I’m inside a camera! How the hell did that happen? I’m inside a camera? Oh shit! How on earth do I get out? Had there been a split in the space time continuum? Perhaps this could be attributed to a release of swamp gas bouncing off random ion particles in the upper atmosphere? Or more likely this was an unlikely random chain of events conspiring against me in the name of all that is funny! The floor skewed viciously sending me flying once again, I screamed as reality fled from the tattered remains of my brain! Is this a giant camera or have I been shrunk? This must be The Old Man’s doing! Wherever he is I bet he’s laughing his ass of at my situation right now! If only I had answered his last calls, curses on the silly old fool, may all his future uploads receive no comments and even fewer views than mine .
The wall repeatedly exploded. Light blossomed, illuminating the space. If this was a giant camera then it was truly enormous! The space in which I stood could easily have housed a couple of cathedrals and still had room left for a football pitch or two. The mirror thundered and rattled behind me making the floor shake, its guillotine action blocking the route towards the lens and freedom. The images appearing on the gargantuan sensor in front of me flashed past, my stunned brain struggled to make sense of the images as they appeared and were rapidly replaced by the next.
“HELP ME! I’M TRAPPED INSIDE THIS CAMERA!” I screamed. My voice felt small and lost in the sound of the camera mechanism.
I had to get out of here! Was it agoraphobia perhaps claustrophobia? Could it be an irrational fear of being trapped inside a camera? I had to get out! Cold sweat soaked my back; a scream began to form in the base of my lungs, panic began to dance on my nerves. Out of this panic an odd and serene calmness washed over me, if there’s a giant out there… my imagination kicked into a higher gear and started posting images from fairytales where it had it on good authority that giants existed. Big brutes, ugly as sin, and their treatment of diminutive folk involved squashing them like bugs! Was this a reasonable way to think? Well reason had pissed off with his good friend reality about the same time as I realised that I was inside a camera. Imagination was filling in and using lots of vivid gory pictures to keep my brain entertained. Perhaps escape right now wasn’t the most important thing.
The floor pitched and I was weightless, flying through the darkness. Somewhere close by, the floor was tensing, getting ready to catch me and do a proper job of making me hurt. The mirror lifted and light filled the space. Brilliant light froze my looping flight towards the very firm floor that was racing towards me…. CRUNCH! Air was knocked from my lungs and pain blossomed from a thousand different places as I cratered into the unyielding floor. Lying there in the dark, struggling to drag in my next breath whilst at the same time trying not to move my now crumpled and tender body a new noise filled the void, metal on metal! The lens was being removed…
My stunned brain filled in the gaps, that last shot, I must have appeared in the image as I flew ungracefully through the air! The giant knows I am here! Visions of my bones being ground to make large loaves of daily bread were filling the front of my brain courtesy of an out of control imagination.
The mirror flew up and caught! Clearly this giant had some skill as a photographer if he had mastered the mirror lock. Through the pain, I tilted my head to where the mirror had been, a black lens dominated the space! My imagination ran out gibbering, leaving an empty space for terror to fill. A breeze started gentle at first but then building more and more towards a gale.
Imagination decided to help out terror with a parting image of a monstrous vacuum cleaner dragging me into an inky pit of dust and fluff and sharp fan blades. I was flying again , this time out of the camera. At the same time the world of the giant was rapidly shrinking around me and the wind died away. I stood there looking at the world’s first human goldfish (reality was slow to return while imagination wasn’t going to give up just yet), not a giant, but a man wearing dark glasses and a fedora , his mouth gaped open, wider than the camera held slackly in his right hand. I knew this man, he had been on The Old Man’s list!
OK. I have had a look through a couple of etiquette books and I can’t find the right way to break the ice and say “Hello” to someone when it looks like you have just leapt out of their camera and grown from incredibly tiny to normal human size in a fraction of a second. “Hi Mark, nice hat.” sounded a bit too flip and light considering, “Ah Mr German, pleased to meet you, I must say that keeping your mouth open like that is not at all attractive.” This was similarly scrapped before it left my lips.
I eventually muttered something inane about the inside of his camera being very clean and asked him if he would like to have a sit down and a nice cup of tea. My reasoning being that most people would find a hot cup of tea with milk and sugar to be just what the doctor ordered after a shock like that.
Mark German has been mentioned earlier in the Soap Bubble, but this was our first face to face meeting. He, too, was in hiding, keeping a low profile and avoiding direct contact with the Bubblettes. Dark glasses and a Fedora seemed to be doing the trick, well that and the fact that my expose on the Bubblettes happened around the same time as his snooping around Dr Emnonwodog laboratory and a lot of the heat from Melissa Vowell and her pack of mad dogs was directed towards me instead of towards Mark.
We had to find a café, but where in Red Bubble were we? The sky was the colour of television tuned to a ghost channel, the buildings had a decadence about them from a time long gone, It felt sleazy , hell it was sleazy! we were in the blue part of Red Bubble.
A short walk from this alley to the main thoroughfare presented the Bordellos and Burlesque Houses bathed in lurid neon that make up the ‘ Neon Parade ’, their owners of these skin joints competing for passing trade, attempting to entice the passing Red Bubblers to join their groups. Occasionally a siren would wail above the bass heavy dance music that filled the air. Mark explained that the siren signified a new image had filtered into town. The locals would then rush to review the latest vision of a taught sinewy bodies or pink wobbly bits. This part of town catered for all.
Towards the end of the ‘ Neon Parade ’ was a small diner, its décor frozen in 1950’s Americana , it was surprisingly full considering the alternatives just a few doors away. Towards the rear was an empty booth where we headed. The vinyl upholstery was cracked and tired, the table top a patina of cracked plastic. Mark took a few minutes to return to normal but with the help of a milky beverage he was well on the road. It was as though the Jack-In-The-Box out of the camera had never happened and we sat mulling over the fine art of photography.
One thing I must say about Mark is he knows how to talk! f-stop this, focal length that, composition the other. He became more and more animated as the conversation became more and more technical. This chap lived for his camera, his pictures and all that is photography (talk about dull!). It took a while, but eventually ( after a critique or two of my pictures ) I managed to steer the conversation towards the Bubblettes. I started by explaining that I too was keeping a low profile to avoid them. Mark continued talking about camera techniques, ignoring what I had said. I am sure he only meant to gently tap my leg in a ‘zip it big mouth’ kind of way. However, my yelp of pain was indication that the steel toecap of his work boot had landed a direct hit on my shin. “Time to go”, said Mark, throwing a couple of Bubble bucks on the table and leaving me hobbling behind.
Once out of the diner he walked further away from the Neon Parade towards the smaller more obscure blue group houses. Instead of trawling for business like the groups on Neon Parade these groups had high walls, they appeared clearly to be the invitation only kind of groups. Mark walked quickly past two of these before slowing enough for me to catch him up, “Look Andrew, I know who you are, I read your article and heard that the Bubblettes had killed you when they blew up your corner of the Bubble.” He whispered to me, “I have to tell you something, but it’s not safe here. I have a safe house close where we can talk.”
With that we headed off into the hinterland of Bubble dwellings surrounding the Neon Parade. Two, three, four turns and I was lost. All these profile boxes looked the same from the outside, soulless cubes with no personality. A noise from behind! We were being followed ! Footsteps getting closer, the click-clack of heels on pavement, a couple of feet further and Mark took another right, following around the corner. I followed behind, but he was gone! The street filled with identical blocks stretched to the horizon. He’d lost me! Behind the faint click-clack of whoever was following increased. “Pssst!”. Away to my right, a sliver of light had appeared like a door being held slightly open , not from one of the profiles but between the two nearest boxes! A private room! Mark beckoned me in and closed the door. He grinned “Told you. Safe house.” The room was brightly lit and larger than the space outside suggested it physically should have been, this was like Flibble’s dimension (see earlier episode) but instead of being inhabited by giant cats this was much smaller and crammed with images, some I had seen published around the Bubble while others were clearly from his private collection.
Towards the centre of the room sat a small table with two chairs this too was crowded with images. I have to say Mark German is a productive little blighter when it comes to pictures. “Excuse the mess” he said and carefully relocated the pile of prints from the nearest chair.
“ Bubblettes . We need to talk about The Bubblettes.” He sat in the chair opposite and began to recount his Bubblette story, slowly at first as though struggling to remember the details, then quicker as though a memory dam had broken and the story began to flood out. It turns out that Mark used to be a freelancer much like I had been. The search for stories took him around the Bubble, and then about a year ago, he heard about Dr Emnonwodog , an industrial chemist who was working on a new form of organic art. By the time he got across the Bubble, the Bubblettes had ‘Secured’ Dr Emnonwodog’s laboratory and were not in the mood for unannounced visitors. So Mark had broken in and found Dr Emnonwodog’s laboratory. He was able to access his lab notes where it turned out Emnonwodog had accidentally discovered a chemical agent that if absorbed would cause instant addiction to art.
He planned to share this with all the Bubble so all the members could add it to their art, this would, of course, negate its effects as everyone would become immune. But the Bubblettes had found out about the chemical first and made Dr E an offer he couldn’t refuse: Give the rights for the chemical agent to the Bubblettes or else! Mark had found bits of Emnonwodog scattered around the Lab. It was that sort of offer. Realising the severity of the shit he had just stepped into, Mark retraced his steps back out of Emnonwodog’s Laboratory complex. He was nearly over the last fence and away when one of the Bubblette goons saw him and raised the alarm. Mark managed to get back down the fence and scarper. The Bubblettes assumed that his exit had been an attempt to break in! “Didn’t you attempt to thwart their plans for Red Bubble domination?” I eventually asked.
“Sure I did”, and with that he produced a tired scrap of paper, “and here we have the true formula for Scarlet Washing up liquid! I copied it and then adjusted the formula detailed in the lab books, what the Bubblettes are producing is similar to cherry cola!” He giggled and then continued “Unfortunately Dr E’s experiment had produced several thousand litres of the concentrated stuff in his first runs so the Bubblettes have been able to identify the original elements which make up ‘Scarlet Washing up liquid’ but they continue to struggle with the mixing part of the formula and so far have been unsuccessful in blending it correctly. According to my inside source Melissa is livid about the whole thing, she blames Jo ‘No Clothes’ O’Brien for killing Dr E before she had time to talk to him. She has put a contract out on ‘No Clothes’, brought in external cleaners to finish her off, but ‘No Clothes’ has vanished from the Bubble.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. ‘No Clothes’ gone! The one woman killing machine GONE! Maybe my luck was changing? I couldn’t stop smiling; this was the best thing I had heard for months ‘No Clothes’ the Bubblette enforcer was GONE! I had to thank Mark, this information was fantastic! Maybe my life could return to normal. I went to shake his hand, as our hands touched there was a sharp crack and a spark of electricity jumped from my palm to his, the taste of pear drops filled my mouth, Mark and his safe house began to fade around me! What was that noise? The tinkling of bells and a dry wheezing laugh… Oh no, the Old Man had caught up with me!