Off to the races
rating: +1+x

Self-professed paranormal expert Leslie No-Given-Surname paced back and forth in front of the Leicester racecourse, numb fingers plunged deep into their pockets. The air was thin and chilled, and a periodic breeze blew through the empty car-park and cut them to the bone. Their coat (a thin, worn affair they'd bought during a brief period of fiscal levity) did little to offer comfort, and the thought of buying something hot and meat-filled from one of the filth-encrusted food stalls was becoming increasingly tempting, salmonella be damned. But no; they had, unfortunately, got a job to do, and so in the cold October evening they would have to wait.

One lap of the barren asphalt square. Two laps. Three laps, a brief diversion to browse a selection of flyers advertising nightclubs and (likely stolen) goods, and a fourth. They were just about to start a fifth when they caught sight of a tall, thin figure lurching quickly towards them. A sigh of relief, a hand quickly run through the hair, and Leslie approached.

"Hello," they called, "you must be Mr. Pisk."

The figure smiled faintly and nodded nervously. "Yeah, uh, hi. You must be Mr, uh-"

"Leslie, no given surname. You can call me Leslie. Based on your /x/ posts, you've got a problem you need my help with."

The smile returned, as fleeting as before. "Yeah, yes, that's, uh…" Langdon trailed off. "Sorry, I'm not really sure what I'm, uh, doing. Sorry."

Leslie rolled their eyes. "Look, you can be as coy about this stuff as you want, but if I'm gonna be any help, and I mean any help at all, you're gonna need to be a little more open. More open than that, definitely"

"Right", Langdon said, "Sorry. Yes, I've got a problem, and yes, I need… help. I guess. You already know the, uh, basics, I think?"

Leslie nodded. "Yeah. It's gonna start soon, so let's head in. You can walk me through it from the beginning once we're sitting down."

"R- right. You know best, I suppose. Do I need to buy a ticket, or-"

He was cut off by Leslie, who had already turned away and started walking. Face flushing red, Langdon jogged off after them, thick scarf bouncing around his neck like a technicolor noose.

In the car-park behind the two, something hung in the air. A faint, repetitive sound, familiar and false. Iron on stone, diluted. Two halves of a coconut clapped together. It rose and fell in volume, sonic waves beating against the asphalt until…

…it was gone. Or rather, it was silent. That certain type of silence. A known sound lurking just beyond the range of hearing, like muffled breathing in a bedroom closet.

The sound of something very nearby being very, very still.


"Sir? We've got a breach. Confirmed anomaly."

"What? Shit, send me the details."

"Already sent them to Stanford, sir. Said they'd forward you the summary, and let you brief me within clearance."

"Oh. Right, right, that makes sense."

"…Sir?"

"Just trying to find the bloody thing. 12:44 pm?"

"That's the one."

"Right. Codename HALIFAX, Euclid, instances contained but unclear nascence. Vulnerable to standard weaponry, but full extent of properties unknown. May represent a surreality."

"Jesus. Anything else I need to know?"

"I've sent you the relevant transcripts. Most of this one's contextual, so pick folks based on first-principles response training."

"I'm leading a task force, then?"

"You know it. PTF… Iota-8's the next scheduled. Alias "Punchlines", but don't read into that too much; we don't know how HALIFAX reacts thematically, so keep any assumptions to a minimum. It's a weird little fucker, this one."

"Noted, sir. Scheduled time for dispatch?"

"I want this thing dealt with ASAP. The paperwork to update an object class is hellish."

"Understood."




When Leslie found Langdon, he was sitting by the side of the road staring into space with a look of perfect, pure horror on his face. Judging by proximity, he'd at some point been sitting on a bench; judging by current location, he had bigger things in mind. And apparently no concern for laundry, given the sizeable puddle of water-adjacent fluid seeping through the left leg of his trousers.

Leslie sighed. Of all the people in the world to have a genuine paranormal experience. It couldn't have been a sceptic with a mind like a razor, who would've either pivoted their worldview or had a genuine, proper breakdown. Or one of the people who believed anyway, and could've reconciled it with a half-hearted "told you". It had to have been a slightly morose pseudo-intellectual with the personality of boiled potato and an ego like wet tissue paper. The kind of person who believed in nothing, and so took everything that actually happened as an affront to their sensibilities.

Still, it had happened, and there was no going back now. Not unless they fell through the wormhole under Camden, and it was only a matter of time until the spooks found that one too. They were, at least for the time being, in this together. With a shrug, Leslie hoisted Langdon out of the puddle and sat them with a thud on the bench. He turned slowly, flecks of salt still matted into his hair.

"I-", he said, and paused. Language hadn't prepared him for this. It didn't quite convey the nuance, the detail, the raw emotional depth of what he was feeling. He needed something more primal, more potent.

The scream lasted well over a minute. When he'd finished, he took several deep breaths, and did it again, occasionally turning towards the racecourse, towards the white van still parked down the road, and towards Leslie, presumably for moral support.

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