Mark was confused. He’d been the director general at the BBC for three years, and never once had studio seven opened its doors. People didn’t go in there, nobody really knew why. They just didn’t. The doors were sealed with one of the biggest chains Mark had ever seen, topped with three individual padlocks, and each padlock’s key was kept securely with different guards. Only two sets were in existence, passed down from guard to guard, and director general to director general. Now he thought about it, it probably was a bit weird… But the BBC had been around for 85 years… Hell, Mark had been there for 28, and he’d learned very quickly that some things just weren’t questioned around here. So what was… No. It was probably nothing. He’d been working late every day for a week and his mind was playing tricks. He went home.
There it was again! Mark was at the office late, again. The Trust had been riding him following the APC report last month, leaving him bereft of sleep and pining for his bed. He shook his, trying to shake away the feeling that he was not as alone as the hour should indicate. Errrrrkkkkkk. Mark, exasperated, ran his fingers through his chaotically disordered hair and stood up. How was he supposed to concentrate while something was making such distracting noises? He stumbled out of the door of his office and stopped, waiting for the noise again. Errrrkkkkkkk. He turned right, and wandered down the corridor. Errrrkkkkkkk. He stopped abruptly. It definitely was. There was no question about it. He turned his head slowly, his body following soon after, and found himself facing the door of studio seven. He looked up the corridor. He looked down the corridor. He leaned his ear to the door of the padlocked room. ERRRKKKKK SHTUM. Mark leaped back, in a way that only the heavily fatigued can leap, stumbling until his back hit the wall on the other side of the corridor. What… What? Could it be rats? Huge, ugly, mutant rats? Mark groaned. If he knew himself, which he liked to thing he did, he wouldn’t be able to concentrate a damned iota until he knew. Maybe he could wait till morning? But rats usually came out at night. Nope, it had to be done.
He lurched back into his desk chair, picked up his mug and drained the last half of what had, three hours ago, been a lovely hot cup of very strong coffee. Staring at his desk, Mark tried to remember what the devil he had done with the studio seven keys, ceremonially thrown his way by Greg, his predecessor. He laid his head on the piles of paper strewn randomly across his desk and sighed. He closed his eyes whilst he was racking his brain.
Mark startled. Where was he? What was stuck to his face? He grimaced as the all-too-familiar iridescence of the office lights started to clear his vision. What time was it? The hands of his clock said just after three. He groaned and laid his back down. Suddenly, Mark bolted upright, and ran to the lock box in the corner of the room. Fumbling with the latch with one hand, he wiped the sleep from his eyes with the other, snatching the rusting keys from the corner when his prize was revealed. He half ran, half fell back down the corridor. Why was he so excited? He collided with the door and stopped as he heard a scuttling coming from the other side. Suddenly he felt faint, what was he doing? Breathing deeply, Mark reassured himself that he was doing his duty as director general. He had to protect the company, and sometimes that meant opening creepy doors with unknown horrors lurking on the other side. Probably. He inserted the first key into one of the locks and turned. It opened soundlessly, until the damn thing clattered to the floor. He heard scurrying again as he tentatively inserted another. The key slid in but wouldn’t turn, moreover it wouldn’t come back out again. He gave it a sharp tug and fell to the floor as the chain came away in his hands. Someone had been in here, and hadn’t locked it again. He shuddered. What was going on?
It was really dark. The only light came from the door Mark had left ajar leading back to the corridor and safety.
Nothing. Just silence. Mark inhaled; he hadn’t realised he’d been holding his breath, and laughed at his own foolishness as he turned back. The hairs rose on the back of his neck and he realised, he could hear something else breathing. He turned, slowly rotating himself to face what he assumed to be the corner of the studio, fumbling in his pocket for the light fob attached to his car keys.
“Heessssssssssss…” came a rasp from the corner of the room. Mark tried to swallow even though his throat was as dry as the voice violating his hearing.
“Are you… Are you ok?” Mark asked the darkness. His fingers closed around his fob and he drew it out, pointing the tiny light at the floor in front of him.
“Hessssssssssss…” came the reply. “Tooooooooooon.”
Mark took a step forward and he heard the thing recoil.
“It’s… it’s ok…” Mark stuttered out. Was it ok? Was he really doing this? It was too late now, studio seven’s secret had been found out. He might as well learn as much as he could. “My name’s Mark. Do you need help?” He took a step forward, keeping the light aimed at his feet.
“BLUE” the creature cried out, lunging for Mark. Mark tripped backwards as a dark figure threw itself at him, landing heavily on the floor, losing the key fob to the unnatural darkness and winding himself.
“BLUE. MEN. BLUE. MEN.” It was crying out desperately, shaking Mark from it’s perch above him. “THALLLLLLLLLL!”
It let out it’s final wail and rolled off Mark, curling into a ball and rocking. Mark didn’t move. Didn’t want to startle… Whatever it was that had just attacked him. He slowly refilled his lungs with air and lay in the darkness, besides the sobbing creature until he couldn’t bare it any more.
“Who are you?” The creature went silent. It slowly turned what Mark assumed was it’s head to look at Mark with big, shining eyes. “Is… Is there any light around here?”
The creature continued to stare for what felt to Mark like the longest time, and Mark wondered if it was readying itself to attack again. Mark blinked slowly, trying not to move too suddenly. As his eyes readjusted, he realised the creature was gone. He sat up slowly and fumbled in the darkness trying to find his keys. Light erupted from the corner of the room, swirling and dancing, illuminating the black in spurts of energy. The shadow was the first thing Mark noticed. The fire kept the shadow moving, flickering in the way that only a shadow born of flames could. The shadow was imposing. It was hunched small and unnatural, barely allowing distinction where one body part ended and the other began. As his gaze turned towards the creature, the man, for that surely was what the fire revealed it to be, Mark recoiled. Hunched over, squatting languidly on the balls of it’s, his, feet, was a youngish man. Naked, save for the filthy, once white coat that hung from his bones. His toe nails were curled and yellow, only distinguishable from the dirt-black feet because of the sheer length. His legs reminded Mark of chicken bones, pale and thin, how they supported the man’s weight was beyond him. His body was, aside from filthy and starved, in fairly good shape. Muscles were defined in places, accentuated by the unreliable flames. His fingernails were long. Longer than Mark thought possible, his index finger on his left hand probably reaching 15cm in length, covered in dark red polish. Odd, thought Mark. Finally, Mark’s gaze reached the man’s face. It was square and slightly broad. His nose ended slightly too high, Mark thought to accommodate for the man’s mouth, which was far higher than the average man’s, and curled into a snarl. But the man’s hair was what truly perplexed Mark. Patchy, long and filthy, he could have sworn that in the odd places it grew, it grew green.
“What are you?” Mark said, startling himself as the sound of his voice penetrated the darkness.
“Hessssss, tonnnnn. Blue. Men. Thall.”
“Heston?” Mark repeated. “Heston Blumenthall. What are we going to do with you?”
* * * * *
It was two months later. Heston was sat in Mark’s office, their usual routine was underway. Heston’s grasp of the English language was rapid and surprising. He spoke in full sentences now. Though he seemed to have no memory of how or why or even when he had ended up in studio seven, glimpses of Heston’s past persisted in coming through. He had an incredible grasp of the sciences, sometimes Mark suspected that his experiments went beyond those of the physical realm but Mark didn’t mind. Heston was going to make an amazing TV personality. Of course, Heston couldn’t be allowed to roam free, or even unbound. He had proven that quickly, once the lights had been repaired in studio seven and the full extent of how he had survived was revealed. Carcasses of rats, cats and some unidentifiable larger animals were strewn around the room, hideously mutilated with carcasses of other animals and strange concoctions of fluids that Mark never cared to learn the origins of. His violent outbursts were uncontrollable, even with the glasses that Mark had commissioned from the technology department to physically calm the appearance of the outside world that Heston seemed to find so distressing. His hair was shorn daily, it wouldn’t do anything for Heston’s aesthetics to be see with the straggly green ropes growing from the top of his head. And though his hands were constantly bound, Heston didn’t seem to mind wearing the oversized coat that allowed someone else to act his arms for him, giving them direction in front of the camera and snarling threats once the cameras shut off. All in all, Mark thought he had found something special, and his television debut next week left Mark with all but a few concerns. After all, his search for perfection was surprisingly satisfied.