A hand fell on her shoulder, made her jump. She twisted, taut, peering into a shadowed face.
   She had one leg in the sash window, perched on the sill. Her stomach growled, loud in the tense silence. The traitor moon slid out from behind a cloud.
   She realised the boy was about her age, grinning. Her shoulders slumped.
   ‘You’re doing it the hard way.’  His voice was a light whisper, feathering her cheek.
   ‘I’m starving! They always lock the main house. It’s the only way, isn’t it?’
   ‘Not if you have this!’  He wiggled something that glinted in his fingers.
   Was he offering to share or just teasing? Nervous eyes flicking around the courtyard, Freya slid her other leg inside.
   ‘Well, I’m in now. Hungry?’
   'Always!’ Grinning, he followed her through into the gloom.
   The scent of fried onions, old stew clung to the dusty curtains. Trembling, Freya tiptoed across the worn oak floor, listening to the echoing whisper of his steps behind her. Her breath made white ghosts in the shafts of silver light. How did he dodge those creaking boards?
   The tall double doors squeaked as they slid through into the hall. The chill air brought the last hairs upright on her neck.
   The stairs, the stuffed bear, threw monstrous shadows around the room. As the wind shook the silver birch outside the mullioned window, the monsters grew, thrashed. Shuddering, she crept across to the kitchen door, pushed it gently.
   Another creak welcomed them into the warmth, the glow of the Aga, the yeasty aroma of rising bread. 
   The giant fridge awaited them, clicking, whirring.  The boy yanked it open, groaning his delight. Freya reached in with eager hands.
   The feast bloated Freya’s shrunken stomach.  She huddled by the Aga, watching him stuff another sausage roll. Where did he put it all?  He grinned, showing her a gross smile of half-chewed food.
   ‘Ew.’  She sat up. ‘What was that you showed me outside?’
  ‘My key to the world! Here, take a look.’  Swallowing, he fumbled it out of his pocket.  She snatched it out of the air, frowned into her palm.
   ‘So what’s so special about a bent paperclip?’
   ‘If you know how, it unlocks doors. Lots of them.’  They shared a conspiratorial grin.  ‘I’ll show you if you like. We orphans need an edge.’
   The smile slid off her face. Their eyes caught. It came again. Another footstep.
   She slid the paperclip into her pocket, scuttling into the darkness…

My Writing



  ‘Ow! Something bit me!’ Tom sucked his thumb, stamping his feet. ‘Did I get it?’
  ‘Get what?’ Standing, I peered at the moon-dappled leaf litter, saw a crawling tide hit my comfy log.
  ‘Look.’ Standing, I glanced at him. Eyes rolled up in his head, he shook. ‘Tom?’ Foam started to dribble off his lips. He slid to the ground, heels thumping. 'Tom!  I’m gonna go get help.’
   Dad rushed back with me. Tom was gone.
   Tom’s folk hadn’t seen him. The police weren’t interested.
   I was sent home to bed, like I was going to sleep.
   Groggy, I dressed and left, while the house still rang with snores.
   Tom was just emerging from the wood as I reached it.
   ‘Where have you been? Are you alright?’ Shivering, I stared into his strange new eyes.
   ‘I feel great.’ He grinned, stretched out his long arms. His hands looked longer somehow. More boys emerged behind him. Strange eyes, long hands.
   ‘Everyone was out looking for you.’ I croaked.
   ‘‘S all good. The world’s changing.’ He stepped aside as the army of boys loped away. ‘See?’ He waved an arm. Every living surface seethed. Metallic bugs swarmed around his feet, spreading toward me. ‘Come join the revolution.’
    I ran.
   Returning, I used a jam jar, wearing Dad’s thickest gloves so they couldn’t bite me. The tide filled the street now. Time was against me. 
   Home, I tried everything. I couldn’t kill these tiny machines.
   Despairing, tired, I splashed my drink. They rusted and curled, dead.
   I smiled.
   Coke, saviour of the world.