Doorways, p.1

Doorways, page 1

 part  #1 of  Doorways Series



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Page 1

  Chapter 1

  Zach Black raced across the empty beach, ignoring the grains of sand the wind jabbed against his skin like needle points. He was away from that house and away from that man.

  His sixteen-year-old legs carried him faster and further with every stride, and his lungs screamed for him to stop. But Zach didn’t listen. Or care! Running was his release. It was a daily taste of freedom that he devoured like a ravenous animal.

  Ahead of him, waiting as always was a familiar outcrop of rock. Black against the skyline, it lay against the sand like a giant’s arm. Zach knew it well. He also knew he had just five more seconds to reach it before the Atlantic Ocean claimed him.

  Zach raced the ocean every day. The challenge reminded him that life could be exciting and exhilarating. It also reminded him that danger could be conquered. But today, danger was winning.

  The tide was racing faster than ever and Zach had mistimed his run. Two miles didn’t sound like a long distance. It was a run he had made every day for the last month, since moving to Cornwall with his uncle Fandel. On a fresh spring morning, Zach could’ve made the run in less than twelve minutes. But today, with the wind leaning against him like a heavy drunk, he was struggling. And the ocean could sense weakness.

  The first heavy wave thumped against rock, splashing the sand with stakes of cold sea. The Atlantic retreated, but just for a moment. A second, larger wave broke against the outcrop and this time the water didn’t retreat. One more wave and the cove would be flooded. Zach knew if didn’t make it around the outcrop, he would be stranded. The tide wouldn’t retreat for another four hours and by then his uncle Fandel would come looking for him. Fear tightened Zach’s throat as he imagined the consequences.

  Fighting the lactic acid that already stung his legs, Zach pushed himself through the pain barrier. A shadow darkened the strip of sand ahead of Zach as the raging ridge of a third wave loomed above him like an ogre. The ocean roared in triumph as it sent a wall of water surging forward to devour him.

  ‘Gotchya!’ Zach laughed as he leapt from the sea-soaked sand and bounced onto a familiar plateau of rock. Cat-tails of ice-cold ocean slapped against his back and across his neck, stinging his skin and soaking his hair. But Zach still grinned. And as he leapt from the rock onto dry sand, he raised both arms in a victory salute.

  Oxygen raced into his mouth as he sucked air into his lungs. That had been close. He’d never had to run so hard, or so fast before. Yet he was glad. He was getting stronger.

  Wiping away the sweat from his forehead, Zach looked out across the empty dunes. The scene was a familiar one. Rolling sand dunes retreated from the sea towards the beach huts, criss-crossed by the narrow pathways carved by the summer tourists. Zach had seen it every day for the last month, yet today it was different. Zach’s eyes fell upon something new. Something strange.

  Apart from the weird-looking tablets his uncle had been giving his sister for the last month, Zach had never seen anything so bizarre in the sixteen years that he had been alive.

  Zach thrust his hands into his jeans pockets, shielding them against the cold, and stood staring at the door that protruded from the sand. The sea crept up the shore in grey waves of froth, lapping against his trainers and the bottom of the odd wooden protrusion. A curtain of hair flapped in front of his eyes, which he knocked away with his hand; he was anxious to get a better look at the door.

  Why was it there?

  He ran his gaze up and down the wood. It was painted white and appeared to be made from cheap, knotted planks. The door didn’t appear to be attached to anything; there were no hinges and no frame, just a rusty looking doorknob sticking out from the centre of the woodwork like a brass pimple.

  Zach glanced behind him, looking back up the stretch of deserted sand. Aside from a few smooth pebbles, tossed like litter by the retreating tide, the only thing Zach could see was his own trail of footprints, now being devoured by the incoming tide. The beach was desolate and he wasn’t surprised. Only he was mad enough to take a run along the shore on a freezing cold December afternoon. Yet Zach had good reason to be here; even a freezing deserted beach was a warmer place to be than that house. At least here, on the windswept sands, he could forget about his dying sister Anna. He could also avoid his cruel uncle, Fandel Black.

  The wind’s icy fingers clawed at Zach’s face and he turned away to gaze back towards the door. He frowned. Why was there a door in the middle of the beach? And why this beach?

  Curiosity pushed Zach forward. He peered around the edge of the door to see what lay behind. He wasn’t too surprised to find more sand, waves and giant black cliffs that reached towards the sky like mountains sides.

  ‘Who would leave a door standing in the middle of the beach?’ he whispered to himself as his eyes followed the curves and twists on the knots in the wood as they spiralled this way and that.

  Zach stepped closer to the door and traced the rings with his fingertips until his hand brushed against the doorknob. A surge of energy that had seemed to leap from the doorknob, made his arm fizz with pins and needles.

  ‘Aw!’ he yelped, snapping his hand away, ‘That hurt!’

  Zach slapped his hand against his thigh, trying to bring some feeling back. He couldn’t take his eyes off the doorknob. The urge to take hold of it and throw the door wide open was too much to resist.

  Glancing over his shoulder, Zach stretched out his hand and curled his fingers around the doorknob. That surge of energy exploded across his chest. Gritting his teeth, Zach twisted the doorknob and pushed the door open.

  A rush of air belched out of the open doorway, slamming into his chest and knocking him backwards into the sand. Dazed and disorientated, Zach forced himself onto his elbows to stare in disbelief at what lay on the other side. The strangest looking creature Zach had ever seen. He had thick lengths of ropey brown dreadlocks hanging from his head, from his cheeks and even beneath his chin. Hair grew across his hands too, and down his fingers, which were long and bony, capped by ivory nails.

  Perched on this creatures nose was the weirdest pair of glasses, which protruded from his face like two silver telescopes with huge lenses. Behind the lenses, his eyes looked like saucers.

  Odder still, Zach noticed that something else was wrong with the scene – the image appeared to be see-sawing up and down and side-to-side, as though it were moving at great speed.

  ‘Faster!’ screamed the hairy-creature, yanking backwards on something held tight in his hands.

  Zach pulled himself up into a kneeling position, ignoring the grey waves that were soaking his jeans. Peering through the open doorway, he noticed that the hairy-creature on the other side had what appeared to be a set of reins wrapped around his fists. He pulled on these with all his strength and roared:

  ‘Faster I’m telling ya dumb creatures! Faster!’

  Zach climbed to his feet, mesmerised by what was unfolding on the other side of the doorway. As if being coaxed forward by an invisible pair of hands, Zach inched closer to the open door. Millimetres away now, he saw that hairy-creature was sitting atop of what looked like an ancient stagecoach. Zach blinked, trying to make sense of what he was seeing, because the stagecoach was being pulled by a quartet of the strangest looking animals he had ever seen.

  The creature glanced back over his shoulder and fear lit up his magnified eyes. Turning back to the animals, he whipped the reigns.

  ‘Faster! Faster!’ he yelled, ‘They’re nearly upon us!’

  Then, sensing he was being watched, the hairy-creature turned to stare straight at Zach. Releasing one of the reigns, he thrust a claw-like hand towards Zach and bellowed:

  ‘If you want to save your sister’s life, come with me!’ Flashing a mouthf
ul of yellow broken teeth, he grinned as if he were insane. ‘What ya waiting for Zach Black? Are you coming or what?’

  Zach considered the question for a moment. The chance to save his sister was too tempting. He stole a quick glimpse up the deserted beach, grasped the creature’s hairy hand, then stepped through the doorway.

  Chapter 2

  Zach looked back over his shoulder. The doorway he had stepped through slammed shut, folded in on itself and then disappeared, leaving behind the white glare of a sun that now beat down on him in seething hot rays. Just as the icy waves on the beach had stung his face, the heat from the sun prickled his flesh like cactus spikes.

  Spinning round, Zach found himself sitting atop the stagecoach, which raced across a hard, flat surface. The ground was bleach-white and arid, cracked and blistered like a corpse left too long in the burning sun. Ahead in the distance, Zach could see mountains and a forest that stretched across the horizon like a dark smudge. The stagecoach hurtled towards it, pulled by four black beasts.

  Glancing at them, Zach thought they looked like horses, but they were bigger and sleeker. The creatures’ legs were long and spidery-looking, and they had six each. Spraying up a shower of dust from beneath their pointed hooves, they scuttled across the desert. The beast’s bodies were muscular and their flesh rippled beneath a coat of bristling hair.

  Unlike horses, their necks were long and serpent-like with heads that jerked up and down as if they were receiving bolts of agonising electricity. The animals manes flowed out behind them in thick waves, and it was these hairy-boy was using as reins.

  ‘Who are you?’ Zach asked, looking at the creature that sat beside him. On closer inspection, Zach could see that under all the hair and behind the huge glasses, the creature did have what looked like a human face. Zach guessed that he was perhaps a little older than himself, maybe eighteen but no older than twenty.

  ‘William!’ the hair covered creature shouted, glancing over his shoulder. ‘Don’t just sit there gawping, do something!’

  Starring into William’s big saucer-like eyes, Zach said: ‘Do what?’

  Without saying anything, William nodded in the direction back over his shoulder.

  Spinning round, Zach roared, ‘Whoa! What are they?’

  Just feet from the rear wheels of the stagecoach, four hooded figures raced after them, each riding what looked like the skeletons of four giant gorillas.

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