“Meg the Egg” full story

And yes, I know it’s weird. . .

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?”

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.

18

Woke up to dead silence. Why isn’t Meg crying? I can’t tell if she’s sleeping peacefully or if someone snuck in and hard-boiled her.

It’s fine! Meg was just sick. Still is, a bit. Anyone know a good anti-ichor soap? Parenthood is so gross.

19

Hugh’s Dad asked us what our plans were for Christmas Day. I said, “Xarla said we should both stick around for. . . celebrations.”

Hugh rallied desperately: “Why don’t you and Mum come?” I cut in, “Um. . . I have two Mums.” Hugh’s Dad said, “We’ll be there.”

I glared at Hugh. His Dad said, “Don’t worry kids. We’re VERY tolerant.” I said, “Oh. . . good. See you on Christmas then.”

20

Hugh’s call woke me, and Meg began to cry. “What?” I mumbled. Hugh said, “It’s Sven! I dropped him! Quick, tell me what to do! Is he okay?”

21

Xarla and Hugh and I stayed up all night in case Sven woke up. “It’s touch and go,” she said. Hugh’s face was grey: “What have I done?”

I called Mum. “How did you cope when I was sick as a baby?” “I didn’t – not until you were well again. Love you, see you on Christmas Eve.”

22

The phone rang again. It was Hugh. My heart pounded. One way or another, this was the call that would tell me Sven’s fate.

Hugh was crying. “He’s all right! Just now he woke up hungry, screaming for blood as if nothing happened.” “Oh, thank goodness.”

23

Cops came to our door and invited themselves in. We hid the eggs in a rack of others in the fridge, and held our breath as they searched us.

One cop took Xarla aside. “We know you’re a good, upstanding citizen. If you see anything suspicious, you’ll let us know?” “Oh, of course.”

24

Mum swept in with a new pair of pink cowboy boots, plus intense sunburn to 75% of her body. “Hey kid, what’s been –” She stopped dead.

I said, “Mum, this is Xarla. She’s been cooking and. . . stuff. And she gave us her eggs to babysit. And feed. Until they hatch. Tomorrow.”

Mum carefully examined Xarla’s green skin and human suit. “Well, it’s certainly true that sex ed these days isn’t enough. Nice to meet you.”

25

Hugh’s parents sat facing my Mum and the identical Xarla. Hugh’s Dad said, “Would you mind passing the cranberry sauce?” Xarla just smiled.

Meg danced across the table, cracking against the gravy jug. One tentacle shot out and upended the roast. Bang! Sven and Meg both stood up.

Cops burst in to see three green humanoids and my tears of joy. Xarla said, “Thanks SO much kids. It’s teleport time. Merry Christmas.”

26

I woke up several times in the night, wondering where Meg was and if she was happy.

In my email, among dozens of Christmas wishes, I found a thank-you card from Meg herself. My little green girl was all grown up.

THE END.

New story begins 1/1/11!

“The Captain’s Daughter” full story

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.”

21

Al woke us before dawn and threw us in the lifeboat. I saw a blur on the horizon, so we rowed for that.

 

22

 

We landed on the island and plunged fully-clothed into a trickle of fresh water near the beach. Before we’d drunk our fill, I faced a spear.

 

I stood up slowly, and Da and I raised our hands. The locals took us to their village, tied us up, and put us in a bamboo cage.

 

“Could be worse,” said Da. I said, “Oh yes? How?” “Umm. . . give me a minute. I’ll think of something.”

 

23

 

I woke from a cramped sleep as someone tugged on my bound hands. It was Jim. “Sorry you went through so much – I had to make Al trust me.”

 

Once my hands were free, I was able to cut through the other ropes. Da looked like he’d been crying. “What now, Captain?” they asked me.

 

“That landlubber took my ship. And my gold. And my crew. Let’s steal another ship from these friendly locals and take back what’s mine.”

 

24

 

With my dagger, Jim’s sword, and Da’s rage we had our choice of ships. Given the state of our hands, we took one with a sail.

 

We cut a good wake through the green waves, and I asked Jim how he’d found us. “I made a raft,” he said, “and hoped.” He looked at me funny.

 

“I can tell you want something,” I said. Jim said, “I was hoping to be your first mate. In every sense.”

“Oh!”

Da hastily rearranged ropes.

 

25

 

We had no lights but my ship did, so she was easy to find. They’d weighed their sea anchor so we crept up alongside and climbed the sides.

 

I saw Al’s hateful curly hair immediately in front of me, and the bland faces of several crew members facing me – and therefore him.

 

My old crew didn’t blink as Jim and I drew our weapons and grabbed Al. When we had him tied, they cheered – and begged my forgiveness.

 

26

 

We cut the sail off our new boat and put Al on board before shoving it away and sailing off. He railed at us, and we turned away.

 

As we left, I grabbed a single red apple and tossed it after him. After all, he was my brother.

 

27

 

I named Jim as first mate, and my fickle crew rejoiced. But I knew how to make them loyal. Jim loudly asked me where I wanted to go.

 

I shouted back, “You know what they say – diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Let’s find friends for all of us.”

“Aye aye, Captain,” he said.

 

THE END

 

 

“Zeppelin Jack and the Deadly Dueller” full tale

For those waiting for the diet coke and mentos rocket entry. . . it’s coming. I’m going and putting it together right now.

“The Captain’s Daughter” tale begins tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s the full tale of this month:

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.

30

“Parp!” said Giz at my ear.

I said, “Dueller! They’re close.”

He drew his pistols, but Marm’s boyfriend sliced both his legs clean off. 

The dueller toppled backwards, and kept toppling until the nets caught him. His legs fell together and ignited. Boom! The alchemist blew up.

The alchemist fell, and burned through the safety nets, and kept falling. Nip and I ran and helped the dueller get home to his spare legs.

31

The dueller and Nip and I ate honey cakes and thanked his clever wife. She smiled, showing dimples. “I never liked the smell of gunpowder.”

“No-one makes glycerin like you, my darling.”

“No more duelling then?” she said.

He kissed her (ugh!) and said, “I’ve had quite enough.”

THE END

“Peace Hostage” complete tale

The next story, “Killer Robot Cat”, begins September 1. Yay for springtime and naughty fluffy robots!

PEACE HOSTAGE

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

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.

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 four times. My body was too weak. I lay back, looking up 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 knew she was Tem’s Mum.

“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 for hours, 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 cared for 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 in cold stream water and smeared with honey. It 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 what happened. Tem might still be alive, and I can stop the war before it begins.”

17

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.

22

I was no longer tired, but strong. The pain from my foot kept me from forgetting Tem’s face. I did not need food or rest – just him.

I did not need food or rest – but it’d sure be nice. Especially a good fat boar, spit-roasted with coconut wine to follow.

23

I heard something and stopped dead, my vision blurred with sudden tiredness and fear. A voice whispered, “Today you die.”

It was Res. She lifted her spear. “Men may hunt, but they can’t track prey like I can. You are dead, you stinking Bek fool.”

A young boar thundered out and trampled Res until she stopped screaming. It was the same boar. He nosed at her as she bled out. I crept off.

24

I followed the stream to the crossing point, and watched once more for watchmen with spears – from either side. But I crossed in peace.

The rainforest opened up and I walked a familiar path once more. I hurried, afraid of what I would find when I reached home.

My village lay sleeping. I crept into my father’s hut and saw Dad and Tem side by side, at peace. So I waited.

25

Tem woke up, and blinked sleepily at me. He reached out a hand and touched me. “But you’re real!” he said. I rolled my eyes.

We woke Dad, and I explained all I had learned. “Things have changed. Tem’s Dad was killed. Now Tem is chief.” Tem bowed his head.

Tem and Dad shook hands as one chief to another. They each said, “I will not fight you if I can help it.” I said, “I have an idea.”

26

Dad argued for me to be given the right of blooding, and it was accepted. Tem and I knew we had to fight hard – the trial must be true.

I hit Tem in the face and he fell back, kicking out at me so I fell too. He pushed my face in the dirt until I ran out of breath.

Dad gravely declared Tem the winner: “My daughter is at your mercy. What will you do?” “I will not kill her. I want her as my wife.”

27

The old women accepted Tem’s conquest, and gave me more outfits than I could ever wear. They hassled the men until everyone rejoiced.

Dad performed the wedding, trying not to look smug. Tem squeezed my hand. I looked where he looked and saw his Mum in the trees, smiling.

28

I left my Dad and my friends, and walked to my new home with Tem and Jil – each companion holding one of my hands. THE END

When Good Libraries Go Bad (complete tale)

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?”

24

I read the book three times – it added more amusing Nix pictures each time. The last page remained the same: The librarian wins.

*

“Is the librarian the original author – Nix – or the current owner?” Terry asked.

I didn’t know either, and the book wasn’t telling.

*

“I think we should fight,” I said.

Terry pointed to a stack of tunnelling books and said, “Indeed. I read more than just minds, you know.”

25

We followed the books through long-broken air vents and the backs of three-storey bookshelves until we looked up and saw Nix’s book.

*

“We’re in the pit below it,” said Terry.

The Library Book folded into origami gauntlets. Then Terry boosted me up.

*

I grabbed Nix’s spell book, and was thrown into blackness. My hands and chest burned. But I didn’t let go – even when I fainted.

26

I awoke to the sound of burning, and cracked open my eyes to see Nix’s spell book on fire, unable to exist inside the anti-magic cage.

*

Nix rode into the chamber on a cresting wave of evil books – paranormal romance, if I’m not mistaken. He screamed in pain and rage.

*

I put my hands through the bars and held onto the lock as Nix tried feebly to open it. He writhed and died as the last page burned to ash.

27

I slept easily, certain Terry would rescue me. As I checked for any remaining unburnt spell pages, a tentacle coiled through the bars.

*

I screamed for help as more tentacles encircled my legs and squeezed. CS pressed its horrible wet maw against the bars and pulled me closer.

*

Suddenly CS turned aside and sucked Nix’s corpse up from the floor instead.

“Terry?” I croaked.

He said, “Good cthulhu. Eat it all up.”

28

We rode out of the library on CS’s broad head. From the library’s heart to the outside took only a few hours this time.

*

“You know,” Terry said reflectively, “it’s not such a bad place.”

“Except for the giant rotting cthulhu.”

“Well, yes. Except for that.”

29

CS sped us home. Her tentacles brought out the highlights in my puce robe. Other mind mages took over so Terry could rest at last.

*

Terry and I washed and ate before we were summoned by the council to take up our new posts as the library’s keepers.

*

“Bit of cleaning up to do,” said Terry, patting CS absently on the tentacle.

I grinned, “Yep.”

I never did see those James Bond books again.

THE END

New tale begins August 1.

Vampire Diaries (finished)

I will be posting today’s awesomeness in a separate post within half an hour. The next twittertale is “When Good Libraries Go Bad”, which begins on 1 July.

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.

26

Just had an amazing epifa– revelation. I’m EVIL and it’s Saturday night. So no more hiding. No more diary writing. I’m gonna go eat people.

THE END

“And then I woke up” tale

AND THEN I WOKE UP

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.”

15

Four men with guns stopped us entering an abandoned bank, and I noticed Z hid his. “Just move on and no-one will get hurt,” they said.

“You have water,” I realised aloud. Iris began to cry. Z crossed his arms. In the distance, someone else’s flare went off.

“You have guns, and water,” I said, “which means you can save hundreds. Let us send off a flare – please.” Their leader nodded.

16

We stayed overnight outside the bank, and drank our fill as more ragged people gathered. “So few,” I said to Z. He didn’t reply.

As we attempted to digest a breakfast of jerky, someone turned up wearing brilliant purple and a top hat. He grabbed rubbish and juggled it.

Iris laughed for the first time, and we asked Hugh to join us. His hands shook with hunger as he ate, but he told jokes (with a full mouth).

17

Hugh and Iris guarded yet another door as Z and I checked for supplies inside. We found mouldy bread, and a cat with three kittens.

“Wait!” I told Z. I found an empty box and used a scavenged knife to make holes in the lid. Then I called Iris inside for her present.

Iris’ eyes widened, and when the box meowed her mouth dropped open. “Can I keep it?” she said. Z shrugged. And “Fluffy” made five.

18

Fluffy liked jerky no more than I did, but she caught herself a mouse. “She’s the most useful provider here,” said Z. Iris giggled.

“This apocalypse isn’t so bad after all,” said Hugh. I said, “Speak for yourself – I missed half my adolescence.” “Even better,” he said.

“Who stopped it? Why am I awake now?” I asked. Z interrupted, “Same man that started it all. Seems he regretted it. He’s dead now.” “Good.”

19

Yay! Finally some more running water. We let off another flare and settled down to wait for people to arrive.

A pregnant woman came first. Z gave her his gun and taught her how to reload. She said, “If you had a proper name I’d give it to the kid.”

20

The lady had her own loyal posse before we left. We were running low on jerky, and I was secretly grateful. Starvation looked nicer.

21

We found a huge storeroom full of cans – and a can opener. Too bad it was electric. Hugh laughed so hard I eventually joined in.

“Here!” said Iris. She’d found self-opening cans. Too bad it was cat food. I’d gone from sixteen to a senior citizen in what felt like days.

We feasted on jellymeat and seafood cocktail loaf, and loaded ourselves with more. Fluffy refused to eat it. Weirdo cat.

15

Four men with guns stopped us entering an abandoned bank, and I noticed Z hid his. “Just move on and no-one will get hurt,” they said.

“You have water,” I realised aloud. Iris began to cry. Z crossed his arms. In the distance, someone else’s flare went off.

“You have guns, and water,” I said, “which means you can save hundreds. Let us send off a flare – please.”

Their leader nodded.

16

We stayed overnight outside the bank, and drank our fill as more ragged people gathered. “So few,” I said to Z. He didn’t reply.

As we attempted to digest a breakfast of jerky, someone turned up wearing brilliant purple and a top hat. He grabbed rubbish and juggled it.

Iris laughed for the first time, and we asked Hugh to join us. His hands shook with hunger as he ate, but he told jokes (with a full mouth).

17

Hugh and Iris guarded yet another door as Z and I checked for supplies inside. We found mouldy bread, and a cat with three kittens.

“Wait!” I told Z. I found an empty box and used a scavenged knife to make holes in the lid. Then I called Iris inside for her present.

Iris’ eyes widened, and when the box meowed her mouth dropped open. “Can I keep it?” she said.

Z shrugged. And “Fluffy” made five.

18

Fluffy liked jerky no more than I did, but she caught herself a mouse. “She’s the most useful provider here,” said Z. Iris giggled.

“This apocalypse isn’t so bad after all,” said Hugh.

I said, “Speak for yourself – I missed half my adolescence.”

“Even better,” he said.

“Who stopped it? Why am I awake now?” I asked.

Z interrupted, “Same man that started it all. Seems he regretted it. He’s dead now.”

“Good.”

19

Yay! Finally some more running water. We let off another flare and settled down to wait for people to arrive.

A pregnant woman came first. Z gave her his gun and taught her how to reload. She said, “If you had a proper name I’d give it to the kid.”

20

The lady had her own loyal posse before we left. We were running low on jerky, and I was secretly grateful. Starvation looked nicer.

21

We found a huge storeroom full of cans – and a can opener. Too bad it was electric. Hugh laughed so hard I eventually joined in.

“Here!” said Iris. She’d found self-opening cans. Too bad it was cat food. I’d gone from sixteen to a senior citizen in what felt like days.

We feasted on jellymeat and seafood cocktail loaf, and loaded ourselves with more. Fluffy refused to eat it. Weirdo cat.

22

“Oh,” I gasped, and stood still.

Hugh said, “What is it?”

“I remember this park,” I said.

Z flopped onto a bench, “Lunch, then?”

I ate my share of chicken chunks and walked to the place where a pond used to be. There was a skeleton half-buried in mud, wearing pearls.

Iris blinked and said, “Couldn’t we just steal a chisel – for the cans?”

I slapped my head: “I’m so dumb! But can we find my parents first?”

23

We trudged endlessly through empty streets. “What about your family?” I asked Hugh.

“Got none,” he said, “and didn’t have none before.”

At dinner Hugh began to teach Iris to juggle. Z sidled up to me and sat so close we touched – for warmth, he said. We lay down side by side.

24

“One more sleep,” I said, “and then I’ll find out if my parents are alive.”

Iris said, “Do you think we could try to find mine – one day?”

“Z isn’t your dad?” I said.

They both snorted at exactly the same time.

That was apparently Hugh’s cue to do cartwheels. And why not?

25

“Go on then, wimp,” said Z.

I lifted my heavy arm and knocked. From within my old home, I heard footsteps.

For a second I thought Mum was Grandma, back from the dead. She was OLD. “Fay?” she said.

I nodded.

“Ben!” she screamed.

Dad came running.

All of us cried and hugged and cried, and Z excused himself. At last Mum stepped back. “Where HAVE you been?!”

I sighed and rolled my eyes.

26

We slept on the floor, more comfortable than anywhere I’d been since my old life. Mum had carrots, and potatoes, and far too much lettuce.

Dad took me aside: “You’re all grown now, and you should know the truth: we’ll run out of food in a matter of weeks. Even the garden.”

I hugged him and smiled: “One question: Do you have a can opener?”

“Of course,” he said.

I said, “Then don’t worry. It’s ALL good.”

THE END

“The Vampire Diaries” twitter tale begins on June 3 – because I have SO much more vampire mocking to do.

#89: Take St John’s Wort (and complete twittertale)

On Tuesday I began taking St John’s Wort, which is a herbal remedy for anxiety, depression, or manic depression. Being herbal, it’s pretty mild – but it’s sufficently hard core that it shouldn’t be taken if you’re pregnant, trying to be  pregnant, or trying NOT to be pregnant (by which I mean that it makes the contraceptive pill less effective). Also you definitely shouldn’t mix it with any other mental-illness meds.

It was CSI that got me onto St John’s Wort. They featured an obscure medical condition called “hypergraphia” – the irresistible compulsion to write, and keep writing (that’s physical writing – not editing, researching, or planning one’s literary opus). As with every other psych condition ever invented, once I heard of it, I said, “I totally have that” and after consulting Dr Wikipedia himself, I discovered that St John’s Wort might help.

The really odd part is that it did. When I first began writing full-time (which was early on in my mental illness), any day that I spent working on a novel was a day I wasn’t able to work on any other piece of writing. It also menat I was hazy at best in my conversational skills. I remember meeting a friend for coffee and finding the whole world stangely coloured around me. (No, I hadn’t been taking any illegal substances.) Since taking St John’s Wort, I became able to remain connected to the real world while writing. Which I’m sure my partner appreciates, since I work almost exclusively on novels these days (which reminds me: I send out a short story to a mailing list on the first day of each month. If you’d like to be on the list, say so in a comment anywhere on this blog and it shall be done – I can see people’s email addresses, but no-one else can).

Play along at home: Stressed? Moody? Sad? You might not be mentally ill, but St John’s Wort may help you stay not crazy. Sane = good (at least, from what I remember). It’s in any supermarket, with all the other pills.

And now. . . . the moment you’ve all been waiting for (except for those of you who didn’t notice it’s Friday today) . . . the complete “Bridezilla” story (the next story, the post-apocalyptic “And then I woke up”, begins on 5 May):

1.

It’s pay day, so I buy pillows. Luckily my wedding dress makes a good maternity dress. I hope this plan works. Tomorrow, here I come.

2.

I dress as a VERY expectant bride and go to the bakery store. As I order a huge pile of hot cross buns, I put one hand to my giant stomach.

*

“Oh you poor dear!” says the matronly type I’ve been observing for days. “Don’t bother paying for those buns.”

*

She winks, “And may I STRONGLY recommend entering our restaurant-dinner-for-two competition?”

I obey her while silently applauding my act.

3.

Today I’m a goth bride with heavy eye-makeup and blood-red feathers on my neckline. I mingle in the bar before Amanda Palmer’s concert.

*

Amanda comes out, hugs me, then takes in my full outfit. “Congrats,” she says – “And you’re NOT paying – or your fiancé, wherever he is.”

*

Being a goth bride rocks. It’s even better than yesterday’s pregnancy. I’ve never enjoyed a concert so much – or been given so much beer.

4.

I promised my daughter a huge pile of Easter eggs – but I also promised she could continue at her school. So I dress her as my flower girl.

*

Easter eggs: Check. Nausea: check. Chocolate smears on May’s face: check. Getting chocolate for a flower girl at Easter is almost too easy.

*

A shrill voice cuts through my pleasure – my ex-bridesmaid, Cherie. “Anna! Did Rob come back and marry you after all?”

“Uh. . . sure. Yep.”

5.

I’m embarrassed after lying to Cherie, so today I go for the dumped bride look. My mascara runs beautifully, and I get more hot cross buns.

*

As I’m lugging a garbage bag of buns to my car, one of the bakery girls comes and helps me. She says, “Wait a second, do I recognise you?”

*

I shake my head, but she says, “Yes! I saw you dumped on YouTube. . . but that was a month ago. What the. . .?”

I flee.

6.

Today I dress as a mum. An emotionally and financially stable mum. I try to arrange my stockings so the holes are hidden inside my shoes.

*

“We’ve been making allowances because of your. . . incident. . . a month ago. But we must have next term’s fee by the end of this month.”

*

After the meeting, I go give May a hug. Her teacher stops me and asks for my number.

“Oh no! What did May –”

“Nothing. I want to call YOU.”

7.

I eat hot cross buns, and ask my boss for a raise. Neither goes down well.

*

When May gets home, I interrogate her about her dark-haired, dark-eyed teacher.

She says, “He’s nice. I got to be the queen in story time.”

8.

I get the card for the free dinner for two at a real restaurant. Yay! Less than an hour later my landlord “drops by”. Uh-oh.

*

May’s teacher calls, and arranges to pick me up on Saturday. My heart’s fluttering so hard, I can’t eat my dinner (of hot cross buns).

9.

May dresses in her best dress for our dinner of Real Food. I wear a skirt. They greet us with champagne. “Where’s the other newlywed?”

*

“Uh. . . he had to work,” I say. They hustle us to our highly beflowered table and tell us to order anything we want. We do.

*

May gets them to make her a hamburger. I have a huge pile of meat and a giant salad. Neither of us eats our bread rolls.

10.

I re-use my pillows to make myself an overweight bride, and take May with me with only an hour to spare before Jack comes to fetch me.

*

We go to a child care centre. I ask, “Can you fit her in? The reception’s about to start and my normal babysitter quit. Today!”

*

“Of course we can,” the staff say, “and don’t you dare pay!”

My date is wonderful. Jack is good company and the food is DIVINE.

11.

I shave my eyebrows to become a more lucrative faux bride, and go shopping. I’m about to graciously accept free Docs when I see Jack!

*

Jack! Shopping as I scam! Disaster! I duck behind the nice lady’s desk, biting my nails in terror. Has he already seen me?

*

The lady gives a commentary on Jack’s passing. “The hot guy’s trying on sunglasses. . . now he’s going away. He’s gone!”

I flee the scene.

12.

My landlord says, “Pay your rent by Wednesday, or I’ll have you evicted.”

I flaunt my Doc Martens and say breezily, “No prob. See you then.”

13.

May and I spend the first day of her holidays sorting our possessions into “Sell” and “Keep”. I get $3 for four books.

*

We’ve tried ebay and twelve different friends, but oddly no-one will buy May’s lifesize poster of Edward Cullen. Go figure.

*

I eat lunch with Jack. He doesn’t mock my eyebrows, but says, “Can we have dinner Friday – with May?”

“YES! Er, that’d be nice.”

14.

I fake receiving an SMS break-up at the service station and get a free tank of petrol. Nice. My eyes are getting tired from fake crying.

*

May and I put everything we can’t live without into our car and go camping. I don’t think she believes it’s really a holiday.

*

We go swimming in the creek and May finally relaxes and starts to laugh. For dinner, we roast our hot cross buns over the fire.

15.

Pay day. I’d need three more to pay school fees, and there’s only one more this month. But I have a plan. Today we buy food – sort of.

*

Eggs for protein and zucchini for vegetable matter. Somehow, toasting zucchini isn’t the same as toasting marshmallows.

16.

For our dinner date with Jack we eat roast lamb with gravy and pumpkin and potatoes. May doesn’t eat the zucchini, and neither do I.

*

The night is perfect. It’s even kind of fun to pretend to go into our old house before sneaking around the corner to our car.

17.

I dress as a harassed bride and May hides behind a column while I claim a fictional honeymoon booking at a nice hotel – prepaid, of course.

*

May jumps on the bed while I boil eggs. She says, “This is your best idea ever!”

“Wait and see.”

She eats the minibar peanuts, grinning.

18.

I dress as a just-awoken newlywed and score free breakfast. Fortunately for May, they’re willing to deliver my “fiancé’s” meal to our room.

19.

May’s friend Sara calls to ask if May can sleep over next Friday.

I say, “Definitely. How about two nights?”

*

Jack calls and we talk for three hours. Mmm. . . school holidays. When the call ends, I can’t remember a single thing we talked about.

20.

Jack and I meet for lunch again. He admires my new Docs. I can’t tell if he’s messing with me or not, but he’s smiling. Is that bad?

21.

I go to a new shopping centre and run into Rob. (Did I mention my ex-fiancé is a cop?) “Are you going to give me my ring back?” he says.

*

I say, “Are you going to pay me for our reception?”

“We didn’t have one – why should I pay?”

“Because when you cancel on the day, you pay!”

*

“Give me the ring!” he says.

I say, “Give me the six thousand you owe me – and one seriously impressive apology.”

“Get lost!”

“You too!”

22.

I’m having lunch at the hotel when one of the staff asks why they haven’t seen my new husband all week. So much for being a newlywed.

*

My throat tightens. I feel my face flush with humiliation. The waitress blushes back at me and hurries away. Ah. Still a newlywed then!

23.

The hotel is too risky. May has one last jump on the bed, and we pack sadly.

I say, “Don’t worry. My big plan is for Sunday.”

*

I drop her at her friend’s house and prepare to spend my night in the park. All at once, I begin to hate ducks. Pompous freaks.

24.

Rain. Great. Being a stressed, pregnant, or overweight bride was all very well. Tomorrow the real performance begins – and ends.

*

I visit my dad in the cemetery to apologise – and explain. “Mum, Dad – I know you would help me if you were alive. But I’m still sorry.”

25.

I dress and act as the daughter of a fallen war hero, and join the veterans after their march as they drink and play two-up in the bar.

*

When I say how much I miss my dad, they do just what I expected: They pass a hat around. I hear notes rustling and coins chinking.

*

I watch an old man struggle to bring the brimming hat to me – then Rob walks in. He says, “Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”

I run.

26.

Rob calls me fourteen times, and Jack calls fifteen. I don’t answer. Rob SMSes, “I’ll find you.”

Jack SMSes, “I need to see you.”

*

May brings a note home from school, bearing just eleven words: “I know everything. It doesn’t matter. Sell your ring. Love, Jack.”

27.

I dress as myself and go to the pawn shop with my ring. The girl’s eyes widen. “This is THE ring, isn’t it? From the YouTube breakup?”

*

I sigh a yes. “Lucky you!” she says.

I say, “Pardon?”

“All that money!?!”

I stare at her: “PARDON?!”

“Didn’t you read the YouTube comments?”

*

I walk to the car with a money order for the first $10,000. Then I go to the bank. Then I pay the school. Then I pay rent. Then I eat.

28.

Once the treasurer stops apologising to me, Jack and I have lunch in the staff room. “I’d like to buy you a replacement ring,” he says.

*

I look up from my caviar. “So I can keep conning, or so I can stop playing a bride and start playing a wife?”

He smiles, “Hopefully both.”

29.

I take May out a second time. “What would you like for dinner?”

“Not eggs. Or zucchini. Or hot cross buns.”

“Fish and chips?”

“Yeah.”

30.

May, Jack and I go out to dinner together. Jack says, “I bet we could scam a fake honeymoon if the three of us worked together.”

“Let’s!”

THE END

Dr Yes: Complete Story

FYI: the program of daily awesomeness begins later today.

The next twittertale, “Bridezilla”, begins April 1.

DR YES

1.

I unclipped Yen’s handcuffs and went down on one knee under the tropical sun of her prison-island home. “My darling, will you marry me?”

*

“’Kay,” she said.

I stood and kissed her tenderly, then ran for the chaplain. When he was ready to go, I decided to freshen up.

* (3 hour gap)

I emerged resplendent to find the priest knocked out, my ornithopter gone, and my fiancé. . . well, she was obviously still doing her hair.

2.

The love of my life, gone! She may still be cross that I killed her power-mad mum. But surely she doesn’t STILL want to destroy the world?

*

Time to be a super-handsome super-spy again. Thank goodness for plastic surgery. Yen was born in Beijing, so I got a flight there at once.

*

I was met at the airport by a strangely attractive nun who took me deep underground before telling me the horrible truth: “Yen’s my cousin.”

3.

In laws! They’re always so tetchy. I let the nun torture me a few hours and then knocked her out with a high-kick to the face. Then I fled.

4.

I searched for Yen in the shopping district. As I tried on an especially snazzy shirt in the back, I heard the nun’s nasal tones.

*

The evil nun was apparently in league with my shopkeeper! A deadly pair! I duct-taped shut the mouths of the other patrons and listened in.

*

“Yen’s in Beijing – and so’s that British superspy,” said the nun.

The shopkeeper said, “We’ll kill them both!”

“Perfect. Hey, nice shirts!” 

5.

I bought hundreds of TV and streetside ads warning Yen of her mortal danger – and asking her to pretty please return my ornithopter.

*

As I returned to my hotel after another day of searching, I found a single long-stemmed black rose on my pillow. She still loved me!

6.

I spotted Yen trying on shoes and gave chase. She was too quick, but I taped my two high-tech matchbox cars to my feet for more speed.

*

Matchbox-car skating requires the perfect balance that only MI6 training can give. Unfortunately it’s been a while and I crashed into Yen.

*

I clicked my sleeping-gas pen in her face and carried her over the threshold into my – our – hotel room until she regained consciousness.

7.

Yen awoke, but didn’t seem to appreciate the scattered rose petals or the scented candles surrounding her. Then she peeled off her mask!

*

I gasped, “Mrs Fu!”

“In the flesh!”

“But. . . I threw you into a volcano. I think your daughter may still be miffed.”

“Mums are made tough.”

8.

After we’d caught up on the latest in international spy goss, Mrs Fu and I tested one another with tea. I gave her just a pinch of arsenic.

*

I tasted my own tea cautiously. Cyanide, yes. But only a token amount. Mrs Fu and I understood one another perfectly: no death – for now.

*

Mrs Fu said she knew exactly where Yen was hiding. We caught a train to the Great Wall. “Um, isn’t the Great Wall rather. . . long?” I said.

9.

We searched all night and day. Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by Shaolin monks. “He’s with me,” said Mrs Fu.

They said, “We’re not.”

*

I grabbed my trusty blow-up gum but the monks wore titanium robes. No fair! They whipped out pens – strangely familiar pens. Noooo!!!

*

10.

Regained consciousness briefly while having a dream about killer mushrooms. One of the monks hit me on the head, and the mushrooms returned.

11.

I awoke strapped to the Great Wall with my own duct tape. Had intense déjà vu. Mrs Fu was taped beside me, and so was a black rose.

*

“It’s all right Mrs Fu – Yen must be safe if she’s given me a rose.”

“Great. End of story then. I’m afraid Yen no longer needs our help.”

*

I said, “But. . . it can’t be the end. I haven’t done anything heroic yet.”

“Why don’t you heroically help me down, then?” said Mrs Fu.

12.

Mrs Fu and I walked back along the wall while she tried to explain something about my relationship with Yen. I’m sure it wasn’t important.

*

My shoe phone rang. I answered, “Bind. Jimmy Bind.”

“HQ here. We need you to track the fugitive Yen Fu. Naturally she’s been microchipped.”

*

Mrs Fu and I followed the beeps back to a cunningly disguised lair beneath the Great Wall. We hid ourselves outside and waited.

13.

A Shaolin monk came out, and Mrs Fu kicked him in his monk parts. I clicked him with sleeping gas, and we dragged him into the bushes.

*

Another monk! I barrelled out and hurled him to the ground. He punched me in the belly but I bashed his head against his titanium robe.

*

Yen emerged. “Mu-um! You couldn’t just knock?”

“They drugged us,” I said.

Yen shrugged: “Boys will be boys. Won’t you come in?”

14.

Mrs Fu said, “Jimmy here found out something useful.”

Yen’s jaw dropped (I’m not sure why): “What did you find out?”

I told her everything.

*

Yen said, “Hmm. Thanks for that, guys. What do you say we go kill my evil cousin?”

“Sounds good,” said Mrs Fu.

I said, “I’m in.”

15.

The monks were hurt we beat them up. Lucky monks are so forgiving. They helped us build a boat out of duct tape so we could travel quickly.

*

On our way to Beijing, we were hurled ashore by a massive waterfall. I could have sworn the monks didn’t mention it – or my ornithopter.

*

As we walked the last kilometres to Beijing, I picked flowers for Yen and said, “Thanks for the roses.”

“What roses?” she said.

16.

We searched the shopping district for hours without finding the nun or the shopkeeper. The two Fus were disheartened.

*

Success at last! Still no sign of the evil nun, but I found some pants that are simply divine.

17.

We were perfectly innocently walking along when the nun attacked! She tossed Yen away like a doll and blasted Mrs Fu with a shotgun.

*

Yen shouted, “You never mentioned she was a NUN!”

“Oops!” I said, and spat my blow-up gum.

My gum missed the nun and incinerated a hotel.

*

Twenty more nuns appeared and Yen backflipped away. I threw one of my cars at the first nun’s head and she dropped, but I was overwhelmed.

18.

It was nice to be back in the ol’ torture chamber. Yen’s cousin smirked, “Did you like my roses?”

I gasped, “That was YOU!?!”

Mrs Fu sighed.

*

I speak thirty-two languages, but Yen spoke one I didn’t know: “Ixnay on the osesray! Immyjay’s inemay!”

What could she possibly have said?

*

Yen never had a yen for me! She only became my fiancé to get off the isle of her imprisonment. What a fool I am! But I still love her.

19.

The nun tortured me alone, and suddenly switched to Barry White and more black roses. I recognise the signs of Jimmy fever when I see them!

*

I said, “You’re a very pretty. . . nun. . . but I’m engaged.”

She put me in the electric chair. We certainly had a spark, but I loved Yen.

20.

The nun challenged Yen to fisticuffs over me. She landed a fabulous right hook, but Yen high-kicked her in the face. We escaped!

*

I sighed, “Now I REALLY want to marry you.”

“Yes!” said Yen.

I gasped and said, “Are you free tomorrow?”

She smiled, “Yes.”

21.

When I saw Yen in her red wedding dress walking toward me, with her dark eyes sparkling, I swallowed my blow-up gum. Then the nuns attacked!

*

Twelve evil nuns somersaulted over the reserved seats to pummel my darling. I ran to fight but there were so many! Then the monks joined in!

*

Two nuns grappled a monk as Yen twisted to yank an enemy’s starched headdress, throwing her to the ground. “This is MY day!” Yen shrieked.

22.

Yen yawned and stretched: “Time to rejoin the fight?”

“Whatever you like, my dear.”

We had breakfast and went back to the church.

*

The nuns and monks were down to three on three – including Yen’s cousin. I went straight for her, and punched her right in the kisser.

*

The fight dispersed quickly. Yen and I shot her mad cousin (four times each), then blew her up. Just to be sure.

23.

Yen and I rested while we discussed possible honeymoon destinations. She borrowed my shoe and called her Mum for a long talk.

*

“Mum took the nun pieces and tossed them in a volcano.”

“How reassuring. Is Mrs Fu OK?”

“Tired. Says she wants to retire somewhere sunny.”

24.

I had a brilliant idea, and snuck over to Mrs Fu’s house.

“You’re nabbed!” I said.

She said, “Never!” and kicked me so hard I saw stars.

*

Luckily Mrs Fu’s kick also set off my sleeping-gas pen – and I woke up first. I tied her up and left her with a note at a friend’s lair.

25.

Yen expertly flew my – our – ornithopter back to the tropical island where I proposed. Mrs Fu was waiting for us in her own luxury cell.

*

Yen said, “Oh, sweetheart, you shouldn’t have!”

Mrs Fu said, “No really. You SHOULDN’T have. Although. . . it IS sunny.”

THE END

Cloud Wars: Full Story

New story begins March 1. . . and might just feature Jimmy Bind.

CLOUD WARS

Wed 10 Feb

“Mum! I gotta go make rain now.”

“Why can’t you get a real job?”

“MUM!” I switched off the comm and shot my payload into a full-looking cloud.

*

Since I’d cunningly forgotten to shut my lid, the rain I made fell right in. When the sparks started I cursed myself and pressed ‘eject’.

*

I floated down as neatly as you please, but the Eastern plane had already landed. They wrapped my own chute around my neck and I was gone.

Th 11 Feb

I woke in an Eastern jail – all concrete chic with a side order of migraine. Eastern cloud seeders made bets on me outside the barred door.

*

The good thing about being a nineteen-year old girl is that people think I’m weak. On their odds, I wouldn’t wake up. So I didn’t move. Yet.

Fri 12 Feb

When a doctor came to take my pulse I grabbed both his arms and twisted. He yelped but he quickly learned not to move – a perfect shield.

*

“We’re BFFs now,” I told him, “because today we live or die together.”

“Do I get to choose?”

“You sure do. . . is that a sandwich?”

*

I escaped into a land as dry as my mouth, and searched the dying fields for water without success. If only I hadn’t done my job so well.

Sat 13 Feb

A woman woke me, and I followed her into her home. She gave me water to drink. Then I saw the picture of her dead son – a cloud seeder.

*

She saw me looking, and nodded. “I helped you for his sake. You’re a seeder too.”

“And possibly his killer. Have you poisoned me?”

*

She laughed sadly. “I no longer care for East or West. Only sons or daughters. When you’ve eaten, take his plane. It’s no use to me.”

Sun 14 Feb

Dan stood over me – he liked to belittle his employees. “You lost your plane and consorted with the enemy.”

“I escaped. Isn’t that my duty?”

*

I competed for my job using the dead boy’s ancient plane. Two sleek Western planes dived for me, and I wrenched at the wheel with all I had.

*

The wheel came off in my hand. I swore as the green, green ground of my home rose to meet me. My second crash in five days. Real impressive.

Mon 15 Feb

Dan put me in the visitor’s cabins to shame me. Was I fired or not? If only I had a plane! The other seeders flew off, laughing and revving.

*

I awoke, miserably, at 2:00pm. Someone was outside. I crept out and saw six Easterners unbolting our cloud cannons. Filthy thieves!

*

I ran to our emergency cannon, and grabbed the air siren. Then I blasted the enemy with noise and silver nitrate. They fled; skinny shadows.

Tue 16 Feb

“You wasted our silver shooting at phantoms,” said Dan.

I controlled myself with an effort: “Perhaps I should be transferred.”

“No.”

*

When my room was broken into I heard my attacker above the pattering rain. He lunged for me. I rolled off my bed onto the hard floor.

*

I pounced on his sword and wrenched it from his hand. He kicked at my knee, but I dodged – and bashed him unconscious with his own sword.

Wed 17 Feb

I watched the river water rise, knowing my late-night attacker was in the room next to me, and probably treated just as well. Bosses suck.

*

The other seeders flew back and forth, firing again and again so the clouds wept needlessly. For the first time, I became truly annoyed.

Th 18 Feb

At dawn I dressed and went outside, shocked to find the river was now lapping at my door. Fortunately we kept our planes on higher land.

*

I took the air siren, and blew the first blast at Dan’s open window. “Flood!” I shrieked, “Save the planes!”

“Who – huh – what?”

*

Since I’d saved our entire fleet, I was moved back into the group cabins. Dan said I was on probation. Everyone else said I was a hero.

Fri 19 Feb

Probation Schmobation, I decided, and marched into Dan’s office.

“Hello Ann,” said Mum, sipping her latte, “you’ve been causing trouble.”

*

“Back in the visitors’ quarters?” I asked.

Dan said, “Yep. And on rations.”

“Thanks Mum. Thanks a lot.”

Mum shrugged innocently.

Sat 20 Feb

I moved to the top bunk as the flood waters continued to rise. My Eastern attacker somehow escaped (while MY door was locked).

Sun 21 Feb

“Congrats,” Dan announced, waking me.

I said, “What now?”

“You’re going to be our liaison to the East.”

“A spy, you mean? Do I get a plane?”

*

“No plane,” said Dan.

I said, “Mum’s idea, was it?”

“She said you were sneaky.”

“Fabulous. Can I at least sleep somewhere dry?”

“No.”

Mon 22 Feb

The flood continued, fed by our seeders hourly. I cut a hole in the cheap roof to get in and out. Dan was kind enough to let me have a boat.

*

“Your first job,” said Dan, “is to tell the Easterners that if they give us all their planes, we’ll give them a share in tomorrow’s storm.”

Tue 23 Feb

I called Mum. “Thanks for the new job.”

“What are mothers for?”

“Indeed. I may not see you for a while.”

“Because of the job?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

*

I picked the best plane – why not? – and scraped its wires until it roared to life. Dan came screaming from his office. I waved.

*

“Stop thief!” Dan roared. As I lifted into the grey sky, he slipped and fell face down in the mud. It was a good omen for my defection.

Wed 24 Feb

I switched the comm to all Western frequencies. “Ann here. I’m taking the rain where it’s needed – or I can take all of you down with me.”

*

Only Jed liked Dan enough to fight me. I’d hoped it’d go that way. I raked his wing with real bullets and grinned as I saw him eject.

*

Jed’s plane spiralled downward fast, spewing flame. A great gout shot up straight for me, and I banked just in time, coughing in the smoke.

Th 25 Feb

I yawned as I crossed the East-West border, and jumped as lightning cracked around me. “Nice storm,” I said, “now go do some good.”

*

Bam! Something hit my tail – and it wasn’t rain. I twisted and saw Dan’s own plane. “Thought you’d forgotten how,” I said through the comm.

*

He strafed me and I screamed as a lucky shot found my leg. I let my plane dive and hoped for the best. Dan laughed as he turned home.

26 Feb

Through stupid tears I spotted a familiar farmhouse, and glided into a landing in a cloud of dust. The first heavy drops of rain fell.

*

“Hello again,” said the dead cloud seeder’s mum at my window.

I said, “Hi. How’s things?”

“Nice plane,” she smiled, and helped me inside.

*

“My name’s Victoria,” she said as she bound my wound and brewed tea for me and my new Eastern boss. “But everyone calls me ‘Mum’.”

THE END

Day 7: Completed Story

1.

A friend got me the job – $90 an hour, starting the day after he left on holiday. Seemed a lot of cash to work for the local tourism office.

*

The boss looked at me silently for an hour. “Can you swim?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Can you run?”

“Yes.”

“How long can you hold your breath?”

*

I said, “So, you want me to get attacked by a crocodile?”

“That’s right.”

“For. . . tourism?”

He said, “Works every time.”

I said, “Okay.”

2.

It was a pretty spot, with a handful of limp eucalyptus and the babble of the stream keeping me company. Crocs watched me  without blinking.

*

I hooked up a high-tension cable primed to spring the instant I released my grip. Then I put on my wetsuit and jumped in. Nothing happened.

*

Forgot to put the video recorder on! I backed up slowly and realised the sun had cooked its battery. So I SMSed for more. Stupid crocs.

3.

Take two. Camera on this time. I kept a firm hold on the cable release button and went deeper. The crocs didn’t move. Why won’t they eat me?

*

It occurred to me that I actually didn’t want to lose a leg, and then – WHAM! Huge jaws clamped on my foot and SPROING! I flew into the air.

*

The crocodile swung in wild cartwheels with me, like a dog with a toy. We both flew over the campsite and landed sprawling in two trees.

4.

Pretty sure being stuck in a tree next to a croc (also stuck) was tourism gold. Too bad my leg was broken and I couldn’t get to the cameras.

*

A pigtailed girl examined me. She said, “Whatcha doin?”

“I’m stuck, and I need help.”

She shrugged, and went to the water.

“No!” I yelled.

*

The girl’s parents hustled her away, but promised to come back real soon. I saw the dust as they drove away. My crocodile yawped at me.

5.

Thirsty. Leg hurt. Croc looked angrier. The little girl’s parents took a video of me and it before fleeing. At least I know I’m on Youtube.

*

An aboriginal man yelled, “Watcha doin?” until I woke up.

“Help me,” I said.

Then a croc spotted him and ran across the mud to kill him.

*

My new friend is Will: “So, you didn’t think to mention the crocs around here?”

“Sorry.”

Will shrugged it off, shaking our whole tree.  

6.

Will’s crocodile guard finally left, so Will went to fetch – something. It turned out to be another camera. Hilarious.

*

The RSPCA arrived before the medical team. They cut down the tree and my croc vanished underwater without sparing me a farewell glance.

*

Morphine! Yes! Besht medicine ever. My leg’s not even broken anymore – I’m sure of it. Can I have a crocodile for a pet? Pleeeeasse?

7.

The boss gave me a cheque, minus expenses. “Well done,” he said.

I shrugged.

He lifted one eyebrow. “Have you ever fought an emu?”

Day 6: Complete Story

For the Man who has Everything

Sat 23 Jan

My beautiful new wife gave me the “Genuine Castaway Experience For The Man Who Has Everything But Happiness.” It’s so peaceful here!

 *

Why won’t the monkeys stop screaming? I’m reminded of the days when I was still allowed to see my grandkids. Bad memories, as I now recall.

 *

Drank fermented coconut milk and passed out. When I awoke and threw up, I knew I didn’t miss my youth after all. Epiphany after epiphany!

Sun 24 Jan

The “Genuine Castaway Experience” has given me a deep new gratitude for my life – especially coffee and my iphone.

 *

Very glad the “Genuine Castaway Experience For The Man Who Has Everything But Happiness” only lasts three days. Food poisoning continues.

 *

One more night with the monkey screams and belly cramps. My new wife’s very savvy for a twenty year old. After this, work will be heaven.

Mon 25 Jan

Too thirsty to sleep. Where’s my chopper? Stupid wind sounds just like helicopter blades.

 *

Soon it’ll get dark. Did I count the days wrong? Mouth is dry as sand. Too weak to throw rocks at monkeys. Beginning to get less grateful.

 *

“GENUINE Castaway Experience” they said. But they didn’t mean. . . they wouldn’t. . . would they? Poor Anna must be terrified for me.

Tue 26 Jan

Made an iphone out of coconuts. Called Anna for long talk. Felt much better until I realised I’d hallucinated the whole thing.

 *

Anna will sort this out. She’s a smart girl. The blonde’s artificial, anyway. She’ll give that company what for!

My stubble itches.

 *

Drank more coconut milk. Threw it up at once. Still better than the yellow choking bile of this morning. Legs covered in bug bites.

Wed 27 Jan

Tried to build a raft. Arms don’t work. Need a lie down, and a nice massage. Monkeys getting braver, and gnashing their teeth right at me.

 *

Seawater isn’t like coffee at all.

 *

Anna?

Th 28 Jan

. . . . . . .

THE END

January 19: Complete Story of “The Spy Who Shoved Me”

PS for those who’ve kept up, I’ll post the last of the China photos at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com today.

THE SPY WHO SHOVED ME

Sun3

The name’s Bind. Jimmy Bind. On mission to China. I can tell the flight attendant wants me diced on a tiny tray. Time for some airline food.

*

He comes at me with a poison toothpick. I click my pen and squirt gas in his eye. He reels and hits the Wong twins. Two Wongs make it right.

*

The Wongs knock the flight attendant out cold. I unclick my pen and accidentally poison myself. When I wake up, we’re in Beijing. Smooth.

Mon4

Tracked the faux attendant to a meeting in Chinatown. Too bad Beijing IS Chinatown. Got distracted buying shoes. Stumbled across baddie.

*

Baddie is Mr Fu. The girl with him is Yen. I chase him and he throws a shoe at me. It explodes. He runs. I bind my wounds with duct tape.

*

I follow Fu and corner him in an alley. He throws some kung fu, and I throw some bricks. “Who’s your boss?” I scream.

“It’s her!” he weeps.

Tue5

I’ve a yen for Yen. She’s small, dark, and deadly, like an expresso. I track her by smell and find her sleeping. “Where’s the jewel?” I ask.

*

She yawns, briefly distracting me. Her leg wraps around my neck (also distracting). Suddenly she yields to my good looks and leans closer.

*

I wake up strapped to the side of the Great Wall; tied firmly with two rolls of my own duct tape. Curses!

Wed6

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, I notice writing on the wall: “Forgive me, mother. The ruby is at. . .”

I fall.

*

I fall among Shaolin monks, who immediately attack! Luckily I have my blow-up gum and I spit it at them just in time. Kaboom! No more monks.

*

Due to budget cuts, my car is a matchbox car. Luckily it has vertical grip and a camera. I discover the ruby is at Solo – in Indonesia.

Th7

I go shoe-shopping, hoping to dispatch Yen and/or get hiking boots before I leave. An old saleswoman is suspiciously attractive.

*

I neck-chop the woman and she says blearily, “Yen? Is that you?”

“Yes,” I say (femininely).

She says, “Your stupid brother stole the ruby.”

*

Is my wall-writer Yen’s naughty brother? Is Fu as powerless as he seems? Is the boss Yen or her Mum? And are these boots the best or what?!

Fri8

Another flight. Fu appears dressed as a fat woman and slips me a note. “Meet me in Solo,” it says – “come solo!”

I nod.

*

“Yen’s my sister,” Fu explains over unripe-coconut milk. He tells me to search in the temple.

I put sleeping-gas in his drink just in case.

Sat9

The temple staff make me nervous after the Shaolins. Suddenly they spit acid! Luckily I’d already wrapped my torso in duct tape.

*

The holy men’s acid burns through my precious tape. I grab some gum but all it does is freshen my breath! The Indonesians close in. . .

Sun10

I can hear tourists jabbering above my cell. Even when I beg for help in nine languages, all they do is clap. My last meal was airline food.

*

I make a gun using duct tape and my matchbox car (which is made mainly of cast iron and black powder, plus of course matches), and wait.

*

Yen appears. As I scrabble to light the match to shoot her I accidentally click my pen, gassing us both. We instantly sleep. Together.

Mon11

Yen slaps me awake. I sit up fast. If she spoils my good looks all will be lost. “Where’d you take the ruby?” she says.

I say, “Huh?”

*

She shoves me back onto the floor and storms out, slamming the door so hard she breaks the lock. I run out and shoot the guard dead.

Tue12

I find Fu shoe-shopping, and demanded the truth. “It’s a bomb,” he says, showing me the glowing ruby,“and only a volcano can destroy it.”

*

“Give it to me,” I say.

He says, “No.”

“But –”

“No.”

“I –”

“No.”

“Pretty please?” I say.

He says, “Oh, if you put it like that. . . no.”

Wed13

Fu and I walk up Mount Bromo at dawn. He says, “I don’t like my family, and I don’t like you!” and shoves me into the steaming crater.

*

Sulphuric rain falls, choking my lungs and coating the crater’s sides in poison! Luckily my duct tape retains some adhesiveness. I climb.

*

Mrs Fu appears on the crater’s rim. “Not so fast!” She stomps on my fingers but I grab her ankles.

She tumbles down and smashes to bits!

Th14

The waiter at my hotel smells of sulphur. My foe, Fu! “Your mother is dead,” I say.

He says, “Thanks,” and stabs a fork into my shin.

*

I grab for his apron but the strings slip through my fingers. Luckily I catch a glimpse of an Aussie flag on his boxers. So that’s next.

Fri15

Yen sits beside me on my flight to Canberra. “Mum wanted you to have this,” she says – and kisses me on the cheek.

It burns! Acid!

*

I rush to the tiny bathroom but my face is permanently scarred. In a white-hot rage I pull Yen’s hair until she screams. Then I gas her.

*

Yen is arrested at the airport. That leaves Fu – and a bomb shaped like a precious jewel.

Sat16

I spot Fu in rehearsal for Australia Day celebrations, and drive my spare matchbox car camera up his leg and into his fake chest hair.

*

He goes to the Chinese embassy, and between bursts of static from the ASIO bugs I discover he plans to bomb Questacon. No! Not the children!

Sun17

I cunningly disguise myself as an eight-year old girl and wait for Fu near the Earthquake House. He comes in dressed as a staff member.

*

“I have you now, fiend!” I cry.

Fu attacks me with a remote-controlled chest-hair fireball, but I dodge. I punch him in the nose.

*

Fu collapses. I grab the bomb. It has just minutes to explode.

Ripping open the lightning cage, I throw it in, fold back the cage, and duck.

Mon18

I wake in hospital, and realise at once the doc has thrown in a little plastic surgery on the side.

Yen lies beside me, getting hair grafts.

*

“Bind,” I whisper through my bandages. “Jimmy Bind.”

She smiles at me sweetly and says, “I’m in a bind myself. Can you bust me out?”

*

I look into her dark eyes, and suddenly I have a plan. My shoes are beside my bed, so I grab the left one and make the necessary calls.

19 Jan

Yen is sent to a high-security tropical island for the criminally insane. I volunteer to help her readjust to society.

It’s what I do.

THE END

Daylight final day: full story

2 Oct

EMO used to stand for ‘emotional’ – the teen subgroup that’s only happy to be sad. Now it’s become a disease eerily similar to vampirism.

*

My name’s Bell. I considered being EMO once, but then I saw a pretty butterfly and got over myself. Got bored and decided to save the world.

*

This is the documentary tale of the brave few fighting to find a cure for EMO (or, failing that, a quick and easy way to kill all those vampires dead).

3 Oct

In Civic, Ed kissed me and sighed. “Oh, Bell. Cloudy days are so deep.”

“Oh no!” I cried. “Ed, tell me you haven’t been bitten by an EMO!”

*

He didn’t laugh once at our preview of “Saw VI”. I yanked him into a rare patch of sun – and he sparkled. My boyfriend had turned EMO!

*

Finally he confessed: “My mum bit me.”

“Your MUM!?”

He sighed, “Sad, I know.”

“Do you want to drink my blood now?”

“Er. . . no,” he lied.

4 Oct

On the news: “The EMO subculture has now become a pandemic. EMO teens can be recognised by their depression, dark clothes, and bad poetry.”

*

I walked in the yard just as Mum set some weeds on fire. “Mum,” I said through the smoke, “Ed’s EMO.”

“That’s nice dear.”

*

My name’s pretty bad, but my brother is Pi. He’s ten and wears a labcoat. I told him, “Ed’s EMO.”

“Hm. Can I do experiments on him?”

“NO!”

5 Oct

“Ed, it’s the holidays. Don’t you feel a LITTLE happy?”

“No,” he said. “Bell, would it be okay if I drank you – just a little?”

“NO!”

*

“Exodermal Melanin Occlusion is spreading fast,” the news said. “Symptoms now include sparkling in sunshine, darkening hair, and whining.”

*

Ed tried to bite me, and I tripped over another EMO as I dodged him. Bruised my knees. Still not EMO, despite my black hair and long fringe.

6 Oct

Still not EMO, despite drenching rain. All the EMOs are thrilled they’re not sparkling today (Ed almost smiled). Bring back the sun!

*

“Cheer up,” said Mum, “I’ve decided to have a wedding.”

“But. . . you’re married.”

“Don’t spoil it. It’s exactly what all those EMOs need.”

7 Oct

I was dying my hair when Ed called. “Want to play EMO baseball with my family?”

“No.”

He cried until I hung up.

My hair turned green. Oops.

8 Oct

Pi asked me for Ed’s old hairbrush, so I humoured him and brought it. He said, “Bell, I think there might be a cure for EMOs!”

*

Still not EMO, although Ed keeps trying to bite me. Awkward!

9 Oct

Mum said, “Don’t you just love weddings?”

“Does Dad even know?”

“Hush,” said Mum.

Our shopgirl wept quietly as she pinned Mum’s dress.

10 Oct

“Do you think a wedding could cure EMOs?” I asked.

Pi snorted and said, “Has Ed bitten you at all?”

“No, we just make out.”

Pi looked ill.

11 Oct

I saw Dad writing a journal and looking mournful. Uh-oh. Still not EMO myself, despite blood-starved boyfriend and lime green hair.

*

“Don’t let ANYONE drink your blood,” said the news. “Authorities recommend hitting EMOs with cricket bats. Stay alert, not alarmed.”

12 Oct

Ed wore an overcoat and hat to school. Our teachers freaked and put him in detention. I think he bit Mr Joh, the science teacher. Awkward!

*

Ed and I wandered the mall and saw heaps of decorations. Ed sighed, “Christmas is so deep. It makes me feel all –”

“Sad?”

“How’d you know?”

13 Oct

Mr Joh burst into tears while telling us about the reproductive cycle of fruit flies. Ed gave him tissues. This EMO pandemic is so wrong.

14 Oct

Maths class was full of sighs and weeping. (Life hasn’t changed much.) I was put on detention for being insensitive about life’s deep pain.

*

The principal ran detention. He looked thirsty. I shrank in my seat. “Tomorrow,” he told me, “come to my office. Bring your school spirit.”

15 Oct

I brought my school spirit and a cricket bat. The principal grabbed my arm but I whacked him and dived under his desk until the bell rang.

*

Still not EMO, despite listening to principal discuss philosophy for the entire lunch hour. Thank you, cricket bat, thank you.

16 Oct

Ed took me to a graveyard for a date. It was crowded. He licked me on the neck, and I kneed him in the groin. “Don’t you love me?” he wept.

*

Still not EMO, despite kneeing EMO boyfriend in the groin. Actually, that was pretty fun.

17 Oct

I said to Pi, “You know how you wanted to experiment on Ed? Go for it.”

“Thank you thank you!”

It was great to see his childish joy.

18 Oct

Ed called and said, “My Mum wants to know how you got that lovely green in your hair.”

“Well, I –”

“Oh, what’s the point?!” he cried.

*

Pi and I snuck over, gagged Ed, and dragged him home. He sparkled all the way. We locked him in the spare room with a saucer of rat’s blood.

Still not EMO, despite Ed’s slurping of his rat blood. He always was a messy eater. Now he stinks too (he owns only one all-black outfit).

19 Oct

Still not EMO, despite Dad cornering me in the laundry to lecture me on the meaninglessness of his existence. Hope we find a cure.

20 Oct

Caught Pi measuring Ed’s fringe. “When do you start experimenting on him?” I asked.

He said, “Soon. I’m gathering data.”

Still not EMO.

*

Pi said, “Should we ungag Ed? Mum and Dad are fine with him being here.”

“No,” I said, “If we did that, he might start talking again.”

21 Oct

Is being obsessed with Ed’s hair a symptom of EMO? Pi was measured it AGAIN. I wish he’d go into the sunshine so I could see if he sparkles.

22 Oct

“Eureka!” Pi yelled from the EMO room. I ran in. Pi brandished his clipboard. “EMO makes your fringe grow!”

“How is that useful exactly?”

*

Still not EMO, even though my boyfriend has better hair than me. On the up side, Pi stood in sunlight for me – no sparkles. Unlike Dad.

23 Oct

“Oh,” Dad sighed, “weddings always make me cry.”

“No they don’t! You always laugh at the priest wearing a dress. Won’t that be fun?”

“No.”

24 Oct

I felt mean and gave Ed his ipod and speaker. He played “Bleeding Love” for twelve hours. Still not EMO, though after that I do want to cry.

25 Oct

Ed’s Mum rang. I said, “Erm. . . Did you want Ed back?”

She sighed and said, “I don’t deserve him. You keep him.”

“Thanks. Thanks SO much.”

26 Oct

Came home from school to find Pi wrestling Ed. They broke apart and looked at me guiltily. “Ed! No biting!” I said.

“Who me?” he said.

*

Dobbed on Pi, but Mum wasn’t concerned. “Healthy exercise is just what EMOs need. What do you think about a red colour scheme?”

“Mu-um!”

27 Oct

Found Ed pinned helplessly under Pi’s ten-year old foot. “This gets easier by the day!” said Pi.

I said, “We already KNEW EMOs were weak.”

Still not EMO, despite my boyfriend getting regularly beaten up by my nerdy little brother. Dad said red is a very emotional colour. Great.

28 Oct

Mr Joh said life is a meaningless series of unconnected events, so there’s no point studying. Finally this pandemic has an up side!

29 Oct

Pi enjoyed demonstrating his ability to restrain Ed with a single finger.

Mum and Dad’s wedding is set for thirty November.

Still not EMO.

30 October

Mum said, “Be my bridesmaid.”

“Sure – but won’t it be hard to keep your guests from biting one another – enclosed spaces, and all that?”

31 Oct

Finally a weekend! No more sightings of Mr Joh and the principal sharing a tissue box. No more in-class essays on HOW I FEEL. Just Ed. D’oh!

1 November

“Can you believe it’s my wedding month already?” trilled Mum.

Dad and I exchanged a glance of woe. I caught myself and checked for sparkles.

*

Still not EMO. How can my hair be so green without falling out? Maybe I’ve become an anti-EMO. If only I could believe that.

2 Nov

Someone with a hand-drawn Red Cross badge came looking for donations today. I’m pretty sure they don’t usually collect blood door-to-door.

3 Nov

The art teacher made us draw self-portraits. Most of the class mixed their paint with real tears. Went home and bashed head against wall.

4 Nov

The newsreader said, “Our alert has been raised to red – a deep, emotional red. You may as well get bitten. What does it matter anyway?”

5 Nov

All TV cancelled in favour of OC re-runs. Pi and I sat watching Ed cry for two hours. His fringe grew visibly. Still not EMO (pretty sure).

6 Nov

Spent our date night feeding Ed different types of animal blood. He likes dog best. I chose not to ask where Pi got it from. Dad likes cat.

7 Nov

Ed played “Bleeding Love” until I smashed his ipod speaker. He said I was unsupportive and tried to bite me. I’ve got to stay alert!

8 Nov

Decided to confirm Pi’s previous experiment, and challenged Ed to fisticuffs. Beat him easily every time. Science is fun.

9 Nov

I asked the school counsellor for advice on helping friends with EMO-related depression.

“It’s not depression,” she said, “It’s TRUTH.”

10 Nov

For English, Miss Winter read “Wuthering Heights”. It was impossible to understand, because she was sobbing so hard.

Still not EMO.

11 Nov

Our French teacher lectured us today on the deep sadness of all European nations. Luckily, she did most of it in French.

Still not EMO.

12 Nov

In History, Mr Theo told us the World Wars were largely pointless. And so was the Industrial Revolution. And everything else.

Still not EMO.

13 Nov

The principal interrupted maths to bite most of the front row. When the sun shone in the window, the sparkles were blinding.

Still not EMO.

14 Nov

Ed said if I loved him I’d let him bite me. He was too weak to try, but I kicked him in the groin anyway. Suddenly my week got better.

15 Nov

Mum hung out washing and my heart stopped. She was sparkling.

“Mum! You’re EMO!” I cried.

She said, “Nonsense. Look again.”

She was fine.

*

“Pi, I swear she was sparkling one moment and not sparkling the next.”

“Impossible,” he said.

I said, “You’re right. It must be the stress.”

16 Nov

“Two weeks to the wedding!” Mum yelled, waking me.

At least I could be certain she wasn’t EMO. Dad drew sad smileys on the invitations.

17 Nov

Mum picked fresh tomatoes for our dinner, and once again I could have sworn she was sparkling. But when I blinked, she wasn’t. Weird.

18 Nov

“Bell! Bell!” said Pi.

I said, “What?”

“You were right! Mum has a natural immunity.”

“Fantastic.”

“I know. We have to clone her!”

“Pardon?”

19 Nov

“I have to what now?” I asked Pi.

He said, “Just ask Dad how often he bites Mum.”

“But –”

“We need to know. And I’m WAY too young to ask.”

*

Still not EMO, despite finding out Dad gives Mum hickies “every day or two”. I certainly FEEL sick. But will their grossness save the world?

20 Nov

I helped Pi get his cloning machine out of the shed. “And you DIDN’T win the science prize for this?”

He shrugged and said, “Nah. Volcanos.”

21 Nov

I got Mum to agree that she wished there were two of her doing all that wedding prep. She sat in Pi’s cloning machine and BOOM! Two Mums.

*

Still not EMO, despite suddenly copping twice as much wedding talk. I wish we could cure EMOs without actually talking to people.

22 Nov

Mum2 refused to get bitten. “Clones are people too. We have rights.”

“We?” said Pi.

That’s when Mum2 introduced Mum3, Mum4 and Mum5.

23 Nov

“Bell,” said Mum, “don’t be upset, but I’m going to be my own bridal party. Won’t it be fun?”

“Are ANY of you EMO yet?”

“Just your fathers.”

24 Nov

Ed’s coming to the wedding, because “it’ll be SUPER deep.” Tissue prices are rising. Still not EMO, despite getting shafted as bridesmaid.

25 Nov

Mum spent an hour crying due to Mum3 fitting her wedding dress better. I definitely saw sparkles. Then she went for a walk and got better.

26 Nov

Dad’s hair was already darkening because of EMO. He dyed it black for the wedding. His fringe is nearly chin-length. Still not EMO.

*

Pi crept into my room at night with a handful of syringes. “We need their blood! The Mums. Any one will do.”

I’m not sure he’s coping.

27 Nov

Tried to corner Mum5 but she just laughed at me. “I know a million more tricks than you, sweetheart!”

Still not EMO, despite my ten parents.

28 Nov

Pi yelled, “Bell! Mum3 is sparkling. We can grab her while she’s EMO and weak!

I ran out, but by the time we reached her Mum3 was fine.

*

Still not EMO, despite a clone of my Mum giving me a smack for being disrespectful. I hate it when that happens.

29 Nov

Tried to reason with the Mums. Big mistake. They were far too busy experimenting with hairstyles to want to hear how to save humanity.

*

Still not EMO, despite ten parents alternately telling me to (1) cheer up or (2) stop being so shallow now the wedding’s tomorrow. Bite me.

30

Dad avoided a ray of stained-glass sunlight. All the Mums glowed, and Mum3 sparkled. Mum walked down the aisle with a huge smile. . .

*

. . . and was tackled by Mum2. “This moment belongs to ME!” screamed Mum4, and jumped on top. Mum5 weighed in. Mum3 bit Mum5 on the leg.

*

I comforted Mum, saying the wedding was certainly lively. She passed me a full syringe. “I drew blood from Mum2 after Mum4 knocked her out.”

1 Dec

It was a relief to be back at school, even with Mr Joh’s sudden fascination with every Tim Burton movie ever made. Still not EMO.

2 Dec

Pi woke me, yelling, “It’s aliiiiive!”

“What?” “Mum2’s blood. I got Dad to drink a bit, and now the rest’s gone EMO.”

I went back to sleep.

*

Still not EMO, despite little brother developing his muttering skills suddenly. Poor Pi. He might not be EMO, but he’s also not. . . right.

3 Dec

Awoke with horrible thought and went to Pi. “You said Dad drank some of the blood sample. So his BACKWASH turned it EMO?”

“Yep. Ed’s, too.”

*

Still not EMO, despite beginning to wonder if blood tastes good. Ed says it’s like milo combined with tabasco sauce. I need to get out more.

4 Dec

The 7pm Project began with ten minutes of solemn reflection (Dave cried, then bit Carrie). Marge Simpson now wears black. I’m still not EMO.

5 Dec

Pi followed Mum around with Mum2’s blood vial clutched in his free hand. By the end of the day, the blood was dried, smelly – and un-EMO.

*

Still not EMO, though Pi won’t stop coming up with ever-weirder theories about Mum’s self-curing ability. He dissected our guinea pig, too.

6 Dec

Pi stumbled in holding his neck. Blood leaked through his fingers. As he fainted, he whispered, “It’s Mum’s behaviour, Bell, not her blood.”

*

“Please, Pi, try to focus. What did you mean it’s Mum’s behaviour? What is it she does that’s so different?” He shrugged, “Who cares?”

*

Still not EMO. My poor brother. . . Dad bit humanity’s best hope of recovery. Wait a sec. . . AM I EMO? That was practically poetry! Oh no!

7 Dec

Wandered the mall searching for anyone who wasn’t sparkling. I was all alone. Six Santas sat in a gutter, weeping and tolling their bells.

8 Dec

Got chased by three sad elves. Weird and frightening. Began disguising myself with dark clothes and morose expression. Green hair unhelpful.

9 Dec

“We’re thirsty,” said the newsreader. “We’re coming to find you, and we’ll drink to your health with your own sweet delicious blood!”

10 Dec

Pi came into my room. “You’re one of us, aren’t you Bell? You don’t want to be left behind, do you?”

Ed and four Dads shadowed him. I ran.

11 Dec

Found Mum at her work. She wasn’t sparkly. “How do you do it?” I begged. She said, “A good heart and plenty of fresh air, that’s how!”

12 Dec

Dreamed I was EMO. I walked into the sun and sparkled like fire – then I blew up! It was VERY sad. When I woke up, I knew what to do.

13 Dec

I crept into Pi’s room at night and dragged him into our old treehouse. He didn’t like his gag – or being tied onto the roof.

Then I waited.

14 Dec

Still not EMO, despite hiding in a treehouse and forcing my EMO brother to sparkle for over twelve hours.

Have I made a horrible mistake?

15 Dec

Pi thrashed in his bonds, attracting Ed and the Dads. They said, “Come down, Bell, we’re thirsty.”

Still not EMO – but for how long?

16 Dec

Spent the night listening to Pi moan and the Dads discuss whether I’d taste more like chilli sauce or peppermint chocolate when they ate me.

*

As the sun rose, the EMOs left to huddle inside. I saw their eyes, watching me. Watching my blood-flushed face. Getting ever thirstier.

*

I said, “You’ll have to climb up here. And what’s the point? What does it really mean?”

They discussed it, and I bought myself one more day.

17 Dec

“Bell?”

“Pi?”

“Bell!”

“Pi!”

“You saved me!”

I felt my eyes prick with tears. “I’m so glad you’re okay, Pi. Now we have to get out of here.”

*

We broke pieces off the treehouse and Whap! Bang! bashed those EMOs until they let us go. Running down the street, we laughed for joy.

*

“The cure is sunshine,” I explained to Pi.

He said, “Of course! The sparkling is caused by the mutated melanin escaping from the system.”

*

18 Dec

We stole cricket bats and attacked the school. Once we had the principal tied to the roof, the rest of the school toppled like dominoes.

*

“Job well done,” I said to Pi. We walked away whistling.

Mr Joh called faintly, “You’re both on detention! I’ll get you!”

19 Dec

“Should I check on the school?” Pi asked.

I said, “Nah. Once they’re cured they’ll be strong enough to untie themselves. Almost definitely.”

20 Dec

We found Mum in church, basking in the stained-glass light as her sparkles faded again. “Will you help us save the world?”

“Okay,” she said.

21 Dec

The Mums enjoyed tying the Dads to the treehouse roof a little too much.

Pi and I weren’t EMO, but we certainly felt wrong inside.

*

The three of us stormed Parliament House. I might have accidentally broken the Prime Minister’s nose (a little). Awkward!

22 Dec

Dad almost fooled us into untying him from the roof. He claimed he hadn’t finished buying our Christmas presents. Diabolical EMO tricks!

23 Dec

Dad’s probably recovered, but we left him there for safety’s sake. Mum and Pi and I took over Win News and wrote our own bulletin.

*

“We have thought-provoking news,” I read. “Excessive sunbathing causes cancer, which is VERY sad. Don’t go outside, whatever you do!”

24 Dec

We took Dad to the shops to tie a few Santas to the roof and treat ourselves to a little looting. We felt we’d all earned it.

*

Counted more than fifty EMO sunbathers on the way home. Our cunning plan is working! Soooo many sparkles.

25 Dec

“Sunny day,” Dad smiled.

I unwrapped my present. “Oh Dad, you shouldn’t have! A brand new cricket bat. Thanks!”

“I got one for each of us.”

*

The EMOs came at Christmas lunch. Somehow, they knew we’d tricked everyone. They battered at the windows and scratched at the doors. Oh no!

*

The clone parents charged with bats held high – sacrificing themselves to save us. We escaped while the EMOs had THEIR Christmas lunch.

26 Dec

Mum, Dad, Pi and I hid on Mount Stromlo. The Mums found us – Mums always know where to look. Mum3 dragged me off while the others fought.

*

“It’s polite to share,” Mum3 smirked. She locked me in our basement and said, “We’ll ALL see you soon. . . sweet, delicious heart.”

27 Dec

Still not EMO, despite being locked in basement by evil clone. I hate it when that happens. Discouraged the EMOs briefly by singing carols.

28 Dec

They begged me to stop singing. I negotiated a deal for three hundred chocolate-filled advent calendars. One last cunning plan. . .

29 Dec

Ate three advent calendars’ worth of chocolate before remembering I had a plan. Too bad my mouth was full. The EMOs closed in.

*

I pelted the EMOs with sweet delicious chocolate. Their mouths were hanging open for my blood, so I got the chocolate in. But no effect!

*

“Happy New Year!” I screamed. While they contemplated their 2010 life goals I ran to Mum’s sunroom and superglued my face to the window.

30 Dec

I awoke with a blood-soaked neck. Still not EMO. . . oh wait, yes I am. Finally I understand that everything sucks. Still glued to window.

*

The sun climbed the sky. Sparkles danced across my skin like annoying little angels of joy. Bleaugh! Stupid Christmas! Stupid glue!

*

The sparkles ended, and I felt hungry for leftover Turkey instead of blood. I’m not EMO any more, hurray! Now if I could just unglue myself.

31 Dec

“Sticky situation?” Mum giggled, waking me.

I said, “Shut up and unglue me.”

“What’s the magic word?”

“Bite me.”

She sighed and unglued me.

*

Pi and Dad were fine too. “The army’s here,” said Pi, “and they’re using mirrors to reflect and multiply sunlight, 24-7. It’s over. We won!”

*

We toasted Pi and ate Christmas leftovers for New Year’s Eve. Ed joined us – happily. I just wish Mum would give back the cloning machine.

THE END

Worse Things Happen at Sea (whole story)

August 1.

Sun. Pain. I cracked open my eyes and saw land. ‘Sol!’ I said.

‘CAPTAIN Sol,’ she said – and crumpled.  

‘We’re saved,’ I said. ‘Right? SOL!’

 *

Sol awoke. She sat up, unsticking her tarred hair from the deck of our stolen boat. ‘We’re sinking.’

I leapt overboard and swam to save us.

*

I wanted to drink the sea, but I swam. The waves flung me upside down and the sea darkened as I drowned.

Sol grasped my neck.

I passed out.

Land Land 

August 2.

The sizzle of frying eggs woke me.

‘Yep,’ said Sol to a bald man beside us, ‘nasty pirates coming. Best hide your treasure. We’ll help.’

August 3.

We ate bread and wine and milk, and a yellow fruit that tasted like chocolate. It was fun, pretending to be good.

I got a stomach ache.

August 4.

Treasure, I discovered, is heavy. But Sol wore a girlish smile so I didn’t say a word.

The locals thought we were just kids. But we weren’t.

August 5.

The bald elder missed his jewels, so our good times ended fast.

‘Ulandin,’ Sol grinned, ‘don’t waste our loot on food. Let’s steal a ship.’

 *

A beggar took pity on me and gave us his crusts to gnaw. ‘I’m called Oldy,’ he said.

Sol said, ‘Ulandin’s my first mate. Wanna be our crew?’

Oldy gives Ulandin bread Oldy gives Ulandin bread 

*

Oldy sang songs until the harbour guards left. We chose the best ship and crept past its crew into the hold.

‘Great,’ I said, ‘we’re stuck.’

August 6.

The crew was dull with sleepiness. Oldy rose like a grey ghost in the bridge.

Sol used magic to fell three men. The rest ran for help.

 *

Oldy said, ‘Sol’s a quickener? She moves objects by just touch?’

‘It’s common enough.’

‘Not at sea. It’s bad luck.’

‘Sol’s used to that.’

 *

‘The guards have swords,’ I said.

Sol said, ‘Want one?’

‘I want to go.’

She quickened the ship. We sailed away with every sail still closed.

August 7.

Sol slept, so we drifted. The sun weighed heavy on my shoulders.

‘At least I wasn’t a slave,’ said Oldy.

I said, ‘We both escaped.’

‘Maybe.’

August 8.

The ship’s old owners left tasty food in it – salted meat, squishy fruit and lots of crackers. Also rum.

Maybe I drunks a bit too muchness.

August 9.

Sol magically bellied out the sails. We were all surprised when we started going backward.

I tried not to laugh.

Sol broke my tooth anyway.

August 10.

Sol delighted in the burning wind and sun and the constant desperate clapping of our sails.

‘Look,’ said Oldy. ‘Is that a ship – or land?’

August 11.

‘It’s a ship,’ I said at first light, ‘so do we meet them – or do we run?’

Sol picked at her tarred hair and said, ‘Let’s take their crew.’

*

The wind tore at my eyes. Sol yelled, ‘Trim the sails!’ I actually thought she meant to cut them.

Oldy suddenly knew how to sail – somehow.

*

‘Pink!’ Sol screamed. ‘Stupid pink sky! And why is that ship still running?’

‘We’ll get them,’ I said.

‘Or they’ll get us,’ said Oldy.

The other ship The other ship 

August 12.

‘Sol – Captain Sol?’ I said. ‘Hit me if you like, but there’s forty of them and three of us. And Oldy’s. . . old.’

‘Poor them,’ she smirked.

 *

The wind dropped and we caught them.

They laughed at us. I longed to hide behind Oldy.

Then Sol arose, grabbed a rope, and swung across.

 *

‘Do you surrender?’ she cried.

They grabbed swords, but she still had her magic.

Their ship shattered.

‘We’re sorry miss!’ they wept.

August 13.

‘A captain goes down with his ship,’ said Sol – and tied him to his mast. His ship screamed as it sank.

He screamed as long as he could.

August 14.

I said, ‘I’m afraid of her – but I know I’m made to follow her. Are you the same?’

‘No,’ said Oldy. ‘I’m not afraid. And I’m following you. 

August 15.

‘Stop cowering,’ Sol told our new crew, ‘I dislike it. Now, hows about we attack a real target – like an island. Who here wants to be rich?’

*

I asked Oldy why he was following me.

He said, ‘Sol has you. Now you have me.’

‘But –’

‘Everyone needs someone. I of all people know that.’

August 16.

My back and wrists ached.

 The sword tutor asked, ‘Will this island have women then?’

‘I suppose.’

He cheered and toasted Sol – with my rum.

August 17.

A man muttered something to his crewmates while Sol was out of sight.

I crept up and grabbed his arm.

He shrieked – EXACTLY like a girl.

August 18.

‘But you ARE a girl,’ I said.

‘No I ain’t.’

‘Don’t the men know?’

‘Coz it ain’t true,’ she said, and picked her nose at me.

I gave up.

*

‘Li’s a girl,’ I told Oldy.

‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘she’ll be fine.’

‘How could anyone know that?’

He smiled, ‘I’m much older than I look.’

August 19.

Sol cheated at lessons, using magic to bend the swords – then the teacher.

Luckily Oldy was a healer. ‘Kindly stop breaking arms,’ he said.

 *

‘Wanna be free?’ Li asked.

I said, ‘Sol already freed me.’

She hauled on a sail: ‘Do you really think that?’

I tied a knot: ‘Don’t you?’

August 20.

Night wind and stars. I shadowed men to Sol’s cabin, and yelled when they pulled out a knife.

She killed two in an eyeblink.

The rest fled.

 *

I threw the bodies away, knowing Li had led them.

Sol and I kept watch in silence all night. Oldy slept on in his cabin.

I dreaded the dawn.

 *

Sol judged us at dawn. Li confessed, and Sol threw her overboard.

The men vanished below like dust swept up.

But I saw Oldy steal the boat.

Oldy stole the boat Oldy stole the boat 

August 21.

Oldy sauntered in and helped himself to salty breakfast stew.

‘Didn’t you go with Li?’ I asked.

He shrugged, ‘I came back.’

 *

 ‘Who stole my boat?’ Sol screamed.

Oldy raised his hand. ‘You’re a fine captain. We won’t need it.’

Sol said, ‘You’ll live – for now.’

 

August 22.

I showed Sol our hold. She said, ‘We still have food for – what – two days?’

‘About that,’ I said, ‘and we’re out of soap.’

‘I’d noticed.’

 

August 23.

We reached land, searched empty houses, and found a child’s skeleton clutching at dirt.

‘Anyone want to leave?’ Sol said.

No-one spoke.

 

August 24.

The sun glared on something, and we sailed for it: a pirate ship.

‘Hurrah,’ said Sol, ‘they’ll have food AND treasure.’

The ship chased us.

 

 

*

I forgot my sword lessons and punched and bit. The real pirates slashed my arms and legs. We lost badly. Sol’s face was black with rage.

 *

 Sol ran her hand across the bars of our cell – tink, tink, tink. No-one else moved.

‘They’ll feed us soon,’ she said. ‘Then we’ll attack.’

 August 25.

I woke slumped against Oldy’s fuzzy beard. Sol was gone. Only our bodies held us up. Then Sol appeared with her arms full. ‘Anyone thirsty?’ 

Sol appeared with her hands full Sol appeared with her hands full 

 

 

*

Sol brought us food and life all night. Our guard almost saw her, but she passed magically through the outer wall of the ship until he left.

August 26.

‘Do we fight now?’ I asked.

Sol said, ‘Anyone got a sword? No? Never mind. Oldy – come.’

We waited in silence, and heard nothing at all.

*

Sol said, ‘They’re all asleep.’

‘A healing sleep,’ Oldy said, ‘which I wish I had time to give you.’

We scoffed pie before we started work. 

*

We locked the pirates in their filthy cell. Then we stole their cannons, food, and water. And soap. And all their boats. And LOTS of rum.                                          

August 27.

Sol sat on the bowsprit in the dashing spray, frowning. ‘Why, when we won, did half our crew desert?’

‘They’re afraid of you.’

She smiled.

August 28.

I saw girls playing on a beach as we drew close.

‘Let’s attack some other island,’ I said hastily. ‘People with kids never have much loot.’

Pic09.WorseThings

 *

Sol politely traded a silver necklace for anchorage. She ordered our remaining crew to be good – no stealing, no killing – not yet.

 *

I bought new clothes! Ones with no holes! And I bought myself a bright yellow hat, so I look nautical.

If only the ground would stop moving.

August 29.

No crew returned. Sol said, ‘We’re it? A princess, a beggar and a slave?’

I said, ‘Princess? Who’s a –you?!’

‘NO!’ she said. ‘I- shut up.’

 *

One man turned up.

‘Hello Mal,’ said Sol. ‘Where’s everyone?’

He shrugged.

‘Fine,’ she said, ‘let’s burn this place and find a better one.’

*

Sol saw kids in a corner and had me take them outside. Once they were safe, we burned their home too.

Pic010.WorseThings

The night sky turned grey with smoke.

August 30.

I could still see the smoke as we sailed away. At least we hadn’t killed any kids.

Sol was content, even when Mal burnt our dinner to ashes.

 *

‘If you’re following me, does that mean you’ll help me – if things get bad?’

‘Yes,’ said Oldy.

After that talk, I was able to get to sleep.

August 31.

‘Why are all the islands here so black?’ Sol grumbled.

Oldy said, ‘When we take over an island, what will we do with it?’

‘Anything I want.’

September 1.

Sol and I practised swordfighting, and I noticed her hands were soft.

‘A princess ain’t much,’ she growled at me, ‘just a slave in a dress.’

September 2.

Rain poured until my clothes were rough as rocks. We sailed, but we couldn’t see. Sol made us stay on watch – staring into the stormy dark.

September 3.

Water spilled into our cabins and slicked the wooden floors.

Oldy paced the hold as the ship staggered. ‘It’s not time. Not yet,’ he said.

September 4.

At last I found my guts.

‘What do you know about this?’ I shouted at Oldy above the howling wind.

He said, ‘I know we all survive tonight.’

September 5.

The wind threw me into a mess of ropes and I was trapped. It tossed me around and dunked me under waves. A rope slipped around my neck.

 *

Sol slashed through the ropes, saving my life again. ‘Lazy sod,’ she yelled over the thunder, ‘come help throw the cannons overboard.’

*

We threw away our weapons and our food, but Sol kept her treasure. The lightened ship flew over the ocean. We hurtled deeper into the dark.

We threw away our weapons and our food. . . We threw away our weapons and our food. . . 

September 6.

Rain. Hail. Rope burns on my arms and chest. Can’t see. Can’t eat. Can’t think. All I can do is hold on until the end. If this ever ends.

 *

The sky was lit by stars instead of lightning. I hung out all my clothes, and asked Oldy how he knew we’d live.

He said, ‘I always know.’

September 7.

We lay in the sun and slept. Sol was naked, so I was careful not to look. Oldy snored.

When I stood, my shape was outlined in dark wet wood.

I was careful not to look I was careful not to look 

September 8.

‘We were blown into unfamiliar seas,’ said Sol, ‘so I bet there’s a REALLY rich island nearby.’

‘Sol,’ I said, ‘look – land!’

September 9.

The locals wore purple and carried gold on their wrists and necks.

‘This is the place,’ said Sol.

Mal leered.

Oldy and I exchanged glances.

September 10.

We practised sword work below decks, out of sight of the people we spied on. Their guards were fat and sleepy, and the houses left unlocked.

 *

Oldy didn’t speak to me, but I knew he was ready. And I knew he was more than he seemed. He frightened me more than Sol – who scared me too.

September 11.

A boy asked Sol for food.

She looked at him. ‘You want gold?’

‘No,’ said the boy, ‘just bread.’

‘Be one of us,’ said Sol.

‘Okay – captain.’

September 12.

The forgotten children came to us one by one – dark-haired, dark-eyed, and ready to fight as Sol’s army.

Oldy sang to them as night fell.

September 13.

Sol taught the kids swordwork. One of them slashed her belly open – then cowered in fear. ‘Get up, kid,’ said Sol, ‘Red looks good on me.’

September 14.

Kids kept cutting one another while training. ‘Can we just fight with knives and rocks, like usual?’ one asked, scratching his bloody chin.

September 15.

Sol and I watched the harbour. ‘That ship’s better’n ours,’ said Sol, ‘so when we rule here, I’m gonna make it mine. The blue one’s for you.’

September 16.

‘We’re under attack!’ Sol yelled. I ran to save the kids, but by the time I reached them our attackers had fled – bleeding and afraid.

*

Night fell over two rows of fighters – the guards standing between us and their island, and our own vicious pack lined up on our port side.

September 17.

‘Signals,’ said Sol.

I asked, ‘To who?’

‘To our other ships, of course.’

We signalled instructions all day. I don’t even know what we said.

September 18.

Finally most of our guards had left – to find our imaginary fleet.

‘Now?’ I asked Sol.

‘No,’ she said, ‘I want them more afraid.’

September 19.

The horizon was red with fire, and the air tasted bitter with smoke. Our kids came back from their missions grinning and scorched.

September 20.

All the guards went to save their homes. We anchored off-shore. The guards returned black-faced with ash and rage.

‘Tomorrow,’ said Sol.

September 21.

Oldy stayed on board. We all rowed to shore in three boats. The few quay guards crowded one another, falling into the sea for Sol to kill.

Sol said, ‘See that house on the hill – the one with the turrets? That’s where we’re going.’

‘Yes captain,’ I sighed. Oldy was far away.

 *

The kids ran ahead up the winding road, fighting anyone that got in our way. By the time we reached the castle, no one remained but us.

September 22.

Sol ordered a throne of gold, and we made it.

‘Bring me a slaver,’ she said.

We brought one – and she stabbed him.

 *

Sol killed, and killed again. No one seemed to know why any more. Bile rose in my throat.

Oldy remained at the ship, so I was alone.

September 23.

‘Kid, what’s your name?’ I asked.

‘Hin.’

‘Take a message. Tell Oldy to draw Sol away from here – somehow.’

Hin ran straight to Sol.

I fled.

September 24.

I didn’t sleep or eat. The kids patrolled the streets, mockingly calling for me. ‘Come out, come out, Ulandin. Captain wants to see you.’

September 25.

I climbed onto a roof to sleep, but Hin saw me. Four more kids came running – but I had a sword. I slashed their legs and left them cursing.

September 26.

Even the guards served Sol now, so I couldn’t take a boat. I crawled down the beach and swam like a sea-snake toward the distant ship.

*

I heard shouts and swam faster, gulping water. The kids laughed and threw rocks. One smashed into my shoulder, and my arm stopped working.

*

Oldy dived into the water and saved me.

‘Burn the ship,’ I whispered.

He said, ‘Aye, aye sir.’

We fought two kids, and the rest let us go.

September 27.

Oldy healed my arm – or close enough. We poured oil into the hold, each cabin, and the galley. ‘This is it then,’ I said, and made a spark.

*

We sat on the galley tables drinking rum and pouring it on the walls. ‘How long will it burn?’ I asked.

Oldy shrugged: ‘She’ll come.’

September 28.

‘Um, sir?’ said Oldy, waking me, ‘should we go on deck now?’ Behind him a flaming wall bent inward then fell to bits, spraying fire.

*

‘Hi boys,’ said Sol; a glowing outline. ‘Thanks for trying to save my ship, but it’s over. And that lying Hin is gone.’

We dived to safety.

*

Sol walked aft as the flames grew. ‘She’s going below!’ said Oldy.

‘Not without me,’ I said. I climbed the broken wood to save her.

September 29.

Sol screamed at me from the bridge. ‘A captain goes down with her ship!’

‘It’s not your ship, remember?’

She paused. ‘Oh, FINE! Let’s go.’

*

We dived into cool water and blinked ash from our eyes. The kids lined the shore. Sol pointed at a better ship, and they went to fetch it.

 Pic08.WorseThings

Sol and I trod water. ‘I didn’t like ruling anyway,’ she said, ‘too much like home. Where’s Oldy?’

‘Gone,’ I said – but I knew he’d return.

September 30.

We sailed at dawn, weighed down with loot – and drinking water. The sun turned our new ship’s sails pure gold, and Sol re-tarred her hair.

THE END