The novelist looked at the poet, staring vaguely at the three-star sky. He looked at the Press, scribbling busily in his notebook. And he stared into the gloom among the slag cliffs, where a sheep had disappeared moments before.
He had the distinct impression he was being ignored.
‘Excuse me,’ he said again, ‘but did anyone else just see that?’
The poet blinked. ‘I suppose that depends on what it was you thought you saw.’
‘I didn’t, I don’t think,’ said the Press.
‘I saw,’ said the novelist, ‘with utmost clarity a sheep jump out of your notebook—yes, that one, that notebook. No, not that sheep. It was a different sort of—sheep.’
‘What did it look like?’ said the poet, still staring at the sky.
The novelist sighed. If he had been in possession of something practical to shatter in pieces, he would have shattered it. ‘I don’t know. Sheepish!’
‘Ah!’ The Press snapped shut his notebook. ‘That would have been the spotted amalgamated red-tail sheep. They run wild in these parts, I think. The natural predator of the baboons, they hunt in packs of, oh, four or five, dropping down from the cliffs on surprised primates with evil laughs and slashing fangs and—I say, you fellows don’t look particularly cheery just now.’
‘The sheep,’ said the novelist, ‘wasn’t that kind of sheep.’
‘Aha,’ said an evil laugh in the distance. ‘Ahhahahahahaa!’
‘Well,’ said the Press happily. ‘That proves it, doesn’t it? Is it just me, or is it time to look for some open ground.’
‘Don’t worry about the evil laugh,’ said the poet. ‘That’s just the committee chairman. He has his moods. What we need to worry about is that all of us seem to have gotten caught up in meaningless dialogue. Which may well mean that the Scriptwriter is planning to write us out.’
‘That what is planning to who?’ said the Press.
‘It was a sheep!’ the novelist insisted. ‘A fluffy sheep. A woolly sheep. The sort that goes baa-baa wagging their tales behind and all that, not ahahahaha-ha-ha swoop chomp.’
‘Must have dreamt it,’ said the Press.
The poet clasped his hands together, and struck himself on the forehead. ‘For the sake of fudge! A moment ago our novelist friend insisted that something was happening. In opposition, I might add, to my much more intriguing philosophical assertion that nothing whatever was happening. Now we stand here dithering, and for what?’
‘Well,’ said the novelist, ‘there was this sheep, see—’
‘Oh, sheep!’ shouted the poet. ‘Pillsday jollification, as usual! Look here, you were the one who wanted to confront the Scriptwriter after all, for putting in such rotten stereo-types into the script. Look at us! You look like one of those artsy types even the computer geeks thought couldn’t dress. The Press is wearing a fedora. And tweeds. Can’t you see there’s almost nothing to us but stereotype?’
The Press rubbed his hand down the front of his suit. ‘It’s not like I’ve had enough time to do my Pillsday shopping,’ he grumbled. ‘And a chap’s got his image to keep up, you know.’
‘The sheep happened,’ said the novelist. ‘You can’t say nothing is happening when there’s a sheep that just happened.’
‘A moment ago,’ said the poet, ‘we were in a committee meeting. Then we were here—chased, I might add, by an immense number of screeching baboons. Don’t you see? Anything that has happened or has not happened may or may not be part of the script!’
The echoes of his voice faded into silence.
‘Er,’ said the Press, doodling a daisy, ‘try running that by me again.’
‘Ahaha,’ laughed the evil laugh, much nearer now. ‘Hahahahahaaa!’
‘Do you mean,’ said the novelist, ‘that it’s theoretically to impossible to know what the script is?’
The poet sighed, clasped his hands behind his head. ‘I might have meant that. I might not. Does it, after all, matter?’
‘It does matter,’ said the novelist, ‘if, as you suggest I suggested, we’re about to confront the scriptwriter.’
‘Or,’ said the Press, ‘get attacked by a ravenous, swooping sheep. Did you hear that laugh?’
‘That,’ said the poet irritably, ‘was just the committee chairman.’
A dark shape swooped down from the shadows. The Press screamed. The dark shape hesitated, collapsed into a spindly mound of black cloak.
‘Er, I say,’ it said. ‘I seem to have misplaced the minutes of the last meeting.’
The poet glared at the Press. ‘Told you, didn’t I?’