LittelBaby and LittelBrudda had looked up from there werk. Neether of them cried owt. May be thay had known we were on borowed time. Suddernly the copper biside me let go my arm and dropt to his nees. I thort that was odd. Then he let go of my hand cuffs and fell flat on to his fase, his hare in the edgis of the streme. I looked up the streme. LittelBrudda had anuther large flat stowne in his hand and was bringing his arm back. Thwack! The stowne hit the humungus thug what was sitting on Duncan, on the side of his hed. I saw it all in slo moshun as LittelBrudda aimed again and down fell a massiv police woman, who topperled side weys, mowth opern in mid showt. The larst man, a mussly skinny chap not in uniform, ducked but not farst enugh. LittelBaby had parsed LittelBrudda anuther rock, wich sored owt of his hand and thuded hard in to skinnys cheke. Down he went.
There was a silence. Jus the gergling of the streme and the tweating of berds.
LittelBaby clapped her hands. ‘Oo good atta trow de stownes!’ she said.
‘Yeh,’ said Duncan faintly. ‘Not bad, LittelBrudda!’
A car dor slammed bihind us. Three more men stood there, with guns, glaring at us thrugh goggels. The guns went kuh chi kuh, kuh chi kuh, like geting redy to fiyer. You often here that sownd in the moovies but not often in rele life. LittelBrudda had anuther stowne in his hands. ‘Dont, LittelBrudda!’ scremed Duncan.
It was such a high screme that I wantid to showt ‘Your a gerl, your a gerl,’ but I realised it wasent the moment. Quite often I have to kerb my inpulsis.
‘We give are selvs up!’ I showtid. ‘Plese dont shoot.’
There was a crack of a gun. Three cracks. I thort ‘oh shit, have I bene shot?’ But I dident fiyul eny pane. I looked at Duncan. He was still standing. I looked at the babies. They were still standing in the streme. The three men buckeled at the nees. One of there guns went of, but in to the trees. Who had brogt them down? It was a mistery. The leves jus shimmered in the silence.
Then there was a cracking of twigs. Some one walked owt of the bushis. It was CrazyStranger with a gun in his hand. ‘What…?’ I croked. He terns up all over the plase.
‘Iyum sorry, Sally-Anne,’ he said, ‘that I apere to be following you arownd all over the plase.’
‘Well, it is a bit weerd,’ I said, ‘but thank you, eny wey.’ I noddid at the three flatterned blokes.
‘There not ded,’ he said. ‘Its salt. Theyull come rownd in a bit, we shoud move.’ He put owt his hand. I shook it. ‘Iyuv bene looking owt for you for a long time, Sally-Anne,’ he said.
There was more crackling of under growth bihind him and a dumpy lady with a rownd red fase was standing there. I thort I was having one of my vishuns. ‘Mum?’ I wispered.
‘Well, Yes, and No, Sally-Anne, my love,’ she said.
She all weys has been a bit odd, so I jus ignored that strange rip lie. ‘What are you doing here?’ I arsked, not berlieving my eyes.
‘Me and Prefeser Snow go back a long wey,’ she said. ‘To nine munths bifore you were born, Sally-Anne.’
‘Weyull explane in a minit. Get in your car and follow us,’ said CrazyStranger.
We quickly swept up are blankits, tent and food and rammed it in to are crappy car. We followed CrazyStranger along a windy root for abowt forty minits. All the time, I was saying to Duncan, ‘What? What is that? Why woud Mum know CrazyStranger all this time?’ We went owt of the woods and on to a bigger rode, along anuther windy lane, thrugh a cupel of villigis, thrugh a ford, parst a farm and we parked bihind a pub where there was a littel play grownd and got owt and let the babies play in the swings.
CrazyStranger sat on the botterm of the slide. He sihged. He lookt quite old and tiyerd. ‘Your muther was the surogut for my very ferst, originle, succes full attempt to bring a neyanderthal being in to the werld, Sally-Anne.’
‘What?’ I was gob smacked. ‘Was she? Why did I never mete that neander thingy then? Did it ever live at are howse?’
Duncan garsped. He was looking at me. ‘Oh my god,’ he said, ‘Sally-Anne, its you!’
I stared back at him. ‘Am I a speri mint?’
‘Yes, you are,’ he said.
‘Wow,’ I said. Lucky it dont still mene chewing gum then.
‘Well, it dont make no diffrence,’ I said, ‘seeing as how I dont evern get properly what one is!’
‘Thats why your dad left,’ said my Mum, ‘He coudent cope with you being so…diffrent. Thogh Iyud only agreed to do it for him! To pay of his dets, the un grate full….’
‘Is that why Iyum a freek? And why pepol dont make eny sense…?’
‘Your not a freek,’ said CrazyStranger staring at me with….love, I think it was, ‘you are a wonder, and thats also why you were chosern to bring LittelBaby into the werld. The sientists had tried again and again but the babies were all weys miscarried or still born. They figered you were the only one who coud do it.’
I thort back to how it all startid. ‘So Jess was pade to get me to Wantababy….’
LittelBaby was in the swing, going ‘Weeee! Weeee!’ My mum was pushing her. It made me nerely die of happy ness wotching them, so I coud hardly consentrate on all this stupid speri mint stuff.
‘Oh, yes…thay pade Jess, thay pade Wantababy, thay pade Frances…it was a teme effert.’
‘You were manipulatid,’ said Duncan. ‘It menes cuntrolled,’ he addid, ‘like a puppit.’
Ooh, it made me feyul weerd that pepol had been wotching me, and plotting me like that. And oh shit, Frances was NarstyLady….Still, I was glad she wasent LittelBabys rele mum…who was LittelBabys rele mum then?
‘Who is LittelBabys rele mum then?’ I arsked CrazyStranger.
‘Her rele mum? Her rele mum….and your rele mum…two different wimin, lived sixty thowsand yeres ago, in a cave in Romania, in a big famly group of Neyanderthal. But you, and the babies, you are cloned….’
‘Cloned menes like copied, Sally-Anne,’ said Duncan.
‘…yes, like copied, from three of the children of those two wimin. There remanes were fownd in a beautifle cave on a hill side. It was luvley, tidy, all the speres lined up, pichers on the walls and a harth, or fiyer, in side.’
I knew that. I had sene the cave, I had sene the piols of fer, the fiyer, the brambels at the entrunse, the view. I had smelt the smoke, the animuls, the children, the love. In those vishuns I must of been seeing memries parsed on from my rele, aynchent muther and farther, or memries parsed on from my oridginle self. Was it like I was getting eccows of her feelings? Iyum not clever enugh to know.
‘Does that mene I have lived bifore?’
‘Not quite. Some boddy pritty much ixactly the same as you lived bifore.’
‘Why did you help us get away from the laboratry?’ I arked. ‘Do you…not like,’ I coudent really say Bludshoteyes, ….’ that Procter Docter man what kept the babies in cagis?’
‘I dont like them precisely bicause they kepe babies in cagis,’ he ansered. ‘Docter Procter wantid to kepe you in a cage, for your hole life, Sally-Anne. ‘
My hart clenched with horrer. If I coudent be owt side and fiyul the brease on my fase evry day, I think I woud die. He continewed: ‘I had a massiv falling owt with Procter and his stupid son, with me insisting on having you broght up by your suragut and having your freedum. But I never dremed they were hatching a plan to get you to be the surogut for a new generashun of battery caged neanderthal. They were one step ahed of me there.’
‘So you fownd owt I was pregnunt…’
‘And I vowed to help you kepe your baby owt of the cagis….’
‘But I woudent lisen…I thort you were crazy!’
‘I dont blame you for that,’ he laughed, ‘but I all weys had watched you from afar, taking notes and injoying the fact you were loving the owt dors, loving to darnse. You are a true oridginle, Sally-Anne. No boddy else sees things the wey you do.’
Who else had said that to me? It rang a bell. It was the lady who gave me the book to write in. This book. ‘The lady…’ I said, ‘The lady who gave me the book…’
‘Yes,’ said Prefeser Snow. ‘My wife, Cecilia. We were really hoping you might rite some of your advenchers down, as it woud be a fasinating rede.’
‘Shes going to,’ said Duncan.
I dident even know then that I really coud rite it all down. But see, I nearly have, and Iyum nearly at the end of the story so far. My hand akes fit to bust I hope you know.
I lookt over at my mum pushing the babies in the swings. ‘I have one more queschun,’ I said, wispering. ‘Why did you choose my mum/not mum? Like, shes not…..’
‘Bicause ferstly, she agreed to do it. You dont find meny who are brave enugh. Also, she had a high persentige of neyanderthal genes,’ said Snow. ‘Her blud test rejistered highist in the like leehood stakes of being abel to bring you in to the werld.’
Duncan carried on talking to CrazyStranger. It was to sientific for me so I went over to the swings. My mum was laughing. I dident think Iyud sene her laugh in yeres. ‘Look, Sally-Anne!’ she said. As the babies came for werd in the swing she was hi fiving there littel swinging fete. ‘Hi five! Hi five!’ Thay were screming with dilight.
‘Mum…do you want to buy them littel rabits?’ I arsked her, with teres prickeling bihind my eyes.
‘Oh, yes,’ she said, blinking rapidley like she had jus wokern up, ‘I do! I want to buy them rabits, and books, and ice cremes. I just had to come with the Prefeser, and see my grand childrun, and say good bye, cos….your going of… for a time?’
‘Yeh, were of to an ilund,’ I said.
I hugged my mum/not mum good bye. She felt wunderfley sollid and warm. ‘Dont eat too meny donuts and thanks…for being brave enugh to bring me in to the werld,’ I said.
‘Your a very speshul gerl, Sally-Anne,’ she said, ‘and dont you ferget it.’
‘I carnt ferget it, Mum,’ I said. ‘Its jus part of being speshul, you dont ever get to ferget it!’
On the way up to the top of Scot Land we terned up the radio and sang along lowdly. We sang ‘I want to brake free-hee!’ and ‘Were all Going on a Sunny Holiday!’ Are crappy car was back firing and fucked up but we trundeled along happiley, and sloley.
‘We can get up the top this time for shure, Sally-Anne,’ he said.
‘To the Orknees?’ I said. We had talkt abowt this a lot.
‘Yes, the Orknees.’
As we drove, I streched in to the back and held LittelBabys hand often. And LittelBruddas. I wantid to explane to them that we woud for ever be in danger but I thort may be thay all redy knew. Thay are so clever. Thay know things. More things than I do.
‘You know, Sally-Anne,’ said Duncan.
‘You dont have to wurry eny more abowt NarstyLady. There not going to be arfter us no more.’
‘How come? I thort thay woud be arfter us for ever.’
‘CrazyStranger, he said that as soon as we were of, he was going to hand his self in.’
‘Hand his self in?’
‘Yes, he said hes eighty two now and he dusent mind being in prison for NarstyLady if it menes that his speri mint, thats you, and the babies, can be wiold and free.’
I startid to cry with gratty chood. What a gift. I realised that if CrazyStranger loved us that much then it ment I was kind of his dorter.
Duncan startid laughing. ‘He arsked me what he shoud say if thay arsk him why he set light to her hare.’
‘What did you tell him?’ I arsked.
‘I said, ‘just say you gave her a fag so she coud have a larst smoke on her wey down the river.’
We coudent help it but we chuckeled and chuckeled abowt NarstyLady and her por berning hed all the way up to the top.
We stopt in a wood to camp, the night bifore are crossing on the erly morning ferry. When ever the babies were in naycher to gether, its like we coudent kepe are eyes of them. Thay had a beautifle bright grene shimmering light arownd them. You coud see spex of dust darncing in this light. It was like enerjy, like as if I was seeing enerjy. It moved in curves, like waves. I was addictid to wotching the babies.
LittleBrudda had soft gowldern hare all over his boddy. It was soft and moved in the wind, like the wind was brushing it. He gazed up at the sky, up at the moon. He only moved when abserlutely necisery. He charntid softly, like ‘oom, gana, wana, gana, oola moona noooog.’ He coud clime trees really well. I dident see no harm in it. I let him clime. Theres no sense taking some one owt of a cage and puting them in to anuther one, bisides wich, he was making up for lost time. ‘You go as high as you can, LittelBrudda!’ I called. So up he went, hand over hand, foot over foot. Duncan came back from finding wood for the fiyer and he looked arownd and saw LittelBaby sitting in a littel nut tree picking cob nuts. ‘Where is LittelBrudda?’ he arsked.
I pointid up in to an inormus beech tree. ‘Sally-Anne,’ said Duncan. ‘You are completley barmy! He is a baby!’
I saw that LittelBrudda was right at the top. Oops, it was bit high. ‘He might be a baby,’ I said, ‘but he is very strong and very good at climing. Bisides wich, I know what he nedes bicause I am a neander thingy and so is he.’
‘LittelBrudda!’ showtid Duncan. ‘Are you all right?’
‘Me or righ Dung Dung!’ the baby charntid back, swinging from a brarnch, miols abuv us. ‘Me high, me high, wid di berdies, no wurri!’
Duncan startid climing up. LittelBrudda showtid down to me: ‘Sally-Anne! Sally-Anne! No wurri, me hi five di toptop leves fo oo, Sally-Anne!’
Duncan went up as high as he coud to help LittelBrudda get down, but Iyum telling you, pepol like LittelBrudda…. not that there are eny, as he is uneke…. dont nede no help. He was a jenius climer, a proper legend.
We realised that night that it was LittelBabys, and there for LittelBruddas, ferst berth day, the 31st of Octoba, 2023. We lit a fiyer and sang ‘Oh dragen fly with your wings so blue,’ and ‘I….have bicome…comfterbly num,’ and ‘Happy Berth Day to you hoo.’
Next morning at dawn, porpusis lept all arownd are bowt. Slanting sun light berst thrugh clowds to glint on the dark cherning waves. Seles poked there heds owt of the water to wotch us go by and uther sele famerlies viewed us from rocks. LittelBaby was fasinatid. ‘Ooh, ooh, LittelBrudda!’ she said again and again. ‘Sele for oo. Sele for oo. Baby sele dere!’
The bowt stopt a cuple of times at rimote, wind brushed ilunds but we did not get of. We were heding as far awey as possibel from the sivel eyes ayshun. ‘Vanish, LittelBaby,’ I said, ‘thats what we nede to do, even if that CrazyStranger Snow is hanging owt in prison for us.’ I squezed her. We had a sete on the deck. She kissed my cheke and cuddeled in side my red puffa what I got from Oxfam. I looked at my luvley famerly. Duncan was in his big grene jumper with moth holes in it. LittelBaby was waring her hat with the fer lining, grene flowerey dungarees, and wellies. LittelBrudda was waring red trowsies what Duncan fownd in Sue Ryder for him, a brown fleese and a tartan hat with furrey ear flaps. They were all so gorjus I wantid to hug them tight to me for ever.
LittelBrudda was clutching on to the rales, wotching the fome bihind the bowt and the gulls weeling over the sparkeling sea. He had that far awey look in his eyes. He crooned on a mono tone: ‘Goo nana wolla noo noo….Flana gonoo omma wooooo.’
‘Spirit is evry thing,’ translaytid LittelBaby, popping her hed owt of my puffa, ‘life is a fract chured sperience, but in the end, we are all one.’
‘Whats fract chured?’ we said together. We laughed.
‘It menes brokern,’ Duncan said.
Its lucky that I can under stand Duncan, and Duncan can under stand LittelBaby, and LittelBaby can under stand LittelBrudda, uther wise in are famly there woud be a bit of a langwidge baryer.