It was just after 8pm when the knock came at Maisie’s wardrobe door. She had been put to bed by her mum only ten minutes before and was still lying awake, staring at the glow-in-the-dark stars that her father had stuck on her ceiling for her fifth birthday.
“Hullo?” queried a polite, muffled voice through the slats.
Maisie hopped out of bed and opened the wardrobe door. There among her chequered school summer dresses and multi-coloured leggings stood a creature not much taller than herself but similar in appearance to a diplodocus. She knew about diplodocuses from a pop-up book she’d received that Christmas.
“Well goodness me!” exclaimed the creature.
“Can I help you?” asked Maisie, cheerfully.
“Well this is rather embarrassing…” The creature looked around Maisie’s room in confusion. “I’m terribly sorry to bother you but I’ve been sent on a reconnaissance mission from my planet Qarn… My boss was convinced that the species populating your planet were somewhat similar in appearance to us… I was actually expecting to land in a very different… There was nothing in the research about this sort of thing…” The diplodocus tapped the wardrobe door awkwardly and gave Maisie an apologetic smile. “Um, is my translator chip working for you? It should help you to understand me…”
Maisie wasn’t sure what “translator chip” meant. Or “reconnaissance.”
“Oh no,” replied Maisie, ignoring the latter question. “That was a long time ago. We mostly look like this now.” She pointed at herself. Her white fleece pyjamas were dotted with cartoon rabbits. She saw the rabbits and remembered. “Except for the rabbits of course. And the birds. And orangutans…” She trailed off when she saw the baffled look on her visitor’s face. “They did used to look like you but that was a long time ago… at least a hundred years I think.” The visitor looked crestfallen. She felt terrible.
“You’re welcome to stay anyway,” she offered. “My mum makes lovely hot chocolate. I’m sure she’d be happy to make you some! I could show you my encyclopedia. It explains about the rabbits!” The visitor was fumbling with an ear piece, mumbling something about bad timing and miscalculations.
“Oh no, that’s really alright… I’d probably better get back and explain the mistake to my boss. I’m terribly sorry to have wasted your time!”
“Well if you’re sure…” Maisie wasn’t certain how to cheer her new friend up. “I know! Wait there…” She turned around and scanned her little bookshelf. Between ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’ and ‘The Jolly Postman’ she found her pop-up book of dinosaurs. She plucked it from the shelf and spun around, but the wardrobe was empty; the only evidence of the visit was a crumpled summer dress on the floor with the memory of a dusty footprint in it.
“What a shame to have a wasted trip,” thought Maisie, as she clicked the wardrobe door shut and climbed back into bed. The ceiling stars blazed as she drifted into a deep sleep.