Sophie woke up, opening her eyes. She was not in the middle of a park at night with soaking wet clothes but comfortably in bed wearing a gown. A chasm of daylight pushed its way through the curtains and onto her face. Shocked and in amazement, she lurched upwards and started franatically looking around the room, as if to look for the given sword. She then glanced at the muslces on her arm “It was all a dream!” She gasped loudly to herself with a sigh of relief and fell back on her pillow. “Chosen hero? North Star? What a load of bollocks.” She muttered to herself. Curious, she then picked up her phone to see if there was an account of last night. As she scrolled down the messages, the conversation of her having went out for a walk remained present, but the distressed text no longer existed… However, there was a phone call made some time later, to her dad’s number…
Reluctantly, Sophie got on and proceeded carefully downstairs, exiting the sanctuary of her room into the living room. Seemingly unmoved from last night, her dad was stretched over the sofa, again glued to the TV. “Rise and Shine darlin, it’s 1pm.”- He grunted sarcastically, this time receptive to her presence. “After ya little tantrum last night one of the neighbours round here found you lying in the Barnes Burn unconscious, face up from the water like. Yer must a slipped. They called an ambulance, but you were alright so they dropped you home and popped ya in their spare gown. Might teach you a lesson not to go off on one like that, aye?”-
“I don’t remember anything, Sophie replied coldly… I had a strange dream that was all. “Aye.. well..” Her dad replied seemingly disinterested. “Anyway if yer feeling better and going out later I’ve got you a shopping list ready. Make sure ya get the john smith’s anarl. “Wait, which neighbour was it?”- She asked, cutting back the topic. “It was some lady called Viviane or summit, never heard of her before apparently she’s always lived on Tasman Road. Anyway darlin, John Smith’s please prompto before 5”- He urged.
Sophie’s heart pounded with shock and confusion for a moment. This woman was real? She bargained with her thoughts. Perhaps she was but it was all an hallucination? A weird dream at best. Rationalizing it, she suppressed the bubbling confusion and quickly got ready, heading out without another thought. With no time to waste, she paced down the street and hopped on a blue, red and white bus. Sitting herself firmly on a worn, tattered blue cloth seat, she hastily turned to her phone. “I’m on my way to town, see you soon x”- She texted. “Okay I’ll head out, see you soon x” her friend replied. The Bus wormed its way through a maze of streets and perfectly patterned semidetached houses similar to her own, before it made its way down a large embankment.
The scenery soon morphed into older terraced and Victorian housing, remnants of an era gone b , before breaking out into the light of a cluster of various buildings, old and new perched upon a hill surrounding the gorge of a river. The bus soon pulled into an metallic, grubby bus terminal. It was busy, yet not bustling. Eventful, yet not thriving. Sophie dashed off the bus and put her feet down onto a chewing gum branded grey concrete, looking around before moving forwards. “Okay I’ve arrived in Park lane x” she typed frantically moving to one side. “I’m on my way, almost here stay where you are x” Millie replied.
Sophie stopped near a bench and waited. Then suddenly from behind her a cheerful voice yelled “Hey!”- She turned around quickly and her face lit up with joy. Before her stood another girl with golden skin, deep black black her and warm brown eyes. Upon seeing each other, they rushed and embraced with a hug. “It’s so good to see you in person again it’s been ages!” Sophie remarked warmly. “You too! I’m sorry things have been so hectic with assignments” the girl, Millie, remarked back. “Everything’s okay, right”- She asked, suddenly with an undertone of concern in her voice. “Uh yeah.. it’s just the usual. He was acting up last night.” Sophie replied doubtfully. “Anyway let’s go for a walk and maybe a coffee, then I’ve got to got to get the shopping in for the lazy oaf.” The two then proceeded to walk down the paved road from the bus station, as they moved Seagulls hawked and swirled in the air. The street was dotted with a mix of humble takeaways, small shops and bars.
“So what have you been up to besides fighting with him?” Millie asked enthusiastically. “It’s either him or work at the bar. Either way me life revolves around drink one way or another.” Sophie sighed uncomfortably “How about you? How’s your dad’s shop?”- She asked, as if trying to steer the conversation away from it. “The study never ends! The second year gets a lot tougher. I had a mountain of essays to hand in last week and then I’m helping him tomorrow actually. The pandemic was tough on us as you know for a number of reasons, but now things are getting better. My life is no easier than yours, basically part time work, commute to Durham and practically sleeping out in the library. But I can always fit you in!” Millie replied seemingly cheerful. “Awww sweet”- Sophie remarked, straining a smile onto her face.
Responding to Sophie’s apparent less than even usual lack of spirit “You look bothered, are you sure you’re okay?”- Millie asked. “It’s like something’s worrying you.” She noted. “No not at all, guess I’m just tired after last night.” She said attempting to put on a brave face. As they chatted, the two entered a shopping mall with a large glass façade, with the booming letters hanging above titled “The Bridges”. In contrast to the nitty gritty terrain of the outside, the interior was coated with a spotless white with a crisp marble flooring. It was bustling with people.
As they proceeded through, they noticed a large crowd gathering around the central plaza area as if there was some kind of event ongoing. An elegantly dressed man in a pristine navy blue suit stood talking to the masses. He had somewhat of a comical appearance, with blonde hair weaved in a complex fashion which would cross the eyes of any stylist, and spoke with a pronounced posh accent as if he were a stereotypical wealthy man. “What’s this?” Sophie pointed as they approach. The smile run off Millie’s face and the colour seemed to run away from it: “Oh, that’s William Parker-Fulton… he’s opening up his campaign today as he hopes to run for election here”.
“Who’s he?”- Sophie asked gormlessly. “I haven’t heard of him”. “He’s an interesting person… a landed man from Southern England running for the new People’s Democratic Party” Millie replied with unease. “He has some unorthodox political ideas to say the least, but he’s quite popular.” As they approached, the man spoke with a triumphant tone with energetic hand movements. “People of Sunderland!” he bellowed. “I will stand up for ordinary people like you! We will make our country something to be proud of again! We will take on the Westminster elite and derail the gravy train! Stop the flow of immigrants taking our jobs! bring our industries back home! And we will be proud of our history not ashamed of it! I give to wearside my heart, and you may look upon it to see it is red, white and blue!”- The crowd cheered and clapped loudly as if they were hypnotized by his performance, “Gerrin Fulton!”- An older bald man roared with zeal.
“As you can see, I’m not a fan…”- She said quietly to Sophie and started to edge away from the event. “Micky from work loves this kind of stuff”- Sophie remarked cynically. “I don’t vote myself. There’s no point and I don’t believe in anything.” She said coldly as they walked away. “Neither do most people around here, that’s why so many are looped into believing him”. Millie remarked with a tint of displeasure. “Sunderland is collectively a lost soul. It doesn’t know who it is and what it needs anymore. This man will only add to its misery.” She said deeply “Let’s go somewhere quiet, how about a walk down the East End?” she added. The two proceeded to walk out of the shopping centre and proceeded onwards through the town as they chatted. The further east they ventured, the quieter the streets become. As crowds evaporated, derelict and empty buildings soon peppered the landscape.
“So Sophie, what is it you want to tell me?” Millie asked suddenly, bringing up the conversation from earlier. “So persistent as usual.” She smirked. “This is going to sound strange but….” “Alreet!”- A loud voice suddenly interrupted abruptly, cutting through the sanctity of the conversation. In front of them happened to stand Sophie’s colleague Micky, who was also walking towards the same area. “Oh, hello Micky.” Sophie’s face dropped with mild displeasure “even on me days off, work just can’t leave me alone.” she remarked, striking a very different tone to how she had been talking to Millie. “Oh hi Micky, don’t believe we’ve met. I’ve heard a lot about you of course, I’m Sophie’s friend Millie!- She remarked politely, yet with a cheek of irony and cheekiness. “I’m sure you have, nowt like a bit of bitching going on now is there?”- He joked rudely, leaving the other two unimpressed.
“So where’ve you been?”- Sophie asked. The trio stood restlessly, ready to all go their separate ways. “Oh I’ve been to the rally to see William Parker-Fulton, he’s class like.” His comments produced an awkward silence. “Oh we seen it too, weird bloke, but as you know I’m not into that bollocks, I couldn’t care aless.” Sophie replied. Millie said nothing, mimicking the impression of a zip being drawn across her mouth. “So what brings you two down the East End?” He asked. “Oh nothing”- Said Sophie “We were just on a girly walk for a girly talk you know, probably to call several men wankers, me dad a lot and probably the boss.. and maybe you a bit” her cynical voice continuing to linger underneath. “Haha can’t beat your honesty”- She mocked, unphased as usual.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll tag along for a bit as we’re going the same way. No harm ey?”- He said confidently, seemingly brushing off the annoyance of the other two as they resumed walking. “So umm yeah…” Sophie said with an uncomfortable posture, fumbling on how to resume the conversation in the new environment. “Tell you what, since Micky was kind of enough to drop me off last night he might as well know too.” She said suddenly, finding a spark of sudden optimism and confidence under her breath. “Know what? Whatever you were about to say next?” Millie asked curiously. “Ha’way then!” Micky responsed jubilantly. “A love a good story me. Sophie has the best banter.” He scoffed. “Shut up man.” She groaned. “Let’s walk around here, it suits the mood”- she immediately pointed towards an old churchyard surrounded by an aging cobbled road.
The building was of an antique baroque design. It stood alone, a relic of time in an area filled with modern housing yet void of life. Apart from the three, there was not otherwise a soul to be seen. The yard was rugged with uneven grass, and winding pathways peppered with shattered glass. In the midst of the green stood a number of graves, decaying with age. One of them was sinking into the ground gradually. “Holy Trinity Church.”- Millie remarked an informative voice. “Sunderland’s First Parish church, created in 1719 the hallmark of where the modern settlement began. It’s isolation and lack of purpose today makes a fitting comparison…”
“Wow, she’s canny smart aye?”- Micky remarked in a patronizing voice. “You do realize our goodwill is running out if you keep it up right?”- Sophie snarked. “Anyhow, try and stretch your two braincells for a bit. Last night, I had a weird experience and I don’t know what happened.” She began talking, drawing in the attention of the other two. “When I got home last night after you dropped me off, I had a fight with me dad. He pissed me off so much I went out for a walk down the Barnes Park extension. It was very late…” She then paused for a moment, the other two looked on with concern. “I have no idea what happened next… I was either dreaming, or it was real. I was attacked, by this creature… It looked like a man but it wasn’t.” Her heart began pounding as she attempted to flesh out the details. “It was more like a monster, grey skin, yellow eyes. It was horrible, and it started chasing me…”
“I got knocked into the stream, and then this woman got me out and rescued me. She told me a few things about some legendary hero which I thought was bollocks. Then suddenly, I woke up in my bed. I thought it was all a dream, but then me dad told me this woman brought me home. I’ve been freaking out”- She gasped, as she digged the traumatic memories up from the surface. “Oh my god!”- Millie cried. “No wonder you seemed freaked out, are you okay? Have you not told the police?”- She panicked. “Am sorry to hear that like…” Micky added “that’s messed up that like. You get too many little meths round Thorney these days like, wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone actually looked like that.” His voice drew a softer tone than usual, abandoning his more confident posture. “Well the thing is you’re okay now, but you can’t just go out like that into dark dangerous areas!” Millie nagged.
“But examining your story, it seems as if something did happen, you passed out and were rescued. Your mind probably exaggerated the details with shock”- She continued in a calmer voice. You must report this.” “Nah what’s the point? Sophie sad now returning a more apathetic tone. “What’s done is done, I’m not hurt or owt, I’m just trying to understand it all. It has to be a dream but it all felt so real, like I can’t let it go. This woman said that I was some kind of ancient hero. It’s stupid I know, but I’ve never had any experience like it before. Why would anyone say anything like that about me? And it’s not like I’m deluded to think it of myself. I’m a failure, a loser who didn’t stick in at school and scrounges after my lousy dad. It’s surreal shit, so it scares me.”
As they sat and talked, an usually thick gray mist began to surround the area. It was out of sync with the weather of the day, which had been largely blue skies. The temperature also begun to drop noticeably. “Talk about a sudden change in the weather, where did this come from?”- Millie remarked in surprise, looking around. Sophie fell in shock again. “I can feel it again.” She said coldly and robotically. “Right now, it feels just like it did last night. This mist, it looks the same… it feels the same…” She said, gasping for breath and starting to panic, falling back onto the bench. “You’re freaking out Sophie, let’s get you out of here and back home. I think you’re suffering from some heavy trauma”- Micky said calmly. “Everything’s going to be okay, we’re with you”- Showing a streak of maturity he’d never expressed before.
Millie and Micky proceeded to help Sophie back up by her arms, as if the shock was paralyzing her. They proceeded to start walking for the churchyard entrance, unable to see in front of them for the mist. Then all three of them looked ahead and in sequence… froze. Again, like the previous night earlier, stood a hideous figure with monstrous features wrapped with red cloth. Stepping forwards out of the mist, its distorted face and vulgar eyes were very much visible, as well as its grizzly long arms and putrid grey skin. It did not make a sound, staring with daggers at the trio, lost for breath and expression. “It’s the thing again…” Sophie grasped “It’s all real…”. Micky, bottling his fea, immediately stepped forwards “Whee the friggin hell are ya like?” He shouted loudly and overbearingly. “What’s the problem like?”- He shouted. The creature was unphased, continuing to stare at him. “Think ya hard or summit?”- He shouted.
“I’m going to give yer until the count of three, and if you don’t piss off now I’m garna bray the shit out of ya!”- He roared. The creature again did not move. Enraged, Micky dived for a nearby empty glass bottle and lunged at the creature with his right arm, swinging at his head. He struck with such force that the bottle shattered over the head of the monster. But it did not budge. Micky stood back, horrified. The monster then growled under its breath and then before he could make another move, unleashed its overstretched arm and picked Micky up effortlessly by his t-shirt, leaving him dangling in the air. His tough posture turned to a helpless, terrified expression. Sophie and Millie simply watched motionless. Then without any hesitation, the creature hurled him across the field sending him crashing on the grass, rolling next to one of the old graves. “Run!” Sophie screamed to Millie, and the two scrambled. Again, the beast gave chase at a phenomenal pace. “Split in different directions!”- Millie yelled, panting to one side of the field through the mist as Sophie darted for the other.
But the creature didn’t choose Sophie as its next target… It galloped after Millie and within seconds caught up, growling and roaring. It then yanked out its arm and grabbed her by the leg, also tumbling to the ground. It smiled insidiously as she screamed and tumbled. The figure then withdrew a blackened, jagged axe like blade from out of its red coating, as if it were carved out of flint. Sophie, now some distance away, looked on in horror. “MILLIE!!!!!!!”- She screamed in desperation, yet she found herself unable to move forwards. “Should I save my life and run for it? Or should I put myself at risk for my friend?”- Words streamed though Sophie’s mind. “I’ve spent my whole life being second best, is it wrong to be selfish to put me first? But she would save me right?”- Thoughts raced back and forth, bringing a myriad of memories, good and bad. She remembered her mother, she remembered her father, she remembered kinder times, worse times, all as the creature insidiously looked upon Millie patiently waiting to go in for the kill.
“Sophie, who are you?”- A familiar female voice suddenly sounded in her head. “Who will you become?”- It asked. “I have seen your pain, I have seen the tragedy of your life, but I have also felt the purity of your heart and that is why you have been chosen. “Make your choice, and choose your path”- It urged. “Will you continue your path of despair, or will you choose hope?” A warm feeling then struck Sophie deep in her chest. “Hey you!”- She yelled toughly to the creature before it could make a new move. “Get away from her, take me first!”- She shouted. The creature turned, baring a mark of amusement on its face. “As you wish!”- It grunted in a deep and contemptible voice, with not a moment to spare it then raced towards her brandishing its axe in the air.
Sophie felt nervous, yet resilient. As it approached, a blast of purple light came from nowhere and engulfed her left hand. Puzzled, she looked down and placed within her left wrist sat a silver blade of a delicate craftsmanship, which shined with a purple glow. She looked at it, then looked back at the charging monster whom on approaching swung its axe at her. With a burst of confidence Sophie swung the sword forwards at the emerging axe and seemingly effortlessly smashed it to pieces. The monster startled with surprise. She then slashed at its torso, carving into it with purple energy. It roared with pain falling backwards, before proceeding again to lunge its arms and deep claws at her. Sophie slashed at its hand and then before it could make another move hammered it in the face with her first, sending it crashing to the ground. She then lunged the sword relentlessly into its torso, leading it to roar with agony.
Sophie pulled back. The figure attempted to get up, only to fall back over. Its groans grew softer and softer. As it vented its final breath, the fog around the area lifted. Before they could make another move, its body suddenly vanished in a puff of smoke. Sophie looked upon the scene puzzled, trying furiously to make sense of what just happened, yet feeling strangely satisfied. “Sophie!” a voice then yelled from behind her “What in the world? What even?”- Said Millie, equally perplexed. “It’s all real, everything from last night was real!”- She laughed awkwardly, almost crying in tandem. Then she remembered, “Micky!” she yelled, running over to the site where he had landed on the grass, now sitting upwardly. “Are you alright?”- She asked in concern. Micky groaned and then said: “Why aye man, had nastier rugby tackles than that man” a smile appearing on his face. “I just sat and watched that, you brayed him better than I could.”- He laughed.
“So what does this all mean?”- Millie then asked in a more serious and inquisitive tone. “I’ll tell you what it means.” Sophie then said with an unusual degree of confidence towards both of them. “I am the North Star, the ancient guardian of Northumbria and I have been called.”
“Jesus Christ”- Remarked Micky.