3. THE STORY
Aimee-Lou Bracewell rolled the lip gloss tip around the circumference of her mouth and then smacked her lips together to make sure she had an even covering both top and bottom. The gloss sparkled as though she had kissed a wall of miniature diamonds, and she pouted at the mirror, blowing herself a kiss in the process.
“My, you are beautiful,” she said to her reflection.
Lana Booth started to laugh from the bottom bunk bed on the other side of the room, and Aimee-Lou joined in.
“My, you are beautiful,” she mocked, standing and walking to join her friend at the mirror as she did.
Both girls were 15 years old and had been best friends forever since nursery school.
Lana was a little taller than Aimee-Lou and she had a heavy mop of bright auburn hair that hung in loops down past her shoulders. She would spend hours in front of the mirror at home after her shower, armed with a set of straightening tongs and a wire brush, trying desperately to get rid of the curls; just to stop the kids at school from calling her Shirley. But, as damp air reached her mullet, the curls would return and the name calling continued.
It was her mother who explained that the name Shirley was probably after an actress from the 30‘s and 40’s called Shirley Temple, and that she should ignore the other kids as they were just jealous that they didn’t have curled loops in their hair.
“Easier for her to say,” Lana would tell herself.
“Shall we do our hair?” Aimee-Lou asked her, as she began stroking Lana’s locks.
Lana nodded enthusiastically as she stared at herself in the mirror.
“Can I have a little off the top and a straight perm please madam,” she asked in a posh voice.
“Certainly m’lady,” Aimee-Lou answered, copying the voice of her friend. “Would you like a dye while I’m at it, maybe purple or bright pink?”
Lana clapped her hands together excitedly.
“Oh,” she said, “I think that bright pink is the colour of the day.”
“Whatever madam wants madam gets,” Aimee-Lou said, as she clawed away at her curls.
A bang on the wall made the girls drop from their play acting and look at each other startled as a muffled voice said something along the lines of shut buck cup, and that pushed the girls into giggle fits.
Aimee-Lou had a passing glance at the illuminated LED alarm clock that sat blinking away on her bed side table, telling her that the time was 09:20 on a cold Sunday morning in November.
The bang on the wall was from Peter Robson, who had somehow only made it to Wilson’s house before he had collapsed over the Privet bushes that lined his garden, and who had then been dragged into the room by his puny brother and his even punier brother’s friend.
He had woken to the muffled sounds of a high-pitched pair of voices, that he figured was his brother and friend playing some girls game in Marcus’s bedroom, and he did what he always would do to shut them up.
He opened his eyes when he heard the giggles, all prepared to hammer the wall until his fists would break the plasterboard, but had the shock of his life when he saw a giant model of the 8 planets of the solar system floating around a blazing red tennis ball hanging from the ceiling.
He jumped up and smacked his head on the slats that supported the top bunk of the L-shaped bunk-beds, and it took everything he had to not swear at the top of his lungs.
Pete had just found out he had a raging hangover.
“Oh my God,” he said into his hands, as he fell back onto the mattress.
Pete jumped up when the voice from the floor asked him if he was okay, and he screamed slightly as his head made a dull thud against the wood again.
“Well?” the voice asked again.
“Where the F am I?” He asked back, with his teeth clamped together.
“You’re at my house because you fell over the hedges and were asleep on my grass,” Wilson informed him.
Peter touched the bump on his head and then pulled his hand away sharply, as though a jolt of electricity had somehow shot from it.
“Ouch,” he said, as he inspected his fingertips for blood. “What the hell happened to me?”
Marcus lifted his head from the opposite end to Wilson.
“You were pissed again,” he said directly, before resting his head back to the pillow.
“No sugar Sherlock,” Pete replied, obviously.
“And we found you in the road by the 8til12 in the village,” Wilson added, as he looked out from the corner of his eye to see if Pete remembered any differently.
Peter held his head and searched his memory for the events of the night before, closing his eyes as though that would give him clarity; but all he could see were two white lights bobbing toward him, and something about trolls?
“You said you would take us to collect our fishing gear from Blaise Pool because you said it wasn’t safe for us to...”
“The island,” he said suddenly, interrupting Marcus. “You saw something on Holy Island.”
Pete was telling himself, as well as the two friends, and he stared at the solar system on the ceiling as he tried to recall any more information.
“You saw the Berserker,” he whispered, turning his head and focusing on Marcus on the floor.
“Berserker what?” Wilson asked from the floor at the other end from Marcus, unsure he even knew what the word meant.
“There was splashing, right?” He asked, suddenly clearer in his head.
“Yeah, definitely,” Marcus confirmed “Then that was the Berserker.”
Peter rubbed his eyes and exhaled heavily.
“I need a coffee,” he said, as he gulped down a mouthful of air.
“What the frick is a Berserker?” Wilson pressed, frustrated that he was being ignored.
Marcus stood up and pulled his jeans up over his knees, jumping up to release them from his feet.
“He’ll make you a coffee if you tell us about them,” Marcus offered to Pete, as he pointed at Wilson; who lifted his head from his pillow and frowned at his friends’ suggestion.
Pete nodded slowly, just so he didn’t upset the hangover monster that was trying to party in his head, and he groaned as he lowered his head back onto the mattress.
“Make sure there’s plenty of sugar,” he said as an afterthought, “And a couple of paracetamol to shift this headache,” as another.
Aimee-Lou lifted her ear from the wall and stared open- mouthed at Lana, who still kept her head firmly pressed, just in case they said anything else.
“What’s a breskerker?” she asked quietly, to which Lana shrugged her shoulders and then lifted her own head from the wall as she heard the boys leave the other room.
“Why don’t we creep downstairs and listen to what he says?” Aimee-Lou suggested, with a mischievous smile.
Lana nodded enthusiastically as she jumped from the bed and made her way to the door. She opened it slightly and watched Wilson and Marcus, followed by a wobbly Pete, heading down the stairs toward the kitchen.
“Coast is clear,” she whispered, and the girls followed the boys down the stairs.
“He is so fit,” Aimee-Lou said, as she followed her friend from the room.
Peter took a swig of the steaming mug of coffee and then placed the cup down on the coaster mat, smacking his lips and letting out a contented sigh as he did.
“That’s better,” he said, as he turned the mug meticulously, facing the handle towards him. “Not a bad coffee that, Wils,” he congratulated.
Wilson nodded as he turned the portable television on.
He didn’t care too much for Pete, and even less to him shortening him name.
“So, what about these Berserker things?” Marcus asked Peter, taking a large bite out of his piece of toast straight after.
Pete was looking at the television as he took another swig of his coffee, and he lifted his hand to stop Marcus as the presenter on the television spoke.
“… and we will bring you live coverage of the solar eclipse from 9.20am on Thursday morning, including totality, which will occur at precisely 11.01am. This is the last time for the best part of a century and a half, and the first time since 1966, that England will get totality, so be sure to join us to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.”
“I’ve booked the day off to watch that,” Peter said as he turned his attention back to the boys. “Should be good.”
“So,” Marcus said, elongating the O part of the word, and waving his hands in encouragement at Pete.
“What?” Pete asked, purposely confused.
“The Berserker?” Wilson piped in, “You’re supposed to be telling us about it.”
Peter nodded his head mid swig and replaced the cup on the coaster. He crouched forwards and indicated to the boys to come closer.
“The Berserker is supposed to be a troll that hunts the local pets at night,” he said in a secretive whisper. “It has been on Holy Island for 50 years, and is only ever seen by fishermen at night. Those Fishermen have been disappearing from the shores that are opposite the island, and it is said that trolls have seen the humans and gone berserk, attacking them in a frenzy of excitement at the prospect of eating human flesh.”
“Ughh,” Wilson said. “That is gross.”
Peter looked at him in disgust for interrupting his melancholic story, but carried on anyway, holding Wilson’s gaze for a little longer.
“Pieces of the fisherman were found by their loved ones who had gone to the shores the day after their men had not come home, and the sounds of a high-pitched wailing noise could be heard coming from the island, that the women said sounded like a baby crying.”
Marcus and Wilson looked at each other as Peter finished off his lukewarm mug of coffee, and they opened their eyes wide as the high-pitched sound still echoed in their heads.
“We heard that,” Marcus said, “Just before the splashing started. That’s why we legged it.”
“Well then,” Pete said as he stood up, “Sounds as though you got away with it.”
“Frick,” Wilson said as he ran his fingers through his hair.
“We need to get our fishing gear,” Marcus pointed out; concerned that he would never see it again.
Pete straightened himself up and smiled at the boys.
“Come on,” he said, “I’ll give you a lift to grab your stuff.”
Wilson and Marcus both stood up at the same time and gave each other a glance that said they were lucky last night as they walked out of the kitchen and down the hall to the back door.
“You guys are so easy to wind up,” Peter said under his breath, and he laughed quietly as he left the kitchen.
Aimee-Lou and Lana were crouched behind the louvre doors that split the living room and kitchen. They had held their breaths, only talking once when they heard the word that was to be too tempting to not follow up on.
“There are trolls living at Blaise Pool,” Aimee-Lou said, very quietly, and very excitedly.
It was at that point that the bff’s decided they were going to go and see for themselves if Peter was telling the truth or not.
Peter’s rusting Toyota RAV4 pulled into the lay-by next to Blaise Pool, and he ripped the handbrake up, clicking every tooth in the process.
“That’s where we saw it,” Wilson said, pointing to the shore of the island opposite. “Well, where we heard it,” he corrected himself.
“Let’s grab your gear and get the hell away from here,” Pete ordered them, hiding his smirk as he tried to sound as frenzied as he could. “The least amount of time we spend here the better.”
Marcus was first through the gate that led down to the shoreline, and he froze to the spot when he saw where they had been fishing.
“What is it?” Wilson called out from the car.
Marcus didn’t answer, he just stood motionless, and that even made Peter a little anxious of what Marcus had seen.
As Pete reached Marcus, his heart rate relaxed to its norm and the anxiety drifted away.
“What’s up dickwad?” he asked, as he clasped him firmly on the back, “There’s nothing here.”
He walked past his brother with his arms out wide as he headed down to the shore.
“So where were you idiots actually fishing?”
He was laughing slightly, as though he was a little relieved to see that everything looked normal; but to Marcus and Wilson, nothing was normal.
“Where the frick has our gear gone Marc?” Wilson asked, as he joined his friend.
Marcus shrugged his shoulders as Wilson walked past him on his way down to join Peter, and he stayed standing still as his friend surveyed the area where they had left everything.
“We were fishing right here,” Wilson said to Peter, annoyed. “We left our stuff right here.”
The concern on Peter’s face soon returned when he saw the footprints in the mud, and he appeared to shiver as though a distant memory was stirred.
They were easily 18 inches long, and there were four big circles at the thickest end, that he correctly knew were toe prints.
The prints were scattered around higgledy piggledy, meaning he couldn’t tell if there were more than one set.
“That is footprints,” Wilson said quietly. “They are huge.”
“No sugar Sherlock,” Pete said, keeping his own voice down.
He followed the prints as closely as he could, and he ended up at the water’s edge, with the last print half in and half out of the breaking wash.
“Where the frick is our gear,” Wilson said again, louder and more annoyed this time. “We left our gear right h...”
Peter interrupted him as he became louder still.
“Keep it down Wils” he said in a calm voice, “We don’t know whose listening.”
Pete couldn’t decide if he was anxious or not, but the footprints had certainly made him consider that something strange was going on, something that he had seen before.
“But how did you get across?” he whispered, so only he could hear.
Marcus pointed his hand to his right and grunted an illegible word, which done what it was supposed to, and grabbed their attention.
Wilson and Peter followed his extended finger.
Pete got to the moored boat first and peered in cautiously, holding his breath as he did, in the expectation that a huge ogre was going to jump out at them and tear them limb from limb.
“Arghh,” he screamed as he lowered his head into the boat, shaking violently and causing Marcus and Wilson to shriek at the top of their voices, only stopping when Peter lifted his head and began laughing manically at his own prank.
“Fooled you,” he said to them both, as he looked back into the dingy. “Looks as though someone got here and had your stuff away boys, bad luck that.” He tutted three times and pulled his coat in tight against the cold. “Come on,” he said to them, as he began to walk away, “Let’s get back, I’m frozen.”
They walked back to the car, with all three staring at the footprints in the mud, and all three looking to the ruined church walls on the island.
“We need to find out more about those trolls,” Marcus said to Wilson as they reached the car. “Maybe we should ask ’orrible Owen in school tomorrow, as he knows a lot of crap about a lot of crap,” he suggested, to which Wilson responded with a nod.
“A lot of crap,” he agreed.
They all climbed into the car and Peter span his wheels as he u-turned in the lay-by, sending a plume of gravel dust into the air that engulfed the RAV4 it sped away and blocked the view of the occupants, who did not see the two green eyes that was watching them from behind the ruined church wall on Holy Island.