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Episode Twenty-Three - THE SKULL KING OF BORNEO
                                  AND THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SMITH, JUST SMITH

Copyright © 2002 - 2005  Arthur Jarvinen

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First, Some Background…

Eccles Pickles enjoys a nearly-god-like stature, if only among a tiny percentage of the population of southeast Asia, thanks to an unlikely combination of happenstance, exceptional height and other exaggerated features, and the by-products of his unusual profession. Pickles came to Borneo fifteen years ago as a young evolutionary biologist in search of bones for his research. He managed to assemble quite a nice stash, including some exquisite orangutan skulls, before getting separated from his party and losing himself hopelessly in the jungle. Weeks of wandering, surviving on whatever he could forage, finally brought him to the remotest region of the country and the village of a virtually isolated and undiscovered tribe of indigenous people so removed from civilization that they had rarely seen other humans, and never a white man - not even a missionary, thank god.

As these are a diminutive and peaceful people who live on a diet of roots, berries, and grubs, and spend most of their leisure time – which is to say most of their time – crocheting (a technique they discovered independently and are genetically predisposed to excel at) it was almost a foregone conclusion that they would be inordinately impressed by Pickles's height and complexion, and his intimidating collection of animal remains having convinced them that he must be some sort of flesh-eating demon or cannibal-god whose bad side they would rather not see, they immediately suggested that he become their king. Eccles, just as immediately, accepted. He has henceforth been known as "Mutandu" which in their language means literally "man way taller than any of the rest of us and with a disproportionately generous endowment of proboscis and other appendages such as to cast shame upon our comparative puniness whose mysterious ways we fear irrationally having not actually seen him in action so perhaps we're assuming a lot but whom we nevertheless hold in the highest regard and willfully and unanimously accept and acknowledge as our ruler and protector". Mutandu prefers to think of himself simply as "The Skull King".

Well, to make a long story just a bit longer, Mojo Stang has found it expedient to set up his South Pacific headquarters in an extinct volcano in the vicinity and, having inadvertently come in contact with Mutandu and his people, has employed them to keep an eye on the place and discourage visitors in exchange for a steady supply of genuine English Old Tom gin.


Word in the better-informed parts of the underworld has it that Mojo Stang is up to something in Borneo, and there are rumors of a mysterious "Skull King" and his ferocious tribe of headhunters. The Invisible Guy feels it is a lead worth investigating – although not personally, mind you – and so once again enlists the services of his most trusted colleague, Smith, Just Smith, who now finds himself skulking about Mutandu's village, not really sure what he's looking for, and just hoping he doesn't find it so he can get the hell out of there.

Suddenly hearing voices and commotion just around the corner Smith instinctively avails himself of the nearest cover, jumping into a huge cauldron and crouching down inside it. He starts to breathe a sigh of relief but his momentary sense of relative security is cut short as he feels the cauldron being lifted and carried.

"These are going to look great! Very promising specimens. Can't wait to get a closer look" he hears a booming voice declare, its deep resonant tones reinforced and amplified by the cauldron, making Smith's ears ring as he cowers even lower in the humongous vessel. "Just dump them all in there" the voice says, and Smith suddenly finds himself covered in dead monkey heads. "Get that fire going while we go for some water" Smith hears in the distance just before soiling himself and passing out.


On a bench in front of a hut nearby Claude slurps the remains of a Tom Collins while reading a concert review of David Lang's Eating Living Monkeys, for orchestra, in the arts section of an old issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.


The premiere of Eating Living Monkeys was conducted by one of David Lang's teachers, Hans Werner Henze.

The Proboscis Monkey is only found (outside of zoos) in Borneo. Besides having a pretty impressive nose, the male of the species sports a permanent erection.

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