On Hopeless, Maine pt.2

What he got was not quite a dog. It was just a sort of dog. The sort-of-dog certainly acted like a dog, alternately running around in circles chasing its own sort-of-tail and wriggling around on its sort-of-back with its sort-of-paws flapping joyfully. But it was a sight that made Michael Dalloway smile and shudder at the same time. Because the dog was composed entirely of bones.

Suddenly aware of his presence, in spite of its lack of nose, eyes and ears, the sort-of-dog bounded up to him and within seconds Michael Dalloway’s fears were gone and he was sharing his trek with a bouncing, bounding companion. Along the top of the cliffs they went, and the dog set quite a pace. It was as though it had a purpose. Yes, it definitely seemed to have a purpose, and before long Michael Dalloway realised that in following the skeleton dog, he was getting further and further from the lighthouse. He was being guided by a dead animal away from the only sign of human life that he could discern.

And yet the dog was clearly not dead, in the conventional understanding of the word. It had no eyes, nose or ears but this did not hamper it. It had no tongue either, but if Michael Dalloway slowed down for a rest from the load he was carrying, it would seem to lick his hand to encourage him onwards. And when he had lightened his load by drinking tea and eating most of the biscuits, the sort-of-dog had sat and begged like any other dog to be fed. That the biscuits fell straight through onto the wet peat did not seem to bother it at all.

Yes, the dog was sort-of-alive, so Michael Dalloway decided to take a chance on it, and sure enough, just as the drenched, rain-blinded and exhausted traveller was wondering about regretting his decision, they cleared a small copse of dead trees and a dimly lit settlement came into view. Both of them now bounded through the spikey gorse towards it, the dog still leading the way through the darkness, now past simple, mainly unlit dwellings, to a rather more welcoming looking inn. Scratchy recorded music was audible through a broken window. The dog threw itself at the door to make its presence known and it was opened from inside by a man in an apron.

“Drury!”, he exclaimed, “There you are! Everyone, look! Drury’s back! We put your favourite tune on, old boy, to encourage you to come in from the rain”. The man stooped to tickle the dog’s skeletal jaw. “And you’ve brought someone with you. Do excuse my manners, Sir. I’m Rufus Lypiatt, the landlord of the Squid and Teapot, and this is my pub. We welcome all unhappy travellers. I take it that you are one of those? Do come on in. We were just about to play ‘Molly Malone’ on the gramophone again.” 

He Hears His Late Master's voice, courtesy of Tom and Nimue Brown. Hopeless Vendetta
Drury– He Hears His Late Master’s voice, courtesy of Tom and Nimue Brown.

On Hopeless, Maine, pt 1.

Michael Dalloway knew right away that something was wrong when the clammy fog lifted and, instead of revealing 1920s London, the cold and dankness was that of a sandy but unattractive cove at twilight. An awful drizzle began to penetrate his unsuitable clothes and work its way toward his bones. Soon, a chill rose from inside him also. For he cast his eyes about at the decaying seaweed and, beneath it, the rotten breakwaters on which it slithered. Then up at the crumbling shale cliffs surrounding him, offering no protection from the wind. And finally at the yellowy, stinking froth carried by the waves that lashed the sea shore and rocks, concealing strange and dangerous creatures. He knew then that his time machine had stranded him on Hopeless, an island somewhere off the coast of Maine.

Hopeless, Maine, is a place appropriately vague in time and in space. If you try to find it, it is impossible, and anyway, no one would want to. But it is a force as much as a place, because from time to time, it will suck in chronolopers with faulty instruments, along with unlucky sea farers from the coastal reaches and voyagers from other continents. And if you try to leave the island – as everyone stranded does before their hopes are dashed like the galleons and whaling boats upon its rocks – you succumb sure enough first to its creeping, life-sapping depression, and finally to simple despair. If you are a chronoloper, with your wider horizons and sense of adventure, you might keep your hopes up slightly longer, and see the situation as just another science problem to be solved. But eventually you might well take a sledge hammer to your craft, cursing the day you took it out without fully testing it. Just like Hopeless’s other striken inhabitants, you are never leaving, never going home. Repairing your ship just gives you false hope.

Except that there had been nothing wrong with Michael Dalloway’s ship to start with. Elgie had checked it over just recently, and Elgie was good at his job. No: it had been sabotaged. And he knew that Swagmire and his evil human master/servant were behind it. They must have rigged his craft and as it floundered in four dimensions, Hopeless, Maine, had drawn him in.

But far from despairing, he knew what to do. He had an essentially sound ship and could work out how to fix it. He had to try to contact Deidre and Elgie for their help. He had surely only just missed them, and he might be able to link back to them if he acted fast. He needed to get his transmitter out of the cove and as high as he possibly could.

Which direction? It was getting difficult to see beyond his immediate horizon, the perilous cliffs. But whilst scouring the descending darkness his eyes were drawn to an intermittent light behind and beyond them…What was it? A lighthouse possibly? Yes, a lighthouse. He put on waterproofs and packed a flask, chocolate biscuits, night binoculars, tea bags, day binoculars, a torch and rechargeable batteries, a universal avian field guide-slash-translator, cheese sandwiches, extra socks, a kettle, firelighters and matches. He strapped the transmitter to his front under his coat, to keep it dry. He eventually spotted what passed for a path out of the cove and began to stumble towards it.

But he paused. Were there bears on the island? For years he had been plagued by nightmares about bears. Nightmares, not because they were attacking him; rather, it was getting them under control and working as a team that was the problem. They simply wouldn’t focus on the task in hand. What that task was, dreaming Michael had never been sure, but the bears would drive him out of his mind with their floating, flying and lazing about. He would have to round them up over and over again and just as he had them all in a line, their attention, and then their feet, would start to wander off in different directions. And that was just in his dreams. Imagine what real bears might be like? He went back for a stun gun (harmless, but prudent) and honey cake (just in case). He headed out once again, more confidently, exchanging wet sand for stones and mud, slipping occasionally as the path steepened and rose, but with a plucky sense of purpose which always served him well at times like these.

Still, he wished he had a dog for company. It didn’t have to be a clever, talking one like Elgie, and certainly not like the sinister Swagmire. A normal, happy, everyday dog would do fine. Yes, then everything would be just fine.

Elgie at the End of Time pt 2. More fiction into fact

Elgie at the End of Time pt 2

Elgie had his ‘casually clever’ face on, looking nonchalant. He was rather hoping to impress Jerry Cornelius with his grasp of the situation.

“So it is either the case that you have chronoloped sidewise from another universe, in which you do exist, or that we have somehow brought you into existence.

“Come again, shorty?” Jerry tended not to over think things like this. He was thinking about something else.

“Well, your appearance at Hollybrook House as a result of Lady Billington-Whych winding up a watch implies that other universes exist, and that they intersect with our own at certain points. They are also so diverse that what is fiction in one of them is fact in another. Or, as I said, you just popped into existence”.

It was exciting as well as rather disconcerting. The writer Michael Morcock’s creations Catherine and Jerry Cornelius, sister and brother, and Una Persson, their fellow traverser of timelines and, apparently, universes, more commonly associated with the 1970s, had popped up in the Timepiece Treasure Trove in 1928 and given the thief something of a fright. They had been dressed as Columbine, Pierrot and Harlequin, as they often were. Given the festive Easter atmosphere they had not looked especially incongruous. But having recognised the trio immediately, and knowing how trouble tended to follow them around and vice-versa, Deirdre realised that she had to get them out of there. So here they all were, back at the office.

“And you say it’s happened before?”, said Una. They had explained about Baby Cthulu.

Elgie continued,”Maybe it happens all the time and people don’t notice it. I mean, we only recognised you because the Cornelius books survive in the canon of anarchist whimsy. We are big fans!”.

Jerry nodded appreciatively, putting the kettle on and snorting a line of coke while it boiled. Catherine patted Elgie on the head and, easily distracted, the dog wagged his tail with delight and turned to helping her arrange Easter Eggs she had pilfered on the way home when the Detective wasn’t looking.

Deidre was excited by the possibilities, if still rather unnerved.

“Tea all round?” Jerry was nodding enthusiastically. Deirdre smiled a smile of resignation.  She had stopped a theft, after all, but in all the excitement, had forgotten to get paid.

“I’ll have a very strong camomile please, Jerry dear”.

Elgie at the End of Time pt 1. Dirty work

Elgie at the end of Time. Part 1

It wasn’t all glamorous. In fact, the Detective was starting to realise that pretty much none of it was. She was getting bored of trailing unfaithful husbands and shoplifters and wishing she had never taken on to do all the jobs that an actual private detective in the 1920s might actually take. Much of it was grubby and very often she wouldn’t even have the heart to conclude the case. In fact, when it came to shoplifters, she had deliberately let a few go. It had been a steep learning curve, but society in 2328 worked so well for everybody that many of them had forgotten how awful things had been before. They travelled through time role-playing rather than exploring and learning, but like others who had travelled to eras before the Dark Energy Rift of 2227, she realised that being a tourist was not a neutral act. But how to pay the bills? The rent on the office wasn’t cheap, even though it doubled as home for herself and Elgie. In any case, she decided that this was the very last case she would take protecting rich people’s property.

So here she was, disguised as a member of the domestic staff of Hollybrook House pretending to dust the hundreds of clocks and watches that lined the shelves and walls and filled the display cabinets and drawers in Lord and Lady Effinwell’s famous ‘Timepiece Treasure Trove’. The first thing that struck her was the silence. None of the clocks were ticking. On inquiring she was told that if the timepieces where to be wound up every day it would take a whole host of servants to do it and by the time they had finished they would have gone mad with the noise of hundreds of clocks tick-tocking. So, she wasn’t to touch anything.

Her purpose was in fact not to clean– she’d been dusting for hours out of boredom and the place was immaculate – but to deter anyone from entering uninvited. Why the Effinwells would hold a three-day shooting party (that was something else she was starting to find distasteful) and Easter soiree and invite all and sundry to a house boasting the biggest private timepiece collection in Britain when there was an unidentified watch thief in high society, she was at a loss to explain. It seemed that whatever their internal squabbles, the rich would put on a united front rather than involve the police and courts. It would be too sordid. Yet there were specialist thieves of all sorts amongst the bored and always-mildly-inebriated aristocracy. If caught, they were likely to be ostracised or even have to leave the country, but there was no sign outside of these elite social groups that anything was wrong. To reduce the scandal even further, the hosts of parties such as this would hire discreet private detectives to foil the thieves, and hopefully also to expose them to their peers.

However, in the case of the Effingwells, to actually lock the door to the to the Trove, let alone the cabinets and drawers displaying rare and expensive watches, would indicate that there was a lack of trust involved. This simply would not do either. This was why Deidre had been dressed as a maid that morning, shown upstairs to the huge room in which the collection was kept, and instructed not to leave the room under any circumstances. There had been an oversight here. Not only was Deidre incredibly hungry by the time the smell of a pheasant supper reached the upstairs landing, but she really needed a wee.

Person in gold Easter Egg costume, with holes for arms and legs.

So, when Lady Billerton-Whych, dressed as an Easter egg, cautiously opened the door and found Deidre within, duster in hand, the detective gave her a bit of a start when she rushed past her into the corridor hissing conspiratorially,

“Wait for me to get back. I won’t be long, but there’s a watch thief about and I’m supposed to be guarding this lot”.

It wasn’t until she returned she realised her mistake. Of course, Lady Billerton-Whych was gone and one of the cases stood open. Except that nothing had been taken, even if the watches were no longer in neat rows but somewhat disarranged. And one of them was open and had been wound up and was ticking loudly; Lady Billerton-Whych had been disturbed in the act of stealing it. But even so, the room was not empty…

Jinxing Jix pt 4. Elgie’s birthday party

The plan had worked well though. A couple of days later Jix really did announce the bill, as Elgie had programmed him to, and on 2nd July 1928 the Representation of the People Act would be passed as it had before the timeline was interfered with. So that was something, and Deirdre would have several interesting encounters as a result.

But in the meantime, the dogs’ jail-break was all over the papers. Elgie and the detective decided to lie low for a while. In fact, they laid low for nearly a month, hardly venturing out, and when they did, keeping well clear of Westminster and Mr. Wellbeloved’s dog prison. The work dried up, except for cases that the detective could solve from her office, such as the less-than-challenging ‘Case of the Missing Keys’, solved with a, “Have you looked in your other coat?”.

With all the time they had on their hands, they couldn’t help being less worried about being caught by the incompetent police than being tracked down by Swagmire and his sinister human. Having never met him, he loomed large in their imagination. Someone breaking the rules of chrono-loping was someone to be afraid of.

But on June 26th, after a long overdue run in the park, they found themselves across the road from the office in a cheap eatery, he with a pile of lamb chops and gravy, and she with a cheese and potato pie (only Elgie had manage to adjust to eating meat which actually came from animals, rather than having been grown in a food lab). They were in significantly better spirits, especially Elgie, for it was his birthday, and they had agreed not to mention Swagmire.

“I’m getting pretty full”, said Elgie, burping politely.
“Was it a nice day?”
“The best birthday ever”.
“Well it’s not ov…I mean to say…let’s go back and we’ll read your favourite story”.

This was currently ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’.

Deirdre paid the slightly bemused waitress and they set off back to the office. But even as they approached their door at the end of the corridor, Elgie’s blood ran cold. Through the glass window, behind the gold lettering advertising their trade, it was completely black. Elgie know that they had left the curtains open. They always did, so that anyone in the street would know they were open for business. Alarmed, he opened the door tentatively and reached for the light, hoping to catch whoever the intruder was (Swagmire?!) in the act.

Imagine his joy and relief when Lulu, Lady, Percy and Gruff appeared, and with a new friend they had met through Percy, called Pipo. They were all wearing party hats and began to sing “Happy Birthday to You”. Then, just as his heart rate had returned to normal, Elgie spotted a huge pink cake covered in candles (ten, arbitrarily, because Elgie was very circumspect about his age). As he blew the candles out, they all cheered. Elgie ate a huge slice. And then another one. And then….

“Elgie”, said Deidre, affectionately flicking cake crumbs off his little black button nose, “You are a very special dog and a wonderful friend. I do love you so very much. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

“Don’t be silly”, he replied. “You should just keep a picture of me in a frame and tell me about all your new cases. But don’t bring the mood down DD. Let’s have a dance!”

Pipo had borrowed a gramophone from his humans. They wound it up, and everyone danced the Charleston.

Elgie in particular cut-the-rug most enthusiastically, until he flopped down exhausted.

“Now that was the best birthday ever”, he sighed.

For Sparky
26/6/2006 – 11/6/2018.

Jinxing Jix pt 3. Jailbreak!

Detective Dalloway jumped into a cab
“Follow that van!”
After some time, they arrived at the Isle of Dogs, where Mr. Wellbeloved’s pound was situated. The van was allowed in by the guard, who then closed the solid metal gate, refusing to let the cab follow.
“What happens to the dogs now?” She enquired, after exiting the cab and asking the driver to wait for her.
“Well tomorrow is Friday, when they get…you know”. He drew his index finger across his neck.

“But you can’t just do that. Not if a dog has an owner like me, who wants him back!”.
“Mr Wellbeloved gets paid by results”.
“Please let me talk to him”.
“Oh, he’s not here today. Do you want to make an appointment?”
“Yes please! First thing tomorrow please.”
“Hmmm”, the guard turned over the pages in a large book with soft white fur covering dotted with black spots. “I’ve got nothing until Monday. Sorry.”
“What!?”. Exasperated. “He’ll be…you know, by then”.
“Sorry. Rules is rules”.
“Right. I’m coming back first thing tomorrow. Tell Mr. Wellbeloved when you see him”.
“He won’t like it”.

Suddenly there was an ear-splitting explosion. A cloud of dust could be seen over wall of the dog pound. Then silence. Then the sound of a hundred dogs barking for joy. As Deirdre raced around the corner towards the sound, she saw them jumping, tumbling and some climbing cautiously over a pile of bricks and rubble which lay where a wall had once been. The dogs fanned out gleefully in all directions, and amongst them…was Elgie!

The two friends ran towards each other and embraced, Elgie licking her face, and she scratching behind his ears and making them flap adorably.

“Oh Elgie, it’s so good to see you. You’ve had a near miss, you know. And I rather think it was your own fault for straying from the plan. But that doesn’t matter now. At least you are safe”.
“We’d better get out of here before the police arrive.” Elgie sounded like a veteran law-breaker now.
“I’ve got a cab waiting”.

They headed off back to the front gate, where they witnessed the guard being cornered by a pack of snarling Dalmations; all except for one, a large Doberman, who seemed to be in charge. As a distant siren sounded, this rather sinister hound turned and fled, leaving his crew to face the music. Indeed, as the cab drew off the Doberman was sauntering down the road as though nothing had happened, whilst the guard had already caught several black and white puppies in his net with the help of the first officers on the scene.

“That was Swagmire!” Exclaimed Elgie, once they were able to talk. “I was going to tell you about him anyway. He was rounded up with me in Westminster, hanging around outside the dog show. But he evidently had someone on the outside. They had planned the getaway even before we arrived at the pound. It’s almost as if…”. He trailed off.
“As if what?”
“As if they were able to communicate with each other even though they were apart…you know, like we do in 2328 using the neuralnet”.
“Impossible. Unless…..”.
Could there really be other chronolopers here in London in 1928? The possibility was deeply disturbing. This just wasn’t supposed to happen. Chrono-scientists in 2328 were really careful about it. Unless Swagmire and his accomplice came from somewhere else…another time stream?

The implications began to sink in. History had already been altered when Jix did not announce the suffrage bill. The most immediate question was not how Swagmire had managed to effect the jail-break, but whether history would be put right again. Things had to happen as they happened, more or less, or their own future was threatened. So what was Swagmire’s game? And what would the hypnotised Jix do next?

Jinxing Jix pt 2. Elgie apprehended

“Now then Elgie, I really think we should run through the plan again. Just to make sure”.

“If you insist”. Elgie sighed and put down his newspaper. Sitting alert on the rug in front of the fire, he put on his thinking face. This involved cocking his head slightly and frowning at Detective Dalloway. She poured herself a cup of tea and settled back into her detective’s chair with her arms folded and her boots on her desk.

“Off you go then. From the top”.

“Alright then. We arrive at the Prime Minister’s dog show at 12.00. Lulu opens the back gate to the garden and I sneak into the line next to Lady. Lady will chat to me about her flying lessons so that I blend in. All the M.P.s’ dogs are learning to fly, don’t you know? Lady Astor was very happy to pay for Lady’s lessons. I really wish you’d let me…”. Elgie was getting distracted.

“And then….?”.

“Well, Jix is judging, so when he comes to me, I simply hypnotise him. Simple!”.

“And have you been practising?”

“Yes, I got Percy to sit up and beg for sardines. He said I must be very good at it because they just happen to be his favourite snack. Aren’t I clever?”.

“Are you sure Percy was hypnotised?””

“Yes, he said he couldn’t think of anything but sardines, so it must have worked.”

It was Deirdre’s turn to frown. “Elgie, I’m worried. What happens if you get caught? After all, you’ve only just read Mesmer’s book on Animal Magnetism and practiced once on Percy.

“Oh, I’ll be fine. Come on, it’s time to go”.

A cab ride later, and Detective Dalloway and Elgie arrived at Downing Street, where M.P.s and their proud pets were arriving for the 1928 Annual Parliamentary Dog Show.

Deidre didn’t want to attract any attention, so she retired to a nearby public house, leaving Elgie in Lulu and Lady’s capable paws. With her huge coat and hat, which she pulled down almost over her eyes, and adopting an air of entitlement, she was just confusing enough that she could nurse a pot of ale in peace and lose herself in a book. That was, until her attention was caught by Lulu jumping up and down outside the window. The detective could recognise an emergency when she saw one.

“Quick! Quick! Elgie’s in trouble!”, barked Lulu.

“Oh no! I knew Elgie hadn’t practiced enough”.

“That’s not it. He hypnotised Jix no problem. “You will announce the Bill tomorrow ….” and all that. The problem didn’t start until he decided he actually wanted to win the dog show!”

“What!?” That wouldn’t do at all. What had Elgie been playing at? If he won, he’d enter the historical record for sure.

“He told the other dogs that the judges were looking for ferociousness this year, so they were all squaring up to Jix and baring their teeth and snarling. Lady did a bit of growling herself, even though she was in on it. But Elgie was doing…that face….you know the one I mean”. She knew. “So Jix actually chose him as the winner! But when it came to awarding the prize, of course Elgie didn’t have any papers and couldn’t prove his pedigree. Eventually they realised he wasn’t actually an M.P.’s dog anyway, and was just any old dog. That’s when I came to get you”.

“We’d better get back and see what is to be done.”
Following the poodle, who set off at quite a pace, Deidre soon arrived at Downing St. She was just in time to see a black, windowless van vanishing into the distance.

It was Mr. Wellbeloved, the dog catcher!

…to be continued.

Jinxing Jix pt 1. Representation

Detective Dalloway could hardly wait for a general election. One reason she had chosen 1928 specifically was because there would be one the following year, Thursday 30 May 1929, to be precise. Any day now, the Conservative government would make the announcement that women aged over 30 would be able to vote in it for the first time. She wondered whether she would get swept up in their mounting enthusiasm. As it was, the election revealed the first evidence of some outside party messing with the timeline. Repairing it would lead her into a chrono-intervention herself….

In 1918 women were allowed to vote for the first time, as long as they were over 30 years of age or were over 21 but had significant property. On 2 July 1928 The Representation of the People Act allowed all women under 30 to vote too. But how it had come about was all rather peculiar. In March that year, a priceless old duffer – just the sort Det. Dalloway had hoped to encounter – called Sir William Joynson-Hicks, and known as ‘Jix’ – made the announcement. This was rather a shock to the rest of his Party, because he hadn’t discussed it with them. Instead, he appeared rather to have come up with it on the spur of the moment, and out of seemingly nowhere. During discussion of a Private Members bill, he was seemingly startled by the frequently startling Lady Astor, M.P. for Plymouth Sutton, who interrupted one of his interminable diatribes. Jix suddenly changed the subject, blurting out that the government would give rights to women to vote in 1929 on the same basis as men. In 1931 Sir Winston Churchill, who liked starting sentences with ‘Never’, would say of the event, “Never was so great a change in our electorate achieved so incontinently”. In fact, five million more women would be added to the electoral role, making them almost fifty-three percent of those eligible to vote.

On the evening after the announcement was – or should – have been made, Detective Dalloway accidentally-on-purpose bumped into next-door’s maid, who was scrubbing the steps. “So, Tilly, aren’t you excited? Or are you bored with politics? Oh sorry, you are busy. But how do you plan to use your vote next year?”

Tilly the maid“Erm, not sure what you are talking about Detective Dalloway”.

“The general election next year Tilly. Jix has spoken! Lady Astor tricked him into it, or something. Parliament must pass the Representation of the People Act soon, so women like you – you are under 30 and without property, aren’t you? – will be able to vote along with men!”

“Well I never heard a thing about it. He’s never done anything for me, nor has that Lady Astor. Want me to clean your office for 2 shillings a week?”

“Oh no, thank you. Elgie is supposed…. Anyway, I must go and buy a newspaper”.

Rather bemused, Detective Dalloway headed for the paper seller on the street corner, to find that Charles Lindbergh had been awarded the Medal of Honor for crossing the Atlantic. These pilots! She really had started something of a craze by arriving that way at Tibidabo. But more importantly, Jix hadn’t made any announcement! Without that, there would be no passing of the Act on May 7th. No ‘Universal Female Suffrage’! Whatever had could have happened? Should she do something? What on Earth should she do?…………….

Baby Cthuluh pt 2. Fiction to fact

When Elgie returned, it was with helpful and unhelpful news. Dogs did indeed know stories about such tunnels running under the city. Indeed, they should really be thought of as pipes, because they were known to be full of water which was pumped along them. The unhelpful news was that no one knew where they started or ended, or where the pump was and why it was pumping. There were stories, however, about a large octopus-type creature – some said with human legs, and some that it was in fact a dragon – that travelled around the London sewers, and speculation that it also used these pipes.

“Well we can rule that out,” said Deidre. “There’s nothing like that in the history books”.

“On the contrary. Percy has recently seen such a creature swimming in the canal. OK I know he’s not the most reliable witness, but Gruff says that many narrow-boat dogs have also seen it in the past few weeks. You’d better tell Mr. Bladon about it”.

Deidre plucked up courage and they descended to the street. She sometimes wondered whether she should stop humouring Elgie, but she was far too fond of him. So she was amazed when instead of snorting with derision, Mr. Bladon exclaimed,

“How have you heard about Baby Cthuluh? We’d better not start spreading stories about it being back. We’d be stirring up a right hornets’ nest. I’m going to fill this hole in right now and say no more about it.”

“Baby Cthuluh? What’s that? Is it dangerous?”

“Not as long as it stays in the tunnels and canals. If it gets into the Thames, it could grow to hundreds of feet long. We have to act fast and contain it.”

Later that afternoon Elgie was back with Gruff on his boat, now moored at the Isle of Dogs. He was keeping an eye on a lock. Every time a boat came through onto the river, Gruff would dive under and make sure that it was the only thing to exit. It was dangerous work, but Gruff was up to it. Sure enough, he eventually came to the surface looking alarmed.

“Elgie, you’ll have to help me. Baby Cthuluh is trapped in the lock. It followed that boat in but luckily it didn’t get through before the lock closed”.

The water in the lock seemed to be boiling, and from time to time a green creature could be discerned, sometimes by a tentacle, sometimes a clawed foot, and sometimes even a wing. But eventually the murky water calmed and, almost comically, the creature lifted its head and began to tread water. Then it began to speak!

“Oh please let me out! I won’t do anything bad. I just need to grow my wings big enough to fly back to my home planet Vhoorl and join my kind. I got left behind when they went because I was too small. I’ve been working hard to grow big enough and I’ve been keeping the canals clean for you by filtering water and recycling it through the pipes”.

“Did you build the pipes?” asked Elgie

“Yes, my race are sewage workers. We travel the galaxies looking for gainful employment in this vital service industry. Londoners don’t want to clean the sewers, and given that there are no anarchists to do it yet,* we provide vital migrant labour. But the Council refused to pay us what we were owed, so we left but, like I said, I got left behind.”

It is difficult for even such determined dogs as Elgie and Gruff to open lock gates, so Elgie fetched Deidre and, swearing Mr Bladon to secrecy about who Baby Cthuluh really was, they cranked the lock gates open and the creature, extending its wings and waving it tentacles excitedly, spilled out into the Thames with a ‘Wheeeeee!”. It was growing to an enormous size even as they watched.

Later that night, Deidre, Elgie, Mr. Bladon (who added his voice to the general complaining about the tight-fisted council), Percy, and Lulu and her girlfriend Lady, witnessed an incredible spectacle from Gruff’s boat. Gruff had baked some potatoes in his stove and everyone warmed their hands and paws, and drank gin. Soon enough, bright green lights under the water rose quickly to the surface and revealed themselves as a luminescence covering the no-longer Baby Cthuluh, now an awe-inspiring creature some two hundred feet long. As it unfurled its wings and took to the skies it uttered a deafening call of thanks to its new friends, and in a flash, it was gone.

Lulu and Lady went off to a club, and Elgie and the humans walked Percy home. But Deidre could not sleep. She had taken one of her history books to bed. That always kept her awake anyway, but she had been searching without success for any reference to the events that had taken place. She had suddenly sat bolt upright. Cthuluh was not, indeed, recorded in historical documents, but was nonetheless real in a sense. It was the creation of the as yet almost unknown American author of horror-fiction, H. P. Lovecraft.

“There’s something very wrong with this 1928”, was the last thought she had before finally slipping into a troubled sleep.

*(The question anarchists get most tired of answering is, “If no one had to work for money, who would clean the sewers?”).

Baby Cthuluh pt 1. Elgie’s contacts

“Elgie I’ve got two more for you!”, Detective Dalloway exclaimed as she burst through the office door excitedly. “ ‘Opening up a can of worms’ and even better ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’. What do you make of that!?”

“Wonderful. Whatever do they mean? Where did you hear them?”

“It was Mr Bladon. He’s a man in a hole in the road, which he’s digging. It’s something to do with a huge pipe down there that shouldn’t be there. He’s fixing one that is, but his boss wants him to find out what the other one is for.

“Evidently it’s something animals use in some way then, ranging from worms to dogs.”

“Perhaps it’s a secret tunnel under the city?”

“No, if there was a secret dog tunnel I’d have heard of it through my network of contacts”.

Deirdre doubted this, although she didn’t say so. Elgie’s ‘network’ consisted of

1/ Percy, a mendacious pug who spent all day staring out of the window next door or chasing bicycles. His imagination was, if anything, even more fertile than Elgie’s and he hadn’t yet provided any reliable intelligence.

2/ Gruff – who lived on a barge which worked up and down the London canals all Gruffday. Because of this, Gruff knew other dogs all over town. Elgie had asked him to put the word about in relation to several cases, but Gruff always forgot and played cards and drank whiskey with his contacts instead. (Deidre didn’t know yet, but Elgie was regularly losing money to Gruff).

3/ And Lulu, a black poodle who lived at the flower shop Deirdre liked to visit. Elgie had a big crush on Lulu, and whilst Lulu was very clever, Elgie had singularly failed to ask her questions of any use to them. (“Truth be told”, he had explained to Deidre, “I’ve only ever asked her what her favourite flower is”).

“Gruff will be of most use, I expect. Can you ask him?”

“Er, yes….I have to go and see him anyway”.