The Grim children were having a terrible day. They had to leave their cozy home and travel all the way to the small town of Bitterwind to stay in a strange orphanage, dusty, desolate and perched precariously on the edge of a cliff. From the moment they arrived, strange things started happening, like an invisible monster stalking them from the opposite side of the road, quickly moving closer, until they could hear its labored breathing just on the other side of the porch railing ...
The little taxi sputtered up the steep hill, but could not quite make it to the top. It slid back a little as the driver changed gears and then burst forward to finally conquer its nemesis.
Inside were four passengers, squeezed together uncomfortably in the back seat while they clung to whatever they could find to keep from falling over. The driver was in a hurry and determined not to stay near that creepy place any longer than absolutely necessary. The Hilltop, the place where that awful building stood - if one could even call it that. Some people in town said it was cursed. The driver, who may or may not have been called Thomas - the children could not quite make what was written beneath the dirty label stuck to his dashboard, did not believe in curses, but he did believe in luck, and that orphanage looked like it housed every bad bit of it.
The taxi skid to a halt in front of the building, sending up a cloud of grey dust that blocked the view in every direction. Thomas, or maybe not Thomas, got out and proceeded to swiftly, and rather violently, rid his little taxi of the children's belongings.
"Get out!" he yelled at them as he threw a suitcase over his shoulder. He was desperate to get away as soon as possible, but a large, heavy trunk was stuck in his car's boot and refused to budge, despite his attempts to move it.
"Get out!" he looked out from behind the car and yelled at the children who were still trying to untangle themselves enough to exit his vehicle.
On the opposite side of the road, next to the barren, grey rocks that jutted out of the ground like enormous splinters - something stirred... He could not see what it was, only the swirl of dust left behind by its motion.
"Get out! Quickly!" he yelled.
The children were mostly out of the car, but Thomas decided to hurry them along by grabbing whoever was still inside and pulling them out, something not easily accomplished with a small, two-door car.
"Ouch! Let go!" a red-haired girl yelled at him and launched a kick in his direction, but due to a serious lack of hand-eye coordination, connected with her brother instead.
"Argh! Watch where you're kicking!" he yelled.
"I didn't do it on purpose!" she sort of apologized and finally managed to extricate herself from the little vehicle.
Thomas, having narrowly missed a well-deserved kick, returned his attention to the stuck luggage, which he attacked with renewed vigor.
"Please, be careful!" an older girl, dressed in a big coat, pleaded, but Thomas was much too terrified. That thing across the road had moved again, sending little pebbles falling onto the dusty road. He still could not see it, but whatever it was, he did not intend to stay there long enough to find out. With a final heave, he managed to lift the children's trunk out of his tiny car and dropped it to the side of the road.
Bella was upset and quite indignant at the treatment both they and their luggage were receiving from the careless driver. In between her missed attempts to catch some of the suitcases that he tossed over his shoulder, she had tried to protest the unacceptable treatment with a few half- spoken sentences; "...no wait! ...it is!...please be!...", but to no avail, "...careful...", was all she could manage before the taxi sped away in a hurried cloud of dust, leaving the disheartened children behind.