‘Five, four, three, two, one...coming, ready or not!’ called Sophie.
As the game of hide and seek began, Sophie hunted her way through Howard’s cottage, looking for Alice. There was no sign of her in the kitchen, nor in the cosy sitting room, so Sophie headed upstairs. The bathroom appeared empty as did the guest room. This left just one room unchecked. Sophie slowly pushed the door of Howard’s bedroom open and peered through the crack. Sure enough there was Alice, standing over Derek, who was still slumbering noisily within his cocoon.
‘FOUND YOU!’ exclaimed Sophie.
‘And I have found my heart!’ said Alice.
‘That’s not your heart,’ replied Sophie, ‘that’s Derek!’
Then Alice began to unzip Derek’s cocoon.
‘Um, I’m not sure you should do that,’ said Sophie.
Alice ignored her and continued to unzip the cocoon, revealing Derek’s ample frame. Then, rather unexpectedly, Sophie noticed that Derek was holding a strange orb in his right hand. It was the same orb that she had seen the shadow person holding on the first night.
‘I wonder how that got there?’ asked Sophie.
‘He must have taken it,’ said Alice.
‘But I saw a shadow man take it,’ stated Sophie.
‘Exactly,’ said Alice, slowly picking the orb up and holding it in her own hands. ‘He thought he could hide it from me, but he was wrong.’
Alice turned around. The orb was now glowing brightly, and so were Alice’s eyes.
‘AT LAST!’ boomed Alice. ‘I AM REUNITED WITH MY HEART!’
‘Holy shit!’ shrieked Sophie, and she ran out of the room, down the stairs, and out of the cottage as quickly as her feet would carry her.
Howard and Ryan had been driven through the weirdly quiet streets of London, and had eventually arrived at number 10 Downing Street, where they were escorted by the men in trench coats into the prestigious building. Ryan looked around in amazement. He never thought he’d actually see the inside of Number 10 for himself. Conversely, Howard appeared unimpressed and led the way, seeming to know exactly where he was going.
They entered an office where they found Michael Granger sitting behind a desk.
‘Ah, Howard, so kind of you to agree to my request,’ said Michael.
‘It was certainly not by choice,’ retorted Howard.
‘I must apologise for the bullyboy tactics to get you here,’ said Michael, ‘but things have become even more urgent than when we last spoke.’
Ryan found himself getting annoyed.
‘You’re damn right things are urgent,’ he interjected, ‘we have severe storm damage across the whole country that needs immediate attention. Who knows how many sleepers might be at risk.’
‘You must be Ryan Johnson,’ said Michael. ‘Yes, I have your file here, very impressive service record, apart from the, well, we won’t go into that now. I understand that you and Howard are close, plus with your official secrets oath, I’m sure you can be trusted with what we are about to discuss.’
‘Where’s the interim Prime Minister?’ asked Howard. ‘Shouldn’t he be sitting behind this desk?’
‘I am the interim Prime Minister now,’ replied Michael. ‘George has had an unfortunate accident.’
‘Oh really?’ asked Howard snidely.
‘Nothing to do with me, I can assure you,’ replied Michael tersely. ‘However, it does have a lot to do with these shadow beings that we discussed previously.’
Ryan was surprised to hear that the two of them had already spoken on the topic. ‘When did you discuss that with him?’ he whispered to Howard.
‘Shhh,’ said Howard.
‘The activity of the shadow people appears to be increasing,’ continued Michael. ‘Now, they have started to attack people. Just a single touch from a shadow person appears to put an awaker into hibernation. We are losing awakers all the time as these attacks continue. The former interim Prime Minister is just the latest casualty – any of us could be next.’
‘Intriguing,’ replied Howard. ‘Ryan here was the victim of just such an attack earlier today, and yet he woke again a short time later. I wonder why he didn’t fall into complete hibernation like the others.’
Michael gave Howard a fierce look.
‘So you lied to me,’ he said viciously, ‘you have encountered these beings.’
‘Yes,’ admitted Howard, ‘but I wasn’t ready to discuss this with you when we last met. However, I think I’m now beginning to understand it all.’
‘I’m glad someone is!’ said Ryan.
‘Michael, do you remember those top secret files we uncovered, back in the first year of the interim government?’ asked Howard. ‘The ones about the Black Knight satellite?’
‘Ah yes, I seem to recall, it was a satellite that had been detected by ground radar and other means, but was not of any known origin,’ replied Michael.
‘Exactly,’ said Howard. ‘The files stated that a secret NASA mission had been mounted to try and capture the satellite, code named “Black Knight”, using one of the space shuttles. But when they arrived at the location, the satellite was nowhere to be found, as if it had some way of making itself invisible.’
‘Hang on,’ said Ryan, ‘are we talking about aliens now?’
‘I wouldn’t presume to know the answer to that,’ replied Howard, ‘but what I do know is that after the NASA mission failed, the United Nations decided to try and blow the satellite out of the sky. The missiles were launched into space and seemingly hit the target, but the target continued in orbit as if nothing had happened, or did it?’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Michael.
‘Just a few days after the missiles supposedly failed to hit the satellite, the Hibernation began for the first time. Coincidence? I don’t think so.’
‘So what are you saying Howard?’ asked Michael with a cynical tone. ‘That this “alien” satellite is now taking its revenge on humanity by forcing everyone in the world to sleep once a year?’
‘Well that’s what I suggested back in the day, but I was laughed out of the interim cabinet,’ said Howard, ‘but what if the attack on satellite actually damaged it, and that damage somehow affected the whole of humanity?’
‘Howard, please, stop!’ said Michael, raising his hands. ‘I brought you here in the hope that you might actually be able to help us solve this issue of the shadow people, not to start ranting on about aliens or whatever.’
‘But don’t you see,’ persisted Howard, ‘the shadow people are simply the latest symptom of the satellite’s increasing instability. If we don’t do something to fix it soon, who knows what might happen. If the satellite begins to die, maybe people will start to die too!’
Before Michael had a chance to respond, one of the men in trench coats came running into the office.
‘Sorry to interrupt sir,’ said the man, ‘but we’ve got an emergency report from the sleeper zone monitoring centre. It seems sleepers everywhere in the country, perhaps the world, are entering cardiac arrest. They’re all dying!’
Howard shook his head in dismay. ‘I hate it when I’m right,’ he sighed.
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