I heard a thunder somewhere in the distance. Lightning were flashing in the sky while it was pouring with rain on the blinds on the windows. I was alone in the lab, all the collaborators had gone somewhere within three days. Furthermore, there was no electricity. It was as boring as one can imagine. There was a phone near, probably the lab phone, but it was working with electricity and that’s why the screen was empty. I had only an MP3 player with batteries that probably would work for half an hour. But I didn’t feel like listening to music. Instead, I watched through the window how the wind bent the trees and how the rain poured like jets into the puddles. I had no umbrella, so I had to stay here until the rain stopped, which probably wouldn’t happen soon.
According to the locals a storm like this hadn’t happened in the city for many years. It was scary – it felt as if the wind would eradicate all the trees and shrubs after just a few seconds.
A lightning flashed again. The window flutter before my eyes and when the thunder echoed, it was gone. I looked around startled – the whole building was suddenly gone. I was standing in the middle of a green field irrigated by the pouring rain and getting more wet every second. I sought for a refuge of some kind but there weren’t any. Tall trees swayed before my eyes, but I had to stay away from them – as the highest thing around they were like a magnet for lightnings. The safest for me was to sit on the ground and wait the storm to pass. So I looked down to see what the pitch was and if I could find a place with less mud. In the next moment I gasped – just half a meter from me stood a tiny creature of the hight of a little child with crestfallen butterfly wings on its back. It was also looking at me and when our eyes met, it diverted its eyes toward the ground.
– Mi dispiace. Un piccolo errore. – muttered it in Italian. Then continued with greater enthusiasm to speak in Italian, but did not understand anything and I told it so.
– Do you speak English? – I decided to try. Once sellers understood me, there was a chance that it would comprehend. However, it continued to gaze towards me. – Deutch? – I tried again but without success. – Ах, гаденыш маленкий.1 – The words came out of my mouth as a reflex, no one here spore Russian. The little creature however grinned and even answered:
– Я можно бить маленким, но я не гаденыш, а гном. Давай валить отсюда.2 – it said and pointed me with its hand to follow it
Indeed, when soaking in a sea of mud and wet grass could be avoided, I didn’t mind to follow him. Another lightning shined in the dirty-gray sky and just a second later the space was torn by the thunder. I walked leaning after the nimble gnome, for a protection from the thunders. I was trying to keep up to its rapid steps and wondered where it would lead me. The place appeared to be short on people. I was curious if there were other gnomes or it was as deserted as it seemed.
Five to ten minutes later we descended into a valley where a little cottage was located. It had a low thatched roof which reached to my chin, but at least I hoped it wouldn’t let the rain in. My companian opened the door and without waiting for another invitation I squeezed inside. I felt the difference immediately – I had gotten numb outside, but here it seemed cozy and the cold wind wasn’t blowing me anymore. The gnome lighted the fireplace and gave me some blanket to fold into. I hesitantly took off my sweater and crawled to squeeze it into the sink. Wearing only a shirt I settled in an undersized chair by the fireplace and put the blanket on me. The gnome continued to do some chores around the house as if it was his own, it poured water into a large pot and put it on the fire, pulled another chair and also sat by the fireplace.
– Now, I suppose you expect me to tell you what you’re doing here? – asked the gnome in Russian.
I nodded and waited for the response.
– Well, the question is that I was on a mission, but I got confused and as I left, took you with me by mistake.
– What mission? – I was eager to ask
– Secret mission. – replied the creature. Apparently I wouldn’t hear more on the matter.
– And how it happened that an Italian gnome like you would know Russian?
– What do you think? – Obviously nothing as I asked him directly – Actually it is quite simple – my mother is Russian. What, don’t you believe that there are Russian gnomes?
– I do not believe that there are gnomes at all. – I said, looking at it from head to toe
– Well yes, you people would not believe anything if it didn’t gouge your eyes. Or if they didn’t write it on the Internet. – he looked at me grumpy to highlight his thought how we humans are like horses with lids – No, we are for real, however we practically retired here in our dimension. We wouldn’t like to be shot all day long with cameras. And then put in a zoo.
I decided that no response was expected from me, so I stood silent. Yet he could be right, who knows. Gnomes in a zoo – it would be a rather interesting variety.
– And where does your strange pronunciation come from? – asked the gnome after finishing with his monologue
– I am from Bulgaria. – I answered
– Oh, yeah. Many gnomes live there, especially in the mountains. You have very pretty mountains in Bulgaria.
– Thanks. – I replied. It went to bring cups for the tea and I wondered whether it was male or female. He spoke like a man, but the way he managed in the house suggested that it rather belonged to the female estate. The weather outside was still very disgusting, but the house was warm and the tea, though slightly bitter, was very pleasant. We sat still for some time and drank in silence. The gnome occasionally looked through the only window to see if the weather would clear our over time. The rain soon almost stopped and the lightnings declined. My host got up from the stool and told me:
– I’m going to do my job. During this time you better stay here. We will then wait for a convenient time and will get you back to where you belong.
Going back, it sounded great. Finally I would put off these wet clothes, take a shower and watch some movie. I wondered if there would be a rule not to tell anyone about what happened with me here? Or would my memories be erased in a magical way?
The front door squeaked behind me and I looked at it to make sure it is properly closed. Then I rose carefully, kicked off my socks and put them to dry on the adjacent chair with my sweater, remaining still in my shoes – you never know what would roll on the floor. I got up from the chair, leaned just enough not to break through the roof and looked around the house. It consisted of only one room, the angles of which were separated by curtains and contained small beds, apparently for the owners of the house. There were six of them, corresponding to the portrait on the wall – there were two adult dwarfs, apparently the mother and father, and four smaller ones. But none of them looked like the one that led me here.
I heard noises outside and cautiously looked through the window – a group of gnomes were marching in a column down the little valley with bags on their shoulders and their butterfly wings were slightly crestfallen from the rain. Interesting, what did they carry inside the bags?
I tried to watch them from behind the curtain – I had no desire for them to notice me and come question me what I’m doing here. About ten minutes after they were gone, my host reappeared. His gait was intermittent, apparently he had a problem with the mission.
– What happened? – I asked him as to say something – Finished the mission?
He muttered something in Italian under his nose, I caught one or two swear words.
– Bad luck. – announced he now calmer, squashing something out of his hands.
I became suspicious.
– Wait a minute, are those our cables in your hands?
– You’re mistaken. – said the dwarf and tried to hide them behind
– So you went to steal from our laboratory? And what exactly do you need our cables for?
– As if I need your cables! – answered the dwarf in an angry manner and threw them on the ground
– What are you trying to snitch then?
– There is only one thing in your laboratory, which would be worth stealing. – his voice was offended and he understood what he said, just after saying it. However, I got it very well – this creature wanted the new prototype.
– Why do you need it? – I asked him – You don’t have very fancy technology over here.
– If you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. – grizzled the gnome. After a while, continued in a more relaxed mood – We are not like you people to poke our new computers and cellphones in the others’ faces. We do have science and technologies. But they stay in their designated areas. They don’t wallow in the streets and on the tables and we don’t carry them everywhere with us just to show how important we are.
– And furthermore, you steal. – maybe I had to keep my comments to myself, but I got angry at this little creature allowing himself to insult my kind. – What else do you steal, except machinery?
True, my question was provocative and my companion surely felt it. But it seemed that the curiosity from the contact with another reasonable kind had prevailed, so that he replied:
– Everything we could find useful. Did it happen to you, not to be able to find your book for several days in a row? Well, probably one of our people had been taken it to read something. And our women love it to snitch socks – they are good for everything – you can wash the froor with them or dress the baby…
My anger began to go away slowly – we humans were also resource thieves, except that there was not much left to steal. We were more than thieves, we were murderers. Remember the Neanderthals, the Indians, and all the creatures which we killed for food or just for the sport.
– Can you tell me, as you mentioned women, to which gender do you belong?
– I can ask you the same thing. – the little creature grinned towards me
– Isn’t it obvious? – I asked him, almost offended
– How should it be obvious? You have short hair, skinny thighs and flat chest. Personally, I cannot recognize you.
– I’ll tell you, if you tell me. Promise?
– Upon my word. To be damned if I lie.
– Okay then. I am a girl, my name is Maya. What about you?
– I’m out of here. – said it and hurried out.
Ah, the little toad decepted me. I should have known that I mustn’t have faith in it, after all it was trying to steal our prototype from our laboratory. However, it did not get too far, because the woman owner of the house soon returned, dragging it behind her by the ear.
– Thievish creature! – muttered the female gnome and tried to reach the broom by the door to beat him with it. It wouldn’t be easy to guess that she was a woman if there weren’t one of her kids walking behind her crying „Mammaaaa, ho fameeee!“. The next moment she noticed me and while pointing at me with her finger asked loudly who am I and what am I doing in her house.
My gnome finally managed to disengage her firm grip and ran outside, shouting at me to follow him.
– Scuzi, signora. – I said in a guilty manner, while rolling my socks on my wet feet and collecting my sweater from the chair.
Already out, I stared at the gnome’s sore ear.
– Are you okay? – I asked him. That was the question with which I could quickly enough replace „This is not your house, right?“.
– There’s nothing wrong with me. – he muttered, as he dipped his hand in a not very muddy puddle, then grabbed his ear. Meanwhile, above us the clouds started to thicken and soon it began to drizzle slightly.
– Now what? – I asked
– I have to return you to where I have taken you from. If my bosses understand that you were here, I will be punished badly. You know, it is forbidden for humans here.
„We should prohibit our land for gnomes, too“ I thought, but did not share my thoughts aloud.
– How will it happen? – I inquired
– We have just to wait for a big flash and then I will use its power to move you in your dimension. Not that I need a lightning, but it is the fastest solution. Otherwise we should look for other sources of energy such as waterfalls, uranium mines, etc.
Since I did not want to look for an uranium mine, I agreed to the proposal with the flash.
The weather became more repulsive. At first it began to drip with big drops, then the wind started to blow again, and finally it was raining cats and dogs. We were walking near a power line that had appeared from scratch. We tried not to stand too close because it was quite possible for some pillar to fall, either because of the wind or thunder strike. We were hurrying to the place from where I had appeared in this world, but obviously we were using some roundabout route.
– The way that we used to come here has become a quagmire. And as big as you are, you will sink for sure. – explained the gnome
Soon we saw that the muddy path we followed were passing under the lines. It was dangerous, but it was the driest path near, so we had to follow it. Apparently it was made to serve the nearby transformer, which we could hear buzzing between the thunder roars, because the road passed very close to it. Accelerating pace, we tried to pass as quickly as possible under the wires. Only when I found myself at a safe distance from them, I looked around for my companion and I saw him, still walking under the power lines, ten meters from the transformer.
– What’s happened? – I yield when he approached me
– Damn transformers! – he complained – My head hurts because of them! Magnetic fields, electric fields, all kinds of nasty things in there.
“A matter of taste”, I thought. Some were sensitive to noise, others to bright light, why there shouldn’t be a sensitivity to electromagnetic fields? And gnomes were tiny, no wonder the fields influenced them more strongly than us.
We continued to walk under the flood, pouring on the ground. Soon the gnome explained to me, screaming over the storm, that the site was suitable and we only had to wait for a really big flash, because unlike the prototype, my mass was big.
We were standing in the middle of the flooded meadow. The water was pouring from the sky and drove mud splashes to fly in all directions.
– Wouldn’t you at least tell me your name? – I cried, though standing only a meter or so from him
– Well, all right. – he cried in response, apparently irritated by my persistence – my name is Elena, it was the name that my mother gave to me.
We were just watching each other for some time. Each of us tried to understand the other, but without success. Suddenly there was a very bright flash, which hit a nearby poplar tree. It was like in the movies – there were sparks, the tree leaned ominously, and the next moment it started to fall.
– Perfect! – cried Elena. She waved her hand and a few steps away from us appeared a little luminous globe looking just like a miniature fireball. – Now you have to walk through it. And run, because it only reacts to movement. Don’t fool around, I can’t keep it forever!
I was frozen, tired and wet, but I tried to mobilize my last strengths to move from my place and to start running.
– Goodbye! – I cried – And try not to steal so much!
The gnome only raised her eyebrows and waved at me:
I retreated two steps backwards, stepped up and went running through the glowing orb. Immediately after that, however, I slipped on some mud, fell on the ground and lost consciousness.
I came back in conscious after some time on the floor of the laboratory. I was all soaked, as if I was swimming with my clothes on. I had no strength to stand up, only looked at the prototype to make sure that it was in its place. There weren’t a reason to get up, so I continued to lie on the floor until the door of the laboratory creaked. I rose on my wet elbow and saw an old professor approaching me. He talked to me very worried:
– Oh boy, girl, what have you done? Where did all this water come from? Didn’t I tell you all not to stay alone in the lab, you could get electified by the high voltage or some other accident may happen…
I stood up slowly, while assuring the professor that I was okay. I almost managed to convince him that I was in the adjacent building when it started to rain heavily, and was afraid that the lab had an open window. I soaked while I was running, then I slipped on the wet floor and I fell on the ground. He looked at me worried, trying to convince me to go to the doctor, but I told him that this is not necessary. I promised him I would go if I feel bad. I saw that the rain was dripping already very weakly and started to collect my things. Soon the professor went out and I secretly put the prototype in my bag. I decided to take it home every night just to watch over it, at least until my colleagues returned.
I went outside, reflecting on the incident. I could not determine whether it was true or complete hallucination. However, I noticed that one of poplars near the university had fallen, struck by lightning.
When my colleagues returned, I had a plan for the prototype – I put a fine mesh around it, pinned at the bottom by nails, and let a weak current on it. To the colleagues I explained that according to recent surveys, this is the most effective Faraday cage – proof to any external fields. Especially thieving. I hoped this to help at least to the extent that if Elena or any of her compatriots decided to steal the prototype again, they would be despaired enough to decide to go to the neighboring town and steal theirs. And let them find by theirselves how to keep safe from gnomes.
Whether I was psychotic, or it was all true, but the prototype remained unstolen. At one point I even heard a rumor that the other city’s prototype had disappeared, but then seemed to find it after a while. And meanwhile I developed a way to keep my personal belongings from thieving creatures – except the thin net I used permanent magnets and electromagnets, laid near the valuable objects. And they suddenly stopped disapearing.
1 – Гаденыш маленкий! (Russian) – Little foul creature!
2 – Я можно бить маленким, но я не гаденыш, а гном. Давай валить отсюда. (Russian) – I might be little, but I am not a foul creature, I am a gnome. Let’s go away from here.