Suggested Audio Jukebox:
 Kate Bush Wuthering Heights
 Blue Oyster Cult (Don’t Fear) The Reaper
 Van Halen The Seventh Seal
Excuse me for beginning this fable by pointing out the blatantly obvious but fuck-a-doodle-doo it’s cold right now. Ever since I mysteriously transported to the foot of this very cliff with no intelligence other than that my destiny lies in wait at the summit, my body temperature has been steadily plummeting. Having decided to give it a crack in the name of good old-fashioned curiosity, I now find myself in rather precarious footing. A slender brow of earth on this cliff-side is my temporary residence and it appears rather a long plunge beneath me, garnished with piercing rockery capable of puncturing my noggin as though it were a fleshy melon. Why me for chrissakes? I may be the Brutal Word Wrangler but that ain’t much fun when any wrangling being done is on a ledge thinner than a stick man’s penis in the bleak midwinter. Cheers fate, if I ever get out of the mess you’ve ushered me into, I shall open the can of whomp (one up from whoop) I’ve got tucked away in my rucksack if I haven’t been required to do so already. Should that be the case, then I’m glad I bought a multipack. You see, can’t pull the wool over the wrangler’s eyes, it aggravates my sinuses.
From here there appear to be two options, one of which Derek from Bad Taste managed (albeit sporting a shiny new head vagina) which features much clambering in an attempt at reaching the summit before the sun sets. I’m not Tom Cruise, he may get his rocks solid scaling sheer drops in Lycra but I prefer my trotters on terra firma thank you very much. The other, way less enticing, option is the ill-fated swan-dive. Should I get lucky, then I may only partially explode on impact, perhaps just my lower torso. Yay! Of course, with ten-foot crashing waves of torment licking the rock face below I’d say that wouldn’t be a particularly astute move on my part. Ever since I watched The Emperor drop into the chasm of despair after attempting to woo Vader with his new stilettos, I’ve been dubious of heights and even more grossed out by the toes of the elderly. Surely they realize when they begin to crossover. Where oh where does the dignity go? If I reach 65, and that’s not looking likely at this point, I’m sawing off both feet at the ankles and having hooves fitted. Shouldn’t take me long to get that canter down to pat.
Onwards and upwards it is then. After all, up is always an assured choice right? Let’s consider the evidence at hand shall we? When feeling aroused one’s junk heads northbound if I’m not mistaken. The Woman in Red? Her dress went up and I watched ten years fall off Gene Wilder as it did. Billy Joel? He wasn’t interested in no scabby downtown skank. He headed uptown as it was a far more attractive proposition than anything Petula Clark could propose. And as for Cameo? Well, do you really think Larry Blackmon would have got away with wearing that bright red cod-piece if he’d have been crooning Word Down? Nope, ascension it is. My mind is already made up (not down see) and, with the ridge beginning to crumble beneath my feet, time is decidedly of the essence. Let’s do this shall we?
After a couple of near-Gruber fumbles, I manage to secure the most slender of foot holds and commence my climb as per the terms and conditions of my death wish. This may be my first time scaling a cliff face but I’m reasonably assured that I know the rules; peepers to the heavens at all times as one solitary glance down could spell catastrophe faster than that two-headed monster from Sesame Street on beta blockers. My sole consolation right now is that, whatever fate is lining up for me at the apex, couldn’t possibly be more inhospitable than an uneven wall of unstable slate. It is this consideration that keeps me going as I finally arrive at the peak and hoist myself up onto solid ground which has never before felt so welcome. That said, before I can begin to dust myself down, I am faced with another proposition only marginally more appealing than a swift kick in the nut hamper from Ronald McDonald.
Unless I misheard Blue Oyster Cult during my “wow man, this is living” period, then I believe it is not advisable to fear the reaper. Well sorry folks but actually I do a little. Primary visual does nothing whatsoever to dissuade my dread as this chap’s every bit as morose a motherfucker as folklore would have us believe, plus pocket change. This reaper’s a glum looking fellow for sure, hardly the life and soul and certainly not the welcome party my fingers had been crossed for. If I’m honest, I was kind of hoping for the perfect woman greeting me at the top. Not Kelly Le Brock, she’s far too sharp-featured and manufactured. I mean someone a tad more curvaceous. Okay, who just called out Kathy Bates? Leave it out, I like her. You’ll get me in trouble. No I’m thinking more along the lines of Adrienne Barbeau and in her very best Stevie Wayne voice. Hey it’s my fantasy. You got a problem with that? Then write your own fiction. Anyhoots, Swamp Thing managed to tap that tight white booty so why not little old moi?
Anyhoots, looks like I’m stuck with old happy chops for the foreseeable. Even more gaunt than Philadelphia Hanks and with blood running colder than Ice Man’s ejaculate, this dude certainly isn’t your Bill & Ted strain of reaper and that is, in no way, excellent. This is the real deal folks and, considering I suck mule nuts at chess, the fact that he’s sitting at a fully loaded chess board eyeing up his next sorry victim places me at a distinct advantage. Think Wrangler think! There’s no way on earth I’m doing a Thelma & Louise after watching the extended ending and it doesn’t look like he’ll be letting me pass without first elbow dropping my king so big boy pants it is. Perhaps I can divert him in some way while I flick his bishop into the gaping chasm to his left. Nope, his beady little orbs are on me like lycra sentinels. It’s shit or get off the pot time and that’s a long drop for such a miniscule plop.
I screw both my eyes closed, frantically attempting the Johnny Five crash course on chess, and would ordinarily bank on absorbing the knowledge of anyone better versed than I but, for the life of me, I cannot think of a single chess master to call upon for inspiration. It doesn’t help that most of them are Russian and unpronounceable. You’d be mistaken for expecting there to be a Chekhov but, alas, the crew of the starship enterprise preferred checkers to chess. How about Andrei? Does first name basis constitute as bosom pals? No? And you’re sure there’s not a Bill Wurthers lurking somewhere in the chess almanac? Dagnabbit. Then I’m left with two potential saviors at my disposal and they’re both worryingly long shots to boot.
Okay, so there’s no painless way to say this but the first one just so happens to be none other than Christopher “Greystoke” Lambert. Way back in the early nineties, Chris starred in a film by the name of Knight Moves and I gather he researched his role thoroughly enough to provide the nourishment I need to pose a challenge. The problem is, I always found him a little on the dull side, lacking any kind of discernible lustre and in possession of a six-head when surely fore would’ve sufficed. To give you some kind of idea how uninspired the notion of placing my goulash in his colander actually is, I’ve even composed a brief ditty in his dishonor, although I guess I should introduce you to his opponent in the selection process before breaking out the lute.
You see, by far the more attractive option is Max Von Sydow. It’s a no-brainer right? He gave a rather good account of himself in The Seal Part Seven after all. Also, he does possess a real Donald Sutherland of a face, like a facial Nile of sorts, and I’m fairly assured he’s still alive so his scruples should provide maximum extraction. There can be only one and I just don’t feel like chowing down on Lambert right now so I’ll opt for Max on this occasion. Mercifully, he slides right down like an adder in an avalanche and I call upon my stomach acid to break him down a little just to soften that elongated cranium some before full ingestion. So about that tune then. Didn’t think I was going to forget did you?
Spare Me a Lambert
I went out on a limb when ruling against you
Von Sydow was just more appealing
I know you made Knight Moves and know the chess ropes
but let’s call it a hunch a gut feeling
You should really be proud of Connor McLeod
and Fortress is some guilty pleasure
but next to Von Sydow with all his bravado
you’re quite far less dazzling a treasure
There’s more memories with Max it’s as simple as that
and we’ve already got even more planned
You’ve really been great now please back in your crate
don’t call me I’ll call you beforehand
Please don’t wear that frown it’s getting me down
coming second is not to be sniffed at
and if Liza Minnelli had been on the roster
then I’m sure you’d have nowt to be miffed at
With one last deep breath, I venture forth into his midst, until which point as I am casting a shadow directly over his rook and cohabit his most personal of space. The first concern is not becoming seduced by his six-foot sickle as I’ve always been a whore for the scythe and his one is a real doozy. Indeed, just to keep up appearances in as tantalizing a manner as possible, it instantly begins to call my name, in the velveteen tones of Stevie Wayne no less. By the way, that ain’t a fog bank skulking in from the sea, them’s the clouds of desire my lady. Stevie and me, up in that lighthouse, making sweet love while a thousand trawlers are dashed on the rocks in unison.
“To the ships at sea who can hear my voice, look across the water, into the darkness”
Forcing myself not to fall for his underhand baloney, I shake myself out of my mildly mesmerized state and take a seat opposite my spindly opponent. Unless I’m mistaken, that makes it game on, and I can no longer go running to Christopher Lambert if things go tits up faster than The Pointer Sisters on a bouncy castle as they invariably will. You see, being the Brutal Word Wrangler ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. There are 1001 things I’d rather be doing as we speak (1002 with a willing volunteer) than having my ass and its dimple handed to me by a fella that makes the albino kid from that film Powder appear positively bronzed in comparison. The things I do for a story. Anyhoots, guess I shouldn’t keep him waiting as my guess is that dinner hasn’t been served yet. Not sure where to thump him or feed him. Whaddaya you think? Thump right. Yeah thump it is. Don’t suppose you’d mind terribly if I keep my mittens on as it’s colder than a snowman’s balls and twigs up here.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2014 (Revised Edition 2016)