Excerpt for Jake Morgan and The Chimerical Chest by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Jake Morgan and the Chimerical Chest

“All characters in this book have no existence outside the mind of Peedie William the author, and have no relation to anyone bearing the same name, or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known, or unknown to the author, and all the incidents are pure invention, plucked from somewhere deep inside his brain.”

“This book is dedicated to my wife and best friend Yvonne, my family, and grandchildren, without who’s help, this book would have been finished a long time ago.”

Copyright Peedie William, 2017

Peedie William has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs, and Patents act, 1998, to be identified as the author of this work.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it is not, by trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the author’s prior consent in any form or binding or cover, other than in which it is published, and without a similar condition being imposed on the purchaser. No part of this book shall be copied in any format, including the cover.

The Chimerical Chest

Chapter 1

The house was in total darkness when Jake Morgan woke up, and it was cold, bitterly cold. It was an old house with dilapidated sash single glazed windows, which let in wind, and sometimes rain, depending which direction it was coming from, and built using blocks of red sandstone from the local quarry in Kirriemuir.

Even although he was under the thick woollen blankets, his bare legs were feeling the biting, almost freezing air, which seemed to engulf the room. Jake was twelve years old and had a room to himself. He was a skinny boy who did not look his age, and who always got mistaken for somebody much younger. His sister Jean had the room across the landing. She was two years younger than him, and she was a tomboy. Her red hair almost reached her shoulders, and she hated it. Jean preferred to wear a beanie hat with her hair tucked under it so that she did not look like a girl. She was a girl who was happier playing with Jakes friends than her own.

Jake was shivering, but he dared not get out of bed in case he wakened everybody up, plus it was too cold to venture upstairs to the bathroom. It was one of those stairs which creaked no matter how lightly you walked on the treads, and he did not want to waken his parents. His dad Brian was not working today, and he enjoyed a long lie in on a Saturday after working hard all week, and so did his mum Moira. Hopefully it would be daylight soon, and then Jake could see what the weather was like outside, and hopefully the snow he had been longing for would have fallen at long last. Snow was no use on a school day, no use to anybody, not when he had to sit writing indoors.

His dad had made a wooden sledge in his workshop in the cellar, with shiny metal runners to make it float over the top of the snow. It had his name Jake carved into the wooden seat and it had been painted red, bright post office red, nobody could mistake his sledge now. It had been kept in the cellar for weeks waiting on the first snow to fall. Kirriemuir always had a lot of snow compared to towns nearby.

Jake and his family lived in the last house along the pathway leading to the Den, a natural beauty spot with steep grassy high slopes on each side, and dozens of mature hardwood trees, taller than the steeple tower in the town square. This was bordered with houses built around the perimeter fence high above Jakes house. The grassy slopes were brilliant for sledging, unless you landed in the small fast flowing stream which ran through the Den. Surprisingly he could not hear the stream this morning, he could hear nothing, not even the cars he usually heard in the distance, even on a weekend. Jake wished that he had a clock to see what the time was, and to know how long he had to stay wrapped up until his mum lit the coal fire.

Finally, daylight started to creep through the branches of the large copper beech tree shadowing the house. The sun always took ages to penetrate the thick copse of branches, even when there were no leaves left on it like there was now. Shadows made by light shining through the twisted gnarled tree limbs started to form on the wall opposite his bed. The sight of the shadows used to scare Jake, but not today, not on a day that snow could be lying for him to try his new sledge. Leafy frosted patterns which had formed on the window panes overnight were starting to melt with the sun, finally revealing a green frost covered grass, but no anticipated snow.

Jake got out of bed and got dressed to go to the toilet, his breath making a steamy swirling pattern as he exhaled.

“God, it is bloody freezing in here, and I think that I am the only one up?”

Jake was talking out loud to himself, he hated being up first in this old house. His friends had told him that the house was haunted, but Jake had never seen any ghosts, but he took no chances anyway. The pine wooden door of his room opened quietly, and Jake stepped on to the hallway carpet, memorising where all the squeaky floorboards were, and he headed towards the stairs. Every step he took creaked noisily, echoing off every surface in the hallway. Jake crept up, stepping on every second step to get to the top landing faster. The toilet door was directly in front of him, and his parents’ bedroom was on his left, with a spare room his mum used for crafting on the right. Jake and his sister Jean were never allowed in there, not that she would want to do girly things anyway.

Jake flushed the toilet and washed his hands in the sink, being careful not to look in the mirror in case he saw someone or something behind him, plus he hated his red hair and freckles, and then he headed back to his bedroom. He jumped back into bed to try to warm himself, still wearing his clothes. He lay down and stared around the room, but could not settle.

Something was not right, he thought, mum and dad should be out of bed by now, they liked a long lie at the weekend, but not this long. After a while lying on his back, looking at the shadows forming whimsical shapes on the ceiling, Jake got up. He was going to go and see where everyone was. He went to look in Jeans room first, she would not mind him wakening her up, but she was not there, then he headed upstairs to mum and dads room, and they were nowhere to be seen either.

Jake shouted at the top of his voice. “Mum, dad, where are you?”

This was starting to scare him now. He looked in every room, searching in cupboards, and under the beds, even although nobody would have managed to hide there, but there was no trace of them anywhere.

There was one last place to look, but it was somewhere Jake was never allowed to go on his own, and that was his dad’s workshop in the cellar. Dad would not mind this time, not now when he was wondering where they all were, not when he was trying to find them.

That was it decided in his mind. He went to the door and turned the handle quietly, even although there was nobody in the house with him, and he pulled the door slowly towards him. A strong smell of pine and paint came rushing up the stairs to meet him as soon as the door opened, filling his nostrils with the pungent odour. This was where his dad built his new sledge, and where he kept all the tools Jake was not allowed to borrow. The air coming up from the cellar strangely felt warmer than the air in the house.

Jake switched on the stair light, then slowly and quietly went down one step at a time, franticly wiping cobwebs from his face as he went. Spiders were well down the list of his favourite things, and he avoided them whenever possible. When he reached the bottom step, he stopped to look around the room, checking every corner. His eyes were like radar, sweeping backwards and forwards, then side to side before stepping off the last step on to the floor. He saw a light shining from under a door, which led to a smaller room at the end of the cellar. Jake had never been allowed in that room, but he was going to have to look now.

“Is there anyone in there? I have a big hammer in my hand, this is your last chance before I open the door!” he said loudly.

Jake had no hammer, he was bluffing. Even if he had, he would not be brave enough to use it to threaten someone. He opened the door just enough to peer inside.

“That’s it, I am coming in!”

He shoved the door as hard as he could, and it slammed against the wall with a metallic thud as the brass handle hit the stone wall. The air in here was a lot colder than the room he had just left, and there was a draught coming from somewhere. His eyes slowly scanned the room, looking in every corner and shadow, just in case.

Then without any warning, a voice came from directly behind him, and he froze on the spot, but he daren’t turn around.

“What are you doing down here Jake? You know you are not allowed down in the cellar on your own. Your father will not be happy.””

The hairs on his neck pricked up, and a tingling feeling ran through his entire body, but he was too terrified to look behind him.

“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing following me down here?”

“My name is Katy Kelly, and I never followed you down, I was here before you came down the steps. I could ask you the same question as to why you are in the cellar.”

Although he was terrified, Jake slowly turned around and saw that the person who scared him was a girl about the same age as him, so he relaxed a bit, and did not feel so threatened by her sudden appearance. She was a very thinly built girl with long blonde hair which went right down past her waist. Her piercing blue eyes made her skin look paler than it was, and she had a stubby nose covered in freckles which spread on to her cheeks.

“Why are you down here Katy, and how did you manage to get into our house when the doors are locked, and how do you know my name?”

“Jake, I see you most days in the house when I am visiting, and I heard people calling your name. Follow me and I will show you how I get in.”

Katy led Jake to an old black wooden chest in the far corner of the cellar. “Here, this is where I get into the cellar.”

“Stop winding me up Katy, this wooden chest must have been here since we moved in when I was little. Plus, the fact, we are underground.”

Katy looked Jake in the eye and put her hand on the lid of the chest and slowly lifted it up, and leant it against the wall.

“Katy there is nothing in there, absolutely nothing but a wooden floor. Come on stop messing me about, I am in no mood for this, I am trying to find my family.”

Without warning Katy jumped into the trunk and vanished before Jake’s eyes, but bizarrely he could still hear her voice like she was still in the room with him.

“Come on Jake, jump into the chest and come with me, just believe me, jump in, you will be alright.”

Into Spurious

Chapter 2

Jake followed Katy into the chest, and immediately landed on soft grass. The sun was shining brightly above him, making his eyes screw up until he could focus. He was in a place he had never been before, not even in a dream. The constant hum of insects, melodic birds and small animals, rang in his ears. Katy just stood smiling at him as he stared around at the strange place he had found himself in.

“Where are we Katy? This place is freaking me out. Tell me where I am, or I am going back home this minute.”

“We are in Spurious, where everyone is friendly, even the Snuffrats, but nobody trusts them, nobody, because they steal stuff.”

Jake sat down for a minute to take in what he was seeing, and hearing. A large purple bird with a long tail was singing a song, but it was words which were coming from its beak, not chirps or screeches. It was a mesmerising melodic tune, which sounded like a church choir in the distance, with different tones all mixing together into a crescendo. The trees were swaying slowly backwards and forwards in time to the song, making the small birds in the branches fly into the air above them, creating a bright yellow show of feathers, as they shot high into the sky like fireworks.

Katy tried to explain, “Jake, you can’t just go back, you need permission to go back from the King himself. Nobody else can let you except him.”

“What is this strange place, am I dreaming Katy, am I?”

“This is where I live, my home is just around the corner beside the stream. Come and meet my friend Violet, she is the purple bird you were listening to. She always sings that song when she is happy, and she is happy because I came back home to see her.”

Jake was starting to worry, “What do you mean the King must allow me to go home? I want to go back now; my parents will worry if they come back and I am not home.”

“Look Jake you came of your own free will” Katy replied sternly, “I never forced you to come. You might as well stay tonight, then we will go to see the King in the morning, because you can’t get home without him.”

Jake saw how stern Katy was looking at him, she obviously meant it, and he suddenly realised that he was stuck here.

“I am getting hungry Katy, where is the nearest shop?”

“There are no shops here Jake, you just have to ask the Snuffrats for what you require, and they will go and get it for you.”

“I thought you didn’t trust them because they steal.”

“I don’t, they steal stuff from up in the lands where you live, and give it to us, then they steal it back from us if we don’t use it straight away. That is why I sometimes go up to get things for myself”

Jake sat silent for a moment, then just had to ask Katy. “Who or what are Snuffrats? I have never heard of such a ridiculous thing in my life.”

“You will soon find out Jake, I have called one to come and get something for you to eat and drink.”

“Katy, I never heard you calling anybody.”

“Jake, that’s because I don’t have to, I only need to think of what I need, and my Snuffrat will come along to see me. We all have a personal Snuffrat each, we get one when we are brought here. Mine is called Shlouie, and here he comes now. What do you fancy eating? If you are my guest, he will look after you as well as me.”

Shlouie was the strangest creature Jake had ever seen. He had been expecting something resembling a rat, but Shlouie looked nothing remotely like one. Shloe stood upright, and was about four-foot-tall, and was naked from head to toe. His pink skin had a slight brown tinge to it, except for some thin red veins running down his neck, which seemed to disappear into his narrow shoulders He had large round green eyes sunk into dark eye sockets, and a tiny mouth. There was nothing visible to tell that he was male or female. Then Shlouie smiled, and his whole face lit up. It was the friendliest smile Jake had possibly ever seen before, so genuine and warm.

The Snuffrat looked at Jake inquisitively, “So, you have come to visit Spurious then Jake? I have seen you plenty times when I have been up above, I have been in your bedroom before when you were asleep.”

“What were you doing in my bedroom Shlouie?”

“Looking for things for Katy mostly, but I usually found what I needed in your sister Jeans room, or in the kitchen for food and drink.” Shlouie replied innocently.

“And to think mum always blames me or my dad for scoffing stuff out of the cupboards and fridge, and it was you taking it all the time.”

“Jake, it is what we do, we have to supply what our masters want, and we love doing it.”

“Shlouie, why has nobody ever seen you before then?”

“Watch this Jake.”

Shlouie blinked and vanished, well almost vanished, but it was like looking through clear Perspex. Looking through him slightly distorted things behind him but you would not see him if you did not know he was there.

“That’s creepy Shlouie, sneaking round people’s houses like that, and when I am sleeping as well.”

“We have to Jake, or your people’s pets can see us, and I have been attacked by a big dog before because I forgot to turn my colour off. When you see a dog snarling at what you think is nothing, that’s probably at one of us.”

Jake stood staring at Shlouie as he started showing off by constantly blinking and vanishing and appearing at will, sporting a mischievous grin every time he appeared.

Katy interrupted Shlouie’s antics, “Shlouie stop showing off, will you? There are tasks to be done for Jake and me. You sometimes forget who the Snuffrat is, now pull yourself together.”

Katy told Shlouie what she wanted, and so did Jake, and Shlouie went away to forage and steal. Jake went to sit down on a small soft grassy dome on the ground, and it immediately started to move away from him. “Katy what is that, it moved when I tried to sit down?”

“Jake that is a Knollering, you don’t just sit on one, you have to ask its permission first, and not even the King would sit on a Knollering without asking.”

The ground started to change as other Knollerings began to appear and disappear at various times, obviously sticking up for the one Jake tried to sit on. Jake watched as they squeezed out from the surface of the grass, gave a shudder, and disappeared back where they came from.

“This place gets stranger by the minute Katy, I just can’t get to grips with where I am, I feel like I will wake up any minute and this will all have been a dream.”

“It is real Jake, just accept it because you are here to stay, until we can ask the King if you can go back.”

A Knollering snuggled up against Jakes leg, rotated on the spot, and made Jake land on top of it with a soft thud. An eye appeared from the thick grass and looked Jake up and down, blinked and disappeared back below the ground as fast as it appeared.

“Katy what the hell was that?”

“Jake, you were just getting checked up on by another Knollering to make sure you were ok, they all stick together here, if they don’t like you, you will get thrown off quickly.”

Jake sat looking around him in total disbelief, but was brought back to reality by Katy talking to him.

“Keep sitting where you are Jake, here comes Shlouie with our things we asked for.”

“That was fast Katy, he only left a few minutes ago, and if he can get there and back, surely I could do the same?”

Katy tried to tell Jake as gently as she could. “No, you are different to us who were brought here by a Snuffrat, we have a right to go up above, and you do not. Like I have told you already Jake, you chose to follow me down.”

Jake sat looking sorry for himself and accepted the fact that he would have to get permission before he could leave. He drank his can of cola and ate his two pork pies he had asked Shlouie for, and sat looking around him. Suddenly a strong strange odour started to come from somewhere near him, it was a rancid horrible smell, which was making him feel queasy.

“Katy what is that awful smell, and where is it coming from?”

“Stay still Jake, really still; the smell will move away from you. If you move, it will just follow you round all day. You have encountered your first Stencher. They clean up and eat all the rotten food, and eat all the solids from the toilets. Never touch a Stencher because they are sticky and will latch on to you, then they will lick you with their long disgusting tongue. They taste everything they see to see if it is rotten enough for them to digest.”

“Where is it Katy, I can’t see it?”

“Just keep still Jake, it should appear any minute, don’t move a muscle.”

The Stencher peered out from behind a cluster of small rocks, and extended its neck to almost double the length. It stopped to see if anyone had noticed it. This was the strangest creature Jake had ever seen. It was small and thin, totally hairless, except for a tuft of pure white wispy hair on the top of its head, with a long nose on a small wrinkled face. It sat frowning at Jake and Katy, just waiting on one of them moving so that it could follow them about all day. Both of its black eyes moved independently of each other, scanning around looking for something repulsive to devour, before it could exhale the vile smell out through a vent which ran down the entire length of its back. Satisfied nothing was about to change, the Stencher headed away in the direction of some trees, so that it could hide and wait to give somebody else a taste of its vile odour. It stopped to forage in a small pile of leaves, and slowly pulled out a massive black slimy slug. Jake watched as the slug got swallowed whole, leaving a slimy sticky residue all over the Stenchers lipless mouth.

“Right Jake, let’s get away from here now that it is safe, it won’t follow us now.”

“Thank goodness for that Katy, that has to be the worst smell I have ever had the misfortune to inhale.”

“Jake, nobody likes the Stenchers, but they have a job to do. I just wish they did not always try to follow you around, but at least you will know what to do the next time you smell one coming.”

The Casting Vote

Chapter 3

“Come on Jake, we had better go to my home so that you can have a sleep before we go to see King Louie in the morning.”

“Katy, I do not have any spare clothes or anything else for that matter. I never planned to be here.” Jake said, secretly hoping that he would get to go home.

“Jake, you worry far too much, I will send Shlouie up to your house for clothing. Just give him a list of what you need. He will be able to find it all, as he has been in your house hundreds of times.”

They both walked along a path which seemed to be soft and spongy to walk on, but was rock hard when you stood still. Several people, and Snuffrats, were staring at Jake, and he could sense it, but he tried not to stare back at them. A strong scent of something sweet filled his nostrils, then it vanished, followed immediately by a different smell. Then he noticed. The flowers were forming long trumpet shapes, and firing a jet of something at him.

“What are those flowers doing Katy?”

“Jake, they are pleased to see you, and they are sharing their pollen with you.”

All along the side of the path, flowers were firing their sweet-smelling pollen. Fanfares of music, emanating from tubular flower heads was filling the air with a symphonic ensemble which was high pitched, but mingled harmoniously with Violet, who had decided to join in.

Long red and blue striped bees, were stopping at the flowers to pick up any stray pollen which had not landed on the ground. They seemed to have a large pouch built underneath them, and they were stuffing the pollen in as tightly as they could. The bees almost doubled in size as they flitted from flower to flower, and struggled to take off. Their wings looked too small against their bulbous bodies to be able to fly. One of the largest bees started flapping its wings furiously, but could not lift itself from the flower. It just sat there motionless like it had given up.

“Did you see that Katy, the bee over there?”

“Yes Jake, that happens all the time, but they never learn. They are too stubborn to empty some of the pollen out, so they will just stay there and die.”

Katy stopped walking, and turned and looked at Jake. “Here is my Home, come on inside and sit-down Jake.”

Jake sat down in the only chair, looking around the strange looking room. It was nothing like any house he had seen before. This was like something from a film set. All white and clinical, with the minimum of things in the room.

“I think that I shall have a rest as well Jake,” said Katy.

“Sorry Katy, I will get up and give you your seat.

“No Jake, I shall bring another seat.”

Katy pushed a button on the wall by the door, and an identical seat appeared from the floor. “There you are Jake, there are enough seats for us both.”

They both sat in total silence for several minutes, then Jake had to ask the question which had been puzzling him since he arrived in Spurious. “Where are your parents Katy?”

“Jake nobody here has parents, the Snuffrats look after us. I thought you knew that.”

“So where do you come from if there are no parents. I mean let’s face it, we both know where babies come from?” Jake said knowingly.

“Yes of course I know where they come from Jake. The Snuffrats bring them here. There have never been adults in our Kingdom, well apart from the King, and he is old, very old. I was told that he is almost twenty years old now.”

Jake listened intently, but was still confused. “So, Katy, where do the adults go, and where will you go when you are an adult?”

“Jake, I will stay this age forever, just like everyone else here, even the babies stay the same. Whatever age we are when the Snuffrats bring us here, is how old we stay.”

“Where do they bring people from then Katy, not from where I live I hope?”

“Nobody knows where they get us all Jake, they just seem to appear now and again with somebody new.”

“Don’t you remember where you came from Katy? You just can’t get brought here aged twelve, and not remember where you came from. You must have lived somewhere before you came here, and somebody must have given birth to you.”

“Jake, I can only ever remember living in this house, Shlouie and I have always stayed here.”

Suddenly an alarming crashing sound came from the next room, and stopped almost as soon as it started.

“What was that almighty racket Katy, aren’t you going to have a look to see what it was?”

“Jake, I already know what caused the noise, it was a Stencher coming through the flap in the wall to clean out my toilet. The flap always bangs like that when it closes Anyway, I always wait for a while until after they leave, just to let the smell die down which comes from their mouths after eating my faeces.”

“Oh, that is just disgusting Katy, how can you let them do that?”

Before Katy could reply, the door opened, and Shlouie appeared, smiling like he always did. He was carrying a blue rucksack, Jake’s rucksack.

“There you go Jake, here are the things you asked for.” Shloe said proudly.

“Thank you Shlouie. Did you see my sister Jean, or my parents when you were in my house?”

“No Jake, the place was quiet, nobody was home when I went in, not a soul.”

Shlouie stood looking at Jake, he could sense that Jake was worried about finding his family, but he could not tell him where they were.

Jake sat wondering where they could possibly be. They were never away from home for more than a few hours. Coupled with the fact that they had left him at home in bed on his own. They would never do that. Never.

Katy served the hot food into three blue bowls, and looked round to Jake. “Come and get something to eat. I know it’s one of your favourite meals, because Shlouie has just brought it from your house.”

The three of them all sat down on the fold out seats at the table. Shlouie looked carefully at the beef stew and dumplings which Katy had shared between them, then he carefully picked all the carrots from his plate, and gave them to Jake. They ate in silence, nothing was discussed again about Jakes family. It was like they never existed.

“Jake, did you enjoy that meal? “Katy asked.

“Yes, Katy it was fab, but it has reminded me about my home, and my parents.”

“You should go to bed now Jake,” Kate suggested, “Then tomorrow we can go looking for the King.”

Katy led Jake to a small room with no window. The walls and floor were covered with a velvety soft grey fabric. The room was empty, except for a tiny short bed with high sides, which looked more like a coffin than a bed. The room appeared to be soundproofed, because he could no longer hear the birds outside, nor Shlouie washing all the dishes from the meal they had just eaten.

Jake looked at the small bed, and said in disgust.” I am not going to fit into that bed Katy, I can’t sleep there.”

Katy walked slowly towards the bed. “Stand back Jake, it pulls out to whatever length you need. When you are ready, just lie down, and a warm cover will wrap around you, and you will feel yourself getting slid back into the wall. Don’t be afraid, nothing will hurt you.”

“This is so weird Katy, what happens if I need to go to the toilet, or when I waken in the morning?”

“The bed knows, and it will do whatever you ask it to as well.” Katy said excitedly. “And if you are cold, just tell the bed to warm you up, and if you want a light on just ask.”

Katy left Jake in the small room by himself. He stood looking for a moment at the bed with suspicion. Then Jake noticed his rucksack was just beside the door, so he opened it and looked inside. Yes, Shlouie had found everything he had asked for. He changed into a pair of pyjama trousers, and carefully lay down in the bed, and waited. He felt something moving at his feet, then a strange feeling cover slid right up the bed to his chin, then it stopped. The bed slowly started to move, and it slid into a small chamber inside the wall. Jake started to panic, and had to try to calm down. Katy had told him that he would be alright, but it had happened now, and it was dark inside the chamber.

“Bed, switch on the light,” Jake instructed confidently, “Now switch it off, and then on again.”

Satisfied that he was in control of his bed, Jake was feeling a bit more relaxed now. He lay thinking about what he was going to say when he the finally gets to meet the King, then he fell into a deep sleep.

Jake woke up next morning, and tried to stretch out, then he remembered. He was in the narrow bed, and could barely move his legs, let alone stretch them.

“Bed open, I want to get up.”

The bed started to slowly slide out from its hiding place within the wall, then it stopped. Jake opened his eyes, and Katy was standing there.

“Jake, I thought that you were never going to get up,” Katy said, “I have sent Shlouie up above to get you something to eat, and he will be back soon. I hope that you enjoyed your sleep Jake, because it will be the last sleep you have in Spurious. You will not need sleep if you are here. There is no night or day, and no darkness here.”

“What time is it Katy?”

“I don’t know. We don’t use, nor do we need time in our world, unless it is for something important. I cannot think of anything I have used time for. If we are wearied we sit down to rest, and if we are hungry, we eat, it is a simple life here.”

Shlouie appeared with cornflakes and milk, a loaf of bread and some margarine and cheese. He gave the offerings to Jake, who eyed the cornflake box up and down suspiciously.

Jake looked at the box and carefully studied it. “Shlouie, you have taken this stuff from my house, haven’t you? I have written on the box, look, this is my writing.”

“Yes, Jake I have been in your house again. Your house is an easy house to go to in daylight, because there is nobody there just now.”

“Shlouie, you must have seen my sister or my parents? They are bound to be home now?” Jake said hopefully.

Katy relied to Jake’s question, because Shloe did not know how to react. “Jake, you had better eat something if we are going to look for the King today. Your parents will turn up when the time is right, won’t they Shlouie?”

Jake was getting impatient now. “We had better see the King today Katy, I am wanting to go back home.”

“There are other boys and girls waiting to see the King as well Jake. It is not just as simple as to find him. But when we do find him, we will tell him that you want to speak to him, then he will ask you to come to him when it is your turn.”

Jake finished his breakfast without talking, something he usually found difficult. He usually got into trouble from his mother for talking incessantly to Jean, then always having to rush to school.

“Have you had enough to eat Jake? Kate asked, “It may be a while before we can stop to eat again.”

“Yes Katy, plenty, the sooner we leave on our mission to see the King, the better it will be for me. I could even be back home before I am hungry again.”

Katy never acknowledged Jake’s statement, she knew that Jake would probably not see the King today, or even the day after. The three of them tidied up, and headed out the door, and were greeted by a group of boys who had been waiting for Katy.

“Who is this you have staying with you Katy?” the youngest boy asked.

Katy never answered him, but instead introduced Jake to the boys. “Jake, this threesome are Gregor, George and Andrew. Please excuse their rudeness.”

Gregor looked about thirteen years old, but it was hard to tell sometimes, because he was tall for his age, and very thin. His grey trousers looked comical because they were too short for his lanky legs, and his skinny ankles protruded from the bottom, always making them look shorter than they were.

George was much younger, and a quite bit overweight, probably around ten years old, but nobody knew for sure. He was the one who had asked Katy the question.

“I am still waiting on my answer Katy, who is this. I know his name is Jake, but who is he?”

“George, why don’t you just ask him yourself as you are so nosey?”

“It’s ok Katy, nobody needs to ask I will tell everyone,” Jake said confidently. “I have nothing to hide. I am going to see the King, so that I can get back home.”

George and Andrew started to laugh, and Gregor joined in. They were laughing hysterically, almost unable to breathe. Katy had to step in to stop them. “Right you three, that’s enough laughing at Jake. What has he said that is so funny?”

“Katy, he said that he is going to get back home above.” Andrew retorted. “Nobody here goes above to live, and why does he think that he came from up there?”

Andrew had finally spoken, and he was waiting on an answer. He stood with his hands on his hips, staring intently at Jake, eying him up and down through half closed eyes. Then Katy interrupted him.

“Andrew, Jake wasn’t taken here, he followed me down.”

“What an idiot you are Jake, you will never find the King, none of us have, and we have been here a long time.” Andrew mocked.

“Don’t heed them Jake, they have never been above, so they don’t know what they are talking about.”

“We are coming to find the King with you Katy, and we will not annoy Jake again, we all promise.”

They all agreed to be respectful. Everyone got ready to leave, and then the five of them headed along the path, trying to dodge the squirts of pollen spraying towards them as they walked. Their steps were made easier by the soft bouncy road, and soon they had covered a good distance. They were stopped by a young girl sitting on a Knollering at the roadside.

“Hello Katy, what are you doing this far up the road?”

“Juniper, we are going as a group to the castle to see King Louie. Jake needs permission to go back up above.”

Juniper sat looking at them all, eyeing Jake with suspicion. She was seven years old, and thought like someone twice her age. Her thin legs dangled from the Knollering, and her hands were positioned on her knees. She pursed her lips, half blowing as she breathed out, then she spoke to Jake in a tone he likened to one of his school teachers.

“Jake, nobody goes up above, it is dangerous up there. Only the Snuffrats, and certain people from Spurious go there. You would never get me to go to that place. Never!”

“Juniper, I have to go up to my home, it is up above, and my parents will be looking for me.”

“Jake, nobody here has parents, and they never have.”

“Katy, wouldn’t it be better if you told Jake the truth.” Juniper suggested. “Nobody has ever moved above to live, and he won’t be any different. The Snuffrats have told me about the vicious animals which live in some of the houses.”

Juniper listened as Katy told her the story of how Jake ended up in Spurious, and about the chimerical chest in the cellar of his house, and that his parents did live up above. She half believed Katy, but was still sceptical. She jumped down from the Knollering, and slowly walked towards Jake. She reached out her hand, and touched him on the arm, and then stepped back just out of reach.

“You are real, I have heard about up above people, but I have never seen one before. You are not what I imagined one to be like. I imagined that they were like; well, I don’t really know what.”

“Come on everybody!” Katy shouted. We had better get a move on, we have a long way to go, one which will probably take several days.

“Katy, why don’t we take a shortcut then?” Gregor suggested. “Through Perdition?”

“Gregor, I don’t want to take Jake through there; through Perdition. It is dark and horrible.”

“But Katy, it will cut our trip by around a day if we go that way”

“Right everyone,” Katy decided, “Let’s vote on it. Hands up who wants to take a shortcut through Perdition, and keep your hands down if you don’t.”

Gregor immediately shot his arm in the air, followed by Jake, then Andrew, and eventually George. He did not want to be the only one to disagree, even although he had heard stories from several Snuffrats about Perdition.


Chapter 4

“That’s it decided then, even although I am the only one against it,” Katy said, “And as for you Jake, you don’t know what you are letting yourself into.”

“Katy, I will be ok, we have dark every night up above, every night without fail.”

“It is not too far to Perdition, if we head off now, we will be there in no time at all. “

They walked together, talking about Jake’s life up above, then it appeared before them. The small arched stone bridge looked eerie, it was covered in an unfamiliar yellow tinged moss. It was built right up against a high rock formation of red sandstone which was so tall you could not see the top.

“What is this strange bridge Katy,” Jake asked, “And why is it stuck here on the side of a mountain?”

“There used to be a stream which came out from the centre of the mountain, and ran under this bridge, but your people up above dug down in the Gairie burn where you live, and our water stopped. This is the entrance to Perdition, the netherworld, where we never usually go.”

Katy, I am not coming with you to Perdition,” Juniper said, “I should be back home to see my Snuffrat soon for something to eat.

“I will come and visit you when I get back Juniper, we will catch up then.”

“If you get back. I have never heard of anyone coming back from there Katy, you should really take the long way around.”

“Juniper, we will be ok, there are plenty of us to keep safe.”

“Right then everyone, let’s go, and please keep together. Jake grab a Battling from the wall beside you, because you will need it to see where you are going.”

“Katy, what are you talking about,” Jake asked, “What on earth is a Battling?”

“Jake, everyone knows that a Battling is a small furry animal who lives on the walls in Perdition in the dark. They have a light on the end of their tail to find their way around. They look very fierce, but they will not hurt you. Just pick one gently from the wall, and hold it.”

Jake copied everybody else, and pulled a Battling from the wall. It immediately objected to this treatment, and started to squeal loudly.

“Trust you to get a baby one Jake, try letting it suck on your finger, or it will set them all off squealing.” Katy suggested.

“Katy, what if it bites me? I have seen its teeth, and they look sharp.”

“It won’t bite Jake, just put one of your fingers in its mouth to suck on, and then squeeze its tail gently. It will light up where we are going.”

Jake did as he was advised to do, and the squealing noise stopped. A bright light shone from a strange wax like lump on the end of the Battling’s tail. It wrapped its fingers round Jakes arm, so that it would not fall off, and then fell asleep. The soft velvety brown fur covering its body seemed to move by itself, making tiny wave like patterns. It was about the size of a small cat, and it did not feel heavy.

“Are we all ready, George, where is your Battling?”

“It got away from me Katy, there it is up there.”

“Well George, just grab another one, but this time, do it gently.”

George jumped up, and pulled a thin Battling down from higher up the wall. He gently squeezed its tail, and the area around him lit up. What he saw was not what he expected to see. What looked like human bones, lay scattered around the whole area as far as the light could reach. Droplets of water were splashing silently on to the pathway, getting absorbed into the gravely surface.

“Why are there bones in here Katy?” Jake asked.

Katy never answered, she was busy trying to fix her hair into her beanie hat. She was not going to take any chances of someone, or something grabbing it.

“Jake, I have never been here before, Gregor has, let’s ask him.”

“I have only been here once Katy, it was long, long ago, and I did not go much farther than where we are now. There were a few bones here, but I don’t think there was as many as this, but my memory may not be correct. Truth be known, I took to my heels and ran back outside.”

“Now you tell us Gregor, so how do you know that the tunnel goes all the way through the mountain?” Jake asked.

“I asked the Snuffrats They sometimes go this way, but nothing would dare try to hurt one of them.”

“We might as well carry on now, I want this over as quickly as possible.” Katy said.

Katy led the way because the boys were too scared to go in front. They walked for ages, slowly at times when they were spooked by a Battling high up on a wall suddenly communicating with the ones they were carrying.

Then it happened. George got grabbed, and something started pulling him into a gap in the rocks. He was screaming for all his might, a high-pitched blood curdling scream of sheer terror. Andrew managed to grab George’s legs before he disappeared completely.

“Come on Gregor, Jake, help me, grab hold of George and start pulling him back. Katy come and help, please help us!”

They started to pull George as hard as they could. Whatever had a hold of him finally started to lose its grip, and George was saved. Poor George could not talk. He sat on the hard ground gasping for air. His facial expression was one of utter shock. Saliva was dripping out of the corners of his mouth.”

“Breathe George, pull yourself together! Try to Breath!” Katy shouted. “What tried to pull you through the hole, tell us, we all need to know?”

Katy was trying to remain calm, but she was as terrified as everyone else was. George was already in a state, and she did not want to make him worse. His cheeks were scarlet red, and his eyes were wide open, he was in a state of shock. Andrew sat down on his knees in front of George to try to calm him down.

“George, its Andrew. George. You are safe now. We must keep going forward. The sooner we are out of here, the better it will be for you and the all the rest us”

“It was a….”

“What was it George?”

“It was a…., a Depleter.”

“Are you sure? They only exist in books. The Snuffrats told me that a long time ago.”

“Andrew, it was a Depleter. I would never forget what one looked like. That dirty blood-stained face, with sunken black lifeless eyes, that stinking rancid breath as it tried to bite me. It was exactly as it is described in the books.”

“Come on George, let’s get moving, we can’t go back now, now that you have seen a Depleter. There may be more of them. Where is your Battling, you will need it to see where you are going?”

“Katy, the Depleter must have grabbed it from me in the struggle.”

“Poor thing, it will probably have been eaten by now. You will have to stay between us and share our Battling’s. Ours climbed back up the wall when we were rescuing you, but they came back down again, just enough to reach for them.

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