Chapter 7: In which Ward Discovers the Nature of his Employment

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The following day was a Mornday, and the Scowerers embarked on a Lurk, Morndays being the day of the week allocated to Lurking activities.

It began with a hot shower – a new experience for Ward, who had always washed in the sea. An ingenious coal-powered heating system, devised by Nick himself, provided hot water to the dorms. Ward also witnessed the spectacle of Wrinkler shaving. It appeared to have no effect on Wrinkler's appearance, but as Ward was reluctant to raise the subject while the razor was in Wrinkler's hand, he asked Mildew about it over breakfast instead.

"He's a Reverser," Mildew explained.

Ward glanced down the line of trestle tables that had been erected in the Cathedral, to where Wrinkler sat grimly shovelling bacon and eggs into his mouth.

"Haven't you heard of em either?" she said.

Ward shook his head. Over the noise of breakfasting Scowerers he wasn't sure he'd heard her right.

The clans took turns cooking and serving breakfast. This morning it was the Doodles' turn. The Doodles were an unkempt rabble who resided beyond a low tunnel to the west. Their specialty was stealing handbags from old ladies.

A filthy boy dropped a plate in front of Ward. "Your break-fass your majesty," he announced, performing an intricate bow and scurrying off to peals of laughter from the other Doodles. The food was good though: bacon and eggs and sausages and toast and tomatoes. Breakfast with Jaggles had chiefly consisted of oily fish, bony rabbits, and an unsweetened gruel made from whatever grain passing ships happened to be carrying.

"What's a Reverser?" Ward said through a piece of toast.

"They start off normal," Mildew said as she stabbed a sausage with her fork. "You know, they're born and grow up and everything. Then they get to about thirty, and something happens, and they -" She bit into a sausage and chewed for a while.

"They what?"

"Start coming back."

"What?"

"They reverse." Mildew continued chewing, as if she had said nothing unusual.

"You mean they get younger again?" It took him a moment to digest this. "But then – how do they die?"

"Well it's obvious isn't it? They turn into babies and get smaller and smaller until they can't eat or drink by their selves, then they die. I guess if you could keep em alive somehow -" she chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then swallowed. "Why, I reckon they'd a-ventually just vanish." She laughed.

"Oh," Ward said. He glanced up the table at Wrinkler, who was now arguing with a big Scowerer. "And Wrinkler...?"

"Oh yeh, he's on the way back. But don't say nothing – he's touchy bout it. That's why he still shaves and everything I guess. Peculiar huh?"

"Are there lots of them? Reversers?"

"Hard to know," she said. "See, they usually don't realise they're one until they start growing young again, and then they keep hid. I mean, they a-spect they're a Reverser if one of their parents was one I guess, cos it's heretical. But they never know for sure til it happens."

"Why do they hide?"

"The Brothers reckon the Dark Traveller made them. Killed loads of em back in the old days. So they went into hiding. But Reversers're okay. I met a few."

"Where do you think they came from?"

Mildew shrugged. "Where do people with red hair come from? Who cares? Here, have the rest of my eggs, I'm full."


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Here's your end note, your majesty.

*performs intricate bow*

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