“You have no idea what I mean do you…”
“Not really dear..” Tilly’s mum replied in her usual blasé way as she continued her needlepoint, without even looking up at her frustrated daughter.
You’d think that in her twelve years of living with her mother, Tilly would be used to not being listened to, but it never ceased to amaze her.
“Mum!” Tilly urged.
“Yes dear?” her mother replied, still not lifting her head from her pink, woollen hyacinths.
“Can I camp in the garden tonight?”
“Hmmm” her mother absently murmured.
Suddenly it was like all the lost information had suddenly computed in her mother’s mind.
“Wait, what!? Why on earth would you want to sleep in the garden!?” some of the information anyway…
“So I can watch the comet display, what I’ve been explaining to you for the past half hour!” Tilly huffed.
The ridiculing laugh that followed answered Tilly’s question. “You are a strange one Tilly!” her mother scoffed.
“Why?! Why am I strange because I want to watch the comet display?” Tilly challenged, tired of being ridiculed for things she felt were completely reasonable and made perfect sense.
“Oh Tilly!” her mother laughed. “Watch it on T.V tomorrow like a normal person, I don’t want you sleeping in the garden do I!…what would the neighbours say!” she added.
Tilly rolled her eyes and slid off of the sofa in her amateur dramatic way onto the floor. She crossed her legs and started to pull up the side of the rug as she mourned her lost experience of watching the comets outside.
“How can you not be interested in space mum? I mean, why am I the weird one, when all you care about is your stupid needlepoint and whatever rubbish it is your watching?!” Tilly frowned as she watched the orange-skinned girl dance with her dog on television.
“Oh be quiet, this is a good bit!” her mother paused her craft for a moment to shoo Tilly out of the way of the screen, so abidingly, Tilly hoisted herself up and out of the room.
She plodded up the stairs to her bedroom and slung herself onto her bed, defeated. She reached over to the bedside lamp and clicked her way into darkness, and then rolled over to her window to look out at the night sky. She wasn’t intending to close her curtains tonight, or believe herself to be as silly as her mother thought.
As soon as Tilly fixed her gaze onto the inky night sky, her eyelids fell heavy and she sank into a deep sleep.
Hours later, Tilly’s eyes sprung open at the sound of an unusual, distorted chime that she could hear in the distance. At first she thought it was in her head, like part of her dream that hadn’t faded yet, but as she sat up in her bed and listened carefully, she could hear it’s distinctive tune that she knew so well.
“Is that…it can't be?!” Tilly thought to herself, perplexed.
Suddenly, Tilly remembered the comets and reached out to grab her clock on the bedside table. The red LED numbers burned into her tired eyes. 3.36 am.
Without hesitating, Tilly kicked off her bedsheets and hopped out of bed. She slipped on her slippers and grabbed her huge, knitted, green cardigan that shouldered her desk chair.
She opened her bedroom door slowly and tip toed out onto the landing, and then carefully down the stairs to the back door. She paused for a second as she listened to the strange song that cranked its way through the streets outside. “Why is no one else awake? It’s so loud and weird!” she thought to herself. Tilly opened the back door and stepped outside, looking both ways.
She was unsure whether she should run to the back garden to check out the comet display or into the front garden to see what was going on. She decided that the front garden should reveal all, the oddly timed ice cream van that was churning out it’s clumsy melody and the comet shower should be visible from anywhere with a clear view. So, she ran into the front garden and out into the street to see the ice cream van at the end of the road, muted from it’s usual pastel palette as it was lit up by the dull, amber street lights.
“Huh?” she mused out loud as she looked at the van which ominously took up the space in the road. It sat there, now silenced and appeared to be waiting for something.
Tilly was so distracted that she forgot to look up at the night sky, and started walking slowly toward the van. Its giant ice cream cone that was propped askew on the the roof was usually a beacon for all the neighbourhood kids on a sunny day, but the way it beckoned to Tilly was nothing like she had ever remembered. She kept on walking until she reached the van and gingerly stepped up to the window.
“Hel-hello?” Tilly nervously whimpered as she looked up to see the back of a peculiar looking person.
The figure was stooped over the freezer with their back to Tilly, and she couldn’t quite make out if it was a man or a woman. She instinctively thought it was a man, with a broad, stocky body but then noticed that they were wearing a long, purple skirt and had wild, dark hair held up by a garish pink scrunchy.
“Excuse me…” Tilly said in a meek voice.
The figure stopped its shuffling over the freezer and paused.
Tilly caught her breath as she anxiously waited for the figure to turn around, but the strange character held their position, their only movement was the heaving of their large upper body as they breathed raspy, deep breathes.
The figure then cocked its head up to the side as if it had just heard Tilly.
“Yeeees please?” It said in a shrill, almost taunting voice.
Tilly’s eyes widened as she observed the creepy being, and felt even more startled than before. After hearing their voice, Tilly went back to thinking that it must be a man, doing a dramatic impression of a woman that was laced with sarcasm.
“I…uh…what are you doing here?” she managed to stammer out.
The figures reaction was to drop whatever it was holding into the chest freezer beneath it, and shuffle its way to the front of the van without revealing the front of themselves to Tilly.
Tilly waited patiently for a moment, almost too scared to move, and then after taking a big gulp, she leant forward to see that the figure was now sitting in the driving seat.
“Excuse me…” Tilly quietly called out, regretting it as soon as she had said spoken.
In an instant, the engine started up and the van slowly pulled away from Tilly and made its way along the road. Tilly stood there and watched, a sigh of relief escaping her lips.
Confused and tired, Tilly could do nothing more than stand still for a moment and allow her fear to simmer down. She looked up at the night sky and willed herself to see a comet. As she studied the stars emphatically, she was suddenly interrupted by the clownish chime of the ice cream van again. The song was different to the usual daytime song, which Tilly remembered was always ‘You are my sunshine’.
It took a few seconds for Tilly to churn the tune around in her head until she remembered the lyrics perfectly. Her lips started to move as she softly sang the words “Run rabbit..run rabbit..run, run, ru…” she paused to quickly flip her gaze towards the van that was now far along the road, and was being followed by two small people.
Tilly focused her gaze and realised that two children in their pyjamas were following the van. She then spotted another child appear from the their front garden and walk out into the road to follow them.
She watched the children walk down the street, silently stalking the van that they always anticipated. She felt overcome with sadness as she hugged herself tightly, pulling her giant cardigan closer to her body. She looked back up at the sky and quietly willed herself to see a comet. “Come on!” she whispered to herself as she stared up at the stars above, before nervously glancing back at the transfixed children. Her eyes flitted back up to the sky in her last hope to spot a comet. She knew that if she didn’t see one, she would be left with no other conscious choice than to follow the children and try to help them in some way. But all she really wanted was to fulfil her own wish, and return to her safe bed.
The harrowing tune continued to play as Tilly desperately searched the sky. Then just as she was prepared to resign herself to a fate unknown, a bright comet streaked above her, allowing Tilly’s fear to slip away and be conveniently stored with her other forgotten memories. She stopped herself from looking back and walked in her front garden. She snuck sneakily back to her bed, and as she lay there, looking out of her bedroom window, she quietly sang along to the song that haunted the streets.
“Run rabbit..run rabbit, run, ru…” The music suddenly stopped. Tilly bit her lip as she held tightly onto her bedcovers and wondered where the children might end up, and after a while, she fell into another, deep sleep.