A Most Peculiar Tale… Returns

A Haven Hallowe’en Offering

[Find the first instalment from October 2011, herethe second instalment from 2012, here, and the third instalment from last year here]

Part The Twelfth
(In which Dr Aitken urges the adventurers to put decorum aside and posits a most ungentlemanly means by which their freedom may be purchased)

steambunk-box“i’m not sure that I entirely understand your premise, Doctor”, i opined: “whereas it might well be argued that we are somewhat distressed by the situation at hand – although the knowledge that we may well be saved nevertheless is heartening – i would hesitate to describe our state as one of grief. Your choice of words intrigues and perplexes me somewhat.”

“My dear fellow!”, the Doctor laughed heartily, “You misunderstand me – my use of the term ‘grief’ was not meant to imply any disconsolation on your part. In this world, grief is considered as a verb – an activity, if you will – and those who undertake such practices are known by a most derogatory term – ‘grievers.”

The good Doctor then proceeded at some length – with, I might add, many and various interruptions from those assembled – to describe the most unsavoury practices adopted by those who revelled in the name ‘griever’. Such fellows, it would appear, derived great pleasure from undertaking nefarious and often scandalous activities designed primarily to inconvenience and indispose the good citizens of this second world, for no reason other than that of plain mischief.

Untitled-1In truth, some such activities might be attributed to the wantonness of youth, and unchecked high spirits – such acts might include the unwelcome pushing and jostling of one’s compatriots; perhaps the playful – albeit annoying – dislodging of another’s hat, the calling of names or other such juvenile pursuits. Other grievings were somewhat less acceptable in polite, or general company. It seemed, if you will forgive me, that some incumbents of this world – and it was at this juncture that the Doctor introduced to us the term ‘avatar’, a word of Sanskrit origin, preferred by those more familiar with these otherworldly circumstances than ourselves, as nomenclature for their representative figurine. However, i digress… again, i ask your forgiveness and i will attempt to put this as delicately as i might – it was, according to Aitken, not unknown for those who wished to grieve others to divest themselves of their clothing and wander the streets in a state of undress – a practice we could barely comprehend! Even so, Aitken assured us that such things were perhaps not so scandalous in more enlightened centuries than our own – an assertion that caused us much discomfort.

The Doctor continued for some time longer and i will admit that – caught somewhat at a loss by his divulgence of the loose morals of future generations, and the complexity of the discussion – much of his discourse quite passed me by. So it was that i found myself surprised some time later when he appeared to have come to the conclusion of his explanation.

“And so, my good sirs, it will no doubt have occurred to you precisely what route I propose you pursue to secure your freedom… you are to assume the guise of grievers of the most heinous sort!”

You may well imagine that at this juncture i almost choked on my outrage!

“How dare you sir! To suggest we should parade about in nothing but what God has seen fit to clothe us in – it’s preposterous! And i, for one, refuse to be party to this scheme!”

Untitled-2To my utter consternation, Appledore clapped his hands and burst into riotous laughter, joined shortly thereafter by both Moriarty and Aitken.

“Oh, Haven, my dear fellow”, spluttered Appledore, wiping his eyes, running with tears of mirth; “you buffoon! I do believe you have been dozing during the salient points of the Doctor’s plan!”

And indeed, gentle reader, it appears that is precisely what had transpired: The labours of the previous night, combined with the uncertainties of our position and the singular comfort of the chaise upon which i had taken my ease had contrived to usher in a gentle slumber, thereby causing me entirely to miss that portion of Doctor Aitken’s discourse most pertinent to our situation! Perhaps fearing i might once again fall prey to fatigue should the Doctor have cause to rehearse the missed portion of his speech once more, Moriarty took me to one side to explain that part which had eluded me.

So it was that the Professor described a further form of grievance, about which i was unaware, causing me to jump wrongly to the conclusion i had recently formed. Such grieving being of a nature that, although plainly unsocial, was – to my mind – somewhat less distasteful than that to which i have previously alluded. These undesirables – by some means that i will admit, i failed to entirely grasp, were disposed to announce their presence in heavily populated areas by various methods that were both distracting and calculated to to disrupt normal activities. In doing so, these ruffians would – almost certainly – run foul of those in authority, who having the power to summarily evict miscreants of this sort, would do so with alacrity. However, those most determined to cause mischief might launch such an onslaught of disruptive behaviour as to overwhelm the mechanics underpinning the alternative world well before they might be called to account, thereby contriving to engineer a failure of the mechanism, replicating the ‘shutting down’ of the second world, of which the Doctor had informed us would be expected on a Tuesday in the normal course of events.

The Doctor’s plan was simplicity itself when couched in these terms – the intention was that we should adopt the guise of this latter type of griever, assault a suitably populated area, using such means as the Doctor would contrive to procure for our use, in order to act in as disreputable manner as may be imagined. Our task: to overwhelm the engines powering that region of this second world, thereby inducing a mechanical failure that would propel us, in but an instant, back to our own time and locality within the real world from whence we had come.

“Then, if there is no other option”,  i remarked, having been thoroughly apprised of the Doctor’s intent, “that is surely what our undertaking shall be.”

Part The Thirteenth
(In which the Doctor’s plan comes to fruition, much aggravation ensues and a resolution to our tale is achieved)

Untitled-5It will not have escaped the assiduous reader’s attention that your narrator is foremost a student of the creative arts, vis a vis the written word, and displays little prowess in the engineering and scientific persuasions. You will excuse me therefore if i should somewhat summarily pass over the rather arcane and befuddling activity of the hours that were to immediately follow, since much of it, i will freely admit, caused my mind to flounder. Appledore similarly fared little better, although it is fair to say the tasks that were set before him were attacked with some vigour – despite which, he made little progress and was, on numerous occasions, moved to admit defeat when faced with the problems posed by the Professor and Aitken.

As for myself, it is no untruth to say i tried my utmost – however, though it pains me to say it, my utmost frequently fell far short of the mark. My interest was briefly kindled when it came to light that much of our intended mischief was to be governed – according to the Doctor – by way of scripts, a task that i surmised would surely commend itself to my own, (though i say so myself), expertise. Sadly, even here, i was misguided – the scripts to which Aitken referred bore little resemblance to poetry, prose or indeed even scientific reporting, being more akin to formulæ and equations than any form of written dissertation i have had cause to embark upon. So it was that myself and the Captain were to find ourselves reduced to mere bystanders as the learned gentlemen prepared their scientific arsenal.

Presently, Doctor Aitken announced that such preparation as was necessary had been undertaken and, with something of a flourish, produced a number of gilt-edged invitations – one for each member of our party – each bearing the following inscription:

≈≈≈≈ Doctor Heironymous Aitken ≈≈≈≈
extends to you a most cordial invitation
to join the Most Excellent Company of Griefmakers

R.S.V.P

Somewhat perplexed at how we should respond to such an invitation, the good Doctor counselled us that the simple expedient of presenting to him our calling cards would suffice as acceptance. This we did, and upon dispensing each of our cards, we were surprised to note the appearance of a further glowing legend above our heads:

‘⇒Griefmaker⇐’.

Untitled-3We were then provisioned with a device reminiscent of a pocketbook, or cigar case, bearing several small levers, accompanied by a stern warning that we should refrain from operating same until we reached the destination at which the Doctor intended we should wreak whatever havoc we might entertain. Upon arrival, and his signal, we were to engage and disengage those levers in as random manner as we wished and were admonished to prepare ourselves for both the unexpected and the arcane.

Thus equipped, and without further ado, Aitken ushered us once more across the rooftops and aboard his vessel, which took to the skies in a manner that – in truth – brought tears to my eyes. As we passed above the great city and between the towering edifices of light, Moriarty entranced, leaned towards me: “Haven… I had never thought such wonders existed. Someday we must, God-willing, return to this place – but, if that should prove to be beyond the bounds of possibility, then if nothing else, I shall treasure the memories of our momentous journey”.

Some time passed, during which the scenes that passed by outside the vessel’s windows entranced and baffled us – our journey proceeded in silence, since our attention was fastened entirely upon the sights that fell before our eyes. Finally, the peace was broken by the Doctor’s announcement that we had arrived at our destination and the craft was brought to a somewhat less fraught and infinitely more tolerable landing than that to which we had previously been exposed.

Untitled-6“Now gentlemen”, Aitken addressed us, “listen to my instructions most carefully – when we leave our transport we shall proceed northwards for some hundred paces and enter the large building immediately to our right. Once safely inside, you will disperse and wait for my signal, which will be a loud cry of: ‘Let havoc commence’, at which enjoinder you shall operate your equipment as I have previously instructed. Do not be troubled by anything that shall thereafter occur, neither should you take heed of any protestation by those about us – merely continue as I have told you and all shall be well. Now, let us depart.”

Our small party made our way from the vessel to the building the Doctor had indicated; at its entrance, we paused. Again, Aitken turned to us:

“My friends, I shall say my goodbyes now – once our plan begins to unfold, all being well, there will be little chance of pleasantries or idle talk!”

“Sir”, Appledore responded, “we are in your debt.”

“Think nothing of it, chaps – it is adventures of this nature that I live for! All I ask is that if you should ever return this way, pray call upon me and we shall entertain far greater adventure once more!”

Solemnly, we shook hands before passing through the doorway and into the building.

Almost immediately, we were surrounded by a cacophony of noise – i hesitate to call it music, but that indeed is surely its intended purpose. The room was thronged with people, many of them arrayed in clothing of uncertain provenance, all of whom appeared to be in the possession of demons as their bodies gyrated and twisted to the steady drone and thump of the ‘music’ surrounding us. Appledore shouted to me above the noise, “They remind me of savages performing a war dance of sorts”, before disappearing amongst the tightly-packed bodies. It occurred to me that there was little chance of us hearing the Doctor’s command when – as clearly as if he were stood at my side, Aitken’s voice sounded loudly in my ear: “Gentlemen… Let havoc commence!”

Untitled-7Immediately, and with gusto, i worked the levers attached to my device – instantly the air was filled with a vast number of of large cubes, bedecked with images, the nature of which I will not discuss in polite company. Accompanying these cubes were varying sounds and great clouds of vapour, and those around us began to shout in dismay. As we continued our disruption, a strange trancelike feeling descended upon us: our movements became slow and measured, it became difficult to walk, or indeed move; the room itself flickered and jittered then – without warning – everything came to a sudden and profound halt!

i was thrust into blackness… a sensation of falling, and then, i found myself to truly be falling – collapsing into the ample form of the Reverend Harrowsmith. We had returned to our real lives!

Epilogue
(In which, all things being equal, we come to an end… for the time being, at least.)

It seems hard to believe that the events i have related occurred merely over the course of some twenty-four hours, and yet, that is indeed the truth. 

Having returned to our corporeal forms, with no apparent lasting damage to our selves, we eventually returned to our homes, chastened and with much to dwell upon. As i write these final words, some several weeks later, i can scarce believe the adventure in which we participated, and yet it is the truth.

Moriarty, Appledore and myself have forged a firm friendship, and we meet frequently to discuss our travels in the Professor’s Parallelitismological world; to assist Moriarty in the rebuilding of his machine, and to consider the possibilities that may lie – should we choose to pursue them – in our future lives, or mayhap that should be: our second lives?

Untitled-4

S. Haven Esq.
Dec 16, AD 1859

I got a silver machine.
It flies sideways thru’ time
It’s an electric line
It’s your Zodiac sign
Hawkwind – Silver Machine

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