Thursday, October 21, 2010

Neil Gaiman's Balamory

On killing yet another childhood classic completely TO DEATH

Congratulations should certainly be aimed towards this website's favourite author - second-greatest living Englishman Neil Gaiman - over his forthcoming episode of Doctor Who.

This is, however, not Gaiman's first attempt at writing for the small screen, as a recent raid on BBC archives reveal. Where, marked "Not for Transmission, EVER" and "BEWARE OF THE LEOPARD", is this piece of work from the master himself:

Neil Gaiman's Balamory*

"What's the story on Balamory - wouldn't you like to know?"

"Given a long enough time scale, there is no such thing as a happy ending"

Shadow came to the island. America was a bad place for Gods and half-Gods such as himself, and he wanted to be somewhere that still believed. That meant staying away from cities where belief was measured by TV talent shows and the new deities of rational thinking; heading towards the fringe of society where old ways were still followed, uncritically, with all their souls.

He stepped onto the quayside and took in the brightly-coloured houses on the waterfront. And he knew. These people had ancient stories to tell. And where there were stories, there was belief. And with belief, power.

"We don't get many visitors," said the woman in the Green House. She told Shadow she was a teacher, although he saw no children as he walked the island; and the school-house echoed not with screams of play, but with something darker, far more ancient.

Miss Hoolie watched appreciatively as Josie failed to seduce Shadow with her "Jump a Little Higher" song. It had never failed before, musing that should this visitor pass PC Plum's test, then he would be the one. Pure.

"You'll come to the festival?" she asked Shadow, "Everyone will be there - Archie from the castle, Edie, Spencer, Penny Pocket. They'd all love to meet you. It's Wednesday."

Shadow's ears pricked at the sound of his father's name.

"Will there be a Wicker Man?" he asked, half joking. He knew the stories. Island visitors passing secret tests, presented to the chieftain, imprisoned in a giant human effigy before being burned alive as part of their fertility rite. These people had belief in their hearts, and Shadow knew the murderous intent with which it stalked. These rites never worked - he'd been dead once before and it wasn't an experience he cared to repeat.

Hoolie eyed him accusingly: "Och, who do you think we are? The only thing getting barbecued tomorrow are the hotdog sausages."

Good people.

They met the next afternoon in the sun of the waterfront, the brightly-coloured houses decked with bunting, the smell of burgers, sausages and onions filling the air as Spencer led the villagers in song.

And they sang of Musical Ladders, Great Inventions, Groovy Solutions, Following Clues and, of course, Jumping a Little Higher. Then they struck up a new, alien, unearthly song, with no tune, the words like fingernails down a blackboard:

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

The sky became black as night, the sun burning with darkness. Clouds billowed red as blood, purple as plague. The sea boiled, erupting with jets of flame, before finally tearing itself apart to reveal...

A creature as old as time and twice as awful. A creature that had spanned the planets, the dimensions, the very universe. A creature that was both there, in front of Shadow, and somewhere else. Somewhen else, its many faces, eyes, and what passed as mouths flitting in and out of focus, into this world and out again. Tentacles flailing, reaching, reaching, rising up from aeons-long slumber in old R'lyeh, time to feast.

Time to feast on a god.

And Shadow was gone into the dark loneliness of death, his body devoured, his soul doomed to walk the void for eternity. Cthulhu, sated, rose to rule again.

Miss Hoolie smiled. The dank, joyless smile of the long dead, as the village sunk into a burning pit of tentacled, feasting, fornicating beasts.

"What's the story? Wouldn't you like to know?"

* Possibly not written by Neil Gaiman at all

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