Juggling Balls: Episode 20


Go to Episode 1


Chapter 17


‘Good, you’re back. Did he explain it all to you?’

‘No… he…. He couldn’t. The police were there and… well… you see…. There had been some kind of explosion… apparently.’

‘I see…. I see.’ Lisa glanced up at Martin. ‘You are lucky, in a way, not knowing what is going on.’ She rubbed briskly at her eyes and shook her head. Looking away from Martin, she took several deep breaths and then sighed. ‘Anyway, there will be time for thinking about that sort of thing later. I wonder if Roger knows yet?’

Sam, clutching a screwdriver in his teeth, ran into Martin’s room. He tapped a few keys on the keyboard and took a step back, watching the monitor screen intently. ‘Come on… Hermione, come on!’

‘Sam, my Love,’ Hermione whispered. ‘Please try to control yourself. It is not easy trying to ease myself into all these primitive systems. I know you’ve done your best but it is a bit like trying to play a DVD in a stone-age cave at the moment.’

Martin had the impression he could feel something humming, vibrating through the floor of the house. It was like… like… like when he had been on a cross-channel ferry the previous summer, the feel of the engines vibrating through the deck.


Sam looked around ‘Yes, sir. I’m doing it now. See!’ He waved at the screen. ‘Ah, good girl Hermione.’

‘Ooooh, Sam, optimum engine efficiency,’ Hermione simpered. ‘Soooo sexy.’

‘Mandy said something about engines too,’ Martin said, turning to look at Lisa. ‘What engines? Where are they? What are they for?’

‘For us, the mission, for the ship,’ Lisa said.

‘What ship?’

‘This ship,’ Lisa said.

Martin looked around the room, his room. ‘Where?’

‘Here,’ Lisa said.

‘Where?’ All I can see is my room.’

‘That is the ship,’ Sam said. ‘Well, part of it anyway.’


‘The house, the whole house is the ship,’ Lisa said.

‘But… but….’ Martin knew he ought to have some sort of fundamental objection to this turn of events. ‘But… it is a house!’

‘Yes, I know,’ Sam said.

‘It will sink. Houses don’t float – well, except for house-boats obviously – anyway, we’re miles from the sea.’

‘It’s not that sort of ship we mean,’ Lisa said.

‘Oh, good, because I was getting worried there for a moment.’ He sighed in relief. ‘Hang on, then… what sort of ship do you mean?’

Lisa pointed up towards the ceiling. Martin looked up. All he could see were a few cobwebs around the light fitting. He looked back towards Lisa.

‘An airship?’

‘No,’ Lisa said. ‘Higher. Look at your posters.’

Martin looked around at the walls of his room, at the posters. There were photographs of the moon, Mars and various other planets, stars, the Earth from space. He felt his jaw drop. He looked back at Lisa. She nodded slowly.

‘But… but….’ Martin looked around the room again. ‘But it is a terraced house!’

‘For the time being, anyway.’ Sam tapped away at the computer keyboard. ‘Hermione, can we do away with this keyboard soon? All this typing is giving me wrist ache.’

‘I know about your wrist ache, darling’ Hermione replied. ‘I don’t think it is from the typing, though, is it? Be honest.’

‘On the other hand,’ Sam said. ‘Maybe sticking to the keyboard would be a good idea.’

‘Sticking to the keyboard… hmm….’ Hermione said. ‘Sam, I’m saying nothing….’

‘What about the neighbours?’ Martin thought about Mr and Mrs Singh, neither of them was getting any younger. Sam’s… this, house was the end of the terrace. Mr Singh was going to get a big surprise, at the very least, when he discovered his house was suddenly the end of the terrace instead.

‘How…?’ Martin looked from Lisa to Sam. ‘No, on the other hand… no, don’t tell me.’

Lisa stepped forward and took Martin’s hand. ‘Don’t worry. We have it all worked out. There will be a clean break between the houses. Next door won’t collapse or anything.’

‘But why?’ Martin sat on the bed. ‘Wouldn’t it have been better to use a rocket or a shuttle, something normal like that?’

‘And if you were the Hound Dogs, intent on stopping this at all costs, where would you start looking?’ Sam typed a few more instructions into the computer.

‘Ah, I see. Well, sort of.’ Martin felt, rather than heard, a subtle change in the vibration through his feet. ‘But why are these… these… Hound Dog… er… people trying to stop you… us?’

‘Ah,’ Lisa said, sitting down beside him on the bed. ‘We don’t know. Well, not specifically. You do, or – rather – did. But we didn’t need to, not until we were under way, anyway.’

‘What do you mean not specifically?’

‘We have a general idea of what the Hound Dogs are here to do, or – rather – prevent us from doing,’ Lisa said.

‘What’s that then?’

‘We’ve got to save the world,’ Lisa said.

‘You… what?’ Martin couldn’t help laughing. ‘That’s ridiculous…. Save the world…? Ha!’ He looked up and noticed the other two were staring at him. ‘No, you’re not serious are you? You are…. You are serious!’

‘Why do you think we, and the people who sent us, went to all this trouble?’ Sam said. ‘Why do you think we are risking, and some of us losing, our lives?’

‘I know but….’ Martin sighed. ‘It is the biggest cliche out: save the world. Anyway, how can a bunch of – admittedly homicidal – Elvis impersonators destroy the world?’

‘We don’t know,’ Sam said, turning back to the computer.

‘So, what can you… we do?’ Martin said.

‘We have the ship’s course on that disc,’ Lisa said. ‘We’ll just have to hope either you get your memory back, that Hermione discovers something through the searches she’s so busy doing, or once we get there – wherever there is – it becomes obvious what we have to do.’

‘Oh,’ Martin said. He had the feeling he should have said something a bit more decisive, demonstrate some leadership or… something, but it was all he could think to say.

‘Good. Good. Great.’ Sam nodded at the information as it scrolled up the computer screen. He tapped one more key and headed for the door.

‘Bye, Sam Darling,’ Hermione cooed. ‘I think that could be the last time I’ll have the pleasure of your fingers stroking my keyboard.’

‘Er… Oh, right….’ Sam turned to leave the room.

‘It’s been such a pleasure, Sam.’ Hermione started humming a tune to herself once more.

A few moments after Sam left the room, John ran up to the open door. ‘Lisa! Roger is on Skype on my laptop in the kitchen, with Peter – of course. Peter has been slightly wounded, but Mandy is advising Roger on seeing to him.’

Lisa turned from John to Martin ‘But you just….’

‘Well, I never saw the body. I wouldn’t have recognised Peter anyway… at least, I don’t think so. The police said….’ He looked up – but Lisa, and John, had already gone.

Martin sighed and glanced over at the computer… the cube, at what he had only a few hours before regarded as a gift from the gods. Now it looked like the computer was not for him. It was for the mission, whatever that was.

‘180,’ Hermione suddenly said as the computer displayed a large 180, almost filling the screen. As Martin watched, it changed to 179… then 178… 177… 176….

Lisa hurried back into the room, smiling. ‘Peter is fine, just a scratch on his arm really. Apparently, the body was one of the Dogs. Peter wasn’t even in his office, they were visiting a friend of Roger’s. As far as he can work out the Dog was trying to booby trap the juggling balls and his own bomb – or whatever it was – exploded.’

‘100…,’ Hermione said.

Martin nodded. It didn’t make the slightest bit of sense, but he nodded anyway. It was enough to satisfy Lisa. She smiled grimly as they stood together in silence for a while.

‘50…,’ Hermione said.

‘Now get on the bed and lie down,’ Lisa said.

‘But… shouldn’t we?’

Lisa lay down on the bed beside him. ‘Lie flat, arms at your sides, and keep still.’ She glanced over at the computer.

‘25…,’ Hermione said.

Martin could just see the screen out of the corner of his eye: 20… 19… 18….

‘Hey, that’s just like a… what’s that thing they do with the rockets…? A countdown!’

‘That’s just what it is,’ Lisa said.

‘I remember seeing the TV programmes. The astronauts lying on those seat… couch… things as the clock goes down. I remember thinking you wouldn’t get me to do that. Lying there as the countdown goes on and….’ He could now feel the strange vibration getting increasingly stronger. His DVDs and CDs were rattling on the shelf, a steady stream of dust shaking from them. ‘and the engines start up… and….’

He looked across at Lisa, feeling the panic spreading. She nodded and lay back, staring up at the ceiling.

There was a buzzing sound, almost lost among the increasing vibration.

‘Hey, isn’t that the doorbell? I must go and….’ Martin tried to climb up off the bed, but something hit him in the stomach throwing him back. Something was pushing every single inch of his body deep into the bed. Something was roaring, louder than anything he had ever heard before.

The house was shaking. The House! The house was shaking, rattling. Loose plaster snowed down on him and on Lisa too. He could see figures racing across the computer screen while Hermione rattled off some technical information that probably made sense to someone. Loose dry, dusty, plaster was snowing down into Martin’s open mouth. The weight was pressing down on all of him. Even his vocal chords felt crushed. There was something he wanted to say. Something he needed to say. Something that summed up exactly how he felt. Something about all that had happened to him since he had woken up that morning. Finally, he managed to get his vocal chords to work. He spat out the loose plaster and managed to say what, in the circumstances, he felt he needed to, must, say:




[To read the rest buy the book here]


Published by David Hadley

A Bloke. Occasionally points at ducks.

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