The musky gloom of Norman Chalfont’s small bedsit was dispelled at precisely 0655 am by a mechanical whirring open of blinds, then a gurgling sound heralded an aroma of coffee streaming from an automatic percolator.
120 seconds later a tinny voice declared: “May the Force be with you Luke Skywalker…. May the Force be with you Luke Skywalker…. May the Force be with you Lu…”
Norman slammed his fist on the head of the clock, an animatronic droid, which spun one final turn before silence fell. He ritualistically ran his fingers along his prize possession: an authentic Star Wars motion picture Light Sabre, autographed by most of the 1977 cast. He rifled through a pile of clothes on the floor. His wardrobe belied his 27 years of age: he grabbed his red and blue Y-Fronts with the Star Trek insignia and a T-shirt celebrating the film Muppets from Space. While she searched in vain for his trousers he flicked on the TV to a favourite channel to a beloved re-run of a 1960s series.
He did not on this occasion catch the news. So Norman was still left in the dark as to the momentous events that were unfolding not two miles away in Aylesbury. He turned to the little project he’d undertaken partly for a dare – the hacking of his local NHS hospital records system. He pressed the button and out churned from his printer a copy of his own psychiatric report used in the disciplinary hearing the previous month. He pulled out two small Post-it notes, wrote on them and stuck them to the wall as an aid memoir to investigate later. The words were strange, they looked like, but weren’t, something like ‘low-grade Asparagus Syndrome’ and ‘chronic Socialist-Phobia’. His mum once told his doctor he he was ‘sensitive’, that he saw things that others didn’t. . He was fed up with people trying to diagnose him.
A loud Dr Who theme tune leapt from his phone. Norman jumped. He spilt his coffee. Hardly no one ever telephoned him. A glance at the screen told him it was Gary. He’d first met the rail engineer with a penchant for extreme wagers and video games at a convention in Milton Keynes 8 years previously.
It said it was his number, but he wasn’t sure it was him on the line for he could only at first hear a frantic rhythmic rustling and a whooping and braying sound.
“Holy mm.. Holy mother Norm why aren’t you here now?.. Right up your street!”
“You didn’t see the news… Jeez Norm what planet are you on? I’m just here a bit north of the station. Main line’s been closed. It’s huge. It’s sitting right on top of the DB Schenker Binliner to Calvert.”
“Look, I got to find cover. Just check your bleedin newsfeed or whatever, and get it down here, for the sight of your life!”
The line went dead.
Norman didn’t need much. A glimpse of hastily posted Facebook video. A derailed train. A silver spherical object 20 metres in diameter. Bright green humanoid forms swinging like chimps on the overhead electric wires. His whole life had been leading up to this. He started to cry. All the years of humiliation and derision for his conviction that this very thing was plausible. His non-existent love life, the workplace jeers, the dismissal. It all meant nothing now.
He flew the few short miles to the station like a rocket, in his dressing gown. He was an odd spectacle for the little crowd at the bus stop on the high street, slap slapping down the middle of the street in his hairy Chewbacca slippers. He’d never run so fast. Norman glowed. He hailed his bemused onlookers with a Star Trek Federation salute. ‘I told you all’ He thought, ‘ ‘told you all… ‘.
Wheezing, wild-eyed, he passed the station and headed up the tracks to the north where he found Gary and two others in dishevelled railway uniforms crouched behind a signal box. He collapsed down next to them. Norman turned and beheld the scene 100 metres ahead with a cool sense of familiarity: the giant throbbing sphere, the chittering forms dancing amidst the train wreck. Rising from the hideout, he looked down with an air of grace and feelings of total love towards the cowering railway men. He smiled but spoke gravely to his best friend.
“Please say goodbye to my mum Gary.”
“and take this…”
He handed him his beloved Light Sabre.
“I wont be needing this anymore.”
Unperturbed, Norman stood tall, with a healthy colour to his cheeks. He turned and proceeded steadily northward towards the mêlée. The men watched him stride confidently away until the image of his solid form become engulfed in a pulsating green miasma. Then the sphere and its occupants suddenly sped away skywards, leaving only the stricken waste train.
That was the last anyone saw of Norman Chalfont.