He was nothing to do with us, not at first.  He was just a half-forgotten cartoon villain we all thought we’d seen the last of.  But this whole thing is kind of all our fault…

It began one summer holiday years and years ago when we found him living out in the woods behind the town, catching rabbits and eating them raw.  Those unmistakeable red eyes, that spittly mouth.  We watched him for weeks before we set out for the woods, carrying sticks and wearing our coats like capes.  When we found him – sheltering under a log – we stood over him and hit him until a dog-walking man pulled us away and phoned the police.  Our Dad came to the station and was so ashamed of us that he offered to let Mumm-Ra stay in the spare room while he recovered from the ordeal.  It was part of some social responsibility thing that Dad was big on at the time, and no amount of our desperate protests against inviting ancient spirits of evil into our home would persuade him otherwise.

At meal times the skeletal figure at the end of the table would push fish fingers into his maw and mutter darkly about how his time would come again.  Other than that he barely seemed to emerge from his room, hardly ever seemed to draw open the curtains.  In a bid to help Mumm-Ra reintegrate into society, Dad lent him a suit and fixed him up with a temp job in his office.  He turned out to be a good worker, so our Dad said – he had a tendency to over-delegate and not all of his plans came to fruition, but the ideas were there.  A schemer, Dad called him.  And work seemed to do our guest the world of good – where he had previously been sullen and sinister, now he began to come out of his shell.  One Saturday morning he watched early morning television with us and taught us the best way to mummify ourselves.  Dad said it was a waste of toilet paper, but you could tell he was pleased that relations between us were improving.

It was a peaceful time, our abiding memory of which is coming down the stairs one morning to find Mumm-ra at the hob in his red dressing gown, making scrambled eggs for us all.  It seemed then that things would go on like that forever.  Then Mumm-ra’s daughter decided to get in touch with her old man and everything changed again.

You could tell that Mumm-ra’s daughter was smitten with Dad the moment they met, and by now we could tell whenever our Dad’s heart had been captured.  It lightened the mood of what had been a rather awkward reunion at a nearby carvery, a reunion to which we had all been dragged to lend Mumm-Ra some emotional support.  From tentative beginnings, Dad embarked on a whirlwind romance with Mumm-ra’s daughter and within a year they were engaged to be married.  It was decided that the wedding would be a chance for us all to celebrate the joining of our two families and at the reception we were made to stand up and apologise to Mumm-ra for hunting him down and hitting him with sticks.  Which was fair enough – after all he was set to become, technically, our step-Grandfather.  Once we had finished, he turned to us and thanked us for the chain of events we had set in motion.  By the end of his speech there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

Time passed, we grew older and life continued happening.  Dad had a child with his new wife – a young and confused step-brother for us, a boy who would never quite come to terms with his residual immortality.  Mumm-Ra had retired from work and now spent most of his time dozing in a high-backed chair in the corner of the living room, dispensing wisdom as we traversed our tricky teenage years.  Whenever we were in trouble or whenever we wanted something we couldn’t have, we would go to see Mumm-Ra and he would devise a plan.  His plans seldom worked, but neither he nor us were ever disheartened.

It was approaching Christmas in our first year at University when we noticed an item which was set for auction.  Lot #145 was a little more expensive than we might otherwise spend on a Christmas present but – “It’s what he’s alway’s wanted,” “Sure, but that’s only the reserve price.”  Did we question whether it was a good idea, getting that present for Mumm-Ra for Christmas?  Of course we did, we discussed it over and over.  “You don’t think he’ll-,“ “What?” “Y’know…”, “Say it,” “You… think he’s completely changed?  You don’t think there’s a part of him that’s still bad?” “Don’t talk like that about our grandpa.”

The auction turned out to be less dramatic than we expected, there wasn’t much interest in the lot so we got our item at the reserve price.  Perhaps people had forgotten about it or maybe they just didn’t understand what it was, but we had spent years listening to Mumm-Ra’s stories of the old days and we knew exactly what it could do.  We wrapped the Sword Of Omens carefully but, it being a bit of an obvious shape, didn’t put it under the tree until last thing on Christmas Eve.


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