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Her Light Materials, Volume I

The Lost Magic Golden Closing Curly Bracket

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Stob 'So that's how I came to be mysteriously orphaned and, on my ninth birthday, just three years ago today, sent to work as a junior grader at the Ah-Poo! Toilet Tissue reclamation factory at Fort Wirth', explained Jo, our heroine, a feisty, scruffy and independently-minded young tomboy whose more mature, more feminine side we won't really encounter until volume three.

'Are you intending to make a career of it?' asked the mysterious, bearded, twinkly, old Sage (current CRB certificate available on application), who had interrupted Jo during her lunch break.

'Oh, yes. I'm terribly lucky to be apprenticed to chief grader Mistress Skidly. She's the best. Only she can put the puppy huggability back into a six-sheet strip of Andrex, even after it has been...'

'I am always forgetting that you don't yet have sarcasm in this part of Pascalia. I wasn't being serious, my child. I was hoping to interest you in a different kind of work. '

'What sort of work?' asked Jo.

'Tell me, child. Have you heard of the Background Dæmon of Life? The program that, by its very running, sustains existence not just in Pascalia, but throughout all creation?'

'Yes, of course.'

'Naturally the BDoL is coded in Pascal...'

'Naturally?' said Jo.

'Yes, child. What else would do? You'll be doubting the Supreme Being is an Englishman next. The BDoL is written in Pascal, and its opening, and indeed only comment, is {enclosed in curly brackets}.'

'What does the comment say?' asked Jo.

'Who knows? Keep your nappy on tight, it gets pretty hairy in here or some such pleasantry, I dare say. Anyway, the point is that the magic golden closing curly bracket has gone missing. The comment is unterminated!'

'So? Put in another curly bracket.'

'Shush. You do not understand the import of the situation. The next time the Supreme Being chooses to take a compile, the whole of the universe will disappear into a syntax error. The magic golden closing curly bracket must be recovered at all costs.'

'And how is that to be done?'

'Why, the usual way, of course. All hope for the survival of everything are to be entrusted to an inexperienced and under-briefed minor, who will set out on a series of interminable adventures and battle any number of monsters, the latter all being easily rendered using modern CGI effects, in the event of the film rights being picked up.'

Jo sighed. 'I'll get my coat.'

'Hurry up,' said the Sage. 'I've booked you in for a 4 o'clock with the Perly King at CPAN. Oh, and be sure to wear this amulet around your neck from now on. It's called the Wizard's Genuine Advantage. If ever you find yourself in danger, wherever you are, day or night, simply press this button on its side.'

'And that will bring you to my aid instantly, wherever I am, day or night?'

The Sage had the grace to look embarrassed. 'I'm afraid not. It just texts our insurance people a warning that a large claim is likely pending...'

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