What happens when two aliens run out of fuel and land on earth? Chu and Chi find a solution with their human friend in this sweet short story by Sutapa Basu.
“Hey! Open up! Open up, dude!”
Jahan’s eyes flew open. Through the window pane, the moonlight cut across his dark bedroom. He heard a scratching on the glass pane. Glancing towards the window, Jahan could make out two spindly figures, just about ten inches high, hopping up and down outside it.
Who spoke to me? He wondered. There was nobody in the room.
“We spoke to you. Open up, will you, dude?” Jahan jumped.
There was no sound, but Jahan heard the words clearly – in his head. Obviously, the tiny creatures at his window had spoken these words. But how were they talking inside his head?
Jahan climbed out of bed and opened the window. The two creatures, one a little taller than the other, marched in. They were like big ants with large heads. Two green eyes were on both sides of their heads with a pair of antennae sprouting above them. Like ants, their bodies were divided into three sections, with thin arms and legs. But unlike ants, they walked upright.
“Thanks, dude!” The words flashed across Jahan’s mind.
So, they speak through thoughts! Jahan realized.
“Yes, dude. We catch your brain waves. We don’t know your language, so our brain decodes your thoughts into our language. And we understand each other. Simple!”
“Wow!” said Jahan.
“Dude! You must help us. My sister, Chi and I were taking a trip, in Dad’s skewpie, to one of the suns, but we lost our way. Then we were pulled in by your planet and landed here.”
“I am Jahan. Why do you keep calling me ‘dude’?”
“Hi Jahan! I am Chu. ‘Dude’ means friend in our language.”
Chi joined in. “And now the skewpie is short of fuel. How will we get back home?” She sounded as though she was about to cry.
Chu put a spiky arm around Chi and hugged her.
Jahan, “What’s a skewpie?”
Chi explained, “It is a ship, Jahan, and we sail in it to different suns”.
Jahan ran to the window. On the back lawn, below the jasmine bushes, was a round object, a little larger than a football, with red lights flashing. It looked like an upturned cup on a saucer. Jahan’s eyes were round as he turned around to look at the aliens. They were busy jumping on his bed.
Chi, “This is so soft! What fun, Chu!”
Chu, “Yes! I love it too.”
Surprisingly, their conversation was flashing back and forth inside Jahan’s mind, as though the frequency of his brain had got tuned to theirs.
Jahan joined them. His jumps had a trampoline effect with Chu and Chi flying higher and higher. Finally, all three collapsed onto the disheveled bed, their laughter muffled by the pillows.
Between gasps, Jahan asked, “Chu-Chi, where do you live?”
Chi, “We live on Dyna. Our planet is attached to another sun. A much larger sun than yours.”
As Jahan was busy digesting planets, solar systems, and creatures who sailed off to suns just like he cycled to the nearby park, night had given way to day and golden sunlight filled the bedroom.
“Jahaaan!” came a loud call beyond the closed bedroom door.
“That’s Mom!” Jahan exclaimed. Startled and scared, the aliens scurried into Jahan’s clothes cupboard to hide.
The door opened, and Jahan’s mother put her head in. “Ten minutes, Jahan, to breakfast!” She popped back and shut the door.
“Yes, Mom.” Jahan let out his breath. Thankfully, it is Sunday, thought Jahan, no school!
Jahan quickly bathed and changed. Chu and Chi did not emerge from his cupboard. Before going down, he went close to it and softly said, “I will back, Chu and Chi, with some breakfast for you.”
At the dining table, Jahan piled his plate with three thickly buttered toasts, fried potatoes, and even two boiled eggs. As he picked up a fork and a spoon, his father smiled, “Is this your Sunday hunger?”
Jahan smiled a little nervously, and said, “Yes Dad. I have been feeling very hungry since I woke up. By the way, Dad can I go to my room and eat? Actually, I wanted to finish my weekend homework.”
Dad said, “Fine, Jahan. Finish your homework and we will go to see a film this afternoon.”
Jahan went off, carefully balancing his heaped plate. After locking his bedroom door, he went to the cupboard and flung it open. At first, he could only see neatly stacked shelves of ironed clothes. Then he spied a thin black leg protruding from the folds of his blue jeans. When he gently lifted the fold, he found Chi lying with her eyes closed while Chu sat nearby, waving his antennae.
“We are very, very hungry, dude,” said Chu.
“Look! I have got lots of food. Let’s eat,” exclaimed Jahan.
Chi instantly sat up. Both the tiny aliens came close to the plate and then quickly backed off.
Chi, “Ugh! It stinks!”
Chu, “Is this what you call food?”
Jahan was surprised. “Yes. There is toast, potatoes, and eggs!”
Chi, “We can’t eat this.”
Jahan’s face fell and he stared at the aliens, puzzled. “What do you eat then?”
By then Chu had come back to examine the plate and he snatched up the steel spoon and started nibbling at it. “Just what I thought! This is delicious!”
Jahan was aghast. “But that is metal. How can you eat that?”
“We love it!” chortled Chi, who had joined her brother and was biting off pieces of the spoon. Soon the spoon was all gone. Then it was the turn of the fork to be demolished.
“Shall I get you more spoons?” asked Jahan, eagerly. He was munching on the fried potatoes after devouring the eggs.
“Oh no! I am full. Do you want more, Chi?”
“No. I am done too,” she replied.
Chu’s antennae made a funny buzzing sound. “I can smell some fatfuel!” He was excited
“What is fatfuel?” Jahan wanted to know.
Chu, “The fuel on which our skewpie runs, dude.” He clambered on the plate. His antennae started buzzing frantically. He stepped close to the toast and gingerly touched its surface with the tip of his antennae. “I guessed as much. There is fatfuel on this thing.”
“Fatfuel? But I only put butter on the toast.” Jahan was confused.
Chu, “Whatever you may call it, this is the fatfuel we need to fill in our skewpie. Only then can we sail home. Can you get us more of this?”
Jahan, hesitantly, “I think so.”
Chi said loudly, “Get it then. Go. What are you waiting for? We have to get home.” Her voice broke on the last word.
Jahan got up and unlocking the door, stepped out cautiously. He could hear sounds of cooking from the kitchen. Stepping softly, he turned the corner and peeped into the kitchen. The kitchen was empty. The kettle was whistling on the stove. His mother was outside, in the kitchen garden, picking some greens. Jahan slipped inside and opened the fridge. It took him a moment to locate a big slab of butter. He picked it up, softly shut the fridge door, and ran to his room.
The slab of butter was too heavy for Chi and Chu. So, Jahan carried it. All three climbed out of the window. Chu went up to the top of skewpie. He opened a hatch revealing a funnel leading into the skewpie. All the three stuffed the slab of butter into the funnel. It was already melting, so it went in smoothly. Once all of it was in, Chu shut the hatch. Immediately the skewpie started purring softly, just like a cat, and the red lights turned green. Chi reached up to open a small door at the bottom of the ship and both the aliens walked into the ship. Jahan had to lie almost flat on the grass and put one eye to the door to get a glimpse inside the ship. But all he could see were rows and rows of buttons with strange symbols on them. Then he felt a light feathery touch on his cheek. That was Chi saying, “Thank you, dude.”
“We will come back one day, Jahan,” said Chu. The door slid shut and the skewpie launched into the air almost like a ball bouncing up. Rapidly it gathered speed and soon Jahan could only see it as a black speck gradually becoming invisible.
He slowly walked back into the house, his head spinning with all that he had seen and heard that morning. As he opened his bedroom door, his mother’s voice came from the kitchen, “Where is the butter? I am sure I had kept a large slab in fridge.”
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