If you like a good chuckle, dim-witted heroes, and larger-than-life villains, then you'll love this fascinating series. On Wednesdays and Sundays, I’m blogging nibble-sized chunks of new ‘Life in the Clouds’ stories. You can check in regularly and read them for free, or wait to buy the entire story when published.
Life in the Clouds #4: Evil Portent ® James Field.
Previously from posts 23 - 26…
Bert strolled back to the alien father’s yard, stuck his hands in his pockets, and gazed about. A light bulb suddenly glowed dimly in his head. The villagers had all fled. Little did he think he’d be walking here as the only living person in the settlement.
His chest felt lighter and a slow smile crossed his lips. With the little people gone, he could find the Doodad and tunnel off back to Earth.
The last place he’d seen the Doodad was in the Elder’s house, so that’s where he started his search. He found it where the Elder had discarded it, on the floor next to his chair. With his mouth gaping wide, he stared at it, dumbfounded by the Elder’s carelessness and his own great fortune.
He carried the gadget back to the alien father’s cabin and rotated it this way and that, hunting for a start button. There were no buttons, but determined to make it work, he studied the contraption more closely. It was a square-shaped object about the size of a chunky hardback book with firm green jelly sandwiched between two thin metal plates.
A jelly sandwich, the thought made his mouth water.
Jelly and metal? Not really. The materials embodied a strange, snakeskin texture he didn’t recognise. There were no markings on the metal surfaces; both were a dull grey, but one side felt warmer than the other. And the jelly can’t have been jelly all the way through because miniature stars and constellations hurried about inside, blinking and flashing as always.
Bert prodded the jelly, stroked it, tapped it first with one finger and then with two, and then repeated the process on both metal plates. Nothing happened. No tunnel opened.
He shook it, twirled it, flipped it like a coin, balanced it on his head, and then stopped to think. What had the alien mother done to make it work? She’d dropped a piece from his ruined mobile phone into the Doodad, said it was working, and placed it on the floor.
For starters, how did she drop the piece into the workings? Bert found no opening so he ignored that part and carried on to the next. He held it in both hands, lifted it to his face and said firmly, “It’s working.” Then he set it on the floor. Still nothing.
He lifted his hands in an “I give up” gesture, stuffed the Doodad in a hole in the stone wall where he’d damaged it, and jammed the dislodged stone back in place. With the Doodad hidden, Bert stalked away from the village and headed for the hill chapel.
When at last he reached the chapel, he was so exhausted he could hardly stand. The villagers were in no better shape; some had lost hats, some had lost shoes. One man’s braces had snapped and his trousers hung around his knees.
It was midafternoon, and all were so weary they huddled on the chapel’s stone-cold floor and dozed. Couples and children clung to one another for warmth. The others clutched themselves and shivered.
The chapel was dome-shaped, built from chalky white stone. Big by comparison to the villager’s homes, Bert could stand erect under its roof and didn’t need to duck while passing through the arched doorways. Doors and windows were mere holes in the stonework, offering no protection from the chilly breeze.
Bert strutted in, and the alien father rushed to greet him, a smile beaming on his face.
“You’re still alive,” said the alien father, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“Yeah,” said Bert. “You left the village deserted and there ain’t no sign of the Guardians.”
“But we witnessed them in the hills,” said the alien father in self-defence. “They threw a grenade at us. The whole building shook.”
“Mini earthquake, and the ruckus on the hill was a local thunderstorm. That’s what you so-called men scampered from. I’m disappointed in you.”
The alien father sunk his head. “You are right. We have behaved like scared children.” But he pulled himself together and demanded attention from his kinfolk. “All back to our daily lives. It was merely a thunderstorm we ran from, not a raid of Guardians.”
The Elder squeezed to the front of the crowd and faced the alien father. There was no sign of aggression in his posture, but his tone rippled with authority. “How do you know?”
“Because I said so.” Bert towered above the Elder and he jabbed a podgy finger at his face.
The Elder backed off two paces. The villagers stirred anxiously.
“I waited until the storm blew away,” said Bert. “Nobody or nothing came to your village. Go to your homes and stop acting like a load of stupid sheep.”
Some villagers groaned, others laughed, but when they heard what Bert had to say they understood they’d acted rashly. With jokes and commotion, the crowd strolled back to their valley.
“Don’t judge us so harshly,” said the alien mother as she passed Bert. Children clutched at her skirt and her gaze darted anxiously between them. “The Guardian’s threat is real. They snatch children from the entire planet and we have many in our village of a ripe age. One day soon they will come, and we can’t stop them.” Tears welled in her eyes.
“I’m sorry.” Bert stared at the floor, hands hanging by his side. Women's tears always brought him to his knees. “It’s just that I’m hungry and I want to go home.” He sniffed. “I’m ashamed of meself for going on at you poor people. Of course those Guardians terrify you.” His muscles tightened and he spread his stance. "You aren't alone. As long as I'm here, ain't nobody going to harm the kids."
“At least,” said the Elder, “we have tested our evacuation strategy.”
A short while after Bert and the alien father had made themselves comfortable, a frantic banging pounded at their door. The Elder burst in, gasping for breath. “The Doodad is missing. Somebody stole it.”
Bert whistled and gazed into the ceiling.
The alien father blinked at him. “Thou shalt not steal. Where is it?”
“How should I know?” Bert shrugged.
“Because you were alone here.”
“Not all the time I wasn’t. I came up to the chapel with you lot.”
A look of understanding crossed the Elder’s face. “The Guardians have been here.” His face grew grim. “They’ve found it and taken all hope of our escape with it.” He nodded, sighed, and an air of sorrow replaced his other expressions. He almost patted Bert’s arm. “I’m sorry, but it means they will invade your world of Bertlings and Vegans. I should’ve hidden the Doodad better.”
“Yeah,” said Bert, “leaving it next to your chair like that was—.” He clamped his mouth shut, but the Elder didn’t react. Instead, he finally reached up, slapped Bert’s arm, and went away.
With the Elder gone, the alien father challenged Bert. “If you damaged it, you’ve taken all hope from us.”
“Weren’t me what took it.” There was no conviction in Bert’s meek voice, and he hung his head, knowing they wouldn’t believe him. “I want to go home. Why should I break it?”
“I’m not saying you ruined it on purpose, but it’s fragile.”
“Oh!” said Bert, recalling how clumsily he handled it. He’d busted it, and now he could never tunnel home.
In this post: Bert understands how to bend space-time…
Bert hoped he hadn’t broken the Doodad and the reason it didn’t respond was because he hadn’t figured out how to use it. “How does it work then?”
“Periodic congruent entomological meta-euclidean adjacency.”
Bert nodded all knowingly. “That’s what I realised. Better-included adjuicency.”
“Meta-euclidean adjacency, Bert. You can pass through a non-congruent adjacency, but you can’t connect its two aspects. It’s only logical. Imagine the differential energy stored when a quarter of a million miles of space-time is folded to less than a millimetre.”
“Yeah, I can imagine. Awesome, ain’t it.”
“The Doodad bends space-time so two parts are adjacent and at the same instant separated by millions of light years. Of course, I’m no expert. You’ll have to ask the Alien Mother for a detailed explanation.”
“Look mate, I understand all that babble perfectly, but how do use the damn thing?”
“Do you have it?”
“Might have. Ain’t saying.”
The alien father stifled a scream. “The Doodad is so simple to operate that a four-year-old could manage it.”
“Yeah, but you’d have to show it how first.”
“True, and since you don’t have it, there’s no point in me telling you.”
To be continued…
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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
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