Margery Plankton pushed her spectacles up her nose and read the letter again. When the postman delivered it, she had been instinctively dribbloidle with anticipation. The last letter she had received – which had been anything other than a demand for amounts of money she didn’t have or an offer to make amounts of money she couldn’t imagine – had been from her Uncle Herman and that had contained his toenail clippings with a demand she tell him if they were normal. Sometimes being the only podiatrist in the family was a burden, especially as she had to tell him that it was only a matter of time before his toenails became carnivorous and ate his leg.
Now though she wondered if the tickle of excitement had been warranted.
First it was written by someone who appeared to have only a shaky acquaintance with the concept of cursive handwriting, which elongated her retinas rather painfully. Second the contents were the last thing she needed right now
Dear Ms Plankton
Your God Service
Please note that from the 22nd inst to the next incursion of Jupiter you will be required to undertake God Service. Please report to the nearest portal on the 21st inst for basic training. We recommend you wear comfortable shoes, elasticated trousers and bring a sweet confection.
This letter is randomly generated in accordance with the Deity (Part-time support) Ordnance and complies with all universal laws of chaos, uncertainty and gratuitous bloody-mindedness. Any complaints should be swallowed and used as paperweights. Injury and or death are/ is inevitable so we recommend you keep your insurances up to date.
Gerald, Servile and Unctuous Groveller to his Stupendence Almitio, the Great God of Bureaucracy
Note: you will find your nearest portal in any one of the following wheelie bins: the blue, outside no.13; the brown, by the King Kong; and any one of the green bins that have congregated alongside the canal. If planning on utilizing the brown we recommend double thick marigolds.
After Margery read the letter to Millicent, her colleague she noted how she delicately raised one plucked eyebrow. ‘At least it’s not more mementos from your uncle’ she opined.
Margery shook her head. ‘That might be preferred. Do you think I should try and cry off?’
’Noooo. Just go with it. How bad can it be? How long is it for?’
Margery squinted at the letter. ‘Until the next incursion of Jupiter. Whenever that is.’
Millicent flicked through the desk diary. ‘I think that this time it is the fourteenth after the decennial apocalypse.’
‘A week on Tuesday. Though it’ll seem longer.’
‘Oh heck? And this weekend I was planning on making marmalade.’
‘You’re right though. You can’t not go. They aren’t very happy if you try and dip out. Look at Old Mrs Gubbins.’
‘How is she?’
‘I think she finds the cat flap a trial at her age. Someone said they misheard her when she told the God’s representative not to get familiar. Does it say which God you’ll be?’
‘No, just to go to the nearest portal.’
‘Wear comfortable clothes.’
‘It says. I’d better go and pack. I start tomorrow.’
‘We won’t miss you. That’s one good thing.’
‘For you. I hear time-condensing can be exhausting. Ten years there is a week here.’
‘You’ll be fine. And if they do duty-free, I’d love a creamy patina of ambrosia with nectar afternotes.’
‘I’ve not tried it.’
‘Oh you should. It makes my skin really autumnal and my joints are indescribable.’
‘Have you been having problems with your knees again?’
‘Not those sort of joints; it ulanfrumigates my cannabis plants. Oh and don’t forget to take your uncle’s clippings. They got out of the envelope this morning.’
‘Oh goodness. No harm done I hope.’
’Not too bad. Mrs Spigot was in to have have proximities degreased when they got out. She’ll need a few extra sutures that’s all.’
Twenty four hours later and dressed in Swedish cotton and molasses, Margery slipped inside a green wheelie.
‘Oi do you mind?’ The bin flapped its lid angrily.
‘Aren’t you are portal?’
‘No I’m not a bleedin’ portal. You part time gods have no…’
The bin next to the one Margery was standing in chortled. At least it sounded like a chortle but it could just have easily have been a badly rusted axle. ‘Stop teasing her, Meldroyd. It’s ok love. Course he’s a portal. Just kick the bottom…’
‘Don’t you dare kick my bottom. You just… ow, that bloody hurt.’
Margery hated possessed plastics. They were always getting uppity, something to do with having deregulated carbon atoms. But she knew better than to be anything other than polite as she slipped through the base and into a white tiled corridor that smelt of lavender and Tuesdays.
A headless receptionist turned her torso in Margery’s direction and then popped her head onto the counter. ‘Sorry, dropped a lens. Domestic or International?’
The head’s expression morphed into something approximating agony with a tincture of symapthy. ‘Or is it God Service?’
‘Then take the impossibly fiery arch, third on the left. There’s anti-burn cream and optional self-skin grafting on the other side.’
‘Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the cream this side of the flames?’
The head smiled. ‘Yes of course it would but that’s hardly going to pass the utterly random and capricious test, is it? Now off you trot and keep your hands by your sides. There’s a special offer on gratuitous amputations this month. Unless your looking for a new set of digits? We have some fabulous Witchity Gnarled just in and a snip at two organs or a dozen curses a set.’
Margery stuck her hands in her pockets and started off, but the head called her back. ‘Did you bring a confection?’
She lifted her arms. The head wiggled its eyebrows. ‘Molasses impregnation? Prudent. Laters.’ With that the hands lifted the head off the counter and it disappeared.
Margery wasn’t inexperienced. She’d had to visit HQ before, ever since she had found out her other self, as Xenata, Goddess of Equality, Diversity and Being Mildly Content With Your Lot one wet holiday in North Norfolk. It hadn’t been so much of a shock as an irritation. How could she possibly be a ‘Goddess’ if she was covering Equality and Diversity? But her pleas to be classed as a Godbeing had fallen, unheard. She knew, of course, that she was a God of some kind, ever since she had found she could conjure up a light whenever she needed it and that whenever offered a sandwich the crusts detached themselves with a grovelling apology.
‘Xenata? Good to see you.’ A smiling Ovoid with pink cheeks and a chestnut fondant topping spoke in an irritatingly upbeat sing song voice as it floated up to her, now she was through the arch relatively unscathed.
‘Zunder? You doing God Service too?’
Zunder, God of Timekeeping, did something that in Ovoids equated to a smile. ‘No, I’m in charge.’
Margery sighed. ‘Why do you need me?’
Zunder oblated. ‘You understand feet, yes?’
She nodded slowly.
‘I seem to have grown this.’ From behind his globuler form a stumpy leg and foot emerged.
Zunder’s colours became even more vivid. ‘I was minding my own business when Zeus appeared, saw me and told me to hop to it.’
‘And you what? Asked him how?’
‘Something like that.’
‘So he cursed you?’
‘Can you do anything? This is so embarrassing for a smoothly cool spheroid like me. I mean, a limb! Yuck! You’re speciality is feet isn’t it?’
‘If it’s a Zeus curse, you’ll need someone to take it over.’ Margery pursed her lips. ‘It’s a bit of a long shot but my Uncle has developed Weretoe.’ She scribbled a number on the side of Zunder’s new leg. ‘Call him. He’ll help.’
‘How so, if I need someone willing to take this curse off me?’
‘I think, between him and his toes, I can safely say they’ll probably bite off your leg for it.’