Two Months Ago
What exactly the Great Pyramid of South Hertling was, no one knew. No one could say where the cyclopean structure had came from, or why it had flattened the South Bannerman Mega Centre on Wellington Road. All the good people of South Hertling knew was that it was there, glowering down upon them with the eye in its capstone, and their best option was generally to pretend that it wasn’t.
The only person deliberately looking up at the Pyramid that afternoon was Valerie Cenwicz. She had stood in its shadow before, but could never shake the feeling of soul-chilling dread she felt when she did. Valerie was an up-and-coming young agent of a local real estate concern. It was easy, she was finding, to be an up-and-comer in South Hertling — mostly because many senior agents went looking for work outside the suburb just as soon as they became senior. Staring at a property which was basically buried beneath an unfathomable anomaly, she was beginning to understand why that was.
“So, what be yer askin’ price?” Captain Pete asked her.
The captain was a tall, lean man; white haired and with a face that was not so much ‘weather-beaten’ as ‘weather-pummelled’. He wore a large white hat and a safari suit. The right arm of the suit had been rolled up to reveal a tattoo of an anchor on his forearm. The left sleeve was held closed with safety pins, perhaps to hide the stump where his left hand had once been.
“We aren’t naming a price just yet, Dr Olivetti-McTavish…” she began.
“Captain Pete, lass. Please call me Captain Pete.”
“Dr… Captain Pete, you have to understand that this is a very difficult situation, legally. The sudden appearance of the Pyramid has turned what was once a profitable outdoors shopping centre into a… well, a Pyramid. The owners of the land are seeking to dissolve their partnership and aspects of that issue are before the courts. Added to that is the question of the Pyramid itself. As long as it’s standing there, it would be impossible to build on the land in question. For this reason, all we’re doing right now is taking expressions of interest, so…”
“Tell them swabs that old Captain Pete knows that they’re selling,” The Captain gestured at the beetling structure. “Tell your people I’m making an offer today – and they can take it or leave it.”
He took from his pocket a piece of paper and handed it to Valerie. She read it, and tensed every muscle in her body to prevent herself dancing for joy.
“This is quite a reasonable offer,” she said. “I’ll contact the consortium. You should hear back from us shortly.”
“Of course. Today.”
She half expected Captain Pete to smile or sneer or somehow show that he had won. But the old man just grunted and went back to looking at the Pyramid. After her initial elation, a sense of caution suddenly overwhelmed her.
“Do you really have this much money?” she asked. “I only ask, because I’ve seen you working at Place O’ Pets, and I can’t imagine the wages…”
“I have backers, lass,” Cap’n Pete snarled. “That I do. They believe in me work, and they’ll pay a pretty penny to see it started.”
“But the Pyramid…”
“Nothing lasts forever,” Captain Pete said. “Even pyramids crumble. All things pass into history never to return… or do they?”
Was that… was that rhetorical? It sounded rhetorical, but the Captain was looking expectantly at Valerie. Did he want her to answer? She gave an uncertain sort of half-shrug, which seemed to do the trick.
“I’ll… Look, if you’re not worried about this land being occupied by a basically indestructible mass of limestone, I’ll pass your offer on to the current owners.”
Captain Pete nodded his shaggy white head. “Much appreciated.”
Valerie was all too aware that she had done little to earn her massive commission. It was luck, pure luck, that she was the agent that Captain Pete had spoken to; the agent who had given his offer to the owners. Nothing but luck, and she knew it… but she also knew that her new Lamborghini had a heated headrest and Lord knew the back of her head could get pretty darn cold.
As she drove up Wellington Road, she glanced out of the window to see the construction underway on the site that had made her fortune. She couldn’t help being impressed – only a week before, a colossal and deeply unnerving Pyramid had stood. Only a few days ago it had vanished into thin air, leaving nothing behind but a huge square impression in the ground, two hundred meters per side, perfectly flat bottomed and flat sided. This depression would have been featureless, except that it was dotted with plastic bags covering the openings of the pipes and cables that had once served the South Bannerman Mega Centre.
Now, though, the whole area was already hemmed in with plywood hoardings, as a small army of builders and plumbers, electricians and roofers had already begun construction on the new enterprise.
She saw Captain Pete by the entrance, talking to a man with a clipboard. It was her day off (for she surely did not drive a Lamborghini to work; she went to open houses and inspections in a Toyota hatchback as the god of estate agents commanded) so on a whim she parked across the way at the South Hertling Shopping Super Centre. Coming back across Wellington Road, she greeted the Captain.
“I was passing, and I saw you hard at work,” she said. “So fast getting started! You must have had the crew waiting and raring to go”
“Aye, that I did,” Captain Pete said. “The end o’ the Pyramid was foretold – just as was its appearance.”
“Uh-huh,” Valerie said, regretting to the depths of her bones the impulse that had driven her to speak with this loon. “So what are you building here? Entertainment centre? Ice rink?”
“Ye be right to think in terms o’ entertainment, lass. But this be no ordinary lei-sure destination. Y’see, using the powers o’science I have succeed in bringing back to life creatures what have been extinct since the days o’ yorrrrre.”
In spite of herself, Valerie found herself perking up. If this was true, it was incredible! “Really? Extinct creatures? Like a… a triceratops?”
“Ye be cold.”
“Basically just a fancy mammoth.”
“Ooh, those be cool. But no.”
“Not technically extinct.”
“The dinosaur, or Marc Bolan’s band?”
“No,” Captain Pete said. “What I have resurrected with the power of science is a creature from the very dawn o’ time!”
He reached into the pocket of his pea-jacket and took out a large jar, containing a spiky, weird looking arthropod. It moved, a little.
Valerie tapped the glass and the thing moved a little more. “Is it a…”
“That’s right, lass!” Captain Pete exhulted. “It be one o’ the most incredible creatures ever to live upon this foresaken Earth! Thought to have been consigned to Davy Jones’ locker two-hundred and fifty million years ago, and yet as alive now as any kitten or tapir. Behold, nature’s greatest miracle — the TRILOBITE!”
Valerie tapped the jar again.
“Huh, neat,” she said. “I guess.”