Away up in the bloody tower, Wild Land paced back and forth in its tiny cell, pausing to shake the bars occasionally in total frustration. Fortunately, this was just a bloody tower and not The Bloody Tower.
Far below the axe man hefted his shiny ucks (he had an accent like Gimli) and turned to me, “When do you want it done?” He’s an ‘Ohh Arrrr’ type. Minus the eyepatch, of course. You need two good eyes to be any good at this head-lopping lark otherwise you don’t achieve your Key Performance Indicators and miss out on the end-of-year bonus and profit-share.
You have to be careful when nattering to these executioner types. To them, head-count is a performance measure not a staff census and they take the whole thing rather seriously. When he claimed to have coached Gimli with his “And my Ucks!” line at the Council of Elrond I gauged that I was within his swingline and decided that an expression of marvel was in order.
Anyway, I digress. Poor old Wild Land was pacing its cell.
The stage was set and the final scene of Morte de Wild Land had commenced. I had thought it could be done quickly and quietly, the vorpal blade going snicker-snack and it would be all over. But no, there is always a scene, a final scene. And a crowd to witness.
“When?” grunted the axeman.
“I. Ummmm.” Out tumbled a restatement of the charges I had laid against Wild Land before it was bundled into a boat and whisked through the Traitor’s Gate and up those hated steps to await my pleasure. “I have so much more time now,” I wailed. “No earthquake records to keep, cross-references to be updated, paper to be filed. I’m free!”
“But, I have noticed…” In the two weeks since I announced the demise of Wild Land, the search engines have continued grinding away, directing Internetters to historical pages on the site. Old earthquake events, railway history in New Zealand, what a group of hedgehogs is called, the thunderplump story is popular, and even the family history of the founder of the Kaimanawa horse dynasty gets a viewing. Not to mention the tui series.
“Don’t forget the telephone exchange stories,” boomed the axeman.
Far above us a buxom wench shouted “’Chunder!” as she hurled a pail of slops over the battlements. I bristled. “Don’t you mean ‘watch under’ miss?” I wanted to shout. The grammar policeman in me can’t let these things go.
I squinted up expecting to see the Monty Python crew tootling about on top of the tower shouting, “You Eeeeengleeesh pig-dogs. I ffft in your general direction.”
But my eye caught something considerably more substantial than a ffft hurtling toward us. We leapt aside, thinking that Tower Green might be a safer haven from the turkeys in the tower. Splat! went the slops on the cobbles. Clonk went the ucks as it fell from the axeman’s grasp. I nudged it with a toe. Well, well. A sham-axe. That shiny blade was silver-painted rubber. It wouldn’t chip a hair from the neck let alone sever it cleanly.
I looked at him sternly. He sighed. “I never waste anything,” he said, smiling.
Reaching behind a curtain he brought forth a portable cassette machine and pressed PLAY. “Weeeooow. Thock. Squish. Gurgle,” it said.
“You’re all the same. Full of bravado when stating your case then squeamish at the bloody end. As I swing the blade you all look away and hope that the spatter doesn’t get you. While you’re distracted I whip the poor old victim out the back and let it go while the cassette machine plays its tune. My assistant sometimes lobs a spare head into the crowd if they’re a particularly skittish lot, just for fun.”
“Wild Land wouldn’t have disappeared into the celestial bit-bucket. Its pipe to the world would have been closed and it would have been whizzing around and around on the hard disc until you came to your senses.”
“Get it over with!” Wild Land shouted down the garderobe. “The waiting is killing me,” it added enigmatically. Hmmm. A bit of a lose-lose situation, in my view. “I don’t want to be the next Margaret Pole,” said the aspiring privy counsellor. This last bit did not sit well with the axeman who, despite his rubber ucks, did not consider himself a hacker.
Sigh. I had to act.
Perhaps there is room for Wild Land to continue. Not in the same way as before.
After all, the daffodils are still dodding in the rain. The blackbirds and thrushes are still lining up to do bellyflops in their plunge pool. The tui are still boss in the garden – even over the dumb human. And the other day a large tiger-striped weta gritched his (her?) legs at me and proceeded to chase me around the garden. Brrrrrrr.
Who knows what articles the future holds. Stay tooned…