Archer examined the tiny room for somewhere to conceal his bow and quiver. Under the cot may suffice – no, Julie called it a bed. His new foster mother had instructed him to “hang out” with the other boys when he finished unpacking. Opening the back door, he was half expecting a gallows mob and sure enough, they surrounded him like predators.
‘So, Archer, think you’re Robin Hood, mate?’
‘Yeah, what’s with the bow and arrows?’
‘Most people throw their toys away when they reach puberty.’
‘He obviously thinks he’s still a baby – calls his bed a cot.’
Where I come from, babies sleep in cradles. Archer said nothing. This was familiar territory; he learnt long ago to show no reaction. He knew only one way to deal with bullying, deny the wolves their sport until they got bored or caught the scent of fresh meat.
Their howls followed him into the house where his new foster father, a gruff man called Dave, was staring at a box in the corner of the room. Archer gaped in horror at pictures of a battle with mighty explosions and wounded people.
‘Can we not help those people? They need…’ he tried to fathom how best to treat a leg torn off at the knee and pumping blood.
The image changed to women on a beach as Dave glanced round. ‘Close your mouth son, never seen a woman in a bikini before?’
‘What happened to the wounded men?’
‘Are you for real? They’re in the Middle East. Didn’t they have a TV where you came from?’
‘A TV? Is that what you call the box? How does it work?’
‘I don’t know. I’m no electrician.’ Dave’s sigh was evidence of his annoyance. ‘I’m sure it’ll tell you on the internet. Well it would if Peter hadn’t kicked his football at the monitor and smashed it. Try the encyclopaedia. ’ He nodded at a shelf. ‘You can read can’t you?’
Archer smiled as he saw something he could understand. Books. He took the one marked S-U, up to his room and lay on the bed, catching up on several hundred years’ worth of inventions.