The Gaurdian(Chapter One)
The shortest day of the winter was drawing to a close, as an eerie silence descended on the village of Eden Green. Not a soul was in sight. Windows and doors normally thrown wide open were shut tight, and smoke meandered lazily from the cottage chimneys out into the thin icy air. The only noise other than the distant rumble of the last coal train, was the low hum emitted from the gas lamps lining the village square. From far above in the clear northern sky, scattered stars began to emerge slowly, casting a ghostly tint across the endless void. The only person not buried under a doona or dozing in front of a fireplace, was a teenage boy with dark curly hair and startlingly blue eyes. Leaning forward with his forehead pressed against the cold glass of his bedroom window, he sat cross legged staring blankly through the opaque glass, almost oblivious to his own shivering hands.
James Bailey’s air of boredom did not immediately betray the psychological torment he concealed from the rest of the world each day. From the dank ceiling hung a solitary light bulb, broken and dusty . A single mattress occupied one corner of the room, and empty beer cans littered the floorboards. The greying paint that once covered the walls of the room white, was cracked and peeling, and cobwebs lined every other nook and cranny. From the outside, the Bailey Cottage stood out from its neighbouring counterparts. An enchanting marriage of tradition and innovation, the stone structure sat serenely amongst its mundane surroundings, gazing across the square with idyllic beauty.
“You are listening to the Night Owl with Jane Lockheart on Village fm radio. Perhaps you are getting comfy somewhere in a sleeper carriage or you are already cosy in front of a warm fire and kettle. Up next we have the very best of the classic composers to help take you through the night and wind down. You are listening to the Night Owl with Jane Lockheart…”
“Are you gonna be like her someday?”
“You know, be a radio person or something when you get older.”
Rosie Lockheart took a deep breath and sighed. Her dark brown eyes gazed into the flickering fireplace as she pondered her response. “Maybe. I might do it when i’m old enough. Mummy says if I behave then I can come on the show and pick a song on my birthday.” A small grin began to spread from the corners of her lips, until her rosy cheeks could no longer hide her exitement. Smiling broadly, she pulled her long brown hair back into a messy bun, then wondered aloud, “What are you gonna do, huh?”
James smirked, “No idea. Sometimes I paint stuff with Mum and Dad. Just for fun. I’m not as clever as they are though.”
“Well duh, you’re seven!” They laughed loudly, until a knock on the door interrupted them,
“Rosie, dinner time!” The two of them got up and hugged each other, before Rosie waved goodbye, then disappeared through the door.
A loud crack brought James sharply out of his reverie. Startled, he sat bolt upright so quickly he cricked his neck. Cursing under his breath, he fumbled through the rubbish around him until his fingers found what they were searching for: a pocket watch. Snatching it up in his right hand, James clambered to his feet before drawing himself to his full height- a wobbling six foot and three inches. Squinting in the darkness, he peered over his nose and took a moment to examine his own appearance. A faded white t-shirt bearing ‘God save the Queen’ in black hugged him around his broad shoulders and chest. His Jeans, cutting into his waist, had holes in the knees, and a good inch or two of ankle was visible below them. Lifting his gaze, his eyes were drawn to the window in front of him, where a grubby, unshaved face stared back at him with an almost pitying expression. Past his own reflection, James could just make out the outline of what appeared to be some sort of dog or wild animal roaming the square some fifty meters away. It paused for a moment, before turning around and curling up under the refuge of one of the park benches. Shrugging, James stood motionless, continuing to eyeball himself in the window until- CRACK!
The unmistakable sound of breaking glass shattered the still night air, followed by the sudden screech of a stray cat. A wave of dread surged through James’s veins, causing goosebumps to erupt all over his body. Glancing at the face of his pocket watch, he read the time: 9.45pm. In one swift motion he lunged across the room,seized a wooden baseball bat from against the wall and kicked open his bedroom door, causing a cloud of dust and dried paint to fall noisily from the musty ceiling. With his heart in his mouth, James crept around the corner from his bedroom door out into the narrow hallway. Surrounded by pitch black darkness, he inched towards the front door so slowly that he nearly lost his balance. Steadying himself with one hand against the cracked walls, he held his breath silently, waiting for the sound of footsteps to break the silence. Seconds passed, then the minutes, each taking an age before the next. As the sound of blood racing around inside his head grew deafening, James fell to his knees and retched, dropping the bat with a loud clunk. Wiping his mouth with his shirt, he let out a faint gasp before collapsing in a trembling heap, his head throbbing and his chest rising and falling rapidly. Drenched from head to toe in a cold sweat, James began to feel himself fade into unconsciousness before three distinct knocks brought him acutely back to his senses. Paralysed with fear, he lay frozen stiff on the ground, unable to move or speak. *Knock**Knock**Knock*. James felt a rising wave of panic inside of him, causing him to convulse as he tried to draw breath, when-
“James? James are you in there? It’s me.”
James retched violently once again before his fronzen body relaxed, and a great ache came over him, as if he had been standing still for a thousand years. James heard laughter coming from the other side of the door. “Oh dear,” mused a girls voice sardonically, “It appears to me that my companion is incapacitated.”
Dusting off his feet, James got up wearily and lent against the wall. “Geez you menace,” He exclaimed. “Ever heard of knocking!?”
“Hmmm. Have you ever considered answering your phone? You know, the telecomunications device you carry around in your pocket?” James sighed, before wondering aloud,
“Maybe you should’ve been a secret agent? I reckon you might just have a knack for all that under the radar, stealthy kind of stuff you know..”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Very funny. Maybe you shouldn’t collect old rubbish and leave it outside in the dark, you know. I mean come on, you’re not actually expecting anyone to take your interior decorating tips seriously?” The sound of breaking glass shattered the night air once more. James let out a laugh, before marching down the hallway to open the front door. As he reached for the handle he paused for a moment; he felt the muscles in his face begin to slowly contract until he was standing there smiling somewhat stupidly to himself in the dark. Trying hard to wipe the grin off his face, he opened the door a jar and peered through the gap. In the dim he could just make out the sillhouette of a tall, skinny girl of around nineteen dressed in a trench coat with her hair tied back in a messy bun. Pulling a string to his left, James illuminated the threshold and opened the door, as a pair of dark brown eyes emerged from the shadows and met his own.