and The Pirates of the Mystic Caravan.
Chapter 7 - Harry Revealed
'What does the doctor say ?' Monique asked the question with obvious concern, sitting by Priscilla's bed and holding her feverish hand.
Painfully, Priscilla managed to open her eyes, squinting even in the dim light of her bedroom lamp. 'The doctor says that I've got a terrible, contagious, deadly disease transmitted by holding hands.'
Monique bent closer, her black face beaming as she planted a big kiss on her friend's burning forehead. 'Your doctor tells lies, otherwise I should have been tackled and pulled down by Granny Black before I got upstairs. What do you have, really.'
'Some kind of gastric bug, food poisoning, maybe. I ate seafood last night at a restaurant. Might have been that or the cold chicken and salad roll at lunch time. Whatever, it's really goin' through me, even Harry's deserted me. Just have to ride it out.'
'I was so concerned today when you did not come to school.'
'Knew you would be. You're such a true friend. Wish I could have been there to see Surban. Did the Priests come to take her to the airport?'
'Yes, at lunchtime. A Priest named Kaddar arrived to pick her up. She was so excited. She had been issued with a temporary exit visa and passport, and she was very disappointed that she could not say goodbye to you.'
'Didn't forget her little pot of goodies?'
'I think she had that inside her jacket. It would not be out of her sight for a moment, I am sure.'
'Do you think Harry's tracking bug will be alright?' Priscilla asked, shifting uncomfortably under the covers.
Monique grinned. 'Harry said he was good with bugs, especially fleas, he knows what he is doing. Surban promised to email us at school from an internet cafe upon her arrival. I will come and see you again tomorrow after school...'
Priscilla winced as her stomach cramped. 'Better get out of here, I'm gonna explode.'
'I can help you to the toilet, come on,' said Monique, pulling back the covers and lifting Priscilla's legs free.
'Don't you dare. I'll get you down the hall and fetch a bucket. Hold on. Granny! Granny!'
Amelia Black gave Monique a warm hug. 'You are such a lovely girl. I liked you the moment I first set eyes on you, even when you were so distressed.'
'That was a terrible time for me Granny Black. I was so scared and alone. Priscilla and you and everybody else made me feel a lot safer. You gave me a home when my parents had vanished. Cilla was... what can I say? So good to me then, and now when she is sick, how could I not be here for her?'
Granny Black's face softened. 'Let's give her a day or two to get rid of the worst of it. Best you head off to your folks now, daylight's getting shorter into Autumn. I'd Get Matthew to walk you there if he was home, but will Louis do?'
'He is here?'
'Only came home late for his footy gear. Back to Hopewell tomorrow. Have you seen him play?'
'No. I thought he played cricket.'
'Does that too. But in the winter he tries to get a kick in the mud and the rain. I've gone to watch him now and then. Needs a lot more grunt. Far too fair. Louis!' Amelia's voice reverberated around the house.
'Yes Granny,' said Louis softly, actually coming up directly behind her from the kitchen, a honey and peanut-butter sandwich vanishing swiftly into his mouth.
'Oh Louis! Don't do that! Frightened the daylights out of me! Now I want you to walk Monique home.'
'Sorry Gran, I'll try to eat quieter or somewhere else if it bothers you,' Louis answered, winking at Monique.
Amelia gave him a flip over his ear. 'Don't get smart! You're not too big to sort out yet.'
'That's what Dad tells me,' said Louis, taking Monique's hand and making a run for the front door. 'Back soon!'
'Is there anything else that you want before I go?' Granny Black asked, standing in the doorway decked out in her finest, a buff coloured handbag dangling from her solid wrist.
'Granny, that's the fifth time you've asked this morning. My head hurts enough already. I'm fine, I've got water and a comfy bed. All I need is quiet and rest and maybe I can sleep it off. Look, I'm not shaking anymore and I'm not burning up or having to go to the bathroom, well not so far, and you have been looking forward so much to seeing 'Phantom of the Opera.' Besides, you can't let Mollie down.'
'True,' said Granny Black gravely. 'Especially since the taxi's on its way. I'm sure the worst of your illness is over and you are a big girl now, or so your Dad thinks, since he's off like the rest of them: your brothers, your mother. Still, you'll have Harry for company.'
'Yeah, sure,' said Priscilla, settling down and shutting her eyes, 'when he feels like it. Probably too busy doing doggy things in the garden or snoozing under a bush out of the breeze. Umm, snoozing, that's a plan...'
Priscilla's eyes opened for no particular reason. Perhaps it was simply the silence of the house. She guessed that it was almost mid-day judging from the angle of watery sunlight filtering in through the window, and as she stared she fancied that she saw amongst the foliage a glimpse of the dilapidated exterior of the tree-house that was actually the travel and time craft Black Eagle. She still felt queasy but managed to sip some water before settling down again. Lying quietly, she soaked up the feeling of being the only one in the house. Home alone, that's sort of cool, except for that old video where the kid had to kick out the burglars, she thought.
New houses, old houses, all have sound signatures; something about them that sets each one apart from the next: creaking floor-boards, squeaky doors, rattling windows, clunking water pipes, expanding and contracting sounds of timber and plastics and metals.
There were also faint sounds from outside, like the occasional drone of a car, a bird call, the whisper of the breeze in the great tree, and the scratching of leaves against the eaves.
Speaking of scratching, she thought. It's like really quiet in the Harry department. Where is the little bugger? Spends all night on my bed like a good and loyal alien and is now nowhere to be seen...
So, as Priscilla slowly made her way past Granny's room and the upstairs bathroom, past the attic steps and down the stairway to the ground floor she became aware of many minor noises that went usually unnoticed. So what? She thought, tip-toeing as best she could in her Lion-King slippers through the hall and front rooms and then retracing her steps toward the scullery-kitchen and the tiny sitting-room.
So the house is quiet and creaks a bit and Harry's probably outside and it's broad daylight anyway and who gets scared in broad daylight when they have a faithful mutt to protect them, even if he is from outer space? She began to feel a little light-headed and recalled that she hadn't actually eaten anything of substance since Sunday, and that had all been thrown up or... No, too much info, she concluded, her stomach still slowly churning away.
Priscilla made her way past the timber-panelled entrance that led down to the old bomb-shelter at the rear of the staircase. Now it had become her father's wine cellar and, as yet, unsorted junk heap at the far end. She thought she could feel something faintly beneath her feet, some kind of ebbing and flowing of movement like the pulsing of a heart. She halted and turned around.
Cautiously and as quietly as she could, Priscilla opened the door that led to the cellar. The buzzing and humming and thrumming, interspersed by occasional sharp cracklings grew in intensity. The air seemed charged and warm. A glowing light glimmered from the junk end of the cellar. That's where Harry was a while ago.
Priscilla's mind was working overtime as she eased herself down, her head clearing the floor beams so that she could see to the far end. And there she saw a solid rectangle of white light. It was slim and tall, buzzing with sound and vibrating with movement. I didn't know there was another room. It just seemed like a wall.
Treading carefully through the unsorted piles of old paint cans, tyres and bits of engines, she drew close enough to peer within. The gap was very narrow and she had to turn her head sideways to allow both eyes a glimpse.
At first the light was so bright that it blinded her, and at the same time her ears were assaulted by many sounds; sounds that reminded her of bird calls and insect whirrings and the howling of animals and the grinding, lurching noises of machinery. Clutching at her head, she forced herself to look deeper, trying to defeat the brightness of the illuminated interior and capture details. Then, squinting into the white light, she suddenly made out the shadowy outline of a wild apparition. It was weaving about, winding and twining back and forth, tentacles, antennae and fronds of transparent substance floating and whipping in geometric patterns that held Priscilla's vision captive by its symmetry and other-worldliness. Particles of its form seemed to burst and float away in all directions, and other minor explosions of colour continued to spin around the perimeter of her riveted gaze.
And then Priscilla's eyes were drawn to an evolving set of screens that began to grow clearer through the froth and spume. There were banks of them, eye-holes, perhaps like those of flies, and mostly these faceted areas seemed to show space and what appeared to be stars, starlight, whole areas of burning stars strewn across broad vistas of space, beautiful and awesome space, and Priscilla was suddenly overwhelmed with the majesty of what she was witnessing, and she sank to her knees, her eyes still held by the beauty of the stars. The colours enchanted her and the vast, random spiralling of the galaxy and its magnificent clouds of gases washed against her, making her stingingly aware of her insignificance in the grand pattern of the universe and the solar systems.
Suddenly Priscilla felt that she had left earth, that heaven had opened and she was about to enter. Then her vision cleared, and she saw that some of the screens pictured her own face, her mouth gaping wide, her hands uplifted. And that more screens showed her from behind, a small figure kneeling before a slanted shaft of light that flowed around and about her body.
And she saw that even her Lion-King slippers were illuminated, and she suddenly laughed. 'I don't really get it, but whoo-hoo! Whatever this is, I just think I'm so privileged. Harry, or whatever you really are called, I'm not scared by this, I'm just knocked out!'
All vision and light shut down on the instant.
Priscilla found herself still on her knees, staring at a heap of uncleaned brushes and stiffened paint rollers in stained trays.
'You look knocked out,' said a quiet voice from within the dim gap beyond. 'And that's no wonder, considering that you've been ill for a couple of days. I was almost surprised to find that you could make your way down here, but knowing you and your determined spirit, I only say "almost surprised." Anyway, this was perhaps the best time for you to See, and here you are just at a moment when some new arrivals have come to your Earth. Happy touchdown in Queensland, I just had to guide them in, and now you have some greater idea of what I and my people are.'
'Yes, but I didn't realise until now just how brilliant and awesome you guys were,' said Priscilla, scrambling to her feet.
Squeezing out of the darkened gap, Harry emerged, pausing to shake himself so hard that his red collar rattled.
'Yep! Well, you need to get out more.'
Chapter 8 next