In the rambling and over-grown garden stood a summer house. Its windows had been boarded up for years, maybe decades. It had, like everything else in the garden been long abandoned. The big house at the end of the garden, well he still lived there.
Professor Trebeck was an old man now, and even more of a crackpot than he had been in his hay day. A crackpot who had had been at the forefront of pioneering medical science. Cures for this ailment and that had seemed to just fall into his lap every time there was an epidemic. The mad professor had shunned the limelight and lived the reclusive life in his house in the middle of nowhere.
Nowadays people would just walk through his garden not knowing it was a garden, it had become so in tune with the surrounding wilderness. All except for the summer house that just stood there boarded up and ignored, yet nothing grew around it.
It was a late summer evening when me and my mate, Aelbert came across it. We were on a hike across the moor and had reached the point in the day when we needed somewhere to pitch up for the night. ‘We can throw our tents up by that building, Edric,’ Aelbert had said.
So within 20 minutes, two green tents were pitched and we had rations cooking on our burners. We sat there looking at the big house in the distance. ‘Perhaps this is their land, I hope they don’t mind us camping here’ I said.
‘Doubt they care, mate, they don’t look after it if it is theirs’
It was after we had eaten, and as the night started to set in we saw it. Through a crack in one of the boards was light pulsing steadily. Bright and purple one minute then a dull violet the next. ‘Wonder what that is’ I said.
‘Let’s go and look’
We both peered through the crack but couldn’t see anything. So, we tried shifting the boards, but they were solid. I got my knife and started hacking at the crack, slowly making it bigger. Just as I had cut the crack big enough to look through properly, Aelbert shouted, ‘There’s a door here and I think its unlocked.’
On entering the building we saw the source of the light. From ceiling to floor was a machine, it made a faint sound like deep breathing that matched the pulse of the light. ‘I wonder what that’s for’ said Aelbert.
‘And I wonder why you are in my summer house’ said a voice from behind us.
We both turned and to face an old man. ‘Well, lads, what are you doing here?’
We explained about their hiking trip and pitching for the night. Then about the purple light. ‘Honestly, we thought there was no one here,’ I said.
‘Well, this is my land and I could have you thrown off, but if you are willing to help me out a bit I will let you sleep in the house and make sure you have a good breakfast in the morning,’ the old man said. ‘Oh, I am Professor Trebeck, nice to meet you both.’
The Professor turned to the machine, ‘well, Gloria, I didn’t expect to see you again.’
The machine started to buzz loudly. ‘Yes, I know there is a new strain of scarlet fever and that research is drawing a blank.’
‘These two gentlemen are assisting me, I am getting old you know.’ He turned to us and said ‘Gloria appears when there is a problem, she will disappear just as quick. I don’t know where she comes from or where she goes to, but we would be a right sick lot without her.’
Aelbert was quiet and looked at the Professor. ‘The Professor Trebeck? I studied your work on measles at med school. Are you saying it was this machine? I don’t get it I read your notes they are so detailed and ….’
‘She writes them for me, so it looks like human research. Even in dire straits, they wouldn’t trust a machine.’
We worked with the professor as boxes of vials containing a serum appeared in the building. Finally, the machine buzzed and produced sheet after sheet of notes regarding the formulation of the serum with all credit being given to Professor Trebeck and his two assistants. We put the notes in dossier packs and as we did so the machine whined. ‘Goodbye Gloria, thank you once again,’ said the Professor.
Just like that the machine was gone. As we left the building the Professor locked the door, and we headed off for the big house.
‘Some much-deserved cocoa for us, I think, gentlemen, don’t you?’
©JG Farmer 2018