The Myguffin

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Kevin Ince arrives in Manchester city centre. At Victoria train station he goes through a revolving door he has never noticed before. He emerges in a strange world that is similar to his own but yet completely different.

Kevin Ince moved through the busy train station. Manchester Victoria was alive with people. Some, like him, were meeting friends and having an afternoon with friends. Others were dressed in smart office wear. They were clearly heading for interviews and appointments. Parents were pulled along by children in bright Christmas jumpers. The bustle of noise was almost musical. The tannoy announcements of trains arriving and departing seemed be conducting it all.

Kevin was meeting a few of his mates. The plan was to have a mooch round the Christmas markets, stopping for mulled wine along the way. The market stalls were dotted all over the city. Each year there seemed to be more and more stalls selling food, drink, unusual bits and pieces. The more stalls that popped up, the more people flocked to them.

He pushed through the people as he crossed the station. He noticed a revolving door. Frosted glass obscured the city beyond. The door looked ancient, like something from an old photograph. It must have dated back to when the station was first built. But he could not recall ever seeing it before. Oh well, might lead to a short cut across the city. He pushed on and went through.

A cold blast hit him. He closed his eyes for a second, then opened them. Snow was falling heavily. When he had left Eccles it had been cold but nowhere near cold enough to snow. He looked around. Tried to get his bearings. He gasped. He was not in a part of the city he recognised. He felt like he was somewhere else entirely.

He stood for a moment trying to take it all in. Old fashioned gas street lamps glowed all along the pavement. The air was thick with snow, smoke and soot. Horses pulled carts and carriages up and down the cobbles. In the distance he could see mills and factories. Huge chimneys pumped black smoke into the sky. People pushed past him as they went about their business. The men wore flat caps, jackets and waistcoats. The women wore skirts and dresses which bustles all the way down to the ground. They had shawls wrapped around their shoulders for warmth.

He glanced behind him, back the way he had come. The revolving door was gone. There was nothing but dark brick wall behind him. Unsure if he was dreaming, hallucinating or the latest attraction to hit the city, he walked aimlessly down the street. He felt so far away from home but the snippets of conversation from people passing sounded certainly Northern.

A man came out of a doorway. He walked quickly. In less than ten steps he had transformed into a dog. Now a border collie, the man bounced off down the street. What was this place? The snow falling over the bizarre scene gave it a wonderful, miraculous feel.

The shops that lined the high street had an old fashioned, other-worldlyness about them. Casting their welcoming glow and enticing aromas out onto the street were butchers and baker shops. He noticed a shop selling pies. There was a complete lack of chain stores and American coffee shops that had sprung up over every British high street. There were no fast food joints.

He passed a pub. Here we are, he thought. Amidst all the weirdness of the place the pub seemed like a beacon of normality. He smiled. A pub. Definitely what he needed. The sign said it was called the Punch Bowl. He went in. He was wrapped up in the sights, smells and sounds. Men and women drank pints of dark ale and liquor. They smoked clay pipes and rolled cigarettes. One elderly lady was entertaining the crowd. She held her right palm open. Flickering in her palm was a yellow-orange flame. Kevin moved through the pub, intrigued by what the lady was doing. A man in his mid-thirties was sitting in the chair facing the lady. He could make out bits of what she was saying. Something about his health and his future. By reading the dancing flame she was able to predict what would happen. Kevin wondered what she would make of him. Would she know he was from another place?

A man with a long beard was sitting by the open fire place. He puffed on a pipe. Kevin did a double take. The smoke was swirling into certain shapes. He could make out images in the smoke. He saw men in caps playing football, then a steam train, then a man and woman kissing.

Kevin headed to the bar. He noticed the wide selection of real ales. What a shame this pub wasn’t in Manchester. There was a red fox standing at the bar. The fox was on his back legs and around five feet tall. He was wearing a tweed suit. The fox asked the barmaid for a Speckled Hen. Kevin recognised the name. It was a decent bottled ale. He barmaid returned a moment later with a plate of roasted bird. An actual speckled hen? The fox thanked her, licked his lips before taking his plate and going to find a table.

Back out on the street night was falling along with the snow. People rushed along the pavements hurrying to get home. Horse and carts pushed down the cobbled street. Kevin stood in wonder, watching the unfamiliar scene. This place felt magical. It was like he was in a strange theme park. A man across the street stared at him. Kevin looked away. He glanced back to see if the man was still staring. He was. The man darted across the road between the horse drawn carriages.

He approached Kevin. He looked to be somewhere in his fifties. He had a grey goatee beard and a mischievous glint in his pale blue eyes. He tapped the peak of his flat cap in greeting.

‘Now then.’

‘Alright mate?’

The man held Kevin’s gaze for a long second. Then he fumbled in his long overcoat. He pulled out a golden pocket watch. He clicked the watch open. He held it in his palm, glanced at Kevin, then studied the watch. The watch seemed to have all kinds of spinning dials and faces. The man snapped the watch shut and pocketed it. He smiled at Kevin.

‘You are from the other place.’

‘Sorry? I’m from Manchester. I’m not sure what or where this place is.’

‘This place is Manchester.’

‘It doesn’t look like any part of Manchester I’ve ever seen.’

‘Precisely. This is also Manchester. You could say that they are two sides of the same coin. I’m Edmund Hindley.’

‘Kevin Ince. But how can you tell from your pocket watch that I’m not from here?’

‘It is not like any other time piece in this city. It is a very special item. And besides your clothing is a bit of a give away.’

Edmund pointed at Kevin’s t-shirt.

‘I don’t know what botanical group the Stone Roses belong to but you won’t find a florist here that does anything like that.’

Edmund pulled a white handkerchief from his pocked. He shook it. As he did so the material changed. The handkerchief became a heavy dark overcoat. Kevin stared.

‘Here. Put this on.’

As Kevin shrugged into the coat he spoke.

‘How did you do that? Are you-’

‘A magician, yes. We all need a trade.’

‘Wow. That’s fascinating.’

‘Is it? I’ve never really thought about it. I wanted to work with engines but my father was a magician.’

‘If this is Manchester how is it possible that I’ve never seen this place before?’

‘This, my version of the city, exists in parallel to yours. And, just think, how strange we would find your realm? All that technical gadgetry would make our heads spin. What do you do for a living? Don’t tell me, you work in an office.’

‘Yes.’

‘How exciting.’

‘Not really.’

‘Do you use a computer?’

‘Yes.’

‘Riveting. Come, let me buy you an ale. Let’s get out of the snow.’

Kevin nodded.

The pub was called the Cellar. It was a red brick cavern down three flights of stairs. Kevin followed Edmund into the pub. Amidst the crowd a large man sat plucking an acoustic guitar. He concentrated on his music, his eyes shut tight. As Edmund ordered two pints of Doom Kevin listened to the music. The tune seemed familiar. Edmund handed him his pint of ale. He pointed at the guitarist.

‘That song. Isn’t it Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis?’

‘Yes it is. Noel Gallagher is a regular at this pub. He performs here a lot.’

They found a table in the corner. They drank ale and talked. Edmund Hindley asked Kevin about his like and the world he came from. Kevin answered and was equally interested in the strange place he now found himself.

As they spoke and drank something occurred to Kevin. Somehow, he knew that this place, this mad world, was real. He was not dreaming or hallucinating. He knew this other city was as real as the place he had left that morning.

‘The door I came through, it vanished. How do I get back home?’

‘Portals between our worlds are appearing and disappearing all the time.’

‘Thank goodness. But if that’s the case why don’t more people go back and forth?’

‘People from your world do not know about our city. They are happy to go along believing that your North is the centre of the universe.’

Kevin smiled. He knew a lot of Mancunians and Salfordians that believed their city was the be all and end all.

‘And some people from here know of your world but they aren’t particularly interested.’

‘Why not?’

‘Let’s put it another way. I’ve read that in your world England is connected by tunnel to France.’

‘That’s right.’

‘Have you been through this tunnel?’

‘No, I haven’t.’

‘Exactly. People just go about their own lives.’

‘And when will the next doorway open?’

Edmund again studied the dials on his pocket watch.

‘Ah, there we are. Another portal will appear in roughly seventy two hours.’

‘What? So I’m stuck here for three days?’

‘Calm yourself. Consider it a little holiday.’

‘Oh aye, I can just see Super Breaks advertising mini breaks to this place.’

‘I’ll get you another pint.’

Later that evening Edmund showed Kevin to a hotel. Even in the festive snowy setting the narrow three storey building looked like something from a horror film. They went in. the tiny hallway lead to a wooden reception desk. Edmund rang the bell. Kevin was startled as no sooner had the bell ran a man popped up from nowhere. He was in his early twenties and had a day’s worth of stubble on his chin.

‘Evening.’

‘Evening. My friend here would like a room for four nights, please.’

‘Four? But-’ said Kevin.

‘Yes, four nights. Could we settle up on checking out?’

‘We normally ask for payment in advance.’

‘It’s just my friend here is from out of town. He’s here on business and will have the funds over the course of his stay.’’

‘You’ll have to speak to the manager.’

‘Is he about?’

The young man nodded. He placed a hand on either side of his head. Kevin wondered if the guy was going to let out a scream. Instead, he yanked his head to the left and right. Then he pulled his head clean off his shoulders. Kevin swore. He leaned on the reception desk to steady himself. The young man placed his head under the counter. He then pulled another head from the counter. The hands shoved the head onto the shoulders. This head had slicked back hair and a waxed moustache. The eyes opened. The man blinked. Then cleared his throat.

‘Good evening, gentlemen. I’m the manager of this establishment. What can I do for you?’

Kevin was stunned. With the new head the man seemed like a completely different person. Even the body language was different. The young man’s slouched shoulders were now straightened. His hands moved as he spoke. The whole demeanour had changed. Edmund did not seem the least bit surprised.

‘Good evening. My friend is from out of town. He’s here on business for four days. Would it be at all possible to pay for the room when he checks out?’

‘Certainly. Of course a one pound deposit would be required.’

‘Of course.’

Edmund handed over a one pound note. The manager handed Kevin a metal tin the size of a matchbox.

‘What’s this?’

‘Your key, sir. You’ll be in room seventeen.’

Kevin and Edmund went up the narrow creaking staircase. In the glow of the gas lamp they found the room Kevin stared at the door and then at the small tin in his hand.

‘Aren’t you going in?’

‘But how?’

‘Open the tin.’

Kevin opened the tin. Inside was brown powder that looked like sand. Edmund watched him. Kevin shrugged. Edmund took a pinch of powder and flicked it at the door. Kevin didn’t move.

‘Come on.’ said Edmund.

He stepped up to the wooden door. He then took another step. He passed through the door. He just walked right through it like it was not there. Kevin took a breath. He walked forward. He tried to move in a similar way to Edmund. He stepped forward. And walked straight into the solid wood of the door.

‘You need to use the key.’ Edmund called.

Kevin opened the tin. He flicked a pinch of dust at the door. Then, hoping for the best, he stepped forward. He felt a slight shiver as he passed through the door.

‘Give me a swipe card any day.’

Edmund grinned. In the small room there was a bed, sheets not a duvet, a wardrobe and a white basin. It looked like something from a hundred years ago.

‘Right, Kevin. I’ve got a few bits of business to take care of tomorrow. Shall we meet in the pub at around five o’clock?’

Kevin nodded. He checked his wristwatch. It had stopped.

‘My watch has stopped.’

‘Ah yes. That can happen when you cross over to our city. Here.’

He held out an empty palm. He closed his fist. He grinned at Kevin. Then he opened his hand. In his palm was a silver pocket watch. He handed it over. Kevin thanked him as he went to leave. Edmund walked right upto the door. He stepped straight through it.

‘You didn’t use the key.’

‘Don’t need it from the inside. Anyone would think you’ve never staying in a hotel before. Good night.’ he called from the corridor.

‘Goodnight.’

Kevin lay in the small bed and stared at the ceiling. He heard horse and carriages rumbling along the cobbles. There was also the raised chatter of people who’d had one pint too many. What was this place? This other Manchester seemed so very different to the city he was from. Yet the feeling remained that this place was real. With the strange events of the day whirring round his head he eventually drifted off to sleep.

The next morning he washed using the ancient looking basin. He dressed and shrugged into the overcoat Edmund had given him. The morning bustle of people, horses and carts again overwhelmed him. He headed along the narrow streets. The tall buildings seemed to huddle together. He passed a bakers shop. He glanced in the large window. People queued to buy bread and pastries. Kevin caught the aroma of baking bread. His mouth watered and his stomach gurgled. He walked on. A while later he passed a café. The board on the pavement advertised their breakfast menu. Kevin wished he had money for breakfast. He stuffed his hands in his overcoat pockets. He pulled out a five pound note. The note was larger than the fivers he was used to, and bluer in colour.

He went into the café. Round wooden tables and chairs filled the room. Waitresses wearing high collared black and white uniforms rushed around the room. They took orders for food and tea.

Kevin found a table. A waitress came over clutching her notepad. Her smile asked what she could get him.

‘Can I have the full English breakfast, please? With tea not coffee.’

‘Of course. And nobody drinks coffee.’

A short time later the waitress returned with his breakfast and a pot of tea. Kevin thanked her. The items on the breakfast plate were familiar yet unusual. He checked the menu. Purple pudding. He didn’t want to think about what that consisted of. And fried Griffin’s egg. How bizarre.

The hot breakfast went down well with the tea. The food recharged his batteries. He was ready for whatever the day in this weird place threw at him. The purple pudding had a spicy rich taste that he could not put his finger on. He thought about asking the waitress exactly what was in the delicacy but decided against it. Some things you are better off not knowing.

He spent the day exploring the alternative city and all it had to offer. At one point he was stopped in his tracks. Midstride, though nothing was visible in front of him he could not go any further. It felt like he had bumped into somebody. But there was nobody there. A voice called out from the empty street right in front of him.

‘Watch out.’

‘Who said that?’

‘I did.’ said nobody.

Kevin prodded a finger at the space in front of him. He touched what felt like flesh.

‘Easy, lad.’ came the male voice again.

‘How is this possible?’

‘You never seen an unvisible man before?’

‘You mean invisible.’

‘Unvisible, mate. No such word as invisible. And we unvisible have got rights, you know.’

Kevin felt a shoulder push into him as the man left in a huff. Kevin checked the time on the pocket watch Edmund had given him. He had just over an hour till he was due to meet Edmund in the pub.

He turned down a narrow winding side street. There was a bookshop up on the left. He wondered what type of books this place would hold. In this fantastic realm would their version of strange tales be about Kevin’s world? Before he reached the shop a woman stepped out in front of him.

She was around thirty years old and had long dark hair. She stared at him. Her eyes were like melted chocolate. Her black flowing dress fluttered in the snowy winter breeze. She puffed on a cigarette in a holder. She smiled at Kevin.

He nodded, wished her a good afternoon.

The woman blew smoke in his face. Kevin coughed. Was this greeting in this realm? The smoke quickly grew. It rapidly became a thick fog. The grey mist surrounded him, wrapping itself around him. He gulped for air. The sinister gas filled his lungs. He felt it start to strange him. His head felt fuzzy. He could see nothing but the grey-white mist. He could not breathe. Just when he was about to pass out the smoke thinned. A second later he was on the narrow street. The woman was nowhere to be seen. He was alone. He looked up and down the snowy street. He shivered. Some tobacco they have here, he thought, I will never complain about smoking in public places again.

He saw a man coming out of a pub. He stared. This place was getting stranger and stranger. The man wore a grey suit and flat cap. He looked like any other man in the city. Except for one thing. Kevin could see through him. Not the way you can see through a sales rep’s patter, but actually see through him. He could make out the bricks and windows of the public house through the man’s body. The man swore and jerked a thumb at the pub. Kevin noticed the sign in the window. No spirits served here. The ghost muttered something about where the landlord could shove his pub and headed down the street. Kevin watched and noticed the man did not leave any footprints in the snow. Where would the spectre get served? Could ghosts even drink? Perhaps, he thought, this city had a district reserved for ghosts.

Kevin arrived at the pub just before five o’clock. He checked the time on his watch. The pub was quieter than the previous evening but would no doubt be busier as the evening wore on. Two men played chess while sipping whiskey. The liquor in the glasses frothed and foamed like something from a mad scientist’s laboratory. Kevin got himself a pint of dark ale. He found Edmund Hindley in a corner having a pint and scribbling in a leather bound notebook. He rubbed his grey beard as he wrote. He looked up as Kevin approached. Kevin took the seat facing him.

‘Ah, Kevin. How was your day in this city?’

‘Good. But this place is weird. It’s all very odd, but old fashioned at the same time.’

They drank ale and chatted about the differences between Kevin’s world and the place he now found himself. A couple of hours layer Edmund pointed a finger at him.

‘I say, I have an idea of what to do this evening.’

‘Oh yeah? Don’t tell me, this place has a curry mile’

‘I’m not familiar with that particular measure of distance. No. I was thinking we could go and watch Salford.’

‘Watch Salford do what?’

‘Surely you have rugby league.’

‘This place has league?’

Kevin and Edmund followed the crowd along the cobbles. Groups of men, young boys and families headed towards the stadium. The fans chatted excitedly about the game. The area seemed familiar to Kevin. Then he saw the sign in front of the rugby ground. The Willows.

‘The Willows? Salford still play at the Willows here?’

‘Yes, of course. Why would they move?’

‘In my world they moved to a new stadium.’

‘Why on earth would they do that?’

Kevin just shrugged.

They paid and pushed through the clanking turnstiles. The stadium was packed. Some of the crowd had red and white scarves tied around their necks. Looking at the crowd in their caps and shawls Kevin was reminded of old photographs and footage of rugby and football games he’d seen, usually in the build up to the challenge cup and FA cup final.

The sky overhead was full of stars. Kevin’s breath hung in the air in front of him. Rugby league. He gave Edmund a nudge.

‘At last,’ he said. ‘something I can relate to.’

Edmund smiled. He pointed to the pitch. In the white stark glow of the floodlights the players were warming up. Kevin stared in horror.

‘Are those players-’

‘Dead, yes.’

Rotting corpses wearing rugby kits moved and passed the ball to each other. The got themselves in position for the game the cadavers moved awkwardly. They did not seem to have complete control of their limbs. Faces were eaten away by decay. A lot of players had most of their skulls exposed.

‘The game was deemed too dangerous. It was decided to use players who were already dead. No harm can come to them, you see.’

‘And I thought the Grand Final play offs were a strange idea.’

‘An uncle of mine went to play for Warrington Wolves after he died.’

‘How did your aunt feel about that?’

‘Disgusted, obviously. She hates Warrington.’

The buzzer sounded for the start of the game. The crowd cheered. The two teams burst into action. Kevin actually found the gory game entertaining. The match was familiar but the dead players made it like nothing else he’d ever seen.

Just before half time Kevin saw a face he recognised in the crowd. It took him a second to place it. It was her. The smoking woman from earlier. Her eyes locked on his. She smiled. Kevin turned to Edmund to point out the strange woman and her unique brand of cigarettes. When he looked back she was gone. He scanned the crowd. She was nowhere to be seen.

Kevin explained to Edmund about the incident with the smoking woman. Edmund’s eyes widened.

‘Why didn’t you mention anything before?’

‘I don’t know. It’s mad this place.’

‘Let me see your wrists.’

Kevin pulled back the sleeves of his overcoat. The veins on his wrists were now black. It was as though his veins were filled with dark ink.

‘What does this mean?’

‘It’s a witch’s curse. The woman you speak of is a witch. Her name is Miss Hyde.’

‘But I feel fine.’

Edmund studied Kevin’s eyes the way an optician would. He looked at his whirring pocket watch.

‘You are definitely infected. Whilst you may feel fine it is a serious issue. For one thing, if you were to return to your world in this condition you would unleash a plague.’

‘Really?’

‘That is how a number of your major epidemics have happened. Ever notice how these diseases suddenly outbreak? Dragging a witch’s curse back to your world would unleash untold misery.’

‘What do we do?’

‘I’m not really sure. You need to get some rest. We’ll investigate our options tomorrow.’

‘I don’t feel cursed though.’

‘Hold out your hand.’

Kevin held out his hand. Strange markings appeared and vanished on his skin. Weird writing ran across his flesh.

‘If we don’t sort this out then you will not be long for either of these worlds.’

Kevin sighed. He did feel under the weather. It felt like he was coming down with something.

The next morning Kevin and Edmund dashed down the cobbles. Kevin pulled the collar up on his overcoat. It was biting cold. He had not asked Edmund where they were going or what they were going to do about the curse. He just hoped the magician would be able to do something. They turned a corner. A round grey building loomed in front of them. Kevin recognised it even with the horse and carriages running up and down outside.

‘That’s Central Library.’

‘Do you have that too?’

This city was like a Tim Burton version of his own city.

They entered the respectful hush of the library. Tall dark shelves ran to the high ceilings and twisted like a maze all around. Edmund stroked his grey beard and muttered to himself as they walked through the towering shelves. As they moved down the aisles Kevin heard voices. He stopped. He leaned towards the leather bound books. He could not make out the words but the books were whispering to each other. He move quickly to catch up with the magician.

Armed with stacks of volumes they found a space on a long wooden table. Edmund continued to chunner to himself as he pored over the dusty ancient books. He scribbled notes in his notebook.

By the time Edmund was satisfied with what he had found the evening was drawing in. Candle light flickered across the room. He sat back in his chair. He sighed.

‘There is a way to break the curse. We need to find something called the Myguffin.’

‘Mig-what?’

‘The Myguffin.’

‘What is that?’

‘The books do not really state exactly what it is. It appears that to remove a curse of this nature we either have to get Miss Hyde to remove it or find this Myguffin.’

‘So tomorrow we have to find the Myguffin?’

‘It will not wait until tomorrow. If this is not sorted you may not survive the night.’

Kevin pulled back his sleeve. He gasped at his black veins and the weird dark lettering running all over his skin. The scribbling writing would appear then fade to be replaced by other markings.

The steam train pulled out of the station. Kevin could not see anything but darkness out of the window. Edmund took the seat across from him. He flicked through the notes he had made in the library. Kevin slumped in the seat. He made himself as comfortable as he could. He closed his eyes. The rocking of the train lulled him to sleep.

He woke to Edmund gently shaking his shoulder. Keven stretched.

‘Come on. This is our stop.’

Kevin stifled a yawn as they left the warm comfort of the train and stepped out onto the cold dark platform. As they headed towards the exit Kevin noticed the name of the station. Irwellham. He could not recall why but the name kind of sounded familiar. Edmund pointed a finger, this way. Down empty dark cobbled streets they went. Edmund moved with urgency. Kevin stumbled along as fast as he could.

The streets gave way to fields. Grass and crops brushed against Kevin’s legs. It was like wading through water. A bird screeched in the ink black sky overhead. Ten minutes later Edmund was dragging him through dark woodland. Trees and branches caught and tugged at his hair, face and clothing. He had no idea where they were headed. He simply followed Edmund. He could hardly see anything in the darkness. The wood all around seemed to swallow him up. He just hoped that Edmund knew where he was going and what he was doing. They pushed on through the forest. Cloud shifted overhead. The moon was revealed, large in the sky. Everything was coated in its milky glow. The relief that Kevin felt at being able to see where he was going was soon overshadowed by what he could see. He and Edmund were not alone.

Moving through the woodland alongside them was a pack of wolves. Kevin swore. Edmund stared straight ahead as they pushed on. The wolves’ eyes burned read in the pale moonglow. They snapped their jaws and growled. The pack moved forward. The wolves moved in front of Kevin and Edmund. The wild animals formed a line in front of them. Kevin knew that if they attempted to pass they would be torn to shreds.

The two men stood still. They stared at the snarling beasts blocking their way. Kevin was about to ask what they should do when Edmund started rummaging in his overcoat. A second later there was a flash orange. Flames shot from Edmund’s hands. He aimed the fire at the wolves. The animals turned, fleeing, yelping into the night.

‘Come on.’ growled Edmund.

They rushed on through the trees.

A short time later Kevin heard a strange sound. Then the sky was full of black birds. The birds swept down, pecking and clawing at them. Arms raised in an attempt to protect themselves they trudged on. The birds vanished as quickly as they had appeared.

They heard strange noises from behind them. They glanced over their shoulder. Kevin was stunned by what he saw. Weird creatures that stood nearly as tall as him shuffled and grunted in their direction. They were squat and had large bloated stomachs. Their jaws hung open as they gasped for breath. Large bulbous eyes stared at them.

‘What are they?’ asked Kevin.

‘They are Boggarts. Miss Hyde is pulling out all the stops.’

‘This is all the witch’s doing?’

‘Yes, she clearly wants you to stay cursed. We need to move quickly. I cannot do anything against these creatures.’

‘Can’t you use your powers?’

‘Not really.’

‘But you are a magician.’

‘You have magicians in your world.’

‘We have entertainers who perform magic tricks.’

‘Alas, that is my trade. My skills are all an illusion. Just smoke and mirrors. All sleight of hand. Mind you, I always dreamed of being a wizard.’

‘But, your pocket watch? That seems to be real magic.’

‘That was given to me when I was a boy. A wizard visited my town of Eckles. I saved his life and in return he gave me this watch.’

‘He should have taken you on as his apprentice.’

‘Please, Kevin, this is not some ridiculous fantasy story.’

Kevin said nothing.

The Boggarts chased them on through the forest. Kevin and Edmund moved as quickly as the undergrowth would allow.

Kevin saw a little girl. She stood alone and crying in the moonglow. Kevin instinctively went to console the weeping child. Edmund yelled for him to stop. The girl brushed aside her long dark hair. She smiled. Her eyes glowed a wicked green.

‘You are going to die.’ she said in a sing-song voice.

Edmund grabbed Kevin’s elbow. The magician dragged him through the forest. They came to a clearing. A rope bridge stretched out across a wide gorge. Kevin couldn’t see the bottom of the canyon. Edmund stepped out onto the first rung of the rope bridge. The rope creaked and groaned as it took the strain.

‘Light steps but be quick.’ said Edmund.

Kevin held his breath and stepped out onto the bridge. Vast nothing below and monsters behind, he moved as quickly as he could. In short quick steps he budged across the creaking rungs. The Boggarts grumbled from behind. He risked a glance over his shoulder. The creatures were not venturing onto the bridge. That was something, he supposed.

Once across the bridge Kevin followed Edmund to a clearing. Bathed in the milky moonlight was a red brick cottage. Edmund looked at his pocket watch. He snapped it shut. Then pointed.

‘The Myguffin is stored in that cottage.’

The two men charged through the long grass. Kevin could see the glow of orange light from within. Piano music drifted, tinkling into the night. The tune was familiar. They approached the front door. Kevin slowed. Instead of knocking Edmund burst straight into the cottage. Kevin went after him.

A man was sitting at an upright piano in the small living room. He had his back to them. He had shoulder length dark hair. His white shirt tails hung out over his trousers. He wore a waistcoat but no jacket. He sang along with his piano playing. I left my heart in Salford City.

‘Excuse me.’ said Edmund.

The man shot them a quizzical look over his shoulder. Then he was on his feet, staring at them. He moved towards them. He seemed to slither like a reptile. A smile played on his lips. He looked so different to everyone else in this city. No flat cap, the long hair, shirt all over.

‘We’re looking for something. It’s called the Myguffin.’ said Edmund.

The man moved closer to them. He reminded Kevin of a nineteen seventies rock star.

‘You’ve found him.’

‘What?’

Edmund studied his watch.

‘It would appear that he is correct.’

‘They call me the Myguffin.’ he grinned. ‘But you can call me Charlie.’

Edmund quickly explained about the curse that the witch had placed on Kevin. Charlie, the Myguffin, nodded. He ran a hand through his long hair.

There came a shrieking, yelling from outside.

‘And here she is.’ said Charlie.

He slinked over to the door.

‘Are you gentlemen coming?’

Charlie, Edmund and Kevin stood in the moonlight. Miss Hyde hovered in the air, several feet above the ground. The wind tugged her hair in all directions. She had a sneer on her face.

‘Well, Kevin, have you been making friends?’

She pointed at him. He felt dizzy. He collapsed to the grass. Agony wracked his body. He was pulled up into the air by forces he could not see. Invisible hands flung him through the air like a ragdoll. Then he was falling, falling.

He landed on the grass with a thud. He got to his feet. Edmund and Charlie stared at the hovering witch. Kevin rushed forward. Before he could get to his companions he slammed into something. He stared, bewildered. There was nothing visibly holding him back. He reached out a hand. An invisible wall surrounded him. He looked on as Charlie yelled and waved his hands. A bolt of bright light shot out from Miss Hyde’s fingers. Charlie leaped to the side. Edmund was not so quick on his feet. He took the beam of light in the chest. He slumped to the floor, his limbs twisted at awkward angles.

Kevin screamed. He pounded his fists against the invisible walls that imprisoned him. Charlie, the Myguffin moved like he was possessed by a supernatural power. He shouted, he whispered, he growled. His face gurned and distorted. His arms flailed out in all directions. Edmund lay slumped in the grass.

Charlie shot up into the air. He reached the tops of the trees. He was wrapped in a green glow. He hovered in the air for long minutes. Then he plummeted to the ground. As he hit the forest floor he punched down with both fists. The effect of the impact was astonishing. It reminded Kevin of clips he’d seem of nuclear or atomic bombs being tested. The green light mushroomed out. It knocked Kevin to the floor. The bright green blast sent Miss Hyde flying through the sky. She was flung spiralling head over heels into the distance.

Kevin put his hand out. The wall was gone. Kevin and Charlie charged to where Edmund lay. Charlie knelt over Edmund. He chanted in a language Kevin did not understand. He put a hand on Edmund’s chest. He continued chanting. Then his hand moved deep, through, and went inside Edmund’s body. Charlie mumbled and muttered. Then suddenly he snatched his hand away.

Edmund sat up. He gasped for air. He looked at Kevin and Charlie.

‘Did you manage it? Is the curse lifted?’

Charlie nodded.

Kevin looked at his arms. The black writing and dark lines had gone from his flesh.

‘Thank you. But how are you, Edmund?’

‘I feel like I’ve gone ten rounds with Ricky Hatton. But apart from that I’m okay.’

‘That’s good. Hang on, you know Ricky Hatton?’

‘Yes, he’s from our Manchester, you know?’

‘I thought you were dead.’ said Kevin.

‘He was.’ said Charlie.

‘But how?’

‘I had to use the magic of the Ancients. It has restored you back to life. There is one drawback.’

‘What’s that?’

‘This spell leaves a residue of magic within the recipient.’

‘You mean-’ started Edmund.

‘Yes,’ said Charlie. ‘You have magic running through you. You are a wizard.’

‘That is wonderful. But I don’t know anything about being a wizard.’

‘Don’t worry. I’ll teach you.’ He grinned.

‘There’s one last thing.’

Charlie nodded. In the middle of the woodland there was suddenly a revolving door. This was it. Time to go home. Edmund held out a hand. Kevin thanked them both for everything. Charlie just grinned. Kevin turned. He rushed at the revolving door.

He landed on the cold pavement with a thump. He got to his feet. He looked around. The revolving door was gone. He was back in the city he recognised. He felt something in his pocket. He reached for it. He gasped. In his hand was a silver pocket watch.


Submitted: February 02, 2015

© Copyright 2021 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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