I’d better start somewhere, so why not at the beginning. The name’s Garrett Flynn, at least, well, at least I think it is, I cant quite remember much after the accident, which I still cant get my head around, I mean, one minute I’m walking along the street on my way to school, Rizzle Kicks playing on iPod, mid afternoon sun on my face and thinking about the big fat juicy burger that I was planning on having for lunch from the King Kebab takeaway on Castle Street, and the next, well, the next, I’m on the floor in a deserted back street, stars twinkling in the night sky and staring up at this girl with purple streaks in her hair and a huge set of wings on her back.
No, really, I’m not making it up. I swear that I’m not kidding you. She had wings, big white wings, like those of angel, right there on her back.
I thought you said that you couldn’t remember anything?
She had wings! I’m not likely to forget something like that, am I!
Anyway, to say that I was freaked out would be a massive understatement. I remember swearing quite a lot, that I do remember, and then the panic set in, and then I may have briefly passed out again, but after that it really does go sketchy.
So what was the next thing you do remember clearly?
I was a room, a small room in a flat, lying on a single bed with a manky sheet pulled half way over me, and there was this smell like, I don’t know, like wet dog. There wasn’t much else in there, I think there might have been a cupboard but nothing, oh, wait, there was chair, yeah, a chair, and the girl with wings was sitting on it, that’s right, but I couldn’t see her wings, they must have been tucked away, and she was just staring at me.
Did she speak?
After a while, yeah, she seemed quite angry at first. Like I’d done something wrong, like I was in the way, that I’d caused her some kind of inconvenience, well, as it turned out I had, something about a demon that she was chasing, but, still, it wasn’t really my fault, was it? I mean, who’d have thought that slipping on a banana skin would cause so much trouble.
Slowly opening his eyes, the room coming into focus, a stale odour assaulting his nostrils, Garrett Flynn couldn’t help but notice the girl sat close by his side. And she didn’t look very happy.
Attempting to speak, Garrett was cut off by the girls raised hand.
‘You do realise that you’ve just ruined six months’ work?’ she said, tilting her head slightly to one side. ‘We may not get a better chance than that.’
Pulling himself up slightly, Garrett frowned. ‘I’m sorry, where am I?’
Leaning forward, elbows on her knees, her voice dropped to just above a whisper. ‘Six months of planning, six months, and then you go and drop out of the sky and spoil it all.’
Sitting up now, a wave of nausea washing over him before he was able to speak again. ‘Erm, I’m really sorry, but I don’t know what you are talking about. Where am…’
‘WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR?’ the girl stood, finger pointing directly at him, her voice now raised to a shout.
‘Working for? I don’t know what you mean, I haven’t finished school yet. I’m only twelve.’
With hands on her hips, she took a deep breath and narrowed her eyes. ‘Hmmp, only twelve, eh. Daglor is recruiting them younger than we thought.’
Turning her back, the girl walked away, pacing across the room to a large window that was so covered in dirt and grime that it almost totally obscured the outside world. It was a moment or two before she spoke again.
‘You will tell me all that you know, all about Daglor, where he is and what he is planning. You will tell me, otherwise,’ she turned slowly, her eyes burning with hatred, ‘I will make you wish that you had never been born.’
Garrett took a sharp breath, swinging his legs down from the bed and standing up.
‘What?! But I don’t know anything about this, I don’t know what you are talking about! I don’t know anyone called Dag… Dagman. I’m twelve years old and I really should be at school. I mean, I was on my way to school, and then the next minute I’m here, please…’
The girl stepped forward, a twisted grin spreading across her face. ‘Silhouette will be very happy, snagging one of Daglor’s henchmen. Very happy indeed.’
It was then that the wings appeared, large and white, stretching out on her back almost across the entire width of the room. And if that wasn’t spectacular enough, and it was indeed pretty spectacular, she then produced a fireball in her left hand.
‘Tell me what you know, boy. Otherwise you will burn.’
Backing up as far as he could, until he couldn’t back up any further, Garrett, pressed up against the wall and squeezed his eyes tightly shut.
‘Please, please, I don’t know what you want, I don’t know anything about anything, I really don’t…’
It was then that a telephone rang. The annoying chatter of the Crazy Frog.
A muffled curse and the girl answered. ‘Hello.’
Opening one eye, Garrett looked on as the girl spoke into her mobile phone, the other hand the fireball still burning.
‘Well, not exactly…its complicated…yes…a boy…yes, a boy…well, he says he doesn’t know anything, but…of course…no, I understand master.’
Replacing the mobile back into her pocket, she extinguished the fire and retracted her wings, before looking back to Garrett and sighing.
‘You’re lucky, I’ve been summoned.’
‘Is that good?’
The girl shrugged. ‘If you call the possibility of having your innards pulled out through your nose good.’
‘Well, I’m really sorry for any trouble I’ve caused but I’ll get going, I really do need to get to school.’
Turning for the door, Garrett was stopped in his tracks.
‘You’re not going anywhere, you’re coming with me.’
Did you not hear what I just said, innards, pulled out, through your nose? You don’t ignore the Master when he calls.’
‘Silence! God, you’re annoying. You’re coming with me, like it or not!’
Garrett sighed. ‘Will it take long?’
‘It’ll take as long as Master Silhouette sees fit.’
It was Garrett turn to sigh. He was going to be in so much trouble.
Down the stairwell, walls covered in graffiti, slippery underfoot, with what, Garrett didn’t even want to imagine, the girl led the way.
‘So, what’s your name then?’
Without turning, the slap of her big black boots reverberating around the narrow space.
‘You don’t need to know.’
‘But I can’t keep calling you, the girl, or the girl with purple hair or the girl with…’
‘Ok, ok, for goodness sake, it’s Sorrow. My name is Sorrow.’
‘Sorrow?’ said Garret.
She stopped and turned, glaring at him, her head tilted to one side. ‘Yeah, problem with that?’
Garrett held up his hands in defence. ‘No, no of course not, its, well, it’s a very nice name. I just…’
Taking a step back towards him. ‘You just what? Come on, spit it out, you don’t like my name, do you?’
‘No, no, it’s not that, it’s just that, I mean, you’re a good guy, right?’
Sorrow frowned, slunking down one hip. ‘Right. So?’
‘Well, it’s just that Sorrow sounds like a, a bit of a bad guy name?’
She raised an eyebrow. ‘What do you want me to be called, then, something like, Angel, or, or, I don’t know, Princess, or something like that?’
‘Listen, kid, its Sorrow, you got me, Sorrow. Now, can we change the subject?’
After everything that had happened over the previous hour or so, one moment walking to school without a care in the world, the next waking up in a dark alleyway, then ending up in a dirty little room and being threatened with all kinds of horror’s by a girl with purple hair, huge wings and fire in her hands, I wasn’t sure that things could get any weirder.
And did they?
You could say that. The first thing that I couldn’t help but notice was that it was dark. Like, middle of the night dark. The moon bright in the sky, stars twinkling.
What’s weird about that?
No, that wasn’t the weird part. The weird part was that the streets were busy, traffic everywhere, people in suits, important looking people, rushing here and there, kids getting on buses and dressed for school. It was like first thing in the morning…but at night.
As the bus bumbled along the Kings Road, Garrett couldn’t help but be transfixed by the goings on outside. After a good ten minutes or so, he couldn’t resist asking some questions.
‘What’s going on?’ he said, turning to Sorrow.
Lifting her gaze from her mobile phone, she looked at him with a note of irritation. ’What?’
‘What’s going on? Outside, I mean.’
Sorrow frowned. ‘What do you mean, what’s going on?’
Casting his eyes out of the window for a brief moment, just checking that he wasn’t going mad, he turned back to face her.
‘It’s night time. Shouldn’t everyone be at home? In bed?’
The frown stayed in place on her face. ‘Why would everyone be at home? Nothing would get done, would it…oh.’ She stopped, her eyes wide, staring. The realisation hitting her, she couldn’t believe that it hadn’t occurred to her before. ‘You, you’re…one of them.’
Pulling into a stop, two men dressed in smart suits climbed aboard, paid the driver and took their seats at the front, before both pulling out newspapers.
‘One of them?’ said Garrett.
Slipping her mobile phone back into her pocket, she turned in the seat to face him. ‘Blimey, I’ve never seen one before, I mean, I’ve heard of them, you, but, well…blimey. Master Silhouette was right, you do exist.’
Frowning now himself, he edged slightly away from her. This was all becoming far too bizarre, if it could possibly get any more bizarre than it already was.
‘Erm…I’m sorry, but what am I one of?’
‘A Slider, you’re a Slider.’
A gimp, a dweeb, a moron, a waste of space, a loser, he’d been called all manor of things in his time, but this was a new one, and he had no idea whether this was good or not.
‘Ok, and is that good?’ he said, prepared for the worst, prepared for being mocked for being another disappointment.
‘Seriously? You’re one of a kind, kid, like, people speak about people like you, but I don’t know anyone who has seen one, let alone talked to one, shared a bus with one.’
A bell rang and the bus came to a stop. ‘Oh, this is us.’ Jumping up from her seat, Sorrow made her way down the aisle and stepped off the bus and into the night air, Garrett as few paces behind.
‘What did you mean?’ he said, avoiding two women speaking loudly into their mobile phones and paying very little attention to where they were going, before falling into step beside Sorrow. ‘People like me?’
‘Yes, I got that part, but what is one? And how do you know that I’m one.’
Marching on, through the busy streets, the bleeping of horns and traffic noise and the hustle and bustle of people moving from here, there and everywhere, a light rain began to fall.
‘I just know, ok, or, at least, I’m pretty sure, anyway.’
‘So I might not be, one of these Slider things?’
Sorrow stopped dead in the middle of the pavement, a young man in a neat winter coat and listening to music on a pair of oversized headphones almost walking into her and falling flat on his face.
‘Listen, kid, all I know is that you fell out of the sky, and that’s the only reason that I can think of, ok.’
‘No more! I don’t have time to stand in the street and discuss it, you understand. Master Silhouette will be wondering where I am. And I quite fancy keeping my innards where they are.’
So, did you end up finding out what a Slider was?
Yes, eventually. I also found out why it was dark when it should be light, and a whole lot of other things that were equally as bizarre and mind boggling.
And you got to meet the Silhouette man?
Master Silhouette, I did, yes.
What was he like?
Well, he was, he was nothing like I expected, put it that way.
The tower block stood grey and imposing as it ascended like a lifeless beacon into the night sky. Across a plot of wasteland, past an old and rusting kids playground, two burnt out cars and skip overflowing with all kinds of rubbish, Sorrow lead the way until they reached the entrance. A stale odour lingering in the air.
Stopping, she turned to Garrett. ‘Promise me that you wont show me up. Just sit, be quiet and do as you’re told, ok?’
Looking around him, the wind blowing up litter around their feet, Garrett frowned. ‘Is this it?’
‘What do you mean, is this it?’
‘I just thought that we’d be going to a castle, or something. Not a dirty block of flats.’
Sorrow smiled. ‘It might just look like a dirty block of flats, kid, but…no, I think I’ll let you find out for yourself.’
With that she turned and proceeded to punch a code into the panel next to the door, a moment, a click and grind of cogs moving somewhere, and the door slowly opened.
Following her inside Garrett waited to be amazed. Along a narrow corridor, walls coated in grime and dirt, the same stale odour as outside tainting the air, they soon reached the end and stepped into a waiting lift.
With a rattle and a thud, the doors sliding closed, the cramp little box began its slow accent.
‘So, what’s Master Silhouette like? I mean, is he big and strong? and with a cape and, and a laser. Does he have powers? Can he do that fire thing like you can…?’
‘Oh, good lord, will you button it with the questions!’ Sorrow snapped. ‘You’ll find out in a few minutes. Blimey, its like the Spanish inquisition.’
‘The Spanish what?’ said Garrett. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘It doesn’t matter, ok, it doesn’t matter,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘Just, just be quiet.’
A moment more and the lift ground to a halt with a deep clang and a minor shudder.
As the doors slowly opened they stepped out and Sorrow once again led the way. This corridor was mildly less assaulting to the senses than the one downstairs. This time there was carpet and lighting, albeit dim, and the odd badly painted picture hung on the walls. The smell was still there, though.
Reaching the end of the corridor and the last door on the left, number 616, Sorrow stopped, knocked three times, paused, then twice, then a further three times. A short moment and footsteps were clearly audible on the other side, before the door creaked open on its hinges and a deep masculine voice was heard.
‘Ah, Anna, about time. Come on, inside.’
With a brief glance at Garrett before he could say anything, eyes narrow, her expression one of, ‘step out of line and I’ll beat you,’ she entered the room.
Garrett then heard voices, more than one, four? Maybe more, the hushed chatter too quiet for him to make out any words. He then peered around the corner and into the room, and got the shock of his life.
He was expecting a room full of grizzled and battle hardened warriors, pumped full of anger and dressed in suits of armour and wielding swords and other scary weapons. Maybe there’d be a dragon, he was really hoping for a dragon. Even just a small one.
What confronted him, however, was far from that. There were no soldiers or warriors. No suits of armour, weapons of destruction or a sense of threat.
In a room decorated with flowery wallpaper and ornate furniture, a huge grandfather clock off to one side and large fire place crackling and sparking, sitting around a small wooden table and each cradling a cup and saucer, were five pensioners.
Stepping further into the room Garrett was met by a collective gasp. The man to the right of the group, partially bald head, a thick bushy moustache and dressed in beige trousers and brown cardigan, spoke. Garrett soon realised that this was the voice he had heard form the corridor.
‘Who the devil is this? And why are you bringing strangers here? You know the rules.’ he said, his deep voice laced with a hint of anger as he exchanged glances between Garrett and Sorrow, who was stood by the window, arms folded.
‘This is the boy. He kind of,’ she paused, ‘fell out of the sky.’
‘What?’ said the man, slowly getting to his feet with a creak and a groan. ‘Explain. I’m hoping you have good news regarding Daglor’s whereabouts?’
‘That’s just it, he, well, he fell out of the sky just as I was about to interrogate the suspect.’
‘So, he escaped?’
Sorrow nodded then bowed her head. ‘I’m sorry, Master.’
Garrett gasped.’ You’re Master Silhouette?’
The man narrowed his eyes and then slowly nodded. ‘I am he, yes.’
‘But you’re, like, you’re really old.’
Master Silhouette raised an eyebrow. ‘Your point?’
‘Well, I just thought that you’d be, I don’t know, young, and, like, tough and, with a big sword,’ he paused, looking towards Sorrow who was frantically shaking her head. ‘Nothing, its nothing. Pleased to meet you, sir.’
A voice then spoke from the sofa, a lady, hair tied up on top of her head in a bun, her face wrinkled like an old piece of leather, lips a ruby red, long ear-rings sparkling as they caught the light. Her voice was posh, well educated. ‘You should have a little respect, my lad. Realise who you are talking too.’
Master Silhouette stood silent for a moment, his gaze fixed on nothing in particular, ignoring the comments. Then, slowly stepping forward, he stood in front of Garrett, hands behind his back.
‘Looks can be deceiving, boy. Now, I’m going to ask you straight, no messing, no beating about the bush. Are you working for Daglor?’
Garrett could feel the eyes of the room trained on him, boring into his flesh. He quickly glanced across at Sorrow who averted her gaze.
‘Erm, no, sorry, I really don’t know who Daglor is, or what any of this is all about. Sorrow did say that I might be a Slider, though.’
Master Silhouette’s eyes widened. Turning to face Sorrow, he spoke through clenched teeth. ‘What have I told you about giving up your Watcher name to strangers? Your name is Anna Parks, is that understood? And what’s all this talk of Sliders?’
Sorrow stayed quiet, her gaze wandering the floor.
‘Anna, I asked you a question.’
Sorrow sighed. ‘Like I said, he fell out of the sky, I mean, literally fell out of the sky, almost on top of me, like he had,’ she paused, shrugged her shoulders, ‘slid through the gap.’
Master Silhouette let out a long breath and rocked on his heels. ‘Slid through the gap you say?’
‘Hmmm, so it seems that they may well exist, the people from upstairs, the unwanted, falling into our world. Hundred’s of years of rumour and stories might just be true after all.’
‘Sorry,’ said Garrett. ‘But would someone mind explaining what this is all about? The people from upstairs?’
‘That’s right,’ said Master Silhouette. ‘The people from upstairs. Sometimes there are those people who have no purpose in the life that they have been given, so, fate see’s to it that they fall into a life where they will have something to live for. We’ve all heard the stories, countless times, but, no one has ever actually seen one,’ he stared at Garrett, ‘until today, it seems.’
Garrett smiled awkwardly and glanced around the room, every pair of eyes glued to him, every wrinkled face sporting a smile. All except for Sorrow, that is. She just stood by the window looking thoroughly disinterested in the whole thing.
‘So, what, I’m special, then?’ he said.
Master Silhouette stepped forward, placing his hands onto Garrett’s shoulders. ‘Boy, you might just be.’