Please don’t hurt me. Please, you’ll scare Elon.
Yes, that’s what I was told his name was. He responds to it most of the time.
That’s not his name?
I don’t think I could pronounce or even remember that. That’s a long name. I don’t think my tongue can even make those sounds, but at least he recognises his own name.
Why do I look…? I’m scared. Out of my mind. Of course I’m scared. If you were me, wouldn’t you be? I mean… I’m – I’m still a teenager – oh, ah, a youth. It means a child near maturity or a person that has just reached maturity.
I guess I could get a mate, but I don’t want one. Yet.
I’m telling you the honest truth. Didn’t you just say you’d know if I were lying? I don’t want to die.
My parents live far away. I live with my sister down there. See, down in the valley over there. We moved here to be closer to work. My sister looks after me – yes, she’s an adult. No, it’s not normal, but it isn’t very unusual either. People move out of home all the time when they’re old enough.
My older sister, Margot, works as a project specialist at the Frank Cliffs site of the Daubenton Institute of Research. They have over 20 projects crammed into the small ‘S’ shaped building and with emphasis on zoology and biological sciences. The project my sister is working on has something to do with transmission or dispersal systems and animals. Don’t ask me. I’m just a messenger and most of these projects have weird names that I can’t remember.
The Frank Cliffs site is a semi-secure facility where I’m often told that I wouldn’t understand if I asked for details of what some of the projects are about. Some of the scientists here are very secretive and even paranoid and refuse to talk to anyone other than those they trust in their project teams. My sister’s not like that. Margot tells me everything and tries to explain even the technical stuff about what’s going on in her project (which has a long name that I can never remember). Of course, I barely understand a word of what she’s saying. I haven’t studied or learnt any of that stuff.
All I know is that project budgets are tight because of government budget cuts and Margot’s project is important. Oh, that’s money stuff. Projects need money to run and… Margot’s project possibly has something to do with viruses and immunizations, but I wouldn’t count on my understanding of things. You’d do better to talk to one of the scientists yourself.
Yes. I’m more of a courier for the DIoR. I deliver mail, stuff in boxes, drugs, you name it – I’ve delivered it. And yes, that includes animal and human body parts. I had a severed head in a box once. I felt like the eyes were boring a hole in the back of my head the entire drive from Dalgleish – that’s an hour away. It felt like they were. You know how sometimes someone is watching you and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? You don’t have – ok, nevermind.
Anyway, I’m in and out of the facilities all the time, and I know most of the people – if not by name, at least by face. Yes, I could probably point them out to you, but you’re not going to hurt them are you? Because if you are, I’d rather not… They just wanted to keep him safe and try to understand about him at the same time. No, no. Nothing like that. At least, I don’t think so…
Please understand I don’t actually know anything that happens in the facility most of the time. I just take messages and things to people when they tell me to. I do as I’m told. They barely talk to me or even notice me unless I’m in the way. Well, yes. I guess. Like today. I’m going to be in so much trouble later.
I don’t think they’d kill me, but I’ll probably lose my job. Margot might lose her job too. They might fine us – make us pay them a lot of money as a form of punishment. Whatever happens, it would be bad. Elon was a secret government project. The people who run the country don’t like it when a random teenager finds out about – it wasn’t my fault. Elon kept escaping. I would have too if I were him. Nobody likes being kept caged up and never getting to go anywhere or seeing anything.
Those are houses. It’s where we rest and sleep. We have the keys to the doors so that we can go in and out as we like. Ok. I don’t understand, but ok. Does that mean you all live together like a big family? That’s cool. I mean, great. Good.
Oh, you saw the school? I don’t go anymore. That’s why I work.
I’m trying to. You keep interrupting and asking questions. No, I guess there isn’t much point to telling a story the person listening can’t understand. Ok. I’ll try.
It was Monday, the Monday just past when I first met Elon. He’d escaped from the grassy play area they keep fenced off for him, although I didn’t know that at the time. I’d just arrived with a stack of mail and some other deliveries, trying to avoid my sister, because I hadn’t done my share of chores last night and Margot wasn’t happy about it. I was passing by the main kitchen area when a bunch of scientists pushed past me. The mail went all over the floor and I had to pick it all up. While I was doing that and they couldn’t see me, I heard them talking.
“He’s escaped again.”
“I can’t find him anywhere. Elon’s gone.”
“The little monkey. He’s never escaped from there before.”
Yes, yes, they know you’re not monkeys. It’s just an expression, ok? It’s something adults sometimes say to naughty children when they’re being cheeky and troublesome.
I grabbed the mail and finished delivering it quickly, because I didn’t know what had gotten loose and whether it was dangerous or not. I only know that in situations like that, I have to stay out of the way and get out in case the place goes into lock down. When you’re stuck in lock down, no one can get in and no one can get out if you do get stuck inside, it’s really boring – or it is until you get sick or die or whatever happens. I don’t know. I’ve never been stuck in lock down before. Margot tells me to get out and avoid it if I can.
Since I saw Margot’s shoes outside her office earlier, I knew where she was and I still wanted to avoid her. So instead of going out the back way like usual, I left the building through the other end. Just over there, where it’s hilly and grassy.
It was a bright day, full of sunshine and blue sky with white cottony clouds. The wind would have been great for flying a kite – that’s – oh, you know what it is. I saw Jim waving a bowl of stuff amongst the long grass as if he were looking for something and I guess it was his project that escaped. Jim’s the guy who’s been in charge of feeding Elon. He came up with some sort of mixed mince dish with egg yolks that the little guy seems to enjoy most of the time, although I still reckon that Jim should have cooked it first. I mean, you people might be different, but you’re not so different like a horse is from a frog. Cooked food is so much nicer. Especially meat.
Wait. I’m right? Cool. I mean, great. That’s great.
Anyway, I stopped a moment to talk to Jim, and while I was talking, I heard laughing.
It was Elon, of course, from where he was hiding and laughing at Jim, thinking it was a great game. Jim couldn’t seem to hear him though. I don’t know why. Elon was laughing pretty loud. I followed the sound of his voice to a little cave in the hill that was covered by the long grass that Jim seemed to have missed. There I found Elon.
I was a little shocked at first, but there are lots of things in the world I haven’t seen before. So the large forehead and that colour of your skin is normal for your people? Well, people come in all different coloured skins here too… Well, I guessed Elon was an alien, but his laughing just sounded like a little kid having fun to me. I giggled along with him, quietly, so that Jim wouldn’t hear. It was fun watching Jim look for Elon when he was right there under his nose. I think Jim might need thicker glasses.
Elon noticed me and grinned, batting at the grass in front of himself. I assumed he wanted to be found.
“Is that who you were looking for?” I held the grass apart for Jim to see.
“Yep, thanks,” Jim said, scooping Elon up. “I’d better go put him back and let the others know I’ve found him. Please don’t tell anyone about this.”
“Sure,” I told Jim. “My lips are sealed, but can I ask a question?”
“No. Sorry,” Jim said. “I’ve gotta go.”
“What is he?” I asked anyway.
“That’s a really good question,” Jim called back to me over his shoulder and took Elon through one of the gates there. I’d never seen that gate open before, so I peered through while I could, but Jim shut the gate in my face and told me to get back to work and stop peeping.
The next time I saw Elon, I was having a rare break. It was Wednesday. Just 2 days later. For the first time in almost forever, everyone’s projects were going well, they didn’t need me to deliver anything and so I was allowed to have some free time to myself. I was outside by the hilly bit near the cliffs over that way, practising taking off and landing. No. Not jumping. Flying.
Humans can too, fly.
Yes, they have the aeroplanes and stuff, but we don’t have to have those to fly. Anyone who’s a Christian can fly. A Christian is someone who believes in God and Jesus. Umm… God is… the Creator. God’s the one who made everything, including us. You know Him too? Cool. Jesus is His son. Yeah. Well, I guess He does have a lot of names. Not everyone believes He’s real, you see. Don’t ask me why. You should ask them. Maybe it’s because they can’t really see Him. On earth, most people only believe what they see. The wind comparison gets used a lot, but people still don’t get it.
Well, most people don’t know they can fly. They believe that they can’t and that it’s impossible. They don’t try. When you become born again into God’s family, He makes you a new creation. You’re no longer bound by the laws of this world and its physics. You can do the impossible, but most people don’t really try it. Some people do it without realising, but they don’t notice, because they don’t believe it’s possible. Most of the time, they don’t really understand the full implication of what being a new creation means.
Look, I’ll show you. See? I can fly.
Yeah, I guess I am unique. Even among my own people. Your people don’t know about that either? Well, I guess you could ask God yourselves – the Creator. See what he says. Thank you. That’s very kind.
So, I was practising where nobody could see me, because some people kind of freak out and I don’t want to become a test subject for any of these scientists. I stopped for a rest and was looking out at the sea, when Elon said he was hungry. That made me jump really high. I hadn’t seen or heard him arrive. I don’t even know how long he’d been there.
“Sorry, Elon,” I said, when he snuggled up to me, and I stroked his hair. “I don’t have any food.”
“Tired,” Elon said.
“Close your eyes and go to sleep then,” I told him. “I’ll look after you.”
He fell asleep after a bit and I sat there looking at him, wondering what he was and how he got here. I was also thinking about how cute he was and how Jim and his team must be freaking out again. Watching him, I must have fallen asleep too, because the next thing I remember was Jim and some of his team lifting Elon up off me, leaving my chest feeling cold. They whispered quite loudly, but I don’t remember what they said. I wasn’t paying attention.
After Jim’s team had taken Elon away, still sleeping, Jim sat down next to me while I struggled awake. He put his coat around me, because it was getting cold and the sun was starting to set.
“Did you know Elon was sleeping on you?” Jim asked.
“Yes,” I told him. “He said he was hungry, but I didn’t have anything for him to eat. So he said he was tired, so I told him to go to sleep and he did. I guess I fell asleep after that.”
“You should have called me straight away,” Jim said, pulling out his phone and putting his hand out for mine. “Look, here, I’ll give you my mobile number. Next time you see Elon where he’s not supposed to be, you call me immediately, understand? We don’t want anyone else seeing him. If word about his leaks out, alien enthusiasts would come calling, there’d be a media circus and someone might steal Elon away to dissect him. There’d be no peace. You don’t want that, do you?”
I shook my head, rubbing my eyes and Jim gave me back my phone after putting his number in.
“Elon seems to like you,” Jim smiled and patted my shoulder. “He doesn’t take to new people easily. He only likes me because I feed him and sometimes bring him treats or new things to try.”
“How do you know what he likes to eat?”
“To be honest,” Jim said, helping me up, “it’s been a process of trial and error. We think he’s still a child, so we don’t really know what’s good for him, since children don’t always like what’s good for them. Anyway, I’m glad that if he escapes again, he’s likely to come looking for you. Just let me know if he pops up again.”
“How’d he escape?”
“No idea. Absolutely no idea. You said he said he was hungry and tired. How’d he tell you?”
“He talked. Like a little kid.”
“He talked? I thought he couldn’t talk. What did he say, exactly?”
“Hungry. Tired,” I replied.
“Oh. Well,” Jim grinned, “at least we know he understands some English now. We’ll have to see if we can convince him to talk for us too.”
We went inside after that and I drove home.
On Thursday – that’s the next day, I was delivering live rabbits to some scientists at the cliff door. The scientists had signed the delivery sheet and then putting the rabbits into cages. These weren’t normal rabbits that I’d seen before. They had black and white swirly markings on them, and looked kind of cool. I hung around to watch, but got distracted by someone inside the building accidentally blowing up something in one of the labs. The evacuation alarm went off and people were walking or running and shouting all over the place.
Then I heard shouts from the scientists putting away those rabbits and there was Elon, holding onto what looked like a high tech helium balloon and snatching up one of those new rabbits. The wind blew them up and inland from the cliff toward the forest and the swamp.
Before I knew it, everyone in the facility was out in their cars and chasing after him. I got swept into the same car as Margot and one of her co-workers, Pete. They drove down the back roads toward the swamp, because that was the way the wind was blowing. I called Jim and he was in another car coming from another direction, following directly behind, but then we all lost sight of Elon when the balloon dipped out of site over an enclosed nature reserve.
Jim was on the back end of the reserve and driving around the side toward us, but we were already on the swamp side and Elon was being blown toward us by the wind. After a few nervewracking seconds where we thought we had lost him, Elon came floating on the wind toward us, but had lost his rabbit somewhere along the way. Not that it mattered much. Elon was more important and he was frightened.
Someone had called the police and their sirens and flashing lights could be heard and seen all over the place. Jim started shouting on the phone that someone was trying to steal Elon and to take him and hide. I heard Jim say something about not trusting the police. There was a lot of noise on his side of the phone and then the line cut off.
You want to see my phone? Here. Yes, it’s a communication device that we use so that we can talk to each other over long distances.
Anyway, Elon saw me and let go of the balloon. I barely caught him in time or he would have fallen on some rocks and hurt himself. I told him what Jim said about people going to come and try take him away, and he seemed to understand. He sat in the floor of the car at my feet and I covered him with my jacket.
Another car drove up, blocking the road so that we couldn’t get out and stuck their heads in our windows, asking us if we had seen an alien. Elon couldn’t sit still and kept saying he wanted to see. He started wriggling and eventually, I had to sit on him, so that I could cover him from view. One of the ladies with her head in the window at Pete’s face tried to get a better look, but Pete got annoyed with them yelling in his face and pushed their heads out. He drove up the embankment and off the road into the woods toward the swamp, trying to make a short cut back to a different road, but when we got there, there was already a police car there.
I tried calling Jim, but he didn’t pick up. Anyway, someone saw us and they started coming into the woods after us.
We drove back the way we came part way and Pete stopped the car telling me to take Elon and hide. Margot fluffed up some coats in the back seat and told us they’d lead everyone away.
Elon let me carry him at first, but then he got really excited or scared, I’m not sure which, because he wasn’t saying anything. Well, he started wriggling, got out of my arms and climbed all over me. I figured it would be hard to hide, because he didn’t seem to be able to stay still, so I just kept going. The ground became really soft and muddy, but we found our way into some tall rushes that had some firm ground until the sounds of people searching died away. By then, it was dark and cold and I was worried about snakes. Although, I’m not sure if snakes come out at night. There might have been spiders.
I left Elon digging in the mud for something and went out to check on things, but Elon must have followed me. He grabbed my leg and freaked me out. I fell down in the mud – see, I’ve still got tried mud on my clothes. I haven’t been home since, because Margot sent me a text message, saying not to. We haven’t gone back to the facility either. Elon’s been eating random things on the way, but I’m starving.
What has he been eating? I’m not very sure. Every time I turn around he’s chewing something or has just put something that looks like a bug in his mouth. Yeah, he must have been pretty hungry and he doesn’t look sick…
Well, since then, Elon and I have been hiding out in the woods or swamp. They brought dogs in at one stage too, but we managed to shoo the dogs away. I managed to convince some to go back to their masters and not give us away.
Well, no, people normally can’t talk to dogs, but when I talk to things, I get the sense that they can hear and understand me pretty well. Better than they can some other people sometimes. I’m not sure whether it’s to do with being a Christian – a new creation, or something like that. I’m guessing it is, though. I asked the woods and swamp to hide us from the people looking for us and they did. The trackers and hunters they sent in after us with guns and nets and things got confused too. Elon is really good at finding hiding places too. So…
Is that all you wanted to know and hear?
Thanks. I have a good memory.
There are people coming? They can probably see you. I mean, you’re pretty large and we’re close to the facility and not exactly under cover.
They’ve been listening to us? How? There are microphones that can hear us from that far away? Really? I didn’t know those existed. I thought they were just made up things from TV dramas. Uh, it’s television. I’ll explain to you later, but I’d rather we go somewhere safer first.
We’re surrounded? Already? If you knew they were surrounding us while you were getting me to tell you the story, why didn’t you say anything?
You want me to go out and speak to them? Me? What do you mean they can’t hear you? You talk perfectly normal. Oh. OH. Oh, really? I-I never realised… So that’s why they could never hear Elon speak. Hoo, boy. I didn’t know… A loudspeaker? Oh, you’re making sure they can all hear me. Ok. I’ll give it a try.
Um, whoa, this is loud. Sorry. Um, hi everyone. Don’t shoot. Please don’t shoot. I know they’re aliens and all, but they don’t mean us any harm. They’d lost Elon and had come back to find him. He's just a kid and they were upset to discover they'd somehow lost him on our planet. They’re just picking him up and taking him home. Please don’t shoot or hurt them.
The aliens, I can’t pronounce what they call themselves, but the aliens have offered to take people with them who want to know more about them. If anyone is willing to go… Margot, there’s an offer for you and your boyfriend, and Jim there’s an offer for you to see how wrong your research has been.
Wait. What? You’ve read his research? How’d you –? Well. I guess our technology would be considered kind of primitive if you have – what is that? A space ship? Ha, well, ok. Can I just call it a spaceship, cos it’s just easier for me than trying to pronounce? You’re taking me with you? Safer for me? But what if you’re people try to dissect me or something? Well, if you put it that way, I guess I am more like you and it makes sense why you offered to take Margot now. But you could have asked first. Well, that’s true. And yes, I guess you would need me to be your, um, mouthpiece. I’m glad I’ll be safe with you. How come we can’t see your spaceship? No, that's true. I didn't understand any of that.
Guns? You have big – please don’t shoot them. Everyone’s just scared. No, no, no, no. I know my people might be bringing in bigger guns, but please… they’re just scared.
Look, everyone! Just put down your weapons! The aliens are as scared as you – wait, you’re not? Well, but… ok, ok. I’ll get on with things. Everyone, if we all start shooting, we’re the ones who will end up dead. The aliens not so much. They’d just be really upset and write us off as a savage species or tribe of people who aren’t ready to learn to be civilised yet. I’d rather not be known as a savage or uncivilised or dead. I don’t know about you. But please, put down the guns.
Please, ask your people not to shoot too? Please?
Not safe. Of course it’s not safe! Everyone’s pointing guns at each other!
Look, Mister government guy in the suit, I’m sorry, I can’t hear you properly from where I am, but I’m guessing you can hear me perfectly fine now that I’ve been, uh, amplified. Is that the right word? Amplified? Anyway, I’m going with the aliens of my own free will. I have no wish to be studied and poked or dissected by my own scientist people. The aliens say I’ll be safe and apparently, they don’t lie, so I’m choosing to go with them, ok? I can translate for whoever goes with us. It’d be better than living here and just being a messenger and told I should go back to school and that I’m not smart enough to do anything. This is my chance to be something bigger and better.
Look, Mister in the suit. I’m telling you, your megaphone isn’t loud enough. All I’m hearing is hash from here. It’s all garbled and crackly. You government people with heaps of money have got to invest in better equipment than those dodgy megaphone things.
Sorry, what? Oh, the aliens want us to get on with things.
Oh, ok. Everyone who wants to come with us, no weapons. If you try to bring a weapon or attempt to harm any person whether human or not will be, um, killed. You did mean killed right? Dropping people from that height would kill them. It’s the same thing. It is! Well, if you wanted them to survive, you could give them a parachute or something – if you have any, ok. Nevermind.
Just everyone coming, don’t bring guns, weapons or bad attitudes. Margot, I hope you’re coming, cos otherwise I’m gonna miss you heaps and cry. Everyone coming, please raise both arms. We’re all going to be –