Hamish and the worldstop.., p.1
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       Hamish and the WorldStoppers, p.1
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           Danny Wallace
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Hamish and the WorldStoppers


  For EB and Clo.

  With all my love.

  Danny Wallace

  For my sister Nicole,

  and her face.

  Jamie Littler

  First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd

  A CBS COMPANY

  Text copyright © Danny Wallace 2015

  Illustrations copyright © Jamie Littler 2015

  Design by Paul Coomey

  This book is copyright under the Berne Convention

  No reproduction without permission

  All rights reserved

  The right of Jamie Littler and Danny Wallace to be identified as the author and illustrator of this work respectively has been asserted by them in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988

  Simon & Schuster UK Ltd . 1st Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8HB

  www.simonandschuster.co.uk

  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

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

  PB ISBN: 978-1-4711-2388-7

  HB ISBN: 978-1-4711-2387-0

  eBook ISBN: 978-1-4711-2389-4

  Printed in the UK by CPI Cox and Wyman Ltd, Reading, Berkshire RG1 8EX

  Simon & Schuster Australia, Sydney . Simon & Schuster India, New Delhi

  Contents

  1. What on Earth?

  2. Boring!

  3. The Explorer

  4. Flash!

  5. What Would You Do?

  6. MADAME COUS COUS’S INTERNATIONAL WORLD OF TREATS

  7. Here We Go!

  8. Oh, No, It’s Grenville Bile!

  9. The Terrible News

  10. The Awful Truth

  11. Nightfall

  12. Something is Amiss!

  13. Detention!

  14. Let’s Make a Plan!

  15. The Wee Small Hours

  16. The Morning After the Night Before

  17. The Girl with the Blue Streak in Her Hair

  18. They Want What?

  19. Grevenge!

  20. Vantastic

  21. Pausewalkers Unite!

  22. The End is Nigh . . .

  23. The Others

  24. Revolution Revelation

  25. Taken!

  26. Action Stations

  27. Training Day

  28. Fairground Friday

  29. Well Done, Dexter!

  30. The Final Countdown

  31. Showdown

  32. This is It!

  33. The One Thing Left To Do

  34. The Depths

  35. One Week Later

  What on Earth?

  Hamish Ellerby’s eyes were the size of satsumas as he sat completely still in his chair.

  And he sat completely still because he was totally, utterly petrified.

  This was so strange.

  What on earth was going on?

  Seriously – what on earth?

  It had all happened in an instant. The scariest, coolest, most awful, most brilliant, most horrible, most wonderful thing.

  Hamish wanted to get up and look around. But he couldn’t. He was too frightened even to move a single muscle.

  This was incredi-weird!

  Just a matter of moments ago, gangly Mr Longblather had been leaning forward onto a desk using just his knuckles, the way he always did when he was about to ask Class 4E of Winterbourne School a question.

  ‘Who can tell me about soil erosion?’ he’d said, and everybody’s hearts had sunk at once, because if there’s anything more boring than soil erosion then no one’s told me about it. Mr Longblather was one of those particularly boring teachers, with a particular talent for making particularly boring things even more particularly boring than normal. In this respect, at least, Mr Longblather was absolutely extraordinary.

  When the question had been asked, Hamish had stared down at his pencil case and made his special ooh-let-me-think face. He ran his hand through the thick black hair his mum called ‘The Mess’ and squeezed his huge greeny-brown eyes shut, like he was really trying to come up with an answer. Sometimes he found this was enough to convince people he was thinking about soil erosion. (Fact: Hamish had never really thought about soil erosion. It was not something he was all that concerned about. To be honest, he didn’t even really know what soil erosion was.)

  ‘Soil erosion!’ Mr Longblather had repeated, now looking a little peeved. ‘Come on, 4E! Soil erosion!’

  Mr Longblather had then put his hands on his hips and sighed a deep sigh. Hamish kept looking at his pencil case.

  ‘Surely SOMEONE knows SOMETHING about—’

  And there he had paused . . .

  And Mr Longblather’s pause continued.

  This was quite a dramatic pause, Hamish had thought. It would be a good pause to have in a soap opera or a TV talent show, he decided. But the pause would be over soon, because pauses always end, don’t they? That’s why they’re a pause and not a stop.

  But this pause went on.

  And on.

  And on.

  And then on some more.

  In fact, no one said anything for ages. The class had never been so quiet. It was reeeeally very awkward.

  So finally, Hamish raised his head and put his hand up.

  But nothing happened.

  Mr Longblather didn’t say, ‘Hamish Ellerby, you wonderful pupil, please tell us everything you know about soil erosion.’

  And he didn’t say, ‘Hamish Ellerby, you are the saviour of this school, the greatest child in all the land, and possibly a future world-famous expert in the field of soil erosion.’

  He didn’t even say, ‘Come on then, Hamish, spill the beans!’

  Mr Longblather didn’t say anything at all.

  And that was when Hamish realised something was just a little bit wrong. Because when he finally looked up, Hamish could see that Mr Longblather was completely and utterly still.

  Frozen.

  A statue.

  Immobile.

  Not moving.

  Stuck.

  Stuck stuck.

  Well, this is odd, thought Hamish. He frowned and studied his teacher a little closer. Mr Longblather’s mouth was wide open, his fat pink tongue hovering near his two front teeth. Mr Longblather had a very thin, very droopy moustache that sort of looked quite sad to be there. It was so long it looked like it was trying to escape from his face. Hamish could see some drool glistening between its thin, brown, wiry hairs.

  And then Hamish noticed something even odder, if that was at all possible.

  A tiny ball of spit was hanging in the air just a few centimetres from Mr Longblather’s mouth. It caught the sunlight and glistened like a miniature star.

  It wasn’t unusual for Mr Longblather to shower his class with spit, of course. He was one of those teachers who spits when he talks. You know the type. The teacher that makes everyone fight over the seats at the back of their class. In fact, Mr Longblather was such a repeat offender of unwanted spittle-distribution that Astrid Carruthers’s mum even let her bring an umbrella to class. But it was unusual for a blob of the icky liquid to be stuck in mid-air.

  How was it just hanging there? It was fascinating! It made Hamish want to reach out and touch that little wet ball. This was probably the first time in his life he had ever actually wanted to touch someone else’s spit.

  He turned to see if the rest of 4E had noticed this little spit-star too, which is when he saw what really shocked him.

&n
bsp; They were all perfectly still too!

  Nobody was moving.

  The school bully, Grenville Bile, had one grubby, tubby little finger halfway up his nose and was making a face like he’d just smelled some really awful cheese.

  But he wasn’t moving.

  Colin Robinson had one skinny leg raised slightly off the ground and a very guilty look on his face.

  But he wasn’t moving.

  Brainy old Astrid Carruthers had her hands tightly gripped around the umbrella under her desk, ready to press ‘Open’ – just in case Mr Longblather turned to ask her a question and showered her in a monsoon of spittle.

  But Astrid Carruthers did not move one centimetre.

  Hamish started to sweat.

  ‘Hello?’ he said, but no one said hello back. His voice sounded enormous in this deathly silent classroom. ‘Hello . . . ?’ Next to him, his friend Robin was mid-blink. He looked like a photograph you’d probably want to delete.

  Hamish was starting to panic now. He looked out of the window and saw the school caretaker, Rex Ox. Maybe he could call out to him . . . But then Hamish realised Rex Ox’s feet seemed to be planted to the ground and his broad shoulders were perfectly still. The bright orange leaf blower he had in his hands was silent.

  And my goodness, look! Leaves were stuck in the air all around him!

  And there – over there, by the bins – a cat was leaping between two walls, except it was just sort of floating in mid-air!

  It looked like some kind of weird cat balloon.

  And then Hamish pressed his hands up against the window and stared up into the sky . . . because there was a plane! Stopped still! Like it was pinned to two clouds that weren’t moving either!

  Hamish’s eyes struggled to take everything in. They were getting wider and wider and wider and wider . . .

  What should he do? What do you do when the whole world stops?

  His mind raced. Come on, Hamish, think! He was a bright kid. He read a whole book about gravity once. He could spell ‘malovalent’.

  I mean ‘melovelant’.

  I mean ‘milevolunt.’

  Never mind! What I mean is, Hamish could spell loads of words.

  So was this a test? Or a dream? Or a joke? April Fool’s Day was last month.

  But was everyone in on this? Was Hamish Ellerby being made a fool of?

  Surely this weirdness was too much for a ten-year-old to deal with? So Hamish made a very important decision indeed. He knew just what to do.

  He would just do what everybody else was doing.

  Which was absolutely nothing at all.

  So Hamish just sat there. Quietly. Confused. Every now and again glancing at the clock on the wall, which was actually completely pointless, because the clock had stopped too.

  And the longer the pause became, the more Hamish began to realise that he was very, very afraid.

  What if the world never starts again? he thought, alone in the silence. What if this lesson about soil erosion just goes on and on forever?

  He noticed his hands had begun to gently tremble. He felt a bit like crying now. If the world never started again, he would be the only boy who could move in the whole of Starkley. Who would he play with? Would he ever be able to speak to his mum again? What if she’d stopped still too? Who’d make him sausage and mash? Who’d give him money for Chomps? But wait – worse than that . . . what if this was the end of the world?

  Hamish’s tummy turned and swirled like it had a badger in it. A very turny, swirly badger. One with a severe nervous condition and no real control of its legs.

  And still he waited.

  And then, after what could have been a minute or an hour or a whole month later . . .

  ‘—SOIL EROSION!’ Mr Longblather shouted, which startled Hamish so deeply his knees slapped against the roof of his desk. Then he felt that little shooting star of spit finish its journey and slop right on the end of his nose.

  But Hamish didn’t care! There was movement!

  The clock ticked again like nothing at all had happened. Somewhere a bell rang. One of Mr Longblather’s hairy knuckles cracked on the desk.

  Hamish glanced at Grenville, who was still foraging in his nostrils, trying to find what he always called the ‘fruits of my nose’. Outside, cars motored by. The cat landed safely and dashed behind some bins which rattled and rocked as she knocked them. Fat brown leaves danced around Rex Ox’s head as the leaf blower roared.

  Hamish felt such relief. Trees were swaying, shadows shifting, planes flying, clouds floating, wind blowing . . . and Mr Longblather still waited for his answer.

  ‘I am perfectly happy to keep asking until the end of time!’ he said, grumpily.

  And then everybody laughed as Colin Robinson farted.

  Boring!

  The best thing to do, Hamish decided, was just not to think about it.

  Why dwell on it? Dwelling on it was too worrying. Especially because . . . well . . . weird things like pauses that lasted forever didn’t happen in Starkley.

  In fact, exciting things never really happened in Starkley.

  An interesting fact about Starkley is that there are no interesting facts about Starkley.

  It was a small town right on the coast, meaning most of the cars that came into Starkley simply did a U-turn and drove off again. You could sit on the bench by the big clock and just watch cars arrive in town and then turn round again. Lots of people sat and did that on Saturdays, because there wasn’t that much else to do.

  To be honest the most exciting thing that had ever happened in Starkley was when it was voted Britain’s Fourth Most Boring Town. This was a great day in Starkley.

  ‘Fourth Most Boring!’ people had said. ‘We’ve arrived!’

  Someone had suggested having a party in the church hall to celebrate. But it was cancelled, because someone else didn’t fill out the correct health and safety forms.

  Booooring!

  But what’s more is that everyone agreed being voted fourth most boring town actually made Starkley even more boring than the town that won first prize. Because at least that town had won an award and winning an award is pretty exciting. That made the town that won a billion times less boring than Starkley! Everyone seemed quite proud that Starkley wasn’t even boring enough to be named the most boring town in Britain – and that made it incredibly boring.

  In fact, do you know what? If you think your hometown is boring, here are the three top news stories on the Starkley Post’s website:

  LOCAL MAN ACCIDENTALLY

  WALKS INTO SOMEONE

  ELSE’S PHOTOGRAPH

  This was the story of a man who had accidentally walked into someone else’s photograph. He had dipped his head slightly when he did so, which he seemed to think meant he wouldn’t show up in the picture. But he did.

  Boring!

  MRS PIPPERKIN SLIGHTLY

  BURNS CAKE (BUT IT’S FINE

  AND ALMOST NO ONE NOTICED)

  This one had kept the town talking for a while, because Mrs Pipperkin did not normally burn her cakes, so everyone was quite relieved that it had turned out okay.

  Bo-ring!

  BOY SEES FLY, OPENS WINDOW

  Hamish didn’t bother reading that one. He felt like he could probably guess what it was about.

  Super-ultra boring!

  So Hamish just decided to try and ignore the fact that the world had stopped earlier that day. It would blow too many people’s minds. No one would know how to cope. And anyway, ignoring it had worked perfectly well the first time it had happened.

  Yes, that’s right. I said ‘the first time it had happened’ . . . Because Hamish had a secret. Something he didn’t even really want to admit to himself.

  Hamish had noticed the world stop once before.

  He hadn’t told his mum. And he didn’t want to tell his older brother Jimmy, who was fifteen and was far too busy trying to grow a wispy moustache and take pictures of himself looking cool and moody on his phone to lis
ten to anything Hamish had to say. So the first time Hamish thought he’d seen the world stop, he’d kept it to himself. He was worried it might make him sound odd. Some of the kids at school already thought he was odd, without him telling them about strange world-stopping things.

  The first pause he’d noticed had been two weeks ago. He had been in his garden at thirteen Lovelock Close. It was evening, the sky was dark purple and the only light was from the windows inside.

  Hamish had seen a strange shape hanging in the air. It was maybe six feet off the ground.

  Hamish knew what six feet was, because his dad was six feet tall. His dad was always saying ‘I’m the tallest man in the world!’ and stretching himself even further. Hamish loved that, but he knew his dad wasn’t the tallest man in the world. That was Mr Ramsface next door. He looked like a big string bean.

  Hamish had stared at the mysterious shape in the garden, then moved slowly towards it. He wondered what on earth could be so quiet and still like that.

  He moved closer, treading gently on the grass in case he disturbed whatever it was.

  And when he got really close, he was amazed.

  It was a blackbird.

  Its mouth was open. Its wings were spread. But it did not move.

  Hamish had quietly studied its dark yellow beak and the grooves on its feet. He could see his own reflection in its shining eyes.

  It was beautiful.

  And for a second it seemed as if Hamish and the blackbird were simply staring at one another.

  And then . . .

  FAF-FAF-FAF-FAF-FAF-FAF-FAF. . .

  The bird flapped away and rose high into the sky, gliding up over the trees and across the moon.

  Hamish had watched it go, then walked inside. His mum had been asleep on the sofa after another long day at work. A fine line of drool trailed from her mouth to a cushion like a slimy rope bridge and she was making that exhausted snorey noise mums make, but pretend they don’t. Jimmy was on the sofa next to her, but barely looked up. He was too busy pretending to know all the answers on Britain’s Brainiest Boffins and Brainboxes.

  So no. Hamish had not told anybody about the magic blackbird. The only person he would have told was his dad. He knew his dad would have been amazed. His dad would have been delighted.

 
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