[PI] – Cat and Mouse – Worldbuilding – 2683 Words
Crap! Crappity-crap-CRAP! Add in a bollocks or two for good measure.
I couldn’t find the book anywhere; it must have fallen out of my pocket as I was cycling back home. More crap! I would have to retrace my steps – tracks? – to find it. I was just attempting to locate shoes of a conventional left/right configuration when I was doubly distracted by an alert on my phone and my mother calling me downstairs for lunch. They would both have to wait, I had much more pressing matters to deal with.
The phone however had very much its own agenda and buzzed again, this time rather louder. Probably one of my mates texting with possible plans to hang out or something. I felt a twinge of guilt for ignoring it, just as I had been ignoring them for much of the summer holidays, what with everything else going on. Of course, the alert could also be from my service provider proudly announcing yet another increase in prices or decrease in service, in which case precisely zero fucks were required.
Still, whoever it was would have to wait. I needed to find the book before anybody else did. And I still had yet to find some shoes. The phone buzzed for a third time. Damn, that was annoying. I would have to switch it to ‘make another noise and I will whack you around the screen with a blunt instrument until you SHUT THE HELL UP’ mode. Or vibrate, I guess, would do.
I picked up the phone and was about to show it who was boss when a message, simultaneously terrifying yet comforting, appeared on the screen.
Don’t worry about the book. It is safe.
Oh great. Now somebody else did have the book. And my mobile number. This couldn’t possibly end well. There was another message.
It is here and not here.
Even better, let’s add some existential bollocks to the mix. Just what I needed right now. Which is pretty much the same thought that I had when my mother called me to lunch for the second time. I looked to the phone as it buzzed again.
Go downstairs. When you come back, I will explain.
Like that was totally reassuring. Now it appeared that person or persons unknown had my book, my mobile number, and access to whatever was going on in my home. That’s alright then, no need to worry, your secret’s completely safe. It had been drummed into me how dangerous it was if other people knew about me or the book and now someone else did. What the hell was I supposed to do? The phone offered its own suggestion.
Just go and have lunch. NOW!
This was seriously freaky, and unnecessarily bossy to boot. A magic book was one thing, ominously personalised texts did seem to be a whole new ball game. If someone was watching the house I couldn’t very well just hop back on my bike to try and find the book. Equally I couldn’t pretend that nothing weird was happening.
My mother interrupted my chain of thought with a mildly irritated “Are you coming Jeremy? The food’s getting cold.’”
A thought occurred to me; what if someone or something else had taken over my parents, Terminator 2 style? What if they planned to lull me into a false sense of security before murdering me mid-quiche. As if the day I had had already – the toilet teleportation, the vanishing vending machine, the magic book, hell, even the surfeit of left shoes – wasn’t strange enough. I hoped this was just my imagination earning its overtime pay with murderous, time travelling cyborgs, but given the way that the day was panning out I couldn’t be sure. Oh well, I supposed I had better get this over and done with.
“Coming” I yelled, as I made my way downstairs, not sure whether to expect lunch, or my untimely demise. Thankfully it appeared that lunch had won the battle of what was going to be downstairs to greet me, and my doom had been put on hold, at least for now. Although I thought I would have no appetite, I was surprisingly hungry when presented with a generous helping of lasagna and a distinct absence of killer cyborgs. Or perhaps it was just relief that it wasn’t quiche.
I figured I should probably use the time to ask my parents some questions. But what could I say? Hey folks, I found a secret book inside a magical vending machine but then I lost it and someone who knows it’s me may have found it and now my phone’s ordering me about and you’re not killer robots sent from the future to kill me are you? Hmm, probably not what I should go with. And yet, go with it is precisely what I did when my mother asked me if I enjoyed my bike ride that morning.
She nodded absentmindedly.
“Well, your granny Annie always did have a strange sense of humour, and a peculiar love of vending machines. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. After all, if she can make a book just appear she can probably make it disappear too. I’m sure it will be okay.”
Oh, that’s alright then. Honestly, for all the dire warnings I had received about keeping these things secret they were remarkably sanguine about the recent turn of events. Perhaps they really had been replaced. If they had, at least the doppelgangers could cook so I may as well enjoy what might turn out to be my last meal.
The companionable silence as we all ate gave me some time to think. I was starting to calm down a little. I was just being overly paranoid, these were my real parents, and the book/phone/whatever it was did say it would explain. By the end of lunch I was positively Zen like in my acceptance of the day’s strange turn of events.
The phone was still where I had left it when I returned to my bedroom. Whilst part of me wanted to rush over and grab it to check for new messages with an eagerness that I had not felt since I gave Jenny Pinkerton my number, I decided instead to play it cool. Perhaps I should make an effort to find some shoes in case a speedy exit was required. The phone buzzed.
Well, do you want an explanation or not?
Of course I did but I was starting to resent the phone. To be honest, it seemed to have rather more attitude than I would normally tolerate from my personal electronics.
I am the book, and for now I am here in the phone. This will not always be so. If someone else looks at your phone they will see no trace of these messages. If you need me and you do not have your phone with you, I will be something else – an advert in a newspaper that no-one else can see, a song on the radio that only you hear, maybe even a talking banana – who knows.
Sure, like a talking banana wouldn’t attract any unwanted attention at all. No siree, your secret’s perfectly safe if you’re caught chatting to fruit. The former book, now phone, future possible banana ignored my sarcasm and continued.
I am, for now at least, here and not here. You will be able to find me somehow whenever you may need me. Eventually you may no longer require my services and then I will just be…not here.
I found myself unexpectedly feeling a touch of sadness for this ‘thing’. Of course, we hadn’t been acquainted for long, it could be rather bolshy at times, and it had already made me question if my parents were terminators, but even so. The thought that it was going to help me, and in doing so was aiding its own demise, was strangely poignant. I resolved to try and curb my resentment and be more appreciative of it in the future.
I smoothed down my ‘borrowed’ nurse uniform and quietly slipped into room 407.
“Mr Johnson, wake up.”
I looked down at the the man gently dozing in the hospital bed. Poor guy, the bees had really done a number on him. Nothing about his blotched and still slightly swollen face looked at all comfortable. I had checked his chart; he had only been stung a few times but his allergy had escalated a minor irritation into a more serious trip to hospital. It was very unfortunate for him but it was the break that I needed.
“Mr Johnson, wake up. It’s time for your medication.”
It wasn’t quite time, but I had to make the most of this opportunity to talk to him alone and that was never going to be possible whilst he was asleep. Thankfully he stirred and opened his eyes, at least as much as he could in their still slightly swollen state. He slowly eased himself into a more upright position and attempted a smile. It was a nice smile, warm and welcoming if a little lopsided.
“Hello…” he squinted in an attempt to read my name badge “Annie. Call me Gary. I don’t believe we’ve met.” He extended his right hand. Somewhat caught off guard I reciprocated, thankfully noting that it had been unaffected by the bees and there would be no risk of accidentally hurting him with my touch. Quite frankly, I felt guilty enough for what had already happened to him and it wasn’t even my fault. Well, at least not directly.
I was still seething at the stupidity of my grandson. I loved Jeremy but he could be an idiot as he had so aptly proved with his latest stunt. Getting himself caught by the Super Secret Service was bad enough but conjuring up bees as a distraction whilst he was there was something else altogether. It might have been merely a harmless prank as far as he was concerned but people could have been hurt. Agent Johnson had been hurt.
I pulled one the the visitor’s chairs towards the bed and sat down. I had things that I needed to say and probably not enough time to say them.
“Mr Johnson… Gary, I hope you can forgive this intrusion. Please trust me when I say I mean you absolutely no harm. I’m sorry that you’re here, and I’m sorry for any part I may have played in your unfortunate injury, however unintentional. If it’s any reassurance the doctors say you’ll be back to normal in a couple of days and you will suffer no permanent damage.”
He looked confused, as well he had a right to. However, he remained silent and I took that as his agreement for me to continue.
“I believe you are here as a result of an unfortunate incident involving my… involving someone I know.”
“You mean that cocky little git with the invisible apiary?” His words were resentful but there was a glint of humour in his eyes.
“Yes, that would be him. Look, he’s just a dumb kid at the moment who just happens to have incredible powers that he hasn’t fully learnt what to do with or how to control. He really didn’t mean to hurt anyone. It certainly wasn’t personal.”
I sighed. My words sounded hollow even as I was saying them. How could this man not take it personally when Jeremy was directly responsible for putting him here.
“I know you and your colleagues see him as a danger, a threat that you have orders to neutralise. I’m also aware that now that you know of his existence you will continue to hunt him down with all the resources you can muster and for as long as it takes. Maybe you’ll succeed, maybe you won’t. At the moment he has the upper hand, trust me, and to him it’s just a big joke, a rare chance to show off. You know, when he’s not messing with you he spends his time like any other normal kid of the same age. He hangs out with his mates, plays video games, stumbles over his words when he plucks up the courage to ask a girl out. He’s so proud of what he can do and so frustrated with having to hide it all the time.”
I stopped. I didn’t want to give away too much information or risk this man deducing quite how close my relationship to Jeremy was. He seemed kindly enough and he hadn’t reached for the call button to summon security but he was still a highly trained SSS agent. He tilted his head and looked at me as if deciding whether or not he should say something.
“Do you know the little sod buggered up my desk the first time he was brought in? Took half an inch off one of the legs. Just one leg mind you, enough to make it annoyingly wonky. And not just my desk either, he did it to practically the whole department. I wasn’t in that day, but my colleagues who were there all swore blind that he hadn’t touched anything. It was as if he made a small part of each desk just disappear, like… magic for want of a better word. And by all accounts that was the least incredible thing he did that day.”
“Of course I didn’t believe them. I assumed it was just some bizarre practical joke they were playing on me. The stories they told about… your friend shall we call him?… they were frankly impossible. I played along with what I thought was the joke until we brought him in again Then I saw it with my own eyes, well at least until they started swelling shut because of those damn bees. Let’s just say that one encounter with him was more than enough to take him seriously.”
There was a hint of reluctant admiration in his voice.
“That’s what I mean Gary. You should take him seriously. He can do incredible, yes even impossible things. If he’d wanted to he could have killed you all, and yet what does he do? A harmless prank. Okay, the bees were a mistake but they weren’t malicious. They simply weren’t well thought through. Like I said, he can be an idiot sometimes but he’s not dangerous. At least not yet. I am telling you though, if you keep coming after him, if you hunt him down like a wild animal, sooner or later there is a strong chance that he will start behaving like one. And you really don’t want to put yourself in that position.”
“So what do you suggest we do? Just back off and pretend like he doesn’t exist? That won’t happen.”
“I know” I agreed sadly. “Look, he needs to fully grasp what he can do, to control it, to appreciate the implications of his abilities. He could, with time and the right training, become a great asset to the whole world, the superhero we all need, as it were. But that won’t happen if you keep pursuing him. I’ve come to ask if you can help give him that time.”
“How do I know this isn’t just a ruse to persuade us to leave him alone while he concocts some evil plan to, I don’t know, take over the world or something?”
“I guess you don’t” I conceded. “But will you at least think about what I’ve said?” He frowned then slowly nodded. “Thank you, that’s more than I have any right to hope for. I have to go now, but if you are willing to help just let me know.”
“How?” he asked as I rose from the chair and started to make my way towards the door.
“Don’t worry, you’ll find a way. It was a pleasure meeting you Gary. I hope it is not for the last time.” I smiled and was pleased to see him return the gesture.
“Oh, and one last thing. Don’t forget to take your medication.”