Mee wondered exactly what a ‘Supermarket’ might look like. As he approached the hu-man town a lot of doors slammed and a lot of people got really loud. Hu-mans liked to get loud when they saw Mee.
The old lady had given him simple instructions, follow the road down the hill then turn right. Mee did that. On the way a lot of the rolling boxes called ‘cars’ stopped their rolling and started making loud ‘HONK’ sounds. Mee covered his ears and kept walking.
The food hall
The ‘supermarket’ was beautiful. It was huge. Most importantly it was filled with food. A very shaky hu-man helped Mee find the mush mallows and also helped him use a rolling basket they called a ‘trolly’. It made carrying all the mush mallows much easier.
Mee also grabbed handfuls of other interesting boxes and filled the ‘trolly’ until boxes slipped from the top. He thanked the shaky man and walked back out into the cold outside.
More noisy hu-mans squealed and ran around as he walked back up the hill, past the old lady’s house, past the broken car, and back up to the Alex and the Logan.
The boys grinned at the trolly full of marshmallows, biscuits, and chocolate. For some reason there were also about four large boxes of washing powder, and several Mee-sized handfuls of perfume boxes (Mee insisted that they smelled ‘too lovely to leave behind’). After the initial fun of seeing all the food the boys had one important question:
“How did you pay for all of this?”
“What does ‘pay’ mean?”
The boys’ faces hung long:
Mee simply couldn’t understand what made the shiny metal in the Logan’s bag so important. The smooshed up wood sheets made even less sense:
“So I was supposed to give the supermarket soft useless metal before I took the food?”
The boys nodded. Mee laughed:
“When we bigger-folk are little they tell us stories about you. I always thought stuff about soft metal and shiny rocks was a joke. We even used to leave it on steps as presents for the little folk.”
The boys frowned. Mee hadn’t told them the story of the big ice and the steps under the hill. When he did they grew very excited. The Logan’s eyes were very wide:
“You mean there are more of you? And you throw away ‘shiny rocks’ and ‘soft metal’ because it’s useless.”
“Mee thought you all would know. Town under hill has hundreds of bigger-folk.”
The Alex looked in the direction of the cave:
“Is anyone else on their way up?”
It was Mee’s turn to look shocked:
“Bur-Up! He’s still following me. He got tired, stopped for a rest. I should go check he OK.”
Mee grabbed two big bags of marshmallows and made his way to the cave:
“Be back soon.”
The Logan called back:
“You might want to bring some of those ‘useless’ rocks and metal with you. You need to pay for what you took.”
Mee waved, a big bag of marshmallows flopping in his hand:
It was dark when Mee brought Bur-Up out of the cave. He wasn’t impressed:
“You said there was sun. Also this too cold. Listen to my talk.”
“It not so bad, Mee got used to it.”
They followed the glow of the hu-mans’ fire. Two more hairy beasts were with them, bigger than the boys but similar looking. They made the loud noises and hid the Alex and the Logan behind their backs. The Alex pushed his way out:
“It’s OK. That’s Mee and his friend Bur-Up. They’re friendly.”
Bur-Up pushed past the noisy creatures and sat in the fire. The bigger hu-mans got noisy again. The littler ones calmed them down. Bur-up wondered if the bigger ones were pets or baby hu-mans, maybe they aged backwards to the bigger-folk.
Bur-Up could feel his body getting better. Mee smiled at the boys:
“Look I brought you presents. Useless rocks and squashy metal.”
He opened his hands and the jewels and gold glistened in the firelight. Mee laughed at the faces of all four hu-mans:
“You like them. I glad. Here, you play with them how you like, I don’t need them.”
A new idea
The boys looked at the pile of jewels and gold. their mum and dad looked at the pile of jewels and gold. It was hard to tell how much it was worth but easy to see that it was a lot.
The first thing to do was to sort out the bill at the supermarket. People would already be asking questions. The police had probably been called. The bigger-folk would be in danger of being found if the police followed Mee’s trail up the hill.
The Alex and his dad went down the hill to the supermarket. Maybe there was still time to keep everyone safe and happy.
Mee wasn’t sure why being found was a bad thing. The Logan tried to explain that Mee and his family might be taken and locked away. People liked to study unusual creatures, and the bigger-folk were very unusual. They needed to stay hidden.
Mee wished he was warmer, he might be able to understand all of this if he was.
The Alex and his dad took just one of the shiny blue stones. Mee had never heard it being given a name but they said it was a ‘sapphire’. How could a tiny blue rock be worth a trolly full of mush mallows and other tasty things?
Again Mee wished he was warmer. The little people were very confusing.
Why being interesting isn’t good
The Logan was amazed by this:
“How can you eat that?”
“Bur-Up’s mum says Bur-Up has to. Must eat proper food before I have treats.”
The Logan and his mum watched Bur-Up and Mee in fascination as they chewed on white hot coals from the bottom of the fire. Their skin now so deeply green it had almost turned black.
The Alex and his dad came back. They had spoken to a special little-person called a ‘manager’ and also some ‘police’ and the ‘manager’ said the little stone made everything better. Mee grinned but the Alex’s dad shook his head:
“They were very interested in where the sapphire came from. We’re going to have to do something clever to keep you guys hidden.”
Mee shook his head:
“No it OK. We won’t make it hard for you. We just go home. Go back down stairs.”
The little man shook his head:
“It’s too late now. They saw you, and they know you have sapphires. People are going to be very interested in this hill very soon.”
Mee frowned. All this attention didn’t sound good. He didn’t want to be interesting. The hu-mans climbed into their tent and promised to get up early to work on what to do next.
Mee pulled a big armful of branches into his fire and dropped another pile into Bur-Up’s (who had already fallen asleep). Mee tried to sleep but the stars above his head distracted him. He had never slept in an open space before. Even the cavern was only a few hundred feet high.
Mee watched the stars until the sky turned a cold, pale, blue and the sun struggled up from behind a hill. The morning wasn’t much warmer than the night time but it was a lot noisier.
More hu-mans, more noise. Up the road, alongside the campsite came big metal boxes on wheels, much bigger than a ‘car’. They had big, chomping, metal, mouths on the front. Some of them were so big that even Mee could have fit inside them.