Frontier moves out into space-time – William S Burroughs
Dewalt Festoon’s fingers were long and bony; he was dressed like an English gentleman in the fashion of the early twentieth century. His age was indeterminate, his luxuriant hair a distinguished, executive grey. He sat at an enormous, antique desk tapping his long bony fingers in time to a lazy, ‘jungle style’ recording of The Mooche by Duke Ellington and His Cotton Club Orchestra. There was a business-like knock on the door.
Yes? Said Festoon over the sound of jazz.
The door opened. He turned off the music.
Miss Jenny Junket was a sultry blond in a Jet Age Flight Attendant’s uniform. She came in, shut the door behind her and leaned against it. When the door opened Festoon had glimpsed, briefly, the outer office with several plastic chairs, and a huge wall poster advertising ‘Omniversal Time Agency, Inc. Any Time Any Where No Job Too Small’. In red letters, on the frosted glass window of the door was the name: ‘Festoon’.
There’s Dexter Pemberton downstairs, says you wanted to see him…
Oh yeah right well shoo him in sweetheart, said Festoon, shoo him in, or up, as the case may be.
There’s a girl called Skip with him, said Miss Junket
Skip? Skip who? Skip what?
No idea, said Miss Junket, new sidekick?
Huh, said Festoon.
She’s a knockout, said Jenny Junket.
Well shoo both of them either in or up, said Festoon.
Jenny Junket opened the door, sashayed to her desk, pressed a switch and shouted into a microphone,
Will you please come up Mr Pemberton –and oh, and er Miss er Skip?
Festoon winced at the sound of Miss Junket’s abrasive shout. Will she never learn?
After a decent interval during which time he polished his nails, gazed out of the plate glass office window at the vast panorama of Cineapolis below and inspected his new e-cigarette holder, the door opened and Miss Junket re-entered.
Mr Dexter Pemberton and um Miss um Skip! She bellowed. Somewhere in the far distance a dog barked.
Pemberton entered, followed by his new sidekick, Skip.
I say Junket, where did you get that snazzy uniform? Pemberton asked with that roguish smile of his.
Mother ran it up for me on his old Singer Sewing Machine, said Miss Junket
Exquisite taste, eh Dex? Festoon said.
Dexter ‘Dex’ Pemberton and Dewalt Festoon went back a long way, several centuries at least.
Will that be all, sir? Asked Miss Junket.
Thanks honey-bun, said Festoon
See you later alligator, quipped Dex.
Miss Junket grinned, clicked her heels, blew Dex a kiss and left the room, shutting the door behind her.
Dex turned to Festoon, Allow me to introduce Miss Wilmott.
Yes, sir, Wilma Wilmott, sir. But everyone calls me Skip, sir.
Welcome aboard, Wilmott, said Festoon.
Thank you, sir.
We met at the Snow Bomb Banqueting Suite, said Dex.
Where else, indeed, said Dex.
Now what’s this all about? Asked Dex as he lowered his lean, sinewy frame into a comfortable armchair.
Miss Wilmott remained standing.
Looks like Desmond is in a spot of bother, said Festoon.
What, where, when? how? Asked Dex.
Good Old Earth, The Dark Continent circa 1900 or thereabouts.
He’s been taken by that witch Agnetha Laviche du Cane – he’s imprisoned beneath the Mountains of the Moon.
Phew! Dex whistled. Skip has an interest in this caper, he said. Show us, Skip.
Miss Wilmott touched an elaborate jewelled bracelet and her outfit was instantly transformed from a chic Dior New Look two-piece into a Ladies’ Safari outfit from the early twentieth century. Wide-brimmed hat, long ankle-length skirt, sturdy boots and all the trimmings. She was holding a rather chic pearl-handled revolver.
What’s this? Asked Festoon. Looks promising.
I was under cover as Laetitia Davenport, intrepid foreign correspondent for The Pall Mall Gazette, explained Skip. I know all about the Mountains of the Moon and I know all about the Typhonian Tunnels.
Well done! Exclaimed the supremo… Scotch?
Thanks, said Dex.
But that’s not all, said Festoon, handing round the drinks.
And? Skip asked gently rattling ice in her tumbler.
Seems like our Corporal Desmond has fallen victim to a rather nasty form of so-called demonic possession, Festoon went on.
These things happen in the Dark Continent, in the Forbidden Territory, Dex muttered.
Listen to this, listen very carefully, said Festoon.
He touched a switch on the elaborate desk-console. Suddenly the office was filled with a hideous, but faint caterwauling noise almost drowned-out by waves of static, eerie hissing sounds and irritating blips.
Oh soddit! Hang on, said Festoon as he fiddled with his filter control.
The ghastly caterwauling cacophony became more distinct and started to sound like a noxious, fiendish, jabbering, liturgical chant; alien, hideous and terrifying – totally inhuman and very hostile.
That voice? Is that poor old Desmond? Asked Dex.
What we want to know, Dex, is this; what the hell is going on? Find out and sort it out!
Festoon turned the volume down somewhat. It’s some ‘thing’, some force that’s taken his voice for its own vile purpose.
Reckon I’ve heard that disgusting, hellish stutter somewhere before, murmured Dex, racking his brains and stroking his smooth-shaven, jutting, angular jaw.
Sure as hell you have, said Dewalt Festoon. Remember that nasty spot of bother in Cairo, back in ’56?
Of course! Exclaimed Dex, it’s the Exogenous Belvedere-Ormonde effect!
Well, it might be, said Festoon, or it might be that evil bitch Agnetha Laviche du Cane pulling a tricky trick, you know what she’s like – it’s your job to find out.
Righto, said Dex, getting up. No time like the present! Okay with you, Skip?
Nada problemo, said Skip, twirling her revolver like a Mexican gunslinger.
Festoon switched on his intercom and pressed a button.
Yes, sir? It was the sultry tones of buxom Miss Junket.
Get on the blower to Department KG and tell ‘em I want those damn Typhonian Tunnels working, and pronto!
Yes, sir, said Miss Junket.
Well, Skip, we’re off to the Outer Darkness, off to The Mountains of the Moon!
No problem, said Skip.
Good luck, said Festoon.
Come fly with me! Dex quipped in a spoof American accent.
Miss Wilmott glanced at Festoon and rolled her eyes as they headed for the door.
This was it, the moment of truth, as they say.
They left the room, the door closed and Festoon returned to The Mooche, tapping his long bony fingers to the lazy rhythm on the top of his huge, antique desk.
Just another day at the office.
A C Evans
Illustration nick Victor