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by Freebird 

Posted: 14 September 2009
Word Count: 1035
Summary: No title yet! Calling it 'Specs' for the time being. Need your comments esp on pov as the chapters progress.

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They were coming for him. As soon as Barnaby Brownlow woke up, he knew. His dream about aliens trying to steal his brain was about to come true. There was a bright orange light flashing outside his curtains, hovering in the air.
Barnaby dived beneath his Star Wars duvet and clutched his head with both hands. “Don’t take me! Take Elspeth – she’s from another planet anyway. Take Dylan! Take Mum! Take Mrs. Warburton next door – she lives on her own, so no-one will miss her. Take her cats as well...”
Barnaby heard the door creak open, and surely a slimy webbed hand was rattling at the door. Barnaby whimpered, and yanked the duvet more firmly over his head, heart thundering in his downy cave. He heard the alien’s feet slap-slap across the floor, its moist, snuffling breath drawing closer. He could almost see the lizard-like flaps on its terrible face, smell the trail of Martian slime that glistened on the carpet.
Fingers clutched at Barnaby’s pillow; he could feel it moving against his neck, where the fine hairs stood on end. There was a sound like a small, blocked-up trumpet; a giggle.
Barnaby threw back the duvet and sat up. “Dylan!”
Dylan shrieked with delight and made another snort of triumph in his nappy.
“How did you get out of your cot?”
Dylan plonked himself down on Barnaby’s slippers and regarded his bottom with a puzzled expression as it launched into a complete symphony for wind instruments. Barnaby stepped round the damp patch spreading across the carpet and went to the window. He wasn’t safe yet. The flashing light was still there.
“Sssh!” he hissed.
“Ssssss!” repeated Dylan. “Sssssnake!”
“No snake,” whispered Barnaby. “Spaceship!” He flattened himself against the wall next to the curtains so that the aliens wouldn’t see his shadow. Forgetting to breathe, he gingerly lifted the edge of the curtain and peered through the window. Outside, the orange street lamp was flashing on and off. Barnaby let his breath out with a hiss.
“Sssssnake!” cooed Dylan, crawling towards Barnaby.
Barnaby went back to the bed. He pulled on his dressing gown and stuck his feet into his slippers. “Urrrgh!” he grimaced. “Dylan, my slippers are soaking!” Shaking his head, he trudged into the bathroom.
It was a cold January morning, snappy as a grumpy sister. Barnaby looked at his reflection in the mirror, but it kept clouding over as his steaming breath curled out of his mouth and settled in a mist on the silvery glass.
Someone hammered at the door. “Hurry up, bog brain. I want to come in!”
“I’ve only just come in, Elspeth. You’ll have to wait.”
“Two minutes, or else.” Barnaby heard Elspeth stamp across the landing to her bedroom. He splashed his face with cold water, then wiped it dry on his sleeve.
“Done!” he yelled, trotting back into his bedroom. He stopped dead. A strange clanking noise was coming from beneath the window. The aliens had come for him after all! Barnaby felt his heart leap again. He dropped to his knees and crawled towards the window. He crouched below the sill, huddled against the radiator. His cheek grew hot; he began to sweat, and what was that horrid sickly-sweet smell? The aliens must have a heat-ray trained on the house. They were melting the walls.
The door opened with a crash. Barnaby screamed; Mum screamed louder.
“What are you doing?” she squeaked. “You nearly gave me a heart attack. Why aren’t you dressed? You’ll boil if sit so close to the radiator. And what’s that smell?” She peered behind the radiator and fished out an old apple core.
Barnaby blushed. Dylan wailed from downstairs, and the smell of burnt toast wafted up the stairs.
“What’s he doing now?” muttered Mum, and hurried downstairs to see what was going on. Barnaby looked out of the window. Leaning over the gurgling pipes, he lifted his pyjama top and shivered with pleasure as a gust of warm air swept deliciously over his stomach and emerged beneath his chin.
The postman was striding up the street, clutching a handful of packages. Barnaby craned forward to see whether he would turn up their path, but he walked on by and Barnaby scorched his nipples on the hot metal of the radiator.
“OOOOOWWWWWW!” he yelled, shooting out of his bedroom and down the stairs.
“For goodness sake, what is it now?” grumbled Mum as Barnaby stumbled into the kitchen and scraped a chair back from the table. “Why are you rubbing your chest? You haven’t got a rash, have you?”
Barnaby, cramming his mouth with cornflakes, shook his head. A sneeze was building in his nose.
“Have you?” repeated Mum. “Shall I have a look?”
A spray of half-chewed cornflakes soaked in milk fountained out of Barnaby’s nose and splattered onto Mum’s face. Dylan, strapped into his high chair, clapped his hands.
Elspeth stomped in, scowling. She picked up her school bag and headed straight for the back door.
Mum grabbed a teatowel and wiped her face. She glared at Barnaby.
“Where do you think you’re going, young lady?” she snapped.
“School,” growled Elspeth.
“Not without breakfast, you’re not. And you need to wait for Barnaby. He’s too young to walk on his own.”
Barnaby shook his head violently, but Mum glared at him again and he sat still. Elspeth slumped into the chair opposite Barnaby and picked at a piece of toast. Mum sat down in front of Dylan and tried to coax some porridge into his mouth.
“Don’t forget I’m picking you up from school this morning, cherub,” she said, tucking a stray wisp of hair behind Barnaby’s ear.
Barnaby groaned. As if he could forget.
“Your appointment’s at quarter to eleven, so I’ll pick you up just before playtime.”
Barnaby shrugged.
“You’re not worried about it are you, cherub?”
Barnaby squirmed in his seat. He wished she wouldn’t call him that. Cherubs were fat babies with wings and no clothes on. “No,” he muttered through gritted teeth.
But he knew the outcome of this appointment would be worse – much worse - than being abducted by aliens.
Life as he knew it was over.

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Comments by other Members

NMott at 15:52 on 14 September 2009  Report this post
Hi, I read it through paying particular attention to pov, and with one very minor exception (below) it's all in Barnaby's pov, the 'voice' is good and consistant.
All in all a good opening chapter.

“What’s he doing now?” muttered Mum, and hurried downstairs to see what was going on.

This is the only switch in pov, where you've added a bit from mum's pov: 'to see what was going on'. This could simply be deleted, because it's obvious that that is the reason why mum is going downstairs.

- NaomiM


btw, what were the origin of te orange lights? I'm assuming dustbin men, but I didn't find an obvious reason for it, and I can't see Barnaby going downstairs for his breakfast until he knows what it is, or at the very least, discovers the cause of the flashing lights has disappeared.
(apologies if I missed the reason for them)

Pat M at 16:46 on 14 September 2009  Report this post
Hi, I took the flashing to be a faulty street light, but the idea of the bin men is really good and more likely, or do they only flash when they reverse?

What age is it for Freebird? I'm sure it says somewhere but I can't find it. I'm trying to get a sort of age in mind for Barnaby, but I love his imagination whatever age he is! It sounds like what we used to call 'early readers', about 7 - 8 years, shortish sentences and lots of dialogue and humour.

I can't see any problem with the pov, but this is not my strong point.
I love the ending and want to know what the appointment is all about.

ShellyH at 16:55 on 14 September 2009  Report this post
Hi Freebird, this was great, love the name Barnaby too. Pov isn't my strongest area either, but I couldn't see anything wrong with it.
I also took the streetlight to be the flashing light, and thought this was fine, as it would be high, and may look as if it was on a spaceship.
Good opening chapter.

Shnarkle at 21:10 on 14 September 2009  Report this post

Haven't got a bloody clue! But I do know a good read when I er.. read one, and I've just read one just now...if you see what I mean?

Freebird, this really appeals to my sense of humour; I laughed out loud at Dylan's handclapping following the cornflake debacle. There are some very nice comedic touches here which are not at all predictable.

Pat mentioned the age group, and this may be relevant, because my one comment would be that it occasionally read like a telegram; a bit abrupt.

However, I think you've really got something here, and with Barnaby's imagination there's no limit where you can go with it.

loved it!


Freebird at 09:40 on 15 September 2009  Report this post
Thanks for all the comments - Naomi, I just spotted that thing about Mum going off 'to see what's going on' when I read it through. Thanks for pointing it out and confirming what I thought.

Yes, the flashing light was a faulty street light outside his window - obviously I need to be a bit more clear about it since some people worked it out and some didn't. And useful to hear your comments on the short sentences. It is aimed at about 7-9 confident readers (so the finished book will be around 20-25,000 words), but I don't want it to sound too 'punchy' and stilted.

Something to look at in next draft...



Barnaby is 9 years and 2 months - a tutor once told me that children like to read about other children who are slightly older than them

NMott at 18:28 on 15 September 2009  Report this post
It is aimed at about 7-9 confident readers

I think it will fit that target readership.

SusieL at 20:27 on 18 September 2009  Report this post
Enjoyed this very much, Freebird. As with Eye Spy, you have a gift for writing with humour. It certainly had me chortling! Loved the idea of Dylan parping on Barnaby's slippers. That will appeal so much to boys!

And a good hook at the end. Right, I'm off to read the second part now!

Issy at 20:55 on 21 September 2009  Report this post
Loved it, nothing new to add, am going to get on with the next one shortly.

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