WHAT HAS GONE
Quin wakes up in a glass cage the size of a large house, remembering nothing but his name and one or two vague, recurring nightmares of his abduction. The cage is divided into several rooms and seems well-equipped for human survival and even entertainment. He is greeted by an ancient woman called Trudie, who claims to have been abducted as a small girl over one hundred years ago and sees Quin as her latest – and probably last – companion. Presently, Quin gets a look at one of the beings keeping him and Trudie captive, but all he can perceive is an enormous eye staring down into the cage from above. The eye seems to make occasional percussive sounds and usually comes and goes in periods of several weeks at a time. Quin develops a close friendship with Trudie, but after a few months she dies of old age, leaving him alone in the cage. The isolation, and Quin’s lack of any personal identity or memory from before his abduction, begin to drive him insane. He develops a morbid terror of silence, and in order to counter this he takes to singing constantly and loudly. To his surprise, he discovers that he knows all the lyrics to an unbelievable number of songs and even the identities of the artists who performed them. Even though he still has no memory of who he was in his former life, he does have a very vivid dream in which he is a successful singer known as ‘H’. Taking up a battered old guitar which is one of the many artefacts supplied by the cage, he starts teaching himself how to play it. His preoccupation with music serves to stabilize Quin somewhat, until an unexpected change of diet has dire consequences for his health. As the cage is equipped with exercise machines which, when used, provide random items of food, Quin is forced to exercise regularly in order to eat. However, the quality of the food begins to deteriorate until all that becomes available is ‘junk’ processed food in large quantities. After several months of this diet, Quin grows very sick and becomes bed-ridden and delirious. Unable to sing or make music, the silence he so fears claims him and he believes himself to be on the verge of death. In his delirium, he debates with silence itself on the very nature of consciousness and non-being before nothingness claims him. His next experience is of being treated – or tortured – by several of the beings who are holding him captive. He becomes confused about the passage of time and fancies that he can almost understand the percussive language of the giant eyes when it is speeded up greatly. Following this treatment, Quin briefly encounters a man, the first other human he has seen since Trudie, who tells him that there are free humans. Quin realises that the man had spoken to him in the Greek language, but that oddly, he had been able to understand. Quin is then whisked away from the place of treatment by a strange means of transportation and finds himself in some kind of natural park with fields and trees. With him are several other human abductees with similar tales to his. (Quin recalls Trudie telling him she had found herself in a similar situation for several days, when she had been young, and that during that time she had met - and had intimate relations with - a young man which had resulted in her giving birth to a son. Her son had then been taken from her that next night, as she slept). Although the other humans Quin finds himself in the company of speak a variety of different languages, Quin discovers to his surprise that he can understand them all – even though he still cannot speak the other languages. While searching for food in the woods nearby, Quin hears music and many voices in the distance. Despite his companions not being able to hear anything, Quin goes off alone to investigate. Following the source of the music, he stumbles across a vast clearing in which some kind or festival is taking place. Strangest of all, a large percentage of the festival-goers were clearly non-human, resembling a variety of other types of creature including reptilians, insectoids, avians and giant molluscs. After watching a reptilian quartet play a set of lyrically-altered tunes by The Kinks in stunned bemusement, Quin has a conversation with some of the festival-goers who claim that the festival was dedicated in support of ‘Earth humans’, who they believed were imprisoned on Earth in a state of ‘quarantine’. They seemed very skeptical at the notion that Quin could be from Earth and with his lack of memory, he is unable to provide much evidence. In a bid to do so, he returns through the woods hoping to bring the other abductees he had just met to the festival and introduce them. However, when he returns to them, they are far more interested in the opportunity to socialise and party after years of being imprisoned in cages. With communication restricted by language barriers, those able to understand him assume his claims of having just met extra-terrestrials to be the ravings of a man driven mad by his abduction. Quin lets the matter drop and joins in the party. When he leads the group the following day to where the festival had been taking place, there is no sign of anything other than a large empty field, and Quin is mocked for his unlikely tales.After a few days with his fellow human captives, Quin wakes up once more in the cage and despairs. However, he realises that this time he is not alone; there is a beautiful young woman in the cage with him. After a traumatic introduction, Quin learns that the woman’s name is Marion, although she quickly demonstrates evidence of suffering from some kind of trauma-induced split personality. To Quin’s shock, Marion seems to remember her life on Earth, and claims to have been a movie star of some renown. In addition to being a movie star, she also hints at having been forced into frequent acts of high-society prostitution by a controlling influence she refers to only as ‘Mickey Mouse’. Marion quickly develops a distrust of Quin, which she ultimately reveals as being because she had met him on Earth, where she had been forced to have sex with him, and that as a result she was now pregnant.Quin is inclined not to believe her story because he has been in the cage far too long, except for the fact that Marion, without prompting, identified Quin as a man called ‘H’ – the same name he had dreamed about so vividly some months earlier. This causes him to question the nature of time in the cage, and how it might pass in relation to earth time.Quin and Marion settle into a mutually supportive – if rather lukewarm and cautious – routine within the cage during Marion’s pregnancy, although the issue of whether or not he is the father frequently comes between them and Marion continues to demonstrate periods of madness and multiple personalities. Oddly, she seems unimpressed by Quin’s tales of having encountered extraterrestrials, strongly implying that such talk had been commonplace in her earlier life. Presently – and to the astonishment of them both – Marion gives birth to no less than five baby boys, and in spite of her great weakness she takes satisfaction in pointing out that her babies are quins. This seemingly staggering coincidence disturbs Quin a great deal, almost convincing him that he might indeed somehow be the father, although he still secretly hopes and expects the babies to be taken away like Trudie’s had been.However, several days pass and the babies remain in the cage with Quin and Marion, and against his expectations they all seem to be growing stronger. Just as they have begun to settle into their bewildering new routine though, another newcomer arrives in the cage – this time a powerfully-built and extremely aggressive man who calls himself ‘Baz’ and who, like all the others except Marion, has no memory of his former life. An instant dislike springs up between Baz and Quin, equally matched by an immediate physical chemistry between Baz and the convalescent Marion. Baz immediately attempts to exert his physical dominance over Quin, who refuses to be intimidated and insults Baz outrageously in return, believing that their captors will deal very harshly with violent abductees because of another tale Trudie had told him. Somewhat surprisingly, Quin’s pseudo-bravery wins Baz’s respect, and the two put aside their differences and agree to a truce. This new harmony is soon shattered, however, when a hysterical Marion reveals that her quins have indeed disappeared from the cage.A few years pass, during which time Marion comes to terms with the disappearance of her babies and becomes romantically involved with Baz. A fourth abductee joins the cage, an intelligent Scandinavian woman in her early forties called Dagmar, and in time she and Quin likewise become an item. As the time passes and the abductees grow accustomed to each other and their situation. A kind of cosy communal stability develops, in no small part thanks to Quin’s insistence on regular singing sessions, where he continues to demonstrate his uncanny knowledge of song lyrics and his growing mastery of the guitar.One evening, while the whole group is singing along to David Bowie’s Starman, a strange artefact in the middle of the leisure room starts to glow and a disembodied voice announces the arrival of yet another newcomer in the cage. When they all go up to the quarantine room to investigate, they are amazed to find a man who is fully clothed (unlike all the other newcomers) and entirely aware of his past and his whereabouts. The man, who calls himself Gabriel, claims to be from a star system in the Pleiades, although he has been ‘working’ on Earth for quite some time. He seems to have the answers to almost all of the abductees’ questions, verifying Marion’s identity as a Hollywood actress and hinting that he knows other things about her. Gabriel informs the group of abductees that their captors are known as ‘Macrobes’ and that the Earth has indeed been quarantined from the wider galactic community for many millennia; indeed since the downfall of the mythological civilisation of Atlantis. Quin, however, remains a mystery to him, because of his ability to understand so many Earth languages and even extraterrestrial ones, his ability to perceive the festival with the reptilian rock band, and his ability to touch the strange artefact in the leisure room (which he identifies as Pleiadian technology) without losing his mind. Gabriel theorizes that Quin's unusual abilities may have originated from his treatment by the Macrobes while he was sick having somehow reconstituted some of his 'junk' DNA into additional helixes. Dagmar and Baz remain skeptical of Gabriel’s claims, though Quin and Marion – because of their more unusual experiences, are largely convinced that Gabriel is telling the truth. The proof of his claims, however, must surely lie in his promise to free them all from the cage using the Pleiadian device. Placing his hands on the Omnisidian, Gabriel promises to summon help for the abductees, but warns that he is going to be absent for some time - meaning he is going to vacate his physical body - because he has business to attend to back home in the Pleiadian constellation. With that, he collapses to the floor in a catatonic state.Gabriel's use of the Omnisidian, however, appears to alert their abductors, because almost immediately after the Pleiadian's departure the Eye reappears above the cage and seems clearly agitated, moving from side to side and treating the cage to several terrifying and heavy blows from the outside. In a panic, the companions implore Quin to try and use the Omnisidian to call Gabriel back for help, since according to the Pleiadian, Quin was the only one of the group capable of touching it without having his mind erased, due to the fact that he had been exposed to Macrobe medical attention which had somehow altered his DNA (with the added side effect of apparently rendering him capable of understanding all other languages). Quin reluctantly agrees, though touching the Omnisidian still causes him excruciating pain. However, when he touches it and tries to summon Gabriel back, the companions are soon being followed all over the cage by small watery bubbles like the one that Quin had seen in the hours after Trudie's death. Intimidated, the abductees try their best to carry on as normal over the next couple of days. They tend to Gabriel's comatose body and try to get back into some sort of routine like they had before Gabriel's appearance. Eventually, reassured, the monitoring bubbles disappear.
The companions' relief is short lived, however, as they quickly realise that the cage is moving. Fearing that a change in location will mean that the Pleiadians will not be able to rescue them after all, the companions despair. Eventually, the sensation of movement stops and the abductees notice that they seem to be underwater. Exploring the cage, they discover a tube has appeared leading from the quarantine room out under the water. Following the tube out of the cage leads them onto a stunningly beautiful beach under a strange, alien sky with two suns. Barely able to process this enormous development in their claustrophobic lives, they are greeted by a man who welcomes them to 'Avantou' as they stand bewildered on the beach...