Chapter 1

Well, it was a day just like any other day really, although I suppose that is not entirely true as the sun was shining and the sun doesn’t often shine around our way, but it definitely had the general feel of ordinary about it.

I took Peggy to the woods. She likes it in the woods, running around, chasing birds and chasing squirrels; thankfully she never catches any but she springs around merrily through the long grass and jumps over the fallen trees in speedy pursuit, regardless. Every so often she would drink the water which had gathered inside the bottom of one of the tree stumps from the previous night’s rain; her face and floppy ears covered with mud. She never really ran too far away from me but I would always call her back if she wandered out of sight.

‘What’s this?’ I said, as she had gone off on one of her forays again. ‘Pegs, come on; good girl!’

She came bounding back immediately and I strolled a little further along the winding, gravel path. I spotted a fair sized twig on the ground in front of me which I picked up and threw for her to chase. She gleefully followed its flight until it dropped into a large area of thick grass behind a spiky tree. She rushed in and dutifully retrieved it.
‘Good morning,’ I said to a fellow dog walker as an elderly lady walked towards me. Her dog lead playfully swinging about in her hand as I got near to her.

‘Morning,’ she said. ‘Nice day!’

‘Yeah, makes a change,’ I said, as we crossed.

Standard dog-walking pleasantries must be upheld at all times, I thought. There should be a sign. Mind you, there was no sign of her dog, though. How strange. Perhaps it’ll come running along behind her any minute, yeah, that’ll be it.

I wandered further into the woods. ‘Come on, Pegs.’

I started to think about the dog-walking pleasantries idea. I wonder whether anyone would wear a t-shirt with it on. Maybe? You get all sorts of daft things on t shirts these days, don’t you? I thought further. What about dog leads with it on? Balls to throw. Even caps or woolly hats for us to wear in the winter. Yes! I could make a fortune with a brilliant idea like that! In fact it’s a wonder that nobody has ever thought about it befo…

I weighed it up…

Nah, they’d look shit, wouldn’t they? Bad idea.

I passed another dog-walker. He was a tiny old guy with a huge, spotty Great Dane. His dog came up to me and looked me straight in the eye. He had a stern look on his massive face. His huge green eyes looked as if they had blinked and twitched their way through a thousand doggy dreams.

‘Woof!’ barked the dog.

I stumbled back a little. I’m not afraid of dogs but I wasn’t really expecting it. ‘Jesus Christ, frightened the bloody life out of me, that!’ I said to its owner.

The dog continued to stare. ‘Woof!’ he repeated, unimpressed.

‘Humphrey, come here, boy,’ said the tiny man, calmly. ‘He’s ok, he won’t bite,’ he added, looking towards me.

Humphrey wandered over to his owner and took his place at the man’s side.

‘Ah, it’s ok, mate, just took me a bit un-a-wares, like,’ I said, wiping a globule of doggy spit out of my eye.

‘Cheerio,’ said the man, as he and Humphrey wandered out of sight.

Humphrey, what a strange name for a dog, I thought. And the size of him, he’s got to be even bigger than his owner, ha! I looked around to check and sure enough, I was right. I shook my head and laughed. ‘Some people and their dogs,’ I said to myself.

Talking of dogs, where’s mine? I looked around. ‘Pegs, come on!’ I shouted as I suddenly realised she’d ran off again. I also did that thing which dog owners do when they flick their tongue against the roof of their mouths to make a sort of clicking sound. No response. I looked around but I couldn’t see her. ‘Peggy!’ I shouted again. Still no sign. I whistled loudly but still nothing; she seemed to have vanished.

‘Peggy, come on, girl!’

Nothing.

‘Peggy!’

I started to worry.

There was a large bank of long grass about thirty feet ahead of me; I quickly walked over there to see if I could see her white tail wagging furiously amongst the yellow and green stalks. I saw nothing.

‘Peggy!’ I shouted again.

Oh Jesus, I’ve lost my dog, I thought as still I saw nothing of her. I started to run around frantically.

Just as panic began to really set in, I saw her, well I saw about two inches of a spaniel’s tail wagging furiously behind an old discarded bin bag.

Oh thank heavens for that, I thought. ‘Peggy, come here!’ I said, as I ambled towards her.

She started to bark and I thought this strange because she hardly ever barks. I hope she hasn’t rolled in fox poo again!

‘Get away from that bin bag!’ I said judgingly, as I drew closer.

I thought she’d found a bit of food or something disgusting to eat in the rubbish but to my surprise it wasn’t the bin bag that she was interested in, it was something else.

As I got near I saw a neat, wooden fence rising proudly from a patch of newly disturbed soil. It looked brand new and immaculately constructed. Yet apart from its symmetrical perfection it contained something rather strange. Oddly, there was a circular opening in the centre of the fence, a sort of black hole within its timbers. I quickly realised that this was the thing which my dog was barking at. The aperture was about three feet in diameter and it sat perfectly in the middle of the fence. Peggy stood there staring into it the darkness beyond. After a few seconds her tail stopped wagging and her barking began to gather pace. She was making an unholy racket.

‘Pegs, what have you found?’ I said with an air of trepidation. Not expecting a reply I crouched down beside her and peered into the hole. Peggy turned her head as I approached and acknowledged me with a quick wag of her tail before quickly turning het attentions back to the strange hole. It was a perfect circle; a crisp and precise circumference. It was black, absolutely black. Jet black. In fact, it was blacker than black.

Despite Peggy’s barking I could hear faint noises coming from inside the hole. It sounded like a conversation. A distant conversation. A distant conversation between a group of people, at least four or five people. I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying exactly, but it was definitely a lively chat.

I took a bag of treats out of my pocket which instantly gained Peggy’s attention. She stopped barking. I gave her a few biscuits.
‘Here you go, Pegs.’

As she munched away on the little bone shaped snacks I leaned closer to the hole. I could hear the talking a little louder, yet I still couldn’t make out the actual words.

I dared to put my hand near the hole; I reached out gingerly and my outstretched fingers twitched as they got closer. I pushed through. Half of my arm was inside the blackness. It felt colder there, much colder. And that’s when it happened. Suddenly a face appeared from out of the darkness and said, ‘Hello!’ Then from nowhere, the face or creature or whatever it was grabbed hold of my arm, pulled out a whacking great stick from nowhere and smacked me straight on the head with it. That’s all I can remember about it, until just now when I woke up that is. And with a very sore head.

Dreyfus was rubbing his head. He sat up on the bed and looked around. He was in an old room. A room in which he was sure he’d never been in before. In fact, to Dreyfus, this looked like it was a world in which he’d never been in before.

It was quite dark inside, but there were thin seems of light which broke through from in-between the think wooden timbers which made up the walls. Thin particles of dust could be seen emanating around the bright, sun filled rays. The room was circular and everything in it seemed to be made up of ring-shaped parts. There was a huge wooden table in the centre of the room with four wooden chairs neatly placed around it, all circular. There were pictures which hung on the walls, each of them with a circular frame. A large, round fireplace with a roaring open fire stood magnificently at one end. A figure stood poking the fire with an old rusty andiron; it was this mysterious figure that Dreyfus was talking to.

‘Ah yes, that will probably have been one of the Perimeter Guards, The Watchers as they like to be called. They must’ve seen you in the hole and dragged you back through,’ said the man without turning around. ‘It was probably going to close, about bloomin’ time too if you ask me. Been open for three days or more.’ The man then turned around to look at Dreyfus.

He was a short man, quite old. Probably in his sixties, thought Dreyfus. He was dressed like someone from a story. A sort of forest, woodland, wizardly sort of a person. A bit medieval looking, yet friendly. He definitely did not have the look of someone living in Childwall in 2015. 1815, perhaps. He wore a dark brown tunic with even darker brown trousers. He had black boots on his tiny feet. He wore a green flower proudly poking out of his tunic’s top pocket, clashing quite dramatically with his deep orange shirt.

‘Did you a favour by pulling you in too, young man. If the Omerax would’ve closed while you had your bloody arm stuck in it then you’d be in allsorts of trouble by now. Probably somewhere halfway between here and, well…’ He paused for a second. ‘Well, somewhere between here and someplace else, I would’ve thought.’

‘Look, if you don’t mind me asking, just where the hell is here?’ said Dreyfus. ‘and more importantly, what the hell am I doing here?’
‘I told you before, you’re in my house, ain’t ya?’ said the man.

‘No I don’t mean here as in the house I mean here as what place, what country, what world…’

Dreyfus stopped and looked around again. He noticed a small tin sign hanging from a large beam in the ceiling, it read, ‘All dog-walking pleasantries must be obeyed at all times.’

Realisation dawned. ‘Oh, I get it.Ha, ha, I know what’s happening, I’m dreaming aren’t I? Yeah I’ll wake up in a minute with Peggy licking my face. I must’ve tripped on a branch or something and hit my head on a rock. I remember there being a huge rock near the new fence. Yeah, that’s it, just a silly dream. Mind you I hope I don’t wake up with my head in that disgusting old bin bag.’

‘What’s a bin bag?’ said the man confused, as he sat down in a comfy chair.

Dreyfus began to look around with some concern. He noticed that there was a distinct lack of spaniel in the room. ‘Where’s Peggy?’ he said suddenly.

‘Who?’ he said as took out his pipe.

‘Peggy, where’s our Peggy? Where’s my dog? If I’m here, then she must be here too, shouldn’t she? That’s how dreams work, innit?’

‘I don’t know anyone called Peggy,’ said the man. ‘Although I do seem to recall you mentioning someone a few minutes ago, when you first came in.’

‘She’s not any one she’s a dog, she’s my dog, Peggy!’

‘Dogs? I’ve read about them, I think. Aren’t they those things with four legs that never stop bloody eating?’

Dreyfus got up and began to frantically search around the room. ‘Pegs, come on, girl, where are you?

‘I know I’ve got a match here somewhere,’ said the man, fishing about in his pockets.

Dreyfus suddenly spotted the door and made his way towards it.

‘Er, I wouldn’t go out there if I were you, lad,’ said the man noticing Dreyfus’s intent. ‘Not at this time of the day.’ He struck a match to light his pipe. ‘It’s a bit early, yet.’

Dreyfus ignored him. He grabbed hold of the huge, iron latch and pulled the door open. Just as he did so an enormous, demonic face appeared at the doorway. It tried to push its way into the room but because of its sheer size it could only nestle a few inches inside. Its red and green skin clung limpet-like to the sides of the creaking door frame. Its deep black eyes swirling with the shadows of a million dark souls. The demon opened its mouth and let out an almighty roar directly into the boy’s face. The yell was so loud and with such force that it blew back Dreyfus’s hair and even pushed back the skin on his face. He felt his eyes bouncing around the inside of his head.

The old man discarded the match, which rather unsurprisingly, now had a distinct lack of flame. ‘I’d give it another hour or so, if I were you,’ he added calmly.

Dreyfus slammed the door shut and rattled home the thick, heavy door bolt. The demon’s face disappeared into silence. ‘Jeez, what the hell was that?’

The old man struck another match and this time successfully lit up his pipe. ‘Oh, it’s just a spell, it’s not real.’
‘Not real?’ said Dreyfus. ‘It looked real enough to me!’

”Well it wouldn’t be much of a spell if it didn’t look real now, would it?’ said the man. ‘Anyway, come and sit yourself back down, you’ve had a nasty bang on the head, you need to take it easy for a while.’

‘But what about my dog?’ said the boy desperately.

‘Look I’m sure she is fine, wherever she is, probably having the time of her life somewhere,’ said the man reassuringly. All the time he was puffing away on his pipe.

‘What do you mean wherever she is, where the hell is she?’

‘I don’t know where she is, do I? All I know is that she is definitely not here, is she? Now sit down lad, let’s talk about this sensibly!’

‘What the hell is going on?’ said Dreyfus, taking his seat. ‘Can you please tell me what is happening to me?’ He put his head in his hands.

‘Let’s just calm down a minute there, and start from the beginning, lad. Now, first thing’s first. Let me introduce myself. My name’s…

Dreyfus interrupted the man in mid-sentence. He looked up, suddenly the epitome of calm. ‘Wait, it’s nothing is it? It’s only a dream, that’s all, just a stupid bloody dream! I don’t even know what I’m worrying about!’ He started to whistle nonchalantly.

The old man sat forward in his chair. ‘I’ve got news for you, young lad. You are not in any dream, that’s for certain. And there ain’t no way you’re gonna wake up any time soon, either.’ He sat back. ‘Let me ask you something.’

‘Go on.’

‘How old are you?’ said the man,

‘How old am I? What’s that got to do with anything, how old am I?’

‘Just tell me how old you are,’ said the man again.

‘Forty-two, why?’ said Dreyfus, a little perplexed.

‘Forty-two, eh?’ said the man. He started to laugh out loud. ‘Forty-two! Ha, go and have a look in that mirror over there, lad,’ he added, taking a long puff of his pipe.

Dreyfus got up and walked over to the small circular mirror hanging on a wall near the door, which the old man had pointed to. He saw his reflection staring back at him. ‘Oh my God!’

The reflection was not that of a forty-two year old man, far from it; this reflection was the image of a fifteen year old boy. And not just any fifteen year old boy, this was the reflection of fifteen year old Dreyfus Campbell of 55 Cherokee Heights, Childwall. He stood speechless with his mouth wide open, his hands clutching his own face in disbelief.

‘Now do you believe me?’ said the man from his chair.

‘This is, well… this is just a trick, it must be. A trick within a dream, it’s not real, its not real!’

‘Well, I dunno. Is it real or isn’t it real?’ said the old man. ‘You tell me, you’re telling the story after all.’

‘Hey.. What? I’m…what? How can I be telling the story? A..a..a..and what story? What do you mean, story?’

‘Just take a look over there,’ said the old man. He pointed to a large book which was sitting on top of a table near the wall.
Dreyfus walked over to it, still rubbing his head. He leaned over the huge, leather-bound volume and looked intriguingly at its contents. It was open on a double page. There was text on the left hand page, yet the right page was blank. As he looked closer the most bizarre thing happened.Words suddenly appeared on the right hand page. It started writing itself.

It wrote, ‘As I looked closer at the huge leather-bound volume, the most bizarre thing happened. It started to write itself. Words suddenly appeared on the right hand…’

It was quickly interrupted by Dreyfus. ‘Ah, hang on here, just what the hell is going on? Thais is mad! This is insane! This is absolutely bleeding…’

‘Er, now, now. Language please, Dreyfus, this is a kid’s story after all,’ said the old man.

‘Eh, what?’

‘Well, I think they sometimes call it young adult these days, but nevertheless, I don’t think you should use language like that, young man.’

‘But who is I? Er, me? Er, who am I? Who is me, I mean? And who the bloody-hell is Dreyfus, when he’s at home?’

‘Why, you are Dreyfus, Dreyfus,’ said the man. ‘Well, no, hang on a minute you are not Dreyfus-Dreyfus, that would be a silly name to go walking about with now, wouldn’t it? Unless you had a particularly bad memory o’ course and then I don’t suppose it would be too bad to have two names the same really but…’

‘Er, excuse me! Please?’

‘Ah, right sorry,’ managed the old man. ‘Yes, you are Dreyfus,’ he paused, ‘Dreyfus. Yes that’s right. Dreyfus Campbell, to be precise. Dreyfus Campbell aged 15 and of fifty five…’

‘Dreyfus interrupted the man as from nowhere an address suddenly came rushing to the front of his brain. ‘…Fifty five Cherokee Heights, Chlidwall.’

‘Yes, that’s right,’ said the man. He took another puff of his pipe.

Dreyfus looked puzzled at himself, if one could look puzzled at oneself without a mirror, that is. ‘But how the hell do I know that?’

‘Because you’re telling the story, that’s why!’ said the man, pointing to the book again. ‘Ooh bugger, I think I’ve just burned my tunic,’ he added, scraping a piece of tobacco from his chest.

Dreyfus walked back over to the book. It was still writing itself. ‘I quickly wandered over to the side of the room and once more glanced at the huge open book where the pages where filling up with words…’

‘Look, I’m utterly confused here, ‘ said Dreyfus. ‘If I am telling the story then who is writing the book?’

‘You are.’

‘But if I’m Dreyfus, and my memory seems to be suspiciously telling me that I am, then who is the ‘I’ as referred to in the book? It clearly states ‘I’ as in the first person as opposed to ‘Dreyfus’ in the second person. We can’t be the same, can we?’

The old man was still struggling with his singeing tunic. ‘That is correct, young man, you are one and the same.’

‘This is just bloody mad. Ha! Mad, hahaha!!!! ‘I’m gonna wake up any minute, I am, I know it!’ said Dreyfus, frantically. ‘All a dream! It’s all a dream, it’s all a big, stupid, bloody silly little dream!’

‘The ‘I’ telling the story is indeed you, Dreyfus, but it is a different you…’ The old man suddenly stood up and looked out of the window. He had a worried look on his face. ‘Oh dear,’ he added.

‘What? What’s the matter?’ said Dreyfus, hurrying over to the window to look.

‘I think, that might be your…erm… what did you say it was called, a dog?’

‘Peggy?’ said Dreyfus, worriedly. ‘Peggy! But what the…?’

What happens next – you decide…

Share your ideas about what should happen next and I’ll include it in Chapter 2…