You may have noticed, from earlier posts, I rather like clematis.
Long before those dozy earplugs appeared upon the scene, my comedic desires were pleasantly assuaged by stories about sentient hamsters that lived in a parallel universe to our own. Hence the Hamster-Sapiens series of e-books.
On this particular occasion I have made the bold decision to foist upon you an extract from the first in the series – that being The Where House, which, I’m sure, you are aware is available via the book covers on the sidebar to your right (or below, somewhere, if you’re on a tablet or some such).
Had Boney not transferred responsibility from himself to Colin, then it’s certain that he would have been wringing his paws in indecision at this – very probably until they physically bled. As it was, he made a cup of tea in a feeble attempt to avoid the situation.
For a few precious seconds it appeared that his simple ruse would work: Colin had returned to the sod-ball game, and Lionel appeared to be so deep in thought, that Boney grew concerned that he’d fallen into a waking coma – or at least a hamstery fugue – neither of which could be described as ‘desirable’.
His fears were assuaged when the youngster mindlessly accepted the steaming hot beverage from his almost fur-less paw.
“Mucho gracias.” Lionel mumbled.
“De nada.” A relieved Boney replied.
‘Was the lad off on one of his out-of-body experiences that he’d once carelessly mentioned whilst they dug over the runner bean plot one frosty morning?’ He wondered. ‘Or was he suffering from a multiple personality disorder? This was not the first time that he’d spoken in Español. But then he remembered that Lionel’s parents hadn’t been amongst the richest rodents in town, and it was altogether probable that they took their annual holidays in sunny Bunnidorm, where they could purchase cheap beer, and as many ‘illicit’ computer games from dodgy-looking jerboas from Sandy Desert Land, for a mere paw-full of Rodentos. Naturally las instrucciones would be in Spanish. Yes it all made sense once you thought about it carefully enough’, he concluded whilst nodding his head knowingly.
Then Lionel took a sip of the steaming-hot tea. If it hadn’t been wet it would have set his bifurcated lips aflame.
“By the Great Angler’s Enormous Tit,” he bellowed, “that’s certainly cleared out both my sinuses and my cobwebbed mind!”
He then went on to explain that he’d been deep in thought. But before he could actually explain anything at all, Boney interrupted…
“It’s about the pretty lass, aint it, son?” he said – which surprised both Lionel and Boney because he was so rarely this insightful.
“Yes it is.” Lionel replied. “And it’s all to do with that day, long ago, when I arrived here.”
“Nose-surfing on an ocean of filth, I seem to recall.” Colin piped up during a break in the game for TV advertising and a desperately needed lavatory break for the players.
“That’s right.” Lionel turned to his android colleague, “And who was it that caused me to slip and fall into that vile ocean swell of slurry?”
Boney had no idea where Lionel was going with this train of thought, but he figured it best to humour the youngster, “A tractor driver, weren’t it?”
Lionel smiled. “And what happened to said tractor driver?” he inquired metaphorically.
Boney recognised the inquiry as being metaphorical because Lionel answered his own question before there was time to so much as suck a lower lip in contemplation, “He was taken to Chunderford General Hospital!”
This last point was obviously very important; but it was still early in the day, and not all of Boney’s neurons were facing the right way when they fired.
“Hmm,” he said, “nasty business. Nasty, nasty business.”
“Would that be his perforated scrotum that you’re talking about there?” inquired Colin.
“Indeed it would.” Lionel turned his attention back to Boney. “And whose teeth left those deep, painful, incisions?”
This final question stumped both flesh and blood, and non-flesh and blood hamsters alike.
Eventually Boney mumbled, “Well it was Fanangy, weren’t it? But ‘ow can that be? She was with us the ‘ole time. But she wouldn’t lie about somethin’ as important as biting down viciously on some poor unfortunate tractor driver’s ball-bag: That’s a pretty major to-do, that is. Grievous Bodily Harm at least. What d’ya reckon the answer to this conundrum is?”
“Time travel!” Lionel blurted the words more loudly than he intended to.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2012
Later that day, all five Earplug Brothers received their knighthoods. In addition Marnus Pongfinger contacted the Iceworld’s sole robot space freighter…
…which had recently been loaded with the first cargo of ice and had been despatched towards the Waterworld, where the primary commodity was to be used in gin and tonics, rum and colas, vodka and limes, and other variations of alcoholic beverages. Naturally the robotic captain was cybernetically thrilled to receive a call from his ruler…
And when it passed on the news to the lower ranked robots aboard…
…they responded by saying, gleefully: “Goodie; we’re off to the Museum of Future Technology. Our cargo is going to be used in the hospitality suite there. Alone it won’t solve the museum’s insolvency; but it will cut down, dramatically, on bar costs.”
So, with their task complete, the five heroes prepared to depart the city. But Chester had a farewell to make…
He found Trubbol Attmill enjoying the huge communal bubble bath.
“Chester.” She squealed. “Why don’t you join me? The bubbles get everywhere: it’s such fun; and it makes you clean too.”
So, as Chester leapt into the foaming embrace…
…he said: “Great – just as long as they don’t get up my nose. My nasal cavities are fragile and easily irritated. Otherwise I could be sneezing for a week and a half.”
Fortunately they didn’t; and Chester’s nose was just fine. But time was of the essence; space tides demanded that the Chi-Z-Sox depart the Iceworld’s region of the galaxy; and Chester had to make the farewell to which he had alluded earlier…
“Oh, Trubbol, there goes the ship’s claxon.” He said. “My brothers and I have to go. But I promise to return one day soon – when our quest is complete; and we’ll bathe together again.”
“I look forward to it.” Trubbol replied, as she gazed lovingly at the young pink earplug of Terrestrial origin.
Then he was gone; rejoined with his siblings…
…and feeling really down in the dumps.
“Hey, Chester.” Rudi spoke from directly behind him. “Get those feet moving, man; we gotta ship to catch.”
So, as the quintet passed into the snow field beyond the city walls…
…natives would question each other concerning them.
“Aren’t they handsome?” Some would say.
“Is that a question, or a statement?” Others would reply.
Then, with Rudi taking the lead, it was time to march swiftly across the ice…
Back to the vast vessel of space that awaited their arrival…
…where other natives spoke enviously…
“Big show-offs.” One of them said, as he looked around to make sure that no security forces could hear him. “If I had a ship like that, I’m sure I could fly all over the place – asking for help or money too.”
But no one bothered listening: they thought he was a mealy-mouthed git; and were in too much awe of the Earplug Brothers.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2018
It’s been a while since I last visited my better literary works – those being Silent Apocalypse and Silent Resistance…
So I thunk to myself; “Let’s give the guys an extract from the former, quickly followed by one from the latter. A kind of two for the price of one sort of deal.” The result of this altruistic thought is…
It was Kevin who found the road map of Great Britain in a desk drawer. It was old and stained, and probably horribly out of date; but Wayne spread it out upon the table and immediately bent to the task of matching his co-ordinates with those printed upon the map. Since he was no cartographer it took him a while; but eventually his two index fingers slid across the map, on a collision course, until they met upon the boundary of land and sea. He ringed it in pencil. Everyone craned their necks to look.
“Winston Crag.” He read out the accompanying reference. “Anyone heard of it?”
No one had.
“Catch the Crag Bus.” Katherine almost breathed the words, “Now it almost makes sense. There must be a bus waiting at Winston Crag.”
“Would you risk your life on it?” Candice spoke, the sullenness of earlier remaining, despite a general rising tide of optimism.
“Do you trust in your prescience?” Katherine countered, though none of us saw the significance.
“Not if I can help it.” A hint of a smile returned.
I wondered then, if perhaps she really did have the ability to see future events. By taking us to the farm she had led us into a trap: This argued against such an ability. ‘But yet there’s something about her…’
“Right:” Lee announced, “Let’s go. How do we get there?”
“Well I was thinking of a top-of-the-range four-by-four, with leather upholstery and air conditioning.” Katherine spoke with not a hint of sarcasm obvious.
“And a telly.” Kevin added. And I knew with certainty that there was no sarcasm present in his suggestion.
It was so infuriating: we now had the information we required. We had somewhere to go. Some hope. But a group of stupid boys, who had better, more important things to do with their lives, were besieging us. All our hopes and plans were now in unnecessary jeopardy. It made no sense. It was all so illogical. It almost made me glad that the whole stupid human race had virtually wiped itself out.
“There’s a combine.” Kevin spoke into the silence that I hadn’t noticed, “In the barn.”
All eyes turned to him.
“A combine harvester?” Donald asked, “In that barn out there?
“I see it through a hole in the roof.” Kevin said proudly. “Looks like a good ‘un too!”
“Given a choice, I’d pump for a time machine.” Katherine stated. “But failing that I’d take a combine harvester. But, assuming that it goes, isn’t a little on the slow side? We’d do well to outrun a sloth.”
I warmed to the idea instantly. “It would be very difficult to stop.”
Lee lent his support. “I wouldn’t want one of them things coming at me.”
“But it’s so slow.” Katherine returned to her original argument, which was validated as she continued, “They could run alongside and simply pick us off at will. Heavens, with us hanging on for dear life, they could probably pluck us off with a baling hook!”
No one was listening though: They didn’t want to hear contrary arguments: They had a vehicle to hand, and somewhere to drive it.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
The ride from hell lasted approximately fifteen minutes. No one was actually watching the clock or counting the passing seconds; instead they were either hanging on for dear life, or threatening to copy Dainam, who now appeared almost comatose in his misery.
The moment that I realised that we’d finally gained upon our quarry was when Kylie flicked the headlights to low beam, and stepped off the gas.
“Tail lights ahead.” She said without taking her eyes from the road. “A ways ‘round the corner. How do you want to play this? Full speed ahead, and run them down?”
With the bus upon a more even keel I was able to consult the ageing AA roadmap.
“We have to get in front of them – without their knowledge.” I answered. “Stay as close as you dare. Can you drive on side lights? They mustn’t see us.”
As the external lights dimmed further, Kylie said, “Are you sure this is a good idea? I can hardly see beyond the end of my nose.”
“Lucky it’s such a large one then, isn’t it!” Colin laughed from somewhere near the back.
“Thank you – I’ll remember that.” Kylie said as she concentrated upon keeping the bus in the centre of the road.
But I wasn’t really paying attention. My eyes pored over the roadmap in search of a turn-off that we could take that might allow us to get ahead of the Espeeg and their prisoner. Not necessarily a short-cut, but a route where our superior speed could be put to good use. Then I found it – a narrow lane that branched off to the right. A lane, according to the roadmap, that was so narrow that it might actually be a dirt track. It cut through arable farmland, and included a tiny hamlet and a farm along its length. Most importantly it cut across a loop in the road that followed the bank of a river that was almost five miles long. The lane, I was exhilarated to calculate, was only one mile long.
Peering into the darkness beyond the light of the passenger compartment I could make out exactly nothing of the world outside. I had no idea where we were in relation to the map.
Joining Kylie at the front of the bus I said, “Keep your eyes peeled for a turning to the right. It’ll be really narrow, and might be signposted Bittern Dabney or Bendals farm.”
“We just passed it.” Kylie yelped in delight – before hitting the brakes like a Formula One driver arriving at a chicane.
Whilst I was busy picking myself up from the floor, Kylie was trying to find reverse.
“Can you drive one of these backwards?” I inquired as I rubbed a sore elbow.
“They call this on-the-job training.” She responded. “If I can’t right now, I will in a few minutes. I just need a little practise.”
“No time for that, I’m afraid.” I said with false solemnity.
Kylie grinned as she found reverse. “I didn’t think there would be.”
Kylie had never reversed a vehicle of any kind, and in the darkness her mirrors told her almost nothing of her immediate surroundings. Instead she relied upon all of us looking out through the rear and side windows to shout instructions to her. As a result it took us several precious minutes to back-track the three hundred-or-so metres to the turn off; but once she had the vehicle lined up Kylie was able to set the road ahead ablaze with the power of her full beams. The diesel engine roared as it quickly shifted up through its multiple gear ratios, and we fairly raced along between high banks and overgrown hedgerows upon a relatively recent tarmac surface.
As expected, both the hamlet and farm had been abandoned – presumably being too far from anywhere significant to have caught anyone’s eye. I took note of their location: they might be useful one day.
Within moments, it seemed, we were approaching the opposite end of the lane. Without any instruction from me, Kylie cut the lights, and rolled the bus into position across the main road – blocking it entirely. Anyone wanting to pass it would have to take to the fields on either side, which would be difficult because of the barbed wire fences that formed their perimeter.
“How do we know we’ve got here first?” Colin said sullenly. “They might have passed already.”
It was a fair point, but I was confident that despite our initial lost time we’d more than made up the difference.
My confidence wasn’t wasted: moments later Dexter shouted, “Lights. I see lights.”
As one the entire party threw themselves against the side windows and stared into the night. We were rewarded with the sight of twinkling headlights a mile-or-so distant as a pair of quad bikes made their relatively slow progress through a series of bends that would ultimately bring them to us.
With little time to prepare Colin and I immediately donned our helmets, whilst the others hurried from the bus.
“Right,” I said as I joined them upon the tarmac surface, “you lot get lost. Go hide up the lane. If there’s a ditch there – jump in it. I don’t want anyone getting hit by stray rounds and ricochets.”
Shane shook her head. “We can’t leave you two alone.” She said.
“Yeah,” Dexter, as per usual, agreed with her, “the odds’ll be fifty-fifty. Those are bad odds. It aint like you’re betting money: this is your lives.”
I felt, rather than saw, Colin’s resolve waning.
“Rubbish.” I said to both of them. “We have the element of surprise: That’s worth at least two extra guns. They literally won’t know what hit them – until it’s too late. Now get out of here. Scat.”
No one was keen to leave us alone to face the approaching alien Law-Keepers; but Tasman urged them to join him in the darkness beyond the range thrown by the interior lights of the bus. And suddenly Colin and I found ourselves standing in the only available light for miles around, and feeling very vulnerable indeed.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
Although both books were published during the same year, they were actually written ten years apart. I’d like to think that, as a story-teller, my skills had grown during that decade and that Resistance is a better work that Apocalypse. But, of course, the later book couldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for the earlier book, so I like them equally. Both are available as paperbacks and e-books via the book cover links on the sidebar.
With the confidence of a tyrant, Marnus Stenchnee stepped forward…
“Yeah.” He growled. “And if you don’t like it, you can shove it in your ear.”
To both Chester’s and Miles’ dismay, Magnuss equalled Stenchnee in both physical act and style of verbal attack…
“If anyone is going to get something shoved in their ear,” he snarled his reply, “it’ll be you, you big red dope.”
Stenchnee didn’t hesitate for a nanosecond: his response came quickly and was delivered with the assurance of an earplug who believed himself to be in complete control of the situation:
“I wouldn’t test me, Pinko.” The words slipped from between his lips like a string of mercury-coated sausages. “The power generator has a urine bomb strapped to it; and I have the trigger in the palm of my hand. Any silly buggers from anyone and the generator gets flooded with my personal piddle.”
Under normal circumstances, this information would have been enough to quell any thoughts of insurrection: but the Earplug Brothers didn’t believe in normal circumstances. A split second later…
…Magnuss delivered a karate chop to the side of Stenchnee’s head. The world-leader went down like a sack of month-old cabbages, which pleased Marnus Pongfinger immensely. Then realisation struck the ancient, white-haired earplug: “By the Soiled Cacks of the Supreme Being,” he wailed, “we are undone. My evil brother’s puny grip upon the trigger has loosened. Within seconds the power supply will fail. We’re as good as dead!”
“Calm yourself, President Pongfinger.” Magnuss said with a smile. “No such calamity shall assail your fair city. The bomb has been neutralised. Shall I explain?”
“I wish you would.” Uda Spritzer replied as everyone crowded around to kick the inert Stenchnee. “The expectation of a freezing death is…er…killing me.”
“Well,” Magnuss began, “it all started with one of your loyal subjects. His name is Trubbil Dounpitt; and he made a galactic emergency call. One of our ship’s crew heard it and duly took the information to the captain. He, in turn, informed us. As a result we discovered Stenchnee’s despicable plan. But let’s have someone else continue this tale. Let’s hear it from the metaphorical plugmutts’ mouth. Let me introduce my brother, Valentine.”
Valentine didn’t bother with small talk: “Right on.” He said into the resulting, expectant silence. “Rudi and me left Magnuss and Miles holding the fort whilst Chester kept your guide busy…
We thought she looked kinda cute; but we couldn’t take any chances: she could’a been a spy. Know what I mean? Anyway, we went straight to the Nul-Space power generator…
Of course we couldn’t access the urine bomb from up there, so we put on our cossack hats…
…and took the back way inside. Then I emptied the ginger beer from inside my hip flask – all over the bomb. The fizzy goo sealed the bomb in five seconds flat. Then it burned its way through the protective sheath. And that was that: no matter how many times that joker bro of yours pressed his dumb trigger, that bomb wasn’t gonna go splat – no way.”
With that Valentine turned away; happy in the knowledge that he had left his audience in a better frame of mind than they had felt five minutes earlier.
“Gosh, that was good news.” Pongfinger opined quietly to Cruton. “I can’t wipe the smile from my face.”
“Indeed, Sir.” His manservant replied. “But I wonder if Valentine’s reference to his ginger beer-filled hip flask was, in actuality, a euphemism.”
“I was thinking the same thing.” Uda Spritzer added. “I’m a scientist. As a result of which I know a heck of a lot about a heck of a lot of things; and I’m far from certain that ginger beer can burn through protective sheaths – even the alcoholic kind. It’s a metaphor. You mark my words. A metaphor for his bladder. It’s my scientific opinion that Valentine is no ginger beer drinker: instead he simply possesses the ability to deliver a vast quantity of corrosive wee-wee, on command, with precise accuracy. I just wish I had half his talent.”
“If so,” Pongfinger concluded – if a tad illogically, “I’d hate to be in a cupboard with him when he breaks wind; there’s no knowing what damage he could do to my nasal passages. Have him knighted immediately.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2018
But time is a great healer, and before too many seconds had passed, the two new-found chums discovered that they quite liked the unexpected anonymity created by the fog…
…and considered doing things that they wouldn’t have done normally, in the open air. But good sense grabbed them by the throat and they duly went a wandering – to a place where the fog was joined by a fresh fall of snow…
…which pleased them no end. And when it turned into a full scale snow storm, Chester couldn’t have been happier…
Though Trubbol did begin to wonder if she was dealing with an idiot earplug…
…and so led him, once more, into the palace…
…where she discovered that she too could smile at the thought of doing something really stupid and enjoy the sensation whilst doing so. But soon duty called and Chester rushed to re-join with his brothers in time for a meeting with Marnus Pongfinger…
It seemed, to Rudi at least, that the planetary leader looked ill-at-ease.
”Hey, Marny, baby.” He said with concern evident in his every syllable, ”What’s eating you, man?”
Rudi was to find out…
”Um,” Marnus replied hesitantly, ”Boys, I’d like you to meet my brother.
He has supplanted me as Head of State. Now I suggest you all bow down to him and grovel pleasantly. Quickly, please; years of pointless servitude means that he has a terrible anger within him. He might even have you eaten.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2018