Somehow it seemed like the logical next step to write a ridiculous Animorphs crossover.
The Jiggy McCue series is a series of rather silly books aimed at twelve-year-olds, and I've never met anyone else who has read them. They do rely on gross-out humour sometimes, and I sort of wish they wouldn't, but what appeals to me about them is Jiggy's very chatty, informal style, laced throughout with terrible jokes and unnecessary clarifications ('I opened a drawer in my chest (of drawers)' is a line I'm particularly fond of). It's a lot of fun to read, and even more fun, it turns out, to write.
Which is why I've written eight thousand words of fanfiction that has no market at all.
(I've written it to be understandable to people who aren't familiar with the Jiggy McCue series (or indeed Animorphs), so you should be able to follow it if you just happen to be in the mood for something in the style of a ridiculous book series aimed at twelve-year-olds. I really hope at least one person in the world reads and enjoys this.)
Title: Earplugs Would Have Been Better
Fandom: Jiggy McCue series/Animorphs
Summary: I can't tell you who I am, or where I live. Or maybe I can? Jiggy McCue, Brook Farm Estate. That was actually pretty easy. Anyway, this is the story of the day I got possessed by an alien, which was probably only about the third-worst day of my life.
I can’t tell you who I am. Or where I live. The Yeerks are everywhere, and... actually, this story’s never going to get anywhere if you don’t know anything about me, is it? Besides, I’m pretty sure the Yeerks already know who I am.
The name’s Jiggy McCue. I live on the Brook Farm Estate, in a house called, unfortunately, The Dorks. You can come and visit, if you like. Unless you’re planning on putting a mind-controlling alien slug in my ear, in which case, no offence, I’d rather you just stayed away.
You may be thinking that that’s a weirdly specific condition. You may be wondering what the issue is, because you think having an alien slug in your ear sounds like a right old riot. Pull up a chair and sit down, and I’ll tell you about my problem with mind-controlling alien slugs.
It all started with my mother worrying.
My mum can worry about anything. She wouldn’t get first place at the Worry Olympics because there’s no such thing as the Worry Olympics, but even with that little snag she could probably nab at least third.
The thing that had set off the maternal worry machine this time was a mole. Not the cute burrowy kind; the kind that shows up on skin. To be specific, on my skin. To be even more specific, on my left buttock, which was why I wasn’t thrilled when she spotted it (our bathroom door doesn’t always lock properly) and was even less thrilled when she insisted on going to the doctor’s to have it ‘checked out’.
“It’s just a mole,” I said. “I’ve got heaps of moles. Can’t they check out the one on my wrist instead?”
“I just think it’s unusually large, Jiggy,” the parent said. “I really would feel a lot happier if you went to the appointment.”
She wouldn’t feel much happier if it turned out I did have cancer, I pointed out, but to no avail. A mere handful of days from now, because apparently the NHS jumps at the chance to look at your bum and forgets about all the normal waiting times, I was going to be shoving my backside in a stranger’s face.
It wasn’t even going to be on a school day. How cruel is that?
“Jiggy!” my mother called up the stairs the next morning, at the inhuman hour I have to set off every day to reach school by the inhuman hour it starts. “Angie and Pete are here!”
There was cause for concern here. Mum hadn’t called me down the moment she’d opened the door; there had been a pause of a few minutes first. Which meant that my mum had been talking to Angie and Pete. That probably wasn’t a good thing. In a perfect world, Golden Oldies would be banned from saying anything more than ‘hello, I’ll just call Jiggy down’ to their children’s friends; it’s just not right.
Still, I pranced obediently downstairs. As promised, Angie and Pete were standing on my doorstep, waiting to whisk me away to the endless joys of school.
Angie and Pete are my best mates and have been since we were no years old. Our parents all knew each other before we were born, so I suppose we didn’t have much say in whether we were going to be friends, really, but I wouldn’t want to trade either of them away. Most of the time.
“Hey, Jiggy,” said Angie.
“Hey, Jiggy,” said Pete.
“Hey, Jiggy,” I said, not wanting to be left out.
My mum closed the door behind me and we set off, the three of us, the Three Musketeers. We don’t actually use muskets much, hardly ever, but we call ourselves the Three Musketeers anyway. Sort of have to when there’s three of you.
We’d been walking for almost seven seconds before Pete cracked.
“Your mum tells us...” he began, barely able to contain his sniggering.
“I’m gonna kill her,” I said.
“Apparently poor Jiggy has a bit of a spot on his little behind.”
I ask you. What sort of parent would mention her child’s posterior problems to his friends? She didn’t even have mind-controlling slugs as an excuse. I don’t think she did, at least. Even if it would explain a lot.
“It’s a mole,” I said. “It’s a completely normal mole. It’s not a spot. And shut up.”
“Moles are worse,” Pete said. “Their weird little hands give me the creeps. And have you seen the ones whose faces look like wiggly aliens?”
I looked at Angie. She looked at me. We came to a mutual decision not to ask about the wiggly alien-faced moles.
I thought maybe that moment of solidarity meant Angie wouldn’t give me a hard time about my bottom, but no such luck.
“Are they going to do tests on it, then, at the hospital?” she asked, doing a marginally better job of not outright laughing in my face than Pete had. “Prod it and things?”
“There will be no prodding if I have anything to say about it,” I said.
I wasn’t going to have anything to say about it, of course. I very rarely do. As it turned out, I was going to have even less say in things over the next few weeks than usual.
We walked into the hospital on Sunday morning, my arm in my mother’s iron grip. I tried not to, but I kept looking at everyone working there and wondering whether they’d be seeing me trouserless later on.
“This is the nurse, Jiggy,” Mum said. (The nurse wasn’t called Jiggy; she was saying my name, in case I suddenly got confused and thought she was addressing one of the patients she wasn’t related to.) “She’ll be looking after you. I’m sure they’ll find it’s fine, darling.”
“Then why did you take me here in the first place?” I asked.
Mum just smiled fondly and gave me a big smacker of a kiss on the forehead, presumably trying to ease me into the embarrassment of imminently having to drop my Y-fronts.
“Good morning, Jiggy,” the nurse said, smiling. She looked... I don’t know, nice. Normal. Not particularly like someone who was going to hold me face-down in a pool of brown sludge while an alien crawled up my ear canal.
(This is foreshadowing; pay attention.)
In the end, the bottom inspection wasn’t actually that bad. OK, it wasn’t how I’d choose to spend my Sunday, but at least I knew it was coming and the doctor knew it was coming, which made it much less awkward than my previous experiences with nudity in company (please don’t ask).
It was a lot better than what came after it, at least.
The smiley nurse waited until the doctor had left the room and the two of us were alone before she spoke to me. Maybe that should have been the first thing to tip me off.
“There’s nothing to worry about, Jiggy,” she said, soothingly. “It’s a perfectly normal mole. But we would like to put you in the jacuzzi for a bit, just in case.”
And you know what? It didn’t occur to me that jacuzzi therapy probably isn’t the standard treatment for having a perfectly normal mole on your bottom. Didn’t even cross the McCue mind. Just accepted it. Better get in the jacuzzi if you’ve got a mole; can’t be too careful.
“Can I keep my pants on?” I asked. I’d had enough of people seeing my personal areas for one day.
She laughed in a nice, normal, not-about-to-ruin-your-life sort of way. “You can keep your pants on if you’d like.”
So I said “OK,” like an idiot, and followed the nice, normal nurse to the least relaxing jacuzzi session that anyone has ever had.
I did get to keep my pants on, it turned out. My trousers too. Pretty much all my clothes, actually, because the nurse had neglected to mention that my face would be the only part of me getting a jacuzziing.
“Er,” I said, when she lifted the jacuzzi lid to reveal that its contents were brown and sludgy and full of what looked like slugs having the time of their lives at a water park. “On second thoughts...”
Stupid. After all the not-nice things that had happened to me I should have learnt to recognise the warning signs. I already knew that anything disgusting-looking was bad news; it was probably going to end up in my mouth or all over me or, a few seconds from now, in my ear. The moment I’d seen that the jacuzzi was Sludge World Slug Leisure Centre, I should have legged it out of there. But instead I was just standing there like an idiot, staring at the slug-things. Were they leeches? Doctors used leeches sometimes, didn’t they? I didn’t think leeches were going to do much for my mole.
Nice Normal Nurse grabbed me by the hair.
I accidentally breathed in half a lungful of sludge when she shoved my face into it and, let me tell you, it is not an experience I’d recommend. She pulled me up for air after a horribly long moment when I thought I was actually being drowned, but I wasn’t able to grab much; still too busy hacking the stuff up when she plunged my head back into the world’s most hellish jacuzzi.
“Wait, wait, I think it’s gone wrong!” I whimpered, when she dragged me up for air again. “I think there’s one in my ear!”
That’s right. There was still a part of me that thought this was a legitimate treatment. I mean, give me a break, I’m not a doctor. For all I knew, you were supposed to be half-drowned in sluggy sludge if you had a harmless mole around your lower regions. But for some reason this one thing managed to get through my incredibly thick skull: I was pretty sure having a possibly-leech crawl into your ear was not medically advised.
Nice Normal Nurse stopped dunking me and yanked me to my feet. She shoved me into a chair. That was a relief, even if she wasn’t very gentle about it; I was feeling a bit too wobbly to stay upright right now.
She tied me to the chair.
It was around this point that I started to suspect Nice Normal Nurse might not actually have my best interests at heart.
I was having trouble enjoying this pleasant sit-down for a number of reasons, but the big one was the pain in my head. It felt an awful lot like a big ugly slug crawling up my ear canal, which made sense, considering that a big ugly slug happened to be crawling up my ear canal at the time.
I think I passed out from the pain for a minute or two. When I came to, I found that my eyes had apparently decided that they didn’t need my consciousness about and were looking around the room without me. I didn’t particularly want to be looking around the room. I wanted to be staring at the door, in the hope that if I stared hard enough someone on the other side would feel my stare somehow and burst in to rescue me. But my eyes didn’t seem to care about what I wanted any more.
“Is the body compliant?” asked Nice Normal Nurse, which seemed a bit of a weird thing to say. Something like ‘sorry I just shoved your head in a slug jacuzzi’ would have been more appropriate, in my opinion.
“A juvenile host?” I asked. Except it wasn’t really me asking it. I mean, it was me; it was my mouth opening and saying those words in my voice. But it wasn’t something I’d authorised, if that makes sense. I hadn’t meant to say that to her; what I wanted to say to her was a lot less polite. It was like my body was moving and doing things without me, and it was like that because that was exactly what was happening.
Nice Normal Nurse smirked and started to untie me. I tried to leap out of the chair so I could run all the way home and write a stern letter to the NHS, but I couldn’t; I strained and strained to move, but all my muscles had apparently gone on strike.
“It is important not to neglect the juveniles,” she said. “They are the future of the human race, which means that they are our future. And pressure from their contemporaries is particularly influential at that age. You should be able to find us more voluntary hosts in that form.”
“This form wields no real influence,” I said without meaning to. “The McCue boy commands very little respect.”
All right, that was uncalled for, me. I mean, it wasn’t wrong, but it’s still not the sort of thing you say about yourself within your own earshot.
“I’m sure you’ll manage,” Nice Normal Nurse said, holding the door open for me to walk through. I still didn’t have any say in this; my body stood up and walked out into the corridor without any input from me at all. “Don’t forget your appointment in three days.”
Well, it looked like I was going to be able to tick ‘controlled by an ear-slug’ off my list of Problems That Literally No Other Kid In The World Has Ever Had To Deal With. Maybe I’ll get a free holiday when I reach ten.
My mum was speaking to the receptionist when I came downstairs. Scratch that: my mum was speaking to the receptionist when the slug in my head walked my body down the stairs for me, like I was a robot and he had the remote control. All I was doing was sitting in some corner of my own mind, totally powerless, wondering why it never seemed to be anyone else’s turn. You’d think the universe would get bored of me and take its issues out on Bryan Ryan once in a while.
“Jiggy!” my mum said, with a big beaming smile. “They say it’s harmless. I’m so glad.”
And I know it’s stupid, but all I wanted to do right then was run to her and hug her and never let go, even though she was the one who dragged me to this crazy evil hospital in the first place.
But I couldn’t. My new slug friend wouldn’t let me. He just rolled my eyes and said, “I told you, didn’t I? Let’s just go home.”
As my mum drove the horrible thing now operating my body home, he and I took the opportunity to get to know each other a little better. I could sort of think questions at him, I found out, and sometimes he’d deign to answer. He, meanwhile, took the more direct route of digging around in my brain.
Your experiences have been... unusual, said the voice in my head.
Well, that’s terrific. When even your own brain-slug thinks your life is weird, you know you’re in trouble.
You think so? I thought, also in my head. You obviously haven’t been to the latest I Was Haunted By A Dead Goose support group meeting. Loads of people there. Masses.
There’s no point in trying to deceive me, Jiggy McCue. I have access to all your memories. I know there is no such meeting.
I made a mental note never to buy Sluggy McCue stand-up tickets for his birthday. More importantly, though: he could see all my memories? All of them? Even the really embarrassing ones?
Most of my memories are really embarrassing. You’d think you’d be somehow inoculated against embarrassment the first time all your clothes disappeared in public, but apparently that’s not the way it works.
I decided to change the subject.
So what are you? I asked. I don’t think we ever covered psychic mind-controlling molluscs in Biology. (Maybe ‘mind-controlling’ wasn’t exactly the right term, but nobody says ‘body-controlling’, do they?)
Do not compare me to your Earth molluscs, cretin!
He sounded really offended. I tried to hold up my hands and apologise, and then I remembered that I couldn’t hold up my hands and decided that I didn’t really owe this not-a-mollusc-apparently an apology. OK then. So, er, you’re not from Earth?
Indeed. I am a member of the great Yeerk race, soon to hold power over your entire pathetic species. My name is— and then he said his name (you’d never have guessed, would you?), which consisted of a silly-sounding word and three numbers and which I immediately forgot. That was going to make things awkward if I ever ran into Teflon two-four-two or whatever at a fancy dinner party, but to be honest he hadn’t exactly been the pinnacle of politeness himself.
My name’s Jiggy McCue, I thought back at him. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Tea?
The worst thing about being possessed by an alien – well, OK, probably not actually the worst thing about being possessed by an alien, but definitely a thing about being possessed by an alien – was that my energy had nowhere to go. If you were wondering why I’m called Jiggy, it’s because I have this tendency to jig around a lot. (That’s still the reason even if you weren’t wondering, incidentally.) If I get excited or agitated or upset, all my nervous energy decides to vent itself through my feet and suddenly I’m doing the polka in the middle of the playground (if I was in the playground to begin with, obviously; I don’t suddenly end up there if I get anxious in the library).
Having your body hijacked by an alien slug is quite an exciting, agitating, upsetting thing, you might think, and you’d be right. The problem was that Neenaw nine-nine-nine didn’t seem to understand the vital importance of breaking into a tap-dance at times like this, and he was the one calling the shots now. He’d shift himself a bit for show when people who knew me were nearby – I’m almost never completely still, and if I didn’t fiddle at all my mum would get worried and it’d be straight back to the Hospital from Hell for me – but not nearly as much as I needed right now, and when nobody was around he just didn’t bother. So my body was just standing there, horribly still, with me trapped inside it, dying with how much I needed to perform at least one round of the Macarena.
On Monday morning, Fizzog six-eight-four was doing his best statue impression in my room when Mum called up that Pete and Angie were there (at our house, not in my room). I clung desperately onto every jolt of him running down the stairs.
And there they were on the doorstep. Our little trio set off together: the Two Musketeers and the alien slug in my brain.
Despite the chronic lack of jigginess driving me a bit crazy, I was feeling hopeful. I mean, I was with Pete and Angie. Good old Pete and Angie. Surely they would work out that I wasn’t quite myself? Your beloved pal isn’t replaced by an alien slug every day.* Surely these kids who’d known me since we were in the cradle would suspect something was up?
Of course not. Pete Moron Garrett and Angie Ditto Mint babbled cheerfully away to the invertebrate in a Jiggy McCue mask, not suspecting a thing.
OK, maybe ‘cheerfully’ isn’t the word. We were on the way to school, after all; I’d have had to worry that they had been replaced by aliens if they’d started smiling. But still! Me! Jiggy McCue! Their best bud! Trapped in my own mind by something that looked like a dog’s business! And they didn’t even notice!
It’s not as if there weren’t any clues. My mum had bawled at me to take a shower this morning, and the Yeerk had actually gone and done it. Squeegie four-six-seven couldn’t risk getting grounded, apparently; it’d interfere with his world domination schedule or something. But not so much as a ‘Jiggy, you’re unusually fragrant this morning, are you OK?’ from either of them. Not a peep. Nothing.
So much for friendship. If I ever got out of this, I was going to replace them both with a pair of sniffer dogs; at least my new mates would catch that something had changed.
* I’m making assumptions about you here. If you do have to put up with alien slugs replacing your friend on a daily basis, I guess I can only apologise for being insensitive.
That afternoon at school it was football with insane effort fanatic Mr Rice, which I hate. For once I was actually almost glad I had an alien holding my steering wheel; at least it meant I didn’t have to worry about pretending to be trying to get the ball.
After football all the boys get shoved into the showers together, which I also hate. Doesn’t help that the fact that I hate it means I usually end up dancing uncontrollably in there, which makes bits of me flap about and draws a lot more attention than I’d personally like. I thought maybe this time I’d be able to keep a low profile, given that the Yeerk was in control, but no; Mr Rice bellowed me into the shower with the rest of them, and suddenly I was jerking and twitching and dancing like nobody’s business.
You do this now? I asked the Yeerk. I didn’t really mind; I’d been so dancing-deprived since the takeover that I’d grab whatever I could get, even if it did have to happen when I was on display. Still, the timing could have been better.
It’s your established behaviour in this situation. Your associates would take notice if I behaved like a normal human.
Not very polite, that, but I wasn’t going to complain.
Eventually the full-on Riverdance settled down to some minor bobbing around, leaving me feeling much better than before. I’m not saying I was feeling good, mind you. I was still Jiggy nine-one-five, alien puppet, which is not my preferred state. But at least I was feeling better than I had as Jiggy McStatue.
Finally! I gasped in my head. Not like I could gasp it in anyone else’s. Why couldn’t you have done that before? If you’re trying to act like me, you should’ve been doing nothing but jigging since you got in there.
This ridiculous habit is most pronounced when you’re distressed, Squirtle eight-six-six said. You’re asking why I didn’t externally display your distress at falling under my control?
When he put it like that, OK, maybe constantly doing the jiggy thing wasn’t the best way to avoid suspicion. Which was a problem, because finally having a good jig after all this stress was like finally reaching the bathroom after three days at the International Water-Drinking Championships, and if the Yeerk was going to take me straight back into the championships now that the moment had passed I wasn’t sure I’d be able to take it.
Can you... stub my toe every once in a while or something? I asked. Give yourself an excuse to move about a bit?
I owe you no favours.
Frankly, I thought this was pretty unfair. If you lent me your body for a while, you’d expect to get something in return, right?* But no, apparently Mr Yeerk thought he could strut around wearing my startlingly handsome face and he didn’t owe me a thing for the pleasure.
There was only one thing for it. I was going to... well, I was going to sit in my own head and be unhappy.
What else did you expect me to do? It’s not like I’m swimming in options here.
Never get yourself possessed by an alien, kids. It is not even slightly delightful.
* Actually, I did lend my body to my friends once. Didn’t get much in return, if you don’t count a pair of feet that probably had the biohazard symbol stamped all over them (I couldn’t bring myself to take Pete’s socks off and check). But that’s another story.
Things went on like this for a while. The Yeerk spoke for me; it walked me to school; it went to splash happily around in the hospital jacuzzi every few days, for some reason, with Nice Normal Nurse waiting nearby to make sure I didn’t make a run for it while it was out of my ear. My friends didn’t notice. My mum didn’t notice. My own father didn’t notice that an alien was wearing his son, although to be fair it was the middle of football season, so I doubt he’d have noticed if I’d been replaced by a coffee table.
After a week or two, I started to wonder whether this was going to be it from now on. Don’t get me wrong, my life wasn’t anything special, but it was mine, and I was starting to miss it now that it had been taken off my hands. Normally, when things like this happen (maybe not exactly like this, but it all more or less falls into the Weird Stuff That’s Ruining My Life category), I’ve at least got Pete and Angie to back me up, but they didn’t have a clue that anything had happened this time. As far as they were concerned, the thing with my face was just normal old Jiggy. I was on my own.
I didn’t feel great about that.
“Jiggy!” my mother called up the stairs. “Can you put the rubbish out?”
“Fine,” the Yeerk made me call back, goody-two-shoes as usual. An alien species invades our planet, builds a bungalow in my head and then turns out to be terrified of being grounded by my mother. Being grounded by my mother isn’t exactly Disney World, so I could sympathise, but this still wasn’t exactly how I was expecting our alien conquerors’ priorities to fall.
It was starting to make me uncomfortable that the alien slug was turning out to be a better son than I’d ever been. Even more uncomfortable was the thought that my mum might expect this level of obedience if I ever got my body back. It’s not real freedom if you have to jump up and salute every time your mother tells you to clean the kitchen, is it? (And then clean the kitchen, I mean. I could probably handle the jumping up and saluting.)
My mum was having tea with Audrey Mint when I went down to lug the rubbish out of the kitchen bin for transportation to a slightly different bin. Bins are bins, as far as I’m concerned, but my parents throw all their junk into the bin in the kitchen and then suddenly decide once a week that they’ve been using the wrong bin all along and it needs to be outside.
“Lovely clear night,” said Audrey, who’s Angie’s mother.
“Oh, yes,” said Mum, who’s mine. “It’s a beautiful full moon, too, did you see?”
This is the sort of thing my mother thinks is important. If I tried to tell my friends about the beautiful full moon, they’d thump me.
I mean, OK, it did turn out to be sort of important. But my mum didn’t know about that.
If you’re not already getting this impression, I’ll tell you right now: I’m not a lucky person. If there was a day when they were handing out good luck, I missed it. And I didn’t just miss it because I overslept; I probably missed it because I tripped over Stallone on my way out the door and fell face-first in a wasp’s nest or something. That’s the kind of luck I’m talking about.
(Stallone is our cat. I’m not lucky enough to trip over Sylvester Stallone on No Luck, Just Wasps day. At least that’d make a good story. Not that story-worthy stuff doesn’t happen to me – I’m telling you a story right now, so you’d better hope story-worthy stuff happens to me – but it’s never the kind of stuff that anyone would believe.)
So it makes sense that I stepped out with the rubbish just when the kid next door was turning into a wolf in the street. I mean, of course.
The kid next door is Eejit Atkins. He goes to our school. He’s a moron. He’s a werewolf, apparently. I knew most of these things already, but the ‘he’s a werewolf’ part took me by surprise, so I slightly wet myself when something huge and snarly and almost as ugly as Atkins himself lunged at me, baring every one of its eighty billion teeth.
Wet myself figuratively, I mean. I’d like to say that’s because I’m too together to actually wet myself, but it’s mainly because someone else was in control of my bladder at the time.
The Yeerk dropped the rubbish bag (maybe he was going to end up grounded, ha!) and bolted for the front door, but a sudden gust of wind slammed it right in front of my nose (I’ve mentioned the ‘terrible luck’ thing, right?). Didn’t seem likely that the giant wolf-monster was going to wait politely while I fumbled around for my housekey, so Squiggle one-eight-three powered my legs and sent me racing out of there with Wolfboy Atkins snapping at my heels. I’m not exactly an athlete, though, so he was going to need to find somewhere to hide fast if I ever wanted to get my body back in one piece.
There was an abandoned van on one of the roads off the estate; it’d been there for six or seven months, and its windscreen was just a mass of parking tickets. My mum wonders sometimes why the council doesn’t just tow it away; my dad says the traffic wardens like having it there because it gives them something to do. Anyway, Pete had spotted once that the back doors, the doors to the boxy bit where you actually put your stuff, they weren’t completely shut. Of course he didn’t tell me about it right away; he challenged me to a game of Hide and Seek first. I was looking for three hours before he burst out of the stupid thing. I haven’t played it since.
The Yeerk must have pulled this out of my memory, because he sent me hurtling up the road and into the back of the van. He pulled the doors shut behind me and leant back, gripping the handles, to keep them closed, because I remembered – and therefore the Yeerk knew – that the doors couldn’t actually hold themselves in place.
We waited a long time there in the dark, me and my mind-mollusc. There was a lot of scraping and snarling outside for a while, but it faded away eventually. I think I must have slept, but the Yeerk didn’t; my body was still holding onto the doors when I woke up.
Eventually the Yeerk stepped away from the door and pulled out my phone. He pressed a button to light up the screen, and we both saw the time: 6.48. (I also noticed that my phone wasn’t getting any reception in here, which made me strongly suspect that this van belonged to a murderer.) The sun wasn’t getting through whatever signal-blocking material the van was made of, but it should have risen by now, so if Atkins was a traditional werewolf we were probably safe.
Then I realised something. When my body had let go of the door handles, the doors should have cracked open and let some of the light in; they couldn’t hold themselves shut, after all.
Flashdance one-six-four obviously heard my thought, because he made me look at those doors pretty sharpish.
They were definitely holding themselves shut. Maybe, after my body had given them such an extended demonstration on how to do it, they’d finally figured it out for themselves. I was almost proud of them.
My body walked towards the doors and gave them a push.
It pulled the handles downwards and gave them another push.
It put its shoulder against the doors and started pushing pretty earnestly, with no result.
As you might have guessed by this point, I was trapped.
Of course, I’d been trapped for ages. But now my body was trapped, which meant the Yeerk was trapped, but which also meant that I was basically double-trapped. Not only was I stuck in my own mind; I couldn’t even watch my hijacked body going to places more interesting than the inside of this pitch-black van.
My body strained as hard as it could against the doors. Nothing.
The Yeerk banged on the inside of the van, he yelled until my throat hurt, but it didn’t seem like anyone was coming to help us. He sent me into a little nervous dance in the cramped space, tappety-tap on the floor. I suppose he’d been pretending to be me long enough for it to come naturally, even if nobody else was around.
It was good to be moving, but I was starting to worry. While I didn’t really have a problem with bad things happening to Seesaw five-nine-five, I wasn’t sure about this one. I wanted to get rid of the new pet in my head, yeah, but dying was supposed to be an absolute last resort, if it was a resort at all. You know what I need to survive? Food. Water. You know what the Yeerk could see in this van, by the light of my mobile phone? Cigarette butts and dust. That was stretching the definition of ‘food’ a little, even for someone who’d eaten in the Ranting Lane school canteen.
The Yeerk was starting to freak out when we’d been in there a couple of days, judging by my phone. (My phone was slowly dying without its charger, of course, as a nice bit of foreshadowing for what was probably going to happen to me.) I wasn’t in the best of states myself, but I already hadn’t been having a great fortnight pre-van. Toodles one-five-seven had been swanning around quite happily in my body before Eejit Atkins had tried to eat it. He was a lot less happy now.
I must get to the pool, he kept muttering. I must get to the pool.
I was starting to think that maybe his jacuzzi sessions were about more than a relaxing soak or treatment for a harmless Yeerk-mole. Maybe he really needed them, just like I needed the water that I was seriously missing by now. Maybe he was going to die before I did and I’d have a few glorious hours of freedom in this stupid van before I followed him.
I’d thought a few times that there was a good chance I wouldn’t survive into adulthood, but somehow I’d always expected something more interesting than dehydration to take me down. Even if this particular case of dehydration had been indirectly caused by an alien invasion and a werewolf.
And then – I thought I was hallucinating for a moment – a crack of light appeared between the doors, and they were opening, actually opening, and the voice of Pete, wonderful Pete (this was how I thought of him for an instant in my dehydrated, half-starved state; I don’t like it any more than you do) was saying, “If I know that idiot, he’s done something like—”
“Jiggy!” Angie shrieked.
I stumbled out of the back of the van, squeezing my eyes half-shut against the evening light, or at least the Yeerk stumbled out and I was sort of carried along with him. When he glanced back at the doors, I saw a vertical bolt on the outside. The bolt must have fallen into place and trapped us when Goosey seven-four-nine was holding the doors shut; Eejit Atkins isn’t smart enough to operate a bolt as a human, let alone as a wolf.
Still, I didn’t have long to think about this because Angie sort of flung herself on me. This was not appropriate Musketeer behaviour and I was glad when the Yeerk made me gently but firmly push her away.
“How’d you get stuck in there, you prat?” Pete asked, staring.
“D’you have any water?” the Yeerk croaked with my voice.
Angie had some, which was good, because you don’t accept a bottle of anything from Pete if you can help it. I felt a bit better when the Yeerk had chugged the lot of it, although my stomach still felt as empty as Atkins’s head.
“Sorry for making you worry,” the Yeerk said. Bit soppier than I liked to present myself, but I was sorry, so I’d allow it.
“Wasn’t worried,” Pete said.
“Anyway, I’ll see you guys later,” the Yeerk said, taking a few steps back from them. “There’s something I’ve got to sort out.”
“Where do you think you’re going?” Angie asked, hands planted firmly on her hips.
I, of course, am a naturally smooth talker, but the Yeerk seemed to be having some trouble thinking straight right now. “I just really have to be somewhere, Ange, it’s really important.”
“Yes,” Angie said. “You need to be at home. Your parents have been worrying themselves to death and they need to see you’re all right.”
“Hate to say it,” Pete said, putting his hands on my shoulders and starting to steer me firmly homewards, “but she’s right. Your mum cried. On me. Into my chest.”
This was the worst thing I had ever heard. When the Yeerk twisted my head to look back at Pete, I could see that he looked just as traumatised by the experience as I was by the mental image.
“He was wearing a shirt,” Angie clarified, which made things even worse because it hadn’t occurred to me that he might not have been wearing a shirt and now I couldn’t stop picturing my mother sobbing her eyes out into Pete’s scrawny bare chest.
I wanted to tell them both to stop talking and never say anything about this again and maybe go back in time to un-say the things they had said if they could manage it, but that wasn’t what the Yeerk said. What the Yeerk said was, “Let me go. I have to go.”
“Uh-uh,” Pete said, tightening his grip. “I’m not ever going through that again. You’re going home and you’re never allowed to leave.”
Tiddles three-seven-six socked Pete right in the face.
It was a beautiful moment. The angels sang. I felt, just for a moment, that maybe I’d be able to cope with my powerless situation if I still got to beat my mate up once in a while.
But I didn’t have long to savour it, because the Yeerk was pelting as fast as I could up the road. And I was feeling a bit guilty, if I’m honest. Not about punching Pete – it’s impossible to feel guilty about punching Pete – but I hadn’t wanted to make my mother cry. I especially hadn’t wanted to make her cry onto my friends, but I hadn’t wanted to make her cry at all. I wanted the Yeerk to take me home and make sure she was all right.
Home obviously wasn’t where the Yeerk was going, though.
Where was it taking me?
When we reached the hospital, it wasn’t the Yeerk’s usual visiting time; it was night and the front gates were all shut up and unfriendly. There were still people in there, of course – it’s a hospital; they can’t just turf all the patients out when they want a kip – but it was pretty obviously not a building that wanted visitors.
My Yeerk was, equally obviously, not happy.
He was even less happy when it turned out that the emergency button you could use to beg someone to open the gate wasn’t working.
I assumed he would give up and come back for his urgent swimming business in the morning, but no; he actually started trying to climb up the massive gates, even though my legs were still trembling from being forced to run all the way here after going without food for two days. And now I wasn’t happy because there was barbed wire on top of those gates, and I wasn’t at all sure that the Yeerk was going to take proper care of my body up there.
Stop complaining, the Yeerk snarled in my head. If you didn’t have such absurd misfortune, I wouldn’t have to do this.
Couldn’t deny that. If I didn’t have such bad luck, Chickpea six-oh-two wouldn’t have been in my head to begin with.
Of course my pathetic arms gave out halfway up – I’m not a rock climber, in case you somehow had that impression – and I fell straight back to the ground. At last I’d discovered an advantage to having no muscle! All those times I’d found excuses to get out of PE weren’t just laziness; I was preparing myself for the day when my weedy frame would save me from barbed wire.
And then the Yeerk immediately started trying to climb up again.
Another couple of falls and quite a bit of time later, he finally managed to swing me over the top of the gate, only slightly shredding my hands in the process. Still, I didn’t have to worry about that for long because he ended up dropping me into a rosebush on the other side, giving me quite a lot of uncomfortably-placed thorns to think about instead.
By this point the receptionist was looking out through the closed front doors with an uneasy expression, much like the expression of a hospital night receptionist who’s just heard someone try to clamber up the fence twenty times and thud into the carefully tended roses. Tweedle four-five-five had obviously realised that by now he wasn’t going to be able to waltz in through the front door and present himself as a normal patient (tough to waltz when you’re on your own, for one thing), so he crept around to the side of the building and tried to make me shin up a drainpipe.
A drainpipe. Even though after all the running and climbing and climbing again and climbing again my limbs might as well have been made of water by this point. Unsurprisingly, the mole that started all this trouble in the first place was soon hitting the ground for approximately the sixtieth time that evening.
I’d hardly landed before my body was up and at it again. This thing really didn’t know when to give up. Apparently he really wanted that jacuzzi relaxation session. I could have done with a jacuzzi myself, with the battering my body was getting, but somehow I didn’t think my needs were going to be considered.
And then I heard a sound.
Sirens. Police sirens. Coming our way. As police sirens tend to when someone’s spotted endlessly trying to break into a hospital like a very unwell Terminator.
The Yeerk started climbing quite a bit faster.
Of course, for once it wasn’t me who was going to have to get myself out of this. It was the Yeerk. I almost laughed, or would have if I’d still had control of my laughing apparatus. I mean, OK, I wasn’t massively keen on being sent to prison, but it wasn’t exactly going to be a humongous change from my current state, was it? Not like I could go wherever I wanted or eat all the ice-cream in the house with this thing in my head. Not like I could do those things anyway, come to think of it; I’m stuck at school most of the time, and my mum has this uncanny knack of sensing my perfectly innocent ice-cream plans and getting between me and the freezer.
Being a kid is basically prison, right?
But Tippex six-two-three still wasn’t gagging to be sent to actual prison, for some reason. I just lay back in my imaginary deckchair, trying to ignore my non-imaginary bruises, and watched.
And would you believe it, he actually managed it. Actually managed to climb up – with my body! – and get through the window and edge along the corridor to the Yeerk relaxation room. I evidently didn’t know my own strength.
Something occurred to me then, as my hands desperately yanked up the jacuzzi lid and the Yeerk dropped me to my knees beside it. No Nice Normal Nurse. Nobody here to stop me doing a runner.
Except I’d had that thought too early, because the Yeerk was still in my head, which meant it could hear the thought, which meant it was going to...
I’m not going to call anyone in, the Yeerk said. As far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to this terrible body. Not only do you have no physical advantages, but I’ve been chased by a fictional beast, locked in a vehicle, forced to break into this building and almost arrested. A host with your luck would be disastrous for the plan for domination. It would be usual to eliminate a no-longer-required host, but I truly believe your continued survival would do more damage to humanity’s chances, such as they are, than your death. As soon as I am in the pool, I want you to leave me in peace.
On the one hand, it didn’t feel great to be told I had ‘no physical advantages’ by a slug. On the other, I didn’t care. I was out of there the second I could move on my own again, watery limbs and all. Straight into the arms of the police outside the door.
It actually turned out OK, the running-into-the-police thing. My parents had spent my quality van time pasting the least flattering photo of me they could find on every lamppost in a ten-mile radius, so one of the policewomen recognised me straight away and assumed that I was trying to hide in the hospital because I’d run away from home, rather than that I’d broken in there to steal drugs or something.
They took me back to The Dorks, where my mother fell on me and poured the entirety of Niagara Falls down my neck with her eyes. To be honest, I didn’t really mind having a bit of a cuddle after everything I’d just been through. Still couldn’t shake the image of her crying on Pete, though.
When I’d prised my mother off me with a pair of pliers and given my dad a slightly less interminable hug (although Mum glared at us whenever we tried to extricate ourselves and she thought we hadn’t hugged enough yet, so it still took a while), I went up to my room and fell into bed. I was pretty exhausted. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.
My parents let me sleep most of the next day, but the day after that my mum was yelling at nothing o’clock for me to get up and take a shower.
Things never really change, do they?
Pete wouldn’t talk to me at first, on the way to school. Still sore about his nose.
“Look, it wasn’t me,” I said. “I wish it had been, but it wasn’t me.”
Pete gave me a look, but he still wasn’t speaking, so Angie had to ask for him. “It wasn’t you?”
“Looked a lot like you.”
I didn’t really know why I was trying to get Pete talking to me again. Not-talking Pete is generally a big improvement over talking Pete. But I hadn’t been able to talk to my friends for a couple of weeks, not really, and I suppose I’d missed them, even if one of them was Pete Garrett.
So I explained.
You might think that Pete and Angie would just roll their eyes and twirl their fingers by their heads, like you’ve probably been doing all the way through this story, but we’ve been through a lot together, the three of us. Mind-controlling aliens aren’t that far out, by our standards. So they listened. OK, they rolled their eyes a bit, but they listened. Pete still seemed sceptical until I reached the bit about Atkins being a werewolf, at which point he cracked up laughing and decided that everything I was saying was true.
“You haven’t mentioned how you ended up with an alien in your brain,” Angie pointed out, when I’d finished.
Which was true. I was a bit embarrassed by it, to tell you the truth. But she’d asked, so I told.
Angie was not impressed by my tale.
“She said you needed a jacuzzi,” she said. “And you went, ‘Oh, right, that sounds like what I need to treat something that doesn’t actually need treatment.’ And then the jacuzzi was full of aliens. And you went, ‘Oh, right, I’ll just stick around then. This is probably fine. I’m Jiggy McCue and things never go wrong for me.’”
This, I think you’ll agree, was only semi-fair. “I’ve just been possessed by an alien brain-slug! Have a little compassion!”
She nodded thoughtfully. “It did look like you hit Pete quite hard.”
“He did,” Pete muttered.
“For me, Ange,” I said quickly, “for me,” but too late; that was apparently all the compassion Angie was going to manage today, and she’d wasted it on Garrett. Still, I’d have the last laugh when I replaced them with sniffer dogs.
For now, at least, I’d put up with these two as we walked side-by-side-by-side, all my troubles behind me.
Well. Most of them, at any rate. School was still ahead. And, come to think of it, Eejit Atkins was still a werewolf.
But I wasn’t going to have to worry about that for another month, was I?