Friday, May 30, 2014

8. Skratch and the Instant Proposal

As the Wabbit and Lapinette watched the preparations for the Sago Ceremony, Skratch the Cat took his opportunity. "Captain Jenny," he whispered, sinking to his knees. Jenny looked down with interest and Skratch began. "I adore you Captain," he said. "May I have your hook in marriage?" Jenny rocked back and forth in a pirate fashion. Then she leant forward and pursed her lips and muttered. "Where's my dowry?" "That really comes from your side," replied Skratch, who had been a Cat Burglar and knew what was what. "But I have some jewelry put by."  "Oh," said Jenny, and she smiled. "Who's going to marry us?" Skratch gestured towards the Wabbit's android double. "Wabsworth has a divinity sub-routine," he purred. Jenny chuckled. "Who's going to give me away then?" "The Wabbit of course, he's senior." Jenny let forth a kind of a giggle. "I see no ring!" Skratch felt beads of perspiration under his mask. "I'm certain the Wabbit has one in his fur." "Aha!" said Jenny. "I don't want a second-hand ring the Wabbit found in a market." Skratch was quick. "I'm sure there's a special ring somewhere on this island." Now Jenny grinned. "Perhaps we'll find one." Skratch brightened and Jenny drew close. "I really don't know, Skratch. But I tell you what I'll do." Skratch felt his legs go rubbery. "I'll think about it," said Jenny curtly, then paused. "What on earth that thudding?" "My beating heart," sighed Skratch.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

7. The Wabbit and the First Encounter

The team traversed the island and from a vantage point, surveyed the scene. But as they looked down at an avenue of pillars, they saw figures emerge from between the blue pyramids. One larger than the rest looked up and called out. "Do you seek treasure?"  Jenny looked at Lapinette. "You're the anthropologist, it's your call." Lapinette thought carefully. "We seek no treasure, we seek what is rightfully ours." Creatures scurried around and held impromptu discussions. "What is it that is rightfully yours?" cried the leader. The Wabbit shook his head. "We're not rightfully sure, but we have a map which leads to another map." The leader laughed. "Throw away your map, we know where everything is." "In that case," said Lapinette, "we'll pop down and interview you about your customs." There was a brief interval while more discussions took place. The leader hailed them again. "Have you brought any sago?" Lapinette smiled, because for once the Wabbit had something useful in his fur. But Jenny broke in quickly. "Sago is a scarce commodity, but we might be able to assist you." The Wabbit gripped his hidden packet tightly. "Have you heard of antique sago?" he called. A cheer rose above the island and some creatures began to dance. "We will now prepare the altar," called the leader. "I don't like the sound of this," said Skratch the Cat.

Monday, May 26, 2014

6. The Wabbit lands on Wablantis

"It's just up here," said Lapinette, but the Wabbit knew from his map that this might be a long way from their goal. So he hopped forward with a stern look to give the impression he knew what he was doing. "I though it would be warmer," said Captain Jenny, clutching an arm to her chest. "This is my summer tunic." Lapinette smiled because she had seen the whole island from her helichopper. She thought the island's broad plains and rounded hills might get very hot indeed - so she had dragged a light battledress from her locker. The Wabbit spoke in a too-loud voice and glanced all around. "I find it rather strange that no-one's about." "We should be on our guard," Commander," said Jenny. "These quiet places with no sign of life hide awful secrets and conceal strange practices." Lapinette was intrigued. "What sort of thing?" "Devil worship," replied Jenny. "And ritual sacrifice," added the Wabbit. But Lapinette had studied anthropology in the field with the Bare’e-speaking Toradja. "In Central Sulawesi," she nodded, "it ensures fertility." Jenny snorted. "Aren't they the ones that drink their own ...?"  No," said Lapinette quickly, "that's the Sambians of New Guinea." "Well, did we bring any gifts for inhabitants?" asked Jenny. The Wabbit dug deep in his fur and found a packet of sago long past its sell-by date. "We'll be fine," he murmured.
[Background photograph: Mick Warne]

Friday, May 23, 2014

5. The Lost Island of Wablantis

Lapinette didn't need much. She saw a tiny patch of blue and her helichopper leapt into the sky like a grasshopper. She looked down to see the Lepus and the Unut break through the jungle inlet into an electric blue sea. Lapinette's rotors chopped through strange air as she wheeled across an other-worldly landscape. She pawed her radio into life. "Lapinette, Lynx 2 calling." Nothing. She switched to the short wave. "Lynx 2. Do you copy?" Now the radio whined. "Captain Jenny receiving. What can you see?" "Strange shores, Captain," muttered Lapinette. There was a break in transmission. "Have you eaten recently?" broke in Jenny. There was no reply and Jenny's voice became strict. "There are salad sandwiches in the glove compartment. Eat." Lapinette gripped a sandwich in her mouth and skittered the Lynx along the island. "Report," snapped Jenny. "Six blue pyramids of varying sizes," said Lapinette. "Sounds like Ancient Aliens," said Jenny, "so is there any life?" "No visible life," said Lapinette. "Then it's a rather normal kind of place," quipped Jenny, scanning the horizon. She made out a dot and she knew it was Lapinette.  "Can you see a suitable spot?" Lapinette swooped towards the coast. "One klick east of the Unut," said Lapinette. "I see a road and a landing strip." "Land on the Unut," said Jenny. Lapinette had a thought. "What happened to the Wabbit?" Another signal intruded. "I hear everything."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

4. Lapinette and the Jungle Inlet

Lapinette crawled out of her bunk and looked over the side. The Unut's engines had faded to a low thrum and she knew something had changed. The ship was still moving but incredibly slowly - and dense forest was on all sides. Loudspeakers carried the angry voice of the Wabbit. "All paws on deck. I won't have these plants on my bridge." Lapinette had no sea legs whatsever and even at this speed, the Unut's slight heave made her stomach spin. Lapinette shook her head and gasped in the humid air. A grinding crash from the bow shuddered along Unut's hull and Lapinette could hear the Wabbit's voice again. "Slow ahead, nice and easy, she''ll go through." Lapinette gazed down at what looked like a swamp. She watched bubbles swim to the surface and the smell of rotting vegetation made her stomach cramp. Inside her jacket, a radio crackled. "Lapinette to the helichopper bay, on the double." Now Lapinette looked up. She squinted her eyes in the strange light and thought she could make out giant teeth. All of a sudden the helichopper bay seemed like a good place to be. "On my way," she muttered to herself, and dodging clingy tendrils, she ducked back to her cabin to grab necessary supplies. "I don't like ships," she groaned as she headed to the aft deck. "But call me in on a day of trouble and I'll deliver."

Monday, May 19, 2014

3. The Wabbit & the Whale's Undertow

Neither the Wabbit nor Rabbit Jenny could do the slightest thing about what happened next. Thoth the Whale expanded to giant proportions and the undertow from his wake trapped both Lepus and Unut in a vice-like grip. The Wabbit looked at his instruments and shrugged and gave up as the Unut was hauled across the ocean. On the Lepus, Jenny tried fighting with controls but to no effect. But somehow, Thoth glided on the ocean surface like a hydrofoil. The Unut's video link sparked out, so the Wabbit looked away and tested the ship-to-ship radio to see if it was working. There was a whoosh from the speaker as if the sea had got into the circuits, but Jenny’s voice cut through like crystal. "We have to run with the whale, Commander."  "I hope he really knows where he’s going," sighed the Wabbit. Jenny’s eyes narrowed. "The Goddess Unut sent him?" "She tends to interfere," said the Wabbit. There was an awful noise as the hull of the Lepus rumbled then groaned. "Will she hold?" asked the Wabbit. "She’ll hold," said Jenny, "she’s been through worse." "Brecan’s Cauldron?" asked the Wabbit with a shudder. The radio whooshed but it couldn’t cover the clarity of Jenny’s voice. "I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts." Now silence fell, except for the roaring of water past hull. "What can Wablantis look like?" murmured the Wabbit. "Ignorance is the mother of fear," responded Jenny. "Who’s the father?" smirked the Wabbit.

Friday, May 16, 2014

2. The Wabbit and Ocean Turbulence

It was the Wabbit’s watch and he was looking forward to a quiet one. Dusk settled across the ocean and he relaxed and glanced at monitors and yawned. But he kept an eye on the progress of the Lepus and to break the monotony, occasionally spoke to Captain Rabbit Jenny on ship’s video. He was looking over to the Lepus and smiling to himself when he noticed the previously calm waters were a little disturbed. So he called Rabbit Jenny - but just as her face swam into view, something leapt from the sea with an incredible splash and made a series of low booming sounds and clicks. Foam spurted as the creature’s tail threshed. "I see it, Commander," said Jenny. "You could hardly miss it," said the Wabbit. "Hang on. It’s communicating with my bridge crew," said Jenny. "Do they speak whale?" asked the Wabbit. Jenny raised a paw. "We can decode the sounds. I’ll patch you through a translation." The Wabbit listened intently. "I am the Sea God!" boomed the whale, "and I am thrice great." "That sounds very familiar," thought the Wabbit and he spoke to the monitor. "Jenny, his name is Thoth. Confirm he is thrice great, or we’ll be here all day." Threshing tortured the water and casually sprayed both ships. "I am to assist you find the Lost Island of Wablantis." The Wabbit addressed Thoth directly. "Thoth, do you know where we’re going?" A jet of water shot in the air and a piercing wail shook the vessels. "I am thrice sure!" The Wabbit looked at Jenny in the monitor and shook his head and winked - and Jenny winked back.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

1. The Wabbit and the Improvised Map

On the tiny dock of a little-known port, the Wabbit and Rabbit Jenny met prior to departure. "Our task is formidable," said the Wabbit. "So are we," said Rabbit Jenny the Pirate Chief. The Wabbit grinned and glanced at the scroll under his paw. "This should be of help." "It looks like map," said Jenny. "I made it myself using hearsay and tittle-tattle," said the Wabbit. Jenny's eyebrows fluttered and her lips were questions. "No-one really knows where Wablantis is," continued the Wabbit. "The Ghost Island?" frowned Jenny. "Few have seen it and lived to tell." The Wabbit looked surprised. "What else do you know?" "Those who land and seek treasure there can never leave." The Wabbit's fur stood on end. "We're not looking for treasure precisely." Jenny gripped the Wabbit's paw and he felt it tingle. "What are we looking for?" she murmured. "Another map," said the Wabbit. Jenny knew what was coming and made a wry smile. "That map will indicate the position of another object." "How did you know?" asked the Wabbit. "I'm a pirate," said Jenny. "But even so I don't know what the object is." "Neither do I," shrugged the Wabbit. Jenny swayed backwards and forwards as a pirate chief should. "We'll know when we find it." She turned to look at her ship. "It may not be down on any map, Commander." The Wabbit nodded. "True things never are."

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Wabbit at the Adventure Caffè

" ... that someone special was the Wabbit." Lapinette spoke softly and the Wabbit nodded gravely. "Our meeting had to be kept secret from our enemies, the Agents of Rabit." Rabbit Jenny took roses from her pockets and passed them around. "Type of adventure, Skratch?" she asked. "This was epic theatre," said Skratch immediately. "Speaking of yourself in the third person confronted our dominant specularity and made us think critically." Lapinette looked directly at Jenny. "What about the hanging washing? That was just a symbol wasn't it?" Jenny smiled and shook her head. "No, I don't take prisoners." "So expensive," commented the Wabbit. Lapinette frowned but she was too far away to kick his ankle. "How many of them were there?" asked Wabsworth. Jenny shrugged. "I really don't recall." A silence fell. "Their bones will bleach in the sun," quipped Skratch. Everyone laughed and Jenny turned to him. "I like you, I like you a lot." Skratch blushed. No-one knew, although his voice trembled slightly. "There's one part of the narrative that needs to be addressed." Jenny raised a considerable eyebrow and Skratch waved at her uniform. "The coins you had sewn into your tunic. What happened to them?" Jenny laughed. "I spent them," she said, "and now I need to find more." The Wabbit's 28 teeth gleamed. "That can be arranged." But Jenny's eyes were on Skratch. "Did I foreground the signifier, Skratch?" she asked. "You are the signifier," he gasped.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pt 11: Jenny and the Last Washing

"That can't be the end of the story," said Skratch the Cat, "it's much too exciting." "Yes," said the Wabbit, "we want a coda." Pirate Jenny stared with amusement at her glass and gulped the contents down. "Indeed," she said, "there must be an end, so here's the tail." Lapinette smiled and applauded. Pirate Jenny waved an arm and spoke. "On the deck of the Lepus, Rabbit Jenny opened the third and last of her packages and took out a sack of coins. Then she shrugged off her blue tunic and told the Quartermaster to have the coins made into buttons to be stitched into her uniform. She hardly looked back as her ship slid away from the ratty coast, but she caught sight of the rows of washing she’d left as a warning - and watched as a breeze blew in and filled the garments." Pirate Jenny stopped and lifted her glass in a toast and so did everyone else. "The clothes should have billowed, but under Jenny's gaze they started to jerk and kick in a grim gallows jig. Her nose twitched as if she'd smelled something sour and she turned away from the coast. An ancient and grizzled mariner grasped her fur and asked where they were going. Jenny took his hand gently. A bolt of electricity shot up the mariner’s arm and prickled across his shoulders, but when it reached his heart it felt warm. She told him they would follow the Southern Cross and the mariner asked for the name of the port. Rabbit Jenny shook her head, smiled and pointed out to sea. “We have a secret rendezvous with someone special.”

Friday, May 09, 2014

Pt 10: Jenny - and Now or Later

Pirate Jenny’s audience was on tenterhooks as Jenny’s eyes hardened and she took another deep draught of rum. She looked around her audience but Wabsworth couldn’t restrain himself. "What happened next?" he breathed. "I will tell you," smiled Pirate Jenny – and she did. "Rabbit Jenny stood and looked at the harbour she had watched for so long. Behind her, voices grew louder and louder until she could hear every word. They were bringing the prisoners in, bringing them to her. And they wanted to know what to do with them. She heard one ask if they should kill them now or later and all the sailors took up the cry. “Now or later, now or later?” Their voices echoed through the shabby alleyways and the shattered buildings of that ratty town. Rabbit Jenny stared and stared until she realised they were asking the question of her. So she took the second package from her bag, unwrapped it and using the hook on her injured paw, extracted a blood-stained towel. Then she lifted it high above her head and waited - waited as only Jenny could. Everything became quiet - even the splashing of waves on the dock. The sailors watched Jenny’s paw and it was unnaturally still for what seemed like an age. Then way up in the air a seagull screeched. With a sudden movement Jenny brought the towel down and breathed  ... “Right now.”

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Pt 9: Jenny makes a Departure

Jenny the Pirate Chief paused for enough time to pour another glass and just for a second she watched her rum swirl. Lapinette reached out to touch Jenny’s paw and her eyes urged Jenny to continue. Jenny's eyes gleamed in response as she put down her glass and went on. "The massive cannon of the ghostly ship overshadowed the harbour and it could easily be seen from Rabbit Jenny’s attic window. But Jenny was no longer there. As she headed down the hotel stairs, she took out the first of the objects from her bag – an object that she quickly unwrapped."  Pirate Jenny stopped talking suddenly and she too pulled out something from one of her many pockets and waved it at her audience before continuing. "A guest stepped forward to bar Jenny’s path but it was his last conscious act. A pistol fired and the muzzle flash lit his cruel face in the dim hotel lobby. “Who are you?” muttered the guest in a last dying gasp before his knees buckled and he sank silently onto the shabby carpet.  Jenny kicked his body aside. She shoved the automatic deep into her fur and glancing in a cracked hotel mirror, she straightened her hat. Then she hopped through the door and onto the hapless streets of the ratty little town where four hundred sailors swarmed in every shadowy lane. They were rounding people up and taking them away, but they stiffened to attention and saluted as Rabbit Jenny moved seamlessly through their ranks, heading directly for the harbour ..."

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Pt.8: Jenny and the Seige

Pirate Jenny wore an intense expression, so wrapped in her story that her glass of grog remained untouched. Her eyes narrowed and it seemed to everyone listening that they were really there with her in that awful shabby hotel. Jenny suddenly lifted her glass, drained the contents and spoke. "Even though the shape seemed far out to sea, Rabbit Jenny recognised a ghostly ship and could make out frantic activity on the deck. She grasped her hat firmly, straightened her red rose and braced herself. Suddenly the harbour lit up as the ship wheeled to port and cannon fire burst from her bow. The town shook and plaster fell from all the walls of the hotel."  Pirate Jenny stopped and waved her hook, pretending to pick plaster from her ears. Now her voice grew menacing. The hateful guests cowered in their rooms and prayed for deliverance but Jenny casually turned from the window. Bending slightly, she levered a loose floorboard with her hook and took out three wrapped objects, which she placed in a small bag." Pirate Jenny paused because it looked like Wabsworth was going to ask about the objects, but he merely nodded, so she nodded back and carried on. "Rabbit Jenny returned to the window. Seeing that the ship had closed on the town she turned to light a lamp behind her - so that her silhouette could watch. The massive cannon on the bow of the ghostly ship swung right and left, up and down, blasting the coast until every building was flat. Except that is ...  for one ratty little hotel.  

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Pt 7: Jenny when The Ship Came In

The Wabbit and Lapinette watched Jenny the Pirate as she stood akimbo and swayed her body back just like a pirate should. Everyone was desperate to hear the next bit of story, but they stayed very quiet until Captain Jenny began again. Rabbit Jenny watched the harbour from an attic window in the ratty old hotel, but she did watch. Never a night passed when she didn’t. Her eyes grew tired and her limbs grew weary but she wouldn’t give up. Night after night she watched while the hotel guests slumbered. Long after the dubious deeds were done and the dock became deserted, she continued her vigil and she missed nothing." Pirate Jenny stopped, took another swig of rum then frowned at her empty glass. The Wabbit hopped forward and quickly refilled it while Pirate Jenny continued. "Her task seemed unending. But one night when the moon crept behind the shadows, a shape appeared on the distant horizon and came quietly closer. Rabbit Jenny looked far out to sea and when she saw it, her heart slammed three times under her fur." Jenny slammed her glass three times on the table and when everyone jumped, she smiled. "She went swiftly to a small cupboard, took out a special hat and put it on her head. Then she slid open a drawer and from a recess at the back extracted a flower made from red cloth. Carefully pinning the flower to her hat, she turned to watch as the shape cut through the limpid waters like a knife. It made no sound whatsoever and Rabbit Jenny kept watching. But she got ready to move."

Monday, May 05, 2014

Pt 6: Rabbit Jenny & the Medical Tray

Jenny, the Pirate Chief, took another sip of rum. She closed her eyes for a second and when they opened they seemed to flash. They looked like diamonds catching the light and they clearly said, "No interruptions." Her brow furrowed and her lips pursed as she went on. "In her meagre quarters in the ratty hotel, Rabbit Jenny cleaned her wound and applied bandages. Although spikes of pain shot through her paw, she did not feel hurt exactly. Hurt was something Rabbit Jenny would not allow and she refused to show anything resembling distress. Yet deep inside, some anguish spasmed that was quite unlike the injury to her paw - because it couldn’t be bandaged. Jenny lifted the hook that she’d found in a drawer and gripped it firmly in her injured paw so that she could pick things up. She tried it a few times until she became practiced, then she washed the bloodstained towels and hung them out to dry. And just like before, Jenny ironed each one and folded it neatly. But bloodstains are hard to remove and even though Jenny laundered the towels well, each one bore signs of Jenny’s pain. She gave each towel a name that was impossible to forget and returned to pursue her nocturnal vigil. Rabbit Jenny wasn’t going to give up, but she became wilier. Every night after that she was careful to look behind her. But she also looked up at the moon and silently chanted the list of names."

Friday, May 02, 2014

Pt 5: Jenny and the Watched Window

Jenny the Pirate Chief paused in her story and asked for grog. So Lapinette twitched an ear slightly and a waiter instantly appeared with a new bottle of Seven Fathoms rum and 5 fresh glasses. Jenny poured herself a healthy libation, drank it back in one gulp and set the glass down on the table with a crash. Then she began once more. "One night, Rabbit Jenny stared and stared out of the hotel window. Usually, the guests were too drunk to see her and even if they did, they were incapable of movement. But something woke them from their torpor and they noticed her staring there and started to talk. They whispered to each other, “what’s she got to stare at?” and pointed at Jenny and made circular motions with their fingers as if she was mad. Jenny was absorbed in watching the dank harbour so she never saw the guest advance. With one finger on his lips he crept up on Jenny and with a sudden swipe and enormous force, he smashed the window down on her paw."  Lapinette and the Wabbit flinched back but Pirate Jenny held her head high. "If the guest expected her to cry in pain, then he was sadly mistaken because she made no sound. But Rabbit Jenny turned and her eyes burned into those of her tormentor until he shielded his face and turned away. With blood running from her paw, she hopped past the guests and into her quarters ..."

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Pt 4: Jenny and the Laundry List

Jenny looked around to see if she had complete attention then tilted her pirate hat forward at a jaunty angle and looked at her audience. The friends leaned forward on their seats with eager faces and waited for her to explain how Rabbit Jenny remembered everything she saw in the night. Jenny the Pirate began again.  "Late at night, when Jenny was going to sleep, she curled up and tried to recall everything she had witnessed in the docks. Then one by one she attached each event to a piece of washing." Pirate Jenny stopped and smiled grimly. "Jenny knew all about washing. Every morning at the crack of dawn she was forced to launder all the soiled clothes of the cruel hotel guests. There was so much to do that her paws were raw-red by the time she served breakfast. But at bed time reverie, her mind floated and laundered what she’d seen on the docks. She first gave the laundry very special names for all the dubious exchanges she had witnessed. Then she designated a garment for each of the people involved - and if she didn’t know who they were, she invented a name them. As she imagined folding clothes and putting them away, she allocated to each of these people a fitting punishment. In the eye of her imagination she could see layers of garments - ironed, folded and named - rising to the top of a basket. Then as the stack of freshly laundered washing became ever higher, she willed the basket to suddenly fall. It was only then - at the precise moment when garments spilled onto ground - that Rabbit Jenny smiled and drifted into sleep...”