I awoke with a jolt. The room span and slowly resolved into focus. A vague blurprodded me with a biro, the features on its face jostled each other until they reached amutual agreement on their arrangement.
The blur appeared to be a species of doctor orsome other kind of white-coatcarrying creature. It grunted and ambled off into a cupboard.
I sprang out of bed with the nimbleness that ten years of martial arts had instilled into me, or at least I would have if some parts of my brain had not remained asleep and someone had not done such a good job of making the bed some three hours previously.As a result I cart-wheeled out of bed and hung for several minutes, upside-down, until the blankets that had so far prevented the rest of my journey to the floor gave up the unequal struggle.
I sprawled elegantly on the floor and burbled a little. The doctor shape I had perceived before returned to the room was this time pole vaulting through an openwindow. It was , of course , about this time that I began to suspect something strange was going on.
The doctor mumbled something at me; I pretended to ignore him. As I inspected him more closely I saw that he had a corkscrew in his left hand. It was a very large corkscrew,evidently from some exhibition or something and was probably used for detailed explanations on how corkscrews work. I suddenly realized that it was all a problem of scale, and that the doctor was holding the corkscrew in front of my nose. Slowly and deliberately he fished in his right pocket. I got the feeling he was using live bait. Also, I couldn't help wondering what a doctor might be doing with a corkscrew and I began to feel rather uncomfortable in his presence.
I tried to back away from him, but the peculiar nature of my entanglement caused me to flip onto my back instead. The doctor seemed to be opening a bottle of wine with the corkscrew. Something nagged at the back of my mind- how could he open the bottle with his left hand? Weren't all corkscrews right handed? A thought struck me with such force that I involuntarily flipped onto my feet, an act that would have been impossible had I tried consciously to co-ordinate my muscles to perform it. The League Of Left Handed Bottle Openers !
It all came flooding back- I was Matt Satin, private detective sans excellence, and my case, the mission given to me by that strange blonde in the green and yellow skin-tight lycra Volvo was... was...
Damn, I couldn't remember. I looked to the doctor- he was pouring the contents of the freshly opened bottle over his head.
"Hi!" I held an ungloved hand in his general direction.
"Quiet!" he exclaimed. "Follow me," and ambled off into the cupboard he had disappeared into several minutes earlier.
I followed with my hand still held out before me.
The cupboard was somewhat less dark than I had imagined. This was due in part to the seven short miners stumbling around inside, each one desperately trying to shade itseyes from the halogen arc lamps bolted to the others six's orange mining helmets.
"Ignore them," the doctor instructed, sliding back a panel in the opposite wall. I passed through after him. The panel slid back into place sharply cutting off the sound of colliding dwarfs. I looked around and was startled to see a collection of vegetables huddledover the kind of coffee table you find in insurance office foyers. The doctor indicted an aubergine wearing a bowler hat, and pushed me over towards it.
This time it wasn't aproblem of scale- the aubergine genuinely was six and a half feet tall. From somewhere it produced a suspiciously human-looking hand and began to mumble a bit. I tentatively shook the ungloved hand. From out of an auberginic orifice I had not known about a head appeared.
"Hello, Mr Satin," it said cheerfully. "Please excuse the vegetable outfits, but it's regulation I'm afraid." He gave me a weary grin. I nodded, knowingly. The Finchley Parksupporters club had similar protocol restrictions, but involving washing powder rather than edible vegetables.
"We've been doing some detective work of our own the two days you've been unconscious, and we have located the device."
"Why do you need me then?" I asked, vague memories of the mission returning likecold custard straining through a sieve.
"We need you to get it for us, Mr Satin. We'd be too easily recognised by the Enemy."
"Why?" I asked. He gave me the hurt look of a man who spends most of his days pretending to be a vegetable in a room next door to seven Disney nightmares. I burbled.
"Ok, where do I find this .. er... refresh my memory.. this..?"
"The SmileyClownFunPalace HappyFamilyWonderShop in Bramley-upon-Nurgle"
Of course! I remembered it all. The Block-whatsit toy.
"Ah, yes..." I said trying not to look like a man whose suddenly realised he's alone ina room with a collection of talking vegetables.
"The storage device our operative mentioned before has been located there." Iremembered the old woman with the mop and bucket... or was that Ethel the cleaner/liftengineer in my office building?
"But where the heck is Pramleeuponargle? I've never been there."
He looked at me as if I'd just crawled out of his pot noodle. "That doesn't matter- we will transport you there with this transmat device." He indicated a collection of submarineparts that had been tossed into one corner.
I hesitated, but the remaining vegetables forcedme into a hatch of some sort. Through the window I could see them operating various suspicious levers and buttons with sudden arms and unimaginable appendages.
"Good Luck, Mr Satin- remember it's red and green!" I heard the head vegetable shoutthrough the glass. In the corner of the room I recognised the doctor again, chewing at the doorframe.
The head vegetable nodded and a vegetable minion threw a lever. There was analmighty flash of light and a tingling sensation.
When I opened my eyes I was in a toyshop. Whether it was Pramleeuponargle or not wasn't clear. What was obvious were the large numbers of people in the shop who had stopped their shopping in order to stare at me. For a moment I wondered why. Then I looked at myself and wondered, not about the doctor with the strange taste in wooden door frames, or the vegetable members of theLeague of Left-Handed Bottle Openers, or thein explicable cheese-squares that were posted through my letter box every Wednesday morning. No, I just wondered where my clothes had gone.
...to be continued!