The boy from Earth

He trudges along a foggy street, a knitted red scarf tucked under his chin and one hand deep in a coat pocket. The other holds his school case. In it is a book, some coloured pencils and an apple.

He is five and on his way to school for the first time. He has already lost his way but he just keeps on going through the white mist. He wishes he were back at home with his mum, sitting up and eating toast, warm and safe.

The hedges are very high and he can’t see over them. He can’t see around them either. But now and again he can see through them, to the small fields, vacant lots, bungalows and gardens that drift by on the other side of the fence.  Some men are working on the road, smoking and talking among themselves. They look over at him for a moment and then continue with their work. He looks down at the path and keeps going.

An elderly lady is kneeling down washing her front step. She glances up at the boy and smiles at him and says something encouraging. He shapes his mouth to reply but then he hurries silently on.

High above the branches creak in the wind. He looks up to see faces forming in the shape of the leaves, reaching out to him with spindly arms and wooden fingers. A chaffinch on a twig peeps down. A squadron of sparrows bursts from the dark safety of the hedge over the road. Everything has movement and life and yet he imagines malign forces at work.

The boy alters his stride as he hops puddles and muddy patches, where fallen leaves lie in heaps. He avoids the cracks in the path. His eyes are fixed downwards and the path rolls along beneath him. He imagines finding lost treasures or sweets still in their wrappers or pennies. He stops suddenly and reaches down to pick up an wet matchstick with a red top.

It is a rocket ship from a world far off in space. The ship and its tiny crew have been stranded on Earth for many years. He is the first boy from earth to actually pick up the ship. The street that was already a misty blur now vanishes as he begins flying across the tops of some berry bushes.

On board, the crew has awakened from a long sleep and the space ship motors cough into life. He raises the match to his eyes and gazes into the spaceship.

The crew is watching every move through the portholes. They are smiling at each other as they gaze out at the hedges slipping slowly by. Then they gather at the airlock in silvery space suits.

The spaceship swoops towards a spider’s web, its death rays smashing through the silvery lines of condensed droplets. Now the space ship glides along a low brick wall.

The tiny rocket motors are pumping out fire and smoke. The boy puffs his breath into the cold morning air – a plume of rocket smoke. He walks on in a trance, guiding the rocket ship with great skill. It curves in and out of the hedge, swooping between twigs and leaves and bouncing along the clusters of red berries.

The captain of the space ship is suddenly speaking inside his head.

‘Greetings boy from earth,’ the captain said in a musical voice. ‘We were on a great journey through space but we crash- landed here many years ago. Because we are so small no one helped us. But now you have brought us back to life.’

Then all the crew members began singing slowly together, like choir voices in a church.

“Thank you boy from earth,’ they sang gently. ‘Now we can go home. It’s all because of you. Thank you boy from earth.’ Their voices faded away as the street with hedgerows ended suddenly. Which way to go? Right or left? It was all very perplexing.

He looks up and down the street. But the streets disappear into the fog. He decides to go back the way he has come.

Soon he is standing outside the school, a dark and brooding presence in the wet fog.

He walks up a short gravel driveway where he hears the sound of children’s voices singing.  He takes a big breath and goes inside.

The children go quiet and stare at him. He stood there wondering what to do next.

Then the teacher spoke to him. ‘Hello, and who might you be?’

‘I’m the boy from earth.’