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Authors: Alan MacDonald

Euuuugh! Eyeball Stew!

BOOK: Euuuugh! Eyeball Stew!
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Illustrations by Mark Beech

Long, long ago . . .

Really ages ago. The world was a wild and barren place. There were no houses or shops, no schools or teachers, no cars, flushing toilets or peanut-butter sandwiches. So many things didn't exist that to write them all down would fill every page of this book and leave no room for the story.

If you want to imagine how the world was, imagine an endless landscape of mountains, forests, rocks and stones. In fact, stones lay everywhere, because this was . . .

In the forests lived savage beasts – bears, snaggle-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths, which looked like elephants badly in need of a haircut. People generally avoided the forests. They lived together in tribes because it was safer that way and easier on the cooking. One such tribe was the Urks.

The Urks were a warlike race with bushy beards and hairy legs – especially some of the women. Their clothes were made of animal skins and they lived in caves high on a hill, overlooking the Valley of Urk and the river winding through it. In one of these caves lived a boy called Iggy. He wasn't the tallest or the hairiest in his tribe, but what he did have was imagination, and this got him into a whole heap of trouble. That of course is another story . . . Luckily it's the story that's about to begin . . .

Chapter 1

Never Look a Rhino in the Eye

S
omething was definitely happening. All over the hill the Urks were emerging from their caves and hurrying down the slope towards the forest. Iggy caught sight of his best friend, Hubba, among the crowd.

‘What's going on?' he called.

‘Rhino!' shouted Hubba excitedly. ‘Snark's seen tracks in the forest!'

Iggy didn't need to hear any more; he plunged back into the cave to collect his weapons. If there was going to be a rhino hunt, he didn't want to miss it. He had never actually seen a woolly rhinoceros, though of course he knew all about them. He knew they were fearsome beasts with sharp horns and tempers shorter than Hubba's legs. He knew too that if an angry rhino charged you had better not get in its way.

It was typical that it was Snark who'd spotted the tracks. Snark never tired of telling Iggy that (in his opinion) he was the best hunter in the tribe. But this was Iggy's chance to prove him wrong. He had something that Snark didn't. Slung over his shoulder, he carried the long curved stick that was his latest invention. So far there hadn't been a real chance to try it out, but he was pretty certain it would prove deadly.

When he caught up with the rest of the hunting party they were moving swiftly and silently through the forest. All the best hunters in the tribe were there including Iggy's dad, Snark, Borg and even Hammerhead himself. The grizzled old chief rarely hunted these days but even he couldn't resist the prospect of tracking a woolly rhino.

‘Where's your spear?' whispered Dad.

‘Oh, I left it at home. I've got this,' said Iggy, unhooking the stick from his shoulder.

‘What the Urk's that?'

‘A boo, I made it. It makes a kind of
boo!
noise when you shoot these arrow things.'

He handed his dad one of the flint-tipped arrows he'd spent hours making. Dad grunted.

‘What's wrong with a spear?'

‘Nothing, but these are better,' said Iggy. ‘I've been practising. I can hit a tree nine times out of ten.'

‘We're not hunting trees, boy.'

‘I know, but this will work. I know it will.'

‘Humph!' said Dad. ‘Just don't go pointing her at anyone.' He walked away, shaking his head and muttering under his breath.

Iggy sighed. His last idea had been the jawbone clatterpult – which even he had to admit was not a total success.

It was brilliant if you were hunting, say, a toad or a lizard, but not much use if you were faced with a stampeding mammoth. Nevertheless it had given him the idea for something better. If you could shoot stones, he reasoned, then why not other things like little spears? It had taken weeks of work and patience but finally he had perfected the boo and arrow. He tested the boo string for the hundredth time. It was made from animal gut and made a satisfying
twang
when you let it go. He imagined taking aim at a huge woolly rhino as it came bursting through the trees. Maybe today would be the day?

Hammerhead and the others were squatting down, studying something in the mud.

‘Fresh tracks. It come this way,' said Dad, tracing the outline of some large footprints.

‘Rhino?' asked Hammerhead.

‘Well, it's not a rabbit. What you want us to do, Chief?'

Hammerhead scratched his beard. The truth was he didn't really have any kind of plan. He was hoping they would run into the rhino and kill it, preferably without having to get too close.

‘We're wasting us time, we should drive her to the Crags,' said Borg impatiently.

Hammerhead stood up and gave him an icy stare.

‘Where's your whalebone necklace?' he asked.

‘Uh? I doesn't have one,' replied Borg.

‘But I has; that's why I'm Chief,' said Hammerhead. ‘We do as I say, right?'

Borg nodded sulkily.

‘So what are we doing, Chief?' repeated Iggy's dad.

Hammerhead considered, glancing up at the grey sky.

‘We'll drive her to the Crags.'

Mammoth Crags lay beyond the forest – a tall dome of brown rock rising above a valley. It was a favourite hunting ploy of the Urks to climb the Crags and lie in wait. When the rhino passed by they would launch their attack, raining down rocks and spears from above. It was simple but effective, with the added advantage that no one got killed (apart from the rhino). The only downside of the plan was that someone had to drive the beast out of the forest and towards the Crags. Iggy wondered which poor fool the Chief was going to pick.

One hour later he was tramping through the forest, beating the undergrowth with a stick. His arm ached and he was sweating. So far the only beast he and Hubba had flushed out was a startled frog. Iggy had come on the hunt hoping to impress everyone with his new invention, but this way they wouldn't even take part in the kill. He waded through cold muddy water, cutting with his stick at a clump of tall reeds. Suddenly he was startled by something that leapt out. He caught a glimpse of red hair and wide, frightened eyes. A girl. The next moment she was off, scrabbling up the bank and crashing through the trees.

‘HEY, WAIT!'
yelled Iggy. He signalled to Hubba and the two of them gave chase.

They plunged through the forest, dropping their sticks and weaving through the trees. Iggy forgot all about the woolly rhino – all he could think about was catching up with the girl. He lost sight of her, then saw a flash of red hair up ahead.

Finally they emerged from the trees and stood panting for breath. They had reached the dusty valley where the river had dried up. Just ahead were Mammoth Crags, the dark rocks rising to a dizzy height. Iggy could see the hunting party crouched on top, making a hopeless attempt to keep out of sight. Just short of the Crags he caught sight of the red-haired girl. She was standing perfectly still, gazing at something to her left. Iggy turned his head and saw it: a huge male rhino, shaggy and brown, moody as an ogre with toothache. The girl gazed spellbound at the rhino and it looked right back. Iggy tried to remember what you should do in this kind of situation. He was pretty sure it wasn't challenge the rhino to a staring match.

Woolly Rhinoceros

Size: Huge. Up to 3.5 metres long

Weight: 4 tonnes (as heavy as 50 Urks)

Diet: Mosses, herbs, low-growing plants

Features: Long fur, thick legs, short temper

Weapons: Pair of wickedly sharp horns

Speed: Up to 30 miles an hour on the charge

Things NOT TO do if a rhino charges:

a) Turn your back

b) Do your hilarious rhino impression

c) Shout ‘Hey, big nose! Can't catch me!'

The rhinoceros tossed back its head and stirred the dust with one of its massive feet.

‘It's going to charge,' whispered Hubba.

Iggy nodded. ‘Why doesn't she run?'

‘Maybe she's too tired.'

Iggy couldn't bear to watch any longer.

‘RUN!' he shouted.
‘RUN!'

The red-haired girl didn't seem to hear – either that or she was frozen with terror. Iggy quickly unhooked the boo from his shoulder and took aim with one of his arrows. He hesitated. The rhino's hide was tough as armour. One arrow might not be enough to bring it down and there would be no time to shoot a second. He couldn't risk it. There was only one chance and that was to reach the girl before it was too late.

The rhino lowered its head, snorted and lumbered forward. Iggy didn't stop to think. He set off, running fast across the stony ground.

‘Iggy, no!' cried Hubba.

The girl turned her head towards him, her eyes wide and frightened. The ground shook like an earth tremor as the rhino gained speed, pounding towards her. The curved horn on its snout was aimed at her ribs, ready to toss her high into the air. Iggy didn't know if he would make it. At the last moment he threw himself through the air on top of the girl. They hit the ground with a thud. A second later the rhino thundered past in a storm of dust, so close that Iggy could have counted its horny toenails.

He sat up and looked around, still shaking. The red-haired girl coughed and spat out a mouthful of dirt. Luckily for them woolly rhinos have short memories and brains the size of a sultana. This one had already forgotten them and was chewing on a straggly plant underneath the brown cliffs.

‘NOW!' yelled a voice. Iggy looked up in time to see a giant boulder come hurtling down.

KADUUUUUUNK!

It landed just short of the rhino, shattering into a million pieces. The creature turned its head and grunted as if this kind of thing happened all the time. It ambled lazily back towards the forest.

Iggy looked up at the faces peering over the rocks.

‘Huh!' said Hammerhead. ‘Told you it'd never work!'

BOOK: Euuuugh! Eyeball Stew!
10.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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