May I Please Have My Star Back?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Science Fiction
May I Please Have My Star Back? is an extract from an abandoned science fiction novel by R J Dent.

Submitted: April 22, 2016

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Submitted: April 22, 2016

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May I Please Have My Star Back?

by R J Dent

 

 

As I drove past the crashed spaceship, I started thinking about how we (as a race) very soon accept things as they have become – and even start to take certain strange things for granted.

Eleven years ago it had crashed there. Not one single person had actually seen it crash, but everyone for miles around had heard it. It had screamed out of the sky at three in the morning, on the one and only morning in the history of the world when absolutely everyone was asleep. There had been no solitary night prowlers, no 24-hour café or shop workers, no dog walkers, no tea-breaking shift workers, no shop-doorway-sleeping tramps, no passing through long-distance lorry drivers, no anybody at all to witness its Icarus-like descent from the skies, or its mighty crash into and onto the decrepit Odeon cinema. The cinema had been showing the new print of The Day the Earth Stood Still that week, so obviously there were a few news people who had said it was all a publicity stunt that had gone badly wrong. Later, of course, that particular theory was seen to be the first of the desperate answer groping that seemed to grip everyone over the next year or so.

And no, it hadn’t landed in some out of the way hick town, like Fife, Alabama, or on the outskirts of some Russian village such as Stoloika, or Aykramov, or even in the heart of the Australian outback. Instead, it was here, in Brighton, right in the very centre of the metropolis, on top of a flattened cinema, visible from every part of the city.

The visibility thing was due to its sheer size. It was enormous. And yes, it was disc-shaped. A third of it was buried in the cinema and in the ground beneath the cinema. The rest of it towered over the city like a brooding porcelain bicycle wheel. It looked totally unearthly, in a strong, but delicate way, which is a little hard to explain or to imagine, but when you see it, boy do you know what it means. It was made of a material that was beyond human understanding, comprehension and ability to identify. There were no markings on it. None. Also no doors, no windows, no raised, embossed or engraved insignia, no rivets, no ariels or antenna. Nothing but a smooth exterior wall, which wasn’t any one colour, but was all colours at the same time. And it made noises. Quiet and intermittent noises, but noises, none the less. Sometimes it wailed. Sometimes it hummed. Sometimes it clanked. Many UFO pundits gave spurious explanations for this phenomenon, but no real reason was ever found. It simply made noises.

Other than that – nothing. No aliens ever emerged from it; no laser beams sent messages to our leaders; no robot Gort came out and said ‘Klaatu Virato Nikto’, no long-fingered alien being asked to go home; no martians tried to kill our world leaders; no lizards attempted to abduct humans for food; no pale alien got out of it and became the head of a huge electronics firm. Of course, this led to speculation that the aliens were inside, waiting for the right moment – that the spaceship was the equivalent of Troy’s wooden horse, but after a couple of years, no one really believed that. Another theory was that it had crashed because all those on board were dead – cause unknown. Some felt it might be an unmanned craft – perhaps a camera craft or some such thing. Every person had a theory, a thought or an idea regarding it, me included.

As I turned into the Avenue I lived in, my train of thought altered to me thinking again of being able to get used to weird stuff that happens. At one time or another, just about everyone had said that when they were near the crashed spaceship, they thought more deeply about things than they normally did. During the first couple of years, this had interested scientists and psychologists, so the government had put up a few temporary buildings and had given the go-ahead for the conducting of a few experiments related to the intelligence of people who lived near to the crash site. After a few months it was proven: If you had exposure to the spaceship for any length of time, you got smarter. Your intelligence quotient escalated – but only while you were next to the spaceship. If you moved away from it, you dropped back to your normal mental level. Someone had the bright idea of putting the mentally subnormal in close proximity to the spaceship. The results were spectacular.

In a very short time, the undamaged buildings around the base of the thing were inhabited by professors, doctors, scientists, theorists – intellectuals of almost every sort. In a way, this was strange, because the spaceship wasn’t secured in any way – there were no guarantees it wouldn’t simply keel over one day and flatten an entire estate. Personally, I thought that the so-called intelligentsia living at the foot of the spaceship weren’t all that smart – or they’d have lived a safe distance away from it, and simply made their way to it when they needed their smart fix.

I pulled into my drive and parked. After I’d killed the engine and the lights, I sat there in the dark for a moment, wondering why the government hadn’t cordoned the whole thing off, supported the base of the disc with ramparts, stanchions, acrows and RSJs, and then built a whole scientific and MOD complex around it. Oh, they’d done some of these things on a minute scale at the start, but after five years of scientists speculating, NASA psychologists analysing, chemists despairing, metallurgists sulking, and everyone else being unable to discover anything about the unblemished exterior or the inaccessible interior of the spaceship, they’d taken down their fences, dismantled their prefabs, switched off and removed their searches and spots, and gone back to their wood-lined offices deep in the bowels of their off-Westminster government buildings.

Too huge to move, the gigantic disc was left for anyone and everyone to investigate at their leisure. Except no one did – possibly because no one wanted too, but more probably because no one could.

Don’t get me wrong here, the spaceship definitely had its disciples – mostly visitant weirdoes, conspiracy theorists, wannabe aliens and a flock of new-age psychobabblers, many of them maverick mathematicians, troubled trigonometrists, cynical scientists, phoney philosophers, etcetera, who’d quickly moved in once the government gophers had gone away. Many of these gathered at the corner of Ditchling Road and Ashford Road to point and stare at that eerie monument. Yet despite all this worship from afar business, the fact was that no one actually went right up to it and touched it. Or at least no one ever admitted to having done this.

This was what had made me formulate my idea regarding the power of the thing itself. I’d thought for a while about my own lack of curiosity, as well as everyone else’s and was of the opinion that this was due to the influence of the spaceship itself. My theory consisted of the idea that from the spaceship itself emanated a self-protecting aura that diluted the curiosity of the curious and kept away everyone, regardless of what form the interest in it took. It was not the soundest theory, I grant you, but when compared with some of the wild suppositions passing as scientific investigation I’d read, my theory was more plausible than most.

No one knew anything.

I got out of the car and went into my house. I showered, changed into casual clothes, made myself a cup of tea and went out into my conservatory. I’d had the conservatory built to my specifications just over five years ago. It had more than repaid the initial investment just in terms of the use I made of it. I sat out there every night. From it I could see my downward sloping garden in its entirety, beyond which were a few trees that housed a colony of bats – and beyond them was the spaceship.

It loomed over the landscape hugely, massively. In thunder and lightning it flashed bluely. When the sun set it was a golden fleece stretched across a bronze hoop. In winter it was a grey obelisk. It was always what surrounded it. It reflected its environment.

I suppose it was that that gave me the idea to go and have a closer look at it. So I did.

*

It worked!

I wasn’t really sure it would, but the underpinning theory had seemed logical, so I tried it – and it worked.

On a night of rain, chosen because no one would be about, I went out and walked through the wet streets to the demolished cinema. I threaded my way through dripping narrow alleys and flooded footpaths until I was right next to the huge spaceship. I went right up to it and spread my body against that not smooth, not rough, not cold, not warm, not soft, not hard, wall. Very carefully, I set about not thinking about my need to get inside, but instead thinking of myself as an intrinsic part of the spaceship, not as a separate entity, not of me as a me at all. Instead I deliberately lost all sense of my individual identity and merged with the spaceship. I concentrated on becoming the spaceship itself. After a while, I was the spaceship. I was its hull, its corridors, its rooms, its engines, its control room, its machinery, its wiring, its nervous system, its everything. And – almost imperceptibly – I felt myself merging with it and into it. And then – after a further length of time that was impossible to calculate – I was through the wall and inside.

I was standing in a corridor or passage that was white. It was well lit, but I found it impossible to determine where the light source or sources were. It was a long corridor in both directions and I chose to go left – I don’t know why; it probably wouldn’t have made any difference in the long run. I followed it along to its end, where it opened out into a huge circular chamber. The chamber was empty of furniture, except for some cubes set in front of some blank ovals on the walls. The cubes were part of the floor and the ovals were part of the walls, but all were differentiated by their outlines. I sat down on one of the cubes. Immediately the oval in front of it lit up. It was fuzzy for a moment, then it cleared. Brighton came into sharp focus. It was night time, but the detail was very clear. 

A window.

I got up and sat on another cube. Another oval lit up and showed another view of Brighton. I did it again and again. Same result each time. Finally, I got bored with the whole thing. I was there for a reason, not to act stupid. So I got up and wandered around the chamber, looking for a keepsake, a memento, a souvenir of my time aboard the spaceship. Nothing. Nothing at all.

I had actually given up and was just about to head along the corridor to see what other rooms were like when I saw it. I glimmered. It sparkled. It gleamed. It flashed. It twinkle-twinkled - and yes, it was a little star. Set into the wall in between two of the ovals was a small gold star. I went over to it and it twinkled merrily. I touched it and it felt warm. I looked at it closely, then upon seeing that it was set into a star-shaped recess, I pulled a penknife out of my pocket and dug it out. It took a while, but it came out eventually. I held it in my hands and looked at it for a moment. It was heavy, warm and soft. I was fairly certain it was made of solid gold. I slipped it into my pocket with my knife and made my way back along the corridor. I found what I thought was the place I’d come in and did my trick in reverse. This time the process was quicker, but I’d miscalculated the position. On emerging from the wall I dropped through damp night air for over a metre. I landed clumsily, but got to my feet quickly and hurried home.

No one saw me.

*

Let me tell you about Sheckley.

Sheckley is my next door neighbour.

Everyone knows a Sheckley. You know a Sheckley. His garden gives him away. He has garden gnomes. He has a water feature. He has a peeing boy statue in the centre of his pond. His pond is kidney shaped and has some fish in it. He has a shed for his gardening tools, all of which are kept clean and on spring-clips on the shed wall. He has a garden hose that’s always rolled anti-clockwise. He has a china dog peering out of a shrub. He has stone hedgehogs, painted to look like the real thing. He has bamboo furniture, which stays out during the summer, then goes into the shed for winter. He’s what’s known as a handyman, but isn’t all that handy and isn’t really a man. He does minor building jobs, but nothing too complicated. He wants to be liked by everyone. He likes others to think of him as a pillar of the community. A good person. He likes to know your business. If you’ve had an experience and tell him, he’ll have had a similar experience. He’s there at every disaster, lending a hand, offering suggestions, wanting to take charge of things, but is really too ineffectual to run anything. He likes to take the credit for everything.

That’s my neighbour and I don’t like him.

A year after I’d moved in, Sheckley arrived next door, along with his short, fat wife, his two short, fat dogs, his short, fat cat, and his short, fat car. Surprisingly – or perhaps not – Sheckley is not short or fat. He is tall and thinnish – what they call rangy.

Within a month his garden looked as I’ve described it. I’m telling you about him because he becomes significant.

*

I’d had the star for about three months when there was a knock on the door. I got up from my armchair in the conservatory and strolled to the front door. I opened it.

A boy stood there.

He was about ten years old, possibly a bit older. He looked up at me.

“May I please have my star back, mister?” he asked politely.

His directness confused me. It made me very slow.

“What?”

“My star,” the boy said. “May I have it back, please?”

“I think you’ve got the wrong house,” I said firmly. I needed time to think.

“The star from that,” the boy said, pointing through my house, in the general direction of the spaceship as he clarified.

“Sorry, you’ve made a mistake,” I said quickly.

“No I haven’t,” he said simply. “It’s calling. Can’t you tell?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. “Go and bother someone else.”

“You have to give it back,” the boy stated.

“Why?” I asked, intrigued in spite of myself.

“Because if you don’t – it’ll do things.” He spoke simply, candidly. His tone was not ominous, but it suddenly felt as though there was a huge, hulking creature creeping up behind me. I shivered apprehensively.

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s mine,” he said.

The simplicity with which he said this convinced me he was telling it as it was. And if that was so, there was a lot of unexplained stuff he could clarify.

“Why is the spaceship here?” I asked.

“It crashed.”

“Why?”

He stared at me. “The star.”

“What?”

“Return the star, then I’ll tell you.”

It seemed fair, so I nodded. “Come in then,” I said to him. “I’ll go and fetch it.”

I left the door open and turned and went into my bedroom. It was in a drawer, wrapped in a green silk handkerchief. I unwrapped it and too it back towards the front door.

The boy had come in, had shut the door and was now seated in one of the mismatched armchairs I had in my living room.

I crossed the room and handed him the star.

Then he told me his story.

 

*


 

To be continued…


 

May I Please Have My Star Back?

Copyright © R J Dent (2009 & 2016)


 

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