The man who had had the argument with William had reached his house. It was a wooden cabin, deep in the woods – or rather, it looked like it was a wooden cabin. The stranger walked up the wooden steps and across the front porch to the door. He pressed 07734 onto the keypad, and the door opened outwards. As he stepped in, the door closed behind him. If you had a very keen sense of hearing, you would have heard the sound of lift motors coming into life as the false floor dropped to the sub basement and a false floor covered the hole where the platform had been.
Cameo stepped from the lift platform. He was furious that yet again people had shown themselves to not follow clear rules. They were so straightforward, weren’t they? You queue to get on the ski lift and you wait for the same people to ski down if they were ahead of you (no matter how long they took to clip into their skis) and they certainly did not take shortcuts at the end of the ski run. Just another example of the breakdown of society. And what was it with the pastel colours of Heartlake? Colours should be red, blue, black, white, green – not “puce” or “Tarragon Glory 4”… and certainly not “Pantone 306C”. He grumbled all the way down the corridor until a small robotic dog click-clacked out from a side room.
“Hello K9” said Cameo. “At least you understand that things are better when they are clear cut. But not to worry, I have a machine that will sort all that out.” He eventually arrived at the end of a long corridor and slid the doors open, which revealed a giant hangar-sized enclosed room. All around the edges the computers whirred, whizzed and pinged and the monitors all gave out varying information.
“There it is K9, my solution” Cameo explained. “Soon, this machine will make everything straightforward – life will be simple, just Black and White.” He walked over to each of the monitors, looked at them, nodded and went “hmm, uh-huh” a few times, the said “good, it’s ready.”
He walked back to K9 and picked it up. “You need to be somewhere safe” he explained. “I don’t want you getting caught up when I set this machine off.” He carefully put K9 back into the side room that it had originally came from and closed the door. Then he walked back to the hangar and up to the machine. He pressed the big red button and the white screen flashed briefly, before it started to display its start up code. Cameo watched for a short while, before walking over to a small console and flicking the switch on the panel. The platform that the machine was on started to rise up towards the ceiling, which opened up to allow the machine to rise up into the woodland near to the wooden cabin – in full view of Heartlake. There was a small click when the platform stopped rising, and a faint hum. The white screen of the machine went black briefly, before the display showed the message “WHAM!”
Outside the Heartlake cinema, William’s older sister Stephanie was talking with Mike from the “Capes and Cowls” café. “That film was brilliant” she said, “thank you for suggesting we go and see it.” Mike smiled. “No problem” he said. “What bloke doesn’t like seeing a romantic comedy that has no action scenes and leaves most of the audience in tears? By the way, that’s a lovely top you’re wearing – it’s so … grey?” Stephanie looked down. It was definitely a pink top earlier – but Mike was right, it was definitely now a grey colour. As was her shoes. As was the Cinema!
“What’s happening Mike?” she asked “If I didn’t know better I’d say we’ve slipped into an old black and white movie!” “Well as long we don’t get visited by Clarence Odbody* we’ll be fine!”
William was also equally confused. He’d gone round to see how Granny Smith was – he always tried to get round to see her once a week and she made lovely cakes and cookies. This time of year he would also go round and clear Granny’s path of snow. He was talking to her about her garden and she offered freshly baked cookies. William had smelled that lovely smell as soon as he had entered the house – and had been waiting for what felt like ages before she had offered them. As he picked one off the tray, the smell seemed to go. He looked at the cookies, which had just gone a grey colour and took a bite. They tasted of… well, nothing really. He finished the first and tried another – it tasted the same, that was, it tasted of nothing! Granny Smith was equally confused. “Perhaps I didn’t put enough sugar in them” she said “but that’s the first time I’ve ever made such disappointing cookies. I’ll have to make some more fresh tomorrow – come round on your way home from school.” William agreed that he would; after all it was likely that he would have to clear the snow again from the drive and pavement anyway.
As William left the house, he went to push off on his sledge (much more fun than just walking) and it just made a horrible scraping sound – the sound when metal is scrapped across concrete paving slabs. It certainly didn’t glide. William realised that he couldn’t tell if there was ice or not – it was all the same shade of grey. Which meant it was equally likely that he wouldn’t spot the ice on the ground either. It was going to take a long time to get home.
Obviously, I was alerted to the fact that something was wrong when my little marshmallows went grey, as did my hot chocolate. Sitting in the café, I couldn’t tell what it was I ordered – and neither could any of the other customers either. “Is this an Americano, or a Flat White?” they asked. I had to do something, so I carefully made my way back to the hotel and got out the drone plane from my case. I then headed back to the playing field and set the camera up and launched the plane.
Once I got the little plane up to the right height I could see that something was up – although Heartlake was a fairly standard grey, to the distance I could still see colour of greens, browns. This was obviously caused by some very complicated and clever machinery. I turned the plane and took it higher into the sky. Once at the right height, I could see that the grey colour was slowly expanding out where it could – it stopped when it got to mountains or hills. I took a couple of images before the warning light flashed on my controls. Low battery! Because I’d taken the plane so high it was using more power than usual, so I needed to act quickly. I pushed the little lever forward to get the plane to descend to a lower level, all the while looking for somewhere I could land almost safely (or at least with minimal damage to the plane)… when I saw a road, winding its way through the trees. There was a clearing that I could aim for, which I did. If I could get the plane to land on the road, I could try and taxi it to one side, then get a taxi to go and pick it up.
The battery light was now flashing rapidly – I didn’t have long, but I was nearly there now. From my monitor I could see that I was running just a metre above the road, so slowly lower it, nearly, nearly, careful for touch down… and… what?!!! The plane landed on the road, but there was a spray and then nothing. My controls flashed the message “LOST CONNECTION”. Well, I knew roughly where it was, so I would see if I could get a lift. As I walked back across the field, I saw Stephanie and Mike. Much as we SH5 operatives try to keep to ourselves, in this little town everyone knows everyone – there are very few secrets.
“Hi Wodge!” called Mike. “Do you know anything about all this? One minute we’re in technicolour and now everything’s in Black and White!”
“Actually, it is a bit of a mystery – and probably why I’m here. Actually Mike, can you help me? I need to pick up my drone plane – it ran out of battery power so I had to make an emergency landing. I need to get here.” I pointed at the monitor that had a map of the plane’s last known location. Stephanie looked over the monitor.
“That’s not a road” she said. “That’s the Brickville river!” Mike smiled. “It’s a fairly fast moving river too, with plenty of rocks in it. I’ve broken many kayaks paddling down that – I reckon your plane is lost now.”
“Blast” I said. “That was a really good plane with a really good camera on it. And I reckon I’ve got a pretty good idea where to look next to find where all this is coming from.”
“Do you have a spare camera?” asked Mike. “I’ve built a seaplane that you could use – because of its shape we can land it almost anywhere!”
Luckily I did have a spare camera, so I agreed to meet Mike back on the field in an hour. I apologised to Stephanie for ruining her evening with Mike – she smiled and said that this sounded like fun, so she’d come along anyway if that was okay.
We went off in our separate ways and returned to the field. It took us a few moments to fix the camera to the plane and soon the plane was in the air. I could point out everything that I could see – Stephanie could see that the colour fading wasn’t as strong at the edges. She got out her tablet, opened up an app and started to make some calculations. In a few moments, she was able to estimate where Mike should redirect the plane.
“It’s easy” she said. “I could see that on the flat the grey only went so far, so let’s assume that is the outer radius. Now, this gives us a couple of edges to work with, but it’s not exact. But look at the mountains – it only goes up the mountain so far, so I can calculate how far it would have gone if the mountains weren’t there. So I reckon the centre is in the Heartlake forest, probably on a hill itself. Looking at the map, best guess is this area here. And if I zoom in… look there’s a little cabin there.”
I looked at Stephanie. “I can see that the Christmas presents you got last year came in useful!”
Mike was studying the monitor. “We’re nearly there” he said. “I can see the cabin… but what’s that machine? That’s unusual, I can’t quite make out what it is.” I looked at the monitor, then advised Mike to return the plane to us. “No point in getting too close – but I think it’s where I’m going to find one of the people I need to look into.”
“who ever did this” said Stephanie “it’s like they want the world to be black and white… like a cameo.”
I nodded. Definitely on the trail of one of the two characters.
Clarence Odbody (played by Henry Travers) was the Angel (2nd class) in the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life” also starring James Stewart. No I didn’t expect you to get it, but Mike’s a bit of a film buff.
So this week we had:
Chair and lamp
Toy Gingerbread house
Granny Smith with her cookies
Model Sea plane
See you next week!