Not So Peachy
“Th…thank you,” he managed to stammer.
“It’s okay,” she replied in her serious voice. “I saw you lying down in front of the world and I thought I’d better do something.”
“You saved my life,” exclaimed Neville. “What can I do to repay you?”
“Don’t worry about it,” said the girl quickly. “I did what I had to do.”
“Well I still feel like I owe you something. My name’s Neville by the way.”
“Nice to meet you, Neville. I’m Helen. Why don’t you come this way?”
Neville followed Helen to a small asteroid not far from the edge of the field. He lay down on the soft ground and closed his eyes, waiting for his heart to stop racing and his nerves to stop bouncing and jangling like an extremely agitated marionette.
Soft ground? None of the other asteroids he had visited had soft ground. He opened his eyes and sat up again, and was instantly amazed by his new surroundings.
He was lying on a grassy lawn. All around him were pots full of colourful flowers and at the far end was a small tree. Helen was watering the flowers with a little yellow watering can, but when she noticed that Neville was sitting up again she walked towards the tree and picked a piece of fruit from it.
“Would you like a peach?” she asked.
Neville nodded eagerly. He accepted the peach and took a big bite. It was delicious. Sweet and juicy, with just that little touch of tartness that a good peach should have.
“Is this your asteroid?” he asked Helen. She nodded.
“It’s lovely. Did you plant all of this yourself?”
She nodded again, her face still looking very serious.
“Wow,” exclaimed Neville. “This is definitely the nicest asteroid I have ever seen.”
“Thank you,” said Helen quietly. “Have you been out here for long?”
“Not really,” replied Neville. “I’ve been to a few other asteroids but the people I’ve met have all been completely mad. In fact you’re the first sensible person I’ve met in this asteroid field.”
Helen almost smiled at that. She picked up her watering can and began watering the flowers again. Neville finished the peach and looked around, searching for a rubbish bin to put the pip into. But there didn’t seem to be one anywhere.
“Excuse me Helen, what should I do with this pip?”
“Oh just throw it away.”
“Throw it away?” Neville was shocked. “But I don’t want to litter your lovely asteroid.”
“It’s a peach pip,” said Helen. “If you throw it away, it will grow into a peach tree. And that means even more peaches for us to eat.”
Neville was impressed by Helen’s logic. He threw the peach pip so that it landed next to the peach tree. Then he lay back again, watching the other asteroids fly past. “Now this is the sort of asteroid a guy could really get used to,” he said. “You don’t mind if I stay a while do you?”
“Stay as long as you want.”
Neville was beginning to like Helen too. He watched her as she moved about the flowers, carefully measuring out a little stream of water for each. She had gone to such an effort to create a little paradise in the middle of a wasteland. And yet there was something about her that didn’t quite fit. Something about the way she didn’t seem able to just relax and enjoy her surroundings. She always looked so serious. Even when she smiled, it seemed like she had a great weight on her shoulders.
Suddenly Neville was concerned about her. After all, she had helped him out. Maybe he could find some way to return the favour and make her feel better. “Is there something wrong?” he called out to her.
“I’m worried,” she replied.
“About the world.”
“What about the world?”
Helen stopped her watering and sat next to Neville. “It’s moving too fast.”
“But we don’t have to worry about that,” said Neville. “We’re not on the world anymore. It can move as fast as it wants and we can just sit back and watch it.”
“Pick up that peach pip again,” instructed Helen, pointing to where Neville had thrown it.
Oh no, thought Neville. After everything had seemed so good, suddenly it looked like Helen was just as mad as everybody else.
Helen must have been reading Neville’s mind. “I’m not mad,” she insisted. “Just go and pick up the pip.”
Neville did as he was told. He crawled over and picked up the pip. Then he crawled back to Helen.
“Give it to me.”
Neville handed it over. Helen had already picked a few stalks of grass and tied them together to form a sort of string. She looped one end of this string around the pip and knotted it tight. Then she handed the other end to Neville.
“Now stand up and swing it around your head.”
Neville looked at the strange contraption. Then he looked back at Helen. She had insisted that she was not mad but Neville was beginning to have his doubts.
“Just do it,” said Helen in a stern voice.
Neville stood up and began to swing the pip around his head. He felt a little silly, as if he were a pretend cowboy swinging a lasso at a rodeo, but he kept on going anyway.
“Now faster,” ordered Helen.
Neville swung the pip around faster. It began to make a soft whooshing sound as it spun around his head.
The pip was really racing around Neville’s head now. The whooshing was beginning to get louder and he could feel the strain on his arm as the pip pulled at it.
Neville was getting dizzy as the pip hurtled around.
“As fast as you can!” cried Helen.
Neville had almost had enough of this. The pip was going so fast he couldn’t even see it, and his arm was really aching now. But just as he was about to stop, his suspicions about Helen utterly confirmed, something happened.
The grass string snapped. Freed from its restraints, the pip immediately flew away over the lawn. It crashed into one of the flower pots, smashing it into a hundred pieces.
“Oh no!” cried Neville. He raced over to the broken pot but there was nothing he could do. It was completely destroyed.
“I’m so sorry about your flower pot,” he said.
“The pot isn’t important,” said Helen. “But can you see now why I’m so worried?”
For a moment Neville still didn’t know what she meant. Then suddenly it hit him. The pip was the world and the grass string was the sun’s gravitational pull. And if the world kept on getting faster and faster, it would eventually break away from that gravitational pull and fly off into space. And if anything lay in its way? Neville looked down at the shattered flower pot, instantly realising what it represented. The first thing the world would crash into once it had escaped from its orbit.
He looked back at Helen, totally panic-stricken. She returned his gaze and nodded, resignation in her eyes. At last Neville managed to speak.
“This asteroid field is doomed!”
Want to know more? What further adventures does Neville experience? Can he possibly save the asteroid field?
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