Klukelunnen liked Blessed Bessy, his day-time carer. But, by the cringe, he couldn’t abide her ‘oppo’, Louisa. Louisa cared only for her wages. Within a sweep of the clock’s long hand after Bessy had left, Louisa beeped her way through the high sheen metallic door. She made her raspy jottings on her clipboard (hers was a purply-blue), angled the hard-seated metal-framed chair to her desired perfection, where she could see all points of the room without turning her head, just a slight raise of her eyes, and flipped open her magazine. Thereafter, except that she completed her two-hourly checks, she rhythmically flipped the night away. She never spoke. Never. Except to say she was going to ‘spend a penny’; then she’d be absent for five sweeps of the clock but its longest arm.
Within two hours of meeting the angular-bodied, sharp-nosed night-carer, Klukelunnen decided now was the time to pop out his poop. And every two hours thereafter. Let her deal with the stinking stuff. He only wished he ate something more offensive than seeds. He knew it was childish of him, but treat a man like a child, sealing him into these hip-hugging huge padded pants, and you’re asking for him to behave like one.
Every two hours her schedule required her to check on his pants, and every two hours he popped out a poop, so at nights he didn’t sleep so well. But that gave him ample time to dream up a scheme: How to get a message to Daisy?
If nothing else, he must let her know she was safe. Safe? Aye, by Aunt Diddly’s doodads, he was safe from the dastardly machinations of Professor Angelus Margev—at least while he was resident at the ‘facility for holding illegal aliens and questionable little fellows’, sealed away from all malevolent intruders by a handle-less high sheen metal door. But there was the rub. Safe he might be, but he didn’t want to remain here forever. Sooner or later the presence of this unaccountable ‘little fellow’ would be leaked to the press and then … No, before then he had to be gone. Gone back home, to Dolstone. But how? He had lost his magic—and him a magical being. Without his magic, what use his spells?
Sapphire, he sub-vocalised his cogitations, an eye to Louisa who, anyway, was enthralled by her mag; Beloved of Saturn; Grandma’s child, marked for sacrifice.
And, aye, he was marked for sacrifice—or, rather, marred: marred by a deep flaw, the crack sustained when, as a child undergoing the clan’s unofficial rites to manhood, he had fallen from the Giant’s Knee. Marked. MARKED, the word shouted at him.
He heard again what Daisy had said of Uranus and Gaia—Gaia who for him a.k.’d as Grandma. And how their son Cronos—who for the Romans a.k.d as Saturn—had castrated Uranus. And how from his spilled blood arose the Gigantes. He rolled that word around his head. Gigantes.
And jerked up straight. The Giants!
Louisa the night-attendant shot to her feet. Her glossy mag, dropped, flopped in a sprawl on the cold lino floor. “What?”
Klukelunnen blinked, forced a yawn, and fell back into a feigned deep sleep.
That’s why the spell had failed him, he continued to unfold the story. That’s why he had ended up here in the Land of Giants. He stifled a groan. It had been no chance happening that he’d stolen that spell-book. Someone wanted him here, in this Land of Giants; wanted him here to serve as sacrifice to Saturn. He shuddered beneath his covers. But like it or not, the logic held out. Except … why sacrifice him to Saturn?
He didn’t want to complete that thought. But it hung around him, pestering for attention despite he’d thoughts more pressing than that. Thoughts like how to get out of this secure and secret facility and get himself home.
The very word, SATURN, shouted. The word jumped up and down. It spun around, tracing rings around Klukelunnen. SATURN. Saturn had done something VERY, very, wrong.
Yikes, yowl! He had it! Blindness dropped from his figuratively speaking thinking thoughts’ eyes. Of course: Saturn was the Usurper! He had stolen power from the sky (Uranus, Klukelunnen filled in the name provided by Daisy; Grandpa as he ought to be known, consort of Grandma) and thereby had engendered the Giants a.k.a. Man and His Kind. And now he—Klukelunnen—had been marked for sacrifice. But not to be given TO Saturn. No. To be given in ATONEMENT for Saturn’s despicable usurpation of Grandpa’s power.
Klukelunnen nodded definitively. Conundrum solved.
Except that high sheen metal door still sat between him and his exit home. Except … he gulped. There was but one exit home. Sent here by Grandma to be the Atonement. Of all his high-climbing, risk-taking escapades, he’d never sweated the way he did now. His breath, clutching his lungs, refused to come out.
Cheery as ever, Blessed Bessy wished Klukelunnen a bright good morning. Klukelunnen looked away, no attempt to smile.
“Hey, whazzup, little fella? You’re looking glummer than a black clouded day. We can’t have that.”
He shrugged and kept his head down.
She frowned, put her clipboard down on the hard-seated, metal-legged chair, and squatted down beside his bed.
“Hey, little fella,” she said, barely audible, and as close to his ear as he’d allow, “Today is Dock-Man Ireson’s day off.”
He sniffed. “And?”
“And I’ve a little surprise for you,” she said, still whispering close to him.
He looked up. Her large brown eyes looked back at him with a look he’d last seen on the Dooley’s dog Helas.
“What, I’m free to leave?” he asked, head atilt, and no serious belief that she’d say yes.
“Well, not quite that but … now, we have to be very quiet about this. No jumping and shouting. There’s a visitor for you.”
Klukelunnen felt himself shrink. “Professor Angelus Margev?”
“No, silly you,” Blessed Bessy laughed, then continued on in a hushed voice, “No, it’s a little friend. Be here in” – she glanced back at the clock – “oh, about an hour.”
He had one friend in the Land of Giants, one amongst these Men and their Kind, and she wasn’t little, not compared to him. To be little it had to be one of his cousins. He didn’t stop to ask which one it was; he’d find out soon enough. One of his cousins come in search of him, now captured. Not a visitor as Bessy had said, but a fellow inmate. He scowled and drew in his breath.
But whichever cousin it was, Klukelunnen wouldn’t have him see him in this sleep-slurred state. He was out of his bed, head dunked into the water provided fresh twice daily for his ablutions, face splashed, other bits wiped.
He tugged at his padded pants. “What about this? Can’t I take it off, just for the while? Please?”
‘Indeed, you cannot!” She sounded shocked. “You’ll get me locked up.”
“How about clothes, then?” He asked. “So this embarrassment” – he tugged again at his padded pants – “doesn’t show.”
“Soz,” said Bessy, and she did sound sorry.
He sat back down on his bed with a harrumph. Bessy swapped water for seeds. He picked at his food, not hungry, torn between excitement at seeing whichever cousin had found his way here, and a deep fret that that same cousin was now to share this secret facility.
His eyes strayed to the opposite wall, to the camera hidden in the small white box high above the lone hard-seated chair. Blessed Bessy had pointed it out to him on his first day, saying if he threatened her in any way, ‘they’ (whoever they were) would soon know. Were ‘they’ now to observe the two together? What if they didn’t know about a Stone’s sexual orientation? What if he and his cousin were expected to … gulp … mate?
At a knock on the handle-less high sheen metal door, Klukelunnen leapt onto his bed, covers pulled up to his chin. At least that hid the embarrassment of his padded pants. Though likely his cousin would be padded the same.
Blessed Bessy opened the door, a finger held to her lips. Klukelunnen saw who waited there, and his sapphire eyes popped. This wasn’t the anticipated visitor. His eyes followed her from the door to the room’s sole chair. His eyes tracked up to the camera on the wall above her, then to Bessy. Again, Bessy held a finger to her lips, and sidled out of the room.
A grin slowly spread across his face.
Daisy held up her hand, and silently counted off on her fingers. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. “Yay!” she exploded. “That’s the camera and mike switched off. Now we can talk.”