Before she could even blink in surprise, Sally was falling backwards, screaming and as she did so she managed to do two things simultaneously:
1. she kicked the door shut with a huge push from her feet
2. she landed slap bang on top of her brother
For the first second as she began realise that this wasn’t, in fact, a dream, Sally lay staring at the door and watched as whoever was outside twisted frantically at the door handle.
Something you should know about the bedroom door at 22 Dunstable Lane: Old, damp houses such as these have grown, shrunk, moved and generally changed over the years, just as the bones in the human body bend and shift and creak as we get older. So the once true wooden door frames, windows and floorboards of the house by the pond had all warped with age and sadness. Sally’s door jammed. Not just a little, but jammed as if it were locked and only a short, sharp kick to exactly the right spot would open it.
Coming to her senses, Sally became aware of a thumping wheezing noise from behind her and suddenly remembered David. With escape the one thought in her mind, she twisted around, scrambled to stand up, grabbed hold of her brother’s pyjama top and dragged him along with her as she did so.
[whatwhatwhat?] the boy signed frantically at his sister but she had no time to reply as she pulled him desperately over to the window and with her free hand pushed the old sash frame up.
Her heart thumping and trying to ignore the increasingly loud shouts and bangs of frustration outside the bedroom door, Sally grabbed her by now struggling brother and pushed him up so that he was sitting on the window sill facing her.
It was only a matter of seconds before the door-bangers found the right spot, she knew, so with no time for any explanation, she started to push him backwards out of the window. David, as anybody would do in his situation, grabbed at his sister’s arms and tried to resist. What was she doing?
The thought had barely had time to form before, over his sister’s shoulder, he saw, in what seemed like slow motion, the door burst open and two figures run into the room dragging a net between them. No taller than Sally, one of them appeared to be an orange monkey with an eye patch and the other…was that really a giant, pink rat wearing a bandana?
Such was the shock at seeing these very strange creatures that David completely forgot to hold on to his sister. As his fingers let go, he saw, in horror, Sally’s screaming face as the net covered it and she was pulled backwards away from him while at the same time shrinking and spinning upside down.
Or rather, he suddenly realised in panic, it was him who was spinning! He had fallen backwards through the window and was now sliding down the snow-covered porch roof outside!
The dark night sky raced overhead and wet flakes of snow slapped into his eyes and more snow went down the back of his pyjamas as he slid back, gathering speed. Then all of a sudden he was no longer on the roof but in mid-air and falling!
Whoosh! His stomach turned a summersault. His arms and legs flailed desperately for something to hold onto. There was nothing. David shot towards the ground, his eyes clenched tightly shut in terrified anticipation as the hard ground below got nearer. Any second now -
Clump! He fell right on top of a mound of snow which cushioned most of the fall. For a second he couldn’t believe it, he was fine. Completely unhurt. Then he remembered – Sally!
But before that thought could go anywhere else, the ground beneath him began to move. There was something beneath the snow! Something which wasn’t very happy at having been landed on!
David found himself slipping as the snow fell to either side of the mound and the thing beneath the snow stood up.
The thing shook the rest of the snow from its body and turned a very large head round on a very thick neck and glared down at the boy sitting in the snow in front of it. David’s mouth fell open as he came face to face with two furious eyes, two wide flaring nostrils and some of the angriest looking teeth that he had ever seen.