Chapter Thirty Two – Immunity

10 Aug

I nodded and walked over to the kitchen. Jake had gone through a new age phase a few months ago and bought a pestle and mortar for grinding herbs. Given that he’d been in such a hurry to leave at the end of term, there was still a chance that it was around here somewhere. All I had to do was to follow my nose until I smelt wormwood and anise.

I found it in the back of the third cupboard that I looked through. There was still a dark, dried residue at the bottom of the mortar bowl. For a second, I thought about seeing if there was any hidden message in the residue – kind of like how some people read messages in tea leaves. I shook my head, with all this strange stuff, I was starting to become as superstitious as Jake.

Running the hot tap, I scrubbed the mortar until most of the gunk in the bottom of it was blocking the plughole. I dried it with an old dishcloth that probably hadn’t been washed in weeks. Still, I wasn’t exactly performing surgery here. I dropped the marble into the mortar, it rolled into the middle of it and sat next to a star-shaped green stain.

The marble was surprisingly tough and it took about a minute of pounding and grinding before I even saw a single chip of the surface of the marble. I kept going until a long thin white crack snaked its way across one side of the marble. By now, Rosie was perching over my shoulder and watching intently.

‘Try hitting it.’ She muttered.

‘What do you think I’m doing?’ I sighed as I brought the pestle down again and watched the marble shatter with a satisfying plink.

Putting on a pair of rubber gloves, I picked out as many of the glass shards as I could until there was nothing but a small blob of bright blue ink in the mortar. Strangely, it just didn’t smell like anything. I reached for a small plate and poured out half of the blue ink onto it before going out into the yard and fetching the only bottle of black ink which hadn’t started leaking.

Holding it at a distance, I eased the cap open and tilted it very gently over the plate until a single dark droplet fell out and landed on the plate. The two drops of ink rushed towards each other like magnets. I flinched slightly, expecting a violent, fizzling explosive reaction. But they just merged into each other.

For a second, there was a larger marbled blob of ink in the middle of the plate until it suddenly started shrinking again. Rosie put her hand on my shoulder as she looked at the tiny blob of blue ink left in the middle of the plate. The black ink was completely gone. I picked up the plate and looked at it closely before pouring the blue ink back into the mortar and taking the bottle of ink back into the yard.

‘What was all of that?’ Rosie said.

‘An experiment. Just as I thought, the blue ink is able to destroy the black ink. I guess that the shopkeeper … George?… was right about immunity. If the ink is the blood of the universe, then the blue ink is the immune system. Obviously, the universe has caught some kind of cosmic disease. If that’s even possible.’

Rosie raised an eyebrow and I repeated myself before suddenly feeling an attack of cringing guilt. Finally, I said: ‘I found that ink inside one of the models. I guess that they were actually trying to do something good. And I cut one of them in half.’

‘Don’t feel bad, you had no way of knowing and, from what you’ve said, it let you.’ Rosie sighed before saying ‘Anyway, if this ink is actually diseased, then I have to wonder why that guy who hired you wanted a sample of it. Do you think that he was looking for a cure too?’

I felt the answer in my gut before I said it. ‘No, I don’t think he is.’

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