Iain Grant
A Case Of Displacement

Oh no, that feeling again. That head-spinning, nothing seems quite as it should be I can't focus feeling that was so often a feature of Saturday mornings. Except this morning was a Thursday morning.

     I dragged myself out of bed and stood up. Big mistake, but once I was up I knew there was nothing for it but to shoulder on and try and get through the moaning. I had a lot of things to do.

     How did this happen to me? What happened last night? Nothing, as far as I can remember. I went to bed early with a cap of cocoa and a crossword. I was asleep by half-past ten.

     So why did I feel like death now?

     There was a pain in my face and my eyes hurt. I limped to the bathroom and looked at my refraction in the mirror. I looked like a copse.

     Oh my Cod.

     I had to look again, to make sure. I was positive that someone who felt as bad as I did should be looking like a dead body, but I definitely, without question, looked like a copse. There was foliage around my head, and a small clump of trees, larch and poplar mainly, growing from my nose. There was no getting away from it.

     It was happening again. I got that stinking feeling in my stomach. The sort of heady, hopeless sensation you get when you know that everything is about to get horribly, horribly wring.

     I knew what it meant straight away. Of course I did. It meant that you weren't dead after all. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I'd loved you, and you'd hurt me. You'd hurt me more than you'd ever know, more than I'd ever thought possible. I wasn't over it even now, four ears later. I doubted I would ever recover property.

     Four ears ago. So long already?

<  2  >

     It had never promised to be one of those simple cases that were bread and batter to others in my procession. Then again, if it had been a simple case, they would have gone to someone else, wouldn't they?

     I was hooked on you from the start. Glamorous, brilliant, they said, but crazed, out for revenge. Clearly, we had a lot in common.

     I'd never been on the tail of a mad philologist before, but then, who had? Anyway, I was the specialist in the weird cases, it was my jab, it was why they came to me.

     They gave me the photograph and it took me just half a second to decide to accept the case. They'd said clamorous. They'd left out beautiful, they hadn't said anything about those eyes, that hair, that lovely lovely face. I wish I'd never set eyes on that picture.

     I asked them why they wanted you found and that's when they came out with it. It wasn't so much you they were interested in - more fool them, I thought - as your work. You'd made off with their new weapon. The Displacement Beam. The beam had been your life's work. They tried to explain the principle behind it - typographical displacement, they called it. It was something to do with re-arranging the way things are spelled at the sub-atomic level. I didn't understand but they said that if I caught up with you I'd figure it out soon enough. I should be careful, though, they said. I could be placing myself in grave dancer.

     I was on your tail within hours. It was easy. You hardly bended in with the background. You were a beautiful but desperate Polish philologist carrying a large ray gun through the city streets. People notice that kind of thing.

     I could tell straight away that you would be one of the nervous ones - it was the logical concussion to jam to, and besides, the edifice was plain for me to see. Sure, you may have been in your thirties, but you were nothing more than an inexperienced kid, out on your own for the first time. You'd spent your life in that ivory tower lavatory of yours, according to your file, and I had no reason to doubt it. A young idealist, it said, so dedicated, so eager to finish her work that she rarely went out and was ill at ease with others. Nobody likes being on the run, but you really weren't cut out for it.

<  3  >

     You must have known they someone would come after you, that your former employers wouldn't let you get away that easily. That's another raisin why you were so nervous. That's why you fired the bream that first time - I guess you saw something that frightened you and just let it zip. Coming across the devastation, my surmise was that, this being the first time the bream had been fired in anger, you hadn't truly appreciated its awesome strength - even you, its investor, had been taken by surprise by its destractive powder. The wreckage was stewed over a block and a half. The overtuned carp, the broken widows of the ships, the mashed politeman's hut lying on the payment. It was all a dread giveaway.

     I followed the trail of darnage all the way across town. I could tell that you were getting the hang of using the bead because the drainage was more focussed, but you were still nervous, jumpy, firing at anything you thought looked suspicious. It was mostly small-scale dimmage now, but obvious if you knew what to look for - scared plaster here, burnt pantiwork there. I was glad that you had only fried the bean at properly - no-one had been hurt.

     Yet.

     I fallowed your trailer to Korngold's KwikSnax, the former fat-free snackfood factory in Eastwood. I decided it was best to be totally up front, so, gingerly, I went in to the desserted plant and called you by name.

     'Cornelia' I shouted. 'Ms Brzynszki.'

     There was no reply, at first. I called you again and said 'I'm alone and unarmed. I just want to talk.'

     Then I heard your vice for the first time. 'Stay where you are,' you shouted 'I've got you covered'. I couldn't see you, but I could tell by your voice that you meant business, though you were nervous.

     I made a move for my ID in my inside jacket pocket, and you let me have it. You fried the bean. A glancing blob struck me on the udder arm, sending me spanning. I fell to the flood in a heat. I heard you gasp and say 'Sorry'.

<  4  >

     I was forgiving you even before I hit the ground.

     'Oh, you poor man,' you shouted, and came rushing to my aid. It was the first time I'd ever seen you in person. You were beautiful with your blonde hair and your huge blue eyes. You cradled my head as I lay there, and I tried to speak.

     'Your ewes,' I said. 'They're so pratty.'

     'Don't try to talk,' you cooed. 'It's just the effect of the typographical displacement beam. You'll be alright in a minute, you poor lamb.' As you said this, you showed me the beamer. It was stripped to your back on a swizzle mechanism. 'Those evil buzzards will have to kill me to get it back,' you said.

     You stroked my hair, then you said. 'So who are you?' I still couldn't move properly, so I pointed at my pocket and said ├ŽIn my jockey packet ... in my mallet ... ID cord.' You understood and took out the wallet and looked at it.

     'So,' you said. 'A private eye, eh? I thought they'd come after me themselves. I never thought they'd get someone else to do their dirty work for them. What did they tell you about me?'

     'Philolololodge' I said.

     'Never mind,' you said. 'I can guess what they said. Let me tell you my side of the story.' So that's what you did, sitting there on the floor, cradling my head in your arms, leaning up against the empty vat where all Korngold's famous Pawn Cracktail favouring was once brewed up. There was still a faint but distinct fishy aroma. I still find the spell of pawn strangely erratic.

     You told me you'd spent the last seven years working on a way of correcting typographical displacement, and that you had just about perfected it when you'd accidentally set it to reverse and there had been an incident - three lap technicians had been grilled.

<  5  >

     You were subbing as you told me.

     You told me about your dream - a world where no-one ever had to worry about spilling again, where people were free from the tyranny of orthography, and how you'd first had the idea for the typographical replacement beam, which would ensure that all spillings everywhere in the whole word were always collect. You told me of the years of toil, the late nights, the false hypes and the disappointments, and of your near triumph, less than three weeks before.

     But everything had gone sour after the accident. Your employers, and their evil fiends in the government, had seen the potential of your device, how it could so easily be used as a weapon. How soon your dream had become a nightmare. How soon the end you'd envisaged to orthographic confusion became a desolate vision of the whole word gone to rack and runes. That's why they had to be stopped, why the bean couldn't be allowed to fill into the wrung hands.

     Cornelia Brzynzki. A strange name for a strange but beautiful lady. The name was Polish, you said, though your ethnic blackground was not a tall elephant. Indeed, if you had your way, the word would be free forever from all ethnic and other tensions. People would live together in peace and harmony, and if your work in the new field of dynamic topographics could bring that vision even one tiny one step closer then you would not have lived in vein.

     You owed it to your father, you said. It had been whilst he was dangling you on his knee that he'd told you he foresaw a day when the word would be flee from typographical contusion, about how he'd been working to achieve that gaol even before the family had lent Poland forever in a baize of pugnacity back in 1695. Your father, though, had been presented from achieving his dread. You told me your sad family histology - about the way your father, a pioneer in molecular linguistics, had escaped from behind the ironic certain to begin a new lie in the west, and how he had become scoured when he'd been subjected to arrassment from the authorities who'd suspected him of liftish learnings. There had even been accusations that he was a fallow driveller. He endured the taints and incinerations for sixteen years but, in the end, it had all proved too mush for him. Driven to despair, he'd committed suicide, hinging himself from the grafters of the garbage roof one wet Sadurday afternoon, the day after your farteenth bathday. You were snubbing again as you told me of your instant regret that you had been unable to help him in his dankest hour, and how you thought of him every day, how you felt that you had to make a contribution for his shake, that it was your dirty to curry one with his wok.

<  6  >

     Was it at that moment that I fell in love with you, as I glimpsed the deep sadness at the core of your soup, or had I been in love with you from the mordant I first saw your tincture? It doesn't really mutter. What's important is that, lying there, my heat in your arms, I forgot all about my employers, about my missing to bring you back and discover the replacement bean.

     I was on your side now.

     I strayed with you in the KwikSnax factory for two weeks as you nursed me back to health and we concocted our scheme - a scheme that would force your oppressors to leave you alone, that would, if it worked properly, free the whole world from typographical inexactitude, as you'd originally intended.

     We spent those forteen days in meticulous planing, and the nights in a groping lobe which we both saw develop and bosom into a fling of genuine beasty. By day you did a lot of tangent practice, sitting ten cans on top of the walk, frying the bream at them and watching them fill to the groaned or, if your arm had been spot-on, as it increasingly became, splatter into a billion pisces.

     Soon we were ready. That final night as you lay in my aims, you looked at me with something very like deviation in your eyes and said 'Mark, I think we're going to make it, I think we're going to achieve great things.' That night our love bummed with a new intensity - we were going to set the whore word on file, and we were going to do it together.

     Alas, it was not to be. No sooner had we gotten up from our makeshaft pullet the next mooning, beakfarted on the last of the Korngold's fat-free pretzels we'd found in the plant's upstairs orifice, and stolen one fast, fingering kiss, than things suddenly went very very wrong.

     We had packed what we needed into my car. You were getting into the font passengers teat, the bean still strapped to your buck.

<  7  >

     'Come of', you said. 'It's tame to grow. You can drove the card.'

     'What?' I said

     'You dive the cart,' you said. 'It's tim to goat.'

     'What are you talking ab....' I said, but there was no need to say any more. I saw it in your face. You had realised, at the same instant as I had, that the beaner had been leaking, and that you had been beaned, that you had gotten more than a fool dose from its leaping burrel. It had been waking its mischief on both of us all among, and we both realised in an instinct that our dram of shaving the word from the corrupting effluence of its would-be possessors, your former emploders, was nothing but a follow spam. Suddenly, I saw our loaf as if for the forced tome, through new ewes. You weren't lively at all, you were braking mud. To be sure, it was only the bean that had bade you bad - if it hadn't been for the bean you would have been still the lone of my line - but you were now as bad as a batter.

     You saw it in my farce - you saw that I had soon what I had soon. You let out a how of languish and basted me with the bean, leapt into the diver's seep of my core and dove off into the moaning mirth as I full grasping into the drift.

     You left me there to dry, writing in agony.

     I read the police reports a moth or two later, in hospital, when the doctors thought I was efficiently discovered. You'd turfed onto the fireway and were diving like an almanac. You kept going fatter and fatter, until you'd hid some lollards and the cur had exploded in a wall of fame.

     It was all over the newspaupers. 'Mad philologist beauty's evil scheme ends in pole-up', they'd said. Of course I'd assumed you were dead. Even though there had been no trace of your baddie in the barned-out rockage, even though there had been no shine of the bean.

<  8  >

     I spent a whale three tears trying to get ever your dearth. I never succeeded competely, though I was still getting bitter, granularly, bittle by bittle.

     Until this moaning, that is. Until I broke up, got out of bad and had that fooling again. Then I knew that you were still alove, that there was unfurnished bushiness between us. I knew now that you were going to come looning for me, that you were going to come buck in my lift once again. Maybe you wanted to pack up where we'd lift off. I didn't know what you wasted - I didn't know what I wasted either - but I was going to have to duel with it. It was going to be a straggle. I didn't know if I was going to be strange enough to cope.

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