Jackson in HRPG-World: 2-1 Exploding Kiwis in the Nether Regions
Where was he now? Ian Jackson thought.
He was standing on a giant conveyer belt running through some kind of madhouse factory. Giant gears clanked and clacked amongst puffs of steam. A lunatic carousel tune played in the background.
This didn’t look like the usual hackneyed, sub-Tolkienesque setting he expected for a fantasy role-playing computer game. It was a cavernous factory, more suited to a first-person-shooter or horror game, although the crazy organ-grinder music playing in the background seemed a poor fit for either.
Jackson wasn’t alone on the conveyer belt. He might have been tempted to describe them as toys. They were yellow and looked like a plushy doll of a cartoon character—some kind of flightless bird with a long bill. A kiwi?
The dolls were hideous. They looked as though they’d been put together by demented lab assistants working under Doctor Frankenstein. The stitching was crude, visible, and looked more like scars. None of the dolls had legs or feet. Instead, a pair of miniature cartwheels was attached to the sides of their bodies. Jackson doubted they were toys. Children were more likely to run screaming than play with these.
They were also alive.
Jackson watched as one of the bird-doll-things sat up and blinked oversized cartoon eyes. It was maybe about three-foot in height. The thing turned a head and looked around. In animation it looked like a real-life cartoon gone horribly wrong.
More bird-doll-things stirred as the conveyer belt reached an end illuminated with purple and red spotlights. More of the bird-doll-things waited for them, but they were brown in colour rather than yellow and directed the new arrivals with the scowling efficiency of airport security personnel. Jackson watched as the bird-doll-thing ahead of him hopped off the end of the belt. It was given a leather bum bag and pointed in the direction of a growing queue.
Then it was Jackson’s turn. He stepped off the end of the belt. The brown bird-doll-thing was halfway through the motion of giving Jackson a bum bag when it paused.
Jackson was about average height by human standards, which meant he towered over the three-foot-high bird-doll-thing. The brown attendant turned and found its bill level with Jackson’s crotch. It tilted its head up a little, then a little more, and then tilted it up a lot more until it could actually see Jackson’s face. It blinked slowly, as if aware something wasn’t quite right with the picture but not exactly sure what.
“Um, where is this place?” Jackson asked.
Crazy oompah carousel music continued to blare away in the background.
“You’re in the Nether Regions, mate,” the bird-doll-thing said.
Nether Regions? Must be the setting for this game.
“What am I supposed to do?” Jackson asked.
He wanted to ask, ‘What is my objective in this game?’ but most characters he came across, even the obvious designated game tutors, rarely gave any indication they knew this was really a computer game.
“Work for the masters, pay off your debt, get reincarnated back to the living world, mate.”
“You’re dead, mate,” the bird-doll-thing said. “These are the Nether Regions. Souls are reincarnated here in the form of k’winnies and must work to pay off the debts their sinning accrued during their life, mate.”
“Dead? No no no,” Jackson said, shaking a finger.
He wasn’t dead. It was just a computer game. He was trapped inside until . . . well, he wasn’t sure exactly. He’d thought it was until he completed the game, but the rules—and the game—kept changing.
“Mate, they all say that,” the brown bird-doll-thing—k’winny?—said.
“Look at me,” Jackson said. “Do I look like I belong here?”
The k’winny peered at him. It frowned. Or rather Jackson assumed the expression was a frown given that it had a cartoon bird face rather than a human face. It blinked. Then it turned around and fetched a novelty yellow baseball cap that resembled the top half of one of the k’winny’s heads. The bill had a slender beak stitched into the fabric and there were a pair of large googly eyes glued to the front. The k’winny motioned for Jackson to duck down and then it reached up to place the k’winny cap on his head. It looked up and smiled. All was right in its world again.
Jackson glanced up at the cap on his head and shook his head.
The k’winny bent down, retrieved the greyish-brown bum bag it had put aside and handed it to Jackson.
“This is to hold your tāra, mate,” it said.
That meant nothing to Jackson. He held the bag up and looked at it in bafflement.
Something bumped against his leg. Jackson turned and saw another blearily blinking k’winny had come off the belt.
“Move along, mate,” the brown k’winny said. “You’re holding things up. Move along. Move along, mate.” He directed Jackson with a limb that was somewhere between a wing and an arm and looked fit for neither purpose.
Jackson walked away shaking his head. Maybe it was one of those games where he had to do a bunch of everyday shit for a couple of hours before the real plot became apparent. JRPGs never seemed in any hurry to actually start.
He joined a line of yellow k’winnies. Two of them looked back at him in surprise. At least until they saw the yellow cap on his head, at which point they went back to grumbling amongst themselves as if nothing at all was out of place.
A shrill voice ripped through the factory. The voice was high-pitched, as though the owner was small, but it blasted through the air as if expelled by the lungs of a giant.
“Oh k’winnies,” the voice warbled.
“Shit. It’s Pihanga.”
Jackson turned his head. All the brown k’winnies had suddenly vanished. When he turned his head back the yellow k’winnies had vanished as well. Jackson was left alone to face the small party walking towards him.
Not quite alone. The k’winnies were still there, but hidden behind the barrels and crates littering the floor of the factory. Jackson saw a yellow head poke up from behind a barrel.
The head hastily ducked back down. Jackson wondered if he should be joining it, but by then it was already too late. The party, a strange trio of individuals, had reached him.
At the front was a girl. Sort of. She had the dainty body of an adolescent girl or gymnast, but she also had horns, a tail and a pair of vestigial bat wings that looked too small to be anything other than ornamental. A devil girl, in miniature. Her eyes were the colour of raspberry juice. She gave off the air of a stroppy and spoilt teen and dressed as though she hadn’t yet learned the difference between party girl and streetwalker. Spiky black air erupted in defiance of gravity from two pigtails and her pointed ears were adorned with gaudy, lizard-skull earrings. Her red gloves and boots—long enough to reach her elbows and thighs respectively—covered more flesh than the rest of her clothes combined. Shorts that were little more than panties hid her crotch while a band of red leather was all that covered her chest. Not that there was much to cover—she was as flat as an ironing board.
“Aha, here’s one,” she said, looking at Jackson.
Behind her stood a pale-faced man in evening wear that had seen better days. Jackson assumed he was a vampire—one of the old school Nosferatu, not one of those stupid twinkly fairies from Twilight. He was hunched, had a hook for a nose, wide staring eyes and fangs so long they made him talk funny. Jackson supposed he should be scared of him, but he couldn’t quite muster fear in the face of what appeared to be a walking cartoon caricature.
“Are you sure Mithtreth Pihanga? It lookth a little large and . . . awkward for a k’winny,” the vampire said with a reedy lisp.
“Of course it’s a k’winny, Schreck,” the little devil girl said. “See,” she pointed at the yellow cap on Jackson’s head.
Jackson looked up at the bill of the baseball cap. They couldn’t be fucking serious.
The third figure giggled. Jackson had no clue what she was doing here. She looked like an angel—in the cartoon sense. Fluffy white wings too small for flight stuck out from her back. A white ribbon was tied in her long blue hair. She had a similar flat-chested figure to the devil girl, Pihanga, but less of it was visible beneath her sensible white robes. Was it Halloween in the madhouse or something?
“Come with me, k’winny,” the stroppy little devil girl ordered.
“Fuck off,” Jackson retorted.
Pihanga pulled out a gun and shot him in the face.
Given the source material, I may have trouble keeping this one under control . . .