Inside the vessel, a giant robot stretched out a blood-red metal arm, bulky and functional. It flicked at icons on the screen before it and the hum changed volume and pitch. It was at the front of the bridge. The room itself was a cramped octagon, full of blinking instruments and flippin’ computers. Behind the robot, in a large chair which was equipped with a massive range of buttons and switches, sat a green rather gelatinous lump. Every now and again it barked orders to the robot at the helm. After a few moments, it oozed over a switch and a hood, like a giant welders mask, descended over the creature in the chair. From the virtual reality mask came indistinct sounds and faint flashes of light.
With a hum, the mask rose and the creature reached out to a microphone.
“First Officer Zrug, please come to the bridge,” it barked.
Moments later, a paler green blob slithered in.
“Ma’am?” Zrug enquired.
“I have reached a conclusion, Zrug.”
“Is it to attack immediately?” Zrug responded, keenness evident in his voice.
“No, Zrug!” the captain rebuked her First Officer. “I have decided we must leave this place.”
The shock was evident on Zrug’s face was evident.
“Are their defences too great? Are the Galaxy Force on our tail?”
The Captain hid her shame by looking into the Virtual Reality hood once more. When she spoke again it was almost inaudible.
“I am afraid we are in the wrong story.”
The ship zoomed away, back to the vast depths of space.
Meanwhile, Josiah Wigstand was trying to fully appreciate his eyelids. He was standing in the kitchen, repeatedly throwing flour into his face whilst keeping his eyes squeezed tightly closed. He was delighted every time he discovered that his nose and mouth were full of white powder but his eyes were as clear as day.
“Aren’t eyelids amazing?” he enquired of the empty room.
Closing his eyes again, he threw another handful of self raising. Coughing and spluttering he opened his eyes again. Perfect vision once again! However, now he could see it was clear that he was no longer alone.
Cecily stood looking at him with surprise on her face. She could never eat desserts without making a mess. This one looked like gooseberry surprise; it was full of raspberries. With her was a rather dashing looking man who Josiah took an instant dislike to. The stranger was smart, refined looking and obviously slightly injured.
Cecily helped him to a kitchen chair and gently encouraged him to sit down by unexpectedly sweeping his legs away from under him. She regarded him as he lay winded on the floor with great satisfaction and bundled Josiah into the other room. Once there, she took a magazine from the pile and held it threateningly above her boss’s head.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Checking to see if you had gone mad,” she replied.
“Me? Ow! What did you hit me for?”
“You asked if I was speaking about you,” Cecily replied. “You have gone mad and are starting to imagine there are other people here.”
“No, I meant that accusations of madness seemed to be a bit rich coming from someone who has brought a complete stranger home!”
“He’s hurt. He needed help. He broke his glider.”
Josiah gasped. Then, he turned his concentration away from remembering an icy bath he had once had and thought again about the woman he loved bringing a man he already resented back to his house.
“You have feelings for him!”
“Would that be so bad? At least he has ambitions, “ she spat.
Josiah reached for a dusty typewriter that he kept handy on the sideboard. Sliding a sheet of yellowed paper into the roller, he began to type maniacally and manically.
“I just need time to finish my novel. You know that I am trying to learn to be a novelist,” he yelled over the clacks and tings.
Cecily leaned over and read the extract in front of her.
“You need to improve your spelling. And grammar. And characterisation. And your signature for book signings. And you need a scarf. A writer needs a scarf.”
Tossing the typewriter to one side, Josiah stood up again.
“You’re babbling,” he said. “How do we know that we can trust this man?”
Cecily looked scathingly at him. In response, he donned his ScatheBan sunglasses. Unperturbed, Cecily whistled with absolutely the same amount of scathingness. He put in his Scatheaway ear plugs. She was not beaten yet. He was.
“Ow! OK. Stop!” he sobbed.
Cecily explained that she was just going to tend to Tarquin’s injuries and make him a cup of tea. With that, she was gone. Josiah started to dry his eyes and let his sobs subside. He decided to go back into the kitchen and to try to look grown up again in his darling Cecily’s eyes.
Looking back, the choice of arriving on a hobby horse was definitely a mistake. Even with the excellent trot he performed, it was in no way a dignified entrance. When he got into the kitchen, puffing slightly, the stranger was sitting in a kitchen chair. He was puffing on a pipe, the acrid smoke filled the kitchen.
“Sorry to intrude, old boy,” he brayed. “Had a bit of trouble with the damn plane.”
They looked at one another coldly. Rivalry was beginning to rear its head.
“Nice horse!” Tarquin sneered.
“Spiffing pipe,” Josiah mimicked.
The atmosphere grew heavy but began a crash diet when Cecily came to the table with a drink for each of them. When the young lady turned back to the worktop, the atmosphere stuffed some sausage rolls and a few doughnuts before spending a week on salads when Cecily returned with biscuits. The jealousy bubbled and threatened to erupt underneath the veneer of a nice cup of tea.
Meanwhile, in the fridge, a piece of celery wilted gradually.
But no-one noticed.