Now I know why Mum has this “gay” thing over George Clooney; there is a look, a smile, a glint in the eye, the shape of his chin, the thickness of his eyebrows and hair and those broad shoulders and long arms. I loved in particular his wrists, I don’t know why. Herschn, his name, as best as I can spell it – think of the sound as a hayfever-sneeze, has these protruding veins on the back of his hands when he uses his fingers. And his smile, have I said that already? His ear-to-ear grin, his winsome, cheekiness, his loveliness … all this and he isn’t even human.
All of these feelings are to come, for now I’m a frightened girl who wonders if she is about to die or has died already. I am beneath the murky waters of a pond, this beast’s face, it’s jaw dislocated, its mouth over my nose and chin … one arm around me, part clinging to me so that I can’t let go, partly guiding me I think as it swims so fish-like through the water. Like a dolphin. I’m certain, if I saw anything at all that this creature had double-jointed knees and ankles, its legs were more fish-like that human, in water at leasat, yet he had appears human to me when sitting on the log above the water.
We got down too far for me, five or more metres – the water presses on my ears and squeezes my sinuses. I don’t like it all and at this stage I struggle, but then we enter some cavern and start to rise towards a warm glow and I find myself in what I can only describe as a den – there is a fire burning and artificial – did they have electricity? He releases me, though I am reluctant for a moment to give up the breath that he has been breathing into me, to gasp in plainair once more. Herschn climbs out beside me. I cough, pull myself away from the water’s edge and find there are what I can only describe as sun-loungers to lie on. And it is then that I can observe for the first time the transformation that takes place when a watersprite leaves water – they transmogrify (I’ve looked it up, it is a word, it means to change form). Obviously I’ve seen this many times now, so I know what takes place in detail, but this first time it was rather like a magician at the end of a show becoming a real person again – when he stood up, first his ankles, then his knees articulated so that he could stand and be less fish-like, he pulled his fingers in turn, each one, and as he did so the webbing folded away. A lizard like film over his eyes, a second eye-lid, open to reveal the human-like eyes below … and his chest, while under water, so large it reminded me of the gaping mouth of a basking shark, though on a smaller scale, collapsed into his chest. So this is how they could breathe on land.
They are not of this world; you must realise this by now. I’m getting ahead of the story, but I feel I ought to give you this bit of background now. ‘Watersprites’ is my word. The word has been used for centuries to describe nymph-like creatures that lived in pools and lakes – a few could well have been the first visitors, none of whom survived to have families … they simply died out. Mostly.
These humanoids, watersprites, as diverse in their nature and culture as we humans are, travelled from a system of planets many thousands of light years away. They travelled in a form of stasis, frozen in spaceships made from water, hard frozen into shapes and forms we would think impossible. Like comets, these ships would travel indefinately in wild arcs that occasionally would be trapped by a sun and drawn to a planet that they may or may not be able to inhabit. Odds on, as we know, the greater percentage of these cargos would be lost, plunging into suns, melting into planets comprised of a poisonous soup, or so cold that our friends, these watersprites, would be frozen for eternity. But then, and very rarely, a comet such as this would enter our solar system, travel in just the right plain s to be caught by the earth and would descend, on its way splitting into thousands of parts the size of pieces of small icebergs, quickly reducing in size as they melted to units about the size of a Mini whereupon they would hit water, or land, or cities … and be destroyed or saved, the contents smashed against rock or land, the contents burning up in salty water, but in freshwater lakes and ponds there was a chance the contents would not only survive, but after some months they would come to life and break out.
Had I any idea how much time had passed by now? No. I reached for my mobile, but of course I didn’t have it. Girl in school uniform in some kind of beaver bungalow by the water in a wood by the Tyne. Mum would be worried by now. She would be thinking the worst. That was only natural. I had to go home, I knew that.
“You can stay here if you like,” Herschn said in a voice so strange, as if he were speaking through organ pipes round the back of his head.
“I need to get home.” I replied.
He understood this.
Several other heads then appeared in the water, all eager to see who was here, some friendly, some not so. I don’t think they’d had a human in their den before. In this place of theirs.
“Where do you live?” Herschn asked.
Stupidly I tried to point, I had this idea that I lived somewhere behind my left ear, but that might have taken me anywhere, instead I worked on the basis that Hersch knew the local geography. They spoke our language, they most have been mixing with us for years – like gypsies or travellers. There was something a bit Polish, maybe Eastern European or Russian about them I thought.
I indicated that I wanted to draw something, a map. Herschn slipped into the water and returned with a pad of some kind. It was more IT than cartridge paper, like a Wacom board, one of those drawing tablets my Dad has plugged into his iMac. The thing only worked in water, so I had to lean over the entrance to the pool and scribe on it under a few centimetres of water. I thought electricity and water didn’t mix, but clearly the watersprites had fathomed that one out.
I put in the obvious landmarks, the River Tyne, the hills on either side … the A69 and the row of electricity pylons that stretch from Consett to Wide Open. (It is a place, look it up, north of Gosforth on the old Great North Road, once the A1) Google it! I put in the North Sea too – I didn’t know if their geography stretched this far, but it seemed a reasonable way to try express it.
Herschn was eager to show how they expressed rivers and land and other features. It struck me that it was as good as an OS map, but turned inside out … I’ve seen Admiralty charts so could imagine how someone how spent their life on water might picture the land … We got there. Features such as bridges Herschn could pick out, indeed it seemed they had some measure of where they were within thirty miles of this spot.
While we were doing this I found it disconcerting to see out of the corner of the my eye that we were being watched all the time, but maybe one or two different people at a time – then a face I’d become familiar with would return as if to take a second look or to check up on us.
We were about to set off, Herschn indicated that he’d take me along the river, even walk me to my door – which spooked me, the thought that these creatures were travelling up and down the river in the dark and could at any stage peer in through our windows. We were about to set off when we were joined by a girl … I knew she was female because physiologically (big word, biology, I am doing the A’level after all), she had the boobs and the hips. Her name sounded like Fry-up which struck me as somewhat inappropriate name for a humanoid-fishy person so I just called her Freya which seemed to make her happy.
Freya it turned out was Herschn’s older sister – and get this, she had been told to travel with us to chaperone Herschn in case I tried to … well molest him I guess! As if I would. He was a fish-based alien for a start, however gooey he made me feel when he took me by the arm with that firm grip of his.
It was Freya who took me in her embrace this time. I closed my eyes as her jaw dislocated and these gummy lips went over my nose and mouth. Her breath, as I should have expected, was sweater than that of Herschn. There was a minty flavour to it, while Herschn’s breathe tasted more of nettles.
Did I tell you they are vegetarian? Something else I found out later so I shouldn’t have worried about them putting me on the menu, that would never have happened. And by being vegetarian of course it was far easier for them to go unnoticed for so long – crops and fruits of the forest and hedgerow going missing don’t rate so highly as missing sheep, cows or humans. They hadn’t told me at this stage that there were another race of watersprites that ate little else but meat (we’ll get to them later, they’re on earth but thousands of miles away from the little old island of Britain with its protective salty waters).
These two took me back into the pond water and we travelled just beneath the surface to a gate, beyond this, and deeper through a water filled tunnel until were able to spill into a swirling pool. It was notorious whirlpool on the Tyne that was a fairground ride to these too. They knew they had this important task to complete – to take this land-loving girl home but they nonetheless insisted on a few spins around, rolling and twisting and gyrating in the flow of the water like they were fish. I suppose they are. But they’re not … they’re no more fish than we are, but we swim. They’re no more birds, but they too can fly. With artificial wings and an engine of course. All of this I learn from them later, how the history of their home had been passed down to them and that how their technologically had been more advanced than that of humans … not by much, say a dozen generations they figured … 250+ years.
You know what people in flippers are like when they walk around the side of a swimming pool or down to the sea. There was a hint of this as the watersprites walked by my side along the path by the Tyne. Had we been seen and the observer known they may have thought that these too had cerabral palsy- a physical disability, but able to walk and run in a manner of their own. So they wouldn’t go noticed, indeed, knowing human nature, many people would consciously look away rather than stare, which suited the Watersprites fine when they were travelling around in our world incognito, which to my surprise they said they did all the time, just no one noticed and they hadn’t thought it wise to join the local swimming club.
We walked together across the bridge at Wylam. I kept a look out for my mother’s car … Dad could be out looking for me by now, the police even. Would they spot me in this group of three? Perhaps not. At the bottom of Beech Bank row Freya left us. Did she feel like a gooseberry? Do watersprites feel like gooseberries? Do they understand the concept? In any case, I had a boyfriend. I hadn’t felt the need to tell anyone that, he was hardly there to protect me and in their society what would that have meant? Who knows?
Outside are house I saw Mum and Dad through the kitchen window. There was a flap on; I didn’t need to know they were upset. It wasn’t that late. I looked at the time 9.30pm. I thought it could have been way later, 2 in the morning … but no. It wasn’t that late, but if they can’t reach you on the mobile and you ought to have been home a couple of hours they will get agitated, won’t they!?. And who would blame them? Here I was, at the end of the drive, a creature from another world holding my arm and about to kiss me.
I know it was a kiss. As his face came close to mine his jaw didn’t break in half and his eyes roll into the top of his head when they are giving you their breath, no … this was a kiss like we humans do, lips puckered up and pressed against mine, my mouth closed. No effort to do more, but I opened my mouth and I just let my tongue brush his lips. This tingle made him blush, if you can see a blush in the semi-dark on a creature that isn’t human. I think he blushed though, a peculiar iridescence filtered across his cheeks and for a moment it was as if little lights lit up behind his eyes.
Ooops. I’m too timing. Ooops. I fancy him. Oops. He’s not of this world. And quadruple oops I’d better join the swimming club and get fit if I am going to have fun with this one!