photo by Daan Spijer

One thing that still upset Pfurt was that most humans had trouble saying his name. It came out as ‘Futt’ or ‘Fort’ or ‘Pervert’ — anything other than the way it should sound: ‘Ipifuriti’. You see, where Pfurt (remember to pronounce it properly) came from, every explosive consonant had an ‘i’ on either side of it. Oh, I should point out that the ‘i’ sounds more like ‘eee’.

Where Pfurt came from, things were very different. You would expect that, because he wasn’t born on Earth. Pfurt came from Torkt (that’s pronounced ‘Itiorikiiti’); that’s a planet very close to Earth and about as far away as it is possible to be. Torkt is in a parallel universe. Because of that, it occupies a space which is sort of parallel to Earth without having any effect on Earth or its inhabitants. Well, it didn’t, until Pfurt somehow popped through a hole in the non-space between the two universes.

So now you know that there is not just one universe, but that there are two. You could call it a diverse.

Pfurt was lucky that he looked pretty much like a human in many respects. However, people couldn’t help staring at him, because his skin was ultraviolet. He also spoke English with a strong accent — he could not get out of the habit of saying things like, “Ipilease don’iti huriti me,” when a group of people surrounded him to stare. This made everyone laugh.

Pfurt was unhappy. He was homesick. He longed to go back home, but he didn’t know how, because he didn’t know how he’d ended up here. It somehow happened while he was asleep. He’d been dreaming of what it would be like if … and he suddenly popped through and woke up in a field of green grass and yellow and pink flowers. Now he wanted to be back where grass was purple and the sun was blue and the sky was yellow. He wanted to be back with his parents and his sisters.

“Hey, Futt! Say ‘kick my butt’ for us.”

Pfurt looked up at Rick and shook his head. “I ician’iti, Iriciki.” This teasing from the few kids who hung out with him upset Pfurt. “Ipilease sitioipi iiti.”

“You’re a weird ikikid, Tutifruity.”

Pfurt forced out a laugh, trying to join in, but it only emphasised how different he was.

Nguyen, one of Rick’s friends, said, “Why don’t you go back where you came from, Itifurtitti?”

“I waniti itio, buiti I don’iti know how. I don’iti even know how I goiti here.”

“Maybe you came on a boat, like Nguyen,” said Fatiha.

“Or perhaps in a spaceship, like Superman.” The others laughed at what Helga said.

“Yeh,” added Nir, “let’s go find his spaceship.”

Pfurt felt hurt. Why did his ‘friends’ make fun of him? Why couldn’t they understand how difficult this was for him? Why didn’t they help him to fit in with them, so that he could at least be a bit happier while he was in this place?

“What’s the matter, Pertiverti?” Rick asked. “Can’t you take a joke?”

“I wan’iti itio go home, buiti I don’iti know how.”

“Aw, E T want to phone home, but he don’t know the number,” Nguyen teased.

“Stop it! All of you!” Fatiha yelled. “It’s not fair. It’s not his fault. I felt just like that when my family sent me to Australia for high school. At least I could speak to them on the phone and they sent me photos and we had email. Ipifuriti has been here for almost a year and he has nothing like that.”

If he could have, Pfurt would have cried about now. Instead, the middle finger on his left hand wiggled uncontrollably. If he had been really upset, his whole left hand would have been shaking.

That’s how it was for Pfurt. He didn’t make any real friends — people who accepted him for who he was and didn’t make fun of him for the ways he was different from everyone. Fatiha was the only one who occasionally stood up for him, but even she wasn’t a friend. Fatiha spent most of her time with other students who had come from her country.

And then, whatever had caused Pfurt to pop across in the first place, happened again. Pfurt woke up in his own bed, with the beautiful blue sun shining through his window out of a yellow sky. He rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn’t dreaming and got out of bed to look out of the window. There were the familiar trees with their orange leaves, surrounded by purple grass. He ran down the stairs and joined his family for breakfast.

His family smiled and just said “good morning” to him and didn’t ask where he’d been for a year. Hadn’t he been away at all?

Some of the answers became clear in the following days, but many did not. He discovered that, as far as anyone on Torkt was concerned, Pfurt hadn’t left. Why he had experienced being away for a year, he could not find out.

What Pfurt did discover, was that it was difficult to completely and easily fit in again with his family and friends. He found that they were different — or he had changed through his experiences on Earth. Some of the ways things happened on Torkt seemed strange and his friends and family seemed different. Although he had not been able to fit in on Earth, he now could no longer totally fit in with the place he had lived all his life. Pfurt could not come to terms with this and occasionally the middle finger on his left hand would wiggle uncontrollably.

[Highly commended in the Smink Works Books Short Story Competition, November 2009]

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