Suggested Audio Candy
 Christopher Young “Hellraiser”
 HIRAX “Hellion Rising”
Damn those unlicensed street vendors. They’re all as bad as one another if you ask me. Come inside, peruse my wares, and join me for a cup of putrid green tea while I fleece you of any jangling coinage and guilt trip you into walking out of here with something that you didn’t really want and which never made it through the final stage of testing. In case you haven’t yet realized, I’ve just suffered one such sting, and so I’m speaking very much from experience here. To be fair I could have left that dusty emporium with a hula hoop, harmonica, or random assortment of fuzzy felts but there was one item in particular that tickled my curiosity like no other and my fate was sealed the very moment I laid eyes on it. I’m speaking of an ornately designed puzzle box of sorts and Mehmet was kind enough to give me a glorious price, although he did mutter some warning about the cube in question tearing my soul apart given half the chance but I just figured something had gotten lost in translation. Indeed it sounded like a deal I couldn’t pass up so, after managing to haggle the price up instead of down, I made my purchase and scurried off home to lament my decision and attempt to wash the smell of kebab meat off my clothes.
Said antique currently sits atop my bedside table awaiting further investigation and I think that is where it shall remain for the time being. I’ll get to it later, right now I’m dead on my feet. A series of recent dramatic interludes have left me feeling somewhat withered and I grabbed some bath salts from the market on my expedition so I fully intend on slapping on some Tangerine Dream, busting out my faithful rubber ducky, and soaking in a tepid tub of bubbles until I resemble Ronnie Wood. I knew it was a bum steer moving to Elm Street as, while it may resemble an idyllic suburban sanctuary, I barely made it out of there with my either health or sanity intact thanks to a bus ride which I’m fairly assured was headed directly to the fiery pits of hell without stop-offs. Mental and physical exhaustion leave their mark in various ways but dual manifestation is enough to leave one irritable and jumping at shadows. That’s pretty much where you find me now but it’s nothing a good long soak, some bath salts, and a dash of water sports won’t fix. For the record, I left my badminton racquet downstairs, so I’m suggesting something a little more “hands-on”. Please don’t make me spell it out for you as you know damn well I will and then you’ll need to run a bath too.
Could have done without the great white shark if I’m honest. Anyhoots, veering ever so slightly off topic, will somebody tell me why, the moment I submerge my peachy cheeks in a bathtub of water, the first thing I need to do is take a freaking piss? Please tell me I’m not the only one who has ended up leaning precariously over the sink so as not to sully the suds and almost wound up in the Emergency Room. On the plus side, at least I grabbed some well deserved R&R, plus I entered resembling that naked bathing vixen from The Shining and vacated looking just as weathered as the one who tried to cop a feel of poor old Jack so, in that respect, I guess job’s a good ‘un. Still the only thing that keeps flashing through my mind is that odd little cube in my chamber. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to sneak a peek right? After all, a quick five-minute fiddle before bedtime never hurt anyone the last time I checked. Minds out the gutter you lot. Honestly, everything just has to seedy doesn’t it? And don’t even think of blaming that shit on me leading you astray as I was a choirboy I’ll have you know. Well until they caught me wanking backstage at the nativity. I thought God was supposed to be all for forgiveness.
I should have known it was too good to be true. Damn thing appears to be busted and I can’t so much as get it open. I thought I had it sussed at one point as it began to unfurl but there seems to be some resistance. Thus I’ve set it down for the time being as I hear that sometimes it’s better approaching a conundrum with a clear head and a couple of episodes of Two & A Half Men should do the trick. Actually that pretty much equates to a lobotomy so perhaps just the one would be wiser. Maybe I should check in on Bonus Brain while I’m at it as the facetious fellow has been mighty quiet since we gave Freddy Krueger the slip and I’m starting to wonder whether he secretly despises all the constant to-ing and fro-ing as he seldom looks anything other than thoroughly depressed. I’m convinced he thinks I’m doing this on purpose when actually all I crave is a little quiet time. Now I can’t even sleep in peace, thanks to that crispy Elm Street critter I have spent the last three nights running really slowly through numerous mist-laden amphitheaters and long drawn out hallways and it felt like I’s stumbled onto one of Kate Bush’s video sets. I swear I heard Babooshka at one point y’know.
The most aggravating thing is that the box was supposed to make it all better; give me something to occupy myself that doesn’t entail heaping any more misery on me or my associate. Since they made the stickers on the Rubix Cube harder to peel off, I’ve been without a box-shaped heart of choice, and this particular cube is so intricately designed that I can’t seem to keep my eyes off it, hard as I try. If only it had come with instructions, a few tips to guide me through its labyrinth, then I’d be fingers deep in The Lament Configuration right now. That’s its official title by the way and I consider this decidedly poor marketing. Can you imagine it? “Honey, what would like Santa to bring you this Christmas? Stickle Bricks, Mouse Trap or Stretch Armstrong?” Call me a cynic but The Lament Configuration doesn’t come to mind as a popular response. Indeed it sounds a little pompous if you ask me and I really can’t see it taking off as this year’s must-have gadget. Yet still I can’t resist another play.
Well tickle me pink and paint my balls blue, I think I may just have cracked it. A slide here, slide there, and before I knew it the box had commenced its augmentation before my very eyes. I had to place it down as the damn thing’s a bit of a death trap, truth be known, and supplied me a rather spiteful pinch for my troubles. I’m just glad I chose not to place it in my lap as one can only imagine the agony of catching a little ball skin in one of its razor-sharp flaps as it completes its revolutions. Sensory overload is all well and good but it’s all fun and games until someone snags some sack. I almost did too, God only knows how the creator managed to cram inside enough metal shackles to restrain Gulliver after one too many kegs of pear shandy but I guess it’s less humiliating than a pre-loaded boxing glove. Only marginally mind and it’s only too happy to make up for what it lacks in glaring shame with searing pain.
By the way, is that my teeth chattering? I can’t be sure as the temperature has notably dropped since Lament became configured but it sounds like someone snuck a pair of wind-up teeth under my awning and, by the sounds of it, they’re trundling ever closer. Maybe I should change room, the Hellraiser Hotel offered me this one at a cut-down rate as some thoughtless bonehead had painted a pentagram in the middle of the floor space seemingly for his own sick amusement and wound up disappearing without paying. Or maybe my mind is just playing tricks on me after such an eventful couple of days. Yet still that chattering persists and I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I’ve opened up a can of worms here and may well end up regretting my impulse buy.
I know what I’ll do, I’ll prepare myself a light snack as that should help boost me up some. A bacon sandwich should fill a gap, stave off these incessant tummy grumbles that appear to be growing ever louder. Alright, which one of you rascals swiped the lard? This is beyond amusing now, it is every mammal’s birthright to feed so why suddenly has it become so troublesome finding something to put down my neck? Furthermore, that chattering has become even more pronounced now and, perhaps most disparagingly, appears to be coming from directly behind me. I close the refrigerator, mindful of perishables, and slowly turn around to greet my chuntering friend. Turns out it’s plural.
Time for a headcount and, by my estimations, there are four of them in total and, unless they’re about to head off to an S&M party, I’d say agonizing pain may well be about to play a key role in my evening from hereon in. On the plus side, it’s great to put a face to those jitterbugging jaws, although I’m feeling like an appalling host right now for not retrieving him a cardigan to assist with the oral spasms. Perhaps a gum shield would be a wiser donation but alas I’m not twelve-years-old or a professional boxer so he’ll just have to keep trembling for the time being. I guess it makes sense that his teeth would be a little on edge, given that his maker seemingly overlooked the peepers when putting this chattering curiosity together. You know what they say, should one sense be lacking, then another usually comes to the forefront. I guess taste was next on the pecking order and I wish I had something wholesome to offer my guest but the food situation really is desperate right now.
On the plus side, the mystery of the missing lard has now been resolved. I’m not altogether sure that a garden salad wouldn’t have been a more shrewd choice than what is effectively pig cellulite but who am I to question this robust gentleman’s dietary requirements? That said, he does possess more chins than a Chinese telephone directory and enough surplus puppy fat to fashion three Lassies and seventeen Benjis, so somebody should have a word soon or he’s a shoe-in for coronary thrombosis. Not sure it should be me as he looks like he’d be a little touchy about his big-boned frame and it’s too easy to overlook the fact that chafing buttocks can really dampen one’s spirits. I will say this however, dig on those shades.
The third in this queasying quartet is a female and that’s always welcome in my book. You see, wrangling for a living is lonely business, and I do find myself craving the touch of another increasingly with every passing dusk. That said, her head does resemble a cobalt coconut and I like my women a little more shy if I’m honest. As I cast my eyes up and down and instantly discern that she has undergone elaborate scarification to her pubis, it looks like timid isn’t really applicable here. Ordinarily I’m all for body modification apart from those hoops that make your ear holes widen, they freak me out a little. But where would I start if coitus was on the table? Maybe I’ll give it a miss, besides, the look she’s giving me isn’t one of come-hither eyes, more of the “I’m going to tear out your spinal column and use it to floss my Fallopian fungus” strain. Think I’ll stick to just me and my hand tonight thanks love.
However, I’ve waited until last bell to reveal the freakiest of our foursome and the final piece of this ominous puzzle is taking body piercing to extremes if you ask me. Presumably a keen do-it-yourself fanatic, he keeps his jeweled pins in the most unorthodox locale, in grid-like intersections in his top box no less. Excuse me for pointing out the plainly obvious, but this guy looks like a real prick. Indeed, judging by the fact that he appears itching to get off his chest, I would hazard a guess that he’s the spokesperson for this particular troupe. That’s fine with me as perhaps he can shed a little light on what the fuck he and his cronies are doing loitering in my boudoir after hours with intent and, in return, I can warn him about the perils of infection as I’m fairly assured that the nails protruding from his skull-cap have never seen a lick of antiseptic. Actually, he’s beginning to snarl, so perhaps I should put that one on the back burner before I provoke his rage any further.
Ordinarily ice-breakers are something of a specialty but this lot are hardly the most approachable of trespassers and I get the feeling that choosing my words carefully would serve me well here. How does hard but fair sound? I mean, making friends and influencing people is all well and good, but the fact remains that they did kind of invite themselves in without knocking first.
“Welcome to my humble temporary abode. I am the Brutal Word Wrangler and it would appear that mi casa es tu casa. So pray tell my perplexing pals, what the hell do you think you’re doing sneaking up on me in the dead of night?”
Too much you think? I don’t wish to come across prickly as their ringleader seems to have that pretty much covered. Speaking of which, it looks like he is finally ready to break their vow of silence.
“We are the Order of the Gash, surgeons if you will. You have called upon us and we have come. You are our customer and the box has always been yours”
Great, a fucking fruit loop. I wonder what my first clue was.
“Forgive me as I’m a little slow on the uptake but I’m your customer you say?”
I spent my last 500 rupees on that wretched puzzle box so they’re shit out of luck if they’re looking to sell cleaning products.
“Your inner monologue angers me foolish grunt”
“Could you have said that any more tempestuously? I have to say I’m not a fan of your bartering technique”
“Shut up human or I will tear your soul apart”
Perhaps now would be a good time to quit while I’m ahead. Call it a hunch but
“Done, no qualms, zipping it, see? Zipped”
“You tire me with your inherent insolence. We had come to bargain with you using a currency most lucrative. Instead we are mere harbingers of your hellbound torment and you shall have exclusive introduction to The Engineer. Your hedonistic requirements will be met, your repulsion is our glamour, your pain our joy. It is coming. The Engineer will be here shortly. Can you hear him?”
“Engineer you say? That sounds suspiciously like it will cost at least an arm and a leg and I’ve already explained that I’m brassic. Besides, everything seems to be in working order, and my iPhone always takes this long to charge. Can you come back next Tuesday?”
“You really have no idea who you’re messing with do you?”
“It is beginning to dawn on me actually. You’re not here to sell me Wilderness cookies are you?”
“We’re here because we have such sights to show you!”
“Can I take a rain check? You see, I’ve been sightseeing all day and there’s only so many times you can switch cheeks on a rickshaw before your ass goes dead”
“You know nothing of death and even less of eternal damnation”
“You got me, I’m a little wet behind the ears. But I promise to do my homework if we can just reschedule this tête-à-tête for a more convenient time”
“It’s too late for that now human. The Engineer will see you now”
Talk about pushy. I’ve met rug salesmen less bumptious and, if only I had a rubber mallet, perhaps I’d stand more of a chance of hammering my point home. Instead, it looks like the time has come to meet and greet the elusive fifth member of this rowdy rabble. Indeed, The Engineer he speaks of is scuttling towards me at this very moment and that may explain why I just released a stream of methane into cotton. Sporting a face for radio or better yet a woven basket, this hellish harrier vaguely resembles a fleshy turd and I’m far from taken with the short stubby arms and talons that look set to tear me off a strip. This wasn’t in the brochure, first thing in the morning I’m getting a refund on that vexatious prism, but right now I have to think on my feet before he sinks his chomping gear into my cranium. I’m clean out of ideas but my associate has many little pearls of wisdom for suchlike situations so I think it’s time I give him a holler.
“Bonus Brain my old friend?”
“Can I not have just one night that doesn’t entail you whining like a bitch? Just one. That’s all I’m asking. Is that really so unreasonable a request?”
“Tell you what I’ll do. We’ll schedule tomorrow evening as you evening off. How does that sound?”
“Like twenty-four hours too long for my liking”
“Best I can do I’m afraid. You see, I’m in a bit of a pickle right now and could do with a quick solution”
“You absolute dick valve. You just couldn’t resist meddling with that box could you?”
“My bad. Not sure we have time right now for the Hail Marys however. Any idea what my next move should be?”
“Well your new friends the Cenobites are entirely amoral and their dedication to their lifestyle takes priority over any wasteful notions of right or wrong. You cannot reason with them”
“Not the enlightenment I was hoping for if I’m honest”
“Okay fuck it, just close the wretched box and you may wish to make it snappy”
Finally a good idea. I knew there was a reason I kept him around and it sure as shit ain’t his winning personality. That said, compared to the Cenobites, he’s Donny fucking Osmond. Thus I shall do precisely as he suggests before The Engineer brings things in for one almighty group hug and that promises to be far less than snug.
Lo-and-behold, it only bloody worked. How could it be that easy? Shouldn’t they be prepared in advance for such an eventuality? What sort of second-rate outfit is this anyway? Not that I’m complaining mind as the situation was starting to look a little FUBAR and the chubby fella was already half way through my very last wheel of cheese. I mean, I can’t be expected to take in every waif and stray that I unwittingly summon from the fiery pits of hell. Besides, I didn’t see any of them offering to chip in for the room fee. This must be one of those close shaves I’ve been hearing about and, it is with considerable reluctance, that I have to pay Bonus Brain his dues for trimming those whiskers.
“Thanks for that”
Him and his terms of endearment. Brings a tear to the eye. Unless of course that’s just my hurt feelings.
Regardless of Bonus Brain’s cutting words, the fact remains that the whole sorry ordeal is now in my slipstream and I appear to have escaped my fate temporarily at least. While something informs me that these vagrants will return, for now I’m just relieved I evaded their foretold doom projections. It seems like that pinheaded fellow was just a collection of hot air after all. As for that innocuous looking box, well it may well have crafted a schism in time and space that acts as a portal to earth but what good did it achieve? I’m still standing, still defiant, and still very much the Brutal Word Wrangler dagnabbit. Anyhoots, after all tonight’s excitement I could really do with a smoke you know. Now if only I remembered where I left them. That’s right, they’re over on the dresser in the corner adjacent to that full-length mirror. I’ll just go grab them. Hold it right there, something isn’t kosher here. Give me a second or two as I can’t place my finger on what’s missing but it will come to me soon enough I’m sure. I didn’t do my hair differently this evening so it’s not that. I’m sure it’s staring me in the face but I never was particularly hot on spotting the difference. Wait one cotton-picking minute, I think I just fell in. Where in hell’s deepest clutches is my epidermis?
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014