Shortly after beating a hasty retreat from the company of the confused sewage workers, Margret had the misfortune of stumbling into the plugmutt pen…
“Oh goodie,” the matriarchal leader of the pack cried out with glee, using her rudimentary speech capability, “an earplug: it must be din-dins time!”
In a nearby facility, which had an inexpertly sawn door, and might have been a public lavatory…
…the actor, Bert Frogget, and his friend Cyrus Buttcleft, overheard manic screaming, so rushed into the open air – just in time to witness Margret flee the plugmutt pen…
“Silly old hoofer.” Cyrus said. “The plugmutts thought she was bringing them their dinner.”
Bert would have laughed, if he hadn’t been a useless and bitter has-been whose fame had come by playing Aquaplug in a popular children’s television show many years previous. “Yeah, silly old hoofer.” He said. “She must have thought she was dinner.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the huge mud structure, Doctor Pox was seeing his first patient in his ‘new’ surgery…
“These ceilings seem awfully low.” His customer observed.
“Yes,” Pox replied, “I have a sore spot on the top of my head. Unfortunately, the only doctor in town who might look at it is me: and I don’t have a mirror. No one does; they were all destroyed!”
Meanwhile, just around the corner, Delia and Poki had encountered the museum’s bounty hunter and well-known lothario – Hunting Provost…
“Why hello, Ladies.” He said smoothly through a sly smile, “where have you two been all my life?
Whilst Poki sighed and looked skyward with exasperation, Delia replied:
“As far as I can see, we hadn’t been born for the first half of it. Now get lost and go play on your mag-lift motorbike or something.”
Hunting, crestfallen, knew when he was not wanted, and duly stepped aside to allow them access to the mud village…
…from which black smoke belched most unattractively, which had caught the attention of Police Constable Salisbury Wilts: and someone had been blown out of their hovel by a steam explosion.
“Hmmm,” Poki whispered disparagingly, “a regular home from home.”
Margret, meanwhile, had allowed Ninja Perkins to take her to the seat of the mud village’s power, Cushions Smethwyke and Yabu Suchs…
“This is strange,” she said to them, “it was you two that sent us here on our mission of discovery. I don’t think that either of you imagined you existed in both time-lines.”
This came as startling news to both earplugs. “But we had no idea.” Cushions wailed.
“That’s right.” Yabu all but sobbed. “We knew that the time-lines had diverged, obviously: we could sense it with our silicon DNA: but having duplicates of ourselves in the alternative time-line…well it changes everything. We assumed that this time-line would eventually re-integrate with the River of Time, and that when we finally dig our way out of the ruins, we’d be able to rebuild the museum to its former glory. We’d even named it. The Epoch of Dung. Poetic, don’t you think? But your arrival and what you tell us changes everything.”
“Does it?” Cushions inquired of Yabu. “You know I don’t do temporal mechanics very well. What are the ramifications? What’s the upshot?”
Yabu spent several moments considering the question. Margret stepped into the breech, as it were: “One of the time-lines will be destroyed. It’s a fifty-fifty chance either way.”
“It must be this one.” Yabu blurted. “It’s the only way.”
Expert in temporal mechanics or not, Cushions didn’t like what she was hearing: “Why must it be this one? This is the one that I’m in: surely it should be the other one.”
“No, Cushions.” Yabu replied sagely, “I can only be this one. We have no museum here. In the other time-line, the museum remains intact and functioning. No re-build is necessary. There will be no need of a dirty, filthy, incredibly smelly Epoch of Dung. And it is populated by our original selves. We are the copies. The clones, if you will. We must be destroyed.”
“No, no, now hang on a second.” Margret interrupted. “We were sent here to make sure that the museum’s time-line remains intact: but now that we’ve found it populated, the whole situation has changed. If this time-line ends, it shouldn’t be taken that your lives go with it. We have to find a way of returning you all to the correct time-line, but leave the ruined museum behind.”
Cushions grabbed this idea like a drowning plugmutt grabs its own buttocks and bobs to the surface of any liquid – including mercury. “Brilliant – that’s what I like to hear. Okay, I designate you as Problem Solver Alpha One. It’s your job to figure out how to save us all before the time-line re-integrates. Right then, on your way. You have the full support of this entire mud edifice at your disposal. Go for it.”
So Margret found herself despatched upon an almost impossible mission. Even Ninja’s up-beat attitude couldn’t snatch her from the edge of the pit of despair…
“Oh joy,” she groaned. “I’m a choreographer and troupe owner: what do I know about temporal mechanics and saving the occupants of a mud, poop, and straw-derived society?”
“You’re smart.” Ninja replied chirpily. “Not like the Bozo Brothers, who, having discovered their plight here, tried to appease the gods by taking their sister, Anthracite, out on to what remained of the Obsidian Plain at night, and sink her up to her armpits in the tar pit…
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022