Yes, the title is ironic.
As Mentioned on Monday, I wrote this story for Wookie. She told me that when she was young, her mum used to make up stories for her. In these stories she was called Jane and she lived with her dog Rover in a little house with a red door. So I decided to write my own version of one of these stories, and typically, it turned out to be a completely bleak tale. Nice one Jon. I tried to put in a few little touches too - she once told me that she’d always wished that she’d been a teenager in the 60’s which suggested the setting, and Rover was a bulldog, because, well, she likes bulldogs.
It’s a bit long this one, so I’ve split it into two parts. You can read the second half next week. Bet you’re excited already, aren’t you? ;)
The Apple Pip Trip
If you’ve ever longed for adventure, and been afraid you may actually find it, then you’ll probably understand the following story. It takes place on a snowy winter’s evening in 1966, and as we sweep over chimney tops and past white-dusted trees, we come to the window of a young girl. This is Jane. And tonight, Jane is excited, because she knows that after tonight, nothing will ever be the same again. She’s possessed by an electric charge that runs through her body, willing her towards The Unknown. But The Unknown will have to wait a while, because Jane hasn’t finished getting ready yet.
Davey Jones and the Monkees blasted out from the record player as Jane applied her lipstick. She could hear Rover scratching at her bedroom door.
“Rover! I’m trying to get ready! Hold on!” Jane hastily finished putting her face on. She dabbed her lips on a tissue and admired herself in the mirror. Perfect. Well, perfect-ish. She grabbed the flier for the The Apple Pip Trip and her long red coat. Time to go. She opened her bedroom door and her bulldog Rover bound around her legs, almost tripping her up.
“Ok, ok, I’m ready! Let’s hit the town!” She put Rover’s lead on and left her house, locking the cherry red door behind her. It was a dark winter night, and the snow was falling heavily. Jane tied a headscarf on and set off into the darkness, as Rover yapped contentedly alongside.
After a long, and largely inconsequential bus journey, the details of which I shan’t bore you with, Jane arrived in town. The bus driver shouted at her as she disembarked.
“Miss! You better not stay out too late! The snow’s falling heavy, like. I dunno how much longer we’ll be running for.” Jane smiled.
“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine!” And she was pretty sure she would be. After all, she was heading to the hottest night in town; all the freaks and geeks would be out to cause a scene. A crazy scene, man.
Jane walked towards the Luxa club with some trepidation. Was she ready for this? She’d only just turned 17 after all, and she’d never really been out on her own before. Suddenly, she was shaken from her thoughts by a small girl rushing past.
“I’m late, I’m late!” Cried the little girl as she ran. She was wearing a dress that seemed to be all the colours at once, and Jane couldn’t but notice the large rabbit embroidered onto the back of the pink waistcoat she wore. She must be freezing, thought Jane.
“Excuse me miss!” Called Jane. The girl froze mid-mutter and turned quickly to look at Jane.
“Whatwhatwhat? I’m terribly late, what is it?” If it wasn’t for the softly falling snow, Jane could have swore that time had stood still for a second. She composed herself.
“Oh, it’s just that you look terribly cold, and I wondered if you had far to go?” The bunny girl looked at Jane for a second, and then twitched her nose.
“No, not far – I’m going to the Apple Pip Trip at the Luxa. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m extremely late.” Jane gasped.
“Why – I’m heading there too! I heard it’s an amazing night out. Wait, I’ll come with you!” The bunny girl twitched her nose again.
“My name’s Rabbit. You can follow me – but you’ll have to be quick!” And with that, she ran off. Jane and Rover followed, running as fast as they could across the floury snow.
“I’m Jane!” Yelled Jane as they ran. But Rabbit didn’t seem to notice.
When they got to the Luxa, there was already quite a queue. The patrons looked like they were dressed for the carnival – bright colours, frills, make-up, all smiles and cigarettes and hugs. Rabbit ran straight past them towards the doorman, yelling ‘Out of my way, I’m late!’ as she ran. She finally reached the doorman, who almost had to catch her.
“I’m late, I’m la-“
“It’s alroit, Rabbit, oi know yer are. Who’s this?” The bulky brummie doorman (who’s name, gentle reader, was Brian) raised a large meaty fist, before unleashing a sausage-sized pointing finger at Jane.
“I’m Jane,” said Jane, which was true, because she was.
“Alroit, in you two go. Behave yerselves.” And with that, Brian unhooked the velvet rope and let them into the club. Jane followed Rabbit into the darkness that lay beyond, and just for a second, she fancied she was falling.
“Don’t worry, you’re not falling,” said Rover. Well Rover must be right thought Jane. After all, if they were falling, he would have been in a right old state. Although –
“Rover, I didn’t know you could talk.”
“Ah, young Jane, there are many things about me that you are as yet unaware of,” barked Rover, and he attempted a dog smile. Now smiling is not a thing that canines are accustomed to, and quite frankly, Rover made a bit of a dog’s dinner of it. ‘But I suppose that’s only to be expected, given the circumstances’ thought Jane to herself.
A curtain parted, and Jane and Rover found themselves in a most strange and unusual place. Filled with heavy red curtains and a thick fug of smoke, Jane could only see the dark shapes of people milling about, as if their owners had gone for a wee, and left their shadows behind to mind the drinks. The music blared from unseen speakers, and it was a strange sound, the likes of which Jane had never heard before. She managed to make her way to the bar, where a tall skinny bartender stood. He looked up at her from beneath a long mop of hair.
“Hello love. What are you having?” Jane smiled at him.
“Goodness, it’s smokey in here, isn’t it? I’ll just have a lemonade thanks.” The bartender looked surprised for a second, then closed his eyes, as if conducting a conversation with a higher power that could neither be heard, nor seen by anyone else. Presently, his eyes opened again. He turned and pulled a dark green bottle from the shelf.
“I think you should have one of these instead,” he said smiling. As he poured the drink, smoke escaped from the bottle. He handed the steaming, yet strangely cold drink to Jane.
“What is it?” Asked Jane.
“The only drink you’ll ever need.” He showed her the bottle. The glass was green, and the black, peeling label bore only the simple legend ‘Drink me.’ Jane picked up the glass, shrugged, and took a sip. It tasted cold and sweet, like a honey-flavoured ice pop. She smiled at the bartender.
“It’s good!” And with a big wink (he really was quite a good-looking bartender, reader), Jane polished off the rest of the drink with one big slug. She popped the drink down on the bar. It was delicious, but – hang on – something was changing. Suddenly, the room seemed to be vibrating, and with each vibration it changed colour. First Rose, then Teal, then Azure, then Lemon. As the colours flowed, the room seemed to be breathing. It was as if she was attempting to look into a kaleidoscope through another kaleidoscope. The music seemed to become louder, and more intense, and the room appeared to be growing larger and larger. ‘Well this is most curious’ she thought to herself, and Rover’s head, which was now twenty metres wide nodded in agreement. ‘How could Rover be taller than me?’ she wondered.
“Rover! How have you got so very tall all of a sudden?” Rover laughed, and the sound was booming.
“My dear, I haven’t grown – you’ve become terribly small!” With a start, Jane realised that Rover was right. She had become so very small indeed – so small in fact, that she was very nearly crushed by a high heel that crashed down just inches from her tiny body. ‘Well, this simply won’t do at all!’ though Jane, and she began to run. She dodged and weaved as groovy shoes and slinky stilettos as she raced through the maze of footwear, desperate to find safe haven somewhere. There! A mouse hole! Jane accelerated towards the rodent residence with haste, and narrowly managed to dash in before she was crushed by a large boot. ‘That was a narrow squeek!’ though Jane.
“No,” said a voice. “This is a narrow squeek. Sqweeeeeek!” Jane’s eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, and a mousy figure stepped out of the darkness.
“My goodness,” said Jane. “Can you read my thoughts?”
“I can do more than that,” said the figure. “I assume you’re here for an adventure?”
“I suppose I must be,” said Jane. ”Who are you?”
“Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Jim Mousisson. Poet, singer and adventurer. Can you dig it? My meat is real. Look at my hands – see how they shimmer and sparkle. See how my fur rustles like corn in the wind. Listen to my words and know that I’m real, but not real. You might call me a mouse, but I roar like a king in need of some restraint. I can be a guide or an obstacle; all you have to do is push in the right direction.”
“Well,” said Jane, who was suddenly very practical. “I should think a guide would be more useful. Where to then Jim?”
“Well, I think we should start by travelling across the candy ocean to the City of Paper,” said Jim. And so they did.
“Open up!” Yelled Jim. They had arrived at the gates of the City of Paper and he was attempting to gain entry. So far, he was not having a lot of success. This was largely dud to the rather portly origami penguin that was blocking the entrance.
“Password please” squawked the bird.
“I’m afraid we don’t know the password,” said Jane. “Perhaps we could sing you a song instead?” The penguin looked slightly perplexed.
“What sort of song?” Asked Jane. Jim winked at her.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got this one.” And with that, he began to sing a song of lost love and dark rainy windows. His voice was pitched slightly too high for the emotions the song contained, and yet the penguin was visibly touched, as tears ran down his face.
“That’s a beautiful song,” sniffed the penguin. “But I’m afraid I still cannot let you in.”
“Then I’m afraid we’ll just have to let ourselves in,” said Jim, and he strode past the penguin. The penguin attempted to stop Jim and Jane, but his tears had made him so soggy that he couldn’t even lift his spear, and so the pair met little resistance.
They strode through the town. In the distance they could see a fine castle, made from the finest golden yellow crepe paper. As they walked towards it, they saw the city’s paper inhabitants going about their business. They all looked sad, as if they carried a terrible burden. They were all slightly blackened and dirty at the corners, as if they’d been working hard in a place that was not well suited to their bright white costumes. Some of them carried paper pickaxes and all of them looked tired. As Jane and Jim moved on, they eventually reached a large square. Around the edges, the square was covered in beautiful green grass and pretty paper flowers. But in the centre, was a giant pit. Paper people were emerging from the pit, pushing great big wheelbarrows full of ore. They were propelled in their duties by the music that emanated from the organs of large paper gorillas armed with hurdy gurdies. Jane approached one of the large gorillas.
“Excuse me,” said Jane, in her politest tone of voice (for she was a very polite girl indeed). “Where are we?” The large ape turned stiffly to look at her, without pausing his hurdy gurdy playing at all.
“This is Itchycoo park,” he said. A passing paper man carrying a large heavy bundle, laughed sourly.
“At least it used to be!” He snorted.
“Shaddup you! Keep working!” shouted the Gorilla.
“What are these poor men doing?” Asked Jane.
“They’re collecting ore for the king. It’s being smelted into metal at the forge,” replied the gorilla. “And hold on, why aren’t you working in the pit?”
“Oh, we’re pit inspectors,” said Jim. “Now good sir, which way is the forge?” The gorilla pointed vaguely to the west, and then started to play slightly faster. The paper men quickened their pace accordionly.
“I think we should check this forge out,” said Jim.
The air was thick with the smell of burning paper. As Jim and Jane approached the forge, two men ran out from the front door, carrying between them a stretcher containing a large pile of ashes. Our adventurers stepped into the forge and were instantly blasted with an intense heat that almost threatened to remove the very skin from their faces. Shielding themselves from the heat, they moved towards the large melting pot in the middle of the room, from where the heat was emanating. Paper men were throwing the ore into the vat, while a large eagle looked on severely. Every now and then a spark would fly out and set fire to one of the paper men. At which point, he would roll around on the floor trying to put himself out. On the shelves all around were large blocks of silver.
“I think it’s time we went to see this king,” said Jane.
They arrived at the yellow gold palace, and Jim managed to use his verbal fire-flys to reduce the penguin gate guards to a soggy mess. They threw open the large doors and walked into the throne room. At the far end, wearing a paper crown, sat a large rotund man that could only have been the paper king.
“Ah! Visitors! How wonderful! So rare these days. My name is King Calligraphy – welcome to the City of Paper!”
“Enough of that!” Said Jane. “What’s going on here? Your people are enslaved! They’re getting all black and filthy in that pit, and the forge is burning them alive! What could possibly be so important to reduce your people to paper puppets?”
“Ah. Yes. Well. It’s perhaps not as simple as it looks.” King Calligraphy paused for a second, and then fixed Jim and Jane with a look. “You see, the City of Paper has a little problem. We’ve lived here by the Candy Ocean for a million years in origamic-bliss. But last year, a paper dragon named Donovan turned up and threatened to turn us all to ash unless we filled his lair with silver goblets and princesses.”
“I see!” said Jim. “But presumably, you’re actually going to use the silver to make a suit of armour, that you can wear to protect yourself from Donovan, when you go to smite him?” King Calligraphy suddenly looked a little guilty, and shuffled his feet.
“Er, no, we were just going to make the goblets actually. But your arrival is fortunate however. Guards, seize them!” Paper penguins suddenly waddled into the arena, and grabbed Jane and Jim from behind, before bopping them into unconsciousness. And at that point, everything (as is traditional, dear reader) went black.
Will Jane be able to defeat the dragon? Will Rover return? And what exactly is Rabbit late for? Tune in next week for Part II of our ‘exciting’ story!