Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Episode 4

"Well, don't look so flabbergasted, old shoe," said Teatime, "Anyone would think you'd never seen a monkey before!"

"Well I've certainly never seen a talking monkey before, that's for sure," replied Harold the demon, "How in Hades did that happen?"

Teatime jumped nimbly off the table and onto Harold's shoulder, where he settled himself down quite comfortably.

"Well," he began, "there I was, deep in the forest, minding my own business – "

"- or throwing it at someone." interrupted Harold, chortling.

"Oh, charming!" moaned Teatime, "Why is it that that people only ever remember the poo-throwing? You know, we capuchins have a very rich repertoire of behaviours: nest-making, tool-using... Look it up in Wickedpedia sometime, why don't you? Anyway, where was I?"

"Deep in the forest." prompted Harold, still smirking a little.

"Yes, right." Teatime sniffed, "Anyway, there I was, minding my own business when, all of a sudden I felt this stinging sensation and the next thing I knew I was in this big white room, being prodded and poked by humans and injected with badness knows what, and generally in a pretty pickle altogether."

"So the humans made you into a talking monkey!" marvelled Harold, "What was it? A secret government experiment? Was it their military?"

"No, I'm afraid not," sighed Teatime, "Nothing as worthy as that, dear boy. I think they were probably just looking for a cure for dandruff or something." An angry glint suddenly appeared in the monkey's black eyes. "But of course I wouldn't know, would I? Because you'll be amazed to hear that for some reason THEY DIDN'T ACTUALLY BOTHER TO EXPLAIN IT TO ME!" This last part was delivered in a screech which, coming as it did from right next to Harold's ear, caused him to wince.

All over the carriage, heads turned towards the pair.

Harold smiled weakly at the heads and hastily started stroking Teatime as one would a pet.

"Calm down," he urged, "People are looking at us. I'm sorry if I upset you."

"No, No," replied Teatime, collecting himself with an effort. "I should be the one to apologise."

He produced a tiny white handkerchief and blew his nose delicately. "It's just that the thought of what those humans did - and still do - to creatures like me rather gets in amongst me. Please accept my most humble apologies for the outrageous display."

"Er, Ok, sure," said Harold, somewhat mentally wrongfooted by the monkey's rather mercurial temperament.

After another nose-blow, Teatime went on. "Anyway, things were looking decidedly sticky for me. Each day the humans would take one of us monkeys away somewhere, never to be seen again - and there weren't that many monkeys to start with, if you know what I mean."

"I do," cried Harold, "It means that –"

"The point was rhetorical, actually," said Teatime with some asperity. "Anyway, when we were down to just two monkeys, I decided that, whatever else happened, I was not going to end up the way the others had, so I made The Deal. That night, a lab assistant carelessly left a certain cage door unlocked and the rest, as they say, is history."

Harold pondered this for a few moments.

"So you escaped," he said, "I get that, but how did you get the ability to talk if the humans didn't give it to you?"

"Well, that was part of the bargain I made with your dear pater, you see," explained Teatime. "I needed more than just an open cage door to get away from the humans. I needed the tools to stay out of their clutches for good. I needed to have the sort of powers that my tormentors had: language, rational thought, education, culture and so on. Your father gave those to me."

"I see." said Harold. "But why are you here with me now instead of running around?"

"Well, I work for your father and he told me to come up here and keep an eye on you. Help you out a bit and whatnot."

"You work for my father while you're alive?" Harold was amazed: the Deal did not usually oblige the Signatory to do anything in life. "And he gets your soul when you die as well?" He shook his head in wonderment.

"Let's say you father drives a hard bargain." Teatime said dryly.

"Wow!" breathed Harold, "And to think I didn't even know animals had souls to trade."

"Now, that's exactly the way the humans think," said Teatime. "And I would have thought that you, as a demon, would know better. Didn't you pay any attention in Monday School?"

"Not really," admitted Harold, "it was just so boring. I mean, all those rules and regulations, stealing of heirlooms or birthrights or whatever, and those tedious genealogies! Who cares who begat who, anyway?"

"Whom," corrected Teatime, fussily. "who begat whom! I can see it wasn't just Bible Study you neglected."

"I fear it is so," grinned Harold, "Anyway, here's our stop, I think."

The train had indeed come to a halt. Harold and Teatime alighted and began to make their way through the crowded station.

"Righty-ho," declared Teatime, cheerily "Let's find something to eat, something to drink and then we'll see about getting you a job and a place to stay."

Harold surveyed the various fast food outlets on the station concourse.

"Hmm, I don't see any banana stalls here," he said doubtfully. Teatime rolled his eyes.

"My species is omnivorous, you doorknob. Just get a cheeseburger, and make sure there's none of that filthy mayonnaise stuff on it."

They got to the counter and the burger was duly ordered.

"What drink do you want?" Harold whispered as the smile behind the counter waited expectantly. "Let me guess, banana milkshake, right?"

"Don't make me throw poo at you," hissed Teatime, "An orange juice will do nicely, thank you so very much."

"You're the boss," grinned Harold, opening his wallet.

Across the concourse from the burger bar, a nondescript young woman in a smart charcoal business suit flipped open a cell phone and dialled a number. As the call went through, she brushed back her dark hair and lifted the instrument to her ear.

"Control?" she murmured, "India here. I think we have an incursion, can you send a squad?"

"Negative, India." came the reply, "All squads are currently engaged. Track and report the incursion until a squad becomes available."

"Understood, Control." She snapped the phone shut and sighed. Just her luck! The one time she actually managed to spot an Accursed Fallen One for herself, there were no squads available to wipe it out. Well this AFO was not going to get away from her! She dropped the phone into her shoulder bag, zipped it closed and stepped out onto the concourse.

As she walked towards the burger bar, the late afternoon sun glinted off the discreet gold pin in the left lapel of her jacket: a shepherd's crook bisected by two crossed keys. Underneath was inscribed a tiny motto: Dirigere et Defendere.

Meanwhile, the Accursed Fallen One in question was involved in the abominable machination of happily tucking into a bacon-double-cheese (hold the Mayo). From time to time its evil scheme involved passing bits of food to its pet monkey, thereby occasioning a certain amount of damnable saucer-eyed delight in three small children at a nearby table.

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