It was a crispy evening. As the sun dipped into the west, the cold wind blustered around the empty streets of Sunderland City Centre. All was silent, yet in all directions bellowed the echoes of times gone by and better days. It was a tired town, one which bore many scars. Amidst the empty buildings, a warm ray of light nonetheless flickered into the streets from a fabulous baroque building of a novelty design, tall with a rounded tower. As one grew closer to the structure it became warmer, and nosier. Above the inviting scenes of the well polished windows sat a study black sign with words painted gold: “The Dun Cow”. It stood alone and proud, a token of a proud past but a troubled present.
Inside, men and women talked and laughed away at the ills of life, washing away their sorrows and finding solace in each other from the emptiness of the world. There was a stiff smell of warm beer in beer in the air, yet it offered comfort, assurance and familiarity. Behind the well polished ordinate bar, so classically decorated, stood a young woman and to say the last, significantly younger than those she was serving. She had fine blonde hair, tied back in a bun and blue eyes that resonated like jewels in the light. Her face was spotless, youthful and innocent, but nonetheless heavy with dissatisfaction and an innate sadness.
“Sophie! Get those glasses cleaned!” Snapped a male voice from the background. Sophie signed, and moved hectically to catch up with the factory load, a routine which served better than most gyms, dashing back and forth frantically. “Ha’way don’t give up, we’ll be closing soon anyway as business is still quiet!” He urged. She muttered under her breath. “Ow love, can get me another pint?” An older rounded male butted in, seemingly unphased by her spree of activity. “Yes sure, hold on a second” she replied attempting to put on the nicest possible face and voice, straining hard to hide her true feelings.
“Ya alright sophie? Not long left.” Said another male voice, confident and cheery, but not overbearing. As she filed up another round of pints, the man came to assist. He was tall, had short brown hair, and a thin beard around his face. “I’ll take yer home soon, okay?” He assured. “Another day, another shitshow over ey? One day we’ll get out of here” he laughed. “What yer going to do Micky fire to me Mars?” She replied with a underscore of cynicism “Because that’s the only way I’d ever be going anywhere big in life man. It’s like Mr. Burns put that picture ower me saying Don’t forget You’re Here Forever”- She smirked as she continued to franatically serve customers “That will be £3.50 mate”- she said to the man.
“Full of banter you like, a Comedian is a good place to start”- The man, Micky hit back. “Aye, me life is the frigging comedy”- Said Sophie. She looked at the clock robotically and smiled, “thank god for that, it’s 9pm let’s clean up and get outta here, back to me hole”- in a blend relief and despair “God knows what he’s been doing tonight like the old tosser. The virus had people working at home, never thought that could happen with a pub but me dad somehow managed it.” She groaned. “Nee good that like, but chin up.” Micky urged. “Anyway let’s get this sorted out”.
After having cleaned up and shovelled out the sticking customers, the two excited the building and stepped into the cold night, proceeding towards a small but unremarkable car. “Alright then, you live in Thorney don’t yer?” Micky asked. “Aye, you remember the place, right Tilbury.” She replied, now physically tired. “It’s like ganning to Mordor up there.” He joked. “You can talk you live in Hendon you cheeky sod”- feigning anger. “That’s Ashbrooke to you miss, anyway let’s go.” The car proceeded to cut its way into the night, lighting up empty roads as it proceeded through the city. “I just wish I could get out of this place you know, but there’s no way”- She sighed.
“Well the thing is I love Sunderland. It’s who I am. It’s not great, but it’s home and always will be, nowt for me trying to live down in London.”- Micky replied calmly. “But there’s nothing left to fight for.” Sophie replied in a negative tone. “Shipyards, the mines, it’s all gone, and it’s plagued with loafers like me dad who can’t see a future, or awful little shits who want to smash everything up. Lost souls. I just dream of these fairytale stories where I end up in New York City and meet a prince or something like that, did you see that Christmas movie on Netflix?”
“I’m not into that soppy bollocks man.” “Well I messed up at school, so I’m hoping for a miracle”. She replied. The car fell silent and the conversation ended abruptly. Sophie started staring out of the window aimlessly, reflecting on her life. Then suddenly, she jumped back in shock. “What is it?”- Micky asked sternly not wanting to be distracted from driving. “What’s wrong?” He asked. “Did you see that?”- She asked in a nervous voice. “It’s dark, but it looked like a really feral man dashing across the road…” Micky made immediately made light of the situation. “Well that’s nowt out of the ordinary isn’t it?” He laughed. “Some weird characters around here, but aye it’s home”. “So anyway, when are you going to probably hang out with me?” he asked in a more flirtatious tone.
“When I sort me life out, which is never” She replied cynically cutting him down. “Anyway it’s this house on the right remember?” Pointing into the distance. The car stopped as it approached a row of neatly aligned semi detached houses dotted a sloping hill. “I’ll see you on the amazing saturday night shift”- She groaned, getting out of the car. “Okay then Sophie, catch you later and take care. Good luck!”- And he drove off. Sophie gulped. She started forwards at a creamy white door, sitting down beneath a step in front of her. Frozen, she gritted her teeth and cautiously proceeded towards, gripping the handle nervously and slowly. She paused for several more seconds and after taking a deep breath, pushed the handle down and slowly creeped inwards. Her heart was pounding.
Walking into the dark passage, she was greeted with a waft of stale beer. The once white wallpaper was tainted with a yellow stain and was curling at the edges. The carpet was worn and battered. In the accompanying room there was a faint light looming and a benign noise of voices. She walked towards it with unease, peering round an open door. Before her, an older man sat lying stretched out on a sofa, void of reaction seemingly oblivious to her presence with deep blue, yet empty eyes. His face was worn and tired, bearing a look of many more years than it had lived. His hair was thin, tatty and graying, with spiky uneven stubble around his cheeks and chin. He was dressed in comfortable, yet simple and unfashionable clothes worn with age, a tattered red polo short and long drooping black sweat pants. Beneath him sat an array of empty cans of beer and assorted takeaway foil containers.
“I’m home…” Sophie said with a slightly annoyed, sarcastic voice, piercing through the awkward tension between them. “Aye.. welcome home then…” the man grunted, tired and disinterested. Sophie was unmoved, and anger pulsed through her veins. “Looks like you’ve been up to plenty today then, you still haven’t cleaned that shit up.” She remarked with sarcasm, peering around the room with exaggeration. “Just the usual. Yer know that by now” The man moaned. “The finger pointin’ has started early tonight then. I’ve told yer, don’t bring your work problems home.”- Raising a rise with a particle of energy he could find. “Don’t bring them home? What’s the difference I’m running after old pissheads like you either way!”- She snarled. “Ere!”- He shouted, jerking upwards suddenly. “Yer should have thought about that all when you messed around and didn’t stick in at school. Yer only have yerself to pet. Now sod off I’m watching telly.”
Sophie’s eyes filled with poison. “Well is it any wonder with an example like you? Even with your passion for drink ya still couldn’t organize a piss up in a brewery. I’m slaving away to keep a roof over owa heads and you can’t even be arsed to say hello to me when I walk through the door. “Alreet then!” He shouted “You know where the door is!”. “I’d like to see you try and stand on your own two feet. What would mam think if she saw you now? Goodnight arsehole!”- Before he could say another word, she slammed the door harshly and stormed back outside. Her father was unfazed. Moving quickly down the street, she whipped up a phone from her pocket which emitted a white luminous light. She looked at it whilst pacing along, a tear dropping from her eye and onto her cheek. Her thumbs moved magically as she began tapping away:
“Are you there? He’s at it again. I hate him x”- She wrote, sending away a message.
“I’m here. Are you okay hun? x”- Words on the screen bounded back quickly. Sophie’s face lit up slightly as she seen it.
“Just the usual. We argued after work. Can’t stand the sight of him, out for a late night walk now x”
“Where are you going? Be careful x”- The text urged back
“Just to the Barnes extension x”- Sophie typed
“It’s 10pm! Get back home there’s so many dodgy people round there x”- The person urged
“I can’t get him out of me head, I need to walk it out of my system I’ll be okay”- Sophie typed on
“Okay do you want to meet tomorrow? We can talk about it then x”- The person replied
“Aw millie you’re a star. Thanks babe x”- She wrote with relief, a smile creaking onto her face.
At the conversation ended Sophie slipped her phone away and finally looked ahead of herself. She walked into a large open green space in the urban expanse, of which a small stream carved its way through adjacent to some footpaths. The area appeared as if as it were a park without purpose, empty, unfriendly and unappetizing. There were no flowers and merely a few tattered old benches. It was pitch black, peppered around the edges with the dim lights of houses in the estates surrounding it, and a large intimidating hill overshadowing it to the west. An eary silence swept the area with a chilling breeze. Sophie seemed aloof, her mind distracted and cold, and strutted along deeper and deeper into the darkness, the lights of the surrounding homes growing fainter and fainter.
As she walked, an unusual mist began to filter through the area rapidly. It became bitter cold, as if the fog was choking out the surroundings. Nervous, she slowed down. Then suddenly, she stopped. In front of her, obscured in the fog, stood a shadowy figure of abnormal stature. It was not too tall, but muscular and well built, yet its back was crooked as if it were an old man. Its arms were dropping down as if they were overextended, with long sharp nails almost scraping the ground itself. The shadow of its apparel was tatty and torn, and it had two large ears pointing out sharply. Sophie stared as it stood ahead of her on the footpath, uttering a repetitive sound which mimicked a grunting animal, panting and breathing heavily. Hesitant and increasingly afraid, she started to step back slowly. Then she remembered, she’d already seen it on the way home…
She drew out her phone again nervously:
“Millie…” she typed, barely keeping her fingers coherent
“There’s a strange man in the Barnes extension. He doesn’t look normal…”
But before she could read any reply, the finger snarled and turned its head round at a lightning pace. It grunted loudly and started to move towards her. As it emerged from the blackness, it revealed its true form. This was no man, it might be described as more akin to a monster. It’s skin was tainted a grayish-green of a vile blend. Disfigured teeth were sticking out of its mouth and most disturbingly at all, it had piercing, monstrous yellow eyes akin to that of a snake. Around its head and neck was wrapped a red, disfigured rag. Predictably, Sophie let a huge scream and without second thoughts began to flee. The creature growled and immediately gave chase, hefting its lanky arms as it belted forwards at an extraordinarily pace.
Sophie, blind with panic, darted into the darkness and veered off the path. Her lungs strained as the creature grew closer, and closer… but as it reached out its claw to grab its prey she unpredictably slipped on the wet mud, hurling her head first into the accompanying stream of water, creating a splash as she crashed into the shallow, dirty surface. Yet before she could react a make another move, she was dazzled by a spontaneous flash of white light all around her. Then suddenly, she woke up, sitting seemingly unscathed and not uncomfortable, in the scream, as if her fear had departed her. Puzzled, she got herself up and looked around. The figure that had pursued her was gone. Was it all a dream? She wondered to herself. As opposed to apparently fighting for her life, she now moaned at her dirty and wet clothes.
“Are you alright?”- Said a female voice calmly, from the distance. “You look quite content sitting there”- She scoffed cheerfully. Sophie looked up as she pulled herself up out of the stream and onto the bank. There stood not a monster, but a woman of about a matured age, yet a young face. She was dressed modestly, but not unusually. She had a warm look of maturity and wisdom upon her face, as if she were someone trustable and dependable, but void of arrogance or overconfidence. Her hair was long, fine and dark. Her blue eyes radiated like jewels in the night.
“Here, let me help you.” She remarked softly- grabbing Sophie’s arm as she ascended to the surface. “What happened?”- She asked. “I’m not sure…” Sophie replied with confusion. “There was this thing… and it was chasing me, then I fell into the water, there was this light and then it was gone.” She said puzzled, expressing doubt towards her own account. “I have no idea what just happened. It didn’t seem real”. The woman looked at her, confidently and unphased. “Allow me to introduce myself Sophie, my name is Viviane”. She said suddenly. “Erm yeah.. nice to meet you, thank you for your help, but do I know you? She responded awkwardly.
“You do not, but I have always known you.” The woman said calmly. “After all these years, the day has finally come that we meet. I have watched you grow up on this estate. I am deeply sorry of the trouble you have with your father, and the loss of your mother.”- She continued. “Who are you? How do you this? Sorry not being rude but this creeps me out a little”- Sophie remarked awkwardly, twitching her thumbs with discomfort. “As I said, I am Viviane, but who am I? Perhaps you will be surprised. I am not like you, for I am the spiritual guardian of these lands.”
Sophie stood back with a perplexed impression on her face. “What the? Sorry but I’m done with weirdos confronting me this is too much, I’m going home. Piss off.” She snapped and without another thought, she began storming away. “Sophie…” the woman called calmly, her voice gaining a mystic tone to it. “This is no joke.” The woman proceeded to click her fingers, and suddenly there was a flash of light and a blast of purple energy radiated from the sky and gave blossom to a ring of blue flames surrounded between her and Sophie, blocking her path. “I’ve lost it tonight like, work is getting to me”. Sophie panicked.
“Have no fear, I come in peace.” The woman remarked, her eyes having lit up with the magic. “This is real. I repeat again, I am Viviane, the spirit messenger of these lands. The long passed kingdom of Northumbria.” Sophie stopped and looked, as if she had found a shred of willingness within her to listen. “You Sophie, have been chosen, you are worthy. Of humble birth and purity of heart, you are the rightful heir to commence upon the path of the North Star, to be a saviour and a light to these lost people.”
“What? Me? Surely am hallucinating.” She gasped. “I must have hurt my head in the stream. But okay I’ll try you, what is the North Star?” She asked, unable to hold back her curiousity. “The North Star is a sacred guardian of the people who has been chosen throughout the centuries in order to defend this land, repel evil and to uphold its spirit. Many centuries ago, King Oswald expelled the invaders polluting the souls of the people and blessed Northumbria as a sacred realm, one which would always embody righteousness, purity and compassion, a land of enlightenment, justice and holiness upon this island.”
“He was the first North Star, and created from thereon a mystical vow that whenever so evil was to be inflicted upon it, a worthy heir would be chosen in order to rise to the challenge, and it is so now that a new danger is rising in Northumbria, one that is feeding upon the disillusionment and anger of these people, who have lost their way in a world that has left them behind. This land has lost its purpose and its spirit. Do you see what you encountered tonight?” She asked. “What was it?” Sophie asked. “The being attacked you tonight was once a man, transformed by an evil force into a monstrous being known as a redcap, but you may know them as goblins. It is afflicted upon younger men who have weak souls, beset by negative emotions such as apathy, anger, hopelessness and a lack of vision in life. They come susceptible to dark magic.”
“What? But who’s dark magic exactly? How could that happen?”- Sophie asked, becoming less cynical and now more openly curious. “There is a spirit Sophie, an evil spirit. After having been imprisoned and dormant for 1400 years, it has been able to awake again on the misery which has been afflicted on the region. He does not have a physical form anymore, but is seeking to enter people’s minds and re-establish his presence. I do not speak more of it at this time, but this is why you have been called Sophie as the North Star, at this time. You must now take upon yourself this path and discover what needs to be done. Although I will be your guide, your answers lie with the people.”
“Accordingly Sophie, I bestow upon you the following powers, which as you become the North Star and change in heart you shall develop and flourish. Listen carefully, firstly I grant onto you the power of Ethereal fire. Do you see these blue-purple flames around us? This is a magical fire that transcends the physical limitations of the mortal world. It exists without burning or harming living things, save you wish it to be so. But most significantly it has a special property than no material thing can do, the ability to fight non-corporeal, spiritual and magical beings that are immune to physical force. But only a worthy soul may utilize Ethereal fire.”- Viviane explained.
“Secondly, I grant unto you Astral vision. That is a special gift to sense and detect that which mortal eyes cannot see and mortal minds cannot comprehend, to be able to see and communicate with spirits. You may share this temporarily with those around you. Thirdly, I bestow with a purity of body. You will receive physical abilities beyond that of an ordinary person. You will be strong, you will be fast and you will not be weary, but this cannot concur with a negative mind. Then finally, I shall confer upon you the Blade of Cargást, which shall be your heirloom and a sign to all that you have took upon this calling. When you are ready, this sword will present itself unto its master. It is light as feather yet as strong and sharp as a diamond”- Viviane reached out her hand and there appeared a fine silver blade of a beautiful craftsmanship, which shined with a purple glow.
“Now Sophie, our meeting must come to a close. Remember what I have told you. There are many lessons yet for you to learn. Grave times are upon us. Seek the wisdom of this people, reach into their hearts and seek out the evil which plagues this land. We will meet again.” Astounded, mystified and terrified all at once. Sophie dared not utter another word, and could not as Viviane smiled and clicked her fingers. Sophie was engulfed in a flash of white light, so deep that everything around her seemed to vanish.
Sophie woke up, opening her eyes. She was not in the middle of a park at night with soaking wet clothes but comfortably in bed wearing a gown. A chasm of daylight pushed its way through the curtains and onto her face. Shocked and in amazement, she lurched upwards and started franatically looking around the room, as if to look for the given sword. She then glanced at the muslces on her arm “It was all a dream!” She gasped loudly to herself with a sigh of relief and fell back on her pillow. “Chosen hero? North Star? What a load of bollocks.” She muttered to herself. Curious, she then picked up her phone to see if there was an account of last night. As she scrolled down the messages, the conversation of her having went out for a walk remained present, but the distressed text no longer existed… However, there was a phone call made some time later, to her dad’s number…
Reluctantly, Sophie got on and proceeded carefully downstairs, exiting the sanctuary of her room into the living room. Seemingly unmoved from last night, her dad was stretched over the sofa, again glued to the TV. “Rise and Shine darlin, it’s 1pm.”- He grunted sarcastically, this time receptive to her presence. “After ya little tantrum last night one of the neighbours round here found you lying in the Barnes Burn unconscious, face up from the water like. Yer must a slipped. They called an ambulance, but you were alright so they dropped you home and popped ya in their spare gown. Might teach you a lesson not to go off on one like that, aye?”-
“I don’t remember anything, Sophie replied coldly… I had a strange dream that was all. “Aye.. well..” Her dad replied seemingly disinterested. “Anyway if yer feeling better and going out later I’ve got you a shopping list ready. Make sure ya get the john smith’s anarl. “Wait, which neighbour was it?”- She asked, cutting back the topic. “It was some lady called Viviane or summit, never heard of her before apparently she’s always lived on Tasman Road. Anyway darlin, John Smith’s please prompto before 5”- He urged.
Sophie’s heart pounded with shock and confusion for a moment. This woman was real? She bargained with her thoughts. Perhaps she was but it was all an hallucination? A weird dream at best. Rationalizing it, she suppressed the bubbling confusion and quickly got ready, heading out without another thought. With no time to waste, she paced down the street and hopped on a blue, red and white bus. Sitting herself firmly on a worn, tattered blue cloth seat, she hastily turned to her phone. “I’m on my way to town, see you soon x”- She texted. “Okay I’ll head out, see you soon x” her friend replied. The Bus wormed its way through a maze of streets and perfectly patterned semidetached houses similar to her own, before it made its way down a large embankment.
The scenery soon morphed into older terraced and Victorian housing, remnants of an era gone by , before breaking out into the light of a cluster of various buildings, old and new perched upon a hill surrounding the gorge of a river. The bus soon pulled into an metallic, grubby bus terminal. It was busy, yet not bustling. Eventful, yet not thriving. Sophie dashed off the bus and put her feet down onto a chewing gum branded grey concrete, looking around before moving forwards. “Okay I’ve arrived in Park lane x” she typed frantically moving to one side. “I’m on my way, almost here stay where you are x” Millie replied.
Sophie stopped near a bench and waited. Then suddenly from behind her a cheerful voice yelled “Hey!”- She turned around quickly and her face lit up with joy. Before her stood another girl with golden skin, deep black black her and warm brown eyes. Upon seeing each other, they rushed and embraced with a hug. “It’s so good to see you in person again it’s been ages!” Sophie remarked warmly. “You too! I’m sorry things have been so hectic with assignments” the girl, Millie, remarked back. “Everything’s okay, right”- She asked, suddenly with an undertone of concern in her voice. “Uh yeah.. it’s just the usual. He was acting up last night.” Sophie replied doubtfully. “Anyway let’s go for a walk and maybe a coffee, then I’ve got to got to get the shopping in for the lazy oaf.” The two then proceeded to walk down the paved road from the bus station, as they moved Seagulls hawked and swirled in the air. The street was dotted with a mix of humble takeaways, small shops and bars.
“So what have you been up to besides fighting with him?” Millie asked enthusiastically. “It’s either him or work at the bar. Either way me life revolves around drink one way or another.” Sophie sighed uncomfortably “How about you? How’s your dad’s shop?”- She asked, as if trying to steer the conversation away from it. “The study never ends! The second year gets a lot tougher. I had a mountain of essays to hand in last week and then I’m helping him tomorrow actually. The pandemic was tough on us as you know for a number of reasons, but now things are getting better. My life is no easier than yours, basically part time work, commute to Durham and practically sleeping out in the library. But I can always fit you in!” Millie replied seemingly cheerful. “Awww sweet”- Sophie remarked, straining a smile onto her face.
Responding to Sophie’s apparent less than even usual lack of spirit “You look bothered, are you sure you’re okay?”- Millie asked. “It’s like something’s worrying you.” She noted. “No not at all, guess I’m just tired after last night.” She said attempting to put on a brave face. As they chatted, the two entered a shopping mall with a large glass façade, with the booming letters hanging above titled “The Bridges“. In contrast to the nitty gritty terrain of the outside, the interior was coated with a spotless white with a crisp marble flooring. It was bustling with people.
As they proceeded through, they noticed a large crowd gathering around the central plaza area as if there was some kind of event ongoing. An elegantly dressed man in a pristine navy blue suit stood talking to the masses. He had somewhat of a comical appearance, with blonde hair weaved in a complex fashion which would cross the eyes of any stylist, and spoke with a pronounced posh accent as if he were a stereotypical wealthy man. “What’s this?” Sophie pointed as they approach. The smile run off Millie’s face and the colour seemed to run away from it: “Oh, that’s William Parker-Fulton… he’s opening up his campaign today as he hopes to run for election here”.
“Who’s he?”- Sophie asked gormlessly. “I haven’t heard of him”. “He’s an interesting person… a landed man from Southern England running for the new People’s Democratic Party” Millie replied with unease. “He has some unorthodox political ideas to say the least, but he’s quite popular.” As they approached, the man spoke with a triumphant tone with energetic hand movements. “People of Sunderland!” he bellowed. “I will stand up for ordinary people like you! We will make our country something to be proud of again! We will take on the Westminster elite and derail the gravy train! Stop the flow of immigrants taking our jobs! bring our industries back home! And we will be proud of our history not ashamed of it! I give to wearside my heart, and you may look upon it to see it is red, white and blue!”- The crowd cheered and clapped loudly as if they were hypnotized by his performance, “Gerrin Fulton!”- An older bald man roared with zeal.
“As you can see, I’m not a fan…”- She said quietly to Sophie and started to edge away from the event. “Micky from work loves this kind of stuff”- Sophie remarked cynically. “I don’t vote myself. There’s no point and I don’t believe in anything.” She said coldly as they walked away. “Neither do most people around here, that’s why so many are looped into believing him”. Millie remarked with a tint of displeasure. “Sunderland is collectively a lost soul. It doesn’t know who it is and what it needs anymore. This man will only add to its misery.” She said deeply “Let’s go somewhere quiet, how about a walk down the East End?” she added. The two proceeded to walk out of the shopping centre and proceeded onwards through the town as they chatted. The further east they ventured, the quieter the streets become. As crowds evaporated, derelict and empty buildings soon peppered the landscape.
“So Sophie, what is it you want to tell me?” Millie asked suddenly, bringing up the conversation from earlier. “So persistent as usual.” She smirked. “This is going to sound strange but….” “Alreet!”- A loud voice suddenly interrupted abruptly, cutting through the sanctity of the conversation. In front of them happened to stand Sophie’s colleague Micky, who was also walking towards the same area. “Oh, hello Micky.” Sophie’s face dropped with mild displeasure “even on me days off, work just can’t leave me alone.” she remarked, striking a very different tone to how she had been talking to Millie. “Oh hi Micky, don’t believe we’ve met. I’ve heard a lot about you of course, I’m Sophie’s friend Millie!- She remarked politely, yet with a cheek of irony and cheekiness. “I’m sure you have, nowt like a bit of bitching going on now is there?”- He joked rudely, leaving the other two unimpressed.
“So where’ve you been?”- Sophie asked. The trio stood restlessly, ready to all go their separate ways. “Oh I’ve been to the rally to see William Parker-Fulton, he’s class like.” His comments produced an awkward silence. “Oh we seen it too, weird bloke, but as you know I’m not into that bollocks, I couldn’t care aless.” Sophie replied. Millie said nothing, mimicking the impression of a zip being drawn across her mouth. “So what brings you two down the East End?” He asked. “Oh nothing”- Said Sophie “We were just on a girly walk for a girly talk you know, probably to call several men wankers, me dad a lot and probably the boss.. and maybe you a bit” her cynical voice continuing to linger underneath. “Haha can’t beat your honesty”- She mocked, unphased as usual.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll tag along for a bit as we’re going the same way. No harm ey?”- He said confidently, seemingly brushing off the annoyance of the other two as they resumed walking. “So umm yeah…” Sophie said with an uncomfortable posture, fumbling on how to resume the conversation in the new environment. “Tell you what, since Micky was kind of enough to drop me off last night he might as well know too.” She said suddenly, finding a spark of sudden optimism and confidence under her breath. “Know what? Whatever you were about to say next?” Millie asked curiously. “Ha’way then!” Micky responsed jubilantly. “A love a good story me. Sophie has the best banter.” He scoffed. “Shut up man.” She groaned. “Let’s walk around here, it suits the mood”- she immediately pointed towards an old churchyard surrounded by an aging cobbled road.
The building was of an antique baroque design. It stood alone, a relic of time in an area filled with modern housing yet void of life. Apart from the three, there was not otherwise a soul to be seen. The yard was rugged with uneven grass, and winding pathways peppered with shattered glass. In the midst of the green stood a number of graves, decaying with age. One of them was sinking into the ground gradually. “Holy Trinity Church.”- Millie remarked an informative voice. “Sunderland’s First Parish church, created in 1719 the hallmark of where the modern settlement began. It’s isolation and lack of purpose today makes a fitting comparison…”
“Wow, she’s canny smart aye?”- Micky remarked in a patronizing voice. “You do realize our goodwill is running out if you keep it up right?”- Sophie snarked. “Anyhow, try and stretch your two braincells for a bit. Last night, I had a weird experience and I don’t know what happened.” She began talking, drawing in the attention of the other two. “When I got home last night after you dropped me off, I had a fight with me dad. He pissed me off so much I went out for a walk down the Barnes Park extension. It was very late…” She then paused for a moment, the other two looked on with concern. “I have no idea what happened next… I was either dreaming, or it was real. I was attacked, by this creature… It looked like a man but it wasn’t.” Her heart began pounding as she attempted to flesh out the details. “It was more like a monster, grey skin, yellow eyes. It was horrible, and it started chasing me…”
“I got knocked into the stream, and then this woman got me out and rescued me. She told me a few things about some legendary hero which I thought was bollocks. Then suddenly, I woke up in my bed. I thought it was all a dream, but then me dad told me this woman brought me home. I’ve been freaking out”- She gasped, as she digged the traumatic memories up from the surface. “Oh my god!”- Millie cried. “No wonder you seemed freaked out, are you okay? Have you not told the police?”- She panicked. “Am sorry to hear that like…” Micky added “that’s messed up that like. You get too many little meths round Thorney these days like, wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone actually looked like that.” His voice drew a softer tone than usual, abandoning his more confident posture. “Well the thing is you’re okay now, but you can’t just go out like that into dark dangerous areas!” Millie nagged.
“But examining your story, it seems as if something did happen, you passed out and were rescued. Your mind probably exaggerated the details with shock”- She continued in a calmer voice. You must report this.” “Nah what’s the point? Sophie sad now returning a more apathetic tone. “What’s done is done, I’m not hurt or owt, I’m just trying to understand it all. It has to be a dream but it all felt so real, like I can’t let it go. This woman said that I was some kind of ancient hero. It’s stupid I know, but I’ve never had any experience like it before. Why would anyone say anything like that about me? And it’s not like I’m deluded to think it of myself. I’m a failure, a loser who didn’t stick in at school and scrounges after my lousy dad. It’s surreal shit, so it scares me.”
As they sat and talked, an usually thick gray mist began to surround the area. It was out of sync with the weather of the day, which had been largely blue skies. The temperature also begun to drop noticeably. “Talk about a sudden change in the weather, where did this come from?”- Millie remarked in surprise, looking around. Sophie fell in shock again. “I can feel it again.” She said coldly and robotically. “Right now, it feels just like it did last night. This mist, it looks the same… it feels the same…” She said, gasping for breath and starting to panic, falling back onto the bench. “You’re freaking out Sophie, let’s get you out of here and back home. I think you’re suffering from some heavy trauma”- Micky said calmly. “Everything’s going to be okay, we’re with you”- Showing a streak of maturity he’d never expressed before.
Millie and Micky proceeded to help Sophie back up by her arms, as if the shock was paralyzing her. They proceeded to start walking for the churchyard entrance, unable to see in front of them for the mist. Then all three of them looked ahead and in sequence… froze. Again, like the previous night earlier, stood a hideous figure with monstrous features wrapped with red cloth. Stepping forwards out of the mist, its distorted face and vulgar eyes were very much visible, as well as its grizzly long arms and putrid grey skin. It did not make a sound, staring with daggers at the trio, lost for breath and expression. “It’s the thing again…” Sophie grasped “It’s all real…”. Micky, bottling his fea, immediately stepped forwards “Whee the friggin hell are ya like?” He shouted loudly and overbearingly. “What’s the problem like?”- He shouted. The creature was unphased, continuing to stare at him. “Think ya hard or summit?”- He shouted.
“I’m going to give yer until the count of three, and if you don’t piss off now I’m garna bray the shit out of ya!”- He roared. The creature again did not move. Enraged, Micky dived for a nearby empty glass bottle and lunged at the creature with his right arm, swinging at his head. He struck with such force that the bottle shattered over the head of the monster. But it did not budge. Micky stood back, horrified. The monster then growled under its breath and then before he could make another move, unleashed its overstretched arm and picked Micky up effortlessly by his t-shirt, leaving him dangling in the air. His tough posture turned to a helpless, terrified expression. Sophie and Millie simply watched motionless. Then without any hesitation, the creature hurled him across the field sending him crashing on the grass, rolling next to one of the old graves. “Run!” Sophie screamed to Millie, and the two scrambled. Again, the beast gave chase at a phenomenal pace. “Split in different directions!”- Millie yelled, panting to one side of the field through the mist as Sophie darted for the other.
But the creature didn’t choose Sophie as its next target… It galloped after Millie and within seconds caught up, growling and roaring. It then yanked out its arm and grabbed her by the leg, also tumbling to the ground. It smiled insidiously as she screamed and tumbled. The figure then withdrew a blackened, jagged axe like blade from out of its red coating, as if it were carved out of flint. Sophie, now some distance away, looked on in horror. “MILLIE!!!!!!!”- She screamed in desperation, yet she found herself unable to move forwards, feeling a temptation to simply flee. “Should I save my life and run for it? Or should I put myself at risk for my friend?”- Words streamed though Sophie’s mind. “I’ve spent my whole life being second best, is it wrong to be selfish to put me first? But she would save me right?”- Thoughts raced back and forth, bringing a myriad of memories, good and bad. She remembered her mother, she remembered her father, she remembered kinder times, worse times, all as the creature insidiously looked upon Millie patiently waiting to go in for the kill.
“Sophie, who are you?”- A familiar female voice suddenly sounded in her head. “Who will you become?”- It asked. “I have seen your pain, I have seen the tragedy of your life, but I have also felt the purity of your heart and that is why you have been chosen. Make your choice, and choose your path”- It urged. “Will you continue your path of despair, or will you choose hope?” A warm feeling then struck Sophie deep in her chest. “Hey you!”- She yelled toughly to the creature before it could make a new move. “Get away from her, take me first!”- She shouted. The creature turned, baring a mark of amusement on its face. “As you wish!”- It grunted in a deep and contemptible voice, with not a moment to spare it then raced towards her brandishing its axe in the air.
Sophie felt nervous, yet resilient. As it approached, a blast of purple light came from nowhere and engulfed her left hand. Puzzled, she looked down and placed within her left wrist sat a silver blade of a delicate craftsmanship, which shined with a purple glow. She looked at it, then looked back at the charging monster whom on approaching swung its axe at her. With a burst of confidence Sophie swung the sword forwards at the emerging axe and seemingly effortlessly smashed it to pieces. The monster startled with surprise. She then slashed at its torso, carving into it with purple energy. It roared with pain falling backwards, before proceeding again to lunge its arms and deep claws at her. Sophie slashed at its hand and then before it could make another move hammered it in the face with her first, sending it crashing to the ground. She then lunged the sword relentlessly into its torso, leading it to roar with agony.
Sophie pulled back. The figure attempted to get up, only to fall back over. Its groans grew softer and softer. In its dying breath, it then uttered: “Lord Glanfeoil!” before its body suddenly vanished in a puff of smoke. Almost magically, the fog around the area vanished. Sophie looked upon the scene puzzled, trying furiously to make sense of what just happened, yet feeling strangely satisfied. “Sophie!” a voice then yelled from behind her “What in the world? What even?”- Said Millie, equally perplexed. “It’s all real, everything from last night was real!”- She laughed awkwardly, almost crying in tandem. Then she remembered, “Micky!” she yelled, running over to the site where he had landed on the grass, now sitting upwardly. “Are you alright?”- She asked in concern. Micky groaned and then said: “Why aye man, had nastier rugby tackles than that man” a smile appearing on his face. “I just sat and watched that, you brayed him better than I could.”- He laughed.
“So what does this all mean?”- Millie then asked in a more serious and inquisitive tone. “I’ll tell you what it means.” Sophie then said with an unusual degree of confidence towards both of them. “I am the North Star, the ancient guardian of Northumbria and I have been called.”
“Jesus Christ”- Remarked Micky.
To be continued…