Last time on The Shadow Club…
We finally got that shadow!
After hunting all over the school for it, with Bethany annoying us, we saw Sanjeet sitting outside, and realised some bullies had flushed his bag down the toilet. So we brought it to him, and just as we were talking, the shadow appeared.
It was a nasty thing, but me, Max and Larry beat it together! OK, so Bethany helped a bit… OK, so Bethany helped a lot. Fine, if Bethany wasn’t there, we probably would’ve all died. Are you happy now?
So we protected the weak, not that we got any thanks for it. Sanjeet said the shadow would come back, and then his mum shouted at us and took him home. And now Bethany wants to join The Shadow Club.
You can listen to the last episode of The Shadow Club at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow6.
I recommend listening again, just to hear how cool we were. You’re welcome.
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 seven, A Group Project. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow7. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow7. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So I just want to start off today’s episode with a bit of a personal note. I am coming out again!
So ‘coming out’, specifically ‘coming out of the closet’, is when someone reveals some personal information about themself, usually that they are gay or lesbian or transgender.
In an earlier episode, in chapter 3 of Dear Heart, I actually came out as a transgender woman. You can hear that at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dear3.
So I was on hormones for almost three years, transitioning from male to female, but very recently I realised that’s not for me. I basically realised, no I’m not a transgender woman, I am a man. Now I don’t identify, you know, fully as like a regular cisgender man, like I did before, but I definitely feel much more of a man now than a woman.
I really don’t regret transitioning. It helped me explore my body in many ways, it helped me understand myself better and love myself better, but I really feel like this is who I am most authentically, and that is a feminine man. I am a man, but I’m not a very masculine man, you know, I talk in this way, as you’ve noticed, in my podcasts and my live streams, and I’m very energetic and I’m very gay. I, you know, I’m a man who loves men!
So yeah. This is my second official coming out, I guess. I’m Ariel, I’m gay, I’m feminine and I’m just me, to be honest.
By the way, I am keeping the name Ariel. It’s the name I chose when I transitioned but I really like the name. I don’t really identify with my birth name, and Ariel is masculine or gender-neutral in many countries, so it’s a really good name for me to have, I think.
My pronouns, so the pronouns I want you to refer to me by, are they/them and he/him, because I identify as a non-binary man. So I’m a man, but I feel, you know, still somewhere between the spectrum of man and woman.
Anyway, I’ve come out so many times to friends and family over the years, and it’s pretty tiring, so I’m not gonna keep talking about it here. But if you do want the whole story, you can listen to my episode of Elevenses with Ariel, available on Patreon. More on that later.
Also, just a reminder of a cultural note in today’s story. In the UK, in schools, we refer to male teachers as ‘sir’ and female teachers as ‘miss’.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
Lean, and the past tense is leant or leaned, means to move in a direction but without moving your feet. For example, if you want to see something better you will lean towards it. You won’t walk, but the rest of your body will move towards it. If you like someone, you often lean towards them while they are speaking, and if you don’t like someone, or they smell, you would lean away. If you can’t find a chair to sit down, you could lean against the wall or lean on a table.
A caveman a prehistoric person who lived in a cave. So basically, a long, long time ago, before we had modern society or civilisation, people lived in caves and hunted animals for food. These were cavemen and cavewomen. Nowadays, cavemen are usually used as jokes, such as in kids’ films.
A librarian is someone who works in a library. There is a stereotypical image of a librarian. They go around and find people who are talking and say ‘Shh!’ They shush them. In reality, librarians are usually much nicer than this.
When someone is traumatised, they have had a traumatic experience, they have experienced trauma. Trauma is a huge shock that happens when something awful happens to you. For example, if you live through a plane crash, you will probably be traumatised. Traumatised people often have to get therapy. But we also say it as a joke sometimes. For example, maybe your friend is really bad at cooking, so you say, ‘Please don’t cook when I visit your house this weekend. I’m still traumatised by last time.’
When you swear, and the past tense is swore, you say very bad words. I don’t want to say the really bad swear words here on the podcast, but I will say some less bad swear words: crap, damn, and damn it. People usually swear when they are angry or want to threaten someone. Some religious people consider words about God swear words, for example, they don’t like people saying, ‘Oh my God!’ or ‘Jesus Christ!’ when they’re angry or surprised.
A weapon is a tool you use to hurt or kill someone. Swords, knives, guns and bows and arrows are all weapons. Nowadays, people mainly use guns and knives, although most people don’t have a weapon. I certainly don’t! In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to own certain weapons, such as guns and certain knives.
When you have something lying around, it means you have it in a place that is easy to get to. For example, if you’re a chef, you’ll probably leave sharp knives lying around in your kitchen. But if someone asks me for a specific knife for cutting sushi, I’ll probably say, ‘I don’t have chef knives lying around!’
The Middle Ages were a time period from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages in Europe were a very important period of time, and a lot of our ideas about European history come from this time. A lot of people like the Middle Ages as there were kings, knights, princesses and dragons—wait, did dragons really exist? Sorry, I’m not a historian!
A sword is a long, sharp weapon. We don’t use swords now but they were used in the Middle Ages, about five hundred years ago. In the TV series Game of Thrones, most of the characters fight with swords. For example, Arya Stark is very good at fighting with a sword. In Harry Potter, Harry Potter uses the Sword of Gryffindor to kill the basilisk in the second book.
Negative means bad, the opposite of ‘positive’. If you have a lot of negative thoughts, you probably won’t be very happy. If a number goes below zero, it becomes a negative number.
And I’ll just remind you of the meaning of some words from previous episodes of The Shadow Club.
Patrol is when a group of people search a place regularly.
A bench is a long wooden chair for several people.
A bully is someone who is mean to others for no reason.
Your hips are the parts of your body between your stomach and legs.
When you put your arms together, you cross them.
A milkshake is a drink made with milk, flavouring and sometimes ice cream.
Coursework is a written task that you do in school which affects your grade.
When you slide, you move quickly along the ground.
When you hit someone with a closed hand, you punch them.
When you are very scared or excited, your hairs will stand on end, they will stick up.
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 detransition and climate anxiety. 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 patron: Елена. Thank you so much, Елена. Your support really means a lot to me.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Shadow Club Chapter 7: A Group Project
‘Oi, what happened to us going on patrol?’
That wasn’t exactly how I wanted to start my lunchtime. I was just sat on the bench with the boys, bullying Max in a friendly way, as usual. Not a great time for Bethany to come and shout at us.
‘We just killed a shadow yesterday,’ said Larry. ‘We deserve a break.’
‘Do you think the shadows take breaks?’ she said, putting her hands on her hips. Then she seemed to realise what she looked like, so she crossed her arms and pushed her chin out instead.
‘Come on, let’s go. I have some ideas I want to share with you.’
‘Save them for Shadow Club later,’ I said.
We had told Bethany everything yesterday, at Larry’s house, over chocolate milkshakes. We’d said that we would need to discuss things before letting her into the Shadow Club, but she argued with us until we gave up.
‘Why?’ said Bethany.
‘Because someone might be listening,’ said Max. ‘We don’t know if they work alone. Anyway, if you saw us and thought we were doing something funny, anyone could. We don’t want too many people paying attention to us.’
‘Hey, Sanjeet!’ called out Larry.
The little black-haired kid had been walking past our bench. He was always going around on his own, staring down at the ground. He jumped, and looked like he wanted to run away, but I waved at him, so he came over.
‘Do you want to hang out with us?’ said Larry. ‘It’s probably better than being on your own.’
‘B-but you’re in year 10,’ he said. ‘I can’t—’
‘Sure you can!’ I said. ‘There’s nothing that says different years can’t hang out. Besides, that makes you cool. You have older friends.’
‘Cool?’ Sanjeet’s eyes looked bigger than eggs in a frying pan. ‘I’m not cool…’
‘They’re not cool, either,’ said Bethany, leaning down towards him. ‘But I am.’
Sanjeet bit his lip. ‘But you’re a girl.’
The three of us laughed, and Bethany turned red.
‘Yeah, well, when we have football practice, we’ll see who’s really cool…’
Later on, in history class, Mr Pearson announced we were going to do a group project, to prepare for our coursework. These teachers just wouldn’t give us a break, would they? I knew that we were in year 10, but it wasn’t like our exams were tomorrow!
‘You’ll be working in groups of four. Each group will choose a period of British history, and you’ll have to give a presentation describing the lives of ordinary people in that period. And no, Mr Marshall, you can’t write about cavemen.’
I smiled as I remembered the work Mr Pearson was talking about. I was in year 7, and he thought I was a shy little kid. We were given a similar piece of homework, but it was more creative. I decided to write about the adventures of Bog the Caveman. Bog the Caveman spent most of his time trying to find a beautiful cavewoman to take home to his cave. Honestly, it was really just a stupid story about a lonely caveman, and it didn’t include any historical research, which made Mr Pearson angry.
‘We’ll be spending the second half of the class in the library, so you can do research. That does not mean “play on the computers”, Mr Fisher. Our dear librarian is still traumatised by what you left on the screen last time.’
‘Sorry, sir,’ said Larry. ‘Won’t do it again.’
Our group of four was obvious: me, Max, Larry and Andy. Andy was more Larry’s friend than me and Max’s, but he was a cool guy. He had his own group of friends, but none of them were in our history class, so he was the perfect choice.
‘Mind if I join?’ said Bethany, standing over our table.
Andy was just behind her, and had been too slow. She slid in, just like on the football field.
‘We’re working with Andy,’ said Larry.
‘Right,’ said Andy, pushing past her. ‘Boys’ group. Go and hang out with your friends… Oh wait, where are they?’ He looked around the room. ‘Can’t find any anywhere.’
Bethany looked like she wanted to punch him in the stomach.
‘Sorry, Andy,’ she said between her teeth, ‘but me and the boys have some things to discuss.’
Andy looked at her, and then at us.
‘What, is she all of your girlfriends or something?’
I sighed. If Andy didn’t stop, Bethany wouldn’t just punch him in the stomach, she’d punch him somewhere much worse.
‘We’ll work with Bethany,’ I said. ‘Sorry, Andy.’
He swore and walked away, and Bethany quietly sat down.
‘Oh, so now you don’t want to say anything?’ said Larry.
‘You can’t keep pushing me out,’ she said. ‘I’m a part of the Sh—I’m a part of our group as much as you three. You wouldn’t have beaten that thing without me.’
‘You’ve reminded us many times,’ I said. ‘But really, is using a stick such an amazing idea? We would’ve thought of it on our own.’
‘Oh really?’ she said. ‘So, have you all chosen weapons yet? Or are you just going to hope that there’s a stick lying around next time, too?’
That… was true.
‘I could use my dad’s old boxing gloves,’ said Max. ‘I mean, I am the goalie. And if the stick worked, then it doesn’t have to be a real weapon, right? Ricky, you could use—’
‘Excuse me,’ said Mr Pearson, leaning over our table, ‘but it doesn’t sound to me like you’re discussing the topic for your project.’
He looked quickly at Bethany, clearly surprised to see her working with our group. In Mr Pearson’s head, she was one of the ‘good’ students, because she didn’t chat in class or stare out of the window. He was probably very sad to see her working with us.
‘We’re doing, uh…’
‘The Middle Ages!’ cried Max. ‘We’re doing the Middle Ages. The Late Middle Ages, specifically. It’s such an interesting period.’
Mr Pearson gave a half-smile. Clearly, he had been expecting to catch us, but Max had saved us.
‘Very well,’ he said, walking away.
‘Max, why did you choose that?’ said Larry.
‘Let me guess,’ I said. ‘Because they rode horses and fought with swords. Just like Heroes of Forever.’
‘I panicked!’ said Max.
‘I think it’s a good choice,’ said Bethany. ‘It’s a wide period, and there aren’t so many books from that time, so the research will be easier.’
Max went red. ‘Y-yeah, exactly…’
Mr Pearson announced we were going to the library, so we picked up our stuff and moved. It was much quieter there, and we found a table in the corner where we could talk in secret. Max went to get some books so it looked like we were actually doing research, and then Bethany told us what she’d been wanting to tell us all day.
‘It’s not just the weapons,’ she said. ‘I think I know what the shadows are looking for.’
‘They’re just looking for weak people,’ said Larry.
‘No,’ said Bethany. ‘They look for negative energy specifically.’
‘Negative energy?’ I said.
‘Yeah. Think about it. What was happening when the first shadow attacked Max? You and him were arguing about your friendship. And the second one attacked on the football field, when Larry was having problems.’
‘Hey, I didn’t tell you about that!’ said Larry.
‘Oh, come on. It was obvious you were sad. You’re not good at hiding your feelings.’
‘And the last one was attacking Sanjeet. I don’t have to explain that.’
‘That makes sense!’ said Max.
‘But it’s too general,’ I said, ‘ “Negative energy”. That could mean anything. What, is a shadow going to attack me because I forgot my homework?’
‘Alright, so we still don’t know the details,’ said Bethany. ‘But it’s something, right? At least we know what we’re looking for.’
I jumped. The librarian—Mr Burne, was his name?—had appeared behind us. Apparently, we had been getting louder and louder. Mr Burne was tall and thin, and his hair stood on end like a plastic Christmas tree.
‘Sorry, sir,’ I said.
He walked away, his hand on his head, muttering, ‘These kids…’
‘What’s his problem?’ said Larry.
‘Anyway, we should pick weapons next,’ said Max. ‘Like Bethany said.’
I could’ve punched him. Everyone knew that he liked Bethany, but did he have to be so obvious?
‘I don’t exactly keep swords lying around,’ said Larry. ‘And I’m not gonna throw bananas at a monster.’
‘Come on, Larry,’ I said. ‘Your dad probably has something you can use in his garage, right?’
‘Oi, what are you saying about my dad?’
Mr Burne, the librarian, had come back, and this time he shushed us so loudly that his whole body shook.
‘If you make more noise, I-I’ll have to tell Mr Pearson!’
‘Sorry, sir…’ said Larry.
‘We can discuss this later,’ said Bethany. ‘For now, maybe we should do some actual work.’
So we did. And boy, it was boring. Again, I hated Max for choosing such a difficult time period. But with Bethany there, we actually did do some work, which was good. As much as hanging out with the boys was fun, I didn’t want to have to do everything in the last few days.
As we left the library, I saw Mr Pearson talking to the librarian. Our history teacher sounded angry, and I stopped to listen. I mean, how often did you see a teacher getting mad at another teacher?
‘You HAVE to make sure they work, OK? We agreed that when the students are in the library, you’re looking after them.’
Mr Burne looked like he wanted to die. Well, he deserved it after shushing us so much.
After school, we tried to wait outside with Sanjeet for his mum to come pick him up. He wouldn’t let us, though, because he said she’d get angry at us again. We couldn’t understand why she hated us so much, but it was probably better to avoid getting his mum angry. Still, we made sure that nobody had bullied him that day, and then we went to Max’s tutor group room for The Shadow Club.
‘If the shadows like negative energy,’ said Larry, ‘then we need to watch Sanjeet.’
‘He said the shadow came back before,’ said Max. ‘Does that mean they’ll all come back?’
‘Right now, we don’t know,’ I said. ‘All we can do is prepare for the next one. I hate to say it, but Bethany’s right. We need to choose weapons.’
Bethany smiled. ‘See, Larry?’
Larry crossed his arms and said nothing.
‘But,’ I said, ‘we’re doing this at school, remember? So they can’t be anything too dangerous. We don’t want to get into trouble.’
‘Great,’ said Larry. ‘So we need weapons that can kill monsters, but they need to be small things that we can hide in our bag that won’t get us into trouble. And just how will that work?’
And that was the question.
END OF CHAPTER 7
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.