In this chapter Miles's social life continues to develop and the forfeits version of cribbage finds its next victim. And Martin discovers that he doesn't have exclusive rights to his 'special place'...
Wednesday April 9th
Miles's friend Graham came home with him after school today. We had tea together, and then my mother insisted that they did their homework before they did anything else, and because they had maths Miles asked me to come and help to explain about calculating the area of a circle and stuff like that. Miles is pretty good: he'll ask me for help, but he doesn't ask me to actually do the homework for him, just explain it so that he can do it himself. So I told him what he needed to know and then went back to my room to listen to some music while I tried to write a bit more of my story.
The story has got a bit stuck, though, because I've reached the point where my hero has found the portal, but I can't really write a lot more until I've found the real one and discovered what is on the other side... if there really is one, of course. But I'm sure there's something special about that place....
After a bit Miles and Graham came in and closed the door. Miles said that Graham was the one who had told him about Monkey Disease – there had been a lesson about it last term, apparently – and he asked if I would let Graham have a look. I was going to say no – after all, I'm still pretty sure Miles is making the whole thing up, and I wasn't sure I wanted a total stranger looking at my personal places. But in the end I said yes, just in case it's a real disease. And I know Miles really wanted me to, and I suppose I do owe him for letting me share his bed when I got scared by the storm on Saturday night.
I undid my belt, intending just to pull my jeans and pants down a bit, but Miles said I should take all my clothes right off so that they could check to see if there was any fur growing anywhere else, so I did. And then they made me stand with my legs apart and my hands on my head.
Graham looked at my groin and said that it had only just started, so probably I'd be okay for ages yet. Then they started to check for fur anywhere else on my body. They did that by stroking me really slowly all over, starting with my chest and back and working down. They both did it at the same time using both hands, so I had four hands stroking me at once, and it felt really nice. They worked their way down to my personal places, and then Graham sort of touched gently all around them, like Miles had done on Sunday morning, and it made my penis go hard again. And then they both stroked my penis, my testicles and my bottom at the same time, and I don't know why, but it felt really amazing.
Graham said they ought to check for a tail, and so they made me spread my legs and bend forwards, and then they felt the base of my spine. They said that was fine, that there was absolutely no sign of a tail growing, which obviously I was happy about. And then one of them touched my anus, and that felt really weird. I asked what they were doing, but they told me to keep quiet and let them work, so I just kept still while they sort of stroked my anus, and soon it felt nice instead of weird. I was a bit disappointed when they stopped and started to stroke down my legs, and they found some very fine hair on my lower legs. But Graham said that was nothing to worry about, that it wasn't proper fur and that quite a lot of normal people have a little hair on their legs, and even on their arms, too.
Then they got me to stand up straight again, but still with my legs apart, and they stroked the little bit of fur some more, and then started stroking my penis, testicles and anus again, and it felt so good it made me sort of groan. Miles asked if I liked it, and I admitted I did and told them that it made me feel warm and nice. Graham got a ruler out of his bag and measured my penis: it's about eleven centimetres long, he said, and he wrote it in a notebook. He said they'd measure from time to time to see if the fur grows more as I get older – he explained that when a boy becomes a teenager his penis usually grows, so it would be a useful way to check on how fast I am growing up.
When they stopped touching me I was disappointed because it felt so nice, but I didn't really want to say so again because I thought they'd think there was something wrong with me – after all, it can't be normal for you to like having people touch your personal places, can it? But I asked if they were going to inspect me again, and Graham said they ought to do it regularly to see if the disease is getting any worse. I asked how often, and he said they really ought to do it every week, which pleased me, though I tried to make sure they couldn't tell. And then Miles said he could give me a quick check even more often, just to make sure. I pretended not to want that, but he said it would be best to keep a close eye on it, and so in the end I agreed that I'd let him check me whenever he thought he should.
And then they went downstairs to watch TV for a bit. I stayed in my room thinking for a few minutes, wondering why being touched that way felt nice, and if it was just something else about me that proves I'm part-alien, but then I decided that there was no point in worrying about it at the moment. So I went downstairs to watch TV with them, and they didn't make fun of me at all – in fact Miles moved up so I could sit next to him on the sofa, and then he snuggled up to me the way he does sometimes when we're watching TV together. So perhaps they don't think I was acting too weirdly after all...
“Do you really think he liked us doing that?” asked Graham. “I mean, I know he said he did, but... well, it's not like you and me doing it to each other, is it? We're friends, so we can do anything we're both happy about, but he doesn't know me at all. I'd have thought it would be really embarrassing for him to let me touch him. And I can't believe he really fell for that 'Monkey Disease' stuff. Surely he knows it's normal to get hair on it when you reach puberty?”
“No, he doesn't. He doesn't even know what puberty is. He's been taught at home since he was nine, and I know my mother hasn't taught him anything at all about sex – she doesn't think he needs to know stuff like that yet. I know, because she had to sign a form for me to have H and R classes at my old school, and she wasn't at all keen: she said I wouldn't need to know that sort of stuff until I was about fourteen or fifteen. I had to get my dad to talk her into it, and even then she only agreed because I said the other kids would be sure to tell me about it anyway, only they might get it mixed up, and it would be better if I heard the proper version from the teacher. So Martin knows absolutely nothing about sex. He knows what the proper names for his cock and balls are, because my mother taught him those so that he could say what was wrong if he ever had a problem like not being able to pee properly or having his balls ache, but he doesn't know what they're for. Except for peeing, obviously. So he has no idea that we're all going to grow hair in the end – he just thinks it means there's something wrong with him.”
“Won't he want to see the doctor, then?”
“Not if we can convince him it's not a big problem, because he usually gets really embarrassed talking about his body. If he thinks you and I can keep it under control he won't say anything to anyone else.”
“Brilliant! So we can make him strip whenever we want, then!”
“Pretty much. I expect I'll tell him the truth eventually – maybe when you and I start getting some hair of our own – but it'll be fun to keep teasing him about it until then. Anyway, like you said, he didn't seem to mind us touching him, so I don't suppose he'll complain.”
Saturday April 12th
Something really bad happened today. The weather was dry, so after lunch I went back to the special place. I really thought I had a good chance of finding the portal today, and I had everything planned out: first I would sit on the branch for a while to get attuned to the place, and then I'd see if I got any indication of where the portal was – if I felt pulled towards one corner of the dip, for example. And if I didn't I would start at one end and work my way very slowly to the other until found it. I was sure it would work.
So I went and sat on the branch and relaxed for a bit, just breathing steadily and trying to pick up any trace of anything unusual. And I was just sitting there, relaxing, when someone shouted at me. It sort of jolted me awake, and when I looked up there was a boy standing at the top of the bank and glaring at me. He looked really angry.
'What are you doing here?' he asked, and I said I wasn't doing anything, I was just sitting there. 'Well, you can't,' he said. 'This is my place and nobody else is allowed here.' I wondered if he meant his father owned the field or something – after all, I had climbed through a fence to get to the dip. But then I wondered if he meant it was his place because the portal was here and he came from the other side, so I asked where he came from. 'None of your business,' he said, and that made me even more certain he was from the other side, so I asked where the portal was. He pretended he didn't know what I was talking about and said I was talking rubbish, and if I didn't go away – actually he said something I think was much ruder, though I didn't understand the word he used – he'd beat me up. I said I only wanted to find the portal because I thought maybe I belonged on the other side of it, and he said I belonged in a (rude word) lunatic asylum and if I didn't go he'd beat me up really badly. And I thought he meant it, too: he seemed really angry, and I didn't want to get beaten up so I said sorry and ran off.
So maybe the people on the other side of the portal aren't quite as friendly as I'd hoped – though maybe the angry boy was just angry because he was scared I knew about the portal. Maybe once he realises I'm no threat to him or his people he'll be okay. I hope so, because he looked as if he was about the same age as me, so maybe we could be friends once he finds out I'm intelligent, like he is. There was something strange about him, too – mostly he just looked like an ordinary boy, with fair hair about the same length as mine and ordinary-looking clothes – though I suppose they change into earth clothes before coming through the portal so as to blend in. But there was something about his head that seemed odd. I'm not sure now what it was – after all, I was a bit upset when I was looking at him, and I can't quite remember what it was that took my eye. But there was definitely something...
I've decided that I'm going to keep looking for the portal. Obviously I'll have to be a lot more careful about it from now on, and I'll have to make sure the angry boy doesn't see me again until I've found it, but I can't give up now. And I'm not going to.
Luke Sinclair watched the dark-haired boy run off and breathed a sigh of relief. Thank god he'd been half an hour later finishing lunch today than he had expected, because otherwise he would have been here half an hour earlier, and that meant that when the other kid arrived he'd have been... well, he was just glad it hadn't happened, that was all.
He'd been sure nobody else knew about this place – after all, there were no other kids living in the small collection of houses near the junction of the lane and the main road, and surely kids wouldn't bother coming from further away – he thought it was at least a mile to the nearest village. And the dip was invisible from the footpath seventy-five yards away – from there it just looked like a clump of trees - and inaccessible from the lane without fighting your way through loads of brambles and stuff. So how had the other kid got there? After all, he'd only found it by complete accident himself...
The other kid had been talking about a portal or something – presumably a game he'd been playing. Did that mean he'd been here before – or, more importantly, might come back? That could be really bad news. He didn't think the kid would come back, because he thought he'd done a decent job of scaring him off, and had done his best to give the impression that he himself had the right to be here but that anyone else would be trespassing. He wished he'd thought to use that actual word, but he'd been too shaken up at finding someone else in his special place to think clearly.
He realised that he would have to be a bit careful here for a little while, at least until he could be sure that the kid had been scared away permanently. And that was intensely annoying: he really enjoyed his sessions out here, because this was the one place he could totally relax and be himself and play the games he wanted to play.
He supposed that he could be fairly sure the other kid wasn't going to come back today, at least, but he was no longer in the mood for his usual game. He sat on the branch for a few minutes trying to get back in the swing of things, but the thought that someone else had been sitting here – on his branch! - kept intruding, and in the end he gave up, climbed up out of the dip and went home.
Another week went by. By the end of it Miles had settled in at school fairly well, though because this was the summer term they spent games afternoons playing cricket instead of football, which meant that he didn’t get a chance to show off his football skills to the rest of the class. He could play cricket, but nothing like as well as he played football, and so he didn’t enjoy games afternoons as much as he might have done.
But he was doing quite well in class and had even – with help from his brother - picked up enough geometry to catch up with everyone else, so that was okay. And he enjoyed messing about with Graham and the others at break, too, so all in all he was quite happy with life.
He was starting to like Twitch, too – his neighbour had a nice sense of humour and even seemed to enjoy making fun of his own shortcomings, such as the time Miles made a comment on how untidy his hair was and Twitch replied, absolutely dead-pan, that he had to comb his hair without using a mirror because every time he looked in a mirror it broke.
“You’re not that ugly,” Miles had replied, and Twitch said that his face had been put together from the bits Doctor Frankenstein had left over. “I was lucky,” he added. “At least he didn’t have a spare bolt to put through my neck.”
That Friday Twitch was telling him a funny story immediately before they went in for lunch, and so for the first time Miles went and sat next to him to listen to the end of the story while they ate. And just before afternoon school started Graham took him to one side.
“You shouldn’t be hanging around with Twitch,” he said.
“Blimey, don’t you know? Look, Miles, so far everyone reckons you’re cool, because you fit in. You’re good at football, you’re okay at cricket, and you spend your breaks with the right people. But hanging about with Twitch is really, really uncool, and if you keep doing it everyone’s going to start thinking you’re weird. They won’t blame you for sitting next to him, because there’s nothing you can do about that, but you don’t want to be seen talking to him outside the classroom.”
“Oh. But… look, Graham, I reckon he’s okay. He’s done a lot to help me get organised over the last couple of weeks, telling me which class is next and which books I need, that sort of thing. And he helped a bit with the geometry, too, because I hadn’t ever done that before. I sort of like him. And it’s not his fault if he has epilepsy, is it? Or the way he looks.”
“No, I suppose not. But he’s different, Miles, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s his fault or not. And if you hang with him people will think you’re different, too, and then some of them will start giving you a hard time. I’m just telling you, that’s all.”
“Okay. It seems a bit rough, but I suppose you’re right. I’ll just talk to him when we’re in the classroom, then.”
He wasn’t happy about it, but he knew it was true: if you wanted to survive you had to blend in, because he’d seen in his last school how quick kids could be to tear into anyone who didn’t conform to the thick-but-good-at-sports norm. He thought it was unfair, but Twitch had obviously survived so far, despite being the butt of everyone’s jokes, and he didn’t want to end up on the receiving end himself, especially since he was new to the school. So he decided he would have to follow Graham’s advice and not talk to Twitch outside the classroom.
On the Saturday Graham came over to visit Miles again, staying for lunch and going out for a long bike ride afterwards, but between lunch and the start of their expedition they found time to take Martin up to his room, strip him bare and check to see if any more fur had appeared. They both enjoyed it, doing their best to get Martin to gasp and groan as they touched him. And they got the impression that Martin liked it as much as they did, not least because his penis was already erect before he removed his pants.
“I like making your brother wriggle about,” said Graham as they rode down towards the river. “Do you think he’d let us check him for fur in front of the others?”
“Probably not yet. After all, he thinks it means there’s something wrong with him, and I don’t think he’d want anyone else know about it. Maybe in a while we can get him to admit he just likes being undressed and touched, and then perhaps we can get him to let the others join in, but I don’t think we’ll be able to do that for a while. Still, he seems quite happy about letting us do it, doesn’t he?”
“Yes, he does. I’d like to try stripping him outdoors sometime – that might be funny. Anyway, I was talking to Rob yesterday, and he’s going to come round tomorrow afternoon, so if you’re free, maybe we could teach him to play crib.”
“Brilliant! I’m pretty sure I’m not doing anything tomorrow, but I’ll ask as soon as we get home.”
They had a good afternoon exploring the riverbank, even though in places it was a bit muddy… well, very muddy, to be honest, so much so that when they got back to Miles’ house his mother made them both strip to their underwear in the porch, rather than letting them trail mud all through the house. She went and threw their mucky clothes in the washing machine while they went up to Miles’ room and shut the door. Since they were appropriately dressed they decided that a wrestling match would be a good idea, and that kept them occupied for the better part of half an hour, after which they were too tired to do anything more than sit and play cards. They played a couple of games of crib, without forfeits (just for practice, they agreed), but then they couldn’t resist the temptation any longer and agreed that the third game would result in forfeits for the loser.
Graham finally lost a very close game by seven points and removed his remaining clothing without argument, while Miles found a pair of shorts and a shirt in his wardrobe, put them on and then went to his brother’s room, where he found Martin with his headphones on, listening to some music that his mother would not have approved of, unless she had suddenly developed a taste for Norwegian Black Metal.
“Can you come to my room for a moment?” Miles asked him, once he’d managed to catch his brother’s attention. “Only Graham needs us to check him over for Monkey Disease.”
Martin thought it would be interesting to find out what it felt like from the other person’s point of view, so he turned off his CD player and followed Miles to his room. Graham didn’t look all that happy to see him, clasping his hands in front of his groin and asking, “Hey, Miles, what’s he doing here?”
“I thought we ought to check you over for Monkey Disease,” Miles told him, grinning. “And as Martin is an expert on the subject I thought we should get him to help.”
Graham wasn’t sure of that: as far as he was concerned, the Disease story was supposed just to be a way for them to make Martin strip off for their entertainment. But he’d agreed to accept seven minutes’ worth of forfeits, so he supposed he couldn’t really argue too much if Miles wanted his brother to join in.
As for Martin, while he was still at least 75% certain that the whole Monkey Disease thing was a wind-up, he couldn’t be absolutely certain, and so he took this very seriously, gently and carefully stroking Graham’s body all over, looking for any sign of hair. After a bit Miles joined in, and Graham found himself being caressed by both brothers at the same time. And he found, as Martin had said, that it felt really nice.
After he had satisfied himself that the whole of Graham’s body was free from hair Martin checked the base of the spine, just to make certain that there was no sign of a tail growing, and then he examined Graham’s genitals really closely. By now Miles had been playing with them for a couple of minutes, and so Graham had a very solid erection, but Martin didn’t comment on that, just stroking carefully around the base of the penis and checking that the other boy was completely hair-free.
“I think you’re safe,” he reported, finally. “I can’t see any sign of hair at all, so it looks as though you don’t have the disease. You’re lucky.”
“I did tell you it was rare,” Miles pointed out, still stroking his friend’s erection. “It only affects about one person in a hundred thousand, or something. But I thought it would be fair to let you see Graham undressed and to touch his personal places, since he’s done the same thing to you. Do you think he’s got a nice penis?”
“It’s really hard,” agreed Martin, “and it looks pretty good, I suppose – though I don’t really know what a proper penis is supposed to look like. And at least he hasn’t got any monkey fur on it…. I’ve been thinking, Miles: do you think it would help if I cut the hair off mine?”
“Probably not really, because I think it would just grow back, just like when you get your hair cut it soon grows again,” said Miles. “I suppose you would look more normal without it, but it doesn’t really matter because nobody is going to see you undressed except me and Graham and we already know about it. I think you should just leave it for now and only think about cutting it off if it gets a bit longer and more obvious.”
“I agree,” said Graham, who actually thought those tiny hairs looked sort of interesting. “Keep them for now but shave them off if they get too gross-looking. By the way – is my time up yet?”
“It was up about three minutes ago, but you seemed to be having fun so I let you get on with it,” Miles told him, grinning.
“Okay, then next time you lose I’ll keep you bare for an extra three minutes,” Graham promised him, though he made no attempt to reach for his boxers: he was actually enjoying the way the brothers were making him feel. But Martin had finished his inspection now and said he was going back to his music, and off he went, closing the door behind him. Miles kept fondling Graham’s balls for another minute or so and then said that he might as well get dressed and so, slightly reluctantly, Graham did.
“We’re going to have to think of some good forfeits to do to people,” he commented. “Nothing too horrible, obviously, because we’re only going to be doing this stuff with our mates, but we ought to try to think of some interesting things to do. Maybe we can start with Rob tomorrow. We’ll have to see if we can think of anything good before then.”
Saturday April 19th
Today Graham came round again, and so I got undressed and let them check to see if any more hair has appeared. It hasn’t, and I didn’t think it would this quickly, anyway – after all, they only checked a week ago. But I didn’t mind because I like the way it makes me feel when they touch me, even when they touch my personal places – in fact, that’s where it feels nicest.
And then later on Miles invited me to his room, and I found Graham there without any clothes on – I think maybe it was a bet, or something. Anyway, Miles said I should check Graham over in case he has Monkey Disease, so I did. Of course he hasn’t – there is no hair on him anywhere below his neck, but that isn’t surprising because Miles says the disease only affects about one person in a hundred thousand. Of course, I still think he’s probably making it all up…
But it gave me a chance to find out what it was like to be the person doing the checking instead of being the one being checked, and I discovered that it was really interesting. I really liked the way Graham’s skin felt: it was smooth and silky. And his penis looked nice, too, because it was sticking up, like mine does when they touch me. It isn’t quite as big as mine, and his testicles aren’t very big, either, but it felt really interesting, sort of hard and soft at the same time – it was really very stiff, but the skin felt soft and velvety. Of course, I don’t really know what a penis is supposed to look like, but I thought Graham’s looked nice.
I couldn’t tell if he liked what we were doing or not. He didn’t try to stop us, but if he was paying a forfeit he wouldn’t have been allowed to, so that doesn’t really mean anything. When they touch me it feels so nice that I sometimes gasp or make other little noises, but Graham didn’t do anything like that. So I still don’t know if liking being touched means I’m weird or not. Probably it does mean that – after all, I know I’m different. And I liked touching Graham, too, though I tried really hard not to let them see that in case they thought I was strange – although I’m fairly sure they both like touching me, or they wouldn’t want to do it so often… it’s really confusing.
I had intended to go back to the special place this weekend, but I’ve sort of chickened out because I’m too scared of meeting the angry boy again. But I’m definitely not going to give up: maybe in another week he’ll have decided I’m not going to come back, and then he won’t be looking out for me. I’ll have to be really careful when I get near the dip so that if he’s there I see him before he sees me, but I’m definitely going to do it. I have to find the portal, if it exists: maybe on the other side someone can explain to me why I get these strange feelings when my brother undresses me…
On the Sunday afternoon Miles went to Graham’s house and they taught Rob to play cribbage. Rob liked the game, saying that it was far more interesting than brag or pontoon, and he seemed quite happy to play all afternoon. So they played two complete games (and Rob won the second one, proving that he’d picked up the strategy fairly quickly) and then Graham decided it was time to up the ante a little.
“See, me and Miles have been playing this game for a couple of weeks now, since he taught it to me,” Graham said. “And we decided to make it a little more interesting, so we started doing it like the penalty game at football: whoever loses has to strip and do press-ups. What do you think?”
“Yes, okay,” agreed Rob, flushed with his success in the second game.
That was easy, thought Graham, and so he decided to push a little further.
“In fact,” he went on, “we decided that we’d do it on a time basis – so if whoever comes second beats whoever comes third by four points, the person who comes third has to do forfeits for four minutes. Okay?”
“Okay,” agreed Rob. “It won’t be me who comes last, anyway.”
“Great!” said Graham, grabbing the cards and starting to shuffle. “Reset the board, Miles.”
Miles had remembered to bring one of the crib boards today, so he took the pegs back out ready for a new game while Graham dealt the first hand.
That first game was really close – in the end Graham won and Rob beat Miles to second place by pegging out first. Miles only lost by one point.
“It’s not really worth doing anything for one minute,” Miles said. “Let’s just play another game.”
“Let’s not,” said Graham. “You lost, Miles: get stripped.”
With a sigh Miles began to undress. He was a bit more nervous about this today, because he didn’t know Rob very well, and for that reason he didn’t have an erection when he removed his pants.
“Okay, what do you want me to do?” he asked.
“Hang on, we can’t start yet,” said Graham. “You can’t do forfeits until you’re stiff. Come and give me a hand, Rob.”
So Miles had to stand and let Graham tickle his genitals until he was fully erect.
“Gosh, he’s big, don’t you think?” said Rob.
“He is, isn’t he?” agreed Graham. “Okay, Miles, like you said there isn’t a lot of time, so you can just do some press-ups. Off you go.”
So Miles did some press-ups while Graham flicked his ruler against Miles’ bum and Rob looked on with interest, and once the minute was up Miles got dressed again.
“Let’s have another game!” demanded Rob. “We didn’t really get enough time to do stuff that time – let’s see if we can get longer this time!”
“Okay,” agreed Graham, happy to see that Rob was enjoying himself. “Your deal.”
And this time Rob lost by a mile – well, by twenty-six points, anyway. Suddenly his enthusiasm for the game vanished into thin air. Slowly he got undressed, hesitating when he got to his pants.
“You’re not going to tell anyone about this, are you?” he said.
“Well, we can if we want – after all, we all agreed to this before we started. But we’re not going to tell anyone what you look like naked, or anything else too personal, because we don’t do stuff like that to our mates.”
“As long as you keep quiet about me losing, that is,” put in Miles.
“Of course I will!” agreed Rob at once.
“Okay, then,” said Graham. “So – we’re waiting…”
Reluctantly Rob pulled his pants off and turned to face them. His genitals looked really small, but that was at least partly because his penis was keeping its head down, and of course Graham wasn’t going to allow it to stay like that.
“We’re going to have to get that tiny thing nice and hard to start with,” Graham told him. “Come here.”
Rob could hardly complain about that since he’d been perfectly happy for it to be done to Miles, and so he stood quietly and allowed Graham to stroke his genitals. It took a little longer, but eventually he started to stiffen up, and when it seemed to be as big as it was going to get Graham picked up his ruler and held it alongside.
“Six centimetres,” he announced. “Oh, dear. Now, what shall we do first? I think maybe twenty press-ups, just to get you in the mood… except… hang on a moment.”
He picked up his mobile phone from the desk and opened it, making out that he was going to make a call, but instead he turned on the camera and, before Rob could react, pointed it at him and took a picture.
“Don’t worry,” he said, as Rob started to make panicky noises, “this is just so that you can see what you look like. I’ll let you erase it yourself once you’ve seen. Anyway, get on with those press-ups.”
With a look that suggested a complete lack of trust Rob dropped to the floor and began to do his press-ups. Graham fiddled with the phone for a few seconds and then dropped down beside him to watch, and when the press-ups were over he showed the picture to Rob.
“Now you have to admit it isn’t very big, is it?” he asked. “I just thought you ought to see what you look like from someone else’s point of view, that’s all. You can erase it now – hit the ‘options’ button, then ‘delete’, then ‘confirm’. Satisfied? Now I’ll put it away in my drawer so you can be sure I don’t take any more. And now…do some stride jumps.”
They made Rob do various gymnastic exercises for about ten minutes but then took pity on him and allowed him to get dressed.
“Maybe next time we’ll make you do all that stuff outdoors,” Graham said as Rob tied his shoelaces.
“Just remember it’s your turn to lose next,” said Rob, glaring at him.
“I never lose: I’ve got too much class.”
“You wish. I’m going to think up some really bad stuff to do when you do lose.”
“Dream on. Anyway, let’s play something else.”
He turned his PlayStation on and they spent the rest of the afternoon playing various games, though without any forfeits.
Rob went home first, and after he had gone Graham went and turned on his computer.
“I sent myself an email a couple of hours ago,” he told Miles. “Do you want to see it?”
Miles didn’t get it straight away, but when Graham opened his email account there was a message waiting for him, and when he opened the attachment Miles found himself looking at a picture of Rob with no clothes on, his small erection clearly visible.
“I mailed it to my email account while he was doing his press-ups,” Graham explained. “So it didn’t matter that he erased it afterwards, because by then it was safely on the computer. Good, eh?”
“You shouldn’t have told me that,” said Miles. “Now I’m going to have to confiscate your phone whenever we play strip games together.”
“I wouldn’t do it to you,” Graham assured him. “But it might be fun to do it to your brother, don’t you think?”
“It would, at that,” agreed Miles. “And he wouldn’t realise you were taking a photo, because Mars hasn’t even got a mobile himself. He doesn’t need one, because he’s hardly ever away from home, and he hasn’t got any friends to send texts to or anything. So he probably wouldn’t realise what you were doing if you sat there and took photos of him all afternoon.”
“Okay, next time I come over we’ll try it.”
“But… you’re not to show it to anyone else,” Miles said. “Or not without telling me first, okay? I know Mars is weird, but he’s still my brother, and I don’t want him getting hurt.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t. I’m not going to show Rob’s pic to anyone else, either – that’s just for you and me. And if I can get one of any of the others – Jamie and Jack and Tom, anyway, and Kevin if I can possibly manage it – I won’t show them to anyone else, either.”
“Fair enough. Do you reckon you could get Robyn to play crib? It might be safer than taking penalties with her, because at least here we’re indoors.”
“I’m not sure she’d be allowed to come round on her own – though maybe if Rob came too it would work. And I’d like to get a pic of a nude girl to put in the collection, even if she hasn’t got much to look at yet.”
“What happens if your parents look on your computer?”
“They won’t find anything. I’ve got a little program that allows you to hide files, and I’m going to keep all my photos in there. Besides, my parents don’t know how to use a computer properly.”
“Great! So we’ve got somewhere safe to keep anything we don’t want anyone to find!”
“Good, isn’t it? So – just in case I manage to get Rob to bring his sister with him next time, you’d better show me how you play crib with four people. Did you say something about two against two?”
“That’s right – two people play as partners against the other two. So if you and me play against Rob and Robyn we can make them both strip at the same time - if we win, of course.”
“Of course we’ll win – we’re the top team, Miles. Nobody’s going to beat us. So – show me how you play with four.”
Another week went by, but they didn’t get a chance to challenge Rob and his sister because Graham had to go away for the weekend, so instead Miles arranged to meet up with the rest of the gang at the recreation ground to play football. And today Robyn was there, too. He’d already met her, of course, because she was in his class at school, and sometimes she joined in the playground tennis ball kickabouts, though more often she hung around with other girls. She looked a bit like her brother, with the same colour eyes and hair (though hers was worn long and was usually tied in a pony-tail), but she was an inch or two taller.
But Miles did still get to meet someone new today because Tom had brought his brother Kevin with him. Both of them went to a private school half a mile away from the school Miles went to, but because Tom had lived next door to Jamie for most of his life he still spent most of his weekends playing with Jamie and his friends rather than the kids from his own school. Kevin wore glasses and did look a bit nerdy, with his unruly wavy brown hair and skinny body, whereas Tom looked more athletic, with better-looking muscles. He also wore a gold ear stud on his left ear, which was something that wasn’t allowed – for girls or boys – at Miles’ school.
After a bit of negotiating they agreed on two teams and started playing, and Miles quickly found out that Robyn was pretty good and that Kevin wasn’t, though his extra height made him a reasonable second goalkeeper. They played for an hour or so, changed the teams and carried on, but with Graham absent nobody else took the step of suggesting strip games. But Miles still enjoyed himself.
Luke Sinclair had stayed away from the dip the previous weekend, other than making a very swift visit on the Sunday afternoon just to make sure the other kid wasn’t hanging around. But this weekend he wanted to get back into his proper routine, so on the Saturday afternoon he made his way to the dip straight after lunch. He scouted it out carefully, but there was no sign that anyone was around, or indeed that anyone had been there recently, so he went to the point where the horizontal tree grew out of the bank and got undressed. Then he sat on the branch for a while, relaxing and enjoying the solitude.
Saturday April 26th
Now things have become very strange… I went out to the dip this afternoon. I deliberately left it quite late because last time I got there before the angry boy, and I thought if I left it a bit later it would give him a chance to get there first. Of course, if I left it too late he might just disappear through the portal, but I hoped I would arrive after he got there but before he left.
I climbed over the fence and forced my way through the hedge between the lane and a field that was quite a long way from the dip, and then I moved along close to the hedge until I was near the dip. Finally I crawled across the last bit to the dip, approaching it at the end where all the undergrowth was, as the angry boy had appeared at the other end last time.
I crawled right to the edge of the dip where there was a big tree and I looked around it. I didn’t really expect to see anyone, but the angry boy was there, sitting on the branch – and he didn’t have any clothes on! For a while he just sat there, and then he got up and pulled a string tied round one of the tree-trunks, and one end of a rope dropped down into the dip. The other end seemed to be tied to a branch up in the tree. And then he climbed up the bank holding the rope and used it to swing down into the dip, letting go at the far end of its swing and dropping to his feet on the floor of the dip. He had bare feet, so he must have cleared that area of thorns or anything sharp first.
He played on his rope for quite a while, swinging on it and climbing it, and then he put a paper target against one of the trees and practised throwing a spear at it – it was a proper spear with a metal point, and he seemed to be quite good with it. He practised throwing a knife, too, though he was definitely better with the spear.
He had a rest sitting on the branch for a while and then climbed up into the tree his rope was tied to. I don’t like heights very much, but he seemed completely at home there, running along the branch like a monkey – I wonder if I’d be able to do that if my Monkey Disease got far enough? I just thought of that… Anyway, he climbed down the rope and then did the trip twice more, up the tree and down the rope. He must be fit, because I know I couldn’t have done that. Perhaps their bodies are better than in this world, as well as their brains, though his body didn’t look different – though I couldn’t see anything very clearly because I was too far away.
In the end he got dressed, tied the rope against the tree-trunk, hid his spear under a fallen branch and left the clearing. I was a bit disappointed because I’d hoped he’d use the portal, but perhaps he came in that way and wanted to do some more exploration before going home.
I’ve been wondering why he undressed, and I think maybe it’s because in his world everything is very organised – maybe he spends most of the day working with, or even plugged into, a computer. Perhaps when he’s in our world he’s free to behave totally differently, so he acts like a wild boy who can run about naked and climb trees and do all the stuff he can’t do at home. Maybe there aren’t even any trees in his world.
Next time I want to get a lot closer, so I can see him properly: there’s something about his face that struck me as strange, but I wasn’t close enough to see. There’s a thick clump of brambles and thorns not too far from the branch, and I think if I can get close behind it, or even find a way to get inside it, I’ll be able to see a lot better. So tomorrow I’m going to try to get there really early so that I’m in my hiding place before he gets there…
So Martin has a mystery to solve – who is the strange blond boy and – more important - where does he come from? In the next chapter his investigations take a step forward...
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