It was a small town, and as such, by the time Rev Harvey came panting up to the mayor’s door—the door to the mayor’s home, mind you, not her office—it could reasonably be guessed that already twenty people knew the exact words that were about to exit his mouth. Already, certain neighbours had their curtains pulled back, dusters in hand; already certain families from Rev’s own street had taken the opportunity to sprint out the door with a bemused dog or child dragging behind.
The mayor answered the door eventually, dressed as she was in tracksuit pants and T-shirt, having just that minute stepped off her treadmill. She still had a walkman clipped to her waist, dragging the grey fabric of her tracksuit down so that Rev could make out the noses of tiny silver stretchmarks on the mayor’s hip.
“Rev,” she said. “To what do I owe?”
Rev stood a moment longer, hand braced against the mayor’s door. He was a man unaccustomed to running any great distances, and it was his heels that burned, for some strange reason, more than any other part of him.
“Beryl,” Rev said, catching his breath. “It’s huge. This thing.”
They mayor pushed her hair back, fastened it with a clip. “What’s the all the commotion?” she asked. “Why’s everyone moving so much on a Sabbath? Day of rest, don’t you know.” The mayor swept her eyes across the street, noting the number of people. Her smile faded. “What’s huge?”
“The Mill,” panted Rev. “Me and Vern were down there painting up some sheds and there’s this godawful noise,” Rev burst his hands together, “like trees falling over, ’cept there’s no trees around there.”
“What was it then?”
Rev’s voice dropped. “That’s the thing. I don’t know. Neither does Vern. We was just there and then there’s this noise and then we look over and there’s this hole in the side of the Mill.”
“Like I said. This hole. Right up one side of it, like someone’d swung a wrecking ball.”
“And you didn’t see anything make the hole.” The mayor felt sweat prickle her hair.
“That’s what I said. Must’ve been something awful big though. I mean, maybe.”
The mayor sighed. “Maybe it wasn’t one thing,” she said. “Anyone been inside the mill?”
“No, I mean I come right here, and Vern’s gone to the police station. But, I mean, someone might have gone to have a look. Word travelled, uh, travels fast.” Rev cast a glance at the four locals who happened to be checking their letterboxes at that particular moment.
“The Professor,” said the Mayor flatly. She saw no point in dancing around it.
Rev nodded. “Seems to be he’d have something to do with it.”
“And Vern’s rousing Constable Harris?”
Rev nodded again. “Damn nanobots,” he muttered, and a chorus of agreement rumbled up and down the street.