Secondary Phase - Episode Eleven
'But swans don't quack — that's why they're called mute swans.'
'No, it's not. Just like monks aren't called monks because they take an oath of silence.'
'To put it so that even you can understand — they're just very good at keeping quiet.'
'Oh. So it was a swan then?'
'For the hundredth time, yes, a swan. A big white feathery thing with an incredibly sharp beak. And I think we might have done something to upset it.'
Though this was put almost simply enough for Lluchmoor to understand, Pyro didn't dare venture further into the details of what had gone wrong, lest he be bombarded with inane questions for the rest of the afternoon. He decided to change the subject to rock cakes, which unfortunately led to a protracted discussion on befriending the swan via the use of baked goods, until Lluchmoor finally conceded that it was just an idea and not one to which he had committed any real thought. Though Pyro felt tempted to make another cynical comment about the general level of thought his brother was capable of, he opted for the quiet life instead.
Cedric had been rather shocked at first, which was understandable, considering the sheer size, noise and general ugliness of the thing which had just arrived next to him as he waited on a platform many miles from London. He was still feeling quite woozy and vulnerable and so the blast of warm air that came when the sliding doors opened encouraged him to hop onto the carriage, where he promptly fell asleep once more. Concepts such as northbound and southbound were generally alien to Cedric, who shared the wayfinding abilities of a pigeon just as much as he shared their love of pecking at dirt. He was soon back in North London, a place which some may consider best slept through, but one which Cedric knew to contain breadcrumbs. Unfortunately, he didn't wake until the train reached King's Cross, at which point the number of people crowding onto the train became a bit too much for him. He quickly hopped out of the carriage and onto a busy platform and ended up rushing through so quickly that he passed straight through the wall and onto a Circle line train crawling slowly along the neighbouring tracks. Overcome by the sudden wave of depression and misery that strikes most users of the Circle and Northern lines, Cedric decided it wasn't worth bothering any more and sat in the middle of the carriage to have a good mope.
Meanwhile, John and Emily were on their way back to their respective homes — or at least they would have been, if it were not for the complete lack of motion of the tube carriage in which they were standing. Nobody on the train actually seemed to care that much, as if they had already given up on life but couldn't find the necessary headroom to hang themselves inside this cramped little metal box. The train was just approaching King's Cross and had been for the last ten minutes, getting closer and closer without ever actually reaching its destination. John was just starting to think that Zeno had finally had his paradox proven when the whole assembly of tired-looking people was forced to lurch backwards as the train started to move once more.
It is at this point in the story that we begin to see what might happen next — the protagonists are getting pretty close to bumping into an invisible swan, which has so far been described as being Cedric without any due explanation. The reasoning is this: if they do not bump into the aforementioned swan now, then they never will. If they never do, then this will allow our mutual demonic friends as much time as they like to find Cedric. If this happens, a Mr Pyrodæmon would then be able to bring about the end of the universe, the effect of which would extend throughout time to remove the existence of all things past and present. However, this cannot have happened, as the swan, the protagonists and various other things, including a packet of jelly babies consisting entirely of yellow ones, still remain in existence. We must therefore conclude that we are sitting in a reality where John Pie somehow manages to escape the terminal depression of the Northern Line and then goes on to save the world. The important bit is not why, but how.
The 'how?' goes like this: the train finally gets to King's Cross St Pancras, a stop at which John would rather not disembark from the train. However, a loud quacking noise distracts him from his misery and John goes leaping out of the carriage like some sort of heroic lunatic. Ok, maybe the 'why?' is important too, but I don't have time to explain. Just carry on reading.
Just as Cedric was really getting into the swing of things, something very strange happened. As the train pulled past along the line and into King's Cross St Pancras tube station itself, a screeching noise began and didn't stop until everyone around Cedric had ended up in a rather untidy pile on the floor. Cedric hopped out through the closed door and onto the platform to see that the driver had parked the train rather messily, with half of it still sitting in the tunnel. Maybe it was just some sort of whimsy the driver had had, but Cedric didn't really mind — he decided he had been on enough of those funny metal things for one day, and fancied a change. Fortunately, the place he had ended up in had plenty of amusement on offer. He found hopping up and down the steps quite amusing and was quite in awe of them until he found a set that did the hopping for you — all he had to do was stand on them and they knew exactly what to do.
Before he knew it, Cedric was somewhere in the bowels of the station, surrounded by a complete lack of green grass and muddy water. Without warning, reality reared its ugly head — no grass, no water, no... breadcrumbs! What sort of hell was he in? Not being of the sort of species that copes with culture shock well, Cedric found himself all alone in a cold, dry place with no escape and did the only thing he could do. Flaunting his supposed muteness for the sixth time that week, Cedric began to quack like he had never quacked before. Suddenly everyone started staring straight at him, but that only made Cedric even more nervous. He even caught the attention of a nearby private detective who, in a very un-detective-like manner, decided to hurl himself out of a nearby train and started to sprint towards the source of the commotion as fast as his legs would allow.
John soon remembered how horrendously unfit he was as a stitch quickly formed somewhere in the vicinity of his spleen and started to travel towards the few fibres of abdominal muscle that hadn't yet become part of a fledgling beer belly. The pain soon became enough to slow him down and he would almost certainly have stopped were it not for the fact that Emily was now running alongside him in the same irritating manner as those offensively fit people who used to overtake John when he went for runs in the park. It was at this moment that John stopped looking in front of him and thus had at least two reasons for not noticing the invisible swan that acted as a brake for only one of his four limbs.