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Chapter 6 TREASURE HUNT


I sneak a few hours of shut-eye post-dawn, when the sun's chased the moon off and I'm safe. But it's an uneasy sleep, filled with nightmares of werewolves and a body in revolt. I imagine myself doing awful things, causing chaos. Only it's not entirely me. It's a beast with my shape and form, but with a twisted face, fangs instead of teeth, claws instead of nails, blood-soaked hair.

Grubbs Grady-monster extraordinaire.

When I stumble down the stairs a little after noon, most of the cleaning has been taken care of. Loch tells me Reni had them all up at ten and working like demons. (His choice of phrase is unfortunate.) She had to leave at eleven but left him in charge to make sure nobody slacked off.

"That was some trick you pulled," Leon says, sweeping up petals from the living room floor. "I'd love to know how you did it."

"It was magic," Charlie says, shooing a butterfly out through an open window.

"A magic trick," Leon corrects him.

"No, real magic," Charlie insists. "It was, wasn't it, Grubbs? I've seen the books lying around, about wizards, witches and wotnots. It was real magic, right?"

"No." I force a thin smile. "Just a trick. There's no such thing as real magic."

"But the books-" Charlie exclaims.

"-are just books," I finish tiredly, then go see what state the kitchen's in.

As I'm leaving, I hear Leon mutter, "Magic! You're a real ass sometimes."

"I don't care what he says," Charlie sulks. "I know what I saw. It was real magic. I'd bet a million jelly beans on it.

When everything's as clean as we can get it, my friends say goodbye and make their way home to recover before school on Monday. Bill-E and Loch stay on-they've arranged to spend the day here. Bill-E waits till Loch's in the toilet, then asks how I'm feeling.

"Fine," I lie as my brain throbs with a splitting headache and my stomach gives a sickly rumble.

"I heard howling last night," Bill-E says. "After we'd gone to bed. It woke me. A few others too. There was some talk of it this morning but not much-most people were still trying to figure out how you pulled off the trick with the bottle."

I grunt, saying nothing.

"Grubbs," Bill-E says hesitantly, "I know we've never discussed the family curse. You filled me in on the basics in Slawter, but you've never offered more information and I haven't pushed."

For a long time Bill-E thought Dervish was the one who'd almost changed into a werewolf. I finally told him the truth in Slawter, neglecting only the part about Dervish being his uncle, not his father. I've never told Bill-E that we share the same dad. I want to, but he feels a special bond with Dervish, believing him to be his real father. I've never had the heart to shatter his illusion.

"Well," Bill-E continues after an uncomfortable pause, "I know I almost turned into a werewolf and that you and Dervish saved me. You faced Lord Loss and won back my humanity. But is the cure definitely permanent?"

"Yes."

"I'm safe? For certain?"

"One hundred per cent," I smile.

"What about...?" He hesitates again. "Your magic... the howling... Are you safe too?"

I don't answer for a second. Then, quietly, I lie. "Yes."

"I won't have to lock you up in the cage in the secret cellar?"

"No," I laugh edgily. I hate that cellar. I've only been there once since we defeated Lord Loss, when Dervish's nightmares were threatening to destroy his sanity. "I'm fine. That wasn't me howling. Probably just a big dog that got loose. Now stop worrying-you're getting on my nerves."

Loch returns, wiping his hands dry on his trousers, and the questions stop, though I sense Bill-E doesn't fully believe me. He knows something's wrong, that I'm not coming clean. But he doesn't suspect the worst or anything near it. He trusts me. Thinks of me as his closest friend. Doesn't believe I'd lie point-blank to him about something this serious.

How little he knows.

A long, anticlimactic Sunday. Lounging around the house, all three of us bored, flicking through TV channels in search of something decent to watch, sticking CDs on, turning them off just a few tracks in. Loch makes cutting remarks about Bill-E, winding him up. I worry about lycanthropy and magic.

"This is crap," Loch mutters, switching the TV and CD player to stand-by. He jumps up and rubs his hands together. "Let's wrestle."

"I'm not in the mood."

"C'mon!"he prods, slapping my face lightly, trying to sting me into action.

"No," I yawn.

Loch scowls, then switches his attention to Bill-E. "How about you, Spleenio?" He grabs the shorter boy by the waist and swings him round.

"Let go!" Bill-E shouts, kicking out.

"We've got a live one," Loch laughs. He throws Bill-E to the ground, then falls on him and starts to tickle.

"No!" Bill-E gasps, face red, slapping at Loch like a girl, half-laughing from the tickling, half-crying.

"Leave him alone," I mutter angrily-the noise is worsening my headache.

Loch stops and stands. "Sorry, Bill-E," he says. "Let me help you up." He lowers his right hand. Bill-E reaches for it and Loch whips the hand away. "You're the sultan of suckers, Spleen," he chortles, strolling towards the kitchen, shaking his head with amused disgust.

Bill-E glares daggers at Loch, then at me. "Gossel's scum," he hisses. "I don't care if he is your new best friend. He's the scum of the earth. Shame on you for hanging out with him."

"Don't take it out on me," I snap. "You want to get Loch off your back? Then face him like a man, not a little girl. He bullies you because you let him."

"No, he bullies me because he's a bully," Bill-E retorts, furious tears in his eyes.

I shrug, too exhausted and sore-headed to argue. "Whatever."

Loch returns and Bill-E shuts up, but he glowers like an old man whose pipe's been stolen, then storms off and returns with his coat.

"Going home?" I ask as he buttons it up.

"No," he snarls. "I'm doing what I originally planned to do."

"Huh?"

"You remember. My original plan. If there hadn't been a party." I stare at him blankly and he nods in the direction of the forest.

"Oh," I chuckle. "Lord Sheftree."

"What's that?" Loch asks.

"Nothing," Bill-E says quickly, shooting me a warning look which I ignore, still sore at him for having a go at me. (And sore at myself too, for not being the friend-the brother-he deserves.)

"You know the stories of Lord Sheftree, the guy who used to own this place?" I ask Loch.

"The baby and the piranha, yeah, sure."

"Grubbs..." Bill-E growls, not wanting to share our secret with an outsider.

"There's a legend about his treasure." I take grim satisfaction from Bill-E's enraged expression.

"Treasure?" Loch echoes, interest piqued.

"Apparently he had hoards of gold and jewels which nobody ever found. They say he buried it somewhere around here. That it's still sitting there, underground, waiting..."

Loch squints at me, then at Bill-E. "This true, Spleenio?"

"Get stuffed."

Loch's face stiffens. "I asked if it was true," he says, taking a menacing step forward.

"Yeah, maybe, so what?" Bill-E squeaks, shrinking away from Loch.

"Any idea where the treasure is?" Loch asks.

"Up your butt," I chip in, and both Loch and Bill-E laugh, the tension vanishing in an instant.

"Nah, come on, really," Loch says, facing me again. "Is this on the level or is Spleen-boy paying me back for all those false handshakes?"

"The legend's real," I tell him. "I don't know about the treasure. We've been all over the forest, dug more holes than a pair of rabbits and found nothing. Right, Bill-E?"

"Yeah," Bill-E sighs, resigning himself to sharing our secret with Loch. "But you bury treasure because you want it to be hard to find. There wouldn't have been much point in Lord Sheftree sticking it where any passer-by could find it. It's out there, I'm sure, and one day, if we keep trying..." He trails off into silence, eyes distant.

"I thought you were rich anyway," Loch says to me. "Why are you bothered about a pile of buried treasure?"

"I'm not. But it would be exciting if it did exist and we found it. Bill-E and I used to spend a lot of our weekends searching for it. Even though we never found anything, the searching was fun."

"You've given up?" Loch asks.

I shrug. "Bill-E goes looking every so often, but it's been a while since I bothered."

"He's been too busy wrestling with lunk-heads," Bill-E says sourly, but Loch lets the remark pass.

"I've never searched for treasure," Loch says. "How do you do it-with a metal detector?"

"No," Bill-E says. "We walk around with shovels looking for likely spots. Then we make trial holes. If nothing turns up, we fill in the holes and move on.

"Sounds amateurish," Loch says dubiously.

Bill-E laughs. "Like Grubitsch said, the searching is fun. You'd need proper, expensive equipment to go after it seriously. For us it's always been a game."

"What about it?" Loch asks, casting an eye at me.

"You want to go on a treasure hunt?" I groan, wishing I could just go back to bed for a few hours.

"It'd beat sitting around here doing nothing," Loch says.

"But it's raining," I protest.

"A light drizzle. It'll clear soon. C'mon, it's something different."

"Not for Bill-E and me."

"But it is for me," Loch presses.

"Why don't you and Bill-E go by yourselves?" I suggest.

"No way!" they both exclaim at the same time, then share a look and laugh, temporary (very temporary!) allies.

"I'll let him tag along if you come," Bill-E says. "Otherwise I'll go home. I still have some homework to finish."

"C'mon," Loch huffs again. "Don't be a bloody bore, Grubbs."

"OK," I groan, rising reluctantly. "Give me a few minutes to change. Loch, you and Bill-E go get some shovels. Bill-E knows where to find them."

"Cool!" Loch grins, slapping Bill-E on the back. "You leave it to the Spleenster and me-we know what we're doing."

"Just one thing," Bill-E says stiffly. "On the very off chance that we find any treasure, it's ours. You don't have any rights to it, understand? I don't want you going all Treasure of the Sierra Madre on us."

"Treasure of where?" Loch frowns.

"It's a black-and-white movie," Bill-E explains as he leads Loch away. "I'll fill you in on the plot while we're fetching the shovels. It's all about treasure hunters and the destructive nature of paranoid greed..."

The fresh air clears my head a bit, but after an hour of aimless walking and digging I'd still rather be in bed. Loch's loving it though, digging wildly, accidentally hitting Bill-E with clods of earth every so often to break the monotony. Bill-E doesn't mind too much. He's just glad I'm out scouring the forest with him again, even if we do have an extra (unwanted) passenger in tow.

"We've found a few bits and pieces over the years," Bill-E explains as we give up on our third trial dig and refill the hole. "Old coins, scraps of clothes, half a knife."


"Anything worth money?" Loch asks.

"Not really," Bill-E says. "One of the coins would have been valuable if it had been in better condition, but it was very worn and part of it was missing. Dervish let me keep it."

"Why were they buried if they were worthless?" Loch asks.

"They weren't," Bill-E says. "The level of the ground's constantly changing. Things fall or are thrown away. Grass and weeds grow over them. They sink when the ground's wet. New earth blows over them. In no time at all they're half a metre underground... a metre... more. The world's always burying cast-offs and stuff that's been forgotten. Heck, even the giant Sphinx in Egypt was half-buried once and almost lost forever."

"Nonsense," Loch snorts.

"It's true," Bill-E says. "We did it in history. And there are loads of important places in Egypt today-burial chambers and the like-which are covered up. In some towns they know where they are, but people have built houses over them, so they can't excavate."

"I never learnt any of that in history," Loch says suspiciously.

"Well," Bill-E replies smugly, "maybe if you were in the upper set..."

Loch's starting to tire of the wandering and digging. I'm glad. Apart from the fact that I'm weary and grumpy, it's late afternoon and it won't be much longer before the sun starts to set and an even fuller moon than last night's rises over the earth like a plum dipped in cream. Maybe Dervish is back already. If so, I want to sit down with him and have a long talk about what's going on in my life and what we need to do about it.

"This studying," Loch grumbles, studying his hand where he cut it on the last dig.

"One more try," Bill-E says. "We'll quit after that."

"Why not now?" Loch says. "This is stupid. We'll never find anything."

"It's an old superstition of ours. When we decide we've had enough, we always dig one last hole. Right, Grubbs?"

"Yeah," I mutter. "That's the way we've always done it."

"And look where it's got you," Loch snorts, but goes along with the plan, not wanting to be the one who quits first.

Bill-E leads us further into the wild bushes of the forest, trying to pick a good spot for the final dig of the day. Briars catch on my trousers and jacket, and one scratches deep into my neck, drawing a few drops of blood and a loud curse. I'm about to call an end to the farce and demand we go home immediately, regardless of superstitions, when something about the landscape makes me pause.

We're in the middle of a thicket, lots of natural shrubs and bushes. It looks much the same as any other part of the forest to the untrained eye, but when you've spent a few years exploring a particular area, you see things differently. You get to know the various types of trees, flowers and weeds. You make mental pointers so you can find your way around easily and quickly. I've been here before, I'm sure of it, but I can't remember when...

The memory clicks into place. It was shortly before Bill-E turned into a werewolf, before Dervish told me about the Demonata and Lord Loss. Bill-E and I were on one of our treasure hunts. We'd started to dig around here when Bill-E spotted Dervish and went all mysterious. He made me hide, so Dervish didn't see us, then we followed him. That was the day Bill-E hit me with his theory about werewolves. The day my destiny fell into place and I started on a collision course with Lord Loss and his vile familiars.

"Let's dig here."

"I'm not sure," Bill-E frowns, studying the ground. "The earth looks hard."

"No," I say, casting around. "There's a soft patch somewhere, between a couple of stones. At least there used to be..."

I find it and give a grunt of satisfaction. I can still see faint marks from where I began to dig previously, a minute or so before Bill-E went weird on me and the world of werewolves claimed me for its own.

"How'd you know that was there?" Bill-E asks.

"Magic," I reply with a laugh, then drive my shovel into the soil.

Half an hour later, nobody's laughing. We're surrounded by three fresh mounds of earth and stones, digging deeper by the minute, cutting down at an angle. There's a large rock buried just beneath the briars and grass, under the shelter of which the earth and stones lie. There's rock to either side too. It's too early to tell for certain, but this looks like the entrance to a tunnel or cave.

"What's that?" Loch says suddenly, stooping. He comes up holding something golden. My heart leaps. Bill-E and I crowd in on him, jabbering with excitement. Then he holds it up to the dim light and we see it's just an orangey-yellow stone. "Damn!" Loch hurls it away.

Bill-E pulls a face and resumes digging. He's working on the sides, clearing the rock faces, while Loch and I dig straight down. Bill-E pauses after a while and strokes the rock. "Hard to tell if this fissure is natural or man-made. The sides are smooth, as if they've been ground down. But I guess they'd feel just as smooth if nature had done the grinding."

Loch hits a larger stone and winces. Scrapes around it to find its edges, then inserts the tip of his shovel under one corner and tells me to help him. Together we lever it out, then lift it up on to the bank around us. We're knee-high in the hole (based on my long legs, not Bill-E's stumpy pins) by this stage.

Loch clears the gap left by the removal of the stone, then scowls. "There's another one. Looks even bigger than the first."

"It's getting rockier the further down we dig," I note.

"That's always the way," Bill-E says. "The heavier stones sink deeper than the smaller ones."

"Is it worth carrying on?" Loch asks. "I don't think there's any treasure here."

"How do you figure that?" Bill-E sneers.

"Common sense," Loch says. "This Lord Sheftree miser would have wanted easy access to his treasure so he could dig it up whenever he liked. This ground's too rocky. Too much hard work. It would have been easier for him to do it somewhere else."

"Hey," Bill-E says, "this is a maniac we're talking about-the guy fed a baby to his piranha! Who knows what he might or might not have done? Maybe he hired men to dig this hole, then killed them and left them to rot with the treasure. Maybe he had others dig it up every few years so he could put more treasure down there, then killed them too. Heck, there could be dozens of skeletons down there."

Loch and I share an uneasy glance.

"I don't know if I want to go digging up skeletons," Loch mumbles.

"Afraid of a few old bones, Gosselio?" Bill-E cackles.

"No. But if there are corpses, we shouldn't disturb their remains."

"Not even if they're sitting on a chest of gold coins?" Bill-E taunts him. "Five chests? Ten? Not even if we agree to cut you in on a slice of the profits?"

"A while ago you said there was nothing in it for me," Loch snaps.

"You can't expect an equal share," Bill-E drawls, "but if there's a fortune and you help us dig it up, we'll see you right. Won't we, Grubbs?"

"Too much talking," I grunt, stabbing my shovel into the ground, trying to find a crack I can use to pry out the next big stone. "Dig."

Almost sunset. Without discussing it, we come to a halt and study the fruits of our labours. The hole is thigh-deep now. It's been hard going for the last twenty minutes-one big, awkward stone after another. At least the hole's no wider than when we started, so we've only got to worry about digging down, not out to the sides as well.

"We could be at this forever," Loch gasps, wiping sweat from his forehead. All three of us are sweating badly. "No telling how deep it goes."

"What do you say, Bill-E?" I ask, glancing up at the setting sun, feeling the sickness and headache building within me again. "Time to stop?"

"Yeah," Bill-E agrees. "We can't dig in the dark. But we'll come back, right?" He looks at me, Loch, then me again. "We could be on to the find of the millennium. Metres-maybe centimetres- away from Lord Sheftree's treasure. We can't walk away from that."

"He's right," Loch says. "It's probably just a big old hole, but..."

"What about next weekend?" I suggest.

"I can't wait that long," Bill-E says. "A whole week thinking about it, dreaming of the treasure..."

"Also, what if somebody else comes by, sees the hole and finishes what we've started?" Loch growls. "There aren't any fences around your land, are there?"

"No." I clear my throat. "Actually, this isn't our land. We don't own this part of the forest."

Loch stares at me hard, then at Bill-E, who fidgets uncomfortably. "You don't have legal rights to it," he says softly. "You were bluffing, trying to cut me out of any find."

Bill-E shrugs. "You wouldn't have known about the treasure if we hadn't told you. Anyway, it's ours-Grubbs's-by right of birth."

"No it's not," Loch objects. "He isn't any relation to Lord Sheftree. Dervish just bought the house, that's all. If I wanted, I could come back here with others and dig without you."

Bill-E gulps and looks to me for help.

"Thirds," I say steadily. "An equal split. Assuming there's anything down there. And assuming we get to keep it if there is-for all we know, there are laws that won't allow us to keep any of it. But if the treasure's there and we can make a claim, we divide it in three. Agreed?"

"Agreed," Loch says quickly.

Bill-E looks disgusted but nods angrily. "OK."

"And we don't tell anybody, not until we figure out what our rights are," Loch adds. "There's no point doing all the hard work and not being able to reap the rewards. If we find treasure, we keep our mouths shut and check the law. We might have to wait till we're eighteen to declare our find. Or maybe we can never declare it. Maybe we'll have to sell it on the black market." He grins. "The gold and diamond market!"

"I'm not so sure about that," Bill-E says. "Not revealing a find like this could land us in a lot of trouble."

"We can buy our way out of it with the money we make from the treasure," Loch laughs. "Either way, we don't say anything until we know, right?" Bill-E and I share a glance, then nod. "Great. It's settled." He hauls himself out of the hole and lays his shovel aside. "I don't know about you two, but I plan to be back here first thing after school tomorrow and every day this week, and the week after, and the week after that, until we get to the bottom of this damn hole. You with me?"

"I'll come," Bill-E agrees. "Not every day-Gran and Grandad would get suspicious if I was late home every evening-but most of the time it shouldn't be a problem."

"Grubbs?" Loch asks.

"I'll be here," I promise, glad to have something to distract me from my recent fears. I look up at the darkening sky and add a proviso. "But only until dusk. I'm not staying out here nights. Not when the moon's up."

Home. Waiting for Dervish. He should have returned by now. I ring his mobile, to check that everything's OK, but only get his answering message. Sitting in the TV room, TV switched off, no lights on. In my guts and bones I can feel the moon rising. Concentrating on my breathing, willing myself not to change, trying to stay human.

Without any sound of a motorbike, the doors open about 10 o'clock and Dervish stumbles in. "My head," he groans, slumping on the couch next to me, a hand thrown over his eyes.

"What's wrong?" I ask, thinking he's been in a crash. Then I catch the stench of alcohol. "You're drunk!"

"I forgot how much Meera can drink when she sets her mind to it," he mumbles. "And unlike normal people, she doesn't have a hangover the next morning. She was at it again first thing when she woke and she made me join in." He puts his hands over his ears and moans. "The bells, the bells!"

"Tell me you didn't drive home in this state," I snap.

"You think I'm mad?" Dervish huffs. "I cast a sobering spell."

"You're full of it!"

"No, really, it works perfectly. Except it's very short term. It ran out when I was almost to Carcery Vale. I had to stop and walk the rest of the way. And the worst thing is, when it wears off, the hangover kicks in with twice as much venom as before." Dervish doubles over, head cradled between his hands, whining like a kicked dog.

"Serves you right," I sniff. "You should have more sense at your age."

"Please, Grubbs, don't play mother," Dervish groans. He staggers to his feet and heads for the kitchen. "I'm going to make an absolutely huge cup of hot chocolate, then retire to my room for the night. I don't want to be disturbed unless the house is burning." He pauses. "Strike that. I don't want to be disturbed even then. Let me burn-I'd be better off."

I think about calling him back, making him sit down and listen to me. But it wouldn't be fair. Better to let him get a good night's sleep, then tell him about it tomorrow. Besides, I don't feel too rough at the moment, not as bad as I felt last night. I don't want to jinx myself, but I think I might be over the worst.

Dervish's snores rock the house to its foundations. I don't want to sleep. I want to keep a vigil, stay focused on my breathing, alert to any hint of a change. But I'm exhausted. All the energy that went into the party... lack of sleep last night... walking and digging this afternoon. My eyelids refuse to stay open. Even coffee-which I hardly ever drink-doesn't work.

I undress and slip into a T-shirt and boxers. Slide beneath the covers. Lying there, I think that maybe I should get a rope, tie it round my ankles and the bedposts, maybe tie up one of my hands too. That should hold me in the event that I change during the night. A good plan, but it comes too late. Even as I'm gearing myself up to get out of bed and fetch a rope, my eyelids slam down and I'm out for the count.

Harsh breathing. Thumping sounds. Cold night air.

I come to my senses slowly, the same as last night. I see a pair of hands lifting a large rock out of the ground. They throw it overhead casually as if it was a pebble. They stoop, start clearing more earth away... then stop as I realise they're my hands. I exert my will and look around.

I'm standing in a hole, dressed only in my T-shirt and boxers. Bare feet. Dirt-encrusted fingers. It takes me a few seconds to realise I'm in the hole where we were digging earlier. The reason I didn't recognise it instantly-it's about four times deeper than when we left it.

I look up. I'm a couple of metres below ground level, surrounded by rock. In a sudden panic, afraid the rocks are going to grind together and crush me, I grab a handhold and haul myself up. A couple of quick thrusts later, I'm standing by the edge of the hole, shivering from cold and fear, staring around with wonder.

There are rocks and dirt everywhere. I don't know how long I was down there but I must have been digging like a madman. The weird thing is, I don't feel the least bit tired. My muscles aren't aching. Apart from some scared gasping, my breath comes normally and my heart beats as regularly as if I'd been out for a gentle stroll.

I walk over to one of the larger stones. Study it silently, warily. I bend, grab it by the sides, give an exploratory lift. I can shift it a few centimetres and that's it, I have to drop it. It weighs a bloody tonne. Under any normal circumstances I doubt I could lift it higher than knee level, not without throwing my back out completely. Yet I must have. And not only picked it up, but lobbed it out of the hole too.

Back to the rim of the mini abyss. Staring down into darkness. What brought me here? I'd like to think I was just sleepwalking, that I came here because I'd been thinking about the hole all evening. But there's more to it than that. My senses are on high alert, animal-sharp (wolf-sharp), and I don't think it's any accident that I wound up here, digging as if my life depended on it.

As much as I don't want to, I sit, turn and lower myself into the hole. When I'm on the floor, I allow a few seconds for my eyes to adjust, then take a really good look. The hole isn't any wider than it was earlier-the rocks on the sides run down smoothly, like a mine shaft. The angle which we were following has continued, so although it's a steep slope, it's easy to climb up and down.

I bend and touch the next rock in line for removal. It's jammed firmly in the earth. I tug hard and it barely moves. Yet I'm sure, if I'd tried a few minutes ago, while asleep, I could have ripped it out and...

Whispers.

I frown and cock my head. The sound has been there for a while, maybe since I regained my senses, but I thought it was the wind in the trees. Now that I focus, I realise it's not coming from the trees. It seems to be coming from the rocks.

A jolt of excitement cuts through my confusion and apprehension. Maybe I'm close to a cave and the noise is the wind whistling between earth and rock. I flash on an image of Lord Sheftree's treasure and the glory of being the first to discover it. With renewed enthusiasm I grasp the rock again and pull as hard as I can. I might not be able to toss it out of the hole, but if I can budge it slightly, maybe I can...

A flicker on the rock. A slight bulging. A shadow grows out of it, just for a second, then disappears.

I fall backwards, stifling a scream, heart racing.

Eyes fixed to the rock, waiting for it to change again. A minute passes. Two.

I get to my feet, legs very shaky, and climb out of the hole, not looking back. I make for home quickly, head down, striding through the forest, ignoring the twigs, stones and thorns that jab at my bare feet.

Trying hard not to think about what I saw (or thought I saw). But I can't block it out. It keeps coming back, rattling round the inside of my skull like a rabid rat in a cage.

The flicker... the bulging... the shadow...

It might have been a trick of the light or my skittish mind, but it looked to me like a face was trying to force its way up through the rock from the other side. A human face. A girl's.

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