THE BLASTED DESERT Chapter Twenty-three

4 Mar


“What in the name of…” gasped Alphonse, his eyes suddenly seeming to be as big as saucers as he reached for Enid’s hand in order to steady himself, and missing as he grasped her left breast and squeezed inadvertently.

“Many apologies…” he added. “I didn’t mean…”

“I did warn you,” said the bird in its well-modulated rather masculine voice. “Radiation can do strange things, even create a monster like me, if you think I’m a monster, that is … but with a little lateral thinking I can return to…” and before their very eyes the bird seemed to melt into smoke and reform as the old woman in a bed complete with pace-maker and a winsome smile.

“That’s some trick,” whispered Bertie.

“I do it all the time,” grinned Fanny, “which is why I like my life with the fair. You see, I’ve got twenty/twenty night vision and when nobody’s likely to see I can fly wherever I choose and only return to my human shape when I get there.”

“It’s impossible…” breathed Alphonse, “one set of DNA can’t do that, can’t become two such very different beings at the drop of a hat!”

“There are no hats involved,” reprimanded Fanny, “and yes, I can as you just saw, so before you use words like impossible try trusting the evidence of your own eyes.”

“It’s a clever trick, but what use is it?” asked Enid, her voice coloured by the merest suggestion of jealousy. She would rather have liked to be able to morph into something outrageous herself.

“I can get about in an unexpected way because, as you know, birds can fly, even huge black ones,” shrugged Fanny, “and I want to get about very soon and take my sweet little boy with me.”

“I can’t do that and change myself into a bird!” protested Imageous, “I can’t even jump very high,” he added emphatically. “I’ve never been very good with heights.”

“I’m bigger and stronger than I look,” said Fanny softly, “and I can carry you quite easily. I could if you weighed twice as much as you do, but by the look of you they half-starved you at that Monastery where I left you for safe keeping. So you’re no great weight. You have the coins, don’t you?”

“What coins?” asked Imageous weakly.

“For the turnstile. There’s a turnstile that we’ll need coins for or we’ll not get through. Didn’t that senile old monk tell you? I left them with him to give you after you rang my neck. You’re good at that, ringing scrawny old necks!”

“I didn’t know you were my mother,” confessed Imageous, wondering how he could possibly have guessed anyway. “I wouldn’t have tried to strangle you if I’d known,” he added.

“Of course you didn’t know me, dearest, because I never told you and its not the sort of thing you could easily imagine,” soothed Fanny. “So we must depart soon. I meant to go the other day, but you were a silly boy and got arrested by the police before I could pick you up. What were you thinking, wearing that outrageous kilt and then taking a wee-wee in public? And it didn’t suit you, not one bit, though in my younger days I’d have looked a treat in it! And then there were your leather undies … they say they stank to heaven!”

“I’ve given that life up now, mother,” muttered Imageous, not liking most of the memories created by the past seventy years and bitterly aware how uncomfortable that codpiece had been for year after year. “The thing is, it’s all I knew and I didn’t have a single parent around to teach me different!”

“And that was my selfish fault,” sighed Fanny. “But we can change all that and for starters you can drop that daft name Imageous and become my own sweet Digory…” she smiled at him.

“Digory … Digory … Digory …. yes, it does sound a bit more like me,” whispered the newly renamed Digory.

“So what are we waiting for?” demanded Fanny. “I need to get to that desert sooner than soon, and have you with me. Your daddy’s there, and he wants to meet you before he pegs it.”

“My daddy?” Digory was more confused than a marble on a pin table.

“Yes, the sweet man,” sighed Fanny. “He’s basking in the sun but I’m afraid he’s on his last legs what with his age and the way time mistreats us poor mortals.”

“Is this desert on the island that was blown up sixty-odd years ago and still radiates nasty stuff if you go anywhere near it?” asked Enid with a frown. “I don’t want to talk out of turn, but isn’t it certain death to go near a nuclear test site within a thousand years of the idiocy of nuclear testing?”

“They’ve tried to clean it up, but there is a patch on it a few miles across where not much grows,” explained Fanny, “but then, nothing much ever grew there. It was always a desert, which is why my beau and I built our cute little hideaway on it all those years ago, before they even dreamed of testing bombs.. But to keep it isolated and off the average back-packer’s beaten track we encourage an exaggerated belief in the dangers of going there. After all, it does belong to us and we can say what we like about it and who’s to gainsay us?”

“Not even you could fly all that way!” scoffed Bertie, a little peeved now that Digory was the centre of his mother’s attention.

“There are aeroplanes, dearest,” smiled Fanny. “We’re to fly to a much larger island and then I’ll fly from there. I love flapping my wings, you know, it’s almost as good as sex!”

“Mother!” exclaimed Digory, shocked.

“Oh, don’t be so Victorian,” laughed Fanny, “after all, it’s how all of us were conceived. I know you were. I was there and it was quite yummy!”

“Yummy?” asked Enid, “That’s an odd word to use.”

“You weren’t there and I was,” winked Fanny. “Now are we ready?”

“We would be, only you’re in a hospital bed and going nowhere until the doctors say you can,” said Alphonse, “and in this I think they know a lot better than an old woman who knows how to do daft things, like grow wings.”

“That’s right,” said a new voice just behind them. It was the doctor who had taken charge of Fanny and her pace-maker. “And I say you need rest before you do anything. After all, you are ninety and we want you to make ninety-one.”

“He’s right, Fanny,” advised Alphonse.

“Tiddle!” snapped the patient, and before any of them could say tiddly-poo she started, before their confused eyes, morphing into a gigantic black bird with a stupendous beak.

“Come on, my sweet baby boy!” she aid in the modulated masculine tones she used for her avian life, “come to mummy and off we’ll go!”

And the ex-monk who hadn’t a clue what was going on felt himself being lifted bodily and plonked with no proper ceremony on the feathery back of what he could only think of as a monster and then, with a slow but scary rhythm, two gigantic wings flapped and he, with great majesty, soared until his head was not far short of the ceiling while his mother sought the wild freedom outside the hospital walls.

“Help…” he cried, but there was nobody anywhere near who had the faintest idea how to go to his aid, and couldn’t have even if they got one.

A large plate-glass window shattered, and he closed his eyes so that he couldn’t see what was what, and he kept them shut while cool summer air ruffled his hair and the unbelievably gigantic wings on both sides of him beat a beautiful rhythm in the blue skies above Brumpton.


© Peter Rogerson 16.02.17


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