Lerrs

You know, you shouldn’t drink so much of this stuff,’ laughed Louis as he scanned the four-pack of cola.

‘It’s not all for me,’ I replied, ‘You know how it is when the guys come over for movie night. Stuff just disappears.’

‘Yeah, but still. Drinking this stuff makes you feel like your insides are eroding.’

‘Well,’ I replied as I handed Louis my money and readied my shopping bag, ‘at least we aren’t getting drunk.’

‘Oh, come on, movie night is much more fun when everyone’s drunk!’

‘Whatever you say,’ I said as I shoved the four-pack into my bag, along with my milk and microwavable meals. After waving goodbye to Louis, I stepped out of the store and into the night.

It was midnight – with Louis’s store being the only place near my flat open – and I had work in the morning. Nighttime, however, was when I felt the most energetic, so I decided to take a stroll down the streets. There always did seem to be a beauty in the graffiti-covered walls illuminated by streetlamps.

Against one of these walls leaned a shadow. A shadow that immediately turned towards me and raised its arms, creating a pair of pseudo-bat-wings with its large black cape. It was a tall man, dressed in a smart black suit with a crimson waistcoat and cravat. He was completely bald, with pale skin and pointed ears, but his most noticeable feature were his elongated fangs, which he licked as he stared at me.

He beckoned me to come to him, and although I knew I shouldn’t have, I approached. ‘Join us,’ he hissed.

‘Oh, give it a rest,’ I said.

‘Come on,’ sighed the vampire, gesturing at my clothes, ‘you really go out in public dressed like that?’

‘I could say the same about you,’ I replied, looking over his outfit. ‘Ah, you got the real deal. Last lerr I saw was wearing a £25 Dracula costume from the party shop. I would say “at least you aren’t him” but it’s sad that you’re willing to spend so much on this farce.’

‘Farce?’

‘Yeah. And you got the Mr. Spock ears too? How much did your parents piss away on that?’

‘Parents? I am a child…’

‘…of the night, yeah, yeah. Bet you haven’t even drank any blood.’

With that, he covered himself in his cape and ran away.

Another lerr. That’s what we call them. A vampire who acts and dresses like the Hollywood stereotype. Most vampires try to live among humans discretely, but there are some that find the capes and tuxedos too tempting. Lerr, as in their idol Dracu-lerr. Lerr, as in but-lerr, for that’s how they dress. Like Alfred Pennyworth trying on his master’s cape.

If I had a penny for every one of them who tried to get me to act like them, I could probably afford their ridiculous clothes and ear modifications.

I ended my stroll early and returned home. There were no “guys” and there was no movie night; I guzzled down the cola myself. Drinking this stuff makes you feel like your insides are eroding, along with your bloodlust.

The Bowling Ball People

bowlingballpeople

I was always the first one at the alley on Bowling Night. We all agreed to meet there at 20:00, but I made sure to arrive there by 19:30 at the latest, so I could have some time to myself before the game starts, and to buy a round at the bar, ready for the guys when they got there.

Through the glass on the doors I saw all manner of activity: children running to and fro and playing on the arcade games, people chatting over drinks, and of course, bowlers bowling, knocking over pins. Yet when I opened the door and stepped inside, the bowling alley was completely empty.

Nobody sat at the tables.

Nobody played the arcade games.

Nobody stood at the lanes.

I rubbed my eyes, bit my lips, pinched my arm, and yet the place remained empty.

In fact, this was the cleanest I had ever seen the place; the carpets were vacuumed thoroughly, and there wasn’t a single discarded wrapper or cup to be found. My mind forced itself to explain what had happened here; I even said to myself, ‘Guess I really can’t hold my drink.’ As I looked around for the janitor who would show me the way out, my eye caught a sign on one of the arcade games:

‘This machine is for display purposes  only’.

At this I turned around towards the door, only to find…a different door. Not a double-door with little windows, but a single wooden door, looking more like it belonged in a mansion then in a bowling alley. There I stood, inwardly debating with myself whether or not to open it, when it opened by itself.

In stepped a woman wearing a white shirt with an id card. She had a bowling ball for a head.

In stepped a man wearing a tweed jacket and a mortar board. He had a bowling ball for a head.

In stepped several children in uniform, all of them with bowling balls for heads.

Big round heads with three holes – two eyes and a mouth. All of them green, but made of flesh instead of resin.

‘Oh, what luck,’ said the woman, clasping her hands, ‘we have a spokesperson! And I thought a portal would never appear in this room…’

I wanted to ask her about the portal, ask her how to get back home, yet all I could do was stand there and wheeze.

‘He doesn’t seem to want to talk,’ snorted the man, the teacher.

‘Well,’ said the woman, ‘this is a recreation of what our species inspired when we visited Earth. We explained to the humans our culture, our inventions, our discoveries and yet the only thing they paid attention to was our heads.’

‘And class,’ said the teacher to the children, ‘here we have an example of a human; as distasteful as I thought they would be.’ At that point I had a good mind to slap the teacher or punch him in his tiny face, yet I remained frozen.

‘Can you speak?’ asked the guide, ‘Maybe you’d like to tell us about this game our visits inspired?’

‘I…’ It hurt to speak, yet I forced the words out in vain hopes that they’d show me how to get back home. ‘You…have these balls that…’ I almost said ‘look like your heads’ but chose not to; I’m not sure if I did so to avoid offending them or if because they already knew that. ‘…are made of resin and you pick them up and throw them at pins.’

‘You mean the pointy things?’ asked a child.

‘No, pins are what you call these…well, they’re things you have to knock over. If you get them all, you get a strike…’

Another child spoke up. ‘Isn’t that when people march with signs and stuff?’

‘Well, but this is different…this is…’

The teacher sighed. ‘We had so much to tell the humans, and what do the humans tell us?’

‘Don’t worry,’ sighed the guide, ‘visits to other worlds are temporary ones. You’ll reappear in your own world soon enough.’ Then her, the teacher and his students all just stared at me, arms folded, waiting for me to disappear. I don’t know how long I spent staring at them before I rematerialized back in my own world, but I know it was too long.

When I came back to the bowling alley, no-one apparently noticing I had appeared out of thin air, I had to leave as soon as possible. In fact, I never again joined my friends for a bowling night; every bowling ball I look at, every disembodied head, seems to have a judgemental stare.

The Lemon Possum vs. Karl the Kangaroo Round 2

This story follows on from Karl the Kangaroo, The Lemon Possum vs Karl the Kangaroo, The Kangaroo and the Comedian and Karl’s Daughter so it is suggested you read those four stories before this one. In fact, this story takes place directly after Karl’s Daughter. The Lemon Possum also appears in The Lemon Possum, The Lemon Possum 2 and The Lemon Possum’s Evil Easter.


Karl had trashed Sadie’s room. He tore down every poster, threw down the ceramic skulls and the monster figurines, ripped out pages from her books. For the grand finale, he lifted her guitar over his head and thrust it to the floor. He was sure he had seen one of Sadie’s musicians do that. A human musician.

He had just done something Sadie didn’t want him to do. Sadie wanted him to be honest, to admit what a nasty little creature he was. So he went and invited an employee to his home so he could pretend to be a welcoming host, he could pretend to be a loving father, he could pretend to be…

Well, he couldn’t pretend to be human. He pretty much was one.

More images from his past manifested into his mind. Sadie had tried to shave her fur to be more like her classmates, and Karl told her she should be proud of who she was. Later, Sadie wondered if she could have surgery. Surgery to remove her tail, make her ears rounder, make her nose pointier.

At that moment, Karl considered such a surgery for himself.

Karl looked around at the bedroom he had ruined. This is what Sadie would have wanted, he said to himself. She threw away her clothes so she could be a regular kangaroo. No talking, no computers, just hopping around….

Where was she? Did she get back to Australia? Karl forced pictures into his head, fantasies to combat his painful memories. Perhaps Sadie stowed away on an airplane, he thought, and she went back home. She was in the outback, hopping around with Karl’s grandson or granddaughter in her pouch.

No, thought Karl, if she had children, they wouldn’t be my grandchildren.

I’m not her father.

With that little wannabe-author out of the house, Karl thought he’d be further honest with himself. He’d be the lonely, miserable rich man everyone saw him as, because that’s who he was. Adopting Sadie, he thought, was probably an attempt to get away from that stereotype.

She was just a tool.

He was a wretched old miser and that’s what he was going to be for the rest of his life. Sadie didn’t matter anymore; he was going to care about no-one but himself because that was the way, it seemed, the world was supposed to be. No-one was going to come to show him the joy he was missing out on, no-one was coming to save his soul. The copywriter only wanted a bigger paycheck, as did the other workers.

They were humans, after all.

Despite thinking himself more man than kangaroo, Karl had a meal of a pile of grass before retiring to bed, staring at the ceiling before falling into a dreamless sleep. When he awoke, his mind randomly played back his days at the theatre, when he first learned to speak. He remembered every joke he made in every pantomime, including one parents found iffy: he held up a bottle of bleach and said, ‘If you drink this, you’ll die, but you’ll have a nice finish.’

The theatre. The beginning of the end.

A familiar figure appeared – yes, popped into existence – before Karl. She sat at the foot of his bed, leering at him like a goblin. The Lemon Possum, that overgrown magical rat who wanted him to sell games that promoted unhealthy eating. Karl could only laugh at her reappearance.

‘You’re not real,’ Karl said.

‘What?’

‘You’re not here,’ said Karl as he got up out of bed, ‘I’m just going to close my eyes, re-open them, and then you’ll be gone.’ He did just that, but not only was the Lemon Possum still there, she was waving a poster in front of Karl. A poster of a younger Karl, the Joyful Little Joey.

‘This is how you were supposed to be,’ the possum continued, ‘you made people happy by dancing.’

‘And look where that got me.’

‘Why don’t you go back to dancing?’ The possum smirked at Karl. ‘You could bring people much more pleasure and joy than you could with your mobile games and your mummy issues.’

‘I don’t bring anyone pleasure or joy. That’s just the way I am.’

The possum pointed to the poster. ‘Are you sure this is not the way you’re supposed to be? Everyone loved you when you were a happy, dancing little kangaroo, and now you want to be a grump.’

‘I’m supposed to be a “grump”.’

The possum let loose a vicious laugh that stung Karl’s ears. ‘Look at you, the mighty Karl the Kangaroo, who beat up little old me, now sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. You don’t scare me.  You’re pathetic. You wanted to entertain children, to bring them joy but all you do is mope. And all because of your mummy. Because of little Sadie…’

Karl looked the possum directly in the eye. ‘Don’t you dare mention Sadie to me,’ he spat.

‘But Sadie was a mistake.’

Karl gritted his teeth and narrowed his eyes. ‘What have you done to her?’

‘I’ve done nothing to her. After she left you, she decided to become a normal kangaroo. Now she’s at your local zoo.’ The possum smiled wider, revealing her fangs. ‘That’s how much she hates you. She’d rather regress than live with you. I haven’t done anything to her, but maybe you could. If she’s making you that miserable, why don’t you…’

Karl struck the possum across the face, only for the possum to laugh again. ‘Go ahead and pummel me, it won’t change anything. She’ll still hate you, your workers will still hate you, you’ll still hate you. That Joyful Little Joey will still be a waste of space.’

‘I’m not making your little game,’ snarled Karl, ‘so if this is…’

‘No, I just like seeing people who defeated me miserable. Now, if you excuse me, I have sweets to share.’ Then she vanished.

The first thing Karl did after the possum disappeared was go to his computer and look up the Larford Zoo. Sure enough, there on the newsletter, was Sadie, older and unclothed, but unmistakably her. The newsletter was congratulating her on giving birth. A son. Her son, but not Karl’s grandson.

The Lemon Possum or whatever she was spoke the truth about Sadie.

She had left the poster behind. Karl picked it up, his hands trembling.

The little joey, on stage with the stick and the straw hat and the big smile.

That was Karl. That was who he was supposed to be.

Karl wasn’t the creature he was meant to be. He hadn’t been for years, and he could never be again.

A voice within told him to go visit Sadie. He would go to the zoo, see her and her child and apologise. Sadie would forgive him, they’d let him into her enclosure and they’d hug. He’d hug her, and then the little joey gets a hug from both mother and grandfather.

No. That wouldn’t happen. Sadie wouldn’t forgive him. She went to the zoo so she wouldn’t be like him.

He was still pretending.

He pretended to be a good father. He pretended to be a miserable miser pretending to be a good father.

He pretended to be a miserable miser enough that he became one.

He was a joke. Laughed at and mocked by comedians and a stupid little magic possum.

Karl stumbled around his home, various images spinning through his mind. His past, the theatre, the hours he spent learning programming. Sadie, her new home, her possible reactions to him returning to her. His life, his fragile, fraudulent life.

Into the kitchen stumbled Karl. From his cupboard he pulled out a bottle of bleach.

‘If you drink this, you’ll die, but you’ll have a nice finish.’

That’s what they wanted, wasn’t it? The workers wanted their mean old boss gone, Sadie wanted to be rid of her father forever, even mother…

He threw the bleach to the ground. No. That’s what the Lemon Possum wanted him to do.

He was going to see Sadie.

After shaking his head as if that would knock the unpleasant fantasies out, Karl got dressed, putting on his head a porkpie hat that hid his ears. It made him look like an anachronism, but it did mean that Sadie would be less likely to recognise him.

Sure enough, when he walked over to the zoo, barely anyone seemed to recognise him. Though he thought he did hear the word “Karl” uttered near him a couple of times, he thought it was more likely someone else with the same name being talked about, or a mishearing. He blended in with the crowd as he entered the zoo.

Entering the zoo was a lot like entering the theatre; the air was filled with the cacklings of children and the stench of popcorn. Pantomimes had overpriced fairy wands; zoos had overpriced sticks with chomping animal heads.

Karl took a look at the other animals – the giraffes, the elephants, even the bats – and briefly wondered if, given the chance, they would live in a house or program a game or speak. None of these were human, or pretending to be, they were simple animals and seemingly content to be so. An uncomplicated life with nothing to worry about.

No wonder Sadie went here.

When Karl saw the signpost pointing towards the kangaroo exhibit, he took a deep breath, lowered his hat and walked slowly in that direction. He prepared himself for whatever reaction Sadie might have, he prepared himself for her spitting in his face, grabbing him by the collar, or slandering him right in front of the crowd.

She danced. A huge crowd had gathered around to see her put on a little dance. Her and her joey. She leapt about with her child in her pouch, before lifting the child and twirling him around. Then she held her child in the air and stood as the crowd applauded.

She was happy. She was comfortable. She was just like the little joey on the poster.

When Karl got back home, he tore the poster to pieces and threw them in the bin. He no longer had an urge to think about the past, but he had a good feeling about the future.

 

Karl’s Daughter

This is the fourth appearance of Karl the Kangaroo. His first three are Karl the Kangaroo, The Lemon Possum vs. Karl the Kangaroo and The Kangaroo and the Comedian. It is recommended you read those three stories before this one.


sadie

So as you may remember, I said that the infamous Karl the Kangaroo had asked me to ghostwrite his life story. How could I refuse? A chance to get more money and a chance to write something not about the latest non-free updates for free games.

It did mean spending a lot of time in his office, and it was certainly as ice-cold as my co-workers said it was. I had to force myself not to shiver as he related to me his life, especially his childhood. Both of us even considered making the sole focus of the book his childhood; many would say it was a miracle he was still alive after being abandoned by his mother, and after the conditions of the circus he briefly spent time in.

We spoke of what he spoke of when I saw him in the theatre. His pantomimes, his fights, him slowly learning how to speak and walk and act like a human. I was probably the only person in the whole workplace who really saw him as a kangaroo. Everyone else seemed to forget that.

There was something else they forgot, Karl one day told me. Something they forgot and he wished he could forget. We had talked at length about Karl’s childhood, but there was something in his adulthood that filled him with the same fear he usually filled his workers with.

His daughter.

Sadie, her name was. A kangaroo just like him, that looked for all the world like a younger female version of him, but not actually his daughter.

Karl explained it had happened shortly after he started getting truly successful, when his games had made him millions. He briefly returned to his birthplace of Australia, and paid a visit to a kangaroo rescue centre. There he learned he was not one of a kind, and he met with a little kangaroo speaking basic English and wearing a dress.

Her mother had been killed by poachers, and she had been fending for herself until the rescue centre found her. She had heard about Karl and his success, and apparently bounced off the walls frantically when he arrived.

‘I saw a little of myself in her,’ Karl said to me, and explained the discussions and arrangements he made with the rescue centre to adopt Sadie. He told me about how he helped her learn English and develop her vocabulary, to be prepared before he enrolled her in Primary School. Though the workers at Kangaroo Games rarely really saw Karl as a kangaroo, Sadie was never allowed to forget that.

‘Almost every day she’d come home with a story to tell,’ Karl explained to me, ‘The other girls were pulling her ears, stomping on her tail…’ He clenched his teeth and balled his hands into fists before continuing. ‘One day I saw her trying to cut her fur off so she’d look more like the other girls. I tried to make her proud of who she was…which, I must admit, was rather hypocritical of me considering I’m more human than you.’ When he said that, he snickered, but it wasn’t an honest snicker.

He had showed Sadie around his offices several times, and let the little kangaroo shake hands with his workers. This was before I came to work for him, so I didn’t remember it, but those who had worked longer than me either just had it pop up in their brain when I mentioned it, or they had forgotten it altogether.

Well, actually, one person remembered seeing her. He remembered seeing her as a child, and spoke to her again when she was a teenager. All he said about it was that he wished that he hadn’t.

It was not just in Karl’s office where he told me about his life. He actually invited me over to his house; the fact it was a well-kept manse in the country almost shocked me with how many co-workers spreading rumours it was akin to the Bates Motel. What actually did shock me was that when we had tea, Karl prepared it himself.

‘Ah yes,’ Karl said as he placed down the tea tray, ‘Sadie and I did have tea parties from time to time. Is that not an amusing image? Me sitting down with dollies and having tea and biccies? I won’t fire you if you laugh, it’s perfectly fine.’ I smiled and faked a snigger – fearing I would be fired if I didn’t laugh this time. ‘She had a load of dolls, but she gave them away when she got tired of them. She found new hobbies as she got older. Kangaroos grow up faster than humans…’

Sadie had left Karl’s house at sixteen, or the kangaroo equivalent of such. That I could certainly believe when Karl showed me her bedroom, which he kept just as she left it. Posters of skulls and graveyards, Jack Skellington duvet cover, bookshelves of Poe and Gorey and a purple electric guitar proudly displayed.

I almost said this proved humans and kangaroos weren’t so different after all, but Karl sat on her bed and told me, ‘When Sadie got older, she kept on telling me she hated humans. She still spoke their language, she still wore their clothes, but she was never subtle about her contempt for them. She’d come down to breakfast yelling about the latest news story, what the politicians or the celebrities did, and then she’d say to me…’ He stared blankly at the walls for a minute or so before turning his attention towards the guitar. ‘She once had a band, you know. She said she had found people who hated humanity as much as she did, and this guitar was the source of many headaches for me.’

He tried to laugh, but it sounded more like a harsh cough. He walked over to the guitar and picked it up. It looked as if he were about to play it, but instead, he just looked at it. ‘They knew I was her “father”, you know. They thought if they were friends with her, they’d get a taste of what I had. They…’

He threw the guitar to the floor.

‘This was a bad idea,’ he said, ‘I’ll show you the way out.’

I almost asked for him to continue with his story, but he was my boss and I couldn’t refuse his orders. He may have been a kangaroo, but he was no different from a human.


‘This was a bad idea,’ Karl repeated to himself as he climbed up the stairs. It had been such a long time since he went into that room, and he actually went and showed it to his copywriter. After showing that copywriter out, he walked in there again.

Into the room. Into the room where he saw his daughter lying on the bed crying because her band, the humans she thought of friends, just wanted a little of Daddy’s money for themselves. Karl stood near Sadie, and placed a hand on her shoulder.

‘Why did you do that?’ snapped Sadie, turning towards her adoptive father.

‘Well, to comfort you.’

‘That’s what you’re telling yourself?’ she said, ‘Look at the great Karl the Kangaroo, look how he cares for his daughter!’

‘What are you talking…’

She leapt off her bed and stood up. ‘Why did you adopt me?’

‘What?’

‘I said, why did you adopt me?’

Karl stood in silence.

‘Oh, that’s what I thought. Come on, admit it. It was just because I was just like you. Because I could talk like those humans and walk like those humans just like you. You inspired me. You wanted to have me around just so I could remind you of your own little accomplishments, is that it?’

‘That’s…utterly ridiculous, and you…’

‘Or is it your mummy? Yeah, it sucked, but I know how you treat your employees. Harry’s mum was sick but he can’t have time off because your shitty mum! You saw me and you saw a way to get back at her, to show her up. In fact, that’s what all this is about, isn’t it? The great Karl, who can talk and dance and make games, he’s much better than his mother even though he’s a selfish piece of shit!’

‘Sadie…’

‘You’re not fooling anyone. None of your workers look at me and say “Oh, he has a daughter who takes care of, he can’t be that bad.” I could have been perfectly happy at the rescue centre, you know, they’d have known what to do with me, but you had to go and make me your accessory, parading me around your workplace.’

‘That was not why I brought you there at all!’

‘So why did you then?’ asked Sadie, arching an eyebrow.

‘I wanted you to be proud of…

‘It was so I could make you feel better. So you could delude yourself into thinking you were good. You kept me around because if I wasn’t here, you’d have to actually admit you’re a miserable selfish bastard. In fact, go ahead and be a dick. Shit on your employees all you want, I don’t care, just don’t keep me around while you do it.’

Karl saw the whole scene replay before him and begged his past self to say something different this time, do something different, but when Sadie announced her plans to leave Karl, the past Karl said, ‘Well, why don’t you just go then?’

She did.

She spat in Karl’s face and left, leaving all her posters and books and possessions behind.

Karl let her leave. When she slammed the front door, he didn’t cry out to her. When there was no sign of her for a week, he didn’t send out any search parties. When he found what were unmistakeably her discarded clothes, he simply threw them away.

She didn’t want him to find her. If he tried, it would simply be furthering the lie. It would be so the media would say ‘Look at that caring Karl, stopping at nothing to find his daughter.’

So he let her go. He let her be taken off to some zoo or a stinking, urine-soaked circus, or let her be served as a steak or just simply be lost out there with no-one to turn to…

It was a loathsome thing to do. But he was a loathsome kangaroo.

He was no different from a human after all.

Time Passes Quickly

Another of my older stories.


charlotte

Things like this should be savoured.

Time moves ever so quickly for me and I cannot stay in one place for long. Thus I try to savour where I have found myself in presently. I must have been here a million times, perhaps significantly more, yet the sight of this forest bathed in the serene darkness brought on by the night never bores me. The trees that occupy these woods may be bare, but somehow, they still seem to stand tall and mighty among the kingdom of dirt and crumpled leaves. What’s more, with it being winter, they have been given a gleaming white coat, that makes them seem…well…more inviting than usual. Then there’s the howling winds of the season that drift through the air, which to me sounds like a soft lullaby of sorts, even if I can no longer sleep, and are one of the few things I can actually feel. As they howl and rush through the night, they pass through me, reminding me of the freedom my form has received and which I try to embrace.

However, despite the initial calm I feel from this scene, one look at the sky seems to change the atmosphere entirely. The lack of stars, the palette of dark purple and grey, and of course, the full moon, complete with its skull face leering at me. It makes this whole scene feel…spooky. Not in the sense that these woods are foreboding and sinister, no, I like to think that I’m not scared of anything after what I’ve been through. No, now everything’s become spooky in a way that’s fun. It reminds me of when I was a little girl playing pretend. Yes, in fact I think I’ll pretend right now.

I’ll pretend to be a ghost.

A certain type of ghost to be exact. The scary, spooky ghost that everybody’s afraid of. The one that lurks in the derelict house down the streets or the deep dark woods, who moans and groans and rattles their chains. The one who features as the villain in all those creepy stories people like to tell each other for scares. I am that ghost, that grisly ghoul, ready to haunt and terrorise any unfortunate mortals that dare cross my path. Wailing and moaning, I search for any available prey. What fun it’ll be to see a weakling flee quickly in terror! Right there on a path, I see a mortal man, going for a nightly walk, hands in coat pockets, blissfully unaware of the horror he is about to face. Ceasing my wailing for a few minutes, I creep behind the shrivelled bushes, waiting for the right moment to strike. Just as the poor man briefly stands still, for a cigarette of all things, I grin at this opportunity and pounce right in front of him, revealing my hideous visage.

He smokes and walks on.

He didn’t see me, but I should have expected that. That’s one of the problems of my kind: humans, most of them at least, can’t see or hear us. Apparently their minds have some mechanism that subconsciously won’t let anything spectral be registered, or something along those lines.

Nonetheless, despite that man not running off screaming into the night, I still enjoyed that little game tremendously. Many of my kind say it’s nothing but a childish stereotype, and I guess I did for a while, but now it just seems merely an excuse for some good spooky fun. I don’t really like to think of myself as a ghost anyway. As much as I enjoy pretending to be a scary spirit, genuinely applying the term “ghost” to myself now makes me feel a little uncomfortable. No, I’m still a human, just…a different kind. A free kind.

Yes, this form has granted me freedom. The typical human needs food, drink and rest, constantly getting hungry and tired, the hopeless wastes of flesh. On the other hand, I have been liberated from those handicaps. So what if I no longer have legs? So what if I don’t have my beautiful, flowing hair, my soft skin or anything else anymore? I have been cast free from my weak, feeble body, and now I am no longer pushed down by things like “weariness”, “breathing” or “hunger”.

Actually, I do have a hunger of sorts. My eyes, which I actually took with me after taking this form, have a tendency to get really hungry, and they keep demanding I feed them, with sights, places and beauty. Over the many decades in this form, I have fed these eyes and I have fed them well. Utilising my unlimited energy to its fullest, I’ve travelled the entire world, just for new sights to see. I mean, I can’t really interact with anything I find, but sights are all my eyes want, and I’ve supplied. How much time I must have spent in that jungle, seeking out any and all exotic plants and wildlife. And those big cats! They sensed me and chased me, but they couldn’t catch me! Then there was that time I spent under the sea; I felt I could watch those fish for days, and I think I actually did. However, like those fish, I need to keep on moving, and once again, these eyes of mine are demanding to be fed, so I decide to take advantage of it.

I soar.

In mere milliseconds, I shoot above the trees and above the clouds, raising up my arms triumphantly in celebration. Once again, I pretend: I’ve reached this magical kingdom in the clouds only I know about, where friendly dragons and dashing heroes await for my arrival. When I appear, they cheer for me and celebrate my return. As I listen to those imaginary cheers, I peer over the clouds and at the town. The town I grew up in that has enjoyed many renovations and improvements over time, now become a group of yellow dots on a purple and black blanket. Longing to get a closer look, even if I now know it like the back of my hand, I zoom towards it. In no time at all, I reach my destination, the middle of a street, framed by various shops, all of them closed. Some may find a scene like this moody or dull, but I can find a sliver of a positive feeling, perhaps because of the Christmas decorations. A darkened shop always looks a tiny bit cheerful with a tiny Father Christmas in the window. To tell the truth, I prefer the empty streets at night, it makes me feel like I’ve discovered some strange and magical kingdom.

Not to say I don’t enjoy visiting this place in the day. The hustle and bustle of humans is somewhat exhilarating, and were it not for the observation of their behaviour, I wouldn’t learn from them and would feel less at home here than I am now. Over my years in this condition, I’ve seen many a strange and wonderful invention being introduced, bringing about so much curiosity I forget my state just to ask “What does this do?” I slowly find out though, and now I know what several machines do, even if most of them are useless to me. My favourite device is the “television”; it may be hard to watch when you have to constantly move, but there’s something so hypnotic about the whole thing.

This street is such a contrast to how things were when I was alive…I used to hate going out with mother shopping, the streets were so dirty and depressing. I remember every now and then passing a homeless family…I pitied them and wanted to help, but mother always told me just to ignore them. I suppose she thought doing so would make them disappear. Through all my drifting about, I still see those homeless people and feel an odd temptation to float over there and comfort them. Some of them could sense me, I could feel it, but taking that into account filled me with trepidation and sent me flying elsewhere.

Immediately, all memories of the past are forced out of my brain, granting me a moment of satisfaction, and with only minimal waiting, the sun rises and the curse of emptiness is lifted from the town. I’ve found myself trying to explain why things move so fast in this new form, why decades seem like months. One theory of mine was that now that I’m dead, there’s nothing really worth waiting for, and I know how time moves so slowly when you’re looking forward to something. Time moved slowly in December, as my anticipation grew due to the cries of the turkey vendors and the carollers. It’s December right now, and the decorations and carols do give me a tingle of festive cheer, but I’m not getting any presents, nor will I get to eat Christmas dinner. Also, I like to think of myself as one of those who try and keep the spirit of Christmas alive every day. So I put on the festive grin that has helped me through these many decades, and observe the crowd, occasionally floating back to the television store to catch a glimpse of what those little boxes had to offer. A “cartoon”, a “news show” and something else I couldn’t identify.

After attempting to make sense of today’s television, I floated away from the window, amid the slowly growing crowds. As I passed a shop, my eyes caught a rare sight – another ghost. It’s always surprised me that despite how far I’ve travelled and how long I’ve been travelling far, that I rarely ever talk or meet any of my kind. Certainly I do catch some now and again; they’re not hard to recognise, because something can’t be difficult to spot when it looks exactly like you. Of course, I have talked to one or two of them, the most recent being one that happened to be around my age. He said he died of food poisoning, and boy, was he miserable.

‘Well…’ I remember him saying, ‘Just…now that I’m dead, I realise how much I’ve…wasted my life, you know? There’s so much I’ve wanted to do and now I’ll never get to do it…’ and after that, he left. I didn’t follow him, as I didn’t think he’d want me to, but I did think it was quite a shame that he wanted to run off without a full conversation. Times I’ve wanted someone to talk to, someone I could relate to (I’m sure there were things I wanted to do before I died that I never got to do, but I can’t really remember them). I’d certainly like to speak to a human, but such a thing would be difficult. Séances are all a sham, and I long for a genuine method of communication.

So that’s why I followed after that ghost, hoping he would be a bit more cheerful and talkative than that boy, and thanks to the unlimited supply of energy built into me, I manage to catch up with him. The moment I float towards him, I feel a lump in my throat – or a facsimile of it – but I quickly get rid of it as I say a single word:

‘Hi!’

Upon hearing me, he floats right up to my face. It’s hard to tell a ghost’s age – we don’t have wrinkles – but my first thought upon looking at his face was that this person must have been quite old when he died. My suspicions are confirmed when I hear the growl in his voice. ‘Who are you?’

‘My name’s Charlotte,’ I reply with a smile that I hoped would brighten his spirits.

‘What are you smiling about?’

‘Well, why shouldn’t I smile?’

‘You’re not supposed to enjoy this, you know.’ I don’t reply. ‘Look at those people,’ he says, gesturing towards the small crowds, ‘they have everything we don’t. After this, they’ll go home to their families, eat their dinner and sleep in their warm, comfy bed. They won’t think about us, or their inevitable fate. A luxury we can’t afford.’

‘Well,’ I try to think of something comforting off the top of my head as I float next to him, ‘at least we’re not in…’

‘This is Hell!’ His eyes blaze. He describes everything he did in life, which made me want to float away as fast as I could. Despite what he confesses, I still stay close, I still follow.

‘Only now do I realise the error of my ways, and now it’s too late. I could have made amends for all the people I wronged, but now I have to be reminded of the fact that I didn’t, until the end of fricking time! Ha!’

‘What?’

‘I saw you flinch! I guess you’re not so happy after all! Well, if you weren’t tortured, you wouldn’t be a ghost, would you?’

Why was I a ghost? A question I’ve asked myself time and time again. I’ve come up with answers, but I know they can’t be the right answers.

‘What were you like in life?’

A flurry of memories comes to me. Memories of living human Charlotte, brushing her long blonde hair, sitting by the river in her best blue dress, doing nothing really significant before turning into a floating white blob. ‘I guess I just lived a normal life.’

‘Yeah, that’s what they all say. How did you die?’

How did I die? Oh yes. Yes.

Running down the streets, my blue dress stained by the murky puddles. ‘Mother? Where are you?’ The date I can’t remember. How I got separated from my mother, and on a night like that, I can’t remember. The first thing that comes to mind is me searching the streets, alone except for the coach that slowly trundles by. Even though I felt my heart pound against my chest and shivers through my body, I persevered, certain that in no time at all I’d find myself back in my mother’s waiting arms, and listen to her voice again. We’d sit by the fire for a few minutes before we’d go off to bed and await another day. I knew the way home, so I tried to follow it.

Then I ran into him.

‘Well, well, well…’ His glare has haunted me for ages. Looking back, I should have run and run hard, but I found myself unable to move, allowing him to pull out the gleaming knife. It happened in an instant. The first thing I saw upon gaining this form was my own corpse, lying face first in a gutter, gone from me forever. I still had my eyes, my mouth, my hands…those hands which I looked at weren’t mine: just some fat white sausages that I could move about. I damned that killer to Hell as he ran off, and in response to all this commotion, I just cried. I cried and cried and cried. I don’t know how long I cried, I just did.

It was upon this reminiscence that I had a thought. The man who killed me, who was never caught and who I never saw again, could it be this ghost speaking to me? If so, perhaps this memory shouldn’t trouble me as much as it should. The man got his just rewards, and now he regrets what he did! If it’s not the murderer I’m talking to, then he’s probably enduring some horrible torture right about now. That memory shouldn’t bother me, so perhaps I should leave this plane and move onto the next life. Yet somehow I can’t.

Only now I just realise I never answered his question. So he gives me another.

‘How old are you?’

I instantly reply, ‘Sixteen.’ He laughs.

‘Heh. And I thought I had it bad.’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘I’ve always thought of children as the most despicable lifeforms on this earth. So if my torture is endlessly excruciating, imagine what yours must be like!’

‘Stop it! I thought you regretted…’

‘Yeah, but come to think of it, it doesn’t really matter now that I’m dead!’ Without so much as a goodbye, he floated off, leaving me to contemplate what he said and the thoughts he brought up. Of course I’m not going to let that whiney old windbag affect me; I’m better than that. No, no, I’m not. Because I’m a ghost.

What about the family I hoped to be re-united with on that fateful day? Are they ghosts like me, or did they pass on to another plane? If they did pass on, why haven’t I joined them? Why haven’t they said anything or come for me? My mother should have come for me decades ago, dressed in a gleaming white dress, gesturing for me to follow her into the light. I should have touched her slender hand, regaining my lost beauty. I should have ascended with her, into happily ever after. That never happened, and what’s more, I seldom missed her. What would she think if she knew that? She’d refuse to take me with her and leave me on Earth forever. I deserve it, she’d say.

So perhaps this really is Hell like the man said…but I haven’t done anything wrong. Anything really wrong. I’ll admit, I’ve done some bad things, I’ve broken toys, I’ve drifted off in class, but that can’t be enough to condemn me to an eternity of torment. Or did I commit a sin without knowing? I’ve sinned, and I’ve been punished for it by being turned into a talking bed sheet no one can even see. That beautiful Charlotte is now just a rotting corpse in the earth. Hell.

This isn’t Hell, it isn’t. I cannot in my right mind call the place where I spent my life and what followed it anything even resembling Hell, even with all the pain and misery found here. This is my home, where I’ve grown up. It holds many wonders, some I’m sure I haven’t seen yet. Perhaps my spirit is still here on this earth because I’m so attached to it and won’t let it go. I was bound to be separated from my mother sooner or later due to the world of work I was sure to be entering, but I could never leave this world which I owe so much to.

I try to keep this philosophy in mind and forget that ghost’s attempt at bringing me down, and I turn towards the shoppers again. My eye catches a group of teenage girls, all laughing at some joke or another, and I wish I could be among them. For what good is this new world if I can’t directly interact with it? Floating up to these girls, I think what it would be like to be among them, alive. I’d stride proudly and happily – I’ve forgotten what it’s like to walk – wearing those jeans and that shirt. So maybe this is Hell, if I’m constantly going to be shown what I can’t have. No, it can’t be Hell if…

Clearly being here is just making these thoughts bubbling in my head all the worse, so I dart away to a change of scenery: one of my old haunts, the canal. A calm river, leisurely accentuating the beautiful shrubbery and trees surrounding it. Despite the fact they still demand to be fed, I closed my eyes, and just listened to the gushing of the stream.

A sudden thought enters my mind. Why time seems to pass so quickly. What if there’s something coming? My time on this earth, even as a ghost surely cannot last, so will I be forced into the next plane, or will I just fade away? Time passes by so quickly when you dread something.

No, I can’t keep thinking like this. It’s just how he wants me to think, like he was some demon sent to torture me. He probably was the guy who killed me after all.

This depressing train of thought is cut off by a familiar yowl, and I see a stray cat saunter along the path near the canal. I think I had a cat once. His name was Charles and he died of illness. I don’t think he’s a ghost. This cat, however, can seemingly sense me as it sniffs at the direction where I’m floating. Seeing the tabby stand firm, I drift over to it and it still stands. Although I can’t touch it, I try to pet it in my own way, slowly moving my hand through it. It purrs.

After it enjoys its petting, it darts off in the other direction, and I just have to chase it. Once again, I’m the grisly ghoul from the darkest neck of the woods hunting my prey, and it may just survive.

Fortunately for the poor little cat, it escapes, because I feel myself becoming distracted, by a woman on a bench. Beautiful just like I was, and weeping just like I was when I first entered this form. Strangely, it’s this moment that briefly makes me forget I’m dead.

‘What’s the matter?’

Her head emerges from the tangled jungle of red locks, and she replies, ‘I’m not sure I want to talk about it.’

She sensed me. She actually replied to me, and I don’t know how. All I can do is speak some more. ‘Come on, tell me.’

It’s strange. For some reason, she doesn’t seem to see me as a ghost, and to comply with that, I forget that I’m a ghost as I talk with her. Her boyfriend shunned her for another women apparently, and just yesterday, she screamed her head off at him. Came to this canal to calm her down.

I tell her not to worry. I tell her that she could be worse off. I tell her…well, things she wants to hear. I see her smile. She says ‘Thank you.’

Thank you.

Perhaps she could see me because she wanted to. She wanted me. She wanted to see me, not even caring that I’m dead.

And suddenly I feel a need to stay here on Earth.

Time passes quickly, and night falls, bringing with it a mist to hang over the canal: the perfect hiding place. Once again, I become the frightening spectre of the night, embracing my condition.

So I’m still staying here on this earth; I have too much of an emotional attachment to it to leave it completely, and perhaps there’s a chance I can be needed. Moving onto another plane just wouldn’t feel right after all the time I’ve spent here and I’m certain whatever reason mother has for not coming is a good one. We all have our place, and this seems to be the place where I belong. I’m lingering on Earth because I want to linger. It doesn’t even matter that I’m not alive; perhaps were I not murdered I would have to face great heartbreak like that poor woman did, and of course, I’d be hampered down by weariness, illness or hunger. I’d never lose anyone to death. Even if there was something bad in the horizon for me like I feared, well, all the more reason to make the best of the time I have.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I’m the restless spirit of a young girl who never truly got to grow up, who has been rendered from a beautiful young mistress to a bedsheet with eyes, doomed to wander this earth forever, along with a vast number of tortured spirits, never to truly comprehend her new existence.

I still smile.

Dorothy Lost

Here’s another older story of mine I wrote a while back before starting this blog, this one based on The Wizard of Oz…


The house had landed.

Dorothy lifted herself upwards, brushed her hair away from her face, and blinked open her eyes. Her heart still hammered. While the barking of her faithful dog eased her slightly, she still felt chills squirming through her body.

Or was it because of Toto that she felt the squirming? She knew she should have dove into the storm cellar as soon as the titan approached, to wait for its passing while in the arms of Aunt and Uncle, but Toto had ran back into the house. Poor dog knew nothing about what was coming nearer (sometimes Dorothy had wondered what it would be like to think like a dog, as she did wish for a life without worries).

While she knew she shouldn’t have tried to catch Toto – she was proud of how much her upbringing had taught her what was right and what wasn’t – her body overpowered her mind and she ran into the house seconds before it lifted off of the ground.

After her home had landed, she took a good look at her furry friend – her only friend – bouncing about the room while making indescribable noises. While her brain had begun to wish for his death, it also cheered in celebration that he was still energetic after what happened. She thought that she should be mad at Toto for running away like that, yet scolded herself for following him when he would have survived anyway. Could she have two brains? Uncle had once said he was of two minds about selling the farm, and Dorothy was glad he listened to the mind that said not to sell it, but she certainly didn’t want arguments in her head. Outside ones were bad enough.

She then stood, keeping her balance better than she thought she would, and looked around the room. The fading wallpaper with the floral pattern, which made Dorothy think of sleeping flowers that needed to be awakened, gave that little spark of familiarity, but it was snuffed out quickly. Another look around revealed that plenty of furniture had been knocked over, with Aunt Em’s favourite photo cracked, but that wasn’t why this house didn’t feel like the same one Dorothy had grown up in. Not knowing exactly what she felt, she turned to the furniture and tried to rearrange them in their proper position. Chairs went upwards, cracked photo went back on the wall, that thing went near the window.

When she neared that window, however, she closed her eyes, placing her palm over the pane for good measure.

After she had put most of the things back the way they were, that spark of familiarity ignited for a millisecond, and in order to get it to ignite again, she walked into the kitchen to see if there was anything to eat. After finding some bread on the floor, she heard her dog yap again, as he ran towards the door. Averting her eyes from the outside world once again – they were in Kansas, she kept telling herself – she grabbed Toto and brought him into the kitchen. When he was placed down on the floor, he calmed down a little, so Dorothy broke off a piece of bread, and gave it to him to nibble upon.

A slight creak.

Dropping the bread, Dorothy turned to the front door, which she noticed was beginning to open. Aunt? Uncle? Surely no-one else would come into this house since it wasn’t theirs, and thieves always enter through the window, so it had to be them. Energy burst within Dorothy, and she ran to the door as it squeaked fully open.

In stepped something that made Dorothy freeze.

It resembled a human being, in that it had two arms and legs and wore clothes, though certainly not like any clothes Dorothy had seen. Its head however, seemed to be made out of dough (Dorothy almost touched it to see if her fingers would be imprinted) and had no face save for two bulging eyes and three small slits that could either be a nose or a mouth. When it lumbered into the house, it stared at Dorothy right in the eyes, as it was the same size as her.

Dorothy backed away into the wall, scratching it as if doing so would create a door for her to escape through. The doughman approached with outstretched arms, its three-fingered hands open. As it neared, it made a series of noises that sounded like a dying chicken, which Dorothy might have laughed at did they not so perfectly emphasise what the fat little thing looked like.

Then it screeched.

Opening her eyes, Dorothy looked down to see Toto chewing on the leg of the being, causing the latter to flail its arms about and squeak in confusion. Seeing this amusing sight had caused Dorothy to regain her energy, and instinctively, she kicked the doughman in the leg, and soon, it toppled over on its back. No more did its odd appearance deter her, and she almost pressed her foot down on its face as a sign of victory.

Then she looked outside.

The doughman had left the door open, revealing where the house had landed. The first thing Dorothy saw was grey, but not the familiar, soothing grey of Kansas. What lay outside was a giant wall, one which reminded Dorothy of the evil witch’s castle she had heard about in a fairy tale. With the doughman no longer a problem, curiosity overcame Dorothy, leading her outside towards the wall. While it was exactly as tall as she thought it was, with it piercing the clogged sky, it was nowhere near as wide. But next to it was another wall just like it. And another wall.

They were buildings. Houses just like hers, even if they towered over it. Though who would want to live in a building as dark as those? Looking back at the doughman, even he was too bright to live in one of those towers. As Toto came trotting out of the house, Dorothy saw another wall right behind her house, both taller and wider than it, and just as dark as the nearby towers.

While Dorothy wished to run back into her house, slam the door and hide away forever, her body wouldn’t let her. One brain controlled it, while the other brain could only lie there and yell in protest. Slowly she stepped down the path made of stone – a little brighter than the walls but not by much – and looked around where she had landed. As she walked, she noticed the already-dark surroundings growing dimmer, and the area grew colder. Dorothy was sure it was in the middle of the day when the tornado had come, so how could night be falling now?

There weren’t even any stars.

There were some lights, however. Yellow lights atop long sticks of some kind, like elongated versions of candles. She ran towards them, her feet echoing louder, but stopped when she beheld what lay beyond the walls.  More of those towers, only they were shorter and more twisted, seemingly bending and writhing as soon as they saw Dorothy. The yellow light did nothing to ward away the grey, or the dull browns seen in some of the windows, and an indiscernible yet powerful stench wafted through the air, meaning Dorothy was forced to breathe through her mouth. Toto was as ecstatic as ever, Dorothy stood perfectly still, moving nothing but her head.

The streets were empty. Not even that doughman had left the house yet. No more of him walked down the paths, no dragons soared over her, no witches cackled in the distance.

This was a fairy world, wasn’t it?

Just as Dorothy thought of walking away to find signs of life, Toto leapt up and began to bark furiously, heralding a carriage trundling down the path. Realising what this new place was like, Dorothy was not surprised to see the carriage being pulled by two skeletal white beings with elongated limbs. As soon as the carriage had reached Dorothy, it began to slow down. Once more Dorothy had two brains, but this time they were in agreement about something. One said that she should stay because whoever was in the carriage could help her get back home, and the other said that she should stay because another doughman may need putting in his place.

The door of the carriage clicked open, and when the rider stepped out, even Toto hid behind Dorothy’s legs. It perfectly complemented its horses in how tall and thin it was; it even seemed to tall to actually fit in the carriage. Its face was dominated by two red eyes, framing a small mouth, all below a pair of floppy antennae. Its clothes, boasting a single shade of black, made it look two-dimensional, as if a drawing had escaped a sheet of paper.

wogglebug.png

Seeing the cowering Toto behind her made Dorothy continue to stand firm, attempting to ignore the creature’s appearance. As it looked over Dorothy, its head turning like that of an owl, it tapped its chin in thought before stroking its eyeballs. Seeing her chance present itself, Dorothy struck without a single thought, stamping her foot on that of the creature.

It drummed its fingers on her head.

‘I’m sorry,’ said Dorothy, punching herself inwardly for ruining what might have been helpful, but the creature responded by tightly wrapping its fingers around her head and squeaking.

In a second, Dorothy found herself flung into the carriage, the interior of which was certainly more elegant than what Dorothy was expecting, with its crimson walls and padded seats. The creature entered calmly, and to Dorothy’s surprise, she, Toto and the thing were able to fit into the carriage together. As the carriage began to move again, the creature began a series of high-pitched squeaks, its hand rotating.

‘I’m sorry Sir,’ said Dorothy, swallowing to hide her fear, ‘But…’ The creature then moved its head forwards, still making those owl-like twitches, and Dorothy was silenced. It was not because of the creature’s appearance, no, rather its status. Only the rich could afford a carriage as regal as this, and only the rich dressed in black. If this being was better-off than Dorothy, it must be wiser and more important – how else could it have amassed so much wealth? – so Dorothy kept quiet until the carriage arrived at another tower.

Night, or whatever it was in this place, had completely fallen, and the three had travelled far away from the giant candles, so the tower they had arrived at was a completely black blot, a giant shadowy finger threatening to bend down and flatten Dorothy. The creature had ceased his squeaking, and now only gestured towards the tower with his hand outstretched.

Holding Toto in her arms like a baby doll, Dorothy approached, flinching from the chill of the air growing stronger. A little voice pepped up and told her to run, but another one arose and noted there was no place to run to, so Dorothy let her feet take her towards the front doors.

The doors burst open as she neared, revealing another strange creature. It had a gangly form like that of the creature in the carriage, with its coat hanging loosely from its body. It reminded Dorothy of when Aunt put the tablecloth outside to dry.

thebrain

Then Dorothy looked at its head. It was pink and fluffy.

Bending down slightly, the pink-headed creature fumbled about in its pockets and pulled out a small device that looked like a stretched ‘C’. Gently, it placed it on Dorothy’s head, making sure each end entered her ears.

Dorothy screamed in pain.

‘Agh!’ cried the pink-headed creature. ‘Don’t do that!’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Dorothy, rubbing her ears as they still stung.

‘Oh good,’ said the pink-headed creature, clacking its fingers together, ‘You can understand us.’

The being’s voice soothing her a little, Dorothy said, ‘Yes, sir. What is your name?’

‘A name?’ The being scratched its head. ‘I don’t have a name, I don’t need a name. That’s useless information.’ After pacing for a second, he leaned over Dorothy and tapped his head ‘Do you know what this is?’

Dorothy would have said ‘I don’t know’, but feared that, from the tone of the being’s voice, he would be offended if she did.

‘It is a brain, child, like the one you have in that little head of yours. My brain used to be in my head, but I’m much better like this.’

‘Why?’

‘I used to be a Munchkin…’ said the brain, tapping his neck, ‘and when I was one, I kept making all these silly mistakes. I would keep losing things, I wouldn’t finish work on time, I got fired from my job. I thought it was because I didn’t have a brain, but then I found out it was because I did have a brain, but I just didn’t use it enough.’ He raised his metal hand to gesture towards the big black tower, then pointed at the other creature. ‘I came here, and this wogglebug there gave me this new body so I could think better. And I thought so well, he gave me a job here.’

‘Yes, yes,’ muttered Wogglebug, waving his hand, ‘I made you what you are. You get too excited sometimes.’

‘No, no I do not,’ said the Brain, regaining himself, ‘As you said, I do not need emotion now, for I am logical. I thought it would be logical to explain to the human why I am the way I am, for she probably doesn’t have people like me where she comes from.’

Wogglebug narrowed his gigantic eyes. ‘Fair enough,’ he said, before grabbing Toto away from Dorothy.

‘Toto!’

‘Don’t worry,’ said Wogglebug, walking into the tower. ‘Your dog will be fine. Now then, you!’ He pointed at the Brain. ‘Please make our guest comfortable,’ he added, playing with Toto’s fur.

‘Give me back Toto,’ said Dorothy, before she was restrained by the Brain, ‘I think you’re a bad man.’

‘Why do you think I’m bad?’ Wogglebug placed an arm on his hip. ‘It’s because you don’t understand me. I swear, children are all alike. Now, then.’ Still holding Toto, he patted Dorothy on the head before going inside. ‘My friend has some toys for you to play with while you wait.’

Dorothy raised her arm to ask what Wogglebug meant by ‘wait’ but the Brain took her by the hand and dragged her through the halls. ‘Come on, come on,’ said the Brain, ‘You have to do what he says.’

The hallway seemed to have no end, its dark brown walls leading into an abyss of some kind. Before Dorothy could take a closer look, the Brain took her through a door, where she was greeted by a smiling round creature, not unlike the being that entered her house.

It was metal. The smile was painted on.

‘Look!’ said the Brain, placing his arm around the metal man. ‘This is your new friend! Would you like to see what he can do?’ Pulling a block from his sleeve, he pressed a button, and the metal man lifted his arms and swayed them back and forth, stomping the ground with his gigantic feet.

As she sat down, Dorothy looked at the robot’s little dance, and forced a smile that hurt her face.

‘You aren’t impressed, are you?’

‘Oh no!’ Dorothy shook her head. ‘I think your toy is very nice.’

‘You don’t have to pretend,’ said the Brain, switching the metal man off. ‘Ever since my renovation, I’ve been made to think more logically. I no longer have emotion.’

Dorothy raised herself from the seat and looked up at the Brain. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean I don’t feel sad. I don’t feel anger. That was a problem I had so often in my previous form. Sometimes I would be too sad to work, or too angry to concentrate.’

‘Can you feel happy?’

‘No, I can’t. Yes, sometimes I was too happy to work as well…you’re not thinking of leaving, are you?’

Dorothy turned away from the door and back at the Brain. ‘No.’

‘Tell me child,’ The Brain leaned down like Uncle did when Dorothy got hurt. ‘Have you ever done something you feel bad about?’

Dorothy recalled moments where she had felt a harsh poke in her stomach from hearing Aunt and Uncle’s scolding, but considering how those moments compared to this moment, that poke did not surface again. Still, she remembered how much she wished she could stop feeling bad about herself, but that was because she wanted to feel happy all the time.

Suddenly, she remembered her doctor, and how he never seemed to smile or laugh. If the Brain became as successful as he was without being happy, so perhaps her doctor became a doctor because he was never happy.

‘Ah. I can tell you’re considering it,’ said the Brain, ‘When you are like me, you pick up things like that. Are you good at picking up things?’

‘I’m not very strong…’

‘No, I mean, do you…notice things a lot?’

‘I…’ She kept herself upright. Aunt had said to treat people of authority with respect. ‘I don’t think I do,’ she replied, before she found herself backing away slightly.

‘I know what you’re thinking. You’re nervous, because you think I’m going to make you like I am, and you want to stay the way you are. And you want to go home.’ Despite being told that this being had no anger, Dorothy backed away and watched its arm. The Brain lifted his arm into the air, his pink head seemingly throbbing, and Dorothy shielded her face with her hands, closing her eyes as if doing so would stop the Brain.

Upon opening her eyes, she found an apple presented to her.

‘Here,’ said the Brain, ‘This should calm you down.’ Dorothy took the apple and played with it while observing the Brain and his movements. ‘We need to keep you as you are, you know.’

‘Why?’

‘I am not sure you would understand.’

‘No,’ said Dorothy, throwing away the apple, ‘Please, tell me.’

‘This place must be confusing enough for you,’ said the Brain, flinching. ‘I think you should have a lie down.’

‘No. What about Toto? Can I go home?’

‘See?’ The Brain jumped to his feet. ‘You’re too excited. You need to calm down.’

‘Are you scared of something?’

‘No! I told you, I have no emotions.’ The Brain stood perfectly still. ‘Now, I’ll try to keep you occupied until we need you.’

‘But what’s going to happen to Toto?’

‘I’m sure he will be fine.’ The Brain walked to the other side of the room, where there stood a large bookcase. Pulling out a book, he observed it before walking over to Dorothy. ‘Why didn’t you eat the apple I gave you?’

‘I wasn’t hungry.’

‘Oh. Well, would you like to read a story?’ His fingers drummed on the book. ‘It’s a story about your world.’

‘Really?’ said Dorothy, gaining a small piece of energy. ‘Where did you get it?’

The Brain’s eyes darted around so quickly, they looked like they would fall out of his pink head. ‘The Wizard gave it to me…’ Right as he covered his invisible mouth, he almost stumbled over before Dorothy picked him up.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine. I told you, I don’t feel any fear.’

Once again an argument raged in Dorothy’s head, one voice begging her to go to the door, find Toto and escape; that was what happened in the stories, after all. Then she was reminded what Aunt had told her about helping people who needed help and certainly this creature qualified. Toto needed help too, however, as he was in the long fingers of that horrible Wogglebug. The Brain worked for Wogglebug, though, and the Brain was a good person, so if he was working for Wogglebug then Wogglebug couldn’t have been bad.

Neither of those choices would bring her home, would they?

‘Anyway,’ said the Brain, ‘This story is written in your language. While the device I have given you translates our language vocally, it can’t translate our written language, so it is fortunate that I have this.’

She wanted to throw the book right at his head. She wanted to make him fall over so she could run out of the door. That door seemed to grow bigger and cried out to be opened, yet there was another force keeping Dorothy stuck in the room. While knowing full well this creature was not someone who wished her harm – at least it didn’t seem that way – a fire had ignited within her. She attempted to calm it by reading the book – ‘Great Expectations’. She opened the book and saw lots of words she didn’t understand the meaning of, but she didn’t focus on them. In her mind’s eye, she saw Toto in chains, in the furthest corner of a dank dungeon, whinging and yapping for Dorothy’s help. Before long, he was approached by a dragon, making the room shudder and quake with every step.

There had to be a dragon here. There was a wizard and all these strange creatures about so there had to be monsters.

She had to throw the book.

And a while later, she did.

Wogglebug had just entered the room, and as soon as he took his first step inside, ‘Great Expectations’ was thrown in his direction, but hadn’t managed to hit him. ‘You are quite excitable, aren’t you?’ said Wogglebug, ‘Well, you should be pleased. You’re going to be famous.’

Dorothy stayed silent.

‘We’ve been waiting for another human to come here. That ‘Wizard’ may have been supplying us with things from your world, but he’s so secretive. We’ve wanted to learn more about the world beyond, but it’s been so difficult.

‘But then there came the tornado. Many of us did retreat to our homes, believing it to be just a disaster, but I knew it would bring us something…important.’ He reached out to Dorothy, pulling his hand away when she snarled at him. ‘And now we have you.’

‘Where’s Toto?’

‘Your dog is fine,’ said Wogglebug in a monotonous way. ‘The Witch has him. I think he will make a nice pet for her.’

Dorothy no longer snarled, but backed away. Wizard. Witch. She told herself that she had wanted to go to a world like this in the past, but that little voice was drowned out by a multitude of other voices, causing her head to throb.

‘Soon,’ continued the Wogglebug, ‘News of you being here will bring the Wizard to us, and then,’ He rubbed Dorothy’s head. ‘Then you can go home.’

Dorothy turned away, shielding her face once again.

‘And you may have your dog back too.’

‘No!’ Dorothy cried. She ran to the door, slamming it open. Peering into the dark brown halls, she thought to herself which of the doors to use. She had gotten to the hall by letting her body overpower her brain, but surely she needed both were she to make a rescue and escape.

‘You brat!’ growled the Wogglebug as he approached. As soon as she heard his voice, Dorothy let her legs take her down the hallway with its infinite number of doors. Her ears, still with that device plugged into them, kept alert for any yipping or barking or whines.

Wait, what was that?

She was sure she heard Toto bark behind that door – the door with the light shining through its window. A special door. Her running ceased, just so she could listen harder and make sure. It was Toto’s barking, coupled with a series of screeches and burbling of some kind. Those other sounds may have slowed her down slightly, but she still crept slowly and silently towards the door.

Then she was stabbed in the shoulder.

‘I suppose we have to find other ways of making you co-operate,’ said Wogglebug as he pushed down the needle. He said more, but what he did say was nothing more than incoherent squawking once again. The halls began to bend and distort as Dorothy lost her balance, stumbling to the floor on her stomach.

She still heard Toto’s barking.

Soon enough, she drifted into darkness. It was like sleeping, only heavier and without dreams. She soon awoke, however, quicker than she usually did. Looking around, she saw that she was on a chair, padded like those of the Wogglebug’s carriage. She was in what looked like a bedroom, with a bed, a wardrobe, a bookcase, pictures of bizarre-looking monsters. No sign of Toto. She couldn’t hear his barking, nor his whines, or even the squeaking sounds she just heard in tandem with her dog.

She did hear breathing, however.

A harsh, rasp breathing that echoed throughout the room. A breathing that grew louder and louder.

From behind her, there came the dragon.

thewitch.png

A blue creature, bearing two black horns and an elongated mouth that accompanied hundreds of jagged, rotting teeth. Its most notable feature, however, was that while it did have one gleaming eyeball, its other socket was a big black hole.

This creature rendered Dorothy’s mind as empty as its eye-socket. There was one thought she had – this was the thing that ate Toto – but other than that, she could do nothing but stare at the wrinkled being as its neck stretched to observe her further. ‘I have heard,’ said the dragon in a croaky voice, ‘that you have been quite disobedient.’ Dorothy flinched from the stench of the dragon’s breath.

‘Well,’ continued the dragon, ‘I’m sure you regret doing such a thing. And now that you’re here, you won’t need to worry about that anymore.’  She – the voice sounded female – pulled back her head, making her neck seem slightly shorter. Still, she looked over Dorothy, wringing her wrinkled claws. ‘You do have one quality that has been lacking in this land, however.’

All of a sudden, Dorothy’s brain sparked, and she replied, ‘What’s that?’

‘Innocence.’

Dorothy shook, but all the dragon had to do was slam on the chair’s arm with her balled fist, and Dorothy was silent. ‘As the years have passed, we seem to be more and more isolated. Food has been scarce, there has been little liquid nourishment, and the population is dwindling. Thankfully, you’re here. You and the Wizard.’ Dorothy tried to respond, but all that came from her mouth were jibbers and squeaks. ‘What’s that? Why do I want the Wizard? Well, I’ll tell you…

‘A few weeks ago, my campaign to improve everyone in this world had been growing stronger and stronger. I had made one Munchkin, whose crops had gone bad, live without food, and I made another Munchkin think better. I believe you’ve met him.’

‘H-he’s…’ Dorothy croaked, ‘he’s my friend.’

‘Is he now? Anyway, we had heard many stories about humans and the world beyond the Deadly Desert, but we never thought a human would come here. Not long ago, a man we called “The Wizard” came, and he brought us objects and stories from his world. His world, has so much, so much devices, an array of beautiful and bewildering creatures. Oh, that reminds me.’ The dragon crawled away and returned with Toto, locked in a tiny cage.

‘Toto!’

‘Yes, Toto. An interesting specimen indeed. And, of course,’ She shook the cage, and listened to Toto whinge. ‘He is innocent too.’ As she licked her lips, she looked over Dorothy. ‘Don’t be scared.’

‘A-are you the Witch?’

‘Yes,’ replied the Witch. ‘I had another name back in the day, but I don’t need it anymore, for I am improved. “Witch” means a maker of magic, and that is what I am.’ She lifted her head up in the air to solidify her point, and then lowered it over Dorothy’s own. ‘But I digress. He came to us, but he’s been constantly hiding. He gives us something from his world, then he leaves us. I have tried searching for the vehicle he came in, but to no avail. Then you came along, and I can make the Wizard come to me. Surely he would not abandon his own species.’

‘C-can he take me h-h-home?’

The Witch’s one eye twirled around. ‘He very well could, and I bet he will. And I will come too. Not only will we then have a constant supply of food and new technology, I will be able to make more people’s lives better. I’ll make you better too…but only after the Wizard arrives. Until then, we wait.’ She added, in a slightly softer tone, ‘Would you like something to drink?’

Dorothy didn’t reply, but the Witch crawled off anyway, leaving Dorothy alone in the bedroom, with nothing except her own thoughts. So Dorothy thought, thought about the Witch said about improvements. Aunt and Uncle had always told Dorothy to improve herself. ‘You need to improve your attitude, young lady,’ Aunt had said constantly, and Dorothy heard that phrase echo throughout the room she was trapped in. If Aunt had joined her in this land, she would have said it some more.

The room had two doors. One door was unlocked, revealing a bathroom. The other was the one the Witch had slithered through, and it could not be opened. Dorothy knew it was futile to try, but her hand still tugged and pounded on the door, as much as she told herself otherwise.

The words of Aunt and the Witch found their way back into her skull.

With the door still refusing to release her, Dorothy slumped onto the bed, and lay down on it. It was cold, yet Dorothy remained there as she tried to clear her mind. She had tried to empty her brain of troubling thoughts in the past and always found looking at the ceiling did just that.

Except this ceiling had a big black eyeball.


Dorothy did not know how many days she had spent in the room. Her best estimate was three or four, but the way time seemed to speed up and slow down had made it hard for her to count. When she thought of whether or not the Witch was coming in to improve her, the time quickened, but then there were bursts of excitement at the possibility that she may be returned home, and everything slowed to a crawl.

What did time matter in a room as empty as this, however? Nobody came except for the Witch, who would shove a glass of brown liquid through a slot in the door. Dorothy liked the drinks – they tasted just like water with a pinch of spice – but she wished the Witch wouldn’t enter at all.

Back on the farm, she had little toys or luxuries, but she made do with her imagination and, of course, with thoughts of Toto. The room had as much as her farm did, yet there was nothing for her to do here except sleep, drink and wait. Her fantasies had died, and Toto was still being kept by the Witch.

That one day began with a prolonged lie on the seat, with small hopes of awaking in her usual bed, her body numb until the door opened.

The Brain entered.

That squirming feeling subsided as he came in, and Dorothy’s brain demanded she leave the room immediately. Energy surged within her as she ran to the opening the Brain had created, images of saving Toto and feeling his tongue against her face again flashing in front of her. Before she could reach the corridor, however, the Brain seized her by the wrist.

‘If you leave here,’ said the Brain, pointing upwards, ‘you won’t be able to go back home.’ Holding her hand just like Uncle did, he took her back to her seat. ‘I think the Wizard is coming today.’

Dorothy flinched. ‘What is he going to do with me?’

His hands on her shoulders, the Brain crouched down to speak to Dorothy. ‘He will bring you home, and he will help us.’ His head gestured towards the eye on the ceiling. ‘Thanks to that little thing, the people of this land know you’re here.’ He turned back to her, his brain beginning to engulf his eyes. ‘You’re bringing them hope.’

With Dorothy on the chair, the Brain walked over to the door and locked it again. ‘I do think,’ he added, ‘That it’s cruel to keep you here alone. I’ll stay with you.’

‘Thank you,’ was Dorothy’s only response.

The Brain walked over to the corner of the room, and sat, not bothered by the state. Although the chair was much more comfortable, Dorothy walked over to him and sat beside him.

‘Tell me what your world is like.’

Dorothy opened her mouth to answer, but the words slipped through her. Him asking about where she lived made her think of home. Aunt, Uncle, the house standing proud against the monochrome waste. Toto.

‘You can’t tell me, can you? That’s because you have emotions.’ The Brain looked up at the ceiling, towards the eye. ‘I’m not sure you should go home the way you are. If you had no emotions, like I have, you would be able to get things done much easier.’

Dorothy punched him in the arm.

‘That did not hurt,’ said the Brain as he stood upwards, ‘but may I enquire why you did that?’

Yet again, Dorothy couldn’t answer. Her mind flashed again to the doughman in her house. The imperfect doughman who had little food and little resources. After a minute, she managed a ‘I’m sorry.’

The Brain sat down again, rubbing his head. ‘Don’t be sorry. It does not bother me. I only asked for logical reasons.’ He turned to Dorothy again. ‘Is your world beautiful?’ Dorothy nodded. ‘I remember seeing a picture,’ the Brain continued, ‘of what your world looks like. It had these fields of yellow sticks, and the sky was blue.’

Then he hung his head.

In spite of the Brain’s reassurances, the rest of the day passed without any mention of the Wizard. The door remained locked, and despite the Brain being in the room with her, Dorothy did nothing as she did the other days she was in the room. One of her brains did suggest she try and escape, but another brain reminded her of how she was apparently bringing the people of this world hope. Would that make up for the poor Munchkin she and Toto hurt? She did not know, and couldn’t bring herself to ask the Brain.

The next day, the door opened again. Wogglebug stood before her, still donning his flat black.

‘The Wizard is here.’

Once again, Dorothy’s feet took her to the doorway, and once again she was grabbed on. The Wogglebug wrapped his fingers around her shoulder, and led her down the hallway. ‘Am I really going home?’

Wogglebug snorted, turning his head upwards. ‘Of course you are.’

‘Is Toto coming?’

‘Yes, Toto is coming.’

Dorothy looked at the floor, as Wogglebug’s stare seemed to sting. Hearing an extra set of footsteps, she looked up and saw the Brain following them. He looked almost as regal as Wogglebug, with his brain turned to the ceiling and his arms behind his back.

The abyss that seemed to lurk at the end of the hallway shrunk away until it revealed a door, much bigger than the others in the hallway. Wogglebug pushed it open and there once again was the dragon, her face stretched into a smile. This room was better-lit then the one Dorothy had spent so many days in, so the Witch’s scales, her horns and the black hole where an eye should have been were all that much clearer.

In front of the Witch there stood a portly man in faded clothes. Dorothy jumped to see a fellow human, but the stare of the Witch forced her to stand still once more. The man turned to her, revealing a dirty white moustache above a set of crooked teeth.

‘You see,’ said the Witch, twiddling her claws, ‘we do have the child here. We’ll let you send her back home if you co-operate with us.’

‘I do see,’ replied the man, obviously the Wizard, in a hoarse voice, ‘But…’

‘But what?’ The Witch roared, and her jaw seemed to stretch to her hips. ‘Look at me.’ Stretching out her claw, she snatched the Wizard’s collar, bringing him closer to her. ‘I used to be a fat little blob of nothing.’ Her snout pointed at a picture of another doughman, or doughwoman as the case might be. A Munchkin. ‘Now…now I’ve become something much more. I can see in the dark, I can hunt succulent beings much better…’ Her claws dug deeper into the Wizard’s shoulder. ‘Just think what I can do to you.’

All of a sudden, she released him, and her very form stretched to the ceiling. ‘You are denying your species the chance to be perfect, like your species has constantly been denying us your resources!’ She turned to the Brain, and suddenly, the Brain held Dorothy close to his chest.

A sharp object came closer to Dorothy’s neck.

‘Just think, if you don’t work with me and bring me to your world, your conscience will suffer oh so greatly. Not only will you have deprived both our worlds a chance to better themselves, a little girl will have died because of you.’ She bent over to look at Dorothy, her spine bending like wire. ‘A shame if she were to die. She reminds me of a younger me.’

Dorothy’s two brains argued once again. One brain said to spit in the Witch’s face. Another called attention to the sharp object –it looked like a knife but it wasn’t a knife – and noted that would be a reason to keep quiet. She stayed quiet, and her attention was turned towards the Wizard, pacing to and fro.

‘You came here in a flying vehicle, did you not? Take me to that vehicle immediately, and the child will be spared.’

Dorothy noticed the Wizard had been as quiet as she, and had been shuddering too, which gave her a small relief. As the sharp blade moved an inch away from her neck, the Wizard spoke. ‘I have been studying this world for a while now, and you have been one of the more interesting facets.’ The Witch placed her claws on her hips and beamed an elongated smile. ‘However,’ said the Wizard, attempting to look the Witch right in the face. ‘I am not sure you are…ahem…ready for our world just yet. I mean, it took me a long time to be accepted into your world, and the people of my home are far less tolerant then the people of your home. If you are really eager about going to my world, then perhaps I could bring one of your people…’

‘No,’ cried the Witch. ‘I must see your world with my eye.’ Pointing at said eye, she continued, ‘I am the only one in this land who can fully understand what your world has to offer.’

‘Well…’ The Wizard began, following it up with nothing but a minute of silence.

Wogglebug flinched. ‘You don’t want to help us, do you? You only want to write about us and tell all your friends back home.’ Swiftly, he snatched from the Wizard a selection of papers he had been carrying around under his coat. ‘I can’t make heads or tails of this language, but it’s certainly treating us like we’re animals. Creatures at the zoo for little children to giggle at.’ His antennae relaxing, Wogglebug’s head moved to the Brain’s direction. ‘Speaking of which.’

‘Indeed,’ replied the Witch.

Dorothy’s brains had nothing to say.

She so wanted to close her eyes, but they demanded they stay open as the Brain brought the blade closer to her throat. It did not dig into her skin, but she still felt its rough surface against her neck. It was like a rock, only with an added chill to it.

‘Do it!’ cried the Witch, right before the blade dug into her throat.

The Brain shoved Dorothy away, sending her tumbling to the floor, and stabbed the Witch in her gigantic neck. ‘Run!’ cried the Brain as Wogglebug tended to his mistress, and in seconds, Dorothy found herself grabbed by both the Brain and the Wizard, running down the corridors to the beat of Wogglebug’s screeches.

‘Wait!’ cried Dorothy, but then there came a message that wanting Toto back was the reason she ended up in this world in the first place, so she continued to let the Brain and the Wizard take her outside.

With the front doors closed, the three took a minute to regain their breath. As Dorothy’s head began to clear, and she regained her balance, she asked the Brain, ‘Why did you do that?’

The Brain, brushing off his coat, replied, ‘Beca…’ Before he could answer, he brought himself to face the Wizard. ‘Because I want to come with you.’

The three walked away from the tower, and then the Wizard began to explain. ‘I came here by choice, you see. I wanted to find this place. A country, separated from the rest of the world by a desert that kills on contact, with its own creatures and culture. I have been bringing you things from my world to observe how you would react to them, and I have been compiling notes on your behaviour.’

‘I am a logical being,’ said the Brain, raising a finger, ‘so I believe it would improve your research greatly if I were to accompany you. Then I would have a selection of things to interact with.’

Dorothy listened to the conversation, but she also looked back on the castle she had just left, the castle she had spent several days trapped in before the brave knights came to her rescue. She thought of the weak little dragon, dying from the blade stuck in her neck.

She thought of her murderer.

‘Come. I’ll take you both to my hot air balloon.’

Her head burst into flames. In Dorothy’s mind there screamed a voice that demanded she go back to the tower and leave the Brain to his own devices. There was a witch who had offered to improve Dorothy, who had tried to give her people hope, and she was dying and needed help. As soon as Dorothy’s legs wriggled towards that building, another voice screeched that Dorothy was going to be killed, Toto was still held captive and that this was the only chance she had to go home. The image of her Aunt and Uncle with arms wide open soothed her, but it was immediately replaced by the weak witch in a puddle of blood, and an angry Wogglebug nearing Toto.

Go back, she thought.

No stay, she thought.

Go back, she thought.

No stay, she thought.

Go back

No stay

Dorothy collapsed.


The next thing Dorothy knew she was in the Wizard’s balloon. It had landed.

Peeking out of the basket, which almost dwarfed her, she saw that she had not landed in her home. She wasn’t in grey Kansas, rather a brightly coloured forest. The sky was blue, the floor was covered in light browns and oranges.

She was the only one in the basket.

Stumbling out of the basket, she looked around for any sign of the Wizard, or at least a way back to Kansas. She walked aimlessly about the forest, the leaves crunching under her feet, and though she still looked for a way home, she embraced the lighter air of the forest.

After half an hour or so, she didn’t find the Wizard. But she did find the Brain.

He sat on the ground and looked up at the sky. She did so too.

Her mind was a complete blank.

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.’