Tuesday, 16 February 2010


This is not a story set in our world, it is set in a world much similar to our own, but different in two important respects. Firstly, it may refer to things that exist in our world but only to the extent that allows me to make fun of them, but not to the extant that they can sue me for this. Secondly it is much, much sillier. Things exist there that are unlikely to happen in the near future in our world. For example, Brussels Sprouts actually taste nice, politicians tell the truth, and most shockingly of all the extra channels you get on freeview aren’t full of programmes you saw half an hour ago. However peculiar and alien this seems, it is worth remembering that everything in the following story is entirely factual, entirely factual that is, apart from the bits that have been made up.

Adept readers may note that Ye Olde Detective Agency abbreviates to Y.O.D.A. Of course, this has nothing to do with the character from a famous sci-fi film, its just a cheap stunt to try and get more people to read this. Obviously this is likely to fail as any intelligent readers will notice this almost immediately. But I digress… hopefully you’ve either been intrigued or I haven’t insulted you too much and either way you’re going to read this.


The castle sat on a small rise in the middle of the valley floor. It was quite noticeable, and if you’d asked any of the locals for directions they’d say, “Aye!” in a rather deep and booming voice if they were male, “the castle’s first right a’ter McGregor’s farm.” But it didn’t seem to figure at all in terms of Avysmere’s attractions. You’d probably get told about the ghost in the church (in reality a white cloth with an electric fan blowing it about), the fine Edwardian cobbled streets (quite why anyone would use cobbles after tarmac was invented wasn’t really discussed), and Jimmy McGregor’s five eyed fish (three of the eyes were fake, apparently he’d just sown them on for the extra tourist trade) he supposedly caught down in the local loch. Everything but the castle would be mentioned, it’d ruin the quaint Scottish village look.
Thus it wasn’t too difficult for Hans to find the castle. In fact it really shouldn’t have been a problem, but Daniel, the estate agent who’d originally looked at the property, had forgotten the way back. Hence the journey had been filled with several interesting detours, such as nearly driving off the end of the loch’s single pier, driving the wrong way through the village’s one way system and Daniel’s constant belief that driving through a herd of sheep meant you were taking a shortcut.
Hans was, of course, sat in passenger seat throughout this, fearing for his life. He’d observed that the car was one of those typical businessmen cars; a grossly oversized saloon in a murky maroon/brown colour that any sane person would vomit at the sight of and that was without the muddy splatter on the car after their earlier escapades. He’d also hung one of those pathetic supposedly pine–scented trees on his rear view mirror, in which Hans could see the ‘My Other Car Is a Ferrari Too’ sticker. Presumably Daniel hadn’t realised that you were meant to put that sticker in a Ferrari. ‘Oh well,’ supposed Hans, ‘just because the guy has taste in buildings doesn’t necessarily means it extends to anything else.’
Hans was so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn’t realise they’d arrived at the castle until the car came to a halt in the centre of the gravel courtyard. The castle was more of a keep than the traditional motte and bailey design. The outer wall formed a square with all the buildings on the inside. The gatehouse on one side, a large building extending out of the opposite one with two smaller buildings protruded out of the other walls.
Both men clambered out of the car, stood up, and began taking in the immensity of it all. “Welcome, welcome, welcome, to your new home, Hans,” said Daniel, in his camp Canadian accent. Hans wasn’t listening though, he was scanning the courtyard. The medium built man, with the crew cut standing at the other side of the car knew what he was looking for, though, as Hans had spent several hours stressing the importance of it not being damaged in transit. “Your bike’s in the garage in that building there,” he said pointing behind Hans. He personally preferred his car, it was more spacious and comfortable, but he didn’t like the colour. However, all the other estate agents in the country had that colour, so he guessed it must be a sign of the trade. He had considered getting a nicer colour to symbolise his status as more of a relocation expert than just an average estate agent, but he had his motto for foreign lands. ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’
Hans knew where his priorities lay, his bike, his pride and joy. As soon as he heard where it was, he began heading in the direction Daniel had indicated, wanting to be re-united with it. He was unfortunately curtailed by shouting from the opposite side of the courtyard. Hans turned around and began walking back towards the car, spotting a thin man of medium height, wearing a mud stained tartan over-shirt and brown corduroy.
Hans walked back towards the man. They met; the man stroked his ginger-grey beard carefully, and then offered his hand. “Hans, this is Mervin, the groundskeeper,” said Daniel. “Well, look at the time, I’d better dash,” Daniel said as he hurriedly went to get in the car.
The vehicle spend of backwards as Mervin scowled and shouted, “An’ about time too! Aye, I’m glad to be making your acquaintance, sonny. This way, I’ll show yeh around then,” he said, pointing to a doorway in the large building opposite the gatehouse. “Yeh don’t mind me asking just one question though.”
“You just did, didn’t you?” replied Hans following Mervin to the door.
“Well I just wanna know why yeh sent me a crate of lard?”
“I don’t know, Daniel mentioned you seemed pretty keen on lard, you kept dropping it in conversation quite a bit, he even said you blessed it! I just thought it would be a nice gift!”
Mervin was furious. “Pretentious git!” he said spitefully as he clenched his fist, “All his bloody yeh canne speak yeh own accent, yeh’ve gotta speak proper English and all thaa twaddle. Poking and probing round the place, picking faults with every little last thing. He should talk, he canne tell the difference between Lord and lard, grr!”
Hans decided it would be best to remain silent for a little while.

Welcome to Avysmere Castle

The castle, well, looked quite castle like to be honest, which wasn’t much of a surprise. All the walls, floors and such were made out of stone, and the doors were of the big oaken, almost impossible to move, creaking variety. Some improvements had been made, though, for a start it was heated, and there was electricity in it too. Hans liked what he was seeing.
The tour quickly swept through the kitchens, great hall, bedrooms, hallways, scientific laboratories (quite why they were here confused Hans, but then so had the rest of what he’d seen today) and libraries. It was all done at quite a pace, so it rather surprised Hans when Mervin came to an abrupt stop outside one particular door. He turned to look at Hans with a face that reeked of seriousness, and warned, “You’d do well to cover yeh eyes, laddie.”
Hans didn’t bother he’d seen some pretty odd stuff around the place; it wasn’t exactly like one more room was going to hurt him. Even so, Hans drew breath as Mervin opened the door with a long droning creak.

It was worse than Hans could imagine. The chapel (if indeed it was supposed to be one, Hans thought it looked quite chapel like, the large crucifix was a bit of a giveaway) was a certain nauseating shade of bright pink, with orange splatterings here and there. And he didn’t dare focus on any of the furniture long enough to see what had been done to them.
“I take it yeh want me to sort out that mess then,” said Mervin.
“Of course,” replied Hans, “how on Earth did it get that awful?”
“The previous owner was part of some crazy religious group,” Mervin answered in disgust. Then raising his voice added, “’N’ look what he did to such a special place, it’s a disgrace!”
Feeling scared, Hans nodded in agreement as Mervin led him back the way they’d come and on through several more passage ways. He’d been saving the best part of the tour ‘til last, because this guy deserved it. He wasn’t some pompous, beer-bellied, crazy religious cult, lottery winning millionaire, he seemed to just be an ordinary bloke, admittedly not the sharpest knife in the draw, but not some dysfunctional electric chopping device that only ever seems to manage to chop into you rather than anything else. Yes, this guy was a vast improvement.
As he reached the door at the end of the corridor, he opened it slowly (more because it was slightly stuck, rather than for dramatic effect) and with a look of pride announced, “The Garden.”
They strode out into the lush green space; gravel paths stretched this way and that in front of them. Above on iron sconces extending from the walls hung candles, illuminating the ground below. They walked to the centre of the garden where yet another large candle stood proud atop a pedestal.
“So,” said Mervin, taking a long pause for effect before continuing, “Whaa do yeh think o’ my garden?”
“Well,” said Hans, trying to buy time so that he didn’t say anything stupid like usual. “It’s err... very nice and err... colourful, yeah,” he bumbled. “You’ve got this kind of sweeping effect,” he added as he waved his arm to demonstrate, smashing straight into the pedestal.
At this point three things happened. The first was that Hans arm caught fire and he began flailing around like, well, someone with their arm on fire. The second was that the pedestal fell to the floor, also setting fire to the plants around it. Thirdly, and rather less significantly, in a nearby city, a drunk, unshaven man stumbled across of 48 bottles of beer, and decided that if he was conservative they might just last him two days.

Mervin had seen the disaster unfold in front of him, he knew he had to act quickly, and so he reached into his pocket, pulled out something that looked drumstick shaped, and waved it in a circle in front of him, shouting “Brie and Camembert Sandwich!”
The rain began falling heavily immediately, taking little time to both put out the fires and soak the two men in the garden. Hans carried on smashing his arm against the floor for a minute or so before realising it was no longer on fire. He stood up straight, and then began to run to the castle for shelter from the rain, but after only a few steps he stopped. There was no rain here, yet just a few metres away, Mervin was still being drenched by it, something clearly wasn’t right. He stretched out his hand to make sure he wasn’t hallucinating, and yes, particles of water did bombard his hand. He stopped to think about this and failed to notice Mervin cross his arms before his body and shout, “Cease!”
Thus it rather startled Hans when it stopped raining before his eyes. What startled him even more was that Mervin was pointing a stick at him.
Hans dived for cover; there was something unsettling about someone you barely knew pointing at you.
“Eliminate,” shouted Mervin.
In mid air Hans was shocked to discover that all his clothing had suddenly become dry, but seconds later when he hit the floor, it went back to that damp feel again. He pulled himself to his feet, feeling like a bit of an idiot, and dusted himself off. Quite why he did this he wasn’t sure, as it didn’t serve any kind of purpose; you can’t exactly dust off water, what with it being a liquid.
“Sos... I guess I’ll stay put this time then,” said Hans apologetically.
Mervin grunted, then pointed what Hans had now realised was his wand at him and shouted, “Eliminate!”
This time Hans remained dry, so he turned himself to the other inconvenience from the fire accident. He grabbed his arm, and for failure of being able to think of any other words that would grab Mervin’s attention, said, “Erm.”
“Yes, well we’re just about to go to a library to look up the words for that,” answered Mervin hurriedly, reading his mind.
“Oh,” replied Hans. Feeling vaguely powerless and bewildered as to what was happening he resorted to the regular human practice of following the person who looks like they know what they’re doing. It couldn’t get much worse, he thought to himself.

Into the Library

The situation didn’t. More out of a want not to be clichéd than any kind of realism considering that a character like Hans is around. Instead it decided to be boring and let them get to the nearest library and prayed something interesting would happen there.
Mervin rushed into the room, towards the furthest of the four book lined walls. The shelves stretched from floor to ceiling and had one of those sliding ladders that you get the urge to race around the room on whenever you see them. In the middle was a small table, upon which Hans decided to sit unmajesticaly.
Hans sat there wondering why it looked the same as the three other libraries he’d been shown earlier today. Not just similar but physically alike. The main features of the room obviously, but there was the same notepad next to him on the table, the same oversized book hanging precariously out of the top shelf, and a random garden gnome on a lower shelf for no particular reason. Finally he plucked up the courage to ask Mervin.
“It’s a magic door, all the libraries basically exist, but in different places at different times, and they move about to where you want them to be,” answered Mervin.
“How does that work then?” asked Hans
“Yeh’re telling me you don’t know something as simple as that?” replied Mervin
“No, I don’t.”
“But everyone knows that!”
“Well I don’t, so just tell me,” said Hans getting a little wound up.
“But it’s so obvious!”
Hans realised what was going on. “You don’t know, do you?”
“Ah,” said Hans. Deciding that it might be worth his while to try out this door, he was going to be here for a bit. He walked over and stared at it. It certainly didn’t look magical; in fact it looked pretty similar to every other heavy oak door in the castle. Oh well don’t judge a book by its cover he thought as he began to play with the handle expectantly.
Nothing happened, so he decided to run his finger around the edge of the frame, nothing there either. He even began to start undoing the hinges before Mervin spotted him.
“What on earth do you think yeh’re doing?” he bellowed. “Yeh need to use the light switch to get it to work,” he added, tutting. Muttering about bloody southerners he carried on scouring the shelves. He muttered the names of each one, moving meticulously across the shelves. As he glanced over his shoulder, he saw Hans looking astounded by the view in front of him changing from first floor to third. “Aye, said to yeh it’d do that,” said Mervin, though privately thinking what on earth he expected to see. It wasn’t as if it was going to take him to some weird and wonderful alien world, it was just a simple magic door after all.
Mervin eventually found the book he wanted, which had been wedged into the last place he looked in the manner of anything you are ever desperately searching for. He set it down gently on the table and dusted it down. Flicking through it he found the page he wanted and began addressing Hans. However after a quick glance up from his scanning of the page he realised he had a huge problem. Hans had gone.

The Cure

It hadn’t taken Mervin long to work out where Hans had gone. He simply had to imagine he had the intelligence of a senile goldfish, the curiosity of a small child and had no understanding of magic whatsoever. Perhaps, not so simple after all, but Mervin knew Hans had just found out how the magic door worked on one side, so he’d probably tried the other. It didn’t take too long to find Hans, and when he did, Mervin began a long and particularly loud shouting session. Admittedly, this was mostly due to Mervin wishing Hans hadn’t brought that annoying Canadian along with him, not that he’d messed around with complex magic technology, but it felt good to finally relieve that anger.
There was a more serious reason to be yelling at Hans apart from the therapeutic ones. The castle has thirteen separate libraries that technically exist, but only the physical space for four of them, so that most of them exist in some limbo like state. As you may have by now guessed, Mervin decided to stop shouting and speak very slowly to try and help get the message across, it didn’t help. He tried to explain that anyone stuck there would not physically exist. Not physically existing is rather a traumatic experience for a human, especially when you get an itch on a neck that doesn’t exist. Some cases have been reported where people have been stuck in there for days, however most last for a few hours which is still enough time to drive most people completely mad. So it wouldn’t probably do Hans any harm anyway.
Mervin decided the best thing to do in this situation was probably to ignore the author’s rants and get on with the story. He sat Hans down and prepared to cast the spell. He took out his wand, outstretched Hans’ arm and rubbed the wand over the burns. To say this hurt Hans would be an understatement, but just before Hans was about to snap and hit Mervin, he shouted, “Flamenco deus.” The spell began rejuvenating Hans’ damaged cells immediately, the healing sweeping up his arm like a Mexican wave of skin.
“Whoa!” yelled as he jumped back, half in awe, half in fear at the wriggling of his skin. The pain had gone, so had the black burnt skin, if it was someone else you could have said it was back to normal.
Hans was more than impressed, he stood there for what someone with no sense of time would call aeons with his mouth gaping wide open like an imbecile. Mervin looked back at him, scanning up and down, searching in vain for some magical side-effect explanation for the behaviour he saw in front of him. Seeing nothing, he asked Hans if he was alright.
With all the excitement of a giddy school kid, Hans sprung to life. “How did you do that?” he asked Mervin.
“Well I used magic, dinna,” said Mervin, wondering how Hans managed to be rich enough to buy this place, but still dumb enough to not spot the obvious.
“I know that,” said Hans, “it’s just, well, how?”
“Well, it’s got a lot to do with other dimensions, micro-particles and a hell of a lot of other science mumbo-jumbo?”
“You do know you’re rubbish at making stuff up when you don’t know what on Earth you’re on about!” exclaimed Hans.
“Well, yeah,” said Mervin. He could see that he’d have to explain this in some explicit way that Hans could actually understand. “When you were at school did you get really excited in science class when you dissected the pig’s eyeball, but then proceeded to just chop it to tiny little pieces without listening to why you were supposed to be doing it?”
“Erm… no.”
“Oh, just me then; well you get the point anyway.”
“That you’re more of a practical man.”
“Just a little,” Mervin retorted sarcastically.
“Oh,” said Hans. “Can you please teach, me, please?” he added sounding like a small hyperactive child.

The Magic Moose Room

“We’re here,” announced Mervin as he reached the end of the corridor.
Hans looked around himself; all of the stone walls surrounding them were bare, except for a solitary flickering candlestick affixed to the wall before them. He began to wonder if the old man was going senile when he reached up and pulled the candlestick down.
The next minute Mervin was gone. The wall had spun around in an instant, leaving him facing an extinguished candlestick now.
Hans grabbed it almost immediately, the pull of inquisitiveness dragging him onwards where common sense would have told him to cry out for help.
The room he emerged into was covered various painting of moose. He gazed past Mervin around the room, seeing that every wall was littered with those images, and they all seemed to watching him, their eyes piercing his flesh.
He turned away from them to look directly at Mervin, as he said “Yeh’ve just entered the Magic Moose Room,” he said in a rather jolly voice, chuckling a little.
“What’s so funny?” asked Hans, missing the joke.
“Yeh know, it sounds like them drugs… oh, never mind,” said Mervin, realizing he’d be there ‘til next Tuesday if he waited for Hans to get the joke, and reached into his jacket instead. “Right in my hand I have a type 57B wand made from unicorn hair, ash and with a frog thigh bone core,” he continued spinning the wand around in his hand as he did. “Now I find thaa this kind of wand helps concentration a lot, that’s what it’s all about really belief, the power of yeh mind.”
“Alright, so why do you say the words if then, you seemed keen to look them up for my wound?” questioned Hans a little more confused than usual.
“Ah, now yeh’ve got there, another concentration aid to make you think about the spell, all yeh do is say something you associate with the spell, an’ then adjusting the volume of your voice and level of concentration determines the power and location of the spell. Anyhoo, we’re just gonna do some concentrating to build up our belief to start with, now grab thaa wand off the side and hold it out whilst yeh concentrate.”
It made sense now why the words Mervin was looking for were contained in a book called Max the Dog’s Big Adventure. He wasn’t sure whether that revelation worried him more now than it did then.
After standing there feeling like a bit of a fool for a few minutes, Hans plucked up the courage to speak, “I’m sorry, but I just don’t feel anything.”
Mervin mused upon this for a second, and then said, “There’s a tin a’
Treacle on the shelf over there, go an’ dip your hand in that.”
Hans did so, but felt even sillier than before. “Erm... all I feel now is this slimy treacle.”
“Well yeh did say you wanted to feel something,” replied Mervin with a light chuckle.
Hans sighed; it was going to be a long day.

A Nightime Encounter

It was one of those nights. The kind where no matter how hard you try to get to sleep, you can’t help thinking about what chicken actually tastes of. The number of times people come back off holiday and tell you that the local speciality tastes of chicken are remarkable, but no-one can ever seem to be really sure of what chicken itself tastes of. Hans thought it might be snake.
The proposition made perfect sense to him. Snakes had obviously been around for a long time. After all, it wasn’t a chicken that offered Eve an apple in the Garden of Eden was it? Not that Hans was particularly aligned to any one religion, if anything he favoured Buddhism because he liked the robes; but the reference in a document this old must been they’d been knocking around a fair few years.
All that remained for him to do now was test his theory. He’d had enough of lying on his back in this bed anyway. He pulled on a shirt and some jeans and went out to see if there was a phone anywhere in this castle.
His plan relied on their being a takeaway open at 3am that would deliver snake; not likely he thought, but this was the kind of problem that would prey on his mind if he didn’t try and resolve it immediately. There was, however, some chicken in the fridge to test it against, making this test slightly easier, but not much.
It didn’t take Hans too long to find the phone, but the problem then became that as he thought, no-one served snake, hardly surprising as there isn’t that much of a demand for it in Scotland. As he turned the page in the phone directory, he looked up and was surprised to see a woman in a red dress pulling along a vacuum.
Not quite sure what to make of this he decided to lift up the phone at the woman in as threateningly. Well, as threatening manner as he could given that he was holding a telephone and not an actual weapon. As he moved forwards he saw her more clearly, she was in her mid-twenties, with medium length dark hair and a body to die and, given he’d probably wouldn’t get the courage up again, he decided to find something else out too.
“Two questions,” said Hans, “What are you doing here in my castle and, if you don’t answer that with something that scares the life out of me, what are you doing on Thursday night?”
“You’re asking me out on a date?” she replied, feeling slightly perplexed by the situation.
“Ah!” said a voice from the end of the corridor moving towards them. They both spun around to see Mervin approaching them. “Erm, Hans this is my daughter, Chloe. She does the cleaning.”
“At this time of night!” exclaimed Hans
“Well …err,” began Mervin
“I’m sort of a half vampire, okay. I can’t be exposed to daylight, no that’s a lie. I can, but it hurts a hell of a lot if I don’t protect myself,” blurted Chloe, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got work to do.”
As Mervin and Hans went back to bed, Hans found himself pushing aside the matter of what she meant by half vampire and instead tried to work out whether she’d said yes to him or not.