The Manx Connection
Part IX - A Question of Ethics
Alf stood transfixed like a frightened rabbit, his mouth pumping up and down to try and make some words come out. All that emerged was a high-pitched squeak. He pointed at the couch and started to back away, his eyes bulging.

Apex frowned a little and Alf's arm was forced to his side. Then the unwilling patient moved towards the couch, his feet scuffling on the freshly scrubbed tiles as they tried to gain purchase to push against the adamantine grip. By now Alf's face was a mask of terror, the squeak replaced by full throated screams.

"What are you doing to him, you bastards! Let him go!" shouted Jackie, running to help the stricken man. She was only a few strides from Alf when a trapdoor opened beneath her and she fell to the Stygian darkness below. Her retreating scream was cut off as the trapdoor closed once more.

"So, we are alone at last Mr du Plex." Alf continued to writhe in Apex' mental clutches as he rose onto the couch. "It appears we will require the straps after all. Such a pity." As the straps were fastened over his body, Alf regained some semblance of sanity. He spoke in a very small voice.

"What are you doing? Please Apex, what are you doing to me?"

Apex clamped something around Alf's scalp and smiled humourlessly. "You'll just have to wait and see. Your new body is almost ready now."

As Alf's mind snapped, he saw the world move away. The last thing he saw before falling to his own private nightmare was Apex filling a very large syringe with cloudy green liquid...


Alf fell through an endless night, unpunctuated by stars. Wind rushed past. It filled his ears, his nose, his lungs, blotting out his mind, making him forget.

He could sense another drawing near, travelling towards him. He spun to face it, greet the stranger, and warn of the terrors which lay behind him. He threw his arms up to protect himself from the appalling thing which met his eyes. He could sense it slow to a stop, match his pace, and watch him for a time. It seemed like an eternity to Alf, being scrutinised by that pitiless gaze. Then the other laughed chillingly and hurtled off towards the black source of Alf's terror.


When Alf's face went slack, Apex put down the syringe and looked relieved. "Thank goodness for that. I thought he'd never faint. We can dispense with this ridiculous charade now." Saying that he removed the intricate headest from Alf's head and crumpled it up into a whiff of greasy smoke. Waving his hand to disperse the cloud, he wrinkled his nose. "Phew! Electronics is always messy to get rid of." Apex was completely oblivious to his companion's discomfort at his unfortunate turn of phrase.

"Now Observer, I will require you to monitor power levels and suchlike. Our guest should be arriving soon." Observer nodded, and blinked out of existence by the door (well, you didn't think I was going to go on calling it a jellymould, did you?) and reappeared by Alf's feet attired in a Mr Spock costume. Apex sighed. "I'm glad you can't concentrate hard enough to do the eyebrows as well as the ears."

"No, your spell was too strong for that. Apex, did you have to indenture me like this? I mean, I can look like anyone I want apart from the face: I'm stuck with yours. How can I disguise myself as a highly successful fashion model, for example, if I always have the face of a sixty year old man? It would be nice to have something a bit closer to my own age."

"What, a three year old? I've told you, it was the only way the SWSC would accept you until you had served your apprenticeship." Apex paused to consider. "And I'm a lot older than sixty as well. Ssshh! The Other is present."

Alf was conscious once more, but his expression had changed quite dramatically. Gone was the nervously affable mannerisms, pushed aside by a harsh and commanding presence, imperious and haughty. The way he spoke didn't reflect this countenance - his voice affected that sort of whining tone much favoured by spoilt children who want a new horse. "Why am I tied down? Please, I won't hurt you and these straps are too tight. Please let me get up."

Apex saw Alf shiver as Observer spoke. "Magical flux increasing around the host, but thaumaturgical insulators holding. You were right about those straps, sire."

"What's he talking about? What's a 'thaumaturgical insulator'? Let me go!"

Apex chuckled mirthlessly. "I don't think so. You know very well what one is, and these are powerful enough to stop you misusing your host's magical talents against us. Now I'm going to ask you a few questions, and if you don't give me some answers things could get quite unpleasant for you."


Alf woke up inside a room unlike anything he had seen before. The walls seemed to follow some alternate geometry - they bulged in strange places and seemed to have more corners than there was room for. An Edwardian standard lamp illuminated the gold-veined black wall covering. Oddly enough, it was standing on a wall. Turning, Alf espied an archway leading through to another room.

The next room had the same strange geometry, but was completely covered in pink acrylic shag pile carpet. The floor was forested with elephants foot umbrella stands, each holding a Masai spear. There were two entrances here: the one Alf had just come through, and another on the ceiling. Alf couldn't reach it, so he went back the way he had come.

Unfortunately, this was no longer the room he had arrived in. But it was the more usual square shape. An ornately inlaid Regency table stood in the centre of the room, on top of which was a blacksmith's anvil. You could see the gouges in the table's varnish where the anvil had been moved to catch the light at its best.

This light came from one of the Egyptian archways which occupied each of the four walls. Walking towards it, Alf noticed that the floor was covered in sand.

Alf wandered like this, from room to room for some time. Each chamber was bizarre in its own way: a room in which every surface was a portrait of Marilyn Monroe; a room full of speakers with a single microphone, where the slightest noise caused a squeal of feedback. Furniture at every angle, rooms of every shape, none apparently of any function. It was like wandering through the mind of a madman.

Finally Alf reached a pentagonal doorway which led, not to a room, but into a pentagonal passageway. It twisted and turned and eventually openned onto a massive dodecahedral cavity. Every wall had twenty five pentagonal opennings identical to the one which Alf had just entered through; five pentagonally arranged pentagons. The walls seemed to be made of unglazed porcelain and glowed with their own eerie inner light. The ceiling was filled with a pool of iridescent fluid. A constant stream of this fluid flowed from the twenty five pentagonal pipes which jutted out of the floor. An eerie rushing noise, the echo of the sea, filled the room.

When he stepped into the room, Alf noticed the deliciously pervasive smell. There was cinnamon and nutmeg and fresh coffee and soft wine and strong ale and Jackie and apples and honey. It smelt wonderful, all these scents combining and yet distinct. And it was coming from the flow of iridescent liquid, like the clean smell of water vapour from a water fall. And he was so thirsty.

While he was running towards the nearest spout, Alf thought for a moment that this might be a trap. That this was just another awful nightmare, that the fluid might be a little less like ambrosia than the horrible texture he was sometimes forced to touch and cling to in his most recurrent nightmares (that feeling which is akin to granite and pastry and Star Trek). After all, the rest of the house was so much like a bad dream.

But those doubts were left to their own devices and wandered off to prey on someone else when he tasted the stuff. It was ecstasy. He was sure he felt the back of his throat go into orgasm as the exquisite liquid was swallowed. He felt ready to fly.

When he had drunk his fill, he found that he was floating about twenty feet off the ground. This didn't surprise him so much as make him think "Well about time too." Arcs of light coruscated around him as he wiggled his fingers. He felt as if he was charged to 50,000 volts - the power he held in his hands was almost tangible. He thought he would try real flying instead of just hovering. After he'd had a go at swooping around the room a bit, he realised he would need more space to practice. He thought he should go outside.

No sooner had he the whim than he was hovering out of doors, the house of the madman behind him. The landscape was dark and dismal. A thick grey light oozed through the roiling clouds and barely touched the dead and featureless vista. Rolling dust dunes offered the only relief for the eye. A bit like Norfolk but drier.

Alf didn't like it - it was just too dark. "Let there be light!" And there was light - the threatening clouds were torn asunder to reveal a golden orb above. The gentle light caressed the harsh landscape and seemed to soften the lines. Alf willed it, and plants sprang from the dust, animals leapt from tree to tree, birds fluttered in the heavens. He went to join them.


Apex looked down with contempt at Alf's face. "So, you think you can defy me?", he sneered. "We have our information! Your petty little evasions were of no consequence. We know you! Now get back where you belong and stay there!" Apex cupped his hands above Alf's face and brutally inhuman syllables shouldered their way past his lips. He pushed down, and Alf screamed. When Apex took away his hands, Alf's face was slack once more.


Alf flew with the albatross and eagle, sparrow and pigeon. He swooped through the forests and banked on the thermals. All the fluid dynamics he had never understood in physics made perfect sense now. He was happy for the first time in as long as he could remember.

How long was that exactly?

He was drawn back from his reverie by the noises of stampede to his right. He turned to see what was wrong and saw a vast whirlwind advancing silently and inexorably upon him. He saw the house split apart like so much match wood and the forests which he had grown torn up from the ground. His animals were sucked in and spat out broken and bleeding. His friends the birds fled from him; Alf was transfixed. The wind pulled him in and he was carried upwards.

He felt that other at his side for an instant, but it fell away as soon as Alf sensed it and was lost. Alf was sucked further towards the inky blackness. The last thing he heard before losing consciousness was a howl of frustration from below.


Apex looked at Observer. "Well, what did we get? Was all that worth it?"

"That depends. We know who he is, but not why he's here." Observer seemed hesitant.

Apex looked up from where he was unstrapping Alf. "Yes? And?"

"I also noticed some anomalies in the power readings, but they're well within normal limits. At least according to Brother Triptych."

"This isn't a normal situation so I doubt the limits apply. You were correct to tell me. Could you quantify 'abnormal' a little?"

"Just after you started the interrogation, there seemed to be some leakage through the insulators. It was being drawn in, but the flux around Alf's body wasn't being reduced. As the questions continued, the leakage became ever more acute, but the flux still remained constant. I was just about to mention it, when you dismissed our friend. As you pushed the spirit deeper, there was a surge of magic from some unknown source close at hand. This lasted a fraction of a second, then it and the flux were both gone."

"Ah. That doesn't sound promising." Apex looked concerned for a moment, then his face cleared. "Can't be helped now though. We'll need to talk to Mr du Plex.

"Who is our mysterious Other?"

"OK, he was a late Atlantean magician named Ewan Parity. He started a religion called the Temple of Psychic Communion, and its major enclave was on what is now the Isle of Man. That was all I could get before he slammed down his mental barriers. I don't think he expected me to be able to read his mind, but he worked it out pretty quickly."

"Hmm. Ewan Parity, eh? In that case, we could have a real problem. You haven't heard of Ewan Parity I take it? I understood his exploits to be well documented."

"Evidently noone has seen fit to type them into a database."

"Yes. Quite so. Well, an explanation may be in order then.

"Ewan Parity was the last, and reputedly the most powrful, of the Atlantean High Mages. Legend states that he founded the Temple of Psychic Communion. It was this Temple which first predicted the deluge destined to destroy the Atlantean civilisation. And it was Ewan Parity himself who made the last desperate bid to save the decadent Atlanteans from their own ignorance. It failed of course, but Ewan Parity's name is still a watch word for true altruism. So what is he doing in this era, cutting people up?"

"I don't know, Apex, but that wasn't all I found. When I was scanning Ewan Parity's surface thoughts, there was a piece of cerebral cortex which didn't seem to be connected to either of the hemispheres. It appears to have developed quite recently near the top of the spinal column." Observer paused, seemingly for effect.

"Alf du Plex has two brains."


Oh my God, this is almost a plot twist! Bet you never thought you'd see one of those here, eh?

So, Alfie is "The Man With Two Brains"! What does he use them for? Is it illegal? Would he get mad cow disease twice as bad? And, above all, does Steve Martin know I'm ripping off his title?

Tune in next episode and find out if the Manx Connection means more than just the two passing references so far!!

PS I really would rather that nobody told Steve Martin. I'm sure he's a very nice man, and the plot is completely different, and Dr Hfhrhrr never really has two brains per se and stuff. But y'know what lawyers are like...


The Manx Connection
Last updated 12-Sep-2005