Reg’s Dlog (Well, what else would you call a dog’s blog?)
What on Ursia, is an Ursian? If you’ve never heard of the planet Ursia or indeed of Ursians, the creatures that inhabit it, you’re not alone. This is because the Old Girl has made them up. I think she was having some sort of mental meltdown. But I have to admit, if there were such things as Ursians, it might make life interesting. And I can identify with Starkey and Hatch because it sounds like their writing skills are on a par with mine.
The Ursians were born out of a cartoon. I can’t post the cartoon because I don’t have copyright but it shows a man reading his newspaper. He is sitting in an armchair which is next to a door. A note is sticking out under the door and the caption tells us that it is intriguing that there is a note under that particular door because it is a cupboard door.
I’ll say nothing more and leave you with the story the Old Girl made up.
The Ursian Hipsters
The compost heap had looked like the perfect landing site, with no overhanging boughs or jagged boulders such as those on the rockery further down the garden. But Starkey had failed to take its density into account when he’d carried out his pre-landing tests and had been horrified when the space craft, after what appeared to be a text book landing, had begun to sink. And even worse, it had started to list, stopping only when it came to rest on its side, with its top, pointing downwards. And even worse than that, both the main and emergency exits were face down in the charred, but gently steaming, grass clippings and potato peelings. It had taken one complete earth day before the two Ursians had managed to roll the craft slightly and escape through the emergency hatch. They slithered and slipped down the decaying vegetation onto the lawn and wiped away most of the detritus that had adhered to their furry bodies.
‘What on Ursia has happened to you?’ Hatch asked brushing his fringe out of his eyes to peer at Starkey.
‘What d’you mean?’
‘All that long fur round your face. You didn’t look like that when we left Ursia.’
Starkey explored his face with his paw, ‘I feel like you look,’ he said, ‘I wonder what’s happened.’
‘I’ll ask Annie.’ Hatch unclipped the analyser from his belt and pointed it at Starkey.
‘Facial hair has grown in response to unknown factors whilst entering Earth’s atmosphere,’ the analyser intoned in a tinny, disembodied voice, ‘Earth males are often to be seen with such hair on their faces. The growth is referred to as a beard. Often worn by hipsters. A hipster is a—’
Hatch pressed the button and cut Annie’s voice off.
‘What d’you do that for?’ asked Starkey, ‘You know she gets sulky when you don’t let her finish.’
‘Yes, I know but sometimes she goes on and on, and it gets on my nerves.’
‘Something tells me you’re going to regret shutting her up. We’ll never rescue the lost Ursians without her help and that’s the whole point of our mission.’
‘Well, I’ve done a bit of research into the inhabitants of Earth and they seem pretty harmless. Long range imaging shows that there are Ursians within a short distance from where we landed. Admittedly, we might not know their identity but we know they’re not far away. We can easily rescue them without Annie. What could possibly go wrong?’ asked Hatch, pushing the fringe out of his eyes, ‘Did you bring any scissors? This is really getting on my nerves.’
‘No, sorry. I think there are some on the craft but I’m not sure where. Ask Annie, she’ll know.’
There was silence for a few seconds.
‘Yes, well, I’ll probably just tie it back with a bit of ribbon.’
Billy knelt on a chair and looked out of the bedroom window at Grandad’s garden below. There was nothing to see, but eight o’clock was too early for bed. He was seven years old, not three! Had he been braver, he might have gone downstairs to ask for a drink of water, but Grandad could get rather cross at times, and the naughtiest thing Billy dared to do, was to creep out of bed and look through the window. Perhaps he could bore himself to sleep. Last night he’d spent ten minutes watching the grass grow and decided rebellion wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. He’d been about to get back into bed when he’d thought he’d seen a flash of light and heard a dull thud. It was as if something had fallen from the sky and landed behind the cherry tree. He’d waited and watched but nothing had happened and just when he’d started to wonder if perhaps he’d imagined it, a thin, grey column of smoke had drifted up from behind the cherry tree, and had dispersed in the evening breeze. How disappointing! One of the neighbours must have lit a bonfire and he’d seen a spark falling back to earth. How he’d longed to be out there poking it with a stick and finding things to throw into the flames! Instead, he’d been trapped in the bedroom, being a rebel. Did rebellion count if only you knew about it? Billy wasn’t sure but decided not to risk getting caught and finding out and he’d reluctantly gone to bed.
Obviously, tonight was going to be less exciting than last night – if that were possible – and he was about to give up and go to bed when Grandad’s cat caught his eye. Columbus was strolling across the lawn as if his mind were on higher things, when he suddenly sprang at a blackbird who was rocked back on its heels, in a tug of war with an enormous earthworm. With a squawk, the blackbird flew off, leaving behind a worm that was thanking its maker, and a cat who quickly looked left and right to ensure no one had seen his humiliating failure, and then sauntered away as if he were merely out for an evening’s stroll, finally disappearing into the undergrowth. That had almost been worth waiting up for – but not quite, Billy decided and he started to get off the chair, when two small figures emerged from the rhododendron bush near the cherry tree. Billy rubbed his eyes. Perhaps Grandad had a point. Eight o’clock was the right time for bed. It occurred to him that he’d dozed off while he was looking out of the window because a boy who was wide awake would not have seen two teddy bears jog across the lawn to the shelter of the bird bath. Neither would he have seen one of the teddies peer round the stone column, step out and beckon the other one. And he definitely wouldn’t have seen them march across the lawn.
Billy wondered if he ought to pinch himself. It seemed like a particularly stupid thing to do because he was sure you could dream you’d pinched yourself and then dream that you’d felt it, which didn’t help you decide whether you were awake at all. But he did it anyway. And he was right, it didn’t help. For a start, it hurt, but he still wasn’t convinced he wasn’t dreaming because you don’t expect to see a cat chase two teddy bears across the lawn when you’re awake.
‘I thought you said Earthlings were harmless! This one’s got claws and sharp teeth!’ Starkey gasped, squeezing himself further into the gap between the wall and the dustbin.
‘This wasn’t what I was expecting! The Earthlings I read about don’t look like this.’
‘Didn’t it occur to you there might be other beings on Earth?’
‘Ask Annie what it is and how we deal with it!’ snapped Starkey, ‘Now!’
Hatch unclipped the analyser and pointed it towards Columbus who was extending his paw, raking the air through their hiding place.
‘Felis domestica, better known as a cat. It is a small domesticated carnivore, much loved by humans,’ said Annie.
‘Is it dangerous?’asked Hatch.
‘Take an educated guess… and stop waving me near its claws.’ Annie’s tinny voice rose sharply.
‘What does it want?’ asked Starkey, who had been first in the hiding place and was squashed against the wall of the house.
‘It may be hungry,’ suggested Annie ‘but then again…’
‘I thought you knew everything!’ said Hatch.
‘I know most things but mind-reading cats isn’t one of them. All I can tell you is that they stalk prey, play with it and then usually eat it.’
‘And their prey is?’
‘Just about anything furry that’s smaller than them.’
Grandad’s snores ricocheted off the landing walls, convincing Billy that he stood a chance of getting downstairs to the back door, without being detected. The bolt was rather stiff but finally, he managed to slide it, and open the door.
‘Shoo!’ he said to Columbus, who hissed and finally slunk away, looking back over this shoulder, obviously planning to return when Billy had gone.
Billy slid the dustbin away from the wall, exposing two teddy bears.
What on earth were they doing there?
He picked them up and examined them. Despite the fact he thought he’d seen them run across the grass, the teddies weren’t showing signs of life. They were like the bears he had upstairs, but much hairier. He pushed back the fringe out of the eyes of one of the bears and he could have sworn he’d seen it flinch. Things were getting weird, it was definitely bedtime. He would take them to his room and inspect them carefully in the morning.
‘Billy! What are you doing out of bed?’
Dropping the two teddies, Billy jumped and pointed to the sink, ‘I’m getting a drink, Grandad.’
‘Well, I’ll bring a glass of water up. Now, back to bed. A young whippersnapper like you needs his sleep.’
As the old man opened the cupboard to get a glass, he spotted the two teddies on the floor and picking them up, he tutted his disapproval. What on earth were toy manufacturers thinking, he wondered, ‘Bearded teddy bears! Whatever next?’ He’d never seen anything so hideous. He had no idea Billy had such ugly toys. It was probably best not to take them to his room, they’d surely give the boy nightmares. Grandad put the teddies on the shelf in the living room cupboard.
‘I don’t want to be looking at them all evening. They remind me of that outlandish hipster next door with his lumberjack beard,’ Grandad muttered as he took the glass of water upstairs to Billy.
‘Hatch, are we dead?’ whispered Starkey.
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’
‘Well can we stop playing dead? It feels too real.’
Annie’s tinny voice came from somewhere beneath Hatch, ‘The old human has gone. We are alone. There is no longer any need to play dead.’
‘Where are we?’ asked Starkey, looking into the blackness.
‘I don’t know,’ replied Annie, ‘I can’t get a signal and my batteries are failing. I need sunlight to recharge them.’
‘Great! In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a complete absence of sun in here. It’s so dark, I can’t even find my torch,’ said Starkey
‘Aargh! I’m being attacked by a hairy creature!’
‘There is nothing else in here with us,’ said Annie.
‘I can feel it over my face, it’s horrible!’
‘Stop it!’ said Annie crossly,‘I’ve already told you, it’s just your fringe and beard growing in Earth’s atmosphere. Oh, and possibly your eyebrows too.’
‘Well, can’t you stop it!’
‘How? I don’t know what’s causing it and I can’t access the InterGalacticNet because I can’t get a signal. All I know is what I told you before about hipsters…’
‘Don’t turn her off!’ yelled Starkey, ‘We may never be able to switch her on again.’
‘Well, she’s not much use when she is on,’ mumbled Hatch.
‘I heard that! My best guess at the moment is that we are in some sort of black wormhole,’
‘And what’s our best way of escape?’
‘Well, we need to send a message for help.’
‘And how do we do that if you can’t get a signal?’
‘Shine that torch around, so I can see what else is in here.’
The beam from Hatch’s torch sliced through the darkness, over books, papers, pens and DVDs
‘We may have to use a method that ancient Earth people used, before the InterGalacticNet,’ said Annie.
‘I know they have primitive methods of communication called telephones. Can we get hold of one of those?’ asked Hatch.
‘I was thinking more prehistoric than that,’ said Annie, ‘get a sheet of that thin white stuff and one of those sticks. Right, Starkey, you hold the torch so it’s shining on the white sheet and Hatch, you take the stick. Now, follow my instructions to the letter…’
‘It looks like you’ve drawn a load of marks and squiggles on that white sheet,’ said Starkey.
‘I think it’s called paper,’ said Annie ‘and it’s the best we can do. I can only describe how to make the writing marks. Hatch has done his best to follow my instructions. The batteries in the torch are failing, so we’ll just have to hope someone will pick up our distress message – and can read it.’
Grandad yawned. It was time for bed. He got up out of the armchair and switched off the television. Strange, he hadn’t noticed that piece of paper sticking out from under the cupboard door. It must have dropped on the floor when he put those ghastly teddies in there. Picking it up, he inspected it and smiled. This must be something Billy had written several years ago before he could write properly. I’ll stick this to the fridge, and tomorrow, I’ll show Billy how much his writing’s improved.
If you fancy another longer story and you haven’t yet read DAFFODIL AND THE THIN PLACE why not give it a go. It doesn’t have any Ursians or hipsters but you’ve probably had your fill of them by now. You can get DAFFODIL AND THE THIN PLACE as an ebook from the Muse it Up Publishing site here and it’s available from other ebook retailers. You can also get it in paperback format from Amazon, here. And all profits go to the restoration of the church where the story is set.