The Companion and the Writer entered the dusty old hall that they had spent an hour searching country lanes for. It was well lit by standing location shoot lamps, sharp unnatural light bouncing off the uneven stone walls and exposed beams. Nine people were seated at the front and the Leader was chatting in Spanish to the Guide towards the rear or the hall. The Leader spotted the two late arrivals and clapped his hands excitedly.
"Excellent! Excellent, here we all are!" His head made tiny nodding movements as he scanned his group, he was positively radiant and his glee was infectious. People looked around at each other and were smiling warmly. "Sit down. Sit down. Welcome to HQ. It looks like an utterly underfunded disaster zone, but later we'll see how true that is!"
The Leaders eyes glinted mischeviously for an instant and then he looked serious. He grabbed the only spare chair and sat quickly down in front of a row of desperate eyes. He looked at each one of them for about thirty seconds in turn. When his eyes burned thiers it was as if he was learning them, learning every inch of their faces and everything behind.
The Leader stood up, he pointed to the only other female apart from Liz, a round middle aged woman with a strong face and stance. She stood up and met his eyes dead on.
"Who are you?" His voice was little above a whisper but every ear heard him.
"I am the Shrink." She seemed to want to say more but didn't. The Leader continued.
"When is the last time you were scared?"
"When I opened my credit card statement." There was ripple of chuckles from the group and the Shrink looked at the others with a grin; in that second the Leader grabbed her arms and snatched her gaze.
"You remember when you were most scared. You feel it, every muscle in you, every cell has the memory, you live it now. The sounds around you, the smell. You are invaded by your memory and you cannot control it." All eyes were on the Leader, but had any of them looked at the womans face they would have seen the contortions of fear and confusion, her eyes were wild and her mouth was mute.
The exchange lasted two minutes at most. The Leader held her close and whispered something the others could not hear. He then helped the Shrink back to her seat where she sat slumped.
The jolly mood had well evaporated and the group looked at each other nervously. They had no real idea what had happened, the atmosphere was dark; nothing violent appeared to have taken place but that is how they all felt.
The Leader pointed to a short man with thick glasses and a disproportionately large bottom.
"Who are you?"
"I am the Invigilator."
And the Invigilator met his fear.
As they all did. All twelve of them follwed the Leader to a dark place they thought they had forgotten. When they returned they found a euphoric place they had previously not discovered.
When the Leader had whispered in the last ear, he stood back, looking utterly exhausted.
"And now you see," his voice was rasping, the Physician passed him some water which he glugged instantly, "the way in which an adventure can be had. And this was fake! This was induced by me! By deception and wordplay. Imagine, my friends, imagine we take a bored, bored soul and wake it up. Take a person from their dead life and make them re-born. This is our gift to our kind."
The Leader moved away from the group to a dark corner of the hall. He had a large key which he used to unlock a hidden panel in the wall support beam.
"We have been blessed." The Leader continued matter of factly while he struggled to pull the panel open. "We have been blessed with intelligence, education, stimulation and exposure to great wisdom. All of must have been, we would not be where we are today without the wheels used to get us here." The panel crashed open to reveal a striking collection of flashing lights surrounding a large blue button. It looked ridiculous nestled in the wall of an old barn.
"What the hell is that now?" snapped the Finance Officer to the Leader who seemed to be lost in thinking about the poetry of his last statement.
"Oh! This!" shouted the Leader, joyously waving his arms about. "This is brilliant. You're gonna love this!!" One of his wildly waving arms came rushing down towards the blue button. "Everybody ready!!!" he bellowed as his hand slapped the button hard.