“Lyd! We’re going to be late!”
Lydia Stevens looked up from her packing and blew an errant lock of strawberry blonde hair out of her eyes. “We’ve got plenty of time, Kaz. It doesn’t start till eight.”
“Providing the road to town still goes to town and not somewhere else this time,” Karen said.
“That only happened once,” Lydia said. “And leaving now won’t stop it if it’s going to. Anyway, I won’t have time to pack when we get back.”
“She’s right. It’s no more likely to happen again than being chased through the woods by monsters.” Andrew snapped shut the cryptozoology book he was reading and stood up from the cream beanbag he’d been sprawled on. “And much less likely than your shower water turning to blood again.” He smirked at Karen’s shudder. “I’d be more worried about Dan making us late. Is it just me, or has he been avoiding us recently?”
“He’s not avoiding us. He’s at karate. He griped at me earlier because I’ll be ‘off in the wilds’ instead of at his tournament.” Lydia made one last check of her rucksack and straightened up. “That’s everything.”
“Finally!” Karen said. “Are you going to get changed?”
“I’m fine as I am,” Lydia said.
“Khaki trousers and a tank top for an evening out is not fine,” Karen said.
Lydia looked up at the ceiling and counted to ten. “What’s the point? It’s dark in cinema, so no one can see what I’m wearing.” She just about refrained from telling her sister that her designer skinny jeans and silk blouse were overkill. “Why don’t you nag Drew to get changed?” She glanced sideways at their jeans and t-shirt clad brother who had his hand over his eyes and was shaking his head.
“He’s a guy. They don’t have to bother.”
“What?” Lydia and Andrew exclaimed, then looked at each other and laughed.
“That’s so bloody sexist, Kaz.” Andrew ran a hand through his blond hair. “If I said that you’d punch me.”
“And if you didn’t, I would,” Lydia added.
Karen glared at her. “I give up! Let’s wait for Dan downstairs.”
“Mum’ll accuse us of clogging up the lounge again,” Andrew said.
Lydia dusted off the knees of her trousers and shook her head. “She’s in bed – it’s a bad day. Dad won’t mind. I’ll probably have to roust him out of the study to drive us anyway. He’s working on that crazy book of his again.”
“And he’ll moan about that instead. I’ll be glad when we can learn to drive next year.” 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. “Not again.”
“What’s wrong?” Lydia joined her sister at the door. Her mouth went dry, and she swallowed the bile which rose up and burned her throat. “Okaaaay… that’s not the landing.” 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.
“Wow! Now that’s cool!” Andrew said. Lydia heard him take several shaky breaths. “It’s weird – even for us.” He stuck his head through the doorway, sniffed the air, and then looked back at his sisters with sparkling eyes. “Doesn’t even smell like the house.”
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.
“He thinks this is cool? That’s not the word I’d use.” Karen turned and prodded him. “You’re the weirdness freak, Drew. I swear you attract this kind of stuff to us by reading those books! How do we fix this?”
“It started before then, Kaz. You know that,” he said levelly. “I’ve read about something similar. Try closing the door and counting to ten. It’ll go away… I think.”
“It’s worth a try, I guess.” Karen hesitated, then did as he’d suggested before reopening it.
Lydia peered over her shoulder. “Nope… still there. You’re wrong for once, Drew.”
“It should have–” Before Andrew could say more, something spoke from beyond the door.
“Help us! Please, you must help us!”
“Oh, bloody hell!” Lydia kicked the wall hard. “I guess that’s why it didn’t work! Somebody wants us there.” She walked over to a window and looked out then checked the other windows. “We won’t be getting out that way either. It’s all around us.” She glared at the uninviting heath, swore a couple more times, and headed to their mini-fridge. “Get the fruit bowl and pass me the large holdall.” She began pulling the snacks out of the fridge and piling them on the floor. “Thank goodness I have my gear packed, but these aren’t my first choice of rations,” she said as Andrew brought the fruit over. She looked over at Karen. “Kaz?”
“No, y-you’re not… You aren’t really thinking of going?” Her silver-grey eyes – the one feature all four quadruplets shared – were wide.
“Do we have a choice?” Andrew said. “If we stay here we’re stuck and we’ll run out of food eventually. Someone wants us.”
“Maybe we can get out when Dan arrives,” she said, but then her shoulders slumped. “No, that won’t work. They’ll be able to stop it…”
“And drag him in as well,” Lydia said. “We could try but then–”
The voice repeated its call for help.
“Well then, there’s that.”
Andrew nodded. “They must think we can help, because they’ve gone to a great deal of trouble to get our attention.”
“That’s true, but why should we care?” Karen said. “We didn’t ask for this.”
“I know,” Lydia said, “but they’ve made it our business whether we like it or not.” She fetched the large holdall herself, since Karen was still frozen. “It’s not very polite of them to compel us like this, but they sound desperate.”
“So what?” Karen put her hands on her hips, but the shake in her voice told Lydia her sister was wavering. “I don’t care!” She didn’t sound convinced.
“I’m going,” Lydia said.
“Me too!” Andrew said.
“You can cover for us.” Lydia carried her rucksack to the door as Andrew hefted the holdall onto his shoulder. “Hopefully it’ll let you out once we’re gone.”
Karen looked from one to the other. “You’re really set on this, and nothing I say will stop you?”
They shook their heads.
“You’re both mad, and I am too for going along with you.” She grabbed their coats from the hook behind the door. “We’ll need these.” She paused and glared at Lydia and Andrew who were smirking at her change of heart. “I’m sure we’ll regret this, but you’ll get in more trouble without me.”
“Possibly,” Lydia said as she shrugged her coat on. “But it’s important. More important than we realise. It feels like the right thing to do.” She looked down at the elegant mules on Karen’s feet. “Put your trainers on, you won’t get far in those things.”
“Yes,” Andrew said. “As soon as I heard that voice, I knew we had to help. Didn’t you feel it?”
“Of course I did. Whoever’s behind this wants us to feel that way. I don’t trust feelings which aren’t my own.” Karen shook her head as she changed her shoes. “If we’re going to do this, let’s go.”
“Yes, let’s.” 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 they’d heard.
“Crap! I knew it!”
Karen’s cursing made her turn, and she saw her sister looking back. There was no sign of the stairs or their attic den.