Authors: Doffy Weir
Charlie Parsons did not recognize his Great-aunt Sybil when he stepped out of the railway station. He remembered his aunt as a fun-loving, jolly woman with a booming voice, who always wore bright clothes and unusual hats.
But now she looked pale and thin and frighteningly strange with her dark glasses and a thick woolly scarf. She wasn’t the same person at all.
“It’s not a long walk to Nightwing Towers,” she said softly, stooping down for him to give her a peck on the cheek. “Though I do get very tired these days.”
Together, they walked through the deserted streets of the Belladonna Housing Estate. Spider-web cracks stretched from the corners of grey, empty windows, gardens were overgrown. In the distance, Charlie could see demolition trucks and cranes. Almost all of the tower blocks had been pulled down. Occasionally, clouds of dust rose like billowing mushrooms.
“The whole place has to go,” said Great-aunt Sybil, her voice almost a whisper. “I’m afraid my brand new little bungalow isn’t ready yet.”
“Not to worry, Aunty,” said Charlie rather nervously. “I’ve never spent a holiday in a high rise block of flats before. I bet you have a great view of London!”
They turned a corner and stopped before a parade of shops. All were deserted, except for a newsagent’s set in the middle.
“Wait here, Aunty,” said Charlie. “I’ll only be a moment.” He wondered if she still had her sweet tooth; perhaps an ice-cream would cheer her up?
He stepped inside the shop.
A small girl wearing a grubby baseball hat, shorts and trainers, stood beside the counter. She was unwrapping a choc-ice but looked deadly serious. Suddenly, she pulled a small yellow card out of the wrapper and read it.
“Is that the one, Freya?” asked the man behind the counter, as he leant forward to look at the card.
She shook her head angrily. “No, and I’m running out of time!”
She took a big bite out of her choc-ice and stormed past Charlie.
“Hey!” said Charlie as he was pushed aside.
“Don’t mind Freya,” said the shopkeeper. “She’s trying to collect the entire Dracula’s Delight series. I think it’s turned her head!”
He pointed at a poster on the wall. It read:
Charlie screwed up his nose. “Perhaps
should try this Dracula’s Delight – two please.”
Charlie unwrapped the ice-creams which were shaped like wooden stakes. He hurriedly glanced at the cards and put them into his pocket.
Outside, his aunt was standing on the edge of the pavement, looking up at Nightwing Towers.
The block rose into the sky like a strange, grey watchtower. Dark birds circled above the roof. The more he stared at Nightwing Towers, the more uneasy Charlie felt about the place.
It was the last block of flats on the estate.
“I live on the second floor all alone now,” said Great-aunt Sybil. “There are still a few families on the ground floor.”
“Who lives on the floors above?” he asked.
“Nobody lives on the floors above,” said Great-aunt Sybil.
Charlie screwed up his eyes and gazed along the top floor balcony. The flats looked empty. He thought he saw one of the birds land on the balcony edge. Then, a moment later, a figure dressed in black seemed to stand there instead. Charlie blinked, and the figure vanished. He felt the hairs on the nape of his neck bristle. As they walked towards Nightwing Towers, the girl in the baseball cap stood on the corner and watched them carefully, in silence.
Great-aunt Sybil’s flat seemed very dark. She had drawn all the curtains, and continued to wear her sunglasses and scarf. She showed Charlie his room and helped him unpack. He took out his wash-bag, comb and a small mirror.
“No mirrors, please!” cried his aunt suddenly. “I don’t allow them in the house!”
“Why ever not?” he began.
“Why don’t you go out and play?” his aunt suggested. She threw a towel over the mirror. “I need to lie down for a bit. I’m feeling rather strange again – it’s the sunshine.”
Charlie followed his aunt out into the hall. She disappeared into the darkness
of her bedroom and closed the door. He scratched his head. On the wall was a photograph of Great-aunt Sybil at the seaside wearing a “Kiss-Me-Quick” hat. Sadly, he remembered how she used to be. He stared at the picture as he emptied his pockets on to the hall table. Finding the cards from the choc-ices, he slid them under the lip of the frame so that he wouldn’t lose them.