“What do you mean you’re not going back?” said Cathy Parker, her eyes ablaze with fury.
Tony Parker shook his head, tutting from behind the Telegraph.
“Just like I said, Mum, I’m not going back. I don’t wanna do politics anymore. I don’t even know why I bothered in the first place.”
“You better be joking. It better be one of your stupid jokes.”
“Do I look like I’m joking?” said Caroline, eyeballing her Mum.
“Tony, say something,” pleaded Cath.
Tony sighed and folded up his paper, getting up from the arm chair. “Listen to your Mother, love,” he said.
“Is that it?” said Cathy. “For goodness sake. You’re incapable of doing anything.”
“It’s my own choice,” said Caroline.
“All we’ve ever done,” continued Cath, “is try and give you the best life you could possibly have.”
“And I’m grateful for that,” said Caroline, “but you’ve gotta let me make my own decisions. Pollitics just isn’t me.”
“Do you know how much hard work we put in to get you on that course?”
“And, like I said, I’m grateful for it, but why should I carry on doing something I have no interest in?”
“I think it’s more than that,” said Cath, pointing her finger towards the young girl. “You’ve never respected our wishes. Sneaking out of the house with that Danny at the age of 15, drunk at 16 and goodness knows what else at 16!”
“I’m old enough to do what I want,” laughed Caroline.
“I’m just glad you stopped seeing him. He’s a livewire.”
“And that’s not because you told me to stop seeing him,” said Caroline quickly. “I chose it because I didn’t want to lose a friend.”
“You’re just irresponsible.”
“Then why don’t you just kick me out!”
That night Caroline had walked out of the Parker household. She had gone to stay at her friend, Kate’s house. Caroline hadn’t bothered returning to college and as Christmas approached she had been given the job as a super market checkout girl at Hypersave.
Catherine Parker loaded up the last of Caroline’s belongings into a cardboard box. She held the final item - a pink dressing gown - in her hands for a good few minutes, and then, with tears in her eyes, placed it into the box, sealing it up with tape.
“Are you ready, love?” asked Tony.
“Are we doing the right thing?” asked Cath.
“She doesn’t want to know us,” said Tony. “We’ve gotta get the rest of this stuff loaded into the van.”
“But should we really be moving away? Aren’t we letting Thomas and Rebecca down?”
Tony shook his head. “She’s a big girl now. We’ve done all we can. We’ve gotta cut her free some time.”
Cath buried her head on Tony’s chest and cried. “I just wish we could have done more.”
Catherine and Tony Parker moved to the small village of Tillby, approximately 15 miles away from Thornsby. They took Caroline’s remaining possessions with them, but it would be a long, long time before her and the Parkers would speak again…
Danny pulled out the kitchen chair and slumped into it. He rubbed his eyes and then stared down at the soggy cornflakes sat in front of him, the milk looking sickly and warm.
“Get toast,” said his brother.
Adrian Lennon was much like his brother, except, whereas Danny had filled out and turned into a handsome man, Adrian was much more scrawny with untidy hair and a pair of wiry glasses. He was a few years younger than Danny and was still at college studying A-Level Maths. He was a bit of a dreamer, but had never really set his sights on anything. He kind of drifted from class to class, doing the lessons, but never really caring what he got out of it. He did it more to please his parents.
“What?” mumbled Danny.
“Get toast,” said Adrian again, stuffing half a slice of heavily buttered toast into his mouth.
“I can’t eat that brown stuff at this time in the morning,” grumble Danny, rubbing his head.
“Are you hungover?” asked Adrian.
“I had a bit to drink, yeah,” replied Danny, frowning. “What’s it to you?”
“And you’re about to spend a whole eight hours at work?”
“Advertising doesn’t wait, you know?”
“Good luck, you,” smiled Adrian, finishing off his toast. “Who’d you go drinking with?”
“Brian and the lads.”
“No Caroline last night?”
Danny groaned. “Why do you always ask that? You know I don’t see her half as much as I used to.”
“Shame,” said Adrian, “she was a nice lass.”
“She still is,” said Danny.
Adrian got up, grabbed his rucksack, and made his way out of the kitchen. “Then don’t let her go so easily.”
Adrian locked the door of his parents house and crossed over the road towards the park. It was still pretty early and the grass was covered in frost. He took the winding path through the park and past the pond.
All he could think about was making sure he hit his target score at college today. He was not a big fan of algebra, but he had been studying for weeks and weeks for this and he certainly wasn’t going to let algebra let him down.
“An Open Letter To NYC” by the Beastie Boys had just started on his Discman when it suddenly went dead. He frowned and pulled it out of his pocket. He cursed himself for not bringing any spare batteries. He took the batteries out and tossed them in the park bin, taking the earphones out and putting the whole lot into his bag.
He carried on his walk towards college. He checked his watch and realised he was running late so decided to cut across the grass and through a cluster of bushes.
As he made his way through the bushes he snagged his jacket on a twig. He turned to untangle himself and when he turned back, standing there before him was a very faint, very shadowy shape. He jumped and almost fell back into the bush he had just un-snagged himself from.
He wasn’t entirely sure, but the thing seemed to look as though it was wearing some kind of cloak. The more he looked at it, the more it began to fade into view. And Adrian was sure that he could see snow flakes coming from above it’s head.
It reached out a faint, shadowy arm towards him and Adrian could hear it speaking.
“Poor little Adrian…”
There was a gust of wind. All was silent. And Adrian was gone…
Underneath St. James’s church in the centre of Thornsby, banks of computer’s bleeped and a map of the town was shown on a large screen mounted on a stone wall. A dot was flashing in the area of the park and people were scrabbling around, checking readouts and trying to get an exact fix on the flashing dot.
Jayne entered the room, her hands on her hips. She was frowning and looking up at the flashing dot.
“Okay, okay, settle down everyone,” she said.
The room calmed noticeably.
“Margot, what’s happened?”
Margot crossed over to the woman. “We had another bleed-through.”
Jayne let out a big sigh, almost as if she was annoyed with the woman. “I gathered that.”
“In the People’s Park area. Just for a minute.”
Jayne crossed over to the map on the screen and folded her arms. “Do we need to send in a clean up crew?”
“Not this time,” said Ben, looking up from the his own computer screen. “It faded back.”
“Then what’s this?” said Jayne, tapping on a red indicator on the screen.
Margot looked a little shifty and then cleared her throat. “It took someone.”
Jayne closed her eyes and sighed.
“There wasn’t enough warning,” said Margot desperately.
Jayne didn’t respond.
“If there was any way-”
Jayne interrupted, her voice stern. “What is our job here? What do we do?”
Jayne looked at all of them, surveying the entire room. “We look for signs. We look for signals. Anything that can help us to prevent people being taken.”
“To be fair,” said Ben, “we haven’t had a disappearance in two years.”
“Then why did that change today?!” said Jayne, almost shouting.
Ben shrunk back into his seat.
“It is our fault that this is happening,” she continued, “and we will stay here until the day that we can fix what we’ve done. They will come through, using any means they like. We all remember 1998, don’t we? We didn’t even know about that until somebody else told us!”
She turned to leave and Margot grabbed her arm. “Jayne, we can send someone to look,” she said, almost a whisper.
“No,” said Jayne. “It’ll be too late now. But we need to be more careful, Margot. I feel there are worse days to come.”
Adrian opened his eyes. It was cold and he could see flakes of snow falling gently above his head. The sky was dark orange and twisted, blackened trees seemed to hang over him like hideous monsters closing in for the kill.
“What the hell…?” said Adrian, rubbing his head and sitting up.
“Poor little Adrian,” came a rasping, haunted voice.
Adrian quickly looked around. Standing there was the hooded figure, now much clearer than before. It’s hand was outstretched, as if almost pleading for Adrian to do something.
“Who are you?” asked Adrian, not really sure on how to deal with this situation let alone understand it.
“Please…” said the creature.
“Please what?” asked Adrian, edging back a little.
It had been a particularly mild month. Spring had come a little earlier than usual and people were already beginning to abandon their coats and jackets, eager for the nicer weather to arrive.
Caroline, however, was never one to be without a jacket. It wasn’t just to keep her warm, but also because she needed pockets. No matter where she was, she always seemed to have way too many things on her person.
She had come to London for the weekend. Danny had been down there for a couple of weeks and was attending a conference for Harpers Advertising when she had received the call. He needed to speak to her. He needed to speak to a friend. So she had gotten the train to King’s Cross and arranged to meet with him.
She made her way down the street until she reached the small, quaint little building that contained the Tivoli Tavern.
She pushed the door open and stepped inside. It was a very small pub with a bar running down one side, a snug and then a larger area with a few tables and chairs. On the ceiling were exposed wooden beams and the whole pub had an old-world feel to it.
Danny was sat in the corner sipping on a pint of lager. He smiled when Caroline entered and they both embraced. Caroline grabbed herself half a lager and sat down opposite Danny.
After a while of sitting in silence, Caroline broke the ice. “How you doing?”
“Not bad,” said Danny quietly.
“It’s been a while.”
Danny nodded. “Yeah, yeah, I know. I just haven’t felt like doing…well, anything really.”
“But it’s been over a year now, Caz,” said Danny.
“You don’t get over something that quickly though,” she said, putting her hand on his.
Danny looked as though he was trying to hold in his emotions, but his eyes had glazed over. “Mum and Dad have filed for a divorce.”
Caroline sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s all been too much for them. After he went…after Adrian disappeared they just got to such a point where they were arguing all the time.”
“Is there no way-?”
“No,” interrupted Danny. “They’ve said too much to each other. There’s no way back now. Even if Adrian reappeared, I don’t think it’d stop them breaking up.”
Caroline sighed. She knew Danny had moved out and was living alone in an apartment in the old Victoria flour mill, and she herself was about to move out of her one-bedroom flat. She had considered asking Danny if he’d mind sharing with her and was about to ask when there was a loud bang outside and the sound of breaking glass.
The two of them got up and ran outside. Across the road a large department store was on fire. People were running for cover and cars were skidding out of the way of the debris. A young, blonde girl ran across the road and skidded to a halt. She looked back at the burning building, pushed past Danny and Caroline and then ran away down the street.
The two of the them watched, silently, for what seemed like hours until the fire engines arrived. Danny still had hold of his pint and was sipping on it when a man came running past them. He had short, close-cropped hair, a green jumper, jeans and a leather jacket. He stopped and then turned to face Caroline and Danny.
“Can we help?” asked Caroline, unsure of the man staring at them.
“You haven’t seen a plastic arm go scuttling past have you?” he asked, his Northern accent thick.
Caroline frowned. “A plastic arm?” She couldn’t tell if the bloke was drunk or not. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Okay,” he said, looking slightly concerned. He then grinned widely at them. “Cheers anyway. See ya.”
And he disappeared down the road.
Caroline looked at Danny and they both shook their heads and then continued to watch the chaos. A few moments later Caroline thought she heard a wheezing and groaning sound coming from down the road. She looked but there was nothing there.
“Come to London and watch a building burn down,” said Danny, draining his pint.
“Yeah,” said Caroline, “nothing exciting ever happens in Thornsby.”
Next: Caroline meets a bloke called Steve. Coming Friday 25th October.