Bert felt jealous, cheated on, and blue. Then he discovered he could morph into a giant nightmarish slug...
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Life in the Clouds #6: Take a Slug ® James Field.
Hello! If you like mystery/thrillers with a dash of the supernatural, a pinch of romance, and a solid dollop of humour, then you'll love this fascinating series. On Wednesdays and Sundays, I’m blogging nibble-sized chunks of new ‘Life in the Clouds’ stories.
Life in the Clouds #4: Evil Portent ® James Field.
Previously from posts 34 - 37…
But then again, staying to fight was a stupid idea. The Guardians would kill them all, no doubt. He couldn’t win a war by himself, he needed help, and that he’d find back on Earth.
“You, Alien Father,” said Bert, licking his lips with cautious hope. “We can’t sit here and wait for the Guardians to slaughter us. Let’s get the Doodad working and I'll pop back to my planet for help.”
“I don’t believe you’ll 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 Guardian's 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 Guardian's 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.”
The Alien Father inhaled deeply through the nose and then breathed out through the mouth. “If I were brave and strong like you, I’d help you against the Guardians.” He clenched his little fists, bounced to his feet, and spread his legs. “I’d pound them into mush.”
“Yeah, I reckon you would,” said Bert. He sniffed. “The way I see it, you’re so puny because of that rubbish you eat.”
The Alien Father’s display of bravery vanished as quickly as it came, and he slumped. “Bamboo shoots. It’s our staple diet. It's all we have.”
Bert wiggled his eyebrows and gave the Alien Father a friendly nudge, almost knocking him over. “Where I come from, there’s a man named Popeye who grows super strong when he eats spinach.”
“What breed of meat is spinach?”
“It’s a vegetable, dark-green and leafy. It tastes almost as disgusting as your bamboo shoots. You’ll love it. If you come back to my place, I’ll fix a feast guaranteed to make you tough and strong.”
“What’s in it then?”
“Energy protein powder, which is made from soybeans, peas, potatoes and vegetables like that. I’ll add some spinach and mix it all into a porridge with a liquid called vodka. It’ll put hairs on your chest.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. Hurry, we ain’t got much time.”
The Alien Father’s hands balled into fists again. “Alright, let’s do it.” Then he narrowed his eyes and squinted at Bert. “So you do have the Doodad. Where have you concealed it?”
“You’re sitting on it.”
Keeping one eye on Bert, the alien father peeked with his other eye under his cane chair and found the Doodad tied beneath with pieces of bamboo ribbon. He eased it out, kissed it, and gave Bert a slow smile. “Let’s take it outside.”
In the open, Bert gazed about. The village seemed deserted. “Where is everyone?”
“When I told them what we’d done, they rushed off back to the temple.”
“Why didn’t you go with them?”
The Alien Father sniffed and wiped at his nose. “They hate me for what we did. They don’t think I’m a hero at all. 'Dumb agitator' is what they called me, and the Elder said I must sacrifice my life and hope the Guardians will settle for that.”
“Ignore them,” said Bert, desperate to leave for Earth. “They're a load of wimps. We’ll show them heroes. Get the Doodad working.”
“Let’s hope you didn’t break it. Are you ready?”
“Yeah.” Bert watched intently, keen to learn how to turn it on.
“Place it on the ground,” said the alien father. “This side up is off.” He then turned it onto its other side. “And this side up is on.”
Immediately, a shimmering haze formed above the gadget, hissing like a snake. In a few seconds, the tunnel’s gaping mouth opened, all set to swallow them.
“Was it really that simple?” said Bert, scratching his bald head.
“Then let’s go.”
The Alien Father dodged behind Bert. “You go first. Dash into it full speed. That way, the experience is less formidable and you’ll be through in seconds.”
Bert took his advice, lowered his head, and charged. A feather pillow slapped his face, another struck his back, and then he stumbled into number three, Flintstone Cottage.
The Alien Father bumped into his legs, looked all around, eyes blinking rapidly, and rotated the Doodad into the off position. He shivered. “It’s cold here.”
After the sweaty tropical warmth of Ewepiter, Bert agreed. “Much better, don’t you think?”
"It's because you haven't got any fat on you." A quick glance told Bert everything was how he’d left it. Strange nobody came to see what had happened to him. “Let’s go to my place. I’ll light the fire and you’ll soon warm up.”
"I'll bring the Doodad," said the Alien Father. "As long as it's turned off, the Guardians can't come through."
This was good, because it gave Bert the whole morning to fix the energy drink and round up some weapons. He strode out into the backyard, headed along the alleyway past Olive’s mid-terrace house, and stopped at his own residence at the terrace’s other end. Home-sweet-home. By the sun’s height, it was early morning, the same time of day he’d parted. How many days had he been away? He'd lost count. At least two.
His horse, Bigfoot, still tethered to the handle of his outside toilet, whinnied and pawed with his hoof. He could also hear his two Alsatians inside the house grow excited at his return. This was even stranger, hadn’t anyone taken care of his pets while he’d been away?
In this post: Why don't people like Bert's fluffy Alsatians?
Bigfoot was just as he’d left him: still saddled. The horse nuzzled Bert’s neck. “Ain’t you let anyone close enough to take you back to the stable?” Bert reached into his pocket for his phone and then recalled how the Alien Mother had smashed it for parts to repair the Doodad.
He’d have to borrow Olive’s phone and find out why his best mate Alf hadn’t looked after his pets. He wondered what Olive had been up to all the while since he’d been away. Most likely taken the opportunity to go off flirting. But then he noticed her back door slightly open, a sure sign she was up and about.
Bert hugged Bigfoot’s neck and whispered in his ear. “Sorry I’ve been gone for so long. It won’t happen again. I love you, mate.”
To his astonishment, his horse said, “I love you too, mate.” Bert shook his head. The tunnel must have jangled his brain.
The alien father reached out and stroked Bigfoot’s knee.
“Don’t he scare you?” said Bert, eyebrows raised. Hardly anyone was brave enough to touch his horse, and his horse seldom allowed anybody to approach him.
“He’s like me, a grazer, a hunted animal, but so proud, so strong.”
“He’s a good friend,” said Bert. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever seen a horse. We’ve got loads of animals here on Earth. Come inside and meet me Chums.”
“Yeah, me Alsatians. Two little fluff balls. They’re dogs. Can’t understand why, but nobody likes them either.”
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.
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