On The Vinegar Valves Of Venus

Monsignor’s Log, stardate the Millennium Feast of Saints Blot & Cugat. It was a very special day, so I wore the least tatty of my vestments. The chasuble is only slightly frayed, the stains on the cincture have faded, the alb, granted, is little better than a rag. I cannot get the grease out of the amice, and the stole is in tatters. The less said about the maniple the better. But by adjusting the lighting so it played through the cobwebs I think only the sharpest-eyed of congregants will have noticed. I did my best to disguise the stink by spraying the chapel with an aerosol can of Essence of Blood of the Lamb. It was decocted, of course, not from the real blood of a real lamb, but from chemical compounds manufactured in the lab by boffins. I have seen pictures of so-called “real” lambs in a codex. They look like tinier versions of sheep, if, that is, they were drawn to scale. Who knows?

It being such a special day, the service went on for much longer than usual. A couple of the faffers keeled over through exhaustion. Why they volunteer for faffing duty when they are clearly not up to it is a mystery. But it is not an ineffable mystery, not like the mystery we were celebrating. Yes, believe it or not it is precisely one thousand years since Saint Blot and Saint Cugat wrought the destruction of the old world and brought into being the Eternal Kingdom of the Hideous Bat-God Fatso. In another codex, I read that neither saint actually realised that that is what they were doing. It’s a moot point. I like to think that one or both of them at least had an inkling. I have seen pictures of so-called “real” inklings on my Windows Vista screen. They look quite shimmery, sort of half way between the stains on the cincture and the light playing through the cobwebs in the bat-chapel.

After the service I gave the crew special permission to play ping pong in the narthex.

I revived the fainted faffers using the Hot Pincers of Saint Wilmot and got them to mop up the spillages from the service. It is, again, a mystery, though not an ineffable one, why the prescribed form of worship of the Hideous Bat-God Fatso has to be so terribly, terribly messy. But both the codices and the Windows Vista screens are in agreement on this point. Fortunately we have plenty of mops aboard the starship, enough at least until our next scheduled landing, on the planet Willself. Rumours persist that intelligent life is to be found there, but I am not convinced.

Monsignor’s Log, stardate the Feast of Saint Von Straubenzee. Change of plan. We are now heading for Venus. I received emergency orders on my metal tapping machine to go and investigate the Vinegar Valves. Fatso has spoken.

I looked up the Vinegar Valves of Venus in a codex. Apparently, there are teeming thousands of them, lined up neatly in rows across some kind of Venusian plains or pampas. It will be a risky adventure. In fact I have already donned my helmet, and taken some protein pills. We have to check all the valves to ensure there is no leakage of Venusian vinegar. It is one of several types of Venusian gar, but I cannot find any reliable information about the others. At times like this, I ask myself “What would Cugat do?” Saint Cugat, the one-time Bosun Cugat, was of course a vampire, though the codices and Windows Vista screens give varying accounts of exactly what kind of vampire he was. He gurgled, we know that much. So, in preparation for the landing, I gurgled too, but admittedly without conviction. I am afraid to say I have the collywobbles. What terrors await us on Venus? What fierce fanged spittle-flecked life-forms will bar our way to the Vinegar Valves?

Monsignor’s Log, same stardate, quick update. We have landed on Venus and made our way across an inhospitable wasteland, a wasteland unimagined by T S Eliot. It might possibly have been imagined by Ezra Pound, but I will have to check that when back aboard the starship. As we approached the plains or pampas whereon the teeming thousands of Vinegar Valves of Venus are lined up in serried rows, we discovered our way was barred. As I feared, fierce fanged spittle-flecked life-forms protect the Valves from interplanetary interlopers. Peering at them, from a safe distance, through my space-lorgnette, I had the distinct impression that they were akin to the lambs I had seen pictures of in the codex. White, woolly, four legs, stupid facial expressions – and yet befanged, and fierce, and spittle-flecked. I took a few snapshots and have transmitted them to the boffins in the lab. Now we must wait, pending their report. I set up an altar and we celebrated Mass to pass the time. An indigent faffer keeled over again, but this time it might have something to do with the Venusian atmosphere. There is an overpowering stink of vinegar in the air. I think the Valves are leaking.

Monsignor’s Log, stardate the Feast of Saint Poxhaven. Gosh, what a calamity! Whatever those life-forms were, Venusian versions of the baa-lambs that once bestrode the old Earth or not, they were savage! Perhaps it was an error of judgement on my part to attempt to convert them to Hideous Bat-God Fatsoism. As soon as they saw me mincing towards them armed with the Hot Pincers of Saint Wilmot, they let out an awful collective keening. I have never heard anything like it, save for one of the more alarming passages in Saint Blot’s Threnody for Piccolo, Cowbell, and Celery Sticks. I dropped the Hot Pincers of Saint Wilmot on to the Venusian dust and slammed my hands over my ears, and ran screaming back to the landing module. The pilot-faffer had keeled over, so I had to take the controls myself. Not having much experience in flying the module, or indeed any experience whatsoever, I completely missed the starship. We are now zooming at warp factor unstoppable into the empty vastness of space. It is empty, and vast. And all I can do is gurgle.

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