So I wrote this book Superniceabout an alien invasion. The aliens create a dystopia of oppressive new rules and terrible consequences for breaking them. In response, the government replace advertising hoardings with posters that politely (and then not so politely) tell the public how to behave to avoid trouble. Following are some quotes from the book. (And the book can be acquired for a dollar, to your right, if you fancy)
At first the messages seemed friendly:
Advertising hoardings stretched along the seafront. Usually they were filled with adverts for phones or cars, but now the adverts were in pastel shades of purple and pink, with butterflies and smiling faces. In large letters the messages were simple:
SHOW LOVE, NOT HATE
PSST, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL, PASS IT ON
But even then, Natasha was suspicious and happy to see signs of rebellion:
As she headed back home, Natasha passed a hundred more pink posters in bus stops and stuck to lampposts. Some had already been defaced.
KINDNESS SPREADS was graffitied with DESTROY!
And LOVE UNITES US in purple, with FUK DA ALIENS in angular black writing over the top. Natasha had never liked graffiti – she always thought it made a place look messy – but this was righteous.
And finally as the oppression became more extreme and the pretense ended:
The main road had changed again. Instead of advertising hoardings with hippy messages, now there were screens, each showing an order.
POLITENESS IS NECESSITY and SHOW RESPECT and DON’T BECOME ONE OF THE TAKEN.
I wanted to create an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, but one in which people needed to find a way to not only survive, but to still laugh, still connect, still keep going. And of course they wanted to dupe the aliens and escape too.
Well now I’m back at work, I’ve discovered that is exactly what London has become. Lots of instructions with cute pictures, saying Cover your face, Keep your distance, Don’t travel unless you have to. It’s all considerate messages for our own safety, but the atmosphere is still intense. With half our faces covered, people are more suspicious of each other, and anyone could be a virus carrier. But we still need to laugh, connect and keep going. Luckily we don’t need to worry about the alien bit. Yet.
My book is out there! And it’s free on Smashwords! Supercheap on Amazon! For any of you I sent a copy to who liked it, do you know anyone else who’d enjoy it? Please spread the word and I’ll be forever thankful. I’m not looking to make money, I just really like it when people read my stories.
Nick woke groaning as usual. His eyeballs felt too large for their sockets, his left foot had gone numb and a line of drool connected his face to his shoulder. He experienced a few moments of the usual suffering before he realised his situation was all wrong. He wasn’t in bed as he should be, but sitting on the floor with a sock in his hand. And the sun was up, which it shouldn’t be unless he was late getting up. Very late. He spent another minute refusing to believe this was the case before finally throwing the sock aside and panicking. He would be late for work. There would be complaints and his boss would sulk. His daughter Natasha would be late for school, then the school would fine him and Natasha would get in trouble. He could already see how these misfortunes could turn to issues, issues to disaster, disaster to catastrophe.
‘Alexa, what’s the time?’ he shouted at his virtual assistant.
Alexa spun a blue light around her perimeter and said in her soothing, unchanging tone, ‘At the moment it’s five degrees. Later you can expect a low of four degrees.’
‘The time Alexa!’ said Nick jumping up from the floor, but one of his feet was still sleeping and he fell heavily across the carpet. Then Natasha, his fourteen-year-old daughter, burst in.
‘Dad! Dad! Why didn’t you wake me? Why are you on the floor? Why didn’t my alarm go off?’
Nick tried to look calm and in control from where he was sprawled, rolling over and leaning on his hand. ‘It’s all fine, noodle, a little over-sleep, that’s all.’
‘But it’s gone one! Why didn’t we wake up? Why didn’t our alarms go off?’ Her voice was a jumbled mix of hysteria and anger. She was clutching her phone and kept looking at it in disbelief.
‘There must have been a power cut, that’s all,’ he said, while gingerly climbing on the bed.
‘But it’s battery-operated!’ said Natasha.
‘This is not the time! Get your things together as quickly as possible and we’ll go.’
Natasha crashed out of the room and he could hear her shouting at her own Alexa.
For the next twenty minutes, time conspired against Nick. The faster he tried to get things done, the faster they went wrong. He put the toothpaste on his electric toothbrush and then forgot to put it in his mouth before switching it on, so white and red paste spattered across the walls. He started shaving with his razor, so ergonomically designed that it shot out of his hands and onto the floor where it split in two. He put the buttons of his shirt through the buttonholes of his cardigan. He got the pin-code to his phone wrong three times and then it wouldn’t recognise his fingerprint.
‘Of course it’s my finger! Who else’s would it be? Look! It’s attached to me!’ he wailed, showing his hand to the phone in the hope it would see the error of its ways. He tried shouting instructions to Alexa to tell him the traffic situation and to stick the kettle on, but she kept saying, ‘I don’t understand what you want me to do. Do you want me to sing a song?’
‘No Alexa, call my boss!’
‘You’re the boss!’ said Alexa agreeably, then she began to sing. ‘Bring me sunshine, in your smile.’ Unshaven, with drops of toothpaste on his mis-buttoned shirt, Nick ran downstairs. Natasha was standing in the porch in bare feet, staring out, not moving.
‘Right, I’m ready,’ he said, realising he wasn’t. The he started looking for his phone. ‘Come on Tash, get your shoes on,’ he said, then realised he’d already put his phone in his pocket, but now his keys had vanished.
‘Dad,’ said Natasha.
‘What? Where are my flipping keys? I had them last night.’
‘Dad, come and look.’ There was urgency in her voice, but it was focused out the front door instead of the crisis at hand.
‘Did you move them?’ Nick lifted up all the items on the table: the book that should have been put away, the plates left out from dinner, his small toolbox. His keys weren’t there.
‘Would you like me to make a sound like a pig?’ asked Alexa from the kitchen unit.
‘Dad!’ said Natasha.
‘What?’ Nick said angrily, annoyed that Natasha wasn’t panicking.
‘Look,’ she said. He walked to the front door and looked out. The cul-de-sac would normally be empty at this time. Apart from the stoners at number twenty-six and Mrs and Mr Wollstaff next door, they should all be at work or school. Instead, everyone was in the street. Most were looking at everyone else in the street. Many had shirts flapping or held pieces of toast in their hands. Some were making frantic calls on their phones, not having yet noticed the others around them.
‘It was everyone,’ said Natasha. ‘None of us woke up.’
You think this sounds entertaining? To start reading properly for free, just contact me on petra_jacob@ outlook .com (minus spaces) letting me know what format you want 🙂
For those of you looking for a free book to read who haven’t signed up for Supernice yet. Here’s the start of the book. It starts from a bird’s eye view, but actually follows the lives of Natasha and her dad Nick when a particularly strange alien invasion occurs.
The deal is if you write to me at petra_jacob @ outlook.com (remove the spaces) I will send you the first 12 chapters, and then 3 more chapters every 3 days (it’s not actually released yet). All for free, with no tricks or obligations. I just want people to read my book and those already reading seem to be enjoying it, now I want MORE!
Supernice by Petra Jacob
In New Delhi, Mr Patel was halfway through explaining Pythagoras’ theorem to class 12B when he fell asleep. He gently slumped into the white boards, smearing the bottom angle of a red triangle across his face, his blue-striped tie rumpling up to his chin. This would have caused delight to his students, except that they too were all asleep. Some gently snoring, some hanging from their chairs, but every one blissfully unaware of the world around them.
At the Zenith Heights Casino in Las Vegas, it was nearly midnight, but instead of the usual bustling drama, customers were folded and crumpled across fruit machines and tables. While Celine Dion wailed over the speakers, a young, balding man had fallen against a slot machine, his fingers around a pork rib taken from the buffet. Just out of sight of the machines, a hostess wearing a glittery costume, a peacock headdress and a thick coating of makeup was lying with her face in a line of coke, straw dangling from her nose.
Although most of Mexico City was asleep since it was two in the morning, the red-light district was still filled with punters. Car horns were blaring non-stop as sex workers had fallen back from the policemen they were straddling. Late night clubbers and early morning delivery drivers in London had all collapsed where they stood. And fifty miles away, in Icking, near Worthing, Natasha had stopped getting ready for school. Halfway through putting on her socks she had tipped sideways onto her bed.
The minutes ticked by and the sleep continued. The insomniacs, the busy, the lazy – all united in slumber.
Outside Natasha’s house a light rain had started, speckling the cars. A black cat sat licking its paws at the side of the road. Then it stopped, looked at the ground in alarm, and in one graceful movement leapt onto a wall, making a low yowling moan, its tail waving as it sniffed the air. Nothing happened for a moment, and then with the faintest creaking the road lifted up and a small tarmac wave rolled down the white lines. The cat bolted along the wall and disappeared over a fence. Then another wave lifted and rolled beneath the cars parked along it. A large removal truck sailed down the road towards the battered Ka belonging to Natasha’s dad. As the truck hit the bumper, another wave lifted and carried it away.
Not only the tarmac was morphing. Cars wobbled and bulged, small bubbles of paint were popping and settling. Lampposts bent as if the weight of light was too much, bowing to the liquid road. With a slight shiver, and the smell of freshly mixed concrete, paving slabs shifted as if they’d been laid on molten lava. Then the slabs themselves became square pools of concrete with insects skating on the surface between stones that popped up and bobbed. Natasha didn’t wake when the mattress she was lying on bulged and collapsed beneath her, the material oozing into her mouth and around her eyes. She didn’t wake when the walls bowed in, squashing the furniture so it dented like marshmallow.
At the local supermarket, the shelves creaked as the metal struts puddled on the floor, then slowly rose again, leaving only a few packets of cornflakes spilled onto the now liquid ground.
The postman of Icking was leaning against a wall, three bills and a package containing a hairdryer still clutched in his hand, as the bricks against his cheek became as soft as dough and oozed around him. His nose was slowly sinking when with a pop he bounced back out, unharmed, still sleeping.
For three hours the streets, buildings and vehicles across every continent wriggled and floated as curious, intrusive intent took control, flexing and claiming. As the hours moved on, the movement slowed. All distorted objects came to rest exactly as they had been.
When everybody woke up four hours and sixteen minutes later, the world looked virtually unchanged, nobody suspected all life was now waiting to upend. Nobody knew that the Wave had begun.
‘I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.’
Word of the day: Dealate– insect divested of its wings
One mystery is solved! The encyclopedia of all important knowledge, Calmgrove, knew why buildings in the UK have so many stone babies and small children scattered around them. Here is his brilliant explanation.
‘Fat winged babies: these are called putti, Italian for ‘male children’. They were originally a pagan figure, a representation of Aphrodite’s child Eros, better known to us as Cupid, but substituted for cherubs in Christian iconography. Cherubs themselves derive from Hebrew cherubim, fearsome angelic beings but over time tamed down to podgy infants with ridiculously inadequate wings.
As to the St Paul’s putti, I suspect some of them are a reflection of London’s poor — the orphans, beggars, climbing boys, young pedlars — a reproach to passers-by and an encouragement to engage in some charitable work.’
I love the idea of pudgy infants with only vestigial wings so that they can no longer fly, dodo angels.
The alien space tank on the roof of a building has not been so clearly explained. An air conditioning unit (thank you Boo) and overhead Gantry Crane (thank you Darnell) are two excellent suggestions. I’m not going to spin this into a drama, but all I’m saying is, keep an eye out for inexplicable alien space tanks appearing on top of buildings in your town.