Rumo and his miraculous.., p.65
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Rumo: And His Miraculous Adventures, p.65

           Walter Moers
 

  At the touch of the zamonium Rumo’s limbs had been transfixed by a shaft of ice-cold lightning and his head filled with the babble of countless voices.

  ‘What is it?’

  ‘It feels extremely unpleasant,’ said Rumo.

  ‘Can’t you touch it?’ asked Dandelion.

  ‘Yes, but not for very long, I’m afraid.’

  General Ticktock faltered. For one brief moment he’d experienced a loss of self-control – a terrible and totally unfamiliar sensation. It was as if something inside him had snapped. A wire, a steel cable, a conduit – something that had thrown him off balance. He teetered to and fro on his four legs until he regained his equilibrium.

  He awoke from the frenzy that had overcome him, the savage delight he’d taken in battling with the Wolpertings, who were launching one attack after another.

  This temporary loss of control reminded him that he must deal with the creature inside his body before it could become a serious threat. Much to his regret, he would have to stop toying with the Wolpertings and proceed to execute the prisoner inside him. He sighed. Torture and combat simply didn’t mix.

  The zamonium

  Something came whistling towards Rumo’s head. He quickly ducked as the air above him was cleft by an axe blade on a pendulum. It soared off into the darkness, paused briefly and swung back. The axe sped past him twice more, then came to rest.

  ‘Go on, take the stupid stone!’ cried Krindle. ‘Take it and let’s get out of here.’

  Rumo took hold of the zamonium and removed it from the lead casing. Never had he touched anything colder, and he resisted the impulse to let go of it at once. Now he had only one forepaw available to climb with.

  High above him Ticktock’s backplate suddenly opened and shafts of light streamed in. The general couldn’t have chosen a better moment. Rumo stepped over the red glass dagger, squeezed through some scaffolding and started to climb.

  Ominous noises could be heard on all sides. Rotating circular saw blades swept to and fro, sabres probed the gloom – all of General Ticktock’s metal components were searching for the captive inside him. Rumo continued to climb with the zamonium firmly clutched in his fist. He had never carried a more onerous burden. He could feel the cold taking possession of his paw, his arm, his shoulder, his head.

  His ears suddenly rang with hundreds of voices. ‘Grow!’ they screamed in unison. ‘You must grow! You can be the greatest Wolperting of all! You and I must become a single being!’

  The voices confused him. He inadvertently gripped a sharp blade, cutting his other paw badly, and quickly let go of it. He swayed for a moment and almost fell.

  ‘Grow!’ the voices cried. ‘You must grow! You can become the greatest of all!’

  Rumo took hold of a girder with his bleeding paw and hauled himself higher.

  ‘Together we can be all-powerful!’ screeched the zamonium. ‘You’re strong, but I can make you even stronger!’

  A series of clicks rang out in the darkness: crossbows being cocked.

  ‘Look out!’ Krindle yelled. ‘Crossbow bolts!’

  Rumo heard a twanging of strings. He ducked as a score of bolts whizzed over his head. They crashed into a metal plate, ricocheted off it and went whistling through the air. He continued to climb.

  ‘You’re a mighty warrior!’ the zamonium whispered. ‘You’ve no idea what we could achieve together. I can make you immortal.’

  ‘Don’t listen to that twaddle!’ said Dandelion. ‘It’s utter rubbish!’

  ‘Nothing can ever part us,’ the zamonium hissed. ‘Together we can be eternal!’

  ‘Look out!’ Krindle shouted again, but it was too late. Quick as a flash, a sword darted out of the gloom and inflicted a deep wound in the arm Rumo was using to carry the zamonium. The blade was mechanically withdrawn and clicked back into place. To Rumo’s surprise, he felt no pain. His arm was completely numb.

  ‘That blade was poisoned,’ said the zamonium, ‘but it can’t harm you. My presence has rendered you invulnerable.’

  Rumo saw the poison in the wound evaporate with a hiss and the wound itself heal within seconds.

  ‘We could be all-powerful.’

  ‘Look out!’ cried Dandelion. ‘Duck!’

  Rumo did so, and a guillotine blade mounted on rails flashed past overhead.

  ‘Stop listening to that nonsense and concentrate on getting out of here,’ said Dandelion.

  By now, the big opening Rumo had climbed in through was not far above him. Peering through the chinks in Ticktock’s armour, he saw that Wolpertings had leapt at the general from all directions. Among them were Rolv, Olek and Balla, who held out their arms to him.

  ‘Here, Rumo!’

  ‘Here!’

  ‘Here!’

  ‘You can make it, Rumo!’

  Some of the Wolpertings were swept aside by Ticktock’s huge hands, but their place was instantly taken by others. They were all risking their lives for him.

  ‘Come on, Rumo!’

  ‘Come on!’

  Urs leant through the opening and held out his paw.

  ‘Catch hold, Rumo! Quick!’

  Rumo’s body had gone cold and numb. Only the arm and paw with which he was clinging to the rim of the opening seemed to be obeying him. If he let go and missed, he would fall into the midst of General Ticktock’s rotating circular saws and slashing blades. Everything swam before his eyes.

  ‘He’s shutting the doors again!’ Urs yelled. ‘His backplate’s closing!’

  Looking up, Rumo vaguely saw that the doors in the general’s back were slowly converging. He let go.

  Urs grabbed his wrist and held it in a vicelike grip.

  ‘Got you!’ he shouted.

  Then, gritting his teeth and grunting with exertion, he proceeded to haul away. Rumo just hung there like a sack of potatoes and made no attempt to help. Cursing, Urs hoisted him through the opening, seized him under the arms from behind, and jumped. They landed on their backs in the sand.

  Rumo lay there, groaning and glassy-eyed, with the zamonium clutched in his fist. Urs scrambled to his feet and helped him up.

  The other Wolpertings had suspended their attacks on Ticktock. The general continued to stomp around, visibly bemused and disorientated. He extended and retracted his weapons in a mechanical way. His lower jaw had dropped, but all that issued from his mouth was a monotonous clicking sound.

  Olek walked up to Rumo.

  ‘What’s that in your paw?’ he asked.

  ‘It’s Ticktock’s heart,’ Rumo mumbled vaguely. ‘Where is he?’

  ‘His heart?’ said Olek. He held out his sling. ‘I’ve had an idea. Put it in there.’

  ‘No!’ the zamonium screamed in Rumo’s head. ‘No, we must stay together!’ Rumo retreated a step.

  ‘Go on,’ said Olek, proffering the sling once more. ‘I’ll get rid of it for you.’

  ‘Get rid of the damned thing!’ Dandelion said sharply. ‘Let … it … go!’

  ‘That’s an order!’ Krindle barked.

  Rumo gave a start and dropped the stone into the sling.

  Olek stepped forward. He whirled the sling several times around his head, then released one of the thongs and sent the zamonium on its way. Everyone followed its trajectory, spellbound.

  The white stone soared over the arena and the auditorium in a wide arc, heading straight for the Vrahok’s trunk, which was indiscriminately sucking up dust, rubbish, spectators and soldiers alive or dead. The zamonium shot up the transparent tube and was lost from view amid the contents of the monster’s stomach.

  Some of the Wolpertings had already turned away and redirected their attention to General Ticktock, who was still reeling around, when the Vrahok’s trunk stopped sucking. All eyes turned to the monster once more. Choking sounds issued from its body. It resumed sucking, only to stop a second time. And a third. Quivering and twitching as if racked with convulsions, the trunk reared high above the auditorium, where all it could inhale was thin a
ir. In the end it stopped sucking altogether.

  The brief silence that followed was broken by hair-raising howls and whistles. The gigantic creature swayed back and forth above the theatre, the contents of its blue body frothing and bubbling. A muffled explosion, and the Vrahok’s stomach became hugely distended. A second explosion, and the skin of its stomach tautened more ominously still. The surviving spectators started to yell and jostle again. The Vrahok gave another terrible heave and its trunk regurgitated a gooey mass of slime, detritus and half-digested corpses that distributed itself over the rows of seats.

  A third explosion. The Vrahok’s body split open in several places, spilling out thick strands of blue intestine. The monster emitted another ear-splitting howl, then one of its huge legs buckled. Its joints groaned like trees about to fall. Another leg gave way, and another. In attempting to keep its balance with the remainder the Vrahok lurched against the wall of the theatre so violently that a long, vertical crack appeared in the masonry.

  The huge creature’s collapse was now inevitable. Whistling shrilly, it slowly keeled over on its side. Its gargantuan body took large sections of the theatre’s octagonal walls with it, burying the auditorium under a mass of rubble and soot-blackened skulls. The Vrahok’s armour-plated back crashed to the ground outside the theatre, together with its drivers, but those inside could clearly hear it crack open and send a gurgling tide of entrails flowing through the streets of Hel. Clouds of black dust billowed into the air and drew a merciful veil over this horrific scene. Then they subsided, covering everything in soot and ashes.

  Classical music

  A sound went echoing through the dead world of Rala’s bloodstream.

  Ba-bumm!

  It sounded like a kettledrum – like the timekeeper’s drum on a boat rowed by galley slaves.

  Ba-bumm!

  It was the sound that had beaten time in Rala’s body, governing the rhythm of life, ever since her birth. The sound that varied with repose and agitation, sleep and wakefulness. The sound that had been silenced by the advent of the Subcutaneous Suicide Squad.

  ‘The heart – it’s beating again!’ said Non-Existent Teeny Number One.

  Ba-bumm!

  ‘It’s beating well,’ said Non-Existent Teeny Number Two.

  Ba-bumm!

  ‘Considering it was dead just now, it’s beating excellently!’ remarked Non-Existent Teeny Number Three.

  Ba-bumm!

  The submarine was toiling through the plasma. Although still thick and sluggish, the blood became a little more liquid with every heartbeat that sent it pulsing through Rala’s veins.

  ‘The curdling process has stopped,’ said Non-Existent Teeny Number One.

  ‘The bloodstream is in motion,’ said Non-Existent Teeny Number Two.

  ‘The propellers are turning more freely again,’ reported Non-Existent Teeny Number Three.

  Ba-bumm!

  Smyke saw that the corpuscles, too, were starting to move. The mounds of corpses were vibrating in time to the pounding heart. Corpses? They were corpses no longer, but microscopic sluggards awakened by the incredible din and slowly coming to life.

  Ba-bumm!

  Ba-bumm!

  Ba-bumm!

  The heart beat on relentlessly. Smyke couldn’t help grinning. How could anyone have slept through that? It was a din fit to wake the dead. Sleepily, the corpuscles went whirling through the blood, stirring it up, warming and liquefying it. The heart delivered more and more powerful thrusts through the veins. The red corpuscles fluttered like swarms of butterflies, the white sailed among them like grains of pollen. In the end they all broke into a whirling dance to the beat of the heart, percolating every vein in a dense stream. Smyke was witnessing a rebirth – a triumph over death in which he himself had played a leading part. He quickly brushed away the tears that were trickling from his eyes. Then, despite himself, he laughed hysterically.

  Ba-bumm!

  ‘That’s the music of life,’ said Non-Existent Teeny Number One.

  Ba-bumm!

  ‘It’s rather monotonous …’ said Non-Existent Teeny Number Two. ‘But a classic!’ said Non-Existent Teeny Number Three.

  Ba-bumm!

  The submarine was gathering speed.

  ‘The music of life!’ cried Smyke. ‘It’s incredible! I had no idea that a heart could beat so beautifully!’

  ‘We’ve got the better of death, Smyke!’ said Non-Existent Teeny Number One.

  ‘A nice sensation, isn’t it, getting the better of something?’ said Non-Existent Teeny Number Two.

  ‘How are you feeling, Smyke?’ asked Non-Existent Teeny Number Three. ‘Is everything ugo?’

  ‘Yes,’ Smyke replied with a laugh, ‘everything’s ugo.’

  General Ticktock’s last weapon

  Falling soot transformed the Wolpertings into black statues as they Ticktock’s last stood watching the moribund Vrahok’s final convulsions. Ash-covered spectators and soldiers were crawling and stumbling out of the theatre over the breach in the wall.

  General Ticktock was still on his feet but completely motionless. The Wolpertings reassembled round him at a respectful distance.

  ‘Perhaps he’s recuperating,’ said someone.

  ‘Perhaps he’s dead,’ said Urs.

  ‘He isn’t dead,’ said Balla. ‘Not him.’

  Olek picked up a stone, placed it in his sling and fired it at the general’s head. A dull clang reverberated around the ruined theatre.

  ‘He’s dead,’ Urs repeated. ‘Rumo has finished him. He’s torn his heart out.’

  ‘Either that or he’s waiting for us to come closer,’ said Olek.

  ‘We’ll see,’ said Urs, walking up to General Ticktock. Rumo, who had still to recover completely, limped after him.

  ‘Be careful!’ someone called.

  They halted at the feet of the biggest Copper Killer and peered inside him suspiciously. All movement had ceased. Every cogwheel and weapon was stationary.

  Urs kicked one of the general’s legs, then looked at Rumo. ‘He’s had it,’ he said. ‘Had it for good!’

  Rumo strained his ears. Although the feeling was gradually returning to his limbs, his senses weren’t yet functioning normally. The left-hand side of his body felt numb and he could hear a thin, piping whistle. But there was something else as well: a regular rhythmical sound. It was coming from inside the general’s motionless body.

  ‘Tick … tock … tick … tock …’

  ‘Can you hear that?’ Rumo asked. ‘Yes, he’s still ticking a bit.’

  ‘Tick … tock … tick … tock …’

  ‘How can he still be ticking if he’s dead?’

  ‘Well,’ said Urs, ‘it must be some piece of machinery, maybe a spring running down. Relax, he’s had it.’

  Rumo shut his eyes and sniffed the air. He could still detect the smells he’d smelt in Ticktock’s innards. The lubricating oil. The acid.

  ‘Tick … tock … tick … tock …’

  The strong-smelling powder.

  ‘Tick … tock … tick … tock …’

  The flammable oil in the flame-throwers’ tanks.

  ‘Tick … tock … tick … tock …’

  The smoky flint.

  Rumo grabbed Urs’s arm and ran for it.

  ‘Take cover, everyone!’ he yelled. ‘He’s going to explode!’

  The Wolpertings turned and ran.

  ‘It’s his last weapon!’ Rumo shouted.

  The Wolpertings leapt over the mounds of rubble that had cascaded into the arena and took cover behind them.

  ‘Tick … tock … tick … tock …’

  There was a crackling sound from inside General Ticktock, followed by a dull report, and tongues of flame darted from every aperture. Then, with a far louder explosion, his armour-plated exterior shattered into a thousand pieces. Daggers, swords and axes, saw blades, arrows, screws, nuts, bolts and slivers of silver, iron, steel and copper flew in all directions, whistled over the Wolpertings
heads and lodged in the auditorium’s walls and seats. Ticktock’s head soared high into the air – almost as high as the Vrahok had towered above the theatre. On reaching its apogee it turned over several times like a sword in a Multiple DeLucca. It hung there for a moment, then plunged back into the arena and buried itself deep in the sand. A thin rain of biting acid came hissing down. The last few metal components hit the ground with a clatter and a layer of glittering dust settled over everything. Utter silence followed. Even the din of battle in the Copper Killers’ gallery died away.

  The Wolpertings emerged from their refuge and toured the arena, marvelling at what they saw. Everything sparkled and scintillated in shades of silver and copper. Every piece of rubble, every stone, every blackened skull that had lined the walls was peppered with tiny fragments of General Ticktock. The ruins of the Theatre of Death had become a colossal mausoleum.

  The albino rat

  Rumo and his friends were just preparing to withdraw when some strangely assorted newcomers entered the arena through one of the gates. It was the older Wolpertings led by Ribble, the rebel and accompanied by Mayor Jowly of Gloomberg, Skullop the Scyther and several huge figures swathed in black cloaks.

  ‘What about the Copper Killers?’ someone called.

  ‘They simply stopped fighting,’ Ribble replied. ‘From one moment to the next. There was that explosion down here and then …’ He shrugged his shoulders. ‘They’re still up there in the gallery, silent and motionless, like clockwork toys that have run down.’

  Rumo remembered Smyke’s account of the battle of Nurn Forest. ‘The end of General Ticktock has spelt the end of the Copper Killers as well,’ he said. ‘They were born with him and they’ve died with him.’

  Once the wounded had been patched up, Mayor Jowly gave the signal to withdraw. Like all those who had survived the fray, the Wolpertings, the Yetis, Yukobak and Ribble made their way out over the mounds of debris that had once been walls.

  The Theatre of Death seemed completely devoid of life, but not for long. Only a few moments after everyone had left, a huge eyeless albino rat with a red tail and red claws entered the arena through one of the gates. It spent some time groping for live prey with its antennae. Eventually, when its quest proved fruitless, it tucked into the dead.

 
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment