The Chronicles of Gilbert Cobble
Book by: Adam Douglas
Now things started when I was 11, I spent my youth much like many other children of that age, wishing I could be a space man and walk on the moon, or that I was a famous race car driver, fireman or only on some vary rare occasion that I was Ethel. An old lady I invented that wandered around my mom’s house (when I was alone obviously, which was rare with a family my size!) in her size 9’s and pastel blue wedding hat, discussing with my imaginary friends what things used to be like “when I were a lass”. Well I know not all little boys go through that, but I have had my girlie moments. Anyway, I really spent most of my spare time wishing to be special and have a life like no other, to be someone who people could and would ask questions of. Someone with a life so different that I was the only person like me. No one could be better or faster or even just nearly the same as I was (ok so I had a slight inferiority complex, wouldn’t you with seventeen over achieving siblings?). All my brothers and sisters had already become experts in their chosen fields or were on their way to becoming experts. Me, I was still reading at remedial level, had sticky-out ears and the concentration span of a goldfish. A particularly stupid and easily distracted goldfish at that. I didn’t like girls because they were stupid-heads, and I found it very hard to make friends, no one seemed to like me. I always ended up saying the most stupid thing at the most inappropriate time. So, I was my own best friend. I had trips all over the world, spoke many different languages and could even take superman in a fight. My imagination saved me from years and I mean years of boredom. Anyway I was 11, it had finally come to the summer holidays and I was fully aware that my daydreaming days couldn’t last much longer, as I was, in five weeks, going to big school where I would invariably suffer at the hands of every bully for the next five years. Worse than that I would have to learn how to read finally, and appear interested in what I was learning about. The worst of all, that I would have to shower with twenty odd other lads who would no doubt go through the whole “puberty thing” earlier than me. Hell I was a slow developer in every other area of my life why should that be any different. It was Monday afternoon and I was sat half way up an enormous tree in the middle of the forest close to my home, I was trying with all my might to break a branch, that would be just perfect to make the best walking / smacking of plants stick ever. I had my fire below made from twigs, leaves, a porn mag I found in a bush a few days earlier and the matches I had acquired, stolen from my mom. I was having no luck so I stretched as far as possible and started to bounce on the branch, when I lost my grip and started to fall and for the first time experienced life in slow motion, I could see the ground rushing up towards me. So I did what any self respecting 11 year old would do, I shut my eyes. Suddenly I banged my right arm on a branch lower down and it spun me round and I could now feel myself falling backwards, and then I stopped. No pain, no misshaped rock sticking in my lower back, not even a sound like bones breaking or me thudding to the ground. I just stopped dead, if you’ll pardon the expression. After what seemed like an eternity I opened one eye and looked up at the tree I had just fallen from. It seemed closer than it should have been somehow, I couldn’t feel my body or the ground for that matter. It was at that time that I officially shit myself. I thought I was destined to lie there unable to move waiting to die, and then that small forest animals would eat me, leaving behind only my shoes, a skeleton, a rusty old Swiss Army Knife and my pink and green Bermuda shorts, for some poor old man with his beagle to find in a few months time. I wanted to scream and shout and cry for help, but something stopped me. Maybe it was fear or maybe it was the fact that no matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t open my mouth. This obviously didn’t help with the fear but then the strangest thing happened. I realised that I could feel my body but just not the ground, so I tried wiggling a leg, and it moved,
“My god I can move my leg, my god I can speak again”. I blurted out.
But where are the sticks and rocks, the, even though it’s summer, damp grass and most important of all, the world.
“Why can’t I feel the ground”. I screamed with frustration, so I tried to sit up and succeeded only to see that I was sitting in thin air. This as you might imagine came as a bit of a shock. When I finally woke up, having fainted at the prospect of floating on thin air. I then got all excited, I was floating, my will to live and need to be different had given me super powers, I could float I wondered what else I could do.
“Maybe I could bend strong metal bars, and eat tree trunks in a single bite (come on I’m 11) I could be Floater Boy. No that’s a stupid name, who in their right mind would want to be named after a turd? But if I was going to be a super hero I would need a name”. But one thing did puzzle me, how in the name of all things purple was I supposed to get down, to stop floating?. And then I saw them for the first time. A giant with green hair, a woman older than sandwiches and a child that even its parents must have been afraid of!
Now, I don’t claim to be someone of importance, but would like to know how it is after the life I have had that I’m not a super hero, film star or inventor of some snappy gadget that makes eating broccoli easier. Oh I’m sorry, my name is Gilbert, Gilbert Cobble, I know it’s a bit of a girly name but I reckon I have been a bit of a girl in my past and will probably remain one for the rest of my time here so don’t much care about it. Don’t get me wrong I like girls in all the right ways I’m just not what you could call a mans man. I like to talk, hate sports, I’m allergic to any form of DIY. To cap it all, I love a good soak in the bath with loads of bubbles. So you see I am a bit of a girl, or should I say “in touch with my feminine side”? Either way if the name fits and all.
Anyway, where should I begin and what stories should I tell you. Maybe I can tell you about the time I was taken to the centre of my mind, Christ what a scary time that was, I’m not saying I’m a physco or anything, but my mind works in its own unique way and I have no real control over it, so anything could and invariably did happen. Or the time when I had the meaning of life explained to me by a whale older than time itself. Maybe I should start at the beginning like all good stories, or maybe not. My life has been nothing short of the unbelievable since day one. So no I think I will start right here right now, where I am at this moment in time, the exact point I find myself, on the metaphysical path that is the journey known as, my life.
I’m 30 years old, starting to thin on top, putting on weight in all the wrong places and have the dress sense of a colour blind chimp. But I am truly happy, why, because my life is finally mine, after years of uncertainty and a complete lack of control, I’m finally in the driving seat. I have had many adventures in my short time here, some good, some bad, some just not worth knowing about. Some just too weird not to be told. I come from a large family; I have twelve sisters, five brothers, a mom, a dad and a parrot (Clifford Barrington-Cobble the 3rd). I am the youngest child, with the least education and the least will to try or achieve at anything, anytime, EVER. It’s not that I don’t think I’m capable of anything great, I just can’t be arsed. My brothers and sisters are all qualified doctors or lawyers, dentists or psychologists. One of them Gerry I think it is, even has an OBE for his work with fertility treatments for captive giant pandas, I mean what’s that all about. Me on the other hand, I just like to live, don’t want frills or excitement, don’t care for money or fame. I’m just happy doing anything so long as it puts a roof over my head and a beer in my hand. This all spans from the fact that my life has up to now already been a roller coaster ride of the most inexplicable and sublime situations any one person could ever find themselves in. Leaving me with the feeling of complete content and a want to just be, without a need to be, anything. You see I was to become at a very early stage in my life, what could only then be described as a play thing of the gods, a rag doll thrown back and forth in time. Ripped from one reality and crammed in to another like undesired lipstick in the over flowing hand bag of life. Without so much of a by your leave or excuse me. But as I was to find out on the first of my many freaky experiences those who controlled my mystical moves and trippy trips for what seemed like their own warped entertainment were not gods, but rather sadistic cosmic wardens with their own agenda. I remember the first time I saw them it was in the woods just after I fell out of the tree, I didn’t sleep for weeks after it. There were three of them, a man, a woman and a child; they were very strange looking though. The man must have been about seven foot tall, dressed in a tatty flying jacket and a sky blue Tutu with pink wellies. He had a massive handbag, like the kind your grandma used to carry, you know what I mean it always had a spare pair of pyjamas and slippers in it “just in case”. He looked about my dad’s age, so maybe he was about seventy or so and was very very fat and completely bald except for a tuft of green hair sticking out of the top of his head. Oh and he didn’t have a mouth, which obviously puzzled me but hey I was floating at the time so who was I to argue. The lady was about half his size and so thin she was almost see through. She looked about two hundred years old and her long white hair was almost touching the ground. She was wearing a seashell bikini top (a memory that will haunt my dreams forever) and a pair of green and red tartan golfers trousers. And on her feet what can only be described as clown shoes, it was either that or she had feet the size of medium sized crocodiles. She also had a patch over her left eye and was wearing a hat in the shape of a fruit basket. The child, oh god the child, this little boy or girl, had a moustache drawn on in red pen and was wearing cheap plastic star shaped sunglasses, but that wasn’t it, he she was stood there wearing a homemade fancy dress costume that resembled a daffodil. To cap it all had platform shoes on that would put Elton to shame. It, he she also carried a walking stick that was painted with all the colours of the rainbow. Understandably it was some time before I regained my composure having repeatedly fainted every time that I looked at them, but finally my mind was becoming accustomed to the circus performers that stood in front of me.
The giant man looked at me with a questioning and disapproving look on his face and then turned to the old lady and started to wave his arms about in the air like he was trying to fend off a wasp. She turned to me and smiled, showing me that she had no teeth and said
“He thinks you’re a poor choice, but I know you’ll be just perfect” In a voice that was so beautiful and soft that it made my heart melt and her, instantly far less hideous.
I wanted to respond but I was still suffering from full pants syndrome, and was having trouble thinking straight, let alone being able to talk to this trio of weirdo’s. The child then came over to me and started to look me up and down, prodded me in the arm with a bony little finger and then stomped back to the others and whispered something in the ear of the old lady. She laughed, whispered something back and then they all looked at me with mischievous grins on their faces. Well all except for the giant, because he didn’t have a mouth to grin with, but he certainly tried to contort his face to make it look like he was trying to smile.
Then the old lady said “we have been watching you Gilbert, we have been listening to your wishes and enjoying you dreams”.
“What” I stammered.
“We know you’re bored and wish to be something special, we know everything about you”.
“Who are you what do you want from me?” I half shouted, now feeling very afraid and a little defensive.
“We only want to give you what you most desire. We only want to make you different from everyone else” she said in that voice so comforting I could do nothing but believe her.
“But. I, I don’t want to look like you” I said fearing the worst that I was soon to become some fashion experiment gone wrong. I have enough problems with 4th generation hand me downs without looking like I should be on the set of the next advert for “Weird Are Us Clothes”.
“Oh don’t be silly,” she said with a smile and a little chuckle. “We don’t want to change who you are, we are just going to put a little adventure into your life, let you experience things no one else could even dream of, take you to places no one else will ever see and turn you into possibly the greatest hero your kind has ever known” she said grandly.
Well now that was it, she had me hook line and sinker, cos she was right I had longed for another life one where I could be something more than just a lonely kid. So naively I agreed to go along with the band of merry whatsits. And with that I was moved, transported almost dragged by the hairs on my neck, to another place, another world and with that my adventures began.
I woke up feeling god-awful, my lower back felt like someone had been using it as a treadmill, my head was banging, and I was so cold that I had lost all feeling in my fingers and toes. As I lay there with my eyes closed trying to decide if I had actually been floating and if I had indeed been speaking with those three very strange looking people, I came to the resounding conclusion that No, obviously I hadn’t, cos that would just be too stupid and anyway I wasn’t the kind of person that that kind of thing would happen to, I just wasn’t that lucky.
“I mean me, super powers, yeah like that would ever happen, even if I was lucky enough to get some kind of super power it wouldn’t be flying or super strength or owt cool like that. No, knowing my bloody luck it would be something stupid like the ability to walk in a straight line or to have an unbreakable thumb, which would obviously be dead handy for any given situation”.
I obviously knew deep down that the whole experience was just some freaky dream and that as soon as I tried to move, I would have it confirmed to me through, no doubt, intense stabbing pains. I was in fact a crumpled heap on the forest floor, and not the next best thing in tights and a cape, but must admit I was a little disappointed. No that’s not entirely true I wasn’t a little disappointed I was devastated cos for one brief instant I actually thought that I could and would be something special, what was it she said “possibly the world’s greatest hero”
“God if only” I said out loud, “that would be the best thing in the world”, I thought regretfully. However as I opened my eyes in preparation for seeing a mangled mess of broken bones, scrapes and bruises my feeling of disappointment was replaced instantly with one of fear and then confusion, and then excitement and then fear again. I came to realise that I wasn’t on the forest floor at all but that I was in fact laying flat on my back on a very hard cold surface and that it was no longer daytime but more the dead of night. As I looked up at the stars they seemed different somehow. Not different cos there weren’t any trees in the way although that could have had something to do with it, but more different cos I could actually see shapes and constellations like never before. Now I don’t know about you but every time someone has tried to point out the Big Dipper or Orion’s Belt, all I have ever seen is lots of flashing lights in no real pattern, that might as well make up a picture of a trout farm for all I could tell. But here I could see images of strange looking creatures. So clear they could have been painted on the sky by some really tall artist. I sat myself up and inspected my legs for brakes and bruises but found that there was nothing at all wrong with me, so I got myself to my feet dusted myself down and looked around.
I was stood in the middle of nowhere, there was nothing about, no trees, no fields, no roads, nothing. It was like a desert without sand, just hard cold dry ground off in every direction as far as the eye could see, which considering it was the dead of night, wasn’t very far. Easily bored and really feeling the cold I decided to make the most of this dream and to go exploring, exploring what I have no idea cos there was nothing about. But anything had to be better than just standing around, and if my mom had been right all those years moving around might actually make me a little warmer as right now I was colder than Frosty’s cold bits. As I walked along something occurred to me, this dream was really real. I mean normally my dreams are really fuzzy and nothing has a clear clean cut edge, but in this dream everything I saw, which granted wasn’t much more than ground and sky looked perfectly clear, as they do in real life. The more I walked the more my legs started to hurt, the more tired I got and the more real the whole thing became. As I carried on my trek I started to question if this was in fact a dream or not, cos I was now beginning to believe that it wasn’t a dream and those weird looking people I thought I wasn’t really talking to, I might have been. If I had been, then maybe this was one of those strange places the old woman had been talking about. The more I thought about it the more it started to freak me out, as I now had no idea if I was asleep, going insane or if I’d been transported somehow to a different world. If that was the case how the hell was I supposed to get home. This thought really didn’t sit well with me and soon I was snivelling and wanting my mom.
“God where am I?” I thought to myself, “and how will I ever get home, I really don’t like this I want to go home now”.
“HELLO” I shouted out in to the nothingness, “Is anyone there, I don’t like this I want to go home now” I half shouted, half said to myself. I waited for a response but there was nothing. It was true I was lost in another world and had no way of getting home, I was destined to walk around cold and alone in this strange place for the rest of my life not knowing where I was.
I kept walking across this baron waste land for what felt like hours occasionally shouting out “HELLO, IS THERE ANYONE THERE?” in between shivers and the incessant rattling of my teeth. But I never got a response, and then I suddenly came across the edge of this place, and as I looked over I saw that it wasn’t the edge of a cliff but more the end of the world. Over the edge there was nothing, just blackness.
“What, the hell, where’s the rest of the world gone, GOD where am I?” I asked out loudly knowing full well that I wouldn’t get a response. And then the strangest thing happened, I did get a response
“You’re on Mirintopia” said this voice from nowhere, which scared the living shit out of me and I turned on my heels quickly to see that there was no one about.
“Who said that?” I asked fearing the answer but wanting to know.
“I did” said the voice
“Where are you?” I asked, looking around and staring at the ground to see if it was someone really small with a really big voice.
“I’m under here” said the voice
“Under where?” I asked.
“Go to the edge and look over” said the voice
I gingerly made my way to the edge and carefully peered over, making sure not to get too close for fear of falling as I’ve never really been good with heights. As I looked into the darkness the face of an old man with a very big nose appeared from nowhere, like a reflection in a lake that wasn’t mine. I pulled myself back and looked behind me to see if some one was looking over my shoulder and then realised that my face wasn’t in the reflection. So I looked over again and there he was.
“Hello there young man” he said, “my name is Bristol Diddle-Smythe, but everyone calls me Jim, what on earth are you doing over there?” he asked.
“I don’t know” I said
“Well what’s your name?” he asked
“My name’s Gilbert where am I?” I asked
“Why you’re on Mirintopia” he said, “although you really are on the wrong side of it.”
“What’s Mirintopia, and what do you mean wrong side?” I asked realising what he had just said and instantly worrying that I might be in trouble or something.
“It’s the world of course” he said, “and what I mean is the wrong side, where you are is the underworld, no one goes to the underworld because it’s always dark and cold” he said.
“Right” I thought to myself, “just fucking marvellous, I might actually have been transported to another world and when I am it seems I got the wrong bloody space bus and have ended up in the middle of bloody nowhere”
“If I’m not supposed to be here where am I supposed to be?” I asked
“Well here, on the overworld” he said as if I was supposed to know that already
“Well how the hell do I get there?” I asked, “jump?”
“Oh no, that would be just silly, if you did that you’d fall off” he said.
“Fall off, fall off, how the hell do you fall off the world” I thought to myself
“Give me you hand, and I’ll pull you over” he said
“Pull me over what, I’m not giving you my hand, my mom always told me not to talk to strangers” I said and then it occurred to me just how stupid that statement was, cos I was either dreaming or on another bloody planet so either way the rules really didn’t apply.
“Well we’re not strangers, you know my name and I know yours” he said, “come on give me your hand, I won’t hurt you”.
Not knowing whether to believe him or not, but wanting to believe something I knelt down and slowly reached out my hand and just as it passed the edge, he grabbed hold of it and said
“Are you ready?”. I wasn’t but it was too late now so I closed my eyes and said
“Yes”, and with that he pulled me really hard and I felt myself lifting off the ground. It felt like I was floating and a little weird so I opened my eyes to see that I was half way between both sides of the rock and for a brief instant I saw the world in all it’s glory. It was magnificent. It looked like some one had taken a giant flat rock and made an entire world on either side of it with mountains and rivers and everything. The side I was crossing over from was in complete darkness and the only light that shone upon it came from the millions of brilliant stars. On the other side however, there was light, beating down from a bright yellow sun in a perfectly pale blue sky. I was quite enjoying the view and then suddenly I came crashing to the ground with a thud, and was then on the overworld.
Once there and my feet were firmly back on solid ground the first thing I noticed was the heat. It was bloody ridiculous, I’d gone in the space of a second from freezing my bloody bollocks off, to sweating them off!
“I’m sorry about that” he said dusting me off and looking me over, “I didn’t intend for you to hit the ground quite that hard”
“That’s ok” I said, “I’m ok”. I looked at this fellow and noticed that he was quite tall, very slim and wore clothes made from patches of different coloured material roughly stitched together with string. He was carrying a bag over his left shoulder made from what looked like leather, and had an umbrella up that he was using to protect himself from the scorching hot sun which was now tanning me at double quick time. I looked around at this other place and it was like a fairytale land, there was a mountain off in the distance with a rainbow climbing up high over it and rivers and green fields as far as the eye could see.
“What is this place?” I asked
“Come, come” he said holding the umbrella over us both and giving me some protection from the sun. “Lets get you home and you can tell me how you managed to be stuck on the underworld, follow me” he continued, completely ignoring my question. We walked away from the edge over a field until we came to a track, where there stood waiting patiently eating some grass a massive brown horse with a white belly and face. Well it seemed massive but I was a small child so it could have been an average size. He climbed on top of the horse and the reached down and dragged me up on to it behind him.
“Home Wind” he said to the horse and with that it burst into a trot and pounded it’s way along the dust track.
As we sped along, this new place became more and more amazing. There were fields of strange looking animals grazing and people going about their business, all carrying umbrellas. We passed fields of trees and houses dotted all over the place. After riding for maybe an hour or so we came to a village that stood at the base of a huge mountain. We kept on riding through the village that had lots of lovely little wooden houses with thatched roofs all with their own little gardens and little fences around them. As we got into the village the track we rode on changed to a cobbled street and as we made our way along the streets the sound of the horse’s hooves announced our arrival and people came out of their houses to wave at my travelling companion and to say hello. It occurred to me that this man was either famous, some kind of royalty or just extremely popular. The more we moved into the village the more we slowed until we were just walking along at a slow and leisurely pace. As we passed one house that was slightly larger than the others a very tired looking portly old woman in an apron came out and waved Jim to stop and he whispered something in the horses ear and it stopped dead in it’s tracks.
“Well hello there Jim, and how are you, and who is this you have here?” she said pointing at me
“Hello Mrs Pittersnipe” he said, “oh this young fellow, you’ll never guess where I found him, I was out picking fresh Bangle Berries as I do and I heard this voice coming from the underworld and there he was, so I rescued him and am taking him home for some food and a chat” he explained
“Did you really” she said with a intrigued look on her face, “then you must bring him to see us when he’s settled” she added before waving good bye and going back into her house. As we moved on Jim turned and said to me
“That was Mrs Pittersnipe”
“Well honest really I’d never have guessed from your conversation” I thought to myself –
- really why do people say hello to someone using their name, when you’re stood right next to them and then proceed to tell you what they’re called, I’ll never understand people as long as I live –
Anyway where was I oh yes,
“Really and who is she?” I asked
“She’s the inn-keeper, that’s where I spend my evenings when I’m not working on my inventions” he explained. As he was talking I turned to look at the larger house to see that it had a sign hanging from it with a picture of a tankard on it, and then I re-heard what he had just said.
“Inventions” I asked. Now I wasn’t what you would call a budding inventor or anything, but I did on occasion and to the complete dismay of my mom, take various kitchen appliances apart to see how they worked. The only problem being that I could never put them back together again and subsequently I was banned from touching any kind of tool or going near the shed!
“What inventions, what do you make?” I asked excitedly
“Oh lots of things, young man, lots of things, you’ll see them all soon” he said. The more houses we passed the more people came out to say hello and as they did it struck me that they all looked very tired. They didn’t just have bags under there eyes, they had a five piece matching luggage set. The more I thought about it the more apparent it became. Some people looked so tired that they were stood almost asleep in the street.
“Why is everyone so tired looking?” I asked
“Ah yes, another question that needs answering, you really are an inquisitive little soul aren’t you, not to worry it won’t be long now, we’re nearly there and then I’ll put the kettle on and tell you all about it” he said. So I shut up and carried on watching the world go by. Soon enough we came out of the other side of the village and started our way up the base of the mountain and as we rose up a steep path he pointed up at the strangest looking house I had ever seen
“There is it” he said proudly.
It was incredible it defied all laws of physics and gravity. The main part of the building was a large cube that stood on stilts maybe 20 feet high off the ground. Then added to the front half way up the building was an extension another cube only slightly smaller just stuck on to the front of the main body of the building without any stilts or support under it at all. Then there was a second extension stuck on to the side of the first extension half way up it and this also didn’t have any stilts or support under it either. It looked like someone had started making giant stairs, but got bored after three and gave up.
When we got to the house we got down from the horse, Jim tied it to one of the stilts and it walked under into the shade and took a long drink from a bucket of water.
“Right” he said, “lets get up there and get a drink too shall we, and get out of this blasted heat” and with that he untied a rope that was tied to one of the stilts and slowly let out the slack and as he did a rickety platform slowly descended towards us gently swinging in the breeze. As it touched down I could see that it was more than just a platform, it had a kind of cage built on it with a little gate in the front and attached to the top of it were ropes and some kind of pulley system.
“Hop on” he said so I did and once on, he climbed on along side me and started to pull on the rope he had been using to lower this lift thing. As he did we started to slowly lift up with surprising grace and ease. Now either he was extremely strong or his pulley system made the lifting easy. I didn’t really care though, as the higher we got my thoughts changed from those of “Oh and Arrr” to “Shit this is high”, and “God I hope the rope doesn’t snap and we plunge to our deaths”. After a few moments though we were at his front door and he tied the rope up, opened the door and we stepped off in to safety.
The room we stepped into was just stupid, the place looked like someone had set off a bomb in an invention factory, with gadgets and gidgets everywhere.
“What’s this?” I asked pointing at a strange looking bowl with a stick type thing pointing out of the top of it.
“Why that’s for removing the bits of dirt from your shoes’ he said
“And this?” I asked pointing at another strange looking bowl type thing with lots of little bits of green and yellow things in.
“That’s my lunch” he said picking up the bowl and wondering off into another room. I followed him in and it was just the same in there. There were things everywhere no surface in this whole place it seemed wasn’t covered in complete mess.
“Sit yourself down my lad and I’ll get the kettle on, is tea ok for you?” he asked. Now I wasn’t much of a tea drinker normally but my mouth was dryer than sand and I would have drank my own pee at this stage, so tea was a good alternative.
“That would be lovely” I said, “thank you”.
“So then he said, what were you doing on the underworld, have you lived there all you life, because I don’t recall seeing you on our side of the world before” he asked, whilst filling a tin kettle full of water from a pipe that was hanging from the ceiling, before placing it on a fire that was gently burning away in the corner. Now I wasn’t really sure how to explain that I came from another world and had no idea where I was let alone how I managed to end up there, so I just said
“I don’t really know how I got here, I just woke up and I was here, before I was back home in a forest near where I live, and then I was here” I said. Which really wasn’t the best explanation granted but it was the truth.
“Well what a strange thing that is” he said not seeming at all fazed by the fact that I seemed to just pop up out of thin air.
“And where is home then young Gilbert?” he asked
“Halifax” I said
“Oh very nice” he muttered as he carried on preparing the dinks. I sat in silence for a while, whilst he busily worked his way around the carnage and moved things from one place to another only to find that they were again in his way and ended up moving them back again.
“I really must tidy up around here” he half said to me as again he moved something out of his way.
“Right here you go then, be careful it’s hot” he said as he passed me a cup of steaming hot green liquid. I carefully took a sip and it was quite possibly the most vile thing I had ever tasted. In fact it tasted quite how you might expect horse-shit to taste.
“Um it’s lovely thank you” I said as my face imploded and tried to hide the fact that I wanted to vomit.
“So you invent things then?” I asked
“Yes, yes most of the things you see around you I have invented to make life that little bit easier” he said. “You see this thing, this is a device I call a Snapweasle” he said picking up a small box with handles on either side and a cone sticking out of the top “I forget what it’s for now, but I invented it” he said proudly.
“Very nice” I said as something out of the window caught my eye.
“And what’s that?” I asked putting down my death drink and moving over to the window and pointing outside.
What I was looking at was the mountain but it wasn’t like any mountain I had ever seen before and I don’t know why I didn’t spot it from the outside. At the top of the mountain was a huge wooden structure like a cage hundreds and hundreds of feet high and wide and inside it, was what looked at first glance to be the biggest glass bowl I had ever seen. I mean so big you could fit a mountain inside it, full to the brim with something.
“Did you make that?” I asked.
“No, no I didn’t make that, that was built by the elders thousands of years ago and to be honest with you, I haven’t quite figured out what it is” he said coming over to the window.
“No, that has puzzled me all of my life that has” he said as he moved away and started to frantically rummage around looking for something
“Where is it, I had it only the other day, oh come on come on” he said to him-self, “it was just here and now it’s not, oh where is it?”
“What are you looking for?” I asked, “Maybe I can help you find it”
“It’s the book, the ancient te…ah there it is” he said picking up a large leather bound book and dusting it off.
“What’s that?” I asked
“This” he said tapping the book, “These are the instructions for that up there” he said pointing out of the window.
“So what’s it for?” I asked
“Come with me and I’ll show you” he said, walking back out of the room into the front main area, with me hot on his heels. When we got back into the front room he went over to some stairs to the right of the room and up in onto the next level that I had seen stuck to the side of the house. This room was just as messy as the other two with more half finished and uncompleted things lying around everywhere, but we didn’t stop there and went straight on up into the next level. Now this room was the exception it was completely clear of all clutter and mess and only had one thing in it.
“This” he said removing a sheet from over something that stood in the middle of the room. “This is a model made to scale of our world and that”, he said pointing out at the mountain “out there”. “I used the diagrams and instructions to replicate it to see if I could figure out what it does and what its for” he explained. It was amazing he had replicated the entire world, well what I had seen of it anyway. On closer inspection I could see that there was the village and his house and even fields with animals grazing in them it looked wonderful and I got a better look at what I had seen, when he swung me over the edge.
“So tell me then” I asked eagerly “what does it do?”.
“Well if I’m honest I’m not quite sure, you see my model doesn’t seem to be working as it is described in the book and there are a few things in the book I don’t understand” he said leafing through the pages looking for something.
“Ah yes here it is. It is written that the sands are to fall from the top bowl down a long shaft that travels through the mountain to another bowl at the other end, which incidentally is there because I went and checked, but anyway”. “As the sands fall and the glass at the bottom gets more full it should turn the world” he said grabbing hold of the side of his model, removing a clamp and turning it over gently on a rod that went through the centre of it, until it was completely upside down and the dark waste land of the underworld was showing.
“Right” I said, “so it’s a giant egg timer”
“A giant what” he asked.
“An egg timer it’s something we use back home when we’re cooking” I explained “it takes a certain amount of time for the sand to fall through and when it has you know how long has passed and if something’s cooked”. As I said this I could see and almost hear his mind working as he thought about what I had just said.
“Yes I suppose it is” he said, “but that’s not the problem, you see, I understand that what goes up must come down and that when I release the sand the world will spin round and be plunged into darkness”. “Now this makes me ask two questions, one, if that is the case then why is the world not already in darkness and two, if the machine is started, will the world then spin into darkness and leave us trapped without sun forever and have to move from our side of the world to the other to start again?” he mused.
I wasn’t much of a scientist being only 11 and all, but I did know that the earth is round and that people on the bottom of it are not upside down so maybe this side of the world was at the bottom already which was why it didn’t move. I felt a little silly suggesting it but I figured why the hell not, so I did.
“Where I come from the world is round and people live all over it and where every they are up is still up and they are the right way up” I said, “so maybe…”
and he finished my sentence for me
“So maybe we are on the underside which is why the world doesn’t move with the weight of the sand”. He said with a grin forming on his face. “My goodness boy I think you might have something there” he said patting me on the back.
“Ok well if what you are saying is right, then still we can’t turn the machine on because if we do, the world will turn and we will be lost in the dark forever”
“Does that mean that it doesn’t work then” I asked
“Well yes I suppose it does” he said, “if we turn it on, we will bring darkness to the world”. “But” he said, “there is one part of the book, I don’t understand, one aspect of it that has puzzled me, its said to be the very key to why the machines works”
“What’s that?” I asked
“Well its this phrase” he said leafing through the book looking for something, “Ah yes, magnetic force, it’s says that magnetic force is the key to what makes the machine work, the only problem is, is that I don’t know what this magnetic force is and the book doesn’t explain it”.
“I know what that is” I said, and I did cos we’d learned about it in school not that long ago. His ears almost pricked up on hearing this, and he looked at me with an excited yet disbelieving expression on his face.
“Go on” he said
“Well it’s when metals stick together” I said
“What like when they are fused together, stuck for good, what?” he asked, with a tone of desperation in his voice.
“No not stuck for good, it’s when they come together they kind of pull towards each other but can again be pulled apart” I explained poorly, and just as he was about to say something else, I remembered what I had been playing with earlier before all of this happened. I padded and searched my pockets and there it was my Swiss Army Knife, which my brother Harold had given me (without the knowledge of my mom). I pulled it out and Jim asked
“Oh what’s that?”
“Its my Swiss Army Knife” I said
“Looks like no knife I have ever seen” he said as he took it out of my hands and started to inspect it.
“Where’s the blade?” he said turning it around in his hands.
“I’ll show you” I said taking it back off him and folding out the main blade. Well his eyes nearly popped out of his head.
“What a wondrous thing” he exclaimed.
“It gets better” I said as I pulled out all the other blades and things to show him its brilliance.
“My word what an amazing thing it really is” he said taking it off me again and inspecting the different blades.
“Anyway” I said taking it back off him and folding all but the main blade away. “This has been magnetised and I can show you what I mean, do you have anything metal around” I asked
“Yes, yes I do” he said bolting out of the room. After a few moments he came back in with a metal bowl, and some other small little bits of metal.
“Are these any good?” he asked almost jumping around like an excitable child.
I pressed the blade to the bowl but nothing happened, so I worked my way through the little odds and sods until I finally came to something that stuck to the blade of my knife.
“Look” I said, showing him the bit of metal now stuck to my knife. He took them both off me and pulled them apart and then let them go back together. He then placed the metal on the model and slowly moved the knife towards it and watched as the metal jumped to the knife once it was close enough
“Marvellous, just marvellous” he said as he continued to separate them and then bring them back together. Now this went on for some time and then he finally stopped and said.
“Now I understand, yes, yes of course, how could I have been so stupid, my boy you are a genius, I know how the machine works and why my model doesn’t” he exclaimed, grabbing hold of me and jumping up and down.
“Why?” I asked
“Well it’s quite simple really” he said walking over to the model and removing the top of the egg timer to get to the sand. He plunged the blade of the knife into the sand and when he brought it back out it was covered in sand. He blew on the sand and bits fell off but not all.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Its simple” he said,
“What is?” I asked.
“Well metal comes from rocks right?” he asked, now I wasn’t exactly sure but I knew it came from somewhere so I agreed.
“Yes” I said
“And if metal is magnetic then the rock it comes from should be, yes?” he asked
“Well I suppose, but” I started to say but he went off on one.
“So if rocks can be magnetic then so can sand if it contains the right elements and if there is a big enough magnet then as the sand falls through the glass, it fall into will turn towards the magnet and in doing so it will turn the world. Once upside down the sand will start to fall again and again the world will turn, and this will happen forever, unless the machine is turned off again” he said his eyes so wide I thought they were going to pop.
“But what is the big magnet it needs, and where is it?” I asked, this question just occurring to me.
“Well” he said it must be something extremely large and close enough for the forces to work, something like the…..” and he stopped dead in his tracks.
“Like the what” I asked
“Like the sun” he said, “it hangs in the sky directly over the mountain always, I would be willing to wager that it is the magnet”. He then started to pace up and down mumbling something under his breath and having a full-blown conversation with himself. After a few moments he stopped, looked at me and said,
“We must turn on the machine, it will solve all of our problems”
“What problems?” I asked
“Well you remember asking me in the village why everyone looked so tired”
“Yes, but what’s that go to do with anything?” I asked
“Well, we are all so tired because the sun always shines making it hard to sleep, because it’s always hot and always light. If we had darkness it would be dark and therefore we could sleep properly” he said now so excited that I could hear his heart racing.
“But what if you’re wrong and it’s not what happens?” I asked, now worrying that I might have helped him make a really bad decision.
“I can’t be, logic dictates that it has to work because of the design of the machine and when you have all the facts, they point at that one and only conclusion” he said.
“Come, come, quick we must meet with and tell everyone, I must have their permission to turn on the machine” he said running from the room with me close behind. We left the house and made our way back down to the village at a tremendous rate as we went on he shouted at the top of his lungs, “come with me to Mrs Pittersnipe’s, I have news of the great machine” over and over again. When we arrived at Mrs Pittersnipe’s, there were already lots of people there and some were slightly more worse for wear than others. When everyone had arrived Jim told them what he had discovered and urged them to let him turn on the machine, after hours of talks and maybe a few too many tankards of ale, it was finally decided that he should start the machine up. The whole village then went on mass up the mountain to watch this momentous occasion, and as we got closer I realised just how massive this huge egg timer was. When we got to the base of the structure we found that there was a large plate of wood stopping the sand from falling. Jim organised a gang of the most sober men to help him pull the plate free and as they did sand started to fall through and once the plate was completely out mountains of sand started to fall through and there was an enormous cheer. Everyone was congratulating Jim and as he turned and smiled at me everything started to fade to dark and I drifted off to sleep.
When I woke up I was lying on the ground at the foot of the tree I had fallen out of, with a horrible pain in my lower back, well to be exact it was a pain in my arse, my left buttock. I rolled over and saw there was a rather sharp pointy rock sticking out of the ground that I had fallen on. I pulled myself to my feet and tried to rub the pain away. As I looked around for my new friend and the crazy drunken villagers, I realised they were all gone and I was back home. I sat back down and tried to think about what had just happened, I didn’t know if it was real or not and as I sat there confused beyond belief something in the distance caught my eye and there stood for all the world to see were those three strange looking people. I called out to them but they simply vanished. And that was the start of my crazy life and my many adventures. If you’d like to know more then I urge you to read on, I promise things only got weirder from then on.
© Copyright 2017 Adam Douglas. All rights reserved.