Clocks and Boxes — Part 47: Edge

It seemed to Delia that it took a very long time for her and Alfred to skirt the back of Hoonworld Auto and cross Wellington Road. Times seemed longer and distances seemed greater. Was it the power of the Pyramid interfering with the Watch and the Measure, throwing time and space into chaos? If so Delia prepared to do what she had done all of her life: fight against chaos.

Traffic was flowing freely in Wellington Road. Delia remembered the first Pavilion/Barn battle here, and how the entire street had been a riot scene. This time, the fight was localised in the Super Centre, leaving the road free. If it hadn't been for the plumes of smoke over the Centre parking lot, you not have known there was a battle on anyway.

(Where were the fire engines? Where were the police?)

At last, they reached the base of the Pyramid. From here, it seemed to rise forever into the suburban sky, the tallest structure for miles. It was awe inspiring. But it also looked climbable. Delia wondered why no one had put barriers around the vast sandstone thing. It looked like just the sort of thing that the young tearaways from Local High School might have tried to climb. But, she realised, in spite of how easy it looked to scale, she'd never seen anyone dare to try.

Delia paused for a moment, but the sight of their quarry – the Huge Evil Bubble – steadied her resolve. She hopped onto the base of the Pyramid, testing to see if she would slide down. The shoes of her space uniform gripped the rough surface easily. She held a hand down for Alfred who took it without hesitation, and began climbing beside her.

The trip upwards was tough on the calves, but not otherwise difficult. The Bubble, surprisingly, seemed to be struggling as it ascended, so they gained on it rapidly -- until it suddenly bounced sideways around one of the Pyramid's corners. Or was it a corner? Perhaps it was a vertice? Whatever it was, Delia grabbed Alfred by the hand and pulled him puffing behind her.

"This way! This must be where Norman and Bruce are trying to escape from!"

"Where? Past this edge?"

"Edge! That's what it's called."

They rounded the edge, which was surprisingly hard. Moving up the Pyramid was far easier than moving along it horizontally. Soon they were on a shady face of the Pyramid, where they could see the Bubble and a very old man. Both parties stood perfectly still. The old man stared, while the Bubble… well, it had no eyes, but it was probably staring too.

"Shh!" the old man said, raising his hand as Delia approached. "I'm concentrating. Need to keep my wits, or this thing will eat me."

"Who are you?" said Delia, who did not care for being shushed.

"I'm Erik," the old man said. "You know Donna? Yes? I'm her great-grandfather."

"Well what are you…" Alfred began moving forward. Delia checked him with an arm.

"You're Grampy Erik?" she said. "Donna told me all about you. Alfred, this is the world's greatest escaper. He's escaped from prisons, gulags, POW camps, mobile phone contracts… everything!"

At the mention of 'escape', the Bubble rippled slightly.

"Don't say…" Alfred began. But the Bubble did not move. "Wow. If the Bubble is keyed to thoughts of escape, how come it didn't attack? This guy is all about the escape."

"You like pureed carrot?" Erik said.

"No, not really."

"Sure you do. But imagine you were facing the biggest meal of pureed carrot ever. So big, it would choke you. So, do you try to eat it and risk dying? Or let the biggest low GI meal of your life just walk out of the dayroom?"

"I'd eat part of it and then stop," Alfred said. "Because it's a puree. I think your metaphor would have worked better with a solid food item. I get what you mean, though, you're too big a meal for it."

"How did you work that out?" Delia said. "Surely you've never seen something like the Bubble before?"

"It's just a guard dog," Erik shrugged. "An exotic alien guard dog, maybe, but I know guard dogs better than anybody."

The Bubble rippled a little. Erik set his narrow shoulders and glared at the thing.

"Or, you could just have said 'with me, it would bite off more than it can chew,'" Alfred persisted. "I mean, there's an entire figure of speech that means what you were saying. Why not use it?"

"Alfred, shush," Delia said, though not unkindly. "Erik, we were following that thing to try to find out where a couple of people might be escaping the Pyramid."

"Yeah, uh…" without looking away from the Bubble, Erik removed a scrap of paper from his cardigan pocket. "Norman, bracket son of Zeus close bracket and Bruce bracket truck close bracket. Donna sent me to try to spring them while the Pyramid was occupied. You see, her plan in allying herself with the Pyramid cultists was as much a distraction to them as… Oh, damn…"

"What?"

"This is awkward. I gotta pee."

"Can't you hold it in?"

"I'm ninety flippin' five! Of course I can't hold it in."

"Well, go on the Pyramid. Then you don't even have to stop glaring at the Bubble."

"In full view of the whole suburb?"

"Alfred, use your cape."

Alfred looked at her, shocked. He must have seen that her expression was immobile, because he unclipped the cape from his space uniform and spread it around Erik's waist. He winced and looked upwards as a trickling sound began.

"So, you have the Bubble in a standoff," Delia said, as much to distract herself as anything else. "How are you going to beat it?"

"Going to be honest, love," Erik said. "I have no idea. No don't take that cape away yet! I still have to shake!"

Alfred shuddered.

"If you don't have a plan, do you mind if I initiate mine?"

"You might as well. I've already peed myself."

"Good," Delia said, and whacked the smooth skin of the Bubble with the flat of her hand.

It howled and advanced on the terrified Erik -- who, it turned out, still had a little urine left in him.

Next -- Part 48: Disco

Previously -- Part 46: Cask

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