Tarquin climbed climbingly into the cockpit of the glider and flicked a salute at the two of them.
"Let's go then," he called, his voice shaking with nerves and a mouthful of bilberry jelly.
"Are you sure he's safe?"
"I don't know..."
"But why don't you know?"
"Because you designed and built the glider and the launcher, not me. How should I know if it will work?" Cecily told him, sharply.
"Fair point," conceded Josiah.
"Wait for me, Cecily..." called Tarquin as Josiah strode across to the lever which would release the glider.
"It's just a test flight, he won't go far," Josiah told her, tugging confidently at the lever.
But the tamperer had tampered expertly and had adjusted the launcher to propel the glider much further than anticipated. The glider accelerated rapidly, with only the sound of Wilhelm's terrified snivelling left behind. Tarquin flew high over the nearby meadow full of frolicking see-saws, over the stadium and onwards towards the horizon.
Cecily put her hands to her mouth, apparently in shock and dismay. Actually, she was just smuggling a sherbet lemon in her own mouth; she didn't want to offer one to Josiah. They watched in silence until the little dot became, well a different sized little dot. Then it became a little dot until at last, with one final moment of being the smallest little dot it had been thus far, it disappeared. Somewhere else, it doesn't matter where, it was now a small dot but it was getting bigger. Cosmic, huh?
"Well, on the plus side it worked," Josiah said.
"He's lost, he's lost forever!" sobbed Cecily. "You said it would only be a little flight!"
"I don't understand what happened," Josiah muttered, prodding at the smoking launcher with a toe. Then he remembered his mother's advice about picking body parts off the floor and threw the toe away.
"He flew too far and now we can't see him anymore!" Cecily yelled.
A look of happiness and relief crossed Josiah's face as he now understood what had happened.
Cecily broke into uncontrollable sobs. Then, by way of contrast, she attempted some controllable sobbing, some mildly hysterical whimpering, a bit of scarcely restrained howling before finally settling for some errant sniffing. In her heart she realised that she had developed feelings for Tarquin. His face was etched onto her heart. And her liver. Not forgetting the kidneys.
Suddenly, angry thoughts crossed her mind.
"You!" she hissed. "You did this on purpose!"
"Don't bring me into this," replied the passing mime.
"If you're a mime, how come you're talking?" she asked.
He countered "If you know I am a mime, how come you're listening to me?"
There was a tension in the air for a moment but it didn’t last long. A team of masseurs rushed into the field by the creek. Their skillful fingers caressed the air, working, soothing, undoing the knots and stress. Relief soon showed in the atmosphere. It had been a hard, stressful day for the air; its troubles had now melted away. The masseurs melted away too. Their erstwhile client, the air, decided to go and get a seaweed wrap. Some fresher air filled the vacuum with a commendable sense of duty and, feeling somewhat superfluous, the mime disappeared as well.
“Actually, I am beginning to think that you did it on purpose,” Cecily told Josiah bitterly.
“Why would I do that? “ he asked, affronted.
“I don’t know,” his housekeeper chanted, ”How about a little thing I call jealousy? “
Josiah turned pale, Cecily had hit a nerve. Using a book all about anatomy, he found out which one it was. The optic nerve. He nodded in appreciation-it had been a heck of a shot. But now he was left with a problem. Cecily suspected that he was doing all this on purpose and he could not deny his jealousy. He searched his soul for an answer but it was no good. It was but the work of a moment to phone his friend Nora but, despite her extensive search down the back of her sofa, she found no solution either. That was all his ideas spent.
He looked steadily at her, deciding that the truth was the best approach.
“I had nothing to do with how far Tarquin has flown,” he declared. “Something went horribly wrong. I am as upset as you are. “
“You didn’t lose someone you cared about! “ Cecily protested.
“And what about Wilhelm? “ he asked, his voice choking with emotion, “Who else will know how he likes his prunes?”
Suddenly, she seemed weary. It was just a little something that he intuitively picked up from her snoring; Josiah could be sensitive when required. Creeping, he slipped away and left her sleeping peacefully, sure that if nothing else she would be comfortable under the stars and above the soft turf. He dragged the launcher along, reflecting on the previous events, wondering how it had all turned out like it had. It was a frustrating and slow walk as the many elasticated ropes, chains and the brand seemed to be purposefully snagging themselves in the thick bushes and brambles.
Finally, he was back on the streets and walking along the pavements. Everywhere, curtains twitched and half-seen faces melted away from his glance like rabbits from a poorly toasted marshmallow. That all changed when Mr Henderson called him back just after he had passed the much gossiped about house.
“I say, is that a brand?” Mr Henderson, eyeing up the hefty frame.
Josiah admitted that it was.
“Are you, er, planning to use it for anything. The whole contraption, I mean,” the neighbor continued, looking flustered.
“Not really,” Josiah admitted.
“Do you think I could have it?”
Glad to see the back of it, Josiah passed it over and began to walk back home. He felt lighter, better, without the wretched frame. It had caused a chasm between him and Cecily and he regretted its very existence. He let himself in and slumped upside down in his armchair, a defeated man.
You find yourself in a treasure room. A chest full of coins is open before you.
If you take the coins, turn to page 86.
If you leave the coins, butter a freshly-toasted crumpet. Leave it somewhere concealed so it will go off and smell. Then turn to page 23.
If you choose to leave the spacecraft, you are reading the book really badly. Pay Attention!