Well, it seems it's time for the next episode of The Cephalopocalypse.
If you've been off having fun without me, the Prologue to the story is here, and Part One is here. Both are definitely worth a click before you get going.
You might argue that this tale is a re-run. But actually, you'd be wrong; it's not. This is the unedited version, a Director's Cut if you will. I was still coming to terms with the events at the time, but here's the full truth of the day after almost a year.
Intrigued? Good. Read on...
The Cephalopocalypse - Part Two
Spring is almost here.
The weather has seemed somewhat confused on the point lately, but as I sit in the park with my best friend, change is definitely in the air.
It's February 2012, a beautiful Sunday morning, bright and crisp. Our bench isn’t the most comfortable, but it offers the best vantage point of this morning's proceedings; a small-but-enthusiastic group are running laps round the lake.
Mind you, in their position, I’d be enthusiastic too…
Dr. Max Tunguska de-rails my thought as he offers me a cup of tea from his flask. He cuts a striking figure, with short-cropped hair and a dark, white-streaked beard that makes him look like he's constantly trying to swallow a badger.
You know Max, I reflect as I accept the cup with a nod, It’s been a funny few weeks since you changed your name.
The tea is strong, hot, sweet and milky. Perfect.
Since you say I changed my name, the arch-genius-formerly-known-as-iDifficult corrects me quietly, as he picks up the binoculars. But yes, it’s been weirder than usual since the cuttlefish formed their network.
He’s not kidding. Elliot, our dimension-hopping trouble-shooter, was beside himself; I was aware that my friend iDifficult had somehow become Max, and that the cuttlefish were doing something funky and colourful as a group, but the elephant agent seemed genuinely scared. He hurried off to report back to The Unity Agency.
And CephNet (click for pic), as the seven cuttlefish collectively dubbed themselves, immediately applied their exponentially-superior intellect to making changes around Max’s house.
Improvements, if you will.
They imposed zero gravity inside the house, for one thing. This puzzled and nauseated us in equal measure, but it made it easier for them to get about the place from the basement, and the rest of us got used to it. In fact, the zero-G lounge and bedrooms were winners. The zero-G toilet took a little more getting used to. But at least it meant I got to try the zero-G shower.
The doctor coughs, interpreting my reflective silence as agreement. They're coming round again.
I raise the stopwatch and click as the group thunders past fifty yards away in a flash of black, white and gold. Wow, that's fast! I flash the stopwatch display toward my friend, who nods appreciatively. How far round the lake is it?
Half a mile, grunts Max, looking every bit the guy I've known since we attended Saint Mungo's Boarding School back in the Seventies. Which he is, in a way. Apart from the beard. Good week? He glances my way as he dunks a biscuit.
Had my annual medical, I sniff, trying to sound casual as I fish in a pocket, and retrieve an envelope. I hand it over as I sip at my tea, the very picture of nonchalance. Max finesses the papers from the manilla, and flips through the pages of results.
Not bad, not bad, he muses. All looks pretty normal. He checks the summary page. Though clearly this guy was a quack. Yes, very unprofessional! he concludes darkly.
How do you mean? I say, a tiny spike of panic in my voice.
Well, you’d think he'd make you put your heavy shopping down before he weighed you. His poe-face cracks into a grin.
I chuckle and pat my stomach affectionately. Yeah, apparently this fella needs to go. Diet and exercise. It's a good time of year to start though, I wave expansively, when all this change is in the air.
Silence joins us as we mull that thought over. We ignore him happily.
Though something is nagging at me, and I give it voice.
Have you seen Abbey since all this started? My neighbour, a regular presence in my daily routine, has been absent. I wonder if I've forgotten a holiday she might have mentioned?
Max shakes his head as he sips at his tea.
No, but didn't Elliot say something about her before he rushed off? He frowns, perhaps half-remembering something that doesn’t feel right. I forget what, sorry; I was a bit muddle-headed that day.
The runners dash past again, a black-and-white crowd followed by a single golden pursuer. I click the stopwatch. Still damned quick.
Well, wouldn’t you be? Dr. Tunguska tips the dregs of his tea into the grass. Hey look, I think the pacemaker is pulling out.
A lone figure separates from the action and slows to an amble. He heads our way across the dew-flecked grass, sweat glistening on his face and staining the armpits of his black-and-white-striped all-in-one. He removes the horsehead from his costume as he approaches.
Morning! he gasps cheerily, still looking for breath.
That's quite a pace you set! my friend beams, to the runner's delight.
Thank you! That's the way Mr. King likes it! he inhales hugely another couple of times and adds, He's looking to find the fittest runner this morning. I must say it's rather exhilarating being chased by him!
You'll get no arguments from us! With a shiver, I remember the time we went to that fancy dress party at the embassy, dressed as a gazelle.
I'm aware of the approaching thundering of hooves. We all look round.
They’re really throwing up some dust now! It’s the final lap!
I pick up the binoculars and take in the details.
Three panicked zebras, sweating and spittling, are each trying to put themselves into the lead. Sleek muscular flanks gyrate and jostle, and a dozen legs pound the ground in a frenzy of adrenaline. The black-and-white collage finally fills my view, and I shift focus just as a familiar golden-maned figure emerges triumphantly from the dust cloud.
It's King. The house's resident lion, the lodger from the spare room. A magnificent male from the Savannah, and an ambassador of his homeland. His four legs are a blur of muscle and sinew, his mighty paws pounding the ground, his tail twitching playfully. Clearly he's not at full tilt, but is putting these stripey lads through their paces.
Unexpectedly, the lion roars and swings left, overtaking his two slowest quarry, and then suddenly swings right to barrel into the lead zebra in a blur of teeth and claws.
I lower the binoculars. Nature is wonderful, but I don’t always want to watch it.
Why did he take the leader? Lions usually pick off the slowest and weakest. puzzles Max, scratching his cranial stubble. Maybe it's like pursuit cycling? I never did understand pursuit cycling.
Our faux-zebra companion laughs.
No! Mr. King was only interested in the fastest! The leanest!
I nod, wondering if King had attended his own medical evaluation this week; I'll be looking for a few leans cuts myself in the months to come. Though after I inevitably discover a half-eaten zebra in the bathroom in the morning, I'll probably be off red meat for a month.
Rising from the bench, Max and I turn our back on the carnage and head home, treading carefully between the early spring flowers.
The cuttlefish say they’re close to working out how to achieve world peace.
My mind is on Abbey still, and perhaps I don’t think the ominous implications of that statement through. It sounds quite hopeful, on the face of it.
Well, that would make a nice change. It’ll be good for us.
I'm not thrilled by the idea of diet and exercise, but that'll be good for me too.
It's the season of change, and change I must.
But some things never change.
And some things may change more than any of us realise.
TO BE CONTINUED
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2012