As a favour to the author, whom I know very well – this is an extra from Barmia – enjoy
Gof decided to regain control of the conversation. ‘So we have The Drunk and The Tart. What does that make you?’ he asked Kylie. ‘You’d have to be The Scout, I think.’
Kylie thought about this. Wayne certainly wasn’t any sort of scout and she certainly wasn’t a genius. And being The Scout sounded pretty good to her. She was in the Girl Guides. But that meant… ‘Are you telling me that Wayne’s a Genius?’ She sounded incredulous. She was incredulous.
‘What? Did somebody mention my name?’ Wayne looked up from his latest daydream.
‘You can’t be serious. You’re not are you?’ asked Kylie.
Gof again looked worried. ‘Well, I think we can say who everybody else is. You’re not a tart or a drunk, and you seem to agree that you are The Scout. That only leaves Genius for your brother, although I must admit that it does stretch my imagination a bit. Perhaps he’s got hidden depths.’
‘Very well hidden if you ask me.’ Jemima began laughing.
‘What do you think Kylie,’ Tarquin asked, ‘You know him best. Could he be a genius?’
‘I don’t know about hidden depths,’ she said, racking her brains for something that might indicate latent genius-ness, ‘but he can certainly sink to new depths. He does this everyday in my opinion.’
She burst out laughing. Tarquin smiled.
‘I’m not that dumb,’ Wayne insisted. ‘I even passed an exam last year. Maybe I’m just too smart for school. Maybe they just don’t understand me.’
Jemima started laughing harder. ‘What exam was that?’ she managed to say. ‘Getting your name right?’
Cedric started to laugh as well.
Wayne looked aggrieved. ‘No. I got an A grade in Home Economics. I made the best chocolate cake. Mrs McCusker was so impressed with the taste that she said it was the best cake she’d ever tasted and insisted all the others in the class had a taste. It wasn’t until later that we found out that some bastard had put a packet of laxatives in the mixture when I wasn’t looking. Gave the whole class the shits for the rest of the day. ’
Tarquin started laughing along with Jemima and Cedric. Even Kylie and the two badgers began giggling. Jemima started laughing so hard she had tears coming out of her eyes.
Wayne tried to explain further. ‘I don’t see what’s so funny. Poor old Simon Stevens got hit so suddenly that his pants just exploded in the middle of a French class that afternoon. Paul and Asif were sitting next to him and got splattered by the debris. They had to go for medical tests, just in case. And I don’t think Mrs Carter has got over it yet. She just sat in her chair rocking back and forth saying ‘shitshitshitshitshitshit’ over and over. She had to be carried out of the room. I heard she was in therapy for hours. She might even have post traumatic stress disorder. It’s not really that funny.’
Tarquin laughed so hard that he fell off his chair.
‘Really, this was serious. It’s no laughing matter.’ Wayne insisted. ‘Simon hasn’t had a girl come near him since then. They all call him Sewage Stevens and run away laughing. I reckon he’s got some serious psychological problems as a result of that cake. Apparently, every time his mum makes a chocolate cake he starts crying and runs to the loo to hide. That’s no way for a fifteen year-old boy to be.’
‘Oh stop…please stop,’ Jemima was pleading between her laughs. She slowly collapsed onto the floor and curled up in a ball, holding her sides. ‘I think I’m going to …burst something…or perhaps… wet myself…hahahahahahaha.’
Wayne decided to keep quiet. Nobody seemed to get how serious it had been, or, more importantly, that he’d got A in an exam. The bastards.
They all gradually settled down.
‘I haven’t laughed this much for years.’ said Tarquin.
‘Me neither,’ Kylie agreed, wiping tears from her eyes.
‘Whoa,’ said Gof. ‘I think we all needed that.’
‘I certainly did.’ said Cedric. He had brightened up a bit, although he looked pale. He was thinking about Ruby. If she was with the Vice Queen she could be in real trouble by all accounts. The stories that he’d heard did not sound good; she was probably in a dungeon by now. A hole was beginning to form in his stomach and tears pricked at his eyes once more. He blinked them back. ‘We still need to go and find Ruby. What are we going to do? What does the prophecy say? And what was in that drink?’
They all turned back to Gof. He squirmed in his seat. ‘The drink was a medicinal shot of nurdle. I don’t know any more than what I’ve told you about the prophecy, but I do know someone who might. And she lives on the way to the Vice Queen’s castle. It’s getting late, so I suggest we have some food, get a good night’s sleep, and tomorrow morning we’ll head further into the forest.’
After a simple meal of berries and nuts they all found a dry spot and Elvira provided warm blankets and mattresses. Kylie lay in the dark running over the events of the day in her mind. If time was running at the same rate in both worlds, then their parents would be coming home soon, or maybe they had already had, depending on the time differential between the two worlds – it wasn’t clear. In any case, she doubted that they’d notice that the kids were missing. It wouldn’t surprise her if they decided to stay in London overnight – they were bound to be pissed after going out for dinner. Her mum just loved being in the company of wealth and would do anything to keep it up for as long as possible. Her dad saw Tarquin and Jemima’s dad as an opportunity to get work for wealthy clients, so he’d be like a pig in shit, drinking with them and going along with everything. It might be days before they got back if the stories Kylie had heard about Tarquin and Jemima’s parents were true.
And what about Mrs Dawson? She would probably come back and panic when she couldn’t find them. If they stayed in here too long, perhaps she’d even be charged with their murder, and then there would be another spooky story to add to files of Stalinworth. Kylie giggled and then immediately felt bad. Mrs Dawson didn’t deserve that. Perhaps they should go back and leave a note…but what would it say? Gone to Barmia, back soon.
She drifted off to sleep as the sound of the badgers’ snoring echoed around the room. The complete darkness acted like an anaesthetic. Tomorrow she’d make a decision about what to do.