On an overcast, grey and shadow-less day a security drone buzzed high overhead, stereoscopic cameras trained on the deserted car-park of a supermarket – an outlier at the borders of a West London town – object recognition separating the background from the ceaselessly swirling seagulls that would frequently thwart its attempts to get a clear view – an area of special interest was the recycling bins, where it detected activity.
At ground level, Ricky Ramlal sullenly emptied bags of glass bottles into the cyclopean glass recycling bin – one of several in a row that, to Ricky, seemed like the mysterious totems of some long-vanished race – his hangover fighting a losing battle against the screech of seagulls and the sound of smashing bottles.
The crashing clink is repetitive, hypnotic, and for a moment Ricky’s imagination is transported to the frozen reaches of the Solar System, where monumental chunks of planetary debris crash into each other, exploding into jagged fragments which will rend any unfortunate passing space travellers’ ships into shreds.
“Velikovsky…” muttered Ricky darkly.
Dull routine over, Ricky pitched the last bottle into the bin and turned to face the deserted car park of the supermarket, his BMW – the only car, now looking like the subject of some absurd TV car commercial, all gleaming paintwork and custom hubcaps, a lone conqueror in a post-apocalyptic landscape.
Ricky climbed into the car and started the engine, deftly flicking on the in-car WiFi to link with his phone – loud music thundered out of the sound system and briefly echoed through the empty car park, scaring seagulls which were circling quite low in search of scraps, scraps which had been long gone, before he slammed the door shut and roared away and out of the ASDA.
“Perhaps if we never get to the stars, the stars will come to us…” was a mantra that Ricky had recently adopted and had carefully drawn in metallic inks onto an air freshener which swung wildly from his rear-view mirror as he swerved around the mini roundabouts before hitting the perimeter road which led to the highway back to his town – he glanced at it from time to time, muttering the words under his breath repeatedly.
The Great Event had been traumatic on a global scale but for the most part, things remained intact – phones still worked, petrol was still available, now even cheaper, carbon monoxide pollution of the atmosphere could continue unabated & the “X-Factor” was still on the telly – Ricky on the other hand, was mostly extremely pissed off.
He was annoyed because his order of brand new, limited edition designer vinyl toys from a favourite designer in Hong Kong was delayed for no good reason – they were a set and had cost a small fortune and if he didn’t get them soon, then it would just be another irritant to add to his sense of indignation that he’d been overlooked for The Great Event.
His train of thought was suddenly interrupted as his phone rang, automatically replacing the thumping music track with his custom ring-tone – Ricky glanced down and noted the caller I.D…it was Dash, his half-brother and sort-of nemesis.
“Crap..!” he muttered, before allowing the call to continue until it stopped and the music started again.
Dash was one of those people, rare in Ricky’s eyes, who couldn’t care less about the The Great Event, let alone designer vinyl – ”Sofubi” might have been a type of sushi for all Dash knew and this diminished him in Ricky’s eyes, plus he was studying quantum physics at Uni’, which made Ricky’s accomplishments seem trivial by comparison.
Ricky pulled up in front of his block of flats and hurriedly entered to check his mailbox – nothing…nothing, except bills and circulars.
Bounding up a few floors he reached his front door to find a large package had been left there.
“YES !…at effing last !…Hong Kong postal address, DHL…this is the nuts !” he gasped, as his elderly neighbor, Mrs Chopra, down the corridor, looked on disapprovingly, before entering her flat and slamming the door behind her.
Inside, he placed the package on his dining table in the narrow galley kitchen and proceeded to open it – polystyrene packing exploded out of it as he revealed carefully bubble-wrapped items, like buried treasure being exposed in sand.
In amongst the items was a printed sheet, shrink-wrapped and with a stiff card backing – it was a lurid illustration of the items inside the box.
“Phwoar !…Gorgeous !…limited edition art-print…giclee…I’ll have to frame that !” hissed Rickey excitedly.
By now in a near frenzy and surrounded by packing material and shreds of bubble wrap, Ricky revealed the contents of the box in all their metallic, polychrome designer vinyl glory as they lay, nestled in amongst their packing.
Ricky stopped and stared closely, leaning in to examine his booty – weird forms stared back at him, multi-limbed forms, many-eyed forms – and his expression turned from one of intense concentration to dawning horror.
“CRAP !…these aren’t the ones I ordered !…I wanted the other set” he gasped, reeling backwards, his eyes tightly shut and teeth gritted.
Sometime later a weary looking Ricky waited his turn in a queue at the post office with a large and slightly battered looking parcel, sealed with brown packing tape – when his turn came he stood expressionless as the person behind the glass screen asked him where he was sending the parcel.
“Hong Kong..First Class…” he murmered, avoiding eye contact as he passed the parcel to the post office worker who observed him with an unnerving unblinking stare.
The postal worker added the required postage and then passed the parcel back to Ricky, saying, with the same unblinking stare, “Third bag along, please…”
When anything out of the ordinary occurred, more often than not Dash would be to blame as far as Ricky was concerned – it could be anything – a dropped plate, a stubbed toe, a date going wrong, all ascribed to some trick of quantum physics played on Ricky by his nemesis.
Back in his flat and ruminating over the mix-up, Ricky was startled by a knock on the front door – “could it be Dash?” was his first thought.
Opening the door on its’ chain, Ricky was surprised, and relieved, to see a DHL delivery-man holding up a large cardboard box.
“Parcel for Mr…errr…Ram-Lal?”
“Err…Yes, that’s me…” replied Ricky
Ricky unhooked the door-chain with shaking hands and took the parcel, examining it to see where it was from.
From over the top of the box, the delivery-man could see Ricky’s furrowed brow and a look that registered incredulity.
“Everything O.K, mate ?” he said.
“YeahYeahYeah…Yeah” replied Ricky before slamming the door shut and rushing over to his dining table to open the box.
It could only be the correct order of vinyl toys this time, confirmed after he’d opened the box and carefully shot an un-boxing video and a still of the accompanying limited edition giclee art print.
“The Space Gods” hissed Ricky, reading the title on the art print as he let go of the phone camera button for the last time.
Carefully removing each item from its’ limited edition art carded poly’ bag, he lined them up on his shelf next to his other pop-culture treasures before lighting a fresh joss-stick to his shrine featuring a poster of Bruce Lee in “Enter The Dragon”.
Later, as he flicked through his Instagram account and photos of each item, carefully lit and photographed, what he failed to notice as he held the smartphone up to the shelf were infinitesimally small shifts in position in the figures – an octopus-eye shifted a few degrees up, or a tentacle tilted at a slightly different angle, when compared to the photos he had taken.
Meanwhile, in another dimension on the other side of a trans-dimensional rift that had opened over a nondescript West London town, titanic protean beings of vast intelligence mulled over a failed first-phase invasion but were encouraged by the progress of phase-two, and felt they could progress to a third phase with confidence.
Ricky, now flushed with satisfaction as “likes” began to multiply on his social media accounts, anticipated calling Dash to tell him the good news.
“Haha!…Love It !…this’ll make him jealous for sure !” he smirked as he dialed Dashs’ number on his smartphone, blissfully unaware that his every move was being scrutinized by the many-eyed, many limbed protean “Space Gods” that were now on his shelf, watching, waiting, as they had been for an eternity in some timeless zone in the multiverse.