There's some things you don't expect to see in your garden on a pleasant afternoon in early March. Blossom is still a few weeks away. Butterflies would be a surprise. And it's way too early to hear a cuckoo.
But at the top of the list of things I don't expect to see is a bloody great floating pyramid.
I'm sitting in a deckchair, reading a book and sipping an über-fruit smoothie, when I notice that the house is looking a little strange. Sort of bent, warped almost. The perspective along the whole garden looks wrong, in fact.
Just as I'm wondering if the druids next door are up to something, the whole back yard inhales, twists, and belches. And there, suddenly hanging in mid-air from nowhere, is a pyramid. Golden, metallic, impossible. It's classically angled; four-sides to the base, and each upper face an equilateral triangle. Just like the ones in Egypt. Except for it floating. And being made of metal. And the lights at each vertex.
I sigh. Another quiet day at home in Cambridge.
Reality straightens out, and the thing just hangs there, five feet off the ground. There's a slight shimmer in the air underneath, as if from a heat haze. I stroll over and wave a hand casually underneath it. The air feels slightly thick, and is unexpectedly cold. In fact, now that I'm up close, I notice that there's frost on the ridged gold panelling. Interesting.
There's a clang and some cursing. I glance underneath, and see an open circular hatchway. Two legs emerge from the darkness, and a second later the rest of my best friend iDifficult drops onto the lawn unceremoniously. He has a Viking helmet and furs on, in defiance of the generally Egyptian motif the afternoon has assumed.
And next time bring a bloody ladder! he bellows at the manhole above him. He glances my way, beams broadly, and takes my offered hand. I tell you Roth, he confides, I'll never work with ferrets again. Useless. Workshy little buggers, not a willing oarsman amongst them. He straightens his helmet reflectively and adds quietly, And between you and me, they're not that bright.
Well, it's a nice surprise to see you, I offer amiably. This draws a frown.
It is? But I spoke to you not ten minutes ago.
Now it's my turn to frown. Nope. We've not spoken in days.
His chin receives a distracted scratch. His stubble rasps; a luxuriant Scandinavian beard is several weeks away.
What day is it?
I love these kinds of conversations. Saturday. He looks puzzled at this, and I feel obliged to add, The sixth of March, 2010, for good measure; sometimes it doesn't pay to make assumptions.
Ah. Well, I phoned you on Sunday the seventh. More chin scratching. I seem to have drifted back a day on the way here. He eyes the pyramid suspiciously before shrugging. That could be useful in future. His eyes return to me. Is today a good time for a visit?
Yep, I just made some smoothie.
As we amble up the garden towards the shed, I glance back over my shoulder.
Is that thing supposed to be following us?
In a flurry of new and inventive swearing, 'Difficult dashes under the drifting pyramid and pokes his head back inside the craft. There is much loud accusation and counter-accusation which I can't quite catch. Emerging again, his parting shot is, Fine! Then all three of you will have to pull it at once! Don't make me come in there, Clint!
I raise an eyebrow at the man voted Most Likely To Accidentally Trigger An All-Out Thermonuclear Counterstrike by his class as he stomps my way.
A few minutes in a deckchair and a pint of smoothie puts my friend at his ease again. Blueberries, raspberries, yoghurt and a healthy whack of creme de menthe; it always hits the spot. As we make our way to the slurps at the bottom of the shared jug using two extra-long straws, 'Difficult explains the purpose of his trip.
I just wanted to get out of the house. I spent all of yesterday moving furniture about in my basement. He thinks for a moment and corrects himself. All of today. Glancing at his watch, he adds mildly, In fact I'm doing it right now.
You should have called. I'm not busy.
He shrugs, a little embarrassed. I thought it'd be fine. But remember that two-seater sofa?
The red suede one? My friend nods. The one you did the mass-adjustment experiments on?
Mmm, yeah. It was far heavier than it looked. Damned near gave myself a hernia shifting it to the other side of the window. Could have done with an extra pair of hands after all.
We could head over there now if you like? That could be interesting.
Best not mate, thanks. He pulls a notebook from his pocket. No, these calculations are messed up. I've no idea when we'd arrive. Could be yesterday, could be tomorrow. He thinks for a moment. Is Yavin about?
I wave over my shoulder up the garden. He was in the shed earlier. Go ahead.
I head indoors and make more smoothie, adding a touch more creme de menthe this time; I have a suspicion that it could be a long afternoon. As I return to the garden a few minutes later, I find 'Difficult standing with the resident Elder badger.
They look an odd couple; a four-foot badger and a six-foot Viking. Yavin is poring over the contents of the notebook, flipping pages back and forth, checking calculations. A casual paw shifts the ever-present flat cap farther back on his sleek black-and-white head as he considers a tricky point.
iDifficult glances my way absently. There's a Terminator in your shed. Yavin was working on him.
I nod. His name is Mack. He'll be with us for a while. Any luck?
The badger coughs and taps the page emphatically. With a whispered Excuse me! aimed my way, 'Difficult leans down two feet to look where Yavin is pointing.
The spatial constant? The badger nods. What about it? Yavin shakes his head. It's not a constant? Shake. But it behaves like a constant for all Platonic solids! Yavin coughs again and waves a paw in the direction of the pyramid. He indicates the corners of the base. One. Two. Three. Four.
There is an embarrassed silence.
This isn't a Platonic solid, whispers the part-time evil genius. It's not a tetrahedron! It's a four-sided pyramid! The badger flips two pages and points; 'Difficult continues to intepret the explanatory mime. So all I need to do is adjust the torsional displacement down a few degrees and we won't get the time-slip?
There is a sharp snap as Yavin clicks his fingers. Well, digits. He pats my friend on the elbow encouragingly, touches the brim of his cap in farewell, and heads back to the shed.
Smart lad, that badger, says 'Difficult, almost to himself. My faux-Viking visitor then turns my way, and somehow looks surprised to see me. Problem solved! he enthuses. Look, thanks for the smoothie matey, but would you mind if I headed home?
I smile; it's just another quiet day at home in Cambridge. Not at all.
Thanks, says my friend.
If I hurry, I can give myself a hand moving that sofa.
This blog entry is protected by copyright © Indigo Roth, 2010