Jake was taken aback by the mountain of eggs in front of him. He knew that these were the lost citizens of the Fish Fry Civilisation with its remnants decaying on the back of Big Plaice. And somehow he knew that his story, the journey he was on, was linked to these eggs that Prune guarded and cared for.
Prune’s initial “oi!” attitude turned out to be short lived because the next moment she stood there smiling like an air stewardess or shop assistant, ready to help with any queries.
“May I help you?” she said in the sweetest voice. Something Jake had thought her incapable of doing.
“Erm, yes…” muttered Jake, “I was wondering what happens next.”
“Go around the eggs, and head straight to the back, you’ll find it there,” she replied in the same sweet tones.
Jake just followed her instructions. He didn’t question what she meant by “finding it”, not what it was nor whether he would like to find it or not. He just went ahead and did it. He and Orph went around the pile of eggs to see what was behind it. The cavern went on for a while and as Jake’s eyes adjusted a bit he saw a doorway at the back. He went up to it and saw a sign with a warning, or several:
Ne touchez pas.
Berühren Sie nicht.
Do I have to make it any plainer? There’s something through here that fingers shouldn’t go near! Understand? Ne comprendez-vous? ¿Me entiend… oh, bugger it. You either get it or you don’t!
Jake understood. He’d been not touching anything ever since he got here. He felt it was the one thing that had helped him survive here. But why, all of a sudden, did he have itchy fingers? And he was sure they were twitching a little too. Qué raro. C’était étrange… I mean, very wéird, ahem, weird.
They entered into a vast black place. He knew it was vast because when he said something it would echo back ten minutes later. Jake couldn’t see anything, though he had a very distinct feeling about where he should be going. Mainly because his fingers got more and more spasmodic the closer he got to “it”. He also had an increasing sense of dread.
Just ahead he saw something. Well he did really see it. It was more like that the object was even darker than the vast blackness around it. He could see the details in the lack of light, not its presence. It was a big brick ball, with a small window with bars at the front. And it was suspended in the water of the Infinite Fish Tank within Big Plaice. By this time Jake’s hands were flapping up and down as though an alarm had gone off.
Behind Jake Orph said, “Oh wait, I’ve got to go somewhere, you wait here and don’t touch anything and I’ll be right back, okay?”
“Yep, okay,” Jake replied distractedly, entranced by the thing he was sure was peering out at him from the window.
Orph disappeared into the blackness, leaving Jake on his own.
Jake wasn’t sure what to do know, except wait for Orph. Which was quite a while.
Jake was there for a very long time, and getting bored. His hands had stopped their itchy spasms, but with a strange feeling of just being dormant.
Several times Jake had walked around the big brick ball, sitting down, standing up, walking around. It must have been hours, or maybe days, when Jake decided to have a closer look at the brick ball. He’d got so bored he’d forgotten about the menacing presence in the ball. It was weird how he could un-see it details, how it was darker than the pitch darkness around it.
Idly he raised his hand towards a bit of chipped brick sticking out of the cement. It moved slightly and then something happened; the whole ball just disintegrated into dust. Jake felt a rush of wind as whatever was in it swept past and out and disappeared. The darkness seemed lighter, or rather the darker than pitch dark had returned to plain pitch black.
At that precise moment Jake heard ripples through the water and Orph’s voice, “So, what have I missed?”
Jake felt all of his blood drain from his body and a paralyzing panic started to sweep through him. What have I done? He thought.
“Uuuuugh!” Jake replied to Orph. “Neeee unffff guuuuuuur!!!” He reiterated.
“Oh,” Orph saw what had happened. “Oh dear, oh dear. Deary me. Deary deary dear. Oh deary me. That’s dreadful.” Orph explained unhelpfully.
“Unnnnng,” agreed Jake.
Orph’s eyes took on a steely resolve, “There’s only one thing to do…”
The box that had brought Jake to Imagi-nation appeared and Jake had that feeling of going through the Non-Zone again. The next moment they appeared in a large hall with a very big telescope lens jutting down from the roof.
“Welcome to the Astronomy planet Jake!” Said a pair of binoculars with Orph’s top hat. “ Now come on, we’ve no time to lose, we have to find what you released before something terrible happens.”