I’m honoured to be part of the blog-hop orchestrated by the wonderful Niamh Clune over at The Plum Tree to celebrate their Youth Tube initiative; to encourage early literacy and creativity in children. You can find out more about the project by following the links below…
So, how could I best express the set theme of ‘SELF AS CHILD?’
As a writer of Young Adult Fiction, I’m not sure where the inner child and the… ahem…adult end and begin to be honest. I thought the best way of sharing this was through my completed and edited thought processes via a short story.
I hope you enjoy my depicition of this theme for even though my body may be walking the streets of reality, my mind can usually be found escaping to places like Barngate and the fantasy and the adventure that they represent; returning to thy self as child, all too frequently…
I hope you enjoy this short journey with me.
THE WOODEN HEADS
He clicked on the hazy, purple image of the Mudman on his website. Daniel had really captured the true malevolence of the demon. Close up, he could still see the reflection of its last unfortunate victim in those massive red eyes. This image was in his top five demonic photos of all time, but he was waiting on news of a potential chart topping opportunity.
Sitting at the desk in his bedroom, he felt the chill of the November evening on his bare arms. He raised his hot chocolate to toast the Mudman and his body tingled as he slurped up the melted marshmallow skin from the side of the mug.
The posters of blown-up demon photographs on his bedroom walls blurred into a gruesome supernatural mesh as he spun around in his new leather swivel chair; a present from his absent father for his fourteenth birthday. His laptop beeped. He’d been messaged by Kai.
You’re not gonna believe this Daniel, they’re here in Barngate!
Daniel’s body twitched. His iPhone buzzed on the desk. Gooseflesh ran all over him like he was turning into a Gedi Sanniya; he shivered as he recalled his encounter with the Sri Lankan boil demon as he read the text. It was from Marla.
No way! Kai could have been winding him up, but not Marla. Never Marla. He quickly replied to their messages.
After all these years tracking them down, the Wooden Heads had come to him.
Following a polite knock, Marla appeared in the doorway of his bedroom. She was dressed from head to toe in black; a tight woolly jumper, jeans and a beret. Each time he saw her, his skin prickled like he’d just been electrocuted.
At the same time, his window shot open and Kai climbed through it in black jeans and a black jacket. His friends long black hair swept across his oriental features, but Daniel could tell he was smiling.
“Can you believe they’re right here in Barngate!” said Marla, as she threw Daniel his long black leather jacket as he tied up the laces on his Doc Martens.
“This is so…so…amazing! Demons hardly ever come here. I’m more nervous than the time we found that Kappa in the privet down the road. That was one scary tortoise,” said Kai, brushing his hair over his eyes.
“It’s true, Daniel! I’ve heard it from all my sources,” Marla confirmed with an excited soft hand clap.
He smiled and breathed out. “So, this is it!” he said, strapping his camera around his shoulder. “Well, what are we waiting for – you got a GPS position yet, Kai?”
“Numbskull should be sending it to my BlackBerry any minute…Remember when we got the location to that sea demon and my battery died,” he snorted.
“When we almost missed out on seeing that Nickar, you mean?” said Daniel, who wasn’t smiling.
“Yeah, sorry…that was unprofessional; it will never happen ag…”
“Of course it won’t, Kai…we believe you,” said Marla, smirking as she left Daniel’s bedroom. “Come on, let’s get going. My sources say they’re around the park off the industrial estate. Let’s head over there and wait for the exact coordinates.”
“Sound’s good,” said Daniel.
“If we actually see the Wooden Heads, how many will that be?” asked Kai.
Daniel shook his head and stared at his friend. “Don’t jinx it!” he said at the same time as Marla.
The swings at Helium Park rocked gently on the breeze, squeaking like giant mice. Kai cursed from under his hair, still waiting on the coordinates as Daniel scanned the area through his camera.
“Anything?” asked Marla.
Daniel shook his head. “Nothing, mate…Nothing at all…”
Marla laughed. “It’s funny how you found out you could see demons in that thing…” she nudged him. “Oh, go on, you know you want to!”
“I’ve told you this story a thousand times, Marla,” he smiled softly.
“I know. I just like to hear it.”
“Right, the abridged version…Once upon a time, on the day before that school project…differences in darkness…was due in, I was struggling for ideas as usual…” he grinned. “So, I decided to photograph next doors cat from my bedroom window and then take a close up of my black coat and call it Day Cat…Night Cat…”
“Because you’re a funny guy!” said Kai, clicking and pointing his fingers as he sat down on one of the swings.
“Yes I am,” he scowled, before cracking a smile. “So, when I saw next door’s cat in the garden, I took the shot…”
“I know this next bit,” said Marla. “When you looked at the digital image the cat appeared in the shot illuminated in a purple haze, but it wasn’t a cat!”
“It was in its true demonic form as an Egyptian goddess…boring,” interrupted Kai, still swinging.
“Boring! Without Daniel, no-one would know!” said Marla, shooting Kai a frown.
“Well, you’ve seen the photos of the Bastet on my website,” said Daniel, leaning against the climbing frame.
“Yeah, but being the first…What a buzz!”
“No wonder you’re addicted,” said Kai scuffing his trainers on the floor to stop the swing, as he held aloft his BlackBerry. “Hang on!”
Daniel and Marla turned to Kai.
“We got ‘em, they’re at the huge carpet warehouse on the industrial estate…let’s go!”
Daniel frowned at his friend. “I’m not addicted, Kai…alright! It’s just a hobby.”
“Yeah, I know, the demonic version of a twitcher right, but instead of rare birds, we go after rare demons. Admit it, guys, we’re all hooked…”
“Don’t listen to him, Daniel…” said Marla, stroking his hand as she moved past him.
Daniel shivered like he’d just seen the lord of flies, Beelzebub, himself, and sighed.
Kai showed them the BlackBerry screen and the bouncing red dot that their blue dot was closing in on.
“According to Numbskull, the Wooden Heads were in that warehouse over there,” said Kai.
Daniel checked the building through the lens. Everything was dark. There was no sign of the Wooden Heads.
“Is Numbskull sure?” asked Marla.
Kai tutted. “Never wrong!” he said, as they paced down the path towards the warehouse door. “He has this new Demon App. It’s brilliant! Got it through his old man… Government, nudge, nudge, wink, wink…”
Daniel stretched his fingers. Many had sketched images and written of close encounters, but no-one had any evidence that the Wooden Heads existed. He shivered as Kai pulled on the door handle.
“It’s already open!” Kai said.
Daniel heard him gulp.
Through the camera lens, everything inside the warehouse was murkier without the natural backlight of the moon and the stars. The smells of carpet stores he’d visited with his parents as a kid, flooded back and he was bombarded with memories of hide and seek with his dad, in a better time, before the affair.
“Can you see anything?” asked Marla as Daniel scanned the huge warehouse.
“Not yet, let’s try that way,” he said, pointing.
“This place is so creepy, guys, it reminds me of when we saw the Tora Bora Cave Demon in the subway,” said Kai.
“We’re pretty unlikely to see a giant bat in a carpet warehouse in Barngate, Kai!” said Marla.
“You say that, girl, but who would have thought we’d have Wooden Heads here?”
“Yeah, but we haven’t seen them yet,” said Marla, lowering her tone to a whisper. “Where’s the GPS locator now?”
“We’re right on top of it. This is where Numbskull said they’d be.”
“Did you hear that?” said Daniel, but nothing appeared in the camera lens. Echoing within a thousands rolls of carpet was a Toc Toc sound as though someone was knocking on a huge wooden door. Daniel could hear himself breathing as he tried to pinpoint the noise. It was close.
“Quick, behind here,” said Marla, dragging his arm, forcing him to lift his head away from the camera.
They settled in behind a huge contraption that held horizontal rolls of carpet; it looked like a smaller version of the Barngate Ferris Wheel. Toc Toc, came the sound again. Toc Toc, Toc Toc, Toc Toc, it echoed.
“Oh, my god, I am so bricking it!” said Marla, reaching out for Daniel’s hands in the darkness. His pulse was racing and he gripped back hard. The noise appeared to be coming from their right, but the aisle was empty. Toc Toc, Toc Toc, Toc Toc,
“I don’t like this one bit,” said Kai. “Where the hell are they?”
Marla swore as they clung to one another and she crushed Daniel’s fingers in her grip. Toc Toc, Toc, Toc, Toc Toc…
“Shush,” said Daniel. “I think it’s stopped…”
Behind him Kai stumbled against a roll of carpet propped up against the wall. A soft thump was followed by another and another as the vertical rolls fell like dominoes around the warehouse. Daniel closed his eyes and cringed, until the chain reaction stopped with a thump.
“Sorry!” said Kai.
Toc Toc, Toc, Toc, Toc Toc… It was louder than ever.
“They’re above us!” Daniel whispered, raising his head and lifting the camera to the ceiling in his trembling hands. The Wooden Heads were not coming down the aisle because they didn’t walk on the floor.
Above them the pack of Wooden Heads stared down like giant marionettes.
“It looks like Pinocchio’s being working out at Geppetto’s gym,” said Kai.
Daniel would have laughed had he not been terrified.
A solitary, black, emotionless line of a mouth spread across their huge varnished faces and a wooden nose stuck out like a jumbo sausage above it.
“Run!” Daniel shouted and they sped off down the aisle, towards the exit. Toc Toc, Toc Toc, Toc Toc echoed above them as Daniel watched the Wooden Heads striding across the ceiling; his heart felt like it was going to smash through his ribcage.
“Quick, come on, we can make it!” called Marla, but as they reached the door the three demons stomped down the wall and hung before them like giant praying mantis’.
“They defy gravity,” said Kai. “They’ve got more moves than Jackie Chan!”
Their huge arms and legs were like log flumes and their bodies were covered in bark-like clothes above the smoother wooden skin. The Wooden Heads stretched their necks out and bobbed from side to side, as if weighing up which of the humans they were going to eat first. Daniel shuffled forward but got caught in the glare of the dead black orbs that reminded him of the coal eyes on snowmen.
Be careful what you wish for! Mum had said to him when his dad had left them. She was right. His short life was about to end, just as he fulfilled his greatest desire…and so Daniel did the only thing he could.
His finger hovered over the silver button and he adjusted the zoom to get all three of the demons in the shot. As his finger twitched, the Wooden Heads shuffled together on the wall. Each of them placed an arm across the shoulder of the other, joining as one. As Daniel centred the digital image and pushed at the button, the single black lines on each wooden face curved into a smile…
Daniel released his finger and their smiles flat-lined. The Wooden Heads turned in perfect synchronicity and clomped back up the wall onto the ceiling. Daniel watched them through his camera as they disappeared into the shadows of the warehouse. Toc Toc, Toc Toc, Toc Toc…
Daniel swivelled around on his leather chair, a blank expression on his face as he watched Marla and Kai tapping away on their electronic devices, sharing their experience with the global, on-line, demonic community.
He stared at the new photo on his website and curved a smile just like the Wooden Heads. It was hard to believe that they had come to Barngate to have their photo taken by Daniel Hollander, but they had.