As the Sun beat down they lay on the ground and you could almost hear them talk. It turned out it was just Ethel with her lawnmower. Still, she knows what she likes.
Bogey had guided them carefully through the wild country, past the most notorious gathering places of the Ogres, avoiding as many bridges as possible in order to miss out on the tedium of “Fol de Roll! I’m a Troll!” which would invariably lead to “Hi Bogey!” as the would-be assailant emerged from the bridge. With all of his cunning, guile, philosophy and a decent Ordnance Survey map procured from the W.H. Smith shop at Ipswich Station, Bogey led them back in to the lands Where Things Are More Pleasant, Milk Was Drinkable and Everyone Except Politicians are Honest.
Just at the edge of the Wild Lands, or the Wildies as they are known, there lies one of the more unusual spots on Uranus. No I am sure that you, being an avid reader, will have read all those wonderful works by the Grimm boys and the Anderson chap and by Tolkien and Gamain and Swifty, you will no doubt remember that at the end of every tale, they all live happily ever after.
This is pure twaddle.
“Never heard so much humbug in my life,” declared one anally retentive slug.
The well hidden truth is that …
Even Fairies die.
Odd Fairies die too.
Think of all the dead things on Uranus.
You can stop now as you probably feel sick.
Have a cup of tea and a slice of lemon cake.
So what do they do with the dead things on Uranus?
We can´t have Plague Doctors screaming ‘Bring out your Dead!’; that is so undignified for Fairies and Pixy’s and that.
And they don’t follow the Irish tradition of sitting round with dead bodies to see if they might just possibly wake up.
They’re not quite that civilised on Uranus.
What they like to do on Uranus is to get a message to the appropriate authorities, along the lines of ‘Aunty Flo is dead, please dispose. Thank you, Alex the Fairy’. Then up comes a discreet little wagon and takes the body off to a Charnel House.
However within the polite Society of Uranus nobody ever mentions that somebody has died. It is just unheard of! Like suggesting that women fart.
Instead the euphemism is that people ‘go travelling’.
“How is Aunty Flo?”
“Oh she is travelling!”
“When will she be back?”
“When she has finished travelling!”
So it goes.
Now we find ourselves in the domain of Fat Larry, Keeper of the Dead., Fixer of Brooms, Father of Two Fat Lasses and all round Boring Bastard.
Larry is a Pixy with a Mission.
He wants the dead out the house, in the van, looked after and disposed of as quickly and politely as possible. Larry is one of the Funeral Directors of Uranus. He is good at this job as he himself is already brain dead.
It is very unusual to find a Pixy in charge of the Dead; the job usually being left to disgraced Brownies or even the odd Witch. In the good old days it was a common occupation for the more civilised of Trolls though this was always a bit dodgy; since even a civilised Troll has relatives, some of whom will eat anything. In the extreme cases the job might be taken on by a retarded Maths teacher who will sing praises to his Lord.
Here on the Edge of the Wild this wonderful Charnel House is in the incapable hands of Fat Larry. Not that he did the job all by himself. Like all of the Houses of the Dead across the planet the donkey work is carried out by Gremlins. This is an appropriate calling as normally anything the Gremlins get asked to do will break, and breaking the dead is not really an issue, unless it is to tissue.
The Questing Quintet approached Fat Larry’s House as the Sun danced down toward the horizon, licking the rooftops with her last light of the day; she was back off to have a look at how that Sloth was getting on in the jungles of South America.
The building was quite large, being laid out in the shape of a capital ‘H’. Larry’s Office and bedroom lay in the bar in the middle, the two wings being occupied by the dead and the Gremlins.
“Hello,” cried Bogey, entering through the main door with all the stealth of a cat that had just crapped in a pair of shoes.
Stupid Question really.
“If you have a stiff to dispose of take it down the corridor on your left, hand it over to Gasser the Chief Gremlin, leave your name and address at the desk and then go home. If you want to be at the internment, which I doubt, let me know and we’ll put on a more dignified shovelling.”
The voice which sounded these words was not that of a Pixy, nor the guttural mumblings of a Gremlin. Instead it was the delightful tones of a very pretty girl, now emerging from the room on the right.
She stopped suddenly as she caught sight of this gathering of bedraggled troubadours. Yet here was a girl who could take all of life in her stride, then laugh.
“Which of you is dead?” she asked with a smile in her eye, noting the cadaverous build of Bogey. It was more than a smile; it was a twinkle. And the lovely lass could easily produce a twinkle in any eye. She could tell there would be a tale to tell, something to brighten up her daily routine, something that would make her smile as she Questioned the Pixy, the Fairy, the Goblin, Gnome and Troll.
“That Goblin looks to be on his last legs; are you getting him in early to save time?”
“I’ll have you know madam that I am as fit as a fiddle!” said Greg, all indignant and puffed out chest.
“Look, we usually only see the dead here, with the occasional relative. Five travellers are not what we would expect in a Charnel House. I hope you’re not looking for a room for the night as we only have marble slabs for the Stiffs and some old mattresses for the Gremlins.”
Peter had been looking intently into the eyes of the beauty. He was a hopeless romantic, falling in love at the drop of a hat; or the drop of a pair of knickers. This girl attracted him instantly. Mind you Greg and Steve also had the hots for her as she was some babe; Bogey was wondering if he could scare her in some way.
Hanny felt the heat rising in her male companions. This could be good for her, a way of slowly getting rid of Peters’ attention; though she was unsure if that was the way she wanted life to go –‘Am I in love? I must be in love’.
“Let me introduce you to these vagabonds: My name is Hanny, this is Peter, Greg, Steve and Bogey. We’re on a Quest and really could do with somewhere to kip and a bite to eat. I’d prefer sleeping with the Dead rather than have to share with the Gremlins as something would be bound to go wrong.”
“Forgive me,” said their erstwhile hostess. “You caught me unawares. This is the Charnel House of Fat Larry. Larry isn’t here at the moment as he had to pop across to his workshop to fix a broom that one of the Gremlins broke. He always seems to have things to fix when dead bodies arrive; never mind. I’m his assistant; my name is Mrs. White.”
“That’s rather formal isn’t it?”
“Some people call me Snow, but for business purposes I prefer Mrs. White.”
Greg beamed. “I thought I recognised you. Weren’t you the Housekeeper for a group of Dwarf Miners, up near the Black Mountains?”
“That was me in a former life. And?”
“What happened to the Dwarfs?”
“They wanted to try seven–up but I wasn’t too keen. They mostly met pretty girly Dwarfs and got married. Then when they set up their own homes there wasn’t a job for good old Snow White anymore!”
“I heard you got married!”
“I did. Then that twat Prince Charming only goes off in search of another great deed, meets some large breasted blond bird and fucks off with her, leaving me all on my own to try and put my life back together! And all I had on my CV was being an outcast who looked after seven miniature degenerates. Not good for job prospects.”
“Ouch! That must have hurt!”
“Hurt! The embarrassment! Even Adam and his Ants couldn’t console my grief. I’d been dumped in the woods to die but took on the job of looking after seven Dwarfs who, I have to admit, were not the best at personal hygiene. You should see the state of their underpants when they finally decide to change them. Now that is an ouch! Three or four weeks of Dwarfy skidmarks is not what this girl wanted to deal with. However I persevered. I turned their bachelor shit hole into quite a nice little place to entertain guests. This is when they all started courting, pulling birds left, right and centre. Except for Dopey of course; he couldn’t pull a bird if she lap danced naked across his bed; he couldn’t even pull a mussel on the sea bed. Personally think Dopey might well be totally asexual, but that’s another story. Anyway the long and short of it was six weddings and a remedial.”
“So what happened to Dopey?”
“Oh, he’s working here with the Gremlins. All those years of mining didn’t go to waste; he’s the chief gravedigger now!”
“No he’s not charming. How can an asexual, grave digging Dwarf be charming?”
“No, I meant what about Prince Charming?”
“I told you, he ran off with some cheap slut that mucks out kitchens and fireplaces. I ask you, how could anyone be so cruel? And I’m still waiting for the photographs from the wedding – delayed somewhere in the ether. Never mind; someday my Prints will come.”
Peter considered this Question deeply. He knew Big Bad Regan could be that cruel and worse, but it was unlikely that Regan would ever run off with another woman, not unless he intended eating her. To abandon such a swinging babe as Snow White a man would have to be totally nuts.
“He must be a gimp!” declared Peter, “to leave a sharp looking thing like your good self. Are there any other guys chasing your tail at the moment?”
This last comment led to a swift slap across the back of his head accompanied by a mind-your-own-business.
The Dopey one suddenly appeared. He could see that Peter was no doubt suffering the joys of another anal upsurge, too much magic in his Jacksy preventing him from rational behaviour. At the same time the gang were getting tired and hungry and it was possible they would all be feeling grumpy soon.
“That’s not likely,” said Snow White, “as Grumpy is now married and lives many miles from here.”
Food and beds were negotiated, the boys opting to sleep with the Gremlins and Hanny electing a marble slab in amongst the corpses. Peter cheekily asked if there was a chance of a bed in the same room as Mrs. White, only to receive yet another cranial rocket.
They sat eating a chilled supper as Fat Larry returned from fixing the broom. His appearance struck them all as unusual. It was as though Larry had taken all of the elements of as many mythical beings as possible and combined them into one portly lump. He wore the Green pointy hat and little jacket that marked him out as a Pixy, yet both were straining due to the bulk of his body. This was in itself unusual as Pixies rarely get tubby. He also sported a beard, an affectation more often than not associated with Dwarfs or Gnomes. He spoke with a sort of posh Fairy accent, like a scouser from the Wirral. To top it all off he waxed lyrical on the joys of running a Charnel House.
“It is really nice to get the dead well dressed and into the ground as efficiently as possible. The relatives really appreciate the effort that Mrs White and the Gremlins put into the process. It gives me great joy when someone actually attends an internment. Deep fun. The only difficulty is keeping the Gremlins under control the rest of the time. It’s not as though we can give them jobs to do around the House; you can’t exactly ask a Gremlin to fix something. And they just can’t keep their area clean. It’s always a mess, as though the Gods of Chaos were embodied in them.”
“But surely that is a definition of a Gremlin,” stated Bogey, “a living example of the Third Law of Thermodynamics. Chaos personified. Entropy in living form. A messy little scumbag. Gremlins are exactly what it says on the label, you just have to let them be.”
“Let them be what?” asked the slightly confused proprietor of the dead.
“Let them be trouble in paradise! Let them be chocolate stains on a white jacket! Let them be a broken starter motor in a new sports car! Let them be what nature intended!”
“But if I do that we may well end up with the corpses stored on the ceiling or out in the cludgie!”
“That’s just the way it is!”
“That what must it be!” said Greg, getting confused in the heat of the argument.
Mrs White smiled. It was fun to have these folks around for the evening. Fat Larry could be a tiresome bastard, even for an abandoned and dumped chick like her. So it was nice to see him having to debate his position. Fat Larry carried a good degree of pomposity in his knapsack, always being ready to lecture the Gremlins and Mrs White on the rights and wrongs of getting a cadaver tucked away. Listening to him attempting to justify himself to what were his intellectual superiors made quite a change for the sweet singing legend. Besides, that Peter the Pixy was something of a hunk, despite the problem with his bottom.
Mrs White took charge of the sleeping arrangements that night. The Heroes of the Quest were bedded in the relevant places, Larry went to his cot, Dopey slept in a newly dug grave and the Gremlins went out of the back windows for a night on the town.