Mrs Wilson was finishing off the story. 'With the dragon slain, the boy returned to the village a hero, and the celebrations marking the end of the dragon’s reign of fire went on for days. The boy married a pretty young girl from the village and remained there for the rest of his life. With the boy there, no dragon ever dared come back to the village again.’
‘That’s a complete load of old rubbish,’ said the Boff
‘You didn’t like the story then, Pravin? Asked Mrs Wilson.
‘No,’ continued the Boff. ‘For one thing, there’s no such thing as dragons?’
‘Yeah and why does it always have to be a boy killing all the time. Why can’t a girl kill the dragon.’ said Maggs indignantly. ‘Most the boys I know would run a mile if they saw a dragon. I wouldn’t be scared. I’d rip its head off.’
‘Also,’ said Tich. ‘If a young kid went to fight a real dragon, the dragon would burn him up in ten seconds and then eat him probably. Kids can’t fight dragons. That’s just stuff you get in stupid stories.’
‘You shouldn’t be teaching us about Dragons,’ argued Pravin.‘We should be having stories about famous scientists and stuff.’
‘We don’t want stories about scientists,’ said Ginger. ‘They’re totally boring. I like dragons.’
‘Yes but they don’t exist,’ insisted the Boff. ‘What’s the point of hearing stories about stuff that doesn’t exist?’
‘Some stories and legends are interesting aren’t they, Pravin?’ said Mrs Wilson patiently. ‘We’re allowed to use our imagination a little bit surely? They’d be no stories, no books. no films if we weren’t allowed to use our imaginations.’
‘But that’s why people believe in dragons, and vampires, and Robin Hood and Flying Saucers. Because of all these stupid stories,’ persisted the Boff.
‘Well anyway that’s all very interesting, but it’s time we did some work,’ said Mrs Wilson. The class groaned.
‘Not work. Miss,’ said Tich. ‘You’re wearing our brains out. Our brains’ll be worn out completely by the time we leave school.’
‘Yes, well, never mind that,’ said Mrs Wilson. ‘I want you all to write an exciting story about one of your heroes, and how they did something really brave, and yes Pravin you can right a story about Albert Einstein, or Louise Pasteur or Steven Hawkings.’
‘I bet Stephen Hawkins’d be rubbish at fighting dragons,’ said Ginger.
‘There’s something funny going on.’ announced Tich. He had called an emergency meeting of the gang to discuss the latest developments.
‘Like what?’ asked Ginger.
‘For one thing,’ said Tich. ‘In assembly this morning half the people were wearing dark glasses.’
‘What’s wrong with that. It was sunny,’ said Ginger.
‘It was in the hall and the curtains were closed. And you’re not allowed to wear dark glasses. It’s in the school rules.’
‘Mr Grimmell’s been wearing them for weeks.’
‘Exactly. He never wears glasses.’
‘And another thing,’ said Tich. ‘Why have they taken all the mirrors down from the loos?’
‘Perhaps they’ve gone to be repaired,’ said Maggs.
‘All of them? All at once?’
‘I noticed something.’ said the Boff. ‘All the people wearing sun glasses only drink Ribena at lunchtime. I tried some and it tasted disgusting. It was thick, like a milk shake. And they’re always yawning in class. It’s like they’ve been up all night. And nobody says anything.’
‘Maybe…,’ commenced Ginger. ‘Maybe… ‘
‘I don’t want to say… You’ll all laugh at me,’ said Ginger.
‘Course we won’t.’ said the others, all getting ready to have a good laugh. It was Ginger. It was bound to be something dumb.
‘Maybe they’ve all turned into vampires.’
Tich and Will sat on the hard bench in a dungeon deep in the bowels of the castle. Neither of them spoke for a long while. They just listened to the dripping of water that turned the floor into a damp muddy mess, the scuttling of huge rats and the moans and groans of other prisoners in other equally damp and dingy cells.
'Will said, ‘Could be worse I s’pose.’
‘Worse. How can it be worse? They’re going to hang us.’
‘There’s much worse things.’
We could be hung, drawn and quartered.’
‘They hang you up by your neck ‘till you’re nearly dead, then they cut you down, slice your stomach open and pull out your guts. Then they cut you up into four bits.’
‘That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard,’ said Tich. And then a picture of Pig Boy being cut into four pieces welled up in his mind. ‘Mind you, I suppose there’s something to be said for it.’
There was no answer. The police station appeared to be completely deserted. There were some very strange sounds coming from outside the building though. There were gunshots and explosions and strange whirring sounds. They gathered at the window and looked out.
The road was largely deserted apart from a few people running for cover. There were plumes of smoke emerging from several houses. As they were watching, a light beam hit the tower of St Greavsy’s church, sending huge stone blocks crashing to the ground.
‘What on Earth is going on out there?’ asked Pravin’s mum.
‘Is the end of the world,’ said Mrs Hobbes-Goblin. ‘Me amoraferrapist tol me this was cumin.’
‘Ginger, come back,’ shouted Ginger’s mum. Unnoticed by the others, Ginger had walked out of the door and was already crossing the street apparently oblivious to the chaos taking over the town.
Ginger’s mum chased after him, grabbed him by the arm and tried to speak to him. He just shrugged her off refusing to be stopped. He pushed her out of the way and continued on, as if in a trance.
‘Come on, we need to get after him,’ said Tich, and he and the other children rushed out in pursuit of Ginger, ignoring the protesting the cries of the adults left behind. ‘Come back Bealzy. Don’t git killed, I’ll lose me child benefit.’
‘It’s feppin’ seen us,’ said Tich. ‘Run for it.’
Grabbing the animal skins they’d filled with water, they ran as fast as they could, following the stream back down towards the beach. All the time they could hear the metal grinding of Talos in the distance. His joints were stiff but, as he wore away the rust, he was moving faster and faster. The children knew he was gaining on them.
The Argonauts must have heard the commotion in the distance, because they were already pushing off from the shore. The children were barely going to make it in time and, by the time they reached the beach, they realised it was going to be too late.
Behind them, Talos lurched out onto the beach. The children waded out into the water. ‘Pass us the skins,’ ordered Jason and they flung the heavy skins up to the Argonauts, who were leaning out ready to grab them.
Behind them, Talos was halfway across the beach and the children were already up to their necks in salt water.
They expected the Argonauts to throw down ropes or haul them aboard. Instead, they were busy pulling up the anchors and getting the oars ready. The Argo was pulling away from the beach.
The four children could hardly believe it. The Argonauts were rowing away into the harbour and had no intention of bringing them aboard. They were leaving them to the mercy of Talos!