â€œLyd! Weâ€™re going to be late!â€
Lydia Stevens looked up from her packing and blew an errant lock of strawberry blonde hair out of her eyes. â€œWeâ€™ve got plenty of time, Kaz. It doesnâ€™t start till eight.â€
â€œProviding the road to town still goes to town and not somewhere else this time,â€ Karen said.
â€œThat only happened once,â€ Lydia said. â€œAnd leaving now wonâ€™t stop it if itâ€™s going to. Anyway, I wonâ€™t have time to pack when we get back.â€
â€œSheâ€™s right. It’s no more likely to happen again than being chased through the woods by monsters.â€ Andrew snapped shut the cryptozoology book he was reading and stood up from the cream beanbag heâ€™d been sprawled on. â€œAnd much less likely than your shower water turning to blood again.â€ He smirked at Karen’s shudder. â€œIâ€™d be more worried about Dan making us late. Is it just me, or has he been avoiding us recently?â€
â€œHeâ€™s not avoiding us. Heâ€™s at karate. He griped at me earlier because Iâ€™ll be â€˜off in the wildsâ€™ instead of at his tournament.â€ Lydia made one last check of her rucksack and straightened up. â€œThatâ€™s everything.â€
â€œFinally!â€ Karen said. â€œAre you going to get changed?â€
â€œIâ€™m fine as I am,â€ Lydia said.
â€œKhaki trousers and a tank top for an evening out is not fine,â€ Karen said.
Lydia looked up at the ceiling and counted to ten. â€œWhatâ€™s the point? Itâ€™s dark in cinema, so no one can see what Iâ€™m wearing.â€ She just about refrained from telling her sister that her designer skinny jeans and silk blouse were overkill. â€œWhy donâ€™t you nag Drew to get changed?â€ She glanced sideways at their jeans and t-shirt clad brother who had his hand over his eyes and was shaking his head.
â€œHeâ€™s a guy. They donâ€™t have to bother.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Lydia and Andrew exclaimed, then looked at each other and laughed.
â€œThatâ€™s so bloody sexist, Kaz.â€ Andrew ran a hand through his blond hair. â€œIf I said that youâ€™d punch me.â€
â€œAnd if you didnâ€™t, I would,â€ Lydia added.
Karen glared at her. â€œI give up! Letâ€™s wait for Dan downstairs.â€
â€œMumâ€™ll accuse us of clogging up the lounge again,â€ Andrew said.
Lydia dusted off the knees of her trousers and shook her head. â€œSheâ€™s in bed â€“ itâ€™s a bad day. Dad wonâ€™t mind. Iâ€™ll probably have to roust him out of the study to drive us anyway. Heâ€™s working on that crazy book of his again.â€
â€œAnd heâ€™ll moan about that instead. Iâ€™ll be glad when we can learn to drive next year.â€ Karen opened the door and stopped short. She made a kind of squeaking noise and looked back at the others. Her mouth was opening and closing but no words were coming out. After a moment she gave a little moan. â€œNot again.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s wrong?â€ Lydia joined her sister at the door. Her mouth went dry, and she swallowed the bile which rose up and burned her throat. â€œOkaaaayâ€¦ thatâ€™s not the landing.â€ She tried to sound nonchalant, but her voice shook as she looked out at a wild and windswept heath. It was a cloudy day, but the sky was a clear blue above the heath even though she could see lightning on the distant horizon. A swooping sense of deja vu made her grab the door frame, the view was equally familiar and strange. Things from her dreams had impinged on the waking world before but never like this.
â€œWow! Now thatâ€™s cool!â€ Andrew said. Lydia heard him take several shaky breaths. â€œItâ€™s weird â€“ even for us.â€ He stuck his head through the doorway, sniffed the air, and then looked back at his sisters with sparkling eyes. â€œDoesnâ€™t even smell like the house.â€
Karen and Lydia looked at each other. Her sister was as pale as Lydia felt, and there was a distressed tightness around her eyes like she was trying not to cry.
â€œHe thinks this is cool? Thatâ€™s not the word Iâ€™d use.â€ Karen turned and prodded him. â€œYouâ€™re the weirdness freak, Drew. I swear you attract this kind of stuff to us by reading those books! How do we fix this?â€
â€œIt started before then, Kaz. You know that,â€ he said levelly. â€œIâ€™ve read about something similar. Try closing the door and counting to ten. Itâ€™ll go awayâ€¦ I think.â€
â€œItâ€™s worth a try, I guess.â€ Karen hesitated, then did as heâ€™d suggested before reopening it.
Lydia peered over her shoulder. â€œNopeâ€¦ still there. Youâ€™re wrong for once, Drew.â€
â€œIt should haveâ€“â€ Before Andrew could say more, something spoke from beyond the door.
â€œHelp us! Please, you must help us!â€
â€œOh, bloody hell!â€ Lydia kicked the wall hard. â€œI guess thatâ€™s why it didnâ€™t work! Somebody wants us there.â€ She walked over to a window and looked out then checked the other windows. â€œWe wonâ€™t be getting out that way either. Itâ€™s all around us.â€ She glared at the uninviting heath, swore a couple more times, and headed to their mini-fridge. â€œGet the fruit bowl and pass me the large holdall.â€ She began pulling the snacks out of the fridge and piling them on the floor. â€œThank goodness I have my gear packed, but these arenâ€™t my first choice of rations,â€ she said as Andrew brought the fruit over. She looked over at Karen. â€œKaz?â€
â€œNo, y-youâ€™re not â€¦ You arenâ€™t really thinking of going?â€ Her silver-grey eyes â€“ the one feature all four quadruplets shared â€“ were wide.
â€œDo we have a choice?â€ Andrew said. â€œIf we stay here weâ€™re stuck and weâ€™ll run out of food eventually. Someone wants us.â€
â€œMaybe we can get out when Dan arrives,â€ she said, but then her shoulders slumped. â€œNo, that wonâ€™t work. Theyâ€™ll be able to stop itâ€¦â€
â€œAnd drag him in as well,â€ Lydia said. â€œWe could try but thenâ€“â€
The voice repeated its call for help.
â€œWell then, thereâ€™s that.â€
Andrew nodded. â€œThey must think we can help, because theyâ€™ve gone to a great deal of trouble to get our attention.â€
â€œThatâ€™s true, but why should we care?â€ Karen said. â€œWe didnâ€™t ask for this.â€
â€œI know,â€ Lydia said, â€œbut theyâ€™ve made it our business whether we like it or not.â€ She fetched the large holdall herself, since Karen was still frozen. â€œItâ€™s not very polite of them to compel us like this, but they sound desperate.â€
â€œSo what?â€ Karen put her hands on her hips, but the shake in her voice told Lydia her sister was wavering. â€œI donâ€™t care!â€ She didnâ€™t sound convinced.
â€œIâ€™m going,â€ Lydia said.
â€œMe too!â€ Andrew said.
â€œYou can cover for us.â€ Lydia carried her rucksack to the door as Andrew hefted the holdall onto his shoulder. â€œHopefully itâ€™ll let you out once weâ€™re gone.â€
Karen looked from one to the other. â€œYouâ€™re really set on this, and nothing I say will stop you?â€
They shook their heads.
â€œYouâ€™re both mad, and I am too for going along with you.â€ She grabbed their coats from the hook behind the door. â€œWeâ€™ll need these.â€ She paused and glared at Lydia and Andrew who were smirking at her change of heart. â€œIâ€™m sure weâ€™ll regret this, but youâ€™ll get in more trouble without me.â€
â€œPossibly,â€ Lydia said as she shrugged her coat on. â€œBut itâ€™s important. More important than we realise. It feels like the right thing to do.â€ She looked down at the elegant mules on Karenâ€™s feet. â€œPut your trainers on, you wonâ€™t get far in those things.â€
â€œYes,â€ Andrew said. â€œAs soon as I heard that voice, I knew we had to help. Didnâ€™t you feel it?â€
â€œOf course I did. Whoeverâ€™s behind this wants us to feel that way. I donâ€™t trust feelings which arenâ€™t my own.â€ Karen shook her head as she changed her shoes. â€œIf weâ€™re going to do this, letâ€™s go.â€
â€œYes, letâ€™s.â€ Lydia headed down the stairs towards the dismal looking heath and heard the others following her. They emerged onto the crown of a hill. Lydia immediately began looking around for the source of the voice theyâ€™d heard.
â€œCrap! I knew it!â€
Karenâ€™s cursing made her turn, and she saw her sister looking back. There was no sign of the stairs or their attic den.