Prester Fremble bent further forward to see over the bell ringer's hump."It's still got dull spots on it," he noted. Startled, Snottle jerked his bandy legs a bit straighter, bumping his hunch against the Prester's chin. Unbalanced, Fremble reeled back, planting one foot deeply in the hunchback's wash-bucket.
"Arragh!" The bucket slipped and with a whoosh, Fremble's leg flew up like a chorus dancer's high kick, dumping him with a bounce-less wet slap onto the cold and still soapy stone of the rectory floor.
Fremble, vision swimming, glared cross-eyed up the well of the rectory's bell tower, while Snottle shuffled around, knotting the polishing rag nervously.
"Thorry mathter. Wath my fault, mathter. Let me help you up, mathter." Snottle reached down, and grabbed at the starched and pristine white sleeve above Fremble's wrist. Fremble glared at the hammy, black soiled fingers as they pulled at him. Long streaks of oily polish gack smeared across the immaculate vestment. Fremble furiously slapped away his servant's grasp, struggling to his feet.
"Stop. – I can manage myself. Look at my robes, Snottle!"
Snottle pulled back, a pout crossing his broad features."Thorry again, Mathter. I am a little rushed. Almothst time to ring the hour. I'll have to finith polithing the brath later."
"So you say. I am still waiting on you to wax the pews." Prester Fremble plucked disconsolately at his stained sleeve. "We need more help. Too many things going undone. Post an ad in the Postmortus Daily."
Snottle hesitated. "Not the Village Voice?"
"No," bit Fremble. "Of course not - can't have townspeople poking about the sanctum, Snottle. What if they discovered my other – avocation?"
"The zombie workths downstairs, you mean?"
Prestor Fremble glared. "The second life clinic, second life, you dolt. Not zombie works. It is," Fremble smiled beatifically, "my holy calling. The resurrection of, em, of the better, if over curious, souls of Westerville, that saints may one day walk among us."
"Stho, I won't have to be mopping the bathment up of chicken blood, anymore?"
"A duty we can delegate to the new hire, I'm sure." Fremble stroked his chin, considering. "Try to specify a Ghoul, not in too bad a condition, mind. It could eat the vivisected carcasses,too. Getting tired of chicken dinner every day."
"It is a lot of chicken guts to dispose of, sthir. Maybe we could sell the better parts fried, in town, thir. Recoup, if you pardon the pun thir, the cost of all the fowl. Thome of the congregation are wondering where their donations are going. There are thome remarkths about your appetite for chicken, thir."
"Remarks? Remarks? Is that so."
"I'm a dab hand with a fryer, thir. I would then have time to cook with more help around. Bring in more money thir."
"A good suggestion, then. Hire two. We can pay them –something – with the proceeds, and justify the poultry expense for the staff's upkeep. Good thinking, Snottle. Get on it."
"Ath you command, Mathter."
Snottle turned to lumber up the long stairwell to the bell tower. Some rake had once suggested buying a rope, to ring the bells from below, a suggestion that precipitated the rakes processing into Fremble's basement laboratory. What an insane idea, thought Snottle. Takes all the fun out of life. Use a rope, indeed.
Bells were to be pushed. By hand, while chortling maniacally, and leaping about, occasionally howling, when the bell's bonging got loud enough to cover the sound. Ah, the painful vibrations within the skull, the very bones ringing in sympathy with overwhelming sonic torture before the sheer wall of sound, hammering away at the roots of one's teeth. St. Albraut had such nice, large bells too.
Greentooth lounged on the sarcophagus lid, squinting through moonlight at the easy-eye print of the latest Postmortus Daily. "You'd think the paper would find a way to make reading by moon-glow easier, use florescent ink, or something." He twisted the paper one-handed, angling it to catch the lunar light better, while picking at a loose tooth through the rent in his cheek.
MoldenJaw snorted, fishing around in a not-too-recently opened casket. "Ah, an overlooked finger. I knew I dropped one in here somewheres. Find anything in the paper?"
"Mebbe one. Now hiring: Two ghouls wanted, light indoor work, chicken dinners provided free daily. Apply St. Albrauts, midnight to four AM, rear entrance. Adjoining cemetery, cash pay, other perks for the right applicants."
"I like chicken. No sorcerers though. I won't work for a sorcerer again, or a female barbarian either."
"Says here, we'd work for the church Prester. That's like, different eh? All holy ordered and that, and it's full time." Greentooth hadn't stopped his casual teeth picking, and one fingernail caught under a gum and pulled free. He spat the nail out. "Rats. That's three gone. Gotta be more careful. Goes on to say -- must be in good condition, no major missing parts."
Moldenjaw brightened. "See? All that Pilates stuff is worth it. Kept us in fighting trim, all that."
"Had to sew your leg back on twice."
"Vicissitudes of a good health regimen. So, off ta' church?"
Prester Fremble inspected the two ghouls dubiously. One had a missing ear and a bare, skinless patch where its left eyebrow should be. A large rent in its cheek suggested eating face-on was optional. The other stood a little canted, one leg evidently shorter than the other. Both were short, mangy, and fidgeted as if suffering a palsy. Still, no other applicants had turned up. It belatedly occurred to the Prester that few ghouls would feel called to the faith. Still, pushing a broom wasn't catapult-science.
"You understand there is physical work involved. It won't just be an endless buffet of chicken dinners." Looking at Moldenjaw, Fremble found himself tending to lean right, and irritated, corrected his stance.
Greentooth nodded, surreptitiously pushing Moldenjaw more vertical. "Oh yes, yer honor-worship. A good day's work fer a good days pay I always says -- doesn't I always says that, Moldenjaw?"
Moldenjaw lifted up off his left heel to take on a less Tower-of-Pisa-esque pose and nodded.
"Regular workaholics we is. Corpse disposal's a specialty o'course, but need things done, we're you men. Well not men, exactly, but you know what I mean."
Fremble considered. I suppose, in a couple of choir robes, they might pass as cripples. "Very well then, I shall give you the opportunity. You will work at the direction of Snottle, who you will meet – ," there came a rather loud bonging from above the sanctuary mixed with a undertow of maniac howls, "in a few minutes. Meantime, I've some working robes for you to try on."
Snottle stared blankly. Dressed in choir robes, the recruits looked rather like some little girl had gotten hold of her brother's action figures after a brutal session of firecracker immolation, and put dresses on them. Eyeballing the ghouls wasn't a chore at least, since even bent over by his hunch, the two were short enough so that looking up was not required. For some reason though, he did tend to lean right, watching Moldenjaw. "Follow me, pleasth."
The oaken stairs to the basement were worn, and wound down a vaulted passage barely five feet in height, forcing normal men to walk penitently, heads and back bowed. Not an issue for any of the three currently descending figures. Snottle carried a torch, thrust far forward, and black smoke twisted up from it, casting ominous shadows. The torch's glare wavered against the walls to end in deep blackness beyond three or four feet ahead or behind.
"Reminds me of home," noted Moldenjaw into the echoing gloom.
Greentooth groused, "What do you mean, home. What home. The tombs outside town?"
"Naw, 'afore that, way back; the catacombs under Rome."
"Oh? Didn't know you were Italian. I had an uncle..."
To Snottle, the re-echoing pandemonium of the Ghoul's chatter was somehow less pleasing than the characteristics of bell-tower clamor. "Shut up, pleath. We approach the Laboratory."
Indeed, the darkness became less overwhelming, and the torch suddenly caught scattered reflections from sombre chamber walls, glinting off brass objects whose purpose could only be guessed. The hunchback thrust the torch at sconces placed about the walls, which whoofed into brilliant flame, and the space lit properly, if waveringly.
The floor was wet, tacky, and deeply red. A sodden, sweetish miasma filled the space. Small squiggles of tiny intestines and other bits dotted it. An occasional chicken foot protruded upside down from the puddled goo, giving the floor the aspect of some multi-footed, if ridiculously short legged, beast lying on its back.
"The masther butchers poultry in here. It geths... a little messy. There are mopths and buckeths, in the back. Clean the floor pleath. Feel free to nibble on anything you pick up. Part of the job, actually. Less to dispose of, thort of thing."
From behind the closed door beyond the room, a rustle and chatter issued. Buck-a-buck-buck buck, beyock, cluck cluck cluck, woo!
Next to the door was a closed chute, clearly marked with a rough engraving of an apple. Snottle remained stone faced at the noise, and waved it off. "The mathster keeps his live specimens in that room. You are not to go in there. Ever."
Greentooth rose the scabby patch formerly known as an eyebrow, towards Moldenjaw. "Buck a buck? Cluck? Pretty good diction from a chicken, as such things go, I says."
Moldenjaw nudged his companion sharply. "We gotcha, boss, the back-room's off the menu. You can count on us."
"Wise beyond your yearths, then. Get busy."
Greentooth shambled disconsolately toward the mops. "Eh, so this mess is the chicken dinners you guys promised?"
"I can retherve thum livers if you like. I'm to fry the other parths for sale in the village. Thum of that will pay for your sthervices stho, no complaining."
"Hey boss, we could help in the kitchen, if you sweeten the pot, so to speak."
"I'll think about it. The floors now, pleath."
Mops acquired, the two began swabbing the stained pavers. Greentooth grumbled sourly. "Well, here's another fine mess you've gotten us into, Moldenjaw."
"Ooh, a chicken head!"
Rottle Wormsbottom adjusted the overlong sleeves of his black vestment, while turning a page of the Book of Many Legs. The list of ingredients, he mused, was complete. He arranged them before the Caldron of Insectivus. Soon, that pompous Prester's village would be desolated, gone from memory, and his little hunchbacked assistant, too. Incantations rolled from his lips, while this was added to that, and a flourishing dash of aromatic whatsis, drifted into the pot.
A greenish miasma rose, accompanied a buzzing noise like a thousand chitinous wings. Thunder rolled, and the very earth sighed. Rottle closed the book, which shut with a scritch like the rasp of angry mandibles. He focused down into the pot cross-eyed. It didn't help any, as his large nose interfered with binocular vision at close range. The effort only brought more of the proboscus into view. Normally, he closed one eye, when looking close up, but this was a moment of gravity, not to be sullied by winking at the pinnacle achievement of his art. So dual views of the bubbling purple puddle swam before him. After several misjudgments as to the exact distance, he picked up two special ladles in two left hands and spooned the mess into two identical bottles, which he capped with two identical caps, eyes watering with the effort.
Walking dead, indeed. The charlatan.This Diocese ain't big enough for the both of us. Take that, Fremble.
He chortled madly. Time was, when an assistant would be doing the mad chortling for him, but times were hard, what with Fremble's Temple sucking up all the donations of late. A situation soon to change. Rottle surveyed the empty pews of the Church of Gooey Death sadly. A burning anger welled. So, reincarnation as beetles not good enough for townsfolk, eh? The three mile walk from town to onerous, is it? Hah!.
Only one thing left undone. Somehow, the poisoned apple he had prepared would have to be substituted into Fremble's Zombie recipe. Yes, it had taken much scrying, but the secret recipe, well, most of the Prester's formula anyway, had been divined. The important point was, that essence of apple was one of the main ingredients. Something sympathetic, or symbolic, to do with the rebirth of life – some such rot.
The prepared apple was a spell reverser, which ought to ensure the dead stayed, ah, deader, or at least didn't walk around very much. His revenge would be complete. The surviving citizens, properly chastised by the power of his God's rebuke, would return. Cackling, he plopped the apple in a box, and cast The Spell of Ultimate Delivery (FOB) on it. Rottle grabbed up the overlong robe, and stomped determinedly up the suitably ominous winding stairs from his laboratory. Have to put together some kind of disguise, something cheap, maybe some of that stuff from last year's Walpurgis festival.
Prester Fremble adjusted a few condensing coils, unkinked a line plugged into the back of his latest corpse and reloaded the hopper with more chicken-brain and apple stew.
Breathing and demonstrative, the rows of ex-citizens still weren't actually moving.
"Cluck-cluck, buck-a-buck, Woo!"
What am I doing wrong? Perhaps, more apple essence. They looked human enough, as corpses went, save for the crossed eyes, though he wished they spouted parables and blessings instead of poultry-ish pronouncements. The apple bin was quite low, the produce not being in season.
An effect of substituting chicken brains for people's Pineal glands? Well, live and learn, St. Albraut was not built in a day. At least not the second time. The first time, a torrential rain had kept the mob's fire damage to a minimum, he reminisced.
Bump, flop, smack. Muffled by the door, sounds of argument seeped into the room, further agitating his flock. Annoyed, Fremble threw it open, to glare at two contesting ghouls. Moldenjaw pulled his sopping mop off the face of a bespattered Greentooth. Greentooth, mop held in a casting stance, seemed about to reciprocate.
"Here now!" Fremble barked, just as Greentooth let fly, jamming the goo dripping swabber into Moldenjaws face. There issued some sucking sounds, and a belch. Fremble purpled. "What are you two about? Why aren't you mopping the floor?"
One eyeball peeked through the mop's stained tendrils, rolling sideways to focus on Fremble. Moldenjaw's muffled voice issued from the mop-head, causing it to jiggle. "Eh, Lunch break, yer worship. Just living off the land, so to speak."
Fremble tightened his grip on the door, holding back a desire to use the mop's handles in a different, somewhat less creative manner. "Take your lunch elsewhere. In fact, tell Snottle you are to help him for a time."
Greentooth pulled his mop off Moldenjaw with a sucking sound, and dropped it to the floor. "Okay, but, he's in town putting up a shack to sell some fried chickens." Both ghouls eyed each other's heavily stained choir vestments.
Fremble rolled his eyes. "There's s pair of monk outfits in the vestuary. Put those on first. Use the cowls. Oh yes, and tell Snottle I'll be needing more apples. Just go." From behind the Prester, a rattle of clucks and beracks broke out. He turned back, slamming the laboratory door behind him.
Moldenjaw stared after the agitated Prester. "Bet that's the premium larder, back in there."
Snottle Climbed down off the small ladder to admire his handwork. In somewhat shaky brush-strokes, the billboard now announced, 'Colonel Albraut's Mostly Fried Chicken'. It had been several hours, and his hands had started to palsy and twitch. A slow bell-shoving movement began to manifest, which he slowly brought under control.
Ith's too bad thereths no time to add a bell tower to it, but it will do. The small stall of unpainted wood, was open to the street, and just big enough to contain a large black caldron of bubbling oil next to a crate of what seemed to be chicken parts, indifferently butchered by a blind maniac. Folding the ladder, he lumbered behind the counter, and began throwing parts into the pot.
Two rather short monks, one upright, the other seemingly walking at a twenty degree tilt, approached the counter. Snottle peered suspiciously into the shadows beneath the two raised hoods.
"You two! Stho, what are you doing here? Bathement thwabbed out already?"
From twenty degrees off center, one robe replied. "Boss says ta give you a hand for now. Oh, yer ta keep an eye open fer some more apples, he says." Both robes bowed forward in a spiritual pose, though a benediction, noted Snottle, sharply centered on the crate of chicken parts. "Mebbe we can watch th' chickens, eh, store fer ya, so's you can go hunt up them apples?"
"I could hack you both up and throw you in the pot; I doubt the custhomers would notith the differenth. Most everything odd tasths like chicken anyway. I'll mind the sthore. You two can athk around town after thome apples."
Moldenjaw mumbled quietly. "Philistine. Maybe we should raid the basement pantry later." Aloud, "Yessir. Happy to help thir, I mean, sir. You can count on us, boss." Both walked off to check out the village.
The long rubber costume nose was actually a tight fit, and save for a few more warts, and artificial hairs, the mask differed little from Rottle's face. The black witches outfit and wig looked suitably peasant-like though. It did obscure his exact features, which, given his real nose, was always a problem. He discarded the costume's broom and retrieved the small box containing the poisoned apple. I wonder if I should put a ribbon bow on it? A note saying 'for use in zombie potions only,' perhaps. No, probably that would be too much. The box will seek out the brew on its own. It was a complex incantation, but no matter who held the box, it would inevitably be taken to the mixture it was destined to join. He wasn't much of a fruit person, so even though the harvest season was over, there were still several in the larder.
Rottle put the box in with a small sack of other apples and set out for town.
"Next contract job," Greentooth grumbled, "I wanna cafeteria clause init."
"Hard to get ahead in this world," Moldenjaw admitted, snacking quietly on a chicken skull salvaged from the basement.
The village streets were dusty tracks, lined with unpainted ramshackle huts. The town had obviously seen better days, perhaps, a succession of them. A sign over one rebuilt, slightly smoking store announced, 'Yet another fire sale'. Next to it, a wizened vendor in a black gown swayed, holding a stick topped by a small sign with the single word, 'Apples' crayoned on it. The hawker's face looked like an upside down tea-pot with a rather long spout mounted beneath a floor-mop, but there was a fresh looking sack of apples next to the vendor's feet. The Ghouls ambled over, waving away smoke from the nearby store.
Greentooth eyed the small sack. "How much fer the apples?"
Rottle peered slit-eyed at the hooded pair, correcting a sudden tendency to lean right. "Eh? Not for sale."
Moldenjaw poked a finger up at the sign. "Yer sign says apples on it," noted Moldenjaw.
"Usually, means yer selling em."
"Usually, a least in these parts, mostly. Otherwise, why wave that sign around?"
Rottle smiled. " Ah now, that's an intelligent question. As it happens, the fruit is a donation for St. Albraut. I was looking for someone to deliver them."
Moldenjaw looked confused. "To the Church or the Fried Chicken Shack?
"For the Church , of course. Who would want to donate to a Fried Chicken vendor?"
Greentooth added, "Why doesn't your sign say help wanted, or where's St Albraut?"
Rottle looked agitated. " I know where the church is, just don't want to...get involved. I'm not a church patron. Just want someone to take them there, not looking to hire anyone."
Greentooth looked more perplexed. "But..."
Moldenjaw clapped a hand over Greentooth's mouth, more a gesture, really, as speaking out the side of his head, was still possible. "We'll take 'em."
"Ah. See, the sign worked."
Greentooth's brow pulled down, looking prepared to argue the point further. Moldenjaw quickly picked up the sack, and pushed Greentooth's shoulder around, pointing him back the way they had come, and made a complicated gesture with the sack dangling mystically from the sleeve of his black, hooded robe. "We are the Samaritans you were looking for. We can be on our way. The faith is with us."
Walking away, Greentooth muttered, "What was that alla bout?"
"Donno, seemed appropriate at the time. Have an apple. Gift horse sort of thing."
"Bellsth, bellsth, bellsth! To the Clangor and the Bonging of the Bellths!". The hunchback grabbed at the boiling chicken kettle, and shoved it rhythmically back and forth chortling, oblivious to the sizzling blisters and peeling skin appearing on his hands or the stares of a small gaggle of store patrons. His palsy was worsening, even his hunch had begun to twitch.
"Hey Snottle – Hump guy!"
Snottle recovered to look up, noting the two ghouls toting a sack up the dirt thoroughfare.
"Any luck finding the fruiths?"
"Um,"Moldenjaw belched, peered into the sack regretfully. "Maybe. Couple apples, and a small box, maybe another apple in it." Moldenjaw tried to grab the one boxed apple in the sack, which seemed to slip away from him, sliding around the sack bottom like a greased snake.
Snottle, fugue interrupted, heaved a tin pail of smoking chicken onto the whiteboard counter, to complete another sale. His crate of chopped chicken had decreased significantly. Sunday was evidently a big sales-day for chicken parts. "I'm bizthy. You'll have to take them to the mathter yourthelves. – Drop them off and bring me thome more bells, er, chickens."
Moldenjaw gave a twenty-degree canted salute. "Right, Boss. More chickens. Got it."
Fremble pulled the large wooden lever which creaked satisfactorily, and a few solitary apples fell from the hopper into the bubbling pot beneath, but not enough. He sighed in frustration. Laid out in rows, hundreds of his former parishioners gobbled and clucked excitedly, though unmoving still.
Leaving the hopper hatch open, he left the room, and peered into the fruit loading chute, which opened from the butchering parlor. Not even one left. Irritated, he mounted the staircase to the church proper. Remembering that he had sent all the help to town, he stalked off to assess the hunchback's progress there. All this commercialism had left the church Caroline unattended, and likely, his chief attendant with a severe case of BRW, or Bell Ringer's Withdrawal. As this was not a state best left unattended, he grabbed up the emergency BRW kit on the way out.
Moldenjaw hallooed, but it seemed the rectory was empty. "Prolly downstairs, then."
Greentooth looked perplexed. "So, where does we gets some chickens? We swept up all the chop downstairs."
Moldenjaw thought for a moment. "Prolly inna lab, behind that door down there."
"Oh yeah, the buck-cluck,buck-buck room. The one we was not s'posed to go inside."
Moledjaw lifted his head righteously. "Snottle said get chickens, so we get him chickens."
The basement floor looked better, though it remained still damp and tacky. The odor of blood and doom still pervaded the butchery. The laboratory door was still closed, though the apple-marked bin lid, set in the wall beside it, was now ajar.
Moldenjaw stared hypnotically at the bin. "Bet that's where the apples go."
Loosening the sack, he noted the smaller box had come open, and an apple rolled out of it, mixing with the others. He walked with a unusually stilted step up to the open hopper and emptied the sack into it. There came a tumbling sound, a splash, and a lot of burbling.
A truly rapacious "Cluck-cluck, beerauk Woo! Erp!"emitted from the adjoining room, followed by a bright flash from under the door, then ominous silence. Behind the portal, the chicken brain components of the animated corpses shrank, while the human bodies morphed, inverting into those of poultry, save for the feet. White, red and brown, feathers pushed their way out through the changing flesh. Skin and stilled muscles quickened, Clucking became the human moans of zombies. Soon, a rustle of many shuffling feet filled the air.
Greentooth touched the door frame. "Maybe we oughta..."
Moldenjaw's arm jerked out, grasped the door's knob and threw open the portal.
The basement erupted into nightmare. A mob of large moaning chickens, with tiny, spindly legs ending in full sized human feet, flooded into the room. Greentooth screamed, and grabbing up a broom, began to lay about him, thudding franken-fowl left and right. The big footed fowls made a mad rush for the stairs, bowling over and trampling both floundering ghouls. The dread moaning echoed down the ascending stairwell, the last notes lingering in the fading awareness of the two, before losing consciousness.
On the village edge, a black draped figure finished pouring the contents of a small vial onto a day old squirrel carcass. It had taken a couple hours to find one just ripe enough to have attracted a good mix of maggots, beetles and worms, but Rottle felt satisfied with the trouble taken. As the goo hit the carcass, a writhing of activity rose from it, beneath a vile cloud of green vapor. Small insects poured forth, masses upon masses of them, to creep, scuttle and buzz their way towards the town. Rottle cackled ceaselessly. The dirt track became a river of pestilence. Soon, distant screaming began, and Rottle joined the insectivorous army, stalking up the lane towards town, and inevitably, St. Albraut's.
Fremble reached the main-street shop just in time to prevent the hunchback from hoisting himself to the totally inadequate top of the chicken stall.
Fremble reached quickly beneath his robe, drawing forth a small brass school bell, which he dangled before Snottle, who instantly went more bug eyed than usual.
"Bellsth?" The hunchback reached down to take it in trembling hands, reflexively causing it to chime. He whimpered softly, took a breath, then tried softly for a brave, if subdued, howl. Feeling better, he clambered back down.
Fremble massaged his shoulder, consolingly. "Now, now, who's king of the steeple, eh? There's my lad. Why don't you return to the church now? You can use the rooftops to get there, if you like, what?"
No one knew the roof-line of the city like Snottle. Crossing the town by roof, in the dead of night, was almost as good as manning the church Caroline. Snottle firmed up and made for the nearest downspout wordlessly. A few townsfolk ran by, thickening into a frightened, screaming mob. Soon Fremble found himself in the midst of it, people all running pell-mell generally in the direction of the church. Actually, they were escaping the oncoming plague of insects from the edge o town, but there was no way for Fremble to know that. Fremble paled. Old visions of torch bearing lynch mobs filled him.
"Not again," he cried.
Greentooth struggled groggily to his feet. "What'd ya do that for?"
Moldenjaw lay on his back, eyes rotating aimlessly. "Eep," he noted.
Concerned, Greentooth bent down and shook the stricken ghoul. "Geeze, snap out of it. We're gonna get fired fer sure. Why'd ya let all'a those things loose for? The stampede could'a killed us. Well, killed us again, anyway," he conceded.
Moldenjaw shook himself and sat up. "Greentooth? I dunno. I, I just had to, seems like." He shivered. "They was hunnerds an' hunnerds of em, all commin' right at me, scream'n and moan'n -- All them big stinky feet and tiny lil' legs pumpen' up andown, an feathers everywhere, an..."
"S'okay, they's gone now. Relax. They all ran upstairs."
Moldenjaw paused. "And out into the town? The whole stampeding mass a' big-foot, moanen' Franken-chickens?"
"That's not good, is it."
"We gotta get outta here."
They left the church in a rush, to be confronted by a vision of horror. The entire town's citizenry seemed to be in a milling, screaming clot caught between a roiling mass of oncoming insects and the stampeding hoard of Franken-chickens. From above, a familiar rounded form dropped down from a roof gable.
Snottle, sweating profusely, shook an accusing finger at Moldenjaw. "Bellsth!" he accused, and angrily rang the small school bell still held in one hammy, if burnt hand, which seemed to calm him slightly.
"I didn't do it!" knee jerked Greentooth. "Anyway, you ordered the chickens. As an aside to Moldenjaw, he added, "If the townies push through those chickens and make it to the church they're gonna kill us. Eh, again."
Snottle took in the crowd, went white, and clambered back up to the safety of the rooftops, where he sank down to suck on his thumb and ring the hand-bell vigorously in agitation. The ringing caught the crowd's attention, and whether because no other avenue of escape was possible or in righteous anger, the townspeople swarmed up the buildings lattices, downspouts and trellises towards the hunchback.
The thinning crowd freed avenues for the Big-foot-zombie-chickens, who's un-birdish moaning grew to thunderous proportions. Bare feet working in duck-step, they rushed the creeping insects swarming up the street. The chitinous scritching of the bug swarm mixed with an ethereal zombie moaning. A massive gobbling, gulping, stomping and un-chickenish belching rose, as the Franken-fowl ate their way into the melee, winning the encounter hands down. They gorged frenziedly until they died to a chicken of over-consumption.
Soon the street was coated a foot deep in feather bedding, from which a forest of twitching people feet sprang, like spring weeds in a bean patch. Dazed citizenry slowly descended from the rooftops, taking in all the bare, upturned feet. A few noted the feather shrouded Prester, and a black cowled Conjuror swaying upright amid the chaos.
The Conjurors plastic nose fell off. The Prester whimpered.
"Well," noted one citizen, "we got feathers, now all we need is tar, and a couple rails." The more civic minded in the mob climbed down from the roof tops to acquire these. Some lit torches began to appear.
Moldenjaw pulled at Greentooth. "I think we've been pink slipped."
Both beat a fast retreat from the village, now highlighted in the rosy glow of its burning church.
From the smoking steeple, floated a clangor of church bells , and faintly, an undertone of mad howling.
Bio: So, I write largely science fiction and fantasy, and fantasy/humor. I do novels, short stories, Serial short stories, Novellas, all that. If all goes well, I expect to be posting a good deal of both here. What else can I say? I like walks in the rain and ice cream? I sketch, play blues harp, have been known to program for fun. Gamer? Yeah, I'm a slacker. Ran Plotters of Dreams for writers before it was virtually shut down save in title by Yahoo cuts in service, for ten years and counting. Ive moderated other groups, and obviously, writing is a passion. -Want to make peoples day, send them on vacation, make them chuckle occasionally.