THE SPACE BETWEEN US by Doug Johnstone
Today on the blog, The Space Between Us by Doug Johnstone is spotlighted. I must say the extract he provided is intriguing.
Lennox is a troubled teenager with no family. Ava is eight months
pregnant and fleeing her abusive husband. Heather is a grieving
mother and cancer sufferer. They don’t know each other, but
when a meteor streaks over Edinburgh, all three suffer instant,
catastrophic strokes ...
...only to wake up the following day in hospital, miraculously
When news reaches them of an octopus-like creature washed up
on the shore near where the meteor came to earth, Lennox senses
that some extra-terrestrial force is at play. With the help of Ava,
Heather and a journalist, Ewan, he rescues the creature they call
'Sandy' and goes on the run.
But they aren’t the only ones with an interest in the alien ... close
behind are Ava’s husband, the police and a government unit who
wants to capture the creature, at all costs. And Sandy’s arrival may
have implications beyond anything anyone could imagine...
Lennox looked at Mrs Cross, who was sitting up cradling her belly. Then at the other
woman, wide-eyed. Then at Blair, blinking and breathing through his tube.
‘And it gets stranger,’ Ormadale said, lifting more scans from the folder and fanning them
out. ‘Three of you have recovered completely.’ He prodded at the pictures. ‘Within five
hours, before we had a chance to attempt any treatment.’
Lennox glanced at Blair, it was obvious which one hadn’t recovered.
‘Six impossible things before breakfast,’ Ormadale said under his breath.
‘What?’ This was the blonde woman across the room.
‘Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass. “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six
impossible things before breakfast.”’ Lennox shook his head, remembered the blue-green
light overhead, the dizziness, the smell of burning biscuits. And something else.
‘What about the others?’
Lennox pointed at Blair. ‘The others who were with us in the park?’
Ormadale seemed to deflate, his theatricality gone. ‘They didn’t make it to the ward, dead
Mrs Cross looked anxious. ‘What?’
Ormadale nodded. ‘They’re not the only ones. There’s been a four hundred percent increase
in stroke cases in the last twentyfour hours. It’s an impossible health emergency. The
government have been told, but what do you do about something like this?’
Lennox remembered that he’d not answered Ormadale’s question at the start, no one here
knew who he was.
‘What about us?’ Mrs Cross said. She picked at the blanket over her belly.
‘That’s why I’m here.’ Ormadale looked at Lennox and the two women. ‘You’re free to go
once OT and PT have signed you off. In fact, the sooner the better, we need the beds for
other patients. Things are crazy. And you all seem fit and well.’
His phone buzzed in his pocket and he took it out. ‘Jesus.’ He put the scans back in the
folder and turned to leave.
‘Good luck,’ he said, shaking his head, then under his breath: ‘Six impossible things before
Lennox stared at the doorway then the two women. He couldn’t bring himself to look at
Blair with his tube and drool.
‘Put the volume up,’ the older woman said, getting out of bed. She was wearing cheap, blue
She pointed at the television screen above Mrs Cross’s bed. Lennox saw a news reporter
standing on a beach. He walked over and lifted the remote, turned the volume up.
The female reporter was talking about some unfortunate creature found washed up on
Yellowcraigs Beach in East Lothian. There were rocky outcrops in the background and a
stubby lighthouse on an island. Lennox had never heard of it yet he felt sick with
recognition, as if he’d been there. He remembered his dream, swimming in the ocean.
The older woman joined them at Mrs Cross’s bed.
The reporter talked to a marine biologist who said she wasn’t sure of the exact species, but
it appeared to be a cephalopod, an octopus, squid or cuttlefish. She’d never seen one this
big and it had unusual markings. And it only had five tentacles, but maybe it lost the others
in a fight.
Then he saw it. A shot of the creature, long, domed head, blue with green ripples and
striations running down its length, darker tentacles splayed out beneath. A feeling swept
over him, a nagging in his heart like déjà vu. He somehow knew that the creature was
usually thicker and fuller in colour, pictured it in his mind swimming alongside him, scuffling
over rocks and shells on the seabed, wrapping its tentacles around him. He felt sick and
exhilarated at the same time and wondered for a moment if he was having another stroke.
The camera moved to the other side of the creature, then panned out to give a sense of
perspective. It was maybe six feet long including its tentacles, waves nudging its body.
Doug Johnstone is the author of fourteen previous novels, most recently Black Hearts (2022). The Big Chill (2020) was longlisted for the Theakston Crime Novel of the Year and three of his books, A Dark Matter (2020), Breakers (2019) and The Jump (2015), have been shortlisted for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. He’s taught creative writing and been writer in residence at various institutions over the last decade, and has been an arts journalist for over twenty years. Doug is a songwriter and musician with six albums and three EPs released, and he plays drums for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a bandof writers. He’s also co-founder of the Scotland Writers Football Club, and has a PhD in nuclear physics.