Emily and Malcolm have been sent to stay with their grannies. Bo-ring! But their rickety train journey to sleepy Castleconnell in the Irish countryside takes a decidedly nasty turn and they find themselves up to their necks in trouble.
See, there's an evil presence on the train, someone who's been making trouble for the local youngsters. And now he needs another kid for his schemes.
Emily and Malcolm are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thankfully, their grannies are on hand to sort things out. Oh, and their grannies are witches...
The train went clickety-clack, clickety-clack, which is what trains usually do. Only tonight, the train seemed to be whispering "Go back", sensing danger ahead. Go back, go back, go back, go back.
Emily was tense, sitting rigidly to fight the motion, her hands gripping the table tightly. She was thirteen going on twenty-nine, pouty, dressed in black, but scared underneath her dis-interested exterior. The last traces of the city had long since faded. The factories, office blocks and apartments had made way for relentless fields and hedges, with large farm animals and lonely houses occasionally breaking the monotony. Dusk raced west with the train.
Emily’s brother, Malcolm, sat across the table. He was reading a comic about The Ma-trix.
‘I still don’t really get it,’ said Malcolm, putting the comic into his coat pocket, having folded it in half, twice.
‘Get what?’ said Emily. She honestly did-n’t care.
‘The Matrix. Like, are we really just imagining this reality and having our true bod-ies milked by freaky robot aliens?’
‘I honestly don’t care.’ She dismissed his pointless question with all the derision she could muster.
Her little ten-year-old, annoying brother just got more annoying with every day that passed.
‘Well, I think this is some sort of paral-lel universe,’ he ventured.
‘You’re just a little geek with no friends.’
He blushed and didn’t reply. True, he was big into science and less into the pop charts, but he never had a chance to make friends: Emily was always there, criticising. And here he was, off again, all his possessions in a bag at the end of the carriage. His sister putting him down again and an uncertain future at the end of the train journey, in a country village called Castleconnell. Neither of them had been there before. Emily expected a tiny kip, inhabited by freaks and layabouts, with no clue of anything that mattered.
Plus, there was the unknown quantity of her grandmothers. She’d last seen them when she was only four and had only hazy memories of a strange smell and a red cardigan, which felt nice and soft against her cheek. She sup-posed that she didn’t really have too much to fear from them and they would probably just do the granny thing and mind them for a few weeks until her parents got the new house ready. Please get it sorted out, she prayed.
She looked around at the carriage. It was an ancient train, with dirty linoleum on the floor, moth-eaten seats and a squeak or groan for every centimetre of progress along the slow track. The ticket inspector called by to check on them again.