When the blimp settled again McCluskey got up dizzily. He found there was a large hole in the side of the blimp-basket, and a lot of lettuces had fallen out. He estimated there were about a hundred left.
I hope that’s going to be enough! he thought.
McCluskey quickly patched up the hole with some cardboard and sticky tape and took his seat at the controls.
However, instead of hurrying along to the Imperial Palace as he intended, he became mesmerised by the sight of his new surroundings. The blimp had been blown into a realm of crystals, which sparkled like a million diamonds. Fantastic multi-faceted shapes towered and extended in every direction. As he gazed in awe, he saw clusters of crystal forming and growing in fascinating slow-motion.
Then, after a long time, McCluskey glanced down at his controls and saw there were crystals growing across his dashboard, and the floor was covered in a glittering crystal carpet. As he checked his instruments and grappled with the controls, crystals grew up his legs. He realised he would soon be covered in them, and twisted the joystick to try and get away. However, the joystick was stuck and made a crunching sound when he forced it.
I’m going to be late! thought McCluskey, still thinking about his delivery, but actually it was getting much more serious that that. The crystals had now reached his knees and were invading the blimp-basket’s windscreen.
McCluskey pulled the joystick as hard as he could, smashing the crystals. The motor groaned with the sudden exertion, but the blimp barely lifted, and the crystallization continued. McCluskey opened the window and threw out lettuces until he could feel the blimp getting lighter, and soon he was high up above the crystals below, while those that had grown in the blimp basket began to recede and vanish.
“Phew!” said McCluskey.
He then counted the lettuces: there were now only about twenty left.
I wonder if that’s going to be enough? he thought.
He looked at the clock and saw he was now way behind schedule, and set a course for the Imperial Palace, where Emperor Peng Win’s chef would be waiting.
McCluskey took a short cut through the shadows of the Chilly Peaks. It was a risky thing to do, as he had heard about people being ambushed and robbed there. . . A dark, messy craft drew up alongside and a voice shouted incomprehensibly. He could hear other voices in the background jeering and laughing wickedly. Fearfully, McCluskey put on his shellphones and listened to the translated shouting:
“Sweater or we will honk you out of the wide blue yonder!”
McCluskey adjusted the shell phones:
“You have no choice! Hand over your stuff and we may spare your life!”
Oh, no! Brigands! thought McCluskey.
To be continued.
© David Severn