The gang of paint tins stopped outside a door and Blue knocked. Inside there was a bang, crash and a word that turned the air bluer than Blue the paint tin. No really, the air actually turned blue.
The door swung open and in walked Blue. “We have Jake to see you sir.”
“Righto, show him in.” Blue beckoned and Jake went in. The tins of paint stayed outside and the door shut behind him.
The room was rather dark, but Jake could see it was a workshop of some kind, with benches full of tools and equipment, and lots more tools hanging above the benches.
In one corner Jake could make out a little light of some kind moving around as whoever was inside was working. Jake could sort of see the man, and saw he was human, but there was something a bit weird.
“Take a seat me lad!”
Jake looked around for one, but wasn’t sure what was a seat and what wasn’t with all the clutter.
“Oh, sorry! I’m sure you can’t see a thing around, I’ll put some light on.”
At that moment Jake wished he hadn’t turned on the light, because at that moment Jake saw why the man, Dr. M. Orph, didn’t look all that normal.
You see, he was human, but it was how his body was arranged that made him otherwise. The torso was upside down and back to front, the head was at the bottom, or top, of the body, upside up, the arms were attached to the waist, or shoulders, with feet at their ends, and the legs were attached to the shoulders, or waist, with hands at the end of them. And to top it off was a top hat perched on the bottom (top???) of the torso. A curious top hat with a silvery star-shape on it, that mismatched the dirty overalls that somehow fit that body quite well.
Or something like that. Whatever the body looked like and however it was arranged was neither here nor there. What matters was that it was a bit, well, mixed up. And Jake’s eyes had never been so glued to an object.
“Yes, my body is rather, erm, eye catching, isn’t it?” Dr. M.Orph said through his bushy moustache. “Accident I’m afraid, I got too close to the Danger Zones and my body went a bit funny. To be honest this is the closest I have got back to my original form, I’ve looked worse. But we keep trying.”
Orph turned back to what he was doing at his desk; he had in hands a little golden disk with a spiral pattern on one side. He was fiddling around with some tool inside the disk for a little while. All of a sudden a flash lit up the room, almost blinding Jake. After that Jake saw that Orph has grown hair like an Afghan hound all over his jumbled body.
“That’s it, I’ve sorted out the kinks in this thing, it’s all yours. It’s called a PIPD, a Physiological Integrity Preservation Device. It’s to stop you changing shape!” said Orph handing the disk to Jake.
“You what?! Stop me changing shape? First of all I am not stupid enough to go into the Danger Zones and second of all I just saw what happened to you just now!”
“Well,” began a nonplussed Orph, “Firstly you are not going into the Danger Zones, that’s only for well travelled artists, you are going to be teleported to other stars in Imagi-Nation. Secondly, the reason for the extra hair is that I’d turn off the suppresser field in the PIPD, and thus its protectiveness. And thirdly your lack of imagination works the same way as a PIPD. But you Journney shall remedy that!
“I got you by one point! 3-2 to me, eh?”
Jake was taken aback. So aback in fact he hadn’t noticed Orph slipping the PIPD into his hand.
“Look in your hand Jake.”
Jake looked, and his expression went from confused to scared that the thing he held might bite his hand off. “Ah!” Jake was tempted to drop the thing, but what if it was like a grenade? What if he dropped it and everything, including him, changed shape? He froze completely, daren’t move at all! And Orph laughed.
Orph moved up to Jake. “So, are you ticklish?”
Bereft of movement the one significant thing that did happen was that Jake’s face went completely white.
“I see, so you are ticklish!” Orph scanned Jake’s body, weighing up his options
Orph started on Jake’s sides. Nothing. And the belly? Nothing. Neck? Nothing. Although Jake did make and interesting snorting sound. Arm pits?
To say yes would have been an understatement! Jake roared! The PIPD flew across the room and Jake flew right into the limbs of Orph. Orph cackled in a way that Jake’s pale face got some colour back, and then some.
Dropping Jake, Orph walked right over to where the PIPD landed and picked it up. He bounced it a few times on the ground like a rubber ball and then suddenly threw it to Jake, who caught it without thinking.
Jake uttered a word there and then. And the air turned blue when he said it.
“I’ve never heard that word before,” said Orph, “Nor seen that shade of blue!”
Jake shakily rose to his feet, making the air turn lots of different shades of blue. Shades of blue that are simply not suitable to share here.
“I think it’s time for a sit down and a nice cup of tea.” And Orph directed Jake to something that looked like a couch, sat him down and went to put the kettle on.
Jake sat staring at nothing. It wasn’t just the PIPD episode that got to him, it was the whole thing! Tins of paint and pieces of art walking around, talking horses, landscapes only describable in terms of music or story, teleporting box, duck ponds in Crawley! The PIPD was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.
He sipped at the tea that Orph had given him, and looked in. A little while ago he would have thrown it across the room, after all it’s not usual for the surface of tea to display a different picture between sips; a duck, a flower, a forest, a fish. But he instead of panic he didn’t feel anything. He was numb, after all this was nothing compared to other things he’d seen.
When Orph saw that Jake had relaxed somewhat he spoke, “It’s tough for you, I know, but mark my words, you’ll come out of this a better man.”
Jake shot him a look of disbelief and finished off his tea which finished with a picture of a monkey jumping from tree to tree.
“I think you ought to go to bed now, get some sleep before the Ceremony of Departure tomorrow. I’ll be there and afterwards we shall go together to our first destination.”
Jake’s eyelids were pulling down a bit, it was past his bedtime and he was never late for bed. He slumped on the sofa and drifted off to sleep, encountering a much needed rest.