It’s very exciting having things read aloud and mixing them into context. The mix might be a little choppy here, lots of voices and lots of late night work, but I reckon the wonderful job done by the artists involved will make that forgivable.
If you have been very good, then we will continue. If you have not, then I suggest you go to bed now, without your supper and you can catch up tomorrow, when you’ve had a good think about what you have done.
Hugo is drooling at Cannibal Corpse and Victor is staring fondly at Flapjack’s sparse whisps of hair. Flapjack shuts his eyes and wishes for something good to happen when an almighty shriek cuts though the darkness. “AZERBAIJAAAAAAAAANNNN!!!!”
Flapjack opens his eyes to see an animal, a bit smaller than himself, covered in feathers with four legs and a tail land heavily on the desk, just in front of the rats. “AWAY WITH YOU RATUS RATUS, OR I’LL MAKE YOU INTO A BOLERO!” it booms at them, hissing and swiping with clawed paws.
The rats scramble off to the other end of the desk. Victor jumps of the end quickly but Hugo looks over his shoulder. “You’ve not seen the last of us. Don’t think crazy Don here will always be around to watch for you, he’s radio rental you know. Forgets his own name, let alone what he’s meant to be doing.”
Don hisses at him menacingly and Hugo hops off the end of the desk after making a very rude gesture at them all. The feathered animal mutters to himself and turns on the spot to stick a hind leg straight up in the air and lick at his back end. Flapjack and Cannibal Corpse, unsure of where to look raise their eyebrows at each other, wondering who this odd saviour might be.
After a while, the furry animal stops licking his bum and stands up on all four feet. For a moment, it looks at them with large green eyes filled with confusion. Then a spark arrives and it nods enthusiastically, “Oh yes! I rescued you from Victor and Hugo, shame they never chose more interesting names from themselves given the choices available here…” it tails off absent mindedly.
Looking closely now that the creature has stood up, Flapjack and Cannibal Corpse can see that it is a cat. It is mostly chocolate brown, but patches of ginger and white speckle its coat in no particular pattern. It’s wearing a bandanna made from a handkerchief and rather oddly has bits of feather duster strapped to it’s side with some knotty lengths of ribbon. Altogether it looks mad as bag of carrots in winter.
Flapjack steps forward, “I’m Flapjack and this is Cannibal Corpse, who are you?”
The cat refocuses on Flapjack and says, “Um…” It looks a bit perplexed and then it’s furrowed brow eases and it grins with all of its teeth. “That’s it, yes. I tend to be a bit forgetful these days. Comes of reading all these books, you can only cram so much in between your years before some of it starts to fall out again. My name is Don Quixote, I’m the night librarian.” The cat bows low before them, its rump and feathers sticking up into the air. “Pleased to meet you,” laughs Flapjack as CC shakes his head.
The cat straightens up and sits down, neatly curling his tail around his feet and takes a half interested lick at his own shoulder. “So,” he asks, “What are you doing in my library at night?”
“We’re on a quest,” says Cannibal Corpse. “We have to get to the city of the Wheatmen and Spiderladies. They have Flapjack’s parents.”
Don considers them and blinks slowly. For a moment it seems he has drifted off in thought. “Hmmnnn,” he mutters.” Yes, Wheatmen and Spiderladies. Their city. Yeah, no idea where it is.” He nods at them and smiles.
Cannibal Corpse takes a deep breath and lets it out again patiently. “We know where it is,” he says,” But we need to get out via the cellar here to set off in the right direction.”
Don nods at him amiably, showing absolutely no sign of comprehension whatsoever. Then he perks up abruptly. “Wait!” he exclaims. “I know exactly where the cellar is! It’s right underneath us. I could even take you there!” He seems surprised and pleased at this unimaginable coincidence.
Flapjack looks at CC, who appears to be struggling not to say something rude. “Can you take us there now?” he asks the cat. “Definitely,” says Don. “Why don’t we go there straight away?” CC sighs audibly and they set off into the darkness, worried about rats and whether their guide can safely lead them through the bookshelves.
As the three wind their way from the lamp light, the library gets darker and darker. Don seems to know where he is going, so Flapjack holds onto one of his makeshift wings for direction. In the dark, next to him he can hear the soft tread of Cannibal Corpse. CC leans over and says in a small voice, “Flapjack, I can’t hear you in the dark, I can’t see your face,” he sounds terribly scared. Flapjack reaches out and takes hold of CC’s mitteny hand. The doll grips back hard. Flapjack is glad that CC has no ears, floating voices from the deepest shadows giggle and call out. “Dolleeeeeee…..Hello Dolleeee” they giggle and jibe. The rats are following them and Flapjack hopes they are not too close.
Finally after turning corner after corner in what Flapjack suspects was a loop, they come to some stairs that lead down. Don springs energetically upward, scaring the ghosts out of Flapjack and Cannibal Corpse. “HASTA!” the cat shouts, the stair well is lit by a single bulb and the frenzied feline is swinging from a light switch pull cord. “Takes practise,” he barks jauntily at them “I’ve fallen down the stairs plenty of times learning to do that one! You’d never tell though!” He drops down onto the stairs and leads off downward. “Probably fell on his head,” mutters Cannibal Corpse.
The cellar is large and filled with books and paper. There’s some scurrying as they get close to the floor and Cannibal Corpse stops, frozen with fear as the papers shift revealing tails and movement. “More rats?” he asks. Flapjack looks at Don who doesn’t seem too fussed.
“Ohno,” says Don. “The rats don’t often come down here, they’re outnumbered by the mice.”
“Aren’t you supposed to catch and eat the mice?” enquires Flapjack. Don looks a bit sick and sits down. “Eat the mice?” he queries. “EAT THEM? Oh goodness no. Who would eat mice? I feel a bit sick just thinking about it.” He belches and then heaves. Flapjack wonders what he has done.
Don stretches and twitches, retching and belching. Flapjack is panicked. “Are you ok?” he runs toward the cat which is now convulsing. “I didn’t mean, it. It’s just…” he’s at loss for words. With a final large belch and heave Don throws up a large, grey and wet ball of mess on the floor. “Euegh,” he grunts, swaying a little. “Oh my, how embarrassing. I’m so sorry you had to see that.” He belches again. “Hairball. Comes of having to clean oneself with one’s tongue. Turned my stomach a bit with all that talk of eating the mice.”
He sits up and licks a paw as Flapjack and CC stare in mild disgust at the small pile of grey gunge. “No,” continues Don. “I don’t eat the mice. I’m a vegetarian. We’re all friends down in the cellar. Come on out mice!” He shouts out to the edges of the room and cautiously, little faces appear from under books and piles of paper.
“It’s alright,” shouts Don. “They’re friendlies. Just off to the sewer through the floor. Thought you might like to say hello-goodbye to them.” Little mice start to appear at the tops of stacks of books and peer down at their guests. Tiny voices raise up and repeat, “Hello-goodbye!”, “Hello-goodbye!” some of them are waving.
Other mice scale down a length of rope in the corner of the cellar. A rope pulley system runs though a hook in the ceiling to open a trap door. Flapjack watches as the mice push a stack of books from a shelf. The books are bound with the end of the rope which falls with the, looping around the hook in the ceiling and raises the trap door. “Clever aren’t they,” notes Don proudly. “We read that in a book.”
A bad smell is wafting up through the hole in the floor. It’s dark again down there and Flapjack is not keen on getting down the ladder into the unknown. He looks at Don who appears to now be singing a song about apple sauce and dancing with a circle of mice. “Don!” he shouts. The cat stops dancing and looks around in confusion, finally finding them and grinning madly. “That’s MY name!” he says, altogether pleased and surprised.
“Will you come with us?” asks Flapjack gesturing at the trapdoor.
“Ohno dear boy. I can’t go into a sewer. Comes of having to clean oneself with one’s own tongue you know..” Flapjack looks downcast. The sewer seems dark and smelly and his journey feels longer than before.
A very tiny mouse approaches them, rolling something ahead of him with some difficulty. “Hello-goodbye!” he squeaks and gestures at the object. It’s a small torch. “Lost and found!” it squeaks at them proudly. “Clever aren’t they?” notes Don vaguely.
Cannibal Corpse picks up the torch and switches it on. It shines a small light down on the floor which lends them some hope. It’s time to go. Flapjack and CC climb down into the hole to a squeaky chorus of “Hello – goodbye!” Don sits on the edge of the entrance looking down at them, blinking his green eyes curiously and as always in some confusion.
To be continued…