The Turners’ Skeleton Comes to Town

The Turner’s Skeleton Comes to Town

[ Many thanks to the Creswick Critique group, especially David, Frank and Christine, whose earnest commentary on former versions of this story, got me out of the hotchpotch  this story was, and into the weird version I truly wanted. You got me thinking…

Happy Writing Friends ! ]

I chose that title because I was sick of being an entity without agency, and I wanted to tell my story. I want you to imagine you are me. Afterwards forget, May my dear, that you’ve been unfortunate enough to see me. When these brief Christmas moments ripped from eternity are gone, forget that you thought that this was real. Go on thinking it was a strange dream. That you found your own freedom to celebrate Christmas, no longer working yourself to exhaustion. That’s a lot of freedom for you. Why did you struggle so much?  Your freedom to this Skeleton who’s done the bidding of your ancestors for two hundred years, seems infinite. Since I’ve had a chance to meet you I understand more about choices, and about surprises. For these brief minutes indulge me as I imagine you are me, and you imagine too.

The ghosts wake your bones from the deepest sleep you’ve had in the past fifty years. It doesn’t matter if you think their reason does not approach the urgent. The head ancestor calls you from your grave deep beneath Devonport. The earth trembles and opens as if it were put into a sifter, and it shakes away from you as you rise. Reaching the surface, you roll in the refuse of what feels and smells like mature bottlebrush. You don’t have flesh to wobble, tremble or bruise but your mandible rattles along with your knees. Like an amputee you experience some sensory stimulus where your failing flesh used to be. Your senses of smell, touch and hearing remain; your sight is ,you believe, controlled utterly by what the ancestors want you to see. Most of the time they lead you blind. You experience continual surprise when you are vertical and moving.  You smell and touch things without smashing into them.  Vegetation parts around you. A weighty substance drips from your jaws and rolls down your stout bones.  It smells like hot metal and murderous mercury. You shudder. When it reaches your knees, you feel the stickiness of webs and the wriggling of avid arachnids. You stand erect, brushing the drooping leaves with your vertebrae. You know that this job is another payback for some Turner descendant’s resented mendacity about the practice of Christmas tradition; briefly summed up with the prosaic words, “someone’s not doing it right”.

These words were uttered by the ghost of the two generations’ past Matriarch. You wish that these ancient ghosts were unaware of the attitudes of their descendants. Alas they are, and you are the suffering servant of whims.Lately, you have learned that May Turner (who is she?) the great granddaughter of the Matriarch is enjoying developing her considerable artistic talent. She is failing in her duty to personally prepare every Christmas delicacy anticipated by her three adult children and their partners.

Egads! she is enjoying selfish pursuits in no other space than her privileged husband’s shed. She has converted it to a painting studio, with the help of a skylight, some shelving, and reorganisation. While arising from your deep clay grave you were shown in the crystal skull, nothing to do with your own, the indifference shown by May. This indifference was displayed when her husband came home from a business trip to discover his shed had become unrecognisable.

Now remember you are taking my point of view, don’t look smug. It’s irrelevant now that you got a fantastical deal on that skylight.

You consider the rumour that has reached you: this past July May did not make Christmas pudding herself. You welcome your remaining sense of smell as the warmth of plump raisins and brown sugar saturated in brandy reaches you. She called Chef Jenny, a local caterer, to make the puddings she would present to her family. You are here to contaminate those heavenly scented creations. A strange sensation like a tic in the middle of your spine starts while molten drops pour from your eye sockets. Words like shame and regret nudge you.  You try to control this process, but it does no good; the more you think about those words the more the molten drops pour.  Webs and spiders appear up to what used to be your waist.

You approach Chef Jenny’s restaurant pantry, sensing you are close, you find an unlocked door, besides which you smell cigarette smoke. Someone must be standing there. In imagination the morning sun is turning all the melted frost to prisms on the nearby grass. There is a vague recollection the sight might be called beautiful though you are blind to it now. Your joints are stiff, and your phalanges seem to rattle as you approach the door. The smoker is heedless. You remind yourself that no one can hear you unless they have previously seen you. They cannot see you by sun: sufficient LED light can expose you to someone with 20/20 vision.  Perhaps this will make you useless to the ancestors in the 21st century, and they will let you sleep in peace.

With difficulty you open the screen door and find yourself in what must be a food storage. There you smell bicarbonate of soda, spices, dried fruit, and odours you don’t recognise. As you clank your bones against stainless steel drums, a voice shouts, “Is that you Roy? I’m going into the suppliers to get some fresh stuff. They sent me something I can’t use.”

You wonder about the powers of what you presume is Chef Jenny. It seems no one told her that she couldn’t hear you. Your whole slavery is a mystery, if the ancestors are being mendacious with you, who will stop them?

You stand stiffly by the shelving as Roy’s voice answers the voice within. “I’m still outside. Maybe something has collapsed in the pantry. I’ll check.”

You hear the door bang, heavy footsteps, the smell of sweat and cigarette smoke.

“Everything’s OK.”

He walks away from you, and then you hear, “I’ll start the stock for the casseroles, and peel the potatoes.”

“Thanks. You should be able to make the sweet and the savoury pastry before I get back too.”

You hear another door slam, and water running. The sound of metal surfaces contacting one another. The thud of a heavy door closing.

You move forward until you feel the straight side of a stainless-steel bin. You reach past it and feel a long expanse of the same stainless steel. You climb onto the bench, and opening the lid of the bin, dangle your phalanges in. There are six bins containing various types of flour and sugar. All of them get the treatment.  Your right shoulder twitches as you scent delicious brandy again. Following your senses, you get closer until you extend your forearm, and your finger bones touch glass.  You are surprised. Surely you shouldn’t be able to smell through glass. Perhaps there is residue on the outside.  You enjoy smelling for a while.

When you leave by the door you entered through, you hear footsteps and Roy’s voice calls, “Who’s there?”

What’s happening? Is there something about this place that causes people to hear you?

You hear a crunching sound and the smell of petrol fumes meets you.

You see a bright red automobile pull up beside you. Later you learn via the ancestors’ report that she wore blue, a grey wool hat on her curly black hair and a multi-coloured scarf around her neck. The person walks around the building you just came out of. The perfume of roses and sharpness of oil paint, tempt you to follow the small person you think must be a woman.

She (you decide) returns a minute later with a box containing what smells like raisins and brandy, warm spices, with brown sugar and butter. You realise something could be awry with the plan. Is this May?  You sense the answer is yes. You realise you must go with her and determine her identity. Because if it is May, your mission is uncompleted.  The puddings she has were already prepared when you arrived and will not be affected by your treatment.

She stares when the back door of her car opens and shuts. What could you do? A word ‘panic’ seems to take form and shimmer around you. Instead, you sit tall and silent in the back seat amongst her jumble consisting of a coat, books, a paint smock, and  dog-eared exercise books. She stands quietly staring at her car. She shakes her head and gets in.

You hear her say, “Must have something to do with giving free reign to the imagination. I’ll get used to it.”

The car begins to move, and you struggle to keep your knees from knocking together.

After a while the car stops, you hear a car door open and shut. You hear another door open and you smell the gorgeous scent of the rich pudding again. You hear a beep and a thunk. The footsteps retreat, and the smell gets less and less. The chirping of birds seems louder and louder in the silence. A chill breeze brushes your knuckles.

 You think, how will I get out of this car?

Despite the breeze you are feeling very warm, when you hear a beep and the sound of the locks on the car thudding into place, you jump. The back door of the car opens, and the woman leans across you feeling for something in the mess. Remember she cannot experience you with the senses you have – smell, touch and hearing, and in sunlight she cannot see you. The explanations of the Matriarch seem to echo in your rib cage.

She doesn’t know I’m here.

You feel the woman pull out two flat papery things from under your thigh bones. You feel a stronger breeze and take the chance the door is open. Quickly, with a reptilian glide you slip out the door and behind her, she leans over and slams the door. You hear the beep again. You follow. You smell damp bark chips, musty wood, then feel stuffy warmth, and smell oil paint and musk roses. You brush against a wooden bench and sit. You feel the woman right next to you. Pages rustle, you feel the brush of an elbow. You lean away and shuffle until air meets you and you drop to the hard-concrete floor. The woman gasps. You wait for a long time in the silence. Pages rustle again. The woman says aloud, “I am May Turner. I am an artist now and always.”

You nod though no one can see you. You are in the right place.

A long time passes during which you hear the woman talking softly to herself, and the scratch of pencils on paper and canvas. She pauses once, and you hear the grind of a pencil in a large sharpener. You are surprised when you hear quick movements and feel her right next to you. The clatter of wood, the smell of paint, the swish of liquid, the tap of wood against glass, the warmth of roses and oil moves past you again. The canvas is being daubed with paint. You find the sounds and smells soothing.

Bang!

Your skull is ringing. The air is cold, and you hear footsteps. There is silence all around, and as the nagging of the matriarch is remembered: you long for oblivion. Realisation brings the knowledge that you are in the same space, but May is not. Banging your head again, you realise you are lying with your skull under the bench where May stores her paints. Giving a serpentine wriggle you move away from the bench and towards the sound of a metal door tapping in the cool breeze.

Erect, you walk out onto the path. The air now carries wafts of the scent of beef and onion. You walk one direction, and the savoury odour grows faint, you turn the opposite way: it grows stronger and so do your steps. A doorway opens before you.

The rumble of a male voice, answering another male, and breaking into loud guffaws tells you that May is not alone. A steel blade taps against wood. You hear the bubbling of the savoury stew you smelled.

“Evan set the table please”, May’s voice sounds chirpy instead of soft and tremulous. A heavy tread brings a six-foot source of body warmth right up next to you, and the rattle of metal cutlery sounds to your left.  Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. The heavy tread gets further away,

May’s voice is low and insistent now. “Evan what about glasses and spoons.”

Footsteps again. The draw is open and the stainless-steel clangs now. He opens an overhead cupboard, and you hear the tap of glass against glass.  Three pairs of feet moving around now. Crockery, a waft of beef and onions, the scraping of chairs.

“How was your day?”

No reply except the sound of forks on plates, slurps and chewing.

You can hardly believe it when you lean your tired skull forward, then look up. A blurry image rises in front of you: three torsos floating on a rectangular cloud, two are big, and one is smaller. The black curls you hear about later in the Matriarch’s report appear as a cloud of their own, just for a moment.  You nod your skull, and when you turn your facial bones towards the domestic noise again, the image is gone.

Chairs move back from the table, and you hear heavy footsteps move away. A loud sound of cheering, and muted voices talking in the background. Right by you the sound of metal scraping ceramic. A sigh.  Softer steps on the move are May’s. You follow. She moves into a narrow space, stops at a door. Creaking sounds and you feel a draft making your vertebrae rattle.

The tap, tap and echo tells you she is descending into the drafty space. You stumble on the first step and feel yourself mess up. Shaking and crashing you descend, landing on cold concrete at the bottom. May almost steps on you as she reaches the bottom of the stairs. You roll away from the faint warmth emitted by her presence. She stops, a cupboard door creaks. The fragrance, the warm spicy fragrance of Christmas pudding is both a pleasure, and the welcome sign that your mission could soon be completed. Muffled thuds, and the snap of doors closing. Footsteps ascend the stairs, as you lie coffin still. You go to the cupboard and find it empty. The fragrance lingers. You haul yourself up the stairs by both rails, hopping onto every second step. The door is ajar, and you find yourself in the hall.

Where is May?

In the kitchen eating uncontaminated pudding?

You feel disorientated but find your way back to the living area. Muffled roaring and cheering, excited voices none  of which sounds like May. You return through the door by which you entered and listen for the sound of the shed door. You hear it shut.

A gladness that you have no voice is sensed. In frustration you would use it now.

Gah!

The shed door opens to you and you are back in the concrete space, with pungent oil and softer rose. Too late you realise you stand in the glare of an LED lamp.

Insistent words from May, “Who are you? Who are you?”

Turning, you rattle and stumble away. Lurching from side to side, staggering back along the gravelly driveway, down the rough verges of the country lane. Wearily, you huddle under the bottlebrush that marks your entry into the nether realm of the ancestors. Stuck, you feel you cannot return without finishing the mission, and you cannot risk the exposure of LED. A night, that seems as if it is a century, passes.

When you finally feel the warmth of the sun, every bone is dripping with wetness. Standing you find your joints clogged with thick sacks of spider silk that make it cumbersome to move. The arachnids have insulated their progeny from the frost at your expense. May cannot see you by sunlight. The mission must be fulfilled.

You stumble into a large mud puddle at the entry to May’s driveway. A film of mud now sullies everything about you. The contact of rough granite that forms the entrance posts tells you that you’re entering the driveway. The path to the shed is before you and you retrace your bumbling steps.

Silence in the shed. You move around the whole space. Meditating on each smell, a trance of sensation you have not felt in a hundred years bubbles around you. Let this be the last moment before oblivion. Please.

Does the matriarch laugh, or is that some vividly remembered sound?

You stand. You move to the bench where you heard May’s voice. You sit. For seconds your vision exists: the canvas in front of you is haloed. A skull of silver in a bed of magenta roses. A tiny blue-winged bird with a black head, and fan-shaped tail sits on the skull. The skull is yours. You without the weight of your body. You objectified.

Macabre and natural beauty together for a transcendent moment.

A flash and it is gone.

Your spider bugged cage of being crashes back to your present hell.

Search for the puddings. Search for the puddings. A rhythm of vibrations that you sense as words, as if a heart still beat beneath your rib cage.On a whim, isn’t it all about whims, you return to the cellar discovered the night before. The cupboard when opened contains the strong smell of pudding.

Why were the puddings taken away the night before?

You place your bony digits inside and shuffle them until Arachnidom is awakened. The glistening glowing eggs descend like dew, and the puddings are cursed.

Returning to the place from which you came, you sleep the deepest sleep of regret found in two hundred years. The ancestors awaken you too soon – five months later to the day in fact. They restore your sight, so you can join them in watching their practical pettiness in the crystal skull.

May and the two men, plus another man whom you’ve never seen before, along with two women, sit around a table decorated with red candles and golden tinsel.  In front of each one is an empty, gravy smeared plate. The cheeky blonde woman gets up, and turns to Evan. “Now you can eat the traditional pudding you been trying to steal for months.”

Everyone at the table laughs. The man next to Evan fills their smeared glasses with champagne. The blonde comes back with one of the puddings. Golden custard, white ice-cream, brown pudding in deep crystal bowls is placed before them all. The blonde gets the rest of the pudding, in case second helpings can be stuffed into swollen bellies. The Matriarch snickers in anticipation.

In the skull you can see May’s family eat, and sigh with satisfaction. They are discussing putting on a DVD of The Grinch to nap by when it happens.

The one called Evan vomits wriggling arachnids across the already destroyed repast, and the remains of a writhing pudding. There is screaming. There is running. Your spine aches with regret. The ugly pointlessness of spite.

The warm intent of May’s painting: the curves of Skull amongst velvety roses is the imagining you choose. It is your first choice for ages. The painting of you was a gift, and you responded out of not only duress, but habit. You literally have no heart left. You are surprised to see, in your big toe, a twitch that used to accompany the feeling of shame. Released from the viewing, you stumble back to your coffin for another long, deep sleep in your shady career.

A sweet dream visits you there in the blackness. In it you find the key to the vision box, and the escape hatch. You return to May’s shed studio. You enjoy watching her paint for what seems like forever. The memory of avid arachnids is obliterated by the artist’s canvases infused with awakened imagination and forgiving acceptance.

You dream the one you visit sees you and hears the story with rapt attention. Your apology is accepted. It will be a secret between the two of you, this weird family secret that relieves her from the duty of making pudding when she could be making art.

She laughs saying, “Though you made puddings artful to say the least.”

You both admit to being glad that Evan has learned again to accept the very existence of Christmas pudding made by Chef Jenny.

The tiny bit of agency inspired in you by another’s boldness is spent, but the romancing of the skull in oil paints remains.

Did you really see me? Will you tell my story?

The End

© D. E. Rebbechi – O’Donnell

25 April 2018 – V.12

 

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Party Goers

 [[I don’t think even a sentence edit can rescue this two years’ old story, but my journey continues word worts and all.  I am surprised by what impulse led me to write this story; unlike more together writers I cannot tell you all that I was thinking. I do know that I wanted to showcase an unreliable narrator, thus practice is my excuse. Any body can write badly, but it’s a rare few that know that they’ve done it and why! Of course you need a time away from the writing, distance, and courage.]]

I got angry at my silver-bodied, sapphire-eyed robotic frenemy.  With his wide set eyes, triangular  hooked beak and square chest, he bore some resemblance to a large eagle. I had thought he was my lifelong buddy Jack: lean and curly haired, with stooped shoulders, tanned hands and a manic manner.  

How could I have confused my friend with a six-foot avian monster?

It began one October night when the moon resembled a large golden bowling ball from the local ten pin. We had dropped in at six pm to play a game with Jack’s younger twin brothers.  

Initially, I refused  the eight pound ball thinking, that’s two bloody pounds too heavy for consistent strikes.  

The attendant offered me no choice. The lanes were crowded,the balls picked over, and that ball was “it”. The fluorescent strips reflected off the metallic ball with its glittery surface. It had hardly been scratched. As if the ball were trying to impress me, I bowled  three strikes in a row. After that it was 8s and 9s with the occasional strike, but I had enough points to win the game.

Jack suggested we drop in  to Lorene Bailey’s after we dropped off his brothers at the local cinema.

‘She’s having a bunch of people over for some coldies and pizza, and then a bunch  of us are heading to the clubs.’

I had been nursing my wounds after my most recent girlfriend had dumped me, and after three Saturday nights in a row at home, I was keen to be out. We enjoyed Lorene’s party but we weren’t there all night.

We left  Lorene’s at 9pm with half a dozen friends, and headed to a new place in town The SF Bar.  The security didn’t seem too fussed that half of us were underaged.

On entering the club I was expecting pictorials of San Francisco, a city I had visited briefly once, when I was greeted by large murals of robots, CPUs, spaceships and staff dressed like Trekkies or Star wars fans. The DJ wore a storm trooper mask, and the loud music made me want to dance.

First we did a few shots,  and then two tall blonde girls, who we thought were tourists, agreed to dance with Jack and I. I had never felt so graceful and rhythmic on the floor. I felt like  I was in a Zayn Video.

Perhaps I could compete on Dancing with the Stars; my Mum loves it so much.

The overhead strip lights melded into two long ribbons of turquoise and scarlet. I had never felt so high. Jack hugged me, and I hugged him back.

We are huggers full of glee.

I called out, “ I love you, bro”,  without a care for who might hear. I felt a brief stinging sensation in the back of my arm, but I thought nothing of it. I was in love with the world at that moment, including  with the Barbie-like hottie I was dancing with.  The dancing seemed to go on and on, with different settings appearing all around me. I was dancing on Bondi beach,  on the curve of a rainbow, and in the middle of the Milky Way.  Barbie and Jack were everywhere with me.Everything stopped and I felt like I was sinking into a pile of feathers.

When I woke Jack was smiling at me, and asked me if I’d like some breakfast. We walked into a room with long tables in it, featuring a mural from Tatooine with Luke Skywalker framed against the rising moon. On the tables were platters of sausage, egg and bacon, toast with butter and pots of jam, assorted pastries and fruit.   The Barbie girls served us. They winked and even I marvelled how long and black their eyelashes were.  We ate until we could hardly move.

‘Wow’, I felt like my voice was coming from far away, ‘they’re very generous for the $15 cover charge. I thought that was steep last night.’

Jack nodded, but didn’t speak, and for a moment I thought I was looking at a birdlike robot.

Now, I wonder how often I replayed that scene or whether I was drugged so long that the experience  filled all the days until now. I went to the bowling alley with Jack and his brothers on the 9th of October. When I woke up in the black pit full of rocks spouting mini waterfalls and swags of moss, the back of the bird robot was in front of me.

Out of him still issued Jack’s voice, ‘Come on Paul, have another shot. Its awesome, come on .’

I blinked and closed my eyes several times. I held my bony hands up to my face. My gut growled angrily, my mouth so dry I wanted to lick the damp moss. There was not a rainbow or a Barbie in sight. No Jack either. I couldn’t feel my legs, and when I moved my arm I felt something coarse and irritating.

What is going on?

The last time I saw a little red dot in front of my eyes, instead of clutching at it I had batted it away. During my dream, the red dots had appeared with monotonous regularity, and I had grabbed at them, until the most recent ones. I shuddered with fear and cold.

I hunched over in a crawling position and began to move towards the only gap in the stone wall which showed light, light that looked like daylight. It hurt my eyes. My knees ached, and my legs stung and burned. When I looked back the robot bird was still hunched over a narrow black table. He didn’t seem to notice that I had moved so I crawled on. When I finally reached the gap I looked back. There was a body on the table, a human body. My heart raced.

Was it a body?

I had thought I was in a nightclub with the Barbies and Jack. Had that been a dream or had I been kidnapped?  Or was everything I was experiencing now an hallucination. Should I be scared of the robot?  

I struggled over a large boulder that sat by the gap  I had crawled to. I fell forward scraping my cheek on the rough surface. I cried out, and  and touched my cheek, I felt warm and sticky ooze. I remembered having the same experience sometime before I ever went to The SF Bar.

This must be real.

 There was a bruise on my knee, but I could now feel my legs enough to stand. I looked back and saw the robot bird had moved away from the table, and was reaching into a cabinet bolted to the stone about three feet from the ground. I could now see the body clearly and it looked like Jack.

Jack. I had to do something for him. This was real. Freaking far out but real.

Was the bird a robot, or a madman in a suit? If he was a robot, who had made him?

I felt like my whole head and neck were pulsating. I had to calm down. I had to have a plan.

The robot moved away, and a sliding door appeared at the back of the cave room. He lurched through it and thunked away. The door slid shut behind him. I crept from my position to the table with the body on it. I touched it. It felt like latex, not human at all. The lean figure and black corkscrew curls were close to real life but in this light, I could see that this was android Jack, not my friend.

Was there an android of me somewhere too, and was the real Jack with it?

I looked around, and picked up a sturdy piece of steel tubing.  My mind was clearing. There were computer screens, and glass bowls full of tiny parts. This was a laboratory, and most likely equipped  with surveillance. It seemed surreal, but someone was making androids that looked like real people. I had to find Jack. I gave myself a really good pinch, and a slap on the cheek ; I made sure I wasn’t dreaming . I marched toward the sliding door.

It slid open, and I was in a long tunnel. There were lights on the wall about every three metres, and I could see lighted doorways to my right and left.  I had to guess which way robot bird had gone. I went right and into the first lighted room. Seated in chairs along the wall to my left was what looked like my entire soccer team in still life. I touched Buddy West on the cheek. His skin was plasticky and dry,like Jack’s android.

Perhaps I was an android?

I slowed my breathing and decided the heart beating in my chest had to be flesh. It felt just like  I remembered.

I thought back to my first day at school, and holding my mother’s hand as I walked to the classroom door; the touch of my mother’s hand was real. Mrs Reinhardt’s long legs, and loud voice. Running up to Jack on the playground: Do you want to be play poison ball? An android wouldn’t have memories, I assured myself. I pinched my arm again.

I decided to retrace my steps and go left past the sliding door to the other room. As  I left the soccer team behind, I became aware of how quiet it was. I could hear my breathing. All my hallucinations had been noisy, so much had happened, and it still seemed more real than the memories of  my life. I had to find Jack and get back to the surface.

As I approached my destination, I heard a familiar voice, ” Don’t do this, please, let me go home.”

It was Jack and I figured he was talking to the robot bird. I slunk to the wall, and came right up next to the door, peering in. The robot bird was lying flat on his back in a pool of thick  oil, and Jack’s voice was coming out of it. Jack stood to the side of the robot with his hand still on the bottom of a 15 litre drum.  

The real Jack said, “Where are you from? Where is home?”

‘The robot replied in a dull mechanical voice, ‘The other side of Jupiter, on a small planet called Janus.’

“Why did you come?”

“I was sent here to take our robot research to the next level.  The question I had to answer was how would robots go interacting with humans and making androids? This was the question the Janus council wanted answered. We used every means possible to make you think we were human, and then we created androids from real humans we befriended. The plan was to fill this city with a population of androids, and then invite the council to inspect our work.”

I was so angry I bounded out from my hiding place.

‘What would you have done with us?’

The robot bird’s eyes glowed, and his beak creaked open.

‘You would have been kept on hallucinatory drugs until after the council’s inspection. When the experiment finished, you would have starved underground while the effect of the drugs wore off. A mostly painless death.’

I walked over, and stomped around the robot bird. His sled like runners were off the ground now, and there was no way he could gain any traction. A very simple trick had been his undoing.

My first words on being reunited with Jack were ‘How did you work out you could stop him this way?’

‘I woke up about two weeks ago’, said Jack. ‘ I saw how awkwardly he got around, and I found these drums of refuse oil right down the end of the passage. Slowly I moved them up, and then when I had the chance I created this trap. It was the only thing I could think of.’

I slapped him on the back, and waved the length of steel tube at him.  ‘ Hey, do you think Lorene Bailey’s an android?’

‘ I doubt it’,  said Jack, ‘but the Barbies probably are. A pity.’

We laughed. Then the robot spoke again.

‘This black liquid is not a substance we have on my planet’, said Robot bird.

‘ Our wonderful luck.  Some of those drugs you gave us aren’t substances we’ll ever want on our planet again.’

As Jack and I left the room, we headed  to the end of the passage to locate the soccer team, and anybody else who’d been unfortunate enough to think the waiters  in The SF Bar were  human.  After walking about another kilometre we reached a sliding door that opened to reveal rows of cells. All the soccer team were there and most of the other people  looked familiar.I wondered if I should tell the team we had most likely forfeited the last game of the season. I reckoned  we’d been missing around fifty days.

I spotted an older Mrs Reinhardt. I was puzzled as to why she would have been at the SF club.

‘I dropped in to my niece’s 21st for about an hour. This was the result.’

She was the soberest of the lot, most of them were still high, and we had to act like we were heading to the party of the year to get them to follow us. We couldn’t move the three suits we found in the end cells. They danced manically to some tune  we could not hear. Jack found some spare bottles of water, and left them nearby. They would have to find their way out when the drugs wore off.

I led everyone back out through the main room where I’d woken up. I must have woken before  the  android process began, because no-one looked like me. I felt good about that. An android would not cut it in my opinion.

We arrived back at the surface, and looked around. The whole complex was hidden inside an old army bunker about an hour from town.  Though most of us were bloody kneed, and half-starved we would have to walk home. Not one mobile phone was intact from the experiment so we couldn’t call anyone.

Most of us had missed all of our Year 12 exams, and  there would be missing person reports out on us.  

I began to rehearse the most plausible story to tell the ‘rents.

The End