The bloke down the pub had a monkey for sale. I had no need for one, as I was leaving the country for Prague the following day.
For fifty quid, though - I couldn't really argue.
It cost me double that for a seat on the flight for him, plus a tense couple of hours at passport control convincing them he was my deformed younger brother. Luckily, the guy who sold me the chimp was also able to sort me out with a fake passport for him, so we got there in the end.
Once I'd found a flat in Prague, I tried putting my new chimp to good use. I figured he could potter about doing the household chores while I was out at work. He took to the task admirably, but often took a dump in the kitchen sink, always after he'd disinfected it.
I thought he could also peel my grapes for me, but he couldn't manage it. Bananas, naturally, oranges, possibly, grapefruits, with some degree of success, but grapes he just turned to mush.
This lead to another bright idea. I went out and bought a large tin bathtub. The chimp - Brian, I called him - would mash up grapes in it, and we'd get into the homemade wine racket.
Soon after, he developed a dependency on alcohol, and I'd come home to find he'd drank the cupboards dry, and found a bottle of vodka stashed in the toilet cistern.
When I went down to the local Hospoda one evening, the barman angrily demanded 400kc from the tab Brian had been unable to pay the day before.
Our brief spell as Organ Grinder and monkey ended in an ugly scene when Brian lunged for my throat. I later found out that Brian's previous Organ Grinder would come home drunk at night and expose himself to Brian in the pantry, and the sight of me grinding my organ on Charles Bridge dug up some repressed memories.
Things took a brief upswing when I bought some plutonium rods from a dodgy guy in a Zizkov pub. After weeks of trial and error, I discovered that by exposing the retina to radiation, filtered through Bohemian crystal, one acquired X-Ray vision for a limited period of time.
I would stalk the Herna Bars of the city, whispering in fractured Czech to the desperate fruit machines addicts: "Five seconds, no more, no less. Any less, you won't see anything. Any more, you'll burn your eyes out."
And they would slip me 500kc note and slink off to the bathroom to take a hit from my magical device. A few moments later they would return, wide-eyed like they couldn't comprehend what they were seeing, finish their beer with difficulty, then clear out the jackpot on the fruit machine. Then they'd slip me another five hundred, and I'd move on to the next bar. A few nights a week of this provided me a very comfortable lifestyle...
The rainbow quickly passed. Brian developed a taste for tailored waistcoats, and took to wearing a monocle. Alarm bells should have rung - there's always trouble when you see a monkey wearing a waistcoat.
He got sneaky - sneakier than usual. One day when we went shopping, he'd taken an impression of the front door key in a bar of soap, and got a copy made. When I tried taking it off him, he went for my arms.
Obviously, I'd heard fully grown chimps can tear a man's arms off, so I unhappily let him keep it.
I lost control of him. Before, I could discourage him from stumbling home drunk by refusing to let him in the flat until he'd sobered up. With his new key, he could come and go as he pleased.
So I found myself sitting up until the early hours of the morning, waiting for Brian to come home. After a night on the tiles - he'd added a top hat to his attire by now - he'd raised a leathery hand to me in greeting, then climb into his cot and crash out.
He'd started using the toilet, but also had a rather large collection of porno mags he kept in a rack by the bath. Sometimes I'd wait for half an hour for him to come out.
Brian had also learned Czech, and would sit around in cafes reading Hrabal and Hasek in the original. I once saw him in Montmartre, reading Havel, and he barely acknowledged me. I didn't know him anymore. He'd started doing something on the side, and had more cash than usual.
By this stage, the Herna Bars were getting wise to my game, and the X-Ray eyes scam was drying up. So I decided to ask him if he'd mind paying the rent. He simply said, "Mluvit rukama.", and locked himself in the bathroom with a brown paper bag he'd just brought in.
I started fearing for Brian's sanity when I broke into his room one day. I'd got a job testing safety nets for the Prague & District State Circus because the X-Ray thing was becoming a dangerous game, and Brian had taken up a bar job to make ends meet. By this stage, he was paying three-quarters of the rent. The work was horrible, he said, but the tips were good.
I took the day off sick and was feeling sorry for myself. The previous day, the holes in the safety net I was testing were too big, and my head went straight through and hit the floor.
Bored mooching around at home, I decided to break into Brian's room to borrow some smut, and was stunned by what I found.
Brian had replaced his cot with a large round water-bed. Beneath the black satin sheets lay a beautiful blonde, obviously shagged out. There was an enormous fish tank along one wall, and in it was a man swimming in full scuba gear.
Against another wall was an iron maiden. When I opened it, I discovered Brian had replaced all the spikes with comedy chattering teeth. Then there was the throne of goat skulls by the window, facing out across the rooftops of Prague.
The sick decadence of it all took me aback, and I knocked on the fish tank and the scuba diver swam to the surface.
"What are you doing in there?" I asked him.
"Your brother pays me 200kc an hour, just to swim about. The social life's shit, but every Saturday night I get to go two's up on that blonde bird with him."
"Well, it's a job I suppose. What does he do with that iron maiden over there?"
"He puts cabbages in it," the scuba diver explained, swinging his leg over the side of the tank and perching there, "Comes out perfectly chopped every time."
"You've tasted it?"
"Best cabbage I ever ate." The scuba diver shrugged.
"What's the throne for?"
With this, the scuba diver grew fearful. "That's the bad part. He sits in there when he's talking to the Pope, or Bono, if the Pope's not in. They're plotting a day when the sun burns black and the dead will rise as their slaves, the gutters will run full with the blood of the heretics, and your brother will ride across the skies in a chariot drawn by ravens, and everybody will kneel before Him!"
I thumped my fist into my palm, "Then he must be stopped!"
"Yes...sorry, I've got to go, my shift's up and I'm teaching at six."
The scuba diver jumped down and flip-flapped across the room. He paused in the doorway. "Your Brother will be back soon, so I'd get out of here if I were you, pretty sharp-ish."
The scuba diver went out through the door and I stood, contemplating what to do with the monster I'd created.
It began like any other day, as it often does. I got up at seven-thirty, shat, showered and shaved, then climbed over the crates of cabbages Brian stored in the kitchen to make myself some breakfast. Red cabbages were in season, and Brian's homemade sauerkraut was spectacular. He infused it with Slivovice and Charlie, and connoisseurs would pay 700kc a jar.
Breakfast over, I grabbed my keys and my crash helmet and headed out. As I opened the door, a young courier with dreadlocks greeted me.
"Special delivery," he announced, "Forty black candles, forty blood-red candles. For a Mr Brian Eelzebub."
"A Mr B.Eelzebub."
"Ah, that'll be my chimp. First door on the right. Look, I'm late, you'll have to let yourself out."
I jogged down the stairs and in the lobby two delivery men confronted me, one thin, one fat, both wearing bowler hats with their overalls. They were lugging a huge crate up the stairs.
"Excuse me, sir." The portly one said, fiddling with his tie in an unctuous manner. "Special delivery for a Mr B. May."
"Who?" I frowned.
"A Mr Brian May, sir."
"Oh yes," I said, recalling that Brian had listened to a lot of Queen lately, "That'll be my brother, third floor."
I tried to move on, but the portly one stopped me, still fluttering his tie. I looked at the skinny one, who took off his bowler hat and scratched his head with a big gormless grin on his face.
"Sorry, Sir, but I'll need a signature."
I accepted the docket he proffered me and scribbled on it hastily, "What am I signing for?"
"Sacrificial altar, sir."
The skinny one took out a cigarette, perched it between his lips, and flicked his thumb out of a clenched fist. His thumb ignited and he lit the fag with the flame.
"Why do you guys look familiar?" I asked.
"Well, Sir." The chubby one replied, grinning obnoxiously and rolling the words round with a Deep South accent, "your brother paid us an extra 1200kc to deliver it dressed as Laurel and Hardy."
"I see," I said, confused, "But wasn't it a piano, not a sacrificial altar?"
Ollie's smile disappeared, and his eyes clouded over. "You didn't see the banned version, did you, Sir?"
I was half an hour late for work, but it didn't matter anyway. The circus was a in a state of utter pandemonium. The plate spinner had been through all the crockery. The pin head ran past me, wearing a tiny balaclava fashioned from an egg cosy. The clown was drinking vodka straight from his squirty flower. There was a sign hanging on the door of the ministry of jokes, reading: "Knock Knock? Fuck off, we're closed!"
I stopped the bearded lady, who was discombobulated. "What happened here?"
"Oh, it's terrible." He replied, combobulating himself. "Someone left the helium on over night, and the big top went up like a zeppelin! It got sucked into the engine of a passenger plane, and it went down in the Vltava! Everyone was lost."
So the circus was finished, washed up, a three-ring act with no big top, and pending a court case for negligence. Which was just my luck, considering I'd just shelled out 800kc the day before for a second-hand crash helmet.
I needed a beer, but only had five crowns, a couple of buttons and a dead moth in my pocket. But I did still have my X-Ray specs in my rucksack.
One of the parrots from the circus gave me a lift down to the Metro on his tricycle, and I took the yellow line all the way out to Zlicin, the one place in Prague the Herna Bars didn't want my head on a stake, and found a bar.
"Five seconds, no more, no less. Any less, and you won't see anything. Any more, and you'll burn your eyes out."
With this knowledge, the desperado slinked out to the toilets, and I ordered myself a beer and a Becherovka with the 500kc he'd just handed me.
I'd barely got through the head of the beer when there was an agonized scream from the toilets. The Herna Bar denizen staggered out, gurgling, blood running down his cheeks. There was only smoldering white mush where his eyes once were. He smashed into a fruit machine, leaving a bloody smear, collapsed to the floor, and his head ignited. The barman rushed round and stamped him out.
I finished my beer and got out of there sharpish, knowing my career as the purveyor of X-Ray vision to bums in Herna Bars was over.
I got back to the flat about seven. There were flashing lights, photographers, police cars, ambulances, a lifeguard, a forest ranger, and people running around screaming. I forced my way through the crowd to the cordon, and saw, among a pool of shattered glass and blood, something about the size of a football covered in a grey blanket. A wisp of blonde hair escaped from beneath it.
I grabbed a young officer by the arm. His face was ashen. "What happened here?"
"A terrible tragedy, sir. This girl has been decapitated, from the neck down, and thrown from a third floor window."
I looked up, and saw the window of Brian's bedroom window smashed. A cancerous yellow cloud swirled above the building, pulsing with sickly lightning.
The end was nigh. I had to do something.
"What a terrible tragedy." I agreed with the cop, then, rubbing my stomach, "Sorry, had a dodgy Chinese last night. I need to get up to my apartment, sharpish."
Despite his distress, he sympathised and let me through the cordon. There was a score for me to settle.
The apartment was dark. Evil purveyed every corner, every niche, every half-empty sauerkraut jar. The heating had been left on. Something truly pernicious awaited me.
The planks of the parquet floor curled up in the heat, like arthritic fingers. Cockroaches swarmed up through the gaps in the wasted wood, and rats, ants, insects, in a filthy melee, yet squeaked and writhed and withered and died and poured juices over the frazzled floor. The walls were scorched. Black and blood-red candles were everywhere, but gave off no light, indeed, seemed to draw in light, and everything suffocated in the absence of light.
I moved forward with dread, crunching across shells and carapaces and cremated rat bodies. The door to Brian's room, buckled, warped, glass melted like in a toe-ragged bus shelter, stood open. There was light in the room, and it allowed me to inspect the hellish scene.
Brian sat on the bed, without waistcoat, monocle, or top hat. He hunched forward, a length of rubber hose cinched around his bicep. He was carefully injecting a luminous green fluid into a bulging vein.
He was completely hairless, skin the colour of singed cotton. He finished his shot and arched backward, as if in agony, so far back that his head hit the water mattress and sent a tidal wave through it.
The skin on chest, arms and legs went taught, then split, as muscles expanded, bones brutally lengthened, things that don't normally happen to a chimp happened.
Beside him on the bed were two of my dodgy plutonium rods, and I instantly understood. The radiation caused Brian's mutation, and it was my fault. Through my foolishness, dodgy dealing and half-arsed approach to life, I'd set into motion a change of events that would turn Brian into an Anti-Christ, and here I was show-downing with the end of the world.
I wondered how everyone else on the planet would feel if they knew that I was the only chance they had of survival. I hoped they'd be rooting for me, but I suspected they'd turn off their radio and get pissed instead.
Brian looked at me, and something happened. The infernal fire in his eyes dimmed for a second, and he looked at me just as he did when he was a helpless, sexually abused chimp in a nappy, when I gave him his first grape to peel and he didn't know what to do with it.
Then two enormous fingers in the shape of horns erupted from his skull and reached for the ceiling. Brian collapsed, unconscious. Then I looked around at the rest of the scene. The iron maiden stood open, and the chattering teeth had decayed and fallen out. Brian's sauerkraut enterprise was over.
The sacrificial altar was set up by the foot of the bed, and the freshly decapitated body of the blonde, decapitated from the neck down, hung by her ankles above it. Blood dripped from the gaping stump onto the marble altarpiece. And something was happening, the marble pulsed and glowed, burped and stretched, something was growing out of the marble.
The scuba diver was dead, too. The fish tank he was paid 200kc an hour plus perks to swim in, was boiling, and his flesh had boiled off his bones and jubbled around on the surface. His skeleton floated in his wetsuit, vacant eye sockets staring imploringly at me through a rapidly melting eye mask.
And while I took all this in, one of the delivery men dressed as Laurel & Hardy came up behind me and hit me over the head with a frying pan.
I awoke on the roof of our apartment block, laying in a hammock slung between two enormous purple penises. All I could smell was burning spunk, which ebbed out of the two giant cocks like they were into the vinegar strokes.
It was a beautiful dawn, and it took me a couple of moments to realize what was wrong with it.
It was in negative. The sky was bright, the color of an expiring soul, an extinguishing match, a laughter dying in the throat.
And the sun was burning so blackly in this pestilent sky that it hurt my eyes to look at it.
Brian stood on the sill of the roof, staring rapt at this void of a sun that had come to glory Him. He was tall and thin now, perhaps over seven feet tall, and all recognizable monkeyness or humanness had dripped off him.
All that was left was a nerve-raw, hell-singed frame that could tear a hole in the world and drink the silence that rushed in, who could walk on sand and the sand would turn to glass beneath his feet.
The fingers that were horns had extended into arms, and they reached to the sky as if waiting to receive manna from Hell.
Waiting just off the sill of the roof was a flock of crows. They flew on the spot, straining at slender chains attaching them to a chariot fashioned out of goat cartilage.
"Brian," I slurred, still groggy after being knocked out in such a slapstick fashion, "You've got to stop this, mate."
He turned to me with such fury, and his eyes burned like volcanoes in retrograde, because in his infernal, infinite rage, he wanted to suck the fire in through his eyes and fuel the fury.
That's when I had a little moment of inspiration. On a picnic table by my hammock, between the two thrusting dicks, was a bowl of fruit, next to a klobasa and a bottle of Gambrinus. I plucked a grape and tossed it at him.
This worked out pretty well. He was clueless as a chimp at handling a grape, and having mutated to Satan only emphasized his ineptitude at fruit preparation. He juggled it around with his elongated claws unable to get hold of it.
In the split second this gave me, I had chance to grab my X-Ray specs from the rucksack that lay underneath my hammock like a deus ex machina. I bounded across the roof, and jammed the spectacles over his eyes, then wrenched him round to face the bottomless sun we'd created.
His back arched again, so violently I thought he would do a backflip. The crows suddenly felt the heat of the flames and burst into a cloud of ash.
The the imploding black sun knocked me on my back. When I regained consciousness, there was a hot yellow sun burning in a blue sky, and two delivery men dressed as Laurel & Hardy were tarring the roof and making a bad job of it.
Next to me sat a small chimp in a nappy, wondering whether to shit or scratch its arse.
All I can gather from all this was by giving the satanic Brian X-Ray vision, he saw through the black sun, all the way through to the other side and the opposite, and given the beautiful day we were now enjoying on Prague's rooftops, even the Prince of Darkness had to reconsider his angle on life.
Not everything returned to normal after that. The two throbbing cocks turned into two big pulsating pussies, and I almost got sucked in because one of them thought I was an averagely sized dick.
After that first new dawn, the first after Armaggedon, it clouded over and rained ash and cinders for three days solid. The ash brought the same hush to Prague as snow, and I walked along in my winter coat, collar up to the ash-fall, adjusting my step to the esoteric tilt of her streets.
It was time to go home. People were gradually reappearing on the streets, and I managed to find an open internet café and book a flight. After all that, I still had 100kc in my pocket, enough for a final beer and klobasa on Wenceslas Square, then back to England, never to let Prague darken my mind evermore.
The Demon Chimp of Prague, or, Pan Troglodyte Diablo
Lee Robert Adams |
The bloke down the pub had a monkey for sale. I had no need for one, as I was leaving the country for Prague the following day.