The Soap Bubble - Episode 12. Touching the Void

Previously on the Soap Bubble bing bing bing, stuff happened people keep trying to kill me, Jo No Clothes O’Brien and Melissa Vowell being the main ones, a strange creature called a sleeper has been sent after me, but a change of socks and a shower in aniseed seems to have done the trick for the moment, the quest for the Muses and Apostles continues and I’m still stuck in Africa, but heading out fast in the back of An Ice cream piloted by Melinda Kerr with Sharon Bishop as Co-pilot (I would have said driven but have you seen her driving?). Anyway on with the story… are you sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin…

After 3 hours of pin balling around the back of the van I managed to jam myself firmly enough that only my fillings bounced as Melinda skimmed along the dirt track at break neck speed. The atmosphere inside the van was frosty, I had thought it was the freezers but it turned out to be my driver and co-pilot who were both doing great impressions of long tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs. Despite having an accelerator pedal that provided the driver with flexible control over the vans momentum Melinda saw it more as an on off button, how we hadn’t rolled or crashed was a miracle. The van went into a slide, Melinda turning the frosty air blue with her language fought for control of the van. When the dust settled the van was in a thicket of African red bushes , the road could be seen snaking down from the high plain towards the border and the city beyond. The road was choked with traffic, Sharon grabbed her snipers camera and zoomed in for a closer look, as she viewed the scene she described the situation to us “Moderator roadblock , looks like they know something’s up, I guess the road out of Africa is shut. With our cargo I wouldn’t like to bluff our way through.”
“Why don’t we go around?” I asked, “Surely there are other roads?”
“Afraid not honey, there’s a rift valley around the whole area, means that the wildlife stays where its put.” explained Melinda .
“By controlling the road the Moderators have effectively sealed the area, looks like nothing is getting into the city or the Featured Gallery without being double checked.” spat Sharon.
“There is another way out of Africa” said Melinda, “the old trade route across the crucible .”
“No way!” said Sharon “This Van will not make it across the crucible, for one we need supplies and I seem to recall that we ditched all the ice cream to smuggle more antidote for Scarlett washing up liquid ! If we break down that’s it!” she drew her finger across her throat just in case her words hadn’t conveyed the severity of failure.
“Ohhh, c’mon, Betty has never failed us yet” Melinda brightly piped “and with my driving we’ll be over there before you even get thirsty… besides it can’t be that bad !”
I wanted to stop her but right at that moment I saw a moderator drone taking to the sky, if they spotted us that was it game over. Talk about no option. A touch of wheel spin and gunning of engine and we were back on the move away from the border and heading towards the ‘crucible’ was I the only one that thought the name certainly didn’t make the place sound pleasant?

Whilst Melinda showed a complete disregard for the speed limit and a variety of other driving regulations Sharon explained more about their illegal smuggling operation. Turns out that the Bubblettes were not the only ones wanting the members to be addicted, the Moderators had banned the movement of the antidote in all forms. The girls used the Ice Cream van as a cover to smuggle gallons at a time from a natural source near where I first met Sharon to the City where they supply a rag tag resistance group who use it to free as many members from the debilitating addiction to Scarlett washing up liquid that appears to be flooding the city.

The question that I didn’t want to ask was soon answered… Why is it called the crucible ? Unbearable heat pushing in from all sides, Air conditioning might have helped, having two freezers working overtime to keep their contents cool certainly didn’t, their heat exchangers started to melt the plastic sides of the van, filling it with a fug of toxic gas. Opening the windows to get rid of the gas only pushed more super heated air into the van, my eyes felt gritty as the tears dried before they ran and my throat seemed to shrink making breathing hard. Melinda’s foot remained pushed into the tin floor, the crucible was billiard table flat making our progress quick across the barren flats. Looking back I knew that it was bound to happen, bad luck being the only kind I know a loud BANG! followed by a pweeeeeeeeeeeeee ping ping clunk phsssssss signified the death of the ice cream van in a shower of sparks and white smoke. To make matters worse the Ice cream vans melody started to play, Greensleeves as we rolled to a stop in what could only be described as hell on bubble. So long Mr Whippy it was good fun while it lasted, a combination of bad driving and tough conditions had been to much for our aging steed.

Apparently crossing any desert is a question of logistics, fuel and water are the most important commodities closely followed in our case by a working knowledge of a 1979 ford transit engine. Ooops on all counts, I turned to Melinda our daring driver and meant to say “I hope you have a plan to get us out of here?” however being slightly on edge, what with one thing and another what came out of my mouth (rather hysterically) was “OH MY GOD WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!” whilst this wasn’t what I intended to say It does convey a certain amount about my fragile mental state at this time. The heat haze made the sand appear like a lake of mercury all around the van, a strange vessel and its crew of fools destined to die in this inferno. Still on edge I tried to politely ask Melinda to switch off the ice cream van melody, not sure if I managed that but it got a reply. Melinda and Sharon in unison turned to look at me, both had a look of being at peace on their faces and they had the far away look of a landscape artist in their eyes
“the spirits have arrived they will protect and deliver us to the blower of all bubbles, remain calm and please watch this silly video while you wait.”
That was weird not only the strange voices but we don’t have a telly so what was all that about a silly video? Gazing out the window the ground appeared to be swallowing up the van, oh that’s great I thought now the vans melting, either that or it was sinking into the sand, what a stupid though to have? I mean who has ever heard of sinking sand? To the casual reader it might now becoming apparent that I have never had much in the way of luck, as an example, if you dropped me in a barrel full of nipples I would be pulled out sucking my thumb. The sand level was now about half way up the sides of the van, Sharon and Melinda barred the exits by sitting calmly in the driver and passengers seats staring into each others glowing eyes . The line about remain calm went out of the window right about then, unfortunately there wasn’t room for me to follow, as I forlornly searched for an alternative exit the sand reached the top of the windows and snuffed out the last of the harsh desert light, the only light now present within the van was from the glowing eyes of my erstwhile saviours. The tune of Greensleeves continued then suddenly the glow from their eyes vanished…I had closed my eyes!

Realising that I was bound to miss whatever was going on I kept my eyes open for another minute. The Ice cream van melody was becoming fainter, probably the sand, I opened my eyes to find I wasn’t in the Ice cream van any more. Where the hell was I? this was nowhere in the Bubble that I had seen or heard of before, the roaring sound of a large waterfall could be heard some way off but it was the landscape, slightly off white and with no horizon! Perhaps I had left the Red Bubble and was now the only occupant of a small White Bubble a ping pong universe made for one, wait I couldn’t be the only occupant because from out of the nowhere a small child was running towards me, well I say running, his feet never actually touched the ground. He had an excited look on his face and in his hand clutched a Red Bubble dollar, okay so I was still within the Red Bubble.
“Hey there mister! You seen which way the ice cream man went?” asked the child “I heard it and I got me a dollar I want a Screwball.”
For the uneducated amongst you screwball is a delicacy from my youth.
I was just about to tell the urchin that he was mistaken and there was no ice cream van when he continued his verbal assault as only a small child can do.
“what you got in the box mister?” I looked down and there at my feet was a cardboard box (without the cat but you try typing box into the search bar and see what you can find), each side had a circle embossed on it with urgent delivery written above it. By now the small scamp was stood by me a look of delight on his grubby face (he wasn’t dirty a minute ago but you know what kids are like) his mouth running at 100 mph while his brain sat a comfortable 35 mph, “can I help open the box? What’s in it? do you like Christmas? I got socks and a train set, how did you get here? Where did the ice cream van go? Do you take pictures? My daddy takes pictures? You look funny?” for such a small child he seemed awfully curious, the only question that sprung to my mind was does this kid ever stop to draw breath? Opening the box revealed… more packing! It was one of those chilled cartons, lifting the protective polystyrene lid revealed a small compartment surrounded by bags of ice. There in the centre was a short pink plastic cone…. “Screwball” shouted the delightful young waif holding out his hands to take the ice cream treat, after handing him the treat I went back to examining the carton. Underneath the bags of ice was a plastic envelope, it contained a folded piece of paper a novelty set of vampire teeth, a child’s pink plastic bracelet and a small silver necklace with a sea horse pendant.
They conspire against us, it will be safer to extract the Apostles and Muses from the Bubble rather than risking their future safety, the trinkets you now hold are keys for the next Apostles and Muse you meet, when they receive their gift it will enable me to transport them to a safe-house where they will await the completion of your quest. This child will guide you out of the void and into a more habited part of Red Bubble, follow him closely my brave voice as the way is treacherous but be content in knowing that the next Apostle is nearby.
My heart sank, if there’s an Apostle near then it usually means that there is somebody nearer wanting to hurt me. Where did it say I was again… ‘The Void’! well I always thought that was just a myth. The ‘Void’ is the area just behind the recent Gallery , the blank wall, about to be filled by the images added to the Bubble^tm^, well It explains the featureless expanse, the sound of a roaring waterfall must be the images being added! The small grubby boy was quietly digging into the Ice cream, the ring around his mouth suggested a certain amount of pleasure was being gained from its consumption, he was chasing the gumball with the tiny plastic spoon a look of determination across his face.
“Say will you help me out of this place and back to your dad?” I asked, casually, unsure how to approach a small child for help.
“Nope!” was his reply, he remained engrossed in the gumball
Trying to stop the worry coming into my voice I pressed on “Why not, I gave you an Ice Cream?”
“Because you didn’t say the magic word!” gumball caught he was giving me his full attention between chews.
“Oh, errrrr. Sorry…. Ummm Please can you get me out of this strange place now I would like to meet your dad” I could feel my cheeks flushing, being chastised by a 3 year old was not on the agenda this morning.
“Sure, c’mon he’s just over here.” He set of at a trot still not touching the floor with me struggling to keep up, for such a small and dirty child he sure moved quickly.

The Soap Bubble - Episode 12. Touching the Void

Drew Walker

Joined July 2007

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