S07 NEMMACBETH*

Hi. My name’s James Rodger, but everybody except my mum and dad and Sherlock Holmes calls me Jam. A few weeks ago, I was just an ordinary boy, at school in a place called Milton Avon, near Edinburgh. Then I kind-of accidentally got a thing called an incorporator. It looks like a fat, dark grey e-book reader, but it can take me to any (old) story. Yes: I’m actually in the story, seeing the places, and meeting the people.

The incorporator was invented by a guy called Professor X. Unfortunately, crooks got hold of incorporators, and they go to stories, trying to spoil them, maybe by nobbling the hero. They’re called Wreckers.

Sherlock Holmes is chief of the Guradians, who try to stop the Wreckers. I wangled a job as a junior Guradian, mainly for children’s books.

Professor X’s detector noticed somebody visiting a book on Greek myths without permission. A guy called Narcissus had to look at his reflection in a pool in a river. Sherlock Holmes reckoned a Wrecker might try to stop him, so he sent me to guard him. I met Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, a large, loud-mouthed woman, who grabbed ny incorporator.

That put me in trouble, but things got worse. I kind-of trailed the Wreckers through a story called Emma, to arainstorm on the moor at the beginning of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.

I thought things couldn’t get more complicated when I landed there, with Nemesis, Narcissus, Mr Bumble from Oliver Twist, and a young woman Wrecker called Helen. The three witches arrived and took Narcissus away. Then Macbeth arrived, and didn’t fancy any of us.

 1

It was a weird place – hazy like a fog, but warm and dry, not cold and wet. The floor was hidden in the haze, but it felt solid under my sandals.

Sandals? That made me notice what I was wearing. A sleeveless brown tunic that reached to my knees, tied at the waist by a cord. And the sandals.

I couldn’t hang around, worrying about the place. I had a job to do. I walked forward cautiously. After a few steps, I saw a real reason to worry.

A woman, sitting on a white marble throne. She was wearing a billowy white gown, but I hardly noticed that, because I was looking at her face, which would’ve frightened a hungry lion. Her voice was loud, and not friendly. “Who – are you?”

“My name’s James Rodger… er, miss.”

“Why have you come here?”

“I… I’ve come to help you, miss.”

“Help me!” She gave a booming laugh. “Do you know who I am? I am Nemesis, Goddess of Revenge.”

“Pleased to meet you.” That was the biggest lie I’d ever told.

“I am an all-powerful goddess. You are a feeble mortal child. Yet you offer to help me.” There didn’t seem much to say about that, so I didn’t say it.

“Explain!” she thundered.

“Er… I’m a Guardian. I….”

“A Guardian? What do you guard?”

“I guard stories. There are people – we call them Wreckers – who go into stories, and try to spoil them. The Chief Guardian heard that Wreckers would try to damage this story, so he sent me to… to investigate.”

“I am not a story. I am a goddess.”

I couldn’t think of a tactful answer to that, so I didn’t speak.

She demanded, “How did you come here?”

“Sherlock Holmes, the Chief Guardian, sent me.”

“How did he send you?”

“We… we use an incorporator.” Reluctantly, I took mine from my pocket. It’s a dark grey box, like a small e-book reader, with two buttons in the end.

The display on the screen showed the story I was in:

Title: Greek Myths for Children
Author: Gerald R Formby
Edition: 2004
Page: 35 Echo and Narcissus.

Nemesis ordered, “Let me see that.”

I couldn’t refuse. I moved nearer, holding the incorporator so that she could see the screen.

“Give it to me.” She snatched it from my hand.

 2

“No!” I said. “I need that!” It was my only way of getting home to my own life. I tried to grab it back, but a swipe from her other hand sent me staggering. I said, “Please! Give it back.”

She scowled at the screen. “This says, ‘Echo and Narcissus’.”

“That’s right. Sherlock Holmes said that’s the part the Wreckers are trying to spoil.”

“What do you know of Narcissus?”

“Sherlock Holmes said he’s a young man. He hoped I might make friends with him, so that I could be near him, to guard him.”

She laughed again. “Narcissus only makes friends with attractive young women.” Then the frown came back. “Do you know what fate I have devised for Narcissus?”

“N…no. I didn’t have time to hear the details. Maybe that’s why the incorporator brought me here. So that you can give me the true facts.”

“I shall give you the true facts about Narcissus, child,” she said. “Narcissus is a handsome young man, and he knows it. Many girls have fallen in love with him, but he teased them all, and rejected them in an insulting manner. At first, his antics amused me, but the girls complained, and requested that I might teach him a lesson.”

“What did you do?” I asked, feeling sorry for Narcissus.

“Narcissus thinks that he is the most beautiful person in the world. He believes that no one else is beautiful enough for him. That gave me the idea. He shall look into the still waters of a pool. He will see his own reflection. He will be dazzled by its beauty. He will fall in love with it.”

“Do you… do you expect him to be glutinous enough to fall in love with his own reflection?”

“Do you question my plan, child?”

“No. No, of course not.”

“Since his love cannot be returned, Narcissus will pine away and die. Don’t you think that is a suitable punishment?”

“Er… yes. I’m sure it is.” It seemed a bit hard on Narcissus, but I wasn’t about to tell her so. “The Wreckers plan to spoil it.”

“They cannot do that.”

“They’ll try. They might take Narcissus away from the pool, or persuade him not to look into it.”

“They would not dare to spoil my plan.”

“Can you stop them?”

“Child, do you question my powers?”

“N…no. But it wouldn’t do any harm for me to watch Narcissus, and make sure he does look into that pool.”

She glowered at me without speaking.

I went on quickly, “You don’t want anything to spoil the punishment you’ve arranged for Narcissus.”

“No. It must go as I planned.”

“Then tell me where to find him. I’ll watch him. I’ll make sure the Wreckers don’t spoil your plan.”

“Yes!” She laughed again. “You will do that. You will guard Narcissus. You will make sure that he looks into that pool.”

“Yes. That’s why I came here.” I went forward, hand out for the incorporator.

“No, you don’t. I shall keep this.” She tucked the incorporator away, in the folds of her gown. “You will guard Narcissus. When you can come back here, and report to me that he has looked into the pool, I may return your device to you. If you fail, I shall enjoy devising a suitable punishment for you.”