Dean rolled over in bed, keeping his eyes firmly shut in an attempt to convince himself that he was still asleep. He knew he had mere seconds before his four- and seven-year-old alarm clocks went off, especially as he could feel the weight of his wife, Jodie, in the bed next to him. Apparently, a lie in on fathers’ day was too much to ask for.
Right on cue, the bundles of joy burst into the room, bounding on to the bed and bouncing on top of him. ‘Happy Fathers’ Day Daddy!’ they yelled, without even waiting for him to open his eyes.
Pinned to the bed, he turned his head a fraction and blinked a few times to clear the sleep. His daughters’ faces came into view. Poppy, his eldest, was leaning over him so her gap toothed smile was just inches from his nose, whilst his younger daughter, Niamh, was wriggling around the end of the bed.
‘Good morning monsters.’
They shuffled around so they were laying between him and Jodie and he sat up.
‘We have a present for you Daddy!’
Dean saw Jodie subtly pick up a wrapped up box from her side of the bed and hand it to the girls as she sat up. The girls took it and shoved it at their father with boundless glee.
‘Thank you, girls!’ He ripped into the packaging, revealing the mug in its colourful carboard packaging. He smiled and sighed, before turning it round and reading what was on it. ‘Is that what you think of me then girls?’ He laughed, confused. ‘Where did you find it?’
‘Yeah, we think you’re the number one dad in the whole wide world!’ Niamh shouted, jumping up and down on the bed.
‘No, you think I’m the number one hundred and thirty-seven dad in the whole wide world.’
‘What do you mean?’ Jodie leant over to look at the mug. ‘That’s not the mug I bought.’
‘I bought a generic number one dad mug, Dean, and I wrapped up a number one dad mug, just like a million other mums did in preparation for today.’
‘We got you the number one dad mug Daddy, we promise!’ Poppy’s lip quivered. ‘I’m sorry!’
‘I get it, it’s a joke pumpkin, don’t worry, Daddy’s not upset.’
‘But we did though!’
Dean shushed her and turned on the news.
‘We bring you breaking news that many people across the globe seem to have woken up to their “number one dad” mugs becoming slightly less complimentary. Each mug now appears to have a different number on it, and from what our sources can gather, currently there is one number assigned to each father. The cause of this change is not yet known, but it is not considered sinister at this current point in time. Stay tuned for updates.’
Poppy and Niamh had lost focus and were playing a game on their iPad.
Dean narrowed his eyes. ‘That’s weird.’ He shrugged, rolled out of bed and headed for the bathroom. ‘Mind if I hop in the shower first?’
‘Dean. Your mug – and many other mugs across the globe – just mysteriously changed to a random number. Are you not at all concerned?’
‘Nothing we can do about it. Besides, if we do have to deal with some sort of situation, I would prefer to be dressed.’
Jodie turned to the kids, seemingly giving up on her husband, and tried to coax them out of her and Dean’s bed and into their own rooms to get ready.
They left the news on constantly at Jodie’s insistence, waiting for some sort of explanation. None was given.
‘Are we still going out for lunch?’ Dean asked Jodie, looking at her whilst her eyes stayed firmly fixed on the television. ‘The table’s booked for one, and we kind of need to get moving if we’re going to get there on time.’
‘I don’t know, all of this stuff is a little ominous, I’m not sure if I want to go out until we know what it is.’ Jodie chewed her lip, her eyes remaining focused on the reporter who was going through some theories with a scientist of some sort.
‘Well, whatever it is is far more advanced than we are, so I don’t think we’ll be any safer in here than outside. I don’t see why we should let this little mug incident stop us from having a nice lunch.’
Jodie stopped her nervous lip chewing and turned to her husband, incredulous. ‘I don’t understand how you can be so unbothered by this.’
‘Well, I am. Are we going out for lunch or not?’
She rolled her eyes. ‘I suppose so. Do you mind getting the girls ready?’
Five minutes before they were due to leave there was a ring at the door.
‘I’ll get it!’ Dean called. He pulled open the door and bit back a scream.
Standing in the doorway was a figure around four foot in height, with at least one and a half of those feet made up by a long grey head that bulged slightly to the left and right at the top. There was an eye in either side, and one in the middle, the left one jade, the middle one amber, and the right one sapphire; they blinked independently of each other. From the chin down the creature was a translucent grey blob, from which six arms protruded. It pulled something small and shiny out of itself and pressed a button. The small opening its face that Dean presumed to be its mouth opened and some strange sounds came out. The creature let go of the button and the thing started speaking.
‘I am an official from the Jamoray, here on duty for my peoples with the authority of the Intergalactic Federation. Can I see the father of the house’s rank please?’ The voice was flat and robotic, none of the syllables quite flowing together.
The creature held out its shiny thing and listened to it make noise before speaking what Dean presumed was its answer into it.
‘Your father rank.’
This has to be linked to the mugs, Dean thought, maybe if I show him my mug.
‘I’ll get it.’ He turned, debated whether or not to leave the door open for a second before leaving it ajar and dashing to the kitchen. He grabbed the mug off the side, still in its packaging, dashed back to the door and held it to the creature. The creature held out its shiny thing and a light that looked like a scanner came from the device. The creature pulled another device that had also been previously suspended in its gelatinous body and pressed a few buttons. A spotlight seemed to shine over it, and something around the size of a loaf of bread fell from the sky. The creature caught it, and spoke into the device again. The device translated.
‘Father one three seven, this is your charge. Take care of your charge or risk punishment, which can be a substantial fine, jail time, or death depending on your infringement. Thank you and goodbye.’ With that, the creature turned and flew upwards towards the spotlight. The light shut off, and Dean was left holding his “charge”.
He looked down, and what he could only presume to be a baby version of the creature that just gave it to him stared back. As he stared, it transformed, skin becoming opaque and changing colour to match his, head growing smaller and the middle eye disappearing, and a tuft of black hair growing over the top of its head. The middle pair of the arms retracted into its body, whilst the lower pair moved downwards, the hands at the end changing into feet.
Dean almost dropped it.
‘Who was that?’ Jodie said, walking down the stairs, ‘I saw some weird light coming from out…’ The words died on her lips as she saw the bundle in his arms. ‘Dean, what is that?’ The baby creature was focusing on its face now, growing a nose, a human mouth, and ears. It giggled.
‘Could you turn on the news, honey?’ He tried to keep his voice as calm as possible so as not to frighten Poppy and Niamh. ‘And I think lunch is cancelled.’
‘…just getting reports in that many people are receiving strange baby creatures that have transformative powers. Here is some footage we’re just getting in.’ The news report showed the same thing that Dean had just seen happen on his doorstep happen somewhere else. ‘The creatures are transforming into human babies, and within the blankets they are wrapped in come what appears to be a set of instructions.’
‘Put it down Dean, find the instructions.’
He did as Jodie told him to, and found a piece of paper that said exactly what the creature had told him, with a couple of ‘guidance notes’ underneath
‘This baby will transform to look like one of your own species. Do not be alarmed, this may take a few days. After a week, your charge will be entirely human [human was bolded and slightly separate from the rest of the text] and you can treat it as such. Until then, please feed it only a designated portion from the food packet enclosed.’
On moving the baby, which was now only slightly gelatinous in form, Jodie found a foil wrapped packet, which was segmented into twenty-one sections.
‘Good luck with your charge, and as always, best wishes from the Intergalactic Federation,’ the instructions finished, along with a stamp that was a crude cartoonish drawing of three planets and a rocket ship.
They turned back to the television. ‘The numbers we reported earlier appear to be a global ranking of fathers, from best to worst.’
‘If they’re a ranking, that means I’m one hundred and thirty-seventh best dad in the world. That’s not too shabby,’ Dean smiled, clearly pleased with himself.
Jodie rolled her eyes. ‘Well done. Can we now please deal with the matter at hand?’
At that point, the girls clearly got bored of whatever they were doing and came running in, stopping short when they saw the squirming creature sitting on the side.
‘Mummy, Daddy, what’s that?’ Poppy asked, pointing to it.
‘This is your new brother. Surprise!’ Dean told them, quickly wrapping it back up in the blanket and picking it up. It looked like a boy, he had to presume it was one for the minute.
‘A baby!’ Niamh squealed, running over to them. Jodie grabbed the papers and food packet off the side with one hand, and guided Niamh with the other.
‘Yes, a baby brother. Shall we have some lunch now?’ Jodie said to the girls, putting the creature’s things on top of the fridge on her way to the table.
Niamh and Poppy sat at the table, but the questions did not stop. ‘But your tummy didn’t get big Mummy?’
‘No, because this baby is special.’
Special is one way to describe it, Dean thought as he stared down at the face of the creature, which now looked almost fully human, with just a slight ripple under the surface of its skin. He sighed, pulled out a chair, and sat down cradling the baby, hoping, as part of him would hope for the rest of his life, that this was all just some sort of weird elaborate dream.
I’m currently working on a longer form novel so this is just something short and silly that I thought appropriate as it’s Fathers’ Day this Sunday! I got the idea from this prompt on the writing prompts tumblr account, and I just thought it was a funny idea, started writing, and this is where it went. Hope you enjoyed it!