Hamish and the Terrible, Terrible Christmas, p.1Danny Wallace
Look out for more adventures from Danny Wallace!
First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd
A CBS COMPANY
Text copyright © 2015 Danny Wallace
Illustrations copyright © 2015 Jamie Littler
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Danny Wallace and Jamie Littler to be identified as the author and illustrator of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
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Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney
Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-47114-560-5
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
1 Merry Christmas, Hamish!
2 Up and At ’Em!
3 The Cliffs
5 Land Ahoy!
6 Silent Night
7 Morning is Broken
8 Snow Joke
9 All Creatures Great and Terrible
10 Let’s Go!
11 Let It Snow
12 The End of the Beginning
Hamish and the Neverpeople
Merry Christmas, Hamish!
Hamish Ellerby lay in bed and squeezed his eyes shut.
If there was one thing he knew for certain, it was that he was about to have the best sleep ever.
Lots of kids can’t sleep on Christmas Eve. They’re too busy thinking about Santa and presents and whether their uncle Jeremy will eat all the Brussels sprouts and stink out the front room again.
But Hamish never had any trouble sleeping. He just wanted the night out of the way. It was very late and tomorrow would be a BIG day.
Everyone would be up at six am, for a start.
In the Ellerby household, Hamish and his older brother Jimmy would fling themselves out of bed and rush to the tree in the living room.
They’d sit and wait and stare at the presents.
And then they’d sit and wait and stare some more.
At five past six, Jimmy would quietly feel the wrapping and make wild guesses about what they might contain.
‘I think Mum’s got me a piranha!’ he’d say, holding up what was quite obviously a book. ‘Or maybe it’s a motorbike!’
Then the two boys would sit and wait and stare some more.
At about quarter to eight, Dad would finally get up and have a really long wee which the whole house would hear. Sometimes these wees were so long that Hamish thought his dad must be just standing there, drinking a never-ending bottle of water, constantly refilling himself. Meanwhile the boys would be inching closer to the presents, ready for . . .
Mum would blow her Special Christmas Whistle, and Hamish and Jimmy would dive forward, tearing their presents open and making wild whooping sounds, even if all that was inside was just a packet of nuts or a thimble.
Then Dad would drive to the 24-hour garage to buy batteries for all the things he’d forgotten to buy batteries for and pick up some Chocolate Mustn’tgrumbles or a newspaper to give to Mum as an extra present, while she made her special Christmas fry-up.
After that it would be playing and cartoons, a visit to Madame Cous Cous’s International World of Treats, and then, just before lunchtime, all the residents of the town would head to the school hall to sing songs and wish everyone a happy Christmas. That was a nice bit. They’d all sing the official Starkley Christmas Song, written by Hamish’s teacher, Mr Longblather. It didn’t rhyme very well or make much sense, because Mr Longblather was better at teaching geography than music. It went:
Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
Except that it goes on.
It goes on for about fifteen minutes!
Just the same words over and over!
Then, at last – it would be off to crowd around the town clock. The clock was the symbol of Starkley. Starkley just wouldn’t be Starkley without it. Everyone would pretend to listen to the mayor making a speech, and then he’d switch on all the brightly-coloured lights all around it, and everyone would clap and eat biscuits and go home for a big Christmas dinner.
It was going to be GREAT! So Hamish knew it was vital he fell asleep as quickly as possible, to get the boring night bit out of the way.
But just as his eyes had gone droopy, and his arms limp, and his pillow was starting to go soggy from all his drool . . .
‘Hamish!’ came a voice in an urgent half-whisper. ‘HAMISH!’
Up and At ’Em!
Hamish did one of those weird jolty sleep jumps you sometimes make.
His eyes shot open.
‘Hamish, wake up,’ said the voice, now a little louder.
‘Dad?’ said Hamish.
He flicked his bedside light on and aimed it at the door, to see his father, Angus Ellerby, dressed all in black and with his hands on his hips.
On Dad’s top was a small image of a sunflower with two wings; the official logo of Belasko. The company his dad pretended just made boring things like matches and tiles and paper – but which was actually in charge of protecting the world from its enemies.
‘Put your suit on,’ said Dad. ‘There’s trouble.’
Now, those of you who have read about Hamish before might be wondering why on earth he didn’t freak out when he saw his dad. After all, Hamish’s dad was missing, wasn’t he?
But this was all happening the very same Christmas he disappeared! Before Hamish and his friends ganged up to take on evil themselves!
But hang on, I can hear you thinking. Hamish didn’t know his dad was some kind of super-agent back then, did he?
Well, I really think you need to start trusting people more. You seem to have serious issues in that department. Just go with it, because everything will become clear very soon . . .
Hamish met his dad at the foot of the stairs, lit by the glow of the Christmas lights from the living room.
They were wearing matching outfits now. Black trousers, a black top, black cap, black army boots and, of course, the Belasko patch.
‘What do you mean there’s trouble?’ asked Hamish, snapping on his gloves.
Hamish had known his dad was a Belasko agent for some time now, ever since the night of his tenth birthday, when he couldn’t sleep and had heard his dad talking on the phone to someone called Alex.
He’d used words like ‘invasion’, ‘monsters’, ‘evil’ and ‘aliens’. It was very hard for Dad to pretend it was a normal work call with an assistant regional manager after that!
It was super-important to keep all this a secret from Mum. She was such a worrier. She wouldn’t even have let Hamish have a stick insect, because she thought he might poke himself in the eye with it. And even though Hamish and his brother talked about everything, he couldn’t tell Jimmy, because Jimmy was on Twitter and there is nothing a fourteen-year-old won’t tell people on Twitter.
So it was Hamish and Dad’s secret.
In return for keeping quiet, Dad had been giving him basic agent training. They’d pretend the
But Hamish had never been part of an actual real-life mission before.
‘Come on,’ said his dad. ‘To the car!’
The Vectra seemed to purr as they motored through Starkley.
Everything was dark and twinkly and lit by the orange blush of the streetlights. The town’s big Christmas tree, with its baubles and tinsel, looked beautiful. The nativity scene was in place. There were decorations in every window, and the town clock told them it was nearly midnight. It seemed like everybody was tucked up in bed except Hamish and his dad.
‘Look!’ said Hamish, pointing up at the sky. ‘It’s starting to snow!’
All the kids of Starkley wanted was a white Christmas. Everyone wanted Christmas to be like it is on TV, instead of the usual grey and wind and drizzle. Well, not this year! They could get their sleds out! It was going to be ace!
‘Focus, Hamish,’ said his dad as they raced down Flycatcher Lane. They were headed for the old grey bridge. That meant that soon they’d be at the cliffs.
‘Where are we going, Dad?’ asked Hamish, worried.
Kids weren’t really allowed over the old grey bridge, much. His dad certainly warned him off it.
‘It seems there’s a plan afoot,’ said his dad. ‘A plan to rob Starkley of its morale.’
Hamish didn’t really know what that meant, so didn’t say anything, because he didn’t want to seem like he wasn’t a real agent. But it sounded bad.
Over the bridge they drove, and soon they were motoring down a small road, surrounded by dark swaying trees. It was stormier here and the rising roar of the nearby sea gave Hamish goosepimples. The snow was growing heavier, but without all the lights and general feeling of goodwill, it didn’t feel like Christmas had reached this bit of town at all. But Hamish was with his dad, and his dad made him feel brave. Plus he was in uniform, and costumes do wonders for bravery. That’s why right now I’m dressed as a cowboy.
Dad slowed the car to a halt.
‘I brought you here because it’s important you know what we’re up against,’ he said. ‘I want you to see it first-hand. In case you ever need to act.’
Hamish nodded, but again didn’t really know what his dad meant. Act? He rarely needed to act. He’d been cast as a mouse in the last school play and didn’t even have any lines. He just had to squeak and then walk off.
Dad opened the car door and Hamish followed suit. They padded through some undergrowth and into some bushes and before they knew it they were right at the edge of the cliffs.
‘Look!’ said his dad, over the crash of the waves.
Down there, in the violent sea, was a huge black shape.
As Hamish’s eyes adjusted, he realised it was a ship. But not a ferry, or a galleon . . . it was some kind of enormous grey battleship!
On the side, in shaky white letters, was scrawled . . .
‘What does HMS mean?’ asked Hamish.
‘It stands for Her Majesty’s Ship,’ said his dad. ‘But this does not look like one of the Queen’s.’
It certainly didn’t. And it seemed very unlikely she was on board. It was Christmas Eve. She was probably trying to guess what her presents were or watching telly.
And this ship was fearsome. It was long and sharp and as grey as a shark. Huge waves battered against it, but it held still and firm.
Hamish heard the distant eery clanking of a bell and then . . .
‘What on EARTH is THAT?’ said Hamish, suddenly and absolutely terrified.
On the deck of the ship, a large black shadow had appeared. It looked ginormous. No, forget that. It looked super-ginor-massive!
But it soon became clear it wasn’t one thing – it was many.
A dozen thrunkling, hurkling shapes huffered about, shifting crates. Hamish’s dad crouched and sighed.
‘Terribles,’ he said, gravely.
‘What?!’ asked Hamish, who’d never seen such things before. ‘Why are they called Terribles?’
‘Well . . .’ said his dad, wondering how to put this. ‘It’s mainly because they’re terrible.’
Which was obvious now he’d said it.
‘Terribles are sent to do whatever terrible things their masters want,’ Dad continued, handing Hamish some binoculars. ‘Here. What else can you see?’
Hamish pressed them to his eyes and immediately put them down again.
Terribles were disgusting! Slithery, scaly, spitty, clawy and gross. Bigger than Dad, with mean eyes and beige teeth.
Bravely, Hamish took another look. What he saw confused him.
‘They’re carrying enormous heaters!’ he said. ‘And some kind of windmill! And they’ve got strange stripy hooks. And I can see a box marked EXPLOSIVES! And one of them is holding a picture of something . . .’
‘What is it, Hamish?’ said his dad, as the wind rose and snowflakes danced around them. ‘Look harder.’
‘It’s a picture of the town clock!’
The air filled with the sound of a low, loud horn from the ship.
The trees around Hamish shook and vibrated. A huge dollop of snow dropped from a branch and landed on his head. And then another. But Hamish didn’t care. For far down below, three small boats dropped from the side of HMS CARRAS and crashed into the choppy waters. Slimy, sickly, slavering Terribles hurled themselves into them and began to row to shore.
‘What are they planning?’ asked Hamish, nervously. ‘Why are they here?’
‘They’re here,’ said his dad, importantly, ‘to ruin Christmas.’
‘Here’s what we know,’ said Dad, reversing the Vectra and spinning it round. ‘They’re working on a plan to turn the people of Starkley against each other. I’m not sure how, yet. But this must be the first stage. They want to ruin Christmas so that we don’t have any good memories of it and to start turning us against each other.’
Hamish thought about it as his dad drove. What did all this have to do with the town clock? Maybe the Terribles were going to blow it up with those explosives.
That seemed a little unnecessary, if you asked Hamish. A little dramatic. Maybe they should just give the clock to the Terribles. It always seemed to run a bit fast these days, anyway.
‘We’re going to have to follow the Terribles,’ said his dad. ‘It could be dangerous. Do you want to go home?’
Hamish did. He wanted to go home like nothing else. He wanted to climb back into his bed, pull his covers over his eyes and just hope Christmas went back to normal. But he couldn’t leave his dad to do this on his own. And what if he woke up and Christmas was never normal again? He would feel so guilty that he didn’t do more.
‘I’m coming with you,’ he said. ‘I’m a junior Belasko agent.’
‘Good lad,’ said his dad.
And he flipped down his sun shield and pressed a button Hamish had never seen before, marked TURBO. They BOOMED over the bridge.
Down at the shore, minutes later, Hamish and his dad hid in some bushes as the first of the Terribles’ rickety little boats made it to land.
‘Put this on,’ instructed his dad, handing Hamish a balaclava. ‘If they spot us, I don’t want them ever to recognise you.’
Hamish pulled it over his face.
The second and third boats arrived, and the twelve Terribles HEEEEAVED their equipment out.
The ground was white with snow now. On reflection, Hamish decided they probably shouldn’t have dressed enti
The beasts split up and moved slowly towards the town.
‘We’ll follow that group,’ said his dad, pointing at the most terrifying Terribles of all, and together the two Ellerbys stayed low and crept after them from a distance. They were heading into the forest. Hamish wanted to reach out for his dad’s hand. But he had to be brave.
‘It’s okay, H,’ said Dad. ‘Take my hand.’
The monsters’ giant heaters and tall windmills and boxes and hooks teetered perilously on their backs as they grunted and growled and left huge, heavy footprints in the snow.
After what seemed an age, one Terrible checked his map and signalled to the others. The snow was getting really heavy now, and the beasts were struggling. One of them got the giant heater out while his friends pushed the tall windmill to its feet.
It was up.
What were they doing?
A Terrible pulled at a cord to start the heater’s engine.
It wiped the snow from its eyes and tried again.
The heater’s metal grille glowed orange. Hamish felt the heat immediately.
Now the windmill had started. Slowly, the giant blades began to turn.
‘What’s happening?’ asked Hamish, as wave after wave of heat hit him and the trees began to sway from the sheer power of the wind.
Around them, the snowflakes began to shoot and shimmy madly in the air. Hamish realised that his face was now completely wet. His balaclava was stuck to his face. His legs were really heavy. He was soaked.
‘They’re melting the snow,’ said his dad. ‘They’re destroying our white Christmas! And then they’re going to steal our clock!’
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