Category Archives: writing

It’s Here!!!!

On 31st October I received a delivery, one that I’ve been anticipating for a while. I have to admit it’s a little eerie that a dark fantasy/ horror story would be delayed so that it arrived exactly on Halloween but that’s how it went.

So… ladies and gentlemen boys and girls…may I introduce to you the print version of ‘Marcus’.

Set in Crieff, Perthshire, over varying time periods, this story follows the disappearance of numerous children, leading the reader to the slow realisation that something really isn’t right about Marcus.

From frenzied beginnings

I started writing Marcus exactly a year ago to the day. This book was a departure from my usual. My other books are fantasy stories but they’re all part of the same series centred around a boy called Jack Reusen.

These books are aimed at children from primary 3 (around 7 years old) and upwards. Aside from the fantasy and (some) locations, there’s only one real thing that ‘Marcus’ has in common with these books.

Every book I’ve written has been the result of a writers community called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Every November I disappear into my computer and craft a new story. NaNoWriMo pushes writers to complete 50,000 words in one month. So far I’ve never failed (which still surprises me) but I can’t pretend it’s easy keeping the pace to write that much in just thirty days.

In 2017 I decided to try my hand at something new. Not only was I going to write a darker, older, book. On top of that, I was going to use short punchy chapters to allow me to publish it as a serialised novel.

Tuning in each week

I can’t thank those who read my serialised version of Marcus enough. Knowing I had people ‘tuning in’ to catch the next installment each week kept me on my toes and forced me through the editing process (editing is something I’ve never enjoyed very much).

I felt supported in a way I haven’t before during the run-up to a book release. That’s why I felt so guilty when an oversight on my part led to a month delay on the publication of this book. To everyone who has asked about when the books would be here, I am so happy to finally be able to say ‘now’.

A wee party

I’ve sold my other books at Fun Junction in Crieff and Perth for years. They have given me a ridiculous amount of support and now to top it all they’ve volunteered both shops for book-launch events for ‘Marcus’.

I’m planning on hosting the first one in Crieff (it is the setting of the book after all). More than that; the bulk of my support has come from readers around Crieff so I want to make it easy for people to come along.

I’ll get some food and drinks on and we’ll make a night of it. If you would like to come along please let me know (Facebook message, Twitter, leave a comment below, or simply send up smoke signals, whatever works). I’ll do everything I can to keep you up to date on the details of the book launch.

Fun Junction Perth will be running a late night opening on Thursdays so I’ll also run a slightly different event through there as well.

It’s such a relief to finally have the books in my hands and I really hope you like the print edition (it has some changes from the web version). Please leave any comments or questions you like. I always like hearing from readers.

Once again, sorry for the delay, and thank you for bearing with me for so long,

All the best, John

P.S. Now I’m off to start another NaNoWriMo. I’m returning to familiar ground. Looking forward to getting back up to speed with a certain wee boy, a shape-shifting polar-bear girl, and an ‘owl man’ who always knows what to do. Wish me luck! 😉

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We apologise for the delay…

I am so sorry. Local press in both the Strathearn Herald/ Daily Record Online and in the Courier reported that the print editions of ‘Marcus’ would be available by now. I am sorry to say that some miscommunication between myself and the printing company has lead to an unexpected delay.

I’m pushing on as quickly as I can. The misunderstanding has been cleared up and we’re now making progress. I’ll keep readers posted going forward but I just wanted to take this chance to apologise for the longer wait.

You have all been brilliant at supporting ‘Marcus’ as it has progressed from the first serialised week until now. I hope the wait won’t be long, but I can’t help but realise how close we are getting to Halloween.

To make up for the slow progress I’m going to put together a special launch event once the book is ready (it’s not a bad time of year to be launching a book with ghouls and monsters). If you sign up to the ‘Marcus’ mailing list (by clicking this link) I’ll be able to send you an invite once the books are on their way.

Once again I am sorry for the delay, and thank you for your patience,

All the best, John

The Plague

I just wanted to add a quick wee note to say sorry for the delay on last week’s chapter of ‘Marcus’. I had everything set up last Saturday night but hadn’t sorted the formatting etc. yet. Unfortunately, since Sunday morning, I’ve been hit down with some horrible flu thing.

Seem to be back to normal now. I don’t have a full new chapter of the Ogres to share yet but I should have everything back to normal by next Sunday. In the mean time I hope you enjoy this week’s (or last weeks’?) instalment of ‘Marcus’. It’s a chapter I’m really happy with and I thoroughly enjoyed writing it, hope you enjoy it as much too.

As always, thanks for reading, All the best, John

The Ogres: Chapter 4: Miners

To find your way back to the very first chapter click this link

Machines

Huge machines rumbled past the tent and shuddered to a stop. People climbed out to look around, wandering off in all directions.

Mee and Bur-up could tell that something bad would happen if one of these people found them. The Alex and the Logan told them to go back to the cave and do what they could to hide the entrance. They also took most of the stones and metal with them. The boys hid the rest in their jacket pockets.

The people from the trucks were everywhere. The sun had only just come up and these people were busy rummaging through the forest. The family tidied away their tent and did their best to hide too.

The boys’ parents called people on mobile phones and discussed the value of the hill and how much gold they might need to buy it. The Logan and the Alex worried when their dad said “That much?!”

The family had no car to go to and they didn’t want to risk hiding in the cave. If any of these people saw them going into it then all of this would be for nothing.

More phone calls and the boys grew more and more bored. The Alex wandered off with his big brother and played in the forest. Only a few rounds of tig later a man turned up. He was very smart and was carrying a shiny leather case:

“Sorry boys but I’m in the process of buying this place. We’re doing some very dangerous work today. Lots of drilling and digging. I’m afraid you’re going to have to leave.”

Neither of the boys knew what to say. The smart man couldn’t buy a hill could he? They wandered back to their parents just as their mum was getting off the phone:

“What’s wrong boys? You look upset.”

The Logan looked back at the smart man:

“He says he’s buying the hill. You can’t buy an entire hill can you?”

Their mum laughed:

“Actually, I think we just did.”

The angry smart man

They looked back to the smart man with his briefcase. His phone went off. Moments after he answered it, his face turned purple:

“That’s not possible! Who else could have known?…Wait how much did they offer? That’s ridiculous. Keep the deal on hold. There’s no way someone has access to that much money that quickly.”

The man hung up his phone and stuffed it into his pocket. He turned to the quiet trucks behind him:

“OK guys we have to pack up for the day. Deal hit a snag, we’ll be back though. Just have to sort out a few things.”

The angry smart man walked past the family on his way back to his fancy car:

“Looks like you’ve got another day to play boys. We’ll be back tomorrow I think. Enjoy your day.”

He opened his car, got inside, and drove away at top speed. The boys looked at their parents:

“How did you do that?”

Their dad’s eyes widened:

“We promised a lot. Lets hope our new friends can help.”

It took longer than they expected for them to find the cave. When they did it was clear that Mee and Bur-Up were experts at hide and seek. A heap of bracken had been torn up in small patches all around the cave and then piled up in front of the opening. It was so expertly laced that it just looked like a mound of earth.

You would only know the cave was there if you saw people going into it. As the family slipped into the cave someone did see. Far away the smart man was sitting in his car with a pair of binoculars. (“So that’s where they found the sapphire.”)

He climbed out of his car and followed the family’s trail as quietly as he could.

Great big steps

The stairs were very steep. Too steep even for the adults. The boys had to jump from one step to the next and after about fifty their legs started to ache. Surely they would find Mee and Bur-Up soon?

Every now and then they called down the tunnel in front of them, their voices echoing away to nothing. Finally they all needed a rest. The tunnel was getting warmer and it was getting harder and harder to breathe.

Above them a man took off his long overcoat and scarf and sat on a step as well. He could have kept going but the sounds of the family climbing down had stopped. He didn’t want to bump into them, he just wanted to find out where the sapphires were.

Deep below them the echoing voices reached Mee and Bur-Up at the bottom of the stair. The sound couldn’t have come at a worse time. Their leader Biggin was furious to see two bigger-folk strolling down the stairs of Ey-Kan as though it was an ordinary walk in the caverns.

He was figuring out the right punishment when the sound of little-people echoed down to them. Not just little people but little-people who knew both Mee and Bur-Up by name.

Biggin lifted his hands in anger:

“What did you do?”

Mee and Bur-Up hadn’t even told him about the trucks and about being ‘interesting’ yet. When they did he looked like he might just bounce them all the way back up the stairs himself:

“So how do we stop being interesting?”

Mee smiled:

“Don’t worry the boys’ parents had a plan. Though we left before we found out what it was.”

Biggin looked at them as though they had lost their minds:

“What were you thinking?”

Mee was almost in tears:

“It’s hard to explain. When we’re up there it’s like our brains stop working properly. I think it’s the cold.”

Biggin shook his head:

“So all of this bother and the big ice is still there?”

Mee got excited at this bit:

“No, actually no, the ice is gone. The boys explained. It’s just something called ‘winter’. After a little time goes by they get something called ‘spring’ when the plants grow and the animals wake back up again.”

There was a small crowd of bigger-folk gathered to listen to the surface adventurers. A few of them liked the sound of this ‘spring’ thing. In fact even Biggin liked the idea of seeing somewhere new (though for now he couldn’t admit it).

Biggin pulled himself up straight, looking as big and leader-like as he could:

“Right, before we think about anything else we need to see what the little-people’s plan is to make us less interesting.”

Presents for little-people

A lot of the bigger-folk wanted to follow Mee and Bur-Up as they made their way back up the stairs. Some even grabbed gifts for the little people they might meet up there.

As they walked up, each step made them feel odd. Mee and Bur-Up were more used to it now but more than a few of the others had to stop for a rest every few steps.

Their heads got a little fuzzy too, and their arms and legs changed colour and got more wobbly and thumpy (like it was harder to control them).

The yells from the family above got louder and louder (more loud hu-mans) until they could see four little people perched on the edge of a step looking down at them. The Alex jumped up and waved his hands in the air:

“They’re back, they’re back, and they brought friends.”

Further up the steps the smart man listened with great interest.

Who were ‘they’? Where were they back from? and Who were their friends?

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As always, thank you for reading, All the best, John

Marcus: Chapter 3: 3:00AM

To go to chapter 1 and follow the story through, simply click on this link

James woke up, his throat dry, vague memories of nightmares drifting away. He grabbed a drink of water, perched on the end of his bed, and glanced at his alarm clock. A sickly green digital display blinked 3am.

What had broken his sleep? The whistling had permeated his dreams, the sound was still ringing in his ears. The cold water roused him further. The last traces of sleep vanished. The whistling was coming from the street outside.

It only lasted a few seconds more. By the time James was at his window the whistler was gone. From that point on he didn’t sleep a wink.

*

His eyes were red with tiredness when he arrived at school. Tash was the fist to notice:

“You look horrible! What happened to you?”

James filled her in on everything that had happened the night before. She tried to comfort him by explaining it all away. After all, it had all been muddled by his nightmares. There was no way to be sure about what he’d heard. Even as she comforted her friend, Tash’s throat grew dry and her heart raced.

Once they had shared the story with Taz and Nicky they were left with the difficult task of deciding what to do next.

Taz wanted to go on acting like nothing had happened. Nicky insisted that there must be a simple explanation and that the simplest way to get it was by talking to Marcus. James and Tash looked at them both, an expression of absolute disbelief plastered over their faces. James spoke first:

“I can’t believe what I’m hearing here. Ignore it or talk to Marcus? Those can’t be our only options.”

The others nodded in agreement. They needed more details about ‘their’ Marcus. Operation ‘ask Marcus weird questions and hope he doesn’t notice’ was scheduled for lunchtime. It happened sooner than that.

As they all lined up, ready to file into the school James found himself standing in front of Marcus. He felt guilty for snooping yet worried for his safety as well. When he turned back to take a look Marcus was smiling quietly, looking up at the pink sky and enjoying the tiny bit of autumn sun. (What was the phrase ‘pink sky in the morning…’?)

He didn’t look like a vampire, or a ghost for that matter. He wasn’t see-through and he wasn’t being fried by sunlight. Two of James’ suspicions almost completely evaporated. Perhaps the others were right. Maybe Marcus really was just an honest kid who simply resembled the boy in the photograph by some freak chance.

Marcus was at the front of the queue grinning at a story one of the girls was telling him. She went back to talking to her friend. With the grin still fixed on his face Marcus turned to face James and whistled a short, simple, easy-going tune. For James there was nothing easy-going about it.

*

When the bell went for playtime James gripped his chair. Tash and Taz, edging for the door, spotted his discomfort and forced their way back through the crowd. He could barely admit to himself how he was feeling. He faked a sore stomach and asked Mrs McClain if he could stay in.

He waited for the inevitable ‘no’ (teachers seemed to love saying ‘no’). She picked up a book from her desk and made her way to the door:

“I’m heading to the staff room just now. If you’re sure you’re not well you can come downstairs. Bring your homework jotter so you’ll have something to do. We can phone your parents if you still feel ill after break.”

Tash and Taz were led out of the room and sent off to the playground. Tash looked back at James in horror, mouthing “Are you nuts?!”

The murmur of the staff room turned into a swell of sound as Mrs McClain opened the door and led James in. It was quite possible that the teachers were louder than the pupils out in the playground.

James made himself comfortable at a table in the corner. He could barely make out any words but the smoosh of noises from teacher-chatter helped put his mind at ease. Then one word stood out:

“…Marcus has been very strange today. He’s normally so friendly and pleasant as well. I might have to get him to sit outside the classroom to work if he keeps disrupting the class like this. You wouldn’t believe what he said…”

James didn’t get to find out. One of the other teachers had put the kettle on, it drowned out everything else.

Did Marcus know about their research trip to the library the night before? Had he been watching them? Was he the one who whistled outside at 3am?

James concentrated on his maths homework, the clean simple numbers helped take his mind off everything. Before he knew it the bell was ringing and he was following Mrs McClain back up to the classroom.

Taz and Tash were two of the first ones in. They sat down at the table beside him and he told them what he’d overheard. Taz nodded with his eyes wide open:

“That’s about right. He was in a really weird mood today when we played football. Didn’t play fair, said some pretty nasty things. Then tackled Robbie really hard. He got sent to see Miss Bruce after that.”

None of them could remember a time when Marcus had been sent to the headmistress before. Taz and Tash seemed to be coming over to James’s side, though James had gone even deeper in his doubts about Marcus. Had he got sent to Miss Bruce’s office on purpose? Had he seen the picture on the wall?

The day dragged on. All three of them tried with all their might to get lost in school work. Thinking too much about Marcus left them all with headaches but nothing could take their minds off him for more than a few seconds.

When the bell went to go home they were the last in the class to leave. Taz didn’t even try to take the stairs two at a time as they made their way out to the front of the school. Tash was quiet. James couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen her quiet.

When they reached the front gate Nicky was waiting for them:

“What took you guys so long? I don’t think I’ve ever been the one waiting for you.”

They were about to explain their feelings about Marcus when he came strolling out of the front door. He didn’t head for the gate straight away. Instead he looked around, acting as though he had forgotten something. He turned to take the little lane to the right of the school that led up to the seniors playground but swung past them on his way:

“Hi Nicky, thanks for the wee chat. Hope it cleared some stuff up. Forgot my jacket. See you guys tomorrow.”

His smile looked practised but Nicky didn’t seem to notice. She waved and smiled.

Once Marcus was out of sight the others didn’t waste a second in turning to confront Nicky. What did she say? How much did she tell him? How much did he know?

Nicky had missed James’ story about the 3am whistle. She also hadn’t heard any of the stuff about the disappearing children. All the same she had still told Marcus about the photograph. He knew they were on to him, and that they were researching him.

Nicky frowned at them all:

“You’re getting it all mixed up. Marcus explained it all. The picture was his Grampa. He saw it himself in Mrs Bruce’s office at lunch time. They have the same name, that’s all.”

They couldn’t convince Nicky to see things any other way. She liked Marcus and had made up her mind that the others were getting caught up in spooky stories.

They skipped the library, choosing the comfort of home and their tea over more research. Nicky tried to comfort James before he left them to head into his house:

“Maybe you’re still in Halloween mode. It was weeks ago now. Just relax and let it go. It’s just a weird old photo.”

James gave her an awkward smile and went in.

*

James woke up in the middle of the night to more whistling. He pinched himself, splashed his face with water. This was no dream. The floorboards creaked as James made his way to the window. He felt the cold from the rattling window before he moved the curtain back. Down in the street, exactly where the whistling was coming from. Jack saw nothing.

The whistling stopped, replaced by a crunch, like footsteps through thick frost. The time flashed on his alarm clock: 03:00 am.

James returned to bed exhausted. He was drifting off when he heard the police sirens screaming past. The clock read 03:10 am.

*

Tash was white as a sheet the next morning at school and Nicky wasn’t there at all.

CLICK HERE TO READ ON TO CHAPTER 4

Marcus Chapter 2: No one there

To go to chapter 1 and follow the story through, simply click on this link

James’ whole class looked up as he walked into the room. His neck prickled, his ears grew hot. James slumped into his seat and concentrated on what he’d just seen in the office. Taz wouldn’t believe him:

“Look, you don’t have to try and make me laugh. What you said in the playground. I know you didn’t mean it.”

James’ face was too straight, too pale, for it to be a joke:

“I’m not joking. I wouldn’t make up some weird story just to try and cheer you up. I’m telling you. It is one hundred million percent a picture of Marcus.”

James knew that Taz would never believe him without seeing it for himself. It really did sound nuts:

“OK, OK, we’ll go to the library on the way home? It’s from an old newspaper, they’ve got them there. I remember looking at them when we were doing that project on the first world war.”

Taz had to admit, a stop off in the library to warm up on the way home didn’t sound too bad. He’d worry about James losing his mind after.

The afternoon moved along slowly and the sunset outside didn’t help much. They’d be walking home in darkness. The thought of it made the library even more appealing.

They had a pretty big group of friends but four of them lived near each other and most afternoons they walked home together. Tasha was waiting for them at the gates, frizzy hair shoved under a woolly hat. As usual Taz got to the gates about twice as quickly as James could:

“Hi Tasha. James wants to stop off in the library on the way home.”

She nodded. She did that a lot, it was her way of trying to look like she half-expected everything that happened. Tasha was experimenting with being ‘cool’:

“I told you to stop calling me ‘Tasha’. It’s Tash, just Tash! Anyway, yeah, the library sounds good. At least I can warm up a bit. Wish girls could wear trousers. Who thought up this uniform anyway?”

Conversations with Tasha were often three conversations in one. She’d sometimes lose track herself.

They waited for Tasha’s ‘little’ sister Nicola to come out. She was only a year younger than Tasha, and was also taller by a few inches. ‘Tash’ rolled her eyes theatrically (she was in the drama group so she knew all about theatrical eye rolls):

“Wee sisters are the worst! Why is her class always the last one out?”

Nicky didn’t take long. She came skipping out of the front doors with her standard cheesy grin:

“Hey guys, what’s happening?”

Taz was always trying to impress Nicky:

“Not much. Heading to the library on the way home. James thinks he’s discovered the Crieff Primary vampire.”

Taz winked at James. Clearly he wasn’t taking this investigation seriously at all. James shook his head and led the way.

*

They defrosted in the doorway of the library. The smell of old paper drifting from inside. Taz was grinning:

“It always smells like my attic; all dusty and old. I kind of like it.”

Tash was less impressed. She proclaimed her annoyance to the ceiling. Blaming the heat of the place on all the old people who ‘lived’ there. She pulled off her jacket and jumper and flung them next to a stack of beanbags the librarians called the ‘kids corner’.

Nicky’s mouth dropped open at her sister’s behaviour:

“Tasha keep your voice down! It’s nice and cosy here. You always make such a huge thing out of everything that happens to you.”

Tasha shrugged, grabbed a beanbag seat from the top of the pile, slumping onto it. She whispered as quietly as she could:

“Sorry ‘Mum’ I’ll keep my voice down.”

James laughed. It was the first time he had since lunch time. He left his friends looking in the ghost stories section and made his way to the librarian’s desk.

He had looked at the old newspapers with his teacher. He wasn’t so sure they would let some kids thumb their way through fifty year old papers.

The librarian was really helpful. She couldn’t let them see the original paper copies. However, she brought James over to a weird gadget that looked like a big plastic TV screen and got him something called a ‘microfilm’ of the newspaper.

It didn’t take her long to find the right roll of film. It was filled with hundreds of tiny photographs of every page of every Strathearn Herald printed in 1942. Finding the exact page James needed took a lot longer. She showed James how to twist the dial, moving slowly between pictures.

James was left to cycle through hundreds of pages until he reached November, then he slowed down and clicked through page by page.

There it was. James leapt up to get his friends. Taz got there first, he was surprised at the likeness:

“That is really weird. I wonder if it’s a relative or something. He looks so similar.”

That was it. They were all going to treat it as an odd coincidence. As if it were just a funny story to pass around the playground tomorrow. He was about to say something when Tasha jumped in:

“That’s more than ‘similar’ Taz. That boy looks identical to Marcus. I don’t even like looking at it. And did you see what it says in the article underneath.”

They all scanned through the article but the words jumped out as soon as James saw them:

…Crieff Primary Pupil Marcus Bauchan demonstrates proper use of the child-sized gas mask…

For a few seconds no one said anything. James wanted to stay and look for more pictures. His friends, on the other hand, had become remarkably interested in how soon their tea time was (they couldn’t have looked more scared).

James couldn’t blame them. Looking alike was one thing but sharing the same name was beyond odd. He needed to see what else was hiding in the newspapers.

His friends packed up their bags and got their jackets back on. As they said bye, Tasha insisted that James tell her everything in school the next morning.

For the next half-hour James gradually ran out of energy. He wouldn’t have anything to share with Tasha the next day. Then he found it; an article appearing years after the gas-mask photograph. There wasn’t even a picture. The title left a cold feeling in the pit of his stomach:

‘Missing Children Still Unaccounted For’

The article named five children. Four names that James didn’t recognise, and one that he did; ‘Marcus Bauchan’.

James searched ahead for some clue about the fate of the missing children but it was pretty clear they had never returned.

James needed to get home soon. His parents would be worried. On a whim he decided to wind the film back again. The gap between stories was exactly twenty-five years (give or take a few days).

James looked for microfilm of earlier issues and found one from 1917 (exactly twenty five years before the gas mask). In November he found it, more missing children. This time there were no names, apparently they had been with a travelling circus. Again they vanished without a trace but that was all the article had to say about it.

James stared at the screen in front of him, afraid to look round. How could Marcus be linked to all this? He was just a ten year old boy.

That was when the lights in the library went out.

James swallowed but his throat was so dry it felt like it stuck together. He forced himself to look round and found that he was completely alone. He couldn’t even see the librarian.

He got up on legs made of dough. They were numb from sitting in one place for so long but his whole body felt numb too. He leaned on the table giving his legs a chance to get the feeling back.

The library windows were lit by the street-lights outside and the odd passing car headlight. They gave him something to see by. He almost missed a shape in the corner of one of the windows; a blurred face with a look of terror plastered over it. It was on the outside. That meant whatever it was was two, maybe three, stories up.

Perhaps it was a leftover Halloween decoration. Then James saw it move, its black eyes fixed on James. The feeling rushed back to his legs but they wouldn’t do anything he told them to. He watched the face follow him, tried to tell himself it was just a distorted version of his own reflection then a hand landed on his shoulder.

He spun round to face whatever creature had come to take him. The librarian looked down at him:

“Sorry, I thought you left ages ago. Come along, I’ve locked up. I’ll need to let you out.”

James tried to hide his shaking as the librarian led him to the door and let him out into the street. The cold clawed at his cheeks as he made his way home. The whistling wind didn’t help either, it added that extra bit of dread to his current mood.

That got worse when he realised there was no wind. The air was so still the trees looked like statues. The sound he heard was actual whistling, and it was coming from behind him.

He turned his head back and forth, attempting to locate the origin of the sound. It was coming from across the road. But there was no one there. James was alone.

He pictured himself challenging the mysterious whistler. Then his memory lurched back to the black-eyed face in the library window.

James arrived home in moments, his legs aching from the fastest run he had ever done in his life.

 

*

Chapter 3 will be available next Sunday (24th/Christmas Eve) at 6pm. To be sure it gets to you you can sign up for the Marcus mailing list (please click this link for the sign-up form). Being part of the mailing list will also give you access to pdf printable copies of all the chapters so far (if you’d prefer to read screen-free).

Hope you enjoyed this week’s instalment. Please pop a comment in the comments section to let me know what you thought.

As always, thanks for reading, All the best, John

CLICK HERE TO READ ON TO CHAPTER 3

The Ogres: Chapter 2: Rolly Box

To read from the beginning click here

Every year the bigger folk talked about going back up and every year they decided to wait. It went on so long that they forgot about the idea. The cavern was home. It was warm. It was safe. But it was dull.

Mee and Bur-up were young by bigger folk standards, but they were old enough to know better. They considered themselves ‘brave adventurers’, everyone else considered them fools.

Either way they found themselves stomping their way up hundreds of stone steps on a fairly normal Thursday morning. Bur-Up got tired. The most exercise he got was lifting food to his mouth. He was good at that, Mee had to admit, but it didn’t really count as training for a walk that hadn’t been attempted since before their great granny was born (bigger folk live a long time).

No one is sure if Mee was the braver of the two or if he was just the most foolish but he decided to continue up. The walls grew colder than anything he had ever felt. He felt sure the ice must still be there above them. Surely thousands of years of snow must have left it miles thick by now?

Instead of ice he found a cave. It was different than the stories. Smaller, more damp, more mouldy, more occupied. That’s when he met the creature.

It was small, slightly hairy, and it looked as though someone had put some clothes on it as a joke. Mee wondered if it was a pet of some sort. The creature made a horrible screeching sound. Yes, definitely a pet or guard animal of some sort. So where was it’s owner?

Mee asked:

“Is you lost hairy beast. Where your bigger person gone?”

The creature stopped shrieking. The hairy little beast talked:

“My Mum and Dad are back at the car. What are you?”

Mee shook his head:

“I’m Mee.”

The tiny hairy beast laughed:

“No I’m me!”

“NO, I’m Mee!”

“No, I’m me!”

This went on for a while until Mee got a little upset and exclaimed ‘My name is Mee!”. The little hairy beast came over to him:

“I’m sorry. I thought you were playing a game. Hello Mee. I’m Alex. You look very different to me. Are you human?”

Me shook his head. He hadn’t heard the word ‘human’ before. Maybe that’s what the little hairy beast was. Mee tried to explain:

“Mee is one of the bigger folk. We live under the hill. We escaped the big ice. Is it gone now?”

The hairy ‘Alex’ didn’t know what he was talking about:

“It’s a bit frosty outside but I haven’t seen any ‘big ice’.”

He led the way to the cave’s mouth and that’s when Mee saw it; a huge ball of fire in the sky. He had heard about this in stories but he couldn’t remember the name for it. The ‘Alex’ called it ‘the sun’.

Mee told the ‘Alex’ about how Ey-Kan had made ‘the sun’ and thrown it into the sky with a machine. Outside the cave the cold air made everything blurry, the sounds were all soft and sort of wet.

When Mee spoke it was like there was cloth in his mouth:

“Two of the Alex. I’m not thinking good. All too slow. It’s really slowing out here.”

The Alex looked round. Mee was right, there were two of him now. Two humans anyway. His big brother’s face poked out from behind a tree; eyes wide, a silent scream struggling to escape his open mouth. The Alex waved:

“It’s OK Logan. He won’t hurt you.”

The Alex looked back to Mee:

“Did you say it’s snowing?”

Mee shook his head:

“No, slowing. My head not work so good out here. Need warm place.”

The two boys helped Mee find his way to their campfire. Their mum and dad had gone down to the car to get their picnic and the rest of their stuff. Logan had a backpack with him. In it were all the essentials for a weekend camping on a cold hillside; four packs of crisps and a big bag of marshmallows.

The bigger folk had nothing like this food. The squishy pink marshmallows were too good to say no to. Mee put twelve in his mouth then sat in the fire to get warm. The flames licked up his back and over his head. The heat melted the marshmallows in his mouth. It would seem that more melted means more delicious.

On Fire

The ‘hu-mans’ were being very noisy. It made it extremely hard to enjoy his mouthful of pink goop. It stuck his teeth together a little:

“What the matter? You both OK?”

The Alex squealed in shock and with laughter:

“You’re on fire! Isn’t it sore?”

Mee frowned slowly, enjoying the last of his marshmallows as they melted down his throat:

“Why would fire be sore? Not like it’s cutting me or bashing me!”

The hu-mans laughed but stepped back. The Logan tried to explain:

“It’s just, people aren’t normally fire-proof. Not many living things are.”

Mee shrugged:

“Hu? How strange. Can I have more mush mallow?”

The Logan slid the bag along the ground. Mee had grown so hot that his skin had changed colour; he was a deep, dark green now. If it wasn’t for the talking, and the moving, and the smiling, and the eating (and he was doing a lot of that now), the hu-mans might have thought he was cooking.

With a belly full of food and a freshly toasted butt Mee stood up and went for a wander in the forest. Cracking branches and knocking down the odd tree with a simple ‘oops’.

His next ‘oops’ came after he bumped into a big metal box. The box was perched on four squashy wheels. One bump was enough to send it rolling away from him.

The Alex caught up just in time to see the car rolling away down the road towards the town:

“Our car! What happened?”

Mee tried another ‘oops’ but the Alex seemed to need more than that:

“I bumped it.”

The Logan shook his head:

“Our stuff was in there. Our food was in there.”

Mee grew a lot more concerned about the runaway box:

“You mean more mush mallows?”

The Logan shrugged:

“Maybe.”

Mee ran after the ‘car’. It was far away, it had stopped, a wall had caught it. It was very broken. Mee went to look inside. He couldn’t find a lid so he just grabbed an end and pulled. It broke more. Since it was already broken Mee started pulling at all the sides looking for ‘mush-mallows’.

He found a smaller box inside, in it was lots of very cold stuff. Some of it could have been food, none of it was a bag of ‘mush mallows’. Mee wondered if they had fallen out, or if there was somewhere else he might find some.

Along the wall from the broken car Mee spotted a house. It was the first thing that looked right (though it was far too small). Mee knocked on the door and a hu-man answered. She was half his size, had steel coloured hair and her face looked strange, all stretched with eyes that didn’t blink. She was noisy too. She liked to say ‘arghhh’.

Mee looked down at the tiny person:

“Hello hu-man, I broke the car box and I need mush mallows. Where do mush mallows grow.”

The lady’s face stopped being all stretched and she seemed to have said enough ‘arghhh’ for now. Instead she became very quiet. Mee breathed slowly but it was still one…two…three, breaths before she spoke again:

“You can get food at the supermarket.”

Mee grinned a grin as big as the old lady’s whole head:

“Perfect. Where is the ‘Supermarket’?”

The tiny old person pointed into the town and told him it was at the very bottom of the hill. He gave her a quick “Thank you!” and went to get more ‘mush mallows’.

*

Thanks so much for reading. I really hope you enjoyed the story. Please let me know what you thought in the comments below.

I’ll have chapter three ready for you next week. Be sure to sign up to the e-mail list to receive chapters direct to your inbox (please click this link). You’ll also gain access to pdf printable versions of the stories (if you’d rather read without screens). I should also point out that the first eight chapters of the Bigger Folk will be available here on the website but later chapters will be released solely on the e-mail list.

As always thanks for reading, All the best, John

READ ON FOR CHAPTER 3: SHINY STONES vs SWEETS