“Everyone stay calm,” shouted Sonny, although we were all just standing there in shock. The only one really panicking was Sonny’s horse, which he had tied to a large log. The terrified animal was trying to rip its reins free but looked more likely to break its own neck.
Sonny backed away from the ogre as it slowly lumbered towards us. “Looks like this is a fight you won’t be able to pass on.” He grinned at me. “No need to worry, we can handle this. No problemo. Just do what I tell you and we’ll teach this bastard to crash our barbie.” He pulled out his sword. “Right, everyone fan out. Form a line. Make sure to keep at least ten paces between you.”
We did as he instructed and spread out. The ogre stopped as we moved in different directions. Its head moved from side to side as it tried to decide who to go for first.
“Listen up!” said Sonny from slightly behind our line. “This is real simple. One person tries to attract its attention. When it starts moving towards that person, someone else on the other side starts making a ruckus so it moves over there. Rinse and repeat. You over there—” he pointed his sword at Maurice who was the furthest on the right “—give it a go.”
We had all seen how Grayson’s men had confused the ogre that attacked us on our first day, so we already had a good idea of how this was supposed to work.
Maurice raised his hands over his head and waved them. “Hey! Hey! Over here!”
The ogre let out a wa hoo and headed towards Maurice.
“Excellent,” said Sonny. “Now you over there, your turn.” His sword was pointed at Dudley.
Dudley raised one hand and in very quiet voice said, “Excuse me. Excuse me.”
“Come one, put a bit of effort into it. Your mate’s going to get eaten if you don’t.”
In a booming voice, Dudley called out. “I say! Hello? I’m talking to you, damn it.”
The ogre stopped and turned to face Dudley.
“Nice one,” said Sonny. “Now keep doing that while I sneak around behind him.”
Sonny walked around the back of our line as the ogre moved towards Dudley. It took a few steps, and then Maurice started calling it over to the other side. Everything appeared to be going to plan. Until I decided to join in.
I was in the middle of the line, with Flossie on my right and Claire on my left. Both girls looked pretty scared and happy to let Maurice and Dudley play ogre ping pong. I took a step forward and at the highest volume I could manage, I called out, “Wa hoooooo.”
The ogre immediately lost interest in the others and fixed its eyes on me. It’s hard to properly describe the face of something so hideous. Think of a boxer who should have retired from the ring a long time ago. Then make him play rugby. And give him a collapsed nose from doing too much cocaine. Now set his hair on fire so it only grows back in odd patches. That person would be Miss World compared to this monstrosity.
Maurice tried to attract the ogre’s attention by shouting. The ogre ignored him and kept coming towards me. Dudley joined in, but it made no difference. I backed away from the approaching behemoth. The girls also started hollering but I gave it another ‘wa hoo’ and the ogre started to pick up speed.
I had no idea why that sound attracted it. A challenge? An insult? A mating call? (God, I hoped it wasn’t the last one). Whatever it was, it definitely worked. I turned and ran, straight towards Sonny.
Sonny had managed to work his way out to the side of the clearing, probably planning to slip behind the trees and get behind the ogre without being seen. I had a different idea.
“Hey! No!” Sonny yelled when he saw me running in his direction. “Don’t bring it over here. Are you crazy?”
I could tell from his wild eyes and horrified expression he hadn’t been expecting this. He started running for the treeline. I followed him.
He must have thought I was also going for the trees to try and lose the ogre in the woods, so he veered sharply to the left. Of course, I wasn’t aiming for the trees, I was aiming for Sonny, so I also took a sharp left.
The thing about fancy leather armour with metal bands woven onto it is that it’s quite restricting. Not as much as say full plate armour, but still quite heavy. Me in my rags, on the other hand, allowed for a lot of free movement. I quickly caught up to Sonny, and kept pace alongside him.
“Come on, Sonny, “ I called out. “Keep up. Wa hoo!”
The ogre was charging across the clearing, closing in on us. With its breath on our necks, Sonny decided to take a chance and turned to throw his sword at the monster.
Had he been a real hero, I’m sure the sword would have flown straight into the ogre’s eye, killing it instantly. In this case, the ogre caught the sword in its massive hand, and tossed it away without breaking stride. However, what Sonny’s failed attempt to one-shot our pursuer did achieve was to give me the opportunity to throw myself onto the ground and roll out of the ogre’s sight. With only Sonny in front of it, the ogre made the very reasonable decision to focus on the git who’d thrown a sharp object at its head.
Sonny kept running, weaving this way and that, but the ogre wasn’t going to be shaken off so easily. Clearly tiring, Sonny led the ogre back towards the fire. I was way ahead of him, both in the field and in my head.
“Get to the trees,” I yelled at the others who didn’t need to be told twice. We had enough of a lead that there was no way Sonny would be able to catch up and pass the ogre onto us.
With no other option, Sonny headed towards his horse. The animal was rearing up and kicking the air, but it couldn’t get free of its mooring. Sonny got behind the horse and the ogre paused for a moment, before grabbing the horse like a cob of corn and sank its teeth into its belly.
The horse screamed and thrashed about for a bit before going limp. The ogre lifted its head and roared up at the starlit sky.
We watched from behind trees as it dragged the horse carcass to the river, where it crouched down. It ripped off the horse’s limbs and dipped them in the water before munching on them like chicken legs. Apparently food hygiene is a big thing with ogres. It seemed to have lost interest in Sonny and the rest of us.
The ogre was far enough away that we could grab our stuff and get out of there. We emerged from our hiding place and returned to the fire. Sonny was sat with his head in his hands. He looked up as we approached, his face smeared with tears. “You saw what he did!” he screamed. “He tried to get us all killed!”
Not entirely correct, but I couldn’t deny the accusation was sort of true. “I thought I’d do it to you before you did it to me. I mean that was how you got rid of the last bloke, right? Tim was it?”
Sonny stood up, incensed. “What are you talking about? I didn’t kill Tim. He was my mate.”
“Sure. And you said the horse was your best friend. Funny way to treat your best friend, feed it to an ogre so you can save yourself.”
“You really think horses are the same as people. Are you hearing this?” He turned to the others. “You’re not going to last ten minutes out here with this nutjob. Fuck this guy and come with me. I’ll make sure you’re alright, I promise you.”
I also turned to the others, ready for them to start shouting at me too. But they didn’t.
“The thing about Colin,” said Maurice, “is that he has a special ability.”
“What?” said Sonny. “Getting people killed?”
“No,” said Maurice, “it’s more like that movie, The Sixth Sense, you know the one?”
Sonny stared at him, baffled. I wasn’t too clear on what Maurice was going on about either. Since when could I speak to ghosts?
“Only,” continued Maurice, “instead of being able to see dead people, he can see dickheads. Like, from a mile away. Don’t know how he does it, really.”
“Far as I can tell,” said Claire, “it works off the basic principle of takes one to know one.”
“He’s a useful person to have around,” chipped in Flossie, “even if he’s real fookin’ annoying most of the time.”
Maurice started picking up his gear, as did the others. “So we’ll be sticking with him, for now.”
“Better the devil you know, and all that,” said Dudley.
It was strange hearing them talk about me. It made me realise they must have discussed these things when I wasn’t around, which in itself was a strange experience. I’ve never been too bothered about people speaking behind my back, because no one cared enough to do it. Most people weren’t aware of my existence, even when standing right next to me.
These people very definitely did know I existed. Was this how it felt to be part of a group? I didn’t know how I felt about this kind of relationship where people treated you like you mattered.
I didn’t hate it.
“You’re all crazy!” screamed Sonny. “You won’t get away with this. I’ll make sure of it.”
“You should go find your sword,” I said, pointing into the dark with my own sword. “I think it’s over there somewhere.”
“We should get going before the ogre decides it wants dessert,” said Maurice.
I nodded and grabbed my gear and we headed back to the road. It was dark and hard to see where we were going, but I just followed the person in front of me. They seemed to know the right direction.