English teacher Dexter feels like he’s being taunted by the universe. Everywhere he turns he’s accosted by wedding invitations, housewarming parties and tables for two. Every last one of his friends is settling down with their other halves, while Dexter spends his evenings marking schoolbooks with his ginger cat for company. The thing is, he doesn’t even mind being single; he just wishes his friends were too.
After another wedding ends in a drunken disaster, Dexter is musing on the situation and wondering what he’s going to screw up next, when he gets the shocking reminder that he’s not the centre of the universe. An alien spaceship has landed on the continent and when first contact is made, it’s anything but friendly.
Humanity’s numbers dwindle immediately, and the survivors are left to do exactly that – survive. Dexter gathers his friends and they all set off on a mission across the country, each with the goal of preserving their own lives in this new world. But these aliens are two-headed, tenacious and have technology beyond anything seen on Earth, so saving the day looks more and more unlikely as they track down Dexter’s motley crew. In the end, perhaps it is the one thing Dexter dislikes most that will help him survive, if he can just stop thinking about himself for one minute.
Written to subvert any story that insists on including a romance subplot, as well as any science fiction story where untrained amateurs inexplicably have the right skills to save the day, The Third Wheel shines a light on those who are just trying to make it through to tomorrow in the face of overwhelming odds.
What appears to be a door on the side of the craft slides open and there are immediately two figures present in the gap. They appear vaguely human, although very tall, but they are mere shadows due to the way the lighting falls. Cameras are too far away, but the BBC cameraman, hands apparently shaking like an aspen in a high wind is trying to zoom in.
“What the actual…” begins Alex, but Ruby shushes him, and the three of us (four if you include Catsby, who seems to sense that something strange was happening) stare open-mouthed at the screen. The aliens – they had to be aliens – are still several feet from the ground, and it is now clear that they are wearing some sort of spacesuits. As they take one step forward to the very edge of the door, something else becomes clear.
It isn’t two figures, it’s one. What I had taken to be the two large round heads of a pair of aliens belonged to the same creature, one with – apparently – two arms and two legs, but also two heads, each encased in its own helmet. The streets around these events – taking place in the coastal Norwegian town of Moss – are packed with people but absolutely silent. You could’ve heard a photograph cough.
The world freezes and then there is a little flicker of something bottle green in the corner of my eyes.
“Did you just…”
“Yes,” says Ruby-and-Alex. The bottle green is replaced with the turquoise of Caribbean oceans, which slides seamlessly into onyx. The figure steps from the door and floats down to terra firma, landing silently on asphalt. The heads don’t look at one another, but nonetheless you get the sense they are communicating. Occasionally I see flashes of colour – maroon and cream, chestnut and tangerine – but the planet is, for the most part, silent.
The cameras have zoomed in as far as they can, but what the alien actually looks like under its suit remains a mystery. The helmets have small black visors in a position that suggests their eyes are located in the same place as ours. The alien reaches for a silvery pack on its chest and holds it up to one of the visors, apparently looking at something. It thumbs at something on the pack and then clips it back onto its chest.
“What’s it doing?” whispers Ruby.
As we all know, a book is nothing without its characters. They could be blood-sucking vampires, wealthy socialites, Belgian detectives or ex-gods and witches, but they all bring the story to life in their own unique ways. In The Third Wheel, the characters we're following are little more grounded. Here's a quick glance at who they are.
Dexter is our narrator and hero. He's a teacher who is struggling…
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