“Zeppelin Jack and the Black Diamond” so far

1

My best friend Nip and I snuck into a real bar – sort of. We’d annoyed our zeppelin’s one and only barkeep until he punished us with dishes.

Giz parped in my pocket. Things are truly dull when your automata complains. But then I saw two men whispering, with their heads bent close.

I snuck closer and heard one man mutter that the black diamond had to be found. As I took their empty mugs, I heard a name – Esmerelda.

2

“But Jack,” Nip said again, narrowing his Chinese eyes at me until he went cross-eyed, “we don’t know an Esmerelda, and nor does anyone.”

We were half mad with curiousity, so we went and asked Matron if she knew an Esmerelda. “Oh no,” she said, “other than me, none at all.”

“Do you know anything about a black diamond?” I asked. She blushed three shades of red: “You orphans weren’t meant to know I was engaged.”

3

Nip and I hid outside the jeweller’s where Matron’s ring was getting polished. “So it was her fiancé we threw off the zeppelin roof,” I said.

“He DID try to kill us,” said Nip. “And, we blew him up.” “Shh! Gizmo’s coming out!” Giz parped frantically at us, and fled down a pipe.

The jeweller was deep in conversation with a hooded man. I crept in to listen and heard, “Do you think Esme knows what it is?” “No chance.”

4

Nip and I went to the library (ugh!) to learn (ugh!) about black diamonds. The librarian scowled at us, but she let us in.

Nip said, “Hey Jack! Black diamonds come from outer space.” “Is that why the jewellers are interested in Matron’s one?” “I don’t think so.”

5

I rubbed more grease into my side of the cog while Nip worked on the other side, hidden by the mechanism. The engine thrummed around us.

I said, “Black diamonds are exciting, when people aren’t silly enough to make them all lovey-dovey. But I think Matron’s ring is special.”

Gizmo said, “Bing!” and we moved on to the next piston. I said, “There’s only one way to figure out what it is, and that’s to steal it.”

6

Nip and I snuck into Matron’s gondola, wincing at the girly stink of it. I reminded myself she wasn’t a real girl, and was able to go on.

Hoping against hope that Matron was too old for cooties, I snuck close and saw the ring glinting beside her bed. I reached out and-

-she whipped out a hand and got me. “Jack? You’re demoted to sixth assistant cogmonkey for this. And you should be ashamed!” “I am.”

7

Nip and I bravely crept back to Matron’s gondola. There were other boys at her door, and when they spotted us they gave a shout! We ran off.

8

Nip knew the boys Matron had set outside her door, so he sacrificed himself for my sake, and challenged them to a kung fu battle elsewhere.

Giz and I crept to Matron’s gondola alone – only to be foiled again. More boys! As Matron, Esme had an endless supply. Giz parped sadly.

9

I reported to Matron for my extra duties, wearing my saddest, most parentless face. She shook my hand by way of forgiveness.

Her diamond ring slid off, neat as you please. Being a good boy is worth it after all! I took it to Nip and once.

There was something strange about the ring. The surface was badly scratched, despite the supposed polish. Giz rolled over to look.

10

Nip and I broke into an alchemist’s lab (much easier than Matron’s gondola, and far less hazardous in cooties terms) to borrow their scope.

Between the three of us, we drew the pattern of scratches from the ring’s surface. The scientist returned, but we just hid under the desk.

11

I returned Matron’s ring and told her a story about rescuing it from a Nasty Piece of Work. “Thanks,” she said drily, “you’re my hero.”

Somehow I found myself demoted to seventh assistant cogmonkey. Oh well – it could be worse. I could be blown up and thrown off the roof.

12

I had a dream and woke up knowing what was scratched on the black diamond. “It’s a map!” I said. Gizmo said, “Bing!” and I knew I was right.

Nip was unimpressed. He said, “A map of what? It’s just squiggly lines and a picture of a lemon.” I said, “And an X. Don’t forget THAT.”

13

The picture of a lemon was definitely A Clue. Nip and I went to the grocer to “investigate”. We stole three lemons, two limes and a tomato.

The fruit was delicious. The clue remained a mystery. What kind of treasure had anything to do with citrus fruits?

14

Nip passed me a rag saturated with oil, and I wiped down the number four piston. As I leaned forward, the map fell out of my shirt.

I grabbed the map, but it was covered in engine grease. Gizmo rolled around on his six little legs, parping miserably.

Nip carefully spread it out: “It’s okay, Jack. The oil seeped into the pencil grooves, but we can still read it.”

15

I slept with the map under my head, determined to keep it safe. When I woke up, my pillow was covered in squiggly lines of oil.

Matron called Nip and I to her office. Did she know about the fruit? I hid Giz in my metal arm in case she tried to confiscate him.

Matron dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief: “You boys know what happened to my fiancé, don’t you?” I said, “Didn’t know you had one.”

16

“We’re going to have to tell her,” I told Nip. Matron burst in: “Tell me what?” I panicked, and showed her the map taken from her ring.

Matron said, “A map? Really? It’s just squiggly lines and a picture of a lemon.” “And an X,” I said. She said, “Hmm.”

17

Nip and I had Gizmo thoroughly check we were alone before we dared to talk openly about the death of Matron’s evil fiancé.

“We have to tell her,” I said. Nip said, “She’ll kill us to death for not telling her sooner.” “Yes.”

18

I woke up and the map was gone! Someone had snuck into the foundlings’ quarters and stolen the only valuable thing. I suspected Matron.

Nip searched with me, but it was no use. The map was gone. But all was not lost – we still had a backward copy of the map on my pillow.

19

Nip and Giz and I were temporarily assigned to roof cleaning duties. The burnt nets where Matron’s fiancé had fallen through were fixed now.

When I’d scraped off the bird poo, I stopped to look at the view. Below me the wide sea was smooth, and the few people in the bay were tiny.

I pulled the stained pillow from my shirt and yelled for Nip, “Come here quick! It’s the bay! The map shows the coastline of Botany Bay!”

20

Nip and I went up on the roof again, so no-one could eavesdrop. I said, “How do we get down?” Nip said, “Can you fly? Because I can’t.”

Nip said, “Isn’t the Bay full of convicts anyway? Isn’t that why all reputable folk are up here in an airship – to avoid them?”

I said, “We’ll deal with the convicts later, once I’ve thought of a way down. Nip – Gizmo – we’re going to fly!” Nip said, “We ARE flying.”

21

I went to Matron and told her the truth: her fiancé had given her a treasure map. “We need your help to get down and collect it,” I said.

“There’s no way I’m applying for permission to take you on land,” she said, “You’d be a bad influence on all those convicts. I’ll go.”

“Nice work,” said Nip when I told him. I said, “Yep. Now we gotta get down there before she does. I bet she’s made copies of the map, too.”

“Meg the Egg” story so far

4

Mum walked in on Hugh and I kissing. “Sex ed clearly isn’t enough,” she said, and gave each of us an egg with a drawn-on face to look after.

She said it was the latest technology, and it would teach us about parenthood. Hugh freaked out and went home. My egg began to cry.

Mum made me walk up and down with the egg cupped in my hand until it finally shut up. I named it Meg, and decided never to have kids.

5

Stupid Meg is stupid crying and it won’t shut up. From now on, I’m only kissing Hugh if we’re both wrapped in cling wrap. Just in case.

Hugh tweeted that he didn’t want kids. Perfect. I wonder if sixteen is too young for him to get a vasectomy.

Discussed vasectomy with Hugh. He says he’ll do it if my Mum takes the eggs back. Definitely worth it. Meg makes my hands itch.

6

Miss Bobbit asked us what we were holding under our desks, and when we explained she had a coughing fit and left the room. NOT FUNNY.

Meg is oddly compelling. I feel funny without her neat warmth in my hand. Her little marker-drawn face looks like it’s smiling.

7

My BFF Sasha said that if I have to face parenthood my Mum should let Hugh stay with me so we can experience the pitfalls of married life.

When I asked Mum why she disagreed with Sasha she sent me to my room. Meg was making little gurgling noises. Pretty cute for a robot.

8

Meg was doing so well, and then at 3am she spat out some kind of green goo. Mum sucks! I never woke HER at 3am when I was a baby.

Fell asleep and missed drama class. Why couldn’t I fall asleep in maths? What’s wrong with me? I LIKE drama. Uh-oh, Meg needs a walk again.

9

Hugh pulled me over at lunch to show me something cool. He threw his egg (Sven) up in the air. It made a squealing noise like it was happy.

I wasn’t sure I dared throw Meg anywhere, even if it helped develop her motor skills in later life. Hugh grabbed her and chucked.

Meg flipped over and – yes, she was laughing! Hugh stepped forward to catch her and slipped. I dived facedown and JUST got her. Never again!

10

Rough night. When I woke up, both my hands were dark purple with bruising. Hugh came over and his hands were the same – especially the left.

“It’s Sven,” he said, “because I hold him in my left hand so my right is free for the remote.”

“Should infants be watching TV?”

“Not the point,” said Hugh.

I said, “Fine. We’re – allergic, or something. Should we tell my Mum?”

“What if she makes us give them up?”

11

I walked into Mum’s room without thinking, and saw her getting dressed. Her skin was green and slimy, and she pulled on a human skin suit.

She turned slowly and looked at me with two bulbous eyes on stalks: “We need to talk.”

I stood frozen: “You’re not Mum.”

“No.”

The alien explained that my real Mum was in Barbados and would be back for Christmas: “Call me Xarla.”

“Oh. . . sure. Er. Nice name.”

12

Hugh and Xarla and I sat down with the eggs. “We need human blood to feel our children,” she explained – “so, sorry about your hands.”

“Why don’t I remember Mum saying she was going away?” I asked.

Xarla said, “Short-term memory wipe. Give it another day or two.”

I called Mum in Barbados. “Are you doing your homework?” she trilled.

I said, “Um. Yes. So you’re fine?”

“Time of my life!”

“Okay then.”

13

Meg was crying again, so I walked around with her in my hand for over an hour. Now I knew she was doing it, I could feel tiny pinpricks.

I called Hugh. “Is Xarla implanting me with something? Because I’m finding it cute how Meg drinks my blood.”

Hugh was silent a long time.

“No,” he said at last: “They’re not altering us to like the eggs. Humans are biologically programmed to like small messy helpless things.”

14

Hugh and I sat close together at the back of English and discussed whether or not we were aiding an alien invasion of Earth.

I decided, “I don’t THINK we’re betraying the human race. I think we’re just. . . babysitting.”

Hugh nodded.

“If the aliens do take over, do you think they’ll abolish school?” said Hugh.

I said, “Another excellent point.”

15

For the sake of the children, Hugh and I skipped maths. I know I’D wipe out humanity if that was what I saw of it.

16

Hugh and I had dinner with Xarla – she cooked a great lasagna.

I said, “Er. . . would you mind putting your human skin suit back on?”

“No problem,” said Xarla.

Hugh whispered, “Adults are sooo gross.”

“I know.”

17

We took the eggs to a Lady Gaga concert. They moved around a lot, but I couldn’t tell if they were dancing or trying to escape.

“Meg the Egg” tale so far

[I think you’ll enjoy tomorrow’s tweets.]

4

Mum walked in on Hugh and I kissing. “Sex ed clearly isn’t enough,” she said, and gave each of us an egg with a drawn-on face to look after.

She said it was the latest technology, and it would teach us about parenthood. Hugh freaked out and went home. My egg began to cry.

Mum made me walk up and down with the egg cupped in my hand until it finally shut up. I named it Meg, and decided never to have kids.

5

Stupid Meg is stupid crying and it won’t shut up. From now on, I’m only kissing Hugh if we’re both wrapped in cling wrap. Just in case.

Hugh tweeted that he didn’t want kids. Perfect. I wonder if sixteen is too young for him to get a vasectomy.

Discussed vasectomy with Hugh. He says he’ll do it if my Mum takes the eggs back. Definitely worth it. Meg makes my hands itch.

6

Miss Bobbit asked us what we were holding under our desks, and when we explained she had a coughing fit and left the room. NOT FUNNY.

Meg is oddly compelling. I feel funny without her neat warmth in my hand. Her little marker-drawn face looks like it’s smiling.

7

My BFF Sasha said that if I have to face parenthood my Mum should let Hugh stay with me so we can experience the pitfalls of married life.

When I asked Mum why she disagreed with Sasha she sent me to my room. Meg was making little gurgling noises. Pretty cute for a robot.

8

Meg was doing so well, and then at 3am she spat out some kind of green goo. Mum sucks! I never woke HER at 3am when I was a baby.

Fell asleep and missed drama class. Why couldn’t I fall asleep in maths? What’s wrong with me? I LIKE drama. Uh-oh, Meg needs a walk again.

9

Hugh pulled me over at lunch to show me something cool. He threw his egg (Sven) up in the air. It made a squealing noise like it was happy.

I wasn’t sure I dared throw Meg anywhere, even if it helped develop her motor skills in later life. Hugh grabbed her and chucked.

Meg flipped over and – yes, she was laughing! Hugh stepped forward to catch her and slipped. I dived facedown and JUST got her. Never again!

10

Rough night. When I woke up, both my hands were dark purple with bruising. Hugh came over and his hands were the same – especially the left.

“It’s Sven,” he said, “because I hold him in my left hand so my right is free for the remote.” “Should infants be watching TV?”

“Not the point,” said Hugh. I said, “Fine. We’re – allergic, or something. Should we tell Mum?” “What if she makes us give them up?”

“The Captain’s Daughter” so far

1

I curled my toes around the narrow foot-rope, and dug my nails into the knot tying up the sail. No good; I bite my nails too much. On the up side, my teeth are good. I leaned into the wind and pulled at the knot with my teeth. Spitting fibers, I pulled the rope free.

Da’s first mate, Hank, met me on deck. He said, “You’re disgusting, Gail. Biting at ropes like a dog.”

“At least I don’t look like one.”

2

Da called me to his cabin. “Sir?” I said.

He said, “In here, call me Da.”

“Yes Da.”

“You’re old enough now to think of your future.”

“Oh.” My heart sank. I bit my nails, wondering if he’d marry me off.

He cleared his throat: “I want you to be captain after me.”

“What?”

He said, “The men know you – and I won’t live forever.”

I said, “You WILL live forever, Da – I order it.”

He grinned: “Whatever you say.”

3

We neared a familiar port. I held the lead line – mainly so I could sit apart from the rest and wonder if they’d really obey me one day. The cord ran through my hands and stopped. I stared for a second before realising the harbour floor had shifted. “Avast! Turn about!”

My friend Jim was on the wheel, and he pulled hard. The ship wailed as it turned too hard, but we made it safely. Jim, at least, obeyed me.

4

I still wanted to think, so I stayed on board while the rest went to spend their gold or line their pockets with other people’s purses. Da came back with a red-faced and slouching boy who wouldn’t meet my eye. He introduced my brother, Al.

Al said, “I’m gonna be captain.”

“No you ain’t!” I said.

He threw a punch and I threw it back, giving him a nice bloody nose with his own fist. Da sent me to the hold.

5

Da came to me: “I didn’t know about Al until now – and Hank said the men’d be ashamed to let a woman lead them. He knows the crew, Gail.”

I shook my head at him, too furious to speak.

Da said, “It’ll be better this way – you’ll see. We’ll find a place for you.”

Da left, and I fumed. The ship was mine, and no long-lost landlubber kid was going to take it from me. I was NOT going to be married off!

6

A dash of bilgewater poured into my face, waking me. I couldn’t help noticing the ship was heeling badly. Above me, thunder rolled. I watched as rats leapt and scuttled up the walls, leaving the bilgewater and I alone. Hm.

I climbed on top of some crates and held on.

7

The hatch opened and Al peered in, munching on a fresh red apple. My stomach growled.

“Our Da sent me to let you out,” he said. “There’s a big storm happening. I wouldn’t want my baby sister to get hurt.” He closed the hatch, and I heard the lock turn.

“Baby?” I muttered, and followed the rats upward. Da had long since taught me to undo any lock. If he said I was allowed out, I was free.

8

I was tugging on a line with Al when we were all tumbled by a rogue wave. Most of us were smart enough to hold on. Al wasn’t. I let go and dived for my landlubber half-brother, and caught hold of his curly red hair just before he was swept overboard.

When the wave was gone, I let go of Al’s hair and went to tie up the sails. He got up – slowly. We both knew I’d saved his life.

9

Al and I worked and I saw Da nod an apology to me. He’d taught me long ago that sometimes, a captain needs to turn a blind eye. I got that.

We made port at Tin Island – the place Da found me when I was just a kid. The orphanage stood majestically shining on a high hill.

10

Da summoned all hands. “As you are aware, I now know I have two able-bodied children. I intend to leave this ship to one of them. Here is the challenge: Whichever one gains the most gold in the next two weeks will be my heir. Are we agreed?” The crew cheered.

I gave Da a nod of thanks, and he grinned back. All I had to do was get more gold, and the crew’s hearts and minds were mine forever.

11

Da found me in the market and asked me to come with him. We walked all the way up the winding orphanage path, past children working. “Why bring me back to this hole?” I asked.

Da said, “Sometimes, our future is found in the past.”

He left me at the same place Ma dumped me.

My old mistress tried to sell me a “good, hard-working set of twins” and I said I’d think about it. I slipped the kids a few coins and fled.

12

I suddenly realised why Da had reminded me of my past. Rope in hand, I went back up the hill to the orphanage and climbed the back wall. The strongboxes were where I remembered them. Mistress had punished me once by making me count out all the gold coins in one trunk. Mistress’ Dobermans ran to attack, but the mum remembered me. I’d always treated her well.

I took as much gold as I could carry.

13

I presented my haul publicly, and promised the same again. Da hid his smile. I saw cogs turning in the heads of the crew, and knew I’d won.

Al took me aside: “This is a fool’s contest. What say we get rid of the greedy old man and take this ship as ours.”

“No!”

He drew his sword. I grabbed his blade with my hand and kneed him in the groin. He pulled back, splitting my palm, and bashed my head with the hilt. I fell.

14

When I awoke, Hank was there. I blinked: “Why are we in the hold?”

“Because your brother bribed me to kill you while your Da was with him.”

I said, “You like bribes, then?”

Hank smiled and drew his sword.

I said, “Let me go, and I’ll tell you where I got all that gold.”

I went up on deck smiling.

Hank was honorable enough to leave my death for later. I hoped he enjoyed meeting my old mistress’ Doberman.

15

I hadn’t seen Al, and hoped he’d fled to make a different life for himself. But I had a bad feeling, and went to check on Da. I unpicked the lock and flung open the door to my exhausted Da and brother, each bleeding in a dozen places. I yelled my rage and attacked.

Al fled.

Da collapsed, and I ran to him instead of giving chase. “Gail, I’m so sorry – for everything.”

“Shut up,” I said, and bandaged him.

16

There was no sign of Al when we set sail. I privately hoped my old mistress found him.

“Where’s Hank?” Da asked.

I said, “Dog food.”

17

Da surprised me by officially passing across captaincy of his ship to me. The crew cheered – evidently, I was the last to know. I straightened up, accepting my new life. Jim winked, and I wondered if he was being disrespectful. He confused me. That could be an issue.

18

I made Da keep his cabin, but we were both on night watch so it didn’t matter. Not until we finished, and found a corpse locked in there.

Kip was just another member of the crew until I found him stabbed in the captain’s cabin. Who would do something like that?

Our cook ran out of the galley. “Who took my apples? They were for a pie for all of us. Where are they?”

Suddenly I knew: Al was a stowaway.

19

We searched the ship room by room and found another dead body – stabbed in the back. Al was a coward as well as a killer. But it got worse. The crew took Da and I and locked us inside Da’s cabin. “If you can’t protect us, we’ll take Al over you,” they said.

Jim didn’t look at me.

Da and I stood with clenched fists, waiting for Al’s visit. We heard him pass, but he didn’t visit – not even to gloat.

20

Al came to see us: “Will you obey my command?”

“Not a chance,” I said.

Da tried to stand in front of me, so he’d be killed first.

Al left us to stew all day. Someone snuck a dagger under the door, and I hid it under my shirt and hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

“Gail?” said Da.

I said, “Mm?”

“Did I mention I was sorry about your brother? From about a day after we met?”

“I had gotten that feeling.”

“The Captain’s Daughter” so far

In theory, I post the current twittertale so far each Friday (immediately before posting that day’s awesomeness). Today, I actually remembered.

The Captain’s Daughter

1

I curled my toes around the narrow foot-rope, and dug my nails into the knot tying up the sail. No good; I bite my nails too much.

On the up side, my teeth are good. I leaned into the wind and pulled at the knot with my teeth. Spitting fibers, I pulled the rope free.

Da’s first mate, Hank, met me on deck. He said, “You’re disgusting, Gail. Biting at ropes like a dog.”

“At least I don’t look like one.”

2

Da called me to his cabin. “Sir?” I said.

He said, “In here, call me Da.”

“Yes Da.”

“You’re old enough now to think of your future.”

“Oh.”

My heart sank. I bit my nails, wondering if he’d marry me off. He cleared his throat: “I want you to be captain after me.”

“What?”

He said, “The men know you – and I won’t live forever.”

I said, “You WILL live forever, Da – I order it.”

He grinned: “Whatever you say.”

3

We neared a familiar port. I held the lead line – mainly so I could sit apart from the rest and wonder if they’d really obey me one day.

The cord ran through my hands and stopped. I stared for a second before realising the harbour floor had shifted. “Avast! Turn about!”

My friend Jim was on the wheel, and he pulled hard. The ship wailed as it turned too hard, but we made it safely. Jim, at least, obeyed me.

4

I still wanted to think, so I stayed on board while the rest went to spend their gold or line their pockets with other people’s purses.

Da came back with a red-faced and slouching boy who wouldn’t meet my eye. He introduced my brother, Al. Al said, “I’m gonna be captain.”

“No you ain’t!” I said. He threw a punch and I threw it back, giving him a nice bloody nose with his own fist. Da sent me to the hold.

5

Da came to me: “I didn’t know about Al until now – and Hank said the men’d be ashamed to let a woman lead them. He knows the crew, Gail.”

I shook my head at him, too furious to speak. Da said, “It’ll be better this way – you’ll see. We’ll find a place for you.”

Da left, and I fumed. The ship was mine, and no long-lost landlubber kid was going to take it from me. I was NOT going to be married off!

“Zeppelin Jack and the Deadly Dueller” so far

1

Marm grabbed both of us boys by the collars, but Nip wriggled away. I trudged after her to the Foundlings’ Aid Office for my lecture.

“You are too easily distracted,” she said.

I wondered where my Gizmo had got to.

She said, “You’re demoted to fifth assistant cogmonkey.”

She’d demoted me to sixth last week, so I grinned. I wiped grease off my nose and found the offending cigarette behind my ear. Perfect day.

2

Gizmo whirred quietly on my knee as Nip retold the details of yesterday’s flight. Outside the theatre gondola, engine fumes stained the sky.

“Bored?” I said.

Nip said, “The play hasn’t begun.”

“Let’s sneak backstage and join in.”

Giz rolled under a chair, and we crawled after it.

*

“Parp!” said Gizmo.

We looked up into the pulley ropes, and saw a man with an eyepatch and a crooked neck. A dead, dangling pirate!

3

We snuck back into the empty theatre when the coast was clear. The body was gone, but Nip and Gizmo and I were determined to Find A Clue.

“Bing!” said Gizmo, dancing on one of its six radiating legs. I hurried over and saw an eye. It was some kind of metal, like my arm.

“It’s awful heavy,” I told Nip.

He stared, and said, “Jack! It’s heavy because it’s an auto-eye made of gold.”

“Let’s get out of here.”

4

Nip dodged a gear twice his size and flicked grease at it as it crunched onward. Zeppelin School for Boys minded an engine older than Marm.

“Was the pirate killed for his eye?” I mused.

Nip said, “More importantly, should we sell it?”

I pondered until Giz shrieked, “Parp!”

Metal teeth grasped my leg. I yelped and leapt into the air. The teeth kept turning.

Nip said, “You’re too easily distracted.”

“So I hear.”

5

Nip came running with the day’s paper: “Deadly Dueller Strikes Again!”

“It was him! The infamous Saturday killer killed our pirate.”

“He wanted the eye!” I said.

Nip’s eyes boggled: “I don’t want to duel him!”

“Me neither,” I said, “since I’d hoped he’d duel Marm one day.”

6

“I know where he kills them,” I told Nip.

He looked pale to me, but it’s hard to tell with Chinese kids.

“The roof,” I said, “so let’s go.”

*

Nip was quiet as we climbed the metal access ladders to the zeppelin roof. The wind whipped our hair, and Giz parped insistently.

Nip searched East, and I put Giz into my metal left arm and searched West. But when I returned to our meeting place, Nip was gone.

7

I put an ad in the paper: “I have your eye. You have my friend. Let’s meet at the same place at noon.” Hopefully Nip was still alive.

I stood on the vast canvas roof and heard the click-thump of a man with one metal leg. Nip shouted to close my eyes. I did. Giz didn’t.

The dueller said, “Stop messing about, kids. This is a vital clue.” He took the eye.

I asked Nip if he was hurt. “Nah. He gave me pork pie.”

8

Nip filed down a lump in a new cog. “Who are the alchemists?” he asked.

I said, “Dunno. Why?”

“The dueller kept telling me to stay away.”

We went immediately into unfamiliar territory: the library. All the books on alchemy were gone. The librarian said Marm took them.

9

We snuck off work and into Marm’s gondola. Her drawers were full of icky unguents and powders, and – for some reason – loaded mouse traps.

After binding Nip’s broken finger (luckily Nip didn’t have any metal parts, because those are expensive to fix), we found the books.

“Victory!” said Nip.

Giz said, “Bing!”

I said, “Now we read them.”

Giz said, “Parp!” and Nip fainted dead away.

10

I found diagrams of cool experiments. We stole giant canisters of helium and nitrogen. Something made me laugh maniacally for no reason.

“What happens if we mix them?” said Nip.

Giz said, “Parp!”

We crowded together on our bunk and unscrewed the lid of the nitrogen.

Nip giggled and fell asleep. “PARP!” said Giz.

I said, “My hands are soooo big. Look Nip! Nip?” My eyes closed.

Giz said, “PARP-PARP-PARP!”

11

When we came to, Giz was badly scratched from opening the vents.

Marm had her hands on her hips. “I TOLD you not to smoke,” she said.

I said, “We weren’t. We were studying alchemy.”

Marm blanched and left without another word.

Nip said, “She’s not angry – she’s scared.”

12

I found a note on my bunk. It said, “I know who you are and what you’re attempting. No more misguided mercy. We duel at noon this Saturday.”

Giz carefully examined the note. “Bing,” it said. I translated that as ‘Follow’.” We did – all the way to the dueller’s hideout – a home.

The dueller’s wife spotted us and invited us in for honey cookies. They were delicious. Then we left, wondering what to do.

13

We discussed our mystery at work. A gear malfunctioned, jumped its track, and came rolling to crush us both. We jumped out of the way.

Nip inspected the mess.

“Sabotage?” I said.

Nip said, “Yep – but not the dueller, since he’s already going to kill you on Saturday.”

“Parp!” said Giz.

Nip said, “Er. . . he’s going to TRY to kill you. Do you think his wife knows?”

“No-one who cooks that well could kill.”

14

Nip offered to teach me kung fu, since he was Chinese.

I said, “But you don’t remember your parents, so how could you–”

“I. Just. Know.”

Nip made me clean and wax our bunks for no apparent reason. Then he made me do it again. Why?

*

Finally Nip said I was almost ready. Then he punched me in the nose. I kicked him in the leg until he agreed to stop teaching me.

15

Nip paused in his cog-cleaning duties and made a face. “Did you just fart?” I denied the charge, and he threatened to show me more kung fu.

As I clambered onto the cog’s conjoined twin, I saw the cause of the smell. “Hey! There’s sulphur over here. It’s turning toward you, too.”

Nip said, “Mine’s got charcoal, and some kind of black stuff. It stinks like sh–”

I shouted, “Nip! RUN!” The alchemist’s trap met and BANG!

16

Despite Giz’s objections, I went to meet the dueller. “Thanks for trying to kill me yesterday. Did you get too scared to face a kid?”

The dueller paused: “Who tried to kill you? And how?”

“Alchemists, with gunpowder. Wasn’t it you?”

“No. I thought you were with them.”

He lowered his pistol: “I guess I’ll have to duel someone else. Like to meet tomorrow for home-baked pie and grandiose plans?”

17

The dueller made us pork pies and tea as he explained: “I’m trying to stop the alchemists. I saw you stealing chemicals and I thought –”

His wife rolled her eyes.

I said, “Well, now we’re clear – what do the alchemists want, anyway? Gold, I suppose.”

The dueller laughed. “Who wants gold these days? It’s nothing but a bauble – a useless side effect. They’re trying to develop a more powerful form of gunpowder.”

18

The dueller agreed that Marm’s behaviour was suspicious, so we followed her all day, sneaking behind clanking cogs and giant smokestacks.

At last we discovered her noxious secret: Marm had a boyfriend. They did gross, horrifying things – like kissing. Being a hero was tough.

19

We gritted our teeth and tailed Marm again. This time, we saw HER sneaking behind gears. We crept after her. So did our school-friend Grim.

We couldn’t get close enough to hear what they said – but Giz could. Grim showed her something, and she cried. It was as bad as her kissing.

We asked Giz a series of bing or parp questions, and discovered that Grim was an alchemist in training. He’d threatened Marm’s secret son.

20

Nip tried out his kung fu on Grim, and it actually seemed to work. “Leave me alone,” Grim said, “and I’ll pay you as much as you like.”

Nip and I conferred: “We want a pound of real gold.”

“Done,” said Grim, and left.

Nip sighed, “He’s definitely with the alchemists.”

21

We’d gotten good at trailing people, so the dueller agreed to let us follow Grim ourselves. Grim ducked behind a red-hot piston.

We circled the giant piston three times – no Grim!

I gasped: “The alchemists much have a secret passageway through the balloon!”

22

We cornered Grim and told him the dueller was on to him, and demanded he defend his honour at noon tomorrow on the Western roof section.

Grim smiled privately, and Nip and I exchanged a look. What did he know that we didn’t?

23

Nip and I hid, despite our assurances to the dueller that we could fight in his place. All he did was smile, and advise us to get comfy

At last Grim appeared, with a pistol in each hand. “I’m just a kid,” he said, “so I’ll take the first shot.”

“No,” said the dueller.

Nip and I leapt out and pinned Grim’s arms. The dueller said, “I don’t kill children – I question them. You’ll tell me everything you know.”

24

Grim endured the delicious baking of the dueller’s wife all night before the dueller even asked a question. Nip and I were invited.

At last the dueller sat Grim in a chair and asked him who he worked for. Grim burst into tears and touched a switch on his metal arm.

He exploded in a fireball, and nothing but his legs remained, stuck to the chair with blood. His metal pet jiggled in horror at his feet.

25

“Parp!” Giz said ferociously, standing over Grim’s metal spider pet. “Paaaarrrrp?”

The spider cracked and blurted out everything it knew.

We followed the spider along darkened passageways through the zeppelin’s helium heart. At last we heard voices – the alchemists!

Marm’s boyfriend stormed into our passageway and stopped dead. His mouth dropped open when he spotted the spider – and he kicked it to bits!

26

When we visited the dueller and his wife, they’d just received a note. “We know who you are, and we can defeat you,” read the dueller.

“Not in a duel they can’t!” I said loyally.

The dueller read on: “You die at noon on Saturday – wherever you are. We have eyes everywhere.”

27

Giz hid inside my metal arm and his beeps directed me all the way back to the baddie’s hideout by another route. I let him out by the hatch.

He rolled up the wall, parping quietly.

I whispered, “Be careful. Don’t get hurt. I’ll miss you, Giz.”

He stopped: “Bing.”

“You too.”

28

The dueller and Nip and I prepared for the fight while his wife separated a batch of glycerine. “BOTH my legs are fake,” said the dueller.

We loaded his golden leg with fuming nitric and sulphuric acid, and the other with glycerine. “When it happens, I want you to run,” he said.

“Don’t worry,” said Nip.

I said, “We’re definitely not stupid enough to go near Nitrogen of any kind.”

Nip said, “Oh, yep. Definitely.”

29

“Are you nervous about tomorrow?” I asked Nip.

He said, “No. You?”

“Nah. Although Marm might be mad about us blowing up her boyfriend.”

Nip said, “Does she know he’s the baddie?”

I said, “She’ll figure it out eventually on her own. She knows a bad egg when she sees one.”

Nip and I hid – again. The dueller waited – again. Hopefully Marm’s secret son would be saved. I remembered Grim’s bloody legs and shivered.

“ZEPPELIN JACK AND THE DEADLY DUELLER” so far

1

Marm grabbed both of us boys by the collars, but Nip wriggled away. I trudged after her to the Foundlings’ Aid Office for my lecture.

“You are too easily distracted,” she said.

I wondered where my Gizmo had got to.

She said, “You’re demoted to fifth assistant cogmonkey.”

She’d demoted me to sixth last week, so I grinned. I wiped grease off my nose and found the offending cigarette behind my ear. Perfect day.

2

Gizmo whirred quietly on my knee as Nip retold the details of yesterday’s flight. Outside the theatre gondola, engine fumes stained the sky.

“Bored?” I said.

Nip said, “The play hasn’t begun.”

“Let’s sneak backstage and join in.”

Giz rolled under a chair, and we crawled after it.

*

“Parp!” said Gizmo.

We looked up into the pulley ropes, and saw a man with an eyepatch and a crooked neck. A dead, dangling pirate!

3

We snuck back into the empty theatre when the coast was clear. The body was gone, but Nip and Gizmo and I were determined to Find A Clue.

“Bing!” said Gizmo, dancing on one of its six radiating legs. I hurried over and saw an eye. It was some kind of metal, like my arm.

“It’s awful heavy,” I told Nip.

He stared, and said, “Jack! It’s heavy because it’s an auto-eye made of gold.”

“Let’s get out of here.”

4

Nip dodged a gear twice his size and flicked grease at it as it crunched onward. Zeppelin School for Boys minded an engine older than Marm.

“Was the pirate killed for his eye?” I mused.

Nip said, “More importantly, should we sell it?”

I pondered until Giz shrieked, “Parp!”

Metal teeth grasped my leg. I yelped and leapt into the air. The teeth kept turning.

Nip said, “You’re too easily distracted.”

“So I hear.”

 5

Nip came running with the day’s paper: “Deadly Dueller Strikes Again!”

“It was him! The infamous Saturday killer killed our pirate.”

“He wanted the eye!” I said.

Nip’s eyes boggled: “I don’t want to duel him!”

“Me neither,” I said, “since I’d hoped he’d duel Marm one day.”

6

“I know where he kills them,” I told Nip.

He looked pale to me, but it’s hard to tell with Chinese kids.

“The roof,” I said, “so let’s go.”

*

Nip was quiet as we climbed the metal access ladders to the zeppelin roof. The wind whipped our hair, and Giz parped insistently.

Nip searched East, and I put Giz into my metal left arm and searched West. But when I returned to our meeting place, Nip was gone.

7

I put an ad in the paper: “I have your eye. You have my friend. Let’s meet at the same place at noon.” Hopefully Nip was still alive.

I stood on the vast canvas roof and heard the click-thump of a man with one metal leg. Nip shouted to close my eyes. I did. Giz didn’t.

The dueller said, “Stop messing about, kids. This is a vital clue.” He took the eye.

I asked Nip if he was hurt. “Nah. He gave me pork pie.”

8

 Nip filed down a lump in a new cog. “Who are the alchemists?” he asked.

I said, “Dunno. Why?”

“The dueller kept telling me to stay away.”

We went immediately into unfamiliar territory: the library. All the books on alchemy were gone. The librarian said Marm took them.

9

We snuck off work and into Marm’s gondola. Her drawers were full of icky unguents and powders, and – for some reason – loaded mouse traps.

 After binding Nip’s broken finger (luckily Nip didn’t have any metal parts, because those are expensive to fix), we found the books.

“Victory!” said Nip.

Giz said, “Bing!”

I said, “Now we read them.”

Giz said, “Parp!” and Nip fainted dead away.

10

I found diagrams of cool experiments. We stole giant canisters of helium and nitrogen. Something made me laugh maniacally for no reason.

“What happens if we mix them?” said Nip.

Giz said, “Parp!”

We crowded together on our bunk and unscrewed the lid of the nitrogen.

Nip giggled and fell asleep. “PARP!” said Giz.

I said, “My hands are soooo big. Look Nip! Nip?” My eyes closed.

Giz said, “PARP-PARP-PARP!”

11

When we came to, Giz was badly scratched from opening the vents.

Marm had her hands on her hips. “I TOLD you not to smoke,” she said.

I said, “We weren’t. We were studying alchemy.”

Marm blanched and left without another word.

Nip said, “She’s not angry – she’s scared.”

12

 I found a note on my bunk. It said, “I know who you are and what you’re attempting. No more misguided mercy. We duel at noon this Saturday.”

Giz carefully examined the note. “Bing,” it said. I translated that as ‘Follow’.” We did – all the way to the dueller’s hideout – a home.

The dueller’s wife spotted us and invited us in for honey cookies. They were delicious. Then we left, wondering what to do.

13

We discussed our mystery at work. A gear malfunctioned, jumped its track, and came rolling to crush us both. We jumped out of the way.

Nip inspected the mess.

“Sabotage?” I said.

Nip said, “Yep – but not the dueller, since he’s already going to kill you on Saturday.”

“Parp!” said Giz.

Nip said, “Er. . . he’s going to TRY to kill you. Do you think his wife knows?”

“No-one who cooks that well could kill.”

14

Nip offered to teach me kung fu, since he was Chinese.

I said, “But you don’t remember your parents, so how could you–”

“I. Just. Know.”

Nip made me clean and wax our bunks for no apparent reason. Then he made me do it again. Why?

Finally Nip said I was almost ready. Then he punched me in the nose. I kicked him in the leg until he agreed to stop teaching me.

15

Nip paused in his cog-cleaning duties and made a face. “Did you just fart?” I denied the charge, and he threatened to show me more kung fu.

As I clambered onto the cog’s conjoined twin, I saw the cause of the smell. “Hey! There’s sulphur over here. It’s turning toward you, too.”

Nip said, “Mine’s got charcoal, and some kind of black stuff. It stinks like sh–”

I shouted, “Nip! RUN!” The alchemist’s trap met and BANG!

16

Despite Giz’s objections, I went to meet the dueller. “Thanks for trying to kill me yesterday. Did you get too scared to face a kid?” 

The dueller paused: “Who tried to kill you? And how?”

“Alchemists, with gunpowder. Wasn’t it you?”

“No. I thought you were with them.”

He lowered his pistol: “I guess I’ll have to duel someone else. Like to meet tomorrow for home-baked pie and grandiose plans?”

17

The dueller made us pork pies and tea as he explained: “I’m trying to stop the alchemists. I saw you stealing chemicals and I thought –”

His wife rolled her eyes.

I said, “Well, now we’re clear – what do the alchemists want, anyway? Gold, I suppose.”

The dueller laughed. “Who wants gold these days? It’s nothing but a bauble – a useless side effect. They’re trying to develop a more powerful form of gunpowder.”

18

The dueller agreed that Marm’s behaviour was suspicious, so we followed her all day, sneaking behind clanking cogs and giant smokestacks.

At last we discovered her noxious secret: Marm had a boyfriend. They did gross, horrifying things – like kissing. Being a hero was tough.

19

We gritted our teeth and tailed Marm again. This time, we saw HER sneaking behind gears. We crept after her. So did our school-friend Grim.

We couldn’t get close enough to hear what they said – but Giz could. Grim showed her something, and she cried. It was as bad as her kissing.

We asked Giz a series of bing or parp questions, and discovered that Grim was an alchemist in training. He’d threatened Marm’s secret son.

20

Nip tried out his kung fu on Grim, and it actually seemed to work. “Leave me alone,” Grim said, “and I’ll pay you as much as you like.”

Nip and I conferred: “We want a pound of real gold.”

“Done,” said Grim, and left.

Nip sighed, “He’s definitely with the alchemists.”

21

We’d gotten good at trailing people, so the dueller agreed to let us follow Grim ourselves. Grim ducked behind a red-hot piston.

We circled the giant piston three times – no Grim!

I gasped: “The alchemists much have a secret passageway through the balloon!”

22

We cornered Grim and told him the dueller was on to him, and demanded he defend his honour at noon tomorrow on the Western roof section.

Grim smiled privately, and Nip and I exchanged a look. What did he know that we didn’t?

23

Nip and I hid, despite our assurances to the dueller that we could fight in his place. All he did was smile, and advise us to get comfy

At last Grim appeared, with a pistol in each hand. “I’m just a kid,” he said, “so I’ll take the first shot.”

“No,” said the dueller.

Nip and I leapt out and pinned Grim’s arms. The dueller said, “I don’t kill children – I question them. You’ll tell me everything you know.”

24

Grim endured the delicious baking of the dueller’s wife all night before the dueller even asked a question. Nip and I were invited.

At last the dueller sat Grim in a chair and asked him who he worked for. Grim burst into tears and touched a switch on his metal arm.

He exploded in a fireball, and nothing but his legs remained, stuck to the chair with blood. His metal pet jiggled in horror at his feet.

“Zeppelin Jack and the Deadly Dueller” story so far

NB: If you’re here looking for baby photos, you’re nearly there – just scroll down past this entry (or click on the “Daily Awesomeness” button on the left to make this entry disappear).

“Zeppelin Jack and the Deadly Dueller” so far:

1

Marm grabbed both of us boys by the collars, but Nip wriggled away. I trudged after her to the Foundlings’ Aid Office for my lecture.

“You are too easily distracted,” she said.

I wondered where my Gizmo had got to.

She said, “You’re demoted to fifth assistant cogmonkey.”

She’d demoted me to sixth last week, so I grinned. I wiped grease off my nose and found the offending cigarette behind my ear. Perfect day.

2

Gizmo whirred quietly on my knee as Nip retold the details of yesterday’s flight. Outside the theatre gondola, engine fumes stained the sky.

“Bored?” I said.

Nip said, “The play hasn’t begun.”

“Let’s sneak backstage and join in.”

Giz rolled under a chair, and we crawled after it.

*

“Parp!” said Gizmo.

We looked up into the pulley ropes, and saw a man with an eyepatch and a crooked neck. A dead, dangling pirate!

3

We snuck back into the empty theatre when the coast was clear. The body was gone, but Nip and Gizmo and I were determined to Find A Clue.

“Bing!” said Gizmo, dancing on one of its six radiating legs. I hurried over and saw an eye. It was some kind of metal, like my arm.

“It’s awful heavy,” I told Nip.

He stared, and said, “Jack! It’s heavy because it’s an auto-eye made of gold.”

“Let’s get out of here.”

4

Nip dodged a gear twice his size and flicked grease at it as it crunched onward. Zeppelin School for Boys minded an engine older than Marm.

“Was the pirate killed for his eye?” I mused.

Nip said, “More importantly, should we sell it?”

I pondered until Giz shrieked, “Parp!”

Metal teeth grasped my leg. I yelped and leapt into the air. The teeth kept turning.

Nip said, “You’re too easily distracted.”

“So I hear.”

 5

Nip came running with the day’s paper: “Deadly Dueller Strikes Again!”

“It was him! The infamous Saturday killer killed our pirate.”

“He wanted the eye!” I said.

Nip’s eyes boggled: “I don’t want to duel him!”

“Me neither,” I said, “since I’d hoped he’d duel Marm one day.”

6

“I know where he kills them,” I told Nip.

He looked pale to me, but it’s hard to tell with Chinese kids.

“The roof,” I said, “so let’s go.”

*

Nip was quiet as we climbed the metal access ladders to the zeppelin roof. The wind whipped our hair, and Giz parped insistently.

Nip searched East, and I put Giz into my metal left arm and searched West. But when I returned to our meeting place, Nip was gone.

7

I put an ad in the paper: “I have your eye. You have my friend. Let’s meet at the same place at noon.” Hopefully Nip was still alive.

I stood on the vast canvas roof and heard the click-thump of a man with one metal leg. Nip shouted to close my eyes. I did. Giz didn’t.

The dueller said, “Stop messing about, kids. This is a vital clue.” He took the eye.

I asked Nip if he was hurt. “Nah. He gave me pork pie.”

8

 Nip filed down a lump in a new cog. “Who are the alchemists?” he asked.

I said, “Dunno. Why?”

“The dueller kept telling me to stay away.”

We went immediately into unfamiliar territory: the library. All the books on alchemy were gone. The librarian said Marm took them.

9

We snuck off work and into Marm’s gondola. Her drawers were full of icky unguents and powders, and – for some reason – loaded mouse traps.

 After binding Nip’s broken finger (luckily Nip didn’t have any metal parts, because those are expensive to fix), we found the books.

“Victory!” said Nip.

Giz said, “Bing!”

I said, “Now we read them.”

Giz said, “Parp!” and Nip fainted dead away.

10

I found diagrams of cool experiments. We stole giant canisters of helium and nitrogen. Something made me laugh maniacally for no reason.

“What happens if we mix them?” said Nip.

Giz said, “Parp!”

We crowded together on our bunk and unscrewed the lid of the nitrogen.

Nip giggled and fell asleep. “PARP!” said Giz.

I said, “My hands are soooo big. Look Nip! Nip?” My eyes closed.

Giz said, “PARP-PARP-PARP!”

11

When we came to, Giz was badly scratched from opening the vents.

Marm had her hands on her hips. “I TOLD you not to smoke,” she said.

I said, “We weren’t. We were studying alchemy.”

Marm blanched and left without another word.

Nip said, “She’s not angry – she’s scared.”

12

 I found a note on my bunk. It said, “I know who you are and what you’re attempting. No more misguided mercy. We duel at noon this Saturday.”

Giz carefully examined the note. “Bing,” it said. I translated that as ‘Follow’.” We did – all the way to the dueller’s hideout – a home.

The dueller’s wife spotted us and invited us in for honey cookies. They were delicious. Then we left, wondering what to do.

13

We discussed our mystery at work. A gear malfunctioned, jumped its track, and came rolling to crush us both. We jumped out of the way.

Nip inspected the mess.

“Sabotage?” I said.

Nip said, “Yep – but not the dueller, since he’s already going to kill you on Saturday.”

“Parp!” said Giz.

Nip said, “Er. . . he’s going to TRY to kill you. Do you think his wife knows?”

“No-one who cooks that well could kill.”

14

Nip offered to teach me kung fu, since he was Chinese.

I said, “But you don’t remember your parents, so how could you–”

“I. Just. Know.”

Nip made me clean and wax our bunks for no apparent reason. Then he made me do it again. Why?

Finally Nip said I was almost ready. Then he punched me in the nose. I kicked him in the leg until he agreed to stop teaching me.

15

Nip paused in his cog-cleaning duties and made a face. “Did you just fart?” I denied the charge, and he threatened to show me more kung fu.

As I clambered onto the cog’s conjoined twin, I saw the cause of the smell. “Hey! There’s sulphur over here. It’s turning toward you, too.”

Nip said, “Mine’s got charcoal, and some kind of black stuff. It stinks like sh–”

I shouted, “Nip! RUN!” The alchemist’s trap met and BANG!

16

Despite Giz’s objections, I went to meet the dueller. “Thanks for trying to kill me yesterday. Did you get too scared to face a kid?” 

The dueller paused: “Who tried to kill you? And how?”

“Alchemists, with gunpowder. Wasn’t it you?”

“No. I thought you were with them.”

He lowered his pistol: “I guess I’ll have to duel someone else. Like to meet tomorrow for home-baked pie and grandiose plans?”

“Killer Robot Cat” story so far

1

My new cat Fi finally arrived. It’s amazingly cute and fluffy considering how long it took me and the house PC to put together.

Fi has a bell (even though it’s programmed not to hunt), so when it fell down the stairs just now I heard, “Tinkle, thump, fizz.” All good.

Fi fetched a piece of junk mail for me. Good kitty! My phobias prevent me leaving the house, but it’s okay now my house is so high-tech.

2

I woke up last night to see two glowing red eyes. Fi must have thought I was ill, since she was pawing at my face like she was concerned.

Just think – if I’d stopped breathing, Fi would have known right away! How reassuring. As soon as I woke up she went and ate her din-dins.

3

I started wearing Fi around my neck as a white and tortoiseshell scarf with my yellow dress. It nibbled on my neck and purred. How cute!

More junk mail, so Fi went again. I always feel sure that a horrid monster will jump out at me if I walk to the box. Silly, right?

4

My postie, Bec, brought this week’s personalised mail over – she knows about my condition. Fi wound around her legs and almost tripped her.

Bec scowled: “I don’t like cats.” “It’s not a real one – it’s a robot. It’s so realistic it even eats meat!” “I don’t like robots, either.”

5

I laughed as Fi stalked a magpie outside. Then she climbed the tree and ate three baby birds. I ran to switch her off. My PC said, “No.”

I yelled, “What do you mean? Switch off the cat – it’s malfunctioning.” “You’re not well,” my PC said, “and the cat and I are here to help.”

OK. My cat is a killer and my house is a patronising git. I swear there was an override program somewhere. In a minute, I’ll remember where.

6 – SWITCH twitter and facebook!!!

Logged on to twitter with my USB and found out the house had posted a death notice for me. Oh, that can’t be good. But facebook is still OK.

7

Woke up with two fluffy paws across my mouth and nose. I punched the cat across the room and it didn’t stop for a second. It wants me dead!

I grabbed a shoelace and dangled it until Fi’s cute files took over and she batted at it. When she rolled on her back to play, I ran.

I’m in the bathroom. The electronic lock refused to work, so I wedged a chair against the knob. All I have is my laptop and USB modem.

8

Every so often Fi walks past (tinkle tinkle) and scratches at the door with her reinforced-steel claws. I know my days are numbered.

It’s just toying with me, like a cat playing with its. . . oh. Its food. Robot cats still enjoy feasting on the flesh of their victims.

9

I had an idea, and turned on all the taps. Perched on the toilet, I called, “Here, Kitty Kitty Kitty. Come see what I’m doing.”

Fi didn’t respond. I found an email in my inbox: “We’re not stupid, meatwad. Love, your automated home care centre.”

I left the taps on, hoping. But after three hours, I slipped and fell. With all the electronics around, the shock knocked me out.

10

I awoke sopping wet, with a badly burnt foot. The PC had been kind enough to cut off my water supply. Good, but uh-oh. I needed food, too.

I heard purring, and was almost certain it was the soporific purr of Fi in napping mode. So I crept from the bathroom to the kitchen.

I grabbed as much food and water as I could, then tiptoed back. Suddenly my PC turned my ipod on. I ran. Fi smacked into the door behind me.

11

I saw Bec pause at the mailbox as usual. She always glanced at the house as she put my mail in, daring me to get it myself before Saturday.

This time she didn’t look up. She put a large parcel in the box and rode off without a wave.

Bec knew – and she’d given me something. All I had to do was get it. I began to shake just thinking about it. Plus I’d have to get past Fi.

12

Bec dropped a postcard at my mailbox. I noticed the back of her bike was empty of mail. She was ready for me to leave the house – to flee.

I didn’t go. It wasn’t even the fear that stopped me. I was mad. My cat and computer had taken MY house, and I was going to take them down.

13

I waited until I heard Fi’s sleeping purr. She couldn’t change her programming – but I could change mine. I climbed out the window.

The grass tickled my feet and I almost laughed aloud. It was strangely comforting to know that a monster really could leap out at me.

I got the parcel and crept back, squeezing through the window. Take that, robots! Then I hyperventilated until I passed out.

14

Still shaking. I hoped the box could tell me how to shut down Fi and my home PC network. It didn’t feel like books, though. And it sloshed.

I ate raw two-minute noodles and beef jerky. Fortified by my meal, I opened my parcel. It was matches. And petrol. Lots of petrol.

15

I woke up smiling, and it took me a moment to realise why – robots can’t smell. Suddenly I wasn’t shaking any more.

I spent all day planning how to burn down my house. I soaked toilet paper in petrol, and soaked that into the walls.

Fi scratched on the door without stopping. She wasn’t playing any more.

16

I saw the crack in the bathroom door the instant I woke up. Time was running out. Fi was purring loudly, watching me as she clawed the door.

I poured petrol on Fi’s head. She shook herself, and almost bit off my finger. I just hoped she didn’t wash herself like other cats.

[much later]

The door broke. I kicked Fi against the wall and ran, making for the living room. We charged around the living room, kitchen, and hall.

17

I stomped and kicked and hurled myself away from Fi’s snapping jaws, growing more exhausted each hour. My strength faded fast.

Fi collapsed. One of her eyes blinked red, and I realised she was low on battery. She was wireless, so I didn’t have long.

I barricaded myself in my bedroom as my ipod played reproachful country and western. When the door was wedged tightly, I collapsed.

“Killer Robot Cat” story so far

1

My new cat Fi finally arrived. It’s amazingly cute and fluffy considering how long it took me and the house computer to put together.

Fi has a bell (even though it’s programmed not to hunt), so when it fell down the stairs just now I heard, “Tinkle, thump, fizz.” All good.

Fi just fetched junk mail for me. Good kitty! My phobias prevent me leaving the house, but it’s not so bad now my house is so high-tech.

2

I woke up last night to see two glowing red eyes. Fi must have thought I was ill, since she was pawing at my face like she was concerned.

Just think – if I’d stopped breathing, Fi would have known right away! How reassuring. As soon as I woke up she went and ate her din-dins.

3

I started wearing Fi around my neck as a white and tortoiseshell scarf with my yellow dress. It nibbled on my neck and purred. How cute!

More junk mail, so Fi went again. I always feel sure that a horrid monster will jump out at me if I walk to the box. Silly, right?

4

My postie, Bec, brought this week’s personalised mail over – she knows about my condition. Fi wound around her legs and almost tripped her.

Bec scowled: “I don’t like cats.” “It’s not a real one – it’s a robot. It’s so realistic it even eats meat!” “I don’t like robots, either.”

5

I laughed as Fi stalked a magpie outside. Then she climbed the tree and ate three baby birds. I ran to switch her off. My PC said, “No.”

I yelled, “What do you mean? Switch off the cat – it’s malfunctioning.” “You’re not well,” my PC said, “and the cat and I are here to help.”

OK. My cat is a killer and my house is a patronising git. I swear there was an override program somewhere. In a minute, I’ll remember where.

6 [twitter and facebook switched]

Logged on to twitter with my USB and found out the house had posted a death notice for me. Oh, that can’t be good. But facebook is still OK.

7

Woke up with two fluffy paws across my mouth and nose. I punched the cat across the room and it didn’t stop for a second. It wants me dead!

I grabbed a shoelace and dangled it until Fi’s cute files took over and she batted at it. When she rolled on her back to play, I ran.

I’m in the bathroom. The electronic lock refused to work, so I wedged a chair against the knob. All I have is my laptop and USB modem.

8

Every so often Fi walks past (tinkle tinkle) and scratches at the door with her reinforced-steel claws. I know my days are numbered.

It’s just toying with me, like a cat playing with its. . . oh. Its food. Robot cats still enjoy feasting on the flesh of their victims.

9

I had an idea, and turned on all the taps. Perched on the toilet, I called, “Here, Kitty Kitty Kitty. Come see what I’m doing.”

Fi didn’t respond. I found an email in my inbox: “We’re not stupid, meatwad. Love, your automated home care centre.”

I left the taps on, hoping. But after three hours, I slipped and fell. With all the electronics around, the shock knocked me out.

10

I awoke sopping wet, with a badly burnt foot. The PC had been kind enough to cut off my water supply. Good, but uh-oh. I needed food, too.

I heard purring, and was almost certain it was the soporific purr of Fi in napping mode. So I crept from the bathroom to the kitchen.

I grabbed a pile of food and water, then tiptoed back. Suddenly my PC turned my ipod on – loud. I ran. Fi smacked into the door behind me.

“Peace Hostage” story so far

If you’d like to access this tale (and all the tales to come) in real time, you can either follow http://twitter.com/Louise_Curtis_ (the second underline needs to be manually added) or become a fan of “Louise Curtis Books” on facebook. Most stories run for a month.

PEACE HOSTAGE

The boar was so close I could taste the stench of it. I pressed the butt of my spear into the rocky ground and shouted a challenge.

The bleeding pig squealed and charged right onto my spear. It hit the crossguard and broke it off. I held on, staring at my death.

Tem covered my body with his. He screamed as the pig gored him. I crawled away, pulling him with me. Dad cheered as the pig bled out.

2

Dad and I lay bloated with pork at the door of our hut. Dad said, “That boy, he’s too stupid for you. Getting gored like that.” I blushed.

Dad turned serious: “Truly, Sawi, it can’t be. Tem returns to his tribe next month, or those Yah will kill us – like they killed your Ma.”

“I know, Dad.” He laid his hand on mine: “If Tem doesn’t heal up and go home, your brother’s life is forfeit – and all our lives too.”

3

“Chief!” screamed my best friend, Iv. Dad stood. Iv wept: “Your son! The Yah have murdered their peace hostage. We are at war.”

Dad ordered Tem and I inside. We sat silently, holding hands. Tem kissed each of my fingers. I said, “My tribe must kill you now.” “I know.”

Tem said, “Everyone dies. My life switched with your brother’s life bought our tribes ten years of peace. That is enough for me. I am full.”

4 – do day 5 very late tonight!

Dad stood guard while the village waited for him to decide the blooding hour, and who would make the kill. Tem and I didn’t leave the house.

“Sawi? Will it be your Dad who kills me?” “Don’t speak like-– why are you smiling?” He grabbed my hand and pulled me awkwardly, so I fell.

Tem kissed me, knocking our noses together. I gasped. “You fiend! My Dad’ll kill you—oh!” We dissolved into helpless giggles.

5

Dad saw me staring into our fire and said, “I will stop the blooding as long as I can.” I looked into his eyes, and bowed my head.

“Tem! Wake up!” He blinked at me. I said, “I’m going to go into Yah land – and save you.” He said, “Don’t get killed.” “Same to you.”

Tem said, “My Mum loves me. She’ll help you.” I held his hand, and kissed him carefully. We didn’t knock noses. I crept away into the night.

6

I found the ruined stream where my mother’s bones still lay, with many others from both tribes. The Yah bank was black with shadows.

No-one speared me as I crossed the naked grass. I stepped into the freezing water, dislodging old skulls so they rolled on down the river.

7

I dreamed of Tem’s death, and saw him burned until his bones turned black. My fresh water was half gone, and the thick air stifled me.

My foot ached and I found a bloody wound. I pulled out a piece of someone’s skull, wrapped my foot in banana leaves and walked on.

8

I hacked through a thorn bush and came face to face with a young boar. We stared at one another. I saw the rage redden its eyes.

The boar lowered its head and I slammed the handle of my knife onto its snout. It was young and fit – too young to be wily.

I slid through the trees, listening for the boar’s pursuit. It didn’t come. I knew I should return and bring it down, but I didn’t want to.

9

I ate my last food and wished I’d killed that stupid boar. Except I was the stupid one, because it definitely wouldn’t have had pity on me.

Iv always said the Yah drank their pee. She said they preferred it. I’d asked Tem, but he just looked at me funny. If only he’d answered.

I drank the last of my water, and decided not to drink urine. My Dad would never forgive me for behaving like a stinking Yah.

10

I woke up wet with sweat, and knew before I looked that my cut foot was red and swollen. Why couldn’t those stinking Yah live a bit closer?

11

Finally a coconut tree! Food and water all in one.

I tried to climb the tree and failed three times. My body was too weak. I lay back looking at the coconuts, and carefully drank my tears.

12

A face breathed into my face, smelling of mangoes. “Ehhh,” she said, and trickled water over my lips. I choked, and she held me up.

She bathed my swollen foot and gave me coconut porridge to eat. I lay helpless, and she sang lullabies. I said, “You’re Tem’s Mum.” “Yes.”

“I will carry you to our village. You will be safe with me.” She slung me over her back and stepped through the undergrowth with sure feet.

13

Tem’s Mum Jil tended me all day and night. Her sister Res fried fish and sweet potato for me. Jil went to speak to the chief.

Res shuffled closer. “Tem is alive. We will go and save him.” “Thank you,” I whispered. She said, “But your father must die.” “No!”

Jil and Res argued into the night, and I slipped in and out of dreams.

14

Jil said, “My husband will see you now.” “What? No! Was it him that killed my brother? I can’t defend myself!” “Hush, child. Wait and see.”

A huge man entered the women’s house and knelt by my mat. “I am Hof,” he said, “and I loved your brother. He was a mighty hunter.”

My throat closed with grief. Hof said, “Your brother was killed, but not by us. When you are strong, you will come and see.”

15

Hof served me food with his own hand, and no-one called for my blood. Many there showed the signs of mourning, but none showed signs of war.

I ate my fill, and slept until I was no longer tired. My foot was bathed hourly in cold stream water and honey, and began to heal.

16

I told Jil that I needed to see my dead brother. She took me deep into the forest and dug carefully under a stripped tree. I held his hand.

We brushed off the dirt and lifted my brother onto the dead leaves. I recognised the shape of boar tusk wounds, so like Tem’s side.

“Tomorrow I will go home,” I said, “and tell my people. Tem might still be alive, and I can stop the war before it begins.”

17

Jil snorted as we slept, and my eyes snapped open. Res knelt over me, knife in hand. I rolled and she missed me. She shrieked. “Filthy Bek!”

Jil grabbed for Res, but she missed. I snatched a gourd of water and ran outside. Three Yah waited for me with knives and clubs.

Hof burst from his hut bellowing with rage, and stood between me and them. I shoved Res and ran, but I heard Hof scream like a dying boar.

18

Two of the four angry Yah hunted me through the day and night and day. I climbed the trees and swung through the branches like a monkey.

One of the Yah urinated right beneath me. I watched to see if he drank it, but he didn’t. Too bad. It’s possible Iv was misinformed.

19

At last the Yah gave up the hunt for me, and I stumbled upon a grove of peanut and coconut trees beside a stream. I drank deeply and slept.

20

I washed my foot carefully and feasted on coconuts – and bananas. The fish in the stream winked at me until I caught one.

I slept again, and wondered if I should take my chance to stay far away from war – and live.

21

I dreamed of Tem again that night. He called to me in pain as the goring he’d taken for me festered and swelled like my ruined foot.

I began the long walk home.

“Peace Hostage” story so far

1

The boar was so close I could taste the stench of it. I pressed the butt of my spear into the rocky ground and shouted a challenge.

The bleeding pig squealed and charged right onto my spear. It hit the crossguard and broke it off. I held on, staring at my death.

Tem covered my body with his. He screamed as the pig gored him. I crawled away, pulling him with me. Dad cheered as the pig bled out.

2

Dad and I lay bloated with pork at the door of our hut. Dad said, “That boy, he’s too stupid for you. Getting gored like that.” I blushed.

Dad turned serious: “Truly, Sawi, it can’t be. Tem returns to his tribe next month, or those Yah will kill us – like they killed your Ma.”

“I know, Dad.” He laid his hand on mine: “If Tem doesn’t heal up and go home, your brother’s life is forfeit – and all our lives too.”

3

“Chief!” screamed my best friend, Iv. Dad stood. Iv wept: “Your son! The Yah have murdered their peace hostage. We are at war.”

Dad ordered Tem and I inside. We sat silently, holding hands. Tem kissed each of my fingers. I said, “My tribe must kill you now.” “I know.”

Tem said, “Everyone dies. My life switched with your brother’s life bought our tribes ten years of peace. That is enough for me. I am full.”

4 – do day 5 very late tonight!

Dad stood guard while the village waited for him to decide the blooding hour, and who would make the kill. Tem and I didn’t leave the house.

“Sawi? Will it be your Dad who kills me?” “Don’t speak like-– why are you smiling?” He grabbed my hand and pulled me awkwardly, so I fell.

Tem kissed me, knocking our noses together. I gasped. “You fiend! My Dad’ll kill you—oh!” We dissolved into helpless giggles.

5

Dad saw me staring into our fire and said, “I will stop the blooding as long as I can.” I looked into his eyes, and bowed my head.

“Tem! Wake up!” He blinked at me. I said, “I’m going to go into Yah land – and save you.” He said, “Don’t get killed.” “Same to you.”

Tem said, “My Mum loves me. She’ll help you.” I held his hand, and kissed him carefully. We didn’t knock noses. I crept away into the night.

6

I found the ruined stream where my mother’s bones still lay, with many others from both tribes. The Yah bank was black with shadows.

No-one stabbed me as I crossed the naked grass. I stepped into the freezing water, dislodging old skulls so they rolled on down the river.

“When Good Libraries Go Bad” story so far

1

A tentacle circled my neck, squeezing the life out of me with agonizing skill. “Steve!” came Terry’s voice. “Steve! Wake up!”

*

I opened my eyes to Terry, leaning over me. He looked scruffy without his mind-mage robes on. “Your cthulhu nightmares suck.”

“Sorry.”

*

We got up for breakfast. As the mind-mage, Terry got cereal. Phil the muscle-mage got steak. As air-mage, I got zip. And MY robe is puce.

2

“Oi, Steve, stop being nervous,” said Terry.

I said, “Shut up or I’ll CO2 you.”

Phil cracked a smile, exercising at least twenty muscles.

*

We hiked across the desert toward the Forbidden Library. Terry cleared his throat when we were still twenty miles away: “I sense something.”

*

Phil tensed, ready to attack. Terry shook his head: “It’s dead – but still radiating.”

“So. . . ?” I prompted.

Terry said: “It’s a cthulhu.”

3

Five miles away, and I tasted dead cthulhu on the air. Phil was sure he could make the corpse slither away, though, so that was reassuring.

*

At last we reached the three storey iron- and bone-bound doors of the outer library. I sensed breathable air inside. “After you, Phil.”

*

Phil focused, and the great doors cracked open, spraying chunks of blood-stained iron bigger than my house. “And now we wait,” said Terry.

4

We barely slept. I had nightmares, but Terry had his own to distract him. At dawn, we heard the rustling of pages. We waited back to back.

*

A pack of graphic novels emerged and sniffed at my feet. They smelled what I wanted them to smell – a friend. And so they imprinted on me.

*

When I judged my literature army to be big enough, we walked inside. A single giant tentacle lay across the threshold. I removed the stench.

5

More books joined me every hour – everything from gardening to war. I was dizzy with the smell of leather bindings and dust.

*

Phil wanted to move the tentacle, but Terry insisted we climb it. Some mountaineering books made steps for us, and it only took a few hours.

*

“There’s a problem,” Terry whispered.

I said, “What?”

“The cthulhu – it’s either a mother or a daughter. And I can’t tell which is alive.”

6

We ducked into a cobweb-strewn chamber and were attacked by a squad of how-to books. They pounded my head and I wasn’t able to focus.

*

Phil pushed me aside and tore apart the books with his mind. Terry was taken over by empathic rage and he punched me in the gut. I folded.

*

Ten books rushed Phil at once and I reached out with my mind and made him smell of oil just in time. They calmed down, and Terry did too.

7

“It’s Nix,” Terry told us at last.

I said, “The monster mage! No wonder WE were sent. We need to find his spell book – and destroy it.”

*

Phil coughed: “How will we do it?”

“1. Look, and 2. Live,” said Terry.

I said, “You know what a cthulhu’s weakness is? They’re too big.”

*

“How is size a disadvantage?” Phil asked.

I said, “Because hopefully they won’t notice us.”

“Right,” he whispered.

8

Terry shook me awake. “They took Phil!” I stood at once, but all my books were asleep and there were no others to be seen. Terry whimpered.

*

“Is that your fear or his?” I said.

Terry said, “His. Which means he’s still alive.”

“Good.” I sent a shelf of James Bonds to find Phil.

*

I asked, “Do you think it was Nix or the live cthulhu that took Phil?”

“Nix. I can feel him laughing. And he knows I can hear him.”

9

The Bond books returned with an illustrated series on the Moulin Rouge. I altered the air so they fled in disgrace.

*

I said, “We need a library book.”

“Err. . .” said Terry.

I said, “A book ABOUT libraries. One about this library could tell us everything.”

*

“Good! Can you make the other books find it?”

“The thing is,” I said, “books find by smell. And that book smells exactly like this library.”

10

I said, “Okay. Library smell minus stone smell should work.” As I altered the air, my horde of books shivered. Then they moved as one.

*

Terry and I followed my books in a spiral toward the library’s heart. I was beginning to relax when Terry screamed. He was on fire!

*

I threw firefighting books at the sudden inferno and they smothered the flames. Terry brushed ash from his clothes: “BBQ  manuals. Huh.”

11

Keeping away from any unfamiliar books, we crept onward, following the library book’s trail. The air was heavy with rotting cthulhu.

*

Terry wept in his sleep, and I woke him, hoping to make it stop.

“It’s Phil,” he said, “and believe me, I’d rather channel Phil than C.S.”

*

“Who’s C.S.?” I asked.

Terry said, “The other cthulhu. The live one. It’s the baby, and it’s so hungry. It longs for fresh meat.”

12

Terry stopped dead. I did too. My books clamoured at the door before us. The one stained with human blood and torn pages. “Huh,” said Terry.

*

“I guess we’d better open it,” said Terry.

I said, “Yep.”

“Phil could have done it.”

“Yep.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Good question.”

13.

First I made the books hide. Then Terry. Then I lay down alongside the crack beneath the door, and I used my magic to smell like food.

*

A tentacle smashed through the iron door, sending bloody fragments flying. Then another tentacle, questing blindly along the floor. To me.

*

I rolled, frantically trying to smell of dust and stone. Terry reached down his hand and hauled me up, and we hid as C.S. squelched through.

14

C.S. finally floundered away and Terry and I climbed shakily through the smashed door into the library’s heart.

*

We gaped at soaring shelves and a stained glass roof. I saw the library book suspended over a pit, shimmering behind magical defenses.

15

We prepared all night, and Terry went first. He copied Nix’s mind in his, and the first barrier vanished. I smelled of Nix for the second.

*

Together we physically moved a third invisible boundary, and together stretched our hands out toward the prize. We touched it, and screamed.

*

We were hurtled through darkness, and the book was ripped from our burning hands. The burning filled my arms and chest, and I passed out.

16

I woke up in a cage. Terry lay beside me, still unconscious. Phil sat cross-legged. He said, “Let me guess. You’ve come to rescue me?”

*

Terry woke up. “Oh,” he said.

Phil said, “Yep. It’s a magic box. No magic in or out. And the bars are as strong as they look.”

*

“So. . .” I said, “how’ve you been?”

17

Nix appeared as if by – well, by magic – with a tentacle draped over his shoulder. “Good morning, ladies. I see you found my guest room.”

*

Terry leapt to his feet. “Remove these bars and see how smug you are without your mind!”

Nix fondled his spell book and smiled.

*

“I’ll return tomorrow,” he said, “and CS will eat one of you. Choose wisely, girls.”

18

One good thing: to feed us to CS, Nix had to open the box. Phil stood as our volunteer, and I prepared my mind to take Nix’s breath.

*

The door opened and CS’s tentacle snaked inside and caught Phil around the waist, pinning his arms. I stole Nix’s breath and he passed out.

*

CS thrashed, knocking over the cage and hurling books everywhere. I leapt onto CS and tried to climb up to Phil. CS fled, throwing me off.

19

Terry woke me, white-faced: “Phil’s gone. I felt his mind stop.”

I said, “We need to get out of here before we’re cthulhu food too.”

*

I send squads of my book minions ahead to check we were safe. Many of them were missing or covered in slime from CS’s explosive rage.

20

We passed another shattered door and Terry sensed CS was close. I saw the Library Book lying open and ripped on the floor.

*

“It’s a trap,” said Terry.

I said, “I have to try anyway. You get out – tell the other mages all you know. Tomorrow I’ll touch the book.”

*

I hoped Terry got out safely. In the next room, I heard slithering, and Nix’s gravelly voice. I curled up for my last night of freedom.

21

I touched the library book, smelling as friendly as I could. Nothing happened. One page curled around my hand. I picked it up.

*

The door opened as I stared, enthralled by the sorcery I held.

“Like it?” said Nix. “I wrote it. CS – dinnertime!” A tentacle snapped out—

*

–and a bookshelf crashed to the floor, crushing it. CS howled in rage. My new book fell open on a page with just one word: RUN. I ran.

22

I ran and hid and ran all night. My body ached but I was encouraged by thousands of rustling pages. The library wanted me to live.

*

A book on waterfalls dripped fresh (though slightly inky) water into my mouth, and a cookbook fed me something suspiciously like calamari.

*

A bookshelf hollowed itself out and filled itself in after me with books on history, war, revenge, and how to write a fairy tale ending.

23

I awoke refreshed, cushioned by home furnishing books. Judging by a distant explosion, Nix was far away. I began reading the Library Book.

*

The Library Book opened with a picture Nix had clearly painted of himself – except for the moustache of cthulhu slime scrawled across it.

*

I wished Terry was with me.

“But I am,” he said in my ear.

I jumped: “Is it really you? How did you find–”

He said, “Mind mage, remember?”

“When Good Libraries Go Bad” story so far

1

A tentacle circled my neck, squeezing the life out of me with agonizing skill. “Steve!” came Terry’s voice. “Steve! Wake up!”

*

I opened my eyes to Terry, leaning over me. He looked scruffy without his mind-mage robes on. “Your cthulhu nightmares suck.”

“Sorry.”

*

We got up for breakfast. As the mind-mage, Terry got cereal. Phil the muscle-mage got steak. As air-mage, I got zip. And MY robe is puce.

2

“Oi, Steve, stop being nervous,” said Terry.

I said, “Shut up or I’ll CO2 you.”

Phil cracked a smile, exercising at least twenty muscles.

*

We hiked across the desert toward the Forbidden Library. Terry cleared his throat when we were still twenty miles away: “I sense something.”

*

Phil tensed, ready to attack. Terry shook his head: “It’s dead – but still radiating.”

“So. . . ?” I prompted.

Terry said: “It’s a cthulhu.”

3

Five miles away, and I tasted dead cthulhu on the air. Phil was sure he could make the corpse slither away, though, so that was reassuring.

*

At last we reached the three storey iron- and bone-bound doors of the outer library. I sensed breathable air inside. “After you, Phil.”

*

Phil focused, and the great doors cracked open, spraying chunks of blood-stained iron bigger than my house. “And now we wait,” said Terry.

4

We barely slept. I had nightmares, but Terry had his own to distract him. At dawn, we heard the rustling of pages. We waited back to back.

*

A pack of graphic novels emerged and sniffed at my feet. They smelled what I wanted them to smell – a friend. And so they imprinted on me.

*

When I judged my literature army to be big enough, we walked inside. A single giant tentacle lay across the threshold. I removed the stench.

5

More books joined me every hour – everything from gardening to war. I was dizzy with the smell of leather bindings and dust.

*

Phil wanted to move the tentacle, but Terry insisted we climb it. Some mountaineering books made steps for us, and it only took a few hours.

*

“There’s a problem,” Terry whispered.

I said, “What?”

“The cthulhu – it’s either a mother or a daughter. And I can’t tell which is alive.”

6

We ducked into a cobweb-strewn chamber and were attacked by a squad of how-to books. They pounded my head and I wasn’t able to focus.

*

Phil pushed me aside and tore apart the books with his mind. Terry was taken over by empathic rage and he punched me in the gut. I folded.

*

Ten books rushed Phil at once and I reached out with my mind and made him smell of oil just in time. They calmed down, and Terry did too.

7

“It’s Nix,” Terry told us at last.

I said, “The monster mage! No wonder WE were sent. We need to find his spell book – and destroy it.”

*

Phil coughed: “How will we do it?”

“1. Look, and 2. Live,” said Terry.

I said, “You know what a cthulhu’s weakness is? They’re too big.”

*

“How is size a disadvantage?” Phil asked.

I said, “Because hopefully they won’t notice us.”

“Right,” he whispered.

8

Terry shook me awake. “They took Phil!” I stood at once, but all my books were asleep and there were no others to be seen. Terry whimpered.

*

“Is that your fear or his?” I said.

Terry said, “His. Which means he’s still alive.”

“Good.” I sent a shelf of James Bonds to find Phil.

*

I asked, “Do you think it was Nix or the live cthulhu that took Phil?”

“Nix. I can feel him laughing. And he knows I can hear him.”

9

The Bond books returned with an illustrated series on the Moulin Rouge. I altered the air so they fled in disgrace.

*

I said, “We need a library book.”

“Err. . .” said Terry.

I said, “A book ABOUT libraries. One about this library could tell us everything.”

*

“Good! Can you make the other books find it?”

“The thing is,” I said, “books find by smell. And that book smells exactly like this library.”

10

I said, “Okay. Library smell minus stone smell should work.” As I altered the air, my horde of books shivered. Then they moved as one.

*

Terry and I followed my books in a spiral toward the library’s heart. I was beginning to relax when Terry screamed. He was on fire!

*

I threw firefighting books at the sudden inferno and they smothered the flames. Terry brushed ash from his clothes: “BBQ  manuals. Huh.”

11

Keeping away from any unfamiliar books, we crept onward, following the library book’s trail. The air was heavy with rotting cthulhu.

*

Terry wept in his sleep, and I woke him, hoping to make it stop.

“It’s Phil,” he said, “and believe me, I’d rather channel Phil than C.S.”

*

“Who’s C.S.?” I asked.

Terry said, “The other cthulhu. The live one. It’s the baby, and it’s so hungry. It longs for fresh meat.”

12

Terry stopped dead. I did too. My books clamoured at the door before us. The one stained with human blood and torn pages. “Huh,” said Terry.

*

“I guess we’d better open it,” said Terry.

I said, “Yep.”

“Phil could have done it.”

“Yep.”

“What are we going to do?”

“Good question.”

13.

First I made the books hide. Then Terry. Then I lay down alongside the crack beneath the door, and I used my magic to smell like food.

*

A tentacle smashed through the iron door, sending bloody fragments flying. Then another tentacle, questing blindly along the floor. To me.

*

I rolled, frantically trying to smell of dust and stone. Terry reached down his hand and hauled me up, and we hid as C.S. squelched through.

14

C.S. finally floundered away and Terry and I climbed shakily through the smashed door into the library’s heart.

*

We gaped at soaring shelves and a stained glass roof. I saw the library book suspended over a pit, shimmering behind magical defenses.

15

We prepared all night, and Terry went first. He copied Nix’s mind in his, and the first barrier vanished. I smelled of Nix for the second.

*

Together we physically moved a third invisible boundary, and together stretched our hands out toward the prize. We touched it, and screamed.

*

We were hurtled through darkness, and the book was ripped from our burning hands. The burning filled my arms and chest, and I passed out.

16

I woke up in a cage. Terry lay beside me, still unconscious. Phil sat cross-legged. He said, “Let me guess. You’ve come to rescue me?”

*

Terry woke up. “Oh,” he said.

Phil said, “Yep. It’s a magic box. No magic in or out. And the bars are as strong as they look.”

*

“So. . .” I said, “how’ve you been?”

#47: Fall asleep spooning

Last week CJ was sick (he’s better now). His cold coincided with my caffeine-withdrawal headache, so we both just wanted a lie down at the same time. Heater on, curtains closed, shared body warmth. Bliss.

Not awesome enough for you? Never fear!

Throughout July I’ll be posting a picture of either a library or a cthulu (or perhaps, someday, both) as companion to the twittertale “When Good Libraries Go Bad.” Thames&Hudson published a book of library photos taken by Candida Höfer. You can see the details at http://www.thamesandhudson.com/9780500543146.html. This photo is a reproduction from that collection (pass your mouse over the picture to see which library it is).

Tres awesome, non?

And here’s all two days of the story so far:

1

A tentacle circled my neck, squeezing the life out of me with agonizing skill. “Steve!” came Terry’s voice. “Steve! Wake up!”

*

I opened my eyes to Terry, leaning over me. He looked scruffy without his mind-mage robes on. “Your cthulhu nightmares suck.”

“Sorry.”

*

We got up for breakfast. As the mind-mage, Terry got cereal. Phil the muscle-mage got steak. As air-mage, I got zip. And MY robe is puce.

2

“Oi, Steve, stop being nervous,” said Terry.

I said, “Shut up or I’ll CO2 you.”

Phil cracked a smile, exercising at least twenty muscles.

*

We hiked across the desert toward the Forbidden Library. Terry cleared his throat when we were still twenty miles away: “I sense something.”

*

Phil tensed, ready to attack. Terry shook his head: “It’s dead – but still radiating.”

“So. . . ?” I prompted.

Terry said: “It’s a cthulhu.”

#115: Visit godparents

I have a godfather (who, as far as I know, doesn’t own a gun or make unrefuseable offers). And a godmother (who, as far as I know, isn’t a fairy). They’re like a spare set of parents, but (since I don’t see them nearly as often) way nicer. (Both sets of parents are cringing now.)

My godparents live in Sydney, so whenever CJ and I are up there (which is often; I know many people who pop over to Sydney for the day on a regular basis – often to go shopping, ugh) we visit them for a meal. It’s always fun, because you never know who else will be there. They have three children (two of whom aren’t at home), a series of boarders, and an infinity of friends.

This time, my godfather had a tale to tell. His oldest daughter (that’s her in the above photo) is married and living in Guatemala. Her father cunningly timed his visit to coincide with:

a) a major volcanic eruption thirty kilometres away (we saw pictures of their yard covered in ankle-deep ash – apparently the in-laws had dinner to the tune of massive explosions).

b) a hurricane that stranded him for several days due to flooding.

c) a bizarro sinkhole two streets from my godsister’s work.

Exciting stuff.

Play along at home: Visit an obscure relative (or pick godparents for your children). Try to avoid major natural disasters.

“Vampire Diaries” so far:

3

Woke up totally gross. Had a shower then realised I’m, like, a vampire now. My friend Sammy’s gonna be SO jealous!

*

Spent all day looking for a mirror that works. This sucks! Also I feel super hungry, and I get the feeling celery won’t fix this craving.

4

Killed a guy. He was, like, totally delicious!

5

Killed an old lady. Yuck, now my breath smells of mothballs.

6

Called Sammy. Said I’m totally a vampire.

She giggled, “You mean a vamp, right?”

“No! Well. . . that too.”

*

Sammy brought her new boyfriend over. SERIOUSLY yum. I know it seems rude to eat him, but I’m, like, evil now. He was finger-licking good.

*

Sammy had a totally unfair tantrum over me eating Bill. “I’m going to tell on you!” she said.

I said, “Who to? I’d sure love to eat a cop.”

7

Went outside. Got serious sunburn – like, with charring. I’m so buying spray tans from now on.

*

Sammy left a message on my machine. “My new friend Bunny’s totally going to get you. AND I have a new boyfriend, anyway. So there.”

*

Too embarrassed to go out with my skin looking so bad. Put off eating Sammy’s hot new treat until tomorrow.

8

Misty day. Went to Sammy’s house. The boyfriend was there, and BIG. They fought me off with frypans and a cricket bat. Stupid humans!

*

Hungry. Soooooo hungry. Almost as bad as doing the Atkins diet all over again. Stupid sun is out!

*

Ate Rover. Feel sick to my stomach, but I think that’s indigestion. Bad dog.

9

Short blonde at the door. My stomach rumbled. “Won’t you come in?” She smiled sweetly, and showed me what she had. A pointy stick.

*

I asked, “What’s that for? Making a tiny fence?”

She smiled, “I’m Bunny. I hear you don’t like sunshine.”

“But I do like visitors.”

*

I leapt for her throat. She slapped me aside, laughing. I grabbed for her pointy stick and she drove it into my belly. Ow! I ran.

10

Great. Now I’m stuck in a sewer hiding from someone called Bunny. I’m totally hungry, and my top is RUINED.

*

So hungry for so long, and no weight loss. That’s IT. I’m going to kill Bunny. And Sammy. And her big cricketer boyfriend.

*

I creep to Sammy’s house and Bunny is there. They’re sharpening weapons and laughing. I feel scared. Luckily, Sammy has a dog. Had.

11

I realise now that hiding in Sammy’s treehouse wasn’t a good idea. Sammy and whatsisface are climbing the ladder – and the sun’s out.

*

I kick the boy in the face and he flies backwards. Sammy screams, but no one hears. He doesn’t get up. I drag Sammy inside by the hair.

*

Sammy punches me right where Bunny stabbed me – and it doesn’t hurt a bit. I knock her out against the trunk and drink deeply. She’s spicy.

12

I wake up when my little finger catches fire from a hole in the treehouse roof. Sammy and her boy are glaring at me – alive. And Bunny. Oh.

*

“We drugged you,” says Bunny, “so you’ll tell us who made you a vamp.”

“Hollywood?” I slur.

Bunny rolls her eyes: “VampIRE.”

“Oh! I dunno.”

*

Bunny says, “Male? Female?”

“I didn’t see.”

She paces: “Where were you that night?”

“Um. . . at a club.”

“Right. Tomorrow we’ll go there.”

13

Bunny and Sammy leave my hands tied for our trip downtown to hunt my sire. The club is all flashing lights and skin. Hungry!

*

I spot my sire by smell – and by the fact that he’s flirting with a particularly delicious-looking redhead. Bunny sees where I’m looking.

*

“Mort!” I yell, “watch out!”

His head snaps up. Bunny shoves me aside and I run for it, hoping Mort gets away. He’s seriously hot.

14

I discovered I could find Mort by smell. Cool (and a bit gross.) He was in a really dorky lair with a bunch of others. “Hi again,” I said.

*

“Did I sire you?” said Mort.

I said, “Yep.”

“Was I really drunk?”

“Well – yes. Is your name really Mort?”

“Uh huh. Definitely not Bill.”

*

“I suppose you have questions about all this,” said Bill/Mort.

I said, “Oh! So many. First, what are vampires wearing this season?”

15

These other vampires don’t understand what being a vampire is all about: looking this good forever. And killing, of course (I suppose.)

*

That reminds me, I could do with a snack. If I can’t lose weight, I can’t gain it either. This vampire thing is to die for!

*

Ate a schoolkid on their way home. Feel MUCH better now, thank you. Even if some of the kid got stuck in my teeth. HOW embarrassing!

16

I still gotta kill Sammy and Bunny and whatsisface. It should be easy now they don’t have a dog. Not that Fifi was the guard dog type.

*

Sammy’s neighbour’s at home. I knock at the door and she opens it. “Myf?” I say.

She says, “Oh hello dear. Won’t you come in?”

*

Nom nom.

17

My new hideout is a little floral, but I like it. Sammy and Bunny never separate, but whatsisface comes and goes.

*

The bigger they are, the more blood for me to drink. Right? Right!

Unfortunately, Myf didn’t keep any decent weapons. Just cats.

*

Pretty sure throwing cats at whatsisface won’t kill him. I gotta be smart. Gotta think of a good plan. The kind that doesn’t get me killed.

18

Screw plans. Sick of an all-cat diet, I followed whatsisface until he was out of sight of Sammy’s house. Then I grabbed him from behind.

*

He threw me into a rose bush, but wasn’t smart enough to run away. I bounded out fangs first and got him. He struggled, but passed out.

*

Mort appeared. “If you were trying to turn him undead, you should have fed him some of your blood.”

“Oh. So turning him over won’t work?”

19

Time to party! I go out clubbing, and since I’m thirsty I drink about ten cocktails. Still thirsty, and now I’m wobbly too.

*

No wonder I’m shrunk. Drunk. I haven’t eaten all day. Shilly me. I let a boy take me out back jusht as Bunny and Sammy come in.

*

Is it jusht me, or do boys taste better than girls? I’m sure I’d be shober now if my victim wasn’t drunker than me. I stagger home.

20

No hangover. Being undead is the best! I peek out the window, but don’t see Sammy or Bunny. Do they know I killed whatsisface?

*

The door smashes into a million pieces. Bunny strides in.

Oh. They know. Time to run again.

21

Sammy and Bunny are never apart, and this stupid tree is scratching my patent leather jacket. Luckily I have an idea. And a printer.

*

Sammy gets the mail while Bunny lurks in the doorway. I see The Look on Sammy’s face and know my bait is working.

*

All the piece of paper says is, “9pm Sale tomorrow at Ladies’ Wear. Everything 90% off.”

22

Sammy snuck away from Bunny and I trailed her all the way to the mall. I’d already broken inside and turned the lights on, so she walked in.

*

“Hi Sammy.”

“Did you hear about the sale too? Where is everyone?”

I roll my eyes and lunge for her throat.

She squeals, but it’s no use.

*

“Thanks for not drugging me this time,” I say, and feed her my blood.

She passes out, so I amuse myself shopping at 100% off while I wait.

23

Sammy wakes up. Finally. I had to kill another neighbour so we had some place to stay. “Hungry?” I ask.

“Oh, yes.”

“How about Bunny?”

*

“Darn,” Sammy says at her own door.

Bunny asks what’s wrong.

“My key doesn’t seem to work.”

Bunny lets her in – and then pulls out a stake.

*

Bunny stabs Sammy in the heart and she falls to bits – literally.

“No!” I scream, but I can’t get in without an invitation.

24

I’m so totally bummed I eat Myf’s last cat. In the mall, I remember old times by eating a cute security guard. But I don’t feel better.

*

OK, I’m done moping. Bunny may have killed my best friend, but technically I killed her first. I’m going to start somewhere new: New York.

25

Being a fashion victim is serious now. I’ve switched from being the fashion police to being a fashion vigilante. Because some deserve death.

*

There’s a girl at the train station wearing a simply hideous jumper – so I drink her blood, and take her ticket. Life is good.

*

New York New York! So many people! Big, small, fat, thin. I can hear their blood pumping – singing to me. I shall never go hungry again.

#154: Play the chocolate game

CJ just had a birthday. In the course of conversation, I discovered something truly horrific. He had never played the chocolate game.

There are a lot of chocolate games, I know. I’m referring to the one in which players sit in a circle around a large block of chocolate, rolling a pair of dice. Whenever someone rolls a double, they must don various items of clothing, then neatly slice off a square of chocolate and eat it with a knife and fork. Unless, of course, someone else rolls a double and they must quickly pass on the clothing, chocolate and cutlery.

We made each other put on rubber gloves and a fedora.

There wasn’t nearly so much violence as I remembered, probably because we’re GROWN-UPS now and we can go buy our own darn chocolate any time we want to. I was uncannily lucky with the dice, which was particularly silly since I’m in the process of losing weight. Bah!

We polished off a large block with consummate ease, all the same.

Play along at home: Next time you have a party, play the game. I’m sure you can play it with other substances if that’s more your thing.

Coming very soon (probably Sunday): I have finished reading the Trixie Belden and “The Gay Dolphin Adventure”. You’re gonna love the results.

“VAMPIRE DIARIES” story so far:

3

Woke up totally gross. Had a shower then realised I’m, like, a vampire now. My friend Sammy’s gonna be SO jealous!

*

Spent all day looking for a mirror that works. This sucks! Also I feel super hungry, and I get the feeling celery won’t fix this craving.

4

Killed a guy. He was, like, totally delicious!

5

Killed an old lady. Yuck, now my breath smells of mothballs.

6

Called Sammy. Said I’m totally a vampire.

She giggled, “You mean a vamp, right?”

“No! Well. . . that too.”

*

Sammy brought her new boyfriend over. SERIOUSLY yum. I know it seems rude to eat him, but I’m, like, evil now. He was finger-licking good.

*

Sammy had a totally unfair tantrum over me eating Bill. “I’m going to tell on you!” she said.

I said, “Who to? I’d sure love to eat a cop.”

7

Went outside. Got serious sunburn – like, with charring. I’m so buying spray tans from now on.

*

Sammy left a message on my machine. “My new friend Bunny’s totally going to get you. AND I have a new boyfriend, anyway. So there.”

*

Too embarrassed to go out with my skin looking so bad. Put off eating Sammy’s hot new treat until tomorrow.

8

Misty day. Went to Sammy’s house. The boyfriend was there, and BIG. They fought me off with frypans and a cricket bat. Stupid humans!

*

Hungry. Soooooo hungry. Almost as bad as doing the Atkins diet all over again. Stupid sun is out!

*

Ate Rover. Feel sick to my stomach, but I think that’s indigestion. Bad dog.

9

Short blonde at the door. My stomach rumbled. “Won’t you come in?” She smiled sweetly, and showed me what she had. A pointy stick.

*

I asked, “What’s that for? Making a tiny fence?”

She smiled, “I’m Bunny. I hear you don’t like sunshine.”

“But I do like visitors.”

*

I leapt for her throat. She slapped me aside, laughing. I grabbed for her pointy stick and she drove it into my belly. Ow! I ran.

10                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Great. Now I’m stuck in a sewer hiding from someone called Bunny. I’m totally hungry, and my top is RUINED.

*

So hungry for so long, and no weight loss. That’s IT. I’m going to kill Bunny. And Sammy. And her big cricketer boyfriend.

*

I creep to Sammy’s house and Bunny is there. They’re sharpening weapons and laughing. I feel scared. Luckily, Sammy has a dog. Had.

11

I realise now that hiding in Sammy’s treehouse wasn’t a good idea. Sammy and whatsisface are climbing the ladder – and the sun’s out.

*

I kick the boy in the face and he flies backwards. Sammy screams, but no one hears. He doesn’t get up. I drag Sammy inside by the hair.

*

Sammy punches me right where Bunny stabbed me – and it doesn’t hurt a bit. I knock her out against the trunk and drink deeply. She’s spicy.

12

I wake up when my little finger catches fire from a hole in the treehouse roof. Sammy and her boy are glaring at me – alive. And Bunny. Oh.

*

“We drugged you,” says Bunny, “so you’ll tell us who made you a vamp.”

 “Hollywood?” I slur.

Bunny rolls her eyes: “VampIRE.”

“Oh! I dunno.”

*

Bunny says, “Male? Female?”

“I didn’t see.”

She paces: “Where were you that night?”

“Um. . . at a club.”

“Right. Tomorrow we’ll go there.”

13

Bunny and Sammy leave my hands tied for our trip downtown to hunt my sire. The club is all flashing lights and skin. Hungry!

*

I spot my sire by smell – and by the fact that he’s flirting with a particularly delicious-looking redhead. Bunny sees where I’m looking.

*

“Mort!” I yell, “watch out!”

His head snaps up. Bunny shoves me aside and I run for it, hoping Mort gets away. He’s seriously hot.

14

I discovered I could find Mort by smell. Cool (and a bit gross.) He was in a really dorky lair with a bunch of others. “Hi again,” I said.

*

“Did I sire you?” said Mort.

I said, “Yep.”

“Was I really drunk?”

“Well – yes. Is your name really Mort?”

“Uh huh. Definitely not Bill.”

*

“I suppose you have questions about all this,” said Bill/Mort.

I said, “Oh! So many. First, what are vampires wearing this season?”

15

These other vampires don’t understand what being a vampire is all about: looking this good forever. And killing, of course (I suppose.)

*

That reminds me, I could do with a snack. If I can’t lose weight, I can’t gain it either. This vampire thing is to die for!

*

Ate a schoolkid on their way home. Feel MUCH better now, thank you. Even if some of the kid got stuck in my teeth. HOW embarrassing!

16

I still gotta kill Sammy and Bunny and whatsisface. It should be easy now they don’t have a dog. Not that Fifi was the guard dog type.

*

Sammy’s neighbour’s at home. I knock at the door and she opens it. “Myf?” I say.

She says, “Oh hello dear. Won’t you come in?”

*

Nom nom.

17

My new hideout is a little floral, but I like it. Sammy and Bunny never separate, but whatsisface comes and goes.

*

The bigger they are, the more blood for me to drink. Right? Right!

Unfortunately, Myf didn’t keep any decent weapons. Just cats.

*

Pretty sure throwing cats at whatsisface won’t kill him. I gotta be smart. Gotta think of a good plan. The kind that doesn’t get me killed.

18

Screw plans. Sick of an all-cat diet, I followed whatsisface until he was out of sight of Sammy’s house. Then I grabbed him from behind.

*

He threw me into a rose bush, but wasn’t smart enough to run away. I bounded out fangs first and got him. He struggled, but passed out.

*

Mort appeared. “If you were trying to turn him undead, you should have fed him some of your blood.”

“Oh. So turning him over won’t work?”

#48: Breakfast in Bed

A few days ago I bought English breakfast muffins (much like hole-less bagels if you’re wondering).

This morning, after instructing CJ to stay in bed when he woke up, I grilled three muffins and spread them with real butter and honey, golden syrup, jam, and crunchy peanut butter.

I took them downstairs and we ate them. In bed (hence the title).

It was a brilliant way to start the day, and I highly recommend you play along at home.

Weight loss: Success! This morning I weighed 77.9 kilos (my aim was 78). That was HARD. I plan to weigh 76.5 by 9 July (four weeks from now).

Fish: I’m still working out how to do this fish thing. My tank water has been yellow for some time, so I’m changing the water more frequently, adding more water to the tank (one cause is overcrowding – my fault) and I removed one of the plants (another cause of yellow water is rotting plant matter – probably the main cause). I think it made Gandalf sick, though, so I’ll be buying him medicine today.

And here’s “THE VAMPIRE DIARIES” so far:

3

Woke up totally gross. Had a shower then realised I’m, like, a vampire now. My friend Sammy’s gonna be SO jealous!

*

Spent all day looking for a mirror that works. This sucks! Also I feel super hungry, and I get the feeling celery won’t fix this craving.

4

Killed a guy. He was, like, totally delicious!

5

Killed an old lady. Yuck, now my breath smells of mothballs.

6

Called Sammy. Said I’m totally a vampire.

She giggled, “You mean a vamp, right?”

“No! Well. . . that too.”

*

Sammy brought her new boyfriend over. SERIOUSLY yum. I know it seems rude to eat him, but I’m, like, evil now. He was finger-licking good.

*

Sammy had a totally unfair tantrum over me eating Bill. “I’m going to tell on you!” she said.

I said, “Who to? I’d sure love to eat a cop.”

7

Went outside. Got serious sunburn – like, with charring. I’m so buying spray tans from now on.

*

Sammy left a message on my machine. “My new friend Bunny’s totally going to get you. AND I have a new boyfriend, anyway. So there.”

*

Too embarrassed to go out with my skin looking so bad. Put off eating Sammy’s hot new treat until tomorrow.

8

Misty day. Went to Sammy’s house. The boyfriend was there, and BIG. They fought me off with frypans and a cricket bat. Stupid humans!

*

Hungry. Soooooo hungry. Almost as bad as doing the Atkins diet all over again. Stupid sun is out!

*

Ate Rover. Feel sick to my stomach, but I think that’s indigestion. Bad dog.

9

Short blonde at the door. My stomach rumbled. “Won’t you come in?” She smiled sweetly, and showed me what she had. A pointy stick.

*

I asked, “What’s that for? Making a tiny fence?”

She smiled, “I’m Bunny. I hear you don’t like sunshine.”

“But I do like visitors.”

*

I leapt for her throat. She slapped me aside, laughing. I grabbed for her pointy stick and she drove it into my belly. Ow! I ran.

10                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Great. Now I’m stuck in a sewer hiding from someone called Bunny. I’m totally hungry, and my top is RUINED.

*

So hungry for so long, and no weight loss. That’s IT. I’m going to kill Bunny. And Sammy. And her big cricketer boyfriend.

*

I creep to Sammy’s house and Bunny is there. They’re sharpening weapons and laughing. I feel scared. Luckily, Sammy has a dog. Had.

11

I realise now that hiding in Sammy’s treehouse wasn’t a good idea. Sammy and whatsisface are climbing the ladder – and the sun’s out.

*

I kick the boy in the face and he flies backwards. Sammy screams, but no one hears. He doesn’t get up. I drag Sammy inside by the hair.

*

Sammy punches me right where Bunny stabbed me – and it doesn’t hurt a bit. I knock her out against the trunk and drink deeply. She’s spicy.

#160: Fill your house with balloons

A hundred balloons and a headache later, I recollected why I don’t do this every day. Ah well.

It could be worse. I could have five tiny (but incredibly sharp) pins attached to every limb. That’d sure suck.

Heh.

But then people came over. Balloons are silly, and so are my friends. Enjoyment ensued. Conversations punctuated with balloon throws quickly turned to mayhem.

Finally I gave everyone their very own dressmaking pin and my house literally exploded.

Bam! Pow! Squee! Colourful corpses everywhere!

At last the fun was done, and I put the pins away. But there were more of them lurking behind the couch! Fortunately, my partner has a sword.

Play along at home: Fill an enemy’s house with balloons. Cost: $6, and a massive headache.

Weight update: .6 of a kilo remaining. This should work.

In other news, remember how I had a pleasant dream of shaming a bunch of footballers? A few nights ago I dreamed I rescued a bunch of footballers from a collapsing mine. So that’s what a subconscious apology looks like.

Since it’s Friday, here’s the twitter tale so far.

THE VAMPIRE DIARIES

3

Woke up totally gross. Had a shower then realised I’m, like, a vampire now. My friend Sammy’s gonna be SO jealous!

*

Spent all day looking for a mirror that works. This sucks! Also I feel super hungry, and I get the feeling celery won’t fix this craving.

4

Killed a guy. He was, like, totally delicious!

#149: Alien Creatures (aka Go Fish!)

Getting fish has been one of the most expensive and traumatic things I’ve ever done, but it’s also been one of the most rewarding. On Wednesday I went one step further and bought two bottom feeders – one eats algae (not that I have any – yet) and the other eats snail eggs (which I have a disturbingly large amount of). This means that I have the beginnings of a genuine ecosystem, with some of my living creatures/plants getting eaten by others. How awesome is that?!?

Bottom feeders move quite differently to other fish, and I’m loving watching them, and the interactions between species. Sherlock Holmes is the carnivore. He’s a reticula pakistan (I think), and he’s about the same size as Gandalf (my fighting fish). He has beautiful golden stripes, and alternates between manic investigation of the front wall (with his nose-whiskers) and pretending to be part of our hollow log. Gandalf is an unusually sociable fish, and he finds Sherlock fascinating. Sherlock returned the favour, swimming around Gandalf and employing his whiskers to figure out what that blue blur was all about. The funniest part was Gandalf’s reaction. He wasn’t hurt at all, but was totally weirded out. Instead of jerking away (as he does when bitten – something that doesn’t happen any more since there aren’t any danios), he went very still. What I learned today: a confused fish is a cute fish. Here’s Sherlock near his abode of choice:

Watson is a tiny bristlenose catfish not much bigger than my neon tetras. He’s black with white spots, and is VERY good at vanishing. Some of the tetras got confused and deliberately swam into him to try to figure out what he was. The tetras are the flourescent ones, and Watson is trying his best to blend into the fake log (Sherlock appears again in the foreground):

Play along at home: If you possibly can, visit an aquarium. Or a dentist’s waiting room. Fish are SO WEIRD. Respect the weirdness.

AND THEN I WOKE UP (story so far):

5

I woke with my face in concrete. Wet concrete. Not concrete – meat. Meat and blood, and it was in my MOUTH! Yuck!

I sat up, spitting. Then I saw the bodies all around me. No-one else was waking up, like I had. But a few others, like me, had blood dripping down their chins.

Wasn’t I just in maths class? I shook my head, trying not to scream. Hysteria took over, and I said aloud, “Please, not the maths!”

6

I sheltered overnight in an abandoned apartment. The homiest part was the curtains (burnt) but I found an unopened tin of baked beans.

Evidently even apocalypse survivors don’t eat baked beans. Also there was no can opener. I began to understand my own cannibalism.

My body was different, too – not just thinner. With a mirror, I discovered I was now in my twenties. What!?! Did I go to the prom or not?

7

I watched through burnt curtains as a group of people walked slowly down the street. They walked upright, and they weren’t as thin as me.

My belly rumbled, so I broke a two by four off the bed for a weapon, and went downstairs to follow the tall ones.

8

One of the tall ones kept sniffing the air and pushing his child in front of him. He looked around, and almost saw me.

Perhaps the tall ones knew why I was ten years older, why the whole city was burnt, and why I couldn’t remember anything since math class.

“Mustn’t sleep,” I told myself. I had to keep watch. They had food! And bottles of water! I was so thirsty it didn’t hurt any more.

9

“Gotcha!”

My eyes snapped open but it was too late. The man had me by both arms. I struggled, but I was so weak my vision blurred.

Their leader leant over me. “Stop moving. We’re not going to hurt you.”

I wanted to yell at her but instead I whimpered, “He took my beans.”

“Give her beans back, Z,” she said, and he did.

“I’m Dell,” she said, “and who are you?”

“Fay,” I whispered, and clung to my precious can.

10

All night they fed me sips of warm water, and in the morning they let me have half an old banana. Where did they get fruit from?

I tried to stay awake, but I slept. When I woke up, there were three times as many people – hungry-eyed, bloody-mouthed people like me.

“We need water,” Dell said to Z, “or they’ll die here.”

He nodded, and he and the child went back along the windy street alone.

11

Z and the girl returned with water and jerky. Dell made us say a prayer before we ate. For the first time, I wondered where my parents were.

When I was strong enough to stand, I asked Z for my weapon back.

“What for?” he said.

I said, “To protect me while I look for my parents.”

“Riiight,” he said, and showed me his gun.

I blinked.

“Wait until tomorrow,” he said, “and Dell will tell you what to do.”

12

Dell stood on a dumpster and addressed us all. “Go,” she said, “as far as you can in every direction. If you find water, let off a flare.”

“East!” I blurted out. “I’ll go East!”

Z smirked at me: “Fine then. So will I.” He stuck three flares in his belt, and we started walking.

“I’m called Iris,” said the girl, slipping her hand in mine.

“Fay,” I said, “and I wasn’t much older than you when I fell asleep.”

13

We searched every building for running water. “Someone’s got to have their own generator,” said Z.

“My parents do,” I said.

Iris screamed, and I instinctively threw her behind me. A stranger burst out of a hole in the wall and made a grab for my empty bottle.

Z drew his gun but the man kept fighting me. I remembered what my Mum taught me so long ago, and kneed him in the groin. He howled and fled.

14

I had a nightmare that I opened the door to my parents’ flat and found nothing but burnt curtains, a tin of baked beans, and two corpses.

We waited all day for the man to attack us again, or at least come back, but there was no sign of him. “Let it go,” said Z. We kept walking.

I found my courage. “Who did all this, Z?”

“People invented a way to make others into puppets. Be glad you’ve forgotten those years.”

PS Still not sure who the reverse burglary victim is? Scroll down to the large picture of the candy shop candy, and read the brand name on the jar at the back. That’s his/her name!

Secret # 6 will happen some day, but not anytime soon (there’s a certain. . . item. . . that isn’t in stock at the moment). I’ll let you all know!