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Chapter 26: A sort of finale

April 30, 2013


An almighty shriek came out of the air – thin air – and Karen descended into the trap, legs braced for landing – arms brandishing a pair of magnificent curved swords. Her hair streamed out behind her. She looked majestic, terrifying, a warrior of times past. The Romans must have felt like this when they saw Boudica on a fiery chariot. Was that Boudica?

Ian had never seen anything like it. And – after a day and a night of unexpected things happening one after the other in quick succession – this was the most alarming.

Karen hit the ground running.
“Everyone, grab a sword,” she shouted. “We’re going to kick this beast out of existence!”

“What sword?”
“Where did you – “

“No time for questions,” she cut them off. “Look – there.” She was pointing to the ground where she and the kids had been standing when the light took her. Where they had dropped the knitting needles.

“SEE!” Karen shouted back up into the sky. “TOLD YOU YOU COULD DO IT!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Told who what?”

“Like I said, no time for questions,” she said. “No time for thinking. Get a sword and slash the walls. It’s all connected. The trap, the monster, all of it. It’s not real but it’s all connected and we can destroy it. We can be free of it.”

Ian didn’t need telling twice. He always believed in doing the thing in front of you. You couldn’t find all the answers to everything all at once, and you didn’t have to. As long as he knew what was next, he decided not to care too much about what was afterwards. He grabbed a sword.

He didn’t actually know very much about swords. He’d heard somewhere that you held onto the blunt end and hit things with the sharp end.

The blunt end was all glittery. He took it in both hands and hefted the sword. Made a few practice swings. Right. The others were following suit around him and he stepped away from the mêlée. Didn’t want to get a sharp end in the ear. Right. The walls.

He lifted the sword, watched how Karen did it, swung it at the walls in a slicing motion. There was a gratifying scleurp! noise as the blade cut through the hateful slippery stinking bastard surface. He hacked at it again. It was just like bloody golf.

They were all starting to attack the walls now, and he could feel a thickening in the air. Like when your ears are about to pop.

“What’s happening?” he heard someone shout, but the voice was muffled, as it if came from far away.
He thought it was Pip.
“We’re hurting it!” said Karen. “Keep going!”

“Look up!” said Fred. “The things are coming!”
He was right. The circling shapes – the ones they had been afraid to name as wolves, the ones they had all been trying to ignore – they were starting to pour down the slopes towards them. Snapping, yellow teeth, grey fur. Long tails. Bright, hungry eyes, red with madness.

“Get them!” shouted Karen. They were closing in, rushing down the slopes and Ian got ready to swing his sword. One of them leaped at him and he swiped at it.

They weren’t wolves. The surprise caught him off balance and the next two to jump landed heavily on his chest. Knocked him over.

“Jesus, it’s squirrels!!” screamed Lena.
“Get them anyway!”

When they had been distant, mysterious shapes, there had seemed to be perhaps a handful of wolves out there. Now it was squirrels, and there were thousands of them, flocking out of nowhere.

Did squirrels flock? And come to think of it, Ian wasn’t much a naturalist but he was pretty sure squirrels were peaceful, shy, vegetarian creatures.

The thought of rabies crossed his mind and he leapt up, whacking the swarm of furry creatures off him and hacking away at them with his sword.

Ian had never killed anything bigger than a spider before.
It was disgusting. It was horrifying. Soon, he was past caring.

The group of them fell into a circle formation, each facing outward, each slashing at the onslaught. He could hear sobbing and wailing. He thought it might be his own. Some of it anyway. But nobody shied away because they all knew they had no choices left.

Soon they were standing on piles of furry bodies – crying – weeping – yet adding to the pile.

So this was war.
It was horrible.

“STOP IT!” screamed Karen. “STOP IT NOW!”
Ian hesitated, looked around at her. If they stopped they would be overwhelmed. The mound of squirrel corpses already covered the ground completely, and more kept coming. There was no end in sight.

“We can’t!” screamed Hazel.
“Not you,” Karen yelled.

The light brightened. The squirrels looked ghoulish in the glare, eyes flashing with blank, reflected light. More terrifying than before.

The light became all-consuming.

“DON’T BE STUPID!” she screamed at it.

Karen hadn’t stop slashing at the squirrels, but she was distracted and more were getting through the circle.

“Fatima, get the middle,” said Hazel. “Sit down in the middle and get the stragglers.”
Fatima dropped back and the rest of them moved around to close the circle.



Ian wasn’t reasoning any of this out. But he had a flash of inspiration.
“Flood!” he shouted. “A flood and we can swim out!”


There was a sudden noise like rain on a plastic roof, loud and thunderous.
The squirrels paused. They looked up. So did Ian.

He hadn’t bothered to wonder if everyone could swim. Now he did. He grabbed Fatima who was just behind him, sitting on the bloody heap. Her leg had given way.
“Hazel, get Falcon!” he shouted.

The water hit them like a brick wall. Battered, Ian managed to keep his grip on Fatima. He had his arm around under her armpits and he kicked upwards through the water.

The currents were violent.

Fatima was clinging on to him, too weak and tired to fight the water. He battled it for her. He fought to keep his head above water, taking breaths whenever he dared. He tried to keep her up too. She  coughed now and again and that meant she had not drowned, not yet.

They were being washed all over the place, and Ian was aware of other bodies floating in the water with them. It was dark again, and in any case he didn’t have the strength to do more than hope that the others were alright.

At length, the waters receded. They were on firm ground. Real ground. With mud and stones and twigs and starlight above them and a moon. The real world. He lay still, panting, weak with relief.

After a minute or so, they began helping one another to their feet. Tired, unsteady, but alive.
In the distance, they could hear the late night dance music of a festival.

Ian’s phone – safe inside the high-tech waterproof case that he now realised had not been a complete waste of money – beeped into life.

Where’s my sandwiches then? –  it said.

They trooped back to the festival. Lena and Hazel between them helped Fatima to the medical tent.
Fred promised to make sure Falcon was delivered safely to his parents.

The others melted wetly into the crowds from which they had come.

Yes. The real world.
It was strangely disappointing.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2013 8:35 pm

    Wordcount 1275
    I won!

  2. Anonymous permalink
    April 30, 2013 9:36 pm

    Well done, time to take a deep breath and relax. What a challenge, perhaps I will try something similar some time.

  3. April 30, 2013 9:39 pm

    Well done, Time to take a deep breath and relax.

  4. April 30, 2013 9:55 pm


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