My brother said something, and old Bill laughed 2 Meeting Milo again. All right. I wont tell Sally.M y name is Sally Gardiner. I live and work in the small town of Moreton in Devonshire - a quiet,sleepy town on Dartmoor. All my family live in or near I heard Toms bicycle when it went down the road, and then I got out of bed and looked out of the window. Good morning, Bill, I called down to him. TomllMoreton. I have four younger brothers and about fifteen never pass his exam, you know.cousins, and I enjoy being part of a large and noisy Old Bill looked up at my window. Ah, come on, hefamily. said. The boy wants to go fishing. Its Saturday, isnt But it is sometimes too noisy, so I live by myself, in a it? Theres no school today. And look at the weather.small cottage outside the town. People are always We dont get many days like this.coming and going from my parents house or my unclesfarm. No one can be lonely in a family like mine. I first met Milo in June, in the summer of 2008. Myyoungest brother, Tom, was staying with me at the time.He was fourteen and was studying for a special exam.But Tom didnt like studying, and he spent most of histime out on his bicycle or fishing with friends. That Saturday I woke up early, and heard voicesoutside my window. It was my brother Tom and old BillHayes, the farm worker who lived in the cottage next tomine. Good morning, young Tom. Are you going fishing?Bill was seventy-six years old, but his voice was stillloud and clear. I didnt hear my brothers answer, but old Bill laughed. Go on! he said. Your sister doesnt want you to studyon a lovely morning like this, does she? 2
I looked up. The sky was a bright, clear blue. Bill wasright. It was too good to stay inside. I dressed quickly,and ran out of the cottage, up onto the path to the openmoor. People say that Dartmoor is the last wild place inEngland. You can walk for hours and never see a houseor a village. In winter it is a terrible place, when thecold winds scream across the empty hills, and the snowfalls. Sometimes it is two metres deep or more. But insummer the moor is beautiful, with its bright flowers andthe clear brown water of its rivers and streams. I was going to one of those streams now. It was in avery small valley, which was only about ten metres wide.The stream ran over some rocks and fell down into asmall pool in the valley. Around the pool there were a fewsmall trees and many bright green water plants. It wasa secret, magic place. When I got there, I sat beside the pool and put myhands down into the cool water. The sun was still low inthe sky, and the only sound was of the water on therocks. And then I saw the boy, under a tree on the other sideof the pool. He was sitting quite still, and watching me. I sat up. Oh! I said. You frightened me! I didnt seeyou there. Im sorry, the boy said. I didnt want to frighten you. Thats all right, I said cheerfully. Ive never seenanybody else at this pool. How did you find it? 4
I just . . . found it, he said. The boy said nothing, and seemed sad. He was a Well, you must keep the secret now, I said, and smiled strange boy, and when he spoke, he seemed older thanat him. Dont tell anybody else about it. he was. Oh no, he said, very seriously. I wont do that. He got Where do you go to school? I asked.up and came and sat by the pool. He did not reply, and stared down at the pool. The I looked at him with interest. He was about ten years sun was higher in the sky now and it was beginning toold, with straight brown hair and very blue eyes. get hot. I dont think I know you, I said. I know most of the I tried again. Perhaps he was one of those very cleverchildren here because I teach at Moreton School. Are children with brains like computers, who liked talkingyou on holiday in Devonshire? about things like maths. He looked at me, and suddenly smiled. You dont look What do you do in your maths lessons, then? I asked.like a teacher, he said. You look too young. He told me, and talked for several minutes. I was I laughed. I have short red hair and am not very tall. astonished. This was maths for people like Einstein, notMy brother Michael always tells me that I look about for ten-year-old children.sixteen. What else do you learn at your school? I asked. Im twenty-five, I said, and Ive been a teacher for He described all his lessons, and I became more andthree years. more astonished. Ten hours of lessons a day, six days a What do you teach? the boy asked. His hair fell over week. I thought of my brother Tom - two hours workhis eyes and he pushed it back. a day was too much for him. French. English. A bit of maths. I told the boy this, and he became very interested. He looked interested. What kind of maths? So I told him all about my brothers. About Michael, who I was surprised. Most boys of his age did not want to wanted to be a doctor. About Roger, who played in atalk about school lessons. Football, or the latest video rock group. About Colin, who wanted to be a farmer. Andgame, yes. But not maths. Anyway, I told him about my about Tom, who didnt want to be anything, because hemaths lessons with the ten-year-olds at the school. didnt like work. The boy smiled at this, and asked a lot He stared at me. Is that all? he asked. of questions about me and my family. I did not understand him. Its a lot of work in a year, Then suddenly he looked at his watch and stood up.I said. And its very difficult for some of the children. I have to go, he said. Lessons begin in half an hour. 6 7
So where is your school? I asked in surprise. Is itnear here? 3 The school at Batworthy For a second or two he did not reply. Then he saidslowly, Its at Batworthy, on the moor. Ive never heard of it. I stood up and smiled at him.Ill probably come here again tomorrow. Will you be S door. unday was another beautiful morning. When I got up, Tom was still in bed. I put my head round hishere? Ill do some studying today, Sally, he said. I promise. I dont know. His face was still and serious. Please dont tell Mum and Dad that I went fishing This place is our secret, I said. I wont tell anyone. yesterday.And Im Sally. Whats your name? Oh, all right, I said. But work hard today, OK? Milo, he said slowly. Then he climbed quickly up the On my way up to the moor, I thought about Milo. Herocks out of the little valley. was a strange boy. I wanted to learn more about him. He was already there when I arrived, and he watched me while I climbed down the rocks to the pool. Hello, he said. He looked quite pleased. Perhaps he was lonely at his school, and needed friends. I sat down on the rocks and took my shoes off. The water was cool on my hot feet. Its going to be hot again, I said. Is Sunday your free day? Why dont you come home with me and meet my brother Tom? Oh no, he said quickly. I cant do that. I have to be back at school at nine oclock. He sounded afraid. But why? Oh well, I said calmly. It was only an idea. We watched the fish at the bottom of the pool, and then I asked him about his family. Where do your parents live? 9
He looked down at his feet in the pool, and movedthem slowly from side to side. I dont have any parents, he said. Oh, Milo, I said quickly. Im really sorry. I didntknow . . . No, he replied. How could you know? I dont haveany brothers or sisters either. So I like hearing aboutyour family. I did not want to ask him about his parents. Were theyboth dead? He did not seem unhappy, but he was veryinterested in my family. Tell me some more about Roger, he said. And Tom. We sat on the rocks in that quiet little valley, andtalked, with only the empty wild hills of the moor aroundus. Milo listened, and laughed, and wanted to hear moreand more about my family. But he still seemed mucholder than he was, and he told me nothing about himself. After a time he stood up to go. Will you be here nextweekend? he asked. He watched my face carefully. He After a lot of telephone calls to different offices in thewas looking for something, but I didnt know what. I can town, I found a man who knew something about theonly get out at weekends, he said. house, and I went to see him. OK, I said. Saturday. Seven oclock. Ill be here. Some people have rented the house for two years, he During that week I tried to find out about Milos told me. Theyre paying a lot of money for it becauseschool, but it wasnt easy. Mrs Martin, the head teacher they want to be private. But I dont know who they are,at my own school, did not know anything about it. or what theyre doing there. Its probably a small private school, Sally, she said. On Wednesday my brother Michael came to see me.Theres a big old house just outside Batworthy. Its a I told him about Milos strange school.strange place for a school. Its a very lonely house. Nobody seems to know anything about it, I said. 10 11
Why dont you ask old You mustnt, he said quickly. Please. Dont come to Bill next door? Michael the school or tell anyone about this valley. Promise me. said. He knows everything All right, I said calmly. I promise. I wont go to your that happens in Moreton. school, and I wont tell anyone about our valley. It was a good idea. News After that we talked of other things, until the sun often travels in strange climbed higher in the sky and Milo had to go. ways with country people, and on Friday evening old Bill knocked on my door. I spoke to old Jean 4 Milo is afraid Nuttall, he said. Strange woman. She often goes out on the moor at night. Anyway, she says its a very J une became July, and then August. The weather continued very hot and dry. Up on the moor the earth was as hard as rock, and the pool in our valley gotsmall, special school for children with - what was it? - smaller and smaller.learning difficulties. Bill touched his head with his I met Milo in our secret valley nearly every weekend,finger. You know, not quite right in the head. She says very early, before most people were awake. He could notthat the gates are always locked, and that a helicopter get out of school at any other time, he told me. Most ofsometimes lands there at night. Bill laughed. the time we talked about my family. Milo wanted toHelicopters! The womans a bit mad, if you ask me. know all about me and my brothers - our life at home, I thought about all this while I walked to the valley the our schools, our games, our friends. He was interestednext morning. Milo was certainly not a child with in everything.learning difficulties. He was a very intelligent boy. We became good friends. Sometimes we were likeWhat exactly was this school, and who was Milo? It was mother and son, sometimes sister and brother. Someall very strange. days Milo was cheerful and laughed a lot; other days he I liked Milo, and wanted to know more about him. I was sad and quiet. I did not really understand him. Butwanted to visit his school, but when I asked him, he I knew one thing about him - he was lonely. I seemed tobecame very frightened. be his only friend. 12 13
One Sunday morning I was drinking coffee in mykitchen when Tom and Michael appeared at my back door. Were going fishing, Tom said. But we need somemore breakfast first. Well, Ive got some cake, I said. You can have someof that. What about you, Michael? Coffee, please, said Michael. Where are you going,Sal? Are you going to meet Milo up on the moor? Sallys got a secret boyfriend, said Tom, with hismouth full of cake. Hes not a schoolboy. Hes aboutthirty years old. Hes tall, dark, good-looking and ... Dont be silly, Tom, I said. Michael laughed. Tom took another piece of cake before I could stophim. Im going to tell William, he said. William was myboyfriend. He was an engineer and was working inScotland that year, so we did not see each other veryoften. The man on the moor is called Damien, Tomcontinued. Hes got lots of money. And hes ... Oh, be quiet! I said. And stop eating my cake. Goaway! Go and fall in a river! Tom laughed, took the last piece of my cake, and ranto the door. Michael followed him. Thanks for thecoffee, he called. Ill push Tom in the river, shall I? Yes, please! I replied. When I got to the valley, Milo was already there. Heseemed worried about something. We talked for a fewminutes, but he was not really listening. 14
I must go back now, Sally, he said suddenly. I I could not see the house because it was behind somethink . . . I think someone saw me this morning when I trees.was leaving. I called through the gates, Hello? Is anybody there? But its Sunday, I said. Cant you come out on a but nothing happened and nobody came. I called again,Sunday? Suddenly I was very angry. Your school is a more loudly. Still nothing. I shook the gates angrily. Theterrible place. Its like a prison! place seemed more and more like a prison. Yes, said Milo, very quietly. Perhaps it is a prison. Then I had a strange feeling. Someones watching Milo, I said quickly. We must do something. Cant me, I thought. I stared into the trees, but there wasI ...? nobody there. He stood up. No. I must go. He turned and climbed I called and waited and watched for about half an hour.up the rocks. Then he looked back at me. Then I went home. Ill talk to Milo again on Saturday, Will you be here next Saturday, Sally? I thought. I want to know what hes afraid of. Yes, of course, I called after him. And you can cometo my cottage at any time - you know that, dont you? But he was already at the top of the rocks. I climbedup and watched him while he ran quickly over the moor.I was worried. What, or who, was Milo afraid of?Two days later I went to Milos school. I had a plan andprepared a good story. Oh, hello. Im a teacher atMoreton School, and wed like to invite some of yourchildren to some sports afternoons at our school. I knew that I must not talk about Milo, of course.Perhaps he was in trouble, and I didnt want to makethings worse for him. The school was not easy to find. There was no nameon the tall metal gates, and there was a high wall allround the large gardens. The gates were locked, and 16
you go out? Why is your school so secret, like a prison? 5 Milo tells his story Ill tell you, but you wont believe me, said Milo slowly. His blue eyes watched me sadly, and I suddenlyT hat Saturday, while I waited by the pool in the early morning half-light, I thought about Milo. PerhapsI was worrying about nothing. But there seemed to be felt very sorry for him. Try, I said, and smiled at him. I can believe two impossible things before breakfast.a mystery about Milos school, and I did not like A quick smile came and went on his face. He lookedmysteries. down at the pool, then turned to me, and began: I heard a noise behind me and turned to look. You think Im different from other children, and its Milo! I called cheerfully. Hi! How are you? true, I am different. Im part of a - a scientific He came and sat down beside me. I havent much experiment in genetic engineering. I have no parentstime, Sally, he began in a hurry. I have to get back. because I was "made" by scientists, in a glass bottle inBut I had to come and tell you. I cant come again. This a laboratory. There are quite a lot of laboratory babiesis the last time. like me, and the scientists chose our genes very But why, Milo? Whats the matter? Whats happened? carefully because they wanted to make us more You came to the school, Sally. I asked you not to. And intelligent than ordinary children. We have to studythe video cameras saw you at the gates. The teachers very hard and make the best use of our special brains.showed us the video film and watched our faces. I dont And we have the best teachers in the world, who arethink my face showed anything, but Im not sure. And famous people from all the sciences. We will becometheyre watching me very carefully now. Itll be too the leaders of tomorrows world, the men and women ofdangerous for me to come out again. power. But Milo, I began, why ...? He stopped for a moment, and pushed the hair out of We cant go outside the gates, Milo said. Its a school his eyes. Then he continued.rule. Computers control the gates and the video The experiment began ten years ago. We are the firstcameras. But I can go in and out secretly because I of the "new world" children, and our teachers tell uslearned how to change the computer programs. Its that we must never, never talk to ordinary people. Well,quite easy to do. Ive broken that rule. Ive told you. And you dont believe Yes, I said weakly, yes, Im sure it is. But why cant me. 18 19
No. Why should they? They know theyre different, and special. They know that they will have a life of success and power, and they dont want to be with boring, ordinary people. Theyre not going to be very nice people, are they? No, probably not. But thats not important to them. But what about you, Milo? Youre not like that. No, Im not. I think they made a mistake with my genes. I ask the wrong kind of questions. I break rules. And I want to be ordinary. Id like to live in a family like yours, and go fishing with Tom in the mornings. He stared into the pool, and his face looked very sad. But why cant you? Theres nothing wrong with that! Oh, there is, Sally. I have to behave like the others, or Ill be a danger to them. Perhaps Ill talk to people like Well, I said carefully, its certainly a surprising story. you. He gave me a quick smile. There was a girl in our Milo turned and looked at me. He was quite calm, group - Evalina. She could draw the most wonderfuland very serious. Its true, Sally. Every word of it. pictures. She was a very clever girl, but sometimes she I dont really understand, I said. I mean, who . . . ? was a bit mad. She used to shout and scream, and throw Its a group of scientists from all over the world. They herself about. Nobody could stop her, and she got worsebegan the experiment, and its very, very secret. Theyre and worse. Then one day last year she disappeared. Iafraid that people wont like it, and will try to stop it. So think they killed her.they keep us in small groups and they move us from I stared at him. But Milo, thats murder! Its not . . .country to country. There are, or were, twenty in my They cant do that!group, and weve lived in six different countries. We Cant they? She was part of an experiment that wentdont belong anywhere, and our schools are always like wrong. And whos going to stop them? Her parents?prisons. Milos intelligent eyes looked at me calmly. Suddenly But dont the children want to escape? I asked. I felt terribly afraid. 20 21
Milo, I said quickly. Im . . . Listen. You must comehome with me now. Immediately. No, Sally, Milo said, in his quiet little voice. I knowyou want to help me, but you cant. Please dont come tothe school again, or try to see me. I dont belong to yourworld. I can never belong to it now. I shall alwaysbe . . . different. So I have to go back. But Im going tobe careful now, very careful. They wont catch me. Imjust as clever as they are. Oh, Milo, I cried. I know you are. But youre only aboy. You cant fight the world alone! His eyes were too bright. I put out my hand to him, butsuddenly he got up. Before I could stop him, he wasclimbing quickly up the rocks out of our valley. I jumped up. Milo! Wait! I called, but when I got to thetop, he was away. He was running like the wind acrossthe empty moor - running too fast for me to catch him.At home I tried to think calmly. What should I do? Go tothe school and try to take Milo away? But did I reallybelieve his story? Children who were made in glassbottles in laboratories . . . it was impossible, unreal,mad. Suddenly I remembered an old school friend, Angela.She was a scientist, and worked in a famous laboratoryin London. Shell know about genetic engineering, Ithought. And I must learn more about it before I seeMilo again. 23
I drove to London and went to see Angela. Shewas very helpful, and I learned a lot about geneticengineering. New kinds of plants were made everyyear, and there were successful experiments with farmanimals. It was scientifically possible to make people,but of course no country in the world did it. When I got home on Sunday, it was already dark andold Bill Hayes was waiting by my front door. Ah, thereyou are, he said. Ive got a bit of news for you. Thatschool up on the moor, at Batworthy. What about it? I said quickly. Theyve gone, Bill said. Theyve taken everythingand gone. They went last night. Jean Nuttall told me. I stared at him. But . . . thats impossible! No, it isnt, said Bill. Theres nobody left in the place.Theyve gone. Disappeared. I turned round and got back in my car. I drove as fastas I could up to Batworthy. But Bill was right. The gateswere open and there were no lights anywhere. In themoonlight I walked through the trees, and stood andstared up at the house. The windows, dead and empty,seemed to stare back at me. I never saw or heard of Milo again.
6 The end of the letter 7 Lola and Sim ola closed her grandmothers old notebook. She L walked to the window and looked out at the evening sky. An air taxi flew quietly past to an air station on the next roof. What a strange story, she thought. She remembered her grandmother quite clearly, and that Christmas holiday fifteen years ago. The house was full of cousins, who were all rushing in and out, and throwing snowballs everywhere. Happy days, Lola thought. But it was a long time ago. And her grandmothers story about Milo and the school on the moor for new world children . . . well, it was silly. Ridiculous. 27
Later that evening Lola gave Sim her grandmothers Sim came and sat beside her. Yes, Lola. Like Milo, Inotebook to read. Sim was Lolas husband, and she was made in a laboratory, not born. They can do it muchwatched him while he read. He read much faster than better now, you know. They made quite a lot of mistakesshe did. But then he did everything better than she did. in the early days.Lola was a computer engineer, and a good one, but Sim But ... Lola began. Why didnt you tell me?wrote computer programs. He was very clever, and his I thought you knew, said Sim, smiling. It was a bigprograms were always better than other peoples. secret in your grandmothers day, but it isnt now. Sim put the notebook down and laughed. Well, Lola looked at her grandmothers notebook. But itwell, he said. So your grandmother knew all about it isnt . . . natural, she said.sixty-seven years ago. Dont be silly, said Sim. Of course your grandmother Knew about it? But its not true, is it? was afraid of the idea, but were modern people - were Of course its true, Lola! Youre married to one! Didnt living in 2075. Theres nothing unnatural about it. Theyou know? He laughed again. scientists are just helping a little, thats all. Why fill the Lola stared at him. You mean youre . . . world with fools when you can make clever people? People like me. Ill control half the computer networks in the country before Im thirty. And what happens, said Lola slowly, when the world is full of these . . . clever people? Of course we dont want a world full of clever people, said Sim. No, genetic engineering is only for the top people, who can use power well, and who can control the lives of ordinary people. But perhaps, said Lola, ordinary people would like to control their own lives. Dont be ridiculous, Lola. Life today is much too difficult. Ordinary people live in a prison of their own mistakes. We want to make their lives better. And they, of course, can have children in the usual way. 29
Lola looked at him. Arent we going to have children? While they waited on the roof for the air taxi, LolaWe havent talked about it yet, but ... watched her husbands thin, intelligent face. She loved Of course not. Sim smiled. Well be too busy. I dont him. And of course Sim loved her. She shouldnt bewant noisy children under my feet. And neither do you. afraid. It was ridiculous. Sim was right. Of course thingsYou want to be successful in your work, dont you? were different now. Life was always changing, and there It was true, Lola thought. Her work was very were new ideas and new ways to do things. Herimportant to her. But . . . She remembered again her grandmothers words about a dangerous and frighteninggrandmothers house, full of children all the time. There world were silly. It was all quite natural really. Therewas always a warm feeling in that house. A family was nothing to worry about.feeling. Natural. She got up and walked to the window, then turnedand looked at Sim. But families are . . . are the naturalway ... She could not find the right words. Whats the matter with you, Lola? Sim said. Hesounded bored now. The world has changed. Youre amodern girl. You must live in todays world. A goodbrain is the most important thing today - the onlyimportant thing. Lola stared at him. Sims voice sounded harder, colder.How well did she really know him? And how many ofthese new world people were there? Did they all thinklike Sim? When you begin things like this, where do youstop? Her grandmothers words danced before her eyes,and she began to feel afraid. Sim stood up and walked over to the window. He puthis arm around Lola and smiled. Stop worrying, hesaid. Come on. Lets go and watch the river sports froman air taxi. 30
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