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.
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. You can check in regularly and read them for free, or wait to buy the entire story when published. Current book: Evil Portent.
Life in the Clouds #4: Evil Portent ® James Field.
Previously from posts 36 - 39…
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. "I knew you had it all the time." He eased it out, kissed it, and gave Bert a slow smile. “It's too cramped in here. 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 got scared again and 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, like you said they would. '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.
Bert didn't want to think about how unlucky he'd been, placing the Doodad in the off position every time he set it down. Still, he now knew how to operate it, and the knowledge made him smile. “Let’s go.”
The Alien Father dodged behind Bert. “You 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 into the tunnel's deep throat. A feather pillow slapped his face, another struck his back, and then he stumbled into number three, Flintstone Cottage, The Stables, London, England, Earth.
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 was glad. “Much better, don’t you think?”
"It's because you haven't got any fat on you, but we'll soon put that straight." 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.”
"Is it far?"
"Two houses away."
"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, and Bert gave the 'thumbs-up'. Now he'd have the whole morning to fix the energy drink and round up 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," he mumbled.
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 saddled and 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?
Bigfoot nuzzled Bert’s neck. “Ain’t you let anyone close enough to take you back to the stable?” said Bert. He reached into his pocket for his phone and then recalled how the Alien Mother had smashed it for parts to repair the Doodad.
Now he’d have to borrow Olive’s phone to find out why his best mate Alf hadn’t looked after his pets. He wondered what Olive had been up to while 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 journey between planets 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.”
“Yeah, he’s a good friend,” said Bert. "So are you, and I don't eat my friends. We'll soon have you just as strong as Bigfoot." He waggled a finger in his ear. “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.”
Bert's Alsatians sniffed him suspiciously. “Where’ve you been, Boss? Where’ve you been?” he heard them say. “You smell funny. Take us with you next time, we’ll protect you. Who’s that with you? Shall we kill him?”
Bert shook his head again and wondered how long it would take before his brain settled. “This is my friend.” He reached behind his back and yanked the Alien Father into view. “Say hello to him-nicely!” His Chums moved closer to the Alien Father, sniffed at the strange little creature, and growled deep in their throats.
“They’re meat-eaters,” said the Alien Father. He scrunched his eyes shut and was so rigid he trembled.
“Tasty!” said Bert’s Chums.
“Out of bounds,” said Bert. “Go to your corner and don’t even look at him.”
They slinked off, ears plastered flat against their heads.
Bert pulled the Alien Father with him into the lounge. Two bulky-stuffed armchairs squatted on each side of the open fire, and a well-cushioned settee stretched along the furthest wall. A light beige carpet covered the floor. Sitting on the mantelpiece, a clock ticked lazily, and above that on the chimney breast hung a large picture of an angel with tears in her eyes. Dogs’ hairs coated everything.
An even bigger surprise greeted Bert. Someone had lit his fire and the logs blazed cheerfully, just like when he’d hurried away to visit the newcomer at number three all those days ago.
“Sit in that armchair next to the fire and warm yourself,” said Bert. “Olive’s been here, bless her. Put the Doodad by your feet where it’s safe. We don’t want Olive tinkering with it.” He gave a little wink. "Women!"
Bert nudged his chair closer to the warmth and threw in two logs. The Alien Father tugged and pushed his armchair, but he was too weak to budge it. So Bert reached across, dragged it for him, and scooted him into the cushions head first. “And now,” said Bert, rubbing his hands, “I’m going to make you my ‘Piss De Resistant.’ “
In this post: Porridge to make you strong…
While the alien father toasted his hands, Bert set about making his special porridge. He found a large basin and dumped in one giant mug of oat-based instant-breakfast cereal and three mugs of energy protein powder. It needed one full bottle of vodka to mix it into a thin gruel. Then he added an eggcup of salt, a teacup of sugar, and a tin of Popeye spinach. Three minutes in the microwave made it pleasantly warm and thick.
He carried the porridge, two cereal bowls, two spoons, and a jar of honey back into the lounge and set them on the floor between the armchairs. After making himself comfortable, he spooned porridge into one bowl, smothered it in honey, raisins and sliced banana, and handed it to the Alien Father. Then he filled his own dish.
The Alien Father dipped the tip of his spoon into the porridge and tasted it carefully. Bert watched with keen attention; his own spoonful halted in front of his mouth. The Alien Father’s eyebrows shot up and a smile exploded across his face. “This is good,” he said and spooned porridge as if he hadn’t eaten for a week.
Happy that his experiment worked out so well, Bert gobbled his bowlful. To his surprise, the Alien Father ate his just as fast. Bert refilled both bowls. After the bamboo tips porridge he’d choked on lately, his own creation was heaven. When he reached to fill the bowls for a third time, he saw the Alien Father had fallen asleep, his dish and spoon nestled on his swollen belly. Reckoning his alien friend wouldn’t want any more, Bert finished the rest, eating straight from the basin.
Two minutes later, stomach full, head spinning, comfy and warm in front of the fire, threat of the Guardians forgotten, Bert fell asleep too.
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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