Friday 6 April 2012


Jeremy peered out from behind his father, trying to catch a glimpse of the planet in the cupboard.

The engineer didn’t leave the door open for long, but Jeremy saw it, and it was amazing, awesome, glorious.


It was like a shimmering blue and green marble, but bigger, medicine ball sized, turning slowly and wreathed in white puffs of cloud like cotton wool or misted breath. Exactly like misted breath, he thought, it was all water vapour. He’d learnt that on the science feed.

As the engineer sealed the chamber Jeremy played back his eyeFeed, cut the two seconds where he could see the planet and fed it to his friends. Billy Carmichael would be so jealous.

“Well,” Jeremy’s father squinted at the Engineer’s badge, “Colin, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing wrong, Mr. Harcourt, the society is just entering an energy conservation phase.”

“Isn’t that bad? Won’t that mean less energy for us?”

Jeremy rolled his eyes, “it’s perfectly normal, dad, it was all on the school feed.”

The engineer, Colin, looked round the room at the old-fashioned LCD walls. His eyeFeed told him that each was being run on its own outdated processor. With the kind of heat output they must be generating he guessed the house must need the air conditioning on chill even in the middle of winter.

“Your boy’s right, it’s expected. Most people wouldn’t notice it, but I can see you have higher energy needs than some households.”

“It’s the kids, you know, they gotta have the latest tech.” He tousled Jeremy’s hair and gave the engineer a knowing look.

“Daa-ad.” Jeremy wriggled out from under his hand.

Colin nodded back agreeably. Except that the latest tech, the mePCs and eyeFeeds, were very energy-efficient. The walls could be blank and the kids probably wouldn’t notice, in fact, most people left them blank and just let their eyeFeed fill in the details. But it was easier to just smile and nod than try to correct Mr. Harcourt’s type.

“It’s not going to be an ongoing problem is it?”

“No, no problem. Energy conservation is expected, it means they’ll be actively pushing for some new source, and they should discover some form of renewable infinenergy, like zero point or cold fusion, or even World Boxes.”

“Like us, Dad. We were in a conservation phase when Professor Eagleman invented our World Boxes.”

“Hey, that’s a real smart kid you’ve got, Mr. Harcourt.”

Jeremy’s chest swelled with pride. “I’m gonna be an engineer like you when I grow up.”

Now Mr. Harcourt rolled his eyes.

Colin laughed, “Keep at it, kid.”

At the front door he shook Mr. Harcourt’s hand.

“There’s a tiny chance they’ll go terminal if they don’t find a new energy source, blow themselves up in a fight for dwindling resources, but that’s rare.” He saw the look on the man’s face, “And it’s covered by your warrantee. We’ll replace the planet free of charge. Otherwise I’ll be back for a check-up in a fortnight.”

The engineer, whose real name was Voth, not Colin, drove away. He waved at Jeremy while Mr. Harcourt tried to usher the excited boy back inside their house, then he found a secluded spot down the road and activated the dimensional engines.

With a bright flash and crackle the van was suddenly empty, smoking a little where the engines had, deliberately, burnt themselves out. The van rocked on its suspension.

*** ***

Jemeth peered out from behind his beta-father, trying to catch a glimpse of the planet in the cupboard.

“Well, Voth?” Jemeth’s beta-father’s fronds twitched impatiently.

Voth waved at Jemeth with his lower tentacle. The squidlett was standing so close behind his father that his young eyestalks were working overtime to keep from being flicked by the agitated fronds.

“It’s matured nicely, as we thought, shouldn’t be any problems now. They’ve come through the conservation phase and discovered an infinenergy source. Planet-tech, actually, like us.”

“Planet-tech’s really rare, dad,” Jemeth piped. “That’s brilliant!”

One of his beta-father’s eyes turned to glare at Jemeth, but Voth smiled with both mouths.

“He’s right. Hey, that’s a real smart squidlett you’ve got, mr. Harcth.”

Jemeth was too young to smile properly, but Voth could tell he was trying.

“I’m going to be a technician like you when I grow up!”


  1. That's funny. And also full of cool ideas, I really like the idea of World Boxes as a source of power.

    Squidlett cute or not cute? I can't decide.

    I also liked all the little details about the alien culture.

    1. Thanks, Pete.

      Cute, I think. ^_^
      I wanted to add a lot of fast cues to indicate that it definitely wasn't a human culture.

  2. Clever! The normalcy, then the veil comes off…

  3. All things being relative, for all we know we ARE that planet in the cupboard, just as the Squidlett and his world may be in another being's cupboard.

    Rich in imagination John.

    1. Thanks, Steve. =)

      Maybe it's a daisy chain, rather than a stack, and if you keep going up through cupboards eventually you'll make it back to the world you started from... ;)

  4. Brilliant. I liked the whole science fiction flavor and the mix of worlds, but the russian doll ending moved it over the top.

  5. For a while there I thought they were just very bright advance humans, then the reveal came. I think the name Squidlett is cute. ^_^ I loved the idea of the planet in the cupboard.

  6. Very, very cool. It's nice to read some straight-on SF. I loved the Twilight Zone twist at the end.

    1. Thanks, Katherine. The twist just fell into place with this one. =)