Ravi’s phone was complaining that it was in the red as they wandered down streets they believed were streets. They were wrong. Some of the streets they were crossing were actually bridges in disguise. That didn’t matter right now though, because…
“GREAT! WE’RE LOST!” Simi yelled in frustration.
Tiana groaned in frustration. “We are not lost! I spent forty-eight hours on buses here before, I know how to get around!”
“Then why are we lost?” Simi demanded.
“Look if we find our way back to the main roads I’ll get us back to Royal Mile. We can go check out the castle,” Tiana insisted.
“Bull!” Simi shouted.
“Min ajl Allah,” Tahati muttered under her breath.
“How can we find them man? Main roads aren’t these terrible narrow alleys,” Ravi asked.
“Looks familiar,” Zangi said slowly.
“Shut up Zangi you don’t know jack,” Ravi snapped.
Tiana shrugged. “They’re beginning to film the next avengers here next year.”
“How is that useful knowledge?” Tahati asked.
“When we see it, we can say we’ve been there. Mind you, we can when we read about Diagon alley,” Tiana shrugged.
Zangi cried in triumph as it finally clicked for her where she’d seen this place before. While the others were caught up in frustration and irritation, Tahati heard something she couldn’t place for a moment.
“What is that?” She asked.
“What is what?” Ravi huffed.
“That sound?” Tahati muttered.
Once again the others went quiet to try and hear whatever it was Tahati could. Now they were stood in the middle of a street so narrow that if two of them were shoulder to shoulder they would be completely wedged in and unable to move. A gust of wind whistled past them. The sun lit them up. For a moment, even in their tense state, the world seemed calm.
Until a screeching howl cut through the silence, like someone was squeezing a cat.
“Bagpipes...” Tahati whispered.
“Could that be back at the main road?” Simi asked hopefully.
A seed of hope was planted in them. They had been wandering in circles for almost two hours now. If they could somehow find their way back to the main road, they would grab it with both hands.
“Everyone follow the bagpipes!” Ravi declared.
“No shit Sherlock,” Simi scoffed.
“Screw you Watson,” Ravi snipped.
Bagpipes in an untrained hand sound like a person with a stuffed nose and a sore throat trying to sing despite it choking them. In a trained hand it didn’t sound much different. Nasally and screeching.
Anyone who’s hear a teenage girl trying to hit the high notes in Chandelier, understands.
The guy holding the tartan fabric bag of pipes made up for the noise though. He was very handsome. In the way that only a pasty Scottish guy can get away with, I mean. Irish at a push. He had dark messy hair that kept being blown back in his face, and eyes the colour of chocolate sauce drizzled on vanilla ice cream that expressed everything he couldn’t say. Mostly, at the moment, swearing at his fringe for getting in the way. Even the way his muscled legs held him up, vanishing behind a red, blue and green tartan kilt said something about him. That he was either brave, or a complete idiot for going around in bare legs and a kilt in Scottish summer.
his kilt matched the bag of his bagpipes. This is where he was let down slightly. If you looked at his chiselled chin and the beginnings of a luscious dark beard, that was fine. Until you got to his mouth and cheeks. His high cheek bones were puffed out like a pufferfish, and scarlet. Apart from where he’d streaked his face with blue face paint for national pride, that is. As he blew the bagpipes into screeching he looked like he was being tortured.
That disappointed Ravi, who had been immensely attracted to the rest of him. Zangi, however, was not as put off by this. Simi was completely put off by the bagpipes. However, the entire situation greatly amused Tiana and Tahati. They sat down on a nearby bench to watch the others bicker about how long they could stay without looking creepy. Tiana took a picture of the bag piper, who flashed her a tired but happy smile.
Tahati let out a sigh of contentment and leaned back against the back of the bench. “It’s relaxed.”
Tiana was leaning her arms on her legs, balancing her camera on her knee. She furrowed her eye brows and turned her head to look towards Tahati.
“Edinburgh. It’s like London, but relaxed. It’s less frantic here. Less panicked yeah? No one’s running around, constantly running late and tutting like you’re scum y’know? It’s better here. I like it.” Tahati explained.
Tiana chuckled. “Yeah. I do too.”
But silently she thought to herself, Glasgow’s better though.
“Is he playing something you know?” Tahati asked.
If Tahati knew it, the rest of them probably didn’t. even so, Tiana strained to listen closer, to try and figure it out.
Before they could figure it out, Zangi threw her arms into the air, dramatically, and collapsed onto the bench beside them.
“FINE! We’ll do what you want, your highness!” she huffed.
It finally caught up to Tiana and Tahati that the bickering had escalated into a full out argument.
“Alright fam if you’re gonna be such a bitch about it, we’ll do what you want!” Simi scoffed.
“I’m not being a bitch! You don’t know jack!” Zangi snapped.
“I know as much as you do dumbass!” Simi snapped back.
“I’m getting really sick of you right now,” Ravi stated.
“Me?! She’s the one who won’t listen, even though she’s wrong!” Simi shouted.
Zangi leapt to her feet again. “You wanna fight?! Fine! Bring it on!”
Simi stepped forwards, ready to fight. “You think you’re all that but You ain’t shit!”
Zangi smacked Simi’s head. Simi punched Zangi’s shoulder. There was a slight pause, before they leapt at each other, punching each other like their arms were windmills.
“What do we do?” Tiana asked Tahati urgently.
“How the hell should I know?!” Tahati squeaked.
“What’d you think?” Tiana asked.
Tahati looked lost and terrified. She leapt up and jumped into the fight to try and pull Simi away. Tiana leapt in with her, trying to get a grasp on Zangi.
An interesting fact about boys and girls. If two boys are fighting and you step in between, they’re less likely to continue fighting until they can see the other fighter. If two girls are fighting and you get in between, they will tear you apart to get to one another, without a thought.
Ravi didn’t know this and – despite her feelings of resentment towards Simi right now – decided to put it into practice. She stepped in between her friends as Tahati and Tiana tried to pull them apart. This failed on all accounts when all of them ended up in an angry ball of fists and legs.
Tiana felt a pair of strong hands around her stomach, yanking her backwards. She clung onto Zangi, trying to drag her back, but ended up letting go. She fell back onto the concrete, to find Tahati standing beside her, and Ravi standing close by, looking worried and angry. A bright red mark was across her arm where she’d been thrown against a bench by Simi.
Tahati’s glasses were in her hand so her bug eyes were on display. She’d taken them off to prevent them breaking in the fight.
Perhaps more perplexing was a man in a tartan outfit, who was holding Simi and Zangi at arm’s length, standing between them. His voice was loud and firm, and heavily accented so hard to understand. He sounded pissed.
“We don’t allow children to fight in public, in daytime, sober here! You two are friends! You’re bringing shame to yourselves and to this city! And you’re scaring away my customers! Now shove off and fight somewhere else!”
So they did. Simi stormed off towards the top of the hill, and Zangi stormed off towards the bottom. Both of them refused to say a word before leaving. Ravi went racing after Zangi, calling her name.
“What do we do now?” Tiana asked helplessly.
“Let em go. Edinburgh ain’t that big. This yours?” the piper picked up the camera Tiana had left on the bench.
He’d put his pipes beside it. She thanked him for his help. He grunted and walked away. Tahati turned to Tiana.
“He’s right. The city’s not big, and Zangi’s got charge on her phone. They’ll find their way back to the hotel,” she said.
Tiana nodded, but sighed. “Looks like Nando’s is out for tonight then.”
“Shame. I’ve never been,” Tahati said.
“Have you been anywhere?” Tiana asked.
Tahati shrugged. “Should we go get Simi? Ravi’s got Zangi, but Simi ain’t got anyone.”
“True. Let’s go. You stay close though, we can’t go losing everyone!” Tiana warned.
Each of them felt differently right now. Simi was downright furious about everything. Her cheeks were flushed red and she wanted to punch something.
Tahati was concerned because this was usually her role in these situations, but impressed that Simi had taken on the fight.
Tiana was worried about her friends being hurt, that one of them would think she favoured the other no matter who she chose to comfort, and that the others would get lost or hurt.
Ravi was concerned about Zangi’s well-being because Zangi seemed to be imploding. She was also tired, because Zangi was speed walking down the street, and her legs were longer than Ravi’s, so she was having to jog to keep up.
Zangi was furious, and guilty, but felt numb. A ball was growing in her throat, but she desperately wanted to swallow it back, so decided to walk until it was gone.
It was a weird feeling. Usually when they fought it was towards the end of term, and they were getting sick of each other, but they’d never physically fight. If they ever did, it’d be resolved by up to six weeks apart, and missing each other’s company. Now though they were trapped in a foreign city and would have to share a room tonight, as well as a means of transport tomorrow. Whether that was to take them home, or to go further into Scotland they didn’t yet know.
Tiana, Tahati and Ravi hoped that they would continue through Scotland, but they knew they’d stick with Simi and Zangi. loyalty had its downsides.
“I can’t believe her sometimes y’know. She ain’t got a clue about what I go through but she thinks she can judge me?! What a bitch!” Zangi fumed when she finally swallowed back her tears.
Ravi just nodded along. She was too busy trying to catch her breath to be able to talk.
“Where the hell are we anyway?” Zangi asked suddenly.
She came to a dead stop in the middle of the street to look around for clues. Aside from a bus stop, a couple of café’s and some gift shops selling the same crap as all the others at similar prices, nothing caught their attention. All it was, was a huge, arched door, lined with glass pains to see through. Toys hung on the wall in the window, ready to be sold. Golden silhouettes of old fashioned people playing were painted on the door, and hung on a signpost out from the wall. Chairs could be seen through the next floor’s window.
“Free entry,” Ravi muttered to herself.
She had just been reading the sign on the glass, but Zangi glanced up at the grey sky, and grumbled as a raindrop hit her in the eye.
“Better than staying out here,” she muttered.
As soon as the door opened, they were hit with the same musty smell of dust and age that every museum had. It was kind of dark inside. Like a grotto. The lighting was dimmed to give the toys atmosphere. A line of old fashioned ride along cars was the first thing you saw. One of which contained a slumped down rag doll with faded pink circles on her cheeks, straw-coloured string hair tied in plaits on her shoulders, and scarlet eyes. The car it sat in matched those eyes.
Those bright red, staring eyes.
Bright red, staring, judging eyes.
Bright red, staring, judging eyes that could see into your soul.
The doll and car had a layer of grey dust over it, suggesting it hadn’t been moved in years. Even so, the bride of chucky came to mind when you looked at it.
It set the tone for the rest of the museum.
“This place is weird,” Ravi muttered.
“It looks like the place where horror stories are dreamed up,” Zangi agreed, “I keep thinking I’m going to see Chucky hanging on a wall.”
The closest they came to finding Chucky, was when they passed an elegant, colourful rocking horse, into a room full of dolls. A hundred porcelain dolls were piled together, crowding up glass cages. Some of them had paid so much attention to detail that they were hauntingly realistic. Like tiny, porcelain people, trapped in time, behind glass.
Staring for eternity.
It was the staring that really unsettled them. No matter where they went in the room they could feel dozens of tiny glass eyes, watching them. There was no one else in the room, and the walls trapped out the noise of the street. All they could hear was their own, shaky breathing. Neither wanted to break the silence. They felt like lamb in a den surrounded by sleeping lions. One sound, and they’d all wake up…
Ravi squeezed Zangi’s hand, silently begging her to stay close. Both knew as they crept towards the door, that if something were to happen in here, the other would abandon them in a heartbeat. That’s when their minds played tricks on them…
Ravi nudged Zangi and whispered, “I think that one just blinked.”
Zangi’s own eyes widened at the small china doll with it’s painted smile, and it’s hand in it’s ginger curls. Not because the doll was any more sinister than the rest, but because it appeared to be pointing at a sign.
“It was common in the Victorian era, for children to die. A practice of creating “Grave dolls” that resembled these children, came into action in this time. Some parents would even take hair from the child, to make the doll more genuine. We have some on display here, curtesy of-” Zangi cut herself off.
Dead children’s hair… in dolls...behind glass. She’d read horror stories. She’d seen films. This wouldn’t end well. It never did. Zangi gripped Ravi’s hand tighter.
“Moving on!” she declared.
The next (and final) room they found themselves in, they chose to stay in for long enough to suggest to anyone watching that they didn’t fall for their prank, if someone had been pranking them. In here, there were a lot of toys that looked familiar.
“Woody!” Zangi beamed.
The old cowboy doll was sat behind a glass box, full of colour, and holding a guitar. Zangi reached out slowly and pressed her fingers to the glass.
“A life watching children, rather than playing with them, is no life for a toy,” Zangi whispered.
Ravi saw a change in her friend in that moment. Not one that was noticeable to anyone else. She just seemed a little less innocent. She’d discovered that nothing was sacred anymore, and it had cost her some innocence. Ravi tried to distract her.
“Is that what I think it is?” Ravi said.
She pointed to a toy from the sixties. It looked like a pepper pot with a melted head that was smooth and flat. It had bumps along its cone shaped body, and flashing lights on top.
“It says it’s a Dalek,” Ravi smirked.
“doesn’t look like any Dalek I’ve ever seen!” Zangi said.
“when was the last time you watched Doctor Who?” Ravi asked sarcastically.
“When Matt Smith was the doctor. He’s the best doctor no matter what Tiana says. No one’s even heard of Christopher Eccleston!” Zangi scoffed.
Ravi thought for a moment. “Tiana would love that Dalek.”
“Take a picture for her then,” Zangi shrugged.
Tiana frowned at whatever the picture on her phone was. Some kind of half-melted pepper pot? At first, she’d thought it was a Dalek, but she couldn’t see it clearly because Zangi and Ravi were taking a selfie with it.
“What’re you looking at dude?” Tahati asked.
Tiana wrinkled her nose at her. “Dude? Nah fam. Don’t suit you.”
“Yeah man I felt that,” she agreed.
The rain drops hit Tiana’s screen. When she wiped them away they just blurred it.
“We should go inside,” Simi said.
“Inside where? The castles too expensive and the shops will expect us to buy something,” Tahati said.
They glanced around uncertainly of where they could go.
“What about that place?” Tiana asked.
“Where?” Tahati asked.
“The Scotch Whiskey Experience,” Tiana said.
Simi hit her in the arm. “Nah fam, that’s haram!”
“Only if we drink it, and they’re not going to sell it to us because I’m sixteen and you’re all fifteen,” Tiana argued.
“I’m sixteen too,” Tahati pointed out.
“Legally not drinking age. Even in Scotland. Let’s go!” Tiana insisted.
The rain was getting harder and they didnt really want to stay outside. At least this place was some shelter.
Unsurprisingly, when you enter the Scotch Whiskey Experience, the first thing that hits you in the smell of alcohol. The place smelt like Glasgow, but more condensed.
“Two children one adult,” Tiana said to the man behind the counter.
“Can I see some ID?” he asked.
Her shoulders fell. She had expected this, but was hoping he wouldnt ask.
“You could, but you won’t like it,” she said.
“I’m not allowed to give anyone under 18 alcohol,” he warned.
“I’m not asking for alcohol. Just shelter from the rain. Anyway, they’re Muslim, and I’m driving,” she insisted.
He raised an eyebrow. “You able to drive?”
“What’d you think my ID was? It just says I’m 17,” she lied.
“Then three children’s tickets?” he offered.
She grinned. “Yeah awesome!”
He took their money and allowed them in. Once they were on their own, Tahati quietly said, “I did not think we’d be allowed in here.”
“Me either to be honest,” Tiana smirked.
“But you’re the one that made us come here!” Simi snipped.
“And it’ll be fun! As far as I remember there’s a ride, and balloons, and maybe even William Wallace. Although probably not William Wallace. That might be a different memory that I can’t unlink,” Tiana lost her train of thought.
This caused Simi to look at her as if she were insane. “The hell are you talking about?”
“Dunno, c’mon, it’ll be fun!” Tiana grinned.
Tahati and Simi were not convinced. They were swayed over to her opinion, however, by the sight of a barrel on a belt. It was obviously the carriage for a ride. That lifted Simi’s spirits a little. They were warned to keep their hands in, and to have fun. It was a little strange to be warned to have fun but hey, what are you going to do?
They went jolting down the track, which threw them back in the seat and made them giggle. Then they slowed to see a sign welcoming them to “The Whiskey Distillery”.
“Wait, really?” Tahati asked.
“Don’t be thick. Of course It’s not. They wouldn’t let random people in if it were,” Simi huffed.
Well she wasn’t wrong. They whizzed into a room with walls covered in barrel tops with names and years stamped on top. Their barrel whirled around so they could see all of them. This made them laugh again. Tiana took pictures as they came to a tunnel with colourful neon lights glowing around it. As they curved along the tack they were only talking to each other to make sarcastic comments. They had gotten caught up in the ride’s narration, explaining the process of the distillery.
Tahati’s face lit up in awe as they went through a room covered in soft glowing orange lights, like bubbles on the wall. Tiana took a picture, just because Tahati had never looked so delighted to be anywhere before.
Once they stumbled off of the ride, they ended up in something called a “Sensory Room” where they were gathering a group to let them sense the whiskey. A woman in a neat uniform smiled at them.
“Can I see some ID?” she asked.
“We’re underage,” Simi stated.
“No problem, have some Irn Bru!” the woman smiled cheerfully.
She poured some Irn Bru into the same whiskey glasses that the others were using, and flashed them a smile, before moving on.
“Bottoms up then,” Tahati beamed.
She’d never had Irn Bru before. Her grimace after she’d drunk it was a picture. Literally. Tiana took one. Then Tahati took one of Tiana pretending it was whiskey for a laugh. The woman, seeing their empty glasses, laughed and poured them some more. Tahati was too shy to refuse, but she clearly didn’t want to drink it again.
“Don’t worry, I’ll drink yours too,” Simi said.
Much to her surprise, it hadn’t been horrible. They were ushered into a room that was just wall to floor whiskey bottles. Full, gleaming whiskey bottles on display. In front of a huge glass cabinet of these bottles, Tahati and Simi decided to clink their glasses, and Tiana took a picture.
Two underage Muslims drinking Irn Bru in front of the world’s largest collection of whiskey bottles, was probably not the tourist picture they wanted, but that’s the one they got.
“Let’s show Zangi and Ravi that we can have fun without them, and pose in front of that bottle!” Simi declared.
That bottle, was the world’s largest bottle of single malt Scotch whiskey. It was only a couple of inches shorter than Simi, and Tahati had to raise her arm to her shoulder level to rest it on top of the lid. Both of them looked at each other like they were shocked by the size, and trying not to laugh. Simi was about to double over and laugh, so in the photo she was shorter. The exact height of the bottle! That photo ended up framed on Tiana’s wall.
This experience had been a lot more fun than any of them expected it to be.