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Funny Kids Science Fiction

“You’ll never see it if you keep giving Keith all your attention.”

I prodded at the koala plush my brother’s tiny fingers were fumbling with. T was going through an antipodean phase. Which was strange enough for a six-year-old whose peers wore screens as extensions of their noses, but stranger yet to name it ‘Keith’.

I was hoping, praying, that tonight’s celestial event would out-strange both T and his toy.

“Why are we here again?” T whined, cheerily thumbing Keith in his glassy black eyes.

“For Lonergan’s Comet. For the hundredth time.”

“Won’t mum and dad wanna see?”

“They’re probably going to, at Jade and Matthew’s house.”

“OH OKAY!” he practically screamed. I winced. I had checked over T many times to try to find the volume control, but never succeeded. Why do all kids of his age feel they need to talk so loudly?! I know I’m taller, but not by so much that I’m out of earshot. I find it all wholly unnecessary.

I caught his downcast expression before Keith distracted him again. I could relate. Jade was a friend of my mum’s from the salon she owned in the centre of town. Dad and Matthew were friends because mum and Jade were friends. I was never really clear on what they got up to on their evenings together but it usually resulted in both mum and dad complaining of headaches the next day. Plus it meant I was tasked with looking after T before and more often than not after. An 11-year-old. Looking after a six-year-old. Let’s just say mum’s rheumatism hadn’t been brought on by lifting any parent of the year trophies.

T hadn’t been planned. I had overheard mum shouting as much at dad the day she went into labour. The day the little bundle of terror shot into our lives like a celestial event himself, but leaving a trail of vomit and never going away. The day I had to learn to start sharing. A room. My games. My beloved pet goldfish, Manny and Womanny, who T killed with the chocolate covered biscuits I now had to share. TV time. Bedtime. The nuggets from McDespacito’s I loved more than grandma. Attention. Affection. Sick bugs. Bath water.

And bearing witness to natural phenomena, like tonight’s event. Although if all went according to plan, there would be nothing natural about where T would be ending up.

The circular bench at the top of Camble Hill. What we kids called the magic circle. That’s where we’ll meet you, They’d said. Or rather, didn’t say; but an image of the bench had appeared in my head that night with such force and clarity it hit like a dart.

“No, not that way!” I clicked my tongue and started running after T. T had decided Keith wanted to climb the beech tree we’d passed about 20 yards back and evidently Keith had voiced a wish to get there by flying.  

I beat T to the rabbit hole Keith had narrowly escaped disappearing down and clutched the koala to my chest. A panting T raised both hands in supplication, then realising the futility as I swung Keith even higher, instead tried to climb me. With a jut of my hips Sharika would’ve coerced into a Grammy Award, I knocked the little fuckwit off.

“Oh please, don’t start with the crying, Your Babyship,” I said in my most grown-up tone.

He wiped the trickles of tears that had begun to form away, leaving two muddy skid marks that made him look like a belligerent raccoon past its bedtime. I stared for a moment at this blubbering lump that was somehow related to me, then walked right on by it.

I brandished Keith aloft like a tour guide’s umbrella. “If you want him back, you’ll have to chase me.”

Running up the hill was a chore, but it would speed us through a few more distractions like the broken press up bench and Tilly’s Boulder. Plus I didn’t want to risk disappointing Them.

Finally we had reached the magic circle. I handed Keith back to his owner and ordered T to sit and be good.

I supposed I should explain. We called him T because it was the first word he had said while mum was trying to dress him one day. “Put your arms through the holes,” she demanded. “Or do you want me to ask your sister to take mummy’s scissors and cut up your favourite tee?” It was just like her. Getting someone else to do something that scared her. Just like I knew she would never have summoned the courage to do what I was there to do that night.

“TEE!” the little rotball had squealed. And then again at regular intervals throughout the rest of the week. We became so brainwashed as a family that we abbreviated Theodore to T and it stuck.

I checked my phone for the time. Eighteen minutes until deadline. I plopped down next to T, who was babbling away to himself.

An owl interrupted. It sounded close. T’s normally light blue eyes, now navy in the night, grew round with fear.

“Chewwil, what wassat?”

My name’s not Chewwil, it’s Cheryl. Another reason he had to go.

“An owl,” I replied.

“An oww?”

“Sure, close enough.”

I wondered what else I could teach him in the 16 minutes he had left. Not that it would do him any good, but They might appreciate it for their archives.

“Look, there it is!” I pointed up to where Lonergan’s Comet was hurtling across the cloudless sky.

Of course, with it being a round bench instead of a regular one that we would’ve been sitting side by side on, and consequently T facing a slightly different direction to me, by the time he’d located my outstretched arm and followed it to the target, the target had melted away.

No. I wouldn’t miss him.

T pouted and began to thump Keith on the seat. On the third go he misjudged and ended up punching me in the thigh.

The 10 minutes remaining couldn’t pass quickly enough.

“I’m cowwwd,” bleated T, his face screwed up like a first draft.

I sighed.

“How about we warm up with a fun race around the magic circle,” I suggested in my best children’s television presenter voice. Running around it would certainly be better than entering it. As well as the bench forming the perimeter to an old oak tree, there was a smattering of small plastic bags resting on its roots. The pouches looked to have once held grubby bits of chalk. Plus the beer bottles holding cigarette stubs. Also a cardigan that looked like it could stand up and strut away from us at any moment, what with the amount of creepies crawling on it.

I did a lap of the circle to show him what I meant. He took off. I sat myself back down on the pretence of having to retie a shoelace.

“Oh no, you’re so fast. I’ll never be able to catch up,” I commented, trying to muster a disappointed tone even though I’d just checked my phone and seen there were less than five minutes to go.

“You’re even quicker than the comet,” I declared, trying to make myself heard over his yelps and cries.

“COMET!”

My kid brother, everyone. A fleshy, sagging pudding housing a recording device/loudhailer. Why didn’t wannabe parents just buy a bloody parrot instead. Same levels of banter and takes up far less space.

Then I saw it. A blob of a green blur opened up over the shadowy tent-like tops of the first row of houses you came to when heading back down Camble Hill. It was a smudge, a swipe on the screen of reality. Like someone breathing on glass. I blinked and the blob was now a few strides away and made of metal.

For once, T was stunned into silence. I was already prepared, but now it was crunch time a relieved hilarity frothed out of me.

“This is your lift home, T,” I told him.

He turned to me, bottom lip beginning to judder.

A cough came from behind him, making us both jump. We started as the entity that had opened a door on the hitherto featureless metal blob came sashaying over with a clipboard. Like a waiter about to take our order.

“Cheryl Josephine Highton, correct?” it asked.

I forgot my voice and indeed my manners for a moment. This being looked nothing like the captivating multiple forms that had entered through my window and then my head last week. Their beauty had almost been unbearable to witness, their voices crystalline and hypnotic. Their statures tall and dominating. Their clothes: on point.

This new thing I was looking at could’ve been chipped off that foul cardigan. It looked like a sausage that had been badly burned, rolled in ketchup, then coated in some of the hairs my dad left on the sink. Plus cogs for eyes. Maybe it was in its steampunk phase.

“Uh, yeah, that’s me,” I stammered.

“And Theodore ‘T’ Highton?”

I glanced at T. A little drool was emerging from his mouth, making me think of the dog I might be allowed to get now.

“Answer the sausa- I mean, the man, T,” I hissed.

T nodded. Evidently his tongue had already been abducted.

“And who is that?”

I looked behind me before realising he meant Keith.

“That’s Keith,” I said.

“There’s no Keith on my list,” the sausage said. The eye cogs suddenly shone white hot and there was a noise like a cracker being pulled. T screamed. I looked over to see that where Keith had been there was now a pile of fine dust in T’s quivering hands.

“Follow me, please,” said ol’ Cogs for Eyes.

“Bye T!” I waved, already walking back to my bedroom. My bedroom. Not our bedroom. YES.

But my feet were then pinned to the ground by an unseen force. I gave them the message to move forward but they simply didn’t want to listen and did impressions of cinderblocks instead. Next I was being pulled backwards, arms flapping uselessly, sliding through the dogshit I’d carefully side-stepped earlier.

“Change of plan. Boss has decided we need a girl too. Something about equal opportunities.”

“WHAT-”

“And that’s the story of how we came to planet Magnuvial 31&<Q.” I said to my now 178-year-old brother and Magnuvial 31&<Q’s king.

As part of my duties as his now slave, he made me tell it to him every night.

January 12, 2024 18:03

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7 comments

Mary Bendickson
15:30 Feb 24, 2024

Be careful what you wish for. Thanks for liking my 'Hammer Down'.

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Phil Browne
16:08 Jan 18, 2024

I really like the story, Karen. It moves along well. The ending is excellent.

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Karen McDermott
19:07 Jan 18, 2024

Thanks!

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Luca King Greek
13:50 Jan 18, 2024

Funny, well-written and to point. I'm trying to critique it and coming up a bit blank... arguably the set-up, the conceit, requires a bit of work on the part of the reader, but I think that was implicit in the genre.. Great Stuff!

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Karen McDermott
14:15 Jan 18, 2024

Thank you for taking the time to read it Luca 😊 I'm often told my characters need more description/back story. I should make it my new year's resolution to do so!

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Luca King Greek
15:08 Jan 18, 2024

I have the same new year's resolution.

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Helen A Smith
08:46 Feb 15, 2024

An original story depicting the difficulties a child experiences when another sibling comes along. I thought you got into the older sister’s mindset really well. A child’s resentment isn’t easy to handle, although completely understandable. I also felt sorry for T. With a bit of sensitivity, the parents could have made it easier for the pair of them. The MC didn’t succeed in getting rid of poor little brother after all. Great twist at the end.

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