The Hairy Hand – Chapter One
Introducing Sept, the awful Plogs, the Village of Nowhere and the letter that changed everything
When Septimus Plog was small he liked to play in puddles outside his house. Sometimes he would look up and see his mother watching him from the kitchen window. He would stop and wave at her with all his little might … then wait; but she never waved back. Not once.
He always knew he was very different from everyone else in the village and Septimus often wondered if that was why his mother seemed not to like him very much.
For starters, he had this name. Septimus (Sept, for short). Everyone else his age was called Garp, Darg or Dorgk or Blaarg. Good, honest names that sounded like you were sneezing into custard or you had swallowed something pointy.
Secondly, he read books – by the sack, when he could get his hands on them. As far as he knew, no-one else in his village read anything except graffiti. And quite how Sept knew how to read was a mystery: there were no schools for a hundred miles, no teachers and, more to the point, Sept couldn’t remember ever not being able to read. Printed words in books just popped into his head, as if someone was telling the story out loud.
Unfortunately, in the Plog household there were only two books: the one he kept secret from his parents; and the one they kept a secret from him. Sept had only ever glimpsed it when he’d come home once and caught his mother staring at the cover as if she dared not open it. It was a small book with a black cover, like dead bats’ wings, and no title. Something about the book scared Sept very much indeed. His mother kept the Black Book in her apron pocket.
The other one – his secret book – he had read so many times he knew it almost by heart. It was called, How to be Happy, and it had twelve chapters, each with a simple idea for looking on the bright side of life. It was Sept’s most treasured possession, one that was just his. He hid it away in his room under a floorboard – because where he came from, possessions were just things other people hadn’t got around to stealing yet.
Apart from him, everyone else in the village seemed to have some sort of point: There was Begre, next door, who made pig food for his dad’s pigs. He used rotten turnips, boiled acorns and mud; there was Flargh the Meat grinder (although, generally, if Flargh offered you one of his burgers, you checked where the cat was first, before you knew whether to eat or bury it); there was Stomp the Bully and, of course, Spew the Puker.
‘Is puking really a job?’ Sept asked his dad as they trudged along through the mud past one or two shops. His father, Plog the Sneaker, wiped a runny nose with the back of his hand before slapping Sept around the back of his head.
‘Don’t talk soft. Course it is. Donkey doo brain!’
A Sneaker was a night thief and it was one of the most respected jobs to have, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about the village and everyone in it. Sept’s dad came from a long line of Sneakers. Dark-haired, black eyes and enormous eyebrows – like two very hairy caterpillars had been glued to his forehead. He was also short, stocky and incredibly strong. Ideal Sneaker. Plog pinched goats, chickens, sheep, any food left lying about and even the thatch from roofs. Sept’s dad would steal anything not nailed down. And if it was nailed down, he’d come back later with a claw hammer.
They were at the end of the road; beyond them it was hundreds of miles of nothing and nobody. Their village didn’t even have a proper name. People just called it, Nowhere.
Most of the time Sept tried to look on the bright side, just as his book kept reminding him to do: he was given food once a day, sometimes twice, and it wasn’t always turnip — once a month they got a bit of meat off Flargh and sometimes you could actually swallow it, if you chewed for long enough. The main problem with Nowhere was that nothing nice ever happened. People in it just went on being selfish and stupid, day after day, after day …
He searched out his reflection in a dirty shop window. A small boy, with fair hair and narrow features gazed back unhappily. Who was he and why didn’t he fit in?