– I –
BUCKLAND HOUSE SCHOOL
It was a still night. The only noise in the grounds of Buckland House School was the swish of long grass as two dressing gown clad figures made their way towards the dark bamboo maze, their torches shining like nervous searchlights.
“We’ll easily win this challenge,” whispered Colin, “Johnson will regret it when he has to hand over his precious box of Mars bars!”
“Can’t wait to see his face!” chuckled Simon from close behind. “As long as we bring back the red handkerchief as proof that we made it into the maze he’ll have to keep his side of the bargain.”
“There it is!” Colin’s torch picked out the tall thicket of bamboo and the entrance to the maze. Its gaping mouth seemed darker at night. As light shone on the serpentine path inside, he shivered, wondering just how far in Johnson expected them to go. Unease prickled his scalp.
“Come on!” urged Simon, pushing him. “Piece of cake! Nothing to be afraid of!”
The two boys stepped forward into the jaws of the maze, their torches arcing from side to side as they searched for the red handkerchief. Their feet crunched on the dry ground. Close by the bamboo suddenly rustled. “What was that?” They froze.
“A mouse, a rat, a big black bat?” Simon laughed. “What else do you think would be down here at this time of night?”
They continued. Colin’s heart was pounding and his palms sweating. They were deeper into the maze than he had hoped to go. He began to feel claustrophobic.
“Ta-da, there it is!” shouted Simon triumphantly, untying the red handkerchief from the bamboo. Colin felt his chest tighten and his mouth go dry. He sensed a change in the pressure of the air around them. The undergrowth rustled again – louder and closer this time.
“Simon, I think there’s something there.”
“Come out, come out whatever you are!” called Simon. There was silence.
“See, I told you there was noth…”
At that moment a whooshing sound emerged from the depths of the maze. It swirled along the pathways growing louder and louder until it was directly ahead of them. The leaves on the ground rose as it approached. The boys didn’t have time to react as the invisible force knocked them to the ground. They dropped their torches which went out, leaving them in total darkness, the only sounds were their rasping breaths until another noise began; an unearthly wailing that amplified as it surrounded them in a suffocating whirlpool of ice-cold pressure. Colin fumbled desperately for his torch, found it and with shaking fingers switched it on. He immediately wished that he hadn’t, because what the two boys saw looming over them could never be forgotten