Albert and Jarvis part 9

a collaborative tale

This story is open for suggested continuations. I will publish here, with links to your own blog, all I receive. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) the next episode of this collaborative tale.

The full story so far can be found here.


Episode 9

Dinner was something of a strained affair. No; it wasn’t puréed and put through a sieve like baby-food, rather the atmosphere was strained; tense, if you prefer.

Alex’s parents’ impression of Albert was not at all like the one Alex held. But then, his parents thought Albert was fully human; they didn’t know what Alex knew. Surprisingly, they had been seeing him for fifteen to twenty years; Alex’s father even longer than that, of course, he had known his so-called uncle since he was a child; yet it never occurred to either of them that, in all that time, Albert hadn’t aged a day in appearance.

“Did you go into that hut of Uncle Albert’s?” Alex’s mother asked.

“Yes, Mum,” Alex replied.

“We’ve never seen inside that hut, have we, Father?” she said, turning to her husband, “What was it I was saying to you only last week about that?”

“You were saying that we’ve no idea what it’s like inside,” he replied. “As I recall, you said that it’s probably filthy and smells like a pigsty that’s not been cleaned out for decades.”

“You’re right, Father,” she replied then, turning back to Alex, she asked, “So what is it like inside, Alex?”

“You’d be surprised,” Alex said, “it’s massive inside, much bigger than you’d think to look at the outside. It’s full of cool ultra-modern stuff, too.”

“You’ve been watching way too much telly, lad,” his father opined, “filling your young head with nonsense. You’d be better off watching a documentary or reading a good book, and I don’t mean the rubbish you bring back from school, either.” That was a dig at the reading books his school likes to use ‘to engage the kids with the written word’; lots of science fiction and fantasy stuff like Harry Potter.

“It’s true though, Dad,” Alex insisted, “And what’s more, Jarvis can change into anything he wants to, anytime he wants.”

“Who’s Jarvis?” Mum wanted to know.

“That’s what Unkie calls his hut. And he can travel through time and across dimensions.”

“Right, that’s it!” This was Dad putting his foot down with a firm hand. “I’ll be talking to your teachers in the morning. I will not have my son reading garbage. I’ll insist they give you Treasure Island or something similarly uplifting to read.”

“They’ll laugh at you, Dad, and they’ll pick on me.”

“We’ll see about that,” his father said, storming out of the room.

“See what you’ve done now? You’ve gone and upset your father with your foolish talk about time travel and things bigger inside than out. I’ll never hear the end of it now. I suppose I’d better go and try to calm him down.”

“Yeah, good luck with that,” Alex said. But he said it to himself, as he was the only one left in the room.

Alex’s mother did eventually manage to calm her husband; although at what personal cost we may never know. He didn’t talk to the teachers the next morning and no-one was laughed at or picked on at school.

When he came back from school, Alex made his way down the garden to meet up with Albert again.

“Your Mum’s been lurking around here in a most suspicious manner,” Albert said.

“Yeah, probly my fault,” Alex replied, “They were asking about your hut at dinner yesterday, so I told them. I said that he’s bigger inside than out, that he’s full of cool stuff, and that he can change what he looks like and travel through time.”

“How did that go down?” Albert asked with a knowing chuckle.

“They accused me of making it up. They blamed it on TV, Harry Potter, all sorts. Dad got really mad and stormed off, which of course Mum said was my fault. Then she stormed off after him, so I went to bed and read some more of the Hitchhiker’s Guide books you gave me.”

“It’s the queerest thing, lad,” Albert explained, “but if you don’t want people to find out the truth about things that are perhaps hard to believe or sound a bit far-fetched, just tell them the facts. I’ll bet they thought my home was filthy and smelly and quite horrible, didn’t they?”

“They did, Unkie. Mum said it probly smells like a pigsty that’s never been cleaned out.”

“And if you’d told them that it’s clean and tidy, they might’ve believed it, but it’s most likely they’d have banned you from ever coming here until they’d inspected it themselves. Now, though, they’re convinced you made it all up and you’ve never been inside, so you’re in no danger.”

“Cool. Can we go for a trip again, Unkie?”

“Course we can, lad. When’d you like to go to this time?”

“I’d like to see my Dad when he was my age. Can we do that?”

“No problemo, hombre,” Jarvis responded, “It’ll take a while, but we’ll have you back in half an hour.”

“Extra rules for this trip, lad,” Albert said, “Your father must never see either of us; remember I was there, too, so the then me mustn’t see the now me; although because of our relationship with time…”

“Yeah, casual”

“Precisely. Because of that, the then me did/does/will know that the now me was/is/will be there, though he didn’t/won’t let on to your father. Also, you must do nothing that could possibly change even a single breath your father took/takes/will take. You said you know about chaos theory?”

“Of course.”

“Then you know that any change you start could alter the future to the extent that you won’t be born. You would then be timeless; and if you think homeless is bad, you don’t want to know about timeless!”

“Okay, Unkie. I’ll be extra careful, and do whatever you tell me.”

“Good. Let’s go,” Albert said.

A plaintive call came from Jarvis’s speakers, “Hello-o”

Albert and Alex looked to what seemed to be the source of the voice.

“I’ll need Albert to recombine for this.”

“Okay, as long as I don’t have to watch,” Alex said, closing his eyes as tightly as he could. Even with his eyes closed, Alex knew there were some disturbing things going on. The previous evening, he had read how Ford Prefect had described travelling through hyperspace as rather unpleasantly like being drunk. When Arthur Dent asked what was so wrong about being drunk, Ford suggested Arthur should ask a glass of water.

Alex had a new appreciation of what Douglas Adams had in mind when he wrote those words, though all he could say at the time was, “Oh, wow!”

This story remains open for suggested continuations. All I receive will be published here, with links to your own blog. The one I like best will become (or form the basis for) episode 10 of this collaborative tale.

This story was started in response to Kreative Kue 18, issued on this site on 30 March 2015.