A whole new take on the story of the Jabberwock ...
"The light’s the thing, son" his father told him, waving the fork in his face. "All purpley and shimmering. The locals call it brillig"
They were sat in the transit café waiting for his shuttle which was late, of course. It had probably decided to be late as soon as it heard him buy his ticket. The old man swilled down his chips with a third pint and called for more while he sipped his orange juice in silence, thinking longingly of being hunched over his computer in the dusty old library where no one ever came. No point in dwelling on that, he admonished himself, that was over now. Why couldn’t they have just let him be? The other sons, his elder brothers, had done all the adventuring anyone could want of their children, he was not the adventuring type. His mind rolled back to the latest web site he’d found and recalled the excitement he’d felt as he’d been about to link the site into his network. And then the summons had come.
Mum was a romantic. She loved her son, her boy, but he’d shrunk from the cloying pink atmosphere of the largest party the city had seen for a generation. Everyone had come, kissed him, shook his hand, pawed his clothing. The females fawned against him, their soft, luscious curves enfolding him until he felt buried under mountains of tit.
"Come to my arms" his mother cried over the heads of all the guests.
His mouth was covered in chocolate when they eventually dragged him out from hiding under the table with Griselda. They pushed him across the dance floor and man-handled him on to the stage. He forgot about his mouth when he saw the sword gleaming dully out of focus under the bright lights. Damn! Why had he let Griselda take his contact lenses out?
His mother towered over him, feet akimbo, wielding the yard of shining metal with a great flourish. Someone kicked him behind the knees so he grovelled before her. Grabbing her skirts to catch his balance, he grinned up weakly, confused by the flashing lights.
"I dub thee hero" she cried, whacking him on each shoulder with the monstrous blade. He had the bruises still. He tottered off with the stupid thing dangling from his belt, getting caught between his legs, Griselda smirking at his side.
The shuttle left him in a clearing and departed splattering him with mud. The pool of water at the foot ladder came over the top of his shoes. The trees stood out like dark steel against the purpley light and the mists snaking around their roots permeated his brain so he couldn’t think. He trudged off through the mire.
After an hour he stopped to wipe his glasses on the end of his tie, shivering inside his Burberry and wishing Griselda had given him back his contact lenses. She said wanted to make earrings of them, as a keepsake, in case he didn’t come back. He peered at the map to see but it was impossible, he had no idea where he was. The wind had dropped, the forest was eerily silent, one hand sneaked down to stroke the cloudy green jewel in the pommel of the sword.
"Jub! Jub!" the big black bird screamed from a branch right over his head. He jumped, tried to run and fell flat on his face as the sword got between his legs again and tripped him up. It came half out of its scabbard and glimmered wickedly.
"Not doing very well so far are we?" he told himself. "The trouble is, you’re just not cut out for all this hero nonsense. It would be better if you just gave up and went home." He regularly gave himself good advice but rarely took it.
He tried walking in the opposite direction but the path twisted suddenly under his feet, turning him back the way he’d been going. He thought about taking the sword out to be ready and it leapt from its scabbard, gleaming malevolently at him.
"I hope you know what you’re doing" he told it doubtfully. A wicked flicker of light travelled down the blade, he almost thought it was grinning at him.
He followed the path going deeper into the forest until suddenly sunlight brightened the gloom and he saw the tree standing up tall and golden in the clearing. Gratefully he stumbled towards it and sank into the soft green moss at its roots. He put the plastic water bottle to his lips and let the warm liquid ease his dry throat. Fumbling in the overcoat pockets he found the greasy packet of sandwiches and stared at them. They were very squashy and his nose twitched slightly at the ripe smell. The cheese was hot and sweaty, the cucumber had definitely faded and the lettuce hung in limp rags over the edge of the white crust. His eyes glazed over and he began to doze.
The whiffling noise penetrated his dreams as the creature made its way through the wood. It could smell the sandwiches and it was hungry. It began to burble.
He was hardly awake when the sword poked him in the ribs and leapt into his hand. One, two! One two! It went snicker-snack around his head. The creature jumped back and sat down on its haunches with its tongue hanging out like an enormous dog. They panted at each other while the sword crackled blue lightning up and down its blade. It was definitely cross.
Gingerly, never losing contact with the dark limpid pools of the creature’s eyes, he reached for the scabbard. The sword guessed what he was up to and jumped out of his hand, cutting his thumb for good measure. Immediately it began the attack and the creature scuttled behind the golden tree. The sword quivered with fury.
"I say!" the creature began, hesitantly poking its snout over a branch "Does it always do that?"
"I don’t know" he replied. "I only just got it."
"Isn’t there anything we can do?"
Very quietly, he took off his overcoat and sneaked up behind the sword. With a yell he flung the coat, muffling the sword in the heavy cloth, and rugby tackled it to the ground. Then he sat on it, panting. The sword made a final attempt to free itself before it went quiet.
"It’ll probably sulk for days" the creature remarked, sliding its head around the trunk of the tree. Its orange nostrils quivered at the smell of the sandwiches.
"If you sat on it I could try and get it back into the scabbard" he said.
The creature shot back behind the tree. After a moment its head appeared on the other side.
"D-d-d-do you think that’s wise? It seems to be me it’s after!"
"Oh do buck up! I don’t want to be stuck here all day sitting on a sword and you don’t want it chasing you through the forest."
The creature crept out and pounced on the Burberry beside him. The sword gave a terrific heave but they managed to get it back into the scabbard although it got red hot and the cloudy green jewel flashed emerald lightnings. They hung it in the golden tree where gradually it went quiet. The creature’s scales were gleaming wetly and a sweet musky smell came from its armpits.
"Are you going to eat those sandwiches " it was dribbling slightly. He held out the package and it gulped them down, grease-proof paper and all.
"What do we do now?" the creature polished its turquoise fangs with a long purple tongue.
"I suppose I must go home. But I shan’t have your head to show so I don’t suppose they’ll be very pleased with me."
"It’s very dull here, in the wood" it burbled.
"What are you saying?" he asked.
"Well," it gave him a sidelong glance, "My family wanted me to be different. I’ve got a masters degree in computing and I’m a whiz on the internet and anyway, all the rest of my family have been killed off by heroes. I always wanted to travel …" its voice trailed off.
Oh, lord! he thought, just my luck to get a nerd for a monster. What would his mother say if he brought it back whole, alive? He thought longingly of his computer in the library and as if it had read his mind, the creature whispered "I could help you create an inter-galactic web site …"
Mother basked in the reflected glory of her boy. So much more interesting than ordinary heroes! Her son didn’t just kill monsters, he brought his home and, between them, they transformed her City to become a knowledge base for the whole universe. He was such a clever boy!
If you want to know the whole history of monsters and their heroes, the web site is www.monsters.com. They say you can find anything there.