Volume 4 Issue 1
January 13th 1996


 

LIST OF CONTENTS


JUST ANOTHER LIFE STORY
by Chris Brookes
LORD OF THE THINGS
by Richard Karsmakers
THE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PECKERS
by Richard Karsmakers

 

JUST ANOTHER LIFE STORY

a monologue by Chris Brookes


 [A woman with short dark curly hair is on a roller coaster ride at a fairground. It is the last ride of the night before closing time. Two children are stood near by. The ride starts, and the assistant shouts "Hold tight!"]

 Too right I'll hold tight. I hope those bloody kids are behaving themselves down there... mind you, what sort of kids would behave themselves with no parents around? I was well behaved, but that's probably because mother was so strict. She wasn't strict with our Denise, oh no, she got away with murder. She was mummy's little girl. There isn't that much difference between us, only a few years. Everything I did wasn't good enough, but everything Denise did was wonderful. Denise this, Denise that. It makes me boil just thinking about it... I just wasn't appreciated whatsoever.

 Then there was the time when she got hurt, and mother couldn't do enough for her. It was pathetic really. Little miss was stood balancing on the window ledge trying to open the top window, which was somehow jammed. She pushed the window that hard that when in jolted open, she jerked backwards and fell about 5 feet... on to me sat below her. Mother screams and comes running in shouting "Denise! Denise! are you alright darling?" [The ride dips, and she let's out a loud scream] What about me? I mean, I was the one under 10 Ton Tess... and was I Okay? Well, apparently this didn't matter to mother. She was only interested in Denise. Denise this, Denise that... and do you know what really annoyed me? My necklace. In her 'accident' she just seemed to be wearing a necklace of mine, which coincidentally managed to get broken. It wouldn't of mattered so much if she was wearing it with my permission, but she wasn't. She had just 'borrowed' it from my jewellery box.

 She's got a habit of taking things without permission... I suppose it's a form of stealing really isn't it? She even stole off mother once. One day, mother had gone round to see a neighbour, and she had left me and Denise in the house on our own. I was reading a magazine, and she was fumbling around the house quietly. I said "What are you looking for?" She said "Errr, oh, err nothing", and then she disappeared upstairs. I carried on reading. A few minutes later, I noticed everywhere was quiet, and so went to see exactly why. When I got upstairs, I checked both of our bedrooms, but she wasn't to be found in any of them. There was no toilet upstairs in the house - well, there wouldn't have been in them days - so she had to be in mother's room. So, I popped my head around the door... and got the shock of my life. There, before my very eyes, was my own sister routing through mother's emergency purse. We both gazed at each other, expressionless, like we wanted to say something, but didn't know what. [The ride reaches the top of a dip and stops] We both just stood there, motionless. It was horrible. Then suddenly, she dropped the purse and ran out. [The ride starts its decent down the hill] She couldn't even run very fast... well not as fast as my friend Linda... well, actually she wasn't my friend because that was another thing she had stole from me.

 [The ride reaches the bottom of the hill, and then shuttles round a 180 degree curve. It then begins begins to drag up a long hill. The woman, coming up to her 40th birthday, looked out of the side of the carriage to check on the children. They stood patiently.]

 Things didn't seem to get any better when we were both a little older. I had starting courting with a lad called Paul. He was nice, caring, and understanding. He was my first boy friend, even though I was nearly eighteen. Denise, then being about 15 had gone out with many boys, older and younger. I think she had even 'slept' with one... or was it two? Hmmm, two I think. Oh yes, I remember, it was two. I could hardly forget because the first one was in fact Paul... yes that's right, the Paul that I was dating. Deplorable. When I found out, I was of course brokenhearted. And, to make things worse, when Paul found out I knew, he dumped me. Soon after he his real self began to come through. It's funny how you think you know somebody. He used to upset me by saying Denise had bigger breasts than I did... and other hurtful comments. None of the comments were true though... he knew it, and so did I... and besides, he never saw me naked anyway. He and Denise eventually got back together... so I suppose that's another thing she stole really isn't it?

 Stealing. That's was Denise's speciality in them days. It really does surprise's me how she didn't turn out to be a crook or gangster and end up in irons with a gang of others. Typically, she did of course hang around in a big mob of girls. The hard crew of something. One time, and purely to spite her, I followed her around for the day... playing the big sister looking after the little sister routine. She naturally didn't like it, and so for me it was a scream I can tell you. But as always... it backfired.

 When I met her friends, they made me do a task so that I could join their group. I didn't really want to, but I went along with it anyway. It was quite puerile really. The idea right, was for me to go into the local shop, and steal a box of chocolates. So, in I went (nervous as hell, you see, unlike Denise, I'm no thief) and I slapped my penny down on the counter. "Pack of bubble gum" I said. There was no bubble gum on the shelf, and so the man behind the counter had to go into the back-room. It was just as I expected. Quickly, I bent down and slid open the glass door in front of the chocolates, grabbed a pound box of Milktray, and slid the door back. Just as I did, I heard the shopkeeper coming back. I stood up in a flash, and fortunately I was wearing a dress; so I stuffed the chocolates up my dress and between my legs. The shop keeper, unaware of this took the penny and put it in his till, well... more of a little box actually. At that point, I was surprised the look on my face didn't give me away, because after all, the chocolates were cold. So, there we were, both stood looking at each other. The man said "Errr... do you want anything else, young lady?" I said "No thanks". We still stood looking at each other. I smiled at him, Opps, no, I shouldn't of done that, I think he was starting to get the wrong idea. Panic time. I turned around, and in very short hops, I hopped over to the door. The shop keeper must have thought I was utterly barmy. I opened the door, and hopped through, closing it behind me. I...had...DONE...it! None of them could believe it, and they all stood speechless. Then in a great plan, brilliantly executed, I made the fatal flaw. Grabbing the box of chocolates from between my legs, I held them in the air, and waved them round shouting "I've done it!" Well, I was rather tickled pink. To my misfortune, the shop keeper was still watching me through the glass window - I'm not surprised after my little performance though. Well, naturally, Denise and her mob all ran off and left me there to get the blame. I didn't even get to have the chocolates either.
  [The ride is now speeding down a steep hill, everybody is screaming. The two children, Philip and Georgina, are eating candy floss. Philip is the woman on the ride's son, George is Denise's little girl]

 So a few years on, and I was to get myself a husband. My last husband. Definitely my last, I can tell you. He was bloody useless. He didn't look after Philip whatsoever. In fact, the only thing he ever did as regards Philip was to play a part in his conception... a very small part come to think of it. I knew it would be like that though. Right from the minute I went into labour, when a nurse had to spend 30 minutes phoning around for him. In the end, it turned out that he was in bed under a mountain of sheets, and he couldn't hear the telephone. So by the time he had dragged himself out of his pit - had something to eat first, naturally - and got himself down to the hospital ward, I'd had the bloody baby already. He falls though that door, takes on look at Philip and proceeds to come out with "Is that It? Nine months of agony for that?" It's not even as though he was the one giving birth, I mean he didn't feel any physical pain. I suppose he could have been a bit mentally disturbed by the whole thing. No. I don't think so actually. I wouldn't have said he had much of a mind to be disturbed, because he was thoughtless. Thoughtless.

 There was one time when I was off-colour, and Philip was giving me some trouble. Mike was fast asleep in bed and just would not get up. I had a pain in my left leg, and I could hardly walk. At the time, I was upstairs trying to drag Mike out of bed with one hand, whilst holding Philip with the other. "Look..." I said. "Go away..." he replied. I said "I need to go to the hospital, it's my leg again." He would not reply to this. " Look I'm going to the hospital whether you drive me or not, I'm going to go if I have to bloody crawl there on my hands and knees" I said. The bloody tyrant still didn't get out of bed. Sure enough though, I started to go. There I sat, at the top of the stairs, edging myself down them one by one. Philip just balanced on my knee. Fifteen minutes later, I had reached the bottom of the stairs and got my coat on. I was still sat on my bottom, I might add. Philip was dressed suitably, so I opened the door and eased myself onto the step outside. Just as I closed the door, down comes the dictator cursing me badly. "Okay, I'll drive, you cow" I was not impressed. But not being a person to cut my nose off to spite my face, I went with time to the hospital.

 We nearly ended up at the hospital quite a few times, come to think of it. There was that time, a good few years ago now, where Mike had gone out and left me with no money and no food at all. Philip was whining because he was hungry, and I was getting rather, well, tired of it all, to put it mildly. It didn't happen every now and again mind you, it was every night. Well, I wasn't going to be daft enough to let this continue. I knew where he went to drink, and so I wasn't going to stand for it any more. [She sits forward in the carriage] I picked up the phone, which was about to be cut off, and dialled the Public House. "Can I speak to Mike, please?" I said. Somebody replied "Mike, mmm..., oh... yeah... Mike. No, I'm sorry, he isn't here." I did of course know that he was there. "Oh, okay then, thanks." I said. Now Mike didn't know this, but a friend of mine lived just across the way from this pub. I phoned here, and sure enough, his battered car was in the car-park. "Can I speak to Mike please?" "Sorry, he isn't here" came the reply. "Well what is his car doing outside then?" Silence. "Oh yeah, he's just walked in now." A few short seconds later, a throaty voice came back. "Hello?" it said. "Mike?" I enquired, calmly. I just wanted to make sure it was the right person before I had a go at him. "Yes" he said. Summing up all my courage, I spoke slowly "Get-your-arse-back-at-this-house-in-5-minutes-or-you'll-find-all-your-shit-on-the-lawn." [She relaxes as the ride becomes more manageable] I meant business. The phone went dead. Sure enough, in around 5 minutes, he was back at the house. God knows how, it's at least 15 miles away where he drinks.

 When Denise and I both reached adulthood, at long last, we began to go our separate ways. Denise was marrying a man called Steve, who was in the armed forces. I think going our separate ways is a bit of an understatement really. Denise moved to Germany with her man... if you ask me it wasn't far enough. I know that's a bit of a bitchy attitude, but she didn't get in touch for a good eighteen months. It was one Christmas you see... well, about 3 weeks before and this letter lands on the mat. It was explaining what a good time she was having over there, and asking if I would like to come and visit for Christmas. Ha! What a joke! How was I supposed to get an eighteen month youngster over there, with all his Christmas presents, and make sure the house was looked after and find somebody to take care of the dog? I don't think she realized how hard I was finding it to survive.

 I went. It was after using a lot of my savings and organizing a loan. She seemed happy enough. It was quite a shock to her when she learned I had a child that was a year and a half old. It took her nearly two days before she could remember his name. It's not that difficult to remember is it? She seemed to have a habit of calling him "it" as well.... do you know what I mean? Sort of purposely avoiding calling him by his proper name.

 [She looks over to see what the children are doing]

 Well, for a few years, me and Denise lost contact. I was unable to hold a job for to long because I had to keep having time off when Philip was poorly. He was always ill with his chest. Every time I got a call at work, I used to fear the worst. Fear, it's a funny thing, isn't it? Fear when you're frightened, and fear when you're worried. I wonder if Denise had any when she came back to live with me after an argument with Steve? Cheek. There's nothing quite like it. She just sauntered back to England and expected to live with me. She had a lot of furniture. I don't know where she got it all from. Ever since then she's been lumbering me with her responsibilities [looks out of the side again]. Always coming back to me when her relationships don't work out. She even had a baby, though I look after it mostly now... well not even me, Philip seems to like doing it. It's all just another life story really, isn't it?

 [Ride stops, and she gets out. Children side by side, they leave the fairground.]

 

LORD OF THE THINGS

by Richard Karsmakers


 Warning: This story has a passage where the word "SHIT" occurs perhaps rather too frequently for those readers with a somewhat delicate taste.

 The stars gazed at him intently but silently. He did not gaze back at them, nor was he silent. He gazed intently at something else. It was round, and increasing its size at an ever quickening pace. He gazed at it intently, which was not unusual when taking into consideration that his small space vessel, stolen on an obscure planetoid about two days behind him, was on a crash course with an almost insignificantly small but nonetheless rather lethal-looking planet.
 He had always hated auto-pilots. But now his hate had come back and quadrupled. This was the first vessel equipped with a suicidally insane auto-pilot. After he had insulted it for the hundredth time, it had decided to plot a collision course. Death before dishonour, that sort of thing.
 Cronos Warchild, mercenary annex hired gun, swore never to steal a Japanese-made space vessel again.
 The auto-pilot sat staring at him, smiling smugly. A countdown ran, the words "Stuff it" above it on the plasma display. It obviously had a sense of drama. Warchild couldn't find it in his heart to appreciate it.
 Life had already flashed him by on many occasions. Rarely did a month go by without him having a near-death experience - reaper beckoning, light at the end of a tunnel, green meadows filled with scantily clad valkieries running to and fro, the works. This time it was made ever so more intense because there was no reaper. No beckoning skeletal finger, no empty eyesockets into which to see Time and The End Of All, no life flashing by at the insides of one's eyelids, no nothing. All available mental slots were occupied fully by the ever growing planetary orb, the lack of a friendly auto-pilot, and the incredibly high likelihood of his life genuinely discontinueing within the next...er...
 "...44...43...42..." the auto-pilot's ignominious computer voice droned.
 Warchild's fist landed on the display. The countdown counted down implacably. "And your mother, too," the display now read.
 Just after the countdown had reached "1", the cacophony of swearing, pounding and the fanatically absurd metallic laugh of the Japanese auto-pilot transformed itself into the cacophony of melting metal, breaking boughs, grinding glass and a very loud but somehow quiet "thud".
 Somewhere in that cacophony everything went black for a mere mortal - and not just because it was around midnight.

 Death owed Warchild a favour. Death didn't like owing people favours. Death usually didn't go around owing favours to anyone, not even to the very gods themselves. It simply wasn't done, it wasn't proper procedure. Death, however, is not half as bad as people think. Just to emphasize the exception to the rule, he had lured himself into owing someone a favour, someone whose soul he would normally have had to reap just about...now.
 This pitiable human had once helped Death out. Not particularly well, you had to give him that, but nonetheless it had warranted a debt.
 Death liked drama, much in the way the now defunct Japanse auto-pilot had. He would have loved to have his robes flap around him dramatically in the midnight wind, but there just didn't happen to be any. He beheld the wreckage amidst which sat an unconscious mortal whom Death now owed no more favours. He turned around on his heel - something he was rather good at - and disappeared without a trace nor one of those proverbial puffs of smoke.

 Gfrzxs was born that night. So were about fifty of his kind. Their birth was slightly premature, and not particularly peaceful - it had involved something out of the air crashing into their Tree rather violently, causing the commotion necessary for them to be shaken free and submit themselves to the laws of gravity. There was an unspeakable noise, followed by a lot of hissing, like metal being cooled down by drops of dawn.
 Gfrzxs opened his eyes unto the lap of an unconscious giant that looked totally unlike him - an alien of sorts, certainly something totally foreign to his tree. He sat silently, bewildered, not daring to move for a while.

 It is a universal aspect of all living things throughout the entirity of the multiverse to recognize a thing that their limited intellect can't understand and consequently label it "God". A thought struck Gfrzxs. This alien, much larger than him and certainly much more omnipotent, could not be explained. Therefore it was God.

 At that very instant, as if destined to happen by some kind of divine intervention, the giant alien opened its eyes. Gfrzxs startled but retained control over his limbs - all five of them - preventing them from shaking. His awe-stricken eyes beheld God.
 And God moved and cursed.
 The sounds uttered by God can't be understood by mere mortals. One has to provide oneself with years of dedicated theological training, hour after hour of sincere meditation and the studying of libraries filled with Godly - or at least Divinely Franchised - tomes. Alternatively, of course, one can also just rent a TV channel and make other people believe you've done the aforementioned, which usually proves much more financially - if not theologically - feasible.
 Gfrzxs didn't understand anything the God said. He hadn't gained a lot of life experience and thus, much in the way humans tend to do, he interpreted that which he heard and saw the way it seemed best to him: God was happy.
 He asked for a divine sign. Remarkably, he got it several seconds later.

 In reality, of course, God was far from happy. Even though he was still alive, his vessel has been utterly wrecked and he knew that chances of life on any given planet are, as has been capably and frequently demonstrated by many scientists and authors alike, insanely close to zero. He brushed the small furry ball off his lap and folded himself out of the wreckage. It would take an entire team of talented engineers weeks to repair the thing, he guessed, and a new kind of time reckoning would certainly have to be conveived to estimate the time it would take if Warchild himself were to do it, for obviously the chances of finding any talented engineers here would be smaller than the chances of finding a TV Preacher in Heaven.
 Also, he found the air rather foul-smelling. Though not in any particularly definite ways, it seemed a bit toxic. Not deadly, at least not instantly, but nonetheless a bit toxic.

 Gfrzxs was caught off guard, drooling exultantly in Divine Bliss, when the God swept him off his Divine Lap. He landed amid several others of his kind - his own brothers and sisters, that had Parted from the Mother Tree at the same time.
 When he had regained full awareness - after all, one does not get brushed off the Godly Womb every day - he found his kindred looking at him in utter awe.
 "Hail," one of the awestricken fellows ventured when he saw Gfrzxs seemed not about to say anything.
 "Er...hail you, too," Gfrzxs replied, nonplussed. Whence came this sudden display of respect? His life had barely started and already he seemed to have acquired some sort of status. And all he had needed to do was to get brushed off Heavenly Loins.
 "What's it like?" another of the enawed creatures now asked.
 "What's what like?" Gfrzxs wondered.
 "Him," the other creature indicated, his voice hushed in as much veneration as it could muster, "the giant, er...God, you know."
 "He's sortof big, isn't he?" another now added.
 "They're supposed to be, Gods, aren't they?" yet another asked.
 None of them seemed to know for sure. It did sound logical though. Power came with size. Gods had lots of power, so they were bound to be big. Seriously big. Or perhaps they just had to wear a beard and a robe. But this one didn't seem to, at least not from where they were standing. He surely was big.
 For a while none of them said anything.
 "What are we to do, oh High Priest?" a particularly light green ball of fluff asked, scratching his bit on top where only minutes ago a branch had been.
 Gfrzxs was getting nervous. And embarrassed.
 "Gfrzxs will do fine, thank you," he muttered, "I am no High Priest."
 Another silence.
 "But you've, er...touched God!" someone said.
 Surely, mere mortals weren't allowed to touch the Gods. You had to be a Priest to be able to talk to them, so you'd definitely have to be a High Priest to be permitted to touch them, or to have the Gods touch you - let alone have them unceremoniously brush you off their laps!
 "I seem to, don't I?" Gfrzxs now said, fumbling his chin (which was located where, logically, his groin would have to be). He was about to say something that would have inspired several of his kind to pick up pens and paper and start writing down gospels when a most terrific sound came from Warchild's spacecraft.
 It was the sound of teeth gritting and joints cracking, intermingled with some crafty curses the likes of which this planet had never heard before in its billions of years worth of dedicated evolution.

 So it happened that Cronos stretched his limbs, roughly rubbed a few bruises, uttered another few curses just for the hell of it, and beheld approximately fifty furry balls of various colours that were lying, for lack of a better word, prostrate on the ground before him. He had seen Moslims doing this sort of thing before, only they usually didn't direct their attention to him - nor were they usually round, furry, and of various colours. Quite the opposite actually.
 "Whattaf...," he said, bewildered as usual.
 One of the furry creatures, he could see most distinctly, was scribbling down something short.
 "Huh?" he added.
 The furry thingy scribbled something more. A bit shorter this time.
 Gfrzxs considered the time ripe to erect himself and say something on behalf of his people.
 "Oh Divine Being from outer space!" he yelled at the top of his voice, "Hearken your humble servant!"
 It is another multiversal habit of people to address Divinities in a typical and somewhat silly way.
 Warchild was glad he had bothered to visit planet Lobia recently. The inhabitants of that particular planet were particularly deft at designing hearing aids - and rather fast, too, especially when you were ineptly fumbling with a killer gadget that could kill someone (say, a hearing aid manufacturer) quickly and just as effectively. He could hear the little orange furry ball say something in a high piping voice just within the hearing limits of the human ear.

 English is probably one of the least popular language when compared at a universal scale. A language spoken by approximately forty-three times as many people is Second-Dynasty Klatchian, but then again this particular language is dwarfed by the amount of people who speak Chinese - and not just on earth.
 Therefore Cronos was relieved but also rather puzzled at the fact that these furry little balls, no bigger than a fist and living on a world multiple light aeons away from Earth, spoke English rather well. Without a trace of accent, even. Had he ever, he would have found it oddly similar to listening to the Nine O'Clock News.
 He didn't get far beyond thinking, "Hey, that's cool, they think I'm God," for at that instant there was a lot of light and a lot of noise (like "ZAP", only louder) followed by a tremendous lot of smoke, after which a rather unsightly space vessel was found to have located itself just behind the batch of little furry creatures. A simple and rather silly tune was playing in the background.
 Warchild uttered his by now familiar phrase of bafflement. Someone scribbled.
 A ramp extended itself from the spaceship, and upon it stood a most horrible creature that looked like it consisted mostly, indeed almost only, of wings, eyes, and sphincters. He had seen this kind of monster before, but his mind had difficulty making the right connections.
 The horrid monster extended a leathery wing that clutched an elongated piece of metal and pointed down at the gathering of furry round things. About half a dozen of what seemed to be its minions came flying awkwardly out of another opening in the vessel's meteorite-pocked hull. Without losing time, they hoarded together about thirty of the furry little cute round creatures, their little voices piping with panic, and drove them onto the ramp. The boss-monster swiped once with a particularly evil looking wing, grabbing hold of a furry purple ball. Huge jaws parted slowly but eagerly, dark yellow stained fangs gleamed dolefully, saliva dripped and drooled expectantly. With a casual movement the screaming little cutesy-wutesy was flung inside the oral pit of death. The jaws snapped shut mercilessly and the monster's eyes closed as if it was enjoying some particularly rare delicacy. There was a short muffled noise of life being squashed out of a living creature, then nothing.
 The furry balls left on the ground, lucky enough not to have been hoarded aboard on the ramp that was already folding back, were hopping around excitedly.
 "Now you've gone too far!" one of them, violently red with purple dots, yelled.
 "We will have you suffer under the wrath of God!" another cried at the top of its voice. It was Gfrzxs. The little round thingy looked at Warchild expectantly.
 Some others shouted in agreement. The monster seemed not to find it necessary even to look back over its hideously malformed shoulders as it strode back into the spaceship, spitting out some fur and licking its wart-ridden lips.
 "Up," the monster signalled just before the ramp flapped up and sealed off the craft.

 It takes much to damage Cronos Warchild's sense of justice. Usually that just means a lot of money, sometimes not particularly much. But now something inside him screamed out in anger - maybe his female side, always suppressed but now finally rearing its feminine head.
 "Hey," Cronos thought out loud, "this can't be right."
 He looked at the furry balls left over, yelling and screaming just within the specified limits of his hearing aid. He looked at the space craft.
 Already there was plenty of smoke. It seemed odd, but the smoke in some eerie way made the air seem less oppressive, less toxic, fresher even. Really weird.
 The craft would probably take off any minute now, taking with it a bunch of frightfully cute creatures that had proclaimed him "God" just moments ago. And those monsters hadn't even noticed him, not heeded him even in the slightest possible way.
 He felt he had to do something. But what was there to be done? His own spacecraft was smashed beyond repair. He had no weapons on him. His killer finger nail hadn't grown dangerous enough yet. Then an idea hit him. It hurt, but pain could be switched off by those trained the way Cronos Warchild, mercenary annex hired gun, had been trained.
 At the precise instant when the enemy spacecraft experienced lift-off, Cronos took a mother of all breaths and leapt onto the vessel's landing gear.
 He reckoned it might take a while before he could breathe again. He closed his eyes, lowered his body temperature and slowed down his heartbeat to an almost inhumanly low rate. He drifted off in the area of consciousness only preciously few people ever experience.
 Which is probably just as well.

 Shortly after the captors' departure, with Cronos Warchild clutched to their landing in semi-hibernation, another spacecraft landed on the planet. Out of it stepped a man wearing a raincoat and hat, carrying with him a vacuum cleaner and one volume of an encyclopaedia. He looked around him, studying the trees. Some of them had fluffy balls hanging on their branches. These balls seemed, in some extraordinary way, alive.
 A wide smile found its way upon the man's features. He took from a pocket of his raincoat a small cellular phone, dialled a number and talked agitatedly for a while. After that he replaced it in the pocket whence it came, he took out another device with which he sampled the air around the place where the Captors' space ship had just left. His smile broadened. He got back to his ship and left with what could not be anything other than haste.
 As if to relieve the tension, it started to rain.

 There was a light at the end of the tunnel. And this time it wasn't an on-rushing train. The light seemed reluctant to want to come closer - teasingly so. He tried moving his fingers and toes but found himself unable to. Usually this was the time when one would shout a bit. Warchild didn't. He was trained to suppress pain, but he could also keep himself from feeling any weird emotions. He did.
 Mysteriously, there was for an utterly brief instant the scent of honey. Immediately afterwards there was a totally different scent. More like a stench actually. And he recognised it. His olfactory lobe has sensed it before on numerous occasions. Once deep within the bowels of a castle on Sucatraps, for example. Another time, longer ago, in the lavatory of a Thai Boxing school.
 It was the unmistakable stench of the creatures to smell most viciously in the known universe, and most likely beyond - the Mutant Maxi Mega Monsters of Multifizzic Omega. Some way or other he always turned out winding up in the vicinity of these ecological menaces.
 That was what tore him from his self-induced hibernation, much in the way a nuclear holocaust would a thoroughly enjoyable dream involving innumerable scantily clad members of the opposite sex.
 He didn't like it when he saw what caused the vile stench.
 Not at all.

 "Me keep him?" she asked her father, trying hard to appear as ravishing and enchanting as she could, which was difficult given the fact that she was basically one pussed-over wart with leathery wings, plenty of eyes and about half a dozen anal muscles too many.
 "Please? Me keep him?"
 Her father's body language spoke volumes; a few arseholes opened, excreting something that looked like it was liquid and gaseous at the same time. His eyes rolled around, his wings flapped in an intricate pattern.
 No. She couldn't.
 "But he ever so cute," she insisted.
 Her father's body excreted, rolled and flapped some more. No way. Deirdre was not going to get her way. She usually did, but not this time. He, Frothgar the Merciless, would make sure she wouldn't. He casually removed a remnant of purple fur from between two of his yellowed fangs, then told his daughter to lose herself.
 The stench was positively nauseating.

 Those monsters surely knew how to tie a good boyscout knot. He hadn't been able to resist much against his bondage, what with him still being in his semi-hibernative state. If only he'd been able to, he would surely have taught them a lesson or two. One didn't need any gadgets to kill at least a few, as a warning. But they had him meticulously bound and gagged before he had a chance at restoring his own physical state of being in full.
 And once he had, Deirdre had given him quite a nasty shock.
 Evidently she had taken up an instant fondness towards the rather squarely built human. Perhaps she wanted to keep him as a pet, or perhaps...shivers ran down his spine at the mere hint of a thought about what she might want to do with - or to - him.
 Of course Warchild was not one to complain or have objections against interest from members of the fair sex, but the problem on Multifizzic Omega was the fact that the principle of natural selection seemed to have gone out of its way to produce a race of positively ghastly creatures in which the worst bits of anatomy were the only ones present in omnipotently copious and berzerkedly glorified abundance.
 Never had he had anything against voluptuous maidens with folds of flesh aplenty, and not even the sight of zero-grav modules needed to keep humongous flaps of fat off the ground gave him enough reason to lose interest in a girl - but a vastly disproportioned monstrosity the likes of Deirdre could not be rated at any logically conceivable scale of bad taste. Visions of anything more than casual social intercourse with this loathsome creature - and that preferably by means of interplanetary communication - filled him with dread and disgust. And that was even before he had seen her eat. Positively off-putting, that was.
 Even so, he wasn't sure where he'd be better off: With Deirdre, or with her genuinely evil father, Frothgar the Merciless, who seemed to have some kind of leading position among the Multifizzians. Also, Frothgar's name didn't bode well.
 "Well, well," Frothgar the Merciless said, flapping one or two wings nonchalantly after his hideous daughter had finally left the room, sulking, "Me know your kind. You look for easy buck, no?"
 He nudged Warchild, who gritted his teeth and gave the monster a killing look, trying not to breathe in more than was strictly necessary. He tried not to breathe through his nose, but the stench could actually be tasted, too. Horrible.
 "Your kind tasty, you know, yes?" Frothgar continued, as if partly reading Cronos' thoughts, producing a knife from somewhere. It caught a beam of light that glinted off its edge. You didn't need to be a seasoned mercenary to see that it was razor sharp. Frothgar opened the lid from a box that stood near them, and a blackened wing took from it a fluffy yellow ball. Warchild heard it piping in panic at the edge of his hearing. Frothgar cut off a slice. He opened his horrific jaws and tossed it in an casually as he could - which was not very. The piping stopped after another few slices had been ravenously devoured. The remainder Frothgar threw back in the box. The lid fell shut. Frothgar laughed the laugh of the insane.
 Warchild was getting very angry. Kidnapping the cutesy-wutesy creatures was one thing, eating them with relish was another. God or not, he would come to their rescue. Even Cronos himself didn't stoop that low. Kidnapping, yes. Killing, sure. Torturing, why not. Eating, no way.
 He flexed his muscles, ground his wrists together. He had to tear the rope. The hemp cut his flesh. He felt the warmth of his own blood - more steroids than anything else - running across his hands.
 So far the rope didn't budge. Veins stood out on Warchild's head and arms. There was a sound, barely audible. The sound of tiny strands of hemp breaking. Then a few more. And more still. It was getting louder now, the rope giving up the struggle it was doomed to lose just because ropes generally do in this kind of story.
 Frothgar the Merciless beheld the struggling human and grinned with satisfaction. His minions had all been their equivalent of boyscouts. They knew how to make knots.
 He was about to eat his thoughts. A good thing thoughts aren't famed for their substance, for one would have found it hard to eat them with most of one's fangs knocked out by a human who had just found ways of getting untied.
 Ex-boyscout heads were going to roll.

 Warchild had no idea where he was. He did know he needed to get himself back in order again. His artificial hibernation had wrought havoc inside his body. His heart beat incontrollably, he sweated rather more than he would usually have, and he panted as if he had just run a marathon on a quadruple grav planet.
 He breathed in and out deeply several times. He looked around him. Nobody seemed to be in pursuit - yet. The stench was still vile. Frothgar's palace didn't appear to be particularly big but the way out still seemed either too far off or too inconspicuous. Or perhaps it was one of those Insta-Delude doors he'd read about once, somewhere.
 There was a sound coming from an adjoining corridor. Cronos fumbled with the latch of the first door he saw, opened it and dashed in. He closed the door about half a microsecond before a couple of heavily armed Multifizzians rounded the corner.
 Interestingly, the door had had a large "D" engraved on it.

 It was dark. Cronos fumbled around in it. He sincerely hoped these creatures had invented light switches. Approximately three seconds later, when his probing hands touched something like leather which resulted in someone, or some thing, starting to croon excitedly, he withdrew that hope. Whatever was in here - and even a dimwitted person such as he had some startlingly definite ideas as to who it might be - he would like it a lot better when unseen.
 As if Deirdre had read his thoughts she deemed that moment opportune to light a few candles. They shed their playful light on a table set for two, located in the centre of what could now be seen to be her boudoir. She had tried hard to think of what a human might like for dinner. Half of it was still writhing in a bowl, however, so it was rather obvious that her knowledge of terrestrial gastronomy was, to put it mildly, utterly nonexistent. Her sense of romance, too, seemed not particularly well-developed - or else she would not have put on the pink party dress she had masochistically squeezed herself into, nor would she have put on what she obviously considered the epitome of a nice background tune - Fart'n'Belch in Phrygian C Major by Tama Von Bitegarden, Chief Composer to the Multifizzian Imperial Court. And that still left out the Eau De Pigswil that wafted through the room, clinging to her form.
 "Finally," she purred in a way that would probably appear exceedingly enticing to any Multifizzian, "me have you alone, yes?"
 She moved in on him. Cronos retreated, not quite knowing what he'd have to do to get out of this predicament alive - or at least to get away unmolested.
 "Do you find me...sexy?" she asked, lifting a few eyebrows in wonder. The quality of her voice, some may have ventured to call it 'husky' in a particularly Multifizzian way, could have made the entire male population of the planet squirm in their seats. She folded a wing behind her head and blinked about half a dozen eyes luringly.
 "Er..." Cronos said. He had never been good at giving compliments - even worse now, what with there not possibly being any to give.
 This girl was very persistent. "No" wouldn't do for an answer. She lifted her skirt somewhat, uncovering some more square inches of leg - including some sores that appeared to be frothing, oozing a dark yellow thick liquid of sorts.
 Cronos Warchild hated having to hit women. He closed his eyes for a second. Angry faces flashed by. Female faces, connected to bodies with feet and hands that had hurt him, shattered his macho self-confidence. An itch yanked through his groin for a fleeting instant of a moment. It wasn't a pleasurable one. His fist flashed furiously, fangs fell feverishly and a dress tore unsubtlely and rather too revealingly.
 Warchild had to tear his gaze off her - like many humans he was as fascinated by sheer hard-core ugliness as by beauty - and legged it. She followed him outside into the corridor, staggering, muttering, trying to stop the blood pouring from her lips from staining her now tattered dress. There was the sound of armed guards close by.
 "Me wanth hith headth," she bellowed inarticulately, "on a plate!"

 The corridor walls rushed him by. They seemed too much like a maze - but, then again, to someone with the mental capacity of Cronos Warchild a T-crossing already resembled one. He had to get out, and get out fast. He heard the clatter of armour somewhere not too far behind him. Already the stench was intensifying.
 A couple of moments later he stood eye to eye with what was, even to Multifizzian standards, one helluvan ugly mutha. This particular specimen wore nappies and a NKOTB T-shirt. He was fat - extremely so. When he saw Cronos he set some of his legs apart a bit, put a wing on each knee, and began to hop slowly and hypnotizingly from one leg to another, letting go of some gaseous matter occasionally. Frothgar's personal minions had closed in and were about to incinerate Warchild when the big fat ugly mutha shook his head.
 "No," he intoned with authority, "he mine, yes?"
 The others lowered their weapons, but hesitantly. At least they were in for some splattering and stuff.

 Far away in space, on the Smelliest of all Planets, Cronos was challenged to a match of Multifizzian Real Wrestling. To the death, most certainly. His, most likely.
 His challenger licked his lips. There were no fangs, but instead some kind of metal denture, the likes of which Warchild had seen in a James Bond film once.
 The fat ugly mutha grinned asininely. Someone was going to get hurt seriously, and it surely wasn't going to be him.
 Or at least that's what the monster thought.
 Cronos decided he would have to take the initiative. No hopping was needed. Instead he launched his ever tremendous bulk at the beast. The collision shook the corridor, and after the laws of physics had done some contemplating, both of them crashed into - and through - a wall.
 Well, at least they were outside now. It would do better for this clash of the titans. Had Warchild finally found a matching opponent? Frothgar's guards stepped outside after them.
 The mutha shook his head, dazed slightly. A brick or two were stuck between some of his wings. He shook them off.
 "Wow," he said, "you strong, yes?"
 Cronos nodded. This was going to be tough. Very.
 Now the Multifizzian charged for the attack. A collision might prove fatal, so Warchild stepped aside. The monster crashed headlong into another wall. This time the particular bit of wall against which he crashed appeared to have been made rather more sturdily - it got damaged seriously, but didn't budge.
 The monster got up and again shook his head. He checked himself for wounds, only to end up gazing at his T-shirt, a fingered wing pointing at the torn NKOTB logo, trembling.
 "Now me angry," the beast bellowed, "and me kill you now, yes?"
 This time the big mutha walked up to Cronos rather more strategically and grasped our hero in an inescapable killer embrace. Ribs could be heard, virtually cracking, still holding - but not for long. Warchild couldn't breathe. He kicked the monster in what he hoped would be a groin. The Multifizzian, crying with pain and anger, threw the mercenary against the wall.
 A scent of Incandescent Orchids spread itself.

 Cronos had barely gotten over this thing with Klarine Appledoor. It had been a while ago now, probably a year or two. He had been sitting at the Gargantuan Burger King, alone, eating a MegaBurger of which one could not be sure about anything save the fact that it was huge and probably lethally fat and morbidly unhealthy.
 He had been about to sink his teeth in it for a third of fourth time when he had suddenly seen the spitting image of his foster mum in the Gargantuan Burger King toilet attendant lady.
 In her movements he had recognized the characteristics of the woman at whose place he had lived for so long, the old peasant's widow who had so lovingly raised him when his mother, Adnarim the Beautiful, couldn't. He had thought back about the days back on his home planet, the times she used to read him bed-time horror stories, the humble little cottage in the sheep-filled meadows, the oatmeal breakfasts she had steadfastly prepared for him, the cat...no, not the cat.
 He had swallowed the remainder of fat and cholesterol Gargantuans lovingly called a MegaBurger and had stood up and walked towards the elderly lady as if drawn by a force outside of himself.
 "Er, excuse me," he had said, tapping the woman on a shoulder. She had startled, looking up from a cleaning chore she had been doing. He had read her name tag as she erected herself.
 Kizmet, fate, Murphy, destiny, whatever. It had read "M. Appledoor".
 "Can I help you?" she had said, her voice old but her spirit unmistakably and enchantingly young.
 Warchild had been lost in thought. How could this have been? He had been in an utterly remote part of the galaxy and had discovered a woman who looked like his foster mother and that might very well be the mother of Klarine, the girl with whom he had most violently fallen in love with thus recently. His heart beat in his throat.
 "Er...no, thanks, sorry," he had muttered unsurely, a vision of Klarine before him as clearly as his rekindled feelings of wholeheartedly devoted love. He had turned away from the toilet lady to go back to his table, shortly after which instant his perpendicular movement had ceased due to his gonads connecting with a "Have a nice Wee" sign on a pole connected immovably with the ground.
 He had turned red and purple, probably with a bit of yellow too. When would he ever learn to keep the switch on his Multi-Absorb Groin Protector in the "on" position no matter whether he was on a job or not? And why the hell didn't they attach these trivial signs to a wall, out of the way of knees and gonads alike?
 The toilet lady had seen it happen, and had supported his trembling, hurt figure as well as she had been able to. She had been frightened of him passing out on her and taking her with him in his fall, flattening her elderly shape exceedingly. She had seen people on TV holding small bottles under noses of dazed boxing champs, so she had figured the small sampler bottle of toilet refreshener she had carried in one of her pockets would do the job similarly. Warchild had sniffed and, miraculously, the scent of Incandescent Orchids had made the pain gradually ebb away.
 The toilet lady had told him to keep the little bottle, just in case, and Cronos had stumbled out of the Burger King restaurant, his emotions oddly disturbed with an arcane sense of sentimentality and loss.
 He had tied the sampler bottle on a rope around his neck, where it had remained ever since.

 The big fat ugly mutha sniffed the air, retching and shouting abuse. The other guards did about the same, one of them already vomiting, inordinately disgusted.
 Warchild, still dazed from having been thrown into that rather solid wall, discovered that the cap on the little toilet refreshener sampler bottle had unscrewed itself somewhat, spilling some of the fluid. It was the smell of immaculately cleaned hospital toilets, known commercially as "Incandescent Orchids", but he loved it. To him it was the smell of Klarine, his foster mum, all the love in the world. He screwed the cap shut again. This heavenly scent would probably linger for another while. It usually did in hospital toilets, anyway.
 To the Multifizzians the lingering scent appeared to be the embodiment of everything repugnant, vulgar, rancid, nauseating and distasteful.
 "You no fair!" the ugly mutha yelled, trying hard to stuff as many wings in as many nasal cavities. Frothgar's elite minions had already retreated back through the whole in the wall, leaving behind a steaming trail of oral excretion and gore - some of it still moving.
 "Incandescent Orchids" was potent stuff, obviously.
 The big ugly mutha Maxi Mega Monster appeared to have protected itself sufficiently against the scent now. Wings were stuffed up nostrils, and there were still enough wings left to be a menace to Cronos. He closed in on the mercenary, slowly and confidently. Warchild suddenly had a sudden lucid moment - one of his yearly few. He unscrewed the cap from the small bottle again, poured a small quantity of refreshening fluid on his finger and, with his thumb nail, catapulted most of it in the direction of the monster.
 Although an almost absurdly minute quantity of the stuff actually made its way to the monster, the results were no less drastic. Hugely gaping, steaming holes melted away in the beast's body. Wings fell off, sizzling to the ground, eyes closed in panic.
 "No!" it cried out, vexed, "You no beat me! Not allowed, no!"
 As if the monster was starting to boil, huge bulges appeared in his skin. They popped one by one, revealing yet more smelly holes and flinging blood and gore in all directions. Within about twenty seconds, during which Warchild enjoyed himself tremendously, the last of the Multifizzian Real Wrestlers had been reduced to a blubbering pile of jelly, totally unrecognizable and decomposing ever more by the second.
 After yet another few moments all that remained was the horrific stench so typical of the planet and its inhabitants.
 There was no time to rest for Cronos yet. He had to find some kind of thing with which to more effectively spray the toilet refreshener, a syringe perhaps, and then get back to rescue what still remained of the cutesy-wutesy cuddlies that seemed to be the only beings in the universe who recognized in him the power he knew he had.
 Careful so as not to tread on too much of the vomit and assorted other biodegradable matter he went into the hole in the wall. The scent of the toilet refreshener was already wearing off. It was pretty potent stuff, but nonetheless it could not maintain its victory over the Smell of the Smelliest Planet for long.
 The corridors were empty. He stepped through, full of purpose. He did not heed the sound of a space craft that landed at the precise spot where, but minutes ago, an extremely angry and equally ugly fat mutha had stood.

 "Hmmm...," the man muttered, turning up the collars of his raincoat, hoping it would somewhat diminish the effect the horrific stench had on his senses.
 "Hmmm...," he added, this time a bit more thoughtful.
 Multifizzic Omega wasn't a place where non-natives liked walking around going "Hmmm..." all the time. At least not for any time longer then a few moments.
 A thought seemed to strike the man. Despite the utter misery of an intensity such as Multifizzic Omega alone can inflict on a mortal, the man managed a smile. He had an idea.
 From his pocket he took the communication device again. He communicated agitatedly for a while, something involving the word "diesel", then turned around to his ship. There was some smoke, some noise, and then the craft was on its way to what would probably be a far healthier and certainly less smelly planet.
 On his way he wondered where that hint of toilet refreshener could possibly have come from. As the answer hit him he smiled again, shifted gear and accellerated to a higher Warp factor.

 Cronos' heart forgot to beat for a whole second when he recognized the still angry voice of Deirdre in a corridor not far enough from him. Instinctively he hid behind himself. The stench, which seemed to grow on him perpetually, made it difficult for him to concentrate. Sickbay. He would have to go to sickbay. The Multifizzians seemed a sick race. Their sick bay was bound to be big.
 He sniffed the air. His carefully trained nostrils tried hard to filter out the Multifizzian stench and perhaps find traces of ether. Once he found a tiniest trace he tuned his senses to the scent. He looked behind him, where his senses told him the minutest traces of ether had to be coming from. He gazed directly at a large red cross in a white circle, located on a door that stood comfortably ajar.
 Things were going smoothly. Too smoothly even, perhaps. But, then again, things usually go smoothly in this kind of story so he thought no more of it.
 He opened the door further, looking in. The sickbay seemed abandoned, except for what seemed to be a heavily sedated Multifizzian tied to some sort of bed.
 He tiptoed in, monitoring the room for the presence of a syringe of some sort. He saw one immediately, lying on a shelf beneath the bed where the sleeping Multifizzian lay. He went to the bed, examining the sleeping monster. Even when sleeping, they smelled horribly. As if to demonstrate this fact, one of the anal openings relaxed and let go of some gas quite autonomously. Warchild's eyes crossed for a while; he had to hit himself in the face to remain conscious. Somehow he managed.
 When the terrible stench had gone back to its usual level of intensity, Cronos bent to take the syringe. There was a sound, something like snoring. He got up, forgetting he was below a bed with a many-ton Multifizzian on it.
 Which was not a particularly smart move.

 Shit was falling from the sky. Perhaps this is not an eloquent way of putting it, but that was exactly what was happening. Dark brown clouds floated across the heavens, dripping the heavenly excreta. Thick shit. Diarrhoea. Smelly shit. Splattering shit, the works. The kind of shit that doesn't flush, the kind of shit you feel needs to be rid of but doesn't want to. All of it. Naked females hopped into and out of vision, glad because, finally, it was raining. Raining shit. They inhaled deeply, savouring the smell as if they were using their lungs to taste some delicate wine. They let it play within their bodies, sliver across their enluredly naked skins, caress their short leathery wings. They spread the shit across each other's bodies as if it it was some kind of priceless and delicate ointment.
 He saw others mating in the shit-trenched meadows. Dozens, or even more. It seemed as if the world had transformed from rock into a soaking sea of shit and fervently mating creatures. What with the Mutant Maxi Mega Monsters of Multifizzic Omega only being able to breed for about two hours every 41 years, the whole planet was alive and getting down to it.
 An enormous piece of frozen shit, about as big as a dove's egg, knocked the dreamer right in the face. Wow. Every Multifizzian dreams of once being knocked out by a large piece of shit. It's the thing that Multifizzian porn movies go on about all the time. Multifizzians had given new definitions to "Greek".
 The earth started shaking. Perhaps he was atop a mating couple, but he reckoned not as the entire earth seemed to be shaking now. There was a noise of a head connecting to a stretcher, followed by a curse.
 He saw all the mating couples look up at that curse. It was the commonly used synonym for animal and human excreta, a Holy Word not to be uttered by any Multifizzian on the penalty of death.
 The dreamer woke up, staring up at an ordinary ceiling instead of the clouds of shit he had dreamed he was walking under. Waking up from the utmost of erotic dreams can make a Multifizzian very angry.
 Angry enough to tear to shred the belts with which he had been tied to a bed, angry enough to react with instant and eager hostility against the humanoid that suddenly appeared from below, rubbing its head, uttering the Holy Word once more (and now even more emphatically).

 Before he knew it, Cronos Warchild had been hit against the floor, a previously sedated but now remarkably awake Multifizzian astride him, hitting him with as many wings and in as many different places as possible.
 This sudden turn of events had the mercenary annex hired gun puzzled for what was approximated to be 3 microseconds. His tutors, had they been able to witness this, would have turned away in disgust and would have retreated to a corner, disappointed at Cronos' obvious lack of speed. They would sit down and pray for it to be only a temporary thing.
 Warchild was getting bruised seriously, and the thrashing Multifizzian atop him had around his being a stench that was, if possible, even more violently hostile than that of those Cronos had come across so far. The syringe had fallen to the ground and rolled off to somewhere beyond his reach. At the risk of spilling too much of the valuable fluid, Cronos attempted to keep the angry Mutant Maxi Mega Monster at bay with one hand while unscrewing the little bottle's cap with the other.
 Incandescent Orchid penetrated the air. It worked instantly. The monster virtually leapt into a comatose state, taking most of its weight down to the floor next to Warchild. Cronos pushed the remainder of the monster off him and went in search of the syringe, which he found remarkably quickly. He filled it with the scented fluid, realizing he now had in his hands probably the most lethal weapon present on the entire planet of Multifizzic Omega.
 It could be called a miracle that the sickbay fight seemed not to have attracted an audience. Cronos pointed his ears and distinguished only the extremely distant clamour of weaponry and the ever-present cries of Deirdre reverberating agitatedly through the corridors. His finely tuned and highly optimized hearing aids told him there was not a soul near - remarkable indeed.
 It took Cronos by complete surprise, therefore, when a particularly angry-looking Multifizzian's laser gun was shoved up his left nostril at the precise instant when he peeped out of the sickbay. So much for quickly built Lobian hearing aids. He made a mental note that, should he ever get out of this alive, he would have to remember paying that particular hearing aid producer a deadly visit.
 For a moment Warchild thought of commencing defensive actions, but his enemy seemed to have a sixth sense.
 "Go ahead," the laser-toting Multifizzian growled ominously, shoving the gun's barrel somewhat more up Cronos' nose, "make my day."
 Warchild sighed. He hated the kind of people (or monsters, for that matter) that seemed to spend their entire lives just waiting for that once-in-a-lifetime experience when an occasion came by at which their favourite film lines could be quoted with maximum effect. Appearing to surrender, Cronos carefully let the syringe slip in one of his boots. The monster seemed not to notice, but growled nonetheless whilst smiling the smuggest smile this side of Klaxos Nine. It seemed to like this kind of thing.
 "Walk," the monster said, prodding the mercenary annex hired gun into motion in a way it had probably seen in a movie, too.

 Frothgar the Merciless was not having a nice day. He sat on his throne, a bandage tied to his head to keep the ice against his painfully throbbing cheeks in place. His jaws were swollen, and occasionally a bit of spittle mixed with blood ran down his lower lip. He constantly had to suppress grinding and gnashing his teeth. He liked doing it but couldn't due to his fangs having been knocked out by the same mortal that stood before him now, a laser up his left nostril. Deirdre stood next to her father, rubbing a tender bruise inflicted by that very same human.
 "Ath Eathe," Frothgar muttered. The nasty-looking guard eased off, removing the laser from the position so uncomfortable to Warchild, who now sighed somewhat - but not quite - relieved.
 "I hatheth you," Frothgar growled, arising from his throne and walking forward. Cronos looked around and saw the box. The lid was slightly ajar and from it looked endearingly cute eyes belonging to hairy round creatures. They had bloody stains on their ridiculously fluffy furs. Someone would have to pay for their suffering, and pay most dearly.
 Had Cronos' hearing aids still worked properly, he would have heard "It's the Wrath of God, yes, It is!" at the edge of his hearing in high, piping voices.
 At that instant Frothgar mercilessly thrust forward a clawed foot which landed smack in the middle of Cronos' private parts. The momentum hurled our hero back quite a distance. A grin appeared on his squarely built features, however, as he inwardly praised himself for having kept the Vital Switch in the "on" position this time. He feigned severe injury, however, which caused a frothing Frothgar to come closer with the intention to launch some further vile and no doubt cowardly attacks. From a corner of his eyes Warchild saw Deirdre laughing. Like her father, she was in serious need of a dental job.
 From his boot Cronos took the syringe. Already a hint of Incandescent Orchid filled his nostrils. He inhaled deeply the smell that could - and would - deal life and death.
 Frothgar the Merciless was now mere feet away from the mercenary annex hired gun. The Multifizzian leader grinned fanglessly. His enemy was grovelling, having been dealt a paralysing kick that would even have rendered docile the most obstinate of Arcturian Megadonkeys. The pitiable human would be like putty in his hands. Cronos Warchild, mercenary annex hired gun infamed throughout the galaxy, would die here and now. He, Frothgar the Merciless, would rid the multiverse of this dreaded force once and for all.
 He didn't get much beyond that line of thought, though, for at that moment part of the fluid contained in the syringe was launched and hit the Multifizzian leader straight between some of his eyes. Instantly, the monster's head turned to a blubbering and exploding mass of jelly. His knees gave way, but even before there had been time for any dropped-off wings to collide with the ground the fluid had done its purifying work; only Frothgar's armour and boots were left, smoking proverbly. The others, Deirdre included, beheld the scene for a few moments, paralysed with fear - then they dashed off, some of them already in the process of attempting to swallow back their most recent meals.
 Frothgar the Merciless was history. There was no smoke, no gore on the floor, just two slightly damp boots and cheap body armour. Wow. This stuff was even more potent than Cronos had previously reckoned it to be.
 He snatched the box under his arm. High piping voices accompanied him as he ventured his way through the palace's corridors. Miraculously, no Mutant Maxi Mega Monster deemed it necessary to appear within his sight. The utter destruction of their leader had not just scared them out of their wits, but had simultaneously caused global warfare as to who was to be the new emperor of Multifizzic Omega. Even without properly functioning hearing aids Warchild now heard curses, death cries, the sounds of clashing metal and the occasional zapping of laser guns in other corridors. Already there were fires burning and a final countdown running.
 "Self-destruct in about 2 minutes," a metallic voice with heavy Multifizzian accent droned through some sort of intercom system. Nobody heeded the message; they were all too busy with their efforts to claim the emperial throne. Cronos had no clue as to what would self-destruct in 2 minutes. He couldn't care less, actually, as long as he and the rescued fluffies were off Multifizzic Omega by then.
 Luck was with him. After having turned a few corners he found himself in some kind of space craft hangar. Two Multifizzian space ships appeared to be in for servicing, one of which was probably sufficiently not taken apart not to prevent it from taking off. There were a few dead Multifizzians lying spreadeagled across the floor, most of them in parts. These guys seemed eager for that throne.
 Cronos went to what seemed to be the most intact space craft, a Blurgh XI Mark II. He put the box, now containing the fluffy round ball-beings and the syringe, in the co-pilot seat and then jumped in himself.
 There certainly were lots of knobs, dials and switches. They all had arcane scribblings around them, quite unfathomable. There were a few artificial horizons too many, three rear-view mirrors (of which two were busted) and a thoroughly uncomfortable chair. This was not going to be one of those enjoyable flights home, and not just because of the total absence of lovely female Russian spies.
 He randomly flipped some switches, turned a few knobs and gazed semi-expertly at a few indicators. Just like in the movies, it did the job. Slowly the craft lifted itself off the floor, like an enormous bug but far uglier, bobbing a bit. Cronos fingered something not unlike a joystick, which caused the whole thing to turn around its axis, seemingly at random.
 A few Multifizzians appeared in the hangar now. Their faces seemed terribly agitated. These obviously seemed to have made some kind of pact - kill the human first, kill each other later. Assorted laser weapons were fired, some swords were thrown at the craft, bouncing off the hull.
 "Self-destruct in sortof something like around 1 minute, give or take a few seconds," the automated voice now droned. The excess of external impressions of impending doom now obviously got to some of the Multifizzians present. They started shooting and slashing in random directions, often causing instant death to themselves. Cronos made deft use of their confusion to try a small red button located in the immediate vicinity of the joystick. There was a "ZAP" and a "SMASH", followed by a gaping opening appearing in the wall ahead of him. He balanced the craft, longing to fly outside into the sky that seemed to beckon him from beyond the hole. He pushed forward the joystick, closing his eyes.
 Little high voices piped once more in panic. Their God might be divine and all, but rather obviously seemed not to have passed even the most elementary of Divine Air Traffic Schools. Damaging the spaceship seriously, Cronos flew through the bit of wall right next to the gaping hole. Multifizzians, however, seemed not overly confident of their own style of flying, either - the ship seemed to have been built to withstand such events and jumped up, enthusiastically if somewhat awkwardly, into the infinite reaches of space.
 Towards freedom.
 Behind him, there was a sound like someone breaking wind, only somewhat louder. As he looked in one of the rear-view mirrors he saw the entire planet of Multifizzic Omega envelop itself in gaseous matter, the kind which he'd rather not hazard to further determine the basic substances of. There was another sound, similar to the previous but again louder. Millions of years of exquisitely evolved flatulence now had to pay the price. And thus exploded from the face of the universe forever the planet of Multifizzic Omega, formerly the Smelliest Planet in the Multiverse.
 Warchild and the cutesey-wuteseys were safe, finally.

 There was no way he could estimate the distance between the void that had once been Multifizzic Omega and the void that still contained the planet where these small furry creatures cohabited. As a matter of fact he had no clue as to that planet's whereabouts until some enthusiastically agitated small creatures came out of the box and started programming the on-board computer.
 This was the kind of instant on which, in humourous cinematographic works, the protagonist looks into the camera and frowns at the audience, appearing surprised by this rather unlikely twist of fate.
 Cronos now seemed to be in hands more capable than his own - at least as far as navigation was concerned. He fumbled with his hearing aids and found them operating quite normally again - maybe they had just needed the fresh air or something.
 Actually, the air wasn't that fresh. Occasionally a waft of...of... something came by. He had smelled it before, he knew, but he couldn't quite make the proper connections - which was something not altogether unusual. There was bound to be some stench present, after all it was a Multifizzian ship. It smelled a bit like leather. No. Not leather. It was, it was...
 He knew what it was. It hit him, suddenly.
 It was Eau De Pigswil.
 Betraying her acute sense of drama, Deirdre the Merciless, last of the Multifizzians, considered that moment opportune to reveal her suicidally enticing self.
 "Me now have you," she crooned excitedly, "we now all alone, yes?" She moved forward, pushing forward those pieces of her anatomy she considered most attractive. She was actually physically drooling.
 Abhorred, Warchild retreated as far as he could. The fluffy round creatures jumped to and fro, piping in their familiar high voices, trying to get out of the way whilst simultaneously attempting to save their God. One of them seemed to scribble down everything that was happening.
 Cronos' thoughts, though not amounting to much, raced through his head. How would a God solve this? He couldn't strike her, for he saw that she seemed intoxicated with erotic fantasies to such extent that she would probably, if she at all noticed his bashings, be turned on by them.
 She stood between him and the box containing the syringe. He cursed himself for having parted with it. Deirdre came ever closer. Warchild had been so stupid as to let himself be cornered. Her huge shape already loomed above him, her tongue licking her lips in anticipation, various warts excreting some extra ooze for the hell of it.
 Cronos was about to consider giving in, hoping that this might increase his lifespan, when all of a sudden he found himself gazing dazedly at an enormous and ever increasing hole in the middle of Deirdre's body. Through it he saw about half a dozen furry cuteseys who had, some way or other, succeeded not only in getting the syringe and figuring out what to use it for, but also managed to actually shoot at their Antichrist some of the scent of Incandescent Orchid. They had hit home. A few moments later there was a brittle and many-limbed skeleton, some flesh still clining to the bones hesitantly. After another while even the bones were crumbling apart, their remains beginning their own life in zero gravity. Various small particles of various bits of organs floated and ricocheted through the craft, dissolving into nothingness gradually.
 Within about half a minute the last of the Multifizzians had vanished altogether, the only memory of her being a vague waft of Eau De Pigswil that was quickly losing the battle against Incandescent Orchid.
 "Phew," Cronos sighed.
 The furry round creatures just hopped up and down happily, insanely joyous with the knowledge that they had saved God. The Divine One now owed them one, which was a lot more than most beings could say.

 A couple of hours later the last of the Multifizzian Space Crafts landed on the planet of the fluffies. It had been a close call, for fuel had run out somewhere when they were about to land. The craft had crashed into the planet, but miraculously Warchild had only sustained some bruises and but one of the furry creatures had contused a limb.
 Cronos was much abashed at what he saw when he got off and let the rescued little creatures go to join with their kindred: Gfrzxs and the others that had been left behind looked rather unhealthy; their furs weren't healthily shiny any more, their eyes were half closed and they sat huddled together, shivering as if with fever.
 The rescued ones dragged their fellow beings near to the smoking remains of the Multifizzian space craft. Slowly but certainly the sick cuteseys seemed to be getting better, opening their eyes and rubbing their furs, inhaling deeply. Warchild was about to sigh with relief when he had to stifle it. He saw that the creatures did not quite return to their previous, happily bouncing and shinily healthy state altogether. Something had caused them to get healthier a bit, but obviously there hadn't been enough of it for them to restore completely. Even as he looked at them, some of them were already relapsing back to their sickly, pale, state.

 His thoughts of doom were interrupted by another space craft landing at a safe distance. Out stepped a man wearing a raincoat and hat, holding in his arm something that looked like - and indeed which actually turned out to be - a small diesel engine.
 After walking up to a somewhat baffled (...) Cronos Warchild and putting down the engine he took from a coat pocket a quill and an important-looking scroll.
 "It seems we have a small problem here," he said, "and it seems I have come at the right time to present its solution."
 He turned on the diesel engine. A few dark clouds of smoke bellowed from its exhaust. Cronos couldn't suppress a cough. Once it ran like it ought to the clouds seemed to lessen and there was only a vague scent of diesel fumes that pervaded the air.
 "Whattaf..." Cronos mused.
 The salesman, who knew he had done exactly what he needed to do at the right time, the right place, and with the required ´┐Żlan, instead of instantly offering his personal evaluation wordlessly pointed at the furry creatures around them.
 Gfrzxs and his dozens of little friends now all looked as if they had just dropped off the Mother Tree - alive and well, healthy, with shiny furs and starlets of joy gleaming in their little black eyes. It seemed as if a miracle had happened.
 "It's simple," the salesman now explained, "these creatures have had a symbiotic relationship with their captors all along, probably without really knowing anything about it."
 "Symbiotic?" Warchild repeated, indicating he hadn't really known about it all along either, not even quite grasping the sheer concept.
 "Yeah," the man resumed, "each time when those Smelly Monsters took away some of these furry fluffies, they left behind fumes from their rather archaic diesel-operated engines that neutralized a toxic element in this planet's biosphere. In exchange for some of their lives being taken, the rest would be allowed to live."
 "Archaic?" Cronos asked, bemused.
 "Indeed," the man replied.
 Cronos knew there was something he wasn't supposed to understand. There was a glitch in the theory that, no doubt, clever readers will by now have noticed too.
 "Er..." he said, "how could they have lived before the Multifizzians started this...er...symposium?"
 "Symbiosis," the salesman explained, "Well, our records indicate a meteorite crashing into this planet not too long after the Multifizzians discovered these furry creatures to be some kind of rare delicacy. The crash itself caused no serious damage, but it caused toxic gases to be released from deeper layers within this planet's crust, most likely caused by massive dumping of chemical and otherwise toxic waste by whatever people inhabited (and abandoned) this planet centuries ago."
 "Ah," Cronos said, after having been in thought for a while, "I see."
 The man seemed instinctively to glance at his shoulders, brushing off some dandruff from his coat.
 "I am in a position to offer these furry round cutesey-wuteseys this here fine diesel engine with diesel fuel as much as health needs warrant," the salesman now said, "in exchange for services rendered."
 "Services?" Cronos inquired. Finally a difficult word he recognized.
 "Yes," the man proceeded, getting the hang of it now and increasing enthusiasm carefully, "we offer excellent labour conditions and we'll bring back each batch after, say, a month, and get the new batch. All travel expenses paid, of course, and excellent accomodation will be provided."
 "Labour?" Warchild asked. Another word.
 "Why certainly," the salesman now continued, taking a breath for the final bit of what he no doubt considered his most excellent offer yet, "they will be employed to hang under people's rear view mirrors."
 Warchild let this sink in. This certainly seemed quite a generous offer, especially what with all expenses being paid and all this symposium stuff.
 "You're their God," the man said, quite seriously, "so you sign here on the dotted line." He extended the contract and quill.
 Another space craft landed behind them, not the kind of exploration or war craft the creatures were used to see but instead a more luxurious civilian vessel out of which stepped three gorgeous stewardesses who by their exclamations and frantic behaviour betrayed a obsessive fixation on fluffy round objects.
 "Oh, how cute!" one of them said, enthralled.
 "Adorable!" another of them exclaimed, enchanted.
 "Look, they're really alive!" the last one cried, totally emblissed.
 Cronos signed something unintelligible on the dotted line.
 The feelings of affection between the gorgeous stewardesses and the cute fluffies seemed mutual. Somewhere deep within their subconsciousness, directed only by a long-forgotten gene of sorts, a deep love towards these soft-skinned and utterly huggable females developed. Their happy jumping and hopping, if possible, continued now at an even more frenzied frequency.
 "It seems I have become...er...howdoyasay...er...superfluous," Cronos said, finding it terribly difficult to keep himself from envying those little creatures who seemed to have forgotten all about him and now found themselves being pressed against pieces of luscious female anatomy he had only dreamt of ever touching himself, "can you take me with you?"
 "Sure," the salesman replied, "where do you want to go?"
 "Anywhere," Cronos shrugged, "anywhere."
 He joined the man as he walked back to his small space craft. Just before he got in he looked back. He saw the first batch of fluffy creatures, guided by those exultantly blissful stewardesses, entering the luxurious spaceliner. They were piping at the edge of his hearing, or perhaps just beyond, but he didn't really care what statements of joy and euphoria they uttered.
 Suddenly he saw Gfrzxs. The small fluffy was standing behind him, one limb extended. Taking care not to maim the absurdly fragile armlet, Cronos bent down and shook it carefully.
 Gfrzxs jumped off, happy beyond description, piping insanely to wait for him, wait for him. Cronos hadn't known these creatures could move that fast. Obviously, possessing five limbs can increase one's speed. Gfrzxs jumped aboard the spaceliner, too, welcomed by some assorted excited utterances, both of his kin and of the girls.
 "Let's go," Cronos muttered to the salesman.
 They went.

 Original written in August and September 1993, based on a rough, unprocessed idea or two jotted down in May 1991. One or two small things changed January 13th 1996.

 

THE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PECKERS

by Richard Karsmakers


 This story might need a small introduction. It was written quite some time ago when my best friend, Stefan, was in love with a girl that happened to live in the same house as I, a student floor or dorm or whatever you want to call it. She made some pretty divine dessert, and this lead to the following (slightly over-the-top) story.

 "Not even when we are drawn apart
 Nor when the fire is quenched in our heart
 Nor when evil tells us to Or we're sure not to see next morning's dew
 And life will from our body ooze
 Will we stop eating Chocolate Mousse!"

 The Chocolate Mousse Peckers

 It was deadly silent on the evening streets and the moon was hidden from sight by thick clouds, Empironda 7th 107 Emperial reckoning - October 7th 2124 in 20th century pre-Emperial reckoning. The leaves rustled in miniature whirlwinds; in the distance, a church bell tolled eight. The rest was total silence.
 Or was it?
 The dark silhouette of a girl could be seen sneaking through the street, her feet making muffled sounds on the pavement. She looked around constantly, as if she was afraid that someone might see her.
 She stood still for a moment when she heard the noise of an engine, slowly becoming louder and louder. Her eyes opened wide with fear and she dashed for the next corner. The vehicle she had heard coming nearer turned into the street at that precise moment, a beam of light tracking the pavement and the asphalt. When the beam had found the girl, it remained fixed on her. Someone with a megaphone appeared through an opening in the vehicle's roof.
 "HALT! Stop or we will open fire!". The echoes of the voice faded away into the nocturnal autumn sky.
 The girl halted for a second, as if trying to decide what to do, then ran away with even more vigour then before. A shot cracked through the darkness; the girl staggered for a moment, then fell forward to the ground. A bottle fell from her pocket and broke to pieces on the street.
 The scent of oranges tainted the air.

 Soft singing could be heard from a house. In its cellar, some people where gathered together for a special occasion. The songs where obviously related to a tradition of sorts, since lyrics about history and endeavour could be heard if one would take the trouble to listen more intently.
 The singing ceased when a man clad in black lifted his hand.
 "Where's Samantha?," he asked, "She should have been here an hour or more ago!" Concern could be heard in his voice and seen in his eyes. He looked around him at the others that had gathered.
 Nobody answered. They dreaded to answer, for there was only one possibility, surely. They looked at two very old men that were also present in the group. These merely sighed deeply, then looked at a small table in the corner that contained a packet of milk, a cup of cream, some chocolate and various other ingredients.
 A girl started to cry softly. The man clad in black put his arm around her. "Melanie," he said softly, "she will probably have been held up somewhere, or might have had to take a longer route to avoid being tailed. She's probably just..."
 The doorbell chimed.
 "Silence!", the man whispered agitatedly, "that could be a group of Imperial Troopers! I will go and see. None of you utter a word!"
 He dashed up the stairs and closed the cellar door carefully behind him. The bell chimed again, and some knocking could now also be heard on the heavy wooden front door.
 The man took a gun from his pocket, flicked the safety switch and inserted it back in his pocket again. He heaved a deep sigh.
 The knocking persisted, only louder now.

 The vehicle came nearer to the body and the broken bottle that lay at its side. The engine roared and was turned off at several feet distance. A door opened and a man came out. He wore a green uniform and helmet. His eyes looked blankly at what was lying on the street. Blood oozed from a wound in the body's back. The man, an officer of the Imperial Army, sniffed.
 "Cointreau," he said, recognising the smell of orange liqueur, "another one of those C.M.P. fanatics." He bent down and searched the victim's pockets for some ID. He took out a small booklet.
 "Samantha P. Dean", he read aloud, "22 Crescent Cove, Student."
 "It's those damn students all the time! They're never satisfied with what they have," someone in the vehicle said.
 The man that stood over the body nodded and climbed back in the vehicle. It then drove away slowly, its light beam probing pavement and asphalt for others that dared deny curfew.
 The body remained in the middle of the street. The pool of blood next to it grew bigger slowly.
 The body moved.

 The man opened the door, prepared for everything but what he saw: A girl hanging numbly against the door post, blood stained on her dress.
 "Samantha!" the man in black exclaimed while looking outside to see whether nobody was around, "come in! Hurry!"
 He closed the door quickly behind him after having helped the wounded girl to get inside. "The Imperial Troops..." Samantha panted weakly, "they got me, thought they killed me...I couldn't...the Cointreau..."
 Next moment, she lost consciousness.
 The man in black knelt down, holding her in his arms, swallowing hard. Some tears welled up in his eyes.
 The cellar door opened and some of the people entered the hallway. They saw what had happened.
 "Curse those damn Imperialists!" one of them grumbled. One of the girls just wept.
 "Let's bring her to a place where she can die in peace," the man in black said after some moments of silence, "I think she deserves that; she always helped faithfully trying to supply us with one of the ingredients for the Divine Dessert."
 "What a shame that this should eventually happen on the commemoration of the 158th birthday of Its Creatress," one of the old men, dressed in a ragged red 'Miami University' sweater that was largely covered by his long grey beard, spoke slowly. His voice creaked, but in it could be heard still the vigour of its past.
 He was remarkably old yet strong, and known to be one of the founders of the 'Chocolate Mousse Peckers', a group of intellectuals that was formed a little over a hundred years ago when the country was annexed to the Empire. They had been outlawed by the Emperial government since the very first day of their foundation.
 Their name had been derived from the favourite dessert of both its founders, that was henceforth usually served at official dates and historical occasions such as this commemoration. The actual Chocolate Mousse dessert and some of its typical ingredients (like chocolate and Cointreau liqueur) were subsequently banned by the Emperial government as well. It had become harder and harder to get the ingredients together for preparation of the Divine Dessert for the official dates and historical meetings.
 The other of the two old men sat silent, fingering his long beard while staring at a picture hanging on the wall. He was, just like the aforementioned man, tall and old; yet from his eyes spoke still eagerness and enthusiasm of old. He wore a dark green 'Classic Snooker' sweater and wore spectacles.
 The others now also looked at the picture.
 There was a picture of a girl dressed in a purple skirt on it; a smile of smiles ornamenting her lips. Below it could be read, in 21st century post-Emperial handwriting, something that would translate to "Alida". Its subtitle would translate to "Creatress of the Divine Dessert".
 "Yes," this old man now said, "Samantha indeed needs to be brought to a place where she can die in peace." He summoned two of the younger men to construct a stretcher and carry Samantha outside through the back door. They would all defy curfew to bring their friend to a place where she could have some last peaceful moments.
 "May the Creatress' spirit by with us," the man in black whispered as they all left the house.

 The moon had become visible now, and shed some light upon the forest and the group of people that now walked through it on narrow paths. Some owls howled high up in the trees, and pairs of small eyes peering from behind distant trunks could be seen. The forest was something quite different from the stench of the city and the constant pressure and violence there. No curfew existed in the forest and life still more or less abided the laws of nature in it. Serenity breathed from every leaf, every branch, every toad-stool.
 The longer they progressed, the louder a sound became; the roaring of a waterfall. But nobody spoke. Nobody asked.
 "Here it is," the man in black said while raising his hand as they reached a small clearing; they had now walked for more than two hours over the tiniest and most secretive paths of the forest, and the men carrying the stretcher were already showing signs of fatigue. They now saw that the clearing was actually on the edge of a shallow lake, into which a cataract poured down its water.
 The two old men looked at each other and nodded. Their eyes gleamed softly, as if they knew something great was about to happen; as if they were to meet someone long ago lost out of sight.
 "Yeah, this is it," they both agreed.
 The man in black went ahead, and was soon not visible any more through the thick of the night. After a couple of minutes' silence, they heard a soft sound coming from the thicket.
 "The sign," the old man with the spectacles said while raising his hand.
 They all went in single file, and disappeared behind the waterfall, which appeared silver in the light of the pale moon.

 There was a rather long gallery they had to walk through. At about every twenty yards there was a large torch that lit the walls and the ceiling with shadows of playing flames.
 They walked silently towards the brighter light at the end of the gallery, from which soft sounds of chanting arose.
 The tunnel opened in a large hall like an enormous arbour, in the middle of which there was an intricate machine. Tiny puffs of smoke arose from it, and they looked at the bent old men that kept the fire under a large kettle burning softly.
 They filled their lungs with the magic air, closed their eyes and sighed deeply. No doubt: This was the unmistakable scent of oranges and chocolate so familiar to all of them; the fragrance of Cointreau and the other ingredients of the Divine Dessert.
 "Welcome!" a voice that could be heard to once have sounded like the clearest water sparkling forth from a mountain's well said gently behind them.
 They all looked around and saw a small woman standing behind them, leaning on a carven wooden stick, accompanied by another woman with a breathtaking hairstyle. They were followed at a close distance by the man in black, who held a bowl in his hands. The two old men in the company swallowed something; their eyes moistened slightly. She wore a purple dress, partly covered by her brown hair that curled slightly at the tips; in her eyes they saw an undefinable tinsel, a glittering that could easily be mistaken for simple joy but that was in fact a mixture of all the emotions ever cast upon her during her long life.
 It also reflected sadness when she laid eyes upon the girl on the stretcher, blood stained on her dress. She slowly walked towards her and summoned the two men carrying the stretcher to put it on the ground, gently.

 The Creatress knelt down next to the stretcher and touched Samantha's hand. At that moment, the girl came to from what had seemed like a deep sleep.
 "The Cointreau..." she sighed, "I have failed...This birthday didn't bring any Divine Dessert...it's my fault...I have failed!" The girl closed her eyes again.
 The Creatress smiled her smile of smiles and held Samantha's hand more tightly. "You could do nothing about it, Sam," she whispered softly, "nothing. Nothing..." Her voice seemed to loose power and fade away.
 She held up her hand, in which the man in black put a small spoon. On the spoon was some brown substance that they all knew only too well. The Creatress lifted Samantha's head slightly, and with her other hand she held the spoon before the girl's mouth.
 "Here," she said with a voice that suddenly sounded young and fresh again, "take this, Sam." With that, she put the spoonful of the Divine Dessert in the girl's mouth.
 "This was specially prepared for you," the Creatress said, "and it also includes a secret ingredient that I have saved for special occasions. Eat it. It will strengthen you."
 Everybody was silent, even the old men that had been swallowing tears of emotion for the last couple of minutes. Nobody dared even to breathe.
 It seemed like ages passed. Still, nobody seemed even to breathe and nobody uttered even the tiniest of sounds.
 Then, Samantha opened her eyes.
 "More..." the girl whispered weakly into the Creatress' ear, "...can I please have some more?..."
 The man in black filled the spoon once again and handed it back to the old woman in the remarkable purple dress. Again, she gave the bit of Divine Dessert to the girl on the stretcher.
 Was it everybody's imagination, or did Samantha seem to revive? Many legends of old had been told about supposed healing powers of the Divine Dessert, but nobody had really believed them - well, except maybe for the two old men. These sat now crying their eyes out, overwhelmed by sudden emotions of Samantha's miraculous healing mixed with fondest memories of those great nights out with the Creatress and the other woman, Miranda. It had been a long time since they had seen them, and they simply couldn't handle all this joy at once.

 As Samantha regained colour on her face that had been deadly pale but minutes ago, and as she sat upright on the stretcher, the spoon went round the company, and each of the members got a treat to the Divine Dessert.
 The man in black came forward and started to sing. The others, including Samantha sung with him:

 "Again, we defied sadness of heart
 Life was brought to a new start
 We will lenghten freedom's ring
 For again we learned a thing
 Our fight is one we cannot loose
 Forever and ever: Chocolate Mousse!!"

 Original written in January 1989. Rehashed a bit January 1996 (though nothing could remove the "over-the-top" besotted quality of the story).