Authors: Jack Simmonds
must admit, after the initial shock had worn off, a sense of resentment began to course through me. Others were saying how unfair it was too, but that didn't help me. I felt like shouting at the Lily for employing this evil woman in the school. It wasn't enough that others thought I was innocent. I still had to do detentions. But had I seen the perpetrator? That little ragged thing that scuttled away. What was it?
The next day at five o’clock in the morning! (Yes, five!) I was awoken by two haughty ghosts who beckoned me silently out of my bed. I sat up for a moment hoping it was a dream. But no, it was a nightmare. At least they were not freezing me like that other thing did. I put my burgundy jumper on and lit the fire with a click of my fingers.
“Are you here to take me to my detention?” I whispered. Slowly, they nodded. I followed sleepily down cold draughty corridors wondering what god awful detention I was in for. They drifted ahead of me slowly, going downwards. Down to the ground floor, into the Hall, then off through one of the huge drapes. It faded into a big doorway when the ghosts approached. This tall dark passageway sloped downwards, through the dark place under the school. At the end was a wall. A dead end? But my stupidity, or tiredness, was saved as the ghosts drifted closer the dark wall evaporated. Sound and light burst across my still, sleepy senses. Clatters and bangs, whizzing and whirring filled the air. Blue light erupted down the hallway, a hundred ghosts filled the huge room ahead of me. All the ghosts in here were busy, rushing around from here to there. The humungous room opened out as I stepped through the invisible wall. I jumped back as one ghost nearly knocked me over as she whizzed past with a tray of hot croissants. I gasped. This was a kitchen. A giant, stadium sized kitchen. Tall stained glass windows reached down in long stretches showing the blue darkness of the early morning. It was very bright in here with so many ghosts, but no actual light. It was cold too. No fireplaces were lit. The only heat seemed to be coming from these huge fire ovens to the right of the room covering almost the entirety of one wall.
“Here to help are you?” I spun around. An expectant looking young girl ghost handed me an apron. “Hurry, your over here…”
“Right,” I said putting on the apron. “What will I be doing?”
“Here’s your place,” she drifted to a small work surface in the middle of the packed room. Ghosts tutted and hissed as I walked through — I was getting in their way as they busied themselves with baking and preparing. “You’re going to start by chopping up this box of fruit and vegetables… apples need to be in slices of twelve, the carrots into circles, mango into around fifty small pieces, and…” she went on like this in a very fast voice — I would never remember all that. Now I looked at her I realised how young she was to be a ghost, was it rude to ask? I assumed so. She had a bow in her hair and a kind, fraught face. “And,” she said finally. “You must work fast. Speed is the game! Okay?”
“Okay,” I shrugged and in barely the blink of an eye, she was gone, whizzing off to a food prep area the other side of the stadium sized room. I began to chop. It was weird in here. All the food preparation tables were in lines along the room, like a classroom. Facing the huge fire ovens were busy looking ghosts fussing themselves with putting in huge trays of meat, vegetables and sweet pastries. Call me stupid, but I never really thought about where the food came from — I just thought it was magic. Obviously that was a ridiculous idea. But, I never knew it was such a busy operation, that was for sure.
“AVIS!” boomed a voice behind me, I turned and saw Hunter was grinning wide, a large knife in his hand.
“Hunter?” I said completely surprised and pleased in equal measure. “But when did you get down here? You were asleep earlier.”
“Know a shortcut,” he winked, his tall white chefs hat falling off into his pie. “It’s okay in here isn't it?” he said putting a spoon full of pie meat in his mouth.
“They let you eat,” he said taking another spoonful, before putting it down again as a tall ghost stopped next to him and shook his head. “Sometimes,” he added.
Every moment of my spare time was now taken up. Once we’d done an hour or so in the kitchens it was back to building the Riptide stadium. Hunter and I would leave the kitchen together to go and work on it, the ghosts questioning us non stop as we left. Hunter would say to them: “I tell you every day, we have to leave now under orders from Magisteer Simone, to go and build the stupid stadium,” before turning to me and saying: “Every day I have to tell them!”
The first day back building the stadium Magisteer Simone kept her beady eyes trained on me, grinning to herself.
“Don’t worry about her,” said Robin just above me on the quadrant. “She’ll get what’s coming to her.”
From up in that quadrant I could see all the way across, through the patches of light, to where Tina was. I can’t remember the last time we had properly spoke. Nor had I spoken to Ernie. To be fair, we were very busy.
Over the coming weeks I grew more confident in the kitchens and the ghosts slowly trusted me to do more. More than Hunter was allowed to do. Perhaps they had found out first hand how accident prone he was. They let me carry the bakeries to the fire ovens, at first they said I was too slow, but I told them that I couldn't fly like they could. The ghosts were strange, hard to get on with, dreamy, so wrapped up in their tasks that they hardly knew who they were. Their personalities worn away by the centuries, like waves beating a rock face. It was sad really.
During this time I was being failed left, right and centre by Simone, Commonside and Wasp for not handing in any homework. When the hec was I supposed to do that? Making my way back to the kitchens late at night, I walked slowly rubbing my sore hands which ached and were growing increasingly numb. David Starlight and three of the Eagles form came out of a corridor near the Hall. David Starlight was my nemesis and my stomach tightened as I saw him and his friends. Last year, he was the reason I was excluded from the rest of the school, Robin and Hunter dressed up as Malakai, and we tried to scare them, but it all went wrong. He smiled sweetly as they came closer, and I noticed he had his arm in a sling. His friends were taking the mick out of him and he was pushing them away with his good arm.
“Oh Avis,” he said stopping in front of me. “Long time, no see.”
“Yes, it’s been lovely,” I smiled as his friends guffawed.
David raised his eyebrows. “So one Blackthorn leaves and another arrives. Do they not think you can’t cope on your own?” he said in a sour voice. “You need protection, because your afraid that people will realise you’re
“What are you talking about?” I said.
“The Blackthorns are the evil enemy, I’m surprised no one has realised that already. The things your parents are up to!” he sniggered. “Hope you’re having fun on that building site. I would have loved to have participated, but…” he indicated his strapped up arm. “Healer just said it’s not possible. Simone understands.”
“Good for you,” I muttered, jealousy scorching my insides.
David grinned. “That fall you had was mighty close, you should be careful, using magic up that high.”
“Shove off,” I said, pushing past him, I was nearly late. He laughed and turned away — I wanted to say something clever, but I was to tired.
The ghosts had systems, which I learnt quickly. When a meal was ready, like the tray of bacon and sausages for breakfast, they would put it all on this great big long translucent table. When it was breakfast time they would make sure everything was on the table, then they would wrap on the ghostly table three times. The food shot upwards through the ceiling. The ghosts then listened intently, in utter silence. Once they heard cutlery and shouts at the food, they would scream with joy, hug each other and whiz around the room excitedly. It was bizarre.
Over these coming weeks I hardly saw Robin, or Tina. Sometimes I would see her, in the off chance that I made it into the Chamber for some dinner. Her table, the Hubris form, and her friends Karma Zhu, Jessie Emms and Tow Taylor-Smith (Jess named them for me, she knows everyone), always surrounded Tina — but more than that, the Hubris form and the Swillow’s were virtually interchangeable. They all sat on each others tables intermingling. Tina seemed happy though and I didn't blame her for not talking to me, I mean, I was never around. Partington even questioned whether me and Robin had fallen out with her.
“No Sir,” said Robin. “Think she’s made good friends with the Swillow’s…”
“Ah yes, I did notice,” he whispered leaning on our table gently. “You don’t think it has anything to do with that Jasper fellow do you?”
A gurgling pit of green jealousy writhed inside my stomach. So even Partington had noticed it. I put it out of my mind quickly, there was no way… Tina was
friend. My mind skipped to the memory of us swimming in the lake at the end of last year, lying in the sun and spending all that time together. She couldn't just forget about me. And yet, she never sat next to me in Yearlove’s lesson, preferring to take a seat up next to Karma Zhu and Jasper. I swallowed.
The person I spent the most time with was Hunter. We carried each other through the painstaking days of little sleep, physical torture and countless, busy food preparations. We worked together preparing the food, which was also the only time we got to eat. If we were late at all, a swarm of apparitions would rise up out of the ground and pelt us with icy water — our hatred of Magisteer Simone, the filthy tyrant, was at fever pitch.
It pains me to say this but gradually, the work in the kitchens became exciting and interesting. I never thought I’d say that about manual work. Even Hunter enjoyed it, I think that was because he was around food. Ok, the ghosts were bossy, but once you knew what you were doing they would leave you alone. Then one day in mid October, Hunter said something that made the nearest ones who heard him stop and glower.
“It is a lot of effort thought all this isn't it?” he said. “I mean, I don’t know why they don't just use magic to make the food…” Then he stopped as blue ghostly eyes stopped what they were doing and turned. “What? What’s wrong?”
One of the nearest ghosts drifted down. “To talk of such a thing is sacrilege amongst us ghosts,” he said. Then he turned to the others who were staring. “Carry on…” they did as he said.
“Sorry,” said Hunter. “I didn't mean to—”
“You’re not to know,” said the ghost before taking out a small cloth and wiping his ghostly glasses. “A little lesson in food and magic… the two cannot mix. It’s dangerous. Food is information, energy, vibration. Its this that sustains a Wizard. You cannot even use magic near or around food for it will then be contaminated. Ingesting magic is serious for a Wizard. It can cause serious health problems. You’ll get the
“What’s that?” I said.
“The Twitch? A disease that you get when you ingest too much magic. It’s very nasty. Mostly, it’s prisoners, or the trapped, or the homeless who develop the Twitch. If you are without food, what do you do? You will get it any way you can, and that means using an illusion of food to feel full. There’s nothing worse than hunger.” I found myself nodding. “We are very careful to make sure we use no magic around our food here. Look…” he pointed to the translucent table with the trays of food set out on it. “The Tollo Table for example is a ghost invention, it uses no Wizard magic at all. It’s simply spirit. And yet, there is still stupidity around. I mean look at this…” He handed us a newspaper clipping from the wall. “Read that.”
MAGIC AND FOOD, CAN WE SAFELY COMBINE?
Jeffery Sanderson, the health minister of Western Happendance has reopened the debate on using magic in food production. For millennia it’s been taboo within the Wizarding society, but Sanderson reckons a safe way can be found to aid the slow production. The debate rises after last year was the worst crop yield in a century leading some to question the rising price of food. “If we can experiment and find a way of safely integrating the production of our food with magic that would surely be good for everyone. Cheaper food means more people can afford to eat and eat well. A Wizard cannot last on the measly diet that the minimum gold allowance permits. It’s not possible, something must be done.”
“The Twitch costs our Healing rooms nearly eight million gold peices a year,” says Susan Kennedy of the Council of Healers. “But the homeless and hungry need to eat. It’s a tricky dilemma.”
“This debate should be off the table,” says Golandrian celebrity Jack Hummingbird. “We all know the effects of this awful combination. We need to look at new ways of producing enough food, not ridiculous ways like this. We might as well cast illusions of full banquet tables for all the hungry and be done with it. A tax on the very rich would be a start, they don't need all that gold do they? Surely they can spare a little more? And then we can close this ridiculous debate down once and for all.”
, they spelt pieces wrong.” I said, before the ghost snatched the clipping back off me.
“There’s no cure for the Twitch,” he said before whizzing off, as he did so I noticed that a very feint blue chain, thin and delicate looking trailed from his ankle. In fact, now I looked closely, all the ghosts had those thin blue chains — some of them were tangled with other ghosts chains… what on earth was it?