“This is so not on”, Tessa paced in circles around Fairfax. “You can’t seriously expect me to get covered in anything yucky! And with all my friends watching on TV too! Don’t you see how humiliating that would be?”
Fairfax sighed. “Miss Montague-Fawkes, I advise that you take this opportunity to be pardoned. It’s a much more attractive option than imprisonment.”
“But you don’t understand”, Tessa griped. “That bitch Chung has it in for me. She’s conspiring with those cretinous priests to cook up something really horrid for me!”
“Now that’s quite enough!” Fairfax’s moustache waggled as he grew animated. “Let me tell you, Ann has moved Heaven and Earth to spare you and your friends from jail time. Without her links to this religious community you’d have no chance! I will not stand for your bad-mouthing her, you hear?”
Not used to being scolded, Tessa folded her arms in a sulk. “Daddy would never let something so beastly happen to me. He’d tell those priests what’s what. Why isn’t he here? Where is he?” She began to bawl. “I WANT MY DADDY!!”
“I telephoned Monty yesterday evening”, Fairfax revealed. “And I have to say, he’s rather cross over this whole affair. It’s causing him a lot of embarrassment as a politician.”
“Well if he is cross, it’s with these nasty foreigners, certainly not with me!”, Tessa stamped her foot. “Look, you’ve got to find a way to get me off with this. You simply must!”
“There’s nothing more I can do”, reiterated Fairfax, walking away.
“Please!”, wailed Tessa. “I’ll have Daddy promote you to Ambassador! Pleeeeassse!”
“Dry yer eyes lass. It’s only a wee bit of mess”, said Imogen, trying to reassure herself as much as Tessa.
“Laura didn’t take it so badly”, added Sarah, similarly unconvinced by her own words.
Laura, at this moment in time, had decided to step out from under the temple’s stone canopy to clean off in the rain. The downpour soon rinsed off the excess of the cream, leaving her robe saturated, see-through and clinging to her dark curves, with her white underwear barely protecting her modesty. She turned her face to the elements and it was soon clear and clean. Her braided hair, however, remained in a cream-streaked, dishevelled state; it would be an arduous task to restore those braids to their former glory. But Laura was in good spirits, and smiled to herself as she stepped back into the shelter.
Maria, watching from the press enclosure, saw her chance. Grabbing a hand-held camera, she ducked under the rope that hemmed the journalists in and jogged over to the bedraggled girl.
“Well hello dere Laura! I’m Maria Jaczinski from Nowhere News. What was it like to be pelted wit all dose pies?”
“It was kinda cool, I guess”, said Laura wryly. “I have to admire how well calibrated that machine was.” She paused and frowned. “But there was one projectile that defied my calculations.”
“De one dat should have hit her?” Maria pointed at Chung, who was striding purposefully through the temple.
“Who is she?”
“Her name’s Ann Chung”, replied Laura. “She’s Mr Fairfax’s assistant, from the consulate.”
As the pair watched, Chung disappeared through an archway into one of the inner sancta of the temple.
“Let’s follow her!” Maria thrust the camera into Laura’s hands. As the duo jogged over to the archway, Maria spoke into the shaky shot. “I’m hot on de heels of Ann Chung, de mysterious lady who defied a pie before our eyes!”
Beyond the archway lay a spiral staircase. Chung’s footsteps echoed up from below, and Maria and Laura apprehensively followed. They soon left the daylight behind, the staircase being illuminated by a series of flaming torches, which cast errie shadows over the greenish rock. After they had descended some considerable distance into the mountain, the pair arrived at a cavernous chamber.
Chung was a few feet away, fortunately with her back to the intruders. Maria hurriedly yanked Laura behind a boulder. The pair peeked out over the top, training the camera on the bizarre scene before them. At the centre of the cavern stood a statue, flanked on either side by a waterfall of bright green slime. Torchlight focussed onto a hexagonal floor marking at the foot of the statue. Removing her jacket and shoes, Chung knelt inside the hexagon, her small but sculpted posterior pointed towards the bemused onlookers.
“OMMMMMMMMM…. WWWAAAAMMMM…. PIIIIIEEEE…. GOOOOOOOOO!!”, Chung intoned, almost singing.
“I hope you’re getting dis on camera”, Maria whispered to Laura.
“OMMMMMMMMM…. WWWAAAAMMMM…. PIIIIIEEEE…. GOOOOOOOOO!!”, Chung repeated.
If the statue before Chung was indeed that of Wam-Pie-Goo, deity of this temple, then it had to be said he did not fit the classical ‘god’ archetype. He was a shortish figure, dressed in an ill-fitting suit. His round face bore a stubble beard and a slightly annoying expression, and was framed by a mulletesque mane. For some reason, Laura experienced a flashback to a Saturday night show from her early childhood in the 1990s.
“OMMMMMMMMMMM…. WWWWAAAAAAMMMMMM…. PIIIIIIIEEEEE…. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!”, Chung’s incantation echoed once more around the chamber. She stood up, put her shoes and jacket back on, then she strolled over to one of the waterfalls of slime. Without a break in her step, she positioned herself directly under the cascade.
“Is she crazy?”, whispered Laura. The shower of slime bore down on Chung’s head and shoulders, running down her expensive suit. But Chung didn’t seem in the slightest perturbed by this. Slowly twirling in the deluge, she wore a serene smile on her face as the slime gushed over it.
But the goo did nothing to flatten Chung’s quiffy hairstyle. Her pinstripe suit remained light grey. Watching in astonishment, Laura and Maria realised that the slime didn’t actually touch Chung. When it reached within half an inch of her, it diverted and flowed tangent to her figure. It was as if she had an invisible casing around her body and clothing.
“That’s some repellency”, murmured Laura.
Chung stepped out of the waterfall, clean, dry and contented. With a parting bow to Wam-Pie-Goo, she exited the chamber. Once her footsteps had receded to a safe distance up the staircase, Maria stepped out from the boulder to address the camera.
“Well what can I say folks? What an extraordinary scene! A miracle before our very eyes!” she enthused. “And you’re watching it exclusively wit me, Maria Jaczinski!”
“There must be a rational explanation”, argued Laura. “It’s a conjuring trick, nothing more.”
“Only one way to find out”, Maria approached the hexagon.
“You’re not going to…?”
“Why not?”, said Maria. “Just make sure you get it all recorded, hey?”
Maria knelt in the hexagon. “Umm, Wan Pie Goo”, she uttered, slightly self-conciously.
“I think it’s Wam”, Laura corrected her. “With an ‘m'”.
“Oh, ok. Ummm, Wam Pie Goo.” Maria stood up and smiled awkwardly to the camera. Gingerly, she extended a hand into the verdant cascade.
The experiment didn’t last long. Maria’s hand recoiled, dripping with the snotty green slime. “Yuck!”, she remarked, feeling a bit daft. “I guess I don’t have de magic touch.”
“Chung did it three times”, Laura pointed out. “Do it a couple more and then see what happens.”
Maria duly returned to the hexagon. “Ummmmmmm, Waaammmm Piiieeee Goooooo!” She was getting into it now. “OMMMMMMMMM…. WWWAAAAMMMM…. PIIIIIEEEE…. GOOOOOOOOO!!”
Maria wrinkled her face as she returned her hand to the waterfall, bracing for the cold sliminess between her fingers. To her pleasant surprise, she felt nothing. She turned her hand over in the downpour. Still nothing. Maria retracted her trembling hand and beheld its cleanliness. “It works!”, she gasped. “Fuck me, IT WORKS!”
Giddy with excitement, Maria faced the cascade of bright green goo. She spread her arms to welcome it. Her instincts screamed at her not to do it, but her ambitions knew a great news shot when they saw one. She stepped forward.
Maria jolted as the slime flowed in front of her eyes, shrouding her in a curtain of green. For a moment she thought that her daredevilry had backfired, but no… no bracing coldness, no heavy wetness, no sensation of sloppiness on her skin. All she felt was a cool draught of air as the slime glided benignly by. She raised a hand to her hair and found it soft and dry. She looked down and found her shirt and jeans good as new.
“WAA-HOOO!!”, she yelled. She raised her hands in celebration, posing for the camera. She jumped out of the casacade. “Look! Completely clean! Now how did I do dat?”
She hopped back under the shower, performing a victory dance. The slime splashed everywhere, some of it onto Laura as she filmed the spectacle in amazement, but none sullied Maria. “Oh yes! Oh yes! I’ve hit de jackpot!”, Maria bounced about in the torrent. “Global news media, here I come!!”
“Did you enjoy Laura’s penance?”, Chung enquired, rejoining the girls outside. “I get the feeling the rest will be even more enjoyable. Especially yours, Tessa.”
“Get stuffed!”, growled Tessa. “You’re not going to get away with this. When my daddy gets here you’ll be sorry!”
“We’ll see”, smirked Chung. She led the trio back to the square, where the priests were waiting on their thrones. The head priest squinted at his sheet of paper. “Im-O-gen Fra-ser”, he read.
Although the cleric had incorrectly stressed on the ‘o’ in her name, Imogen knew her number was up. “Ah’m doomed!” The student pulled up the baggy robe from around her feet and stepped forward to learn her fate, her fiery red locks billowing in the breeze, her Celtic pallor a little starker than usual.
As before, the priest passed sentence in the local language, and Chung followed up with the translation. “Imogen, you have shown yourself to be a tempestuous young imp; you must be cleansed in the Car-Wash of Contrition!”
“Car-wash? Ye what?” Imogen was about to find out. Chung grabbed her arm and led her through the avenues of the temple, while Sarah and Tessa stood by with a mixture of relief and apprehension.
“Where’s Maria gone?”, asked the cameraman. The sound guy shrugged.
“Take a seat”, Chung gestured to a vehicle. To call the thing a car was a breach of trades descriptions; it consisted of a rudimentary stone chair with a small foot-rest and a minimal back support, mounted into a groove in the temple floor. Even Imogen’s dainty derrière struggled to fit on the meagre seat. She fidgeted in a futile bid for comfort, but knew that the seating arrangement would soon be the least of her woes.
Chung secured Imogen’s torso and legs with a set of straps. “Let’s go for a full wax”, she smirked, unhooking a rope. A great counterweight began to descend from the ceiling of the temple, turning a series of pulleys and gears, which ultimately translated into forward motion of Imogen’s chair in the groove.
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in it”, Imogen mused as she perused the route planned out for her. The groove snaked through various archways and overhangs, intertwined with ornate pipes and nozzles. Rotary brushes, fashioned from strips of cloth, whirred into life.
Without warning, jets of water blasted from pillars located on all sides of the car. The onslaught was fiercer than that Imogen had experienced locked out in the rain the day before, and colder too. She screamed as the surging water battered her scarlet locks and not so much stuck her robes to her body as pinned them. Within seconds, the whole watching world knew that fine red lace was Imogen’s undergarment of choice.
The car moved clear of the water jets, carrying a thoroughly drenched Imogen with it. Chilled but too shocked to shiver, she peeled her bedraggled hair away from her face. There was to be little respite; ahead of her two ornate statues started to belch thick, white foam. By the time Imogen’s car arrived, a hefty mound had accumulated across the track, which she ploughed straight into. Further foam piled on from above, smothering the slender Scot in a sea of soap.
The resultant mountain of creamy white foam continued its journey along the track, the passenger buried somewhere inside it. A pass through the pair of spinning brushes cut the blob down to size, like a bartender scraping the head from a beer, leaving something that looked vaguely woman-shaped, though still with an all-over fluffy white coating.
The chair halted under a large drum, though in her foamy state Imogen was unaware of this looming receptacle. The end?, she contemplated. Or just the beginning?
Her answer came in the form of a screaming klaxon, powered by air rushing through a complex arrangement of tubes and valves. Seconds later, a stream of bright blue natrosol gunge descended square onto Imogen’s head. Amidst the foam, the girl’s mouth could be seen to open in shock, before being obscured by an umbrella of rebounding gunge. Side-streams of orange joined the blue, striking Imogen on her shoulders and back. Struggling against the restraining straps, she attempted to wipe her face of the foam and gunge, but the falling slop overwhelmed her efforts. It flowed down her petite frame, sliding over the subtle dunes that were her breasts, and pooled in the robes between her legs, weighing them down. Blue and orange were joined with streaks of yellow and purple, and the faintest hint of green. The colourful gunk mixed with the foam in mesmerising marble patterns – aesthetics Imogen would have appreciated had she had a better view.
With a click the car resumed its forward motion, a slight mistiming in the machinery meaning that the waning remainder of the gunge splattered wastefully on the stone floor. But Imogen hardly wanted for coverage. As she progressed on the final leg of her journey, she slumped forward as far as the straps would allow, her head slowly shaking under the mass of foam and gunge. As a fan blasted off the excess foam, the car shuddered to a final stop.
As with Laura, the priests pronounced Imogen pardoned, and Chung stepped forward to release her from the seat. “You are free from custody”, Chung affirmed. “But that doesn’t give you free rein to misbehav…”
Chung paused and frowned. She looked down at her feet, which stood inch-deep in the spreading puddle of slime and froth. She raised a foot and shook it, confirming to herself that the sogginess had infiltrated her shoe and dampened her tights. The look of discomfort on Chung’s face grew into wider consternation. Without a further word she abandoned Imogen and hurried over to the archway she had entered earlier.
“Hey, where’d ye go?”, Imogen called, still blinking away foam. “Ye cannae leave me here! Come back!!”
“Hey hey! Look at dis!!” Never afraid to pander to the lad demographic, Maria undid two buttons on her shirt, revealing her fabulous defined cleavage ensconced in a black Wonderbra. She pulled forward her shirt and stood under the slime such that the deluge surged into the impromptu opening. The green goo lapped within a centimetre against Maria’s breasts, the accompanying air currents causing them to wobble rhymically. The void between her chest and her shirt filled up and began to overflow, but neither Maria’s person nor her clothing imbibed the gunge.
“Dis is so much fun!”, Maria grinned, posing provocatively. “You’ve got to give it a go!”
“Me? Oh, I’m not sure about that”, Laura replied, casting a disdainful glance at the hexagonal floor marking. The entire situation made her very uncomfortable. Laura was a cold-blooded rationalist. She poo-pooed the paranormal, scoffed at spoon-benders. Yet the scene before her threatened to unravel her reductionist worldview.
Maria sensed Laura’s unease. “If you tink it’s a trick den dere’s only one way to find out how it’s done”, she challenged.
Grudgingly, Laura knelt in the hexagon, and recited two “Omm Wam-Pie-Goo”s. She hesitated ahead of the third, fearing what might confront her sceptical sensibilities.
“Go ahead. Don’t be afraid.” Maria urged, the slime continuing to gush into her opened shirt.
Laura went for it. “Ommm… Wammm-Piiie-Gooooo!!”
“ARRRRGHHH!!”, Maria screeched as the green, mucus-like slime sloshed cold and gooey against her firm breasts. Within an instant, her bra became saturated, and her pink cotton shirt turned a nasty dark green. The slop flowed over Maria’s torso and navel, its chilly embrace making her writhe.
Instinctively, Maria jerked forward in an attempt to shield her chest from the deluge. This caused a wave of slime to wash first over her face and then bear down on her soft, blonde hair. She groaned in disgust as the gunk defiled her locks and extra-thick lumps crawled down her back.
Her vision obscured, Maria tried to escape the downpour, but in her haste slipped over and landed on her backside in the pool. The deluge continued to splatter mercilessly over her as she floundered on the floor.
Laura, meanwhile, was adapting to changed circumstances of her own. “I’m dry”, she whistled, pinching at the fabric of her robes, now crisp and opaque. “I’m dry and clean.” She examined her braids, which bore no evidence of the ordeal they had been put through. No cream, no frosting, no rainwater. “Hey Maria, I’m clean!”, Laura shouted. “I’M CLEAN!!” She turned round. “Bloody hell, what happened to you?”
Maria only scowled as she slithered clear of the slime shower, her face screwed at the sensation of her saturated jeans clinging to her thighs.
Laura looked back down at her freshly laundered self. “I guess it only works for one person at a…” She froze.
Maria followed Laura’s stare. In the cavern doorway stood Chung, her expression black enough to rival her hair.
Maria smiled sheepishly and struggled to her feet. She slicked her green, slop-soaked hair behind her ears and extended a dripping hand. “Maria Jaczinski, Nowhere News. May I trouble you for an interview, Miss Chung?”