S10. 5, 80 AND IT*

0

My name is James Rodger, but everybody calls me Jam, except my mum and dad – and Sherlock Holmes. A few months ago, I got an incorporator. It looks like a small e-book reader, and it can take you into any (old) book. You actually go to the places in the story, and meet the people.

Going to stories can spoil them, eg by injuring the hero. Some characters – called Wreckers – do that deliberately. So Professor X, who invented the incorporator, asked some people to be Guardians, to stop the Wreckers. Sherlock Holmes is the Chief Guardian.

Not knowing all that, I used the incorporator to visit some stories – and soon had Sherlock Holmes on my trail, determined to eliminate me. I got in real trouble, but sneaked out of it, and wangled a job as a Guardian, especially for children’s stories.

I was allowed to keep the incorporator, but ordered not to use it without permission. Sometimes I was tempted….

 

1

I’d set my incorporator for:
Title: Robinson Crusoe
Author: Daniel Defoe
Edition: 2000
Page: 117

In the end of the incorporator were two buttons – Select and Go. I put my finger on Go. If I pressed that, the incorporator would take me to that place in Robinson Crusoe.

Should I? No: I shouldn’t, really. If Sherlock Holmes found out, he’d be furious. He might even take the incorporator from me.

But… it was a cold winter evening in Scotland. Behind the curtains, the rain battered off my bedroom window. It would be sky-high on the beach under the warm sun of Robinson Crusoe’s island. It wouldn’t do any harm, and it should be safe. I’d done it once before, and nobody had known. Should I do it?

Another squall of rain hit the window. That settled it. I pressed Go.

 

2

In an instant, I was standing under the trees at the edge of a tropical forest, looking out over a huge beach of cream-coloured sand, under a blue sky. The pale blue sea swished at the bottom of the beach. Parrots – green, with splashes of red, yellow and blue – fluttered and squawked in the trees.

The incorporator had given me the usual gear for this story – open jacket and knee-length breeches of a muddy brown colour. Shirt of a paler muddy brown colour. Heavy black shoes. The breeches had the usual deep pocket. My first job was to set the incorporator for the ‘story’ that would take me home, and put it safely in that pocket.

I didn’t go out onto that beach. It should be safe: I’d chosen a place in the story when Robinson Crusoe went to another part of the island. But that beach was so big that I’d be seen for miles. I’d found a small beach between tree-covered headlands. I felt safer there.

I set off, through the edge of the trees. In ten minutes, I’d be on that beach. I’d paddle in the soft, warm water. I might even swim. Then I’d lie on the warm sand. That would be….

I stopped. A small stream came through the trees, over a narrow tongue of wet sand. Crossing that sand was a line of footprints – of shoes. Not Robinson Crusoe’s: he wore home-made things like fur slippers, which gave fuzzy prints. These ones had sharp edges.

They might’ve been made by my shoes – except that, on my other visit, I’d gone round that patch of sand, so that I wouldn’t leave footprints.

Somebody else had been here, not long ago. Somebody who shouldn’t be here. A Wrecker!

I ought to report to Sherlock Holmes, so that he could send somebody to investigate. But then I’d have to admit I’d been to Robinson Crusoe without permission. I persuaded myself to have a quick look round.

Going round the tongue of sand, I crept on, even more carefully. My left hand was in my pocket, holding the incorporator, with my finger on Go. But everything seemed quiet: only the parrots disturbed the peace of the island.

I sneaked on, until I could peep round a bush at my beach. It looked the same as usual – the pale sand sloping gently down to the blue water, with the bright green forest on each side. But, lying on the sand, about where I would’ve gone, was a woman.