a tale in weekly parts
“Are you sure it’s a good idea to have the dogs here while fireworks are going off?” Alex asked his parents while trying to dodge Ixus’ tongue that was lashing his face like he were a bowl of cold water.
“Good call, lad,” Al replied, “I’ll take them for a walk while the rest of you watch the display.”
“No, Dad,” Alice said, “Alex and I will take them. Fireworks don’t do much for us – don’t forget, we’ve witnessed a supernova close up [episode 43]. Besides, I think my little brother and I have things to talk about.”
“Okay, lass. But don’t forget your father’s a small part of this whole bitek thing, too.”
Madge’s face displayed alarm. “Aloysius Cuthbert Cornelius Grahamson: don’t you even think about disappearing off too!”
“Don’t fret, Mother. I won’t. Run along then, kids. Let us know what you decide.”
“Okay. Bye,” Alex said as he and Alice picked up the dogs’ leads and set off at a trot, weaving their way through the crowd waiting to see the pyrotechnic display.
Once clear of the area, they slowed down and walked in silence, until they came to an area where dogs could run free and where there were seats where the dog-walkers could rest. The two unclipped the dogs’ leads and parked themselves on a bench.
“Off you go and play,” Alice said.
Inside her head, she heard Chav’s ‘voice’, “You kidding? We want to hear what’s going on with you two. It affects us, too, you know.”
“Yeah,” Ixus added, “no way am I going to run around like a puppy when there’s serious business to be discussed, business that involves us.”
“Okay, stay then.” Turning to her brother, she added, “Alex. I don’t want to just go back to the way things were.”
“How do you mean?” Alex asked.
“I spent years; countless years; running around and having fun. I don’t want to do that any more. It’s not enough. If we are going to join up with the Eddies again; and I don’t see how we can not; I want something meaningful to come from it.”
“That’s all I’ve got so far. What do you reckon?”
“It’s not as if we have any superpowers or anything. We’re not super-strong, we don’t have special vision or hearing or anything. Apart from being able to travel through space and time, we’re just regular people.”
“There is that.”
“And able to communicate without words.”
“And able to talk with our dogs.”
“Okay. Apart from being able to travel through space and time, being super-smart, able to communicate without words and to talk with our dogs, what makes us different?”
Before Alice could respond, a shepherd’s hut materialised in front of them, its door opened, and Albert stepped out. Chav ran up to greet him. Ixus stayed by her master and sent “What’s he doing here?” to Alex. Alex responded with a shrug.
“Welcome back,” Albert said, “We knew we’d see you again.”
“Of course you did,” Alice said tetchily.
“Not so fast,” Alex said, “things are going to be different this time.”
“I know. I heard everything.”
“You’ve been listening in?”
“Ever since we got wind that the Eddies were trying to draw you back. We’ve just been waiting for you to decide how you were going to respond.”
“We’re not sure. There’s a chunk of time around now that’s closed off to us. It’s as if the Eddies don’t want us to know in advance, what you’ll decide.”
“SQUIRREL,” Chav yelled and ran off. Ixus followed, overtook him within half a dozen paces, then realised that she didn’t know where their quarry was, so waited for Chav to catch up. The two trotted back, muttering some words that neither Alice nor Alex had heard before, but that they assumed carried some meaning for the dogs.
“Failed?” Alex asked Chav.
“Sencela,” Chav replied, looking away from Alex, and with his head held low.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
“Why can’t we climb trees?” Chav asked, his tone and body posture adding petulance to his question, “We could have caught that damned rodent.”
“Probably because we’re not cats,” Ixus offered.
“I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies.”
“Small? Not being a cat isn’t a small mercy; it’s flippin’ mahoosive!” Ixus asserted.
“So?” Albert asked, “what have you decided.”
Alice peered at him through half-closed eyes. “We have decided to discuss this among ourselves. We will tell you what we plan to do when we’ve discussed it and reached a conclusion, and not before. Meantime; we’d appreciate being left alone so we can talk in private.”
“And we don’t want you listening in,” Alex added. Albert shrugged his shoulders, returned to Jarvis and disappeared from view.
“Have they gone?” Alex asked.
“I’m not sensing their presence,” Alice replied.
The Eddies reached into the two people and two dogs, assuring them that they were, indeed alone within an Eddie-maintained barrier. Other people were in the park, exercising their dogs. Some of them may have been able to hear what the siblings said to each other.
“Mindspeak?” Alice asked.
“Okay,” Alex replied (silently), “so you want to do something meaningful, instead of just running around having fun – although that sounds pretty good to me. Any ideas what, exactly?”
“Let’s go away and think.”
Two young people and two dogs phased out of view…