I was in the interior of a warm, very cozy room with purple and green lights hanging from the ceiling. I turned back to Ikey Primus, whom I had now come to recognize as the leader of the Three Creatures from Planet Midterm-Alpha.
‘What is this?’
‘Shh.’ He peered outside for a second and then closed the door. ‘This is our study.’
He motioned at the desk, on which papers lay staggered around with a bright yellow sheet on top on which some hand had scrawled. A flurry of figures ended abruptly with a double ??.
Beside the desk stood a giant telescope, mounted prominently on a tripod. A plume of blue light encircled the technical looking device and I noticed the roof above had been peeled back to reveal a fine blue patch of sky through which could be seen hundreds of bright little stars far away above. I spied a flight of small stairs winding up towards the roof and was about to ask Ikey whether we could step out there when he gestured impatiently and thrust a big black globe in my hands.
‘The globe of Thirteen Galaxies. It shows you the Thirteen Galaxies,’ he explained, looking redundant.
The globe came alive and glowed brilliantly. Lights ran in waves around it, red, blue, white, yellow and orange.
'It will help you map us a way from here. See,’ he pointed,‘here’s your sun, Solaris Sunnius.’
He spun the little ball with his hand and pointed to a bright sapphire blue star on the other side.
‘This is Midterm Alpha. That’s where we need to get.’
I nodded, worried because Ikey was getting impatient. ‘How long would it take you to fly across?’
‘No, we don’t fly across, that'd take millions of light years. This whole thing is spinning around. It does so every once in a period corresponding to the Solaris revolution. It falls around here on the 300th day in the cycle and lasts for five days or so. We need to get in the Solaris Triactum Transitional Subatomic Wave before those days are up and we’ll be safely back in our own world within, ah, 2.75 nanoseconds.’
I gasped in shock.
‘Wait, but that must be Halloween Day!’ I glanced up in alarm. ‘What if you can’t get back in the Transitional Something before the five days are up?’
A far away look came into Ikey’s eyes. ‘Why then we are forfeit. I can’t bear the thought of staying another day on your planet, let alone a full Solaris cycle until the next, what do you call it, Helloween?
‘Halloween! It’s October 31st, that must be when you arrived.’
‘Your time moves so slowly here, and your technology is the least advanced we’ve encountered in our voyage across here, that’s why. As your technological progress advances your world will move faster and it will propel you across the galaxy at incredible speeds.’
‘Halloween was four days ago, how long have you been here?’
His eyes went blank and he started counting in some very mechanical sounding language. ‘Ungt, Ducht, Trought, Quibt. What is that in your time? Four Solaris days?’
I shrank back. I glanced down at my wrist, but my watch had gotten lost somewhere on the way.
‘What time is it? This is your last day! We need to get you in the Tunnel before midnight.’
A loud ding-dong sounded and we both looked up at the old mahogany Grandfather Clock above the fireplace. It had struck the half hour and read 11.30p.m.
‘Well, what are we waiting for?’ Ikey roared, marching over to the giant armchair and bidding me sit.
‘Grog was trying to work out the exact trajectory that will land us in the Solaris Triactum, or, as you put it, the Tunnel but he got stuck in the last steps.’
He pointed disappointedly at the double question marks on the yellow sheet.
I took up the paper gingerly and peered at it. My head spun at the figures racing and weaving across the page.
‘Well, it says this Triactum occurs with a frequency of something alpha, and it’s 60 miles above the stratosphere.’
‘Yes, yes,’ Ikey gulped. ‘We know that. Our Sauceor is up on the roof. Just give us directions, please.’
I picked up the pen and tried to make something of it. There was a bunch of deltas, a couple thetas and a few sigmas.
I performed a row reduction and finally did an inverse transformation using Einstein's formula and the stuff Grog had worked out above to find the nearest way back. Ikey was pacing up and down by the fireplace all the time, his breathing loud and worried.
I did a final check and nodded to myself. What I had come up with was not the most direct way into the Tunnel but it was the best I could do if we were to get them into space in time but they would need to hurry in case we were off on the trajectory more than we thought.
I handed Ikey the paper. He snatched it eagerly from my hand. He took one worried look at it, then roared in glee, jumping up and down.
‘Grog! Cyclopus! We’re home!’
I heard the sound of their heavy feet coming running down from the roof and the simultaneous start of a very powerful sounding rocket launcher.
Ikey pumped my hand and his two friends took one look at the paper and followed suit.
‘Well kid, you helped us greatly,’ Ikey said. He turned back to his fellow Alpharians. ‘We ought to give him the last of the Magnanimous circlets.’
Cyclopus, the tallest of the three, took out a little bright red circlet and handed it to me.
‘What does this do?’
Cyclopus looked up at Ikey, then muttered, ‘Nothing much, kid. It looks good to hang on the wall though. Every kid on our planet has one.’
‘Well we’re off,’ Ikey said. ‘Grog, is the ship ready?’
Grog nodded, already dashing up the stairs, and the others turned and all waved a hand and disappeared up the stairs fast like a Jumping Jack.
I took the little circlet and climbed up slowly after them.
A loud roar erupted as I stepped up on the rooftop. The saucer, for that is what it was, shot off the roof and zig-zagged dizzily in midair before zooming into the distance.
I waved in glee and watched the bright red ball soar into the sky and merge with the stars. I stood silent for a still moment there on the rooftop and said a prayer or two for their safety then I noticed the bitter cold. I ran down the stairs to snatch my coat and find my way home.