Well, that was a grim last episode. Nobody likes to have their stuffing chewed out from their feet!
Thank you to everyone who has been tweeting this about. It’s fun to write stories and even better if there are people to read them or pass them on. That’s what storytelling is about right?
Looking back at the origins of this tale – I asked one of Flapjack’s parents to fill me in on a few random details. I’ve woven as many as possible into the story. There is a reason why we have Wheatmen and Spider Ladies to contend with, Cannibal Corpse is named so for a very specific reason. It might sound like utter nonsense to you and me – but I get the feeling there’s at least two people who know exactly what is going on.
So. Will CC survive being attacked by the rats? Get yourself comfy and let’s find out.
Chapter Five Audio
The closer they get, the more enormous the windmill seems. Its sails sweep wide and long, painted white and reflecting the sunshine. It is surrounded by a rather ramshackle farm; strange vegetables that Flapjack doesn’t recognise grow on bushes and out of the ground. There are some chickens clucking away in the yard. He opens the gate and notices that the hens and chicks are all wearing mismatched Wellingtons and there is a goat peering at them through magnifying spectacles.
Hitching Cannibal Corpse up to avoid trailing his unravelling feet in the mud, Flapjack makes his way to the door where there is a pull cord for a bell. It chimes loud and clear inside the windmill and something starts to crash about, getting closer. The door swings open and Flapjack stifles a cry as a large figure with two heads towers over him. It looks over his head for a moment, out into the yard, perplexed. Finally both heads look down and see him. The faces of two older women smile at him mischievously, “Hello there,” they say in unison. The one on the left leans closer and looks at Cannibal Corpse. It turns to its other face, “Looks as though we have a casualty, better get the needles and thread.”
The figure bends low toward Flapjack offering to take Cannibal Corpse. He’s not sure about handing his friend over to this peculiar stranger.
“It’s OK,” says the head on the right. “We’ll have him right as rain in no time. That’s what we do is fix things, we’re the two headed Nanna.”
Flapjack feels that he can trust these strange women, or is it one woman? He feels tired and wants to rest somewhere safe and warm, away from rats and dark places. He can smell bread baking inside the windmill and finally cannot fight anyone any more. One Nanna lifts the doll from his arms and the other scoops him up to their ample and warm bosom. “Look at them, exhausted they are,” the chatter softly to each other and once again in a strange place, Flapjack falls asleep.
When Flapjack wakes up, he initially thinks he may be back home. He is warm and wrapped in something soft, he can hear people moving around in the next room. He reaches out for Cannibal Corpse. But the doll is not there.
He feels around to identify fluffy blankets and sniffs at the warm air, it smells like flowers and baking bread. Slowly he moves the blankets away and sits up to take a look around. He’s sitting in a circular room, filled with all sort of interesting clutter. There are gardening tools over there, a nest of wires and a laptop on a table. There are round windows letting in plenty of sunlight still, so he has either been asleep for a long time, or not long at all. He feels rested though and hungry.
Suddenly a loud YAP! comes from the doorway. This is followed by a lot of other yaps and some scuffling. Five tan puppies come gambolling into the room in a mess, they chase each other around the mat for a while barking and snapping at each other’s tails. Flapjack starts to giggle at their fun. Footsteps can be heard from outside the room, coming closer. A woman’s voice calls, “1? 2? 3? 4? 5?! Stop that noise!”
The puppies line up on the mat and sit obediently looking at the door. The two headed Nanna comes in and looks over at Flapjack. “No wonder you’re awake with all this racket.” She frowns slightly at the puppies who wag their tails enthusiastically but remain seated.
The Nannas step over to Flapjack and sits on the end of his makeshift bed. She peers at him, “Well, you look a bit better than you did,” says one head. The other takes a light pinch of his arm, “Probably just need something to eat.” Flapjack considers them warily. Such a strange pair. They seem ok, but he’s never seen a two headed anyone before.
The two headed woman reaches into her voluminous cardigan and pulls out something familiar. It’s Cannibal Corpse, looking cleaner and wearing his usual look of grim determination. He’s wearing a red Wellington and a yellow Wellington. The women carefully take the Wellingtons off to show neatly stitched and re-stuffed feet at the end of CC’s legs. Flapjack cannot be sure, but for a moment he thinks that CC may have offered a small and brave half smile. They are putting the boots back on, “This should help keep him clean,” says the one on the left. They hand the doll back to Flapjack who gives it a greeting hug. “Let’s get something to eat,” says the Nanna on the right, “The bread should be ready any minute.”
Flapjack follows the Nannas downstairs into a large kitchen. He can hear the mill running underneath his feet and the warm smell of the bread is making him very hungry indeed. He sits at a large wooden table as the Nannas take a golden loaf from the oven.
She places the bread on the table and makes some tea while it cools. As the pot brews, she turns to survey Flapjack and his friend. “Well, we better get to know each other,” said the head on the right. “I’m Joan and this is Nancy.” She gestures at the head on the left.
Joan has a head of soft white curls. She wears glasses on the end of her nose and appears to have some sort of electronic earpiece. Nancy speaks with an American accent, the kind Flapjack has heard in some cowboy movies. She keeps an eye on the puppies as Joan opens a laptop computer at the table.
The pot of tea is brought over, warm bread cut into chunks is smothered in butter and honey. The two headed Nannas sit down. They place the afternoon tea in front of Flapjack and ask, “So, who are you and what brings you to the Mindmill?”
Mindmill? Thinks Flapjack, wondering if he should be afraid, but he takes a bite of the bread and tells the Nannas about his journey. At the mention of the Wheatmen and Spiderladies, the Nannas show some concern. “That’s going to take some preparation,” says Joan. She taps lightly on the keyboard and turns the screen toward Flapjack and Cannibal Corpse. Nancy throws some knotted rope to the puppies to play with and smiles at Flapjack. “Joan can tell you about these things,” she says. “She’s the one who runs the Mindmill.”
“What’s a Mindmill?” asks Flapjack. He’s part way through his bread and honey, fast realising that the bread is not really very nice. But he’s so hungry and the honey is still sweet, he carries on munching.
Joan taps more instructions into the laptop. “The Mindmill,” she says turning the screen to them to show illustrations of the windmill on the screen, “is a knowledge machine.” Flapjack looks nonplussed.
Joan continues, “The sails pick up all the clever thoughts of people on electronic devices. They label their thoughts so we can catch the right ones of course, otherwise we’d be overrun with all sorts of things. Once the information is caught in the sails, it is ground down in the mill and processed to appear on the computers. There’s a sort of satellite dish out the back too, that transmits questions, just in case we happen to need something that has not already been asked.”
Flapjack looks amazed. It’s like the library but on a screen. Maybe that’s what his Daddy has on the mobile object he looks at all the time. A connection to the Mindmill. “Does it know the way to the city?” he asks the Nannas.
“How to get there, where to stay and what the best rated hotels are probably,” says Nancy. “Best to call it the right thing though. Something I know without the help of the Mill for once,” she smiles. “The City of the Wheatmen and the Spiderladies is called Arachnopolis. It’s named after the Wheatmen. At some point a single Spiderlady got into the city and met a Wheatman. Of course Spiderladies lay a lot of eggs so the population grew very quickly. The Spiderladies soon spun annexes and new areas though. It’s really rather pretty. Thing is, the Wheatmen have always been a little um, light-fingered shall we say. So they take things for people to add to their city and the Spiderladies weave around them. Quite the engineers I guess.”
Joan fills in more detail. “Truly admirable engineers,” she says. “The city was barely a village when we built the Mindmill. Very basic it was too. But after a few months we noticed that it had electricity, the town was lit at night somehow. That was shortly after we had our record player stolen. Funny thing to take, naturally no use getting it back now that it’s woven in. They started a little mining business too, crystals I think. Goodness knows why.”
“Have you been there?” asks Flapjack.
“No love,” says Joan. “The Wheatmen and Spiderladies are not invaders as such, but they can take care of themselves. They don’t take to visitors. Some people have tried to trade with them. Many didn’t come back.”
Flapjack looks at Cannibal Corpse’s mismatched Wellingtons. Wondering what to do. It sounds as though he may never get his parents back at this rate.
Joan and Nancy look at each other with concern. Then Joan says, “I wouldn’t worry about that. Nothing ever worried us in our adventuring days.” Nancy grins, “We’d only ever set out against insurmountable odds, it’s the only way to fly!” she laughs.
Flapjack is not sure if they are in fact a bit mad. But he feels a lot better for having had something to eat and someone to believe in him.
To be continued…