“We want a shrubbery!”
My eyes shot wide open at those words. My now wide open eyes were greeted with the sight of a forest canopy. Twas a beautiful sight, but one wasted on one such as I, at a moment such as this.
Stop that, I told myself, you sound a tad pompous.
I resolved to calm myself and my language down, but only to ratchet it down one whole tad. I knew no other way.
I rubbed my head. The rubbing of my head was of little help. This action of mine was automatic and it was in response to a perceived hurting that seemed centred in my head. The hurt continued and the absent rubbing did little to assuage it.
“What happened?” I asked the world around me in a voice just above a whisper. Though my voice was gentle, the words assailed my poor beleaguered head and so I groaned. The groaning had much the same effect, so I took to groaning inwardly.
Where was I? I asked myself this voicelessly in an attempt to be kind to myself and my achy head.
The obvious answer to this was that I was in a wooded area, so that meant that I was in a woods, copse, forest or something of that tree-filled nature. That obvious answer did not help with the where of it, which was really quite frustrating.
There was nothing for it, I would have to sit up. I knew before I embarked upon this endeavour that any drastic movement would hurt my already hurty head. I was correct in this knowledge, it did hurt.
Through the eye blurring pain I could swear that I saw a movement on my flank. Somewhere at the very edge of my vision and perhaps at the edge of the woods. It moved swiftly and fleetingly and then it was gone. I sat there allowing my body and mind further adjustment to its new and unexpected circumstances. I thought back to a time where I knew where I was and what I was doing in order to understand how it was that I got myself to a woods only to lay down and slumber.
Before casting my mind back I reassured myself that this was a unique set of circumstances, providing reminders that I had never done anything of this nature in my entire life, except for that one time in Llandudno, but that was on tour and would always stay on tour, such was the way of the tour and all that sailed in her.
I asked myself whether I had been drinking the previous night and if so, who with. Marcus was in the frame for this, or Mr Tequila as he liked to call himself at precarious junctures of evenings that could and would go really badly for everyone if he adopted that ridiculous persona of his.
No, I didn’t have a recollection of Marcus, nor of the evil demon of booze shenanigans, Mr Tequila. Then what?
Ow! That hurt! That really hurt!
NI! NI! NI!
I clasped my hands over my ears, but this did nothing to stop these shards of words piercing my bruised brain. I had to ride it out until the wave of Ni abated. I found myself in the foetal position and I’m not ashamed to say that I had been crying.
Oh Simon! You have to be careful what you wish for!
Had I really?
No, I told myself, that could not be. It would take nothing short of a miracle to be transported to this place. In fact, it would take a miracle and a half to be…
I dismissed this crazy notion. Had I taken leave of my senses!?
Despite my broken state I found my feet, which is to say I established that I did indeed still have feet, and then I stood upon them. The only thing for it was to walk. Walking would allow me to get my bearings and once I had those, I could go home, make a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich and work out what I had been up to the previous evening. Piecing together the sequence of events that led me here. Mostly, I wanted to identify the culprit. There would be someone to blame for my being here and once I knew who it was, well then I could harbour ill-will towards them and plot their downfall. Then I’d get over myself and give them a wide berth for a while, so there would be no repeat of this folly.
There were several more of the Ni words, but it only took the first one to lift me off my feet, send me sideways and experience a clumsy and quite heavy collision with a tree.
This was a bruising and disorienting affair, but at least I know knew where the Ni was coming from and this allowed me to plot a course in the exact opposite direction. A wise move and a necessary one, for that Ni word was very powerful indeed.
I dared let my mind wander to what I knew of this Ni and also of shrubberies. In theory, somewhere in these woods were knights who were the Keepers of the Sacred Words. But that was…
No, Simon, no!
It had been a bit of fun!
I was the culprit. It was me! And that awful revelation made me sink into the soft woodland floor. Each subsequent step was that bit heavier and I seemed to sink that bit deeper.
I had inadvertently invoked a miracle.
At least I think I had.
I knew I should have binned that Ouija board when I found it. That it was hidden under a floorboard in my bedroom should have told me all I needed to know. The Post-It with a single word on it was really creepy.
That one word, goading me and cajoling me until I got the board out and gave it a try. It bloody well haunted me. Enjoy!
Still, I left the Ouija board alone for a whole year after finding it. That’s good going, is a whole year. A year to the day. 6th June. I wasn’t even drunk. I’d had a drink, but I wasn’t drunk. Merry was what I was. It was all coming back to me with a dire clarity. I was bored and listless, and I had that board in front of me, and I didn’t really know what to do. Didn’t know what I wanted. A blank and bored mind is most likely a dangerous thing to put in front of a source of magic. Not that I believed it was magic. Which probably didn’t help matters.
I’d written the first thing that came to mind.
I just wished I knew what that was.
Oh, I had a very good idea of the sort of thing I had written. That wasn’t that much of a reach in the circumstances. Not with the Knights Who Say Ni in the woods behind me. Simon you bloody fool! What have you done!?
That time I saw it. In my peripheral vision again. Something big had flashed by. I was still. Hadn’t noticed that I’d stopped. Frozen more like. Scared stiff. What was that thing!?
I don’t know how long I stood like that. Not the best of ideas really, but right then I was full of ideas that were not going to win awards. Thankfully I was distracted from my statue-like state by a sound, and the sound was approaching me from behind.
CLOP! CLOP! CLOPPITY CLOP!
The sound of approaching hooves, the hooves being the fashionable footwear of horses. I stood back from the narrow path I had been following and I watched in fascination as a small group of men came into view. The men were trotting and some of them, the less well attired of the group, were smacking coconut shells together.
“Arthur?” I said as the lead knight drew near.
“King Arthur to you!” shouted another of his knights, “where’s yer manners!”
I remembered myself and thought to show some deference. This was executed clumsily and I ended up curtseying to King Arthur and several of his knights.
There was snickering behind Arthur, but he himself was composed and did not resort to such poor and impolite behaviour.
“And who might you be?” he asked. He was looking me up and down and it was evident that he did not know what to make of me, dressed as I was in such strange garb for the times.
“Simon,” I told him, “Simon Grail.”
This caused an unfortunate response and led to some mild unpleasantness. I should have known, and I should have been more careful, but in my defence I was yet to fully appreciate where I was and the implications of my being there.
“The Grail! The Grail! We have found the Grail! Our quest is at an end!”
This was not the first time I had heard words such as these. My friends have burst into a chorus of these words as a boisterous greeting far too often for my liking, but if you fight these things it just makes them worse. So I stood there and rolled my eyes waiting for the silliness to end.
It did not end.
I was hoisted skywards and bourn aloft and taken from the woods. That was a silver lining of sorts. At least I was out of the woods.
Or so I thought.
I can be so dangerously literal at times.
“Where are we going?” I asked of one of the squires who was carrying me.
“To the castle on the hill!” he grinned at me with teeth that had never seen a toothbrush. They really hadn’t seen any dental care or maintenance, as opposed to whatever makeup actors use on their teeth to go full street urchin or mediaeval pleb. If I was in any doubt about this, the waft of interesting breath brought the point home loud and clear.
“Oh dear,” I said out loud.
“You sure you’re the Grail?” he asked me.
I rolled my eyes again.
“Only, I thought you’d be a cup,” he said, “or a goblet. A fancy one at that. You know, jewel encrusted,” he gave me a look up and down, “you’re a bit plain. Not fancy at all.” He shrugged, “mysterious ways and all that, I s’ppose.”
“Maybe he’s got sparkly jewels in his codpiece?” chuckled another of their number.
“He ain’t got a codpiece!” said another.
“How disappointing!” chorused all the squires and a few of the knights.
There was a short, silence of disappointment.
Then another of the squires spoke up, “it’s not like anyone would pretend to be the Grail is it?”
“No, I s’ppose not!” said several of the squires.
There was some chuckling at that.
“What?” I asked the original squire.
That squire grinned that dirty grin of his, but didn’t say anything. The grin was a bit horrid and I really didn’t like the lack of reply, but something told me it would be best to leave it all well alone.
The castle on the hill was not all that far away, which was just as well as I was being jiggled and joggled all over the show and it was not at all pleasant as a form of travel. The short distance was also not a surprise. I always got the impression that the geography of the area was compact to say the least.
The hill the castle was sat upon was actually a hillock. Whoever had sold the castle to the current occupants had been economical with the truth, but then I’m stating the bleeding obvious there. Estate agents are estate agents, just as sure as eggs is eggs.
The drawbridge was down and the portcullis was up and we just waltzed in with no drama at all. I must say I was a bit disappointed, this wasn’t going at all as I would have imagined as I dreamed my dream and wished my wish the night before. I’d have rather have been debating what the Romans had ever done for us, or throwing a Holy Hand Grenade at a fluffy bunny with alarmingly sharp and pointy teeth.
I was lowered to the ground and helped to my feet and I have to say that although the squires were a motley crew and I was in need of a cleansing bath having been man handled by them, they were caring and gentle and it was all surprisingly lovely.
I was ushered forth.
“Behold! The Grail!” announced King Arthur.
This was followed by a loud trumpeting. Directly in my ear. I turned and scowled at the trumpeter and so I missed what happened next having been deafened and then averted my eyes from the area the action was taking place in.
When I turned back, there before me was the most beautiful woman in all of the world. She took my hand and led me away from Arthur and his knights. My luck was in!
“Is that it then?” I heard one of the knights say.
“Yeah, I thought there’d be more… you know…”
“Yeah, that sort of thing.”
“The clouds parting and the hand of God retrieving the Grail?”
“Well maybe not exactly that…”
“That’s exactly what he was expecting!”
“Oy! Why would you say that!?”
“Because that was what you were saying as we walked up the hill!”
“It’s not a hill.”
“What is it then?”
“I think we’ve all got off the point here.”
“And you can shut it!”
“That’s a bit rude!”
“They’re shutting the door…”
The voices faded away as the door shut on King Arthur and some of the knights of the round table. I smiled and thought, just wait until I tell the lads about this. My smile faded a little. As if they’d believe me. I looked down at the hand that was holding mine and then I allowed my eyes free reign to travel up the arm and take in this amazingly beautiful woman the likes of which I had never seen before.
Scratch that. I’ve seen beautiful women, but from afar. None had taken my hand and led me into a castle. This was a first in my life and I couldn’t help thinking that whatever the outcome of this hand holding and walking, this was already a highlight in the life of Simon Grail.
Soon enough, we stopped at a big and solid looking wooden door. Hefty was that door. She let go of my hand and I felt a sense of loss that I probably hadn’t felt since I was little more than a babe in arms. She needed both hands to turn the big ring of a handle on the door and push the hefty door open.
She turned and smiled a smile that did a multitude of things to my insides, all of which were deeply pleasant, and then she spoke.
Her voice was a bit of a disappointment if I am honest. That happens sometimes. The voice doesn’t fit the person. Not one bit. It’s as though their proper voice is off having a service and they’ve got a crappy courtesy voice for the day. Just my luck. There has to be something to tarnish things in my experience.
“If you will wait in here?” she said and despite the poor quality voice I would have done anything for that smile alone.
I stepped onto the threshold and looked into the room beyond the hefty door.
“It’s a bit dark…” I began.
Then I felt a foot on my left bum cheek before I was unceremoniously thrust forth into the darkness of the room.
I lay in the pitch dark in what I thought was probably the middle of the room and I sighed. Of course it was too good to be true and I had to remind myself of where I was. What I saw was not what I was going to get in a place like this.
A light came into view above me. Then another and another. A host of flaming torches on a circular stone balcony above me. That face. The face of a goddess peered down at me.
“Behold sisters!” she said in that mediocre voice of hers, “our miracle!”
The bearers of the torches all stepped to the edge of the balcony and peered down. I counted them. Twelve sisters. Identical in appearance.
You don’t get that every day.
I sensed movement to my right and I turned to see what it was that was in the room with me. The circular room with the big, hefty door. For something so big, it moved quickly. It was unfurling and as it did, I saw just how big it was, it encircled the entire room. It was huge. It was a phenomenon. It was something the likes of which no one had ever seen before.
I had a terrible sinking feeling as I remembered the exact words I had spelled out on that Ouija board, and as though on cue, the sisters of the castle on the hill began to chant.
“All hail, Monty!”
“All hail, Monty!”
Monty was the ginormous python in the room with me.
Why, Simon? Why did you have to spell those words out? Words are powerful. Words are sacred, the Knights Who Say Ni knew that. If only I had appreciated the gravity of what I was embarking upon as I sat before that Ouija board and spelt out my wish.
I want to be in Monty Python.
Now I was here and the miracle was happening.
The great snake lunged.
“Nnnn… Eeeee!” I cried.
It went dark.
And my wish was fulfilled, I was now in Monty Python.