CHAPTERS 1 -4
Despair danced around the streets as the frost of December grasped the streets of Gloucester’s ghetto. Shadows whispered to each other in gloomy corners as hordes of rats quarrelled over the mouldy leftovers piled into bins.
Joey Morelli was sliced by the spiteful squall of winter. But he didn’t notice. He was staring straight in front of him. He was examining the guard at the checkpoint ahead, denying the few families that pleaded to go beyond the only exit out of the ghetto.” Next!” the guard boomed. After shaking the doubt out of his head, Joey stepped forward.
“ What’s that,” snarled the guard, gesturing towards the boxes stacked precariously in Joey’s hands,” and where are you headed, you filthy piece of scum?”
“I’ve got cake deliveries in the upper part of Gloucester for my father’s shop, The Perfect Recipe, sir,” Joey piped up. The guard took a few minutes to take this in, then finally let him pass.” Go on then, you ratbag.”
The moment Joey stepped through the gate, he noticed that this part of the city was much swankier than the ghetto: streetlamps radiated with apricity; buildings stood tall and mighty as unmovable guardians; and well-dressed people were chattering freely like birds pirouetting through the open air. It was amazing. Fascinating. Unbelievable.
Joey wished all this wealth was his. He wished that he was treated with equality and respect. But his father’s voice rang like a siren inside his head, Keep your head down. Don’t draw attention to yourself.
Without forewarning, A towering, black figure knocked Joey off his feet, and dragged him barbarically into an opaque alleyway. After tossing Joey to the icy, emotionless floor, the stranger glanced to the parcels that crashed to the floor.
”I’ll be ‘aving that,” declared the stranger, reaching for the boxes scattered across the floor. He was dressed in a gloomy, hooded cloak, with black wrappings underneath and a mask to cover his face. He drew a knife from his pocket, “I said, I’ll be ‘aving that.”
The man’s shadow crept up on him like a tiger prowling through the undergrowth. There was nowhere to run. Only a locked door and a fragmented window. He thought for a moment, then he remembered that there was a mugger hounding him. Without a second’s hesitation, he dashed to the door and kicked. “Only another brick wall,” the mugger sneered, detaining Joey.
Joey didn’t know what came over him. Sliding through the thief’s legs, he aimed a roundhouse kick to his face. After sending the mugger sprawling, he hopped through the shattered window. He was free.
Outside, snow thrashed at the barred-up windows, reaching its bony fingers towards Joey. Inside, Joey crept through the abandoned building scouring the corridors for a spot to hide. Worn planks lay scattered across the forgotten floors, rusted bars slept their lives away and spiders and mice argued over the few crumbs of food left. To his dismay, he noticed all exits were blocked by piles of rubble. There was no escape.
Behind him, the knife the stranger wielded glinted in the winter sun; the mugger’s eyes combusted with madness… …but in of the shadows, colossal footsteps pounded on the wooden floorboards, louder than Joey’s heart thumping in his chest. Out of the darkness, a flash of brown thundered past him and stood like another lifeless wall between the mugger and Joey. It was huge. Massive. A bear. A massive bear. A massive bear stood between him and his fate. The stranger bolted though the corridors, but there was no escape.
“Guess I’ll have to fight my way out of here,” the mugger sighed, sounding dangerously calm. He drew his knife.
The fight was like a one-sided see-saw, the bear throwing its huge claws at the stranger, spinning him off balance. The mugger steadied himself .As a retaliation, the thief sliced the air around him, drawing a rush of a red, paint-like substance from the bear’s neck.
After the fight was over, the bear strode over to Joey, and collapsed to the floor. Joey could see immense pain reflected from the bear’s eyes into his. They stared at each other in silence for what seemed liked ages. He could see happiness, but a deep sea of sadness.
Then, the bear rose to his feet, and spoke in a low, gravelly voice, “ Now I need your assistance. I need you to find me the gateway,” Joey nodded. He didn’t know what to do, exactly, but knew what he was looking for at least. “I’ve got a place you could hide for a while,” he piped up.
Fifteen minutes later, they were standing in front of an abandoned boathouse. Sneaking like a shadow through the darkness, they crept through the boathouse; the bear found a comfortable pile of rubble and slept. Joey kept watch.
Joey woke with a start; the bear slept like a log. From outside, Joey could see it was still dark out, but that wasn’t important. What was important was the voices that seemed to be arguing about something to do with… the door… and … an axe.
Crawling like a spider across the dusty floor, he nudged the gigantic bear awake. He stared up at him with amber eyes that blazed like a wildfire in the moonlight. Joey put his finger to his lips and hid the creature behind a pile of rubble, then clambered into a wooden crate and left the lid slightly ajar, to keep watch of what was happening.
CRACK! The door was cleaved in two and three silhouettes stepped into the room; their footsteps echoing through the shadows. Torch lights illuminated the air and boxes were searched and scattered. Joey shivered. Heart thumping in his chest, Joey took a glance through the lid and watched them break things open, dangerously close to the bear’s hiding spot. He pulled the lid tightly shut. The silhouettes looked over at the crate that Joey was hiding in. He shuddered with fear. ‘So, this is how it ends.’ he thought.
They passed Joey, flooding him with relief, and grabbed the glimmering contents of the box. ”We’ve got what we came for, so let’s skedaddle.” the smallest one said. He sounded older than Joey.
“No, Rob. Let’s see if we could find some more cash in here.” the tallest one suggested. He was wielding the axe.
“I’m on Rob’s side. Sorry, George.” the third one piped up.
After the thieves left, the bear explained why he needed to find the gateway, that she needed to go through it to return the bear to her own world. It is located in a tall building where we can be close to God. That was the only clue she gave.
Joey thought that this gateway might be hidden inside the cathedral, but walking to the cathedral would take hours, and how would they get inside if it’s locked up for the night? How would they hide the bear from people wandering home after the pub?
Joey knew that his dad would be sick with worry, but he had to help the bear and her to the gateway. So, they made their way through the moonlit streets, avoiding all the checkpoints and people walking home to meet their families, boy and bear crept through the darkness, playing a deadly game of hide and seek.
The cobbled streets, which were deserted in the dead of night, slept like a stone in the eerie silence. There was only one road down to the cathedral, and it headed straight through the busiest part of the city. Even at night it was usually crowded. But tonight, it wasn’t. It was in this direction that Joey and the bear made their way.
The frost of December was a cruel, cold-hearted beast. It stretched out its bony, hook-like fingers, scraping and scratching at anything it saw. As it spectated over the streets and roads, it saw its next victims. Joey and the bear.
Joey shivered. Nearing the cathedral, Joey heard shouting over by the entrance. They had been spotted. Limping forwards, the giant bear growled, edging closer to freedom. The insignias curved and twisted into regal shapes on the mahogany doors. Joey, who was gazing at the now transparent door, waited for the bear to advance. It was beautiful. A cobalt glow illuminated the other side of the doorway. Just then, a burst of diamond light rushed through the gateway; the cobalt glow shattered, turning into thousands of butterflies, each one a different colour with its own unique pattern.
Without warning, multiple guards brandished their weapons, some wielding knifes, others held guns. The bear, raising up to her full height , stood with Joey. His eyes glowed with the amber of a great wildfire. The guards faltered.
“Goodbye,” she spoke, turning towards Joey and then towards the gateway. Through the gateway, the cobalt glow burst into an amber that blazed like a great wildfire consuming a forest. Diamond light surged through the open gateway, reaching out into the eternity beyond. With one huge leap, the bear launched into the air…
… and was devoured by the flames beyond.
She was gone.
Joey turned, stunned by what he had just seen. But the guards weren’t there. As me made his way home, dawn crept up on the frost of December, forcing it to flee. It was a bright morning. The first time the sun had dared to come up in months. All the snow had melted and he could see birds fluttering through the sky. As he neared the checkpoint, the guards waved him through without meeting his gaze. Things had begun to change.
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