Kifffarces (6): Kiff and the talking carpet from Torino

On one of their European tours, the Soul-amputating Troubadours of Hades visited Italy where, after having intimidated audiences in large venues in Milano, Modena and Firenze and leaving behind a trail of fans waking up screaming in the dead of night, they were now staying in a small village where they were featuring in the “Festival Regionale Abruzzese di Musica più Paventosa dei Petalli più Pesanti”, a regional Scary Music festival.

The local priest had done his utter best to deny our four Comrades of Eternal Sonic Damnation bread and rest for the night within the borders of his parish, and so they were lodged in a motel a bit further down the road. Luckily the motel also operated a pizzeria, and they had been driving the waiter and the cook up the wall by requesting pizzas with a combination of ingredients that, in Italy, was not just ‘not done’, but practically a capital crime.

Eventually the major of the village, who had been organising the festival, was called to mediate between the Vociferous Terror Paralysers’ culinary demands and the pizzeria staff’s refusal to fulfil them; and after the underhand exchange of some funds and promises to not interpret municipal legislations with regards to the Motel’s expansion plans all too strictly, the Eardrum-puncturing Interpreters of the Soundtrack of Doom finally got their tomato-, cheese-, garlic- and oregano-free pizzas with t-bone steak, chopped liver and mashed hamburgers (the one for the lead guitarist diced on account of his extended tongue), covered with copious amounts of Bulls-eye Barbecue Sauce and washed down with a tray of Budweiser.

When it had all been processed, they leaned back with the gusto of a job well done, while back inside the cook and the waiter could still be heard arguing in Italian.

“Say what you will, but I really like that Italian food”, the bass player said, opening another can of Budweiser.

*grunt*

*burp*

“Hoohlâw hlôl wlôl”.

“I think we should have a little evening stroll to check out Da Hood, what say you guys?”

“Grar.”

*Rhâcht* *ptooie* *splat*

“Uhlohlee ayhee.”

Thus the Four-headed Frightening-Machine could be seen ambling over the local road a while later, with clattering polyester armour, and soon they entered the village’s built-up area.

Everything was quiet on the street because most people were having dinner or putting the bambini to bed, but there was one elderly lady sitting on the doorstep of a house, making gnocchi. She noticed the approaching noise and looked up from her handiwork – but as she was near-sighted, she only saw a fuzzy dark blob that made a fearsome rumbling and rattling noise. She shrieked and jumped up, sending the gnocchi flying, grabbed a crucifix from the wall behind the front door and aimed it at the approaching abomination.

“Santa Donna Maria, aiutami!”, she exclaimed.

The Crass Choristers of Despondency didn’t even notice her as they were arguing about a particular controversial piece of merchandise that the lead guitarist had proposed they should add to their assortment:

“Hlublôh hlâhlee ohltol blôl!”, the lead guitarist remarked, his arms akimbo as if that was his last word on the matter.

*Chrâchcht* *ptooie* *splat*

*Rhââh* *rhah* *grar*

“Well, on the other hand, try to see it like this”, the bass player explained, “you gotta admit that – hey, what’s the matter with her?”

He signalled the other three Brutish Songsmiths of Dark Foreboding to stop and pointed at an elderly lady, who was apparently rather upset about something, running around shrieking like a panicking bat, her arms flailing around and ringing all the doorbells she could find.

Several shutters opened and heads popped out to see what the consternation was about, resulting in more screams and shouts, and doors and shutters being locked shut as they beheld the perambulating Heralds of Disquietude, dressed as they were in their usual armoured scary outfits adorned with spikes, barbs, skulls and wearing their combat make-up.

“Hah, grannies and old-timers … “, the bass player grinned. “Back home they’re made of stronger stuff *”

(* See: Kiff in Houston, Texas)

*Chrâchcht* *ptooie* *splatt*

*Rhââh* *rhah* *grâr*

“Hlâhlâll blal.”

“Come on, let’s check and see if we can score a Quackuccino somewhere around here!” He gestured his colleagues to follow him by jerking his head in the direction of the village, clapping his leather-gloved hands together.

However, the streets were now desolate with all the doors and shutters firmly locked. Meanwhile, the news of the approaching Eldritch Abomination had reached the local priest through the back alleys of the village, who immediately concluded that they were dealing not with a wicked supernatural apparition, but with the much more mundane threat of that devious hard rock act that that fool of a major had been so keen on contracting for his pet festival, and who were supposed to stay in their motel, away from the village.

He stood indecisive for a moment, but then he heard Elena, his housekeeper, who was keeping an eye on the street from a window on the first floor, scream: “Aiuto! Pronto! They are coming this way!”

Suddenly he remembered the musty old carpet that that dreadful new Archbishop of Torino had given him last year, and that was still standing rolled-up in the same room from where his housekeeper was now yelling at him.

He stumbled up the stairs as quickly as he could, shouting: “Hang on Elena, I am coming …”

Entering the room, Elena pointed with trembling finger out of the window: “Padre, they are coming! They are coming!”

“Easy now Elena, they are not evil spirits but hard rockers!”

“But … but they look like devils!”

“Yes, I know … that’s what passes for show business these days. Please give me a hand, will you?”

“Padre! What are you planning to do?”

“I had a deal with the major that they should stay away from the village because I don’t want them to scare the people here … so let’s give them a scare! Here, help me with this old carpet …”

Together they dragged the rolled-up carpet to the open window and balanced the roll on the window-sill.

“Now, let’s drop it as soon as they pass the casa parrocchiale!”, he whispered, not without a bit of glee.

The Librettists of Acrimonious Dismay were muttering and cursing, as their clattering echoed through the empty streets.

“Damn and blast! Not a single Barsuck’s in this hell-hole!”

“Whlooh whlôl blôl!”

*grunt* grâr* *spit* *bah*

“Now, Elena!”

The carpet unrolled as it fell down in a cloud of billowing dust, and completely covered the unsuspecting Mouthpieces of Baleful Consternation.

The falling sacerdotal carpet engulfed the Blasphemous Crooners of Boo-Boo-Devilry with a thick cloud of ancient dust, that it had patiently collected during the many years that it had been covering the floor in one of the guest rooms in the Bishop’s Residential villa in Torino.

It was not an ordinary carpet. It wasn’t originally from Torino, or even from Italy to begin with. More than 700 years ago, it had belonged to a witch from Luton who had jinxed an English goblin to possess the carpet as part of her efforts of finding a more comfortable mode of transportation. After she had abandoned that project because the goblin turned out to not have a head for heights, the carpet had eventually ended up with a Welsh knight errant who had taken the carpet along on the ninth crusade but traded it in for an extra packing donkey in Rome.

Because the goblin only knew English it was bored silly in the Papal State, and gradually it slipped into a comatose goblin slumber.

Until today. The sudden rush of fresh air, and the coughing and cursing of the Harrowing Harbingers of Eternal Teeth-Gnashing had the side effect of waking the goblin from his long slumber. As the four Black Voices of Agony and Chaos were struggling to get up and away from under the dusty embrace of the antiquated piece of interior decoration, it slowly felt its consciousness coming online again.

*BÀGH!* *BOOFF* *BHLAFFT*

*cough cough COUGH rhheuchârrRheuuchârr COUGH*

“HlllÂghll hlÂcheee HLÂGLOO!!”

“Damn and blast! What idiot did that? Is Rammstein also touring the area?”

“Not that I know. Although I must admit that I don’t know what a Rammstein is.”

“Ah, thanks.”

“Don’t mention it, I’m glad that I could help.”

“HllOOhlâgh hlee?”

“I thought that that was you? Didn’t you just say that about that you don’t know who Rammstein is?”

“Hloh.”

“No, that would have been me.”

“Er.”

“Hlol ohltol blôl?”

*Grar?*

“Aaaarghhhh!!!” For the very first time in their career, the Oodling Giants of Musical Terrormongering were confronted with something truly inexplicable, and the scare gave them wings. In one smooth leap they got out from under the carpet that had been talking to them. But truth be told, the 30-something years of being the world’s foremost Metatrons of Suggestive Woeful Trepidity had left them with a good thick skin, as with an old salt who has always kept the meat well-pickled. They quickly regained their balance, stopped and turned to look at the carpet.

As it lay there in disorderly folds on the sidewalk, it looked like any old rug left behind after a legal eviction. It had once been Bordeaux red, but the centuries-long accumulation of dust had dulled that into muddy grey.

The Ferocious Minstrels of Phantasmagistry ogled the carpet, arms akimbo in their renowned PR-pose.

“Maybe the meat on the pizza was off”, the bass player suggested.

“Hlâhlôl ahloohlah.”

*Rhâcht* *spit* *splAt*

The drummer, the most temperamental of the four, kicked a fold of the carpet. *Grar* *rraah* *grumbl*

“Could you please stop doing that?”, rang a voice from within the carpet.

“What the -“

“Hleebl lloobl!!”

*Grar?*

“What – I mean, who are you?” the bass player said.

“My name is Yttrach, how do you do?”

*Grar* “Maybe it’s one of them [CENSORED] electronics that those [CENSORED] build into [CENSORED] clothing”, the drummer rumbled.

*Rhâcht* *spit* *splatch*

“Into such an old rag?”

“There’s no need to be offensive, as far as I’m concerned”, the carpet answered, indignantly. “Have you perchance looked into any looking-glass of late? ‘Old rag’, indeed. Hah.

“Hey, whatever or wherever you are”, the bass player said, “this better not be one of those Rammstein tricks.”

“Hwloozs hlôbl!”

“Look, I told you before that my name is Yttrach! And I’ve never heard of anyone or anything called Rammstein, though it sounds like one of those Teutonic Fiefdom castles perched on a cliff, for all I know. I really wouldn’t know what that has got to do with a decent English carpet goblin.”

“Well, glad we got that cleared – hey, WHAT? Carpet goblin?”

“Um, that’s the thing … it’s all rather vague. I must have slept for ages. All that foreign babble … couldn’t understand a single word. But do say, how did I end up here on the street on top of you?”

“Don’t know. It looks as if you fell out of that window”, the bass player pointed at the open window of the parochial house.

As they looked up, they saw how two heads were quickly drawn back.

“… or, were thrown out”, he added.

*Grar* *kill* *kill* *KILL* *rrhÂhh*, the drummer fumed, pointing at the name plate next to the door, having arrived at the conclusion that they had become caught in the peculiarities of Italian municipal politics.

*Hlôfplol blôl!” The lead guitarist ogled the building with arms akimbo, and the rhythm guitarist spat against the door.

“Hey! Wait … I don’t want to spend the night in a police cell. Cool it, dudes”, the bass player intervened.

“What seems to be the problem?” Yttrach informed.

“Well … er … in short: I think you were thrown out of that window. By the local priest.”

“Oh, that’s ok, then. At least I wasn’t sleep-flying”, Yttrach answered, relieved. “I used to do that in the old days, I remember.

“Flying? You’re a friggin’ flying carpet?”

“I say, certainly not … merely ‘sleep-flying’, as in ‘floating through the air whilst asleep’ … it is my job to make this carpet fly, you see. But not too high, for that makes me giddy.”

“WHAT? Fly- hey, can you hang on for a moment? Boys! Hey! Listen up, here …”

The Rocking Antagonism Commissioners clattered their heads together.

“Hlôl blôl lôbllàh?”

*snort* *snàrftt*

*grar* *grunt*

“Ok – yes, I think it would definitely add to our act. Hang on.” The bass player turned towards the carpet, that was trying to straighten itself from the disorderly heap it had landed into. The undulating waves looked rather unsettlingly peristaltic, and it had little success so far.

“Hey! Yttrach!”

The undulating movements stopped. “Yes, what is it?”

“Are you in for a deal?”

“Deal? Deal? As in haggling, to get a better price?”

“More like – a gentlemen’s agreement – that’s, you do us a favour, we do you a favour”, the bass player explained. “Could you carry the four of us?”

“I daresay, yes. Weight is not a problem anyhow.”

“How about this then … we’re … eh … travelling minstrels, sort of.”

“Really? I’ve never seen minstrels in such clownish demonic costumes.”

*Grar*

“You’ve been sleeping for a long time, dude”, the bass player replied. “The business concerning minstrelsy has changed somewhat since the Middle Ages.”

“I’m sure it has. It’s not my business, I know … however, I am somewhat concerned about those spikes poking holes in my carpet. It’s heavy Cumbrian Herdwick wool from the Lakeland fells, but that doesn’t mean that you can host a jousting tournament on me. So please put corks on the ones that face down. But to return to the main issue: what agreements did you have in mind that we could be agreeing on?”

“We could take you out of this One-Horse Nothing Gulch … you could have a life! Sooo … what about a good carpet beating, followed by a shampooing and a bath?”

“Deal.”

“Great.”

“All right – if you squires would be so kind to straighten me out a bit to start wth?”

And so, the Cataclysmic Bulldozers of Perturbation could be seen on the sidewalk in front of the local parochial house, beating an old carpet, coughing, wheezing and barking because of the copious clouds of choking dust that also hid Elena, the priest’s housekeeper, who was stealthily making a video of the proceedings from another window, from their sight – which will turn out to provide a major plot point further on.

“Thank you … thank you … that’ll do nicely, thank you!” After the dust had settled and the coughing ceased, Lucifer’s Flagitous Librettists were looking at a classical Cumbrian red carpet that somehow seemed distinctly pleased. “I daresay”, Yttrach said cheerfully, “that I needed that.”

“So, let’s see if the old flying trick still works … if you would be so good to fetch the corks from the bottles that I noticed in a crate in yonder alley across the street, and push them onto the spikes that protrude from your footwear? After that I suggest you come aboard and make yourselves comfortable.”

Some minutes of predictable defiant grunting later, the Bellicose Custodians of Insolent Intimidation were seated on the carpet in a pose that matched their menacing PR-pose close enough for any passing glance.

“Are you ready for take-off?”

*grunt* *snôrt* *hrmpf*

“Ahlool uhhluh hahlool!”

“Go ahead!”

*rhÂcht* – “Please! No spitting on the carpet please!”

“Oh yes, one thing – I will be singing while flying. It doesn’t work if I don’t.”

“What will you been singing?”, the bass player informed.

“Oh, whatever I come across from the local common subconscious that provides good updraft.”

“Er. Yeah. Just go ahead.”

Until that moment, Elena, the parochial housekeeper, believed she had filmed a blast of a ‘private moments’ scoop of that  American Daemonic Rock Band. She would go ask her hipster nephew from Padua how to set up one of those Youtube channels, and she already imagined herself as the star behind the newest Youtube Viral Smash Hit.

It took her by complete surprise when the singing started, and the carpet on which those artists had now sat down with their arms akimbo, slowly started to rise.

She screamed and those four scary demonic men all turned to look at her. She ducked and her phone fell from her grip, but she quickly picked it up and aimed it at the scene outside again.

The singing was in English and seemed to be coming from the carpet itself. It was definitely not one of the men: it was much louder than a normal voice would sound and it sounded somehow old-fashioned.

It In fact, she noticed that the men didn’t seem too pleased with the song, for they looked ever more spiteful as the song progressed, casting glances at one another. She kept filming as the carpet drifted away, until they turned the corner, and the singing died away in the distance.

“… you can beeee … digging Holes, and shovelling Earth; but the Raking is the best part of ah-hall …”, Yttrach sang his heart out with a curious Middle English accent that seemed to beg for a trio of those nasal-sounding medieval flutes for accompaniment.

“… do you really have to sing THAT?”, the bass player repeated in a louder voice. The carpet started to wobble and lost height.

“Hlâh! Hylâl! Hlol!”

“Watch out for that lantern!”

Yttrach managed a more or less soft landing against a wall.

*GRÀR*

“Please! You mustn’t distract me as I am flying! Look what you did – we have been lucky this time, but – just don’t discuss the Repertoire with the Goblin during the flight! Just … don’t.”

“But why, for all Cursing Boy Scouts – why did you need to sing that?

“As I said, the Repertoire is not the Passenger’s free choice”, Yttrach answered. “I merely pick up the song that matches the current flight requirements. I don’t know what the exact criteria are – the passenger’s disposition, the locality, time of day etcetera etcetera – but questioning the Song during the flight – it’s the same as … as … if you would saw the boat you are sailing on in half! The carpet doesn’t mind falling from a height, but I think that you wouldn’t like it.”

After several minutes of additional grumbling and cursing, the Multitools of Phobia Induction were seated again in the required pose. They took off again.

“Ah well ah well AH WELL I must have been … growing Hedgehogs Upside Down, EE-AYE EE-AYE-OOH! The Right-Way-Up-Society’s knocking at my door, EE-AYE EE-AYE-OOH! With a Hedgehog Here, Hedgehog There …”

And so the Four Fabulists of Transgressive Enticement flew back to their motel, a few feet above the ground, amidst the uplifting songs of Hark Cloggo & the Clodboys, with four small thunderclouds of chagrin hovering above their heads.

————

Meanwhile, back in the Parochial House, Elena proudly showed her footage to her employer, who couldn’t believe his eyes.
“Elena!”, he said, “Please calm down … let me first call the Vatican Observatory! If you put this on the internet, just imagine … all the fans of that band will gather here! Let’s first find out if we are dealing with the Dark Arts or with some special effect from show business.”

————

And before too long, several prelates in Castel Gandolfo were scrutinising Elena’s video.

“It seems genuine enough”, Fr. Oculus Celestius said.

“It’s certainly genuine”, Mgr. Cogitus Firmamentum agreed. “The question is rather: is this a job for the Quomodocunque Exorcizari Ministerium, or the Munus Pervestigationum?

Fr. Celestius sighed. “I don’t want to risk my reputation on this”, he said after a while, as they were watching for the fifth time how a carpet carrying the Contumacious Prophets of Black Bitterness gently floated into a side street without any visible support, apparently defying gravity while someone from the airborne company seemed to be singing a silly song about gardening in a stentorian voice.

While he was certainly not an expert on pop music, he tended to agree with the statement of the local priest’s housekeeper who had filmed the proceedings, that it was definitely not one of those band members who had been singing. It was quite clear even on the shaky video footage that they only barely tolerated it.

“I say we hand it over to our American colleagues”, he said eventually. “After all, it’s their band, isn’t it?”

————

Later that night, the Baleful Foghorns of Arrant Aspersing were hanging on the couch in their motel room, sipping beer and zapping through old black-and-white movies about, mostly, monks chastising themselves set to ominous organ music.

“Hey”, the bass player said, “I’ve seen enough self-chastising monks for the rest of my career. Let’s do something illegal, before we turn into monks ourselves.”

“Hâwlyooh hlobl blôl”, the lead guitarist poppled approvingly.

The drummer giggled, got up and let out a massive burp.

“Here’s an idea”, the bassist said with a mischievous grin on his painted face. Let’s take Yttrach for another spin, and freak out a few more locals.”

“Ohtôl blol âhwaih!”, the lead guitarist remarked with a deep frown.

*Rhâcht* *pTooie* *splat*

“I thought about that”, the bass player answered. “Remember those earplugs that the Scary Musician Union sent us? And that we never use?”

*Grar*

“Yes, indeed, because we’re no East Coast Sissies. But I kept them just in case, and this would be the perfect use-case for them!”

He rummaged around in the flight-case labelled DIV. RUBBISH, and produced a stylish little black box with the word EARSKULLZ written on it in blood-red gothic letters. He opened it and showed he contents to his scary colleagues.

“You got to hand it to them, at least they have some style.”

In the box were four sets of earplugs, styled like little ferocious skulls.

The lead guitarist picked one out of the box. “Hlôw hluh hey hlûw?”

“Just press them in your ear, I’d think.”

The rhythm guitarist and the drummer came walking in with Yttrach, who they had put rolled up in one of the bedrooms.

“Hey!” the bassist said. “I just thought of something… Yttrach said he didn’t dare flying higher than a few feet, remember?”

The drummer looked at him, and he and the rhythm guitarist put the carpet down.

“Listen up: why don’t we get some bottles of wine from downstairs and fill the bath with water. We’ll plunk the carpet in it, and add the wine and all those little bottles of shampoo from that cupboard in the corridor that we forced open.”

“Whlawhoobl hlâl blol?”

“Maybe Yttrach will forget that he’s scared of heights if he’s drunk”, the bass player giggled.

————

So, a while later the waiter, the receptionist, the cook and his girlfriend, who were just leaving for the night, heard the four Anathema’s of Acerbic Anguish stomping heavily around.

“I hope they don’t ruin the place!”, the receptionist said. “The stories you read about rockers … “

“If so, the major will have to pay up, or else I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse”, the cook said. “I’m not from Napoli for nothing!”

————

Meanwhile, the four Fabulists of Screeching Terror were now slowly lowering the carpet into the bath that had been filled with warm water, a few litres of red wine and dozens of little hotel shampoo bottles.

“Aahhhhhh”, Yttrach sighed. “This is … pure bliss. I haven’t felt this good since that silly Knight landed me in that fountain in Perpignan …” *hic* 

The bass player used a broom to slosh the carpet around, as far as the bath allowed. The water had already turned dark brown.

“It seems you might need more than one wash”, he said. “Guys, help me turn the carpet over…”

After a 20 minute soak they drained the bath, rinsed their laundry with the hand shower and carried the dripping carpet downstairs.

“Hey. You squires are *hic* the best!”, Yttrach giggled. “Wah-hat are *hic* we up to next?”

“You need to dry, so let’s go for a little tour!”

Whoops! A tour *hic* I call The Grand Comeback Tour of Yttrach *hips*! Whaht a splendid … er … idea!”

“Do you have that bottle of Wodka with you?” the bass player hissed to the rhythm guitarist.

*Rhâcht* *pTooie* *splat*

“I take that as a ‘yes’ ?”

*Rhâcht* *pTooie* *splat*

“Ok, Yttrach? We’ll spread you out here on the parking lot. We al still have our corks, so let’s take off right after we have sat down!”

“By ALL means, I say, tally-ho *hic*! Now let’s see, checking pre-flight procedures … *hiccup* … visibility well over 10 miles … a gentle breeze from the south-west … *hic* … scanning airspace for other goblins on possible intursept- *hic* intersup- I mean – ah – intercept cause – course, yes, of course, hihihi *hiccup* … all systems go, I reap – repeat, all systems go … *hic* … are you Squires ready for take-off?”

“Hold on, just a minute … “ the bass player replied, as they were all frantically trying to squish the Earskullz in their ear canals, but they kept popping out again.

“Hey hwônh hdây ihn!”

“It says here: ‘pull your earlobe down and to the front to make it easier to put in your Earskullz’”, the bass player read from the Earskullz manual.

*Grar* *grunt*

“And … here we go!!! WHOOPSIE Daisy, I’m half crazy …” – at the first ‘Whoopsie’, Yttrach had enthusiastically jumped into the air and was now steadily rising ever higher, so that the four Austere Authorities of Audacious Augury had been thrown into a disorganized clump of black polyester armour.

“Hlâwllâl hlôl blôl!”

“Say what? I got those Earskullz in!”

“Pleease give me your answer dooooo *hiccup* so … WHOOP-SIE DAISY”, Yttrach sang, bulging up enthusiastically to the rhythm of the refrain, so that the Bellicose Balladeers of Bullying Bewilderment were tossed around in a rather unsettling manner, especially given the height that Yttrach had now reached.

“Could you please fly a little calmer?”, the bassist shouted as careful as he could, as he remembered how easily Yttrach had been distracted and crashed earlier.

“No worries, dudes!”, Yttrach yelled – he seemed to be updating his vocabulary remarkably fast. “Engaging Carpet Dewobblifier … NOW … sorry, I forgot about that … now, where was I …”

Though the carpet was now indeed steady as a rock, they were also losing height quickly, judging by the increasing roar of the wind from below.

“What about ‘Sixteen tons’?”, the bassist suggested.

“Hmmm … I can try … You load Six Teen Tons, and what thou refieve? An other day older and deeper and dead … Hmmm … I don’t know …’s not very uplifting innit?”, Yttrach muttered.

The moonlit landscape was approaching fast from below.

“Listless Lawns and Pretty Petunias!”, the bassist yelled.

“Ahhh! Yes! Hmm … ‘And she was saying: LISTLESS Lawns, but PRETTY Petuniae ‘s what I always get – yeah yeah yeah … listless Lawns, but pretty Petuniae: that’s no reason to fret – ah wellah WELLAH WELL ….”

The descending had stopped, and they were now floating at about 100 meters high.

The Cataclysmic Catchpoles OF Cantankerous Creepiness swept the sweat of their foreheads and finally managed to disentangle themselves, while Yttrach was working his way through the uplifting repertoire of Hark Cloggo.

The bass player was feverishly trying to think of a way to interact with Yttrach without making him crash. He signalled his scary colleagues to keep silent and keep their Earskullz firmly in place.

But before he could try anything, he heard a roaring sound approaching from above. He looked up and saw the spidery shape of a NASA Lunar Module descending and eventually matching their height and course.

The Diabolical Deputees of Dark Dread ogled the spacecraft suspiciously, and the bass player muttered “Just as you think you’ve had your share of excitement for a day … having a nice T-bone steak pizza … scaring a few locals … flying around a bit on an antique carpet … nearly dropping to a certain death from 3000 feet … and then, those dudes turn up.” He rolled his eyes so demonstratively that he hoped it was visible to anyone who happened to look at them from the LM.

“Lhâwhlôl ôhtol blôl!”, the lead guitar player shouted above Yttrach’s singing.

“I’m sorry, but there’s little we can do!”, the bassist shouted back. “Anything we’ve said to Yttrach makes him crash!”

To their further dismay they saw how a hatch in the LM was opening trough which the helmet and upper torso of a figure dressed in a space-suit emerged. He was waving cheerfully at the Extravagant Eidolons of Exasperation.

————

Due to the roaring of the wind and the spacecraft, Yttrach’s persistent loud singing and the Earskullz, there wasn’t a ghost of a chance that they could hear the conversation between the pilot of the LM and Houston. But there’s no reason to withhold it from you:

{BEEP} {chcht} {BEEP} {BEEP} {chchct} Papa Echo, Papa Echo, now matching air speed and heading of the object, locking video identification on subject and switching to auto-pilot … now {BEEP} Roger that, Wobbly Wombat {CHCHT} analysis started, ETA … five minutes, though Alan here’s pretty sure he already knows who they are {chchchct} {BEEP} A-OK Houston, will now proceed to establish waving contact with subject, as the carpet seems to hold steady as she goes {BEEP} hang on Wobbly Wombat {chcht} advice is to lock LM autopilot to carpet course {chcht} but keep bailout margins {chcht} {BEEP} Roger that Houston, A-OK, will now go EVA {BEEP} Hang on Wobbly Wombat {BEEP} {chcht} {BEEP} yes Houston, come in {chcht} {BEEP} thought you might like to know that one of the subjects was just rolling his eyes in a particularly demonstrative manner {cht} {BEEP} thanks Houston, will proceed now {BEEP}

————

The sultry Italian night wind had now nearly dried Yttrach’s carpet, and as a result he was sobering up. Slowly it dawned on him that the landscape below was frighteningly far away. His singing grew somewhat unsteady as he frantically tried to find a less-upbeat song to lose altitude to in a controlled way.

“ ‘I’m a-planting a Plot of Garden Gnomes to take over; a Plot of Garden Gnomes to take over’ hey, guys! ‘… to take over the Landscape Of Your Mind, ah-Henne-Henne-Henne-Henne Whap-see-doo! My little Willow Maid – ‘ HEY!! …”

The bass player was the first to notice the change: “Speak up!”, he shouted back.

“ ‘and as we go strolling down-a-country lane, my little Willow Maid’ – ah! I must have been inebriated! We are flying much too high! Quick! Do you know a song that is only moderately uplifting? ‘ – and when we behold the Plot of Garden Gnomes that is a-dwelling in yer Willow mind, we will-ah-will-ah-will-ah …’”

The bassist racked his brain. The whole concept of ‘uplifting’ was alien and distasteful to him – the only thing he could think of was a German song he once heard in a movie. It was something about someone being the singer’s pain of the heart – that was at least properly painful, though also somewhat upbeat because it was probably a saccharine love song. He suppressed a small shudder. “Try ‘Du, du, liegst mir im Hertzen’!” he shouted.

————

{BEEP} {chcht} {BEEP} Wobbly Wombat, Wobbly Wombat, please come in {chcht} {BEEP} Hiya Houston, Wobbly Wombat here {BEEP} {CHCHT} {BEEP} we, um seem to have a small mystery at hand here {CHT} What’s that, Houston? {BEEP} We have positive confirmation of subject being Hark Cloggo and the Clodboys, as Alan suspected {BEEP} I see {BEEP} {BEEP} but they don’t look particularly horticultural to me, Houston … in fact {chcht} they did not return my waving, in fact, they do not look particularly pleased or even surprised {BEEP} Copy that, Wobbly Wombat {chcht} but after noise filtering we can positively ID songs from their repertoire and they’re coming from that IFO {BEEP} Are you 100% positive, Houston? Nobody’s moving their mouth {BEEP} {chcht} A-OK, Wobbly Wombat, that’s an A-OK – we can’t explain it either. Incidentally {CHT} Alan says that he doesn’t recognise the voice, but that may be due to noise filtering {BEEP} Hang on, Houston, they have started to descend – I’m going back inside to prepare landings {BEEP} Roger that Wobbly Wombat – you might like to know that the singing has now changed to a German Folk song {CHCHT} We got to hand it to those Vatican Observatory dudes, this is sure one hell of a strange phenomenon … maintain secrecy protocol WHITNEY-Z, Wobbly Wombat! {BEEP} Roger that Houston, no worries … no worries at all {BEEP}

————

Meanwhile, Yttrach was putting his heart and soul in a magnificent rendering of a slightly uplifting, but also melancholically German Folk Song: “DU … DU … liegst mir am HERTZEN … DU, Du liegst mir im Sinn, DU … DU … machst mir viel SCHMERZEN …”

The carpet was now descending in a controlled way, but the sheer barrage of private emotions, unmoderated by any ironic disdain, was even harder on The Fractious Factotums of Frenzied Foreboding than Hark Cloggo’s Sesame-Street upbeat cheerfulness. They merely suffered it out, arms akimbo and teeth gnashing, with now actively flashing and rumbling thunderclouds hovering above their heads.

YA! YA! YA! YA! Weißt nicht wie gut ich dir bin!” Yttrach managed a beautiful four-point landing, and at the same time the LM touched down next to them.

The main door of the LM opened to reveal the pilot, who was clapping his gloves in appreciation for the song, as he was a great Operette fan. 

{BEEP} Magnificent! Beautiful! Superb! {CHCHT} Wobbly Wombat, what’s that? {BEEP} Sorry Houston, I was addressing the subject {BEEP} A-OK, I see {BEEP}

As the four Gloomy Gatling-Gun Gophers of Glum were scrambling up to get off the carpet as quickly as they could, Yttrach broke out in a coughing fit.

{BEEP} What’s the matter with him? {CHCHT} Is he OK? {BEEP}

“Oh, I suppose he caught a cold, flying high while wet …”, the bassist answered. “He’s just a little carpet … I mean, hoarse. But hey, haven’t we met before?”

{BEEP} Nope {chcht} that must have been one of my colleagues-in-space {BEEP} I’m Harry, FO Identifier … though, in my spare time I’m a huge Operette fan … I do sing myself a bit as well {BEEP}

“I’m sure you do …”, the bassist quickly answered, “… but what brought you here?”

He gestured at the moonlit Italian agricultural landscape, and realised that he had no idea how far they had flown.

The astronaut pointed at the carpet:

{BEEP} “Simple. We got a urgent report from the Vatican Observatory to check out a sighting of a supposed flying carpet.” {BEEP}

“Hloo ahwlâl hlâhlâl ôhl blollôbl ahlôoh áhloohlee, wâh ahlàh ahlee ahlàllalh uhloolee ohllôl hlool … ôhtol blôl! Hehwôhtol …. blôl!”, the lead guitarist spoke, arms akimbo.

{BEEP} I beg your pardon? {BEEP}

“Er, what he’s saying is, eh *cough* that we would appreciate it if you would keep this encounter a secret. That’s because all this does not align well with our public image … and that’s hugely important in our business.”

“Hloobl wâh ahllâllâl wâh hlâwyuh hil zhloo hloor  âhhûh ôh, hihl lhyoo hèdh hlay hlihd … hôhlùhhaih hwuhz hloh! Âhloohls hâhdloo, whlâllâllâl llÔbl blol!”, the lead guitarist added in a contemptuous tone.

“Eh … we are sure you’ll understand … and we’re sure that there’s no need to burden our lawyer with this matter.”

{BEEP} no worries, mate {BEEP} in fact, the whole matter is somewhat embarrassing to us as well {BEEP} actually, it seems to be to everyone involved. You know, with people expletively loving science like they do these days … {BEEP} and the least we at NASA can use is yet another conspiracy like that moon hoax drivel {BEEP} {chcht}{BEEP} … though … I would much appreciate it if you could sell me the carpet, because that voice …. man, that’s pure gold! {BEEP} I’ll just report that I found nothing and close the case, what say? {BEEP}

“Hâwlool ahlâllall hôwlee hwlôobl blol…. blâh”, the lead guitarist answered.

*Grar*

*Rhâcht* *spit* *splatch*

“I think I can speak for all of us that that’s the best idea we’ve heard today. If you can get us four decent Quackuccino’s, get us back to the motel that we stay in and keep your mouth shut about all this he’s yours, and good riddance! All the more since the whole €$¥%&@ started because we only wanted a friggin’ coffee.”

{BEEP} “Deal. If you guys care to carry the carpet on board, I have a mobile Barsuck’s built-in here … {BEEP} … and we’ll zip off to your motel {BEEP}

The astronaut stepped aside and made an inviting gesture.

“GASP!” the Horrific Hymnists of Haemorrhaging Heinousness reacted in surprise.