Story Soup 1.10

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Welcome to Story Soup! If you need to catch up with the events so far, you can read the whole story in chronological order here. Thank you to everyone who voted for what happens when Gregory comes into contact with his past self (known as James). ‘Other’ suggestions included, ‘space and time take over their bodies to correct the imbalance they are causing’, ‘Their hair has joined together, forming a little arch between them’, ‘Gregory has ceased to exist due to the fact that James never went to the tree’ and ‘Darren the Diplodocus absorbs the negative energy, expands and starts to float’, all of which sounded pretty confusing, so lucky for me, there was a majority vote of 40% opting for the other Gregory to turn to stone!

The next instalment will be posted later in the week, but if you want to be reminded, then please subscribe using the links on the top left or by joining the Story Soup Facebook page.

Gregory and the alien.

Gregory, upon pounding his fist into James’ stone face, leapt up with a howl of pain.

“What’s going on?” he muttered in horror.

“You came into contact with yourself,” the bag snapped irritably.

“Wow…” Gregory took a step back and looked James up and down. He looked like a perfect statue, caught forever in the moment of defeat. Like this guy, but face down in the mud and without the stone cat companion:

Gregory gulped. “Good job it wasn’t me,” he said carelessly.

Penny turned round and shook her head sadly. “That is you, Gregory,” she said. “Don’t you understand what you’ve done?” When Gregory shook his dopey head Penny continued gravely, “You can’t go back to the future now. You won’t exist.”

Gregory screwed up his brow as he considered this. “Well, that’s fine,” he said flippantly. “I’ll just live here.”

“What about the bag lady’s mission?”

“I won’t do it,” Gregory said petulantly.

Penny eyed him with concern. “What if she comes after you?” she said seriously.

Gregory thought for a moment and then said, “In the present she hasn’t met me yet and in the future I don’t exist.” He shot Penny a proud grin. “So she’ll never know, right?”

Penny considered this and gave a slow nod. “I suppose so. So what about those guys?” She indicated the bag and Darren.

“They can be my pets,” Gregory said quickly.

“Pah!” The bag spat on the ground. “I’m nobody’s pet you fool!”

“Or you could leave,” Gregory said sternly.

The bag gave a sniff and said, “Maybe I will.”

“What about him?” Penny tapped James with her foot. “We’d better hide him somewhere.”

Gregory felt it would be best to hide him under a bush. Penny insisted that he would be less conspicuous in the Bedcarrots’ old tool shed. Gregory argued that his father might go in there and see the statue. Penny said that was ridiculous because everybody knew Mr Bedcarrots did not use his old tool shed now that he had his new garage. They argued back and forth for a good five minutes. But in the end it did not matter for when they finally tried to lift the statue, he wouldn’t budge. They tried again, each of them wrapping both arms around the torso of the statue but they couldn’t even raise him an inch.

“Try harder,” Penny suggested.

“I’m trying!” Gregory yelled in frustration.

They pushed him and pulled him and shoved him and kicked him. But try as they might, they could not move him. Time was marching on and soon parents would be arriving home from the shops or the hairdressers or wherever they were and start asking questions.

“What should we do?” Gregory cried in exasperation.

“Pretend we’ve not seen it,” Penny suggested. “Go on as normal.”

So Penny retreated into her house and Gregory went back to his. He ran straight to his room and spent the rest of the day sat at the window staring at the stone man. He couldn’t concentrate on anything else. Time seemed to stand still (which of course it had for the stone Gregory) and Gregory felt sick to his stomach. When his father came home and asked if he had seen his watch, Gregory simply replied limply, “Yes, I lost it.” But the scolding that followed fell on deaf ears.

At around half five, there came a knock on the front door. Gregory crept to the top of stairs and watched quietly as his father answered the door. He was greeted by Penny’s father, Howard Parsnip, who wore quite a baffled expression.

“Sorry to bother you, Toby,” he heard Penny’s father say. “But did you happen to notice the stone man in our front garden?”

Gregory’s father muttered an inaudible, but no doubt bemused, reply.

“Come and look!” Penny’s father continued, gesturing wildly as he led Mr Bedcarrots outside to see for himself.

Gregory ran back to his bedroom and watched them from his window. Mr Parsnip was scratching his head and his own dad was shaking his.

Minutes later Gregory’s father came back into the house, closed the door, and let out a little splutter of mirth. “You should see what’s appeared in Howard and Jane’s garden!” he told Gregory’s mother in hushed tones. “Enormous blinking statue! Great big ugly thing it is, too!”

Gregory could not help but feel a little affronted at this. He made his way carefully down the stairs, trying to act as natural as possible.

Gregory’s mother was at the front window, peering gingerly behind the net curtains. “Goodness me!” she said, giggling. “Come and look at this, Gregory!”

Gregory feigned interest as he came to stand by his mother. His heart was pounding and even though he couldn’t imagine how anybody could possibly trace the events back to him, he could not help trembling as the telephone rang. He held his breath as his father took the call, speaking in quiet tones for a minute or two before hanging up.

“That was Howard. He’s phoned the council. They’ve said they’ll remove it for a small charge.”

“That’s good,” Mrs Bedcarrots said with a sniff. “Blooming eyesore.”

“He wondered if we’d mind chipping in for costs but I told him we’ll have no part in it! It’s his garden after all.”

“Absolutely!” said Mrs Bedcarrots indignantly. “What a cheek!”

But when the council came they could not lift the stone man. Not even with a team of strong men and a van. Mr and Mrs Parsnip called the local police who sent round an officer who admitted he was ‘simply flummoxed by it all.’ Gregory’s parents watched from behind the net curtain, snickering as the police involved a bus, then a crane, then the army. In fact, Mr and Mrs Bedcarrots didn’t stop laughing until a local reporter offered the Parsnips a tidy sum to sell their story.

“There’s nothing to tell, it simply arrived—” Howard had begun, only to be interrupted by his wife who added, “It fell from the sky. I reckon it’s aliens.”

The reporter gave a slow nod and within hours ‘Alien found dead in garden’ was breaking news. ‘A mysterious stone man, said to be a visitor from outer space has fallen to Earth,’ wrote the ardent reporter. ‘Local people report hearing noises in the night. “It sounded like a car alarm,” said one resident. “But now I come to think about it, it could just as easily have been a spaceship.”’

It was the kind of article that makes you want to rub your eyes in disbelief.

The commotion that followed was nothing short of hysteria. Within days, Gregory and Penny’s street was crammed full of tourists wishing to catch a glimpse of the mysterious stone man.

I am told that there is a sincere difference between a traveller and a tourist. A traveller blends in with his surroundings. A tourist sticks out like a three-tiered union jack hat. Travellers are cool and sophisticated. Tourists scream, ‘Scam me!’ They wear their backpacks on their front and their cameras round their necks and have three main expressions: Enthralled, Impatient, or Lost. Suddenly it becomes more than reasonable to spend fifteen pounds on an oversized t-shirt bearing the words ‘Aliens from outer space shouldn’t throw stones’ or a luminous pencil covered in rocks. They are also rather less reserved than they would be at home, daring to break convention and social norms for the sake of ‘having a good time.’ This usually leads to a fair number of amusing and highly original photo opportunities.

It was precisely this type of tourist who came to Yorkshire to view the mysterious stone man. As such, Mr and Mrs Parsnip soon became very rich.

Mr and Mrs Bedcarrots were undeniably jealous.

“Should have given us a share,” Mrs Bedcarrots sniffed whilst peering through the net curtains at the crowd bulging down the street. “It’s practically on our property too.”

One day, during a particularly busy bank holiday, Gregory was assisting Penny in selling tickets to the tourists. It had been several weeks since Gregory had caused his former self to turn to stone and by now any fears of being found out were long gone. The statue was still immovable and, seeing as it was face down, nobody had noticed even the slightest bit of resemblance to Gregory, nor had anybody even thought to question him or Penny regarding its appearance. It was considered a matter for grown-ups. In fact, Gregory could probably have come clean about the whole matter and still not have been believed. His life was now as regular as that of any other twelve year old boy, albeit with a talking bag and bubble-blowing blue dinosaur hidden in his bedroom.

Gregory was humming to himself as he and Penny counted change for the tourists and waved, ‘Aliens rock!’ pencils in their faces, when he suddenly noticed a small, rather smelly, old lady nearing the front of the queue. Recognising her immediately, his heart leapt into his throat. He nudged Penny and whispered frantically, “It’s the bag lady!”

“Where?” Penny followed his gaze in alarm.

There, no more than six feet away, stood Alberta Anne dressed in a ragged dress and grotty shawl. A polyester armadillo bag, feigning lifelessness, hung from her arm.

“What should I do?” Gregory muttered frantically.

“Relax,” Penny hissed back. “She’s probably just come to see the statue.”

But as the bag lady got closer it was clear that she had no intention whatsoever to marvel at the stone man. Never once blinking she kept her eyes on Gregory as she approached the front of the queue.

“Would you like a ticket?” Penny asked tentatively.

But the bag lady did not even look at her. Keeping her gaze fixed on Gregory; she placed a small brown box on the desk, gave half a smile, and then turned and walked away.

Gregory gawped after her in horror and took the box with shaking hands.

Penny took a long deep sigh. “I have a bad feeling about this,” she said.

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