The Paris Awakening: Fire – Part 12

Thinking Prisma

The church was candle lit and Sir John, Phlebotomous, Osvold, Miss Henderson and Morag sat around the table. Constable Claude was back outside.

“So,” said Phlebotomous, looking slightly uncomfortable, “you want to build an imaginary machine?”

“No, that’s not it,” said Sir John.

“Ah good,” said Phlebotomous, looking relieved. “Because I was worried that…”

“I want to build a machine that lets me see imagination itself,” said Sir John.

“Oh dear,” said Phlebotomous.

“Perhaps a nice cup of tea and a sit down would help,” said Miss Henderson in a slow steady voice. She maintained both a fixed smile and a fixed stare at Sir John throughout.

“Look I know this sounds crazy,” said Sir John to everyone. Nobody disagreed.

“It’s not crazy crazy, more ‘day after ye took some powerful drugs’ crazy,” said Morag. “Sort of ‘maybe you should sleep on it before saying it aloud’ crazy.”

“It’s what Miss Henderson said,” said Sir John. Miss Henderson looked appalled.

“I did no such thing!” she said.

“You mentioned the Ectoscopic glasses and the Thanatograph. They let you see and hear spectral activity of course. And I was about to say that this is different, as the spectral forces are things one can’t normally see and hear, but they do exist. Well this is the other way round, see?” said Sir John. Four blank faces looked at him.

“I mean in this instance, we are looking for imaginary things. Imaginary things don’t exist but some people can still see them,” said Sir John. “So we simply need to build a machine which will let us see things that don’t exist.”

“I’ll put the kettle on,” said Miss Henderson and got up to leave, backing away from the table.

“I sort of follow you,” said Morag. “Absent a few of the details, but how would you build something that can see things that don’t exist. I mean, there’s an awfa lot of things that don’t exist.”

Sir John sat down and held his chin.

“Hmm,” he said. “You have a point.”

He stared at the table muttering to himself.

“How do we know which non-existent thing is the thing we want? That’s why I wish we had an artist. They can use the eyes of the imagination and bring something into being. I think if we knew what the avatar thought it should look like, we might be able to see it.”

“Maybe,” said Phlebotomous, “we should apply some logical problem solving.”

“Break the problem down you mean?” said Sir John. “Good idea. The avatar seems to be connected to the doors. I wonder perhaps if the doors have an imaginary counterpart?”

“Here’s some nice tea with 3 sugars,” said Miss Henderson, returning with a tray.

“So the question, then, is – how do you open an imaginary door?” said Sir John.

“Use an imaginary key,” said Miss Henderson absently, sitting down.

She looked to see four faces staring at her.

“What?” she said.

The Paris Awakening: Fire – Part 11

Stitched Panorama

“It’s definitely here?” said Sir John looking at the large door. “Only my memory is a little vague.”

“Yes,” said Mrs Henderson. “This is the only door without a building I’ve seen. Is it the only one in Paris, Pee-air?”

“That’s Pierre,” said the man in police uniform accompanying them. “And yes, this is indeed where we met after the unfortunate incident.”

“Sounds rather like a fortunate incident to me,” said Sir John absently. He looked puzzled  but then something caught his eye. He crouched down to look at the wall next to the door closer up.

“It’s curious there is, uh, no-one to greet us,” he said, staring intently at the wall.

He squinted at the wall and Morag came up and sniffed.

“Poodle,” she whispered to Sir John.

“What is the monsieur talking about may I h’ask.” said Pierre. 

“You may h’ask but I may not necessarily h’answer,” said Miss Henderson haughtily. She was quite enjoying having the police at her beck and call for a change.

“It’s a tiny painting of a lizard,” said Sir John, still crouching. “You know they say that if you look at a flame with the right eyes you can see a salamander at the heart of it.”

“Are the powders still affecting him?” said Miss Henderson to Morag in a botched sotto voce.

“No I feel fine,” said Sir John standing up rapidly before holding on to the wall. “I think I know why there isn’t some creature to meet us here. And I think we may be in trouble.”

“How so,” said Pierre, brow furrowing.

Sir John looked at the policeman, then glanced behind him.

“I think maybe something untoward is happening over there,” he said.

The policeman looked puzzled and turned around.

“They’ve just gone round the corner,” said Sir John and the policeman went off.

“I didn’t see anything?” said Miss Henderson.

“I want him out of earshot,” said Sir John. “I think I’ve found the avatar.”

“I don’t see anything there either,” said Miss Henderson.

“I think there is one, but we can’t see it with our eyes,” said Sir John.

“Told you,” said Miss Henderson to Morag.

“We need to be able, or need someone who can use the eyes of imagination,” said Sir John.

“I see,” said Miss Henderson.

“No you don’t,” said Sir John. “That’s precisely the problem. And neither do I, I’m not the artistic type.”

“If only Sabine were here,” said Miss Henderson wistfully. Morag looked up at her, head tilted to one side.

“Indeed,” said Sir John and looked down.

“But you’re very creative, Sir John,” said Miss Henderson. “You made all those devices and whatnots. Like that ecto-whatsit that lets you see ghosts. And that thanatomata… ta ta… thing”

“Yes but that’s to see things that normal eyesight can’t see, whereas this is….” he trailed off and looked into the middle distance. His eyes flicked back and forth and his lips moved. He swiveled to the group, stared at Miss Henderson.

“My God, you’re right!” he said and started running back towards the artists’ church.

Morag sighed and looked at Miss Henderson.

“You may have a point,” she said.


The Paris Awakening: Fire – Part 10

fake policeman copy prisma

The two men sat shivering, their bruised faces looking anxiously at the well dressed gentlemen standing opposite.

“So,” said Pook, “I understand the operation was, shall we say, less than successful?”

“We had no idea,” said the man sitting, “how strong the lady was. We was more worried about the dog.”

“The… lady?” asked Pook.

“Yes Mr Pook sir,” said the second man. “She was a maid with Sir John. He seemed like he’d been drinking or maybe taking something stronger and the maid and the dog were trying to keep up with him.”

“Oh, I understand now,” said Pook, clapping his hands together. “Sir John did this to you in a crazed drunken stupor?”

“Not exactly Mr Pook,” said the first man, looking down at shoes, or as far as he could with the ropes around him. “At first they seemed shocked, on account of the uniforms I suppose. But then they gets wind of who we are and… well the maid… she must…”

“She must have had some training or somesuch,” said the second man. “She was fast and strong and…”

“Violent,” said the first. “She were very, very violent. Hence this.”

The man tried to indicate the bruises on his naked torso but the ropes prevented him from moving.

“So,” said Bisset, “your finest men were beaten half to death in a Paris side street by a… maid?’

Pook pursed his lips and looked sharply at the two men who trembled.

“So it was lucky for you when the police arrived I suppose?” said Pook.

“Yes sir,” said the first man, “we would have got a proper walloping otherwise. Then they hauled us away in the back of a wagon and… well… here we are.”

“Well here we are,” echoed Pook, a big smile on his face. “Thank you gentlemen for your report. I’d be pleased if you waited in the next room.”

Pook nodded into the darkness and a man came forward, cutting the others free from their chairs. They rubbed their arms and wrists as they were manoeuvred into a side room.

As the door closed behind them, Bisset covered his hand with his mouth and made a strange snorting noise. Pook smiled widely at him.

“Your little ruse worked then?” said Bisset. “At least on them.”

“Indeed,” said Pook. “As I was sure it would. Pierre? Please come and tell us more.”

A man dressed in a police uniform came forward.

“It was a complete success,” he said. “They trusted us absolutely.”

“And now?” said Pook.

“We have convinced them that they need us for protection. Even now Claude is the church, keeping watch.”

Pook clapped his hands together.

“You see what happens when a simple change of management occurs,” he said to Bisset.

“Indeed,” said Bisset, “it is excellent work. We now have our adversary under constant surveillance.”

Pook nodded Pierre to go.

“So we just need to be sure if they have found the location of the key,” said Pook. “Then we can proceed.”

Bisset nodded in approval.

“What about those two?” said Bisset, nodding to the other room. “They are merely stooges, no?”

Pook’s eyes widened.

“But we must make an example,” he said. “Otherwise standards will fall.”

From the room next door there came a loud scream, then panicked shouting, another scream and finally silence.

Bisset covered his mouth again and made the snorting noise while Pook giggled lightly.