Gilgamesh And The Echidna

One of the many things at which I dabble but never take a deep interest in is ancient history — you know, all the really old stuff that happened in places like Rome, Sumer, Atlantis and so on. As a result of this wishy-washy, hot and cold, neither here nor there fascination, I have recently been reading a book on Sumerian literature, something that most people don’t even know exists (i should clarify that it is Sumerian literature, not books, of which most people are unaware. Obviously, many people are aware of the existence of books) and so I thought I would share some bits of this fascinating culture’s mythology with all the unwashed masses out there. Here, then, is an extremely informal retelling of the great Sumerian epic “Gilgamesh And The Echidna.”

One sunny Sumerian day, about five thousand years ago, the great warrior king Gilgamesh, whose name translates as “Big, Muscly Dude With Long Pointy Beard,” was sitting in the shade of a ziggurat in Uruk, a city known in its day as “The Las Vegas of the Euphrates,” being entertained by his pet echidna, Joseph Wilson, whose name translates as “Joseph Wilson.” Joseph Wilson was a very special echidna, for he had been made from the wood of a tree from the garden of Inanna, the Goddess Of Sarcastic Comments, and could not only play chess and checkers but also sing and dance – he was especially good at standards such as “I Got Rhythm” and “Singing In The Rain.” As Joseph Wilson was about to launch into the second verse of “Singing In The Rain,” Gilgamesh heard a terrible rumbling, as if the earth itself had eaten too much bad chili, and suddenly a crack appeared in the earth, and into the crack that appeared in the earth fell his beloved pet echidna, Joseph Wilson. Down Joseph went, sinking into the stygian darkness like a spiky marsupial falling into a very dark place, and causing Gilgamesh much distress, for Gilgamesh knew well that what lay under the earth was the dreaded Sumerian underworld, Irkalla – the Land Of The Dead and kingdom of Ereshkigal, Goddess Of The Underworld. Peering down into the hole, Gilgamesh saw that his echidna had landed in Ereshkigal’s arms and so he yelled out, “Oi! Give me back me echidna, ya bloody wanker!”

And up from the hellish depths sounded a sepulchral voice…

“I don’t think so, knucklehead. Joseph Wilson is a very entertaining little fellow, and we have no cable down here and our internet is always conking out on us! So nuts to you!” replied Ereshkigal before running away with Joseph Wilson lifted high over her head. Gilgamesh then realized that there was no other solution to this problem than to descend into the underworld to retrieve his musical marsupial. Usually this would be the kind of task that would fall to Gilgamesh’s servant, Stepin Fetchit, but that particular day Stepin was away at an NAACP meeting, so Gilgamesh had to do his own dirty work for once.

Storming home in a huff (a huff was a sort of ancient Sumerian chariot) Gilgamesh went into his armory to make ready for his excursion into the much dreaded Land of the Dead, a terrible place where souls were lost, the senses dulled, and the French fries always a little too salty. Putting on his armor, which, like pretty much everything else in Sumer, was made of mud, was a bit of a bother without Stepin to help him, so he called out to his neighbor’s Mexican gardener Enkidu, who came round and helped to strap him into the armor with the help of some Krazy Glue. Then Gilgamesh grabbed his shield, strapped to his belt a small bag full of odds and ends that might come in handy when facing the undead, and picked up a large petrified salami which he had brought back after his last trip to Italy. Making his way back to the hole in the ground into which Joseph Wilson had fallen, Gilgamesh tied a rope to the ziggurat and ordered Enkidu to stay by the rope till he was told otherwise or until the immigration people came round, whichever happened first. Then the great warrior king Gilgamesh climbed down the hole into the netherworld to retrieve his beloved echidna.

After what seemed like several hours of climbing down the rope and then some unpleasantly carpeted stairs, but was in fact only about 1 minute and 17 seconds, Gilgamesh arrived at the bottom of the crevasse ( a crevasse was an ancient, Sumerian hole in the ground.) At first, he could see for only about five cubits in front of him, so dark was the underworld into which he had bravely descended. But as his eyes adjusted to the gloom Gilgamesh was able to see more and more cubits, and eventually he noticed a sinister gated wall off in the distance. This, he knew from watching documentaries on the History Channel, was the first of the seven successive gates to the underworld. And so, steeling himself for the fearsome task ahead, his petrified salami in hand, the great warrior king set off to rescue his echidna.

Arriving at the first of the seven gates, Gilgamesh was stopped by its monstrous guardian, an eight armed creature wearing the skins of the dead, an undersized bowler hat, and garish, neon-green spandex tights. When this civil servant from hell asked Gilgamesh to surrender his underwear, Gilgamesh diplomatically replied…

“What the bloody hell for, ya wallaby’s arsehole?”

“It is the law of Ereshkigal, o’ foul-mouthed one. All must surrender an item of clothing as they pass each gate. Don’t blame me, dude, I just work here.”

“Bah! Screw the bloody rules!” said Gilgamesh, as he struck the many-armed guardian’s head with the petrified salami, causing him to cry out in much pain and reach for a bottle of aspirins. And so it went as Gilgamesh made his way through the seven gates. Each time the gate’s fearsome guardian would ask for an item of clothing, and each time Gilgamesh would knock them senseless with the petrified salami and continue merrily on his way. Finally, still fully clad in his mighty armor of mud, Gilgamesh arrived at the door to Ganzer, the underground palace in which Ereshkigal dwelt with her husband Nergal and a family of slightly retarded millennials. Gilgamesh thumped his mighty fist on the massive wooden door and yelled, “Oi, it’s Gilgamesh ‘ere! I’ve come for me echidna! Give him over if you know what’s good for ya, ya dumb wombats!”

At this stately introduction the door was opened by Charlie Chan, who had been invited over for the weekend and who explained that no other visitors were being permitted at this moment as the Queen of the Underworld and her family were in the middle of filming their reality TV show, “Keeping Up With ‘Kigal”. Displeased at this unexpected impediment, Gilgamesh kicked the door in and stormed into the gloomy palace. After beating the camera crew senseless with the petrified salami and choking several TV executives to death with their own beards, Gilgamesh confronted Ereshkigal and demanded she hand over his echidna.

“Oi! Give me back me echidna, ya platypus’s bollock!” he yelled ferociously while wildly waving his salami in the air.

But Ereshkigal was not one to be easily intimidated, for was she not the Queen of the Underworld? Did she not command an army of the undead? Had she not been the head of the AV club in High School? No, Ereshkigal was not one to give up her ill-earned echidna so easily, and so she repeatedly struck Gilgamesh with a can of salmon that she carried for such purposes till his head throbbed and his ears rang. Gilgamesh was so enraged by this piece of fishy business that he smashed Ereshkigal’s head with the frozen salami, causing her to bounce off the walls of her palace like a manic pinball (pinball was an ancient Sumerian game that involved bouncing dwarves off palace walls.) Neither Ereshkigal’s family nor Charlie Chan could let this pass, so they attacked Gilgamesh by throwing balls of mud at him, for in Sumer, below as above, there wasn’t much but mud. Overwhelmed by so many opponents and blinded by the mud in his eyes, all Gilgamesh could do was to swing his salami wildly around in the hopes that it would hit someone. It was at this point that Joseph Wilson, who had been sitting quietly on the sidelines, eating a bowl of sugared ants and enjoying the show, decided to take action. Grabbing a rope conveniently dangling from the ceiling, Joseph Wilson swung around like some spiky little Errol Flynn, kicking his master’s assailants in the back of their heads while singing an Irving Berlin medley which, for some strange reason, included snatches from Judas Priest’s “Beyond The Realms Of Death.”

Thanks to Joseph Wilson’s distraction, Gilgamesh was able to find himself a bottle of Seltzer and soon sprayed the mud out of his eyes. His sight restored, Gilgamesh and his salami swung into action. Undead bodyguards went flying all over the place, walls and ceilings came crashing down, and soon he and Joseph Wilson had laid waste to their enemies and the palace was littered with the corpses of the dead, the moans of the dying, and the sounds of retarded millennials taking selfies in front of the carnage.

By now Ereshkigal had stopped wildly bouncing off the walls and stood up, dusted herself off, and confronted Gilgamesh and his echidna. Furious, she pulled out a scythe and threatened to behead Joseph Wilson, stating that if she couldn’t have the magical marsupial, neither could anyone else. Enraged by this threat against his echidna, Gilgamesh reached into his little bag of odds and ends and pulled out a fistful of marbles, which he threw into Ereshkigal’s path as she charged towards them at full speed. Stepping on the marbles, Ereshkigal went comically flying through the air, allowing Gilgamesh enough time to grab the scythe and slice her head clean off. Being the Queen Of The Underworld, however, this did not kill her, though it did stop her from doing any line dancing for a while. Grabbing her head and placing it on a nearby pile of corpses, Gilgamesh told Ereshkigal to leave well enough alone and allow him and Joseph Wilson to depart in peace or he would call PETA and have her charged with echidna-napping – just imagine the furor that would cause on social media! Fearing that the outrage of millions of tweeting pinheads would be damaging to her incipient career as a reality TV star, Ereshkigal grudgingly allowed Gilgamesh and his echidna to depart for the upper world, but not before putting a curse on Gilgamesh that his mud armor would mysteriously turn to brown sludge as soon as the rains arrived – which is why you very rarely see Sumerians wearing mud armor these days. And so Gilgamesh and Joseph Wilson departed for the upper world, where they lived and danced and sang happily ever after, all while being very careful to avoid large holes in the ground.

And that, boys and girls, is the tale of how Gilgamesh vanquished Ereshkigal and her army of the undead and rescued his beloved echidna from the underworld. Some day, i will get around to telling you the story of how Gilgamesh convinced the IRS to given him a 30 day extension – but that is a tale for another day.

The Many Woes of Timmy Martin

timmy and lassie

Timmy Martin (on the right) looking spaced out on mushrooms as his best friend Lassie worriedly ponders what kind of mischief he will get himself into next.

Have you ever looked at one of your friends through a goldfish bowl? No, of course you haven’t! What kind of idiot would do such a bizarre thing?!?!? But this isn’t about you, or your goldfish, or your friends! No, this is about an old TV show called “Lassie” and an old TV kid called Timmy Martin, so stop being so damn self-centered!

But anyway.

Being an urbane and sophisticated man of culture, I make it my business to acquaint myself with as many fine cultural products as I possibly can. More often than not, what this adds up to is looking through the bargain bins and thrift shops for DVDs of old TV shows. This is how I came to be acquainted with the old “Lassie” TV series, the one that was set on a farm, and which began in the Fifties and ended at about the same time as that war where the US got beaten up by little yellow men. Unlike many once-popular TV shows, some of which have ended up as palatable as a bottle of milk that’s been lying in the sun since the Eisenhower administration, this one has held up nicely and is still rather entertaining, albeit not quite what I expected.

A couple of things strike me as odd about the classic Lassie series. The first is Lassie herself. Sure, she’s a sort of Super Dog who understands everything the humans say, she opens windows and doors all by herself, and does all the family’s accounting, but I can’t help but notice that she also does a lot of whining. In fact, whining seems to be her most common vocalization. This leads me to believe that Lassie is some sort of neurotic worrier who is constantly fretting over the most minor of things and that she could probably use some Valium, or at least a week in the Hamptons. Really, the old girl needs to learn to relax or she’s going to get an ulcer or drop dead of a heart attack – and then who will get Timmy out of trouble?

And that’s the other odd thing – poor Timmy is always finding himself in some sort of trouble, usually rather bizarre trouble. These troubles are too numerous to enumerate, but a few instances seem especially worthy of closer analysis, so here goes nothing – and let’s hope I’m not attacked by the refrigerator while I’m writing this thing.

In “Lassie and the Tiger,” Timmy finds himself trapped inside the house with an escaped tiger. A German tiger, at that, and no doubt some sort of Nazi war criminal just stopping over on his way to Argentina. What happens is that young Timmy goes off to the local fishin’ hole to do some fishin’ and runs into a tiger that’s gone a-swimmin’. Yes, if anyone could do something as unlikely as run into a tiger while fishing, it’s our boy Timmy! Neither Timmy nor Lassie are terribly pleased at this turn of events, but at least Timmy has the good sense to not go chasing after the thing! Not that it does him much good, as the tiger somehow evades Lassie and manages to double back and follow Timmy home. Like a not-so-ancient mariner, Timmy knows that something frightful doth close behind him tread. But he’s too smart to provoke the tiger by making a run for it, so he just keeps walking, albeit with a rather worried look on his face! When they get home, Timmy cleverly closes the door before the tiger can follow him inside, but the tiger is offended at having the door slammed in his face so he climbs in through the kitchen window and now Timmy is trapped in the kitchen with a tiger who can’t cook! Poor Timmy is so freaked out that he starts climbing the furniture! But, luckily, this is a gourmet tiger who prefers pancakes and waffles to little boys, and so he retaliates against his host’s rude behavior by eating the breakfast leftovers! All turns out well, of course, when the tiger is captured by the police and taken off to the hoosegow while ranting about the Jews and the communists.

Then there’s “Timmy Pisses Off the Police,” in which our hero gets several tickets for running red lights and speeding while frantically driving a pregnant Lassie to the dog hospital. Luckily, the cunning little fellow has disguised Lassie in a blonde wig and one of his mother’s old maternity dresses, so the cops think they are dealing with a human pregnancy and end up giving Timmy and the missus an escort to the hospital. Unfortunately, it’s a human hospital so the doctors are all seriously freaked out when “Mrs. Martin” finally drops her six surprise packages! Fearing an epidemic of furry little children, the hospital calls in the Centers for Disease Control, who proceed to blame the whole event on some insidious plot by the communists, probably something to do with fluoridization of the water supply. In the ensuing chaos, Timmy, Lassie, and the kids manage to escape back to the farm by hiding in the laundry hamper and pretending to be some dirty shirts.

Unlike that other yellow-haired trouble magnet, Bart Simpson, Timmy never wound up trapped down a well — but he did wind up trapped up a cliff! This unlikely event befalls him in “The Rescue,” an episode in which, like some stupid cat, Timmy climbs halfway up a cliff face before realizing that he can neither continue upwards nor go back down! And now the cliff is starting to crumble! And there’s a scorpion in his shoe! And he needs his insulin! But luckily there is a man flying a helicopter nearby and he throws a lifejacket down to Timmy, proving once again that pilots are idiots! Now Timmy’s mom comes along and lights a fire to attract another, hopefully more intelligent, helicopter pilot. But the fire turns out to be a very smoky one, so now on top of everything else Timmy has smoke in his eyes and can’t see squat! And then things get even worse! The fire spreads! Now the whole countryside is on fire! And Timmy is still stuck up the cliff and waiting for his insulin! And Lassie is just sitting around looking like she doesn’t give a crap! But now a second helicopter pilot arrives. He lands and asks Timmy’s mother how the hell the kid got up there, to which Timmy’s mom earnestly replies that her son is a congenital idiot. Then the pilot gets back in the copter and lowers a rope. But he does so before taking off, and so it doesn’t work! Now he’s up in the air, and gets the rope to Timmy, and Timmy is finally off the cliff and back on the ground! But now there’s still the fire to be put out! Then Lassie, finally leaping into action, takes advantage of the pilot being distracted by putting out the fire to steal the man’s helicopter, no doubt for some nefarious purpose of her own.

In “Peace Patrol” everything starts out well — if you can call taking part in a program aimed at getting kids to give Richard Nixon their money “starting out well.” It would appear that back in the Fifties Uncle Sam had a government savings bond program for children, the idea being to con little kids into lending the government their pocket money by getting the Lone Ranger to spout some jingoistic claptrap. Timmy, being a typically naïve American, decides to take part in the program and starts saving up his pennies so he can help the Peace Patrol fight those damn dirty commies! Soon, however, the box containing all the Peace Patrol money goes missing and Timmy ends up being accused of being a communist himself and brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee. As per the usual formula, all turns out well after Lassie sneaks into the hearings cunningly disguised as a guy selling peanuts and tears out Joe McCarthy’s throat. Of course, as any amateur historian knows, McCarthy didn’t actually carry out the HUAC hearings, but on that particular day he was there just to gloat and his grisly death provided Lassie and Timmy with the distraction they needed to make a clean getaway…

In “Little Boy Lost,” Timmy somehow ends up trapped in the brand new refrigerator, which seems to be some sort of gateway to another dimension. While trapped in this other dimension Timmy can’t be seen, but he can be heard constantly pleading for some DDT as the place is crawling with more bugs than a Mexican burrito. Weary of his constant complaints, mom and dad tie a rope around Lassie’s waist and send her in to retrieve him. Finding the boy, Lassie takes his head in her mouth and drags him back to our dimension. But, Timmy being Timmy, right after escaping from the refrigerator he is attacked by a barrel and ends up spending six weeks in a coma!

Then there’s “The Space Traveler,” in which the poor little fellow becomes radioactive! I kid you not – he goes out playing in the woods and bumps into a NASA capsule that has dropped from space. Problem is, it was sent up into a radiation belt or some such thing and so just by handling it poor Timmy has become radioactive! You can tell he’s radioactive because when they run the Geiger counter over him the thing goes nuts! To make matters worse, there’s a guinea pig inside the capsule and Timmy accidentally sets it loose! So now he’s radioactive and being sued by the U.S government for stealing a highly trained, genetically modified guinea pig who, it was hoped, would one day run for the U.S senate! Once again all ends well when Lassie finds the escaped guinea pig down at the bank trying to cash in his Lone Ranger savings bonds so he can flee the country and Timmy is taken to the local army base to be de-contaminated.

In “The Champ” Timmy falls into an empty, abandoned, swimming pool while trying to rescue a piglet. Not such bad news, really, except that while trying to escape he knocks open some valve or something and now the pool is filling up! With the help of an improvised slingshot Timmy manages to hurl the piglet out of the pool and into the next county, but is himself still trapped. Presumably not having learnt to swim, Timmy realizes that he is about to suffer a biblical fate and needs succor real soon. Luckily this arrives in the form of Timmy’s dad, who has been summoned by the piglet, and who pulls Timmy out of the pool. Where Lassie is in all this, I do not know. Hell, maybe she’s finally spending that week in the Hamptons! This is also one of the few episodes that led to real life trouble for Timmy & Co, as the pig in question was part black and part white. This led Billy Bob Succotash, Grand Wizard of the Alabama chapter of the Klan, to lead a campaign trying to get the show cancelled, complaining that, “That there pig is miscejuh…er…miseguh…er. That there pig had a white momma and a black daddy!”

In “Bows and Arrows,” for some inexplicable reason, Timmy and an older kid with no chin and a really annoying personality are out trying to catch themselves a lynx. While chinless goes off to try to kill the critter with a bow and a stolen arrow, Timmy, being a more compassionate sort, busies himself setting up one of those snares where you bend a small tree, tie a rope to it, then put a noose on the other end, stick it on the ground and hope some idiot comes along and ends up hanging upside down from the tree. In this case the snare works and Timmy gets his wish but, alas, the idiot in question is himself! Yes, in classic cartoon fashion, Timmy somehow ends up snared by his own snare and hanging upside down like a side of pork! And to make matters worse, that lynx has decided to come ‘round and he thinks that pork looks pretty good! So now Timmy is swinging back and forth trying to avoid the cat’s attempts to rip his head off, and everyone is freaking out and in a general panic. But worry not, for Lassie, despite having been accidentally shot in the shoulder by the jerk with no chin, comes to the rescue and beats the ferocious kitty senseless with a baseball bat, and then a man comes along and shoots the bad kitty dead. Timmy is pulled down from the tree and, not wanting to waste the meat, takes the lynx home so he can make him into some lasagna.

Guess what happens in “Timmy Falls Through The Floor”? That’s right, the poor kid ends up lost at sea. No, I’m kidding – he actually falls through the floor. Seems young Timmy and his outsized friend Boomer (played by a young Meat Loaf in one of his earliest acting roles) are out gathering bioluminescent fungus as part of a dastardly plan to gross out some girls, when the two venture into some sort of abandoned cabin, the floor gives way (Master Loaf’s fault, no doubt) and both Timmy and Boomer end up trapped in what appears to be the cellar. To make things worse the place is condemned and due to be demolished – and guess when the bulldozer turns up! That’s right, several months after Timmy and Boomer have escaped! No, I’m kidding again – it’s while they are still trapped inside. Lassie tries to chew her way through the outside cellar door, but the old girl’s teeth just aren’t up to it so instead she just stands around looking pathetic. Luckily, Boomer saves the day by scaring the bulldozers away by belting out a stirring rendition of “Bat Out Of Hell,” an especially impressive feat as it takes place almost twenty years before the song was written!

And those are just the highlights. Don’t get me started on Timmy being attacked by geese, pecked by chickens, hassled by Krishnas, taking too much LSD and hallucinating about figures from Greek mythology, being freaked out by an eclipse, living on the world’s fakest-looking farm, causing army planes to crash, and getting an attack of appendicitis with complications ( the complications being that one of his legs falls off. ) Whoever would have guessed that the world of the Fifties was such a dangerous place for children? Maybe Timmy should have just drawn the curtains and stayed home all day, but with his luck a tiger would probably have broken in…

The Thing in the Pond

The Thing in the Pond

(A Chronicle of My Expedition Into The Old Curwen Mansion. )


Part One

Wherein Ambrose is Called Upon To Solve a Problem Most Dire

There was thunder in the air on the night I went to the old Curwen mansion to find the Thing in the Pond.

Large and rambling, with a Victorian facade surrounded by a few rank sedges (fresh sedges being unavailable at that time of year) the building had for many decades been abandoned to the elements, and only recently had it been re-occupied by a Prof. Howard Phillips, an academic renowned for his deep and comprehensive knowledge of 12th century haberdashery. The professor had recently retired and decided to open a guest house, for which purpose he purchased the aforementioned property. Not long after opening his doors things began to go badly, and knowing of my reputation as an investigator of such matters he had chosen to consult me in hopes of gaining aid.

My host awaited at the end of the mansion’s driveway. This was a bookish character with a slight stoop and a demeanor at once friendly and nervous – I speak here of the man, not of his driveway.

“Mr. Mugwump,” he said cheerfully, giving me his hand, “So glad to see you!”

I took his hand and replied…

“Glad to be here, professor. And looking forward to ridding you of your problem, whatever it may be.”

The social pleasantries over, I gave the professor back his hand and we moved inside, and as we did so I noticed a garland of garlic garnishing the front door. I turned to Prof. Phillips.

“You are aware that garlic is considered a remedy only for vampires?”

“Yes,” he responded, “but it wasn’t my idea. It was the doing of my elderly house keeper, and as it seems to give her some peace of mind I have decided to leave it in place. Also, I find it a great aid in keeping away those darned Scientologists.”

After a supper during which I gleefully devoured two chicken carcasses, a ham, and several napkins, we sat around the fire, it being my intention to gather as much data as I could about my host’s current predicament.

“Well, Mr. Mugwump, it’s the damnedest thing,” the professor began in a tone suggesting that he had begun. “During the renovations one of my workmen disappeared. Well, the man had a reputation as a drifter, so we thought nothing of it and proceeded with the work. Then, shortly after opening the establishment to the public, my guests started to vanish. Thirty six so far, and needless to say, business has suffered to the point that a once promising enterprise is now reduced to only two guests, both of them quite mad, I’m afraid.”

“Poor chaps, I can see how the disappearance of so many of their fellow lodgers, combined with the oppressive, gothic atmosphere of this place would drive one mad,” I added sympathetically.

“Actually, they were already mad when they arrived. Too many magazine articles about Kim Kardashian, I’m afraid.”



Wherein Ambrose Is Rudely Awakened By A Beeping In The Night


Not one to waste time, as soon as the professor and his two resident loonies had retired I set up my equipment in the living room. This consisted of my patented Inter-Dimensional Energy Detector, a portable and complex doohickey designed to measure inter-dimensional energies of the kind often generated by paranormal phenomena such as ghosts, poltergeists, and Scotsmen who pick up the bill. After positioning the device on the coffee table, I settled into a large and comfortable armchair by the fireplace, adjusted the firewood with a nearby poker, and started to read the latest issue of Haberdasher’s Monthly while keeping one alert eye on my clumsily named gizmo. As I started to nod off, somewhere around 3.17 am, I became aware of a faint beeping emanating from the Inter-Dimensional Energy Detector. Forcing myself to rise, I grabbed a poker from the fireplace, lest I need to defend myself against whatever unholy abomination stalked these halls. Almost immediately I screamed out in pain, as I had inadvertently picked up a rather hot poker which some fool had carelessly left lying in the fire. As my scream abated, I realized that it had been matched by other sounds, the first being a wet, shambling sound – as of a large and cumbersome cephalopod trying to learn how to do the Charleston while wearing ballet shoes – and the second being that of a sepulchral yet high pitched voice – as of a zombified operatic soprano – crying out the lone word “Yikes!” from outside the French windows that opened out onto the hotel’s rear yard. By now the ruckus had roused the sleeping professor from his sleep and he had come down the stairs doing his best impression of an angry, middle class Englishman.

“What in tarnation is going on down here? I say, old chap, you had best explain this commotion!” he huffed, stroking a moustache which I could swear had not been there earlier in the evening.

“ It’s the Thing, professor! That noise was the doing of the unholy monstrosity that’s been eating your guests! And at this very moment that very same Thing lurks right outside these windows,” I half whispered, half shouted at the befuddled academic, then I grabbed a nearby baseball bat and motioned towards the door. The professor was already armed with a plastic spatula which he keeps on his bedside table in case of burglars, and we both leapt through the French windows to be confronted with…nothing. While we had dallied, the Thing had made good its escape. And then I spotted something…

“Wait, what’s that glinting in the moonlight? It’s a trail, a trail of shiny, malodorous slime, like the kind exuded by members of congress, leading off into the darkness.”

Cautiously we followed the pungent tracks, arriving eventually at the large pond at the bottom of the garden. This, then, was the abode of the creature, the lair of that unholy monstrosity which had risen from the depths of some archaic hell to dine ravenously on the professor’s guests.



Wherein The Mystery is Revealed At Last


As I stood there at the edge of that accursed puddle, my mind reeling from the horror and sheer foulness of the situation, it dawned on me that there was only one way to lure the monster out of its lair. Accordingly, I  raced back into the house, and soon emerged with a stout rope. This I then proceeded to tie around the professor’s waist just before shoving him into the dark waters of the pond. The professor huffed and puffed for a moment, his indignant moustache riding the ripples of the chilly night waters, then suddenly he was pulled under! Here I seized the opportunity and pulled as hard as I could on the rope, resulting in a massive heaving of the waters and a “Blech!” sound that sent the professor hurtling through the air and into a nearby chestnut tree. Immediately following the airborne egghead was a thing the likes of which I hope to never see again.


How shall I describe the loathsomeness, the very personification of antediluvian evil which arose from that demon-haunted bog? It was as if all the horror of the universe had been cast into an amorphous form, a walking putrescence, a glimmering, golden monstrosity with dozens of tentacles sprouting from its massive body, a body studded with eyes and mouths where there should be no eyes or mouths. It was a being from the lowest depths of Tartarus, the kind of unholy abomination no sane mind could conceive of, much less invite to a dinner party. The colossal behemoth ascended into the ether, its golden tentacles glinting in the moonlight, each one tipped with a mouth that slavered, its teeth sheathing and unsheathing. Twenty feet above us it towered, one gigantic eye glittering green in the middle of its veined and amorphous head. The thing slavered, it drooled, it dribbled, and then — horrible to tell — it blathered!

Being neither fools nor lunatics, the professor and I turned and ran, while behind us we heard the Thing, its tremendous bulk lumbering after us like a gigantic, lumbering thing. “Glug, glug,” it gluggingly glugged, as I wondered why I hadn’t followed my father’s advice and become an accountant. Then I remembered the baseball bat in my hand and courage returned, for what antediluvian monstrosity from the abysses beyond time and space could fail to be intimidated by a relatively small stick? I stopped dead in my tracks, spun around and stared down the creature.

“Not so tough now, are you, hey?” I said while brandishing the bat. “Come on, you overgrown baseball! I’ll belt you right over the bleachers and out of the park!”

The Thing stopped, its quivering bulk blotting out the moon, and then it opened the largest of its many mouths, a cavernous maw lined with row upon row of razor sharp teeth, and as I started to reconsider my bravado it let out a sepulchral sound, as of an undertaker drowning in a vat of warm molasses.

“Baseball…baseball…” it intoned into the cold night air.

Was I wrong, or was there a tone of excited anticipation about the Thing’s utterance?

“Er, yeah, baseball. You like baseball? Never quite understood it myself, but to each his own,” I responded somewhat lamely.

“Throw, throw,” the Thing replied excitedly.

At last the true nature of this uncanny situation dawned on me! I looked up at the monstrosity and did my impression of a village idiot trying to hold a conversation with a month old babe. “Who’s a good abomination, then? Who’s a good abomination? You are! Yes, you are! You wanna play fetch?”

At that magical word the massive, golden bulk started jumping up and down, its tentacles swaying in the air above its head, its giant green eye twinkling in the moonlight, and its tongue hanging from its main mouth! I waved the bat in front of the creature, threw it across the garden, and the glimmering creature ran after it, grabbed it in its mouth, bounded back to me and dropped the bat at my feet. As I picked it up and threw it again, the professor and I realized what we had here was not so much a monstrosity as some sort of inter-dimensional doggy. A rather large and ugly doggy with a terrible drooling problem, true, but a basically harmless creature nonetheless. This, then, was The Devourer Of Men, The Stalker In The Night, The Lurker In The Darkness, The Watcher At The Threshold, The Shadow From Outside  –  the Thing what ate all the guests.



Wherein The Unholy Abomination Finds A New Home, And I Run Out Of Excuses To Use The Word “Wherein.”


Yet now we could see that the creature was docile enough, and probably had eaten all those folks only because it was ravenously hungry after untold eons spent sleeping in the pond’s stygian depths, for if anything will make one hungry it’s a long nap in the stygian depths. Watching the creature bound happily after the baseball bat, neither I nor the professor felt inclined to have it shot by the army or gassed to death by the Humane Society. But what to do with such a large and cumbersome eater of men? After we had all grown bored with the fetching game, we left the creature to play with the professor’s car and went inside to formulate a solution to this unexpected conundrum. And so it was decided, over many a glass of fermented yak’s milk, that the professor would take the creature in as sort of pet, and also exhibit it to tourists. This would solve both the problem of what to do with our Doggy From Beyond Time And Space, and the poor financial state of the professor’s business. As for what to feed the creature – tourists and mailmen were, of course, utterly out of the question – it was all a simple matter of taking down the garlic on the front door and letting the scientologists roll in.


And so it was that I solved yet another of the universe’s great mysteries, found a poor and misunderstood creature a good home, helped the professor to get rid of a few more weirdoes, and proved once again that the old proverb is correct – a bat in the hand is worth two midgets in the bush.





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