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OK, let’s start the episode.
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners. The name of the story is The Shadow Club. This is chapter one. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow1. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow1. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So I’m trying something a bit different with this episode of the podcast. Or I should say ‘these episodes’ of the podcast, because The Shadow Club is the start of a much longer story.
I’ve done episodes with several chapters before, two, three, sometimes even four or five chapters, but I’ve never done longer than that. But I’ve wanted to do a longer story for learners for a long time because I think it’s a really useful way to understand the language and to learn more.
In one story, the same words will appear again and again, which means you will learn them better, and as you become familiar with the story and the characters, it will be easier to understand what is going on.
A few months ago, I did a survey of the podcast listeners, so all of you. I gave you a questionnaire and asked for your feedback, for your opinions, about lots of things, and a lot of you said you wanted more stories with modern settings and more stories that are action stories. ’Cause I mainly write a lot of romance!
The reason I haven’t written more modern stories and more action stories in the past is because the language is actually harder.
When I’m writing in a modern setting, I have to make it more realistic, and therefore, I have to bring in more words, and there are lots of words for modern settings that maybe aren’t so useful, so I don’t want to introduce them all at once.
Also, action stories are quite hard because they require a lot of difficult vocabulary for describing movements and fighting and stuff, even though I know it’s really fun to read a good action story.
So that’s why I’ve decided to do a longer series so that I can have these words appear again and again and I won’t have to explain the meaning every time.
So I keep saying it’s a longer series, but I haven’t actually told you how long it’s going to be. And that’s because I don’t know!
This is an experiment. So for now, I’m just going to write three chapters of the story, and they’re going to come out one after the other. So this week we’ll have chapter one of The Shadow Club, next week will be chapter two, and the week after that will be chapter three. And afterwards I will ask for your opinion. I will give you a poll, a place where you can vote and tell me what you think.
Maybe you don’t want me to continue the story at all. That’s absolutely fine! I know a lot of you don’t like really long stories.
Even if I do continue it, I still want to do other episodes of the podcast. I just need to decide how to split up the episodes.
Maybe I’ll do 3 episodes of The Shadow Club, 1 episode of another story, and then another 3 episodes of The Shadow Club.
Or maybe 3 episodes of The Shadow Club, 3 to 6 episodes of other stories, and then 3 episodes of The Shadow Club.
So this would still be one episode every week.
Or maybe I do 1 episode of The Shadow Club, 1 episode of a different story, and 1 episode of The Shadow Club again.
So basically, you kind of have to decide, do you want this story to continue at all, and if you do want it to continue, do you want it to be like a traditional TV program that comes out every week or every week? Or do you want it to be like Netflix, where it comes out in a group of episodes and then you don’t see any more episodes for a while?
So after these three chapters are finished, I will be asking for your feedback for all of this. But don’t worry, even if I continue the story for a long time, I want to design it so that you can jump in at a later time. So I will try to write the story so that you can join at a later time, and even if you haven’t read from the beginning, you can still enjoy it and understand it. Theoretically! We’ll see how that goes.
So as I said, this story is in a modern setting and it is also set in the United Kingdom where I live. So there are just a few cultural notes I need to give to you before this episode starts.
So the characters in this story are in secondary school. Secondary school covers years 7 to 11 in the British school system. So you go to secondary school between the ages of 11 to 16. So the year 7, year 8, year 9, that’s the school system, but the actual age is between 11 and 16.
In British schools, we’re still quite traditional, so instead of referring to teachers by their name, we usually call them ‘sir’ and ‘miss’. So when students talk to a male teacher, they’ll say ‘sir’, and when they talk to a female teacher, they’ll say ‘miss’.
Around the ages of 15 and 16, you do your GCSEs. GCSEs are General Certificates of Secondary Education. Basically, it’s the first set of really big exams you do. Most people study around 9 GCSEs, and these include mandatory subjects, so subjects that you have to study, like mathematics and English, and also some optional subjects, like history and geography.
After you do your GCSEs when you’re 16, you move into another school called Sixth Form. Sixth Form is two years, so when you’re 17 and 18, and during Sixth Form, you do your A-levels.
If you have any questions about how this system works, or it’s confusing, do go and leave a comment at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow1. And also just come over and leave a comment and tell me what you thought of the first chapter of this story! Hopefully, you’re really going to enjoy it.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
When you stare, you look very long and hard at something. Babies and young children often stare at people in public, look at them for a long time in an obvious way, and their parents often tell them, ‘It’s rude to stare!’
The Roman Empire was an empire, a group of countries ruled together, that existed from 27 BC to 286 AD. It was the largest empire in history, and much of European and world culture is influenced by the Romans. For example, the town I live in, Bath, has lots of Roman architecture. The Romans spoke Latin, and established Latin as the language of art and education through most of Europe.
When you duck, you quickly move downwards. Usually, you duck because someone has thrown something at you and you don’t want to be hit. For example, someone might throw a basketball at you, so you duck to avoid it. You might also duck so that someone doesn’t see you.
A volcano is a type of mountain that fire comes out of. Volcanoes erupt very rarely, and when they do, a very hot liquid called lava comes out of them. Volcanoes are common in Indonesia, Iceland and Japan. In 2010, an Icelandic volcano called Eyjafjallajökull erupted and caused many problems in Europe with aeroplane travel. Lots of people found Eyjafjallajökull hard to pronounce, but I think it’s easy!
Way more means much more, but it is a more colloquial, conversational, way of saying it. For example, you could say, ‘You had way more chocolate than me! That’s not fair,’ or, ‘Milk chocolate is way better than white chocolate.’ Wait, why am I thinking about chocolate so much…?
At some point means ‘at some time in the future’, but you’re not sure when that will be. For example, let’s say you just bought a new house. You need to do some work on it, but you’re feeling lazy now. At some point, you’ll have to do the building work, but for now, you’ll avoid it. Of course, if you keep saying ‘at some point’, you might never do it!
Ignore is when you deliberately don’t look at something. For example, you might see someone you know outside, but you don’t like them. You ignore them, acting as if you don’t see them when you really do. It is very mean to ignore someone, though!
A claw is a long, sharp nail that animals have. So instead of nails, bears, tigers, cats and so on have claws. They can really hurt you!
When you punch someone, you hit them with your fist, a closed hand. So you fold your fingers down and hit them really hard with your hand. People usually use punches when they are seriously fighting and want to hurt someone. Boxing is a sport that is all about punching. When you box, you never kick, only punch. If you’re very weak, you might hurt yourself by punching someone else instead of hurting them.
A priority is something that is more important than other things for you. For example, my priorities in life are reading, writing and getting out in nature. These are the things that are most important for me. Your priorities might be different. If something is low on your list of priorities, then it’s not very important in your life. For example, going to big parties is pretty low on my list of priorities. I like doing it sometimes, but not a lot.
If you enjoy the podcast and want more, you can support me on Patreon. For just $2 a month you can get exercises with each episode, and for $5, you get an extra story every month, as well as Elevenses with Ariel, a daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners. Last week, I talked about how to keep going with your English, arguments in the British government and hair fear. You can support the show and get all the extra content at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
A big thank-you to my new patrons, as well as patrons who have increased their pledge: Věra Jonášová, Sofia Castillo, Zdenek Porod, cristian and Rita Sitton. Thank you so much. Your support really means a lot to me.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Shadow Club Chapter 1: A Boring Life
My name’s Ricky Marshall, and my life is boring. I go to school, I play video games, I steal chocolate from the cupboard in the kitchen… Mmm, I love chocolate. If my mum notices the chocolate is gone, I just say that Willow took it.
Willow is my sister. She’s even more boring than I am. She spends all her time reading stupid books about cats. The books are called Fighting Cats and, you guessed it, they’re about cats who fight each other. Amazing. When she’s not reading those books, she’s on the computer going on websites about Fighting Cats.
So yeah, my life is pretty boring. Nothing exciting happens in our town. I’m not clever enough to get really good grades and go to a big university, so I’ll probably never leave this place. And my family isn’t rich, so I can’t go travelling around the world or anything like that.
No, I’m here, and I’m going to stay here. But I do have one thing.
I have a dream. Every day I play football with my friends Max and Larry. We’re in the school team, and one day, I’m going to be a professional footballer.
Oh, it will be so great! I’ll have all the money in the world, I’ll be surrounded by beautiful women, and everyone will see my face on TV. I’ll be able to buy a nice house for my parents and three houses for myself. And when I’m 30, I can retire and spend all my time relaxing by the pool and playing video games. Although I’ll probably just play FIFA…
‘Richard Marshall, stop staring out of the window and pay attention!’
Mr Pearson’s voice woke me up. I had been staring out of the window, watching the clouds. Very relaxing. But now I was looking at my history teacher, Mr Pearson, and he looked very angry. Not so relaxing.
‘Tell me, Mr Marshall, what is the topic of today’s class?’
‘Uh, the Romans?’
Mr Pearson threw a board pen at me. I ducked, and the pen hit Larry, who was sitting behind me.
‘Ow!’ cried Larry. ‘Sir, you can’t do that! I’ll tell my mum you’re hitting us, and she’ll call the police.’
Mr Pearson’s face went completely red. It reminded me of the clothes the Romans used to wear. You know, I actually liked it when we studied the Romans. It was more interesting than… whatever we were studying today.
‘You haven’t studied the Romans for TWO YEARS! And Mr Fisher, don’t speak to me like that! I am the teacher here!’
Mr Pearson looked so much like a volcano that I wondered if we were in geography class.
‘You are both staying after class. If I can’t teach you during the lesson, I’ll teach you afterwards!’
‘Urgh,’ I groaned.
History was our last class for the day. Afterwards, me, Larry and Max were going to go and play football. We only had practice with the team twice a week, so we practised alone the other days. But if we had to stay after class, we couldn’t do it. Max had to get home early to feed his cat, Jemima. If Jemima didn’t get fed, she got angry, and she would try and kill Max.
I looked at Max on the other side of the room and said, ‘Sorry.’
Max looked annoyed, but he was my best friend. He would forgive me. He always forgave me.
The class finished, and Mr Pearson kept me and Larry there to talk about the Middle Ages, around the year 1400. It was so boring that I almost fell asleep, but finally it ended, and we could go home.
Larry lived on the other side of town from me, so I walked home alone. I decided to visit Max and see how he was. If his mum wasn’t home yet, we could play some football in his garden. But he was probably already playing video games and wouldn’t want to play football. Sometimes, I wasn’t sure if Max even wanted to be on the football team. He spent more time on his computer than in the real world.
‘Max!’ I called, banging on the door.
I heard Jemima meow loudly, and then Max came.
‘Hey, stupid,’ he said, opening the door.
‘Let me guess,’ I said. ‘You’re playing Heroes of Forever?’
Heroes of Forever was Max’s favourite game. It was online, and it was all about monsters and magic. He had tried to make me play loads of times, but I always said no. FIFA was way better.
‘It’s a great game,’ said Max.
He went into the study, sat in his computer chair and stared at the screen. I knew that he probably wouldn’t listen to anything I said now.
‘Yeah, well, football is way more fun,’ I said, kicking his chair. ‘Why don’t we go into the garden and play for a bit?’
‘Can’t,’ said Max. ‘I’ve got to revise for our chemistry exam next week. Don’t you have to as well?’
‘If you have to study, why are you playing Heroes of Forever?’ I said, avoiding his question. I knew I had to revise for chemistry at some point, but the exam was almost two weeks away.
‘Well, I had it all planned. We were going to practise for the match this weekend, then I would play some Heroes of Forever, and finally I would study. But since someone was stupid and decided to make Mr Pearson angry, I just played Heroes of Forever. I’ll study afterwards.’
‘Wait, the football match is this weekend?’
Max looked at me with a face that said, ‘Really?’ When he stopped staring at his game, that meant he thought I was really stupid.
‘Yes, it’s this Saturday. Don’t you listen to anything our coach says? Now, I’m going to finish this part of the game and then study. I don’t have time for football today.’
From behind me, Jemima meowed loudly. I ignored her, and kept talking to Max.
‘Come on, Max. If the match is this Saturday, then we need more practice! Can’t you play this game later?’
‘I’m playing with other people, Ricky. If I leave now, they’ll be angry. And I really have to study.’
Jemima meowed again. This time, she sounded really angry.
‘Didn’t you feed her already?’ I said.
‘Yeah,’ said Max. ‘Just ignore her. And if you’re not going to revise with me, then leave. I can’t concentrate with you here.’
‘Man, are we even friends, Max? I know we have GCSEs next year, but you promised that that wouldn’t change things. We’ve got loads of time to revise, but we really need to practise for Saturday.’
Max ignored me, and just kept staring at his game. The keyboard went tap, tap, tap and his eyes looked like glass.
Jemima started hissing.
‘I agree, Jemima. He’s being a real—whoa!’
I turned around and saw why Jemima was so angry. Next to her, there was something. It was big and had lots of black hair, sharp teeth and claws. They made Jemima look like a mouse. The monster was moving slowly towards Max, and it looked hungry.
Then it saw me, and attacked with its claws. I ducked, and then it jumped forward.
‘Max!’ I cried.
He was concentrating so hard on his game he didn’t even see it. The monster was right behind him, and it was opening its mouth.
‘Get off my friend!’ I cried.
I tried to pull the monster away, but it hit my hand with its claws. I shouted and fell to the floor. My hand felt like it was on fire. Max was still sitting there playing his game, tap, tap, tap. The monster had opened its mouth again, and it was about to eat him!
I jumped in the air. Then I saw something shiny on the monster’s back. Something red in all that black hair. Something weak?
I was never very good at punching, and now my hand was hurt. So I kicked the monster in the back, as hard as I could.
The monster screamed and shook, and then it exploded. Black hair filled the room, but it quickly disappeared. In the end, nothing was left of it.
‘What was that?!’ I cried.
‘Ricky!’ shouted Max, turning around. ‘My character just died because of you. If you’re not going to study with me, then go home, OK?’
I couldn’t believe him. ‘Didn’t you see it?’
‘See what, a ghost? We’re not children anymore.’
My mouth was wide open. I was still in shock, from seeing the monster. But now I felt angry as well.
‘I can’t believe you, I—’
‘I’m sorry, Ricky. I really am.’
I stopped. He really did look sorry. He must have seen how annoyed I was.
He got up from his chair and punched me lightly on the shoulder.
‘I know I promised things wouldn’t change between us. It’s just that… My mum rang straight after school, and shouted at me for not studying enough. They want me to do really well, you know? They think I could go to a really good university, like Oxford or something, so they want me to work hard.’
‘But do you want to go to Oxford, Max?’
Max bit his lip. ‘I don’t know. I want to keep playing football with you guys, and I want to keep playing Heroes of Forever. I can do it all, can’t I?’
I punched him back on the shoulder.
‘Ow!’ he cried.
I laughed. ‘You can do it all, but next time, you need to change your priorities. First priority is football, yeah? Second priority is studying, third priority is Heroes of Forever.’
He smiled. ‘Alright then, coach. Are you sure you don’t want to study with me? It’s a priority.’
‘Oh, I’m very sure.’
We laughed, and then I said goodbye and went home.
I still couldn’t understand what had happened with the monster, but I wasn’t going to keep telling Max about it. Then he would think I was crazy, and he might not want to play football with me anymore.
I looked at my hand as I walked. It still burned, but there was no sign of the attack on it. In fact, it looked healthy.
I wondered if the monster had really been there.
‘But if it wasn’t… am I crazy?’
Maybe my life wasn’t going to be so boring after all…
END OF CHAPTER 1
If you enjoyed the story and want to say thank you, you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi. Just go to EasyStoriesInEnglish.com and click the orange button that says Buy me a coffee! Then you’ll be able to send me $3 so that I can buy a coffee, but really, I’ll probably get a bubble tea. And I’ll think of you while I drink it! Thank you for listening, and until next week.