Hamish and the gravitybu.., p.1
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       Hamish and the GravityBurp, p.1
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           Danny Wallace
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Hamish and the GravityBurp


  To the American . . . welcome from us all!

  Danny Wallace

  For Ingrid and Shaun - for all their support, gravity or not.

  Jamie Littler

  Oh!

  Oh, it’s YOU!

  I recognise you.

  Do you know how?

  From your grubby little fingerprints when you first picked up this book.

  I knew then and there it was you!

  There was the smell too, of course. I don’t have to tell you that you have a very distinct smell. A very unusual aroma. A wonderfully unique bouquet.

  But, in the interest of politeness, I think it might be best to ignore your incredible stink for now.

  Anyway, I bet you’re wondering how a simple book could recognise your fingerprints and pick up on your stink, so let me tell you.

  Sometimes you might think the thing you’re looking at is just a thing that you’re looking at.

  You might think that thing is normal. That it’s completely and utterly ordinary.

  But wait – look a little closer, and you might find that it’s . . .

  Special.

  Lots of things are like that. Books. Places. People. Your mum’s awful cooking.

  Each one has something really special about it. OK, maybe not your mum’s cooking.

  So, yes, this book may look like it’s just a normal, completely and utterly ordinary book.

  But it’s not.

  It’s a book written just for you.

  That’s right. Before you picked it up and flicked through it, none of the words and pictures were here. In fact, the whole book was blank, just waiting for you . . .

  Because this book is your ticket into a secret organisation.

  And this book knows all about YOU.

  It knows that the other day you had cake. It knows your birthday is less than a year away. It knows that secretly you love your mum’s cooking.

  And this book also knows something terrifying: that the people of Earth face their gravest, grimmest threat yet.

  A threat so grave and so grim that if I just came out and told you what it was, your hair would turn white, your teeth would fall out, your legs would turn into apples and you’d marry a cat.

  So, in the interests of you not marrying a cat, let me start by telling you what’s happening in the small, normal, completely and utterly ordinary town of Starkley. A town you may already be familiar with. One which has had to deal with some very unusual occurrences over the past few months. And the same town in which Hamish Ellerby, a normal, completely and utterly ordinary ten-year-old boy, has just returned home . . .

  . . . to find that something absolutely

  Up, Up and Wahey!

  Hamish Ellerby burst through the door of his home and was shocked to find his mum and brother lying flat on their backs.

  Both of them. Flat on their backs.

  Flat on their backs . . . on the ceiling!

  ‘Help! We’re stuck up here!’ Jimmy shouted, looking panicked and confused, because being stuck on the ceiling doesn’t happen to big brothers that often. ‘Why are we stuck on the ceiling?’

  It wasn’t just them up there either. There was a bowl of fruit too. Six batteries. And a wind-up meerkat.

  A disgusting, bleurghy sound bowled through the small town of Starkley, rattling teacups and dentures in glasses.

  And, as Hamish glanced around the living room of 13 Lovelock Close, more objects were rising up, up, up into the air.

  Vases! Cushions! Magazines!

  The TV remote! A pencil! Mum’s packet of chocolate Mustn’tgrumbles!

  All of them gently drifting upwards, spookily lifting off from chairs and coffee tables – that were now starting to slowly rise up themselves.

  Pictures and frames left their hooks and scraped their way up the walls.

  Every carpet fibre stood to attention and shook.

  The TV was just floating in mid-air, straining against the plug in the wall, like a dog pulling at its leash.

  ‘What’s going ON?’ yelled Mum. ‘I can’t hang around on the ceiling all day – I’ve got things to DO!’

  This was NOT NORMAL.

  Hamish and his dad had been sitting on the grass by the town square when it had started.

  Hamish noticed it first: a small chocolate bar had started twitching on the ground beside him. Then a can began to float near a bin. He’d watched a football shoot off into the atmosphere like a firework, then the leaves from trees start to break away and fly straight upwards too. It was amazing. It was beautiful somehow. He could have stayed there all day and watched this weirdness.

  It was when he could feel himself getting lighter too that his dad had pulled him towards the safety of home.

  ‘Hamish!’ shouted his mum, now splayed out like an upside-down starfish. ‘You’re rising too!’

  WHAT?

  Hamish looked at his feet. They weren’t on the floor any more. He tried to run, but his feet had nothing to run on and, as his legs spun wildly around like he was swimming in the air, he grabbed onto his dad. The two of them began to float quickly up to the ceiling!

  ‘Oi! Get off!’ shouted Jimmy, as Hamish drifted up and lay flat across him. ‘I need my space!’

  Jimmy was fifteen and always going on about how he needed his space.

  ‘I can’t help it!’ said Hamish, face to face with him. ‘Gravity’s gone funny! It’s happening all over town!’

  Now Hamish’s messy mop of hair was getting in Jimmy’s nostrils.

  ‘Get your hair out of my face!’ yelled Jimmy.

  ‘Get your face out of my hair!’ yelled Hamish.

  ‘Aaaachoooo!’ sneezed Jimmy, and a long trail of bright yellow snot flew from his nose and missed Hamish by millimetres.

  ‘That was close,’ said Hamish, relieved. ‘You nearly used me as a hankie!’

  But gravity had plans for that long trail of snot.

  As it spun towards the floor, it sloooooowed, stopped, then began to rise, doubling back towards them.

  ‘The snot’s coming back!’ yelled Jimmy, trying to push Hamish in its way. ‘The snot wants revenge!’

  It was like a creepy, thin snake, climbing high into the air, getting closer, closer, closer, twirling and turning and sloppy and wet . . .

  Hamish and Jimmy scrabbled against one another, desperate to get out of the way of the levitating snot snake.

  And then, like there had been a thunderclap no one could hear, the spell was broken.

  ‘Watch out!’ yelled Hamish’s dad, as all four members of the Ellerby family hung for a second, then came crashing back down to the ground.

  Hamish landed in an armchair.

  Jimmy landed heavily on top of him.

  Mum and Dad bounced off the sofa and onto the floor.

  Vases crashed after them. The TV fell and fizzed and cracked. The room rained cushions and magazines and pencils and wind-up meerkats.

  And, a second or so later, that long, wet trail of snot slopped itself across Jimmy’s hair and face.

  ‘I SLIMED myself!’ he wailed, horrified.

  For a moment more, everything was quiet.

  Then the bangs started. Small ones at first.

  Bang! Bang! Bang!

  ‘What’s that?’ said Hamish, worried, creeping closer to his mum for protection. Her hair was pointing in the air, like a mad punk. She’d been using hairspray just before the gravity had changed and now it had set that way.

  ‘Look outside,’ said his dad, and Hamish pressed his face up against the window.

  BANG! BANG! BANG!

  Apples that had shot up into the air were now on their way back down, and bouncing off the roofs of Lovelock Close.

  BANG! BANG!


  BANG BANG BANG!

  Anything that hadn’t been nailed down had gone up, up, up and was now coming down, down, down. Pine cones. Coke cans. Shoes. Footballs. Bins. Garden chairs. Last night’s macaroni pizza.

  Hamish watched, wide-eyed, as across the street bicycles crashed to Earth.

  Car alarms went off.

  A cat landed in a pond.

  Mr Ramsface was clinging to the guttering next door and shouting words he really should not be shouting.

  ‘Right!’ said Hamish’s dad, reaching for the phone. ‘This calls for a town meeting.’

  And, as phones began to ring all over the place, the people of Starkley crept out of their homes to stare up at the skies, curious and frightened.

  Not a single one of them could have known that things were about to get much, much worse.

  Things Get Worse

  Starkley was in an absolute ding-dong.

  Nothing was in its proper place any more. Nothing was where it should have been.

  It looked like your room.

  ‘What on earth just happened?’ yelled Madame Cous Cous, waving her stick around as she bundled into Winterbourne School hall. ‘My whole sweet shop is upside down! There are Cantonese Caramel Carbuncles all over the ceiling! Next-door’s dog flew through my window and ate all the Falaraki Fizz Whizzers! His hair’s standing on end and he won’t stop making a popping noise! And I’ve lost my glasses!’

  She said all this to a small fire extinguisher she must have thought was a very short, red-faced man.

  ‘Your glasses have floated up into your hair!’ said Hamish’s teacher, Mr Longblather, whose usually droopy moustache was now pointing straight at his eyebrows. ‘And never mind that popping dog. Poor little Manjit Singhdaliwal floated off and ended up in a tree in Frinkley! We had to send two fire engines to get him down!’

  The people of Starkley were in a panic. Everyone felt extremely unsettled, as you might expect when the very laws of nature have been unexpectedly trifled with.

  ‘And what was that disgusting noise?’ demanded Winterbourne School’s head teacher, Frau Fussbundler. ‘That huge massive sound? I thought Grenville Bile had food poisoning again.’

  Hamish stayed at the side of the room with his dad. Dad hadn’t said much since they arrived at the town meeting; he just stood there with a dark expression on his face, like he was thinking something through.

  Over in the corner, Mr Slackjaw had a big white bandage wrapped round his head where he’d bopped it on the ceiling of his garage, Slackjaw’s Motors. It would have been okay, he said, if, when the world had gone back to normal, all his spanners hadn’t then rained down on his bonce.

  Just like everyone else, Mr Slackjaw had lots of questions. Why had his spanners all flown up into the air? Why had they all fallen straight down again? Did his spanners hate him? Unlike everyone else, all his questions were about spanners.

  More and more people arrived with more and more questions. Did you see? What happened to you? Could it happen again? The hubbub and chatter got noisier and noisier.

  All of this was particularly confusing because, as you might know, Starkley used to be such a very boring town indeed. It had been a town in which nothing ever happened and no one had anything to talk about. If it had been a colour, it would have been Yawn Brown. If it had been a biscuit, it would have been a Belgian Bore-bon.

  But, just recently, things had changed. Now Starkley was a town in which lots of things went on. It had been at the centre of a WorldStoppers invasion, overrun by shadowy, creepy monsters called the Terribles. And also where Hamish and his friends had come up with a plan to stop an evil mastermind from taking over TWO universes at once. All in all, it had been an eventful few months. Far from being boring, Starkley was now a town where Hamish and his best friend Alice had to always be ready to think quickly in case another new disaster was about to befall it.

  Actually – where was Alice? If there was a time for collective quick thinking, it was now, but Hamish couldn’t see—

  ‘ALWAYS BE PREPARED!’ came a voice, quite suddenly, and Hamish jumped as Alice slapped him on the back of his head.

  ‘What are you doing?’ said Hamish, shocked.

  ‘Getting ready!’ said Alice, delighted, kneeling down to tie the laces of her cherry-red army boots. ‘It’s exciting! Something’s happening, Hamish! Something involving the laws of space and time and gravity and whatnot. We need to get everyone in the PDF together to figure out what’s going on. The greatest minds in Starkley! And Venk!’

  She leapt up again and struck a karate pose. Then she relaxed and took out a nut and pickle baguette from her combat shorts and started to munch.

  Alice was the founding member of the Pause Defence Force – also known as the PDF – the gang Hamish and his closest friends belonged to. She hated being bored. It was so boring. To her, any strange occurrence meant one thing: adventure. And, if adventure was coming, that meant two more things:

  1. You had to be prepared.

  2. You had to prepare a sandwich.

  Hamish, on the other hand, really felt like a rest. It had been ages since he’d just sat down and read a comic, or eaten a Chomp and watched telly. Sometimes he missed just being a kid. And it had only been about forty minutes since his last adventure!

  ‘What’s going on, Hamish?’ said his friend Buster, walking in. ‘I was in Mum’s ice-cream van when it happened. Suddenly all the Flakes shot out of the cones like bullets and splatted on the ceiling!’

  ‘Something is definitely up,’ said Elliot, walking in and adjusting his spectacles. ‘No pun intended.’

  ‘None taken,’ said Clover, the PDF’s master of disguise, following behind. Clover had obviously sensed things weren’t right and immediately raided her disguise box. She was now dressed as half-spy (in case she might need to be a spy) and half-pirate (in case she might need to be a pirate).

  Hamish also had questions that needed answers, and he knew the man to ask.

  ‘Hey, Dad . . .’ he said, turning round, but his dad wasn’t there any more. He was standing at the front of the hall with his hands behind his back and a very grim expression on his face.

  ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I have some news for you,’ he said, loudly, and everyone hushed up and turned to stare. ‘What we just experienced here in Starkley . . . was a GravityBurp.’

  ‘A . . . a what?’ someone said.

  Elliot whipped his pad out and started to make notes.

  ‘A GravityBurp. A momentary blip in gravity. A few seconds where everything is different and all the rules have changed.’

  Alice nudged Hamish and raised her eyebrows.

  See? Adventure! she seemed to be saying.

  But Hamish’s dad had already told him about GravityBurps. His dad, you see, was a member of something called Belasko: a super-special agency that operates secretly here on Earth, doing their best to keep our planet safe and secure from any threats whatsoever. Bad guys. Aliens. Monsters. Geography teachers. Babies that stink. Anyone.

  Hamish loved his dad so much. Not long ago, his dad had disappeared from the family home. He’d popped out to buy ice cream and crisps and didn’t come back. No one knew where he’d gone, or why. Now Hamish knew that his dad had to leave because he was trying to protect his family. But when his dad had left, Hamish had stared out of his living-room window for weeks, waiting for him to come home. Hamish had been overwhelmingly sad. He’d been anxious. He’d also been angry. Very angry. But he’d always tried never to let any of this show. And now he was just pleased to have his dad back.

  ‘So, here’s the problem,’ continued Hamish’s dad. ‘If we’ve experienced one GravityBurp, you can bet we’re going to experience another. Perhaps more than one. And – what’s more – they’re going to get worse.’

  Alice squeezed Hamish’s hand.

  ‘We need to tie everything down!’ yelled Madame Cous Cous, still addressing that fire extinguisher. ‘We need nails! And string! And parachutes!’ The fire e
xtinguisher didn’t reply. Madame Cous Cous had had enough of its rudeness so whacked it with her stick.

  ‘We’re going to have to work together,’ said Hamish’s dad. ‘We’re going to have to move fast, not panic and think on our feet. We’re going to have to—’

  But he stopped talking as the doors of Winterbourne School opened with a BANG.

  Everyone jumped. In fact, the whole room seemed to shake.

  In the doorway stood a tall, sniffy, narrow-shouldered woman with a large nose and a fearsome expression. But the oddest thing about her was that she was wearing a neck cone. The sort you see on dogs when they come out of the vet’s.

  The woman stared at the people of Starkley. The people of Starkley stared at her.

  She had a blush of angry pink hair combed into a proud and enormous beehive. She wore a flowery green dress and a string of old pearls that looked like they’d rather be anywhere else. Without breaking eye contact, she pulled out a clipboard from her alligator handbag, adjusted her neck cone and began to speak.

  ‘Good, you’re all here,’ she said, then began to walk slowly towards the stage.

  CLUMP CLUMP CLUMP went her heavy feet. The floorboards squeaked under her weight. She reminded Hamish of Grenville Bile’s favourite Mexican wrestler, El Gamba.

  ‘I didn’t get a reply to my letter,’ she said, and everyone turned to look at Grenville’s blushing mum, who had gained a reputation over the years for only delivering maybe 3 per cent of Starkley’s letters. ‘But I see you are all here anyway. So let’s begin.’

  Literally nobody knew who this woman was or why she was here. But everyone decided the safest thing to do would be to just play along. She seemed important and like she was here for a reason. She certainly seemed to think she was in charge. Best just pretend and let her get on with things.

 
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