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“Don't make a fuss,” managed Ambrosius. “I'm alive now aren't I? Come and feel
my pulse if you want, listen to my breathing.”
“But you've been down in the mist! The mist is for the dead and...” the colour
suddenly drained from Moonrise's face. She put a hand up to her mouth in terror.
“Zombies! You're a zombie!”
“I'm not a...” started Ambrosius, too late. Moonrise was all ready running, a shrill
frightened squeal emitting from her throat that warbled with the rhythm of he r
pounding feet. Ambrosius sighed. He had never understood the superstitions of his
people. If something had a pleasing ring to it they believed it, no matter how absurd.
Fish were the souls that hadn't been born yet. The Smug is a great ball of fire where
all the evil burn. The last dregs of each pint of Hook Beer has to be tipped off the tree
for the souls of the departed. Codswallop! The writings of the great philosopher
Bellyfat Chinbeard had thrown all that out centuries ago, if only people would read
his books (which were, admittedly, unfathomably boring and written in a largely
illegible shorthand). No, Ambrosius knew the truth. He knew that all the matter in the
universe was made of tiny Fish. Each Fish swam in a straight line unless it was
otherwise disturbed. All the interactions in the universe were mediated by tiny
invisible lines with Hooks on the end, that would catch the Fish and yank them out of
their trajectories. Indeed, the area of Quantum Fishics was one in which Ambrosius
had a special interest in, and, he told himself, gave him deep insights into the nature
of reality.
It did not take long for Moonrise to gather a group of worried looking Piscadors
together, lead by the elderly statesman Leatherskin Wrinkly and the frankly senile
professor Wiseman Cobweb. Some of the younger and more volatile Piscadors who
rallied behind them held sharp pointy sticks in the fashion favoured by young and
volatile mobs everywhere.
“First things first,” bellowed Leatherskin in a voice that carried authority and a
fine aerosol of phlegm. “Are you a zombie?”
“Are you sure?” asked Wiseman from next to him, consulting a battered volume
which he had produced from under his long flowing blue robe. His parchment brow
creased in sympathy with the velum as he read the text. “Any thoughts of a cullinary
nature regarding brains or other such cerebral tissues?”
“No,” said Ambrosius.
“Any uncontrollable moaning or other involuntary atonic vocalisations?”
“No,” said Ambrosius.
“Increased salivation and non-Pavlovian spittle-based responses?”
“No,” said Ambrosius.
“Do you have any sudden urges to participate in a motion picture with a very high
gore-to-budget ratio?”
“No,” said Ambrosius.
“Good,” said Wiseman. “You score zero on the Zombification Index, which
means that, assuming you don't try anything funny, we don't need to proceed with the
standard Angry Mob Protocol as defined by Smallfry et al.”
There were murmurs of disappointment from the more enthusiastic members of
the congregation, after which the crowd started to lose interest and disperse.
Leatherskin beckoned for Ambrosius to come closer.
“You're in your underpants, boy.”