Friday, 24 September 2010

Fiction Friday (An Apology)

Hello, and many apologies (pronounced in the accent of Prince Ludwig the Indestructible) for the appalling delay in posting up a new article type thing. I am a shocking slacker, and no amount of 'Oo, I just don't feel like it,' or 'Too busy at work' feeblages can excuse my shoddy behaviour.

But take pity on the Ocelot, for I have just suffered a most grevious assault upon my person. There I was, sneakily having a go of Bejwelled Blitz while Herself was out, when I heard, over the tinkling of exploding computerised jewels, a strange hissing in my immediate area. Was it the boiler next door overheating? No. Was it Mr Fluffy, our resident python, being especially vocal regarding the discomfort of his skin-shedding? No. It was the inflatable therapy ball, upon which I was perched, springing a leak. Sadly I didn't figure this out until in the midst of casting my head from left to right (not unlike one of the big ol' mystic creatures in The Dark Crystal) in search of the source of the hissing noise, the bloody thing exploded and dumped me hard on my bum. Ouch.

Good thing my bottom is well padded from consuming the hardened remains of Herself's failed vegan sponge cake experiment, or I may actually have hurt myself.

Still and all, I survive to ocellate another day. Though I type this very entry propped up precariously between the keyboard and the back of the therapy couch. I'm basically half-stooped as if I was trying in vain to rest on one of them padded pseudo-seats they've started putting in tube trains. Honestly, what is the point of them? I'm not sat down, I not stood up; I'm half leant against a padded roll of sponge bolted to the carriage wall at vaguely bum-height. Madness.

Any road up, I was going to bang on about that prince among biscuits, the custard cream, or else speculate fruitlessly about who would be best suited to play Loki, God of Mischief in the forthcoming Thor film. Or even my abhorrence of the term 'early adopter' and how associating with such people can only lead to unhappiness. I can also feel a lengthy diatribe regarding the misuse of the term 'perfect storm', but alas time, our old enemy, is against me today. I really should be pretending to do some proper work, or at least proof-reading (o frabjous day!) a rulebook for a chum.

So, to keep you going until I properly get my mildly-concussed bottom in gear, here is some actual fiction from the depths of the Pouch, what I had to write for my inevitably unfinished creative writing course. In true authorial fashion, I must acknowledge Mr JT of the Hughes Tool Co. for giving us the shockingly kitsch calendar which is the inspiration for this story:

Jan Zoiz CCCV And The Perfect Headgear

In the second year of her great reign, Her Majesty Jan of the line of Zoiz, three hundred and fifth to bear that noble name, stretched out upon her Plush Throne and yawned. The human courtiers cringed before that massive fanged mouth, fearful of her displeasure. Was it a yawn of boredom or fatigue? Only Pelvis, the hook-nosed royal vizier, claimed to understand the workings of the cat-regent’s mind, or at least only he was privileged to interpret her wishes.

‘Our monarch has spoken. She tires of the endless drudgery of court, and will have amusement.’

A shiver rippled through the assembly. Men and women stiffened involuntarily, their eyes flicking from the great, white, mutant feline, the size of an Old Time elephant, to the wooden cage suspended high above them.

‘Let the entertainments begin!’ barked Pelvis, and clapped his hands twice. The cage was lowered, and creaked as it settled on the marble floor of the throne room. The guards, armed with sturdy stun-prods, immediately went to work, unhooking the bars and prodding the inhabitants out to quiver before the court.

They were a sorry sight. Three captive off-humans from the atomic ruins, scraggy and pale, the telltale signs of radiation burns on their idiot faces. They huddled together, twitching their heads left and right as they scratched at the rough fur-suits into which they’d been sewn. Comical plate-sized ears adorned their heads, along with foot-long wiry whiskers, while long floppy tails drooped pathetically behind them. They grunted unintelligibly as they sought to escape the semi-circle of guards, but were trapped on all sides save for that which opened before the cat-regent herself.

Her Majesty’s vast wide-set eyes betrayed interest in the three playthings presented before her. A fluffy white tail the length of a man unfurled and began a slow, rhythmic motion from side to side. The mouse-people foamed and gibbered before Jan Zoiz CCCV, and scampered back and forth in a frantic frenzy, their sewn-on tails flapping behind them. The bloated cat-regent went abruptly stiff. Then shot forward. And the screaming began.

* * *

It was later in the day, and Her Majesty had retired to her private quarters to ponder, as Pelvis had put it, ‘weighty matters of state’. During this blessed recess, while servants were brought in to hose down the floor of the throne room and change the royal litter tray, the assembled courtiers took the opportunity to consult their sacred relic from the Old Time, and once again debate its obscure meaning.

‘And I say it is a scarf of finest mohair!’ roared Lord Mandible, a red-faced man with fat wet lips.

He jabbed a meaty, ringed finger at the holy icon before him, a large crumpled picture of a furry white cat, cryptically titled ‘Jan 2012, © Kute Kitties’. The paper was torn at the edges, ending raggedly at the bottom halfway through the cryptic word ‘Wednes’. Mandible gestured empathically at the cat, its flat open face and tiny pink nose portraying an ineffable sense of ambiguity. Was she sad or happy? Smiling or frowning? It was hard to say under all the fur. More maddening still was the unidentified and thus controversial object atop her head. Some said ‘woolly hat’. Others, such as the blustering Lord Mandible, said ‘scarf’. Still others said ‘neck of a baggy sweater’, but they were a small and oft-ignored movement.

‘My dear Mandible,’ soothed the slender Lady Tibia in a studied purr, ‘whilst we all admire the fervour with which you and other Scarfists put forth your beliefs, you must remember that the nature of the Perfect Headgear of our Most Regal Majesty has remained a mystery for three hundred and five generations of Jan Zoizes, or over five hundred human years. Do you honestly believe its truth to be revealed in our lifetimes?’

She arched an eyebrow at her rival.

‘Hattist thinking at its woolliest!’ riposted Mandible, flecking his nearest hangers-on with spittle. ‘You would have us sit upon our backsides and wait idly for the headgear to manifest itself, whilst the off-humans grow greater in numbers and raid ever closer to the walls of our Retreat? Is it not spoken in the Verse of Leo (22 July to 23 Aug) that “That which was lost shall be found, and unwelcome guests shall leave thy house”? Do you dispute that this clearly refers to the headgear of the line of Zoiz, and that its return will signal our deliverance from our enemies without?’

Mandible panted, his cheeks flushed and billowing.

Lady Tibia sighed indulgently.

‘Of course not. None here would dream of denying the prophecy. I am simply suggesting that speculation regarding the headgear is pointless until such time as our blessed monarch, mice be unto her, makes her wishes in this matter known. Surely you can wait until Presentment Day for her decision?’

Pelvis then coughed politely and edged forward into the knot of nobles.

‘At which point, my lords and ladies, I feel I should remind you that recess is over, and Her Majesty’s return is imminent, much refreshed from her afternoon nap. The evening entertainment is, according to my schedule, Chasing The Fluffy Thing Dangling From The Stick, so do please remember to stay behind the wire fence for your own safety. We wouldn’t want a reoccurrence of Lord Scapula’s unhappy accident during the reign of Jan Zoiz CCLIV.’

The court visibly paled and withdrew to the edges of the throne room.

* * *

‘I’m just saying,’ whispered Lord Mandible, wearing his special Presentment Day ceremonial scarf, ‘that perhaps Her Majesty could be persuaded in her choice of headgear today, rather than leaving it to chance.’

‘To chance?’ hissed Pelvis, so close to Mandible’s face that his hooked nose brushed the lord’s cheek. ‘Have a care that you do not speak treason, sir! The Furred One will choose her headgear this day, or she will not. It is not for such as we to influence her decision, as in the dark days of Jan Zoiz CCXXIX and the Heresy of the Fishy Hat! No, we will present such items as have been recovered from the ruins beyond the Retreat and leave Her Majesty to select one. Should she favour any such object and tolerate its presence upon her royal head for more than a few seconds before shaking it off in irritation, then prophecy shall be fulfilled, and we shall be delivered from the massing off-humans. If not, then we shall patiently await the next Presentment Day.’

‘You mean we’ll wait years for that over-grown, inbred monster to die, then drag its least boss-eyed mutant offspring up from the kittening chambers, proclaim it to be Jan Zoiz CCCVI, and go through the whole farce again!’

‘You go too far, Mandible! Never forget that I speak for Her Majesty, and I can voice her displeasure at you as easily as I can her approval. You would find the mouse-suit a most uncomfortable fit, I can assure you.’

Mandible actually blanched beneath his mottled jowls, and went silent.

* * *

The sounds of battle beyond the throne doors were becoming steadily louder, and ever more guards were dispatched to reinforce the defences, whilst inside the Presentment Day ceremony went ahead with mock serenity. Mandible shivered under his robes, while Lady Tibia stood in unseemly proximity to her bodyguard. Pelvis droned on, apparently oblivious to the off-human hordes baying in the distance.

‘And so it comes to pass, that Her Blessed Majesty, Jan Zoiz CCCV, shall choose the headgear from the offerings presented before her, and in so doing, deliver us from peril. So shall it be.’

The court stammered out his last words in response. The sounds of stun-prods and screams outside died away to be replaced by a hammering at the doors, and the nobles shuffled closer to their giant, bloated monarch. As if in approval, Jan Zoiz CCCV let out a silent but powerful fart, sufficient to render several courtiers insensate. Pelvis himself, long accustomed to the royal emissions, stifled a sniff and then leant in to whisper the secret words in a great feline ear.

‘Do you want a hat, girl? Do you? Do you? Choose a hat, go on!’

At first, the beast did not stir, whilst the grunting and pounding at the doors grew louder. Then, fantastically, she stretched and stood, padding down to the offerings set before her. The doors bulged in alarmingly and the courtiers pressed behind the Plush Throne. Jan Zoiz CCCV sniffed at the objects impassively. And then amazingly, she nosed at one, manoeuvring it improbably onto her vast head. Even as the doors burst open and the capering hordes of off-humanity fell vengefully upon the court, the great cat sat resplendent before them, modelling the Perfect Headgear.

Feebly tugging at the makeshift spear in his belly, Pelvis burbled out his dying words.

‘Bloody hell. It was the neck of a baggy sweater.’