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Flash Fiction

One of the fun things I like to do on Instagram is take part (and occasionally host) writing challenges - which is basically writing something based on a prompt.

Rather than let them vanish into the void, I've collected them all here, so you can catch up on the ones you missed or revisit old favourites :)

The Very First Topsy Turvy Challenge

Day 1 First things first, we need to know where we’re starting from, right? You know, before we start flipping my main character’s world upside down! So, in case you haven’t met them before, I’d like you to meet Lucas and Clara. Though wholly separate people, Lucas and Clara work best together, and so they both joined in with the Topsy-Turvy Challenge. Lucas was less than thrilled, but Clara thought it was rather exciting. This was pretty much the theme of the entire challenge! They live in 1928, Lucas in the small fictional village they both grew up in, which is called Castlebury Magna, and Clara in a slightly fictionalised version of London, because I’m lazy with my research and I’m not sure how many people are going to care that much anyway. However, as Festively Fatal, which I was writing at the time of the challenge, takes place at Christmas, they’re both celebrating in Castlebury. Well, until a murder takes the shine off the festivities, but we won’t worry about that… Lucas is 24, a reporter for the local newspaper, lives with his mother, and is one of life’s rainclouds. He just wants a quiet life, and doesn’t think this is too much to ask, even if he rarely gets it (oops, that’s my fault). That went double for this challenge (more oops). He also happens to be able to talk to ghosts, something he’s not terribly pleased about, particularly as they tend to demand his help with solving their murders. However, underneath a carefully constructed layer of grump, Lucas is a kind soul and generally helps. Eventually and unwillingly, but he helps and that’s all that counts, right? Meanwhile Clara is 21, enthusiastic about everything, sees the good in people even when it’s not there, and believes life is there to be lived. She gently nudges Lucas in the right direction, i.e. towards helping the lost souls who need his help (however she occasionally does this by running headfirst into danger) and is generally good fun. She’s funny, sweet, and all-round lovely, but a little impulsive at times. This makes life, uh, interesting for the risk-adverse Lucas. And now you know where we’re starting from, let’s see how we can mess their day up...

Day 2 ‘1851?’ ‘That’s what it says here,’ said Clara, tapping the newspaper. ‘The Great Exhibition is on,’ she continued brightly, apparently unconcerned by suddenly being over 75 years in the past. ‘Let’s go.’ ‘Let’s go?’ cried Lucas. ‘We can’t go anywhere dressed like this.’ He plucked at his suit, cut in a fashion three years out of date for 1928—which was the year he was pretty sure he should be in—but suspiciously ahead of its time for the middle of the previous century. ‘And we haven’t got any money,’ he added. ‘Not for 1851, anyway. And how can you think of visiting a glorified market at a time like this, when we’re cast adrift in time?’ ‘Lucas, darling,’ said Clara in an annoyingly soothing voice. ‘Saffron is sending us on some adventures where the usual rules don’t really apply. She gave him a disparaging look. ‘She did tell us. Have you forgotten?’ Lucas had forgotten, but he wasn’t about to admit it. ‘Well she might have sent us out with the right kit,’ he grumbled. Clara sighed and folded the newspaper. ‘All right, let me see what I can do.’ She cleared her throat and looked upwards. ‘Uh, Saffron? Hi Saff, can you hear me?’ Hmm, what? Wait, you can’t do that! ‘But I just did,’ she said, rather smugly. ‘So, could you help us out please? I wouldn’t usually ask, but…’ She glanced at Lucas, who was pacing anxiously. ‘I don’t think Lucas is coping well,’ she finished in a whisper. ‘I heard that,’ he snapped. Yes, I see your point. How about this? ‘Oh, I can’t breathe,’ gasped Clara, looking at the corseted pink satin frock now painfully cinching her waist in with the help of a dead whale or two. ‘They never wore this, surely?’ I think you’ll find they did. ‘This collar digs into my throat,’ whined Lucas, trying to loosen the heavily starched offending article. ‘I’ll slit an artery if I turn my head too quickly.’ You wanted to fit in. This is what they wore. Deal with it. The complaining intensified. Urgh, fine. Try this. ‘It’s a bit shabby,’ said Clara, looking critically at the faded flack dress she now wore. ‘But it’s much more comfortable, thank you,’ she added, just in case. Smart one, that Clara. ‘Yes, this is much better,’ said Lucas, examining his collarless shirt and dark cotton trousers. ‘Cheers Saff, you’re a brick.’ I know, I’m a marvel. Check your pockets. ‘Aces,’ said Clara, pulling out a handful of copper coins. ‘We can go to the Exhibition now.’ ‘Or we could do something else,’ suggested Luas hopefully. ‘Come along,’ said Clara, draggling Lucas towards the Crystal Palace. ‘We’re on an adventure.’

Day 3 ‘Woohoo!’ cried Clara as she swooped around somewhere above Lucas’s head. He gripped the trunk of the ancient oak a little tighter, his eyes squeezed shut. ‘Come on,’ said Clara. ‘We can fly! Let’s have a little fun.’ ‘No,’ he replied, shuffling a little further onto the broad branch. ‘I’ll just stay here, thanks.’ The branch wobbled as Clara sat next to him, swinging her legs. ‘You started it,’ she said, nudging him playfully. He slipped a little. ‘Did not,’ he whimpered. ‘Then how did you get up here?’ Lucas gulped. ‘I tripped,’ he said. ‘Only instead of falling down, I fell up. If I hadn’t caught hold of this tree, I’d have floated away entirely.’ Even with his eyes closed, he knew the look Clara would be giving him. ‘But we can control it,’ said Clara, the branch bobbing again as she stepped into nothingness again. ‘See?’ Lucas risked a peek and wished he hadn’t. ‘How high up are we?’ he asked faintly as Clara turned a loop-de-loop. ‘Does it matter? We can get down easily enough.’ Lucas took a deep breath and inched forward, but couldn’t bring himself to leave the relative safety of the tree. ‘Er, I don’t think I can,’ he admitted sheepishly. Clara sighed and plonked herself down on the branch again. She rummaged around in her trouser pocket and produced a hip flask. ‘Here, try this,’ she said, handing it over. ‘How long have you had that?’ he asked, taking a swig of brandy and pulling a face. ‘Since Saffron realised you’d never get out the tree without a little something to loosen you up a bit,’ Clara replied with a smirk. ‘I don’t think she’ll let me keep it, though.’ Lucas felt the warming effects of the liquor, risked a look down, and hastily took another drink. ‘I don’t think there’s enough,’ he said. Clara rolled her eyes. ‘Don’t be a baby,’ she said, taking his hand. ‘Come on, we’ll step off the branch together, all right?’ With no other option for getting out of the tree, Lucas closed his eyes and, on the count of three, stepped into mid-air. ‘That wasn’t so bad, was it?’ said Clara. Once he got used to the sensation, Lucas had to agree. In fact, it was rather thrilling. Clara saw the look on his face and grinned. ‘Told you it was fun.’

Day 4 ‘Lucas,’ hissed Clara, tugging his sleeve urgently. ‘Lucas, who is that?’ He followed her line of sight and spotted a familiar figure walking towards them, wearing a lavender dress in a fashion older than he was. ‘Oh, that’s just Mrs. Bird,’ he said. ‘She’s… Wait, you can see her?’ Clara went pale. ‘That’s Mrs. Bird? Your Mrs. Bird? But, but she’s dead!’ ‘Very much so,’ said Lucas, a hint of smugness in his voice. ‘My guess is you can see ghosts today too. Hard luck, old thing.’ ‘But how?’ said Clara, panic in her voice. ‘Why?’ ‘It’s just part of that silly challenge Saffron is making us do,’ said Lucas soothingly. ‘Today is bad superpower day. I have to agree, being able to see ghosts is a pretty bad one to have.’ Mrs. Bird sat primly on the bench next to Clara, and began telling Clara all the things the girl hadn’t been able to hear so far during her twenty-one years on earth. Lucas watched with undisguised amusement as Clara’s eyes glazed and a rictus grin formed on her face. He whistled tunelessly, thankful to have effectively been let off from this challenge. But he’d forgotten that it called for a new superpower. A robin settled on the ground in front of him, peering at Lucas curiously. ‘Shoo,’ said Lucas, twitching his foot. The bird took flight, only to land on the bench next to him and hop closer. A blackbird joined it, and moments later a magpie arrived and perched on Lucas’ knee. ‘Uh, Clara,’ he said, but from the look on her face he’d not be getting any help from her for a while. A red squirrel scampered down a nearby tree, across the back of the bench, up Lucas’ arm, and curled up in the sandy waves on top of his head. Small, squirrely snores started moments later. Lucas knew he was overdue a visit to the barbers, but there was really no need for that. He tensed at the neighbour’s evil-tempered, foul-smelling, ancient and battle-scarred grey Tomcat sauntered towards the impromptu and rapidly growing menagerie. This wouldn’t end well. However, in contrast to Lucas’ experience of the beast for the last dozen years, the cat simply curled up in his lap and dissolved into a purring heap of feline affection. Lucas risked upsetting the squirrel and glanced at Clara, who seemed unaware that he was gradually disappearing under a mound of wildlife he couldn’t seem to stop piling onto him. He supposed this was fair—after all, she had her own problems to deal with, and Lucas knew them only too well. He sighed, resigned to today’s fate of having uncontrollable animal magnetism. At least tomorrow couldn’t be any worse… Right?

Day 5 ‘She’s killed us,’ cried Lucas, looking down as his translucent body. ‘She went and killed us!’ ‘Yes, that’s what’s happening today,’ said Clara, looking at the list of prompts for the Topsy-Turvy Challenge. ‘It was an accident in chapter six, see?’ ‘No I will not see,’ said Lucas. ‘I don’t care why she’s done it, we’re still dead.’ He looked upward and yelled, ‘My name is on the cover, you know!’ ‘Yes dear, and we’re supposed to see who would take over,’ said Clara in an annoyingly reasonable voice. ‘So shut up and let’s find out, all right?’ ‘And we’re at our own funerals,’ grumble Lucas. ‘That’s just unkind.’ ‘Hush,’ whispered Clara. ‘We’ll miss it.’ The funeral concluded and the crowd dispersed. Lucas and Clara followed their mothers, who were joined by a red-eyed Tommy. ‘It’s so unfair,’ he said, a tearful wobble in his voice. ‘The beer cart just rolled the hill and straight into them. They didn’t stand a chance.’ ‘There, there, dearie,’ said Mrs Rathbone, patting his arm. ‘It was an accident. We’ll all miss them, but you mustn’t dwell on it. They wouldn’t want that.’ ‘No,’ said Mrs Jenkins, blowing her nose noisily on a cotton hankie. ‘And it’s not like they were murdered.’ ‘But I can’t understand it,’ said Tommy. ‘I walked past the cart minutes before and it was tied to a lamppost with a thick rope.’ The mothers shared a look. ‘Really?’ said Mrs Jenkins, frowning. Tommy nodded. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me if… but no.’ He shook his head. ‘They’ve done reckless things before, but nothing that’d get them murdered.’ ‘They had been looking into that suspicious death at Castlebury Manor,’ mused Mrs Rathbone. ‘It’s possible…’ ‘But how can we find out?’ asked Mrs Jenkins. ‘We can’t snoop around a place like that, Hettie.’ As one, they turned to Tommy. ‘Tommy, dear,’ said Hettie Rathbone, linking her arm through his. ‘You’re a reporter, aren’t you?’ ‘Yes,’ said Tommy suspiciously. ‘Why?’ It made perfect sense, once they’d explained it to him. And he owed Lucas and Clara so much—they’d been his first real friends, after all, and jolly good ones at that. Finding their killer and bringing them to justice was the least he could do. But then again, avenging their deaths would be even better...

Day 6 ‘Hitchhiking?’ said Lucas. ‘At Christmas? Have you gone insane? We’ll freeze to death before anyone gives us a lift.’ ‘Probably,’ said Clara, stamping her feet on the snowy roadside for warmth. ‘I think this is the worst prompt for the Topsy-Turvy Challenge so far.’ ‘What, worse than being dead?’ Clara opened her mouth to reply, but a chipper voice cut over her. ‘Hello,’ it said. ‘Need a ride?’ The speaker was a thin man with a cheerful face, and brown hair sticking up as though he’d had an electric shock. He wore a long brown raincoat over a two-piece suit, and had canvas shoes on instead of the more traditional polished leather. He leant nonchalantly against a blue telephone booth with “Police” emblazoned over the door. ‘Has that always been there?’ Lucas muttered in Clara’s ear. ‘Must have been,’ she replied, frowning. ‘Police boxes don’t just appear from thin air.’ ‘Ah, well,’ said the man, strolling towards them. ‘Sometimes they do.’ He held out a hand enthusiastically. ‘I’m the Doctor.’ ‘Oh?’ said Lucas, shaking the hand uncertainly. ‘What are you a doctor of?’ The man pulled an exaggeratedly thoughtful face. ‘Just the Doctor. So,’ he said, clapping his hands together. ‘Where can I take you guys, hmm?’ ‘We wouldn’t want to take you out of your way,’ said Clara cautiously. ‘Oh, don’t worry about that,’ said the Doctor. ‘Wherever you like, just say the word.’ ‘Er,’ said Lucas, looking up and down the empty country lane. ‘Where’s your car?’ The man walked back to the police box and rapped the side. ‘Hop in,’ he said, opening the door. Clara shrugged and started to walk forward, but Lucas pulled her back. ‘What are you doing?’ he hissed. ‘The man is mad.’ ‘That box is warmer than the side of the road, and I’m frozen,’ replied Clara. She shrugged again. ‘We’ll think of a way to get rid of him once we’ve thawed out a bit.’ She dashed across the road and into the police box. She stumbled out backwards, a stunned expression plastered across her face. She walked around the box, stuck her head back through the door, then gave the Doctor a look of shocked puzzlement. ‘Good, isn’t it,’ he said, grinning. ‘How…?’ ‘Don’t ask questions like that,’ said the man. ‘Are you two coming or what?’ Clara ran back to Lucas and dragged him over to the police box. ‘I don’t know what’s happening,’ she gabbled. ‘But this is going to be fun…’

Day 7 ‘No,’ said Lucas, folding his arms and turning away from me. ‘Nuh-huh. No way.’ ‘Lucas, don’t be silly,’ says I, trying not to sound like I was begging—because I wasn’t, you understand. ‘You don’t even know what My Sister The Serial Killer is about.’ Lucas rolled his eyes at me. ‘I can guess, thanks.’ I knew I shouldn’t have explained what a serial killer was. ‘And I don’t have a sister,’ continued Lucas, eyes glinting in triumph at what he clearly thought was an insurmountable obstacle, because he apparently hasn’t figured out how this works yet. ‘So I don’t see how it could happen anyway.’ ‘You *could* have a sister,’ I replied. ‘I could just write one in. I can do things like that, you know.’ ‘Don’t you dare,’ he said when he picked his jaw up off the floor. ‘My life is complicated enough already without siblings popping up out of thin air all over the place.’ I had to admit, he had a point. ‘Certainly not ones that murder people,’ he added. ‘Do you know how many ghosts I’d have to deal with if that happened?’ ‘As many as I feel like making you deal with,’ I said. ‘That’s how this works.’ ‘Clara, help me out, would you? he pleaded. ‘Hmm?’ said Clara absently. She was sulking about having to cut their adventures with the Doctor short. ‘Oh yes. Saffron, please don’t make him deal with a serial killer.’ ‘Thank you,’ he said smugly. ‘He’s tiresome enough when he’s only got one ghost to deal with,’ she added mischievously. ‘That’s not fair,’ protested Lucas. ‘You don’t have to listen to them go on and on about goodness knows what. And—’ ‘Darling, I was only teasing,’ she said, kissing his cheek. She shot me a look that said she wasn’t teasing at all, but at least Lucas seemed a little mollified. ‘Oh, all right,’ I said with a sigh. ‘You get a free pass today, but only because you’ll be unbearable otherwise.’ Lucas opened his mouth to argue, and Clara kicked him on the shin. ‘You got what you wanted,’ she hissed. ‘Don’t push her, or she’ll change her mind.’ I always said that girl was smart. Lucas forced a smile. ‘Thanks, Saffron,’ he said in a mildly snarky sing-song tone I chose to ignore. Clara shut her eyes in despair. ‘You’re welcome,’ I said graciously, choosing to be the bigger person seeing as I’m the only one who’s technically real. ‘Now run along and play, and I’ll see you tomorrow for another dose of topsy-turvyness. Won’t that be fun?’ ‘Bye Saff,’ said Clara quickly, dragging Lucas away before he could say something stupid. ‘See you tomorrow.’ Told you that girl was bright.

Day 8 ‘Uh, Saffron?’ said Lucas, his voice disappearing into the hot, musty darkness. ‘Where are we?’ Guess. ‘That’s not fair,’ complained Lucas. ‘We can’t see anything.’ Pockets, guys, check your pockets. ‘Oh,’ said Clara, swinging the beam of light from her newly discovered electric torch around the small, highly decorated room carved out of sandstone. ‘Egypt!’ Bingo. I knew it wouldn’t take you long to figure it out. ‘Look at this,’ she breathed, brushing her fingertips over the exquisitely carved artwork. ‘It’s beautiful.’ ‘What,’ said Lucas flatly, bringing Clara’s ancient Egyptian daydreams to a crashing halt, ‘is that?’ He was pointing his torch at a large, almost human-shaped box lying horizontally in the middle of the room. ‘Ooh, a sarcophagus,’ cried Clara, dancing over to it. ‘We’re in a burial chamber!’ ‘We’re in a what, now?’ said Lucas, paling in the torchlight. ‘You mean there’s a body in that thing?’ ‘It’s probably a king,’ said Clara, eyes shining as they took in the detailed hieroglyphics. ‘Isn’t that exciting?’ ‘Uh,’ said Lucas. Clara flipped the torchlight around the room again. ‘We must be hundreds of feet underground.’ ‘Saffron,’ yelled Lucas, Clara flinching as the sound reverberated around the room. ‘You know I hate enclosed spaces. This isn’t funny.’ Funny? It’s not supposed to be. I thought you’d find it interesting. ‘You thought wrong,’ he replied, breathing heavily as his eyes darted around the small space. ‘Get us out of this underground death box. Please,’ he added as an apparent afterthought, remembering his manners at last. ‘You go if you want,’ Clara said. ‘I’m having a great time.’ ‘You are?’ ‘Yes, it’s fascinating.’ She beamed happily upwards. ‘Thanks Saff, this is fun.’ Lucas threw his hands up in the air. ‘I guess I’m outnumbered, then,’ he groused. Look, I have an idea. How about this? Lucas and Clara looked around the large, open room they suddenly found themselves in. It was flooded with sunlight and filled with ancient artifacts. The Cairo Museum. Not an underground death box, and still filled with interesting things. ‘And dead bodies,’ said Lucas sceptically. ‘Can’t win them all,’ said Clara, her eyes gleaming. ‘This is perfect, thanks.’ No problem. Go educate Lucas about Ancient Egypt for me, would you? ‘Sure thing,’ she said, grinning. ‘Come on, Lucas, let’s learn about mummification.’ She dashed off, with Lucas unenthusiastically in tow. Mummification? Oh, he won’t like that...

Day 9 ‘Would you stop doing that?!’ said Lucas peevishly, putting out flames on the hem of his robe for the umpteenth time. ‘Sorry,’ said Clara with a giggle. ‘I’m not used to my new witchy powers yet.’ And yet she seems able to fix what she burns, thought Lucas as Clara made complicated gestures with her hand and his robe healed itself again. He decided it wasn’t worth the argument, and instead turned his attention to the jet-black cat winding itself around his ankles. ‘And who’s this?’ he cooed, scratching the animal behind the ear. ‘Hello, Cat. Aren’t you lovely?’ The cat purred loudly. Clara scrunched her nose up. ‘My familiar, apparently. Cats are traditional, according to Saffron, but I’d rather have a dog.’ The cat wandered back to her and leapt onto her shoulder, curling around Clara’s neck like a scarf. Clara rolled her eyes, but couldn’t quite hide her smile. ‘I guess this one isn’t so bad, though.’ ‘Hey Saff, do wizards get familiars too?’ asked Lucas hopefully. Not usually. Sorry. ‘Oh,’ he said, looking utterly crestfallen. Urgh, don’t look at me like that. Seriously, stop it. Oh okay, what would you like? ‘Wait, you’re giving me a choice?’ he said excitedly. ‘Hmm, how about… a dragon?’ ‘A dragon!’ said Clara. ‘Wouldn’t that be dangerous?’ ‘Not if it was a small one,’ he argued. ‘How about it, Saff? Can I have a dragon please?’ A dragon no bigger than Clara’s cat appeared at Lucas’s feet. ‘Thank you,’ he cried happily, scooping it into his arms. ‘Why do you two get pets?’ asked Tommy, joining them in the forest clearing. Sunlight glinted off the curls falling to his shoulders in a golden wave, interrupted only by a pair of elfish ears poking through. The mere sight of the man—er, elf, made Lucas itch. ‘They’re not pets, they’re familiars,’ said Clara. ‘Just for witches.’ ‘And wizards,’ added Lucas. The baby dragon in his arms growled at Tommy. Lucas liked it more by the second. ‘Humph,’ said the elf, reaching a hand towards the dragon. ‘It’s all right for some.’ The dragon hiccoughed, spraying embers at Tommy. One landed in his hair, setting it ablaze. Clara summoned a small waterfall’s worth of water to put it out, leaving the elf smouldering, drenched, and furious. ‘Sorry,’ said Lucas, trying to sound like he meant it. ‘He’s not trained yet.’

Day 10 ‘Good grief,’ exclaimed Lucas, staring aghast at the, the thing Clara was leading along on a piece of string. ‘What is that?’ ‘This is Dale,’ she replied, beaming happily. ‘My new dog. I found him in the woods this morning.’ Lucas looked at the thing again, and tried to reconcile the word “dog” to the beast in front of him. It had four legs, a head, and a tail—a good start, all things considered—but there was far too much neck, its tail was longer than its body, and it had no ears. Or fur. In fact, it had scales. And was... green. ‘Clara, my love,’ said Lucas, trying not to panic. ‘What kind of “dog” is that?’ ‘He’s a mutt, obviously,’ she said, bobbing down to tickle Dale under the chin. He made a chirping, purring sort of noise. ‘But he’s still adorable, aren’t you, Daley? Ess oo are, oo’s a good boy, den?’ ‘Do you remember the time we went to that park in London?’ asked Lucas. ‘You know, the one with the big statues?’ ‘The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs?’ replied Clara, still fussing over her new pet. ‘Of course. What on earth made you think of that, darling?’ Lucas looked at the thing which was clearly a living, breathing relative of the creatures in the park. It was rolling on the ground having its belly tickled, clearly loving every second. ‘Oh, no reason,’ said Lucas. ‘But I think I’ll talk to Saffron about getting you a proper—uh, another dog after all this topsy-turvy nonsense is over. Er, in case Dale can’t be in the books. Because, um, he can’t just appear out of nowhere. I hope—I mean, I think.’ ‘Oh darling, will you?’ cried Clara. ‘I’ve been simply desperate for a dog for ever.’ ‘I know,’ he said. ‘I just didn’t realise it was so bad,’ he added under his breath. ‘What was that?’ ‘Nothing, dear. Does it bite?’ ‘Of course he doesn’t!’ ‘Is that right, Saff?’ asked Lucas, looking upwards because that’s where he thinks I am. It’s rather endearing, really. Uh, sure. Dale won’t bite. Promise. Cross my heart and all that. Okay? ‘Hmm,’ said Lucas, unconvinced. Dale looked up at him pleadingly, tail wagging. Clara gave Lucas the same look, but without the waggy tail. ‘Oh, all right then,’ sighed Lucas. ‘Let’s take the “dog” for a walk.’

Day 11 Uh... I kinda have a problem with this prompt, so no little story I'm afraid. You see, technically Lucas is my MC (his name is on the cover, after all, as he so sweetly reminded me when I accidentally killed him) so I thought about it as though he were the villain, especially as he has certain interesting skills Clara doesn't. Also if she were the villain she's be hurting Lucas, which she'd never do, so she couldn't be the bad guy, which means he's flying solo for today's prompt. You've met Lucas, right? Sweet but a bit grumpy, adores Clara, talks to ghosts but only so he can get rid of them? Well, I figure the way he could use his "gift" in a villainy way is to make sure those he loved could never leave him. Because they'd be ghosts, right? And Clara doesn't want to move from London back to Castlebury Magna. I'm sure you can see where this is going. Sigh. Look, I *can't* make Lucas kill Clara, even in a topsy-turvyed world. I just can't. It would never happen. It'd break him, even if he did it for the "right" reason. (She'd think it was hilarious to be a ghost though, so long as she never found out Lucas killed her. If she did, she'd make his life hell forever. Quite literally forever.) So that's what would happen, but I'm not going to write it, okay? Okay.

Day 12 ‘Oh, there you are,’ said Lucas, stepping into the snow-blanketed garden behind Mrs Jenkins’ house. ‘What are you doing out here?’ ‘Feeding Daley,’ she replied, pulling a banana off the tree. ‘They’re his favourite.’ She fed it to the “dog”, who wagged his tail and chirruped. ‘Uh-huh,’ said Lucas, eying the beast cautiously. ‘Clara, darling, how many dogs do you know that eat bananas?’ He furrowed his brow and added, ‘Wait, how long has you mum had a banana tree in the garden? And why is the fruit ripe in the middle of winter?’ Clara shrugged. ‘Everything is topsy-turvy, remember? It doesn't have to make sense.’ Dale the Definitely-Not-Dinosaur bumped his head gently against Lucas’ thigh, demanding attention. Lucas sighed and scratched the “dog” behind the ear it didn’t have. He was getting rather fond of the little chap, now he was over the initial shock of Clara bringing an oversized lizard home on a piece of string. ‘Yes,’ said Lucas despondently. ‘Silly me. How could I forget?’ ‘Chin up,’ said Clara, tossing another banana in Dale’s direction. He snatched it out of the air and sat next to Lucas, munching happily. ‘Only one more day to go.’ Lucas did feel slightly cheered at the thought. ‘That’s true,’ he said, more hopeful than he’d been for days. ‘What have we got tomorrow?’ ‘I don’t know,’ said Clara, avoiding meeting his eye. ‘It doesn’t say, exactly.’ Dread prickled the back of Lucas’ neck. ‘But I’m sure it’ll be fine,’ added Clara quickly, seeing the look on his face. ‘Nothing has been really bad, has it? Not really.’ Lucas imagined all the awful possibilities tomorrow could bring. ‘Give us a clue, Saffron,’ he begged. ‘Don’t leave us guessing.’ Oh, all right. Seeing as I’m in a good mood, I’ll let you know that it’s something I’ve been planning for a story anyway. ‘Oh,’ said Lucas, relaxing. ‘That’s okay, then.’ ‘Are you sure about that?’ said Clara sceptically. ‘Just think of all the things she’s already done to us in the books.’ ‘I *was* sure,’ said Lucas, tensing again. ‘Until you said that. ‘It’s not bad, is it Saffron?’ he said pleadingly. ‘Please tell me it’s nothing bad.’ Er, that depends on your definition of “bad,” I suppose… ‘You know my definition of bad,’ he said, panic rapidly rising. ‘You *gave* me my definition of bad. Is it that? Lordy, Saff, tell me it isn’t bad!’ Uh, okay then. It isn’t bad. Not bad. How’s that? Lucas grumbled, but seemed appeased. Oh dear. You’d think he’d know better by now. Well, I suppose at least he doesn’t have long until he finds out...

Day 13 *** Spoiler Alert *** This scene — or at least, a variation on this scene — shows up at the end of Grave Secrets, and instroduces a major storyline for the following book. It’s kind of a big deal, and definitely a spoiler, so if you don’t want to know, just skip ahead to the next set of stories, all right? Still reading? All right, you asked for it… *** Lost in thought, Lucas pulled his house keys from his pocket, fidgeting with them as he opened the gate and walked up the garden path to his front door. The man sat on the doorstep looked up. Keys clattered unnoticed on the flagstones at Lucas saw a face he’s not seen for over ten long years. ‘Dad?’ he whispered. ‘But, but you’re dead. The War—’ Jim Rathbone stood stiffly and chuckled. ‘Not yet, son,’ he said. And it’s a long story. He gestured to the door. ‘Let’s talk about it over a cup of tea, eh?’ Lucas shook his head. ‘But you’re *dead*,’ he insisted. ‘You never came back from the trenches.’ Jim winced. ‘I’ll tell you everything inside,’ he promised, stepping forward with his hand outstretched. ‘But first, won’t you shake your old man by the hand?’ Still shaking his head, Lucas took a step backwards, eyes wide, breathing fast and shallow, stomach churning. No, no, it wasn’t possible… ‘Come along,’ said the stern, clipped tones of the ghostly Mrs Bird. She stepped out from behind the bush she’d been eavesdropping behind—although if pressed, she’d doubtless deny any such claims. ‘Is this any way to behave after all this time?’ ‘Not now,’ muttered the men in unison, both glancing at the invited spirit. There was a long, tense pause. Lucas and Jim stared at each other, replaying the moment to ensure they hadn’t misunderstood what just happened. ‘You—you can see her too?’ stuttered Lucas eventually, his head spinning. ‘Oh Lucas,’ said his dad softly, shaking his head. ‘My poor boy. I’m so very, very sorry.’ *** Told you it was a biggie!

Bonus Story ‘Pass the eggs, love,’ said Clara, holding a flour-dusted hand towards Lucas. ‘Remind me why we’re baking fairy cakes?’ said Lucas, handing the eggs over. Clara rolled her eyes. ‘They’re not *fairy* cakes, Lucas, they’re *cup*cakes. They’re all the rage in “cozy mysteries” apparently, and according to Saffron that’s what our books are. So, she thought we ought to try baking some.’ Without enthusiasm, Lucas looked at the recipe card Saffron had thoughtfully provided. It was illustrated with what—in Lucas’s opinion— was definitely a fairy cake, only instead of a sensible drizzle of icing or a dusting of powdered sugar, it had a swirling heap of buttercream on top in unlikely shades of lilac and pink. Just looking at it made his teeth ache. ‘Uh-huh,’ he said, raising an eyebrow sceptically. ‘And what do these “cupcakes” taste like?’ Clara scanned the recipe again. ‘This one has lemon curd in the middle, so that’ll be lemon flavoured, and this one has strawberry pieces in.’ Her eyes twinkled mischievously. ‘I’m sure even you can guess how that’ll taste.’ Half scowling, half smiling, Lucas dipped his fingers in the flour and flicked a cloud of white powder in her direction. She dodged the worst of it, giggling. ‘See, this is fun, right?’ Lucas had to admit baking was quite enjoyable. Well, watching Clara bake was fun. He helped himself to a strawberry and wondered why they didn’t do more of it. ‘No, no, no, she’s doing it all wrong,’ said a stern voice behind him. His shoulders slumped. Oh yes, now he remembered. The ghost of Mrs Bird moved around the table to stand at Clara’s elbow. ‘Lucas dear, tell her to mix the butter, eggs, and sugar up first, then sift the flour into it. Oh dear, she’s just dumped it all in. It’ll end up lumpy, just you wait…’ Lucas ignored her. The cake mixture looked fine to him, and he wasn’t about to correct Clara when she was thoroughly enjoying herself. He continued to ignore Mrs Bird’s “help”, much to the lady’s displeasure, and soon the kitchen was filled with the delicious scent of baking cake. ‘She needs to let the cakes cool before adding buttercream,’ advised Mrs Bird. ‘Shh,’ muttered Lucas. ‘She’s doing fine.’ Mrs Bird sniffed haughtily. ‘Well, if you don’t want my help, I shan’t give it. I know when I’m not wanted.’ And with that, she vanished. Lucas breathed a sigh of relief. As fond as Lucas was of the old lady, sometimes it was nice to be left in peace. And he knew she wasn’t really upset with him—they’d had worse tiffs in the past— although he suspected he’d not heard the last of this little incident. Giving up on the piping bag, Clara spooned a generous amount of luridly pink buttercream on top of a still warm fairy cake —sorry, cupcake, and handed it to Lucas. ‘Tell me what you think,’ she said, grinning. It smelled divine, and Lucas eagerly lifted it towards his mouth. Time froze as the mound of icing slid sideways, slipped forward, and landed in a pink, sugary, greasy mess in the middle of Lucas’ cream shirt. ‘I think,’ he said, as Clara’s expression flipped between utter mortification and undisguised amusement. ‘I think maybe you should have let the cakes cool a bit longer first.’

Spooktacular Challenge
spooktacular prompts 1.png
spooktacular prompts.png

Day 1 ‘Uh, Clara?' said Lucas, watching mist swirl around his ankles. 'Why are we in a pumpkin patch? And how long has Castlebury had a pumpkin patch?' 'You forgot, didn't you?' she said, linking her arm through his. 'Saffron told us there was another topsy turvy challenge.' Lucas groaned. 'Not that again.' 'Oh shush, it was fun last time,' said Clara. 'And this time it's Halloween themed.' Lucas groaned even louder. 'You'll be fine once we get going,' said Clara. 'You might even enjoy it.' 'I don't see how,' he said. 'Don't I get enough spookiness as it is?' 'This is different,' said Clara. 'And it's pumpkins. Nothing spooky about them, is there?' 'That's what you think,' said a voice from near the ground. They froze. 'I didn't know you were a ventriloquist,' said Lucas, with more hope than conviction. 'I'm not.' 'That wasn't you?' 'No,' said Clara. 'And it wasn't you?' 'Certainly not!' 'Then, who was it?' 'It was me, dearie,' said the voice. 'Down here.' Slowly, Clara and Lucas looked down. 'Someone carved a face on this one already,’ said Clara. To their horror, the expression on the grinning pumpkin changed. 'No need, dearie,' it said. 'When you turn into a pumpkin, you keep your own expressions.' 'You were turned into a pumpkin?' asked Clara. Lucas pulled her back. 'If someone’s turning folks into vegetables,' he hissed in her ear. 'Shouldn’t we scarper?' 'Probably wise,' said the pumpkin. 'But don't you want to find out what happened?' 'Yes,' said Clara. 'No,' said Lucas. 'What happened?' said Clara, ducking down to pumpkin level to better hear the pumpkin and better ignore Lucas. ‘I turned myself into this,’ said the pumpkin. 'Didn't mean to, of course.' 'I'd imagine not.’ 'Thing is,’ it said. ‘I dropped the potion in the village pond.' 'When?' asked Clara. The kids fishing there lately had got some odd rashes. Odd fishes too. 'A week ago.' 'Isn't the witch trial re-enactment today?' said Lucas. 'You know, where we dunk someone into the pond?' 'We've must warn them,' cried Clara. 'Or Mrs Joseph will become a pumpkin!' As they ran home, the pumpkin chuckled. 'That was naughty,’ said its neighbour. 'There's nothing wrong with the pond.' 'I've got to get my fun somehow, haven't I?’

Day 2 'Er,' said Clara, not looking at the rotting marrows and slimy turnips in the usually pristine greengrocers. 'Isn’t there anything, uh, *fresh* today, Mr Kingsley?' Mr Kingsley scratched his head, dandruff tumbling from under his tweed cap. 'It was fine yesterday,' he said, scowling at a grey, squishy potato. 'But this morning, it’s like this. With one exception,' he added, pulling a pumpkin from beneath the counter. It was grinning. 'I don't need pumpkin,' she said. ‘Sorry. Bye Mr K.’ 'See you tomorrow,' he said hopefully. 'Sure,' lied Clara. 'Where’s the food?' said Lucas as she joined him outside. 'There’s nothing I wanted,' she said. ‘Let’s try the butchers.' 'Has he always sold eyeballs and entrails?' said Lucas, as they all but ran from the place. 'No,' said Clara, swearing off meat for the foreseeable. She looked at her all too empty basket. 'Bakery next?' 'I suppose so,' said Lucas. 'Nothing much can happen to bread.' The jolly “Guthrie the Baker” sign was grey, black, and blood red, the friendly curling script now jagged Gothic letters caked in cobwebs, and something green oozed in the corner. Guthrie stood staring at it in horror. 'First the egg custards curdled,’ he moaned. ‘Then the loaves looked like malformed faces, and now this.' ‘Um,’ said Clara. ‘We'll try again tomorrow.' 'I should,' he said. 'I wouldn't buy bread from a shop full of flies either.' Lucas grabbed Clara's arm and pulled her away. 'Urm,' he said. 'You don't think Saff's lost the plot do you?' 'Maybe.’ 'I heard that,' said a voice. 'Sorry,' they squeaked, suitably put back in their places. 'I'm not unkind,' said Saffron, who is actually quite nice when you get to know her. 'Mrs Rathbone cooked you dinner. It's soup.' 'Thank -' started Lucas, who is adorably trusting at times. 'What kind of soup?' interrupted Clara, who isn’t. 'Vegetable.' 'What vegetable?’ '…Pumpkin.’ 'No,' said Clara. 'Not after yesterday. Carrot, or parsnip, or even cabbage -' 'I say, steady on,' said Lucas, alarmed. 'But *not* pumpkin,' said Clara. 'Fine,' said Saffron, sensing mutiny. ‘Mushroom. I'll make sure none are poisonous.' 'Pea,' insisted Clara. 'I don't want anything that may be poisonous, thanks.' ‘You’re no fun,’ said Saff.

Day 3 'Hullo, Mr Guthrie,' said Lucas as he passed the bakery. It was its usual colourful, friendly self again. Perhaps this challenge wasn’t so bad after all?' 'Hnnhuur,' said Guthrie, painting prices on the window with whitewash. 'Are you all right?' said Lucas, shocked at the usually rosy-cheeked baker's pallid face. 'You look awful, and it sounds like you've got a sore throat.' 'Nnuurgh,' said Guthrie. 'Oh,' said Lucas, unsure what to say to that. ‘Hot honey and lemon, that should sort you out.' 'Uuurrgh.’. 'Poor man,' said Lucas, walking to the newsagents in search of nicotine, the day's paper, and a bag of sweets. 'I hope not catching.' 'Hullo, Mr Featherstone,' called Lucas as he stepped into the dark, dusty interior of the shop. He pulled a copy of The Times from the rack and glanced at the cover. 'Silk Cuts and a quarter of barley twists, please.' 'Huurgh,' said Featherstone. Lucas looked up from the paper. 'A bug going round, is there?' he said. 'Nhrgh.' 'I... see,' said Lucas, not sure that he did. He pulled some coins from his pocket and put them on the counter. 'Keep the change,' he said, taking his purchases. 'You need a day off, if you ask me.' Before an answer could be made, Lucas stumbled back outside. He coughed experimentally, hoping he’d imagined a tickle at the back of his throat. He popped a barley twist into his mouth, hoping sugar would soothe any impending soreness. Clara stood outside his office. 'Hullo,' she said. 'Look like it's the undead today.' Lucas swallowed the sweet whole. 'Undead?' he wheezed, coughing violently. 'What do you mean, undead?' 'Everyone is fit for the grave, but won’t stay in one.' 'It's not a cold going round the village?' 'No,' said Clara. 'It’s zombie-itis going round the village.' 'You made that up.' 'Yes,' she said, rather patiently under the circumstances. 'Yes I did. But they’re not violent, just... shambly.' 'I hope we don't catch it too,’ said Lucas. 'It's not ‘flu, dear,' said Clara. 'So we’re probably okay.' 'Probably?' Clara sighed, and appealed to a higher power. 'Hi, Saff?' she said. 'You won’t turn us into zombies too, will you?' 'Not today,' said the kind and gracious author. 'What do you mean, "Not today"?!' said Lucas.

Day 4 ‘Look what I found at the pond,' said Clara, running up to Lucas hugging something bundled in a scarf. Fear gripped Lucas’ heart. The last time Clara found something during one of these challenges, they ended up with a dinosaur. True, Dale had grown on Lucas, but he needed walking every day and had a fondness for eating socks. Lucas peered into the soft folds, hoping for a puppy or kitten, but not really expecting something so normal. For once, his pessimism was well placed. 'Er,' he said, looking at the thing that, unless his eyes deceived him, was a large purple squid. 'What's that?' 'This is Bob,' she said fondly. 'He’s some kind of duck.' Lucas was speechless. 'A duck?' he said at last. 'A duck?! You have seen a duck before, right? Do they normally have tentacles and a beak?' 'They normally have beaks, yes,' said Clara defensively. 'And there’s all sorts of funny birds this time of year. He was playing with the other ducks, splashing them and dunking them under water. They were all having a lovely time until the others flew off and left Bob all alone.' She tickled the creature under what might be its chin and cooed at it. It made a purring noise in return, and gave every impression of enjoying itself. 'There's a reason they did that,' said Lucas. 'Don't be mean,' scolded Clara. 'Just because Bob looks different doesn't mean he should be left behind.' 'I think he should be left in the pond, though,' said Lucas. 'He might not like being in a house. Uh, ducks need to swim, after all.' ‘I'll fill the tin bath,' said Clara. 'He'll love it.' Lucas weighed up his chances of not taking home what, given the way the month was going, was probably a baby kraken. 'The tin bath isn’t big enough,' he said. 'Of course it is.' 'What will it eat?' 'Slugs, I suppose, and vegetables.' 'Who will look after it whilst you're at work?' 'I'm sure mum will help out. She's been saying for ages I need a pet, and I think she's quite right.' Lucas rubbed his forehead. 'Is there any way I can persuade you not to take this thing home?' 'None whatsoever.' He sighed, and held out his hands for the bundle. 'Nice to meet you, Bob,' he said, as the still purring thing was placed into his arms. 'I hope.'

Day 5 'Urgh,' said Lucas, sitting upright on a hard metal bed he didn't remember falling asleep on. 'Where are we?' 'Looks like a prison,' said Clara, from the neighbouring cell. She sat on the edge of her bed, quite concerned and gazing around with apparent interest. 'Although not like any prison I've seen before.' 'How many have you seen?' She paused, thinking. 'You probably don't want to know.' Lucas looked around. Everything was gleaming white and bright, silvery metal. The bars were made of an odd light emitted from the ceiling and floor. They looked like he could walk straight through them. Something told him it would be a bad idea to try. A very, very bad idea indeed. 'Have you looked outside yet?' asked Clara. 'I bet you haven't, because you're not screaming.' An icy trail made its way down Lucas' spine. 'Why,' he said carefully. 'Why would looking outside make me scream?' 'Just look.' Lucas braced himself and peeked out of the window. They weren't in Castlebury Magna anymore. In fact, he'd never seen anywhere like it. Red, dusty rock spread for miles around, and buildings entirely of glass and metal stood on the horizon. The light was dimmer than daylight, but not silvery like moonlight. Besides, the moon wasn't that small. Or green and blue. 'Clara,' he said, panic making his voice skip upwards an octave over the word. 'Where are we?' 'I'm not sure,' she said. 'I tried reading the graffiti in my cell, but it’s just squiggles. Apart from the pictures, but you probably don't want to know about those.' 'Correct,' said Lucas. 'And I don’t know why we're in prison either,' she continued. 'The guard - big chap, green skin,' 'Green?' 'Don't judge, Lucas,' scolded Clara. 'None of us can help how we're born. And the antenna suit him. Anyway, my point is, I couldn't understand a word he said.' 'It’s that stupid challenge again, isn’t it?' said Lucas. 'Probably,' said Clara, swinging her legs happily. 'So I suggest we wait it out.' 'You would.' 'It's an experience we'd not normally have -' 'Good!' 'And it'll be interesting,' Clara concluded, scowling. 'So let's make the most of it.' She pulled a piece of chalk from her pocket. 'How about a game of Hangman?'

Day 6 'Who's at the door?' said Clara, putting her teacup down. She frowned at the clock. 'It's too late for visitors, surely?' The knock came again, along with a weird call. '”Trick or treat?”' repeated Lucas. 'What does that mean?' 'No idea,' said Clara. 'Let’s answer the door and find out.' Abandoning their quiet evening, they cautiously opened the front door. 'Trick or treat,' cried the miniature monsters on the doorstep. Pint sized wolfmen, witches, and ancient Egyptian mummies littered the garden path, each clutching a small basket decorated to match their homemade outfits. 'Um,' said Lucas, looking at Clara, who was equally mystified. 'What do you mean, "trick or treat?"' 'We mean,' said the tallest of the group, who had chosen vampire as his persona for the evening. 'If you don't give us a treat, we'll play a trick on you.' 'Will you, now?' snapped Clara. 'And then what do you think I'll do, Freddy Meakin? I'll be straight round to your mother's, that's what.' 'Oi, that's not fair,' whined Freddy. 'We was told to.' 'By whom?' 'Saffron, of course,' replied Freddie sulkily. 'Part of Halloween, it is.' 'Is it? said Lucas, baffled. 'And it's not Halloween yet, anyway.' ''Snot my fault, is it,' said Freddy. 'And all we wanted was some sweets.' 'Well, we haven't got any,’ said Lucas. ‘So run along.' Freddy's bottom lip began to wobble. 'You - you haven't?' 'No,' said Lucas, unmoved. 'So scram.' He went to shut the door, but Clara stopped him. 'Lucas,' she said in her best persuasive voice. 'It's not his fault, is it?' 'And it's not ours either,' argued Lucas. 'They're kids,' replied Clara. ‘We should be nice to them.’ 'Disappointment is part of childhood,’ said Lucas. ‘We had plenty of it, after all.' ‘We’re being nice,' said Clara firmly. 'But we haven't got what they want,' said Lucas, getting as whiny as the mopey children outside. 'What can we do?' 'We don't have sweets,' said Clara to the monsters. 'But we do have biscuits.' 'That'll do,' said Freddy. 'Clara,' hissed Lucas. 'I was looking forward to them.' 'I'll get the tin,' said Clara, smiling at the unexpected visitors. 'Cheers, missus,' chorused the children. Lucas groaned. 'Bang goes our quiet evening,' he muttered.

Day 7 Lucas, comfortably seated before a crackling fire, kicked his feet onto a footstool and picked up the newspaper. The curtains were drawn against the cold evening, Clara read on the sofa opposite, and a hot cup of tea sat on the table at his elbow. It was rather lovely. 'Mind if I put the radio on?' he said, twisting the dials until the voices stopped cracking. 'Thankfully not,' said Clara, frowning at him. He blew her a kiss and settled back to read an adventure story meant for boys, and listen to the news broadcast. It was a very odd article. The newsreader sounded more stressed than usual, and seemed to be talking about Mars a lot. It caught Clara's attention, too. 'Gas explosions on Mars?' she said. 'What are we listening to?' 'I think it’s the news,' said Lucas. 'Hmm.,,' said Clara, turning back to her book. 'I'm sure it's fine.' A moment later she looked up again. 'A meteorite?' 'Uh-huh,' said Lucas, more interested in the exploits of the Cowboys and Indians in his story. 'But I don't see what stuff dropping on America has to do with us.' 'Probably nothing,' said Clara, a little uneasily. Normally a fast reader, her page didn't turn again for a very long time. Not that Lucas noticed, having dozed off. 'Lucas,' she hissed, waking him. 'Lucas, did you hear that?' 'Hear what?' 'A huge metal cylinder fell on New Jersey.' 'Did it?' said Lucas, shifting into a more comfortable position and shaking his newspaper open again. 'Good for them.' 'I don't think it is,' said Clara, panic in her voice. 'The end is unscrewing.' ‘Good,' said Lucas absently, trying to find his place in the story again. 'Something crawled out the top,' cried Clara. 'It - it sounds like it’s from another planet.' 'Clara,' said Lucas patiently. 'There’s nothing on other planets. Even if there is, they landed in America. There's a lot of water between them and us.' 'And a lot of nothing between us and another planet,' said Clara. 'But that didn’t bother it any.' 'No,' said Lucas. 'But the army will deal with it before it gets to Castlebury, so I wouldn't worry too much.' 'Oh,' said Clara, relaxing slightly. 'I suppose you're right.' 'Of course I am,' said Lucas. 'First time for everything, after all.'

Day 8 'Why are we in the attic?' asked Lucas, brushing cobwebs from his hair. 'Shh,' said Clara, putting her hand over his mouth. 'He's outside.' 'Mmhu?' 'The Castlebury Killer.' Lucas pushed her hand away, but kept his voice low. 'The what?' Clara gave him a Look. 'For saying you run the local newspaper, you’re awful at keeping up with local affairs.' He started to argue, but Clara cut over him. 'Someone - we don't know who - is slaughtering people. Eight so far. My money was on the butcher, but they found his body this morning.' 'How awful,' said Lucas. 'Yes,' agreed Clara. 'I’m down two bob. I wonder if they'll ever find his head?' Lucas shuddered. 'And you think this killer is outside my mother's attic door?' She nodded, which wasn't the response he wanted. 'What shall we do?' he asked, trying not to panic. 'Climb out the window?' 'Or we could fight back,’ said Clara. 'And die trying.' 'Maybe,' said Clara. 'Or maybe not. Even if we did escape, what'd stop him from trying again?' 'I hate when you make sense.' 'I know,' she said, pecking him on the cheek. 'So take this and stand ready to use it.' 'Why does my mother have a scimitar in the loft?' 'How should I know?' asked Clara, wielding a gleaming cutlass. Assuming they got out alive, Lucas had some questions for his mother. 'She had this, too,' Clara added, cocking an ancient pistol. Lucas hit the decks, hands over his head. Clara rolled her eyes. 'Don't be ridiculous. It's not loaded.' 'Thank goodness.' 'I’ll club him with it.' The shuffling behind the door got closer. The doorhandle twitched. 'Is that dried blood?' said Lucas, examining his blade. 'Not now,' whispered Clara. 'Ready?' Lucas gulped. 'Ready,' he lied. Clara flung open the door, sword held aloft, gun pointed at head hight. 'Goodness!' exclaimed Mrs Rathbone, holding her hands aloft. 'What’s all this?' 'Mum,' cried Lucas, dropping his sword and hugging her. 'We thought you were the Castlebury Killer.' 'What a silly idea,' she laughed, patting his back. 'Now, stop messing about and go downstairs.' Mrs Rathbone let them leave, and sighed as she picked up the scimitar. She hoped it wouldn't come to this - but now they knew, she had no choice…

Day 9 Lucas hammered on the door until Clara answered. 'Lucas,' she cried, as he gasped for breath, hands on his knees. 'What's wrong?' He waved a scrap of paper at her and leant against the doorframe. Clara read the note. 'Poisoned sweets?' she said. 'Who'd do such a thing?' 'No idea,' said Lucas, still panting. 'The note was under the office door this morning.' Clara turned the note over. 'Do you think it's a prank?' 'Can we risk it?' said Lucas. 'You know what the local brats are like for inhaling sugar.' 'Good point,' said Clara, grabbing her coat and hat. 'We should tell Mr Featherstone.' They ran down the street to the newsagents. It was full of villagers waving scraps of paper identical to the one in Clara's hand. A harassed Mr Featherstone tried to calm the crowd. 'Folks, please,' he said. 'It's clearly a prank. ‘Why would anyone who wished your children harm leave a note?' 'I don't know,' said Mrs Meakin. 'But I can't risk my Freddy getting sick because you sold him bad sweets.' 'But you don't know there’s poisoned sweets here,' argued Featherstone. 'Assuming they exist at all.' 'No one else around here sells sweets,' cried Mrs Meakin. ‘Where else could they be?' 'I don't know,' said Featherstone. 'But it’s not here.’ 'Huh,' said Mrs Meakin, stalking out of the shop, trailing grumbling villagers behind her. 'Maybe someone has it in for Mr F?' asked Clara, as she and Lucas joined the crowd. 'But what if everyone has the wrong idea,’ said Lucas, ‘and someone’s planning something for that trick or treat thing?' 'You don't think so, do you?' gasped Clara. 'I don't know, I was thinking aloud.' 'If so,’ said Clara. ‘How do we find out who it is?' 'Maybe someone just wanted to stop the kids making a nuisance of themselves.’ Clara punched his arm. 'You worried me,' she said. 'You can't then tell me it's all nothing.' 'That was before I knew everyone else got a note too,' he said, rubbing his latest bruise. ‘Seems like a prank to me.’ 'You're probably right,' said Clara. 'At least, I hope so.' In the newsagents, Featherstone sighed. He shook another scoop of arsenic into a jar of fruit pastilles. When he found out who sent those notes, there'd be trouble for ruining his plans.

Day 10 'Lucas?' said Clara. 'Are you feeling all right, dear?' Lucas pushed the pointy hat back onto the crown of his head. 'Perfectly,' he said, grinning at her. 'Why do you ask?' She looked him up and down, from the tip of his blue, wide-brimmed, conical hat, covered in a galaxy of silver spangles, to the floor-skimming hem of the matching robe. He pushed the cavernous sleeves to his elbows and pulled an apple off the tree. 'Er,' she said, not quite sure how to broach the subject. 'It's just...' 'Yes?' he asked pleasantly, taking a bite from the fruit. ‘You’re meant to be picking those, not eating them,’ she said sharply, before remembering what the main problem was. ‘Uh, is that the best outfit for the job?’ she added. Lucas looked down at his shimmering garb. ‘I don’t see why not.’ 'But you're dressed as a wizard,' said Clara, deciding head-on was the best way to tackle this new oddity. 'That I am,' said Lucas. He took another crunch out of the apple. 'I like it,' he said indistinctly. 'All right,' said Clara doubtfully. 'It's very, um, fetching.' 'Isn't it?' he said happily, proudly displaying the embroidery. 'I made it myself.' 'I knew I recognised the fabric,' exclaimed Clara. 'They're your mother's front room curtains.' 'No,' he said shiftily. 'They're my wizard robes.' 'But why?' pressed Clara. 'Why are you togged up as a wizard?' 'Well,' he said, leaning against the apple tree. 'I thought with all the topsy turvyness going on this month, if I dressed like a wizard, maybe I'd get some magical powers.' 'Dress for the job you want, kind of thing?' 'Exactly.' 'And how's that working out for you?' Lucas scrunched up his eyes in concentration. He held out a hand dramatically and wiggled his fingers. An apple dropped into the basket at his feet. Clara looked up. 'Uh,' she said. 'Try that again.' He did. Another apple plonked onto the pile. 'That's amazing,' said Clara, wide-eyes. 'I'll be right back.' 'Where are you going?' called Lucas as she sprinted back to the house. 'To see if I can find another pair of curtains your mother won't miss.'

Day 11 'I really don't think paper chains on a gravestone is in good taste,' said Lucas, lifting them distastefully. 'Even if they are black and grey.' 'Don't be silly,' said Clara, slapping his fingers away and pushing a pitcher of something unpleasantly red and gloopy into his hands. 'Make yourself useful and put this on the table, will you?' 'What is it?' he asked, looking into the depths. His wizard hat slipped down an inch or two. 'Bloody Mary,' she said. 'Put it next to the devilled eggs and witches finger cheese straws.' 'Wait,' said Lucas as the penny dropped. 'You're not throwing a *party* are you?’ ‘Of course.’ ‘In a *cemetery*?' 'Why not?' replied Clara, bustling around in her rather fetching chintz witch outfit. 'There's plenty of space, the night is going to be clear, and it's the perfect atmosphere for a Halloween party.' 'But there's graves,' protested Lucas. 'And dead people.' 'You'd know all about them,' teased Clara, handing him a bowl of luridly green jelly. 'Worried about ghosties, are you?' 'Not here,' he said, putting it next to the jug of Bloody Mary. 'They don't tend to stick around cemeteries.' 'Really?' said Clara, frowning. 'I'd have thought they’d need to be near their body, or something.' 'Would you want to do that?’ Lucas said. ‘Spend eternity in this place, when there's really no need?' Clara looked around the grey and green landscape. Peaceful, of course, but not exactly thrilling. 'I see your point,' she said. 'Who'd want to come to a party in a graveyard, anyway?' said Lucas, picking up a salmon paste sandwich. 'Everyone,' said Clara, snatching it out of his hand and putting back on the plate. 'The whole village is turning out.' Lucas groaned. 'Can I go home now? I hate parties.' 'No,' she said. 'We're hosting.' 'I don't want to host a party,' he whined. 'Certainly not in a graveyard.' 'Tough,' she said. 'Everyone’s arriving now, so look smart and put on your happy face.' Lucas forced a grin that was really quite horrifying. 'On second thoughts,' said Clara, grabbing a glass and filling it with the first alcoholic thing she could find. 'Why don't you go sit somewhere quiet and drink this?' 'Yes please,' he said, brightening instantly. 'Cheers.'

Day 12 'You've both read A Christmas Carol, right?' I said. 'Of course we have,' said Clara. 'I haven’t,' said Lucas. 'Yes you have,’ said Clara. ‘It's the one with the ghosts.' I winced. I was hoping to avoid the "G" word in front of Lucas for as long as possible. This wouldn’t go well. 'No,' he said, wagging a finger at me. 'No ghosts.' 'They're not really *ghosts* as such,' I said, gesturing vaguely in the hope it might back up my point somehow. 'They're...' 'Yes?' asked Lucas with mock interest. 'Metaphors,' I said. 'Completely different to ghosts.' 'Uh-huh,' he said. 'And what form do these "metaphors" take?' 'Um...' 'Because if it's ghosts, I'm having none of it,' he said, turning away with his arms crossed. 'I told you that at the start of this silly challenge.' 'Yes, but when have I ever listened to you?' He glared at me over his shoulder, but I'm used to that so it was easy to ignore. 'Anyway, here's the first one now,' I said, deciding I wouldn’t be overruled by a figment of my imagination. There's a first time for everything, I suppose. 'Can we at least have them all at once?' said Lucas. 'Get it over in one go?' 'That didn't work for Scrooge,' said Clara. 'No, but I'm on a shorter character limit than Dickens, so let’s do it,' I said. 'Here they are.' Three forms popped into being, one a small child in a wizard robe designed for someone much larger, a vampire, and a skeleton. To their credit, neither Lucas nor Clara screamed much at all. 'Halloween is fun!' declared the tiny warlock, holding a bag aloft. 'Let's go trick or treating!' 'They won't do that,' said the vampire. 'They're too grown up for fun.' 'And then, it'll be too late for any Halloween fun at all,' moaned the skeleton. 'You know, on account of their being dead,' he added helpfully. 'Well, now we're thoroughly depressed,' said Lucas brightly. 'What next?' 'I don't know,' I said. ‘Have some Halloween fun, I suppose. Decorate the house, give out sweets, that sort of thing.' 'All right,' said Clara, stamping on Lucas' foot to stop whatever snarky comment he'd planned. 'Come on, let's go carve a pumpkin.' 'But why?' said Lucas as she dragged him home. 'It's messy and it smells funny.' 'Just shut up and do it.’

Day 13 'Are you feeling all right, Henry?' said Lucas, sounding a little anxious. Henry scratched his head, sure he had more hair normally. Was it usual to go bald so quickly? 'Only,' said Lucas, who sounded even more spooked then usual. 'You look a little... thin.' 'Thin?' queried Henry, his voice sounding oddly hollow. He looked down at his hands, gloved against the chill in the air. 'No, I don't think so.' 'You’ve not looked in the mirror this morning, have you?' said Clara, pulling a compact from her coat pocket and flicking it open. 'Is my hair out of place?' asked Henry sarcastically, taking the pocket mirror from his sister. 'You could say that,' said Lucas. Henry gave him the withering look this comment deserved, and glanced in the mirror. He took a longer look. Thin wasn't the half of it. He was looking positively skeletal. In a horrifyingly literal sense. He yelped and dropped the compact. 'Hey, you'll dint it,' said Clara, dashing to catch it and missing by inches. 'See, there's a big scratch on it now.' 'I'm a walking, talking skeleton, and all you care about is your stupid make-up thing?' cried Henry, pulling a glove off. He flexed his fingers, watching the light shine off the bones. 'What am I meant to do?’ he wailed. ‘I can't go home like this, Debbie will throw a fit - not to mention, the baby will scream the place down. He had a bad enough time when I shaved my moustache off last month.' 'Good riddance to it, too,' said Clara, not quite under her breath. 'Look, it's only for today,' said Lucas consolingly. 'So why don't you hide out at my office, and we'll make your excuses for you?' 'Thanks,' said Henry, relieved. 'I just don't think I can face the world like this.' He looked again at his gleaming white hands and shuddered. 'Don't worry about it,' said Lucas, suddenly cheerful as some thought struck him. He slapped Henry on the shoulder, making his teeth rattle. 'I'm just glad Saffron is picking on you today instead of me.'

Day 14 I woke up in a familiar bedroom I'd never been in before. What on earth was I doing in Lucas' bedroom? More worryingly, why was I in his bed? 'Lucas?' I called, a little uncertainly. 'Lucas, where are you?' I checked under the covers to make sure I was at least decent, and found I was wearing Lucas' monogrammed pajamas, the ones Mrs Jenkins gave him last Christmas. Except instead of LR embroidered on the pocket, it had SA carefully stitched there instead. Which was odd. I took Lucas’ holey dressing gown off the back of the door and wrapped it around myself before venturing out in search of a cup of tea. If I was going to be in my own books, I needed some caffeine, at the very least. The house was deserted, though I still felt a presence of some sort with me. Not menacing, just… watching. Always watching. I opened the pantry door to find tea leaves, only to come face to face with the ghost of a gangster. 'Hullo,' said Frankie. 'Remember me?' I screamed and slammed the door, and to my horror watched Frankie stick his head through the woodwork. 'That don't work on ghosts, sweetheart,' he said, stepping into the kitchen. 'Yes,' said the spirit of Marion, the Jazz singer suddenly lounging on the scrubbed pine kitchen table. 'You know the only way to get rid of us is to solve our murders.' 'I know,' I said, backing in to the corner. 'That's the whole premise of The Lucas Rathbone Mysteries.' 'Ah,' said the ghost of Sir Monty, leaning through the closed kitchen window. 'You haven't heard? It's The Saffron Amatti Mysteries today.' 'What!' I squeaked, looking around in a panic. 'I never agreed to that!' 'And you think I did?' said Lucas' disembodied voice. 'It's time to even things up, Saff. Are you ready?'

Day 15 Lucas pulled his house key from his pocket. It had been a long day of writing articles making church fundraisers and the Canary Club sound more interesting than they actually were - as in, interesting in any way - and he walked up the unlit garden path, dreaming about his mother's stew and a hot pot of tea. He put his key in the lock, brushing a cobweb from his face as he did so. 'Bloody spiders,' he muttered. 'Get everywhere this time of year.' He pushed the door open, making a mental note to pick up oil for the hinges next time he passed a blacksmith's shop, and stepped into the gloomy hallway.... ... and put his foot through a rotten floorboard. 'Ow,' he cried, hauling himself out of the hole. 'What...?' Only then did he notice the thick layer of dust on the floor, the drooping wallpaper, and the sagging ceiling. He swore, but quietly just in case his mum was in earshot. 'Mum?' he called, trying to ignore the stench of black mould filling his nostrils. 'Mum, are you here?' 'Yes dear,' she said, appearing at the kitchen door with a bright smile on her face. 'Oh, did you trip?' Lucas looked at her suspiciously, then looked around the room again. 'Are you all right?' he asked cautiously. 'Perfectly,' she said, heading back into the kitchen. 'Why do you ask?' He squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them again. Nope, the house was still falling down around his ears. 'What happened to the house?' he asked, picking his way carefully across broken floorboards, and narrowly avoiding stepping on a rat. 'What do you mean?' replied his mum as she bustled around the kitchen, which was in an equally squalid state. 'Can't you see it?' asked Lucas. 'Can't you see the house is -' He waved his hands, creating eddies in the dust hanging in the air. 'Oh, *that*,' said Mrs Rathbone, filling a cracked teapot with hot water. 'It's only for the day, isn't it?' 'Only for the...? Mum, the place is awful!' 'Yes, but Saffron very kindly explained it’s just a bit of Halloween fun,’ said Mrs R. ‘And everything will be normal again in the morning. I think we can deal with *anything* for just one day, don't you?' 'Don't say things like that,' groaned Lucas. 'There's still half a month left.'

Day 16 Toast. Marmalade. Coffee. Lucas sat in the kitchen - which was thankfully back to its usual, cosy and comfortable self - and inhaled the scents of breakfast. So far, nothing bad had happened, which was nice. True, the sun barely peeked over the horizon, but in his experience bad things could happen at any time of day, and every blissfully peaceful moment should be savoured as though it were the last, just in case it was. He slathered a thick slice of golden toast with butter, heaped bittersweet marmalade on top, and took a large bite. Crunch. There was something hard and smooth loose in his mouth, with sharp prongs at the end. Carefully, and dreading what he'd find, he spat the object into his hand. It was a tooth. He swore, which was becoming a bit of a bad habit lately, and placed the tooth beside his plate, wondering what to do. The sensible thing would be to go to the nearest dentist as soon as possible, but that'd cost money he didn't have, and he didn't seem to have any pain. He prodded the gap experimentally, just to be sure, and dislodged the tooth next to it. It joined its companion on the kitchen table. ‘All right,' thought Lucas, trying to quell the rising panic. 'It's only a couple of teeth. Not the end of the world.' He moved his jaw, only to find another tooth loose in his mouth. He swore again (see what I mean about it becoming a habit?) and decided to go to the source of the problem. 'Saffron?' he said, adding another tooth or two to the collection on the table. 'Is this anything to do with you?' 'I don't know what you mean,' I said innocently, from my space officially outside the story. He gave a disparaging look to the ceiling, because he thinks I exist somewhere above his head. 'No, really,' I said in earnest. 'I'm pretty sure @robincastle55 came up with this prompt.' 'Wait,' he said, fishing another tooth from his mouth. 'You mean, you're not the one coming up with all these suggestions?' 'Not all of them,' I replied. 'So, there's someone else I can blame for my misfortune as well?' 'Sure,' I said. 'Why not?' He stared quietly at the pile of teeth for a while. 'No,' he said at last. 'I think I'll stick with blaming you.’

Day 17 'I already *have* a spooky superpower,' said Lucas. 'You know, speaking to ghosts and all that.' 'Yes,' I said. 'But I've got to *give* you a spooky superpower. Which means pre-existing powers don't count.' 'But - ' 'So today, you can create little creatures.' 'Really?' said Lucas. 'That doesn't sound so bad.' '*Evil* little creatures,' I added, deciding that he sounded too happy. 'Evil?' he complained. 'Why can't they be fluffy little creatures, or friendly little creatures?' 'That wouldn't be spooky, would it?' I said. 'Now run along and play with your new spookypower.' Grumbling, Lucas grabbed his hat and coat from the hall stand and stepped into the chilly street. 'Evil little creatures,' he muttered. 'What good are evil little creatures?' 'Hullo,' said Tommy, a sudden and, in Lucas' opinion, unwelcome addition to the story. 'I’m going to see if Clara wants a walk round the fields. You can come too, I guess.' Lucas stared at the offensively handsome man who apparently thought it appropriate to chase other fellow's girls… And evil little creatures didn't seem quite to useless after all. 'Great,' said Lucas, wondering how to summon these beasties. Did he just think about it, or were there special words to say? He fell into step beside Tommy, and thought hard about an itchy imp living under Tommy's bobble hat. Tommy paused whatever he was saying, winced, and scratched behind his ear. Lucas smiled, and thought about a trip demon appearing in Tommy's path. Something shimmered darkly before Tommy's toes right as he stumbled. A disembodied snigger followed as Tommy hauled himself upright. 'All right,' he groused, dusting off his trousers. 'No need to laugh.' 'I didn't,' protested Lucas, though he fought a grin. Tommy glared, and scratched his head again. 'Argh,' he said. 'I think there's something living in this hat.' 'Really?' said Lucas innocently, thinking about a hole-inducing beastie in Tommy's trouser pocket. Coins clattered on the cobbles next to Tommy's foot, along with a pen and a matchbook. Perhaps it wasn't *evil*, thought Lucas, watching Tommy retrieve his belongings, only for them to slip through a fresh hole in his other pocket. But it was very satisfying.

Day 18 Lucas frowned at his watch, noting it was past 10 in the morning, and squeezed his eyes shut. When he opened them again, everything still was tinted orange. He'd hoped he was just imagining it, or it was somehow sunrise still, but even in the depths of an English winter the sun didn't take that long to rise. 'Clara,' he said cautiously. 'Yes, darling?' she said, looking up from her book, apparently untroubled by strange colours. 'Is everything all right?' he said, not quite sure how to put his current predicament. 'Perfectly,' she said. 'I've got the latest Agatha Christie, a comfortable chair, and a cup of tea. And your wonderful company,’ she added quickly. 'What more could I want?' Lucas swallowed hard. 'You mean,' he said. 'You mean, everything is looking all right to you? No... funny colours, or anything?' 'Oh that,' she said, burying her nose back in her book. 'Is everything purple to you too?' 'Purple!' exclaimed Lucas. 'I thought it was orange.' 'Oh well, maybe Saffron decided to go off-script with me,' she said. 'I'm only a secondary character, after all.' 'You're not,' protested Lucas. 'You always have equal share in the stories.' 'True,' said Clara, not looking up. 'But my name isn’t on the cover.' 'Maybe we can get Saff to fix that sometime,’ said Lucas. 'Oh no, I don’t want that,' said Clara. She closed her book and frowned. 'But I'm not sure I like everything looking different. You’re quite a peculiar shade of violet, dear.' 'I don't think I'd suit any shade of purple,' said Lucas, looking at his orange hands. 'Or orange, for that matter.' 'Probably not,' said Clara cheerfully. 'But it could be worse.' 'How?' 'We're not dead,' said Clara. 'Or likely to be eaten by anything horrible in the near future, or fall through a gap in time and space -' 'I say, don't give her ideas,' exclaimed Lucas, looking around anxiously in case I was listening in, which naturally I was. 'So all in, I'd say everything looking like a photograph, except purple instead of grey - or orange, in your case - isn't so bad.' 'I suppose so,' said Lucas, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes. 'I'll just stay like this for a while though, so I don't have to look at it too much.'

Day 19 'Good morning my dear,' said Lucas, pecking Clara on the cheek. 'You always bring me cheer.' '... That's nice,' said Clara. 'Are you feeling all right?' 'Indeed I am,' said Lucas, presenting her with a parcel of sandwiches. 'For I have sandwiches filled with ham.' 'You're a poet and you didn't know it,' she quipped, taking a bite of sandwich. 'Huh?' said Lucas, puzzled. 'The rhyming thing,' said Clara. 'What rhyming thing?' replied Lucas. 'Perhaps instead I should sing.' 'Please don’t,' said Clara quickly. 'You seem to be speaking in rhyme today. Will you be all right for that speech later?' 'A speech at the hall!'' cried Lucas. 'If I keep rhyming, then I'll have to stall.' 'That won’t go down well,' said Clara. 'The WI have been looking forward to your speech on Halloween since you signed up for it.' 'A talk on Halloween,' said Lucas. 'Whatever do you mean?' Clara rubbed her forehead, trying to think what to do. This was going to be a long day without Lucas fooling around. Bob the Definitely Duck needed a bath, and Dale the Puppy Whatever Lucas Says needed a long walk. She didn't have time for this. 'We'll work something out,' she said. 'We'll just say you prepared it as a poem for some reason.' 'I must have gone mad,' said Lucas. 'Let's hope it's a fad.' 'Indeed,' sighed Clara, pulling a notepad and pen towards her. Later, at the hall, Lucas took to the stage, looking even more nervous than usual. Clara gave him and encouraging nod and smile. He cleared his throat and shuffled papers. 'Now it can be seen,' he said. 'That soon it is Halloween. A time for jokes and japes, and vampires with capes. Fun will be had, though we celebrate things which are bad, for on Halloween night, ghosts come out and give you a fright.' He paused and licked his lips. Clara gave him another encouraging nod, ignoring the whispers around her as he continued. Regardless of what anyone said, she was determined to tell Lucas he did marvellously, and barely anyone noticed the weird rhyming thing at all.

Day 20 'You know,' said Lucas, hearing today's prompt for the #spooktacularwriting2020 challenge. 'I always wondered why none of my dead relatives came back to talk to me. You've have thought they would. My dad, if no one else.' 'There's a reason for that,' I said under my breath. 'What was that?' said Lucas, frowning. 'Nothing,' I said quickly. 'You should see it as a good thing, though. At least it means they haven't got any unfinished business or anything.' 'I suppose so,' said Lucas, still looking at me suspiciously. 'Well, come on then. Who's this dead relative I've got to deal with today?' 'Ah,' I said guiltily. 'Well, seeing as you talk to ghosts all the time...' 'Yes,' he prompted. 'I thought it might be good for Clara to take the lead on this on,' I concluded, avoiding his eye. True, he complained about ghosts all the time, but I had a feeling he might not like being shunted to the side. I needn’t have worried. 'Really?' he said, broad grin spread across his face. 'You're letting me off today?' 'I suppose so,' I said, rather relieved. 'Do you want to watch?' 'What, like you do, from outside the scene?' 'Sure.' 'Rather,' he said, joining me in the ether. 'But you must be quiet,' I warned. He mimed locking his lips, and we sat back to watch the drama unfold... 'Hullo, Clara,' said a voice she hadn't heard since she was a child. The book tumbled unnoticed to the floor. 'Dad?' she whispered, looking at his translucent form. He was still in army uniform, looking just as smart and handsome as she remembered on the day he left for the trenches. 'Is it really you?' 'Yes, love,' he said, the lines at the corners of his eyes deepening as he smiled at her. 'I don't have long, but I need to give you a message.' Clara nodded mutely, tears spilling down her cheeks. 'It's about Bob,’ her dad said gently. 'Bob!' she cried. 'My little duck! What is it? Is he sick?' The ghost of Mr Jenkins winced. 'No,' he said, shaking his head wearily. 'It's not that. The thing is, Clara...' 'Yes, dad?' 'The thing is...' 'Yes?' 'Look, just get the kraken out the tin bath before your mum finds it, all right?'

Day 21 Lucas lit the candle in the middle of the table, keeping away from the vase of flowers from his mother's garden. It’s the thought that counts. 'Wine?' he said, uncorking the cheapest bottle at the shop. 'Please,' said Clara, who wore her best frock. It was complimented the necklace Lucas gave her moments before. 'It's jolly good of Saffron to give us a nice evening like this.' 'Yes,' said Lucas. 'What’s she up to?' 'I'm sure she's not up to anythi-’ There was a knock at the door. 'I'll get rid of them,’ said Lucas. 'Trick or treat!' cried the monsters outside. 'Not again,' said Lucas. There was a bowl of sweets on the hall table, so he put some into each outstretched hand, one in his own mouth, and shut the door. 'Where were we?' he said, stepping back into the kitchen. Clara sniffed the air. 'Are you eating mints?' 'No,' said Lucas, swallowing quickly. There was another knock at the door. 'I'll go,' said Clara. She appeased the trick or treaters and returned to the kitchen. Lucas had cooked a feast straight out of his mum's best cookbook. It smelled divine, and together with the freely-flowing, if rather acidic wine, promised the evening would be good. She'd barely sat down when there was another knock at the door. Grumbling, Lucas laid unused cutlery beside his plate and paid sugary tribute to the local brats. 'I hope that's the last of them,' said Clara, who had been patient and not touched her food, instead stealing some from Lucas' plate. A knock dashed this hope. 'Right,' she said, getting up crossly. She flung the door open. 'We're having a nice evening,’ she said. ‘And you keep interrupting us.' 'That’s the idea, miss,' said a child. Clara glowered in the vague direction of her author. 'Is that so?' she said. 'Then I’ll leave the sweets on the doorstep and go back inside.' 'You can't do that,' I said from the ether. 'Watch,' said Clara, dumping the bowl of sweets outside, to the glee of the kids. She slammed the door, gave a triumphant nod towards where she thought I was, and flounced to the kitchen. 'Sorted?' asked Lucas indistinctly, his plate rather emptier than before. 'Yes,' said Clara, a note of menace in her voice. I decided a tactical retreat was in order. For now.

Day 22 'Right,' said Clara, admiring her decorations around the door. ‘I think we’re ready for the trick or treaters.’ 'If it's Halloween, does that mean this stupid challenge is over?' said Lucas. 'No, it's only day 22,' said Clara, straitening the papier mache vampire, who had toppled sideways. 'But it'll be fun.’ 'So you say,' he groused. 'And it'll be nice to see all the kiddies dressed up,' continued Clara, ignoring this. 'Didn't we have enough of that yesterday?' 'Today is different,' said Clara. 'Today we're going to enjoy having them around.' Thudding footsteps made them turn around. It was Mr Meakin, calling for Freddy. 'What’s wrong, Mr M?' called Clara. He skidded to a halt. 'It's Freddy,' he panted. 'We haven't seen him all day.' 'That's awful,' said Clara. 'We'll help you look.' 'Thanks,' he said, before haring off again, calling for his son. 'I hope nothing's happened to him,' said Clara. 'Yes, that'd be dreadful,' replied Lucas, not sounding entirely sincere. Clara was about to comment, but was interrupted by Mrs Joseph, the primary school teacher. 'Are you looking too?' she said, never stopping glancing around her. 'For Freddy?' said Lucas. ‘Apparently so. But don't worry, we'll find him.' 'Good,' said Mrs Joseph distractedly. 'I hope we can find them all.' 'All?' cried Clara. 'Someone else is missing, too?’ 'Why yes,' said Mrs Joseph, looking at them properly at last. 'All the children have gone missing.' 'That's terrible,' said Lucas, a little too happily. He clearly suspected they'd be back tomorrow and meant to make the most of the peace whilst he could. Clara hit him. 'We'll help look,' she said. Mrs Joseph nodded and bustled off. 'Why?' said Lucas, shoving his hands in his pockets and strolling down the street, looking inappropriately cheerful. 'They'll all be back tomorrow, and no worse for it. Let's enjoy the peace whilst we can.' He nudged Clara playfully. 'Maybe we could try our romantic evening again?' 'We should at least show willing,' said Clara, though an uninterrupted evening together sounded good. 'Humph,' said Lucas. 'Let’s spend an hour or two running around, then go home.' 'All right,' said Clara brightly. 'Can't say fairer than that.'

Day 23 'Oh, um,' said Clara. 'What a good costume you've got.' 'Thank you kindly, ma'am,' said the lone figure on the doorstep. It was child-height, and human-shaped, so Clara could only assume it was a costume... But it was a very convincing one. 'Good grief, what's that?' exclaimed Lucas as he looked over her shoulder. She trod on his toes. 'This,' she said, eying the caller suspiciously, ‘is, um...' 'Herbert,' said the child. 'Herbert,' repeated Clara. 'He's, uh, new to the village.' 'You don’t say,' said Lucas, looking the creature up and down. Herbert's skin was icy blue and didn't have that thick, shiny quality Lucas remembered from theatrical greasepaint. His hair was silver and shimmered in the light, and his fingers were extremely long, and webbed with an iridescent material. His vampire costume was quite good, too. 'So,' said Lucas cautiously. 'Where have you moved from?' 'Somewhere quite far away, sir,' said Herbert. 'Have you heard of Intergalacton 18?' 'Can't say I have,' replied Lucas, as Clara gasped. 'I'm sure it's very nice.' 'Yes,' replied the blue figure. ‘Your Earth is likewise pleasant.' 'I... see,' said Lucas, ignoring Clara tugging on the back of his jumper. 'Has Clara given you some sweets?' 'Why, yes,' replied Herbert happily, examining a basket woven from glowing strips of light. 'There appears to be mint humbugs, a twist of sherbet, and some fruit pastilles that smell slightly of almonds.' 'Don’t eat those,' advised Lucas. 'Duly noted, kind sir,' said Herbert, bowing. 'I wish you and your lady a splendid evening. Farewell.' 'He’s nice,' said Lucas, closing the front door. ‘You know he’s an alien, right?’ said Clara. ‘From another planet?' 'Is he?' said Lucas, thinking this explained a few things. 'Well, he’s a nice alien.' 'It doesn’t bother you?' 'Weirdly, no,' said Lucas after a moment's contemplation. 'I mean, he glowed a bit around the edges, but he was polite, and cheerful and trying to get to know people. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, do you?’ 'Well, no,' said Clara, relaxing. 'I just expected you to freak out, like you usually do.' ‘I’ll do that later, when I’ve thought about it a bit more,’ said Lucas, kissing her cheek.

Day 24 'I don't want to summon a demon, thanks,’ said Lucas, reading the list of Spooktacuar writing prompts. 'It’s accidental,' said I. 'You don't get a choice.' 'I'll sit here and do nothing all day,' he said, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. ‘Can’t do anything accidental then.’ 'If you say so,' I said with a shrug, and left him to his boring, lonely day. After a few minutes, he picked up a book, found he'd read it before, and put it down again. The newspaper was next, but it was depressing once he finished reading the cartoons so that was abandoned too. 'Tea,' he said. 'That's what I'm missing.' He boiled the kettle, warmed the pot, added leaves and hot water, and stirred. But instead of his usual anti-clockwise motion, he stirred in an odd little pattern. 'Hullo, brief mortal,' said a raspy voice behind him. Lucas turned around slowly, dreading the horror he’d find. But instead of the swirling mass of darkness and evil he expected, there was a demon the size of a housecat sat on the edge of the table, swinging its furry legs and looking around curiously. 'Nice place,' it said. 'Hardly any fire and brimstone, you don't see that anymore.' 'Uh, said Lucas, looking at the thing's curly horns. 'Who are you?' 'Sid the Tea Demon,' it said, holding out a taloned hand. 'At your service.' 'Sid?' 'The Tea Demon,’ confirmed Sid. He saluted Lucas with a sugar lump before popping it in its mouth. 'Huh,' said Lucas, pouring tea into a cup. 'Uh, do you want some?' 'Ooh, please,' said Sid. 'I'm gasping.' 'So, what does a tea demon do?' said Lucas, handing the cup over. 'Oh, you know,' said Sid. 'Curdling milk, stewing tea, cracking teacups. Making the biscuits stale. That sort of thing.' 'So, low-level curses are your speciality?' 'Exactly.' 'Can you work it the other way? You know, milk stays fresh, tea is perfectly brewed, that sort of thing?' Sid scratched his chin thoughtfully, the talons making a scraping noise. 'I suppose it's just a case of making the curses run in the opposite direction.' 'Try it.’ Sid squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated. The teapot exploded, sending scalding tea and shards of Mrs Rathbone's favourite tea set flying across the room. 'Oops,' said Sid.

Day 25 'My vord,' said Lucas. 'Vhat a beeeutiful day!' '... Indeed,' said Clara cautiously. 'Lucas, darling, are you feeling all right?' 'Marvellous,' said Lucas. 'Vhy do you ask?' 'You just,' Clara gesticulated vaguely. 'Sound a bit odd,' that's all.' 'Vhat do you mean?' 'Uh,' said Clara. This could be tricky. Lucas didn't generally take critisism well, and there wasn't any way he could take speaking like Dracula as anything other than criticism. 'Nothing,’ she said, chickening out. 'Let's get some cake from the bakers.' 'Vhat a splen-did ideah,' said Lucas, taking her arm. 'Ve should get some seed cake vor tea.' 'Yes,' said Clara absently, wondering how to explain this to Guthrie at the bakers. Maybe he wouldn't notice? 'Good morning,' said Mr Guthrie brightly. 'What can I get you two this fine morning?' 'Ve vould like,' said Lucas, apparently oblivious to the puzzled look on the baker's face. 'Vun ov your finest seed cakes, unt vun loaf ov bread, if you please.' Guthrie glanced at Clara, who shrugged. 'All right,' said Guthrie, taking the professional route and bustling about to gather the order. 'Fangs,' said Lucas. 'Excuse me?' said Guthrie sharply. 'Fanks,' said Lucas, before coughing. 'Sorry, I had a likkle somfink at the back of my froat.' 'I see,' said Guthrie anxiously. 'Well, there you go. No, no, it's on the house today,' he said, waving away Lucas' money. 'Wouldn't want to catch your, uh, cold.' 'Verry kind ov you,' said Lucas, picking up the baked goods. 'I'll pay you later,' Clara whispered to Guthrie before turning to leave. 'Perhaps we'd be better off staying at home today,' said Clara, deciding it was more trouble that it was worth to go out and about with Lucas like this. 'Hopefully tomorrow he'll be back to normal,' she muttered. 'Vut vuz zat?' said Lucas. 'Nothing.'

Day 26 Lucas woke up, his throat dry and a little itchy. 'Tea,' he muttered, though he had the nagging feeling that tea wouldn't cut it this morning and went in search of coffee instead. 'Coffee,' he said, rummaging through the cupboards. 'Coffee coffee coffee... aha!' He sniffed it, thinking this perhaps isn't quite the ticket either but deciding it was too early for wine - Wine? he thought, frowning. Why on earth would I want wine? Can't stand the stuff. Red wine. *Blood* red wine. He shuddered, pushing the thought of blood from his mind and ignoring the nagging tug in the pit of his stomach at the thought. Blood made his head swim, but in spite of that, it was all he could think about. But in a glass. A sparkling crystal tumbler of thick, coppery red liquid. 'Urgh,' he said aloud, shivering. 'What the..?' He glared upwards, fairly certain who was behind this new and unwelcome development. 'Saffron?' he said accusingly. 'Is this your doing?’ 'Not my choice,' I insisted. 'You know I hate blood as much as you do. If it helps, it’s making me feel a bit queasy.' 'It doesn't help,' said Lucas, the nagging urge to drink blood growing by the second. 'I can't drink blood,' he cried, tugging at his hair. 'That's disgusting.' 'You could eat black pudding,' I said. ‘No I can’t,' he argued. 'That makes me feel sick too.' 'Look, it's better than the alternative, isn't it?' 'I suppose,' muttered Lucas, grabbing his coat. His head ached with his need for blood, it consumed his entire thoughts. 'Blood pudding,' said Lucas the instant he stepped into the butchers. 'Good morning to you too,' grumbled the butcher, fetching the order. 'Thanks,' said Lucas, handing over his money and snatching the parcel from the counter. Minutes later, he sat at the kitchen table devouring hot, freshly-fried back pudding happily. 'You know,' he said, addressing his kind and benevolent author. 'This is quite nice, if you don't think about what's in it.' 'I know,' said Saffron, who was actually rather fond of black pudding before she went vegetarian. 'Haggis is good too, if you can forget what it's made of.' Lucas put down his fork, suddenly losing his appetite for anything at all. ‘That’s just a step too far,’ he said.

Day 27 Lucas turned up the garden path, taking his house keys from his pocket as he did so. They clattered on the ground and skidded under a hedge, quite possibly lost forever. Not that it mattered, as there was no door to put them in. That didn't matter either though, as there was no house to attach a door to. He squeezed his eyes shut, hoping, praying that when he opened them again everything would be back to normal. He was wrong. Somehow, his house in the middle of the terrace had completely disappeared. The houses on either side had perfect end walls, with no evidence of there ever having been a house in between them at all. The garden stretched before him, without the usual interruption of bricks and mortar. 'Mum,' he cried, remembering that something else was missing from this picture. At least he knew where she might be. Without bothering to look for his now useless keys, Lucas sprinted to Mrs Jenkins' house, dreading what he might find there. Thankfully, everything look normal, so he knocked on the door. 'Oh, hello,' said Clara. 'We wondered when you'd show up.' 'You've been expecting me?' he said, stepping over the threshold and taking Clara in his arms, squeezing her tightly and inhaling her familiar, comforting violet scent. 'Of course,' said Clara. 'Your mum has been here all day, what with your house being gone.' Lucas groaned. ‘It’s the Spooktacular thing again, isn't it?' 'What else?' said Clara brightly. 'But it could be worse.' She pecked him on the cheek. 'At least my home hasn't disappeared too. There’s some benefits to not having your name on the cover, you know.' 'They're very tempting,' said Lucas, traipsing through to the living room where he was greeted by his entirely unconcerned mother and Mrs Jenkins. 'Do you think we can get Saffron to make you the main character instead?' 'No,' said Clara, directing him to a seat and handing him the whiskey and soda she’d made in anticipation. 'So there’s no point trying.' ‘Damn,’ he said, gulping his drink down in one.

Day 28 'Hello Mr Featherstone,' said Lucas, stepping into the newsagents. 'The usual, please.' Featherstone frowned at him. 'The usual, sir?' 'Yes,' said Lucas. 'You know, the same thing I get every morning.' 'Sorry, sir, I don't understand.' 'Come on, Mr F,' said Lucas, as the scowl deepen on the shopkeeper's face. 'The Times and a bag of barley twists.' 'Coming right up, sir,' said Mr Featherstone, picking out the requested items. 'New to the area, are you sir?' 'What do you mean?' said Lucas, handing over his money. 'I've lived here all my life. I've bought sweets from you since I was little.' 'If you say so, sir, said Featherstone, handing over the change. 'Have a good day.' Lucas exited the shop, shaking his head. Terrible when a chap's mind wanders like that. He walked to the office, sucking a sweet, greeting confused friends and neighbours as he went. Maybe everyone forgot to put their glasses on? He put the key in his office door and turned. At least, he tried to. He looked up at the office window. The light was on, but it was his office. No one else should be there. He hammered on the door until Clara opened it. 'Can I help you?' she said politely. 'Clara,' cried Lucas, pulling her into a hug. 'Something odd is happening.' She stamped on his foot and pushed him away. 'Who are you?' she demanded. 'How do you know my name?' 'You don't know?' 'Should I?’ Lucas cried out in despair. ‘I don’t exist,’ he sobbed. ‘I’ve been forgotten. 'Have you banged your head lately?' 'No!' He turned back to her. ‘You really don’t know me?’ 'What’s your name, again?' 'Lucas,' said Lucas. 'Lucas Rathbone.' 'That… is familiar,' said Clara, puzzled. 'Tell me how we know each other, Lucas.' 'I grew up with your brother, Henry.’ She glared suspiciously, but there was also a glimmer of recognition. 'And,' said Lucas, dreading the next part. 'You and I... we're getting married. I’ve been crazy about you for years.' Clara took this quite well, all things considered. 'That may explain why I feel I know you somehow,' she said, her expression softening. 'You do?' 'Yes,' said Clara, smiling coyly. 'And if I’m going to have a stranger tell me we’ll get married one day, I guess they could be worse than you.'

Day 29 'I got you a gift,’ I said. Lucas looked at me suspiciously, as well he might. 'What *kind* of gift?' 'Look outside.' He peeked through the curtains. After a minute of stunned silence, I thought I'd better say something. 'What do you think?' 'What *is* it?' he asked - as well he might. This is 1928 and I've just dropped a 2020 Lamborghini Aventador in front of his mother's house. 'It's a car,' I said. 'Quite a nice one.' 'But it's yellow,' said Lucas, who is always so grateful. I rolled my eyes. 'Teal?' 'Red?' I eyed him suspiciously, in case his recent vampirism hadn't worn off yet. Satisfied it was just because he liked the colour, I agreed. 'Red,' I said, and so it was. Isn’t that fun? The colour would be the least of Lucas' worries, but he didn’t need to know that. 'I can't drive,' he said, not taking his eyes from the car. 'Don’t worry about that.’ 'What does that mean?' said Lucas sharply. 'Uh, I've just decided you can drive fast cars today,' I said. 'I can do that, you know. Go have fun before it wears off, like Cinderella.' Cinderlucas, not wanting to miss playing in a car nearly a century newer than himself, grabbed his coat, pecked me on the cheek in a rare and, after this, likely never to be repeated act of gratitude, and ran to the car. I tagged along unnoticed, otherwise the narrative would end here. And where’s the fun in that? Lucas ooh'ed as the gull wing doors floated upward, ahh'ed as he slid into the leather seat, and proceeded to press every button in sight, because he's secretly six years old. Eventually he found the ignition and the engine purred into life. The first few miles went well. 'All right,' he said, grinning. 'I've got the hang of it. Let's show Clara.' He saw the turn back to Castlebury Magna, indicated, and turned the wheel. The car sped onwards. 'What...?' said Lucas, the thrill of excitement turned to one of terror. The car zipped along, ignoring his frantic braking and steering, speed increasing until they took turns at a horrifying speed. They were last seen on the road to Leeds, but who knows where they'll end up? Hopefully not in the North Sea. I need Cinderlucas back in Castlebury by morning, or tomorrow will be very dull...

Day 30 'This is stupid,' said Lucas, digging his heels in. Clara pushed his back. It didn’t help. 'No it's not,' she said. ‘You should bury the hatchet with Tommy.' 'It's buried,' said Lucas. 'I can spend whole minutes at a time in his company without wanting to hit him.' 'That's not the same,' said Clara, taking his hand and pulling him along. 'Come on, Saff will buy us a drink if you do, as well as not vanishing you at midnight.' 'No she won’t,' said Lucas. 'She’ll just write a drink into my hand.' 'Yes,' said Clara, wishing I'd make Lucas more cooperative at the same time. 'But we've still got to do the thing, so get on with it.' Tommy lounged on the pub wall, sunshine glinting on his golden curls. 'See you in a minute,' said Clara. 'Right-oh,' said Tommy, taking a swig of ale. Clara felt Lucas bristle at her friend's easy manner. This wouldn’t be easy. Beers bought, they returned to Tommy, Clara only having to push Lucas a bit. She sat him on the wall next to Tommy, and retreated to a safe distance whilst remaining in earshot. 'So,' said Tommy as Lucas passed him a beer. 'What's this about?' Lucas cast a mournful look towards Clara, who made encouraging gestures. Honestly, she thought. It's like he'd rather disappear forever than talk about his feelings. 'Well,' said Lucas. 'You know today's #spooktacularwriting2020 prompt?' 'Yes,' said Tommy. ‘I'm surprised you chose me to settle up with.' 'Dad’s not back in the story yet,' said Lucas. 'So you'll have to do.' 'Ah, I see,' said Tommy. 'In that case, fire away, old chap.' With a last look in Clara's direction, Lucas began his list of grievances. It was a long list. 'Is that it?' said Tommy, unfazed. 'Yes,' said Lucas. 'What do you say about it?' 'Sorry for everything, I suppose.' 'Oh,' said Lucas. 'So you'll stop?' 'Probably not,' said Tommy cheerfully. 'But you must know I'm not terribly serious about any of it.' 'Wait,' said Lucas. 'I thought -' 'Tommy doesn't mean any harm,’ said Clara soothingly, returning to Lucas’ side. ‘He's just - well, he's just being Tommy, really.' 'But he annoys me,' wailed Lucas. Tommy grinned broadly. 'Yes,' sighed Clara. 'I think that's the idea.'

Day 31 'This is it?' said Lucas, looking at the calendar. 'The last day of this stupid challenge?' 'Yes,' said Clara, dressed in her witch costume from day 10. 'So play nice.' 'I always do,' said Lucas, who wore his wizard's outfit again. 'Of course you do,' said Clara. 'Oh, there's someone at the door,' she added, before a reply could be made. 'Is there?' said Lucas, following her. 'I didn't hear anything.' When they opened the door, a troupe of children were outside. Herbert waved a shimmering webbed hand from the back of the group. It was nice to see him getting on so well. 'Trick or treat,' they chorused. 'Luckily we've got some treats,' said Clara, reaching for a bowl filled of green, black, and purple ovals. The children stared at them. 'What are they?' asked Freddy Meakin. 'Olives,' said Clara. 'Very festive colours, don't you think?' 'Aren’t there any sweets?' asked a small floral bedsheet ghost. Clara looked at the bowl again. 'No,' she said. 'Just olives.' 'What sort of a treat is that?' asked Freddy, as a low wail began amongst the children. 'Depends on who you ask,' said Lucas, who rather liked olives and stole them whenever Clara wasn’t looking. 'A nice, healthy treat,' said Clara defensively, slapping Lucas' hand away from the bowl. 'Better for your teeth.' The children, led by the Meakin boy, retreated to hold a conference. 'We think,' said Freddy after a few minutes of whispered conversation. 'They're not treats, so you're getting tricked.' 'Get them!' cried the floral ghost, rushing at them in a flurry of chintz. Lucas slammed the door in time for the first egg to hit it. 'I thought children loved olives,’ said Clara. 'Apparently not,' said Lucas, as a bag of flour burst on the front window. 'We'll have a whole cake at this rate.' Shouting outside told them something else was occurring. 'My vampire!' cried Clara, watching the papier- mâché monster being dragged from the porch, dumped in the middle of the road, and stomped all over. 'That took me all weekend to make.' 'And all of two minutes for the brats to set it alight,' observed Lucas. Clara threw an olive at him. 'Next year,' she said, as the flames and cheering rose outside. 'We're giving out toffee.'

Topsy Turvy Book Tour

Day 1 Lucas craned his neck to try and read what was written on the point of his collar. '"Dum,"' he said aloud, scratching his head and dislodging the cap that was inexplicably on it. 'What does that mean? And why am I wearing the same clothes as Henry?' 'You're Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, of course,' said Clara, examining her blue pinafore dress with delight. 'We're in Alice's Adventures In Wonderland today. Don't you remember Saffron telling us there was a new Topsy Turvy Challenge on this month? Where we go around a load of different books and play in those stories instead of our own?' Tweedle Lucas groaned loudly. 'Can't I have a sick note or something?' he begged. 'No,' said Tweedle Henry, frowning down at his own unusual get-up. 'If I've got to be here, so have you. Your name is on the cover, after all.' Tweedle Lucas muttered something indistinct and grumpy. 'At least Tommy isn't here,' he said, brightening up a touch. 'Who,' said Tommy's voice from somewhere overhead, 'are you?' The other three looked up to the oversized mushroom nearby to find Tommy lounging on it in a set of voluminous blue silk pyjamas and curly golden slippers on his feet. He was wreathed in smoke, and he appraised the new arrivals before turning his attention back to the hookah. 'Excuse me,' protested Tommy, breaking several conventions about not being able to hear the narrator, nor talk to me. 'I've never had to *pay* for -' 'Hoo-kah,' I repeated crossly, carefully pronouncing the word. 'Not... It's the fancy pipe thing you're sucking on.' 'Oh,' he said, looking at the fancy pipe thing. 'Is it really? All right, as you were.' 'Well I've completely lost my train of thought now,' I grumbled. 'Where were we?' 'I shouldn't think it matters,' chimed in Clara quite unnecessarily. 'The Tweedles and the Caterpillar weren't in the same part of the book anyway.' 'Oh, well,' I said, trying not to get too annoyed with the rabble - 'Oi,' argued Tweedle Lucas. 'We're not doing anything.' 'Quite right,' agreed Tweedle Henry. 'Don't tar us all with the same brush.' 'You know what, why don't you play with the shrinky-growy food and drink,' I said, making a table full of the aforementioned appear from thin air. 'That should keep you amused for a while.' This was met with an excited murmur, and they descended on it like locusts, changing size almost instantly and giggling like schoolchildren. This is going to be a long month.

Day 2 'I hate dancing,' announced Lucas, running a finger around his all-too tight collar. 'No you don't,' argued Clara, looking wonderful in a white muslin frock with a scandalously low neckline and a floor-skimming hemline. 'Yes I do,' he protested. 'Doubly so when I don’t know what the dance is.' 'Well, I'm with you there,' admitted Clara. 'Shall we sit this one out?' They made their way to a row of seats via the punch bowl, noting as they did so that Tommy was rather predictably making a hit with the other girls at the ball, particularly as Saffron had dressed him in a smart bright red military uniform so he'd fit in with the local militia. An inane girl of about fifteen was giggling all over him, and for once he looked terrified of a female. Lucas found this particularly amusing. They took a seat next to a couple of young women who were likewise sitting this dance out and gossiping about their neighbours. Several times, a handsome, proud looking man nearby glanced at the girls, and his companion was clearly heard encouraging the man to dance, even suggesting he ask one of the girls next to Clara. 'She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me,' he said, turning away again. 'And I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.' The young woman in question blushed and turned back to her friend, making a joke of the thing. 'Well!' exclaimed Clara crossly. 'That was rude.' She nudged Lucas. 'Why don't you ask her to dance?' 'Me? I don't know what I'm doing! Besides, I'm sure it's highly inappropriate for a married man to ask an unmarried woman for a turn about the dance floor.' '*We're* not married yet.' 'Close enough for me,' said Lucas. 'Anyway, isn't Tommy better suited? He'd enjoy it much more than I would.' As though summoned by the mention of his name, Tommy appeared out of nowhere, looking rather harried. 'Good Lord, that Lydia child can talk,' he said, dropping into a chair. 'I gave her the slip at last, but I don't think it'll take long for her to find me.' 'Well,' said Clara, brightening up. 'Why don't you ask someone else to dance? That girl over there, for instance.' 'Marvellous,' said Tommy, springing into action. 'Just the ticket. See you later.' With that, he scurried off and within moments was taking a turn about the room with the girl who was supposedly not handsome enough. 'Hah, see,' said Clara, directing Lucas' attention to the snooty man, who was looking rather put out that his reject was now dancing with one of the most attractive men in the room. 'Perhaps he'll think twice about making nasty comments about people in future.'

Day 3 Lucas tripped over the edge of his robe and swore. 'Ten points from Gryffindor,' a voice intoned behind him. He turned around and looked up - rather a longer way up than he'd usually expect - into the sallow face of a man smelling oddly of what Lucas could only hope were chemicals. 'Sorry sir,' he squeaked, his voice cracking as he did so. He coughed, tried again, and hurried off to find Clara. She was in the library, naturally, her nose wedged in a book as Tommy sat beside her eating chocolate shaped like a frog and dropping crumbs everywhere. They looked younger than usual, somewhere in their mid-teens, but Lucas put this down to the candle light. 'Here, I've got this one already,' said Tommy, holding something that looked like a playing card out to Lucas. He looked at it cautiously, and a grey-haired man in wizard's robes waved at him. 'What...?' he started. 'We're at a magic school,' said Clara, not looking up from her books. 'Something called Harry Potter and the Something or Other. I forget what.' 'Oh,' said Lucas, taking a seat next to her. 'That sounds... dangerous.' 'Dangerous!' exclaimed Clara, looking up at last. 'Only *you* could think a magical school could be dangerous.' 'I don't know about that,' said Tommy, looking around furtively. 'I've heard a lot of talk -' 'Do I want to know where?' asked Clara disapprovingly. 'Probably not,' replied Tommy with a wicked grin. 'But mostly behind the broom shed. Mostly. Anyway,' continued Tommy in a librarian-annoyingly loud voice to cut over Clara's complaints, 'my point *was* that there's this chap, they call him He Who Must Not Be Named -' 'A touch overdramatic,' muttered Lucas.' 'Quite,' agreed Tommy. 'But this fellow is some bigshot scary Dark Wizard, or something, and is apparently trying to finish off killing some kid or other.' 'Doesn't sound that difficult,' said Clara frowning. 'I bet he's not as wonderful as he says he is.' 'Don't see how he can be,' said Tommy with a shrug. 'I mean, the kid is our age, about fourteen -' 'I thought I felt annoyingly hormonal again,' said Lucas. 'That explains it.' 'Well, we couldn't come to a school as adults, could we? But,' said Tommy, leaning back in his seat and stretching, 'it sounds like this kid has the situation in hand, so I say we enjoy being young and carefree again.' 'And playing with magic whilst we can,' added Clara. Lucas groaned. 'Can't I just stay here, where's it's safe and quiet?' Clara raised an eyebrow at him. 'Magic books, safe? If you say so....' 'Right,' he said, standing up. 'I see woodland through the window. I'm going for a nice quiet walk.' 'Should we tell him?' said Tommy after Lucas had left. 'No,' said Clara, shutting her book with a loud bang. 'He'll find out soon enough.'

Day 4 ** The Picture of Tommy Kilbourne ** 'I must say, Tommy, you're doing frightfully well for yourself in this book,' said Lucas, tucking in to a fine dinner. Tommy grinned from the other end of the table and toasted his guests. 'And you're still looking like you're in your twenties,' added Clara, a shade jealously. 'Lucas and I seem to be a good twenty years or so older than usual.' 'Good skincare routine,' replied their host, taking a sip of blood-red wine. 'Exfoliate, moisturise, stay out of the sun, all that sort of nonsense.' 'Like Hell it is,' said a voice in Lucas' ear. 'You should see the portrait I painted of him.' Lucas winced. Saffron had promised faithfully that there weren't any ghosts in any of the books mentioned in the Topsy Turvy Challenge, except Christmas Carol which are allegories, and Macbeth but that's technically a play and doesn't really count as a book. He was going to have to have words with her later. Lucas looked out of the corner of his eye to find a smartly dressed ghost with a smattering of oil paint across his sleeves. 'Oh,' said the man, sounding rather surprised. 'You can see me.' Clara and Tommy were deep in conversation, so Lucas risked a nod. 'Well,' said the ghost, clearly all too pleased at having someone to talk to at last, 'the thing is, I painted a portrait of this young devil oh, such a long time ago now, and I don't really know what happened, but -' 'Excuse me, Tommy,' said Lucas loudly. 'Might I use your facilities?' 'Hmm? Oh, yes of course, my good fellow. Straight up the stairs, third door on the left.' Lucas thanked him and left the room, then instructed the ghost to continue speaking. 'Ah, well,' said the ghost. 'It's a little unusual, I suppose, but the thing is - the thing is, I think the portrait is possessed somehow. By, um, by Tommy's own soul.' Lucas thought for quite some time before replying. 'No, I don't follow,' he said at last. 'How can a painting be possessed by the sitter?' 'I don't know,' replied the painter miserably. 'But that's the only conclusion I can think of. Follow me.' So Lucas did, all the way up the stairs and to the locked attic doors. After rather a lot of cursing and a bruised knuckle, Lucas finally managed to pick the lock and get into the attic. Before him was a large canvas, shrouded in a sheet except for a top corner. 'Look at it,' said the ghost in a horrified whisper. With some quite reasonable trepidation, Lucas pulled away the sheet. 'You painted him like *that*?' he asked, mouth turned down in disgust. 'I painted him as he looks now.' In horror, Lucas watched a new legion appeared on the already disfigured face in the painting. 'He's done something else terrible,' moaned the spirit. 'That's what happens. The blemishes on his soul appear in my art.' Lucas sprinted downstairs, anxious to get himself and Clara as far away from this, this demon as possible. Gasping, he burst into the dining room to find Tommy holding Clara's hand in an all too familiar way. Tommy's expression darkened when he saw Lucas standing there with dusty clothes and cobwebbed hair. 'You've been in the attic,' he said coldly, standing up and moving towards Lucas, picking up a steak knife as he did so. 'I'm sorry, but I can't risk you revealing my secret.'

Day 5 "The sun did not shine. it was too wet to play. so we sat in the house all that cold, cold, wet day." 'Ugh,' said Lucas loudly, cutting through my train of thought. 'Not *poetry*. I hate poetry.' 'Shh,' said Clara. 'It's from a children's book. Rhyming is good for helping children learn to read, I expect.' 'Er, yes,' I said from the ether, wondering how Clara knew that when I didn't. 'Can I get back to it now?' It was generally agreed that the sooner this was over with, the better, so I cleared my throat again and continued. "I sat there with sally -" 'My name is Clara,' said Clara helpfully. 'Have you forgotten?' I gave her a look, and tried again. "I sat there with *Clara* -" 'Much better,' she interjected, nodding approvingly. "We sat there, we two. and I said, 'how I wish we had something to do!'" 'I have a few ideas,' said Lucas, nudging Clara playfully. 'I mean, we have got the place to ourselves...' 'No you haven't,' I said crossly, although technically it was true as narrators don't really count. 'And this is a kid's book! Behave yourself.' Lucas shrugged. 'I don't see why. There's no kids here.' 'Right,' I said, skipping ahead a couple of verses and dropping the Tommy In The Hat on the hearthrug. 'Now you don't have the place to yourselves, so there.' This was met by grumbling of various kinds from my three main characters, but I'm used to ignoring that. 'Now what?' said Clara, who is most adaptable. 'Um...' I said, scanning the poem. 'Long story short, The Cat In The Hat - that's you, Tommy - causes chaos, stresses out a fish, and them makes an awful mess of the place.' 'I can do that,' said Tommy cheerfully. 'But you tidy it up again at the end,' I added. 'Oh,' said Tommy, looking less happy about this prospect. 'Well, I don't think I'll bother then. Cup of tea, anyone?' 'This is my house!' protested Lucas. 'All right,' said Tommy with a grin. 'You get the kettle on.' 'Wait,' said Lucas, trying to puzzle this out. 'I just meant -' 'No, off you go,' I said. 'You didn't want to play, so back to being an adult. You've got guests.'

Day 6 'This poem is ominous,' said Clara, frowning at a framed print about a group of soldiers meeting their end in all sorts of grisly ways. 'Oh, we had one just the same at the orphanage,' said Tommy cheerfully. 'I knew it by heart when I was a nipper.' 'That explains a lot,' muttered Lucas uncharitably. There was a scream from the living room, and the three extra guests on Soldier Island rushed through just as the doctor was pronouncing a young man dead. 'Unfortunate accident?' said Lucas hopefully. 'Poison, more like,' said the freshly minted ghost. Apparently Lucas' little chat with Saffron the other day hadn't made much of a difference. He shot a dark look upwards, where he thinks I live when I'm not playing in the story itself, and did a quick head count. Ten, including the dead man, thirteen if he included themselves. He didn't want to do that. There was a lot of chatter about a gramophone record that blamed everyone in the room for the death of at least one person. Everyone, that is, except Lucas, Clara, and Tommy. Which surely meant they wouldn't die... didn't it? Only time would tell, and sure enough, Lucas' hunch about the title of the book came true, and one by one the other guests on the island were dropping like flies. ‘Don't you think we should leave now, Saff?' enquired my lot, as the others dealt with the sixth murder - that horrible old judge has just taken a bullet to the brain. 'Everyone is starting to get frightfully suspicious of us.' 'No they're not,' I argued. 'I deliberately made it so they can't actually see you. I'm not messing with Ms Christie's story too much, thank you.' 'Oh,' said Clara, looking somewhat relieved. 'I just thought everyone was rude and ignoring us.' 'Until they're dead,' said Lucas, scowling. 'They all want to know how I'm going to solve their murders, and I really haven't a clue.' 'Well, the wonderful thing about an Agatha Christie novel,' I said, 'is that the clues are often laid out nice and early in the book. You just have to spot them.' 'But people we're running out of suspects!' protested Lucas, as Tommy started rocking back and forth again and humming to himself. 'Haven't any of the ghosts told you whodunnit yet?' I asked innocently. 'No,' snapped Lucas. 'They either don't know, or say you've banned them from telling.' 'Good good,' I replied cheerfully. 'Nice to know someone listens to me. Anyway, I'll leave you to work it out...' And so I did, ignoring their protests as I vanished. I hope the murderer doesn't get a bit carried away, I need those three again tomorrow.

Day 7 'Where are we?' asked Lucas, looking around an unfamiliar woodland filled with trees stretching high into the sky. 'Don't you know, Lucas-Bear?' asked Clara, her voice strangely squeaky. 'It's Hundred Acre Wood, of course!' Lucas turned to face her, and found her rather shorter than usual, and with her hair arranged to resemble large ears that flopped all over the place when she moved her head. 'Lucas-Bear?' he queried sceptically. 'Since when have we gone in for nicknames?' Clara rolled her eyes. 'Since Saffron put us into a Winnie-The-Pooh book, of course. Although why she didn't make you Piglet, I'm not sure.' 'Or Eeyore,' said Tommy, bouncing into view wearing an orange and black striped suit. 'You'd make a good Eeyore, Lucas-Bear.' 'Good Lord,' exclaimed Lucas, eyeing the man with undisguised horror. 'And don't you start calling me that too, it's bad enough Clara doing it.' 'You know what Lucas-Bear needs to sweeten him up,' Clarlet said to Tomger. 'Hunny, and lots of it,' replied Tomger, still leaping around like a loony. 'I say, could you stop that?' said Lucas-Bear, struggling to keep up with Tomger's frenetic movements. 'And I don't need anything to sweeten me up, I'm sweet enough already.' 'If you say so,' said Clarlet cheerfully, taking Lucas-Bear by the hand and leading him along as Tomger ran rings around them, apparently full of some impossible amount of energy. 'But I don't think it'd hurt, do you?' Shortly, they arrived at a door near the base of a tree, over which was a sign reading Mr Sanders. 'Who is Mr Sanders?' asked Lucas-Bear. 'No idea, but it's the name you live under,' replied Clarlet, pushing the door open. Pots with the word "Hunny" scrawled on them stood around the room - all of which appeared to be empty. 'Have you eaten it all, old thing?' said Tomger, bouncing into the room with far more enthusiasm that there was space for. 'Never mind, I spotted a beehive on the way over.' 'No,' said Lucas-Bear firmly as he was hurried outside again by the more go-getting members of the cast. 'I’m not disturbing a load of bees. There must be some marmalade or something around here somewhere...' It was no use, and before long the trio were stood looking a very long way up at a hive hanging from a tree. 'I am not climbing up there,' said Lucas-Bear flatly. 'I'll go,' said Tomger, leaping into action, and within moments he'd swarmed up the tree, dislodged the hive, and knocked it down to the ground. 'Run!' yelled Lucas-Bear, grabbing Clarlet by the hand and pulling her away from the seething mass of angry insects. 'But Tomger -' 'Tomger can look after himself,' said Lucas-Bear, not very much in the spirit of his amiable namesake. 'And I need a drink. Do you think Mr Sanders has any whiskey?'

Day 8 Tommy shivered, looking around for Lucas and Clara. They were nowhere to be seen. This had to be a dream - no, a nightmare. He couldn't really be back at the orphanage. And it really couldn't be worse than he remembered. No, this was a dream, it had to be. 'Sorry we're late,' said Clara, plonking herself on the hard wooden bench next to him, looking particularly dishevelled and about nine years old. 'We didn't want to come,' added Lucas as he joined them, also looking grimy and child-like. 'What, we didn't,' he protested as Clara tried to shush him. 'Oliver Twist is a dreary book, and frankly an orphanage doesn't exactly sound like a barrel of laughs at the best of times.' 'You don't know the half of it,' said Tommy, shivering again. He looked down at his hands, which were much smaller than the had been yesterday, and then checked his reflection in the battered tin plate on the scrubbed pine table in front of him. His ten-year-old face looked back, golden curls lank, dirt smearing a face that was far too thin, a haunted look in his ice-blue eyes. 'We're getting out of here,' he said, looking around at the other children filing in. 'How can we?' cried Clara. 'This is a Victorian orphanage, it's like a prison.' 'Only worse,' added Lucas oh-so helpfully. 'Look,' said Tommy, a plan formulating in his mind, 'I've read Oliver Twist, for my sins, and I remember this scene. We've just got to get through dinner, if you can call it that, and then we'll have our chance.' They collected their gruel, which was thin and even worse than the slop Tommy remembered from his own childhood, He was just pushing it miserably around the bowl for the umpteenth time when it happened. A boy stood up and made his way to the front of the dining hall, clutching a tin bowl in his hand. 'This is it,' whispered Tommy, nudging Clara. 'Come on, move, go, we haven't got time -' 'But this looks important,' said Clara, twisting her head around to watch the drama. 'Tommy's right, let's shift,' said Lucas, grabbing her hand and pulling her along as Tommy placed a hand on her back and chivvied her along. 'Where are we going?' asked Clara, keeping her head down. 'It doesn't matter,' said Tommy as they finally reached a door and snuck out into a corridor, the door at the end thankfully open into the great wide world. They sprinted towards it. 'We only have a day to survive here. We'll cope somehow, but I can't stay here.'

Day 9 'What's this?' said Lucas, sounding thoroughly confused. 'I've never heard of this book by Mark Twain.' 'That's because it was published a long time after his death,' I explained patiently. 'It's a collection of essays and short stories questioning Christianity and the American way of life at the end of the 19th Century.' 'Oh,' said Lucas. 'So, what are we doing? Can I go into an essay?' 'I'd suggest a short story. Pick one.' Lucas went down the list, checking a few summaries I'd found online, having not quite got around to reading the thing myself yet. 'Rather not,' he said at last, handing the papers back to me. 'Thanks awfully, though.' 'Come on, Lucas, play the game,' I pleaded. 'No,' he replied. 'So far in these challenges, you've always let me cop out of one of the days. I don't fancy demons and Satan and all that, thanks, so I'm choosing this one.' 'Not Dracula? You know that's blood, right?' He shuddered at the thought, almost wavered, and steeled himself. 'You forget I know some of the things you have planned.' 'No you don't.' 'Yes I do, you've already played that one out. I was there.' 'Oh,' I said, wishing I hadn't done that. 'Well, all right then - but you realise there's two wildcard days, right? Nothing to stop me picking Letters From The Earth for those, is there?' 'I suppose not,' he said with a shrug, the shadow of a smirk on his face. 'But you won’t.' 'Why not?' 'Because you haven't read it, you're writing all these posts in advance, and I've seen your to-do list. I don't think you've got time. Besides,' he added, 'I'm pretty sure you're going to choose a Pratchett as your favourite book, and Bird Song for the indie author day.' Ugh, arguing with people who live in your head is hard. 'Well all right then,' I conceded, giving in to the inevitable. 'But you know you'll have to go through with the other days in full? No copping out allowed?' Lucas looked down at the list of challenge prompts. 'I don't know what all of them are,' he said at last. 'But so long as I don't have to deal with demons and devils, I can live with it.' And with that, his sauntered off with a whistle on his lips, clearly thinking he'd won. We'll see about that, laughing boy. We'll see about that.

Day 10 Lucas put down the axe and wiped sweat from his brow before moving the latest batch of firewood to the growing pile. 'You could have at least made the weather a bit cooler,' he grumbled, glaring at where he thinks I am in the ether. I refrained from replying, having not quite forgiven him for besting me yesterday. 'No, nothing?' he said, picking up the axe again with a sigh. 'You know, I do enough of this at home, coal prices are wicked these days...' 'Hullo,' said Clara, looking rather splendid in a scarlet cape. 'Fancy seeing you here.' 'I fancy seeing you everywhere,' replied Lucas, a grin spreading across his face. 'Behave, you two,' I scolded, breaking my silence. 'Where are you off to?' said Lucas dutifully. 'Granny's house,' replied Clara, displaying a basket of food. 'She's sick, Mum asked me to take her some things.' Lucas leant around until he could see the tops of her shoulders, and groaned. 'Oh, I remember now. You're Little Red Riding Hood, aren't you?' Clara beamed at him and did a twirl. 'Suits me, don't you think?' 'Yes, but you look stunning in anything,' said Lucas, hefting the axe across his shoulders. 'Come along, then.' 'Hang on, you can't do that,' I complained. 'Look, I'm not letting her get eaten by a wolf,' he said, glaring approximately in my direction again. 'But you save her in the end. Don't you want to be the hero?' 'Not if my fiancée has to see the inside of a mutt to do it,' he said, taking her hand and stepping out of the clearing. 'Let's get this over with.' They walked to granny's house, rapped politely on the door, and were permitted entry by a high-pitched, tremulous door. 'I might have known,' said Lucas as they pushed the door open. 'What?' said Tommy, pushing himself upright in bed, unnaturally long canines glinting in the evening sun. 'Someone has to be the bad guy, and this nightdress is frightfully comfortable.' 'Have you eaten my granny?' said Clara accusingly. 'Of course not,' said Tommy, gesturing to a cupboard in the corner with his thumb. 'I hid her in the cupboard. For safe keeping.' 'Safe keeping, my foot,' said Lucas, opening the door and letting an older version of Mrs Jenkins breathe again. 'Better than the alternative,' argued Tommy. 'And less likely to get me killed.' 'It'd settle the score,' muttered Lucas, thinking back to what happened in Dorian Gray. 'Yes, but no harm done,' said Clara the Peacemaker. 'So, Tommy, give Granny Peterson her clothes back and let's have something to eat.'

Day 11 'You know, Saff,' said Lucas, pawing at the ruff itching his neck, 'I could do without all this.' 'Oh shush, it's only for today,' said Clara, admiring her rather splendid costume. 'And Romeo and Juliet is a classic love story.' 'Classic perhaps, but I'm not convinced accidentally killing yourself because you think someone is dead is very romantic.' 'No? You don't think it's romantic to love someone so much you couldn't bear the thought of living without them?' 'Was that really what was going on, or do you think it was just because they'd have got into a lot of trouble for disobeying their families had they found out what they'd done, and having to face up to that alone seemed too much?' Clara thought about this. 'Maybe,' she admitted. 'Could you stand the thought of living without me?' 'Well no,' admitted Lucas. 'But probably not enough to kill myself over it. Besides, you'll come back and talk to me, won't you?' 'If I can,' said Clara with a shrug. 'But you'd have to work out why I was lingering before *you* died, otherwise I'd be stuck here on my own - assuming you didn't end up as a ghost too.' Her eyes went wide with horror. 'But, what about if I move on, and you don't? That'd be terrible.' 'I don't like this particular line of thought,' said Lucas, looking up to where he thinks I am. 'Can't we drop into another Shakespeare play instead?' 'That's not how the challenge works,' I said. 'It could,' he argued. 'You're hosting the thing; I don't see why you can't bend the rules.' 'Because -' I started, before giving it some thought. 'Oh, all right,' I said. 'As you like it. What would you prefer? Not Macbeth, that comes later in the month, but otherwise...' There was a brief whispered discussion, they came back to me with their decision. 'A Midsummer Night's Dream please,' said Clara. 'At least the weather should be good,' added Lucas. 'Can't remember much about the play itself though.' 'All right, off you go,' I said, glad to be shot of Romeo and Juliet. I had more than enough of that at school. What, there's got to be some benefits to having argumentative characters, hasn't there? They trotted off into a magical world of fairies and whatnot, and I hoped they'd enjoy that nice weather whilst it lasted, because they're off to Whitby tomorrow, which is somewhere I recall as being pretty parky.

Day 12 The wind blew right through Lucas, chilling him to the bone. A curse left his lips and was whipped away into the storm, which is probably the best place for it. 'Where the hell are we?' he yelled, looking around at the ruined abbey they were stood in. He became aware they were on a cliff, and stepped hastily away from the edge. 'Whitby,' replied Clara, raising her voice against the crashing waves below and the driving rain all round them. 'It's where Dracula takes place, in part.' 'Who's that over there?' said Tommy, pointing towards the ghost-like figure in a white nightdress sat on a bench some way down the hill. 'She must be frozen.' 'She's not the only one,' said Lucas, as a fresh batch of icy rain found its way down his collar. Lightening illuminated the scene for a split second, and Clara gasped. 'Did you see?' she asked in a terrified whisper, clutching at Lucas' sleeve. 'There's someone else there too.' Thunder rumbled, thankfully drowning out Tommy's comment on this. 'I know what's going on,' he growled, slipping his hand into the pocket of his jacket as he started sprinting towards the pair down the hill as the taller figure started bending down towards the seated woman. 'And I won't stand by and do nothing.' 'Shall we go too?' said Clara, as Tommy went haring off. 'I suppose so,' sighed Lucas, making a move. 'But let's go a bit slower than him. I don't fancy slipping on these stone steps and breaking my neck.' They were just close enough to see the brass - or rather, silver knuckles wrapped around Tommy's hand glint as he raised a fist and struck the vampire square on the jaw. Lucas and Clara winced in sympathy. 'I don't remember that happening in the book,' said Lucas, as a second punch landed on the dazed creature's face, the monster held upright by a furious Tommy and whimpering for mercy. 'Well, Tommy wasn't in the original,' said Clara. 'And you know how he feels about men who hurt women.' 'I suppose so,' said Lucas, faintly impressed. 'There's not many fellows that'd take on a vampire to save some unknown woman, though.' By the time they caught up to the fracas, the Count was down for the count, as it were, and lying in a twitching heap on the floor. 'Right,' said Tommy grimly, removing the silver knuckled and flexing his own uncomfortably. 'Any chance there's a fence post laying around handily? Let's make this book a lot shorter than it was...'

Day 13 'Um,' said Lucas, looking around at the assortment of leather objects in the room. 'I think we've taken a wrong turn somewhere...' 'Ooh,' said Tommy, picking up a riding crop with a feather on the end. 'Haven't seen one of these in a while.' Clara snatched it from his hand and threw it back onto the table. 'Uh, Saff,' she said hesitantly. 'What's all this about?' I looked at the three of them, Tommy looking rather amused and - no, let's just stick with "amused" - by it all, Clara eyeing me with quiet disapproval, and Lucas looking like he might spontaneously combust with embarrassment. I waved my hands vaguely. 'It's a... romance book,' I said. 'Romance?' repeated Clara sceptically, confiscating the handcuffs Tommy was trying to pocket. 'There's a romance in it,' I said defensively. 'Apparently. I've never read it, and frankly with what I've heard about it, I think the woman should have run a million miles from the loony stalker creep, but still. There's a couple, and they fall in love, or in Stockholm Syndrome, or something.' This led to a brief discussion about what Stockholm Syndrome was, during which Tommy was quite distracted by something that looked a lot like a fly whisk. 'And that's in a "romance" novel?' asked Clara, taking yet another object off Tommy. It's probably best not to wonder what it was, if you're of a sensitive nature. 'Apparently so,' I said. 'I think it's considered "romantic" because he's rich and she isn't.' I won't repeat Clara's thoughts on this, but needless to say, she wasn't impressed. 'And this was published when?' she asked. 'Um... Google is telling me 2011.' 'So over eighty years after our timeline, and this kind of thing is acceptable?' '"Acceptable" is a strong word...' 'Right,' she said abruptly. 'Can I have a pen and some paper please?' 'Why?' I asked nervously. 'Because,' she said, 'it seems you lot in the future need to remember what a romance novel is really like, so I'm going to write one.' 'There are plenty of great romance novels available now too, you know,' I said, producing the requested items from thin air. 'I'm sure the nice people of Instagram will give you some recommendations if we ask them nicely.' 'Uhuh,' she said, already scribbling away furiously. A scarlet-faced Lucas cleared his throat anxiously. 'I say, Saff? Any chance I can, you know...' He gestured towards the door. 'Hmm? Oh, I suppose so,' I said, too fascinated at the speed with which Clara was scribbling notes to worry what he was up to. 'I'll toddle off too,' said Tommy, looking a little laden around the pockets. 'Not before you return everything to that table, young man,' I said sternly. 'What...? Oh, this?' he said innocently, pulling a handful of goodness knows what from his jacket. 'How on earth did that get there...?' I frowned at him. 'You're no fun at times,' he said grumpily, emptying his pockets. 'Good,' I replied. 'Someone has to keep you in line.' 'It's your fault I'm like this,' he said sullenly, pulling a silk eye mask from his trouser pocket. 'Not the point.' 'I think it is.' 'No it's no. Now go. See you tomorrow.'

Day 14 Clara looked around the cozy living room at the three girls she somehow knew were her sisters, and their mother, affectionately known as Marmee. It was quiet and peaceful - a little too peaceful. Something was about to happen, she could just feel it, and the longed to have Lucas by her side. Whenever he was around, everything seemed a little better somehow. As though summoned by her wish, there was a polite knock at the door, and when she opened it, there he was. The charming, handsome, wealthy - 'I say, I like this book,' said Lucas, forgetting he wasn't supposed to be able to hear me. I shushed him, before continuing. - handsome, wealthy, *lonely* boy next door. 'Oh,' he said, looking crestfallen. 'Can't I be charming, handsome, wealthy, and happy?' 'Not according to Louisa May Alcott, who went in big time for moralistic stories. The moral of this particular story is that you can either be happy but poor and hardworking, or miserable but wealthy and living a life of leisure.' 'Can I not be happy and wealthy so long as I work hard?' 'Apparently not.' Lucas pulled a face that accurately expressed my thoughts on this. 'Indeed. But it was pretty good, when Alcott let up on the whole "be good and know thy place" overtones, and Jo was fun, when she was allowed to be.' 'Which one is Jo?' asked Clara in a whisper, looking around at the other women. 'You're taking her place today,' I said. 'I didn't think the book could cope with two free-spirited, headstrong women. It might implode.' 'And,' said Lucas hopefully, smiling fondly at Clara. 'Does this lonely boy-next-door pair off with "Jo"?' I flicked through the story and made a few changes, because I'm in charge today and that's what I think should have happened anyway. 'Yes,' I said, and they beamed at each other. They're rather cute at times. 'Although not straight away,' I added, knowing what this pair are like. 'So you'll have to behave for a while.' 'That's okay, we’re good at waiting for each other,' said Lucas, looking happier than he has done since the challenge started. 'And he's worth waiting for,' added Clara, checking they were alone before pecking him on the cheek. 'So I don't suppose I shall mind too much. They toddled off to join the rest of the family by the fire, stealing glances at each other when they thought no one was looking. Don't ruin it for them, will you?

Day 15: Birdsong by Jennifer Brasington-Crowley 'Where are we now?' asked Lucas, looking around yet another unfamiliar landscape. 'Tennessee,' replied Clara, just proving that she does occasionally read the notes I give them. She kept her attention fixed on the grimy trailer some fifty or so yards away. 'Why?' The trailer door opened with a bang and a skinny kid, probably not even eighteen yet, stumbled out, blinking in the bright sunlight. In one hand he held a stuffed duffel bag, and with the other he hauled up a pair of jeans too big for his skeletal frame. His auburn hair was shaggy and unkempt, and even at this distance a patchwork of bruises was visible under the smattering of freckles dusting his cheekbones. He slammed the door with enough force to make the whole trailer shudder, and started off across the dusty lot. 'That's why,' said Clara, stepping forward. 'Come along, and let me do the talking.' The boy froze as they approached, eyes darting this way and that. 'It's all right,' said Clara reassuringly, holding up her hands. 'We're friends.' The boy blinked, looking as though he were unfamiliar with the concept. 'We've been sent to help you,' added Clara, and nudged Lucas until he nodded. The kid laughed bitterly. 'No one helps me,' he said. 'We do,' insisted Clara, and she introduced herself and Lucas. 'Robin,' replied the boy, still looking wary. 'Look, it's very nice of you, and I'm sure you mean well, but -' 'There's someone we'd like you to meet,' said Clara. 'I'm in a bit of a hurry,' said Robin. 'I've got a bus to catch.' Clara smiled. 'We'll see about that.' They led Robin down a series of streets that started off familiar, but gradually, inexplicably, became something quite unfamiliar. He thought he knew every inch of this hellhole, but he didn't remember stone-built cottages and red-brick terraces, and trees, and a place called The Brewer's Thumb. He made a note of this last one in case he could get some bourbon or score some coke there later. 'Mum,' called Clara as they stepped into a snug little house that smelled of home baking. 'He's here.' A friendly looking woman in old-fashioned clothes and a flour-dusted apron stepped out of a back room and wrapped her arms around a stunned-looking Robin. 'Good to see you,' she said, taking his face in her hands and beaming at him. 'Come through, Hettie and I have been baking specially for you.' He looked around with confusion in his emerald green eyes, and his new friends made encouraging motions. Robin shrugged. What harm could it do? Especially as his belly was growling. And there'd always be another bus.

Day 16 'Must we?' said Lucas pleadingly. 'Yes,' said Clara, continuing to throw clothes into a suitcase. 'We made a bet.' '*You* made a bet, you mean,' he said. 'I did nothing of the sort.' 'Yes, well he shouldn't have said a woman couldn't do it then, could he?' said Clara crossly, throwing a blouse into the open case with more force than strictly necessary. 'That was in real life, not the book,' said Lucas. 'So it doesn't count.' 'I'm still doing it,' she replied, slamming the case shut and snapping the locks into place. 'But that doesn't mean *I* need to,' argued Lucas, turning back to his newspaper. Moments later, a frown creased his forehead. 'I say,' he exclaimed. 'Some fellow robbed a bank last night, and his description sounds just like me!' A mischievous smile flickered across Clara's face. 'Oh dear,' she said, a little too innocently to sound sincere. 'And I suppose it wasn't you?' 'Of course it wasn't me,' he said crossly. 'You have been rather hard up lately...' 'Not that hard up! Anyway, you were with me at the time of the robbery...' 'Was I? Oh dear, I must have slept so well last night, I've quite forgotten everything that happened yesterday.' He narrowed his eyes at her. 'You really wouldn't testify in my favour?' 'Not if I thought refusing to do so would get you to come on an adventure with me.' 'Clara! You can't do that!' 'Can't I?' There was a minor staring contest, which Clara inevitably won. 'All right,' sighed Lucas, giving in as we all knew he would. 'I'll start packing.'

Day 17 'Come along, Watson,' said Clara, swishing along the dark streets of Victorian London, her magnificent tweed cape billowing out behind her. 'Otherwise we'll lose that scoundrel Moriarty.' 'Hang on,' complained Lucas, hurrying along behind her in a grey checked suit and sideburns that didn't suit him. 'Why am I Watson? Surely, I should be Holmes, seeing as I’m the main character - and I was named after a Sherlock Holmes actor.' 'No you weren't,' replied Clara, the hint of a smirk in her voice 'You were named after a dragon in a game. Not even a whole dragon either, just the bit Saffron needed to make a helmet for her character.' Lucas grumbled about this - I may have forgotten to tell him the true origin of his name, so I suppose that's my bad - before asking, 'So, what's this Moriarty chap done now that means we need to chase him through dark foggy streets?' 'Oh, I don't know, something terrible no doubt,' replied Clara cheerfully. 'We'll find out when we catch up to him, I suppose.' 'Hang on,' said Lucas, catching hold of her arm before she could disappear off down some dratted little alleyway or something equally unpleasant. 'We're chasing this fellow down, and you don't even know why?' Clara shrugged. 'He's my nemesis, it's what it's what I do.' Lucas looked unconvinced about this, and promptly accused me of never having read Sherlock Holmes. I denied everything, of course, but there may be a grain of truth in that. Just a grain, mind you. I've seen TV adaptations, and they're nearly always as good as the books, right? 'We meet again,' said Tommy, stepping out of a shadow. Lucas groaned loudly. 'I might have known,' he said bitterly. 'Go on then, what have you done? We might as well know, seeing as Saffron can't be bothered to do her research properly.' 'Oi,' I said. 'That may be true, but you don't have to tell everyone.' 'No?' he said, giving me a look that reminded me strongly of his mother. 'Then you don't have to tell everyone about my life, do you?' 'Yes I do,' I argued. 'You're the protagonist in my book. And you wouldn't like it if I made someone else the main character in your place, would you? you secretly enjoy it.' He looked a little uncomfortable about this, because the truth is uncomfortable at times.' 'I suppose not,' he muttered. 'Well, behave yourself then.' What? You need to keep them in line. 'All right, Moriarty, we know you did it -' started Clara. 'I never did anything,' protested Tommy. 'And if I did, you'd never have found out about it. I'm a master criminal, I am - and even if you did work it out, I'd still give you the slip.' Clara's shoulders sagged, and Tommy looked distraught at upsetting his friend. 'I mean,' he said, backtracking hastily, 'you'd give it a jolly good go, and you'd almost catch me, but it wouldn't make much of a continuing story if I just got caught, would it?' 'I suppose not,' she sighed, snuggling up to Watson for comfort, or possibly just warmth. 'It's just, it'd be nice, you know?? To defeat Homes' nemesis on my first outing in the role.' Tommy looked truly guilt-stricken, and Lucas decided it was time to earn his place as main character. 'Well, how about we forget all about it and go to the pub instead?' he suggested, giving Clara a squeeze. 'Maybe you can find a way to resolve your differences over a nice pint and maybe a pie.' 'So long as it's not an eel pie, I'm in,' said Clara, brightening instantly. 'And so long as you're paying, I'm in,' said Tommy. So Lucas, finding Watson's wage packet suddenly weighing down his pocket, led the way to the nearest pub, where all talk of nemeses was soon forgotten.

Day 18 Lightning flashed outside the stone tower window, illuminating the desolate forest surrounding the castle and the Experiment inside it. 'Igor,' cried Dr Victoria Frankenstein, or Clara as you'd better know her. 'It's Time.' 'You know, Saff, this isn't funny,' complained Lucas as he appeared in the scene, wheeling whatever contraption Clara had invented. 'This is the second day in a row I'd been shunted into sidekick role.' I raised my eyes at him, for what good it did, my being in the ether and all and therefore invisible. 'Fancy stitching corpses together, do you?' I asked sarcastically. 'Unholy experiments are the order of the day suddenly in the Rathbone household? I wonder what your mum would have to say about that...' 'You've been stitching together *corpses*?' Lucas asked Clara in disgust. 'When was this?' She shrugged. 'I sent you to the shops. I know what a delicate flower you are when it comes to anything icky.' Lucas paled at the thought. 'Thank you,' he said sincerely. 'But what do you mean "it's time?" Time for what?' 'Throw that lever and find out,' said Clara, washing her hands. He looked at her suspiciously, as well he might, but did as he was told, which he instantly regretted. The form on the table twitched into life, the horrible, misshapen form made of pieces of people - 'I say,' complained the monster, who incidentally looks a lot like Tommy, only with fewer clothes than usual and a lot more scars. 'I can hear you, you know.' 'Sorry,' I said. 'But you know, the monster in the book wasn't exactly a looker, you know.' 'Perhaps not, but I bet he still had feelings,' said Tommy, careening towards a full-blown sulk. Some damage mitigation was in order. 'Clara, you chose the most attractive parts of all the people you dug up, didn't you?' I said, slightly desperately. 'Oh yes,' she said cheerfully. 'If I'm going to create a new human, it may as well be the best one I can lay my hands on, right?' 'Hang on,' protested Lucas, as tommy started preening. 'What about me?' 'You're not dead,' said Clara. 'And I like it that way, of course,' 'This has taken a weird turn,' I said. 'Perhaps we should wrap this up.' 'Oh,' said Tommy, pouting now but with mischief sparkling in his eyes. 'Just as I was starting to enjoy hearing about how Clara thinks I'm the perfect human.' 'Right, that's it, we're jumping to the monster being exiled part,' said Lucas, hurrying Tommy out of the laboratory. 'Goodbye, Tommy. See you again never, with any luck.'

Day 19 'But I don't *want* to go to Tommy Gatsby's stupid party,' whined Lucas, who has apparently joined this story as himself, seeing as no one minded very much about parties in The Great Gatsby. 'But it's a great honour to be invited,' said Clara, dragging him up the drive to the mansion. 'It sounds like half of New York is here,' grumbled Lucas. 'Not exactly selective about who he bestows his "honours" upon, is he, your friend?' 'That's never been the case,' said Clara, ringing the doorbell. The door was opened by some chap in a rather dashing white suit, a woman's magenta pink feather boa draped around his neck, and the woman it belonged to draped on his arm. 'No need to be so formal,' he said, hiccoughing slightly before wandering unsteadily off. 'Right,' said Lucas, looking around at his vision of Hell. 'Let's show our faces and skedaddle. Where do you suppose our host is?' 'Knowing Tommy, in a bedroom somewhere with some company,' replied Clara, taking two flutes of champagne from a passing waiter and handing one to Lucas. 'Drink up, you might start enjoying yourself.' 'Doubtful,' muttered Lucas, draining his glass in one. 'I don't care where he is, I'm finding Tommy as soon as possible and getting out of here.' Clara rolled her eyes and, drinking her champers at a more reasonable rate, and joined Lucas' hunt. They eventually found Tommy surprisingly alone, watching the revelries without partaking, a sombre and detached look on his face. 'Hullo,' said Lucas, holding out his hand to their host to end the meeting as soon as possible. 'Jolly good of you to invite us, but I’m afraid -' 'Clara?' said Tommy, all trace of solemnity vanishing like morning mist under the sunshine of her presence. 'You came! I'm so pleased to see you after all this time.' 'Er, yes,' said Clara uncertainly, as he took her hand and kissed it tenderly. 'But I saw you at work earlier...' 'Don't jest,' groaned Tommy. 'Don't toy with me so. How can you be so unaffected by our parting?' 'O-kay,' said Clara, taking her hand back. 'Listen,' said Lucas, stepping between his fiancee and the man who had clearly lost his mind somewhere along the way. 'I thought we'd sorted all this out?' 'In our story, yes,' said Tommy, a grin spreading across his handsome features. 'But Gatsby is all about unrequited love, and waiting, and improving oneself to win the heart of a woman at last...' 'Oh Tommy,' said Clara, looking at him pityingly. 'You're my friend, but as I've told you many times, that's all.' Tommy winced. 'And that's... your final decision on this.' She nodded, the sad sympathetic look still on her face. Tommy swore under his breath, looked quite distraught for a moment, then turned back to the couple with a blazing look in his eye 'Out,' he bellowed, addressing the room at large. 'Everybody out, the party's over.' 'Tommy,' started Clara appeasingly. 'Everybody,' he said, glaring at her. She flinched, and shrank a little behind Lucas, who took her hand. 'I'm going for a swim,' announced Tommy, as the complaining guests filed out of the mansion in various states of dress and drunkenness. 'Fine by me,' muttered Lucas, joining the exodus. 'See you later, Tommy.' 'Unlikely,' he snapped, turning towards the pool at the back of the house, stripping off his tie and shirt as he went.

Day 20 '"Please Keep To The Paths",' read Lucas, although it was very difficult with half of the sign missing. It looked worryingly as though it had been chomped my some large, pointy-toothed creature, but Lucas tried not to think about this too much, as it probably wouldn't do much good. Whatever it was would only last for today anyway, he consoled himself, trying hard to ignore a worrying amount of rustling in the undergrowth. Where Clara and Tommy had got to, he didn't know. One minute they were heading towards the triceratops enclosure in, rather appropriately, a trio, and then it suddenly went a bit quieter and it became clear Tommy was no longer with the group. Naturally Clara was concerned about this, but Lucas reasoned that Tommy was a big boy and could look after himself well enough. After all, dinosaurs were just giant lizards, weren't they? How dangerous could they be? And no one with an ounce of sense would bring back any of the *really* dangerous dinosaurs anyway. So he and a slightly worried Clara continued a little while longer, marvelling at the tiny herbivorous beasts munching leaves along the side of the path, and ooh-ing and ah-ing at the pterodactyls swooping overhead, as though they were nothing more than fireworks or very large birds. But Lucas had paused for a moment, and when he next looked up, Clara was nowhere in sight. He cursed softy, not wanting to draw the attention of whatever was snuffling around in the forest, and looked around. 'Probably gone looking for that dratted Kilbourne bloke,' he muttered, turning back down the path - although at this point he was starting to get a creeping sensation all down his back, as though something was watching him. No, some primal area of his brain prompted. Not watching. Hunting. He shivered, and quickened his pace a little. He'd have words with them when he found them. It was frightfully bad of them to leave him alone like that. Especially as something was rustling around, seemingly following him. He was nearly back at the visitor's centre, feet pounding the path almost as fast as his heart beat against his ribs, before -hallelujah! - there they were. 'Hoy!' he cried, waving at them on the other wise of the high steel fence. 'Where did you get to?' They turned to face him, and instantly started calling to him, beckoning him to hurry along. 'What?' he said, turning around. Then he saw the source of the rustling step in all its scaly glory from the leafy shadows. A yellow eye blinked slowly at him. Fear propelled him towards the safety of the visitor's centre, his feet slipping on leaves strewn across the path, Clara's terrified screams pushing him to move faster, the burning in his thighs irrelevant compared to the quickening, heavy, clawed footsteps gaining on him with each second... 'Hit the deck!' yelled Tommy. Lucas did as he was told and a gunshot echoed around the forest. The footsteps stopped, and something heavy dropped onto the earth behind him. Shivering, Lucas staggered to his feet, only to be knocked sideways by Clara. Tommy hurtled past them and put another bullet into the beast, just to be sure. 'Dammit man, you didn't half give us a fright,' said Tommy, throwing his arms around a dazed Lucas and a sobbing Clara. 'Next time, keep up with us, for goodness' sake.'

Day 21 'Saffron,' said Lucas in a complaining sort of voice. 'I thought we talked about me being cast as the sidekick in these things.' 'Really?' I answered, thoroughly unimpressed. 'You'd rather be possessed by a piece of jewellery, would you?' He shuffled his hairy hobbit feet guiltily. 'I suppose not,' he muttered. 'Exactly,' I said. 'And you make a far better Samwise than you do Frodo - plus, Pippin, or Clara as she's better know, and Samwise are basically joined at the hip, so it just makes sense to put you two into those roles. Unless,' I added, bringing out the big guns, 'unless you'd rather Tommy be Samwise...?' 'Oh, all right then,' he said rather grouchily. 'When you put it like that...' 'Exactly,' I said, knowing full well that would be the thing to swing it for the lad. 'So, can we get on now please? You've got a bit of a trek to go on if we're going to get that ring in the volcano before Tomdo goes completely off his head.' 'Will we notice the difference?' Said Lucwise cheerfully, sauntering back to the others, who were tucking into second breakfast. 'Yes,' I said darkly. 'Now shush and get on with the story.' I melted back into the ether, and left them to it. 'I can't be Clappin,' complained Clara, scowling at Tomdo. 'And Clarpin doesn't sound any better, and neither does Pipra.' 'Pipra is the least bad,' said Lucwise, sitting down on the grass next to her and helping himself to a bread roll. 'I suppose,' she sighed. 'Anyway, Tomdo and I were just talking about this adventure we're on. I was saying it was frightfully dangerous, and he was saying that maybe we shouldn't bother at all. He's got the Ring now, so it's fine.' Lucwise narrowed his eyes at Tomdo, who was contriving to look innocent, and possibly only fooling himself. 'Oh yes,' said Tomdo cheerfully. 'I feel absolutely fine.' 'Which,' said Pipra, turning to Lucas, 'is exactly what he would say if he was being affected by the Ring, isn't it?' 'No it isn't,' snapped Tomdo, anger flashing in his eyes. 'I mean,' he added, calming himself. 'I mean, perhaps it is, but it's also what I'd say when I was feeling fine, isn't it? So, you don't *know* that it's the ring affecting me, do you?' He was toying with it on the chain around his neck, dappled sunlight glinting off the gold and dancing around the glade. 'Give me the ring,' said Lucwise, holding out his hand.' 'NO,' said Tomdo, snatching it away. 'It's mine.' 'Definitely the ring,' said Lucwise and Pipra in unison. 'Is not,' insisted Tomdo. 'It's just, I don't want to put either of you at risk from being corrupted by it. It's too dangerous.' 'Uhuh,' said Pipra, sounding unconvinced. 'I'm sure we could all manage it for a couple of hours at a time.' 'Yes,' said Lucwise, piling onto the ideas as though it had been his own. 'It'll be like keeping overnight watches, won't it? 'But I don't want to,' whined Tomdo. 'Tough,' said Pipra firmly, holding her hand out. 'You can have it back later, when you're less affected by it.'

Day 22 Lucas tried to work out what the strange taste in his mouth was. 'You don't want to know,' I said helpfully from somewhere above his head. He ran his tongue along his upper teeth. 'Ow,' he said, as it was unnecessarily jabbed by a canine he didn't remember being so long and pointed. 'What the...?' 'You're basically vegetarian,' I said quickly, before he could piece the evidence together. 'For a vampire, anyway...' 'A *what*?!' He looked at his hands, which now he thought about it were even paler than usual. 'I thought we'd done with vampires, what with Dracula.' 'Ah, well,' I said, looking at the cloudy sky. 'You're a, um, *different* kind of vampire. Let me show you.' A cloud covering the sun drifted away, allowing the rays to hit the freshly vampiric Lucas with full force, sending an odd glittering around the school car park. Lucas swore loudly. 'What's this?' he cried, looking at his glittering skin. 'Vampires aren't shiny!' 'Drac certainly wasn't after I'd finished with him,' said Tommy, stepping out of the shadows. Was it Lucas' imagination, or was he looking somewhat more muscular and hirsute than usual? 'Werewolf,' he said helpfully, in response to Lucas' confused look. 'Rather suits me, don't you think?' 'Hullo,' said Clara, walking up to them and looking unusually meek and insipid, clutching some textbooks to her chest and not quite meeting the eye of either one. For her, this is the most challenging of all the prompts so far, and to be honest I'm not sure how long she'll keep it up. 'And what terrifying monster are you?' asked Lucas, looking at her with concern. 'Oh, um, I'm a, a human,' she said, looking like a truly pathetic specimen of the species. 'What!' exclaimed Lucas, glaring roughly in my direction. 'A human, with a vampire and a werewolf? Are you trying to get her killed?' 'It's a love story, apparently,' I said wearily. 'Love triangle, two supernatural foes, one hapless but apparently irresistible human, and she apparently can't choose between the two, despite the fact Edward - that's you, Lucas - is a creepy stalker -' 'Am not,' he protested as Tommy sniggered. 'And Jacob - that's Tommy - is... Well, I can't even remember what, because he left so little impression on me,' I finished. 'Better than being a stalker,' said Tommy smugly. 'Ugh,' said Clara, rolling her eyes. 'They both sound dreadful.' 'They are,' I agreed. 'Want to go back to Castlebury?' 'Yes please,' they chorused, so I took pity on them and dropped them back in The Brewer's Thumb, in their usual, non-Twilighty forms. They're much better like that, wouldn't you agree?

Day 23 'Oh goody,' said Clara, reading today's prompt. 'A bit of time in the future. What's it like in 1984, Saff, can you remember?' 'A little before my time,' I said, frowning at my notes for 1984 the book, not the year - although some classic tunes and movies released that year, so perhaps I should educate my Jazz-era characters sometime, 'but you're looking at a dystopian fiction, not an actual year,' I finished, humming the theme to Ghostbusters. 'A whaty-what?' asked Lucas. 'It means George Orwell, who wrote the book, imagined what life would be like if everything went to Hell in a handcart,' I translated. 'Ready to go?' 'Yes,' said Clara cheerfully. 'No,' said Lucas, very uncheerfully. 'That doesn't sound like fun at all! Why would this Powell person do something like the?' 'Orwell,' I said nice and clearly. 'And it was meant as a warning against things like letting the government watch your every move and control your thoughts and manipulate people through language and propaganda.' 'Ridiculous,' declared Lucas. 'What right-thinking population would allow such a thing?' I take a moment to think about this. 'Probably none,' I say at last, 'but finding one is the difficulty.' 'You don't mean,' said Clara, sounding horrified, 'that all of those dreadful things happen? That people didn't heed the warning?' 'You know, most people - myself admittedly included - haven't even read the book,' I told her, and the horrified expression increased. 'So,' she whispered, her eyes as wide as saucers, 'so all of those things happen? The surveillance, and the manipulation, and the propaganda?' 'More than you could even imagine,' I said darkly. 'But really, you in the 1920's aren't immune to such things.' 'Are too,' protested Lucas. 'Are not,' I argued back, sounding ever so mature as I did so. 'What's the greatest country on earth?' 'England, of course,' he replied with a shrug. 'The sun never sets on our Empire, which occupies a quarter of the globe, and we're one of the richest places on earth.' 'And all the residents in the colonies are happy, are they?' 'I assume so,' he said, doubt creeping into his voice. 'You keep assuming that,' I said. 'And I suppose it’s a glorious thing to die for your country?' 'I wouldn't say so,' said Clara. 'But a lot of people did, only fifteen years before your time,' I said. 'Think they reached that conclusion on their own, do you?' 'Good God,' cried Lucas, looking at Clara with horror. 'We're just as bad!' 'Yes,' said Clara, 'but we don't have access to things like the internet and all that. It's a lot harder for people to access information in 1928.' 'You'd think that,' I said, 'but people still get sideswiped my misinformation - probably even more so than in your day, because there seems to be little to no integrity in some parts of the internet. Some people even deliberately lie to mislead people. Idiotically, we keep seeming to vote them into governments as well.' 'So,' said Lucas thoughtfully, 'this book, 1984, was written as a warning and... ignored?' 'In essence.' 'Huh,' he said thoughtfully. 'Why?' 'Because people like an easy lie versus the hard truth.' 'And why do the people who do these things do them?' 'Power usually.' 'Ugh, said Clara, scrunching up her nose in disgust. 'That all sounds bleak and horrible.' 'It's not ideal.' 'It sounds like everyone should read this book,' declared Lucas. 'It does rather, doesn't it?' I agreed. 'Perhaps I should dust it off...'

Day 24 'I get seasick.' 'First I've heard of it,' I said, pushing Lucas onto the boat. 'I'm a pacifist,' he cried, sticking his arms and legs out and catching the doorframe like a cat that doesn't want to go into its carrier, which is a fairly accurate comparison for most of these prompts, to be honest. 'Hunting whales is wrong, especially ones with a grudge.' 'Look,' I said, pushing him a little harder before putting a foot to the back of his knee and shoving him through the door at last, 'you won't die. Promise.' 'How do you know?' 'Ishmael - the guy telling the story - couldn't very well tell it if he'd been killed, could he?' 'He might. A lot of dead people tell me their stories.' This was true, but I wasn't about to admit it. 'Well, Ishmael survived, that's all you need to know,' I said, retreating from the boat quickly and slamming the door shut, myself on the outside and a very cross Lucas on the inside. 'Saffron,' he yelled, hammering on the door. 'This isn't fair! You know I hate being in stories alone.' 'You won't be alone for long,' I said. 'You'll be meeting Captain Ahab and all that lot in a moment.' 'The loony who wants to kill a whale and will get us all killed?' 'That's the one.' 'Who are you calling a loony?' growled a voice behind Lucas. He turned to face the speaker, and his shoulders relaxed for the first time in a while. 'Oh,' he said, grinning at Tommy. 'It's only you.' 'That's "It's only you, Captain" to you, sonny boy,' said Tommy. Lucas turned to me again. 'Really? You're putting him in charge of the ship?' I shrugged. 'Ishmael is the only survivor, but if you'd rather be captain...' 'Nope,' said Lucas, turning back to Tommy. 'If you're killing people off, much rather him than me.' Tommy blinked. 'You're killing me off? Saff, I thought we talked about this...' 'Not *really* killing you,' I said, waving a hand flippantly. 'Only for today's prompt. You'll be back again tomorrow in one piece. I think you'll enjoy tomorrow.' 'But I'm not going to enjoy today, am I?' whined Tommy. 'What's this all about, anyway? Revenge? I thought it was better to forgive and forget.' 'Yes,' said Lucas, turning back to me and making me feel very ganged-up on. 'Wasn't that the whole point of his story in Sins of the Father?' 'I mean, yes,' I admitted rather reluctantly, 'but -' 'In which case,' said Tommy rather smugly, 'I'm forgiving this Moby Dick fellow for whatever it is he did and going to the pub.' 'You can't do that!' I protested, knowing full well that it was hopeless. 'Oh yes I can,' said Tommy, opening the door and joining me on deck. 'Are you two joining me or not?' 'Rather,' said Lucas, following him. 'Oh, I suppose so,' I sighed. 'Cheer up, Mrs,' said Tommy, putting his arm around my shoulders. 'I'll buy you a drink to say thanks for not killing me.' 'Temporarily killing you,' I muttered, before remembering that The Brewer's Thumb is a much nicer place to spend the day than some awful sea. I smiled. 'That's better,' said Tommy happily. 'Now, let's get that drink in, shall we...'

Day 25 The clatter of rapiers echoed around the woodlands, along with whoops and cheering. I could only hope that my blunting of the weapons would be enough to keep the boys from killing each other, and hurried along before they could get into too much trouble. I needn't have worried, as when I got there the four of them - Lucas, Tommy, Henry, and Clara - had finished duelling and were all laughing, joking, and drinking wine together, looking splendid in their Musketeer outfits, capes flowing behind them as they lounged on the grass. 'Oh,' I said, somewhat surprised to find all was peace and harmony. 'Er, good.' 'What's wrong?' asked Clara, standing up and handing me a goblet of wine. ' 'Nothing,' I said, sipping the drink and hoping this wasn't one of the many cases of poisoned wine from the book. 'I'm just glad the boys are behaving themselves.' Clara smirked and leant closer. 'It's very strong wine,' she whispered. She wasn't wrong, and being somewhat of a lightweight when it comes to drinking, I slowed down a bit. 'Sit down, you're making the place look untidy,' said a slightly flushed-looking Tommy. Lucas, having inherited my alcohol tolerance, was drowsing next to him, and Henry was helping himself to another roast chicken leg. 'So,' I said, taking a seat and tearing a hunk of bread off the loaf, 'what are you four up to today?' 'Well now the boys have finished proving how manly they are,' said Clara, smiling and rolling her eyes, 'We're going to do a little of that robbing-the-rich-to-feed-the-poor thing, like in the book.' 'That's Robin Hood,' said Henry, tossing the chicken bone over his shoulder. 'Is it?' said Clara, frowning. 'Well, what do Musketeers do, then?' I thought about this, and decided that, seeing as they were rather unscrupulous in the book, particularly d'Artagnan, that perhaps it was best not to give them any ideas. Particularly not Tommy, who was perfectly capable of behaving unscrupulously without any outside help. 'Help people,' I settled on at last. 'Sounds boring,' said Tommy, as Lucas let out a loud snore and woke himself up. 'Well, they usually turn into adventures,' I said. 'Got to be more fun than Castlebury,' said Henry with a shrug. 'I thought you liked the quiet life?' I said sharply. 'I do,' he said. 'In real life, but this isn't, is it? So, just for today, I'd like to have some adventures.' He stood up a little unsteadily, picked up his sword, and started back towards the path. 'I say,' Clara called after him. 'Where are you going?' 'No idea,' he called back. 'I'm going to see where I end up.' 'Just how strong is that wine?' I whispered to Clara. 'I might have topped up the bottle with brandy,' she said guiltily. 'Henry isn't usually like that.' We watched him leave, debating whether to stop him. 'Oh, let him have his fun,' said Tommy, refilling his wine glass. I took it off him, which met with some complaint. 'No,' I said, holding it out of reach. 'Go and help some poor damsel in distress, I don't know, get rid of an awful husband or something.' 'Is she pretty?' 'Probably,' I said, rolling my eyes. 'But you won't know if you sit here all day drinking yourself into a stupor.' Miraculously, Tommy saw my point and was shortly following Henry down the path. 'That's two of them occupied,' I said, frowning at Lucas. 'But what are we going to do about him?' 'Oh, don't worry,' said Clara, pulling a book out of a bag. 'I'll have a quiet afternoon reading whilst he sleeps it off, if you want to go off and get stuff done.' Seeing as there's still six days of this challenge left, I thought that was a jolly good idea, and left them to their drowsy afternoon in the French countryside.

Day 26 Lucas Scrooge was just settling down to a bowl of gruel before a low-burning fire which was the only light in the empty house. 'Good grief,' he muttered sullenly, pulling a face and moving it around the bowl without enthusiasm. 'Not this muck again. And I thought Scrooge was rich? Why isn't he eating a great side of beef in a beautiful home with a wife and kids? Why is he eating pauper's food in a dilapidated building with all the lights off and only one measly log on the fire?' 'That's how he stays rich,' I said from the ether. 'Now shush.' He stuck his tongue out in the direction he thinks I am, and shivered. 'If I didn't know better, I'd say this place was haunted,' he said, looking over his shoulder into the shadows. 'But seeing as I'd know...' 'Funny you should say that,' I said, as the slither of chains started and the spirit of Clara Marley appeared. 'Boo,' she said, grinning widely. 'Real ghosts don't say "boo",' said Lucas, before frowning at me. 'Why is she dead? You promised you wouldn't kill her.' 'I didn't,' I protested. 'Marley is only ever shown as a ghost, so I didn't "kill" her.' 'Plus it's jolly good fun,' said Clara, swooping around and clanking her chains happily. 'And it's only for today,' I added. 'You get her back properly tomorrow.' 'Oh, all right then,' Lucas sighed, setting his gruel aside. 'What have you got to tell me, o spirit Clara?' 'Right, that's why I'm here,' she said, pausing in front of him. 'You're going to be visited by three spirits, Lucas Scrooge, and shown the error of your miserly ways.' 'If people bought more papers from me, I wouldn't have to be miserly,' he argued. I interrupted with a cough. 'Play the game, there's a god boy,' I said. 'Scrooge is rich and miserly, even if you're not.' 'Fine,' he snapped. 'Let's get it over with then.' With that, the three spirits appeared, because I'm limited on space. His mother, dressed in green velvet robes, was the Spirit of Christmas Present. 'Loosen up and enjoy yourself a bit,' she advised, handing him a glass of rather good wine and a roast goose dinner. 'This is more like it,' he said, tucking in. 'But don't forget that there's more important things than money,' said Henry, looking weird and wispy as the Ghost of Christmas Past. 'Your friends, for example.' 'Yes, probably,' said Lucas through a mouthful of roast potato. 'Lucas, listen,' hissed Clara Marley. 'Make more time for Henry, he's feeling a bit forgotten nowadays.' 'He's the one who got married and had a baby,' argued Lucas. 'Those things eat time.' 'You're going to the pub with him, and that's that,' said Clara, pecking Lucas on the cheek. 'Fine, but can you tell him to make time for me too please? And stop ribbing me about you, whilst he's at it.' This was duly arranged, and Lucas found himself rather looking forward to spending time with his oldest friend. 'And you should start being nicer to people,' said a pale, hollow-cheeked Tommy with dark rings around his startlingly blue eyes. 'Otherwise no-one will be sad when you're gone.' The other spirits turned on Tommy and told him this wasn't true. He merely shrugged. 'Something to think about,' he said with a smirk. Lucas looked at him solemnly. 'If you agree to stop mooning over Clara, then we'll call a truce.' A truce was declared, and general festive goodwill abounded. Christmas Present produced food enough for everyone, and the rest of their friends and families, and a jolly festive time was had by all.

Day 27 A coach appeared on the road, its destination clearly the grand house of Wuthering Heights. 'Ah, that's my cue,' said Tommy, stepping into the road and flagging the coach down. 'What's he doing?' Lucas asked Clara in a whisper. 'No idea,' she said, stepping into earshot of the coach. '... and the fire gutted the building,' they heard Tommy say, in his most official-sounding voice. 'Impossible!' cried Hindley. 'My father would have said -' Tommy shook his head sadly. 'Only days after your father's death,' he said mournfully. 'A terrible tragedy. A spark from the kitchen stove, we think. Your sister and Heathcliff both perished, along with the servants. You'd already left to start your journey here, and clearly none of our letters reached you in time.' 'This is dreadful,' cried Hindley, sinking back into his wife's comforting arms. 'I, I must go and see -' 'That won't be possible, sir,' said Tommy primly. 'The building is all but destroyed. It's too dangerous even to retrieve the bodies.' Hindley let out a distraught wail, and Tommy reached into his jacket to pull out a large envelope of cash. 'However,' he said, 'the insurance company has paid handsomely and this should more than compensate for the losses.' 'Excellent,' said Hindley, snatching it from him. 'So you need never return, if you don't want to,' added Tommy with a cold smile. 'I really think that would be best,' said Hindley, his eyes gleaming as he counted the notes. 'Yes, far too distressing to visit the scene of the tragedy. I assume your firm hand handle the sale of the land and all that?' 'Naturally,' said Tommy, instructing the coachman to turn around and head back down the London road. As the coach became a dot on the horizon, Clara asked Tommy what all that was about. 'Well,' he said, 'After reading the book I realised that if Hindley had never returned, Heathcliff and Catherine would have been happy, Edgar and Isabella would have gone on to live perfectly happy if rather bland lives, and the three children in the families wouldn't have suffered for the sins of their parents.' 'So you made sure he didn't go back and ruin everyone's lives,' said Lucas, looking rather impressed. 'Very clever.' 'I thought so,' said Tommy cheerfully. 'Come along, let's go and break the terrible news to Catherine that her brother tragically died in a coach accident on the way home, and that the Heights now belong to her and Heathcliff. Maybe we can actually let them have a romantic story.'

Day 28 Lucas swore under his breath. 'More fog and gloom?' he asked me, sounding rather peeved. 'It's Scotland, what do you expect?' said Clara, looking rather marvellous in her Medieval dress. 'Now, come along, there's a good boy, and go kill the King.' 'Do *what*?' cried Lucas, backing away from her in horror. 'I can't do that! King Henry and I have been friends for years - and he's your brother.' 'Yes,' said Lady Clara patiently. 'But this way I'll get to be Queen, instead of that drippy Queen Debbie, and that sounds like a lot more fun than just being Lady in come draughty castle in Inverness.' 'Clara, I've never seen this side of you before,' said Lucas, sounding horrified. 'I'm not sure I like it.' Clara sighed, gave me a sideways glance - or tried to, I'm not really in this scene - and whispered, 'Come along, Lucas, you know how it works. Everything gets reset tomorrow, like none of this ever happened.' 'But *I'll* know,' he argued. 'Even if Henry doesn't remember, I'll remember sticking the knife into him, and all the blood -' He shuddered, turning a little pale. 'The blood, I'll never be able to get that out of my head.' 'Do you want me to do it, MacRathbone?' she said cheerfully, hefting the dagger thoughtfully. 'I'm sure I could, you know...' 'No,' he snapped, taking the knife from her. 'No one is killing anyone, and that's that.' 'But it's a Shakespeare play,' complained Clara. 'There's always lots of murder in those.' 'Yes, and it always ends badly,' said Lucas, sheathing the dagger in his sock. 'So no murder in this one, got it?' Clara grumbled, but was soon distracted by the arrival of Tommy, who is taking the role of Banquo today. 'Hullo,' he said cheerfully. 'Why the long faces?' 'Clara wants me to kill Henry so I can be king instead,' said Lucas. 'Have you ever heard anything more ridiculous?' 'You mean other than all the other things those weird women on the moor were saying?' said Tomquo. 'Did you tell her about that?' hissed Lucas, advancing on the interloper angrily. He glanced over his shoulder at Clara. 'She was never like this before...' Tomquo shrugged. 'I thought she had a right to know she was going to be queen.' 'And as you know, I'm a very impatient woman,' said Clara. 'So hop to it, off you go.' Lucas looked miserably between them. 'I can’t do it,' he moaned. 'It'll only cause another ghost, and I don't want to deal with any more of those - certainly not Henry, you know how he takes offence at things. He's bound to be offended by being murdered.' 'Who wouldn't be?' said Tomquo cheerfully. 'But if t'were done, t'were best done quickly, and all that, so...' He gave MacRathbone an encouraging look, and Lucas glanced miserably between him and Lady Clara. 'But, but,' he said. 'I can't kill anyone! I feel guilty killing wasps.' 'That is bad,' said Tomquo. 'Wasps are evil little gits and deserve everything they get. Look,' he added kindly. 'If you like, I'll go kill the King instead - but you do realise this means I'll be king instead.' 'Fine by me,' said Lucas. 'although I'd rather you not kill Henry.' 'Sorry, can't hear you,' said Tomquo, scurrying down the spiral staircase. 'See you later, peasants.' 'We're still nobles,' yelled Lucas, for what good it'd do.

Day 29 'It's snowing again,' said Clara, looking out the window. She'd opened it to mitigate some of the stifling heat on the magnificent train, but the two-inch gap wasn't doing much to help. 'Mm-hmm,' said Lucas, reading the newspaper. Well, looking at the cartoons, anyway. 'We've been sat here an awfully long time,' said Clara, peering out of the window. 'I wonder who that funny little man is all bundled up on the platform? He'd going to die of heatstroke the second he steps on board.' 'Probably,' said Lucas, who had just discovered an adventure story written for boys and was settling in to enjoy it. 'I don't suppose we'll meet him anyhow, so it probably doesn't matter much.' Clara gave up trying to interest Lucas in anything, and went off in search of food. Before long they were hurtling along, Clara with her nose deep in a book borrowed from one of the other passengers, and Lucas storing away as he always did on a moving train. He woke again when they stopped, but as soon as they were moving again Clara was essentially alone in their cabin. At least it was comfortable. Until, that is, the train stopped suddenly. 'Whut,' said Lucas, pushing himself upright. 'Are we in London already?' 'Not unless it's changed a lot since we were last there,' said Clara, wiping condensation from the window and peering out into the darkness. 'I don't remember any mountain passes.' The news came through that they were stuck in the snow, which was bad enough, but then another piece of news arrived that was even worse. 'A murder?!' exclaimed Clara. 'Stabbed twelve times,' said the funny little Belgian man with the exquisite moustaches, patting her hand gently. 'But do not fear, Mademoiselle, Papa Poirot is on the case. I will find the culprit and bring them to justice.' 'Excellent,' said Lucas, putting the newspaper over his head and settling back for a snooze. Clara whipped the paper away again. 'Don't you think you should *help* M. Poirot?' 'Poirot, he does not need help!' the little man cried. 'There you go,' said Lucas, snatching the paper back and kicking his feet up onto the sofa again. 'Help not wanted, best just leave him to it.' Poirot bowed his head and left the carriage, and Lucas settled back down again. Clara, meanwhile, started pacing like a caged beast. 'It's no good, I've got to find out what's going on,' she said at last. 'All right,' murmured Lucas drowsily. 'Lucas,' she cried. 'There's a murderer on the train, and you're just going to let me wander around on my own?'' 'Stay here then.' 'No,' she said, pulling him upright and pushing him out of the door in front of her. 'You're coming with me, and we're having an adventure.' She ignored his complaints, so I suggest we do too, what do you say, Reader?

Day 30 'Possessed by a building?' said Lucas sceptically. 'Apparently so,' I replied 'At least, according to Wikipedia -' 'Wiki-what now?' 'Like the Encyclopaedia Britannica, only better, but also worse.' I explained. 'But that's not the point. And anyway, *you're* not going to be possessed by the building. Your dad is.' 'My dad is dead,' said Lucas flatly, giving me a cold look. There was an awkward pause, because he's seen what's happening later in his story and so we both know how true this is, but I decided to breeze past it. 'Not today he's not,' I said cheerfully. 'And you're five again.' 'What! I don't want to be five again,' wailed Lucas. 'No, but handily you already have some psychic abilities, so that'll save us some time,' I said, as Lucas' cosy living room morphed into the sinister Overlook Hotel. 'Listen, Saff,' he said, looking desperately at me. It was quite pitiful, really, so I paused the morphing thing that was going on. 'Please. I've gone along with this for nearly the whole month -' 'Except that day when you decided you didn't want to,' I reminded him. He winced. 'Sorry about that,' he said. 'But look, you hate horror as much as I do -' 'If not more,' I agreed. 'I actually exist enough for the damn stories to get stuck in my head.' 'Exactly,' he said, sounding somewhat cheerful for once. 'And, and if you write me into this story, won't it get stuck in your head?' 'Maybe,' I said reluctantly. I hate it when my imaginary people are right. 'So,' he said, licking his lips anxiously. 'So, isn't it in your best interest to not drop me in the middle of this murder hotel?' 'Perhaps,' I conceded. 'But the thing is, I kind of have to -' 'No you don't,' he said quickly. 'In fact, we've been changing the stories to make them better all month, haven't we? So, why don't we change this one too, so no one has to die horribly or be scarred for life?' 'I'm listening,' I said, and as he spoke, a smile formed on my face. Yes, that would tie things up very nicely, and would mean we could avoid awkward scenes with Jim Rathbone... for now. Having siphoned off the petrol from the cars parked in the hotel carpark and drenched the lobby carpet with it, Lucas glanced at me, match hovering over the box, waiting to be struck. 'Ready?' he asked. 'Do it.' We watched the monstrous building burn to a smouldering heap, the flames licking the snow clouds hanging low in the sky, embers dancing madly upwards between falling snowflakes. Dark shapes moved in the fire, darting two and fro, but it was too late. The Overlook Hotel was destroyed, and the evil within would never be able to harm another living soul. We hoped.

Day 31: Pyramids by Terry Pratchett Lucas admired his black silk outfit in the full-length mirror, which inexplicably was made of polished bronze. 'I say, these assassin chaps know how to dress,' he said. 'That's "Assassin" with a capital "A",' I said from the ether. 'But,' he said, the happy grin fading. 'I don't have to actually kill anyone, do I? I’m not sure I can.' 'No, Teppic wasn't very good at it either,' I said. 'Anyway, at this point in the story, you're done with all that and back at the Palace in Djelibeybi -' 'Jelly baby?' 'It's a joke, they're a sweet in Britain,' I explained. 'You'd know them as Peace Babies.' 'Oh,' he said. 'So what, am I a royal assassin - sorry, Assassin, or something?' 'Or something,' I agreed. 'Go down to the throne room and find out.' Looking a little apprehensive, Lucas left what he assumed was a bedroom, despite being devoid of anything he'd recognise as being for human comfort, averting his eyes from a couple of women who seemed to have forgotten to get dressed this morning, and walking down sandstone corridors with hideous carvings of what looked rather a lot like Ancient Egyptian gods. He didn't remember the one with spider arms, though. The corridor eventually opened out into a room with a large golden chair in it, so Lucas assumed he was in the right place. A tall, wizened man with a bald head and a nose like a plough sidled up to him, and murmured something about needing to prepare for today's Judgements. After a very confusing time where Lucas found himself loaded with all manner of ceremonial trinkets and with a heavy golden mask in the form of the sun over his face, he was steered to the throne and began to make his judgements, after being announced as "His Greatness the King Lucasymon XXVIII, Lord of the Heavens, Charioteer of the Wagon of the Sun, Steersman of the Barque of the Sun, Guardian of the Secret Knowledge, Lord of the Horizon, Keeper of the Way, the Flail of Mercy, the High Born One, the Never Dying King." Which was all news to Lucas, but who was he to argue? Except... whatever he said, the dried-out old man said something completely different, and very unfair. 'I said,' whispered Lucas. 'Just what do you think you're doing? I never said that!' 'He does that, you know,' sighed a voice behind him. Lucas turned very carefully, so as not to disturb anything, and saw the ghost of the previous Pharaoh. 'Old Dios was a sod for taking over. Best just let him get on with it.' This suited Lucas, so he shrugged and gave in to the will of Dios. That is, until yet another scantily clad woman was dragged before him, her hands bound in front of her. 'Clara,' he cried, leaping to his feet and sending all the ceremonial nonsense clattering to the ground. 'Why have you been dragged before the court?' She glared at him venomously. 'I was running away,' she said. 'I didn't want to take the poison and be buried with the previous king.' 'Very sensible too,' said the ghost of the king. 'Who'd want to spend eternity under a pile of rock?' 'All right then,' said Lucas to Clara. 'I seem to be king, so why don't you marry me and be queen?' Clara looked rather pleased about this - apparently her delusions of grandeur hadn’t worn off from Macbeth yet - but Dios had other ideas. 'At dawn she shall be thrown to the sacred crocodiles for her treason,' he declared. 'Take her away.' 'What!' cried Lucas and Clara in unison, as this order was carried out. Lucas stepped towards a faintly smiling Dios, holding a ceremonial flail menacingly. 'Um, Lucas,' I whispered. 'You're an Assassin. Assassins have certain skills that might help stop Clara meeting an unpleasant end.' 'I told you I couldn't kill anyone,' he replied, still glaring at Dios. 'Although I might make an exception...' 'No need,' I said. 'You're going to break her out and escape.' 'Oh,' he said, relaxing a little. 'That sounds much better.' Don't tell him about scaling the outside of the prison walls, will you? He'll only get upset.

Topsy Turvy TV Tour

Day 1 ‘This is nice,’ said Clara, strolling arm in arm with Lucas along the street, pretty buildings painted in pastel shades stretching up a hill, fading into woodland toward the top. ‘Yes, but why are we here?’ asked Lucas, his nose twitching at the delicious smell of fresh seafood on the fresh, salty sea breeze. ‘You really need to listen to Saffron when she’s talking to us,’ said Clara. ‘It’s another Topsy Turvy challenge.’ Lucas groaned, but let’s ignore that. ‘This time, we’re going into television shows,’ continued Clara. ‘Into what?’ ‘Saff said you might ask that. They’re new, at least to us in 1928. It’s like a cinema in your home.’ ‘Sounds awful,’ said Lucas. ‘Dark, stuffy, people shuffling all over the place -’ ‘You don’t invite the entire street in,’ said Clara, smiling. ‘But it’s like that.’ ‘Oh. And which television show are we in today? It must be nice, for us to be in a place like this.’ ‘It’s called Murder, She Wrote,’ said Clara, shattering Lucas’ hopes of a quiet day. ‘Don’t we get enough of that at home?’ he complained as police sirens wailed. ‘Come on, let’s see what’s happening,’ said Clara, with far more enthusiasm. She dragged a grumbling Lucas towards the commotion, and found a dead body under a sheet, and an old lady yammering at the American police officers. The ghost of the dead man hovered around the officials, trying to be heard. ‘Ugh, let’s go,’ said Lucas, turning around. ‘I want to enjoy our holiday -’ ‘It’s not a holiday,’ said Clara, digging her heels in. ‘Not with that attitude it’s not,’ said Lucas. ‘They’ve got it all in hand, and we’re in a beautiful place. Let’s enjoy it. When was the last time we went to the seaside?’ ‘Other than for Mr and Mrs Banns’ funeral?’ ‘And that wasn’t exactly fun, was it?’ ‘No.’ She thought hard, keeping an eye on the murder scene. The old woman hovered around far more than she ought to - certainly far more than Clara’s brother, P.C. Henry Jenkins, would tolerate, then moved in their direction. ‘Beach?’ suggested Clara, turning away from the chaos. ‘You read my mind. If this is the kind of Topsy Turvy thing we can expect, I’ll enjoy this challenge...’

Day 2 ‘We’re home,’ said Clara, rather vexed. ‘Home Castlebury, I mean, not home London.’ ‘It was nice whilst it lasted,’ said Lucas, taking a matchbook reading “Cabot Cove Welcomes You” and lighting a cigarette. ‘That’s bad for you,’ said a voice behind him. He turned to find a Victorian girl with no shoes on her blue feet. She smelled of snow, and a flake or two swirled in the surrounding air. ‘Good for the lungs,’ argued Lucas, inhaling deeply. ‘They prescribed gaspers for my granny’s asthma, you know.’ ‘They wouldn’t now.’ ‘Ghost?’ said Clara cheerfully. ‘With a name like Midsomer Murders, I’d expect a few.’ ‘There’ll be more if you’re not quick,’ said a man with an antique sword sticking out of his chest. ‘Average body count is 4.6 per episode.’ Lucas closed his eyes in despair. ‘How many more in this one?’ ‘One,’ said the girl ghost. ‘Plus an attempt. They’re blaming me.’ ‘You?’ ‘Apparently I’m angry at freezing to death.’ ‘Are you?’ ‘Too late for that now. Speaking of being late, go or you’ll miss the ghost hunting.’ ‘I’m not hunting ghosts,’ protested Lucas as Clara’s eyes shone. ‘Getting rid of them is my trick.’ Clara found a flyer stapled to a nearby fence. ‘“Ghost Hunting at the Blacksmith Arms.” Sounds fun.’ She dragged Lucas towards a pub similar to the local in Castlebury to join a group of people, including a chap Clara said was the spitting image of Lucas. Neither man saw the resemblance. ‘Time to turn out the lights,’ said the man leading the farce. ‘Ghosts don’t just appear in the dark, you know,’ said Lucas ‘Um, probably,’ he added. His “doppelganger” gave him a curious look, which Lucas returned with a sheepish grin. After the group split up and the lights turned out, Clara snuggled up to Lucas. Perhaps it wasn’t all bad, this ghost hunting lark. There was a thud and a scream from overhead. ‘Come on,’ said Clara, clicking a flashlight on. ‘Let’s see what that was...’ ‘No thanks.’ ‘I’ll go alone.’ ‘All right,’ sighed Lucas, scrambling to his feet. ‘But if we get killed, it’s your fault...’

Day 3 ‘A courtroom?’ asked Lucas, looking around. ‘Is Tommy in trouble again?’ ‘No, we’re in a show called Law and Order,’ explained Clara. ‘And you know Tommy usually talks his way out of trouble.’ ‘And people *watch* that?’ ‘Shh,’ said Clara as a judge walking into the courtroom and the chatter of the crowd dropped to a murmur. The case was about a woman who went to hospital and died, which seemed like a perfectly sensible place to do such a thing, and her father was claiming negligence, or a doctor being drunk, or some such nonsense. Wasn’t “mildly inebriated” the natural state of a doctor, anyway? At least, Dr Ibbotson was often wobbly on his bicycle, and reeked of brandy during a house visit when Lucas had mumps aged six. Lucas dozed through the evidence, arguments, and conviction, until the thunk of a gavel woke him. ‘Is that it?’ he asked Clara, who looked like she’d had a lovely time rather than listening to a court case. ‘Yes, wasn’t it thrilling?’ she said, gathering up her things. ‘Uh, sure,’ said Lucas, stretching his stiff limbs. ‘What now?’ Clara grabbed his hand and craned her neck to see his wristwatch. ‘There’s another case in an hour,’ she said. ‘Want to sit in on that one too?’ ‘No,’ said Lucas, his belly growling. ‘Where are we, anyway? I don’t recognise the accent. Is it Glaswegian?’ ‘No,’ laughed Clara. ‘It’s New York.’ ‘And you want to listen to court cases?’ cried Lucas, as they made their way outside. ‘Don’t you want to go sightseeing?’ ‘Excellent idea,’ she said, taking his hand and pulling him through the crowd and outside. ‘We can visit skyscrapers!’ ‘Wait,’ said Lucas, his knees buckling at the thought. ‘I meant museums or something. Get something to eat. Keep our feet firmly on the ground.’ She rolled her eyes as they spotted a bagel shop, whatever one of those was. It smelled delicious, and moments later they held warm pastrami bagels and wandered through crowded streets full of people intent on getting wherever they were going as quickly as possible, dodging between big yellow taxis and wondering if sunlight ever hit the pavement. ‘It’s worse than London,’ said Lucas. ‘Agreed,’ said Clara. ‘I hope tomorrow is quieter...’

Day 4 Lucas swore. ‘Don’t,’ I scolded. ‘But we’re flat,’ said Lucas, examining his green t-shirt and brown flares glumly as he scratched his goatee. ‘That’s not right.’ ‘It’s fine for a cartoon,’ I said, pushing my glasses back up my nose. ‘A kid’s cartoon, so watch your language.’ ‘Oh *bother*,’ he said, forcing a smile. ‘That’s Winnie The Pooh. Try “zoinks”.’ ‘You made that up.’ ‘Did not.’ ‘Did too.’ I rolled my eyes and turned to my less argumentative characters. ‘Isn’t oo lovely?’ said Clara, tickling Scooby’s belly. Tommy, wearing a white jumper and blue jeans despite the hot summer day, lounged against the Mystery Machine. ‘So, Saff, what’s the plan for today?’ asked Tommy. ‘Solve mysteries, get the bad guys?’ ‘Basically,’ I said. ‘If Lucas decides to play and Clara and Scooby stop messing around.’ ‘I always wanted a dog,’ said Clara, standing up and brushing dirt from her pale pink tights. ‘And Scoob is a good boy.’ ‘Res,’ agreed Scooby. ‘Um, did he just say “yes”?’ asked Lucas. ‘I know I’m spacey – and famished, but I could have sworn -’ ‘No swearing.’ ‘I meant -’ ‘I know what you meant. I’m winding you up,’ I said. ‘Scoob can talk.’ Clara leant towards me and sniffed. ‘Have you been on the dope too?’ ‘Too?’ cried Lucas. ‘No,’ I replied, stepping away from him. ‘I don’t know why, but he can. He also eats a lot.’ ‘He’s a big dog, he’s bound to be hungry,’ said Tommy, scratching Scooby behind the ear. ‘And he’s handy for solving mysteries,’ I said. ‘But you’re looking to wrap things up quickly, it’s usually the janitor in a rubber mask.’ ‘Handy how?’ ‘Uh, bait for monsters?’ ‘That’s unfair,’ said Clara. ‘You want to swap?’ ‘You be bait.’ ‘I’m the brains of the outfit,’ I said. ‘Tommy is the brawn, and Lucas and Scoob are entertainment value.’ ‘What am I, then?’ ‘You’re… pretty.’ There was an awkward pause. ‘That’s *it*?’ ‘That and bait.’ ‘Ugh,’ she said. ‘Come on, Scoob. Walkies.’ ‘Where are you going?’ I called after them. ‘Somewhere we won’t get used as bait,’ she said, as Tommy smirked and Lucas stared at his hands like he’d never seen them before. ‘Oh, who cares if a werewolf terrorises the school?’ I grumbled. ‘Come on, boys, let’s get food.’

Day 5 ‘Can I keep this?’ said Clara, admiring her black and gold flapper dress, matching round-toed Mary Janes shining in the ballroom lights. Lucas looked a suit that was less faded and better cut than his usual, but otherwise underwhelming. ‘Why do you get the fancy kit?’ ‘I’m a wealthy heiress,’ she said, leading him towards the empty dancefloor, ‘and you’re a lowly police detective.’ ‘Naturally,’ he muttered, as she placed his hand on her waist. She took his other hand and held it aloft, as her free hand found his shoulder. ‘Um,’ he said, looking around, ‘what are we doing?’ ‘It’s a dancefloor, darling.’ ‘There’s no music. Or other dancers.’ ‘I’ll hum. And good, you’ll only step on me.’ As they waltzed around the room - a saucy tango in neither of their repertoires - Lucas asked why they were dancing in a murder mystery. ‘It’s better than constant doom and gloom,’ said Clara. ‘And there’s a romantic storyline in the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries - much like in our own story, except we got to the point faster.’ ‘Hmm,’ said Lucas. ‘I hope it’s not the clam before the storm.’ ‘Still thinking about Cabot Cove?’ ‘No, Saff made a typo. But when something nice happens, something bad always follows.’ ‘Dramatic rise and fall,’ said Clara, steering them around the corner of the room. ‘Yes, well. It’d be nice to have a fall without the rise. It puts me on edge.’ ‘Talk to the boss,’ said Clara. ‘Who?’ ‘Saffron, of course.’ ‘Oh. Is she the boss? I thought we did what we liked.’ ‘Yes, but she does all the writing and editing. Lots of editing. You know how much she cuts.’ ‘Mostly our squabbling.’ He cleared his throat and looked up to where he thinks I am. ‘Uh, Saff? Please can we enjoy ourselves in peace for once?’ I looked at the hitman on the roof opposite the ballroom and sighed. Any second now, he’d pull the trigger and shatter a window, showering the couple with glass and making the lowly detective all protective of the beautiful heiress. It’d be very dramatic and pulse-racing... But Lucas did ask nicely. ‘Oh, all right,’ I said, transporting the confused assassin to a family dinner he’d been avoiding for weeks. ‘But don’t get used to it.’

Day 6 'Ugh,' said Lucas, sweeping his overgrown hair out of his eyes. 'What now?' 'Miami Vice,' said Clara, wearing a tailored trouser suit in an impractical white. Lucas looked at his own pastel blue attire. 'Not the outfit for woodworking, but it explains why it's so hot.' 'No, not vice like the thing in your dad's tool shed -' 'It's my tool shed now.' 'Pretty sure it's the spider's tool shed,' said Clara with a grin. He shuddered. 'How long do spiders live? I can manage without the shed for another few weeks.' 'Three years,' said Clara, who would’ve smacked the thing with a spade if it weren't more fun to watch Lucas get the shivers every time he thought about it. 'But luckily for you, it's not an actual vice, so you don't need to go near Derek.’ 'You *named* it?' 'Why not?' 'Ugh. All right, if it's not a normal vice, what it is?' 'It's an addiction. Like your vice is barley twists.' 'Is not,' he said, swallowing a half-sucked sweet hastily. 'Do the cops in Miami have nothing better to do than police sugar?' 'More like drugs and guns, that sort of thing,' said Clara, thinking Lucas wouldn't last five minutes with the sugar police. 'Sounds dangerous,' he said, looking longingly at the beach. ‘Probably, darling, but that's what makes it exciting.' I won't repeat Lucas' thoughts on this, in case there are any readers of a sensitive disposition. 'It says here the show was highly influential of the styles of the time,' said Clara, reading the notes I provided. 'And it included a lot of pop songs -' 'A lot of what?' 'I'm not sure,' said Clara, and turned the question to a higher authority. That's me, if you're wondering. Moments later, they sat in a restaurant sipping black coffee and listening to what they vaguely recognised as music. 'Hmm,' said Clara, pulling a face. 'I'll stick to Jazz.' 'And I'll stick to tea,' said Lucas, pushing the coffee away. 'At least if I'm drinking it for pleasure.' 'You're no fun,' I said from the ether. 'Can we go home yet?' begged Lucas, pushing hair from his eyes again. 'Soon,' I lied. 'Well, that's something,' he grumbled, tipping several sachets of sugar into his coffee.

Day 7 Lucas he looked out the window of a penthouse apartment at the grey buildings. 'New York again,' he said, turning to Clara... Who wasn't there. 'Saff,' he whined. 'You said I wouldn’t be alone in these.' 'You won't be for long,' I said from the ether, as his trouser pocket started ringing. 'See?' He pulled a black rectangle from his pocket and looked at it in alarm. It vibrated, ringing like a telephone, and had Clara's name and colour photograph on it. 'Oh right, this is new to you,' I said. 'Tap the green rectangle, then hold the phone to your ear.' He did so, though it wasn't like any telephone he'd ever seen before. 'Castle?' said Clara on the other end of the line. 'Um, no,' said Lucas, looking around the huge, well-furnished apartment. 'Looks like a flat in New York.' 'No, you're Lucas Castle today,' she said. 'Rich and famous author of murder mysteries -' 'Maybe I should write books?' mused Lucas. He sank onto a sofa that enveloped him in comfort. ‘It clearly pays well.' After a while, he asked why I was laughing. 'Nothing,' I said, wiping the tears from my eyes. 'Ask why she's calling.' 'There's been a murder,' said Clara. 'Want to come?' 'Not really.' 'Lucas,' I hissed. 'Yes you do.' 'No I don’t,' he replied, holding the phone away from his mouth. 'I get enough of that at home. 'Yes, but Castle fancies the nice lady detective, so he tags along at every opportunity.' 'But I'm already with Clara.’ 'Hullo? Are you still there?' said Clara's voice from the strange telephone. 'Uh, yes,' said Lucas, putting it back to his ear. 'Sorry, just arguing with Saffron.' 'Business as usual,' said Clara. 'All right, if you’re not coming, Saff says to ask Tommy...' 'What?' said Lucas, sitting bolt upright. He glared at me. 'That's not fair.' ‘You're not behaving,' I said. 'I don't see why I should.' He groaned and pulled expensive shoes from under the sofa. 'All right,' he said into the phone. 'See you soon.' 'Excellent,' said Clara. 'Meet me at the morgue. They found most of the pieces and sent them to Lanie.' Lucas paled. 'Morgue? *Most* of the pieces?' 'Well, if you'd behaved yourself, I'd have picked a less messy murder,' I said. 'Run along. Don’t bother with breakfast.'

Day 8 ‘What’s wrong with the lights?’ asked Lucas. ‘Nothing, it’s supposed to look mysterious and thriller-y,’ said Clara, who wore a black suit. ‘Where are we today?’ asked Lucas, wearing a similarly serious suit. ‘America again. Today we’re looking for proof of the paranormal and the supernatural.’ ‘I already know the paranormal and supernatural exists.’ ‘I don’t,’ said Clara. ‘I need more proof. And there’s more to the paranormal than just ghosts, you know,’ she continued, checking her gun. ‘Where did you get that?’ asked Lucas, alarmed. ‘We’re FBI agents. You’ve got one too. Anyway,’ she added, as he discovered his own holster. ‘there’s aliens, and werewolves, and Bigfoot and all that.’ ‘I thought you didn’t believe?’ ‘I don’t, but that’s what we’re looking for,’ said Clara. ‘And how long have you believed in aliens, anyway?’ ‘Since that blue kid moved to the village last Halloween.’ ‘Oh yes. He’s nice.’ ‘*You* told me he was an alien,’ said Lucas, thinking he might get one up on her for a change. ‘So how you can *not* believe in aliens?’ There was an awkward silence as she contemplated this. ‘Maybe I believe in aliens if I see them,’ she admitted. ‘And if there’s aliens and ghosts, there’s probably vampires and demons and so on too.’ She grinned. ‘That was easy.’ ‘No point jumping to conclusions,’ said Lucas. ‘We still need proof.’ That noise you hear? That’s me, banging my head against the desk. ‘Lucas, sweetie,’ I said, cutting into the scene. ‘You’re Mulder, who believes in all that spooky nonsense.’ ‘Oh,’ he said. ‘But, I don’t -’ ‘Try?’ I pleaded. ‘Just for today?’ ‘Oh, all right,’ he said reluctantly, for which I thanked him. ‘And Clara,’ I said, catching the attention of my second rebellious character, ‘You don’t believe any of it, even if the evidence is right in front of your eyes. You’ve got to think of a logical explanation for everything.’ ‘What if there isn’t one?’ ‘Try harder. Now, can we get back to it, or will the alien abductions have to start?’ They agreed alien abductions sounded bad, so we I sent them off looking for something creepy.

Day 9 Lucas peeked around the curtain and looked out into the large auditorium. Three people sat at a long table, looking like judges at the county fair. ‘Um, Saff,’ he said, glancing over his shoulder at me. ‘What’s this?’ ‘It’s a competition.’ ‘For what?’ ‘You’ll see.’ As we watched from the wings, Tommy walked on stage, waved at the judges, and stood looking more composed than anyone should in such a position. ‘Doesn’t he hate theatres?’ whispered Lucas. ‘The prospect of fame and fortune is enough to overcome that temporarily. And he’s got the best voice of you lot.’ ‘Why does that...?’ Tommy gave his full name, plus the sob story about his mother. The judges choked up at the tale of the orphan boy made good. He then sang Two For Tea, and got a standing ovation for his efforts. With his movie star looks, sad backstory, and ability to carry a tune, Tommy was soon shaking the judges’ hands and moving onto the next round. ‘You’re next,’ I whispered to Lucas, nudging him. ‘What! No,’ he protested. ‘I cant’ sing.’ I caught the back of his suit jacket and he dug his heels in as I pushed him along. ‘Half the people who come on this show can’t sing.’ I said. ‘That’s part of the fun.’ ‘That’s cruel,’ cried Lucas. ‘Laughing at people who think they have talent when they don’t.’ ‘They don’t *have* to come on the show.’ The judges called impatiently, threatening to move onto the next contestant. ‘And you don’t have to watch, but I bet you do,’ said Lucas. ‘I don’t, I find it cringey.’ ‘Then why are you making me do it?’ ‘It’s on the prompt list,’ I said, moving away suddenly, so he stumbled. I caught his hand before he fell over and pulled him upright. ‘Be a good boy and get on stage.’ ‘I’m sorry, we can’t wait any longer,’ said a stern voice on the other side of the curtain. ‘Would a... Hettie Rathbone come on stage, please?’ Mrs R moved into the spotlight and curtsied to the judges. Lucas turned to me, aghast. ‘You’re letting Mum make a fool of herself instead?’ ‘She’s all for it.’ ‘I don’t have to watch, do I?’ I winced as Hettie started singing. ‘No,’ I said, pushing Lucas away from the stage this time. ‘Let’s go for tea and cake instead.’

Day 10 ‘You can do better than Lucas,’ said Tommy, breathing brandy all over Clara and tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. She sidestepped him, returning to the kitchen like the good housewife she was today to make another pot of coffee for the lech. ‘I could make you much happier…’ ‘We’ve been over this,’ said Clara. ‘I love Lucas, and you’re more like my brother than anything else.’ ‘Give me a chance,’ he said, pulling her into his arms. ‘You won’t regret it.’ ‘You’re like a dog,’ she said, shoving him away. ‘In fact…’ She twitched her nose, and suddenly instead of a drunk playboy there was a handsome Golden Retriever. ‘Sit,’ she commanded, and Tommy sat like the good boy he most certainly wasn’t. ‘Now I can cook dinner in peace,’ she said, patting his head. She peeled potatoes, fried mince, and whipped cream – thankfully not for all the same dish - with Tommy following her around as usual. He was just quieter this way. Tommy growled as Lucas walked into the house. ‘Naughty,’ scolded Clara, bopping the dog on the nose with a rolled magazine. ‘Darling,’ said Lucas, watching the dog chew the paper. ‘We talked about getting a pet…’ ‘And I did something about it,’ she said, scratching Tommy behind the ear. ‘But we said something small, like a cat, or a corgi.’ ‘This one sort of showed up.’ ‘Did you use magic again?’ asked Lucas, frowning. ‘Um…’ ‘Clara,’ groaned Lucas, sinking onto the sofa. ‘You can’t -’ ‘It’s Tommy,’ she said as the dog wagged his tail. ‘He made a pass at me, and before I knew it…’ ‘You’d turned him into a mutt?!’ ‘I’ll change him back,’ sighed Clara, sitting next to him. Tommy looked at her with melting brown eyes, his tail thumping softly on the rug. ‘Wait,’ said Lucas, putting his finger on the end of her nose before she could twitch it. ‘You wanted a dog, right?’ ‘Always.’ ‘And I prefer Tommy like this.’ The dog growled. Clara shushed him. ‘So if he’s well behaved,’ said Lucas, reaching out a hand and getting a friendly lick, ‘We can keep him.’ ‘Are you sure?’ cried Clara, clasping her hands together in delight. ‘Would you like that, Tommy?’ The joyful bark confirmed the arrangement, strange as it was, and that settled it.

Day 11 ‘Um,’ said Lucas, touching his elongated canine with the tip of his tongue, ‘I’m worried about the title of this show...’ ‘Buffy’s love interest was a vampire,’ I said, ‘and Clara is Buffy. What choice did I have?’ ‘I still don’t like being a vampire in something about slaying vampires.’ ‘Whatever,’ I said. ‘Let’s find Clara and Tommy.’ Lucas groaned. ‘Why’s he here?’ ‘I needed a werewolf, and he quite enjoyed being a dog yesterday.’ ‘And why are you here?’ ‘Sexy redhead witch, obviously.’ ‘Obviously,’ said Lucas, sounding unconvinced. Rude. ‘Oh look, here’s the Scooby Gang,’ I said as we neared Sunnydale High. ‘Not him again,’ grumbled Lucas. ‘He ate all my Scooby Snacks.’ ‘You shouldn’t have been eating dog treats in the first place.’ ‘Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it,’ he said with a shrug. ‘Anyway,’ he said, greeting Clara with a kiss and nodding at Tommy, ‘What’s the plan for today? Slaying vampires, I suppose?’ ‘We’ve got demons today,’ said Clara, sounding far happier than she really ought to about that. ‘So let’s go to the library and research.’ She and Lucas led the way, as I followed with Tommy. ‘It’s good to stand upright again,’ he said, stretching and putting his arm around my shoulder. ‘Uh, Tommy?’ I said, looking at it pointedly. ‘What’s going on, buddy?’ ‘Our characters are dating, aren’t they?’ ‘*Are* they?’ I said, checking Wikipedia. ‘Oh, so they are,’ I said, frowning at the page. ‘Doesn’t seem smooth sailing.’ ‘When is it ever?’ ‘Probably never when one is a witch and the other a werewolf,’ I said, shrugging his arm off me. ‘Anyway, shouldn’t we slay demons, rather than being hormonal teenagers?’ ‘You’re no fun,’ he said, pouting. There was a shriek in the distance, and some demonic bat thing swooped overhead. ‘Let’s talk about this later,’ I said, sprinting towards the library. ‘You know, when we might not die.’ ‘Isn’t demon slaying a big ask for a group of teens?’ asked Tommy, jogging beside me. ‘They have enough to worry about.’ The demon screeched again and swooped over us. We hit the deck, sulphur on the downdraft from the leathery wings. ‘Probably,’ I said, scrambling to my feet. ‘But let’s debate the ethics of it later, okay?’

Day 12 ‘It *says* Traditional English Trifle, but I’m not sure,’ said Clara, frowning at the recipe, cooked mince slipping down the wooden spoon as she held it aloft. ‘My mum never put peas in it.’ ‘Maybe this is the American Traditional English Trifle,’ said Lucas. ‘You know they do nothing right over there.’ I coughed disapprovingly from the ether. ‘Behave. A lot of our friends are American. We don’t have so many writing buddies we can afford to offend them.’ ‘Sorry,’ he said, smiling apologetically at the fourth wall before turning back to Clara. ‘But perhaps this is just a regional variant?’ ‘I’m not convinced,’ said Clara, layering scratch-made custard onto ladyfingers and jam. ‘Beef sautéed with peas and onions, with raspberries and bananas?’ ‘What’s not to like?’ said Tommy, sitting at the table. ‘Custard, good. Jam, good. Beef, *good*.’ ‘Why are you friends with him?’ Lucas asked Clara. ‘Sometimes I wonder,’ she sighed, spooning beef into the trifle dish. ‘I bet it tastes like feet,’ said Lucas, scrunching his nose up. ‘Probably,’ said Clara, glummer by the second. ‘I should’ve made a crumble.’ ‘Rhubarb and ginger?’ said Lucas hopefully. ‘Or blackberry and apple,’ suggested Tommy, looking even more enthusiastic about this than custard-covered meat. ‘They made it at the orphanage. Not often, but when they did it was heaven, especially compared to semolina.’ He pulled a face. ‘Please tell me there’s none of *that* in there.’ ‘No, you’re safe,’ said Clara, as she sliced bananas onto the top layer of custard. ‘And you really want to try this?’ ‘Can’t be worse than the liver and tripe I grew up on,’ said Tommy, grabbing a spoon. ‘They even had chitterlings sometimes.’ ‘What’s that?’ said Clara, dolloping whipped cream on top of her creation. ‘You don’t want to know,’ he replied, shuddering. ‘So, come on, let’s have it.’ Clara put trifle into a bowl and set it in front of Tommy, then she and Lucas watched him cautiously. He took a spoonful, getting a little of everything, and saluted them with it before putting it into his mouth. He chewed thoughtfully. ‘Nope,’ he said, spitting it back out again. ‘Lucas was right, it tastes like feet.’

Day 13 ‘This is grim,’ said Lucas, stepping into a grey room filled desks. ‘Why are we here?’ ‘I’m a receptionist,’ said Clara, following him in and dumping her bag behind her desk and stripping off her scarf and jacket. ‘You’re selling paper.’ ‘I do that at home!’ ‘Not newspapers,’ said Clara. ‘Blank paper, for people to print on.’ ‘Oh,’ he said, examing the contraption before him. ‘What’s this box with a window in it?’ Before Clara could reply, Tommy, wearing a yellow shirt, brown suit, and glasses, walked into the room. ‘Beets. Bears. Battlestar Galactica,’ he said, taking the seat next to Lucas. ‘What?’ ‘No idea, Saffron told me to say it,’ said Tommy, loosening his tie and kicking his heels onto the desk. ‘She says it’s wrong, but it’ll make her laugh.’ He saluted the ceiling, which looked like someone had fallen through it. ‘Hope it worked.’ ‘Uh, right,’ said Lucas, looking around. ‘I can’t find my stapler, can I borrow yours please?’ ‘Sure,’ said Tommy, opening a desk drawer. He pulled out a jelly with the stapler inside. ‘Um, why?’ ‘Must be an American thing,’ said Lucas. ‘After that trifle yesterday, I wouldn’t put anything past them. Maybe it’s a local delicacy?’ ‘Who knows?’ said Clara, picking up the ringing phone. ‘Hello, Dunder Mifflin, this is Clara.’ ‘Who’d call their child Dunder?’ Lucas asked Tommy. ‘Probably a family name, named for great grandad Dunder, surname Mifflin.’ He shook his head. ‘Nostalgia is truly one of the greatest human weaknesses. Second only to the neck.’ ‘You worry me at times.’ Tommy grinned. ‘It’s why Clara likes me. I’m dangerous.’ ‘About Clara,’ said Lucas, dropping his voice and glancing over his shoulder. She gave him a smile that made his heart race. ‘Saff says Clara and I aren’t together today, but I’m going to ask her out anyway. Got any advice?’ ‘Women are like wolves,’ said Tommy, clapping a friendly hand on Lucas’ shoulder. ‘If you want one, you must trap it. Snare it. Tame it. Feed it.’ ‘Huh,’ said Lucas, wondering if Tommy was always like this or if there was something odd in the coffee. ‘I think I’ll just buy her a bunch of flowers and see what happens.’ ‘Yeah, probably wise.’

Day 14 ‘Saff, have you done something strange to my eyes again?’ said Lucas crossly. ‘Would I do that?’ ‘Yes! You made everything look orange last October.’ ‘So I did. Well, today you’re in a black-and-white show.’ ‘Oh. And what’s with this suit? I look like a gangster.’ ‘You’re in The Addams Family. Two D’s, that’s not a typo,’ I added, before he complained. ‘Right,’ he said, tugging on the moustache that didn’t suit him at all. ‘You’re Gomez Addams,’ I explained. ‘You have a beautiful wife - Clara, naturally,’ as he opened his mouth to clarify this point, ‘and two children.’ ‘Ugh, how horrible.’ ‘Quite, as it happens,’ I said. ‘Have you met them yet?’ ‘No, I’ll avoid that “pleasure” as long as possible.’ ‘But you’ll like Wednesday and Pugsley.’ ‘We named them *that*? Do we hate them or something?’ ‘Not noticeably,’ I said. ‘Ask Clara, she’s knitting, or arranging roses, or watering the carnivorous plants.’ ‘I’ve put up with a lot, but this is plain weird,’ he muttered, going off in search of his wife. He found her snipping heads off rose stems and putting the thorns in a beautiful cut-glass vase. ‘Why?’ he asked, standing behind her and winding his arms around her waist. ‘Or should I say, por qué?’ ‘Why would you say that?’ ‘It’s French, my little bocciolo di rosa.’ He took her hand and kissed her all the way up the arm. ‘It’s how I show my förälskelse for my Querida.’ ‘Uh, right,’ said Clara, tactfully not mentioning that none of that was French. ‘Tea?’ She pulled on a miniature hangman’s noose, producing a loud gong-sound that shook the house. ‘You... rang?’ intoned a voice behind Lucas, making him jump. ‘Tommy!’ he cried, steadying himself on the table. ‘Don’t sneak up like that.’ Tommy, stiff-backed and unusually gloomy, grunted. Clara ordered tea, and he lurched off. ‘What’s wrong with him?’ asked Lucas when they were alone. ‘Remember the Topsy Turvy Challenge when we did Frankenstein? I think it’s an echo of that.’ Lucas groaned and sank onto a sofa. ‘At least this can’t get any weirder.’ A disembodied hand scuttled across the floor. ‘I take that back,’ he said, closing his eyes and leaning back in the seat. ‘Wake me up when we’re not freaks.’

Day 15 ‘Not a singing contest again?’ said Lucas, looking at the empty theatre seats rising from the stage, where a comfortable seat and a large red sofa sat. ‘No, it’s a chat show,’ said Clara, and explained what that was. ‘Oh,’ said Lucas, unimpressed. ‘Who wants to watch people talking?’ ‘No idea,’ said Clara, leading him backstage. ‘Come on, we need makeup, or the stage lighting will make you look like a ghost.’ She gave his hair a critical look. ‘A hairbrush wouldn’t go amiss, either.’ With their outfits changes and goodness knows what goop smeared onto their hair and faces, Lucas and Clara stood backstage as the murmur of the crowd built on the other side of the door. ‘Isn’t this fun?’ said Clara, peeking out. ‘There’s hundreds of people there.’ Lucas made a gurgling noise in the back of his throat, leant against the corridor wall, and wiped sweaty palms on his trousers. ‘Ready?’ said Tommy, appearing from nowhere. He wore a purple velvet suit with floral lapels, and was prinked to high heaven. ‘Are you on the show too?’ said Lucas, relaxing slightly. He’d barely have to speak at all with charming, limelight-loving Tommy on the sofa next to them. ‘Oh, yes,’ he said, flashing an unnaturally white grin. ‘It’s the Tommy Kilbourne Show, after all. I’m asking the questions.’ He clapped Lucas on the back and stepped on stage. Seconds later, Lucas heard his name called and tried to run in the opposite direction. Clara blocked him, shoving him into the bright lights on stage. He blinked at the crowd. ‘Wave,’ she hissed. ‘And smile.’ Lucas did both without enthusiasm. ‘Sit down,’ said Clara. ‘I’ll be there soon.’ He did as instructed and, as promised, Clara soon joined him on the sofa. The rest was a blur. He remembered questions, and Tommy being effortlessly charming as always, and laughter - some of it even his own. Eventually he relaxed and answered the questions without too much fear, *almost* enjoying the experience. ‘How was your first taste of fame?’ asked Tommy afterwards, when Lucas was glugging beer in the green room. ‘It wasn’t so bad,’ he said, handing a glass to his sort-of friend. ‘Maybe I could get used to being on TV...’

Day 16 'Hmm,' I said, reading the Wiki page for Seinfeld. 'I don’t know how to do this prompt.' 'Let's see,' said Tommy, leaning over my shoulder. 'Well, this Seinfeld seems to get about a bit. Seeing as Lucas has had exactly one girlfriend and one reluctant kiss under the mistletoe, why don't I take the lead today?' 'Please do,' said Lucas. 'Clara and I didn't do all the tourist traps when we were in New York last, so we could try again today.' 'Yeah, fine,' I said, frowning at the screen. 'But it’s just funny stuff in the everyday. I don't know how to do that in a way that'll work with the tone of the show.' 'So don't bother,' said Lucas, holding up Clara's jacket so she could slip it on. 'Come sightseeing with us.' 'Aw,' said Tommy. 'I wanted to be the centre of attention for a change.' 'For a change?' said Clara, smirking. 'You steal the show half the time.' 'Well, yes,' replied Tommy with a grin. 'It's not my fault Saffron chose the wrong lead for the series.' 'I stand by my decision,’ I said. ‘Anyway, you'd be too much if you were lead, and you wouldn’t have as much time to chase skirt -' 'Perhaps I'm not bothered after all,’ he sighed wistfully. 'The series would be quite different if Clara could speak to the dead,' I added, ignoring Tommy. 'Different how?' she said, pulling a hat onto her head. 'Well, you'd be want to help ghosts more than Lucas does. A good thing, of course, but having a reluctant psychic sleuth seemed more interesting.' 'Oh. Yes, that makes sense.' 'What would I be like?' asked Lucas. 'If I couldn't see ghosts, I mean.' 'You'd just stop her from doing anything dangerous,' I said. 'Much like you do now, but no ghosts.' 'I like the sound of no ghosts.' 'Liar, you love it really,' I said. 'It makes you feel special, and you like helping people.' 'He's quite sweet when he thinks no-one is watching,' said Clara, kissing his cheek. Lucas grumbled, but didn't deny it. 'This isn't helping with today's prompt, though,' I said. 'You've nearly filled the word count,' said Clara, ever optimistic. 'So you can come sightseeing.’ 'Oh, go on, let's skive off today,' I said, catching my coat as Lucas threw it to me. ‘Where first?'

Day 17 ‘Black-and-white again?’ said Lucas gloomily, examining his hands. ‘Why is there stitching around my wrists?’ ‘You’re Frankenstein’s Monster today,’ I explained. ‘I thought Tommy did that?’ ‘Not unless you want him to be married to Clara.’ ‘No thanks,’ said Lucas quickly. ‘Where is she, anyway?’ ‘At the tearoom reading palms.’ ‘Fair enough,’ said Lucas, shambling across the room. ‘It’s time for tea, anyway.’ When he arrived at the tearoom, Clara was draped in silk scarves and reading Tommy’s palm. ‘And this line,’ she said, pointing at an impression on Tommy’s hand, ‘means you will soon meet the love of your life.’ ‘You’re just saying that,’ he said sceptically. ‘No,’ said Clara quickly. ‘My psychic abilities tell me so. I have them today.’ She spotted Lucas and gave him a smile that made his pre-loved heart thud a little harder. ‘Hullo, love,’ she said. ‘Shall I read your palm too?’ ‘Would it work, seeing as these are technically someone else’s hands?’ ‘No idea, let’s try,’ she said, taking his hand. ‘You’re right, it’s hopeless,’ she said, dropping it again. ‘It says you’ll have an impact in the world long after you’re dead. That’s definitely the other guy.’ ‘Oh,’ said Lucas. It might’ve been useful to know what the future held. Not that he believed in fortune telling, of course… but you never knew. ‘Tell me about this girl,’ said Tommy. ‘What’s her name? How will we meet? What’s she like?’ ‘All right, let me see,’ said Clara, examining his palm again. ‘She’s a woman you’ll adore, of great renown and worthy of praise.’ ‘Excellent,’ he said, smiling. ‘But,’ she added, frowning, ‘she makes mistakes - in fact, it’s a mistake that causes your paths to cross. She’ll have a period of great hardship in her life, but if you stand by her – and you should - she’ll come out the other side changed for the better. She’s had heartbreak in her life, but so have you. Together, you’ll heal each other and be stronger together than apart.’ She blinked, looking rather surprised at herself. ‘You can tell all that, just by looking at my hand?’ ‘You think that,’ smirked Lucas, helping himself to a sugar cube. ‘No such thing as fortune telling, believe me.’

Day 18 ‘Not sparkly vampires again,’ said Lucas. ‘No,’ said Clara. ‘Stories about creepy things, but it’s a veneer for things like racism and sexism.’ ‘Why not just talk about them?’ ‘People don’t like being told they’re wrong.’ ‘Like how Tommy hates being told that trying to sleep with anyone with a pulse is wrong?’ ‘But he uses that as a mask,’ said Clara, more tolerant of her friend’s antics than Lucas. ‘He does it bury his feelings.’ ‘Shouldn’t he talk about them?’ ‘Yes. You talk to Tommy, I’ll make tea.’ Lucas and Tommy watched her leave, an uneasy silence between them. ‘You want to talk to me?’ said Tommy at last. ‘Not really,’ said Lucas. ‘I just said you shouldn’t bottle up your feelings and do bad things.’ ‘What do I do?’ asked Tommy, offended. ‘I didn’t kill anyone -’ 'Only just. But you -’ Lucas flushed pink ‘- have a wandering eye.’ ‘I knew that was the problem,’ grinned Tommy. ‘But it’s not like I’m married, so what does it matter?’ ‘But what about when you fall for someone?’ ‘I don’t know. How do you stay faithful to one woman?’ ‘I never wanted anyone else,’ said Lucas, a smile creeping onto his face. ‘Falling in love with your best friend is wonderful.’ ‘What if I never do?’ ‘You will,’ said Lucas. ‘Maybe there’s something in that fortune-telling from yesterday?’ ‘Maybe,’ said Tommy half-heartedly. ‘I’m scared to get close in case I fall for someone and they don’t want me.' ‘Why wouldn’t they want you?’ ‘So many reasons. But, I hate being alone, even if it’s for the best. Sometimes I wish I could change everything about me and my life.’ 'You’re not so bad. You'd do anything for your friends, and you work hard at your job. And you don’t make false promises to your flings. I don’t like it, but I can respect it.’ ‘You’re right, I am a good guy.’ ‘I wouldn’t go that far,’ said Lucas. ‘But you’re a good friend.’ ‘Did you just call me your friend?’ ‘I - well, um... I suppose so,’ said Lucas, frowning. ‘I actually meant to Clara, but why not?’ Tommy threw his arms around Lucas. ‘Thank you,’ he whispered. ‘For being my friend.’ ‘Well,’ said Clara as she re-entered the room with the tea tray. ‘Strange things happen in the Twilight Zone.’

Day 19 'Who's moving in across the hall?' said Lucas, pushing square-framed glasses up his nose. 'My sister, Clara,' said Henry, taller and thinner than usual. 'I thought you'd met?' 'I didn't know you *had* a sister,' said Lucas, peeking through the open door and spying the prettiest girl he'd ever seen. 'I’ll see if she needs any help.' 'Good idea. I've got equations work on, so it’s best you’re not under my feet.' 'Rude,' muttered Lucas, smoothing his hair with the palm of his hand. He stepped across the hall, heart thudding as he failed to think of a decent opening line. He rapped lightly on the door. 'Um, hello?' Hi!' said Clara, popping up from behind a packing box. 'I'm Clara, I'm moving in.' 'So I see,' said Lucas, smiling at the chaos. 'I’m Lucas, I live with Henry.' 'Oh,' said Clara, withdrawing the hand she'd held out in greeting. 'Yes, he told me about you.' Judging from her face, it wasn't flattering. 'Um,' said Lucas, trying to put this out of his mind as his underused libido despaired. 'Can I help?' 'I'd love a coffee,' she said, wiping sweat from her forehead. 'Or wine, for preference.' 'Wine? I can get wine. Red, white, rosé, champagne -' 'Champagne?' she asked teasingly. 'I'm only moving in, it's hardly a celebration.' 'I don’t know. I feel like celebrating.' She looked rather pleased at this. 'You know,' she said, eyeing at him cautiously, 'you're not at all like I expected.' 'Oh?' said Lucas, fear gripping him. 'Um, what did you expect?' 'A complete slacker,' replied Clara, taking a cushion from a box and tossing it onto the sofa. 'And you can almost hold a sentence together. Henry paints you as a near-dribbling idiot.' 'I wish I was surprised,' sighed Lucas. 'He has ideas above his station, doesn’t he?’ 'You get used to that.' 'But, uh, you don't think I'm an idiot?' 'I've not known you five minutes, but so far, so good.' 'Well, um, why not take a break and get coffee with me?' asked Lucas, wondering where this newfound confidence came from. 'Check your hypothesis. Then maybe later, we can see about that champagne...' 'I'd like that,' she said, dropping a pan back into a packing box. ‘This can wait.'

Day 20 ‘Like the cheap novels?’ asked Lucas, examining the gloomy house. ‘Did someone forget the lights?’ ‘Just like those cheap novels,’ said Clara, stunning as always but this time dressed in a black, floor-length lace gown cinched in at the waist in a way Lucas found very distracting. ‘And no, it’s atmospheric.’ ‘It’s dirty, too,’ he added. ‘I’m not the most house-proud person, but this is grim, even by my standards.’ ‘You have standards, darling?’ said Clara with mock surprise. ‘It’s a lovely house,’ he said, ignoring this. ‘But I’m sure something awful will happen soon...’ Someone knocked at the door. ‘Told you.’ ‘Visitors aren’t *awful*, Lucas,’ said Clara, opening the door. Outside was a well-dressed man in Victorian garb with a silver beard and an anxious expression. ‘You must help me,’ he said, stepping in uninvited. ‘My name is Malcolm Murray, and my daughter, Mina, is being hunted by a terrible creature that leeches the life out of others....’ ‘Mina Murray?’ ‘Oi,’ said Lucas, frowning. ‘You can’t storm in here, demanding our help. What do you think we are, some sort of heroes?’ ‘Well, yes. Isn’t that your role in this show?’ Clara clicked her fingers as she realised why the name was familiar. ‘Mina Murray, like in Dracula?’ ‘In what?’ ‘It’s a book,’ said Lucas, before Clara could get them into more trouble. ‘Yes, and we sorted that out in the last Topsy Turvy challenge, remember?’ said Clara, turning to him. ‘Tommy beat the vampire to a pulp and then we staked him. The vampire, not Tommy, although he suggested steak afterwards...’ Lucas shuddered. He’d had his beef *very* well-cooked ever since. ‘So there’s nothing to worry about,’ said Clara, turning to their uninvited guest. ‘Mina is fine.’ ‘Then where is she?’ ‘Probably run off with some chap,’ said Lucas, ushering Murray out of the house. ‘I’d guess Tommy, try him first. Goodbye.’ Lucas turned to face Clara and leant his back against the door. ‘That was a narrow escape,’ he said. ‘I hate vampires and werewolves.’ ‘Ah,’ said Clara, as a full moon peeked out from behind a cloud and Lucas’s hair grew alarmingly fast. ‘I have some bad news for you...’

Day 21 Clara whistled as she read the synopsis for the first series of Supernatural. ‘That’s... something,’ she said, handing the notes to Lucas. His mood darkened with each sentence he read. ‘Oh, come on,’ he said incredulously, stabbing the page with his finger. ‘"Hunts supernatural creatures like ghosts"? That’s not realistic.’ ‘And what do *you* do, darling?’ asked Clara sweetly, cocking an eyebrow at him. ‘I don’t *hunt* them, they show up by themselves, whether I want them to or not. Usually not, to be honest.’ ‘I know,’ murmured Clara. ‘The synopsis says they hunt *spirits*, as well as ghosts,’ he cried, slapping the paper with the back of his hand. ‘They’re the same thing!’ ‘Uhuh,’ said Clara, wondering if it was too early for lunch. ‘Ghosts aren’t "supernatural creatures" anyway,’ he said, as Clara decided it wasn’t lunchtime yet, but she certainly needed a cup of tea. She went to the kitchen, a cross Lucas in tow. ‘They’re not created, they’re bits left behind.’ ‘Uhuh,’ said Clara again, who wasn’t listening. She filled the kettle, debating adding whiskey to her tea, like Grandad Bob used to do. It might make Lucas’ lecture more bearable. ‘And what demon would kill mothers exactly six months after their babies were born?’ Clara debated walking out and seeing if he noticed. ‘And,’ he added, flipping to a cross-reference about the Colt gun, ‘what’s this?! Opening the gates of hell? Killing demons? And...’ ‘Yes, yes,’ said Clara soothingly, plonking a biscuit tin on the table. ‘It’s very silly, darling. If you don’t like it, try being on TV yourself. Then you can do exactly as you like. Silly or otherwise,’ she added with a smirk. Lucas munched a ginger snap thoughtfully, then flipped the notes over and pulled a pen from his pocket. ‘You know what, I jolly well might,’ he said, writing furiously. ‘We’ve had lots of adventures, all far more believable than that.’ ‘Are they?!’ But he was too lost in his creative writing to hear. Clara smiled fondly, placing a steaming cup in front of him. It would be forgotten for several hours as Clara enjoyed a peaceful afternoon, uninterrupted by complaints about supernatural silliness.

Day 22 'Someone who is trying to live their normal life whilst helping spirits cross over?' said Lucas sceptically. 'Yup,' I said, hoping he wouldn't notice the parallel with his own life. 'Like me?' he said, being annoyingly perceptive for once. 'Something like you, yes,' I said, trying to work out if I accidentally copied the premise or not. Whoops. 'Not very imaginative, are you?' he said cheerfully. 'I can be *very* imaginative at times,' I growled. 'Don't test me.' 'All right, all right,' he said hurriedly, holding up his hands appeasingly. 'I was only teasing.' 'Good. Besides, things were a lot spookier in the Ghost Whisperer, if I remember correctly. Lots of flickering lights and people looking like they'd been murdered and all that. Yours are just annoying, unreliable witnesses only you can see. Isn't that nice?’ He grumbled something, but seeing as it's unrepeatable, I shan't repeat it. 'Look,' I said, thinking some fence-mending might be in order. After all, I have books to write and might need his help. 'Seeing as this show and your books aren't entirely dissimilar, why don't you have the day off? Put your feet up, or go for a walk with Clara, or read a book or something. 'Really?' he said, looking the most cheerful he had all month. 'What's the catch?' he added suspiciously, proving he does learn. 'No catch,' I promised. 'It just feels like cheating, that's all.' 'Oh,' he said, settling onto the sofa. 'Yes, I suppose it is.' 'You're not supposed to agree!' 'Lighten up,' he said, pouring us both whiskey sodas. 'You get a day off too, right?' 'True,' I said, taking the drink and joining him on the sofa. 'Fancy a road trip? I could get that Lambo back from last October's Topsy Turvy challenge...' 'Don't you dare,' he said, shuddering. 'Oh, all right,' I said, conjuring up something more 1920s and plonking it on the road outside his mother's house. 'You pack a picnic, I'll start cranking the car.' 'Can I drive?' he said hopefully. 'Hmm... why not?' I said, deciding he knew how to operate a car today. It's fun being able to do that, plus it means I can enjoy the scenery. And what's the worst that can happen?

Day 23 'Is the title of this show right?' 'No,' said Clara, her nose in a book. ‘But it works for me. Saff accidentally wrote "I Love Lucas" instead of "I Love Lucy", so she thought she’d run with it.' 'Right,' said Lucas,. 'And what are we doing today? Not werewolves and vampires again, is it? I got fleas last time.' 'I'll get flea powder later.’ 'Sooner rather than later. I can't be itchy at the interview later.’ 'You can't go,' cried Clara, shoving a book full of weird symbols under his nose. 'Your horoscope says it's a bad day for interviewing.' 'You can't believe that rubbish,' he said, pushing the book away. 'Besides, you got me the interview.' 'That was before I knew today was a bad day for it. Mr Briggson will understand.' 'Your boss will think some numbers will decide if I get the job or not?' 'Maybe,' she said, standing up and holding her hands out to pull Lucas upright. 'Let's ask him.' Later, Lucas stood despairing in the editor's office of the Illustrated Police News. It was impossible to think Mr B was into all things occult, but here he was, discussing horoscopes with Clara. 'I always wanted to talk ghosts,’ he said. 'Oh, well,' said Clara, turning to Lucas. 'No!' 'Let’s hold a seance,' said Clara, turning back to her boss. 'Let’s not,’ hissed Lucas. ‘For a start, I don't need to.’ 'Shh, I have a plan.’ Clara dashed into the main office and dragged Tommy, Bobby, and a grumpy Wolfie into Mr B's office, lit a candle or seven before turning off the light and “went” into a trance. 'Let us know you're here,' asked Clara in a strange voice. There was a knock from Tommy's side of the desk. Well, Lucas wasn't having that. Next question she asked, Lucas rapped the table at the same time as Tommy. Clara glared at him. She asked more questions and got a double rapping sound each time. Everyone but Mr B realised what was happening, and muffled giggles spurred the boys on. 'That was interesting,' said Mr B as Clara ended the "seance". 'I never knew we had spirits here.' 'You didn’t,' said a voice only Lucas heard. 'But you do now,' said a second ghostly voice. 'Clara,' said Lucas crossly. 'You've got some 'splaining to do.'

Day 24 Lucas dusted off his underused walking boot and eyed them critically. 'Not the prettiest things in the world, but they'll do,' he said, turning them upside down and knocking them on the floor, dislodging a spider. 'Um,' said Clara, walking in just as he was finishing tying his laces. 'What are you doing, darling?' 'It's Twin Peaks today,' he said, getting to his feet and displaying his hiking gear. 'It's been ages since we've been on a long walk, I'm rather looking forward to it.' There was an uncomfortable pause. 'Ah,' said Clara eventually. 'You see, it's less about walking up hills and the like, and more about, um… more about murder.' Lucas groaned and sank back into his seat. 'Serial killers, actually,' continued Clara, depressing his mood further. 'And double lives, and prophetic dreams, and otherworldly beings, and -' 'I'm sorry,' said Lucas. 'Say that last one again.' 'Otherworldly beings. Called MIKE. In all capital letters.' Lucas groaned again and put his head in his hands. 'Don't *any* of these shows make any sense?' 'Probably if you watch them, but Saffron -' 'Hasn't watched this one either,' finished Lucas, having spotted the general theme of the month. 'Exactly,' said Clara brightly. 'And summaries will never sound as good as the full story, will they?' 'I suppose not,' sighed Lucas, bending down to undo his shoes again. 'Oh no, leave them on,' said Clara. 'It's beautiful in Washington, and with you being able to talk to ghosts, we might solve the murder with enough time left to go exploring.' 'I doubt it,' he sighed, tightening his laces again. 'But I live in hope. Come on, let's get this over with. How bad could it be, after all?'

Day 25 Lucas swore loudly, and for once, quite justifiably. 'Was that a dragon?' he cried, as a large, reptilian shadow turned the village dark. 'One of my babies,' said Clara fondly. 'Your *what*?!' 'Not real babies,' she said, waving a hand impatiently. 'More like Miss Ash’s cats are her babies.' 'Oh, right. So long as it's not like Mrs Higginbottom's baby,' said Lucas, shuddering. 'Ugly little beast.' 'Unfortunately featured child,' corrected Clara. 'Now, let's find out what's going on today.' 'Game of Thrones sounds like chess,' said Lucas, crunching through the snow alongside her. 'Could be,' said Clara. 'Although from the little Saffron know about it -' 'She's not watched this one either?' 'Apparently not.' 'Wasn't it one of the biggest shows on TV for a while?' 'She was too busy watching repeats of Midsomer Murders' said Clara with a shrug. 'Besides, she's not really into violence -' 'I thought she liked murder shows?' '*Mystery* shows. The murders are just a puzzle to solve. Anyway, she's not into violence, or gratuitous nudity -' 'Thank goodness,' muttered Lucas, pulling his coat tightly around himself. 'Except that one time with Tommy in Festively Fatal,' added Clara, a stickler for the truth. 'But she maintains that was “in character” and he wasn't exactly complaining. And she doesn't fancy incest -' 'I should hope not!' 'Or - well, anything much that goes on in Game of Thrones, really,' said Clara, looking up at a chirruping noise above her head. She held out an arm and a small dragon landed on it. 'But there are some things about the show she likes,' she added, tickling the baby dragon under the chin. It made a purring noise. 'Do they do that in the show?' asked Lucas, as the dragon fluttered to the ground and tried to catch its tail. 'No idea. It’s cute, though.’ Lucas sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. 'This is ridiculous,' he said. 'You know *nothing*, Saffron Amatti,' he yelled into the empty, snow-blanketed landscape they were walking through. His voice echoed around the valley for a few moments. 'Better?' asked Clara. 'Much,' said Lucas, holding his arm out to her. 'Come on, let's find a pub.'

Day 26 Lucas looked around the least cosy living room he’d ever seen. ‘Um, why…?’ ‘It’s an experiment,’ said Tommy, plonking himself on the navy sofa next to Lucas and proffering a small, crinkly bag. ‘To see what people do when they have to live together.’ ‘Wonderful,’ said Lucas, eying the bag suspiciously. ‘What’s this?’ ‘Crisps. They’re very thin fried potato covered in flavouring,’ said Tommy, crunching happily. ‘This is Worcestershire Sauce flavour, because Saff thinks it’s funny to mess with people who don’t know how to pronounce Worcester.’ ‘What’s hard about saying Worcester?’ said Lucas, popping the crisp into his mouth. ‘Oh, it *does* taste like Worcestershire sauce!’ Clara prodded him in the shoulder. ‘Play nice,’ she said, pointing at a small box with a lens mounted high on the wall. ‘Big Brother is watching us.’ ‘What’s Henry doing that for?’ ‘Not *my* big brother,’ said Clara. ‘Although he’s around somewhere. It’s like in the book 1984, remember?’ ‘The dystopian warning everyone ignores?’ ‘That’s the one,’ said Tommy, dropping crumbs on the sofa and brightening it up considerably. ‘Ugh. So there’s people watching us?’ said Lucas, scowling at the box. ‘Exactly,’ said Clara, sitting on his knee and wrapping her arms around his neck. ‘But we should be used to that, living in books.’ ‘They’re watching us sitting on a sofa eating those potato things?’ ‘Yes,’ said Clara, waving at the box. ‘Why?’ They contemplated the question for some time. ‘Life must be dull in the 21st century,’ concluded Tommy. ‘Bit sad, really,’ agreed Clara. ‘I’m glad we’re in the 1920s,’ said Lucas. ‘At least we’ve got books.’ ‘Oh, they’ve got books too,’ said Clara, as Tommy went looking for more food. ‘Some of them just prefer watching other people living their lives.’ ‘When they could do interesting things themselves?’ ‘There’s just no helping some people,’ said Tommy, returning with a plate of sausage rolls, Yorkshire puddings, and beans on toast. ‘Where did you get that?’ ‘I think Saff is still messing with the non-Brits. There’s spotted dick and haggis in the kitchen, too.’ ‘Ooh, lovely,’ said Clara. ‘They’ll enjoy watching us eat that.’

Day 27 ‘Not the loony with the phone box again,’ said Lucas, as they found the “Doctor” leaning against a blue Police box. ‘It’ll be fun,’ said Clara, waving at their old companion. ‘Hello again,’ said the Doctor, shoving his hands into the pockets of his pinstripe suit, paired incongruously with red tennis shoes and weirdly spiky hair. ‘Fancy seeing you two here.’ ‘We live here,’ said Lucas, scowling. ‘You do, I’m just visiting,’ said Clara. ‘Speaking of visiting, fancy a trip?’ ‘Where to?’ said Lucas suspiciously, grabbing Clara’s hand and held her back. ‘Anywhere you like, really,’ said the Doctor, grinning boyishly. ‘Any *when* you like, too. Fancy jaunt to Ancient Rome, or an alien planet, or -’ ‘Mad,’ whispered Lucas to Clara. ‘Utterly barking.’ ‘We had fun with the Doctor,’ she replied. ‘Don’t you want to do that again?’ ‘No,’ he said, eying the stranger suspiciously. ‘Once was twice too many.’ Clara rolled her eyes and pulled him towards the phone box. ‘We’d love to,’ said Clara, as Lucas argued to the contrary. ‘And I know where I want to go.’ ‘Say the word.’ ‘I want to see my dad again, before he went to the trenches.’ The smile faded from the Doctor’s face. ‘That’s not a good idea,’ he said solemnly. ‘Some things shouldn’t be revisited. Trust me.’ ‘Well, where can we go?’ The Doctor tilted his head to one side. ‘I feel like I know you..’ ‘We met before, remember? Last year.’ ‘No, I meant...’ The strange man shook his head. ‘Maybe you’ve just got one of those faces.’ ‘I should hope so,’ said Clara with a grin. ‘I’d look a fright without one.’ ‘Are you flirting with him?’ said Lucas accusingly. ‘Of course not,’ she said crossly. ‘We’re just friends, that’s all.’ ‘Didn’t I meet you on a ship full of Daleks?’ ‘Nuts,’ muttered Lucas, stepping between the man and Clara. ‘Listen, pal, she’s with me.’ ‘Yeah, I know,’ said the Doctor. ‘This is… different. In fact, you should come along too,’ he added, clapping his hands together. ‘See the stars.’ ‘I can see the stars from here,’ said Lucas, gesturing at the glittering night sky. ‘That’s not what he meant,’ said Clara, dragging him into the TARDIS. ‘Come on, we’re going on an adventure.’

Day 28 'Haven't we had enough strange things already?' complained Lucas. 'Probably, but take it up with @writertracybrown,' I said, not being in the mood for his whining. 'She picked the prompts.' 'Oh, that explains why you don't know half of them,' he said, understanding dawning. 'So, she's to blame for us being flat on day 4?' 'Yup.' 'And the monsters?' 'Musters. Yes, that too.' 'And that horrible trifle?' 'You didn't try it!' 'No, but Tommy said it made him feel sick for hours.' 'He didn't have to eat it all,' I argued. 'Especially as he'd already decided it was awful. But yes, Tracy picked the Friends prompt too.' 'Huh,' said Lucas thoughtfully. 'So, all the bad things that happened this month are her fault?' 'Sort of, I still did the actual writing.' 'Yes, but she started it.' 'True, but in that case, she's also responsible for the nice things that happened.' 'Were there any?' 'You enjoyed Cabot Cove,' I said. 'And sightseeing in New York, and dancing in Australia, and helping Clara move in across the hall.' 'Oh yes,' he said, a smile creeping across his face. 'Well, not the moving so much, but getting to meet her again for the first time was good fun.' 'See, you enjoy it really,' I said, hoping this good mood isn't dampened tomorrow. 'What's happening tomorrow?' he asked sharply. Rats. I forgot he lives in my head and knows what I'm thinking. 'Uh, I'm testing out a plan I have for real life, in case tomorrow's situation ever happens,' I invented, trying to keep my mind clear of anything I don't want him to know about yet. 'But don't worry, you'll be fine. Probably.' 'Probably?!' 'Well, I need you in one piece for the books, don't I? So I can't do too many terrible things.' He grumbled about this, but that's nothing compared to what I'll get tomorrow. Um. Wish me luck?

Day 29 ‘Is it me,’ said Lucas, peeking through the window of the Mystery Machine, ‘or is everyone grey today?’ ‘It’s not you,’ said Clara grimly. ‘Come on, come on,’ she muttered, as the van’s speedometer crept up too slowly. ‘What’s that for?’ he said, eyeing a stash of weapons, most of which were already well used. ‘You’ll see,’ she said, swerving abruptly. Something unpleasantly human-shaped bounced off the windscreen. ‘You hit someone!’ yelled Lucas. ‘Let’s make sure they’re okay.’ ‘Check the mirror,’ she said, straightening the wheel again. To his horror, Lucas saw the body stagger to its feet. ‘Uh…’ ‘Zombies,’ said Clara, as there was a van-denting thunk. ‘And unless you want to become one, shut up and let me concentrate.’ He did so, trying not to whimper whenever she hit another monster. ‘Where are we going?’ ‘Walkers can’t swim,’ she explained, ‘so we’ll find a lake with an island. We’ll be safe there.’ The petrol light came on, and she swore in an unladylike but quite justifiable manner before pulling into a petrol station. ‘Cover me,’ she said, handing Lucas a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. ‘Aim for the head.’ Lucas glanced around. A hideous, human-like figure shambled towards them, followed by another. And another. In fact, there were half a dozen of the rotten – or should that be, rotting things. ‘Hurry up, love,’ he called over his shoulder. ‘I am,’ she said, jiggling the pump like it’d make the petrol flow faster. Lucas gulped, waited until the first Walker was within striking range, and swung with his eyes shut. There was a damp thud on the forecourt. He repeated this several times, trying not to think about what he was doing. Eventually Clara announced the tank was full and they could go. ‘One moment,’ said Lucas, wishing he’d not eaten breakfast. ‘Ugh,’ he said, wiping his mouth. ‘I don’t like this show.’ ‘You’ll like it even less if you don’t get in the van *now*.’ Lucas sprinted to the Mystery Machine and slammed the door shut as another hoard of Walkers appeared. ‘Give me ghosts any day,’ he said, acceleration slamming his head into the headrest. ‘Amen to that,’ said Clara, flooring it. ‘Amen to that.’

Day 30 “Once upon a midnight dreary, while Lucas pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore —” ‘It’s best forgotten,’ said Lucas, unhappy about the extra weight and premature balding, but the lilac velvet smoking jacket was rather dapper. ‘Shh,’ I said. ‘You’re introducing a new generation to Edgar Allan Poe.’ I cleared my throat and continued. “While he nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at his chamber door." ‘Bit late for visitors,’ he said, opening the door before I could stop him. ‘Hey,’ said Raven Xerces, stepping into the room uninvited. ‘Not you again,’ said Lucas, slamming the door. ‘I thought you went back to the future?’ ‘I did, but Saff said you missed me. Anything to drink around here?’ ‘Hang on,’ said Lucas, following Raven in his search for booze. ‘The Raven only says “Nevermore”. You’re not sticking to script.’ ‘And you are, fatso?’ said Raven, pulling out a decanter and two tumblers. ‘Saff,’ complained Lucas, glaring at the ceiling. ‘Why’s he here?’ ‘He’s The Raven,’ I said. ‘And he’s fun, and it’s topsy-turvy, so why not?’ ‘So many reasons,’ said Lucas. ‘Where’s Clara, anyway?’ ‘Wherever Lenore ended up, I guess.’ ‘Your girl done a runner?’ said Raven, filling Lucas’s glass. ‘Tough luck.’ ‘Um, no,’ said Lucas, downing the drink, figuring he earned it this month. ‘She’s just - I don’t know,’ he finished, voice cracking. ‘Hey,’ said Raven, refilling Lucas' glass. ‘She’ll be happier with someone else. You want her to be happy, right?’ Lucas wailed. ‘Clara would never leave you, Lucas,’ I said, replacing Raven's whiskey with water as punishment for upsetting my MC. ‘I don’t know where Lenore went, but Clara - um, well, here she is, I guess.’ Right on cue, she stepped through the door, wearing a tall blue wig and Victorian dress. Lucas threw his arms around her. ‘I had a terrible dream,’ he sobbed. ‘A schizophrenic pirate told me you’d left me.’ ‘I’m right here,’ complained Raven. ‘Some people are so rude,’ he grumbled, drinking Lucas’ whiskey and starting on the rum. Thanks to @brasingtonbooks for the loan of Raven 💖

Day 31 ‘We’ve done Midsomer Murders and Castle, I said. ‘And Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries..’ ‘You like Futurama,’ said Clara, who pays attention. ‘And Brooklyn 99, and Ghost Adventures -’ ‘No,’ said Lucas. ‘Not Ghost Adventures.’ ‘Scared of ghosties?’ I said with a smirk. ‘No, but they say everything is demonic,’ he said, shuddering. ‘Spirits are bad enough.’ ‘True,’ I said. ‘Well, as it’s your first experience of TV, how did you like it?’ ‘I didn’t,’ said Lucas. ‘Oh, shush,’ said Clara, rolling her eyes. ‘It was fun. We went to new places -’ ‘And got turned into cartoons.’ ‘We met new people -’ ‘You didn’t kill zombies,’ grumbled Lucas. ‘We went sightseeing,’ continued Clara, ignoring him. ‘That wasn’t the plan,’ I said. ‘You didn’t research properly,’ said Clara, which I’d hoped she’d forgotten. ‘What else could we do?’ ‘The Scooby Snacks were good,’ said Lucas with worrying enthusiasm. ‘And I cooked,’ said Clara, as he made gagging noises. ‘And Lucas and Tommy had a heart-to-heart.’ ‘That won’t happen again,’ grumped Lucas. ‘Don’t be so sure about that, sunbeam,’ I said. ‘What’s that mean?’ ‘You’ll see. And you saw Raven again.’ Lucas had thoughts on this, but some things are best left unwritten. ‘Good to see the Doctor,’ said Clara. ‘What’s he a doctor of, again?’ asked Lucas. ‘And you played with magic, and were monsters,’ I said, before he could derail the conversation. ‘So it was interesting, if nothing else.’ ‘Dancing was fun,’ said Lucas, smiling adorably at Clara. ‘We should do that again.’ ‘Agreed,’ she replied, pecking his cheek. ‘We should go back to the seaside, too.’ ‘There’s a ballroom at Blackpool,’ I suggested. ‘Two birds.’ ‘Somewhere warm, please.’ ‘Maine wasn’t exactly tropical,’ I said. ‘But I’m glad you had fun.’ ‘Yes,’ said Lucas, surprised. ‘I suppose it *was* fun. ‘ ‘So you won’t complain on the next Topsy Turvy Challenge?’ I said hopefully. ‘I wouldn’t go that far,’ he said. ‘But this one had good points, if you ignore the bad ones.’ ‘It’s faint praise, but I’ll take it,’ I said. ‘Thanks for joining in.’ ‘We didn’t have any choice!’ ‘You’re welcome,’ said Clara, kicking his shin. ‘When’s the next one?’

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