Authors: Andy Griffiths
Judi Freeman's nostrils burned. Her lungs burned. Her face and hands and whole body burned as the floor of the bum-mobile became a super-heated hotplate.
She choked and coughed and cursed.
But she didn't die.
She lay there for a few moments, trying to regain her senses, and then realised with a start that the bum wasn't in her hands anymore.
She stood up and looked around the bum-mobile. She turned to James, who was climbing unsteadily to his feet.
âJames!' she said. âThe bum! It's gone .Â .Â .'
James, however, didn't answer. He just stared at her, no expression whatsoever on his face.
Judi walked over to him and shook his shoulders. âJames?' she said âAre you all right?'
But James's only response was to grab her arm.
âStop kidding around, James, this is serious!' said Judi, pulling her arm away from him.
But James didn't stop. He grabbed her arm again and pulled it towards his mouth. Judi frantically searched behind her for a weapon. Her hands closed
on a toilet plunger. Not ideal, but it would have to do. She raised it high in the air.
âIf you're kidding you'd better stop now!' she yelled. âOr I'll hit you!'
James sank his teeth into her arm.
âSorry, darling,' said Judi as she brought the plunger down hard on James's head, âbut that's definitely NOT funny!'
James released her arm, toppled forwards and stumbled into the wall.
His bum was enormous. At least twice as big as normal. In a flash she grasped what had happened. Somehowâin all the confusion of the explosionâthe Uranusian bum had managed to attach itself to James and was making him behave very strangely .Â .Â . like a .Â .Â . zombie! But how? she wondered. Despite its ability to repair itself, the bum had been dead. At least it had been dead
James, on his knees, turned and grabbed her ankle. Judi lost her balance and crashed to the floor. James pulled her towards him, saliva dripping from his lips as he raised her ankle up to his mouth.
Judi brought the plunger down on his head again.
James dropped her leg.
Judi jumped up, and while James was still facedown, planted the cup of the plunger in the middle of his oversized backside and with one foot in the middle of his back, began to push and pull the plunger with all her might.
James contorted his face, writhed in agony and screamed.
But Judi willed herself to ignore him. She'd fought bums for too long to fall for a trick like that.
It wasn't James screaming, she told herself, it was the bum.
Then, as James's cries reached a crescendo, she ripped the parasitic bum from his body. It flew up into the air and splattered against the roof.
Judi slumped against the wall of the bum-mobile, exhausted. She sighed. At least it was over.
But any relief she felt was short-lived. As she watched, the pieces of bum-blubber slid silently across the floor towards each other, and within seconds had reformed into a new bum.
A bum that appeared to be very much alive.
James was silent.
Judi kicked him.
âWake up, James!' she said. âPlease!'
Before Judi could do anything, the zombie bum flew across the cabin at her.
Judi stepped out of the way, but the bum hit the wall behind her and bounced off it.
Judi tried to whack the bum with the plunger, but it was too quick. âJames!' she screamed as the zombie bum latched onto her bum. âHelp me!'
James was still lying on the floor. He groaned and looked up. âJudi?' he said.
Immediately Judi felt an enormous surge of hunger. She was more hungry than she'd ever been before. She was mad with hunger. She could have eaten anything. Even, she realised with horror as she lost consciousness, even James .Â .Â .
Judi, now completely zombie-bummified, reached out for her husband.
James grabbed her. âHold on!' he yelled, hitting the bum-mobile hatch door release. Normally to do such a thing, while the bum-mobile was still in space, would have been suicidal. He remembered well the lecture on the dangers of space that Silas Sterne had given at the Bum-fighting Academy all those years ago: âExposed 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.'
But as suicidal as such an action might have been under normal circumstances, these were definitely
normal circumstances. In all their training, not one of their instructors had ever mentioned zombie bums from Uranus, let alone given the students any information or clues about how to fight them.
Luckily James was a fast learner. He gripped the handle of the hatch with one hand, and held on to Judi with the other.
A roaring sound filled the cabin as all the air in the bum-mobile was sucked out by the powerful vacuum created by the sudden depressurisation.
It sucked everything that wasn't tied down out of the bum-mobile. Including Judi. She was half out of the ship. James could feel his grip slipping. And worse, he could feel his temperature rising. It was becoming extremely difficult to think. All he knew was that he had to hold on .Â .Â . had to hold on until the bum was sucked off Judi's body.
Finally, just as James was about to lose consciousness, he saw the bum fly out of a hole in the back of Judi's spacesuit and off into space. He wrenched her back into the ship and pushed the button to secure the hatch door.
As the air rushed back into the cabin, both James and Judi breathed huge sighs of relief, not to mention life-restoring doses of oxygen.
âI guess I owe you an apology,' said James, when he'd recovered enough to speak.
âDon't be stupid,' said Judi. âYou saved my life.'
âYou saved mine first,' he reminded her.
Judi shrugged. âWe're a team, remember?' She stood up and pressed her face against the porthole. âUh-oh.'
James stood up slowly. âWhat is it?' he said.
âWe're not out of the woods yet,' said Judi. âLook at Uranus!'
James spun around, trying to look behind him. âI can't!' he said. âIt's impossible!'
âI mean the planet!' said Judi.
âOh,' said James. âI thought you meant .Â .Â .'
âIt's not blue anymore,' Judi said, ignoring James's confusion, âit's brown!'
James peered through the porthole. âExtraordinary!' he said. âAll the methane must have been burned up in
that explosion. It was the methane crystals that gave Uranus its distinctive blue colour, you know.'
But Judi wasn't listening to him. She was too amazed by an even more extraordinary sight. âLook at the rings!' she said.
In their entire careers, which had encompassed many extraordinary sights, neither of them had ever seen anything quite so extraordinary.
The rings of Uranus were no longer comprised of masses of frozen bums.
The bums were alive!
Somehow the heat and the stench generated by the explosion had combined to thaw them out and bring them back from the dead.
As James and Judi watched, the bums began peeling away from Uranus in what appeared to be a mass migration.
âWhat the .Â .Â .Â ?' said Judi, her question trailing away as she tried, with great difficulty, to compress the magnitude of what she was seeing into an intelligible question. But âWhat the .Â .Â .Â ?' was the best she could manage. So she said it again. âWhat the .Â .Â .Â ?'
James rushed to the radar screen at the front of the bum-mobile.
âThis is not good, Judi,' he said. âThis is definitely NOT GOOD!'
âWhat is it?' said Judi, tearing her eyes away from the awesome sight in front of her.
James gulped. âThe zombie bums, or whatever they are, appear to be heading in the direction of Earth!'
James and Judi looked at each other.
âWhat the .Â .Â . ?' said Judi once more, although by now the answer was becoming clear, even if the question wasn't.
They both knew what had happened in the bum-mobile.
Whatever the zombie bums were going to Earth for, it probably wasn't to say a friendly hello. The zombie bum they'd confronted was dangerous beyond belief.
And they'd only had to fight one!
How would the people on Earth be able to defend themselves against so many?
James shook himself to action. âWe have to send a warning!' he said, urgently pumping the button on top of the radio with his thumb. âI don't believe itâthere's no signal!'
âThe antenna must have been damaged by the explosion,' said Judi.
James thumped the control panel in frustration. âDamn these antiquated machines!' he said. âFancy putting an antenna on the roof! That's just asking for trouble!'
âCan we fix it?' said Judi.
âYes we can,' James said, âbut not with all those zombie bums out there. We wouldn't stand a chance.'
âWhy don't we try to race the bums back to Earth?' said Judi.
James shook his head. âThey're travelling too fast,' he said. âThis old jalopy will only do half their speed, if we're lucky. I knew we should have insisted on a newer model. I knew it!'
James peered out of the windscreen, his arms
outstretched in front of him on the control panel, studying Uranusâor at least, what was left of it. Devoid of its distinctive blue atmosphere, it now looked brown and shrivelled, like a piece of fruit that had been left out in the sun.
âLook,' said James. âSmoke!'
Judi followed his gaze and saw a thin trail of smoke coming from a point on the planet's surface. âWhat do you think is causing it?' she said.
âCan't be sure,' said James. âBut it's probably coming from whatever it was that just crashed into the planet.'
âSo what do we do now?' said Judi.
James scratched his head. âI think the best thing we can do,' he said, âis to go down to Uranus and try to find out what caused the explosion. It may help us to understand why and how the bums reanimated and maybe, just maybe, how to shut them down again.'
âWhat good is that going to do?' said Judi. âWe don't have a radio to tell anyone anyway.'
âWe'll be able to repair the radio when we land,' said James.
Judi shook her head. âI don't like it, James,' she said. âIt's too dangerous. Besides, it's totally outside of our E-mission orders.'
James put his hands on her shoulders. âIn case you hadn't noticed,' he said, âour old E-mission orders don't apply anymore. We've got a new E-mission now. Trouble is, we have to make it up as we go along.'
âI still think we should just go home,' said Judi.
âIf that lot make it to Earth, we may not have a home to go back to,' said James. âWe have to do this.
It's our only chance. If we can understand what started it, we might be able to understand how to finish it.'
Judi reluctantly nodded. She was desperate to get home, but she could see the sense in her husband's argument.
They strapped themselves into their seats.
âI've always wanted to see Uranus,' said James.
âJames!' said Judi.
âI meant the planet!' said James quickly. âPrepare for descent.'
re we there yet?' whined Zack's bum.
âNo,' said Zack, shielding his eyes against the late afternoon sun. âNot too far to go though.'
âYou said that two hours ago,' said Zack's bum.
âWell, I guess it's a bit longer to Mabeltown than I thought,' said Zack.
Zack took a short drink from his water bottle, which was almost empty.
âI want some too,' said his bum. âI'm thirsty.'
âThere isn't much left,' said Zack. âCan't you wait?'
âBut I'm THIRSTY!' said his bum.
âOkay! Okay!' said Zack, squirting the last of the water into the hole he'd cut in the back of his trousers so that his bum could see out. âThere! Are you happy now?'
âWhat are you trying to do?' spluttered his bum. âDrown me?'
âSorry,' said Zack. âI didn't think there was enough left in the bottle for that to happen.'
âYou should be more careful,' said his bum.
Zack sighed heavily and continued down the dusty dirt road.
He wished he hadn't left the Academy in such a hurry. He wished he'd thought to pack a little more food and water. They'd been walking for hours, and all he'd had to eat was a couple of stale anti-bum energy bars. He was starving.