“Beep, beep. Beep, beep. Beep, beep.”

Finally I picked up my phone; I didn’t want my mum to ruin this amazing night out. For once I was having fun; she’d controlled my life for too long.

“What?” Was my first word.

“Honey don’t come home, it’s not safe here,” Mum replied, too calm for my liking.

“Just don’t! Go straight to Shannon’s and stay there. It’s not safe here!” In the background I heard a crash of splintering wood and the scream of my mum.

“What’s going on mum? Tell me!”

“Althena Quenaa, I love you.”

The end tone started to ring and I phoned her two more times but it went straight to voicemail.

Shaking violently, I shoved my phone in to my pocket, put on a brave face and started to sprint home, ignoring my mum’s pleas not to. On the street of my house I quickened my pace, the lights were on which was a good sign, but it didn’t calm my nerves enough.

I extracted my keys from my bag with trembling fingers and rammed them into the door. Once I had opened it all the shock in the world hit me with the power of a single gunshot. The shoe rack had been smashed onto the ground and the key hook was ripped from the wall. The contents of my new school bag sprawled across the floor. The kitchen door was lopsided, hanging on by half a hinge and the glasses were shattered on the black and white marble. Whatever, whoever, had made this much of a mess, it was not good news. Warm, salty tears began to trickle down my face and I made no effort to stop them.

“MUM, mum, mummy.” I hadn’t called my mother ‘mummy’ for years, “ANSWER ME.”

Suddenly a large lizard-like creature launched at me from behind; out of shock I twisted over and landed on the hard ground, a rogue plimsoll hitting my face as I fell. Hot rancid breath chocked me, as something shot onto my neck, throttling me even more. It started to hiss, no, it spoke?

“Delicioussss flesssssh, warm human blood, a drink to be sssssavoured, hmmm.” Then, it launched at my throat.

Pathetically, I was thrown side to side like a rag doll but, no matter how hard it bit into me, it had no effect, in a last attempt to seal my fate the murky brown creature threw me against the wall. It clearly thought me dead, because I hung still, so the scaly thing stayed where it was, panting hard. I seized my chance and grabbing the key hook, I flung it at the monster. It hit. The thing crumpled to the floor but at that moment the roof caved in.

Wrinkled hands were dragging me across a leafy floor, carefully laying me on a blanket. I obviously wasn’t at home anymore but didn’t recognise this woodland that I had awoken in. I heard the clinking of a spoon against a plastic bowl and something warm was spooned into my mouth. Immediately I felt the urge to wake up. Slowly, carefully I opened my eyes and hoisted myself into a sitting position: a hunched figure with a long grey beard and long grey hair was watching me with worried eyes.

“Where is my mum?” I asked, my voice cracking at the end of the sentence.

“I have a suggestion, but I will tell you at the end of the answers,” said the man in a wise voice. I could make neither head nor tail of this statement.

I asked what this meant and he smiled a knowing smile and said, “It means that you can ask questions and that shall be the last to be answered so (as the youths say) shoot.”

“What was that thing that attacked me?”

“That was a follower of the most evil being ever living: Carsomphia.”

“And why was it in my house?”

“Because your mother was a diminisher of his kind.”

“Okay, who are you?”

“I am Aspartame; your mothers mentor.”

“Last, where is my mum?”

“I have nothing but a guess; I think she’s in Aleasuph.”

I stayed silent; I needed time to process this information before it slipped through my brain. It started to get dark and Aspartame lit a fire to give us light and warmth through the night, he also gave me a fluffy blue sleeping bag. I bade him goodnight, trusting him deeply for no reason, there was something about him, something oh so familiar, but I couldn’t sleep, today had been too shocking. Eventually I had to sleep because my eyes were watering from the effort not to.

Rudely awoken by the birds, I found a half-eaten energy bar in my pocket and decided to have that for my breakfast. When Aspartame woke up he fished out two sausages wrapped in foil from his pockets, cooked them, and handed them to me.

They were soft, tender and juicy in the middle. It was as if an angel had sent them to me. I wolfed them down and thanked him. Aspartame then handed me some seeds, I looked at him as if to say ‘what’s this for?’.

He said, “for the birds.”

Suddenly he whistled, a low long whistle and huge flocks of birds came from every direction. Buzzards, magpies, rooks, ravens and many, many more.

“This is amazing!” I exclaimed.

All he did was chuckle and say, “they know my whistle.”

But I still wanted to know more about the diminishers.Then I realised how me and Aspartame looked alike. We had the same dark eyebrows, hazelnut eyes and thin lips. I whispered, “dad.”

He looked at me, tears welling in his eyes.

“Dad, you’re my dad.”

“Close,” he replied.


“Now you realise, how ironic,” he said softly.

“Why ironic?” I asked, confused.

“The day you find me is the day we lost your mother. Let’s go find her.”