The Thing and the Nameless Page
“What was that?” Willem-Alexander, the 10-minute-crowned King of the Netherlands, scanned the large state room.
His right-hand man, a strange-looking tall, thin Englishman called Nigel Barron-Smythe, followed his employer’s gaze. “Sorry your… Highness? I can’t see…”
“There! Over there!” the King pointed towards one of the gold and red embossed wallpapered walls.
“May I ask, sir, what I might be looking-”
“There! There! That thing! What is it?”
“Oh yes. I see… well, I don’t rightly know sir. Perhaps it’s a-”
“Spy sir? I highly doubt-”
“Someone catch it! Over there before it flies to the… you there! Shut the window!”
A page who no-one knew the name of and had almost nodded off during the ceremony which had taken place on the hottest day in the Netherlands’ history, leapt to his feet and bolted for the window. He’d not been able to see the ‘thing’ either but knew he had to do as he told or he’d follow the way of the last page who had missed fulfilling an order and had been turfed out with the recycling. Rumour has it that he’d had to put it out en-route but there had been no witnesses to confirm that, or none that would tell him. After he’d shut the window, he’d felt something buzz past his ear. He swung round to see the tiny flapping of wings and an electronic hum.
“Catch it!” he heard as he watched the ‘thing’ fly towards another open window so he bolted again and managed to get to the window before it reached it. Thwarted again it hovered and spun in circles looking for other exits. Using his initiative, the boy did the same and shut every other window.
The room’s gaze then loomed on the door, seconds before the thing spotted it.
“The door!” the King shouted and two sentries who had been chatting about which maid-in-waiting they’d get off with at the next door after-ceremony party, slammed the front door which such force that it made the 12-tier cake, the centrepiece of the festivities, wobble.
Encouraged by his earlier success, the page ran after the ‘thing’, remembering a bag of treats he had in his pockets for the King’s Smoushonds, he retrieved it, threw out the treats – oblivious to the resulting scurrying of claws along the newly-polished floor – and lunged at the ‘thing’, wrapping it expertly in the bag, twisting the top so it had no chance of escape.
His heart thumped as the object battled to get out. Eventually, the thrashing subsided and the page realised the only sound he could now hear was his heart thumping. He looked up, around the room, and realised that everyone was staring at him. He swallowed, then as the King beckoned him, the page stepped forward, slowly, head lowered, inching step by step.
“Bring it here!” the King boomed and the page quickened along the long old room.
So the page did as he was told, the bag bumping in his hands, a squeak escaping from it as he did so.
When he reached the King he stopped, held out his hands and bowed his head.
Not sure what to do now, knowing it would likely escape if he undid the bag, the King called on Barron-Smythe.
“I… er, don’t know sir. Perhaps if-”
“Anyone else?” the King boomed, looking around the room. His gaze stopped on a short red-faced man standing near to where the King had first spotted the ‘thing’.
“You!” the King shouted. “Step forward.”
The flushed-faced man looked to his left, right, then pointed to his chest.
“Yes, you! Step forward.”
The man did as he was told.
“You look familiar. What’s your name?”
“Herbert… Herbert what?”
“Herbert Wintergrund, sir… your Highness.”
“Sir is fine. Who are you?”
“I’m your Science Advisor, sir.”
“Oh yes, so you are. You look shifty, what’s the matter with you?”
“I… erm. That…” He looked over at the bag that the page was still holding.
“Yes. Go on! What about it?”
“It’s… I’m sorry, sir, but it’s mine.”
“Yours? Yours? What is it?”
“It’s a new type of robot, sir. A present from the Herschel Space Observatory. For you. They thought you might like one – it does all sorts of clever things – and…”
“I was going to put it with all your other presents next door but I was late arriving so I stuffed it into my pocket. The little blighter… sorry, your Highness. It escaped and well, went for the light.”
The man’s face was getting redder and redder, and the page wondered whether he might explode at any moment but then the King burst out laughing. He clapped his hands twice, whistled for his dogs, and announced that there was enough food next door to feed an army and that they might even play pass the parcel before the disco started.
Picture above courtesy of morguefile.com.
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