Short story from April 1997.

The Last of the Great Explorers

"Good heavens," the Colonel exclaimed in some alarm, peering through the mist of steamy vapour that drifted before his eyes. "Biggly? Is that really you?"

"Biggly, Robert J, Oh-Five-Oh-Seven-Six, reporting Sah!"

"What unearthly twist of fate brings you to this savage place? I feared the whole platoon had deserted me and I was left to make this final stand alone."

"Not me Sah. Jones, Poncho and old Zipper, they're all..." he hesitated before he was able to blurt out, "they're gone Sah!"

"What?" the Colonel exclaimed. "The jungle is no place for men; for Englishmen. Did I pass through Eton and serve in the ranks of His Majesty's Royal Artillery, for this?" He spat the words with bitter contempt as his eyes, eyes more accustomed to the sight of glorious victory, scanned the proximity of the small clearing, ready to snap and focus on the slightest movement.

"But Sah, we've come through worse than this together. We'll pull through yet, you'll see. We have to try Sah, even though we have no weapons and no ammunition."

"No Biggly. I fear this time we're done for. We've been in hot water before, but nothing could have prepared us for this. The enemy are everywhere. We'd be able to see them now if it weren't for this damnably steamy jungle."

For several minutes there was silence as their eyes scanned the trees and bushes.

"Sah. I don't wish to alarm you, but I think I saw one of the beady eyed little blighters over there."

As their eyes squinted and their nerves tensed, a twig snapped and confirmed their worst suspicions. From among the trees and into the clearing came a slowly milling crowd of pigmies, the terrifying figure of their witch-doctor at their front, his ornate feather head-dress ruffled by the tropical breeze. His weapon of choice was the blowpipe, but this was a rather unusual example. Capped with black sponge at one end and a long decorative strand of black ribbon trailing from the other.

"This is it Sah!" Biggly moaned.

"I'm afraid so, Biggly old chum. I think this is goodbye."

With little or no warning, save the joyous whoop of what seemed to be the song of the tribal war-dance, the witch doctor sprang forward. To the Colonel's horror, he raised the mouthpiece of his ceremonial blowpipe towards his poised lips.

"It's not goodbye," he drawled, into what now revealed itself to be a primitive microphone. "It's actually a big hello! A big hello and an even bigger welcome to the show!" He beamed a gleaming toothy grin at his enraptured audience. "Today, on 'This Savage Place', we'll be taking a look at what you can do with lost explorers and an extra large casserole dish. Yes, you guessed it. Stew!"

And, as the crowd of delighted pigmies applauded, Biggly and the Colonel remained silent. The bubbles amongst the vegetables that had been floating beside them, indicated that the last of the great explorers had just begun to simmer.

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