by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 18


After a night of little sleep but much pleasure, Hylas tiptoed downstairs, poached four eggs, fried half a dozen cloves of garlic, sliced two tomatoes, made tea and toast, set one end of the table, then stood at the bottom of the stairs and called, 'Come and get it or I'll throw it out.'

Seconds later, Hercules was beside him grinning in delight. 'A real breakfast! Can't remember the last one. I usually grab a hunk of bread, a few nuts and a glass of water. You'll make me soft.'

'You must be soft in the head if you think you're going to get this every day. I'm just making sure I don't get kicked out too soon—it'd be so embarrassing.'

'I'd say you've a couple of months at least before I'll be ready for a change.' He grabbed Hylas and somehow the inevitable cliché occurred; they did it on the unoccupied end of the kitchen table.

They'd barely finished clearing away breakfast when a knock on the door heralded Fidel and Arnold. They came in and sat at the table while Hercules poured them cups of tea.

'Nice tea cups, Hercules.'


'Did Hylas snore?'

'Not while I was awake. But then we didn't get much sleep. What about you two? Is Arch's bed big enough?'

'Too big. We couldn't find each other so ended up wanking.'

'Last night Hercules asked me to move in with him,' Hylas said calmly. 'And I thought it was such a good idea, that I did.'

'And what are your thoughts now, in the cold light of day?'

'I think it was an excellent decision. I didn't explain all this last night because it was late and we really needed to fuck after all the excitement and I didn't want to have to convince you I was doing the right thing and all that crap before bed. So… are you Ok with it? Were you worried? Are you angry with me? Have I…?

'Shut up, Hylas. If you think we hadn't seen the cow eyes you were making at each other, you disappoint me. Mort told us Hercules is well overdue for a proper relationship, being practically a virgin—if you discount the years of his youth spent as a rent boy and escort, fucking up to five females and the occasional male per day until Arch talked him into coming here. So it makes sense that as he still feels like a twenty-year-old, he should fall for the first young slut who massages his ego. And as you've always been a bit childish, it's obvious you'd prefer an old man…'

Hercules leaped to his feet, flipped Fidel over and held him upside down by his ankles, threatening to tear him in half if he didn't take that back.'

'Take what back oh ancient god?'

'That I feel like a twenty year-old!'

'I take it back! You look, feel and act like a teenager.'

Hercules dropped him and returned to his seat. 'That's more like it.'

'Arnold,' Hylas pleaded. 'Fidel's obviously not slept enough and can't think straight, so can you please tell me what you and my brother think of Hercules and me shacking up together.'

'We were so delighted to be rid of you we brought you a shacking up present.' He passed over a soft package wrapped in toilet paper.

Hylas unwrapped it excitedly. 'How did you guess? It's exactly what I need. Thank you so much. He wrapped his arms around brother and lover and kissed each on the brow. Look, Hercules, aren't they the best friends anyone could have? My old toothbrush, safety razor and nail clippers. Everything a man in my position could want.'

'We put your clothes in the closet with ours. I don't envisage leaving this place for a while, so it seemed pointless lugging them down here.'

'That's very thoughtful, Fidel and Arnold,' Hercules said politely. 'Do I take it, then, that we have your blessing?'

'You have indeed, with the caveat that if you hurt him we will kill you, of course.'

'Of course.'

They spent the morning in the office with Mort, discussing activities they could offer apart from fitness. Fidel offered to take care of the ordering, storage and maintenance of equipment, start drawing and painting classes, and attend to all non-major repairs and maintenance in public buildings. Bart wondered if some residents would benefit from group therapy workshops to assist with coping after losing their jobs or family or anything else, as so many people seemed on edge despite their polite front. He also wanted to offer wrestling classes, and assist with the bridge club. Arnold was keen to coach all individual sports, assist Mort with self defence classes, take part in theatricals both back stage and on, and assist Zadig with forest maintenance and dragging people around in the cart. Robert wanted to start a philosophy and reading group, start a fitness circuit, and participate in Tea Dances and theatrical productions. Hylas was keen to act, dance, and work with kids—especially those who seemed withdrawn, on anything they liked from extreme sports to simply talking, dreaming and thinking.

Having compiled the list they made a new activities schedule ready to present that night, then returned to Hercules' cottage for lunch.

The afternoon was spent on an orientation walk, getting to know their way around and assessing the suitability of public spaces for their activities, on the way making themselves agreeable to all and sundry. They'd walked barely ten metres before they stopped in astonishment.

'Oasis looks so different in daylight. Last night it was a fairytale stage set, all ruins and mystery. In sunlight it's real. Still looking old, but also useful, useable, practical and absolutely stunning.'

'And the trees and gardens are so right.'

'Last night I had no idea these places would be used just like ordinary places in ordinary towns. To look through those arches and see kids playing in the Coliseum as if it's perfectly normal, is unreal.'

'Who uses the grass in the arena?'

'Softball, cricket, soccer… but just for fun. Nothing serious. Competitions are banned,' Mort explained. 'Activity is for pleasure and keeping fit, not for scoring points and making losers feel rotten.'

'I couldn't agree more. Is that your idea?'

'It is a condition Hercules laid down when he first started here.'

'I knew you were a wise man the instant I set eyes on you,' Hylas laughed. 'I love the place, but why does everything look like a semi ruin?'

'Because all empires are built on the ruins of other cultures; our current civilization as well, which we're in the process of destroying along with most of the natural world.'

'Is that also your idea Hercules?'

'No, like everything else, it's Archibald's brilliance.'

'I'd really like to meet him.

'You might be lucky one day.'

'Is there a swimming pool?'

'Every mansion has one, and there's also a large public one. Follow me.'

A tree-shaded alley led to a stone wall with a sign over the entrance saying, Afternoons: Ladies Only.

'Why segregation?'

'Now that females remain in Oasis most of the time, they decided to commandeer the Pool while most of the men and all the boys were away at work or school, to experience the joys of wearing very little without men comparing their less than perfect bodies unfavourably with airbrushed glossy magazine covers.'

'Shame we can't go in. It looks beautiful from out here.'

'The restriction doesn't apply to us, only to male Residents. We wild men are like eunuchs in the courts of Eastern potentates, kept in the harem to fuck the wives to stop them slaughtering each other from frustration and jealousy.'

'Do we have to fuck them?'

'That's up to you. Mort and I have fucked them on stage, but I wouldn't suggest doing it in private. Flirt, make compliments, dance and play with them, but always in public and always treating everyone equally. That's the way we've found works best, isn't that so, Mort?'

'Indeed it is.'

'You said you'd been fucking on stage. Is that for porn nights?'

'Absolutely not!' Mort was adamant. 'Porn, as in gratuitous sex for no reason other than to titillate, is heavily frowned on. Just about everyone here writes plays, poems, songs and stories, and as you can imagine, considering the architecture, ancient Greek and Roman myths are very popular with actors as well as audience. There's always plenty of action, romance, sex, and some sort of a moral.' He laughed. 'And the next myth to grace the boards and excite the audience in our theatre, will be the tragic tale of Hercules and Hylas. Guess which handsome men are going to act the eponymous heroes?'

'Mort! You can't. I'd never dare. Hercules! Tell him we can't.'

'My mother always said there's no such word as can't,' Hercules shrugged. 'Wait till you've seen a few plays, then you'll change your mind. But,' he said seriously, 'I get to choose the Nymphs. I'm not having Hylas raped by some of those man-eating females.'

'Fair enough. Actually, I think I'll make it a musical with dancing. There are lots of good musicians and dancers.'

'Can I paint the scenery?' Fidel asked. 'Hylas loves to dance, so the rape ballet should be a cinch.'

'Fidel! Stop it.'

'Seriously,' Arnold broke in, 'it sounds brilliant, but will someone please tell me the myth about Hercules and Hylas, and who acts in these productions?'

Mort told the sad story of Hercules and his lover, then explained that the originator of each theatrical production selects residents he or she wants to act the parts, then they rehearse for a week, and then perform.'

'How come there's so much creative talent?'

'No TV for a start. So we've a captive population with nothing better to do. That's the ideal environment to foster inventiveness and imagination.'

'But why is theatre so popular?'

'We have no cinema, and no one likes watching videos on the small screen. We all prefer reality. Films are so second hand and they have too much distracting scenery, which means actors don't have to act and there's nothing left to imagine, so it's forgettable. But no one forgets a play that's moved them; acted by people they know. The evening entertainment is always preceded by a short talk bringing us up to date with political goings on.'

'It certainly sounds better than TV.'

'It is—by a long chalk!'

'How real is reality?'

'Totally real as long as no one gets hurt. We don't cut hands off, behead, or emasculate, for example, and your rape will be painless, so you'll have to act annoyed.'

'Can you refuse to perform?'

'Of course, but no one rejects such an honour. They're all as hooked on performing as they are on creating and watching and criticising.'

'Sounds daunting.'

'It isn't, it's some of the best fun you'll have. But it's so hot standing out here, let's join the ladies.'

A short path between rhododendrons in full flower led through a colonnade to a large pool with a fountain at one end. The sides were partially paved and partially bordered by huge boulders between which grew slender palms.

'That's some pool! It looks like a lake in a Roman ruin in the forest.'

Women and girls aged from nine to seventy-nine were disporting themselves in and around the pool. Those under late middle age were naked, the older ones wore a variety of swimsuits. Everyone looked up when the seven men entered.

'Where have you been?' asked a heavy woman in a bathing cap and swimsuit decorated with colourful beetles. 'We've been waiting for you to put a net across the pool so we can play volleyball. And fix the swing rope while you're at it. It's come adrift.' The tone was neither impatient nor arrogant. It was the straightforward way people speak to others whom they know will not take offence.

'We've been showing the new assistants around. We'll get onto it now.'


Five minutes later Fidel had swum across the pool dragging the net, then Arnold and Bart fixed it to the poles. Meanwhile, Mort climbed a strong wooden pole that leaned out over the deep end of the pool. Hylas threw the rope up and Mort secured it, sliding down to test it was secure. Then all seven men swung on it shouting and laughing and dropping off to splash nearby swimmers and sunbathers. Before long dozens of excited girls and women also began swinging on the rope, leaping into the water, chasing the men round the edges of the pool, pushing them in, ducking them and, as one said when her arms were forcibly unwrapped from Fidel's torso, 'Having more fun than I've had in the pool for years.'

Others agreed.

Hercules clambered out, shook himself like a dog then stretched out beside an elderly lady in a wide sunhat.

'Why is it,' she asked, 'that we women can't seem to have pointless, crazy boisterous fun like you men do?

'The girls are having fun out there.'

'Only because you young men set it going. When you go it'll stop. Why are activities always either competitive or serious with women?'

'No idea, Anne,' Hercules replied, unwilling to spoil the mood with his opinions.

'The new assistants look sexy, are they as nice as you three?'

'Nicer, probably.'

'Especially that slim bronzed boy eh?' She cackled at Hercules embarrassment. 'Women may not know how to have fun, but we see everything and never miss anything worth gossiping about. He's got very dark genitals. That's supposed to indicate a high libido. Is he good in bed?'

'Excellent, thanks for asking.'

'I'm glad. It's time you got yourself a lover, it'll stop all those randy tarts from annoying you.'

'They don't annoy me. It's nice to be appreciated.'

'There's a meeting tonight to approve of your five new men. Do you want them to be accepted?'

'Yes! We need them, with so many residents remaining in Oasis all the time now.'

'Penelope showed me the results, you're all as healthy as it is proper to be, so there's no problem on that score.' She stood and clapped her hands and a few minutes later everyone was seated or standing around her, wondering what it was about. 'Come here!' she ordered the five newcomers. When they were standing beside her, hands behind their backs, clearly wondering what they'd done wrong, she asked their names. Then turning to her audience said clearly. 'Hercules needs these young men to assist him. He says they're as good as him and Mort and Zadig. Now's your chance to ask them questions and make up your minds without the men telling you what to think.'

'What do you think of women?' A mousy creature asked, pointing at Bart.

'The same thing I think of men,' he answered quietly. 'They're all individuals. Some I like, some I don't, most I don't think about.'

'You're avoiding the question.'

'No he isn't,' a dark girl who should have been in high school or university said thoughtfully. It was a very general question and he answered it correctly.'

'What we want to know is, what do you think of the new laws restricting women from just about everything?'

'They're insane!' Robert declared. 'There's no rational, logical, or scientific, justification for women to be treated differently from men.'

'I was a police officer for a while, Arnold said quietly. 'Female officers were as competent as males. The only difference I noticed is they're generally shorter and less strong, so I used to think they shouldn't be sent to situations where those qualities were important.' Arnold frowned in thought. 'They drive as well as men, but in my experience they sometimes made difficult situations involving angry men worse, because they don't understand male behaviour. And male officers sometimes cause problems when interviewing females, for the same reason.

'So… you're blaming women for male violence?'

'Sally! He did no such thing. Get off your feminist horse and listen for a change.'

'What's your opinion on violence between the sexes,' a bleached, tucked and plucked matron asked Fidel. 'You've a sexy hairy body and positively ooze testosterone. We're all dying to stroke your hairy bum. Poor Jennifer had to be pried off you earlier on. Tell us why men bash women if we're all so wonderful.'

Fidel decided to answer the question, but not respond to the compliments. 'Do you mean all men or some men?'


'Have you been bashed?'

'Ah… I'd better define bash. I'm not used to talking with males about these things. Women understand what I mean. Ok… why are some men physically aggressive to women?'

'Why are some women physically aggressive towards men? I've been a victim of female violence, so I have the right to ask.'

She thought for a few seconds. I suppose it's because men annoy them.'

'There's you answer. People annoy each other.'

'But surely, sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you?'

'So you wouldn't mind being called a scrawny slut that not even a dog would fuck?'

The woman smiled serenely, being smooth, nicely padded and very fuckable. 'Of course I'd mind, I'd tell him a few home truths that'd shut him up.'

'And there lies the rub,' Fidel said softly. 'Women counter insults with insults. Men with their fists. The reasons are evolutionary. Humans have only been living in villages and towns for about ten thousand years, before that men went out hunting while women stayed near their children and belongings, gathering berries, fruit and small animals. They maintained constant contact with each other by chatter, singing, calling and making sure all was well. If they annoyed each other they'd have a slanging match to sort it out. Meanwhile, out in the forest, men had to keep quiet so as not to scare off prey. They communicated silently, and if annoyed would slam a silent fist into the side of the irritating head. Problem sorted.'

'But we no longer live like that.'

'Humans have not evolved to any measurable extent in the last ten thousand years. We still behave exactly like savages. Stealing, killing, hoarding, living in constant fear, our lives filled with lies, foolish chattering and violence.'

'Sounds brutal.'

'It's the way of all animals. Young women spend their days making themselves sexually appealing, with revealing clothes, makeup, rearranging hair and flirting to attract a man so they can breed. Young men spend their days learning skills to enable them to support and protect a woman and child. Then, and this is the important part, when they breed, in order to live in harmony she must give up her flirting and sexy clothes and spend her time taking care of the child, and he must give up his bachelor freedoms and spend most of his time taking care of the family. The problem today is, women refuse to give up dressing as if they're sexually available, and continue to flirt, making their spouse jealous and angry and embarrassed in front of his mates. And he refuses to stop going out with the boys and living like a bachelor, making his spouse frightened and angry and jealous and embarrassed in front of her girlfriends. She attacks with words, he responds with fists. The solution is obvious, there's no such thing as a free lunch. You can't have your cake and eat it too. You can't be both married and single at the same time. But both men and women refuse to accept that simple truth. They want the best of both worlds.'

'You're saying women must sit at home and serve men.'

'No! They must ensure their child's welfare by making sure the family is stable and harmonious, and so must the men. Parenting must be a full time job for both.'

'What if there are no children?'

'Then why get married? Stay fancy free until there's a point in sticking to one person.'

'Mort and Zadig are a couple with no kids, so that proves you wrong.'

'No it doesn't. Their relationship is based on love, not sex and breeding. It's a totally different thing. Few heterosexual marriages are about love; they're about sex. Children are often an unwelcome by-product. That's why when the sex gets boring, more than half of all marriages end in divorce. Very few people both gay and sad, live together for love, with sex merely the icing on the cake. But those are the relationships that last until death.

'Meanwhile men have now made laws rendering all women chattels for males, leaving men as the top dogs. Typical!'

'I don't think so,' Bart interrupted. 'From what I've seen men are getting a raw deal too. It's a while since I saw any useful news, but…'

'Thank you, Bart. Now, the only person we haven't heard from is …'

'Hylas, ma'am.'

'Well, Hylas, how do you see your role here in oasis?'

Hylas grinned. 'I'm a naked savage that the residents of Oasis tolerate on condition that I'm useful and more or less tame.'

'Give us an example.'

'While we were fooling around in the pool, girls and older women kept groping me—not secretly as if they were being naughty, but openly, naturally, for fun.'


'Stroking my bum and chest—playing with my scrotum and penis… that sort of thing.'

'How did that make you feel?'

'Great!' Hylas laughed. 'And being able to talk about it like this is brilliant. I hate being secretive as if some things are rude or bad when they're not. And a lady hugged Fidel and another wanted to stroke his hairy bum. And I've got a hard on thinking about it but I know none of you think I'm rude because I'm a natural man.' Hylas laughed infectiously and suddenly everyone was laughing.

'So, you like it here.'

'I adore everything I've seen so far.'

'You don't think we're crazy?'

'No way! You know it's a game, and so do I, but that makes it more fun.'

'Hylas, go away before I fall in love and ravish you on the spot,' Anne said with a cheeky grin. 'We women need to talk. What have you got planned for tonight, Hercules?'

'Just a brief presentation of new activities.'

'Make it a performance. I'm sure you can all do something to amuse us.' She pointed at Hylas. 'I love Hercules like a son, Hylas, so make sure you don't hurt him!'

Hylas's eyes widened and he looked to the others but saw only blank faces. 'Yes Ma-am.'

'Good, well you've excited us females quite enough for one day, so off you go and practice.'

'That was brilliant, Hylas!'

'Yeah! How did you think of it?'

'I suddenly realised it's a game; they aren't serious; they're not crazy, just having fun with us. And that's so relaxing. Most people take themselves so seriously. I hope the men are the same.'

'They are,' Mort assured him. 'Even better in many ways.'

'I can't help wondering, though, why they only have men as noble savages.'

'Because the women, who love to think of themselves as underdogs, would never tolerate having sexy naked women roaming around, dancing with their husbands, teaching them games, making their wives and daughters look less physically attractive. The men, on the other hand, are perfectly happy to have handsome naked men attending to their wives, because they know we're all gay. And like all successful heterosexual males, they're convinced they're perfect and feel no insecurity about being compared to gay men, or seeing their wives get fucked on stage.'

'On stage! I still can't believe this. Don't they care?'

'The stage in Oasis is sacred soil where everything is permitted and nothing is real, so cannot be taken seriously. It's where fantasies come to life, problems are aired, and everyone learns something about themselves and others. If Gregory fucks Henry's wife during a play about surviving a flood, for example, then Henry is proud to see his wife being such a fine actress. They accept intuitively that life is all about sex, so to eliminate sex from human interaction is to lie. And our theatre is about truth. Lies are what you hear and see on mass media and in religious institutions. We have none of them here, we have the stage, and reports on what's happening outside Oasis from people we trust.'

'That sounds too good to be true.'

'It isn't.'

'Do we have to make it a performance tonight?'

'Definitely; Anne has decreed. We'll go to the theatre now and rehearse.'

'Did you tell her we're an item,' Hylas asked Hercules.

'No, she either has ESP or a finely tuned gossip radar. She knows everything. So, what do you guys think of the females?'

'Nicer than I expected, in character I mean.'

'Don't be fooled, they were on their best behaviour to impress the new men.'

'That's a pity. I must say their shapes are a bit off-putting.'

'Yeah. They're really bottom heavy. I guess it makes for stability, but I'm really glad I'm not a heterosexual.'

'If you were you'd love fat hips and narrow shoulders and lumps of fat on the chest.'

Fidel shook his head dubiously. 'I don't think I could ever find that attractive.'

They'd arrived at an open piazza. Arnold pointed to the far side. 'I know I've seen that circular ruin before, but I've forgotten what it's for.'

'It's a temple to the muses,' Mort reminded him. 'It's my domain and where you'll be performing tonight. Come on in.'

Ten semi-circular stone terraces rose steeply, giving excellent views onto an elaborate little stage with a classical proscenium and royal blue curtains. Above the seating, a domed roof appeared to float on creamy sandstone columns, between which statues of gods and goddesses gazed down. Circular windows behind the heads of the statues, were like haloes filling the theatre with an amber glow.

'This is a very beautiful space! You must be incredibly proud of your father, Mort.'

'I am, and not only for his architecture.'

'How many does it seat?'

'Two hundred in comfort, more if we squeeze. We bring our own cushions.'

'I can't wait to see a show.'

'You're the show tonight, any ideas?'

'None, Mort. You'll have to help us.'

'I figured as much so I've invited a couple of experts to assist.' He looked towards the open archway. 'As they're not here yet I'll show you backstage and all the gear we've got.'

Twenty minutes later he had demonstrated the complex pulley system that raised and lowered scenery and permitted people to fly, the dressing rooms and lighting box and sound system, and was about to take them to the large collection of flats in storage under the stage when Penelope and Perses entered the auditorium.

'Not late are we?'

'Perfectly on time.' Mort laughed at the open mouths of the others. 'Penelope's been wanting do a spoof medical consultation for ages, so lets get started.'

An hilarious hour later there was just time to go home, shower, ensure their bodies were pristine, and eat something before returning to the theatre where they stood behind the closed stage curtain with Steven Snupe, a tall, swarthy man with a long hooked nose, prominent bones, and neatly trimmed beard; impeccably dressed in a midnight blue velvet dinner suit, cream shirt with ruffs at wrists and down the front, and shiny patent leather shoes. At a signal from Mort he stepped through the curtains onto the apron, bowed to the packed theatre and presented a wry, often humorous news round up, gleaned from his many and various contacts.

'As predicted,' he concluded with a frown after ten minutes of concentrated information, 'the median temperature has been higher this month than usual and high tides are again higher than last year. Water expansion accounts for most of it, but apparently glacial melt is increasing in South America and Alaska. It is only a matter of time before the central Cairns business district is permanently abandoned. Some beach suburbs have become inaccessible at high tide and sewage is an increasing worry. So far it's containable. People are opening their homes to family members whose houses are uninhabitable, but it's going to be a worry for us in Oasis if things get markedly worse, because the push inland to higher ground will put pressure on us to accept refugees.'

'Never!' someone called, supported by several 'hear, hears'.

'As you know, the port was closed by the cyclone. It seems it will never reopen due to infrastructure damage and silting. The rest of the world is not in any better shape—ports and infrastructure being at sea level, so the talk is all about becoming more self-sufficient.' He sniffed. 'Forty years too late. Unemployment's at sixty percent. Everything's in short supply, as those who go shopping will have realised, especially food.'

'What about the Tablelands.'

'They're geared to export, so good food's rotting on the docks, underwater. It'll take some time before they grow enough staple foods to supply us.'

'What about bringing in stuff by rail?'

'The cyclone washed out tens of kilometres of bridges and track, and without spare parts for heavy machinery it's going to be pick and shovel and many, many months, if ever, before they're reopened. But there's plenty of labour because all those thousands of out of work males can now opt to accept board and lodging from their employer in lieu of wages, but must sign a contract for at least three years. If that's not slavery I don't know what is.'

'What happens to their women and children?'

'Not clear. Possibly some form of hostel accommodation next to workshops that are being planned.'

'Workshops? What for?'

'Cottage industries, from what I hear.'

'Sounds like a euphemism for workhouses.'


'Indeed. Well, that's all from me for tonight. Now its time for you all to decide whether to accept five new young men as assistants for Hercules and Mort. Doctor Wellniss, who has spent some time with them, kindly offered to provide you with enough information to make up your minds about their health and fitness for the job.' He smiled, picked up his notes, acknowledged the applause and descended from the stage to sit with his wife and children.'

The house lights dimmed and an amber spotlight played on the blue curtains, which parted just enough to reveal Penelope in a spotlessly white doctor's coat, neat little cap on curly blonde hair, a multitude of tinkling bracelets, several gold necklaces, drop earrings, baby-doll makeup, and her trademark white, ankle-snapping high-heeled shoes. She was standing beside a tall, ornately carved, polished wood cabinet containing several cupboards and drawers and shelves with flasks of coloured liquid. Behind it, the stage was impenetrably black.

A disturbing, almost diabolical smile played across the doctor's lips as she carefully inspected and arranged several dangerous looking knives and other instruments, including an enormous syringe with a long, sharp needle. She looked up, apparently surprised at seeing the tittering audience.

'Have you heard the news?' she gasped, putting a hand to her mouth and giggling like a silly schoolgirl. 'We're getting five new naked noble savages and I tested them all yesterday—extensively!' She stopped to take a deep breath and giggle. 'And they're healthy—I posted a positive report.' She stopped abruptly. 'But,' she rested an anguished hand on her heart as her face dissolved into misery. 'Several noble residents said they don't trust me to check properly! Can you believe it? Moi. Doctor Wellniss. Not trusted! They demanded to know exactly how I tested.' She sniffed her sadness, then managed a brave smile. 'As you all know, I'm an easy person…' She paused to allow the audience to agree, but they laughed instead. 'I never take offence!' she snarled, angrily, 'so to allay all those pathetic, irrational fears about my competence I will demonstrate my procedures tonight!'

Cheers and applause.

'An in depth survey of the first five people I encountered after leaving my house this evening, revealed that the five major concerns regarding naked savages are: do they carry unknown diseases? Are they strong and fit enough to do the work required. Do they understand their social position? If they are invited into homes, is it safe to let them sit down? And is it safe for Noble Residents to have sex with them?'

During the laughter, Perses, also in a white doctor's coat, arranged five collapsible chairs a few metres to the left of his mother.

'Get the savages, Perses. Don't keep the audience waiting.'

'Ok, Ok… don't get your knickers in a twist.'

'I can't…' She giggled insanely. 'I'm not wearing any.' To cheers and stamping of feet she raised her coat to prove it.

Perses waved to someone off stage and the five applicants jogged in, bowed and took their seats. They looked cheerful enough, but were feeling inordinately nervous. This wasn't like the gymnasium! There they were in control—here they weren't. They'd seen the health test results and been told they had the jobs, so this was supposed to be pure fun, but it suddenly felt very important that they made the audience laugh. That they didn't make fools of themselves. But they'd only had one rehearsal. Compounding stage fright, the audience of nearly two hundred superbly dressed men, women and young people appeared to be stacked almost vertically; a wall of faces, mouths, eyes and bodies scrutinising, assessing. The men had taken great care with their appearance; shaved, trimmed, scrubbed and polished. At Hercules' suggestion, Hylas had removed all scrappy bits of body and facial hair leaving him seamless, and Robert had got rid of the beard that had always itched. They knew they had never looked better, but even so…would the noble residents, as they loved to be called, find them interesting and attractive enough?

'You,' Penelope pointed at Bart. 'Come here.'

Bart stood and looked around as if unsure whether to obey or run for his life, so Penelope marched over and, to guffaws of delight from the audience, took a firm hold of his penis and led him into position beside the cabinet, maintaining her grip as if frightened he'd run away.

'Tell the noble residents your name.'


'Very good, Bart. I am going to show my critics how I tested your blood for pathogens.'

'What… now?'

'Yes. I'll just take a little blood. Are you nervous?'

'Of course not.'

'Good. Perses! Blood extraction apparatus!'

Perses took from the cabinet a glass bowl and a large needle attached to a clear plastic tube.

Penelope released Bart's manhood, which had dramatically appreciated in size, and wrapped a band around his upper arm. Perses passed her the needle and placed the end of the tube in the glass bowl on the floor. Penelope felt the tip of the huge needle, smiled wickedly and licked her lips.

'That looks awfully big,' Bart said nervously. 'It wasn't that big last night.'

'And neither was that!' Penelope giggled, giving his erection a playful tap. 'If we use the small one the audience won't be able to see it, will they?'

'I suppose not.'

'Now, stand still and relax. It won't hurt a bit.' She pulled her arm back as if ready to hurl a javelin, then thrust the needle into Bart's vein, securing it with tape. Almost immediately blood began to flow down the tube and into the bowl.

'See? Didn't hurt a bit, did it?'

Bart was swaying in shock, eyes wide, mouth agape.

Penelope rubbed her hands and spoke to the tittering audience. 'While we're taking a little of Bart's lovely red blood, let's have the next victim… I mean patient.'

Perses led Fidel by the hand to Penelope, who rubbed her hand through his chest hair.

'Mmm… A veritable satyr; no wonder they had to pry a lusting young lass off you in the swimming pool this afternoon.'

Fidel was staring in confusion at Bart who had sagged to his knees and was in the process of toppling sideways in a faint. The audience was shouting warnings between laughs. With a cry of despair, Fidel pushed Penelope away and held Bart upright under the arms, while Perses ran backstage to fetch a strong-looking box. Fidel sat Bart on it, supporting him while staring in disbelief at the blood still draining into the bowl.

'How dare you interfere with…'

Perses tapped his mother on the arm and pointed at the blood now overflowing the bowl onto the stage.

Penelope threw up her hands and giggled. 'Oh silly me, I'm always forgetting to turn things off. I suppose I'd better put some back.' She pulled out the needle and tube and passed them to Perses. 'Get rid of these and bring me the Syringe!'

Perses handed her a syringe as large as a litre milk bottle, with a needle to match, which she filled with blood by sucking it from the bowl. Then while Fidel held Bart's head firmly, she thrust the needle into his jugular vein and pressed the plunger. As the blood was squeezed back into him, Bart began to revive. After the second refill, he stood. Wobbled a bit. Smiled and gazed around vaguely.

Penelope held up the bowl to inspect the remaining blood, nodded satisfaction, and then accepted a flask containing white powder from Perses. After tipping the contents into the blood she gave it a stir with her finger. It turned from red to black.

'Eureka!' She shouted, displaying the bowl to the audience. 'A perfect result. The change from red to black proves Bart is free of every disease known to mankind, as well as several others!' After placing the bowl in the cupboard she turned a winning smile on Bart.

'How do you feel?'

'A bit woozy.'

'Better keep propping him up then, Fidel,' she advised. 'Are you up to answering a few questions, Bart?'

'I think so.'

'What's your take on the seven deadly sins?'

'They're a religious guilt trip.'

'What do you mean?'

'The word 'sin' means behaviour displeasing to a God—an entity I reckon doesn't exist.'

'So the so-called deadly sins are not bad after all?'

'Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth are nothing but emotional terms for the natural behaviour that has enabled humans to survive. There's nothing wrong with having pride in oneself, wanting to eat, improving one's circumstances, enjoying sex, emulating others, getting angry, or having enough sleep. Problems only arise if people ignore the commonsense truism that more than enough is too much.'

'For example?'

'Eating too much is unhealthy, sex addiction is bad for relationships, aggression leads to physical conflict… that sort of thing.'

'From what you've seen do you think the Noble Residents of Oasis are guilty of any of those… sins?'

'No. Their feet seem to be firmly planted in reality. They enjoy natural human behaviour without guilt, and appear to have accepted that we all have to make the best of what we have, without crying for the moon.'

'Thank you, Bart.'

Bart took a slight bow and, accompanied by applause, returned to his chair.

Penelope turned to Fidel who had been patiently waiting.

'Are you strong, Fidel?'


'Prove it by lifting Perses with one hand.'

Fidel frowned, placed a grinning Perses next to the box, stood on it himself, grasped the collar of Perses' coat, and on the count of three, hoisted the youth into the air. Or he would have if Perses hadn't raised his arms allowing the coat to fly straight up and disappear into the darkness of the flies, leaving the slim, lightly bronzed son of the doctor standing in his birthday suit beside the box, a look of bemused surprise on his face.

'Not very convincing, Fidel,' Penelope sneered. 'Anyone can toss a coat into the air.'

'Where's my coat?' Perses complained.

'You look better without it,' Fidel grunted, scratching his head while considering the situation. 'Got it,' he muttered getting down from the box. 'Make yourself streamlined like a rocket,' he instructed, placing Perses' hands together above his head. Then in one quick motion he grasped the youth's ankles and gave an almighty heave. Perses shot straight up into the air and, like his coat, disappeared into the darkness above the stage.

Loud laughter, clapping and cheering.

'Help!' Perses shouted. 'I'm falling back! Catch me, Fidel!'

Fidel held out his arms as two bare feet followed by legs and the lost body floated slowly down until Perses was cradled like a baby, gazing up in adoration at his saviour. Fidel kissed the youth's forehead, carefully placed him on his feet, took a bow and rejoined his friends.

When the applause subsided, Penelope pointed at Hylas. 'Perses! Get me that one.'

Hylas sprang from his chair, leaped off the stage and was halfway to the exit when Perses leaped onto his back and rode him like a horse back onto the stage, where he was unceremoniously dumped beside the cabinet and his mother, who smiled and patted Hylas on the head.

'You're fast and strong, carrying Perses like that.'

'He's just a flea,' Hylas shrugged dismissively.

'But a useful one,' Penelope murmured. Turning to the audience she stated firmly, 'Fitness, strength and health require excellent reflexes and powerful lungs, and Hylas has volunteered to be tested.'

Hylas looked less than delighted, but was calmed by Perses, who resembled him remarkably. Both were lean, tall and sinewy, olive skinned, dark eyed and smooth. And although Hylas was obviously fitter and stronger, his face had a boyish innocence that suggested they might be almost the same age.

'Sit on the box and cross your legs!' the doctor commanded.

Hylas sat, placed his right leg over his left, and watched as Perses carefully balanced a basket of fruit on the raised foot.

'I am going to test your reflexes, Hylas, Do you know what they are?'

'They're physical reactions that occur without conscious thought, like pulling your hand away from a hot fire.'

'Exactly. Are you ready?'

'I'm always ready.'

'Penelope lightly tapped just under the kneecap of the crossed leg and Hylas's foot jerked wildly sending the basket of fruit up into the air in a wide arc, to land without spilling it's contents beside the other noble savages, who each took a piece of fruit and began eating.

Meanwhile Perses was worried. 'Mum! There's something wrong with Hylas's leg.'

The leg in question was stretched rigidly in front, and despite Perses' best efforts it seemed there was no way to make it bend again.'

Penelope pushed her son aside. 'This requires surgical intervention.' Picking up a scalpel she inspected the leg thoughtfully. 'All it requires is a quick slice through the tendon.' She indicated the spot.

'And then he'll be fine?'

'Of course!'

'The leg will bend?'

'Of course… but he won't be able to walk again. No pain no gain.'

As she raised the scalpel the knee bent and the audience cheered.

'Now, lets see if your lungs are as good as your reflexes,' the doctor said briskly. 'Perses! The tube.'

From the cabinet, Perses produced an inner tube from a tyre. But not an ordinary car tyre, this one must have come from a very large truck.

'I want you to demonstrate your lung capacity by blowing just one breath into the tube, Hylas. When you're ready.'

Hylas took a huge breath, put his lips to the valve and blew. Within seconds the tube expanded until it seemed on the point of bursting. Yet still Hylas blew and still it expanded until the quivering black rubber took on an almost translucent hue and became seriously deformed. 'Stop, stop!' Penelope shouted cowering back in terror. 'It's going to explode!'

'Hylas removed the valve from his mouth and frowned as the air escaped with a loud whistle. 'But I haven't finished the breath.'

'Never mind that. You get ten ticks for not blowing the place up. Now go back to your friends and send Robert to me.'

Robert stood, yawned, then sauntered across and leaned on the cabinet. 'Nice tits, Penny,' he grinned with a cheeky wink, undoing the top button of her coat to expose her right breast, which he stroked gently.'

Penelope glared at him. 'Don't call me Penny.'

What'll I call you then? Cent?'

The doctor pursed her lips. 'You are nothing more than an uncivilized, naked savage!'

Robert gazed forlornly out at the audience, 'She's right… I feel a right tit.' He sniffed, and pushed it back into the coat, causing a button to fall off and both breasts to pop out. After pushing at them ineffectually several times, he shrugged and gave up. 'I apologise, fair lady, I cannot keep abreast of this problem. What should I do?'

'Shut up, sit still and treat me with the respect due to a Noble Resident and eminent doctor while I demonstrate the testing of blood pressure and heart rate. Perses! The heart monitor.'

Perses attached a band around Robert's chest that was connected to a loudspeaker and digital display. When he flicked a switch, everyone could hear the drumbeat of Robert's heart and see the rate displayed on a screen. Currently it was fifty-four beats per minute.

'Now do twenty star jumps,' the doctor commanded.'

Robert obeyed, with the predictable result between his legs, but the unpredicted result that his heartbeat slowed to twenty-seven beats per minute.

'Do twenty press ups!' Penelope instructed.

The heartbeats slowed until they stopped completely at the twentieth and the display showed a zero. Robert stood up breathing easily, not having raised a sweat.

Penelope tapped the screen, but nothing changed, then she leaned over Robert to check the instruments. Robert put his head forward and sucked on a nipple. Penelope appeared not to notice, instead she removed the band and wrapped it around her son's chest. Immediately the sound of a strongly beating heart filled the theatre, at the rate of sixty beats per minute.

'Ah!' Penelope said in disgust. 'You are too vulgar to even have a heartbeat. Quite frankly, you are pissing me off. Which leads me to your next test; I need a urine sample. 'Perses! Bring the urine sample flask!'

The audience, which had been laughing constantly, clapped and stamped their feet as Robert filled the flask, then the blood bowl, and was rapidly filling the bucket with pale yellow liquid when Penelope tied a bright yellow ribbon around Robert's penis and pulled it tight, cutting off the flow.

'Get out! Get out!' She screamed. 'You're rude, stupid, heartless and keep taking the piss. This is a serious demonstration… oh what shall I do.' She sank onto the box in tears. Robert pulled her gently to her feet, removed the yellow ribbon, stroked her hair and said sweetly as he tied it around a lock of her hair, 'I apologise, doctor, I was rendered stupid by your beauty which is enough to drive a man mad with desire.' He pulled her head back, fondled her breasts and kissed her on the lips while the audience clapped and called encouragement.

Penelope gazed into his eyes. 'Am I really beautiful enough to make men mad?'

'Am I not clinically insane?'


'There's your proof, doctor.'

Penelope's smile was beatific. 'Thank you, Robert. No one has ever said such a nice thing to me. You must come to dinner soon.'

Eyes rolling in relief, Robert retreated to his chair.

The doctor looked at her watch. 'Goodness, time's running out. Here, boy.' She patted her thigh and Arnold came running up like a pet dog.

'Arnold, Some people are worried that if you noble savages sit down on their best chairs, you'll leave your personal, perfumed stamp on the furniture. What have you to say to that?'

'We won't, because we're meticulous about hygiene and are constantly checking, and we also have a secret weapon.'

'Sounds exciting, what's that?'

'We strengthen our sphincters with daily exercises until they're so tight nothing can get either in or out—unless we want.'

'Do you mind demonstrating?'

'What? The tightness of my sphincter?'

'The cleanliness. We'll take the other claim on trust.' She addressed the audience. 'But if in doubt, noble residents, provide a small towel, it will embarrass no one.' Turning back to Arnold. 'Well, young man? Let the noble residents judge your hygienic standards.'

Arnold shrugged at the audience in resignation, then knelt facing the audience with his bum in the air. Penelope held what looked like a gigantic magnifying glass behind him and the image was projected on the screen. At first slightly out of focus, it resolved into what looked remarkably like tightly pursed lips which twitched slightly, then parted and opened to reveal a set of sharp white teeth before the sphincter drew tightly closed once more.

When the laughter subsided, Penelope continued. 'As you can see, noble residents, this sphincter is spotless and in perfect condition, not even the suggestion of a haemorrhoid, not a whiff of gas, not a particle of excrement.' She gave his cheeks a resounding slap. 'You can place this bottom on my furniture any time you wish, Arnold.'

Arnold stood and smiled modestly. 'Thank you, Penelope.'

'My pleasure. Now for the final test—a sperm count.'

'You want me to masturbate?'

'How else are you going to produce a sample? Surely you're not shy.'

'Of course I'm not shy, just not sure I can oblige. But I'll give it my best shot, being always delighted to come to the aid of a fair damsel.'

Groans at the puerile pun.

With casual ease and gentlemanly grace, Arnold arranged himself sexily on the box, played with the family jewels for a few seconds then gazed out at the audience, clearly distraught. 'Apologies, all. It seems this member of the family is shy in front of an audience.'

'Stuff and nonsense!' snapped Penelope. 'You're just attention seeking. Perses! Help this flaccid savage to perform.'

With a resigned shrug and audible sigh at having yet another task to perform, Perses knelt beside Arnold and with delicate fingers brought the recalcitrant member to attention. 'Shall I finish off, or do you want to do it yourself?'

'It's obviously on better terms with your hands than mine, so go for it.'

'Demonstrating a natural aptitude for the task, Perses soon had Arnold leaning back in ecstasy while the doctor hovered with a large plate, ready to catch the precious fluid. After a low groan from the depths of his being, Arnold arched his back in violent spasm and shot at least a litre of thick creamy stuff into the air. Penelope caught it in the centre of the plate where it glistened and wobbled slightly like a large creamy blancmange.

'Bull's-eye!' she crowed, to cheers of approval, then scraped a little off onto a glass slide and placed it under a microscope attached to a video camera and monitor. The audience leaned forward to see the result.

At low magnification millions of tiny wriggling objects covered the screen.

'You have a potent brew, Arnold. Let's ramp up the magnification.'

As the objects grew ever larger, so did the wonderment of the observers when they realised the cute little wriggling sperms that had seemed so inoffensive, in reality had scales, legs, claws, snouts and teeth. Sharp little teeth with which they were snapping and chewing at each other.

'Take careful note, boys and girls,' the doctor warned with a waggling finger. 'If you permit Arnold to inject this stuff into your sensitive places you will experience a novel sensation.'

Amid friendly laughter she switched off the monitor, turned to the audience and nodded her head graciously.

'I hope, fellow Noble Residents, that any doubts you might have had about employing these five noble savages, have been laid to rest.

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