So finally we come to the end of this tale. I guess it means the end of my working on this tale too. I like writing stories – whether they are OK or whether they are not so good. This one provided an opportunity to work with people who are talented, accepting, interesting and committed – that’s worth any amount of hours mixing and scripting to try and provide something worthwhile.
It takes time to get something like this together. The story was written last year at the end of the summer and then things started to happen to get the tapes together from around the world much later. This means that after all these months, I will feel rather strange not having the characters on my mind. I think you have to leave them to get on with other things though – maybe we’ll catch up with them again when Flapjack is older.
When the scripts were sent out – almost no one had the full script – and so each worked with a rather limited outline to read from. The results were spectacular. I was moved and excited and inspired by everyone’s interpretations. I was not present at most of the recordings. You could say this might be a gamble, but less in the way of control really made this all come to life for me. When I write fictional characters, I often find them telling me their story, rather than me guiding them along a plot. This reinforced that feeling.
So, for your final delectation, the final chapter is here in audio, badly drawn form and written at length. Beneath the audio player and the written version of this final chapter there is a cast list of everyone who joined in. There is also a fun tape of outtakes and comments from some of them – all of which makes me laugh out loud. I am impossibly grateful to them and hope that in some way some day I can return the favour.
Settle down now, we’re headed to the end of a long journey.
Audio Version – press play here
From the bottom of the tower looking up, Flapjack would have sworn that it tapered inwards to the sky, but inside the opposite seemed to happen. The stair case wound around the edges of the tower and it appeared to be getting wider and wider. The gloom was brightening as they climbed higher, Flapjack was starting to feel tired but the Wheatsoldier behind them kept up the pace with a sharp jab with his sword.
The staircase stopped and turned abruptly in front of them into one of the largest rooms Flapjack had ever seen. The ceiling seemed to be miles away and a black circular floor stretched out before them, covered in shining ridges. Here and there across the floor, wheat soldiers and spider ladies dressed in the finest suits and dresses leaned against one another fast asleep.
On the far side of the room a sparkling crystal cage held two figures that Flapjack and Cannibal Corpse recognised immediately. Strung like puppets and resting uncomfortably, Flapjack’s mum and dad were being held. His father strapped to a guitar, his mother arms strung open in mock performance. Flapjack made to run across the floor, crying out to them, but the room was full of soldiers who promptly awoke and held him fast.
“It seems we have a gatecrasher to the eternal ball,” a loud voice called across the hall.
“Quite rude to try and sneak in without an invitation,” agreed a female voice.
The Wheatsoldier that had mustered Cannibal Corpse and Flapjack into the room bowed low beside them as the couples on the floor awoke and stood aside. The King and Queen of Arachnopolis.
The King was tall with jewels in the sheaf of wheat about his face. The Queen was coldly beautiful, dressed in spun silver that glistened as she walked. Flapjack was afraid but he tried not to show it. He could hear Cannibal Corpse muttering beside him and something moved in his bag.
“Boy,” said the Queen. “What brings you to our Kingdom to so rudely break into our palace?”
Flapjack looked into her many black eyes and set his jaw. “You stole my mum and dad,” he scowled at her. The King and Queen look at each other confused. “Who?” asks the King.
Flapjack points to the crystal cage, “My Mum and Dad,” I’ve come to take them back.”
The King, Queen and their finely dressed audience turn to look into the cage. The Queen leaned closer to Flapjack and whispered, “It’s too late for them now. We have them to run the machines. If you turn around now, we might even give you a head start.” She smiled at him, revoltingly.
“Never!” Flapjack shouts at her.
The Queen laughs heartily. “Start the dance!” she screams into the crowd.
A dozen candles are lit around the cage and his parents are woken and illuminated. Wheatmen and women on each side of the cage pull on the woven spider webs attached to Flapjack’s parents and tiny microphones drop down surrounding his mother’s hair like a dark halo.
“Stupid boy,” said the king. “Now you’re here, we can make your parents sing forever. After all, they wouldn’t want anything to happen to their little boy.” The King and Queen laugh and return to their thrones. A low and winding bass tone starts to fill the room and Flapjack’s mother sings a song with no words and more heartache than the world has ever heard. The couples on the floor turn slowly and begin to dance around.
Flapjack and Cannibal corpse are grabbed from the peculiar dance floor and are dragged struggling to the feet of the King and Queen. In the rough and tumble, no one sees the stealthy mouse jump again from the bag and run helter skelter through the feet of the dancers toward the crystal cage.
They watch the dancers slowly revolve around the room. “I’ll never tire of this view,” comments the queen.
“I thought we’d never see it again at one point,” says the King. He gives Flapjack a light kick. “You see boy, our music machine turned the dancers on the floor. The music resonates through the crystals in all of the machines that run our city. It was a dark time here in Arachnopolis.”
“But now we have your mother and father,” said the Queen, “We no longer need the ballroom to turn.” She gestures across the room at the cage and smiles.
Flapjack looks miserably across the room at his parents. They look so tired. His father’s fingers are red, his mother looks pale. As he scans the ballroom, he realises why it looks so familiar. The couples are waltzing across a giant record that no longer turns around. Above them bearing a sharp, broken needle, the giant stylus gleamed in the candle light. The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place.
Suddenly the tempo of the music changed. Flapjack looked over at his parents who appeared to have found more energy. Cannibal Corpse tapped him on the arm and whispered in his ear, “Don’t panic, our friend the mouse has been talking to them. I had an idea.”
Flapjack looks into his friend’s face. Cannibal Corpse shows him a defiant look of grim determination.
The music increases in speed and changes key, getting higher and higher in pitch. The dancers on the floor struggle to keep pace and begin to step on each other’s toes and crash into one other, getting dizzy at the pace.
“WHAT’S GOING ON!?” the Queen demands to know. She’s glowering at the cage and getting angrier. “Stop all this at once, I didn’t say the music could change!”
The pitch gets higher and the music more frantic. Flapjack’s father plays faster and his mother sings notes he has never heard before.
“Stop them!” shouts the King above the din and the Wheatmen and Spiderladies at the cage start to tug on the web spun ropes that control Flajack’s parents. But the ropes fall loose in their hands.
On the top of the cage, Flapjack can see a very tiny animal scurrying about. The little mouse has gnawed through the ropes and his parents are no longer puppets of the Arachnopolis monarchy.
The King and Queen are on their feet, trying to see what is going on. The Queen is shouting with rage, but cannot be heard above the din.
The song is growing impossibly fast and the notes incredibly high. Cannibal Corpse grabs Flapjack and shouts into his ear. He covers his friend’s face as they crouch together, turning away from the cage.
The bass line stops abruptly and a single note rings out high and sharp across the ballroom. Flapjack’s mother sings a note so high and so clean that the crystal cage shatters, sending shards across the room. Flapjack and CC break away from their captors and push through the panicked dancers on the giant record. The sound has not only shattered the crystal cage but appears to have shaken the tower itself.
As he reaches them, Flapjack’s parents are climbing quickly from the broken cage. He runs into his mother’s arms as his father sweeps up Cannibal Corpse and pushes them on.
Chaos has broken out all around them. They push and shove at terrified Wheatmen and Spiderladies. As they step through the doorway an almighty crash ruptures the air behind them. The giant stylus has smashed down onto the record, cracking the surface and sending shock waves across the floor.
They turn to see the Queen screaming at them as Wheatmen and Spiderladies scramble about on the uneven surface, trying not to slip through the cracks. Flapjack looks across the room into the King’s eyes and a terrible sadness connects them for a moment. He climbs out of his mother’s arm and digs around in his bag.
“Stop!” he shouts. The room quietens. All eyes are on Flapjack as he stands on the edge of the floor. Aiming carefully he throws something hard across the ballroom to the King.
The King catches it and winds it up. It plays music, just enough to make the crystals of the machines of Arachnopolis work. A familiar song plays as everyone turns to listen. “love, let me in…”
The King smiles at Flapjack. “Leave them be,” he commands. He shows the radio to his wife who inspects it suspiciously. “We can make this work,” he tells her.
Flapjack, his parents and Cannibal Corpse head down the steps to the bottom of the tower. Night is falling as they walk through the cobbled streets and a few of the citizens are out of their homes, looking up at the tower and wondering what all the crashing is about.
As they pass through the gates, Flapjack’s mother picks him up into her arms and carries him. He looks over at his father who smiles as he cradles Cannibal Corpse. Twilight is settling over the fields as they walk back toward the Mindmill. Flapjack is exhausted. The sound of his mother’s heart beat and the sway of her steps lulls him, before long, our little hero has fallen fast asleep.
Sunlight streams through the window across Flapjack’s face as he blinks awake. He can hear Mummy singing in the kitchen and Daddy making those low, deep noises. Wondering whether it’s too early, Flapjack passes time playing with his feet for a while and then turns over to sit up.
He looks over at Cannibal Corpse and starts to remember that he has been having an incredible dream. Curiously he shakes the doll’s arm, but it does not stir.
“Can you talk?” he whispers to it. But before it can answer the blankets move and something skitters from under them and out of the side of his cot. He peers through the railings and a tiny mouse runs across the floor. He’s not sure, but he thinks he heard it whisper “Hello – Goodbye Flapjack!”
He looks at Cannibal Corpse. The doll looks back at him, wearing a smile, one of slightly less grim determination.
Cast – in order of appearance
Wheatmen and Spiderladies letter
Mike Atherton. Mike’s writing has inspired me on many occasions, as a blogger, scriptwriter and reviewer. Funny and uncompromising he effortlessly has a following wherever he goes. I watch with wonder as his own projects, like Slingers, grow to become greater with each passing week. I’m grateful to know a scribe who can be as measured as he is creative whilst wielding the digital pen. @Sizemore
Rob Spence is a friend afar in Canada. Always supportive, frankly very funny and brilliant in many ways. He is also the Eyeborg, pioneering experiments on himself to make a recording eye or an eye with a laser in it (because chicks dig that sort of thing he tells me) Rob took on one of the longer roles as well as reading an early draft of the script. No one I know could make CC sound quite like Dirty Harry in the way he did. @Eyeborg
Ilicco Elia. When not innovating with news and mobile in ways that make my head spin, Ilicco is funny and charming in many, many ways. Without question he took the role and made it sound menacing and wonderful. A great counterpoint to Victor without even hearing the other tapes. @Ilicco
Ben James. I’m not entirely sure where to start describing the whirlwind that is Ben. Crazed in all the best ways he creates output that would put most of us in hospital. I cannot imagine Victor appearing in any other way than the frankly chilling presentation that Ben came up with. He even put up with me forgetting to send an extra line and read that extra part whilst continually creating his own projects. A master madness. @Bennycrime
Ben Walker. Songwriter, blogger, videomaker. The guy who wrote two songs that I get stuck in my head like a viral ear worm every few weeks. Ben’s charming bass timbre so suited the character of Don, that I don’t think I know what I would do if he were not able to fit the recording in around his own work. Initially I wanted Don to sound a bit like Boris Johnson; to say that inspired me to contact Ben to read the part sounds a bit mean, Ben’s much prettier. @Ihatemornings
Jennifer Shepherd. Hula Hooping mistress with a mind like a steel trap. Jenni speaks many languages fluently and translates for many important organisations worldwide. Naturally that meant I asked her to translate the voices of mice for me, although that does seem a waste of her incredible linguistic talents. With the aid of a pitch shifter and Jenni’s excellent delivery, she helped to create the voices that still make me laugh without fail on the tapes.
Mouse with the key
Sally Taft. Sally is a good friend and supportive voice in a slightly mad world sometimes. Her great humour and warmth inspired me to ask her to read this role – also the fact that she could reach the high squeaks of the mice leaving very little for me to do with the pitch shifter. If you ask her nicely, she might also do impressions of the mice in Bagpuss, she’s very good at it.
Two headed Nanna
Colleen Lin. The web brings wonderful happen-stance to my doorstep every day. When working on the American elections, I made contact with a talented designer in Texas who agreed that I could use her on-line comment. Turned out that we have the sort of humour that probably leaves many cold, but we share every other day. We met last year briefly and noted as we sat down to lunch that it felt as though we had been friends for years. I hope this means many years to come. Her wonderfully warm Texan accent makes me wish I had a two headed Nanna. @Stealingsand
Laura Kidd. I’m almost at a loss to describe the multiple talents and strings to this woman’s bow. Not only is she shockingly attractive (something I tend to ignore otherwise I’d have to kill her out of envy) but she also plays bass for I Blame Coco, touring the world and entertaining thousands. She also records high quality documentary material as an exceptionally qualified camera bod and still finds time to engage with the world on her blog and produce her own albums, oh and work with other bands – oh and record her dog, Benji who also makes a brief appearance. @Warriorgrrl
Christian Payne. Prolific new media reporter, general mad man and risk taker. What more could you want for a Wheatsoldier? Christian makes it all look easy, I hope that there is room for him to enjoy a soft story from time to time. @Documentally
Benjamin Read. Literature ninja with the kind of book shelves that make any self respecting nerdy-girl faint. Usually strapped for time with film making and other assorted and exotic projects, it’s very cool that he found time to record some lines for me. @Bookpirate
Xander Cansell. Who could sound more regal? Without question, Oxford’s book man and quiz writer accepted the challenge of playing the king and pulls it off brilliantly. I’m not entirely sure that he is not in line to the throne already…@quitexander
Kate Day. One of the great on-line photographers who manages to not only show off great skill and creativity with a camera but also make us all feel included with her photography blog and more. I knew I wanted Kate’s voice on tape, but little did I know what a big voice and a fearsome monarch she would make. @kate_day
“Love let me in” by Miriam Jones.
“MMFSOG” Steve and Lobelia Lawson
Knight Senior. Put up with me reading down the phone, over Skype, calling about continuity. Spotted spelling and much more. Always putting up with my stories since 1977.
Mrs Knight Senior. Always being beguiled by my tales.
If you got this far – then you deserve to hear the bonus track…..