Phredde and the Mouldy Monster

This story was supposed to go in 'Stories to eat with a Blood Plum,' but it wasn't good enough, so I threw it out - except I didn't throw it very far, just into my 'not used' folder. But if anyone wants to read a not really very good Phredde story before I throw it out for good, here it is. But remember - this is a LOUSY Phredde story. The ones in the books are MUCH better. But anyway, here's Phredde again... the story that will never be published.

The pirate ship shuddered as the giant squid tried to climb aboard.

'Yo ho ho and a bottle of ginger ale,' yelled the Captain valiantly as he tried to trim the sail so we could escape.

'Er, Phredde,' I said.

'Shhh... ' said Phredde, perched on the rail beside me. Her eyes were shining. 'Listen!'

I listened. All I could hear was the shush of the waves against the ship's hull and the squark of the seagulls up above.

 

The ship shuddered. I could just imagine the giant squid below us, wrapping its tentacles more securely around the ship.

Splatt! I glanced across the deck. One giant tentacle flapped for a moment, then its suckers made its grip secure.

Splatt! Splatt! Splatt! Three more tentacles gripped the deck....

'Er, Phredde... ' I said.

'As soon as that squid gets hold of us properly it's going to crush the whole ship!' announced Phredde gleefully.

The boards creaked below us. It looked like that giant squid was going to get its crunching grip together any moment.

'Er, Phredde,' I said.

'Isn't this exciting?' exclaimed Phredde.

'No,' I said.

Phredde stared at me. 'Why not?' she demanded, as a giant rubbery tentacle inched its way towards us.

'Because all you have to do is PING! and we'll be safe again. I mean it's not exciting if we KNOW it's all going to end with us escaping in time to get back home for dinner.'

Phredde crossed her arms and glared at me. 'Well, I'm doing the best I can,' she muttered. The massive tentacle groped blindly for a moment, then seemed to sense us. It wriggled even closer towards us.

'Yes, I know but... '

'Well, YOU try to think up adventures for us! It's not all that simple!'

'Yes, I know,' I said soothingly. 'I didn't mean you weren't doing a good job.'

'It's just you think this is a boring adventure,' snorted Phredde. The giant tentacle hovered in front of me for a moment, then lashed across my body.

'Ow!' I said, 'That hurt!'

'It's not easy, thinking up giant squid and stuff like that,' went on Phredde.

'Er, Phredde,' I said. The tentacle began to slowly lift me off the ship.

'I mean if you'd just SAID that getting captured by a giant squid bored you ... '

'Um, Phredde,' I yelled, as the tentacle lifted me across the ship.

'It's not my fault if... '

'Phredde!' I shrieked as the giant squid surged out of the water. Its mouth loomed above me wetly. 'Phredde, if you wouldn't mind concentrating for a moment... '

'What?' said Phredde. 'Oh.'

There was a faint PING! all around me and suddenly I was back on deck. There was no sign of the giant squid.

'Thanks,' I said, rubbing at the sucker mark on my arm. 'I think.'

'No worries,' said Phredde flatly. She gazed around the ship. 'Now what?'

'I don't know,' I said.

Phredde fluttered her wings impatiently. 'Well, do you want an adventure this afternoon or what?'

'Of course I want an adventure.' I said. 'We have an adventure every Sunday afternoon. It's just,' I shrugged. 'I don't know... being crushed by giant squid and chased by ogres... they all get sort of boring after a while. I feel like a REAL adventure.'

'Well what sort of adventure?' insisted Phredde.

'Something really scary, something we wouldn't know that we were going to survive till afterwards.'

'Well, what's the scariest thing you can think of?' demanded Phredde.

I leant back against the rail of the ship. Up above me the Pirate Captain perched up at the top of the mast amongst the rigging, keeping a lookout for giant squid or white whales or the sort of desert islands that have treasure buried on them. The sound of his 'Yo ho ho and a bottle of ginger ale' floated happily off with the wind.

'The scariest thing I can remember was this story Mum read me once when I was a little kid,' I said slowly.

'What was so scary about it?' asked Phredde.

'Well, it's funny. No one got their head blown up or even their bodies invaded by aliens. It was just... scary.'

'Well, go on, what was it about?' demanded Phredde impatiently.

I tried to remember. 'There were these people on an old time sailing ship ... '

'Just like us!' said Phredde.

I nodded. 'Yeah, except I don't think they were pirates. And the fog came down all around them and the wind dropped and because this was a sailing ship they couldn't go anywhere till the wind filled the sails again. They just had to sit there in this fog.'

'I don't see what's so scary about that,' said Phredde, fluttering her wings dismissively.

'Just wait a bit will you? They were sitting there in this cold grey fog when suddenly they heard lap, lap, lap, like this other ship was coming closer... closer... closer. Not a big ship. Just the sound of oars in a little dinghy.'

'Then what happened?' asked Phredde.

'And then this desperate voice came out of the fog "Hello!" and the Captain answered it "Hello!"'

Phredde banged her heels against the rail.

'It was too foggy for them to see who was in the dinghy, so the Captain said, "Are you coming aboard?" And this bloke's voice echoed out of the fog and said, "No" and then he told the Captain this story.'

Phredde sighed impatiently.

'Well, it was scary when Mum told it to me,' I said defiantly. 'Anyway, this bloke in the dinghy said he used to be a sailor too, on a ship just like that one, and that his ship had been marooned in the fog too years and years before.

'And they had waited and waited but the fog didn't lift and the wind didn't blow. And finally their food ran out and they ate their boots and stuff like that, then their water ran out and they had to abandon ship because you can't live without water... '

Phredde was looking a bit more interested now.

'So they all got into the lifeboat and started to row through the fog and one by one they all died of hunger and thirst, till there was just this one bloke left.'

'Go on ... ' urged Phredde.

'And he was almost too weak to row. He was almost about to give in when he looked down into the sea and there was a branch. It was rotten and mouldy but it was still a branch, so he knew he must be near land.

'So with the last of his strength he kept on rowing. Finally he heard waves through the fog. The waves picked up the rowing boat and dumped it on the sand and then he knew no more.'

Phredde was really looking interested now, so I kept on going. 'When he woke up the fog had lifted. He looked around. He was on an island. But a strange island.

'The sand was mouldy, the trees were mouldy - everything on the entire island was covered in mould.

'"What did you do then?" the Captain wanted to know.

'"I was starving," the man said. "So I ate the mould. For twenty years that's all I've had to eat. Just mould. My hut has been mouldy, my bed has been mouldy. All I could do was wait and hope that rescue would come."

'"Finally I could stand it no more. I leapt into the rowing boat and headed out across the sea. And then the fog came down again, and I heard your ship and here I am."'

'The ship's Captain laughed. "Well, at last you're safe!" he called. "At last you're rescued! Come aboard and as soon as the wind rises again we'll take you home!"

'"I can never go home now," said the man. And at that moment the fog rose... ' I paused.

'What was it?' whispered Phredde.

'And all that was in the rowing boat was a mound of mould.'

Phredde was silent for a moment. 'Yuck,' she said at last.

'I suppose it's possible,' I said. 'If all you'd had to eat for twenty years was mould, I suppose you might go mouldy too. Mum says mould spreads like anything. She gets this really strong stuff from the supermarket to zap the stuff in our bathroom.'

'Mum just PINGS! ours,' said Phredde absently. 'Hey Pru?'

'Mmmm?'

'What do you suppose happened next in that story?'

I stared. 'I don't know. That's where it ended.'

'But if the second ship was becalmed maybe they had to go to the mouldy island too. Maybe everyone on the boat turned into heaps of mould... '

'Erk,' I said. A shudder ran down my back.

'Come on,' I said. 'Let's go home. I don't think I want an adventure today.'

'Um... ' said Phredde.

'What's wrong?'

Phredde pointed upwards.

A long, low, grey cloud was descending like someone had dropped it from the sky. Lower, lower, lower it came, till suddenly it was all around us...

'Fog,' said Phredde hollowly.

I shivered. 'I don't like this,' I said. 'Come on. PING! us home.'

Phredde nodded. There was a PING! all around us.

I breathed a sigh of relief. 'Thank goodness... ' I hesitated, then looked around. Something wasn't quite right.

'Er, Phredde?'

'Yes?' said Phredde. There was something in the tone of her voice that worried me.

'You did PING! us home didn't you?'

'Yes,' said Phredde.

'But... but the fog's still here.'

'I know,' said Phredde, even more hollowly.

'Um... maybe it's just foggy everywhere,' I suggested hopefully. 'And our castle is right up there in the fog and all we have to do is get in the dinghy and row to shore and then we'll be home... '

'I don't think so,' said Phredde. There was a tremble in her voice now that I didn't like.

'Er… why not?' I asked.

'I don't think my PING! worked,' said Phredde. 'I think we're still out at sea!'

'Well try it again!' I ordered shakily.

PING!

I looked around. Still fog. Still grey.

PING! PING! PING! Phredde's eyes were shut. She was really concentrating now.

'How's that?' asked Phredde hopefully, opening her eyes.

'Still fog,' I told her.

'Oh,' said Phredde, and that was all she said.

'How about you PING! your mother?' I suggested desperately. 'Maybe she could PING! us home.'

Phredde shook her head. 'If I can't PING! us home I can't PING! Mum either,' she said. 'Either a PING! works or it doesn't!'

'But PING!s always work!'

'Not always,' said Phredde. 'They don't work in Phaeryland, or if you're in someone else's magic or if... '

'Or if what?' I demanded.

'Or if we're inside a story... ' whispered Phredde.

'But... but... I don't understand.' I stammered. 'You/How could we be inside a story?'

Phredde's eyes were very wide. 'I think I did it accidentally,' she whispered. 'I was trying to think of an adventure for us and you were telling me that story. I think I must have PING!ed unconsciously.'

'So now we're in the story!'

Phredde nodded.

'The scary one Mum told me about the fog and the mould!'

Phredde nodded again.

'Well, how do we get out of it?' I yelled.

'We have to wait till the story ends.'

'Oh, that's just great,' I muttered. 'What if it ends with us turning into mouldy blobs on a desert island too? You mean your PING! won't work at all?'

'Well, it might work on some things,' said Phredde cautiously. She shut her eyes again. There was faint PING! just above my right ear, and suddenly I was holding a mug of hot chocolate.

'There you are!' said Phredde triumphantly.

'Oh great,' I said. 'If we get attacked by a giant squid again you can just PING! us up some hot chocolate.'

Phredde shook her head. 'I think I could PING! away a giant squid. I just don't think I can PING! us out of the story.'

'Oh,' I said. I looked around. The grey was awfully thick now. You could smell it too, sort of wet and cold and dingy and very, very still.

'Phredde?'

'Mmmm?'

'Could you PING! me up a jumper?'

"Good thinking,' said Phredde. Suddenly we were both wearing them - good, thick, raw wool jumpers, a tiny phaery sized one for her and a super economy girl size one for me.

'Well, at least we're warm now,' I said hopefully. 'Hey, maybe you didn't PING! us right into the story. Maybe you only PING!ed us into the bit where the fog comes down. Maybe the wind rises in a minute and the fog will blow away and we'll sail home and be back in time for dinner and... '

'Shhhhh!' said Phredde.

I shhhhhed. Then I heard it...

Lap, lap, lap, lap...

'It's just the waves slapping against the boat,' I whispered.

'No, it's not,' whispered Phredde.

Lap, lap, lap, lap...

'Maybe someone's stirring a cup of coffee,' I whispered.

Phredde shook her head again.

Lap, lap, lap, lap... And suddenly I heard it too, the swish of oars as well.

Swish, swish, swish, swish...

'Maybe it's just the giant squid come back to attack us!' I said hopefully.

Swish, swish, swish, swish...

'Giant squid's don't go swish. It's a rowing boat!' whispered Phredde.

'Maybe, maybe it's just someone out fishing. Maybe... '

'Hello!' called a voice in the fog. 'Hello!'

No one answered.

'Why doesn't the Captain say something?' I whispered.

Phredde shook her head. 'It's our adventure,' she whispered back. 'He's only a pretend captain, remember?'

Right. Great. Here we were stuck in the fog on a becalmed pirate ship with a captain who could only say 'Yo ho ho and a bottle of ginger ale' and probably wouldn't even say that. It was up to us.

'Hello! Can anyone hear me?' cried the voice desperately.

'Maybe if we don't say anything he'll go away,' said Phredde.

It seemed like a good idea to me. Then my conscience sort of niggled me.

'He's been by himself for twenty years,' I whispered guiltily. 'We're the first people he's spoken to for twenty years and WE aren't even speaking to him!'

'Well ... ' said Phredde dubiously.

'Hello!' cried the voice again.

'Hello!' I yelled back, or tried to anyway. My voice was trembling so much it sounded more like 'globble' than 'hello'.

'What is the name of your ship?' called the voice.

'Er... ' I suddenly realised it mightn't be a good idea to tell him we were a pirate ship. I mean, after all, there are pirates and then there are pirates, and he might assume we were the nasty sort. 'I'm Pru and this is Phredde!' I yelled instead.

'Hi!' yelled Phredde.

There was a stunned silence. 'Women?' he yelled.

'Well, girls actually,' I confessed. 'Except Phredde's a phaery too.'

'A fairy?' The voice in the fog sounded angry now. 'This is no time for joking!'

'Who's joking buster?' yelled Phredde. 'And that's PHAERY, not fairy, got it?'

'But that's impossible... ' began the voice. 'Fairies... I mean phaeries… are just... '

'Huh! You're a fine one to talk about impossible!' shouted Phredde. 'At least I'm just a normal everyday phaery, not a heap of mould.'

There was a silence from the rowing boat below us. Then a stunned voice said, 'You know?'

'Yep,' said Phredde. 'You've been marooned on a mouldy old desert island for twenty years and now you're just a heap of mould too and you can never go home again.'

'Er, right,' said the voice.

Phredde sighed. 'So now we'd better do something about you.'

'Er... what do you mean?' asked the voice. He sounded really stunned now.

'Get rid of the mould,' said Phredde briskly. 'There has to be some way to do it. Come on, you'd better come aboard.'

'Er, Phredde,' I whispered.

'What?'

'Are you sure about this?'

'Well, we can''t just leave him here in the fog, can we?' asked Phredde practically. 'Anyway, we can't get home again till the story's ended, and I don't want it to end with us on a mouldy desert island too. I reckon getting him mould free again would be a pretty good ending.'

'Er... yes,' I agreed. 'But couldn't we clean him up with him still/while he stays in the rowing boat?'

'Huh?' demanded Phredde.

'Well, Mum says mould is pretty contagious. I mean there are spores that float everywhere and... '

 

It was too late. There was a sudden plop! in the swirling grey fog below us and then the sound of hands clasping the deck rail. Another plop! and then the sound of two feet landing on the deck...

I squinted into the fog, but it was too thick too see anything except the grey.

'Er, you don't have to come any closer!' I called. The last thing I wanted to do was to come face to face with a walking, breathing heap of mould.

'Right,' said the voice at the other end of the deck a bit uncertainly. 'What do you want me to do then?'

'Just stay there!' I yelled. 'Okay,' I said to Phredde. 'See if you can PING! him clean.'

Phredde nodded. She scrunched her eyes up just as a really loud PING! exploded over the deck.

'Wow,' I said. 'That should do it.'

'I gave it everything I had,' admitted Phredde. 'Hey,' she yelled down the deck. 'How are you?'

'Er... very well, thank you,' said the voice. It sounded a bit surprised.

'No, dimwit,' said Phredde. 'How's your mould?'

'Er ... it's very well too, thank you for asking,' said the voice. It sounded even more bewildered.

'You mean it's still there?'

'Yes,' said the voice. It was beginning to sound as though it thought we were both crazy.

`Bother,' said Phredde glumly. 'It looks like the mould's a major part of the story. That means it won't respond to my PING!s.'

'Oh,' I said, chewing my thumbnail (I only do that when I'm REALLY worried). 'Well, just stay there for a minute will you!' I called down into the fog. 'There has to be another way to get him mould free.' I muttered to Phredde.

'Give him a shower?' suggested Phredde.

I shook my head. 'If that was going to work he'd only have had to go for a swim and he'd be clean again. And besides where do you find the best moulds?'

'I don't know,' said Phredde.

'In the shower recess, that's where! We have to find some way to kill the mould, not just wash it off.'

PING! went Phredde. I looked up. 'I thought you couldn't PING! it away?' I said.

'I can't' said Phredde.

'Well, what did you bother PING!ing for?' I added crossly.

Phredde held up two more mugs of hot chocolate. 'I was hungry,' she said simply.

'Oh. Well, thanks then,' I said, trying to be gracious about it, taking my mug from her. I nodded down the deck. 'Could you PING! one up for him? I bet it's been years since he had any hot chocolate.'

PING! went Phredde. There was a sort of choked gulp from the other end of the deck.

'Just some hot chocolate to warm you up while we work on your problem!' yelled Phredde.

'Er... thank you!' said the voice. He sounded like he was in shock.

'Don't mention it!' said Phredde. She turned back to me and bit her lip. 'Right ' she said. 'What kills mould?'

'Er, Phredde,' I said

'Mmmm?' said Phredde, deep in thought.

'I think we need to hurry.'

'Mmmm?' said Phredde. 'Why? It's hours to dinner time.'

'Because of that,' I pointed.

Phredde looked. 'Oh,' she said.

'Yeah, oh.' I said.

'It's spreading fast, isn't it?' aid Phredde, staring at the mould as it crept along the deck.

'Yep.' I said.

'Er, what do you think it'll do when it gets to us?' whispered Phredde.

'The same as you think it'll do too,' I said.

'Cover us all up?' whispered Phredde, even more softly.

'Yep,' I said. 'I think we'd better think HARD!'

'Well, what does your Mum use on the mould in your bathroom?' demanded Phredde desperately.

'I don't know... some sort of white squirty stuff in a long bottle. You buy it at the supermarket. Hey, could you PING! us to the supermarket?'

'If I could PING! us to the supermarket I could PING! us home,' cried Phredde. 'Hey - how about I just try to PING! us some of that anti-mould stuff? Maybe that would work.'

'It's worth a try,' I eyed the mould desperately. It was getting awfully close.

PING! Suddenly Phredde's mug of hot chocolate was gone. In its place was a long wide can.

'It's worked!' cried Phredde.

'Well, sort of,' I said.

'Why?' Phredde looked at the can. 'Oh,' she said.

'Wrong can,' I said. 'That's baked beans. Can't you change it?'

'I'll try.' Phredde shut her eyes again, then opened them. 'Hey, have you got any money?'

'What for?'

'Well, I can't just take stuff without paying for it!'

'Phredde, of course I haven't got any money!' I yelled. 'Why would I take money out on a pirate ship?'

'Well, I don't know,' said Phredde reasonably. 'I just thought I'd ask. It doesn't matter anyway. I'll just PING! some from my piggy bank at home and then....'

'Phredde hurry!' I shrieked.

'Okay, okay ... ' Phredde concentrated again. PING!

I grabbed at the tall white bottle desperately 'Dishwashing detergent!'

'One more go!' cried Phredde. There was a final violent PING! and suddenly I was holding...

'Wonderwhizz!' I yelled, reading the label. 'Absolutely dissolves mould with just one whizz! Hold the nozzle outwards and press the button.'

I held it out and pressed. Nothing happened. I pressed again.

'Maybe you have to pull the cap off first,' suggested Phredde helpfully.

I glanced down at my toes. The mould was almost there...

I tore the cap off and pressed as hard as I could.

Squirt!

'It works!' yelled Phredde.

'Well, it squirts anyway,' I said cautiously. 'Mum says you can't believe everything these things tell you. I mean maybe it isn't strong enough to kill mould like this... '

'Hey!' shrieked Phredde. 'Look!'

I looked. The mould had changed colour. It was white now, instead of grey. As we looked it began to shrink, smaller, smaller, smaller.

'I'll keep spraying,' I yelled to Phredde. 'You PING! up some more bottles of the stuff!'

'Right!' yelled Phredde. There were half a dozen more PING!s and a startled squark in the fog from the bloke down the deck. 'It's a mould cure! Just spray it all over yourself,' Phredde yelled to him.

'But shut your eyes and close your mouth and don't breathe in!' I shouted, because Mum had told me never to get any cleaning stuff in your eyes and not to breathe it in. I mean that stuff can really hurt you.

'How can I squirt if my eyes are shut and when can I breathe again?' demanded the voice.

'Just shut up and squirt!' yelled Phredde. 'Or you'll infect the whole ship again!'

Silence. From the other end of the ship came the sound of squirt, squirt, squirt.

'It's working!' shrieked the voice ecstatically. 'The mould is running off my legs, off my arms... '

Well, that's just about the end of that story. The Wonderwhizz zapped the mould and then the fog lifted and the wind filled our sails and the bloke raced up the deck to thank us.

He was a bit disappointing actually. I'd always thought he'd be young and tall with melting brown eyes and those sort of polished looking muscles and he'd be really, really grateful to us for rescuing him, me especially 'cause it was all my idea...

But he was even older than Dad and really wrinkled (I suppose mould doesn't make a particularly good sunscreen) and he'd lost one of his front teeth too, I suppose because they didn't have toothbrushes on the mouldy old islan, and I guess they didn't have deodorant/soap or barbers either.

So Phredde just PING!ed him back to his own time and home. I guess the story must have been well and truly over because the PING! worked and when she PING!ed again that worked too and we were home - or anchored in the little bay just below our castle anyway. Which was near enough.

'Yo ho ho and a bottle of ginger ale,' called the Pirate Captain cheerfully.

I looked at him sourly. 'Fat lot of use you were,' I muttered, but he just said, 'Yo ho ho and a bottle of ginger ale!' again and let down the rowing boat for us.

'Phredde you've got to magic up some more words for him!' I insisted, as he began to row us over to the beach. 'He can't just go through life saying "Yo ho ho and a bottle of ginger ale".'

'But I thought that's what Pirate Captains always say,' said Phredde. 'I asked Mum and that's what SHE said they said.'

'Yeah, but they say other stuff too!.'

'Yo ho ho and bottle of ginger ale,' said the Pirate Captain emphatically, nodding his head in agreement.

'Oh,' said Phredde. 'Someone might have told me sooner,' she added crossly.

PING!

'Hey,' yelled the Pirate Captain in delight. He grabbed his throat. 'I can talk! I can sing! One enchanted evening,' he carolled happily, 'When you find your true love... '

'Can't you shut him up?' I yelled to Phredde. (I hate it when oldies start singing stuff like that.)

'You're never satisfied... ' began Phredde, when clunk, the boat hit the shore.

So we jumped onto the sand and said 'Thank you very much for having us' politely to the Pirate Captain (as Phredde says, just because someone's only magic there's no reason not to be polite to him) and raced up the path to our castle to the strains of 'Gree- een sleeeeeeeves was my deliiiiight....'

And that was the end of that weekend's adventure.

You know something? The next weekend Phredde and I weren't too keen on going adventuring in the pirate ship again for some reason (and it wasn't just because whenever I looked out of my bedroom window I could see the pirates putting on a 'Sound of Music' concert performance below).

In fact we felt like doing something really quiet and ordinary.

So instead of going adventuring we went on a picnic and Phredde borrowed her Mum's magic carpet and we zapped back just a little way in time, to 300,000 BC actually, and we were just settling down to eat our peanut butter and lettuce and chilli chicken sandwiches under a tree when this giant prehistoric marsupial lion growled at us from up in the branches and then it leapt down on us and...

 

But that's another story.

© Jackie French