The Exquisite Corpse Adventure
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An Angel Descends
By Steven Kellogg
Joe, Nancy, and the fragmented robot, Roberta, pursued the pair of legs that fled through time, leaving their three friends to cope with the aliens who would soon be upon them. The friends were devoted to the Sloppy twins, and they were determined to help them to complete the assembly of Roberta, and to rescue their parents, and to find the home that they longed for, no matter what the consequences might prove to be. And they had said as much to Joe and Nancy! They had insisted that the twins should leave with Roberta at once and somehow intercept her legs as they sprinted past time zones, while the three of them remained behind to confront the aliens, battling them if necessary (as most assuredly it would be), and stalling for time so that Nancy and Joe could make good their escape and accomplish their mission.
But now that Joe and Nancy and the robot had actually disappeared, and the aliens were fast approaching, Genius Kelly, the pig, felt his determination to defend his beloved friends was muddled by creeping feelings of insecurity, doubt, and dread. To bolster his courage, he looked closely at his two allies. Hathi, the elephant, was certainly large and stalwart. He watched her swing the fragment of park bench that she had snatched up to use as a weapon, and her intensity made him glad that they were on the same side. She had mothered Joe and Nancy during their years in the circus, and looking at her expression of maternal commitment assured him that she would be a formidable foe against any evil creature who tried to fight its way past her in order to do them harm.
As for Sybil Hunch, the misfortune teller, she seemed to have some minor talents as a magician, but Genius Kelly doubted that she would be particularly impressive as a warrior. She had not known the twins very long, but she had developed a grandmotherly feeling of tenderness for them, and he had been impressed when she forthrightly volunteered to help hold off the aliens while they took Roberta and made good their escape.
Genius Kelly’s review of his forces buoyed his spirits. “Things could be worse,” he said to himself. “One of the troops is bulky and tough, and the other one is wiry and courageous.” He plucked up his own courage, remembering that he had been charged with being the children’s protector. And, even though he was a circus dancer and not a soldier, he had another talent that he thought might surprise the aliens in the event that hand-to-hand combat was called for!
Genius Kelly suggested to Hathi and Sybil Hunch that they decide on a strategy before the aliens arrive. “Although we have absolutely no chance of winning,” he said, “we have the advantage of being united by the high purposes of loyalty and self-sacrifice! Above all, we must remember that we achieve an important victory, no matter how dismally things turn out for us, by gaining time for our friends to complete their mission. Joe’s and Nancy’s success depends on us! We will not let them down! ONWARD!” The brave trio exchanged hugs of encouragement and solidarity, and then turned to await the appearance of the enemy.
For their assault the aliens had assumed dark and menacing shapes, and their eyes had been carefully calibrated to blaze and flash like neon lights. Suddenly the order to attack was zapped into them from their command post. Sneering and snarling they charged from the shadows and flung themselves at their adversaries. The first one to reach Genius Kelly was not prepared for the pig’s professional cool as he expertly blocked the first blow and then whirled gracefully and flipped his assailant head over heels. This was the talent that the dancing pig had thought might surprise his adversaries! Joe and Nancy had known of Genius Kelly’s familiarity with judo because when they had expressed an interest in the martial arts he had given them lessons. Now, however, his enthusiasm for the sport was put to serious use as he grappled with a succession of alien opponents and briskly sent each of them sprawling.
Sybil Hunch had meanwhile used her magic powers to recruit a troupe of compliant ivy vines exactly as she had done at another critical moment earlier in the adventure. This time she directed the vines to coordinate their movements, binding up each fallen alien as tightly, neatly, and helplessly as hapless beetles that are packaged in spider webbing.
As for Hathi, she wielded the fragment of park bench with the dexterity of a tennis pro. Thinking of her beloved Joe and Nancy in danger aroused her to an astonishing level of martial efficiency! She whacked first one alien and then backhanded another, shoving each of them into the clutches of the vines where they were quickly put out of action.
It seemed that the victory which had been inconceivable was now actually at hand! Sybil Hunch dodged and skipped through the turmoil deploying her cadre of vines with the shrewd military instincts of Napoleon. She made certain that every alien that was toppled by Genius Kelly or bashed by Hathi was ensnarled by her vines before it could recover. Soon very few of them were left standing.
But then a wave of alien reinforcements poured in. They were protected by helmets and riot gear, and they were armed with electronic pitchforks, lances, and cattle prods that permitted them to poke, sting, and bruise the Sloppy twins’ defenders, and to drive them in any desired direction. The valiant trio lost their momentum and stumbled in confusion, as the aliens gleefully taunted them, and herded them toward a strange structure. It turned out to be the boxing ring that had been moved from the clearing where it had been utilized by Baby Max as a roller skating rink during happier times. Now it served as a command post for the aliens’ leader, a huge, hulking, cloaked and masked figure who was feverishly transmitting signals from his official Military Palm Pilot/Puppeteer #CJX7382. As ordered, the alien troops drove Genius Kelly, Hathi, and Sybil Hunch back against the command post and pinned them there. Above them the leader wheeled around and threw off his cloak, revealing a grotesque gorilla body that was covered by densely tangled tattoos. When he moved they wriggled and rolled over muscles which bulged like bloated watermelons. The combatants on both sides froze when he roared, “SILENCE!” He ripped off his mask exposing a ghastly head transplant. It was none other than the hideous, blank, rear end-face of Leonardo Dubenski! A teleprompter popped from beneath the canvas, and he launched into a speech, bellowing, “I am the Villain of Villains, and the Toughest Hunk of Scum in the Underworld! Invaders, this is your Day of Doom!” He paused to glare down at his victims. (That is, they assumed he was glaring. It is difficult to read the expressions on a face that is, in actuality, a rear end.)
“On the plus side,” whispered Genius Kelly to Sybil Hunch, “it looks like this will be a long-winded speech, which will give Joe and Nancy more time to escape.”
“On the minus side, and speaking of wind,” she whispered back, “his breath STINKS!”
“Shhhh! Be quiet! Shut up!” hissed a number of the aliens, poking their weapons threateningly in the direction of their prisoners, who instantly fell silent.
Dubenski’s face swelled as he took a deep breath and continued in an even louder voice: “Now, to avenge the humiliation of the Squid by the fugitive punk you have been protecting, I challenge you . . .”
But the challenge was cut short by Hathi who, propelled by a surge of blind motherly outrage, bounded into the ring trumpeting hysterically, “My Joe is no punk! BEWARE! You insult him at your peril! My ancestors marched with Hannibal and squashed the Romans!”
Dubenski was so startled by her outburst that he lost track of the line he had been reading. Before he could find his place, Hathi reared up and smacked him with her bench fragment so smartly that his head-butt was driven like a squarely struck nail directly down into his body and out of sight. The headless, tattooed torso, with arms flailing, staggered in circles like a drunken dancer. Then he blundered into the ropes, and bounced over backward onto the canvas, emitting a disgusting, volcanic belch. Hathi’s teammates applauded and cheered, “HATHI! HATHI! HATHI!” as she stepped triumphantly from the ring, while the aliens gaped in disbelief. They were clearly stunned by the spectacle of the previously undefeated Dubenski being hustled off to the underworld locker room even before he had delivered his carefully composed challenge!
It only took a moment, however, for the villains to rally and to change their tactics. Hissing, “VENGEANCE! VENGEANCE! VENGEANCE!” the ones that had been wrapped in vines oozed from between their bonds, while the others, steaming with fury, began to disintegrate into gelatinous, eggy blobs. To the horror of Hathi, Genius Kelly, and Sybil Hunch, the blobs flowed together, increasing in size and mounding themselves around the trio like a vile, pulsating meringue . . . like a living swamp . . . like a monstrous, murderous amoeba! As the glob rose above their feet, gluing them into place, Sybil Hunch chanted frantic imprecations summoning magical forces that did not respond. Genius Kelly wailed and thrashed helplessly. And Hathi trumpeted to the skies like one of her tragic pre-Hannibal, Mastodon ancestors mired in the deadly muck of the La Brea Tar Pit.
But, just as the goo was swelling exultantly and rising to engulf its victim’s knees, torsos, and heads, the skies lit up and a voice from above called cheerfully, “Hello, Jello! Angel’s here! Release my friends, and DISAPPEAR!”
Nancy and Joe had told Genius Kelly all about this helpful pirate named Angel who had seemed to possess information about their mission when they had met up with him earlier in their adventure. “Hallelujah! Welcome, Angel!” cried the pig.
The pirate addressed the threatening substance with more authority. “I repeat, Blob,” he hollered. “LEAVE AT ONCE!”
The mound instantly ceased to swell. For a moment every ripple was paralyzed, and then the entire mass began to sag like a deflating balloon. Finally the pool of goo fragmented, and then reshaped itself into individual egg yolks.
“GO!” commanded Angel with a grand, dismissive gesture.
The chastised yolks slithered back into the shadows, but their renewed, whispered threats of “vengeance, vengeance, vengeance,” promised trouble ahead.
For the moment, however, all was joy and peace. The three rescued adventurers gazed in wonder at Angel, who beamed benevolently down at them. He looked resplendent as he descended in an impressive craft that was instantly recognizable as the monumental and magical Cradle of Time.
“I’m here to evacuate you pooped-out pilgrims,” he announced. He vaulted to the ground, and lifted each of them into the cradle.
Watching the pirate, who was as strong and agile as a gymnast, hoisting the elephant without any apparent effort made Genius Kelly wish that he had arrived a bit earlier when they were being bullied by Dubenski.
“Don’t you worry,” said Angel, uncannily reading the pig’s thoughts. “I wouldn’t let that thug turn you into bacon! I was about to erase his tattoos, but Ms. Hathi nailed him first. She is one powerful pachyderm! Don’t mess with her!”
There was no response from the exhausted elephant who was sleeping blissfully in a corner of the cradle. Sybil Hunch was curled beside her.
“I pushed the Naptime button on the cradle’s panel,” confided Angel to Genius Kelly. The pig responded with drooping eyes and a drowsy nod.
“Time to sag, Protector,” chuckled Angel. “You’re off duty.” He lifted the pig and gently placed him beside his companions. Then he covered the sleeping trio with a fluffy quilt.
After punching more entries into the panel, Angel tilted the cradle slightly, and the years suddenly fell away from its three occupants. Genius Kelly became a piglet, Hathi reverted to an elephant calf, and Sybil Hunch was once again a wiry, frizzy-haired kindergartener.
“Sweet dreams, babies. You’re back in time, before worries and troubles make life tough. You’ll sleep much better back there.” murmured Angel. Then he added wistfully, “I wish the twins were with us now. They’d think they were almost home.” He sighed, pushed the Set button on the panel, and leaped nimbly into the cradle.
The Cradle of Time rose like a grand gondola drawn upward by an invisible balloon. It sailed serenely through the radiant sunshine and the canyons of clouds. Meanwhile the napping friends, exhausted from all the stress generated by their confrontation with the aliens, enjoyed the sweet dreams that Angel had wished for them.
After several hours the three sleepers began to stir. “Time to grow up now, youngsters,” said Angel. He reprogrammed and retilted the cradle to bring them back to their former maturity levels. It took a few moments for their interior biological systems to adjust to the jolts and swellings brought about by the abrupt change in age, but a few burps, hiccoughs, and sneezes later everything was functioning harmoniously.
They felt blissfully rested after their nap, but decidedly HUNGRY! The ever-thoughtful and resourceful Angel had anticipated this possibility. He winked at the computer panel, and like magic, three gloved hands emerged from a trap door and delivered a delicious looking trio of trays. Each of the platters was heaped with gourmet fare that was perfectly chosen to delight the palette of a pig, an elephant, and a misfortune-teller. With mouths full and cheeks bulging, the three friends heaped praise and gratitude on their beaming host, labeling him “a prince, a saint, a champion, and a hero,” as well as “an angel.”
When second helpings of dessert had been devoured, Angel asked, “What’s the next move, folks?”
“Heavens! We’ve got to find Nancy and Joe!” declared Genius Kelly, suddenly jolted back to reality and remembering who it was he had been charged to protect.
“We’re in Nancy and Joe’s time frame now,” said Angel reassuringly. He had already locked the cradle into the proper time slot to coincide with the band in which the twins and Roberta were now operating. And, sure enough, there they were in the distance. As the cradle swept downward, Angel programmed the sound-search system to pick up their conversation. Roberta was completing a sentence that ended with the intriguing observation, “Now is the time to find a door.”
Audio recordings provided by National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance and the Butler Center for Children's Literature at Dominican University have developed a companion educational resource center (external link) to support “The Exquisite Corpse Adventure.”