I'm Telling You, They're Aliens!, страница 1
Jeremy Strong once worked in a bakery, putting the jam into three thousand doughnuts every night. Now he puts the jam in stories instead, which he finds much more exciting. At the age of three, he fell out of a first-floor bedroom window and landed on his head. His mother says that this damaged him for the rest of his life and refuses to take any responsibility. He loves writing stories because he says it is ‘the only time you alone have complete control and can make anything happen’. His ambition is to make you laugh (or at least snuffle). Jeremy Strong lives near Bath with four cats and a flying cow.
Are you feeling silly enough to read more?
MY DAD’S GOT AN ALLIGATOR!
MY GRANNY’S GREAT ESCAPE
MY MUM’S GOING TO EXPLODE!
MY BROTHER’S FAMOUS BOTTOM
THE HUNDRED-MILE-AN-HOUR DOG
RETURN OF THE HUNDRED-MILE-AN-HOUR DOG
WANTED! THE HUNDRED-MILE-AN-HOUR DOG
BEWARE! KILLER TOMATOES
KRAZY KOW SAVES THE WORLD – WELL, ALMOST
I’m Telling You, They’re
Illustrated by Nick Sharratt
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Books Australia Ltd, 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2
Penguin Books India (P) Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India
Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd, Cnr Rosedale and Airborne Roads, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published 2000
Text copyright ©Jeremy Strong, 2000
Illustrations copyright © Nick Sharratt, 2000
All rights reserved
The moral right of the author and illustrator has been asserted
Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
1 What’s in a Name?
2 Strange Beings
3 Even Closer Encounters
5 What Kind of Cheese?
6 Serious Stuff
7 Diddle-iddle-dang Time
8 Walking on Tentacles
10 Plan Two, with Several Emergency Measures
11 We Find Out More About Babies
12 All Is Revealed
1 What’s in a Name?
OK, I admit it – I worry. I worry a lot. I like worrying. If I’m not worried about anything then that worries me.
Take corners. I mean, they’re nasty things. You never know what’s lurking round a corner. There could be an escaped rhinoceros, a mad-axe murderer – maybe even a gateway into a parallel universe, one-way only.
When I was six I made myself a really neat gadget. I got a bamboo stick and taped a mirror to the end of it, at an angle. When I walked to school, I would hold it out in front of me and take a good peek round any corners, making sure it was safe round there. Stopping at every corner did slow things down a bit though. It took hours to reach school and it drove my mum mad.
It didn’t take long for everyone at school to discover how worried I was either. On my very first day when the bell started clanging for morning play I was out of my seat in a flash and racing for the door. Fire! Fire! We’re all going to die!’
Before Miss Drew could stop us, the whole class was panicking: leaping out of seats, sending chairs flying, scrambling over tables to escape, and shouting and screaming and yelling for mummy. I mean, just imagine it for yourself – a class full of four and five year olds all trying to save themselves from a non-existent inferno.
Miss Drew was mown down by a pack of terrified infants, and it was only the appearance of the headteacher, backed up by the caretaker, the secretary, and three dinner ladies that stopped a tidal wave of teeny toddlers engulfing the school. Somehow they managed to round us up and calm us down, although the headteacher did have to climb up a ladder to pluck me from the tree I had zoomed up for safety. The extraordinary thing was that nobody was cross with me. They seemed to think it was an easy mistake to make.
The trouble was, and still is, that I do worry. I just have this feeling that won’t go away, a feeling that some kind of disaster is out there waiting to happen to me. I’m eleven now, and I still worry, and I still use my mirror-stick when I think nobody is looking.
At school they think I’m weird. They aren’t nasty or anything, although they do laugh at me and they don’t usually want to play with me. I could count the number of friends I have on one hand with no fingers held up. In other words, zero.
You see, it’s not just the worrying, it’s the other things. Like my name.
Robert Smith, that’s me. I know what you’re thinking. What’s wrong with Robert Smith? OK then, try this out for size – Robert Wolfgang Amadeus Smith. That’s right, Wolfgang Amadeus. My parents like classical music. Their favourite composer is Mozart, so they gave me his names. Nice one, Mum, nice one, Dad. I really love you too. I’ll tell you one thing: when I grow up (if I survive that long), I will NOT give my children daft names like Wolfgang Amadeus.
And there’s something else too: I’m the only boy in my class learning the violin. Well, it was Mum and Dad’s idea. I think they are secretly hoping that I will turn into a real Wolfgang Amadeus, although I don’t really fancy turning into somebody who’s been dead for more than two hundred years. For a start, Mozart wore a wig, and knickerbockers and stockings. Can you imagine me turning up at school dressed like that? I don’t think so!
To tell you the truth, I do like playing the violin. It’s just that most of the boys in my class seem to find it amusing. They think I’m different, but we’re all different really, aren’t we? I mean we all have funny little things that we do or think or like, things we never dare tell anyone in case they laugh at us or think we’re stupid. So we keep very quiet and hope they never find out. (I used to know a boy who never put just one piece of rubbish into a rubbish bin. He always put in two pieces so that the two pieces could talk to each other, and wouldn’t get lonely.)
My problem is that a violin case is a bit obvious. It attracts attention, and you can’t pretend it’s anything else. If people come up to you and say, ‘Hey is that a violin you’re carrying?’ you can hardly say ‘No, it’s a collapsible mountain bike.’
As you can tell, I do have a few problems, and the problems are mostly with me, myself. There’s not much I can do about that. I can’t suddenly stop liking music, or stop worrying for that matter. I can’t just change myself. This is how I am. But I do have things that help me get by.
One of the best is a brilliant CD Rom that I use all the time on my computer. It’s called ‘Your Horoscope For the Next Fifty Years’. It tells me what to expect every day, which can be very worrying. You spend the rest of t
Last Tuesday was pretty embarrassing. I went through the astrological predictions for the day on the computer and it said the world would end at twenty-three minutes past eleven because an asteroid was going to smash into Planet Earth. (Mind you, it did give a horoscope for the next day and the day after that, and the day after that… which is a bit weird when you think about it. I mean, if the world’s just been destroyed by an asteroid, you can hardly have a future, can you?)
I warned everyone at school, and would they listen? Of course not. At twenty-two minutes past eleven we were in the middle of maths and I climbed underneath my desk. Everyone ignored me, they always do, even Mrs Ashworth, who teaches me now. She just rolled her eyes and let me get on with it. They’re used to it, you see. Twenty-three minutes past eleven arrived, but the asteroid didn’t. I gave it another five minutes in case the classroom clock was fast and then crawled out, sat on my seat and got on with my maths. Nobody said a word.
Want to know what they call me at school? Chicken Licken. I’m sure you’re familiar with the story of Chicken Licken. Chicken Licken is (guess what!) a chicken. One day he is asleep beneath an oak tree and an acorn falls on his head. He jumps up, terribly worried, because he thinks the sky is falling down. He goes racing round the countryside telling all the other animals, ‘The sky’s falling down! The sky’s falling down! We’re all going to die!’ Soon everyone is rushing about, convinced that they’re going to perish because the sky’s collapsing.
Does it remind you of anything – like my first day at school and the bell going off? I remember the afternoon Miss Drew read the story of Chicken Licken to the class, and everyone, and I mean everyone, turned and stared at me. It was instant recognition. They’ve called me Chicken Licken ever since. They all think I’m a complete waste of space.
And then the aliens came.
2 Strange Beings
Today’s horoscope: An excellent day! You can let yourself relax. The heat is taken off you at work, and you will be surprised at how easily the day passes.
Hmmm. That is truly what it said. I remember it clearly. Well, I suppose nobody can be right all the time, not even Mystic Myrtle, the Cosmic Turtle. (Just in case you were wondering, that’s my CD Rom program. The astrological charts are presented by this giant, galaxy-cruising turtle. It’s got really good graphics.) Anyhow, my horoscope was not exactly accurate because this was the day the new neighbours arrived.
The house across the road had been empty for weeks. We were beginning to wonder if anyone would move in.
‘You’re keeping them away with your violin practice,’ said Dad, and he made squeaky-squeak noises and grinned at me. It was meant to be a joke, his one joke, and he repeated it just about every day. Even Mum was getting fed up with it.
Then suddenly BAMM! We’d got new neighbours. It was like they’d fallen out of space and landed in the house next door.
Which is almost exactly what had happened.
I knew they were aliens the first moment I saw them. I could feel it in my body. I got this kind of creeping sensation, as if ants were slowly crawling up and down the inside of my bones. You know how when you see an old bone, it’s all sort of hollow down the middle, like a tunnel? Well, that’s where these ants were crawling, up and down, and it worried me.
Nobody had seen a removal van. Nobody had seen the new neighbours move in. One moment they weren’t there, and the next moment they were. It was just like Star Trek, you know, when they get beamed from one place to another. Only nobody saw it happen.
I was in my bedroom doing my violin practice when I noticed him. He looked like a typical human, but, I mean, what a give-away! Aliens coming to our planet always look like ordinary humans, otherwise you’d spot them a mile off and go around screaming ‘Help! Aliens! Aliens invading Planet Earth!’ (Well, I would anyhow.)
He looked about fourteen. He was lanky and there was something threatening about the way he just stood there. He was wearing shorts, the really baggy kind that come down past your knees. He had funny hair too. Well, it wasn’t exactly funny. Weird would be a better word. It was very short, and it had a zigzag pattern shaved into it, as if the hairdresser had had some terrifying scare and his electric razor had slipped.
I guess it was because his hair was so short that his ears stuck out. They were extraordinary. They sat on the sides of his head like twin satellite dishes. I mean, with ears like those he could pick up messages from deep space, let alone satellite TV.
Anyhow, by this time, I had goose pimples all over, which is a sure sign that I was seriously scared. I was staring down at this boy and then his mother came out and called to him. She was pretty and well-dressed, but she looked even more worried than me, as if she had some dreadful secret – which she did, of course. There was something else too.
She had The Mark upon her.
There was a dark blotch just below her throat. I could tell it wasn’t a bruise or anything like that. I zipped downstairs, borrowed Dad’s bird-watching binoculars and zoomed in. You know what that mark was? It was a star cluster, a constellation! She might just as well have carried a sticker on her head, with the name of her planet written on it.
She called to the boy and he went across to her. She whispered something to him and they both gazed about as if they were keeping an eye out for something, and their heads made this curious sharp movement – they looked more like birds or lizards than human beings. I mean, you know, it was strange. I kept out of sight behind my curtains. The mother pointed to the watch on the boy’s wrist and he nodded several times. Then they went indoors.
By this time those ants had invaded every bone in my body. I knew for certain that I had just had a Close Encounter of the Third Kind – the kind where you come face to face with a real alien. I had to sit down. I can’t take aliens standing up, not straight away at any rate. I sat down on my bed and I was sweating and breathing hard. The goose pimples had gone, but now my skin was going hot and cold. This was a sure sign of a fever. I was burning up!
I’ve got this really useful book which I use in just such emergencies. I seized The Complete Medical Encyclopedia and skimmed through the pages. It didn’t take me long to work out that I was well into the second stage of malaria. Malaria – The Curse of the Jungle! But I hadn’t been anywhere near a jungle. The closest thing to a jungle in my area were the bushes in our front garden, and they were not exactly infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
There was only one possible answer. The aliens had brought it with them! This was no ordinary kind of malaria. This was more like Inter-Galactic Malaria, the most deadly kind there could possibly be, with NO KNOWN CURE AND I WAS THE VERY FIRST VICTIM!
I began to wonder how long I had to live. Would my next breath be my last? My throat felt all raspy. My legs had gone weak at the knees. I grabbed a pen and some paper and hastily began scribbling a note.
I have been killed by a deadly virus brought by aliens living in the house opposite. Be very careful! Do not enter their house without protective clothing. You have been warned!
P.S. I told you this would happen!
The ‘Love, Robert’ at the end seemed a bit wimpy, but what else could I put? Anyway, what would you have done? Just think for a moment. Do you go and tell your parents?
It would be like, ‘Mum, aliens have moved in over the road.’
‘Oh dear, that is a shame. Make sure you keep your curtains pulled, and wear clean underpants.’ (Mum is always telling me to wear clean underpants, in case I have an accident. ‘I don’t want you ending up in hospital with dirty underwear,’ she says. Well, I don’t want to end up in hospital, full stop!)
The trouble is people think you’re very strange if you go round saying things about alien invasions, and if you’re not very careful they come and take you away and lock you up and feed you on things like rice pudding (which I hate).
So who do you tell
I decided to keep quiet. I thought I’d keep a low profile, pretend there was nothing wrong, but all the time be on the lookout, watching for clues. I had already discovered that there were four of them altogether and now I had to find out what kind of aliens they were and why they had come to Planet Earth.
Actually the answer to that question was pretty obvious. Aliens only come to Earth for one reason, and that is to take it over, to invade every bit of it. Everyone knows that. I mean, they’re not likely to drive halfway across the universe just to ask if they can borrow some sugar.
By this time you will probably have worked out for yourself that I hadn’t taken my last breath and died, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to write this down for you. Evidently the aliens were not going to use a deadly virus. They had some other plan up their sleeve… assuming aliens have sleeves. If they don’t, then what can they hide things up? Their nostrils? Armpits? Ears? I seem to be going off-track here a bit.
You can imagine my surprise, and my rampaging feelings, when Mum made the following announcement, shortly after lunch. ‘I’ve met the new neighbours,’ she said. ‘They seem nice. I’ve asked them over for a cup of coffee this afternoon, so we can meet the family.’
The aliens were coming to our house – for tea and biscuits!
‘How many are there?’ Dad asked warily. He doesn’t like having to make conversation with strangers.
‘There’s Norman and Petal and the parents. I don’t know their first names, but their surname is Vork.’
‘Vork!’ Dad gave a short laugh, but it wasn’t funny to me. It was just so obvious. Aliens were bound to have strange names. I mean – Vork – it was probably an alien word. It probably meant Death to all Earthlings, or Killer-king of Krargg or something.