Reid was born in
a young boy, he was always fascinated with spaceships, time travel, aliens –
anything to do with science fiction. Some of his earliest memories are of
watching Dr Who from behind the couch, too scared to lay eyes on the Darleks.
1970, he immigrated to Australia with his family.
primary school, Mark discovered there was only one thing he liked doing beside
sports – reading and writing stories, usually involving monsters or aliens.
Lizards and dinosaurs became other favourite subjects. On the telly, he received
his science fiction fix with shows such as Time
Tunnel, Land of the Giants, Star Trek and his all-time favourite, Lost in Space.
his second year at high school, Mark wrote his first book (The
Runaway Dog, an adventure story). He shared equal best story in the class
and received a five dollar book voucher. But sadly that was the end of his
writing days for a lot of years to come. Life took over and the dream of ever
being published faded.
leaving school, Mark worked as a shop assistant for a short time, followed by a
few other laborious jobs. A brief stint in the air force then changed to
unemployment before he settled into a factory job.
1983, he met his future wife, Sharon, and they married in 1985. Their first boy
arrived in 1991, the second in 1994.
after twenty years in the same monotonous job, Mark was ready for a break or a
change. An advertisement in the paper, ‘Become a Professional Children’s
Writer’, sparked his imagination. It was now or never. Mark did what everybody
tells you not to do – he quit his day job. He completed the correspondence
course and, while his wife worked, he took some extra time off and wrote a book.
It started off as a thousand-word assignment and turned into Erin
and the Urchinints.
With two teenage boys who hate reading and have not even laid eyes on the story, he’s hoping that becoming published might change their attitude. But he’s not holding his breath.
1 — The Rock Pool
you sure this is where she disappeared?” asked Erin, holding her shoe upside
down and tapping sand from it.
this is the place all right. There are those strange rocks I told you about,”
thought Erin, she couldn’t remember seeing the rocks when she was here a few
days ago. It was as if they had grown out of the sand.
glanced over her shoulder in disbelief to where Mrs Nettlebeck’s house sat on
the cliff top. The old woman lived alone with only a well fed cat for company.
Her husband, a retired navy officer, had passed away years ago.
was rare for her to be seen outside the house. Since her husband had died, only
her two daughters and on occasion, Erin and Rory, ever visited.
treated the children like her own grandchildren, always fussing over them and
making sure they never went hungry.
tried to picture Mrs. Nettlebeck walking down the rickety steps to the beach,
then along the beach to this area, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t imagine an
eighty year old lady who had been in a wheelchair for nearly fifty years after a
car accident, walking all that distance.
you sure she wasn’t home last night? Perhaps she went out with one of her
daughters. Being old doesn’t mean you can’t go out.”
Rory snapped. “Every night at five she feeds Snowy; then lets him in for the
night, even if on the odd chance she does go out.”
it proves it was her I saw walking along the beach and disappearing behind those
paused for a moment. With a straight face she turned to Rory and said, “Did
you have your binoculars around the right way?”
ha. Very funny. I don’t care whether you believe me, I know what I saw. Anyway
I’m going to find out what’s behind those rocks.” Rory took off like a
jack rabbit. “Race ya there.”
took her other shoe off and shook out the sand. By the time she looked up Rory
warning, the wind blew and sand swirled into the air. The waves grew taller, and
then crashed to shore.
dashed towards the rocks, shielding her eyes from the sand which whipped her
skin — stinging with every lash. Raven black ponytails thumped her face as she
pushed against a wall of blustery wind. The nearer the rocks came, the further
the cliff face stretched skyward.
she was out of the open wind and shadowed by the eerie rocks. Up close she saw
how unusual they were; triangular in shape, rounded on top and at least ten feet
tall, standing side by side in a circle. Veins of brown criss-crossed over an
orange background, making them look prehistoric.
crept around the rocks. Any moment now Rory would leap out. But he didn’t. He
was nowhere to be seen.
a split second her heart skipped a beat. One of the rocks looked as if it had
moved ever so slightly. Her stomach let out a nervous gurgle and goose bumps
spotted her skin. It must have been the wind.
squeezed through a small gap between the rocks. After getting half-way, she
became wedged and was unable to move. She pushed and pulled until her body
worked free, reaching the other side of the rocks with a little less skin than
first thing she noticed was the incredible calm inside the rocks compared with
conditions outside. You could see the sand swirling high into the air and hear
the surf crashing to the shore, but inside—nothing. Not so much as a breath of
air blew in. Complete calm, like the eye of a hurricane.
thing she noticed was a large rock pool the size of an average swimming pool. It
was round with raised and notched edges. Slimy green and red seaweed floated on
and the most important, there was no sign of Rory.
shouted Erin. No answer. Again she called him with no reply. Then like a ton of
bricks, it hit her. He must be in the rock pool. But if he is, by now he
would have…Harder and harder her heart thumped. She leant over the rock
pool and scooped out the seaweed, desperate to find her friend. Yet no matter
how much she pulled out, more appeared in its place.
she reached in to grab another handful, something stirred from beneath. “Ahhhh!”
she screamed at the top of her lungs. A hand burst through the water and locked
on to her wrist. With all her might she pulled; frantic to release herself from
the grip. It would not let go. Her heart pounded hard, ready to punch through
her chest. Then in a blink of an eye she slipped, catapulting head first into
the slimy kelp.
her hands worked overtime pulling at the mop of marine plant stuck fast to her
head, blocking her airways and sight.
she peeled off the last strand of seaweed, she twitched as Rory grinned back at
her. “You gave me an awful fright,” Erin gasped.
can breathe. I can breathe underwater,” declared Rory. His eyes glowed with
eyeballed him. “Stop it Rory! First you lead me on a wild-goose chase for an
old lady who can suddenly walk after fifty years. Then you frighten the life out
of me. Now you’re telling me you can breathe underwater.”
know it’s hard to believe, but I promise it’s true,” said Rory, picking
the seaweed out of his hair.
flicked her eyes down to the seaweed floating around her neck, then back at
Rory. He looked sincere. He never promised anything he didn’t mean and he had
been underwater for a long time.
there’s only one way to find out,” she said, pinching her nose. She took a
deep breath (just in case), and dived down through the seaweed.
was hard to make out any shapes in the murky water. A bright light, off in the
distance, flickered red rays of light back through the blackened space. As she
swam deeper, her eyes adjusted to the nebulous environment.
began to form in her chest as her lungs cried out for air. Still pinching her
nose, she opened her mouth and took a deep breath. She expected to choke on the
salty water. To her surprise she didn’t. Not a hint of a cough. It felt like
breathing in clean, fresh, cold air with a salty taste.
cold sensation rushed through her body; every limb, organ and vein was supplied
with oxygen, energy and power.
pain in her sore shoulder, injured in softball training yesterday, had
miraculously vanished. And although Doctor Kilpatrick had told her to rest it
for a least a month, it felt like she could send down one of her un-hittable,
lightning fast pitches right now.
Erin swam back to the surface. She hauled herself out of the water without any
pain in her shoulder.
was leaning against one of the huge rocks, his ear pressed to it, listening
while he tapped.
You frightened the life out of me,” moaned Rory, slapping his chest.
grinned. She owed him one. “So what are you doing?”
Did you do it? Did you breathe underwater? You were down there long enough.”
it’s a wonderful feeling isn’t it?”
is,” agreed Rory. “Did you feel the water surge through your body?”
my shoulder feels heaps better,” she said, prodding it.
brow creased as he leant back on the rock. “I didn’t feel anything like
that.” He tapped the rock. “Does that sound hollow to you?”
closer,” he said, guiding her head towards the rock. “Did you hear that?”
pressed her ear flat against the rock face. “No.”
sounded like a scratching noise. Like something trying to scratch its way
out.” Rory’s head jolted. “You must have heard it that time?”
and easy, Erin moved her head away from the rock, keeping sight of it out of the
corner of her eye. She tried to swallow quietly; instead a large gulp expelled
from her throat.
right; it does sound like something trying to get out. What do you think it
think we should go now Rory. I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Erin
whispered, backing away from where she’d been standing.
muffled giggle followed by a louder chain reaction of giggles erupted. Rory
dropped to his knees in stitches.
was you!” snapped Erin.
nodded. He rolled on the ground laughing, pretending to scratch the air. This
went on for some minutes until he caught sight of Erin’s cold stare.
should have seen your face,” teased Rory, wiping away the tears of laughter.
“You honestly believed there was something in there, while all along it was
eyes narrowed — her stare more intense.
stole the odd peep in between studying his toes.
sorry Erin. I didn’t mean to frighten you, I was...”
didn’t frighten me,” she said. “Well…maybe a little.” She could see
the funny side now. “Anyway I think we should be heading home now, it’s
the space of a couple of steps, Erin was overcome by a wave of nausea. She
crouched to the ground and vomited litres of the briny water she’d inhaled.
yeah, I forgot to mention that,” Rory said casually. “You may feel a touch
queasy after getting out of the water.”
lifted her eyes and glared at him, then wiped her mouth.
did the same thing. Must be something in the water,” he said in an
instant she stood up, Erin felt the pain return to her shoulder. “I thought it
was too good to be true,” she mumbled, forcing her way between the rocks.
they walked along the beach, Rory recounted how he’d fallen into the rock pool
when he’d tried to hide, and how he’d inhaled the water by accident.
interrupted, recalling her own experience in the murky pool. “Did you see a
light when you were down there?” she asked, picking a shell out of the sand.
I did now you mention it. A red light that flashed every so often.”
you see which direction the light came from?”
really.” Rory scratched his head. “Does it matter?”
don’t know. It’s weird enough that we could breathe underwater and that
there was any kind of light down there. Funny thing is though, the light
came from under the cliff.”
stopped and faced towards the rocks. He moved his arms around in different
directions, turning this way and that before he came to a stand still facing the
right!” he said, looking pleased with himself.
it didn’t exactly take Einstein to work that one out, did it?”
mind,” said Erin, rolling her eyes. “Not a word to anyone about this.
Don’t mention the rocks, the rock pool or any of it,” she said with a finger
to her lips and a stern expression.
okay, I get the picture.” Rory paused for a moment. “Can we tell Shaun?”
Erin hissed, crushing the shell in her hand. “Especially him! If my nosey
little brother finds out about this, the whole town will know.”
picked up another shell. She wiped off the sand and gave an almighty throw
towards the setting sun. Four times it skimmed the surface before it disappeared
into the rolling surf.
ya to the steps,” Rory called, as he sprinted across the wet sand, darting in
and out of the creeping water line.
knew she had no hope of catching up, even with him zigzagging. ‘Speedy
Gonzales’, was the name some of the kids at school had given him; firstly because
of his speed, and secondly because of his size. Not that he could be compared to
the size of a mouse, but he was quite small for his age. He was about the same
height as Shaun, who was three years younger.
looked down at her soaked and gritty clothes. Mum’s going to go berserk when
she sees me, she thought. Maybe I’ll just tell her I was taken unawares by a
freak wave, after all the surf has been a bit rough lately. Yeah, that’s what
waved when Rory reached the top of the steps, knowing they wouldn’t see each
other until tomorrow.
night Erin snuggled into bed. She wrapped herself in the quilt to form a
protective cocoon. The day’s events, together with the draft coming in through
the window, left her uneasy and cold.
drifted into a hazy sleep, full of dreams with visions you could reach out and
touch. In one of her dreams she was standing next to the rock pool. A feeling of
calm changed to one of fear. She could sense some kind of giant creature lurking
deep within the rock pool. An uncontrollable urge to jump in came over her. The
creature was summoning her. When the urge reached its peak, a simultaneous crack
came from the rocks around the rock pool, jolting her awake.
sat up panting and sweating. “It was only a dream,” she murmured, laying her
head back down on the pillow. “But it felt so real.”
gazed out of her window at the full moon. Doubts filled her. What had really
happened today? Did she really breathe underwater? It was hard to believe,
almost dream-like. The strange rocks, the underwater light — they did exist,
she was sure of it.
a grip so firm on the quilt that her knuckles went white, she pulled it around
to form a barricade from the fears that reverberated in her head. Outside on the
balcony, a breeze blew through her fairy wind chimes. The soothing sound gently
nursed her back into a deep peaceful sleep.
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