The day started like any other day – hectic. I slept through the alarm, missed breakfast and had to grab a coffee at the station. The train into the city was late and overcrowded. I spent an hour stood in the aisle, sandwiched between a tall blond who did her best not to make eye contact with me and a bald, middle-aged, gentleman who’d eaten a curry for his tea last night. From then on the day took its normal, alarming tumble downhill. By lunchtime, I knew I had to get out of the office before my brain exploded.
I made it to the park and managed to find an empty bench not covered in pigeon droppings. I sat there in the sunshine watching people rushing along with a cup of coffee in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. Others walking quickly, frantically looking at their watches, afraid they were not going to make it in time for yet another meeting. I couldn’t help but think we’d all benefit a little if we could make the earth slow down a bit. I decided to close my eyes and use what was left of my lunch break to try and relax.
I must have dozed off because I was suddenly woken by a loud crunching sound and a jolt. When I opened my eyes I couldn’t believe the scene around me. It looked as if everyone was frozen, stuck in time. Nobody was moving. Everywhere was still and there was a ghostly silence. Cautiously I made to stand up.
“Don’t do that please sir. Just stay very still. Whatever you do, don’t stand up. I will be with you shortly.”
Without thinking I sat back down again. What on earth was happening? Where was that voice coming from? My whole mind was yelling at me to get up and run as fast as I could but my body was not responding. It was as if I was glued to the bench. Then an extremely bright beam of light appeared from out of the sky, flickered a little, then disappeared. In its wake, it left a tall man in a blue boiler suit.
“Don’t be alarmed, sir. I’m not here to harm you. My name is Perkins and I’m part of the maintenance crew. Well actually my name isn’t Perkins but I thought it best to adopt an earthling name so as to put you at your ease. The same is true of my appearance. This is not really what I look like but I thought this human form would be less likely to distress you. Now if you don’t mind sir, I just need to give you a quick injection. Don’t look so worried you won’t feel a thing.”
I wanted to do so many things, run, scream, ask what on earth was going on. But I found I couldn’t do any. Instead, I simply sat there, petrified, as Perkins injected something into my arm.
“There you are sir, that should do the trick. You should be just like all the others in a minute or so. Can’t think what went wrong. Normally when we do these intergalactic maintenance checks we manage to put the whole world to sleep. Somehow we must have missed you. Never mind, no harm done. As you drift off sir, I’ll explain what we are doing. It’ll be nice, we don’t normally get a chance to talk about our work.
As I said sir, I’m part of the IGMC, sorry, Inter-Galactic Maintenance Crew. We’ve got the contract to maintain all the planets in this part of the Universe. Fairly bog standard stuff. We come around once every 20 years and check the Earth’s axis, make sure the tilt is at the right angle, check you’ve not drifted too far towards the Sun and make sure the Moon is still where it should be.
All fairly routine stuff, but to be able to do it quickly and efficiently we have to stop the Earth for about an hour. We find it best to put everybody to sleep during that period, that way we can get on with our work without any interruptions.
Looks like the injection is beginning to work sir, that’s right just close your eyes and relax. Another twenty minutes or so and we will be finished, then you can all get back to your hectic lives. You won’t even know we’ve been here. Sweet dreams sir.”