So, here it is, the 1st chapter from the new Danny Monroe series! :) The illustrations are amazing thanks to Skelly:illustration; https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/Skelly.Illustration?fref=ts
Copyright Jason Ellis, 2013
By eight-thirty that evening, Danny knew he had to start getting ready for bed, even though his birthday had been amazing, probably the best that he had ever celebrated, and he wanted it to continue for as long as possible.
His closest friends, inside and outside of school; Arabella, Viktor, and Ellie, had all made an effort as well for the special day. Arabella had posted a birthday card and a gift voucher for five pounds through the letterbox while he was out during the afternoon. Ellie had already presented him with a card and bar of chocolate on the previous Friday, while they were in the lunch hall at school, but she sent a text as well while he walked home.
Viktor was talented with everything artistic, so he'd drawn a caricature of Danny during the previous week - it was now in a frame on the bedside table. He'd also telephoned near to dinner time to ask about all the presents Danny had been given - and then spent half an hour chatting about trainers, mobile phones, games, and what to spend any money on.
The only unusual part of the day, still dancing around inside Danny's head, was arriving at uncle Nick's flat and 'seeing' whatever it was that he saw. And all the advice too - this time it seemed to be spoken with a new determination, a new purpose.
Uncle Nick could keep a joke going for hours, though. He was a master at keeping a straight face as well, so nobody knew when they were being tricked. Perhaps that was all it was? Just an uncle Nick joke that didn't quite work as he had intended it to?
'That doesn't explain the ivy though … that is still a mystery.'
Danny sat on his bed. He was playing one of the new games on his computer, hoping to reach the next level before nine o’clock arrived and he was told by his parents to shut everything down. He tapped away at the keyboard, swung his sword at the enemy and pushed forward towards a castle … he thought it was brilliant.
“Five minutes, Danny!” called Helen's voice from the bottom of the stairs.
Danny knew he couldn't finish the level, there just wasn't enough time now. He saved it, turned off his computer and went downstairs.
“Night, mum. Night, dad. Thanks for today … best birthday, EVER!!” exclaimed Danny with a clenched fist.
“Glad you enjoyed it,” started Helen, “… and your computer is turned off?”
Homework all done?”
“Books in your bag?”
“Night, Danny. See you when I get home from work tomorrow night. I'm at the Colchester site all next week so I'll need to leave early, before you two decide to wake up. Make sure you both tell me how it feels to lay in, it would be really interesting to know.”
Danny laughed at his dad. He usually had a sarcastic quip to end the day with, this being no exception.
Danny returned to his bedroom and opened the door. His wrist itched again, like it had earlier that day when the whole world seemed to turn weird.
“Maybe it's the wool on the strap? I've never had any reactions like this before, though, and I have loads of knitted jumpers,” mumbled Danny to himself as he put his school rucksack on the chair by his bed.
He grabbed the new mobile phone, smiling. He flicked through a few of the applications before setting the alarm to go off at seven-fifteen, then he climbed under the duvet, ready for some sleep. It had been a very tiring day, but so worth it.
“It's because of the different metals.”
Danny's head shot up when he heard the voice in his bedroom. He reached for the torch that he always kept on the bedside table, flicked it on and darted it about, left and right, up and down, searching for whoever had spoken. He liked space so his room wasn't overly decorated or filled with unnecessary items, allowing the bright light to search through the darkness and cut the shadows away.
The voice had seemed familiar, yet that thought was being pushed away by fear. He searched again, slower this time.
“You need to calm down, Danny. Deep breath and relax.”
'I do know that voice!'
“Uncle Nick?” said Danny. It was supposed to be in a loud, defiant, get-out-of-my-room-or-there-will-be-trouble kind of tone, instead it sounded as if he had a sore throat.
Nick stood up suddenly in the corner of the bedroom where there was a narrow gap beside the wardrobe. He even had his arms stretched outwards, like a magician who had just performed a cool and mysterious illusion, wowing the audience with his enigmatic skills. He wore a dark-tan leather coat that Danny had never seen before.
“Uncle Nick?! What … what?”
“Yeah, good idea, Danny, shout loudly so that everyone hears you. Honestly, I really have got my work cut out, haven't I?”
“Uncle Nick?! What are you doing?” Danny put his head in his hands and sighed. “Can this day get any more ridiculous?”
Nick ignored all the questions and continued. “Luckily, I anticipated your shock and have sound proofed the room already. It's one of the many tricks I know.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Danny. “Is this a late birthday joke that you've arranged with mum and dad?”
Again, Nick ignored everything. “Forward planning … it comes in very handy. Anyway, it gives us a chance to finish that conversation, doesn't it? The one we couldn't have earlier … the one you need to have, right now.”
“How did you get in here? What are you going on about?”
Nick grabbed the other chair in the bedroom and sat down. Danny noticed that the outside pockets on Nick's leather coat seemed full up - they looked heavy too - and the buttons were only just staying shut. “This is the part where everything you know gets … interesting. This is the part when your life changes, young Danny. This is the part where I tell you all about what's really out there … and why you're involved with it all. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? You saw something today, near my place, I know you did.”
Danny instantly thought of the moving ivy. He could see it creeping along the walls in his memory and knew it was the reason for his uncle's unusual behaviour, and unexpected visit.
“Listen, uncle Nick, erm, stay there a minute … I think I'd better get mum and dad. Did you hit your head or something? Are you feeling okay? You didn't open that bottle of drink did you? The one on the dresser in your flat which you, mum, and dad always say is only for grown ups to touch?”
Nick rolled his eyes for the first time. “I'm not ill, you cheeky little scamp! And I haven't been drinking either!” Nick rolled his eyes a second time. Then he sighed, loudly. “Honestly!”
Danny sat on his bed. He stared at his uncle carefully. 'What could he possibly know about it though? Why would he know about ivy growing across the walls?' he thought, deciding then and there which questions he should ask.
“Right, so … what are you doing here? How did you get in? What were you talking about at yours earlier? And, what's because of the different metals supposed to mean?”
“Excellent! Quicker than I expected. I'm impressed!” Nick smiled. He looked proud.
Nick gave Danny a thumbs up. “The fact that you have just sat down and asked me all those questions proves to me that you are now beginning to believe. Sometimes it takes people weeks, months even! You half believe me already, even though I haven't explained one single detail to you yet … awesome!”
Danny eyed his bedroom door. “Uncle Nick, we can have this … interesting chat another day. I have to be up for school in the morning. And … erm … perhaps you need to sleep as well? I'm no expert but maybe working nights for a long period of time does this to people?”
Instead of a sigh, or a quick reply, Nick simply asked one question. “Hear me out, please?”
A pause followed as Danny weighed up his options. “If you turn out to be food poisoning from a piece of mouldy bread, I'm not going to be very pleased.”
Nick smiled. “Right, Danny Monroe, let's begin. Your watch. It is itching you because it is made from various metals, all of which have links to folklore and such … silver, brass, iron … and you, now that you've finally opened your 'eyes', will sense this. Give it a day or so and you won't notice it any longer … it will feel a lot different. You'll get more of a heated sensation than an itch. That's when you need to be on your guard.”
“On my guard? From what?”
“We will get to that bit, just not yet. Now, how did I get here and get in? Easily, that's how. I think that leaves us with one question remaining; what happened at mine earlier? You're going to have to tell me what you think happened.”
Danny had put a lot of thought towards his theory about some stray piece of food causing him to have vivid daydreams earlier that day, it seemed a shame to waste it and not tell anybody.
“Okay, well, I thought I saw something.”
Nick didn't ask for any more details. He just sat in the chair, looking as interested as was possible. His face was very often difficult to read.
“The ivy, growing out of your window boxes … it, it …”
Nick sat forward in his chair. His eyes opened wider and he was as focused as Danny could ever remember. He reached for one of the pockets on his coat and the top of a small notepad, leather bound could be seen, although he didn't take it out. “Carry on, Danny, I’m listening.”
“Well, the ivy … it … grew. It grew up the wall, across the window … and then …”
“It grew until it looked like … words … they spelt out 'Hello Danny. Happy Birthday!”
Nick stayed in his attentive position and rubbed the light stubble on his chin.
“I know, stupid, right? I think I had a dodgy bit of food last night, or hit my head.”
“Or?” said Nick, dryly.
“There isn't another or.”
“Of course there is, you just don't want to suggest it, Danny. Shall I?”
Danny nodded. He really did want to hear what his uncle Nick was about to say. There had been bizarre incidents throughout the day, and it was intriguing him now, a lot.
“It actually happened.”
“That wasn't supposed to be funny.”
Danny laughed again.
“I see that this is going to take some extreme measures.” Nick stood up and took a tiny spray bottle out of his other pocket. He pulled back the curtain in Danny's room and squirted some of the contents straight towards the window. It looked like a small cloud of mist, or deodorant, and it evaporated quickly. The pane of glass glimmered slightly. “Come here, Danny. Come and take a look outside. Hurry, though, this stuff doesn't last that long.”
“What is it?”
“Never mind … let's just say it will help you to see better.”
Danny did as his uncle suggested and peered out towards the street that he had always lived on; Dainesleigh Avenue. It still looked as it always had, though. Nothing was different.
“What am I looking at?” he asked, slightly disappointed.
“Look over there, Danny, by the white car. What do you see?” asked Nick. He pointed away to the right.
“You mean the cats?”
Danny could see a few birds as well; feathers of all black with an orange tint from the street-lamps above. They were perched on one of the garden fences across the street.
“Are those ... crows?”
“To everyone else, yeah.”
“What's that supposed to mean?” asked Danny. Then, he thought of another question. “Why are the birds out at night - with cats? Shouldn't they be in a nest, or something like that?”
“Keep watching … you'll see what I'm here for … any second now …”
Danny kept his eyes fixed and forced himself not to blink. His wrist tingled and itched, yet he stopped himself from looking at it.
Then … then he saw them …
The cats raised their bodies up and were suddenly very different; small still, but now they had dark-grey skin; no fur remained. They looked like macabre statues that had come to life. He saw one stretch out a pair of leathery wings.
Danny's eyes moved to the crows - exactly the same. Their sharp teeth and piercing eyes were now more sinister, like little dots of light, glowing in the darkness.
“What … are … are they?” asked Danny, stuttering his words through fear.
“They're similar to imps … heard of them before?”
Danny nodded and grunted a reply. It wasn't easy to talk at that exact moment.
The repulsive creatures, now that Danny could 'see' them properly, were hopping about on the car and fence, making unusual growls and barks at each other. They were bony, evil looking. He thought about a house that was close by - it had concrete versions of them sitting on the front wall - and they were horrific, despite being made of stone. These ones were very real and that multiplied the dread inside him.
“What do they do? Why are they outside? Are we in any danger?” asked Danny, rushing his words again.
Nick stayed calm. “You've read books, Danny, you've seen films, you've watched the television … all those stories about frightening creatures, monsters, witches, vampires, werewolves ... the list goes on. Well, they're out there. They're all out there! Some behave and just live their way, without causing trouble … others …”
Danny had a lot to say. He had a lot to ask. His brain didn't cooperate though so a short silence followed as he tried to control his heartbeat and breathing rhythm.
“What has all this got to do with me?” he asked, eventually. His eyes never moved from the window to look at his uncle.
“For a long time … a very, very, long time, there have been people, like us, with … abilities and skills. They guard against everything supernatural from crossing over and causing harm.”
“This is … I've got to be dreaming all this!” said Danny. Like his uncle had said, these things happened in books, on the television, at the cinema! Not in the real world. Not to real people, like him.
“If they belong to another, someone more powerful, they'll be here to spy on someone, or gather information about the area. If they are roaming free, it'll be for mischief and trouble. I wouldn't be surprised if those cars get vandalised tonight.”
Danny's mouth dropped open. He just didn't have the ability to get words out when he wanted them.
“Unbelievable is probably a good place to start,” began Nick. He tapped Danny on the shoulder and pointed to a short woman in the street. Her face was looking down so that it was concealed by the shadows. “Here we are, just like I said; someone more powerful.”
“Who?” Danny was about to laugh at his uncle when the woman moved down the street. As soon as she neared the imp like beings, her appearance shifted too; she grew tall, thin, and long, flowing, hair blew radiantly about her face. Her coat became a cloak and even though she was on the other side of the street, her twig like fingers and long nails were clearly visible - they too, like the crows feathers - were edged in an orange tint.
“Don't fret, Danny. I'm familiar with her. She won't be a cause of trouble for us. There's no gain for her to start a fight … she has no valid reason.”
Danny spoke before his imagination had a chance to picture what a fight with the woman and her abhorrent creatures might be like. “What is she? What's she doing here, outside in the street?”
“Believe it or not, she's a sorceress. The others follow her orders. As for what she is doing - I have no idea. That isn't the point, though, is it? The point I'm making is that she is as real as you or I … and it's the same in every street, in every town, in every country … all over the world!”
“Really? I mean … this isn't a big joke, is it?”
“I asked that once, years ago.” Nick drifted off as his memory took him to another time.
The lady - the sorceress - held out her hand towards the group of leather skinned beasts. They looked at her, obediently awaiting instructions. She pointed with one of her long fingers and they all darted off, jumping across the fences and cars.
The sorceress didn't turn around. She didn't look at Danny, staring out of the window with disbelief in his eyes, she simply carried on walking up the road.
Danny was so confused, light-headed, tired, and nervous. Each and every one of the emotions and feelings was fighting for top spot. He wanted to sit down yet his legs didn't seem capable of movement at that moment.
“Erm … I don't … don't know what to say! This is … it's as much of a shock as that time when you and dad dressed up like skeletons for Halloween. Actually, it's a million times bigger than that!”
Danny's eyes widened after he spoke as the sheen on his window pane dulled and then disappeared completely.
“Yeah, that was a great night …,” Nick began, “… such a laugh! Your face was a picture!” A deep laugh followed but it stopped abruptly.
“What's wrong?” asked Danny. He could see the look of concern that had appeared suddenly on his uncle's face.
“Can you smell that? It's … like damp … or dirt.” Nick spoke very softly as he sniffed the air. “Stay close to me, Danny. Okay? Okay?”
Danny nodded as his whole body shook with fear. He wanted to run and escape. He could make it downstairs to his mum and dad for help. They could sort this surreal nonsense out once and for all and help uncle Nick as well. Something had spooked him, that much was certain.
“I think … I think I need some water … or a nice cup of tea. You go and make me a drink, Danny, and I’ll wait for you here.”
Nick moved a little closer to Danny, lowering his voice to a whisper so quiet that it was difficult to hear. “And get some salt. Bring it here as quickly as you can. If your mum and dad ask you anything, say you were thirsty and get back here! Don't stop and chat to them. Got all that?”
Danny nodded as much as his nervous body would allow, then turned to walk out of his room. He avoided looking at anything else except the door.
'I can do this! I don't know what's going on, but uncle Nick needs my help!' Danny thought, but it was short-lived. Something grabbed his shoulder before he could move another step. The air around him stunk like stagnant water and he too could now smell dirt.
“No, that won't be possible, Danny Monroe! You're staying here, with me!” a shrill voice hissed from behind him.
“Let go! Dad! Mum! Uncle Nick!”
Something wrapped around his ankle, pulling him backwards towards the bed.
“They can't hear you, stupid boy! You're uncle saw to that … I'll be sure to thank him later … before he dies!” the voice said. Although the words were whispered, they filled the room with a drifting echo.
Danny turned around - against his better judgement - to see a knotted and twisted clump of roots, crawling across the carpet. They rose up, taller than him … almost reaching the ceiling. Then, they began changing every second; moulding to form something different. A woman's face.
“What are you?!” cried Danny. As he wrestled free from the forceful grip, he fell backwards on the bedroom floor, dreading what would happen next. He couldn't see his uncle anywhere, but the roots had taken over the entire wall where the window could normally be seen, and they'd advanced, like a living net, halfway through the bedroom as well.
“GET AWAY FROM HIM!!”
Danny heard his uncle's warning, but it sounded so distant, so removed from the here and now. The only sounds that were prominent came from the crackling of the growing roots, and his own thumping heart.
The next few seconds somehow managed to pass by in slow motion yet also in the blink of an eye - it made Danny feel disoriented and sick. His stomach flipped several times and his head spun. He guessed that panic was going to force him to fall unconscious.
The bedroom grew dark and musty all of a sudden, as if it was outdoors - the damp in the air grew thick and stale. It smelt like nothing Danny had experienced before; rotting leaves and putrid dirt.
He felt a crawling sensation on his skin; it was moving up his legs, his arms, and his neck … creeping closer to his face. He tried to move but felt too restricted - the roots that had a hold of him were strong. He couldn't see a lot either; it had grown even darker, increasing his fear by immeasurable amounts.
'Please … no … please!' Danny thought. In the back of his mind, a little voice told him to let go, this was it … the end. His unusual thirteenth birthday would end like this, and he'd never see another day in his life.
More roots crawling snapped him back to reality. They were now over his entire body … and they began to squeeze.
“Aaarrgghh!” grunted Danny as the air was forced out of him. He could feel his lungs begging and aching for air, but he couldn't do it … he couldn't breathe in.
Tiny root threads were slowly feeding themselves around his mouth and nostrils too, completely cutting off any chance of air. The taste and smell of rancid dirt were all around him and inside his mouth. He wanted so much to scream, but again it was impossible …
Suddenly the room filled with incredible heat, and a crackling din. Danny saw a deep orange light flood through the darkness; flames. The noise was so loud, as if the fire was screaming in pain.
His body, just for a split second, was released from the tight grip and he gasped in a lungful of air, quickly followed by another.
'Is that ... Is that smoke I can smell?'
“Danny! Get behind me!”
Uncle Nick's voice boomed through everything else and Danny was dragged to his feet by a strong hand that sliced through the roots, smoke and darkness like a scythe. He was blinking frantically and rubbing his face as well - he needed to see exactly what was happening.
The image of creeping roots was firmly etched inside his mind and it was filling Danny with horror - making his skin feel as it was still covered in them.
Another flash of orange filled the room and Danny's eyes finally allowed him to look about properly again … he didn't believe them, but he could see.
“Uncle Nick! What's happening?”
The bedroom was filled with roots of various thickness, all weaving up the walls and across the ceiling. They spread out, latching themselves to every surface in their path, securing a mass of thorn covered stems that stood right in front of Nick. They looked like person … a woman. She … it … had the same face Danny had seen when he'd tried to leave the room.
Thousands of thin roots moved about like tiny snakes around her head, forming a mass of living hair. The woman's mouth - again created from entwined roots - had sharp thorns poking out instead of teeth.
“Danny, hold your breath! Don't breathe in the smoke!”
Danny gulped in a lungful of air and watched as his uncle Nick rushed forwards, pushing the woman towards the fire in the corner of the bedroom. The scream that followed was horrendous, causing him to cover his ears and grit his teeth together. His spine shuddered - it went straight through him and he hoped to never hear such a noise again in his entire life.
He watched as the flames throbbed once more, then disappeared inside themselves. They carried the scream with them, causing a rush of air to pull through the bedroom - even Nick dropped to his knees so that he had a better footing.
And suddenly, within a few seconds, it was all over. Everything in Danny's bedroom looked completely normal again. If he hadn't been right there, involved in it, his own mind would have doubted whether or not it actually happened.
“I feel … feel …” Danny's stomach flipped again and again. He quickly searched for something to look at, just for a point of reference; he chose the moon, shining like a torch in the sky outside. He focused on it completely, not moving his gaze, as he slowly breathed in and out, calming himself.
“Try and get to the bed to lie down, Danny. We need to have a long chat about all of this,” said Nick as he pulled up a chair and slowly lowered himself on to it.
Danny didn't want to move, not just yet. He was quite willing to stay on the carpet, staring at that beautiful, bright moon, as he consciously told his stomach that everything was over. There was a small part of him that wanted to run around, to shout out loud, scream for answers … it was being ignored for the time being, though.
“Come on, you'll be fine, I promise. We both need to rest after what just happened!”
Nick did look exhausted, that much was true, so Danny slowly climbed on the bed and hoped for an explanation … one that would make at least some sense.
“Uncle Nick, tell me what's happening! I need to know! Who, or what, was that?!”
Nick relaxed in the chair, took out a military style water flask from inside his jacket and sipped at it, slowly. “You want some?” he offered. “It's dandelion and burdock, your favourite. And, it's great for occasions like this as well. Helps to replenish the muscles and energy levels.”
Danny took a small sip and immediately felt better - calmer definitely.
“Okay, Danny, how do we go about this? You have just witnessed that which very few people will ever see. Remember what I said to you before? Some of the creatures out there don't follow their own rules, they try to break through … and what we just saw would be a great example!”
Danny went to speak but realised that his short-term memory was blurry to say the least. Somehow, it was only nine-fifteen, but going to bed seemed like it had happened weeks ago now. “You, erm, she … that … that thing …” He wasn't making any sense. The words were coming out but that was about it.
“Believe it or not, I've seen her before; Miranda. Don't worry, you'll learn all about her and the others out there.”
Danny closed his eyes. The horrible feeling inside his stomach had gone and he actually felt quite normal. He jumped off of his bed as soon as he knew his legs wouldn't buckle underneath him and looked out of the window. DainesLeigh Avenue was still there, looking as normal as it should have been.
“How? I mean, why us?”
Nick stood up to join Danny at the bedroom window, choosing to stare at the moon also. “There are many stories about that. To be honest, I'm not sure which I believe. The truth of the matter is simple …” Nick paused as he chose the correct words. “If we don't stop these creatures, nobody else will!”
“I … I … can't believe this is … is true! What … I … erm … I mean … what happens now?”
“I teach, you learn, Danny. I had the same conversation with your grandfather, nearly thirty years ago.” Nick smiled. His memories of an unusual life were obviously playing out for him to remember.
Danny sank back on to his bed.
“This is where it all begins, Danny. This moment, right now, is where your life turns and travels a new path. It's never going to be the same again. Your eyes are open and you'll see it all … everything …”
“Dad said those words to me earlier this morning … but I don't think he was talking about the same things that you are.”
“No, Danny, I very much doubt he was.”
Hope you all enjoyed it :)