Surprise Visit (part 7): An Earplug Adventure


The thing with these Earplug Adventures is…the preliminary work  takes so long that when it comes to the actual writing of the story, it all seems to pass by in a flash. I don’t get to enjoy the pleasure of creating my little alternative reality for as long as I’d like. I’d compare it  with sex, but I’m not sure that would be appropriate: my long-term memory is failing me right now. These short stories are even worse of course –  or better, depending on your point of view. They don’t drag on like…for example A Tale of Three Museums, though, of course that is a silicon masterpiece that should never be denigrated. But back to the present: Part Seven already: I can hardly believe it. Oh well,  on  with it then…

Elsewhere, Fermin had joined Julian upon an approximation of the Wide Blue Yonder…

“What do you think, Fermin?” The political attaché inquired of the super soldier.

“The fabric is fine.” Fermin replied. “There’s just not enough of it. Over there, the futuristic concrete floor’s been painted blue.”

In a moment of inspiration, Nigel suggested that he and Beatrix visit the very top of the Red Tower, and go outside on to the roof.

“We can see the whole place from up there.” He said. “It’s the highest point. But we’ll need to be careful: it’s very high, and the oxygen levels are correspondingly low.”

But when they stepped out on to the roof…

“I dunno,” he said, “it doesn’t seem as high as it once was.”

“And I can breathe fine.” Beatrix added. “This is damned peculiar.”

On the way back down to ground level, they encountered a bemused Walker Crabtrouser…

“I tried looking out of the penthouse window.” He told them. “But the glass was too grimy to see through. Normally the glass would be sparkling and totally transparent. I’m all of a flutter.”

Meanwhile Julian had stepped on to a public stage. From a side room he heard Faati’s voice calling to him…

He expected to find her rummaging through props and costumes in a changing room of some such. What he found was the blue cable end standing on top of (what appeared to be) a nul-space power generator…

“What?” He bellowed in bafflement and frustration. “They keep a spare nul-space generator in a room behind the public performance stage? I think that highly unlikely.”

“Unless,” Faati said quietly, “it’s not a nul-space power generator at all – but actually a prop. A fake. A pretend power generator.”

Julian’s mouth fell open. “But, but, but,” he managed. “Why?”

Whilst bafflement reigned in the room behind the public performance stage, in (what Walker and Fermin assumed was) the not-so-secret UFO hangar…

…the two military operatives – or ‘Militarians’ as they were known upon Scroton – made a discovery that was almost as unexpected.

“Ugh?” Fermin ejected the pseudo-word from his powerful chest in an ascending tone that made it sound like a polysyllable. “Where’s all the flipping UFOs gone?”

Walker didn’t reply immediately: he was too busy looking for signs that there had ever been UFOs present. Scratches or gouges in the floor. Dents in the curved roof. Oil stains. Stray cigarette butts in dusty corners. He could find none.

“Dunno.” He said absentmindedly. “I’ll have to think about this.”

Fermin couldn’t stand to watch his superior officer’s face as it contorted grotesquely from the strain of putting all of their discoveries into some semblance of order in his mind. “I’ll be back in a minute: I think I hear Bertram’s puzzled tones emanating from an adjacent corridor.”

Though faulty in their operation, the soldier’s ears had, indeed heard the security chief’s voice…

“What is it, Bertram?” He cried in alarm when he found the yellow cable end hobbling along a narrow back-alley.

“I just hurt my knee.” Bertram wailed. “And the bit where the top of my leg meets my buttocks. As I stepped upon an iron grating in the floor, my foot went straight through it. Whilst extricating myself painfully from the hole, I discovered that the iron grating wasn’t metallic at all: it was three-dee printed plastic – made to look like iron. What the flip is going on, Fermin?”

The young soldier recognised this discovery as a major development. Without replying, he took to his heels in search of Walker. He found him at a fire escape door with Julian Prim…

Before he could say anything, he realised that they too had made yet another inexplicable find. The expression in their eyes told him everything he needed to know.

“This isn’t really a fire escape at all, is it?” He said. “When you opened it, you found a brick wall: right?”

“Not quite.” Julian replied. “There is no door. It’s just painted on. And whoever did it didn’t even bother painting on a push-bar!”

Whilst the ramifications of this filtered through the three cable end’s brains, Bertram had limped off into a seldom-used corridor. Cushions Smethwyke would have recognised it in a heartbeat: it was her secret access tunnel to the arboretum…

However, instead of a cheery welcome from the museum’s Artificial Intelligence, all Bertram could see on the multitudinous view screens was meaningless data and poorly discerned images of he knew not what. “Oh, I don’t like this.” He whimpered. “I don’t like it at all. I can hear squeaking noises coming from the rear of my underpants. Potentially most embarrassing. Thank goodness I’m all alone. ”

It was with great relief, five minutes later, that he made contact with Fermin, who himself, had only just met Faati…

“Look, it’s eight o’clock in the morning.” The blue cable end said – her tongue distended and lolling. “There’s a Café Puke outlet around the corner. Let’s get a drink before we collapse with dehydration.”

But, when they rounded the corner…

…they found the café entirely empty. Not a stick of furniture. No coffee machines or cup dispensers. No scuff marks on the walls where café users had pushed back their chairs to leave. No chewing gum on the skirting board. No baby snot. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Faati put a call through to Nigel on her walkie-talkie. When he received the news, he made straight for the penthouse Café Puke outlet…

He hadn’t expected to find much there, but upon entering the aforementioned establishment, best known for it’s vile coffee…

…the sheer emptiness of the beautifully decorated room stabbed him through the heart. Moreover, when Beatrix reported that there was no bucket under the sink, and that all the toilet tissue was gone, he couldn’t find the words to report back to his assistant.

“Doesn’t anything work here?” He complained. “Is this all the Museum of Future Technology is – a sham? Has it been trading upon falsehood and lies? Is that why everybody is gone – because they’ve been found out and face prosecution? Oh, I’m so crestfallen. Everything about earplugs that I’ve always believed – destroyed, torn apart, belittled. I feel such a fool.

So, it was the shadow of a world leader who, with his sad wife, descended to the ground floor…

“I wonder where this leads?” Beatrix said, only half-interested.

© Paul Trevor Nolan 2022

Beatrix may only be half-interested, but I hope you remain fully interested. Interested enough to visit again for Part 8!

PS The three-parter, mentioned in the intro,  is available to read or download in three separate PDF files right HERE.

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2 thoughts on “Surprise Visit (part 7): An Earplug Adventure”

  1. I’d compare it to sex,that did make me chuckle.I love your little introductions before the story..x

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