This year's Write Path is dedicated to the memory of wonderful author Tommy Donbavand who sadly died this year. He donated story starters for the project every year and was the funniest, kindest man you could ever wish to meet. We are honouring his memory by including one of his starters each day.
Cameron was playing on his computer when the letterbox rattled. Mum and Dad had taken Kelly out to buy new school shoes. He was in the house alone.
“Funny,” he said to himself. “There isn’t usually any post on a Sunday.”
Setting his laptop aside, he padded downstairs in his socks to retrieve the lone, brown envelope on the mat. There was no name on it, no address - in fact, nothing at all to identify who the letter was for, or where it had come from.
He ripped open the flap, and found a single CD inside. On the disc, scrawled in black marker pen, were the words: 'Play me to learn the truth!’
Taking a deep breath, Cameron headed back upstairs…
Why couldn’t anyone else hear the tapping? It was there in the night, but when Tom went to his mother’s room to tell her about it, she just mumbled something about dreams, rolled over, and sent him back to bed. All through his maths exam Tom was put off by the rhythmical clicks from the street outside. Afterwards, his friends said they didn’t know what he was talking about. Was he going mad?
Even he thought so when the sound started up again on a school trip to the museum. He followed the taps down a corridor, ignoring glass cases of stuffed animals on either side. The door ahead of him was marked ‘private’, but he couldn’t resist the urge to turn the handle. At first, he thought the room was empty, but then...
The Clocks Rewind
Everything was different this summer. Jaya loved staying with her grandmother. Grandma owned a sweet shop, after all; the old-fashioned kind with jars of sweets you weighed out into little paper bags. But Mum and Dad had been acting so strangely lately. Whispered conversations. Mysterious phone calls. And now Jaya and her little brother, Ash, had been packed off to Grandma’s for the whole school holiday.
After a busy morning helping in the shop, Grandma said they could choose some sweets as a reward. While Jaya picked jelly babies and sherbet lemons, Ash teetered on a stool and reached down a dusty old jar from the very top shelf. The faded label showed historic scenes - pyramids, knights on horseback, a sinking ship, and many more – and, in swirly gold letters, the words, Time Toffees.
‘Ooh, these are weird!’ giggled Ash, stuffing a toffee into his mouth. Jaya thought she’d better try one too, just to make sure they hadn’t gone off. The taste kept changing; pineapple, bubble gum, marmite, chocolate cake . . . She turned the wrapper over, searching for a sell-by date. Faint writing appeared before her eyes.
With Time Toffees all the clocks rewind,
As you journey back, they’ll help you find . . .
Before Jaya could read more, the ground began to shake. The lights flickered. She grabbed Ash’s arm and the jar of Time Toffees . . .
I should have known something was wrong straight away. The wardrobe door was open.
Let’s face it, wardrobes have got form when it comes to being gateways to weird, magical worlds, haven’t they? Or for concealing monsters in amongst the coat hangers. Or for having the kind of creaky hinges that ghosts seem to like so much. They are just big, wooden boxes stuffed with DANGER (and the occasional crumpled school shirt, odd sock, some comics and a half-eaten packet of biscuits). And anyway, I never leave the wardrobe door open. Not because I’m tidy or anything – I’m the messiest person in my family – but because my room is so small that if I leave the door open, I’ll keep bumping into it. But, all the same, there it was. Open. Just a tiny bit. But enough to be deliberate – someone had left it open. And inside, only darkness. An unnatural darkness.
I don’t know why I felt nervous. It’s not like I’ve never looked inside my wardrobe before. But something was making the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The room had an atmosphere, like it was holding its breath, waiting for something to happen. It was too quiet. I reached for the handle and slowly, slowly pulled the door towards me…
Don't Get Caught
Carys pulled herself slowly out of the river, coughing. The water tasted of sludge and other things she didn’t dare think about. The grass of the riverbank was slippery under her hands, and her body felt leaden, weighed down by the jacket with its numerous pockets. She hoped the watertight case for her phone really was watertight. She couldn’t afford to lose her GPS tracker. Even an hour’s travel in the wrong direction could be fatal. Everything depended on her making this journey on time.
A low rumble made her freeze, crouched low to the ground. An engine – a motorbike, sounded like. They couldn’t have found her already, could they? Her heart speeded up, pumping blood so forcefully around her body that it thudded in her ears, making it hard to hear. She raised her head slightly, taking in her surroundings. There was a barn not far ahead. She calculated the distance. Nine seconds at a flat-out run, probably.
She made a snap decision and…
Lurch, brake, accelerate.
OK, this is bad. Dad’s doing his best, but these crazy roads are throwing us around in the back of the Citroen like frazzled yo-yos.
‘Where’re we now?’ Jack, my brother, moans. ‘You’re lost again, aren’t you?’
‘No,’ Dad responds tiredly, wiping his face. ‘I know exactly where we are.’
Frowning at the satnav, he guns up another anonymous twisting dirt lane. He’s been driving clueless along narrow tracks for over an hour.
Not that I mind. It’s not as if I care where we’re going.