"Guy Adams is either barking mad or a genius, I haven't decided. His truly fantastic debut is like being caught in a theme park with a killer clown â fun, adventure, the odd cream pie â and a sharp knife when you're not looking."Â
"Playful, intriguing and a barrel of laughs, The World House is a quirky, tumbling box of delights full of adorable eccentrics on a wild, wild ride. It really knocked me in the lobes! Great fun!."
"A fearless grand adventure of escalating escapades and escapes so hair-raising that Adams' deranged imagination is barely able to contain them all. I knew we were in trouble as soon as the ostrich appeared. It's a fearless, hurtling hell of a debut."
"The World House is an extraordinary feat of imagination. It is wonderfully bizarre, it is brutal, funny, disturbing and vivid throughout. It is populated by a genuinely entertaining and believable group of characters. Guy Adams has a hit on his hands. I want more."
"The World House is a utterly original, quite crazy and simply brilliant piece of fiction. 5*****."
"If you enjoy strange and bizarre tales and especially if you love Neil Gaiman's work and wonder what his tales would be like on a bad trip, get yourself a copy of The World House."
Also by Guy Adams
The World House
The House that Jack Built
Life On Mars
Rules of Modern Policing: 1973 Edition (as Gene Hunt)
The Future of Modern Policing: 1981 Edition
Life On Mars: The Official Companion
The Wit and Wisdom of Gene Hunt
The Case Notes of Sherlock Holmes
Don't Panic â Revised Edition (Contributor)
Leonard Rossiter: Character Driven: The untoldÂ story of a comic genius
The Little Book of Bar Bets (The Real Hustle Tie-in)
THE WORLD HOUSE
Florida is a conflicted state. Outside the cities it's a mess of swamp broken up by Styrofoam tourist Meccas. Places so colourful and false the buildings look like they have enumbers. Once you step away from the Interstate â which curls, like the large intestine, between these theme park fabrications â there's little to see. In 1976 considerably less. Back then the insects counted as night-life.
Hughie Bones sat on his front porch and struggled not to die of apathy. One day he would solidify in that chair; suffocated by the swamp and his own lack of imagination. Property developers would find him years later when they came to bulldoze his house in the name of the tourist dollar. Just another awkward nigger getting in the way of beautification.
Â Â Hughie worked for a letting firm over in Kissimmee. His boss the sort of asshole that thought a wallet full of cash compensated for having the personality of sunbaked roadkill. Perhaps it did, he never seemed short of friends. The company paid Hughie just enough for his days emptying septic tanks that he could afford to spend his nights living in one. His free time filled with nothing but sitcom reruns and beer. Which would have been almost tolerable were the beer not warm. Six months ago, the cooler had lost all its confidence. Now, it puffed the occasional spurt of cool air inside itself before settling into a neurotic buzz, its motor grinding its teeth like a special needs child. Hughie hated that fucking cooler and kept promising himself a trip to a remote section of swamp, just him and that rebellious piece of shit, maybe a baseball bat or a length of chain. He'd show Mr Electrolux a thing or two.
Â Â But tonight was too hot for swinging a weapon, however much the white goods might be asking for it. Hughie just sat on the porch and dared the mosquitoes to bite him. This they duly did, a fact that Hughie took as a victory despite the itching. "Can't get enough of the Bones," he muttered, basking in the edibility of his blood. Sitting in the fug of another man's shit all day long gave you a musk that only insects and dogs took a shine to.
Â Â On the radio, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson were extolling the virtues of a goodhearted woman. Hughie couldn't comment from experience but they sang with such conviction he was sure they were right. Ever since high school, women had been something imagined rather than physically experienced. Hughie's lovers had glossy paper skins. Briefly, Hughie considered paying a visit to one of his staple-breasted honeys but the night was too hot and even the effort of masturbation seemed too steep a mountain to climb. Instead, he rolled himself a smoke and lost himself in the late-night radio tunes. The swamp sang along.
Â Â Then the air in front of his porch suddenly filled with noise and whizzing metal. The trees split in a shower of shed leaves. The earth erupted in fist-sized divots, splattering against the front of Hughie's home with a drumroll. Hughie rolled off his chair, as much in surprise as from the impact of mud and vegetation. His first thought was a grenade. Vietnam had been pretty uneventful for Hughie but he'd seen enough combat to think the worst of a loud noise.
Â Â It wasn't a grenade.
Â Â Hughie's eyes were tightly closed. Had he been watching, he would have seen an old-fashioned steam train cut its way through the detritus and come to a halt in a diagonal line across his backyard. The train smoked like an earth-struck comet, white plumes rising from its glistening iron body. Hughie, aware only that he wasn't as dead as he had expected to be, opened his eyes and stared at the foreign object on his land. There is a limit to what one can say about seeing an antique locomotive appear out of nowhere and Hughie summed it up with a whispered "motherfuckerâ¦" as he rolled onto his ass and tried to make the damn thing disappear by staring at it. It refused, despite his best efforts.
Â Â There was a solid crack of metal against metal as one of the passenger carriage doors opened. A small man, wearing a raincoat and hat stepped down. He looked like a Brit in an old movie comedy: a bank manager caught up in a stately farce of manners, a man to be viewed in black and white. The man lifted his hat and straightened his thinning hair beneath it before trapping it back under respectable brown felt. He reached into the carriage behind him and pulled out the body of a man. He lifted him by the belt as if he weighed no more than a small briefcase. He marched up to Hughie's veranda, dropping the body casually to the boards and raising his hat in greeting.
Â Â "Good evening," he said, the train's engine screeching into life again behind him as it prepared to leave, "what a splendid little world you appear to have here. Mind if I play with it a little?"
Â Â Hughie wasn't even listening. After the initial shock his brain had fallen back on self-preservation. He ran into the house to dig out his shotgun. He'd bought the thing a couple of years ago after spotting an alligator working his way through his trash. That kind of thing sharpened a man's need for more firearms in his life. The 'gator had been a small one, four or five feet all in, but Hughie had been so convinced that the walking suitcase would tell his big friends about the rich pickings to be found that he'd slept uneasy for weeks. He'd even kept the gun on the bed for awhile, as if it were likely one of the bastards would creep under his bed-linen, wake him up with one of those flatulent smiles they had before taking him for a roll in the swamp. He'd never seen another gator since. The gun gathered dust next to that useless goddamned cooler. No more. He grabbed it, and swung both barrels to cover the door, through which he could see that impossible train surging past to stations new. A train, he thought to himself,
a fucking train
. He cracked the shotgun open, just to make sure it was loaded (safety be damned, if you bought a gun to protect yourself you didn't leave the thing lying empty). The train was gone, the screeching of its whistle and the pounding of its piston engine vanished leaving a Florida night scared into temporary silence. A moment passed. Somewhere in the swamp a toad croaked. Probably telling its toad friends all about the fucking train, Hughie thought, bet they'll think he's drunk.
Â Â "Nice gun," the man whispered in his ear.
Â Â Hughie squeezed both triggers, blowing a jagged crescent out of the side of his front door. It looked like a rhino had just stepped outside taking some of his wall with it.
Â Â "Twitchy on the trigger though, eh?" the man said, pulling the gun from Hughie as if he'd been barely holding it â as opposed to gripping it with white knuckles as had actually been the case. "Let me take it away before you get hurt." With a gentle smile, the man swung the butt of the shotgun towards Hughie's face. He didn't do it hard, it was a methodical move that popped Hughie's nose with precision. Hughie shouted, a spray of blood splattering his faded linoleum. It didn't spoil the look of the room. "See?" said the man, "dangerous things, guns."
Â Â The man pulled out a chair at Hughie's small, Formicatopped kitchen table and sat down. He rested the gun against his leg, took off his glasses and cleaned them on his woollen vest. "Humid here," he said, as if the pair of them were making small talk at a boring party. "Reminds me of a greenhouse I used to own."
Â Â Hughie was still fretting about his nose, cradling it in one hand while staring at the funny little man that had so casually invaded his life.
Â Â "
Oo tha fugger oo?
" he grunted, taken aback by how incomprehensible he sounded.
Â Â "Who the fuck am I?" the little man replied, "Well now, that's a good question." He put his glasses back on and gave Hughie a smile. "What say we find out?"
The train now arriving at platform 3.149 to the power of 4 is delusional, passengers are advised they board it at their own risk.
Â Â Train stations are broken places. Echo chambers crammed with the bewildered and lost. They exist only to be departed from as quickly as possible. Crowds gather beneath the information boards like starving animals at a trough. They are angry, or impatient, or lonely, or panicked. That emotion bounces off the cold tiles and iron arches, filling every inch of the place. The act of sitting in this atmosphere is akin to lying in bed after an argument, all weighty silence and an urge to scream. Train stations are ghastly.
Â Â "This place is amazing!" said Miles, which goes to show what a hard time he's had of late. "I wonder if the coffee shops will serve us."
Â Â "We have more important things to think about than lattes," said Ashe.
Â Â "Lattes
Â Â Ashe ignored him, crouching down to check on the unconscious bodies of Tom, Alan and Sophie.
Â Â "Should you be doing that?" asked Miles as Ashe pressed his fingers to Alan's neck. "Two versions of the same person touchingâ¦ I've seen movies, won't the world explode or something?"
Â Â A savage crack heralded another section of roof tumbling to the floor.
Â Â "Don't tempt fate," said Penelope, looking around at the devastation.
Â Â Perhaps the most accurate part of the illusory St. Pancras was the way the crowds carried on their business despite the chaos. Glass shattered, cracks appeared in the concourse, bricks crumbled in torrents of dust. Nobody batted an eyelid. They could only be the ghosts of Londoners.
Â Â "She's saying something," said Ashe, picking up Sophie in his arms.
Â Â Carruthers leaned in, pressing his ear to the girl's lips. "Build not break, build not breakâ¦ she just keeps repeating herself, poor thing."