A spooky tale which is being serialised, see the menu for all the earlier episodes)
It was the usual helter-skelter rush getting ready for school. Mum and Dad were still worried about Lulu because, unfortunately, she wasn’t showing signs of improvement. Dad was on the phone to get her a Doctor’s appointment as J slammed the door, in a hurry to get to Alex’s house. Alex was already on the path, waiting, so they set off at a brisk pace, talking as they walked. J described the pitiful small boy he dreamed of, the most recent victim of the hypnotic menace.
“Why do you dream about it though?” Alex questioned.
J shrugged. “No idea, I’ve been wondering that myself. I wake at almost 3 am too, it always happens at the same time.”
“We could Google that. We also need to watch Danny closely, get an idea of his movements and who he hangs around with. I have a free period before lunch, I’ll do some scouting then. Meet you in the canteen!” Shrugging his backpack further onto his shoulder, Alex hustled off to form.
J pushed through double doors, moving with the flow of pupils to their classrooms, keeping his eyes peeled for Katie or Laurie, filled with concern for their wellbeing. As morning lessons progressed, J’s mind continued to puzzle over what would motivate Danny to control the willpower of the young people he was hypnotising. Finding the answer to this might influence his next worrying question – how to stop him?
J’s last lesson before lunch was maths. As Laurie moved into his classroom J’s stomach lurched with shock and fear. Laurie looked so gaunt and emaciated, his skin was chalky and unhealthy and his movements were slow and shuffling, as if his body was too heavy for him to animate. His hair looked greasy and uncared for and his eyes were fixed on the floor as he moved to an empty desk. J felt very uneasy and anxious from his close proximity and he noticed other students casting similar, furtive looks at Laurie. Once the lesson began the difference was even more marked, as Laurie (once the star maths pupil, widely tipped as an Oxbridge candidate) did not participate at all, he just sat listlessly with his head hanging, like a moving toy with the batteries removed.
J was really troubled by this. It seemed as if Laurie’s life force or spark was gone. Could this be the root of Danny’s motivation? Perhaps stealing from young, vibrant children somehow added to his power. It was no more crazy than entertaining the idea that an actual vampire went to their school!
He needed to run the idea by Alex so that they could consider how this would help them tackle him and reverse his influence. He scraped his books into a pile, dumped them in a backpack and flowed with the rest of the students out of the classroom and towards the dining hall.
He didn’t know how Alex did it, but he was already at a table shovelling food into his mouth with enthusiasm. J slid into a seat opposite him and shared his latest revelation. Alex took it in his stride, years of watching the sci-fi channel and reading Marvel comics meant nothing much surprised him.
“What did you discover?” J asked as he forked up shepherds pie and chewed.
“Danny mostly hangs about with those 2 goth girls in year 13 … and the drama group are putting on a show at the end of term. There are a lot of rehearsals for that going on, meaning he stays after school several nights a week.”
J knew the girls Alex meant, they looked like something out of the Addams Family wearing their hair straight in an unnatural shade of black. Their chalk white faces with heavy eyeliner and their choice of clothes made them appear as if they were on their way to a rather dramatic funeral. He had a feeling they were both studying textiles, so were probably involved with the costumes for the show.
J wondered if they knew what Danny was capable of, and if so did they help him? Would he need to factor them in when he tackled Danny to make him release his hold over the children? He and Alex needed to divide the tasks to tackle this without delay. He decided he would visit the library for books on hypnotism or auto-suggestion. Alex would continue to scout around to learn more about Danny’s habits and timetable.
J headed off down the corridor and up the stairs to the library where he began to browse science books, tilting his head to one side to read the titles on their spines.He wasn’t seeing any material which related to his specific problem. He began to feel agitated, as if there was a timer in operation, the sand constantly leaking through the narrow gap between the upper chamber and the lower, with his sister’s life in the balance.
In desperation he pulled out a book called The Mask of Time by Joan Forman and flicked through it’s pages. His eyes were drawn to one passage:
When a human organism dies, the matter, the physical body, is seen to change and known to decay. But a human organism is also energy, electrical, gravitational, magnetic, and on physical death, it ceases to operate through the material structure with which it has been associated. If energy cannot be destroyed it must therefore remove elsewhere where it may continue to operate according to the laws governing it.
This seemed to support his theory of an ‘energy’ which could be taken from a person, but unfortunately it made him more afraid for the lives of Danny’s victims. He slammed the book shut and pushed it back into its slot on the crammed shelves.
[To be continued …]