Monday, 11 December 2017
Last Night At The Prom (part 2)
The van’s suspension wasn’t great, so it shook all over the harsh tarmac of the road, bouncing from one side to the other and wobbling the passengers inside.
A single man drove and in the back, there was a bench against either wall, each holding one person. On one side was Celia Carpenter, but in the guise she wore now she was better known as the Antithetic. Two huge fans crisscrossed her back, a larger tank hung on them that led into two nozzles running under her arms and into her hands. Her utility belt was packed with cue cards, post it notes and nunchuck treasury tags. She had green goggles pulled over her eyes and she felt ready for anything.
Sat opposite her was Dreamweaver, in a flowing purple jacket. His jaunty chin sported a jauntier ginger beard and his eyebrows were almost manic. He had his Doorway Aligner, a small projector with quartz instead of a bulb, across his lap. There was a keypad on top and, depending on what number he entered, he could access any dimension in the multiverse. All but one.
In the front seat, the Calculator was driving with one hand and writing mathematical calculations on the window with the other. His eyes furtively flicked between the road ahead and his latest mathematical proof, and he cackled to himself as he drove.
The Antithetic frowned at him and then turned to Dreamweaver. “Remind me why we’re doing this again.”
“It’s the most sensical way to free the Camel God army.” Dreamweaver replied.
“But I thought our mission here was to get revenge against the Gang.” The Antithetic replied. “I mean, that’s why I’m here.”
“The Gang are too powerful for us to fight them alone. We need the Camel God’s army.”
The Antithetic looked at her feet for a moment. Why was the evil deity from beyond the limits of her comprehension never a goddess? Interdimensional deism needed to brush up on its feminism. “So, what’s your power again?”
“My Doorway Aligner here lets me traverse the multiverse.” Dreamweaver replied.
“Does that keep you busy?”
He shrugged. “Fairly. There’s a lot to see in the multiverse. Every conceivable reality. I mean, there’s probably a reality out there somewhere where we’re madly in love.”
The Antithetic raised one perfectly shaped eyebrow. “Wow. That reality is really difficult to imagine.”
Dreamweaver nodded with a sigh. He thought of the Celia Carpenter he’d kidnapped in hopes of wooing, but it hadn’t worked. This Carpenter didn’t seem any more willing either. “I know.”
“Guys, I’ve just solved Fermat’s Last Theorem.” The Calculator said from the front seat. “It was as easy as winning a game of Monopoly.”
“Good work.” The Antithetic sighed. “Have you worked out how much ammunition we need?”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a scrap of paper, passing it over his shoulder to her. “There you go. Based on Dreamweaver’s projections, those are the exact quantities we’ll need to reproduce the effect.”
The Antithetic read it and then passed the notes over to Dreamweaver. He nodded. “This is going to be fun. Like fireworks. But even louder.”
There was a manic gleam in Dreamweaver’s eyes that sent a shiver down the Antithetic’s spine.
Elsewhere, a minibus was cruising along at full speed. On its side were the words, ‘Terrence High School.’ It was heading to Gilliam High School’s Prom. Was this the enacting of some gang war between the two students? Was this an ancient rivalry being brought to the present? No. It was Steven’s stupid sense of humour.
Freya and Chris were sat next to each other. Freya wore a swooping gown that could have knocked Milan dead. Chris was wearing the same suit as Steven (and practically every other lad at Prom that night). The only difference was that Chris and Steven’s suits had been designed by Mr Phillips’ boyfriend, so included the same technology as their supersuits.
Steven and Sophie were sat directly behind Chris and Freya, Steven doing his absolute best not to stare longingly at Sophie. The only reason he had stumbled over his words in a race to tell her how beautiful she looked was because his dad was sat in the driver’s seat and it would have been embarrassing.
Freya checked her phone and her eyes widened. “Ali’s just texted me back. She says sorry she couldn’t make it but it’s taking her ages to get into her costume.”
“Costume?” Steven frowned.
“I feel like I’m wearing a bit of a costume really.” Sophie said, looking down at her dress. “It’s so… theatrical.”
Chris grinned. “Says the girl who spends most of her time running around with trailing scarves and 3D glasses.”
“Good point.” Sophie replied.
The minibus clanked over a speed bump and Steven hit his head on the roof. “Oof. You do think Ali will make it, don’t you?”
“What do you mean?” Freya asked.
“Well, you know how cut up she was about Charlotte. She might not want to face Desmond and Julie.” Steven said.
“I hope that isn’t the case.” Sophie frowned. “They’ve already ruined her year enough as it is, never mind taking Prom away from her.”
“I’m sure that’s not it. She’s probably just making some last minute arrangements or something.” Chris said.
“We’re here!” Steven’s dad cried. “Get ready for the paparazzi, guys.”
Chris turned to Steven. “Sunglasses?”
Steven pulled his sunglasses out of his pocket. “Of course.”
“Well then, ladies.” Chris said, offering a hand to Freya. “Time to party. School’s out for the summer.”
“Since when was Chris such a party animal?” Sophie frowned to Steven.
“It’s the quiff.” Steven replied. “It does weird things to people.”
Mr Phillips’ eyes glanced towards the clock and then he sighed and turned back to Bessie. Over the last two months, whilst the Gang had been fighting the evil GCSEs, he’d been observing freak crimes- a nuclear warhead going missing, a noetics laboratory being robbed- and researching the Camel God. Assuming that the ancient Egyptian deity was possessing Mr Andrews, that meant it had returned from the Banished Dimension, probably as a result of Dreamweaver’s interdimensional meddling. Based on the fact that the streets hadn’t yet run red with blood, Mr Phillips assumed that Dreamweaver hadn’t yet allowed the Camel God to bring his army into this dimension. But why?
Dreamweaver was a Camel God fanatic, enough to make him the primary god of his imaginary universe, so why wouldn’t he do everything he could to bring the army into this dimension? Conclusion: There must be something stopping him. He mustn’t have enough power. In which case, there had to be something that they wanted. An ancient artefact maybe, but Bessie hadn’t yet detected such an artefact in existence. What were they waiting for?
His phone buzzed and Bessie displayed the message on screen. “Where are you?”
It was from his boyfriend. Mr Phillips’ eyes flicked to the clock and he cursed. Prom had begun five minutes ago and here he was, his bowtie not even on, researching supervillains. His fingers prattled across the keyboard. “Be there shortly.” He hit send and climbed up, crossing the room to the exit tunnel. He could work it all out after tonight. For now, however, he had a more important duty. Partying.
(*author’s note: The following scene is better enjoyed with The George Baker Selection’s ‘Little Green Bags’ playing at full blast*)
Heads were turned, staring at the out of place minibus. The door slid open. First out were Chris and Freya. Then Steven and Sophie. All four were wearing sunglasses. In slow motion, they began to walk forwards in a straight line.
A Year Seven sibling of a Prom goer ran up to Steven, made some comment about his height. A pen flashed to Steven’s hand and he scrawled, ‘Yep, I’m six foot six. Yep, I’ve got size fourteen feet. Nope, the weather up here is the same as down there,’ without even breaking his stride.
Sophie, to his side, turned to Miss Franics, the last surviving science teacher and gave her the kind of wink that said, “I’m coming for your job, love.”
Freya spotted Gordon, the Head Boy, in the crowd and grinned at him. He felt himself sigh and realise that in the two months since she’d taken over the role from Charlotte, she’d already been more influential than he had all year.
Chris noticed the American exchange student from Texas standing behind the velvet ropes that banistered the steps into the hotel. He shot her finger guns and mimed, “Call me.”
Reaching the top of the stairs, they came across Mr Jensen and Mr Deterich, both in black suits and looking quite like bouncers. “Tickets, guys?” Mr Deterich said.
Steven reached for his pocket but Mr Jensen shook his head. “These guys? They can go wherever they like. Have a nice evening.”
“Thanks, sir.” Chris grinned.
Sophie reached into her purse and pulled out a packet of Jaffa Cakes, tossing them to Mr Jensen. “Don’t eat them all at once.”
They kept walking and Chris frowned at her. “What if I need them later?”
“Tonight is going to be a nice, stress free night.” Sophie said. “You won’t need Jaffa Cakes, I promise. Now, enjoy the party.”
They came to the edge of the hall and stopped, in unison taking their sunglasses off. Looking in, they saw a scene that instantly evoked memories of Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Balloons emerged from every tables. A phantasmagoric light show exploded across the walls. A banner crisscrossed from one wall to another saying, “WELCOME CLASS OF 2017!”
People danced and partied, the Frankie Valli soundtrack was almost overwhelming. Above the packed dance floor, a balloon full of balloons hung, ready to pop at any moment. In the far corner, a photographer was charging extortionate amounts to do his job and next to him, a phone box stood. Apparently, when booking attractions, Mr Deterich had clicked the option above Photo Booth by accident.
There were poker tables set up, where Mr King was betting his life savings, and a bar where Mr Phillips’ boyfriend, Ian, was waiting, looking sad. The Gang, unfortunately, didn’t notice this, because they were already off, ready to party.
It was going to be a night to remember.
Back at Gilliam High, Mr Phillips was waiting for the lift to come down whilst he fixed his bowtie around his neck. He’d already got lost twice in his rush, but at least he knew he was in the right place now. That was the only problem with the Cairns Cave, as they called it. Despite the doors being really close, the tunnels all led in opposite directions so you had to be exceedingly careful not to go the wrong way. You had to be in exactly right place or it just wouldn’t work.
The lift arrived with a ding and a flash of light, but arriving at the same time was a brilliant idea. Mr Phillips’ eyes widened and he ran back to Bessie. “Run a diagnostic of states of interdimensional weakness, Bessie.”
The computer began to whir. What if the thing that the Camel God needed was a weak point to exploit, a point where the different realities brushed against each other, a point where it was easier to step between worlds.
“Nearest To You: Gilliam High School.” Bessie’s screen read.
“Of course!” Mr Phillips cried. “It was here that Dreamweaver entered his Dungeons and Dragons dimension and where the powers first came from. The walls between worlds must be weakest here. But we don’t normally have inter dimensional crossovers at Gilliam so there must be some sort of cause.”
Bessie brought up a list of two things. The first was the Doorway Aligner, but that couldn’t access the Banished Dimension. The second was the original cause of the interdimensional spewing, the cause of the powers leaking from the Banished Dimension to this one.
The second item on Bessie’s list was a radioactive explosion.
Parked in the Red Lion car park, the Antithetic, the Calculator and Dreamweaver stared at the school. The Calculator checked his calculations again. “Yes, I’m certain. This should work.”
“Well, let’s test it then.” Dreamweaver said, raising his Doorway Aligner. “As soon as it blows, I’ll pull the trigger and we’ll see what happens.”
“I’ll fire in ten seconds.” The Antithetic said, her fans churning into life and lifting her up into the air. She stared down at the school and raised the bazooka to her shoulder.
Bessie reported a small scale nuclear warhead had been detected near the school. Mr Phillips cursed.
Ali stopped her mum’s fussing and stepped out of the house, ready to go to Prom.
Mr Phillips dropped his phone and began to run down the tunnel to the lift.
Steven grabbed Sophie’s hand and asked her to dance.
Mr Phillips jumped into the lift, willed it to move faster.
Ali walked to the front of her mum’s car and checked her watch. She hoped she wasn’t going to be late.
Mr Phillips broke out into the court yard in the centre of school.
In the Cairns Cave, a text buzzed through Mr Phillips’ reading, “Morris, where are you? Our song is playing.”
Mr Phillips looked up to the sky, eyes wide.
The Antithetic pulled the trigger of her bazooka.
Ali was thrown off her feet with the force of the impact. For a moment, the world seemed to drain of sound. Her eyes flared white and she couldn’t see anything. She tried to climb to her feet but her strength had deserted her. All she knew was that her heart was thundering inside her chest. What the hell was going on?
When finally her vision returned, all she could see was a mushroom cloud rising from where Gilliam High School had once been.
Standing in the Red Lion car park, Dreamweaver fired his Doorway Aligner and searched for the Banished Dimension. Nothing. “It didn’t work.” He whispered. Then he dropped the Aligner and grabbed the Calculator’s neck. “IT DIDN’T WORK.”
“My Maths must have been out.” The Calculator replied, eyes wide. “There must have been variables at work I didn’t know about that.”
“That was our only warhead! You ruined this for us!”
The Calculator looked at his feet. “It’s not my fault. There must have been someone in there I didn’t know about. Maybe one of the heroes. Their radioactive footprint might have thrown it off slightly.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Dreamweaver said. “It’s all over now.”
The Antithetic landed next to them. “Is that such a bad thing? Maybe an evil deity’s pandimensional army isn’t a good thing.”
“The Camel God is majestic, not evil.” Dreamweaver sighed. “No. We have no choice. We’re going to have to engage Plan B.”