Chapter Five - A Terrifying Stranger
“Right,” Miss Parsons announced after lunch in her most depressingly cheerful voice… it sounded like she’d recovered from her morning’s shock. “It looks as though this drizzle has set in for the afternoon. So, once we’ve helped Mrs Andrews to tidy away the lunch things, why don’t we have a nice game of charades.”
“This might be fun,” I said to Megan, as we carried the lunch stuff across to the serving hatch.
“But you hate anything like that,” she replied.
I just smiled.
There were a couple of tatty armchairs across in a sort of alcove library bit and I made sure I grabbed them for Megan and me. Droopy was fussing about with the other girls in the middle of the room, moving tables and stuff, and she didn’t notice that Megan and me had disappeared.
“Now who wants to be first?” Droopy asked as she shuffled the cards
Claire let herself be pushed into the middle of the room and, as Droopy handed her a card, I slipped into the cloud world… it was getting much easier… and saw one of the clouds was pretty much shouting, ‘War and Peace’.
And, as I was slipping out, I noticed another cloud was sort of… reviewing… images of James, a lad who helped in the hostel kitchens.
I wonder who that might be!
“War and Peace,” I whispered to Megan as Claire did the, ‘it’s a book,’ thing. She gave me a bit of a smile but then her mouth fell open when she saw I was right.
Within a couple of rounds, I’d worked out who everybody was in the cloud world so I could tell Megan the answer as soon as the embarrassed victims saw the card… and I’d also worked out that it was Anne who’d been paying so much attention to James. That sort of information can come in really handy… particularly as she’s always the one in the middle of that sort of gossip!
Then Droopy noticed us hiding in the corner and insisted that I ‘be a good sport and join in’. So I just pushed my answer into somebody’s head - much less grief than all that pathetic miming stuff.
With a bit of practice, I found I could flip in and out of the cloud world thing with no trouble… and I could do it while keeping a bit of an eye out for what was going on in the real world - which came in handy towards the end of dinner, when I noticed that Droopy was giving me a funny look.
“Are you feeling alright?” she asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I answered, “just a bit tired.”
“Probably a delayed reaction to that unpleasant shock this morning. I simply cannot imagine what that man thought he was doing.”
“Yes, it was really exciting,” I said. I mean… it wasn’t what she wanted to hear but she’d just have to live with that! “I just need an early night. I’ll go on up now, if that’s okay.”
“That’s fine. Sleep well,” Droopy said automatically. I guess she was still trying to get her head round the ‘exciting’ bit.
When Megan came up, I was flat out on my bed, staring up at the peeling paintwork on the ceiling.
“Are you alright?” she asked, throwing herself onto her own bed and kicking off her shoes.
“Yeah, I’m fine!” I answered. “I just wanted a bit of time on my own to play about with this mind thing.”
“It really does work, doesn’t it?”
“If you don’t believe me, I can find out a bit more about this Philip guy!” I teased.
“That’s quite alright,” she said hurriedly, turning red. “It’s just so hard to believe, that’s all.”
“I know. It’s hard enough for me to believe and it’s me who’s doing it!”
“How does it work?” she asked.
So I told her what I knew - which wasn’t much.
“How far away can you see people?”
I had to have a think about that. “Dunno… I can see everybody downstairs fine and when people walk past on the street outside, I can see them okay. The walls don’t get in the way.”
“Any further than that?”
“I’ve not really tried… I’ll give it a go.”
So I closed my eyes and flipped back into the cloud world. Then I reached back, beyond the first couple of clouds, into the grey, shapeless stuff beyond.
I could see more clouds out there… but there was something else too… kind of stupidly bright but a really long way off. I sort of reached out towards it…
But before I could even get close, I was thrown back into the real world by this almighty slap. Then this probe type thing kind of flashed back towards me.
So I grabbed at my mother’s bracelet and basically tried to hide.
“What’s the matter?” Megan asked.
“Someone out there noticed me looking at them… and they’re really strong… and totally pissed off about it.”
As I lay on the bed, panting and shivering with the shock, this terrible feeling crept over me. “Oh no!” I groaned. “They’re coming,”
I jumped out of bed and dashed to the window, sort of peering round the corner to see whether I could see anything as the thing… whoever or whatever it was… got closer.
“Can you see it?” Megan asked. Her voice was sort of rising. She could feel it too.
But I couldn’t answer… I could hardly breathe as this burning star of a mind drew closer… and closer… I found myself staring at the ceiling as the thing flew straight over us…
And then it was gone… heading off inland. I let out the breath I’d been holding.
“It’s gone,” I told Megan.
She nodded. She looked white as a sheet.
I was soaked in sweat so I stumbled over to the little sink to wash my face when I suddenly gasped, “It’s coming back.”
I didn’t dare to go anywhere near the cloud world. But I kind of reached out towards the thing. “It’s moving more slowly this time,” I told Megan. “It’s looking for me!” I clutched at my bracelet again… for some reason that always made me feel safe.
“I can feel it too,” Megan said, her voice rising in fear. “It’s just horrible.” We looked up as it passed overhead again.
I flopped back onto the bed and lay there, trembling. I felt as if I’d just run for miles.
“It was that brain thing of yours, wasn’t it?” Megan asked.
I nodded. “Whoever it was… they came straight here. Thank goodness they couldn’t find me.”
“You know,” Megan said, “maybe you ought to be a bit more careful until you know what you’re doing.”
I gave a nod.
A while later, I felt it again, but this time it was further away, out to sea. And, when it had faded into the distance again, I turned out the light
I was gliding, with my immense wings resting on the cool night air. The moon shone in from the southeast, silhouetting the rugged coast of the mainland and dancing on the rippled sea far below.
I was hunting for something and these primitive emotions surged through me: unquenchable hunger, boundless fury and, above all, the burning need to punish the pathetic creature that had failed to show me the respect I expected… the respect I demanded!
I flexed my wings again, driving myself on, into the wide open skies.
Some miserable human had dared to look upon me and, even worse, it had managed to evade the exquisitely extracted retribution that this outrage so justly warranted. The anger was rising and billowing within me with the passion of unbridled flame. I would not be denied!
Then I sort of realised that Megan was shaking my arm.
“What do you want?” I asked groggily.
“It’s alright,” she replied. “You were just having a nightmare.”
“I wish,” I replied, before settling back into much more peaceful sleep.