ONCE there were 4 children whose names were Ed, Suse, Pete and Luce. Ed and Pete were naughty but adventurous little brats. Luce and Suse were pretty little girls who seemed to be too goody-two-shoes for Ed's and Pete's taste. They were siblings, actually, and they belong to the family of Pantsies.

This is a story about them being transferred from the Maximum Security Juvenile Prison to their uncle Hickory Dickory Dock's mansion in London during World War III. Uncle Hickory was actually a nice old chap but the 4 evil kids thought he was an old fool to have accepted them into his embraces. They were orphans, by the way, quintuplets who were born on the same day at different times. They had caused such immense labour pains in their mother; she died giving birth to the youngest, Luce. Their father dropped dead in shock on the spot. That was the unfortunate story of how they came to be the Pantsie Orphans instead of the Pantsie Children.

Anyhow, Uncle Hickory was glad that Christmas Eve morning to receive the 4 Pantsie Orphans whom he planned to make his own. It had been half a century since he's had any children of his own. That was because he'd been very upset when his wife died of Mastication Complications (choked to death) 50 years ago, and he became a loner ever since.

When they first saw him, they almost died laughing on the spot because of how funny his appearance was. This made him extremely sad that he slammed the door shut and ran off to his bedroom to cry. He wailed and wailed till the entire empty mansion was echoing his wailing voice. His servants (who're not really important in this story) consoled him, and then he finally let them in with a teary smile as if none of that had happened at all. This time the Pantsies were polite enough to put on a half-serious half- smiling face in an attempt to be as neutral as possible, while showing that they were also glad to meet him.

When they were finally brought to their bedrooms, Luce in particular was more curious about the huge mansion than the rest of the Orphans. In her room, there was a small cupboard with a mirror on top of it with 7 wide drawers where you could put 7 kinds of things into it, categorised according to colour, shape, size, et cetera. They were all locked but there was a key on top of the cupboard, meant for her to open them and use them.

Stupidly thinking that this must be a game, and it could be fun, she decided to unlock and open the drawers one by one, from the bottom up. So she opened the first drawer, and found nothing. In the second drawer, she found some dust. In the third drawer, she found some grass and some soil. In the fourth drawer, she saw - gasp! - ants, cute beetles and grasshoppers. In the fifth drawer, she found a pistol, a handkerchief and a tiny bottle of cologne. Her eyes gleamed and she pocketed the items.

Luce: “This is now my room, anyway.”

In the sixth drawer, she found a piece of paper with a curious message written on it that reads, “DO NOT OPEN THE 7TH DRAWER IF YOU DO NOT KNOW THE MAGIC PASSWORD!”

She giggled, thinking it was some sort of lame joke Uncle Hickory would set them up to. Instinctively, she started to sing a song.

Luce: “Na-Na-Na-Na-Na! Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na! Na- Na-Na-Na-Na-Na-Na!”

She inserted the key into the last drawer (the same key opens all the drawers), and pulled it out.

And the most amazing thing happened.

Snow blew onto her face, and a dried leaf flew out of the drawer as if blown by a strong wind inside the drawer. Her eyes widened in disbelief. She put her arm inside and tried to feel what's in the drawer. She found that she could go in very deep as if the drawer was bigger than it seemed on the outside. When she withdrew her arm, she was grabbing hold of a dead skunk, probably frozen to death. The stench repelled her and she threw it out of the window.

Pete: “Ouch!!!”

Ed: “Argh!!!”

Ed had a phobia of dead animals. Especially stiff ones.

Suse: “Heeheehahahoohoo!!!”

Suse was laughing hysterically at the antics of her two brothers. Then –

Suse: “Yikes!”

- as Pete threw the dead skunk at her face.

Ignoring them, Luce decided to place her whole body in. She would enter this place in the drawer and find out what it is actually. She climbed atop the cupboard, carefully balancing herself, and pulling the drawer out further, she plunged into the mysterious snowy depths.

All the while, as she continued to fall, which took about 7 seconds, to entertain herself and also to make her feel less afraid, she continued singing the “Na-Na” song.

After 7 seconds, she landed on her bottom with a muffled thud. She had landed on snow. When she got up, she saw a traffic light standing in the middle of a snowy forest. Then, a funny creature walked past her.

It had the head of a boy, the ears of a bunny rabbit, the body of a chicken and the tail of a large snake. It was both terrifying and hilarious to Luce actually. She shrieked in terror, then laughed, then tried to do both at the same time. Then she frowned.

Manbunkensnake: “Goodness gracious me!”

Luce: “Hullo, boy!”

She was stifling a rather nasty laughter that was just begging to get out.

Manbunkensnake: “Hullo, girl!”

The manbunkensnake looked at her with curious eyes of innocent infatuation. He had never seen a human girl before, and he thought Luce was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.

To tell you the truth, and I should have mentioned this earlier – sorry – Luce was so ugly according to normal people’s standards that the daughter of a marriage between a female ape and a male hippopotamus – if it was ever possible, perhaps in this day and age of genetic engineering, which I truly frown upon – would look much prettier in comparison.

Of course, that was just an exaggeration.

Luce: “What are you? What is your name?”

She too looked at him with a sense of naïve wonderment for she – like many other normal people in usually normal circumstances – had never looked upon a manbunkensnake before in her entire life. The manbunkensnake was to her both beautiful and scary- looking. It went against every notion that she had about imagining impossible things or freaks of nature that it was beautiful in an inexplicable way.

Manbunkensnake: “I am a manbunkensnake!”

As if it was not obvious enough to him.

Dumbus the Manbunkensnake: “My name is Dumbus – the manbunkensnake!”

Luce: “Hello, Dumbus! My name is Luce. I am a human being. Of the female gender, to be exact, but still of a pre-pubescent age.”

Dumbus: “Oh, excellent!”

As if he understood what she just told him.

Dumbus: “Congratulations on your female humanity and pre-pubescence!”

Luce blushed. Nobody had ever pointed that out to her before as if it was something to be congratulated about. Dumbus flapped his crude chicken wings in delight and made S’s all about the snow.

Dumbus: “Ah… Let me take you home where we can have a nice chat over a cup of the finest manbunkensnake tea!”

Luce: “I’d be delighted!”

So the young lady tucked her little arm beneath the little manbunkensnake’s wing and off they went to the House of Dumbus, which was not too far from the Traffic Light in the Middle of the Snowy Forest.

After a brief walk in the snow, they finally arrived at the House of Dumbus the manbunkensnake. Dumbus lived alone, by himself, with no wife, children, parents nor family with him. His best friend so far had been himself, and his only company was himself. Until now.

The house was cosy and warm inside, much to Luce’s delight. She sat herself on a comfortably bouncy cushion- sofa without being asked to make herself at home. It only gladdened Dumbus more. He loved seeing people making themselves feel completely comfortable in his home.

Dumbus: “Can I get you anything from the snowy forest, Luce?”

He boiled his promised and much-hyped-about Finest Manbunkensnake Tea in a brittle kettle made of caked mud.

Dumbus: “A skunk, perhaps? Or would you prefer snakebunny? Chicken soda? Fried tree bark?”

Luce’s eyes went round and round at the mention of those weird names.

Luce: “No, thank you!”

She looked at the pictures on the walls and around the fireplace. They looked like pictures of his manbunkensnake family, but Dumbus had already mentioned that he had no family.

Upon closer observation, Luce found that the pictures were, in fact, not of other manbunkensnakes or womanbunkensnakes at all, but rather collages of pictures of men (or women), rabbits, chickens and snakes made by the state-of-the-art Adumbe Photo-Edit 0.1 software.

Luce didn’t know that the enchanted land of Nana – as it was called by Dumbus – had state-of-the-art image editing software. She doubted there were computers in this place at all but Dumbus reminded her of the pure and simple fact that things aren’t always what they seem, the prime example being himself.

By the time the Finest Manbunkensnake Tea was ready, and it was as hot as the sun, mind you, Luce had managed to convince herself that Dumbus was the last surviving manbunkensnake in Nana. Then their conversations drifted to tales, myths and legends of ancient Nana.

They talked of the exploits of the vampire-fairies, the triumphs of the elf-ogres and the Golden Age of the Silver- Surfers.

They revelled in Dumbus’ recounting of the entire cosmological and political history of Nana from its genesis during the event known as the Big Bada-Boom when Asslan the Great Llama, Son of the Emperor Who Tumbled Over The Sea As If The Earth Is Flat, sneezed so greatly that the universe tore itself out of a tiny speck of His Great Mucus, to the Coming of the Daughter of Adam and Son of Hawa who defeated the evil Grey Gypsy of Nana and the subsequent vengeance and return of the Grey Gypsy’s reign of snowy terror upon the kingdom of Nana.

Apparently, this was all recounted just to give Luce a sense of historical depth and epic scope, but it confused her so much she had to ask a lot of questions at many points during the telling. This irritated Dumbus not one bit.

Suddenly, Dumbus began to laugh. He laughed an evil, hysterical laugh. He laughed as if there were no tomorrow to laugh, as if there were no day after tomorrow to laugh.

Luce: “Why are you laughing, Dumbus?”

This only seemed to make Dumbus laugh even harder; his face grew red, his chicken wings shrunk and his snake’s tail wiggled so much it created a typhoon at its back.

Luce: “My, my, Mr Dumbus! You should be ashamed of yourself laughing like that! What could possibly be so funny?”

Dumbus: “Oh, ha-ha! Oh, I’m sorry, ha-ha! Miss Luce! Ha-ha-ha! I just can’t help it!”

Now tears began to form in his man eyes. It stung him because the tears were that of a human, rabbit, chicken and a venomous snake combined. Serves him right for being a manbunkensnake.

Luce: “You can’t help what?”

Her cute little face scowled. Her hair seemed to stand and the air around her bristled with electric anger energy. Luce hated most of all hearing laughter and not knowing what was being laughed about or laughed at, for fear she was the one who was being laughed about or laughed at.

Dumbus: “I’m laughing at the evilness of my own plan! Ha-ha! Yoo-hoo! Woo-hoo! Hee! Hmm! Sigh…”

Luce: “What plan? What evilness?”

Dumbus: “You see, I am under the payroll of the Grey Gypsy herself, who is now Empress of Nana, FYI, to be on the look out for any Daughter of Adam unexpectedly turning up in the very snowy muddy soil of Nana.”

Luce: “But why would you reveal your evil plot now?”

Dumbus: “That’s the whole idea! That’s why I’m laughing! The plan is so stupid, coming from a Gypsy! While I am executing it right now as we are having this conversation over an innocent cup of tea, I am also contemplating not executing it. I’m having doubts because of the stupidity of this idea.”

Luce: “You’re a sad, sorry little manbunkensnake…”

Dumbus: “That’s why I’m suggesting that you, Miss Luce, leave my house now before I change my mind and hand you over to the Grey Gypsy.”

Luce: “But why would you want to do that?”

Dumbus: “Because she promised to marry me if I’d hand you and another Daughter of Adam as well as 2 more Sons of Hawa over to her, and that naturally comes along with the insurance. If I kill her, I’d be entitled to the entire snowy forest of Nana and all its inhabitants and I can make as much Finest Manbunkensnake Tea as I want every day.”

Luce was angry. She was furious. She was mad. She remembered those items she kept in her skirt pocket, those things she had taken from the drawer. She pulled out the pistol and aimed it at Dumbus.

Luce: “Well, I’m not going to let you!”

Dumbus: “What’s that?”

Dumbus had never seen a pistol before.

Luce: “It’s a pistol. If I press this little curved thing sticking out here, a big bada-boom is going to instantly make a big messy hole on your head with red stuff all over it.”

Dumbus: “Interesting!”

Dumbus was suddenly back to his originally innocent, naïve, dumb self.

Dumbus: “Can I have one? Please? Please? Pretty, pretty please? A please as pretty as you are? Please? Hmm? Hmm? Hmm?”

Luce: “Oh well, alright. Just put this tunnel thingy in your mouth and try not to swallow it. Put your tongue inside the hole. You’ll find that it tastes nice, resembling the fried tree bark in the snowy forest, only a little bitter.”

Dumbus did exactly that and Luce pulled the trigger.

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