There's a monster at school... and it's not the Head Master. Hop aboard, adventure awaits!
by Elizabeth Newton
Show and Tell
The pale little girl waited eagerly for her turn. She wriggled and fidgeted on the floor, hardly listening at all to what was being said up front. Frustration and restlessness tore at her gut and her impatience boiled as she realised that a talking superhero action figure with movable arms really wasn’t that interesting. It was a mercy only three comments or questions were allowed, only one comment was particularly and excruciatingly long due to the shy stutter of the commenter. But finally, the wonderful moment came when the speaker said, “Thankyou for listening,” and the class replied “Thankyou for sharing,” and Miss Reynolds said those magical words:
“Okay, Ruby, you’re next. Up you come.”
Ruby jumped up with a smile from ear to ear, ran to her desk and grabbed the ice-cream container she’d poked holes in the top of, and carried it over to stand in front of the class. She smiled at the class and licked her lips as if she was about to devour a large plate of ice-cream cake. She waited, purposefully building up the suspense for them. But to her dismay it only made them restless and some began to whisper amongst themselves.
“Year twos,” said Miss Reynolds, “I would like to see more manners from the audience please. If this was an opera, those whisperers would get thrown out by the ushers. Now, show Ruby the respect you would like to be shown, thank you.” Then she looked kindly at Ruby and said, “The stage is all yours.”
She began with a long and whiney “Well...
“...On Friday, I found this little thing on the playground. It’s a little creature...”
She started to undo the lid, slowly.
“...and I think it’s really weird, but I also think it’s really cute. I decided to look after it and when me and my grandma went to the zoo yesterday, I took it with me so I could look after it...”
“It’s in there is it? This... creature?” Miss Reynolds asked nervously, half expecting to have to get up and watch from the back of the room.
Ruby answered, full of disappointment. “No, this is where I kept it. This was his little home, but... at the zoo, I lost it.”
She held the container almost vertical so that the class could see the little environment Ruby had made for it in there.
“...it got out somehow,” she continued, “...and that’s when all the animals from the zoo started to disappear.”
* * *
“So the big surprise of where you were going to take me for my last trip... an interesting, but harmless place anywhere in the universe!... is Adelaide. Australia. Earth,” Evie was saying, mega-ly disappointed. She decided at that moment never to get excited or look forward to anything ever again. She’d been tricked. It was just like that time when she was nine, just five years ago. She was watching T.V. with her brother James, quite late at night, and her mum came into the loungeroom and said, “I’ve got a surprise for you,” beckoning her up the hallway with her index finger. Evie couldn’t imagine what it could be, and she was getting all excited until her mum turned into the bathroom and presented her with her toothbrush with a blob of toothpaste on it all ready for her to use. Or when for years she’d wanted a pet kitten and just about every birthday, her dad would surprise her with another toy one.
She certainly hadn’t expected an unpredictable, enigmatic, space and time-travelling, adventurous lunatic such as the Captain to be the one to do it to her next. Well, never again.
When Evie Bamford stepped off the Train all she saw was a road full of traffic in a place she recognised, from being driven past it every morning on the way to school. “Captain!” she called over her shoulder. “That’s not fair!”
The Captain heard her from where he was inside the Train’s engine room. What she was saying couldn’t possibly have made any sense. As far as he knew, he had just taken both Evie Bamford and Paulo Vistar to a planet in the Tuba Galaxy where there are many different kinds of harmless animals that Evie would have marvelled at. So what wasn’t fair? He rushed out of the engine room, through the cozy, wood-panelled carriage and tumbled out into the open air bumping into the back of them. “That’s odd,” he said with a confused frown.
“Don’t pretend,” said Evie, indignantly. But then her annoyance subsided and she sighed. “I suppose you’re right. I should let my parents know I’m okay at least.”
“No, honestly,” said the Captain, “That wasn’t meant to happen! Believe me...” his voice trailed off as he saw something very long, very fat and very scaly pounding across the road. It caused many cars to stop suddenly, triggering several collisions and sending the smell of hot brakes into the air. “...and I don’t think that’s supposed to happen either.”
At first, Evie and Paulo thought he meant the car crashes that had just occurred right in front of their eyes, but then they saw what it was that had caused the hullabaloo. Evie’s instinct was to run. The Captain knew not to make any sudden moves. Paulo didn’t know what to do, for the simple reason that he’d never seen an animal like it before. But if I assume that you, the reader, are from Earth, (unless of course you’re not, in which case welcome to this lovely and fascinating planet and I hope you enjoy your time here), then I will assume that you’ve probably seen one of these yourself. If not in real life, then definitely on a television documentary, on the Internet or in Peter Pan. Walking at its own leisure across the road–either completely oblivious to the calamity it was causing, or malevolently prowling the land, seeking out whom it might devour, depending on which way you look at it–was a huge, green and gold, scaly, terrifying, real-live crocodile.
Paulo, seeing the Captain and Evie’s reaction to such a sight, said, “I gather that animal doesn’t typically wander the streets of Adelaide, then.”
When its cold reptilian eyes suddenly looked towards them, Evie’s hands leaped up to her mouth in a gasp.
As if smelling her fear, the crocodile locked its gaze onto her and took a step toward the travellers. Then, before the Captain could say “Shooting Star!” the crocodile was after them–charging forward with its powerful, stumpy legs.
All three of them yelped quite uncontrollably and the Captain shouted out, “Back onto the Train! Quick!” He let them pass through first, took one last glance at the magnificent, smiling creature and its magnificent shiny teeth and then sprung up into the Train himself slamming the door shut behind him. He lunged toward the controls and got the engine going.
“It won’t be able to get in, will it?” Evie asked in a panic.
“Not straight away, but if it keeps bashing and bashing at the door, I’m sure it will find a way... through the hole it makes.”
“Don’t worry, that’s why I’m dematerialising.”
“Oh. Well hurry up, before it starts bashing!”
“But the Train’s invisible, Captain!” said Paulo.
“Alright alright, not invisible, but like an optical illusion. Shouldn’t the crocodile not be able to see it?”
“Probably won’t stop him from bashing into it...” then he said, quieter, “...in fact, it probably makes him more likely to bash into it.”
Suddenly, there was a big BASH! and the Train rocked.
“Captain!” Evie said anxiously.
“It’s alright now. We’re on our way,” the Captain said with a flick of his wrist as it came down on one of the controls. The engine room had two main control decks. One was in the centre of the room which had the furnace in its core that occasionally had to be fed with a special type of coal called Carnane Fuel and at which the Captain was standing now, and the other was along the far side of the room–at the front of the Train, above which was a wide window to look out of.
“On our way, where?” asked Evie and she started making her way towards the other windows which were on either side of the carriage room. The carriage was beautifully furnished with an old fashioned standard lamp, a bookshelf stuffed with books and two luxurious sofas opposite each other and it was above these where the windows were. However, Evie saw that the shields were across and so she couldn’t see out.
“Where are we going, Captain?” Evie said, hoping for the Tuba galaxy.
“We’re going to the zoo. What’s the nearest one you reckon?”
“It’d be the Adelaide Zoo.”
“Not a very original name,” said Paulo.
“Right,” said the Captain, “I’ll set the coordinates.”
“Can’t see what that will do,” said Evie.
The Captain knew she was referring to the Train’s current difficulty in getting its passengers to where they intended to go. “It’s because of that tragic, grizzly villain that got in here and tried to get the Train to work when I’d locked the controls up. I haven’t had a chance to examine what kind of damage he did. I’m afraid it’s made her a bit unpredictable. But we might get there.”
Evie wasn’t feeling very positive about the Captain’s comment which was reeking with uncertainty, but she hated being negative about things. “We could pray that we get there!” she said cheerfully.
“Go on then.”
She suddenly got a rush of butterflies, and it was clear on her face.
“You don’t have to do it out loud,” the Captain said.
She was relieved.
While she was quiet for a little while, the Captain rematerialised the Train and asked Paulo to push a button that was near him. They could now see out the windows.
“Look at that!” the Captain said with delight. It looked very zoo-like outside.
Evie looked surprised and then said, “Never mind, God, we’re there!”
The Captain looked at her and rolled his eyes. “Oh you’re one of those people are you?”
“One of what people?”
“People who ask God for something and when they get it, they tell God to forget about answering that particular prayer because it’s just happened. That’s one of my pet hates, I’m sorry. What does it say in the Bible? Ask and it shall be given to you. What did you just pray for? And who then, do you think was responsible for getting us to the right place?”
Before Evie had an opportunity to respond, (but after she had a small chance to smile a bit in realisation), the Captain said, “Shall we go?”
The zoo was a busy hubbub of reporters; camera men; journalists; photographers; tourists trying to see something interesting; zoo keepers trying to control the reporters, camera crew, journalists, photographers and tourists trying to see something interesting; and policemen.
As the Captain and the small crew of the Train walked out unnoticed onto the scene, they realised that about a metre away, a lady-reporter was reporting in front of a camera at that very moment and they listened to what she was saying.
“At this stage, it does appear that the male crocodile is the only major exhibit to have escaped along with a collection of smaller reptiles from the reptile house, only metres away from the crocodile enclosure. The zoo facilitators have managed to restrain the second crocodile from escaping and they are at this moment repairing the damage that was found in the fencing of the enclosure. It still remains a mystery at the moment how the damage occurred. But it has been confirmed that all the reptiles that did manage to escape have escaped the same way, meaning the damage done to the crocodile enclosure is identical to the damage that appears to have been made to the reptile house enclosures as well. The keepers here are not yet able to identify whether this has been a result of human vandalism, or whether there has been an accidental occurrence of some sort near the fencing of the enclosures. Specialist crocodile handlers have been sent for in order to retrieve the animal. zoo management are certain that the crocodile has actually got out of the zoo, whereas the other smaller reptiles are believed to be still within the Adelaide Zoo’s boundaries. They’ve advised that if anybody should see the crocodile, not to try and catch it or lure it in any way, but to simply keep as far away from it as possible and call the number on the screen.”
There was a pause in her speech and she looked like she was listening to something in an ear-phone.
“Yes, certainly,” she then continued. “They estimate it’s now been approximately eight hours since the crocodile got away, so really, it could be anywhere by now.”
She paused again and listened.
“Those in the neighbouring suburbs should definitely be cautious about going outside at the moment. Especially if you live in areas where trees and shrubbery are dense. The zoo keepers say that the crocodile will be looking for moist, grassy areas to hide in and protect itself. Er... once again, I’ll stress that if you spot the animal, just get on the phone and call the number that’s on the screen now and the experts will know where to head. Do not try and go near it. If there are a lot of people around, it may feel the need to defend itself, which means danger for us, so...”
She paused again.
“Yep, things look pretty hectic here at the moment, but there’s definitely no danger of a crocodile loose. The danger’s out there somewhere. Families and tourists came for a relaxing day at the zoo today and instead got this,” she smiled as she gestured to all the commotion behind her.
“Hope the croc’s going to be alright,” said Paul Bamford, standing up behind the couch of the lounge room.
Madeline Bamford was sitting on the couch in front of the television watching the report.
“…are trying to encourage zoo visitors to stay away from the reptile house and ask that anyone who was thinking of coming to the zoo today, to please rearrange their plans, there is just too much commotion happening here as it is...”
“Poor thing,” Paul continued, “probably didn’t want to be in a cage to begin with.”
“Shhh,” said Madeline Bamford to her husband.
“...again that if you see the animal, do not try and approach it, do not harm it in any way. The best thing you can do is go straight to your phone and...”
“I wonder where it is,” Madeline said. “How long is it going to take to find...” her voice trailed off as she saw something on the T.V. screen that shocked, surprised and amazed her. “Is... is that...”
“Well thank you Kelly for that update. We’ll cross back to you again soon if there are any other major developments. To sport now. Rob, tell us about the Brisbane Lions on the weekend...”
“Is that what?” said Paul.
“On the T.V. in the background.”
“What? It’s a news desk.”
“No, before, at the zoo. I’m sure it was Evelyn.”
“Yes, our daughter Evie! I’m sure it was. Wandering around in the background.” Madeline Bamford had already started putting her shoes on. “Where are the car keys? Lock up the house. We’re going to the zoo.”
“It sounds like they’ve got the situation under control,” said Evie, watching all the commotion around her and just about every second person holding their digital cameras in the air. “Or at least, they have plans of how to get it under control. There’s probably not much you can do, Captain.”
“Who said I wanted to do anything?” he replied, also taking in everything that was happening, observing everything he saw. “It’s a bit sad that the crocodile was locked up in a cage in the first place. I’m not going to help them put him back there.”
“It’s an enclosure,” said Evie. “Not a cage.”
“Same thing,” the Captain replied with a mouthful of ice-cream.
“Where’d you get that?” Evie said in amazement, pointing at the vanilla ice-cream cone he suddenly had in his hand.
“When did you get it?” Paulo asked, baffled.
“A minute or so ago.”
“I want one.”
“Don’t trail off the topic. What were we saying? Oh yes. I have no interest in bringing an animal who thinks he’s finally free from imprisonment back into captivity.”
“Well how about saving a community from croc-o-dile attacks?” Paulo asked. “It sounds like this is quite a dangerous animal.”
“Like Evelyn said, they’ve got it under control.”
“Well, we may as well go then,” said Evie. “We could go to that place we were going to go to, before we landed in a place we weren’t going to go to until a later time.”
The Captain opened his mouth to answer, but then paused. “...I’ll work that one out when I’ve got a few minutes to spare.”
“Well if it’s all the same to you Evelyn,” said Paulo, “I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of Earth, now that we’re here. If it’s alright with the Captain.”
“Of course it is, we’re not going anywhere.”
“But I thought you said you weren’t interested in helping the zoo keepers catch the crocodile,” said Evie.
“I’m not. What I’d like to find out is how the crocodile escaped.”
“Whether it was human vandalism or accidental?”
“Or something else,” he replied in a distant sort of sinister way.
What the Captain had said got Paulo thinking. “Who in their right mind would let this crocodile loose?”
“Someone who’s not right in the mind probably,” Evie replied. She looked at Paulo. “Unfortunately there are a lot of idiots on this planet, Paulo.”
“What’s an i-di-ot?”
The Captain sighed, “Many people are not right in the mind. And there are many who at any given time are not in their right mind. But you never know. I’d feel much more satisfied if I knew the truth about how that crocodile escaped.”
“Evelyn Michelle Bamford!” came a voice suddenly from a short distance away.
“That’s my name,” Evie said, confused. She spun around to see who had called her. It had sounded suspiciously like her mother. She looked for her in the crowd, but couldn’t quite see.
Then when it came again, “Evie!!” along with a big exaggerated wave, Evie could see her pushing through tourists to get to her.
“Mum!” Evie called back and ran over to the crowd of people that her mother seemed to be snagged on.
Madeline got through to the clear part of the pathway successfully and as soon as she was disentangled from the crowd, Evie grabbed her into a big tight hug.
“What are you doing here?” Evie’s mum asked.
“Is Dad with you?” Evie asked.
“Where have you been?”
“How did you know I was here?”
“What happened on Summer Camp? Why didn’t you come home?”
“Is James back?”
“Why must you worry me so?”
“Have you seen this crocodile on the loose yet?”
“Who were those people with you?”
“How long have I been away for?”
“Do you have any idea how worried we’ve been?”
“Has Tanya from school asked about me?”
“Oh I love this game!” said the Captain suddenly, as he’d reached the two excited females. “Can I play?”
“What game?” they asked in unison.
“The question game, where you have to reply to everything with a question or you lose.”
“Who are you?” Evie’s mother asked.
“Erm, who do you think I am?”
“How do you know my daughter?”
“Would you believe I met her on a Train?” the Captain smiled.
“What were you doing on a train?” she turned to Evie.
“Wasn’t it next to the Train that we actually met?”
“Can I please get a straight answer?”
“Did you want a straight answer?”
“Yes of course!”
“You lose!” cried the Captain–a big smile on his face.
“I beg your pardon!” Evie’s mum was so confused.
“Sorry mum, look, this is the Captain. And this is Paulo. They’re my friends.”
“I’ve never met them before.”
“Well I’m introducing you now.”
Evie’s mum was still confused, but she shook both the man and the boy’s hand for now and then announced, “Well I’m very pleased to meet you but I’m taking this young lady home now. She’s got a lot of explaining to do.”
“No mum, not yet.”
Madeline grabbed her daughter firmly by the wrist. “I’m sorry that my patience and flippancy seem to have deserted me at the moment, but I have a daughter who’s been missing for three days on top of the four days at Summer Camp. And when I asked the youth group where you were, they told me you hadn’t even shown up at Summer Camp. So please forgive me for expecting a straight answer.” She addressed the Captain. “I’m sorry, but you and your son will have to continue your little outing without Evelyn.”
“Mum, give me a chance to explain,” Evie tried to say, but her mother was already dragging her away from Paulo and the Captain.
There were so many things Evie wanted to shout back to them, yet she didn’t exactly know what to shout back or what was the most important thing she should get out before they were out of earshot. So she found herself being torn further and further away from them, without saying a word.
Strangely, the Captain wasn’t even looking at Evie disappearing into the crowd towards the main gate. He seemed to be preoccupied with something else and so Paulo took the liberty to shout out to Evie, “It’s okay! You do what you need to do! We’ll come and get you!”
Later, when Evie was in the car, being driven away from the zoo, she was angry at herself for not thinking of the most obvious thing to call back to Paulo after he’d said what he said. Her address.
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Others in the series so far…
Book 1 – “Moon Man”
Book 2 – “The Birth of Salvation”
Book 3 – “The Sanctuary”
Book 4 – “Furry Friends”