There’s a guy sitting on a park bench reading a newspaper.

He’s sat there every day this week, every morning – and all the mornings of the last week, too. He gets the same newspaper every day: the Mail, always the Mail. It has people who actually know their way around a three-column layout, and a letters page that isn’t too vitriolic. Let’s call him George: it’s short, sweet and much less frightening than his true name.

He lowers his paper to reveal a creased brow, lips pursed in thought. He places the half-read Mail on the bench beside him before proceeding to rummage through his pockets. When he finds the box of cigarettes, he slides one out with a small exhale of relief, placing it between his lips. A click of his fingers, and suddenly small flames dance round one of his fingertips. He lights the cigarette. Shaking his hand to extinguish it, he slides the box back into his coat pocket, unable to help feeling a little furtive. (Fiona will kill him if he comes home smelling like smoke. He swears he’s quit, but he knows full well she doesn’t believe him – she’s just waiting for proof.) He glances at his neglected paper.

He picks it up, resuming his reading.

A shout, a tinkling of glass and the sound of a car starting up. Something large, heavy-footed and smelling very much like wet dog runs past him. Absorbed in the news about the latest additions to the local leisure centre, he squints at the photograph, tilting his head to one side – well, they say a fifty-foot pool, and it certainly sounds impressive, but they’re probably doing that thing like with holiday brochures where they photograph everything to make it look bigger…

“Where did it go?”

He looks up from at the question, unable to hide his puzzlement. “Hm?”

Before him stands a young man who can’t be more than twenty – he has the lanky, slightly underfed look of youth about him – in a cheap grey suit. His hair is immaculate and Brylcreemed. “Y’know, about so high” – he holds one hand far above his head; the other is gripping three candles very tightly – “and kinda… eldritch? Tentacles?” The boy’s expression is beseeching.

George shakes his head. “Can’t help you. Sorry.”

Beside the boy stands a woman, her expression severe, her hair dark. Her beige trenchcoat and fedora seem to have escaped from a detective novel that George personally has never read, but would like to. “You’ve seen nothing whatsoever?” Astonishment and anger war in her voice for dominance.

He shrugs. “Nothing.”

She sighs, gives him a nod of thanks and then sets off at a run; the bell she’s holding jingles with her every step, the book under her arm slipping slightly. She catches before it can fall. Her sidekick follows her, his steps barely a moment behind her own.

George bemusedly watches them go. He realises he might’ve left the gas on, he’s not sure…

Fiona will murder him.


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