Welcome to a sample chapter from the first book in the Hamster-Sapiens series.
This book is dedicated to those brave few who have ‘got’ my humour, and ceaselessly urged me to publish.
Chapter One: Fate Takes a Bow
Lionel Flugelhorn was not a happy hamster. No sooner had he finished his many years of schooling, and a brief, but largely ineffectual, stint at college – when he was suddenly, and unceremoniously, kicked out of the family hovel by his parents upon his fluffy little arse hole.
“Why, dearest mother and father have you done this to me?” He’d cried out plaintively at the time of his ejection, “Haven’t I been the most perfect of sons to you? Wasn’t I, at the very least, reasonably average? Or have I been a total tit?”
In truth Lionel hadn’t been a bad son: But at times he’d been awfully boring: And in the bucktoothed realm of hamsterdom that was often considered a most heinous crime.
Now, bereft of a cosy bed in which to sleep, or even a rhubarb tree under which to shelter from the incessant autumn drizzle, Lionel felt that his life had effectively ended.
“Oh, how I long for my plastic armadillo collection.” he cried into a glass of milk that a kind stranger had given him in a moment of weakness, “And my old scout badges too. Not to mention a cosy bed and some supper. How can fate be so cruel to a young male hamster who possesses not one iota of malice within his slender, boyish, frame?”
But fate had nothing to do with Lionel’s situation: Because there comes a point in every hamster’s life when the metaphorical umbilical cord with his mother must be cut – at which point the aforementioned young hamster must go out into the world and face his destiny with a smile – or at least a steely grimace, and a clean pair of underpants.
That knowledge didn’t help Lionel now, as he hid behind a small hedge, and changed his damp underwear for something drier inside his haversack. And very soon he began casting his gaze this way and that in search of both shelter and inspiration.
He found answers to both requirements in a large sign (the paint from which was peeling alarmingly) upon the wall of a vast, ancient, warehouse on the outskirts of the town known to its inhabitants as Gerbil’s Ruin. It read…The Where House…and it managed to capture Lionel’s imagination like nothing else had ever done before. Not even scantily clad females in revealing swimwear; powerful binoculars; or recently evicted tape worms. As a result he fairly bounced his way across the intervening tarmac, despite its vicious slipperiness – due in no small part to a passing muck spreader whose driver hadn’t bothered to close the nozzle-valve, and who had consequently lost his entire load en route to his destination.
As he dodged around the pools of slurry, he thought to himself, ‘Gosh, I’m glad I’m not that tractor driver: He’ll be for the high jump when the farmer finds he has no unpleasantness with which to feed his growing crop.’
This rumination was to have disastrous consequences for Lionel, because it broke his concentration, and allowed his legs to lose co-ordination. His next thought was less distinct; but carried far greater instinctive fear. If it could have been verbalised it would have gone, ‘Aargh – by The Saint of All Hamsters – no!’
And in that moment, between the anticipation of disaster – and it actually occurring, Lionel promised himself that if he ever met the guilty tractor driver, he would dispense with words and gentle-hamsterly conduct – and personally sink his incisors in the buffoon’s scrotum. And he would pseudo-sadistically enjoy the sounds of high-pitched wailing for as long as his jaw muscles could sustain their pressure – despite the act being so totally out of character for him.
Then Lionel was sliding towards the kerb upon his face – a tidal wave of filth preceding him.
“I wonder…” He began, through lips pressed so tightly together that they might have been hermetically sealed, “if I might…”
But before he could sub-vocalise these thoughts, the potentiality of his current musing actually occurred, and he fetched up at the bottom of the door that had been so expertly placed below the sign that read ‘The Where House’. Then, in a moment of momentous inspiration, fate flipped him upright, so that his nose came into abrupt and painful contact with the bell push. ‘Ding-dong’ it sounded. And then the young hamster – stunned and battered – passed out completely.
Lionel regained consciousness far more quickly than he’d expected. Normally he’d remain comatose for two or three days following extreme physical activity followed by unconsciousness. But that moment between utter blankness and a sense of puzzled consternation seemed to have taken less than a squillionenth of a second.
“Who are you?” He demanded of the two indistinct faces that swam above him.
“ ‘Ere, he’s gone and woke up.” An observant rural accent informed someone else.
“Wowie!” An overly enthusiastic female voice replied. “So he isn’t dead after all: Just stunned and battered.”
Then the faces resolved and took on a more solid form. One was old and grizzled – its chin coated freely with a mixture of grey fur and biscuit crumbs. The other simply shook Lionel to his core. It was quite possibly the most delightful face that he’d ever seen – not that he’d noticed many, what with him usually burying himself away in his bedroom and everything: And for the first time in his life he truly recognised that he was a male hamster.
His first words were, “Ooh, I say.” He quickly followed them up with “Blimey!”, and finally, “Cor!”
The old grizzled face smiled. “I can see you’re feeling better, lad.” It said, “Best get you on yer feet before you melt all over the floor.”
With that Lionel felt himself being hoisted into a standing position.
Upright once more, Lionel’s equilibrium returned, and some of his sentience accompanied it. But before he could form his next question he realised that he was far wetter now than when he’d been out in the rain. He looked down. Immediately the reason for this was obvious: His fine waxed cotton raincoat (and his other garments too) had been removed.
His heart skipped a beat. Why was he soaking wet and naked? Where had they taken his clothes? Had the pretty female seen his frozen dangler? Taking a deep breath he calmed himself. Of course she hadn’t: His lustrous, youthful body fur could easily hide his bits and pieces from anyone’s gaze – unless they possessed a strong comb, and the will to use it, of course. How well he recalled the last school doctor visit: Nurse Growler had been fumbling about for ages until she’d produced a comb from her breast pocket, and duly uncovered his doo-dads for Doctor Growbag to examine rather more intently than Lionel felt was entirely necessary.
“You don’t have a comb about your person, I suppose?” He inquired of the delightfully-faced female.
The delightfully-faced female shrugged her shoulders apologetically, and said, “Jeepers, if I’d known you were coming…Sorry.”
The old grizzled hamster was speaking again; but Lionel was having difficulty hearing his words. His mind was now entirely focused upon the female who stood before him.
“In the name of The Great Angler Herself.” He said to himself, “This is simply the most enchanting entity that I have ever laid my eyes upon. She is divine beyond measure and compare. Were I a more heroic type, and not a dull-brained geek, I would sweep her from the ground upon which she stands so delicately, and carry her away to some tiny edifice built high in the tallest of rhubarb trees, and give her a good ‘seeing-to’.”
The female’s facial skin coloured instantly beneath its downy covering of luxuriant fur. Lionel felt suddenly rather foolish. He’d made the typical mistake that many a young male hamster had made before him: He’d automatically verbalised his innermost thoughts.
“By The Saint of All Hamsters.” He bellowed to cover his embarrassment, “I must apologise most fervently. Although I meant every word that I inadvertently spoke – I feel I must retract them: They are unbecoming- especially when I speak so freely of someone I do not know.”
The female held out a tiny paw. “Fanangy Panakan – at your service, kind sir. Cripes, listen to me: I’ve come over all-posh!”
‘Fanangy Panakan’. Lionel ran the name through the biological computer he called his brain. ‘Fanangy Panakan’. It seemed familiar, yet unfamiliar at the same time….
The old grizzled hamster chose that moment to repeat himself…
“I said…” He spoke more loudly than entirely necessary – but he was determined to prize the young hamster’s attention away from Fanangy for a moment, “You’ve been nose-surfing on a sea of ka-ka: I had to hose you down. I had to use cold water, so don’t worry too much about your wanger: it’ll be back soon enough, you see if it aint.”
Lionel dragged his gaze from its preferred direction. “Oh yes.” He said to no one in particular. “That’s right: I slipped in some effluent upon the road.”
Then, thinking more clearly, he added, “It’s lucky I wasn’t driving a go-kart: I could have had a nasty prang.”
Then his eyes slid back towards Fanangy, and he said, “As it happens I do believe that it might have been the most serendipitous pile of poop that I’ve ever encountered. Now may I have my clothes back? I’m feeling a little vulnerable.”
Well Lionel didn’t get his clothes back – not straight away anyway. They had to dry out for a while upon a radiator in the kitchen. But to preserve the youngster’s modesty the old grizzled hamster, whose name, Lionel discovered, was Boney Legge, gave him a The Where House uniform to wear in the interim.
As with the name ‘Fanangy Panakan’, ‘Boney Legge’ seemed to gently caress a bell in the rear compartment of Lionel’s brain. But being well brought up, and almost infinitely polite, he didn’t press Boney any further upon the subject: He felt certain that its significance would strike him eventually.
The kitchen appeared to be buried deep within the bowels of The Where House. It was small, but functional, and the chairs were fabulously comfortable – at least to a young male hamster who no longer enjoyed the luxury of a bedroom, a toilet, or twelve square meals a day. And he positively fell upon the bowl of grain so delicately passed to him by the fair paw of Fanangy Panakan.
“Hey, slow down there, fella.” She said to him, as she jerked her paw back, “You nearly took my claw varnish off with your teeth.”
Lionel would have been mortified at his brusque behaviour, but he was too busy eating. A mere three seconds elapsed, and the bowl appeared disappointingly empty. Lionel held it up for more.
“It’ll give you wind.” Boney told him, “Wait ‘til it’s gone down. In between times I can tell you all about The Where House.”
With little else to do but watch Fanangy as she drew heavily upon a huge clay pipe, and then blew smoke rings out of her ears, Lionel settled himself down to listen to the tale of The Where House’s founding…
Lionel had never found the television news, documentaries, or current affairs particularly interesting; so he was surprised to learn that only recently a second expedition to North America had been undertaken.
“Hang on.” He interrupted Boney, “I don’t mean to be impolite, but surely after the disastrous Johnny Grainswallow expedition no one could either gather the funding, or possess the temerity, to launch another?”
“Well ordinarily you’d be right.” Boney’s rural vowels filled the warm, pungent air, “But North America held more interest for certain individuals, than just super-bank voles with psychedelic brains, and the deadly disease ‘Hamster’s Arse’. No – there was Area Ninety-nine.”
Lionel’s ears pricked up another notch. “Area Ninety-nine?” He breathed the words that no sensible hamster would utter for risking ridicule of the highest order. “So there is such a place? I mean – it’s not all complete bollocks? Excuse my Hamster French.”
Well according to Boney it wasn’t bollocks at all, and Lionel soon learned that Sir Reginald Dungworthy had returned to Hamster Britain less than a year previous – with his retinue intact, and carrying upon his massive sea-going raft, all the mysterious contents of Area Ninety-nine.
“You mean – they just walked in and took the stuff?” Lionel questioned eloquently.
“No one to stop ‘em.” Boney reminded Lionel that the population had fled America many generations before when the entire continent had succumbed to Hamster’s Arse.
“What did they do with it?” Lionel inquired eagerly.
“Well they studied the stuff a bit.” Boney informed him, “Then the military tried to make weapons of mass destruction from it. Then they tried to reverse-engineer it. Then they gave up and sold it to me for ten thousand Rodentos.”
“And you created The Where House!” Lionel finally recalled where he’d heard the name Boney Legge before. “You made this into some sort of theme park. A fantasy palace. You promised to take hamsters to impossible places, and see wonderful, ah, thingys and wotsits.”
“Not just hamsters.” Boney reminded him, “All sorts of rodents. Rats, Mice, Gerbils. I even took a Cavy once. No Rabbits though: Too vicious – even the tame ones what you can ride.”
Lionel looked about the room. It looked under-used. He recalled the peeling paint upon the sign outside. “I guess it didn’t take off, huh?” He said slightly apologetically.
“Silly-bugger hamsters.” Boney almost spat the words. “I got bus-loads of ‘em to start with: But when I showed ‘em all the wonders to be found in the artefacts of Area Ninety-nine…well most of ‘em thought it was clever visual effects: Others thought they’d gone mad. Others went completely off their heads. And some even lost control of their bowels. Well, of course, I had to start administering sedatives, didn’t I: Then nobody believed in anything they saw: They just thought they’d been on some kind’a drug-induced trip like you get from them mushrooms up at Danglydong Dell. The business went tits-up overnight – didn’t it!”
“So how do you make repayments on the ten thousand Rodento loan?” Lionel asked rather impertinently.
“How’d you know I got a loan?” Boney demanded angrily.
It seemed obvious to Lionel: No single hamster could possibly amass the necessary fortune: Not even Waxi Pertbutt – the former chairhamster of the popular television quiz show ‘Universally Challenged’, which Lionel had once appeared on – though in a minor role, and on the losing team.
“Well you’re right.” Boney appeared mollified, “but I get by with selling the odd trinket that I find here and there when I go exploring.”
Lionel didn’t understand, and said as much.
“Ya don’t think I got all these Area Ninety-nine artefacts sitting about on shelves gathering dust, do ya?” Boney shouted in a voice full of surprise. “They’ve got to pay their way you know: Otherwise it’s the scrap dealer for ‘em – and I know at least one of ‘em who wouldn’t want that to happen.”
Lionel came from a sheltered upbringing: He didn’t know that inanimate artefacts gave a damn about anything – let alone survival, or their personal place in the universe.
“Blimey!” He said. Then in the absence of anything significant further he terminated whatever response he may have made by uttering the words, “Cor – fancy that!”
And strangely Boney fully understood. “ ‘Ere,” He said – removing Lionel’s cup of tea from his lettuce-limp grip, “I’ll show ya.”
The Where House was actually an old brick-built warehouse that had been compartmentalised into many themed zones. Each held just a single ‘artefact’ from Area Ninety-nine. There was also a souvenir shop, and some lavatories for both males and females of several totally different rodent species – which took up an inordinate amount of space, but which Boney had considered an absolute necessity. “You can’t have mice fallin’ down bogs made for folk with rat-sized arses, can you?” He’d said at the time of their expensive installation. There was also a cafeteria; and a nice dry spot under an awning for rodents to park their foldaway scooters and roller skates. There was also a storage facility; and it was to this that Boney had led Lionel.
Naturally Boney had let Lionel peek inside each room as they’d passed, but each was in power-saving mode currently, and all that the young hamster could see in the murk was a central pedestal with some vague-shaped object atop it.
When, finally, they reached the central storage area, Lionel was surprised to read a sign attached to the door that read, DANGER: KEEP OUT, which worried him slightly because he’d assumed that anything from the legendary Area Ninety-nine would be harmless in the extreme. So when Boney unlocked the door with a massive set of heavy keys, Lionel was stunned to see a line of seven ferocious-looking rodent-like metal monstrosities – each with a single evil-looking eye that seemed to be constantly scanning its immediate vicinity. Of course if he’d been a greater aficionado of the science fiction genre, Lionel would have immediately recognised these affronts to his sensibilities as robots. But he wasn’t, and Boney had to explain to him that Sentinel Robots were his automated security guards, which he’d been forced to buy because he couldn’t afford sufficient wages to attract any kind of rodent more imposing than a slumbering dormouse, or faster-witted than a turd.
“Do they have to look so terrifying?” Lionel complained.
“Of course they do, you daft young hamster,” Boney chuckled in response to such an idiotic question, “Who’d poop themselves if this lot looked like fluffy caterpillars? No, big metal monsters – that’s what you need for security guards: The bigger and nastier-looking the better. Teeth are good too: Huge metal teeth that grind alarmingly.”
Lionel may not have been an aficionado of the science fiction genre, but he had a pretty good imagination when pushed: And those evil robotic eyes were definitely pushing him somewhere…
“Are, are, are they su-su-super-intelligent?” He stammered.
“Daft as a brush; and thick as a post.” Boney assured him as he took a large yellow disc from a shelf, and slipped it into a receptacle in the chest area of the first robot in line.
“Alpha One.” He spoke directly to the robot, “Ya got yer instructions: Proceed to your designated patrol area.”
“Your word is my command.” Alpha One replied in a tinny, scratchy voice that sounded like it belonged to a tiny transistorised radio at the bottom of a very deep well. Then it peered down for a while at a yellow line that had been painted upon the floor until it was obviously satisfied. Then, having visually ‘locked-on’, it lurched past Boney as it followed the aforementioned yellow line; and went crashing out through some large swing doors, singing “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to…”
As the doors swung shut behind the rapidly diminishing robot, Boney explained that the robots were very literal in their understanding of the world about them, and that great care must be shown when giving them verbal commands. They were also very impressionable, and should never be allowed to watch television.
Lionel made a mental note, and then allowed himself to be led from the room – only to be presented with yet another locked door. And like the room before it, and all those preceding, this room was cloaked in shadow.
“Like the room before it, and all those preceding, this room is cloaked in shadow.” He observed eloquently.
“I like to keep me artefacts in the dark.” Boney explained, “It tends to keep ‘em quiet. Lots of light, and strange artefacts, don’t always mix together well.”
Then, in total contravention of everything that he’d just said, Boney’s paw found the light switch, and flicked on the power.
This time no horrific mechanical monsters assaulted Lionel’s sensibilities: Instead he was greeted with the sight of a young male hamster that appeared to be sitting in a comfortable chair, watching an inert television set. They both entered the room. The seated hamster failed to react, even when Boney made an exaggerated throat clearing sound.
“Is he deaf?” Lionel asked.
“No, he’s watching TV.” Boney replied.
Lionel noted the absence of any power running to the television set. He pointed to the power cord that lay, unconnected, upon the concrete floor. “I don’t think so.” He said, trying desperately to keep the sarcasm from his tone, and failing utterly.
“Well that’s where you’re hideously wrong, master know-all,” Boney – who hated sarcasm more than he hated sexually transmitted diseases – shot back at him, “He’s watching it inside his head.”
Lionel understood – or thought he did. “Oh, I see: He’s a complete loony.”
This upset Boney even more than his earlier sarcastic tone. “No,” he ground out between compressed incisors, “he’s a genius actually. He just happens to have a TV receiver inside his skull.”
Lionel didn’t react to this immediately: He had some serious thinking to do. His first thought was, ‘Where’s the exit?’ He quickly followed this up with, ‘By The Saint of All Hamsters – I hope I don’t soil my pants.’
Boney must have seen these thoughts march across Lionel’s open countenance, because his tone suddenly softened, and he said, “Don’t concern yourself, lad; I aint going bonkers, and nor’s Colin over there.”
Lionel’s fears were far from assuaged: He tried to remain calm. “Is that so?” He managed to force past trembling lips.
“Indeed it is.” Boney experimented with a smile, but due to his great age and grizzliness, it came across as a frightening leer, “You see – Colin aint exactly a hamster. Well, not a hamster like you and me…”
Alarm bells began ringing inside Lionel’s head. “He’s not….?” He began, then pulling himself up to his full height, which was considerable despite him being a callow youth with next-to-no meat upon his bones, he continued, “He’s not a hamster-sexual, is he?”
Boney’s frightening leer turned into a look of astonishment. “A hamster-sexual?” He almost gagged upon his oesophagus, “By the Great Angler Herself – no: Colin’s an android: Not an arse bandit!”
But any further exclamations were thwarted when Lionel made an exclamation of his own: “An android? Good grief – I didn’t think it was possible!”
If it was possible for Boney to be any more surprised, then this statement was just the thing to do it.
“You know about androids?” His voice sounded high and squeaky.
“Of course.” Lionel said – fully aware that until this moment he’d never heard of the word in his life, “Who doesn’t?”
“Well most people actually.” The old-timer began reappraising the gangling dope before him, “And that includes you.”
Lionel had been caught in a lie: Or was the oldster testing him? “It so happens that you’re wrong there.” He said in a tone bolstered by false confidence, “I know everything there is to know about androids: We did it in our last year at school. In class seventeen – bee, to be precise.”
Now Boney knew for certain that Lionel was lying: “Oh you did – did you?” He said in a voice from which doubt dangled like supple lianas, “So what’s an android, then? Tell me that.”
Lionel was ready for this. He pointed toward the hamster named Colin. “That’s one sitting over there, watching TV.” He said.
Boney wasn’t fooled for a second. “Oh yeah?” He growled, “So what station’s he watching? Tell me that.”
Lionel might have been a gangling dope, but he was much too quick to be caught out by such a transparent trick question…
“Analogue or digital?” He shot back.
Boney folded his arms. “You tell me.”
There was a fifty-fifty chance that Lionel could answer correctly: And of course the opposite was equally likely. They were bad odds, and Lionel was never one for gambling – unlike his father, who would gamble on any subject, up to, and including, the disgustingness of his work-mate’s underpants. But, if Boney wasn’t to see through his subterfuge, a decision must be reached, and reached quickly.
“Neither.” He said confidently.
Boney’s whiskers quivered. Then they twanged like the strings of an old guitar. He hadn’t expected such an answer. He was impressed.
“Neither?” He inquired – all combativeness gone from his voice.
Lionel quickly picked up on the demeanour change. “No.” He said, “Something else. I don’t know what: Just something else.”
And in that moment their minds met – as though fate had decreed it.
“You’ll do.” Boney tried the smile again – and this time it almost worked: Now he only looked like a murderous pirate.
Lionel was about to ask the obvious question – ‘Do for what?’ – when suddenly Fanangy Panakan came bounding into the room – whooping and hollering with delight.
“Boney,” She fairly screamed, “Do you really think so? Will he really do?”
“Yup, reckon I do.” He replied.
At which point Fanangy stopped bouncing about like a demented tennis ball, and dashed up to Lionel, hugged him close, and gave him the sloppiest kiss that he’d ever endured – even from his Aunt Gertrude.
Lionel was glad that ‘he’d do’: He just wondered what ‘he’d do’ at.
It was now five minutes later, and Lionel was still none the wiser. He’d been introduced to Colin, of course, and he’d discovered that the handsome hamster was indeed an android, and that he really could watch television inside his head.
“Cripes!” He’d cried, when peering closely into Colin’s ears, and discovering that, according to the weather hamster on Hamster Heath Television, it was going to piss down with rain all weekend, “I’d better get my brolly out.”
This last statement had tickled Fanangy’s sense of humour mercilessly, because, where she came from, the word ‘brolly’ didn’t refer to the common-or-garden umbrella: No, it was a popular euphemism much like the word ‘willy’ was in Gerbil’s Ruin, or any town throughout the length and breadth of Hamster Britain.
“Tee-hee-hee,” She’d giggled into her paw, “Lionel’s going to get his brolly out in the rain. I hope it doesn’t shrivel up.”
But naturally neither Lionel nor Boney saw the joke.
Colin – or C.O.L.I.N as he should be known more accurately – fascinated Lionel utterly.
“I find you utterly fascinating.” He confessed shortly after the android had awoken from his regeneration mode, and they’d been properly introduced.
“Well if that’s not a very nice thing to say – I don’t know what is.” The hamster-like device replied in a gentle tone, “And I find you fascinatingly utter.”
Lionel didn’t know how to take this last statement. Was the android mocking him? Do androids mock? He asked himself. And I wonder if they visit the loo as well?
“I’m sorry.” He addressed Boney, “But I’m not particularly au fait with the science fiction genre: Is Colin taking the piss out of me?”
Boney suspected not, and said as much.
Lionel accepted this, and then returned his attention to Colin. “So – tell me – what does C.O.L.I.N stand for? I assume it’s an acronym?”
Colin scratched his head. “Now there’s a question and a half.” He responded. Let’s try and work this out, shall we? C…that must stand for Cybernetic: O? Organism? Yes I imagine that would be about right. L – now that’s a tricky one, and make no mistake: Do you have any ideas?”
Lionel was momentarily bereft of any ideas: Except one, that is. “Lionel?” He suggested.
“Cybernetic Organism Lionel…That sounds quite attractive. Yes, we’ll go with that. But what about the letter I and N? What might they stand for?”
Lionel was on a roll now. “Um… I – for Intelligence?”
“Oh I like it. I do like it. I like it very much.” Colin clapped his hands together in delight. “What about N?”
Spoke Lionel in his most affirmative manner. “Nodule.”
“Nodule it is, then.” Colin shook Lionel’s paw. “You’ve gone and given me a proper moniker at last. I’m so pleased. I’d thank you from the bottom of my heart – but sadly I do not possess one. Or a large intestinal tract.”
“Cybernetic Organism Lionel Intelligence Nodule?” Boney whined. “But it sounds just like what it is: A load of bollocks. That can’t be right.”
“Oh Boney, don’t fret; it doesn’t really matter what my creators intended the acronym C.O.L.I.N to mean.” Colin patted his owner’s shoulder gently. “Lionel, here, has given my designation new meaning. I’ll be forever in his debt – or at least until next Thrudsday when they have a whist drive down at the Farmer’s Tackle public house.”
And so began a strange partnership between two individuals that might never have happened if Lionel hadn’t been such a twat.
With no home to go to Lionel was offered a place upon The Where House staff – which he readily accepted – and which now meant that the wage bill had doubled – though that didn’t mean much because no one was paid anything anyway.
Accommodation was scarce, and to his horror Lionel was forced to share a room with Fanangy. He was genuinely worried that she might attempt to steal into his bed on their first night – and he knew that temperamentally he was ill equipped to handle the strange female.
Clearly the odd being adored him; he could tell by the way she stared, bug-eyed, at him when she wasn’t speaking herself; and how she hung on his every meaningless word when it was his turn to say something.
He now lay in the darkness – listening to the sounds of night. Across the room he could hear Fanangy’s breathing. It was slow and deliberate – as though, he suspected, she was feigning sleep.
“Fanangy…?” He spoke into the silence.
“Yes?” Fanangy replied instantaneously – unable to keep the eagerness from her voice.
“Is it much fun working for The Where House?” He asked.
“Are you kidding?” Her rather sweet voice squealed, “It’s the best thing that’ll ever happen to you. It’s just….wowie!”
Then he felt her presence kneeling beside his bed. He tried not to flinch when she laid a paw upon his arm – though he did wonder how she saw where to put her paw in such utter blackness. Did she sleep with night-vision goggles on? Then another thought struck: It was the sort of thought that, ordinarily, Lionel would never have had. It shook him that a thought of such magnitude could form in an unimaginative brain like his.
“Fanangy…” He repeated.
Her paw tightened its grip in anticipation.
“…We only met a couple of hours ago, and even then I’d been nose-surfing upon an ocean of filth before that; and Boney took it upon himself to hose me down; and then you witnessed my sodden nakedness: Yet still I feel I should know you. It’s like we’ve been connected for…for yonks.”
“We have.” Fanangy’s voice calmed, perhaps for the first time since Lionel had accidentally found his way into The Where House. “Or rather – we will have.”
Lionel heard her sigh at the inadequacy of her words.
“It’s hard to explain. The Where House did it: Will do it.” She continued, “But if it’ll help you understand – even a little – you’ll be glad to know that the muck-spreading hamster is going to spend the night in Chunderford General Hospital.”
Lionel was almost dumbstruck. Not quite though, because he was able to say, “Muck-spreading hamster? What do you know of the muck-spreading hamster? I never mentioned him once – not even when I was unconscious!”
“No.” The paw had somehow found its way to one of Lionel’s huge flapping ears, over which he’d lost all control, “But you told me all about it a long time ago – in another time, and another place.”
Lionel couldn’t begin to understand what his new acquaintance was going on about; but he’d managed to understand something about ‘a night in Chunderford General Hospital’.
“Why,” he asked – trying to ignore the gentle scratching taking place in one of his more sensitive spots, “will the muck-spreading hamster be spending the night in Chunderford General Hospital?”
He hardly dared allow his recalcitrant ears to hear the answer.
“Because,” Fanangy’s voice had dropped to a sultry whisper, “he has a perforated scrotum.”
And somehow, despite the fact that Lionel wasn’t well versed in either the
science-fiction genre or temporal mechanics, it was obvious to him that either he, or Fanangy, would travel backward in time, to administer the bite that he’d promised he’d give that arse hole of a tractor driver only a few hours previous. It left him confused and displaced from reality.
Suddenly he felt very young and naive, and awfully afraid for his sanity.
“Boney!” He yelled in desperation, “I’ve got the screaming ab-dabs!”
And as Lionel’s voice reverberated down the multitude of corridors that linked all those strange rooms that comprised The Where House, in a series of distraught echoes; he began to believe that they might well continue to do so until the end of time. Then again they might not.
©Paul Trevor Nolan
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