Where you can play Pokemon with Singing Narwhals and Dancing Clouds
Run away on the night before your high school graduation. Running away at your lowest is commonplace; running away at your peak is the most beautiful insanity.
Go to bed at 8:00 sharp. Your parents will ask you if you're feeling okay; respond by saying that you're nervous for graduation. This is the last time you will speak to them.
As you lie in bed, you will think about whether you're doing the smart thing, consider all the possible things that could go wrong as a runaway, wonder whether you're throwing away all that you have worked to achieve over the eighteen short years of your life. Do not try to silence this voice – you must listen to every word. This is your first test. You must realize all the consequences of your actions. Your running away should not be an act of ignorance but rather an act of idealism. Accept all the consequences of your actions, and realize that the life of runaway is preferable to the life of security.
It is 12:00 and time to leave. As you try to leave your bed, your mattress will seem a bit softer, the air a bit colder, the sheets a bit warmer. Ignore the voice that says that you can leave in five minutes. If you listen to it now, you will listen to it in five minutes.
You will want to prepare for your journey. Do not. To do so is a compromise of your ideals and the ideals of society. There is no glory found in compromises.
Do not rush to leave the house. Walk slowly and deliberately; you now fully control your life. Time is a construct of society. If you live as a pure ideal, time will have no effect.
As you reach the door, say farewell to everything. Open the door and leave.
this is a short story i wrote i might carry on with it or refine it if i have time :The world ended yesterday
Today I woke up to birds singing; glorious sunshine poured through the window panes. I sat in bed thinking for a few moments it was wonderful how on a day like this you could wake up and not have a worry in the world. Suddenly there was a knock at the door I ignored it ,must be the wind I thought to myself, no one would knock this early in the morning. It came again sharp and persistent I got up dressed and went to answer the door
. As the door swung inwards it revealed a curios figure there in front of me stood a man in his thirties dressed in a glistening white robe which flowed all the way to the floor. Well that was rather strange hut it wasn’t the strange clothes that unnerved me it was what he said next that chilled my blood
“Why are you still here?” Now that was random “why shouldn’t I be here? This is my house.” I replied “because you should have died yesterday” THAT freaked me out what was he talking about? What the heck did he mean I should have died yesterday? Seeing my confused expression he explained further “The world ended yesterday.” he stated flatly. What the flipping heck? This guy was a lunatic my heart raced “Well I’m not dead and it’s not the end of the world so get over it!” I shouted I was about to slam the door in his face but something strange happened he looked confused nearly frightened as if he saw something that I didn’t “take a look around you ” he whispered “well do you believe me now ?” I took a look around me I was in my house there was nothing out of the ordinary.hat did it this person was crazed I slammed the door in his face and ran up to my room.
I locked the door and drew the curtains. I thought things over the world couldn’t have ended without me knowing the whole idea of it was lunacy but he had looked so convinced about what he was saying it was hard to ignore .There was a knock on the window. My heart raced this was the third floor how had he gotten up there? Nobody could possibly climb this high.I drew back the curtains-
I screamed. NO this wasn’t happening! There he was suspended in mid air I was frozen with fear “I’m sorry” he said “but you aren’t supposed to be alive.” He drew a long gleaming blade I ran the last thing I knew was him crashing through the window.
So yeah I did this short story when I was in Year 9, so 13 years old. The topic was bright lights, so I decided to be unique with that subject; my hard work paid off and I received a 7a, which was the highest mark in the year. I feel it's good enough to be in this thread...
haha most of the short stories were one page long. Mine was 4 pages.
I open my eyes. The bright lights bore through my sockets so I shut them quickly. I have a blinding headache and I can’t move my arms. Of course I can’t, I’m in a straitjacket. I’m scared. I start to scream. I like screaming. When I was twenty-two, three years ago, I stubbed my toe on a staircase, and I screamed for ages. I wasn’t in pain, but screaming felt good. I guess that’s when it began. An ambulance had arrived outside my house and uniformed women and uniformed men came in. They said my neighbour heard me screaming and called them ‘cause she thought I was terribly hurt. I open my eyes for the second time. I stop screaming. The uniform woman is peering over me. I know why I’m here. In two week’s time I’m due to be released. From this mental asylum.
I’m here for inspection, to make sure I’m sane enough. I sit up because the metal chair hurts too much when I lie down on it. Uniform woman asks how I feel. I don’t answer. Robert puts his clammy hand on my shoulder. The uniform people say that Robert doesn’t exist and is a sign of my mental disorder. But this isn’t true because I can see him. I’m not lying, he’s there. I glance up at Robert’s sneering face. I hate him. Uniform woman looks worried.
She thinks I’m going to attack Robert, but I want to show her I’m sane, so I just sit on the chair. She asks me how I feel again. I remember what the doctor said and breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, trying not to tremble. I lie to her that I feel fine. Inside, my body is shaking. I want to be released.
I want to become a vet. I like animals. Sophie, another patient, went and stepped on this cat who had wandered in the asylum. She hates any animal, including humans. I got so angry, I broke her legs. That was six months ago.
I’m sane, I’m sane, I’m sane.
The uniform woman speaks slowly, like I’m stupid. I’m not stupid, I’m a clever twenty-five year old. I want to hit the uniform woman badly, but I know I can’t. I’m sweating. And all of a sudden, I start crying. The uniform woman nervously glances at me, before running out the door. I’ve blown it.
I’m sitting next to Nanjhad in the lunch area. Nanjhad is my only friend at the asylum. Maybe it’s because he never talks. I don’t know if he is dumb, shy, or is too insane to talk. All the other patients hate him because he is not white. In fact, he is the only non-white in the asylum. I give Nanjhad my potatoes. I hate the stuff. The texture ‘n all. I spot Sophie. She has a knife, but it is plastic ‘cause the lunch people don’t want to risk suicide or murder. Nanjhad points to my safebag. A safebag is what all the patients have to keep themselves from danger. I have a whistle, a mobile phone, a book, an iPod, The Bible, and most importantly, I managed to smuggle in a pocket-knife. I nod at Nanjhad. He takes out the mobile phone and presses in random numbers. That is his favourite thing and the only thing he does in the asylum. He presses random numbers and then sees who is at the receiving end. He listens, but never speaks.
Sophie attacked me today. I was walking to lunch with Nanjhad when she ran at me. She punched me in the stomach and bit my arm, which hurt. Nanjhad ran away, muttering to himself. I am now eating lunch by myself, as Nanjhad is in his room, pulling his hair out. I pick around the bubble and squeak, but then there’s too much potato and I become flustered and start crying and I slam my foot on the table leg, causing the table to fall and I start to scream and I run back to my room. I hate Sophie and I hate this asylum. I just want to get out.
Two hours later, uniform woman comes in, her face grim. Robert also comes in, his face beaming. Uniform woman tells me I cannot be released from this asylum, as I am not sane enough. I say nothing. I do nothing. I don’t come for dinner. I just stare at the wall, stare and stare. There are no tears left in me. Everybody and everything is a bright light. And my light’s just gone out.
I open my eyes. It’s five thirty-three. I’m sweating and I can’t remember what happened in the night. I sit up. Blood is on my shirt and blood is draped all across the wall. I feel dizzy and sick and I can’t focus properly and the world collapses.
I wake up to the sound of banging on the door. The door is jammed or blocked. I never lock it. It’s seven minutes past eleven. I’ve slept in and I am meant to be in the social room right now, where we socialize with other patients. But why is the door blocked? I look at it. There’s a body on the floor. The body is Sophie’s.
There’s a pool of blood mounting near her chest. I feel dizzy again and wet my pants. I vomit before passing out. Only that I don’t pass out. I’m just lying in bed, with my eyes open, thinking. Did I kill Sophie? No, no I didn’t. I’ve been framed. Although I’m still unsure whether I’ve killed her or not. The banging is getting more frantic. I ignore it. I need to dispose of the body. I spot an air vent.
The banging has stopped. The person, probably the uniform woman, has gone to get somebody. This is my chance. I get a chair and lift the body and myself on to it. Standing, I shove the body into the air vent, head first. Sophie gets jammed round the shoulders, so I turn her face-up. That’s when I see it. A pocket-knife halfway through her heart. My pocket-knife. I am so dizzy I fall off the chair, pulling the body with me, and the door opens and the police come in and all they see is me on the floor, screaming and crying, blood on my shirt, blood on the walls, a body of the only patient I truly hated dead, with my pocket-knife through her heart. My light is out, but the police’s are burning.
I groggily open my eyes, again. I’m not in a police cell, which I expected to be in. I’m chained to my bed. I hear voices next door. The police are talking to the uniform men and the uniform women about what to do with me. I momentarily forget about what has happened until I see blood on the walls and then I shake and vomit. Yet I have a chance to escape. The handcuff is chained to the bed’s metal pole. If I could lift the bed frame up, I could escape. I strain, using all my strength, but it’s no good. I cry but crying’s not good enough. I howl. There is no hope left.
I can’t give up. I heave with all my might. My hands are used to being tied together, ‘cause of my straitjacket. I ever so slowly manage to get the handcuff’s off the bed frame, and now I can escape. I make my way to the door, but just as I am about to open the door, the handle opens for me. I am expecting to see the police. Instead it’s Nanjhad. I am relieved, and smile. This is before he kicks me in the stomach, pushes me back onto my bed and runs off. I can’t move. My belly is in so much pain. Why would Nanjhad do that? Is he scared that I might kill him? Or is it something else? The police barge open the door, and point a gun at me. Uniform woman is crying. I stand up. And get knocked back down.
What time is it? Where am I? I have no idea where I am. It’s very dark. My head is spinning, and I can’t stand up. I look to the right, and see metal bars. I am finally in a cell. For the murder of Sophie. Only that I don’t think I murdered her. Robert is here too. He laughs, and it echoes around the cell. No, he doesn’t exist. I know that. I know that. Why won’t he just leave me alone? I curl up into a ball, rock myself, hands over ears, and scream.
Six hours later, and uniform woman comes in. She tells me that I’ll have to go to court in four day’s time. I cry. I know I’m going to be found guilty. The uniform woman tells me that Nanjhad is going to come too. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or not. I scream again, so that uniform woman leaves. But she doesn’t. She looks angry and says “Why, Simon? Why did you do it?”. She leaves before I can answer. But I wouldn’t answer anyway. Because nobody would believe me. I’m just a low-life lunatic murderer. I deserve to be put in prison.
It’s court day. I am ready to face the music. I am taken to the court by police car. Everything’s very scary, and my eyes hurt and I am breathing heavily. Here I go.
I plead innocent. I may as well put up a fight. The evidence is wracking up on me. Sophie’s mum’s lawyer asks me a few questions. “Why was their blood on your shirt, Mr Temple?”. I reply that I don’t know. I know it’s a bad answer, but this is all I have got. “Sophie is the only patient you hate in the entire asylum, isn’t that right, Mr Temple?”. I don’t say anything. She asks again, her voice sour and sinister. I nod my head. I glance at Nanjhad. He is furiously tapping at my phone, and is not really paying attention to what is happening. “So then, why do you hate her?”. I reply in a quiet voice, “She stepped on a stray cat. She also beat me up.” The lawyer’s eyes glisten, like they’re waiting to pounce. “ So, who else do yo think the murderer could be?” she sneers, in her antagonistic tone. I am prepared for this one. “Nanjhad” I say.
Everybody gasps, looking at Nanjhad and their are a few murmurs. Nanjhad is still tapping at the phone, but at a more frantic pace. Without looking up, he says “NO! HE murderer!” The judge, noticing that this argument was going to go back and forth, tells Nanjhad to be quiet before asking me why I think that. My mind goes blank. I start crying. The judge then gets impatient and tells me to sort myself out.
Three hours later, and the jury is sent away to find me either guilty or innocent. I know I’m going to be found guilty. I close my eyes. I just know it. The jury is taking a long time. Then they come in. I’m just waiting to hear the words. One of the members of the jury, coughs, before announcing his verdict “We find the defendant, after debate,” there is a long pause, added for suspension, until the jury murmurs quietly, “guilty.” I close my eyes even tighter. I didn’t expect those words to be that painful. My chest hurts and I cry harder. I look up at Nanjhad. He is still working on that phone. I am sent away.
Prison is boring. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be though, I have food which is better than the asylum, and doesn’t have as much potatoes. Whenever we are allowed out for recreational purposes, but still in prison, I stay in my cell. I don’t want to get into fights. I cry every day now, and scream during the night. Many prisoners tell me to shut up, but it’s not like the books I read, or the films I watch where everybody goes and punches you or threatens to kill you. Some are actually very kind to me. Maybe they’re innocent too.
I am walking on stars. The stars shine brightly, so I nearly topple off. I almost fall, but by crawling at a snail’s pace I can stay safe. I look down. On my right there is. Nanjhad, Sophie, the police, the jury, potatoes and the Devil. Everybody I hate and don’t want to be part of. On my left there is God, smiling up at me, reaching towards me. If I stay on top of the star, the bright lights will blind me. I wake up, sweating and start to cry. I know what I have to do. I must join God. I must end my life.
I am outside my cell, still in the prison walls. I will socialize. I want to at least act more normal. Before I can, I am told I have a visitor. I walk over to the visiting room, and sit on a chair next to a table. It’s uniform woman with Nanjhad. Nanjhad. She looks nervous. Why is she visiting me? She must really care. She sits down, and so does Nanjhad, but I order Nanjhad to leave. He doesn’t respond. I order him again, close to tears. Nanjhad looks up, mutters something, and then taps his mobile phone randomly. Only that, when I look what he’s typing on his phone, it’s not random. It reads, ‘sssophiee destreved ittit. Sh e had ittit comin’. I gasp before snatching the phone off Nanjhad. Nanjhad hits me before taking it off me, but then a security guard comes over and drags me away. Nanjhad is muttering to himself furiously. Nanjhad leaves, uniform woman not bothering to look me in the eye. She goes too.
I kick the security guard hard in the legs, catching him by surprise, before punching him square in the chest. I start screaming and crying. I then pinch his nose and slam him into the table, knocking him out. The security guards will be coming by now. I don’t care. I slam down all the chairs, tears running down my cheeks, before flipping over the tables. I make my way upstairs to the eighth floor, where the gym is. Nobody ever uses the gym now, all it is is ropes and mats. I hear footsteps. They’re coming. I make it to the gym before locking the door with one of the ropes. The window is in sight. I kick the window, but it won’t break. I kick again, but nothing happens. The door is rattling. They probably have guns. I kick and kick and kick and I scream and scream and cry but nothing happens. I can’t be with God.
There’s a store cupboard to my right, I make a run for it as the door hinges ever so slowly come apart. There’s a dumbbell. That’s all I need. I lift it up before slamming it against the window. I stand on the ledge. The jump will kill me. The door crashes open, and five security guards come in, guns pointed at me. I smile before looking at the drop. Robert is next to me, pointing his head downwards. I close my eyes. My light is not out. It’s brighter than ever.
So about a week ago I received the following assignment (paraphrased for convenience):
"Write a detective story incorporating at least five forensic, DNA, or macromolecular analysis techniques and at least one use of the word "Christmas"
Having been working on Smog and CAP stuff for most of the last week, I rattled off the following over Sunday and Monday, which was about twenty hours' work all told (most of which was past midnight, so... that would explain any wonky prose you may find, heh). I got a pack of Galaxy Minstrels for my trouble. Fancy that.
If you have a spare half-hour, you might enjoy reading it.
Weirdly, this is just a bit shorter than my Necturna analysis
'Surely you can't mean that?'
It is a rare occasion indeed, when the intonation of a mere five words can speak such volumes about the speaker and their situation. All manner of maternal pride, suffering, and emotion, the exhaustion of many weeks' pursuit, and behind it all, perhaps the merest hint of resignation, uttered as softly as any exhortation can be, scarce heard behind the bustle of activity outside the room. This voice was that of a woman, with the thin, pale, gaunt face typical of those who have experienced either long suffering or short anguish, though with the rest of her body covered in woolly clothing, such was the superintendent's stance on "unnecessary heating", as he called it. One who could reasonably be expected to be her husband sat in the chair next to her, similarly wrapped up, his face still ruddy, apparently more annoyed by the conduct of the officers involved than by its possible ramifications. The superintendent, seated opposite them behind his desk, leaned back, sighed, and looked around the room as he attempted to marshal his thoughts. The office was fairly bare-bones – with the exception of his plastic desk with faux-wood covering, and the three chairs, there was no furniture at all, unless, he reflected sadly, you counted the constable, standing rigidly behind him, who was perhaps functionally equivalent. The walls were covered in shelves, themselves stacked with files he had never read and probably never would. Oh, there was that filing cabinet. What was in there again? He'd have to ask his secretary. Ah, and the pot plant. That needed watering. He'd have to ask his secretary. Maybe after lunch.
'It is regrettable, but all the same, ma'am, you must please consider it from our perspective,' he began, remembering from his training to always speak in a monotone lest he aggravate the more emotionally unstable. 'We've been looking for more than a week, and your son has vanished without trace… quite literally, I'm told. No note, nothing. He hasn't taken a credit card, 'phone, or anything that we could trace. We've sent out flyers with his face on to every constabulary within fifty miles, and then when that didn't work, to pretty much every one in every major city, as you asked us to. And we haven't heard a squeak out of anyone in all this time – as far as we can tell, he's completely vanished, as I said before.'
'But I… now hold on… see here!' gasped the red-faced man. 'It's only been a week! Surely you're not telling me you're going to stop looking for a missing child after only a week? Why, it's preposterous! Preposterous, I say!'
'That it may be, sir,' replied the superintendent, with that air of patient indifference usually reserved solely for civil servants, 'but unfortunately, it's quite out of my hands. We have protest marches to supervise and quite a few lethal stabbings to investigate as well, so we simply have to put this case on hold, as it were, for a little while. If we ever run out of these higher-priority cases, then certainly we will return to…'
'We wanted him home for Christmas,' sighed the woman, in that resonant whisper that breaks composure far more readily than a scream. The superintendent paused, before gathering his indifference again.
'Well – ah – as to that – quite out of the question,' came the reply. 'I should say that our current activities would take a few months to complete – '
'A few months?' returned the gentleman, without quite troubling to form a sentence before beginning to speak. 'But, why, I mean, for God's sake, man! I mean, I mean… egad! A boy is out there in the cold, probably starving to death as we speak, and you say it's a lower-priority case?'
'You seem to have a low view of your son's ability to survive apart from his parents. This whole adventure of his seems pre-planned. He took a large amount of cash with him, and apparently, enough crisps and chocolate from your condiments cellar to last him weeks. Doubtless he will turn up again as soon as he runs out of money, tries to get a job, and finds that he can't, because he didn't bring his passport. Have you heard the parable of the Prodigal's Son? My father used to tell me it whenever I asked him for something.'
'So you're not going to help any longer? How incredible!'
'Now, sir, please do not misunderstand us. We will maintain copies of your son's face and ask all officers to be on the lookout for a youth of seventeen years of age, carrying several thousand pounds in cash and around a tonne of junk food, but really, you must admit that such a description is not unique within the middle classes.'
This joke, alas, did little to cool the temper of our two concerned parents, for such can be inferred from this exchange. As they were ushered out of the room by the altogether unimportant constable, who was trying desperately not to giggle at his superior's joke, the superintendent sighed once more and glanced back at his pot plant. He vaguely recalled that he had needed to do something about that plant, but couldn't for the life of him remember what it was. He'd have to ask his secretary. Maybe after lunch.
Outside, in the waiting area of the constabulary, a smartly-dressed young man, whose pure auburn hair and long curly moustache both perfectly suited him as being a man of fewer summers than the one he was waiting for, and indeed the brother of that man's betrothed. He stood up as his extended family returned with a most peculiar expression on his face, for while as an uncle, his anxiety for his nephew's safety and his sister's peace of mind preyed heavily upon him, his great love of intrigue and mystery enthralled him with the possibilities of the situation, which, when combined with a naturally jocular temperament, made him perhaps one of the less welcome persons who could have been waiting there with the intent of rejoicing for good and consoling in ill. But he was there, and had waited for hours without complaint, and they were grateful to him. As the mother and father moved towards him, he was acutely aware of mixed messages exploding in all directions. His sister and brother-in-law could have been troubled or relieved, and the constable that followed them appeared close to laughing his head off.
'So, how did it go?' he began, rather more loudly than he had intended. As one, the two of them shook their heads, and the constable burst out laughing, before rushing away, still trying to control himself.
'Preposterous, my dear fellow,' began his brother-in-law, after a slight intake of breath following the constable's performance. 'They're dropping the case! Said it was a lower-priority case! It's monstrous – monstrous, I say!'
'Let's chat about this in the car,' cut in the moustachioed man, with half a glance at the others waiting anxiously for news concerning their kin, and a lingering glance at his sister, who appeared to be shivering.
'Now then, don't you see how right I was?'
The moustachioed man was driving, and appeared to be wearing a slight smirk as his brother-in-law paused long enough for him to comment. His brother-in-law sat in the passenger seat, and had been conducting a long and drawn-out description of their interview, which had culminated in a fervent and rather imaginative tirade against the Metropolitan Police and the various cultures of lethargy that had apparently prevented them from being able to recover his first-born. In the back seat, his wife was sitting quite silently, huddled up in a thin blanket, staring out of the window as the world passed her by.
'Right about what?' returned the elder gentleman, in a tone that made it quite clear that he was not prepared to indulge in any manner of activity that lacked seriousness, or indeed any deviation from the topic at hand. 'You mean your marvellous plan to form a posse and search every house in the country for Thomas? Or the one before that, which involved enlisting the Essex hunt, with the promise of free foxes? Or, indeed, your master plan to capture him involving planting a large amount of chocolate over a pitfall trap?'
'I meant, my dear Horace, my suggestion that you should enlist a private detective to find our Thomas and bring him back.'
There was a small pause as these words were digested. At the back, the woman made a very slight shift in her sitting position.
'I've thought about it,' began Horace, with a weariness in his voice that his brother-in-law somehow found encouraging, 'but I don't see what good it would do us. If there were any way to find him any sooner, the police would have found him already, wouldn't they? After all, they're the ones who are paid to do this sort of thing.'
'A detective would be paid to do it as well, but only by you. So he'd have a lot more interest in doing it, so it's more reasonable to expect a result.'
'And I'd be spending a fortune for no guaranteed return on investment.'
'Not if you went to one with a no-results-no-fee policy.'
'And they'd just charge me even more.'
'Would you really care that much if he found Thomas?'
At the back, the woman gave a sob. The moustachioed man pressed on.
'Listen. I was doing some digging around on the PI front while the police investigation was going on, and I think I found some pretty solid firms. There's one other one, though – quite extraordinary, from what Bill told me.'
'Bill?' said Horace, appearing to perk up a little. 'Your friend Bill the Banker?'
'The very same. You know he's a keen art collector? Well, he saw a rather smashing gold sculpture in an old arts magazine, and he wanted it pretty badly. If he weren't a banker, I'd have almost thought he was prepared to go all money-no-object on the thing. But yeah, he had his people looking all over the shop, making all sorts of enquiries to the auction houses, galleries, even some well-known collectors, and they couldn't find a trace of it. Well, he called in this one guy, and he managed to find it in a day.'
'Great Scott! How on earth did he manage that?'
'Ah, that's the thing. Bill told him that he'd looked everywhere, and couldn't find it, so the chap asked if he could see Bill's art collection. So they went down to the vaults, had a look in all the boxes, and in a few hours, they'd found that very bit of gold – in his basement all the time! Bill had bought the thing thirty years ago and clean forgotten that he had it!'
'By Jove! Did he say how he knew it was there?'
'Bill said it didn't make sense to him, but it was something about his psychology – rich people tending to become obsessive over possessing something they had had for years with no use for, but suddenly goes missing – you know, like when something of theirs is stolen? He knew he had it in his subconscious, but didn't know he had it, if you follow – or something like that. Plus, it was pretty much the only place Bill hadn't looked, so I suppose it had to be there, if it was anywhere at all.'
The car was silent for a short time, with all three of them occupied with their own thoughts. Finally, Horace endeavoured to continue the conversation.
'I bet Bill paid him a rather handsome fee for that, eh?'
'Well, Bill said he offered him fifty thousand pounds and any piece from his collection that he wanted, but here's the thing – he said they'd agreed on a fee of fifty pounds per day, so that's all he'd accept.'
'I suppose the banker was more than happy to accept that offer.'
'Well, maybe so. In fairness to Bill though, he did say that if the man ever wanted an interest-free loan, he should come straight to him – as far as I know, though, he's never taken Bill up on his offer…'
'Generous in the extreme. Well, this gentleman of yours certainly seems capable enough to be worth a visit, at least.'
'Oh, one other thing. Bill said he was a bit of an acquired taste.'
'I suppose he probably meant he's a bit odd. Still, if he gives you what you want, that shouldn't be a problem, should it?'
'No, I suppose not. Tell me, did Bill ever say how one would go about obtaining an appointment with this fellow?'
'Oh, I think you just turn up at his office and ask to see him. Bill said the office was at… let me think… yes, fifty-seven on the High Street, above the chip shop.'
'Above the chip shop? He can't have many clients then.'
'No, I don't believe he does.'
The next day, Horace and his wife found themselves driving down a rather crowded High Street, with a great many colourful attractions on either side of them that clashed palpably with their grey moods. At last, Horace decided that at the rate the traffic was moving, their son would be found alive and well before they ever managed to reach the chip shop. So they made their way down a side street, found a parking space, and pressed on, this time on foot. The sky was tantalisingly blue and sunny, and the pavements were choked with happy, smiling, laughing faces. The whole experience was altogether most unpleasant. At last, the words "Charlie's Chips" rose into view, and they were able to make their way up an unnervingly rickety staircase, made of wood that felt like it was centuries old, feeling even less confidence in the whole venture than they had before setting out. The staircase eventually gave out to a corridor, which was just wide enough for them to shuffle along in single file, and lit with a dim, alarming hellish light from the sunlight filtering through the red curtains. At last, they arrived at the last door, with a piece of paper crudely taped to it, and "Private Investigator" written on that in black ink. They knocked, and followed the bidding of a female voice from within to enter.
For a moment, Horace thought he had stepped into an old-fashioned, poorly kept library. Every wall was lined with bookshelves, and the books that the bookshelves had no room for were simply piled on the ground. The windows were large and arched, and suggested that in its early days, this room would have been heavily sought after. There was a faint smell of mould, which Horace initially thought was coming from the books, but on closer inspection, noted that on top of the books were finely balanced plates of jelly, containing peculiar slimes that he would have preferred not to have known the origin of. There were three desks at the opposite end of the room to the door, next to the windows; at one, a man was reading a book titled "The Review of Applied Entomology", leaning back at such an angle that his face was obscured; at another, a dark-haired woman was sitting leaning forward expectantly, and appeared to have been the one who asked them to enter; at the last, there were perched a number of other covered agar plates, a microscope, and a large metal tube, which appeared to be attached to a pump and computer . The couple approached the woman's desk with little of their original resolve left.
'Good afternoon, sir.'
'Good afternoon, madam,' replied Horace brusquely. 'Would this be where we could find this so-called private investigator's firm that was recommended to us so strongly by ones that we trust and respect?'
'Well, I don't know about that, sir, but there's certainly a private investigation firm of sorts here. Would you like to let me know your complaint?'
'Hold on now,' said Horace, starting to feel a little perplexed. 'Are you a private investigator, then?'
'Oh, no, sir. I'm only the secretary.'
'Well, then, why would we tell you? Surely this private investigator can respect our privacy where these matters are concerned?'
'I can assure you, sir, the matter will not go any further than myself and the private investigator. He is currently away on important business, and has requested that I take all information given by clients and relay it to him when he is finished.'
'Well, when will he be back?'
'It's hard to say, sir. His routine changes often.'
'But – '
'If you leave it with me, sir, he will respond to your situation by midnight tonight at the very latest. But he has a rather peculiar schedule that makes it difficult for him to schedule personal appointments.'
At this point, Horace was at the end of his tether, and his wife seemed to be on the verge of tears. He was half-convinced that the whole thing had been set up by his brother-in-law as an elaborate joke, and planned to give the man a piece of his mind as soon as he saw him next. He was turning to leave, when he noticed that the man at the other desk had not yet even moved, nor given any indication that he had noticed the exchange at all.
'What does your colleague do, exactly?' he asked, turning again to the woman behind the desk.
'That's the private investigator, sir.'
'I – he – what?'
'He doesn't enjoy going by name, sir, so we are obliged to call him Mr. Fell–"
"But, I say, now see here!" cried Horace, his face reddening again. "You just said he was away on important business! He's right here in front of us, and reading a book, to top it all off!"
"Please try to understand, sir, we aren't allowed to question his reasons, and that's what I was told to say – "
"Well, if this is how you treat your clients, I'm not surprised you can't afford a proper office!" thundered Horace, and with that, he strode out of the room, followed by his wife. The woman at the desk glanced over at the man, who turned a page of his book lazily, and continued reading.
The next morning, Horace awoke, got dressed, and ate his breakfast while his wife slept in. He was still in a bad mood from the previous day's debacle, which was not improved when he heard a ring at the doorbell. Wondering who could be calling on them at such an early hour, and finally coming to the conclusion that it must be his brother-in-law, to enquire after how well the joke had gone, he was very seriously contemplating getting out his cricket bat, but when the bell rang again, this time more insistently, he decided to stall the pleasure for after a verbal thrashing, and answered. He was surprised to find, however, not a moustachioed, grinning brother-in-law, but instead the woman whom he had seen the day before, behind a desk in the private investigator's "office". For a moment, he was too stunned to react. Then, suddenly realising that his brother-in-law must be trying to continue the joke, he decided that he would take the firm line from the start.
"Might I come in, sir? It's fearfully cold out."
"Can I ask how you managed to find this house, or why you are apparently following my family around now? Having just experienced a family tragedy of rather Olympian proportions, I'm really in no mood to entertain pleasantries."
"Oh, sir, I don't even know myself, sir. Mr. Fellowes just told me to walk down to Jerome Street, to the house with a bright blue Audi, and to pass on a message to the client who called yesterday."
Horace was by now quite unsure how to react. The woman did not appear to be lying, or acting, or indeed anything other than honest, and indeed, he didn't see how his blessed brother-in-law, even with his many talents, could have conspired to set up such an elaborate joke purely for his own twisted amusement. And yet the whole thing struck him as being so bally absurd. How on earth could this investigator – Fellowes, she said his name was – have worked out where he lived? How did he know he drove a blue Audi? Indeed, none of the possible explanations spinning around in Horace's head fully satisfied the extraordinary circumstances. There was simply too much to take in for a Saturday morning. Seeming to notice his plight, the woman pressed on.
'Mr. Fellowes thought that you would entertain some degree of uncertainty, sir, given your reaction at the office, so he asked me to assuage your doubts by offering you a personal interview.'
'Did he, by Jove? Did I ask for any such thing?'
'He believes it to be worth your while, if you consent. He has not had a case for a good long time.'
'I can see why.'
'If you want to see him, he'll be at his home from now until midnight tonight,' continued the woman, heedless of Horace's increasingly angry tone. 'This is the address,' she added, pushing a slip of paper into his hands. Then, she was gone without another word.
'Hey – wait!' cried Horace. But the woman did not look back.
After lunch, Horace somehow found himself driving down along a motorway, following his satellite navigation system towards this enigmatic detective's home. He still couldn't quite work out why he was continuing to think about this person who had not even exchanged a single word with him, or why he was continuing to play along in whatever divine prank had caused him to go to this person for aid. If his map was correct, this person lived in the middle of the countryside, far away from his unpleasant little haunt in the centre of the city. Horace simply couldn't understand anything that was going on all around him, but seemed to derive some sort of comfort from the fact that he was, indeed, doing something. As long as his mind was occupied with the bewilderment circling around him, he was distracted from his anxiety for his son. Perhaps that, he reflected, was why he was still entertaining this detective's eccentricities.
At last, the motorway gave way to carriage roads, the carriage roads to village roads, and the village roads to dirt roads. The fields around him gradually became overtaken by woodland. At last, the house loomed into view. Had he not had his very insistent satellite navigation system, Horace would have had a hard time believing that he was at the correct place. The house could almost have been described as a mansion; full eighteen windows were visible on the front of the house, which were all surrounded by ornaments of carved white stone – indeed, the stone animals lined the gravel path, breaking up the patches of colourful flowers – the bricks were grey, and seemed ancient – and behind the house, one could see a dark lake stretching far into the distance, seemingly almost as far as the mountains on the horizon. The front of the house faced only open woodland.
Horace stopped his car in front of the house, got out, and looked around. There were no prints on the gravel, bar those his car had made – no indication, indeed, that any person lived in this house at all. Still, he had seen far stranger things in his dealings with this person. In any case, if this were all some elaborate prank, or worse, a scam, he'd be ready. He had his cricket bat down his trouser leg. Just let them try anything. Filled thus with these encouraging thoughts, he strode boldly up to the door and knocked. The door opened at the first knock.
'Good afternoon, sir.'
Not for the first time that day, Horace was surprised. The woman from before was standing in the doorway, dressed in a maidservant's outfit, gesturing him inside.
'Ah! Thank you," he replied, not quite knowing what to say. He was led into a rather impressive-looking anteroom with polished wooden floor, dark deep-pile carpeting, with the walls patterned in subtle tans and adorned with what looked like the work of the old masters. In one corner was some sort of metal pipe leading up through the ceiling, with a basket sitting underneath it. At the far end stood an old grandfather clock, its pendulum swinging mournfully.
'The master expected that you would arrive at this time, sir. He will be down shortly, if you would take a seat,' said the woman, gesturing to a small armchair under what looked like a painting of an old Georgian woman, holding a crucifix in her left hand.
'Why are you calling him "master" now?' enquired Horace, frowning. 'You were calling him "the inspector" only this morning.'
'In my professional capacity, he is the master when we are the maidservants, and the inspector when we are the secretaries, as it were, sir. We are very conscientious in our line of work. He accepts no less from us.'
'He employs a large number of domestic staff, yes. We take turns in managing the daily business of the agency.'
'Seems like a lot of bother to put up with.'
She smiled, in a knowing sort of way.
'The pay's very good. Between you and me, I think he has more money than he knows what to do with. His grandfather left him this place, along with all his money, and a pretty big library as well. And all he does with it is buy more books, and pay us way more than we need to live on.'
'I see. So this detective business – it's more of a hobby for him?'
'Something like that. I don't like to presume that I know an awful lot about him. I only know what I've heard from the older staff. I've never even spoken to him.'
'But then, how – '
'He writes notes.'
As if on cue, there was a dull thud, and a sealed letter fell from the metal pipe and into the basket. The woman hurried over to it and unsealed it.
'Mr. Fellowes requests that Mr. Balmoral meet with him in the Greater Library,' she said, reading from the card. She looked again at Horace. 'I think he's talking about you?'
'Yes… my name is Balmoral,' replied Horace, now slightly frightened.
'I'll take you there, but you'll have to go in alone. We aren't allowed in the library, not even to clean.'
Horace entered the library quietly, closing the door behind him. If he had been in the correct frame of mind, he would undoubtedly have appreciated the beauty of the place a good deal more. The bookcases that lined the walls stretched halfway to the ceiling, a full ten feet tall, made of some peculiar red wood not unlike mahogany. The books were glossy and neatly ordered, quite unlike their unfortunate counterparts in the grim urban office. The floor covering was patterned with pictures of animals and trees, and was mirrored in mosaic on the ceiling, from which several large glass chandeliers hung. A giant arched window frame looked out over the lake beyond, filling the room with crystal-clear light, in front of which sat a small man, on a quite unremarkable chair, at a quite unremarkable table, reading a book titled "Medically important fungi". As Horace approached, the man did not look up.
'Ah, good afternoon, Mr. Fellowes.'
Horace now had a chance to look at the man. His clothing was entirely dark; black shoes, black socks, dark grey trousers, shabbily put together, dark grey shirt, barely visible behind the black greatcoat, with few black buttons remaining, all of which were covered by a woollen, shaggy, dark grey overcoat, which hung down past its owner's knees and onto the floor, like some curious bearskin. But Horace found himself altogether more interested in, and at the same time repulsed by, the one inside the clothes. His skin had a dreadful pallor to it, as though the man had lived in a cave all his life, and had never seen the sunlight, and indeed was recently deceased. His fingers were long and pointed, and held quite motionless around his book. His hair was light blonde – so light, in fact, that one could quite easily have called it white – but short, and his eyes, which stared unflinchingly at the words in the book, were of the most curious violet hue. On seeing all of this, Horace was sorely tempted to run, but some primaeval sense kept him there, or perhaps some long-repressed morbid curiosity. In any event, man has always had an appreciation for the remarkable, no matter where it fits into our beliefs or ideology.
'May I speak?' ventured Horace again.
'Do so,' replied Fellowes, still without taking his eyes off the book. He turned a page, and carried on. 'I am able to concentrate on many different things at once. Though you may not see appearing to listen to your words, I can assure you that I am doing so most intently, and weighting, appreciating, and deciphering them. Yesterday, when you came to visit our little shop, I was able to note many things about you.'
'Such as?' asked Horace, unable to contain himself.
'A reaction to perceived incompetence that is characteristic of those who were born with little, and had to battle against it to attain much. A style of dress that mirrors City workers, but not the same style of conducting business – a life currently spent in a privileged neighbourhood, then. A cut of clothes that was selected for convenience rather than price or style – a mismatch of styles designed to appeal to different target demographics. Undoubtedly a businessman, but one who suffered in building himself – you have the body of a powerfully built man who has lost some of his vigour. Perhaps working his way up through an industry, catching someone's eye, attaining a board position… certainly your demeanour is not one of an entrepreneur… finding marriage, procreation… A scar on your left cheek, characteristic of smallpox, well hidden with some form of make-up, even now – possibly to disguise one's own memories. You survived – did another, someone close to you, die in the same? It would explain your drive, and indeed, your determination to prevent further loss – which I imagine is what compels you to seek my help. Who have you lost, then, or what do you seek to retain?'
A silence followed this question. Horace felt curiously calm. This person knew an awful lot about him – so much so that he was almost entirely convinced that he had been stalked prior to this meeting – and yet he was strangely comforted by this person's ruthless efficiency, where every fibre of his being would previously have told him he should be terrified. So his prevailing feeling was, indeed, one of curiosity, and he looked around the library with a renewed interest.
'How did you know where I lived?' he asked interestedly.
'A working-class man, living in an altogether middle-class neighbourhood, largely surrounded by City workers, who selects the area for convenience over luxury… and who lives sufficiently far away that driving was considered a necessity, even in a notoriously congested area, but not far enough away that walking to the train would have been more so. Oh, and a blue Audi, driven by one in the grip of emotional trauma, possibly also as a status symbol for your neighbours to appreciate. Once I had isolated the likeliest areas, it was not at all difficult for my employees to go looking for the car, in the early morning on a weekend, when you were unlikely to be out.'
'I see… and you knew when I would be here?'
'You would not leave before lunch, as you would not be here in time to eat. Five minutes to attempt to insert a large weapon somewhere inconvenient, two hours, twelve minutes to clear the city, an hour and a quarter to arrive at the dirt tracks, forty-two minutes to reach the front gate, a minute and a half of bracing yourself. From there it is a simple enough calculation, given the reliability of the traffic reports, and your satellite navigation system.'
'Seems like you left a lot to chance in that particular instance.'
'All manner of things contain an incalculable element. We can only choose the path that necessitates the least of these.'
'And that's deduction?'
'No. That is logic.'
'Fascinating though this is, I wonder if you might describe your predicament to me. That is, after all, what you are here for.'
'Don't you already know it?'
'I could hazard a guess. But guesses are only worth so much. I value information far more. My business is in solving your problem, so you would be well-advised to give me as much information as you can possibly muster.'
Horace shifted uncomfortably where he was standing. He only noticed now that there was only one chair by the table. Evidently, this Fellowes fellow was not used to guests.
'Well, to cut a very long story short – my son is missing.'
Fellowes did not answer, but merely turned another page of his book. Horace took that to be an indication that he should continue talking.
'So, as I say, my son is missing. He disappeared last Thursday – roughly a week and a bit ago. He usually gets the train to school. But he never came back. And the school says he never arrived that day, either. We called the police, and they did a thorough search – turned out he'd looted our coffers and left that day with about a thousand pounds in cash, tucked away in his pockets, and nearly the entire contents of our snack bowl. Assuming he has a chocolate bar and a packet of crisps every day, it should last him for a few weeks.'
'So you suspect that it was voluntary?'
'That's what the police say.'
'Given their cooperation, I take it he is not yet eighteen?'
'No, he's seventeen.'
'I see. And there was no evidence of breaking and entering on the previous night?'
'No broken locks, open windows, anything that could have allowed a person to break in and steal a thousand pounds in cash?'
'No, nothing of the sort.'
'Search warrants have gone out?'
'Yes, every major constabulary in the city and beyond is looking for him.'
'Hmm.' Fellowes seemed lost in thought.
'So,' went on Horace, 'that's the long and the short of it. Son's gone, wife's distraught, police have stopped looking for him, and I'm at a loss to know what to do. If you've got any bright ideas, that would be great…'
Fellowes stood up, still reading his book, motioned for Horace to follow him, and began walking away. Horace walked slowly after them up the marble staircase to the second library floor, where there were even more books, and through a door on the left-hand side, under an ornate lintel bearing some stone eagles. They stepped into what was undoubtedly some sort of laboratory, full of whirring pieces of machinery, computers, complicated instruments, large tanks full of pickled animals looking at them, and what appeared to be a row of bookshelves, at the far end, holding not books, but a variety of different chemical compounds, none of which were labelled. Fellowes strode over to this display and picked a bottle off without looking, placed his book on the table, and a plate of agar containing some sort of fungus beside it, which he appeared to have conjured out of nowhere, all the while still reading his book. Horace watched silently as he added a drop of the liquid to the fungal plate, which instantly cleared away as the fungus disappeared, leaving a clean, round hole in the middle of the fungus population.
'So your son is missing,' he began unexpectedly, 'with a large amount of very easily findable items, all on his own, but the police are unable to trace him. How peculiar.'
'I fear the worst,' answered Horace. 'I suppose you will tell me that he is most likely dead, having been stripped of his possessions and thrown into a well, while some very lucky opportunistic thief spends my hard-earned money in a casino…'
'You certainly have an active appreciation for the morbid,' remarked Fellowes, now cutting out a square piece of the fungal plate, half of which contained fungus and half of which previously did. 'But let's not get carried away with confirmation bias. What you suggest is a possibility, but an unlikely one – a thief who discovers a windfall is unlikely to kill the man if he handed it over beforehand. And in any case, such an event would have been bound to attract attention in such a densely populated urban area. I would venture to suggest, myself, the work of many hands in this conceit.'
'What? You mean, he had help?'
'Had, and has. I would have suggested he were paying off debts for drugs or some other illicit material, but his purloining of comestibles seems to go against that explanation. Possibly he thought that he could pay drug barons with crisps, but that is quite unsatisfactory for me, as an explanation. It seems more likely that some other – I hesitate to say friends – have adopted him, or rather, that he was promised some alternative home, possibly with those he believed that he was more affiliated with than his parents. In any case, the police have been looking for a single boy with large amounts of money in his pockets – certainly, they would not then consider a large number of boys, none of whom have very much money at all, to be consistent with the description they have been given. This assumes much, but is the most feasible explanation I can think of, given the current evidence.'
'By Jove! You really think that is the case?'
'Possibly,' he replied, now examining the cut agar through a microscope. 'I'd need to pay a few visits and make a few enquiries to be certain. It does not appear that he was kidnapped – no ransom fee has been requested – nor is there sufficient evidence to assume death, which in our trade is only given as an explanation when all other avenues are exhausted.'
'Sir, you do not know how happy it makes me to hear you say this!'
'Yes, I do.'
'Well, all the same, you will take our case?'
'I believe that could be inferred from our dialogue.'
'Ah, that is good… I cannot thank you enough.' Horace glanced around the room, again interested in all that was around him. 'Ah, now what on earth is that contraption?'
'Hmm?' said Fellowes, glancing around at the large, box-shaped contraption with binocular eyepieces, to which his client was pointing. 'That's a confocal microscope , for lack of a better term. It measures the depth of the image as well as magnifying it, so allows me to see objects in three dimensions as opposed to two. It's rather useful for some very specific applications.'
'Well, well! Magnificent! And what does this huge tube here do?'
'That's part of a scanning transmission electron microscope.'
'Great Scott! Doesn't that cost an awful lot to use? I thought that these things used more electricity than whole villages!'
'I don't use it often. Typically the confocal microscope is more suitable for the purposes I put to it. As for the power, I have my own generator and electrical mountain out at the back. I don't bother the National Grid.'
'If you don't mind, Mr. Balmoral, I have other work to be getting on with now, which requires my utmost attention,' said Fellowes suddenly, gesturing to his plate of agar. 'I must request that you leave now. I will be at your door at seven o' clock sharp next morning, and will be giving your issue my undivided interest, if these arrangements are amenable to you.'
'Well,' answered Horace slowly, 'I generally sleep in on Sundays…'
'Good.' And with that said, he went back to peering down the microscope. Horace remained where he was, unsure whether he was supposed to see himself out, and then deciding that his host had no intention of showing him the way out, he began to retrace his steps. The woman was waiting for him at the door.
'How was it?'
'Your master is decidedly unnerving, ma'am.'
'I know what you mean. They say he sold his soul and his humanity to the devil for knowledge. He's like Doctor Faust, but without any emotions at all. Still, not like he cares. He's rich enough to do whatever he wants, and he spends his time reading, writing, and occasionally solving mysteries – never anything else.'
'Surely he realises he must run out of money at some point? If his only source of income is his detective agency – '
'He holds a load of patents for machine parts, inventions, industrial processes, that sort of thing. Companies pay him to use them. In fact, he's pretty much paid solely for existing.'
'You seem to know an awful lot about his finances, for someone who "doesn't know an awful lot about him", ma'am.'
She gave him that mysterious, knowing smile again.
'I know about his finances because I'm the one who writes his accounts every month. I don't know why he doesn't just do it himself, since he checks them all himself anyway. But I said I didn't know anything about him, and that's true. I'm not telling you anything right now that you couldn't find out for yourself, if you bothered to look hard enough. But if he wants to keep a secret, there's no getting it out of him. I don't know where he really came from, how he thinks, or just how much he knows, only what he's told me, or others. But he is good at solving problems… very good indeed.'
'Is he a genius, then?'
'A genius? I'd call him one, but he wouldn't,' she laughed. 'In fact, he really dislikes being called that. According to him, a genius is a state of being, like madness, but on the right side of the ledger. He doesn't have any sort of amazing computational ability, or at least that's what he says – he's just very knowledgeable, and he can draw links between the things he unravels to draw inferences, but he can always remember how he got from the beginning to end. A genius, he says, can't do that. But I don't know how he knows that, either.'
At precisely eleven o' clock the following morning, the doorbell at twenty-eight Jerome Street rang, while the Balmorals were taking breakfast. Horace had quite forgotten to tell his wife that the mysterious private investigator would be paying them a visit that morning, having been far more concerned with telling her all about the splendid riches and wonder of the man's lakeside mansion and what a worthwhile investment it had been to enlist his services, deaf to his wife's questions about when he would actually start investigating. On hearing the doorbell at the prophesied time, however, he remembered with a start, and jumped up shouting 'Lor, that's him!' while pulling on a dressing gown and rushing to the door. Pulling it open with a jolt, he found Fellowes standing there, quite calmly, in exactly the same clothes as he had been the day before. Horace did not have much time to ponder this, however, as Fellowes walked briskly into the house almost the moment the door was opened, and stopped in the middle of the hall, staring at the ceiling, apparently lost in thought. He did not react as Mrs. Balmoral walked through to see whom the visitor was, but remained motionless. She looked enquiringly towards her husband, and Horace decided that at this point, the done thing would be to introduce his wife.
'Mr. Fellowes, please allow me to introduce my wife, Claribel,' he began, in his rather pompous tone that he usually reserved for extremely uncomfortable situations. 'Claribel, this is Mr. Fellowes. He's the private investigator, and he has assured me that he will give our problem his undivided…'
'Your son's room is upstairs, is it not?' interrupted Fellowes suddenly, without changing his expression or bodily position.
'Ah, yes, it is,' replied Horace. 'But, as I was saying…'
And with that, Fellowes was suddenly away, up the stairs, and out of sight. Horace and Claribel shared a glance before proceeding after him.
'Horace, have you seen his eyes?' asked Claribel quietly.
'Yes, they're a very unusual colour, aren't they?'
'There's something unholy about them. I don't like it,' his wife continued, allowing a little gasp to come into her voice. 'It's like the devil's tempting us.'
'Nonsense, my dear. That's just the effect he has on you, the first time. But he's most capable, or so I feel. See, he's found our son's room already,' he added, pointing to Fellowes, who was standing erect in the doorway of Thomas's room, arms folded, taking the entire scene in.
The room was altogether untidy. The police, who had immediately suspected some sort of drug-related incident, had felt obliged to strip the entire place down to its knees, with mattress stuffing covering the floor, books strewn over the top of it, the duvet in a crumpled heap with its entrails scattered about it, even various electronic devices taken apart and left. Only after the most thorough of searches had they decided that it would be more sensible to have a trained sniffer dog investigate the site, and after the obliging canine determined that there were no illicit substances on the site, the team had left, apologising profusely and promising that compensation for any damage would be given once the appropriate forms had been filled out. These forms were, unbeknownst to the Balmorals, dutifully filled out with an elegant rendering of "we didn't find anything at all", and quite promptly forgotten about after the initial investigation found nothing of importance in them. Fellowes cast his eye over the entire scene with an air of profound indifference before addressing the concerned parents.
'I don't suppose you've been in here since the police left.'
'No,' answered Claribel, 'we haven't. It's altogether unpleasant to us…'
'Well, all to the better,' interrupted Fellowes, 'this visit may not prove to be a waste of time, after all. Were samples of his DNA taken?'
'No, no they weren't. I think they took samples of his clothing, though.'
'Well, no matter. We can find some skin cells, perhaps.' He took out a bag of cloth packets and some blue rubber gloves, and after putting the gloves on his hands with little ceremony, began to swipe at the walls with the cloth in the manner of one trying to catch a particularly annoying fly, leaving a finely defined streak on the wall where the dust used to be. He then repeated the operation against the duvet, the books, the inside of the wardrobe, the underside of the bed, until at last he appeared to run out of cloth packs. He straightened up silently, walked out of the room, and down the stairs. Horace exchanged a glance with his wife.
'Hmm. I suppose he's looking for the kitchen, or bathroom, perhaps. I suppose it was remiss of me not to tell him, but I'm sure he can find it himself.'
There was the unmistakeable sound of the front door opening and then closing.
'Hm?' coughed Horace, surprised once again. 'Where on earth is he off to now?'
'I suppose he purloined my son's secret savings, and is off to deposit them in the nearest bank.'
'Really, Claribel, I hardly think…'
'Horace, oughtn't you to follow him? An explanation would be nice, if he is indeed here to help us.'
'Ah… yes, yes, I should… but I don't know where he could have – '
'Where else but his home? I don't think he was collecting dust for his collection.'
And so, for the second time in two days, Horace Balmoral found himself faced with the prospect of a four-hour drive to a remote countryside retreat, to make conversation with possibly the least reassuring human being he had ever met, and another four-hour drive all the way back again. Had it not been for that mysterious force that can cause human beings to believe they may move mountains through sheer force of exertion, no matter how far from their hands their goal may be, Horace made the journey, and made it well; he was keenly conscious of every single bump and rut in the road's surface. By the time he had arrived there, it was past lunchtime, and he was quite keenly aware of how hungry he was, not having missed a mealtime since his own teenage years. But he had that earthy mantra that dictates that chronic pain must imply that one is doing something correctly, and walked up to the door without complaint.
This time, the door was opened by a red-haired man, who seemed far less inclined to talk than his guide from the previous two days. The man gruffly looked Horace up and down, remarked that he fitted the master's description, and that the master had given instructions that in the event of his arrival, he should be asked to meet the master in his laboratory. This concluded the interview, and the surly-faced gentleman closed the door and walked away without another word. Horace paused only to utter some choice remarks about what he thought of ill-mannered domestic staff before proceeding, as before, down the corridor, into the library, up the stairs, and through the side-door into the laboratory. As expected, Fellowes was standing there, in the same clothes he had been in only hours before, leaning over a large, boxlike machine. He did not look around as Horace entered.
'Ah… I say, Mr. Fellowes…' began Horace, by way of announcing himself.
'Pray take a seat, Mr. Balmoral,' answered Fellowes. 'This should only take a moment.'
'Can I ask what you are doing?' asked Horace, while looking for something seat-shaped to sit on. Fellowes paused, as though trying to decide whether it was worth his time to answer the question, before answering.
'Ah – this machine amplifies any specific fragment of DNA to many millions of copies, via a process known as the polymerase chain reaction - it is quite useful for the purposes I put to it. At the moment, I am trying to isolate and replicate a specific protein – such a thing is helped, indeed, if I know what species said protein originated from – so, having many copies of this particular fragment is helpful.' He walked over to what appeared to be a computer screen and began tapping at the keyboard. 'No matches,' he said at last, though with a tone that almost seemed amused.
'So what did you collect all that dust for, anyway?' asked Horace, deciding that what appeared to be an elephant skull would be as good a seat as any he was likely to find in that accursed laboratory.
'It was necessary sampling. The police were rather thorough with the big clues, so I shall simply have to make do with the little ones.'
'I'm not sure I understand.'
'Well, allow me to walk you through what I have done. First, I add the necessary extraction liquid, buffer, and the like, and then centrifuging the sample at a low speed, so as not to kill the cells I am interested in. I can then remove the supernatant using a pipette. Within this supernatant, we have everything that our samples have to offer us.'
'From there, we can extract proteins, or organelles, or whole cells, whatever the sample has to offer us. We look for that which is out of place – a presence in one area may be an absence in another, and that may provide us with a clue, of sorts. In this case, I isolated some of each. For the proteins, I have injected them into these rabbits,' – here depositing a cage full of rabbits on the desk – 'which should generate an immune response, which will allow for the collection of antibodies, which once separated , can themselves be used to identify the cells from which the proteins originated, once I have had a chance to develop these cultures,' – here pointing to a selection of petri dishes by the side of his PCR machine – 'and from that, we can build up what we may call a library, of sorts, containing information that we received from these samples. We can even take the DNA and sequence it, by electrophoresis followed by Southern blotting , or Northern blotting for the RNA involved in gene expression, and that becomes an important trace tool, which again, the amplification is most useful for.'
'And… you think there is a lead in all of this?'
'There are hundreds of potential leads, all of which could be significant or all of which could be irrelevant. But there are some things that do not lie.'
So saying this, he calmly pushed the tip of a syringe needle into one of the rabbits, which seemed to freeze with fright, even after the needle was withdrawn. Fellowes examined the blood sample closely, as if attempting to see its very ultrastructure with his naked eyes, and then sighed.
'Mr. Balmoral, I think it highly unlikely that I will be finished here before tomorrow. I will call on you then, at the appointed time, and instruct you in the most appropriate course of action. Good day.'
Horace was tempted to argue, but these words, spoken in such a commanding yet indifferent tone, seemed to be finding the chink in his armour. In truth, he was not sorry to leave the stuffy, mysterious laboratory, with its disturbing pickled animals and alarming pieces of machinery, he reflected sadly as he began the long journey home. More than anything else, he felt that his curiosity had got the better of him far too often – certainly, it had got in the way of his sense of professionalism, and something really ought to be done about it. He would be firmer next time. And yet… there was something about the man, his mode of living, his mystery, which could not fail to fascinate, to excite the imagination. To a man versed in poetry, he might have passed for some sort of sorcerer or minor Greco-Roman deity – to this man versed in little but labour, he was but a man, but a man who was nothing like a man.
The third day dawned, and with it, Horace began to wonder if the whole extraordinary sequence of events could possibly be some dream, or some other figment of his imagination; this thought kept him occupied as he lay in bed, not bothering to get up, while his wife lay next to him, not wanting to rise and show her face before he did. She was, as we have said before, a woman most afflicted by the curse of seeing beyond the immediate, and the thought of living without her son had indeed reduced her to tears in those nights she could be certain not to be overheard by Horace, who had fortunately been so weary in the last few nights that he had merely collapsed and fallen asleep on the bed, without bothering with his nightly ablutions. But such thoughts were torn away from both of them as the doorbell rang. Horace jumped up, swaying on the spot from grogginess, shouted 'Lor!' at the clock, which was prominently announcing the eleventh hour, and rushed downstairs without even bothering to put on his dressing gown to open the door. Fellowes was standing there, with a box under his arm, and appeared to be once again wearing the same clothes as before.
'Ah – hallo there, Mr. Fellowes! Good morning!'
'If you would get dressed quickly, Mr. Balmoral, you may accompany us. There is much work to be done, and under ordinary circumstances I would not have come here. However, I promised you an instruction this morning, and while circumstances have made such a thing now impossible, I believe you will be able to find a more than satisfactory explanation of these events purely by observation. We will be waiting in the van.' And with that, he turned on his heels and walked away, to where a white van appeared to be waiting. Horace hesitated for a moment, then ran back up the stairs, told his wife to get dressed, and went to look for a clean shirt.
Within five minutes, Horace and Claribel were seated in the back of the large trade vehicle, with Fellowes seated opposite them, and the dark-haired woman and red-haired man dimly visible as being the driver and passenger, while surrounded by large amounts of equipment. The woman started the engine and the van lurched forward in a way that one would not have expected of its make, but the couple were far too preoccupied to be surprised by such a thing. Horace leaned forward and addressed Fellowes.
'I say, my good man, what's all this in aid of?'
'I'm following a trail,' said Fellowes simply. Claribel gave a start.
'What! You've found a lead?'
'I'm following one,' replied Fellowes, still without any hint of excitement.
'That's not an answer, Mr. Fellowes.'
'I don't have any other.'
'But where did it come from? Did you get a tip-off?'
'No, I am merely following the most sensible course of action. If we take as our assumption that your son had outside help, it is unlikely that he met them any great distance from his general environs, as a white, middle-class, private-school child, surrounded by his fellows, with lessons in convenience. I can't imagine his going very far out of his way, at least not out of habit. As such, we can narrow down our choice of meeting-places in general to public houses, and other haunts of the rebellious but thoroughly sheltered youth.'
'But our son doesn't drink!'
'I never hinted that he did. That's your deduction to make.' Fellowes turned and addressed the two silhouettes at the front. 'Did you bring the ELISA or the Western Blot? '
'Both,' answered the woman cheerfully. 'And plenty more besides.'
The van stopped outside a dark, dilapidated old public house, which nevertheless seemed reassuring if only for the clear signs of activity from within. An old sign at the door announced the venue as being named "The Admiral", and inside, the building certainly appeared to live up to its apparent maritime connection, with the grotty, unkempt, broken walls covered by dusty pictures of ships, and even anchors, rigging, and ships' wheels. Fellowes and Horace stepped inside, with Claribel and the two servants remaining in the van, the former to try to calm herself down, and the latter two apparently engaged in setting up some sort of portable machinery or contraption. On taking in the scene, Horace felt it necessary to communicate some of his unease.
'Are you sure this is the right place? I can't imagine my son ever coming here. It's positively pestilential.'
'We can quite easily find out,' replied Fellowes, taking a few items from his coat pocket and walking over to the wall. Nobody appeared to be paying him much attention, observed Horace, as he crouched down beside the wall and began scraping pieces of it into a large petri dish, before handing it to Horace. 'Give this to my servants and tell them to test it by immunofluorescence . Then, tell me their reply.'
Horace did as he was asked like a child, and took the petri dish to where the van was parked without complaint. He handed over the petri dish to the red-haired man, passed on Fellowes' instructions, and as the red-haired man climbed back into the van muttering, he allowed his curiosity to get the better of him, and asked the woman what on earth they were doing.
'It's an immunofluorescence assay,' replied the woman. 'We take the sample and add these fluorescence-labelled antibodies to it. With luck, they'll stain the thing we're looking for – you know, we can detect them in a high concentration – and that'll tell us that whatever they're specific to is in there, somewhere.'
'But… What does that even mean? Aren't they just chemicals? Why is he looking for them here? What are we even doing here?'
'If I knew, sir,' she smiled, 'I'd have told you.'
Just at that moment, the surly-faced gentleman emerged once again from the van.
'Positive,' he declared.
'Good,' replied the woman. Turning to Horace, she added, 'I suppose you'd better go tell the master that.'
'Ah – yes – so I had better,' Horace found himself replying, and he staggered back to the public house. He was so absorbed in his own thoughts that he was paying little attention to his general surroundings, with the result that he very nearly collided with Fellowes, who had emerged from the public house. Even more peculiar, Fellowes appeared to be carrying a tube of –
'Yes, it's blood,' Fellowes remarked pre-emptively, as Horace jumped backwards in shock. 'Now get in the van quickly, and don't ask questions.'
'Why?' said Horace, in spite of himself.
'If you do not, you will be torn to pieces by some very angry pub-goers,' replied Fellowes, still in that monotone of his, and climbing into the van without checking to see whether Horace was following him. As Horace clambered clumsily inside, the entire contents of the public house appeared to spill into the street, looking wildly around for something that Horace shrewdly suspected was sitting beside him holding a few cubic ounces of someone else's blood. The doors closed and the van took off, and with the doors closed, Horace was unable to see any more.
'Well?' he asked, after a brief pause in which Fellowes had shown no sign of beginning to speak. 'Aren't you going to explain?'
'In a moment. For now, we need to find somewhere quiet where we can carry out the assay.'
'ELISA or Western blot?' asked the woman, from the front.
'Both,' answered Fellowes in response. Then, turning to Horace, he asked, 'By the way, what was the result of the immunofluorescence?'
'Positive,' answered Horace.
'Well, that is good,' said Fellowes. 'It would have been rather awkward had the test been negative, though in any case, a double false positive is still not out of the question, statistically speaking.'
'What! You mean, you've taken somebody's blood without – '
'I am following a very specific line of enquiry. There are no negative consequences if this line does indeed turn out to be a dead end.'
'But won't – '
'Not if they want to stay open. I found enough hygiene abuses on that one patch of wall to be certain that they will not want forensics experts examining their walls. They would be put out of business.'
The van screeched to a halt, and Horace heard the two front doors opening. Fellowes climbed carefully out of the back and handed the blood sample to the woman, murmured 'as we discussed,' and stood staring thoughtfully at the sky. Horace was unsure whether to get out or not, but suddenly realising that the smell of the uncovered blood was sickening, and had already forced Claribel to seek fresh air. It seemed a good idea, therefore, to try to engage Fellowes in conversation again.
'So, my good man… where did you get that blood from?'
'What? Didn't she struggle?'
'Anaesthetic is a relatively cheap commodity.'
'But aren't you afraid of being recognised? You are rather distinctive, after all, and if you leant that close up to her – '
'She will remember few details bar my eye colour. And since you have not noticed yet, I should point out to you that I am wearing coloured contacts.'
'By Jove, so you are! But tell me, on another note – why her? Why here?'
'It's quite simple. I found samples of a rather distinctive little microorganism both in the samples I took from your son's room and in those that I took from that public house. If she happens to be carrying the same, then we can infer from that that she is connected to your son – or more likely, to those who currently have him in their custody.'
'But, my dear Fellowes… surely that's leaving so much to chance? Why, surely the most likely explanation is that it's pure coincidence! Why do you specifically believe that that girl – '
'It is less likely than you might think,' answered Fellowes ambiguously. Horace was about to press on with his questioning, but was interrupted by the woman, who had just emerged from the van.'
'Positive, in very high amounts,' was the verdict.
'Thank you. That will do.'
Fellowes turned again to Horace.
'Now, the path is relatively straightforward. How would you expect this girl to react when she comes to her senses?'
'She – well, I know I would be horrified!'
'Quite. She will tell those whom she believes will protect her.'
'Her underworld associates. If all goes well, she can lead us back to whoever organised this little jaunt. People tend, you see, to behave rather like antibodies, in a sense – many will gravitate towards one. High specificity. It is rather hard to explain – but in such a diluted environment, it is not hard to see heavily concentrated groups, rather alike families, in a sense.
'I'm not sure I understand.'
'Then here is your course of action. Call the police – ensure that you give them a good description of whom it is you are following. Ask them to tail her. I imagine she will be in the correct frame of mind to lead them back to your son.'
'Great Scott! And you will explain everything to them?'
'No, I must be leaving. I have other matters to attend to.'
'But – '
'I will leave my maidservant here to give a simplified overview to the first officers to arrive, who I imagine will be capable enough of passing it on to others who arrive. In any case, it should be fairly smooth sailing from here.'
And with that, he turned and climbed into the passenger's seat of the van. The red-haired man drove away, leaving Horace, Claribel, and the woman standing awkwardly by the roadside.
That evening, Horace and Claribel sat in their living room, neither speaking to the other. Horace had forgotten to turn the radiator on, but both were sitting in the freezing cold without so much as a shiver. Their wait seemed, to them, to be eternal. The police had arrived only a few minutes after Fellowes and his servant had left, and had conversed briefly with the maidservant before turning to them.
'Your son is part of an ongoing police investigation, correct?' the sergeant had asked.
'A postponed police investigation,' Horace had corrected, unable to keep the traces of emotion out of his voice at the pressure to the old wounds.
'And you have taken the law into your own hands. Well, we'll see if this person turns up anything. Personally, I have my doubts.'
After that, they had been checked over by the resident nurse and asked to fill out several health and safety forms; it was only a few hours later that they had got back to their home, and were now anxiously awaiting news. Finally, they received a knock on their door. Claribel buried her head in her hands, while Horace walked slowly over. As expected, the visitor was the police superintendent who had been handling their son's case, wearing a languid expression that Horace found it impossible to divine any news from, good or ill.
'Good evening, superintendent.'
'Good evening, sir. May I come in?'
With the pleasantries concluded, the superintendent waddled through the door and straight into the living room, without, Horace noted with a twinge of annoyance, taking the trouble to remove his shoes, or even to refrain from stepping on the carpet. But the superintendent showed no sign of any concern other than weariness – he sat down in one of the comfier arm-chairs and began to speak.
'Sir, madam, I am afraid I have bad news to give you. Your son is dead.'
So pointed a remark may perhaps be construed as far too blunt or unkind to its intended audience from our perspective, but we must remember that the superintendent, exhausted as he was, was not in a mood to skirt around the unpleasant details that were most likely to upset the couple's mood. A grave silence followed the man's words, but Horace quickly found speech.
'Dead? Dead! Whatever do you mean, sir?'
'We trailed the barmaid, as you suggested. She remained in the pub until seven o' clock that evening. Prior to this, a white van had pulled up alongside the pub, and several masked men had got out. When she left, she got into the van along with the men – and they seemed to be carrying a long, thin package. We followed the van for a long while, until we got into the countryside – at that point, the doors opened and they dumped the package out into the road, along with a load of other stuff, then sped off – we had to swerve to avoid the junk, and by the time we were righted, we couldn't even see them. We called for backup to block the other end of the road, but the van never arrived – we had a look, and it seems they ditched the van in a hedge and escaped. We tried to track them… and we're still trying. We had a look in the bag, and… it was horrible. Looks like they tried to cremate the body but couldn't do it properly, and took out some of the organs to make it easier. Anyway, we had forensics there within the hour, and they identified the body from some of the tissue matter – dead match for your son's DNA, apparently. Oh, and we raided the pub, but apparently the owners don't know anything about this. Leave that to the judge, I guess…'
A far longer silence followed here. Claribel appeared to be close to sobbing. Horace was white as a sheet. The superintendent seemed visibly repulsed by his own memories. The three of them sat there, not quite knowing what to say next, the parents trying to digest the monstrosity of the events, and the superintendent trying desperately to think of a way that he could get away from the situation. An excuse of some sort… possibly something to do with a family tragedy of his own. That seemed nice and empathetic. Possibly he could say his uncle Dudley had a migraine – but was it a migraine or a stroke that was fatal? Migraine sounded more medical, so that must be it. He wondered how his uncle Dudley was doing, anyway. He hadn't spoken to him for weeks. He'd have to ask his secretary.
'So there's no chance of the test being wrong?' asked Horace suddenly, as if a new thought had occurred to him.
'No, we've had it straight from the forensics, and they're awfully good at their job,' replied the superintendent. 'No, I'm afraid there's no chance of that. However, you can rest assured that the police will do everything in their power to bring these killers to justice, and bring closure what I am certain must have been a most troubling experience for you,' he added, silently patting himself on the back for remembering his counselling training. He hoped they appreciated these little benefits of his experience.
Suddenly, mercifully, there was a ring at the doorbell, cutting short the superintendent's half-remembered advice and support guidelines. Horace rose mechanically and went to answer it. Probably the forensics to give their account of how exactly his son had likely died. Possibly they even had his brain in a jar of formaldehyde, to return to his family. With these grim thoughts in mind, he opened the door with a jolt.
The light streamed out over the patio, illuminating the bright, round face of a seventeen-year-old boy, with bright eyes on auburn hair, who upon seeing his father smiled wider and more earnestly than could have been thought possible for anyone who had known him beforehand. Behind him, in the umbra of the prevailing darkness, stood a tall man, whose violet eyes seemed to sparkle in the reflected light.
'My dear Thomas, we are glad to see you safe.'
A man in a stained lab coat, covering a woollen fleece and brown corduroy trousers, sat lazily on a reclining chair behind a steel desk, idly spinning a knife between his fingers, watching the small teenage boy struggle vainly against the strong hands that were holding his arms behind his back. They appeared to be in some sort of large, ground-floor living room with barely any furnishings - it exuded an almost oxymoronic air of being both dark and clean at the same time. There was little light, and the darkness was echoed in the black wood walls, which looked like charcoal. There was a powerful smell of disinfectant reverberating around the room, as in a dentist's waiting room, and appeared to be concentrated around a bizarre, cuboidal tank by the window, which contained a transparent fluid and what seemed to be pieces of meat. All around the room were gathered many menacing, hooded figures, all of whom seemed to be rather bored, as well as a woman, standing behind the desk, clutching a bloody rag, which was pressed against her left shoulder.
'I hate you,' whispered the boy, by way of reply.
'Now, now, my dear,' went on this latter-day Dr. Frankenstein. 'Let's not get overexcited. You forget how good we've been to you.'
'You lied to me… you took my blood,' said the boy, more audibly, but quite as simply. The man frowned.
'I do hate these little… inaccuracies in a story,' he began. 'But let us not quibble over trifles. You are here, you are safe. This hasn't been the easiest day for me either… nor for poor Mayumi,' he added affectionately, looking over his shoulder at the woman. 'Dear me! Lost your job, lost your home, lost all your possessions, lost our only current point of contact with more potential applicants, not to mention our meeting-place. Still, it could have been a lot worse. We're all together. There's plenty of room here. Had they chosen to simply arrest you… now, that would have been a tragedy, to lose you like that. But you managed to warn us, and we got away, and threw them off our tail. It has cost us, mind… they will redouble their efforts, to find a murderer, as opposed to a runaway boy… but we have everything we need now. They will get bored, after a time. It is worrying to think that the police could have tracked us to the Admiral… I do wonder how they did it… we must be more careful from now on.'
With every passing sentence, the man's voice became colder, quieter, and deeper. He had stopped spinning his knife now, and was clutching it firmly in his hand.
'Still,' he began suddenly, with a positive tone that was as alarming in its contrast to its owner's previous tone as it was purely from the fact that it was coming from a knife-wielding man in a dirty lab coat, 'we must remember to look on the bright side! I think we ought to get started now. This little escapade has already thrown back our schedule even further. And you all know I can't work night shifts – '
'These tissue samples are fascinating,' a voice said unexpectedly from the vicinity of the tank. 'I wager there are some that would pay a high price for them.'
As one, the heads of all those in the room turned in the direction of the voice. A silhouette of a tall, thin man could be seen peering intently into the glass, cuboidal tank, with so much interest that you would have thought that the room was not filled with very large, burly men. The man in the lab coat frowned slightly and motioned with his knife in the direction of the silhouette. One of the men took a step towards him, and instantly collapsed on the ground. Another, on seeing this, walked over to help his friend up, and also fell to the ground, senseless. Suddenly, one by one, each of the men seemed to react to something apparently alike being stabbed in the rear, before, as one, keeling over. The man in the lab coat stood up, and the woman Mayumi let out a piercing scream, which suddenly died in her throat, as her eyes closed and she fell across the steel desk. The man in the lab coat turned her over, and examined her neck.
'A drugged dart,' he said at last, rolling her onto the floor.
'As a note for future reference,' said the silhouette, 'if a man walks into a room full of very heavily-armed strangers entirely unarmed, and announces his presence in a way that is calculated to raise the utmost suspicion of him, he is probably acting as a distraction.'
As the man spoke, three women entered the room, each holding a modified combat rifle. The boy, who had until that point remained exactly where he was for fear of reminding the man in the lab coat of his presence, hurried over to the dark-haired woman, who was motioning for him to stand next to her, while the other two kept their guns firmly trained on the man in the lab coat. The man looked around, and quite casually placed the knife on the table, before beginning to slowly applaud.
'Bravo, constable. You found me, and after I took such pains to conceal my whereabouts.'
'I am no constable, though your assessment of the situation is flawless otherwise.'
'Well, then, might I know who you are, and how you managed to find me, not once, when I might have been careless, but twice?'
'I don't see why I should have to. I think I've already given you enough hints for when you find a way to escape from our poorly-designed penal system.'
'Maybe so. But in return, perhaps you would like to hear the holes in this story filled? I would not dream of asking for something without offering something in return.'
'I must admit,' replied Fellowes, 'I am intrigued. Very well, I shall answer first. I am, you may say, a contract detective, private investigator, whatever term you prefer. I was hired to find and bring home a boy that had allegedly fled home, but whom his parents – my employers – believed was the victim of kidnapping.'
'You must admit, it was rather well put together, eh?'
'Very. I was puzzled when I saw that he had apparently left the house of his own volition, and brought supplies with him. There was a low likelihood, to me, that he was the victim of any deliberate kidnapping, at least at first.'
'I thought that would fox the police. But moving on, how did you manage to track us to the Admiral? I imagine that was your first port of call.'
'Indeed. I found a very curious little microorganism in young Thomas's room, which had persisted even after the police had been through it.'
'A short-lived, non-lethal species of bacterium, which while able to grow, was clearly at a disadvantage in these local conditions. A bacterium that was quite distinct from any of the common species. A bacterium, indeed, that could only have come from elsewhere – and as cross-referencing its unique sequence with my database confirmed, was endemic to the Philippines. I was also able to develop monoclonal antibodies through the use of fused rabbit B-cells.'
'I sent my servants out during the night, once I had successfully procured a reservoir of antibodies, to a list of public places where the boy was likely to have run into, or become a part of, a group of strangers – public houses, bars, cheap entertainment, that sort of thing. I asked them to look for those who appeared first-generation immigrant Filipino in origin. I received three reports concerning a positive. I ran an immunofluorescence assay on multiple areas in all three – only one came up positive, and consistently at that.
'And that was the Admiral.'
'Just as you say. I then went back there the next day, and after reconfirming my earlier findings, obtained a blood sample from your, ah, spokeswoman. Her blood confirmed the high presence of the bacterium, and indeed, I thought, would flush you out of hiding in response.
'But didn't my little ruse throw you off?'
'The body bag? Yes, that was a little puzzling. DNA evidence typically doesn't lie. But then, interestingly enough, I managed to, ah, persuade the forensic team investigating the cadaver to let me borrow an organ or two. It was rather interesting. There were traces of the bacterium all over the organs, likely where it was handled by your clumsy colleagues, but there was no trace of antibody in the blood.'
'Ah. Then this was my fatal mistake?'
'I also found, rather interestingly, a selection of microorganisms that wouldn't ordinarily be found anywhere in the vicinity of that boy. Hospital bugs, in other words – likely as a result of poor hygiene. I looked for the hospitals that most recently had outbreaks of some of the ones I was able to identify, and from them, I was able to find and locate those members of the medical staff who were of Filipino origin. You were not, after that, particularly difficult to find, although we did "visit" one house before yours.' He glanced back at the tank. 'So you have managed to form organs from, I think, stem cells? Is that how you managed to create DNA replicas of organ tissue?'
'I do wonder why, with such technology at your disposal, you elected to create these monstrosities in the unsavoury conditions of your own house rather than sharing it with the world. Unless it was purely for money?'
'I have little. My countrymen had even less. We did what we had to – perpetually driven by a dream to be rich men in this ever-so-cruel world – to finally be able to leave our responsibilities behind us. We could sell a limitless supply of fresh organs for transplantation. The market is forever hungry for them. We could have made as much, or as little as we wanted to.'
'Then, you needed the child for, I think, bone marrow?'
'That is correct. We were not keen on cutting up our friends.'
'Then why not a tramp, or some similarly disadvantaged person? Unless…'
'Yes, we needed money to begin the venture. We coerced him into coming to us, to bring us money – he gave us a thousand pounds, which was more than enough to start off with. We could even have sent out a ransom letter, if it came to that. Yet I was forced to throw away our test organs to escape from the law enforcement. Given time, that tissue behind you… we could create thousands of organs from it. Save a great many lives, too. It's sad to think of it…'
'Indeed it is. But I don't care much for sentiment.'
'Answer me one more question, then. Who are you?'
'I'm afraid we're out of time.' He turned and addressed the servants. 'Catherine, Emily, kindly escort the gentleman and his fellows to the larger van and drop them off at the nearest constabulary.' He handed them a letter. 'This, I think, will make everything run smoothly.' He then turned to face the dark-haired woman. 'Anna, please take Thomas to the smaller van. We need to deliver the precious cargo.'
The girls bowed, as though it were some minor emperor who had been addressing them, and went about their duties. The man in the lab coat watched the proceedings with cordial amusement, even as they approached him with guns cocked. As one, they pressed the gun nozzles into his arms, and pulled the triggers.
'It was a pleasure to match wits with you, sir,' he said quietly, before succumbing to the drug, and the women carried him out of the room without any further complaint. Fellowes remained motionless, staring at the lumps of human tissue floating in the tank, as if they were the most fascinating things on earth right at that very moment.
The Balmoral household was in the grip of a festive air that it had not seen for many winters. The champagne was uncorked, the central heating was on, and the father, far from complaining that his son ought to have been spending his free time studying those things that he enjoyed, was now actively encouraging him to do nothing but sit back and enjoy the football highlights, and was entreating him to ask for anything they could do to celebrate his safe return. The mother had no more tears to shed in happiness, and compensated for it with laughter. The uncle, on hearing the news, had been there, as he put it, faster than one could say "Jack Robinson", and had brought all the brandy and chocolate he could carry. The superintendent had decided that he deserved an early night of it after a stressful day, and resolved to write up his successful investigation report in the morning. He should probably have asked that detective how he had found the gang's hideout before he had left, he reflected sadly. Oh well. Someone else would surely know. He'd have to ask his secretary. Meanwhile, Fellowes, the white-haired enigma, stood with an air of bemusement by the front door, apparently waiting for something. Seeing this as he came through from the kitchen, Horace grabbed his hand and wrung it enthusiastically, and told him that he simply must come in further than the front door, as the draught must be awful there.
'I must respectfully decline, thank you,' replied Fellowes, in that voice that was so out of place in the festive atmosphere. 'I have business to attend to, and I must sort out a few things before I leave.'
'Oh, come now, don't be like that, my good Fellowes!' cried Horace, quite oblivious to the loudness of his own voice. 'Come have a glass of bubbly! Like my old dad used to say, when there's something worth celebrating, you damn well celebrate it!'
'A questionable moral guide, but not worth my while to critique. First, I must ask you to recall the terms of our payment.'
'Ah. Now, it's remiss of me, but I cannot remember for the life of me what it was. My brother-in-law said something along the lines of fifty pounds a day, so that makes…'
'I was going to ask you to consider it a Christmas gift, actually,' said Fellowes.
'My dear soul! You can't mean that? Why, I'm already thoroughly in your debt already! I could give you my house, and still think I had not paid you back!'
'You know I have no use for money, but I have every use for time. As such, I would ask that you annul our payment contract to save time. I am rather tired at the moment, and have other things to pursue tomorrow.'
'Well, if you are going to be like that, then you must at least let us give you something in return! What would you like? Name anything you'd like!'
Fellowes remained staring at the ceiling in silence, once more lost in thought. But even though he had thought that he had seen every element of this creature, Horace was once again surprised by his reply.
'If it's all the same to you… I'd like a Christmas card,' he said slowly and deliberately, as if trying to control his voice with conscious effort. Horace blinked a couple of times in confusion, and then his smile broadened.
'Well, then, that's what you'll get!' he laughed happily. 'A card from every one of us, on your doorstep on December the twenty-fifth, my good man! And I won't rest until I can repay you – count on it!'
At that point, the moustachioed man poked his head around the living-room door, and shouted, 'come on, Horatio! You've missed the first game already!'
'Right-ho, I'm coming! I wouldn't miss this for the world!'
The moustachioed man peered curiously at the violet-eyed Fellowes, not having noticed him when he had arrived.
'Well, well! So you are the famous Fellowes, eh? My friend Bill told me all about you!'
'You had better hurry back, sir. I believe the commercial break is ending.'
'Ah, you're right! Well, if I ever have any sort of difficulty of this sort of magnitude, I do hope your door's open, because that's the first place I'll call.'
'I am gratified to hear your confidence.'
'Don't be. Only a fool wouldn't sing your praises after this performance.'
Fellowes left the family curled up beside a roaring fire, under a woollen blanket, with three male voices roaring as loudly as their lungs would permit towards a wide-screen television, while a mother, quite silently, hugged her son tightly, as one would a mast, if trapped on a ship's deck during a thunderstorm. He paused slightly as he heard a crunching sound underfoot. It appeared to be the first traces of snow. It hadn't been like that when he entered the house.
'That was out of character for you, sir.'
The voice of the dark-haired Anna, standing by the car, reached his ears as he stood silently staring at his footprint in the early snow.
'I wonder if you would cut out your own tongue if I paid you enough,' he asked aloud, still staring at the clear patch within the thin white. Anna smirked, though her face resumed its usual dispassionate exterior as he looked up. With a crackling of snow under its tyres, the car rolled away, preparing to brave another four-hour journey, at the end of which lay home.
So here's a first draft of the prologue of a medium-sized story project I'm working on. The book's concept thus far is about four children who were sent from heaven being harnessed for energy by the exploitation of their brain power. They're effectively being hunted at this moment, and they don't know they've been sent from heaven in the first place, they just think that they're ordinary kids. The book, unless I can think of a better name, is entitled "ManHunt". So, er, here's the prologue:
God released five heavenly cherubs, Floating to Earth they stay. And when time's up, they'll open their minds, Armageddon will begin this way.
Begging. "You don't want to do this. Please." A voice of gravel replied. "Believe me Oscar, we do. You volunteered yourself, you signed the contract." Oscar's voice was now a merciful wimper. "I didn't sign up for this! This wasn't part of the deal!" He stood firm. Bad idea. BOOM! A cascade of sound echoed around the room. No, not the room. The laboratory. Oscar fell in agony, aware of a gaping hole in his right legs, chunks of flesh and blood strewn across his body. The gun was raised down, and the gravel-like voice spoke again, all too calmly. "Nobody talks to me like that. No, not even you Oscar. Be thankful it was only your leg I shot at, not your goddamn head. You signed up for the greater good. And what you're doing today fulfills that purpose." Oscar, his voice now a faint whisper, murmered "How can you do this? This is inhumane!"
"Inhumane? No, it will help revolutionise the world. We are in desperate need of a power supply, you know that. What you, and two others are doing, what you agreed to do, will supply us with enough energy to last at least a century."
"But what happens afterwards? What happens when all the energy runs out? You're killing people for a measly supply of energy." Oscar cried out, fresh blood and tooth trickling from his mouth. Oscar's counterpart smirked, rubbing his hands in disgust. "The energy won't run out. It won't". And with that, he dragged Oscar into the Testing Room. And in the middle of this room was a glass box, a chamber, filled with a semi-translucent liquid. No airholes.
It took several minutes for Oscar to be dragged near enough to the glass chamber. "Section the liquid off, it looks like our last visitor's fluids weren't removed. He shot a glaring, murderous look at a woman who was operating a computer-esque machine. Oscar noticed she had sunk lower in her chair, her eyes watering over. SHe would die after this procedure had finished, he thought. But he had no emotions, no guilt, no remorse for this woman; after all, she was one of the operators who was in charge of this project. The project which would kill Oscar. Well, not entirely kill as such... something more sinister, worse even than death. Once the yellow substance was removed, Oscar was shoved into the glass chamber. too weak to plead, too weak to resist. A mechanical, piercing voice erupted through the room, its source from a small speaker in the top-right corner of the laboratory. "Initiate ManHunt Apparition in 10...9...8..." Oscar's hands were clenched in a fist, shaking and flailing wildly. "7...6...5..." His forehead was sweating, a small sob escaped his thoughts. "4...3...2...1." Oscar was crying hysterically, praying, pleading. His shriek was cut off by a powerful jet of hazy cyan gas, escaping from pores at the top of the chamber, and his mind clouded over. Pain shot up through his legs, his whole body in spasms. He tried screaming for help, but to no avail. He collapsed to the floor, writhing in yellow mass, his mind spinning. The liquid burned and grasped onto his skin, forcing its way into Oscar's mouth. A blinding neon green light shot down from the top, blinding Oscar and the other members of the operation. The eruption of light ceased, and silence fell.
A squelching sound gasped and heaved from inside the glass box. It stopped and started, groaned and hummed, before finally crashing through the chamber's wall, glass and debris hurtling to ground and air alike. It wasn't human.
A green, moist mesh of flesh and goo emerged from the glass chamber, its pores secreting the yellow translucent liquid which had made Oscar suffer. Not killed him. Instead, it had changed him into the small yet terrible, terrible creature which squirmed and gasped and flailed. And attacked. With one swift movement the creature dived and clutched onto the woman's face, the woman who would inevitably die after the procedure. The woman's scream was muffled, the panic set, it was all too late. The woman's skin bubbled, forcing itself inwards, slowly suffocating and ripping the woman. It engulfed her, and pressed down. Her own flesh. Soon, juices were bursting out of the gooey mass, the same yellow liquid. That too engulfed her, until she had become the creature Oscar had turned into. It was a horrifying sight to watch, yet so, so spectacular. Both creatures than slumped over, before finally nesting on the cold iron floor. The whole room was too shocked to speak. That was until the man wth the gravel voice spoke up, his voice tinted with glee and a hint of caution. "Well done, Oscar. Our test subjects have a lot to do to prove themselves. Release him and... and Sarah to the school tomorrow."
This is a story that i wrote it is called "emotions"
(any feedback or constructive critisism is welcome)
The hunter: “Please let me go” the voice pleaded, I couldn’t she wasn’t allowed to live something was burning inside her I couldn’t make out was it was glimmering, it taunted me. That soft glow wouldn’t go out I was smothering her life but she refused to let go of that fire. I drove deeper into her mind through darkness towards that glimmer of hope but the darkness repelled me. I felt strange things it must have been what other people call “Happiness” or “joy” as I battered on the wall of darkness I felt what must have been “fear” why didn’t I understand life? “Because you’re not like them your different, you have no emotion that makes you strong” a voice whispered in my head. NO!I repulsed the thought I am weak, these “emotions” are what allows someone to be strong to be a person but I didn’t have them Kim: I was awake no wait was I? This hazy black world wasn’t mine. The truth dawned on me, this was my mind there were waves pushing against my conscience I repelled them. I desperately clung to that glimmer of life that I still felt. Please let me go I was pleading this dark world wasn’t where I was supposed to be. A second ago I was still in the stream the cool waves washing over me the crystalline water sparkling the sun blazing overhead. I had been content, in my element: the water. Now I was here in my mind, nothingness only my own thoughts. As the attacks on my conscience got stronger I panicked, the presence nearly slipped through cold fear washed over me with my last strength I flung it out of my thoughts and ripped myself out of this strange world The hunter: The darkness flung me outwards I was tumbling falling through space a strange timeless feeling overcame me my mind zoned out suddenly there was dark nothing, nothing Kim: was dazed the cool water rushed around me my senses expanded through it first before I became fully aware of my surroundings I was lying sprawled in the stream the current gently tugging at my hair I was dressed in my white kimono I always wore it when I practice my water wielding. I expanded my mind through the water it felt good to be back in my element. At the back of my mind I vaguely heard shouts from the direction of the forest The hunter: I came round my vision was blurry I heard shouts from the river my followers had rushed down into the water. There was a young girl lying in the shallows her pitch black hair streaming ,her arms and legs flung wide she was sprawled in the water one of them drew a spear and prodded her with it as if to check whether she was alive.Suddenly the river exploded. I realized she was a wielder. her form danced in the frothing torrents her every motion flowed with the river. The water whipped around their heads swirling masses crashed upon the unfortunate assassins my own wielder was flung upon the banks of the river. he slowly stood up and spread his arms with a bellow of rage he fought back rays of light speared their way through the girl’s defenses. She was hit in the leg. Screaming she went down and sank into the water. My soldiers advanced my wielder raised his hands to finish her. Suddenly my mind flashed back I remembered emotions fear, panic, happiness, joy all those things I had felt in her mind For the first time I myself felt true emotions: pity and rage I couldn’t take the life of a being that had such emotions I flung up my hands Kim :They were coming I tried to stand but searing pain shot through my leg were that blasted light wielder had hit it I crumpled back down into the water the light wielder raised his hands. This was the end. I was helpless frozen with fear .I tried defending myself and attempted to raise a water shield but all energy had left me I was trying t prepare for the blast jet it never came. The hunter: I danced. The motions came to me for the first time I had perfected the karon damart the clearing exploded outwards in a ring of flames my people were flung all over the place yet the girl lay untouched. She was barely conscious but I could feel waves of gratitude pulsing through her mind for the first time I felt happy.
Okay, I was browsing through some of my earlier schoolwork, when I came across these four poems I wrote in Year 8, so when I was 12. They're obviously not masterpieces, but I thought it would be good to show them to you guys:
A war poem when studying Wilfred Owen, entitled "That War"
I'll never forget those rugged days,
When I battled the war in gruesome ways,
Where I saw stray bullets whistle and hop,
Whilst watching my comrades go "over the top".
Then I saw with glistening eyes,
An explosion goes off and my commander dies,
Carnage everywhere, you could not escape,
I thought death would be my fate.
Mud sucking me in, a swamp of despair,
Skin blistering, ripped and bare,
Bodies in shock, soldiers falling,
There was no turning back, death was calling.
All those traumas I faced, years ago,
Through the torrent of rain, the onslaught of snow,
Those are the days I remember when,
I went to hell and came back again.
Try reading this one in an Irish accent:
Entitled "That Summer's Day"
Summer's eve was upon the street,
The road laid bare and warm,
The cold had stopped circling people's feet,
Green was set in the lawn.
The rain had passed, the sun was about,
Good weather was a'coming.
Summer's heat had started its bout,
The children were now all running.
The small village rejoiced the heat,
The sprinkler lay steady.
All the flowers were nice and neat,
The citizens were ready.
Out they came in glasses and caps,
Playing in fun motion,
Sitting on the loungers, in between naps,
Or putting on sun lotion.
Till evening came, and darkness came,
And much to their dismay,
Packed up their items, and finished game,
Remembering that Summer's day.
This one was during my pescatarian era:
I fancy some meat right now
"What's this?", my sister said,
Which was when my mother heard her,
"That's a chicken, nice and dead,
That chicken, a piece of murder"
Lastly, there was a class challenge in which we all had to pick a piece of paper with a title on it. That title was what we had to base our poem off. I got "That Cloud Remembers", which was very random.
I remember when I was young and fresh,
When pollution hadn't scarred my ways,
When I was peering at a football match,
I remember those days.
I remember those gleaming faces,
Their mud-ridden, down-trodden boots.
I remember them leap in the air,
When one of them did shoot.
I remember the water cascading down,
Crash-landing on the green.
I remember their daring tackles,
As every player intervened.
I remember the smell of worn-out clothes,
And their risen voices ringing,
I remember the volleyed goal,
A memory still lingering.
I remember their glorious laugh,
Echoing around the haze,
I remember the heaps of joy,
I remember those days.
I remember that aroma, it called to me
It reached with open hands
And that air, that moist air
I was happy then.
I was dancing, leaping, gliding, with a mind
of my own, content
I thought I was going to be
forever in glory
Only the gentle rush of
wind was about,
As I was so comfortable
The pollution was a red mist
Collapsing my every thought
My wonders had dissapeared
Replaced by hatred and worry
I was fighting a game with putrid, gastly fumes
And I was losing.
Oh, how I wish I could go back
To that happy place
Hey, all. I've written a rather long experimental parody fic that I'm pretty proud of. It's 40 chapters (32,401 words). I'll post the first chapter here and then the link will be below. I also made some cover art.
"Wake up, it's time for school!" Mom yelled at me from the other side of the door to my bedroom.
What? School? No! Maybe this had all just been a dream my whole life and now I was going to school instead of getting my very own Pokémon!
"Just kidding, lol!" Mom said laughing now inside my room by my bed, "Time to go to Professor Pine's lab to get your first Pokémon!"
"OMG you bitch!" I thought sassily, and got up and started to get ready. I looked in the mirror and started to put moisturizer on my boyish face. My name is Xylark, which is pronounced like the word skylark but not, I'm 14 years old, have dark brown hair with blonde highlights and a style like the mixture between Justin Bieber and Harry Styles, and eyes that shine gold like one of those chocolate coins with gold wrappers. My skin is tan almost like I'm Spanish but I'm not because I'm white so I look really sexy and my moisturizer has a lot of subtle glitter in it so I always sparkle. Also, I'm gay which means I'm sensitive and more intelligent than most boys. One time I had an IQ test and the doctor said I scored higher than any other person he had ever met and he said he had met some smart people like Einstein.
After I finished my moisturizing treatment I got dressed in my cute skinny black jeans, gray One Direction t-shirt with red letters and a black vest and cute dress shoes because I don't like to look sloppy. When I got to Professor Pine's lab I was shocked!
"Where are all the Pokémon?" I asked sadly.
"They're already gone because it's late!" Professor Pine replied meanly. Like it was my fault it was so late? It's not like I can control time, jeez. "But I do have one Pokémon left and I think it's perfect for you!"
The Professor pulled out a Pokéball from his fake Prada manbag and it opened to reveal a Pokémon I had never seen before. It was all white and shaped kind of like a mixture between a kitty and a chinchilla (whatever they are since there aren't any animals in the Pokémon world) but it had two small pink wings and what appeared to be gold hoop earrings in its ears. It had two huge eyes that opened seductively to reveal eyes that looked like they were filled with golden glitter. It let out a little meow sound that sounded like it was saying, "Rihanna."
"This is the Pokémon, Rianna" Professor Pine said, "Like the singer, but it's spelled differently and this Pokémon actually has talent. Rianna is a new type of Pokémon we just discovered called the Angel-type. They are very special because they can't be hurt by things like Grass, Water, Fire, Poison, Fighting, Ground, Rock, Steel, Bug, Ice, Normal, Electric and Flying. They can only be hurt by Ghost, Psychic, Dragon, and most of all by Dark, which they are weak to but very strong against. So balanced! It's perfect for your starter!"
"I love her and she's even cuter than the real Rihanna!" I squirted. Right then Rianna jumped into my arms and said she didn't want to be in the Pokéball so I carried her out of the lab and we decided to start our journey together. We headed down the path and I wondered what kind of adventures we might encounter here in the Seksi Region!