WORDYSOD : Michael Lawrence                                    www.wordysod.com

A Writer's Website                                                                                                




Sixteen Hours

When I disappeared for sixteen hours I was the last to know about it.

Another thing I didn't know was that during my disappearance I changed from a very ordinary kid into the most powerful person on Earth. I'll tell you how it went, but first a bit of background. Don't panic, it's only a little bit.

My class (including me) had just been promoted to Year Seven, which meant we'd had to switch schools. Our latest prison, Grandacre Secondary, was the one my brother Wilt had been going to since he too was chucked into Year Seven. Wilt and me and our mum and dad lived at the Lodge, Cherrypick Lane, just outside Hollgate. Hollgate was a small university town and the Lodge belonged to Country Legacy, a historical buildings protection society. We lived at the Lodge rent free on the understanding that an adult was always present to take entrance money from visitors. The adult was Dad mostly. Mum worked all week for Hollgate Council. Dad stayed at home, writing thrillers that thrilled no one.

Although we took money from visitors, it wasn't the Lodge that people paid to see. Just as well. Imagine showing paying visitors round your home. No, what they came to see was the building up the track, a nineteenth century ruin called a folly. The folly had never been anything but a ruin. It had been built as one. Building ruins that looked like they'd been there for ever was all the rage back in Century Nineteen, don't ask me why. Also don't ask me why people of this century would hand over cash to look at an original ruin. But I went to the folly myself sometimes, after closing time. It was peaceful there when no one was about, and not spooky, like real ruins can be. I would just wander around or sit and think, or sit and not think, or... well, nothing much really.

I was there when it happened. This big deal event that I'm coming to.

But before I get to that, I have to tell you about Mr Toliver and my grandfather, Joe Quirk.

Mr Toliver was a teacher at my new school. A science teacher. He didn't teach my class, but he always smiled when he saw us and whistled little tunes as he walked, and sometimes did a little dance to make us laugh. Well, one Friday morning he was taking my brother's class in the lab on the second floor and he set them some work and tootled off with a cheery whistle to the science cupboard for some materials or equipment or something.

And that was the last anyone saw of him till late afternoon.

When he returned, Mr Toliver couldn't understand where his class had gone, like he'd only left five minutes earlier. And he was all sort of disorientated, like he'd just jumped off something in a fairground that had been going round and round too fast, and the way I heard it he couldn't seem to take it in when people said he'd been absent all day.

Now my grandfather.

Joe and my gran, Joy, split when I was three. Joe then went to some place called Rapid City in America, where he opened a comic book store and started sending me comics. Superhero comics. I never let on that I had zero interest in people in masks and stupid outfits who flew and used X-ray vision and flashed their muscles and had secret identities and all. Month after month for years and years those super-type comics came, and I hardly looked at them, just heaped them on the floor of my wardrobe.

But then, the day after Mr Toliver disappeared and came back all confused, we got the news that Grandpa Joe had died. It was quite a shock. I never knew anyone who died before. There'd been no warning. Absolutely none. He'd been sick for a while, Dad said, but he hadn't wanted anyone to know because he didn't like the idea of people feeling sorry for him.

I felt bad that I'd never taken any interest in the comics Joe had gone to the trouble of sending me, and that evening I bundled up as many of them as I could carry and went to the folly up the track past the Lodge, to look at them and think about him and wish I'd known him better.

The Saturday visitors had all gone, so it was quiet there, quiet and still. I sat down on the grass, surrounded by Joe's comics, feeling sad because he wasn't around any more and that I hadn't said thanks for thinking of me all those years, Joe, even if you got it wrong. I tried picturing his face, but I had trouble even getting the shape of it. Couldn't remember the sound of his voice either come to that. It wasn't so many years since I last saw him, but I couldn't remember his face or his voice. Isn't that tragic?

I was sitting there, flipping through the comics – not really taking them in, I have to admit – when I heard this thick-mud sort of gurgle, and felt a ruffling in the head-hair region. I looked up from the Adventures of Kaptain Kapow or whatever his musclehead name was, but nothing was moving.

It was a very still evening.

When the gurgle came again I looked to one side and saw a nearby section of grass sort of sagging, and before I knew it I was lurching sideways, being drawn into the hole that was forming. Into it and down, along with the heap of comics.

I didn't go far – didn't think I did anyway – but there was a bit of confusion, and some sort of green darkness, then this sort of blackness, and next thing I knew I was being thrown up, and out, and then I was sprawling on the ground surrounded by my comics, which had also been kicked out of the hole.

I glanced at the bit of grass that had sagged, and saw it de-sag and get back to being as neat as it was before. Apart from this, nothing much had seemed to happen, but I felt like I'd been whirled around or held upside down for a while, or shaken, and my skin prickled and my head felt strange. I touched the top of my skull. My hair felt like it was standing on end, but it usually does that anyway. Then I heard voices, from over by the folly's ruined entrance. Several people stood by the tree that grew just outside it. One of them – a policeman – glanced my way. When he saw me, his mouth dropped open.'Where did he come from?'

The others turned. Dad was among them.


'Is that him?' the copper said.

Dad took a step forward. 'Orson, where've you been?'

I gathered up all the comics and got to my feet. 'I've been right here.'

'Right here? Since when? How long?'

I shrugged. 'Twenty minutes, half an hour?'

Dad came closer, followed by the others.

'You weren't here just now,' he said.

And then he grabbed me, making me drop some of the comics, and pulled me close like he was saving me from going over a cliff or something.

'What is this?' I asked.

He pushed me out at arm's length, and held me there. 'What is this?'

'Yeah, what? And who are all these people? We're closed.'

'Orson,' he said, very seriously. 'Tell us where you've been – now!'

I wriggled out of his grip and picked up the dropped comics. 'I have no idea what you're on about.'

He narrowed his eyes. 'Orson, are you playing games?'

'Games?' I said. 'Not unless minding my own business is a game all of a sudden.'

I was now surrounded by the strangers as well as Dad, and they all looked tense like him, puzzled like him, even the coppers. There were two coppers, a male one and a female one. The female leaned towards me.

'Is there something you want to tell us, Orson?'

What I wanted to tell them was to back off. That I'd come here for a dose of solitude to flip through my unwanted superhero comics and think about my dead granddad.

But I didn't say that. I said, 'I'm thirsty.'

And I was too, really thirsty, like I'd been wandering under a blazing desert sun for hours.

'Thirsty?' at least three voices said, like it was a word I just made up.

'I'm going home,' I said...

And, arms stuffed with comics, I pushed through the small crowd.

'Wait, lad,' a man in a raincoat said. 'There's things we need to know.'

I'd seen him before. He was with a local paper or magazine. He'd come to the Lodge a few weeks back to write something about the folly.

'Ask my dad,' I said, thinking he wanted info for another article.

'Orson!' Dad shouted after me.

I almost turned back, almost answered, but I wanted to get home. I seriously needed to do something about my thirst.




After falling down a Green Hole in the ground clutching a batch of superhero comics, Orson Quirk finds that he possesses the powers and costumes of every superhero in comic book history. He has become, without wanting to be, the Ultimate Superhero. At thirteen.

Great, you might think. A boy with every super power on the list could save nose-diving aircraft, prevent major heists, divert mighty rivers that would submerge hapless towns, cap erupting volcanoes, hold up collapsing bridges, and... well, you name it.

The trouble is, Orson can't just conjure the perfect power when he most needs it. No. He never knows which one he's going to get at any given time. Which makes him a tad nervous. And can you blame him? Well, put yourself in his shoes (which, along with the boots, come in every super style and colour). You're passing dear sweet Mrs Niffenegger's bungalow. You see an enormous meteorite falling out of the sky. It's going to flatten the old girl's house. If ever there was a time for a super power this is it. The twin powers of flight and super strength, for instance, would come in pretty handy right now.

And you do get a power. Sadly, though, it's the one that makes you leap tall buildings in a single bound. So off you go, bounding over buildings. Sorry Mrs N. Nice ruin.  


Orson Quirk & the Holes of Hadron           Orson Quirk & the Creep of Chaos

Orson Quirk & the Tweets of Torment          Orson Quirk & the Prongs of Peril