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"Another body found, Alan. Just round the back of the spacious car park. In the bushes and the mud of that soon to be built on area you keep dreaming about. Alan? Alan are you listening?"
Alan turned his massive head of dark hair towards a mass of bluebottles and meat that might have been a plate of food. Someone had refused to eat their dinner, so it was up to him to finish it off...or he was for the sack.
"I heard you, Tom. A body in the bushes all greasy with some kind of substance. Help me eat this plate of meat will you."
Tom Goode grabbed Alan by the arms and nodded his head frantically. Then he prodded him in the belly three times, and left the lavish pink reception area. No doubt he was off for a bag of drugs and sausages from the shops nearby. Or maybe to watch the police dig and gyrate by the end of the car park. Alan had stopped there himself on the way to work, drawn by the odour of crisps and biscuits issuing from the mobile canteens that had set up by the crime scene. A man with a yellow pram and a red dog on a blue leash had filled him in with the details. Hearing them was like finding himself climbing through some mass of iron railings and twisted bars, high over sparkling grey and green water, while deep brass horns blared out. Alan had jotted the statistics down and carried on to the canteen for a slap up pile of biscuits and a mini tangerine pie.
He had been dreaming about the motel for years; long before he had ever started to work there. In the past, its flat construction had crept out of the gaps in overdrawn, winding bus journeys. Or via breakfast conversations with Rigsby and Phil and Miss Jones. Why they chose to describe its every grey cranny and nook to him - including a detailed map of the rooms and the sewers beneath - was beyond him. Sometimes it even turned up on TV when he was half drunk with gravy and meat.
He couldn't bloody fathom it!
But, he hadn't started to dream about the areas beyond the motel until the bodies started turning up. When the limbless torso of a man was found by a mob of feeding eagles on the fens he had felt a sudden urge to climb a steep staircase, in some new friend's house. He hated blood and guts and wanted nothing but to get on with his job and touch himself occasionally, under the sucking water in the bath. But this was interfering with that; all the lurid talk of the strung out veins painted green and the brains sliced up and hung out like drying x-rays. The motel was alive with chitter chatter and jive ass monkeying around with hats and buns. Hats and buns? He blamed Tom, with his chunky jumpers and his wellys and his fizzling, glow in the dark bags of mouse pants acid. What was the point in spreading lies and truths when meat plates had to be eaten?
The bluebottles made room for his descending pink mouth, and he roared as the taste hit the back of his woolly head. Soon he began to see the brass band twiddling their knobs and tossing their shining blue heads.
Someone had left a shoe in room nine again.
Julia had blamed the last tenant, but feared the worst. She had passed on the new shoe news to Miss Simone the head of staff but had obviously neglected to add that there had been a small leaf in the shoe when she found it. This was a vital clue and she wanted to keep it for herself and her secret investigative group; who met up in the motel swimming baths and exchanged clues. She was the top button on the control pad regarding clues. She also liked to play with remote control boats. A fact that had gotten her into all kind of water based trouble in the past. She had watched the police put up their neon bunting around the new corpse and wanted to fashion a remote control car to join in the search for body clues. Then she had seen the police ladies jump out from behind a mobile burger van, their noses in plastic bags, sniffing and watching her. Alan had seen her too, but that was ok due to his status in the investigative clue group. Just lately she had begun to have flashbacks to the time when she was raped by puppets in a public toilet/cafe barge. She had jumped on at the gasworks canal stop and had a quick cup of tea on the top deck with a lady who kept screaming into the darkness and fairy lights around them in the trees. Then she had gone below for a piss. In the dark and wobbly cubicle she had caught the smell of charity shops and heard the tapping of tiny feet. By the time she had been found, the barge had travelled all the way through the motel sewers and docked at the exit to the drains by the motel bins. She had seen the puppets sail away in tiny boats, throwing confetti over their shoulders, on their way to the forest. They had picnics that lasted for years, so she had heard from Tom. Sometimes they crawled up trees and dropped down onto passing ramblers for a quick bit of sex and violence.
Later she had learned about a dripping tap in room twenty three that wouldn't stop leaking. It was all starting to make sense.
Julia wiped her hands on her apron and went in search of clues in the restaurant.
Alan found time later, to go and watch the police search the muddy bushes. He trotted across the spacious car park to the distantly vague edge of the empty car park and sniffed the hot dog air. A small number of rides had collected around the neon bunting now. At least, he thought they were rides at first. They certainly resembled rides; a helter-skelter, a roundabout, a tiny rollercoaster. All gaily painted and studded with flashing coloured bulbs. Everything seemed in order, until that is, they began to move about, spinning and dancing across the mud and the puddles, shoving reporters and watchers aside, who trained their binoculars and cameras at the odd machines. The police had more important things to do than watch this spectacle, yet each white face, framed in black uniform and hat, found a moment to take a deep glance at the things as they swirled across the uneven waste ground towards the wet green fens.
Alan got a good look himself, and thought he might have seen small faces, with screaming mouths, lost amid the platforms and portals of the rides as they shrank away, away, away into yellow and red dots far, far in the blue distance.
Alan bought a plate of crisps and a dollop of tomato sauce and sat at a tiny table to think things through. Between his seventh and eight saucy crisp, he hit on something in his head. The chalk drawings on the sewer walls. They were quite similar to the things he had just witnessed. Weren't they? Hadn't Miss Jones fed him cheese pies and told him about the drawings? No, it had been the next door neighbour George and his wife. They had let him use their caravan toilet and then spoken to him about the drawings while he pooed. The married couple had looked different once he had finished and opened the door. Like they were wearing different clothes, or wigs. Maybe they had been pulling faces before then, and had merely relaxed them, once they had told him about the drawings in the sewers.
You had to catch the right barge to see them; one with a lit deck. He had hopped onto one of the library barges. The fiction section, in fact. The reading lamps, turned upwards, gave all the light he had needed. But he saw more than drawings. He saw all manner of things. Another world. People on bikes, taking the cycle routes. Men in voluminous red gowns, fishing from high up stone balustrades. Railed off side tunnels with cinema screens filling the darkness of distant chambers. Strange, blue, long legged creatures that clung to the sewer walls and skittered about around what looked like gigantic black serpents sprouting forth from the brickwork, dangling their unseen heads into the rippling water to drink.
Pipes, someone told him later. Just pipes.
And the drawings then? Mostly around the sections of sewering beneath the motel. Colourful and cleverly rendered. Mysterious and dangerous. He had been unable to commit to memory any of the shapes. There were just too many of them stretching across the curvature. He had chosen one that deserved memorising, only to have it wiped away by an even greater sketch. This carried on until his mind was almost as blank as when he had first heard about the things from George and Mildred. He had snuck into their caravan while they were weeing and told them about his inability to capture the drawings in his head. George had shaken himself off while he replied...
"Such are the tricks that the drawings use to keep themselves secret."
Then they had shown him their holiday snaps.
Alan wished he could have forgotten THOSE pictures so easily.
After he finished all his crisps he raced across the car park back to the reception area. He had to find Julia.
Instead, he was found, by Tom.
"I've just had half a bag of mouse acid, Alan. I would give you the other half but I know you don't mess with nature like us. Me and Barbara, that is. Did I tell you we had become naturists? Yes, we cavort around our seventies 'shake and vac' house, naked as snakes. We eat potatoes right from the ground like that too. Got to get closer to nature, boy. Feel the earth cram under your fingernails when you dig. Yes, me and Babs, we know the earthy score. We shit and eat it, lad. Shit and eat it."
"Have you seen Julia at all, Tom?"
"Oh yes, shit it and EAT IT! Nothing like shoving a carrot into your wife's neck. She likes to pelt me with turnips until we both come screaming out 'EARTH, EARTH, EARTH!' Oh yes."
"Is she still cleaning out the rooms do you think?"
"Sometimes, I get so happy staring at mud, that I want to kill my wife, Alan. Kill her. Shove a potato into her heart and bury her, bury her in the EARTH! I want to cover her beautiful white body in lose soil and cry, CRY for the love we HAVE together, in the EARTH! I love her dearly, Alan, and I want to bury her, bury her in my garden; OUR garden! Alan! ALAN! I WANT TO PLANT HER AND CRY FOR THE LOVE, THE LOVE, THE LOVE I'VE LOST. I want to go home and kill her right now! SHOVE HER HEAD FIRST INTO THE VEGETABLE PATCH AND SCREAM FOR OUR DEAD LOVE!!!!!!"
"I'm just off to find Julia. Hold the fort."
Alan checked the main corridor first, ignoring the items left discarded on the bright pink floor. Occasionally a door would open and a messy looking face would droop out, over the top it. Sometimes Miss Simone could be heard speaking in the ceiling, or the rooms. He could never really understand what she said to him half the time. There had to be something wrong with her tongue; it certainly looked odd. As if it was upside down; veiny and lumpy. Apart from that she was perfect. Blonde and slim and beautiful. He often saw her on the motorway, speeding along on her silver motorbike. Didn't she live out of town, by the sea?
His voice seemed to be absorbed by the frilly pink decor of the motel corridor. But someone had heard him; they answered his call by repeating it, only with a deeper resonance. He called again, in case it was her, messing about. Again he was answered by the voice; although wasn't it voices now? Like several people with the same deepness to their words in chorus?
Alan stopped in his tracks when what had to be a hundred people, all impersonating each other, repeated his call. They were good, he had to admit it; getting the word to overlap so exactly. Where was the sound coming from? He wanted to congratulate them.
Turning a sharp corner he bumped into one of the police ladies from the death scene.
She looked at him with green eyes and began to say something. The words refused to leave her pink lips. She opened her mouth and worked her jaw. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
"Can I help you?" Alan had to ask after a whole minute of silence.
"Well, I'll be off then."
The corridor would take him to the restaurant. If she was anywhere it would be there. She had to know now about the things he had seen. Then they had to get out of here, somewhere safe, far away, together, forever, running, happy, free.
He leant against a pink wall, a vision filling his mind, making him lose his balance. He could hear music, sweet tinkling chimes, cascading over each other like raindrops on ice.
They framed a scene from hell, expanding into a panorama, encircling him.
The golden tubes falling down from heaven, the blue darkness inside. The worlds inside them, lighting up one by one. The black skeletal framework of a dying god. All the things it had to say to him. His own face leaking into the blue sky and then gradually into the depths of space.
The restaurant a tiny spec. Just a tiny bit of light with Julia in the centre of it. Puppets crawling all over her. Too far to travel to. Too far. Too big to form a hand in it all. The puppets dancing and laughing. Julia screaming and crying. Too strange to grab a hold on. Slipping away.
Tom Goode. His wellys squeaking as he runs, making leaps no ordinary man can make. Just a tendril between Tom and Alan, but enough. Cloud his mind enough to clarify it. Direct it. Use it.
Julia screaming again. Tom ripping puppets off her. Tom roaring about the earth, and his mud, and all the puppets he will bury for his new god the sky skeleton.
Alan can feel the sewers tremble now, now that they have become his guts. And the police have taken away the body from the field behind the car park.
Get used to it? No, you never get used to it.