A Doomsday Book for Queen Mab – Entry #21
A census taker travels the length and breadth of the British Isles to survey the land’s supernatural inhabitants.
(I’ve decided to do a series of short vignettes inspired by the December 2012 prompts from the International Story a Day Group. Mostly to keep myself regularly writing and posting in this blog. This is based on the December 21 prompt “Skyclock”.)
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The kelpie wiggled against the enchanted rope but it wouldn’t give. “This is not my idea of a good time. If I’m going to be tied up, it should have been done by a sexy lady, not some damn sheep with a god complex!”
“You’ve had that done often?” asked the census taker.
“Get tied up by sexy ladies?”
He momentarily stopped wiggling to stare at her. “Are you volunteering?”
“I couldn’t possibly. I’m as tied up as you are.”
The kelpie and the census taker were sitting on a rotting pew along with Farmer Brown, currently unconscious after fainting from the shock of witnessing the evening’s ordeal, and an angry looking ram named Bennie. They were all tied up inside the ruins of what used to be a parish church, just outside of the North Yorkshire town of Crackpot. At the front, where the altar used to be, was Farmer Brown’s prize Reyland ewe Nellie, trussed up like a Christmas goose. She bleated hysterically as a ram with golden fleece grabbed a silver pail from a low table holding all sorts of ritual objects and poured olive oil over her.
“Hey Bennie,” the kelpie suddenly said as a thought came to him. “Why don’t you try chewing through the rope?”
“Don’t you think I haven’t already tried that, mate?” Bennie replied. “This stuff is indestructible. I did not sign up for this when I decided to do this online dating business. I should have stayed in Australia to find a nice ewe from New South Wales. Nellie said nothing about having a psychopathic beau!”
“He is not my beau!” Nellie cried.
The ram with the golden fleece finished pouring the oil and flung the pail violently against the ruined wall. Metal clattered against stone. “Shut up!” He kicked at Nellie, causing her to bleat again. Then he turned to his captives on the rotting pew to pin them with a glittering slit-eyed stare. “Shut up, all of you!”
Farmer Brown moaned, but his eyes didn’t open.
“Oh yeah?” said Bennie. “And what will you do if we don’t?”
“I’ll make you into a hat!”
“He’s bluffing,” said the kelpie. “He doesn’t have the hands to do the knitting.”
“Shut up!” The ram with the golden fleece turned his head towards the low table and one of the objects suddenly flew up and smacked the kelpie on the forehead.
It bounced down into the census taker’s lap. It was a smartphone in the local football team’s colors. The same one that Farmer Brown had complained that he couldn’t find.
“I am Winston Alistair Thomas Gumpwinkle the Third! Direct descendant of the real ram of the golden fleece who was the son of gods! I have divine blood flowing through my veins, peasants.”
“And here, I thought you had a dye job to cover up all that gray wool,” said Bennie. Then he bleated an “Ow!” as Grumpwinkle levitated a can of beans and dropped it on his head.
The census taker discretely wiggled about.
“What are you doing?” whispered the kelpie.
“I’m going to try to text the emergency service,” she whispered back. “Keep that mad sheep distracted.” She wiggled again and managed to get her hand at an angle so she could grasp Farmer Brown’s phone.
“So I don’t understand,” the kelpie said loudly. “What exactly are you doing? Wouldn’t this be better done in some place like a house? Or even a barn which has a roof? It’s a bit chilly out here being late autumn and all.”
“Did I not tell you to be quiet?” Grumpwinkle turned to the table to look for the next thing he needed. He levitated a jar of something and sprinkled it over Nellie. Nellie began sneezing. “I am preparing my future bride for our bonding ceremony. At midnight, the moonlight will strike just this place and the veil between this world and the next will thin. The powers that be will come and bless our union. And I will become the most powerful being in the universe! Or at least in North Yorkshire.”
“That’s ridiculous. You’re mad!” exclaimed Bennie.
Grumpwinkle sprinkled something else on Nellie. It looked suspiciously like silver glitter. “Mere animals like you would of course mistake genius for madness.”
“It’s one minute until midnight,” the census taker whispered. The moon was edging over the walls of the dilapidated church. Very soon, the full strength moonlight would illuminate the strange symbols that Grumpwinkle had painted in a circular fashion around Nellie. She tried to move her fingers so she could type up another SOS, but she accidentally brushed another icon and something else came up on the screen.
“Are you sure what you’re doing is correct?” the kelpie said in an attempt to stall for more time. “What if you summon an Old One instead that eats you as a snack?”
“You dare question my competence?” Grumpwinkle spat. “With my divine blood, I know everything!”
Bennie shook his head. “Only idiots think they know everything.”
The census taker gave an almost soundless exclamation as she examined the screen of the smartphone more closely. “This is a skyclock!”
“What does a skyclock have anything to do? Shouldn’t you be texting the local police again?” said the kelpie.
“No, look at what it says for the forecast for midnight.”
“Who cares what the forecast would be like at midnight, it’s…wait a minute. I think you’re on to something.”
Grumpwinkle was looking at an alarm clock on the table as he laughed maniacally. “Ten more seconds! Nine…eight…seven…”
“So do you really think the veil between the worlds is going to open up?” Bennie asked the kelpie.
Farmer Brown groaned again and mumbled something that sounded like “teleporting feet.”
And before the effect of the midnight moon could take effect, a breeze swept up and clouds moved in, blocking out all the light.
The kelpie flexed his muscles. The rope around him frayed and popped. “Well, that was entertaining. I think it’s getting late. We should head back to that bed and breakfast and get some shut eye before tomorrow. Don’t we have a busy schedule planned?”
“We would, as soon as you untie me, too,” said the census taker.
Grumpwinkle was still wailing about his failure when Farmer Brown trussed him up and vowed to never again buy on Ebay “special sheep” that the seller claimed would enhance his herd.