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       Twelve Down: A Dozen Stories for Young Readers, p.1
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Twelve Down: A Dozen Stories for Young Readers
TWELVE DOWN

  A Collection of Short Stories for Young Readers

  By

  The Tunbridge Wells Writers

  COPYRIGHT NOTICE

  Published by Tunbridge Wells Writers Publications

  Copyright © (2015) for individual stories remains that of the named author.

  All rights reserved.

  While offered freely for personal use the stories in this collection should not be reproduced without the permission of the relevant author(s). All unauthorised commercial use is expressly prohibited. Links for the Tunbridge Wells Writers website, Facebook and Meet-Up pages can be found in the introduction to this book.

  CONTENTS

  Tunbridge Wells Writers: An Introduction

  A Brief Outline of the TWELVE DOWN Project

  THE STORIES

  It Began With an Ending – By Jeremy Kimmel.

  Jake and Jill – By Paul Bright.

  Turn Right – By Carolyn Gray.

  The Boy Who Cried “Alien” – By David Smith.

  The Girl Who Bought the Moon – By Philip Holden.

  The House on the Marsh – By Peppy Scott.

  A Day in the Life of Josh Slug – By Enrique Reilly.

  The Collector – By Joanna Pope.

  Still Here – By Katherine Loverage.

  The Secret Magicians – By Karen Tucker.

  Please Don’t Tell Anyone About This Story – By David Hensley.

  How to Make a Sand Witch – By David Smith.

  Further Reading from the Tunbridge Wells Writers.

  TUNBRIDGE WELLS WRITERS

  An Introduction

  Tunbridge Wells Writers is a small collective of aspiring writers living in and around the much-maligned town of Tunbridge Wells in Kent. We meet once a fortnight to discuss all aspects of writing, to offer mutual support and encouragement, to swap ideas and writing tips, and, on occasion, to work together on group projects like this one. Several of us, in the great writer tradition, also like to take the opportunity to down a few glasses of wine and/or beer, which is one of the reasons we meet in a local pub.

  Neither a fondness for alcohol nor residence in Tunbridge Wells are prerequisites for membership of the group, however, so if you, dear reader, have similar literary ambitions but prefer soft drinks or live elsewhere please feel free to join us either in the flesh or through our website or Facebook page which are found -

  Here: https://tunbridgewellswriters.org.uk/

  And on social media: https://www.facebook.com/groups/twellswriters/ and https://twitter.com/TWWriters

  We also promote the group through Meet-Up, where dates and times of upcoming meetings are always available,

  https://www.meetup.com/Tunbridge-Wells-Writers/

  A Brief Outline of the TWELVE DOWN Project

  Twelve Down is a collection of short stories for young readers written by members of The Tunbridge Wells Writers. All of the stories are written with "middle graders" in mind, with a reading age of between seven and twelve years.

  When it comes to reading, however, there are no hard and fast rules, and the difference between the reading habits of a seven year old and a twelve year old - or even two children of the same age - can be huge. In essence, then, we've aimed for a book that will appeal across a wide range of ages from TWELVE DOWN, some with the younger reader in mind and some more likely to appeal to those approaching the Young Adult end of the target audience. We hope Mums and Dads will enjoy the collection too, and Aunts and Uncles, Grannies and Granddads, older and younger siblings et al, come to that!

  It Began with an Ending

  By Jeremy Kimmel

  She ran as fast as she could. Which, to be fair, was pretty fast. Faster than most people ever had or ever would. Her Father had made sure of that. But even using everything He had taught her, Irina could not seem to make herself run fast enough. There were just so many of them. So Irina ran.

  It had been some time since there had been anyone shooting at her, but she could still hear the helicopters in the sky. They were looking for her. Deep down she knew this, because she knew she was the only one left. Something spoke to her inside her head, and it confirmed that she was alone. Truly alone, and in very deep trouble.

  The other thing she knew for certain was that she couldn’t keep running like this forever. Eventually she would get tired and have to stop, and if she waited until she was exhausted they would find her and that would be the end. Irina quickly ducked into a dark alley and hid behind a group of large bins. She took a moment and closed her eyes, trying to calm herself and catch her breath. Her Father’s voice echoed in her mind for a moment, reminding her to stay calm and let a path clear itself for her. The voice almost brought her to tears again. When she opened her eyes to wipe them dry she noticed the storm drain by her feet. Using her Father’s weapons and all her strength she lifted its cover and climbed inside. Irina pulled the cover back in place and crawled into the darkness a few feet, so she could not be seen. Once she was sure nobody would see her, she let herself relax a little. Now, the memories and the feelings came flooding back into her and she began to cry. Everything she had hoped for was gone.

  This was not the life Irina thought she was going to have.

  ***

  Irina was just ten years old when she was found. It was just a normal day at school, quite sunny actually. She had been looking forward to playing outside during the break and she knew they had a special visitor today, which usually meant a break from working. Her class was in the middle of a lesson about the Romans when there was a knock at the door and the head teacher came in with a very tall man. He had a friendly face, but he looked very serious. Irina was sure this was the “special visitor” they were going to have today. It was probably something to do with the Romans. She knew her brother had had a visitor from the museum bring Roman things to the classroom once and it sounded very cool. Only this man didn’t seem to have anything with him. All the grown-ups were whispering together and eventually Mrs Anderson said, ‘of course,’ and the man stood in front of the entire class by himself.

  ‘Hello everyone. My name is Jonathan.’

  In unison the class repeated the Hello Jonathan greeting they had been taught. The man smiled a little and bowed his head. When he moved, Irina caught a flash of something at his side, hidden by his long coat.

  ‘I have come to give you a test.’

  That didn’t make anybody in the class happy. Some even groaned. ‘I know, and I’m sorry for that. But I promise it is a short one. I need everybody to close their eyes.’

  Irina watched all her classmates close their eyes, and decided she had best do the same. She could hear somebody opening a window in the room and felt the warm breeze drift in. It made her think of playing outside again.

  ‘Very good. Now I need everybody to listen to my voice and take ten very deep breaths on my count. Ready?’ The man who called himself Jonathan began counting and everybody started breathing just like he had asked.

  Irina had thought this a very strange test. As she took her deep breaths she began to notice the room becoming cooler, then quite chilly. A small shiver went through her body, but she kept her eyes closed and did as she was told. She really wished somebody would close that window. Jonathan continued to count, he was up to seven now. It was actually getting quite cold. She could feel the bite of the cold breeze on her legs, even through her socks. She began to shiver openly. This Jonathan sure was counting slowly, she wasn’t sure he was doing this right. Irina tried to open her eyes to see what was going on, and found she could not move any part of her body. She was completely frozen! Still the room became colder, and now she b
egan to panic. It was all the fault of that window. Somebody had to close the window. Why wasn’t Jonathan saying ‘eight’ or ‘nine’ already? What was going on? Somebody needs to… The window slammed shut, and she heard the word ‘Ten.’ Irina could move again. She opened her eyes and found the man standing right in front of her.

  ‘What is your name, little one?’

  ‘Irina. But your name’s not Jonathan.’ Irina wasn’t sure how she knew that, but suddenly she did. Maybe it had been once, but not anymore. Something whispered to her that it was a lie. The man she did not know smiled and nodded. He turned back to Mrs Anderson and spoke in a voice that was different somehow.

  ‘Her.’

  That was the day she met her Father.

  ***

  Irina never felt cold anymore. It had only been a little more than a year since that day in her school, but she had come so far. Everybody said so. Her Father told her stories about when he was learning to Speak, all those years ago in the forests across the ocean. Even he had admitted she was learning very quickly. He had promised her that he would take her there someday when she was ready. Present her to the Ithaqua and she would get her very own tamahaac, discover her true name. But as she lay in the dirty wet sewer, clutching the tamahaac of her Father, she felt scared. Everything around her was dark, and the voices were only whispering about the past.

  ***

  ‘Be calm, little one.’ Silverwind’s voice was always so full of calm. It drove Irina mad. He knew this of course, which is why he was always so calm and round and round it went.

  ‘A Windwalker has to stay calm, focused. You cannot convince the Wind to obey you if you scream like a child. When your mind is clear, you will be too, then it will listen.’

  Irina had heard this before. Many times, but it still did not make it any easier. Some days she wished she had never forced that window closed. But instead she repeated as she was taught.

  ‘Yes, Father.’

  She closed her eyes and started again. She breathed exactly as Silverwind had shown her and focused. She felt the Wind brush against her face, teasing her. It knew what she was trying to do, and it mocked her. In her mind she could see it dancing circles around her, daring her to try to make it do anything. She knew it was impossible, but she wanted to punch it. Irina knew the Wind could feel her thoughts and it laughed at her. But she knew Silverwind could feel them too. And so she focused. The mocking laughter faded away and the dancing stopped. A stiff wind began to build at her back and when it felt like she would be thrown to the ground by it, she jumped. Her body was flung high into the air, and she grabbed at the branches of the nearest tree, catching the biggest one. The gust that took her faded and she began clinging to the tree with all her strength. Irina couldn’t help but laugh. ‘I did it! I did it Father, did you see?’ Silverwind was smiling his half-smile and applauding gently.

  ‘Now get down, if you can.’

  That calm voice again. Irina realised he did make a solid point. Up was easy.

  ‘Hadn’t thought of that bit, had you?’ Her Father’s voice was suddenly very close.

  She looked up and saw him casually sitting on the next branch up. ‘Windwalkers also think before they act. If they don’t, people die.’

  Irina tried to nod, and almost lost her grip. Her Father pulled one of his black tamahaac from his belt and thrust it deep into the branch she was clinging to, almost breaking it. ‘Do you know why we carry these?’

  She looked down at the ground and got a better grip on the branch.

  ‘Yes, Father. They are first weapon of our people.’ She was starting to run out of breath from holding herself up.

  ‘That is part of it,’ Silverwind had put on his teaching voice again, ‘but there is more. The tamahaac can be used with the hand, thrown and carried by the Wind. But it is more than this as well. When Windwalkers use their tamahaac, they must know the consequences of what it will do. They must see it, with their own eyes and own all that happens because of it.’

  Silverwind drew his other axe, the twin of its sister in the branch and looked at it. ‘Our powers are a gift, this is true. But the Old Ones do not bless without also cursing. Power makes people foolish. Act without thinking. Forget they are people too. The tamahaac is a symbol, a reminder of our humanity and what our powers can cost humanity.’

  With his final word he put the second axe through the branch and Irina fell.

  ***

  Her Father’s blades felt warm in her hands. Warm and wet. She knew it was more than water that made them feel this way. When They had come for Silverwind and her, she had seen the terrible price that was paid. The blades were slowly going from slippery to sticky. They were hers now. At least for the moment. When They found her they would not belong to anybody and the Ithaqua would be gone forever.

  Irina closed her eyes again. Her sewer hideout was starting to stink. She began to hear boots running across the pavement above, and the shouts of soldiers with dogs looking for her. She knew she could not hide forever, but even if she moved where would she go? There was nothing left. Nobody to run to. She was completely alone with no name and two blades she had not earned.

  The Wind was laughing at her again, showing her pictures of all the Windwalkers over the last thousand-years who had fought and won. It mocked her. It always mocked her. The final picture was the most mocking: her Father, Silverwind. Fighting bravely against Them. It would take someone a really long time to clean up the mess he had made. She started to giggle despite herself, and in that moment an arctic breeze ran across her face, forcing her to stop. The Wind halted its mocking dance and was still, waiting.

  Irina closed her eyes and took ten deep breaths, and on the tenth she made up her mind. Tightening her fists around her tamahaac, Irina, last of the Windwalkers, knew what she had to do. As she pulled herself out of hiding the Wind whispered in her ear again. Not mocking anymore. It simply called her, “Mother.”

  Jake and Jill

  By Paul Bright

  It was the last day of school for Jill and Jake.

  Jill had done well in her exams. She came top in reading, writing, and sums. Well done Jill!

  ‘It was nothing, really,’ said Jill.

  ‘Reading’s for cissies,’ said Jake, ‘and writing’s for wimps. And sums is for lily-livered landlubbers.’

  ‘Sums are for lily-livered landlubbers,’ corrected Jill.

  Jake had done well too. He came top in sword fighting, firing cannonballs, making people walk the plank, drinking grog, and saying ‘Ahaaa!’ in a cruel sort of way. Well done Jake!

  ‘Ahaaa!’ said Jake.

  And together they walked out of the gate of Cap’n Flint’s School for Pirates.

  ***

  ‘What are you going to do now?’ asked Jill.

  Jake looked around carefully, to make sure nobody was listening.

  ‘I’ve got a map,’ he whispered, ‘and a key.’ He held up a scroll of parchment and a large iron key, ancient and rusty. ‘Captain Bluebeard’s treasure map, and the key to his treasure chest! I’ll find the treasure and dig it up, and then I’ll be rich! Ahaaa!’

  He stared at the map for a long, long time.

  ‘I can’t read it,’ he said at last. ‘What does it say?’

  Jill took the map.

  ‘You had better follow me,’ she said.

  Jake whispered to his pirate crew: ‘We’ll follow all right. Then we’ll steal all of the treasure for ourselves! Ahaaa!’

  ***

  Jill’s pirate ship, The Golden Primrose, gleamed from bow to stern. Her crew loaded up with supplies for the journey. They took lots of fruit and vegetables and salad, 100 bars of chocolate, a large fruitcake, a big crate of camomile tea, and one small bottle of grog, for special occasions.

  Jake had borrowed his Grandpa’s old pirate ship, The Dirty Dog.

  ‘See you take care of her now,’ said Grandpa.

  Jake’s crew loaded up with supplies for the journey. They took
20 barrels of grog and 200 crates of sausages.

  ‘And here’s a small present,’ said Jake’s Grandpa. ‘My favourite plank.’ It was old and worn and faded from the sun. ‘You never know when a plank will come in handy.’

  ***

  The two pirate ships set sail. Jake’s Grandma waved him off, standing on the harbour wall holding her skull-and-crossbones handkerchief.

  ‘Don’t forget to write!’ she shouted.

  ‘I never learned to write,’ said Jake, ‘so how can I forget? Ahaaa!’

  But Jake did send a letter to his Grandma, every day. He put a large cross on a piece of paper, sealed it in a bottle and threw it overboard.

  ‘Pirate post,’ he said. ‘Never fails.’

  ‘But you can’t write,’ said Jill.

  ‘That’s all right,’ said Jake, ‘Grandma can’t read neither. Ahaaa!’

  ***

  At last they reached Bluebeard’s island.

  ‘Where’s the treasure?’ asked Jake.

  ‘It’s a long way,’ said Jill, looking at the map. ‘You’d better follow me.’

  Jake whispered to his pirate crew: ‘We’ll follow all right. Then we’ll steal all of the treasure for ourselves! Ahaaa!’

  They trekked through dense jungle, over high mountain passes, along winding valley paths. They crossed raging rivers and deep, deep ravines, on swaying, rickety bridges.

  At last they came to a clearing. Jill looked at the map.

  ‘This is the spot,’ she said.

  Jake and his pirate crew dug, and dug, and dug. Soon they had dug a hole as deep as a man.

  ‘No sign of treasure yet,’ cried Jake.

  Jill looked at the map carefully.

  ‘Deeper,’ she said.

  ‘Ahaaa!’ said Jake, and kept digging. Soon they had dug a hole as deep as two men.

  ‘Still no sign of treasure,’ cried Jake.

  Jill looked at the map again.

  ‘Deeper,’ she said.

  ‘Ahaaa!’ said Jake, and kept digging. Soon they had dug a hole as deep as three men.

  ‘How much deeper?’ said Jake.

  ‘That depends,’ said Jill. ‘Can you get out?’

  Jake stood on tiptoe. He stretched and reached, and tried to clamber out of the hole, but it was too deep.

  ‘No I can’t,’ he said.

 
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