It was the day after Tuesday and the day before Wednesday when the bicycle became.
"That was dreadfully awkward, wasn't it?" it said, and then, "Oh."
The bicycle looked around itself. There were others here, lined up in neat rows, one after the next. Not bicycles. Not-yet bicycles, perhaps. More likely not-yet other things. Things that had yet to become. Beyond the ends of the rows there were four grey walls, square and undecorated. A reluctant light filled the room.
There was a distant noise.
The bicycle discovered that a door had opened in one wall.
Beyond the door, the sky was the sort of blue that promised things. The bicycle thought of paths: smooth planes that wound among carefully-sculpted topiary and dramatically-placed urns, long downhill slopes of lawn where it could build up speed. It thought of places that weren't paths, too: places for the bicycle to force itself up inclines and over heaps of abandoned umbrellas, to brush against scarves that had caught in railings, to splash through warm, steaming puddles.
Perhaps there would be someone to sit on the bicycle's seat. Someone to oil its gears, to push exuberantly at its pedals. Perhaps they would install a little bell and ring it at intersections.
The bicycle twirled its front wheel contemplatively. Then it swerved out of its place.
"Tra la la," said the bicycle, and went out.
The bicycle had traveled with others before. First a Crunk, though it had been perhaps a little too aggressive. They'd parted with harsh words. Then a Limpflig, but that had been rather boring, so the bicycle had left it by the side of the road; the Limpflig didn't seemed to have noticed. It had met an Ombledroom, as well, but that was too large to fit on the seat.
And now Yewbert and Embley.
The bicycle took them first to a roadside attraction that advertised an extremely large ball of twine. The loose end of the twine took a liking to Embley; after it had entangled three caravans, they were asked to leave.
They rode on Aimlessly.
A bird watched them Balefully.
"Beware of this and that," it warned them Clumsily.
The bicycle carried on Distractedly.
Embley wanted the journey to go on Endlessly.
Embley picked up some green beads that were lying in the snow; she strung them on a piece of yarn unraveled from her hem and draped the resulting swag across the bicycle's handlebars. It lent the bicycle a festive air. Two days later the string fell off into a stand of fir trees while they were escaping from a pack of wolves.
They never saw it again.
Yewbert kicked at a fence post Fruitlessly.
The bicycle rolled around them Giddily.
"I wonder where we are," said Embley Hopelessly.
They rode into a dark wood Inadvertently.
"Ho hum," said Yewbert Jadedly.
It was raining, so they slipped into the Vicarage and found themselves in the midst of a somewhat anemic party. A crumpled banner reading "Congratulations" hung over the fireplace, and there was a small stack of books on the end of a nearby table. The bicycle leaned itself against a wall while Embley and Yewbert hid under the table. Embley amused herself by tying a few of the party-goers' shoelaces together; Yewbert waited until one particularly loud gentleman's back was turned, then replaced his plate of cake with one full of herrings.
"I say, Earbrass," said the loud gentleman. "What d'you mean by giving me these bloaters, and everyone else cake?"
"Bloaters?" said another man. He had a distracted look about him. "Colonel, I'm afraid I don't quite know what you mean."
"These bloody—" The Colonel reached for the plate and held it out, but Yewbert had taken advantage of his distraction to swap the plates back again. "Oh." He paused. "That's bloody sly of you, Earbrass, I must say."
"Pardon?" said Earbrass.
The argument went on for some time, though Yewbert only had two more opportunities to repeat his trick with the plates. Eventually the rain stopped. Embley and Yewbert crawled out from under the table; Embley gave the Colonel a disdainful sniff as they took the bicycle and left.
They escaped from the Quingawaga Killingly.
Yewbert sang a hymn Lewdly.
The bicycle explored the hedge maze Maniacally.
Embley collapsed across the handlebars Numbly.
The sky darkened Ominously.
On Wednesday they rode past an extremely ugly baby lying in a gutter. It was wearing an unspeakable expression. The baby attempted to slash the bicycle's tires with its dagger, but after the alligator, Yewbert was prepared. He kicked the baby in the nose. The resulting change to its face could almost have been said to be an improvement.
"Crikey!" said Embley.
The bicycle quite agreed.
They would have to go home at some point Presumably.
The bicycle left the enclosure Quickly.
"That wasn't clever," said the magistrate Repressively.
Yewbert tied the noose Slyly.
They contemplated the ruins of the bookshop Tearfully.
They took part in the annual Trans-Novaya Zemla Bicycle Race, but without Yewbert's waistcoat they had to abandon the course after the third glacier.
When the race was over, they heard that the second place cyclist had fallen to her death from the parapets.
"Must have been the false mustache," said Yewbert.
They disrupted a flock of fantods that had gathered by the edge of the pond. The resulting mess caused the bicycle to brood silently about rain.
When they rode onwards, it became apparent that something had happened to the front handlebars. The bicycle continued brooding.
"That bird can't be following us," Yewbert said Unconvincingly.
The ticking clock appeared over the lake Vapourously.
"I shan't," said Embley Wilfully.
It was already Sunday as they rode past a little shop. Embley picked up a bottle of something labeled "Q.R.V." from a shelf and hit Yewbert with it, experimentally.
Yewbert retaliated with a length of watering hose. "Ninny." But his heart wasn't in it.
Chapter twenty one
Tuesday dawned eXcruciatingly.
"But mightn't we—" Yewbert suggested Yearningly.
"I'm afraid not," said the bicycle Zealously.
After Embley and Yewbert had gone, a large bird flew down and alit, very carefully, amidst the remains of the bicycle.
"Indeed," the bird said. It picked up the smallest gear in its beak and buried it among the roots of an old willow tree. Then it waited for something to grow.