The novelist jumped over a baboon.
This was not how he usually concluded committee meetings.
The baboon scrambled to its feet, screeching. It joined the rest of the hundred or so baboons in hurtling coconuts at the novelist. They exploded with horrifying bursts of porridge.
That was more like the committee meetings the novelist was familiar with.
‘For pity’s sake!’ gasped the poet. ‘Just run, will you?’
The novelist ran, scuttling to keep pace with the poet’s incredible leaps. They swerved around the jutting blocks of slag, bounding through the shadows in a desperate attempt to hide from—whatever they were hiding from. The novelist wasn’t entirely sure.
They were running mostly downhill. Overhead, three pinpoints of light glimmered in a starless sky. The novelist and the poet hid in the shadows, sliding down the rocks. Porridge splattered around them. The baboons screeched wildly.
At last they reached level ground, exhausted and trembling. The screeching continued. Laughter echoed through the night.
‘No good!’ said the poet. ‘They’re following us!’
‘I say,’ the novelist said.
‘No time! What do you think this is, Brighton? Unless you want to have ten thousand baboons scream at you, and then eat you as likely as not, we’ve got to run, now!’
‘Where’s the Press?’ said the novelist.
‘What?’ said the poet.
If he hadn’t, it would have saved him a shock. With the unmistakable sound of a seal landing on a beach ball, the Press plummeted from the overhanging rock onto the poet.
‘Halloa – oof – you two! Didn’t think I’d let the scoop of the century run off without signing anything, did you?’
‘Ouch,’ said the poet glumly. ‘Please stand up. I want to.’
‘Hello,’ said the novelist. ‘We’re surrounded by ten thousand screeching baboons.’
‘Well,’ said the Press. ‘This is…interesting. Probably a story. Intrepid Reporter Survives Baboon Attack, or something.’
‘You’re making several large assumptions there, you know,’ said the poet, and added, ‘Um, still ouch.’
The novelist smiled. He had no reason to smile. When been screeched at by ten thousand baboons in an inexplicable valley full of evil laughter, smiling is not usually a preferred activity. But the novelist smiled. This was, he thought, utterly unlike a scene from his novel. Which meant either the Script had changed, or he was no longer part of it.
He decided to do something absurd.
‘I must say, I’m glad I brought along this umbrella.’ He patted its snout. It growled. ‘You never know when it might baboon.’
‘What?’ said the Press.
‘Ouch,’ said the Poet.
The novelist opened the umbrella. The scent of distance, time, and death rolled out onto the ground, growling sleepily. The umbrella went berserk.
The novelist threw the lashing umbrella into the horde of baboons. Sudden silence gripped the valley, as ten thousand pairs of eyes watch the uneven parabola with horrified fascination, watched what little light there was gleam off the umbrella’s slobbering fangs.
The umbrella landed in the horde of baboons. A single yelp echoed round the rocks. A clamor of terrified screeching exploded into the night, and the baboons fled in all directions.
‘Well,’ said the novelist, scratching the scent of distance, time, and death behind its feather antennae. ‘That was, er, different. Now, will someone please explain what is going on?’
‘Hahaha,’ said an evil laugh in the distance. ‘Ahahahahahaha!’
‘Sorry, chap,’ said the Press. ‘I don’t think anyone knows.’
‘I do,’ said the poet. ‘A little. I’d be happy to explain that little if you will—ouch?—get off my back, please?’