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Chapter One ~ Flying Carpet
The one bad thing about flying off on a magic carpet was that I had to go with my twin sister. She got the celebrity name – Trinity. I got the boring name – Paul. And that just about sums up the whole of the fifteen years of our lives, really. I never thought about revenge, though, until I found the carpet.
Trinity has always had the best of everything. She has thousands of friends – well OK, that’s an exaggeration, but loads anyway, and she always gets everything she wants. If she asks and doesn’t get it first time, she wheedles it out of whoever another way, either sulking or making them feel guilty till they give in. Mostly she just helps herself without asking. If there’s only one bag of crisps, she’ll have it. She’s supposed to be attractive (according to most people), gets A*s for everything, and is captain of the school netball team. So yeah, my sister.
I never stood a chance, really, being the second twin. Being the second everything. I’m just ordinary – plain brown hair, short and a “bit plump” as my gran is often telling me. I can’t see much without my glasses and I’m useless at sport. I’m slightly dyslexic and drop balls. I just do. The only thing I’m good at is art, but hey, there you go. Life’s not fair, as my dad used to tell me before he left us for a job in Australia. That was two years ago. He might come back, but he’s got a girlfriend now, so he might not.
Anyway, I wanted to tell you about the flying carpet – well, it was the size of a large rug really, but magic rug doesn’t sound quite right. It was both stunning from an art point of view, and for once in my life . . . hang on, I’m going too fast. Let me start by telling you how I found it.
It was in our gran’s loft when we cleared out her house (she had to move into an old people’s flat with a lift because she can’t manage the stairs any more). I had to pass all the stuff down the rickety loft ladder to Trinity, because it was dirty up there and I always got the worst jobs. A bare light bulb hardly lit up the cobwebs, let alone the stuff beneath. It was freezing up there (it was last February), and the rafters were so low that I kept bumping my head.
I nearly died when I first climbed up and saw how much dusty old junk was up there. You should have seen it, piled up high, stretching away to every corner. My heart sank. What a way to spend a Saturday. We’d be here forever, I thought. I wondered where I was going to start, but it was obvious really – I had to start right there by the ladder because I couldn’t get any further in.
I’ll cut out telling you about all the tedious shifting and Trinity’s non-stop moaning and whining, and get straight to the point. The carpet was rolled up against the far brick wall, held up between a pile of chairs and a stack of boxes. I could see the blue wool on the edges, long before I could get to it – even then there was something about it. It was the only decent thing in the entire loft. Everything else was broken or rusty or mouldy or faded. I know this is going to sound strange, but the carpet seemed to be waiting there for me to find it. Even before I touched it, I felt kind of drawn towards it.
When I eventually did reach it, ages later, I unrolled the edge and stroked it. Tingles went up and down my spine. It was thick, warm, and attractive in an arty kind of way, with a soft pile, like real wool, in shades of blue. Even then, I knew that there was more to it than just the way it looked and felt. It was as if it wanted to tell me or show me something.
I was still feeling a bit wow, I can’t believe this, when Trinity yelled up the loft ladder. “What’s the matter slowmo?” Well I didn’t want her to know about the carpet, so I quickly rolled it back up, slid the whole thing behind a pile of tins of old paint, and carried on shoving the stuff down to her, you know the sort of things – old lampshades, battered old suitcases, and a whole mass of decorating stuff that must have been our granddad’s a very long time ago.
I waited for my moment. As soon as Trinity wandered off, moaning about her arms aching and needing a break, I unrolled the carpet and spread it out as best I could around the junk. Incredible it was, stunningly beautifully patterned, about the size of a double bed, looking perfect, not a bit dusty or moth eaten. And it wasn’t as heavy as you’d expect, either, which was strange.
Then of course Trinity turned up, peering up through the loft hatch, leaning on the ladder. “What have you found?” she asked.
“Nothing,” I said, but of course I had and she could see it.
“Liar,” she snarled, pulling herself up the last bit of the ladder and into the loft. “Ooh, it’s really disgusting up here,” she added, wrinkling her nose. “Bit like you really.” Then she turned to the carpet. “Hey, that must be worth a lot of money, I bet it’s a genuine Persian rug. Nice one,” she decided. “I could sell it.”
“But it’s not yours,” I objected. If Gran didn’t want it, I wanted it for myself. It’s not like it was trendy or anything, I just really liked it.
“It’s not yours either.”
“I found it.”
“Don’t be childish,” she said, looking down her nose at me. “I suppose you’re going to say finders keepers? Anyway, it’s Gran’s, and she’ll give it to me if I ask her for it.” As usual, I didn’t answer. I just sighed, knowing she was right. Trinity, being deliberately annoying as usual, sat down on the carpet. She looked up at me in her superior way, with her arms folded, secure in the knowledge that she had won again, because she always did.
Well, as I couldn’t get stuff down the ladder without her being there to hand it down to, I thought at least I might as well sit on the carpet once before it was taken away from me. So I stepped on to it and sat down.
Now this is going to be difficult to believe, but when I discussed it with Spencer afterwards (did I tell you he’s my best mate?), we agreed that nothing is impossible. Well evidently, because with the sound of whooshing, the carpet lifted off the floor. I remember Trinity’s horrified expression as we hovered for a minute over the ancient boards of the loft and the rest of Gran’s stuff that we hadn’t yet got downstairs, then somehow we must have slid through the roof because we were in the air outside and gliding through the clouds.
To be honest I don’t remember much about that first journey, except that Trinity screamed a lot. When we landed a few minutes later, she looked a bit of a wreck. I have to admit, I was a bit breathless too. I mean, one minute you’re in a dingy old loft in the freezing cold, the next you’re in warm bright sunshine, on a rough path in the middle of a field of sheep in the countryside.
The sudden silence of not whooshing through the air was kind of really loud, and the hot stillness of the air was like being put in an oven.
Looking quickly round, I thought it looked vaguely Mediterranean, from the trees and bushes. The sheep were an unusual breed, so I wondered if it might be a rare animal breeds farm, until I saw three girls with stone water jars chatting at a well, a short distance from where we had landed. Yes, a proper well, with a wooden bucket and a turn-the-handle thing, and troughs for the sheep to drink from. The girls were looking at us curiously, then they started giggling, like girls do. I noticed, with a start, that they were wearing clothes straight out of a history book. Trinity went off towards them, still looking a bit shaken, moaning about magic trips, and why her, then stayed by the well, which was a relief.
I stood there for a few minutes, looking round at everything, probably with my mouth open. I felt completely out of place in my jeans and old grey hoody, filthy from the stuff in the loft. All sorts of things were going round my mind, like, was this an interactive living museum sort of experience? Or maybe we’d stumbled on to a film set? My mind was reeling. Why had the carpet brought me and Trinity here, and what about going home?
I bent down to stroke the carpet and asked it, but there was no reply. Now I’ve written it, that does sound really stupid, but in my defence, it did feel like it had something to say to me. As I stood up, I got another shock. Two soldiers were striding over the hill, down towards me, in historical gear, complete with swords. I briefly wondered if I should run away, just in case they were for real, but it was too late; they’d seen me.