Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

‘The Companion’: chapter 25 (content warning: rude words, sex, adult themes)

Kelvin has started trying to hand out tickets for the pantomime to my girls.  Layla just threw it back in his face.  Kyla, who is a child of the digital age, said she wouldn’t understand it, and so he would be better giving it to some-one else.  The rest just smiled, said, “Aaah,” and threw the ticket in the bin after he had wiped his cock and gone away. 


My name is Emile Bourdelle. Most of the rehearsals I have directed so far have a been a disaster – a disaster.  I decided to go along with this English custom because I thought it would be the best way to begin to instil high culture in this colony.  I want theatre to live and breathe among all the people, and not be merely something for the chattering classes, as it was in England.  Start them on something simple, something native to their savage and bestial customs, something they can understand, I thought.  The dramatic equivalent of baby food. 

Well the infant has proved to have quite a fussy appetite, and had to be force-fed, so to speak, at various times.  With the application of strength and courage, I think we have made a great deal of progress recently.  The company has started to come together.  It is like the point when a sauce Béarnaise thickens and becomes unctuous.  Previously, even when they were acting and singing properly, they were each doing it separately.  Now, they have become a cohesive unit.  I pray that the production will be a success.  If it were not, I would never attempt another one.  If it were to fail, there would be no more theatre and so, if there were no more theatre, there could be no more Emile Bourdelle: I would blow my brains out.  My fate rests on this production.  I have told the company this repeatedly.  I think they understand it now.  Theatre is about many things, but the most important thing in it is love.  If there is no love in theatre, it is a meaningless charade: it is nothing.  I think the members of the company have grown to love me, in the end.  Perhaps we will find out on the opening night.


I think I have finally got the hang of this acting lark.  Just call me Prince Charming, or Your Royal Highness, if you prefer.  The art of it seems to be to camp it up as much as possible, just like our “influential and cutting-edge” director.  Behave like a twat, in other words.  Wearing a lot of make-up helps, as does being in the initial stages of sexual arousal and, I must admit, with me, the two states tend to coincide.  Having a leading role in a production is the best excuse in the history of cross-dressing.  I can now even answer the door to my cabin without having to take my face off.  If I am looking too girly, all I have to do is cover myself in cold cream, and everybody just thinks I am doing something to do with the pantomime.  I might go the whole hog and audition for a female part next year.  I wonder if having a reason other than sexual gratification for wearing women’s clothes would destroy its allure. 

Jessica is being a pain, again.  She is very pretty, but I would never fall in love with her.  I don’t even have a crush on her.  I can’t even have a proper conversation with her.  All she does is open her mouth, and bring forth a torrent of meaningless twaddle about all the people she knows, which seems to include half the people on board (though I notice that members of the crew are conspicuously under-represented).  Every time I say something, she just says, “Reelly?” I thought she was trying wind me up at first, but it seems to be genuine: she doesn’t know anything.  At all.

I told her that I would have sex with her if she wanted, and it would be physically passionate, but there was no way that I would ever fall in love with her.  She did not thank me for my honesty.  In fact, she slapped me in the face – quite hard, as a matter of fact – and  started having hysterics.  When she cries, it is just an act, just like everything else she does, but I must say she does it quite convincingly.  On that occasion, she really gave it everything she had.  It was all very stressful and unpleasant.  Emile went mad with me as well (we were on the set, having a break at the time).  He demanded to know in the name of god what I had done to her.  ‘What do you mean, done to her?’ I asked him.  He made it sound as if I had been trying to feel her fanny, or something.  I was in theatrical camp mode, my guard was down, and I was hurt.  Darlings, I can’t tell you how simply ghastly and awful it was.  It quite ruined my intonation in the next scene. 

Things with Prudence have been a bit strained as well.  She eventually landed the part of the Fairy Godmother.  She turned out to have a bit of amateur dramatic experience, which carried a lot of weight with Emile.  We got there in the end.  With the production, I mean. 

The fun part was writing the programme notes.  I did them in the style of one of my nonsense news stories from The Rover.


The new name for my e-zine – the replacement for My Lips Are Sealed – is Cosmography.  It’s scientific.  I think it’s something to do with star-maps, but that doesn’t matter.  I like it because it is more difficult to take the piss out of than the last one.  I like it even more because people will shorten it to Cosmo, which is really cool.  And the last bit sounds like pornography, which is no bad thing. 

The hit-rate has been rather disappointing recently.  I am determined to get some copy out of this pantomime.  I will get a juicy story out of it somehow.   Just you watch. 


My name’s Augustus Blandshott.  I think –  not certain, but think, am the oldest person on board this vessel.  Seventy-seven.  Egyptologist by training, and printer by trade.  When say “printer”,  mean in the old-fashioned, twentieth-century sense of the word.  Just like the way the word “computer” came to mean a machine but used to mean a person, so the word printer did as well.  Expert on the printing techniques of the early 1900s.  Presses are in one of the ship’s workshops, and am kept quite busy, most of the time.  When we establish the new colony, am hoping to produce own newspaper.  Don’t try to compete with the intranet at the moment, not with everybody having a monitor in their cabin, but think the new colony will need the printed word, and all the more so when it starts to grow. 

Biggest job recently has been the programmes for the production of Cinderella they are putting on.  Theatre company is called The Roving Players, and they are directed by a chap called Emile Bourdelle.  Think he’s French.  Anyway, he is very temperamental.  Can be a bit difficult to deal with, sometimes, if you get me.  Smells of garlic, all the time – reeks of the stuff, specially when he shouts at you.  Most unpleasant. 

Think I’ve got one of the programmes here, if you give me half a mo’.  Hang on.  Yes, here the blighter is.  First page is the only sensible part.  Because nobody except the director-wallah had any previous experience of acting or the theatre, all those bits about what productions people had been in before had to be made up.  Damn’ silly if you ask me.  No idea who wrote it.  Anyway, managed to sell a bit of advertising space in the back.  Made quite a packet.  Love the money on this ship.  So quaint and old-fashioned.  Like real money.  You could scratch dirt off a window with it.


The Roving Players



A Pantomime in Two Acts


Director and Producer………………………………………………….….Monsieur Emile Bourdelle

Cinderella……………………………………………………………………….Miss Jessica Springer

Prince Charming……………………………………………………………….…Doctor Kelvin Stark

The Fairy Godmother…………………………………………….…………Doctor Prudence Tadlow

Buttons…………………………………………………………………….…Master Waverley Diggle

The Wicked Stepmother…………………………………..Mister George “aka Georgina” Davenport

The Ugly Sisters………………………Lance Corporal Jason Bentley, Master Laurence Featherstone

Coachmen, Footmen, Horses, Guests…………………………. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Chorus


The Producer wishes to acknowledge the gracious assistance and support of Chief Engineer Mister James Holt, and members of his crew. 

Costumes were provided by Pamela Collins Couture Limited.


MONSIEUR EMILE BOURDELLE lists Creator of the Universe among his other accomplishments.  Be polite and courteous in your dealings with him because, when we arrive on our new planet, he will be controlling the weather.  Young ladies who might otherwise feel compelled to fall in love with this undoubtedly handsome man should bear in mind that, not only does he bat for the other side, but he keeps wicket, bowls for it and captains it as well – quite regularly and with great vigour, we are led to understand. 

MISS JESSICA SPRINGER, though we hate to spoil the story for you, ends up as a princess in this production.  Princesses are usually a safe bet in a fairy tale, and it is rumoured that Miss Springer is one of the safest bets in town. 

DOCTOR KELVIN STARK is fortunate to appear in our company, having recently recovered from joint attacks of rabies, malaria, and bubonic plague.  We had hoped to carry a long interview with this eminent academic, but he frothed at the mouth so copiously that we could not catch what he was saying.  He tried to communicate instead through the interesting medium of scrotal origami but, alas, again, we could not understand him.   It seemed to be just a load of bollocks.

DOCTOR PRUDENCE TADLOW, when not pursuing her acting career, is a hydro-geologist.  When we asked her to explain what this entails, she said that she sniffs around a lot of holes to see if any of them are wet. 

MASTER WAVERLEY DIGGLE is named after a railway station because that was where he was conceived.  He has earned many dramatic accolades, most especially for his inspiring interpretation of the part of Moth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  His is believed to be the first performance in which the character is on stage, soliloquising continuously, for nine hours. 

MISTER GEORGE DAVENPORT is a lifelong bachelor with a particular fondness for musical theatre.  If your laundry is feeling depressed, he can always be counted on to lift your shirt.  His skin is particularly sensitive, and so he picnics in the shade.  He has travelled extensively in Southern Europe, and is a friend of the Greeks. 


MASTER LAURENCE FEATHERSTONE isn’t made with real feathers or real stone.  He is 100 per cent man-made.  Wash at 30 centigrade.  Do not tumble dry.  Re-shape while still damp. 



Kelvin Stark caught

with his pants down –


We thought it would be a normal, family occasion.  Granted, we are on a spaceship.  Granted, we are heading through the cold void of the galaxy at something approaching the speed of light.   Granted, some of our vital systems failed on the opening night of Cinderella.  Granted, this caused mass panic among the ship’s passengers. 

But none of this prepared us for what we saw.  Disgusting.


I will tell you exactly what happened.  Jessica and I were on stage.  It was during one of the lovey-dovey scenes, and I was looking into her eyes.  It was nice.  As a matter of fact, it was really nice.  I had my arms around her, and she was looking up at me, and it seemed, in that theatrical moment, as if we meant it.  That might sound stupid, or unprofessional, but I am telling you how it was.  There was this gorgeous blonde woman, and there I was, and I was being paid to make love to her for the benefit of the audience.  And the audience seemed to love it.  They had clapped in all the right places.  They had laughed in all the right places.  It was like performing to a crowd of nine year-olds, which is exactly what Emile had had in mind. 

And then it happened.  The lights went out.  The gravity went off.  I have no idea why. 

I had my arms around Jessica at the time (purely through acting out my part, you understand). 

We felt alone.  Let me explain why.

During the performance (this was the first night) the audience had been quite noisy.  We attributed it to their not having been used to going to the theatre for some time (or at all).  I am not saying that they were disruptive, but they just did not seem to settle, even when there was plenty of action on stage. 

As soon as the power-cut happened, everything went quiet.  It went quiet and weird at the same time.  The weirdness was because of the zero-gravity.  Most of the passengers had never experienced zero-gravity, other than for a brief period during their induction, of which they had no memory. 

At first, there was silence.  Absolute silence.  The silence itself was the cause of the panic.  We were alone, in the depths of space.  We had no sun.  We had no planet.  We were entirely reliant on technology, and technology had clearly failed us, at least partially.

I thought for a little while, and I realised that the situation was not very serious.   It might have been inconvenient, but it was not life-threatening. 

Even though we had started to float around like balloons, we were otherwise unscathed.  If the longitudinal compensators had failed, we would not have known what was happening, because we would have been crushed to pulp within a fraction of a second. 

Neither did we stop breathing.  Neither did we freeze.  All that happened was that the lights went out (all over the ship, as far as I could tell), and the “terrestrial emulation” gravity failed. 

I started to float, and I had Jessica Springer in my arms.  She was panicking.  While she panicked, I buried my face in her abundant blonde hair. 

‘Oh, god.  What is happening?’

‘Some kind of system failure.’

‘Are we going to die?  Is this is?




‘How do you know?’

‘I just know.’

‘I’m so scared.’

‘I know you are.  I’m here.’

‘Hold me.’

‘I’m holding you.  I am here.  I am here.’

‘Is this really it?’

‘Is this what?’

‘The end?’

‘No, I don’t think so.’

‘You don’t think so.’

‘No, I don’t think so.’

‘That doesn’t sound very reassuring.’

‘All right.  Jessica, listen to me.  The lights will come back on.  The gravity will be restored.  Everything will be all right.’



‘I think we are going to die.’

‘Is that what you want?’


‘Well why talk about it then?  Can’t we just do whatever is best until the systems are restored?’

‘What’s that?’

‘Well, are you worried and distressed?’


‘Well, I could cuddle you.  I’m not nervous.  I am sure everything will be all right.’

‘Mm.  Yes.  Cuddle me and say more things like that.’

‘I can’t guarantee anything.’

‘Do you mean that we might be going to die?’

‘No. I don’t mean that.  I just mean that I don’t know how this is going to end.’


‘Turn out.’

‘Oh, Kelvin.’


‘Do you know that is the first time you have said my name?’

‘I am sure it isn’t.’

‘Yes, it is.  Since we are going to die…’

‘Which we aren’t…’

‘Will you get closer to me?’


‘Closer.  Closer.  Much closer.’


‘Closer.  Closer.  Yes.  Yes.  Inside. Do it. Do it now. ’

I can honestly say that it was not easy at first to fuck a woman to whom I had previously not been particularly attracted in zero gravity and total darkness.  The task was also not made any easier by our costumes, particularly hers, which was voluminous, multi-layered and wired. 

Nevertheless, fuck her I attempted to do, as best I could.  I wrestled with the costume.  Pamela Collins would have been appalled.  I ripped it open.  I got to her cunt.  I grabbed hold of her with both hands, and worked my cock into her.  We were in mid-air, but we were fucking.  We bumped into a beam. I caught hold of it.  I held her between my arms and held onto the beam with my hands.  This felt more like normal fucking.  We had both just come when, at that very moment,  the systems were restored. 

We both ended up on the floor.  We didn’t fall, exactly, but we were dragged there as the gravity-generator kicked back in.  Anyway, the upshot was that I was still inside her, and the assembled multitude could see my arse, and everybody knew exactly what we had been doing.  It was (from a kinematic point of view) a graceful descent into notoriety. 



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