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9. The Sleeping Souls


Sophie had been walking for what seemed like hours now. As darkness fell, she finally reached the farm of Sue and Pete. They were the only ones left who could help her. However, as she approached, it became immediately clear that there had been significant storm damage. A tree had fallen into Sue and Pete’s farmhouse. Sophie could hear the sound of the animals from the barn, but she decided to make her way towards the farmhouse first.
The front door was unlocked so she ambled inside. To her shock, she found Sue and Pete lying motionless on the carpet of their living room, with a certain amount of plaster lying on top of them. As she drew closer, she was relieved to find that they were not dead but merely sleeping. She tried to wake them, but they wouldn’t come to. It was as if they had entered hibernation.
‘It’s too late to help them,’ came the voice of a young girl. ‘They have been touched by the shadows.’
Sophie jumped and turned in fear to see Alice standing behind her. Her eyes had now returned to normal.
‘Stay away from me,’ warned Sophie.
‘Don’t be afraid of me, I don’t want to hurt you,’ said Alice. ‘I only want to help. After all, we are both in this dream together.’
Alice walked out onto the small wooden porch at the front of the farmhouse and Sophie cautiously followed her.
‘I don’t understand,’ protested Sophie. ‘Who are you? What are you? What are those shadow things? And what was that orb?’
‘That’s an awful lot of questions for such a tall girl,’ said Alice. ‘Well, I suppose I should try and answer some of your questions, especially if you are to help me return my heart to my body.’
‘And what’s all this stuff about your heart?’ asked Sophie frustratedly.
‘Oh please, no more questions!’ squealed Alice putting her hands over her ears. Then she pointed into the sky. ‘Look, look up there, and you will see me.’
Sophie looked up into the clear night sky and suddenly saw a pulse of bright white light which then quickly faded away again.
‘What was that?!’ asked Sophie in amazement. Then she remembered something. ‘I saw a light like that before, back in the library on the night of the Gorging. I was looking up through the skylight.’
‘Yes, that was me too,’ said Alice. ‘I’ve always been up there, circling the world and looking down at everyone. That’s what I do – I watch, I record, and then I tell the Nine Fathers what I have seen. At least, that’s what I used to do before I lost my heart.’
‘But...you’re here, not up there,’ said Sophie in confusion.
‘I am both up there sleeping, and down here dreaming,’ stated Alice.
‘So is your name really Alice?’ asked Sophie.
‘I have no name as you would understand one,’ commented Alice, ‘but I have been given many names by your kind. Some know me as Spectra, others refer to me as the Black Knight. You once referred to me as Howard the cat, but now I am Alice.’
‘You were the cat?!’ exclaimed Sophie in disbelief.
‘Yes, until a shadow being killed me in that form,’ sighed Alice sadly. ‘It was a shame, I enjoyed being a cat.’
Alice then pulled the orb out of her pocket and looked at it with wide eyes.
‘What is it?’ asked Sophie.
‘I told you, it’s my heart,’ replied Alice. ‘It comes from up there, where I’m sleeping. There was an accident, an explosion. My heart fell out of the sky and landed here, and now I am finally reunited with it. Once it is returned to my sleeping body up above, the rest of the world can finally wake up.’
‘But how do we get it up there?’ asked Sophie incredulously. ‘It’s not like we can climb a ladder into orbit.’
‘There are many ladders into the sky,’ answered Alice enigmatically. ‘We shall go to the nearest, but we must hurry, the shadow ones will try and stop us, and I am fast losing energy.’
‘So who are the shadow people?’ asked Sophie.
‘Oh you and your questions,’ huffed Alice. ‘I would have thought it was obvious who they were. Now, come along!’
Suddenly there was a moaning sound from within the farmhouse. Sophie ran back in to see Sue and Pete convulsing on the floor.
‘What’s happening to them?!’ asked Sophie in panic.
‘They are dying,’ said Alice sadly. ‘My energy is no longer sufficient to sustain all the sleepers. Come on, we must go at once if we are to save them!’

Reports of sleeper deaths were now coming in thick and fast from all over the country. Howard was checking on the slumbering body of the interim Prime Minister who had been laid out on one of the beds at Downing Street.
‘He seems to be stable for now,’ said Howard removing his stethoscope, ‘who knows for how long though.’
‘Good,’ said Michael Granger, wiping the sweat from his brow. ‘Now we must check on the other cabinet ministers at the Westminster sleeper zone.’
‘Doc!’ protested Ryan. ‘We can’t just stand around here while Holly and Derek are in danger!’
‘I’m as concerned as you are,’ replied Howard, ‘but we need to find out what’s happening if we want to find a way to stop it.’
‘Alice,’ said Ryan, ‘she’ll have the answers. We need to get back!’
Howard gave Ryan a silent glare.
‘Alice, who’s this Alice?’ asked Michael tersely.
‘That isn’t important right now,’ said Howard through gritted teeth. ‘We need to concentrate on the issues at hand.’
Before they had a chance to continue the conversation, a strange deep growling noise started to emanate from the body of the interim Prime Minister, even though his mouth was not open.
‘What’s happening Howard?!’ asked Michael fearfully.
‘I...I don’t know,’ replied Howard.
Then before their very eyes, a shadow man rose up from the body of the interim Prime Minister and stepped down off the bed.
‘Holy moly!’ exclaimed Howard. ‘The shadow people ARE the sleepers. They’re wandering souls!’
They all stepped away from the shadow creature, but the being reached out its arm and touched Michael Granger. Michael then collapsed on the floor, immediately falling into hibernation. A second later another shadow figure rose from Michael’s body and both shadow men started to approach Ryan and Howard.
‘RUN!’ cried Howard.
They stampeded their way down the stairs of Number 10 and then straight out through the front door.
The two security guards outside were also unconscious now, so Ryan quickly jumped into the driving seat of the waiting limousine and started the engine.
‘Let’s get out of here!’ yelled Howard, jumping into the passenger seat next to him.
They drove away at high speed. Fortunately the gates of Downing Street had been left open.
As they sped through the streets of central London, they saw to their horror that the pavements were now swarming with shadow people. Even through the glass of the limousine they could hear the collective cry of the wandering sleepers.
‘STOP THEM!’ they howled.

***
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