by Michael A. Kechula
Billy was alone in the farmhouse that stormy night when someone knocked.
“Who’s there?” he hollered.
“Hungry,” a voice gurgled. It sounded as if somebody were talking from inside a fish tank.
Billy’s mother told him to always help folks in need. But she also told him never to let strangers into the house.
“Would you like some crackers?” Billy asked.
“Hungry,” the voice replied.
Billy spread gobs of peanut butter on a half dozen crackers then put them into a plastic sandwich bag. Without removing the chain lock, he opened the door slightly and pushed the bag outward. A purple, furry paw with two little stumps for fingers grabbed the bag.
Startled, Billy slammed the door. He wished his mother were home. He hoped she wasn’t stuck in the storm.
“What do you want?” Billy yelled.
“Thirsty,” the voice said.
Billy filled a cup with water and passed it to the paws that came through the narrow opening.
Moments later, the voice said, “Nice.” Then it said, “Paper.”
Tearing a sheet from a notebook, Billy passed it outside.
He pronounced each letter slowly.
Another knock. “Finished,” the voice gurgled.
Billy opened the door slightly and grabbed the paper. He couldn’t believe his eyes. It was full of beautiful, geometric designs, with more colors than he’d ever seen. He figured Mr. Purple Paws had to be very intelligent to draw so well. Suddenly, Billy wasn’t scared anymore. Especially when he saw his name on the paper. It came right after the words, “Pay To The Order Of.”
“What is this?” he asked.
“It’s very nice. What do the words ‘One Million Jeboolas’ mean after my name?”
“I can’t wait to show this to my mother and all my friends. Want some cookies and milk?”
He waited for the next knock, but it never came. Nor did he ever hear that odd, gurgling voice again.
Billy told his mother the moment she got home. At first, she was angry that he opened the door even a tiny bit. But when he explained how he helped somebody, she said she was proud of him.
She didn’t know what to make of the fancy drawing. “Oh my. I never saw anything so beautiful. The designs remind me of crop circles we saw on TV. But these are much fancier.”
“What does this mean?” he asked, pointing to the words that said “Pay to the Order of Billy Lane: One Million Jeboolas.”
“I’m not sure,” she said. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say this is a check. But I don’t see a bank’s name anywhere. And I never heard of jeboolas. Well, look at it this way. Your visitor was a wonderful artist who made something very nice for you. But it’s probably nothing more than a very fancy drawing. I’ll frame it and hang it in your room.”
Billy’s mother was curious, though, and asked her friends about jaboolas. None had ever heard of them. But everyone who saw the drawing agreed that it was a beautiful work of art. It had more colors than they’d ever seen, and the crop circle designs were fabulous. Some people suggested she show it to the Space Agency, but she never did.
When he grew up, Billy went to college and studied journalism. He was hired to write for a newspaper near the Interplanetary Expedition Center. His job was to interview astronauts returning from different planets. When he interviewed the first astronauts ever to return from Mars, he asked, “What do Martians call their money?”
“Marsogs,” said the Mission Commander.
Billy asked the same question of astronauts returning from Mercury.
“Mercosogs,” they said.
The crew returning from exploring Saturn said, “Satursogs.”
Bill kept that drawing with him for fifty years. And for fifty years, he asked astronauts if they’d run across anything in outer space called jeboolas, or if they’d seen creatures with purple, furry paws. All said no.
One day, instead of waking up on Earth, Billy found himself floating on a puffy cloud heading for a distant star. Many others rode clouds that moved in the same direction.
When they arrived at the star, Billy and the other cloud riders saw a sign that said, “All Travelers From Earth Line Up Here.” Behind the sign, ancient-looking people consulted huge books and asked questions of every person who arrived. After answering, the people were directed to golden gates. When passing through the gates, they disappeared into glowing mists that emitted wonderful music and laughter.
“What’s the price of entry into one of those gates?” Billy asked.
“It depends,” an ancient man said while searching for Billy’s name.
“Depends on what?”
“The number of jeboolas you’ve accumulated.”
“I have a million,” Billy said.
“That’s quite amazing. I’ve never seen anyone with more than a thousand.”
Billy pulled the drawing from his pocket. “Look. It says right here.”
Suddenly, Billy was a boy again, surrounded by beautiful creatures who lifted him overhead with their purple paws. “Billy Lane’s here!” they shouted.
A diamond-encrusted path appeared on which stood a magnificent, purple being. “Welcome, Billy. What’s your favorite game?”
“Baseball. I’d play it all day long if it were possible.”
A purple paw handed Billy an emerald bat, and a ruby ball.
“Come along, then,” the creature said. “Let’s go play...forever. By the way, did you happen to bring any of that delicious brown substance you spread on the crackers?”
© 2007 Michael A. Kechula
Original fiction debuting at Residential Aliens.
Michael A. Kechula's flash and micro-fiction tales have won first prize in six contests and honorable mention in three others. His stories have appeared in eighty-nine online and print magazines and anthologies in Australia, Canada, England, and US. He’s authored two books of flash and micro-fiction: A Full Deck of Zombies-61 Speculative Fiction Tales and Crazy Stories for Crazy People. Both paperbacks available from Amazon. Or visit Fictionwise for an eBook version of A Full Deck of Zombies.