About half a lifetime ago, a large, eight limbed, semi-aquatic friend of mine taught me a word. He described it as a “spoiled word”, whatever that means, and it was supposed to be my last line of defence. It was supposed to wither whatever it was uttered at.
Unfortunately, I am terrible at it.
It barely blemishes whatever my target is. And once it somehow created a monster from another monster. I have no idea what it is or how it works. When I utter it, it’s utterly unreliable. It’s dangerous, it scares me. Most of the time, I try not to even think about it.
And I’m saying it over and over again.
Every time I say the word, The Thing in my pouch twitches lazily.
Don’t judge me. I’m desperate. My logic is that while the bone giant may be armour plated, it’s still alive. If I get the word right, like I saw Moh do, I might be able to, you know, zap it.
My mouth tastes vile, wrong, from whispering those horrid syllables over and over. It’s like I’ve been licking dead things or negative numbers.
My eyes are watering from running through the patches of ruined air that I’m creating.
But I keep at it.
It’s all I’ve got left.
“Oi!” says a bush that I’m passing. “Would you mind not changing the fundamental nature of reality?”
I ignore it and keep on. Eventually, I’ll get it right and be able to turn around and squish the giant like I was an even gianter giant myself, slapping the flat of my hand down. Splat. Yes, that would be good.
“Seriously, you silly tart,” says another bush. “Stop screwing with physics!”
“That’s not what I’m doing,” I gasp, grumpily and breathlessly.
The bush detaches from the scrubby hedge it’s part of and starts floating in the air alongside me. “No, that’s not what you think you’re doing, love, but it is what you’re actually doing,” says the bush. “If more people learnt that distinction, the world would be a better place, young Padawan.”
“I retract the padawan bit,” says the bush. “I appreciate it’s probably confusing for someone from another bubble of existence. Even the House of Mouse hasn’t tapped that market yet.”
I have no idea what she’s going on about. Surprise.
“Daisy, how are you a bush now?” I ask. She’s never shown an aptitude for shape-shifting before. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t have it, just that… oh. “Oh, you’re not a bush, are you? This is a witch-trick of some kind.”
“Spot on, love,” says the bush. “I’m still back there a bit. You wouldn’t believe the stitch I’ve got. You’re definitely built for running, you are. Me, I’m built for sitting. Arse like a sofa. Anyway, stop with the word, you’ll give your pouch-thing ideas.”
“I’m just trying to defend myself,” I say, suddenly a little tearily.
“I understand,” says the bush, sympathetically. “Here, tell you what. If we get out of this, I’ll give you a nice, nasty wand.”
“Yeah, I’ve got a few knocking around. I’ll give you one that could turn a hippo inside out.”
“Yeah, though I’d rather you didn’t. I likes hippos. Especially very Hungarian ones.”
I kind of want to slap her.
“Okay, Shoo,” the bush goes on. “This is the thing, I have a plan, remember? But if it goes wrong, we’re definitely going to die. Well, you are.”
“Fine,” I say. “What’s your plan?”
“If you’re down with the plan then I call a friend. But only if you’re down with it, hon. Because us girls, we’re a team. Team Oestrogen. The Womb Warriors. The Over-Shoulder-Boulder-Holder Owners Club. The Titted Titans. The Crafty C-“
I wonder how much of this gibberish is to distract me from using the spoiled word.
“Exactly. A: I call my butty, he picks us up…. That’s it. Stage 1 anyway.”
“Who’s your… ‘butty’?”
“Puttputt. He’s adorable. You’ll love him”
I don’t need long to think about it. I don’t have any other options. Gods, I want some options of my own for situations like this. I’m certainly going to hold her to that offer of a wand. “Daisy, I’m going to die if we don’t try something. I’m in.”
“Glad to hear it. He’ll be along shortly.”
“You’ve already called him.”
“What? Absolutely NOT untrue.”
It’s fine. But who, or what, would a powerful, deranged witch call in for back-up? Some fabled monster like the Mimmereremerian Soul Chewer? Something stealthy and deadly like those black clad assassin Tenbian Creepers? Or maybe a legendary fighter like B’ro Keeth Small?
I can hear the sound of a small, bubbling engine.
I take a glance back and behind a winded-looking witch and the remorselessly pursuing bone giant I see a small cream-coloured motor-vehicle approaching without a rider.
“Daisy? You’ve called in your scooter?”
“Totes,” says the bush, proudly. “How ruddy saved are we?”
That’s a good question.
“You know what?” I say. “I’m going to withhold judgement until I see the results.”
“Kudos,” says the bush, adding in a song-song voice: “Someone’s learning!”
And it vanishes.
The tiny puttering engine increases in volume to an improbable roar. I look back to see the bike wheelie-ing forward ahead of a cloud of fumes. It swerves around the bone giant, avoiding a lazy swipe from those antler-fingered hands. The bike’s front tire touches down as it draws level with the witch who hops on. She gives the scooter an affectionate rub (a slightly sensual rub if you ask me, but I ignore that), twists the handlebars and accelerates alongside me.
The little yellow-coated maniac is flushed and sweaty but she gives me a grin.
“Get on, loser. We’re invading Poland.”