Authors: Andy Griffiths
Zack swallowed hard, but his throat was dry.
And as he crested the hill that overlooked the out-skirts of Mabeltown, Zack felt his throat grow even drier.
âOh no,' he said.
âWhat's the matter?' said his bum.
âSee for yourself!' said Zack.
Zack's bum detached itself and stood beside Zack.
Below them they could see the aftermath of a massive bum-blitz. Huge cracks in the ground. Enormous craters. Most of the buildingsâmainly factories and warehousesâhad been badly damaged. And, if any further proof of hostile bum activity were needed, there were skidmarks all over the road.
âI thought the bum-uprising was over,' said Zack.
âIt was!' said Zack's bum. âI mean, it
âThen how do you explain all this?' Zack asked angrily, sweeping his arm across the scene of devastation in front of them.
His bum shrugged. âI've got no idea!' it said.
But Zack wasn't listening. He put his hand over his face and shook his head. âThe Kicker was right,' he said. âI should never have trusted you!'
âZack!' said his bum, sharply. âThis has nothing to do with me or any other bum on Earth. Look!'
Zack's bum pointed to four objectsâall with brilliant blue-green tailsâhurtling down out of the
clouds. Zack watched as the objects smashed through the roof of a warehouse. There was yelling and screaming, and then a group of four men came running out of the building with four large bums in hot pursuit.
They were not like any bums he had ever seen.
They were big.
And very fast.
Zack willed the men to run faster. But the bums were faster still. They caught up with their prey andâjoining handsâsurrounded them in a menacing circle.
âWhat are they doing?' said Zack.
âI don't know,' said Zack's bum, trembling. âBut I don't think they're playing ring-a-ring-a-roses.'
The bums advanced towards the men in an ever-tightening circle. Zack could see the men kicking and punching the bums, but to little effect.
Then, all of a sudden, the bums jumped up onto the men and squeezed themselves down the backs of their trousers.
Zack shook his head in disbelief. He hadn't seen anything so disturbing since he'd witnessed the bum-catcher being rearranged at the midnight bum rally. He watched, horrified, as the men staggered around with their new super-sized rear ends, their trousers bursting at the seams. It was a horrible sight. What made it even worse was that one of the men's trousers had actually ripped open, clearly revealing the large blue bum clinging parasitically on to his real bum.
âI'm scared,' said Zack's bum. âLet's get out of here.'
âNo,' said Zack. âWe should help them.'
âNo way,' said his bum. âIf we stay we're the ones who'll need help.'
Zack sighed. âYou can be
selfish!' he said.
âI am NOT selfish!' shouted his bum. âI only want what's best for YOU!'
âOh YEAH?' shouted Zack. âSince when? You are the mostâ'
âUm, Zack .Â .Â .' said his bum. âI hate to interrupt, but I think we're in trouble.'
Zack looked down the hill.
Their bickering had attracted the attention of the men. They looked up at Zack and his bum and then began to walk slowly towards the hill, their arms outstretched in front of them.
As the men began climbing the hill, Zack noticed their glassy eyes and blank expressions.
âThat's weird,' he said. âThey look like .Â .Â .'
âZombies?' said his bum.
âRight!' said Zack. âZombies! That's exactly what they look like!'
Zack didn't know much about zombies, but he'd seen enough movies to know what they did to their victims. He went white with fear. âGet us out of here!'
âWith pleasure!' said his bum. âPrepare for lift-off. 10 .Â .Â . 9 .Â .Â . 8 .Â .Â .'
âHang on,' said Zack. âYou're not attached!'
âOops,' said his bum, quickly jumping down the back of Zack's pants. â7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 .Â .Â . BLAST OFF!'
They rose into the air at tremendous speedâup and away from the zombies and over the town.
Zack braced himself for landing.
It was going to hurt.
He knew thatâbut anything was better than where they'd just been.
Or so he thought.
Zack hit the ground bum-first. âOuch,' he said.
âDouble-ouch,' said his bum.
âThat was your best ever,' said Zack. âHow did you do that?'
âI'm not completely sure,' said his bum, âbut I think it had something to do with that sausage.'
Zack stood up, looked around and tried to work out where he was. He was in a streetâthat much was obviousâbut although Zack knew the neighbourhood well, it was impossible to tell exactly
street he was in.
It bore the signs of the same aerial bumbardment as the area where they had just been. Most of the houses were wreckedâthose still standing looked like they wouldn't be standing for long. A few hardy plants and trees remained, but they had been stripped of their leaves and the ends of their branches were chewed. Skidmarks, again, were everywhere.
Zack shook his head and moved cautiously down the road, taking care not to fall into any of the freshly
formed cracks. Then he noticed a thin strip of white leather on the ground in front of him.
It looked strangely familiar.
He crouched down to study it.
It was a collar.
A cat's collarâsplattered with crimson spots.
With a shock Zack realised that it belonged to Mittens, his gran's cat.
Poor Mittens, thought Zack, wiping a tear from his eye.
âWhat's the matter, Zack?' asked his bum. âWhy are you crying?'
âIt's Mittens,' said Zack. âThey got her.'
âNever did like that cat,' said Zack's bum.
âThat's not very nice,' said Zack, shocked by his bum's callousness.
âThat cat wasn't very nice to me,' said Zack's bum. âSometimes she would just walk up to me and scratch my cheek, for no reason at all! She was a mean cat, Zack.'
âMaybe,' said Zack. âBut does that mean she deserved to die? Like this?'
Zack's bum thought for a long time. âYes,' it finally said and then quickly changed the subject. âHey, isn't that your gran's letterbox?'
Zack, who had been too preoccupied with Mittens' collar to notice where they were, looked up at the red letterbox with the number 12 on the front. He gasped.
With a dawning horror, Zack realised where he was.
He was in Gran's street.
Standing outside her houseâor at least what remained of it.
Zack stared at the house, blinking back tears.
He wished he'd returned sooner.
The letterbox was leaning so far over that it almost touched the ground. The picket fence was smashed to pieces. And there was a crater where the garden had been. But at least, Zack noted, the house was still standing, unlike the houses on either side, which were little more than piles of rubble.
Zack remembered how Gran, in one of her rare moments of lucidity, had told him that she and her husband Percy had built the house themselves out of bluestone. It had taken them two years, but their effort had clearly been worthwhile. It was more like a fortress than a house.
Then Zack noticed that the windows had been boarded up from the inside.
His heart skipped a beat and then he smiled to himself.
Gran always seemed to be imagining that some sort of war was going on. Now that there really was a war going on, it was possible that her madness was going to be her best protection. If anyone was going to be prepared, it was Gran.
Zack stepped over the remains of the fence and walked gingerly up the driveway in the fading light.
Suddenly a black shape leapt from the tree above
Zack and wrapped itself around his face. He felt hot needles of pain in his cheeks.
He tried to yell to his bum for help, but his mouth was full of fur.
Zack grabbed his attacker with both hands and pulled as hard as he could. The pain was intense, but finally he succeeded, throwing it down onto the ground in front of him.
Zack assumed the kicking position that the Kicker had drilled into him at the Academy, but then he froze.
His attacker miaowed.
âMittens!' he said. âIt's me! Zack!'
With a loud purr of recognition, Mittens leapt into Zack's arms.
She was thin, dirty and bedraggled, but otherwise okay.
âZack!' said his bum. âCheck her bum. Make sure it's not zombie-bummified!'
At the soundâand smellâof Zack's bum's voice, Mittens hissed.
âHiss at me and I'll gas you again!' said Zack's bum.
âYou'll do no such thing!' said Zack, noting that Mittens' bum was its normal size. âCalm down, both of you. This is not the time to be fighting amongst ourselves!'
Mittens snuggled into Zack and purred loudly. Zack's bum scowled.
Zack looked around him to check that nobody was watching and then cautiously mounted the front steps and knocked on the door.
There was no reply, but he could hear movement
inside. It sounded like furniture being scraped across the floor in front of the door.
âGran!' called Zack. âIt's me!'
But there was still no reply.
Zack knocked again. âGran! Open up! It's meâZack!'
Zack peered through a crack in the boards that were nailed against the windows.
He pressed his face up close and saw an eyeball peering back at him.
âGran?' he said.
âZack?' said Gran.
âYes!' he said. âCan I come in?'
âShow me your bum!' said Gran.
âGran?' said Zack, a little embarrassed.
âI have to be sure that you're not one of them!' she said.
He turned around and bent over.
âIt looks in order,' she said. âCome round the back door. Quick!'
Zack ran around to the back of the house.
He heard scraping and then the noise of the bolts being drawn.
The door opened a tiny crack and he squeezed through.
Gran slammed the door shut.
But before she could barricade it again, there was a loud crash.
Zack jumped backwards as an axe head sliced through the top half of the door and a sledgehammer smashed a hole in the bottom.
Gran grabbed Zack and pulled him out of the way, just in time to avoid being flattened by the door as it came crashing inwards with an almighty thud. Two people came with it and fell onto the laundry floor in a sprawling heap.
With a shock Zack realised they were Mr and Mrs Jenkinsâthe old couple who lived next door to Granâand that their bums were huge.
Mr Jenkins, glassy-eyed and drooling, grabbed Zack's ankle.
Zack searched desperately for a weapon, but all he could see was a box of soap powder. It would have to do.
Zack grabbed it and brought it down hard on Mr Jenkins' head.
The box exploded and soap powder went everywhere.
Blinded and spluttering, Mr Jenkins still held fast to Zack's ankle.
Gran picked up the hose attached to the laundry taps and blasted him with water.
Suddenly everything was slippery.
Zack managed to yank his leg out of Mr Jenkins' grasp.
âGood work, soldier!' yelled Gran, grabbing Zack by the collar and dragging him out of the laundry, and along the hall to the foot of the staircase.
Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Jenkins crashed around on the slippery floor, desperately trying to stand up.
âCome on,' said Gran, bounding up the stairs.
There was another tremendous crash behind Zack. He looked back and saw the axe head and
sledgehammer that had reduced the back door to splinters were now doing the same to the front.
He turned and sprang up the stairs after Gran.