The Museum

theguide

This story contains some foul language and crude humour

They called it The Magic Castle. True, the burnt old building out in the woods certainly didn’t have the splendour of anything at Disneyland, yet it still gave Laura that tingle of fairytale familiarity when she had discovered it. It was settled in the woods, where all magic stories happen, and it was a spot where nobody had been. No graffiti, no litter left about, a special castle for Laura and Jim to spend their evenings. Their own private little paradise where no-one would find them. Where no-one would care for them.

Their sanctuary away from the world.

Laura spent so much time with Jim that their other friends would say that they were conjoined, but Laura did make sure to have plenty of time to herself, to be alone with her thoughts. Her mum, for one, didn’t give a shit about her, and she returned the favour, so she was able to read her books and browse the web for random videos and even Skype her mates in peace. Not to mention she could pretty much go out whenever she wanted, and spent a lot of that time scouting locations for her and Jimmy’s nights out, like her life was a Hollywood movie. Well, if her life was going to be a flick, it needed to be spectacular. The sets needed to look like they didn’t belong in this boring earth.

When she had found the Magic Castle in the woods with its windows resembling wounds and its foundation rotting away into the passage of time, she brought Jim to see what he thought of it. Normally his seal of approval would be ‘wicked’, but this time it was ‘no way’, and when he said that, she knew she had found something special.

So it was settled. First they’d go to the bar to get in the mood then they’d bugger off to their new little spot, and they’d be prepared. The blue neon and forgettable music of the bar would provide a nice contrast to the wonders of nature, and the toilets, with their secret blowjobs and drugs would sure to get Laura energized.

Friday night came. Laura took the taxi to the bar, wearing her favourite garb. Jim had got there before her, and was already guzzling down a WKD. He had bought one for her as well, what a nice chap he was. After she grabbed his little gift, they headed towards one of the bar’s sofas and collapsed as if it were their own.

Thus began their pre-adventure conversations, despite the fact that they both led boring lives and had really very little to talk about. Jim had got together some money and got himself a new computer game Laura could not for the life of her remember the name of. Still, it had zombies, and Jim couldn’t get enough of those damn things. He also said that if zombies did attack, he would protect her from them. It was a sentiment he had been said so many times it had lost all meaning, yet she still smiled when he said it.

They spent a couple of hours in the bar, spending their time getting more drinks, chatting with each other, and staring at the other patrons. A group of girls out on a hen night, some poor bloke drinking alone, and a couple of old friends near them blabbering loudly. As they left, Jim began talking about how he liked going to the bar because he felt it was like a museum. ‘It’s a display of, you know, us, really. Loads of people, all different.’

‘Oh really?’

‘Yeah. You know, I go on a lot about games and…TV and all that, but the real world, you know, it’s much more interesting. Like some great big museum.’

He went on about it for about five minutes after they left, pondering what future aliens would think if they found the building among the ruins of society, but all Laura had to say was, ‘You don’t half say some daft things sometimes’ and he shut up. Wouldn’t want to ruin this magical evening.

Laura and Jim walked away from the bar and towards the entrance of the woods. Seeing the thick trees with their spindly arms illuminated by her phone made Laura think about all the times Jim likened this setting to his favourite horror movies. She had seen some of them, and had even enjoyed some of them, but she was going to think of this as her magical fairytale forest, not a place where zombies would eat her.

‘Hey, did that branch just move?’ Jim said as soon as they entered.

Oh god, this again. Laura rolled her eyes and smiled. ‘Yes, Jim.’

It took a while of trekking – the deeper, the better – and Jim did get caught on some thorns at one point, but soon they reached the fabled place, the darkness adding more mystique to its rotted walls. ‘We’re there,’ said Jim, Captain Obvious as usual.

So now that they were there, what were they going to do? Laura knew full well what Jim would do if he was alone in a secluded area, but he daren’t if she was there. So…it was just staring at the night sky and then making out by a wall like what they did every Friday. But it would be different because it was a different place.

So. Lie down on the floor and look up at the sky. Oh look, the moon is full. That’s always a good starting point.

‘I wonder who originally lived here,’ said Jim, peering at one of the windows.

Laura turned away from him and focussed on the sky, though she saw flames in her mind’s eye for a split second. ‘Who cares?’

‘Well, they were people…I guess…’

‘Just look at the sky.’

And so he did, even getting a chance to put his hand on Laura’s shoulder. The two then held each other closer, and listened to the hooting of an owl, the distant flapping of a bird, and a tiny bit of…squelching?

‘Jim,’ said Laura, as she got a sudden small shock in her stomach, ‘I think somebody’s coming.’

‘Yeah, so?’

‘What do you mean “yeah, so”…oh…’ She stood up, looking about. There came the rustling of leaves again, followed by a little pitter-patter. Well, there went the magic. There went her discovery.

She looked through a window, picking up her torch once again. Once again, the dark enchanted woods were illuminated by her magic portable light, and though the hoo-hooing of the owls continued and Laura swore she heard a clack, but she saw nothing and felt nothing. Whatever presence she felt of another figure had all but vanished.

‘Well, is there anyone there?’

‘No,’ said Laura, sighing. ‘Must have been my imagination.’

‘Oh, that’s what they always say.’

‘What?’

‘You know,’ said Jim, standing up, ‘When the teenagers out in the woods are being stalked.’ He wiggled his fingers, right until Laura slapped his hand.

‘Knock it off,’ she said as she walked away from the Magic Castle, though she couldn’t decide if it was to see if there really was someone out there, or just to give Jim some time to be alone with his nutty thoughts. Still, all she did was walk about in a circle among the leaves for ten minutes or so before returning to the Castle.

She saw a giant mouth.

Right in front of her was something that resembled then mouth of a lamprey. This head sat atop a bent, giraffe-like neck, connected to a pulsating blob of a torso. Attached to this torso was a gigantic mouth, open wide enough to reveal rows of teeth like rocks.

All Jim could do was stare like the dullard he was.

After grabbing him by the wrist, Laura ran through the woods, closing her eyes just so she didn’t have to look at that hideous creature. Hearing the crackling of leaves behind her only made her quicken her pace. Though she caught thorns and branches on her face and hat, and Jim got his fair share too, but she didn’t notice. Only when she felt the breeze of the world outside the trees did she open her eyes, battered Jim still in hand.

‘What the fuck was that thing?’

‘Language,’ came a voice.

There stood the figure. Dropping Jim, Laura froze – if only at the fact that something so fat could have outrun her – and her eyes became fixed on the being’s head. It moved like an owl’s.

The fangs in its head pulsated. ‘That was rude of you to run off like that.’

Oh god. It talked.

It sounded like a British accent…Laura thought it odd she would think that, considering she was British herself. No, it was a parody of a British accent, like a poor impersonation of Basil Fawlty. Her mouth was too dry to speak back, and her limbs were useless at that moment, so she let the monster continue.

‘It is a shame you avoided me; you seemed to be some quite interesting specimens. The human courting rituals have always intrigued me, and I know someone who has wanted to document all of them.’ Though the fangs throbbed, the mouth on his stomach remained still, yet Laura paid more attention to the latter than the former. ‘Oh, yes. I also find it fascinating that you use your mouths to both talk and eat.’

Once again, Jim stared stupidly at the blob, but as Laura gained control of her body again, and managed to blurt out ‘Whatareyou?’

‘I’m afraid you’ll be unable to pronounce my species’ name,’ replied the creature, ‘In fact, I’m only speaking your language because of this handy device.’ He gestured towards a circular contraption hooked to his back – it was then Laura noticed the eyeballs lining his arms. ‘It reassembles my language into something you humans find comforting.’ His head twisted in that owl-like way again.

‘I think what Laura meant was,’ said Jim, somehow breaking out of his stupor, ‘what are you doing here?’

‘Oh,’ he said, holding out a claw. ‘I’m actually a tour guide. My kind has become very interested in the human race, and I have been looking for interesting places. For example, that house you were just in. How did it burn down? Who were the family that lived there?’

‘Yeah,’ said Jim, ‘I was just thinking that.’

‘Shutup.’ Another blurt. After swallowing, Laura attempted to put together a sentence. ‘C-can’t you just stay wherever you are and…um…open up a museum or something?’

The thing chuckled, and his gigantic mouth chuckled with it. ‘My child, is not this whole world a museum?’ he said, raising his arms to punctuate his point.

‘No way,’ replied Jim, mimicking his gesture, ‘I was just saying that to Laura!’

‘Jim…’ Once again, Laura grabbed Jim by the wrist in an attempt to drag him back into the car, yet Jim remained firm.

‘You seem interested. I could use someone like you, my boy.’

Laura tugged harder.

‘Yeah, I’d like that.’

Laura fell.

Both Jim and the monster had vanished, leaving only Laura, who was on the ground, rubbing her head. The woods, the pavement, her phone, all spun around as if she were drunk. In fact, they span faster and faster until they formed into a little portal and next thing she knew, Laura was back home.

It was a dream then. A hallucination. Some bugger had spiked her drink, perhaps.

No monsters. No aliens.

Still, something chewed at her heart, forcing her to give Jim a call. ‘Jim, are you there?’

‘Yeah, of course.’

‘Oh, thank god.’

‘You should have been there, you should have.’

‘Where?’

‘With that guy. The one with the big mouth. He really opened my eyes.’

‘You’re joking.’

‘No, he took me back to his world and everything. Real weird it was.’ Thus he began a long description of the creature’s world, full of twisted architecture and wondrous creatures walking through misty expanses. There, Jim and the creature spoke in length about potential places where the creature could give his tours, and, using another device, they visited the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and even soar over the skies for a bit, and there was even time for Jim to go back home and have a kip.

‘You’re an idiot,’ replied Laura, and hung up.

 

 

Advertisements

Dear Susan

Pizza Woman may not be fully available for free now, but it’s just £0.99/$1.34 and free on Kindle Unlimited. Anyway, enjoy this story:

This story includes foul language, crude humour and some violence.


‘Your hair wants cutting,’ said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.

`You should learn not to make personal remarks,’ Alice said with some severity; `it’s very rude.’

-Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll


It was a night to celebrate. A night to go out with the girls to the pub for a couple of drinks, to chat it up and laugh, to even have a go on the karaoke machine. It was Friday night, but not just any Friday night.

It was the first Friday night after my break-up with Edward.

I always thought my first break-up would result in me bawling my eyes out, but breaking up with Edward felt like an accomplishment. I had been meaning to do it for so long yet it felt like days for me to finally gather the nerve to look him in the eyes and tell him I was fed up with his smug, pompous bullshit. It…it reminded me of the first time I rode a roller coaster. I was terrified of doing so at first, yet when I built up my courage and took the dive, it felt like a weight flew straight off me.

The Friday right after I did that, I called up my friends and asked them to join me in something we haven’t done in a long time; go out for a few pints. It was a place Edward wouldn’t be caught dead in either; when we were dating, he kept moaning to me how “uncouth” and “beneath him” this place was, but the girls and I have liked it just fine. There we were, guzzling down Carlings and Guinesses, me doing my best impersonation of Edward to torrents of laughter from the other girls.

‘Why are there so many stupid people these days,’ I said, holding my head up high, ‘why can’t they be sophisticated and smart like me?’ Margo and Sarah laughed, while Deirdre could only shake her head and sigh, smiling. Right after I told that joke, my eye caught a hen party walking towards a nearby table, all of them dressed in Alice in Wonderland costumes. An Alice, a Rabbit, a Tweedle Dee and Dum.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of when Edward and I met, when we both attended a talk about the works of Lewis Carroll. He struck up a conversation with me about how we was inspired by both Alice books and The Hunting of the Snark. We chatted about those, and Sylvie and Bruno (mostly about the dog world when it came to that book), and soon we had friended each other on Facebook and were going out with each other and I learned his true colours.

It seemed like that hen party had been put there just to mock me.

Off I went to the toilets even though I didn’t need to go. I just entered to splash some water on my face, and in hopes that when I left, the hen party would have disappeared. Not only were they still there, but Edward had entered the pub as well.

As much as I rubbed my eyes and shook my head, I still saw Edward, walking up to the counter. Next to him was a blonde woman in a red dress.

Oh, wonderful, I thought, he knows I like to come here so he…oldest trick in the book.

Just ignore him. That was all I could do at that moment. Just ignore him, say good night to the girls and never come here again. As I walked towards the door, covering my face with my hands, Edward approached me with that shit-eating grin he flashed me so many times during our relationship. ‘Hey, Susan,’ he said, ‘you met Carol?’

I marched towards the door.

‘What’s wrong? You jealous or something?’

I said nothing.

‘Oh yeah, be like that then.’

Before I could step outside, his new girl, Carol, grabbed onto my shoulder, turning my blood to ice. I turned to her – an involuntary action – to look her right in her face. Or at least, right in her smile. A wide grin showing all her teeth, a grin far too wide for her face. For a second, her grin was all that existed.

I pulled her arm – her cold, chilling arm – and just ran all the way back to my flat. There, I tried to tell myself that I had just imagined seeing Edward, imagined seeing Carol. I was thinking about him so much, my mind added him to the pub without him being there, uglifying the truth. Maybe, I thought to myself, it was a sign I should just forget Edward all together.

Though my original plan was to drink with my friends until 1am, I spent the rest of the evening watching comedy shows on the telly and went to sleep at 23:30.

I awoke at 2am.

I didn’t hear a loud noise, I didn’t have to go to the toilet, my sleep was a dreamless one, I just seemed to wake up by myself. My first thought was that I should lie down and get back to sleep, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should be awake for a reason. Every time when I had an important appointment and forgot to set the alarm, I still managed to wake myself up early.

I walked over to the kitchen, to get a drink of water, to keep myself hydrated.

There was a piece of paper lying near the door.

I approached it, holding a kitchen knife.

A letter from Edward. A letter from Edward, written in a Year 1 pupil’s handwriting about Carol.

“Dear Susan,” it read, “You’re a”

Well, I don’t need to say the next word, do I? You can probably guess what it was.

I unlocked my door and threw it wide open, expecting to see him leering at me, only to be greeted by an empty hall.

I didn’t make him do that, you know. He wrote that letter of his own free will.

Those two sentences. I couldn’t tell if I heard them or if I thought them.

I got my answer when I turned around and saw a man in my flat. It wasn’t Edward, however. His head looked like a cross between a large parsnip made of flesh and a jack-o-lantern a week after Halloween, having no discernible facial features other than two large yellow eyes. He dressed like he was attending a wedding, with pinstriped trousers, a black coat and a red cravat.

On his head was a top hat matching his coat, sporting a card reading “In This Style 10/6”.

In his hand he held a teacup.

Of course.

madhatter

‘Tea?’ I was certain I heard that, though he said the word without opening any visible mouth. He held the teacup in front of my face, though I focussed less on the teacup and more on the hand holding it; the dress gloves he wore couldn’t disguise his bony fingers.

I just stared at him silently.

‘No? Oh well.’ A small hole opened up on his head, which he poured the contents of the teacup into. ‘That Edward is a vile specimen, is he not?’

‘What’s it to you?’

‘Despite what he might tell you, that “Carol” of his is not a real woman. Would you believe that after you rightfully left him, he created a lifesize doll of his ideal girlfriend?’ What twisted my gut at that moment was not that I was being told this by a creature that suddenly appeared in my house, but that this actually felt like something Edward would do. ‘He summoned me to bring that doll to life, and I did so.’

I looked at his top hat and laughed – a painful laugh that sounded more like a cough, but still a laugh. ‘You’ve got your stories mixed up; that’s Pinocchio, you idiot.’ Now that I look back, I think I laughed less at that and more at the fact that summoning demons was also another thing I could see Edward doing.

‘You are aware that I did it for your sake?’

I held the knife up. ‘Get out of here before I call the cops.’

The creature, the Mad Hatter laughed, and replied, ‘But don’t you know what I’m offering you?’ The walls of my flat melted away, and I was almost blinded by the light emanating around the Mad Hatter. He stood under a stone gazebo, framed by two lush green trees. The air was filled with birdsong and the chirping of insects, and the aroma of freshly baked goods was everywhere. I lowered the knife.

‘The world is far too cruel,’ he said, ‘what you deserve is peace. You deserve a place where you can be yourself, where no-one will ever judge you or use you, where you can party or laugh or think to your heart’s content.’

All of a sudden, we were back at my flat. ‘And all you have to do is die.

‘Yes, it’s an afterlife, but my own little afterlife; as pleasant as Heaven and easy to get to as Hell. All you have to do is let Carol kill you.’

‘You…’

‘Once Carol kills you, she’ll turn back into a doll. Everyone who ever saw her as a human will forget they did. Edward will get the blame for it, and while he’s being taken to jail, he’ll be screaming that it was the doll’s fault, and of course, you’ll get to watch it from the afterlife. You can watch it whenever you want.’

He laughed, and I shoved the knife right into his throat.

I was back in bed.

My first two questions – “Was it a dream?” and “Did I kill him?” – were answered by his voice entering my head once again.

The offer still stands. Let her kill you and you shall have what you deserve.

I didn’t sleep at all that night. I lay awake, playing with that knife, for hours and hours until I heard a knock on my door.

Edward, I thought. Edward and Carol. It could be no other.

Sure enough, I opened it and there they both were. When I saw Carol, however, I actually saw the doll she apparently was. A thing with a bin bag dress, a balloon head and arms made of bottles and duct tape. Yet I could still see that smile.

‘Thanks for the letter,’ I spat.

‘Hey, come on,’ replied Edward, ‘it was just a joke. I’m just here because I think I left my watch…’

I wasn’t going to do what the Mad Hatter wanted. I wasn’t going to let her kill me. I wasn’t going to let Edward kill me.

If I did, I thought, Edward would get arrested. The police would give him what he deserves, the judge would give him what he deserves, the prison inmates would give him what he deserves.

But why, I thought, clutching the kitchen knife, should they be the ones to do it?

Pizza Woman NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE!

liscov

There once was a woman named Lisa,
And she could never find peace,
She was a woman whose head was a pizza,
And her body was made out of cheese…

Lisa was born with a pizza for a head and so she can’t go outside without someone either mocking her or trying to eat her. She spends most of her time alone in her home, pondering on her loneliness and how she came to be. Thankfully, she makes a new friend, just as unusual as she, who encourages her talents.

An expanded version of my Pizza Woman poem with NEW illustrations! You can get it for $1.34/£0.99 on Amazon, but it will be FREE from Saturday 6th to Sunday 7th!

Buy it here

Christmas Index

xmastree

Hello everyone, and happy one week until Christmas! I hope you’re all enjoying Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza. Also in the spirit of the season, I have decided to make an index of all the holiday-themed stories on this blog to get you into the Yuletide spirit:


 

Poems

xmasclown

A Clown at Christmas
A clown and his holiday angst.

Daryl and Susie’s Christmas
A dragon and his adopted daughter face a festive monster.

We Think of Christmas in November
Why do we think of Christmas early?

dannycamel
Christmas with Danny the Camel and Julie the Rat
What do you get the rat that has everything?

A Wolf’s Christmas List
An unexpected letter to Santa. (mentions of violence)

I Brought A Snowman to Life One Day
There’s more than one way to bring a snowman to life.

Santa’s Pets
Santa keeps more than just reindeer.


 

Short Stories

reptilehouse

A Gift For Christmas
A snake in a reptile house tries to understand Christmas.

Do You Have A Favourite Toy? (Horror at the Panto #1)
Magic Chocolates (Horror at the Panto #2)
Everybody Loves The Baddie (Horror at the Panto #3)
Three stories about a pantomime…and the supernatural horrors it brings…

Jenny and the Monster’s Christmas
Has Bert the monster finally found his home? (some language)

Mr. Deer Man
An encounter with a hybrid of man and deer. (some violence)

ooziehenry
Heck Comes to Sloofiewoof Land
The once-cheerful Oozie has turned his beautiful world into a miserable wasteland; can a spectral rabbit convince him to restore Sloofiewoof Land to its former glory? (some violence)

Cinderpizza
Lisa the Pizza Woman faces her fairy godmother.

Two Christmas Trees
A real tree and an animatronic tree have a conversation.

mouseking

The Mouse Queen
A retelling of a Christmas classic, where mice get revenge on humanity and only a certain device can stop them.

The Elf
The creepy tale of a creepy decoration.

Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza
Lisa the Pizza Woman is to sing during Karl’s Christmas show, but then finds herself having to save it from evil.


 

Christmas Books

reinncover

Reindeer

Santa Claus never lived at the North Pole; he lives and operates in Purgatory. He brings presents to those that have not yet ascended to Heaven in order to give them hope. His elves and reindeer are the spirits of those who died during Christmas.

Meet his newest recruit, Randall, a Christmas-loving human turned into a confused and curious reindeer. It’s bad enough for Randall that he now has to live in a world where happiness and saccharine is forced onto him daily, but then he learns that the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has history with Santa, and a crooked man is practicing necromancy so as to ruin Santa’s operation.

Can Randall thwart the evil plan and save the holiday he loves?

Buy on Amazon

gocscover

Little Louis Lumpton is excited about all the presents he’ll receive on Christmas…but he’s also dreading the arrival of his Aunt Laura, who gives him nothing but socks as a gift. However, one Christmas Eve, he receives a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Socks, who attempts to teach him that getting socks for Christmas isn’t that bad.

A short, 700 word story that should amuse kids, adults and anyone who’s ever hated getting socks for Christmas.

Buy on Amazon

Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza

This story contains some strong language

Before you is an archetypical Christmas scene. Roaring fireplace, tree decked with tinsel and baubles, garlands on the walls, even a big stack of presents under the tree.  You’re here to hear a story, for what is Christmas without a story? In the middle of the room there’s a table with a big storybook, and eying that storybook is a fat purple furry three-eyed monster, sitting on an easy chair. Bert, his name is. Say hello to Bert.

Are you going to?

‘Well, I wasn’t expecting you to. Hello, I’m Bert, Bert the monster from Jenny and the Monster and Jenny and the Monster’s Christmas. The latter story, I think, has started a little tradition here at The Weird Writings of Gareth Barsby. You see, Jenny and the Monster’s Christmas starred me of course, but also had several characters from several stories published on this blog, and this Christmas spectacular will follow suit.

bertbook

‘But before I tell the story, let me introduce the main characters. First, we have the title character, Karl Kangaroo. He was once a regular normal kangaroo, but his Mum didn’t really care for him, so he didn’t ride along in her pouch with the other joeys. He learned to dance for food, but then he ended up in a British circus before being bought by a theatre. There, he not only participated in shows but learned how to talk, walk and use computers. As he grew up, he ended up making games on computers, which made him very rich and soon he founded his own mobile games company. He even found another kangaroo that learned to talk and walk like a human and adopted her as his daughter. He was, however, still bitter about his mother and his childhood so he mistreated his employees and alienated his daughter…

‘Now, I know what you’re thinking, and don’t worry, this isn’t a Christmas Carol story. We already kinda did that with that Sloofiewoof thing.

‘Speaking of books, we have Ricky Raven, descendant of Poe’s Raven. He wanted to be a singer but his Dad wanted him to terrify people. His singing was so bad he learned he could do both.

‘Also starring in this story is Lisa the Pizza Woman. She has the “World’s Best Pizza Place” to thank for her birth; a woman ordered the “perfect pizza” and got a pizza who comforted her, spoke to her, loved her and eventually married her. Lisa was their offspring: a humanoid creature with a pizza slice for a head, eyes made of mushrooms and a body made of mozzarella. Life has been difficult for her, as whenever someone sees her, they try to devour her. She did, however, find a friend in Natalie the Pumpkin Woman, a creature that could only be summoned on Halloween or when Halloween things are sold in shops, and together, they saved the life of the aforementioned Karl.

‘This was when Lisa revealed her marvellous singing voice, so when Karl decided to put together a Christmas show, he asked Lisa to participate in it. This is the story of how that particular show went down…’


This was all a farce, Lisa thought, just another rich man trying to become richer. Indeed, one part of the show was a Kittycat Town Revue, promoting a game that was free but charged for the best content and making characters complete tasks quicker.

This was all a farce, Lisa thought, and I’m taking part in it. She sat backstage, donning a silver dress, wearing no mask, not hiding the hybrid she was. Normally when she went out in public, she hid what she was with masks and coats and gloves. Despite this, she had always dreamed of going up on stage without a disguise, acting and singing while people saw the pizza woman she was.

She had been looking forward to this day. When Karl the Kangaroo had first asked her if she wanted to perform in “Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza”, she didn’t hesitate at all in accepting. She counted down the days, rehearsed in front of the mirror and even bought the dress specifically for the occasion. On the day of the show, however, she sat twiddling her cheese tentacles, listening as the opening act finished up. She actually didn’t know if she was more afraid of the potential for booing or the potential for the audience climbing on stage and devouring her.

She so did wish Natalie were here. Sadly, the shops were free of Halloween merchandise, even in the clearance aisles, so she couldn’t be summoned.

karltux

Karl came on stage, wearing a tuxedo, smiling wider than he usually did. ‘Wasn’t that fine entertainment? Well, hello and Merry Christmas, this is Karl Kangaroo and welcome to Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza. Now as we all know, Christmas is a time for family…’ All of a sudden, someone from the audience threw a Diet Coke at Karl’s head, with a ‘That’s not what you said when it was my Mum’s birthday, dick!’ before leaving.

‘Um, yes,’ Karl continued, ‘well, Christmas is a time for opening presents and…’

Lisa thought to herself that perhaps she should be leaving. Though she had spoke frequently to Karl ever since she and Natalie saved him from the Lemon Possum, stories she had heard about him gave her chills. Not the nice, refreshing chills that kept her from melting either.

Despite what she had heard, she saw Karl as something of an inspiration. He had faced prejudice and hardships like she had, but with hard work and perseverance, became rich and successful. Hearing about Karl’s “mother issues” also, Lisa felt, put things in perspective for her. It reminded Lisa of how lucky she was to have parents as caring as hers.

Sometimes she would curse the fact that her father was a talking pizza, which led to her being born a freak, but looking back, she wouldn’t ask for anyone else to be her dad. School was a nightmare for her, with children not only trying to have a nibble on her, but pulling her arms, shoving her into mud and trying to use her to lure out the mice in the pantry. Her childhood would have been unbearable  were it not for her mum and dad, who always listened to her, let her vent and comforted her.

They saw her not as a freak or a mutant or monster. They saw her as their little miracle.

And they were in the audience for the show. That, thought Lisa, is reason enough to stay.


‘You know,’ said Bert, ‘I could go for some pizza right now. Non-anthropomorphic pizza I mean. Well, anyway, while Lisa was having her moment of contemplation, two other weirdoes were planning to attend the show…’


‘I don’t think we’ll be able to summon the Pumpkin Woman tonight, Dad,’ sighed Ricky Raven as he looked over the spell book.

‘Don’t be silly, son,’ barked Ricky’s father Roger, ‘It doesn’t need to be Halloween, the actual day, to summon her. There just has to be a little Halloween in the air. Look around you; it’s Halloween every day in this house.

Ricky looked around at his home. He and his dad lived in a crumbling monochrome mansion on top of a hill where no flowers or grass ever grew. No Christmas trees or poinsettas could be found in this house, the banisters were covered with cobwebs instead of string lights, and no holly or berries covered the grotesques or skulls.

‘Well, okay,’ replied Ricky, ‘let’s give the ritual a try.’

They did everything the ritual demanded – the pumpkins, the blood, the incantations – yet nothing happened.

‘Guess you were right,’ said Roger, ‘we’ll have to try something else.’

‘Do we have to summon a demon?’ asked Ricky, ‘Can’t I just go on the stage and sing?’ Roger had promised Ricky a chance to sing on stage. It seemed win-win; Ricky got publicity, Roger got to see terror.

‘Well, son,’ said Roger, ‘this is supposed to be an extravagant show, so we need an extravagant horror.’

‘Well, I doubt he’d be scared of a pumpkin-headed woman, Dad,’ replied Ricky, ‘I’ve looked him up, and I think he has other things to be scared about.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well,’ said Ricky, scratching his shoulders, ‘I’ve heard he has a few family issues, he’s upset about his Mum and his adopted daughter…and you know…Lenore…’

‘Ricky, my boy…’ Roger hugged his son. ‘I’ve taught you well. Now, we aren’t going to summon the Pumpkin Woman, we’re going to summon a fellow literary figure…’


‘And now,’ said Karl, ‘put your hands together for The Kittycat Town Revue, and remember, this week only, you can get 250 golden paws and a big Christmas tree for your Kittycat town for only £5!’ As soon as he said that, the curtain opened to reveal a picture of a town with multi-coloured buildings as several people wearing gigantic cat masks marched in, dancing around.

Karl walked backstage, rubbing his temples, then found that he almost walked into Lisa. ‘Oh, hello, Lisa,’ he said, lowering his arms, ‘are you nervous?’

‘Well…’ Lisa wanted to say ‘Of course I am, who wouldn’t be?’ but nothing came out.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Karl, placing a hand on her shoulder, ‘I’m sure you’ll be fine.’ He took his hand off, only to have some cheese stick to his claws. He shook his hand until the cheese came off, back into Lisa’s body, with a drop getting into Lisa’s eye. ‘You know, I remember when I first started out with this type of thing, I was nervous too. I thought they would eat me ali…’ Karl stopped himself when he realised his poor choice of words. ‘Sorry.’

‘It’s alright and thanks,’ said Lisa. ‘Um, you know, I actually do play Kittycat Town from time to time…I can use the phone pretty well for someone without fingers.’

‘Yes, I know,’ replied Karl, ‘ we did have some nice conversations.’

‘They were mostly about the weather, really.’

‘Well, the weather is worth talking about right now, it’s bloody cold out. Where I come from, it’s usually nice and warm at Christmas time…’ Lisa actually had forgotten Karl had come from Australia; he had learned how to talk in the United Kingdom so he didn’t have an Australian accent like every talking kangaroo Lisa had seen in cartoons.

‘I prefer the cold,’ said Lisa, ‘you know, I really would like to bake cakes, but I’m terrified of coming near an oven.’ She sighed. ‘You don’t eat oven food that much, do you? You said you mostly eat grass…’

‘Grass is a fine dish,’ replied Karl, ‘it is worth a try…oh wait…’

The cats had finished their little Christmas celebration, and they came dancing in backstage as Karl walked onto the stage and Lisa leaned back on a wall, taking a deep breath, glad she wasn’t on until after the interval.

‘Well, wasn’t that a wonderful visit through Kittycat Town?’ Karl said to the audience, ‘and now our next act, a comedy…’

‘…of terror,’ came a voice, booming from above.

‘What?’ Karl barked.

‘Isn’t that a fear of yours? To be a joke? To have what you truly are paraded in front of the public?’

Lisa ran on stage, looking up to see wherever the voice was coming from.

‘Behold, here’s a special guest for your show, one who reflects who you are.’ Smoke erupted on the stage, making Karl and Lisa cough violently. When the smoke cleared, there stood a balding priest, looking around the stage with a raised eyebrow. ‘What is this?’ He took a closer look at his surroundings, peeking backstage and catching a glimpse of some of the Kittycat Town Cats. ‘Is this another of my student’s mystery plays? I hope my brother isn’t here.’

Before either Karl or Lisa could ask who this was, the voice answered for them, ‘This is Dom Claude Frollo, summoned from the realms of literature.’

‘From The Hunchback of Notre Dame?’ Lisa asked, looking upward.

‘Yes. He died in his book, but he is kept alive by how many people read and tell his story. And his story is still happening, isn’t it, Karl? He was an adoptive father, but descended into sin; now who does that sound like?’

Karl twitched. ‘This is ridiculous. Go away and get this cosplayer off the stage.’

‘Oh no,’ said the voice, ‘it is the real Claude Frollo.’ Frollo nodded.

Lisa had read The Hunchback of Notre Dame several times (she did see something of herself in the title character and she did almost always skip the chapters about architecture) and something about this figure made her think that standing before her was actually the real Claude Frollo Victor Hugo wrote about. The same Frollo that had a woman hung at the gallows. Even if he wasn’t Frollo, he was still interrupting the show.

Therefore Lisa felt she was justified in launching globs of cheese at Frollo’s feet, sticking him to the stage. ‘Damnation!’ Frollo cried.

‘Oh, very good, Pizza Girl,’ came the voice, ‘but he’s still here. He, who represents Karl’s greatest failings and fears is still looking at him. Don’t you wish your daughter were here instead, Karl?’

Karl trembled, his hands balling into fists. Lisa thought this would be the perfect time to use another ability of hers she only recently learned she had; her mushroom eyeballs sprung out of her head, though still attached to her by tentacles of cheese. These optic nerves stretched further, propelling Lisa’s eyes upwards towards the rafters. There perched two ravens, one formally-dressed and with a microphone, the other smaller and more causally-dressed.

‘You can hawk your terrible games all you want but…what’s this?’ The larger raven looked at Lisa’s eyes, and instantly pecked one of them. Lisa’s optic nerves shrunk back into her body as the younger raven flapped onto the stage.

‘And now,’ said the larger raven, still in the rafters, ‘put your hands on the sides of your heads for my son, Ricky!’

ricksing

Ricky pulled out a microphone of his own from his pocket and sang. He sang a song that made everyone howl in agony, and made Lisa collapse onto the stage, covering her ears (or their equivalent, at least). Karl shoved his claws into his ears, shuddering, and even Frollo looked like he would run away if his feet weren’t stuck to the ground.

Lisa knew this was an ideal time to use her cheese powers. She could throw cheese into Ricky’s mouth to stop him from singing, she could throw cheese into Karl’s ears so he could help fight against the invaders. However, the atrocious singing meant she could hardly concentrate, and Ricky dodged every splodge of cheese she threw. ‘He’s had stuff thrown at him before,’ came the voice of Ricky’s father.

Lisa stood up, scrunching her eyes and rolling up her tentacle arms, and marched towards Ricky. Ricky hit a note that made Lisa feel like her head was in the oven, so she backed away slightly before swallowing and knocking the microphone out of Ricky’s hand. ‘Hey,’ he cried as he dove for the microphone.

Lisa picked it up. Lisa sang:

‘What are you doing? I sure do wanna know.
What are you doing? Do you have to spoil our show?’

Ricky froze.

‘Don’t be such a spoilsport, don’t scare anyone,
We’re here because it’s Christmas, we’re here to have some fun…’

lisasinging

Lisa continued her song, leaping about the stage and twirling as she did so, and Ricky did nothing but stand and listen. When Lisa finished her song, raising her tentacles in the air on her knees as she did so, Ricky’s father flew down off the rafters.

‘That was a very nice song,’ said Ricky’s father, ‘Too bad the audience cleared off when my son sang.’

Hundreds of empty seats greeted Lisa when she looked. Where there were people, there were empty plastic cups and wrappers.

Yet Lisa could still hear clapping.

Some of the audience remained. There were a couple of goths who would watch anything related to Edgar Allan Poe, a Victor Hugo fan hoping to get Frollo’s autograph after the show, and three figures familiar to Lisa.

There, near the back, there sat a woman and a pepperoni pizza with eyes and tentacles, both of them applauding.

‘Mum! Dad!’

Not too far from them sat Natalie the Pumpkin Woman.

Before Lisa could say her name, Natalie ran towards the stage with superhuman speed and leapt towards Lisa, hugging her. ‘I thought you couldn’t be…’

‘You really really wanted me here,’ said Natalie, ‘and I really really wanted to be here.’

‘Well, I really really want you to cause terror,’ barked the formally-dressed raven, ‘so get going.’

‘I’m sorry, mate,’ replied Natalie, ‘what me and Lisa have is stronger than any incantation or spell book.’

‘Oh, forget this,’ snarled the raven, ‘I’m off. Come along, Ricky.’

‘But…but…well, at least I got to sing.’ Ricky and his father flew away.

‘Well, now that they’re gone,’ said Karl, cleaning out his ears with his claws, ‘we can continue the show. At least we could if most of the acts and audience hadn’t run away.’

‘Don’t worry,’ said Natalie, ‘you’ve still got some “sing” in you, don’t you, Lisa?’

‘Yeah.’

‘She’ll put on a show for the remaining audience members and I’ll provide backup,’ said Natalie, pulling a guitar from behind her back. After that, she ran backstage and pulled out a keyboard. ‘Frollo, since you’re here, you might as well make yourself useful.’

‘Well,’ said Frollo, looking over the keyboard, ‘I have nothing better to do, and Quasimodo did once suggest I take up an instrument.’

‘I’ll try to see if I can get anyone back,’ said Karl, before hopping out of the theatre.


‘And Karl did get some of the audience and the acts back,’ continues Bert, ‘unfortunately some of the audience wouldn’t go back into the theatre until Karl paid them. So despite the invasion of ravens, the show was a success, thanks in no small part to Lisa and her band. Lisa and her parents even spent Christmas in Natalie’s house. She may be a Halloween creature, but she had the best Christmas decorations. In fact…’

A door bursts open, and in walks the Pumpkin Woman herself, along with her friend, the Pizza Woman. ‘Hey, are you two done in here?’

‘Just finishing up. Well, that’s our Christmas story, and the moral of it is…um…well, the Christmas story’s over. Goodbye and Merry Christmas!’