Raymond was walking home from school, when he heard a strange whirring, clunking, clanging sound. A spaceship hovered above him. It was not a polished or shiny spaceship but dented and clumsy with bits hanging off. It looked like a giant metal fish. A large letter “L” hung from the rear fin. Raymond stopped and stared. Nobody else seemed to be able to see it. A trapdoor in the bottom slid open and a rope ladder came shaking down.
“Please, come in,” said a strange voice. It was high and squeaky. “I need your help.”
Raymond climbed the ladder. He knew he should never take rides from strangers, but how many nine-year old boys were invited into spaceships? This was too good a chance to miss.
He found himself in a small, round room. Tubes and wires hung all over the walls, and fluid bubbled through thick pipes. Pistons pumped and wheels whirled. There were buttons and levers. Strange coloured smoke floated in the air. It smelt like burning rubber and old socks. Sitting in the middle, on a very tall, thin stool was a funny creature.
It was about the size of a cat but upright, like a person. Two huge, bulbous insect eyes stared down at him. The tufty antennae above them jittered.
“Greetings, earth child,” it said. It had teeth like a shark’s. “You have been chosen to help me with my project.”
“What project?” Raymond asked. “I’m good at maths and science, but I’m rubbish at english.”
“My human studies project.” Replied the furry alien. “I need you to be my subject.”
“Well maybe,” Raymond said cautiously. “What do you need me to do?”
“Oh, not much. I need to take a few samples and pick your brain.”
Raymond’s mum often “picked his brain” – it meant to ask him lots of questions and find out what he thought about her ideas. That sounded okay. “What sort of samples?”
“Hair, bodily fluids. Only a little of each.”
Raymond shrugged. “Sure, but as long as it doesn’t take long. I’ve got to be home for dinner.”
“First I need to take a few measurements.”
The furry little alien leapt around and over him, landing on his shoulders and his head. Long clammy fingers reached out. The hands were funny. It had two middle fingers, and a thumb on each side. Each finger had four bends and ended with a large, round knobby tip. It put one thumb on his ear, another on his nose, measuring the distance between the two. In this way it measured him from ear to ear, from forehead to chin. With its long, bald tail it measured his height, and the distance from hand to hand when he stretched both arms out.
“Right. Now for the samples.”
The alien set down a rack of test-tubes. They ranged in size from small to very large. It selected one and held it up, in front of the boy’s face.
“Saliva,” it said.
Raymond spat in the bowl.
It jumped on his shoulder and stuck its finger right up his nose. Raymond was shocked and tried to brush it off. It held tight, flicking the substance into the test-tube.
“Earwax.” Another finger jabbed into his ear.
“Hey, quit it!” Raymond was getting rather annoyed now.
“Hair.” The knobby fingers tugged out a few strands.
“Hey!” He exclaimed. “That hurt.”
“Sorry,” the alien shrugged and held up a smaller test-tube. “Skin.”
It held up one finger, and a claw slid out form the bulbous tip. It scraped this across his arm, brushing a few flakes into the test-tube.
“Urine.” This test-tube was very large.
Raymond snatched it off him. “I’ll do this one myself,” he declared.
“Blood.” The alien produced a thin, sharp needle. Raymond looked away as the alien jabbed it into his thumb. He winced in pain, but bit his lip so he wouldn’t shout out. The alien squeezed its fingers, so that a few drops dripped into the test-tube.
“Now it is time to pick your brain,” the alien said. It seemed very pleased. The teeth gleamed.
“Oh good,” replied Raymond. “I’m tired of being prodded and poked. I’d rather answer a few questions.”
“Questions?” The alien frowned at him. “No questions. Time to pick brains.” It reached for a lever, pulled down on it. A large, flat platform unfolded from the wall. It looked a bit like a bed. It pulled another lever, and a strange looking device tumbled from the ceiling. This machine had lots of wires and a great spinning blade. “Lie down, please,” it said.
Raymond looked at the bed, looked at the machine and looked at the rather large jar the alien had now produced.
“No!” He yowled, and leapt through the open trapdoor. He grabbed the rope ladder and scrambled down it as fast as he could.
Dropping to the ground, he ran all the way home.
Never again would he take a ride with a stranger.