I’m coming at ya this evening courtesy of Cross Country Trains wifi, en route to Yeooooo-vil.
I had one of those word-pingy moments a couple of hours ago (if you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed it), and it got me thinking about my Granny Battle story again. There’s a bit of Granny Battle here – that bit happens later though. But not much later…
Anyway, back to the word.
It’s the sort of word that I thought might lend itself to a sort of beginningy-bit of the story, so I thought I’d give it a go.
So I did.
And so here, just for you, you lovely lovely reader you (doesn’t your hair look smashing tonight! I mean, just, wow, you’re lookin’ good!) is a raw, uncut, unedited, barely-tweaked, shot at the Very Beginning of The Granny Battle Story*:
When Ellis was four years old, he lost his dad. That was how his mum – and the majority of other grown-ups – put it nowadays anyway. And recently, just within the last few weeks or so, he’d noticed that he was putting it like that too. He thought maybe it was because he was growing up (he was ten now, after all), but wasn’t sure. Sometimes when he thought about it, he felt a bit weird. And sometimes, just after he’d thought about it, he’d jump a little – like he’d seen something flicker, right on the edges of his vision. Maybe that was another part of this growing up business too.
But he wasn’t sure.
* * *
Ellis and his mum lived on the outskirts of a small village that clustered around a small river that squeezed its way through a small valley that was surrounded by a rather disappointingly small wood. But it did have the benefit of a disused railway line running through it. And that meant a disused tunnel (strictly out of bounds of course), a disused, arched brick bridge over the road just up from his house (which was also strictly out of bounds), and a disused station which had been turned into a house (and was also strictly out of bounds). He spent a lot of time in and around the tunnel, and on and around the bridge (which was naturally the thing to do, seeing as they were both strictly out of bounds) but unfortunately he’d never been able to explore the old station due to the presence of a bonkers old woman who lived in the station-that-was-now-a-house. Personally he’d never seen her, but everyone said she was bonkers so he assumed it must be true.
In fact, he was walking along the old railway track now, in between the bridge and the station, flicking at weeds with a stick and taking care not to catch his feet in the brambles that snaked between the old sleepers and would wrap themselves round your ankles sending you flat on your face if you didn’t look where you were going.
His lost dad suddenly popped into his head, and a particularly cunning bramble looped itself around his ankle. He fell flat on his face.
…and thought ‘Crackleberries!’
He sat up and looked quickly around – partly to make sure no-one had seen him trip over, and partly because that weird flickery thing had happened again. There was no-one, and nothing around.
Standing up and dusting himself off, he looked at where he’d fallen. It had sounded like he’d landed on something crackly – which was probably why that stupid word had popped into his head – but all he could see was the usual tangle of brambles, weeds and grass. Something flickered at the edge of his vision again and turning quickly he found himself staring at a pair of unblinking orange eyes, surrounded by tufty looking orange fur that had definitely seen better days. Ellis used up one his best swear words and nearly fell over again as he took a step backwards in fright.
The cat didn’t move.
It didn’t even blink.
It just stared back at him.
It was sitting on a sort of stone ledge, more or less at eye level, and as he looked at it more closely he realised it was the edge of the old platform. Which meant he’d come further than he thought. Which meant…
He looked up a bit more and saw a battered old white fence, and behind that he saw the station-that-was-now-a-house. Where the bonkers old woman lived.
‘Oh-oh…’ he said to himself, and his eyes were drawn back to the cat, which didn’t appear to have moved a muscle and was still staring at him flatly.
He began to feel a bit uncomfortable, so he stared hard back at it and said that thing that everyone says to sudden, strange, starey cats. He said,
In fact he said it so loudly and explosively that he saw the cat’s whiskers bend slightly in the unexpected breeze of the word.
The cat blinked.
And a split second later it was a spikey, be-fanged, flat-eared, slit-eyed face of hiss, and Ellis did fall over backwards this time, especially when the jet of searing blue flame narrowly missed taking his left ear off.
There we go. Well that’s certainly something to work with…
And now I’m going to eat a rather large raspberry muffin.
*Yes, I know it’s a crap title. It’s not really the title. It’s just a thing to use before it has a proper title.
Update: Here’s the next chapter…
Chapter 2 – What happened next…