The genie nearly chokes on his gum as the ogre’s bat slices at us like a gigantic felled tree.
Goldie and I flatten ourselves, tasting the threadbare carpet. A whooshing sound like a million huffs and puffs, followed by a noise like someone hitting a coconut with a sledgehammer.
I glance up to see Jack’s body spiraling off through the clouds and the ogre grinning as he prepares to follow up with a backswing.
The genie yanks the tassels at the front of the carpet, sending it into a crazy swerve which makes me feel like a matchstick in a hurricane. We hurtle down, avoiding the ogre’s second swipe as we plummet towards his knees. The genie’s struggling; he’s losing control of the carpet. We’ll be lucky if we can dodge the ogre’s third strike.
I look up. I get an idea. A crazy, stupid idea. Like all my best ones.
‘Fly straight up,’ I yell, ‘between his legs!’
The genie turns round and looks at me like I’ve lost the keys to my kingdom. I reach up and tap the side of my nose, giving him a wink.
He flashes expensive teeth. ‘Gotcha, buddy.’ He pulls up at the edge of the carpet, sending it into a climb. We ascend towards the gigantic bulge hanging above us. I brace myself.
‘I never spat in Baby’s porridge,’ I yell. Goldie looks at me, puzzled, then realisation dawns on her face as she sees my nose begin to twitch.
‘I never tried to chop down the beanstalk when Jack was still up it.’ I feel a tug between my eyes as my nostrils stretch, the end of my nose spearing forward.
‘And that business with Little Miss Muffet was only a malicious rumour.’ That does it. My nose surges forward, as long as a flagpole. I lie on my back, adjusting my aim.
The carpet gains speed. ‘Red five, red five!’ cries the genie, ‘I’m going in!’
I feel a sharp jab, then a yielding pop. The ogre’s scream is like a million nails sliding down a million blackboards. I can’t help but wince, almost sorry for the guy.
The carpet swerves, avoiding the doubled-over ogre as he staggers forward. Then we’re off, swooping away to safety. My nose starts to shrink; Goldie stares at it with fascination as it returns to its normal size.
‘I thought that was just a myth,’ she says.
‘You better believe it, sister,’ I massage my throbbing septum. ‘Though it can cause some awkward situations. I try not to do it unless absolutely necessary.’
‘So you always tell the truth?’ She looks doubtful.
‘If I want to be able to get through doors without snapping my beak off, yeah.’
She smiles, sly. I know what’s coming.
‘Do you think I’m pretty?’ she says.
I’m glad it’s her asking me that. The Little Mermaid put the same question to me a couple of months ago and I nearly took her eye out. I can’t help it if I’ve got a thing about scales.
‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘Absolutely I do.’
My nose doesn’t even twitch. She smiles, even blushes a bit. ‘Thank you,’ she says.
The genie turns the carpet to the left, towards the twinkling night sky. A shooting star streaks past, right on cue. A river sparkles, a hundred feet below us. I shuffle a bit closer to Goldie. She doesn’t move away. If this was a movie, a cheesy song about soaring on the wings of our dreams would start playing right about now …
‘Next stop Darkwood,’ says the genie, breaking the mood. ‘Time to get your parachutes ready.’
Goldie and I exchange worried glances.
‘Para –?‘ I manage to say, just before the genie disappears in a dazzling puff of bad timing.
And so, a split second later, does the carpet.