They crept down the little passageway three doors down from the pharmacy, Clingdog grumbling that their lives seemed to consist mostly of dark alleyways and rat-dodging activities these days. Analie pointed out, rather curtly, that this was entirely his choice and they could head straight for a nice, brightly lit hospital if he wanted to, so he shut up.
Following Not-Amy’s instructions, they rapped on the door with the peeling black paint. Presently, amidst muffled huffing noises, several bolts were shot back and the door opened inwards. Seeing Clingdog’s missing hand, Not-Amy’s Uncle Denny ushered them in, down a hallway cluttered with oily car innards, and into a grimy room dominated by a 1950s-style dentist’s chair, which Uncle Denny indicated his new patient should clamber up onto.
As Uncle Denny leaned over the cauterized stump and prodded it with his ungroomed fingernails, Analie tried to appraise the back-street patcher-upper. His wispy white hair and perpetually rolling eyes could have won him the role of mad scientist in the Back to the Future movies.
“It’s going to need some stinging stuff,” he explained, turning to glare wildly at Analie. Straightening up amidst a castanet symphony of clicking joints, he darted over to an overhead cupboard and clattered around the jumble of pots and potions within. “Aha!”
He returned to Clingdog’s side, and tipped a vial of clear liquid onto the wound. The liquid steamed and effervesced, provoking screams from Uncle Denny’s patient.
After the screams had subsided, he pondered: “Hmm, you’ll probably be wanting something for the pain, come to think of it. By the way,” he added, turning to face Analie, “my niece, Pixie, called me just before you got here. She said you saved her life in the pharmacy tonight. So... I guess I owe you a debt of gratitude and stuff.”
Analie fought through her confusion, then realized that Pixie must be Not-Amy’s real name. The agonized screams of her one-handed colleague were clouding her brain a little bit.
“You’re welcome,” she managed to say.
Uncle Denny nodded and smiled, intensely satisfied, and went back to his cupboard to search for some painkillers. “So I suppose you could say this treatment is on the house,” he called, over Clingdog’s screams and wails, which had grown in volume again. “A token of our gratitude. Aha!” He pulled out a little pink aerosol that resembled a can of mace just the right size to fit in a miniature purse, and sprayed it in Clingdog’s face.
“I’ve been told this stuff works wonders,” Uncle Denny assured them, “though it does have side-effects... I’ve been told. Takes about 12 hours for the anaesthetic to wear off, apparently.” Clingdog’s screams turned into a series of guttural howls. In between each one he wailed unhappily, through thickening lips, about an army of monkeys tapping at the windows – which struck Analie as odd, not because of the ‘army of monkeys’ part, but because the room had no windows.
The good doctor picked up a scalpel and flicked away at the end of Clingdog’s stump. Flecks of blood began to spit out, followed by a bit torrent of crimson mixed with what looked like toast crumbs. Grumbling, the doctor returned to his cupboard and fished about for a stack of grey towels. He placed them next to Clingdog, and, taking the first towel off the top, began to mop up the torrent that he’d unleashed out of his patient’s arm.
A couple of minutes later, only one towel remained. Clingdog, who was looking worryingly pale and gaunt, there being more of his blood on the floor and in the towels now than in him, moaned something about getting to a hospital.
“Take no notice,” Uncle Denny said reassuringly. “The painkiller spray would have knocked him to a different planet, so to speak. There, I think that’s done.” He slapped a bandage onto the stump, wrapped the last towel around it, and bound it into place with several metres of what looked suspiciously like masking tape. “All we can do now is hope and pray that the boy is strong enough to pull through.” He manoeuvred his rag doll patient into a slumped sitting position. “I’ve done everything that quality Western medicine has to offer. It’s up to him now. I suggest you find him a comfortable bed, or a couch, and feed him water through a tube every 12 hours or so. And good luck!”
He wiped his forearm across his brow, leaving a generous smear of Clingdog’s blood. Then he helped the shell-shocked Analie to pick Clingdog up, one arm slung around her neck.
“Bye!” Uncle Denny called cheerily, as Analie manhandled her charge out of the house of death.
Looking both ways – a futile gesture, as Chester and his crew would no doubt be crouched out of sight if they were there at all – they sidled and staggered across the pot-holed road.
Analie banged on the door of the distinctly seedy-looking hotel. A few minutes later, the door buzzed and clicked, and she used Clingdog’s deadweight to push it open. She stumbled in after him, fighting to prevent him from slumping onto the dark grey and slightly lighter grey tiles.
The hotelier, a tiny bald man whose eyes just peeked over the torn leather countertop, barely registered surprise as Analie stumbled towards him, half-carrying her patient who was grunting incoherently – possibly something about spanking a monkey, or even monkeys in Spandex; he couldn’t be sure.
Analie grabbed a keycard, which the tiny bald hotelier had automatically slapped onto the countertop. Following his angled index finger, she dragged Clingdog’s shoulder, and they stumbled over to the ancient elevator. Not a word was spoken (aside from Clingdog’s mumblings); given the linear path afforded anyone arriving at a seedy hotel late at night, conversation would have been simply redundant.
In the cramped elevator, she checked the room number scrawled on the keycard and stabbed the appropriate floor number. Her exhausted brain momentarily forgot that the prison-like door would have to be manually shunted closed. Once she’d done so, and stabbed the button again, the elevator grumbled and shuddered its way towards the fifth floor. The clanking noise, like metal plates being repeatedly snapped in half, was disconcerting, and it didn’t help that Clingdog had begun moaning about monkeys trying to get in through the windows again. When he screamed that they’d got their claws through the glass, she closed off her mind and went to her “happy place” (an Internet café in the leafy suburb where she’d grown up with her comfortable middle-class family).
On the fifth floor, she fumbled with the keycard for a while, until eventually the lock gave in and she was able to kick the door open. Inside, a paltry cupboard of a room with barely space for a single bed and an “en-suite” (a small recess in one wall with a grubby shower cubicle and toilet facing the bed), she heaved Clingdog onto the bed, where he groaned and turned onto his side. Thus freed of her burden, she collapsed miserably onto the faded carpet, her knees up to her chin.
Through bleary eyes she stared down at her blackened forearms, encrusted with Clingdog’s congealed blood and burnt embers. Desperate to clean up and just disappear into an entirely opposite frame of mind, she stared around the cupboard-room, assimilating her options. As there was no bath, she would have to make do with the grubby Perspex shower cubicle in the corner. Searching through her belongings, she found her newly acquired toiletries, and lobbed the plastic bottles gently in the direction of the shower.
She glanced over at Clingdog as she peeled off her sweaty clothes. His eyes were open but vacant; in fact he appeared to be asleep. Right now, though, she wouldn’t have cared much if he’d been wide awake and gawping. Gingerly cranking the shower into action, she listened to the distant clanking noise that she’d invoked, and eventually a dribble of opaque water trickled through. Sure it was cloudy, and it was dribbling, and it wasn’t even especially warm... but it was water. She stepped into the shower and smothered herself with bath gunk, wondering idly what would be going through Clingdog’s drugged-up mind if he’d been awake right now.
IN THE NEXT EPISODE: Clingdog, champion pallbearer to Emperor Augustus of the Twelfth Planet of the Megaton Empire, fends off some marauding Simian Commandoes from the Purple Singularity; and his Genetically Upgraded assistant, Princess Analie, buys an elevator ticket from the Moon Man.