It's been a while coming.
The seal was a little distracted, did a little growing, tried new ways to tell his tale.
Always, there was this sacred place to return to in the end.
Down through the ice, into a universe where the flood below meets the flood from above.
Into this radiant haven where water and light combine; boundless blue and diamond-dashed.
Imagine this world. Feel this world. Believe in this world, although it doesn't exist at all...
Scout straightened his sackcloth and sobbed a little. Prostrating himself in the time-honoured manner, he began to crawl across the floor, hands behind his back, propelling himself only with his toes. Salty tears, plus a certain amount of thoracic friction, resulted in a prominent smear across several yards of dusty marble.
'Get up, you idiot'. The voice was that of Italic, impatient as ever. Scout raised himself onto his knees, eyes still fixed on the floor. He didn't dare to rise any further. Rules were rules.
'Yessir what, you cretin? Why have you come here again?'
Scout retched, and squinted through the darkness at the tear-stained tiles. Why had this happened to him? His one spoken word, when it finally came, was almost inaudible. 'Pinniped', he said.
There was a long silence. Any other answer, Scout knew, would have earned him a brutal kicking. But their mutual nemesis perturbed even Italic.
'We must summon Reith', came the eventual response. Italic sounded despondent, perhaps even resigned.
'Well, I must say this is nice', declared the Reith-wraith, deliberately planting his spectral brogues on the DG's desk. 'So what am I doing here this time?'
'A seal is endangering the Project', rasped Italic, acidly.
'Really?' Reith examined his phantom finger-nails. 'Acidly, eh? He's a bit heavy with his adverbs, isn't he?'
There was no reply except for Scout's whimpering, and so the manifestation continued. 'You realise, of course, that anything that your tormentor chooses to write will become true? Not true in the strictly pukka sense'...
He rapped his pipe on the polished oak as if to indicate something substantial. The dottle fell out and burned a hole in the carpet. Dottle.Reith nodded approvingly at the nemesis' vocabulary.
'... but true in the sense that reading it will conjure a picture, make things appear substantial in another's mind. That's a kind of reality, too, you know. Quite an important kind'.
There followed another whimper-interspersed silence.
'It's what the BBC used to do, in fact', chuckled Reith, and he winked, albeit transparently.
Italic was driven to speak, and his voice was colder than the ghost's. 'We have rules and standards. You cannot tell me that this disgusting little freak is right'.
'Apparently I can't, indeed'. The last employee to have clearly delineated between baby and bathwater smiled wanly at Italic. 'But, you see, he can spout things like that whenever he feels like it. He can belittle you. He can put words into your mouth. He can make you appear just as he chooses'. As if to illustrate the point, a few flecks of foam dribbled from Italic's tightly-pursed lips.
'We can get rid of him', snapped Italic. 'What's he done wrong? There must be something'.
Reith drew a sheet of yellowing vellum from a foolscap binder. Strains of 'Housewive's Choice' drifted in from somewhere in the distance, and reverberated from the panelling.
'I think he's probably trying to suggest that we're living in the past', Reith remarked. 'Ah, yes, here it is. He's had one f***ing'.
'I beg your pardon?' demanded Italic.
'One f***ing, except of course they bleeped out all but the first and last letters on that occasion. Other than that, he seems to have been a well-behaved Researcher. And a prolific one. And, dare I say it, a gifted one'.
'That doesn't count', hissed Italic. 'He just said that himself'.
'No', said Reith, firmly. 'I said it. And I don't think you'll rid yourself of this seal-character by these means. In fact, I think you're barking up the wrong tree altogether'.
'Meaning?' Italic was becoming distinctly impatient.
Reith rose from the desk and closed the heavy brocade curtains. 'Now, now', he admonished. 'Steady on, there's a good chap. We can't have him having you jump out of the window'.
A half-dozen more whimpers ensued. A vaguely-distressing odour began to emanate from Scout's general direction.
'Meaning?' The tone was now so menacing that the window gave a cautionary rattle.
'Meaning that you might be a little misguided in assuming that you're dealing with a seal. For one thing, seals of my experience have never written all that much. Moreover, almost no-one writes as much as Pinniped, not at the pitch he seems able to maintain, nor with such unremitting strangeness. He's all over the place, or haven't you noticed? Don't you think that there might actually be more than one Pinniped? Who's this Lion, for example? Do you think, perhaps, that you are dealing with a posse of writers? Do you think they might possibly be enjoying a little sport at your expense?'
'No. I think we're dealing with an annoying little saddo who's on a pathetic ego trip,' snarled Italic.
There was a splintering crash and Italic plunged three floors, entwined in curtains. Scout emitted a drawn-out whine, and began to smell even worse. Reith shrugged, extracted a bottle of scotch from the DG's filing cabinet, and used it to douse the still-smouldering carpet.
'Before I disappear', he announced to his surroundings, 'I'd just like to say that your stuff's not bad. Not good enough, not yet, but it shows promise. You'll know when the time comes, when you're ready to leave these jobsworths behind. Until then, keep it up; one or all of you'.
There was a flash as Reith vanished. There was another as the sleek creature plunged into the luminous water and shot away, lithe and free.