EXPLORATION OF THE PONGY PUMPING STATION
After following Mildred and Bertie through the panelled corridors, the family stood at the centre of a hexagon-shaped hall wearing hardhats and luminous yellow health and safety vests. In the middle of the hexagon was a spiral staircase that corkscrewed down to the numerous levels below.
‘What’s down there?’ Josh asked pointing his dinosaur towards the stairs.
‘There are lots of different levels and a warren of secret tunnels down there that go deep into the earth. Although you should be more interested in what is above,’ said Bertie pointing towards the ceiling.
The family all looked up at the brass metalwork reaching up to the rafters far above them. All around them ornate metal formed beautiful shapes filled with colour. Some of the metal design was painted green, some dark red and other parts of the design were gold. All the railings curled and spiralled with patterns including flowers, which was rather strange for what was essentially an old sewage pumping station. Tingle even noticed that the walls were decorated with painted tiles. The flower patterns on those tiles were blue and white; they appeared to tell a story about beautiful smells and lovely aromas.
On the floor above them, the group could see four giant steam pumps with pumping wheels. The huge pumping arms, as long as two train carriages, were still because the levers hadn’t been pulled to make the pumps work. The pumping wheels were as high as five grown men standing on each other’s shoulders and as long as a chain of five elephants standing in line holding each other’s tails with their trunks. They were certainly impressive and the family had never seen anything like it.
‘Wow!’ said Josh.
‘This place is amazing,’ said Tingle. The pretty metal designs were a complete surprise.
She could never have imagined that such a place existed.
‘So what are the huge metal arms used for?’ asked John.
‘Those are the pumps. That control panel there, with the big levers, makes them work. They are run on steam and drive sewage out to sea when the tide is at the right height and travelling in the correct direction,’ Bertie said looking very proud of the main pumping arena.
‘That was how they solved the problem of the stink in the end. They figured out that the river ran towards the sea at certain times of the day. So if they could match the right tide, they could pump the dirty water to the sea then there would be less stink,’ Mildred said and paused. She glanced across the room and frowned. ‘Now if you look over here,’ she said attempting to get the family to look the other way.
‘I don’t understand… I thought it was the Supreme Stench that made the bad smell.’ Tingle was confused.
‘Ah it was… He was just very clever and made everyone think it was the river at first. He intended to gradually build up the pongs and purposely made the people of the city believe it was a natural stinking disaster. Some of the extreme stinks made by the duck-billed-splatter-pus used stink bubbles rising through water. Oh they were truly horrid!’
‘Surely you mean a duck-billed-platypus,’ said Dianne.
‘Erm no not exactly… Little Stinkers are creatures that have evolved to create a decent stink. You will understand when we show you some pictures,’ said Mildred.
‘I like the duck-billed-splatter-pus,’ said Tingle.
‘Well they are all very cute until one of the dastardly smells rises up in a bubble and catches you by surprise,’ Bertie said as he crinkled his nose and did not appear impressed.
All the while, Auntie Joanna had been thoughtful as she gazed down through the decorative mesh metal floor below.
‘What else is down there?’ she asked. Something about the levels below her gave her ‘budgies’. The feeling of budgies feels like a small bird landing on your shoulder and flapping its wings. The sensation tickles your neck. That tickle and draft makes your shoulders rise and gives a strange feeling that just doesn’t feel right.
‘The tunnels, to the warren,’ Bertie replied with a pause.
‘Are those trapdoors?’ Auntie Joanna asked with an expression of curiosity. She then crouched down for a closer look.
Tingle glanced at Josh. ‘Trapdoors?’ she asked.
Bertie nodded, ‘Yes there are escape routes which can be ways in and ways out,’ he replied.
There was a silence among the group… Something about what he said rang alarm bells but strangely made sense. Auntie Joanna traced her fingers around the edge of the trapdoor and noticed a metal hoop embedded in the door, which worked as a handle. She noticed there were small finger prints all around the edge of the hatch.
‘Do you mind if I open it?’ Auntie Joanna asked.
‘Not at all, but you do so at your own nostril peril,’ replied Mildred, who glanced at Bertie. He squinted, screwed up his nose and prepared his handkerchief.
Auntie Joanna adjusted her decorative scarf so that it covered her nose and gestured for the group to do the same. When they were all ready, with their noses covered, Auntie Joanna opened the door.
‘Pooooo!’ cried Josh a few seconds after the door opened.
A rancid stink rose into the room that resembled cheesy feet combined with a gassy swamp.
‘I can smell that horrid pong through my scarf,’ cried Tingle.
‘My eyes are watering…’ cried Josh. ‘Smells like really really rotten eggs, cheesy feet and wet dog. Horrid!’
John was silent. He just shook his head in disgust at the humongous hum filling the air.
The patter of little feet and in a flash a few creatures dashed along the corridor below.
‘Did you see them?’ cried Josh.
‘Yes … What were they?’ asked Tingle.
‘They were little and…’ Josh paused. ‘Were they Little Stinkers?’
Some different looking creatures darted in the other direction. They resembled miniature hippopotamus but with particularly large wobbly bottoms. It was then that the group noticed a cheeky looking creature sitting on the control panel next to the pump levers. The little creature was shaped like a see-through cloud, had big feet, long arms and big hands. Another squeezed through an opening in the grate and then used its large hands to swing across the roof.
‘Oh dear,’ said Mildred. ‘That would be a Wiley Wafter in the rafters.’ Mildred shook her head at the creature and waved her hand with a look of unease. ‘Now I have told you to keep away when we have visitors,’ she said pointing her finger at the one hanging from the ceiling. The Wafter grinned a mischievous grin and blew a huge raspberry. The next thing the group knew was a waft of rotten cabbage filled the area.
Tingle and Josh stared up at the creature. They would usually have stood with their mouths open wide, but this time they kept them firmly shut.
‘Keep an eye out for them. They love to waft nasty smells in your direction. They make loud raspberry sounds to alert you to the pending dastardly doom. You will also notice they can swing around and look like clouds. They can float in the air too if they want and they also have a tendency to giggle especially when you pull a face of shock!’ Mildred said with a flush of red rising up her throat like raspberry jam.
‘Erm Mildred, you talk to them like you know them,’ said Auntie Joanna with a tone of suspicion.
‘Ahhh erm… About that…’ said Bertie. He glanced at Mildred with a guilty expression. ‘We might have known about them a little while…’ he trailed off.
‘What is that over there?’ Tingle cried. A strange creature, which was hairy and ball shaped, bounced into the room. It rebounded off all the walls and spun in the air, landed and made a squelching noise. ‘Errrr yuck,’ said Tingle at the squelch sound. A few moments later the smell of rotting seaweed filled the air.
‘Pongy wongy!’ cried Josh waving his dinosaur. His dinosaur went floppy. ‘Even Dino doesn’t like it,’ said Josh studying his dinosaur, who looked like it had just passed out.
‘Erm…’ said John from behind his scarf… ‘Can these smells knock you out?’
Bertie and Mildred exchanged awkward glances. Tingle didn’t like it, she took Josh’s hand and moved towards the spiralling stairs. The pair glanced down at the floor below. There were bubbling cauldrons contained in glass tanks. Each cauldron had a liquid of a different colour rising up a glass tube.
‘What do you think they are?’ Tingle whispered to Josh. Josh crouched down and looked across at the ceiling on the lower floor. ‘Balloons. There are lots of balloons.’ He watched as numerous funny little creatures ran around the different cauldrons. ‘Funny creatures,’ he said pointing.
With a scream, Tingle jumped when a creature with a large nose and wings fluttered up behind her. The creature’s wings were like those of a bat and its head looked like a funny monkey. It had large innocent eyes and a huge nose with giant nostrils. As it flew the wings made a fluttering noise. For a while it hovered behind them.
‘That there is a hummer, they can hover, can be very sneaky and make reeky dirty-drain-like smells.’ Mildred appeared amused and pulled an expression that suggested it wasn’t a terribly nice experience.
Tingle studied the creature, its eyes were so pretty and it seemed so innocent and then… a gloomy grey cloud, which looked like unfolding mist, rose from its body… A smell of swamp combined with rotting rubbish wafted through the air.
‘Horrid!’ Josh cried.
The creature fluttered in the air looking innocent yet incredibly pleased with itself… A few creatures bounced across the far side of the room. They had strong legs like a kangaroo and a body and head like a baby elephant. They had thick deep purple skin and large flappy elephant ears.
‘That would be a Pongaroo. They bounce in, make a pong and then bound off leaving a stenchcident. There are also Ponggoos – who make a pong and leave a slime behind – that is a pongy-goo. Hence the name Ponggoo.’ Bertie said through his handkerchief. Although his eyes revealed he found them amusing.
‘How many types of Stinkers are there?’ Dianne asked through her scarf.
‘Just a few more,’ Bertie said… rummaging in his side bag. He glanced at Mildred who seemed to know what he was up to.
Tingle didn’t like it. The pair were plotting and acting strangely. ‘Do the Little Stinkers hurt people?’ she asked.
‘No… they don’t physically hurt people. Instead they make horrifying smells which can cause people to pass out when they get overwhelmed by the stink,’ Mildred said with a mysterious look in her eyes.
Tingle glanced at Josh; she looked straight at him and tried to show him what she was thinking. He kind of knew and used his dinosaur to point to where he thought she was suggesting.
Some tiny little paws appeared on the railings. They were cutest little creatures, with hair that drifted in all directions. Their hair reminded Tingle of when a balloon was rubbed and there was static or when someone with long hair was floating under water. The creatures were blue with their whole body covered in floaty hair. Their eyes were huge and their noses were small. The cluster of blue fluffs also had small mouths which looked like they were blowing kisses. They silently climbed up onto the railings and appeared to be up to something.
‘Long tails,’ said Josh noticing they had tails longer than cat tails.
‘So what are they called?’ asked Tingle.
‘Reeky Cheekies,’ Bertie said. ‘Don’t be misled by their appearance of being sweet. They can lull you into a false sense of security and then whack you with a tremendous whiff!’
‘Oh,’ said Tingle with a frown.
‘What’s more, they create smells when you least expect it and in the most unexpected ways,’ Bertie said gazing at one particular Reeky Cheeky.
Tingle stepped forwards and gazed at them. She liked them because they were so sweet. She had expected Little Stinkers to be horrid or dirty looking, and none of the creatures she had seen looked like that. Most were cute and you would never believe they would make such an awful stink.
The group of Reeky Cheekies formed a line and all gazed back at the group and blinked innocently. The first one made a deep noise from the depths of its stomach. It shook for a moment like it was standing on a wobbly floor. A moment later its eyes looked shocked and it shot up into the air like a rocket. The next Reeky Cheeky did the same thing. All along the line they blasted off – it was a Reeky Cheeky rocket launch display. After each blasted into the air a catastrophe of stink was left behind them. When they slowly descended back to the railing they spun, gently landed and then bowed triumphantly.
‘That is sooooo….’ said John trailing off. He didn’t finish what he was saying because another creature had just arrived.
‘Cheeky…’ said Dianne turning to see what John was looking very confused by.
‘Ah and now we have the Tangy Twerpin,’ Mildred said ushering the next creature into the ‘arena’.
The Tangy Twerpin creature rolled in like a ball and unfolded like an armadillo. The creature had lots of armour covering it like the scales of an armadillo. It too was very sweet looking and when it uncurled to stand on all fours the group noticed it had a trunk.
‘It looks like an armadillo but with a long trunk,’ said Dianne with a tone of surprise.
‘It can smell round corners,’ said Bertie, as though he was proud of it. ‘These ones are sent in as reconnaissance. They check the area for smell potential. They generally like closed spaces that haven’t got much ventilation.’
‘Ah… like lifts or elevators…’ said Tingle thoughtfully.
‘And offices,’ said John wondering whether any of these creatures had visited his office lately.
‘Ohhhh what is it doing with its eyes?’ asked Josh.
The creature’s eyes rose up on stalks and followed the trunk around the corner.
‘Well there is no use being able to smell round corners if you can’t see round them too. Also, watch what Terrence can do.’ Mildred said with a grin.
Tingle shot Josh a look, Terrence, the Tangy Twerpin, had a name and both Mildred and Bertie knew it?
Terrence rolled into a ball and revolved over and over to a corner. Its trunk went around the bend along with its eyes on stems.
There was a moment of silence amongst the group. A series of small pellets rolled out from underneath Terrence. After a few seconds they began to shake until they opened into flowers and discharged a rancid smell that could be described as gorilla morning breath. Tingle glanced at her auntie who appeared rather uncomfortable with all the creatures arriving. What made it worse was the speed they had arrived. In fact Auntie Joanna seemed to be looking for a way out and had frozen when she noticed something.
‘Is that all of them?’ Tingle asked.
Mildred and Bertie glanced at each other. ‘Oh no… there are still quite a few more.’
Auntie Joanna looked at Tingle and Josh in a certain way. She nodded a couple of times towards the stairs. Tingle glanced at the stairs and took Josh’s hand. Josh looked at Tingle and then to Auntie Joanna. He had a weird feeling in his stomach. Auntie Joanna turned in such a way that Mildred and Bertie could not see. She then showed Josh and Tingle a note she had written. It said SNEAK AWAY WHEN I SIGNAL.
Tingle whispered what it said to Josh to make sure he knew what to do. The pair watched their auntie and prepared to run when the time was right. The problem was that all the Little Stinkers had surrounded the room. Something bad was about to happen!
Illustrations by Robin Dry – Thank you!!!