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It seems that after Trudy Carlisle had gone between the Foreign Office and the aliens in her first ever go as Foreign Office go-between, things had all gone according to plan, or anyway fallen neatly into place. As the aliens, their new best friend, and her new boss had emerged from the nave of Barington Cathedral with her late husband currently luxuriating in (although not enjoying) hundreds of pounds worth of aromatherapy, they were met at the entrance by none other than Felicia Fripp and her vicar, Victor Vickers.
‘That’s them,’ Mrs Fripp pointed, pointlessly. ‘That’s the aliens!’
At this bit of obviosity Vickers rolled his eyes and sighed, although when he did he was careful not to let her see or hear him do it; instead, he said: ‘Really?’ Seeing his actions the aliens themselves all sighed heavily and rolled their eyes. They were glad to see at least one of them had come in peace; Mrs Fripp, on the other hand, looked like she’d just got off her Panzer and was ready to annex the Sudetenland.
While their two groups had been approaching each other determinedly yet warily until they’d first noticed each other, upon that occurrence they began to stop, and by the time they’d got close enough to converse had completely stopped and all. The sight of Felicia Fripp’s furiously knotted brow (which looked to Trudy Carlisle like the kind of macrame made in the most secure wing of a maximum security lockup) made Frederick Toady perspire profusely; even Trudy Carlisle felt the temperature go up a few degrees from the fire in the other woman’s eyes. It was the alien who, oddly enough, broke the ice.
‘How nice to see you again, neighbour’ he said, extending his hand, with its long shapely fingers and elegant wrist seemingly sculpted by DaVinci himself.
‘Don’t you touch me,’ she said, crossing her arms across where her matronly bosom would have gone, had she not been naturally ropey. The alien, still stinging from the skillet and covered all over with crucifix bites, noted the woman’s hypocrisy but said nothing of it. Just to be neighbourly, is all.
‘What’s the meaning of all this?’ piped up Vickers, even going so far as to remove the pipe from his mouth to do it.
When next he spoke, Frederick Toady was the epitome of suave, an occurrence which startled even him, except he was currently too suave to let it show. ‘My name is Frederick Toady, and I’m with the Foreign Office.’ At the sound of his unexpectedly posh voice, so like the vicar’s own, both he and his companion seemed to rest easy. ‘This is Mrs Trudy Carlisle, who is acting as our go-between.’
‘Yes...’ Mrs Fripp said, uncertain of whether or not to let him continue, but seemingly helpless under the aliens’ thrall to do anything but. Plus she couldn’t help but stare at his heavy-lidded grey eyes, in the same way the eyeball in his pendant couldn’t take its self off of her.
‘Do you know each other?’
The fact is, any of the humans could have said this to any of the other humans, referring obviously to the aliens; in this case, though, it was Frederick Toady who’d said it to Felicia Fripp.
‘Did you not just hear him - it - that call me neighbour?’ Her initial fury had fled her face, replacing itself with an entirely different kind almost simultaneously. ‘He and his coven or cult or clan or whatever they are moved into the house next to mine on Juniper Mews yesterday morning.’
Here Frederick Toady found himself rather on the horns of a dilemna, whereupon he turned to Trudy Carlisle who found herself similarly, uh, horny - not to mention dilemna-nated. In all the kerfuffle, he’d neglected to ask any of them their names, which was very near the top of page one in the Foreign Office training manual. The idea that he’d probably get sacked for such a breach of protocol, normally a comforting sensation owing to the number of times he’d felt it, failed to come, which needless to say somewhat discomfited him. Although, as has been previously said, he was being well suave and didn't let it show.
Sensing the mutual and widespread animosity between the four humans, the alien stepped forward. ‘I am Marlak of the planet Andromeda, of the star system Andromeda, conveniently located just 2.5 million light years away within the Andromedan nebula.’ By way of clarification, another of the aliens peered over Marlak’s shoulder and pointed at a spot in the sky behind and at approximately 26.35 degrees above the horizon between Mrs Fripp and her vicar, who now both turned to look. Once they’d turned back, he continued. ‘This - ’ and here he indicated the alien who’d pointed ‘ - is Grimmnha.’ Stepping aside, he pointed out the other three, naming them as he did: ‘This is Lakh, whom we call Bisree for no particular reason. This is Croupf - ’ here Croupf gave a cheeky little wave and an equally cheeky grin, because that’s the sort of Andromedan he was ‘ - and this is Lililili.’
That formality - despite its having needed to be done - accomplished nothing short of increasing everyone’s confusion, which invariably happens when one has to remember a lot of foreign names in awkward social situations. Sensing the social awkwardness like the good Briton she was, Trudy Carlisle broke the silence that had descended upon them by saying, ‘We were just off to visit the Bishop.’ To which sentiment both Felicia Fripp and Victor Vickers gave their whole-hearted assent - the first, and what Trudy felt was surely the last, time such a thing would happen.
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