Unable to damn the flood of panic that had broken forth, they ran from the baying cries and the anomaly that hung from the sky.
Humphrey stared at his sentence.
At some point, it had leapt from his brain to the page and landed as a scribble. Flecks of ink dotted the surrounding page in testament. Humphrey re-wrote the words below a network of heavily lined sentences: his attempts at continuation. He wrote neatly and willed each word that left him to replenish his work with meaning.
Luckily for Humphrey and his vitamin intake, he lived in a time before Facebook made procrastination so possible. Instead, he peeled fruit. Taking little heed of the ink that stained his fingers, the writer stripped his last banana and ate around its bruises. Inadvertently, he read his composition a further thirteen times during the process. By the time he’d flung the peel at the floor to lie starfished with its fallen brethren, he’d accepted that the re-writing process hadn’t worked.
Recently, he’d formulated a theory that self-constructed words have a shelf life. The more they were read, the staler they became. Concerned his words were in danger of rotting, Humphrey wriggled his toes, flexed his fingers and pushed at his desk in order to escape its manacles. He stepped through the debris of a flat consumed by darkness, banana skins and discarded garments, and like a new-born fawn learning to walk, lurched into the daylight concealed behind his front door. He paid little heed to his direction, conscious only of his need to escape the gloom and the words that spun on repeat through his mind.
Sometime after he’d recovered full control of his motor skills, Humphrey noticed Babbage’s Lost and Found Shop. It was curious that he did, or rather, curious that he hadn’t before. Weekly he walked this road and not once had he noticed the gleam of Babbage’s chandeliers. He was especially puzzled by the Roman Empire artefacts and the shrunken heads that hung from the window; surely they stood out on a street that specialised in vegetables?
As a boy Humphrey had collected butterflies. A childhood of relocations however, had resulted in his collection becoming lost. Consequently, when he spotted a Darwinian set colouring the shop front, he willingly tarnished his reputation as an aloof writer by running with a squawk into the shop.
A sky light allowed luminous shards to bounce between the collection of medieval shields that hung from the ceiling. Fragments of coloured glass sucked in the light as it passed and fractured it into oil slicks of colour. Emerald greens, crimson reds and royal blues drifted through the air like portals to other worlds whilst dust particles floated in between as if in currents on unseen seas.
Humphrey however, failed to appreciate the intricacies of Babbage’s lightning arrangements. He’d also devoted very little attention to the crystal balls, medicine bottles, Shakespearean busts, recipe books, pressed flowers, ancient bookcases, stuffed jays, sundials, greying silver brooches and dinosaur skeletons that consumed what was once the room’s surfaces. It would be unrealistic therefore to expect him to have noted the men and woman who, like the light, were being sucked into the room. His attention you see was entirely pinned by the butterflies. Boyhood memories fluttered through his minds windows and dragged with them, the inspiration of his youth.
His brain fizzed as if someone had dissolved a Berroca in it. The plot twists, character traits and dialogue that had earlier eluded him now hovered in perfect literary alignment at his minds forefront.
‘Good afternoon sir. Are you here for the two o’clock tour?’ Mr Babbage said, not expecting a response. He’d learnt to recognise the symptoms of what he termed “the writing trance”; a state of mind that regularly ensnared his visitors in a creative frenzy. Early symptoms included; frantic eyes, restless hand movements, lack of motion and an inability to communicate with the outside world. This gentleman was exhibiting all of then.
’A no, then,’ Mr Babbage said to himself. He steered the writer, whose hands traced the air as if it were paper, onto a Chaise Lounge at the front of the shop. The tourists who defied the enchantments of his shop, loved it when there was a new exhibit.
He had been alarmed twenty-four years ago when Miss Maple fell into a trance in front of the silverware. Equally bewildered where the doctors, police, fire brigade and hypnotist, none of whom were able to establish communications with the woman who only moved her hands. Eventually falling back on his sleepwalking research, a specialist ordered no more attempts to be made at waking her. Mr Babbage, recognising the hand motions as being those of a writer, had been providing her with the pens and paper, which for nearly a quarter of a century, she’d transformed into bestsellers. In return she became his first live exhibit.
Twenty-four years later and Mr Babbage had installed twenty-four tubes into his shop which allowed him to feed his enchanted writers. Some writers he’d left where they were found; on top of bookcases, under pianos or in suits of armour, others were relocated as and when they needed sunlight (or haircuts). Through his public tours of the live literary exhibits, Mr Babbage had raised thousands of pounds for The National Literacy Trust. Hundreds of formerly disadvantaged groups had been helped to improve their literacy and lives through the writing produced by Mr Babbage’s lost and found writers.
Humphrey was the perfect new addition.
Tomorrow myself and a team of writing mentors will enter Babbage’s Lost and Found shop and collectively begin to write for 24 hours. We won’t let our pencils rest till 12pm on Wednesday the 26th because as many as 1 in 6 in the UK struggles with poor literacy skills. Please help me support the work of The National Literacy Trust http://www.justgiving.com/writingmentor