Although I could probably guess, I’m not 100 per cent sure where it came from, as I found the idea written on a piece of paper in my office. I don’t know how long it had been there, but it does show that making notes, and keeping them, does pay off, even if it’s a long time later.
This story is set near Coventry in the West Midlands of England, and not in any other places called the same thing. If you want to know what a Birmingham, or Brummy, accent sounds like, listen to someone like Ozzie Osbourne for a fine example of just one of England’s many regional accents.
* * *
It took him a long time to wake up, only to discover what he thought was a soft bed was in fact the muddy ground. The filtered light wasn’t streaming through a hotel window but was the shadows cast by the trees surrounding him. He tried to stand and just about made it to his knees. He looked around and saw nothing but trees in every direction. This wasn’t the Coventry he knew.
Sonny used the nearest tree as a support and got to his feet. His head was throbbing and his vision unfocused. The light had a strange pink tinge and the leaves were lime green. His stomach churned and nausea triggered a sweat over his entire body. Taking several deep breaths, he managed to hold onto the contents of his stomach, just about.
With no idea where he was, he began to walk in a random direction. As his blood flowed and more deep breaths were taken, some of his memories returned. Today, if indeed it was the today he was expecting, was the morning after his stag night. His brother, Will, was supposed to be looking after him, supposed to have made sure he got back to his hotel room intact and alone.
A distant sound caught his attention from somewhere to his left. He turned in that direction and listened, hearing what sounded like screaming. He staggered off in that direction, his guts churning. He’d get his revenge if Will had done this, dropped him here as a prank. He’d heard worse stories of stag and hen night jokes gone wrong, or right, depending on your point of view, including some deaths.
The sudden sound of running feet reached his ears, and through the trees, he saw people disappearing into the distance. They didn’t see him; his voice came out as a croak when he tried to call out to them. By the time he’d swallowed a few times and got most of his voice back, it was too late. He kept on moving in the direction they’d gone, which was close to his original heading anyway.
An amount of time later, Sonny was still walking, only the damp ground and thoughts of revenge keeping him upright. His course had taken him to the end of a low valley, the sides rising up to his left and right. More sounds could be heard from straight ahead, shouting and strange gun noises. With zero skills in anything resembling stuff people did outdoors, he aimed for the voices and hoped for the best.
The trees thinned as he walked, eventually forming a wide clearing within which he could see what looked like a campsite. Something was wrong, but his foggy brain couldn’t work it out. He managed to stop himself and hide behind the last tree before the clearing. He rubbed his eyes, took a deep breath, then peered around the tree. They weren’t tents at all, but cages, each containing sobbing humans. Around the clearing were several tall aliens, armed with laser guns and exotic- looking axes. Sonny put his back against the tree and took several deep breaths, then several more. His mind raced, encumbered by the hangover but now starting to clear. This was either an elaborate prank being played by Will and his mates, or aliens had finally shown up and were conquering the world. Perhaps they’d only landed here in Coventry, because of its transport links and central location?
Sonny gathered his courage, picked up a large branch and then charged into the clearing. No aliens were going to conquer his planet and get away with it. As he reached the first alien with its back to him, he swung the stick, managing to just about hit the thing with the tip of it before losing his balance and falling to the floor. Aliens and humans alike turned to look at him. So, this is how I die, he thought, never would have guessed in a million years.
The alien he’d struck pointed his gun at him and spoke. “Hey! That’s not a registered weapon,” it said in a broad Birmingham accent. “You could have ripped my costume with that. These things aren’t cheap you know.”
Another alien joined the first one. “I’ll call a marshal, I don’t think he’s even a member.”
To Sonny’s immense surprise, the alien took its head off and was revealed as a rather sweaty woman in her thirties with a scowl on her face. “You wait there, we’re getting a marshal. Where’s your wrist band, have you even paid?”
“I’m lost. I was left here by my brother, as a prank. It was my stag do last night.”
The woman looked at him dubiously, then her expression softened. “You do look a bit peaky.” She fished around in her alien backpack and pulled out a bottle of water. She held it out to him, and Sonny took it as if it was the best thing he’d ever seen. When he’d taken a few sips and a longer gulp he managed to stand up without falling again. “What’s going on?”
“Alien invasion scenario.”
Sonny looked blank.
“Larping? Live-action role-play?”
Sonny was none the wiser.
The woman tried again. “Ok, you’ve seen roleplaying games, yes? When a group of people gather around a table and play wizards and barbarians and aliens and detectives?”
Sonny nodded, some of his friends had mentioned such things.
“Well, this is the same, but there’s no table and we dress up more.”
Sonny drank more of the water and nodded.
The woman grinned. “Did you think it was real? What have you been drinking?” He was saved having to explain by the arrival of a marshal, who escorted him away and down to the car park, where a friendly local delivered him back to his hotel. He sneaked back to his room, got one of the staff to let him in and then collapsed on the bed. After a nap, he met his brother in the restaurant as if nothing had happened. Revenge would come later.