‘Suburban Alchemist’, Rob Sharp

Illustration © 2008 Rachel H. White

 [ Ice Cream van, © 2008 Rachel H. White ]

Wendle sat with his Bloo on a chain, watching the silent seeds cloud the air like upsideways snow. Not that the kitling knew what snow was... that was for the bigger people who lived in the mountainous growths.

The Bloo dribbled and chewed at his restraint, hunched over the wicker-boy like a hairy boulder. Great shoulders holding the reeking neck, bottom jaw too full of molars and lavender. He was a good Bloo... most of the times. Normally he pulled up whacking handfuls of grass and stuffed them in his gob, as kitling and Bloo wandered down from the pleasant hills into the rotting town.


But just a-Wednesdays the great gawp had a little chew at someone. Just a titch...

Bleary-eyed and tailless, Wendle peered out from under his marmalade hat, keeping one bloodshot peeper on his pet. Meat-man had been sniffing around again, offering real shiny—to butcher and render down the Bloo's carcass. Any more nibbling on peoples and it was the Sunday-pot for the great hairy lummox, right as Tuesday it was.

Tuesday, if she was honest (which, as a half-witch and a quarter Fey, she wasn't), rather fancied a string of Bloo sausages herself, all sizzling on a plate. When her kissy-friend Wendle was sky-larking, she would give the Bloo a little pinch to see how much meat was on his bones.

Cherrymost in her new 2-2, with gossamer wings catching the clouds of cotton-like seeds, she skiddled up to the pair and winked.

"Where's ya goin'?" she flooted.

Wendle had his arm half way up his snoot, so it took him a bob to answer the faery-girl. He finally came out with, "No place. Scouting for pennies and bright little things in the dirt... Hope to turn over a buck...".

"Wicker-boy full of it," Tuesday snorted, sneezing thrice. Cotton seeds up her snoot always made her honk like a marsh duck.

Wendle laughed, like a chime of bells. It was a roundy sound. Plumby. He made Tuesday laugh too. Even Bloo tried a whistle, which started the dim pair off again.

Then a tinkling and a wailing drifted out of the fallen streets of the town. The place where the oldsters once shared a kebab. A forgotten song about some reeking sailor and his weird dietary needs drifted out of the silent streets, as the habitats leaned drunk and roofless, with the weeds of Time growing in every crook and granny.

Out of the blighted town came a scratched and dented ice cream van.

On deflating tyres it werbled and sang its merry little tune—a sea-shanty from another time. Faded images of that squinty malformed sailor with his too-skinny girl and a bearded, brutal adversary wrapped themselves around the hallowed automatomobile.

Seated at the wheel, one elbow hanging jauntily out of the windy-down window, sat the master of the kool. The Alchemist. Long of flaxen hair wagging in the breeze, with broken specs balanced on his snoot; bits of black masking tape crossed over the cracked left eye of his oculars.

He looked a shade like an oldster—but that was mouth-wash, as all the oldsters had shuffled off this heating coil when the Whimper came out of the sky. The wicker-boy knew him as Orson. Lost and bastard sprog of a distant ocean-god—'cause the Alchemist had told him so. This magical man smelt of the salt of distant seas... and occasionally, once-a-Friday, of the vinegar as well.

Above all things, Orson liked a laugh.

Well, there was one other sport that he hadn't been getting much-a-plenty of now for a good time. So top-of-the-shop came a good, hearty hee-haw.

Seeing the skinny kitling with a hulking great Bloo in tow, whilst a faery-girl twittered and hovered around them both, Orson slammed on the brakes. Well... kicked the old van into first so that it stalled and swerved to a girly halt.

With a deft flick, he turned on the neon writing around the van that said, rather degenerately, 'Stop me and buy one!'

"Two 99s!" shrieked Wendle, tongue lolling out.

"You payin'?" Tuesday chirped.

"No, you is. Owes me one from last Monday."

"Bugger if Iz don't!" The floaty girl stuck her cherry snoot in the air and sulked like a good 'un.

Scrambling into the back of the van, Orson had already balanced 2 dollops of white iced love on a matched pair of crispy brown cornets.

"Two chocolate logs, or none?" He conducted the air with his frosted scoop, catching a fat cotton seed as he did so.

"Two..." Wendle sulked now. His turn. Dipping his kipper deep into his pocket, he rescued a dull and copper coloured coin with a bite out of it.

"Wazzis?" Orson squinted at the vandalised monies with his one good eye.

The Kitling nodded sidewhys at the Bloo. "He done it... Chew through the planet if I let him..."

The Alchemist laughed once, like the bark of a dog, and flipped the bent coin into his own trousers' pocket.

With a broken smile, smelling of baccy-leaves and mint tea, the old soap-dodger reached down with the two cornets of love and their crowning chocolate kisses. Kitling and faery-girl gravely took their prizes and caught those first melty bits with furred-up tongues before they ran down the backs of their hands, eyes closed in unadulterated ecstasy.

Hidden beneath the serving counter, squatting on her hunkers, with Orson's double-entendred shotgun balanced on her chapped knees, the hijacker was growing twitchy and nervous.

She was bonny for a hijacker. Chemicalised hair, the colour of Orson's ice cream, she was only a jot passed Wednesday. Bit older than the faery-girl, but with far more curvy bits. A feast to the eye if truth be told. But that old truth, as aforementioned afore, was a slippery rascal.

Orson wasn't too vexed that she'd nicked his gun and wanted him to drive to the HurlyBurly. Sat on the floor like that, he'd copped a good eye-full of her busties. Not many creatures of the opposite sex mooching about on the outskirts of the dead town these days. Not as plump and ripe as her.

That first love of his tickled at his hind-brain as he glanced down at the dolly teen... all wide-eyed and legless.

The Alchemist had tried to eek her name out of her. Even sat there and babbled through a list, as she shoved the business end of the shotgun in his hearhole.

"Are you a Nancy, or a Fancy? Molly, Golly, Barbarolly? Pixie, Lixie, Jane or Beau? Rachael, Lizbeth, Missy, May? A little clue would–"

"Shut the flack up..." the hijacker scowled, wiggling her upper-carriage. Orson just smiled. It gave his day some shape and he'd been going to dock off at the HurlyBurly anywhichways, as he happened to live there.

In a great disused factory behind HurlyBurly market place, where oldsters once made chairs and tables to put in their little square rooms and sit upon, he mixed his vats of sensual ice cream. Had the cows out back where the Park used to be, a-chewin' on grass, from dawn 'til dusk. Milked twice a day... which was more than he'd been for yonks... and there was that first love again.

It was his hijacker's nice busties that was turning his head. He adjusted himself in the driving seat, trying to think pure thoughts as he struggled with the contents of his trousers. Failing miserably.

"Git a move on!" she hissed, as the salty-dog crunched the knackered old gear box back into first and bounced the van away. In one cracked and tweaky mirror, he noticed the two kitlings and that lumpy big Bloo hitching a ride on his tailgate. Orson smiled.

Turned out nice again...

TimberTown loomed up like a good 'un first. Leaning over the once neat gridlocks of red suburbia. Rotting houses full of rotten lives. Never to see a Monday come around again, thanks to the Whimper.

"Git rid of the kids!" the hijacker hissed.

The Alchemist blew a raspberry and chewed on a stick of flavourless gum.

"You start blasting off with that gun, my pretty squeaker, and that Bloo galumphing along in our wake will bite your face right off!"

There was a look in the man's one good eye and a smile on his unshaven face that told a truth. But the girlie still hunkered down, looking all the more desperate. She was on the run from summert to somewhere... theyz always were.

"Talkin' to yourself?" the faery-girl trilled as the ice cream van bounced along the crazy-paved asphalt.

"Only person that makes any sense these days..." he called back. The kitlings laughed.

"Give you a jack-off if you keep cavy on me," the hijacker whispered.

"Now you're talkin'. I had a little more of a sexual frenzy in mind, but I'll take what ever's on offer in these hard times, thank you kindly."

TimberTown loomed a bit more.

An adventure playground on steroids, its vast wooden walls, rat-runs, climbing bars and the rusting rising hang-slides, marked the territory where kitlings could be kids. No over fifteens allowed.

The Alchemist squinted down with his good eye at the uninvited guest again, busties wobbling. She was old enough for it. On the run from some gang-crashers? Chased off by some gnarly survivalist holed up in the mountains? There was a tale to be told, that much was certain.

The Bloo bleated as it recognized the Town. Smart-monsters like him were getting rarer... Genetic degradation since the Whimper, but the variations of kitlings seemed to be blossoming and still on the up, like the cotton seed clouds whiffling in from the desert plain.

"When we gets to the gate-house, those homicidal little tykes are goin' to see you down there with you norks showing. They may only have pointy sticks and sling-shots, but a stone'll take your eye out sure as sugar," he wound up his would-be woman.

She was nervy. She was loosing it. "What'll I do?" She licked her lips and looked ready to pee herself.

"Play nice. Pretend its a game. Above all, smile..."

With only a second's hesitation, slotting the gun back in its happy-clips under the counter, the former hijacker leapt to her feet and went, "Boo!"

Wendle and Tuesday fell off the van in surprise, rolling arse over tip. But the Alchemist had slowed the wreck of a van to go up the rise to TimberTown, so they were only grazed and still hooting.

Hijacker-girl pulled at her dress, full of nerves. Smile painted on and eyes full of echoed fear.

"Whado I do now?" she eeked out of the side of her sun-blistered mouth.

"Sit on my lap for starters, an' let's see what pops up!" he suggested in his usual lewd fashion. To the crusty's surprise, she did just that. One arm round his neck and those twin buns of happiness nestling on his bony old thighs.

That old line had never worked before, not in many a leer.

The kitlings from the fort hailed and well-wished them both. Orson occasionally had another odd bod with him, so there was no fear in their mucky little faces. They gathered around the van like mud-puppies, all ages, all mutations, all colours, holding out old money for their daily fix found in the dirt. Dressed in rags and never a wash tween Sunday to Doomsday between them all.

The Whimper had seen to that...

Mother mutation was a contrariwise bitch.

There were little pink kitlings with piggy noses and prehensile tails. There were tall hairy kitlings and ones with skin-wings hanging from beneath their arms. Lizard-boys and battery-girls jostled with imps and jinxes, elbowed aside by see-thru and blimp-babies bouncing on strings. Welcome to the butt-end of the inhuman race.

Yet this was how younguns were meant to be. Play all day, sleep all night, letting the bed bugs bite if they really wanted to. Reaching the age when their hormones turned hormonal and they got that certain urge. Then they were thrown out of TimberTown and joined the battling bands of teens in the hills behind beyond.

Before the Alchemist began to dole out the ice creams and the lollies, he had a quick cuddle with his new nameless dolly. A tweak at her cherry-ripes just to keep him going. She winced, but said nowt. What she was runnin' from was a darn sight worse that a grope from an old gopher like himself.

The sun was angling low as his customer-base subsided.

"HurlyBurly?" the failed hijacker lisped, sliding off the codger's lap, trying to pull her short skirt down over her twin peaks.

"In a mo! Need to sort the merchandise first... check the doses..." the Alchemist crowed.

His dolly teen watched, squeak-eyed, as he rummaged through draws full of poppers still in their silver paper and tubes of orange tablets. Purple powders and crushed kaleidoscopic crystals. Sprinkling a handful of mixed delight into the ice-cream tub, he stirred the drugs in gently.

"Vitamins and anti-viral loads..." he answered her unasked question. "There's just a few of us old enough to remember a time before the Whimper. Kitlings are mutating more each year as the human race slides off its face. I try to stabilise the changes at the half dozen TimberTowns I visit on my round."

"Hundreds and thousands..." the girl said dreamily, watching the crumbling multi-coloured tablets being stirred into the dreamy, creamy white stuff.

"You heard of the Whimper?" Orson questioned, squinting through the one good glasses lense.

"The world ended; not with a Bang, but with a Whimper..." she replied, quoting the old religious text.

"Airborne pathogens... aerosol mutagens... We filled the sky so chock full of shit that it turned us inside out and kilt the lot of us." he smiled sadly at the girl, knowing she wouldn't understand a word. How old was she now? Seventeen? Eighteen?

The average life expectancy of a human being in these dark, decaying days was around twenty eight.

Still... Nice arse...

Sometime later, Wendle licked his grubby fingers as he spotted the old ice cream van still sat in TimberTown square. Usually the son of the sea-god dished out his goodies and was gone. And why was the old machine beginning to shake and bake on its rusty old springs? Backwards and forwards in a silly dance.

The wicker-boy snuck up to the back door and opened it a crack. It was enough to shock any kitling right out of its childhood into next Thursday.

The white haired teeny was bent forward over the ice cream tub, squished on top of the cold container. Trousers around his knees, the old Alchemist was trembling her from behind. Hands gripped on her naked hips, he was making the most funny of sounds.

Wendle didn't know girlies went down after a while—it was awful good of the Alchemist to pump her back up again. But whatever the two were doing, they seemed to be having smiles.

Dolly had her peepers closed. She silently bit her lip, holding tight onto the van's shelving and wished her new saviour would git wherever he was going to. Suddenly sensing they had an audience, the Alchemist fell backwards with a whoop, letting poor blinded, gobsmacked Wendle see much more than was intended.

Eyes like saucers, mind full of moist sights that he should have been too young to cotton on to, the kitling ran as fast as he could before the old codger could brain him. This little pump-up game hanging in his head, until he next saw Tuesday, beat hide-and-squeak hands down anywhichway you looked at it!

"Bugger..." the Alchemist swore, trying to pull his pants up. "Coitus interuptus with a vengeance..."

"You finished?" dolly sighed, pulling down her skirt and rescuing her underwear from the walnut whip machine handle.

"Well we3 ain't..." came a dreadly little voice from outside the van.

It was nearly dark. Three teenys stood, boys all, with lumps of wood in their hands and nasty pimply faces.

"Chuck her out, grandad! We3 ain't had uz cut o' the cake yet!" called one.

The girl sank to the floor and tried to let the van swallow her up.

"It's them... she gasped. "Them I ran from..."

"Oy, join-the-dots. Bugger oft out of it! This is a TimberTown for tots only. Old enough to shave, one foot in the grave!" growled the Alchemist.

The leader of the three marauders swung himself up on the serving hatch and peered into the van, like a monkey in a jacket. He wasn't going to go quietly into the night.

"Out U come, bitchette. U've got a lot of sweating 2 catch up on!" he crowed, clutching at his crotch, making his statement oh so plain.

The Alchemist sighed. "You hear that?"

"Wot?" snarled the teeny.

"That's the sound of the English language devolving..."

Not one of the three funsters had the wit to comprehend his wry statement. But it had bought the old codger the thyme he so sorely needed.

"Sorry about this, sonny-jim," said the Alchemist. With a twirl of the hand, he un-clipped the double-entendred gun from under the counter where the dolly had popped it back. As a look of horror filled the teeny's eyes, the old man thumbed off the safety and blew the lad's brains out through the back of his napper.

He'd clicked the reload again before the other two munchkins realised their day was done. Kicking the first body free, the Alchemist shot the second boy in the belly. Miles of red stuff spewed out behind, as the teeny sank to his knees, too dumb to realise he was already deceased.

The Alchemist struggled to reload.

"You're dead az Fridays!" screeched the third teeny, showing a not-so-clean pair of heels.

"Flacking flacked up gun..." the Alchemist banged it on the side of the blood smeared chiller box.

"Gimme..." the dolly said, stony-faced. Taking the gun from the old man's hands, she cleared the blockage, shouldered the weapon and took aim. Letting go with both barrels, she spun the beast around and clipped it back under the counter out of sight.

The Alchemist looked at the still running figure, all arty in the twilight. Running for two more seconds before the twin cartridges of destruction blew both his arms off with a squeal.

"Nice shootin'," said the old man.

"They liked three at a time... I couldn't take it any more, dickless cherry-wits..."

Justice after the Whimper came in swift healthy doses.

Leaving the three corpses for the Meat-man to find and grind into kitling burgers, the Alchemist took the ice cream van on a detour to the coast.

The sea was breathing in and out when they reached the edge of the land. Still smelling sharp, its salty tang making man and girl close their peepers and smile a while.

Old thoughts, older memories. Thanks for those...

"I used to sell insurance in another life." Orson breathed in and out with the rhythm of the waves. "Not many folk lived to collect on their policies..." he mused.

"You say the kookiest things," his dolly smiled, hutching up close.

Rolling in by the light of the blue moon, as it had for billennia came that dark sea. Rolling in and drawing back like a fimble sigh. Except, under the lunar light, the pebbles on the endless shore seemed mighty big.

That's cause they were human skulls... washed clean by the rising tides.

All around this septic isle lay the bones of the dead. As the teeny and the old man sat by the sighing sea, arm in arm for a little human comfort, they saw the silhouettes of people up on the cliff top. Folkz carrying suspicious bundles to the edge and chuckin' them off.

Human-shaped bundles.

Back in the dead-dog day, they'd started creating fun-buddies like the Bloo by splicing human DNA with fantasy lab-samples. Dropping the reject biological soup into the sea. Discharging more laden terror-drugs up into the sky with every passing year. Making pixies for their children to play with. Big cuddly things to keep them snug at night. Real life dolls for the slightly older customer.

Playing God.

In twenty four sad, sad hours, the Whimper blew around the world and killed 99.9% of the population. Children survived. Young children. Those still too young to die straight off, but infected with the suicide-breakdown genomes, mobilised the dregs of the armed forces. Constructed TimberTowns as vast shelters outside the infected cities full of the dead.

Then the soldiers corked it.

Old farts—just a few, like the Alchemist, or the Meat-man, or Jolly Roger and the rest had worked out a plan. Bring the kids up in TimberTowns. Feed them drugs and medicines to try and reset the human race's genetic blueprint.

When the children reached puberty, they were driven out into the hills. Some worked in the fields to grow the food which was brought to the TimberTown creches. Most fought teen-wars, raped and pillaged the mountain habitats and brought their surviving babies to the TimberTowns to be looked after.

Then before they were thirty, they all died.

How long the Alchemist had been doing this, he hadn't a cherry. As the rest of the world lived short-time, his existence seemed to have stretched like a piece of hot toffee across the sticky years. Mixing the medicines, popping the pills. Trying to cure this grave new world.

"I'll call you, Marigold, if you don't mind," he said to the teeny as the night drew in and they headed for HurlyBurly, as promised. The market place for teenys and the nearly-dead, where his laboratories waz.

"Fine by me," she replied, fumblin' inside his pants, trying to get 'Little Alchemist' to pay attention again. It was the only way she knew how to thank him for saving her pretty hide. Still the oldest commodity around as the human race tap-danced towards extinction. "Why Marigold?" she pushed further.

The old man shrugged. "Had a wife once... fought like cat and dog but I liked the name..."

"Wife?" the dolly screwed up her eek.

"I'll draw you a pikture when we gets home..."

"One name's as good as another. So I'll take that as an invite to stay?"

"Oh, yes!" beamed the Alchemist, his one good eye misting over.

He'd had a baker's dozen or so Marigold's down the lonely years. They never lasted. Maybe this one would respond to his ice cream cocktail of kool and live beyond the thirty mark. Keep him company on the cold nights as he drove his ice cream van from here to there—and back again.

They'd sit in front of the open fire and roast Dewberries together. Laugh at his old jokes—well he'd chuckle anyway. Sing songs, swap spit, bump bits and if she survived...

Shame he always got so fond of them before he had to slide their silent corpses into the relentless sea... loving every single one of his Marigolds.

"And I'll fix these tyres for ya... It's like ridin' on square wheels!" she added, cracking her head on the van's roof for the fourth time.

"Thank you Lord... Sexy and with practical skills!"

She laughed, looking all bubbly, rubbing her goosebumpy arms against the evening's cold. Nipples akimbo. He was alright, this dirty old scrote... Better treat her dandy or the shotgun might have to come out from under the counter again...

The lights of HurlyBurly beckoned and the Suburban Alchemist turned on the one working headlight and his van's tinkly-tinkly tune to cheer up the night. Marigold had slid to sleep, her fluffy head in his lap. Relaxed. Safe.

He got all lumpy in his throat at the soft sight of her—which made a change from where he usually got all lumpy.

Trying to avoid the worst of the potholes, he wondered vacantly if he was the last man in the world who knew the words to, 'Popeye the Sailor Man'.

Like it all meant a week full of flyin' flacks any way.

 [ Bones on the beach, © 2008 Rachel H. White ]

© 2008 Rob Sharp

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