The Epoch of Dung (part 19) An Earplug Adventure


As they plunged into the cauldron of impossible energies…

…Doctor Putridity Gout said to her husband, “I know this is fun and all that, dearest; but would you might awfully if I went to the toilet? I don’t want to embarrass myself.”

If truth be known, several bridge crewmembers felt much the same way.

“Oh, of course, darling.” Hydious replied. However, to the bridge crew he said, “You lot can use the polystyrene cups provided in those little cubby holes beside your work stations. As ship designers, my wife and I think of everything, you know.”

No one had the first idea how long the transit between time-lines would take. They assumed it would be measurable on an earplug scale. It wasn’t. Only an incomprehensibly brief period elapsed before the Tankerville Norris found itself approaching the alternative Earth…

“Just getting the main screen back up.” Hair-Trigger informed Magnuss.

“No probs.” Her relatively new husband replied. “I’ve opened an exterior shutter. I can see our target through the side window. It looks very blue. Not the usual blue either. I don’t like the look of that.”

He barely had sufficient time to reseat himself, when the main screen readjusted itself for the alternative time-line, and came back on-line.  What it displayed caused havoc inside the psyches of the earplugs who looked at it…

“Ugh, where’s the surface of the Earth?” Magnuss asked. “The ruins of the museum are over to the left; but the neighbouring city of Ciudad de Droxford should be just there. All I can see is a huge plain with some distant, worn-down mountains…

Aboard the larger, better-equipped K T Woo, Hamish McHaggis had turned the ship’s sensitive sensors upon the scene…

“Oh-oh,” he reported to Sinclair Brooch, “it seems that, with the exception of the ruins and mud village, the Earth is both uninhabited and uninhabitable, captain.”

To which Sinclair responded, “Oh bum.” Before adding, “Hey maybe the other captains have a handle on this. Get on the horn: let’s jaw.”

Meanwhile several inhabitants of the mud village thought they heard something ‘funny’ and had decided to see what was going on outside…

“It’s a spaceship.” They cried as one. “As if being disconnected from the river of time and seeing our beloved museum torn to shreds isn’t enough; now we’re being invaded from outer space! Everyone back inside.”

Of course, they weren’t being invaded at all. Soon many curtains twitched nervously as the Tankerville Norris kicked up dust, straw, mould spores, and stray sequins as it landed in the village’s largest plaza…

Shortly after that, Magnuss and Hair-Trigger stepped out into the village. Following a brief journey via matter transmitter, Hydious Gout and Sinclair Brooch joined them. Using their innate sense of direction, the foursome proceeded along a poorly lit alleyway…

To their surprise, they heard the voice of Cushions Smethwyke beckoning them into a mud hut…

They were not as surprised however, when upon entering the mud hut, they found familiar faces awaiting them…

“Wow, this is weird.” Magnuss said. “Hi everyone.”

To which Cushions responded with, “Hi yourself. Have you come to save us? Or are you alternative time-liners, like us – trapped here until reconnection with the river of time and possible utter destruction?”

Hydious Gout assured the watching curators and Rupert Piles (sans camera) that his plan was to take them all back to their correct time-line aboard the four ships, where they would reintegrate with their alternative selves.

“It will all be perfectly safe and painless.” He assured them further. “You won’t be mutually repulsive. You won’t fly across the room or explode or anything ghastly like that.”

“Will we remember this life?” the biological android, Montagu inquired. “This horror?”

“Probably.” Hydious replied. “You’ll probably feel a little disoriented. You’ll have two sets of memories. It will leave you a bit confused, and you might suffer a headache or a sore throat for a couple of weeks; but nothing discombobulating – at least not permanently.”

“Oh, right.” Yabu said to Cushions, “we’d better get our set of Time Techs to fire up the restored Tubo Di Tempo, and then have Margret and the girls make a report to the proper time-line via carrier wave.”

So they did…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

P.S I can’t get over how realistic that mud village looks. You can almost smell the straw and dung. Oh, sorry, I mean the opposite. That has to be the worst model-making effort in the history of earplug literature! Never mind though; back in the 70’s, Dr Who used to look terrible; but that didn’t stop millions from loving it.

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