Go to Episode 1
Martin hated mysteries. Especially minor niggling ones like this that would, no doubt, have some mildly disappointing revelation at the end of it all. He had expended a great deal of effort to get his life boring, predictable and humdrum. Having it disrupted by something this trivial, especially on a Saturday, his day for doing as little as possible, was already beginning to annoy him.
He sat down at the desk in his room and put the package down in front of him. He stared at it a moment, leaning back in his chair. He sighed, picked up the package and tipped out its contents. He stared down at the desk.
Martin sighed and turned on his laptop, watching as the hard disk moaned lethargically into life as though it was suffering some terminal disease.
Who on Earth would send him three juggling balls? Martin shook his head and looked at the postmark on the package. It was too faint and too faded to be legible. He untied the knot in the plastic-mesh bag and tipped the balls out into his hand. They were softer and lighter than he expected them to be. He was tempted to try juggling them, but only for a moment.
The laptop hard drive made a sound not dissimilar to an arthritic hippopotamus discovering the lift is out of order and the laptop died. Martin muttered a few swear words more out of habit than through any real anger and rebooted the machine.
He looked around the room, searching for some clue in its reassuring familiarity. He stared at the posters of the solar system, stars and galaxies he had recently started collecting for some reason he was still not entirely certain of. Then he stared over at his wardrobe – solid and silent. Then at his bookshelves, at his midi Hi-Fi system and its pile of dusty, unused CDs. Then over to the guitar with the broken B string, and finally, back to the three juggling balls. There were no clues there, although there was a slight resemblance between the solid-looking juggling balls and one particular photograph of Mars and its two moons, but it was only a trick of perspective, nothing more.
Martin looked down at the desk once more, absently lifting the top of the angle-poise lamp upright; it slowly curled itself back up like time-lapse film of a plant wilting.
He poked at one of them tentatively with his finger; it rolled a little way and stopped.
The laptop sighed again and briefly considered showing something on its screen, but then decided it was far too much work for a weekend and turned itself off again.
Martin looked down at the desk, at the three balls. He hated mysteries, the way they nagged at the brain and offered the tempting possibility of resolution if only you tried just a little bit harder, thought a little more, spent a bit more time….
He pressed the button on the laptop again, this time not even bothering to swear at it.
It was no good though. He picked up the balls and dropped them back into the mesh bag.
Perhaps, he decided, a cup of coffee, or two, would help him make sense of it all. Maybe, he thought, if he left the laptop to start itself without him watching, it would decide to give it more of a go.