This excerpt comes from an e-book that was to have been entitled The Island of Doctor Wiel-Barrau; but the publisher didn’t like it. So, with regret, I went with Mutant Island…
Those aforementioned footfalls emanated from the soles of sturdy shoes worn by none other than the troubled Daffney De Mauritania…
…who had visited the uppermost level in an attempt to ‘clear her mind’ in the natural sunlight. But now, uncertain once again, she returned to the lower levels…
…where she heard a voice calling her name. Puzzled she raced to the closest area of habitation: the holding cell…
“Excuse me.” She said through the security lattice. “Why did you call my name?”
“Because,” Magnuss replied, “I have searched your heart and peered into your soul; and I know, for a fact, that you are far from happy here. You have been questioning your role here; and for good reason. Your talents are being squandered on the nasty task of torturing poor unfortunate earplugs and suchlike and turning them into freaks and weirdos with big noses and stuff. You have watched as the spirits of previously happy couples from Lemon Stone – not to mention the two nice boys from across the valley – have been crushed by the mental deprivation wrought upon them by the cruel ministrations of the vile Doctor Wiel-Barrau. Tell me I’m wrong.”
Daffney’s mouth worked ineffectually for several seconds before she stammered: “Bu, bu, but how did you know?”
“Hah.” Hair-Trigger scoffed. “Don’t you know who you have here?”
Daffney shook her head.
“Magnuss Earplug!” Hair-Trigger roared triumphantly.
Daffney re-shook her head, which surprised Hair-Trigger, and quite annoyed her too: she liked being famous by association. “Of the Earplug Brothers, stupid.” She snapped. “The only bona fide saint living today. The most famous hero the Museum of Future Technology has ever – or will ever – know.”
The mention of the museum broke through Daffney’s mantle of ignorance: “The Museum of Future Technology?” She shrieked. “I studied for, and received, my Batchelor of Science in a little café that specialised in really terrible coffee there. It was a fabulous place. I had a wonderful time. But jobs were short on the ground in those days: I went where the work took me – which was this place. And I’ve been here ever since.”
“It’s still wonderful there.” Magnuss said huskily. “How would you like to try again? How would a job in the museum’s Space Science Department appeal?”
Daffney didn’t reply immediately: instead she hit a stud that made the latticework separate – creating a portal…
“Tell me more.” She said, as her face flushed with excitement. “But not right now: Security will have detected my action.”
Daffney was quite correct: Security had detected her action. Or, to be more precise, Slomo Chewings had detected Daffney’s action…
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2017
If you’re wondering where the vast saga of Earplug Adventures is going in the next tale…well here’s a hint…
So now you know as much as I do. I think it was Terry Pratchett who said that the first draft of a book is the author telling him/her self the story. He wasn’t wrong. I’m looking forward to seeing how it pans out.
Well I’ve shown you snippets from three of my four ‘serious’ books: here’s one from the fourth. This one, to be precise…
Darkness had long since fallen, and Katherine had disappeared on an errand of great importance. Both Wozniak and Len had filled their stomachs, and had been found accommodation in a corrugated iron hut. Roughly built bunks lined both walls of the long, thin edifice. A single lavatory cubicle, and two wash basins were all there was to service the potential inhabitants that, if all the beds were put to use, would number forty. Wozniak sighed. Of an ice pack there was not one sign.
“What do you reckon, Len: army billet, or hospital?” Wozniak asked the only other inhabitant as they lounged upon two of the forty bunks that were covered with coarse horse blankets, with a single cotton pillow at each bed head.
He’d been thinking about what he might be doing if he hadn’t become the innocent victim of trans-dimensional backwash. He felt certain that whatever path he’d chosen – it was highly unlikely that he’d end up with Len Peters at his side. He cursed himself for his decision to return to The Peaks. Then he thought of Janice. ‘Where would she be right now?’
He had no way of knowing. He thought of his twin’s corpse in the cellar of their rented house.
‘Where was the key to the cellar door kept?’
He didn’t know. He prayed that Janice didn’t either.
“Could be either.” Len answered his earlier question. “Wonder what folk are up to? I don’t like being cut off like this. Events are moving quicker than I expected. I figured on downing a half pint of ale down at the Trotters Arms about this time of day.”
Len had tried to leave earlier – but he’d been denied his freedom. It was assumed that the Droxfield Militia now roamed freely in the countryside separating Wycksford from Brambledown – and Len certainly couldn’t walk back – and Wycksford certainly couldn’t afford to release any vehicle to him, for the simple reason that they had none to spare. He was urged to remain in a place of safety – and just to make sure that he did as requested, they locked the door behind him.
Wozniak checked his watch. Mentally adjusting for the time differential – he judged that they had something like thirteen hours before Droxfield’s deadline, at which time the scientific community must pass all their technical data to them. Intrigued by the history that had led them into their current situation he asked Len how it had arisen.
“I mean – aren’t there rules that prohibit one group from firing upon members of another without provocation?” He said. “Are there no controls over the behaviour of such tiny communities? Where is the government? Who are the practitioners of law? Where the hell’s the army when you most need it?”
Len seemed to ponder this, so Wozniak filled the silence.
“Earlier you mentioned the danger of countries being formed again? What did you mean by that? Are there no countries in your reality? Are there just villages? Thousands and thousands of villages – right across the globe?”
Had he asked anyone but Len, perhaps he wouldn’t have received such a fulsome answer. As it was, Len understood how the worlds worked in both realities. He could appreciate, better than anyone, Wozniak’s line of questioning.
By means of explanation, Len gave Wozniak a potted history of his world. He informed him that his world had, for reasons unknown, been more technologically advanced than that of Wozniak’s. Perhaps by as much a two centuries. But, conversely, their social structure had been less so. The result was a series of World Wars, much like those of Wozniak’s history – but far more numerous – which ultimately brought advancement to a halt many times over, and often forced the world to fall back upon earlier technologies to maintain some decent level of existence. The last war had resulted in the use of nuclear weapons. Fortunately for Len and his ancestors, England had long since ceased to be a world power, and had not fallen directly foul of the calamity. They, and the countries that survived, came to an agreement: the means to make war on such a scale must be removed. Borders must be abolished. Countries must be abolished. Only closely knit partnerships, or confederations, could be allowed. Only communities smaller than the towns of earlier times, would be allowed. Often they would specialize – therefore advancing the idea of free trade between them – making them inter-dependent – but still largely independent, and free from influence by outside forces. Until the moment that Wozniak had appeared, this situation had existed for almost a century and a half. For certain it had stifled advancement – but it had also stopped humanity from wiping itself out. Now only Central Liaisons – appointed by a confederation or co-operative – maintained a Balance of Fairness, which in an earlier time could have been thought of as a government: but in real terms it was powerless. It had no policing policy, and lacked any military capability. It negotiated deals and agreements. It was a go-between. It was a system, which until very recently – at least locally – had worked extremely well.
“If you ask me,” Len murmured, as his tale reached its end, “your world could do with learnin’ from our mistakes.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
In Forgotten Heroes 1 I asked you to vote for the characters featured therein – by clicking the Like button. Well, I didn’t notice it (at the time), but FH1 (as I like to call it) was actually rather popular – eventually. But it has taken me this long to recognise the fact. As a result of this belated revelation – when I can find the time to fish them out from amongst the hundreds of other silicon superstars – the following guys will make an appearance in the next tale. How, I’m not sure: but I’ll think of something.
And so on to more of my silly tea dust art. As usual I shake the dust left behind in an empty tea bag box; photograph it; then bugger about with it on my computer. Today the result is this…
I might end up using it in an Earplug Adventure. Don’t be surprised if I do.
What does one do when a darned security door keeps locking, and in doing so, stops people entering?
One calls in Tooty Nolan and his creative brain, that’s what. Result? The Tuti Stop…
A design of devilish cunning, I think you’ll agree. And look…
Somehow I doubt that there is much of a market for it though. A bit like my books, I guess.
I wish I had all of the Earplug Adventures available to revisit; but I haven’t; so I’ll have to make do with showing you an excerpt from The Masters of Scroton – a rather excellent tale – if I do say so myself…
Meanwhile, back on Earth, a female earplug, whose was known to all and sundry as Cuckoo Slazenger, had just been fired from her job, and now stood and wondered what the heck she was going to do with the rest of her life…
Her smile was grim as she stared into space, her brain in ‘idle’. Discarded by her employers and cast into an unexpected situation Cuckoo was at a loss. Life had not prepared her for this. She had to confess to herself that she was not coping well.
“Damn and blast!” She roared angrily…
…at an indifferent and uncaring sky. “I’ve only been out of work for five minutes, and already I’m bored witless and without a clue! What I need is inspiration.”
It was at this precise moment that she heard a message on her answer phone:
“Hello,” a voice that had recently grown familiar to the inhabitants of the Museum of Future Technology spoke from the small, rather tinny grille, “how ya doing, Cuckoo? This is your cousin, Throgennis. That’s Throgennis Frote, by the way, just in case you’d forgotten me.”
Cuckoo was stunned…
…she hadn’t heard from her cousin since he’d stolen a packet of gobstoppers from the back of her huge green gym knickers when they were in junior school together. But she didn’t have the luxury of time to remain stunned: Throggenis’ message continued:
“I’ve just rented a cafeteria in the Museum of Future Technology. Its been completely gutted, and I’d like you to come design and fit the place out. You are an interior designer still, I take it? Well then afterwards, if you want to, you can stay on as a waitress. I’ve turned over a new leaf, so to speak: I’m going straight now. I’m earning a proper living. No more cheating and lying and stuff. I’ve even paid the first six month’s rent out of the reward I got for helping to save all of earplugkind at the Galactic Court. How say thee? If you could get back to me with utmost alacrity, Cuckoo, I would be most grateful.”
Cuckoo didn’t quite know how to react…
She was a little concerned about visiting the Museum of Future Technology. She’d heard all sorts of terrifying stories. She wondered if females could thrive there. Then she recalled reading an article about Auntie Doris…
…and how she had prospered with a business that converted amber goo into highly radioactive amber shards, which were then used to power the museum’s defence fighter squadron – which brought her back to her original concerns: why would a museum need a squadron of defence fighters? But in turn this thought was occluded by another:
Throggennis is so handsome – and a hero too. If I’m seen walking out with him, people might think I’m his girlfriend. People will be just soooo jealous. My boss will probably ask me back too.
So, without further ado, she made for the front door of her apartment…
Next stop: the Museum of Future Technology!
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2017
Anyone remember We Stand Accused? Here’s a snippet from it…
Before long the three fugitives discovered that the ledge, upon which they ambulated nervously, kind of fizzled out…
The way onwards was obvious, but far from clear. A swirling mist obscured their view of what lay below the ledge. Bravely Saskia closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. Then she did something that stunned her new-found chums…
Meanwhile, upon the desert sand, Zip and Magnuss stood open-mouthed…
…as they watched the hyper-efficient security squad capture the last of the innocent yellow desert folk…
“Ah-ha!” They heard the squad leader yell triumphantly…
…”we’re gonna drag you back to the city, and parade you through the streets like some kind of trophy.”
“Show off!” The captive blurted in furious response. “Not that it’ll do you much good: I had oatmeal for breakfast: now my guts need to make room for it. Parade me about the streets at your own risk!”
But the cable end’s threats were ignored, and soon he was dragged away screaming. Whilst Zip went in search of the Trans-Galactic Prospectors, Magnuss ran back to tell the others…
Nennigross, Catford, Lucian, and Julian couldn’t have been more surprised.
“Gor blimey!” Catford exclaimed roughly like the female weightlifter she was.
“Flip me sideways!” Julian and Lucian said as one.
“We have to do something.” Nennigross exploded. “I hate injustice: it makes me wanna puke!”
Magnuss smiled inwardly; Nennigross reminded him of his brave and loyal girlfriend, Hair-Trigger Provost, whom he missed terribly since being whisked out of his flying saucer by unknown and unseen forces long ago whilst engaged upon a mission to save the K T Woo with her.
“Yeah, good idea.” He said. “Any ideas?”
Naturally the four young earplugs were full of ideas…
…but only Fang’s was worth a fig:
“We follow.” The green plugmutt said quietly. “Use Fang’s nose; track cable ends.”
Nennigross wasn’t enamoured with the plan, and Julian felt compelled to look away at the difficult moment betwixt the plugmutt and his registered keeper.
“Right then.” Magnuss said as he assumed command. “Let’s go.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2017
Although my most popular books (sales wise at least) are the two Silent tales, I do have a couple more that don’t feature the youthful first-person narrator, Felicity Goldsmith; but instead has a middle-aged writer as the third-person central character. His name is Peter Wozniak, and he reluctantly stars in this duo of literary thingies…
Here’s an excerpt from the latter tome…
Wozniak hadn’t taken a moment to think when he realised that his ‘phone had fallen silent. He grabbed the key from Wallace’s grasp and raced from the pavement. In an adrenaline-fuelled leap that wouldn’t have disgraced an Olympic hurdler, he threw himself over the hedge into the field beside Number Eight.
“Peter. Peter.” Wallace called into the darkness as he heard Wozniak’s ragged breathing as the big man picked himself up from the damp grass in the field beyond, “What are you doing?”
“Got to find Jan, Wal.” Wozniak called back. “We’ve lost contact. Maybe I can’t travel in time, but I can still move in the remaining three dimensions.”
Wallace then saw a small penlight illuminate his friend’s handsome features.
“You used to live here, Wal.” Wozniak swung the feeble beam around in an arc. “Where would you estimate the garden shed should be?”
“What?” Wallace cried in confusion. “How the hell can you expect me to remember that? And what if I get it right: what do you propose to do with the key now? You can’t hand it over to her.”
“I’m using a kind of reverse logic, Wal?” Wozniak tried to explain. “I know it won’t make a lot of sense, but it’s the only thing I can think of. Shit, Wal – I’m a science-fiction writer: it’s my job to come up with crazy ideas!”
“Jan.” Wozniak called into his ‘phone. “Answer me!”
He was relieved when he heard the muffled scratching sounds of a telephone being removed from his lover’s cleavage.
“I’m thinking!” Janice’s voice crackled from the device in Wozniak’s hand. She sounded both irritated and worried. “I was getting nowhere with the bench, so I decided to come back, but when I stepped through the gate – you and the twenty-first century had gone. Peter, I don’t mean to alarm you, but at this precise moment I’m stuck in the nineteen-fifties!”
Wozniak fought down panic. He took a few moments to author his response. He hoped that the fear in his voice didn’t travel well through time.
“Are you near the garden shed, Jan? It’s important.”
“Where do you think I am?” Janice’s annoyance certainly traversed time without dilution. “I’m trying to pick the padlock on the door – with a rusty nail.”
“Good girl.” Wozniak replied – somehow certain that whatever predicament Janice should find herself in, she would think her way out of it. But he also realised that she could use all the help she could get. “I’ve been thinking – it’s now doubly important that you complete your task. Whether you like it or not, this is destiny, Jan. You’re there for a reason – I’m sure of it. All that God-stuff? I’m with you all the way with it. And that reason includes saving the life of Mavis and George Courtney.”
Janice’s mood hadn’t lightened any. “Thank you for stating the bloody obvious, Wozniak: I’d managed to figure that out for myself. I’m not a complete idiot you know. Damn it, I’m getting no where with this arse-holy lock!”
“Well stop then.” Wozniak commanded her. “I have a better idea. Now tell me – how far from the house are you?”
It took a few seconds for Janice to reply. Obviously she was trying to make sense of Wozniak’s question. Her faith in him soon overruled her questioning mind.
“About twenty metres.” She replied.
“Stay right there.” Wozniak instructed her. Then turning to Wallace, who now stood upon the opposite side of the hedge, he said, “Best estimate, Wal: Where’s the front door?”
“Wait right there.” Wallace replied.
He then quickly scrambled into his four-wheel drive vehicle. After starting the motor, he crashed the machine into gear, and mounted the kerb with the front wheels.
“Step back, Peter, dear heart.” He called out. “I’m no off-road expert.”
Then without further warning he revved the large diesel engine, released the clutch, and in a second had driven the huge vehicle straight through the hedge.
Wozniak stood in the glare of the headlights. “What the fuck?” He mouthed.
Wallace cut the motor and jumped from the driver’s seat. “And he said ‘let there be light’ and there was light, and the light was good.” He cried. “Darling, you can’t go stumbling about in the dark: If you’re going to try to reach Janice, the least you need is to be able to see properly.”
Wozniak could have hugged his friend, but this was neither the time nor place.
“Nice one, Wal, Right then – the front door? From there we can calculate the location of the garden shed. Make it quick: someone’s bound to have called the police.”
It took a couple of minutes, and some comparisons with the neighbouring houses, before Wallace was reasonably certain that he and Wozniak now stood in a position that was adjacent in time and space to the garden shed of his childhood.
“Right, now try to find something solid that’s survived since the collapse of your home.” Wozniak instructed Wallace.
Wallace looked at his friend with disbelief. “You’re taking the piss, right? The house blew up. It was demolished, and the ground became a farmer’s field. It’s had cows shitting all over it for decades: How are we going to find ‘something that’s survived’? Peter, I love you dearly, but sometimes you talk bollocks of the highest order.”
Wozniak realised that perhaps he was being a little over-optimistic with his request, but he also discovered in that moment of introspection that he actually believed in the idea that he was a Causality Merchant.
“Trust me, Wal.” He grinned. “The shed was wooden right? It must have sat upon some sort of slab. Concrete: Flag stones: Something like that.”
Wallace shook his head as he cast his mind back to his formative years.
“Concrete blocks I think. Raised up about six inches. The ground ‘round here was always boggy.” Then another recollection impinged itself upon his consciousness. “With a fucking great stone step leading up to the door. I fell off it once, and had to be taken to the surgery with a tooth through my lip.”
Wozniak cast his gaze and his penlight to and fro as he began searching through the thick, tussocky, grass. His foot came up against something hard that was buried in the soft, moist soil beneath the grass.
A huge smile spread across his hairy face. “What, like this, you mean?” He said.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
Since the extract from Silent Apocalypse went so well, I thought I might tickle your fancy with an excerpt from its sequel…
And why not; it’s fab!
My arrival in the quaint rural conurbation was instantaneous. One moment Tasman was wishing me good luck; the next I found myself standing on the pavement directly outside the village community hall. Tasman had asked me why I needed to be placed in the open air when he could just as easily place me inside the house again.
“I won’t have any difficulty getting into the house.” I’d said, “But I need to know what everyone else is doing before I act.”
So now I stood in a biting late November breeze; in my Navy SEALS battle dress; with my face blacked up; armed to the teeth; and listening to an ill-tuned upright piano being played appallingly inside the building beside me. Moments later a large group of young voices broke into song. They didn’t sing well, and the song itself could only be described as a dirge. Easing my body past a clump of stinging nettles that were tall and well past their best I slid my body along the slatted wooden exterior wall of the communal building. Standing upon tip-toes I peered through the grubby high level window. Inside I could see a facsimile of one of my dearest friends from my own continuum – Thomas Kingsbury. He was two years older than me, but this version looked as though he had twenty years over me. He was leading the youthful villagers in a rather old fashioned song that I didn’t recognise and which would have sounded better coming out of the mouths of people two generations older. In any other circumstance it might have been amusing, but I knew that it was the false meat that had done this harm, and it doubled my determination to correct the situation.
I think my heart must have missed a beat when I recognised the pianist. It was none other my best friend (and Tom’s younger sister) Katherine. Katherine the caustic, easy-quipping heroine had been reduced to playing the role of choir mistress.
‘Not that I have anything against choir mistresses: it’s just not Katherine’s ‘thing’.’
It was difficult for me to see everyone inside the building without running the risk of someone spotting my blackened face at the window. Nevertheless I did as best I could and was horrified to see the previously trouble-making Lee singing heartily. Donald was there too – at the back where I’d expect him to be, which suggested that the false meat hadn’t entirely stripped him of his inhibitions. Even poor simple Kevin Lutchins sang along as best he could. But my greatest horror was reserved to last. It came when the long mousey locks of the only person in the room bearing a gun were cast aside by a casual flick of the head. I too stood there; or at least my double did. I/she wasn’t singing, but I/she didn’t appear to be enjoying myself/herself either. That in itself wasn’t the true horror of the situation – she wasn’t, after all, really me at all: No, that came when the song ended, and Martine stood to deliver a speech. By taking up her position to the right, and slightly behind the alien girl, this world’s Felicity Goldsmith betrayed her position in the new order of Brambledown: She was the enemy’s body guard. Her personal Rottweiler!
I recalled at that moment what this world’s Colonel Cosgrove had told me of ‘his’ Felicity, and how he’d despatched her, Lee, Katherine, and Donald upon a mission from which they were yet to return. Now I knew what that mission was: to fetch the population of Brambledown to the sanctuary of Crag Base. Now they would never return. Now they were mere pawns in game played by a psychotic alien teen-ager who dreamed of her own empire.
‘Not if I have anything to do with it!’
With everyone who was likely to recognise me (despite the black face and cropped hair) together in one place, the time was ripe for me to act. Quickly making my way back to the pavement I struck out in the direction of the house that Martine had sequestered in my reality. I’d recognised it in the video recording so I knew that she’d done the same in this reality.
Less than two minutes had elapsed before I arrived at the house. It stood reasonably separate from its silent neighbours, and was surrounded by a chest high hedge that someone had maintained quite expertly. The gate creaked gently upon only slightly rusted hinges as I let myself on to the property. Gaining entry to the house was no problem; Martine, secure in the knowledge that no one of sufficient intelligence to break in existed, had left the door unlocked. I simply turned the round brass handle and stepped into the darkened house. Once inside I produced a tiny flashlight from a breast pocket and moved directly to the cellar door. Opening it I shone the narrow beam into the stygian darkness below. I was rewarded with the reflected light from a huge pile of metal canisters that had been stacked together in the centre of the room. There was no mistaking their identity; just like the one on the video returned by the camcorder, these too contained the hallucinogenic processed meat that reduced vibrant young people into malleable fools that could, in the worst cases, border upon zombie-like.
Recalling how I’d destroyed an identical stash in my own reality I searched the main room for oil lamps. Finding none I tried the drawing room, but without success. As if to prove that no two realities are entirely alike it seemed that this Martine had dispensed with quaint old fashioned technology, and had had an Espeeg generator installed. I found it in a cupboard under the stairs, and took great delight tearing the house wires from it. This act, if momentarily pleasurable, didn’t solve my problem.
‘Improvise, Fel: improvise.’
I needed a material that would burn easily and with high intensity. Balled up paper simply wouldn’t do, but that was all I could readily lay my hand on. I recalled passing a parked Land Rover in the street, but that was almost certainly powered by the virtually non-inflammable diesel; and in any case I doubted that I had the time or means to syphon any from the tank. Finding my way into the kitchen I tried looking in the cupboard beneath the sink. All I found were the remnants of some bleach and a bottle of floor cleaner. From there I proceeded into the integral garage.
From my position in the doorway that led from the kitchen I was looking straight at a shelf upon the opposite wall of the garage. My flashlight beam had ensnared two bottles of white spirit that perched invitingly at one end of the shelf.
I don’t recall crossing the distance between the door and the shelf, or finding a box to stand upon in order to reach the manna from heaven. Neither was I aware of returning to the kitchen; snatching a pile of tea towels from the worktop; and returning to the cellar. It seemed as if no time had passed at all. But I was very aware of what I was doing as I soaked the tea towels with white spirit, then stripped the dining table of its cloth covering and drenched that too.
I tried throwing a tea towel into the cellar, but the false meat stack was too distant and it fell short. A second attempt failed in the same manner. Despite not wanting to descend into the cellar for fear of being discovered and having no escape route I was forced to pluck up the courage and make my way down. Having done so I tucked the towels into every nook and cranny I could find in the stack of canisters, and then draped the table cloth over the top. Stepping back to look at my handiwork I felt reasonably pleased. All I needed now was an ignition source. Unfortunately the contents of several drawers yielded not one match or lighter. I considered turning on an electric ring of the kitchen stove with the idea of setting alight a length of screwed up paper and carrying it down into the cellar. But I realised that my earlier act of vandalism had scuppered that plan. So instead I loosed off a shot from my MP7. It was a standard full metal jacket, and merely split open a couple of cans. The second had the same effect. But the third was a tracer round, and its white-hot incandescent casing ignited the vapours that rose from the spirit-soaked material. Instantly flames erupted across and through the stack of canisters. In a few seconds the blaze had engulfed it – heating up the fatty medium in which the false meat was suspended, turning it to liquid, where it flowed from the bullet holes, and proved most inflammable. I sent several more rounds into the inferno – spreading the fire further and wider.
I was about to congratulate myself upon a job well done when something came from the darkness behind me and knocked me senseless. I felt no pain as I tumbled like a ragdoll down the stairs into the cellar. Neither did I feel the coldness of the flagstone cellar floor or the searing heat of the fire at the cellar’s centre. But I was aware of a female voice screeching in anger and desperation.
“Who cares who she is: put out the fire. Put out the fire!”
This was followed by the abrupt illumination of the houselights on the floor above me and the clatter of a multitude of shod feet.
As my senses returned fully I became aware that I was lying upon my back and looking up the short flight of stairs that I had so recently fallen down. Illuminated by the flames that seemed to be coming ever closer to me I could see a solitary figure looking down at me. She wore her hair long and cradled an MP7 much like my own which lay a distance from me and appeared to be melting as the lava-like juices from the cans engulfed it.
“Fel.” I shouted at her. “Fel!”
She appeared to be startled at this. The barrel of her gun wavered as a look of confusion passed across her face.
“I’m you.” I lied. “I’ve come from the future.”
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
Whoo – are you wondering what happens next – or even what the heck is going on? Buy the book and its prequel, and you’ll find out soon enough
I’m not a big fan of flying. In fact, if it wasn’t for Scopoderm motion sickness patches, I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere outside the UK. Also, once take-off is complete, I find it a bit…well…boring. MP3 players help, of course; but time drags. So imagine my horror, recently, when strolling to the departure gate at Southampton Airport, I discovered a huge empty aircraft apron, where normally a graceful Embraer 195 awaits my embarkation. Horror turned to consternation and disbelief as my shuttle bus driver drove me to the opposite end of the apron – to be greeted by the sight of a 78-seater Bombardier Q400 Dash 8.
“What?” I exclaimed. “But, but, but that’s a business shuttle: it flies to Newcastle or Exeter. Paris, at a push. It can’t possibly take me to Spain!”
A couple of hours later…
Golly, lucky me, it’s only another hour before we land. Thank god I remembered to bring along some reading material; otherwise only insanity would deign to be my travelling companion. And the choice of this oh-so-necessary reading material? Logic dictated that it should be this, of course…
I fabulous actor. A wonderful writer. And a great loss to us all.
Yes, after much frivolity its time for an excerpt from this fair tale…
And why not, it is my better-selling tome after all.
To shield his eyes, Driver crammed a wide brimmed hat on to his balding head. He then clambered in with us; extracted a huge hand gun from a metal box; before returning to the driving seat. He arrived in time to see two figures – one male, and one female – arrive with a confident stride from the darkness beyond. They were both dressed in identical, well-tailored coveralls and wearing helmets with rather intimidating mirrored visors. They held sophisticated-looking hand guns, the like of which none of us had ever seen.
Driver shook his gun at them: “You two can get lost, for a start!” He shouted.
The two figures either didn’t notice, which seemed unlikely, or they simply weren’t interested in what he had to say. To me it reeked of great arrogance; and that worried me.
Surely they recognized the lethalness of the weapon he held? ‘Or do they? Do they care? Who are they?’
They seemed far more interested in Horse. They approached, not with caution, but with open fascination. Horse tried to back away, but the Crag Bus stopped it. A small, sharp blade appeared in the hand of the male figure. I was horrified at the thought that they might actually dissect the animal then and there.
Naturally Driver was alarmed. He fired a shot in the air. This gained the attention of our two strange visitors. They approached Driver – totally oblivious of the gun aimed at them. They looked at his face – moving hands to their visors – which seemed to become transparent automatically – as though they were comparing the lines of Driver’s face, with an absence upon their own.
Kevin was absorbed with the whole situation. Unseen by any of us, he’d begun to lean out of one of the windows to gain a better view. Because of this the male figure became aware of us. It was a slow awareness. Not the sort when something catches your eye, or when you hear a sudden sound. No, this was slow – almost as if he’d known all along, and was only now letting us know that he’d seen us: that we’d finally gained his interest. His gaze gradually moved in our direction. It was like the whole world had gone into slow motion. His gaze slid along the sides of the Crag Bus, until his eyes locked with mine. How I knew this, I can’t say because his eyes were in deep shadow: But I knew. Then Kevin fell out of the window.
The two sophisticated handguns ascended as one. Both fired a single shot that made an unusual, but characteristic ‘zip’ sound that I’d not heard before.
Driver roared, “No!” He then squeezed the trigger of his handgun. Nothing happened, and he began shaking it in frustration.
The stranger’s weapons shifted their aim to the drivers’ seat. As if in response came several ‘puffs’ of silenced machine gun fire from an unidentified source. Both figures received direct strikes to their torsos. They staggered for a moment, and although we could see no blood or obvious damage to their coveralls, we were sure they would fall.
Katherine screamed in horror. Then she screamed again, but this time in fear for her own safety as, unbelievably, both figures recovered their balance and began casting around for signs of their assailants. Clearly confused, the female brought her weapon back to bear on Driver.
Lee let loose with the SA80. The female was flung bodily across the road by the impacts, but, as far as I could see, her suit was undamaged.
‘Wafer-thin body armour?’
The Male reacted by firing in our direction, several holes appearing in the side of the vehicle, but mercifully missing any living targets. Driver’s gun suddenly freed its obstruction, and seemingly fired itself at extremely close range. The old gun packed a huge punch; but although the male figure was sent reeling, he remained essentially unhurt and rolled back on to his feet with worrying agility.
“Get down.” I yelled at the old man.
But he was already on his way to cover. Showing remarkable nimbleness for a man of his age he was able to leap clear before the female figure opened fire upon his driving position.
Wonderful thing – adrenaline: Makes us all into Superman.
Donald and Katherine fired as one. By luck, or chance, each had selected different targets. Both scored hits, but with the same lack of ultimate effect. Rather belatedly (I thought) I finally squeezed off a few shots. Some hit their targets – most didn’t. But it helped keep the strangers off balance – if not really turning the tide of battle – for that was what we were surely in, as our opponents were able to respond with occasional shots in our direction.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kevin rise slowly. He spotted Driver lurking behind the Crag Bus. As quickly as his four limbs could carry him, Kevin scrambled to join the old man. I then noticed the two holes in his haversack. Once again he’d escaped serious harm, and at that moment I promised myself that if I ever met the man who’d manufactured such a sturdy haversack I would give him the biggest kiss that there ever was. Then, almost simultaneously, our ammunition ran out. That stark moment of silence was followed by a lingering moment of horror as the two figures began advancing toward us – their guns raised.
© Paul Trevor Nolan 2014
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