Dora went into the next room where all the other children were waiting. As soon as he saw her, the elf consulted his list and called out the name of the next child to see Santa – a ginger-haired boy called Tommy. The boy went through into Santa's living room, and the elf went through with him. After a few moments the elf came back alone, carrying something square wrapped up in dark green tissue-paper. Dora recognised it as her box. He took it away through another door.

Dora stood on her own in a corner. Now that Alice had spoken to Santa she no longer seemed to be in need of any looking-after, and she was chattering happily with the other children. In the middle of the room was a table covered with food and drink, but Dora didn't feel hungry or thirsty. She felt restless and impatient. She was going to get her Dad back home! Santa was going to arrange it. Was her Dad going to come in the sleigh with the rest of them, she wondered, or would he come separately? Either way, she wished they could get on with it. She wasn't even looking forward to the sleigh-ride: she just wanted it to be over. She wanted to be back home. She wanted everything back to normal.

Even though Santa was going to take care of everything, she still couldn't relax. She felt uneasy. Something wasn't right. Why couldn't she smell anything? Why did she still have the feeling that something was missing? What was the thing she'd been trying to remember?

But something else was bothering her too. There was a long sleigh-ride in front of her, and all of a sudden she desperately needed the toilet.

When the elf reappeared, without the box, she went straight over to him. “Excuse me,” she said, “can you tell me where the toilet is?”

“Oh yes,” said the elf, “I'll show you.”

But just then, Tommy, the ginger-haired boy, came out of Santa's living-room. It was time for the next child to be sent on.

“Could you wait just a moment?” said the elf.

“I don't think I can, really,” said Dora.

The elf took the list of children's names out of his pocket and smoothed it out against his chest. He looked at the list, then at Dora. “All right,” he said. “Through this door, turn right, then second door on the left. Come straight back, though, won't you? We don't want anyone going missing.”

“I will,” said Dora.

She went out through the door, turned right, then took the second door on the left. A light flickered into life as she entered. She blinked. She was in a white bathroom, with three cubicles, a glittering wall-mirror and a row of shiny white hand-basins. After all the wood, candles and coloured lights of Santa's house, it seemed shockingly bright and modern. On the wall opposite the mirrors was an electric hand-dryer.

When she came out of her cubicle, she went to wash her hands in one of the basins beneath the mirror. There was a bottle of liquid soap in a chrome holder. The soap was amber-coloured and smelt like the soap her Dad always used at home. She sniffed her hands. What was that funny name it had? Sandalwood. Then she stopped, and sniffed again. She could smell it! Her sense of smell had come back!

She found herself staring at the soap-bottle, which was transparent but with blue lettering across the front of it:

“The Urizen Corporation!” she said out loud.

“At last!” said a voice next to her. “I was starting to think you were never going to work it out.”

She looked in the mirror, and there was Adam. Adam! That was who'd been missing! That was who she'd been wanting to ask about! Then it all came back to her with a rush – Ratatosk, the owls, the moon, the Queen, the Green Man, the black beetle – everything. How could she have forgotten?

“Adam! I'm so glad you're all right! Where have you been all this time?”

“I've been here! Right next to you!” said Adam. “But you didn't notice me.”

She looked wildly round the bathroom. “But – but I don't understand,” she said. “How can the Urizen Corporation be here, at the North Pole, in Santa's house? Do they make his toys for him or something?”

“You're not at the North Pole,” said Adam. “You're in the middle of London.”


“This is the Urizen Corporation headquarters. A huge big skyscraper in the middle of London.”

“But it can't be!”

Adam sighed and rolled his eyes upwards. Then he went to the bathroom door, pushed it open and looked outside. “Nobody around,” he said. “Come here. Have a look, and tell me what you see.”

Dora came to the door and looked through. She saw warm shadows, wood-panelled walls, framed pictures, Christmas decorations, a little table with candles burning on it, and a rug on the floor. “It's Santa's house,” she said.

“Take another look. Look properly.”

“I am looking!”

“Look properly.”

She looked again, and suddenly it was all different. It was the same corridor, but she was seeing it differently. White walls: fitted carpet: electric lights in the ceiling. A corridor in a modern office building. Yet Santa's house was still there, if she chose to see it that way. It would come back with a rush if she allowed it to, blocking everything else out. She felt a pang of regret.


“Oh dear,” she said. “It was so lovely.”

“Huh!” said Adam. “I couldn't believe it when you got in that car.”

“What car?”

“That big black car on the moon. Then I thought, 'Oh, I get it, she's being clever. She's pretending to go along with them, to get away from that beetle. And she's pretending not to see me, because they can't see me either.' Then I gradually realized that you weren't pretending. You thought the car was a sleigh, and you thought this was really Santa's village, same as all the other kids. But I kept thinking you'd wake up in a minute.”

“Oh!” said Dora. “I know what this is!”

“I've just told you what it is,” said Adam. “It's the headquarters of the Urizen Corporation.”

“But I know what they're doing! I know why all the other children are here! It's the Christmas Experience! I saw an advert for it on the telly. It must be some kind of a virtual reality thing. They must bring the children here, give them a tour, then take them back home again in time for Christmas! I wonder how much it costs?”

“Loads, I should think.”

“I wonder if this is what my Dad was working on? They said it was something that had to be finished by Christmas.”

“But they can't have got it finished entirely,” said Adam. “It's obviously still a bit thin round the edges. As soon as you came into this bathroom, you started to snap out of it.”

“Do you think Dad's somewhere in the building, Adam? Do you think we could go and look for him?”

“Yeah, well, we're going to have to have a look around anyway,” said Adam, “because we've got to get that box back.”

“The box!” said Dora. “I gave it to Santa, didn't I?”

“You gave it to some bloke with a beard. He didn't look much like Santa to me. And he gave it straight to some other bloke, who carried it off somewhere. Goodness knows where it is by now.”

Dora groaned. “Couldn't we just fetch Dad and get out of here?” she said.

“Well, we'd have to find him first,” said Adam. “And don't forget I've got his shadow lying asleep back in my house. I don't think we can wake him up without that box.”

“What are we going to do?” said Dora.

“First of all we'd better get out of this bathroom,” said Adam. “Pretty soon they're going to notice that you've gone missing, and then they'll come looking for you.”

He opened the bathroom door again, but closed it immediately. “Too late!” he said. “Someone's coming. Hide in the cubicle!”

Dora hid. A few seconds later she heard someone coming in, and then the voice of the elf guide:

“Dora! Are you in here, Dora? Are you all right?”

His footsteps moved across the bathroom. He was outside the door of the cubicle. She held her breath: then he knocked sharply on the door.

“Dora! Dora! Are you in there?”

Then the bathroom door slammed.

“Damn!” said the elf guide. “Hey! Wait!” He ran to the door and wrenched it open. Then she heard him running off up the corridor outside.

“Come on!” said Adam. “He's gone, but we'll have to be quick.”

“Who slammed the bathroom door?” she asked as she came out.

“It was me, of course. He couldn't see me, so he thought it must be you escaping. He'll probably be back in a minute. Come on!” He dragged her into the corridor. “He went that way, so we'll go this way.” They ran.

“Where are we going?” panted Dora.

“No idea,” said Adam. “Wait a minute – in here.”

One of the side doors was standing open, and he pulled her through. They found themselves in a dark open-plan office containing row after row of desks with computers and headsets on them. On the far side of the room were plate-glass windows opening onto a view of the London skyline. It was nearly dark. The sky was crimson and gold, fuming on the horizon, and a gleaming jet plane was coming in to land from left to right in slow motion. The streets and buildings were darkening, and already spangled with electric lights, including multi-coloured strings of Christmas decorations.

“Hide under a desk!” said Adam.

Dora hid. The shadowy office was silent. From where she was hiding she could see the door they had come in by, still open. Electric light shone in the corridor outside. On the inside wall, a wedge of evening sunshine was ripening from pink to russet.

“How long are we -”

“Sh!” said Adam.

Someone was coming. A moment later, two fat middle-aged men in suits were standing in the doorway.

“No sign of her,” said one.

“This is hopeless,” said the other. “We can't search every office on this floor – even supposing she's still on this floor – it'll take hours.”

Dora recognized the voice of the second man. It was the elf guide.

“In any case,” he went on, “we'll have to get back to those kids. Dave can't look after them all by himself. Next thing you know we'll have another one missing, and then it really will be a disaster.”

“Yeah – imagine the publicity. Child Goes Missing from Christmas Experience. Child Lost in Urizen Corporation Fiasco. Santa Lost my Children. Urizen Corporation Sued -”

“Yes, yes, all right,” said the elf guide.

“My Christmas Experience Of Horror.”

“All right, all right,” said the guide. “At least this Dora wasn't booked on the tour in the first place. Natasha fitted her in at the last minute, with some special instructions for Dave to get that box off her. So if she's not listed in the official party, maybe it doesn't matter so much if she goes missing.”

“Yeah, right,” said the other man. “Try telling that to Natasha.”

“Well, here's what we'll do,” said the elf guide. “I'll tell Natasha, and you tell security. Then we'll have to get back to the kids. I mean, if security know about that girl, then she won't be able to get out of the building, will she? Not unless she's got her own helicopter tucked away somewhere. So all we have to do is wait till she turns up.”

“Sounds all right to me,” said the other man. “But I don't know what Natasha's going to say.”

“Well, what can she do? She can only sack me. Send me home without a job. On Christmas Eve. That's the worst that can happen, isn't it?”

“Apart from the screaming and shouting.”

“Quite. Where did she go, anyway?”

“Who, Natasha? As far as I know,” said the second man, “she took the box up to the top floor.”

They walked back down the corridor, the way they had come.


“All right,” said Adam, after waiting in silence for a while, “I think you can come out now.”

Dora came out from beneath the desk.

“Well,” said Adam, “now we know where to start looking for the box, anyway. Up on the top floor.”

“Do you think the Natasha they were talking about is the same one we met before?”

“I expect so,” said Adam. “She must be more important than we thought. What I can't understand is how come we're not being chased by hundreds of people. Those two seem to be the only ones trying to catch us. Where's everybody else? Why's it so quiet?”

“It's Christmas Eve,” said Dora. “There's probably hardly anyone here.”

“Oh yes. I never thought of that. Well, come on, let's get moving.”

They went out into the corridor, and set off in the opposite direction from the one the two men had taken. There was nobody else around. After a while they came to a hallway with six lift doors, three on each side. In the middle of the hallway was a display-board listing all the different floors in the building, with brief descriptions of the work done on each floor. Floor 32 - Stocks and Shares; Floor 60 – Munitions; Floor 73 - Genetic Engineering; Floor 90 - Entertainment. There were 95 floors.

“It's almost as big as the world tree,” said Adam.

“And it's got almost as many branches,” said Dora.

Adam pressed the button for one of the lifts. When it came, they got in, and Adam pressed again for the top floor. The doors closed, and the lift began to move upwards. There was a panel of buttons with numbers on them alongside the door, and the buttons lit up, one after the other, as the lift rose. Dora remembered the hospital lift from when she was a little girl, visiting her sick mother. She found herself wiping her hands nervously against her top. Her heart was beating unpleasantly. Adam looked at her.

“You nervous?”

“A bit. Are you?”

“Yes. But we should be all right, because they can't see me. That gives us an advantage, doesn't it?”

“It gives you an advantage.”

They were at Floor 80.

“When we get to the top,” said Adam, “hide somewhere. Then I'll go and have a scout around.”

“But what if there's somebody waiting there when the lift door opens?”

“Good point,” said Adam. “If that happens then – um – we can just -”

“We're almost there,” said Dora.

“All right,” said Adam, “wait a minute.”

Floor 90, Floor 91, Floor 92.

“If there's somebody waiting there,” said Adam slowly.

Floor 93, Floor 94, Floor 95.

“- then you stay put, and I'll -”

The door opened. There was nobody outside.


They stepped out of the lift. They were in another hall with six lift doors in it, but this one was uncarpeted – in fact it was completely undecorated – and the walls, floor and ceiling were all white. Also, the middle of the hall, instead of the display-board listing all the different departments in the building, there was a notice saying “All personnel must wear suits.”

“Nobody around,” said Adam. “Let's find somewhere for you to hide.”

To their left was a door with a sign on it saying “Suits”.

“What's all this stuff about suits?” said Adam. “Some kind of dress code?”

They approached the door. It was automatic, and opened with a soft hiss when they got close to it, to reveal what looked like a walk-in wardrobe. Hanging on white plastic clothes-hangers, attached to white racks, were hundreds of white all-in-one hooded suits, ranged in order of size, with coloured tags on the clothes hangers to indicate which size was which. They were elasticated round the faces and wrists, and they had big baglike feet, so that people could get them on easily.

The only other thing in the room, as far as they could see, was a pair of high-heeled shoes just inside the door. Someone must have taken them off in order to put one of the suits on.

“Natasha,” said Dora, pointing to the shoes.

“Probably,” agreed Adam. “But what are these suits for? Why does everybody have to put on a suit when they come up here?”

A chilling thought occurred to Dora. “It couldn't be radioactivity, could it?” she said.

Adam stared at her. Then he shook his head. “No,” he said. “Not in the middle of London. Not in a building with loads and loads of people working in it. And there'd be radioactivity signs everywhere. No, it couldn't be.”

“In that case I've got no idea,” said Dora.

Adam was looking thoughtfully at the suits. “I wonder if we could find one to fit you,” he said.


“Well, it'd be a pretty good disguise, wouldn't it? Your face would still show, but if we bumped into anybody they might not recognize you straight away, especially if they didn't get a good look. James Bond's always putting on radiation-suits and things when he goes into the baddies' headquarters, so they won't recognize him.”

“But they always do recognize him in the end, and then he has to have a big fight.”

Adam took no notice of this. “See if you can find one that'll fit you,” he said, “while I go outside and have a scout around.”

He went out through the automatic door, leaving Dora to rummage through the suits. She found one the right size eventually, at the very back of the wardrobe. She put it on over her own clothes, pulled the hood up over her head, and immediately started to feel hot.

Then she noticed something down at floor level.

At the base of the back wall, between the skirting-board and the floor, the corner of something was poking out. It was pure fluke that she noticed it, because the skirting-board and the floor were both white, and the poking-out corner was white too. She crouched down and slid it free. It was like the back of a white credit-card, with a black magnetic band running across it. She turned it over. It was like an identity-card, except that there was no writing. At the left-hand end there was a picture of someone's face. Rather a disconcerting face: pale, white-bearded, with mournful, haunted eyes. People always look bad in identity-card photographs, but this face was especially ghoulish-looking. And she had the odd feeling that she'd seen it somewhere before.


The door hissed, and Adam was back.

“I've found something! Come on – quick!”

“Aren't you going to put on a suit too?”

“No, there's no time for that.”

“But what if they're to protect you against something nasty?”

Adam didn't seem bothered. “No, I'll be fine. In any case, I'm sure it won't be anything serious. Otherwise there'd be great big warning notices all over the place. Come on!”

He grabbed her by the hand and dragged her out of the wardrobe. Seconds later they were hurrying down a white passage with doors on either side. In the middle of each door was a small window, above each door was an unlit red light, to the right of each door was what looked like a bottle of liquid soap, with a notice above it saying “Wash your hands”, and to the left of each door was a keypad.

“Shouldn't we be taking care?” said Dora, who was getting hotter and hotter. “What if we run into somebody?”

“There's nobody around,” said Adam. “It's completely empty.”

“What about Natasha?”

“Well, I suppose she must be somewhere; but I haven't seen any sign of her. Anyway, you can see for miles down these passages – and you'd be able to hear if anyone was coming, too. And in any case, we're nearly there now.”

“Why's there all this soap next to the doors?” said Dora. “And why do you have to wash your hands? It's like a hospital.”

She remembered the hospital her mother had been in when she died.

Then she spotted something different about a door further down the passage.

“Oh!” she said. “That one's got its light on.”

The red light above the door was shining.

“Exactly,” said Adam. “Come and have a look inside.”

Dora came with him and looked through the small window. For a moment she didn't see anything, except a lit room with a dark plate-glass window on the far side. But then a man came into view, stepping backwards away from the wall to the right of the door, and gazing at the wall in a considering way. He had a pencil in his hand, and he was dressed in very old-fashioned clothes. It was Mr Blake.

“Mr Blake!” called Dora. She knocked on the little glass window and waved. Mr Blake looked round, smiled, and waved back at her in an unsurprised fashion. She could see his mouth move, but all she could hear was a muffled mumbling noise.

“I've already knocked and waved,” said Adam, “but I can't hear what he's saying, and I can't work out how to get him out of there. They must have captured him when we escaped into the mouse-hole.”

“This keypad must unlock the door.”

“Well, of course it must. And that must be why there are no security guards around – because every door's got a keypad, and nobody can get anywhere without knowing the right numbers. But the numbers could be anything.”

Experimentally, Dora keyed in the digits of her birth date, then her home telephone number, then 999, and then a sequence of completely random numbers; but none of them worked. Every time she pressed the “Enter” key at the bottom of the pad, there was a beep, and the little black panel at the top displayed the word “Error” in red.

Mr Blake, in the meantime, had produced a penknife from his pocket and was sharpening his pencil, apparently completely absorbed, as if that were more important than finding a way to escape.

“What about this slot?” said Dora, noticing a black slot than ran down the right-hand side of the keypad.

Adam shrugged. “It looks like it's meant to scan a card, like a credit card or an ID card or something.”

“Wait!” said Dora. She was still holding the white card she had found in the cloakroom. Experimentally, she fitted it into the slot and pulled it downwards. Immediately, there was a lower-pitched beep, the panel at the top of the keypad said “Accept”, and the door opened with a hiss.

“Mr Blake!” said Dora.

“Well done, children,” said Mr Blake composedly, putting his penknife and pencil away in his jacket. “How nice to see you again. I expect you have had some adventures since we last met.”

“Ever so many,” said Dora.

“But perhaps you had better tell me about them another time,” said Mr Blake. “I think we should be going.”

“What's this you've drawn on the wall?” said Adam.

Dora looked round. On the wall next to the door was a life-sized drawing of a tall dark-haired woman. In her right hand was a wand with a crescent moon on the end, and round her head was a silver circlet with another crescent moon on the front. Her dress was white, and her dark hair cascaded all the way down the back of it, almost as far as the ground.

“That is the Queen of the Night,” said Mr Blake. “While I was here on my own she came to me in a vision, and I felt obliged to sketch her image on the wall.”

“But we've met her!” said Adam.

“That was one of our adventures,” said Dora.

“How interesting,” said Mr Blake. He looked thoughtfully at his drawing. “I wonder what it means? I believe that she may be Urizen's opposite, since Urizen is the Prince of Light. Also -” he turned towards the plate-glass window on the far side of the room “- when the moon rises, it will rise over there. I was here last night, and it was almost full. So, a full moon tonight; and if the sky remains clear, its beams will fall on the image I have drawn. And this dark-haired female must be something to do with the moon, judging by her wand and circlet.”

“What do you think will happen?” said Adam.

“I am not sure. Possibly nothing – especially since this building is full of glaring light, which will overpower the light of the moon.”

“You mean the electric light,” said Dora.

“Is that what you call it? A soulless glare. Very suitable for the stronghold of Urizen.”

“Well, come on,” said Adam, “let's go.”

They stepped out into the corridor, and the door hissed shut behind them. Immediately, the light inside the room went out.


They walked along the white corridor.

“Might I ask where we are going?” inquired Mr Blake.

“We're looking for Dora's box,” said Adam.

“I'm afraid I've lost it,” said Dora.

“But we're pretty sure it's around here somewhere,” said Adam. “If we can just find another room with somebody in it -”

“What a strange building this is,” murmured Mr Blake. “This spiritless light. These prisonlike doors, one after another. And those strange little black things, which turn their heads to follow us as we pass.”

“What black things?” said Adam.

“Up there,” said Mr Blake. “We have already passed several.”

He pointed upwards, to the corner between the wall and the ceiling. The ceilings were high, so the corner was several feet above their heads, but all the same the little black thing was so obvious once it had been pointed out that Dora couldn't believe she hadn't noticed it. It looked like a surveillance camera, and it was pointing straight at them.