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May

13

2008

The Falling Suitcase by Robert Drinkwater

at 8:08 pm posted by Molly


THE FALLING SUITCASE…

This crazy story isn’t real—it happened in a dream I had a few nights ago. EBC member Ang McCartney is in it, but before anyone gets creeped out, it isn’t a sexy dream or anything. It was just, well, you know, crazy.
It started pretty normally with me riding on the south side of Edmonton along 97th Street. The street was almost empty, as it often is, because there’s no on- or off- ramps connecting it to the Whitemud Freeway. It’s just a big wide road with warehouses and factories that’s a perfect north-south corridor for cyclists.
I was riding north, and as I looked ahead in the distance I could see a woman on a bike. I pedalled a little faster and as I got close to catching up, I could tell it was Ang. She was singing. It was the song off Sheryl Crow’s new album about gasoline riots in the year 2017. The chorus is, “Gasoline will be free, will be free!”
As I closed in behind Ang, I figured I’d surprise her by singing along. But right at the moment that I was about to join in, Ang lifted her ass off the saddle and cut a very loud fart.
(Just to remind you, this is not real. It’s a dream.)
Well, I laughed so hard I almost crashed. Ang, suddenly aware of my presence, whipped her head around and turned bright red, but was soon laughing hard, too. We laughed and weaved all over the road like drunks, and were almost on the brink of passing out for laughing so hard when a suitcase suddenly dropped from the sky and crashed onto the pavement in front of us.
“Holy! What the…” I exclaimed as we both slammed on our brakes.
“It must have fallen out of a plane!” Ang said.
We looked up, but there wasn’t a plane to be seen. Not even the remains of a wispy contrail marked the air. We looked back down at the exploded suitcase in front of us, up at the sky again, and then scanned the nearby buildings. Perhaps, we thought, there might a lunatic launching suitcases with a catapault. But we were the only ones there.
Cautiously, we approached the suitcase. It looked like it was an older, hardshell case, like the kind that used to survive getting bashed around by gorillas in old TV ads. Its contents, were visible among the pieces of cracked shell, and they clearly belonged to a woman.
“Should we touch any of it?” I asked. “Maybe the police, or Transport Canada, will need it all just like it is when they investigate.”
“Investigate? It fell out of a plane!” Ang replied, looking up at the sky again. “But I guess we should still call the cops.”
Ang dialed 911 on her cellphone. The operator, assuming a report about a falling suitcase must be a prank, hung up twice before finally agreeing to transfer the call to the police. The cops weren’t particularly convinced, either, but promised Ang they’d send a cruiser as soon as they could.
We waited for a while, but soon gave up. I couldn’t really blame the Edmonton Police Service. They’ve got their hands full hunting for people who kill hookers or shoot up all-night dance clubs.
Since I had a rack and bungee cords, I volunteered to take the suitcase home and try to figure out who owned it. I wrote down Ang’s phone number and promised to keep her informed about whatever progress I made. We rode together until Whyte Ave., at which point I headed north across the High Level Bridge for home.
I looked through the blue pages in the phone book when I got back to my apartment and dialed Transport Canada. They were at least a little more interested than the police had been.
“What’s the airline name on the baggage tag, sir,” asked the clerk, or investigator, or whatever he was.
“Eastern Provincial, and the destination code is YHZ,” I said as I read the tag.
“That’s impossible,” the man said, sounding annoyed. “EPA was taken over years ago, and they never flew over Alberta.”
“I know,” I replied. “I’m from the East Coast. YHZ is Halifax. Look, I realize it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what it says.”
The call went south as quickly as a falling Samsonite.
“Phone the North Pole! Maybe it fell out of Santa’s sleigh!” the Transport Canada man shouted, and then hung up.
Well screw the authorities, I thought. I looked at the owner’s tag, which was next to the airline tag on the suitcase handle. It said it belonged to a Heather Macdonald who lived on Oxford Street in Halifax. It even had her phone number.
I dialed it, but the machine that answered told me I’d reached the home Carl and Jennifer. I left a message asking them to call me if they could help me reach Heather, but I figured it was best to leave out the details about the falling suitcase.
My next step was canada411.com, but there were literally thousands Macdonalds in Halifax. I looked though the contents of the suitcase, but there didn’t seem to be anything that might identify or locate the owner. I was stumped.
I called Ang. I started in right away about how badly things were going when she cut me off.
“Somebody—I don’t know who—just called me. They want us to bring the case to BikeWorks, at 10:00 tonight!” she said. “They said they wanted us both to come, and no one else. And they told me to call you.”
Ang said she thought we should call the cops.
“I don’t know, Ang,” I said. “I never told anybody that you were involved. The only people who have your name or phone number are the police. They would have recorded it when you called 911. Whoever phoned you must have got it from them.”
Now we were really freaked. Why the hell would anyone go to such lengths to recover a suitcase that didn’t appear to have anything valuable in it? Was it incriminating evidence? Did it have a secret panel with jewels hidden inside?
Ang and I reasoned that if we didn’t bring the case to them, they would eventually find us. We decided to meet whoever it was a Bikeworks like they’d asked. I know that doesn’t sound like a safe thing to do, but keep in mind that this was a dream, and you sometimes do dangerous things when you’re dreaming.
At 9:50 p.m, I met Ang at the corner of Whyte Ave. and 109 St. We cycled together to BikeWorks where the yard was locked and the workshop was dark.
“Did they tell you what we should do or what they look like,” I whispered.
“They just said to wait,” Ang replied.
I unlocked the padlock on the gate and was about to swing it open when there was a bright white flash in the middle of the yard. Ang and I braced ourselves for what we though would be an explosion, but it was completely silent. The sudden flash had made it hard for us to see, but as our sight returned, we made out what appeared to be three children standing in front of us wearing large bicycle helmets.
Slowly, our pupils adjusted. The children had arms as long as a chimpanzee’s! Their legs were short, and there seemed to be more legs than there should have been. And their helmets weren’t really helmets at all—they were just really, really big heads!
They were freaking aliens!
“Do not be alarmed. We don’t wish to hurt you,” the middle alien said.
“Yes, but we can hurt you if you don’t cooperate,” said the alien on the left.
The alien on the right craned his neck and looked at the alien on the left, shook his big head, and rolled his eyes. He—if he actually was a he—looked as though he wanted to be someplace else.
All three of the aliens had long snouts similar to a dog’s. And all of them, including the bored-looking one, kept looking at the suitcase strapped on the back of my bike.
I may have screamed at some point, but I can’t remember. My mouth opened and closed, but words just never materialized. I have no idea what Ang was doing—I was so shocked from seeing the aliens that I’d forgotten she was even there.
“Tell us why you want the suitcase,” Ang told the middle alien.
To me, the idea of demanding answers from four-legged beings with the power of teleportation was dangerous, and possibly fatal. I expected them to shoot us with a ray gun. The middle alien, however, nodded agreeably.
“It belongs to an earth woman who lives in your year 1983,” the alien began. “She lived with us on our home world for a while. We dropped her back home again, but we accidentally left the suitcase on our roof. We were on our way to 2010 when it fell off and landed on your roadway.”
The bored alien rolled his eyes again. I was getting the impression that the other two aliens might be his—or her—father or mother.
“She was a very cooperative lady,” the alien who had originally threatened us said. “We erased most of her memories of us, but leaving her suitcase here is a problem. It violates the Intergalactic Time Travellers Act.”
I told the aliens they could have the case. I suppose I should have asked where they came from and whatnot, but truthfully, all I could think of was how much danger I might be in, and how quickly I wanted to get out of there.
“Could you do us one favour for us before we go?” the middle alien asked.
Ang and I nodded our heads.
“Please show us how to ride one of these bicycles.”
It turned out, the aliens explained, their civilization’s transportation technology had progressed from simple wheeled carts directly to ionic levitation. There hadn’t been any steps in between, so nothing like bicycles had ever been invented.
Bicycles looked like so much fun, they said. Even the young, bored-looking alien was beginning to perk up as he looked around at all the bikes around us.
What could we say? We started hunting for a bike that would fit short aliens with four legs.
We eventually settled on a small ladies’ Peugeot cruiser with coaster brakes. When we put the seat all the way down, the aliens were able to reach the pedals with their hind legs, while resting their front legs on the frame. We took them out to the back alley, and the rest wasn’t much different than teaching a child to ride.
At one point, EBC volunteer Bill Sellars showed up to do an emergency repair on his bike. Ang and I were very keen to explain what was going on, but Bill reacted as though nothing was unusual.
“Hello, Bill!” all three of the aliens said when they saw him.
“Hi. I didn’t expect to run into you here. How’ve you been?” Bill replied.
“Fine,” one of the aliens said. “We’re just passing through. Do you need a lift anywhere when we’re done?”
“No thanks, I‘m good,” Bill answered before going off to the parts room for a new derailleur.
In the end, I told the aliens they could keep the bike. I wondered how I would explain to Keith, our senior mechanic and a Peugeot afficianado, what had happed to it, but I was sure I’d figure something out.
The aliens wouldn’t accept the bike for free. They had cash—old bills from 1983—and paid $100 for it.
“It’s a French bike. If you ever need to replace any parts, go to France in like, 1975,” I said as they wheeled the Peugeot into the centre of the yard.
They waved. There was another bright, silent flash, and then I woke up.
As dreams go, I’d give it about an eight.
Those of you who believe in UFOs and alien abductions might conclude that this strange story actually happened. You might suggest the aliens wiped my memory so that the only way I could recall the experience was through my subconscious. You’re probably so excited that I’m reluctant to even tell you that Keith asked me on Saturday about where the Peugeot cruiser went.
But before you whip out your phone and speed-dial Space Channel, I checked the cash box for old bills and couldn’t find any. I even told Ang about the dream, just in case she’d had it, too. She hadn’t, plus, I think she was a little creeped out.
Even if it wasn’t real, I love the thought that an alien race might someday return from visiting our planet with tales of riding bicycles. Their alien friends, yearning for details about our far-away world, would ask about our civilization’s greatest accomplishments. Televisions, computers and supersonic travel are what we typically think of as great, but I’m betting the aliens would be bored hearing about those things. The technology would pale in comparison to their own.
But can you imagine how strange, even exotic, a bike would seem to a world that had never seen one?
I’m betting the Peugeot, if aliens really did take it, is now the most popular exhibit at their planet’s galactic museum.

- Robert Drinkwater -
—30—

 

 

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