Distant Land (part 33)

Meanwhile the nominal ruler of the museum, Princess Cake of Potwell, had fretted her way to the lower skateboard park…

As she did so, above her current location, upon the surface…

…Frutilda was amused by Whoops’ self-destructive behaviour and mocked his frozen assets.

“Come on Whoops.” She finished. “Pull yourself together. Let’s find a way to put this situation at least half-way right. You and I together. This is no time for feeling guilty: let’s do the right thing.”

Below, Princess Cake’s thoughts followed a similar furrow…

“Those useless stupid butt-wipes.” She grumbled as she stepped into the glow of the emergency lighting. “I’m going to pull royal rank and make a few suggestions to that quartet of risk-taking, scum-bag scientists.”

She found a shivering Dido Warblington standing at the entrance, which now closely resembled an ice cave…

“What is the temperature outside, Warblington, you deviant slob?” She inquired.

Like Whoops, Dido was feeling great guilt concerning the civilization-ending balls-up that he and the others had perpetrated. “Dunno.” He replied morosely. “Why don’t you go check for yourself?”

Princess Cake, had there been any guards present, would have had Dido arrested for impertinence; but since they were alone, she decided to act upon the scientist’s suggestion…

“Flaming heck!” She exclaimed regally. “It aint half bloody chilly out here!”

A fall of ice crystals from one of the museum’s many towers then made up her mind for her, and she re-entered the skate board park…

“Right then, Warblington.” She growled majestically. “You’re gonna get those other three scum-suckers together and figure out how to save the survivors – on a permanent basis. Me, I’m gonna start acting like a proper queen. I’m gonna go for a walk and try to come up with some ideas of my own. So get your arse into gear!”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

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Distant Land (part 32)

For a short period, after their return to the Museum, Whoops, Dido, Dennis, and Frutilda tried to live normal lives in a changed world…

But deep down inside each of them suffered…

…as they tried to ignore the curator’s attempts to save the survivors of the disaster that they had caused. Although they were aware that search teams traveled far and wide to aid desperate earplugs…

…they chose, as best they could, to enjoy life within the huge edifice…

And while they looked out upon a world that had slipped into nuclear winter, the curators dispatched rescue craft…

…into the mountains…

…where members of isolated communities were invited to return to the safety of the museum…

“Nice vessel.” Some would say. “Where are the passenger seats?”

To which the welcoming crewplugs would reply: “Sorry: standing room only. We need to pack you in like small silver marine creatures in tomato sauce.”

On one occasion, Frutilda and Whoops fell into a sullen conversation…

“You never know.” Frutilda said optimistically, “the Gravity Whelk...

…might yet return with the answer to our world’s ills.”

But Whoops was far less hopeful: “I think I want to go outside and suffer a little for my hubris and egotistical stupidity. You’ve been a bit of a turd too, Frutilda: care to join me?”

Naturally Frutilda, concerned for Whoops’ state of mind, duly slipped through a side window with her boss…

But even she was surprised by what Whoops did next, which was to jump into a deep drift and sink up to his bum in freezing snow…

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

 

 

Distant Land (part 31)

And he was very nearly right, because the parched land soon gave way to scorched desert. But fortunately, for the gallant foursome, their route took them to an outlying public lavatory that, by a freak of geography, had been protected by the blast of the energy spill from the alternative universe…

“Hoorah.” Dido cried out in relief and joy. “I’m an expert on public lavatories. This model has a reserve water tank in the roof space: we can have a wee, wash our hands, and have a drink – almost simultaneously!”

“Excellent.” Whoops replied. “The mere presence of this ingenious working class bog proves that we’re on the right track. The Museum of Future Technology believed in spreading futuristic toilets far beyond its borders, you know – as part of a public service. This can only be one of those; I can feel it in my bowels.”

“Great.” Frutilda grunted. “But will the toilets flush?”

“Who cares?” Dennis answered. “I’m desperate: let’s go!”

So, two minutes later…

“That was disgusting.” Dennis complained. “The heat evaporated all the water. I had to wash my hands in sludge!”

But Frutilda was made of sterner stuff. “Come on boys.” She said as she departed the lavatory. “Get over it. The museum’s this way, by the way: I can almost smell its vaulted towers above the stench of that vile toilet.”

And she was right too…

…because soon an artificial walkway replaced the desert. Relief quickly joined to joy when they realized that the museum pathway illumination system was still active…

“Oh goody.” Frutilda said, as the pedestrian guidance system glowed invitingly. “The museum has power. Hopefully the security system will recognize our passes.”

Dennis wasn’t quite so optimistic…

 

“What if someone bolted the door before going to bed last night?” He argued. “We’ll never get inside!”

But his pessimism was unwarranted: the designers of the building from the future had…er…designed it well, and built it even better. Soon Dennis stood at a peephole…

 

…and snatched his final glimpse of the barren, burning land that lay beyond the museum’s limits…

and felt unadulterated gratitude to his mother, who had insisted he give up his job at the sewage works, and go to university.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Cardboard Dreams Become Reality (part 1)

Okay, maybe that title does overstate the usefulness of cardboard slightly, but as the creator of the Earplug Adventures I can tell you, I wouldn’t be able to visualize half of what you see in these dippy tales without it. Wonderful stuff; and free too!

If you’ve been following the stories for a while, you might recognize this circular item. It, and many very like it have appeared over and over. Check out these examples…

Looks like the engine room of the early version of the K T Woo to me. And what about this?

A scientific lab, obviously. It makes for a charming religious establishment too…

Just look at those burning torches. Attention to detail – or what!

Cardboard tubes and rings can come in handy too…

This is the ‘before’ shot of Scroton Prime – capital city of the Cable End’s home world, Scroton. Note the use of plain cardboard sheeting as a background and as sharply-angled ‘buildings in the foreground. This is how that locale appeared on the cover The Masters of Scroton

And in a segment of the story…

Cardboard blocks are groovy too. Especially those items perched on the top of this pile of tubes…

With the help of a length of insulation material, a canvas backdrop, some bits of sticky-backed paper, a sheet of plastic laid on top, and a nice example of perspective…

..something starts to take shape. Here’s a ‘before’ shot of Don Quibonki and his side-kick Panta Lonez in situ…

But to see the resulting pictures from the story, you’ll have to come back for Part Two of Cardboard Dreams Become Reality!

What a rotten git I am.

 

Distant Land (part 30)

But those ungrateful, mealy-mouthed gits were mistaken. Because, out on the plain, Whoops’ portable force field finally dropped – exposing the scientists to the glaring light of the sun for the first time in three days. And they were gasping for a drink and the use of a toilet too…

Checking their location, they quickly set out in, what they hoped was, the direction of the museum…

As they proceeded, their eyes adjusted to the brilliant light. Step by laboured step, the world seemed to grow darker…

“Right.” Whoops said through cracked lips. “Let’s try to figure what happened, shall we?”

“The world ended?” Dennis suggested.

“Don’t be facetious.” Whoops snapped. “I know the world ended. Or at least this part of it. We need to understand why.”

“I would have thought that was obvious.” Frutilda spoke through a stiff breeze that chilled them all uncomfortably. “A huge burst of heat and energy erupted from the alternate dimension through the wormhole and seared our planet’s surface. Putting two and two together, I’d say that when we checked out the alternate reality, our probes missed something really important.”

“Based on what little evidence is available, what would you estimate that to be?” Whoops inquired.

Well Frutilda began to explain that she believed that the huge electrical energy content in the other world’s atmosphere had been created by an interaction between clouds formed from excessive evaporation caused by the heat of the planet’s primary star ending it’s life by expanding in size and boiling the planets that orbited it, when suddenly…

…Whoops sank through the crust. “Argh!” He cried. But no one…

…felt particularly inclined to risk falling through themselves.

“Sorry, Whoops.” Dido said. “You’ll have to stop being a big Nancy, and pull yourself out.”

Actually Whoops was in no hurry to extract himself from the hole, because it still held the residual warmth of the cataclysm. It also allowed him to go to wee without anyone noticing.

“Now all I need,” he sub-vocalized to himself, “is a nice cup of tea, and everything will be tickety-boo.” Then he pulled himself free, and duly set out upon firmer ground…

…which was quite nerve wracking because it vaguely resembled a low altitude form of Precipitous Ledge Walking, which had always been popular with the inhabitants of the museum who were zombies or those who enjoyed a lower intellect…

…but to scientists, and the smarter earplugs of the museum at least, was a complete anathema.

“Yuk.” Frutilda spat…

…”this is ghastly.”

But it soon became considerably more ghastly…

…as a fog bank rolled in.

“Stick out your tongue and lick the air.” Dido suggested. “This might be the last moisture that we ever encounter.”

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2019

Silence, Please!

I couldn’t help but notice that, incredibly (and against the grain of recent times), sales of this book…

…have perked up. Thank you to all those e-book purchasers. Of course, what I’d really like is for those readers (and others) to come back for the (better) sequel – written a full decade after the original. It looks like this…

And a portion of the text closely resembles this. All the characters in this extract are teenagers, by the way.

For whatever reason, everyone had expected that we’d take the bus upon our sojourn. Everyone with the exception of Jason. If the rest had thought they’d properly explored Crag Base, they were all very mistaken. Jason, though, had thoroughly explored the huge subterranean refuge. He’d been over it with a fine tooth comb. With the exception of Tasman and I he was the only person who knew about the lower garage in which various United Nations vehicles had been mothballed for the duration. There were several types hidden beneath heavy canvas covers – ranging from single seated ‘despatch rider’ motorcycles to large six-wheeled amphibious off-roaders. In between these extremes were several small four-wheelers ranging from quad bikes through Land Rovers, Humvees, and three lightly armoured vehicles, the design of which none of us recognised.

The general consensus (once I’d presented everyone with the sight of the cavernous garage) was that the amphibious vehicles were beyond our ability to drive safely; the Humvees would stand out like a sore thumb; but that the Land Rovers would do fine once we’d stripped them of their very obvious military appearance.

‘Exactly what I was thinking.’

 Stripping away the U.N insignia from (and re-pressurising the tyres of) the two Land Rovers that Jason selected took perhaps a half-hour. Charging the batteries naturally took considerably longer; but by nightfall we had ourselves two pristine, low-mileage, ex-Ministry of Defence Land Rovers ready to roll.

Jason, I’d decided, would drive one: Kylie the other. Two vehicles, I considered, was prudent. Three might have gained someone’s attention, and looked too much like a tempting convoy just begging to be ambushed. If we took one and it became disabled it might be a long walk home. Two seemed to me to be the perfect number.

Jason was unable to disguise his eagerness. “When do we shove off?” He asked. “It’ll be dark outside by now. It’s the perfect time to leave.”

“Yes it is.” I replied as I checked my watch. “Why don’t you bring down the elevator.”

Had there been any exterior lights on Crag Base they would have been far astern of us when I finally stole a backward glance. The world around us was cloaked in impenetrable blackness. Even the Moon and stars had failed to make an appearance in the overcast late autumn sky. I’d hoped that the drivers could use night vision goggles to see where they were going without the need of headlights, but we hadn’t driven more than a hundred metres from the derelict service station before Jason ran off the road, and slithered to a halt upon the tussock-strewn verge. I’d suggested that perhaps we could run on minimal lighting in the shape of side lights, but Jason had discovered an unmarked switch upon the dashboard that when depressed lit up his goggles almost as brightly as day.

“Infra-red headlights.” He cheered. “We can see, but to anyone else we’re invisible.”

“That’s comforting.” Kylie had replied as she ran back to her vehicle to find a similar switch upon her dashboard. “Just as long as they don’t have night vision goggles too.”

Before long we’d passed the roadside café and were amongst the hills. With the loosest of plans to guide us we began the long descent to the level ground beyond the ridge of hills that hid the sea. We were once more amongst the overgrown back roads when I finally began to question the wisdom of the trip. How exactly did I intend to find the Espeeg? Let them find me perhaps? Should we turn on the lights and draw some attention to ourselves? But what if we drew the attention of the wrong people? What if we encountered terrestrial humans? Did we surrender to them – or fight our way through? Neither was acceptable: ergo we could not make our presence obvious. Then an idea formed inside my head…    

“Pull over.” I instructed Kylie.

She gave me a questioning look, but complied without speaking. As the Land Rover bounced to a halt upon the muddy verge Jason followed with the second vehicle. As he drew alongside he shouted through his side window.

“Forgot to pack your mascara or something?”

“I have a stunning plan.” I said as I opened my door and dismounted. “I don’t think you’re going to like it. Let’s have a pow-wow.”

I’d been quite accurate when I’d told Jason that I had a stunning plan; I just didn’t realise how stunning and in what manner it would affect the others. I watched as a look of incredulity appeared upon all their faces.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014

The aforementioned tomes are available on-line at many e-book suppliers. Check out the page beneath the header or on the side bar → to access Lulu / iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. Also appears in paperback form at Lulu. Just thought you should know.