The Snuffs

This story was written immediately after The Snuffs in the summer of 1991. It didn't take much for me to make the connection that I could include both Poppy Streeters and Snuffs in the same story, though of course some bizarre form of magic always had to be involved. This mixture of the two was to occur frequently in my continuing quest for violent situations.
Copyright © Harold Reynolds, 1998.

As the Snuffs were to find out, there were other races of beings on the island aside from them. Snuffs are little blue creatures, three apples tall, who live in a forest village so well hidden that only the Snuffs know where it is. Gargamel, a tall, thin, balding and evil wizard and his cat Asriel lived close by in a run-down house with a three-story turret on the left-hand side. They were always trying to catch the Snuffs alive for food or "experiments", but never had much luck. The clone machine that dominated the area regenerated anybody, themselves included, who died by violence.

But in another part of the forest, there was another race of beings who called themselves "Shorties". They were a militant gang of females whose purpose it was to capture and ravish the Purple Pieman, Huckleberry Pie and Banana Split, the only men. The men were not overjoyed by the constant demand, not being able to get a decent night's sleep, and had holed up in an indestructible fort. The most notable characteristic of the Shorties was their body odours, which smelled like their names. Nobody except outsiders noticed. Neither the Snuffs nor the Shorties knew of the other's existence, save for Papa Snuff, who knew all sorts of things he shouldn't, but had forgotten for the time being.

First contact was initiated by the Purple Pieman and friends when they decided to move to another location. A stronghold was quickly and secretly built in the Snuffs' section of the forest and they moved in just after a Shortie attack was repulsed. Strawberry Shortcake, the leader, launched another attack a week later, but found nobody home. She said:

"That's odd! My whoopee-man is gone! He's moved away from me, but I'll find him! Nobody can hide from Strawberry Shortcake!"

Meanwhile, Gargamel was sitting in his house trying to think of another way to catch the Snuffs.

"ARGH! I hate those rotten, do-gooder Snuffs and their clone machines! I must find a way to catch them all alive!" he said to Asriel, pacing back and forth. His eyes fell on a map of Poppy Street and he had an idea. The wizard rushed to his self-updating geography books and looked under "Poppy Street City". He himself had had to leave there in haste several years ago because of a botched fireworks display that had killed 6000 people. He read:

"The people of this city are very warlike, but fight against themselves only. Their leader-for-life is Bob, with Susan as his aide and Gordon and Mr Hooper as hangers-on. The Muppets are the other half of the population and resent Bob's refusal to let them co-rule the city, so they try to overthrow him every few days. Battles are fierce, bloody, short and very destructive. Events are recorded by automated TV cameras for reasons unknown."

"Ha! I'll bring Poppy Street to Snuffland and see what happens!" cackled Gargamel. "If they don't destroy them, which is unlikely anyway, I'll at least have fun watching them get killed!"

In the Snuff village, Papa Snuff had just asked Grouchy, Brainy, Hefty and Handy to go pick Snuffberries for the village. The four obediently marched into the forest with big baskets, singing the Snuff song. Suddenly, they heard running feet.

"Mind if I join you?" asked Harmony, catching up to them.

"Only if you don't play your trumpet," replied Hefty.

"I hate trumpets!" added Grouchy cheerfully.

"Okay," agreed Harmony. The five reached a Snuffberry patch and found Greedy stuffing his face, oinking happily.

"Stop that, Greedy!" admonished Brainy. "You know what Papa Snuff says about Snuffs who eat too much! All the berries you can eat in an hour could feed three Snuffs for two days! And another thing..." Brainy was cut off in mid-criticism when Handy pitched him into a bush. "Hey!" he continued, "I can see a house from here! I can't recall seeing it before!" The others crowded behind the bush and saw it too.

"Let's take a look at it," said Greedy. Five minutes later, they arrived. Harmony wondered:

"That's odd! I wonder who those booby-traps were for? Surely Gargamel couldn't have started up again!"

"I hate booby-traps!" stated Grouchy. Brainy knocked.

"Who's there?" quavered a muffled voice.

"Somebody wanting to know who you are," said Hefty. The door opened a crack and the Purple Pieman peeked out.

"I'm the Purple Pieman. Who are you?"

"We're Snuffs. What are you doing here?"

"I and my friends are hiding from the horrible Strawberry Shortcake, her pals and Sour Grapes, the unpleasant sorceress who guides them all. They want our bodies! You aren't safe here because I'm sure Strawberry will attack soon. Sour Grapes leads from the rear, you see." Just then, a far-off booby-trap exploded. "That's them! Come inside!" In they went and Purple Pieman closed and locked the six-foot-thick door. Just before this, Strawberry Shortcake and her army were marching through the forest. They came across Lazy, Vanity and Dreamy loafing by a stream and immediately opened fire, but the Snuffs got away unhurt. They then ran across a pair of booby-traps, indicating the presence of the Purple Pieman. They found the house/fort ten minutes and twenty Shorties later and set up positions 200 yards away.

"FIRE!" squealed Strawberry. Everything from pistols to bazookas opened up, hitting the fort but doing little damage. The target returned fire and the Shortie casualties rose. "Why are we getting such heavy casualties?" demanded the Shortcake of her lieutenant Lemon Meringue. "Purple Pieman, Huckleberry Pie and Banana Split were never such good shots before!" The reason was that the Snuffs were manning guns as well. Before the arrival of Papa Snuff and Gargamel, the Snuffs had fought a nasty civil war that had trained them to be crack shots with almost every kind of weapon imaginable. When Papa arrived, the war ended, but they still practised whenever they could.

The commander sent a small detachment of troops led by Orange Blossom to sneak behind the fort and attack, to divert strength, but they were destroyed almost immediately by 3-inch recoilless rifle fire. The Orange Blossom clone walked back and reported:

"I believe that there others in the fort with our men. I saw a blue creature, like the ones we found earlier, manning one of the guns. It was about our size and had a white cap." Strawberry decided to call in her tank squad, while continuing the hail of explosives that churned up the earth and Shorties and devastated everything except the fort itself.

Meanwhile, in the Snuff village, Papa Snuff was searched out.

"Papa Snuff! Papa Snuff!" yelled Dreamy, Lazy and Vanity.

"Yes?" he sighed, opening the door. The Snuffs related their story about going to look for the missing Snuffs, stopping by a stream for a "little rest" and being attacked by an army of smelly female creatures that shot at them. "Shorties!" exclaimed Papa, horrified, remembering the tales about what they did to men. "We must not let them catch our Snuffs and find out that we're male! We'd never sleep again! Look!" They looked and saw a black cloud of smoke to the southwest. "There they are! Everybody arm themselves! Bring some for the missing Snuffs! Let's go!" The Snuffs scattered, save for Lazy, who had fallen asleep. "GET UP!" roared Papa. Lazy jumped and ran. In fifteen minutes, they were all assembled. "March!" said Papa from the rear. Off they went, dragging mortars behind them.

Meanwhile, Gargamel was up to his usual no good. He was making a super spell, one which would bring the whole of Poppy Street to the forest and put the forest, without Snuffs, where the city was. This was very complicated, but he didn't care.

On their way to the battlefield, the army ran across Greedy, who had been sent back to tell the village what was happening and was having a snack. He told his story and joined them. After half an hour, the battlefield could be seen, heard and smelled. The Snuffs attacked from behind, emerging right from the forest, and massacred the Shorties before they knew what had hit them. The clones hastily retreated. As the smoke cleared, the Purple Pieman and the others came out to meet them.

"You must be the Purple Pieman," said Papa to the Pieman. "Thank you for taking care of my wayward Snuffs."

"It was nothing," he replied. "But where did you learn to shoot like that? You're the best shots I've seen yet." Before Papa could answer, there was a rumbling crash and a tree fell down.

"Bigmouth hungry! Want goodies!" announced a big ogre as he squelched onto the desolate field.

"Hey, Bigmouth!" said Brainy, "look over there! Lots of goodies for you!" He indicated a relatively intact minefield that had the mines showing. Bigmouth, rather lacking in the brains department, began eating them greedily.

"Bigmouth still hungrEEEE..." His sentence was cut off when his torso exploded, spraying bloody lumps of meat and gore everywhere. The stumps of his legs collapsed with a glitch. The blood-soaked Snuffs cheered wildly.

"Good thinking Brainy," said Harmony, "for once."

"Oh yeah? My thinking is better than your trumpet playing!"

"I hate tanks!" said Grouchy. A tank shell destroyed him messily. The Snuffs and the other three retreated to the fort, but it was too small for all of them, so half stayed outside with anti-tank weapons. The battalion of Shortie tanks, twenty-seven of them, ploughed through the underbrush, firing with every gun they had. Unfortunately for the Shorties, there had been so much blood lost in the previous battle that the ground had become an oozy reddish muck, in which the tanks quickly bogged down. The Snuffs and the fort were taking heavy damage from the armour-piercing shells, but one by one the tanks were blasted to scrap, nuts, bolts and rubber bands. Once more the Shorties beat a disorderly retreat to their village.

"AHA!" crowed Gargamel to Asriel. "Almost done! Now the fun begins!" Had he looked out his window, he would have seen enough fun to last a lifetime. "And now for the final moment! Hocuspocus abracadabra!" The forest suddenly shifted and became cityscape. "Unfortunately, the spell only lasts to sundown, which is at 9:00 pm. It is 11:00 am now, so there are 10 hours left. Hee hee hee!" He turned on his television sets and video recorders and watched.

The Snuffs, Shorties and the Pieman, Huck Pie and Banana Split were spellbound when the forest was replaced by a grimy, battered and depressing city. It was quiet at present, but Papa had a suspicion that it wouldn't be for long.

It seemed to be a normal day in Poppy Street City for Kermit the Frog, who started the day by leading his gang on a dawn raid on Susan's stronghold, which turned into a small battle. To compound this, a gang of "innocent" kids attacked Kermit, who were in turn assaulted by Bert's mob. So the battle turned into a small war, with blood and diced body parts running in the gutters. Finally Kermit and Bert retreated, leaving 300 dead people and Muppets behind them. The clone machines were running full tilt to replace the dead. The two and their goons were on their way to Ernie's Place for a rumble when they ran across 100 heavily-armed blue creatures their size. One with a white beard and red cap asked politely where they were.

"Yer in Poppy Street City, the roughest, meanest place in the world! If you don't believe me, look at that!" said Kermit. He pointed down the street, where two gangs of "innocent" kids were reducing each other to puddles of gore, smears on walls and miscellaneous pieces of internal organs.

"Ha! There you are at last!" came a feminine voice from behind. It was Strawberry Shortcake and friends. The Snuffs melted away to strongpoints and began shooting at them, while the Muppets made themselves scarce. During the battle, Vanity got squished by a collapsing ceiling and Dreamy was reduced to a pile of red glop after he was run over by a tank. Then Jokey, under a flag of truce, rushed up to Strawberry Shortcake and Raspberry Tart.

"Hey, look! I've got a present for each of you!" he giggled.

"Hey, he's a man!" slavered Raspberry, grabbing her "present" as Jokey retreated. "Maybe there are more of them!" The Shorties pulled the ribbons and were reduced to mincemeat when the boxes exploded. The spectators all laughed until the clones reappeared out of thin air, as they all do, and fighting recommenced. Suddenly there was a wild cackling. All whirled to see Bob and his gang rolling down the street in thirty armoured steamrollers.

All weapons were brought to bear on them and fired. Land mines were scattered in front, which helped cripple them. Then, Clumsy darted in front of one to plant a mine, but tripped and fell flat on his face. The roller ran over him, legs first. The bones crunched and all of his body fluids were forced up to his head, which expanded. Finally, swollen to the size of a large watermelon, his head exploded, splattering blood and brains all over. With the aid of grenade launchers and other goodies, most of the tanks were reduced to shards of metal and guck. The others were destroyed by Cookie Monster's tank division, which appeared from around a corner, which continued to carve up everything in sight. The Shortie tanks ground around another and began shooting.

The battle became more and more confused. It seemed that pretty well all the gangs had decided to try and take over the spot at the same time. The street sustained a rocket attack and then began receiving a steady shelling. The noise, the death and destruction and the gruesomeness were awesome. Clouds of dust, smoke and vaporized creatures reduced visibility at times to 20 feet. Papa Snuff convinced Purple Pieman and friends to call a truce with the Shorties.

"Strawberry," he said under a white flag and over the ruckus, "if you and your friends promise to keep your hands off Purple Pieman, Huck Pie, Banana Split and us, we will join you and help get rid of these turkeys!"

"It's a deal, handsome!" shouted Strawberry Shortcake as they dived for cover as machine-gun fire raked the area. "Too bad conditions are inclement now," she added, eyeing him. The word was spread around and the two groups now officially fought as one. They drove back the Poppy Streeters after ten minutes of vicious and intense fighting. Blood ran in rivers and one by one the plentiful storm sewers clogged up, creating ever-increasing lakes of clotting gore, with body parts floating placidly in them.

Suddenly, they were charged by a kamikaze horde of Streeters, who attacked from every direction. Most were gunned down, blown up or squished before they reached the lines, but many were not. The Snuffs and Shorties hauled out their machetes, swords and knives and began to hack away. Everything turned red. Snuffs, Shorties and Poppy Streeters (but by far the latter) were cut into gushing lumps. The streets and sidewalks became slippery and people kept falling down and occasionally getting skewered by sharp objects, with more blood and guck as a result.

By 12:30 pm, the attackers were finally driven off. 589 Poppy Streeters and 523 defenders had been killed in half an hour. Since the clone machines did not reclaim anything in a battle zone, this was why there was so much mess. Once the Snuff and Shortie army had collected all its members, it expanded. They had become the most powerful fighting force the City had ever seen. In desperation, at 2:00, the Poppy Streeters finally agreed to shelve their differences and unite. Big Bird and Snuffelopagus, dressed in armour plating and with two reversible 20-mm cannon, two bazookas and three machine-guns, appeared and attacked.

They looked like tanks on legs, but were more formidable because their armour easily resisted the explosives pumped at it. The others, led by Grover, launched another attack. Casualties mounted, but the Snuffs and Shorties held their ground. Then a grenade pitched by Lime Chiffon made a freak bounce and wedged itself under the legs of Snuffelopagus. It exploded, which set off the ammunition magazine. The armoured shell burst asunder and gore spurted everywhere. Big Bird prudently withdrew his legs and continued firing. The Streeters were driven back in a ferocious counter-attack, Big Bird getting butchered in the process.

"Yaargh!" snarled Gargamel. "Those despicable Snuffs! They're making mincemeat out of the Poppy Streeters! I must find something to destroy them with, Asriel!" Suddenly, there was a knocking at his front door. "Who is it?" he snarled.

"It's me, Sour Grapes!" came a feminine voice.

"Oh, no! However did she find me here?" he hissed. "I thought I'd killed her with the fireworks!" He opened a secret hatch in the floor, leaped in with Asriel and closed it behind him. Suddenly, they were back in the room with Sour Grapes. She was tall and had a really stunning figure that wowed everybody except Gargamel, whom she wanted. She advanced and he retreated.

"Oh, it's been too long since we last met!" she slavered, making a lunge, but missing. There was a sudden roar from the TV set as it recorded the destruction of a tank. "What was that?"

"That was something happening in the city, I guess," said Gargamel, putting a table between them. "I conjured Poppy Street City here to see if the residents could massacre those pesky Snuffs!" he said. "Unfortunately, it isn't working."

"I may have just the thing for you," said the sorceress, trying to get at him, but being unsuccessful. She snapped her fingers and two figures appeared. The one on the right was dressed like a clown, with huge, flat shoes, an orange, curly fright wig and a yellow costume with several large pockets in front. The other had a brown, curly beard, brown clothes with orange and yellow piping, a waist-length cape and a cheap-looking crown affixed to his head with hatpins. They glared at each other.

"Roland McDownal, the one on the right, and the Burper King," she introduced. "Okay you two, I have something new for you to fight over! Go get your men and come back fighting!" She snapped her fingers and they disappeared and snapped them again. The Burgermen and their full armies appeared in Poppy Street City.

The Poppy Streeters, Shorties and Snuffs were startled when Roland's army appeared out of the blue between them. Since all knew the ancient legend of the feud between Roland and the King, they opened fire at once and the Rolanders fled to a safe spot to dig in. After consulting, Papa Snuff and Strawberry Shortcake rushed under Papa's custom-made white flag to Bob, the leader-for-life-whether-you-like-it-or-not.

"I propose a truce," said Strawberry. "As you know, if Roland is here then Burper King can't be far off and Burper King plus Roland equals disaster. Once they're gone, we can fight each other again." Bob agreed without too much coercion. Suddenly, a Glopper landed between the two armies and exploded.

"Nose filters!" shouted Bob. The clone machine helpfully supplied them to all who needed them, and they were put on to filter out the stench. Big Mucks began falling too and the battle was on. The Snuffberry Streeters (as the group referred to themselves) evacuated the area as waves of killer Goblins charged the Burper King. The two Burgermen began fighting each other ferociously, completely ignoring those they were supposed to fight. After another conference, the Snuffs and Shorties were told to attack the Burper King, while the Poppy Streeters would tackle Roland, taking advantage of this. They split up and moved to positions behind their targets in areas of the city that hadn't yet been devastated. At 4:00 pm, they opened fire simultaneously. Since they had the element of surprise, half of their enemies were wiped out before they knew what had hit them. Red glop, body parts and heaps of pulsating organs blew around in clouds. Some of the Snuffs ran across a cloned stockpile of Gloppers and used them with destructive effect.

Apple Dumpling and Apricot sneaked up on a bunch of Goblins, who were firing burgers with modified mortars at some Snuffs. The Shorties started up their chain saws and proceeded to butcher them into little gory pieces. Their blood, which was greenish in colour, cascaded down to the street to mix with the blood already there and form a brownish sludge. The two then bashed in the heads of six more Goblins who attacked with the now-clogged chain saws. Apricot and Apple Dumpling then cooked the bodies into pies, meatballs, Goblin burgers and fries, with their microwave ovens brought specifically for that purpose. In a few minutes, the Goblin products were ready, cloned by the machine on command and distributed to the other Snuffberry Streeters.

At another predetermined time, the well spread-out members launched the most violent attack yet witnessed in Poppy Street. So many were killed so fast that streets became rivers of blood, heavily strewn with arms, legs, eyeballs, shattered heads and other miscellaneous bits of grossness. It was begun with a hail of Goblin products, which were much more successful than expected. Blueberry Muffin saw a Goblinball hit Mayor McCheese in the neck. There was a flash and bits of the target were found sticking to objects 100 feet away. Basic weapons, like slingshots and crossbows, were being used more and more because the clouds of blood, body parts and other unstable things were blocking the smaller guns, which would explode if fired when clogged.

The war became very confused after half an hour's fighting. Smoke and the constantly exploding bodies of Snuffs, Shorties, Poppy Streeters and Burgermen created a thick blanket of fog that reduced visibility to ten feet or less. Goggles with windshield wipers were needed to see. Positions and battle zones shifted so quickly that clones often appeared in enemy lines or an unfought-over zone. The erratic placement of clones by the machine didn't help one bit. The average life of any one person was two minutes.

Big armies were split up because of the above circumstances into smaller roving groups of twenty or less with a very high turnover rate. The slaughter of entire groups was not uncommon. For instance, Kermit and a band of twelve Snuffberry Streeters ran across Roland McDownal and 22 Goblins armed with mortars. With razor-sharp boomerangs, the latter carved the former into squirting heaps of flesh. For obvious reasons, no attempt was made to catch the weapons and they dismembered several Burper King men who had been sneaking up on them.

Stacks of fresh armaments and ammunition occasionally appeared out of nowhere and sat around until somebody found them. Suddenly, such a stack appeared between two mobs. Oscar the Grouch exploded a smoke bomb, though he didn't need to, and the two groups rushed for the much-needed weapons. The smoke added that much more confusion to the free-for-all, which included a couple of passerby groups of Snuffberry Streeters and Burgermen. When the smoke cleared, piles of bleeding corpses and corpses-to-be lay strewn all around and the weapons were gone. Grover, Gordon, Hefty, Banana Split and Raspberry Tart were the only ones left. They were hungry, so they ate some of the corpses.

Meanwhile, Gargamel, Asriel and Sour Grapes were watching the TV screens and not seeing very much.

"#**@@$$&%!!!" cursed Gargamel. "Surely they would have surrendered by now! Knowing them, they'll have probably defeated them or something." What he didn't know was that none of the groups would ever surrender or accept surrender by an opponent.

The way to completely disintegrate an army with cloning capacity, as all knew, was to kill its members all at once. They would be immediately dispersed over a wide area and thus ruin organization. When Papa Snuff remembered this, he made a determined effort and gathered the important Snuffberry Streeters in a half-blasted shopping mall. He explained it and they grinned.

"I hate plans!" chorused Oscar and Grouchy. Plans made, the group spread out to inform the others. It was 6:00 pm. At exactly 6:10, they ceased fire and hid. This puzzled Roland and the Burper King, who wondered just what was going on. The smoke and fog began to clear and soon it was gone. All the Burgermen's armies recloned to full strength within the minute and slowly gathered in the area where the most fighting had occurred and there was only rubble.

"What do you think has happened to them?" asked the Burper King, accurately pitching a burger at a fleeing Sir Shakealot.

"I don't know," replied Roland after the gory explosion had died away, scratching his head with a flurry of dandruff. "I feel that they're up to no good, though." Just then, the Snuffberry Streeters finished surrounding them.

"FIRE!" screeched Papa Snuff, Purple Pieman, Big Bird and Apricot, who squished Bunny Hopsalot in her enthusiasm.

"What was that?" demanded the Burper King, feeling the first stages of battle-withdrawal. Every single weapon that the 4500 or so Snuffberry Streeters was fired at the 3000 Burgermen within the next ten seconds, launching twenty tons of explosives, including burger and Goblin products. Each one exploded messily. It rained blood, body parts and pulsating organs over the entire city and remainder of the forest, including Gargamel's house, in a radius of seventeen miles for the next ten minutes. The entire Snuffberry Streeter contingent was soaked to the skin and often found extra parts of Burgerman anatomy sticking to them.

"So much for your ultimate weapons, Sour Grapes!" growled Gargamel. "Now what? There are only about two and a half hours left in the spell, I haven't the materials to do it again and even if I did I wouldn't! Agh!" The sorceress had been edging closer to him as he was speaking and leaped at him. He leaped backwards, but tripped over Asriel and fell on his back, with Sour Grapes landing on top, giving him a good look down her loose blouse.

"Why not go back to my place?" she steamed, tugging at his clothes. "We can do all sorts of things and forget about those horrid little Snuffs!" He struggled desperately and freed himself.

"No you don't!" he shrieked, running to a spell book. "Alakapow! Take her to the Snuffs right now!" he recited, waving the trampled cat in front of her. She abruptly vanished. The Snuffberry Streeters were startled by her sudden appearance, but quickly got over it and began pitching Goblin burgers at her until they were all used up and she was a mass of body parts oozing down to the shrinking river of gore that was the street. All in all, 4 913 652 Burgermen, 1 033 784 Poppy Streeters, 4 837 931 Shorties and 2 987 654 Snuffs had been killed that day, with 85% of the deaths being in the big battle in the city.

"We must go now," said Papa to the Poppy Streeters. "I think we have to pay a visit to Gargamel. He's doubtlessly the cause of it all, so he shall pay for it. The spell should end at sunset, as his usually do, so you shouldn't have to wait too long."

"I hate good-byes, but I hate Gargamel more!" said Grouchy. It took ten minutes for the handshaking to finish, and after that the Snuffs and the Shorties marched off, sloshing through the streets. In fifteen minutes, they were back in the forest and at Gargamel's house. Blueberry Muffin pushed open the door and was chopped cleanly in two by a guillotine blade. Her bodily fluids gushed out and shorted the electrified foyer, which blew up, destroying several more Snuffberries. But there were no more booby traps after that and there was also no Gargamel and no Asriel.

"He's not here!" exclaimed Banana Split. "The dirty rat and his cat have escaped!"

"With any luck, they won't be back," added Dreamy.

"Well, I guess this is where we part," said Papa to Strawberry Shortcake. The Purple Pieman wailed.

"Hey, what about us? Without you that wretched Strawberry Shortcake will be after us in no time! We need SOME protection!"

"I don't see what you're so upset about," said Painter Snuff. "They seem nice enough under the warlike skin." The Pieman whined.

" can't DO that!"

"Sure we can!" retorted Poet Snuff. "You were doing fine without us before and you'll keep on doing fine. It'll keep you on your toes!" Huckleberry Pie, who had been slowly sneaking away from Orange Blossom, turned and ran right into Roland McDownal. A blast of fetid burger breath fried him instantly.

"You again!" shouted the frustrated Orange Blossom. "Kill! Kill!" The Snuffs and Shorties melted into the forest and opened up, while Roland and his band of thirty-one seized Gargamel's house and returned fire. Half a bloody hour later, the building had been pounded to rubble and Roland's Goblins had to evacuate to a nearby large and strategic hill. The Snuffs and Shorties charged up it, only to get butchered halfway up the 400-foot slope. The hardened fighters grew madder and madder and the fighting became so vicious that several streams of red, green and brown sludge formed and radiated out into the forest.

It got so bad that a Snuff or Shortie would rush up the hill only to return seconds later as a flow of chopped up arms, legs, hands, brains, eyeballs and a gush of blood. The forest was obliterated in a radius of a mile around the hill and any fires started were soon put out by an exploding fighter. A suicidal Big Muck Policeman suddenly charged down the hill. Instantly, all machine-guns within range opened up. Bits and pieces of him were torn off, each squirting blood, and before he had gone three yards he had been carved into pieces the size of bottlecaps which flowed down the rest of the way to join a stream of Goblin gore.

Then, just as the Snuffs and Shorties had launched a veritible blizzard of bullets, rockets, grenades, burgers and shells to wipe out the enemy, Roland unwittingly helped them by indulging in one of his favourite, albeit unpleasant, habits. Standing at the summit of the hill, he suddenly touched his toes and farted loudly. A cloud of greenish-yellow gas appeared, hovered for a few seconds, and began rolling down the hill in all directions. Those few seconds were enough for the attackers to see its power. Everything within the cloud, Roland included, melted into a purple unstable slag that ran down the hill. Every so often, there would be an explosion and guck would fly everywhere.

The sludge advanced at the rate of the gas. The Snuffs and Shorties hastily abandoned their posts and rushed away in full retreat, with the slower getting dissolved. Fortunately, Papa remembered a wind spell and cast it, which served to help dissipate the fart. Unfortunately, he bungled and the wind blew towards them, rather than away. Purple Pieman, Hefty, Lemon Meringue, Brainy, Dreamy, Raspberry Tart and Blueberry Muffin became piles of purple ooze. Papa detonated these with nearby bricks, just as the clones appeared. But because of his lousy aim, several others were brained by wayward bricks. He sighed and said:

"I must be getting old again." He ate a grenade, detonated and reappeared before the wipers on the others' goggles had had a chance to make one wipe. "Ah, that feels better!" he said. "Come, my little Snuffs, let's go back to the village!" And off they went, singing merrily as if nothing had ever happened. They made an odd clanking noise as they marched off into the sunset as the gore on their clothes dried, caked and clotted, making them excellent, though explosive, kindling for fires.

They left the Shorties staring after them in awe, amazement and lust. This was interrupted by a soft, stealthy squishing sound coming from behind. It was the Purple Pieman, Huck Pie and Banana Split in the act of sneaking off through the bloody muck. They started guiltily and bolted off into the forest.

"Oh, well," sighed Strawberry, "we can always get them in the morning." Their minds, however, were not on the three male Shorties, but rather on the Snuffs. There were much better prospects for excitement. There was a loud bang as the sun set and Gargamel's spell expired.

The next day dawned bright and cheerful on the forest. The Snuffs and Shorties built huge bonfires in their respective villages and burned yesterday's clothing, creating horrible stenches and polluting the atmosphere.

"I hate stenches!" groused Grouchy, donning his nose filters, which were now a standard part of battle dress. Just then, Jokey sneaked up on Papa Snuff and screeched:

"Papa Snuff, Papa Snuff! Another of Roland's clones is coming!" Papa screamed and whirled, but only found Jokey laughing his head off. The Snuff suddenly found himself sailing out of the village. After the neck-breaking impact with the ground, his clone giggled:

"Papa Snuff has no sense of humour!"

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