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.
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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.