Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Aliens among us


Aliens among us

Did you know that fleas can lurk, unseen, for up to nine months?

‘I’ll spray round the whole house,’ says the pest control man as he assesses how bad my situation is. ‘Should be sorted in six weeks.’

Six weeks?

Small black dots jump with glee onto his white leg protectors. They jump off, disappointed. Then they find my bare ankles. Their squeaks of joy send messages to the others, who hatch, ready for dinner.

The older ones are too busy to feed; they’re squatting in the corners of the room, in the cracks in the kitchen floor, in my wool basket, squeezing out hundreds of eggs.

‘I’ll set a bomb off too, that’ll cover every surface,’ says the man.

A bomb?

He walks into the kitchen, brushing his legs clear of the hopeful juveniles. ‘I’ve seen worse, but it’s pretty bad.’
Trying not to sound too tremulous, I ask, ‘How does it all work? How can I be sure they’ll be gone?’

For someone who voluntarily marooned herself on an uninhabited desert island for a month, I’m surprised at how squeamish I am about my new house guests. Out in Micronesia, I coped with centipedes as long and thick as garden hoses, spiders the size of small dogs and mosquito clouds so dense they formed thunderheads.

So why are these little buggers getting me hopping?

It’s the lurking.

The adults lay eggs, hundreds of eggs. They hatch in a couple of days and little maggoty larvae then crawl away from the light into crevices. After three larval stages they pupate. This is where they begin to resemble the creatures in Ridley Scott’s Aliens. They hatch when they detect warmth, vibration or carbon dioxide!

At the pupa stage they are almost impossible to kill. To make them hatch and die, you need to be in the same room, breathing, walking, willing to risk the case opening and a flappy spider thing jumping on your face and wrapping its…no, sorry… got carried away.

The idea is that the impervious pupae hatch when they detect you nearby and then the chemical in your house kills them.

That’s the hope anyway. I’ve just had the second spraying and bombing, and have to wait for the next cycle to hatch and die before I can be pronounced clear.

Till then, I’m tempted to stay upstairs and write my memoir about sleeping among poisonous insects and trying to catch enough fish for my supper – almost pleasant memories in contrast.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Guest Blog with Alex Davis

Today - a special treat.

Drum roll please ...

Announcing the one - the only - Alex Davis. Alex has been a great help to me in my writing career. His new book The Last War is out now. 

over to you Alex...

The days are counting down on the July Blog Swap trail, and over the next few days I wanted to put some extracts from The Last War out there. Hopefully these'll give a nice flavour of the low-tech, neo-biblical kind of sci-fi I was angling for. So here's a little taster from Chapter Five, where violence comes to Genem for the first time...


Within hours, the clearing is witness to a scene unlike any in the short history of Genem. Larders have been emptied, and food lies on crude tables where both men and women eat greedily. None think about the next sunup. They eat as they have never eaten, gorging until their stomachs grow bloated. In one corner an unseen man has overstuffed himself more than any other, and vomits loudly into a stand of trees. Some of the food lies on the floor, trodden upon by bare feet, but still is devoured by hungry hands and mouths. 'Let us eat! Eat like we shall never eat again!' a high-pitched voice cries, and instantly the feeding frenzy intensifies.

But feasting is not the only act of pleasure evident around the temple. To one side a dancing circle has broken out, three women playing their simplest of drums with a fervour that sucks the crowd into a hypnotic rhythm. None of the Noukari have ever danced before, and the movements are jerky, often arrhythmic. Some find the beat to the music, other simply fling limbs and heads around with abandon, not caring what the music is but for the fact that there is music. The result is a swirling mass of bodies, some pressing against each other, others seeking isolation, their own space to explore the movement of their bodies. Each is lost in a new world, a world of sound and ecstasy.

Apius watches the dancers from the sidelines, choosing not to join them. He knows that he is the originator of this ceremony, but must not partake of it himself. No – a Re'Nuck must not debase himself like this. He has a duty to his followers. They must know this pleasure, they must find it at the heart of them to forget duty and endless work. This is significant, he knows, and he must take in every aspect of the sights before him without losing himself.

At the outer edge of the clearing there is a small clutch of men, only four or five, but what they do is so extraordinary that he cannot help but watch.

They are fighting.

The Re'Nuck moves in more closely, and the offence and defence pauses for a moment. But Apius just nods and bids them to continue. None of them question further, and the slowest to respond to the Re'Nuck's command find their faces crushed with clenched fists.

Fighting, Apius thinks to himself. What an unlikely outcome. Only in this moment, freed of all their rules and strictures, have they seen fit to fight. He would not even recognise it had he not heard and seen the creatures of the forest doing the very same thing, from the small and clumsy Echen through to the vicious duels of the Hiyel. It seems to be the way of nature, he reflects, the way of all life. Perhaps there is even something unnatural in the fact they have never fought.

To find out more about The Last War, visit http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00YQICMHQ