Juliet pulled the covers up to her chin and looked towards the window. Something strange was happening, and she had no idea what it was, but she sensed there was danger, out there, in the darkness. It was proving to be another restless night, and she would be exhausted in the morning. The comforting glow of the computer screen helped to allay her fears a little, and when she heard the familiar ping of an incoming message, she sat up. It was from Corey. She read what he had written and felt her heart ache, as his story unfolded. His words echoed all the things she tried to keep hidden. He told her about his life, how he felt removed from everyone else and the terrible longing to find out the truth. That is, it, Juliet thought, I am taking a chance. Her fingers flew over the keyboard as she wrote.
Ok, here is what is happening. I am interested in archaeology and it is just some weird coincidence, but my teacher was offered a dig at a castle called Culdoplin. It is short notice, but we must leave tomorrow. I told Mr Thomas, he is leading the dig by the way, that you are my cousin and want to come along. I am not sure that I have made the right decision yet, but anyway he said you can. I am attaching the map of where it is. I don’t know where you’re travelling from, I think the best place to meet is at the station at Brittlestown. If we meet up an hour or so before the train, we can exchange information about ourselves, so Mr Thomas is not suspicious. If you do turn out to be a weirdo, I can have you arrested. Brittlestown is the final part of the journey and about an hour away from the village of Ballibrock. The castle is on the outskirts of the village. You will need a sleeping bag, but they supply tents and food. The dig should last for about four weeks, but it may be longer. Email me the minute you get this and let me know what you want to do.
Corey looked up at the ceiling and thought of those who slept overhead. Would they manage without him for that length of time? He bit his lip and felt his stomach spasm at the thought of not being able to go with Juliet. He had to find out the reason for the dream and the strange things he saw the night before. The others survived on the streets for years; they would be fine without him. He placed his fingers on the keys and began to type. Pressing the send button, he smiled; aware he had sealed his fate.
They were sad to see him go. Annie and Tom felt Corey needed the change after his months of hard work, and they had enough to keep the house going. His sudden decision to go on the dig was no surprise to those who were used to the comings and goings of the street-dwellers.
Corey leaned out of the train window and waved until he could no longer see his family. They all insisted on coming to see him off, and it turned in to an emotional parting as Jamie started to sniffle.
He sat back in his seat and smiled as the train picked up speed, and his stomach flipped when he thought of what lay ahead. There were few passengers, and this meant he could stow his sleeping bag and knapsack on the opposite seat. The journey would take over three hours, and Annie had packed him some sandwiches and a drink in case he got hungry. His sleep was disturbed since his first sighting of the Thing and the Monster Dog. The nights now held a new and more threatening terror than he had ever known on the streets. The rocking of the train relaxed him, and he closed his eyes and listened to the whispers from the wheels as they clackity-clacked. To his tired brain they seemed to be saying “going back, going back, going back,” and he did not realise that he was whispering the words along with them. Juliet would get there twenty minutes before him; she informed him in one the dozens of emails that whizzed back and forth between them throughout the night. She would be waiting on the platform when his train pulled in. He asked her how he would recognise him, and her reply still puzzled him. Look for someone who looks as though her head is on fire.
He woke with a jolt, and realised they were now deep in the heart of the countryside. He shuffled closer to the window and looked out at the strange, unfamiliar landscape speeding by. He had looked up the area on his computer and read a little about its history. None of the pictures on the screen prepared him for what he saw. The land was covered with huge stones, some long and flat, reminding him of ancient tombs. Others were standing, and he knew from his research they dated back to the time of the Druids. As the miles passed, he saw rings forts, the tombs of fallen warriors and old castles. There were dozens of ruined, ivy-covered churches, their spires the only thing that marked what they once were. Other than a few sheep grazing on the grass between the stones, there was no other sign of life. It was understandable in such a barren and desolate place, where most of the inhabitants left to find work in the towns and cities. This was evident in the hundreds of ruined cottages that dotted the land, their jagged bricks thrusting like skeleton arms through the dark earth. What connection I have with this strange place, Corey wondered, as the train brought him closer and closer to the truth.