The Kangaroo and the Comedian

It seemed too good to be true; Randy Roland, the favourite comedian of both me and my Mum, playing the Dromedar Theatre on the very day of Mum’s birthday. I had bought our tickets months in advance, yet throughout all those months, I couldn’t help but feel that it was too good to be true. The show is going to get cancelled for whatever reason, I kept thinking as I counted down the months, it’s going to get cancelled and I bet they won’t allow refunds either. It didn’t get cancelled, however, yet on the day of the show I almost wish it had.

The birthday had been going swimmingly –Mum and I had a meal at the Obese Orangutan restaurant, where she was even presented with a cake, and then off to the theatre we went, both of us sitting down with a lager. I gulped most of my lager down before the show even started, and almost threw it all up once I saw who else was in the theatre.

There, just a couple of rows in front of me was a familiar head with a pair of familiar pointed ears. I told myself, no it can’t be, he’s too grumpy for something like this. It’s someone wearing a Batman mask because he thought it’d be good for a larf. Maybe I was just imagining him – the lager I drank in the theatre wasn’t my first beverage of the evening. I bit my lip, rubbed my eyes, and he was still there. Karl the Kangaroo, come to watch Randy Roland.

You’ve heard of Karl the Kangaroo, haven’t you? You know, from the poem? He owns Kangaroo Games, which publish such popular mobile games like Smashy Mash and Kittycat Town, which is a free game where you make a town for cats, but all the best-looking buildings cost actual money. You may have heard of him battling the Lemon Possum, who, until recently, I thought was a villain in a dentist’s comic book. Well, if you’ve heard of him, you know what a miserable miser he is. If I may quote that poem: He silenced chatter, and birthday greetings, The room would turn cold, When he went to his meetings. That pretty much sums him up.

And I work for him. I’m a copywriter, writing all the text about why the extra lives for Smashy Mash or a mansion for Kittycat Town is a wise use of your hard-earned money.

So when Randy came on, it was Karl I focussed on, inwardly praying he didn’t turn around and notice me. Mum didn’t notice him, and even whispered, ‘Why aren’t you laughing?’ at me. Karl didn’t seem to be laughing, however, so I thought if I did, he would turn around and fire or demote me on the spot. Mum wanted me to laugh though, so I thought of a compromise and simply smiled widely at every punchline.

During the interval, Mum and I left to go the toilets and grab another lager, while Karl remained in his seat. I almost said, ‘Thank God’ out loud. While Mum and I discussed the show, I talked about how funny Randy was, how he was still on top form and the story about the caterpillars, all I could think of was the fact that Karl was a talking kangaroo in a world of humans yet the only reason I stared at him was because he was my boss.

The interval ended and we returned to our seats. Karl hadn’t moved an inch. In fact, I even wondered if he had fallen asleep. Most of us in the offices thought Karl never slept what with the big dark circles under his eyes.

As soon as Randy returned to the stage, the shock of seeing my boss on my evening out faded away, and I was finally able to focus on the show and his story about what he found in the cinema toilets. I snickered at the jokes, and Karl all but vanished from my mind.

That is, until near the end of the show, when Randy had a look over the audience and yelled, ‘Is that who I think it is?’

He noticed Karl. He urged Karl to stand up, and Karl did so.

‘I’m not really here for you,’ Karl cried out, ‘I’m more here for the Dromedar itself.’

‘Ah, you can take the kangaroo out of the theatre, but you can’t take the theatre out of the kangaroo.’

‘And you can take the mickey out of people,’ Karl replied, ‘but you can’t make it entertaining.’

Randy actually cackled at Karl’s remark and yelled ‘Come on up onto the stage’, to which Karl said ‘Gladly’ and hopped towards the stage. He actually hopped; a rare sight indeed.

Once on the stage, Karl looked over the audience and said, ‘A large turn-out. They must have known I was coming.’ Then another rare sight: he smiled.

‘Oh come on,’ said Randy, ‘that’s not a nice thing to say! You’re Karl the Dancing Kangaroo! The Joyful Little Joey! This isn’t befitting behaviour for such a cute little animal!’

‘Ah yes,’ said Karl, leaning into Randy’s microphone, ‘without this theatre, I admit, I wouldn’t be where I am. You see, my mother didn’t care much for me, so I danced for the people in order to get some food. And I must say I was a fine dancer as well. In fact, word of me spread far and wide, so then I performed for a circus briefly before I was purchased by this theatre.’

‘I remember when they’d put you in the pantomimes!’ Randy said, ‘Do you remember when Dick Whittington had a kangaroo instead of a cat? Or when Widow Twankey had a kangaroo deliver laundry to her?’

Karl sighed. ‘Yes. What I was actually getting to was when I performed for this theatre, that was when I learned to speak English, when I learnt about the technology you humans had created. I learnt about your computers, your games, and with the money I got from my performances, I made my own games…’

‘Well, until the theatre stopped using you because you weren’t a cute little joey anymore.’ At that, the audience laughed, well, all the audience except me.

‘Well, after that,’ Karl growled, ‘I made my money through winning fights, since us kangaroos are born fighters, so I’d watch my P’s and Q’s if I were you.’

‘Karl the Kangaroo, everyone!’ When Karl returned to his seat, I told myself that since I went to this show only for a laugh and ended up learning something about my boss, then the show was better than I thought it’d be. Still, I felt a chill as I left the theatre, and I felt it again when Karl called me to his office the following Monday.

He sat at his desk, his arms folded, his eyes narrowed. ‘I know you were at the comedy show,’ he said.

All I could reply with was, ‘I was.’

‘You were there when I spoke about my relationship with the theatre, and that person tried to be humorous.’

I nodded.

‘You’re an adequate copywriter,’ he then said, ‘so how would you like to be a ghostwriter as well?’

I said nothing.

‘Talking about my life on stage made me want to publish a book about my life, but I’m far too busy to write it. That’s where you come in. I’ll tell you more of my life and you write it down, and you may find a nice bonus with your name on it. Just don’t start calling me “The Joyful Little Joey” or…well, remember how I made my money after my dancing career ended.’

The Living House

Deep in the woods, they said, there’s a living house. A house that looks pristine and inviting, but everything within is alive. The furniture dances, the fires of the candle seem to scream, the faces on the paintings grimace and twitch.

How could I resist?

I left at night, because as we all know, that’s when the ghosties and ghoulies come out. I brought along my water bottle in case I got thirsty, as well as my phone, which provided a torch, a camera and horror movie soundtracks to help me get in the mood for an adventure like this. I was almost certain the house wasn’t real and that I was doing this to prove it, yet what I assumed to be my inner child begged me to believe.

Deeper and deeper I went, trying to ignore the thorns sticking to my jeans, the shit I constantly stepped in, the owls seemingly glaring at me as if they knew what I was trying to do. When I found a clearing, I lay down on the wet grass and took a rest, looking up at the sky. It wasn’t often I did something like this, I thought, I stay indoors too much. After taking a swig of my water, I took off my coat and let the nighttime breeze soothe me. I stay indoors too much, I repeated to myself, too long in a hot room with the windows closed. I forgot about the living house completely…

…until I found myself standing right in front of it. A house among trees and twigs that looked more well-kept than most of the houses in my neighbourhood. A two-storey building painted sky-blue with a crimson roof, with the windowsills on the ground floor sporting flowers.

It was like I had entered a fairytale, as if I had been teleported into the story of Hansel and Gretel and was standing before the witch’s abode. A voice within me demanded I run, but all I could do was stare at it. Stare at the bright walls which seemed to be breathing. Stare at the flowers which bobbed back and forth. Stare at the door which opened on its own accord.

As soon as the door opened, I was sucked inside, and in seconds, there I was, in the hall of the living house. Under the shifting eyes of the paintings, before candles that twisted around, in front of curtains that slowly opened and closed. Though the door was still open and I no longer wore my coat, sweat dripped all over my body, and my stomach felt as if it had been set ablaze.

Again, all I could do was stare.

Even when a painting looked down at me and smiled, I did nothing but stare.

Another door opened, revealing another room, where I swore I saw the shadow of a man against the floral wallpaper. That’s what finally restored my mobility, that’s what made me move into another room in the house.

There stood a man, in front of a squirming sofa, under more twitching paintings, twirling his arms around as if he were conducting a band.

I couldn’t help but ask, ‘Why are you doing this?’

He didn’t answer. He continued to stand there, making strange gestures with his arms.

I asked again.

He cried, ‘Stop moving!’

I told him I wasn’t moving.

He said, ‘You want to be a house? Houses don’t move.

I asked again, louder.

He lowered his arms.

All I could do was stare.

All I could do was stare as the wallpaper melted away to reveal slimy blue flesh.

As the paintings became actual faces that were part of the walls, and the candles became yellow eyeballs on stalks.

As the sofa transformed into what looked like a squirming tumour fused into the floor.

When the man raised his arms again, restoring the wallpaper and the furniture, I finally found the strength to run, only for the door to slam right in my face.

‘He wants to be a house,’ said the man, ‘and houses need residents.’

The World’s Best Pizza Place

One day I was hungry,
But I didn’t want to cook,
So I went to my computer,
And online I took a look,

At what was said to be,
The World’s Best Pizza Place,
So I could order something,
With which to stuff my face,

The website said, ‘Our pizzas,
They really are the best,
Our pizzas are so much more,
Livelier than the rest!’

This sounded tempting,
So from them I did buy,
It was quite pricy,
But was worth a try.

They brought me my pizza,
And when I opened the box,
It then spoke to me,
It was quite a shock,

‘Please don’t eat me,
Let me live in your home,
It looks pretty nice,
A fine place to own.’

Well, the Pizza Place did
Just as it should,
It made the world’s best pizzas,
They made them too good.

Percy and Katie

butterflies

For once in my life, I woke up before my wife. Well, perhaps “wake up” wasn’t the correct term to use; I wasn’t fast asleep, yet my eyes were closed, I lay down, and I was thinking about the dream I just had. Not quite awake, not quite asleep. I didn’t get up as quickly as Katie did, so I preferred to savour this rare state of mind.

It only lasted a few minutes before Katie sprung up and said, ‘Wake up!’ like a child on Christmas morning. ‘I am awake,’ I replied as I stretched my appendages, making the stalk we were on bounce slightly. Still I lay, but Katie leapt up in the air, showing off her bright green wings.

‘Come on, lazy bones,’ she said, ‘let’s go!’

‘Go where?’ I said, stretching again.

‘Well, out!’ replied Katie with a laugh, ‘Where else?’

‘Oh, not this again…’

‘Percy,’ sighed Katie, landing back on the stalk, ‘come on. We’ve been in this garden forever. I want to go somewhere else. I want to expand my horizons!’

‘Katie,’ I said, ‘what’s wrong with this garden? It’s safe, it’s beautiful, and it’s so nice when the humans come out here for tea.’ Indeed, on hot summer days, the humans that owned this garden came out onto a table, where they’d have a cup of tea, discuss their world, and sometimes they would lie down in the shade and read books. Katie and I would sometimes flutter over to them and see if we could sip some tea out of the cups. It didn’t bother the humans; they either just commented on how pretty we were, or just ignored us.

‘That’s just it,’ replied Katie, ‘Haven’t you listened to what they talk about? All the places they’ve been to, all the things they’ve seen, all the things they read about in those books. Like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pig before. I’ve heard the children talk about them, but I’ve never seen one.’

I stretched again, tapping my head just to help me think more clearly. ‘I’ve heard them talk about things out there, but some of them sound really dangerous. Like just the other day they were talking about a creature called Mr. Owl, who ate a metal worm. If he can devour a worm made out of metal…’

‘I heard that too. They also mentioned something about “Palindrome”. Maybe that’s where Mr. Owl lives. If we avoid that place, we’ll be fine.’

‘Still, there are some things out there that want to eat us. Their cat batting at us is annoying enough without going around facing more creatures.’

‘Well, what about their dog? What about…what do they call him…Duke? You like landing on his nose and looking at him, don’t you?’ I do, as well, but I didn’t say that. ‘Maybe there’s more creatures like Duke. Well, not exactly like him, similar in some ways but different in others. What I’m trying to say is, there is a variety of animals and places out there, and if we just stay in this garden, we aren’t going to see them.’

‘But what’s wrong with just staying here? There’s good food and it’s relaxing and the humans here don’t have nets! Did I tell you they make nets for the sole purpose of catching us?’

Katie sighed, before flying up into the air again and even performing a somersault. ‘We aren’t caterpillars anymore. We aren’t helpless.’

‘I’m sorry, Katie,’ I said, ‘it’s just…I like it here.’

‘Every time we have this conversation,’ replied Katie, ‘we end up staying here. Well, if you’re not going out, I’m going by myself. See you soon.’ And off she flew.

I couldn’t help but fly off after her, with a ‘Wait for me.’

Both of us beat our wings as hard as possible, reaching higher and higher and higher. Katie pointed down and said ‘Look’ and I saw our garden. Our tiny little garden, nothing compared to the great big garden nearby, not even attached to a house. Nothing compared to the fields that seemed to stretch on indefinitely, making our garden’s house seem just a white speck in comparison.

Katie dove, and I dove after her. She soared over the fields, over the roads, then through the buildings. I tried to do as she did, but I never had her energy, so as she explored the streets, I plopped down on a hedge to catch my breath.

‘Come on, lazy!’ She quickly found me. ‘We’ve got more stuff to see!’

We flew past several gardens, all smaller than the one we lived in, but each offering us little snacks. After I said to Katie that those snacks replenished my energy, she challenged me to a race around the town. Even though she didn’t have a finishing place in mind and I knew she would win if she did, I accepted. Through the houses and through the people we weaved, with me flapping my wings even though they ached.

We flew away from those buildings and towards different buildings, ones taller and greyer. Well, not completely grey. When Katie landed on a dustbin and said, ‘I win’, I noticed walls covered with colourful artwork I couldn’t turn away from. I pointed them out to Katie, and we sat on the dustbin for hours, staring at the pictures. Places we had never been and creatures we had never seen, and of course, it made Katie want to travel more.

Through more buildings we went, searching for more artwork. Onto the roads we went, sitting on the cars as they drove by. When night fell, new lights appeared; some in the street, some illuminating the buildings. They were as soothing as sunlight, just in a different way.

What attracted Katie was a building bathed in blue light, which several humans were lining up to go into. We perched on the shoulder of one human going in, and entered a world of dreams. Beams of heavenly light of all colours, the chequered floor flashing, the room surrounded in mist. All the humans here danced, so we danced along with them, nodding our heads along to the music. No-one noticed us; it was like we blended in with the lights.

After a while of that, we fluttered outside to sit on the roof of the place, to get a good view of the town. ‘Well, aren’t you glad you came out with me?’ Katie asked.

‘Sure am,’ I replied.

‘So shall we go back to the garden?’

‘Oh, can’t we stay here? The tea at the garden was nice but nothing compared to the orange foamy liquid they have at this place.’

The Cow’s Cake

helen

Helen the cow,
Was bored of her farm,
Water and grass,
Had lost their charm,

Then she saw the farmer,
With a giant cake,
She then got inspired,
And decided to make,

A great big dessert,
With a fine taste and look,
So she went into the farmhouse,
To the recipe book,

She got eggs from the chickens,
Flour from the shelf,
And the milk,
She provided herself,

The farmer tasted her cake,
And he liked it a lot,
He then asked her,
‘What else have you got?’

So Helen baked tonnes more cakes,
And they were the best,
She sold them by the tonne,
And she took requests,

She made cakes for weddings,
Cupcakes for birthdays,
Cakes shaped like characters,
From the latest kids’ craze,

But one request,
She didn’t like one bit,
She was offended so much,
She just up and quit,

This one request,
That made her cease:
‘Can I have some cupcakes,
Shaped like hamburgers please?’

Today I’m Feeling Really Good

Today I’m feeling really good,
I could just go out and sing,
Because today I feel like I am great,
I can do anything.

I’ve got a good brain in my head,
And such a large heart,
Any problem I can solve,
For I am very smart,

But all that confidence fades away,
At the drop of a hat,
I am not kind or intelligent,
I’m no better than a rat,

Today I’m not feeling that good,
I’ll hate myself forever more,
I’m a being worse than scum,
For I forgot to mop my floor.

Reflections

This story includes Dana, a character from my earlier story Jenny and the Monster’s Christmas, (this story takes place before that story) as well as a character from Even More Nightmare Rhymes.


danamirror

‘You’re pathetic.’

She looked in the mirror and told that to herself. Part of her daily ritual, a reminder to herself to be better. There was no pinnacle. There was always room for improvement in body and mind, especially in a vocation like this.

She always had to be better. She couldn’t take any chances. She couldn’t let something like emotion get in the way of her work. Too many depended on her.

‘You’re pathetic.’

She said it again, her saliva splattering all over the mirror as she spoke. She said it again because she meant it. Her reflection made her stomach sting, her own face as atrocious a sight as those of the humans.

‘You’re pathetic. You’re disgusting.’

That thing in the mirror was a pathetic, revolting, disgusting creature, she said to herself. She said it inwardly, but she knew that wasn’t enough. It had to be said as loud as possible, and the more it hurt her throat the better.

She was pathetic, as loathsome as the politicians and common criminals and humans. The only difference between them and her was that she actually tried to be better.

‘You’re…’

Dana pressed her head against the mirror and sighed. Couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence. Couldn’t bring herself to finish the job.

All of a sudden, Dana remembered her family. Her father. The words he had told her about always having a positive attitude and never giving up on one’s dreams. Her sister.

Her sister, Doctor Henrietta Hubbard. A biomedical scientist who decided to expand her horizons, as it were. Once she tested medicine on animals, then she decided to create her own animals. Creating new species was far from frowned-upon in Abnorlia; that was how Dana got her precious Lix with which she performed her duties. Henrietta’s method for creating animals, however, was an unorthodox one: taking the corpses of animals and sewing them up.

It actually worked. All she had to do was sew the bottom half of a Danta onto the top half of a Gupfor, and she had a creature with large fangs that could hop great distances.

Henrietta got greedy though. One of her colleagues was a scientist looking for universes other than theirs and the universe of humans, who had been trying to modify those remote controls the bedhiders used to enter the bedrooms of human children. Henrietta helped with her colleague’s research, but she also went into the universe of humans, abducting their animals. One thing every monster knew about humans was that they had these creatures called dogs, and they couldn’t get enough of them.

So off Henrietta went on creating the perfect dog, going into human pet cemeteries and unearthing what she saw as the best body parts.

She knew full well there was a chance she’d be discovered. She knew full well that actions like this would begin legends and ghost stories. She knew full well there was a chance the humans would kill her like they did so many of her kind. Like her father.

She just really wanted one of those dogs.

It was a dedication to her work Dana found admirable. Still she was told she couldn’t take any chances. Still she was told that, just like the bedhiders, anyone with any contact with the humans had to die.

Dana didn’t do it. She had used a Lix on her sister – one that knocked her unconscious, not a lethal one – and took her somewhere. When Henrietta came to, Dana told her to run. She received a new name, some money from Dana’s last job and a map to the furthest place Dana could think of.

‘Pathetic.’

Dana thought that would simply be a one-off occurrence. This was her own flesh and blood, after all, and she thus told herself not to do it again. Yet just the other day she was tasked with killing a bedhider, as well as the child the bedhider was planning to scare.

When she came through the same portal as the bedhider, she remembered her father. Like her sister, he had an interest in the human world. He wasn’t a bedhider but he knew one, and used the bedhider’s device to bring his daughters unusual gifts.

A human saw him. A human shot him. Apparently at the time he was picking roses.

He wasn’t the first to have something like this happen, nor was he the last. Poor Margaret Munchester, dying in the world of humans while out with her son. Her body had been found, but her son was missing.

That she kept in mind as she crawled towards the bedhider, the monster that went into the bedrooms of human children to scare them, to help “build character” or something like that. Whatever it was, it was nothing worth risking the safety of monsters over. In seconds, she fired a lethal Lix at the bedhider and he collapsed.

Dana snatched the bedhider’s device and created a portal back to their world, so she could drag the corpse there. Then she returned to the human’s bedroom, leaving the Lix behind. Humans had to be killed with human things, so in went Dana with a kitchen knife.

She had done this before. She had done it several times and she had never been caught. Last time she did it, a clown got blamed.

Over the human child she lunged, clutching the knife in her hands.

The child smiled at her.

Then Dana froze.

‘You actually froze?’ the present Dana asked her reflection, ‘Just because she liked you? Pathetic.

Path…’

She needed to talk to someone.

After she fed her precious Lix, with even a little ‘Mummy has to go now’, she left the flat and slithered towards the train station. Before she paid for her tickets, she took a quick look at her identity for the day – Brenda Mumbles.

The train didn’t take long to arrive at her destination, or at least the station closest to her destination. There was still a long slither to follow, but it was worth it.

The old castle in the woods. Just where she told her to go.

‘Hi, sis! Something bothering you? Well, they say stroking a dog relieves stress and I’ve just made a new one!’