Monday, 6 October 2014

two : The Island of Fear

(from the terrified thoughts of Teresa Smith)

The huge, wooden doors creak open and I stand up as straight as I can manage. Don’t look scared. Don’t look frightened. Push back me shoulders and stick out me chin. I may be terrified but I’m not gonna to show them that.


And there is it. The crowd. And out there, beyond the crowd.

The wooden stage.

The place where Lady Eris told me, the Cat, Iakob and Iosef that we were all gonna be executed.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got a plan or anythin’ have you?” I whisper. The small, black cat near me feet just huffs.

“I shouldn’t think so,” he replies. “Plans are for wimps.”

I sigh.

“I were afraid you were goin’ to say that.”

The Knights, the Cat and me are all stood on the back of a horse-drawn cart. The driver’s some old fella, stooped and hunched over the reins and dressed in smelly rags. I know I shouldn’t be mean – but he is driving me to me execution so I think I can be forgiven a little bit of name-calling.

The driver cracks his whip and the two snorting horses break into a slow trot. We all jolt a little as the cart lurches forward.

We emerge out into the harsh, white sunlight and I try to raise me hand to cover me eyes – only, I can’t do it properly because of the ropes we’re all tied up with. Me and the Knights have got our hands tied together while the Cat’s got a rope round his neck attachin’ him to the cart itself. Despite everythin’, Iakob and Iosef are standin’ tall, motionless and defiant in their sky blue armour (though their helmets have been taken away). And even though the Cat’s just sittin’, starin’ out at all the people, he manages to look mean and rebellious. I try me best to do the same.

As we trundle forward, I squint against the cruel sunlight and see how big the crowd really is. Hundreds and hundreds of people – men, women and children – all turned out to watch. Thing is, they don’t look excited or happy or angry or expectant or anythin’. They just look… well, I can’t think of a better word than broken. Like they don’t want to be here – but they know they have to be here. They’ve been told to turn up and watch us die. And so they have, in their droves. They’re too scared to do anythin’ else.

Phobos certainly lives up to its reputation. Like all the islands, the sky’s black even in the middle of the day. But somehow, Phobos’ black sky seems even blacker, even more oppressive. Like a blanket dropped over everything, smotherin’ the life out of everyone under it. There’s that horrible feelin’ of rain just about to come – that fear when you know something terrible’s just round the corner, gettin’ ready to happen.

The buildings add to it, too. They’re all huge. Tall and wide. No cute, little houses. No interesting looking chalets. Just gigantic monoliths with tiny windows, all made out of awful, black stone.

There’s Yarnbulls everywhere, too. The giant, upright bull creatures walkin’ around carrying axes and swords and hammers. They’re starin’ at the people of Phobos all the time, just like in Waterwhistle. Unlike Waterwhistle, though, the people here can see the Yarnbulls. They don’t have to be tricked into bein’ afraid – their fear’s right in front of them, in plain sight.


I can’t hardly think about the place without me throat tightening up and tears threatenin’ to come to me eyes. My home… me and Arthur were goin’ to save it. I know we could have, too. We might only be a pair of silly children next to all these Knights and Weavers and talking cats – but we could have done it. I know we could have. There was nothin’ me and Arthur couldn’t do as long we stuck together…

That’s all over now, though.

Story’s done.

The crowd parts and lets us through. For a moment, I lock eyes with this little girl, a touch younger than me. She looks just as scared as the rest but for a second, I think I can see a glimmer of somethin’ else in her eyes. But then it’s gone and the crowd swallows her up again.

As we roll on through the people, as they stare at us with dull eyes, as we trundle slowly to the wooden stage at the front, I finally clap eyes on the woman that made all this wonderful magic happen. There she is now, standin’ up there, waitin’ for us, an evil, triumphant grin on her face. Yarnbulls and Royal Guardsmen stand on either side of her but it’s her what wields the real power.

Lady Eris.

And finally, we’re at the front. The cart stops.

“Out,” one of the soldiers grabs me arm and yanks me up onto the stage. They grab the Cat and the Knights, too. I’d like to see them be so brave if the ropes weren’t there. Iakob and Iosef would have ‘em all eating their own arms and legs, you just see if they wouldn’t.

Unfortunately, the ropes are there. So we don’t have no choice but to do what we’re told.

On the stage, there are four wooden posts in a row. They kind of remind me of the maypole that we put up back in Waterwhistle, every year. The girls of the village (not me, I refused) would dance round it to celebrate May Day. It’d be bright and joyful with loads of multi-coloured ribbons windin’ round each other in endless combinations.

Funny how these horrid, dull things could remind me of something so bright and happy.

The soldiers take the rope around me wrists and fasten it to one of the posts. They do the same to the other three. The Knights are tied by the wrists, same as me, while the Cat’s attached to the bottom of his post by his collar. It’s a very short rope, he can’t hardly move. But, still, he doesn’t seem the least bit worried. He just sits there, starin’ out at nothing in particular, like he’s tryin’ to decide what to have for dinner.

“Aren’t you worried?” I ask him.

He shrugged, “Worried? Why, Smithy, I never waste time being worried. Either everything will turn out alright in the end, or it won’t.”

“Well, everything’s gone wrong,” I say, more to myself than him. “It’s all about to collapse in on us and there’s no way out.”

“In my experience,” the Cat smirks, “that’s usually when the best stuff happens.”

A shadow falls over the Cat. We both look up. Lady Eris is standin’ in front of us, smilin’ that horrible smile of hers. The thing that makes it so nasty is that you don’t even get the feelin’ she’s all that pleased. She’s just behaving how she thinks she should behave. Really, she’s just like the people of Phobos. She’s doin’ what she’s told.

Unfortunately, that means she’s tyin’ us up to wooden poles and shootin’ us up into the Black to experience loneliness, starvation and death. So she doesn’t really get too much of my sympathy.

“So we have finally reached the end of our little tale, feline,” she says to the Cat. Then she turns to me. “You see where you end up when you defy me.”

“Yep,” says the Cat, “hoping someone would hurry up and shoot me into the Black just so I don’t have to listen to you yammering on anymore.”

“I’m so glad you have lost none of your legendary sense of humour, creature, even now, at the end,” she says. “Especially as your little band has been reduced by two. Any words for me to pass onto Captain Thrace, by the way?”

The Cat barely holds back a snarl, “Tell him, I hope he enjoys his blood money.”

“Oh, he is enjoying it immensely,” Lady Eris smiles. Then she looks at me – even though she’s still talking to the Cat. “And what of Arthur Ness? Oh, but I forget. He is gone from us forever.”

Me stomach tightens and me knees go weak. I try and gasp for air. I want Arthur here, with us, so badly. It feels wrong that we’re apart. But this witch woman’s right. He’s not coming back. Ever.
Lady Eris’ smile just widens.

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