The lights went out, the heating system shut down (rattling as it went like a dozen tin cats, muffled by the contoured folds of a burlap sack) and the air lay still and silent in Exhibition Room B.
The awkward grating of concrete surfaces shifting against themselves broke the hush, grinding it small and mixing it into a soup of fractured past moments.
He hated the way the character of a noise was accentuated by quietness. A snigger became a howl of laughter, a sniff was a thunderous sneeze. His transformation should have been a bold, noble thing, instead the gracelessness of the process was, overwhelmingly, its defining feature.
What had been his face became his torso, his legs became his arms and from the gaps left by those shifting appendages, other, smaller legs sprung. Each movement was uneven and hesitant, the pores of his rough outer shell catching upon other, almost identical, flaws. His head emerged, much too small for his body, and looked around.
His eyes did not take long to become accustomed to the dark, shapes and contrasts becoming almost immediately apparent to him. He stretched his joints, the noise almost so loud as to be unbearable, and grimaced.
Thumpstone Tiltman paced his glass cabinet, waiting for the inevitable invasion.
It had never come, but as he knew from centuries of training on his homeworld, Orton, this only proved that it certainly would. You see, he would explain to you if he could speak, everything that ever happened, at some point in time had not happened. Therefore, he would conclude, anything that has not yet happened, will, at some undeterminable point in the future, happen.
It was this reasoning that had led to him been charged with the protection of this very glass case, in Exhibition Room B, within the Greater Wallop Museum of International Artefacts.
And by Xom he was going to do it well!
A clatter and a smash suddenly happened. The immediately preceding silence made it sound a thousand times more violent than it was and Thumpstone adopted Warrior-Stance-3, his concrete fists ready to strike at whatever enemy the universe was about to present him with.
* * *
Willy the Night Watchman cursed himself. He’d forgotten he’d left that there! He stood, perfectly still, scared to even breath. Lifting the bucket very quietly, he inched backwards, his socks making not a sound as he retreated across the museum floor. He loved watching The Stone Cat Thing turn into a little robot every night and then go about its business, like a little soldier preparing for a tiny battle, but he doubted it would do anything interesting now.
Maybe he’d go check out Room D and the Egyptian earrings that turned into miniature tin cats instead…
* * *
He waited and waited, but no enemy came. After an hour or so of Warrior-Stance-3, Thumpstone relaxed and sat glumly on his Perspex plinth. And in the morning he transformed back into his covert form – an ancient Chinese Lion Dragon idol – so that human visitors could get on with their lives, oblivious to the terrible danger that this glass case in Exhibition Room B, Greater Wallop Museum of International Artefacts faced.