"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.