Complete the table of verb forms
Look again at The Happening (Ch16) and decide if these statements are true or false.
1. Alan’s mother was asleep for less than an hour.
2. Barlow came to see Alan’s mother while she was asleep.
3. Barlow visited Alan’s mother twice.
4. A soldier was with Barlow each time he visited Alan’s mother.
5. When Alan heard footsteps he recognized them.
6. Barlow was carrying a gun.
7. Alan took the weapon from Barlow.
8. Alan’s mother shot Barlow.
Match the words from The Happening (Ch16) with the meaning
|to groan||to go inside|
|to enter||to go towards|
|to nod||to make a noise that indicates unhappiness or pain|
|to approach||to take quickly|
|to notice||to look at something for a long time|
|to grab||to see that something is there, to become aware of something|
|to stare||to show approval|
The head nurse at Scullwell hospital went to the door and looked through its thick glass window. The rule was ‘Check the room first and then open’. Inside, everything looked normal. He turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open.
‘Please,’ he said to two men, one tall and one short but both in smart suits. The two men went in and he followed them.
‘What a lovely room,’ said the short one.
The head nurse smiled and locked the door behind them.
‘Lovely views too,’ said the tall one, looking out the windows.
Around them, men and women sat and talked or watched TV. A few stared beyond the bars on the windows to the garden outside and the bright flowers there.
‘Soon time for lunch, eh?” asked the short one.
‘Yes sir,’ replied the head nurse and looked at his watch.
‘So,’ asked the tall one, ‘what kind of patients do you have in here?’ ‘Well sir, most of them stay six months. After that, they are ready to…’
Suddenly, there was a noise at the door. All three men turned around. There, at the window, was the face of another nurse. It was red and sweaty. He unlocked the door quickly and came in.
‘Where’s Candy?’ he shouted. ‘She’s not in her room.’ ‘I thought she was with you,’ said the head nurse.
All four men looked at one another.
Candy was out.
With the wind in the trees and the noise of the London traffic rushing past, she just wanted to sit down in a quiet place and rest. But she did not stop. In her hand, she held a piece of newspaper tightly. It was an advert for a job – a job she really wanted. Luckily, she found 20p on the street and she used it to call the school and get an interview. The interview at was at 4pm and it was almost that time now.
Getting to the school was not easy. Along the way, she asked some people for directions, but most of them looked at her long purple hair, purple scarf and purple shoes and did not help her. Her feet hurt and he wanted to cry, but she kept on walking. Finally, an old woman gave her directions. ‘Turn left at the corner, dear,’ she said and pointed to the end of the street. She thanked the old woman. ‘Almost there,’ she thought. Right at the corner, there was a fish and chip shop. The sign above it said ‘Martin’s Fish Bar’. Lunchtime was over and now the shop was quiet. She stood at its open door and enjoyed the sharp smell from inside. She felt hungry. Breakfast was a long time ago, but she didn’t have time to eat. She walked on and turned left. A sudden gust of wind blew hard in her face, but there, above a huge wall, was the school. She pulled her purple scarf tightly around her neck. She needed to be brave.
She crossed the street and stood facing a high wall. Here was the school, but where was the entrance? She walked along one side of the wall then another. Finally, she saw a security camera above a metal door with a note on it.
The note said, ‘Press here and talk.’ It pointed to a button.
‘She pressed the button. ‘Hello,’ she said, ‘I’m here about the…’
‘Ms Pickles?’ asked a voice.
‘Yes, I’m here for the….’
‘Yes, yes!’ said the man’s voice. ‘You need to push the door hard.’
There was a buzz and then a loud ‘CLUNCK’. She gave the door a push. It opened and she went in. With a loud ‘CRASH’ it closed again.
No going back now!
Inside the school’s dining hall, two ladies in pink uniforms collected dirty plates and took them to the kitchen. Lunch finished twenty minutes ago and now it was their job to clean everything. They emptied the plates, put them in the dishwashers and went to fetch more from the tables. They did not pay much attention to the four people at the back of the room.
‘Ms Pickles,’ began the man, ‘you don’t have any cooking qualifications. Is that correct?’
This was Candy’s big chance. She wanted to work, to start again; but the man’s narrow, grey eyes and his small, sharp teeth frightened her.
‘Yes, I…eh…No…’ she said.
‘Oh, come on, Mr Tomkin!’ said the headmistress, a small woman with grey hair and glasses. ‘What about the last cook? She had lots of qualifications but her food was horrible!’
‘That’s right, headmistress,’ said Mrs Duffy, a tall woman with black, curly hair and a kind smile. ‘No one wanted to eat it. They all went to Martin’s fish and chips shop instead!’
‘But we need a COOK!’ said Mr Tomkin. ‘We need someone with experience. This young lady has no experience and no qualifications. None at all!’
The three interviewers looked at Candy.
‘I need to do something quickly,’ Candy thought. ‘I have an idea,’ she said.
‘What is it, my dear?’ asked the headmistress.
‘I want to cook a meal right now!’
The headmistress turned to the other two interviewers. ‘Well, what do you think? Mrs Duffy?’
‘Fine with me.’
He looked angry.
‘Mr Tomkin?’ asked the headmistress again.
‘Yes. Okay. Fine!’ he said, ‘But I hope the food is very, very good indeed.’
The headmistress turned to Candy and smiled. ‘This is your chance, Ms Pickles. Do your best.’
For the next hour, Candy mixed, chopped, baked and fried. At last, the meal was ready. Proudly, she brought the plates of food out of the kitchen and put them on the table in front of Mr Tomkin, the headmistress and Mrs Duffy.
Mr Tomkin looked at the food. His sharp nose twitched. ‘Smells wonderful,’ said Mrs Duffy.
‘But how good does it taste? ’ said Mr Tomkin.
All three began to eat.
‘Wow!’ said the headmistress.
‘Amazing!’ cried Mrs Duffy.
‘I think,’ said the headmistress, ‘that this is the best school food I’ve ever tasted.’
‘I completely agree,’ said Mrs Duffy.
Mr Tomkin nodded his head a little. ‘Not bad,’ he said quietly.
The headmistress stood up and offered her hand to Candy. ‘Congratulations, Ms Pickles. When do you want to start?’
The next day, Tuesday, was her first day on the job. The day was still dark – it was only 6am, but she did not care. She loved to cook. She loved to see people taste her food. Cooking was her hobby and now it was her job too. It was perfect! She went to the school’s kitchen and one of the cleaning staff let her in. She took off her coat and, with a smile on her face, began washing some vegetables.
But there was one small problem. She had no money. Nothing at all. Last night, she found an all-night café and sat in it most of the night. After a while, the owner told her to buy something or leave. She left. Then she went to a park, sat on a bench and waited for morning. She had stayed there the whole night.
Candy washed her hands and looked at her watch. It was nearly 7.30. ‘I need to speak to the headmistress,’ she thought. ‘I can’t sleep in a park again tonight.’ She left the kitchen and went to the headmistress’s office.
‘Sorry,’ said the headmistress’s secretary, ‘she isn’t here. Please come back later.’
Candy returned to the kitchen and stood beside the window. There was lots to do; and she began peeling and chopping hundreds of carrots, potatoes and leeks. When the dishwashers came into the kitchen and the bell for morning break rang, she did not hear either. She was in her own little world.
Suddenly, shouting filled the air. She looked out the kitchen window: a fight. ‘No!’ she called, ‘Stop!’
The two dishwashers turned and stared at her.
‘They’re fighting,’ she said and pointed to two boys in the playground. The dish- washers continued to drink their tea. One said, ‘It happens all the time, dear. Don’t worry about it.’ She looked out the window again. Now there was a crowd around the two boys. ‘Don’t go out there,’ said the other dishwasher, ‘it’s not safe.’
But she didn’t care. She ran past the dishwashers and out of the kitchen. A moment later, she was in the playground. She pushed her way through the crowd and reached the two boys at its centre. ‘Stop,’ she yelled. ‘STOP!’
Everyone froze and looked at her.
‘She’s got a knife,’ someone whispered. Candy looked at her hand. In it was the heavy knife for cutting vegetables. It shone in the sunlight. She looked at the two boys who had been fighting. One had short, blonde hair and a grin on his face. The other was tall with ginger hair and glasses. She watched a trickle of blood run down the tall boy’s nose and drip onto the ground. No one moved or said a word. Then a door slammed and someone came out the staffroom.
‘What’s going on?’ shouted Mr Tomkin, walking quickly across the playground. ‘Ms Pickles?’
‘It was a fight,’ she said. ‘I saw it and I came out of the kitchen to…’
‘With a knife?’ asked Mr Tomkin.
‘I didn’t mean to bring it. I just…’ said Candy.
‘Pugman!’ said Mr Tomkin to the boy with blonde hair. ‘You again!’
Billy Pugman pointed to the other boy. ‘He started it. He said Manchester United were rubbish.’
‘So you hit him?’
‘Yeah, I smacked him. So what?’ He smiled and stuck his hands in his pockets.
‘My office,’ said Mr Tomkin. He looked at the other boy. ‘Are you alright Collins? Do you need to go to the nurse?’
‘No, I’m fine sir,’ he said and picked up his school bag.
‘And you, Ms Pickles,’ said Mr Tomkin, ‘please put down that knife!’
Candy lowered the knife and stared at Billy Pugman. He stared straight back. Then he turned and began to walk towards Mr Tomkin’s office. She watched him go. ‘What a project,’ she thought; and from her pocket, she pulled out a handkerchief and gave it to the boy with the blood on his face.
‘I really need to speak to the headmistress,’ she said to herself, ‘and not just about some money.’
But first, it was lunchtime.
It was now 2.30pm. Lunch finished an hour ago and she still felt happy about watch- ing all the children eat her food. She took off her apron: now it was time to talk to the headmistress. She said goodbye to the dishwashers and left the kitchen. Soon, she was in the headmistress’s office outside her door. She knocked and went in.
‘Oh, hello Ms Pickles,’ said the headmistress, ‘How are you? I heard lunch was a great success.’
‘Well, please come in.’
She closed the door behind her and took a seat. She felt tears coming to her eyes. ‘What can I do for you?’ asked the headmistress.
‘I don’t have anywhere to stay and I need some money,’ she said in one, big breath. The headmistress stared at her.
‘I slept in a park last night and…and…I was so cold and…’ She began to cry.
The headmistress jumped out of her seat. ‘My dear, I had no idea!’ She pulled some tissues out of a box and gave them to her. ‘Wait here,’ she said and left the room. There were voices outside. A moment later, the headmistress returned. ‘Look, she said, ‘take this.’ In her hands, she had two hundred pounds. ‘Is that enough?
‘Thank you…It’s all I need for the moment. You’re very kind…’
‘Well then,’ said the headmistress, ‘you can pay the money back at the end of the month. That’s two weeks from now. You get your salary then. Is that alright?’
‘Yes. Thank you.’ She dried her face.
‘Now, is there anything else I can help you with?’ asked the headmistress.
‘Yes….is there much….fighting at the school?’ she asked and she twirled a long strand of her purple hair in her fingers.
The headmistress was silent for a moment. ‘What a strange question,’ she finally said. ‘Actually, yes there is far too much fighting and bad behaviour.’
‘And is Billy Pugman…..often in fights?’
‘Billy Pugman!’ cried the headmistress. ‘He’s the worst of the lot! He fights with ev- erybody over anything! You know, we have at least six or seven fights a week here and Billy Pugman’s usually in four of them! Sometimes, we need to…
But she did not listen to the headmistress.
Instead, she just smiled and thought ‘He’s perfect!’
That night, she found a room near Euston train station. It was small and not very clean, but it was cheap and not too far from the school.
‘Give me fifty quid now and the rest at the end of the month,’ said the landlord. She agreed and paid him the money.
After the landlord left, she counted the money in her pocket. She had one hundred and fifty pounds left. There was no time to waste. Near the train station, she found a chemist and a grocers shop. She bought all the things that she needed and returned to her room. She began working. Soon, there were pots – lots of pots – bubbling and boiling on her cooker. She added powders and liquids from dark jars to the pots. She watched, she stirred and she sniffed. Then she began to empty one pot into another. Soon, just one pot remained on the cooker. For hours she watched it.
Finally, just before 5 am, the pot began to shake. Suddenly, there was a loud bang and a puff of yellow smoke rose into the air. She jumped back and opened a window. Cold morning air came in and the yellow smoke cleared away. She picked up a spoon and took some of the liquid from the pot. She looked at it and smiled.
The liquid from the pot was deep, deep purple.
Lunchtime on Wednesday.
Inside the dining hall, all the tables were full. Every time Candy looked up, more chil- dren came in. Everyone looked happy and she felt great. She listened to a conversa- tion at a table near the kitchen.
‘Brilliant grub,’ said a tall boy with brown hair.
‘Yeah,’ agreed his friend. ‘I am never going to the fish and chip shop again!’
Then Billy Pugman walked in.
‘At last,’ Candy thought. She watched him push his way to the front of the queue and stand in front of her. ‘Good morning, Billy. What can I get you,’ she asked.
Billy’s blue eyes cut into hers. ‘What’s this muck here?’ he asked and pointed to an omelette. ‘Looks like a dog’s breakfast.’
She took an empty plate and picked up a large spoon. ‘Do you want to try some?’ she asked.
‘No chance!’ he replied. ‘Gimme some of that,’ he said and pointed to a steak pie full of meat and rich gravy.’
She put a big slice of it on his plate. ‘Anything else?’ she asked. ‘Yeah, gimme some chips.’
Now was her chance.
‘Oh dear,’ she said, ‘these ones here are a bit cold. Let me get you some fresh ones,’ and she swung around and disappeared through the kitchen doors. In a flash, she put two drops of the purple liquid onto Billy’s steak pie and stirred them into the gravy.
Back outside, she gave Billy his plate. ‘Enjoy!’ she said.
‘Yeah, right!’ said Billy and went to find a seat.
That night, she found it difficult to sleep. She kept thinking about Billy Pugman. ‘Did it work?’ she kept wondering. ‘Did I use enough of my formula? ’ Finally, the morn- ing came and she got up early and went to the school.
As usual, she worked beside the window in the kitchen. There were carrots to chop, swedes to smash and potatoes to peel and they all took so much time to do. Slowly, the sun rose between grey clouds. At around 8.15, the first children came through the security door and by 8.45 most of the children were in the playground.
She looked and looked for Billy, but there were so many children and none of them stayed in the same place for a second!
Soon, it was 9am. The bell sounded and the children began to gather in their class lines. There were still a few boys with a football and lazily they kicked it from one to the other. Suddenly, one of the boys gave it a huge kick and it soared over his friend’s head and flew towards one of the lines.
‘WHUMP!’ it landed right on top of someone’s head and knocked the person to the ground. Suddenly, people began to run in all directions and a space opened up around the person on the ground. ‘What’s happening,’ she wondered. Then she understood. It was Billy Pugman’s head and it was Billy Pugman on the ground. ‘Now we’ll see,’ she whispered. In a flash, Billy jumped to his feet and looked around.
Who is he going to tear apart?
Who is going to be Billy Pugman’s next victim?
The whole school wanted to know.
But Billy Pugman brushed the dirt from his trousers and quietly took his place in the line again.
‘Interesting,’ she thought. ‘Very interesting.’
That lunchtime, the line stretched from the dining room door, across the playground, and along the wall. Everywhere in the queue, the talk was about food. They guessed about starters! They wondered about main course! They wished about pudding! It was food, food and more food!
Inside the kitchen, the headmistress, Mr Tomkin and Mrs Duffy stood at the window and looked out. ‘My goodness Ms Pickles,’ said the headmistress. ‘What a queue! You are a star!’
‘Thank you,’ said Candy.
‘The kids just love your food. We all do!’ said Mrs Duffy.
Mr Tomkin said nothing.
‘What’s for lunch?’ asked the headmistress.
‘For starters, we have chicken soup or a potato salad. For main course, we have brown rice…’
‘Oh stop!’ cried Mrs Duffy. ‘Let’s just go and eat!’
The headmistress laughed. ‘Yes, come along. Let’s leave Ms Pickles alone. She has a lot to do and we are in the way.’
Candy followed the three of them out of the kitchen and into the service area with all its trays of delicious, fresh food. Quickly, the headmistress, Mrs Duffy and Mr Tomkin went to the head of the queue. They chose their food, pushed their way through the busy dining hall to the staff table and began eating. At once, their eyes opened wide and big smiles spread across their faces. All around, it was the same story. Happy faces, lots of eating and plenty of empty plates!
Candy looked at the service area and noticed a tray with one of the main courses, the beef with red peppers and brown rice, was almost empty. Quickly, she went into the kitchen and brought out a fresh tray.
‘Good morning!’ said a voice.
She looked up.
It was Billy Pugman.
‘Good morning, Billy. How are you?’
‘Fine thanks. How are you?’ Beside him, two boys suddenly stopped talking and stared at Billy with their mouths wide open.
‘I’m very well, thank you.’
‘The beef looks great,’ Billy said.
‘Do you want some?’
‘Yes, please!’ He gave her his plate.
Now the mouths of the boys at the table next to Billy fell open too. More people be- gan to listen and watch.
‘Here you are,’ she said and handed Billy the dish. ‘I hope you enjoy it.’
‘Thank you so much,’ said Billy.
A hundred eyes in the dining hall followed him to a table. What next?
He stepped up to a table of silent boys. ‘Is it okay to sit here?’ he asked and pointed to an empty seat.
One of them slowly nodded his head.
‘Thanks,’ said Billy and smiled. He picked up his fork and began to eat his food.
Suddenly, everyone began to talk at once. ‘Did you see that? What is going on? Ev- eryone wanted to know.
At the staff table, the headmistress and Mrs Duffy did not see a thing. They were too busy eating and talking about Ms Pickles and her great food.
But not Mr Tomkin.
His sharp, grey eyes noticed everything.
The next day, Friday, she finished cutting the potatoes and went outside for some fresh air. From a grey sky, a few drops of rain fell here and there, but it was not cold. Some children saw her and waved.
‘What’s for lunch, Miss?’ they shouted.
‘Wait and see,’ she called back and loosened her purple scarf around her neck. It was almost nine o’clock. She stood beside the wall and watched the schoolchildren slowly go into their class lines.
This time, it did not take her long to find Billy Pugman. At the end of one line near the gym hall, with his big fists quietly at his sides and a gentle smile on his face, he stood and waited.
‘Good,’ she said quietly, ‘very good.’
Out came Mr Tomkin from the main building.
‘Good morning everyone,’ he called.
‘Morning, sir,’ replied the children.
‘Today, we have a special guest and we are going to go to the gym hall to listen to him.’
‘Yeah!’ cheered the children. They loved having guest speakers.
Suddenly, a police officer stepped out of the main building and stood beside Mr Tomkin.
‘This is Sergeant Roberts and….’ Just then, Mr Tomkin caught sight of their new cook’s face. It was as white as snow. ‘What is happening? Why is she looking so afraid? He finished his sentence: ‘…the sergeant is going to talk about road safety today. Please go the gym and sit down.’ He decided she was just strange and began walk towards the gym hall with all the other children.
But not Sergeant Roberts. Now he stood on the steps of the main building and stared hard at her. She stood completely still. ‘Oh, no,’ she thought, ‘he is trying to
remember. Please don’t remember.’ Then the sergeants faced changed. His eyes be- came wide and his mouth dropped open: the poster on the wall in the police station. The woman from Scullwell! He took a step forward, but it was already too late.
In a flash, she was across the playground and at the security door. She took a quick look at dining hall behind her and ran into the street. The security door closed behind her.
The surprise stopped Sergeant Roberts from moving; but only for a moment. He dropped his hat and ran after her. He was just seconds behind. He pulled the security door open and ran into the street. His mouth dropped open. He looked one way, then the other. He ran to Martin’s Fish Bar and looked up that street. Nothing. He turned around and began to run all the way around the wall, but she was not there. ‘Now what do I do?’ He thought about the poster in the police station – about the informa- tion on it. ‘I must warn them,’ he said and rushed back to the security door. It was still half-open. He looked down. On the ground, between the door and the lock, was a long purple scarf.
Sergeant Roberts ran to the gym hall. At the same time, he spoke on his radio. ‘The Scullwell woman. She was here,’ he shouted. Inside the hall, he ran to Mr Tomkin and pulled him outside.
‘What’s going on? What are you doing?’ he cried.
‘That young woman – the one with this purple scarf – what did she do here?’ asked the Sergeant.
‘Ms Pickles?’ asked Mr Tomkin, ‘She was the school cook. Why? What’s happening?’
‘Oh no,’ cried the sergeant and called his station again. ‘Bring ambulances,’ he shout- ed into the radio. ‘We need ambulances here immediately.’
‘What’s going on?’ shouted the headmistress and she ran out the main building to- wards the two men. ‘I’m the headmistress of this school and I saw Ms Pickles run away. What happened?’
‘That woman,’ replied the policeman, ‘is dangerous.’ ‘What?’ said the headmistress.
‘She escaped from Scullwell mental hospital last week. In her diary, we found her plans to poison a whole school.’
‘I knew it. I was right about her! I didn’t trust her one little bit,’ said Mr Tomkin.
‘Be quiet,’ said the headmistress sharply. She turned to the sergeant. ‘This can’t be true.’
‘I’m sorry, but it is, madam,’ said Sergeant Roberts. ‘She said she discovered a peace formula.’
‘A peace formula?’ asked the headmistress.
‘That’s right,’ replied the policeman. ‘Before she went mad, she was a scientist. She worked for the government. She said her formula changed nasty people into good people.’
Mr Tomkin’s eyes grew wide. The headmistress smiled.
The policeman continued. ‘She told everyone she wanted to try the formula in a school.’
Mr Tomkin and the headmistress stared at Candy’s scarf. In their minds, they saw Billy Pugman – the new, kind and gentle Billy Pugman.
‘She is completely mad,’ said Sergeant Roberts. Suddenly he stopped and looked at Mr Tomkin. ‘Are you alright, sir?’ he asked. ‘You look…a little strange.’
Mum groaned when I gently shook her. ‘Are you okay?’ I asked.
Slowly, Mum raised her head and looked at me through tired eyes. ‘How long was I asleep?’
‘A while – hours.’
Mum felt her arm. There was a red mark where the needle had entered it.
‘We have to get out of here,’ I said.
Mum nodded her head. ‘I know. I know.’ She thought for a moment. ‘Has Barlow been to check on me?‘
‘Twice,’ I replied.
Mum sat up, her eyes brightening. ‘Does he come alone?’
‘Not the first time – a soldier came with him – but the second time he was…‘ As I spoke a metal door banged and footsteps approached our cell. It was Barlow: I now recognized the noise of his small steps. ‘It’s him,’ I whispered.
Mum lay back down on her bed and closed her eyes. ‘Trust me,’ she said quickly.
The door opened and Barlow came into the cell. He was alone. He didn’t even look at me. He went straight over to mum. I noticed that he was wearing a holster and I could see the silver steel and brown handle of a pistol. He picked up mum’s left hand and felt for her pulse. He looked at the watch on his wrist shaking his head. He looked bored. I saw mum open one eye slightly. She moved like lightening. She sat up, grabbed at the pistol and pushed Barlow away from her. Barlow fell onto his backside, his short legs flying upwards pointing into the air. He made a small yelp when he landed and then lay perfectly still. He stared at the pistol pointing straight in his face.
‘Alan,’ said mum calmly, ‘close the door.’
Mr. Green picked up the bird gently. ‘How are you today, my dear?’ he asked. He looked at her black and white face. Usually, her eyes were bright, and she held her head high. Today, her eyes were dull and her head rested against his hand. The bird’s name was Sally, his favourite. She didn’t always win races, but she always came back home. Last year, in a race in Scotland, a snowstorm killed many of the birds; and in the end, only four returned. Sally was one of them. Mr. Green looked away. From the top of his building, there was a good view of the city’s streets, but there was no one on them. He turned to the vet beside him.
‘Soon, all my birds are going to die. Then I’ll have nothing,’ Mr. Green said.
The vet stood with his back to the other sick birds. A strong wind pulled at his clothes and hair. He felt sad: Mr. Green was an old man with no wife or children, and he loved his birds.
‘I can bring medicine for them,’ he said. ‘Do you want me to do that?’
‘Of course I do,’ said Mr. Green angrily. The vet nodded. ‘It’s expensive.’
‘Don’t worry about the price. I can pay,’ said Mr. Green, but he didn’t look at the vet’s face.
The vet said nothing. He knew Mr. Green was lying.
Downstairs in his small flat, Mr. Green sat at his kitchen table. He thought about Sally, the vet and money for the medicine. ‘What am I going to do?’ he said sadly. In his hand, he held a letter from his bank. He stared at the number at the bottom of it: there was just £20 in his account. He thought about his brother Albert. ‘Perhaps I can get some money from him’. But then he thought again. ‘No, he isn’t going to give me any money. He isn’t talking to me.’ Suddenly, the letterbox opened and closed noisily. ‘Another bill!’ thought Mr. Green. He put down the letter from the bank and went to the door. On the carpet sat a white envelope. He tore it open angrily and read it. Then he read it again. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
Dear Mr. Green,
I am writing about a job at Birnam Wood School. Birnam Council is happy to offer you a job as a janitor at the school for the summer holidays. The school is empty right now so your job is to make sure everything is secure. Can you start immediately?
Yours sincerely, Malcolm Thane
Mr. Green was so happy. He was a good janitor. He had lots of experience and he enjoyed his job. ‘Now I can make some money and save my birds,’ he thought. He called the vet and told him the good news. Next, he went to his neighbour, John. His son was happy to feed Mr. Green’s birds for a few weeks.
They entered Birnam Wood School’s car park at 8.30 in the evening.
‘£12 please,’ said the taxi driver. Mr. Green had a twenty-pound note in his pocket. He paid the taxi driver and took the £8 change. ‘Best of luck with the new job,’ said the driver.
‘It’s only for a few weeks, but thanks anyway,’ said Mr. Green. He watched the taxi climb the small hill up to the east gate and turn right towards the distant town. Soon the noise of its engine disappeared completely and he was alone. He turned and looked at the school’s east building. Its rows and rows of empty classrooms stared silently back.
To his left, on a red sky, he saw a chimney. He began walking towards it. Soon, he reached two buildings. Out the top of the large one, the chimney rose high into the air. ‘The boiler room,’ thought Mr. Green. Next to it, there was a small, square building. A few days before, a single key had arrived in the mail. Now he took that key from his pocket, opened the door and switched on the light. Inside was a dark room with a small bed and an electric cooker. Next to the door, there was a key ring with several other keys on it. There was also a window, but it was small and high up. Next door, in an even smaller room, there was a toilet and a sink. ‘Well, at least it is clean,’ Mr Green said, taking some soap and a towel from his bag. He lay down on the bed and closed his eyes. He thought about the food that he had in his bag. ‘I must make some dinner soon,’ he said sleepily.
Mr. Green opened his eyes. The room was dark. He looked at the bright hands on his watch. It was 3 o’clock in the morning. Something was wrong. Why did he wake up? Did something happen? He tried to remember. Was it a bad dream? Was it his usual dream? He didn’t think so. Above him, at the small window, there was only darkness. Was he hungry? He thought about making a cup of tea – that always made him feel better. He was about to stand up when there was a knock at the door. Mr. Green’s heart jumped. He didn’t move. A minute passed, then three more.
‘Stupid old man,’ he said. ‘You imagined it. You are still half asleep. What you need is a nice cup of tea.’ He swung his legs off the bed and reached for the light switch.
Mr. Green jumped. There was someone at the door. He hit the light switch. His eyes opened wide: the door’s handle was beginning to turn.
‘Who’s there?’ he shouted. ‘Who’s there?’ he said again. Was this real? He had only one choice. He grabbed the handle and pulled opened the door. There, at his feet, lay feathers.
Mr. Green put his pipe in his pocket and watched the morning sun climb above the east building. He thought about last night and the feathers. ‘Probably a bird hit my door and flew away,’ he thought. Anyway, it was not important. Today was the first day of his new job. He went into the small room next door. Taking out a brush, a shovel and some bags, he walked over to the east gate. ‘Just look at all these leaves,’ he said to himself. ‘It’s time to clean up this place.’ He put his pipe and matches on a windowsill and started sweeping. He worked hard and after two hours, there were eight piles of leaves. ‘I can put the leaves into bags later, but first I need a drink.’. He went back to the boiler room and had a long, cool glass of water. On the way back to the east building, he heard something. Was it laughter? He reached the east building and turned the final corner towards the car park. He stopped and stood still. The piles of leaves were not there. Instead, the leaves were all over the ground again. He looked around. ‘Who did this?’ he shouted.
No one answered. He turned and reached for his pipe and matches. Gone. Where were they? Now he was really angry. ‘What’s going on?’ he shouted. ‘Who took them?’ Suddenly, he saw something in the classroom in front of him. He knelt down and crept up to the window. Slowly, he raised his head and stared into the dark room. There, at the back of the room, he saw someone, but only for a second. ‘Hey!’ he shouted, ‘Come back here!’ and he ran to the main east entrance. He pulled the door. It did not open. Taking out his keys and unlocking it, he found himself in the middle of a long corridor. It was long and dark with lots of doors. Ahead of him, stairs rose to the first and second floors. He listened carefully but heard only his own breathing. ‘I want my pipe,’ he said to himself. ‘Where did that kid go? He must be here somewhere.’ Suddenly, someone laughed. It came from a classroom nearby. He stepped up to the room’s door – and the door swung slowly open.
‘Who’s in there?’ he said.
But the room was empty.
That night, Mr. Green had his usual dream.
In the dream, it was 8.41am two years ago. He was at Crosslanes primary school and again the playground there was full of noisy kids. He watched them run, laugh and play. ‘They have nothing to worry about, nothing at all,’ he thought. Then he saw Mr. Allen, the Year 5 teacher, on his bike. As usual, he wore a white helmet and a bright red jacket. He cycled past the football matches and crazy games and stopped at the bike shed. Mr. Green nodded hello.
‘Not long to the holidays now,’ said Mr. Allen and got off his bike. He pulled off his helmet and put a chain around the bike’s front wheel.
Mr. Green smiled and closed the door to his janitor’s office. The office was next to the bike shed and he and Mr. Allen often talked there in the mornings.
‘Are you going anywhere nice?’ asked Mr. Green. ‘Joan and I are off to France for a bit of cycling,’ said Mr. Allen and finished locking his bike.
Joan was Mr. Allen’s wife. On rainy days, she brought Mr. Allen to school in their big, red car. Mr. Green didn’t know much about her but he knew that she worked at Birnam Council and that she liked jewellery. He often saw her wearing long, silver earrings and big, expensive rings.
‘Does Joan enjoy all that cycling?
‘She loves it,’ said Mr. Allen and laughed.
‘Not too many hills, I hope!’ said Mr. Green.
Mr. Allen smiled. ‘Just a few small ones! And how about you? Are you going anywhere for the summer?’
Mr. Green shook his head. ‘I have my birds, and anyway I must watch this place.’
Mr. Green woke up. Outside, a bird sang loudly at the small window and flew away. He looked at his watch. It was 6 a.m. He pulled the blanket off and stepped out of bed. He felt tired and sad: he always did after that dream. He didn’t feel hungry and he didn’t want breakfast. He needed to work and take his mind away from the past. He thought about his job now. ‘What can I do today?’ he thought. Then he had an idea: the boiler. ‘I’ll start the boiler.’ It was always a good idea to start a boiler for a little while, even in summer, to make sure it was working well. He dressed quickly and went next door.
Inside the boiler room, the huge machine sat silently. There were many buttons, but Mr. Green used one of these machines when he worked at Crosslanes primary. He began pressing some of the buttons and soon the machine was working. ‘It seems fine, but perhaps it needs to run for 24 hours,’ he thought to himself. Closing the boiler room door behind him, he stepped outside and looked up. Black smoke from the boiler rose slowly from the chimney and darkened the clear air. Inside his room again, he sat on his bed. An image of Sally, his favourite bird, came into his head. ‘I wish there was a telephone here,’ he said to himself. ‘I could call John and find out about her.’ Next door, the machine for the boiler made a deep hum and the bed shook a little. He looked up at the little window. Beyond it, the sky was clear and blue, but there was one small, white cloud. He stared at it. He did not have a mobile phone but he wanted to call his neighbour, John. Suddenly, he had an idea. ‘There must be a telephone in the school’s office,’ he said, feeling happy for the first time that morning.
Outside, he walked to the west building and pulled out the keys. He chose a small one and put it into the lock. There was a ‘click’ and the door opened. ‘That was lucky!’ he said. Inside, there was another door. He pushed it open. There was a corridor and some stairs. ‘Usually offices are upstairs,’ he thought. He climbed the stairs.
On the second floor, he found more empty classrooms and a staff room. ‘No phone here,’ he said and continued to the third floor. There, at the top of the stairs, sat a reception desk with offices behind it. There was also a black leather sofa and four chairs around it. He walked up to the desk and saw a red phone. ‘Great,’ he said and picked it up. He listened. There was no tone. It didn’t work. He slammed it down and looked for another in the offices. But for every phone, it was the same: no tone. None of them worked.
He sat down on the black leather sofa. ‘Now what?’ he said to himself. ‘I don’t have a mobile phone and there isn’t a public phone around here. How can I….’ He stopped and stared. He could not believe his eyes. There, on the little table in front of the sofa, was an old newspaper from two years ago. Mr. Green recognized it immediately. Above a black and white photograph of the burned classrooms, the headline said, ‘Teacher Killed as Fire Destroys Classrooms’.
Mr. Green stared.
There was another picture – of Mr. Green. The headline said, ‘Janitor questioned by police over fire.’
‘Where did this come from? Why is it…?’ shouted Mr. Green, but he didn’t finish his question. The sound of footsteps stopped him.
There was someone on the stairs.
Mr. Green jumped up from the sofa. ‘Who’s there?’ he said.
The footsteps stopped.
A cloud passed across the morning sun and the room darkened. Suddenly, Mr. Green felt cold.
‘Don’t you know me, old man?’ said a low voice from the stairs.
‘Who are you? Is this some kind of joke?’ He tried to sound strong but he couldn’t. He wanted to walk over to the stairs but his whole body felt weak.
‘Who am I?’ asked the voice angrily. It paused. ‘You know me…don’t pretend you don’ t.’
‘What do you want? Tell me!’ shouted Mr. Green.
The voice spoke again. ‘Do you dream about it?’ it asked.
Mr. Green felt ill. There was a pain in his chest. He sat down on the sofa. ‘Yes…’ he whispered, ‘I dream about it all the time.’
‘It was your fault. The emergency exit door didn’t open. You didn’t repair it. That was your job!,’ screamed the voice.
‘It wasn’t my fault. It was an accident….’ Now the pain in his chest was terrible. Suddenly a small, dark object flew through the air and landed on the ground next to Mr. Green. He looked down at it and began to cry. It was the body of Sally, his favourite bird.
Detective Inspector Duncan stepped out of the police car. It was another beautiful morning and already it was quite hot. He looked up at the deep blue sky. In the distance, high up, he saw some tiny shapes. Slowly the objects grew larger. ‘Racing pigeons,’ he said finally. ‘Where are they going?’ Suddenly, the birds turned away and flew towards the west at full speed. He watched them go and soon the sky was empty once again.
‘Sir? The sergeant is waiting for you upstairs,’ said a constable.
Detective Inspector Duncan nodded. ‘Back to work,’ he thought and climbed the stairs to the third floor.
‘Morning, sir,’ said the sergeant there.
‘Good morning,’ replied Inspector Duncan and stared at the body on the sofa.
‘We found him a few hours ago,’ said the sergeant.
‘How did he die?’ asked Duncan.
‘The doctor said heart attack, probably.’
‘Who is he?’
‘His name is Green, sir. I found a letter in his pocket and there’s also the newspaper.’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Duncan.
The sergeant pointed to the newspaper on the table and the photograph. ‘It’s the same person,’ he said.
‘I see,’ said Duncan, ‘and how did we find him?’
‘The school’s headmistress called us. She saw smoke from the chimney and came to the school.’
‘Smoke from the chimney?’
‘Yes, sir. Mr. Green started the boiler.’
‘How do you know?’
‘We found his clothes in a room next to the boiler and we found keys to the boiler room in his pockets.’
‘So was he the janitor here?’
‘Well,’ said the sergeant, ‘that’s the strange thing. The letter was a job offer and it came from a Mr. Thane at Birnam County Council. We called the council but Malcolm Thane doesn’t work for them. There is no Malcolm Thane. The letter’s a fake.’
‘That is strange,’ agreed Duncan. ‘We have a dead man in an empty school. We have a fake job offer and we have a newspaper from two years ago with a picture of Mr. Green in it.’ He scratched his head. ‘We even have a dead pigeon….so where did he get the school keys from?’
‘We don’t know, sir. Usually the keys are with the headmistress and Birnam Council.’
The inspector breathed in deeply. ‘Do we have any witnesses?’
‘Not really, sir.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Coming here, the headmistress said she almost crashed into a car. It came from the school car park,’ replied the sergeant.
‘I see. Did she get the license plate?’
‘Did she know the driver?’
‘Can she tell us anything about the car?’
‘Yes, sir. It was red.’
‘Anything else?’ asked Inspector Duncan.
‘Yes, we found this on the stairs,’ said the sergeant and held up a clear plastic bag
‘Whose is that, I wonder?’
The sergeant did not know. Inspector Duncan took the plastic bag from him.
Inside it was a long, silver earring with a red stone in the centre.
Where was my mum? Days passed and still there was no visit from her. Time moved so slowly. I slept, I woke up, the guards brought me food, doors banged, dogs barked, I stared at the walls, I worried. Then another day would begin. When my door opened and two soldiers pulled me to my feet, I guessed that more than a week had passed. They took me to a laboratory where Barlow and my mum sat opposite each other at a table.
‘Alan! Come in and sit down,’ said Barlow, smiling. I took a seat and looked at my mum. She didn’t even look at me. She looked tired. Her hair was a mess and she had black rings under her eyes. There were handcuffs on her wrists and marks on her face. ‘Your mum didn’t want to help me, Alan,’ said Barlow, his smile disappearing. ‘And because of that, things took a little time.’ Barlow stared hard at my mother’s bowed head; then he leaned across the table towards me. ‘Do you know you are special?’
I didn’t know what he meant.
Barlow stood and went over to a row of test tubes. ‘You don’t, do you?’ he said. With his back turned, he picked up a tube that held a green liquid.
I looked at mum but she kept staring at Barlow, a look of horror filling her eyes.
Barlow held the test tube up. ‘This,’ he said, ‘was made from your blood. I haven’t named it yet, but I will.’ He picked up a syringe and filled it with the green liquid.
My mother was sobbing, quietly.
‘My dear boy, you hold the key to…everything. Thanks to the little chat I had with your mother, I know that she injected you with T-Vax9 and then something happened, something…extraordinary.’
Barlow slowly walked over to my mum. He nodded and the soldiers who brought me took hold of my mum’s arms – one each – and lifted them onto the table. Barlow rolled up her sleeve. ‘Alan, your blood made its own antidote to Taxin. You don’t need T-Vax9 – not like I do, not like your mother does. He’s a special little fellow, isn’t he?’
My mother stared at him, her eyes wide with fear.
Barlow squirted some of the liquid out from the end of the needle. ‘It’s taken some time to develop and now I need to test it on a human.’ Barlow looked at me. ‘And who better to test it on than the person who started all of this?’ Swiftly, Barlow plunged the needle into my mum’s arm, emptying all of the green liquid into it.
Match the words with the correct meaning
|harvests||fruit, vegetables and cereals grown for food|
|starvation||tiny drops of a liquid in the air|
|the truth||carried in the air|
|crops||a disease can spread|
|a spray||the fully grown crop|
|infectious||correctness, without lies|
|airborne||death from a lack of food|
Read The Happening (Ch14) and decide if these statements are true or false
a. Alan’s mother worked for a company called Foodchem.
b. Alan’s mother developed Taxin to help stop starvation.
c. Taxin decreased harvests.
d. The food companies used their own scientists to develop a vaccine for Taxin.
e. The food companies developed T-Vax9.
f. Alan’s mother stopped Barlow from telling the world about T-Vax9.
‘I want to know the truth mum,’ I said. ‘Dad is dead: no more lies.’
My mother looked at me. For a while she said nothing; then she spoke. ‘It all started at FoodChem – the company I worked for,’ she said. ‘Taxin was a chemical spray that I was working on…People were dying all over the world from starvation. We believed Taxin was the answer.’
‘What did Taxin do?’ I asked slowly.
‘It increased harvests – by two hundred, three hundred percent. Everything grew twice the size and there were two harvests a year from one field. It was amazing but…But after we sprayed the crops and tested it in some places around the world…’
‘Like in Brazil?’ I asked remembering the little town that mum told me about.
‘Yes, like in Brazil,’ nodded mum. ‘That’s when we realised that there was a problem…People started to die. It was horrible – bleeding from the eyes and mouth. It was so quick, so infectious and because of the crop spraying it was airborne too. It some drove animals crazy…’
‘Like the dogs,’ I said angrily.
‘I tried to make things right. I made an antidote for Taxin: T-vax9, but the food companies didn’t wait. They only thought about profits. They had their own scientists, and they thought they had their own antidote. They were wrong. They tested Taxin on open fields; then their antidote failed.’
She looked at me.
‘So why didn’t you tell everyone about T-vax9?’ I asked. ‘Why didn’t you help everyone?’ I looked at her. The answer was written on her face.
Look again at The Happening (Ch13). Are the following true or false?
1. Alan took a sample of Dr. Barlow’s blood.
2. Alan was in his cell when he spoke to Dr. Barlow
3. Alan met his mother before he entered his cell.
4. Alan’s mother was waiting for him in his cell.
5. The guard who took Alan to the cell was tall.
6. Alan is not affected by Taxin.
7. Alan’s father gave Alan’s mother T-vax9.
8. Alan’s father was immune to Taxin.
1. Match these words from Ch13 with their meaning
|immune (adj)||not wide|
|a syringe (n)||able to resist infection because of natural defenses|
|worried (adj)||an object with a long, thin needle and a body for giving injections|
|a sample (n)||anxious|
|narrow (adj)||a little of something larger|
Barlow took a sample of my blood with his syringe. The blood looked thick and a bright. ‘Okay’ he said to a tall, quiet soldier. ‘Take him away.’
The soldier led me back to the cell and locked the door. Inside, Mum was waiting for me. She stood and hugged me; then we sat on the narrow bed. ‘I am so sorry,’ she said.
‘Is it true?’ I asked her. ‘Am I immune to Taxin?’
Mum bit her lip and tried to stop the tears from spilling from her eyes. ‘Yes,’ she finally said.
Mum shook her head. ‘I gave him T-vax9. Before the lab closed, I took some.’
‘What about Dr Barlow?’ I asked. ‘What does he want?’
Mum looked worried. ‘We have to be very, very careful,’ she replied.
‘Don’t be frightened Alan… we don’t want to hurt you,’ said Barlow and brought a syringe from behind his back. The two soldiers held me down and I felt a sharp pain in my arm. The room spun for a second; then everything went black.
‘Don’t hurt him… please I beg you.’
It was mum’s voice. She had her hand on my head. I still felt dizzy. I kept my eyes almost closed and lay perfectly still. I could see that I was in the lab again. I was lying on a table.
‘I don’t want to hurt him,’ said Barlow, ‘but we need your help.’
‘I am helping you!’ shouted my mum.
Barlow laughed. ‘Please, Alice – I am not a fool.’
‘I don’t know what you mean.’ My mum’s voice sounded unsure. Her hand moved away from my head.
‘I believe your husband also survived. Is that correct?’ There was silence for a moment and then Barlow continued. ‘Isn’t it strange that three people in the same family survived…without a vaccine.’
Barlow crossed the room. I could feel him close to me. I kept my eyes closed and didn’t move.
‘Is there something you want to tell me, Alice?’
Barlow continued. ‘You know, we worked together on Taxin for years. You were the best scientist there – always out in front, always leading. For years, we tried to find a cure. I thought it was useless, impossible. People wanted to give up but then you discovered T-Vax9… an amazing piece of work.’
‘I’ll make it again,’ my mum said. ‘You have everything I need here. Just don’t hurt us. I can make…’
‘SHUT UP!’ Barlow screamed. ‘Don’t pretend you don’t know. Don’t pretend that you are surprised that T-Vax9 stops working after the twentieth injection.’ Barlow was breathing heavily and his voice shook. ‘I’ve seen them die, Alice. ALL of them. After the twentieth one, they all DIED!.’
‘But there is plenty of time. We can work on a new version of T-Vax9…’
The room went silent for a moment.
‘So, I will ask you again – and I want you to think carefully before you answer. Did you find a cure for Taxin and use it on yourself and your precious son?’
‘Your co-operation is very valuable to us, Alice…’ said Dr Barlow, closing the cell door slowly. ‘And I am sure your son is very valuable to you.’
I looked at my mum’s face. I didn’t understand. What did he mean? My mum looked scared and angry, her eyes wide and red.
‘You have ten minutes. That’s all,’ he said and slammed the door shut. We sat on the narrow bed in my cell listening to his footsteps. When there was silence, my mum spoke.
‘Promise me you will be strong,’ she whispered.
‘I have to tell you…things. You have to try and understand…’
‘Who is he?’ I asked. ‘Why did he bring us there? What does he want?’
My mum took a deep breath. ‘I worked with him at the university. He and I worked on something called ‘Taxin’.’
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
‘It’s a disease. It appeared suddenly in a tiny village – Taxin – in southern Elysia. It killed almost everything there, apart from the dogs. The Elysian government quickly put the area into quarantine – nothing and no one could go into the village and the deaths stopped. The government sent samples of the disease to many universities around the world. Dr Barlow and I began to research it…’ My mum started crying. She looked in my eyes. ‘But then the disease suddenly began to spread. It started killing people. Hundreds, thousands, millions…’
I didn’t understand.
My mum looked me in the eye. ‘The disease began killing again…but not in Elysia.’
I still didn’t understand.
‘It was Barlow,’ said my mum. ‘Barlow released Taxin.’
1. Complex sentences
A complex sentence has a ‘connector’ (a ‘subordinating conjunction’ to be precise) such as ‘when’, ‘if’, ‘although’, ‘because’ and ‘after’.
Look at this extract from The Happening (Ch10). What is the ‘connector’ in it?
When it saw me, its legs shook violently
2. Complex sentences can also have adjective clauses in them. An adjective clause has a subject and a verb in it. An adjective clause describes the noun next to it.
Look at this extract from The Happening (Ch10). Can you find the adjective clause?
When my mum turned and saw me, she dropped the clipboard that she was holding and came running
3. Simple and compound sentences
Can these two extracts be made simpler?
Look at #1 again. It could be two simple sentences: The dog saw me. Its legs shook. Alternatively, it could be a compound sentence joined by ‘and’: The dog saw me and its legs shook.
Look at #2 again. Can you make it into simple sentences? Can you make it into compound sentences?
Match the words from The Happening (Ch10) with their meanings
|1. Camouflage||a. To go into|
|2. Violently||b. A kind of material often made from cows|
|3. To echo||c. After some time|
|4. Leather||d. An object that holds paper|
|5. Bloodstains||e. A pattern with colours that help people hide|
|6. To enter||f. Forcefully, with strength|
|7. A clipboard||g. The marks that blood leaves behind|
|8. Eventually||h. To make the same sound again and again|
A soldier dressed in a camouflage uniform entered the room and pulled me to my feet.
‘Come on,’ he said simply.
He took me into a long corridor. On both sides of it, there were many other metal doors. We walked down it, our footsteps echoing. At the end, he unlocked a door and we entered another corridor. This time, as we walked along it, dogs barked and scratched at the doors. ‘Where am I? Who are you? Where is my mum?’ I wanted to shout. I didn’t even know if it was day or night. We eventually stopped at the end of the second corridor and a door opened.
Inside was a laboratory. It was full of glass tubes, strange bottles and benches. In the middle of the room, on a metal table, a dog lay on its side, its face towards me. When it saw me, its legs shook violently. It was only then did I notice it was tied down with thick leather straps. I could see that its eyes were red. It snarled and showed its long white teeth. On the other side of the dog, a woman in a white lab coat was standing with her back to me.
‘Dr Veron,’ said the soldier loudly.
When my mum turned and saw me, she dropped the clipboard that she was holding and came running. ‘‘Alan! Are you okay? Have they hurt you?’ She hugged me tightly.
‘I feel a little strange – they gave me an injection.’
The smile disappeared from mum’s face. ‘An injection?’ She stared at the soldier. ‘What kind of…?’
‘Don’t worry Alice; it wasn’t Taxin,’ said a voice from behind us. I turned around. A small, fat man with white hair and glasses had entered the room. He was smiling broadly and holding out his hand. `You must be Alan… correct?’
I stared at him, at the red marks on his white laboratory coat.
‘I’m Dr Barlow,’ he said.
I knew that I was looking at bloodstains.
Match the word with the meaning
|a. narrow||1. to feel pain|
|b. concrete||2. to close noisily|
|c. to hurt||3. a machine for cutting|
|d. to bark||4. to move quickly|
|e. to slam||5. can’t see it|
|f. to echo||6. not wide|
|g. to recede||7. to make a noise like a dog|
|h. invisible||8. to become less|
|i. to rush||9. a hard stone|
|j. chainsaw||10. to hear the same sound again|