It's important to take regular breaks...

I am on holiday this week and next week and I have just been told that my family (who are travelling up from Cornwall) have just been left behind by the Megabus they were on.  So I'm having a bit of a 'mare!

Anyway, in lieu of any biting social-educational commentary this week, I thought I would provide an extract of a children's book that I am in the middle of writing.

As always, comments, spelling corrections, etc. are welcome!



Extract from Slipstream 
by Carl Headley-Morris

“Sarah,” said her mother, in a very exhausted tone suggestive of having lived the same argument over and over again, like a bad song stuck on repeat, “if you’re going to be so childish about the whole thing then I don’t see the point in continuing.”  

“Fine!” Sarah shouted, “Don’t continue it.  Just leave me alone!”

“I can’t just leave you alone, young lady, this is serious.  It’s the third time this week that you’ve…”

“Young lady?!  Mum, I’m not five!  You can’t young lady me anymore.”

“You’re right,” the voices on both sides were getting louder, “you’re not five anymore.  Not that anyone would notice judging by your behaviour lately.”

“Sarcasm?  Really, mum?  That’s mature.”  She performed a slow clap, the delightful irony lost on her for the moment.  “Did they teach you that in parent school?”

Her mother let out a noise.  It was supposed to be a disbelieving exhalation, but sounded, in truth, more like the quack of a constipated duck.  “I wish there was a parenting school, then I could…”

“Oh no you don’t,” Sarah interrupted, “you’d fail every single subject.  Trust me.”  Sarah quickly weighed up the pros and cons of being a smart-arse.  She decided the collateral damage would be worth it.  “And it’s were, the situation is completely impossible so you would use the subjunctive.  Looks like you’d fail real school, too.”

“Go to your room, Sarah, I don’t want to see you for the rest of the night.”

“Suits me.  I don’t want to see you again for the rest of my life.  If I were old enough, I’d leave!”

And with that, she stomped up the stairs to her room.  The slam of the door reverberated around the whole house.

Once inside her bedroom, Sarah picked up the nearest object and threw it (checking first that it was soft enough not to break - she was angry with her mother, not her stuff).  Having thrown a stuffed elephant, she then threw herself on to her bed, face down, and let out a scream.

Sarah was not known to scream into pillows.  She was not known to scream at all, truth be told, and this was probably why what happened next did not seem unusual until it was entirely too late.

The scream seemed to fill the room.  The noise was all-engulfing and altogether more present that the scream of a young girl should have been.  It sounded like the very walls of reality were being ripped apart.  The sort of shriek that would cause banshees to pause in shamed disbelief.  And it continued long after her lungs had emptied themselves of air.  Then there was the light, or lack of it.  Sarah had rolled onto her back when she noticed her scream had outstayed its welcome and saw the room, sort of, well, melt.  No, not melt exactly, but the colour had definitely drained, like the room was suddenly very poorly and about to be sick.  Then, apparently not wanting to be outdone, the noise kicked things up a notch, tuning from a demonic shriek to a deafening moaning and groaning.  The sound an ocean liner would make if it were to be squeezed into a balloon made of wet latex.  Then the lights decided to join the dance, flashing and swaying, despite an eerie lack of breeze.  At the very point that reality seemed to have been stretched just a little too far, it popped.  That was the only way to describe it.  There was a loud pop, everything seemed to swell for a second before disappearing altogether, and then there was silence.  Except for a frustratingly similar ping sound every few seconds.  

Sarah rubbed her eyes and looked around.  There was too much going on to make sense of, so her brain decided to focus on the tall, skinny man wearing a smart suit and bowler hat, who was looking down at her.

“Where did you come from?”  He said.


The room was anything but normal, assuming that her bedroom was the standard being used for normal.  It would have been a perfectly normal room, to the point of boring, if one were to compare it to, say, a submarine.  There certainly were a lot of lights and levers and buttons and holes in the metal floor.  But her bedroom?  Not a bit of it.  Where were the posters of ponies, puppies and boy bands?  Where were the straight walls for that matter (these ones were definitely curved)?  And what was that pinging sound?  There was also the curious feeling that the room was moving.  Sarah couldn’t work out whether it was moving quickly or slowly, but it was moving.  She felt like she was in an elevator but going along the ground instead of up or down.  Where was she?  How had she got there?  On a more positive note, the rage she was feeling had yielded the floor to confusion, so there was that.  And the man.  Why was there a man?

“Well?”  He asked, the merest touch of frustration creeping in.

“Well what?”

“Where.  Did.  You.  Come.  From?”

“Where did I come from?  That’s rich!  Where did you come from?  And what’s happened to my room?”

“Your room?  As in, bedroom?”  Now it was the man’s turn to look confused.  He turned to a console and tapped a few buttons.  The pinging was still there.  “Oh!”  He said eventually.  “Well, that makes more sense than anything else, I guess.”  He turned back to Sarah and extended a hand to help her up to her feet.  “By any chance,” he began slowly, narrowing one of his eyes to a squint, “are you an Etherial?”

Sarah thought for a while.  “No.”

The man was still mono-squinting.  “Are you sure?  You might be and just not know it.  The world seems to be full of people who think they are normal and end up being absolutely essential to the proper functioning of the universe.  May I just…”  He plucked a hair from Sarah’s head.

“Ouch!”  She shouted, punching him in the arm.

“Ow.”  Said the man, genuinely surprised at her reaction.  “I’m trying to help.  I can analyse the DNA in your hair and clear up this whole mess.  Won’t take a jiffy.”  He swiveled heal-and-toe, placed the strand of hair in a recess in the wall and tapped on more buttons.   “It’ll be great if you are an Etherial, I must say; it’ll make my job so much easier.”

“I’m not.”  she said, matter of factly.  “You’re going to be disappointed.”

“You’re sure?  Have you ever felt like you were in the wrong place; the wrong time, even?”

Sarah thought about it.  “Well, yes, sometimes.  More often than not, recently, actually.”

“Mmmhmm.  And on a scale of one to ten, how well would you say you understand your immediate family?”

“Ha!  Minus 3!”

“Well, it would add up.  How exciting!”

“But this doesn’t make any sense,” began Sarah, starting to take some tentative steps around the room.  “How could I be an… Ephemeral?”


“Etherial, whatever, how could I be one?  I’ve been just a normal girl for as long as I can remember.  I mean, I’ve lived in the same house ever since I was born.”

“Well that’s not true, is it?  I’m assuming your first address was some sort of hospital.  It’s perfectly possible that you went from the hospital to your Etherium training ground where you had your implant placed in some sort of dormant state until now, exactly when I needed you.  It’s happened before.  They usually put it in the pituitary gland - it makes it hard to spot, or accidentally dislodge.  That can be nasty!”

“It that true?”  She asked, a little too enthusiastically.  Had the man been paying attention he would have picked up on the sarcasm in her voice.

“Oh yes.  Clever bunch, the Etherials.”

“Right from the hospital?”


“And my parents?”

“Either wouldn’t have noticed or wouldn’t have known.”  He looked away from the glowing recess for the first time since placing the hair.  “Or, on very rare occasions, they would have been in total compliance.”  He turned back to adjust some controls.  “That usually happens when one Etherial creates another.  It’s a very special thing.”

There was a droning beep and the glowing recess stopped glowing.  Some paper tape ticked its way out and the man ripped it off and read it excitedly.

“Oh,” he said, dropping his arms.  “You’re not an Etherial.”

“I wasn’t born in a hospital either.”

“Stable?” he asked hopefully.

“Kitchen.  Quite unexpectedly by all accounts.  I wasn’t due for a few days.”

“So you’re not special at all.”


“Sorry, but I was kind of hoping.”   He sighed.  “Well, I guess that brings us back to: Who are you?”

“Erm, no.  Who are you?  You’re the one who’s kidnapped me, the least you can do is give your name.”

“Kidnapped?  That’s rich!  I haven’t kidnapped you; I don’t even know where you came from.  You could be a spy.”  He stopped short.  “Are you a spy?”

Now it was Sarah’s time to sigh.  “No.  Why?  Are you worth spying on?”

“I’d like to think so.  I’m very important.  In some circles.  If you’re not a spy, you’re a stowaway.  how did you get aboard my duck?”

“Stowaway?!  First of all, mister whoever-you-are, I am not a stowaw… duck?  Did you say duck?”

“Yes.  You’re in my duck.  I want to know why.”

“Okay, now I’m totally lost.  What do you mean, duck?  Does that stand for something?”

“No.  Well, I mean, it could.  I guess.  But it doesn’t.”

“So we’re on a duck?”

The man laughed.  Out loud.  A very tickled oh-my-gosh-are-you-hearing-this kind of laugh.  “N-ho-ho-o!  We’re,” gasp, “we’re not on the duck.  That would be absurd.”

“Oh.  Then…”

“We’re in the duck.” He allowed his giggle to die to a chuckle.  “On the duck, teehee…”  He suddenly became much more serious, “if we were on the duck, we’d both be dead.”

A while ago, Sarah’s anger had gone to the green room of her brain, where all the emotions and better-known fantasies go to calm down and have a drink.  Having exchanged a few long-term memories and accidentally created at least three new phobias, it left.  Brushing off some crumbs from its chinos, it strolled back over to the stage of Sarah’s emotions, thanked confusion for stepping in at such short notice, and took up where it left off.

“Fine.  IN the duck.  Whatever.  Who the hell are you and where the hell am I?”

The man in the suit and top hat either didn’t notice the change in tone or didn’t care.  Still chuckling, he began:

“We are in a sort of ship, I suppose.  It’s shaped like a duck.  But a big one, you haven’t been shrunk or anything, nothing weird like that.  And you are, well, we are in the Void.”  He offered his hand again.  This time to shake hers.  “My name is Spindle.”

Carl Headley Morris