To the readers of this story, apologies for the hiatus. I kept meaning to return to writing this, but one project after another got in the way. I’m now pleased to release the next part at long last (and I promise I’m not trying to influence the Goolitzer vote in my favour!)
Since you’ve probably forgotten what the hell has happened so far in this story, here are the previous parts:
Slime dripped from Maria’s extended hand, landing near the larger pool that was accumulating at her feet. Her smile faded, the corners of her mouth drooping as if melted in the seething glare of the suit-clad Asian before her. Her hand likewise fell by her side.
“What is the meaning of this?” growled Chung. “Was the fencing around the press area not obvious enough? And you!” Her eyes flashed across to Laura. “What did I say about keeping out of trouble?” Chung glowered further at the sight of the video camera in Laura’s hands. “You’ve been recording in here!? Have you broadcast any of that?”
“Not yet,” said Maria. “De rock’s too tick to transmit a signal. But when I get back above ground I’m going to unveil dis miracle to de world!” She beamed.
“No you’re not!” Chung snatched the camera from Laura. She yanked out the memory card, dropped it on the floor, and crushed it under her high heel. She twisted her foot until only a small pile of mangled silicon remained. For good measure she tossed the camera towards one of the gunge pools. It bounced on the pool’s edge with a winceworthy crunch before sinking beneath the lumpy surface.
“HEY!!” shouted Maria. “You can’t do dat!”
“Photography of Wam-Pie-Goo is a grave profanity,” Chung bristled.
“And destroying a journalist’s footage is violation of United Nations Charter!” Maria lunged at Chung, but the nimble Asian sidestepped. Slipping and skidding, Maria tumbled flat on her front.
Chung was about to put a stiletto print in the impertinent Pole’s backside, but a better idea came to her. “Ms Jaczinski,” she said in a more genial tone, “if you wanted to find out more about our faith, you only needed to ask. We have specially-sanctioned chambers for liason with the press. I’d be very happy to provide the interview you desire.”
“Oh, I see.” Maria staggered to her feet. “Den please accept my apologies for de misunderstanding.”
“No problem. You can join us too, Laura.” Chung looked over her shoulder. “I’m sure you’re dying to find out how…”
But Laura hadn’t hung around to find anything out. Footsteps echoed from the stairway.
“OI! COME BACK!!” bellowed Chung. She contemplated giving chase, but then turned back to face Maria, resuming her polite demeanour. “Oh well, she doesn’t know what she’s missing. Now if you’ll excuse me for just one minute.” She knelt in the hexagon before the statue.
“Er, mind if I do de Wam-pie-goo ting to get clean?” ventured Maria. The look over Chung’s shoulder gave her her answer. But Maria didn’t care about being slimy; her eyes glazed over as the allure of jounalistic nirvana beckoned once more.
“Listen, Miss Chung,” she said, after the Asian had completed her chanting. “Nowhere News is willing to pay a generous sum for a candid exclusive. Just name your price. We want all de juicy details.”
“Worry not, you’ll get plenty of extremely juicy details,” said Chung smarmily. “And you don’t have to pay me a penny; the pleasure will be all mine.”
Still sopping with foam and blue and orange gunge, Imogen squelched her way around the temple, her robes clinging uncomfortably to the delicate curves of her petite form. She didn’t fancy stepping out into the driving rain to rinse off, but there didn’t appear to be any washing facilities in the temple.
Laura came running towards her, an urgent look on her face. Imogen raised a soapy hand to wave, but then did a double take.
“How did ye get yerself clean so fast?”
“It was the Wam-Pie-Goo thing!” Laura exclaimed breathlessly as she ran up.
“Ye wha?” frowned Imogen.
“It’s this statue, it stops you getting messy if you say ‘Wam-Pie-Goo’, I don’t know how it works but it does, and I think Maria’s in trou—”
“Ey, steady on lass,” chuckled Imogen. “Ah think you’re a wee bit delirious from all those pies!”
“I’m serious!” Laura implored. “I met Maria Jaczinski – you know, from Nowhere News – and I think she might be in trouble!”
Imogen smirked. “And wha makes ye think tha?”
“The last I saw of her, she was with Ann Chung!”
Imogen’s jaw dropped. “Tha bitch!? We better help her!”
“Quick, this way!” Laura grabbed Imogen’s wrist and pulled her in the direction of the staircase. “Actually no, that’ll be the way she comes back. We need to go another way.” She scanned the rows of doorway and openings. “According to my calculations, that door over there should do.”
Maria grew dizzy with twists and turns as she scurried after Chung through a maze of corridors, caverns and catacombs. But she was certain of one thing: their general direction was a downward one. Deeper and deeper into the mountain they corkscrewed, until Chung came to a halt outside an archway. Maria squinted at the markings engraved above it, which appeared to be numerals of some alien system.
“Chamber 17,” explained Chung. “Ms Jaczinski, as a non-adherent to our faith, you are required to remove all of your clothing except your underwear before entering. Part of the purification process.”
“Ok, sure.” Maria pulled off her shoes and socks. She was relieved to get out of these sopping clothes, and in any case, she was never shy about exhibiting her body. Unbuttoning her saturated jeans and letting them slide down her legs, she was reminded of the bikini shoot she had done for Bloke magazine a few months earlier.
The chamber was cubic, the ceiling supported by four great pillars of the ubiquitous green rock. In the centre of these was an inner enclosure, raised on a platform and shrouded by a bulky canopy. And in the centre of this was a great stone chair, with a tall back and stately arms.
“Take a seat, Ms Jaczinski,” Chung gestured.
“Ahh, de interviewer’s chair?” Maria clambered onto the platform.
“I guess so,” said Chung, “though we call it the Hot Seat.”
Braving the kiss of the cold stone against her slimy skin, Maria sat down. She stretched out and posed, admiring herself in the throne-like seat.
“But where are you going to sit?” asked Maria.
“I’m not,” smiled Chung. Maria heard a click and looked down to find her wrists shackled to the arms of the chair.
“Hey what?!” Another click and her ankles were similarly clamped. “What is dis? I tought we were doing an interview!”
“You thought wrong!” chuckled Chung as she tapped the wall. A stone slab slid away to reveal a complex array of levers and buttons. “But don’t worry, you will learn something: a lesson on not to intrude and meddle where you don’t belong!”
Chung hit a switch. Demented fairground music played through an arrangement of whistles and pipes. In front of Maria two streams of blue gunge surged forth. The goo arced through the air, landing at the base of the throne and covering Maria’s squriming feet. Swishing from side to side, the streams slowly ascended, sloshing over Maria’s shins. The gunge was much thicker than the pool slime she was already soaked with – a bright, opaque blue.
“Stop dis at once!!” snarled Maria. “Wrongful imprisonment of a journalist is…ARRGHHH!!!”
Similar blue gunge started to drizzle from the canopy, raining onto Maria’s hair and shoulders. She wriggled furiously in her restraints as the slime ran down her front and back. Meanwhile the swishing jets reached her lap, coating her thighs. Due to the shackles on her ankles she was unable to close her legs, and she moaned as the forceful jets sloshed against her panties, massaging her clotch. Mercilessly the gunge continued upwards, making Maria scream at its cold, taunting touch across her belly. Next it reached her breasts, making them jiggle inside her skimpy black bra.
Chung stood by watching with a calm but satisfied smirk.
“YOU WON’T GET AWAY WITH DIS!!” screamed a thoroughly blue Maria. “I WILL BRING YOU TO JUSTICE! I WILL TAKE YOU TO DE HIGHEST COURT IN DE LAND! I WILL—glub!!”
Maria was silenced as the jets of gunge swept against her face and blasted back her hair. She closed her eyes and grimaced. When at long last the jets abated, she panted with relief. The drizzle from above lightened, and the innane music seemed to be fading (though perhaps that was just the goo in her ears). Could her ordeal be over? Spluttering, Maria cautiously prized open an eye.
SWOSH!! A horizontal sheet of yellow gunge, extending from Maria’s knees to her back, dropped from the canopy. Maria let out a screech as it engulfed her.
“OOOOHHHHH!!” Maria’s near-naked body shook with the coldness and sheer gunkiness of her fresh coating. She was a complete mess of yellow and blue, her skin, hair and even the initial green slime barely visible.
“Ahh, I do like to put the old Hot Seat through its paces,” simpered Chung, strolling towards her victim. “But that was just a warm-up.”
As Maria blinked her eyes free of gunge, she saw that Chung was carrying a cream pie. Overwhelmed by her gunging, Maria no longer had the energy to shout, curse or struggle, and her eyes meekly rose to meet Chung’s.
Chung held the pie in front of Maria and leaned over to whisper in her ear. “Once I’m done with those student brats, I’ll be back here to finish dealing with you. It’s going to be a very long session.”
She slammed the pie into Maria’s face and screwed the tin.
Lionel Fairfax might not have been the most sparkling Bollinger in the clubhouse, but he hadn’t failed to notice Chung’s recurring absences, nor the flustered air with which his usually unflappable assistant had made her most recent flight. He was therefore relieved to see both her and her confident strut return. “Is everything ok, Ann?”
“Couldn’t be better,” smiled Chung. “I just need to know the whereabouts of Miss Johnson.”
“Last I saw of Laura she was with Imogen,” Sarah piped up. “They went into one of those doorways.”
Chung’s smile dropped. “Damn it! I need to find them immediately. This is a place of worship, not a playground!” She turned to storm off.
“Uh, Ann,” said Fairfax. “What about the next penance?”
“Of course,” scowled Chung. “Let’s get on with it then.”
The head priest unfolded his sheet of paper with gnarled hands. “Sar-ah Stead-man,” he intoned, spitting out the English syllables like pieces of gristle.
“Thank God for that!” sighed Tessa. “Still time for Daddy to get here and sort this out. Have fun, Steadperson!”
Sarah scowled at Tessa and stepped forward. The stormy breeze rustled her robe as she stood isolated in the centre of the square. All day she had been playing one of those agonising games of Left Wing Top Trumps with herself. In this instance, the clashing cards were “respect foreign cultures” and “oppose patriarchal religions”. However, as the judgemental glare of the bearded priests bore down on her, the quandary resolved itself in her mind. She had no doubt which card won.
With a single motion, Sarah let her robe drop to her feet. A gasp went up from the spectators, and shutters went into a clicking frenzy. Sarah stood there in her dark blue bra and knickers, which were unfailingly plain and practical in their design.
“You know what these are?” Sarah pointed at her bust. “They’re mammary glands. Fifty percent of human beings have them. Why don’t you take a look?”
Sarah unclipped her bra and tossed it into the lap of the scandalised head priest. She placed her hands on her hips, unabashed at revealing her small but very perky breasts. Hardening in the cool air, her nipples pointed at an upward angle, with the priests directly in their defiant line of sight.
“Man, you gotta hand it to these femmos,” remarked the reporter from Bloke magazine.
“Where on Earth is Maria?” fretted the Nowhere News cameraman. “She’s missing it all!”
“See? They’re just body parts!” Sarah shouted. “Nothing sordid, nothing sinful. You won’t turn to stone from seeing them.” She hooked her thumbs into her knickers. “Do you want to see something else that women have?”
Fairfax sprinted across the square. “In the name of Her Most Gracious Majesty, HALT!” He grabbed Sarah’s robe and tried to lift it over her body. In the ensuing struggle the pair tumbled to the floor, Fairfax looking most awkward as he found himself face to face with one anatomical feature after another. After a lot of unpleasantness he managed to bundle the robe over Sarah.
“Just what has got into you, Miss Steadman?” hissed Fairfax, blushing profusely as he straightened his moustache.
“Ms!!” snarled Sarah from somewhere under the robe.
Eventually, a re-robed Sarah stood once again before the priests, with Fairfax and Chung keeping a firm grip on her. It was with a wobbling voice that the head priest handed down her penance.
“Sarah,” Chung translated, “you have shown a grave lack of respect for Wam-Pie-Goo. You must learn the ways of our religion… by taking a trip around the great temple!”
“But I already have,” Sarah protested as Chung marched her away.
“Not like this!” Chung brought Sarah to the end of a railway track. Parked there was a tub-shaped vehicle, like a fairground waltzer but hewn of stone like everything else. As Sarah got closer she saw there was a small, bench-like seat inside, and before she knew it Chung had hoisted her over the rim of the waltzer and into the seat.
“Enjoy your trip!” Chung pulled down a lever, setting off a complex arrangement of weights, pulleys and flywheels. The waltzer glided forwards, while some local people began to play upbeat music on traditional instruments. Soon the assembled press were clapping along. Sarah snorted and folded her arms.
Sarah jumped as something hissed and sprayed at her, but it was only some sticky, coloured twine, not unlike silly string. “Is that the best you can do?” she shouted, picking the string off her shoulder. An anonymous hand reached out of a hole in the wall and dropped Sarah’s bra into her lap. Sarah rolled her eyes and tossed the undergarment away.
The waltzer paused its horizontal motion and descended, together with a piece of the floor, as confetti fluttered down from above. Sarah found herself inside a corridor, dimly lit by high-set windows. The train track spanned the length of the passageway, which was flanked by gargoyles on either side. Once lowered into position, the waltzer recommenced its forward journey.
“UURRGHHH!!!” Sarah squawked, as something wet and cold blasted her from the left. The first gargoyle had spewed out a jet of green slime, which clung lumpily to Sarah’s arm and the side of her neat, shoulder-length hairstyle. In quick succession, a gargoyle on the right spat a load of purple goo, which coated her other side.
The waltzer proceeded through the gauntlet of gargoyles, each issuing its own colourful contribution. Sarah screamed and squirmed one way then the other as the reds, yellows and blues pelted her. Soon the brunette hue of her hair could no longer be seen, and the white of her robe was fast disappearing too. The cold slime plastered the thin garment to her body, and Sarah wished she had not been so hasty to throw out her bra.
Finally, the waltzer left behind the last of the wretched gargoyles, and Sarah felt the breeze against her saturated figure as she exited the corridor and back into the open air. She slicked her slimy hair behind her ears and peeled the robe away from her skin, frowning in the glare of the clapping and cheering spectators.
“Sarah!” chirped Chung’s voice. “Hello Sarah!”
Sarah whipped her head around, but the infuriating Asian was nowhere to be seen.
“Sarah, up here!” called Chung.
Sarah looked up to discover she was passing beneath an overhanging platform. There was a hatchway above her and she looked just in time to see Chung empty a bucket. Horrified, Sarah tried to duck away but was too slow. Beige slop of a most unpleasant consistency hit her square in the face.
“PLLEUUUGHHH!!” Sarah spat. She raised her hands and wiped her eyes in a pair of synchronised side-swipes. The nasty goo still around her mouth, she looked back up to glare at Chung, but this proved to be a huge mistake, as another load of slop, this time a darker brown, rained onto her face.
“Oh Sarah dear, you’re so predictable,” crooned Chung, as she reached for another bucket. Sarah was not about to repeat her folly, and hunched over in the waltzer. She squealed as something cold and slimy plopped onto the back of her head and slapped against her back. Chung had one more bucket left and aimed this a bit further forward. It landed heavily over Sarah’s kicking legs, weighing her robe down between her thighs.
It was somewhat to Sarah’s relief when the waltzer resumed it’s journey, but this relief promptly dissipated as she entered an archway and found herself in a dim, cavernous chamber. The track followed a bridge over a pool of greenish-brown slime. Sarah pressed herself against the inner wall of the waltzer, wary of what might await her.
Then she saw it.
At first it looked like a bigger-than-average lump in the slime, but it soon became clear that the rising mound was something solid. Boggling eyes snapped open, and Sarah screamed as they fixed her with a luminescent greenness. The swamp creature continued to rise, revealing curving shoulders, maladroit arms and a dumpy belly. It was humanoid in basic form, but clearly not of Homo sapiens. Hideously misshapen and bloated, it wobbled about on trunklike legs. It appeared to have severely impaired coordination.
Sarah shrunk into the waltzer, whimpering, her messy state almost forgotten. The creature met her with a ghastly grin, as the eyes continued to boggle. The slime slipped away in lumps, revealing the being’s flesh. It was pink, but a much brighter pink than human skin, and it was marked all over with big, yellow pustules.
Then the creature spoke.
“BLOBBY BLOBBY BLOBBY!!” the creature roared in a primitive tongue. It stooped and with both hands splashed the slime over the waltzer. Sarah screamed at the stringy, gelatinous slime sloshing over her. She cowered in the car as the hulk approached, her eyes boggling almost as much as the beast’s. She was frozen, unable to react, as it upturned a bucket over her head.
“BLOBBY BLOBBY BLOBBY!”
“Euugghhh!!” Sarah moaned as the gronky glop oozed over her hair and down the back of her neck. “You bastard!” Her fear replaced with indignation, she punched the oafish creature on its small red nose.
“AWWW BLOBBY-BLOB!” The eyelashes fluttered, and then the brute keeled over with a splash, sinking into the rancid muck.
To her great relief, Sarah didn’t have to wait to see if the thing would resurface. The waltzer restarted and transported her from the dingy chamber and into a winding passageway. Smirking with satisfaction at the way she had seen off her adversary, Sarah was caught completely off-guard when foam sprayed from the wall on both sides, engulfing her head and upper body.
“Plaaahhh!” By the time Sarah wiped her eyes, she was greeted by daylight and a sea of flashbulbs. The waltzer had come to a final stop, inside a little alcove set in one of the temple’s great stone walls.
“Well, hello there Sarah! Did you enjoy your trip?” The suit-clad Asian stood beside the alcove, smarmy and smug as ever. Sarah rippled with fury as she fidgeted in the seat, feeling the cold, sticky goo squelch around her bum.
“Yeah, very funny Chung,” muttered the foamy girl. “Now how do I get out of here?”
“Oh, you’re not going anywhere yet,” simpered Chung. “I still have to pull the final lever!”
“Final lever!? NO!!” yelled Sarah, but her protestations were drowned out by a wailing siren. A downpour of pink gunge erupted from above, with a surging central deluge accompanied by smaller peripheral jetlets. Sarah hated pink – the colour of traditional feminine stereotypes. She had never worn pink in her life, but now she was set to wear it all over – the girliest shade of pink imaginable – from her ruined bob hairstyle down to her bare, squirming feet.
Sarah’s head shook under the torrent. She cursed and moaned as the coursing gunge finished her off. When the deluge finally abated, the head priest approached to deliver his pardon.
“Sarah, you have served your penance,” confirmed Chung, “and are duly absolved of your wrongdoing.” She looked down at her shoes and tights, seeing globs of the pink slime clinging to them. “Not again!” she hissed. “I’m going to sort this out once and for all!” She turned on her gunge-splattered heels.
“Ann, where are you off to this time?” enquired a bemused Fairfax.
“I need to find Johnson and Fraser.”
“What concern are they of yours?” shrugged Fairfax. “They’re free women now – none of our business. Maybe they’ve already left the temple.”
“They haven’t left,” said Chung impatiently. “They’re here, causing trouble!”
Fairfax smirked, his moustache wagging. “And how could you know that?”
For this Chung had no answer – at least, none that she wanted to divulge to her buffoon of a boss.
Fairfax took out his pipe. “Listen Ann, we only have Miss Montague-Fawkes’ penance still to go. Why don’t we get this wretched business done and dusted, then we can go back to the consulate for G&Ts, eh?”
“Fine” snapped Chung. “Where is she then?”
“Oh er, I’m not too sure.” Fairfax looked around. “Miss Montague-Fawkes?” he called.
Tessa did not materialise.
“Miss Montague-Fawkes?” Fairfax repeated, louder.
The crowd of reporters were hushed now. There was no sound except the beating of rain.
“MISS MONTAGUE-FAWKES!!” bellowed Fairfax. His clipped upper-class accent echoed around the temple.
The reporter from Bloke magazine stepped under the press barrier and approached Fairfax.
“You looking for the tall blonde bird? Huge knockers?”
Fairfax looked at the man disdainfully. “Uh, yes, well, I suppose that’s one way you could describe…”
“She’s gone mate,” said the reporter. “Off down the mountainside. She promised to do a photo shoot in return for me not grassing her. Oh, and she said you’ll be hearing from her daddy.”
“Golly gosh!” exclaimed Fairfax. “Ann, get onto the consular staff! We must find her before the local pol—Ann?”
Fairfax turned to address his assistant, but she too had scarpered.