Arthur looked very dead. He wasn’t breathing, he was cold to the touch and there was no heartbeat. Which didn’t necessarily mean he was dead. Or that he couldn’t be resuscitated. You can’t think like a normie in these situations, especially when you have the power of healing in your fingertips. The important thing was to take action immediately, which I did. After I closed his robe.
Once I wasn’t being stared at by that gnarled monstrosity, I was able to concentrate on bringing him back. It might even have ended up working to my advantage if I saved his life (assuming he didn’t remember I was the one who took it from him in the first place).
There was, however, a slight problem. When I placed my hands on his chest and made the finger movements that had become second nature to me, nothing happened.
No glowing, no healing, no magic.
I tried a number of times, each one a complete failure. I tried to create a light, and that didn’t work, either.
It wasn’t like the engine was refusing to turn over, it was like there wasn’t an engine there. Had Arthur taken my ability away from me? Was it part of the training? He had definitely done something to my mind when he touched me, but I didn’t want to lose the one useful ability I had in order to gain one I had no idea what to do with.
I would have had strong words with him about it, if I hadn’t already killed him.
Even though his methods were a bit strange, I genuinely believed he could have shown me how to use these new powers of mine. Now he was dead, which meant less homework, but also, no graduation ceremony.
There was some noise as the others turned up; gasps and exclamations. Jenny led them, looking fresh and clean, her hair still a bit wet. She scrubbed up well. The others were in a similar newly bathed state.
“What happened?” said Jenny, surprisingly calm considering I was crouched over a corpse. “And can you close his robe?”
How bad you see a situation often depends on the angle you’re looking at it from. I rearranged his robe to be more modest.
“Did you do it?” asked Claire.
“No. Not intentionally.”
“Can’t yo’ heal him?” said Flossie.
“I tried. It’s not working. I think the training might have affected my ability to do magic. Claire, you try.”
Claire knelt down and placed her hands on Arthur’s chest. His robe slipped open again. It seemed to be made of some friction-free Teflon material designed by NASA.
I turned my head away and noticed something odd. There were all a bit wet at the edges, as you’d expect after a bath, but they were also equally wet.
“Did you lot have a bath together?” They looked a bit sheepish. I turned to Jenny. “I go off for one second to fetch some stone tablets from the mountain, and you immediately start cavorting around a golden calf.”
“You’re Moses in this analogy?” Jenny asked.
“Yes, I’m Moses. A plague on your house.”
“There wasn’t enough hot water,” said Flossie. “And it were a big bath. If you’re upset about them seeing your girlfriend naked, you can have a look at my baps, if you want.”
She began unbuttoning her shirt.
“No!” I screamed.
She stopped. “You’re a bit of a prude, aren’t yo’?”
“Yes, it’s called being English. I don’t know what you people are turning into, but it’s not good. What’s next? You going to start ordering the Continental breakfast? Three-foot stick of bread and a handful of olives? We aren't savages.”
“It’s not working,” said Claire. She’d been too focused on trying to revive Arthur to join in with Flossie’s offer to strip off, thankfully. “Nothing’s happening.”
“Same as me.” I looked at the others—Dudley and Maurice avoided eye contact. Jenny and Maurice were the only ones Arthur hadn’t helped. “You, hussy, try to make a light.”
Jenny ignored the name-calling and tried the finger manipulations to create a ball of light. She was by far the worst of us at magic, but she did manage to produce a slight glow. It disappeared immediately, but at least it proved my theory. Arthur had somehow stolen my magic from me.
“What about you?” I said to Maurice.
He got a glow even less impressive than Jenny’s, but that was probably because he knew he'd broken the bro code and shame had dulled his senses.
Neither of them had been able to do any healing, although they knew the moves. If they were Arthur’s only chance of being resurrected, there would be no Easter miracle.
On the other hand, he could have been beyond saving, and we were just wasting our time.
“We should get him in the house and hide the body,” I said.
“Hide him?” said Claire. “Are you afraid the police might start asking questions?”
“No, Claire. You seem to have forgotten he’s the favourite religious icon for a group of tentacle-faced druids. How do you think they’re going to react when they find out we killed their messiah. Tell us off for being naughty?”
“We?” said Claire. “How is this our fault? You killed him.”
They always abandon you in the end. Do I mean women? Do I mean friends? No, I mean everyone.
“I’m joking,” said Claire. “Stop looking at me like I’ve betrayed you.”
“That was a joke?”
“Yes. And I don’t want a critique of my delivery. I know how to make a joke.”
“Have you considered sharing that information with your face?”
Claire pinched her lips together, which could have been her being pissed off, or possibly the start of a comedy skit. “It’s called being deadpan, you miserable fuck. Women can be funny too, you know? And also, everyone here has seen your girlfriend naked.” I winced. “Oh, you felt that, didn’t you, Mr Untouchable.”
I stopped before I could say whatever devastating putdown was about to come out of my mouth. She was right. I had felt it. Not only that, I had also seen it.
As she had said laid into me, a black vine had jumped out of her stomach and plunged into mine, injecting me with anger and embarrassment and insecurity, and all the other stupid emotions you feel when you get upset over what other people do.
I looked at the cable bridging the gap between us. It was solid and firmly attached to us both. I reached out my hand, grabbed it, and yanked.
The texture was smooth and cold. It broke, and then crumbled, like dry leaves. I felt a lot better.
“What was that?” said Jenny. They were all staring at me.
“You didn’t see it?”
They shook their heads. My gaze passed from one to the next. My mood had definitely changed. I didn’t feel as annoyed with them. I didn’t care so much about them messing about in a tub full of bubble bath.
I looked at Jenny and she smiled at me. I guess that meant she was feeling something good from me.
It was a development, although I still wasn’t sure what it meant. I didn’t have full control of it, but I could see a bit more. I looked down at Arthur. It would have been nice to have someone to help me understand.
“We have to get him inside and then we should leave.” We had some time before it got dark, but once the dragons got here, at least we’d have a ride out of the city. I just had to figure out where to go now.
Dudley grabbed Arthur’s legs and clamped one foot under each armpit. Maurice and I took an arm each, and Flossie held his robe closed, which made moving more awkward, but no one stopped her. You wouldn’t understand unless you’ve seen hundred-year-old balls.
Getting him up the stairs was a bit tricky. We may have bumped him into a wall or two. The first room we came to had an unmade bed in it so we manoeuvred him in and dumped him on it. We collapsed on the carpet to catch our breath. No one wanted to sit on a bed with a dead guy.
“Shame we can’t stay here,” said Flossie. “There’s plenty of room.”
“Yeah,” I said. “We could Weekend at Bernie him. Prop him up whenever anyone comes around, attach strings to his arms. They’d never know.”
“Do you, um, ah, think that would work?” said Dudley from over by the window.
“What? No, of course not.” I had the horrible feeling Claire’s lack of comic timing had rubbed off on me.
“Only, you see, the thing is, we appear to be about to have guests.” He pointed out of the window. “If I’m not very much mistaken.”
We scrambled over to the window. There was a group of druids entering the grounds, around the side of the gate. It was only a small delegation of four, but if they found out what we’d done, there would be consequences. We would quite literally become plant food.
“We could not answer the door,” said Flossie. “There’s a hex on it.”
“Who do you think put the hex on it?” said Maurice. “Arthur couldn’t do that sort of thing, could he?”
He had a raised an interesting point, at a completely inappropriate moment. So same ol’, same ol’.
“The hex doesn’t matter,” I said. “They’ll get in through the broken windows like last time. Our only hope is to convince them he doesn’t want to be disturbed.”
There was a murmur of agreement. He was a crotchety old guy who treated the druids with contempt, so it was a believable ploy.
“It won’t work, though, will it?” said Maurice.
“Nope. They’ll want to hear it from the man himself. If we try too hard to stop them, we’ll make them suspicious.”
“You don’t know that,” said Claire. I gave her a look which she didn’t need to be able to mind read to understand. “Okay, never mind. So, how do we stop them?”
“We don’t,” I said. “Not unless you fancy getting sap on your hands. They’re going to burst in, which is why we have to make it look like Arthur’s doing something they can’t interrupt.”
They all looked blank, no idea what I was talking about. Same ol’, same ol’.
“Jenny, you have to pretend to be having sex with him.”
“Oh, now who’s the prude?”
“I’m not going to have sex with a dead guy.”
“Pretend. Pretend to have sex. They’ll barge in, realise he’s indisposed, and piss off mumbling apologies, assuming they aren’t of Italian descent and think it’s a bunga bunga party.”
“No,” said Jenny.
I turned around. “Flossie. You do it.”
It was clearly a solid plan.They were just being short-sighted. “Dudley, you’ll have to do it.”
“Hey,” said Claire. “Why did you skip me?”
“Would you have agreed?”
“No! But you could still have asked.”
“You’re upset because I didn’t ask you to shag a dead guy?” There’s no pleasing some people.
There was knocking at the door. It was sharp and insistent.
“Look, I’m the leader. I give the orders. I’m going to answer the door and delay them as long as I can. Maybe they’ll leave, but let’s be realistic, they won’t. And if they find out he’s kaput, we’re all kaput. So talk it out amongst yourselves, but when they burst through that door, one of you fuckers better be sucking his cold, dead cock.”
There was another knock. Banging might be a more apt term.
“Why one of us?” asked Claire, arms folded defiantly. “Why not you?”
“I would, but someone has to answer the door, don’t they?”
It was my own fault for not choosing my words more carefully. I’ve never seen them move so fast. The next second, I was alone in the room with my new boyfriend. Worst blind date ever.
I turned him over onto his stomach and bunched up his legs so his bum was sticking up. Yes, I was going through with my plan. It was a good plan, a solid plan. It made sense. They weren’t going to ask why he was flopping about with his eyes closed if they walked in on us going at it like two Chippendales between shows.
I pushed his robe up and his balls were somehow still visible. No one appreciates what you have to do to survive in a fantasy world. It’s all magic swords and fairy princesses. Well, welcome to the reality of life in Middle-Earth. I dropped my trousers.
Obviously, I would be faking it. I’m sure you were wondering. But I had to make it look real. I knelt on the bed and grabbed Arthur by his geriatric hips, repositioning him for the best view from the doorway while grumbling about ingrates who’d never had a good idea in their lives. I prepared to start thrusting when I heard the footsteps thundering up the stairs. There was a small chance they would be able to fob the druids off with some story, but I didn’t have much faith in that outcome. They weren’t good at blagging it and the universe hated me.
It was up to me and Arthur to save the day, as only real men knew how.
There was a thud and shouting. Feet stampeded up the steps. I began thrusting in what I assumed was a sexy manner.
“Arggh,” screamed Arthur. “What’s happening!”
Arthur jumped away from me, I jumped away from him. The door flew open and druids burst in on us in various states of undress at either end of the bed.
“Oh. Ah. Sorry to disturb you.” The druids backed out with apologetic faces and closed the door behind them.
See? I told you it was a solid plan.