JAGUAR (Middle Grade mystery to be published September 2017)
When a hole in the earth opened up and swallowed my
mum, everything changed.
We didn’t know it was going to happen. How could we?
It was Sunday. It was sunny for a change. We
were weeding the flesh-eaters.
‘You do the cobra lilies, Griff. I’ll
sort the monkey cups,’ mum said. ‘Then we’ll work on the Venus flytraps.’
I tapped at the soft soil with my
trowel. It was too hot to put in much effort. Besides, I didn’t like those
plants. They ate live creatures. Mum loved them because Mum hated flies. In the
house there was a can of insect spray in every corner of every room. It was
like she was at war with all the flies on the planet. Her hungry meat-eaters
were the first line of defence. If a fly survived them and flew into the house,
it got zapped.
night, after my shower, my skin buzzed from the day in the sun. I was tired and
fell asleep quickly and deeply.
The crash was like thunder in my room. It jolted me
awake, throwing me to one side of the bed. The house shook. With a crack like gunfire,
the window shattered and glass flew inwards in a glittering explosion.
My bed tilted to one side, and I
clung to the headboard. I thought it must be an earthquake. My wardrobe rocked,
juddered forward, and then toppled with another crash.
I yelled again.
the dawn light, I saw the floor was sloped at an angle; the door flung open and
twisted on its hinges.
‘Muuum!’When everything stopped moving,
there was silence except for the screaming siren of Mum’s car alarm. The headlights
flashed on and off my bedroom wall in rhythm with my heartbeat. With a churning
stomach, I watched in horror as my duvet curled and slithered off the bed as if
it were alive.
I don’t know how long I clung to the headboard. When
I got the courage to move, my legs shook so much I couldn’t stand. Dust swirled
in through the door like smoke. I coughed and rubbed at my eyes.
Crawling on hands and knees, I
inched my way towards the doorway. With my back against the wall I levered the
door open with my foot to squeeze my body through. There was another deep boom,
and my bedside table slid across the room, thumping into my side. With a groan,
I pushed it away.
The dust was thicker in the
hallway, and there was a stench like dirty water – like drains. It filled my
nose and throat, and I heaved. Mum wasn’t in her bedroom. Sobbing with fright,
I lurched through the chaos in every room, shouting for her. The floor sloped
like a ship’s deck in a storm. Stuff had fallen out of cupboards and off
shelves. Cans rolled across the kitchen floor. Boxes of cereal spilled off the
counter tops. The kitchen table was on its side, cups and plates smashed
What was happening?
Mum wasn’t in the kitchen, lounge
or bathroom. Another boom and with the following shudder pictures and
photographs dropped from the walls with a crash of breaking glass. I curled up
in a ball on the floor with my arms around my head. When the tremors stopped I
A cold draft blew up the hallway towards me.
The front door swung off its hinges, creaking like old timbers. I crawled
towards it, pulled it open and stared into … nothing.
The garden was gone.
The garage was gone; the lawn was
gone; the trees were gone. Even the flesh-eating plants were gone.
Inches from the doorstep, where
the garden should have been was a massive hole.
A tree twisted with a loud crack.
It bowed, thrashed its leaves, and was sucked down into the seething mass of
earth and rubble. The surface rippled, and more earth twisted in on itself like
a dark whirlpool. Land was sliding slowly into the pit – being sucked into the
void. The back end of Mum’s car stuck out of the hole. Its lights flashed; its
then I knew… my mum was down there, too.
leapt into the swirling mass.
Immediately the soil dragged at
my body, trying to suck me under. I scrabbled desperately at the earth and
rubble, screaming, ‘Muum!’
My mouth filled with dirt. I
gagged and spat. Something above me snapped and fell, smashing into the side of
my head. I didn’t feel the pain. I clawed at the earth – digging, digging,
Then I saw the flash of purple.
Mum’s dressing gown. I clawed at the material just as arms grabbed me from
above and hauled me from the churning pit.
‘Get him out! Get him out!’
‘It’s still moving.’
‘Grab him. Quick!’
I tried to fight them off,
swinging my fists, wild with terror and rage. ‘My Mum’s down there! My Mum’s
But they were too strong for me,
and I was dragged away still screaming, ‘Muuum!’
I was in an ambulance, and all around was noise and
people and flashing lights. I shook so hard my teeth rattled. A paramedic put
his arm around my shoulder and said something. He dabbed at my head. The white
cloth came away bright red with blood. I couldn’t work out what he was saying. I watched his
mouth move, but he didn’t make any sense.
felt real. Through the doors of the ambulance I saw everything in snapshots. A
police officer waved people away, another cordoned off our home with a reel of
tape. Neighbours hovered in silent groups just behind the hedge. They peered
into the ambulance at me, their eyes wide with shock. If I turned towards them,
they quickly looked away again.
Another officer stuck his head a
round the door. ‘Griffin? We think there’s been some sort of mine collapse or a
sinkhole. They’re doing their best to get your mother out, son. Hang in there.’
nodded. When I lifted my arm to pull the blanket around me a pain shot like a
bolt of electricity from my neck down through my back.
The police officer patted my
shoulder. He turned and raised his voice, ‘Is there any way we can shut off that
bloody car alarm?’
A man climbed in and sat beside
me. He wore dirty jeans and a ragged
T-shirt covered in dust. There was a smell of oil about him. I thought he was
one of the rescuers.
He swept the thick blonde curls
from his eyes. ‘Griffin, isn’t it? I’m a doctor. Dr Blyth Merrick. I’ve sent
someone to tell Rhodri, your uncle, what’s happened. He can meet us at the
I wasn’t sure if my uncle would
want to meet us - or even if I wanted him there. But, before I could say
anything the doctor took my hands in his and I saw, with surprise, that my mine
were covered in thick, black mud – and blood.
‘Looks like the paramedics have
taken good care of you but we need to get you to the hospital to make sure
there are no bones broken. There’s that cut on your head, too. They’re still
trying to get to your mum.’
We avoided each other’s eyes.
He lowered his head and we sat in
was a triumphant shout. ‘We’ve got her!’ followed by a sudden clamour of noise
and confusion. The doctor shot up and out of the ambulance. I tried to follow.
But as my feet hit the ground I felt the world spin in on me, and everything