It was mid morning in the local hardware store, and I was slowly admiring the aisles of nails, pottery pieces and other objects of art... of the household kind. when suddenly two children appeared mid centre aisle, central of the store, thin, reedy children, with dirty clothes, and odd white faces. As I looked at them, they mouthed obscenities at me, and turned hand in hand to run to the edge of the store.
The manager spoke, "Not those strange children again!" he said to one of the stock assistants as she whipped the stock into straight lines.
"Yes," she said, still working, "Wonder whose those two really belong too? They're so badly dressed, and its so far out of fashion, its unreal."
I looked again. They were almost on the edge of vision. They looked back. The girl, who was perhaps 9 or 10 was covered by a long warm coat, over trousers. Her dirty fair hair was unkempt. The boy, smaller, maybe between 4 and 7, was in an anorak, and jeans. He held her hand. His hair lay flat, short cut, his eyes were large and black. Not curious. Only demanding!
They disappeared as if into the fabric of the building.
Later on, I saw them again. Sat by the side of the road. Curiously still, doll-like characters.
"Hey!" I said carefully, "I saw you in the store, didn't I?" Seen close up, their faces were difficult to make out. The edges of their features blurred. It was like those faceless dolls the Amish make.
The boy stirred. Awoke. His eyes darkened, suddenly he had eyebrows and expression. "Hello!"
he said in a sweet still voice. "We were rude about you!"
"Yes," I agreed, he was older than his years, he knew what he'd been up too. "Yes you were, what have I done to you?"
"Don't know," he replied, still hanging onto his sleeping sister's hand. "We was told to do it to you!"
"Well you done it!" I answered him calmly, producing a bar of fudge from out of my bag, and handing it over after opening the top for him. He sniffed at the open end carefully.
"What kind is it?" he said cautiously. Beside him the girl stirred. I was finding it easier not to look straight at him. I couldn't quite keep up with how the face seemed to lose focus - either my problem or something that he did on his own.
"Fudge!" I said opening two more. I repeated his act, and sniffed it carefully.
"Are you one of us?" he asked quickly, his eyes darting left and right.
"I'm not sure, what are you?"
The girl sat up, stared at me, cross, hungry, angry fox scared eyes. Her expression fixed and became stony.
I passed her a Fudge bar too. "You look hungry," I said.
"I don't want that," she said shortly, "You aren't one of us, and we don't like you! Or we wouldn't be fed for the job."
"I guess not!" I said, "Who are you? Have you names? You remind me of two men I saw once. They seemed to flow if you looked at them long enough..."
She looked at her brother and quickly smacked the fudge bar out of his hand. "Don't eat it!" she wailed, "Their food can kill us. Didn't you listen to what we were told. We can only eat our own food. You know what that is..."
"Yes," he said sadly, "Only she's nice, and I don't want to hurt her..."
"We'll die if they send us back to the ship," said the girl shortly, "We had to land to re-provision, not to make friends. On the ship, only the sheep are left. Can't eat them now, they are wise to us..." She stopped suddenly and looked at me. "Go away! Can't you tell you're in danger... Not any of us are nice!"
The boy turned his dark eyes on me. "I wish it was otherwise," he said hauntingly, "I honestly do!"
The girl shuddered, "Don't tell her your name!"
The boy shook his head. "I won't. You're worse than our pack leader!"
"Next time you won't be so lucky," the girl threatened from inside her coat. "We need to eat, that's all. So next time... if they send us, we know how you smell... its so much easier..."
"Sorry," said the boy. "Don't look for the ship any more or make any more telepathic contact with the sheep. We always know..."
"They haven't spoken to me for ages," I pointed out, "And anyway, I wasn't sure who or what they were. They could have been any creature. Norfolk is full of odd bods."
The boy let go of his sister's hand, and leaned towards me, “On our planet,” he said menacingly, “Only the humans stayed in their original form. The ones you call animals developed.”
“Don't talk to her,” screamed the girl, “The sheep did too much talking already!”
I felt a wave of fear rush out of her and stretched an arm towards her, “Can I take you both home?
Do you live nearby?”
"Please go away," snapped the girl sharply, "I'm hungry!"
I got up and left the two of them with the Fudge bars and two cans of fruit juice. I didn't know what else to do. I knew about the ship, far out in space. It had been hanging in our sky with a finger pointing towards earth for ages. People had said it was a satellite. I'd never been sure.
"If you need help," I said tentatively as I walked away, "Let me know."
"We're off to Iceland today," the girl replied grimly, "People believe children. Better watch your back from now on."
"Just because you've met us," said the boy, "There will be no special privileges!"
"Are you aliens?" I said softly.
"Not any more than you are!" snapped the girl.
"She's forgotten!" said the boy softly as I walked away.
What else had I forgotten? In the land few months the worlds had opened around me, I'd seen the great Anubis, on the skyline. Merman had flown with the owls and revelled in the trees around my home. Were they all from the ship high above with its cargo of colonists looking for a home?
Why had I been chosen to see and greet all these interplanetary visitors? I had learnt through, in the habit of apes, that we were food to them and couldn't be borne in any other way.
Some weeks later the special police arrived, to find their missing cargo. I listened carefully, and quietly knowing that I was already identified as the one they took the last time they'd landed on an Earth.
“Why don't you talk directly to her?” screamed out a foreign voice. I'd heard its pain before.
“It's no use hiding in that shape!” came the reply, as they zapped him squarely in the midriff.
I felt the internal combustion, the shrinking of the vessels, and the shape changer whip into a stoat, which slithered into a corner. Aching!
“We can't talk to her,” the Ape soldier said squarely, as he picked up the stoat gingerly, “We left her here to do a job, and she must complete it. Then we'll pick her up. She knows enough for now. She'll remember us when its time.” He paused and looked towards me. I saw the nose, the flared nostrils, the thick neck, and he smiled gently, “Don't worry about the sheep,” he said, “We feed and care for them. I can't put them down here. It doesn't work. You can see that.”
“I told her to stay away,” wailed the stoat, as the ape slung him around his neck, and turned to grab his sister.
“Yes,” said the Ape soldier quietly, “You did your job well. You eat too today.”