In Peter V. Brett’s excellent The Warded Man we have a world where demons rise from the ground at sundown and attack the human population.
The only protection from the demons – known as corelings – is to inscribe magical runes – known as wards – around your home, your village, even yourself.
If you don’t maintain these wards, renewing them nightly and developing them so they become stronger and more complex, the corelings will kill you.
This summer, in my small back garden, I have suffered attacks from my own personal nest of corelings, and am desperately putting out wards every evening to try and drive them away.
The warm, wet winter, spring and summer has caused a slug explosion, and these slugs mean business.
There are hundreds of them, lurking beneath leaves, under stones, inside the hosepipe, sliming their way across the window and even squelching their way under the kitchen door (imagine padding across a dark kitchen in your bare feet to get a drink and standing on what you assume is a cold, half-sucked Haribo. Oh yes).
These aren’t just those tiny black slugs either, but the big shiny ones with ridges and blowholes, in shades of mustard gas yellow and diarrhoea brown.
They come out at night and eat everything, down to the ground. And they, like Peter V. Brett’s corelings, are getting stronger.
I look out of the window in the morning and see them owning the back yard, long after sunrise. Slugs are supposed to be afraid of sun, but now, drawing strength from their vast numbers, they simply shrug it off.
It is impossible to sit outside on an unusually sunny morning, with a croissant and coffee (get me) because of the brown jelly shapes brazenly patrolling the paving stones, like tiny moving turds.
I started doing a regular slug patrol, scraping them up from the concrete and picking them out of the plants. I regularly fill a plastic bag with their soft, oozing bodies, which I tip into the compost bin.
But more and more emerge from the Earth’s core, eating my lily bulbs and leaving mocking trails of glistening slime on the garage doors.
I don’t believe in pesticides, because, y’know, the planet and nature’s natural balance and all that. But when they ate the poppy I bought at the local beekeepers’ plant sale I saw it as a declaration of war.
Poppies are about the only thing I can grow, and this one was multi-coloured beautiful. And it was from the beekeepers, and bees are Good.
I bought some wards, in the form of a tub of blue slug pellets, and laid them out before nightfall.
It was carnage. The next morning you couldn’t move for melted slugs, motionless in thick bubbles of brown ooze. I scraped them up with a shovel, hosed down the slime and enjoyed my croissant and coffee. The next day it was the same, the day after that – it rained.
This being August, it rained for three days and the slug pellet wards washed away.
At lunchtime today I went out in the drizzle and picked up thirty-five of the demon slugs, brazenly meandering across the yard.
But they haven’t won. Because, ultimately, they will succumb to the same weapon that stopped Napoleon and did for Hitler – winter.
Frost is forecast for this week. And, for once, I will be welcoming it in.