Welcome to Story Soup! If you need to catch up with the events so far, you can read the whole story in chronological order here. Thank you to everyone who voted for what the bag pulls out of his pouch. ‘Other’ suggestions included a ‘tiny tin penguin’, a ‘lucky penny’ and a ‘memory wiper or time stopping device’. But with 44% of the vote the winning choice was an Umbilical cord.
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Gregory Bedcarrots: the truth is out of the Bag.
If you have ever woken up in the middle of a dream and wondered where you are, you will understand a little of how Gregory was beginning to feel. He rubbed his aching head and pinched himself as he watched the bag pull out nothing less than a grey slimy umbilical cord from his pouch. At the sight of the living bag, Mrs Bedcarrots let out a scream and Mr Bedcarrots reached for a spade. Penny’s mother fainted and her father began to swear. The policepeople, who were most comfortable dealing with pesky youths and speeding motorists, had no idea how to respond to a talking armadillo bag with an umbilical cord and simply took off their hats and scratched their heads. Penny did her best to appease the grown ups by saying sensible things like, “We can explain,” and, “Don’t jump to conclusions!” But this just served to make the grown ups more irate.
“Is this meant to be a joke?” Mr Bedcarrots exclaimed in fury, sparks of spit flying off his tongue.
“Who’s controlling that bloody puppet?” Mr Parsnip demanded, pointing an angry finger at the bag.
“Is he holding a snake?” muttered P.C Henry, the former bag lady.
“This isn’t good for my nerves,” Mrs Bedcarrots whimpered, sinking miserably to the ground.
With a shriek of frustration, Penny ran between them and stomped her foot. “This is all getting rather out of hand,” she said sternly. “Now then, unless any of you think yourself clever enough to deal with talking bags and time worms and the brain of a dead scientist, I think you all had better calm down and listen to me.”
The grown ups exchanged affronted looks but none of them were brave or foolish enough to protest further. With disgruntled snorts they fell silent and gathered round Penny.
With the grown ups temporarily at bay, Gregory turned to the bag in horror and indicated the shiny umbilical cord. “What is that?” he muttered.
“It’s yours,” the bag said slyly. “Well, mine now.”
“What do you mean?” Gregory asked in confusion.
“I got it on the day of your birth.” The bag gave a strange grin.
“Don’t be stupid,” Gregory said irritably. “I was there. You wouldn’t even look, you were so scared.”
“I don’t mean then,” the bag said with a chuckle. “I went back another day.” He started to fumble deeper into his pouch and then let out a smug “Ta da!” as he flashed a handful of time worms.
“Where did you get them?” Gregory demanded.
“Oh, you know,” the bag gave an airy sigh. “I had to find something to do during all those long days in the summer when I was cooped up in your room with nothing but the playstation…” He unzipped another compartment from inside himself and tipped the contents onto the ground.
Gregory’s jaw hung in shock. “Those are my first shoes!” he said, nudging a pair of pale blue booties with his foot.
“Yes,” said the bag with a nod. “And this is your first tooth… And your first pencil…” He pawed through his peculiar treasures, naming each item, much to Gregory’s shock and revulsion. “This is from your ninth birthday,” said the bag, waving a yellow candle. “And this is a lock of your wife’s hair.”
“Wife?” Gregory went white with shock. “You’ve seen my future?”
“Oh yes!” the bag gave a chortle.
Penny looked up from her lecture with the parents, a look of fright etched upon her face at the mention of Gregory’s wife.
This made the bag chuckle even more.
“This isn’t right!” Gregory said angrily. “How dare you go through my life like this!”
But the bag ignored him and handed him a piece of brown wood. “Now this is special,” he said with an eerie whisper. “This is from your coffin.”
Gregory dropped the wood in fright.
“Strange isn’t it,” the bag said with a shrug. “What is life but fleeting moments in which we prepare to die? And oh, how we might live differently if we could see it all in a flash…” He gave a deep sigh and itched one of his polyester feet. Then he reached deep into himself and pulled out Einstein’s brain. “Gee, this thing is really getting on my nerves. Not as exciting as Shakespeare’s brain, I can assure you!” He reached into himself once more and pulled out a second shrivelled brain.
“Where did you get that from?” Gregory asked, aghast.
“Oh, just on my travels,” the bag replied nonchalantly.
Gregory looked at him in confusion. “Who are you?” he muttered.
The bag said nothing for a moment and then gave a cough as he began to stretch the umbilical cord between his fingers. “Watch this,” he said to Gregory with a grin.
As the cord was pulled and stretched, Gregory felt his stomach churning inside him. He rubbed his eyes in dismay, gazing in confusion as the garden appeared to bend and distort before his very eyes. “Stop that!” he snapped angrily.
The bag stopped abruptly and then began to pluck the cord instead. “Look at them,” he whispered, cocking his head towards Penny and the others.
Gregory turned and gasped. At the striking of the umbilical cord, Penny had begun to shrink, their parents were growing older and older by the second, and the three policepeople had turned into stone.
“What are you doing?” Gregory hissed.
“It’s not my fault,” the bag said with a shrug. “The whispers of time are going to their heads.”
Within seconds Penny was the size of a hamster and their parents were so old and wrinkly that they had almost turned inside out.
“Stop it please!” Gregory begged, shaking from head to toe. To see his parents disintegrate so rapidly was highly distressing, not least because they themselves seemed not to have noticed a change.
“A bit nippy today, isn’t it?” the elderly Mrs Bedcarrots was heard to remark nonchalantly to her husband.
“Is that a mouse?” the frail old Mr Bedcarrots remarked in reply, swiping for the miniature Penny who began to sob.
“Please!” Gregory appealed to the bag. “Who are you? What are you doing?”
The bag gave a smug sniff, pulled Gregory’s blue baby booties onto his polyester feet, shoved Gregory’s first tooth into his threaded mouth and swung the umbilical cord over his shoulder. Then he closed his eyes, muttered something under his breath, and clicked his scratchy fingers together. In an instant he began to grow and stretch. His button eyes fell off, making way for real dark human ones, and orange hair began to grow where brown stitching had been. Gregory gawped in horror as the bag transformed into a half bag half ginger human hybrid before his very eyes. When fully transformed, the bag man gave a twirl and let out a satisfied sigh. “Well, aren’t I handsome!” he said with a chuckle.
“Who are you?” Gregory repeated dumbly.
“I’m anyone I want to be,” the bag man replied. “In any place and any time. Right now, I am a little bit bag and a little bit you.” He patted Gregory’s umbilical cord and grinned.
“Wh-what?” Gregory spluttered. “Who, I mean, how—? I thought you said the bag lady made you?”
“She did,” the bag man said with a grin. “She made me in the middle of a wormhole. It had broken down somewhere between Athens 5BC and New York 2050, and she used the opportunity to experiment with threads of time from the wormhole. But seeing as I was created outside of time and space my fate does not hinge on hers. I simply exist. I am not tainted by time like you mere mortals!” The bag man paused for dramatic effect, but Gregory was far too stunned to speak and said nothing, so the bag man continued mournfully, “My only regret has always been that the daft old bat made me a bag and not a human; whoever wanted to be a bag? So when you and Penny temporarily abandoned your mission in favour of selling alien pencils to the tourists, I took advantage of all the spare time worms sitting unused in your desk drawer and set about putting things right. I began collecting bits of your life in the hope that I might be able to form an identity as a man. Humans have certain privileges that bags cannot enjoy— housing benefit and free health care for example. Now that I am a man, I can be truly free!” He gave a delighted cackle and then added flippantly, “Oh and Gregory, I hope you don’t mind but I intend to call myself the Right Honourable Lord Greg B. Carrots. What do you think?”
Gregory fell to the floor, clutching his head in confusion as he began to cry.
“Wait,” the bag man’s voice sounded softer. “Don’t be frightened, Gregory.”
“But, but,” Gregory began to stammer. “What’s going on? What will you do to me?”
The bag man said nothing for a moment, and then gave a smile. With all the audacity of a street rat on a flying carpet, he held out his hand and said softly, “Do you trust me?”