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It's not pants, honest!  
  For your reading ecstasy: the first three chapters of King of the Undies World  

King of the Undies World

King of the Undies World paperback Europe

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1

 

The effulgently gorgeous and terribly pampered Victoria Gousset has just been kidnapped and is looking forward to a good long hostage drama in the sun.

She is tanning herself on the big stone-flagged terrace of Villa Parque, which is perched elegantly on a clifftop overlooking the Mediterranean. From her sun lounger, she can see the manly cliffs across the bay rising from the frothing ocean to the thrusting peaks above, which are dotted with more luxury villas and quaint villages than she can count. She can count to six on a good day. She is wearing a bikini that is noticeable for its lack of size and substance. Seagulls hover on the ocean breezes to ogle her, clouds peer over the shoulders of the birds to get a better look; above them spy satellites and an alien spaceship jostle for the best view of this young lady resplendent in her beauty.

At Victoria’s side is a cocktail of vibrant plumage, which, in confirmation of her absolute luxury, is topped with a paper umbrella.

The sun blesses her, a cool breeze caresses her and fortune grins idiotically upon her. Everything is good.

Sigh.

‘Brilliant, isn’t it, Timmy.’

Timmy is the Greek god on the same terrace, the one with burnished bronze skin, blazing blond hair, incandescent teeth, and leopard-print trunks that are even smaller than Victoria’s bikini. Timmy is currently toning his muscles by lifting a complete set of train wheels.

‘What’s brilliant, Victoria?’

‘The sun, the scenery, the luxury, the indulgence; the sheer, gorgeous gorgeousness of this place.’

Timmy furrowed his brow a moment. ‘Yeah, but what’s brilliant? What does the word, like, mean? I’ve heard it before, but haven’t figured it out.’

Sigh.

‘Brilliant. Like you, Timothy. Don’t dwell on it, it’ll come to you eventually.’

Timothy Adonis, Victoria’s personal assistant, is employed at dramatic expense to do for Victoria; to do all the things Victoria was too rich to do, like make and take telephone calls, pick clothes off the floor, make tea, spread jam on toast, plump sofa cushions and pillows, frown uncomprehendingly at uncomplicated ideas, handle the boring practicalities of whatever, whatever, but mainly just do for Victoria.

He was handpicked by Victoria herself after an exhaustive and exhausting process of phoning a local talent agency and scrutinising processions of the talent they had in stock. He hadn’t so far, in six months of employment, shown much aptitude for or understanding of any of the assigned tasks, and especially not doing for Victoria. He was, however, very, very good at frowning uncomprehendingly, which he did diligently and absolutely all the time. And he was glowingly, ridiculously gorgeous.

‘Oh, put that bloody train down and come and have a glass of steroids.’

‘Thank you very much, Victoria. Don’t mind if I do.’

‘Don’t you think it was terribly, terribly clever of me to kidnap myself? Not many people would have thought to do that, you know.’

‘Yes,’ said Timothy, struggling to keep up with the conversation.

‘Well. All this gorgeousness and cleverness comes at a price. I must write a ransom letter to my father to free myself. Don’t you think it just delicious irony that I’m writing a ransom letter to my own father to get him to pay money to free me from a kidnapping I’ve done to myself?’

‘Delicious? Yes, the drink is very nice, thank you. Could do with a few more umbrellas, but very nice all the same.’

Victoria opened up the pink laptop that perched on her pretty thighs.
‘Dear, Daddy,’ she began and paused thoughtfully. ‘Timmy. I’ve been designing lingerie again and I’ve had some of the designs made up. Let me show them to you later. I’ll model them myself.’

‘I’m sure they’re very nice, Victoria, but I’m afraid I don’t know much about lingerie. I only wear leopard-print trunks myself.’

‘Dear Daddy, I’ve just kidnapped your daughter …’ she typed.

‘Victoria, may I be so bold?’

‘Oh, you may be as bold as you like. In fact, you are positively under positive orders to be as positively bold as you like.’ She put the laptop aside and wiggled in anticipation in what there was of her bikini.

‘Well, it seems to me that if you are kidnapped and your father pays a ransom and then you go home with all the ransom money, isn’t your father going to be a tiny bit — you know? Won’t he notice?’

‘Oh no, not at all. He’ll just be glad to see me, number one, and number two, there’s so much money sloshing around he won’t miss the odd billion here or there. He probably loses track of it himself. We once lost the entire economy of Tanzania down the back of the sofa.’

‘Didn’t she miss it?’

‘Who?’

‘Tanzania.’

‘Miss what? The sofa?’

‘Miss her economy.’

‘Oh. I didn’t think to ask. Anyway, as I remember, I found it and spent the whole lot on crisps.’

So much for Timmy’s boldness. Victoria went back to her computer.

‘May I be bold again, Victoria?’

‘I should be so lucky.’

‘Why have you kidnapped yourself? After all, a lady of such privilege and fortune cannot lack for anything.’

‘I have explained this to you before, Timmy. I explained this before we came here. Then I think I explained it to you on the plane. Then when we got off the plane, and just about every five minutes since then.’

‘I thought you might have done. And I think it might be a wee bit difficult.’
‘Are you asking me to explain it to you again?’

‘Yes, Victoria, I believe I am.’

‘And if I explain it again and again and again, will you eventually get the hang of it?’

‘I doubt it, Victoria.’

‘Oh. OK.’

Sigh.

She put down the computer again.

‘Well. Why have I kidnapped myself? Oh, pure spoiled venality I suppose. By venality I mean greed, not the embarrassing social disease.’

‘You’re welcome.’

‘I’ve lost oodles and oodles of my pocket money gambling. I bet Atlantic City on Las Vegas and it came up Cayman Islands so that was that. Oh, and I wanted a fast car, a unicorn, a spaceship, attention, an exciting life, another unicorn, a new bicycle, the moon, a white elephant, electroshock therapy, fame, love, and a nice holiday away from the pressures of being rich. And above all, I want something else, but I can’t think what it is. Oh, yes. Above all I want oodles and oodles of validation. That’s what I really want.’

Sigh.

‘I told Daddy I wanted a Disney castle and you know what he said to me?’

‘What’s Disney?’

‘No, silly! He said the most awful thing.’

‘The most awful thing? That is awful. How could he say that?’

‘He said “Yes.”’

‘No!’

‘Yah! He said “Yes”, just like that.’

‘What did he do that for?’

‘Well, absolutely! Just “Yes” without a thought. I don’t suppose he was even listening. So then I said I wanted a Disney prince to go with the Disney castle and he said “Yes” again, so that clinched it. He doesn’t care about me. He would rather give me everything and then have me go away with a fictional character rather than actually say he loves me, so that’s that. I’m going to teach him a lesson and then take a whole planet worth of money, which I’ll spend on the Cayman islands, a Disney castle, a fast car, a unicorn, a spaceship, attention, an exciting life, another unicorn, a new bicycle, the moon, a white elephant, electroshock therapy, fame, love, and a nice holiday away from the pressures of being rich, and the other thing I want above all else, which I can’t put a name to right now. Oh, yes. Above all I want oodles and oodles of validation. That’s what I’ll spend it on.’

‘Aren’t you having a nice holiday away from the pressures of being rich right now?’

‘Well this is gorgeous, isn’t it. But this is a kidnap so isn’t it a bit like work? I don’t know what work’s like but I suppose it to be a bit like this.’

She went back to composing the ransom note.

‘Dear Daddy, I’ve just kidnapped your daughter and I’m going to cut myself — her — into small pieces and mail the bits to you one at a time until I receive one million squillion pounds in your daughter’s bank account by sundowner time Tuesday.

‘I don’t know what it is, Timmy, but something is not convincing me about this note.’

‘Perhaps you should say what you’ll use to cut yourself into small pieces to show you have thought about this seriously.’

‘Good idea! What does one use to cut me into small pieces?’

‘I don’t know. I’ve never tried to cut you into small pieces. How about a knife and fork?’

‘Hmmm. Dear Daddy, I’ve just kidnapped your daughter and I’m going to cut herself into small pieces using a chef.’

‘You know, it still doesn’t sound right. Perhaps I should change the Daddy bit. In business don’t people use names like “sir” or “madam”?’

‘How about Sir-Madam?’

‘Timmy, what’s my father’s name?’

‘Who’s your father?’

‘Daddy’s my father.’

‘Is he? Then, his name is Sir Hades Gousset.’

‘Is it? He has the same last name as me. That’s tidy, I suppose. And “Sir”, so that’s another hint, I suppose.’

She tapped momentarily on the keyboard. ‘Oh bother, writing ransom notes is such hard work. I suppose that’s why there aren’t more of them. I’m exhausted already. All this finger tapping.’

‘Why don’t you record your message?’

‘What a good idea! A recording! How terribly dramatic too! We can use an orchestra and perhaps we can get the mp3 file to smoke and explode after Daddy has listened to it.’

‘That doesn’t sound impossible.’

‘Here we go. Dear Daddy Sir Hades Gousset, I have kidnapped your daughter, Victoria, and she is going to cut me into small chef-sized bits and send them on a nice holiday in Disneyland.

‘Oh, dear, Timmy. That doesn’t sound very convincing again, does it. What can be wrong?’

‘Perhaps it’s the fact that you are addressing your father as your father and he is sure to recognise your voice. These details are likely to undermine the authenticity of the project.’

‘Timmy! You said “authenticity”! What’s got into you?’

They both looked dubiously at Timmy’s glass of steroids.

‘Do you think I ought to use more paper umbrellas next time?’


2

 

Sir Hades Gousset was in his lab testing underwear.

Sir Hades is one of the richest, most successful businessmen on the planet. Sir Hades Gousset is an underpants magnate. Sir Hades Gousset is big in underwear. In fact, he is the biggest magnate in underwear in the world. Compared to Sir Hades, there are just no other big men in underpants — none to touch him, anyway. In fact, Sir Hades Gousset is so big in underpants he is quite simply the biggest man in the world in anything.
Hades Gousset: King of the Undies World!

He who controls underpants controls the world. That’s what Sir Hades likes to say.

‘What is it every person needs?’ he demands at official functions, on TV, at international conferences, at Davos every year, at the speaker’s podium in the United Nations, speaker’s corner, at dinner, and whenever, wherever he thinks he has an audience.

‘Food. Water. Shelter. Underpants. Without these basics, we can do nothing. Food and water mean nourishment and sustaining the body from within. Shelter means safety and security and sustaining the body from without. You may think shelter means the four walls that enclose us when we sleep but that’s just part of the story. We have a more fundamental sense of shelter and it’s usually to be found in our trousers. A shelter most basic; essential shelter. Because even when we are in our walled space, our cave, or wherever we feel safe, we crave security at a more intimate level: the cosseting shelter only our undergarments can provide.

‘Underpants separate us from the animals. Our foundation wear is the base on which civilisation is built. Why, I once lived with a tribe of nomads who were underpants averse. Did they have civilisation? Did they build bridges or tall buildings or aeroplanes or free market economies? No, they had caravans and bad hair and were arrested by the police.

‘You could say — and I do say — no pants, no life!’

And so it was that Sir Hades saw himself as providing an essential humanitarian service, extending civilisation to all loins that craved it, while earning huge pots of dosh in the process. His underpants brand and retail chain, Hades Undies World, were in every department store, on every high street, in every mall, on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s trousers. The company’s flaming underpants logo was the most recognised trademark on the planet. Meanwhile, Hades’ corporate interests, research and development division was taken care of by his parent company, Pants Corp.

‘I thought to myself a long time ago, that if you can provide the basics to people at an affordable price, you can be a very rich person while spreading the benefits of sophisticated culture.’

And his philosophy had amassed him a wealth bigger than the Himalayas.

‘This way, Sir Hades. The tests are about to begin.’ Dr Edwin Pickles, in white lab coat and saucer-like spectacles, directed Sir Hades to his sandbagged observation point within the vast hanger that was the site for the physical tests here at the facility formerly known as Porton Down, the famous top secret research centre, which Sir Hades has bought off a cash-strapped government thus saving the UK from economic ruin — again. On purchasing the Porton Down complex, Hades renamed it to fit in with his empire. Porton Down became Pants Down. Anyone who had dealings with, or passing knowledge of the place, liked to use its original name.

Addressing the collection of technicians in the bunker, Sir Hades declaimed, ‘Ladies and gentlemen. We are making underwear history. We are no longer just providing the traditional function of underwear, which is shelter and catching drips. We are now on a mission to extend that concept of shelter to its logical consequence. We are about to introduce underpants and their wearers to the notions of protection, safety and rescue.’

There was really no need for Sir Hades to announce this to his technicians. They already knew. More than that, they had the task of taking Sir Hades’ dreams and making them a working reality. They had the task, as do workers everywhere, of doing the real work while the boss sat back and chewed cigars and thought up ever more delusional projects. But they were being paid oodles, so whatever.

‘Who’s up first, Pickles?’

‘The first test pilot is Felix Baumkuchen. He’s testing the flying underpants.’

‘Excellent. Make sure there’s a tot of brandy for the chap when he lands.’

‘Already taken care of, sir,’ beamed Pickles. His smile disconcertingly magnified by his saucer spectacles.

‘Flying underpants. Fantastic things! Imagine: you’re in the path of a runaway lorry: leap into the air and your underpants will fly you out of harm’s way. You find yourself on top of a suddenly erupting volcano: jump into the air and your underpants will whisk you to safety. On the Alpine slopes, suddenly there’s an enormous avalanche: gather your fellows in your arms, jump into the sky and fly them all to the chalet for a hot gluhwein.’

Sir Hades looked up into the steel spars of the ceiling through his binoculars and found Felix Baumkuchen on a high gantry and wearing nothing but a flying helmet, goggles and an enormous pair of grey Y-fronts.

Like Sir Hades far below, he was surrounded by busy technicians bearing tablets and wearing flash goggles.

‘Look, here, Pickles, the wings on the pants are already deployed but the fellow hasn’t left the gantry yet.’

‘That’s right. Since this is the maiden flight, we thought we’d test the aerodynamics of the wings first for safety reasons.’

‘Say what, Mr Man? Nonsense! Perfectly safe. Launch with the wings in stowed position, because that’s the way they would normally be in an emergency. Deploy in the air, the way it will happen in a real emergency.’
‘Oh, do you really think that’s wise, Sir Hades? What if …’

‘I’m looking through these incredibly powerful binoculars and, you know, I don’t see any whats or ifs or buts anywhere. Stow those wings, like a good chap, eh?’

Pickles gave the order.

‘Are we ready now?’ he asked Sir Hades.

‘Yes, we jolly well are.’

‘Handing the comm to mission control,’ said Dr Pickles into the tiny mic attached to his ear.

‘Mission control acknowledging command of the comm,’ said the earnest crew-cut man standing next to him into his own tiny mic. ‘Commencing countdown. Three, two, one, Geronimo!’

Felix Baumkuchen leapt into the void, arms outstretched before him in the universal posture of flying without an aeroplane, and soared gracefully. The appearance of graceful soaring was an optical illusion brought on by holding your breath in anticipation of finding out whether you’ve earned a big fat bonus for a job well done, or a week in the janitor’s shed with the cans of solvent for a job not well done. In reality, gravity was just getting a firm grip on Felix Baumkuchen before yanking him to the concrete floor a hundred metres below and depositing him there with a loud splat, and where the wings at last deployed.

‘Bugger. Back to the drawing board with that one,’ said Sir Hades.

The technicians exchanged alarmed looks, mouthed ‘Drawing board! We forgot the drawing board!’ at each other and made hurried notes on their tablets.

‘What about the brandy,’ asked Dr Pickles
.
‘Hardy Perfection. One hundred and forty years. Cognac. Too good to waste. Pour it on him. I’m sure some will percolate in through the holes.

‘Who’s next?’

‘Next we have Buzz Adrenalin. He’s testing the parachuting underpants.’

‘Fantastic. The parachuting underpants. We all need those. Trapped at the pinnacle of a flaming skyscraper: simply leap to safety. In a doomed aeroplane plummeting to certain death: jump out the window with an armful of women and children and lower everyone to the ground. How about the suicide, tired of life? Decides to end it all by throwing himself off Lover’s Leap — but then halfway down he gets a text from his beloved begging reconciliation. Suddenly life is worth living again. He only need thrust his hand in his trousers and float to a happy ending. Let’s see these bloomers bloom!’

Sir Hades and all the technicians once again focused their binoculars on the gantry, mission control went through the launch protocols — ‘Geronimo!’ — and again gravity did what gravity does best.

‘Brandy, sir?’

‘As before, Pickles. And one for me. Next?’

‘Next, sir, Flash Boredom.’

‘The bouncing underpants. Brilliant! Think of the mountaineer slipping from the embrace of his ropes and tumbling the sheer wall from a towering peak. He can simply inflate his underwear and bounce to the bottom. Caught on a level crossing with your foot jammed in the rail and a massive goods train barreling down on you? Inflate those pants to cushion the blow. Erm, erm, changing light bulbs on the rickety stepladder, a potentially bone snapping tumble will turn into a humorous bounce. Erm, erm ...’ Sir Hades was running out of inspiration.

‘Our initial tests have shown that children can use inflated bouncing underpants as substitute space hoppers and thereby hours of innocent playground fun.’

‘Missing the point a bit,’ growled the mogul. ‘Underpants are supposed to be functional, not fun. I suppose we could re-brand the playground pants at a push. Let’s get on with it. I’ve a good feeling about these bouncers.’

The test pilot Flash Boredom seemed a bit reluctant to launch but a helpful prod from a flight technician with a broom soon had him airborne and straightaway after that, the cleaning staff had more mopping up to do.

‘Let’s switch brandy, eh. That Spanish stuff, Orina de Bull, we picked up in Torremolinos, the stuff we use for cleaning the silver, will do. I’ll stick with the Perfection, though.’


3

 

Sir Hades was thoughtful. ‘Interesting test results this morning. I believe we’re on to something here. I say we combine the flight function, the parachute function and the bounce function in one set of underpants. It’ll be a mega seller. What do you say, Pickles? Good man. Get on it.’

Ms Hilda Titanium, personal assistant to Sir Hades, strode into the bunker carrying a large brown, padded envelope. Her presence instantly electrified the room. Eyewear steamed up. Eyes without wear steamed up.

Hilda Titanium was not just a personal assistant, she made the world go round. She made men’s heads spin. She was a force of nature; a force of nature in a sackcloth dress. The sackcloth dress was a health and safety precaution: if she were clad in any normal dress, men’s heads would spin off completely.

‘Sir Hades, sir. I have an urgent communication for you.’

‘Can’t it wait? We’re about to test the shark-repelling underpants. I’m looking forward to that. Important work, you know.’

‘You need to see this, sir.’

‘Oh, buggery bugger-bags!’

‘If you’ll excuse us,’ Hilda told the personnel in the bunker who fled for the door as one, clenching their teeth and clutching themselves.

‘Sir, this was delivered a short while ago, addressed to you. As with all your mail, I took the liberty of opening it. There’s a note ... and something else.’

Sir Hades read the note: “Sir Hades Gousset, esq., I hope you are well. Your daughter Victoria Gousset has been kidnapped. I enclose a thumb. Yours sincerely faithfully sincerely, the Kidnapper.”

‘What? What? Victoria’s thumb? Who did this? What bastard barbarian has kidnapped my daughter and sent me her thumb? When I catch up with him, I’ll cut off more than his thumb —’

‘Sir Hades, thumb as in drive, not thumb as in opposable. Thumb as in USB digital storage device, not thumb as in pollex.’ Hilda held up the memory stick. It was an expensive model, nauseatingly pink and suffering a rash of sequins.

‘There’s an audio file on it. I rather suspect it will turn out to be a message of some sort pertaining to the abduction. A plea from Victoria, perhaps; proof that they have her and she is alive. It may contain ransom demands.’

‘When I catch up with the bastard who did this, I’ll cut off his pollices and feed them to him at great speed. Let’s listen to this damn recording then.’

Hilda plugged the drive into a lab laptop and opened the audio file.

The recording was of a female voice doing a bad impersonation of a man with a Germanic accent.

‘Hairy Sir Hades Gousset, guten morning —’ giggle ‘Ve haff your daughter, Victoria Gousset. If you do not cooperate viz all our demands, ve vill cut her into small pieces, ja, and feed her to herself —’ suppressed laughter — ‘vizout seasoning.’ More suppressed laughter. ‘Ze only vay to save her is to pay a squillion million spondulicks into a numbered Swiss bank account, which will be in Switzerland, and which will have a number. The number is on the accompanying note.’

Sir Hades scrutinised the paper in his hand but could see no number on either side.

‘You have until sundowner time tomorrow to comply or Victoria is sashimi. Woo ha ha ha ha!’ The recording closed with suppressed laughter.

At that moment, Hilda’s own personal assistant appeared in the bunker. ‘Ms Titanium, I’m terribly sorry to interrupt, but we have another package just like the first. I thought you’d like to see it right away.’

‘Thank you, Catshit.’ The package, which was indeed a plain, padded envelope like the original contained a note on a single sheet of paper.

“Hi. Sorry. Forgot to attach this with the first note,” it read.

And there followed a long number which apparently referred to an account at the Swiss Cottage, London, branch of Big Bank PLC.

With a fizz and a pop, the pink thumb drive went up in smoke and vapour.

‘Good Lord,’ exclaimed Sir Hades. ‘I didn’t know they could make an MP3 file do that.’

‘I don’t think they can, Sir Hades. I suspect the computer’s logic board has been contaminated with the chemicals you were using in the shark repelling underpants.’


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Un-Tall Tales

Un-Tall Tales: collected short fiction, flash fiction, poetry and references to sausages by Chris Page

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You have been reading an extract of the novel (yes, there's lots more of this!) King of the Undies World by Chris Page. Thank you for your time and indulgence.

King of the Undies World

King of the Undies World paperback Europe

King of the Undies World paperback North America

King of the Undies World Kindle

For Japan orders of the paperback, click here to email me.

Read Weed!
Weed: Chris Page's first novel

Weed paperback Europe

Weed paperback North America

Weed Kindle

For Japan orders of the paperback, click here to email me.

Un-Tall Tales

Un-Tall Tales: collected short fiction, flash fiction, poetry and references to sausages by Chris Page

Un-Tall Tales paperback Europe

Un-Tall Tales paperback North America

For Japan orders of the paperback, click here to email me.