chalk. I’m not sure about the wifes. We tend not speak of the views we’re given, as that can be five years a discussion. We live in the grounds, so fall under The Horse Prefects jurisdiction. Inside the school fences, we’re said to inhale ten part ovarian pollen during summer, and what’s exhaled’s mostly collected by the birds and taken down under the slopes. We’re over the ground though, so needn’t answer to the Dean, or face the stricter still groundsman. But now, it’s kind of nice, if anything. The Horse Prefect’s always in earshot. A lot of old threats are now reassuring. The Party first won in the early two thousands, before a surprise defeat led them to having The Thread installed. Today, for once, The Horse Prefect’s tied up deaf at sea. The lofty degenerate of the horizon’s told everyone he’s gone for a dip. He’s gone alright, on order of The Sea Bitch. But the Shin Detonator mustn’t find out. With The Horse Prefect away, they’ll scuttle on stage, gnaw down the side curtains, valance and spotlights overseeing and surrounding every thought ever had within the school fencing, then hurry back before the chefs arrive. Their break minutes used to race each other, before muscles could absorb the small science, or the small physics – whether you call it science or physics, depends on which side of The Horse Prefect’s red line you grew up on. Or are growing up, or old on. Even the Shin Detonator down below, in The Benign Soil warrens, observe his paranoid divisions. There are hundreds, all unenforceable yet upheld to the letter by every resident that isn’t a bird in the labs under a slope, that’s itself under a slope. When not in the labs, they’re gliding overhead, too preoccupied with the afro twins to recognise what a privilege it is, to not be peering up at themselves. What a privilege, to not be held in the Deans factories, boiling up and filling thousands upon thousands of fallopian buckets to the brim with raw castration sap. Stewed under The Beeches and packed off to the groundsman. Known as Trial Tar in the Shin Detonator Threads, most ends up getting sold to The Stagnant. She has donations from The Sea Bitch spayed with it. What doesn’t make it to The Stagnant’s dumped on the playing field soil, by the birds out on collection. What’s left by the shallow roots’ll seep back down to the cells, the warrens, then the gatehouses and eventually drip through the factory ceilings, and back into the recovering pots of itself. Once below the playing field surface, sap won’t crystalise for months. The Stagnant puts on his glasses, and sits down.
Stagnant: “It’s down to the culinary specialists to decide here. Chefs’ll capitalise on the meagerest of portions. Happily pasting tar, they are, to the innards of Rembrandt cloaks put aside for the ground bound Stem Cell Hosers, and all for only an extra few meters of Thread a month. What d’you suppose is their relationship with the Shin Detonator lying under the dirt? Enough to bother swerving out the way for them?”
Sea Bitch: “D’you trust the chefs not to just stamp on them at first sight?”
Stagnant: “Depends how quick The Benign Soil-life speaks up for itself. I’d trust the chefs more than I would the kids not to turn the grounds into an indiscriminate killing field.” The Sea Bitch and Stagnant
have no idea what kind of Limpets live in The Benign Soil. Had they, they’d refer to them properly as Shin Detonator. No other Limpet lives in The Benign Soil. Just Shin Detonator.
Walking back to under the local orthopedic residents surgical banquet, The Stagnant assures The Sea Bitch it’ll get him that antidote he keeps forgetting. It can’t rely on the chefs. If Braithwaite won’t even go out into the field herself, she can’t really care if the chefs win or lose. She’s only interested in getting the kitchen to herself, for whatever plan she has to temporarily store the kids bone clamps there, before, consider the poor donkeys, carrying the lot up The Horse Prefect’s peak. Meanwhile, The Stagnant’ll tunnel Shin Detonator’s Vaginal Gates of the Field deep into to lakes bank and discuss Braithwaites treachery with whichever Limpet it first comes face to face with. It isn’t just Shin Detonator in The Benign Soil. Some Limpets crawl in through The Stagnants tunnel, but tend not to stay long, so aren’t classed as living there. Worms are also sometimes dropped by the birds and sniffing around like confused pigs, find their way to getting wedged in the kindle beneath the pots. No, these chefs can’t even keep Braithwaite away.
Braithwaite wouldn’t give any kind of licence to The Limpets making it so easily to the peak of The Horse Prefect. Sure, it means she’ll probably find an easier route than she’d planned, but now so can anyone else. Vital to her thinking’s that only she’d be bothered to make such a journey for the sake of some second-hand bone clamps. Even the kids parents’d only worry about their own kids. The headmaster’s in her pocket. Only she’d care about all the bone clamps, so only she’d go to such effort for them.
By now, The Stagnant’s burrowed through thirty meters of soil, and’s bartering well with senior Shin Detonator.
Stagnant: “It’s for The Sea Bitch, you have to counsel me. Counsel me on at least something! At least say you’ll pass the Underling antidote to the chefs before any of your soldiers get crushed under cadet boots or elbows. A few degrees can be life or death in the dirt.”
The Shin Detonator’ve more to deal with than demands for Underling antidote.
Shin Detonator: “You go back to the local orthopedic residents surgical banquet.” the Shin Detonator say in unison. One continues.
Shin Detonator: “The entrance walls, I hope you don’t mind me saying, could do with an extra coat. Then it can stay where it is. The Shin Detonator’ll sit clutching their knees through the menopause. Will be a giant car wash of breeding Limpets. Useful for shipping prisoners through until autumn arrives. Please, it’s a lot for one day. Go home, and leave us to pass it up the ranks.”
Current strangulation laws are inherited from the previous Deans administration, and therefore don’t allow for when there’s no murderer or manslaughterer. Not only every offence, but every action or activity’s deemed to have at least one villainous mob attached, and a single overseeing chief perpetrator. Cell blocks need building while there’s still no shortage of the raw materials that’ve been occupying every dimension throughout history, and everyone’s living memory. So much so, their language has fewer sounds than some animals with no language. Anyone who’s ever done anything’s a criminal. The current Dean of Undersoil Shin Detonator doesn’t see these things as warranting visits to the groundsman though. But for Mechanical Nanny, he’s responsible for burrowing the bodies off site. His job’s in law enforcement, not natural disasters. Natural disasters is someone else. Someone, like Mechanical Nanny, flat out, but on his back listening to The Thread all day, while Mechanical Nanny does all his or her work for him or her. A loophole he’d do well to know, is that accidental garotings are considered too rare for law to be getting involved with. Usually traced back to an overturning Shin Detonator, shifting round onto its other shoulder with The Thread sapped solid, as good as inside its ear canal. Not much you can do about it, deep in the Dean’s corridors. It’s not true, that every Shin Detonator’s completely blind. But still, decapitations attract a ton of witnesses when the trial arrives. Suspects in Mechanical Nanny’s mind at least, of collusion between Braithwaite and the Dean. Braithwaites prisoners, ground bound Stem Cell Hosers, sobbing for their ankles, feet above the Dean’s. Loud and clear in the unsupplemented quarters, the Dean keeps his in. If the Dean’s prisoners were any worse off than the general population, the ground bound Stem Cell Hosers above’d no doubt hear their whining all day too.
The Thread’s won’t shimmy much, if you leave when something good’s on. Shin Detonator can watch Limpets being dipped in Trial Tar at four in the afternoon. No dissolving genitals pushing it past the watershed. Fat chance, shimmying around in bed when The Threads afire, as they put it. Their Green Cross Code’s, Thread Stays Nice and Tight at Night. A prime time safety campaign. Didn’t work, as they’d rather see their own heads spin off than miss Cabin Pressure. The numbers of unexplained neck trauma related deaths skyrocketed since the playing field nets became entangled with the red perforator vein Thread communication network the Shin Detonator are now dependant on. So much so, their portals never go cold at either end. The quake, that summer, not the summer this all relates to, only caused the threads to twang-wobble themselves stiffer. They were pretty stiff to start with. Shin Detonator’d mistake a quake for, the advent of rugby season, for example.
The Horse Prefect’s been conspiring with himself to get more hooves running amok. Underling’s his favourite, apart from Braithwaite, and The Horse Prefect’s starting to think the three of them’d make a nice little family. With a couple of pets buried deep in his peaks snow, and some bone clamps to go riding on in the summer. It all sounds pretty good, and likely if the unfinished business with the exam pans out, and his Infirm Protein Coat can overcome the grass repellent. Braithwaite initially had the idea, and set it all in motion years ago. Braithwaite’s idea, The Horse Prefects work. The marriage battleships are slowly turning into position.
Mechanical Nanny disentangles the bodies from the cord, dumps what’s left of them into his wheelbarrow, wheels the stack of, usually at least ten corpses past the cells under the trees. A deviation, not on his way, but insisted on by the Dean. Emptying them out into the slip road tarmac, he thinks of how it all stays molten. On his way back, he has to keep stopping, treading the inevitable trail of bits into the politely obliging ground. He’s already been sent to the groundsman once, over this. Issued a biohazard demerit for contamination of public highways. The Dean’s a slave to small science. Some kids got so sick, they had to be sent to the cells to recover. A humiliation the Dean won’t allow happen again. One that lead to the cells being relocated to under the tallest and therefore thirstiest of The Beeches. Discussion around matters of this sort, are referred to the Dean of Undersoil Black Ivory.
DOUBI: “You wouldn’t use forklifts to get racehorses over the fences would you?”
Mechanical Nanny: “No.”
DOUBI: “Then what d’you need boots for? Get it done properly! It’s a skilled job, I guess. Slapping corpses into a barrow, then taking them out to the tarmac in one piece.”
It’s Underling, the Infirm Protein Coat that became a boy, not the only transition he’d make, that went for some alone time on the grass. Whose innocent root tugging in the field caused the Shin Detonator infrastructure to be so violently replaced. They yell their orders at the wet species, escaping up the trees.
Shin Detonator: “It’s no use drying off in the shrubs. You wanna get right up there, up the top of The Beech.” The Stem Cell Hosers look strangers amongst them, amongst these Beeches. So Underling’s sent in by The Horse Prefect with a simple, clear instruction. “Rid the playing fields of the kids, dinner ladies and anything that isn’t a Stem Cell Hoser, or a Shin Detonator.” Had the prisoners below talked their way free, Underling could’ve been left alone. He ought to’ve been, as far as it would’ve done the Shin Detonator any good. The Stem Cell Hosers have nothing to dread of the dirt, as swapping tiptoes multiple times a minute to save themselves a broken back’s getting beyond them.
The Shin Detonator relief. A perforator vein communication network, installed by order of The Horse Prefect, request of the Dean of Undersoil Shin Detonator, constantly summarises a world where atmospheric lung fungus wasn’t invented by their despot as a counter worry. This is all they do, laid there, network trash addicts. Chewing whatever they have, for as long as it lasts, or isn’t lethal. Whether you’re in jail, or not in jail, it doesn’t make any difference. Resonating down from the school, is Head Chef Mrs. Braithwaite, blaring through the kitchen walls, shaking each classroom divider enough for full conversations to be had between classes. Either Braithwaite herself, Radio 4, or the sport the kids have in season during games time. Amid all this, are the chefs. Mrs. Braithwaite has never been married. The moles, years previously rebranded themselves “Shin Detonator”. A few found the secret gloryhole entertainment dug by the neighbouring Stagnant lake. Sold to them as “Virgins on tap!” The tap in question’s any free teat The Sea Bitch can stretch round to the, sometimes hundreds of Shin Detonator dicks waving at her like they’re setting off on a pleasure cruise. More than the kids get, sat in detention. The Dean of Undersoil Shin Detonator calls for his prisoners.
DOUBI: “Tell me about the Shin Detonator larger than me!”
Shin Detonator: “There’s no giant Shin Detonator, it was The Stagnant. It asked for you, but we thought it better to just take a message.”
DOUBI: “A message from who? The giant Shin Detonator?”
Shin Detonator: “No Dean of Undersoil Shin Detonator. It was The Stagnant.”
Shin Detonator: “It wasn’t a Shin Detonator.”
DOUBI: “A Limpet that’s not a Shin Detonator?”
Months ago, the Dean returned from being sent to the school groundsman, assuring everyone, the other Shin Detonator, no-one was there, as the groundsman, he said, didn’t exist. Over time, the Dean forgot this story’s a lie. By the time of questioning his prisoners, the Dean of Undersoil Shin Detonator’s the only Shin Detonator believing a word he says.
The Shin Detonator cells are identical to the areas of soil that aren’t cells. A designated patch, underneath the tallest of the playing field Beeches. The Dean hoped this area’d be less nutritious, but it isn’t. The Beechtop Stem Cell Hoser roosted on the uppermost leaf of this Beech, is well aware of the prisons below, and so’s concerned The Stagnant’s tunnel could, if over-burrowed, collapse him into the same bondage his deputy now’s chillingly, alright with. Underling’s orders will, but aren’t intended to, prevent any of this happening again. The Horse Prefect and the Stem Cell Hosers’ve been at loggerheads since The Horse Prefect ordered them to redirect a batch of exam papers to the local music repair shop. Had the Stem Cell Hosers known it was for their own good, things’d no doubt’ve been different. But they didn’t, so they weren’t. Underling’s an experienced mediator between The Horse Prefect and The Horse Prefect’s favourite chef, the schools Head Chef, gourmet specialist, Braithwaite.
Stem Cell Hoser: “I guess you already know, don’t approach with your exam paper in hand, Underling.” said the Beechtop Stem Cell Hoser, thinking honesty’d pay off here.
Underling: “Doesn’t mean I can’t teach the goat tap in prison. What am I saying! You don’t teach the goat tap! You teach the Tar dip, don’t you, Sir? You slap it around in your pants and join the army.”
Shin Detonator: “The detainment facilities are full! There’s no more coming in here, and no lack of surrounding soil to build more with. Shin Detonator won’t concern themselves with anything above the ground.”
Stem Cell Hoser: “With no absence of encompassing soil, why doesn’t The Dean of Fabricators just build some more?”
Shin Detonator: “They’re not going to flinch at you. You can drop Stem Cell Hosers all day.”
Maybe The Dean won’t, but there’s plenty more flinchers beside him, and the whispers of infighting, travelling up the roots, suggest most of them wouldn’t mind at all if the Dean were called up to the groundsman for a second time this year. No Dean of Undersoil Shin Detonator’s survived a second meeting with the groundsman. The Horse Prefect shouts at Underling, who isn’t going to be told to move anywhere.
The Horse Prefect: “Backpedal! Go back I tell you!”
Underling: “I’m not moving anywhere.” Underling offers a compromise.
Underling: “I’ll tap away to a tune if you give me one.”
The Horse Prefect: “You’ll tap away like a goat?” The Horse Prefect asks.
Underling: “If you want.”
The Horse Prefect: “You’ll tap to no tune?”
Underling: “I’ll make a name for myself in school. It’s a city school, but they’ll recognise the tap of a goat when they see my imitation of it. At least the kids will. The Stem Cell Hosers’ll see what they want.”
Shin Detonator: “So who gets the goat for tarring? Their dicks are swinging everywhere. They shoot kids out for giggles. Who’s controlling the goats? A goat tap in school. It’s not a goat tar, it’s a goat tap!” It’s contagious amongst the kids. Braithwaite walks through the double doors, and therefore into the kitchen.
Braithwaite: “The kids want goat. Serve them goat with gravy and peas.”
Chef: “The kids’ve never had goat.” replies a chef.
Braithwaite: “They want goat I tell you!”
The dinner ladies won’t question anything, anymore than the kids. It’s the Stem Cell Hosers that walk around like they’re deaf.
Chef: “We haven’t got goat, Braithwaite.” says a chef.
The Horse Prefect roars. The kid, already with a few others behind him, skip-hops through the playground, clacking his inside ankles together as he kicks them back slightly mid-air. The kids behind him are pretty hopeless at it, but are getting better. The kid however, clacks like it’s his natural stride.
Kids: “The Underling Infirm Protein Coat is a goat tap, named after its initial carrier.” the kids tell the other kids. The dinner ladies don’t really mind. The Horse Prefect, the only mountain visible from the school and its surrounding area, casts a disappointing eclipse racing over the school buildings, but definitely not the playing field. The Underling spreads unmistakable in its wake, skipping the Stem Cell Hosers, and at the Stem Cell Hosers. Braithwaite knows full well the school doesn’t keep goat meat.
Braithwaite: “Get me that kid at the front. He can ride a bone clamp can’t he? He can go and get goat meat.” Burnt Sienna fast covers the school like gravy. My wife says it must be the prelude to another eclipse. Underling leaves the kids ankles whenever he pleases, but the tapping never stops. Taps shattered the blackboard’s pieces, and fill every classroom. The semen chalks been thrown outside, making room for even more taps. Taps and semen chalk pack the playground up to the Craft Design & Technology labs guttering. A few inspired Stem Cell Hosers drape tarpaulin over the blackboard shards, get the kids to all sit at their desks a moment, and ask them to study the Underling Infirm Protein Coat. Each kid’s handed out a notepad, and a piece of semen chalk from the playground by the, now redundant, playground monitor, who can’t help clattering into the sides of every desk he passes.
Stem Cell Hoser: “Ask yourselves, are my ankles hot? Did Underling remember to go through my knees? What?” The readjusted kids are all shaking their heads.
Stem Cell Hoser: “What? You mean, he didn’t?”
The kids ankle spasms leave the ankles, and wait legs akimbo on the desktops. The kids, under Stem Cell Hosers instruction, slap the spasms down and hold them in place. They can still spasm into the muscle, but are being held well enough for inspection. The kids get their pupils in close enough for nylon to tickle their frontal lobes.
Kid: “This is sock nylon! You’re right! Underling went in through the ankles, not our knees.” Bookshelves are looking pretty insolent, since becoming impossible climbing frames. Stem Cell Hosers are only allowed to scribble their scorecards over ten, if there’s any hope of bobbing up and down in the riot of other Stem Cell Hosers, pretending to perpetually drown. Ignoring that the kids have the pens. There isn’t.
Underling shoulders out from the melee and, alone, sits quietly in the school playing field. Cross-legged, looking down and noticing how short his shorts are, he starts tugging on the balding tufts of yellow summer grass. The isolated patches throb blue semen chalk, panting in his shadow.
Underling: “Where were you when the white ones were around? It’s all well and good appearing here, mixing up plant sperm in the grass, but we needed you back in the classrooms.”
Blue semen chalk: “Only The Horse Prefect could’ve told you, but for its own reasons, didn’t. Now, you’re asking me to speak up for myself! The grass set itself up like cavalry when it heard you were on your way. The kids could’ve told what I was up to, had the Stem Cell Hosers set their heavy inquisition on us, but they chose to hone the pupils in on spasms instead. The Stem Cell Hosers see two entrance holes in the kids, but only one in the spasm. If you want to penetrate a spasm, you’ve only got its arse to choose from. No knees or ankles in a spasm. Chop one nylon cord an inch the wrong way, and it’s off with his arse. You can tickle a spasms arse till you’re both blue in the face. It’s not going to cut you, even a fledgling ankle or knee to play with.”
The shallow dry roots don’t even pull back. In fact, they’d risen almost to the surface, waiting for him. None of the kids, dinner ladies or Stem Cell Hosers had been out on the grass that day. Even Underling wasn’t sure why not. Maybe his clacking needed a hard surface. The Benign Soil’s crumbling dry, but from a distance looks lush and green. At least, the grass does. Underling looks up from the playing field, at the blinding glass fronted exam room. The kids are all sat in unison. Invigilators walk the corridors between their desks, sedating them with a deliberately melodic slow step. The choirs called up by the rising roots, swing back into action. Now, this was last years present, an orchestra of the evening. Van doorman are conductors, making the escorts, whoever those cellists are sat in the crowd. Worth bringing the slow step to a halt, to hear those back doors slam shut with the cannons, at the end. The Chief Invigilator watched Underling, out in the field. Braithwaite said nothing about a boy. The Chief Invigilator was told any soaking’d only be taken from the Sea Bitches cycle show, probably sucked out the horse meat. If a horses head can put on a show from behind a wash of any species, well it couldn’t bear to. A horse performer’d watch the audience only through skin of its own kind. A sick horse’s no good for anyone, so why’d Braithwaite send out a boy? The Chief Invigilator doesn’t know, so sends a couple of assistants out with a copy of the paper. Wave it under his face, and see if his stomach ‘s brought up. Underling’s escorts are kept at hand, and they have their escorts to be getting on with. Pulled unconscious from horse vans parked in field. Braithwaite’s with its engine on all day, if you’d believe it. For Underling’s sake, the escorts of escorts are treated like bullied kids from other schools. Probably six or seven in total, all face down in the grass. The others already held a copy of the exam. Underling reads his. It has two large images, the whole exam contained on one side. Just a few sentences of text. Above each image is a sentence, clearly alluding to the picture below. Underling glances at the page whole, trying to take it all in, in one go, but can’t. So he scans his eyes over in more detail, but can’t see a question mark. Maybe he missed it. So he does the same again. The top image is of a painting. A quite well painted wooden farmhouse with a wooden gate in the background, in old master browns and yellow ochres. It could be a Constable. The foreground’s a statuesque row of Victorian commoners, but a rag’s been rubbed over their faces, when the paint was still wet. Then over the top, the painter’s sketched their faces back in, like a De Kooning cartoon in burnt umber. The single stroke background to the revised faces is yellow ochre.
The second image is a close-up of a guitar amplifier, where the black and silver fabric stretches over the speaker. It now seems as if the exam only relates to the first image. Underling reads the words to himself slowly, concentrating and stopping on each, but still can’t fathom any meaning. He can’t even remember the last word, by the time he starts the next. His escorts, and their escorts, the kids, the invigilators all seem fine with the paper. Underling doesn’t get any of it.
Underling: “What a hideous thing!” Underling blurts out, having to be confident. Too much for the legend of an hour ago, to be seen struggling with kids work.
Invigilator: “What a ghastly thing, in fact!” Underling looks up towards the strangers voice. A haggard old lady, could’ve been the identical twin of her superior. It already looked wrong enough for her to be strolling up to him, as if invited. Underlings vision froze before she makes it. She’s only a couple of feet away. Close enough to jolt his attention back to The Stagnant.
Even Braithwaite’s handed her paper in.
Underling looks up from the exam, over the shoulders of his escorts, all ambling around, life being a picnic now the work’s done. Behind them’s the farmhouse from the image. Adjacent to the farmhouse, a concrete revetment wedged in position, no more considered than a meteorite crater. Red brick walls hold out the school grounds either side. A surgical banquet’s sat, only about twenty meters from the coast. Caught stationary in the drift from every direction, shadowing a patch on the bed reserved for the old wicketkeeper. Too cold for anyone sleeping there to be disturbed by The Horse Prefects eclipse. The waves only start meters from the coast.
Diveted into the ground, overhanging the lakes edge, enough not to topple in, is a double bust. Deaf and glancing from the surgical banquet, as many did, you’d assume it’s carved and painted, or moulded in plastic. Or spray painted styrofoam. Something definitely dead. But it’s not, or they aren’t, and are sticking out awkwardly enough to be mistaken by overflying birds for a couple of abandoned tent pegs, yelling out to deck all day, night, whenever they’re not indoors, over at the local orthopedic residents, begging to be spared their cats, and made of human alive flesh. Had the mud around them been grass, their brunette afros wouldn’t have camouflaged in, and the birds’d remember. Afro twins is what they are, and their name. Pets of Underling, and his stay-at-home elderly mother, who sits knitting in her rocking chair all day, mimicked from a Rockwell painting she saw when pregnant with Underling’s elder brother. A distraction of the twins, from the cats, are the afro twins pets. Knackered old racehorses and greyhounds they keep in the water. Doggy-paddling miserably round the surgical banquet. Never tiring, never sleeping. Never thinking. Just staring down into the middle distance depth of the lake. Enough relief for them to be rid their infected blisters, ingrowings and over-training damage, not to worry about anything else. When one dies, it sinks, leaving two of the same species in a row. When there’s the full complement, they trott in alternate order, dog, horse, dog, horse. One falls down, two of same are lined up to mate. The back one slows to a crawl, and sticks its rear up out the water so its face is low enough to almost topple into a somersault. Below them, on the bed, looks identical to a cocoon of Shin Detonator sap, but is an organic, mainly horsemeat, island. The parasitic fish vacuum the hooves of damaged and dead skin. What falls below is air filled, but not enough to float. A blister, for example. Over time, they’ve mounted up. Over more time become a bleeding flesh reef.
The Horse Prefect: “What a dim substance you are!” roars the bitter Horse Prefect. Next to the boat are the Constable-looking Beeches. It’s a lake. It’s not The Sea Bitch. It’s definitely Stagnant. These waves only begin where the water’s almost already ashore. Not Underling’s problem. He takes advantage of not being under exam conditions, and walks out and into the waves, clutching his paper. When chest high in, he feels what he supposes, is a giant pike, graze hard on his stomach. He looks down, just making out some grey flesh. With the next wave, it thrusts up again taking off several layers of skin. This time, Underling catches its eye and part of its nose. It’s strayed off course, nowhere near The Stagnants tunnel, where it could beach and dry out all day. No harm’d come of it. In smooth tennis stroke with the next wave, Underling majestically glides his left arm up and around the pikes back. Its belly’s rough. Must be a dinosaur flipper. More rough flippers grate against his ribs. He looks down again at the Limpets face, seeing no giant pike. Just formless grey skin and faces of parents and their kids spinning in a flashing merry-go-round. A rescue party’s summoned by The Horse Prefect. Still with some of the shallow grass roots about him, Underling hears them call back to their lush relatives on the field.
Shallow grass roots: “Wire over more grey flesh. We’re running low.”
The Horse Prefect: “You won’t hear them over me.” The Horse Prefect interrupts.
Underling: “My instruction’s only related to school, mountain.”
The Horse Prefect: “So you can tell The Stagnant’s outside the school, though you still haven’t crossed the schools gate. What’s the first thing you come to after the gate?”
Underling: “The road.”
The Horse Prefect: “So where’s the road? There’s no body of water in the slip road. You’re still in the school grounds. You’re still at work.”
Underling: “The road’s over my shoulder, and behind it, the school fence, and behind the school fence the circumfrancing Beeches blocking the field. One way or another, I’m outside the school. Anyway, no-one’d tap on the field. Your instruction’s only for the concrete playground, and floored interior suitable for clack tapping. No infection of this sort’d apply to legless water Limpets, even if I were still in school.”
The Horse Prefect’s heard enough, so takes a fistful of Underlings hair, and slings him into one of his peaks bushes. The Horse Prefect’s only interested in how aware Underling is of his bearings and priorities anyway. There’s no reason Underling can’t just watch the rest of this unfold retrospectively. They both head back to the horizon, Underling having returned from the bushes, leaving Underling to deal with the dying Limpets.
Underling: “Did you take all the water from the tufts of grass?” The Limpet turns slightly under Underling’s arm, revealing the Limpets baby. Both rotate, further revealing a glimpse of a human face. The face fades back seconds later. Underling and his party are holding on, with Underling at the front. Not knowing what better to do, Underling leads them all towards shore. He’s less sure of this with each step. Ultimately, they have to venture back out to sea, or some water, somehow. They walk up the boats ladder, aboard, then back overboard. The warmth of a sea wave approaching from behind gives something to aim for.
Underling: “When the wave carries us forward, turn and release the Limpets.” As Underling treads water, the escort party swim round till they’re parallel with the coast. Underling moves forward, so to angle the Limpets faces off kilter, heading towards The Horse Prefect, The Horse Prefect’s shadow envelops them all. Underling keeps going, but can feel the warmth of The Sea Bitch turn to ice. The elder Limpet looks up at Underling.
Creature: “Braithwaite’s alive, and in the playground. Never mind the kids. Braithwaite has the keys to the bone clamp’s. Go leave the school, and tap with her. You can still outrun everyone, even riding jagged with the brotherhood, under Underling. The best place for you two to go, is up to the top of The Horse Prefect. Watch us galloping with the pigs. They keep blazing carousels under its snow. The Horse Prefect’s snow, that is. The Sea Bitch hasn’t any snow of her own.”
Underling: “Last time I spoke to The Horse Prefect, he put everyone back in school.”
All around him’s fast becoming Stagnant, under the chill of The Horse Prefect’s shadow. Underling and the escorts discharge the animals. They flip out from under their arms, landing face down in the snow peak of The Horse Prefect. The Sea Bitch calls for her nurse, who faces up to The Horse Prefect.
Sea Bitch nurse: “What’s with the twins?”
The Horse Prefect: “Don’t think you can see under skin, just ‘cos the Sea Bitch’s given you a job. I saw how you took those horses heads, and clamped them on stage. I see them through the Limpets. In the stables, over the fields, we followed it from the start. They nay plenty loud enough. Hosing pigs blood over the front doesn’t drown anything out. The audience hear everything.”
Sea Bitch nurse: “Where’s these Limpets then? I can’t hear them. Where’ve they gone, but inside your stomach? Come clean, mountain, you’re expecting Underling to come running back to you, with more lies from backstage.”
The Stem Cell Hosers in the playing field yell out to sea.
Stem Cell Hosers: “Underling’s been sent to class, can’t keep his feet still, can’t read, can’t even find Braithwaite to do his exam for him. The Horse Prefect looks down, over the Beeches. Who saw what Braithwaite did to our ankles? Underling can take the stems of the kids ankles, present them to the Craft Design & Technology Stem Cell Hosers, and fix our poor legs.”
Sea Bitch: “If that’s so, there’s more to this snow than an incubation cover for dying fish. It seems to turn up, just as the Infirm Protein Coat gets broody. I’ll go out to The Stagnant.”
The Sea Bitch walks along its bed, looks up at its waves and gathers all the crill waiting above.
Sea Bitch: “The sun doesn’t need to see this.” The Stagnant feels The Sea Bitch draw near, so quickly injects Underling’s antidote into The Sea Bitch life. The Horse Prefect hasn’t stolen it only for himself.
From afar, it looks as if the Stem Cell Hosers are picking litter off the playing field. Some scrambling on hands and knees, others pelting around like erratic dogs with fists of grass being possible, hadn’t they already been carrying giant scythes. As blades wrench up, red perforator vein roots shoot out the dirt, attached solid to the bottoms of the grass. Roots arrange their choirs overhead, football nets drive into the ground, obviously joined at the other end. The orchestra plays into the evening. Some roots are attached to nets, some to wire fencing, others seemingly to other blades of grass. The more red perforator vein’s pulled up, the denser it webs across the landscape. Red perforator vein climbs the Beeches circumfrancing the field. The lowest of the webs support points are the ones coming from the ground, which Underling supposes have shot themselves into The Beeches, hitting the Stem Cell Hosers.
The kids in the exam room get called up to sing. Stem Cell Hosers grappling down the branches are spun into a towering inferno. Underling walks up one of The Threads, having narrowed it down to the Head of Craft, Design and Technology department left stranded on The Leaftops. Leaftop’s waiting for the Dean. Itself standing upright on the end of a thin vertical branch, arching its neck back to The Horse Prefect, showing off his banjo string goldfish neck. He looks like a drowning terrapin.
Underling: “I wanna answer the question about the guitar amplifier.”
Underling stamps on a leaf, breaking its back. None get away with making out they’re the Dean. Seeing Stem Cell Hosers fall apart from what’s taken by the guards as, deserters yield’s enough for him to speak up.
Stem Cell Hoser: “There wasn’t supposed to be any such question.”
Shin Detonator: “Braithwaite put it in.”
Underling: “Why’d a dinner lady care?”
Stem Cell Hoser: “Seeing me, the pupil. Thought I was signing up to be an understudy. Probably knew I’d do it, being one of the thick ones. She put it in the exam so I’d have a hand in recruiting Stem Cell Hosers, who’d end up marking. The chefs wouldn’t mark anything. No-one else’d know the answers. She felt sorry for me, sat out there in the grass.”
Underling: “I was sat in the grass. The Chief Invigilator sent me the paper, but I couldn’t understand the questions. Couldn’t even retain the words as I read them. I sat two feet from the face of the amplifier when I was at school. About eleven or twelve years old, and not a word from the Shin Detonator. Nothing from the swaying Beeches. Nothing from anyone.”
The Stem Cell Hoser allows Underling to submit his paper.
Stem Cell Hoser: “Can you feel the cold of The Horse Prefect’s eclipse, Underling?”
Underling: “No sir.”
Stem Cell Hoser: “Then don’t try and make out you’ve not been ordered up the peak yet! The other two are waiting boy. Waiting for you and Braithwaite to turn up, and the only way you got of getting there, has been ditched in the snow already. You wanna tell that Braithwaite, she’s a little hasty, dumping bone clamps in the snow, just ‘cos she’s alone in the kitchen for once. You both gonna meet them, one way or the other. I’m afraid, it’s by foot. You got no choice.”
Braithwaite: “Where’s the key to the bone clamp shed?” shouts Braithwaite across the kitchen, and therefore out the window and into the playing field.
Underling: “I heard she was asking for goat earlier today.” jokes Underling to the Stem Cell Hoser. Underling knows Braithwaite only said it because she misheard his conversation with The Horse Prefect, when Underling was sent to run chaos in school.
Stem Cell Hoser: “Braithwaite’s with you and The Horse Prefect then. As you’re in the kitchen, and here in the Beech with me. The animals are in the snow, and you’re looking to see if the kitchen window’s really open.”
Underling looks, and sees the window’s painted shut.
Braithwaite: “I can’t see what use you’ll be to me in the kitchen.”
Underling: “I can’t even be in the school. And what about when they find an antidote?”
Braithwaite: “You’re better off in the kitchen with me.”
The chefs aren’t gonna be content with Underling being Braithwaite’s second in command. It’s time to get rid of her.
Chefs: “Nothing contagious’ll survive here.” they all say in unison. One clarifies.
Chef: “Underling, you’d need the antidote to escape the kid’s, and occasionally the dinner ladies ankles, but also immunity to survive. You can try and find your antidote in the kitchen, but realistically, Braithwaite’ll need to let us find it for you. You aren’t gonna find an antidote to yourself. Try making room for breakfast, when you’re breakfast. Account for that.”
Braithwaite sends the chefs out into the playing field, just as they demanded, to search for an antidote, while she and Underling stay in the kitchen. It suits Braithwaite, as she needs Underling to steal the kids bone clamps from the shed. The chefs march out the kitchen, and crawl across the playing field, dragging their dead weight bottom halves along the ground on their elbows. The red perforator vein Thread web covering the playing field’s dense enough by now to hide them from the surveying Stem Cell Hosers, perched on the tops of the surrounding Beeches. But also thin enough on the ground to challenge their progress no more than an average cadet assault course. Cadets don’t end up slithering through spiked metal in the sun. With that, the Shin Detonator from under the playing field withdraw from the pressure filled lower soil, caused by the bulkier football nets and wire fencing replacing the thin red perforator vein of before, and are further encouraged to the surface by the moistening of the upper soil from the weather, becoming increasingly soft with every touch of the cadets elbows onto the dewier and dewier grass. Parting through the shallow roots of the blades Underling had been pulling up, not an hour before, the Shin Detonator reunite with the familiar red perforator vein Thread they feared had fled the lower depths, fleeing the galactic attack that afternoon.
Shin Detonator: “The Stem Cell Hosers elbows, unlike those of the chefs, apparently have no effect on the weather.” a Shin Detonator said, trying to flatter the chefs.
Chef: “There’s nothing resembling an assault course then. If anything, those Stem Cell Hosers’d more resemble gasping English soldiers scraping themselves up the dunes.”
Shin Detonator: “I guess it pays to wear a uniform.”
Chef: “I suppose it does, but this wet ground’s down to the red perforator vein, which isn’t as dense as when the Stem Cell Hosers were crawling. We resemble cadets not only in ourselves, but also in our surroundings. From the kitchen, the Stem Cell Hosers don’t look like they mind the weather at all.”
Shin Detonator: “Will you mind us?”
Chef: “Our ankles are brothers, elbows sisters, knees spouses, our testicles are old friends, our ovaries are cousins. What are Shin Detonator to us?”
Shin Detonator: “We hear you swell down into The Benign Soil from the kitchen. You’re jealous of Underling, like an older brother of his younger brother.”
Chef: “So what?” replies a chef.
Shin Detonator: “You’re out here looking for an antidote, moments after Underling himself was looking for one.”
Chef: “No. It’s us telling Underling he needed it. Not till after he left the playing field. If you don’t believe it, ask Braithwaite. Braithwaite knew full well Underling had no antidote by the time the exam started, way back when she made sure the amplifier question was put in. She had to make sure, somehow, the Stem Cell Hoser she wanted to send Underling up The Horse Prefect’s peak’d keep his job that long.”
Shin Detonator: “Underling knew from the day he was born. The kid’s like a spider. Why d’you think he’d leave the comfort of the kid’s ankles to sit out on his own? What’d drive a young Infirm Protein Coat to claw at summer grass? Why’d he envision lush green pastures in a field of barren death?”
The chefs don’t like where the Shin Detonator’s headed, but although clearly he’s lying, it does also happen to be true.
Chefs: “So his drive’s all about finding his own antidote in The Benign Soil.” The chefs concluded.
Shin Detonator: “And your innate drive’s like ours. We act for self-preservation.” the Shin Detonator recite in unison.
Chef: “So you’re not like Mechanical Nanny then? You wouldn’t tread us into mud, if we turned out useful for you?” asks a chef, pointlessly.
Shin Detonator: “Just in our interest to let you know. The antidote’s uprooted by the Stem Cell Hosers. Braithwaite’ll escape up The Horse Prefect with Underling, using the kids bone clamps. But underneath, The Benign Soil’s getting worse all the time. Don’t tell the plates. The Horse Prefect’ll outrun her, and the ground’ll be mincemeat.”
Shin Detonator follow the moistures scent to the surface. The Stem Cell Hosers have to be told to stop pulling up so much grass. Too many nets and yards of wire fencing, make the plates tetchy. Braithwaite runs out the kitchen, a meat cleaver in each hand, and starts hacking at the Stem Cell Hosers she now realises are all soldiers of The Horse Prefect. The red perforator vein Threads use as an antidote may hold if the plates break apart soon enough for The Horse Prefect’s nutrient-rich soil to smother them in time. She hacks at the brotherly ankles. Only blood of the soldiers ankles is immune.
Braithwaite: “So you show your uniform at last, cowards!” Braithwaite shouts at the Stem Cell Hosers. The chefs hear, and it fills them with pride.
Chefs: “Despite everything, the girl’s one of us.” They watch Braithwaite gallop the width of the field, clumsily trying to skip over the perforator vein, hacking at anything, sometimes two sets of ankles at once.
The immunity in the ankle blood of the Stem Cell Hosers’ll soak into the perforator vein still underground, if the dew keeps up. It’s already splattered on the web hanging heavy over the grass, pumped through each strand, up to the tip of the Beeches. It passed into the pourous leaves, through the Beeches, out their roots, and into The Benign Soil. The web’s been awarded controlled resistant blood, by its inhaled supervising ovarian pollen spores of The Horse Prefects bush. Released into the air by the landing of Underling. The web’s pulse sweats this new fever. Goat tap left the knees alone, or so the misinformed ovarian pollen spores thought. They get it in the ankles, but it gets in via the knees. Children get it in their knees, ovarian pollen spores. The Horse Prefect didn’t tell you! The fever’s immune to Underling, and at the rate Braithwaite’s getting through Stem Cell Hosers, The Horse Prefect’s staying right where it is. Underling’s Rockwelly old mother won’t mind. Will give her back her afternoons, distracted by the comfort of the beautiful horizon’s better than the stress of scouring it for the yelping afro twins. The Stem Cell Hosers saw the extent to which the Shin Detonator’ll reunite with the perforator vein. Now it’s becoming a living organism of its own, the ovarian pollen spores’s been left redundant enough to go out looking for the rattler. He’ll give them something to do. Underling, balancing on kitchen window sill, only climbed up there to see if Braithwaite separated the Stem Cell Hosers out, into two isolated camps. As open to The Horse Prefect, as the Beechtop Stem Cell Hosers were to The Benign Soil prisons. The Horse Prefect attacking from above, the Shin Detonator from below. Those lying on the ground, unable to climb through the web due to their horrific injuries, and those trapped on the very tops of the Beeches, overlooking the playing field. Earmarked prison guards overlooking from their forts, might’ve grown suspicious there weren’t any prisoners. Satisfied at last, the chefs and Braithwaite leave the playing field, and are almost back in the kitchen. Underling yells from the window.
Underling: “Did you find my antidote?”
Braithwaite: “No.” Braithwaite shouts back. “Not just lying around. We brewed it.”
Chef: “It’s stewing.”
They’re close enough now for Underling to speak at normal volume.
Underling: “How long’s stewing take?”
Chef: “Ask the Stem Cell Hosers.” laughs a chef, carrying one under his arm.
Underling climbs down from the window, and waits till Braithwaite and the chefs have walked in.
Underling: “Braithwaite. When you were all in the playing field, I took the kids bone clamps up the peak of The Horse Prefect.” The chefs applaud. As their clapping dies down, they form a semi-circle around Braithwaite. She’s left facing them with her back to the wall. The only way out’s over the top and through the window. Following the underarm Stem Cell Hosers blood trail, would’ve led straight to the antidote stew, had they made any. A chef steps forward, ruining the, till then, perfect semi-circle.
Chef: “What a hideous thing indeed!” he says, trying to make out the back of her pupils.
Braithwaite: “Not really chef. Underling was left alone. Who’s to say the kids didn’t give him permission. Doesn’t take much to win them over. A little goat tap, a little Infirm Protein Coat. Something to take away from school.” Braithwaite looks over to Underling.
Braithwaite: “D’ya think?”
Underling: “I’d go along with that, Miss.” He sniffs. “Is that stew?”
Another chef walks up, stopping an inch from Braithwaites nose. Another behind him, and then another climbs on the second chefs shoulders. Behind the vertically single file pair of chefs, three chefs stand on each others shoulders. Behind them, four chefs stand on each others shoulders. Behind them five, six, then seven, and so on until Braithwaite walks up them, to the peak of The Horse Prefect.
The Horse Prefect: “You want the antidote for Underling.”
Braithwaite: “I’ve come for the bone clamps.”
The Horse Prefect: “Why come all this way for something you don’t even want for yourself?”
Underling wanders into the playing field, seeing the Stem Cell Hosers hacked by Braithwaite being looked after by the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s five foot tall, and has coils of red perforator vein Thread for flesh. Despite not being visible from the outside, the Shin Detonator have chosen to live inside him, rather than in the cold soil of before. The Stem Cell Hosers trapped in the Beeches, have all now climbed down, and are stretchering injured parties down the incline, into The Sea Bitch, beyond the waves, and up into the boat. The boat only has one bed, so the others sit out on deckchairs, where there’s a small balcony. Many of the local orthopedic residents are onboard. There’s bunting, alcohol and quartered sandwiches. They’re celebrating the Stem Cell Hosers recovery like it’s a cricket match. Underling walks up to the antidote.
Antidote: “You’re best off on the boat with the others.”
Underling climbs aboard, and’s pulled immediately to ground by a rattling old drunk in a fedora.
Rattler: “You know, I used to keep wicket for the school, and it never staggered to amaze me, how much blood one’d get through.”
Underling: “Really.” replies Underling. “You mean, ceased.”
Rattler: “Yes, and you, Underling, should be grateful the likes of me would mop it up for you.”
Underling: “I guess I hadn’t thought about it.”
Rattler: “No, well, you’re yet to pass me cocooned in Shin Detonator sap. You can thank me, the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head grew up to be so charitable.”
Underling: “I might be grateful, but what about Braithwaite? What does she make of all this? She set the amplifier question, so I could find my immunity.”
Rattler: “Well, that’s what she told the young boys. She knew alright. She could tell the urchins from who’d grow up to be your Stem Cell Hoser, but you know, I had a hand in too.”
Underling: “Then I should thank you, Sir.”
Underling looks over the side of the boat.
Rattler: “There’s not much down there for you.”
Underling: “Where, in bottom of the lake?”
Rattler: “Right you are young chap. They moved the Limpets, for better or worse, up here. Apart from the two you got lost with.”
The weeping willows overhanging the lake are sweating. Their shoelace branches stiffen, and from inside, burst out the wire fencing the roots had sucked up through The Benign Soil, and that the branches sucked up through the water. The football nets lodge themselves in the weeping willows throats, and happen to be being coughed out, just as the rattler decides to clear his sinuses. They land on deck, catching the lower limbs of the old man and Underling.
Rattler: “Owzat punk! They got your Infirm Protein Coat!” He looks down, more closely. “Oh no they didn’t. They missed the knees.”
The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head steps between them, picking up the nets and holds them up to Underling’s face.
GWARBWH: “You see this, Underling? That’s clogging. I deal in pulse, flow. The Limpets fled the beach. My parents fled the kitchen. The only ones who got away from anything were the stationary weeping willows, rooted to the ground.”
The weeping willows slosh knee high through the lake and climb aboard to confront the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head. The old wicketkeeper moves up to the cougars on the steering deck.
Weeping willow: “The Beeches in the playing field held up your lot, don’t forget.”
Had Braithwaite interpreted summer spores, she’d have heeded The Horse Prefects ovarian pollen spores, and distracted the rattler. But spores only work in the day, so she sent him back down to the larder, leaving him free to conspire with the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head.
Braithwaite: “Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, you must be thirsty.”
Rattler: “He’s not thirsty!” interrupted the wicketkeeper.
Rattler: “I’ve been watching him outdrink me all afternoon.”
Braithwaite: “Then what’d you make of hosting every Shin Detonator in the playing field. Would you be thirsty then?”
Rattler: “When I’m Shin Detonator food, I’ll let you know. But for now, I won’t be.”
The wicketkeeper and the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head climb overboard. To keep the union intact, the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head sends a trailing coil into the playing field soil. Its end crawls around the Shin Detonator warrens, and happens across a bonfires worth of displaced Shin Detonator, plotting themselves, against their Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, child of the tyrannical net clogging.
Shin Detonator: “What d’you want, coil tentacle?”
Coil tentacle: “I heard you know a thing or two about bonding sap, and how to create it.”
Shin Detonator:” What if we do?”
Coil tentacle: “The rattler and I are heading off the side of the boat. Thinks he can play dad to a small family of Shin Detonator. Well, let him, I say. I’m taking him down with me, but what are these new limbs of mine? Someone has to hold him, and it’s only me around.”
Shin Detonator: “Just hold him with your arms!”
Coil tentacle: “Impossible! What d’you think I am?”
Shin Detonator: “You want the recipe for Shin Detonator sap, you might find yourself stuck down here with us for a while.”
Coil tentacle: “Doing what?”
Shin Detonator: “We’re no bonfire club. Rather orphans of net clogging. Net clogging not dissimilar in appearance to your good self. You wanna humiliate this old man of yours, you’re taking the clogging with you.”
The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head and the rattler sink, arm in arm. Their feet hit the bed, sending puffs of, now escaping, drowning ovarian pollen spores spores butterflying to the surface.
Rattler: “Let’s see how an old cad like me handles these Shin Detonator you’re moaning about. There’s no dealing with anything. They just chew your insides till one of you becomes poison.” The old man shuts his eyes, holds still, and unsticks his lips enough to release a final trail of crumb bubbles. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head buries his head into the old man’s shoulder, crushing his body into the size of a lunchbox. The Shin Detonator don’t fancy clawing out yet another prison, having watched The Benign Soil they lived in from birth, spoil. The coil tubes hold them flat, shooting red and white cells they can only dodge left or right. Old man flesh fuses to a crawl with the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, like a tube of toothpaste sucking itself inside out, till the arse, the smug escaped convict strolling shit down a red carpet, grates along its throat. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head tilts alone. Weighed down, bottom heavy, anchored to the bed, the old man clutched in one of several exit coils. Cocooned unconscious in the preserving and re-energising sap of the Shin Detonator, the top left side of the old man’s head grazes along the bed as his thighs, knees, then shins, ankles, and eventually toes drop out. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head turns its neck, watching the encased fetus cool solid, but’s vacuumed up before it can be frozen into the same vision Underling held of the exam assistant. Its neck twists again to look up for The Horse Prefect, but across and over every vanishing point’s nothing but hull. Unbeknown to the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, the end of his coil remains glued to the cocooned wicketkeeper. Gravity unravels half the torso. Frantic pushing upwards against the water only sends the trajectory off its only hope.
Horse Prefect: “Let the current take you.” He should still have his head, shoulders and arms, by the time he collides with the shiny white coating. The boat’ll keep stationary, just as it’s been kept since the afro twins pets have pedalled every escape route in motion. He’d hold on for sure. The time it takes to pass a door frame width so narrow, will only ever be cut short by the time it takes a twitchy racehorse’s nose, with less homegrown hairs in its nostrils than those of its neighbouring greyhounds tail, to cover the same distance. An
unravelled Shin Detonator, now homeless looks left towards the voice.
Shin Detonator: “Our old host’s left a path to the cellar. It’s still mid afternoon. There’s bound to be a drink or two in there.” The Shin Detonator scurry down, bottlenecking at the rattlers toe. In rank order, they’re sent up the coil. Each shimmy of their freezing bodies, eggs out to sea. The still Stagnant has none of its own. Native eggs died out, with The Horse Prefects pastime of tossing birds into its depths. The enemy sea in land speak, has a land border. Anything’s picked up. It wasn’t expecting another call from The Stagnant yet, having only just sent its waves, and besides, it hasn’t any Limpets to offer.
Sea Bitch: “The Stagnant could do worse than leave me alone a couple of years.” Instead of shooing away bored soldiers, in the hope some healthy ones’d be caught up, he sends in The Horse Prefect.
Sea Bitch: “Go see what these eggs are about.” orders The Sea Bitch. The two Limpets had long since buried themselves in the snow, frightened by the sudden introduction of kids bone clamps. The Horse Prefect spins The Sea Bitch outwards. The snow on its peak melts. The eggs freeze.
Shin Detonator: “The Horse Prefect’s suspended underwater, caught in sea frost.” As The Sea Bitchs waves crash above, ice lightning tunnels into the Shin Detonator sap pores. They bury their heads at the second wave, they call The Chill.
Shin Detonator: “Don’t move!” shouts a Shin Detonator to another.
Shin Detonator: “The larder’s…”
None make it to the larder. As the Shin Detonator harden, the eggs, and suspicions of The Sea Bitch, peter out.
Braithwaite: “Who was the first of you lot to speak to the Shin Detonator?” Braithwaite asked the chefs.
Chefs: “You know Braithwaite, you must know, if you knew enough years ago to include the amplifier question in the exam. The only question’s for us. Why you’d bother asking. Suppose you’re trying to get the most outspoken chef in your kitchen, to send out to The Horse Prefect. In which case, your only question to us is, who’s the best swimmer?” the chefs all say in unison.
Braithwaite: “I couldn’t care less who’s the best swimmer, I just need to see now, who of you’s least out of breath.” Braithwaite surveys the chefs, remembering the skill Underling had, picking escorts out the vans in the field. Their shirt buttons sink, regardless of inhaling or exhaling. Of course, they all heave. Some out of breath, some out of faking it. Who wants to catch a perfumeless chill out in The Stagnant?
“Keep heaving.” Braithwaite says to herself. “The last to hyperventilate’ll do.” Sure enough, the chefs begin passing out on the floor. With just one left standing, Braithwaite has her man.
Braithwaite: “Stop!” The chef stops faking out of breath.
Braithwaite: “Stop right there, young man.” she says so quietly, the chef isn’t sure she’s not talking to herself. He hears it well enough. Braithwaite tells, so doesn’t raise her voice to continue at him.
Braithwaite: “You’re going out into the freezing water, and gonna get me those Shin Detonator. You won’t be able to carry them all, so you’ll need to make sure they return to their host, be it the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head or the rattling wicketkeeper, and bring me the host.”
Chef: “Yes chef.”
Braithwaite pauses for the obvious question. Nothing comes.
Braithwaite: “You’ll need to take these with you.” she says, walking up to one of the metal tables at the back. She pulls open a draw, and takes a handful of Stem Cell Hosers ankles.
Braithwaite: “The Stem Cell Hosers are immune from Underling’s goat tap Infirm Protein Coat, so make sure you only use these ankles. No-one else’s. You understand?”
Chef: “Yes chef. What are the ankles for?”
Braithwaite: “Who’s to know the state of the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s coils? It mightn’t just be the one way out for the Shin Detonator, now he’s been pulled half straight, and left to dissolve in The Stagnant. Her face was already bleached enough, before setting down. She should send it up to mate with a few of the dogs and horses circling above. She needn’t worry about getting pregnant. The small science put walls up for the the sperm. As soon as they’ve climbed up the two brick thick, past where they can fall down and still survive, they get to the top, and where there used to be a way over, is a one brick thick, they can only summit to find themselves hopelessly suspended. Their mentors can all stroll up, and tell them a way down’s being made, but the mentors don’t know the one brick won’t hold any mechanical help arriving. The nannyless sprogs are stuck there, staring down at the concrete till they can’t stay awake no more. No, no sperm’s making it in the Bleach Girl. She just keeps her reproductive work to herself. As for the wicketkeeper, he’s been Shin Detonator food on the lake bed ever since. For all we know, he’s riddled with ‘em. When you get there, and end up frogmarching whichever the Shin Detonator’ve retreated to, you’ll need to plug any possible escape before leaving the water.”
Plugging’ll graze the inner hairs, collecting DNA. You know, the interest The Horse Prefect has in small science. Always been beyond him. If he’s gonna collect samples of betrayers, Braithwaites soldier’ll find himself under a microscope, under the slope under another slope. It won’t take more than a clumsy grasp against Braithwaites already soft skin to put her in it too. Braithwaite might wanna be careful, not to let her new recruit get too close with his amateur chef grooming. Long hair, and long nails. Beards and body odours intermingle, held up by the ovarian pollen spores at every corner, before being slung back to its host, in much the same way a Shin Detonator’ll always go back to the playing field, in the end. Football nets, or no football nets, those warrens are his history. The girls’ll follow the boys. The ovarian pollen spores follow the order of The Horse Prefect, not, as most’d think, the authority of the birds. There’s as much mislead treason between the ovarian pollen spores and the birds, as between Braithwaite and her chefs. As much as between the Shin Detonator and the Dean. The fingernails of the chef, and the palm of Braithwaite’ll be the undoing of her perfect crime.
Chef: “The Shin Detonator may have spread between more than one host. What then?”
Braithwaite: “Bring back at least one host.” At last he’s showing something. The chef snatches the ankles from Braithwaite’s hand, and turns to march out the door. As his head swings round to the exits, his peripheral vision hits a wall of staircase formed chefs. This time, a staircase insurmountable.
Chef: “You can walk up me.” says the first step chef. “You can walk three steps up. No more.”
The steps form a C shape. Fifty percent climbable. The chef puts the ankles in his pocket, and walks out the kitchen door.
Underling: “What’s it like for a cadet like you, out here on the playing field. Guess you don’t like it when the sun and the dew don’t come running.”
Chef: “It’s antidote business. Not the weather. I’m trying to help you out, if you must know.”
Underling: “You should go home.”
Chef: “If I was less than a decade younger Underling, I’d be tapping with you and the other kids. Giving the Damselfish what for. You’re young enough to clear all this lot up.” He points to the pepperings of coil left on the grass, and trees. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s offspring all stepped in landmines.
Chef: “Considering how finicky Braithwaite was about not contaminating anything, and keeping everything immune, she’s left a right bloody mess.”
Underling: “You’re not a Stem Cell Hoser are you? Get me my mechanical nanny!” Both know each other’s going through the motions of saying the sequence of sentences that inevitably leads to what they both want. The chef cuts to it, and rolls up his socks, exposing his ankles.
The chef walks about ten yards out into the grass. He turns around to face Underling, his tutor, and tries his first tap. The Benign Soil gives way under his feet.
Underling: “Not really a goat, is it?”
Chef: “They wouldn’t role up to my knees. What d’you expect?”
Both stop to acknowledge that The Benign Soil’s still giving way.
Chef: “Underling, get here now!” shouts the chef. Underling’s slow.
Underling: “Never mind The Benign Soil. You’re best off out of it anyway. You weren’t sent out to crawl between perforator vein Threads for Braithwaite’s sake. I used her, to send you out, to train for me.”
The chef, back on guard, warming to Underling’s comradery, is down on his elbows, crawling out towards the tarmac. His first elbow step drags back soil, but fails to propel his body forward. He stops briefly, before thinking nothing of it. Underling’s the trustworthy type, so he digs in his other elbow. The second elbow step’s equally useless. His third, moves him forward a few inches. His forth, back a few. His fifth doesn’t land. There’s no soil. He quickly gets in a sixth, as he’s tipping over, but it’s all futile. The chef lost The Benign Soil, and continuing the increasingly rapid crawl motion of his elbows, succeeds only in levitating his body mid-air. Not that it’s a small achievement.
Underling: “Keep pedalling!”
Chef: “There’s nothing beneath me!” His elbows propel him up to the Beechtops. The Stem Cell Hosers, only a few feet either side, with nothing else to look at, see the erectile bulge of ankle bones in the chefs pocket. As the chef rises, the Stem Cell Hosers become convinced he must be carrying the keys to the bone clamp shed.
Stem Cell Hoser: “We can’t let a junior chef hold the keys to the kids bone clamps.” a Beechtop Stem Cell Hoser says to another.
Stem Cell Hosers: “Someone’s gotta have them.” shout the Stem Cell Hosers on The Benign Soil.
Stem Cell Hoser: “You’d let Braithwaite? If this young man’s got Braithwaite’s keys, he’ll have a way to get our ankles back.”
The chef overhears all this, but Underling remains silent. Without Underling pushing him on, the chef doesn’t know if letting the Stem Cell Hosers know he didn’t have the keys’ll get back to The Horse Prefect.
Braithwaite watches from the kitchen window, having negotiated with the other chefs to reform their staircase, to one leading somewhere. Up to where she now stood. Preoccupied, gawping at the chef, she misses Underling walking under her, back in the kitchen.
Chef: “Shouldn’t you be out there, with your new best friend?” That’s the kind of comment Underling can use, if he chooses not to answer. It came from one of the chefs, still resentful of him being jumped up the ranks. The kind of question you might ask Braithwaite right now, if you had it in mind to start a mutiny.
Braithwaite overheard the chefs question, and not hearing an answer, assumed it to be directed at her. Still looking up at the sky, and with Underling making sure she stayed unaware of his presence beneath her, Braithwaite grew suspicious of her soldiers. She’s already faced with one defector, but with no Underling either, maybe, she thinks, she’d be better off defecting herself, and alleging with her defector. She thinks about this for a while.
Underling bends down, and picks up two of the Stem Cell Hosers ankles, that had dropped to the floor when the, now levitating, chef snatched them out Braithwaite’s hand. He puts them in the mouthy chefs baby smooth palms, and shuts his interlocking fingers like a fly trap. He’s almost eating his ticket to The Beeches. Underling jump clacks his ankles hard in the chefs ear. He lands, then springs up again, as before. Only this time, the chef’s learned, so stuffs the ankles in his ears. The other chefs look on in silence. Braithwaite hears, but assumes a chef has just dropped a pan, or something. Anyway, she’s deep in thought about her loyalties. She decides to respond.
Braithwaite: “Who do’you mean?”
Braithwaite waits, not knowing the chef who asked her still has the ankles in his ears, and so can’t hear her question. Hearing no answer back, Braithwaite’s heard all she needs. She’s to defect. Defect and trust Underling. Underling, by this time’s goat tapped out to the school gate, and back to the playing field via the back of the kids bone clamp shed, so not to be seen by the overlooking Braithwaite.
As one Stem Cell Hoser drops, the other reaches out a hand, in doing so losing his balance. His arms swing round, desperately trying to keep the body upright. It regains posture, only to catch the levitating chef moving close. He swings his arms out at the face. The levitating chef grabs the Stem Cell Hosers cuff, suspending them both in rising ovarian pollen spores. The scent’s bolstered since escaping the lake bed dirt, so pulls the Stem Cell Hosers left hand, digging his nails into the jacket arm of the levitating chefs right. The Stem Cell Hosers right hand’s rotating fast enough to start levitation, as the levitating chefs left’s always been. Now both levitating safely, the levitating Stem Cell Hoser and the levitating chef hover invisible amongst the Beechtops.
Shin Detonator: “Explain your wetness!”
Levitating chef: “Stem Cell Hoser, we’re drenched!”
Levitating Stem Cell Hoser: “Drenched is a minimum of seven years!” The Dean’ll send foreigners to the groundsman without trial. Wetness doesn’t make them a wet species, but neither does it make any difference. Without birds to counsel, no expert of small science’ll make a case for anything close enough to wet species law, to get their legal teams convicted. Lawyers’ll happily see them executed, now there’s a quota from overseas. Flinging ovarian pollen spores after ovarian pollen spores into boiling underarms, this deep into summer, the spore skin was almost gone before the first germ-bleeding hit. Some might handle regular arms, maybe in early autumn, but no lab test under the siege of the Deans administrators, dealt with four simultaneous armed propellers, whatever the season. No bird’s seen the wet set loose of a baby lizard cracking through its outer shell. Had they, or the labs recruited from more than one species, the levitating Stem Cell Hoser and chef, both levitating, would’ve hovered fast enough to fan their underarms tepid. Birds alone wouldn’t study for this. Only reptiles monitor their young with such ferocity. Birds tend to just let them be, and hope a few make it out alright.
The upper tier Stem Cell Hosers assumed the surgical banquet on the boat was over. What they can’t tell, and had they, they’d realise, is The Stagnant rising over the false tent peg divots, since The Sea Bitch sent in The Horse Prefect.
Sea Bitch: “Everything’ll get accustomed to its present state. As long as The Horse Prefect remains content where it is, the islanders will soon adapt to life on the waves. At least, until I wash them up into The Stagnant and vaginal banks of the car wash.”
Being The Sea Bitch, it wasn’t familiar with the properties of snow. The snow’s just there, constant in vision. The Sea Bitch hasn’t considered it anything other than, what the top of The Horse Prefect looks like. Probably just the colour of its coldest rock. The Sea Bitch hasn’t any reason to think snow melts, or is in any way dissimilar to playground semen chalk. Snow has no reason to chemically be water, any more than semen chalk dust. As frozen eggs, and mountain snow mix in its tides, the weakened bitch sits up on his bed, delirious and vomiting. Fever’s sent The Sea Bitch pollen caught from the butterfly swarm. Up and down the back of his nostrils, he’s got boys bits down with his girls. Germ explosions in his gut sends the sea temperature boiling. Too bad for The Sea Bitches submarines. There’ll be boys anew soon though.
Sea Bitch: “What are you doing to me, mountain?” he cries.
The Horse Prefect: “Freeing myself, if I could.”
The Stem Cell Hosers watch The Sea Bitchs yellow odours pull at the Underlingless ankles of the ovarian pollen spores. The seasons’ll all intermingle. The Horse Prefect draws only on the big physics. Particles and subatomic laws belong under the Dean, in the courts of the birds. The walls of the cells don’t hold in everything being radioactive, without a governing body overlooking every process. Every bounce considered, between one cell and another. Underling, standing with them, jumps down to the playing field, and grabs a handful of shallow roots. He walks out into The Stagnant, past the old wicketkeeper and the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, finding The Sea Bitch flat horizontal. Above the dying sea’s, The Horse Prefect, equally helpless, bound up in the water. Underling releases the shallow roots up to the waves, some getting caught in mountains rocks. Most make it past The Horse Prefect, the hungry fish and dissolving salt, and sit in the acidic white bubbles that sit between the laws of the birds, and those of the Dean. The frozen eggs grip on The Horse Prefect breaks. The Sea Bitch arises from its bed, and The Horse Prefect sinks, with the two Limpets and the kids bone clamps, to where The Sea Bitch’s been lying ill all day.
The old wicketkeeper tastes the Infirm Protein Coat in The Sea Bitch, winces his eyes, and nestles his head further into the bed of the lake. The Shin Detonator sap cracks, leaking Stagnant into the cocoon. The Horse Prefect, far from happy with his new home, calls out to the wicketkeeper.
The Horse Prefect: “Stagnant’s no place for an old man like you. Come over here, and make the most of my remaining snow.”
The wicketkeeper sits up, destroying the cocoon, and looks out in the voices direction. The elderly woman approaching Underling unfroze, mechanically swishing water around in front of her. As her hands whip, Damselfish weave in and out. Her long hair malts circling moons, levying enough gravity on each strand to keep them suspended. The wicketkeeper walks up, but’s soon yanked back by the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, still very much attached to his toe.
The Damselfish since learned of The Sea Bitch’s no small feat, digesting The Horse Prefect, so invite in a guest of their own. Unlike The Sea Bitch, the fish have a means of escape. One of the boys in the exam room looks out to Underling in the field, then back down on his paper.
Damselfish: “Break!” shouts one of the fish. The gills and fins disappear into scales the birds made into harbours. They accelerate, paralysing the old woman’s forearm. Germ factory small science attacks her from the peripheries. The dead whirling drive propels the Damselfish out the water, angled too shallow for the sky, thudding them into the side of the playing fields soil. The boy’s queasy, and seeing the Chief Invigilator and her assistants oblivious to anything other than the sorry sight of Underling pulling up tufts of shallow rooted summer grass, waves his arm, groaning like the Stem Cell Hosers drowning in the corridors. Chief Invigilator finally looked over.
Chief Invigilator: “What?”
Boy: “I don’t feel well, Miss.”
The Damselfish try a celebrity entrance, up and out to the ceiling, along with half The Sea Bitchs ovarian pollen sporesous water. All converge too early, getting wedged in the boys throat.
Chief Invigilator: “Look at that one! He’s choking!”
The boy meets the floor hard, hopelessly convulsing. His legs being limp, turn hind. His ankles clacking together with a sound as if mallets were taken to them.
Invigilator: “The kid can’t have Underling. Underling’s out there in the field.” whispers one of the Chief Invigilators assistants to The Horse Prefect. The Horse Prefect never lets on anything about the Infirm Protein Coat or the boy.
Invigilator: “Surley, no new tapping infections can occur, if the Infirm Protein Coat isn’t even in the room.”
By this time, the Damselfish had come out from the boy’s mouth, less spectacularly than intended. Content at least to be safely out the melting snow, they slunk out unnoticed, congregating the rest of the kids in the playground.
Kids: “Can you give us the exam questions please?”
Damselfish: “We never saw them. Never got off the ground. We had to choose between pulling splinters out from between our scales, or bruising.”
Other Damselfish: “We chose splinters.”
The kids ankles are free of the Infirm Protein Coat. Not that any of them noticed. They’re out for the exam questions, and far from treating the Damselfish like doctors, carried on pecking. The fish, the four still breathing, stand, staring out at the kitchen. Over the tops of the kids heads, they see the chefs all lined up at the back, leaning back against the Craft Design & Technology labs, irritating the Craft Design & Technology Stem Cell Hosers. The Stem Cell Hosers kick out, through the labs swinging double-doors and into the kitchen. Braithwaite invites them in to the inner kitchen room.
Braithwaite: “Only three of my chefs’ve ever been invited into the inner kitchen.”
The Craft Design & Technology Stem Cell Hosers nod, acknowledging the privilege.
Braithwaite: “How many of you’d be interested in colluding with the Damselfish, if they stood against the kids?”
CDT Stem Cell Hoser: “Zero.”
Braithwaite: “Then you’d better ask the birds to put together another of their formulas for you. Edible ovarian pollen spores’s not edible in The Sea Bitch. The sap bucket’ll freeze their genitals over with, or without a formula. Despite their lab work, and sitting up in the trees all day, the kids won’t listen to anything else. They know when they look up into the branches at night, every one of those birds are dry. And you ask, why wet species would bother climbing trees policed by both The Horse Prefect and his enemies, the birds? They climb because there’s not just two sides fighting out there. There’s the small science armies themselves. They don’t all fight under the leadership of the birds. The small science’s a complicated science. No one’s policing the small science, other than the small science. The birds can poke around their dishes, but even the microscopes are nothing more than a TV screen. All it influences, is what goes in the report. The birds are mere observers over ninety nine percent of their army. So tell the kids. Tell the kids they can climb the trees wet or dry. If anyone asks, point their questions to the ovarian pollen spores. And when the ovarian pollen spores get asked, they’ll observe the Dean’s administration, and nothing’ll get done.”
CDT Stem Cell Hoser: “The birds must’ve been behind the Infirm Protein Coat, no?”
Other CDT Stem Cell Hoser: “We’ve always stayed in our quarters. Moving from the labs to the kitchen’s quite enough for us. Asking us to go out again’s just not for us at all. Craft Design & Technology Stem Cell Hosers wouldn’t even be allowed into the exam room. The Chief Invigilator’d think we’re trying to steal the questions for our students.”
Braithwaite: “You talk like what you want me to think you are, but I know you’ll be cloaked murderers soon! I’m not talking about the bloody exam! I’m talking about the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head. He’s running riot underneath the local orthopedic residents surgical banquet. He’s cocooned the old wicketkeeper, is hosting a colony of frozen Shin Detonator, and if it wasn’t for him, The Horse Prefect wouldn’t have thrown itself into The Sea Bitch trying to find the source of the eggs that made The Sea Bitch think The Stagnant could be planning to ask for yet more sea Limpets.”
CDT Stem Cell Hosers: “Murderers! Impotent murderers maybe.”
Braithwaite: “No one asked you to skip washing your hair in the menopausal vagina gates The Stagnant so kindly dug you in the bank. If impotent’s how you’ve landed, then you only have yourselves to blame. Let’s hope your insides do you a favour and retreat your alkaline cocks and alkaline balls up your tracts in time. There’s not much a bucket of crystallised sap leaves, other than a trail Mechanical Nanny wouldn’t stomach treading into the dirt. Or in your case, the tarmac.” Braithwaite starts giving out instructions.
Braithwaite: “I understand my chefs’ve been disrespecting the walls of your labs. Not for the first time, I imagine, since leaving the school as students a few years ago.”
CDT Stem Cell Hoser: “At least.” interrupted one of the Craft Design & Technology Stem Cell Hosers. Braithwaite let it go.
Braithwaite: “The Damselfish are, no doubt, having a hard time winning over the kids. Your job’s to grab the Damselfish by disciplining my chefs in front of any still roped to The Beeches. The chefs are tantamount to staff in the eyes of the kids. If they see staff brought down, they’ll drop to their knees and pat the floor, made into mechanical dolls, they’ll be. Small science breaks from the lab work around that size. You wind up, and set them dolls on what you like. Send them out patting the ankle massagers of the ground bound’s. These kids take to much after the bookshelves. A pattercake session in The Beech forest’ll dampen their circuits, sparking up the nighttime mosquito buzzers. Wire out some veins ready for those ankleless poorpers scratching at The Beech bark. A few might even see fit to thank the Damselfish, for ridding them of the Underling Infirm Protein Coat.”
GWARBWH: “You trying to kill me?” shouts the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head at the strolling wicketkeeper.
Braithwaite hears the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s scream from the kitchen window, and now even more convinced she’ll defect to join Underling, the levitating Stem Cell Hoser and the levitating chef, waves her hands around in front of her, in much the same way as the old balding woman at the bottom of The Sea Bitch. Braithwaite winds her hands, and the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head back into shape. All that’s left, is to detach from the wicketkeepers toe. Braithwaite looks down at her chefs, then back to the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head.
Chefs: “Persuade anyone of what?” the chefs said in unison.
Braithwaite hasn’t yet told anyone of her intended betrayal of the chefs, so carries on in allegiance with them. The chefs don’t need instruction from Braithwaite this time. They march out the kitchen, and further out, deep into the playing field.
Chef: “Where’s Underling?”
Underling’d be out at sea by now. The sloped approached another slope, missed when Underling’s entourage struggled in the waves. A walkway the birds use to fizz spores up The Sea Bitch from. Low ceilinged, dark, its back wall a parade of disused labs the birds thought they might blackmail the Craft Design & Technology Stem Cell Hosers with, had Braithwaite extended her kitchen out, over the top of their buildings. The rattler walks underneath the boat in pure Stagnant, heading straight for the base of The Horse Prefect. The Horse Prefect roars again.
The Horse Prefect: “Right you lot! Your armies are in place.” The Beechtop Stem Cell Hosers balancing on the tips of the leaves, freeze. The Horse Prefect climbs ashore, and halfway into the playing field. He stops after passing half the ground-bound Stem Cell Hosers, and draws a red line stretching across the grounds.
The Horse Prefect: “Those of you here…” he says pointing towards the school.
The Horse Prefect: “…against everyone on this side.” he says, pointing out to sea. On the side of the school are half the ground-bound Stem Cell Hosers, a few of the Beechtop Stem Cell Hosers, Braithwaite and a couple of chefs who decided not to go out to sea, the Chief Invigilator and her assistants, the kids, half the shallow grass roots and the dinner ladies. On the side of The Sea Bitch are half the ground-bound Stem Cell Hosers, most of the Beechtop Stem Cell Hosers, most of the chefs, half the shallow grass roots, the two Limpets, the kids bone clamps, The Horse Prefect, Underling, The Stagnant, The Sea Bitch, the Damselfish, the islanders, the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, the Shin Detonator, the rattler, the weeping willows and the local orthopedic residents.
Stem Cell Hoser: “Stay there!” shouts a Beechtop Stem Cell Hoser to Underling.
Underling: “The Horse Prefect’s pitted me against you.”
Stem Cell Hoser: “So what? You didn’t feel any chill off the eclipse when you asked me to accept your exam paper. You don’t belong in the playing field. You’d best skip up The Horse Prefect’s peak, settle down with your bone clamps and anyone you think owes you a favour.”
The Horse Prefect roars again, but this time, too late to drown out the Stem Cell Hosers advice.
Stem Cell Hoser: “It doesn’t matter if you battle me, but, Underling, why’d The Horse Prefect wait for you to be separated from Braithwaite, and beside himself, before dividing us into warring factions? For someone aware of the lengths Braithwaite went to, to allow you, and you alone to pass the exam. For you to then fight against her, is, well, bloody ungrateful!” Braithwaite’s a hard woman, never showing anything for anyone, least of all Underling. As hard on him, as anyone else. Spending the next few seconds reliving what he thinks it must be like, to be Braithwaite, hits Underling hard. Braithwaite made sure she was roosted up at the window to witness Underling’s reaction.
Underling: “I’m so pleased to see you, Braithwaite.”
Braithwaite: “So now you know.” Matter of fact.
Braithwaite: “I love you.”
Underlings vision of the haggard old lady plays, but isn’t any use now. The exam paper was taken by the Limpets under his arm, before he dumped them in The Horse Prefects peak.
Underling: “I love you too.” The Horse Prefects work’s done.
Underling’s mother: “Where’s those two lovely girls?” Underling’s mother spits, as he kicks back open the, still swaying from his going-out kick, wooden-slated swing doors.
Underling: “They’ve gone nowhere, mother.” Keeping his chin pressed to his chest. In no mood for the terrible routine again. He might as well have told the truth. But it’s what he likes to tell her, after flinging them out in the snow. And always with his chin pulling. Every time. Same question, same answer. Neither of them care anymore.
Underling’s mother: “You know, it’s particularly cold today. Those girls’ll catch their death.”
Underling: “It’s particularly cold every day.”
Underling’s mother: “Every day since the Damselfish arrived. They don’t belong here, Underling.”
Underling: “It’s too much. They’re bloody shouting all day now! Too much mother!”
Underling’s mother: “What you wanna do? Pour Trial Tar down their throats, that’s what. Get a batch from the Shin Detonator, or shoot down a carrier bird. It’ll drop the balls off any man you slap it on. It’ll take their gurgling tonsils for sure. There’s only one. Two balls in a nutsack, one tonsil in a bullhorn. Not enough to shut them up mind, but it’ll take the sting out.”
Underling: “That’s not how castration fluid works, mother. You might as well try making ‘em a cup of tea. Nothing works, other than a night in the snow.”
Underling’s mother: “It’s not a night in the snow, as much as it’s a night with the cats.”
Underling: “The cats are a bonus.” Feeling better, Underling decides he’s done for the day, and heads for the fridge.
The Horse Prefect overhears, sick of having to suffer the mothers doting attention. A constant, dominant warden of the village, bang centre of her distant landscape. Every time she leaves the house. It’s no state for a figure like him to find himself in. Unseated so easily. He’s making a home for himself in The Sea Bitch, and likes its residents. At least since the floating islanders had gotten used to life on a raft, eating seaweed, fish, and all they can steal from the residents larder. It means venturing into the sickly Stagnant, and being hunted as pirates, but they’re tolerated for the most part. The twin afro bust girls lie freezing in the snow. Almost dead, but used to it by now. They won’t stand for being called ‘siamese’, as Underling’s mother had once had a cat who playfully clawed their faces rotten through the night. By the time Underling’s mother made it downstairs, the following early afternoon, there was hardly anything left of them. Nothing recognisable. It was the last they saw of the cat. Probably the last anyone did. It wasn’t siamese, but still. Yes, the siamese twin afro bust girls, are now only ever referred to as the twin afro bust. They don’t like ‘girls’ either. “With nothing shoulders down, who’s to say what we are?” They’re clearly girls. Unlike the removal of ‘siamese’, no-one stands for removing ‘girls’. “That’s just them being ridiculous.” Underling’s mother says. Usually between vodkas, and never to their faces. They drive Underling mad with their constant badgering. The mother enjoys it, but being kind in nature, and sick of Underling infecting his cousins ankles, she sides with the twin afro bust, almost always. The distant cousins ankle clacking badgers Underling’s mother no less than the twin afro bust badgers Underling. There’s her justice to it.
The afro twins can’t shoehorn their version of surviving the night into Underlings play, without moving it in sync with the strolling assistant. The Horse Prefect’s convinced of its rightful place in the mother’s central landscape. His peak ice’s chill’s picked up by The Sea Bitch breeze, and fast swallowing each of the local orthopedic residents houses. Not that they can see or say anything, back out there on the boat. But to remove The Horse Prefect from The Sea Bitch, takes its icy peak with it, and with its peak, its snow, and with its snow, its wind chill. Maybe then the afro bust twins’ll survive the night, in or out of Underlings vision. Maybe they’d get taken indoors, away from the nocturnal cats of the partygoers.
Afro twin: “Where are the Limpets?” one of the afro twins asks The Horse Prefect.
The Horse Prefect: “My Limpets are everywhere, all around me. All around me, if you’d care to join us, young things. Young blossoms, you are. You are, my pretty things. My pretty young blossoming little things.”
Afro twin: “Not the Limpets you call your pets. You’re too used to how it was. You’re a filthy guest. Those Limpets are The Sea Bitch’s, not yours. They’re The Sea Bitch’s. Your Limpets are thrown to you from Underling, from the shores of The Stagnant.” The Horse Prefect’s a prison.
The Horse Prefect: “Underling threw me nothing! He took the birds gift, and left. Did nothing in school, but betray my orders.”
Afro twin: “Answer the question. Where are your precious Limpets?”
The Horse Prefect: “They dart around, I suppose. Insects. One minute they’re up, the next minute they’re down. Then they shoot up a bit, then they’re buried in the snow with the bone clamps. I’m in The Sea Bitch, tangled up in frozen eggs, like chefs elbowing through red perforator vein Thread, or at least, trying to, then…I didn’t see where they went, or where they are now. Maybe hiding in the birds secret laboratories, everyone and his dog knows about.”
Afro twin: “They’re at home.” said the other afro twin, looking back at the rattlers empty cocoon.
The Horse Prefect: “Who’d build secret labs at The Sea Bitchside?”
If any ovarian pollen spores step in the way, the birds’ll come diving, and the cats’ll be waiting in the water.
Owner: “How strange it is to have cats at the dinner table, Dear.”
Owner: “Ours surely can’t be hungry. We just fed him.” They both stick their heads under the table. Her, to see if it isn’t the neighbours cat again. Him, to see if there isn’t a dead animal gift, from the garden.
Cat: “You look a lot like the Chief Invigilator.” the cat says to the man. The man looks across the ceiling of the underside of the table, towards his wife.
Owner: “It was you, wasn’t it, Dear?”
Owner: “It was me, Dear.” The wife suspected the husband was being caught up in the school matters, and even remembers been invited to a function.
Owner: “You saw me and the invigilator together. You’d think we weren’t the same person.”
Owner: “So what made you do it?” asks the wife. Not that she cares, but she has to say something. The husband looks down towards the cat, scratching up the floorboard, getting more red perforator vein Thread tied up in its claws and paws.
Owner: “Don’t tear the cord!” the man shouts at the cat. The cat shoots down the other side of the kitchen, pulling up meters more Thread, leaving the husband an escape route. A tightrope from the foot of his chair, to the foot of the dressing table in the front room. He looks over at the wife. Her, and her flared nostrils start pecking, stuck in the coils of their daughters jack-in-a-box, they can only land on his face when gravity happens to swing them in that direction. He takes the opportunity to write his mistress a letter, detailing the full throttle headbutt swings the wife aims at him, even when the coils send her to the opposite side of the room, and how it reminds him of his dashboard drinking bird when they’re fucking in the back. The wife’s pecks occasionally land, so he feels obliged to flee. The cats having gone to so much trouble. He passes The Thread, ducking his head towards the floor, no longer getting cat-clawed. For the first time, he notices the chess pattern lino she asked about last spring. Corridor Stem Cell Hosers cut across his path, bobbing for an exit through hot Trial Tar. Before getting a foothold on the tightrope, the wife’s claws pierce the back of his shoulder. Her eyes are The Horse Prefects. The tightrope suddenly droops into the cat litter. The man looks up and sees a macheted TV kangeroo paw alternating with the drinking bird toy. Both in the place of the cats arm, the macheted TV kangeroo paw down, the drinking bird up. The drinking bird down, the macheted TV kangeroo paw up. Neither have good aim, so hit and miss the cord irregularly, making balance and climitising impossible. The drinking bird looks down at the already cat piss stained husband.
Drinking bird: “I prefer this view to the one of you laughing at me with your whore.”
Macheted TV kangeroo paw: “Enjoy the cat litter. We’ll toss it out into the snow if you like.”
Owner: “If I’m the Chief Invigilator, then here’s your instruction, Dear.” She pulled his head back and prised open his jaws.
The Horse Prefect: “There’s a young boy out there. In the playing field. It’s going to be cold tonight, and he only has the shortest of shorts on. We can’t let him stay outside. Go out and hand him this paper.” The husband flutters his free hand around the kitchen table, clutching anything resembling the texture of paper. He raises a fist of tablecloth, paper napkins, and loose papers the wife keeps phone numbers on.
Owner: “Here you go, Dear. Make sure he gets a copy of the exam paper.” The cats look on. If the young boy’s the afro twin bust, it could lead to them being allowed to stay indoors in the warm, and possibly with the twins for company. The wife grabs the tablecloth, and walks out into the snow. The twins see her approaching, and mistaking her for one of the nocturnal cats, shout for Underling’s mother to bring them back in. Does the wife beat her to it? She doesn’t care either way. If the young boys mother’s turning up with some warm clothes, there’s no need for her and her tablecloth.
The Horse Prefect: “I guess you don’t need me anymore.” To the afro twin bust.
Afro twin: “You’re still better off on the landscape, regardless of whether we’re out in the snow.” The Horse Prefect isn’t getting anything further from these two. The two he’s now after, are both fugitives buried in his snow. Underling brought them to him the first time, maybe he’ll bring them back again. Passing through the swing doors, Underling sees his mother playing cards with the twins. He steps up from the field, and swims back out to sea. First having to wade through The Stagnant. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s made it easy for him this time. His outspun body belongs in the red perforator vein Thread of The Benign Soil, so grabbing hold of it, he only has to wait for the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head to retract himself, and he’s already on the surgical banquet.
Underling: “I don’t suppose there’s anything left in the larder for me, is there?”
GWARBWH: “Everything’s still in there. Nothing’s been touched. No Shin Detonator can burrow through a hull as laminated as this. Least of all sick little ones force fed pensioner meat. The only way in’s over the top, past all the party goers, and down the steps. The same the boat hands take.”
Underling: “I took The Limpets aboard when I first rescued them, Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head. If The Horse Prefect can’t find them in The Sea Bitch, they’ll have boarded the boat again.”
GWARBWH: “Last time you were there, you had to make pretty stark conversation with the old wicketkeeper, to stop having yourself chucked overboard.”
Underling: “He’s due back about now. Out the cocoon, and on his way. The Shin Detonator won’t have made him thirsty, leaving his body on the first whiff of semen chalk dust. It didn’t take ‘em long to smell the larder though. That’s the Dean, that is. Keeping them all under wraps. Let ‘em out, and they go crazy. If anything, the other guests’ll be wondering where he is.”
Resident: “No we won’t.” interrupts one of the other local orthopedic residents, from the surgical banquet. “He’s already here, pissed as a fish. The Shin Detonator didn’t stay long. Didn’t think his meat was too fresh. I guess that makes the old wicketkeeper a liar then. I’m telling the wife. She won’t mind snatching a drink or two out his hand.” All up to him, as far as it mattered to Underling. He just wanted the wicketkeeper back aboard, and with him, an excuse for staying put long enough to round up The Horse Prefect’s Limpets.
The cat’s drawn to the lakes edge, hearing the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s close. Nothing this side of the lake stays white long.
Wife: “What a shame it is for a woman like me, to marry a man like you.” The Dean arrives back from Underling’s mother. It felt to her, at the time, like the cat must be on guard for The Horse Prefect. Better than returning home to the husband she sees unravelling sticky tightrope. She sticks her head through the window.
Wife: “Who put the chimps nappy on too tight?” The Horse Prefect’s earlier instruction to everyone to form two battalions, was now retracted.
Cat: “There were eggs in the air. My whiskers itched, so I came to see what you’re doing. Or more to the point, where all the powder seems to go. The blue semen chalk’s monopolised the white over this side. Keeps it for itself and ovarian pollen spores to feed on during the winter.”
Other cat: “ It’s not our fault, it’s the swing doors. The chill runs in and out the house as it wants. Try that at school! No locks, nothing. White semen chalk’s left nothing to feed off, so the blue takes over. The Horse Prefect likes to divide armies does he? He’s got two growing under his nose, that’ll wipe out, not just the kids, but anyone who can’t make it back to the cocoon in time. As I reckon, there’s space in the cocoon for one, and procreation takes two. Levitation only works till you have to come down again. It’s hopeless.” The Horse Prefect overhears, and calls back the ovarian pollen spores.
The Horse Prefect: “Freeze the fur covered flesh of Underling’s pets brittle. Then head for the cat and its equally despicable owner.” The ovarian pollen spores ignore all this, and spins straight into the larder, ricocheting into its targets faces. From the red perforator vein Thread, to the pulsating web, dragging the branches of the school’s Beeches, to flesh. Already impatient, the afro twin nearest the edge of the water bellows down.
Afro twin: “That’s a mighty fine young man!”
GWARBWH: “You know, I can weave you two flesh down to your shins, but ankles round here, you wanna think twice each about that.”
Afro twin: “We already have, and want them. Four ankles, four feet, everything. Two each for me, four for her.” said the nearest afro twin, jolting her head left towards the other.
GWARBWH: “I don’t think much of your sister. Looks like a schemer. You won’t stay five seconds, once I finish your bodies off.”
Afro twin: “As long as you keep us away from Underling, you’ll have us as long as you like. If our ankles aren’t our own, they could take us anywhere.”
Other Afro Twin: “Go on Mister, please. Don’t worry about what you’ll do in the meantime. Our neck muscles are good enough to set spasms in. Hold them down ok, like they taught you in school, and Bob’s your uncle, you’ve got yourself a fresh arsehole.” The old wicketkeeper can’t see the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, the larder, or the rising ovarian pollen spores, as between the end of the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s toe, and himself, is the grey shell of his cocoon.
GWARBWH: “Don’t you remember old man? We were together, arm in arm. The Shin Detonator entered your body. You won’t drown full of exits.” The Shin Detonator had all long left his body by now, but the spores, wiped out their fur as they tunneled out, remain lodged in his inner hairs. Each spore carries genealogy trails of the lab birds, so The Horse Prefect takes an interest, in wrapping some of these fur lined innards over his peak. They’d grate plenty harder against the rough bushes and foliage poking up out the snow, not to mention clear him of the those bone clamps Underling ditched there earlier. All The Horse Prefect needed to do first, was send the two Limpets, also dumped there earlier by Underling, down slope for a while. On their return, each could swab through the bushes, recovering plenty old man DNA to smuggle back in to the birds lab. The joy of it for The Horse Prefect’d be whistling in their ears. Roaring drowns out, whistling’s more for distraction. The birds wouldn’t be researching kids samples in dedicated silence. One eye’s for the dishes and lenses, but the other would be out the window. Windows all painted shut, but still all letting in drips of Stagnant waves from above. The Horse Prefect could identify each betraying bird with their own research.
Rattler: “I’m sorry, young chap. Try The Horse Prefect. Goodbye.” The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head isn’t to know the old man’s not the wicketkeeper of before, so’s mistaken. The old man wouldn’t drown at all. But neither of them know. Two that do know, are the afro twins. Unbeknown to the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, the afro twins are listening from a swabbing factory.
Afro twin: “I knew you’d betray us.” the nearest one said. A puff of Stagnant bed clouded up, glistening between the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Heads eyes and the drowning heads of the afro twins. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head stood motionless, allowing the twins time to merge the skin of their necks with the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s cord. If he moves, the cord breaks. The afro twins, for once, say nothing. Instead, they slide down their gullets, and wait at the transparent cells, now solid between them and the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head. Bubbles of darker blood seep through the wall, joining those of the twins. The old man could be walking around nearby, and snap the bond with a single misplaced foot. Hanging withery like they do. The twins push down the remainder of the transparent wall, and hurry up the coil. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s waiting around the first corner. The afro twins ride through, catching the crest of each pump, as Underling’s rescue squad did catapulting the pikes.
GWARBWH: “The old man went off, looking for The Horse Prefect.” The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head reassures the afro twins. The three of them sit down on a nearby boulder.
Afro twin: “You know, The Horse Prefect’ll cast shadows over The Stagnant, under The Stagnant, along The Stagnant bed.”
GWARBWH: “If you want the tap Infirm Protein Coat, in case we need to keep warm, you only have to ask.” A good offer, as until now, the afro twins were the only two people he knew, who’d be immune to the goat tap. The afro twins climb up through The Benign Soil, and neutralise the ground-bound Stem Cell Hosers Braithwaite mutilated. They didn’t suppose The Dean of Undersoil Shin Detonator could do anything about it, despite their planned journey cutting straight through his main prison block. It’d no doubt start a war, but this time, The Horse Prefect won’t need to declare it. It’s between the afro twins, the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, and whatever army The Dean can rustle up without notice.
GWARBWH: “If you wanna be properly hidden, move deeper up the coil. Everything’s red. There’s this cellist, she plays in every corner. Wherever you wanna be, she’ll go. It’s too hot for an eclipse, and too dark for ovarian pollen spores to spore.” The nearest twin snatches his hand from his pocket, grabs her sister and heads the three of them up the tract. They let the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head lead them further down the intestine, round several corners, and deeper on.
Afro twin: “Keep walking.” orders the twin furthest back of the three. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head sees the doormen, but loyal to the twins, carries on walking. The afro twin goes straight for the back of the bar, sitting at the table set up right outside the swing doors leading to the kitchen. By the time she sits down, the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head hasn’t even stepped inside. Braithwaite takes out her chopping knife from the inside pocket of her cooking apron, and sharpens it on one of her jacket shoulders silver buttons. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head turns right, so Braithwaite can’t see where he’s looking. He’s out for the correct afro twin. Underling turns full circle, locking eyes with Braithwaite.
Underling: “You can’t keep me out the kitchen.”
Braithwaite: “We’re still in the Beechtop. I’m not Braithwaite. I’m the second afro twin. D’you think I’d go back to what we were before? I’m with you, Underling.”
Underling/ GWARBWH: “So I’m the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, Braithwaite?” asks, who is now known to be, the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head.
Braithwaite:/ Afro Twin: “Yes! So, Braithwaite and Underling are no longer in the scene, and back on the Beechtop. They left the other afro twin and the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head to sort out the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Heads suspicions, about The Sea Bitchting position of one of the siamese afro twin girls.”
Underling/ GWARBWH: “Why’s your sister laying a trap? Still thinks I’m up the tree with Braithwaite, I guess. You think I don’t know you’re in on it as well?”
Braithwaite:/ Afro Twin: “Your vision’s steamed up red. Too much red tint’s making you paranoid. Too much not listening to your mother. Too little blue semen chalk, too much white. We’ve had three seats reserved since five minutes ago. No-one knew we were coming. You think you might be suspicious how we jumped the queue, past all these city boys. Not about us, your only friends in this place. There’s three seats at the table. She’s sat there alone, while you’re checking out the waiters. You don’t even notice, they’re serving from the bar!”
The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head looks. Food’s going out from the bar alright, but waiters are slicing every ingredient in two, and stuffing in fistfuls of white powder. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed. It’s all being carried out from a hatch, lowered from, what must be, a kitchen. This is where it’s all seeping from! Underling wasn’t to know, pulling grass up all morning. He might as well have walked on past the field, and gotten to the waiters directly. Blue semen chalk seeps out the intestines all day here, waiters or no waiters. The only way to the elite will have been through their food, and by the time any had coughed up semen chalk, it’d be too late. The blue’d be dust. Still not convinced, but his confidence shot, he trusts it must be his rosey vision making him light-headed, so goes along with the other twins excuse. Neither afro twin had earned a man’s trust before. It’s enough just to encourage, most of the time. Trust’s for wives and control freaks.
Braithwaite:/ Afro Twins: “What’d you like to eat and drink?” asks the afro twins in unison. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head looks at the menu. It’s the exam paper.
Underling/ GWARBWH: “Underling’s in the Beech with Braithwaite. I’m the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head. I’m sat here recognising the paper. How’s that, if I haven’t seen it before? I must’ve seen it.” Underling, on the Beechtop asks Braithwaite.
Underling/ GWARBWH: “I’m in a restaurant now, with the afro twins. My blood’s in the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, he’s sat in his own blood, trying to work out who he is, and isn’t. The waiter tossed our plates under the table, and ovens over our heads. He screamed at us, that the semen chalk was all the same. He turned us up, and slammed the door.” Braithwaite nods. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s sat at the table. He can’t get past, into the kitchen, and the party-goers block everything. It’s the party-goers from before, hiding the food hatch. The afro twins confess.
Braithwaite:/ Afro Twins: “We’re showing you the exam paper, so you’d see what you were, and give us a direct line back to the playing fields. Could hardly have you running away, could we? Underling’s not much of a Infirm Protein Coat, but sat out in the field alone, was all we could get hold of. Sitting there like a wounded rabbit. It’s nothing to do with the Infirm Protein Coat not being able to spread there. It’s the grass repelling the kids. The Horse Prefect sent the Infirm Protein Coat out into the field, manifested as a child, to overpower the cavalry ridden grass repellent.”
Underling/ GWARBWH: “So the red perforator vein Thread was born of the goat tap Infirm Protein Coat?”
Braithwaite:/ Afro Twins: “Like we said, we couldn’t have you run away. Anyway, it’s been a bad decision for you, hooking up with us, but it’s nice here, your coats dry, so you might as well enjoy it.” Underling, back on the Beechtop, feeling the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head slip down the front of his chair, and under the table, almost slips himself from between Braithwaite’s arms.
Braithwaite: “Bearing in mind the condition of the roads, I’m surprised to see you so eager to let your cock get away. At least before rush hour.” Underling liked travelling on public transport during rush hour, and would always boast to Braithwaite about how many people he had sat next to in a single evening.
Sat the other side of the main trunk, on one of the thicker branches is an employee of the Dean. His job title, not even he’s sure of, but it’s something in planning. A civil servant, quite low down, who keeps the same post, regardless of who’s in government. He was brought in and signed up to this job, not long after the crimson red Rembrandt man was ordered to take control of all plans. Planning, on all matters, is centralised. From meeting schedules, interviews, stationery orders, all departments in every field, submit their planning papers to the planning department for approval and execution. Executions also go through the planning department. The employee scratches his quill on his paper, even through his sleep. He hasn’t written a word. Hasn’t even sent out for ink, but’d rather bleed himself out into pots and hand them out round the field. Braithwaite lets Underling slip down to the lower pubic branches, she trust’ll hold their interwoven form till she’s tossed the employee over in Underling’s place. If it doesn’t hold, Underling’ll be torn apart for sure. The ground bound Stem Cell Hosers’ve been circling for days, and till now, not been fed a thing. Shin Detonator fattened employees won’t keep them out. Not long till they’ll toss his branches bridging one Beech to the next. Either kick him over, or snap it. Ground bound Stem Cell Hosers can smell Shin Detonator in any breath emitted from a branch lower than Braithwaites. Braithwaite can’t be sure what the other chefs might have fed Underling when he was alone with them, while she was planning mutiny up on the top window. It may have been Shin Detonator, maybe not. What a younger Braithwaite wouldn’t do for another shot at the stem cell lab. The ground bound Stem Cell Hosers are only circling out of boredom, and aren’t even hungry. Despite this, the employee’s savaged and eaten as soon as he hits the grass. The labs injected some small science rules, again under Braithwaites supervision: Protect Underling. His new desk, adapted from a beer cask, has three years of unread application papers, that now, Braithwaite and Underling have exclusive access to. Underling nudges the cask to the edge of the branches most outstretched Leaftop, turns, and buckaroos it overboard for the Stagnant to process. Applicants now only float with the Stagnant uses, the cask and its contents are a bargaining tool with The Sea Bitch, and from there, maybe The Horse Prefect will have a look at the begging tool papers directly and get back to the Dean. The Horse Prefect and the Dean often discuss administration matters, when the rest of the school are asleep.
Listening from the ground, are the ground bound Stem Cell Hosers. A couple of them had worked in the Craft, Design and Technology department, until being demoted to assembly duty only. Effectively ex-Stem Cell Hosers, their only job’s to sit on the stage every morning, as the headmaster reads out the schools sporting achievements. No kid’s taught by all the Stem Cell Hosers, so it’s never been noticed by any students, that Stem Cell Hosers are present at assembly, that never teach. Each assumes these Stem Cell Hosers, to be Stem Cell Hosers of classes they’re not in. The reason these Stem Cell Hosers’ve been kicked out of Craft, Design and Technology, but not the school’s down to a misunderstanding between The Horse Prefect and the Damselfish, dating back to before The Horse Prefect sent Underling to run big science in the school, but after Braithwaite changed the exam paper to include the question about the guitar amplifier. The guitar amplifier was, for as long as any current member of staff had been there, always been there. Always present, but never used. It’s Braithwaite’s understanding, from her parents, that the amplifier belonged to The Horse Prefect. The ground bound Stem Cell Hosers watch greyhounds and stallions race around the surgical banquet. The Horse Prefect wants Underling to rid the school of all but the Stem Cell Hosers, so he can get the Craft, Design and Technology department to fix the amplifier for free, rather than pay at the music store. Outlandish perhaps, with ankles hacked to Braithwaite’s design earlier in the day. Braithwaite, only meters above, has access through Underling, to the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head.
CDT Stem Cell Hoser: “Tell me,…” one of the former Craft, Design and Technology ground bound Stem Cell Hosers shouts up at Braithwaite
CDT Stem Cell Hoser: “…d’you suppose that amplifier repair store’s still owned by the same owner.” Braithwaite hears, but doesn’t respond. So another former Craft, Design and Technology ground bound Stem Cell Hoser tries.
CDT Stem Cell Hoser: “I say, Braithwaite…” Again, no response, so he raises his voice.
CDT Stem Cell Hoser: “I say, Braithwaite. D’you suppose the music store down the road, still has the same owner as before? You know. From when you must’ve gone in with your amp.”
Braithwaite:/ Afro Twins: “I’ll leave you to fuck The Horse Prefect if you want an answer.” Braithwaite climbs down from the Beechtop, and returns her useless fists of shallow yellow grass roots to Underling.
The groundsman’s savagery, and execution of untried detainees has made him a favourite amongst Craft, Design and Technology department. Those sent to him by The Dean of Undersoil Shin Detonator didn’t know, the first Shin Detonator sent to him, had only hurled worms in. The insensible groundsman’d murder the worms, answering to The Dean of Undersoil Shin Detonator that the execution was finished. The Dean’d then ask the groundsman to keep the bodies in his draw. It’s common knowledge to the Shin Detonator, who listen to these conversations through other listening portals of the red perforator vein Thread. The ground bound Stem Cell Hosers, in discussion with the Shin Detonator as of late, as they were ground-bound, understood the groundsman would have a healthy supply of bones in his draws. Substitute ankle bones. Their pass to the music repair store, without needing Braithwaite or The Horse Prefect. Stains in the draws red checkered wallpaper’s of little help to a ground bound Stem Cell Hoser looking for substitute ankles. As elbows hit The Benign Soil, in the familiar rhythm the Shin Detonator recognised from the chefs ushering the rain from their cadetesque actions in the sun, the Shin Detonator that changed their identity since fleeing the groundsman, fled upwards. Expert sharpshooters for the following elbow crunch. The crunch soon comes, and with it, the teeth of the Shin Detonator sink in. Stem Cell Hosers rip their elbows up from The Benign Soil, each with a bolt jawed Shin Detonator fluttering on the end. The main population of Shin Detonator underground are unaware of any of this happening, as it’s Cabin Pressure tonight. Ground bound Stem Cell Hosers hysterically shake their arms. Several Shin Detonator fling up to the Stem Cell Hosers, who are looking out to The Stagnant. None had been looking downwards, since before the ground bound Stem Cell Hosers set off on their elbow march. Not seeing that the blood soaked Shin Detonator were being flung from below, the Beechtop Stem Cell Hosers assume they’re falling from above, and are therefore being aimed at them by The Horse Prefect. All, except Braithwaite and Underling, who were watching the ground bound Stem Cell Hosers from the start. Braithwaite and Underling hadn’t found reason to look beyond the coil. It kept them glued enough to watching the local orthopedic residents surgical banquet sinking into The Stagnant. The Beech top Stem Cell Hosers, unlike Braithwaite and Underling, didn’t know the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head had long since left. It turned out the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s been holding the boat for long enough for his organic coil body to fuse with its underside wood. Not being able to read the menu, as it was the exam paper Underling’s been unable to read, since back in the playing fields, only adds to the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’s distraction.
Underling/ GWARBWH: “A fat lot of good rescuing the two Limpets, has done me!” The afro bust twins take offence, as they thought it directed at them. Not the two Limpets Underling rescued in the waves, ditching face-first into the snow. The Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head, deep in his own thoughts is oblivious to this, so undeterred, continues, much to the afro twins further disgust.
Underling/ GWARBWH: “I ditched their faces in the snow. At least I got something right!” Underling had flung the twins out into the snow, in scratching distance of the neighbours cats. Back come tearful memories of the completely uninsulating wooden-swing doors.
Braithwaite:/ Afro Twins: “When we peered down into the water, perched on the edge of The Stagnant lake, we thought too well of you.” The words got back to the playing fields, and into the ears of the chefs, who are by this point, out in the field, rounding up fallen Shin Detonator to cook as “goat meat” for the kids.
Underling/ GWARBWH: “The two Limpets I rescued, weren’t you two.”
Braithwaite:/ Afro Twins: “Course not. How many people have rescued two different sets of two Limpets and dumped their faces in the snow, in two unrelated, isolated incidents?”
Underling/ GWARBWH: “I have! Honestly. As two different beings, granted, but I have!” They had seen the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head decomposed beneath the boat. He wasn’t new to being kept in Stagnant.
Underling/ GWARBWH: “I was in the waves of The Sea Bitch, so I guess, must’ve been quite a way out. I had my exam paper with me, but still managed to cradle these two lost Limpets. They landed in the peak of The Horse Prefect. That’s what I was referring to. Not you.” The only one undergoing a character assassination now’s The Horse Prefect.
The Horse Prefect: “Those Shin Detonator aren’t coming from me.” protests The Horse Prefect to the Beechtop Stem Cell Hosers.
The Horse Prefect: “Look beneath you, like the local orthopedic residents on the boat should have done about ten minutes ago.”
Stem Cell Hoser: “So you watched the boat sink! Where was your roar then? You could’ve alerted the people on the boat. None of them needed to drown!”
The Horse Prefect: “Calm down. They’re drunkards. They wouldn’t have paid any attention. The Sea Bitch and I became well acquainted when I sat briefly in his bed. No thanks to the Damselfish. The Sea Bitch, and the old wicketkeeper, with the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head’ll take those drowned bodies, and turn them into further Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Heads. Each of these organisms’ll also be Underling, made of red perforator vein Thread that the Damselfish’ll pull up from the plates. Underling’s consciousness will spread plenty further than the goat tap. The Sea Bitch bed’ll cover its reefs with pulsating coil flesh. The Shin Detonator’ll pay to come and watch. Thank you Stagnant for your cinema tunnel.” The Beechtop Stem Cell Hosers saw the first transformation of red perforator vein Thread to fleshy coil. To make the transition complete, needs blood from the now ground bound Stem Cell Hosers.
Stem Cell Hoser: “The Thread’s no good to you on its own. You can pull up thousands of meters of it, but where you getting the blood?” To stop anyone in their tracks, to stop them discovering the extra ocean that’s The Horse Prefect’s sea, The Horse Prefect needs the kids to sit an exam like the one that stopped Underling. But The Horse Prefect can’t trust Braithwaite to come up with such a paper twice. He’d have to go straight to the music repair shop, where the ground bound Stem Cell Hosers are trying to get, but are hampered by the Shin Detonator.
The Horse Prefect tells Underling to infect the kids ankles with the goat tap Infirm Protein Coat, but this time, hit them properly in their knees. The ground bound Stem Cell Hosers re-recruit the music shop repair worker, who as far as The Horse Prefect knows, might not even work there anymore. The music repair shop owner has one paper that’ll stick The Horse Prefect in its horizon peak down, and send the Damselfish corralling round his old base till he blows its load down into the plates, and takes The Beeches and all its groupies sliding down through, and what about the cells? The pollen big science cells Dean’ll surrender to the worms, he thinks they’re keeping The Horse Prefect of his back. Swallow the lot back into its own drain, swallow it for him, down his own throat. The shins of every kid infected with goat tap, shatters into black shards, and hides amongst those of the blackboards. Goat tap yells up at The Horse Prefect.
Goat Tap: “Make a rugby squad now!”
The kids: “What work’ll we find for ourselves! You’ve left us Braithwaite, left us alone with goat tap. Even on our hands, what kind of mechanical nanny’ll brush our swinging feet out our faces. We might as well burrow down with the Shin Detonator and make lives for ourselves with the Dean.” The kids march single file on their hands in the direction of the playing field. The kid at the front’s still twenty or so meters from the grasses edge when he, and a few others behind him, notice what a tidy straight line they’re making.
Kid: “Too bad no satellite above’s tracking this. We haven’t made a march as orderly, since before Underling arrived back from his discussions with The Horse Prefect. When was that? Must’ve been this morning. Not since yesterday have we marched so tight.” Braithwaite, chewing an apple on her return from an unrelated activity off campus, shouts across the field to the kids she thinks are still quarantined on the hard surface of the school, kept off the soft by the Underling Infirm Protein Coat and grass cavalry.
Braithwaite: “Oh yeah, I should mention. Your shins might explode.” The kids shins split into two camps. Those thinking they’re better off taking advantage of being rid of the Underling Infirm Protein Coat, and out on the soft field. Surely they can’t be reinfected there. Against those convinced they should stay on the hard surface they’ve been kept to all day, but from now on, with the ability to move in controlled straight lines.
Kid: “It’s win win on the grass. No Infirm Protein Coat is no Infirm Protein Coat anywhere.”
Other kid: “It’s only win win if you’ve already resigned yourself to not being able to collect what’s left of our shins from the pile of blackboard shards. And I don’t fancy what’s left over from the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head. Who knows how any of that’ll react to Underling?”
Kid: “The shards all look the same, and the ground bound Stem Cell Hosers don’t look any the worse off for the red perforator vein thread flesh. Their pains are all down to having their ankles ripped out, and whatever else Braithwaite did to them.”
Other kid: “Black’s black, but bone isn’t slate. All we need to seperate the two’s the Craft, Design and Technology Stem Cell Hosers.” The Craft, Design and Technology Stem Cell Hosers approach in crimson red smocks and Rembrandt hats. There’s five, all betrayers of Braithwaite, and therefore more than happy to keep the kids away from her and Underling up The Beeches. With each step, they double in number. After ten or so steps, the numbers start to unsettle the kids, so several smaller kids are slung towards the onslaught, blocking their regeneration. The front kid lands nose first in the front Stem Cell Hosers thigh.
Craft, Design and Technology Stem Cell Hoser: “Are you alright boy?”
Kid: “I smell blood, Sir.” The Craft, Design and Technology Stem Cell Hoser lifts his knee, then hammers it down, squashing the kid flat under his foot. Mechanical Nanny’d tread garottees into The Benign Soil in much the same way, but unlike Mechanical Nanny, the Craft, Design and Technology Stem Cell Hoser only covers his hands in more cocooning sap, the more he tries to absorb the flesh into the tarmac. The other five thousand Stem Cell Hosers frantically stomp bits of the kid, but each stomp only spreads the remains further, and douses their hands deeper in the bucket of castrating Shin Detonator goo. The wicketkeeper didn’t tell you Craft, Design and Technology Stem Cell Hosers. He didn’t leave the cocoon all intact. Every touch of gluey slop only crystals your bits over, and sucks them inside your gut. The drying shrinks, and drops to the ground with bits of you attached. You should be grateful for what balls your gut recovers, and what of them you can make stick to your bowels. As they chase the boys blood, noses to the ground, they collide with the other kids, who can now also smell the old blood hidden in the colour of the Stem Cell Hosers smocks. Mechanical Nanny tightens bells round deserters of both sides necks, and flings ten or so Craft, Design and Technology Stem Cell Hosers at a time into The Stagnant. There they’ll be sent to dig the tunnel, bells and all, till over dug enough to collapse The Beeches. The Stem Cell Hosers’ve been given long enough to find their way down, and face up to their ground bound relatives. Finding a home in the Shin Detonator cells, at least they know now, it’s not just the thirst, but keeping your hands off yourself when they’re just out the acidic sap bucket.
Kid: “These smocks come from the Deans staff! Look underneath at the Shin Detonator sap making eunuchs of them all. And to think they chose this over Craft, Design and Technology. This isn’t school uniform! The Stem Cell Hosers uniform’s been stolen from the Dean!” The sentence for theft, being not merely an activity, but a crime, is life without parole, directly under the middle of the tallest Beech. All sentences are without parole, but carry the further humiliation of being thought to be without something other prisoners aren’t.
Deserter kids: “Are you going to let us back into your service, now the Craft, Design and Technology Stem Cell Hosers have all gone?” They have gone. Every one of them’s in the tunnel. Shaking their fists at the ovarian pollen spores that didn’t make it into the butterfly swarm.
Craft, Design and Technology Stem Cell Hosers: “No use to us now, are you!”
Ovarian pollen spores: “Did you expect a reply? You might want to ask yourselves how you’re getting one.” The tunnel, itself an escape route, has its own escape. Follow the wicketkeeper’s crumb bubbles, and press your pupils to the holes. Press like the kids testing the sock nylon, and more than find the ovarian pollen spores’s tunnel, join the ovarian pollen spores family. The ovarian pollen spores and the squashed kid. The kid hovers now, like the Horse Prefect trapped in The Sea Bitch, but without the frozen eggs chafing his rock. Stem Cell Hosers, leppers, choose an ovarian pollen spores death over becoming tunnel diggers up to scrape out more of the ovary filling. They were never given anything to dig with. Their pupils follow the crumb bubbles, and ascend out the top of The Benign Soil, into the midst of the most photosynthesising of The Beeches, and gasp their first true breath of fresh air since the crowds of Shin Detonator stuffed their screaming cousins into the Rembrandt suits. Mechanical Nanny hands the deserters over to the other kids, who without discussion, let them off. Their bells are unbuckled, and fall to the ground with a collective ding loud enough to displace The Sea Bitchlife hijacking The Horse Prefects rightful place on the Rockwell mothers horizon. Everyone’s horizon, but particularly the Rockwell mothers. The Horse Prefect retakes his old seat, and addresses the crowd of handstanding kids he’s now indebted to.
The Horse Prefect: “Thanks kids.” Expecting more, one of the kids speaks up.
Kid: “What about our shins?”
The Horse Prefect: “Skip up on your finger tips. Reverse and beep beep.”
Kid: “Beep beep like a lorry?”
The Horse Prefect: “No, beep beep like a tune.”
Kid: “That’s nothing but a tap! No one beep beeps to a tune!”
The Horse Prefect: “I’ll beep beep like a lorry if you give me one.”
Kid: “Beep to no lorry.”
The Horse Prefect: “You’re making me virile and contaminating my ovarian pollen spores. Who’d stick another pandemic into a school already riddled with Underling?”
Kid: “You think we care about Underling now? Tap alongside the school gates, and around its fencing. Put your new Infirm Protein Coat to work. You saw what happens when you try and skip the Stem Cell Hosers. They end up butchered, or cornered in the sky.”
The Horse Prefect: “Who’ll keep my seat from the grave jumping sealife?”
Kid: “Give us our shins, and we’ll guard the horizon.”
Horse Prefect: “That’s already done. The trees’ll wither, and they’ll stroll off to Braithwaites previous unrelated activity. They’ll be fine. But no, I’m coming to school myself this time. Here you go.”
The Horse Prefect tosses each of the handstanding kids their shins back.
Kid: “Who got the bucket from the Rembrandt frocked Stem Cell Hoser leppers? I want the bucket!”
The Horse Prefect: “Thank Braithwaite. The exam question slotted the Stem Cell Hosers into those frocks. They slipped in autopilot like first thing in the morning slippers. You want the bucket? You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. The bucket’s for men.”
Braithwaite:/ Afro Twins: “This isn’t the kind of place I’d wanna see you.” says the afro bust twins to The Horse Prefect.
The Horse Prefect: “At least I came dressed for it.” The guests bend down, each touching the floor.
The Horse Prefect: “Kind of looks like the waves of The Sea Bitch, doesn’t it?” The Horse Prefect says, looking at the Girl with a Reddened Bleached Whores Head.
Braithwaite:/ Afro Twins: “Enough to almost make me feel homesick.”