Bodkins the Great
by Bill Bowler
|part 1 of 6|
An ambitious spaceship’s porter is marooned on an alien planet where his every wish, nay, his every thought is fulfilled by the obliging inhabitants. Life is just splendid — until company comes...
At mid-day the sky grew dark. Thick clouds gathered and thunder rolled across the low, rippling sky. The wind picked up, blowing dust and light debris, and big drops began to splash down. Within moments, a downpour flooded the square and the good citizens of Bodkinsville fled for cover.
Bodkins the Great, Father of all Bodmoids, stood on the palace verandah and gazed grimly at the cloudburst. Picnic lunch was packed. The guests were invited. Bodkins was gaily dressed but his face was ashen and spray from the falling drops splashed on his trouser legs.
“Where is that idiot?” he wondered.
The Bodmoid guards moved across the square and, moments later, dragged the cringing weatherman in their powerful tentacles up onto the verandah.
“You know why you’re here?” whispered Bodkins.
“Fair and mild was your forecast, if I’m not mistaken?”
“I’m sorry, your Munificence,” sobbed the weatherman. He fell prostrate at Bodkins’ feet, “Mercy, your Lordship! I have a wife. Two children!”
Weary beyond belief, Bodkins waved his arm. The guards wrapped their tentacles around the weeping weatherman and removed him from sight. Bodkins sighed deeply and looked again across the rain swept square, his restless thoughts already moving on, focused, perhaps, on some pressing matter of State.
But things had not always been this way...
* * *
The smell of urine wafted into his nostrils as young Baldemar Bodkins leaned over the toilet bowl and scrubbed the yellowed rim with a stiff brush. His shoulder ached, his knees were stiff from kneeling on the hard tiles, but... his mind was elsewhere.
He was General, no, Field Marshal Bodkins, in full dress uniform, epaulettes and leather boots. Each swipe of Bodkins’ brush launched a wave of heavily armed hovertanks that enveloped the enemy’s flank and cut off his line of retreat. Victory was certain. The people would be grateful. His beautiful young wife...
“Where’s the porter?”
Baldemar launched another wave of tanks.
Baldemar stopped brushing. The lavatory door swung open and Captain Febus entered. Baldemar stood sheepishly and hung his head beneath the captain’s stern gaze.
“Bodkins, the sink is clogged in my quarters.”
“Yes, sir. Right away, sir.”
“Well, don’t just stand there!”
The enemy’s flank would have to wait.
Bodkins gathered his tools and took the lift to the Captain’s quarters. The stupid captain was such a pain. Why couldn’t he keep his drain clear? Was that so hard? Maybe if he’d cut his stupid hair it wouldn’t fall in the sink and clog the pipe.
The captain’s sink was set atop a large polished titanium cabinet that concealed the pipes beneath. Baldemar gazed at the pool of standing water with a scum of soap suds and loose hair floating on its surface. He knelt down and opened the cabinet doors. The valve was in the rear against the wall, out of reach.
Muttering under his breath about poor design, Baldemar leaned forward, climbed headfirst into the cramped cabinet, and banged his head against a pipe. He yelped with pain, cursing the pipe and the captain.
Baldemar was bent in two, wedged into the cramped cabinet, stretching for the valve to turn off the water, when he heard a tremendous explosion and felt the ship rock and shudder. Baldemar was thrown against the wall of the cabinet. He heard the ship’s alarm and the footsteps and shouts of the crew racing down the narrow corridors.
Baldemar struggled to extricate himself and crawl backwards out of the cramped cabinet. A second explosion rocked the ship. He was thrown to the floor and the ship was plunged into darkness. Baldemar smelled smoke and his stomach churned as he felt the ship veer into a spiral. We’re going to crash! he thought. I don’t want to die!
The next thing he knew, he was upside down. There was no light and no sound. He tasted something warm and salty. The cabinet doors were blocked but he managed to push them open with his legs and slide out. In the pitch black, coughing from smoke, bruised and aching but apparently still in one piece, he stumbled through loose debris out to the corridor.
He felt his way along the wall until he tripped on something and fell against an emergency exit, pushing open the escape hatch. Blinded by the sudden light, he tumbled out through the hatch face first down into a sand dune and lost consciousness again.
Baldemar’s next sensation was that of being lifted gently from the dune, turned over like a pancake, and laid carefully back down on his back. He groaned, opened his eyes, focused, and was startled to find himself in the grip of four long and powerful tentacles whose bases surrounded a single large unblinking yellow eye. The creature released its grip on him and stood to its full height, towering over the injured space porter.
Baldemar struggled to rise and the creature extended a tentacle and helped him to a sitting position. Behind the creature, Baldemar saw the smoldering remains of the wrecked ship. Two huge holes gaped in the fuselage and one tail fin was blown off. The ship had crashed nose first into deep sand.
Baldemar looked around for the others, for Capt. Febus and the rest of the crew, for another human being, any human being. Groups of one-eyed creatures, walking on six legs and grasping with their head tentacles, surrounded the wreck and were throwing sand into the smoking gashes in the side of the ship, extinguishing the fires that still burned within.
Baldemar took in the scene and his eyes fell upon the rows of corpses lined up not far from where he lay. He looked wildly around, searching for another survivor, but saw only sand, the smoldering wreck, and the large unblinking yellow eye that towered over him.
Several of the creatures, emitting strange whistling noises, lifted Baldemar and carried him over the dunes and up a rocky path to an elevated plateau where scrub brush clung to life among the rocks and scattered stones. Through a gap in a low stone wall, the path led to an open square surrounded by crude domes. The creatures carried Baldemar across the square to the largest dome, through an arched opening, and laid him down inside.
The interior glowed from a dim, unseen light source that cast long shadows. A fragrant scent filled the room. Baldemar heard again the whistling sound and a wrinkled, hunched over creature, with three drooping tentacles and a stub, whose yellow eye was clouded and opaque, emerged from the shadows in the depths of the chamber and crawled slowly towards him on six wobbly pseudopods.
Weary and aching, Baldemar rose unsteadily to his feet as the old creature approached. Hold it right there, you oversized cockroach, thought Baldemar. Give a man some breathing room!
Copyright © 2008 by Bill Bowler