This is the latest installment in a story that I’ve been writing over the course of the year. There is a prologue which was used to shape the story, which starts here, but which you can easily miss out. The story proper starts here.
Owain had parked as he’d been taught, front facing out for a ‘quick get away’ – this was probably not what his Father had in mind all the times he’d said it whilst teaching his son how to drive. After ensuring Esther and Meredith had their seatbelts, he started the engine, which come to life with a throaty roar. Even as he was pulling out of the space, Meredith was providing directions, courtesy of the AI.
“Turn right out of here, onto the A40.”
A warning message popped open on Meredith’s heads-up-display. There was some kind of tracker system on the car, and the circuitry was not of Earth origin. The diagnostic package determined that it had been stuck to the inside of the back near-side wheel arch.
“We’ve been tagged” Meredith said to Owain.
“Just keep driving! Whatever happens next, just keep driving away from here – don’t go too fast though, and look out for a van or something ahead of us.”
Once again, Meredith oozed out of the disguise. This time, instead of forming into a perfect sphere, a thin tentacle like protuberance extended. The tractomorphic ‘limb’ reached out and wound down the window – conversation with Owain and Esther in the front of the vehicle was now almost impossible over the noise of the air flowing into and around the 4×4. Meredith oozed more of themself into the appendage which was creeping its way along the line of the window frame of the rear cabin. When the limb was directly above the wheel hub the limb made a sharp right turn and made its way down towards the wheel arch.
Owain was concentrating on the road, with the occasional glance to see what was coming up behind. Esther had no such distraction. Initially she’d try to see what was going on in the side-mirror, but disbelieving this reflected image she’d tried to squirm round in the seat.
“What are you doing, bach?” Owain bellowed over the noise of the air rushing through Esther’s open window. “Get your silly head back in before it gets tangled in the hedge or something!”
Quickly Esther pulled her head in and did the window back up, before trying to find a spot that would enable her to look through Meredith’s open window. She gasped as she say the tractomorphic limb develop some fine, finger-like features. The tip of the limb made her think of a star-nosed mole, and she struggled not to gag at the thought of the little wormy features wriggling on the front of the mole’s face. She watched as the weird, slightly freaky ‘hand’ pulled its way to its target. Somehow the limb was stuck to the side of the Landrover. She surprised the desire to be sick, again, as she watched pulse waves travel along the limb, as it thinned out and extended further.
She kept up a running commentary on everything that she could see until her brother let out an exasperated “Shhh!” In a more kindly tone he said “Put a sock in it, bet, I’m trying to drive us away from whatever’s back there!”
The ‘hand’ had now reached the rim of the arch, and Esther held her breath as the hand disappeared under the arch, so close to the rotating wheel that she thought that it must be dragged away from the electronics package that it was seeking, pulled down and crushed between the wheel and the road.
A moment later the hand came back into view carefully retracting, bulky now, with something held in its grip. The hand eased passed the wheel with only millimetres to spare. As it came up, the arm came loose from the side of the Landrover, as if the tracker was too heavy, and peeled away, dropping towards the road. Even as it do so, Meredith retracted and the hand came whipping back around, up and into the open window.
Two more appendages extruded from Meredith. One reached out to the little box and with the original hand started turning the tracker over and over. The other one extended out towards the door and, almost absentmindedly, wound the window shut. The immediate reduction in noise was almost startling.
“Is that it? Is that the tracker?” Esther had turned round in her seat and was looking into the back.
Meredith reformed into something approximating a human being.
“Yep. Give me moment.”
Bunter? How would you like some more responsibility in this organisation? Meredith woke up the AI sub-routine. I’ve got a job for you…a couple of jobs actually.
“There’s a van up ahead” Owain said, to no one in particular. “It’s indicating. Look’s like it’s going to turn right onto the A479.”
“Can you close up on it a bit?”
“I’ll try…what have you got in mind?”
“You’ll see! Don’t worry too much – look it’s just turned, quick carry straight on past the turning, but speed up quick, at least until we’re the other side!”
Meredith gave the tracker a last caress and, in something that was halfway between a lean and a slump, reached over to the other side of the vehicle and opened the window behind Owain. As they continued past the turning, the tracker shot out of the window, propelled by a peristaltic pressure wave emanating from inside the alien. The lorry was perhaps ten yards away and accelerating off down the road, but the tracker arced upwards and came down on the roof, where it stuck.
Release the hounds…
Bunter wondered if it was possible to change names. In the virtual reality of the AI interface, Meredith caught an image of a man of average height in pin-striped trousers black jacket, black tie, well shined shoes, holding back a pack of large dogs that were straining at the leash. At Meredith’s command, Bunter let go of the leads, and the dogs ran off down a gravel driveway, seeming to discorporate in mid stride. Bunter swung itself onto a motorbike, which bore the legend “Triumph” in curly gold lettering on the black paintwork of the fuel tank and set off in pursuit of the hounds. He too disappeared leaving nothing but a spurt of gravel.
“Right, I definitely owe you two an explanation, or at least as much of one as I’m able to give. First off, Esther, you’d better take this.” Meredith handed forward a piece of what looked like a thin film of plastic, but which was as rigid as a piece of glass. The edges were lipped to prevent accidents.
“What is it?”
“A map. We’re heading to Llyn-y-Fan Fach, and my computer reckons this is the best route.”
© David Jesson, 2019
During 2019, I’m undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.
The shape of the story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning. All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story. Every month there is a poll on some feature or another.
Good grief! Three quarters of the way through the year already. Three installments to go, so time to start wrapping things up. Apologies for missing-out the poll last month – life got a bit hectic. As ever, I’ll put this up on Twitter as well, or you can leave a comment.
What sort of ending do we want?
1 – A happy ending e.g. everyone gets more than they deserve.
2 – A tragic ending – Meredith is ultimately unsuccessful, people day
3 – Somewhere in the middle – Meredith wins through, but not without a cost.
4 – Other – Let me know!
See you next month!