Authors: Andy Griffiths
Finallyâunable to shake the giant mutant zombie
blowfliesâthe Great White Bum zoomed straight up into the air, passed through the clouds and just kept going.
âUh-oh,' said Eleanor, visibly shivering. âWe're in trouble now.'
âI thought we already were,' said Zack, who was also starting to shiver.
âNo, really big trouble,' said Eleanor.
âI thought we were already in that as well,' said Zack.
âNo, really, really big trouble!' said Eleanor. âThe Great White Bum can't lose the blowflies on Earth, so it's heading out into space!'
âThat's brilliant!' said Zack. âThe blowflies will follow it out there and before they realise where they are they'll be frozen to death! You've got to hand it to the Great White Bum. It's not stupid!'
âNo,' said Eleanor. âBut YOU ARE!'
âWhy do you say that?' said Zack.
âIn case you hadn't noticed,' said Zack's bum, âthe Great White Bum has still got Gran around the neck. It's taking her with it.'
âThat's really bad,' said Zack.
âIt's more than really bad,' said Eleanor. âIt's REALLY, REALLY bad! We're heading into space with no protection whatsoeverânot even a warm jumper! Don't you remember what Dad taught you about the danger of unprepared space travel during his lecture on interplanetary bum-fighting?'
The air was thinning and Zack was finding it difficult to think. He vaguely remembered the lecture but
he had been very tired at the time and had nodded off once or twice. âSort of,' he said.
âLet me remind you,' said Eleanor, quoting from memory. â“Exposed to the vacuum of space, your body fluids would quickly boil. Bubbles would form in your blood vessels and body tissues, causing them to rupture. All the gases inside your body would expand. You would become unconscious in about fifteen seconds. You would have permanent brain damage in about four minutes. That's if your skin wasn't punctured by small, high-speed particles travelling through space. Or you weren't instantly snap-frozen in temperatures as low as minus 100 degrees, or turned into galactic fried human in temperatures as high as 120 degrees in the full glare of the sun.”'
âBut what about Gran?' said Zack.
âWhat about us?' said Eleanor. âMaybe we have to let her go.'
âNo way!' said Zack.
âBut it's not worth all of us dying, Zack!' said Eleanor, reaching for the reins. âWe have to turn back!'
âJust a little bit longer!' said Zack, pulling the reins away from Eleanor's grasping hands. âIf we can just go a little bit faster .Â .Â .'
âNo!' said Eleanor, making a desperate lunge for control of the giant mutant zombie blowfly.
Zack jerked his hands upwards.
Suddenly there was the sound of tearing toilet paper.
Zack stared at the shreds of the reins in his hands
as the now uncontrollable giant mutant zombie blowfly continued its pursuit of the Great White Bum into space.
âNow you've done it!' said Eleanor.
âI didn't do it,' said Zack. âYou did!'
âYou BOTH did it!' said Zack's bum.
Zack and Eleanor glared at each other.
âWell, I guess this is it,' said Zack, finally shrugging. âWe can't survive in outer space without spacesuits.'
He felt his bum shrug. âIt's not impossible,' it said.
âHow could it not be impossible?' said Eleanor.
âWe need a bubble shield,' said his bum.
âA what?' said Zack.
âA bubble shield,' said Zack's bum. âI can make one.'
âI don't think so!' said Zack. He wasn't sure what a bubble shield was, exactly, but he didn't like the sound of it. Or the smell of it, for that matter.
âNo way,' said Eleanor.
Zack's bum sounded slightly hurt. âIt's your choice,' it said. âI just thought that you might both prefer NOT to have all the fluids in your body boil. I kind of had this silly idea that you might think it was better to AVOID having bubbles form in your blood vessels and body tissues which would cause them to rupture. And, call me crazy, but is having all the gases in your body expand, becoming unconscious in about fifteen seconds, having permanent brain damage after four minutes and being subjected to temperatures as low as minus 100 degrees and as high as 120 degrees in the full glare of the sun REALLY the way you both hoped to die?'
âWell, now that you put it like that,' said Zack, âmaybe it is worth a try.'
Eleanor nodded. âIt won't be for long, anyhow. Once the Great White Bum has destroyed the giant mutant zombie blowflies it will hightail it back into the atmosphere as fast it can.'
âI knew you'd see it my way,' said Zack's bum, beginning to emit enough gas to form a protective bubble that would cocoon itself, Zack and Eleanor against the ravages of outer space.
As it did so, they rapidly passed through the upper layers of the atmosphere. They rocketed through a range of colours, the shades of which Zack had never seen beforeâextraordinary greens and reds and rich purples that gradually merged into the infinite blackness of space.
Zack marvelled at its beauty, despite the pungency of the bubble shield.
He looked down.
Not only could he see the blue Earth curving away from him in all directions, but he saw the zombie blowflies still in hot pursuit.
Zack couldn't figure it out.
It wasn't possible.
Then it hit him.
It was obvious.
They weren't ordinary flies.
Outer space couldn't kill them.
They were already dead
It began to dawn on Zack that this might not be quite as short a trip into outer space as they had hoped.
The Great White Bum sped up. It was already going fast. Unencumbered by gravity it was travelling at more than one hundred times the speed of wind.
And now it was going faster still.
It passed the Moon.
It passed Mars.
âWhere in the univarse is it going?' said Eleanor.
âI don't know,' said Zack's bum. âBut I sure hope we get there soon. I can't keep up this shield forever, you know.'
And then, up ahead, they saw something more scary than zombie bums, mutant zombie maggots and giant mutant zombie blowflies put together.
A huge swirling brown vortex.
A brown holeâthe most destructive force in the univarseâand they were headed straight for it!
Zack stared at the brown hole.
It was terrifying.
He recalled the Blind Bum-feeler's words: âFear not the brown hole.' At the time he'd thought it was a baffling piece of advice. And now that he was face to face with one, he was even more confused.
How was it possible
to fear a brown hole?
In his lecture on interplanetary bum-fighting Silas Sterne had thumped the lectern as he tried to impress on the students just how dangerous a brown hole was. That not even the most experienced, most skilled bum-fighters stood a snowball's chance in hell
of surviving a close encounter with one of these monsters. âBecause make no mistake,' Silas had said, âthat is what they are! Monsters! They'll suck you in, chew you up and then .Â .Â . well, if by some miracle you were lucky enough to make it out the other end you can be sure of one thing: it wouldn't be the same place you went in. The forces inside a brown hole are so powerful that they warp the very fabric of space. You could find yourself crawling out into another solar system .Â .Â . another galaxy .Â .Â . maybe even a whole other univarse! One thing's for sure: the chances of making it back home again are a zillion to none. A brown hole is a one-way roller-coaster into the unknown. AVOID THEM AT ALL COSTS!'
Zack was more than willing to avoid this particular brown hole at all costs, but it was a little difficult when the giant mutant zombie blowfly they were riding was hell-bent on pursuing the Great White Bum, and the Great White Bum was hell-bent on heading straight for the brown hole.
Zack could feel the hairs being sucked out of his scalp, his eyes being sucked out of their sockets andâworst of allâhis bum being sucked off his body.
âHelp me, Zack!' yelled his bum. âHelp me!'
Zack reached around behind him to try to hold on to his bum. He knew that losing his bum not only meant losing the shield that stood between him and outer space, but it also meant losing the best bum a boy could ever have wanted.
Zack grabbed hold of his bum's hand. âI've got you,' he said.
But the pull of the brown hole was overwhelming.
Zack could feel his bum slipping from his grasp.
âJump!' yelled Eleanor, standing up behind Zack.
âBut it's not safe!' said Zack, one arm still hugging the giant mutant zombie blowfly's back. It was all he had left.
âNot safe?' said Eleanor. âIf we stay on this giant mutant zombie blowfly we're going to be sucked into a brown hole, you idiot!'
âYou're the idiot,' said Zack. âIf we jump we're going to be sucked into a brown hole anyway!'
âLanguage, you two!' called Gran from somewhere up in front of them.
Gran's words jolted Zack. Even in the face of a brown hole she was still fighting for the standards of decency that she held so dear. Fighting a losing battle, perhaps, but fighting nonetheless. Zack felt ashamed of himself. There was still time to make a difference. Not much timeâand perhaps not much of a differenceâbut there was still time.
âAll right!' said Zack, looking up at Eleanor. âAbandon giant mutant zombie blowfly!'
âSpoken like a true bum-fighter!' said Eleanor.
Zack stood up and, holding his bum in one hand and Eleanor's hand in the other, jumped.
Not a moment too soon.
Floating in space, Zack and Eleanor watched in awe as the Great White Bum charged towards the brown hole, followed by the giant mutant zombie blowfly they had just been riding on.
âGran!' yelled Zack, horrified as he realised what was happening.
âGoodbye, Zack!' he heard her call. âMay your bum be with you!'
âI will,' called Zack's bum. âI promise.'
And then, just when it seemed certain that Gran and the Great White Bum had reached the point of no return, the Great White Bum changed course. It swung across the mouth of the brown hole, turned around and began to fly back towards Zack and Eleanor.
The giant mutant zombie blowflies, however, were nowhere near as smartâor as powerfulâas the Great White Bum. Unable to escape the brown hole's gravitational pull, the entire swarm disappeared in an instant.
âSo that was the Great White Bum's plan!' said Zack, watching as it battled the brown hole's gravity. âBrilliant!'
âMaybe,' said Eleanor. âMaybe not.'
âWhat do you mean?' said Zack.
âIt's not out of trouble yet,' said Eleanor.
Zack looked again.
Eleanor was right.
The Great White Bum was definitely struggling. It had obviously underestimated the power of the brown hole. It seemed to have reached a point where it wasn't being sucked back into it, but neither could it break free and move forwards.
It was stuck.
Zack and Eleanor, still floating in space, looked at each other. They both knew that with one combined kick they could send the Great White Bum hurtling into the brown hole.
But it wasn't that straightforward.
Now that they no longer had a giant mutant zombie blowfly to ride, they had no way of moving themselves through space.
And, besides, the Great White Bum was still holding Gran.
âHelp me,' said the Great White Bum. âHelp me and I'll let your grandmother go free!'
âDon't you dare, Zack!' said Gran.
âBut, Gran!' said Zack.
âBut Gran nothing!' said Gran. âYou'll never get a better chance to get rid of the Great White Bum. I'm old. I've had a good life. It will be an honour to accompany the Great White Bum to its doom!'
âDon't listen to her, Zack,' said the Great White Bum. âShe's delirious. And she's all the family you have left. Better save her while you still have the chance.'
Zack bit his lip.
âDon't listen to the Great White Bum, Zack,' said Eleanor. âMaybe your gran's right. Better her than put the whole world at risk!'
âBut she's my gran!' said Zack, pulling the tomato sauce bottle out of his belt and blowing into it.
âWhat are you doing?' said Eleanor. âThere's no tomato sauce left!'
âI know that,' said Zack, pointing the bottle behind them and squeezing it hard. âBut I don't need sauce. I'm using it as a thruster!'
They shot towards the Great White Bum.
Zack grabbed hold of Gran's hand and wrenched her free.
Then he and Eleanor kicked the Great White Bum as hard as they could.
The enormous bum went hurtling backwards into the brown holeâbut not before grabbing Zack and Eleanor's legs.