“Excuse me, old chap.” There is a tap on Jeff’s shoulder.
“Eh what?” Jeff wakes suddenly, his cheek jammed awkwardly against his own shoulder and a thin line of dribble down his lapel.
“Sorry. I, er, that is to say, it’s my stop.”
Jeff stands, clutching newspaper, briefcase and coffee to his person, and using his knee shoves his tray table up to allow the passenger beside him to get out. It is a hot July morning. The commuter train is absolutely rammed, and there is the smell of commuter sweat which will only worsen on the journey home. A trapped fly buzzes idly against the carriage window and… it is Jeff’s stop too. Abandoning coffee and paper, Jeff negotiates his way off the train by dint of much elbowing. He joins the sea of people heading for the Piccadilly line and shuffles forward with them. Oyster proffered and accepted, Jeff is rattling through Piccadilly Circus in a strap-dangling half-doze before he recalls the polite, elderly troodon who had sat next to him on the 6.40 to King’s Cross.
When he arrives at his place of work, Jeff is somewhat surprised, as a doctor of palaeontology on a placement from Imperial College London to the Natural History Museum, to discover an orderly queue of dinosaurs at the visitor entrance to the museum. The troodon from the train nods in recognition as Jeff passes and swipes himself in.
He is summoned, along with the rest of the museum’s staff, to a meeting in the dinosaur hall at 10am. The museum director clears his throat, oblivious to the glare of the camarasaurus skeleton towering above him, and raises his hands for silence.
“Many of you may have seen the, uh, delegation this morning.”
There is a brief buzz of conversation as those who had not are filled in by their neighbours.
“Er, they have not. That is, basically, what I mean is, the dinosaurs… erm, I mean, essentially. They have not actually, er, in point of fact, been extinct, per se.”
The director of the museum was ordinarily in great demand as a public speaker. Although allowances could be made for the exigencies of the situation, Jeff feels somewhat let down by the man’s performance. He is actually shaking, Jeff notices.
“Erm. The dinosaurs, they have been, they say, sleeping.”
There is a silence at this, supplanted by a wave of conversation which the director is eventually compelled to terminate by shouting “Please!” several times.
“Thank you, erm, I, that is, we have been in conversation with the, uh, the delegation and…”
“What do they want?” someone calls out. Jeff is surprised to find out it is him.
“Exactly. What they want.” The director polishes his glasses. “The fact of the matter is that they live, er sleep. I mean they are… I suppose hibernating would be the way to put it? Underground. Of late, they have been rather disturbed by, well, you know. Trains. Drills. Fracking and suchlike, no doubt. Noise, in other words. Caused by, I suppose, us.”
The director removes his glasses and blinks myopically round at the eighty or ninety museum staff. “They have come to ask us – most politely, I must add – if we would, er, mind terribly keeping the noise down.”