Category Archives: Story Soup 1

FREE ebook! Gregory Bedcarrots and the Ingenious Series of Events

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It’s been seven long months, but finally the very first Story Soup concoction is finished, and it tastes all right if I do say so myself… Thank you to everyone who read it or voted along the way. If you would like a copy to savour at your leisure you can now download the ebook for FREE!

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Story Soup 1.23

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Welcome to the FINAL instalment of Story Soup! Thank you to everyone who voted for how Gregory awakes. ‘Other’ suggestions included ‘curled up in the grass sucking his thumb’ and ‘as a young man who takes control of the situation’, but with 38% of the vote, it has been decided that Gregory will awake feeling decidedly Zonked-out…

Gregory Bedcarrots and the brand new day.

When Gregory disappeared into the dark void, or wherever it was he went, it felt a little bit like the sensation of not yet having been born. Of course, I don’t expect many of you to be able to remember the days leading up to your birth, but if you can, perhaps you will agree with the description of the womb as the ‘happiest place on earth’. Gregory was not aware of who he was or where he had been. He didn’t know whether he was a person, an elephant or a dolphin; he did not even know what people, elephants or dolphins were. He felt fleeting pangs of fear or confusion, but only in an impulsive irrational way; on the whole he was rather joyful. He wasn’t aware of wanting very much, but if he could have put his compulsions into words he would have asked only one thing: “Don’t let anything change.”

Gregory had no idea how long he had been suspended in this marvellous void— perhaps it had been forever— but all of a sudden, and all too quickly, the feeling of euphoria began to slip away, bringing in its place a sense of falling. Somewhere inside of him Gregory was aware that he was hurting, but somewhere outside of him a bright light beckoned. So, not knowing any better, he closed his eyes, shoved a soggy thumb into his mouth and hoped for the best.

When Gregory finally awoke, he became aware that he was standing in a dark hollow space. He squinted in confusion as he ran his hands over the rough corky walls that encased him. He was in a tree trunk. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. As he brought a weary hand across his face he felt something warm and sticky on his lips. The remnants of a pie.

“Oh yes,” he said to himself sleepily. “I remember.”

Gregory leant against the bark and let out a long cool sigh. He felt exhausted. He had just run for several minutes after stealing a pie from his pretty neighbour, Penny Parsnip. Penny was the sort of girl who makes a boy like Gregory spend hours at a time practising his smile in the mirror. For weeks Gregory had dreamt about bringing her to his secret hiding place but when the opportunity had finally arisen that very morning he had simply panicked and bolted.

“Perhaps one of these days I’ll ask her out,” he whispered determinedly. “When I’m a little bit bolder.” He gave a great self-pitying sigh and absentmindedly began to scratch his knee. “Thank you for looking after me,” he continued softly to the tree, wishing for a moment that he were a carefree knobbly tree, rather than a twelve year old boy with acne.

The tree, of course, did not reply, for this is not that kind of story.

Gregory could not help but feel a little bit lonely wedged inside the tree trunk. A secret hiding place is only really fun with somebody to share it with and he was now kicking himself for rejecting Penny so rashly. He felt that if anyone saw him they would think he looked rather pathetic, like a friendless horse pretending to be playing hide and seek.

However, he was not going to stay alone for much longer; something had begun to shuffle through the forest. Gregory’s heart started beating loudly as he strained his ears to listen. Whatever it was, it was grunting and wheezing and sounding distinctly un-human as it came closer and closer. Gregory edged closer to the hole in the tree trunk and waited. He had a funny feeling it was going to be an interesting day.

THE END

Thank you to everyone who took part in the story!

Story Soup 1.22

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Welcome to the penultimate instalment of 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 whether or not Gregory should trust the bag man. ‘Other’ suggestions included, “I’d rather eat wasps,” and “Only if you give me my stuff back,” but these are really just glorified ‘No’s joining 43% of voters keen to tell the bag man where to go.

The FINAL instalment will be posted very soon, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory Bedcarrots: out of time.

I don’t suppose you have ever wondered what somebody would look like if they were half human and half polyester bag. There are certainly stranger and more exciting things to imagine, a man made of babies for example…

However, you would be wrong to think for one moment that the strange hybrid that stood before Gregory was any less fantastic. The bag man was now as tall as Gregory and almost as wide, but with coarse patterned skin and peculiar flaps hanging off his body. He had brown stitching across his forehead and a zip down his right cheek and looked a bit like a Muppet gone wrong. With a patchy hand extended to Gregory he gave a sickening smile and repeated his proposition. “Well, Gregory, what will it be? Do you trust me or not?”

Gregory gave a little cough. He didn’t trust him, not at all, but wondered whether saying he did might be safer than outright defiance.

But before he could reply, Penny (still the size of a hamster) came scurrying over and exclaimed in a pip-squeak voice, “We thought you were our friend, you monster!”

The bag man gave a wounded little whimper and scowled. “I’m only trying to help,” he said softly.

“Help?!” Penny shrieked, positively hysterical as she beat her tiny fists upon the bag man’s feet. “How is this helping anything?”

The bag man took a deep breath and said sombrely, “I’ve seen many things on my travels, but the fate of man remains unchanged: Men talk of killing time while all the while time is killing men.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Penny demanded in a shrill squawk.

“It means that unless preventative measures are taken, one’s time on this earth is limited.”

“Well that’s hardly rocket science!” Penny squeaked in derision. “Don’t listen to him Gregory, he’s just a bag remember!”

The bag man glared at her. “Who asked you, Mousy? I believe I was talking to Gregory.” He turned to Gregory and said in a simpering drawl, “Come now Gregory, we are pretty much brothers after all!” He gave a dazzling grin and Gregory’s baby tooth glistened from inside his scratchy mouth.

At the sight of his own tooth, Gregory felt anger rising in his chest. “How can I trust you?” he demanded angrily. “You’ve been pretending all this time— sneaking round and stealing bits of my life!”

Taken aback, the bag man paused for a moment before appealing more gently, “Come on Gregory. It was for your own good…”

“My own good!” Gregory exploded. “You’ve got to be kidding! How do you think it feels seeing a piece of my own coffin for goodness sake! Just get lost!”

The colour drained from the bag man’s face as he narrowed his eyes at Gregory. “Fine!” he roared furiously. “Have your stuff back! I could have shown you a way to live forever but you’ve blown it you ungrateful little idiot!” Without another moment’s thought the bag man kicked off Gregory’s shoes, ripped out his tooth and began to pull all manner of items belonging to Gregory from out of his pockets. He threw them angrily at Gregory and then, with a nauseating gulp and a crazed look in his eyes, picked the remaining time worms up from the ground, tossed them into the air and caught them in the back of his throat.

Gregory and Penny watched in stunned silence as the bag man started to shrink and unwind until all that was left of him was a pile of orange thread and a pair of polyester armadillo ears.

“Well, that was really weird,” Gregory said nervously, trying with all his might to ignore the petrified lump that had formed in the back of his throat.

At that point, the elderly Mr and Mrs Bedcarrots came shuffling over, his father mumbling something about needing to buy a mousetrap.

Gregory squeezed his eyes shut to keep from crying, but before he could reply he was interrupted by Penny who was pointing frantically towards the pitiful fragments of his life that lay on the ground. “Gregory, look!” she squeaked.

Gregory looked up and saw to his horror that his umbilical cord was wriggling. Sparks began to fly off it and it looked like it might blow up at any moment. In a matter of seconds there was a puff of smoke and a newborn baby appeared in its place; and not just any baby but baby Gregory James Bedcarrots, as though fresh from the oven.

Penny screamed and Mr and Mrs Bedcarrots started cooing in confusion but Gregory just stood in stunned silence. A moment later, his baby shoes exploded leaving in their place another baby Gregory, crying hysterically. Next, the tooth went and there came another Gregory, slightly older. When it came to a bright yellow colouring book, the Gregory that arrived came with chicken pox and a demand for juice.

Gregory started to back away as his young self came towards him. “Don’t touch me!” he exclaimed in terror. “Please don’t touch me!”

At that moment, a school tie by his foot exploded into the six year old Gregory who said in a petulant whine, “I’m bored!”

On and on it went like the world’s wickedest magic trick, with every item the bag had stolen transforming into the Gregory from whom it had been taken. From a distance the scene looked like some wild family reunion and the elderly Mr and Mrs Bedcarrots began to mingle blissfully through the crowd. “My son!” they kept repeating. “How are you?”

Penny was squealing in terror at each new Gregory that arrived, looking more and more like she were about to faint and doing all she could to keep from being trodden on.

As the Gregorys got older, they began to appeal to one other, recognising each other with wild shouts of disbelief.

“What the—?”

“Is that me?”

“Am I you?”

“Is this a prank?”

At one point, a gold chain transformed into Professor Gregory J. Bedcarrots, the future Gregory whom Gregory had met so long ago. This Gregory took one look at our Gregory and said simply, “Oh, so you’ve brought the brain back for me have you? Where is it?”

“I, uh…” Gregory began to stammer and shake as the older Gregory started towards the brain that the bag had left rotting on the grass.

“What’s going on?” the older Gregory asked, finally noticing the other Gregorys.

But before Gregory could answer, the final piece of his life— the piece of wood from his coffin— exploded suddenly into a stiff hard corpse.

Gregory screamed and fell to his knees in despair. The younger ones started to cry.

“Keep calm,” he heard one of the older Gregorys say. “Everybody hold hands.”

“Good idea,” Professor Gregory J. Bedcarrots agreed, tucking Einstein’s brain under his arm.

Gregory jumped to his feet in fear, “No!” he exclaimed wildly. “Don’t touch each other!”

“Don’t do it!” Penny echoed. “You could turn into stone!”

“It will be fine,” the older Gregory said calmly. “I’m a scientist.”

“No, please!” Gregory begged desperately. He ran to the older Gregorys and tried to reason with them but they carelessly brushed him aside. Gregory had always been a somewhat stubborn and defiant young boy and he really could not compete with the combined obstinacy of so many of himself.

One by one the Gregorys got into a circle and took one another’s hand. The younger Gregorys had to be carried and one in particular (the toddler) kept trying to run off and had to be restrained by the fifteen year old. When the rest were assembled, one of the older Gregorys said firmly to our petrified Gregory, “Come on now! Don’t be selfish.”

“Go on son,” the elderly Mrs Bedcarrots said gently. “It won’t hurt you. It didn’t hurt you last time.”

“Last time?” Gregory muttered in confusion. Was this just the ramblings of a senile old lady, or did his mother know something he did not know?

“It never hurts you,” his mother continued quietly.

But before Gregory could ask further questions, one of the middle-aged Gregorys came and yanked him by the arm, forcing him into the circle. Gregory contemplated fighting, but he felt exhausted, confused, and sick to his stomach, so in weary surrender he closed his eyes and completed the circle. He felt an electric current flash through him and crackling, like white noise, filled his ears.

For the casual observer, it was a most peculiar sight; a multitude of the same person stood holding hands with himself in all sincerity and seriousness. Few scenarios could be so pertinent, so tragic and yet so delightful.

Penny gave a distressed sob as a flash of light surrounded the Gregorys. Mr and Mrs Bedcarrots, however, simply looked on fondly as their one and only son (as many as thirty of him) vanished into thin air.

Just before it happened, Gregory felt a sharp pain in the back of his head and cried out helplessly, “I love you Penny!”

And, just before everything turned to black, he heard her reply, in her tiny squeaky voice, “Thank you—!”

Story Soup 1.21

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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.

The next instalment will be posted very soon, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

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?”

Story Soup 1.20

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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 happens next. Someone (obviously enamoured by my poetry in the previous instalment) opted for ‘a musical number’, and certainly it crossed my mind to orchestrate a song and dance complete with flash animation; however the winning choice, with 60% of the votes is for the other Gregory to turn back into stone.

The next instalment will be posted in the next week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory Bedcarrots and the unwitting policeperson.

Gregory felt his heart sinking. “I had forgotten about him,” he muttered.

“Me too,” whispered Penny, looking quite weary.

“I hadn’t,” the bag said most unhelpfully. It gave a little tutting sound, sniffed, and then rolled over, feigning lifelessness.

In the next garden, the other Gregory was being positively mollycoddled by an anxious Mrs. Bedcarrots as the twitchy-eyed Daily Mail reporter hovered over him like a ravenous vulture.

“How are you feeling my sweetie pie?” his mother was asking.

“Alright I guess,” the other Gregory said with a shrug. “My head feels a bit heavy and it feels like I have sand in my ears.” He was looking a bit crusty around the eyes; like a life-sized gingerbread man with a crunchy face and a sugary button nose.

With a wave of her hand, the reporter pushed Mrs. Bedcarrots aside. “Tell us more about this impostor,” she demanded. “What did he look like?”

“He looked like me,” the other Gregory said. “Well, maybe a little bit uglier. He said we were brothers and that my name was James. Penny was with him— unless she was an impostor too.”

Mrs Parsnip let out a little squeal at the mention of Penny.

“And who is Penny?” the reporter continued with a simper. “Is she your girlfriend?”

The other Gregory blushed and said, “Sort of.”

The real Gregory grimaced and silently cursed himself.

Beside him, Penny was positively beaming, though Gregory did not see.

“I mean,” the other Gregory corrected. “I hope so. I just haven’t summoned up the courage to ask her yet.”

“Stop talking, Stupid!” Gregory begged himself mutely, glaring daggers at himself.

And then the other Gregory did something very odd. He opened his mouth to speak and nothing came out. He gave a cough and a whimper and gestured violently to his own throat.

“What’s happened?” the reporter asked with glee, pen poised hungrily over her notepad.

The other Gregory shrugged and simply shook his head.

Mrs Bedcarrots began to panic.

Mr Bedcarrots let out a growl, “Kids today!” he muttered angrily. “This sort of thing was unheard of in my day!”

The other Gregory was opening and closing his mouth in frustration. He shook his head wildly and, as he did so, made eye contact with the real Gregory. Horror etched onto his face as he turned instantly back into stone and, as his eyes glazed over, he toppled noisily onto the Daily Mail reporter. The reporter let out a scream and appealed for help but the rest of the gathering were far too consumed with their own panic to come to her aid. Following the gaze of the stone Gregory, they turned and saw Gregory and Penny.

“The impostor!” Mrs Bedcarrots shrieked.

“He’s got Penny!” Mrs Parsnip cried hysterically. “Let her go at once you monster!”

She began to run towards them but Mr Parsnip held her back, exclaiming, “Keep back, Jane! He could be capable of anything!”

“I’m alright,” Penny yelled to her parents. “This is the real Gregory!”

“It’s me!” Gregory added, waving nervously to his parents. “I’m Gregory!”

“I liked the other one better,” said his father, who was rather careless.

“But at least this one isn’t stone,” said his mother, who was quite fickle. She began to mop her brow as she wobbled anxiously over to Gregory. “It’s alright, darling. Mummy’s here.”

“Are you insane?” Mr Parsnip bellowed. “What if he’s an armed alien?”

Mrs Bedcarrots stopped and looked at Gregory in horror. She brought a hand to her mouth and began to sob. “Toby, I’m scared!” she blubbered to her husband.

Mrs Parsnip was shaking and crying and had begun to wonder if maybe Penny might be an alien too.

Mr Bedcarrots gave a disgruntled snort and appealed to the three policemen. “Are you going to arrest these aliens?” he asked flippantly.

“We’re not aliens!” Gregory cried in frustration.

“It’s really us!” added Penny angrily.

“If you don’t arrest them,” Mr Bedcarrots continued angrily. “I will!”

“Dad, please!” Gregory was torn between embarrassment and horror as his father rolled up his sleeves and came bounding over the fence.

“Mr Bedcarrots,” Penny said weakly. “It’s really us!”

“You’re not really Penny!” her own father accused with a sneer. “Your clothes don’t look right!”

Penny pulled off the ridiculous pink scarf that she had been wearing all this time. “That’s because we’ve been away,” she spluttered frantically. “We went back in time…”

“We can explain,” Gregory added hurriedly, holding his hands up in defence as his own father threatened to wallop him.

But before they could appeal further, there came a cough from one of the policemen, or perhaps I should say policepeople for upon turning around it was apparent that they weren’t all men after all; one of them was in fact a woman with a rather masculine haircut; the kind of haircut that nobody actually asks for but grows by mistake.

“Now then,” the policewoman with the bad haircut said. “Let’s have a bit of calm please.”

It was Penny who noticed first and she exclaimed with a hasty splutter, “The bag lady!”

The policewoman raised an eyebrow and said sternly, “I beg your pardon?”

Gregory looked up and gasped. He, however, was rather more polite in his address. “Alberta Anne!” he cried in shock as the policewoman’s face came into full view.

They could hardly believe it. There before them, the cause of their whole adventure; Alberta Anne the bag lady. Except she wasn’t a bag lady. She was a normal lady who had never been given Einstein’s brain. An average woman who had lived an average life, achieving average academic success with the brain she had been born with. But of course she did not know this.

“Have we met before?” she asked the children suspiciously, pulling out a recent crime log from her pocket as she strode tensely across the garden with her two colleagues.

She was so serious and un-bag-lady-like that Gregory and Penny could not help but laugh in surprise.

“We did it!” Penny whispered to Gregory. “We actually did it!”

Mr and Mrs Parsnip were calling for their quick arrest and Mr Bedcarrots was almost purple with rage but Gregory ignored them. “Do you remember us, Alberta?” he asked boldly.

The policewoman raised an eyebrow. “That’s Police Constable Henry to you,” she said sternly.

“Henry…” Gregory blinked at her as the cogs worked quickly round his brain. “You don’t mean… Professor Harvey’s assistant, Henry?” He gave a whoop of excitement. “Professor Henry adopted you!”

The policewoman looked at him in surprise. “Do you know my father?”

“We certainly do!” said Gregory. “He was a scientist in America…”

“He nearly took our brains out!” Penny chipped in.

“Then he came with us to the Congo,” Gregory finished proudly.

P.C Henry took a long deep breath and eyed them most curiously.

“Shall I send for back up?” one of the other policepeople whispered.

“I think you’d better,” P.C Henry replied.

“You’re not going to arrest us are you?” Gregory asked in horror.

P.C Henry ignored him and muttered something to her two colleagues.

“We saved your life!” Penny cried in disbelief, as one of the policepeople came and bound her wrists with handcuffs.

P.C Henry turned to the four parents. “We have a padded police van on the way,” she assured them.

Penny protested a while longer before Gregory shook his head at her and said resolutely, “There’s no point! She has no idea who she might have been!” Then a sudden bewildering thought struck him. “Hold on a minute! If this is her without Einstein’s brain… what’s he doing still existing?” He cocked his head towards the bag. “I thought he said the bag lady made him.”

At this the bag, which had been feigning lifelessness all this time, perked up and gave Gregory a sly wink. Reaching deep into the pouch which contained his sewing supplies, he pulled out something small and shiny.

Story Soup 1.19

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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 greets Gregory and our gang in the Congo. 50% of you opted for choices of your own, suggestions including ‘Natives pointing bows and arrows at them’, ‘a beautiful land of Darrens,’ ‘a very courteous hotelier,’ ‘Gorillas wanting Einstein’s brain,’ and ‘the dinosaur’s long-lost family’. I put them all in a hat and at random one was chosen…

The next instalment will be posted in the next week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory Bedcarrots dances a dainty tango.

Their arrival in the Congo was signalled by a flash of lightning and a tremendous clap of thunder followed by a gigantic wave of water gushing into the wormhole. It appeared that they had arrived in the middle of a storm and as they scurried quickly out of the flooded wormhole they could not help but feel a little apprehensive. This was not helped by the bag who remarked jovially that the Congo is the place in the world where one is most likely to be struck by lightning. But just before anyone could insist that they leave, a huge gust of wind swept aside the leaves of a nearby tree and their anxiety melted away at the glorious sight that met their eyes. There, spread before them as far as the eye could see, lay a striking land of beautiful Darrens dancing wildly in every colour of the rainbow. I feel words cannot do justice to the splendour that lay before them, so please allow me instead to present you with an artist’s impression of the grand scene, as seen through the eyes of Gregory James Bedcarrots:

(The man in the bottom right is Henry. He turned positively delirious at the sight of all the Darrens and the wisdom which they began to impart to him was almost too much for him to bear). The Darrens who had come with them from Professor Harvey’s laboratory ran from their company without so much as a backward glance and heartily joined the wild rumpus.

Gregory gave a heavy sigh and said, “That’s that then.”

Penny gave him a kind smile and said, “It’s beautiful isn’t it? No wonder they were so keen to come home.”

“Yes,” Gregory replied tersely. “Let’s go then.” He retrieved a time worm from his pocket and gave Penny a nudge.

Penny hesitated for a moment then gave a shrug and bent down in the drenched dirt, but before she could write anything, Henry gave her a gentle tap on the shoulder.

“Let’s stay a while longer. They’ve just started singing…” he said dreamily, staring in wonder at the thousand wonderful dinosaurs.

The bag raised an eyebrow and said very seriously, “Birds fly, fish swim and dinosaurs sing.”

“Come on,” Gregory snapped impatiently. “Let’s just go—!” But then he gave a gasp and stopped in wonder, for in that moment he heard it too.

One by one the Darrens turned and looked him in the eye as with one voice they sung…

Dear friend forgive my late address
I knew not how to say it best
Count not my silence mere defiance
My tongue was caught; my heart no less

What blesséd curse to multiply
Though twice the love, more tears to cry
A sad lament: our time is spent
And you’ll be missed a thousand times

Grand futures to you all I wish
For soon the past will swallow this
Though some will mock or scowl in shock
Be not ashamed of what they missed
When they insist we don’t exist.

The song was so sweet and enchanting that it appeared to reach deep into Gregory’s very soul, shining light on unspeakable truths hidden from the world since the beginning of time. As the full extent of Darren’s ethereal magic washed over them, Gregory could not help but sweep Penny off her feet and dance with her amongst the reeds. And it was there, inside the sweet music, beneath the pouring rain, in the deep heart of the Congo, that Gregory and Penny shared a kiss.

The next few minutes passed like a blur. The rain pounded harder on their heads, the Darrens sang louder, and the bag gave a solemn lecture about the dangers of going deaf from a passionate kiss. Henry said something about quitting science and going back to live a life of charity so Gregory and Penny gave him a time worm and bid him farewell. Then they danced a while longer until eventually (after a teary goodbye with the Darrens) they linked arms with the bag and left for home.

Within minutes, they had crash-landed in Gregory’s garden, in the middle of Mrs Bedcarrots’ perfect pansies with soil up their noses and bruised heads from the landing. All previous euphoria and serenity was instantly wiped from their minds as Gregory and Penny rolled lazily out of the hole like a couple of hung-over monkeys.

Gregory gave a little moan, wondering for a moment who he was and where he had been. Then, catching eyes with Penny he remembered with horror their kiss and let out a mortified splutter. At the same time, Penny blushed and grimaced, but before either of them could speak, a little “Ahem” from the bag cast their attention onto more serious matters: There in the next garden stood Mr and Mrs Bedcarrots, Mr and Mrs Parsnip, three policemen, a reporter from the Daily Mail, and the other Gregory (also known as James, the stone man), alive and well and sipping camomile tea.

Story Soup 1.18

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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 Gregory and Penny should do next. 38% of you had ‘Other’ ideas. I quite liked the suggestion that they should ‘harness all the Darrens to a sleigh like Santa does with reindeer’, but then I noticed that two different voters had suggested that they ask Henry to ask the Darrens what they want to do… so since they have the majority, we’ll go with that!

The next instalment will be posted in the next week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory Bedcarrots; feeling snubbed.

Gregory, who was incredibly tired, stood with the prefect expression of vacant gormlessness.

“We should have just stayed at home,” he said dumbly.

“Yeah, smart thinking, Idiot!” the bag said wryly. He began to chuckle and then stopped as he caught sight of the multitude of Darrens surrounding them. “Blimey! What happened?” he asked in shock.

Penny and Gregory filled him in on all that had happened whilst he was laying in pieces on the floor. When they got to the bit about Professor Harvey’s plan to exchange their brains for those belonging to monkeys, the bag guffawed and said, “Would have been an improvement if you ask me!”

“Actually it was really frightening!” Penny said hotly.

“Ooh!” teased the bag, “Afraid of a little surgery are you?” He whipped out his sewing needles and waved them menacingly.

Penny glared at him and turned to Gregory. “What are we going to do?” she asked impatiently. “We can’t exactly take all these dinosaurs home!”

But Gregory did not answer. He was watching Henry very curiously. “Are they still speaking to you?” he enquired.

“Oh yes…” Henry said dreamily. “Wisdom more precious than rubies…”

“Oh good! That’s nice, isn’t it!” Gregory tried to sound cheery but the truth was he felt a little bit hurt that it was this strange man who could hear the Darrens and not him.

“Gregory!” Penny came over and waved a hand in front of Gregory’s face. “I said; what are we going to do?”

Gregory looked at her, gave a sigh, and said, “I don’t know.” Then, rather grudgingly, he added, “Maybe we should ask Henry to ask the Darrens what they want.”

“Good idea!” Penny said brightly.

Gregory gave a half hearted shrug and said, “Henry, could you please ask the Darrens if they want anything.”

Henry gave a solemn nod and then addressed the Darrens. “Dear friends,” he said seriously. “We would like to know whether you want anything.” He listened for a moment and then smiled.

“Well?” asked Gregory, rather tetchily.

“They would like to go to the Congo,” Henry said.

“The Congo?” repeated Gregory in bewilderment. “Why do they want to go there?”

Henry posed the question, listened and then smiled once more. “It is their home,” he said finally.

Gregory looked at him in disbelief and then looked at the crowd of Darrens. At the mention of the Congo they had begun to dance with glee. If only Gregory and Penny could hear them, they would have heard them bursting into delightful song. Henry heard it and was moved to tears.

“So they want us to take them back in time to the Congo…” began Penny slowly.

“No, no!” Henry said dreamily. “The Congo in your present day, they say.”

Gregory raised an eyebrow and Penny scratched her head but there was no denying the enthusiasm of the Darrens who were now bouncing up and down in wild excitement.

“Well if that’s where they want to go…” Gregory conceded softly. He was feeling rather wounded as he had secretly hoped that the Darrens might have insisted on coming home with them.

He hoped that at the very least they would be telling Henry nice things about Penny and himself, but all Henry kept repeating was, “The Congo. They seem very happy about going to the Congo…”

It seemed that Darren wasn’t as attached to Gregory as Gregory had grown towards him. Gregory gave a cough and said firmly, “Come on then, let’s go outside and make a wormhole.”

But at this, the bag gave a great howl of fury. “No!” he said petulantly, stamping its polyester foot. “No more adventures!”

“Oh come on,” Penny pleaded. “The Darrens really want to go there, and if it wasn’t for them you’d still be lying in a heap on the floor.”

“I don’t care,” the bag said priggishly. “Somewhere called Congo is bound to be horrendous. There’ll be insects and alligators and all sorts…” He began a spirited rant on the many treacherous and mysterious creatures they might face in such a place as the Congo.

“Trust me,” he concluded vehemently. “Only an idiot would venture somewhere so unknown! Are you an idiot?”

Gregory turned to him wearily. “I think I preferred you when you were torn to pieces,” he said nastily.

At this, the bag gave a gasp and then snapped back, “I wish that professor had succeeded in ripping your smelly brain out. If he was here I’d shake his hand!”

Gregory opened his mouth to reply but Penny put a hand on his shoulder and said wisely, “Don’t listen to him. He’s just a bag.”

The bag, who seemed rougher round the edges following his near death experience, spat some stuffing onto the floor and muttered, “Stupid monkeys.”

With a huff of annoyance, Penny ran to the far side of the room and retrieved Einstein’s brain.

“Oh!” the bag cried in protest. “Keep that thing away from me! It hurts my head! It’s like being suffocated with smog, watching paint dry, wearing socks on a beach, eating nothing but sprouts and sprouting nothing but—”

But before he could protest further Penny yanked his zip open and thrust the brain inside.

The bag gave a little shake and a swift nod. “Marvellous,” he said jovially. “Now look here comrades, I don’t see why persons with such high calibres as ours couldn’t have a jolly old time in the Congo! Now, I’m game if you are?”

“Yes,” Penny said, stifling a giggle. “We’re game!”

Henry (prodded by Gregory) led the way out of the laboratory and into the open air. Dreary clouds hung overhead and the bag murmured something about rain coming soon.

Gregory found a nice clean patch of soil and said, “This will do. Let’s get out of this place!”

Penny (being the better speller) wrote their destination in the soil; The Congo, 2010, and everybody watched in silence as Gregory retrieved a time worm from his pocket and placed it on the ground. The worm began to chew through the soil and when the hole was big enough they all jumped in. (Again, Henry needed a bit of prodding, fretting over whether he was about to be buried alive; but eventually one of the Darrens told him sternly to take heart and not be frightened, and he took a deep breath and followed the others in.) It was a little bit squashed in the wormhole what with three sweaty humans, one serious bag and one hundred smiling dinosaurs all jostling for space, but spirits were high and everybody was reasonably content, so the time passed quickly.

Within minutes they felt the humidity rising as a flash of tropical sun burst through the wormhole and sooner than you could say Um Bongo, Um Bongo, They drink it in the Congo, they found that they had arrived.

Story Soup 1.17

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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 Darren the diplodocus says to Henry. An ‘other’ suggestion was ‘Queasy secrets from Professor Harvey’s past’. ‘Quintessential truths’ was the most popular choice with 57% of the vote.

The next instalment will be posted in the next week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory’s nemesis: out with a bang.

Gregory stole a quick glance at Penny. She was looking as terrified as he felt. He bit his lip and tried to make himself look bolder as Professor Harvey came marching over to Henry and shook him by the arm.

“Invisible talking lizard? Have you gone crazy?!”

“I don’t think so, sir,” Henry said softly. “It’s the plainest thing I ever heard or saw. And now I come to think of it, it looks more like a dinosaur than a lizard— a diplodocus perhaps.”

At this, Darren gave a proud purr, though of course Professor Harvey did not hear it.

Professor Harvey snorted. “Well what exactly did this imaginary dinosaur tell you, then?”

“Well,” began Henry, quivering enormously. “First he told me to pull myself together because if a person falls to pieces in a crisis, then there can’t have been much to them in the first place. Then he told me not to follow the bad example of cruel people and that I could resist this evil if I wanted to. I thought to myself that maybe I could persuade you to abort this experiment, but he must have known what I was thinking because he replied by saying that… Erm…” He paused and scratched his chin sheepishly.

Professor Harvey looked livid. “Saying what?” he demanded furiously, spit frothing at the corner of his mouth.

“Er…” Henry gave a cough and then said quickly, “saying that you have been a fool bent on destruction ever since you cheated in your school science exams, and that even if a person beats a fool until he’s half dead, one still can’t beat his foolishness out of him.”

All colour drained from Professor Harvey’s face. He let out an awful roar and then lunged for Henry’s throat. Henry, caught by surprise, toppled over and landed in the space between Penny and Gregory. Penny began to scream, Gregory started to sob (though he said later that he hadn’t), and Darren (who lay beneath the brawling scientists) began to emit a very low, very strange, hum. Bearing in mind that Professor Harvey had just removed the brains of two small monkeys, there was a lot of blood and slime as the two men fought for the knife in Henry’s hands.

For fear of turning this fanciful tale into too much of a horror story, I will skip forward quickly. And for those of you who feel there is no hope left, it might stir your heart a little to know that throughout this ordeal, Gregory and Penny were holding hands.

It was Darren who saved the day. As Harvey and Henry continued to fight on top of him, he gave a long sorrowful hum, let out one final bubble and then… exploded.

The bang was so loud that both men fell off the table in fright. Penny let out a shriek and exclaimed, “Darren’s gone!”

The space in which Darren had been sitting was now empty, and all that remained were a pocketful of small blue bubbles.

Henry looked up and said aghast, “The dinosaur’s gone!”

Professor Harvey took advantage of the moment to seize the knife from Henry’s hand and said in a foul sneer, “Now you’re for it!”

But before he could do anything ghastly, one of Darren’s bubbles landed softly on the tip of his nose. In a sudden almighty bang— in the same manner as Darren— the professor exploded. In mere seconds, all that remained of him were a pile of clothes and a small fat cigar.

Nobody spoke for a long time. It is quite a shocking thing to see somebody explode and vanish into thin air.

Eventually Henry said tentatively, “I think he’s gone…”

Gregory and Penny looked at him slowly.

Finally Penny said meekly, “Can you please untie us?”

“Oh, of course!” Henry got to his feet and ran to untie the children, helping them down from the tables and apologising profusely for almost cutting out their brains.

“It’s alright,” Gregory said politely. “No harm done.”

“Poor Darren,” Penny said quietly. “I hope it didn’t hurt when he exploded.”

“I think he did it on purpose,” Gregory replied. “To save us.”

Penny gave a sad sigh. “But why couldn’t he have done it without himself disappearing?”

Gregory shrugged and looked away. Then he gasped and jumped to his feet. “Penny, look!” he cried in excitement.

Penny looked up and clasped a hand to her mouth.

All around the room in cages that were formerly occupied by animals, sat about a hundred small blue dinosaurs, each one joyfully bopping its head. Even the two small monkeys were gone and in their place (with their brains fully intact) sat two blue dinosaurs, heads bopping as they began to blow tiny carefree bubbles.

Penny and Gregory ran to the cages.

“They all look just like Darren!” Penny said gleefully.

At the mention of their name, the dinosaurs all rolled over and purred.

“I think they are all Darren… somehow,” Gregory said in confusion, marvelling at the sheer number of them.

“How do we let them out?” Penny wondered.

Gregory thought for a moment and then dug deep into his pocket. “The bag lady’s key!” he exclaimed triumphantly. He tried one of the locks and sure enough, the key fit. The Darrens began to topple out of the cages and trotted gratefully around Gregory and Penny’s ankles.

Throughout this, Henry sat exhausted on the floor, his jaw down to his knees as the many Darrens spoke many marvellous truths that he alone could hear. “Yes…” he said, delirious. “Yes, you’re right. I am… I can… I see…”

After releasing all the Darrens, Penny ran to the remains of the bag and scooped him up in her arms.

“Oh,” Penny cried with a sob. “Is he really gone too?”

One of the Darrens came forward and rubbed against Penny’s foot. Another came and started to blow small bubbles. Around the room, the rest began to purr. A small bubble came to rest on top of the bag.

Suddenly a little voice began to shout. “Ugh, my head’s spinning. Someone pass me my sewing kit!” The bag was back.

Gregory gave a grin and ran to embrace his polyester friend, who of course shoved him off and called him an idiot.

“Now what should we do?” asked Penny, tears of relief rolling down her face.

Story Soup 1.16

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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 where Gregory awakes after fainting. An alternative suggestion was that Gregory should find himself in a hot air balloon, but the winning choice with 50% of the vote was in ‘Professor Harvey’s Laboratory’.

The next instalment will be posted in the next week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory Bedcarrots and the very mad professor.

It was the strange smell of animal poo combined with anaesthetic which brought Gregory back to his senses. Like light streaming through a window at the break of dawn, Gregory felt a wave of life surge through him as he became aware of a distant muttering and the fact that he was lying down. Slowly opening his eyes, he found himself squinting into a bright white light which hung above his head and his first thought was that he was at the orthodontist having braces fitted. For the past year Gregory had repeatedly resisted the orthodontic treatment recommended by his parents because he had an irrational fear of biting the dentist. As the memories of the past few hours came flooding back, Gregory conceded that the idea of biting the dentist didn’t seem so daunting after all. Groaning softly, he went to sit up and then realised to his horror that he could not move. He had been bound to a table top by some rope. Panic-stricken he thrashed his head to one side and opened his mouth to call out. But before he could speak he caught eyes with Penny who was tied to a similar table nearby. Her face was pale and frightened and she shook her head quickly, warning Gregory not to speak. Gregory raised confused eyebrows and then blinked in dizziness as he scanned the room. At the far side of the room, with his back to them, stood Professor Harvey. He was sharpening a very fierce looking knife and muttering wildly to himself as he did so. On a shelf beside him sat Einstein’s brain; slightly dented and deformed having been yanked from inside the bag.

In defence of the bag, it had put up an incredibly courageous fight in its vain attempt to keep hold of the brain. But he was simply no match for Professor Harvey who fought with a full forty years of pent up rage and bitterness and took no time at all in ripping the bag from limb to limb. The bag now lay lifeless on the floor in the corner of the room; bruised and battered with all the stuffing beaten out of him and both button eyes missing. He was in a very desperate state, and anyone who has ever had a precious toy mauled to pieces will understand a little of the horror which Gregory felt when he finally caught sight of what remained of his little polyester friend.

Gregory gave a gulp. Could the bag be dead? Was that even possible? He glanced at Penny and urgently raised his eyebrows as if to ask what on earth was happening. Penny tried frantically to mouth something but Gregory couldn’t work out what she was saying and shook his head in confusion. Penny simply sighed and pointed her nose angrily in Professor Harvey’s direction. Then she bit her lip and looked away, as though trying hard not to cry. A moment later, a tiny flicker of hope flashed suddenly across her eyes. Fumbling desperately under the rope which kept her bound, she retrieved something small and blue from her pocket. Darren. Very gently she placed him between herself and Gregory and they began to carefully stroke him until small blue bubbles started to flow freely from his mouth.

“Come on, Darren,” they both begged silently. “Do something magical…”

They had no idea what they were hoping for and they avoided eye contact for fear of seeing the hopelessness in the other’s eyes.

It was now that Gregory noticed to his bewilderment that the entire room was full of animals. Above them ran rows upon rows of cages filled with all kinds of exotic and sorry looking wildlife. To his right was perched a cage full of wingless purple birds. Under the cage was a tank full of tail-less rats, and in a hutch beneath that sat a glum looking pig wearing trainers.

Gregory raised his eyebrows at Penny but she said nothing and continued to stroke Darren.

At that moment, there was a knock on the laboratory door. Gregory closed his eyes and peeked through tiny slits as Professor Harvey (muttering in a most frenzied way) shuffled over to the door and opened it.

“Henry, at last!” Professor Harvey snapped impatiently. “Come in, come in.”

Henry, an awkward and timid looking young man, came tentatively in, pushing a small grey trolley on which sat two small monkeys. Catching sight of Gregory and Penny the young man gave a nervous cough and said quietly, “Are you sure about this, sir?”

“Of course I’m sure!” Professor Harvey barked, brandishing his knife wildly. “I’ve wanted to try this experiment for a very long time now! Think about it Henry, if I can create a successful human-monkey hybrid then I will have made great gains in the study of evolutionary transition! Who knows, I may even be able to breed them and have a little primate army at my command… Imagine the fame! The power!” He gave a bellow of delight and flashed his ugly teeth.

“But what about the poor children?” Henry muttered nervously, glancing again at Gregory and Penny.

“They were happy to behave like little monkeys this afternoon,” Professor Harvey said spitefully. “Perhaps this will teach them to mind their own business!”

Unable to restrain himself, Gregory gave a great cry of horror as he realised the full extent of Professor Harvey’s evil. He and Penny were about to be given the brains of monkeys in some crazed attempt at world domination! To their right, the wingless birds rolled around their cage squeaking and squawking as if singing of their doom.

“But you’re not really going to take their brains, are you sir?” Henry said, shaking anxiously.

“No,” said Professor Harvey with a most sinister smile. “You are.” He pressed a knife into Henry’s shaking hand and pushed him towards the petrified children. “You get theirs and I’ll do the monkeys.”

Henry gave a splutter and shook his head, opening and closing his mouth as he summoned up the courage to protest further. He looked pitifully at Gregory and Penny who began pleading desperately for mercy. “Professor Harvey,” he said finally. “They’ve got some kind of lizard…”

Professor Harvey turned in frustration and snapped, “What?”

“Look,” said Henry. “It’s blue and it’s blowing bubbles.”

Gregory and Penny held their breaths, frightened now for Darren’s plight as well as their own.

Professor Harvey put the quivering monkeys down and shuffled over. “Where?” he demanded angrily.

“There!” Henry pointed.

“Where?” Professor Harvey repeated crossly.

“It’s right there!” Henry said in bewilderment.

“I can’t see anything,” Professor Harvey snapped.

By now, Darren was blowing bubbles the size of small balloons. It was impossible to miss him, and yet Professor Harvey stated adamantly, furiously, unequivocally that he could not see a thing. Gregory felt his heart beating hard against his chest as a faint hope trickled through him.

Henry persisted for a short while longer, pointing inanely at Darren until Professor Harvey roared, “Get on with it!” Then in a fit of temper he stormed back to the monkeys. I’ll spare you the gory details but within a few short moments the professor held in his hands the brains of two Tufted Capuchins. He turned expectantly to Henry, “What are you waiting for, you fool?!”

Henry seemed to have fixed a steely and determined look upon his face as muttered over and over to himself, “I can, yes I know I can… I know…”

By now, Penny was crying very loudly, pleading with Henry not to be so barbaric. Gregory was numb with terror and said nothing at all. To think that their grand adventure had come to this!

“It’s that lizard…” Henry said finally, in a dozy and hypnotic manner. “It just spoke to me.”

Story Soup 1.15

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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 happens to the bag with Einstein’s brain inside it. ‘Other’ suggestions included that he should become ‘in love with maths’ but with 63% of the vote, the winning choice was that he should become ‘Outstanding’…

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left of the site or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory Bedcarrots and the dignified picnic.

Twenty minutes after making their crafty exit from Princeton Orphanage, Gregory and the gang were sat in the middle of a beautiful garden, gratefully eating the picnic which Penny had packed. What with all the scheming and hiding and running, nobody had noticed until now just how famished they were and all were thankful for the much needed rest. Penny took great pleasure in laying out their lunch, smiling proudly as Gregory recounted her genius in saving the day.

In her excitement, Penny made a bit of a mess opening the tins of soup, and the bag remarked jovially, “This may come as news to you, but theories hold that the earliest evidence of soup eating was Hippopotamus soup in as early as 6000BC.”

Penny and Gregory shot each other bemused grins. With Einstein’s brain inside him, the bag had become nothing short of extraordinary.

Upon leaving the orphanage, the bag had said very wisely that a person on the run should never look like a person on the run and that they ought to walk with purpose and confidence. He had then offered sound counsel to Gregory who was feeling somewhat panicky and then used his exemplary sense of smell to lead them to this secluded garden in which they were now reclining. His manner was one of deep confidence and aptitude; not in a cocky way; but in a rather meek and solemn way, bearing all the sophistication of modest learned gentleman.

He gave a serene smile and crossed his polyester legs, cocking his head to one side as he admired what he called the “majestic Helianthus annuus.” (That’s a sunflower to you and me). Unlike Gregory and Penny who were so hungry that they wolfed their food down faster than you can say indigestion, the bag was rather more refined; systematically tearing his bread into identical sized chunks which he dipped methodically into the soup, careful to shake off any excess soup before consuming each bite.

Gregory retrieved Darren the diplodocus from where he had been sitting patiently in the bottom of his trouser pocket. Darren gave a little shake and blew a few small bubbles. Then he began to trot gingerly around the tins of soup. Penny gave a yawn and leant over to stroke him. “Cute little thing,” she said gently. “How do you reckon he’s magical?”

Gregory gave a shrug and turned to the bag. “What do you think, Einstein?”

The bag shot him an affronted look and said simply, “A genius can’t be forced; nor can you make an ape an alderman.”

Gregory and Penny shot each other a quick glance and then turned away quickly, for fear of collapsing into giggles.

“And furthermore,” continued the bag, “If you are going to name me at this late stage in our friendship, kindly call me Stitch or Black Velvet. I may have the brain of the aforementioned scientist but I assure you, we have little else in common.”

Gregory smiled politely at the bag and said nothing. The bag was certainly far less unruly with Einstein’s brain inside him, but he was also a great deal more tedious. To be insulted by an idiot bag was one thing, but to be formally corrected by a bag of intimidating intellect was really quite something else. Gregory wasn’t sure which he preferred.

When they had all eaten, the bag said assertively, “Well then comrades, I think our work here is done!”

“Yes,” said Penny, grinning in agreement. “Shall we go?” She started to write their destination in the soil and then asked seriously, “Are we going home or somewhere else first?”

“Ah yes!” said the bag in excitement. “Why we’re as free as birds! Let us leave this coop, go out on a lark, feather new nests and really find something to crow about!”

Penny raised an eyebrow and said carefully, “Yes, quite.”

“We could leave this universe and explore the border of black…”

“Or…” began Penny apprehensively, “we could go to a nice zoo or something?”

“And free all the deprived animals from their abhorrent captivity!”

“Erm…” Penny looked at the bag nervously and then turned to Gregory. “What do you think, Gregory?”

Gregory gave a cough and said bashfully, “I need the toilet.”

The bag said that according to the laws of physics, Gregory would most certainly be able to restrain himself in the wormhole, but Penny said she didn’t want Gregory complaining all the way home and sent him into some nearby trees to relieve himself.

Slipping out of sight, Gregory began a lengthy discussion with himself weighing up their various options. They could embark upon a small adventure. It would be reasonably harmless now that they had fulfilled the bag lady’s mission… However, he felt rather tired and wasn’t sure he would be able to fully enjoy yet another expedition away from home. There was also the pressing matter of the stone Gregory that they had left behind in England. As much as he would like to ignore it, Gregory felt as though he really ought to go back and face up to it sooner rather than later. He gave it some serious umming and ahhing and then decided boldly that he would insist that they go straight home. If the bag wanted to go off by itself, well he was a grown bag and could fend for himself. Gregory would happily give him a handful of the time worms to embark on his own adventure; but as for he and Penny, they were going home. He was just about to go back and announce his decision when a rough hand caught him round the wrist.

“Well, well, well!” said a sinister voice.

If you are anything like me, the person you would most fear meeting whilst alone in the woods, would look a little bit like this guy:

The person who had captured Gregory, was no less terrifying. With more fear than a forbidden child from Vulgaria, Gregory fainted.