Tag Archives: choose your own adventure

Story Soup 1.13

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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 should do next. Each receiving 33% of the vote, your winning choices were ‘Make a run for it with the scientist’s bag’ and ‘Mention casually that Einstein’s brain was reported missing on the news’.

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 or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory Bedcarrots; a little bit brainy a little bit brawny.

“Well?” Professor Harvey demanded. “How much longer?”

Gregory gave a timid cough and said hoarsely, “Not much, sir…”

Professor Harvey screwed up his nose and peered at Gregory rather distastefully. “Where are you from?” he asked with disdain.

Gregory blushed and bit his lip. Words felt thick and heavy in his throat. There was no way he could feign a believable American accent. “Uh, England,” he said finally.

Professor Harvey looked at him curiously, somewhat suspiciously. “How did you get to America?” he demanded crisply.

“I flew,” Gregory said quickly.

When Professor Harvey raised an eyebrow, Gregory gulped and crossed his fingers, hoping beyond hope that they had aeroplanes in the 1950s.

“Flew?” the professor repeated edgily.

“Yes, sir. On a, uh, jumbo jet…” Gregory whispered.

“Jumbo jet? What’s a jumbo jet?” Professor Harvey exclaimed furiously.

“Uh…” Gregory brought a hand to his head and began to anxiously twiddle his hair. A million thoughts flew between his ears and he felt his cheeks growing hot with shame. He hadn’t heard of a jumbo jet… Did that mean they hadn’t been invented yet? Would he have heard of any aeroplanes? Why were they called jumbo jets? Distant images of birds and planes and flying elephants spun themselves round his befuddled brain.

The hot-headed professor slammed an impatient hand down on the desk. “It’s a simple question, boy! What’s a jumbo jet?”

Gregory stood dumbstruck, opening and closing his mouth, searching desperately for the right thing to say. In his confusion, he blurted out foolishly, “It’s like an elephant, sir.”

Professor Harvey glared at him and snarled, “You lying child. I’m not waiting any longer.” He picked up his bag and moved towards the door.

Gregory felt his heart leap into his throat. “Wait!” he cried helplessly.

Professor Harvey ignored him and reached for the door handle.

“Did you see the news this morning?” Gregory babbled desperately. “Apparently someone’s stolen Einstein’s brain.” He tried to say it casually, with an edge of cool, but was shaking so much that he had to lean against the desk to steady himself.

Professor Harvey shot him a quick glance and then said briskly, “I expect that’s another lie.”

“No,” Gregory said quickly. “It’s true. Apparently there are police all over town looking for the person who took it.”

Professor Harvey said nothing for a moment, then coughed and adjusted his tie. “Well, good luck to them,” he muttered irritably.

Sensing weakness, Gregory willed himself to carry on and continued confidently, “They said the person who took it will face the death penalty.”

Professor Harvey eyed Gregory carefully, and then said in a forced voice, “Good.”

Gregory pushed his luck even further. “I would hate to be caught with Einstein’s brain in my bag, wouldn’t you, professor?”

“Indeed,” the professor snapped through gritted teeth.

“What’s in your bag?” Gregory enquired gingerly. Seeing the colour drain from Professor Harvey’s face, Gregory felt a glimmer of triumph surge through his veins. He attempted a cocky smile but, nervous as he was, he looked more like someone practising for the world gurning championships.

The professor glared at him and said in a most threatening manner, “What I keep in my own bag is entirely my business. And you would do well to stay put and keep quiet!” Then he turned and strode through the door.

In what can only be described as a moment of sheer lunacy, Gregory grabbed the nearest thing he could find (which happened to be a sandwich) and flung it at the back of the professor’s head. The professor gave a yell and momentarily dropped his bag. Without a moment’s thought, Gregory lunged for the bag and sprinted down the hallway.

“Oi!” Professor Harvey pursued him earnestly, screaming wild abuse as he followed Gregory through the door of the orphanage and out into the sunshine.

With the professor hot on his heels Gregory called desperately for Penny, hoping that she would hear him and come to his aid. “Penny, help! Where are you? Penny! HELP!”

But Penny was nowhere to be seen. Admittedly, they had been so fixated on moving the young Alberta and gaining access to the professor that they hadn’t actually made a plan on what to do next.

If you will recall, Gregory was not a particularly fit individual and running was not one his strengths. He hadn’t got very far before he could feel the professor’s hand grappling for the back of his neck. Knowing he could not hold the professor off for much longer, he roared mightily and flung the brain-filled bag into the nearest bush.

Professor Harvey gave a yell of fury, shoved Gregory roughly aside, and ploughed into the bush.

Gregory fell back, panting and holding his aching side. He felt the blood swim to his face and rubbed his eyes in dizzy frustration. He felt angry with himself for not being able to run faster, angry at Penny for not being there when he needed her, and angry with Einstein for not taking better care of his own brain.

A few seconds later the Professor emerged from the bush, shaking with anger. “Where is it?” he hissed furiously. “WHERE IS IT?”

Apparently the bag was no longer there. Professor Harvey spat on the floor and exclaimed, “You fool!” He said more than this. He swore quite a bit and made various ghastly threats. But I will leave that to your imagination. The attention-seeking antics of a person who steals someone else’s brain is not to be endorsed.

Of all the people Gregory has attacked so far in this sorry story, this guy was certainly the most deserving. With crazed frenzy in his eyes, Professor Harvey turned on Gregory. If he’d had the tools, he may well have extracted Gregory’s brain right there and then. But to Gregory’s relief, the orphanage director appeared at that moment, his grey face aghast and bewildered at the sorry state of the professor. “Professor Harvey,” he gasped. “What’s the matter?”

Professor Harvey turned, his face livid with rage, and yelled, “That boy has taken my bag!”

The orphanage director looked Gregory up and down and said sternly, “Who on earth are you?”

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Story Soup 1.7

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So Gregory has followed the bag lady’s trail and is now caught up in a small mystery regarding the brain of one of history’s greatest scientists. Thank you to everyone who voted for what should happen next. The winning choice, with 36% of the vote, was ‘a Gatecrasher arrives’. I liked this ‘Other’ suggestion; ‘They fall through the floor into a science laboratory’, but then I saw this one; ‘Temporal Paradox involving a time machine and a future Gregory,’ which ties in nicely with a Gatecrasher arriving…

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 or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory helps himself out of one hole and into another one.

“Let me get this straight,” Gregory began shakily. “That… that lady was given Albert Einstein’s brain as a child…”

“Correct,” the bag replied with a nod.

“But she was never happy having it?”

“Never.”

“And she wants her own brain back?”

“Exactly.”

“Well how on earth am I meant to do that?”

“Easy!” the bag said. “Go back in time and stop the swap from happening.”

“Don’t be stupid!” Gregory threw his hands up in despair. “That’s impossible!”

“Is it?” the bag asked with irritating sniff.

“Of course!” said Gregory impatiently. “If time travel was possible then someone from the future would have done it and come back and told us by now. It would be all over the news and everything!”

“Unless only one person did it and kept it a secret,” the bag said with a shrug. Then, before Gregory could persist further, the bag said cantankerously, “Well then? What are we going to do?”

“Well… we could …” Gregory gave a cough and wiped his nose. “We could go to the cemetery and dig up a recently buried coffin and take out the person’s brain and…” He trailed off and blushed.

The bag was shaking his head with disgust. Even Darren looked at him as though he had lost it.

“Alright, alright…” Gregory waved a hand and tried to think again. “We could make a brain out of polystyrene…” He stopped and shook his head. It was a ludicrous idea. Nothing he could think of made any sense at all. It was all daft. Like a special noodle hat that stops you from eating your own hair.

“Fine!” Gregory snapped. “It’s all stupid. I have no idea what to do or what’s going to happen. I should have just gone home!” He stormed out of the little hut, shoving the bag aside as he went.

“Oi!” the bag yelled back. “That hurt, Idiot!”

Gregory turned to say something careless in reply. But before he could do so there was a sudden crack in the air followed by a mighty rumbling. The ground seemed to shudder and shake under their feet and the air in front of them grew thick with dust. Darren gave a yelp and ran to Gregory for safety. The bag covered its ears and trembled. It sounded as though something was climbing out of the ground nearby. Gregory rubbed his eyes in terror as the dust cleared.

There in front of them stood a thin middle aged man. He looked a bit like Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys except that he wore grey spectacles and had a thin orange moustache. “Goodness!” the man said, brushing dirt off his trousers and peering around. “This takes me back a bit! Hello boys!” He rubbed Darren’s belly and then turned towards the bag.

Before the man could pat him, the bag growled and snapped, “Don’t touch!”

“Ah of course!” The man laughed. “You don’t recognise me!” He turned to Gregory and exhaled deeply. “Blimey,” he said with a grin. “I forgot how miserable I looked!”

“What?” Gregory eyed the intruder with affronted confusion.

The man simply smiled. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Professor Gregory J. Bedcarrots, inventor of the time machine and winner of the 2040 Nobel Prize for Physics.”

“What?” Gregory repeated dumbly.

“To put it bluntly,” said the man, “I am you. From the future.”

The bag burst into raucous laughter. “Told you!” he cried to Gregory. “Told you time travel was possible! You said it wasn’t but you’ve done it yourself! Hahaha!” He rolled wildly in the grass.

“And if you need me to prove it;” the man continued smoothly, “You have a birthmark on your right foot, you’re afraid of The Cat in the Hat, you have a small unexplained and exceedingly terrifying crush on your neighbour Penny, and you once got lost in a cinema and cried loudly through the wrong film… Need I continue?” He gave a toothy grin and straightened his tie. Then, before Gregory could reply, he turned to the hole from which he’d arrived and started to mumble something about needing a new pair of shoes.

Gregory’s jaw almost hit the ground. To think this cool, sophisticated gentleman was himself from the future! He started to feel a little bit tongue tied. What should he say to himself? “I like your moustache.” Too daft. “How do I become cool?” Too desperate. “Can I have your autograph?” Too perverse. In the end, Gregory simply stood and stared. The older Gregory began to walk up and down, muttering to himself and stopping every now and then to wipe his spectacles. The bag eyed him with mild suspicion, glancing backwards and forwards from the original bumbling Gregory to the older intellectual one as if to say, “Pull the other one!” Darren, however, embraced the gatecrasher fondly and trotted after him, weaving affectionately in and out of his legs. The older Gregory leant down to tickle the dinosaur and chortled gaily as Darren rolled over and purred.

“So…” Gregory said eventually, feeling incredibly small and stupid. “Time travel is possible?”

“Of course!” the older Gregory said with a grin. “The old lady left you all the information.” He gestured towards the exam papers in Gregory’s hand. “But I remember I was never any good at maths or science.”

“No…” Gregory looked at himself in confusion. He was about to ask how the future him had become so intelligent but then a more pressing question came to mind, “If the bag lady knows how to go back in time, then why does she need me to do it for her?”

“Ah, precautions!” The older Gregory gave a small smile. “If she went back in time within her own lifetime, then there would be two of her in the same place at the same time. Research has shown that this is incredibly dangerous. If two of the same person ever come into contact then something awful is sure to happen.”

Gregory looked at himself in shock. “Then what’s going to happen to us?” he asked fretfully.

“Oh, we’ll be fine,” the older Gregory assured him. “I’m not staying very long. Just don’t touch me.”

Gregory took a step back in fright.

“Now then…” The older Gregory took something small and wriggly from his pocket and placed it on the ground in front of Gregory. It was a worm. “This is a time worm,” he said simply. “Write your destination in the dirt and he will start to chew a hole into the ground. When the hole is big enough you’ll be able to slip through.”

Gregory raised a baffled eyebrow.

“It’s a wormhole,” the older Gregory continued with a shrug.

“But that’s so…” Gregory trailed off in confusion.

“Simple?” the older Gregory suggested. “It is rather. But hey ho, the best things usually are!” He reached deeper into his pocket and retrieved a handful of worms. “You shouldn’t need them all,” he said, placing them all on the ground. “But I’d hate for me, I mean you, to get lost somewhere.”

(Incidentally, DO NOT put ‘Worm’ into Google image search. I just did it in order to find a nice picture to illustrate the scene but it wasn’t really a very good idea.)

“Right then,” the older Gregory said plainly. “Here’s what you need to do. Go back in time to Princeton Orphanage, 19th April 1955. You’ll find a young girl alone in the hall. In a nearby room a scientist will be making negotiations with the director to adopt a child. His bag contains Einstein’s brain which he removed without permission that very morning. Take the girl through to the kitchen and put her out of sight in the pantry. When the director goes to look for the girl, go to the scientist and pretend to be the child that he’s been allocated. You’ll leave together and he’ll take you straight to the laboratory. This is where Darren will come in handy! Grab Einstein’s brain and bring it to me in the future, let’s say right back here on the 19th April 2030.”

“Bring the brain to you in 2030?” Gregory repeated in a muddle.

“Of course!” the older Gregory said slyly. “With a little bit of study and a few neuron implants I’ll, I mean you’ll, be a genius by the time you’re 40!” The older Gregory tapped his own head smugly.

“How old are you?” Gregory asked in bewilderment.

“Me? I’m 45.”

“But then—?”

“Yes, yes! You brought me the brain many years ago. I’m just here to remind you to do it.” The older Gregory eyed his younger self up and down and then said, “Oh what the heck, I’d better do this bit for you…” He leant over and wrote Gregory’s destination in the dirt. Then he placed one of the worms on the letters and smiled at Gregory as the worm rapidly began to chew through the dirt. Within a few moments there was a sizeable hole. “There you go!” the older Gregory said courteously. “In you get!”

Gregory blinked at him in bewilderment. His head had begun to spin. He felt utterly lost and in great need of a hug. He clamoured senselessly into the hole, taking hold of an eager Darren and reluctant bag as he did so.

“One thing to remember,” the older Gregory said quickly. “Keep it a secret. Got that?”

Gregory rubbed his eyes and attempted a nod.

“Good!” the older Gregory stepped back into the hole that his own worm had made. “See you in the future then!”

“Wait!” Gregory cried frantically. Everything was moving much too fast for him. He had so many questions and far too many reservations.

“Yes?” The older Gregory poked his head up from his own wormhole.

“Erm…” Gregory fought wildly for something meaningful to ask but his mind was far too agitated. The future him seemed so calm and collected. He wanted to trust himself and make himself proud. “Erm,” he repeated foolishly. “In the future, who’s winning the Championship?”

“Apple pie,” the older Gregory replied.

“Oh,” said Gregory in confusion. “Er… Thanks.”

The older Gregory simply smiled and waved.

In the next instant, there was a brilliant whooshing noise as the ground beneath them gave way and Gregory, Darren and the bag found themselves sinking deeper and deeper into their own hole and into intense darkness.

“Idiot!” the bag scolded furiously as everything faded to black. “You should have asked him how Darren is magical!”

Story Soup 1.6

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Thank you to everyone who voted for whether or not Gregory should follow the bag lady’s mission… A hearty 67% of you decided that Gregory should indeed take this opportunity to make something of his life and go for it!

I’m going away for a short Easter break so the next instalment will be posted upon my return, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page. All comments and suggestions welcome! In particular, how is Darren magical??

Gregory encounters some little-known scientific history.

Gregory said nothing for a while. In the silence that followed, Darren the diplodocus came over and began to sniff his hand. Gregory couldn’t help but smile as Darren sneezed and fell over. Gregory had never been allowed a pet. His father didn’t like mess and his mother was allergic to fur. One summer he had ‘rescued’ an earwig in the park and had kept it in a woolly hat until it ran away, but anything bigger than a fish was sincerely out of the question. He hadn’t even been granted a sibling for company. As a result he was both lonely and selfish, as many lone children are. If he’d had his choice he would have preferred a dog or a wolf but he had to admit, this little dinosaur was rather cute. Even cuter than this:

And to think it had magical powers! Gregory couldn’t help feeling intrigued.

“Alright,” he said finally. “Let’s do it.”

“Yes!” the bag yelled, punching the air in delight.

“So, what should we do first?” Gregory muttered, turning the exam papers over uselessly in his hands.

“Maybe we should follow the sign,” the bag suggested.

“What sign?”

“That one,” the bag pointed a grubby arm.

“Oh!” said Gregory in surprise. “Well, I guess that’s a good start.”

They followed the sign and soon came across another. This one led them down a dried up stream. Eventually they came upon a third notice. This one pointed between two bushes and was inscribed with the words, ‘Keep going, Gregory.’

“Huh!” Gregory uttered in mild disbelief. He could not help feeling a little bit disgruntled, as though the bag lady was teasing him somewhat. Nevertheless, it was good to have a bit of direction.

The next sign was quite high up, nestled in the branches of an old oak tree.

“For someone who has lost all sensation in her arms and legs, this bag lady sure is agile…” Gregory muttered dryly, feeling as though he were sinking deeper and deeper into some kind of trap. He wondered whether it was too late to back out, but morbid curiosity got the better of him and he pushed on.

They followed the trail for quite some time, venturing further into the dark forest. They had to stop once or twice so that the bag could sew up some scuffs on his feet. Gregory had carried him for a while and then put him down, complaining that he was too heavy. Darren was sitting on Gregory’s shoulder, swaying from side to side in a contented manner. Gregory gave him a tender pat every now and then. “Isn’t this exciting, Darren!” he said, forcing a smile. He hoped he sounded braver than he felt.

Eventually they came to a small hut. It looked as though it had been hastily assembled using a collection of sticks and moss. Gregory glanced around with a shiver, wondering if the bag lady was nearby. The light was beginning to fade and, without his father’s watch, Gregory had no idea what time it was. He took a deep breath and entered the hut. Beside him, the bag gave a little hiccup and followed. They expected to find the hut occupied or at the very least decked out with utensils, weapons, or other fancy tools intended for their use. But to their surprise it was as good as empty. All they could see was a photo pinned to the wall. It was of this chap:

“Oh, not him again!” the bag sniffed in annoyance.

“Isn’t that Albert Einstein?” Gregory asked in confusion. “What’s he got to do with anything?”

They went over to the photo and examined it more closely. Under the picture was one last sign, engraved with the words, ‘Give me my brain back.’

“Ah, yes,” the bag said tiredly. “Now I remember.”

“Remember what?” Gregory exclaimed in frustration. “What on earth am I meant to do?”

The bag yawned and leant against the wall. Then he began to explain. “So this guy was some kind of big shot apparently. Well, when he died his brain was taken without permission by scientists wanting to discover the secret of his great intelligence. His family came and demanded his brain back so the sneaky doctors swapped it for the brain of a child at a local orphanage. They named her Alberta and she became the property of science. She was incredibly gifted and was examined and prodded daily. She clearly did not enjoy this very much because she ran away as soon as she could and has lived as a bag lady ever since. She was always grumbling about who she might have been with her own brain…” The bag paused for dramatic effect and then concluded with a little chuckle, “Maybe she wants you to travel back in time and restore her original brain!”

Story Soup 1.2

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Welcome to the second Story Soup instalment and thank you to everyone who voted for who or what was following Gregory! There was an awful moment when the poll first opened and the only vote was ‘Other— Neil Tennant from the Pet Shop Boys’ which would have led to much necessary research and confusion. Perhaps he will pop up at some point though… Other suggestions also included ‘a block of cheese’, ‘a barrel on legs’, ‘A girl’, and ‘his neighbour after the pie Gregory had stolen’. It was all incredibly close and it looked like Gregory might be meeting three people at once, but a spurt of more than twenty votes came in overnight and a clear winner emerged! So with 52% of the vote, let’s see who was following Gregory…

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 or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory chooses an unfortunate moment to be brave.

Gregory had not been in the apple tree for very long when he heard a scuffling from somewhere close by. He strained his ears to listen, wondering if it was his neighbour, Penny, who had begged him earlier to show her his hiding place in exchange for some pie. Gregory had refused but had stolen the pie anyway, sprinting off with it under his arm before Penny had had time to fetch her shoes. Gregory quickly wolfed the pie down and waited to be found. But as the scuffling came closer he realised with a jolt of fear that the footsteps did not belong to Penny. In fact, they did not sound human at all. He held his breath as the sounds came closer. He had no idea what kind of animals might lurk in this forest and a whole host of gruesome creatures immediately sprang to mind.

Pretty soon, the mysterious animal began to circle the tree. It would not be too hard, Gregory realised, for the creature to climb into the tree trunk and devour him. He began to tremble in terror at the thought.

But many minutes passed and the creature, whatever it was, showed no signs of tearing down the tree to eat him. Round and round the tree it went, grunting and wheezing, and dragging something heavy (its tail, Gregory imagined) behind itself. Perhaps it wasn’t anything dangerous after all. Perhaps it was a friendly wombat, or a shy woodland deer, or a miniature diplodocus that had lived unseen since the beginning of time. In a moment of excitement, Gregory wondered if maybe he was on the brink of discovering a whole new creation. He would name it after himself and everywhere it went people would exclaim, “There goes a Gregory! What a wonderful creation!” Of course, if the animal looked anything as hideous as the beasts above, then Gregory would soon regret having it named after himself. ‘As ugly as a Gregory’ is not the kind of saying one would like to be known for.

Gregory edged towards the crack in the tree trunk to attempt a peek but he lost his nerve and shrank back again. He counted to ten and tried again, but once more fear got the better of him. The time went on and Gregory started to feel less curious and more infuriated. “It’s probably just a badger,” he scolded himself angrily. “I’m so stupid to be hiding from a badger!” He took a deep breath and rolled up his sleeves and determined to be bold. So in a moment of spirited daring and sheer unadulterated madness, Gregory leapt from his hiding place with a mighty roar and pounced upon the mysterious creature.

“Yeeehaaaaah—!”

In the instant before he landed, Gregory caught sight of his target, gave a yelp and tried to abort his fall. But it was no use. He landed heavily on the creature and it dropped lifelessly to the floor. It was an old lady.

She lay perfectly still and heavy dread filled Gregory’s heart as he thought frantically, “I’ve killed her!” He stood up, heart beating fast and sickness rising in his throat, and assessed the situation. He saw straight away that she was some kind of beggar or tramp for her clothes were filthy and torn and she smelt of smoke and vinegar. She had the kind of face that makes you want to cry and she looked like a regular bag lady, apart from her bag itself which looked like a stuffed armadillo.Gregory stood over her, blinking back tears and murmuring over and over, “I’ve killed her! What do I do? What do I do?” He wondered whether he would go to jail for this and shook with fear at the thought of being branded a murderer and locked away with violent convicts. Tears started to stream down his cheeks as he whispered over and over, “I’m so sorry, it was an accident…”

Eventually he decided he would write a little note explaining what had happened and leave it by her body. Hopefully she would be cleared away by the weekend and he could return to his tree to hide. He was just about to run home and consult Google, when suddenly the old lady opened her eyes and said in a deep rasping voice, “Gregory…”

Gregory gasped and leapt backwards in fright.

“Gregory,” the lady repeated. “Gregory Bedcarrots…”

In a panic, Gregory lunged forward with a punch and the bag lady fell unconscious once more.