Plot[edit | edit source]
Panda wakes up in a very dark corridor, the walls painted with the blackest of black paints. Panda has no idea where he is, or how he got there. A man known as Mister Heart is standing over Panda, and he tells Panda he is in a place known as The Gallery. Panda looks over his shoulder, and he notices a painting, which begins to shift and change. Suddenly, there's a bright flash of light.
Panda is the head chef on a TV show, What The F**k Do You Call That?, and he's ridiculing Janine and her (in his opinion) sub-par kitchen. After brutally insulting her and her family, her family brings out a very well prepared summer pudding. He devours it in frenzy, but as he bites into the pudding, he realises it's stuffed with polyester stuffing, causing him to choke and die.
Back in corridor, Panda is mortified over what he had just experienced. He demands that Mister Heart return him to Iris, however Panda gets drawn to another painting, which begins to shift...
Panda is an esteemed art critic, in his sumptuous flat in Bloomsbury, he's having a romantic fling with Antoinette, a talented young artist. There's a knock on the door, as there's a letter informing her that that she's been nominated for the Young Artist of the Year award, which Panda objects to, as he's on the judging panel. Antoinette convinces him it will be fine.
The award ceremony is being held at the Café de Paris, and Panda has the honour of announcing the winner, which is Antoinette. Her petite and innocent appearance turns out to be a facade, as she drops her glass trophy, causing it to shatter, she exposes the self serving judges for who they really are. With the help of a mysterious woman, Antoinette plays an illicit recording of Panda and Antoinette. Panda is lying on the ground, speechless, as he genuinely loved Antoinette, and in heartbreak he uses a shard of the trophy to slit his own throat, causing him to die.
Back in the corridor, Mister Heart apologises profusely, claiming that Panda was supposed to be happy, and something has gone wrong. Mister Heart points to another painting, and Panda takes a quick peek, but that's more than enough for Panda to be whisked away again.
Panda is an author of a hugely successful novel. He spends hours at a book signing, and when a child gives Panda a copy of the book to sign, Panda notices a long sequence of numbers on the title page. He distracted by somebody familiar, somebody who he claims to be called Iris Wildthyme, and he sprints off after her.
Later that day, Panda is irritatable over Iris, when he receives a phone call from his publicist, Belinda. Belinda tells Panda that the sequence of numbers was deciphered by one of the crew from the BBC, and that each of the numbers corresponded to a page number from Panda's novel. When the first word from each page is put together, a secret message could be uncovered - "I am the greatest author in the world and my readers are all morons". After the backlash this got from the readers of Panda's book, Panda jumps out of his hotel's window, down to the pavement below. Again, he dies.
Panda finds himself back in the Gallery again, and he shouts at Mister Heart. Panda notices one final painting a little bit down the corridor. It's a painting of Panda, in a smoking jacket, sitting on a comfy armchair with a large book on his lap. Beside Panda, there's a blazing fireplace. As Panda gets closer, Iris bursts through the painting, and Panda and Iris escape to the Celestial Omnibus, and they leave Mister Heart and his Gallery behind them. On the Omnibus, Iris tells Panda that she spent seventy-four years going through the paintings, ensuring Panda's death, so that she could free him.
Back at the Gallery, Mister Heart has a new painting. It's of Iris and Panda, in the Omnibus, driving through the void...
Characters[edit | edit source]
- Mister Heart
- Janine Bonaventura
- Lee Bonaventura
- Maria Bonaventura
- Oz Bonaventura
- Antoinette Bisby
- Previous award winners
- Iris Wildthyme
References[edit | edit source]
- In Panda's first trip inside a painting, he repeatedly cusses, especially the word "f*ck".
- Panda notes that the second painting looked like a Monet.
- In the second trip, Panda and Antoinette drink Moet et Chandon.
- The Los Cabrones performed at the Café de Paris.
- Antoinette calls the judges philistines.
- In the third trip, Mariella Frostrup from BBC Radio 4 tried to get an interview from Panda.
- Panda owned a Montblanc Meistersück pen.
- When Panda and Iris escaped, Panda made a batch of G&Ts.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- The fourth painting Panda sees is identical to the one on the cover of the anthology that this story was printed in.