Eight pints of lager and a packet of crisps
Before any of my friends could ask me where I was headed, indeed, almost without them noticing, I scooted quickly from the pub, heading for the car park on my somewhat inebriated mission to investigate the source of the strange and incredibly bright light that had momentarily caught my eye.
At first, as my vision slowly adjusted to the dark, the thought momentarily crossed my mind as to how my three buddies had failed to notice the unearthly glow I had just witnessed? We had after all been sitting by the large bay window overlooking the car park, and the light had been so intense it had momentarily blinded me. However, as I took several tentative steps towards the clump of bushes from behind which I was sure the light source seemed to have emanated, I rationalised that they had all been so wrapped up in their heated discussion about the England world cup squad, (a subject I found to be as utterly boring as they did poetry), that anything short of a nuclear explosion would simply have passed them by, and so, heart in mouth, I ventured on, determined now to discover the source of the light.
"Ah, prithee, bodkins and bother ; On such misfortune as this are empires won and lost," an irritated sounding voice suddenly intoned, freezing me on the spot and almost causing me a heart attack as I finally reached the edge of the clump of bushes, "I am afraid youngsters such as thee are not yet permitted entrance to the inner chamber of enlightement. However, before I take further consideration on this matter, pray tell young sir, what vexation brought thee to this place?"
"Um, it was the light," I stammered, frightened out of my wits and thus giving little thought to the somewhat archaic language I was hearing as I peered nervously into the sudden stygian darkness before me, trying, although not terribly successfully, to sound as unconcerned as possible, "it was extremely bright."
"Forsooth and stick me with a pin, methinks some kind of breakdown in the monochromatic passbank exciter has occurred," the voice rumbled, clearly now in deep conversation with an equally unseen companion ; The words delivered in a deliciously rich and fruity tone, and sounding, I have to say, rather like my childhood hero, Uncle (lucky shoes) Walter, one of the founders of Birds Eye frozen foods, (who invested his modest army gratuity in the new fangled freezing process and made a fortune ; Whereas my father rather unwisely purchased a half share in a greyhound that never won a single race), "Well, no harm is so far done, the earthling seems not to possess the ability to see further than the end of his proboscis, quickly, use the acoustoplasmic quarkometer to erase his memory. And pray, move with all haste Snimble 3, others of his kind will soon be vacating this prettily thatched ale house and we have precious little cranial agitator on board."
"No, please, please wait," I croaked, the sudden understanding and sheer enormity of what I was being confronted with, finally granting me the strength to overcome my eye watering fear as I continued to peer desperately into the incredible blackness before me. "I swear, I won't tell, I promise on my life. We humans have dreamed for years about contact with another species, and, and now, unless this is all a dream, it is at last happening. Please, just talk to me, tell me where you are from and what you want."
Momentarily there was silence, as dark and as deep as the very blackness itself, but then, and just as I began to fear the worst, a soft warm glow of light began to pulse from behind the bushes, and the voice, which now sounded very much closer, suddenly replied, "We simply needed fuel for our transportation and your ordinary gasoline has been found to be perfectly adequate. Our alchemists have developed a propulsion system that requires only fifty of your earth gallons in order for us to reach the new filling station that has just been built on the outskirts of Saturn's rings. We were simply going to 'borrow' enough for our needs, then take our leave. I am sorry earthling, but we are a left with little choice other than to erase your memory of this unfortunate encounter."
"Perhaps we should pause and consider for a moment Snimble 2," a new and slightly friendlier voice suddenly interjected, "Does it not seen portentuous that this earthling is a poet, and a very fine one at that, and thus capable of imagining so much more than his fellows. Should we not bestow just a little enlightenment before we take our leave? After all, it seemed to work on Kellog Ceti Four and they were little more than savages pre-enlightenment that were guarded over by some kind of ridiculously costumed viverrine."
"Well, ordinarily we should consult with Snimble 1 and the council of inter galactic co-operation and consideration on such an important matter. After all, this planet and its warlike inhabitants is still the subject of much debate, but perhaps, just perhaps..." the first voice murmured, tailing away into another abyss like silence, that for me seemed to last almost into infinity itself ; But then!, And in the blinking of an eye, the voices began to take on shape, at first blurred and slightly indistinct, but then as the darkness fell away I caught my first incredible glimpse of an alien life form, and as I fell to my knees in wonder I could not for the life of me hold back my loud gasp of astonishment.
"Goodness me, what did you expect, little green men with bulging eyes and anttena," the being in front, who I instantly realised was Snimble 2, barked grumpily as he glared across the short distance between us. "You earthlings do not own the franchise on all that is beautiful in the universe you know, although I confess there is little to rival an early morning walk throught the beautiful and mystical hills and valleys of Wales. Now, do be a good fellow and close your mouth, you have the most abominably crooked front teeth."
"I'm sorry," I stammered, staring in awe at the two immensely tall and regal figures that were magically hovering several inches above the ground, "It was awfully rude of me, I was just startled at your appearance, that's all."
"Quite understandable," the second figure replied, smiling at me in what seemed a most friendly fashion, his luminous green eye glowing with bottomless kindness and inner wisdom as he drifted ever closer. "Most beings we have encountered evidence a similar reaction, but you are a poet and I confess, I had expected a litle more sang-froid from one with such artistry in his soul"
"I was caught unawares," I mumbled, thoroughly ashamed of my earlier reaction, but somehow feeling totally safe and secure as I gazed up into that beautiful all seeing eye. "Tell me, why do you speak in such an old fashioned manner? It is fascinating in the extreme, but I find it most puzzling, as I do the fact that you appear to share the same name."
"Your William Shakespeare is required reading for all children from the age of one hundred and seven," Snimble 3 informed me, drifting ever closer and awarding me with another of his incredibly radiant smiles."In fact his plays are an important part of the space school curriculum. I myself have acted King Lear on several occasions, it is quite my favourite role. As for our name, we are always extremely busy with the affairs of the universe and it seemed the best way not to forget who was who. We have a saying on Eternia - 'A sonnet a day, keeps senility at bay,' it works wonderfully, I have not forgotten a single name in over seven hundred of your years my young earthling," and then suddenly and to my utter astonishment my new found ally stretched to his full height and throwing his arms wide began to recite in a booming voice : 'Ah, doth any here know me? This is not Lear, Doth Lear walk like this? Speak thus? Where are his eyes? Either his notion weakens...' "
"For goodness sake Snimble 3, cease thy babbling, we will be late for our meeting on Tarlon Major, if we tarry further," Snimble 2 suddenly snapped, the look in his eye no less friendly, but also holding what I could see was a hint of concern. "And you can imagine what might occur if we are not on hand to mediate. Snimble 9 informs me that he has now liberated a sufficient quantity of fuel. Come, let us be on our way, there is much to do and we have a great distance to travel this evening ; And if you recall my dear comrade, the MacDonald's at the new filling station generally runs out of chips after midnight. Goodness knows why they are incapable of maintaining a regular supply of such delightful fare."
"Wait, please wait, I , I still have so much to learn," I cried, stumbling forward and entirely uncaring now of any possible danger to my person, but as I did, and before I realised what was happening, a hand, pale and almost translucent in its appearance, reached out and pressed lightly against my forehead. The touch, unlike anything I had ever experienced, lasted for only the briefest of moments, but during that time I saw all the wonders of the universe pass by. The great swirling firmaments of far distant galaxies and the many wonders and civilisations that would be denied to humankind for untold centuries yet to come, and as I fell stunned to the ground, I could not supress the tears that sprang to my eyes at the thought of such an enormous loss.
"It is for the best my friend, you are not yet ready," came a softly gentle voice, the tone holding both great regret and sorrow as I began the drift into blissful unconsciousness. "Clearly there has been some improvement, but it is not yet enough. Perhaps after our meeting on Tarlon Major we might make time to seek an audience with the creator, it would seem he still has much work left to do on this unhappy little outpost.
To this day, I cannot recall how much time passed before my friends found me lying on the cold damp grass and partially hidden from sight by a dense clump of bushes. "Ah, there he is, the silly bugger," I heard one of them hoot, and a moment later, and accompanied by much chortling and ribaldry I was hauled to my feet, then guided towards the car park. "Best leave the car here tonight old boy," my friend Gordon chuckled, "you're clearly in no fit state to drive. I'll come over in the morning and pick you up ok," And with that I was bundled unceremoniously into the back seat of his car, and fifteen minutes later just as unceremoniously bundled back out and delivered to the front door of my house.
"Well, you've clearly had a good time haven't you," my wife noted, just a hint of sarcasm, (and pity for the male of the species), in her tone as she ushered me along the hall and into the front room. "And I suppose you've been drinking on an empty stomach again. Black coffee I think, and perhaps a sandwich, I know it's Sunday tomorrow but I'm not having you lying in bed all morning and groaning about how ill you feel."
"Coffee will do fine love, I'm not ever so hungry," I mumbled, gazing up at my wife, who in turn was staring down at me with much amusement in her eyes. "I had some crisps earlier, and you know how it is love, I've gotta stick to that diet at my age.
"It's your choice, but you really should eat something" my wife fussed, her exact words sensed by me before they even left her lips ; And as she turned on her heel and headed for the kitchen, the thought that instantly entered my mind was that just maybe this enlightment lark might not perhaps turn out to be all that is was cracked up to be. After all, never mind the fact that in fairly short order I was going to have to explain to my wife that our supposedly pure as the driven snow fourteen year old daughter was actually four months pregnant, but had yet to pluck up the courage to tell us ; How on earth was I possibly going to explain to the whole world that I also knew precisely the date and the time when man's fragile hold on the planet was destined to come to its abrupt and extremely watery end.
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