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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Promo Post: Alien Love Story

Alien Love Story

Summery from Goodreads:
Life is a headache for 15-year-old Dan. This isn’t some kind of metaphor. Dan suffers from migraines that make just about everything he does unbearable. Added to that he’s lost almost everyone he cares about. So he feels lonelier than the last puppy in a pet shop.

But one day he sees a mysterious girl digging in the rubbish bins behind his house. Just by being near her, he finds that all his pain goes away. So he wants to see her again, of course. And get to know her. But she’s a bit strange. And her big eyes make her look, well, like an alien.

Does she really exist? Or is she just a figment of an overactive, under-loved imagination?
Close encounters of the romantic kind.

From Northern England to outer space, and from Dan’s bedroom to the sandwich shop over the road, ALIEN LOVE STORY is about a close encounter of the romantic variety. But there’s more to it than that.

This book is about discovering parts of yourself you never knew existed. It’s about coping with grief and somehow moving on. And it’s about how Dan breaks into a mad scientist’s lab to perform a daring rescue – but that bit comes much later.

For now it’s enough to know there will be excitement, adventure and kissing. Lots of kissing. We did say it was a love story, didn’t we? So fasten your safety belt, put on some background music and enjoy the book.

Someone shoved a pencil into Dan’s left nostril. It was big. One of those oversized
souvenirs you find in museum gift shops. And it started twisting, as if Dan’s skull were a
Impossibly, the tip grew.
Lead pierced Dan’s brain. Synapses were severed. Neurons were neutralised. Grey matter
was shoved aside as if it didn’t matter after all.
Like Pinocchio’s nose, the lead of the pencil continued to extend. It pushed through bone
and scalp. It poked out on the other side.
That’s when Dan shut his laptop.
How was he supposed to watch Hot Nurse Party with this pain?
Some days it felt like a pencil jabbing into him. Other days it was the screwdriver. The
worst was the woodpecker. Just thinking about the woodpecker dialled his migraine up a
In the book he kept beside his bed Dan made a note:
Doctors had dug in his ears, sampled his blood, beamed lights into his eyes and subjected
him to MRI and CAT scans. If it existed they would have set a DOG on him too.
The only explanation they could come up with was that he was over-sensitive. In other
words, the pain in his head was all in his head.
The diary had been his therapist’s idea.
‘There’s an explanation for everything,’ Doctor Maudlin had told him in her office one
day, before handing over his new notebook.
The cover was a radioactive shade of green. Words like WOW, GREAT and FANTASTIC
popped out all over the place. Just looking at it gave Dan a headache.
Now the book was half full (though in his current mood it felt half empty). And he was no
closer to controlling anything. The pain came and went when it wanted. Like a cat. And Dan
was more of a dog person.
Holding his forehead, Dan wobbled to his feet. He was 15 years old and felt like a retired
boxer. If this was the prime of his life, how would he cope later on?
With his skinny frame and baby face he had yet to be offered anything stronger than cough
mixture, but he could imagine how nice it would be to let go. Just kick back and allow
whatever he had taken to swim through his system, dulling the pain. From his head to his
heart, all his aches would be gone.
Sure, drugs were bad. But they couldn’t be worse than migraines.
The stairs blurred in and out of focus as he staggered down them. What he needed was
love. And he knew just who to turn to.
‘Finished your homework?’ Nana said when he reached the kitchen.
‘Never mind.’ His grandmother closed Telly Mag, which she studied religiously despite
never actually watching TV. ‘Rain must be on the way.’
That was Nana’s answer to everything. Headaches, muscle stiffness, colds and possibly
even broken legs: rain was coming.
Dan nodded, though he knew the world wasn’t that simple. He just didn’t want to argue.
Especially not when she was making macaroni and cheese. Just the smell of it made him feel
It was what she had made on that first day, three months ago. He hated thinking about the
time before, but that day was special.
He had stepped off the train with only his suitcase and a headache and she had
immediately dragged him across to the Life Science Centre. As if he were still a kid.
In that forest of dinosaur bones, DNA strands, magnets and mirrors they lost themselves.
Afterwards Nana bought him a chocolate ice-cream – which made his headache worse, but
was a nice gesture. In his new home, he was shown to his room. As promised at the funeral,
the whole top floor had been cleared just for him.
Nana took such good care of him that Dan sometimes felt guilty for getting migraines.
‘Maybe,’ he said, ‘I just need some fresh air.’
‘In this weather?’ Nana frowned at the kitchen window.
It was so sunny that Dan had to screw up his eyes. ‘Nana, if it rains I’ll come straight in.’
‘Yes, don’t get caught.’ She continued to look at the sky as if at any moment it might burst
open and start pouring. But the only thing that looked like a cloud was her hair.
Behind Nana’s house was a narrow lane punctuated by wheelie bins. The backs of houses
and shops flew by as Dan rolled along. Other than the weekly rubbish truck, no cars came
here – which made it perfect for skateboarding.
Dan tapped his back foot and the board popped up. For a second he was weightless.
Already he felt better. Not 100%. But better. He was glad he had come outside. If Nana had
her way with him, he would be wrapped in cotton wool and packed in the cupboard along
with her Royal Family dinner plates. Still, it was good to know that someone was there for
him. He wondered briefly what would happen if she were gone, but quickly stopped himself.
The past and future were off limits.
Dan tried a kickflip and landed feet-on- bolts to thunderous applause from an imaginary
Then he made a mistake. He wished Kyle had seen that.
Kyle was younger by eighteen months, but better than Dan at everything: skateboarding,
football, chess, maths, spitting, pull-ups, push-ups and that game where you stamp on the
other person’s feet. The little bugger even had a girlfriend.
Now he was gone.
Dan tried to derail his train of thought, but it was too late. His head began to throb,
reminding him of that day. The Worst Day Ever.
Barely able to focus, he stamped his right foot and flicked out his left heel. It was a trick
he barely knew how to do. And the board spun. And spun. Practically going into orbit. Dan’s
feet connected with the edge of the deck as it clanked down sideways, in the dreaded position
Flapping his hands, Dan did his best to balance. But gravity was quick to remind him who
the law was around these parts.
The back of his head hammered against the tarmac. His ears rang. His ankle hurt. He was
sure his left elbow was grazed.
All this was nothing unusual. But today he didn’t feel like getting up.
Today he was just going to lie there.
Dan spread out on tarmac that had been warmed by the June sunlight. He stared at the sky,
which was still cloudless. Instead of trying to fight his memories, he let them in.
His first headache had been on the morning of that terrible day.
The four of them – him, Dad, Mum and Kyle – had planned to drive to Porthcawl so that
he and Kyle could hire longboards and wetsuits and try some winter surfing. Really, it was
just an excuse for Dad to use the camera he had got for Christmas.
But when Dan woke up he didn’t feel right. In fact, he felt as if he had been run over by a
Mum took his temperature, stared into his eyes and checked his pulse. Her verdict was that
you couldn’t be too careful with things like this. So instead of going to the beach, they hit the
Dan was put under observation with suspected meningitis and his brother was left fuming
over his lost chance to tame the wild waves of Wales.
Kyle’s last words to Dan had been, ‘I hate you, dickface.’
His family had sat in the ward until the end of visiting hours and then waved goodbye.
Dan had settled in for his evening on the NHS. And that was it.
A lorry, carrying bathroom fittings and steel bedframes, smashed into Mum’s Toyota on
the A4174. Four people, including the lorry driver, were smeared like peanut butter across the
motorway. Dan was told the news just after a hospital feast of pumpkin soup, chicken á la
King and jelly – three things he would never be able to eat again.
Various relatives and family friends came to pack up and sell off everything. The only
problem was what to do with the sulky teenage son who had survived. And so Dan was
shipped from Bristol to Newcastle, where the only person he knew was 73-year- old Moira
At school he quickly settled into his role as the mysterious silent kid you see in American
movies. Only here in the North of England mysterious and silent equalled creepy. He wasn’t
much of a footballer, which meant he had nothing to talk to anyone about, and his headaches
saw him missing so many classes that even the teachers didn’t know his name.
Oh, and now today’s headache was turning into the woodpecker.
With a groan, Dan sat up. Still not quite ready to face the world standing, he dragged
himself over to the shade between two wheelie bins.
From here he could see the back of Lunch Munch, the sandwich shop up the road from
Nana’s. It reminded him that he had to go home for supper. Nana was probably worried about
him already, her finger trembling over the phone, poised to dial 999.
But Dan was still in the mood to mope.
He sat there – fate made him sit there, he would later think – until a figure stalked into his
It was a guy in a hooded top and pair of jeans so dirty that he was either homeless or a
Dan watched as he grabbed the handle of the green wheelie bin behind the sandwich shop.
Something about the guy didn’t seem right. It wasn’t just the hood pulled over his head
despite the heat. His proportions were all wrong, his arms and legs too long for his body.
The guy lifted the lid of the bin and leaned inside.
Imagining the stench in there, Dan wanted to be sick. He also wanted to ensure that the
kinds of people who ferretted around in rubbish bins stayed away from Nana’s house.
‘Excuse me,’ Dan said.
Waist-deep in the bin, the guy couldn’t hear.
Realising that he was being too polite, Dan scrambled to his feet and shouted, ‘Hey!’
The guy flopped out like an oversized baby being born from the bin.
‘I’m really sorry,’ Dan said, feeling a sudden pang of sympathy for someone down on his
luck, ‘but you shouldn’t do that.’
His head lowered in shame, the guy began creeping away.
‘I mean, I can bring you a fresh sandwich,’ Dan offered. ‘Or my grandmother’s making
mac and cheese. It’s really nice. She does it with bits of bacon. My name’s Dan, by the way.’
The guy stopped and turned. Beneath the hood he was wearing a pink beanie hat, which
was crazy considering the heat. But the beanie wasn’t what made Dan gasp.
It wasn’t the eyes either. And they were huge: a pair of flickering disks that looked like the
lenses of designer sunglasses.
What made Dan gasp was that this wasn’t a guy at all. Judging from the tiny nose,
perfectly-curved cheekbones and pouting mouth, this was something else entirely.
‘You’re a girl,’ Dan blurted out.
The girl pulled the hood tighter over her head and started running.
‘Wait!’ Dan shouted.
But she had disappeared round the curve of the street.
Smooth, Dan thought. The first girl you speak to in months and all you can do is point out
Something else had disappeared too: his headache. It was as if an airlock door had opened
in his ear and all the pain had been sucked out. The only thing left was a strange tingly
feeling which ran along Dan’s scalp and down his back.
When he got home he wrote in his book:
A scream cut through the night.
Dan sat up. His bedside alarm clock blinked at him that it was just after 12. Had he
imagined the sound? Before he could drift back to sleep, another scream stabbed the air. It
was coming from the room below him.
Scrambling down the stairs, Dan prepared for spiders, a stray wolf, a thief with a sawn-off
shotgun, the start of the zombie apocalypse. It was his dad’s theory that if you expected the
worst you could cope with anything. Of course, Dad had been an insurance salesman.
‘Nana?’ he said, pushing open her door.
‘Help,’ she croaked in reply.
Ready for action, Dan rushed to her side. He had done a couple of weeks of karate, so
understood the basics: shout ‘Kia!’ so loud your opponent thought you knew what you were
doing. If that failed, there were other car brands he could use.
‘My daughter,’ Nana said. ‘My beautiful Alice.’
‘You mean Mum?’ Dan switched on the nightlight. ‘You were dreaming about Mum.’
Nana shook her head as if to get rid of the nightmare. ‘It wasn’t a dream, was it? She’s
Dan waited for Nana to say something more, but all she did was make a choking sound.
Dan sniffed. Too late. Tears pooled in his eyes faster than he could think tough thoughts to
get rid of them. He was crying too.
But Nana fretted over him all the time. It was his turn to take care of her.
Dan took her in his arms and hugged her tightly. But not too tightly. She was so brittle that
it was like holding a bundle of firewood.
He said, ‘I’m here for you, Nana.’
‘You won’t go away?’
‘And you’ll take care of yourself?’
‘Actually,’ Dan said, trying to lighten the mood, ‘I was thinking of joining the skydiving
‘Daniel!’ She pulled away as if scandalised, but at least she had stopped crying. After a
sniff, Nana leaned over to her bedside table and opened the drawer. From inside she took out
an oily rag that she unfolded to reveal a metal shape. It was a shape so familiar from films
and TV that at first Dan wasn’t shocked.
A second later his jaw dropped as he realised that the object had no place in his
grandmother’s bedroom. ‘A gun?’
‘It was your great-grandfather’s service pistol.’
‘Shouldn’t he have given it back?’
‘You take it.’ With an expression on her face as steely as the gun, Nana held out the
package. ‘If anyone gives you nonsense, waste them.’
Dan reached for the pistol, but at the last moment stopped himself.
He hadn’t yet cemented any philosophical views, but he was pretty certain he was a
pacifist. For one thing, he didn’t like camouflage clothing. He’d also cried like a car alarm
after accidently stepping on his own hamster as a child. He could only imagine the effect
hurting a human would have on him.
Dan was certain this kind of thing didn’t suit his grandmother either.
‘Nana,’ he said, gently, ‘you’re just tired.’
She let the gun hang between them for an awkward moment and then shut it in the drawer.
‘Now I’d better get back,’ Dan told her. ‘It’s way past my bedtime.’
‘You’re right.’ She nodded. ‘And I need my beauty sleep. About fifty years should do it.’
‘What?’ Dan feigned shock. ‘Nana, you’re as beautiful as ever.’
‘Oh, you charmer.’ Nana gave a gummy grin, forgetting that her teeth were in the jar
Dan trotted up the stairs hoping that he had done enough to take her mind off her
nightmare. There are some things worse than losing your parents. And he imagined losing a
child was right up there.
In his room he stupidly looked at the photo he had stuck on the cupboard. It was of Mum,
Dad, Kyle and him on a beach in Cornwall, with Kyle in a nappy and Mum before she cut her
A headache immediately bucked up and kicked Dan in the face. He got into bed before the
pain made even moving impossible.
When he squeezed his eyes shut, he couldn’t sleep.
It was the woodpecker again.
The vibrations reverberated through his body.
Dan knew he should write the incident in his diary, but he couldn’t move. The headache
had dug its claws into his arms and legs, pinning him to the mattress below.
The hours slid by on his bedside alarm clock as he lay paralysed. Soon he would to have to
rise and face another day at school. The curtains began to glow. The sun was already rising.
Dan was about to give up and get up when his bedroom walls and ceiling disappeared. In
their place materialised a sky crammed with stars. They twinkled for a while, as stars are
supposed to, and then began to swirl, as if they were reflections in a giant toilet bowl that had
As the stars spun, something began to grow from the distance. This something turned into
a person floating in the sky.
It was the girl who had been digging in the bin. This time she was naked, except for her
Her words echoing in the vastness around her, she said, ‘Daniel Stephens?’
Dan blushed. He’d seen plenty of naked girls before. But they had always been on a
computer screen. ‘Um, am I dreaming?’
‘Of course.’ The girl in the sky smiled. ‘My boobs aren’t this big in real life.’
Realising that he had been staring, Dan quickly looked away. If he had been blushing
before, his face was now on fire. ‘What do you want from me?’
‘The thing you’re supposed to do.’
‘Tidy my room?’
Her groan of frustration echoed through the galaxy. ‘Daniel, think.’
‘How?’ He was blushing so much it felt as if his head would explode. ‘You’re naked.’
‘It’s your dream. I would have preferred some clothes, you know.’
Dan stared down at his feet. ‘Maybe next time.’
‘It was a mistake coming here.’ Her voice was fading.
‘Wait.’ Dan looked up. ‘I want to help.’
But the girl was gone. The swirling stars had disappeared too. In their place was an
endless field of grass. Unicorns grazed nearby. Flying elephants perched in their trees. From
far away came the call of the narwhale and the desultory beeping of the alarmosaur.
That was the actual alarm. And the dream was over.
Like a war veteran in a film, Dan woke drenched in sweat. Something was different, but
he couldn’t quite place it.
Only when he was brushing his teeth did Dan realise what it was.
His headache was gone. In fact, he felt amazing, as if he had packed a full night’s rest into
his few hours of sleep.
Dan almost enjoyed school. His mind was far away, of course. Even that awkward time
between lessons, when he ate his lunch alone, wasn’t so bad. He just kept thinking of her.
What was she doing digging in a rubbish bin? Maybe she was a freegan who didn’t believe in
wasting food. Where did she live? Perhaps it was nearby. Where did she go to school? Did
she even go to school? Who exactly was she? Where was she from? There had to be an
explanation for those giant eyes. Maybe she was foreign or had had some sort of operation.
And, crucially, what was she called?
‘You’re gorgeous,’ Dan whispered on the bus home, practising for when he would see her
again. ‘What’s your name?’
‘Keith,’ the tattooed man on the seat beside him said. ‘But that’s none of your business,
Dan made it home without getting beaten up.
Fortunately Nana wasn’t in the kitchen, so he was able to make a stack of sandwiches and
grab a box of fruit juice before rushing out.
On the top of the sandwich shop’s rubbish bin he placed the meal he had made. He
squatted between the two bins opposite, doing his best to be as inconspicuous as possible.
As soon as she appeared he would strike. Well, maybe not strike. But he would definitely
He had never gone fishing, but he imagined this was fairly close to the experience.
‘Hi,’ Dan said, practising his opening word. Was it too informal?
‘Good afternoon,’ he tried. But no: he wasn’t the Duke of Northumberland.
‘Yo,’ he said, and instantly regretted it. He definitely wasn’t a rapper. And the closest he
got to the streets was when he fell off his skateboard.
‘Hello,’ he said. Hmm. Getting there.
‘Hi.’ Yes. That was it. He tried again: ‘Hi.’
What else was there to do?
And waited some more.
The afternoon sun blazed on. Dan began to perspire like a real fisherman who had just
drunk seven cans of Special Brew.
What if she wasn’t coming?
His legs stiff from squatting in readiness, Dan sat down. It felt as if he was giving up.
Was he giving up? Maybe. Because what if he had scared her off the day before? Then she
wasn’t coming. And if she wasn’t coming, this was a stupid idea.
Maybe it was all a stupid idea.
Maybe there was no point to anything, ever.
And there she was.
Seeing her made Dan realise there was a point to everything, always. And that point was
her. He wanted to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming again. Instead he just sat
there and watched, open-mouthed.
Certainly, she wasn’t dressed in the trendiest gear. Actually, it looked as if she had
covered herself in superglue and rolled around in the sale section of a second-hand shop. It
was the same hoodie-and- jeans combo she had been wearing the day before. But she wore it
well. Dan also liked the way she moved, sidling up to the sandwich shop’s rubbish bin with
as much grace as a ballerina approaching the bar where they do their leg stretches.
As she poked the plate of sandwiches that had been left there, Dan stood.
The girl swallowed one sandwich whole and stuffed the rest into the sideways kangaroo
pouch at the front of her hoodie. She tore open the box of juice and began tipping the
contents into her mouth.
Dan cleared his throat.
The girl lowered the box and wiped her lips.
Those eyes. They were like the headlights of an Italian sports car. Like streetlamps. Like
moons. Like— Dan realised that if he didn’t stop gawking at her, the moment would be lost.
Her voice tickled Dan’s spine. It was exactly as he had imagined it in his dream, with a
slight echo effect. But it was better, because it was real.
The only problem was that Dan had forgotten what came next. He had prepared a list of
things to talk about and now couldn’t remember any of them. The weather? Too boring. Her
philosophical beliefs? Too personal.
What he needed was an ice-breaker. Something sophisticated that would lead to further
conversation. But he didn’t know anything about politics and his only joke was the one about
the snooker table in the tree.
Maybe he should just say the first thing that popped into his head. Yes, that was the best
idea. His words would be sincere and truthful. And surely that was how all good relationships
The important thing, he thought, was not to think. He just needed to open his mouth and
The girl was staring at him, waiting.
‘I’ve seen you naked,’ Dan said.
Her tiny lips turned downwards at the edges.
‘I mean, in my dream.’ Dan forced himself to laugh, but wasn’t fooling anyone. He had
blurted out the stupidest thing ever and now had to explain. ‘I haven’t been spying or
The girl ran off, her long limbs blurring as they whisked her out of Dan’s life.
But he wasn’t going to let her go.
Dan sprinted after her, shouting, ‘Wait!’
Somehow the distance between them kept growing. She was about his height and looked
to be around his age. How was she so much faster?
Panting for air, Dan reached the end of the road.
She was nowhere to be seen.
‘Come back,’ Dan called. ‘I think you’re beautiful.’
But his voice only reached a group of men smoking outside a betting shop. Muttering to
themselves they stamped out their cigarettes and went back inside to gamble away their
The girl was gone.
Dan slumped off towards Nana’s house. But he didn’t feel completely defeated. Seeing the
betting shop had given him an idea.
He had to gamble.
It was doubtful she would return to that rubbish bin, but there was a chance, wasn’t there?
And if there was a chance, Dan had to make sure he didn’t throw it away.
He barely slept that night and spent the next day at school pondering his next move. When
the afternoon finally arrived, he was ready.
And it was brilliant.
All it took was a certain level of commitment. But the girl was worth it. She was the cure
for his migraines. It also didn’t hurt that she was gorgeous.
At home Dan said a hurried hello to Nana and ran out into the back street. Checking to
make sure that no one was looking, he flipped open the rubbish bin behind the sandwich
A sour-sweet stench struck him, the universal odour of decomposing organic matter. But
Dan ignored it. He wasn’t going to let a small thing like a smell that made him want to vomit
out his lungs get in the way.
He leapt up and swung his legs. For a moment it felt as if the bin might topple over, but
after a few wobbles it stopped moving.
In the wheelie bin.
His shoes squelched on the rubbish below as he settled into a crouch. The place was a
perfect fit, like the tiny Japanese hotel room Dad had once stayed in during a work trip.
Except this room wasn’t serviced by highly-efficient cleaning staff. And there was no air-
After taking his last few lungfuls of clean air, Dan pulled the lid shut over his head.
Now the girl just had to arrive.
With any luck that would happen soon.
It really did stink in there.

About the Author:
AK Dawson, aka Andrew, was born in South Africa, spent many years in the UK and now lives in
Warsaw, Poland. Last year his feature film won 'Best Screenplay' at the Sydney Indie Film Festival.
When he’s not working on scripts, he writes prose and was given a Northern Promise Award at the
2010 Northern Writers Awards.
Alien Love Story on Story-AK- Dawson-
Alien Love Story on Story-AK- Dawson-

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