DR FRANK JACKSON, 59A, PRINCES ROAD, BRIGHTON, EAST SUSSEX BN2 3RH
TEL. 01273 603766 - EMAIL [email protected] - www.fulltable.com/fj
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Something wicked this way comes
‘Simon’. said Annie, ‘have you looked at the papers today?’
‘Those ones, lying on the table in front of you. The local one, the Argus. Look at the front page’.
‘What? You mean, on the front?’
‘Look at the front page!’. said Annie, wondering if she might get away with manslaughter, if she murdered her brother.
‘Oh, this, you mean? Why didn’t you say so?’ Annie wondered again whether a plea of murder due to temporary insanity might also work in a court of justice.
‘Rioting residents create night-time mayhem over new council parking charges. Police arrested over thirty supporters, one of whom, Mrs Ethel Blaine, accused the state of being a new dictatorial regime. “ Its disgraceful!” she was heard to cry. “They all ought to be strung up! Bring back the gallows on every street-corner!”’
‘No!’ shouted Annie in exasperation. ‘The headline below it!’
“Well, I wish you’d say’. grunted Simon.
Annie sighed. Simon was never at his best in the morning. He was always terribly lazy, stupid and indifferent.
‘Simon’. she said. ‘You are terribly lazy, stupid and indifferent in the morning’.
‘What?’ mumbled Simon. through a mouthful of toast.
‘Never mind’. said Annie, in pity. ‘ My case rests. Here, I’ll read it to you.’. She snatched the paper away and began to read aloud.
‘Eye-witnesses have seen what they describe as a large winged figure, flying over their roof-tops. Though the thing was vague, it seemed to resemble a heavily-built man with long claws. “It was very frightening” said Mrs Birtwhistle, 74, of Richmond Road, Brighton, who witnessed the strange creature one evening as she was watering her garden. “It just swooped across out of nowhere, and then disappeared up the road. It was really big, and made this funny growling sound as it went”. Other witnesses have described it as having strange glowing eyes, and large teeth. It should be said that some have described it as a UFO (Unidentified Flying Object). Whatever it is, readers are asked to send in their sightings. Who knows, it may be an alien from outer space visiting us! Let the Argus know, so that we can solve this little mystery???”
‘Well’, said Annie finally. ‘What do you think of that?’
‘Well’, said Simon, through another mouthful of toast, ‘It would seem that we have another mystery on our hands. All right, let’s go for it. After all, I’ve only being threatened with death and destruction a few times up till now, not to mention being attacked by a ferocious wardrobe, so I might as well carry on a bit further’.
‘Simon’, said his sister, cheerfully. ’There are times when I can almost like you’.
‘Think nothing of it’.
‘No, I won’t’. said Annie and ducked just in time to miss the piece of toast that Simon threw at her.
The next day, Simon received a present, or rather it hit him rather painfully, on the back of the head. He picked it up. ‘Another dirty old trainer as usual. I suppose it’s got a message inside it’. ‘You’re absolutely right”. agreed Annie. She rummaged around inside the smelly old trainer. ‘Annie’, said Simon, disgustedly. ‘You don’t know where that’s been’. But Annie wasn’t listening. She found a scrap of paper inside and started reading. ‘Simon, listen to this’.
Please come to meet us now.
‘Sounds serious’. Simon suggested. ‘Let’s go now’. Annie nodded. An hour later, having taken the bus into the centre of Brighton, they stood outside the black gate in the little cobbled alleyway, that was the headquarters of the Brotherhood of Four Fingers and a Thumb, of which they were now full members. ‘I wonder who else is going to be there?’ remarked Annie, as she pressed her thumb on the button and the gate swung open. ‘Perhaps Adrian and Sniffer, maybe’, suggested Simon. ‘It did sound like an important meeting. Well, at least important enough to throw an old boot at me’.
‘You’ll never get over that, will you?’
‘Well why don’t they throw them at you?’
‘Well, I’m a girl’.
‘Well, I never. So you are. I suppose you have to have some excuse’.
They walked through the overgrown garden, pushed open the big black door, and then tramped up the staircase, turned the handle on the next door at the end of the landing, and walked in.
‘It’s quite bright in here isn’t it, remarked Simon cheerfully. ‘Makes a change. What’s that smell? Oh, it’s Sniffer. Sorry, Sniffer, didn’t see you on the floor down there’.
The grey furry bundle raised what appeared to be its head, grunted, and then settled down again.
‘Oh, and the carrion bird’. Simon said brightly.
The large seagull, perched on the windowsill, glared. ‘Hello, brats. So glad you could finally make it’ Adrian snapped.
‘What’s happening, then?’ asked Annie, addressing the four elderly men, in shabby grey suits, sitting behind a long wooden table. Annie noticed there were papers and maps of Brighton spread all over its surface. The smallest of the four fingers jabbed his finger at the largest map, which was covered with lines and crosses in red ink. ‘This, I’m afraid’, he said. ‘We fear that we have a daemon in town’.
“Not a…daemon!’ gasped Simon. ‘ perhaps it’s just come for it’s holidays. What is a daemon anyway?’ he asked, turning to Annie. ‘I think’, said Annie, slowly, ‘that the fingers are just about to tell us’.
She turned expectantly to Little Finger. ‘Well’, said the little fat man hesitantly, ‘there is not a great deal of information about them, I’m sorry to say. What we do know is that they are rather large, dark, furry, with long muscular arms that end in sharp claws. They have very big, bat-like wings, and feet that are also clawed. They look rather like big dogs, with sharp teeth, and are very nasty indeed’.
‘Oh, said Simon, ‘well that lets out Sniffer, then’.
‘Oi’, said Sniffer, ‘I heard that’.
‘Adrian and Sniffer, though. can tell you more’ interrupted Index Finger.
‘That’s right’. nodded Adrian. ‘Me and the boys, we…’ “No, Adrian’. said Annie firmly. ‘The correct pronunciation is “The boys and I….’
‘As I were saying’, Adrian went on, ‘Me and the boys were cruising, right? And we saw this big, black thing winging its way towards us, and I sez to the boys, I don’t like the look of that, so scatter, mates. So we did and it went past us, like. But it wuz pretty nasty. I would’nt be too happy coming up against it’.
‘Thank you, Adrian’, said Little Finger.
‘I think, Adrian’, Simon said, ‘That your spatters are masterful, but your dribbles lack conviction’.
Adrian looked at Annie sharply. ‘Wot’s ‘e talking about?’
‘Take no notice, Adrian’, replied Annie, ‘he talks fluent rubbish these days’.
‘You’re telling me”. growled Adrian.
‘Adrian’s right’. suddenly announced the large hairy bundle on the floor. ‘ I got a smell the other night, and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t a natural smell. It was, as if’, Sniffer hesitated, ‘it was as if it came from another world’ They were all silent. Finally, Third Finger said, ‘this calls for a council of war’.
The Council of War
‘Right, said Annie. ‘First thing, what is this daemon doing here?’ The four fingers nodded, and then Third Finger spoke. ‘It has been drawn to our attention that it might be a scout, a spy, if you like, finding out what are our possible defences are’. ‘You mean, like an invasion, or something?’ asked Simon, incredulously. ‘Just so’, said Little Finger. ‘We believe it is here to look at ways and means of attacking this city, and then on to the rest of the country. We also believe that there are many thousands of them, which is why it is so important to stop this creature, and capture it, if possible. Otherwise…’ he shivered.
‘And who is going to try to do that? I mean, capture this daemon or whatever, and stop it from informing all it’s friends?’ asked Simon.
‘You are’. replied Little Finger, happily.
Simon opened his mouth, and then shut it again with a snap.
‘Next point’. said Annie quickly. ‘How are we to do that, and what support can we depend on?’
‘Now, we don’t know about the faeries’, said Little Finger. ‘because they are a law unto themselves, and unless they are threatened, they will do nothing to help. No, not them’.
‘That’s a pity’, groaned Simon. ‘ I was really hoping to see that lovely Radigund again’.
‘You mean the one that threatened to skewer you on her sword, and stick your head on the end of a pole?’ asked Annie, rather spitefully.
‘Yes, that’s the one, she was gorgeous and, anyway, it was just girlie talk’.
‘YOU…..!’ Annie screamed furiously, but Index Finger intervened quickly.
‘Please don’t argue. We thought the dragons might help, but I think they are looking after their borders, and I don’t think they are able to help us’.
‘Dragons?’ exclaimed Annie and Simon at the same time. ‘What dragons?’
Index Finger looked surprised. ‘I thought you knew. There was a battle between the dragons and the daemons a few years ago, and it resulted in a lot of damage and some people getting hurt. But it was all kept quiet, and nothing was said about it. The dragons won, by the way’.
‘Was that the one where all the windows in that awful art college got broken, and a few roofs wrecked?’ asked Simon.
‘That’s right’. replied Index Finger. ‘But that was some years ago’.
Then who else?’ asked Simon. ‘I’m feeling very practical at the moment. How about Indira and Pei-Ying?’
‘No’, said Annie firmly.’ I don’t want them getting involved at this stage’.
‘I know’, cried Simon, ‘because Annie and me are, as they say on television, “field operatives”, we have to have some backup, some support. How about those Japanese schoolgirls to give us a hand? They fought really well with us in that big battle under the pier, you remember, Annie?’
‘How could I forget? Ugh!’ said Annie. ‘But for once, in your dim, dismal little life, you have a good idea. How do we get in touch with them? With Mariko, I mean. She was the leader. Oh, I’d really like to see her again. She was so brave, and helped us so much in that battle’.
‘She will come when she is needed. Leave that to us,’ said Little Finger, ‘we can do all that’.
‘Right. said Annie. ‘Plan of action. Simon and I, notice Simon, proper grammar this time, will….I’ve forgotten the word…..’
‘Reconnoitre’ said Simon smugly.
Annie glared at him. ‘And find out where he is, or it is, and find out what he’s up to, or it’s up to and then keep him, or it, under……?’
‘Simon, I’m going to kill you one of these days’.
‘Could I just ask you’, asked Index Finger. What do those words mean? Just for our records, that is’.
‘No problem at all’, Simon replied cheerfully. ‘Reconnaitre means to keep something or somebody under observation, and surveillance means to keep watch or spy on something or somebody, to make sure they don’t make any trouble’.
‘Ah’, said Index Finger, ‘Thank you’.
‘As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted’, Annie continued angrily, ‘We need to keep an eye on this daemon, and find out what…it’s up to, to see if it’s a spy or not. So we need Adrian and his …“boys”…. to keep track of it as well. And we need Sniffer’.
Sniffer raised his head.”Don’t worry he said. ‘I’ll keep my nose to the ground and let you know if I find anything’.
‘I think that your nose is permanently glued to the ground, Sniffer’. said Simon innocently.
Sniffer stared at him suspiciously but said nothing.
‘Then that is all we can do at the present’, said Little Finger, ‘and we must be vigilant and keep in touch with each other. I declare this meeting closed’. They all got up and trooped out of the door, except Adrian who chose to flap out of the window. ‘See you around’. he called as he left. Sniffer left quickly, as soon as they went out of the black gate. ‘As my mate said, see you around’. Little Finger stopped and looked after him. Then he turned to Annie and Simon. ‘You will be careful, won’t you?’ he spoke quietly. ‘And don’t forget the talisman, Annie’. He walked off quickly after the other fingers.
Annie and Simon walked home silently, neither saying a word. Oh, dear. thought Simon, I’m in the doghouse now. I wonder if it was because I knew two words more than she did? At least, I looked in the dictionary before I opened my mouth. ‘Annie’, he said brightly, ‘How does it feel like to be a field operative?’
Annie suddenly turned around, and slapped him very hard across the face. Simon, shocked, felt his cheek where she had hit him. He noticed his lip was bleeding. ‘Annie!’ he called. She was standing at a shop window full of rather boring furniture, staring at it. Simon walked up behind her. He saw her reflection in the window. Her face was wet with tears. He put his hand on her shoulder, but she shook it off furiously. ‘Leave me alone!’ she shouted.
‘All right, then!’ Simon snapped, and walked off in the direction of home. Then he stopped and looked back. Annie still stood there, but she looked very small, and sad, and forlorn. Simon walked back to her, looked at her still wet face, and then, without thinking, pulled her into his arms and hugged her. Annie resisted at first, and then hugged him back. ‘Annie’, Simon said quietly, ‘Let’s go and find somewhere to sit down. I know what’s wrong’. Annie followed him to a bench outside a now closed Sainsbury’s store, and they sat together.
‘Annie’. Simon repeated. ‘I know what’s wrong.
It’s the talisman, isn’t it? Tell me’.
‘’Oh, shut up. No, it’s because everyone we’ve met seems to think that we can do everything. The four fingers, Adrian, Sniffer, everybody. When we started all this, I never thought how frightening or how nasty it might get. But it’s got much bigger and more serious. We’re fighting things that we don’t know anything about. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re just finding out things and it’s as if we we’re looking around in the dark. Simon, I really mean it. I’m frightened’.
‘’So am I’. Simon said quietly. Annie looked at him in astonishment. ‘But…but you never seem to be frightened at all, Simon!’ ‘Oh yes, I am’. replied Simon. He was looking straight ahead of him. ‘The difference is that I have a different way of coping with things. I make fun of things and make silly comments and jokes, because that’s my way of doing it. I’m as frightened of this daemon as you are, but I prefer to make fun of it. That’s how I am. But, I think, that the talisman will protect you and me, I hope. But don’t be afraid of the talisman, Annie. I think it will help us more than we know’.
Annie was quiet for a moment. ‘I know you’re right. But I wish we knew more than we do’. Simon looked at her again, and then said in a low voice, ‘Annie, you’ve never, ever hit me before’. Annie looked down at her feet, her hands clasped before her.
‘Simon, I’m truly, truly sorry that I did that. I really didn’t mean to. It’s just…just that I really don’t know what’s happening, and I took it out on you. You were using all those grand words, that I know you only just looked up in the dictionary, and I was really furious with you, because I thought you were making fun of me. But I know now that you’re just as frightened as I am, and I should have realised it. I’m really sorry, Simon, I really am. It must be as bad for you. But I do think that we’ve got to see this through. After all, we are detectives aren’t we?’
‘So we are. I forgot about that. Let’s go, Annie. I’m hungry’.
‘Simon,’ said Annie in a very small voice, that he had never heard before, ‘will you take me home?’ Simon paused and then grinned. ‘Come on then, stupid. Let’s find our way home’. Annie got up and linked her arm around Simon’s. For once he didn’t argue, and tell her how soppy she was. They both went home for supper.
But the next few days seemed pointless and frustrating. There were no other reports of the daemon in the newspaper, and though they both walked around the city for hours on end, they were still no nearer finding out where the daemon might be hiding. Even though Annie wore the talisman every time she went out, it remained dim and quiet. They both felt irritable and confused. ‘This is hopeless’. said Simon. ‘Well, we’ve got to keep trying’. replied Annie. ‘I suppose you would say that. I’m a man of action, but I suppose you can’t help being a girl’. Simon grinned. Annie stopped and glared at him.
‘Simon’, she said rather too sweetly. ‘You know that I am anti-violent, anti-sexist, anti-abuse, and anti- a lot of things, but you are sorely trying my patience on all of those counts. Either you are truly wicked, which I don’t want to believe, or you are seriously winding me up’.
‘Bit of both, I think. Annie, hold on. I do believe I see Adrian up there, and he’s coming down for a bit of a bumpy landing’.
Sure enough, Adrian flapped down and landed beside them with a thump. ‘Coming down on a wing and a prayer, were we, Adrian’. Simon remarked.
‘It’s me old war wounds’, snapped Adrian, ‘and less of your lip. But we spotted it, and saw where it went. You know those allotments, up past Fiveways? You know, where you go into those woods, and then there’s all these garden plots down in the valley? Right. Well, it’s in there, in one of them wooden hut things, what are they, garden sheds? It’s about halfway down, and it’s painted this yukky pink. It belongs to some old fella that’s just gone into hospital for a checkup. I don’t think he even knows it’s there. Sniffer pointed us to the right place, ‘cos he found all its droppings, and followed the tracks. “Right horrible smell, it was”, he said. Then Cassidy saw where he went. He’s real sharp, Cassidy. We didn’t go near it, ‘cos it would rip us to shreds if we got near it in the air. But we found it, all right’.
‘Thank you Adrian’. said Annie sincerely. ‘No problem’. answered Adrian, ‘but…..’ and he sidled up closer to them. ‘ You watch it, both of you. That, whatever you call it, is really nasty. It’s big, very big, and it’s got really serious claws on it’s hands and feet, which I reckon are about two inches long. And it’s got nasty red eyes. Told my lads to keep well away from it, otherwise it might tear ‘em apart. Even Sniffer’s dead worried about it. So, you be careful. I don’t want you two getting slaughtered’.
‘Thanks for the warning Adrian. I didn’t know you cared’. said Simon.
‘I don’t want you pair on my conscience. Anyway, for what it’s worth, we always look after our own’. muttered Adrian, awkwardly.
‘Thank you very much, Adrian’ said Annie. ‘We really mean it. Don’t we, Simon?’
‘Yes, we do’. Simon replied, with some effort.
‘Right, then. What are you two planning?’
‘We’re going to find it tonight, aren’t we, Simon? About eight.’
‘OK,’. Adrian said. ‘Me and the lads will be circling around above you. We’ll be there. But I reckon you might need some backup, just in case’.
‘Simon, we really do need to get in touch with Mariko and her friends. I know they will help us. We’ve really got to try and capture this daemon, somehow, and stop it from whatever it’s doing. Adrian, can you contact Mariko, in time for tonight?’
‘No problem’ said Adrian immediately. ‘That lass always keeps her word. If you need her, she’ll be there’.
‘Thank you again, Adrian,’. said Annie. Without another word, Adrian soared away. Annie watched him. ‘Isn’t he beautiful when he’s flying?’ she said in admiration. ‘Certainly better than when he’s on the ground’. grunted Simon.
‘Ooooh, are you jealous, Simon?’
‘You must be joking! I’m really glad your’re back to your old masterful self. But fancying a seagull! It just confirms my opinions that you really are totally mad’.
‘Shut your beak, Simon. Let’s go home and get prepared. And you’re so excited about seeing Mariko again, aren’t you? You fall in love with every girl in sight. First it’s Indira and Pei-Ying, then its that awful faerie, Radigund, who was going to stick you with her sword and put your head on the end of a pole, and now it’s Mariko. I just despair when I think of you becoming a proper teenager’.
‘I can see that we may have some problems about jealousy in our sibling relationship in the future. At least you’ve become normal, or some resemblance to being normal’.
‘Ooooh, but you really like her, don’t you? Go on, admit it!’
‘You be quiet, you horrible little sister!’
‘But you do, don’t you. Oooooh, I bet you do. Yes you do! Yes you do!’
‘Horrible, disgusting sister, I don’t want to commit murder before I have to’.
“Oooooh! Yes you do! Oooooh Mariko! Ooooooh, Mariko!’
They continued in this way for the rest of the way home.
Later that evening, they found themselves walking through the belt of woodland that ran alongside the allotments in the little valley that ran from north to south. Behind them, they could easily see the sea, a strip of pale blue under the darker blue of the sky. About halfway along the path, they found a gap in the fence that separated the wood from the allotments. Sure enough, there was the small pink shed, with just a single door and a window at the front, which faced towards the sea. But what they also noticed was the terrible smell that came from it. Simon pulled a face, and Annie wrinkled her nose in disgust. ‘It must be in there’, whispered Annie, ‘let’s get closer’.
They carefully stepped through the overgrown allotment until they crouched each side of the door. Annie looked up and saw several seagulls circling high above. Annie nudged Simon, and pointed upwards. He, too, looked up, and then nodded. ’Listen’, Annie whispered in Simon’s ear. ‘It’s talking to itself’. Simon pressed his ear against the door. He could hear a language that was something between a snarl and a deep croak.
‘I can’t understand a word it’s saying’ whispered Annie. ‘I think I can, though, or at least I can follow some of it’. whispered Simon back. ‘How?’ whispered Annie, incredulously. ‘You can’t speak daemon!’ ‘No’, whispered Simon, ‘but I do speak fluent rubbish, as you’ve told me many times, and daemon is not much different from that’. He listened intently again at the door ‘It’s not good, Annie, not good at all. They’re all going to come in from the sea and try and kill everybody….’
‘What! The horrible things!’ Annie shouted. She stood up and kicked the door hard.
What happened next was a confused blur. The door of the pink shed flew off, turning over and over until it crashed onto the ground almost twenty yards away. A huge black figure stormed out of the empty doorway, whirled and faced Simon and Annie, who had flattened themselves against the wooden walls of the shed. It snarled and its red eyes gleamed, its long muscular arms flexing, long bright claws gleaming. But, suddenly, there were small, hooded figures running about them, striking at the beast with long wooden sticks. One struck the daemon on the side of the head, and then another, and another. The daemon howled and lashed out furiously with its claws. But the small figures jumped back and surrounded it, lashing out with their sticks. The daemon suddenly spread its great black wings and flapped upwards furiously, soaring upwards into the sky, the seagulls above swerving desperately to avoid it. It disappeared into the early evening light.
‘Mariko!’ shouted Annie. One of the small hooded figures turned, and pushed her hood back, revealing Mariko’s lovely oval face. ‘Annie!’ she cried, and the two girls embraced. ‘Simon!’ Mariko cried, and gave him a big hug too, that made Simon very pleased. The others all crowded round, pushing their hoods back, uttering cries of delight. Mariko introduced them all again, including Jojo, the girl who had her arm broken in their last battle. ‘How are you, Jojo?’ asked Annie. ‘I mean, your arm’. ‘Oh, it is fine’, beamed the girl. Good enough to hit that thing very hard’, holding up the stick she carried. ‘Wow’, Simon replied, feeling rather excited. ‘I’ve never been rescued by a group of Japanese hoodies before! What are those things, by the way?’
‘These’, said Mariko. ‘These are bokken. They are Japanese training swords. Look, they are shaped like a traditional Japanese long sword, and tapered and slightly curved, just like a real sword. But they are to train with, though how to use them has become a martial art in itself, and as you can see, they are very effective. There was a very famous Japanese warrior monk a very long time ago, called Miyamoto Musashi, who fought all his challenges with a bokken.’
‘What happened?’ asked Simon.
‘He killed them all’.
‘Ah’, said Simon, ‘I see’.
Just then there was a flap of wings, and Adrian landed alongside them. ‘Great job, girls’, he squawked. ‘You didn’t half give it a good thumping’. The girls all chorused greetings.
‘Smarmy creep’. muttered Simon. Annie kicked him, discreetly. Adrian didn’t seem to notice. ‘Anyway he wung it off fast. ‘No, said Annie firmly. ‘It’s winged, not wung’.
Adrian grunted. ‘As I was saying, he wung off sharp. I’ve got two of my boys watching ‘im, to see where he goes. Now one of us is going to take a look inside that shed, and see what he’s left’.
He looked expectantly at Simon. ‘Let me try’, said Mariko. She got as far as the doorway before she reeled back, coughing and gasping. One or two of the other girls began to cough and sneeze. ‘That smell, it’s awful!’ gasped Mariko. ‘I just couldn’t go in there!’ They all looked again at Simon who stood there with his arms folded.
‘Simon, darling. My lovely, brave brother. Sweetypie. You wouldn’t mind going in to have a look, really? Just to please your little sister. Mariko really wants you to, don’t you Mariko?’
‘Oh, yes, Simon. I would be so proud of you’, and she put her arm through his and gazed up at him with lovely, appealing almond eyes.
‘Ugh!’ exclaimed Adrian in disgust. ‘You lot are worse than my Gerry’.
‘I knew this was coming. I knew I was going to be the fall guy’, groaned Simon. ‘All right, then’. He strode manfully to the doorway of the shed. Everybody stood back, but all the Japanese girls cheered enthusiastically.
Simon stood in the doorway and struck a dramatic pose.
“it is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done before!’ he cried, and disappeared inside. A few moments later, they heard a shout of ‘ Yuuuuck!’ and then there was silence. The silence continued for another two minutes. ‘Do you think he’s all right?’ asked Mariko, anxiously. Annie looked up. There was Simon, standing in the doorway, one hand leaning on it, and the other holding a large sheet of paper between his thumb and his forefinger. He dropped it on the ground, and then fell forward on his face. ‘Get up, Simon’, said Annie. ‘All right’, Simon replied cheerfully. ‘Just thought it was worth a try’. grinning at Mariko, who had looked anxious. They al crowded around the large piece of paper, which was covered in filthy smudges.
‘’It’s an ordinance survey map of Brighton and Hove’ said Adrian, triumphantly. ‘I should know, ‘cos I fly over it all the time. That thing has put marks over things like the police station, the fire station, the town hall and so on. That, mates, is an invasion map’.
They all looked at it again. ‘Bit smelly, isn’t it?’ said Adrian again. ‘Bet it was a bit filthy in there wasn’t it?’ nodding his head in the direction of the shed. ‘You don’t know what I’ve been through to get this. Those daemons really are messy eaters’. replied Simon, with the air of a martyr.
‘Yeah, so what?’ sniffed Adrian. ‘I’been through worse things’.
‘I bet you have’. snapped Simon, darkly.
‘Stop arguing, you two!’ What we need to do is to take this rather filthy map to the four fingers. They might be able to make more sense of it. That daemon won’t come back here, so we have to have a strategy. Adrian , where are you off to?’ But Adrian was already in the air. He was circling around above them, two other seagulls flying close to him. They seemed to be having an urgent conversation. Adrian flew back down and settled himself close to their little group.
‘My boys lost him. He went out over the sea, and then changed his mind and came back inland again. They’ll try and find him, but he’s still around. We’d better watch out. He’s lost his map, so I reckon he might try and get it back. You’d better watch yourselves’.
‘I think, said Mariko, ‘that we have done enough for tonight, and we should go home now. Tomorrow might be quite different’. They all nodded. The Japanese girls carefully wrapped up their swords and put them into the leather holdall bags, they had collected from behind some bushes. Aniie rolled up the daemon’s map and put it into a plastic bag. She went over to Mariko. ‘Thank you so much, Mariko, and thank you all for helping us. We really appreciate it’. ‘Thanks too, Mariko, and everybody’, said Simon. ‘Even you, Adrian’. Adrian made a very rude sound with his beak. ‘Let’s go home, everybody’. Annie said finally. ‘Enough of the hugs and kisses. This is not over yet’. So they did.
‘I’m starving. announced Simon, as soon as they got home. ‘What do you say to a nice fry-up, Annie?’ ‘I’d say, yes’, said Annie brightly, ‘but only after you’ve had a good bath. You still reek of that daemon’. ‘I suppose so’. muttered Simon. ‘I suppose I’ve got to wash behind my ears, as well, haven’t I?’ ‘Certainly’. said Annie. ‘Do it now. At once’. She stopped on the stairs. ‘Ooooooh,! Mariko! I’m so proud of you! Ooooh!’
‘I think I will definitely try to kill you one day’. Simon snarled.
Half an hour later, he was down in the kitchen. ‘About six eggs, and some rashers of bacon. Right’. He opened the refrigerator door. ‘Here we go. And some fried bread’. He opened the breadbin, and pulled out a sliced loaf. ‘Tomato ketchup now’. He opened one of the cupboard doors, and pulled out a bottle. ‘And now the grand finale. A bottle of Coca-cola and two glasses. There, that looks good. Now, frying-pan on the cooker and here we go….What’s that smell?’ He heard a sharp rasp of breathing behind him. Simon froze. He stared at the line of saucepans hanging on the wall in front of him. ‘Oh, no’. he said quietly. Slowly, he turned.
There was the daemon. It seemed to fill the kitchen. It was black and furry, and its wings were folded behind like a carapace. It looked like a very large black beetle, except for its long canine snout, and its open jaws, that showed a row of very large glistening teetn. It was slavering, and dripped onto the floor. Its arms were very long and muscular, and hung down to its powerful knees, that were crouched, ready to spring. Simon, not for the first time in his life, felt very afraid. It was the sheer size, and menace of the thing that frightened him, and also its filthy smell.
‘Oh, its you’. Simon said, more brightly than he felt. ‘It’s always polite to knock before you come in’. The daemon knocked aside the kitchen table as if it wasn’t there.
This came out as a harsh guttural snarl.
‘Watch it’, said Simon ‘I’ve got a frying-pan in my hand, and I’m not afraid to use it’.
The daemon suddenly lashed out an arm that knocked the frying-pan out of Simon’s hand and sent it clattering to the ground. Simon groped around desperately behind him, and pulled a large iron saucepan from the wall. The daemon moved closer on its padded feet.
‘YOU LEAVE MY BROTHER ALONE!’
The daemon whirled around incredibly swiftly. There was Annie, standing in the doorway, her eyes blazing, fists clenched by her sides. The daemon suddenly swiped out at her. Annie ducked. The daemon’s claw ripped out a whole piece of the doorframe where Annie’s head had been a moment earlier. Simon leapt forward, and slammed the large iron saucepan over the daemon’s head. It screamed, pulled it off, and whirled around to meet Simon, who backed away swiftly. Annie, crouching on the floor felt her left hand raised. A terrible white beam of light shot out and hit the daemon in the back. It howled and disappeared in a great gout of flame and black smoke. The kitchen was filled with it, but both smoke and flame suddenly drew in on itself, and disappeared. There was only Simon, crouched by the cooker, and Annie huddled at the doorway.
They both stood up and silently moved the kitchen table back to where it was, in the middle of the kitchen, picked up the chairs and sat down. Annie sat with her head in her hands. Simon, who still felt rather shaky, put his hands down on the table. Yes, they were trembling slightly.
‘What on earth is going on?’ demanded their mother who appeared in the doorway in her dressing-gown. ‘Have you two been fighting again? Look at this mess! And what’s that awful smell? Don’t tell me Simon, you’ve been trying to fry a boiled egg again! You two just clear all this up! I’ve already got a headache, and three lectures to do tomorrow!’ “Yes, Mum’. mumbled Simon. Their mother looked very searchingly at them, but thought better of it, and marched off to bed. Simon looked at Annie. There were tears trickling down her cheeks. ‘Come on, Annie. It’s only Mum giving us a telling off’.
‘I killed it , I killed it! I always said to myself that I would never, ever kill a living thing, and I killed it!’ Annie sobbed. Simon stared at her. Then he got up and walked around the table and stood over her. Annie looked at him. ‘Go on, Simon, hit me. I hit you. Get your own back. Slap me across the face, hard!’ Simon slowly raised his hands, and then gently cupped her face between them. ‘Annie, I would never hit you. You are my sister. You didn’t kill the daemon. The talisman did’. Annie looked at him, speechless. She had never known her brother to be so gentle and kind towards her. Her eyes started to trickle again.
Simon glanced down. The talisman was pulsing urgently with light on her finger. ‘Annie, will you trust me, just this once! Please!’ He was still gently holding her face. She looked up at him and nodded. ‘Then put your hand down on the table! I’ve suddenly got an idea!’ Simon rushed over to the other side of the kitchen and grabbed a recipe leaflet from the pin-board, that his mother was keeping for another meal. ‘Annie, get a pencil! There’s probably one in the table drawer!. Annie scrabbled around, and finally found one. Simon was looking intently at the talisman on Annie’s finger, which was flashing on and off, urgently.
‘Annie, do you remember our uncle Bob, who used to be in the navy? Well, when he stayed with us, he taught me Morse code. I can’t remember it very well, but I think that the talisman is trying to tell us something in that!’
‘Simon’, said Annie slowly, ‘first you talk rubbish, then you understand daemon and now you can talk , whatever it is, Morse code’.
‘You don’t talk it, it’s a code. Be quiet and let me concentrate. Hold your hand very still.’
. Simon looked at the talisman, and started to write, his mouth moving as he did so. Annie used her other hand to wipe her eyes. She was fascinated by the way in which the talisman flashed and blinked. Then, it stopped and became dim again. Simon was scribbling furiously, on the back of the recipe. Then he turned it around and pushed it over to Annie. ‘There’s a lot of blanks, because it was going too fast for me. But it definitely is a message’. Annie stared at the piece of paper. This was what it said.
Had to _______ ___ Daemon to protect ___ Only ___ Do ___ hate __ No _____ way Daemon _____ kill ___ Must ___ let ______ both ___ imp______ __ sorr_
‘Come round the table, Simon. We must be able to fill in these blanks. They have to be quite simple words’. They sat together and began to study the message. Ten minutes later, Simon said quietly, ‘I think we’ve got it’. They read it again. Annie had printed it out neatly, since she thought Simon’s handwriting was awful. It now read:
Had to destroy the Daemon. to protect you. Only way. Do not hate me. No other way. Daemon would kill you. Must not let happen. Both you important. Am sorry.
‘Its grammar is worse than mine’. muttered Simon. They looked at the talisman on Annie’s finger. It was still cold and dim. ‘We’ve got to meet the fingers tomorrow’. said Annie firmly. ‘Definitely. But we’d better clear up the kitchen first, or Mum’ll go ballistic, and have something to eat, and then go to bed’. ‘Well, at least it apologised’. replied Annie, wearily. ‘And you’ve learnt how to spell “daemon”’.
Next morning, as it was the holidays, they found themselves sitting around the usual table on the seafront to the four fingers, with Adrian,, and Sniffer, lying on the floor, slurping his bowl of Guiness, as usual. They had just explained everything that had happened. Annie read out the talisman’s message to them again. The daemon’s map was spread out on the table in front of them, and the fingers were examining it excitedly.
‘This changes everything!’ exclaimed Little Finger. ‘They are planning an invasion! This settles it!’
‘Settles what?’ demanded Simon.
‘We must, find more allies as soon as possible! It is now the only way of ensuring our survival!’
‘Who do you mean?’ asked Annie.
Index Finger replied quickly, ‘the dragons, though it is very difficult to contact them. We will have to do a lot of research for that, and it may take some while. But at least, by removing the daemon scout, we have bought ourselves more time to find ways of doing so It will have had no chance of taking back the information it wanted’.
‘Hang on’, interrupted Adrian, ‘dragons as well? It’s going to be a right traffic jam up there. I need my flying space, you know’.
Third Finger, normally the quietest, looked at Adrian sharply. ‘Simon and Annie have only, so far, encountered one daemon. Can you imagine thousands of them attacking us?’
‘Yeah, all right’, said Adrian, grudgingly. ‘I see your point’.
‘Are there any more allies we can count on?’ asked Annie.
The four fingers looked at her expectantly. ‘Yes, said Little Finger. ‘The faeries’.
Simon and Annie looked at each other. ‘The faeries!’ they both exclaimed.
‘Yes, of course!’
They were both very silent on the way home. Finally, Simon said, ‘I’m not very happy about this, Annie. This is going to get nastier than ever. How on earth are we going to persuade the faeries to join us as allies?’ ‘Perhaps we might have to pass a test, or something’. replied Annie. ‘Knowing faeries, I bet that’s what we’re going to have to do’. She looked around at Brighton as she walked. There was the Royal Pavilion in all its splendour. There was the Theatre Royal, there was the library, and everywhere there were people, some in shorts, in groups, all wandering around, some eating, some sucking ice-creams, and children, some wailing to be carried, other just walking with their parents, looking around them with wide eyes. Annie dreaded to think what might happen if a daemon invasion ever happened.
‘Simon’, she whispered quietly. ‘We’ve got to go through with this, whatever. I can’t bear to think of what might happen to all this. All these people, and everything else. We’ve got to try and stop whatever awful thing might happen. We can’t just let it destroy us. We just can’t’. Simon stopped. ‘No, we can’t. You’re right, just for a change. I’m with you all the way. I’m not going to let filthy old daemons take all this from us. Let’s do it’. Annie looked at him incredulously. ‘You are the same brother that I ended up with, aren’t you?’ ‘Of course I am’. replied Simon. He stopped again and looked at her directly. ‘We’re together on this, brother and sister. I’ve no idea what else we going to be in for, but we’ll do it together, you and me. All right, now?’ Annie said nothing but just simply hugged him. ‘Thank you, Simon’. was all she could say.
‘Come on , fruitcake. Let’s go home’.
And so they did.
Frank Jackson (04/07/09)