64: The Thin Grey Line

“Bob! Bob, get back here!”

Garry’s yells echo back to him from the closing lift doors, and Bob’s apologetic face disappears from view just as volume four of the Encyclopedia Britannica bounces against the metal, leaving a nasty dent.


Garry rips open another linguaphone set, flinging the CDs at the approaching tide of Borrowers. One disc finds its mark, dropping the Borrower to the floor, but the others defend themselves by using books as shields.

“Shit”, Garry curses through clenched teeth, “they’re learning.”

He ducks as volume five of the Encyclopedia Britannica tumbles end over end, like an ungainly tomahawk, through the space where his head had just been. The chanting grows louder; filling his ears and rattling his ribs, urging his buckling knees to carry him to a place far away from here. Garry wishes he had enough Clingfilm to cover all the borrowers, to seal them up and contain them, to prevent them spreading their anger and violence and germs any further.

Garry picks up the Encyclopedia and hurls it back at the mob, taking out two Borrowers, falling like skittles.


Katerina’s blond head peeks over her barricade, her eyes wide with fear. John’s singed head is just visible, still buried between Katerina’s breasts. Garry looks at John’s trembling head and thinks: at least someone is in a good place right now.

“Get out of here! I’ll hold them off for as long as I can, go downstairs, anywhere!” Garry hurls a selection of hardback Asterix books at the advancing horde to little effect. Katerina nods, and begins to drag John towards the lift, heavy reference books crashing around them like literary cannonballs.

Garry turns back towards the Borrowers to see them push his barricade out of the way, their ink-stained, germ-riddled hands reaching out towards him. Snatching up a returns trolley, he pushes them back with it, feeling a satisfying crunch as the corner of the trolley connects with a knee. Then they are all around him and the smell of Scotch eggs fills his nostrils as everything goes dark.

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