Welcome to the next instalment of my continuing comedy/fantasy web serial set at The Mythical Creatures Employment Exchange. If you are new to the saga, you can start at the very begining by clicking here. A full chapter listing is available here. You can also vote for a mythical creature of your choosing to appear in a forthcoming episode: click here for details.
Meanwhile, on with the fun!
The Mythical Creatures Employment Exchange
Chapter Thirteen and a Half
(In which Alice finds herself out of a job)
Alice slumped on the top step next to the Kraken’s tank and yawned. Despite having slept for hours the night before she was exhausted, plus she ached all over as if she’d just finished a long session at the gym. She closed her eyes for a moment and immediately drifted off.
‘Wake up! Get back to work!’
Alice opened her eyes as the guard prodded her in the back with his rifle.
‘Ouch! Watch what you’re doing with that thing,’ said Alice, getting to her feet.
‘You’re not paid to sleep on the job, Missy,’ snarled the guard, whose face was covered by a black balaclava.
‘Paid!’ exclaimed Alice, ‘don’t make me laugh. Imprisonment with hard labour would be more a more accurate description of my situation, wouldn’t you say?’
‘Whatever,’ replied the guard, ‘but if you haven’t got that two ton lump of calamari trained in time, the boss will not be happy. And when the boss isn’t happy,’ he continued, smiling, ‘bad things tend to happen to pretty little girlies like you.’
As he spoke, the guard’s eyes glinted and his pupils dilated. Whatever he is, thought Alice, it’s not all human. She shivered and zipped her Nautilus Entertainment boiler-suit up to her neck. As far as she knew, the ‘boss’ had never set foot on board; she wondered if they even knew about the prisoners being held with her on the ship. Weren’t operations like this run by hedge funds these days anyway?
Alice peered over the edge of the tank; the Kraken was floating on the surface, one dinner plate-sized eye looking forlornly at her. She’d grown very fond of him, and they had established a surprisingly good working relationship: the Kraken had grasped the idea very quickly that he was to pretend to co-operate and had now taken to performing tricks unprompted. In fact, Alice had very little ‘work’ to do, apart from worry about what was going to happen to them all.
‘Ah, Alice, nice to see that you have adopted the corporate uniform at last.’
Alice turned as Bradley Smithson, NEWT’s personnel manager, made his way up the stairs.
‘I didn’t have much choice, did I? They’ve taken away my clothes. And didn’t anyone tell you that boiler suits went out of fashion in nineteen eighty-three?’
Bradley flashed his perfect smile and shrugged.
‘Well, you won’t need to worry about that for much longer.’
‘I don’t understand. I thought you were taking me to Nautilus World.’
‘No, you are mistaken. Nautilus Entertainment Worldwide Transcorporation has no further need of your services; we have found a willing, and, more importantly, very able cephalopod communicator.’ Bradley paused, flashed one last smile and continued. ‘Consider yourself terminated, Ms Finchley. Amadeus! Take her back to her cabin.’
‘You won’t get away with this you slimy little bastard.’
‘But we are getting away with it, Alice, and nothing you, or anyone else can do will stop us.’
The werewolf appeared from the shadows, dragged Alice down the stairs and threw her roughly over his shoulder. A few minutes later they were back at the cabin.
‘I’m so looking forward to Thursday night, aren’t you?’ growled Amadeus, as he unlocked the door and dropped Alice on her dirty mattress.
‘I won’t hold my breath,’ sneered Alice.
The werewolf chained Alice’s feet together and laughed.
‘Enjoy the rest of your cruise,’ he said, ‘while you can.’
The werewolf slammed the door shut and turned the key.
‘You are back rather early,’ said Njord, ‘they normally keep you working all day.’
Alice looked up at the friendly face of the Norse Sea God and forced a smile.
‘I’ve been replaced, Njord; they don’t need me anymore.’
‘Oh dear! That bodes ill for the three of us; I fear our days in this realm are numbered.’
Alice couldn’t argue with this but decided to stay as positive as she possibly could.
‘It’s not over till the fat lady sings,’ she said, brightly.
‘To which fat lady do you allude?’ said Njord, ‘have you met this over-sized songstress on board?’
Alice chuckled to herself; she liked this bearded old man and his colloquial confusions enormously.
‘It’s just an expression,’ she explained, ‘how’s Lisbeth today by the way? Has she eaten?’
‘Not a thing, although she took some water this morning. The poor havfrue, she had the most dreadful nightmares last night; you won’t have heard her wailing as you were lost in the deepest slumber yourself.’
Alice fell silent; something about what Njord had just said was ringing a very loud bell.
‘My dear, are you quite alright?’
Alice stared at her chains and tried desperately to remember what was nagging her.
‘Did you say Lisbeth was having nightmares?’
‘Yes, and of the most dreadful kind.’
‘I had a nightmare last night,’ said Alice, scratching her head, ‘at least, I think I did.’
‘How did your night terror manifest itself, my dear? We gods set great store by the messages our demons send us through our subconscious existence.’
‘Yes, well I’m not sure about that,’ said Alice, ‘but I’m pretty sure it was my usual recurring nightmare. Although…’
Njord looked intently at his fellow captor.
‘Yes? Think, my dear, it may be important.’
‘Well, it sounds silly, but I’m almost certain Ms Pinky gate-crashed my nightmare last night. Come to think of it, she was there the night before as well.’
Njord looked confused.
‘Ms Pinky?’ he said, ‘who is this strangely named character?’
‘Ms Pinky is the monster who was hired to replace me at the Exchange,’ explained Alice, becoming suddenly rather excited, ‘and before that she worked for the Sandman as a recurring nightmare!’
Alice closed her eyes and immediately recalled her nightmare in vivid detail, cringing at the memory of the polyester nightie being forced over her head.
‘I spoke to her, I’m sure of it. Yes, I remember telling her about you and Lisbeth and the Kraken. Oh, Njord,’ cried Alice, ‘they’re coming to rescue us, I’m sure of it.’
© flyingscribbler 2011