Snapshots, part three: Split Kit

The final installment!

Jim Pywell is a name you’ve probably never heard of, but he once made me feel as though I had just sunk through the floor never to return to the normal world again. One day in college, we finish a lecture and we are coming down the stairs, heading to the canteen for lunch. Outside the canteen, there is a large cardboard box with several white packets in them. On the box, it reads ‘Free Chlamydia Testing Kit’.

Jim turns to me with a sly smile.
“Should we?” he asks.
“Should we what?” I answer, not quite getting the gist of it yet.
“Take a test!”
“Why, do you think there’s something wrong with you?”
“Oh c’mon, just for a giggle!”

So we take a packet each and go to the toilets. Finding the place empty, we choose a cubical each and the fun begins. I open my packet, but let out a moan at seeing that the contents are broken.

“Mine’s busted, how’s yours?” I call out above the cubicle.
“Fine thanks, nearly there!”
“Oh god, what do you even plan to do with it?”
“Send it off to the clinic of course!”

We both leave our cubicles and he proudly displays his full bottle. I throw mine in the bin as we leave. Jim swaggers towards the canteen like he’s the king of the world. We enter the canteen, I behind Jim at a normal pace and he all smiles at high speed. We enter the canteen, and suddenly something terrible happens.

A bump and a splash are the first sounds I hear, before a tense silence takes hold. Jim has just crashed into a sharp dressed man, complete with black suit, white shirt, black trousers and black tie, although most of the man’s chest has turned to a yellowy-green colour. A distant voice that comes closer suddenly breaks the silence.

“So as you can see, Principal Davidson, the canteen now has all the… Oh, hello Jim, hello Fred, now then Sir as I was saying…”

But here our lecturer from earlier looks down at what the rest of us are looking at. He now looks as if he doesn’t know whether to show anger towards us for what we’ve just done or remorse and sympathy for the Principal he is showing around the canteen.

The yellowy-green liquid spreads slowly downwards, dripping off the Principal’s shirt, onto the floor and through the cracks. I wish I could join it.

Snapshots, part two: Fulstow

Apologies for this being a day late – my internet was being odd last night.

Fulstow is like a pig farm, its crap. Fulstow is like a piece of Limburger cheese, it stinks. Fulstow is like Metallica playing disco, wrong, just wrong. Crap, stinks and wrong.

You drive into the village but its not like you want to, it drags you in. The first thing you see is the post office and pub. The pub’s gone through 4 owners in the 10 years I’ve been living there, and each of them had to discover the hard way what a rubbish village this is.

The post office has met with a similar fate, it’s completely abandoned. The thing you notice the most about it is the roof, it hangs low, really low, over the walls, like it’s trying to protect it from people like me.

The two of them are facing each other on either side of the street. As you go down the road, they’re like two beady eyes staring at you, and then you realize the road is like a tongue, swallowing you up and trapping you. Down the tongue you go, passing each little house along a road that’s constantly tripping you up with its bends and turns and corners.

Travelling through a dead man’s digestive system, that’s the best way to describe travelling through Fulstow, it just gets worse as you keep going. Every home you pass is decaying more so than the last home. The woodland surrounding the village acts as a kind of littered barrier, keeping the village away from the world. But even the woodland doesn’t like its job. The trees sprout high into the sky, as if they’re trying to escape their task of making sure the world never sees this grotty village.

Finally, when you leave the houses behind, it’s like coming out of the arsehole and into the fresh air. From here, there’s nothing but fields and a few farms, one of which is mine. Before you get to it though, the road shrivels up like your grandmother. Cracks begin to appear, the surface starts going grey and weird little bumpy spots catch you off guard. The road is also a bit senile, determined to give you a bumpy ride or make you crash into the ditches on either side. Deep at the bottom of either ditch there lays a thick, steaming river. It bubbles and swells away in an ominous manner, almost like there’s something lurking beneath the surface, ready to jump out and kill you at any second.

If you’re brave, lucky or stupid enough to go down this road, you’ll end up at my place, Studworth Farm. Even Napoleon wouldn’t want this farm. All the buildings are in ruin except for the shed where we keep the tack for the horses.

But beneath all the cracks of this place lies my home, the one place I can feel safe and happy and escape into a village of my own that’s more to my tastes. But I guess having to go through a village that awful makes coming home all the more special, and I’d rather it’d be here instead of trapped within that crappy little village.

Snapshots, part one: Luke’s Night Out

I know, I’m a horrible person. Almost two months without a post, disgraceful! To make up for this, I’ve some lovely little short stories for you – Snapshots! Well, they’re little and they’re short, its up to you if you think they’re lovely or not.

Anywho, enjoy! Part 2 will be published next week, and from now on I promise to not let life get on top of me to the point where I neglect this hub for my insanity. Is anyone ever reading this? Helloooo…?

Luke Todd is taking the big city life all in his stride, falling in love with the city he now finds himself in. From the Tesco’s on Newland Avenue to the Haworth Arms, Hull is all his for the taking. Going out on the town with his friends for the first time since arriving in Hull, he feels like the king of this new found world. The decadent buildings that soar into the sky are monuments to his achievements. The neon lights above many of these buildings seem to shine down on Luke. Even in Luke’s eyes, which are now ensconced by the city, his friends become his servants, ever faithful to their king.

But now his servants decide they are hungry. This is when Luke’s world comes crashing down around him, for they realize they don’t have a penny between them. A hunt for a friendly take-away begins, one that could perhaps let them have food for free. But the more they hunt, the more the city seems to spit and snarl down on them, Luke especially.

Hull is nothing like the pastorals greens of Luke’s previous home back in the little village of Covenham. There, everything is always so simple and slow, everyone knows each other and everywhere is wonderfully calm and serine. Here, everything has now become so complicated and fast, no-one knows anyone and everywhere is bitter and dangerous.

They find themselves scouring dark, damp streets and their even darker and damper innards that seem to swallow them up as they walk. The growling cars and vans and buses that speed along the road seem to curse and threaten Luke and his party as they walk, almost as if they want to pounce on them and dig their claws deep into their nervy flesh.

The strangers on the streets gush and slither past them, like an uncontrollable river. Luke and his friends have a job trying not to drown. Finally, all sense of rank is broken and Luke embraces his former servants, now realising they are all on the same level of desperation. They stick close together and move as one, rather than Luke leading the whole group.

Finally, a place is found, but will it be cheap? Luke and his friends venture forth, away from the swarming torrents and relentless growls and into what maybe a last shard of Luke’s former kingdom. A greasy burger flipper greets them, greasier than his food.

‘Please,’ asks Luke, ‘have you anything that’s cheap?’

Their travel-worn faces and exhausted voices touch the burger flipper, but this is impossible to see from underneath all that grease on his face. He hands the group a generously piled paper plate full of scraps of various foods.

‘Free of charge.’ he says.

The group gaze at him with dumb-struck adoration and begin tucking in, with muffled and blocked variations of ‘thanks’ issuing forth from their grease-laden lips. They turn to leave, but the vision of that horrendous world outside smacks them hard in the face. The strangers outside, who charge up and down the streets, seem to create a barrier that seems impossible to penetrate. And the vehicles on the road seem to have stopped speeding, but now seem to gaze hungrily through the window at Luke and his friends, waiting for them to sink into their fangs.

However Luke steps forward, filled with a warm meal and a renewed sense of vigour. He feels his sense of leadership return to him. He will lead his friends out into that doom-laden world and back to Thwaite Hall, without fear or desperation.

Opening the door, he steps out, and begins his journey homeward…

Max Danger’s Great Escape – a short story

‘I hate Mrs Fuller; she always gives us stupid work to do. And she smells, a lot. Like when my mum put garlic and cheese in that vegetable stew we had last week. Doesn’t she ever take a shower?’

Tom stared at the sheet of paper on the table before him. Around him, his classmates were already scrawling away, tongues stuck out in grim determination. Andy sat next to him, gripping his pen and scribbling hard, his pen digging into the paper like a shovel into soil.

‘You only say that ‘cause she always catches you reading a comic, or doodling, or pulling faces at someone,’ he answered, without looking up from his work.

Tom grunted, the colourful edges of his Max Danger comic book he was reading earlier peeping out from beneath his assignment work. He’d placed the work over it so Mrs Fuller wouldn’t notice that he’d brought it in from home.

‘Y’know, if we were next door, we wouldn’t be stuck in here doing these stupid “write about your holiday” assignments!’ he nudged Andy, his sudden enthusiasm sending his elbow deep into Andy’s ribs.
‘Cut it out, Tom!’

‘I’m serious! I hear them chatting away over the fence at playtime. In science, they use these things called, erm, bumsen burners, or something like that. And they have something called D and T. No idea what it means, but it sounds like they get to play in some kind of workshop! Imagine that! They get to use drills, and saws and hammers, and a bunch of other stuff!’

Tom was beginning to bounce in his chair, until an echoing ‘ssshhh!’ flew across from the lips of everyone on Tom’s table. Tom sank back, his smile slowly dripping into a frown. He gazed round the colourfully decorated classroom, walls adorned with the work of Tom’s classmates. He let his head spin round as he examined all he could see. The small bookcases, dotted around the classroom, each had thin strips of protective foam stuck on the jagged edges.

He gave the paper the hardest stare he’d ever given it all morning. He squinted his eyes so the words seemed to join together and change into a messy blur. Finally, he buried his head into the paper, letting out a prolonged, creaky groan. Tom stuffed his hands into his grey pockets, fingering the custom-built catapult made from a conveniently-shaped branch which, to that day, Tom persists he had no idea how it fell off the tree in his front garden and onto his Dad’s car.

‘If you don’t do your work Tom, Mrs Fuller will have you,’ Tom dragged his head back up and glared at the person in front of him. Billy sneered at Tom from the other side of the table, his wrinkled face scowling. ‘She’ll give you another detention, and you know what that means!’

‘Oh shut your face, Billy, I don’t need your grief.’ Billy thrust his tongue out in Tom’s direction as malevolently as he could. Tom buried his head back into the table, but then gave Andy a slight nudge. ‘Why did we have to get stuck on Billy’s table?’

‘Look, I don’t like him anymore than you do,’ whispered Andy. ‘But he’s got a point. You know how scary Mrs Fuller can be when she’s angry.’

‘Now then children, let’s see how you’re all getting on.’Tom felt Mrs Fuller’s voice piercing through his head. She floated over to the students, hands clasped to one side, and her smile almost a full circle instead of a simple half-curve.‘Ah, Harry, such fine hand-writing. You’re grammar is improving Sarah, well done! Loving the presentation, Billy. Fabulous stuff as always, Andy,’ she then noticed Tom, still dead to the world. ‘Whatever’s happened to Tom? Oh dear, oh my. Quick, someone fetch the nurse!’

‘Tom, c’mon, wake up!’ Andy jabbed Tom as discreetly as possible.

‘He’s skiving!’ Billy piped up. ‘He’s not doing his work on purpose, Miss!’

Tom rose limply, his head lolling on one side.

‘S’alright miss, I’m here.’

He shot Billy a sharp glare. Billy squinted and flashed his tongue out for a brief moment as Mrs Fuller was standing right behind him.

‘Oh Tom, you gave us all a fright then!’ She waved an arm across the table, all of whom still had their tongues stuck out. ‘Let’s see your work, then.’ She scrutinised Tom’s notebook. ‘Oh Tom, this really is the limit! How many more pages are you going to fill up with doodles instead of actual work?’ She skimmed through the book with her thumb. ‘You’ll fill this thing up with worthless drawings in no time!’

Tom straightened with a jerk, facing Mrs Fuller as grimly as his classmates who still had their tongues stuck out.

‘But Miss, I’m not learning anything I can’t do at home,’ he snatched the assignment work and waved it in the air. ‘“Write about your holiday”, I mean, come on! Is this what I pay you for?’

‘You don’t pay me anything young man,’ Mrs Fuller snorted. ‘It’s your parents that pay me, and I’m not looking forward to sending them another letter about your conduct.’ Tom slumped back in his seat, but just as his head made for the table once more, the school bell rattled into action. ‘Alright class, pack your work away neatly and then you can all go out and play. Except for you Tom, you’re staying in and finishing your work.’

‘More like starting it!’ came a hushed voice from the table, which Tom couldn’t identify. He watched his classmates bounce out of the room and pour out into the playground.

Mrs Fuller dragged a small desk from the window to her own and places several sheets of paper down on the surface. She then took to her own desk and beckoned to Tom.

‘Now Tom, sit over here.’ She pointed to a table right in front of her desk. Tom got up and slouched over to it, dragging himself to the point of over-exaggeration. ‘Right then Tom, you will do the work that is in front of you, and you will do it without distractions, is that understood?’ Tom snorted. ‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Yes, miss,’ came a throaty mutter.

‘You know Tom, you should be happy here,’ she leaned in, fixing Tom with a stony gaze. ‘I mean, would you rather be here, happy and content, or would you rather be in that beastly secondary school we have to share with?’ She nodded towards the open window next to her. ‘Honestly, whoever thought it was a good idea to convert this place into two schools, not even on the same academic level!’

Mrs Fuller’s head then seemed to disappear completely behind stacks of exercise books and she began scribbling in each one. Tom didn’t even look at the work in front of him, and instead continued to ogle through the open window.

Outside, he could see and hear swarms of classmates running, jumping and laughing. Several seemed to be playing hide and seek among the artificial trees, some were sitting on the warm, tarmac ground in a circle, each clutching a handful of Pokemon cards. A cluster were playing football, using a worn-out tennis ball and the rusting, greenery-covered fence.

He also noticed how the fence slouched against the woodland that was propping it up. Every time a goal was made, the fence crumpled inwards, while many of the intertwined patches within the fence were worn away. The woodland spawned gaps as well, revealing tiny sights of the adjoining schoolyard, where figures in black darted all around. Height-wise, many of Tom’s classmates barely reached the top of the fence, but on the other side, Tom could barely see above any one pair of legs.

Beyond the fence lay a vast row of zig-zag-topped buildings, all different sizes. Elegantly crafted windows adorned each building, each a different style. Some had curved walls and curved roofs, with multi-coloured bricks. The only building Tom was able to awe at in school was the very building he was in, the primary school division. A single-storey, rectangular shaped building that crumpled in next door’s shadows.

Shoving his hands back into his pockets, Tom felt the rough, hard catapult, with its elastic trigger, and a smile grew on his lips. Noting the classroom door was wide-open, and Mrs Fuller buried alive in textbooks, Tom hauled the catapult gingerly from his pocket, loaded a near-by rubber into it, pulled on the elastic, and opened fire.

The resulting crashes radiated throughout the cloakroom, which made Mrs Fuller jerk upright from her work. Piles of books flew everywhere, revealing the sight of Tom head down, pen in hand, scribbling hard. Mrs Fuller leapt up.

‘What on earth is that racket? You stay there Tom, and carry on with your work.’ As she jogged to the cloakroom, Tom pounced to her desk, grabbed the keys, and followed her on tip-toe. Mrs Fuller looked about her in shock. The pinging had died down, but coats, hats and bags were strewn everywhere, like some bloody battle that had been lost. ‘Goodness me, how did all this happen?’

Tom shot his arm out for the door handle and swung it shut. Turning the key in the lock, he flung the keys in the air and dashed for the open window. A furious succession of rapid-fire knocks came from the door. Clutching onto the frame, Tom thrust one leg over the open window and dragged the rest of himself into the outside. He startled as his grip loosened, and Tom slowly felt himself sliding off the window. He collapsed onto the playground tarmac, the impact sent a sting all along his back.

‘Tom? What are you doing here?’ clearing the water from his eyes Tom pulled himself up and noticed Andy staring down at him.

‘Oh, hey Andy,’ Tom stood up, dusting himself down. ‘Can’t stop now, I’m off!’

Tom tore towards the rickety fence. A small group of year threes were engrossed in a game of Pokemon, sitting on benches at the far end of the playground, when Billy wobbled towards them and leant on the back of the bench, it creaked horribly. The young kids looked up in fear at Billy’s round, puffy face.
‘Give us your cards,’ he snorted.

‘They’re not for you!’ piped up one of the little ones.

‘I wasn’t asking, you twerp,’ Billy reached over and snatched away a handful of cards from one of the kids, crumpling them in his plump, sweaty hand, the skin of his fingers overflowing.

‘Don’t ruin it, that’s my only Charizard!’

The little kid knelt over the bench and struggled for her card, but Billy stuck out his other podgy hand into her face and held the card away, facing the opposite direction. He smiled at his prize, but noticed something that drew his attention to something else.

Billy spotted a scruffy looking boy, school uniform not tucked in, hair unkempt, and making for the school fence.

‘Tom…?’ Billy stared after in, bemused. Then, through the open window, came the echoy sound of someone knocking with all their might on a door, and high-pitched wailings of “Tom! Tom!” floated over the playground. ‘Mrs Fuller…?’

Billy dropped the Charizard card and made for the classroom, leaving a battered and slightly torn card on the ground. The small group of kids crowded round it on their hands and knees. One picked it up as nimbly as possible and cradled it in her palms.

‘That… bully!’ she spluttered.

As inconspicuously as possible, Tom attempted to repeat how he’d exited the classroom with exiting the playground. On reaching the fence, he’d found that the holes were not quite as big as he’d hoped, and he’d had to throw away his school jumper once he’d torn it to shreds after attempting to crawl through one of the hole.

The fence was far wobblier than the window, so Tom found himself swaying side to side as he clung onto the fence, pulling his left leg over the top. With one leg soon over, Tom fell into the soft, clingy woodland soil, the back of his shirt dirtying instantly.

Tom picked himself up and began to crawl through the thin row of nature that separated the schools. Branches poked into his side and scratched his face, sending more stings throughout his body. Pushing low-hanging branches and shrubbery out of his face, he stopped in his tracks. His jaw dropped in amazement.

Before him was a swirling mass of black-clad students, black jumpers with black trousers and black shoes, all acting with more violence than those classmates he’d left behind. Kids had other kids in headlocks, some chasing each other with books drawn like swords, but all of them had psychotic smiles. He was so awed that he didn’t notice the school bell rattle away, and the black mass began moving towards various doors which led into the spiralling buildings, each chimney adorning a majestic crest of gold and silver.

Tom took his first step on big kid ground, and was instantly swept away, lost within the student’s towering figures. Elbows and stomachs smeared his face, while high-flung cackles crowded over his head. The uneven flow stopped suddenly as Tom felt himself being squashed as people filed into the building. Above, Tom caught sharp glances of the sky turning from a clear blue to a thick, crinkly grey.

Tom could just reach the open door, which would give him something solid to cling onto. He stuck his hand out as best he could but continued to be pushed and shoved in all directions from the faceless crowd. His fingers felt as if they were ready to snap off. He flicked the handle with his fingertips, until a huge, hairy hand dived from above and grabbed Tom’s soil-ridden arm.

‘Oi you,’ came a deep, grizzly voice. ‘Where’s your uniform?’

*

Mrs Fuller’s knuckles were starting to throb and her voice was getting hoarse. As she continued to knock on the locked door of her own classroom, she felt something tugging at her skirt. Twisting round, she saw the plump, breathless face of Billy gasping as he pulled at her.

‘Miss, Miss, Tom’s gone over the fence!’

‘What are you talking about, Billy?’

‘It’s true Miss, I saw him myself!’ Billy began waving his arms. ‘He ran across the playground and climbed over the fence and now he must be in the big school next to us!’

Mrs Fuller brought her hands to her face.

‘Billy, I know you and Tom don’t get along, but there’s no need to tell lies like this. If he really has gone, why has no-one else told me?’ Billy’s jaw dropped, then he tried to give her an answer but all he could muster was a splutter. ‘And who told you you could come back inside during break? You know you’re supposed to use this time to refresh yourself. Go back outside please and I’ll deal with this situation, go on!’

She turned Billy round and shooed him away. Billy wobbled away, jaw still hanging loose.
Tom felt himself being heaved into the school. He stabbed at the ground with his feet, trying to gain some balance, but the hairy hand overpowered him. Once inside, he was pulled upright and greeted by a face that mixed cloud-grey stubble with bright red cheeks. Eyebrows spiked up, thick and black, while patches of greasy black hair sprang up around its head, the top being completely bald.

‘You deaf or something, where’s your uniform?’

‘Er, haven’t got one.’

The creature gnarled its teeth to Tom, huge chunks of yellow grating against each other.

‘Haven’t got one?! Right,’ regaining its clutch on Tom’s arm, the creature marched down the corridor towards a compact reception area. Regaining his footing somewhat, Tom nearly collapsed backwards at what he saw. The students all dressed in black, once shoving into Tom as if he wasn’t there, now parted wide births, letting the creature and Tom stride on.

The students now seemed to acknowledge Tom’s existence, pointing, staring and giggling at him. Whilst being pulled along, Tom noticed how the corridor was far greyer than those back in primary school. They were empty as well; no colourful drawings sprawled all over. Only the occasional plastic notice board, adorned with several A4 sized posters, most of which were filled with words rather than pictures.

The creature stopped dead in its tracks and almost flung Tom on the desk. Finally regaining complete control of himself, Tom suddenly felt rather small when he realized that he couldn’t see over the reception desk.

‘Lost his jumper. Get him one from lost property.’ The creature snarled down at Tom as a wrinkled face lent over the desk and examined him.

‘Alright Mr Grainger, name?’ the wrinkled face enquired in a shrill, shaky voice.

Tom opened his mouth and then snapped it shut. He knew this was a chance for a fresh start.

‘C’mon, c’mon! Haven’t you got a class to get to?’ the creature barked.

‘Max. Max Danger.’ Tom answered with a smirk.

The wrinkled face disappeared back over the desk.

‘What class do you have now?’ asked the creature.

Tom spluttered and spun round the reception area, looking for any helpful inspiration. He stopped with a jerk as he saw a flight of stairs with a sign at the bottom; “To the Library”.

‘English!’ he announced with triumph.

The creature’s constant frown relaxed slightly.

‘Who with?’

Tom’s spluttering resumed.

‘Mrs, er no, I mean Mr, Miss…’

A black jumper was thrust into Tom’s face.

‘Here you go,’ said the wrinkly face. She tilted her head up towards the snarling creature. ‘Mr. Webster wants you in his office right away. He needs to discuss the mock exams with you.’

The creature snorted.

‘Fine, tell him I’ll be there in a second,’ he bore down on Tom. ‘Get off to class now this instant, and get that jumper on!’

Tom scurried down another drab corridor, his view partially blocked by him struggling to get the jumper on. It was too large and baggy, and on his first attempt, Tom found his head poking up through one of the sleeves. Burrowing himself back into the jumper, he punched away at it some more, all the while gambling down a corridor he didn’t know.

He also felt himself bumping into the walls and doors, unknowingly causing several passersby to stare oddly at him. Tom gave one final punch inside the jumper, sending him off balance and into a door handle. He twisted round it, letting out a sharp cry, before feeling the door give way and collapsing onto a carpeted floor.

Scrambling, Tom attempted to get back on his feet, but his whole body seemed enveloped by the jumper. He then felt the jumper being pulled up, and he was greeted with a sudden burst of light and the gazes of several students, looking up from their work. Tom spun round, at first gearing up for a speedy exit, before a flour-white hand picked him up by the arm and brushed him down.

‘Dear me, what an entrance! Did you only just get out of bed?’

Tom twisted away from the door to meet the voice, and his mouth lolled slightly at what he saw. He’d never seen a teacher like this before. Her curled, auburn hair bounced in his face as she fiddled with his jumper. As she did so, puffs of fresh strawberry leaped out of her curls and up Tom’s nose.

‘Now then sweetheart, what’s your name?’ Tom could only open and close his mouth like a fish. The teacher’s face then beamed. ‘Oh, are you the new student?’ Tom nodded his head as if he were being strangled. ‘Oh how lovely, we weren’t expecting you until next week,’ she ushered him to a desk. ‘You can sit next to Lucy, she’ll look after you.’

There came a knock on the door and it was opened by a tall, thin man, clad in corduroy.

‘Miss Penelope, those new stationary items you ordered have arrived.’

‘Thank you, Mr Tracy,’ she looked round the classroom for a moment, while Mr Tracy disappeared back into the hall. ‘Now then, who wants to give me a hand getting all our lovely new equipment in here?’
Tom shot both his arms up in the air like a rocket, stretching them as high as he could. He stretched so hard he felt himself almost lifting off from the chair. Miss Penelope laughed.

‘Alright then, Tom, you can help me, come on.’ Tom sprang from his chair, leapt to the door, and flung it open. Miss Penelope laughed again, calmly getting up from her desk. ‘Carry on with your work you lot, we shan’t be long.’

Tom flashed a toothy smile as he held the door open. The two of them strode out into the corridor. Tom clung to her side. They soon came to a large pile of boxes.

‘Oh, Miss Penelope,’ came a wobbly voice that Tom seemed to recognise. ‘Can you come into the office for a moment?’

Miss Penelope bent down to Tom.

‘You can start taking these boxes back to class can’t you?’ she smiled down on him in such a way that made Tom blush.

‘Uh-huh,’ he stammered.

‘Good boy, I shan’t be a moment,’ she disappeared into a small office, while Tom set to work on the boxes. Picking the first one up, he realized that he was back in the reception area, and that Mr Grainger’s crinkly face was frowning down on him once again from the other side of the desk.
‘What are you doing out of class?’ he growled.

‘Just moving some boxes for Miss Penelope,’ answered Tom. ‘She’s in the office if you don’t believe me.’

Mr Grainger snorted and disappeared from view. Tom skipped back to the classroom, his arms wrapped round the first stationary box. After dropping it off next to Miss Penelope’s desk, he skipped back towards the reception desk when he heard her voice floating through the office door, which was ajar. Tom tip-toed up to it and, cocking his head sideways, leaned into the door, ear first.

‘Is that the new kid you’ve got helping you?’ asked an unknown voice.

‘Yes, strange he came early without us knowing,’ Miss Penelope’s voice seemed to stroke Tom’s ears like a feather. ‘Odd little bugger he is too, keeps on looking up at me like some lost dog. And he doesn’t seem to be able to speak.’

‘How do you mean?’ asked the unknown voice.

‘Well, he sort of stammers and splutters his words, of course I’ve only known the kid for five minutes. Maybe the poor sap should’ve stayed where he came from.’

Tom almost slid down the door, loosing his thin grip. He trudged away from the office, and gazed round at the quiet, empty entrance area. The curved, grey roof sent a chill through Tom’s bare arms.

Tom marched up to the pile of boxes, which still lay untouched at the side of the desk. He took a few steps back, then ran up to them and gave them an almighty kick. The top row of boxes spewed all over the floor, their flaps bursting. Individually packaged paperclips, pens, pencils, rulers and rubbers engulfed the floor. Tom instantly grabbed his foot and shouted in pain, hopping in circles on the other foot.

He bounced around so alarmingly and with his eyes shut tight, that he didn’t see Mr Grainger pounce out of his office and stomp towards him.

‘Hey you, what’s…’ but he got no further as Tom swivelled into him and kicked Mr Grainger in the knee with his foot still dangling in the air.

At Mr Grainger’s gut-wrenching scream, Tom eye’s flashed open and he dashed back down the corridor and made for the playground. Arms outstretched, he burst open into the now pouring rain and instantly tripped over a loose slab in the walkway, sending him into a nearby puddle. His clothes wetter and muddier than ever, he dragged himself back to his feet and scuttled round to the fence he’d entered by.

He charged along with such haste that he didn’t notice another figure, just as soggy and filthy as himself, peer up from behind a bench. Tom sprang onto the fence and clambered over it, struggling to get a footing on the damp wood poles. Once Tom was out of sight, the plump figure jiggled towards the corridor entrance, when the figure and Mr Grainger crashed into each other. Mr Grainger clawed out at the chubby mess sprawled out in the rain.

Lugging the figure inside, Mr Grainger glared down at his capture with pride gleaming in his eyes.

‘A-ha! So you thought you could escape me, eh? Max Danger, pah! I bet that’s not even your real name!’

The fleshy figure squirmed in Mr Grainger’s grasp.

‘Please sir, I’m Billy, I come from the primary school next door!’

‘You admit it then? I thought you looked too small to be a student of ours. So your name’s Billy, not Max Danger then?’

Billy began to struggle free.

‘No sir, that kid wasn’t Max, his name’s Tom.’

Mr Grainger’s face radiated purple.

‘So you have three identities, you little rut? Just you wait till the headteacher finds out about all this!’

His grip around Billy’s collar grew tighter as he yanked him down the corridor towards the reception area.

*

Mrs Fuller’s shoulder had gone completely numb. She had resigned to telling the swarming students in the cloakroom to be quiet and calm, while several other teachers hammered on her classroom door. Shouts of ‘has no-one got a spare key’ and ‘are you sure that kid is still in there’ echoed all around the cramped cloakroom.

The door then gave way with a start and several teachers fell over themselves, toppling to the floor. Bursts of laughter came from the cloakroom, with Mrs Fuller again telling everyone to be quiet and calm. As the teachers clambered back to their feet, a small boy dripping wet and caked in mud, seemed to sprint away from them and land on a chair next to an open window. The teachers edged towards Tom, teeth gnashing, but Mrs. Fuller surged past them, her arms flailing.

‘Oh Tom, oh there you are, you poor little man!’ she wrapped herself around Tom, who didn’t have time to prepare for the smothering. ‘Are you alright? You must’ve been locked in there for ages! Didn’t you try to knock? Oh, I must’ve been so busy knocking myself I drowned you out!’ Tom looked up from her as if in a dream.

‘Oh, er, hello Miss,’ he said. ‘Yes I’m fine, thank you.’

A roar came from within the cloakroom, and Mr Grainger erupted into the room, still clinging to Billy.
‘Is there a Mr Tom Smith here, otherwise known as Max Danger?’ he roared.

Mrs Fuller gazed at him, perplexed.

‘Er, yes, we have a Tom, he’s right…’

She turned round, one arm outstretched to display Tom, but he was no longer there.

‘Look!’ Billy shouted, pointing towards the window.

The scrambling figure of Tom could be seen dangling from outside the open window. He let go of the frame, flopped downwards, disappeared for a moment, then sprang to his feet and darted across the playground towards the exit. He’d had enough of school for one day.

School Assignment – a short story

My granddad used to show me pictures of this place all the time. Either the pictures were lying, or I’m at the wrong station. This place barely looks anything like Granddad’s old books. For one, it’s all in colour, and for another, no bloody trains. I could’ve just stayed in my room and examined all this with Google Maps; the teachers would be none-the-wiser. But no, Granddad had to insist I come here and look at it all for real, “really take it all in”, he’d tell me, “there’s stories buried on them platforms.” Well, I really do believe this place, just like the rest of Hull, sucks.

Down where the railway line used to be, with both platforms either side, it’s now just an overgrown footpath. Weeds claw their way up from underneath and wrap themselves around the concrete where you’re supposed to walk. If this place couldn’t survive as a station, how’s it meant to last as somewhere to walk along, when you’ve got all this crap hanging around it? You can’t even walk along the platforms properly. The left one’s got trees and bushes that try to push you off as you walk, and the right one is just lost in all the green crap. You can smell it all as well, the green stuff’s got that savouriness to it, you don’t even have to touch it to get stung, you can feel the inside of your nose stinging as you sniff.

And it’s all mixed together with that vomity sweetness from the obligatory rubbish dotted along the ground, and squashed up against the walls of the platform. There’s some crisp packets, crumpled and sizzling in the Sun, and beer cans that haven’t even started rusting yet, some patches of liquid still visible inside. In one of the old guy’s photos, I spotted some bottles dumped down the platform, where the cans now rest. I suppose we all have to move forward with the times, even the rubbish, but I don’t think Mrs Hoover is going to accept a piece on “station rubbish from the ages”.

Apparently, this place used to be some kind of passenger service, one of several dotted around the city. Granddad would show me books full of photos that had steam engines rattling through this little station, which, while narrow on the platforms, used to stretch so much it would curve and you couldn’t see where it’d end. And now look at it, just a couple of concrete slabs, and no trains running through them.

The platforms don’t even curve anymore; you can see where they stop stretching and where some houses begin. They all look fairly modern, you can spot three all huddled up together, with titled roofs and four windows each on the front. You can see the sunlight bouncing off the glass. It looks like they’ve permanently cut off the old so it doesn’t have to blend in with the new, and that the new have joined forces against the old, ready to spring into action should the weed grow any closer.

The only building that looks like anything in Granddad’s pictures is the station house itself, all done up in red tiles and white window arches. Looks alright, but also looks like it’s all blocked off. Iron railings run along the edge of the platform, so you can’t even wander along the building and peep inside the windows to see what’s going on. You’d think they’d re-open it as a museum, or something boring like that.

I drag myself onto the left-hand platform and squat as comfortably as possible, the keys in my back pocket digging into my arse cheek. I plunge into my bag and dig out the notebook I’ve brought with me. As I draw the book out and onto my lap, an old couple cycle past me, nattering away. They’re wearing horridly 90’s coloured coats and their heads are trapped in cycle helmets. I open the book at a freshly blank page, and scuttle around in the bag once more for a pen.

Oh, for God’s sake. Where’s that sodding pen? I swear I put one in here! Bollocks. Well, this was a waste of a morning. I could just twat that nearby bird with my notebook. I fling the book to one side, and stare round at this barren place. A bunch of scruffy blokes come wandering up the path from the main street where the road runs alongside, unshaven faces, greasy hair, and tracksuit bottoms tucked into their socks. Maybe they’ve got a pen between them? Oh, maybe not. On closer inspection, I guess they’ve not got room for a pen for all those beer cans and fags they’ve got glued to their hands. It’s only half eleven!

They sludge past me and convene at the end of the platform, just between where it ends and the small clumps of trees begin that protect the modern family homes from coming into contact with this grotty place. I look up at the near-by traffic, zooming away. Here, it’s instantly peaceful, the walkway bridge that once stood just at the edge of the footpath now replaced by trees and bushes, which lurch in such a way that they mimic the shape of the bridge. Certainly looks prettier than the bridge in Granddad’s photos. The graininess of those old pictures makes the bridge look bloody ancient. Now, it just looks a lot nicer, all leafy and fresh, with the wind tickling it.

Ergh, Christ that stinks! I look round and those blokes have lighted up some new cigarettes, tobacco smoke trailing everywhere. I can hear them slurping on their cans all the way up here. Don’t those twats have anything better to do? I wave away as much of the stench as possible, and shuffle up along the station. At least steam train smoke’s got some usefulness to it. It shows the train’s doing its thing. Tobacco just screws your lungs up.

Another cyclist trundles past. He looks like he might’ve been born on a bike. He’s clad in tight, spandex clothes, silver sunglasses, and thin gloves as he grips the handlebars. He knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t even slow down as he spills out into the street, glancing left and right, then charging across the road onto the further footpath, passing that old pub, ‘The Station’.

I can’t help but feel as if I’d be doing everyone a favour if I just grab those blokes, still smoking and slurping away, and just chuck them across the road into that pub. They don’t even have to land in the pub itself, I’d be more than happy to just chuck them across the road, as long as they bugger off. But there’s no-one else around here that may applaud my actions, it’s just me and those blokes.

Oh, they’re wandering off now, back into the sewers they slithered out from, perhaps? Nope, they’re off in the other direction, towards those nice-looking houses. They don’t live there of all places, do they? If the trains were still going they’d sort those guys out no problem, especially as they’re all more or less slugging along the middle of the footpath.

So, what can I write about for school? Well, nothing. I’ve got no bloody pen. What do you write about when you don’t have a bloody pen? Still, it’s not all bad. All the greenery looks bright and fluffy, there’re no prickly things as far as I can see. The platform on the other side is just totally overgrown, I remember Granddad showing me pictures of both platforms, and that one had a little hut on it. No hut there now though, just lots of fluffy green. It almost looks like you could go snuggle into the stuff and have a snooze.

This is getting me nowhere. To be honest, I can just memorize all I’ve seen so far and get it down on paper once I’m back home. Hope I remember it all. I jump off the platform and let out a smothered burst of relief as the keys in my back pocket release themselves from my arse. Why didn’t I just take them out and stuff them in my bag? Well, I might’ve missed those blokes walking off, or might’ve failed to spot that old couple trundling along, or I might not have noticed those bridge-shaped branches.

I wander back along the footpath towards the street. The sounds of the city already tear through the trees. I might come to Stepney station more often.

Gone Fishing – a short story

Morning sunshine. Today’s the day! Just keep your cover till you get here, you’ll be fine. See you soon!

I groan at my phone, what a way to start the day. I’m barely outside the house and I’ve already tripped over the doorstep. All that’s there to light my way to the station are the lampposts, with their fuzzy glow. They look as if they’re sound asleep. I should just chuck a stone at them, that’d wake them up.

Earphones plugged into my head, I slug along the street. Maybe if I turn the volume to max it’ll keep me from going back to sleep and wandering into the road. Even in the sleep-deprived state I’m in, this turned out to be a great decision, choosing to live in this part of town. As a first year, the place to be is Cranbrook Avenue, with the uni, quite literally in my case, being in your back garden.

Here, it’s further away from uni, but overall, nicer. No vodka-drenched freshers slouching against your front-door at 2 AM because they couldn’t quite make it four doors down to their own home. No potential collisions between students on bicycles and rough, city-born bus drivers on that narrow road.

My room is upstairs, at the back of the house. It overlooks the armada-like rows of adjoining gardens that belong to our neighbours. Kids play on their swing set, abusing it as kids do, twirling the swings into a tangle and attempting to walk up the slide, while their parents hang the washing on the line. No crappy plastic washstands, with clothes dribbling on the floor, surrounded by a pool of oozing takeaway boxes for these families.

At night time, even when you can’t quite see everything, it still looks nicer than Cranbrook, that’s how good it is. And here I go, off to fucking Scarborough.

Even the grottier parts of town gain a sort of vintage charm as I get closer to the station. The crumpled mix of a Polish supermarket, second-hand electrical appliance shop and a barber’s look rather snug in the pre-dawn light.

The station looms ahead, and with it the tender mumblings of a city half-awake. Cars and buses appear from nowhere in particular, trundling past me. Once I reach the station, I yank my earphones out and I’m greeted with some echoy babble from the tannoy. How do people even understand that thing? Is it there to incoherently bark out train times, or is just there to create a bit of ambience?

The place is full of engines that throb in the air, everywhere you go they change from key to key. Christ, its cold in here. There’s only me and two or three other people here. There’s some young, skinny guy; hairy face, messy hair, chequered shirt, and a caterpillar-coloured rucksack hugging his back. He nearly gallops past me, through the iron gates and bounds onto the platform like the Andrex puppy. My phone jangles in my pocket.

Hey again. If anyone asks, just say you’re filming, like last time. Don’t screw this up, or we’re all buggered.

The phone’s bright screen makes me blink, and it dawns on me that this is really happening. I can’t back out now. I almost run to the platform, where the dark, steely blue of the train comes into full view. Its engines let out a tense hum which pounds in my head. I breathe in the sharp, cold air, mixed with the faint cloggy patches of diesel from the engine. It’s a right stinker. The mix of piercing cold air makes breathing feel sore, yet the thick diesel makes it feel as though the stench becomes lodged up my nostrils.

I splutter all over the platform, tiny drops of phlegm throw themselves down onto the grey ground. My coughs ring out all around the station, soon blending in with the engine’s growls. Swallowing whatever dignity I may have left after my sudden outburst, I swing round to check the timetable. Four minutes to go, best get on board.

Stepping into the metal beast, the engines instantly die down, changing from the ringing rumbles outside to a soft murmur. The brightly lit interior only adds to the darkness outside the windows, I wonder if this is what being inside a coffin is like?

The skinny guy from before has already claimed a seat for himself, one of those four seat sections placed in the middle of the carriage, with a table in between as well. He’s not even using that space for anything. Greedy sod. I make my way to the end of the carriage and pass a fat, balding man in a one-coloured business suit. You can see the stretch marks on his stomach as it envelops the pulled down plastic tray in front of him, like his belly is eating it.

On the tray is a laptop, opened and more awake than I am, and at his side are a collision of different-sized notebooks and folders, all swelling with thickly written papers. I collapse into my seat, instantly feeling drowsier than before. I scrunch myself up as comfortably as possible, and with a whistle, the engine wrenches itself away from the station and into the dawn.

Outside, the sky’s slowly turning blue, while all the buildings zoom past with their black outlines being illuminated. At the far end of the carriage the door yawns open and Mike strides through, his rectangular name-badge gleaming along with his face.

‘Tickets, please!’ his crisp voice cuts through my drowsiness and I jerk to attention. Even though there’s a whole stretch of carriage between us, I can smell his aftershave, potent as ever, like my mum’s whiskey fish stew. He deals with the bald guy first. He jumps when Mike bends down towards him, resulting in a crashing sound and the fluttery flop of a bunch of papers falling to the floor.

‘Tickets please, sir!’

‘Oh for God’s sake, look what’s happened!’

The guy’s bald head bops up and down for a few moments, interjected with grumbles, while Mike waits patiently.

‘Can I see your ticket please sir?’

‘It’s in that bag, oh bugger, my laptop, and I hadn’t saved anything yet!’ he waves a hand toward a brown laptop bag, which Mike dives into. Turning away from the commotion, I relax a little and return to gazing out of the window.

Fewer buildings whizz by than before, as we roll into the countryside. The sun slugs its way upwards, revealing the green fields with speckled cows dotted among them. Out of the window’s corner the outskirts of the city slip further and further away.

‘Morning, Frasier!’

I spin my head round as the aftershave starts to strangle my nose. Mike’s cheery grin bears down on me, now that certainly wakes you up. He’s one of those people who smiles by showing off their teeth. Mike’s mouth is crammed with them, his mouth looks like a bag of mint imperials.

‘Morning.’

My hand scrambles in my pocket for the ticket I bought the day before. He snatches the ticket away from me and, without even looking, feeds it through the little black box that dangles from his neck.
‘Off to do some more filming then?’

‘Yep.’

As he fiddles with my ticket, I can hear the stretch of the rubber straps that hold the box around his gut. They smell vaguely warm too, like he’s had it strapped there for ages. I never see him without it on, for all I know he sleeps with it.

‘Well they’re lucky to have someone who gets up at this time, Will we be seeing you again tonight?’

‘Yeah.’

He thrusts the stamped ticket into my face.

‘Same time I take it? First train in and last train out, you’re the dedicated sort!’

‘I try to be.’

‘Well have fun, kid. See you tonight!’

And with that, Mike bounces on his way, his voice booming to no-one in particular, and soon disappears through the other end of the carriage. I’m surprised I managed to keep my cool, unlike last time. I pretty much erupted when the ticket guy asked for my tickets. He didn’t suspect anything, just looked away like I was a nutter. As the doors close behind him, the train slithers to a halt at Beverley station.

The sun’s finally starting to pour through the thinly-framed windows, several of them dotted along the inner walls of the station. As the carriage doors hiss open, an old woman gets on board, her face wrapped in a scarf like spaghetti around a fork. She heaves her plump frame along the carriage, squatting at a nearby seat.

The bald guy’s still glaring at the hairy guy, whose music seems to be spilling from his headphones and radiating all around the carriage. It’s hardly deafening, what with it being mixed into a cocktail of shuffling passengers and humming engines, but the bald guy appears agitated, as if a bee were swarming around his shiny head.

Firmly facing the window, we start up again, the moving engine now revealing that the name of the station, in plastic blue and white, was the only object adorning the sandy-brown walls. Mike tumbles through the carriage door, the black box poised for action as he bounds along the train collecting tickets. Outside the arched section, the platform slips downward and disappears. The scene changes from thick walls to loose, spiralling shrubbery, which clumsily hides buildings from view.

For about half an hour, this is my view, nothing but unkempt, spiky green that’s littered at the roots with rusty, miscellaneous railway junk. Engine wheels, strips of track, huge chunks of buffer stops that are missing their actual buffers. They’re all horribly wrapped in weeds, whatever life they had now strangled.

Through the greenery, flashes of colour and shape show signs of city life. Cars and vans appear to speed along the roads, their full shapes blocked by sheets of leafs and crooked branches, before changing to buses and lorries. Buildings perform similar acts of magic; shrivelled, boxy corner shops appear to change into drawn-out Sainsbury’s, the orange name spreads along the top like a party banner.

Right, slight change of plan. Mickey’s found that the van got fucking clamped, with all the gear in it! It’s getting sorted now, but once you’re off the train, just keep yourself occupied for a couple of hours.

God’s sake, why did I agree to this? Everyone’s short on money nowadays but I must’ve been fucked in the head to say yes to all this. My phone rattles again.

Go fishing or something. They go fishing in Scarborough don’t they? It’s got the fucking sea next to it, ain’t it?

The greenery begins to fade, as do the buildings, and are replaced by curved hilltops, dotted with short, stubby trees. The smooth gliding of the train isn’t quite enough to overpower that skinny kid’s headphones, which buzz away faintly. Another sound starts to simmer as well. The blonde girl, perhaps? No, she’s got her legs curled up on her seat, reading a magazine. I’ve never seen legs that white before, did she whack on some flour or talcum powder when she got out of the shower this morning?

What about the spaghetti lady? Nope, she’s fast asleep in that scarf. I sit to attention and peer over the rows of seats. Ah, of course, the bald guy. Sounds like he’s growling, he’s got his teeth gnashing away. And the kid’s not even noticed, he’s too busy making his thumbs dance on his phone, twazzock.

Feels like I’m falling slightly into the window, we must be going round a bend. And we are, for the hilltops slide away to reveal the Scarborough coastline, all decked in speckles of light. The scenery changes for the last time to cramped houses, shops and the odd church as we enter the final station.

The tannoy spits out our arrival, making the old lady jump awake. Crawling to a halt, we arise one by one with out belongings. I shuffle off the train, hunched and frowning. This could all go so wrong.

But as I turn the corner with the sliding glass doors in sight, a low voice starts to growl behind me, and echoes all round the station. A door bursts open before me and two security guards come charging towards me. Oh shit, have I been found it? Is it all over before it’s started? I freeze, body clenched.

The security guards dash past me and I spin round – the bald guy has caught up with the skinny kid, grabbing him by the arm and rattling him. The kid looks perplexed, probably because he’s still got his headphones on. The security guards thrust themselves into the mess, trying to break it up. I can feel my body slither into relaxation. Well, I guess I’d best get fishing.

Helpful Leddy – chapter links and after-thoughts

Well, how time flies.

    When I chose to post my novella on here in weekly segments, I figured this would give me an ample supply of material to last a lifetime. That was two-and-a-half months ago. Shit.

    For starters, thank you so much to everyone who read it, whether you read a few chapters then gave up on it, or read just the one chapter, or if you’ve been with the story since the beginning if its publication on here, my heart goes out to your awesomeness.

    Just in case you’ve no idea what I’m on about, I’m on about my novella that I wrote roughly a year-and-a-half-ago. It was one of the reasons I started Frambles, because the story was just sitting on my laptop, not doing much at all.

    It tells the story of Leddy, a care-free rambler of life who decides to win back his ex-girlfriend by helping her out at her crappy job in a rundown pub. By the end of the story, along with their friends Gary and Fiona, the foursome have come across a drug-ring, with cocaine-encrusted diamonds, their whole village being exploited under the thumb of one man, their village becoming at first set on fire, then becoming flooded.

    Get the idea?

   I’m tagging it as an adventure/romance/comedy story, which is mind-numbing enough. And if you want to relive, or dive into for the first time, the adventures of Leddy and his friends, then just click away below.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Enjoy! And thanks again for taking an interest in this dinky little thing! (Any, ANY feedback at all is welcome)

Helpful Leddy, a story of exploding restaurants, runaway rivers, and teenage love – Chapter Eleven

Here we are folks, the final chapter! I’ll do a kind of epilogue piece to go with this chapter, and the novella overall, but for now, the story concludes!

He slowly turned his head to look down at Leddy and Sandy, not out of drama, but because it was the fastest he could move without large chunks of crispy skin falling to the floor. As he looked down on the, his eyes burned brighter than the flames outside.

    “Arthur, what the hell happened to you?” asked Derek, picking himself up. Walking over to Arthur, he placed a hand on his arm. “Jeez, you look rough.”

    Arthur let out a howling yell, loud enough to wake Fiona up from her deep slumber. Arthur glared at Derek, removed his hand and lowered it back to its original position. Then he noticed the box Derek was holding in the other hand. The lid was slightly open and inside, Derek could see small objects, shimmering quickly. Arthur felt as though they were his little babies, calling to him.

    Grabbing the box and opening it, he plunged his hands through the diamonds, a jittering smile spreading across his lips. He didn’t care about the pain he felt as the sharp diamonds came into contact with his damaged skin. His smile, however, quickly faded away.

    “Where’s the rest?” he asked, a greasy growl seeping into his voice.

    “My boys have got them.” said Derek proudly, “We got at least six bags worth!”

    He pointed to the other workers who held up their night’s work in equal pride, but Arthur remained unimpressed.

    “Where’s the rest?” he asked again.

    Derek looked bemused.

    “Arthur, I’ve told you, it’s all here.”

    Arthur merely pushed his way to the kitchen, sending the workers falling to the floor again, as did Doris and Sylvester. As he walked, Leddy noticed a slight twitch in his step and the flamed look in his eye turning into a look of uncontrollable rage.

    Flinging doors open as he made his way down to the larder, Arthur walked with purpose along the damp and dark corridor that turned a sudden corner and eventually led into the washroom itself. The floor was covered in damp dirt and the walls, or what was left of them, were dripping wet Arthur scanned the walls hastily, almost oblivious to the small lumps of earth that would fall off every few seconds, letting more and more drops of water come snaking in.

    He was also oblivious to the sound of footsteps coming down the corridor. Not even bothering to turn as Derek stood in the small doorway, he continued his assessment of the walls.

    “Arthur, there’s nothing here! Now c’mon, let’s get back to the mansion.”

    “We can’t.” said Arthur, dryly.

    “Why not?” asked Derek.

    “There is no mansion. There’s no empire, no more beautiful diamonds or sweet cocaine. Nothing, those brats destroyed my empire. But I won’t stop here.” He suddenly began tearing at the walls, huge chunks of earth crashing to the ground, bringing more water into the tiny room. “There’s more diamonds here, I know there are! There must be!”

    Derek didn’t even try to stop him. Once he saw the water come pouring in, he made his escape. Arthur continued to pull the walls away, screaming as he did so. At last, the thin structures could take it no longer. As Arthur busily worked his way on one wall, the wall behind him finally caved in.

    The river from the outside came pouring into the small washroom, the force sending Arthur sinking into the wall in front of him, which burst as well. At first, Arthur found himself swept along the corridor, but once he reached the sharp corner, he grabbed onto a small wooden beam that kept the upper levels where they were. But as his grip tightened, the beam broke and fell across him, sinking into the wall on the other side and trapping him there. The river, with its chunks of earth swimming along within, consumed Arthur within a second.

    Back in the restaurant, as everyone listened intently to the low swishing sound from below, Derek came bursting through the kitchen door, grabbed snatched as many bags and boxes of diamonds as he could and made for the front door.

    “Derek, what’s going on?” shouted Doris after him, but she got no reply.

    In a flash, Derek was gone, but Sylvester peered into the kitchen as the swishing sounds grew louder and suddenly the larder door burst open, flooding the kitchen.

    “Water, water, lots of it!” he cried and pointed feverishly to the coming river.

    “Oh lord, c’mon!” Doris took Sylvester by the hand and ran outside, closely followed by the workers. As they ran, Leddy and Sandy tried to get Fiona back on her feet.

    “Gary, go after them!” shouted Leddy.

    “Don’t let ‘em escape!” called Doris to the workers, and they shut and locked the door as they ran into the night.

    “Fiona, let’s go!” said Sandy, slapping her in the face as she moaned slightly.

    Leddy bounced over to the kitchen door.

    “The water’s filling up the kitchen, it’ll be in here in a minute!” he called.

    “We’ll have to push her through the window.” Sandy began picking Fiona up.

    “And run into the fire? Even if we turn the other way the river will catch us up!”

    “We could go upstairs.” suggested Gary, calmly, seemingly blind to the danger. He walked over to a small door in the corner of the restaurant and opening it, revealed a flight of stairs. “I came across them before you guys came.”

    “Well get moving then!” shouted Leddy, rushing back to Sandy and Fiona as the river quickly followed him. “The river’s catching up, c’mon!”

    Taking a shoulder each, Leddy and Sandy helped Fiona across the room and up the stairs.

    “Shut the door behind you!” Leddy ordered Sandy.

    “Hmm, what’s going on?” murmured Fiona, “have we gone swimming or something?”

    “We might have to if we don’t hurry!” Leddy quipped.

    “Can you make it on your own?” asked Sandy caringly.

    “She’ll have to.” answered Leddy, leaving the girls and joining Gary at the front. “Where does this go, Gary?”

    “No idea. The state this place is in these stairs could end any second.”

    “Oh, great!” rebuked Leddy.

    “Why exactly are we running up these stairs?” asked Gary.

    Leddy stared incredulously.

    “We are running, Gary,” he began, sarcastically, “because I saw a great big hairy ugly sheep-monster, with six legs, four tails, two heads and a bazooka strapped to its belly!”

    “It’s three actually, Leddy.”

    “What?”

    “Billy’s got three heads. One of them is a kind of back-up head in case one of the other two gets a puncture or something.”

    Down below, the river was rapidly filling the restaurant completely, but in the larder corridor, the wooden beam gave way fully, bringing more of the river from above the larder into the corridor. The river smashed through the kitchen door, bringing the wall of alcohol situated either side with it. Tearing through the bar, the added force gave the river a helping hand in escaping through the front door and into the outside, where Derek, having taken the van, was being pursued by Doris and Sylvester in the Rolls Royce.

    As both vehicles revved along the empty country road, both drivers failed to notice the fire, almost running alongside them, as it spread its way towards the village.

    “Faster, faster!” shouted Doris to Sylvester, slapping him on the back of the head. “We’re getting those diamonds one way or another!”

    Inside the back of the van, the workers sat nervously. Noticing the panic-stricken Derek, he seemed to forget he had passengers with him and he simply drove wildly through the countryside, like a deer galloping away from a tiger.

    So taken by fear was Derek that he failed to turn a corner in the road and drove straight through a field. Huge, round bales of haylage were littered all across the filed, so much so that Derek drove almost straight into one. He managed to swerve just in time, but his van hit the side of the bale, knocking out the headlights.

    Now unable to see a thing, Derek simply drove even wilder and faster, so much so that as he stomped his foot on the accelerator, he felt a sharp crack emanate from beneath his foot. Removing his feet, he found that the van didn’t slow down. Fumbling in the dark with his other foot for the brake, Derek got his foot caught beneath the pedal. Before he could even attempt to remove his foot, the van went headfirst into a huge sheet of metal, sending Derek flying through the window and sprawling across the bonnet.

    The Rolls Royce followed swiftly behind, its blinding headlights revealed the van had crashed into a barn. As Sylvester parked next to the van, Doris jumped out and ran to the back of the van, flinging the doors open. The workers lay in disarray, all moaning and groaning. Doris quickly left them and made her way to the front, where Derek laid, blood pouring all over his face and glass everywhere.

    Peering in the cab, Doris found what she was looking for.

    “Sylvester! Grab these and let’s get going!”

    Sylvester did as he was told, whilst Doris chuckled heartily at the fallen Derek.

    “So this is what happens when you decide to do a runner eh? Well, this is also the price you pay.”

    “I-I just, hate, water.” spluttered Derek.

    “Save it for the ambulance,” said Doris, waving a hand in Derek’s face and walking back towards the Rolls Royce, “although it will be interesting to see if you last tha…” but her voice trailed away in horror. The river had reached them. The moon calmly shone down on the water making each wave look like a runaway horse hell-bent on stampeding through anything that got in its way.

    “Sylvester, get going!”

    “Nearly there.” he answered cheerily.

    “No, I mean we’ve got to go now!”

    Doris climbed into the Rolls Royce and, starting it up, drove away with the passenger door open. Driving up to Sylvester, he casually turned to get in, but on seeing the river, dropped the bags and boxes he was holding and jumped in, with Doris speeding away. Her small stature was barely able to see above the steering wheel.

    “Which way do I go?” she screamed.

    “Go forwards!” answered Sylvester.

    “I am going bloody forwards!” retorted Doris.

    And with the river chasing them, they drove into the night, not knowing where they might arrive, and not knowing they had no diamonds with them, for Sylvester forgot all about them as the arguing carried its course.

    While this was all occurring, the four friends were still scurrying up the staircase. It had changed from its initial shape of a few steps leading up and then turning a corner into a spiralling tower. Leddy looked down over the banister, and saw that the river was rising high. He also noticed Sandy, who had fallen to the back of the group, tripping and landing on her elbow, letting out a cry as she rested on the stairs. Leddy charged back down whilst Fiona and Gary looked behind.

    “Keep going!” he barked. They did so, and Leddy knelt down to Sandy. “Are you okay?” he asked, his voice changing from that of a harsh, growling officer to a softer, caring nurse.

    “Yeah fine, just my elbow,” said Sandy, holding it in her hand as she picked herself up. Looking down, she saw the river ascend with them up the stairs. “Oh God, we’re screwed aren’t we?” she said despairingly.

    “No! No of course not,” Leddy held her close as he led the two of them back up the stairs, “just think of when this’ll all be over. We could go get some pie, and wash it down with some lovely ginger beer, the kind you like, not just the rough, sugary stuff I normally get.”

    Sandy felt her face brush against Leddy’s as they climbed the stairs. While he talked she looked at him, complete adoration for him coming over her. She knew it would take a miracle to escape the situation they had found themselves in, but with his arms wrapped around her, she felt, somehow, safe, and hopeful, hopeful that this whole mess would soon be over. But really, when you think about it for a second, the mess is all Leddy’s fault in the first place. So it’s rather ironic that she should feel safe with him.

    “Do you mind? I’m trying to have a reasonably peaceful moment here!” snapped Sandy.

    “Who are you talking to?” asked Leddy.

    “No-one.” retorted Sandy, sharply.

    “We’ve made it guys!” called Gary from above.

    As they ran, the walls had changed considerably from when they first started running. On the ground level, they were quite normal looking, but by the time they reached the top, much of the walls were crumbling away, some sections of wall even lacking in bricks, and only replaced by random wooden structures.

    Reaching the top floor, Fiona and Gary stood either side of a short ladder that led through the roof. In a flash, the four of them stood on top of the restaurant, not realizing that years of decay had meant that the original concrete roof had been replaced by a poorly constructed wooden replacement.

    On the roof, the four friends looked at each other in stunned silence, almost in shock that they had come all this way and now it seemed there was nothing more they could do.

    “So… what now?” asked Fiona, her natural bite coming back into her voice.

    “Now I, guess we just wait until the river calms down.” said Leddy, sitting down.

    “Calm down? Didn’t you see what it was getting up to down there? It was chasing after us like we were rabbits!”

    “Well all the doors and windows must’ve been burst open by now, it’s more likely to be spreading itself out rather than chasing us up here!”

    Sandy looked out over the countryside. The pale moon lit up the village below in complete coldness. The flames had reached the first few houses on the outskirts by now, but the belly of the beast was still flaming away within the small valley, nestled deep in the middle of the village, where the mansion once stood.

    Sandy drooped slowly to her knees; she spied her own house sleeping in the stillness of the village, some distance away from the flames which had begun to devour the houses. But then she noticed the flames that circled around those houses seemed to fade away gradually, and then she saw more nearby flames did the same. Looking down to the bottom of the restaurant, the pale moonlight showed the river had snaked away in all directions, even towards the village.

    “Guys, look!” she pointed to the river as it slowly took control of the fire and eventually putting the flames out. The river then trickled towards the valley and began to pour in, taking the fire for itself. “The village is going to be okay!”

    Down below, the river continued to break through every nook and cranny of the restaurant it could find. The roof however, was not the only structure that had been left to fade away with the years. Indeed, the river wouldn’t reach the top of the restaurant where the four friends were, the bottom half of the building was completely flooded. In the end, the weight of the river flowing through the bottom half and the river rummaging all through the underground levels, made the restaurant finally give into Mother Nature.

    The ground level slowly sank into the depths of the earth, with the walls on higher levels crumbling even more so. The friends clung to each other and to the floor as they felt the whole building sway from side to side, gradually getting lower and lower. For every second when there was no swinging of building, there was only tension, and light breathing and pounding hearts.

    The building moaned as if it were in so much pain. Over the edge, Leddy could see great ripples of waves being set off as the building shook fiercely, as if it was trying to remove the four friends who lay on its top. The more they clung to the woodwork, the more the building seemed to shake and moan, almost as if the tighter they gripped the floor, the more painful it was for the restaurant. Mountainous splashes of water shot through the air as more and more wall fell into the river.

    Suddenly, as more and more of the back wall collapsed, the roof gave way one end, almost falling into the river, and nearly sending Gary sliding to a near watery grave. Fiona managed to grab hold of his cold yet sweaty palm just in time. Dragging him back up, Gary’s face had turned from its bemused grin to a shocking realisation.

    “F-Fiona,” he stammered, “did that just actually happen?”

    “Yeah it did!” she answered, “are you okay?” she drew him closer and put her arm around him, not caring about how strange she may have looked revealing her motherly side.

    “So this is all real?” Gary asked incredulously.

    “Of course it is!” she said, hugely tempted to smack him on the head, her motherly side disappearing completely.

    “I thought we were playing pretend or something!”

    Leddy and Sandy stretched out their arms to bring Gary and Fiona up to the top, but when they all joined hands, the building lurched forward before finally toppling into the river, face first. The roof came surging forward as the bricks fell into the water.

    Hanging on as best they could, the four friends were left speechless as they followed the restaurant into the river. Leddy and Sandy both shut their eyes and hid in each other’s arms, while Fiona did the same with Gary, who simply watched in awe at what was happening around them all. At first, they felt themselves diving into the water, their heads becoming lost in the watery mess. Then they felt cold air hit them hard again as they bobbed back to the surface.

    As they called to each other, asking each other if they were okay, their makeshift raft was swept along the river, the friends barely able to see where they were being taken. Soon, they felt the river becoming calmer, and they let each other go, falling onto their backs and sprawling across the raft.

    Sandy picked herself up, still sitting down but propping her back up with her hands. She tried to speak, but began coughing up river water violently. Leddy, alarmed, began patting her on the back, strongly but not fiercely. After a while, the coughing stopped.

    “That better?” he asked, worn-out.

    “Yeah, thanks.” said Sandy gratefully, but equally worn-out.

    Fiona looked at the two friends as they gazed at each other with relief and gladness in their eyes. She turned away, knowing there was still some spark between them. She looked up at some once fire-laden trees, now damp and leafless, but still managing to tower high into the sky, as if they were saying they had managed to survive the whole ordeal.

    Fiona thought the same, and she slowly lowered herself back into the lying position. She felt worn-out like the others, but also slightly hung-over from the drinking and feeling a sharp pain on her face, as if someone had smashed something into it. She knew nothing of what had happened in the restaurant after she had passed out.

    Closing her eyes, she felt the water coming up through the wood and gently slapping her in the face, as if the river was cooling her down.  But before she could drift away, she felt a violent bump and then felt as if the raft was falling. Waking up with s start, the friends felt the river becoming choppy again and even picking up speed.

    “Oh my God, look!” Fiona pointed ahead of them, where the valley lay, still blazing away fierce flames, and they were heading straight towards it.

    The four friends turned to panic, looking around them to see if they could hold onto anything. The more they surged towards the flames, the less they looked about them, almost accepting the fact that soon, they would fall into their flaming grave, unless they managed to drown first. The raft moved slower and slower, only adding to the tension.

    Sandy clung to Leddy, whilst Leddy placed a gentle hand on her head, covering it. He kissed her quietly as he felt her sobbing on his chest. Fiona wrapped her arms around Gary, placing her head on his shoulder, whilst Gary and Leddy looked on, fixated by the flames. The raft dangled over the edge of the hill that surrounded the burning valley, but before the group met their doom, two things happened.

    A hideous, scratching sound, like the sound of razor-sharp nails on a blackboard, erupted from beneath the raft. The raft then ceased to move and the friends looked about them, in shock. Fiona plunged her arm into the river, feeling the ice-cold water wrap around her like a needle being driven into her skin, but discovered it barely went above her arm. In the water, she felt huge slabs of rocks and bricks, which also lay directly beneath the raft. Then, a great white light shone down on them from above.

    “Oh Lord, please don’t take me away!” cried Gary. He moved to a kneeling position and clasped his hands, raising them towards the sky.

    As the four friends looked up, a great whirling sound came from the skies, getting closer and closer. Leddy turned to Sandy, a huge smile spread across his lips.

    “So,” he said, adopting a sly, cocky attitude, “shall we see if they’ve any pie on board?”

    

    Leddy and Sandy sat on top of the sloping hill that looked over the village. The once almost invisible valley was now a gaping, burned out black hole, surrounded by newly flourishing woodland. Around the valley, their village lay battered and bruised, but accompanied by several moving machines and vehicles, as well as little figures in bright yellow hats, moving around like brightly coloured ants.

    The warm summer sun in the far distance began to hide behind the clouds, turning them a hazy shade of pink that complimented the multitude of colours down below. The surrounding fields shared several colours, ranging from many different shades of green, yellow, and brown. But the village, with it’s alternately charred and washed out buildings, stood out from these colours, almost as if Mother Nature had come down on the work of man deliberately to teach him a lesson.

    Between Leddy and Sandy lay a single slice of pie, resting on top of some cardboard packaging with its side torn away. Leddy, still staring at his village, placed his plastic fork into the slice, but felt another plastic fork blocking his way.

    Turning to look, both Leddy and Sandy saw that both their forks had entered into the slice. Leddy drew his away immediately.

    “You can have it.” he said, with a smile.

    Sandy broke the slice in half and, forking once half, raised it towards Leddy’s mouth. He swallowed it gratefully, and she tucked into her half, both of them chuckling slightly as they chewed. Leddy lay back into the grass, stroking the back of Sandy’s hair as he did so. Feeling the soft, thick grass brush against his neck, Leddy noticed that Sandy’s precious golden hair seemed to blend in with the pink clouds that floated above the two of them. Her hair felt lush and silky, each single strand running lazily through his fingers.

    Sandy soon joined him, feeling the grass tickle on her arms. She drew forth a deep sigh and rested her head on his warm, soft chest. Both of them closed their eyes and dozed in the summer air, the silence only broken by the far-away buzzing of machinery and the sleepy breathing of both Leddy and Sandy as they drew closer together.

    It’s just a shame that most of the village are still cocaine addicts.

    “What?!”

    Nothing, nothing! You kids just relax in each other’s arms, because for you, all is well.

The Adventures of Issac and Erwin, Episode Three

In today’s episode…

...Issac becomes fascinated with the study of water...

…Issac becomes fascinated with the study of water…

...while Erwin, still reeling from his brother's success at becoming the King of the Unused Cupboard, claims his own kingdom...

…while Erwin, still reeling from his brother’s success at becoming the King of the Unused Cupboard, claims his own kingdom…

...but Issac's interest in water reaches dangerous levels...

…but Issac’s interest in water reaches dangerous levels…

...and Erwin is too smitten with his kingdom to care...

…and Erwin is too smitten with his kingdom to care…

Will Erwin save his brother from a watery death? Find out next time in another exciting episode of…

The Adventures of Issac and Erwin!

 

 

 

 

Helpful Leddy, a story of exploding restaurants, runaway rivers and teenage love – Chapter Ten

The penultimate chapter!    

Inside the restaurant, Fiona and Gary sat dejectedly at the bar, her drinking vodka and coke and he drinking a blackcurrant squash. Fiona sat with both elbows on the bar, resting her head on one hand and holding her drink with the other. Gary sat hunched forward, one hand holding his drink and the other picking away at his ear.

    “I just feel so helpless,” she said, “just sitting here, not being able to do anything, and yet knowing exactly what’s going on, while Leddy and Sandy could still be trapped in that house for all we know.”

    “I think I just felt my brain.” said Gary, shoving his finger as deep as he could into his ear.

    Fiona turned to see and immediately reached over and pulled his hand away from his ear.

    “Gary, I’ve told you before! That’s not what you do with your fingers. Now just, drink your drink.” She gave a glaring pass at Gary’s drink, the dark, purple liquid sitting patiently in its glass. “Why did you get blackcurrant? They said we could drink anything we want, and you get blackcurrant?”

    Gary looked around him anxiously, as if he was making sure they were alone.

    “I’m blending in.” he replied. “I don’t want to look suspicious. I’m only a kid; it would look strange if I was drinking alcohol.”

    “Shame you couldn’t blend in like I told you.” Fiona said.

    “I did!” Gary retaliated, “it would’ve looked strange if I’d kept my mask on while the others were taking theirs off.”

    “But you weren’t supposed to!” said Fiona, the volcano returning to her voice.

    “Well, anyway, at that time, you were the one who wasn’t blending in.”

    Fiona shrugged off Gary’s last comment, knowing that there was some truth in it. Not wanting to let Gary have the final word, she quickly changed the subject.

    “It was nice of them to let us stay in the bar, even if they locked all the doors.”

    “I’d rather be back in the larder.” said Gary.

    Fiona looked surprised.

    “Why?”

    “It was cosier, wasn’t it? And it had lots of lovely di-a-monds in the walls.”

    “Yeah, also felt like it had a whole river running through the walls. I’m glad we got out of there when we did. They can stay down there for as long as they want.”

    “Would you not think the di-a-monds would be happier in a museum or something?”

    Fiona gave an exasperated cry at Gary.

    “Not the diamonds! The workers we came here with, the ones who are down there now!”

    “Oh, right then.” said Gary, lapsing into silence at Fiona’s relief. “I wonder if they’re feeling cosy.”

    “Oh just shut up Gary!”

    Silence again, broken only by the sound of blackcurrant juice being washed down.

    “Must be quite cosy in there with all those di-a-monds.”

    “Gary!” Fiona snapped, spilling her drink and losing control of her glass. As the glass shattered into a thousand pieces, she moaned pathetically. “Listen, why did you give me this idiot to spend my time with?”

    Because the two of you are good together, you each bring out the best in each other.

    “Oh really? Well I’m sorry but I just don’t see it!”

    Well maybe you’re not supposed to. Anyway, I’m having fun with you two characters being thrown together like this. You had fun escaping from the mansion didn’t you?

    “Who are you talking to there, Fiona?” asked Gary.

    “No-one, no-one at all!” said Fiona, turning her back and facing the other direction.

    Suddenly, the door behind the bar that led into the kitchen burst open and Doris stood in the doorway, her small figure barely visible over the bar.

    “I thought I told you two to keep quiet! And don’t go drinking every last drop from every last bottle! This wasn’t even my idea, so be grateful to Derek and don’t go taking liberties!”

    She slammed the door behind her, sending several poorly stacked bottles plummeting to their deaths. Returning to the kitchen, she flung herself onto a decaying wooden chair and looked across the table at Sylvester, who was keeping himself busy by handling the diamonds brought up from the larder. He sat neatly in his chair, eyeing each diamond that lay on the table as if they were all his.

    “Sylvester put them down! Arthur doesn’t want you’re mucky finger all over his stuff!”

    “Sorry.” He solemnly placed the diamond back onto the table, placing his hands between his lap.

    “We need to be as careful with these as possible, just think of the money we’ll get from these. If Arthur likes what we’ve done, we can use what he pays us to do this place up, nice and proper!” She put her feet up on the table and leaned back into her chair, with her eyes facing up towards the ceiling. “We can get a new, massive oven. One of those digital thingies that cooks the meal before it’s even been put into the oven itself. And we’ll be able to afford a whole team of staff to do all the work and…”

    But as she continued to become more and more lost in her dream, the larder door was flung open and out came Derek, slightly damp and covered in dirt and soil, and carrying a clear, plastic bag full of small objects that sparkled slightly in the dimly lit kitchen.

    “Here’s another load, but the more we dig into the walls, the more diamonds we find, we might be here forever!”

    He placed the bag onto the table and retreated back to the larder. Sylvester’s eyes lit up once more as he saw the bag and its contents. The bag towered high towards the roof, and Sylvester gazed upon it with awe. As he looked up however, he began to hear a buzzing sound. The more he listened, the louder and closer it grew. He peered behind the bag and looked out of the small window which stood beneath the kitchen sink. The window had thick frames running through it which had grown rotten with time, and only small glass panels, which were smeared with dirt from years of neglect. But through the panels, Sylvester could just make out a faint, orange glow in the distance towards the centre of the village.

    “Doris, can you hear or see anything?”

    Doris had retreated once more into her land of dreams and could only muster the energy to turn her head slightly. She gazed out of a different window to Sylvester’s, whose window looked out along the dusty road that lead towards the village. Doris’s window looked out directly onto the passing road, where no glow could be seen.

    “Not a thing, my dear.” said Doris wistfully, and she closed her eyes slowly, completely cutting herself off from the outside world.

    Never one to question his employer’s word and noticing the now roaring sounds from the outside had suddenly ceased, Sylvester went back to examining each and every diamond he could.

    Back in the bar, Fiona was pouring herself another drink from behind the bar when there was a great succession of rapping at the front door.

    “Whoever it is, tell them we have an ample supply already.” said Fiona rather slovenly, and not bothering to look up from her bartending skills. She also didn’t bother to take notice that much of the drink she was pouring from the bottle was ending up on the floor instead of in her glass. Gary got up from his barstool and walked over to the door.

    “Who is it?” he asked cheerily.

    “It’s me!” came a voice from the other side.”

    “Who’s me?” asked Gary.

    “I am!” replied the voice urgently.

    “You’re me?” asked Gary, surprised.

    “Yes!”

    “Then who am I?”

    “You’re you!”

    “Oh, well that’s alright then.”

    “Gary, will you just open the door? I know it’s you!”

    “Sorry, I can’t. We’re locked in because we found out about some diamond and drug smuggling that’s going on and two of our friends are trapped in a big old house not far from here and my friend here is rapidly turning into an alcoholic and…”

    “Oh-okay Gary, I’ll, yeah I’ll deal with this.” Fiona sloppily shoved Gary out of the way and pressed one side of her face against the door, hammering the door with one fist while drinking with the other. “Hey! W-who d’you shink you are?”

    “Open the bloody door!”

    At this burst of rage, Fiona’s eyes became wide and she puckered her lips, whilst her left eyebrow raised high into her forehead.

    “H’oh really?” her decadent sloppiness increased with every syllable. “I forbid you t-to talk from, n-no, wait a minute. Ah! I forbid you from talking to me and him like that!” She reached over to Gary and flung her arms around him. “I know he maybe a complete dick, but he’sh my dick, he’sh my great, big, lovely dick!”

    “Hey look, it’s Sandy!”

    “Where?” asked Fiona excitedly.

    “In the window.” said Gary ecstatically.

    He pointed to a near-by window, only slightly less dirty than the one in the kitchen, but Sandy’s face was as plain as can be. Outside the restaurant, Leddy had worn his hands out from knocking on the door too much and so placing them carefully on his hips, he looked the restaurant over, seeing if there was any other way of getting in.

    “What are they actually doing there?” he asked Sandy, exasperated.

    “Well, Gary’s waving to me and Fiona’s kissing him on the cheek with her arms around him.” She waved back to Gary.

    “What are you doing?” Leddy asked inquisitively.

    “Keeping them amused.”

    “Oh, so now you let your hair down? We’ve still loads to do!”

    “Leddy, all four of us have managed to escape from being captured in a burning mansion filled with cocaine and we managed to get our village out of there! I think we deserve to be happy for a minute!”

    “But it’s not over yet!”

    “Yes, Leddy, I am aware of that!”

    “Well you could’ve fooled me!”

    Sandy raised her voice in retaliation to Leddy.

    “Oh, really?”

    Leddy did the same with his voice.

    “Yes, really!”

    But just as another of their arguments was about to erupt, a smashing of glass brought a cool simmer to the situation once more. The two of them turned towards the now frameless window with its glass strewn all over the outside grass. Where the frame should have been were now two heads, which stuck their way out into the cool, dark night.

    “Hello!” called one voice, drunk and loose with its syllables.

    “Hello!” called another voice, cheerily and totally oblivious to any danger that might be around it.

    “Are you guys okay?” asked Fiona caringly.

    “We’ve been fantashtic! An’ everything’s fantashtic! Hey, I know! Now that w-we’re, we’re all shafe, letsh have a party! Hey! W-we, we’ve figured out the shituashun! The drugsh and diamondsh are shlicshed together-”

    “You’re definitely sloshed,” quipped Leddy, “and yes, we know the mess as well. Arthur sells them on for a profit and in return puts money back into the village, now did you manage to take care of Doris?”

    “Great idea, letsh get her to join in ash well! C’mon, the night ish shtill young, the shuns not even gone to bed yet!”

    Fiona pointed towards the village, where the faint, orange glow that Sylvester had noticed earlier was rapidly becoming darker and larger. Several small flames were also visible as they blazed away, ending closer and closer to the village with every second.

    Suddenly, from the darkness, several peoples came running along the dusty road. One of them diverted from her path and ran over to the group of friends.

    “Muriel, what are you doing?” asked Leddy, grabbing hold of her as she almost fell to the ground, panting and sweating.

    “Haven’t you heard? We’re making a break for it! The whole village is gathering up what it can and just leaving this place to burn, that fire’s gone out of control!”

    As she went on her way, more people dashed by, some on foot, some on bikes and some in vehicles. Leddy and Sandy stood next to each other in disbelief as they watched their life-long neighbours and friends leave their village to die.

    “Ridiculous. Just, ridiculous!” Leddy turned back towards the restaurant. “Hey, where’s Fiona gone?”

    “She’s down here having a nap.” said Gary helpfully.

    Leddy climbed through the window closely followed by Sandy. Fiona was indeed asleep and had slipped down to the floor completely.

    “Sandy, try and get her up again.” Leddy took Gary by the arm and pulled him over to a table and sat him down as calmly as possible. “Now then Gary, I’m going to need you to tell me exactly what’s been happening, but keep it short because there’s a fire on it’s way and it may well eat us up. So let’s hear it.”

    “Right, well, erm, Fiona and me managed to escape and we sneaked into a van that was going away from the mansion and it took us to here and we got out with the van people and the van people took their masks off and so did we but then Doris remembered us from before and tried to beat us up but the main van person told her to leave us in the bar and out of the way but Fiona tried to follow the van people as they went into the kitchen and they had a lot of tools with them and she heard them talking about diamonds digging out the diamonds and so when we were alone she confirmed what we had thought before and that was that the diamonds get taken away from this place to the mansion and fiddled about with there.” Gary beamed with pride as he finished off the last word.

    “Well done Gary,” said Leddy, plunging his hand into his pocket, “have a banana.” He drew forth the fruit and handed it to the eager Gary, who snatched it from him and tucked in at once.

    “Are you sure that’s what happened?” called Sandy, who had been listening in.

    A mumbled yet confirming grunt came from Gary as he devoured the banana.

    “Leddy, can you get me some water for Fiona?”

    “Okay then, Sandy.”

    Leddy searched around the bar for any sign of water, but came up dry. He eventually brought a glass over to Sandy, who took it with a quick glance at first and began to bring it up to Fiona’s mouth. But then she stopped at stared at the glass bewildered.

    “What’s this?” she asked.

    “Blackcurrant juice, it’s the only thing back there that wasn’t alcoholic.”

    Sandy perched the rim of the glass on Fiona’s bottom lip and gently tipped the glass forward, waiting for a response. The room then fell into a tense silence for a few moments, Sandy and Leddy eyeing Fiona’s every move and Gary content with his fruit. Neither Sandy nor Leddy knew what thoughts were going on in each other’s minds, but it couldn’t be further from each other at all. Their eyes fixated on Fiona but their minds focused on what had been said in the car earlier, both heads were swirling with weariness, emotion and questions, both asking exactly the same question.

    Were they going to just forget what had happened in the car? Was it even worth thinking about what it would be like being in the arms of either person like before? Were they feeling awkward at all in this exact moment of silence?

    Always one to jump at any given moment, Leddy turned ever so slowly to face Sandy, who was still keeping the glass firm on Fiona’s lips. But out of the corner of her eye, she could feel his gaze on her. Slowly, she too turned to meet the gaze. The gaze remained for a long time.

    “Y’know,” began Leddy, shakily, “if we don’t get out of here, I guess there’s a chance that we could, well, die or something.”

    “Yeah, I guess we could.” said Sandy, shyly, feeling as if she knew where Leddy was going with this.

    “Well, if that’s true, then, maybe we should … you know …”

    “Savour every moment?” answered Sandy, hopefully.

    “Well, yes, I was thinking along those lines,” said Leddy, slightly dejectedly, “but now I’m thinking we should clean Fiona up.”

    “Why?” said Sandy, her voice softly trailing away like a cloud being gently blown across a warm summer evening.

    “Because you’re spilling blackcurrant juice all over poor Fiona.”

    Sandy turned around sharply, and saw that much Fiona’s once pale skinned face was now a darker shade of purple. Sandy pulled her sleeve up across her fist and began wiping Fiona’s face, but Leddy quickly interjected.

    “Here, let me.” he removed his jumper and proceeded to dab Fiona’s face down.

    As he did so, both of them chuckled quietly, though Sandy attempted to cover her face as she broke out in a bright red blush.

    “Don’t do that,” said Leddy, gently lowering her hand with his, “you look gorgeous no matter what colour you turn.”

    Sandy added a beaming smile to her blush and she tried to control herself by biting her lip and turning her face away once again. Cupping her chin in his hand, Leddy gently brought her head round again to face his. He then began to edge forward.

    “What are you doing?” whispered Sandy, her voice barely audible by now, as her heart feeling as though it was about to blast off.

    Feeling her warm breath fall onto his face as she spoke, Leddy answered in equal quietness.

    “Savouring every moment.”

    But as they leaned in towards each other, mouths hanging open slightly and eyes blissfully closed, a jarring blast of activity stunned them into quickly moving away from each other. Sandy did so with such speed and force that she smacked the now empty glass into Fiona’s face, sending broken glass falling to the floor.

    Spinning round, Leddy and Sandy saw Derek and his men come through the bar talking earnestly about their night’s work, each carrying their tools and various bags and boxes full of diamonds. The men were so engrossed with their work that it was Doris, following close behind the men, who noticed Leddy and Sandy. As the two stared at the face they had tormented earlier with fake critics earlier in the day, her face turned a repulsive concoction of dark colours, twisting and turning out of various hideous shapes, like a supernova being rammed into a food blender and turning the machine on, full blast.

    Derek and his men then noticed the foursome, and Derek let slip a worn-out moan.

    “Honestly Doris, you didn’t tell me you were running a nursery.” he then pointed to both of them, wiggling his finger between the two. “Do you two live here?”

    “Yeah.” Leddy and Sandy both answered nervously, still staring at the trembling figure of Doris.

    “Well why aren’t you up at the mansion working for Arthur?” he placed a hand on the doorknob. “You best come back with us.”

    But before he could turn and pull the knob, it was done for him. From the other side, the door was flung open, sending Derek and his workers falling to the floor like dominos. Outside, Leddy could see the flames were getting increasingly near, the cold night air rapidly disappearing as the fierce warmth from the flames came flying through the restaurant.

    From the darkness outside, a blackened figure walked in, clothes burnt yet somehow still holding together on their person. The person’s face and hands were a mixture of bright reds from being burnt and dark reds where the blood was slowly spilling out.

    Doris’s jaw, which had been trembling with anger on seeing Leddy and Sandy back in her restaurant, suddenly dropped as she gazed upon this singed visitor.

    “A-Arthur?” she spluttered.

Next, the final thrilling chapter, stay tuned!