The Ghost Brigade Part 7
“Pip, look at this!” said Clifton.
Pip ran over to the statue. “Woh,” she said. “And look at this!”
“That’s a frog,” said Clifton.
“I know; I love nature.”
Clifton led the pair to the school’s entrance. Behind them, the statues glowed. He pushed the doors open and they moved into a grand entry hall, untouched by the decay that had claimed the rest of the building. Pristine, golden first place cups stood on thin columns throughout the room. Trophy cabinets lined the walls, filled with medals, awards and pendents. At first, Clifton assumed they were military prizes, but each award was a rowing trophy; except one, which was a prize for "Thinnest Trophy Column."
At the rear of the hall stood a dusty, cobwebbed door. Cautiously, Clifton and Pip edged their way through the trophy plinths. Pip knocked over ever single one, including ones she didn't even touch.
"Keep your elbows in," scolded Clifton.
"It's not my fault they didn't leave enough egress! This place is a fire safety nightmare."
They reached the door. Pip readied her power saw, but Clifton insisted she use the handle. Pip slowly clasped the doorknob and the door crumbled to the floor. Pip pointed the doorknob at Clifton. "I'd offer you this if you had a door," she said.
With a wide step over the rubble, they entered the room. It was lit by the glow of a group of soldiers who sat in a semi-circle playing a game of charades.
“I got it! I got it! It’s the table of contents of our second year, third edition mathematics text book,” said a soldier.
“You got it,” said the miming soldier.
The ghosts groaned. “We’ve already had that one,” complained a soldier.
"If we'd completed our studies, we'd know more stuff to mime about," said another.
“That's a very specific and detailed charade. Can we play?” Clifton called out.
The soldiers turned to face Clifton. They glowed angrily and prepared their muskets. Two artillerymen wheeled in a cannon and aimed it at Clifton and Pip. The cannon fired and smoke enveloped them.
“We have been playing charades for one hundred and fifty years,” echoed the voice of the Lieutenant who’d haunted the boat race. “Do you know how difficult it is to find new things to mime after that length of time?”
The smoke cleared and Clifton and Pip found themselves outside the building. The world around them was monochrome. The statues were upstanding and the building returned to its former glory. Students of the Military Academy marched on the parade grounds, while others rushed to class. A rowing team, carrying a boat on their shoulders ran past Clifton and Pip.
The scene disintegrated and the pair found themselves behind Town Hall. Two shadowy figures argued in the dark. "We can't be running out. Find more!" one said.
Lightning crashed and Clifton and Pip shielded their eyes from the flashing light. They opened their eyes and were suddenly in an episode of I Love Lucy, but it was probably just interference from the people in the town who still watched black and white television.
Lucy and Ricky Ricardo disappeared and Clifton and Pip found themselves at the Brandon College Rowing Spectacular one hundred and fifty years ago. The scene remained monochrome briefly, then slowly the colour red became visible. It was a festive atmosphere, with music filling the air and concession stands lining the riverbank. Over the band stand hung a large banner reading: The Brandon College vs Brandon "Military Academy" Boat Race!
"I hate when people use inverted commas for emphasis!" complained Pip.
Pip was so annoyed by the incorrect use of inverted commas that she had written an angry email to her local "fish" & chippery every day for the last four years. She was yet to receive a reply owing largely to the fact the business had closed down three years ago.
On one side of the river sat the parents and families of the Brandon College students. They were immaculately dressed and proudly waved pointy, triangular, red flags. On the other side of the river were the parents and families of the Military Academy's students. Clifton noted the difference between the two camps. The families of the Military Academy students were more modestly dressed and they stood, whereas the Brandon College supporters sat in a purpose built grandstand. The concession stands were different as well. The vendors on the Brandon College side sold foie gras and salted gemstones; the vendors on the Military Academy side sold salted offal.
"Do you think we could have some offal?" asked Pip.
"This is just a vision," said Clifton, " and we don't have any pre-decimal currency."
"I eat too much salt anyway," said Pip.
The Mayor readied a starting pistol. She looked exactly like the current Mayor, but wore only one robe instead of an obscene and cumbersome amount of mayoral attire.
"Do you think they're related?" asked Pip.
"It'd make sense; no one achieves anything through merit in this town."
"Two semesters at university and all of a sudden you're an anti-plutocrat," said Pip.
The Mayor fired the starting gun and the boat race cross-faded to a podium. The victorious Military Academy team waved to the crowd. The Mayor, clearly not happy with the result, begrudgingly gestured for the team's coach to accept the trophy.
The Lieutenant made her way through the crowd and onto the podium.
"Ok, on behalf of the city, blah blah, I present the Rowing Spectacular Trophy to Helen Doyle, the Military Academy's Physical Education Master and rowing coach, whose team won again. Clap, clap. Here's your damn trophy," said the Mayor.
Into Helen's hands, the Mayor shoved a sickly looking, wooden trophy that appeared as though it'd been carved out of a rotting tree stump.
"Where's our gold cup? We won; where's our gold trophy?!" said Helen, angrily.
"i don't know," said the Mayor. "Cut backs. You understand?"
"No! That is it! Students, take-up arms! We shall take our gold!"
Muskets glinted in the sun and a volley of fire blasted overhead. Gun smoke clouded Clifton and Pip.
"Where's our gold?" Helen shouted.
The smoke cleared and colour returned. The vision had ended and Clifton and Pip were back in the room behind the Military Academy's trophy hall. But through the remaining wafts of smoke Helen's ghost cried, "Where was our gold?"
The ghost screamed a haunting shriek and disappeared.
"Woh," said Pip, "I hope Ricky doesn't find out that Lucy has agreed to do a commercial for a medicine with an unlikely name behind his back!"
"Let's get back to town," ignored Clifton.
TO BE CONTINUED…
The plot thickens again... Dah-dum-dah! Next installment of Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures will be next Saturday.
If anyone has any thoughts on the story, or rowing tips, comment away!