Enter George. Exit George. Re-enter George. In which Mandraxe's faulty memory plays a prominent role.
There's 46 more chapters to come after this one. No one will read them but when I'm dead some nob in a silver costume will say wtf! how did we miss that picaresque masterpiece of 21st century literature?
Mandraxe the Magician could hear the unmistakeable 1980s electrosynth pop ringtone* of George's phone inside his flat. In a daze of confusion he wandered from room to room. His flat has three rooms, including the kitchen diner so the process of search and rescue did not take him long but it took him a great deal longer than it would have taken you. On the floor of his bedroom he inspected the "cushion" he had tripped over. Wrapped in a filthy flower-patterned sleepingbag, he uncovered the body of his dear friend and loyal sidekick, George, his face glazed with flaking-off dried-on blood.
Mandraxe was in a more than usually confused state of mind. He eventually to his great relief silenced the execrable ringtone but his friend George had also been silenced. Forever. Mandrake was feeling more desperate and more alone than he had ever felt in his desperate and lonely life.
Mandraxe unearthed his last three bottles of Deleter. He had hidden them from himself around the flat, for emergencies. It took him an hour to find them (there were five more he failed to uncover) but this was certainly an emergency.
When Mandraxe came round it was midnight. The racket of the day had died away. Occasionally the hysterical scream of a beaten wife, a barking dog or the plaintive wail of emergency response shredded the night's silence. The ominous night sky was heavy with negative expectancy.
Outside, the vandalised bus shelters, cut-in-half car tyre plant pots and a dismantled diesel engine in a shopping trolley glittered in the moonlight. Inside, the Magician stared out across the landscape of a room littered with discarded bottles of Deleter.The moonlike paper lampshade hung like a bright silver coin. The pattern of the sticky brown carpet resembled Buckinghamshire. On it, face down, lay the bloody corpse of George Wong. George was still wearing his daggy rhinestone Elvis jacket but George Wong, Chinese Elvis Impersonator extraordinaire, had emulated the Pelvis for the very last time. His noisy life had been silenced at last.
Who? Why? Mandraxe wept bitter tears and wondered how Exardnam had broken through his security to commit this atrocity.
What follows is what Deleter had deleted.The following events now effectively occurred outside of time. Mandraxe had, two weeks late and tired of missing Jeremy Kyle's informative live seances, tried to put forward to BST a stopped clock. The resulting space/time anomaly left Mandrake believing he lived in the future and was 212 years old, having been born in 1918.
His beloved Port Vale had, in 2011,turned into a gold mine. Literally. They had discovered gold beneath the pitch during re-surfacing and for a few years Burslem resembled the Klondyke. Knarled mule-mounted old men wearing underwear with a buttoned flap on the backside that only old blokes in Westerns wear, filled the taverns and ersatz bodega bars of Burslems Quartier Latin.
Now Port Vale Football Club, were World Cup holders, having been exceptionally admitted due to their dominance at club level. In 20 years only no team on earth had escaped a massive drubbing. The sky was not even a limit, as Robbie Williams had moved to Mars, struck up an uneasy alliance with the "Werewolf" Nazi Mars Colony and built a Death Ray targetted on Gary Barlowe and Old Trafford. One false move.....
But this is what had been deleted. What follows is what 8 didnt want you to hear. This is what there was before. George lay silenced and dead on the carpet, his life already largely a fading construct in the minds of those who knew him. And what follows now is what Deleter had deleted.
Ironically it was George Wong who came up with the idea of re-enacting the Great Train Robbery with Mandraxe's train set. He had watched Match of the Day's Alan Hansen and his sidekick “Lawro” perform their necromantic set piece Analysis. They drew red voodooo circles around players and cast spells on them to enhance their skills or end their career, as their whim and fancy took them.
Mandraxe had bought a crate of Deleter with the proceeds from a children's party. They had paid him off when to the distress of the watching 6 year olds, he had swallowed a baby dove. That night, to celebrate, Mandraxe and George had begun to reenact the famous Robbery.
It was one of Mandraxe's first missions and he had failed. He had been sent to disrupt Skorzeny's ratlines of escaping Nazis. The Robbery had been funded by Skorzeny as part of his plan to establish a 4th Reich in the jungles of Bolivia. Althugh this first stage of the plan had failed, ultimately they had succeeded in establishing the Martian Colony, "Werewolf".
The sense of failure hunted Mandraxe still. Through their re-enactment the two friends, like Hansen and Lawro, would subject to Anlysis what had gone wrong. They would draw red circles around things. And they would put it right.
“Kids” muttered Mandraxe, “you dont catch any escaping Nazis with kids.”
Mandraxe's Mamod steam engine puffed its lonely way around its small circle of track. The broken coffee table (Mandraxe had fallen into it face first after a skinful of Deleter) was an accurate imitation of the Bridego Bridge.
The Mamod steam engine itself was the prize remnant of a difficult childhood. In 1923, his evil twin Derek* (*Derek now wishes to be known as Exardnam) had shaken him awake with the whispered words “youve got a Mamod steam engine ive been playing with it for 3 hours”. Derek himslef had received a poison dart wrist watch. (Since that day, Mandraxe has many times tried to remove Derek's knowledge of magic through mental battles, although it has always been only a temporary solution.)
Soon after,Mandraxe had lost his left hand in a Mamod steam-related methylated spirits accident, which delayed his entrance to Theron's Collegium Magikos, somewhere in the Himalayas. The disappointment grew the following Xmas. He was hoping for a prosthetic hand from Santa. Instead he got a cowboy outfit.“Look at that kid”, the bigger boys would shout “he's got a cowboy hat for a hand. And he's got coalchute underwear. Ha ha. And he's got a steam-engine for a brain.”
“Toot toot,” they shouted, “toot toot.”
The bitterness lived on within him. Mandraxe, empowered with the magical properties of Deleter, grew agitated. The Glasgow train was due.
They had been playing Monopoly with real money when it all began to go wrong. George had lost heavily. They both ate too much cheese. And now the Glasgow train was approaching and they had to move quickly now, but an angry George insisted on a meeting to discuss Ronnie Biggs' cut. Mandraxe could now hear the Glasgow train
George dashed out to the fridge. George dashed in again shouting and gesticulating in a wild panic “We've run out of methylated spirits and we're down to our last bottle of Deleter.”
Mandraxe could see the Glasgow train in the near distance now.
That was it. He could take no more.
“Toot toot.” Louder now.
Mandraxe brought the stopped clock down heavily onto George's skull. Mandraxe laughed nervously and fingered the long mensur scar on his sunken cheek. Blood leaked from George's right ear into the carpet and his rhinestone jcket. His “special friend” Police Chief "Cutter"Bambury would be well cheesed off.
The body lay there for several hours. The corpse had been disrespected. Mandraxe had tripped over it twice on the way to the lav. Mandraxe had drawn a big red circle around it. And Mandraxe had shown no effort to dismember or otherwise dispose of the corpse, although he had given it a quick squirt with Fabreze. Mandraxe would live to regret this disrespect.
George's left eye, his good one, clicked open. It was red with tears and lit with vengeance.....and there was name on his lips.....listen carefully a whisper......it could still be heard if you listened carefully......"Exardnam"...
*George's ringtone was the Pet Shop Boys' 1985 Marxist pop/synth Class War megahit "West End Girls/East End Boys"