Part comic caper, part sci-fi, part adult care??? This weeks story in the Change the Ending collection, Kate Saffin, a medical doctor and former civil servant, has a sharp sese of humour.
Invasion of the Rubbish Snatchers
“It was the uniforms,” Derek said, trying to read upside-down what the policeman was writing.
“And the flash van,” added Cheryl. “It could have been an underground cell. Or the CIA.” She pursed her wrinkled lips together tightly.
“That’s right love. There’s a lot of information in these bins – identity theft, boiler rooms.”
Cheryl nodded. “Rubbish is valuable to those in the know, Inspector. I’ve seen a documentary about space agencies that monitor aliens who are harvesting our rubbish.”
Cheryl frowned. “Maybe it was a film.”
Inspector Black continued filling in boxes, without looking up.
“Possibly. But we will need it all in the end you know, to recycle, but once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
Inspector Black raised his head.
Derek could see the silent flashing of the last of the ambulances as they left Roseberry Drive, but he looked straight at the policeman.
“Yes, gone, to space.’
The Inspector turned and gave a thumbs-up to the parked police cars, which obediently started to move, and then to a fire engine, which whooped once and began turning.
“The gentlemen were, in fact, just collecting your rubbish.” The Inspector closed his notepad. “Outsourced contract. All legit. Whole borough.”
“I didn’t know there’d be a riot van so close by,” Cheryl said. “All those guns, Inspector. Very impressive.”
“Well, it was ramped up to a code one. The explosives you mentioned.”
“Yes.” Derek looked down. “You see, I’ve known our bin men, 15 years some of them. Where have they gone? The van was so different. I didn’t know.”
As Derek and Cheryl walked home a week later, the airless hiss of an electric vehicle was suddenly close behind. They held hands tightly. There were footsteps. Derek recognised the blue-grey van as it glided ahead. It was reflective, mirrored even, and advertised Cay Man Resource Relocation.
The broad back of a collector overtook them effortlessly, his heavy boots thumped the pavement and his padded trousers shimmered and creaked. The man turned to give a wide, white-teeth smile, underneath wraparound glasses and a helmet that glinted in the winter sun.
“I knew it,” Derek whispered.
“Me too,” Cheryl replied.