The room was almost pitch black. Outside, the wind howled. The room only had a tiny slit window near the roof. The glass had been smashed long ago.
Thommo was shaking as he hid behind an old piece of iron machinery. He didn’t know if it was the cold or the fear. It was probably both. Every now and then, he could hear the shrieks. Sometimes the wind blew and blocked it out. Most of the time it was just silence.
The worst was the clickers – a nice name for an abomination. One was near, shuffling. Thommo closed his eyes, waiting.
The house was huge. It was like a castle, with two round turrets at either side of the front of it. Each turret house an identical bedroom – richly furnished with a four-poster bed and mahogany furniture. Their windows gazed over the garden, a four-hectare estate, bordered by woodland on one side and the loch on another.
The front door of the house opened into a grand hallway, with a gallery overlooking the enormous coat of arms mosaic that lay in front of the fireplace. For hundreds of years, the roaring blaze had warmly welcomed guests to Barraness Castle.
Tonight, it was his first ever date, no one had ever asked Ally out before. Nervous didn’t cover it – a billion thoughts carrouselled round his mind. It’ll be cancelled. I’ll be stood up. I’m not going, just a glass of wine and some trashy show. He tried picking out clothes – jeans and shirt, suit with tie, suit with no tie. Eventually, Ally took a shower.
The doorbell rang exactly on time. His date stood in the doorway, a single red rose in his hand which he gave to Ally as he opened the door. “Hi,” he said, “ happy Valentine’s Day
She had never seen anything like it. Her whole bedroom glistened with tiny stars that flickered with every tiny movement she made. Her eyes were drawn away from the mirror to the photos that were tacked to the wall next to her bed of her and her best friends. She was dressed the same in every one – skinny jeans, black hoody, black Cons.
Now, the long dress clung to her slender frame perfectly. It was covered in thousand of tiny little beads, like jewels on an exotic princess. The rich turquoise material was shimmering like the sea. She was beautiful.
He was in bed when he heard mum come upstairs. Her footsteps were delicate, only the third and eighth stair’s creaks told him that she was coming. He rolled silently onto his side, facing the wall in the darkness. He heard the hush of the carpet as the bedroom door opened, throwing the light of the hallway into the bedroom. Her shadow fell across the wall, growing as she gently stepped over to him, before he felt the pull of the duvet as the mattress sank with her weight behind him. Still he lay still, pretending to be asleep, clamping his eyes tightly. Her voice was cracked, barely there as she spoke to him. “Danny,” then silence, aching wordlessness between them, then “I wish I knew how to talk to you now. You are so far away.” The tear that trickled from his eye tickled down the inside of his nose. The touch of her hand on his shoulder squeezed more tears out. The bed groaned as she stood up.
“Is there any feeling better than waking up in your own time?”
“What do you mean?”
“No alarms – a long lie.”
“Aye for you – I’ve still got work,” she said, before a swift dig in the ribs.
“Ooft, that’s not nice!”
“Yes…well…” and with that, a flourish of the duvet and a few stompy feet, she was gone. He didn’t even feel bad – not really. He rolled over and snuggled back under the covers.
In no time, she was back – the big light flicked on, a searing through his sleepy eye-lids. “Hey! Where’s the warning?!”
“Serves you right, cheeky!”
His muscles ached. It felt as though the armour was crushing him – layer upon layer of ringlets and plate armour. It had seemed excessive before but now, in the vanguard, it felt pathetic. There was only a tiny slit in his visor.
It was a perfect day for battle: the quiet calm that lay on the camp in the early hours. He hadn’t slept.; the tension in the pit of his stomach had broiled all through the dead of the night, so with the first light, he rose and wandered. Aimlessly.
The sun was fully risen as he returned to prepare.