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Mumm-Ra's Happy Garden
By RD Rivero



“Mumm-Ra’s Happy Garden”
By RD Rivero
April 29, 2000

“Snarfer!  Snarfer!”  Pumyra stood at the top of a tall staircase,
bright and well-lit.  An open window sent bursts of cold air into the
scene from behind her.  “Where is that snarf?”  She looked to her right,
she had already explored the extents of that hallway.  To her left was
an open doorway with darkened stairs littered with scraps of cutup
papers.
“Did you find him?”  Bengali asked.  He approached the foot of the
stairs below her, half in, half out of the shadows.  He was fresh from
the shower and was rather scantily clad even for a Thunderian.
“I’ve looked all over the Tower and I’ve not found one trace of him
anywhere.”
“You don’t think he’s still upset about, you-know-who?”  Bengali stood
before her in the throws of the glaring sunlight that broke free from
the rectangular window obliviously placed to the side.
“That’s what’s got me worried.”  She reached out and wrapped her arms
around her warm tiger.  She ran her fingers through his silky fur.
“He’s not been the same.”
“I’m sure he knows that we don’t think any ill of him.  He’s nothing
like his, uncle.”
“Yes, but does he know?”  She broke free from her own hold and turned
her head back to see that open door, that dark inner stairwell.  “That’s
the last place I haven’t looked at yet.”
“That door wasn’t open this morning.  He might not be inside.”
She looked at him into his eyes.  He understood quite well the meaning
of her clear and distinct message.  He held her hand and together the
two Thundercats approached Snarfer’s room.  Pumyra pushed the white,
metal door all the way open.  To her unbeknownst shudders the hinges
produced an unfamiliar creak until the door hit an unseen wall in a dull
thud and could move back no more.  Bengali released his grip on her hand
and was the first to head up the dark, cramped staircase.  The steps
were almost completely covered by papers, manuals, documents, newspapers
even magazines, each randomly shredded, some sheets were sliced into
long pieces, other sheets were so totally destroyed that their origins
could not be determined.  Up on the very top Snarfer’s room spread out
open.  The faraway wall was dotted with windows closed shut and blinded
in thick, yellow covers.  The three remaining walls were adorned in
empty bookshelves.  The only light in the place came from the desk lamp,
from the green desk lamp in the middle of the chamber.
“What happened here?”  Pumyra was stunned.  Bengali picked up one of the
books.  The floor was hidden in a layer of open, abused books and more,
yet more of those shredded papers.  Suddenly it all became clear to
her.  “He tore up his books?  He tore up all his books!”
“By Jagga.”  He opened the leather covers of the book he had recovered
and the leaves all fell onto the floor in a pile of litter that blended
indiscernibly with the rest of the mess.  “Look,” he said, “on the
table.”
The two approached carefully for the floor in the current condition was
a slippery hazard.  “I see it.”  She picked up a set of papers -- a
makeshift book -- held together in a spine of hard, thick metal wire.
“It must have taken him all of yesterday to produce this.”  Pumyra
cradled the papers in her arms.  Every word was composed of letters cut
off from the piles of books that engulfed the room.
“This is crazy.  This is absolutely crazy.  Why not type it, why not
write it, why do this?”
“Can you imagine that?  This entire book was actually pieced together,
like jigsaw puzzle, like a demented jigsaw puzzle.”
The two Thundercats stood in stunned silence.
“What does it say?”
Pumyra looked down.  She had not considered that, she had not intended
to read that demonic creation.  But his suggestion was tempting.
“Should we read it?”
“There might be an answer in it.”
She sat on the chair that she had to pickup from the most precarious
position on the side.  He sat on the edge of the desk after he brushed
off the tabletop.
“It’s called ‘Mumm-Ra’s Happy Garden.’”  Pumyra looked at Bengali.
The tiger shook his head.  “Sounds like a Chinese restaurant.”
She gave a half-smile and looked down.  She continued.  “That’s it, down
there in the drawer,” Bengali tried the three side compartments of the
desk but only the bottom would open, “that black little bronze is the
cause of all of the experiences I have undergone in the past few days.”
The tiger pulled up from an otherwise empty drawer an ancient-looking
figurine.  He set it down upon the tabletop next to him, before her.
She paused for a moment to look at it.
“All the telltale incidents that have steadily drained my energy fall
into place like the links of a chain, a chain, which when retracted to
the past, always leads to one, to one singular starting point:  that
little bronze statuette.  Even if I pretend that there are other
explanations that object looms into view like a milestone on the
roadside and to where that road leads is something I would rather not
know.  Better to make the most of what brief respite which fate has
granted me before the next trauma.
“I found it in the market of a Wollo village.  The moment I first
examined it I was filled with a morbid curiosity, I was filled with an
urge to discover what it actually meant.
“I asked the seller.  ‘An imitation of an Egyptian,’ he said.  The
figure’s strangely clasped hands seemed to indicate a state of ecstasy.
I bought the figure and brought it back to the Tower of Omens, I
intended it to be a gift for Panthro and Nayada’s upcoming wedding but
scarcely an evening passed without my pondering its mysterious
significance, delving into the strangest of thoughts.
“A terrible feeling came over me, that I was dealing with something
venomous, something malevolent, which, with an artful complacence, was
releasing itself from the spell of lifelessness in order to attach
itself to me like some incurable disease, thereafter to remain the
shadowy tyrant of my life.  Then, one day, I had a flash of inspiration
that solved the riddle.  The answer came so suddenly and with such force
that I was left completely stunned.
“Imitate!”
Bengali took the manuscript.  “I stood up, raised my arms above my head,
like the statue and held my fingers downwards with the nails touching
the top of my head.  But nothing happened.  But there was no change.
Internal.  External.
“To make sure I had got the posture right I took a closer look at the
figure.  I noted that its eyes were shut though in sleep.  That was
enough for me.  I gave up and waited for night to fall.  I lay down and
again took up the same position of arms and hands.
“Several minutes passed but I am sure I did not fall asleep.  It seemed
a rumbling sound emanated from deep inside me.  Thus proceeded the jerky
descent of my consciousness of life until only a phantasm of death came
over me.  What happened then I will not recount.  No one will know of
it.
“From that moment on the course of my life was changed.  My once
tranquil existence meandered from one enigmatic horrific experience to
the next onto some dark, some unknown destination.
“A demonic hand allocated me shorter and shorter intervals of respite
between the  more and more terrifying hallucinations it sent my way.  It
wished to drive me to new and unknown forms of madness, to the sort of
madness no one else might notice or suspect.”
The two Thundercats looked at each other in the amazement of utter
confusion.
The glue on some of the letters was still wet, individual sheets often
adhered to one another and thin, sticky fibers clung to his fingers
while he read the words.  He continued:  “Within days I began to
perceive things that I considered at first to be no more than delusions
of my senses.  I heard extraneous tones, strangely droning or whining.
I saw brilliant colors which had not been there before.  Mysterious
creatures would suddenly emerge in front of me, inaudible and to others
invisible.  They were able to transform themselves and then suddenly lie
still though they were dead.  They might merge with other creatures
though they were droplets of water, melded to form new and more horrible
forms.
“At first I merely let myself be led passively by the persuasive feeling
that filled me but now I must tread the paths along which I am lead, I
have no choice anymore, no choice, no choice.
“One night it dragged me out of the Tower of Omens and sent me to wander
through the darkened forests, on and on and on and on until -- there is
no place on third earth more terrifying than Mumm-Ra’s pyramid.”
He shook his head:  “No, Pumyra, don’t make me continue.”
“We must, there’s no other way to know what happened.”
She took the book from his hands and skipped forward a few pages.  “The
black pyramid emerged from the mist.  Four tall and thin obelisks marked
the extreme corners.  I saw dead, soulless animals scattered over the
gray cobble stones of the ground.  I saw bones, skeletons hacked to
pieces with browned, oxidized, leatherized flesh still attached in some
parts.  I walked around along the outer edge.  The slopped walls were
not smooth exactly, several large stones were either missing or had
badly eroded over time and while I walked past those gapping holes I
swear -- I swear! -- that I saw pale, poked faces dart back and forth,
in to and out of the perpetual shadows.  The face.  The face!  The face
-- a dog’s face.
“I heard a groan in the air, the sort of groan that metal would produce
under fatigue.  It was an alarm, it was a siren that ‘awoke’ me from the
trance I was in.  I saw that a dense fog was slowly descending from the
calm, still clouds above.
“I stopped and in front of me there had been a material change in scene,
there could only have been a material change for I had no recollection
if it ever being there before.  On the ground were two metal doors open
to acute angles.  Down beneath was an eerie gray light flickering softly
through unseen, subterranean passages.  Steps, there were stone steps
and I walked down below into the bowels of the pyramid and when I was
entirely within I stood in the semi-darkness tortured for I knew I had
acted without reason.
“Why did I go in?  Why could I not resist?
“Gradually my eyes accustomed to the gloom and I was able to survey the
environs.  Further down the passage someone was sitting on one of the
steps of a second miniature stairwell.  I approached with caution and in
that dead, gray light I could only dimly make out the details of the
hunched figure.  A black beard stood out against a bare chest.  The
arms, too, were bare.  Only the legs were covered in a sort of cloth.
“The hands had a terrifying appearance -- bent back grotesquely, at
right angles to the wrists.
“For a long time I stood staring at the man.  He was deadly still though
he was doomed to remain there until the pyramid itself fell down.
“My skin crawled with horror and I crept back along the winding
passage.  At one point I felt the wall and my fingers came across the
skeletal form of a wooden lattice -- those used to train climbing
plants.  It was thickly overgrown, so much so that I almost got caught
up in the fleshy tendrils.  I could not understand why those plants were
warm to the touch and somehow swollen, there was a strangely animal feel
to it.
“I put my hand out again but that time snatched it back in an onrush of
adrenalined terror.  I had touched a round object about the side of a
walnut and it had leapt away from me quickly.”
“What was it, Pumyra?  What did he touch?”
She was silent for a few moments.  She dropped the ragtag book on the
tabletop.  He took it at once and continued.
“At the moment a bright light shone out to illuminate the wall before
me.  All the fear and the horror I have ever felt in my life dwindled
into triviality compared to that moment.  I trembled to my knees with
indiscernible terror and even the slightest scream I could muster sent
an icy shiver throughout my body.
“From the floor to the ceiling the wall was covered in bloody veins,
pulsating arteries -- not leaves, not stems -- notched on the throbbing
vessels were hundreds of eyes hanging though they were strawberries,
though they were meant to be there by some sick, by some demonic twist
of nature.  The eye I had touched was still moving, jerkily back and
forth, it peered at me resentfully, unblinkingly.
“I felt close to collapse but managed to take a couple of more steps
along the passage.  I was met by a symphony of unpleasant odors, prime
among them the stench of decay, of rot.  My knees continued to shake.
Just then a glowing ring caught my eye -- it was the wick of an oil lamp
that was about to go out but I managed to give it one last flicker of
life.  I leapt toward it and with trembling fingers I turned the wick up
just a tad bit to save the flame from extinguishment.
“I held the lamp in front of me while I turned around.  The chamber in
which I stood was empty but on the table from where I had taken the lamp
there was a long, shiny object.  I reached out to it -- I thought it was
a weapon that perhaps I could use for self defense -- but instead I
found myself holding on to something light and prickly.  It was a tongue
and with a sudden lash I sent it across the floor into the oblivion of
shadow.
“Cautiously I shone the lamp along the wall.  Everywhere I saw the same
wooden lattice upon which were interwoven veins and arteries, joined and
forged together, pulsating with blood.  Countless eyeballs glimmered
ghoulishly, the pupils and irises reacted to the presence of the light
and as though all that came before was not enough, as though it could
not get worse I saw for the first time that eyes moved while I moved,
refocuses while I approached or backed away and followed me and trailed
me.  The eyes were looking at me, seeing me
“The main arteries grew out of blood-filled sacs, most of which was
beneath the stone material of the floor and which somehow kept all the
vessels supplied with that abhorrent liquid.  Everything seemed to have
been put together by some incomprehensible art from parts of living
bodies deprived of their souls and constrained to a mere vegetable
existence.  But alive the parts were still.
“What had Mumm-Ra done?”
“You were right, Bengali, this is the work of the devil, no more, please
no more.”
“I recalled the figure on the cellar steps.  I must get out of the there
at once, I thought.  Even if that figure on the steps came to life to
hurl itself upon me.
“In seconds I had reached the stairway, ready for what might come.  I
stood there in silence with nothing more than the lamp in my hands.  I
brought the yellow flame closer and I saw there for the first time that
the man was dead.  His nails had been torn and the incisions in his
chest and temples revealed that an autopsy had been performed.  I rushed
past the corpse but I must have done something -- yes, please tell me
that I caused it to happen -- for the dead man suddenly slipped down a
few steps and came to rest upright on the floor below.  The arms were
raised, the fingers were turned inwards to the head, to the crown of the
head exactly the same form, the same stance, the same gesture as the
Egyptian figurine.
“And the eyes that had been sewn shut were now open, sliding open and
filled the room in a red, plasmatic glow.  There was no other light for
the lamp must have shattered.  I turned away from the corpse and I saw
that one of the two doors was shut, the other swayed in the midst of a
violent wind.  Rapidly I ran up onto the safety of the outside world.”
“Is that it?  Is that all?” She asked.
“That’s all, Pumyra.”
“What do you make of it?”
His mouth was open but before he could answer, from deep within the
Tower of Omens both heard a loud and familiar appliance in operation.
“The scroll saw!  In the basement.  He’s in the basement.”  Bengali
said.  He jolted out of the room, she followed directly on his heels.
The basement of the Tower of Omens.  Dark, though along the tops of the
walls were short, rectangular windows.  Cold, though it was the middle
of July.  Damp, though the air elsewhere everywhere was dry, desert
dry.  Marked and unmarked boxes of a thin, yellow wood along with crates
whose lids were nailed or screwed down, full of refuse, cluttered the
interior in various groupings.
The air was scented with the distinct odor of ash and of sawdust.
The doorknob twisted quickly until the click sounded.  The wooden door
then creaked open in a loud and in a penetrative groan.  The top hinges
were so dire in need of oil that the metal part snapped in a puff of
thick, red rust.  The door came to rest before the inner wall at an odd
angle until the bottom hinges broke, too and then wooden door fell to
floor with a loud clang.  Dust flew up in the air in a gray cloud.
Pumyra and Bengali burst into the room.  The two tried to speak but the
loud sounds from the saw muffled their collective voices.  The tall,
green scroll saw was on and running but there was something wrong -- the
side panels that housed the internal mechanisms had been removed and lay
limply upon the side of tall mountain of crates.
“I’ll make it stop, I’ll make it stop once and for all!” a sharp whine
echoed unseen from within the mazes of boxes.  “Mumm-Ra won’t hurt me
anymore.”
The two Thundercats saw to their collective horror that the thin, jagged
blade slowly began to slide from the holding apparatus until al last it
was fee entirely.  They stood in horror, they could do nothing but watch
as Snarfer suddenly popped into view, his eyes bright red, his little
hands rung and ran over each other.  The circulating metal blade bounced
onto the floor and, still rotating, wobbled its way to the small
victim.  All in all the incident took no more than a few seconds and
after a loud shriek it was over.
The saw struck him first in the nose -- his mouth was open screaming --
the muzzle itself was shattered and flew into the air in about three
pieces.  The blade made a slight turn while it continued to embed itself
into the victim.  It struck through one of the eyeballs which then
proceeded to rupture in a burst of clear liquid mixed with shredded
cornea and iris.
By that time the saw was well into the skull where it split the bones
clearly in half from the upper right ear to the lower left side where
the jaw had once been.  Blood and brain matter squirted into the air.
The neck was also severed diagonally which, of course, caused part of
the head to fall onto the floor where it broke apart like an egg.
The saw was not done yet, the torso from the waist up was sliced in
half.  Entrails and internal organ flopped down to the floor along with
the rest of the shredded body.  Oddly, the heart continued to beat for a
while, those parts of the heart that were not sliced, diced and spewed
on the floor.  Blood squirted in small pools in ever shortening vigor --
and then at last it was over.
Bengali unplugged the machine.  Pumyra stood motionless at the door, she
had the Egyptian statue in her hands -- the eyes that had been up to
that time shut were now open and red, brightly red -- she must have
taken it down perhaps without thought. Without thought her hands let go
their grip and the figure fell, shattered on the floor.  While the
broken pieces scattered across the floor from outside there was
lightning and thunder intermingled with the cackle of hideous laughter.






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