(Dedicated to Jane… You are the best!)
The Second Level
The door reappeared behind them, and Vince and Howard were thrust unceremoniously onto a glaring sunlit beach. Instead of the familiar concrete world of the city, they found themselves inexplicably buffeted by strong winds and a rush of salt spray blowing off the turbulent waves. Thick black clouds burgeoned across the scene and engulfed the suddenly waning daylight. Vince turned up the collar on his thin, but stylish coat and shivered. Howard was warm enough, but the shock still made his blood run cold.
It was a chilly late autumn day and the shore was abandoned save for a few stragglers, mostly people jogging with their canine companions. No one glanced at the startled duo, despite their odd appearance and their unusual attire. Neither was ready for a day at “da shore”.
A young couple flew a colorful butterfly kite which fluttered in the strong wind, and soared like a bird of prey catching rides upon the thermal lifts.
“I don’t think we’re in Shoreditch anymore Howard.”
“What’s happened? How did we get here?” Howard questioned futilely.
“I’m sure I don’t know,” Vince told him as he struggled with his heeled platform boots in the soft sand. “I’ve got to get off the sand,” Vince said urgently.
Vince shot Howard a daggers look of “Isn’t it obvious?”
Howard sighed, looking about. “It’s always so simple for you, isn’t it? Hair. Clothes. Image.”
Vince ignored Howard’s criticism. He really wanted to get off this beach. Howard really wanted to be back home, but first things first.
“Fine, let’s go.” Howard began walking, but after a few strides he realized that Vince was not able to follow. Vince looked silly and off balance his booted high heels sinking into the beach.
“You see, Vince? This is exactly what I’ve been telling you all along.” Howard sighed.
The kite hummed overhead and dove toward Howard, just missing his back. Vince was too preoccupied with his plight to notice.
“Oh, come on Howard. Stop talking and help me out.”
“I should leave you here,” Howard railed, “just to teach you a lesson.”
The kite whirred past Howard’s head, barely missing him, but the whooshing wind sound covered the sound of the close call.
“Fashion is only a passing fancy Vince,” Howard lectured. “It has no substance and it won’t help you out of this sort of predicament.”
Vince continued flailing about and it finally dawned on Howard that his mate was about to fall over. He did not want to hear the complaints and deal with Vince attempting to remove sand from his outfit and hair.
Howard moved toward Vince in the very instant the kite lunged toward him. Flashes glinted off of the razors embedded in its edges. Howard set about trying to right the dark haired man. Instead of slicing its target, the flying killing toy collided with the hardened sand and was ripped asunder by the impact. Vince and Howard were unaware of its fate, preoccupied as they were with their trivial complaints. They completely missed the fact that the broken kite failed its murderous mission and ended in gritty demise.
Together the pair wobbled and teetered toward the boardwalk. Vince leaned on Howard who continued his insipid rant against the dangers of fashion and the merits of practical apparel.
“Do you realize that there was a rash of injured ankles of epidemic proportions during the late 1970’s that was directly linked to platform footwear,” Howard drowned.
“Howard,” Vince attempted as they finally reached the weather worn stairs and clambered to the top. They both sank down on a bench, exhausted from their harrowing struggle with Vince’s footwear versus nature.
“How long have you known me, Howard?” Vince began.
“I dunno anymore,” Howard said honestly. Was there ever a time when they did not know each other?
“Have you ever known me to deliberately and knowingly commit a fashion faux pas?”
“I…I don’t…How would I know?” Howard stumbled.
“Never! I’m not going to start today, so please can we work out where we are and what we’re supposed to be doing here for that Hierogomus character.”
“Hieronymus. Don’t you ever pay attention?”
“Whatever,” Vince said with annoyance.
They began to study their surroundings. They appeared to be at a seaside resort city of some kind with garish lighting and grand architecture. Looking up the Boardwalk they saw towers looming up against the sky. Colorful chase lights and flashing animated signage beckoned the pair, so they began a sojourn toward the bustling center of activity.
One particularly obnoxious telly-style billboard sign flared continuously revealing entertainment options of all sorts. Stevie Nicks was playing at a place called Borgata Hotel and Casino. Lenny Kravitz would be there also. It did not take the pair long to see on the signage that they were in the middle of Atlantic City, New Jersey in the United States.
Howard started to hyperventilate and Vince was none too pleased either, (except he wanted to see both performers). The duo always wanted to go to America, but they envisioned their entre into the States to be quite different. They thought they would be arriving in style, received as entertainment gods, rose petals strewn in their paths. Instead they were brusquely plopped in the middle of this strange place without a clue.
The pair continued to wander the boardwalk, in awe of the noise, crowds and garish lighting and décor. Vince stopped at every clothing store and bauble shop and gawked, causing Howard to tug his arm and keep them moving.
“Vince, do you get the feeling we’re being watched?”
“Yeah, I get watched all the time,” Vince smiled. “I like it.” Vince smiled at a pretty blonde girl who was staring at him without the ability to look away.
“I don’t mean that way,” Howard groaned. No matter where they were, Vince was the center of attention. Nothing ever changed. “I mean like someone who doesn’t like us is…Oh forget it.”
Vince was smiling at a whole group of beautiful Yankee ladies who were giggling as they admired his looks.
“Alright, ladies,” Vince began, as his charms shined brighter than any display in the town.
“Ooo!” squealed one. “He’s British!”
“Never mind that,” intoned a dark haired girl in a sexy alto. “He’s perfect.”
“Cheers,” Vince answered with a smile at the compliment just a tad embarrassed by their effusive attentions.
The group of women gathered around Vince and began chatting with him. Meanwhile Howard was casting about for the watcher he felt was near. He saw a hint of something out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned toward it, whatever or whoever it was, was long gone. There were so many flashes, shimmers and shakes that nothing in the scenery made any sense. Howard felt cold, hungry and discouraged. How could they get out of this one? They had only a few pounds from Naboo or had they given that to Hieronymus?
Howard felt inside his pocket. There was a single plastic disk with a note that said: “Take Vince! 17 – 3rd 12 – red – odd – 27 Let it Ride on 27 3x.” The Chip bore the emblem of Caesar’s Atlantic City with the likeness of “Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius” and a picture of some Roman ruins.
The ladies had invited Vince for a drink and he began walking off with them to a posh club with an entrance next to the main casino.
“Vince! Where are you going? Ahhh, I don’t believe this,” Howard moaned. Howard ran after his mate with his newly minted lady friends.
The moment Howard moved to follow Vince, a large piece of electric signage crashed to the ground behind him. In the chaos of the crowd and the din of the club music, Howard did not hear the awful screech of torn metal and the clatter of smashing glass. He was unaware of the dangerous electrical hazard that had just been unleashed inches behind him. He followed Vince into the club only to be stopped by the bouncer.
“Where are you going? This is members only!”
“I’m with him!” Howard pointed at Vince who had blended into the scene without a hitch, as if he were always a part it. The girls were enamored of him, and he already had a fancy cocktail in his hand. Howard could see a slice of orange and a pink umbrella sticking out of its frozen golden contents and he realized he was hungry and thirsty.
“Nice try buster. Never heard that one befo’,” said the sarcastic hulk in a thick New Joisey drawl. “Now get out.”
Howard was shoved outside, the force nearly toppling him to the ground. He lost his balance and stumbled into a group of elderly blue haired ladies and knocked their buckets of quarters to the ground. He was properly punished for his clumsiness and struggled to escape their pummeling of him with their overstuffed, coin laden handbags.
“Thanks Vince,” Howard said with disgust to no one as he got back to the boardwalk. “If it weren’t for me, you’d be a piece of plastic right now.”
Howard panicked, remembering the chip. Luckily it was still on his person. He cast a glance up and down the boardwalk looking for Caesar’s which was not difficult to find. The small amount of money that Naboo had given him would hardly get them back to England, but maybe he could fill his stomach with it. Surely there would be someplace to exchange it for American cash. When he reached into the pocket where he had Naboo’s money he found nothing but lint. Hieronymus had taken the money for Naboo’s supplies. It was difficult to remember, but it seemed to be that way.
“I’ll deal with you later, Vince,” Howard said, again to no one. “Meanwhile, Howard TJ Moon will ply his vast skills as a master gambler. ‘Take Vince’ indeed. He can find his own way home.”
Howard boldly stepped into the gaping maw of the casino by way of an outsized revolving door and was overwhelmed by the cacophony of clanking quarters and the din of retirees rigorously yanking handles of one armed bandits. Flashing lights pierced the darkened room. Each display seemed to distract from each other distraction and Howard’s head spun like images of fruits in the slots. He was pushed and jostled by the herd of gamblers, mostly tubby, middle-aged Americans, oblivious to Howard’s plight. He attempted to compose himself and search for something which corresponded to the strange message on the note.
He soon arrived in another vast area populated by a sea of spinning wheels on green tables. Through a hole in the crowd, he could discern that the numbers, colors and sections referred to on the note seemed to match those in the game. He observed for a brief time before his ego got the better of him. He surreptitiously glanced at the paper as he pulled the single chip from his corduroy pocket.
“Place your bets,” the croupier prompted in a firm voice.
Howard found an opening and placed the chip dutifully on 17.
“No more bets,” the croupier announced, as he spun the wheel. The marble was unleashed and clanked around then chose its place.
To Howard’s delight his number won and he received a pile of chips in return. It was still not enough to get them anywhere, but heartening nonetheless.
He placed the chips on the “3rd 12” position and was rewarded for his obedience. A few ladies were smiling at him, which swayed his ego further. He knew what he was doing, he told himself. He ignored the fact that this was the first time in his life he had even been in a casino, never mind “master” gambler.
He thought he would pick a single number, so he disregarded the note and chose “7” thinking it sounded lucky. The wheel nearly audibly laughed at Howard’s new-found confidence. The chips were gone and Howard was jostled away from the table in a daze.
Dejected he made his way to the boardwalk. Rain began spitting in the late afternoon and Howard felt the pelting drops hit his face. The cold dampness made him dig his hands into his pockets only to find another note that had not been there before.
“Idiot! This time, bring Vince and do not stray from the numbers!”
The note spooked him and he tossed it away. Someone was not only watching, they were communicating with him through magic. Was it Naboo? If so, could he help them? Was this his way of helping?
He heaved a deep sigh and set off to find his mate. His best mate who had ditched him in a strange country for a group of giggling girls. Typical.
Vince was enjoying the attentions he was getting from the ladies. The froufrou, maraschino cherry bedecked drinks were going to his head. Must make ’em stronger here in America, he assumed. He looked around, thinking he had Howard in tow, but soon realized that his mate was missing in action. He told the girls he had to find Howard, but they would not listen. It soon became apparent that he could not avoid their attentions. It was a gentle prison, quite lovely, but it was a prison none the less.
“Ladies, I have to leave and find my mate” Vince told them.
“You can’t leave without meeting our leader,” a cute red head insisted.
He was flanked on all sides by the women, who were herding him toward a large pair of padded doors near the back of the club. He realized that no other people besides the gaggle of girls were in the club, except for the bartender and the bouncer who loomed at the only exit like a stone sentinel. He began to get a bit nervous.
“I’ve really got to go,” Vince attempted to insist. It was now completely clear that he was in their thrall, the drinks weakening his resolve. Why did have to leave? Where was he going? He was no longer sure. He forgot for the moment.
The girls opened the doors and pushed him into a large chamber that was decidedly not decorated for a party. The temperature was high and the humidity made breathing difficult. Golden light bathed the room with an occasional spot of blue and green. A few of the women had entered the room with him, the doors bolted behind them. They were no longer smiling and friendly. That ruse had been dropped.
At the center of the room was a shape veiled in cascading curtains of golden toile. Vince could discern some movement through his blurry vision. It reminded him of that Atlas character that held up the world. That world began to turn. A part of the veil was opened to reveal a beautiful face. She smiled at Vince, a smile that angels would envy.
“Welcome,” she said in a rich voice.
“Alright,” Vince greeted tentatively.
“What is your name, little one?” she asked like a mother.
“I’m Vintch. Vintch Noir, rock and roll schtar,” he informed her with a slur.
“Well, hello Vintch. Vintch Noir, rock and roll schtar,” she mimicked. “I am called Polly Headra and I have been waiting for someone just like you for a very long time.”
“Really? That’s really nice. My friend, Howard…” Vince started, slurring a bit. “He always gets into danger when I’m not around to look after him.” The room spun around him. Drinks never bothered him this much before.
Polly Headra’s globular head seemed to revolve. When she stopped, a very different face appeared between the diaphanous curtains, a very annoyed face.
“You will not leave us so soon, my pet. You’ve just arrived. You…” she stopped herself, not wanting to frighten the boy.
The giant head spun again, revealing a face similar to the first sweet one, only this one was more motherly.
“You look pale my dear,” face three stated. “We’ll make you dinner.”
Vince could hardly object, as within moments a table was set before him and he was pushed into a chair. Weakened as he was by the drinks, he could not fight. The meal looked tempting and Vince found that he was very hungry. There was nothing else for it; he tucked in and filled his stomach. The food was wonderful and each bite became more pleasurable than the last.
Polly Headra smiled with a new devious face that Vince could not see, a self-satisfied face. She looked on smugly while the girls rushed around the table, tending to Vince’s every need. A purple liquid that bubbled over a fluted glass was given to him and one of the women was seeing to it that Vince drank it down.
It was sweet like liquid candy. He found he could not stop drinking it and it made him feel giddy. Bits of flickering glitter seemed to float down from the ceiling. There were large shambling shapes of light that danced around the room and left rainbow colors in the air behind them as they moved. They looked like gigantic caterpillars made of rainbows, like Chinese dragons at the New Year’s celebrations. Fiery flares sputtered up and subsided. The glitter bits turned into gigantic dragonflies that glowed in iridescent colors he had never seen before. They played fiddles, banjos and a xylophone while square dancing in the air. And it all seemed perfectly normal to him.
Vince found himself strolling along, being guided by a few of the girls. He was being brought closer to the multi-faced creature that they seemed to worship. They pulled him up and presented him to the beast.
A girl pushed his black tresses back from his face and wiped the sweat away. He should have been terrified when he saw exactly what Polly Headra looked like, but he was compliant and insensible.
“Oh Great One,” one of the older girls spoke, “accept this, the Chosen One as your mate, your husband, your sacrifice.”
“That sounds lovely,” he babbled. “I like the pretty colors.”
Vince tried to make sense of what he was hearing, but the words were incomprehensible at the moment and there was still the small matter of the whirling chartreuse and purple polka-dotted silk dupion armadillo perched on his shoulder that was playing tic-tac-toe with glowing lines in the air and trying to tell him something about investment options in Hawaiian hula girl dashboard ornaments and would he like some spaghetti to feed to the emus?
“Got to askth Howard if iths OK,” Vince attempted. “No,” he told the armadillo, “the emus can get their own pisketti.”
A masked elf that held a raccoon popped up from the floor and the animal threw a green toaster at his head causing pain to shoot through his skull. That sort of thing can never bode well.
Vince’s beautiful but dopey face was very near an evil face that revealed Polly Headra’s true nature in no uncertain terms. It should have made him run in utter horror but instead he crumpled over and they could do what they pleased with the pile of Vince at the creature’s feet.
Howard was trying desperately to find the club that Vince had gone into. He trod the boardwalk and studied every nook and cranny, but he could not find anything that looked like the place. It seemed to have disappeared.
He walked around an area that was cordoned off with caution tape where it seemed a large sign had crashed. Several utility people were cleaning away the pile.
A group of singers huddled under an awning of a pizza joint belting out some odd sounds acapella. Howard recognized the simple chord structures and even some of the songs they were singing though their renditions were much different than their Jazz counterparts. The group seemed oblivious to the drizzling rain that made Howard shiver. He saw their coffers stuffed with cash and he had an inspiration.
“Are you familiar with the music called Jazz?” he asked them.
“Sure! Hey, ‘Skyliners’ guys?”
The group broke into a slightly jazzy rendition of an old standard.
“Every time it rains it rains,
Pennies from heaven. (from heaven)
Don’t you know each cloud contains
Pennies from heaven. (from heaven)
You’ll find your fortunes falling
All over town. (Wah wah wah)
Make sure that your umbrella is upside down.
And the bass sang “Make sure your umbrella’s upside down”
(Baby don’t you know,)
Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers. (and flowers)
If you want the things you love
You must have showers.
So when you hear it thunder
Don’t run under a tree.
There’ll be pennies from heaven for you and me.”
Howard chimed in at the break with a scat that surprised the group, but they went with it, no strangers as they were to woodshedding. Even more people gathered around to see the unusual vocals from this rather conservative looking, corduroy clad man with a funny mustache and tousled hair.
Howard let the music take him. He took the advice of the song to heart, because what did he have to lose? He was an ocean away from home, cold, wet and starving with not an English penny in his many pockets. Vince was MIA again, and all Howard had left was music and maybe he had found a few friends of his own for a change.
With his Jazz improv background he could pick up the cadence and structure of the Doo Wop group’s arrangement, and he literally did not miss a beat when the boys came back to the regular lyrics. He continued scatting over the doo wop, much to the delight of the newly formed audience. The crescendo came and Howard and group belted out a perfect finish which was met with thunderous applause and even a few twenties and fifties from appreciative listeners who had won some money and felt generous.
“Man, you’ve got some New Ah’leans soul living in you, boy!” one of the singers said as he clapped Howard on the back. “And you a white boy alla way from England? Hoo wee, that’s somethin’!”
“Solid, man!” said a short Italian fellow, as he firmly shook Howard’s hand. “You ain’t a doo-wopper, but you all right. You’s got potential.”
There were bear hugs all around, and Howard was taken aback by the American show of affection. But he was happy to receive such a nice response and he forgot that he did not like to be touched, especially by strangers, and for once in his life, he just went with it.
“We’re called ‘Then Again’, a thin, silver-haired fellow told him. I’m Joe on Bass. This is Louie, Lead and Counter Tenor. Got Andy on Bari and sometimes Lead…”
Howard got the full introductions: Electrician Joe, Louie the chef, Andy from Cherry Hill, Gilly the plumber from Philly and Larry the A.C. cop.
“Howard TJ Moon, Jazz Maverick and adventurer, gambler, and general man about town. Good day, sirs,” Howard said, with a little formal bow and click of his heels, which amused the Jersey boys. They smirked a bit at what they assumed were Howard’s British ways.
“You look like you’re down on your luck, friend,” Louie said, as he scooped up some cash and handed it to Howard.
“No, really I couldn’t,” Howard demurred.
“Got ahead, take it. You’ve earned it!”
“Let’s get some pizza,” Andy said.
Howard soon found himself warmed by thin crust pizza, and the camaraderie of the group. He nearly inhaled some hot tea, which he really needed as much as anything.
They toyed with a few more tunes, “Blue Moon”, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”, “Secret Love”, and a few Howard had never heard before, but he was able to join. A few more tips passed their way and the group was happy to give Howard a sixth of what they earned.
The proprietor and customers welcomed the singing and made requests which “Then Again” was happy to fulfill.
Howard’s scatting blended with “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” another song that “Then Again” did with a jazzy arrangement.
There was a lull in the singing and the boys were feeling sated. Howard had a thought.
“Eh, my mate and I have this special thing we do together,” he began tentatively.
Louie stared at him.
“‘Mate’ means friend in England, Louie,” Andy informed him. “Geez, you really should get you some culture. Go on, Howie.”
Howard recited their Soup crimp, tentatively at first, but within minutes the guys were going along with him. It felt wrong to do it without Vince, but he persisted. He taught them “Bouncy, Bouncy” and a few others.
The guys wrote down the words on the back of their paper placemats and together they picked up the crimps, much to the delight of everyone in the pizza place. They were rewarded with thunderous applause from the other customers. One guy who was ordering take-out ran to the door and called his buddies in to hear what they were doing.
“Youse guys really got somethin’ der, Louie,” the owner told them.
“Hey, I knew those songs reminded me of somethin’!” Joe burst then broke into the Name Game.
Howard, Howard bo Boward
Bonana fanna fo Foward
Fee fy mo Moward,
Howard’s mouth dropped to his chest, not sure what to make of that.
The group started fiddling with their own crimp, using the Name Game as a base. It was fun, but Howard was missing Vince very much.
Howard realized how tired he was. He was not sure what time it was in England or whether or not he would have “jet lag” in all of this, or was it “having been zapped across the pond by magic lag”?
The group finally got that Howard did not have a room, and within minutes he found he was whisked away to their suite and installed on the convertible couch/bed. They were short on questions. The details of how Howard ended up in A.C. was left for the morning.
He was too exhausted to object and too grateful for their hospitality and he fell into a deep, but fitful sleep. He felt that something was horribly wrong with Vince, but he was too drained to do anything about it at the moment.
He dreamed that his once sunny mate was being engulfed by fast-creeping tendrils of a black, unrelenting vine. It was the kind of nightmare where he was aware, but could not act. Howard could only stand by and watch with horror as the branches gripped Vince’s slight frame and tore into his flesh.
Vince was being destroyed, being replaced by a darkened copy. Then Vince’s tendrils snapped out and grabbed Howard. His mouth opened in a silent, desperate scream and he was paralyzed with fear.
“It’s only a dream, Howard,” he could tell himself. “Wake up and it will be over.” But nothing could break the spell.
The vivid images plagued his restless mind until he woke, feeling as if he had crashed into the earth. He now felt it even more imperative that he find Vince and find a way to get them home.
Will Howard’s worst nightmare come true? Will Vince become ensnared by the evil Queen? Will the mysterious assassins succeed in their attempts to destroy the Boosh boys?
Save Howard and Vince…review today! Thanks for reading! Hope you find it amusing.
Vince found himself sheathed in tight-fitting black silken garments that hugged his skin luxuriously. Strands of shimmery deep emerald and black gems hung from the clothing and spilled over his prone form. He admired his attire and wished he had a mirror to evaluate the full effect.
He found himself sprawled across a lavish round bed, ensconced in red satin sheets. He had been bathed, scented and lightly oiled. Instinctively he felt his hair. It was smooth and straight so he was somewhat placated.
Diaphanous golden drapes spilled from the ceiling like waterfalls, surrounding the bed on several sides. The menagerie of insects, flying lights, and toaster tossing wildlife seemed to have abated, though there did seem to be a lot of tea cups and spoons exchanging contact information with their smartphones while humming selections from Gary Numan’s oeuvre. At least the crockery and the silverware had good taste in music.
“You have been prepared for our Queen,” a beautiful servant girl pronounced at him in a tone which suggested finality to any argument on the subject.
“Al-wight,” he greeted insensibly. “Always wanted to meet the Queen.”
“You have been chosen to continue the hive,” she continued. “You shall service the Queen and then you shall be sacrificed to her. She shall feed from your flesh and imbibe your blood and the cycle will continue.”
“This is an American custom then, is it?” Vince babbled. “Do you have any cheese?”
Vince became aware of a large round golden shape moving toward him, but his limbs felt like lead and he could only watch it approach him. Several of the women seemed to be assisting Polly Headra, as she approached the bed.
Her massive head turned and a serious face was presented to Vince, who could only lay there with puzzlement as to the whole proceedings as any given cell of his brain was not speaking with any other given cells of his brain.
“Oh Great One, hear my prayers,” Polly Headra began solemnly, praying to her deity. “On this the 12th day of the 29th year of the Nam’onom na nom’s rise upon this plane…”
She droned on with her invocation. One of the younger girls blotted the sweat from Vince’s brow and he managed an “Al-wight” to her in appreciation. “I’m a rock and roll star, did I tell you?”
“Shhh,” the girl hushed him.
“…and in your glory, we serve you.”
“It’s been a great time, but I’ve really got to…” Vince could not remember he was supposed to be doing.
“Arise my fair one, my little bit of fluff,” Polly Headra commanded, and Vince found himself obeying. The hanging beads on his garments made small chink-chinking sounds as they re-arranged themselves to drape around his body.
“This outfit is really genius!” he managed. “La Croix? Mackie? Is it vintage? Looks vintage maybe.”
Polly Headra’s pate spun about and stopped abruptly at Annoyed.
“Shut up!” she belted. “You shall now be shown your glorious fate.”
Her head spun back to the pontificating face. “Naomi, you shall make the Drone understand his purpose.”
“Yes, my Queen,” Naomi responded obsequiously.
Vince was lifted from the bed and brought near to the multi-faced creature. A black ostrich feathered robe was pulled onto him by ever-attentive servant girls. Bits of silver tinsel spritzed out from within the feathers and a few unwanted feathers snuck in between his lips.
“Cheers, thanks a lot,” he said as he pah-pah-pah-phhhiff’d the feathers out of his mouth. “I have one like this at home,” he told them. “Looks lovely over a mirror ball suit. Do you have a mirror? My hair must look a fright. I need to check me eyeliner.”
A small yellow transport with a high back wended its way over a little track and headed toward Vince. He toppled over and into the car which twirled around when his weight was added. Beautiful olive skinned Naomi climbed in and sat beside him on the black vinyl bench and handed him another drink. He smiled and waved at the girl, although she was only inches away from him. She did not return his smile, but held her somber facial expression.
“I was on this ride at Euro Disney,” he told her.
“You shall now enter,” Naomi paused for effect, “The Hive.”
“You really shouldn’t’v gone through all this trouble on my account,” Vince told her.
“You are now passing through the outer strata. This is where the walls are thickest to prevent interference from Earth’s massive magnetic fields and from detection by its military’s sensors.”
“You Yanks are crazy,” Vince babbled as he sipped the putrid green glop. To him, it was delicious.
The car came into another large chamber, where hundreds of Workers ran about, performing their duties.
“Ooo,” Vince burst. “Are they the pirates? I like the pirates. Genius fashion sense.”
“They are NOT pirates!”
“I look smart in an eye patch,” he informed her earnestly.
The girl broke her character and sniffed.
“I don’t think you’d look smart in anything,” she said under her breath.
“It’s a small world after all…” he flatted.
“I really don’t know how the Queen is choosing her mates these days,” Naomi said with disgust. “You are sure to produce inferior spawn!”
“Auk! I hate prawns!” he insisted. “People are always trying to get me to eat them. I’m not eating any prawns, I don’t care what you say, mate.” *
She ignored him and attempted to continue her mission. “These are the Workers. They ensure that the eggs will be maintained with proper levels of moisture and warmth. Temperatures must be kept within a prescribed range of tolerance and humidity is an essential factor.
“If you look to your left…” she told him.
Vince’s dopey head was turned to the right. She took his chin in her hand and spun his head to the correct direction. He stared with unfocused eyes.
“If you look to your left, you will see Stage Two of development, the Larval Phase.”
“Ehhhg,” Vince said with revulsion as he could make out humanoid faces on the white worm-like creatures. “That one looks like me mate, Leroy. He’s well ugly.”
“Idiot,” she shot. “You are quite easily the most unfit drone a Queen has ever chosen!” Naomi was not even trying to hide her disgust with Vince any longer. Oblivious to her disdain, he continued to flirt with her.
“When the ride is over, d’ya wanna go for a walk on the beach?” He turned on his best smile, which looked like a sick walrus instead of the swain he was going for. “It’s a little chilly, but this cape will keep us warm,” he grinned like a fruitcake.
“At this point,” she began as the car took them deeper into the hive, “the Larval Stage is complete and the Workers cap the young into their individual chambers where they can metamorphose into their respective types.”
“Can’t type. No good with machines.”
“Over here you will see,” she started. Vince was looking everywhere but where she was pointing. Exasperated, she smacked him on the back of his head and saying firmly “Pay attention!”
“Wah?” his voice cracked. “You Yankee ladies like it rough,” he said as he rubbed the stung flesh. “I don’t mind,” he smiled. “When in America…”
She twirled up her lips in loathing and continued. “Over here you will see a Queen in development. If for any reason the Queen can no longer perform her duties, there are several candidates awaiting the honor.”
“I do like the Queen,” he said. “She’s a lovely little lady.”
“Not the Queen of England, you buffoon!” She shouted. “Now, shut up and listen.”
He looked pensive for a moment and Naomi though she has subdued him at last.
“I always wanted to meet the Queen,” he told her, seriously.
She glared at him and continued through clenched teeth.
“In this chamber, the Pupas are fully developed and emerging from their cells. They are now Workers, Queens or Drones, depending upon the needs of the hive.”
“Polyester gives me hives,” he told her. “And I get hives when I don’t wear designer. Do you get that? Got to be couture or death.”
“Oh, do I get a choice?” she shot sarcastically. “I pick DEATH!”
She was livid with Vince and would have throttled him with her bare hands had he not been the latest Chosen Drone.
Fortunately for them both, the car was climbing back to the Queen’s chamber. Naomi shot out of the car as soon as she could.
“Is there a problem,” the Queen asked, a stern boss face rotated into view.
“No my Queen,” Naomi lied. “The Chosen Drone has been prepared.”
“What happened?” the Queen asked, reading her servant’s mood.
Vince was still in the vehicle, spinning it around for fun with a leg that hung out from its side. It looked like a car on the Tilt-A-Whirl at the pier down the block.
It took several girls to stop the thing, haul him out of it and bring him before the Queen.
“It’s just that…” Naomi ventured.
“He’s an idiot, my Queen! A dolt! A moron!” she burst. “Please, do not destroy me!”
“That’s ‘simpleton’ in English,” Vince volunteered.
“That is no matter,” the Queen told her. “He will be changed soon enough. The royal food and drink he has ingested are simply taking longer to work on him.”
“Are you certain? Clearly, he is unfit.”
A horrific, angry face spun into view.
“Question me no more and you shall live!” The Queen burst. “I have chosen him carefully for the highest of reasons!”
The girls said nothing, but the “why?” hung in the air.
“Isn’t it obvious?” She awaited their reactions.
The head turned and her next face was that of a girl in love, doe-eyed and goofy.
She squealed, “I think he’s just adorable!”
“Cheers, thanks a lot,” Vince said. He fiddled with the myriad beads that clinked around him, then passed out again as the girls watched him tumble into a heap.
Another servant stepped into the room exuding panicked urgency and tripped over Vince.
“My Queen,” she began as she regained her balance, averting her eyes submissively.
“Yes, Eelleesia? What is it? I was about to begin with the Drone.”
“That would not be advisable.”
The angry face returned as quickly as the girlish lover face had arrived.
“Do you dare defy me as well?”
“There is an issue with this Drone.”
“I know, I know. He’s not the sharpest bulb in the tool shed drawer,” the Queen said with resignation, a beleaguered face appearing.
“If you proceed with him as he is, your mating would fail and the hive would be lost.”
“He is a symbiont, my Queen, or rather one half of a symbiotic system.”
Her next look: incredulous.
“Yes, it’s true. This one is joined with another. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Eelleesia showed the Queen a spy cam picture of Howard, who was blithely adding his scat stylings to “Then Again’s” doo wop sounds. Together they were bringing in a hefty amount of tips from amazed onlookers. The crowds knew doo wop, but had never heard anything like this before. The fuzzy moving picture had no sound. The camera kept following Howard’s every move, getting in tighter. Going blurry. Pulling back, then in again.
An impatient, petulant face spoke this time. “It’s always something around here, isn’t it?” Headra moaned. “Is that the one?” she asked, regarding Howard with puzzlement.
“That’s the one,” Eelleesia confirmed.
Then a look of resolve appeared and said, “There’s only one way to fix things.”
Her servants stared vapidly.
“We need the whole symbiont. Bring me other one then.”
“Yes, my Queen,” the girls said in unison and rushed to retrieve Howard, who was oblivious to everything but his scatting singing and the adulation of the crowd.
*(ed: Fielding routine at TCT)
If you have any decency, you’ll just write “Yo!” or something to let me know you’re reading.
It’s just a silly fan fic. I make no claims to grandeur, but I do think it’s pretty darn funny.
Thanks to the ladies who have reviewed. Much appreciation!
The Second Level
Fandom: The Mighty Boosh
January 29, 2010
Ongoing series. WIP
This section is dedicated to Jane who gave me the will to continue. Thanks for your amazing review and for understanding this bit of insane fic.
Thanks also to my Booshie friends at Twitter! xoxoxox
Notes and disclaimer: Just fan fic. Not for connection to the actual Mighty Boosh. Completely NON-slash.
“Then Again” finished a rousing set with ringing chords that garnered applause from the crowd. Large groups of appreciative listeners always gravitated toward their unusual sounds. Doo Wop, leading to Scat. Crimping interspersed with the Name Game song. Scat evolving into Doo Wop. The crowds were mesmerized.
Howard still had the nagging feeling he was being “watched”, but the accolades and acceptance pushed the notion out of his mind. Of course, he was indeed being regarded from on high, scrutinized by forces he could not begin to comprehend.
Howard was getting antsy about locating Vince, but assumed that his mate was safe and with his new lady friends. He would be the center of attention as always. Howard had visions of Vince laying on silken tuffets, sipping Sapphire Sours with candied orange slices and being fussed over by a bevy of beautiful women, willing to serve his every need. The berk. Howard did not know how right he was, but how wrong it was for Vince who was getting all those things, but only because he was on the menu.
Howard was still striving to get some cash ahead to try to get them back home. Barring that he could at least earn enough so that they could to the casino—together this time—to win the money the instructions seemed to imply that they would. He needed Vince for that. He did not want to be chided again by another creepy communication from the mystifying inscriptions. Once was quite enough of that, he thought.
Most of all, Howard was just enjoying himself. He had done some gigs with Vince, but the response was limited. After the Velvet Onion Crimp Off, the über-trendy audience soon became bored with their weekly chants. Once he and Vince had fallen out of favor with the hipsters—well, crimping was so 5 seconds ago— the Flighty Zeus vanished as quickly as they had reared their look-alike heads, so it was not as if he and Vince had that competition any longer.
But this…this response from a crowd was heady and exciting. They liked him. They really liked him, Howard TJ Moon and they liked his scatting. He was essential to the group’s new success. Could this be “it”? Could this finally be his big chance at stardom?
It was decided that he would join “Then Again” at their performance that evening, opening for The Cavalcade of Doo Wop. The line-up included Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, The Capri’s, The Dupree’s, The Tokens, Kenny Vance and the Planatones, Norman Fox and the Rob Roys, and Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge and a host of others. “Quiet Storm” was going to be there as well, a new group who were “keepin’ da sound alive”.
Howard was elated about the acceptance he was getting from the “Jersey boys” as they jokingly called themselves.
“Frankie and da Seasons Four…they still da originals,” Joe told him. “Accept no substitutes from Broadway.”
“Ah, lighten up Joey,” Andy shot back. “These kids today need that to get them to the good stuff. So they got Frankie winkin’ at Gaudio. Big deal.”
“Sacrilege!” Joe insisted jokingly.
The group donned their glittery costume suits that they would be wearing that evening. Each outfit was a different color from the 1950’s palette. Foam Green, Sky Blue, Peach Melba, Lemon Yellow, Lavender and Howard wore ’57 Cadillac Pink. Howard could not believe he was wearing sequins. He missed his cords, but hey, this was showbiz. He felt more comfortable in this than in some of the weird get ups that Vince foisted upon him. No Camden Leisure Pirates tonight.
As they sang Howard and the boys noticed a group of unbelievably beautiful young ladies sidling up through the crowd. The guys loved the rapt attention from the beauties and Howard felt his chest swell with pride.
“Oh ye-ahh,” he congratulated himself. “Howard Moon has not lost the golden touch.”
At a break the girls started gushing over them. Would they like to have a drink with them? Before they knew it they were strolling down the boardwalk, a girl or two for each of them.
“I’m a married guy,” Andy objected at first.
“So am I,” Gilly said. “It’s just a drink.”
Howard had been straggling behind the group, enjoying to the female attention to the Nth degree. He could not believe it. He had found two very beautiful young ladies who were avid jazz fans and hung on his every word. What a stroke of luck. They listened with rapt attention as he discussed chord structures, histories of Jazzmen and characteristics of what made for a good solo on slap bass. Howard was enjoying the sound of his own voice so much, he did not see the two girls mugging at each other, laughing behind his back.
Howard’s hopes of finding Vince leaped up when he saw the club again. Delighted that he could find Vince at last, he burst ahead toward the smallish sign which read: “The Hive-a-Way”. The club’s building appeared to have a large fiberglass beehive as a roof, like a Bee Cathedral. It seemed to be lit from within, an odd green light that glowed and pulsed to a regular rhythm. Howard had no idea why he could not find such a monument before, but he was glad to see it now.
Howard’s abrupt burst was quite a lucky move since unbeknownst to him, a golf cart careened toward him with murderous intent. Howard barely noticed the vehicle until the resounding “crack” and the commotion that ensued when it ran into a pole, flung off the Boardwalk into the sand then exploded in flames.
But, flaming golf carts were of little interest to Howard who could not wait to get inside to see if Vince was still there or if someone there knew where he had gone. He soon got his wish. After a couple of strong drinks for each guy, the group was thrust into the Queen’s chamber.
They all gasped when they saw Polly Headra looming above a very nonchalant Vince. Howard’s friend was be-decked in the black crystal beaded costume trimmed with ebony ostrich feathers, Priscilla Queen of the Desert gone Goth. He lolled languorously on a silken draped amorphous couch. The creature drew nearer to Vince, her appendages encircling his small, thin frame. She looked as if she was about to take a bite out of him.
“Get away from him, you bitch!” Howard yelled. He surprised himself with his brazen verbal attack. He tried to run, but his limbs did not go with him.
“It’s OK Howard,” Vince said slowly. “She’s my friend.”
“Your wah?” Howard’s voice cracked. “That thing is your friend?”
The group stared at the tableaux before them. They were as puzzled by Vince as they were by the creature.
“Vince?” Gill asked. “Funny name for a girl.”
“Yo, Howie, you didn’t tell us Vince was your chick.”
“She hung over?” Louie asked.
“Eeesh!” said Joe quietly. “I guess love is blind, eh fellas?”
“Woo wee, ya got that right,” Louie replied. “Dat is one homely woman! Can she cook?”
“Guys, I’m not so sure that’s a girl,” Andy said.
“I’m not so sure I care,” said butch Larry in the lavender suit, which caused the group to stare at him.
“Take these fools to the chamber, and prepare them as nourishment to the hive!” Headra commanded. “Bring me the blood of the symbiote Harold!”
The personnel of “Then Again” proved no match against the inhuman strength of Headra’s henchgirls. The group was easily whisked away with only a small scuffle and a few muffled screams as Howard watched in horror.
Vince bopped up from his recumbent position and sauntered over to Howard, who was holding his head and feeling the full effect of the powerful Royal Jelly.
“Glad you could make it, Howard. I was worried about you.”
“You have a funny way of showing it. Vince, what’s going on? What is that thing?”
“Howard, I want you to meet my new lady friend, Polly.”
“Polly is a Hive Queen from another planet. I’m going to be the father of a new race and we’re planning world domination,” Vince laughed and put his fists to his hips. “Imagine that.”
“Vince, she’s a monster…”
“Shhh! Be quiet, Howard! Don’t hurt her feelings. She’s just big exo-skeletoned*.”
“Vince, what’s going on here?”
“I thought you would be happy for me. I get to wear this genius outfit. Looks like a Mackie. She made it herself from her own secretions. She’s very talented.” Vince stepped back and posed for Howard’s benefit while the crystal beads swished and clinked together as they moved.
Howard was trying to piece the whole mess together through the haze of the drinks he had been given. Fifteen minutes ago he was on the Boardwalk, scatting for the life of him, making money and feeling great. Now he was staring at his best mate who was in the clutches of an over-grown insect with a hundred faces and a penchant for garish fashion. Ever the glowing optimist, Vince seemed oblivious to his own plight. The concepts swirled around in Howard’s brain: Hive Queen from another planet? World domination? Apparel made from body secretions? That could not be hygienic.
“Vince, you’re not in your right mind!” Howard said.
“Who were those guys, Howard?” Vince asked.
“Ah…they’re my…,” Howard hesitated guiltily, as if he were found cheating on his wife. “They’re my group.”
Vince’s smile dropped and he slowly blinked in disbelief. “Wah? You’re in a band? Without me?”
“I was going to bring you in,” Howard conceded, “as one of the backup singers.”
“Backup? One of?” Vince said indignantly. “No way Howard! I’m the dynamic front man. You know that.”
“Well, I just don’t think you’d fit in with them.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Howard,” Vince slighted. “I fit in with everyone who’s cool and people in bands are cool.”
“They…We do 50’s music. With scat,” Howard shot as if he were ripping a bandage as fast as he could to reduce the pain.
Vince looked as if he’d been struck by a gigantic pair of wet lederhosen, had a raft of rubber duckies dumped on his head and eaten several bowls of rather crusty potato salad. His mouth hung open.
“You could NOT… have just said… ’50’s’ music, Howard.” Vince arched his back and shook his head away as if he could exorcise the idea away.
“And we’ve got a show tonight,” Howard winced with guilt. “It’s going well. People really like what we’re doing. I’m scatting. We’re even using crimps. I’ve been making a lot of money on the Boardwalk, even though the money split six ways.” Howard’s voice trailed off.
Vince shook his head and pursed his lips. He was hurt and disgusted.
“Vince, it’s the New Sound we’d been looking for.”
Vince started to say something, but nothing came out of his mouth. He could not believe what he was hearing. Howard had joined a musical group. Without him. Crimping with other people? Making money? Without him! And it was 50’s music. It was too horrible to contemplate.
“Howard, you know how I feel about this,” Vince said, rolling his eyes. “There is only one thing in the universe worse than Jazz,” Vince said softly, the emotion so low in his chest.
“I know you think that, Vince, but…”
“The only thing that’s immeasurably worse than Jazz…I can’t even say it. It’s the unspeakable. I never even allow myself to think of it.” Vince heaved a shaking sigh.
“You’re ridiculous,” Howard said. “I’m finally having some success…”
“Wait!” Vince said hopefully, a giant grin returning to his face. “This is a joke, right? You’re getting me back for something I did.”
“Why? What did you do?”
“Well, I…” Vince went through a list in his mind, but held back from volunteering anything.
“Vince don’t you see? It was meant to be. I’m finally making it big! In America!”
“Ahhh,” Vince groaned. “Fine,” he pronounced with disgust. “But don’t come crawling to me when you fall on your face.”
“Oh yeah? Don’t you worry about that, Sir.”
“I won’t need you because I won’t be falling on my face. Not this time!” Howard spat.
“You can’t stand seeing me have a little success, a little sugar for Howie baby. That’s it, isn’t it?”
“You’re delusional!” Vince retorted. “Howie baby?” he echoed in disbelief.
“You’re jealous!” Howard accused.
“You have always held me back. Stood in my way. Well not this time, Sir!” Howard said with certainty. “This time Howard Moon is going all the way.”
“To the asylum!”
Polly Headra’s curious face was observing the two men with the interest of a scientist studying amoebas in a petri dish. All around her were piles of tiny booties and her fore-claws were clicking wildly as she turned out her knitted product.
“Don’t be long dear,” Headra’s sweet face requested. “We’ve got to begin the mating cycle and I’m getting a bit peckish.”
“Right there, luv,” Vince cooed.
“Jealous? Ha! As if!” Vince scoffed. “When we start the New World Order, I’ll see that you and all your dreadful noise, Jazz and all, is wiped off the face of the planet.”
“I’d like to see you try!”
“I’ll do it. That clamour is only good for removing paint and unwanted varnish from decrepit furniture!”
“New World Order?” Howard asked.
“Yeah, you like it? That was my idea. Catchy branding.”
“Original,” Howard snarked. “I’ve had enough of you and your New World Order,” Howard informed him. “So you and this big bug are taking over the Earth, is it? Don’t make me laugh.”
Vince sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Besides, there isn’t going to be any World Domination for you, you idiot. Can’t you see that?”
“What are you on about?”
“You never listen to the lectures, do you?” Howard said with annoyance. “Anyone can see she is clearly related to the order of Mantodea.”
“Second cousins,” Headra interjected quietly.
“Note the forelimbs, where she holds her prey.”
“So? We’ll have unusual in-laws.”
“So…we just reviewed this last Thursday, Vince.” Howard chided. “Mantodea, praying Mantis. She’s a sexual cannibal.”
“I don’t mind that. I’m a bit kinky myself. I like to experiment.”
“You’ll be kinky when you’re being digested. She’s going to eat you, you tit!”
“Don’t be absurd.”
“Fine, let’s say you’re going to be King of Earth, as if that could happen. You couldn’t run a popsicle stand!”
“This from a man with a trunk full of leftover elbow pads!”
“I’ll autograph those and sell those easily at our gigs!” Howard insisted. “They’ll be collectors’ items.”
“Right. All the rage on Ebay.” Vince said with sarcasm. “And what are you wearing, Howard? You look like a strawberry Chuppa Chup.”
“How dare you! You’re a refugee from the House of de Sade.”
“You wouldn’t know haute couture if it hit you between your tiny eyes!”
“It always comes down to that with you, doesn’t it? Clothes. Maybe the Fashion Police will get it right someday and catch up to me.”
“Fashion: a fleeting pile of rubbish that has to keep changing from minute to minute because it’s so awful. And you spend all your time trying to keep up with the trends. For what? I mean, who are you trying to impress?”
“I don’t keep up with trends, Howard. I make trends!”
“I’ll have you know Sir that this is the finest the old US of A has to offer a Doo Wop group member,” Howard said proudly.
“Don’t use that word!”
“What? Doo Wop?”
“I mean it, Howard!”
“Doo Wop. Doo Wop. Doo Wop. Doo Wop Doo Wop!”
“You are such a child!”
“I’m a child? You look like Peter Pan from Hell.”
“Doo Wop. Doo Wah. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum. Doo Wop…”
“Stop it!” Vince held his hands to his ears.
But it wasn’t Howard who was “doo wopping”. The sound came wafting through the cavernous hive.
Headra’s most annoyed looking face swung around in indignation, and her servants rushed to her side.
“What is that dreadful noise?” she demanded. “What is the meaning of this? Guards!”
The sounds grew louder and louder as “Then Again” marched out of the belly of the food chamber.
“Great big pizza pie Ay yi yi yi ya yi yi, Ay pizza…wella wella wella,” the lead sang belting out the Rob Roy’s novelty record.
Suddenly Polly Headra stabbed out a bitter screech, her many limbs flailing around. Her heads spun over one another like a bowling ball revealing a blur of anguished features. Every one of her faces reflected the same shock and agony. Her legs lashed out and tore down the curtains surrounding her to reveal her enormous segmented body.
The high floating tenor voice echoed and pierced the corridors. “Ooo ooo ooo eee eee eee ahh ahhhh…”
The bass sound rumbled through the hive’s structure and the walls began to vibrate. “Bah bah bah bah, bop bah bah bah bah…”
Vince could make out the familiar sound of “Soup, soup a tasty carrot and coriander…” but the other tones made him feel like he would burn up. He clutched his ears, doubled over and fell to the floor. The Royal Jelly that coursed through his veins had taken over his body and mind. It made the Doo Wop so much more painful.
The other Worker girls began running into the chamber in confusion, looking to Polly Headra who was writhing in pain. The Workers and Drones began to pour out of their chambers and head to the front Club as if the hive had been flooded with a toxic substance, and to them, it had. Many of them were clutching their heads and desperately seeking the exit. Each step shot pain through their limbs.
Howard heard his cue in a song they had been doing then began to scat as the personnel of “Then Again” came walking into the room, singing as loud as they could.
“Well Howie, we thought if we was gonna die, we might as well go out singin’,” Andy shouted, then got back into the mix.
“Them crazy broads just fell over and we got free. Who knew? No appreciation for the great sounds,” Gilly said with disgust.
“Did you hear that echo?” Larry asked with elation. “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”
Howard joined in to strengthen the “Vinny, Vinny, bo binny, banana fanny fo finny mee my mo Minny, Vinny…” section. Howard shouted “Polly” and a Name Game rhyme was made from her name. It sent the giant Queen into more throws of pain.
Howard saw that Vince was clearly suffering, but it had to be done.
“Bop shu doop doo wah. Skiddly oop ip pah da da da ah da. Shooby doobie doop,” Howard attacked without mercy.
Polly Headra seemed to be shrinking, her great exoskeleton collapsing in places like a plastic soda bottle being crumpled by a child. Suddenly her thorax arched upward and she turned over on her back. Her many limbs clutched at the air like an upturned beetle as if she could fend off the sounds. All of her faces continued to reflect the great distress she felt.
The hive was falling apart, disintegrating all around them. The walls melted, gushing putrid liquids and the structure beams began to collapse like bones in stew.
They had happened upon the one and only way to defeat this alien menace: a lethal combination of Doo Wop, Scat, Crimping and the Name Game. Nothing alien could live through that. Nothing.
Parliament would have to be informed. Howard TJ Moon would take credit for the discovery of course. He would be heralded as the man who saved Earth from the Alien Menace from Outer Space. Howard imagined the ticker tape parade, meeting the Queen of England, shaking the hand of President Obama, receiving medals and honorariums. Then the Nobel Prize.
A large organic mass splashed down next to him and broke him from his reverie.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” Howard shouted at the group.
“D’ya think?” Larry shouted back. “Go get your girlfriend!”
Howard ran to Vince who was delirious with the sounds. He scoped him up and carried him like Kevin Costner holding Whitney Houston on the poster for “The Body Guard”. He felt very heroic as he and the boys dashed toward the entrance.
Vince was small but sinewy, his muscle mass made him heavier than he looked. His writhing made it difficult for Howard to manage. Howard held tight. He felt Vince go limp, caused from the sound he had just experienced. If Jazz caused Vince to suffer anaphylactic shock, this new sound seemed to invoke seizures.
They managed to get to the boardwalk, their colorful suits covered in glop. Drones and Workers followed in their wake and scattered to the sea.
“Looks like we brought down the house,” Gilly quipped. “How’s your…ah…friend, Howie?”
Vince was limp, lying on a bench on the Boardwalk. He looked more pale than usual.
“Vince! Wake up!” Howard said loudly as he patted Vince’s face.
Vince’s make-up was smeared all over his face and down his neck. His glittery suit managed to survive, but the feathers were matted with melted hive matter, as if a barrel of Metamucil had been poured over him.
Large quantities of ugly green and yellow glop oozed out of the hive and gushed onto the Boardwalk and beach.
“Come on, Vince!” Howard nearly shouted as he tried to revive the boy with pats to his face. “Don’t do this. Vince!”
Howard was beginning to fear the worst. Vince was limp, unresponsive. Was he even breathing?
Howard fearfully felt for a pulse, but could not feel anything.
“No! Vince!” Howard shouted. These few moments felt like hours and Howard was barely aware that Larry had shoved him aside and began to perform CPR on Vince.
Howard staggered back. He felt like he was submersed in a tub of oatmeal. Had he killed him? Had he killed his best mate?
Under the care of Larry, the cop, Vince began to sputter and cough up some of the green glop. He cleared his throat and was able to sit up. Howard’s relief shot through his body like ice water lightening.
“How…ard,” he managed to rasp out.
“Vince, I’m here!”
“I need you to promise me something,” Vince whispered, his throat still burning from the ejection of the awful Royal Jelly he had been fed. He gasped in the ocean air.
“Anything, Vince! What is it?”
“Don’t ever make those sounds again!”
The group groaned their annoyance.
“You berk!” Howard sighed in relief.
Howard was in a dilemma. He had promised his talents for the evening at least and they both desperately needed the money. But Vince had nearly died because of the lethal combination of Doo Wop, Scat, Crimping and the Name Game.
“I have an idea…” Larry said.
Howard looked up and realized that there was further commotion going on. His focus had been on Vince and the rest of the world was now rushing at him.
Several military helicopters had whisked onto the scene and black-suited Special Ops men were rappelling to the area like Starship Troopers. Other ground support vehicles in the form of several large trucks flanked the hive. Another team of men in white HazMat suits began swarming the wreckage.
“We better get out of here,” Andy yelled to the boys.
Before they could leave, a group of Special Ops apprehended them at gun point and hurried them to a chopper.
“I destroyed the hive. Me alone. Howard TJ Moon,” Howard tried to tell them over the noise, but the sound of helicopters, trucks, a tank, as well as efficiently barked orders and battle cries drowned out his wan voice.
From within the tattered hive a horrific chorus of shrieks came forth. The military men readied their weapons, bazookas and flamethrowers. The men that had captured Howard, Vince and “Then Again” turned their attentions to the rampaging Queen that had emerged from the collapsing nest.
The military opened fire against her, but even in her weakened state, their weapons had little effect. The boys knew what they had to do. Her head spun and a most ghastly angry face came to the fore. Some of her heads were covered in white glop and looked dead. Others were screeching and some were absent, as if they had been melted away.
“Vince?” Howard asked as he cocked his head to the side. “You have to cover your ears, Little Man. This is a job for Howard TJ Moon and Doo Wop, Scat, Crimping and the Name Game.”
“Shut up, you idiot and scat!” Vince shouted. Vince clamped his hands over his ears as he ran toward the ocean, trying to get away from Ground Zero.
Armed with the solid repertoire they had rehearsed for the show, “Then Again” featuring renowned scat singer Howard TJ Moon made their world premiere on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, belting out a deadly serenade to a giant bug from another planet. Each song was broadcast across the globe by the fleet of press that had arrived on the scene who were undeterred by the military. A tourist woman held her phone up and captured images of Polly Headra as her final death rattle was emitted from her many throats. At that moment she smashed the Boardwalk’s planks to splinters with her large failing claws.
Ms. Headra was no more.
Across the pond a tiny Shaman sat next to his new HD crystal ball, shaking his head in disgust.
“Bollo say, ‘Harold mess up,'” his familiar reminded.
“This is a disaster,” Naboo said quietly, his lack of emotions in stark contrast to the statement.
“Bollo miss reruns of Animal Planet over this.”
That night Vince sat in the back of the concert, noise cancelling earphones on his head. He had to endure the possibility of his coif being disrupted, but even he had to acquiesce to the conditions. “Then Again” had Howard for one more night, but that was to be the end of Howard’s Doo Wop days. Howard and Vince still needed the winnings to get home, which meant they go to a Roulette table at Caesar’s Palace and follow the numbers on the paper. The pair not out of the fire quite yet, but for one evening Howard was a star and Vince was recovering from his brush with the multi-headed alien and worse, his nearly fatal ordeal with the most horrific music ever conceived.
*The “big exo-skeltoned” joke is from MST3K. It was just too perfect.
This story is written as a serialization. There are 10 levels; this is the finale for the Second Level. You will see finales, but yes, each section leads the boys right to the next adventure. Section—Adventure. Ending—Adventure.