They were buried in shallow soil – now they’re uprooted and on the rampage, unstable and insatiable!!!
‘If you thought Killer Karrots I was the worst thing ever written, think again. Sick Sue outdoes herself!!’ The Skryptulchre
‘Full of classical allusions, with a protagonist called Kassandra, this post-feminist fable is the Caesar – or Calphurnia – of salads.’ The All You Ever Wanted to Know About Growing Vegetables (but were afraid to ask) weekly
St Catherine’s Catholic Boarding school for girls, London, 1972.
‘Kiss her, go on – just a peck,’ Mandy’s lips gently brushed against Anne’s – ‘tongues, go on…’ They cheered, as Mandy swept a stray strand of hair away and explored the new forbidden territory with her tongue.
‘I’m going to bed.’
‘Oh, Kassie, such a killjoy. You’ve got no sense of fun,’ Doreen taunted her.
‘We’ve got an 8 o’clock lesson tomorrow; do you know what the time is?’
‘Who cares?’ Mandy laughed, before letting her tongue slip further down along Anne’s neck.
‘Well, I’m going to bed.’
‘No fun, no fun,’ the taunting chorus accompanied Kassandra Kushing on her way to bed. She stared up at the ceiling, drowning out the giggles with images of towering castles, and a smiling Professor Prise in a brocaded waistcoat, with a pipe jutting out beneath his distinguished moustache. In her dreams, he was always a Count, one of the great British nobs…
She sat up in a cold sweat – Professor Prise’s smile had turned into a nasty lewd sneer, and the glint in his eye was suspiciously unfamiliar. There was something rotten in the night air – her nipples were tingling, and they were never wrong. She lay still in the deathlike silence, all senses alert. She fondled her nipples – it was a gift she had received from a toothless decrepit fortune-teller at a circus a few years ago. The old witchlike crone had told her that forever after her nipples would be able to point out wrongness in the atmosphere, and that one day she’d be grateful for the gift. Kassie had not yet quite decided whether it was a blessing or a curse; no one would believe it, anyway. She knew she was alone.
No snores, no coughs, no giggles, not even a nibble at a midnight feast. Something was definitely wrong. As she waited, unmoving, in the darkness, her nipples pointed unequivocally in the direction of the door. She held her breath, as the handle turned, and the door creaked open, revealing… a gaping blackness. Shadows lurked. A shape stepped forward.
She breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Professor Prise! What are you doing here?’
He held his finger to his lips conspiratorially, and leaned over her. He was smoking a pipe, and –. She hadn’t expected her dream to come true in such exquisite detail. He quickly laid his finger on her lips, demanding silence.
As she watched, he unbuttoned his waistcoat, and pressed himself against her. He plastered her face with kisses, and pushed her head down. Still uncertain whether this was in fact a dream, she didn’t resist – she gave herself up completely to the moment. He pressed her mouth to the bed of green leafy crunchiness, and the orange point urgently pushed itself into the moist cavern of her mouth. He laughed – a horrible, evilly triumphant kind of laugh, as he cupped his hands over her tiny firm chest-bumps.
She thought of salads, and midnight feasts. She was sure she could enjoy the moment more if she weren’t – suddenly – so hungry. He fell backward with a shriek, staring at his hands. Blue sparks flew from her breasts. ‘Don’t go…’ she beseeched, as he ran off wringing his hands in agony.
Something was wrong, but she still didn’t know what. She checked the graceful sweep of her see-through nightie in the mirror, noting its seductive transparency by moonlight – just in case she bumped into Professor Prise in the corridor.
The corridors on the way to the Library had been completely empty; not surprising at this time of night. However, she couldn’t shake off the irrepressible feeling that there were indefinable scuffling sounds on the periphery of perception; and her nipples were still urgently telling her something was wrong. She headed straight for the prohibited section, the one only fifth-formers had access to. Feeling terribly guilty, acutely aware of the years separating her from fifth-form, she tiptoed over and took out an art book. She stared at the nudes. None of them were orange down… there. Then – a still life caught her eye. There was the obligatory bowl, with the curvy avocado, bulbous turnip, and… long… carrot…? She gasped, and dropped the book. In the silence that followed, she thought she could see shapes moving in the shadows. She hid behind the bookshelf.
She had heard the myths. This school had been built on the site of a 12th century monastery. In his indefatigable search for the ultimate cure for potato blight, one monk had tried to plumb the resources of the 111th dimension. Somewhere along the way, he took a wrong turn and slipped unwittingly through one of the Seven Gateways of Hell, landing in the middle of the Devil’s private carrot patch. He never returned, but the Devil’s Favourite Food had taken root in his mind, feeding on his psychic energy to take solid form in his world. It was safe to say that the terrors unleashed by the Killer Karrots, and the dire transformations they wrought upon parts of the human anatomy, were unprecedented in the whole of history. The monastery had been burnt down, and with it all evidence. The myths however, had been harder to kill.
Kassie wondered if she should bring it to the Headmistress’s attention. But she realised in time that there was no one she could trust. She froze. She too, had been exposed – she tentatively looked down, scared of what she might see there.
Kassie sank down in relief: her nipples had come to the rescue; but could she rely on their power… a devastating, uncontrollable power beyond her comprehension?
A noise from behind the bookshelves caught her attention. Her nipples emitting nervous blue sparks, she peered between the books. Suddenly, Anne came crashing through the books, eyes widely staring, blinded by horrors that may never be spoken. Kassie caught her, and pinned her against the wall. ‘Anne – what are you doing in the library, after hours?’ She shook the terrified girl urgently. ‘I know why I’m here, so that’s alright. But you? It’s all exceedingly odd…’ Anne’s struggles eased, as she looked around in shock, as though noticing her surroundings for the first time. She gripped Kassie’s elbows, and pleaded with her, urgently. ‘I’m so scared, Kassie, I’m so scared. What’s happening to me? I’m turning orange. What can I do?’ she wailed. Kassie suddenly knew what had to be done. She hardened her heart, and confidently steered Anne to the kitchen. She moved with firm resolution around the kitchen – oh well, blunt knives would have to do. She got the sharpest-looking one, and earnestly begged Anne to stand still. She tied the apron around her waist, making sure the lovely diaphanous nightie was out of harm’s way. She pulled a terrified Anne towards her by the hair, and set her mouth in a determined line. She held the knife in her other hand, and diced Anne’s arm into small rings. She could see it was already too late – the bone marrow was already turning orange, and the hairs on Anne’s arms were short and wiry, like orange pubes. Carrot juice sprayed all over the kitchen. She could see the infection was no longer localised, but she kept working steadily to amputate every little bit in the hope of stemming it. She paused to savour the pun. Stemming it. She pushed her hair out of the way, and hummed over the screams. Anne’s head finally hung limply by green leafy hair, obtruding tongue gone orange, and there were bowls full of diced little rings of carrot-flesh everywhere. Never one to waste, Kassie collected them all and put them in the freezer. She packed the head in tinfoil to send back to the family, attaching a note of condolence.
Some old primeval instinct told her she was the only one who could stop this. She was the Head Girl for her form, after all. She wound her way through moonlit corridors, nightie sweeping over the tiles glistening in the cold blue light. A noise drew her back to the Library.
‘Oh, look, it’s Kassie.’ Mandy stood there in her underwear, an orange and green silhouette framed by the window. ‘Kassie, go on, you know you want it…’ Mandy slipped her coarse wiry-haired hands under Kassie’s nightgown. Kassie held her breath, as her nipples strained urgently against her chest, and unleashed their wrath in a sudden hot jet, a projectile of milky steam that slammed Mandy against the wall. Mandy shrieked in agony, holding her hands up to her face. As she lowered her hands, Kassie could see orange strips of skin hanging down, green eyes peering out of the mess of throbbing orange gristle that had once been the prettiest face in the class. Mandy dripped into a growing gooey puddle of orange slush, which bubbled and threatened to suck Kassie in. Kassie could see only one way out – she leapt, and grabbing the chandelier, swung to the safety beyond. She looked back over her shoulder. She’d have to see about the return journey later – if she ever returned. Well, she couldn’t think of that now. There were dangers ahead; she steeled herself in grim determination, and swept along, down to the innermost mustiest recess of the sprawling Library; beyond the Jane Austens, the abridged Lawrences, the Dickenses, beyond even the Shelleys – through the forbidding Gate of Thorns – and down to the Sades. The Gate was one of the few remnants of the monastery that once stood there. Rather than remove it and risk the displeasure of the dead who once lay in the crypt it guarded, the school had been built around it. Even fifth-formers needed special permission to go beyond its brutal spikes. The mild titillation of guilt flowed into her weapons, infusing them with a soft yet powerful glow. At the moment, they were pointed straight ahead, poised for action.
The stench was foul, and it filled her nostrils. She glided onwards, her slight prepubescent curves barely concealed by the nightie’s folds, skin palely translucent in the moonlight.
The stench of rotting vegetables and school-dinners made her double up, and the taste of rising sick made her head reel. But she knew the fate of humanity rested on her shoulders – if she didn’t strike now, the world would be turned into a global saladbowl. And right now, she was all that stood between mankind and its devolution into a vegetative state. If the Hippies got wind of it, they would embrace the soil and dance to the Return of the Karrots. The future depended on her getting there before they did.
She was at the heart of the Library, in its underground archives. The mustiness in the air crept into her mouth and nose, a dreadful heaviness in the atmosphere that made her lose her footing in a moment of imbalance, and slip right into a pulsating layer of moist black soil. She was sinking, the taste of rotting karrot made her puke.
‘Kassandra Kushing! What are you doing here? You know you shouldn’t be down here! It’s strictly off-limits.’
It was the Headmistress’s voice. ‘Sorry, Mrs Steel – I had to… the school’s in grave danger, the future of the whole world may be at stake…’ she said, spitting out soil as she spoke.
‘Ridiculous. I’ll get you out of there; stay perfectly still. Hold on…’
Kassie obeyed, as she was dragged out of the mire and set upon her feet. Mrs Steel was nowhere in sight; Kassie found herself standing before a huge bloated Karrot. ‘What did you do with our Head Mistress?’ she demanded.
‘Silly girl,’ it said, ‘don’t you recognise me?’
Kassie gasped. The Karrot, though tapering to a point, was shapeless in a very specific way – the rolls of orange flesh were quivering as only Mrs Steel could, when excited or on the verge of an angry outburst.
‘You’ve had a long day girl,’ said the Headmistress. ‘Come and lie down in my leafy blades.’
‘Yes. Don’t be a disobedient little girl, now,’ said Mrs Steel.
Kassie turned pale, and – trembling – did as she was told.
‘There. The Head Girl should set an example for the rest to follow.’
‘No!’ Kassie screamed again, a flash of anger in her eyes. But the leaves had enveloped her, and were squeezing, pinching her breasts, which – already in an almost-unbearable state of heightened sensory perception, met the new oppressive stimulus with a fountain of sparks. Mrs Steel shrieked in pain, withdrawing her leaves. Kassie watched as blue veins of electricity spread out all around, in the trails left by sparks that had landed on the soil. Still shrieking, Mrs Steel shook, all the fleshy folds swaying around her like an orange skirt. Kassie rolled out of the way, as the huge Karrot exploded, splattering the walls. Kassie escaped the worst of it, but not before a few splats! had stamped their orange mark on her nightie. The situation was not beyond remedy, she considered with no small sense of satisfaction, as she hitched the nightie up over her thighs.
Something else was happening; there was something stirring in the soil. The movement grew in frenzy, as though obscure underground creatures were building a city of unspeakable horrors down below. Kassie hugged the wall. The blue sparks were still playing over the surface, the veins cutting deep. Suddenly, with a whoosh, the soil was whipped into a fury, and spiralled and whirled as though a plug had been pulled. Kassie hitched her nightie an inch higher, keeping it out of the path of flying bits of soil and karrot. She watched as the last of the soil was sucked into the unseen hole. This was the nest, her breasts were the key; the nightmare was over. The school felt empty. She wondered if she should wake up the others – if, that is, anyone else had survived.
She trudged up the stairs, passing orange-bespattered walls. There was something artistically appealing about that, like a Jackson-Pollock, with a post-apocalyptic flavour of carrot.
She passed half-turned schoolmates on the way up the stairs. They were coughing, choking in their own orange bile. Kassie left them behind – she knew they were dying, and there was nothing she could do. All that was left for her to do was to request that the authorities seal off the convent-school, and thus contain the infection. There was no time for grief.
Light shone through the windows – the sun was rising. Kassie felt her spirits soar – life carried on, and it was thanks to her. She felt a great urge to step outside and take in a deep breath of city air, with its unbottled exuberance – lively diversity of cars, smoke, and urine, and no trace of cultivated vegetables.
The darkness of the airless sunless underground room had taken its toll. Outside, the sun would be blinding. She ran upstairs for her sunglasses.
She never did make the 8 o’clock class that morning.
When she stepped out, she failed to notice that the world was orange – and that hippies were preaching karrot-love on street corners, and practising it in darkened rooms.
The new Karrot-shaped world left its orbit and weaved its way through the multiverse, heading straight for the Outer Rims, its slim streamlined shape allowing it to navigate through asteroid belts without losing speed, its bright orange colour a warning beacon to oncoming space-traffic…
[Author’s Afterword (exclusive to this edition): To those of you aging Hippies who held a week-long protest outside my door last month, the age of my protagonist as a young teen is only offensive to those who fail to recognise it as a cutting comment on the exploitation that is, unfortunately, so much a feature of the genre. Please, please do realise, I am detourning the genre in the feminist cause, reworking it rather to post-feminist terms, way ahead of their time. If that doesn’t come across, it’s not my failure, but your loss as unperceptive reader. Besides, in the film Mandy will be played by a 29-year old Playboy model, and will receive – note the effort to defeat the marginalisation of women so common in the film industry – top billing on the posters, as one of its main attractions. Karrots by the SEX – ‘Special Eff-X’ – Mistress, Jess Frankly. Sick Sue, March 1972]
[Author’s PPS: I’ve been accused of ‘misleading anachronism’ and under a court injunction obtained by the Walter Raleigh Society, I’m forced to go on record as declaring that the potato wasn’t established in Europe before the 16th Century, and therefore ‘the monk’s quest for a cure for potato blight is at best a misleading anachronism, at worst nothing less than a horrendous distortion of history, and a misrepresentation of fact.’ On another note, I thank the Carrot Society for their kind letter; they say they ‘await the parallel versions of their favourite vegetables’ further exploits in gleeful anticipation’, and suggest universe-domination as a next step for the Karrots. Well, that is a possibility not to be dismissed lightly. Till next time, nauseatingly yours Sick Sue, April 1972]