2. Background

Since I started work with a large international IT company in Bristol, England, there have always been these two pink inflatable aliens in the vicinity. Christine looked after the big one and Charlotte baby-sat the lesser one.

Together these aliens were a picture of familial harmony. They provided colour, conversation points (which we didn't need, to be honest. Martin, the resident Yorkshire man, is a talking point in himself), and above all life to the people who worked around them and grew to love them. Together, we were the epitome of corporate unity.

Until one day when the whole department was forced to move from our desks to another building a few yards down the road. Some dreaded moving because they were too attached to specific toilet seats that felt the warmth of their posteriors every day for over a decade. Others were hesitant due to fear of walking the extra few metres everyday to the new building; "Surely my car-cocoon conditioned legs would give way like precious Ming Vases if I even took just one more step!". But of course as it is where we are we are all receptive to change and eventually we got dragged along with the tide. Except of course for poor Johnny Swales, bless his soul, who was so adamant about staying that they just left him there. He stayed put as everything around him was demolished and taken apart. He is still there today as you read this, his brittle skeleton eroding into soulless dust with each movement of the chilly September air, his lingering memory still giving nightmares to management during the 8 hour siesta which they take every working day.

Anyway, I came in one day to my new cubicle to find, much to my delightful surprise, the Big Alien propped alongside my chair. At first I thought it was only placed there temporarily, so I waited patiently for the keeper to come and reclaim him. But the keeper never came, so I then officially adopted him as my own. I decided to name him and thought long and hard for a suitable moniker and eventually I christened him Alien. That was my most creative streak in ages.

Over the course of a few weeks I came to know and love Alien. I knew all of his quirks, how often he needed blowing, how he sometimes annoyingly (but adoringly) got all stuck-up and full of hot-air, but above all, I came to know him not as a ridiculous looking inflatable toy befitting someone of my maturity, but as a genuine human being with real thoughts and emotions. I loved Alien.

He was also a useful beacon, per sé. The new environment in which we work is this large expanse of cubicles with a perpetual atmospheric drone of keyboard and mouse buttons clicking and clacking. It is, in a word, dead. Alien changed that. I propped him on my desk and all of a sudden he gave off this radiant aura of happiness and extra-terrestrialality (not to mention it helped to counteract some of the bad Yorkshire vibes I was getting off Martin). He was also a landmark. Whenever I was giving someone directions to find me, I'd just say "look for the alien". He was visible from one end of the building to the other.

Alien was adored and cherished and I would have willingly traded my old torn polyester handkerchief just to have him with me till the day I die.

Then one day, agony came to pass…