Chapter 1- Pork for Breakfast
Mr Nash couldn't get through the day without his early morning paper. It gave him great relief, knowing that he could roll out of bed, slip into his slippers and slouch downstairs to find poached eggs and headlines on the breakfast table. His family organized around him like the general's officers, he'd slide into his seat. No deeper sense of satisfaction that that first fwick as he thumbed apart the pages. Mr Nash held the world at arms length, life and death arranged in neat columns and easy type print.
"You get all your homework done, kids?"
"Yes sir," they chimed back.
Mr Nash nodded to himself, and reached for his cigarette, pausing to scrutinize his fifteen-year-old daughter. His brow knotted into a frown.
She hadn't replied.
Florence was absently picking a hole in her stocking and gawking out the window.
"Florence, your breakfast is getting cold," he said.
Florence mumbled something that sounded like, "mnnkay," and started poking around at her sausages.
Mr Nash went back to his paper, but still felt uneasy. He tried to evaluate why this was. His five sons sat in their usual seats, arranged in rank from big to small. Big Brother, Little Brother, the Twins and Baby Brother. Everything in order. His wife, dressed in regulation floral, sat taking small calculated sips from her usual cup of coffee in her usual coffee cup. His eggs were cooked just as he liked them, singed and black, and the weather looked comfortingly overcast. So what was it? Mr Nash's eyes found his daughter again.
The girl still hadn't touched her food. She was staring out the double glass doors, searching the sky intently.
Mr Nash waited quite patiently. He waited for Florence to look back down, as she always did. To divide her eggs and beans, fortify it with a barrier of bacon. But she continued to sit, continued to stare.
Mr Nash coughed politely. What was she waiting for? What was there to wait for? Mr Nash's paper began to tremble in his hands. He realised the article he'd read over three times wasn't actually about a revolution in Libya but a performing budgerigar called Bertie.
At last he said, his voice straining like a rubber band, "Florence, are you feeling alright?"
She looked him straight in the eye. Mr Nash flinched.
"I had a really strange dream last night," she said. "It seemed so real. I dreamed about flying pigs."
The ritual was broken. They'd disturbed Mr Nash's wife. She slammed down her cup and said, "There's no such thing as flying pigs."
"Oh, I know," Florence said humbly, "It was just a dream."
Then something hit the roof, sparking like a flint. Cups and saucers set juddering, spices rattling in the spice rack. Struck like cannon fire, the house laid under siege from the force of a thunderclap, rolling and rumbling. Crockery smashing, Mrs Nash screaming. A deafening smash, crash, like the assault of artillery shells. A final shuddering bang, exploding with the force of a bomb.
One of the legs on Mr Nash's chair had snapped. From his sprawl on the floor he received a full display of his wife's miserable grey knickers.
She screamed, "Call the police! Call the police!"
"Forget the police. Call the army!" cried Mr Nash. "We're under attack!"
There was another splintering smash from upstairs. Baby Brother was crying. Little Brother said, "It's the aliens! They've crash landed in the attic."
"Don't be stupid," Mrs Nash snapped. "There's no such thing as—"
She was interrupted by a tremor that knocked the antique vase flying. It smashed inches from the twins' heads. They shrieked with excitement.
"Aliens!" they said. "We want to see the aliens!"
They hurtled up towards the stairs, but Mr Nash protested wildly, "No, boys. Don't. Stay here. We don't know what it is yet."
"No, go have a look," said Mrs Nash. "It's probably Aunt Agnes's old wardrobe in the attic. I always thought it didn't look sturdy."
"I really don't think they should—"
"What are you waiting for? Go look."
The boys bombed up the steps. The silence was drawn-out, stifling. The landing creaked. Florence's brow was set in a frown, like she was puzzling out a hard math question.
"You're never going to believe this," called one of the twins. "It's—"
He was drowned out in a long, keening creak. Something stretching, splintering. Mr Nash looked up to see the ceiling distended like a pregnant belly, straining under its own weight, about to give birth.
Mr Nash pushed Florence out of his way and made a mad dive for under the table. Plaster and debris struck the table like shrapnel; the toilet landed with a clatter and the rim rolled across the floor into the living room. Mr Nash crouched with his hands over his head, eyes squeezed tight, in duck and cover position. Something wet touched his face. Something soft. Even warm. He looked up, into the eyes of the fat, pink pig.
Florence stared. The kitchen was a wreck. It looked like a bomb had gone off on the breakfast table, lashings of jam streaked up across the walls and a meltdown of mustard over the mahogany sideboards. Through the gaping hole in the ceiling where bits of wire and fibreglass poked out like a bird's nest, Florence could see the bathroom, and through that, the grey smudge of the sky. It was absolutely delightful. Like a DIY skylight.
The destruction hadn't just been limited to the Nash household. From out the bay window, the street looked as though it had been hit by a hurricane. People barricaded themselves inside their houses. The only thing that moved was a group of roaming pigs, busy conquering the Smiths organic waste bin.
Of course, her parents had to ruin it, like they always did. They were having fun arguing in the corridor. And though she didn't particularly care, that spoiled it, just a little bit.
They were arguing about calling the council, or something idiotic. Their argument went something like this;
"Darling, let me do it." That was her father, in his weak little wisp of a voice.
"It's alright. I can handle it." That was her mother, though her firm voice was trembling.
"You sit down and have a nice cup of tea dear. I can do it," said her father.
"No, really dear. You don't know where the number is," her voice straining.
"Don't worry dear; I'll find it."
"Yes but dear, you don't know how to deal with them. You always let them put you on hold."
Florence winced. You knew things were getting tense when the dears came out. Soon you went from the little passive aggressive dears to the If you just let me finish dear and the Dear, why do you always? past the pretending to be polite dears into the I hate you, dear and last but not least, the I never should have married you, you're a nut case and ruining my life dear.
The pig at her feet oinked. Florence said, "Yeah, tell me about it," and gave it piece of toast.
Little Brother ran down the stairs. In his hands bundled up as tenderly as a baby was a piglet. "Florence, there's six of them! They got into the laundry basket, the cupboard and even the washing machine. This one's called Professor Porkchop. Can I keep him in my drawer?"
Florence made to take a bite of her poached eggs, but became disheartened at the last minute. Using her fork as a shovel, she scraped them onto the floor for the pig. "Why are you asking me?" she said. "Ask Mum."
"But she'll say no."
"She might not," said Florence, but she mostly said it to get him to go away.
"Florence," he said. "Why do people eat pigs instead of pigs eating people?"
"Because," said Florence, because she wasn't really listening any more.
"Cuz I was thinking that maybe it's because pigs don't have fingers, so they wouldn't have nothing to hold the knife and fork."
Their parents came back into the kitchen, her father wearing a painfully tight smile. Her mother seemed happier. Nothing cheered her up more than having a good argument.
She said, "Useless! Absolutely useless. The line's down. I'll be lodging a complaint with the telephone company about this. It's unacceptable." She sounded absolutely enthralled by this prospect.
She announced, "Now, get ready. We don't want to be late for school."
Florence's brothers broke into a cacophony of complaints.
"But Mu-m, Sally's not going."
"And neither's Harry."
"Everybody's staying inside, Mum."
"And, there's aholein the roof," Florence pointed out.
"A hole in the roof won't stop you going to school," Mrs Nash said sharply. "And I don't care if no one else is going to school. You are. I won't have complaints about my children's attendance."
The mounting tsunami of whinging, groaning, moaning didn't do any good. Florence knew it was a lost cause. Once her mother made her mind up about something, even falling pigs wouldn't make her change it. Mrs Nash said, "That's enough. Any more complaints and I'll unplug the TV for a week. You're going."
Trudging to school, Florence felt like the last human alive venturing through a zombie apocalypse. Cars were stopped in the middle of the street; curtains were wrenched closed. Squinting around, she muttered to herself, "Where's Fred?"
Except this wasn't New York, only the Micklefield estate. Also that there weren't any zombies, just pigs desiccating the Bradbury's green waste bin.
She glanced up at her father. His hat pulled down so low it almost covered his eyes, he was staring limply at the cracks in the pavement. He mumbled, impassioned, to himself, "Prime Minister thinks he can play us like fools... taxpayer's money..." then again, probably because he liked the sound of it, "Play us like fools!..." Dangling flaccidly in his hand was one of the identical brown paper bag lunches Mrs Nash made for her children and husband, all of them corned beef. Florence knew her father couldn't stand corned beef.
It was obvious, now, why Mrs Nash hadn't been able to get through to the council. The telephone cable had snapped. The telegraph pole lay across the road, felled like a mighty oak. Mr Nash and his daughter clambered over it. The street was absolutely deserted. The Smiths gawked at them from their window in disbelief.
"Nobody's going to be at school," Florence said, in deep resentment, dragging her heels on the pavement. "I'm going to be sat there on my own."
"-Think they can get away with... what?"
Florence said, "Dad, please. If I have to go, at least let me go the rest of the way on my own today."
They stopped. Mr Nash fidgeted.
"I don't know. Your mother wouldn't..."
"Please? Just this once?"
He shook his head more firmly. "You know your mother doesn't want you to walk to school on your own. And we don't want to make her angry. You know she has delicate nerves."
Of course Florence knew. She felt like she'd spent her whole life hearing about her mother's delicate nerves, which, Dad would often go on to say, were easily upset. By anything. Or everything.
She stomped off ahead. Her father didn't understand. He couldn't. How it looked— no one else was walked to school. And no one else had such stupid hair, either— pushed, pulled, squeezed, slicked by her mother every morning. She'd never been allowed to the hair-dressers in her life, so it hung well below her knees. Rapunzel red and wiry, it was an untameable mess of curls her mother had been attempting to conquer since she was born. Tried to hold in place with hair-raising hair clips, bands and mind-boggling bobbles, and Florence still looked like the yeti on a bad hair day. She was more hair than girl.
Sometimes, she struggled to find herself underneath.
Her pace slowed. Things would change. She was sure of it now; what had happened this morning wasn't an accident. It had been her dream. Her dream had come to life.
Florence had dreamed of a normal day, eating breakfast with her family. Then she had seen something out the window. A bird? A plane? No, a pig! A whole battalion of pigs, soaring in formation across the sky.
Only, she didn't seem to have figured gravity into the picture. Evidently, pigs weren't as aerodynamic as she'd imagined. As always, reality had come crashing down.
The gilded school gates arched overhead. Florence folded into herself like a box, arms clamped tightly over her chest. She peered from out under her fringe at the boys on the school steps. The familiar stab of panic in her stomach. Did she know them?
Her father stopped dead. "Right," he announced, and proceeded to hover awkwardly, staring at his shoes. "Have a good day," he said, suddenly striding off.
"Dad?" she called after him. He hesitated. She hesitated. She was grown up and she didn't need her father. And yet there was always a moment, just for a split second, at the school gates, where she wished he would stay.
"Yeah?" he said.
"Bye," she said. He nodded. She turned away. She walked towards the crush at the main doors.
But— it had to mean something. Florence had always known she was odd, the wrong shaped peg for the wrong hole. But it had been her dream. Her dream had come to life. And what if that meant—
"Hey! Did you hear what happened in Micklefield this morning? Flying pigs!"
"Do you think I'm a moron or something?" Chatter surrounding her, as she hurried past.
"It's true! I saw it."
-If it could possibly mean-
"Whaddya think could have happened? Did a tornado suck up a farmyard or something?"
"There aren't tornadoes in this country, dumbass."
-That she had done it. Her. That she wasn't just different, wasn't just a weirdo, that she was special?
As she climbed the steps to the school entrance, a boy shouted, "It was her! She did it."
Florence started. She looked up. The boy was pointing right at her.
To be continued.
Electric Angels by Christina Ridgley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.