Chapter 1: Through the Portal
Something was wrong. Torvil Stone closed his locker and listened. Nothing. He shook his head. It felt as if his twin sister Azra was calling him, and yet…
“Everything all right?” One of the teachers paused in his brisk stride along the corridor.
“I… yes, fine.”
“Off you go outside, then.”
Torvil could feel Azra’s fear and anger like a pain in his head. He hurried towards the doors.
“And don’t run!”
He slowed to a fast walk until the teacher was out of sight, then broke into a run as he reached the playground. Where was she?
“Oh, great!” he muttered. Azra was standing with her back to the wall, hemmed in by five or six members of Jake Ryeston’s gang. Reluctantly, Torvil walked over to join her.
“Oh, look, here’s the other freak. Come to protect your sister, have you?” Jake sneered.
“Get lost, Ryeston!” Azra snapped, but Torvil could tell that she was afraid. He clenched his fists.
“Oh, help! He’s after us!” Garvey said sarcastically, as he trapped Torvil’s wrist effortlessly in his huge hand and twisted it behind Torvil’s back. Melanie snickered. Torvil felt tears of pain coming to his eyes.
“Aww, don’t cry. Poor little Weevil wants his mummy,” Melanie drawled. The others laughed.
“Shut up!” said Azra. “Let him go!”
“Self defence. He started on Garvey first,” Melanie put in.
“Okay, I’ll let the freak go,” Garvey said, slamming Torvil roughly against the brick wall as he released his grip.
“We are not freaks!” Azra said, angrily.
“What are you, then? Badgers?” Melanie asked scornfully, flicking the wide white streak in Azra’s dark brown hair, as natural as the one in Torvil’s own.
“Get lost!” shouted Azra. “Just leave us alone!”
“You want to be left alone, it’ll cost you, freaks,” said Jake, leaning forwards and crushing Torvil’s face with his hand. “I want your dinner money every day, or you’ll get more of the same.”
“We have sandwiches,” Torvil mumbled, trying to wrench his face from Jake’s grasp.
“That’s not my problem,” said Jake.
“You’ll just have to ask Mrs. Badger for money instead, then, won’t you?” said Melanie. She and Jake sauntered away, laughing. Garvey lumbered after them, and the others followed. The twins looked at each other.
“Are you all right?” Azra asked.
Torvil nodded. “We’ll have to pay him,” he said.
“No way!” said Azra.
“But they said…”
“You don’t get it, do you?” said Azra. “They don’t care about money. They just want you to crawl. If you give in, they’ll want something else – try and get you nicking stuff from shops or…”
“But if we don’t pay them…”
“No! I’m not giving anything to that lot. We’ve got to stand up to them.”
“Have you seen the size of Garvey? How can you stand up to that?”
“He’s not really that bad. He just does what Jake says.”
The bell rang for the end of lunch break.
“We’ll have to keep away from them,” Azra said, quickly. “Look – hang around until everyone’s gone home, then meet me outside the physics lab.”
“See you later. I’ve got to go.”
“Well, that worked all right,” said Azra, as they passed the library on the way home. “But we’ll have to try and keep away from them in school. That won’t be so easy.”
“We could join all the clubs,” Torvil said. “There’s something on every lunchtime – chess or computer club or whatever.”
“But what about… oh, not again!”
“What?” Torvil gazed vaguely in the direction Azra was looking.
“There, just coming round the corner. Jake the Snake and a few others. They must have been waiting for us.”
Torvil hitched his school bag higher on his shoulder and got ready to run.
“We’ll never make it,” said Azra. “They’re too close.”
Torvil thought desperately. “Back to the library?” he suggested. “They won’t try anything in there.”
“Go!” Azra started to run, keeping close to the wall. Torvil glanced back. They were coming. He ran as fast as he could, the heavy bag bumping painfully against his body.
Azra was holding open the glass door of the library. Torvil threw himself into the entrance hall and doubled over, panting and clutching his side.
“Look normal,” Azra hissed. The twins walked in past the desk, trying not to look as if they were in a hurry, and headed up the stairs to the Reference Section. Azra leaned over the rail and looked down
“Some of them are coming in!”
“Who?” Torvil asked, still breathless.
Azra looked again. “Garvey, Melanie and Jake. Quick, hide!” They rushed past the tall rows of bookshelves and found themselves near an archway.
“I didn’t know this was here,” Torvil said.
“Must be a new bit. Come on!” Azra pulled his arm. They reached the last row of shelves and looked around for an escape.
“There’s nowhere left to go,” said Torvil in despair.
“Here! There’s a gap behind the shelves,” said Azra. They squeezed carefully through the gap and discovered that there was a niche in the wall.
“What’s that?” said Azra. There was a huge panel of blue stone, engraved with gold lettering, set into the wall at the back of the niche. “Caxton Library Annexe. Opened 31st June 2000. Learn all you need, find all you seek,” she read aloud.
“There’s something weird about that,” said Torvil, thoughtfully.
“Ssh! They’re coming.”
Torvil pressed his back against the wall as the sneering voice of Jake Ryeston came nearer.
“Hey, freaks! I know you’re here.”
Torvil met his sister’s eyes. He touched the pale streak in his dark hair. He knew they were thinking the same thing. Did that really make them freaks?
“They can’t hide for ever.” That was Melanie.
Torvil held his breath. There was silence. Were they getting closer? Torvil glanced at the stone panel again. That was it! 31st June.
“I’ve got it,” he whispered. “Thirty days hath September, April, June and November.” He pointed to the panel. “There’s no such date.”
As his finger touched the golden letters, there was a flash of blue light and Torvil felt a sharp tingle like an electric shock run along the length of his arm.
“Aaah!” He leapt backwards, banging his shoulder on the back of the bookcase.
“You idiot,” Azra whispered fiercely. “They’re sure to… look at that!”
Torvil stared as the section of blue stone began to slide upwards, revealing a dark, square hole.
“They must be back here!” Jake’s voice was just the other side of the bookshelf. Torvil and Azra stared at each other in horror.
“We’ll have to hide in there,” Azra said.
“Get in! He’s coming.” Azra pushed Torvil into the hole, then clambered in herself and pulled the smooth panel down carefully, holding it slightly open. They listened.
Suddenly, Jake’s thick fingers appeared in the crack of light at the bottom of the hole and the panel was pushed roughly upwards.
“Going somewhere, freaks?” He punched Azra’s arm and pulled her bag out of the hole. He turned it upside down, and books and papers cascaded onto the floor.
“Where’s your money?”
Azra rubbed her arm, blinking away the tears coming to her eyes. “We haven’t got any. Why can’t you leave us alone?”
Jake climbed into the hole to grab Torvil’s bag.
“Look out!” said Azra, urgently. there was a swishing noise, ending in a loud click as the stone panel slid back into place. The darkness was total.
“Open it up!” Torvil begged.
There was a pause and then Azra said in a strange voice, “I can’t open it. It isn’t here.”
This is the first chapter of an untitled work in progress (fantasy fiction novel for older children)
Emily Lock is a freelance writer and blogger about the ups and downs of trying to evolve towards a better life.
Her Emily the Dodo blog is updated every week, with ideas to inspire you to make those changes, quizzes to help you decide what you want and planners so you can figure out how you’re going to get it, along with life hacks to make it easier. Come and join Emily on the journey to a happy life.