Friday 9 December 2016

A Short Story by Caroline Lawrence

Eye of the Beholder

Irving sighed and glanced at the glowing red numbers of the atomic clock as he poured himself another cup of coffee. It was only 2 am, he had another three hours of monitor duty. As he tasted the coffee, he grimaced and forced himself to swallow, despite the involuntary contraction of his throat. It was the only way he could get his eyes to stay open at this hour. 

The door slid open and Steve entered, looking as if he hadn't slept for a week. 

'Check the monitor, Irv,' he sighed. 'The satellite might be transmitting early.' 

'Fat chance,' growled Irving, but he moved over to the screen and, collapsing into the yellow chair, reached forward and pressed a red bar on the right of the screen. 

The grey of the screen melted into blobs of twitching colour and Irving was suddenly sitting upright and wide awake. 

'Hey, we're getting something. The satellite was early!' He turned a black dial and the picture jumped into focus. 

Five minutes later, when Steve found his voice, he gasped. 'It's unbelievable! A planet thirty-two light years away having technology so similar to ours!' 

'We're only seeing their roads, Steve. The similarity may end there.' 

'But look! That car looks almost exactly like antiques I've seen in films. If the trees weren't that weird colour I'd think the satellite had landed outside.'

'I wish one of them would get out of his car. I want to see if they look like us.' Irving leaned forward. 

'Can you pull it in any closer?' Steve asked. 

'I think so.' Irving adjusted some dials and the picture moved in.

'Look, that car is stopping!' shouted Steve. 

'I see it! I see it!' Irving twisted a dial and the picture shifted to the motionless car. 

The occupant emerged. Irving and Steve stared hypnotised for a few seconds and then Steven gasped, 'Oh, my God!' and averted his eyes. 

Even Irving, with a scientist's cold detachment and intense curiosity could not help but be slightly sickened by the organism which was examining the engine of its car.

'I never thought anything could be so horrible,' whispered Steve hoarsely as he closed his eyes to blot out the memory of the thing. 

'Get hold of yourself! Go get the others,' Irving said, calling upon all his will power to keep his eyes fixed on the screen. 

'Right away,' gasped Steve, thankful for the chance to escape. 

As Steve slithered out of the room, Irving reached out a slimy, clear yellow tentacle and raised his coffee to his beak. Thank God, he thought, I'll never get the chance to go to Earth. 

How does this short story qualify for The History Girls blog? It's an historic document, written when I was 16 years old... over forty years ago! I found it while going through some papers last week. To me, the most surprising thing is how little my style has changed. I have always likes Sci-Fi and when I wrote this I was heavily influenced by Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. Mr Glendening, my inspirational English teacher at Gunn High in Palo Alto, gave me a generous A- and astutely commented 'The idea is not original, but it is well done.'



Becca McCallum said...

Thanks for sharing. Well done 16 year old you! I love how world-weary Irving is...

Sue Purkiss said...

Lovely! I wrote one when I was a few years younger, about an alien ink blot that swallowed ink from people's pens and ink wells ( which shows its age!) and grew bigger... and bigger... and bigger...