by Colin P. Davies
Table of Contents
Part 5, Part 7
Part 8, Part 9
appear in this issue.
Thompson fanger: a dangerous pack-pest, fond of co-ordinated ambush and bloodsucking, the fanger has nevertheless established itself as a valuable commodity in the commercial life of Pestworld. Whilst of no use for flight, the silvered bat-wings open out to three metres to maximise radio reception for communication with its pack-mates. Used widely for constabulary waistcoats since the amazing incident now popularised in the nursery tale “Jack’s Bloody Knife And The Fanger That Wouldn’t Die,” the major market for the wings has moved to the remoter regions of the planet, where they have found use as superior trivee aerials.
The next evening Gregory phoned. The cage was finished and had been positioned in the courtyard at the rear of Gregory’s hardware store. It was the culmination of a good day for Parvo. He’d caught two stringfingers and a fanger before lunch and in the afternoon had finally brought down the todmorden spring-heel camel which had been taunting him for the last five mornings, bouncing up to peer through his bedroom window. And now the benedict trap was about to be set.
As Parvo hurried along the dirt road, merriweather rats squeezed their paper-thin bodies into the cracks beneath the houses. Parvo liked to imagine that all the pests, big and small, recognised him and ran in fear, that they watched him respectfully from their dark hiding places. And they were right to fear him. He was paid to eliminate them. The facts were clear: the pests were a burden on the economy and had to go.
When finally he turned the last bend and saw the green copper dome of Gregory’s hardware store, the sky behind it and above the talking forest was pale with the dregs of daylight. Soon the air, already carrying the chirp and hum of the daylight pests, would be flooded with the dusk-chorus of the night pests. Later still would come the weeping of the benedicts and their tragic pleas for food.
Parvo let himself in the side gate and walked through to the rear of the building. In the centre of the courtyard stood the cage.
Gregory appeared at the back door to the shop. “You took your time... We’re ready to bring the pot out.” The sun threw the shadow of the cage across the back wall of the shop, so that Gregory seemed trapped within. Then he went back indoors.
He re-emerged with an assistant. They carried a huge steaming pot between them. Each gripped an opposite handle. Both wore face masks and air tanks. They placed the pot on the steel mesh floor of the cage and then retreated. Gregory pulled off his mask and let it hang on his chest. His assistant returned indoors.
“I’ve got a good feeling about this,” said Parvo. “So simple, but I think it’s going to work.”
Gregory smiled. “Apparently you deserve your appointment. It’s a smart idea.”
“Have you got the bait?”
“Philip has it now.”
The assistant reappeared carrying a globe of Benoletti’s World.
Parvo shook his head. “I said we need something with lights and sound.”
Gregory scowled. “You don’t think I’m very smart apparently.”
Philip handed the globe to Gregory who tossed it to Parvo.
Even as he plucked it from the air, Parvo could see this was more than a globe. It was dotted with coloured lenses. “A nursery light,” he said. “Clever.” He held it out for Gregory, but the old man gestured towards the cage.
“The trap is yours to set, Pestmeister.”
Parvo shrugged. Why not? He could hold his breath long enough to avoid inhaling the fumes from the pot of concentrated dreamtea.
Inside the cage, Parvo squatted on the tight-mesh floor and placed the globe in front of the pot. He turned the switch and the globe illuminated and began to rotate. Soft beams of coloured light flickered in his eyes to the gentle melody of Brahms Lullaby.
Thoughts of the bounty teased his imagination, until the need to breathe returned him to the moment. As he stood up, the cage door crashed shut behind him. He swung around, but was too slow. The lock was set. He grabbed two bars and pressed his face to the gap. The bars were much too close to squeeze between, and too thick for Parvo to bend. Gregory had backed away. The Pestmeister’s clawing fingers could not reach him.
Parvo had to breathe — he could not help himself.
The dreamtea fumes crawled inside his head. His legs became unsteady and he fell to his knees. His grip on the bars weakened and he slumped onto his side. A pair of legs approached. It was odd how they could walk horizontally, defying gravity. He wanted to laugh, but felt it would somehow be inappropriate. The legs resolved into boots. He glanced over to the face. It was Jay. A laughing Jay. A hollow, void-obsessed student of pestmeistery. Was that a true term? Pestmeistery? It seemed unlikely... but perhaps things would be clearer in the morning...
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Copyright © 2007 by Colin P. Davies