Sitting Duck is good.
Questions are bad. Obedience is good.
This book is GOOD.
(Do you feel brainwashed yet?)
Sitting Duck is the kind of town where the mayor was vaporized by aliens, so there is a vacancy. Ravenous zombie hordes and swarms of power-hungry aliens are just some of the disasters that the town has faced, so this new mayor had better be good.
Now a new evil genius has arisenand he’s running for mayor! Thanks to his homemade brainwashing device, he just might win the election and then move on to world domination. Are Sam, Arty, and Emmie brave enough to save the day? Or will they totally lose their minds?
Filled with funny illustrations and laugh-out-loud hijinks, Disaster Diaries: Brainwashed! will entertain young readersor else! Plus it offers nifty tips and tricks on how to spot a hypno-trance or break into a secret base.
An Imprint Book
About the Author
R. McGeddon is absolutely sure the world is almost certainly going to probably end very soon. His middle grade series, The Disaster Diaries, details the many ways this could happen. A strange, reclusive fellow – so reclusive in fact, that no one has ever seen him, not even his mom – he plots his stories using letters cut from old newspapers and types them up on an encrypted typewriter. It’s also believed that he goes by other names, including A. Pocalypse and N. Dov Days, but since no one’s ever met him in real life, it’s hard to say for sure. One thing we know is that when the zombie apocalypse comes, he’ll be ready!
Jamie Littler is the suspiciously happy, award-winning illustrator of The Disaster Diaries series, written by R. McGeddon. He hails from the mysterious, mythical southern lands of England. It is said that the only form of nourishment he needs is to draw, which he does on a constant basis. This could explain why his hair grows so fast. When he is not drawing, which is a rare thing indeed, he spends time trying to find the drawing pen he just lost. He is down to his last one.
Read an Excerpt
By R. McGeddon, Jamie Littler
Macmillan Children's Publishing GroupCopyright © 2014 Hothouse Fiction Ltd.
All rights reserved.
No, that wasn't an explosion. Sorry to get your hopes up. An explosion would have been a smashing way to open the book, but that's not what's happening. It was the sound of a thought arriving in the brain of Sam Saunders with such force it was almost loud enough for the people around him to hear it, too.
The thought that KABOOMED into his head as he darted across the school playing field was this:
Exercise is excellent.
Now don't get me wrong — Sam isn't one of those weirdos who loves going to the gym and running on treadmills until they throw up all over themselves. The sort of exercise Sam loves is the running-around-with-friends sort. The wind-in-your-face, isn't-it-great-to-be-alive type of activity.
And it's not like he's forcing exercise down anyone's throat. He isn't wearing a T-shirt that says how excellent exercise is or anything. He's just thinking it inside his own head, and there's nothing wrong with that, even if he is thinking it really quite loudly indeed.
Behind him, one of his best friends, Emmie, hurried to keep up. She also enjoyed running around but not enough to make a KABOOM! noise inside her mind.
Much farther behind Emmie was Sam's other best friend, Arty. From the way he was sweating and panting and dragging his clumping great feet across the grass, it was plain for all to see that physical effort was not really Arty's cup of tea. He did not think exercise was excellent. He thought it was soul crushing.
"I'm ... going ... to die." Arty wheezed.
Emmie glanced over her shoulder. Arty's face was red and puffed up, like the wrong end of a baboon, so Emmie offered him some words of encouragement.
"Oh, stop it, you're not going to die."
"Almost there, Arty," called Sam. "You can do it!"
Up ahead, across the playing field, he could see a group of kids gathering beside ... someone else. The sun in his eyes made it impossible to figure out who it was.
Sam and Emmie slowed to a jog so as not to leave Arty trailing too far behind. They're nice like that. And people say youngsters have no consideration these days.
"It's not fair," Arty gasped. "It's bad enough we have to do PE in school, now I'm doing sports club during the holidays."
Sports club was Arty's idea of a living nightmare. It was supposedly started to give the young people of Sitting Duck a fun place to go during the holidays, but Arty reckoned the real reason it was started was to keep them out of trouble. Either that, or the whole thing had been devised as a very elaborate form of torture just for him.
"You'll have a great time!" said Sam.
"I'll have a heart attack," Arty grumbled.
Emmie squinted into the sun as she ran. "Is that Coach Mackenzie?"
"Oh no," Arty groaned. "He made me run until I was sick!"
"How long did that take?" Emmie asked.
"About a minute and a half," Arty wheezed.
Sam shrugged. "He was okay. All those laps he made us do came in handy when we had to run away from the undead. If it wasn't for him, we might have been zombie chow."
"I'd rather be zombie chow than be running laps," Arty said. "Please don't let it be him."
"I don't think it is," said Sam. They were getting closer now and the sun was dipping behind a cloud. "Not unless he's a lot thinner."
"And become a woman," added Emmie.
"I wouldn't put anything past that guy," Arty muttered.
He stopped running. His body gave him no choice. He hobbled onward, Sam and Emmie slowing down to walk beside him.
"We still going to the Town Hall after this?" Arty asked.
"The Town Hall was blown to smithereens by an alien death ray," Emmie pointed out. "Or did you forget?"
Arty sighed. It was tremendously painful and he made a mental note not to do it again. "They're rebuilding," he said. "And they're announcing the candidates running for mayor today."
"Why would anyone want to be mayor after what happened to the last one?" Emmie wondered. "Mayor Sozzle was zapped into millions of atoms."
Arty cleared his throat and nodded in Sam's direction. Emmie quickly realized what he was getting at.
"But I ... um ... I'm sure if your dad wins then he won't be zapped to atoms," she said to Sam. "I meant the other candidates."
Sam shrugged. "I wouldn't worry about it. The aliens aren't coming back here in a hurry."
"Exactly! Anyway, it's going to be sooooo boring," Emmie complained. "A bunch of people just standing around talking rubbish about how much better they'll be for Sitting Duck than the rest. How dull can you get?"
"You don't have to come," Sam told her.
"Are you kidding?" cried Emmie. "It's that or I have to go back home and watch Great Aunt Doris chew off her toenails. I wouldn't miss this Town Hall thing for the world."
"Ooh, hello! New people!" beamed the definitely-not-Coach-Mackenzie person. She was a young woman with short blond hair and a smile that could crack walnuts across a crowded room.
Actually, I've got no idea what I mean by that. I was trying to say her smile was very nice. I have no clue how walnuts got involved.
Her eyes sparkled like fizzy lemonade, only blue and round and less runny. She wore gray shorts that showed off her legs, like shorts tend to do, and a white T-shirt with the word COACH written across the front.
"You're the most beautiful creature I've ever seen," blurted Arty. Around him, the dozen or so other kids snickered behind their hands. Arty felt his face turn a worrying shade of red. "Er ... by which I mean 'hello,'" he said.
He held out a shaking hand. The coach flashed him a walnut-cracker and shook it. "Pleased to meet you," she said, and Arty knew in that moment he'd never wash that hand again.
Emmie sneered and turned to Sam. "Can you believe the way he's drooling over her?" she asked, but Sam was staring past her, his head cocked to one side, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
Were he a cartoon, Sam's eyes would have been the shape of love-hearts, and he'd almost certainly have been floating several inches above the ground. Not being a cartoon, though, he merely stood there with a soppy expression on his face and dribbled very slightly down his chin.
Emmie cast her gaze across the rest of the group. Most of them were boys, and most of them were staring at the coach. Even Brendan Jenkins was staring, and he was blind!
Okay, he wasn't strictly speaking blind, but he did have a dog (who will not be appearing in this book. Sorry, pet fans!).
"Welcome to sports club at Hetchley's Park, everyone," the coach smiled. "My name is Coach Priscilla, but you can call me Priscilla. Or Coach. Or Coach Priscilla. It's entirely up to you, really. Whatever you feel comfortable with."
Priscilla gazed around at the faces of the children watching her. "I mean, obviously Coach isn't my actual name, that would be crazy...." She laughed sharply, making everyone jump. "Just my little joke," she said, cranking up her magical smile so far that somewhere in the world a unicorn spontaneously popped into existence. "Who'd like to have some fun?"
The hands of every boy in the immediate vicinity shot up.
"Great! Then let's start with jumping jacks!"
A chorus of disappointed groans went around the group. Because no one likes jumping jacks, do they? Not even Sam, who thinks that exercise is excellent, remember?
"I love jumping jacks!" cried Jesse, one of the bigger boys gathered near the back of the group. "I love them with all my heart!"
Arty stared at his older brother in horror as Jesse launched into a frenzied fit of arm-flapping. Arty suspected his newfound enthusiasm for jumping jacks had more than a little to do with the coach. Of the two siblings, Arty was definitely the brainy one. Mind you, that's not saying much. Brendan Jenkins's dog (which, I remind you, will not be appearing in this story at any point) was more intelligent than Jesse.
In fact, on a good day there were probably certain types of grass with more smarts than Arty's big brother, but what Jesse lacked in intellect he made up for in his ability to punch people hard in the face.
"That's the spirit," Priscilla cheered.
Emmie nudged Sam, snapping him out of his trance. "She's nothing like Coach Mackenzie, is she? Jesse would never do those lame exercises for him."
Around them everyone started flapping their arms as they launched into halfhearted jumping jacks. Sam and Emmie sprang into action, immediately competing with each other to see who could do the most. Arty let out a groan and then he did his best to join in, and that's what counts.
"Excellent! All in unison — your town would be proud," the coach gushed. "Now let's do some motivational chanting! Repeat after me, 'Sitting Duck is good.'"
The kids looked around at one another. A few of them murmured the words, but then tailed off into embarrassed silence.
"You can do better than that," Priscilla said. "Come on, Sitting Duck is good. Sitting Duck is good!"
There was something about the panicky desperation in Priscilla's voice that made Sam want to help her. Even though it was really weird, he drew in a deep breath, opened his mouth, and then chanted at the top of his voice.
"Sitting Duck is good! Sitting Duck is good!"
Emmie rolled her eyes, but joined in anyway, because it's important to support your friends, even when they're humiliating themselves. Arty would have liked to join in, but he was too focused on trying not to be sick over his own shoes.
In no time, the whole group had begun to chant along. "Sitting Duck is good. Sitting Duck is good."
Priscilla clapped her hands in excitement. "Yes! Wonderful! You're doing so well," she cried. "This will be terrific practice."
"For what?" asked Emmie.
Priscilla's smile froze on her face. "Just ... in general," she said. She quickly brightened again. "Now, let's play freeze tag!"
"What's that?" Jesse asked.
"It's really easy," Priscilla said. "One person is 'it.' When they tag someone, that person then has to stay perfectly still for the rest of the game."
Arty waved his hands. "Ooh! Ooh! Tag me! Tag me first!"
Across the field, somewhere in the distance, the tinkling of an ice cream van's jingle came floating in on the breeze. Suddenly, Priscilla's smile was nudged out of Sam's thoughts by the image of a massive vanilla cone with strawberry sauce.
As the coach tried explaining the rules of freeze tag to Jesse for a second and then third and fourth time, Sam gestured to Emmie and Arty to follow him. Side by side they sneaked off across the field in search of ice cream.
"Well, she seemed nice," said Arty when they were safely out of earshot.
"Bit weird," said Emmie. "I mean, what was all that 'Sitting Duck is good' stuff about?"
Sam shrugged. "Just building town pride, I suppose."
"Hmm, maybe," said Emmie, rubbing her chin like someone just realizing they'd lost their beard. "But, then again, maybe not."CHAPTER 2
The Town Hall — as you might expect of something that had been blown to bits during an alien invasion — was in quite the state.
It was no longer a big crater in the ground, so things had definitely improved, but it still looked like rubbish.
At least, all the residents of Sitting Duck who had gathered around it assumed it looked like rubbish. What was left of it was hidden beneath a big tarp, a whole lot of scaffolding, and a really big fence.
A load of trucks and vans kept driving in the gate and through a flap in the tarp. Look, here comes one now.
Arty jumped out of the path of a monstrously huge truck as it swept along the road and through the gap in the fence. Two towering gates rolled closed behind it.
"Road hog!" Arty shouted, waving a fist at the truck. The high side of the vehicle had been painted with a swirly spiral logo. Arty made a mental note to find out the name of the company later, so he could write a stern letter of complaint.
As he, Emmie, and Sam headed in the direction of the gathered crowds, Arty began composing the letter in his head. Dear Ignorant Buffoons — that was how it would start. After that it should pretty much write itself, he thought.
There was a real atmosphere of excitement among the people, who had all gathered to see who would be putting themselves forward to become the new mayor. It was quite impressive that something like that could still get them excited, really, what with all the zombies and the alien invasion they'd all gone through. You'd think everything else would be boring after that sort of thing.
"That's a big tarp," Sam whistled, but no one understood him so he said it using actual words as well.
"I wonder how the rebuild is going," said Arty. "I've heard the designs are really quite breathtaking."
"It's a Town Hall," Emmie said. "How breathtaking could it be?"
"Why don't we take a peek?" Sam suggested.
Arty's face went pale. "But ... there's a fence!"
"We could climb over it."
"And ... and ... the tarp."
"We could sneak under it."
"And an armed guard!"
"We could ... Wait," Sam frowned. "Armed guard?"
Yup, one of those, too. He approached them slowly, a machine gun cradled in his arms and a beard nestled on his face.
"Halt," he said, although his heart didn't really seem to be in it. It was like he was looking through them instead of at them. His eyes were slightly glazed, as if he'd recently been hit on the head with a coconut. Or, you know, something else. It didn't specifically have to be a coconut; that was just an example. "Entry is not permitted."
"Why not?" asked Sam.
Arty gasped. "Don't ask him questions; he's got a machine gun!"
"Why do you have a machine gun?" Emmie asked.
"And definitely don't ask him that!"
"Entry is not permitted," said the guard again. His voice was dull and robotlike. It went with his eyes. "Disobedience is bad. Obedience is good."
Sam and Emmie exchanged a puzzled glance. "Er ... whatever you say," said Sam.
"Obedience is good," repeated the guard. "Sitting Duck is good."
A screech of feedback made Sam and the others turn. The deputy mayor was standing on a little wooden box in front of the fence and smiling nervously down at the gathered crowds.
"Come on, it's starting. Let's go," Arty urged.
With a quick, uneasy glance at the guard, Sam led the rest of them over to join the audience. The deputy mayor patted the pockets of his suit jacket and then pulled out a small notepad. After noisily clearing his throat, he slowly and awkwardly began to read.
"Good morrow, fine people of Sitting Duck," he read. "It's a relief to see you weren't all horribly killed by zombies or aliens before you got here."
Pausing for laughter, he looked up hopefully from his notepad. A sea of stony faces stared back at him.
"No?" he squeaked, then he flipped the page and continued. "Then allow me to start by saying ... Milk. Eggs. Laundry detergent. Jam ..."
The deputy mayor frowned and squinted at the page. "Hang on, no, that's my shopping list."
He flipped another page. "Right. Here we go. As you all know, our much missed and dearly loved former Mayor Sozzle was recently disintegrated by aliens. The time has come to elect a successor, and today we have four fine candidates putting themselves forward."
There was a smattering of applause as the candidates stepped out from the audience. They all tried to huddle together on the deputy mayor's box, which immediately collapsed under their combined weight.
"First up is a man who needs no introduction, but I'm required to give him one by law, so I suppose I'd better," announced the deputy mayor (or the DM as I'm going to call him from now on, because I'm lazy like that). "He's old, he used to be in the army, and he's largely responsible for killing half the town when they turned into zombies that one time. Ladies and gentlemen ... Major Muldoon!"
A gray-haired man with a toilet brush 'stache took a sharp pace forward and fired off a crisp salute.
"Indeed! Tally-ho, what?" barked Major Muldoon. "Blast those zombies, I did, by jove! Took their heads clean off. Bang! Bang! Brains everywhere. You see, you'll always be safe if you vote for me. Make me Mayor Major Muldoon and you can all sleep more soundly in your beds, what?"
"They found a cure, though," called a voice from the crowd. "They'd have been fine if you hadn't blown their heads off."
"You shot my grandma," grumbled someone else. "And I'm not even sure she was a zombie."
An unhappy murmuring began to spread through the crowd. The DM stepped up and nudged the major aside. "Next, let's hear from someone with a strong view on education. It's Tribbler the Dribbler!"
Excerpted from Brainwashed! by R. McGeddon, Jamie Littler. Copyright © 2014 Hothouse Fiction Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group.
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