“Kids were told to be scared of the bogey-man, when they should be afraid of the wolf in grandma’s clothes.”
Ida senses wolves from across the street, stinking like rotting garbage and fuelling her uncontrollable anger and ‘supposed’ vigilante behaviour. So when her Grandfather relocates them to her dead Mother’s childhood home, in a sleepy, rural village, Ida figures it can’t be worse than London. Nothing ever happened out in the sticks.
Turns out, she was wrong.
Plunged into a dark and mysterious world, Ida questions her sanity as she discovers that neither she, nor her Mother, are who she thought they were. But if she refuses to embrace her destiny and harness her anger, a deadly nemesis might just wipe out humanity from the face of the earth… and time is ticking.
Targeted Age Group:: 14+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
During a workshop I was teaching up on the High Moors of Dartmoor, which contains the largest concentration of Bronze Age remains in the UK, my imagination went on overdrive. What if there was an ancient civilisation that still existed from those times, hidden beneath the craggy Tors… and what if the sole reason for their existence was to protect humanity from a deadly nemesis…?
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
In a lot of contemporary fantasy, the protagonist often believes in the world without much fuss. I thought, surely if you started seeing things that don't make sense to todays world, surely you would think you were actually going crazy… hence, Ida was born.
Pervs loved to litter up the park, especially on hot, sticky days when the kids came out and their clothes came off. A flurry of bruised shins and scabbed-over knees. Thanks to the paddling pool, our local one attracted more than its fair share and were easy enough to spot. Usually they were just lecherous scumbags, but occasionally, like today, something darker stirred inside them. I could smell this one from across the park. An acrid, sour stench reminding me of when the council didn’t collect the bins for weeks during our last heatwave, but worse. Much worse. I crinkled my nose and swallowed back a retch. My unruly mop of black hair absorbed too much sun, making me hot and irritable, but when a ferocious heat erupted at the back of my neck, I knew the situation would escalate because it was coming. The anger. A furious energy shot across my shoulders and down each arm, the scars on my wrists throbbed and itched like crazy. I scratched at them and little clumps of dead skin amassed beneath my fingernails. Then the all-too-familiar bubbles stirred in the pit of my belly like a waking volcano.
Control yourself, Ida, I thought, keep it together.
I shifted position on the swing, my thighs sticking to the rubber seat, and craned my neck around to assess the situation. The man that stank had propped himself against a fence, ogling Kessie, a girl from the local estate who’d moved here from Nigeria. A few years younger than me, maybe twelve or so, and she often mooched around on her own. A pretty little thing, with large eyes and tightly braided hair. He stood there, opposite where she straddled one of those bouncy cars on a giant spring, her floral playsuit accentuating her gangly limbs. Nobody else had noticed him, parents too hot and bothered, busy guarding their own precious offspring to give a damn about anyone else’s. But, why would they? Average height and build, short brown hair, dressed in cropped trousers and tee-shirt, he resembled any other dad, apart from the synthetic smile ironed across his face. I knew though, I always did. Kids were told to be scared of the bogey-man, when who they should be afraid of is the wolf in grandma’s clothes.
“Hiya Kessie, good to see you,” he simpered, bubbling with charm. “Where’re all your friends?” He glanced across the playground. “Surely you’re not here all on your own again?”
I couldn’t make out her reply.
“I’m sure that’s not true! A beautiful young lady like yourself must be the most popular girl at school.” She giggled and peered coyly at the ground, twirling a braid around an index finger.
I systematically ground my teeth. Grooming. You couldn’t escape from it these days, always on the news about vulnerable kids being manipulated by some predator or other. It made me sick. He leant towards her and although I couldn’t hear their exchange, I could well imagine. Watching them from across the park, my anger accelerated… but I’d promised Tatty, no more temper explosions, school expulsions, or escorts home by the police. A pinky promise. I took a deep breath and reminded myself of Uncle Mo’s mantra: stay calm, stay focused. You control your emotions, they don’t control you.
But the rage grew at an alarming rate, becoming stronger and control slipped away. My arms shook, that familiar, violent force desperate to escape. I shuddered at what he might do to Kessie and the stink of wrongful desire oozing from his pores overwhelmed me. I almost gagged and turned away. My firm grip on the chains turned my knuckles white and my fingernails bit into my palms.
It’s not any of my business.
If not mine though, whose? The police? Ha! Fat chance. They were too busy botching up investigations and putting innocent men in prison. I concentrated on the ground, scuffing the toes of my trainers as I swung back and forth, the slow creak of the swing sounding louder than it should.
Just ignore it.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I began counting to ten, but by six I couldn’t handle it anymore and so I glanced back. My stomach dropped- Kessie had gone.
I jumped off the swing, shielding my eyes from the relentless midday sun and frantically scanned the park. The climbing frames and gnarled oak trees cast harsh shadows across the ground, the frenzied chatter of squawking children and barking parents an almost unbearable distraction. Racing to the fence he’d been at minutes before, I barged through the throng of young bodies that over-populated the park on an oxygen-deprived Saturday afternoon.
Then I spotted two silhouettes in the far distance, holding hands and headed towards the exit onto Downs Park Road.
“Kessie! Keeeesss-ieee!” I screeched, but my voice disappeared into the vast space and then it happened. Again. Plunged headfirst into a surreal world of slow motion, people around me morphed into human statues- similar to the ones peppering the Southbank- trapped in some kind of 3D photograph, yet I moved as normal. Swings suspended impossibly in the air and a young boy caught frozen mid-jump, legs curled beneath him and mouth wide open, as if he were catching flies. A soft luminance graced this world of mine, an ethereal vividness that made me think, actually, everything’s okay. My head clear and this second of clarity seeming infinite. Of course, I hadn’t told anyone about this newish development of weird slowed-down time episodes because they’d probably section me or something. They’d already presumed the scars on my wrists were self-inflicted. Idiots.
I sprinted towards them, driven by heat and anger and an all-consuming energy. The chaotic sounds of London became muffled, almost mute in contrast to my thudding, vibrating body. High on adrenalin I jerked with involuntary jolts as the accumulated force inside me peaked. As soon as I reached them I grabbed his shoulder, wrenched him around and drew back my arm. The anger propelled it forwards with such an amassed velocity that when my fist landed a punch on the left side of his face, he lifted clear off the ground in an almost graceful movement. An explosion of blood sprayed from his nose and ruby-red droplets hung delicately in the air. My body tingled all over and I had to admit, it fuelled my desire. I lunged at him, his blood spatter moistening my cheeks as I threw my arms around his neck in a snake-like throttle, a deep, slow pulse throbbing against my arm. I locked my legs firmly around his torso and we slowly crashed backwards onto the concrete path, a loud crunch popping in my cheekbone as he landed on top of me. I ignored the pain and squeezed him with every ounce of strength I had. This close, his utterly repugnant stink forced me to breathe through my mouth so I didn’t throw up.
We could have laid there for seconds, minutes or hours, because time somehow didn’t seem to exist. But when a figure loomed over me and forcibly pried my arms off the blue-faced stranger, I realised the world had returned to normal speed. The scars on my wrists bled too. Warm streams trickled down my arms and mixed with copious amounts of sweat, making salty, haemoglobin cocktails.
“On your feet, young lady!” a female voice commanded as she wrenched me off my victim.
I rolled onto my back and winced as I dabbed my cheek- a fleshy lump bulged through the skin, making me queasy. My fingers were damp with blood, either mine or his, which prompted me to quickly wipe them on my top. But it wasn’t only blood – some kind of sticky black residue stained my hands too, like pungent ink or something.
Yuck, what is that?
“Now!” The woman repeated.
I squinted through the midday sun and could clearly make out the unmistakable silhouette of a hat and sharp uniform. A cop.
I attempted to stand but my useless jelly-legs disagreed with my brain’s command. “I can’t…”
“On. Your. Feet!”
“Listen, you don’t understand, he was trying—”
“Ida Thorne,” snarled a man who stood next to the police officer, “what a coincidence. I’ll deal with this, Constable Jones.”
My jaw dropped as I recognised the tailored mac and weasel-like beady eyes peering down at me. My whole body prickled and another wave of fury flushed from my neck to my finger-tips.
Detective Inspector Grench.
What the hell is he doing here?
A smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth before he shook his head and tutted. “The apple never falls far from the tree, does it, Miss Thorne?”
I rolled my eyes and sighed. I wouldn’t be able to wheedle my way out of this, not with Grench anyway. He always managed to somehow entangle himself in my life.
“A pleasure, as always,” he continued, “shall we take a little ride?”
Oh crap, Tatty’s gonna kill me…
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