I woke up with quite a start. Moreau was not in his side of the bed, yet it was still early. Had I dreamt his being there last night, or had he drifted away from me, aimless as the clouds to whose order he belonged? There was no time to find out, because I’d accidentally set ‘my’ curtains on fire. The ersatz teasmaid I had rigged up from a primitive alarm clock, several (7) feet of gaffer tape, a wire, and a Camping Gaz stove had gone spectacularly wrong, and a sheet of flaming cotton was gracefully arcing down from its previously secure position on its rail. As it flapped through the air I feverishly calculated if its embrace would be as warm and exciting as mother’s. It could hardly be any worse I reckoned, but that wretched subconscious instinct for self preservation which always sees me calling an ambulance at the last second, or emitting another ‘cry for help’ had kicked in, and I had weaselled my way from its path before the decisive interface of fire/man/mamman could become one pure trifecta.
“Sod it” I thought as I perused the wardrobe for a couple of garments to wear - it was getting warm in here, but it would certainly still be icy midwinter outside – “it’s not my house, why should I care?” The only crushing disappointment was that I’d not have time to raid the freezer for breakfasting snacks. The Secretary can be negotiated into doing virtually anything in exchange for a frozen sausage, and I had a strange pain in my trachea which I suspected he would have been able to cure. As I strolled out of the inferno I reasoned it would be best to hole up in the woods for a few hours until the heat – literally – died down, and I could check the ashen remains of the domicile for unspoilt consumables.
As I shuffled towards the woods, staring down at the ground in the hope of finding any kind of wild mushroom which might send me to either the land of beautiful visions (the hallucinogenic) or the land of warm food and love (namely the poisonous, sweet gatekeeper to the hospital) I heard the mellifluous voice of a Fleming. I looked up to find The Belgian softly singing as he was digging a hole in the woods, in the general area reserved by The President for the placing of the shallow grave. Assuming he was excavating himself a fibula or tibia to gnaw on, I dropped my head again and concentrated on the task in hand. But Lo! What sweet sound was this? The Belgian was emitting the gentle hiss of CO2 escaping from a sealed container who’s primary usage was to store a fermented mixture of barley, hops and water. I had tried this mixture before, under the frenzied instructions of The Treasurer, and, as he had rightly insisted, it took all of the pain away for a few sweet hours. I strolled over to the Belgian with an air of forced joviality. “What ho, old man, good day no, yes?” I asked him, allowing him to keep all of his options open. He looked down at his huge pallet of cans of Saphir Pils and I could see he was calculating if I knew what they were. Easy: I would play dumb (having had plenty of practice at this in all of my trials) and wait for him to make the first mistake. “Hello” he said (ha, ha, that was it, check-mate to me! A truly inferior opponent). “Giz a can mate” I asked, in textbook fashion. He passed one over, but I could sense something deep inside of him was dying.
Just then a shock of panic hit me, much like a Havisock would hit a badger: softly and sickeningly. My knees buckled underneath me and I was warrant to emit the following ‘no’: “Noooooooooooooo”. What if Moreau had been in the en-suite when the fire broke out? Had I been agent in his monstrous demise? Was I the infamous ‘Cecile’, the auger of societal decline as predicted by Wainwright during his infamous four week ‘Yage tour’ in 1995? The form of the monster would be aqueous he said. I noticed that I had wet myself in fear, but wasn’t sure if this meant I was, in all, more or less aqueous. Sure, I bore an outward sign of the damp, but, as nurse would say when she insisted on my making a ‘release’, better out than in. I was unsure about the effects of this foul humor on my plans for the day, but the following activities were out: applying for bank loans, test driving cars, meeting Guinevere.
The whole act had startled the Belgian, who looked like he suspected I was making a ‘play’, but was unsure of what was going to happen next. It was best not to tax him too much, for he is wont to make an immediate return home on foot by the quickest available route if such an assemblage is created. I just picked up a box of the liquid I desired and wandered off towards town. As I headed through the outskirts I heard more Dutchish babelling.
I feared that the Belgian was plural, and was back for revenge, but rationality soon took over and I realised there could never be more than one. Well, the liquid had inured me from pain, and if I was to take a beating at the hands of some devilish vision, it might as well be now. I approached the chatter and saw four tall men all dressed up as women. They were speaking a language akin to the Belgian, but when I approached them and suggested they “bugger off to wherever you come from, or get out of my head; whichever one is appropriate the the ontological or epistemic problem I am facing” the dashedest thing happened: they began speaking to me in English, a trick the genuine Belgian has never been able to master. They explained they had been in Aalst’s rather convivial carnival, only for a heist to have transpired and for someone to have stolen a large quantity of Saphir Pils. I pointed out where the Belgian could be found on the wood atop the hill. Now our League Table was so close to completion, there was no point in retaining his services.
I returned to Societal HQ wondering what had gone on. My last memory there was of being fed some ‘Special Smarties’ by The President, and feeling very sleepy as he told the rest of The Society “that should keep the idiot busy while we’re away”. After that, I woke up in someone’s garden and assumed that they’d invited me to house-sit. That would be about 40 hours before the fire. The scene in Societal HQ when I arrived attested to past joviality. There were numerous empty cans, a couple of womenfolk, and everyone was enjoying a dashed good nap. The only movement was that of The President, pinning medals – or what passed for a medal in the foul sewer of his mind; a piece of toilet paper with “For Valour” scrawled on it – to the chests of the prostrate crew. I really had no idea what was going on, but figured that if I drunk enough of the cans, then I’d be just like the rest of the Society, might even get a medal, and that they’d all like me and stroke my hair like Moreau used to. “Better not tell them about Moreau” I thought, as I gathered some half drunk Saphirs and headed off into the broom cupboard where the President kept the ‘Special Smarties’. I’d give it half and hour, then phone for the ambulance.