Bert felt jealous, cheated on, and blue. Then he discovered he could morph into a giant nightmarish slug...
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On Wednesdays and Sundays I’m blogging nibble-sized chunks of new ‘Life in the Clouds’ novellas. You can check in regularly and read them bit for bit, or leave a message in my 'contact' page, and I'll send the entire digital story to you for free when published.
Life in the Clouds #6: Take a Slug ® James Field.
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 30 - 33…
Then the image faded, disappeared, and left the citadel in plain view. Bert swallowed, fought the urge to scamper, and waited to see what might happen next.
A moment later, small vehicles buzzed above the tower’s top, like honeybees flitting in and out of their hive. They resembled flying mopeds without wheels, and they each towed a boxcar. The ones leavening were empty. Those that arrived contained ten children each, crying hysterically.
“They take children from the entire planet,” said the alien father through gritted teeth.
Bert had forgotten about the alien father and was surprised he hadn’t fainted or run off, like he almost had. “Why so few?”
“We calculate they take three-hundred thousand children each year. Is that so few?”
Bert gulped, ashamed of himself and his cruel, insensitive question. Boiling with fury at the Guardians, he clenched his jaw so tight it hurt. The alien father was angry too. Or was it fear? Bert couldn’t tell.
A robot mower chomped its way past their hideout and the alien father shot out and kicked it. It rolled onto its back, wheels pointing to heaven. Trying to believe what he’d seen, Bert shook his head. There was no doubt the alien father boiled with anger, too. Bert rushed out, lifted the little man, and carried him back to safety. Not a moment too soon, because a door in the tower creaked open.
A creature stepped out. Behind it, Bert saw a Doodad placed in the centre of the citadel. Against the back wall, the air shimmered and the throat of a tunnel gaped open.
The creature had the body of a gorilla but stood erect and proud, like a commando soldier, half a head taller than Bert. And what an ugly head; it reminded Bert of a wild boar with tusks in its bottom jaw. Certain of its dominance over the meek Ewepitarians, it carried no weapon that Bert could see. The hideous brute strutted toward the upturned lawnmower, rectified it, and scanned all around with its black, sallow eyes, piercing and cruel. Its snout sniffed like a dog on the scent of a bitch.
It occurred to Bert this was a genuine Guardian. The image in the air a projection designed to terrify the Ewepitarians and keep them away. He thought that was hardly necessary when the creature was so frightful anyway.
“Stay still and don’t move,” whispered Bert.
“Run,” screeched the alien father, and bolted off down the hill.
“Crazy little twit,” grumbled Bert, and chased after him. A glance over his shoulder revealed the Guardian catching up. “If you’re going to run,” puffed Bert. “You better go a lot faster or you’ll be the main course at their next barbeque party.”
The alien father’s stumpy legs zipped along in a blur until he tripped and fell. Bert’s body weight carried him on, and when he eventually stopped and turned, he saw the Guardian standing over the alien father with his boot raised above his head, ready to stamp it down.
“Hey!” shouted Bert. He grabbed a fist-sized boulder and hurled it at the Guardian. It struck him in the chest with enough force to make him lose balance and step back. The Alien father squirmed to his feet and darted off down the hill.
Fury blazed in the Guardian’s black eyes, and he charged at Bert, outstretched arms clawing for Bert's face. Although Bert was shorter than the Guardian, he reckoned he was heavier and stronger. Every day, sometimes twice a day, he wrestled and boxed with his best mate, Alf. Alf was England’s undisputed bare-fist street fighter champion. Rough stuff was an everyday part of Bert’s life, and he knew many tricks.
Bert bent his knees slightly and balanced his body. He waited unmoving until the Guardian's claws were an inch from his nose. Then, in one smooth movement, he stepped aside, tripped him, and helped him on his flight by tugging an arm and kicking his backside.
The Guardian’s head struck a tree trunk with a sickening crunch. Bert wasn’t sure if he was dead or unconscious, and he didn’t hang around to find out. Without a backward glance, he took off after the alien father.
“You’re alive!” said the alien father as Bert burst into his house. He sat on a stool, head in hands, and genuine surprise in his voice. “What happened?”
“You should have stuck around instead of running off. Then you wouldn’t need to ask.”
The Alien Father let his head fall back into his palms. “It’s my natural instincts. If I were big and strong like you I might have stayed, but measly and timid as I am, I fled.”
Bert crawled across the floor on hands and knees, pivoted to sit beside the Alien Father, and reached his arm behind the midget's narrow back. “Can’t blame you. I nearly did a runner myself.”
The Alien Father sighed and glanced at Bert with a twitch of a smile. “You saved my life.”
“Yes, well, the Guardian didn’t put up much of a fight. I hurried away and I ain’t sure whether he’s dead or alive.”
The alien father shrunk in terror. “They’ll come looking for you and kill us all.”
“Yeah, that’s what I dejuiced.” Bert frowned. The Guardian he’d fought was a caretaker. Those who came for him would be warriors: bigger, stronger, fiercer, and armed with ray guns. He didn’t stand a chance.
His mind whirled. What should he do? Stay and fight or return to Earth? He had little choice. He couldn’t go back to Earth because he couldn't work the Doodad. So he’d stick around and battle to the death, taking a few Guardians with him. He doubted there was time to prepare, and apart from his knife, he had no weapon.
His thoughts went to his beloved Olive, who he’d never see again, and his best friend Alf, and his two Chums, the Alsatians, and his horse, Bigfoot. Bye-bye, buddies.
In this post: Bert wants to fetch a crate of dynamite…
What was the point of staying? The Guardians would kill them all, anyway. Three or four Guardians at the citadel were more than he could defeat alone.
If the caretaker lived and returned to the citadel, how soon would he raise the alarm and mobilise a squad of Guardians? If dead, when would the others miss him? He had little time. He couldn’t win a war by himself, he needed help, and that he’d find at The Stables on Earth.
“You, Alien Father,” said Bert, licking his lips with cautious hope, “we can’t sit here and wait for the Guardians to come and knock us all off. Let’s pop through the tunnel for help?”
“I don’t believe you’d come back.”
“Come with me then. I’ll round up me mates and a crate of dynamite and we’ll be back in a jiffy. If we’re quick enough, we’ll blow the whole citadel to smithereens.”
“But suppose we’re not quick enough and they destroy my village and then follow us to your planet?”
“All the more reason to hurry. Maybe the caretaker was alone, the rest coming and going on their flying mopeds. It might give us a time. Stop dilly-dallying and let’s go.”
To be continued…
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The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
There’s a lot to like and a lot to dislike in this story. I like that it’s cosy, funny, and heart-warming. The plot, however, is a tragedy. There are two murders, and every character in the book, of which there are many, has a motif. With so many twists, turns, and red herrings throughout the narrative, it lost me in a virtual maze.
But the author commits the gravest crime: he introduces a new, guilty character right at the end of the story. Tut, tut, naughty.
View all my reviews