🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #18
Tonight’s bedtime story is Chapter 1 from my book, “Fred: The Creature Sent To Save Us All.” This is an adventure story for ages 7 and up, with strong themes about environmental protection and the power of the mind. Every Friday I will share another chapter from the book, so if you enjoy the story, you can always follow along next week.
I hope you enjoy chapter 1…
Chapter 1 – The Arrival
I didn’t know why I couldn’t sleep. Something was alive in me, buzzing, as if there was a mild electricity in the air that was flowing through my body, keeping me awake because something magical was about to happen. My parents were asleep. My sister was asleep. Even my dog was asleep. But I was awake, waiting for something, but I didn’t know what.
Then I saw it. There was a flash of light outside my window. I didn’t know what it was. The light engulfed my entire room, making me squeeze my eyes tight and lift the covers over my head. But it lasted less than a second. Normally if anything ever moved anywhere near our house, my dog Barney would be up, awake at the window barking for the thing to go away. He was a big golden retriever, strong and friendly but protective, and to my surprise, the house was still silent.
I stood up and ran to my bedroom window. It overlooked our garden. Out in the middle of the lawn I saw a hole. It was deep, but narrow, not wider than the width of a man’s body.
I should have told my parents straight away. I should have marched right into their room and announced that something seemed to have landed in our back garden. They probably wouldn’t have believed me until they got up for themselves and saw that I was telling the truth.
But I didn’t tell my parents. For some reason, I wasn’t even scared. That same electricity in my body had turned to a deep peace, and somehow I knew that there was no danger out in our back garden.
But I knew something was out there.
I crept downstairs silently. Barney was awake, standing at the glass door facing the back garden, but he wasn’t barking. He was just staring like I had been.
“Barney, what is it?” I said. I always spoke to my dog as if he could speak English. He hadn’t chosen to speak back to me yet, but I knew he could understand me.
He looked at me briefly with his tongue hanging out, a smiling mouth, and eyes that looked eager to get out there and help with something.
“I should go and tell Mum and Dad,” I said. Fear was creeping into my mind. It could be anything, it could be absolutely anything. Maybe it wasn’t safe. Maybe it was an alien, a monster, something evil that actually did want to do us harm.
I turned to walk back up to my parents’ room, and Barney ran up to me, grabbed my pyjama trousers at the ankle and held on to them.
I tripped over and was on my hands and knees.
“Get off, Barney!” I said. “I’m not letting you go out there by yourself. It could be something dangerous!”
Barney growled very slightly. I had never heard him growl like that in all my life. It sounded more like “please” than anything else. He was trying to tell me something.
Still I tried to push his mouth away from my trousers, and as I did, I was sure that I saw something outside. I could see it through the glass of our back door. It was a long-fingered hand that reached up out of the hole in the ground, and then collapsed back into it again, disappearing.
Barney seemed to hear it, and he let me go and returned to the back door again. This time he barked.
Now I didn’t know what to do. My instincts were telling me to just open that door and let Barney run out and help, but my head was telling me that if I did, I might be sending Barney straight into a dangerous encounter.
Barney started to jump up at the glass door and scratch at it with his paws. He kept looking at me and then jumping up again. As I approached, he even started to nudge my leg with his head. He had never acted like this before.
He ran around my legs and started to push me closer to the door handle. Everything in me was now saying to open that door. I trusted my dog. He was always right about everything.
And as I went to open the door, just as I went to unlock it, my father appeared behind us.
“Wallace?” he said to me. “Wallace, what are you doing?”
I turned around.
“Something’s out there,” I said. “Something’s landed out there.”
He walked up to the glass door and looked out.
He peered through the glass. He didn’t have his glasses on. It was dark.
“Where?” he said. “I can’t see anything. I need my glasses, really.”
He bent down to reach into a cupboard to his right, by the television, and he pulled out a torch and a spare pair of glasses. My father was always losing his glasses, so he had spare pairs stashed away all over the house.
“Oh, that thing? No, that was me and your sister earlier today. When you were at your friend Jack’s house, we decided to bury some treasure for people to find in a thousand years. It was fun! We dug a hole, but we haven’t filled it with treasure yet…”
He put his hand on my shoulder.
“Barney wants to get out, doesn’t he?” he said. “Let him out. He won’t be long. I’ll see you in the morning.”
With that he turned around, put the torch back in the cupboard beside him, and he began to walk back towards the stairs.
I finally opened the door and Barney ran out. I grabbed the torch and saw my father going up the stairs behind me.
Barney wasn’t interested in going to the toilet as my dad had assumed. Barney leapt and bounded his way across the small patio and then across the grass, and his head, neck and front legs disappeared down into the hole. He started dragging something out. It was a limp, almost lifeless-looking body, light brown in colour, with long skinny arms, short skinny legs and a bit of a belly. The head was about the size of the belly.
“It’s an alien,” I said to myself. “It’s an alien.”
I stood still at the door. Barney had dragged the thing out so that it lay on its side, arms and legs sprawled out on the grass. It seemed to look at me, and it slowly raised its arms.
Barney started to jump up and down, vertically in the air. I had never seen him so excited.
I took a step outside and I heard this thing trying to speak to me.
Its voice was raspy. It sounded dry. The creature looked very dry. I could see its skin was shrivelling up against its body.
“Water?” I said. “Water?”
“Ww…wwwaaa…wwaaaa,” it replied, tapping its mouth very slowly.
I ran inside the house and got a glass of water. I took it outside and stood by the creature on the ground. Its eyes were wide and squinted, I was shining the torch at its body so I wouldn’t blind it. I saw it look up to the sky and open its mouth slightly. Its teeth were flat squares that lined up alongside each other perfectly.
“Ww…wwwaaa…wwaaaa,” it said again, tapping its mouth.
I just poured the water into it. As soon as I did, it was as if the body started to change colour. It was becoming a deeper brown, more like a tree.
“Ww…wwwaaa…wwaaaa,” it said again, but now with a less raspy voice.
I ran back into the house and reappeared again, this time with a big bottle full of water.
After it tapped its mouth in the same way, I poured all the water in. It wasn’t even swallowing it. It was as if I was pouring water into a bottomless pit, and by the time I had finished, this little creature about half my size was looking woody like a tree, and beginning to stand to its feet.
“Ahhhh,” it said, standing up and looking around. It patted me on the back as if we were old friends. Barney was looking between me and this creature with eyes that were almost dancing.
“What are you?” I said to it.
The creature stared at me and smiled with a big grin.
“Can you understand me?” I said.
It just stared at me, smiling.
“You nearly said ‘water’,” I said, tapping the little droplets at the bottom of my empty bottle.
“Wawa,” it replied, nodding enthusiastically. “Wawa.”
It patted me on the back again. It felt a bit like a chimp was doing it. Slightly clumsily, but weighty, purposeful and close to human-like.
“Wawa,” it said again, nodding. “Wawa.”
“Can you say anything else?” I said. “‘Wawa’ is ‘water’. What else?”
It was still smiling, but it looked away from me. Behind us was a gate at the end of our garden, and that gate led into the forest behind.
“Wawa,” it said, pointing to the gate behind us.
“Maybe ‘Wawa’ doesn’t just mean ‘water’,” I said. “Maybe it means everything.”
“Wawa.” The creature nodded and pointed.
“You want to go into the forest?”
The creature nodded. “Wawa.”
“I can’t. I can’t. I’m not allowed to go there at night.”
“I can let you go if you want.”
“Wawa.” The creature began to walk towards the gate. I followed after. Barney followed me.
“Wawa,” it said as it stood at the gate and tapped it with its finger.
I opened the gate for it to walk out.
It held out its hand for me to take. It wanted to lead me into the forest.
“I can’t,” I said. “Not at night. It’s against the rules.”
The creature sat on the grass.
“Rrraa…rra…ruuules,” it said, twiddling its fingers.
I closed the gate.
“Yes. Rules. Things I have to obey. Like laws.”
“Rrraa…rrruuuulles,” the creature said. It smiled again and clapped its hands together.
“Yes, rules. I don’t like all the rules, but they are usually to keep me safe. I don’t know what’s out in the forest at night, it’s easy to get lost, and…”
“Rules!” the creature said, standing up and clapping its big hands together again. Now I noticed its hands and feet were unusually large, and it started to walk towards the house.
“Hang on,” I said, “hang on, you can’t go in.”
I was making up another rule. I was guessing what my father would say if I suggested bringing an alien creature into the house.
“Absolutely not,” he would say. “The only creature allowed in this house is Barney, and perhaps any well-behaved dog of a neighbour or friend. Certainly no aliens.”
The creature approached the glass door, which was open. It stopped at the threshold and stared inside.
It looked up at the lightbulb in our living room.
“Wawa,” it said.
“No. Light bulb,” I said.
“Liiiggghtt buulllb,” it said. “Light bulb.”
“Yes,” I said, “you’re learning faster.”
“Leaaaarning faaasterrr,” it said, nodding to itself.
“Yes, very fast. My name is Wallace,” I said, pointing to myself. “This is Barney,” I said, patting my dog on the back.
“Wallace,” it said, pointing to me. “Bar-ney,” it said, pointing to the dog. “Barney save. Barney save me.”
“So you can speak English?” I said.
“Wawa,” it said.
“You can’t go inside.”
“Wawa,” it said again, pointing to its mouth.
“Okay, wait there,” I said, and I disappeared off into the kitchen. On my way back I had an impulse to grab a dictionary from our little study where my father would do his work.
I took it outside and handed the creature the bottle of water. It tipped the bottle upside down over its big open mouth, and soon all the water was gone.
It handed the bottle back to me.
“Wawa,” it said. I assumed that ‘wawa’ now meant ‘thank you’.
The creature started to pat Barney on the back.
“These are all of our words,” I said, “but I don’t suppose you can read.” I handed the creature the dictionary. It looked at it. It gasped.
“What? What is it?” I said.
“Wawa,” it said, “wawa.” It pointed back towards the forest, then to a smaller tree at the side of our garden. Then it started tapping the book.
“Oh, yes, yes we make books out of paper from trees,” I said. For some reason I felt slightly guilty, and embarrassed.
The creature flicked through the pages and started speaking to the tree beside us in the garden. It was a strange language with a lot of ‘Wawas’ and ‘Wagas’ in different tones and pitches, and said at different speeds. I couldn’t understand it at all. And then a slight breeze made the tree move very slightly. It seemed to give a nod towards the creature and the creature opened its mouth, threw in the dictionary and swallowed it whole.
“What are you doing?” I said. “That was my dad’s!”
The creature clutched at its stomach. It started to groan.
“Ohhh wawa wawa wawa,” it said very quickly. “Oooh wawa.” It started to walk over to our little tree.
“Don’t be sick,” I said. “Don’t you dare be sick.”
“Wawa wawa,” it said to me, raising its hand as if to signal that everything was alright.
It approached the little tree, sat down at its base, and then the creature seemed to be sucked back into the tree. The little brown body just disappeared, and then reappeared out of the tree a few seconds later.
It stood to its feet, no longer groaning. Then it spoke.
“Now I know English,” it said, smiling slightly. “English is now better. Before I could feel some words in air, but not many. Not lots. Lots of word in dic-tion-ary. Now I know all the words. All the words are mine.”
“What happened with the tree?” I said.
“I gave it back. I gave it back the paper,” it said. “Do you have more books?”
I did. But I didn’t want him eating them all.
“No,” I said, “no.”
The creature sniffed the air.
“Lies. Lots of lies. No more eating books for me. No more, I promise. Now I know the words, I can read. I can read now. Where are the books?”
“They are inside,” I said.
“May I read?”
“Yes,” I said, “but I can’t let you in. My dad will go mad.”
“Okay. Thank you. Thank you for the water. Thank you for saving me. Thank you, Barney.”
Barney jumped again.
“Before I get you some books,” I said, “why are you here? How did you get here?”
“I have no idea,” the creature said. “I have absolutely no idea. No memories. Nothing. I just remember waking up in a flash of light, at the bottom of a hole that someone had wanted to put treasure in.”
“So you don’t know where you are from?”
“You don’t know why you came here?”
“No. But I don’t think I came from somewhere else. I came from here. I am home, but without memory.”
“And you can talk to trees?”
“I can talk to everything. So can you, if you listen.”
I looked around.
“Are you good?” I said.
“Yes, you know, like the word in the dictionary.”
“I am me.”
“But are you good? I think you are.”
“I am me,” it repeated.
“And what is your name?” I said.
“I don’t have a name.”
“You must do. How old are you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well I’m going to call you Fred,” I said. “You look like a Fred. It’s easy to say and easy to remember.”
“Fred,” it said, clapping its hands together. “My name is Fred.”
“And what books would you like to read?” I said.
“All of them, please,” Fred said.