Hieronymus Boosh 5 – 9

Part 5

“You’ve Really Done it This Time, Howard!”

I’ll Be a Big Man in Town

When Howard opened the shop in the morning, everything appeared to be in order. The cape was back over the Snow Globe. Howard had no inkling it had ever been pulled away. There was no sign that the insidious trap of the Snow Globe had sprung like a rattlesnake, claiming the unsuspecting Vince as its victim.

People waited outside and Howard allowed them in to take their places as if for a religious ceremony. Howard had become the Man About Town since he brought the Globe to the Nabootique. He was feeling very full of himself, even dressing in his best tweed with his finest elbow patches.

Here We Go

Howard had not seen Vince all day, but assumed he had spent a night with his gadfly fashionista party-hardy mates and had crashed in someone else’s bedroom. Howard told himself he did not care where Vince was, but as the day went on, he found he could not stop thinking about the younger man’s whereabouts.

The inevitable happened, bursting Howard’s bubble. Naboo returned with faithful Bollo at his heels.

Howard braced himself when he saw the silhouette of the turbaned figure appear at the door.

“What is this?” Naboo asked sweeping his hand around at the seated group. But his gaze was riveted to the Snow Globe. Images of his home world, early childhood, the wild time with the… Naboo steeled his mind against the magic of the Globe but one flash of information leapt before his trained Shaman senses: something terrible had happened to Vince.

Naboo grabbed Vince’s old cape and threw it over the thing. Groans of agony yelped from the mesmerized group.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Naboo scolded Howard in what for him passed as a scream. “This is bad juju! We can all get in a lot of trouble for having this. Don’t you ever learn anything Howard?”

“Now see here, Naboo,” Howard started, emboldened by possession of the Snow Globe and inured of Naboo’s disapproval. “I…”

“You lot, get out of here!” Naboo commanded Howard’s group of worshippers, who reluctantly dragged themselves out of the store.

“Where did you get it, Howard?” The Shaman’s scorn began to burn Howard yet again.

“It doesn’t matter, Naboo! It’s mine!”

“Where’s Vince?”

“I have no idea,” Howard told him truthfully. “And, I don’t care,” he lied with force.

“I have an idea,” Naboo said, his voice reverted to a dangerous calm. “Bollo, get my Opal, the big one, and recharge the carpet. We’ve got to go save Vince from a fate worse than death—again. You’ve really gone and done it this time, Howard!”

“You said that last time.”

“Well, this time it’s even more true!”

“What do you mean ‘a fate worse than death’. Isn’t that a bit melodramatic? Vince is probably with some bird in Shoreditch, sipping Mimosas, lolling naked on satin sheets and exchanging tips on big hair and garish make-up.”

“No, he isn’t,” Naboo said enigmatically. “He’s in there,” he lifted his chin slightly in the direction of the Globe.

“What?”

“That’s no ordinary magic Snow Globe, Howard. It’s a passageway to another world and I’m afraid it’s got Vince.”

“Vince has never seen the Globe,” Howard said.

“Are you sure?” Naboo asked. “Have you been here every minute? When’s the last time you saw him?”

It began to dawn on Howard that there may be something to what Naboo was telling him and he panicked. If he had hurt Vince in any way, he would never be able to live with himself.

Bollo brought Naboo the Magic Stone and Naboo waved his hand and ‘read’ the air.

“Oh no, it’s worse than I thought!”

“What? What’s going on?” Howard demanded.

“It’s Vince and he’s really suffering!”

“Arrrh!” Howard blurted in frustration, now very afraid for Vince. “What is happening to him?”

“It’s horrible! Horrible!” the Shaman reported. “I can barely watch it!”

“Naboo! We’ve got to do something now!” Howard said alarmed. “What is going on? What do you see?” Howard feared the worse. He had his own visions of Vince splayed out, suffering, bleeding, broken beyond repair.

Naboo finally reported: “Vince has been dressed out of fashion! There’s no time to waste! Bollo, how’s that carpet?”

“Still charging,” Bollo told him. “Fifteen hour recharge cycle.”

“He what?” Howard asked, completely mystified.

“We’ve got to leave it, go by magic,” Naboo told them.

“Well then, I’ll just pop off,” Howard attempted lamely. “Got an errand to run for you, so…”

“Forget it Howard! You caused this mess. You’re the first one in!”

Naboo raised his hand and levitated the rangey Northerner from the floor and catapulted him toward the Globe. Howard barely had time to struggle, but did have time to let out a loud yelp of abject terror. He grabbed at items in the shop, knocking Stationary Village into hopeless disarray. He resisted as if he could stave off Naboo’s magical grip. Howard did manage to grasp a rare limited-edition collectible reproduction trumpet bearing a genuine facsimile autograph of Satchmo himself. It was one of Howard’s prize possessions, but he held onto it now out of reflex, as if the brass-plated instrument could possibly save him from his fate.

On Naboo’s instructions, Bollo ripped the cape from the Globe and in an instant Howard found himself hurtling down the same opalescent maelstrom that claimed Vince. He could see Naboo and Bollo in his wake, floundering amidst the rain of toys along with him.

This was turning out to be a very bad day.

Part 6

I’m Only a Berk in a Gilded Cage

The twisted little man was laboring near his delicate new prize doll. Vince had been making such a fuss over his new apparel that the Toy Maker had to place him into an ornate golden cage. Vince was his new masterpiece and he congratulated himself with glee.

“When I finished my dissertation at Apocalypse, I went straightaway into another program,” the Toy Maker recounted. “I didn’t think it was possible, but I hardly slept during those days, but it was worth it.”

“Yeah, that’s nice,” Vince said with annoyance. “Can you let me out of here now!”

Vince felt he could not keep his eyes open as the Toy Maker waxed endlessly about his education. Vince huddled down into the cage, hugging his knees to his chest.

“I was interested in the effect of pharma-hypnosis on subjects, that is to say, in layman’s terms the use of potions with psycho-suggestions on my subjects. I actually killed about 48 humans before I got one that didn’t die, and then he became catatonic, turned into a barnacle and jumped into the River Styx. I guess he’s still there. Those were good times!”

“I’m telling you mate, if you don’t let me out of this outfit the Fashion Police will set you right!” Vince warned more concerned about his apparel than his imprisonment.

“Now, now little one! You’ll love your new life, believe me!”

“Not dressed like this, I won’t!” Vince huffed. “Could I at least have a nice silk scarf?”

“No.”

“What about a cashmere sweater from this season’s line?”

“Doesn’t work with the collar.”

“Oh,” Vince said, with realization. “You’re right. But, this is the longest I’ve ever been out of cowboy boots!”

“You’ll get over it.”

Vince tugged at the Jacobean collar to no avail. No part of the colorful costume could be removed. The diamond shaped multi-color patches contoured his physique. Three large pom-poms stood out on his chest. Topping his ebony shaggy locks was a rather impressive jester hat with jumbo bells on each of the three points.

It was bad enough that Vince was a prisoner of this strange creature and that he was clad in the ludicrous outfit, but the Toy Maker was overtly self-impressed and obsessed with his education.

The Toy Maker continued to ignore Vince’s objections. He was infinitely pleased that this beautiful little Harlequin would so quickly be prepared do his bidding. He emitted self-satisfied tones and ‘humphs’ at erratic intervals.

His tone changed to “huh?” when he saw a ridiculous trio of would-be rescuers appear at his feet.

He was still chortling over his latest find when the motley group materialized. Upon becoming aware of the new arrivals, the Toy Maker surreptitiously waved his hand, casting yet another spell over Vince.

With a thud, they landed. Slowly, painfully they pulled themselves off the rough wooden floor, adjusting bruised body parts as they rose. Howard had managed to land on his trumpet denting the prized object and causing him considerable pain. He still clutched it; it felt like a touchstone to reality.

“Alright, you cheeky lot! Gemme outta here!” Vince demanded from within his cage. “This berk’s got some weird ideas!”

“Ah look! An Ape Doll! An Aladdin! Excellent! But, what to do with you,” the Toy Maker pondered, puzzled at how a Howard Doll would fit into his schemes. He tried to poke Howard, but Howard’s revulsion for being touched caused him to pull away.

“Maybe a World War One soldier,” he mused to himself.

“I’ll have you all sorted out in no time,” the Toy Maker said to himself.

“Not this time, Toy Maker,” Naboo told him. “Where’s Vince?”

“I’m right here!” Vince called. “In front of you, you idiots!”

“Who?” the Toy Maker feigned ignorance, pleased that his spell to hide Vince in plain view had worked so well. The group could not hear nor see the frightened fashionista.

“You know who,” Naboo said.

“Vince raven-haired beauty!” Bollo started, but was signaled off by Naboo. “Blue eyes, like crystal lakes.”

“I get so many through here, you know,” he lied. “Can’t keep track of them all. You’ll just have to forget about him.”

“I don’t think so. Bollo?” Naboo signaled for Bollo to grab the Toy Maker but Bollo was instantly stopped, frozen in place by a spell from the malevolent little man.

“Do I know you?” the Toy Maker asked Naboo as he drew his spell casting hand down with a stylish flourish.

“Maybe. I’ve read about you in Shaman school. You’re really just a nutter who’s obsessed with turning people into dolls so he can send them to do his evil bidding.”

“That’s what they said about me?” the Toy Maker’s vanity peaked. “Go on.”

“That’s about all there is, really,” Naboo lisped calmly, as if he were having any other normal conversation.

“That’s all they say? That I’m just a nutter… Now see here! I happen to be a very advanced Demon with degrees conferred upon me from several fine institutions of higher demonology. I hold Platinum-level standing in the Astaroth Consortium and I have special honors bestowed upon me from Beelzebub University and Asmodeus College and…”

“Yeah, that’s all well and good, big man,” Howard barged in, “but I’m Howard TJ Moon, and that’s all you need to know right now, sir!”

“Who’s this berk?” the Toy Maker asked Naboo.

“Ignore him,” Naboo instructed. “We always do.”

“Thanks a lot, Naboo,” Howard shot sarcastically. “Where’s our friend? Where’s Vince?”

“Howard!” Vince yelled with frustration, his voice straining with fear. “I’m right here! Can’t you see me?” Vince was not pleased with being invisible since no one would be able to admire his good looks. Then he realized that his unfashionable garb could not be viewed and he calmed down a bit.

“What degrees and honors do you have conferred upon you, Aladdin?” the Toy Maker challenged.

“That’s Naboo to you! And I hold a Bronze Certificate from Camden College for Technology and Magic Crafts,” Naboo informed him proudly.

“Naboo pass with gold star,” Bollo bragged through clenched teeth.

“What?” the Toy Maker “You went to a technical institute for magic and you think you can defy me?”

“Unbelievable!” Vince groaned realizing that the demon Toy Maker was far better qualified to harm him than his wannabe defenders were to rescue him.

“Impressive,” the Toy Maker shot sarcastically. “You don’t know who I really am, Nay-bob! It seems a shame to destroy you, so I won’t. You and your monkey will fit nicely into my collection. As for you,” he said to Howard, “I will make do.”

His faux sweet features became distorted as he brought his hands up, poised to strike a spell at the trio. Naboo pushed Bollo’s frozen form aside and grabbed Howard. The spell meant to bind them missed and zapped a gaping ragged hole in the floor of the workshop.

The boys teetered at its edge, grabbing futilely at one another. Howard still held his precious trumpet. Naboo said some magic words and Bollo began to move again, but it was too little too late.

The Toy Maker appeared nearby, determined and ready for another strike. This time his lightning bolt spell hit the trio in no uncertain terms and they fell through the hole, landing in a pile of gruesome-looking doll parts.

“So, you want to see your Vince again!” he cackled. “I can arrange that for you!”

Vince watched the scene in horror and despair as he saw his friends disappear into the jagged hole.

“Nooooh!” Vince yelped. “Howard!”

Did Vince just witness the death of Howard, Naboo and Bollo? Did he and his lifelong best mate Howard just part from one another forever in an unreconciled state? Vince felt as if he had just been hit by a freight train.

The Toy Maker approached the cage and Vince recoiled as far away as he could but to no avail. The cage was too small for him to go far. In a flash, Vince found himself in the hand of the braggart Demon like the diminutive Faye Wray in the clutches of King Kong. It was the last thing Vince remembered.

The Spirit of Music

(Introduces Mr. B Natural from the eponymous Mystery Science Theatre 3000 short.)

Part 7

Howard’s world went black, wrapped in a velvet storm. He thought he was dying. He could see his life pass before his eyes and his mind’s eye settled on one particular incident.

Howard was an awkward boy at best. His only mate, Vince was at ease with everyone, except for a few chav bullies who did not like his stylish apparel and striking good looks.

Neither one fit with the other. Howard was mawkish and shy with no other mates but Vince. Vince was self-assured, gregarious and loved by all though he was only close with Howard. He was constantly on the move, going to parties and any social event available. Howard stayed at home, listening to Jazz records and reading adventure and expedition books.

Howard and Vince watched each other’s backs, and it was at this time that their unlikely friendship—or was it a natural alliance—was born. Howard stood with Vince against the chavs. Vince kept the rest of the class from overly teasing Howard, though he often engaged in the more light-hearted jokes at Howard’s expense.

Howard wondered how to fit in. He stopped short of being envious of Vince, though he would have liked to be accepted by others.

Howard could not consume enough Jazz and his love of the music buoyed him up through the lonely times. He spent his time immersed in its intricacies and memorizing and practicing scats.

One day, he was at his locker when a gaggle of other youngsters came near. He braced himself for the inevitable abuse, but they were more interested in talking about the latest pop records and getting together for a listen. One boy was talking about band practice and his aspiration to gain the first trumpet position.

Howard watched them with longing like a stray cat peeping into an aquarium. He craved to be with them, but felt there was an insurmountable barrier between him and them. If only he could find a bridge to get to their world.

Little did he know that an answer was about it rear its head. He was being observed, and his longing was the very thing that opened a door to another dimension.

After Howard left his locker, it opened slowly. An eyeball peered out and a glint of powder-blue poked out through the opening.

“What’s this?” a shrill voice asked. “Did someone call me?”

The being slipped back into the locker and disappeared.


Howard’s room as a youth was simple and neat. Jazz LPs lined the walls, and his prize trumpet was in its place of honor. He reached for the instrument, but when his hand touched the cool metal he heard a rustle and felt a presence behind him.

He turned quickly to behold the strange sight.

Standing in his room was an androgynous person dressed in a light blue Peter Pan-style outfit. Large black musical notations decorated the form-fitting suit. He/she had a pretty face and short dirty blond hair topped off by a sweeping Robin Hood hat made from the same power blue fabric as the jacket. His/her legs were clad in dark blue, skin tight pants.

“Mr. B Natural, at your service, Boy!” he/she chirped with a decidedly American accent.

“Who are you?” Howard asked with youthful wonderment. “What are you?” he inquired, puzzled as to why this person looked like a woman, and yet called himself “Mister”.

“I’m the Spirit of Music!” he/she nearly screeched.

Mr. B Natural informed young Howard that his love for music had summoned her. She would guide Howard to a better life through music. She spent several hours with him, prancing about and talking about the wonders and benefits of a musical path. Howard was ready.

Immediately, he asked his parents for music lessons, and he assiduously began the difficult task of becoming facile with many instruments. He became quite accomplished, but unlike the promises made by Mr. B, it did not make him more accepted. He joined the school band, but was still apart from the rest, even though his skill soon had him elevated to the coveted first trumpet position, much to the chagrin of the former first player.

Only Vince remained his loyal friend and companion and though they never saw eye to eye on anything, they still had an inexplicable bond, a glue that cemented them together as a pair.

tbc…

Part 8

Howard came back to the present, still enveloped in the darkness and tumbling swiftly toward the unknown.

Howard was becoming increasingly annoyed with the way his day was going. First Naboo rained on his parade by revealing the truth about the Snow Globe. Then he was thrust into this insane quest to save Vince from bad fashion. Now he found himself once again hurdling through time and space to only Coltrane knew where. He did not see Naboo or Bollo, nor could he see much of anything. Unlike the tinsel and candy-coated passageway to the Toy Maker’s workshop, this vortex was dark and foreboding.

He could finally see an eerie blue illumination, and was accosted suddenly by a cacophony of musical tones. Trumpets, kettle drums, saxophones, marimbas, church organs, violins, guitars, banjos, xylophones and a host of other instruments burst his ears, as if he were sitting in the largest orchestra pit in the universe while demented musicians engaged in a marathon tuning session.

The sound stopped suddenly and so did he. He was standing in a dark place, but some peeked through from no apparent light source. He was able to catch his breath and realized by some miracle he was still clutching his prized trumpet near his body. He was able to see the damage that had been done, and though it was certainly not his chief problem, it made him feel oddly depressed.

He became aware that he was not alone and he braced himself for the next misfortune.

“Boy!” a shrill voice called.

“Oh no,” Howard intoned. “Not now!”

“Boy!” the light-blue clad he/she called to him.

“Mr. B. Natural! This is just great.” Howard said sarcastically. “How does that ‘Mister’ work anyway?”

“Is that any way to greet an old friend?” he/she chirped, his/her cheery attitude in no way dampened.

“Old friend? You warped my life!” Howard accused. “You promised me a life of friends and popularity. Instead, I’m…”

“You have the Spirit of Music in your life every day! Everywhere you go, everything you do, the Spirit of Music is there!”

“Yeah, that’s great,” Howard said. “Well I really don’t need this right now! How do I get out of here?”

“Anytime you reach for that trumpet, you reach for me!”

“Not…really,” Howard said warily.

“Anytime you strum a guitar, you caress me!”

“Not intentionally,” Howard said under his breath.

“You were ready to take music into yourself. Let it fill you! Let it control you!”

“Look, this is getting really weird,” Howard told him/her. “Can you help me get back to my own time and place or are you just going to get more shrill?”

“Boy!” Mr. B cried again, standing legs apart and hands on hips.

“I have a name you know!” Howard said, his annoyance at the fore. “I’m Howard TJ Moon, Jazz Maverick.”

“You called for me, Boy!” she said, sidling up to him.

“Did I? With all this tumbling down weird passageways, I probably called for someone but I’m fairly sure it was not you, sir!”

“Called for the Spirit of Music, did you!” Mr. B let out.

“Look, we’ve been through all this, yeah?” Howard shot. “You’re not helping!”

“Knew your father, I did,” Mr. B announced.

“Yeah, yeag, you knew my father. You say that every time, but somehow he never got ’round to mentioning you,” Howard said with disgust. “Can you at least get me out of here?”

“First you must really call on me!” he/she pointed both fingers to his/her chest. “Take me inside of yourself!”

“Oh no! I’ve already had a host of problems with the Spirit of Jazz,” Howard began. “I don’t want a repeat of that. I just want to get my friends and go home.”

The mention of the Spirit of Jazz caused Mr. B Natural to pause, and for a second lose his/her cheery attitude.

“Spirit of Jazz. Yes, one of my subordinates he is,” Mr. B said through pursed lips. “And very unruly at that! Always trying to possess people’s souls and the like. I’ll have to have another talk with him.”

“You do that,” Howard deadpanned.

“I’m the Spirit of Music! I’m in you and in everyone who calls for me!”

“Look, this is not getting us anywhere, is it? To this day, I’m still haunted by you poncing into my life when I was young and impressionable! If you’re not going to help me, just get out of here then and leave me to rot.”

“Had the power in you all along, you did!” Mr. B informed Howard. “All you need to do is call on the Spirit of Music!”

“Look, say that one more time and I’m ramming this trumpet down your gob!”

Mr. B Natural then proceeded to do an odd little dance, running around Howard and leaving him feeling disgusted and hopeless. He sat down on the floor and sulked, finally thinking of Vince’s fate as well. He had set off to help his friend, and now they were both lost.

Ultimately, all of this was his fault. He had fooled around with that daft love potion. He had brought the Snow Globe into their lives. He had left it unattended, knowing full well that Vince would have to be entranced by it sooner or later.

The thought of Vince lost somewhere, perhaps in pain, crept into his consciousness. Howard became increasingly depressed. When they parted, they were barely speaking, hardly friends at all. Howard was wracked with regret. Regret at the whole incident with the potion, closing Vince out of his latest and greatest find, the Snow Globe, just out of misguided spite. He wanted to apologize or at least simply go back and stop behaving like a twit. He wanted to hear that painful electro nonsense from Vince’s boom box, or was it punk rock this week? He wanted to hear Vince’s voice fronting for one of their mutual projects or see him poncing about in some outrageous outfit. He wanted to crimp with Vince once more.

Mr. B Natural stopped his lunatic dance and stood near him, his happy demeanor worn thin.

“Do I have to spell it out for you, Howard?” he/she asked, uncharacteristically annoyed. “Are you going to sit there and feel sorry for yourself forever?”

“What are you on about now?” Howard huffed. “I’ve lost my dearest friend and I’m alone in this horrible place with a nutter who just wants to gad about like an insane butterfly on a hotplate in a cheap hotel.”

Mr. B stood above Howard, his/her arms crossed as she tapped his/her boot-clad foot.

“Blow the damn trumpet, you idiot!”

You Must REALLY Call on Mr. B

Part 9

Howard blinked as if he had been slapped silly and then looked at the twisted once-prized “rare limited-edition collectible reproduction trumpet bearing a genuine facsimile autograph by Satchmo himself”. He sighed, closed his eyes and with nothing left to lose he put the instrument to his lips and let himself go. A terrible sound ensued, as bent as the battered horn. He felt no change but when he opened his eyes, he found himself in a coffin-like box, stuffed with large ribbons of crinkly card paper that poked forcefully and uncomfortably into his body.

He heard a banshee shriek and then some muffled voices, and soon his box was torn open by two ravenous giant children. To his horror, he found he could not move. The children hoisted him aloft, tossed him about and shouted with glee.

He was soon discarded for the next package of wonders, and the cycle of chatter and gleeful shouts of anticipation was repeated. He could see Naboo and Bollo being propped up and posed in comical ways. They shared his paralysis.

A large shiny red ball bobbed down near them from the massive pine tree that hovered over them. In it they could see their reflections; a vision of their miniaturized bodies could be seen there, distorted the same way as a funhouse mirror. Howard was now dressed as a World War One soldier, complete with a gun and helmet. Bollo was stuck in a red circus-style vest with gold brocade, two sizes too small for his impressive frame and a little straw hat with a bouncing daisy strutting from its band.

Naboo looked the same as he always had, save for the growing paralysis, glossy plastic skin and hair they shared. Vince was nowhere to be seen, and Howard once again engaged in despair.

They each felt dazed and strove to gain their bearings and full awareness.

Eventually the children, Chloe and Walter grew tired of all their lavish gifts and mother called them for a hardy Christmas breakfast.

As soon as everyone left visual range, Howard, Naboo and Bollo were able to move. They trudged through the discarded wrapping and bows to reach one another.

“Naboo! Bollo!” Howard called to them.

Bollo let out a familiar grunt.

“Howard!” Naboo called back. “Where have you been? We didn’t see you in the last corridor.”

“Long story. No time!” Howard said melodramatically. “Where’s Vince?”

“Don’t know. It’s just been us I’ve seen.”

“Then it’s high time that Howard Moon took charge!” Howard said in what he imagined to be a heroic way. “Naboo, Bollo, you have nothing to fear now that I’m here, just in the nick of time!”

“We have another problem, Howard,” Naboo broke in.

“It’s at a time like this when a great man should mark the occasion with a few words, simple brushstrokes of poetry or a statement to be written in the annals of history…”

“Howard!” Naboo broke in.

“What is it, Naboo?” Howard asked as if to a child. “What is it that Howard TJ Moon can’t solve?”

“We’re slowly being turned into toys,” Naboo said. “It’s the Toy Maker’s spell. Can’t you feel it?”

Howard became aware of his limbs and the strange numbness that had been creeping over him. He felt the plasticized skin on his forearm and could feel his soldier’s uniform becoming one with his legs.

“Noooo!!!!” Howard wailed. “This can’t be happening!”

Howard had been so busy bragging that he had to stop to realize what was happening to him and the others.

Bollo shook his head in disgust at Howard’s screaming.

“Where’s my trumpet?” Howard said, casting about for his prized possession. “I’ve got to find my trumpet!”

“Forget about your stupid trumpet,” Naboo said. “We’ve got to get out of here. If we don’t get out of here within the next day, we’ll be plastic toys forever and we’ll have to do the Toy Maker’s will.”

“The Toy Maker’s will? What sort of things would he have us do?”

“I dunno. Make sandwiches,” Naboo told him. “Could be anything he fancies, even killing people!”

Howard chilled at the thought.

The second the children charged back into the room, their appetites sated with pancakes and bacon, the trio went limp.

Chloe and Walter were ready to play with their toy treasures. Walter gathered his new possessions, including a hapless Howard, into a giant wicker basket. Chloe did the same with her gifts, which included Naboo and Bollo.

Howard realized he was being separated yet again from his friends and had no power to stop it. Soon he was whisked away to Walter’s room. Walter displayed Howard with a group of other soldier dolls, including some formidable looking marines, naval personnel and fantasy figures.

Howard could feel his limbs becoming more plasticized and continue to lose sensation and flexibility. He seemed to have no choice but accept this cruel fate, the dreaded “Fate Worse than Death” that he had feared for Vince.

Finally it grew dark save for a few streaks of light from the full moon that slipped through the slatted shades. As soon as Walter fell asleep, Howard’s found he could move again, though he lacked flexibility. He touched his face with stiffened hands. It had become a semi-rigid mask.

The formidable figure next to him snapped to attention and let out a forceful “hoo-rah!” and proceeded to go into a practiced routine.

“Alright you maggots, fall in!” a Marine Sergeant ordered. “Are you deaf, Private? Because if you are, you had better start hearing this loud and clear! Get your worthless carcass over here, and right naaaahoow!”

“Oh, I’m…I’m,” Howard stuttered. “I’m Howard Moon, and I’m afraid there’s been a mix-up. You see, I don’t really belong here…”

The drill Sergeant signaled for the Samaurai Warrior and the Orc to flank Howard and drag him to the formation.

“You’re new here, Susan, so I’ll say this just once! When I say ‘jump’ you ask ‘how high and when do I come down’ followed by ‘Sir’! Is that clear scumball?”

“Don’t touch me!” Howard struggled only to be met with a punch to his stomach. The punch, despite its strength, forced him to double over but did not affect him as much as it should have. He reckoned he was at least half doll by now, his human half dwindling rapidly.

“What is your major maladjustment, Nancy boy?”

“Look, my name is Howard Moon, and I don’t belong here!” Howard stated defiantly. “In the last few days, I’ve been hoodwinked by a gypsy, yeah. I’ve endangered, perhaps killed my best mate. I’ve been catapulted through some kind of magic Snow Globe by my Shaman landlord and I’m being turned into a toy by some daft Toy Maker Demon who is not just mentally deranged but who has an unnatural obsession with academic achievement. Now I’m being bandied about like a piece of rubbish and if you’re planning on killing me, don’t mess about. You would be doing me a great service sir, because I have had it up to here with all of it. I’m not given to fits of emotionalism, but today Howard TJ Moon is officially cheesed off, sir!”

Howard expected the next blows of abuse. Instead, he received compassion. He spilled the whole story, sparing no detail. He could not help himself. Oddly the Sergeant and the troop all listened attentively.

When Howard was finished, he began to sob uncontrollably, still thinking of Vince’s fate. They had their differences in the past, but the truth was despite their disagreements, polarities or even betrayals, they were still irrevocably linked. Their bond was forged together with deep underlying and uncontrollable love. Neither one had an inkling of understanding or insight into their own relationship, but it governed everything they did and everything they felt.

“Gentlemen, it seems we have a situation here and a new special mission!” the Sergeant said, his tone softened. “Are you with me?”

“Sir, yes sir!” the group shouted forcefully in perfect unison.

One of the Army dolls patted Howard on the back. “That Toy Maker got me too, Howard. It’s too late for me, but maybe we can help you and your friends.”

Like a well-oiled machine, the troops fell into their practiced attack position. With Howard in tow, they began their march to Chloe’s room. It would soon be dawn, and the people in the house would wake up. If they were caught within anyone’s sight, they would be immobile once again and surely time would run out. They would all be trapped forever in Toy Land.

The plan was to send a ninja scout ahead for reconnaissance. If the way was clear, they would proceed to retrieve Naboo and Bollo, and continue their search if necessary.

The scout returned a favorable message which was delivered back to them through a system of lookout points and the motley gang of unlikely comrades charged into Chloe’s room without mishap.

Howard feared the worst, but what he found there was not at all what he expected. Then again perhaps it was so typical he should have seen it coming.

On Christmas Day in the Morning

Part 9

Howard blinked as if he had been slapped silly and then looked at the twisted once-prized “rare limited-edition collectible reproduction trumpet bearing a genuine facsimile autograph by Satchmo himself”. He sighed, closed his eyes and with nothing left to lose he put the instrument to his lips and let himself go. A terrible sound ensued, as bent as the battered horn. He felt no change but when he opened his eyes, he found himself in a coffin-like box, stuffed with large ribbons of crinkly card paper that poked forcefully and uncomfortably into his body.

He heard a banshee shriek and then some muffled voices, and soon his box was torn open by two ravenous giant children. To his horror, he found he could not move. The children hoisted him aloft, tossed him about and shouted with glee.

He was soon discarded for the next package of wonders, and the cycle of chatter and gleeful shouts of anticipation was repeated. He could see Naboo and Bollo being propped up and posed in comical ways. They shared his paralysis.

A large shiny red ball bobbed down near them from the massive pine tree that hovered over them. In it they could see their reflections; a vision of their miniaturized bodies could be seen there, distorted the same way as a funhouse mirror. Howard was now dressed as a World War One soldier, complete with a gun and helmet. Bollo was stuck in a red circus-style vest with gold brocade, two sizes too small for his impressive frame and a little straw hat with a bouncing daisy strutting from its band.

Naboo looked the same as he always had, save for the growing paralysis, glossy plastic skin and hair they shared. Vince was nowhere to be seen, and Howard once again engaged in despair.

They each felt dazed and strove to gain their bearings and full awareness.

Eventually the children, Chloe and Walter grew tired of all their lavish gifts and mother called them for a hardy Christmas breakfast.

As soon as everyone left visual range, Howard, Naboo and Bollo were able to move. They trudged through the discarded wrapping and bows to reach one another.

“Naboo! Bollo!” Howard called to them.

Bollo let out a familiar grunt.

“Howard!” Naboo called back. “Where have you been? We didn’t see you in the last corridor.”

“Long story. No time!” Howard said melodramatically. “Where’s Vince?”

“Don’t know. It’s just been us I’ve seen.”

“Then it’s high time that Howard Moon took charge!” Howard said in what he imagined to be a heroic way. “Naboo, Bollo, you have nothing to fear now that I’m here, just in the nick of time!”

“We have another problem, Howard,” Naboo broke in.

“It’s at a time like this when a great man should mark the occasion with a few words, simple brushstrokes of poetry or a statement to be written in the annals of history…”

“Howard!” Naboo broke in.

“What is it, Naboo?” Howard asked as if to a child. “What is it that Howard TJ Moon can’t solve?”

“We’re slowly being turned into toys,” Naboo said. “It’s the Toy Maker’s spell. Can’t you feel it?”

Howard became aware of his limbs and the strange numbness that had been creeping over him. He felt the plasticized skin on his forearm and could feel his soldier’s uniform becoming one with his legs.

“Noooo!!!!” Howard wailed. “This can’t be happening!”

Howard had been so busy bragging that he had to stop to realize what was happening to him and the others.

Bollo shook his head in disgust at Howard’s screaming.

“Where’s my trumpet?” Howard said, casting about for his prized possession. “I’ve got to find my trumpet!”

“Forget about your stupid trumpet,” Naboo said. “We’ve got to get out of here. If we don’t get out of here within the next day, we’ll be plastic toys forever and we’ll have to do the Toy Maker’s will.”

“The Toy Maker’s will? What sort of things would he have us do?”

“I dunno. Make sandwiches,” Naboo told him. “Could be anything he fancies, even killing people!”

Howard chilled at the thought.

The second the children charged back into the room, their appetites sated with pancakes and bacon, the trio went limp.

Chloe and Walter were ready to play with their toy treasures. Walter gathered his new possessions, including a hapless Howard, into a giant wicker basket. Chloe did the same with her gifts, which included Naboo and Bollo.

Howard realized he was being separated yet again from his friends and had no power to stop it. Soon he was whisked away to Walter’s room. Walter displayed Howard with a group of other soldier dolls, including some formidable looking marines, naval personnel and fantasy figures.

Howard could feel his limbs becoming more plasticized and continue to lose sensation and flexibility. He seemed to have no choice but accept this cruel fate, the dreaded “Fate Worse than Death” that he had feared for Vince.

Finally it grew dark save for a few streaks of light from the full moon that slipped through the slatted shades. As soon as Walter fell asleep, Howard’s found he could move again, though he lacked flexibility. He touched his face with stiffened hands. It had become a semi-rigid mask.

The formidable figure next to him snapped to attention and let out a forceful “hoo-rah!” and proceeded to go into a practiced routine.

“Alright you maggots, fall in!” a Marine Sergeant ordered. “Are you deaf, Private? Because if you are, you had better start hearing this loud and clear! Get your worthless carcass over here, and right naaaahoow!”

“Oh, I’m…I’m,” Howard stuttered. “I’m Howard Moon, and I’m afraid there’s been a mix-up. You see, I don’t really belong here…”

The drill Sergeant signaled for the Samaurai Warrior and the Orc to flank Howard and drag him to the formation.

“You’re new here, Susan, so I’ll say this just once! When I say ‘jump’ you ask ‘how high and when do I come down’ followed by ‘Sir’! Is that clear scumball?”

“Don’t touch me!” Howard struggled only to be met with a punch to his stomach. The punch, despite its strength, forced him to double over but did not affect him as much as it should have. He reckoned he was at least half doll by now, his human half dwindling rapidly.

“What is your major maladjustment, Nancy boy?”

“Look, my name is Howard Moon, and I don’t belong here!” Howard stated defiantly. “In the last few days, I’ve been hoodwinked by a gypsy, yeah. I’ve endangered, perhaps killed my best mate. I’ve been catapulted through some kind of magic Snow Globe by my Shaman landlord and I’m being turned into a toy by some daft Toy Maker Demon who is not just mentally deranged but who has an unnatural obsession with academic achievement. Now I’m being bandied about like a piece of rubbish and if you’re planning on killing me, don’t mess about. You would be doing me a great service sir, because I have had it up to here with all of it. I’m not given to fits of emotionalism, but today Howard TJ Moon is officially cheesed off, sir!”

Howard expected the next blows of abuse. Instead, he received compassion. He spilled the whole story, sparing no detail. He could not help himself. Oddly the Sergeant and the troop all listened attentively.

When Howard was finished, he began to sob uncontrollably, still thinking of Vince’s fate. They had their differences in the past, but the truth was despite their disagreements, polarities or even betrayals, they were still irrevocably linked. Their bond was forged together with deep underlying and uncontrollable love. Neither one had an inkling of understanding or insight into their own relationship, but it governed everything they did and everything they felt.

“Gentlemen, it seems we have a situation here and a new special mission!” the Sergeant said, his tone softened. “Are you with me?”

“Sir, yes sir!” the group shouted forcefully in perfect unison.

One of the Army dolls patted Howard on the back. “That Toy Maker got me too, Howard. It’s too late for me, but maybe we can help you and your friends.”

Like a well-oiled machine, the troops fell into their practiced attack position. With Howard in tow, they began their march to Chloe’s room. It would soon be dawn, and the people in the house would wake up. If they were caught within anyone’s sight, they would be immobile once again and surely time would run out. They would all be trapped forever in Toy Land.

The plan was to send a ninja scout ahead for reconnaissance. If the way was clear, they would proceed to retrieve Naboo and Bollo, and continue their search if necessary.

The scout returned a favorable message which was delivered back to them through a system of lookout points and the motley gang of unlikely comrades charged into Chloe’s room without mishap.

Howard feared the worst, but what he found there was not at all what he expected. Then again perhaps it was so typical he should have seen it coming.

tbc…

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