Story no. 53. What a perfect delight this section was to write! I thoroughly advise everyone to pick up A.S. Byatt and P.G. Wodehouse when they are feeling under the writing weather.
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“I can, of course, leave any time I like,” Mr. Jenkins said primly. “I was just performing a bit of reconnaissance to assess the scope of the problem here.”
“Of course,” Aunt Thompson said sourly.
“Of course,” the human echoed faintly. It was staring at a clay hedgehog with its brow furrowed. The hedgehog was wearing a pink bowtie and a purple vest. “Is there any chance this place is—ah—a outgrowth of a real place? Or maybe an amalgation of real places?”
“Almost definitely,” Mr. Jenkins said. “Why do you ask?”
“I recognize that hedgehog,” the human said. “It’s right at the top of Aunt Lara’s garden. Uncle Klaas kept vanishing it into the cellar until she hid it behind a rhododendron.”
“So what?” Aunt Thompson snapped. “It’s only a shadow.” She picked up the hedgehog and threw it at the ground; it dissolved into a little pile of sand. When we looked back at the shelf, the ceramic hedgehog was back in its former location, but now its eyes were narrowed and it was holding a little clay knife.
“If it’s a shadow, it’s still got a link to the thing casting it,” the human said. “I might be able to set up a gate back to where it’s throwing from. If,” it added, inspecting one hand, “you give me back my book.”