He collected things - little things, big things, old things, new things, and mostly useless things. He literally had a thing about things. Casey Drummond was a homemaker’s nightmare. It was against his nature to throw anything away. His wife Jennifer, tolerant that she was, had taken lately to spiriting things into the garbage when Casey wasn’t looking. If she had dared to ask him first, she knew what the answer would be. "You never know, we might need one of those sometime and not have it. Now we do." Casey was not old and stodgy by any means; he was still a fairly young man in his mid-thirties. He just had an over-developed packrat instinct. He also had a habit of bringing home pets, all sizes and all kinds. Right now he had Boofer, a rather shaggy English sheepdog in residence, a five-year-old bundle of energy who required a daily walk to keep him happy. Today was his turn to take Boofer for his run in the field nearby, a treat he loved more than anything else. Boofer bounded out the door, leash taut and Casey in tow - just barely. It was a short distance to the field and Casey could hardly wait to get there. It was a hydro field, the power lines glistening in the afternoon light and singing in the wind as he walked by them. Making sure they were alone, he released Boofer from his restraining leash and let him romp in the tall grass. Off in the distance he could see his favourite resting spot, a large rock that jutted out of the grass and welcomed him with it’s cool flat surface. He sat down, daydreaming as he watched Boofer gamboling, and futilely chasing birds and butterflies. A blinding light flashed in front of him from no discernable source and he covered his eyes reflexively. The momentary pain passed on and he slowly opened his eyelids to see what had caused the flash. In front of him now was the ugliest creature he had ever seen, a being that even his worst nightmares could not have conjured up. Green and bumpy like a monstrous frog, it towered over him. Staring at Casey with a strange fascination, it reached out and poked at his chest. "Ouch," cried Casey, drawing further back on the rock, "that hurt." The creature cocked its pointed head to one side as if questioning Casey’s response. Again, it reached out to touch him, this time poking him in the arm. "Cut that out," cried Casey again. "Sorry," replied the creature finally, a large tear welling up in the single eye it had in the centre of its face, "I didn’t mean to hurt you." "Don’t cry, for heaven’ sake, no harm done. Just don’t do it again." Just then, Boofer bounded back, stopping dead in his tracks at the sight of the creature. Remaining at a safe distance, he emitted a low howl and started barking at the creature. The creature turned, looked down at Boofer almost barking at his heels (if he’d had any) and pointed his finger at him. Boofer disappeared in mid bark, the spot where he’d been now a smoldering bit of white ash on the ground. "Boofer, screamed Casey, "what did you do to my Boofer?," as he climbed down off the rock and kneeled at the spot where he’d been. "Sorry," replied the creature. "You killed my dog, didn’t you?" "Sorry," said the creature again. "Sorry won’t bring my Boofer back, will it?" "No." "Then stop saying it." "Sorry," repeated the creature, seemingly without realizing he was saying it. Casey continued to stare at the ground, transfixed by all that remained of his once large dog. "Come," said the creature after a moment, "I can show you another Boofer. Maybe he will do." "Where?," asked Casey, by now suspicious of the creature’s intentions. "Come, I will take you there," he replied cryptically. Casey stood beside the creature and was instantly enveloped in the strange flash of bright light he had seen before the creature appeared. He could see nothing, but the light and his eyes began to water. Wiping them with the sleeve of his sweater, he momentarily lost sight of the brilliance around him. Pulling the sleeve away, he immediately saw that they were no longer in the field. He was now in what looked like a spaceship, but not like any spaceship he’d seen pictures of before. Everywhere he looked he could see containers – clear glass-looking jars, wire mesh cages, and even test-tube type – and most were already filled with all manner of other creatures. Looking closer at them, he was fascinated at how unusual each one was and unique in its own way. "You like my collection?," asked the creature, watching him. "Yes, very much," replied Casey. "As you can see, I love to collect things." "So I see," returned Casey, still carefully examining his collection. "You seem to enjoy collecting as much as I do." "More, probably." "I don’t know about that," returned Casey, his gaze turning back to the creature beside him. "Oh yes indeed. You see, now I have what I’m sure will be the prize of my collection." "You do? Where?" "Here," replied the creature, holding a large key in front of him. "What is it for?," asked Casey, a puzzled look on his face. "For you." "For me?," said Casey, stunned. "Yes. You are the prize of my collection." Casey, speechless for once in his life, stared opened-mouthed at the key as the blood slowly drained from his face. "My wife will be so pleased," continued the creature, laughing as he opened the door to Casey’s cage and quickly ushered him inside. "She loves surprises!"
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