What was in the dingy marquee? And why was Betty hungry?
|'It slithers! It slides! It slinks!' The disembodied voice boomed out of a concealed loudspeaker. 'Roll up! Roll up! Roll up!' It was interrupted by a teeth-jarring feedback screech. The few punters that looked as if they might be tempted to pass over their hard-earned cash backed away. Flashing lights, rides that left your stomach somewhere up there, fries in old grease and the rifle range were a greater temptation than a stained old marquee with a tub of disappointment hidden in its malodorous depths.
'It slops, it slips, it stinks.' Jerry laughed into Betty's ear. She wriggled herself into his arms, making her lips into a scarlet bow. Briefly, he wondered what colour eyes hid behind those outrageous dark glasses. Round and mirrored, they had made him stare. Seeing his gaze, she had glided close and announced that she was Betty and that she was hungry. Jerry had never been picked up by a girl. He was not very good with girls, or boys, or anyone. People confused him. But he did like the funfair crowds. He could sort of fit in.
'Let's go in.' Betty was dragging him towards the marquee. It was right on the edge of the pitches, in a pool of gloom. A few dull lights flickered dismally over a slit in a sidewall, barely illuminating a poster with entry prices scrawled on it. Jerry held back, glancing over his shoulder as teenagers shrieked and the latest pop songs blared out. Lights blurred as whirling cars threw people around in white-knuckle rides.
'I thought you were hungry?' He knew he was being stubborn. 'What about a hot dog or a burger?' She was soft to his touch, her flesh dimpling under his arm as he gave her an experimental squeeze.
'Only a little, incy-wincy bit.' She had a slight lisp. 'I can fill up after.' She manoeuvred him a little closer. 'I'm all curious now.' Another step closer to the slit. 'It says it's a natural phenomenon, captured in the South Seas.' The dark glasses did not seem to make any difference to her ability to read small print. Jerry felt around inside his pocket.
'I suppose so...' He jammed his other hand in his jeans' pocket to pull out his rather slim wallet. There were a couple of notes in it, just enough to pay. If there was anyone to take the fee. As if by magic, the slit widened to a dark, triangular hole. A grayish light grew brighter, outlining a small kiosk with a fat, shadowy figure inside.
'Just a fiver for the two of you, my duck.' Whether the speaker was male or female, Jerry could not decide. Which ever, it sounded like a cross between a bull frog and a boiling pot. Stepping into the marquee to drop his money on the counter, he was blasted by a sweet, fetid stink. 'Go on through.' A limb gave a sinuous flap towards the interior.
The light was dim purple, he could just about see a large barrel, about the height of a man, bulbous around the middle. A low platform circled the base. Glancing down, there were glowing fibres on his sleeve and his laces fluoresced bright green. Ultraviolet light. He kept his mouth shut, his false teeth would light up like haunted gravestones. Betty had her hand wrapped around his wrist, painfully tightly, and was forcing him towards the barrel. He kept his other hand in his pocket.
'Amazing!' Betty had stepped up on the platform and was leaning over the rim. 'Ohhhh....' It was a moan of pleasure. Jerry stepped up bedside her, all his attention on Betty's form. It was deflating. Slime was drooling in a thick stream from an orifice under her - its - chin. It sparkled in blue, hypnotic, ribbons as it dropped and pooled in the barrel. Her skin became a flaccid bag, draped over the side, her glasses firmly held in place. The last piece of 'Betty' was still knotted around his wrist, tethering him in place.
Leaning over the edge, he studied the swirling Slimer, patterns forming and changing, colours corruscating through a glowing rainbow. She, yes it was definitely female, was beautiful. Until a black hole form dead centre.
Jerry gripped the tube in his pocket, flicking the catch with a prehensile thumb. A rim around the hole became a growing lip. It lengthened into a wide tube, big enough to fit over his head. At the last moment, he snatched himself backwards. His free arm swung over and dropped the container of crystals into the maw.
A crackling told him that the solidifier had finally decided to work. She was crystalizing, he had better free himself. Pronto. Jerry yanked at Betty's discarded skin. He stepped back, stumbling off the ledge, struggling with the loosening tether. It was stiffening. Somehow he freed his wrist, the loop hardened, sticking out, a single, empty handcuff. It had been a close call. Too close.
'Slimer Betty apprehended.' He spoke into the minicom inside his jacket's lapel. 'Ready for transport. Agent Jerimious signing off for a break.'
It was deserted behind the marquee. And dark. As the sounds, smells and flickers of humans out for an evening of fun washed around him, Jerry slid out of his skin and flooped into a relaxing puddle.
He was hungry.
He wondered how flesh and blood tasted.