You might think two books of adventure involving Ned the brain-enhanced Seal would be enough for any little seal's lifetime, but not so. Ned is back. Ned and H. G. Wells, returning from correcting wounds in the fabric of time, not to mention a brief trip to an alternate Mars, have rescued two shipwreck survivors, Bongo Bill and Suzie Q. They have saved them from drowning or possibly being killed by alien invaders. In the process of jumping from one dimension to another, trying to discover a time path home, they find themselves in an inner world with a stationary sun. It s a warm world with jungles, rivers, and land-locked seas. It is full of primitive creatures, including dinosaurs, highly intelligent apes, cannibals, strange storms and bad hygiene. Deciding on a brief picnic and minor exploration before jumping to Victorian England, Ned and his friends end up saving a famous apeman from human-eating birds, and soon set out to assist the apeman, Tango, in stealing a Golden Fleece with curative powers, a fleece skinned from the body of a strange space traveler. The fleece resides in a magnificent city, a kind of Shangri-La in the far Blue Mountains. Their plan is to use the fleece to cure Tango's beautiful wife, who has fallen into a coma. Nothing seems to cure her, but the rumored miraculous powers of the Golden Fleece just might. If the world doesn't kill them, then another survivor of the shipwreck from which Bongo Bill and Suzie Q were rescued just might. She has been pulled into a time warp and blended with the souls of marauding aliens, as well as the techno souls of their machines. She has mutated. She has grown to great size. She has invented rolling machines that maul the trees and crush the earth, blend rocks and bones, blood and jungle into one vast wasteland. She has gained terrible powers, and lost all connection to humanity. She has become She Who Must Be Obeyed and Eats Lunch Early. Her whole purpose is chaos, and she has gathered an army to help her do just that. She has destroyed the villages she has come across and enslaved the inhabitants. She and her army are heading in the direction of the Blue Mountains, to the fabled city that contains the Golden Fleece. Inevitably, she will collide with our heroes, and it won't be pretty. Come now to the worlds and times of Ned the Seal. Share his journeys, as he honks the horn on his power sled, avoids becoming a culinary prize of beasts and cannibals, and settles in for a meal of fish, baked or fried, dried or raw. Cause the Sky Done Ripped and everything has gone to adventurous hell. And thank goodness.
"Planet of the Apes and Mad Max converging and into a tale that could convert to an adult rated animated film with its rip-roaring darkly humorous fully loaded fun ride escapade with the unforgettable Ned The Seal and She Who Must Be Obeyed and Eats Lunch Early."– Lou Pendergrast, More2Read
From the Journal of Him Who Would Come to Be Known as Bongo Bill
Strangeness and Irony.
You'll see what I mean.
When all this happened, I was a precocious eighteen.
I have always been afraid of deep water, of the great oceans, seas and gulfs. I fear drowning. The idea of floating down, down, down to the bottomless ocean gives me the willies. Makes me see dark swirly-blue, makes my hair feel wet, even if I am only thinking about it.
So, guess what?
I found myself at sea.
It was the Gulf of Mexico, actually, at least that's where it started. Later there was the Atlantic, and then all that ice, a hole in another world, and a drift down under. And I don't mean Australia.
But the ship at sea. That's where the serious stuff started for me. That's where the oddness and danger caught up with me.
Pull away for a moment, and let's go back farther, let's start at another place instead of on the ship. This is the prelude to it all.
Six months earlier the flying saucers came (technically, not all of them were saucer shaped, but that's what they were called) and they leaked out disease, and they did it on purpose. It washed down from the skies and was carried on the wind, a bacterial nastiness that first hit Canada, a big-ass dose that knocked most of the Canadians flat.
As the disease soared down, it gained momentum because the germs liked warmth, and the winds were blowing fast toward the south. By the time it hit the southern part of the U.S. it was wild as a jungle beast.
The symptoms of the disease were brutal. It ate your windpipe, it made you squirt shit. It boiled your brain and steamed your eyes. It made your bones turn brittle and finally become mush. The insides of your mouth crackled with electricity. It turned humans into screaming, squirming worms. I heard the dying smelled like hot dog breath. A few got the jiggers with their dose of disease, which was a kind of dance their contaminated brains made them do. Hop-along-dying is what it was. One moment the infected are hopping, then the next moment, not so much. Did a stiff-legged boogie then hit the dirt. I don't think I mentioned that steam came out of their mouths, noses and ears and around the eyes, but it did. It made people swell. Bellies burst, pants ripped, torn apart by cosmically diseased farts. Rumors were, it blew out the male and female sex organs. Don't know all the details on that. Don't want to.
So, me and my mother and father, and little sister, Suzie Q, were part of a lucky few who had government connections. My father worked for the President of the United States, who was partly responsible for what happened. The president was a dunderhead. The saucers came and the aliens offered us all manner of sweetness and freedom from war and disease, so President Dunderhead (not his real name, but certainly an appropriate moniker) took a shot at them, and over Canadian territory at that. A big fat rocket was fired, missed a saucer and took out Montreal.
That's how the president was. Shoot first, ask questions later. Just ask his three wives. They had been sperm-targets and had birthed children almost as hollow as he was. President Dunderhead probably didn't know where the U.S. ended and Canada began. Bottom line, he turned a magnificent peace offering from an all-powerful alien presence into war. So instead of curing our diseases, the aliens waggled tentacles and snapped their beaks and pulled levers, or pushed buttons, or whatever the hell they did, and gave us a disease, and boy what a doozy it was.
Still, and this is where some of that irony fits in, I owe President Dunderhead my life because my father worked for him. Dunderhead didn't really know my father well. Dad worked as a chef at the White House. The President really liked my father's cooking. My dad could boil a turnip and somehow manage to have it taste like a Frenchman's delight. Thing was, though, Dad said Dunderhead didn't know a thing about fine cuisine, and Dad figured out pretty quick to blacken his steaks and feed him French fries and burgers, give him beer and lots of pie and pudding, mostly served on a tray in bed. President Dunderhead was so happy he'd fall asleep early, which was a temporary blessing for the country and the world. I think he dreamed of where he could next stamp his presidential seal. Already it was on his golf tees, his underwear (visible through his thin white golfing pants in a famous photo of his broad, stretched ass) and some said that presidential seal was tattooed on his wife's ass near the hole. That could just be rumor, though.
The problem was when he was awake. Like when he authorized the attack on the flying saucers. We managed to shoot one down after we took out Montreal, and President Dunderhead was proud of that. He'd call one a hundred, and two three hundred. He was long on ego and short on math.
Let me note that many missiles missed aliens and blew away other spots in Canada.
Yippie, said Dunderhead.
He didn't like Canada anyway.
Thing was, those who worked for the president (or at least some, the tightest in the inner circle) got the chance to get the hell out of Dodge, and we saddled up. Obviously, this included families. We took trains and planes and automobiles, but the planes didn't fly right anymore. It's odd, but it had something to do with the disease. It filled the air of the North American continent and clogged jet engines like invisible wads of steel wool. So, there was very little flying, at least in the diseased areas, which were expanding.
You'd think everyone would have the disease, but some were immune. Something different in their genetics, I suppose. And there was the vaccination U.S. scientists came up with. You see, we, the chosen ones, had an inoculation based on the blood of the immune, and it worked like a charm. Some smart people had figured it out, and fast, but not fast enough to save the bulk of Canada, or most of the U.S., especially the working class who didn't have quick escape access. U.S. President Dunderhead didn't want to distribute the vaccine to anyone other than those he chose.
He always said he was a president of the people, but as it turned out, not the poor people, not most people.
He said in private, "Who are they anyway? They aren't rich."
He was right. They weren't.
But, I come back to this. We, because of President Dunderhead, who didn't know his asshole from a hole in the ground, the scientists who invented the serum, and my father's cooking, survived.
We didn't do the jiggers or turn into wormy flesh or get blown up in a whirl of shit and a stench of farts.
As Dunderhead said, "Disease is for the other people."
We didn't have the disease to worry about, but the saucer folk still had death rays, beams of blue light that lit up buildings and turned humans into charred stick figures, and finally puffs of black smoke. If the disease didn't get you, the ray guns would. Snap, crackle, flame and pop.
We got out of Dodge (Washington).
We flew out on a private jet, ahead of the wind, ahead of the disease, but jets could only be trusted to go so far. As I said, all the air was starting to clog up with that alien stuff. We had to land and get off the jet and go by sea, had to catch a big, fat cruise ship down Galveston, Texas way.
The war ships were already gone, as was most of the Navy, not to mention the rest of the military, outside of a few armed forces folk here and there, mostly wandering around in circles. So, we didn't have destroyers or any other sort of military water ride, not even a water ski on loan from Navy SEALs. A paddle boat from a water park.
But we had cruise ships.
There were several of them, and they were all full of Dunderhead's personal picks; the people he cared about, or like my father, someone who could prepare something he liked to eat.
On one ship there were a number of non-government folk, mostly young women. I had an idea what that was about. Dunderhead loosely referred to it as the cream pie boat.
Dunderhead said the ships had plenty of frozen steak and hamburger meat and hamburger buns on board. He seemed excited by the idea. There was also an onboard golf course. You would have thought he was taking us all on holiday the way he gloated and pranced and made faces that would shame a monkey. Later, it was learned someone had forgotten to pack mustard on board, which was a letdown for a lot of us.
To get on the ships you had to have a red badge. Blue for the young women. As I said, they had a special ship. Anyone else who tried to board was shot. No badge, no sailing.
My entire family had red badges. Our ship was leaving for New Zealand. I'm not sure why New Zealand.
I just remember a simple announcement.
"We're going to New Zealand."
Some said the New Zealanders had become the leaders of the world and had a very large air force, as did New Guinea. It was bragged about. I guess they hadn't considered that whole disease thing and what it could do to an air force. Maybe they had plans to thwart that.
Also, I think they did have the largest air force by then, but it was a handful of prop planes and an ultra-light. I saw a photo of the ultra-light. It looked like a lawn mower motor and a lawn chair with wings mounted on it. It had a little machine gun fastened on the front and the propeller rotated in such a way the gun could be fired rapidly without pinging off the blades. Of course, the machine gun would have had about as much effect on the saucers as blowing peas through a straw.
We got on the ship in the middle of the night, and there were other ships in sight, maybe half a dozen. Our escape flotilla was set to go.
And so, what was left of the United States government, as well as its cook staff, and all their families, and boats full of nubile young women, took out across the water, a version of "Life Is But a Dream" playing on speakers in cabins and hallways, soft and sleepy sounding, like the world was all right.
During the lifejacket and lifeboat drill, I could see the water and I realized we were moving rapidly because the lights of the shore were going away. Seeing those lights growing smaller, and the water and the sky so dark, frightened me to the core. The dusky water and the dark night met and made a ball of shadow around our ship as the lights retreated and the night grew firm.
The ship used very little illumination as we made our escape. The ship was guided by means of instruments that saw through the dark, pointed the correct direction with arrows and blips.
Now and again we saw the distant lights of saucers in the sky, but either the aliens didn't see us, or they had bigger plans. After a short time, we didn't see the saucers anymore. Where once they lit up the night sky like lightning bugs, the sky was empty now, except for the stars and the moon and the dark between them.
Where had they gone?
Well, I didn't know the answer to that at the time, and what answer I do know may be flawed. In the end it didn't matter.
The days and nights passed at sea. I imagined I could hear them pass, hour by hour, like a thudding of the cosmos trying to realign itself.