Kyp Finnegan is lost in Chimera after running away from the imposters pretending to be his parents. Chimera is as remarkable as it is dangerous - a fantastical world of lost properties in which bowties evolve into butterflies and abandoned sofas transform into snorting herds of soffalos! With the help of Atticus Weft, a sock-snake with a secret, Kyp must evade the clutches of Madame Chartreuse, who is determined to add him to her collection of lost children and imprison him in Chimera forever...
Written by Phil Gomm Read by Dan Snelgrove Music by Andrew Fisher Produced by Dan Snelgrove
‘It’s eating us alive!’ wailed Jamie.
‘No,’ shouted Sir Regulus. ‘We’re being taken through into the bombardment compartments. Brace yourselves!’
The shovelisk made a raucous, revving noise at the base of its long throat. Then, with a sharp, quick flick of its head, it ejected the contents of its mouth. Kyp, Jamie and Sir Regulus hit the ground hard, covering their heads as debris rained down around them. Kyp grimaced as the lifeless body of Polly Honeydew landed close by. Ankle-snatchers lay twitching on their backs.
‘Slow down!’ whispered Jamie.
‘There’s no time,’ Kyp whispered back, leading the other boy onwards and upwards through more dank passageways. The dried mud covering their skin was starting to flake, rays of Elsewhere Light flashing from their hands and faces. Desperate metamorphs pursued them.
Kyp had another reason for hurrying: the tealeaf’s contagion, the fugue. How long until he forgot about his determination to reunite the Bean twins? How long before he looked upon this other boy with confusion? How long before he became a lacunatic, a stranger even to himself?
‘Don’t bother with excuses,’ said Whirlitzer, walking further into the Museum Room. ‘I knew your conviction was weakening, Regulus, but I didn’t think you capable of such blatant defiance. I should have known better. This isn’t the first time you’ve betrayed me.’
The metamorphs turned and ran from the cave into a tunnel. The two boys sprinted after them, dodging debris and geysers of stinking water. The tunnel came down behind them, driving them onwards.
At last, the violent vibrations ceased and slowing finally, the carousel stallion waited for Kyp and Jamie to catch up.
‘Nobody wants you here,’ it told them, as exhausted, the two boys flopped to their knees. ‘At the very least disguise your Elsewhere Lights. You won’t be safe otherwise.’
They landed on an enormous rubbish heap, their fall broken by large chunks of yellow foam and slashed sofa cushions. The rubbish heap was contained inside a cavernous chamber, its buttressed walls running wet with rainbow-slicks of oil. The chamber was illuminated by the flicker of fluorescent tubes that dangled from the walls on lengths of electrical wire. To his disgust, Kyp saw the walls were crawling with ankle-snatchers. More of them scuttled amongst the rubbish heap, their fingers worming through the refuse.
Kyp’s eyes snapped open. He was flat on his back, his body listing from side to side. He was being carried on some kind of stretcher through a narrow canyon of crumpled, colour-splashed paint kettles.
As Kyp sat up a gruff voice complained, ‘Do stop fidgeting. You’re putting me off my stride.’
‘We have to go back. We have to go back, we -.’
Kyp stopped, as a number of details impressed themselves upon him. His transport wasn’t a stretcher, but a large brown sofa. It resembled a kind of buffalo – a soffalo! - and he was on the creature’s soft, brown back.
The dust cleared to reveal the figure of a boy. He was a little older than Kyp and wearing a school uniform, his white shirt untucked and the knot of his navy-blue tie pulled tight. The boy’s face was pale and streaked with dirt, his thick blonde hair clinging to his forehead in clumps.
The cavern above the ankle-snatchers’ prison was dominated by a series of huge stalactites. In the soft light given out by the toadstool lamps, they glimmered with different colours. As Kyp and Atticus neared the first of them, Kyp became aware of their peculiar smell, a curious mixed-up fragrance of cheese and onion crisps, tangerines, and chocolate. He was amazed to find the jewel-like objects studding its surface were chocolates in foil twists. Also embedded were spirals of dry, wrinkled orange peel, clusters of nuts and countless one penny and two pence pieces.
For a long time, neither Kyp nor Atticus spoke.
‘Say something, Kyp,’ said Atticus finally. ‘Please.’
But Kyp didn’t know what to say.
‘What are the ankle-snatchers going to do with us?’ he asked instead.
‘We’re of little interest to them now. They’re hoarders, nothing more. Look at the walls. See how they’re ripped where others have tried to escape? Do you see what covers the floor? When a metamorph reaches the end of its life it becomes an object again, nothing more.’
Kyp awakened with a start.
He leapt up and pawed at his clothes. Scanning his surroundings, he found no sign of either toe-biters or ankle-snatchers – or Atticus. Kyp noted the snake’s absence without surprise. He wondered how long it would be before Madame Chartreuse came to collect him. Kyp had no intention of being here when she arrived.
Kyp opened his eyes to near darkness. He’d dropped into a tunnel, his fall broken by something springy and soft. Ahead of him there was faint yellow light, little brighter than a candle.
He shook his head, as if clearing his ears of water. The green light was gone, but not quite yet the happiness it had given him, which persisted just long enough for Kyp to feel more lost and alone than ever.
Atticus had lied to him.
His keepsakes back in his pocket, Kyp walked in the direction of the voice.
The miasma floated in thick, smelly ribbons, and out of it a figure materialised. Judging by its height, Kyp concluded it was another child. He hurried towards it, but as the mist thinned, he saw it was the top half of a shop window mannequin. The mannequin was bald, with rouged cheeks, blue eye shadow and red lips. It wore a tightly buttoned tweed jacket.
‘Awfully sorry to trouble you,’ it said, ‘only it really is the silliestthing. You see, I can’t seem to feel my legs.’
Kyp and Atticus hurried through the Lumen Arboretum. Twigs snapped and baubles shattered as things unseen crept alongside them. Was the fugue creeping too, Kyp wondered, spreading inside him like ink into paper?
Kyp blinked. A blaze of light hurt his eyes.
‘Thank goodness,’ said the snake. ‘I’ve been so worried. You must have hit your head when I pulled you to safety.’
Kyp jumped to his feet. Brown, brittle Christmas trees surrounded him in dense thickets, their dead, dry branches hanging with scraps of tinsel and sad-looking decorations. The ground crackled with pine needles. The tremendous light came from thousands of lamps amassed in clumps about him, their fringed shades in different shapes, colours and patterns. Electrical cables sprouted from their bases, curled together like roots.
‘It’s all right,’ said the snake. ‘You’re safe. For now...'
Only Kyp didn’t fall.
The tentacle that attacked him in the labyrinth encircled his waist. It shook Kyp violently then yanked him up out of the chasm and stood him back on his feet.
‘Promise me you won’t run away again,’ said a cross-sounding voice...
‘Good riddance,’ muttered Kyp, as he crept away into the shadows of the junk shop. He should have been shocked or upset, but all he really felt was relief. That was that then.
Kyp went further this time, deeper, pushing through racks of old clothes that smelled of perfume and pipe-smoke, and picking his way across causeways of boxes. He ducked beneath dangles of dusty chandeliers and inched past steeples of leather-bound books, ignoring how the hairs on his neck stood up as unseen things creaked and shifted in the gloom. He was soon lost, but Kyp didn’t care...
Kyp Finnegan glowered at the two grown-ups sitting in the front of the car. With his creased blue shirt and bald-spot, his dad looked like his dad, and his mum smelled of soap like always, but they weren’t his parents...