A horror story to scare the bejaysus outta ya …the true story of how Breezy McEaspog almost put an end to the human race.Written in collaboration with author David Breslin, this horror story will put hairs on your back.
Steff was feeling happy. The weekend away with Charlie had turned out to be a great idea. So much so that they had hatched a plan to return to Dromnoyle later in the month.
They were supposed to be going home. It was a damp October Sunday, and twilight was on the way. They had barely driven half a mile out of the village when they saw the house.
‘Look at that place’, Steff had said, ‘it’s beautiful, come on, let’s get some photos.’
Charlie made no attempt to disagree. It was beautiful. Two stories of weathered stone and slate set against a backdrop of mountains and woodland.
‘It’s like something out of a film, look at the roses -that must’ve been the garden …come on, let’s stand in front of the sign there for a selfie.’
McEASPOG, said a sign above the door.
ALADDIN PARAFFIN, said a sign in the window.
MiWADI NOW AVAILABLE, boasted another.
‘This place could be a museum’, noted Charlie, ‘…and look at the card in the window, it’s for sale.’
‘You know’, said Steff, ‘it wouldn’t take much to fix it up, and the roof looks good …we could stay another night, and, uh, leave in the morning, you know, find out a bit more.’
One of the two upstairs windows opened so violently that a small hail of splintered wood fell onto Charlie and Steff.
‘Ye two musta never heard of the Orc of Geoughan. Or ye wouldn’t be thinking so nicely about this house. Hah.’
The owner of the voice was male, fat, and carried a general air of indignation.
‘Hah’, he said again.
‘The Orc of Geoughan is the most evil creature ever to enter this world. It visits all who live here, and brings them infinite fear. Only death can break the spell.’
He produced a small jar, coughed up phlegm, and spat it into the jar.
‘…and it smells of cheese.’
‘What kind of cheese?’, asked Steff.
‘The smelly kind’, replied the man.
He paused, and took a long slow look down at Charlie and Steff.
‘Ye don’t look like the kind of people who scare easily, but would ye mind stepping out onto the road while I finish my rant …I don’t want to be rude, but if ye shit yourselves I’d prefer if it was out on the street, I know it doesn’t look like it but I’ve spent ages cleaning this place up.’
Charlie and Steff walked back towards the road, but paused to look back up at the window.
‘Right lads, before ye go asking around about this place ye should know that the previous owner, Biddy Mc Easpog, or breezy, as we knew her, was a great inventor. Probably, and I’m not exaggerating when I say this, probably the greatest of all time.’
The man stopped talking and waited for a reaction. He got none, and continued talking.
‘The problem was, her inventions were all useless. Brilliant, but useless. Take her frightinator for example …fourteen cathode ray tubes, six miles of copper pipe, and three gallons of kerosene, and all to scare someone.’
‘What’s this got to do with the Orc?’ asked Steff.
‘Or this house?’, asked Charlie.
‘Will ye let me finish?’, replied the man, ‘I’m supposed to be the one asking the questions. Anyway, the scarinator extracted all the thoughts from your mind using scrumbular osmosis, combined them in the benticle, and used the result to produce the most ideal image to terrify the user. An image so frightening that you can never look away. We found Breezy bent over with her arse in the air and head stuck in the device.’
‘Was she dead?’, asked Steff.
‘Possibly, I’m not going to claim to be an expert on medical matters but she was stone cold, she wasn’t breathing, and her heart had stopped. If I was to guess I’d say that there is a good chance she did die that day, but like I said, I’m no expert …I left her in the shed out the back if ye want to take a look.’
‘Uh, maybe later’, replied Charlie, ‘what about this Orc?’
‘The Orc of Geoughan?’
‘What about it?’
‘You were going to tell us about it’, reminded Steff, ‘you were worried about us fouling ourselves with terror, what do you mean what about it?’
The man coughed up more phlegm, fumbled for the jar, and spat again.
‘I think ye should leave, I don’t like your tone.’
Charlie and Steff didn’t reply, but climbed back into their car. Steff put the car into reverse, turned the car, and revved the engine. Steff then drove them both back into the village.
‘What a twat’, said Charlie.
‘Nice house though’, noted Steff, ‘come on, let’s book back into the B & B, take a wander up to the pub, and see if we can’t find out what the old duffer was banging on about.’
‘Great idea’, said Charlie, ‘plus we can get pissed while we’re doing it.’
The Feral Sporran was Drumnoyle’s only pub, barely twenty paces from the B&B on the only street. It was an optimistically modernised gastropub with outbreaks of generic Celtic imagery. Steff and Charlie settled in at the bar, and started looking around for other patrons who weren’t obviously fellow tourists. They hit the jackpot twenty minutes later when an unkempt middle-aged woman in mud-caked wellies tromped in with a garden spade over her shoulder, leading a ferret on a string.
“Can I get you a drink?” asked Steff, with the casualness Charlie had always envied.
“Aye, all right,” she replied, in an accent that sang of the Highlands by way of Barnsley. “Parched, I am, been digging out the Baron’s beet patch all morning. Mine’s the house stout, with a chaser of Glenfiddich.”
She kept silent as the barmaid poured, then chinked glasses with Steff and Charlie before draining half the stout in one go. “Cheers, ducks. Appreciated. Are you, er, folks moving in here?”
“Yes” said Steff, just as Charlie said “No.”
“We were just looking at that old house on the edge of the moor,” Charlie continued. “Nice looking building, but a bit odd.”
“Old geezer who lives there’s a bit odd an’ all,” put in Steff.
“Lives there?” asked the gardener, looking a bit spooked. “Oh, nobody lives in the old McEaspog house. Not since the…. the incident.”
“The incident with the inventor?” asked Steff eagerly.
“The what now? No,” she said, hoiking the ferret up onto her lap. “It weren’t nothing like that. No, it were a dark and mysterious business indeed….”
It began (the gardener said) when old Dougal McEaspog passed away, last of his line, and the house was bought up by incomers. ‘Scusing your presence. Lovely young couple, the Cleeves, like yourselves only less gender-ambiguous. That was before my time, of course, but the old folks do talk. They planned to set up as a shop, for all the big-city kinds o’ stuff the village shop doesn’t have. They reckoned without Slinking Susan. Old well-known ghost she was, a McEaspog from back before the Culloden Massacre. Never been any trouble before, but it seemed she didn’t hold with “trade”. It started quietly at first, a tin of Dr Smith’s Bile Beans flying across the room and concussing a customer. But as the years went on, more an’ more o’ that sort of thing kept happening. Mr Cleeve was never without a bandage or a splint from some inexplicable stockroom accident. Mrs Cleeves was spared most of that, I think ‘cos she was carrying an’ t’ ghost din’t mean the bairns any harm. Just their parents.
Village folk complained of cold spots, and weird pale glows in and around the shop when it got dark. And up in this place, in winter there’s nor four-five hours daylight, mind you. So people avoided the place. The Cleeves got more and more desperate, but Mr Cleeve, he were stubborn. Right up til the last day. Old Mavis McCormack from the Rectory, she’s deid now, but she was there. Buying a tin of Bacongrill an’ her weekly Mad Magazine in broad daylight, when down the stairs comes little Susie, the Cleeves’s youngest. Only Little Susie weren’t home no more. Her face was white, her teeth and nails were sharp, and in her eyes was a hideous yellow gleam. “Get out!” she hissed. “Get out, all of you. I’m done wi’ waiting. I’m done wi’ playing nice. Next time ye falls asleep under this roof, ye’ll all gnaw each other to death in yer sleep.” Then she kind of blinks and is back to normal, saying “Mama? Dada? How did I get down here?”
Now, old Mavis, she left as fast as her hip allowed. She says the Cleeves were arguing hammer-and-tongs over it, if they should go right away or if it were just little Susie playing a game. And when Fergus came round next morning for his special sauce, they were gone. Their brown station waggon was gone from the driveway, so everyone thought they’d fled back to Berwick where they belonged. But next summer a fisherman found what was left of it sunk in Loch Drumnoyle. Then some bairns broke in to the house. They found the Cleeves’s suitcases packed and ready, still sitting on the beds. And down the steps to the cellar, there was this long, nasty, reddish-brown streak…. reckon Slinking Susan got impatient, like.
Steff was listening raptly. Charlie had signalled for another stout as the gardener told her tale, to pass over as a reward when she reached the expected Grisly Conclusion. “That’s a tale and a half! But I still don’t get who the weird man we saw in the house was,” said Charlie.
“Ahem!” said a gruff voice behind them. “A weird man, you say? Funny you should mention that.”
TLDR: Eccentric female gardener contradicts the first part of the story. The house has been empty since the last occupants were driven out or killed by a ghost. And the creepy guy Charlie and Steff saw in the house? A mystery which the next tale might answer!
‘What do ya mean, why is it funny to mention that?’ asked Charlie
‘Did I say funny?, sorry, I meant bitter and vicious’, replied the owner of the voice. He looked anything but gruff. His dimensions and particulars were as follows:
- 5 feet 6 inches tall
- Brown hair
- Iron Maiden T-shirt
- seventy kilos of weight (as a function of heaviness)
- black socks
- imitation runners -that were probably old leather boots painted up to look cool
‘…and he’s been like that ever since he met the devil’, continued the man.
In a surprisingly-gravelly-to-hear-coming-out-of-a-puny-head-like-that voice. Charlie and Steff exchanged glances of surprisement.
‘I’ve to go to the toilet’, announced the gardener.
‘The toilet?, I hope ye two townies didn’t give that one coffee?’ snapped the oldyoung Maiden fan.
‘No, is she allergic?’, asked Steff.
‘God no’, replied Iron Maiden man, ‘her dog just died.’
Charlie and Steff exchanged more glances, this time of confusion and displeasure; respectively.
‘Well …ask her Charlie’, whispered Steff.
‘Pardon me missus’, announced Charlie, ‘are you going for a number 1, or a number 2?’
‘A number 1 son.’
Charlie smiled happily, and winked at Steff, ‘that’s okay then, but it might be best to wash your hands anyway -what with all the disease that’s been going about the place.’
‘Thanks for the advice, but disease is the least of your worries son -young ‘old man’s voice’ Spideog will fill ya in on the dangers you face …or else talk sh*te, he can be hard to predict sometimes -either way I’m off for a piss.’
‘Good luck’, called Steff.
‘Thanks’, mumbled the gardener. And then she was gone.
TLDR: Not much happened here, and the mystery creepy man with the phlegm jar still needs to be explained.
“So, what’s the /real/ story, eh?” asked Steff as the barrel-shaped metalhead settled down with a pint of snakebite. “Devil, crossroads, violin-stroke-banjo faceoff? Or your basic Faustian pact?”
Spideog took a long, noisy slurp. “Not quite. And not whatever nonsense Rhiannon’s been filling your head with, either. That filthy sod George Ghan wouldn’t know a banjo if you stuck it up his backside, and his ambitions were strictly low-grade hustler stuff.”
“Well, go on then, Spiderman,” said Charlie, who was feeling a mite uninhibited thanks to the landlord’s homebrew IPA, which had an alchohol content more usually associated with port. “Satan. Gross skeevy bloke spitting in a jar. Discuss.”
“You noticed the jar, did you? Aye, there’s the rub. There’s. The. RRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUBBBBB!”
Spideog’s rasping scream made Steff spatter cider everywhere, but the regulars didn’t even look up from their drinks. “Let me tell you about that jar.” And he did.
George Ghan (said Spideog) was the last of the old-school snake-oil salesmen. It ran in the family. His daddy made and lost a fortune selling uranium pills to nervous housewives. George was always trying to recapture those glory days, but he was stuck in the past, didn’t speak the language of New Age bafflegab. Nothing sold. The irony was, for all the lives they ruined with their lethal quack nostrums, the Ghans all enjoyed perfect health. Never caught so much as a cold, died in bed in their nineties, kind of thing.
George thought about this, and decided that the true miracle cure was inside him all along. Literally. It was the “Four Humours” of medieval medicine. Blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. Extract those from the body of a Ghan and you could make a medicine that would cure anything. One problem: he could get the blood, but he couldn’t get the others. Never sick, see? He didn’t catch cold, so he didn’t cough up phlegm. And he never had stomach trouble, so he never coughed up bile.
He got obsessed. It was his divine mission to save the world with a medicine which he couldn’t make, and which was far too gross to sell. He bought a house in the most damp, chilly, pneumonia-ridden backwater he could find. Aye, that’s here. Set up a new company, “McEaspog’s Marvellous Medicines,” though he’s no more a Scotsman than you two. Ate rancid kebabs from McKemal’s every night. Prayed for ill health. But nothing worked. So he summoned the Devil, the daft sod.
Out by the crossroads on the A887, he sacrificed a brace of grouse to the Lord of Lies. And the Lord of Lies answered. George put this bargain to him: “Grant me the ability to make my medicine from the humours of my body, and when I leave this Earth, my soul shall be yours.” The Devil scratched his horned head. “Er, that seems a little rash on your part, doesn’t it? But if you’re sure?” “Never been surer in my life,” replied George Ghan. He figured he was safe enough. His medicine would do so much good in the world, God just plain would not allow him to go to Hell.
Both George and the Devil were to be disappointed. The day after, George woke up with a filthy chest cold and acid reflux like a ruptured car battery. Overjoyed, he set to work “harvesting” the humours in little jars and mixing his medicine. He’s been at it fifty years now, and he hasn’t aged a day. Permenantly sick as a dog, but he’ll never ever die. But every poor fool who samples McEaspog’s Marvellous Medicine dies a hideous wasting death within the week. George went bankrupt and lost the house, but no-one else wants it so he still lives there as a squatter. Spitting and bleeding in his little jars ’til JJJJJUUUDDDDGEEEEMMMEEEEENNNTTT DDDAAAAAAAYYYY!!!!!
Rhiannon emerged from the bogs during Spideog’s final scream, which sent her ferret scampering up the Celtic-knot wallpaper in terror.
“I need some air,” said Charlie, getting up hastily.
“Great story, mate. But I’d better-” Steff stood up too.
“Yeah, whatever.” As Steff followed Charlie out to the beer garden, Spideog was already dourly tucking into a pickled egg.
[TLDR: According to Spideog, the creepy man in the house is a quack called George Ghan, doomed to an eternity of trying to make a miracle cure from his own body fluids. Nice. Next scene: the pub beer garden.]
The beer garden that Charlie ran out into was identical in every way to what he had once known to be a yard.
In every way except for a large robot perched on the three-beerkegs-with-a-plank-on-top/ outdoor drinking seat. Charlie staggered past the robot and flashed it a thumbs up sign.
So, to sum up all that was about the place:
- Three block walls and the back door of the pub
- Two mops
- One plastic bucket
- On steel bucket with ashes
- A robot
- Two toilet cubicles. One with a door, one without (someone was pissing loudly in one (if these were biological research field notes then it could fairly be said that that the gardener had somehow sneaked back out to indulge in yet another piss, but, this being a horror story, it may not be the case)).
Charlie staggering into the cubicle without the door. Several of the valves/ containment units within his digestive tract were opening in preparation for an unholy spew -it was a process that he was familiar with, and from experience he knew he was roughly 6.385 seconds away from peak chunder.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, just in-case you’ve forgotten to read the post above; Steff had followed Charlie into the yard.
‘Are you puking?’, asked Steff.
‘No, I told ye it’s a Number 1’, said a voice from the cubicle with a door, ‘and I’d like to get it done without ye meddling kids.’
‘Sorry, I wasn’t talking to you’, apologized Steff.
‘Were you talking to me?’, bleeped the robot. It was hard to tell, but the machine sounded glad to have company and the question seemed tinged with more than a hint of eagerness.
‘No, not you either tin man.’
‘Pity’, noted the robot, ‘because I can tell you everything that goes on in that cubicle. See, I was posted here ever since the door was stolen. My job is to make sure nothing else is taken.’
‘…and a good job it’s been doing too’, shouted the possible gardener, ‘divil the shit has ever gone missing from that toilet since the machine’s been sat there.’
‘True’, noted the robot, ‘but it’s been ten years, and I’m lonely.’
‘Right’, said Charlie, ‘that’s that done.’
He walked back out of the doorless cubicle and smiled happily.
Steff winked, and nodded at the robot.
‘Charlie’, she said, and paused.
She coughed, and winked again.
Then she scratched her temple.
And gave another little cough.
‘Huh?’, asked Charlie.
Steff stared angrily at him for several seconds, ‘ah, for God sake Charlie, do I have to spell it out to you? This robot is lonely, can ya not tell -I was full sure you went to school.’
Charlie nodded, ‘Sorry Steff, and sorry strange robot, I was just caught up in the euphoria of puking …and the beauty of this place.’
‘That beauty fades after a decade’, noted the robot, ‘now …old breezy McEaspog’s house, that’s a different story -how I long to be back there, with her and her brilliant creations.’
Steff pissed herself, ‘you knew breezy McEaspog? …Charlie, this, uh, this droid is from that house we were at earlier’, she stammered.
‘That’s great Steff’, advised Charlie, ‘I’m sure it can tell us the real story so -machines never lie.’
‘Don’t believe that’, yelled the voice very like the one the gardener has from behind the one cubicle with a door’s door, ‘I have my suspicions about how the door went missing in the first place …and they involve a robot teleporting in here and pulling it off the hinges to take back to its robot mates in a secret underground castle so they can use it to build replica government officials to pass laws allowing robots to vote.’
Charlie turned to the cubicle and gave the woman the fingers.
‘I saw that ya cheeky little scut, I had ya pegged as a foul fingered little bollox the minute I set eyes on you and the other one’, yelled the woman.
‘Come on, let’s go somewhere private so the robot can fill us in’, suggested Steff, ‘and away from nonsense conspiracy theories.’
‘It’s not nonsense’, noted the could be gardener/ toilet with a voice, ‘all robots can teleport’.
‘Come on, let’s get out of here’, suggested Steff for a second time.
‘But what about my sitting-on-top-of-three-beerkegs-and-a-plank-minding-stuff job?’, asked the robot.
‘Leave it for a while’, said Charlie, ‘breezy is dead, we think, strange supernatural forces are doing deeds …and your memory banks can help us get to the bottom of it all.’
‘Breezy is possibly dead, good lord, then the prophecy has come to pass’, bleeped the robot, ‘I know somewhere quiet we can go …somewhere away form ferret friendly green fingered bunion having do-gooders’, it added, and nodded towards the toilet door.
‘Where?’, asked Steff.
‘Svalbard’, replied the robot, ‘I’ll teleport us there.’
Whatever the robot did next is a bit of a mystery. It involved gears, for sure, and probably some sort of computational processing. In any case the end result was the fourth wheel of existence, the where, fell off. Causing the back axle to grind and spark on the tarmac of reality. Every atom that made up Charlie, Steff and the robot spun into a noisy whirl of light (FYI the robot was actually called FZB4551, only it just hadn’t got round to telling anyone yet). The universe sensed something was up and let out an almighty yelp. It was the noise of every living creature that ever existed (and would come into existence) crying out at once. There was a brilliant flash.
And then nothing
‘I knew it’, yelled the voice in the toilet with a door.
But her yell was wasted.
They were already gone.
TLDR: The protagonists are now on Svalbard and a robot is about to tell them another tale from the house.
There was a low, windswept headland, all bare, stony soil. It had a view north across slate-grey ocean to where sea ice glinted on the horizon. Nesting puffins shuffled grumpily out of the way as an old rusty android and two humans appeared in a puff of purple smoke.
“Blimey, it’s a bit parky!” said an abruptly sober Charlie. “My jacket’s back in the pub. Can we-“
“Nope,” said the robot. “Gotta recharge it first. Let’s keep moving. I’ll talk as we walk to the shack. The /true/ story of the-“
“Hold up a minute!” Steff pulled a notebook from her pocket. “I want to get a few things straight before we add yet another pack of lies to the collection. Let’s see.” She flicked through the pages. “So far: The McEaspog house is terrorised by an evil spirit called something like ‘the Orc of Joanne.’ The house belonged to a mad inventor called Biddy. The house is haunted by a cranky ghost called Sue. The house is haunted by an immortal quack called George. Are /any/ of these things true? And why should we believe you?”
“Biddy wasn’t mad!” retorted the robot indignantly. “Just before her time. And the rest is all complete cobblers, especially the Orc bit. I reckon the teleporter should’ve been enough to convince you.”
“Maybe, maybe not. Carry on.”
Biddy McEaspog (said the robot) was a soul out of time. As a young girl, she knew things she couldn’t possibly have known. Her father gave up buying the Times because Biddy could tell him all the really important news stories years in ad-
“Enough!” bellowed Charlie. “Enough of this horse-plop. I’m done with this holiday. Take us home! Take. Us. Home.”
He grabbed the android by the throat and shook it. The android rattled a bit but seemed otherwise unhurt.
Steff tried to separate them. “Cool it, that’s our ride home you’re throttling. Sorry about this, mate, he’s been a bit stressed at-“
A piercing howl split the air. It tailed off into a nasty, cackling laugh. They all froze. (By coincidence, their pose exactly matched that of Rodin’s famous sculpture ‘Young Couple Strangling a Robot.’) “Now you’ve torn it,” said the android. “It’s the Orc. Run!”
[TLDR: The latest story was interrupted. Charlie, Steff and the robot are now fleeing across Svalbard from the Orc of Geoughan. Whatever that might be.]
‘Run’, said the robot for a second time.
‘Where?’, asked Steff.
She looked around. The only option for escape was the sea.
‘You’re right Steff, the only option for escape is the sea’, bleeped the robot, ‘jump onto the shore ice, I’ll dive in and break a section free.’
‘How did you know what I was thinking?’
‘ESP Steff, ESP’, replied the robot, ‘not sure how it works, you’d have to have asked breezy. Back when she developed it. Erm, round about 1986, give or take a year or two, yeah, about ’86 or so …I think it involved a Mobius Strip, and Swarfaga …that’s as much as I know, anyway, sure this is science fiction so who cares? What matters right now is ye getting onto an ice flow.’
‘Brilliant idea, we’ll simply float to safety’, shouted Charlie, ‘but won’t you go rusty?, erm, I mean rustier?’
The robot turned and made for the water, ‘don’t ye worry about me, just make sure you’re on the ice when it separates from shore.’
Charlie and Steff skittered over the shoreline shingle and onto a thick layer of ice skirting the island. The ice wobbled and cracked, and the piece they were on drifted free. The robot appeared above the surface of a growing stretch of water between them and the shore.
Then stepped ashore.
And extended a robotic middle finger towards the them.
And laughed again.
‘So long suckers’, the robot crackled, ‘…have a nice trip, this’ll teach ye to go meddling where ye’re not wanted …oh, and by the way, thought I’d let ye know…’
The Orc was almost level with it, but the robot was unperturbed.
‘…the Orc of Geoughan is absolutely deadly…’
The robot’s form began to dissolve into a swirl of light.
The robot disappeared.
Charlie and Steff could tell this for a fact. Because it wasn’t there anymore.
But the Orc was. It ran past the place where the robot had been, extended two huge forearms, and dived into the sea.
Charlie decide to panic.
He was on an ice flow in the Arctic circle. Being pursued by an Orc doing the front crawl. With no jacket.
He then did the only other thing he could think of doing.
He blamed Steff.
‘This is all your fault Steff’, he told her.
‘Now is not the time Charlie.’
‘Then when is the time, huh?, after we’re dead?, no, now is the time …the time for you to know that I’m blaming you for all of this.’
‘Fine’, snapped Steff.
‘No, it is not fine, it’s pure muck. I shoulda seen this coming, all those episodes of ‘Escape to the Chateau’ I had to sit through, now what the hell was that all about?, let’s do up an old house, sure it’ll be fine, well? Is it fine?, no, it is not.’
Charlie was now in the full swing of asking and answering himself questions.
He failed to notice that the Orc had front crawled to within yards of their ice flow.
‘Dick Shortbread?, the amazing Dick Shortbread, well Steff, where is your Dick Shortbread now? …or did I miss the episode where he defeated an Orc using a trowel and a length of wavin pipe?’
Steff had heard enough.
‘I’ve had enough Charlie, shut your pie hole, this was your idea …did ya not read the first paragraph? …Charlie suggested doing up the house -that means you.’
She paused to satisfactorily review her most recent additional to the Orc dodging ice flow wobbling robot double crossing jacketless arctic debate.
And then continued.
‘Charlie’, she announced, ‘you are the human equivalent of a verruca. In fact, I shoulda smeared you from head to toe in butter years ago -that way there was at least half a chance you could’ve slipped into something resembling a human being.’
‘lads, lads, take it easy’, came a voice from the sea.
It belonged to the Orc.
‘This is not the time for fighting’, the voice continued, ‘we’ll have to work together if we’re gonna defeat that robot and his evil plan.’
‘But, but, George Ghan had us told us you were evil yourself’, stammered Charlie.
‘Ah, don’t mind him, that man’s a flute’, noted the Orc, ‘hold tight the pair of ye so I can paddle us ashore. Ye must either be either hungry, or cold. My guess is hungry, and I know of a spot nearby that sells Pot Noodle.’
And that was it for the afternoon of Friday the 29th of October 2021. An ice floe. Two freezing protagonists. And the world’s fastest open water Orc.
TLDR: The Orc of Geoughan is now going to treat Steff and Charlie to some Pot Noodle and another scary tale from the house.
Hunched over steaming plastic pots in Gunnarson’s Noodle Shack, they began to thaw out. (Steff chose the King Prawn Dansak flavour, while Charlie had the Trifle and the Orc had Fermented Fish.) The odd thing about the Orc was that you couldn’t look directly at him, no matter how much you tried. He was just a gnarly grey blur in the corner of your eye.
“I don’t get it,” said Charlie. “Why would the robot leave us with you if you weren’t going to eat us?”
“Ah, but the robot believes I’m an ancient, sinister spirit of primordial terror.”
“What are you, then?”
“I’m an ancient, sinister spirit of primordial terror. But I’m not hungry. Besides, in my own little way, I’ve been a friend to your species ever since you crawled out of the burrows.”
Steff frowned. “Burrows? Sure you’re not mistaking us for rabbits?”
“Gophers?” Charlie contributed. “Prairie dogs?”
The Orc slapped his forhead. “Aye, that was it. I must have got distracted. Five hundred thousand years as the Fear God of the Prairie Dogs, have a wee bitty brain-fart and switch to humans by mistake. Well it’s done now. No point crying over spilt milk.”
Steff fished her notebook out again, and sighed at the soggy pages. “Right. Back to the mysteries and lies. The robot was made by Biddy McEaspog, right?”
“Dead. But the robot wants to resurrect her. And Hell help us all if he succeeds.”
“A homunculus.” The Orc caught their baffled expression. “What you might call a golem. Artificial man. He’s made out of peat, spit and nail-clippings, that’s why he’s such a filthy greb.”
“Lovely girl, wouldn’t hurt a fly. I might have done her a favour or two, driving noisy tenants out so she could haunt the place in peace. That’s where it all went wrong for me, in fact. After- look, this is is kind of long. It’s probably best done as a Tale, if you can persaude your boyfriend not to strangle me.”
“Charlie, no strangling.”
“Yeah, OK. But that robot was evil, right? So I was right to strangle it.”
In 1987 (said the Orc) I was enjoying a holiday in Drumnoyle, after helping my friend Sue drive the Cleeves out of the McEaspog House. Came back from a fishing trip to find Biddy McEaspog, the landlady, moving her own baggage into the place. And she had a lot of baggage: a whole workshop full of bat-guano inventions. She had an early version of the robot with her. Didn’t make George til much later. Right off the bat, something about her soul smelled very, very wrong. There was a big flipchart she was always scribbling on. “2362: invention of the mofledorp? Try with blown glass and wasps.” That kind of thing. So I stuck around to keep an eye on her.
One night when she got up to go to the loo, I did the ol’ under-the-bed ankle grab trick. Never fails. But this time it did. Biddy just looked down at me and said “Oh, there you are. Gotcha!” Then she pulled a lever in her mechanised nightgown, and next thing I knew I was trapped in a bottle. Like gin. Ha. She chucked me through a telporter made of old typewriters, and when the glass smashed I was stuck on Svalbard. Couldn’t leave the island, either- she’d done something to me that meant I couldn’t abide the touch of salt water. Which was a low blow, me being an Olympic gold medalist swimmer an’ all.
Biddy died four years ago. I knew she was gone when I got up one morning and found I could look out to sea without puking. I made some enquiries through the ghostvine. Susie sent word back that the robot and that filthy homunculus were up to something. Right now they’ve got her corpse all wired up in the attic, waiting for the next big storm. And the unquiet spirit of Biddy McEaspog is sat on the mantlepiece in an old pickled onion jar, biding her time.
I got to reading some science fiction while I was exiled, so I reckon I know what she is. She’s a /pre/incarnation: the soul of someone from the future reborn in the present day. She’s no inventor. She just remembers all the modern comforts of her time, and she’s desperate to recreate them in ours. But she’s meddling with dangerous stuff. Einstein’s ghost reckons if she ever tries to build a mofledorp, it’ll mush the entire world into quark-gluon plasma. Whatever that is. Doesn’t sound good, anyway. I’m the Spirit of Terror, young-uns, and I need your help to save the world.
There was a long pause.
“What can we do?” asked Charlie.
[TLDR The Orc was exiled to Svalbard by Biddy. Biddy comes from the future. She’s dead now. But Biddy’s henchmen (George and the Robot) are about to bring her back. If they succeed, her awful inventions could destroy the world. What next?]
And it came to pass that:
- On three folding chairs.
- Next to a picnic table.
- In Gunnarson’s noodle shack.
- At ten to three in the afternoon.
- Two humans and an Orc contemplated armegeddon.
This was not unusual. Chef Gunnerson had a speech for these occasions. It was a well oiled speech, and one he enjoyed giving.
‘Well’, he said, ‘well, well, well …what a sorry lot I have before me. If I’m not very much mistaken the enormity of the task ye three face is causing despair. Humph.’
‘What did he say?’, asked Steff.
‘I dunno’, replied Charlie, ‘will ya speak up?’
Chef Gunnerson began circling the room in agitated delight. Not only did they want to hear his words, but so far not one of them had told him to shut the fiddlesticks up. He determined to take full advantage of the situation.
‘Well’, he continued, ‘ask yourselves the question -how do you eat an elephant?, and then answer it with -one bite at a time.’
Chef Gunnerson grinned, and waited for a reaction. Charlie and Steff exchanged confused glances, while the Orc’s appearance stayed consistently blurry.
‘I can’t make that out, what’s he on about?’ asked Steff.
‘I dunno, something about elephants’, replied Charlie.
‘Easy knowing ye two are the tourists round here’, remarked the Orc of Geoughan, ‘Chef Gunnerson might seem a little hard to understand, but it was very clear to me …he is simply explaining to us that he would like to pleasure an elephant.’
‘No, no, no, it’s a metaphor, I’m giving you three a metaphor.’
‘Thank you Chef’, thanked the Orc, ‘that’s very generous, we’ll use it to travel to Dunmoyle.’
The Orc stood up and walked to the door.
‘Come on you two, Gunnerson’s after sorting out the journey back to Dunmoyle, but we’ll have to move quickly if we’re going to save the world.’
Charlie and Steff followed the Orc to the door.
Steff nodded at Chef Gunnerson as they left, ‘thanks mister …and, erm, good luck with the elephant.’
‘Don’t forget to wash your hands after’, reminded Charlie.
Then they were back on the main street in Dunmoyle.
They paused for several seconds to let the metaphor wear off.
And Steff spoke.
‘Look at that …the Feral Sporran’s still serving, let’s grab a quick one before we do anything else. Dunno about ye but I could do with a break.’
‘Can’t’, said the Orc, ‘I’m barred.’
‘Ah relax’, advised Steff, ‘hop the wall there and jump into one of the toilet cubicles, I’ll bring a drink out to you.’
And that was it for the eve of the eve of all souls day. An evil robot. The soul of someone from the future reborn into the present day. A filthy homunculus. An attic. A big storm. The Orc of Geoughan. And mofledorp.
TLDR: Charlie, Steff and the Orc are back in town, Biddy’s in the attic, a storm is in the air, and The Feral Sporran is still open.
The witching hour in Drumnoyle. The village was drenched by pounding rain and the thunder rumbled non-stop. A forked flash of lightning lit up the far end of Loch Drumnoyle. The storm was getting closer. Up the hill to the McEaspog house squelched five dark figures-
Five? Back up a bit.
“And I’m telling ye, there’s nowt in that house but Slinking Susan,” said Rhiannon firmly. “I’ll stake good money on’t.”
“How much?” asked Charlie, sensing opportunity.
The gardener checked her purse. “Four quid thirty-seven. But I’ll throw in t’ ferret if that’s not enough.”
“No, that’s all right,” said Charlie hastily.
“An’ /I’ll/ wager there’s nothing there but old George spitting in his jars,” put in Spideog.
Ok, carry on.
“Told you we shouldn’t have stayed for that last one,” sniffed Steff. “We’re almost too late.”
“That last one was the Drumnoyle Old Bizarre, so you are objectively wrong. Hush, I’m working.” Spideog twisted his lock-picks one last time, and the kitchen door creaked open. (He made a good living stealing tourists’ cars, as Steff and Charlie would later find out.)
They picked their way through the darkened kitchen, dodging the rusty cleavers that swung from the shelves. The Orc led the way. He stopped at the next doorway, which lead to a larger room. Flashes of lightning gave them a glimpse of bulky, dust-sheet-covered furniture. “This is it. Careful now,” said the Orc. He stepped through. There was a deafeningly loud CLICK and the Orc was yanked upwards. The others looked up to see him strapped to the ceiling in a net of white-hot glowing wires. On the plus side, it lit the room nicely. “It’s up to you now!” he cried.
The jar was over the fireplace, as Slinking Susan had said. Steff and Charlie made a dash for it, then froze as a shrouded sofa stood up and blocked their way. The sheet slid off. It wasn’t a sofa. It was George Ghan. “I told ye to stay away!” he crowed. “Now yer for it.” He lurched forwards, hands raised high and a waterfall of drool spilling from his mouth.
“Let me deal with this.” Rhiannon elbowed her way to the front. “I’ve just the weapon for the likes o’ him.” She gripped her spade like a baseball bat, drew back and made a mighty swing. The shovel blade cut right through George at the waist. His lower half remained standing as the upper half hit the ground with a squelch and a curse.
While Rhiannon hacked the wriggling golem into smaller and smaller pieces, Charlie made it to the fireplace. Triumphantly, he seized the pickle jar. “I’ve got you now, Biddy McEaspog! Let’s get out of-” His foot slipped in a patch of George-drool. The jar flew into the air. Steff made a dive for it. Her fingertips brushed the glass, but she was too late. The jar hit the floorboards and shattered into a hundred pieces.
A glowing figure rose from the shards. It was a small, slender woman with waist-length hair, wearing a long dark dress of conservative cut.
“Is that…. Biddy?” asked Spideog.
“Nay,” replied the Orc in tones of doom.
“I’m so sorry!” wailed Slinking Susan. “They took Biddy and left me trapped here as a distraction. I’m afraid you’re too late!”
There was a flash of lightning.
[TL;DR – Charlie, Steff, Spideog, Rhiannon and the Orc have broken into the House at midnight. The Orc is out of action, but so is George. They found the jar, but it has the wrong ghost in it. And the storm has arrived. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion!]
‘Weird’, noted Charlie, ‘I saw a flash but there was no thunder.’
‘That’s because that was no ordinary lightening’, explained Rhiannon, ‘there was 1.21 gigawatts of power in the burst …it’s a well known fact that anything over 1.2 is soundless.’
Charlie stopped in his tracks, and signaled for Steff and Spideog to do the same.
‘Very specific Rhiannon. Very specific of you indeed’, he shouted.
‘What’s wrong Charlie?’, asked Steff.
Charlie glanced towards Steff, and then to Spideog, ‘what’s wrong lads, is what has been wrong this whole time.’
He pointed to the Rhiannon and shouted, ‘…freeze in your tracks ferret woman.’
‘What’s this about?’, she asked, ‘we’re running out of time to save humanity.’
‘Yeah, what’s this about?’, added Spideog.
Charlie looked at all three and smiled. He cleared his throat.
‘What this is about is the very reason we are all here. I don’t know how I never thought of it before. But now that I have it figured, it seems so simple.’
‘What does Charlie?’, asked Steff.
‘The cause of, and solution to, our problem.’
Charlie nodded towards Rhiannon, ‘old maid cyborg over here is that cause, and that solution …it’s obvious she’s a humanoid robot sent back from the future to destroy humanity -why else would she be pissing like a racehorse after beer?’
He paused for a second to see if anyone else would answer the question, and then did it himself, ‘let me explain, it’s because cyborgs don’t have a digestive tract, so the stuff must run straight through her.’
He took off his shirt and handed it to Steff.
Rhiannon scratched her head and looked to Steff.
‘Why has yer buck just stripped to the tits?’, she asked.
She need not have bothered, the answer came from Charlie himself.
In the form of a blow.
It caught her behind the ear and put her face down on the ground.
Rhiannon scrambled to her feet and ducked the next one. She tried to find space to move among the generational McEaspog clutter. It wasn’t easy in the dark.
A head kick rocked her and sent her backwards.
Then a barrage of blows put her back on the ground.
‘That’s everything sorted, ye can thank me later lads,’, announced Charlie.
‘What are you on about?’, asked Steff, ‘have you got rocks in that head of yours? The plot was explained about five paragraphs back ya muppet -breezy McEaspog is the antagonist. And she is trying to make something called mufeldorp which will unravel the fabric of the space time continium.’
‘Yeah’, agreed Spideog, ‘and that there would destroy the entire universe …I think.’
Steff shoved the shirt back at Charlie, ‘now, help Rhiannon up and apologize.’
There was no need.
Rhiannon was already back on her feet and moving towards Charlie. She hammered kicks and blows as she did. Charlie backed up, wobbled, and collapsed.
The ceiling of the room shattered to reveal an elderly lady floating in a cloud of green smoke. Her wellington boots, shawl and overcoat looked like they had been buried in bog for hundreds of years. So did her skin.
Steff, Spideog, Rhiannon and Charlie stared upwards.
‘The state of that one’, noted Spideog, ‘her style went out of fashion donkeys years ago.’
Biddy McEaspog was unperturbed by his comment; ‘you’re no great shakes yourself’, she told him, ‘the only reason metal never went outta fashion is because it was never in fashion.’
She cackled to herself for several minutes.
‘I think that’s abuse’, whispered Charlie, ‘if I was you I wouldn’t let her talk to me like that.’
Biddy must have heard him.
‘Silence’, she cried.
She then produced a medium sized Tupperware box and flashed it to the group.
‘I’m guessing ye know what’s in here.’
‘It’s mufledorp, and with the help of it I’m gonna transpise your vernuncular appendages.’
Nobody responded again.
‘…and the vernuncular appendages of the entire human race.’
Nobody responded for a third time.
‘…and then after that, the vernuncular appendages of the universe.’
Biddy reached into the box, pulled out a blob of something similar to peanut butter, and dropped it into the room.
It landed with a gentle flump.
The room was silent untill Steff spoke.
‘Biddy?’, she said, ‘there’s one thing I don’t understand.’
‘There is plenty you don’t understand’, replied Biddy, ‘like quark gluon plasma for example.’
Steff continued speaking, ‘if mufledorf destroys the entire universe …and you came here from the future …which we know you did…’
Steff looked down at the brown splodge on the ground.
‘…wouldn’t that mean it’d be impossible for you to create mufledorf?’
Biddy scratched her head. And then her arse. And then cursed.
A futuristic new fashioned kind of curse.
‘Scubleramp’, she said.
So that was it for the Halloween night of 2021.
Biddy mellowed quickly once she realized an apocalypse wasn’t in the offing.
Spideog went home to piss his neighbours off with ‘The Number of The Beast’ at full volume.
The Orc of Geoughan went for a walk.
And Rhiannon headed back into the night to lamp rabbits.
The evil robot had been far too clever for it’s own good. It powered up on all soul’s day to detect a microprocessor encased in a blanket of rust. Charlie had been right with his advice on salt water.
And as for Charlie and Steff
That’s for you to decide.