The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Spring 2008 Results

Encounters of the Koala Kind

Copyright © Alan C. Williams 2008

David Benlock was not a happy man.

“What’s the idea of waking us up at six a.m.? Who the hell are you anyway?”

David stood at his front door glaring at the unusual visitor. The slightly built man was wearing a bright pink three-piece suit. He smiled a calm, disarming smile while he clutched his matching pink suitcase in front of him. The other residents of Lexington Place would have been curious at the sight; however, as it was only six a.m., David Benlock was simply angry.

“You said that it was an emergency. W.A.L.I.E. operatives never sleep. Ergo, I am here. Now would you take me to the scene of the infection? Time is of the essence, you know.”

He gently pushed a fuming David to one side. This, in itself, was surprising since Mr. Benlock, ex-rugby, ex-bouncer and current bricklayer, was not a tiny man. Dave tried to stop him. He even tried to belt him over the Bass Strait, but the pink-suited ‘pansy’ gently pushed his way past him before entering the house.

Dave mustered his dignity. This was difficult as his hairy stomach flopped over the elasticised band of his Star Wars pyjama bottoms and his bulging flies revealed red heart covered boxer shorts.

“What are you staring at, you... you fairy, you?” Dave inquired, pulling his pyjamas up. “Anyway, what bloody infection? We’re clean, Sheena and me. We ain’t got no germs.”

“Not that sort of infection, sir. I’m from an organisation called W.A.L.I.E. - ‘Weird Alien Location, Investigation and Extermination’ -W.A.L.I.E. My card and credentials. Apparently, you have an infection of alien beings. It’s my job to... heh, heh... flush the little buggers out then get rid of them. Now show me your wardrobe.”

Dave’s minuscule brain was not ready for this. Not at six a.m. This guy seemed official, definitely important. Besides, Dave realised, he couldn’t stop the little bloke, even if he tried. He reckoned he’d better let Sheena sort it out.

The pink clothed person dutifully followed Dave down the hall and into the main bedroom. The little fellow even had pink socks and shoes. Definitely a pansy, Dave concluded, conscious that his visitor was following him. Dave hoped he wasn’t too close.

They entered the bedroom where Sheena was lying on the bed, bedclothes covering her from the navel down. Both Dave and Sheena realised simultaneously that Sheena was naked. The man from W.A.L.I.E. didn’t seem bothered.

“What the...,” yelled Sheena in her most ladylike demeanour, adjusting the bed sheets to cover her breasts.

“It’s a man called Wally. He’s here to sort out our germs, my little apple turnover,” explained Dave. “He’s official like... wants to see our wardrobe.”

Sheena began to lose her temper however the visitor stopped her with a finger to the lips.

“Quiet,” he whispered as he opened the sliding door ever so carefully.

Sheena and Dave watched in awe, both too curious to speak. Pink gloved fingers extracted a bare coat hanger before holding it close to his eyes for a thorough inspection. He traced his fingers over the metal, sniffed it twice then held it to his left ear. He listened for thirty seconds whilst the Benlocks waited. Finally Sheena caught Dave’s attention so he whispered back to the visitor, “What are you looking for?”

“Aliens. Specifically hybrids from the planet Dirtball near Proxima Centauri,” came the equally muted reply. He noted Dave’s puzzled expression and, not realising this was normal for Dave, he continued his knowledgeable explanation. “They camouflage themselves as coat hangers. When the cupboard’s closed, they breed like windoosian splidgers, the dirty little so-and-sos. Explains why most closets have dozens of extra clothes hangers. Really disgusting.”

“Er, yuk ...Have we got any?”

“Fortunately not. I saw one case in Claremont where there were over ten thousand of the little bathtubs in a walk in robe. Completely crushed the husband when he went in for his Tweety Bird tie. The only bright side was the hanger sale they had the week after he died. It paid for the funeral at least.”

Having checked the cupboard, the visitor moved to other locations in the room - lifting this, sniffing that, constantly searching for something unusual. In turn, the Benlocks watched in silence, transfixed by the strange actions by the man from W.A.L.I.E.

Finally Sheena spoke up. “Excuse me, but I thought aliens all looked like people but with big eyes or... or funny shaped ears. I never heard of coat hanger shaped ones before.”

“A common enough mistake, madam. We, at W.A.L.I.E., call it the ‘Mr. Spock Syndrome’. On TV and movies, most aliens are about one point eight metres tall, head, two arms and legs, ‘et cetera’. Older people call them B.E.M.s - Bug-Eyed Monsters. The sad truth is that aliens rarely appear like humans. The only exception I’m aware of are from the Kylie planet...”

“Kylie planet?” Dave interjected, with a puzzled tone in his voice.

“Yes, only one of them has made it to Earth so far and see what she’s managed to do. Imagine a whole planet of them,” the pink-garbed man explained.

“Dave does. It’s one of his many, sick fantasies,” Sheena mentioned, glaring at the poster on the wall.

“You mean...?” stammered Dave, in a state of shock. “I never suspected...”

“You were saying, about B.E.M.s,” Sheena continued, facing the well-dressed visitor. “I’m sorry, did Dave say your name was Wally?”

“Actually, it’s Cyril, miss. All men from W.A.L.I.E are called Cyril. Even the women and koalas are called Cyril. My boss is called Cyril, not that she deserves to be in charge. She can’t even distinguish a Cendulian flug from a dysominobault. She only got the promotion because she slept with the sixteen board members AT THE SAME TIME AND... I’m sorry... I got carried away. Please forgive my little outburst there.”

There was an awkward silence for a moment. At long last, Dave’s curiosity overcame his embarrassment. “Er... did you say ‘koalas’?” Dave inquired, recalling another fantasy of Kylie in a koala costume.

“Yes, brilliant sense of empathy. We all have a Cyril koala working with us.”

“You don’t,” Sheena observed.

“Well actually I do, but he’s undercover at the moment,” Cyril replied.

Sheena lifted the sheet over her nude body, peering underneath. “Oh, yes. There he is. I kept wondering ...” She blushed, noticing Dave gazing at her.

“No, most aliens are non-human types,” Cyril, the person, continued, picking a tissue from a cardboard tissue box. He examined it closely. “Thought it may have been a Willcox 34,” he explained, upon noticing their concern.

“It’s not?”

“No, fortunately. They can explode upon contact with lipstick... but only on Saturdays. Today’s not Saturday, is it?”

“Yes it is, you aren’t wearing lipstick, are you?” Dave countered, causing a momentary exchange of non-verbal challenges.

“Sorry, my husband’s a little bit brain dead. He thinks anyone wearing a bright pink suit is a ‘pansy’, He apologises, don’t you, Dave?”

“My suit colour is my uniform. It dates back to the nineteen-sixties when our operatives drove around in Mr. Whippy vans. They were brave men and women, all of them. And we lost so many in those initial years of fighting invading monsters from outer space.” Cyril put his hand to his chest and bent his head in solemn memory.

Dave, Sheena and the koala all did the same as a tacit mark of respect.

“Sorry, Cyril. I didn’t mean anything disrespectful, like. Er... can you tell us a bit more about these unusual alien types?” Dave prompted, feeling a little ashamed.

“Let’s see. Some are only smells, some are mathematical equations, others are chocolate boxes (but only striped ones, of course).” He paused, considering the large variety of ones he had encountered. “One particularly nasty group could be mistaken for purple tomatoes with six legs - they’re called ‘pux-puxes’. Their plan is to enslave the universe and Steven Snodgrass (although not necessarily in that order). You know the sort. Anyway, aliens can be anything...”

“Even ‘Kylies’?” Dave prompted.

“Yes! Even Kylies. There’s a friendly bacterium called Samantha, who works at W.A.L.I.E. headquarters. She’s from the star system, Pussyfoot-TX and she’s super-intelligent. Currently she’s evaluating Stephen Hawkins' book, but she hasn’t got past page one.”

“Sounds like every other person who’s tried to read that book,” chirped in Sheena, recalling her university days.

“Yes but in Simon’s case it’s not because she’s stupid. She can’t get past page one because the page is too heavy for a bacterium to turn.”

“Oh!” both Dave and Sheena stated in unison.

“Tell me, have either of you noticed some items going missing then reappearing weeks later in the very place you looked for them?”

“Yeah, remember your wedding ring, Sheena,” Dave reminded her. Sheena appeared slightly agitated at this item being mentioned. “What’s that mean?”

“Sometimes Stripees from the Howard dimension ‘borrow’ our belongings. They could be in your house. Usually look like bits of white fluff and live in people's belly-buttons.”

Dave examined his tummy, holding a small quantity of lint toward Cyril. He stopped when Sheena admonished him in a quiet voice. “Don’t even think about it!” she told him.

Cyril continued, “I guess they’re simply curious - they take something from our world to ‘show and tell’ at their equivalent of school then bring it back to us, returning it to the exact place they took it from.”

“That’s strange,” Dave muttered. “When your wedding ring was found, it was next door in John and Marsha’s bedroom.”

“Obviously not the Stripees then,” Cyril deduced.

Dave continued to consider the problem whilst Sheena desperately tried to change the subject.

“What other aliens have you seen, Cyril?” Sheena wondered out loud.

“Hmmm, let’s see. Candorphians are nasty little things. We had a plague of them last month. Eventually the W.A.L.I.E. scientists came up with a spray which turned them all into peanut butter sandwiches. Got them right in the squiggles.”

“That must have been painful,” Dave commented with a grimace.

Cyril glanced across at him then back to Sheena, who was now sitting up, totally exposed while stroking a green koala on the head. The koala was purring.

“I’ll be honest. There’s absolutely no sign of any aliens living in your house. Even Cyril's unable to sense them. So why did you call us out, Mrs. Roberts?”

“Oh,” said Sheena in between koala pats. “I’m not Mrs. Roberts. She lives across the road in the blue house. Looks as though you’ve got the wrong house number.”

“Bother, darn and my red barn! I’m so sorry to have woken you, especially so early in the morning. Come on, Cyril. We’ll show ourselves out. Thank you again.” The two Cyrils departed and the front door slammed close behind them.

Dave and Sheena decided they could still grab another hour sleep so they returned to bed. Dave was off like the proverbial light. Sheena was dozing when something moved outside the French doors leading on to the walled balcony. She tried to focus whilst gently raising her head. What seemed to be a purple tomato ‘ran’ past the glass doors, screaming something terribly abusive at the galloping koala chasing it. Sheena blinked then settled back on to her pillow. Strange dreams, she thought. Have to avoid so much cheese before going to bed at night.