Monday, 25 April 2011

Episode 77

Moon stopped his car at the entrance to a non-descript campus on an equally unimpressive business park. A uniformed guard emerged from the little hut next to the security barrier, clip board in hand, and motioned for Moon to lower his window.

Moon turned off his car stereo, cutting off the sound of Mitch Carpenter, lead singer of Chip off the Old Block, going on about how his heart felt like it had a great big Charley Horse now all his happiness had fled because of old ladies' gossip or some such twaddle - at least that's what it had sounded like. That was one CD that was definitely going back to its lender without being copied!

He gave his name and showed his id to the guard and was waved through quickly enough.

Now that he was actually here, he could feel the excitement building inside him. The phone call last evening had been most intriguing. If the project had actually come up with some real results, he wouldn't be the only one with cause for gratitude. The implications were staggering,

Haines was waiting for him in the Spartan little reception area. Moon signed in and the two men walked wordlessly to the laboratory where the demonstration was to take place.

As they entered the lab, Dr Flowers stood up behind her desk and greeted Moon warmly.
"Welcome, would you like some coffee or something before we get started?"
"No thanks, I had one just before setting out," Moon gazed around the room in bemused interest. There was a definite Heath-Robinson look to a lot of the equipment - a sort of mix and match approach, connecting all kinds of disparate bits of electrical and electronic components had been adopted, by the looks of it.

Flowers saw Moon looking.

"At this early stage, we're still trying to figure things out." she said, "Obviously, once we've refined our techniques, we can build something a little less messy-looking. Shall we start? If you take a seat here, you'll get a good view."

Haines sat down on a stool next to a large, blocky piece of equipment, encrusted with lights and dials and with numerous wires coming out of it. He then proceeded to pull onto his head what looked for all the world like a swimming cap. The cap was covered with round metal clips.

Flowers moved in and began to connect the wires from the equipment to the clips on Haines's swimming cap. When they were all connected, she flipped switches and the large box hummed to life.

"All set?" she asked.

Haines nodded.

Flowers picked up a telephone that lay next to the blinky-lights box.

"Pilkington? Switch on number three, if you please."

She replaced the handset and moved to where a lumpy shape lay under green surgical cloths on the bench.

She twitched these aside and Moon was surprised to see the body of a small monkey lying underneath.

Noticing Moon's startled reaction, Flowers smiled. "Don't worry," she said, "it's not dead, just anaesthetised." She lifted another cloth to reveal a surgical tray and instruments. Quickly donning some rubber gloves, she swabbed an area on the monkey's arm with antiseptic. It looked to Moon like a patch had been shaved in the monkey's fur. Flowers then took a scalpel from the tray and with deft precision, made a two-inch cut in the monkey's skin. Immediately, blood flowed out onto the green sheets. Flowers stepped aside and motioned to Haines, who stepped up to where Flowers had stood.

"Watch closely," said Flowers, and Moon leaned in, transfixed.

Haines reached over to where the little monkey lay and touched its arm, Moon wasn't sure, but he thought he saw the most minuscule flash or spark of blue run from Haines's finger to the animal. Haines then stepped back, a strangely euphoric look on his face.. With the blood covering the area, Moon could not see that anything had changed. He looked at Flowers with a quizzical expression. She grinned, stepped forward and swabbed the blood away.

"Amazing!" breathed Moon.

There was no sign whatsoever of the cut Flowers had just made.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Episode 76

Seeing Harold's crestfallen look, Teatime gave an exasperated sigh.

"Well you needn't look so sorry for yourself," he scolded, "I mean, you didn't seriously believe, even for one second, that you'd be staying here when this lot's all over, did you?"

"To be honest," admitted Harold, gloomily "I hadn't actually been thinking about it at all. I got kind of caught up the excitement of trying to solve the mystery and, well, you know..." he trailed off.

"Well, I hate to break it to you, old sock," replied the little monkey, "but for you and your kind, there just aren't any happy endings, and it's no use pretending there are."

Harold stood up, picked up his plate and cutlery and carried them to the sink before opening the kitchen door.

"Now, where are you off to?" inquired Teatime.

"Just going outside into the garden for a while." replied Harold, stepping outside, "The sun will be up in a few hours and thought I'd grab a chance to enjoy the coolness."

A few stars were out, scattered randomly about the dark velvet sky like shiny crumbs dropped from some celestial table. Harold took a deep breath. The rich scent of the night garden was magical, heady and musky. A light breeze fingered the trees and plants that grew in shapeless profusion in the large enclosure of Mr Teeth's garden, causing them to whisper to one another conspiratorially.

Harold strolled across the smooth green carpet of the lawn to where he could make out a small stone seat next to a pond. Mr Teeth – or his landscaper – had designed with sensitivity: the little stone bench was simple and the pond artfully natural-looking. Harold sat down and shook his head. He liked Teatime really, and was somewhat in awe of his intelligence and general savoir-faire, but most charitable thing that could probably be said of the little fellow was that he lacked empathy at times. Scratch that, thought Harold ruefully. Teatime, my friend, you might be able to out-think me blindfolded and with one hand tied behind your back, but you're about as subtle as a pregnant rhino on a bad hormone day. He smiled at the image his train of thought had conjured up.

Overhead, a shower of meteorites appeared in the sky, blazing for a few moments against the blackness, only to disappear as suddenly as they arrived. Harold watched it. The night was really putting on a show for its lone spectator, it seemed. He would miss things like this.  Humans had so much beauty to enjoy all the time. Still, there was nothing to be done about it, so there was no use moping. He lingered in the garden, savouring the time alone, until the first rays of the sun began to apply touches of colour to everything.


"Damn vending machine's only got mushroom soup, no tomato, sorry, Doc." The voice had lost its mosquito whine and was sounding more normal as it swirled into the consciousness of the Listener. How it knew what was normal for these voices it was not sure, but it did know, which was a small anchor-point in a vast dark sea of uncertainty.

"Oh well," Came the second voice (the Flowers woman, the Listener thought). "It'll have to do. Now let's go over what we're going to be doing this afternoon, I want RolexBoy to be genuinely impressed with what we're doing here."

"Enough to keep funding us, anyway." chuckled the first voice.

"There's more than just money at stake here, Haynes," chided Flowers.

"I know, sorry, Doc."

"Anyway," continued Flowers, "We had good repeatability yesterday with the monkeys, so I thought we should show him them."

"Just the monkeys?"

"Yes, why, what are you thinking?"

"Well," said Haynes, "I was thinking we could maybe do something a little more ambitious. Maybe demonstrate on one of us."

"On an actual human?" Flowers's voice had risen somewhat and was bordering on the unattractively shrill, "Are you mad? We've only just about got a reliable result with the monkeys – and that's only been since yesterday. It's way too risky to contemplate – and certainly not in front of the paying customer, as it were. Plus, there is the small matter of ethics. No, we'll use one of the monkeys to show him."

"I wasn't thinking of doing anything life-threatening, it would of course be a volunteer and there'd be just a small – "

"Absolutely not!" Flowers was adamant.

"You're the boss." sighed Haynes.

You're the boss.



The word sent a thrill though the Listener. He had been a boss once. He had been called that by somebody.  The memory was like the thinnest gossamer strand - if the Listener tugged on it too hard, it would snap and leave nothing behind. 

Gently, oh, so gently, the Listener allowed the whisp of memory to float where it would.  Soon, it touched something and other memories began to appear one by one.  A city, music, laughter.  Light.