The book in my pocket felt like a brick, more so because of the burn to my chest. It weighed me down with worry for what was to come, and although I’d guessed that Aishe hadn’t wanted Indie to see her giving it to me, the fact that she’d placed it in my hand so discretely had disturbed me.
The path we were on turned into a tangled, almost impassable route. Brambles and green shoots with thorns pulled at our clothes, tearing small holes in them and catching the skin underneath. Not much light found its way into this overgrown hell-hole either, the ground was damp and boggy and the shadows appeared thicker and more uninviting the further we went in. But we didn’t stop.
Aishe moved quickly for a woman of her age, her blood-red cloak flowing behind her, billowing like a sail.
I badly wanted to run the other way, to change direction and forget everything I’d been told, but it was too late for that. I was in it up to my neck and I had the mark of Aishe’s clan to prove it. All these secrets and talk of the dead, all the spells and riddles that rolled from Aishe’s mouth like spit… I didn’t get any of it and if I’m honest, I was more scared than I’d ever been.
Everyone had turned stony silent, staring blindly, downwards, so we didn’t trip - when the old woman suddenly ground to a halt. There was no warning, she just stopped and I slammed Indie forward as she slowly turned her cloaked face towards ours.
“I can see the bridge, but there’s something wrong. Wait here while I go and see.”
She stepped forward and grimaced while she shushed us.
“And do not follow me, no matter what you hear.”
She disappeared from sight and left the two of us standing in the dark, shivering as the cold blasted through our clothes.
“What do you thinks’ the matter, Indie?”
“I don’t know. I can’t think anymore I’m so cold, but Aishe’s better left alone, and we’d better do as she says.”
“I agree, but aren’t you worried? You don’t seem to be that worried!”
“Believe me; I’m just as worried as you are, Jay. I just know that we don’t have any choice in the matter. I have to do this. Besides, if anyone is going to stop those things coming here…it’s Aishe.”
Things. I didn’t like the sound of things. Indie had only skirted the edges of what she’d seen in these nightmares of hers, never once telling me the full story. If it, or they, were anything like what I’d seen back at the forest, when I’d shut my eyes and shoved my tail where the sun didn’t shine – well that was some heavy shit I’d rather forget. Now my mind worked over-time. I didn’t even believe in magic, yet here I was in a dark wood, holding a basket full of witch’s trinkets, concerned for my life and my sanity and my tail searching for another dark hole to hide in.
“Don’t you think it’s odd that you never told Aishe what happened back there in the woods? Or about your nightmares, and yet she seems to already know?”
“But why not? How does she know what’s really going on?”
“It’s one of her gifts, Jay, one of many. I can’t explain it properly in the time we have but a lot of the people I’ve grown up with, they carry an insight, a certain knowing of things. Do you know what I mean?”
“Sort of. You mean like psychic stuff? Seeing into the future and reading palms? I thought that was all just parlour trick crap?”
“Most people do. Aishe says those people are asleep, like sheep. That everyone has the ability to see but most choose not to. Most people assume that our kind just steal stuff and sell heather to con you out of your money. It’s all a lie. Maybe I should have been straight with you from the beginning.”
Indie was right, most people I’d met over the years did seem caught up in pointless existences, fuelled by money and all of them running around like headless chickens just to buy shit they didn’t need. But it still didn’t explain any of this.
“Bit late now eh, Indie?”
A loud noise stopped us both, making me turn sideways. It came crashing through the wood, followed by an explosion of water which parted the trees and scattered large, red bricks in all directions. I stood in front of Indie while I tried to see what was coming.
“Get back, you two, they’re here! RUN!”
Aishe appeared and ran like she was bat-shit crazy!
I grabbed Indie’s hand and pulled her off the path, deep between the ivy clad trunks of the trees, in hot pursuit of Aishe and hopefully out of sight. But not before I’d looked back and spotted the wall of fire that ran after us. A wall which had eyes.
All of Aishe’s usual devilment had gone as she ran ahead, she only looked back to call us closer.
“We have to get to the caves and go underground. Quicker you two…quicker! Unless you both want to die!”
Indie screamed as something hurtled past her head, barely missing her and landing at her feet. I pulled her level with me, putting an arm round her waist and jumping over the large branch which had almost blocked our escape.
High pitched shrieks called after us, the same horrifying sound that terrified animal’s make when they’re dying in agony. If I’d had any doubt about this being real, that doubt was now gone. Because whatever was chasing us stood twice as high as me and had no intention of letting us get away. They weren’t going to take just Indie either. Now, all three of us had a price on our heads.