Klukelunnen lay as still as the Stone he was. He scarcely breathed. With him scarcely a kitten-sized fellow, they’d easily miss him beneath the carelessly discarded bath towel. He honed his ears. But the densely fluffy fabric muffled all but the loudest of sounds … the creak of an opening door. And now they were near; Klukelunnen squeezed his eyes tight.
“I know what you’re saying, Dwayne,” said a hard-edged voice. “But the little wretch must be here somewhere.”
No, I’m not, I’m not, Klukelunnen pressed himself yet further into the floor, trying to make himself insignificantly small. If only he still had his magic, he could magic himself smaller than the glitter that speckled the floor, trodden in from Daisy’s room.
“But I tell you,” said another voice (Dwayne?), “I know the family, and if Fleur says the little fella’s gone and run off, then the little fella’s … I mean, just look at that hutch back there, all broken and …”
“Tush! Big bazookas are no guarantee of honesty.”
Klukelunnen wanted to nod but had to keep still. Even so, if Fleur had spun a misleading lie to keep him out of Anthropology clutches (by the cringe, that’s an amazement) then he owed Fleur a deed in return.
But a shame her unlikely efforts hadn’t worked. Not easily duped, that hard-edged man. He sounded determined to find Klukelunnen; like he wouldn’t give up searching till he’d pulled every seed out of Klukelunnen’s ‘doings’. He sounded like he might enjoy it, too, the nasty human. He was probably tall, and thin, and all sharp angles, with a beak for a nose. One of the professor’s personal servitors, without a doubt. Drat! Triple drat!
Klukelunnen quietened his breathing, quietened his thoughts. Shush. Footsteps. Leaving the bathroom. Two came in. Two gone out. The door clicked closed. By Granny’s Blessed Knickers … Klukelunnen let out his held breath and gasped in another. Gone. He was safe. At least for now.
He started to move, a slow push-up, a slow raise of his bum …
“Ouch! This man has nuts, you know.” Pointless holding quiet now with that granite-slab of a shoe pinning him down. As if the man wouldn’t know the difference between fluffy towel and squashed Klukelunnen.
“Dwayne!” the man called out, no release of pressure on Klukelunnen’s delicate parts.
The door wheezed open. Footsteps. Dwayne’s re-entry.
“Here, just plonk your foot here. No! Not that hard. Don’t want him damaged. A rarity, this.”
Klukelunnen was grateful for the reprimand if tardily applied. He wanted to curl around his maltreated maleness, to hold it—them—shield them, protect them from further abuse. But that mountainous boot still had him pinned. Grrr.
And what were they doing? He could hear unfathomable movements and metallic clicks.
“How much are you giving him?!” Dwayne’s outraged voice rapidly escalated in pitch. Anyone would think them his stones roughly stood upon.
“Have to make sure,” said the harsh-voiced man (probably the professor’s dangerous servitor). “Don’t want him escaping in transit. Be devilishly difficult to find him out there amongst the bushes.”
A muted pop sounded.
“Hey!” Dwayne squeaked.
And several things happened at once.
The clod’s heavy weight lifted.
A thud sounded loud in Klukelunnen’s well-muffled ears accompanied by a gust of midden-scented air.
The probable professor’s dangerous servitor screamed an unintelligible stream of hard-edged curses.
Klukelunnen seized his chance while the foot was removed. Up he pushed from the floor … to have a solid boot kick him full in the face.
He reeled. He sucked down the blood. But he didn’t give up. He was onto his feet—but the entangling towel brought him back down. He tried again, this time squiggling out from under it before he stood up. Done it! With a hand to cradle his painful parts, he hobbled and scuttled fast as he could to the again-open door.
“Oh no you don’t,” the nasty hard-voiced man shouted.
Another pop sounded.
Klukelunnen screamed as something sharp and piercing drove into his butt. The room began to waver around him. He clutched at the door, all fuzzy and light-headed, and yet … heavy …
Klukelunnen didn’t want to open his eyes. First, he wanted to know where he was. He had woken to noises most unfamiliar.
A loud tick tock.
A squeak, squeak, squeak.
A rustle, rhythmically alternating loud and soft.
A bird—he thought it a bird—chirping.
Other noises, distant. Those at first had puzzled him until he remembered his jaunt in Daisy’s stifling bag. Traffic sounds.
At the same time he named the most prominent smell. A dog. A dog with bad intestines that occasionally farted. Phew! Keep that broiled beast away from me! But he’d no fear of the dog eating him alive, No, he’d be dead before that happened, dead from its ghastly gas.
Close to his nose he could smell … flowers? Or was it Daisy’s scented bath bubbles?
Other smells remained beyond his naming. Clean smells with tangy undertones.
And food. Cooked food, like the Dooley family ate: animal fats, animal meat. And the strong reek of cabbage.
So long as the dog didn’t come close, Klukelunnen was content to remain, unmoving, where he was. It was pleasant enough. Beneath him was something firm yet soft. Covering him was a fabric smooth and light. A bed, a human’s bed!
Panic seized. Not Fleur’s bed, please. But no, he remembered no clean smells from there, with tangy undertones. Her scents had been so thick in the air he had tasted them. Yuck!
Nah, nah, be still. No need to move. You don’t want to lose this comfort, multi-times better than the pink palace. And no need to run, no need to hide. But he did wonder where he saw.
Slowly, he became aware of something ‘unnatural’, that didn’t belong, on the back of his hand. What the grubby knickers was that? He cracked open an eye. A fine transparent tube affixed to a yellow dart-like thing disappeared beneath a large pink patch.
“What the …?” He jerked his hand away—or at least he tried to jerk it. But it seemed his body was still asleep.
“Hi, Doctor Ireson?” said a woman’s voice. “Yea, he’s now waking up.”
The squeaky sounds sounded again, growing louder, coming closer. The dog barked.
“Jacko, scat!” said the woman. “You’re not supposed to be in here; you’ll get me fired.’
The dog whined and from the sounds of it, slunk away.
Klukelunnen tried to turn his head, enough to see this squeaky-shoed female who now approached him. But his muscles were as flaccid as an unused pizzle.
“Hush,” said the woman. “Relax, all’s okay. You’re under sedation—fears you might be dangerous. I’m here to attend you and to make observations. Dr Ireson will explain it all when he gets here.”
A new noise sounded. Beeps. Six. They played out a pattern. Then a squish. A door opening?
The dog’s whine became an excited snuffle.
“Jacko, out!” ordered a deep-voiced man. “Bessy, how many times have I told you? We don’t allow dogs in the high-security unit, no matter how violent the man.”
Klukelunnen swallowed. High security? Violent? Dangerous? He groaned.
“Where …?” he managed to ask, though he still couldn’t turn his head.
“Where are you?” the man—Dr Ireson—completed his question. “Sorry, little fellow, but I can’t tell you that. Secret facility. For holding illegal aliens and the, um, likes of you until we can ascertain their, um. proper status and security risk.”
No! Klukelunnen let out a long groan. Could the dice roll more viciously against him? The pink plastic palace may have been an embarrassment but … High-security? Secret facility? He was locked away, and he didn’t know where.