Perfectly formed, steaming piles of stones.
Later that morning, Davina leaned against the carved, stone doorway watching Ghost intently. Admittedly Ghost was a little podgy, but stocky with an unexpected agility. He had the build of a swimmer with broad shoulders, yet his height was average for a boy of around thirteen. What set Ghost apart was his pure, almost translucent white skin, white hair and different coloured eyes – a blue left eye and the right green.
He seemed completely unaware of Davina’s presence as he rested on his rake staring at the school’s stone walls. Behind him there was a swirl of activity and two of the nastier boys ran past. They kicked his freshly raked pile of leaves, scattering them in all directions. With cruel laughter they waited for him to respond. Ghost did not react; instead, he continued staring at the stone walls. In deep contemplation, he crouched down and examined something on the ground beneath his feet.
‘Ghost’s a freak,’ taunted one of the boys.
Silently Ghost picked up a stone and sniffed it.
Davina watched Ghost trace his fingers over the surface of that stone and scratch his face. What had he found?
‘Oy weirdo! We’re talking to ya!’ said the second bully.
Ghost adjusted his position so his back was to the two boys. He then parted the grass to reveal a second pile of perfectly aligned stones. The bullies soon grew bored, shrugged and ran off in search of their next victim.
Taking a few steps closer, Davina stood waiting for Ghost to notice her. He carried on studying each of the stones individually. She shuffled closer until she was beside him and coughed. Ghost didn’t make eye contact, instead he cleared away some leaves from what he had been shielding. Davina crouched beside him. The pair stared at a small pile of steaming stones. They were hot and fresh.
With a frown, Davina snuck a look at Ghost. What was he trying to say? He silently stared back. Ghost’s eyes were clear as pools but the blue eye had a white circle within it. They were kind and honest eyes. He was out of place at that school, he certainly didn’t suit being there. Ghost blinked, Davina quickly turned her attention back to the perfectly aligned stones: each was specifically balanced on top of another. Had she ever seen anything like it before?
‘Did you do that?’ she whispered.
Ghost sucked his lip in contemplation and studied her.
Intrigued, Davina went to pick up one of the stones.
‘Don’t,’ Ghost murmured quietly.
His reply startled her. ‘You can talk?’
Ghost nodded with a hint of a smile.
‘Then…’ Started Davina.
‘I only talk when I want to and to who I choose.’
Davina was stunned, ‘Why do you talk now?’
‘Because of that stunt you pulled last night,’ replied Ghost eagerly.
‘I didn’t pull any stunt!’ exclaimed Davina, not quite convincingly.
‘Yeh right! Then how do you explain it?’
‘Explain what?’ demanded Davina.
‘The fact these piles of stones only appeared when you arrived. Now they’re all over the grounds. Then there’s the stone carvings on the walls…’ Ghost said, pointing at the arches of the home.
Davina followed his gaze. ‘But there’s nothing there.’
Ghost looked up, ‘This is getting weirder – they were just there… Big stone carvings of…’
‘It’s just coincidence, that’s all,’ said Davina.
Ghost shook his head. ‘No Davina it’s more than that.’
‘Okay then… how do you explain it?’ she asked.
Ghost studied Davina, ‘I reckon you’re about thirteen years old and from a strange place, maybe overseas, maybe somewhere completely different. But whatever it is, there’s something ‘bizarre’ about you,’ he said studying her blue freckles.
‘That’s coming from you!’ Davina replied with a giggle.
Ghost smirked. He wasn’t normal either, normal was dull.
Davina gazed into Ghost’s haunting eyes. ‘So why are you here?’
Ghost shook his head. ‘Don’t change the subject.’
‘Come on tell me,’ insisted Davina.
‘You must have heard that I’m dangerous,’ Ghost answered with a sigh.
Davina drew closer.‘But why?’ She waited for his answer. Something shifted in the forest. It was a large, solid shape moving through the trees. ‘Did you see that?’ she asked, grabbing his arm.
Ghost glanced at her hand, frowned and turned slowly. ‘I saw something earlier. I thought it was the wind but I had me doubts.’
With a look of longing, Davina gazed into the forest.
‘I wouldn’t if I were you,’ said Ghost noticing her expression.
It was too late, Davina had already started toward the tree line – whatever was out there was beckoning.
‘I have to Ghost,’ she called back as she broke into a jog.
‘Be careful…’ called Ghost.
She shrugged off his warning. Maybe whatever was out there held answers.
Once inside the forest, Davina scrambled through some gorse, climbed a wire fence and landed in an area surrounded by sturdy, tall, trees. Davina scanned the forest in silence. There was a heavy pounding beyond the trees and leaves were rustling. There was a glint of an eye, the curve of a mouth and… Crack! Ghost expectedly burst through the thicket.
Davina jumped and grabbed her chest. The sudden motion startled whatever was beyond the trees and it retracted.
Davina glared angrily at Ghost. ‘You scared me!’
‘Erm sorry… did you see anything?’ Ghost panted, bending over to regain his breath.
Davina was silent; another pile of steaming stones had appeared. She bent down next to the stones and tentatively touched them. ‘They’re hot.’
Ghost touched them too. ‘No they’re boiling.’
Davina pushed her hair behind her ear. ‘Where on earth do hot stones come from in small piles?’
‘There’s something really weird going on here. I don’t like the feeling I’m getting,’ said Ghost scratching his neck.
There was another motion beyond the trees. Davina lifted her chin and sniffed the air. There were the usual forest smells, but there was a stronger scent on the breeze. Some branches twitched nearby and leaves rustled ahead of them. Davina glanced at Ghost and gestured for him to be quiet. ‘Ghost, there’s definitely something huge behind that tree,’ she whispered.
A woodpecker rattled noisily on a trunk above them. Both jolted and gasped. Quickly they fell silent. Their attention was drawn back to the leaves nearby, something was looking back at them from within them.
‘Do you feel it Ghost?’ asked Davina nervously.
Ghost nodded. ‘We should go,’ he whispered urgently.
There was more than one creature behind the wall of foliage; they breathed heavily like weary racehorses.
The pair backed slowly towards a large boulder. A low rumbling resonated ahead of them.
‘I think they’re going to reveal themselves,’ Davina whispered, grabbing Ghost’s arm. She noticed he was trembling.
Immediately to their right some branches cracked.
‘So the two weirdoes’ got together then?’ taunted Sheba emerging from some thicket. ‘Are they kissing in the woods? How romantic!’ she said with a point of a black, painted fingernail.
Ghost and Davina glanced at each other. Had they noticed the creatures?
Sheba signalled to the gang behind her. Three of the older girls from the night before stood beside Rose. Rose had her arms folded and shifted awkwardly. She kept glancing back at the school, as if checking that they had not been followed.
There were a total of four boys including the two who kicked the piles of leaves. All of them were stocky, tall and always ready to fight. Each of them stood holding large sticks. At the front Sheba stood with matted black hair, laddered black tights and a vindictive look as she plotted her attack. The atmosphere was grim, the boys assumed their victims didn’t stand a chance. Sheba was ready to take revenenge for being shown up and signalled for the group to surround the pair.
‘The weirdoes and their weirdness together… how sweet,’ Sheba spat.
The pulse of rage rose through Davina’s body, her nails shifted to claws again and she gritted her teeth. She had to conceal that side but already she was snarling at Sheba and sizing up her vulnerabilities. Admittedly , for a girl, Sheba was solid but short. Her eyes were black, her hair filthy and she had a red scar cutting through the left side of her face. It went from under her eye to her lip. She had experienced pain and had learned to fight somewhere but the way she moved suggested she didn’t have technique.
‘The little bitty weirdoes together kissing in the forest…’ Sheba sung.
‘What do you want us to do Sheba?’ asked Rose, sucking up to her.
‘I think we should teach them a lesson for getting us all in trouble. Dunt ya reckon?’ Sheba smiled wickedly, signalling for the group to close in. The gang pushed forward gleefully.
Ghost and Davina stepped back and found themselves pressed against a large boulder; that boulder was warm. Was something inside? Ghost glanced at the side of the boulder and…Wink!
He turned rigid and gasped, how could a boulder have an eye?
Another pile of hot stones plopped from the boulder and formed a perfectly aligned pile on the ground. Davina looked down and then to Ghost who carried a puzzled expression. He then glanced over his shoulder – a series of boulders were scattered as far as he could see. They must have… just arrived.
Smack! The silence was broken. One of the older boys whacked his hand with his thick stick. Savagery filled the air.
Davina pressed back into the boulder, she didn’t want to fight. She didn’t want to kill. There was only one thing for it. Davina took a deep breath and prepared herself for…
Sheba lunged forwards and…
Davina roared and unexpectedly spun sideways through the air.
In a second Davina was suspended, Ghost jumped and glanced back. In that elongated moment, he witnessed something so bizarre and so unearthly that shock travelled through his whole body. He curled into a ball, turned stiff and collapsed to the ground. What he saw had affected the attackers too, their bodies had reacted.
Davina landed safely away from Sheba’s lunge and adopted a defensive position. There was a complete silence. The gang were shocked solid and unable to move or run. Tears trickled over everyone’s cheeks and all of them remained suspended mid-motion. With a look of fear in their eyes, their gaze was directed behind her. With apprehension, Davina rotated slowly and..Snap! A branch snapped. The sound somehow broke the atmosphere and the petrifaction. The first hefty boy threw down his stick and scurried away sobbing.
‘What are you? You’re going to get it freak!’ screamed Sheba over her shoulder as she legged it towards the school.
The rest of the gang eyed each other, turned and sprinted in the same direction.
Behind Davina, there was a heavy thud and a rustle. She turned, the boulder she had been leaning on remained in the same place. Everything appeared fine. All Davina could see was forest, a few stones and a trembling Ghost curled in a ball beside her.
Davina knelt down and gently touched his shoulder. “What is it Ghost?”
Ghost pushed her away and continued to protect his head.
‘The bullies have gone away… Ghost we’re fine, we’re safe now,’ said Davina in a soft tone.
‘What on earth are you?’ he spat between shivers.
‘I don’t know what you mean… I am just Davina,’ she replied.
Davina looked down, another pile of hot stones plopped from behind the boulder. This time they were red hot. Davina scrutinised the huge mossy stone. What was going on?