London August 1963
Ken Bassett hopped off the platform of the number 38 bus and jogged towards the White City through the miserable drizzle with little enthusiasm.
He was late for work and he should have sprinted, but his late night bender at Joey Marshall's place last night weighed heavily on him, not to mention the drooping cigarette bobbing in his mouth.
Thus he was about twenty minutes late and feeling decidedly green as he banged on the warehouse door.
Jack Tipping popped his head out of the door. "Christ, we'd given you up!" he muttered, dragging Ken into the dusty corridor beyond. "Put that fag out and hurry up!"
Ken stubbed out the cigarette in a fire bucket of sand and followed Jack through to the empty warehouse that had been hired for the day.
"Ah, Ken. Good of you to put in an appearance!" said the AFM, oozing sarcasm. "Late night was it?"
Supercilious bastard. "Bloody bus broke down in Camden High Street," lied Ken.
There was a general titter from the dozen or so people grouped in the centre of the warehouse.
"Never mind that now. Let's get on." The Director, a haggard-looking individual with a clipboard flounced over to a tarpaulin and pulled it away. He stood expectantly by what appeared to be a knobbly domed dustbin. There was an awkward silence from the gathered crew.
"What the bloody hell is it?" asked Jack Tipping.
"It's called a Dah-lek," said the Director. He consulted his clipboard. "Spelled D-A-L-E-K. We've only got one ready at the moment but there will be four eventually."
"Money run out already?" asked some bright spark.
There was a general laugh.
The Designer piped up. "I wanted to do it in fiberglass but we had to settle for wood in the end."
"Is that a sink-plunger and an egg-whisk?"
The Designer pursed his lips.
The AFM spoke."OK. Look. The serial is slated for November, maybe December. The idea today is to get an idea how the thing works, play about with it, so we all know what we're doing in studio when the time comes."
That'll be a first, you tit, thought Ken.
"Right. Let's give it a run out. Who's the smallest amongst the crew?"
Ken tried to make himself taller but felt his arm grabbed by the AFM. "Come on, Ken. You know you want to."
Ken looked at it doubtfully. "How do I get in?"
The Designer and his assistant removed the top half of the thing and the crew gathered around as he pointed out the little seat for the operator, the rods for the egg-whisk and the plunger and the eye-rod in the dome.
"We're thinking of adding a switch so you can flash these bulbs to show which one is speaking," said the Designer, a little nervously it must be said.
There was a murmur amongst the crew. "You'll need a bleedin' octopus to work it," said Jack Tipping, to general agreement.
The Producer spoke. "That's what we're here for," she said. "To iron out the wrinkles."
"OK, Ken. In you go."
He hopped into the small space and sat on the little seat. The top was lowered onto him. It smelled musty.
"Can you see out through the mesh?"
"I can still make him out," said the Director. "They'll need to be dressed in black."
The Costume Designer made a note.
"Try working the rods, Ken."
Without much enthusiasm Ken pushed the plunger and jiggled the egg-whisk and the eye stalk.
"Not bad," he heard the Producer say. He could see her smiling through the dark mesh.
The Designer appeared in his eye line. "Now for the movement. You just scoot it around. The fender hides your feet..."
The words seemed to drift away, becoming faint and indistinct. Ken felt giddy and thought he was going to throw up.
Unfortunately for Ken it was nothing to do with his late night at Joey Marshall's...
Sometimes, out beyond the reaches of imagination, cataclysms occur. Time Folds. Realties bleed into each other like swirling paint. Fiction and fact, for a blazing moment, occupy the same space then snap apart like a broken line.
Ken found himself chewing a gob of mucus. In actual fact this was his larynx, detached and liquefied. He spat it out, thinking it was a precursor to vomiting. In a similar vein his teeth jellified, but he had bigger worries.
The bones in his legs shattered as they grew beneath him. In the darkness he couldn't see what was happening but his legs seemed to divide into four and flap about, before folding under him. The pain was indescribable and Ken screamed...only being without a larynx nobody heard.
He convulsed as his arms withered to barely developed stumps, the excess skin dropping away in chunks.
He felt a terrible pressure on his hips, coming from both sides. His body split open and his entrails and internal organs tumbled out, sloshing about at the bottom of his tomb. His four legs sucked up their nutrients greedily, thrashing about in a feeding frenzy.
Incredibly, he was still alive.
His chest caved in, as if caught in a car-crusher. His head cracked like a hammered coconut. His eyes crawled across his exposed frontal lobes until they merged.
Needle probes extended into his brain, like some medieval torture.
Then, incredibly, inside the machine there was a hum of power...
"Ken! Ken! Can you hear me. The top seems to be jammed ! Are you OK in there mate?"
"He's pissed I tell you."
"Ken! Say something for God's sake..."
There was a whine as his vocabulary protocols kicked in. His glorious body began to excrete mucus as pustules burst open with the sheer orgasmic anticipation of the slaughter to come.
He didn't need a larynx.