As soon as the apparition had vanished, Warloc collapsed back onto his bed in relief. He didn't move for some time. He waited an hour to see if any more monsters would show up. Then he waited another hour.
When he was finally sure that nothing else was going to appear and start teasing him, he stood up. He walked shakily in the darkness, leaving the room. Across the small corridor was a bathroom. It didn't look much like a bathroom... the walls were lined with hand-carved shelves that were often wonky or rotted in the middle. Most were groaning with books, bottles and stuff in jars. The floor was carpeted, and the walls were coated in sponge, wherever a gap between the shelves would allow it. There was no sink and no toilet. But there in the centre of the room was a round blue bathtub. A shower-head dangled from the ceiling to let in water, and runes were carved along the edges.
Wearily, Warloc pulled on a rope dangling down next to the showerhead. The rope went taut, releasing the plug from the rain collector on the roof, and water flushed into the bath. Whilst the bath filled, Warloc examined his face in the mirror. It wasn't a bad face for a 91-year old - in fact his physical appearance hadn't changed much since he was thirty. But the skin was pale; the eyes were tired, red rimmed and dark. They were the eyes of a man who didn't sleep.
The water finished dripping down. Warloc touched a few of the runes along the side. Ripples spread out, gradually warming the water. He took a jar from the highest shelf - 'Somnolence Draught'. He threw the contents into the bath, and the water became a dark cloudy blue. Satisfied, he stepped in. Immediately, drowsiness began to draw the room away from him. Everything became hazy.
Warloc fell asleep. His head lolling against the side of the bath, he saw strange visions. He saw green grass and trees, heard laughing and arguing, and birds cawing in the trees. He saw giant metal animals... the scene changed, and the world became more normal. He saw the woods; he saw the woodland creatures and giants wandering through the trees. Then ash fell from the sky, and everything blackened.
And then he saw a girl, leaping through the smoke and smog, whirling a staff very much like his own. But this girl used the staff in a way he had never seen before - she whirled it around her head at a terrific speed, taking out many strange and mysterious figures that loomed just out of sight.
Magic swirled and smoke billowed. Warloc remembered the fierceness in the girl's eyes. He saw red hair. Blue eyes. And now she was fading away...
Warloc woke suddenly, unable to breathe. Bubbles rushed from his mouth. He pulled his head out from under the water's surface and spluttered.
The room was silent and normal. And all Warloc could think about was the strangeness he had just seen.
Siobhan woke from a dream about a creepy robotic arm that had started chasing her down the street. She hated that one. It was a recurring nightmarish dream. She remembered the panicky feeling she felt as the robot dragged itself along, never too far behind her...
Then she remembered her mother, and got out of bed. She crossed to her parents’ room. The door was stiff, and she had to shove against it with her hip to get it open. Inside was her father, still awake and looking exhausted. Next to him was her mother, propped up by about ten pillows and cushions. Her arm was in a sling and she has sweat on her forehead.
'Morning Mum,' Siobhan said, trying to sound normal. 'Morning, Dad.'
Her father waved at her. He also had sweat on his forehead, and now he wiped it away with one hand. It must have been awful being stuck in a room with her mum like that all night.
No, she thought. Stop it. Stop thinking like that.
'How's Mum?' she asked quietly.
'I am still here,' her mum said, biting her lip as one of the cushions shifted slightly. Siobhan realised her mistake and nodded brightly at her mother. Yesterday she had been in a car accident. A van had collided with her at the traffic lights. Siobhan had been in the car at the time, but as she was on the passenger side, she'd only had a bump on the head and a few scratches. Her mother been thrown sideways and slammed her head into the dashboard. Siobhan had taken a few moments to get over the shock of being hit by a van. She'd pulled herself upright and turned to her mother to see if she was alright. Her mother didn't move for a bit, and when she did she suddenly let out a scream. Siobhan had panicked and called Dad, even though he was in Wolverhampton - an hour away. Meanwhile the van driver had rushed over to see how they were before calling for an ambulance.
Siobhan held her mother's clammy hand as they were taken to the nearest hospital, and her mother was crying and wailing all the time. They whisked her off to A&E, and she had to sit out in the hallway while they put her mother on morphine and examined her. It turned out she'd broken her arm, somewhere near the scapula. Right by the shoulder, where it would be the most tricky to keep still. That whole night her mother had been in a state of agony, unable to sleep without moving her arm.
'How are you, Mum?' Siobhan asked.
Her mother sighed. 'Not too bad thanks, sweetie.' That was a lie. 'Didn't get a lot of sleep though.'
'I didn't either,' Siobhan said.
'I didn't,' her father said, touching his wife on the hand. She managed a smile.
'Why couldn't you sleep? I didn't keep you awake, did I?'
'No, Mum, I... had a few nightmares, that's all. About evil machines, that kind of thing.'
This made her parents laugh.
'I've had enough of machines, I think,' her mum said. 'I'm walking everywhere from now on.'
‘I don’t think cars are machines, really...’
‘Well they are now.’
Siobhan nodded, and nodded at her parents as she left the room. 'Lemme know if you want anything,' she called out as she headed down the stairs.
'Two cups of tea'd be nice thanks!' said her dad.
She reached the bottom of the stairs. Her grandmother was in the kitchen, rooting through the medicine drawer. She said hello, and put some bread in the toaster. She slammed the handle down.
'You OK, grandma?'
'Fine thanks.' Grandma located the right tray of tablets and popped two out. Then she took two more from a little brown container. She swallowed them all with a swig of coke.
'Oh, Grandma. Coke first thing in the morning?'
'What? It's flat Coke...'
'Doesn't make any difference!'
Something was burning at the bottom of the toaster. Siobhan ignored it until she actually saw sparks, then she took her toast out sharpish.
'What time are you going to be home, Siobhan? Four, is it?'
'Four thirty, yeah. Got choir practice.'
The toast was hardly done, but she ate it anyway. She planned to maybe wash her hair and read a bit before she started the walk to school. It was still fairly early.
Siobhan wasn’t too fond of school. Phalscam Arts School was OK, and meant she could do Performing Arts, a subject other schools in the area didn’t value so much. But today there was also P.E. She wasn’t bad at sport, and she enjoyed doing things outside of school. She often went to the gym to try to get a few minutes on the treadmill.
But she hated P.E. What was fun about doing rounders in a muddy field or kicking a football about pointlessly on the Astroturf? And if she ever met the person who’d invented netball... well, she couldn’t be responsible for what would happen.