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The Irish Tales

The Year We Ran Out of Fridays.(12)

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Expedition : Dawn, 11th March

Present : December, April, Tuesday.

Venue : The Pond

The path to the Pond is a grim place at the best of times. With a massive hangover and only an hour's sleep, it is truly awful.

Having said that, April seemed suspiciously cheerful, whilst Tuesday was her usual capable, self-contained self.

She had arrived at dawn, as promised and woke me from a drunken doze with a disapproving look and a cup of tea.

I dressed slowly, taking large sips, then walked into main apartment.
April was sat up, sipping from the brandy decanter and looking very sprightly - considering.
I glared at them both.
"Let's go."

After a while of stumbling through the semi-darkness of the tunnels, two things became apparent to me.
April's gaiety had subsided somewhat.
And the temperature below ground was considerably cooler than on our last visit.

For safeties sake, I had collared a Chronodog to lead us, not because I didn't know the way, but because I had a feeling he might come in useful. Oh, how right I was. For once.

And so we arrived at the Pond. It still foamed and raged, but not nearly so much as before. A frown disturbed my beautiful brow.

We three stood looking for a moment, then I glanced at April. He nodded, a half-smile lighting up his face.
"Time to go to work, Dec," he grinned. And with that, he began to strip off his clothes.

Tuesday looked away, out of decency and I moved closer to him.
"Remember - you have 15 minutes. That is all." I hesitated, confused by my feelings for once.

"Good luck, " I said lamely, unable to express quite what I felt. He nodded, took a deep breath, then dived into the Pond and was lost to sight immediately.

For a moment, we stared into the depths, trying to see something, anything, but the Pond held its secrets close.

After a while, I walked off and sat down on a rock, pondering things. And then I noticed something strange. The surface of the Pond had settled even more and was now barely moving.

Before I could point this out to Tuesday, she clutched my arm and pointed.
"D'you see ? The level." I followed her gaze and saw that the it was now on a par with GMT. And rising.

"Well, well," I murmured, then looked at my watch. Five minutes since April had dived in. Given it was a heart-clock, however, I checked Tuesday's, which only served to confirm mine. Another oddity.

We sat in silence for a while, me with my thoughts and Tuesday with hers. Something seemed wrong and yet at the same time, curiously right.

It made me uneasy, very uneasy.

I checked the watches again ; ten minutes gone and no sign of him. The surface of the Pond was now quite placid and a glance at the level showed it to be steadily increasing.

Even more worrying. I do not like things which I do not fully understand, which seem beyond my control. And these events fell slap bang into that category.

I checked the watches again; thirteen minutes gone. I lit a cigarette, ignoring Tuesday's disapproving look and stared at the Pond.
The Chronodog gave a discreet cough and pointed at the notice stating that "Smoking is absolutely forbidden here." I gave him my coldest stare until he shuffled his feet and looked away nervously.

It was now twenty minutes since April had dived in and I began to despair. There was no coming back from this for him, the physiological changes would, by now, be tearing him apart. And painfully.

What in all Time was happening, I wondered ? First Friday's death, then Cal's vanishing trick and now this. Not to mention March's mysterious "illness".
There would be hell to pay about all this, once higher authorities had been informed. I shuddered at how the Centurion would react to the news.

Then Tuesday touched my arm and nodded towards the surface of the Pond. Something was suddenly causing it to ripple and foam aggressively and it reminded me irresistibly of a deep-sea fisherman trying to land his shark.

And then April's head broke the surface, followed by a hand, flapping uselessly, before he sank beneath the surface again.

"Shit!" I started to undress, but the Chronodog beat me to it. Without even stopping to disrobe, he leapt into the Pond and for a moment, all we could see were his up-ended feet as he groped for April.

Then he broke the surface again, one arm around April's neck, the other paddling furiously towards the bank.

Between us, Tuesday and I managed to haul them ashore, me cursing furiously at the extraordinary weight of the Dog and April combined, Tuesday hanging onto my legs for dear life.

The Dog was bleeding badly, almost naked despite his short time in the Pond, with what looked like carpet burns on his arms and legs, but he would live. (The forces do not like artificial attachments of any kind and react with a ferocity that has to be seen to believed. As I had just done.)

April was shaking uncontrollably, his limbs thrashing about like an epileptic, his eyes starting out of his head. And there was something else, something deeply unpleasant.

The flesh on his whole body was expanding and contracting, as if something beneath it was desperately trying to break out.
And it seemed to me that I could see things racing about madly, impossible things, digital things, writhing and wriggling just under the surface.

I shook my head and got a grip.
"You - go and get some help." This to the Dog, who nodded and raced off down the tunnel.

"Woman - help me clothe him." For April was like ice to the touch and the rippling, pulsing flesh was horrific to the eye.
It was tricky, but somehow we managed to get some trousers on him and his cloak around his torso. Behind me, I could hear the thump of many Dogs' feet as they raced towards us.

And then he stopped shaking and sat up, fixing me with cold eyes.
"I found the leak," he said, somehow managing a wry grin, like the April we all knew and had disliked. Up until today.

"Never mind that now, " I replied, helping him to his feet. He grabbed my head and looked deep into my eyes.

"No. Listen to me. It's important. I found something else, as well."
He succumbed to a short burst of shaking, then shook his head and grinned broadly.

"I found Cal."


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