Following a house move, Christmas, New Year, and other excuses, it would shock nobody that 50,000 words did not RSVP.
Instead of continuing, I have decided to post below the 4,409 words, or a meagre 8.818%, of the challenge.
To give you an idea of what I had envisioned, it was to be a comedy detective thriller, whereby an ex-super villain (with a delightful liking for cheese) returns from retirement after failing to withdraw the action and bloodshed o-so common with villainy. He is shocked to see how modern day villains are micro-managed, so he takes it upon his dairy-filled self to teach these robot-like desk-slave villains how to villain hard!
Anyway…I hope these first 4,000 words sound like the start to something like that…
There lacks certain peculiar complexities in the minds of excellent villains; more noticeably than not, you won’t see a villain defeated into retirement. Neither would you see one fight urges or temptation, since giving in is usually what villains do best. Lastly, villains rarely take a back seat role, since after all, their industry is a competitive one, what with all those banks to rob, ice caps to melt, beautiful women to kidnap and heroes to quarrel with.
These types of “excellent villains” are rare. Even the atrocious or downright placid villains would think twice before accepting a life beyond the limelight. The few that do, however, are regarded as anything but peculiar or complex, or even excellent. They are the deserters, the cowards, and the philistines; and one such ex-villain lives in the husk of his formal self, as they all usually do, tormented by their own doings.
“You still have your outfit, don’t you?” a voice called out through the smoking darkness.
“You still wear it sometimes, don’t you!”
“Why are you doing this to yourself?”
“Retirement… pfft! You’re a joke, and you know it”
“You… are better off… dead!”
A dense silence suddenly closed the voices shut, leaving only one left. It was a wisp that glowed through the thick black air. It had a friendly soothing voice that seemed to neutralise all fear and hate left from the voices before.
“It’s okay. It’s just us now. It took us a while to find you” it said slowly. “You’re a bit shit at hiding. Time for you to return…
…else, you really are better off…
Richard McGouda opened his eyes to a dense marmalade sun beaming through the window blinds and sitting low in the oily evening sky.
Just another dream, he thought, brushing aside the empty processed cheese wrappers and dregs of brie rind from his duvet. The voices still rang though his head as he felt the warm heat of his room waken him. The Los Angeles sun had baked his tiny studio apartment as it does every day, creating a vacuum of smells synonymous with a retired man, living alone with an obtuse dairy obsession and a job working in the night.
He rolled over his mattress in a dazed flop, catching his new-fangled digital alarm on his bedside table within microseconds of it chiming. He dropped his arm to the floor, layered in a second carpet of more empty cheese wrappers. The odd subscription to Cheese Connoisseur Monthly and the local circulation of Dairy Mail USA added colour to the beige transparent plastic that lay scattered around; like Fall through colour-blind eyes, Richard would think.
Usually, Richard would wake up alone in his apartment, fighting the smell of warm cheese through a window and then trudging through the wrapper leaves on the floor to find clothes, his car keys, a slice of Monterey Jack, and his Private Detective Association approved sunglasses; because that is what he was, a cheese loving private detective who preferred to smell something other than coffee when he wakes. He’d often hear the neighbours wonder if someone had died inside, but far from it. These particular cheeses that tainted the air was illegal in 15 countries, and indeed is commented by many as smelling like dead people. Richard would usually emphasise the plural when sharing this cheese knowledge, usually before sharing a knob of the aforementioned Bessierot Blue or Soft Sourtaint.
However, this evening was different; not because he was lacking in quality cheeses, but because he was not alone in his stinking apartment. A silhouette of a person carved through the beaming sunlight falling towards Richard as he lay naked in his bed. It was a short stocky figure, staring back at Richard as lay, squinting through his half asleep eyes as he struggled to see past the glare.
“Hmmfff… Erm… Hello?” Richard said, slapping his dry gums together as he heaved his limp body up. He pushed the duvet aside, causing more leaves of empty cheese wrappers fall onto the floor. Thankfully, there were enough left to create a semi-translucent loin cloth as he wriggled his naked body free from his slumber.
“You are Richard McGouda, private detective?” barked the figure, in short quick syllables, probably so as to not inhale much of the concentrated dairy musk in the air. Richard had often been told by first time visitors of the nausea and, in some cases, skin irritations caused from his apartment. He tried to focus more on the silhouette, and could only assume the figure had a stonking set of lungs and a daily full body moisturizing regime. That, or this person isn’t human, he thought. They’re normally itching all over, or hyperventilating by now.
“You have reached… Detective Richard McGouda’s voice mail…” he muttered, clearing his eyes from sleep goop and stretching his back. “…please leave a message… at the beep…”
The figure folded their arms. Richard didn’t need to see past the roasting glare to know this person was the type to roll eyes and raise eyebrows. He wasn’t typically the type to toy with potential clients like this; only when they break into his apartment whilst he sleeps or if they say something against his passion for cheese, then he would revel in such.
“Hmpf” the figure reacted, swinging over a rucksack from their shoulders and lobbing onto the bed, perfectly landing between his legs and inches before his makeshift loin cloth. Richard watched it bounce, landing with a heavy damp thud that disturbed an acrid stench trapped within, reminding him slightly of Badgerpiss Stilton.
“Find the Catalyst” the voice said. “Bring us a reaction”
And as quickly as Richard lifted his head back to the light, the figure was gone. The air hung still as he tried to listen for footsteps or other signs of the intruder, but only to catch the feint sound of churning traffic in the street outside. Sirens, car horns and revving engines twinkled in the air far away, some 30 odd floors below.
“…Your call is important to us…” Richard dimly continued, lifting the rucksack towards him. If curiosity is a detective’s drug, satisfying it would be his high, so he ignored the pungent odour leaking and red liquid seeking through onto his bed, and unzipped.
Richard shuddered, flexing his shoulder blades. Endorphins tickled his pectorals, his armpits and his eyebrows, like a cold feather.
Oh, what a rush, he thought, but he knew what was inside; he could tell a bag with a decapitated head inside from almost anything else. He peered inside and giggled. It was indeed a head, still blushing in the cheeks and eyes staring dead sharp. Quite a hairy one, too. No more than an hour had passed since it sat on shoulders, Richard thought, now paddling through a pool of questions swirling in his mind. Who? Why? Where? “How” was pretty simple to determine as he reached into the rucksack, fingering around in the damp bloody recess. He ran his finger tips around the lip of the fleshy stump, tapping and rubbing the base as he stared back at the blue eyes looking up.
“Cauterized?” Richard hummed. It was a perfect cut all the way around, singed close by something hot and tidied neatly. He was impressed (or as impressed a mystery-loving cheese addict could be whilst blood soaked onto his bed covers); and as he gripped a fist of hair and pulled it out, he saw a prim and preened head with lots of pretty blond locks, glowing in the evening sun that still baked his room. It was a face synonymous with slow decapitation, with a rather comic looking mouth gaped open with the tip of the tongue hanging out. Richard chortled, but only a little. A pungent aftershave wisped behind the stench of both his room and the associated reek of dead man.
It is clearly a man, Richard knew, and quite a handsome chap too. Plucked eyebrows, chiselled chin, cheek bones and those pretty blue eyes. There were indentations of spectacles left on the bridge of the nose, it had cleansed grease-free skin, and was clean shaven.
“Ha, maybe a bit too shaven” he grinned, hoping the stumpy silhouette was within earshot. The smile was short lived as he began to regret leaving the bloodied rucksack on his bed this long.
“Shit, shit, shit” He panicked as he sat up and examined his mattress. A moist slab of deep dark red had pooled in the very middle of his bed, through his thin mattress and most likely onto the floor below. He quickly rested the head on a pillow beside him and wrapped up the rucksack with his warm duvet. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, he continued, all whilst pondering on excuses to make for the landlord, and trying to remember if it was carpets or floorboards beneath the layer of empty cheese wrappers.
The sodden bloodstained duvet landed with a heavy flump on the floor as he tossed it aside. A waft of cheese wrappers whipped up and fell like snow around the apartment. He breathed a sigh of disdain as he perched on the side of his bed, wiping his hands dry on the unsalvageable mattress and taking a moment to calculate what had just happened.
A decapitated head.
A mysterious figure.
He looked back at the head sitting comfortably beside him. At least the pillow now coordinates with his bloodied duvet, he thought, staring back at the blue dead eyes lit by the dying sun. Richard felt an awakening inside his unmoved heart; he knew any sane man would call it a peculiar complexity, but this excitement could only mean one thing to his starved mind. He’d seen corpses before, raw and rotten, torn and twisted, full or incomplete, as with his new friend, but something was missing from his life.
Strangely enough for Richard, that “thing” was death.
He budged to the bed side cabinet, dragging his gaze from the blue eyes and whipping his arms up to the novelty Swiss cheese phone beside him. He nested the receiver to his neck and dialled in the only number he knew without consulting his diary. Every button press was sticky and loud, and as it rang he wrestled a slice of cheese from a plastic wrapper he’d found between the table and bed. His lips slapped to the soft processed creaminess of the orange square, and then a voice.
Richard replied with a sudden pop, like a fizzing bottle of carbonized excitement.
“Uh, yeah, it’s Richard here, good evening, how are you?” He peered back over to the neck-less wonder, still sat on the bloodied pillow.
“Richard?” the voice paused, leaving the line in a caustic silence that grated on Richard and his mind, still feeling drunk from the mile-a-minute evening.
“How are you, Richard? Its been…” The voice stopped again, but it was probably for the best; Richard needed the time to breathe. This is all happening so fast, he thought, but as he did a part of his mind couldn’t bare to think of a time where he wasn’t pulling heads from bags or washing his bloodied hands dry. The other half then grounded him back to his new reality; life as a legally licensed private detective, living in a studio apartment, dining off processed cheese in a safe, low crime neighbourhood, it wasn’t all that bad.
The other half of his mind then grabbed the low crime neighbourhood half and curb stomped it into a fractured memory. It was probably for the best, he thought.
“…its been too long” the voice finally replied. “Enjoying retirement, are we?”
Richard finally stood, treading the crunchy cheese-wrapper path to the gold-lit window to the edge of his room. His toes curled as he felt the cold bite of blood running back into his legs, and the sweet chill of excitement returning to his cheeks as he stepped over the bloodied duvet. Retirement wasn’t something a man like himself could do now. All it took was a trigger to release the bullet of nostalgia, which hurtled towards a heart that’d grown too much over the past years.
“Retirement? I done with it, Sertysh” Richard leant against the glass, peering between the blinds to the sun, dipping ever deeper into the twilight. This life wasn’t how he planned life, no matter how much he tried to substitute his past for life as a simple private detective. He looked to his desk that sat somewhere in the mess of cheese wrappers. Atop lay notes, memos and scribbles from “cases” he had adopted in order to fill his desire for mystery and his shallow pockets; from paranoid husbands to loan sharks, to those who’d rather remain in the shadows, any work was good work.
Richard winced. He felt a sudden stab inside his chest as he shook the delusion from his bitter lying self. There was no replacement, he told his curb-stomped self, still twitching at the morsels of his mind. He laughed as he couldn’t believe it took a pretty blue eyed head this long to see the light for it really was; rose tinted? More like blood stained.
“I want back” he replied. He decided to look back at the head one last time, silently thanking it with his lips. “I want to be a villain again”
“Hmm…” the voice replied. “You’re gonna piss a lotta people off”
Richard tried not to think of the desk buried in cheese wrappers and his tame investigations. Maybe some mysteries are meant to go unsolved, he pondered.
“That’s what a villain does best”
There goes a saying that villains only live for as long as people let them. A mural of feint pastel colours stretches along the corridor outside Richard’s apartment, depicting LA’s greatest from both sides of the coin. Right outside his door was Invention-Boy, punching his arch-nemesis Conception in the face. Despite such a brief stint terrorising the city, Conception was painted in the same vibrant colours as anyone else, hero or villain; namely the bold crimson of the blood splatter from his nose and his dirt stained overalls.
Richard had to look at Conception’s twisted face every time he opened his door. He didn’t remember him being that ugly, or there ever being a time Invention-Boy used his fists in a fight; that’s why they called him Invention-Boy. He was just a boy who invented stuff. Regardless, it reminded everyone of the times when heroes won and the villains lost.
Those were simple times, Richard thought, albeit a good time to be a villain, if any. Bad was cool when he last remembered, and even the most meagre of villains could become icons to some degree; the detailed mural of Conception being proof. It was a franchise for evil that flourished only because people love the things they are told to hate, and Richard liked that.
He pulled his eyes away from the wall and turned, dropping a thick black refuse bag to the floor with a damp thud. Nothing is ever simple, he thought, as he tore off a copper pipe from the wall inside. A whistle of air started to flood out before he shut the door behind him and started to lock it within.
“Good morning, neighbour” waved a cheerful old man from down the corridor, donning the pink polo shirt from the proud white man wardrobe.
He didn’t break his gaze as he shuffled through the jumble of keys in his hand. “Fuck you” Richard joyfully and promptly returned, sliding the key into place.
The old man paused. “Sorry?”
Richard turned his head around on an axis, bearing a wide toothy grin that creased his dry pale face. “Thank you… is what I said… friend” His voice almost broke when uttering the last word. He hadn’t cared much for people since moving into the model neighbourhood, even if they were paying him to solve droll
The old man huffed slightly before happily continuing towards him, with a thick stack of pamphlets nestled in his hands. Richard’s grin disappeared, probably because his grizzled cheeks weren’t made to stretch for that long. That, and also because a certain smell was becoming a little more ominous. He slid the refuse bag behind him with his foot, now grimacing at the happy chap.
“Bin day was yesterday, old Dickie” he chortled, continuing down the painted hall with his bundle of papers now stretched before him, ready to pass to the ever more frustrated Richard. His wrist gyrated and jabbed at the door. The key was stuck in the lock, not budging to his sweating thumb and forefinger. Screw it, Richard thought, deciding to jump on the metaphorical bike and get the ruddy fuck out of here.
If only, he thought, sensing the old man who was now standing inches behind him and cornering him, as much as an old man could.
“I have the paperwork you asked for, Dickie” he said, twitching his nose hairs to the sweet tasting air around him. Richard turned his head again, raising an eyebrow to the unnecessary pause that followed. His fists clenched before he tried again with the key, puffing a sigh at the old man in contention. “The statements are dated, from since I first suspected, and these are photos of a car I’d been seeing outside everytime she heads outside to…”
Richard stared blankly back through the brown spectacles to the tiny eyes peering back. He couldn’t remember his name, but he was a poor old man, living a few doors down, stupid enough to pay him hundreds of dollars to check if his wife was playing polo with another man.
“…y’know, do that thing that I told you about”. The old man’s voice became a mumble and then a silence. His smile now bore the nervous simper like a begging child. Richard pitied him, but only a little, and even then he wouldn’t admit it to anyone but himself. Of all his clients, none were as pathetically nice as this old man, but that was no reason to hate the poor chap.
Richard finally heaved the key around the lock and sealed the door close. He wrangled the handle upwards and snapped the key inside the lock. The smell of gas started to overwhelm the warm sun-baked cheese stench, which for Richard was a good prompt to leave, if any. He almost forgot the black refuse sack, before heaving it up with his strong hand.
“Can I smell… gas?”
“No. Follow me… my…” he paused “…good friend” Richard replied with a smile and a twitch of the eye. Pity? Yes, he thought, but only because I wasn’t a complete bastard. He increased his pace in hope the old man could keep up. He dipped his spare hand into his coat pocket and pulled out a brown envelope, damp with greasy stains and dusted with lint. Like a carrot to a donkey, he waved it in the air making sure the old man could see.
“I’m so sorry, but you were right”
“Wh-what?” the old man stuttered. He jumped slightly to reach the envelope, snatching it from Richard’s grasp as he continued down the hallway. Inside the envelope were photos attached to a hastily written invoice. The old man whimpered.
“Yeah, sorry matey. Turns out your wife does play golf with somebody else. Uses his nine-iron with her and everything!”
The old man dropped the papers in his hands to the floor, sliding over the ground and around their feet. He reached into his pocket and pulled a small wad of cash, bundled in elastic bands. Richard gleefully accepted the money; his job was done, but he still pitied the old man. Being a private detective, despite for such a short time, taught Richard that cause and effect comes in shades, and what might seem trivial to some would actually be downright painful to others. He’d seen more humanity as a cheese eating hermit than a lifetime as a cheese eating terrorist.
The old man turned slowly, and began heading back down the corridor, eyes fixed on the photos in his hands. Richard sighed, reaching his arm out to his shoulder and stopping him in his step.
“Want some free advice, old chap?”
The old man looked back with vacant eyes, probably scarred with the image of another lovely old man helping his wife with her driving position.
“I’d use the service stairwell, if I was you”.
The old man nodded. Richard smiled back, but only in his mind.
Nothing is truly nocturnal in the city; night can be as bright as day, thanks to the monolithic street lamps, the glow from the rivers of traffic, and the dense orange haze that stained the clouds above. It was fitting proof that all life, from humble man to plants and animals, can be re-engineered in less than a few decades exposed to it.
One such creature that attempted to become nocturnal again found calm in the pitch warm darkness that was a burnt out apartment. The black four walls that surrounded still popped and snapped as the dying embers continued to make their mark. The creature was careful to tread the damaged floor, dragging its cape behind through the ashen remains. His eyes squinted as he looked around. To him, it felt like an old fallen tree where life once and can now flourish. The charred foundations of the building stood like a skeleton, so unique against the bold matte greys of the buildings around. A moment passed where the creature soon forgot he was in the city, staring at the naked wooden beams stretch up like trees, and the flakes of ash fall like leaves. The city soon disappeared from his mind. He was somewhere he hadn’t been in years.
“Gah, I didn’t think I’d find you here” said a uniformed woman from behind, traversing the rubble as she climbed through the building.
“UHHH, UHH UHHHH UH UH!” the creature replied, turning on his toes and knuckles. His cape whipped through the air, spreading the ash into a fine dust around him. He pointed to the walls, grumbling as he traced with his finger around the room.
“Yes, Sertysh. Forensics know it was deliberate. My raggedy aunt who watches crime shows could tell you it was deliberate”
“UH! UH UH UHHHH” the creature exasperated. To his annoyance he couldn’t think of a way to “UH” so that she could understand what exactly he had found. It was difficult working with Sertysh the knight gorilla, largely due to the misconception that anything to do with his own faeces was just “dirty monkey stuff”. He’d written an entire thesis about this simple misunderstanding all over the walls of his secret cave, and only she, Detective Cherrytree knew of his true intelligence and power. Knowing this, she placed her hands on her hips and held her breath as he wrote out his revelation.
“Wha-… are you saying… this was where the Stinking Bishop had been hiding all this time?”
“UH! UH UHHH UH!” he muttered, continuing to smear on the wood floor.
“Burn marks synonymous with the reaction of carbon monoxide and the flammable odors of Soft Sourtaint?” She started to sound less and less certain about what she was reading, but knew it must be true, coming from the gorilla’s fingers. “But Soft Sourtaint is illegal. The Stinking Bishop wouldn’t be that stupid to leave such an obvious trail”
“UH HUH” he lumbered up a bare stretch of wall and leapt up to the exposed ceiling that had all but burnt away. Scolded splinters and freckles of ash splashed like dry warm liquid as he pulled himself up. Footsteps from below echoed through the hollow shell of the building.
“Sertysh wait!” she said, hopping over the delicate floor. It creaked and snapped as she stepped forward, all whilst the gorilla stared anxiously back. “If it is indeed the Stinking Bishop… I want to be your sidekick again”
“No wait” she hissed as the footsteps neared, and voices started to call through the popping cinders. “Being a cop isn’t me. I’ve wanted to return to crime fighting, I really have, but on a greater scale… like we used to”.
The knight gorilla stared back, grimacing with a discerning overbite. It wouldn’t be a revelation to anyone when they hear that a 6 foot, crime-fighting primate struggles to find solace in this world, but that was the life he had to grapple with. Before, when it was Sertysh the knight gorilla and his sidekick Gibbon-Girl, everything seemed so much easier; taking down villains and procuring fresh fruit is almost impossible as an independent ape. But he couldn’t satisfy his primal instincts of tearing the faces off old friends, no matter how much pain they have unintentionally bought. He needed help to find those more deserving of a facial shredding.
The woman smiled back.
The voices from below had climbed the service stairwell and were now traversing along the long scorched corridor outside. Sertysh leapt from the beams that criss-crossed above, and with a blink of Detective Cherrytree’s eyes, he disappeared into the night. A whirlwind of ash danced from the ledge and fell like snow onto her head. Her heart raced. She thought of the last time she was with the knight gorilla, some five years ago. How crime fighting had changed since then, she thought, brushing off the ash from her head and turning to the doorway.
“-so then I kicked him in the furnace and said ‘Are you feelin’ a bit George now, y’wanker?’”
A cackle of laughter echoed along the corridor, soon followed by four figures in silver leotards wiping tears from their eyes and catching their breathes from walking through the smoky rooms below. Cherrytree still smiled, as she dangled from rafters above them. Still got it, she thought to herself, manoeuvring around the remains of the ceiling above in a fluid and stealthy movement. She curled her limbs up as she squeezed through a gap and watched precariously at the shiny men below.
“Oh no” she whispered. “Not the Bad Company! What are they doing here?”
The figures below strode in unison around the blackened room, without care of the creaking floorboards that could give way at any moment.
Upon reading this painful, two month old swill of words, I found a few hastily typed notes. Most of it was plot direction or sudden thoughts of genius… along with the words “YOU PRODGICAL COCKSTORM WANKER!” which I will try and use as a theme for my next writing.
Because all stories must have a prodigical cockstorm wanker, regardless of length.