Last time on The Shadow Club…
We all came into school with our new weapons—except Bethany. She got angry at us about that, but we did all practise together in the end…
Before that, though, we had to deal with Mr Burne, the school librarian. He’s started sitting in on The Shadow Club, so we can’t talk about our usual stuff. And the whole time he was reading and scribbling something in his notebook. Well, I went to look, and he was writing ideas for a fantasy novel! Can you imagine?
Bethany and the boys got angry at me for looking, which I don’t understand. He seems like a horrible person, the way he always shushes us. Although everyone is quite mean to him…
Anyway, on the weekend we all met up and practised with our weapons, although it took us a long time. We all chose the wrong weapons first, but finally we ended up with me with the golf club, Max with the slingshot, Larry with the boxing gloves and Bethany with her football boots. The Shadow Club is finally ready to fight!
And just in time. When we came into school on Monday, some kids were bullying Sanjeet. We showed them who’s boss! The teachers weren’t too happy about that part, but that doesn’t matter. We’re going to protect Sanjeet, whatever happens.
You can listen to the last episode of The Shadow Club at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow8.
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 nine, Now We Know. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow9. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Shadow9. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So I went to London last week! Although as you’re listening to this it will be two weeks ago. I had a wonderful time in London and I did all sorts of things.
I went to see Frozen the stage musical, based on the Disney film Frozen, and it was absolutely amazing. I loved it so much. There were lots of five-year-olds there, but don’t worry, I wasn’t the only adult.
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There was a really funny moment in the musical where one of the characters is evil, and it is revealed that he is bad, and all of the children started booing him, they went, ‘Boo!’ Which is something you do when someone is bad, and it was very funny because you usually don’t get that when you go to an expensive theatre.
I also saw lots of old friends in London. I saw my brother, who I haven’t seen in ages. I bought lots of clothes. I went to a really interesting event called Talkaoke.
So one of my friends was helping run this event during a festival in a park in London. So for Talkaoke, they set up a little tent with a presenter in the middle, and it’s kind of like a pop-up talk show, so a talk show on television except in the middle of a park. There are lots of tables with microphones and anyone from the public can just walk by and join in the conversation. The person in the middle, the moderator, decides what we’re talking about and they help move the conversation along, but really, it’s the public who decides what we talk about. And we talked about all kinds of crazy things!
I found it really fun and it’s a really interesting situation, ’cause you interact with people who normally you would never talk to. Like I was talking to eight-year-old kids and teenagers and, you know, people in their fifties and sixties, and just having really interesting conversations. So I’m really glad I got to do that.
In general, it was really fun, but also quite strange being in London again, because the last time I was there was November 2019, so it’s almost two years, and living in the countryside now, the big city life was a lot for me to handle.
Unfortunately, I did get ill during my time in London. You might be able to hear it in my voice. I got a bit of a sore throat. But it’s mostly gone now. Don’t worry, it’s not coronavirus! It’s just, you know, a regular flu or cold. Honestly, I think after not being in a big city or travelling abroad for so long, all the viruses got to have a little party in my body, which is why I got ill.
But yeah, I’m not gonna talk any more to save my voice.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
When you struggle to do something, you find it very hard to do it. For example, many people struggle to wake up in the morning. Maybe they need to have coffee very early to help them wake up. Or you might struggle to write your university essays on time—I understand that struggle very well!
When someone whispers, they talk like this. They talk very quietly so that other people can’t hear them. It’s bad for your voice to whisper too much, but it’s useful when you want to talk to someone and you don’t want other people to hear. People whisper dramatically a lot in films and TV shows.
Incredibly means it is hard to believe something. For example, if some food tastes so good that you can’t believe it, you can say it tastes incredibly good. We mainly use it for emphasis: ‘The traffic is moving incredibly slowly!’
Paperwork is a kind of work that involves lots of paper. For example, teachers often have to write documents about their pupils, or fill in a register at the start of class. This is paperwork. Many administration jobs are all about paperwork, and it is very boring.
When you tense your muscles, you make them tight. When you want to show how strong you are, you might tense your muscles to make them look bigger. Usually, we tense our muscles without thinking when we are stressed or angry.
When you focus on something, you give more attention to it. For example, maybe you focussed on your health during lockdown, or you focussed on artistic work. If you are focussing on something a lot, then you are focussed, you are using lots of energy on one thing.
When someone is unconscious, it is like they are asleep, but it is more dangerous. You fall unconscious when you have no air, or you have a big shock. For example, people often go unconscious during a car crash. When the person wakes up, they are conscious again.
Before you eat food, you have to chew it. You put it in your mouth and press it with your teeth. Some food is soft and is very easy to chew, like strawberries. But some food is hard and is hard to chew, like carrots.
When your vision swims, your eyes go all blurry and it is hard to see. Your vision usually swims when you are crying, or if something gets in your eye, or if you are very tired.
A person who is bitter is always sad and angry because of bad things that happened to them. Often, it is old people who are bitter, because they had a difficult life. It is not good to be bitter, because it pushes other people away from you.
And I’ll just remind you of the meaning of some words from previous episodes of The Shadow Club.
When you do something hopefully, you are hoping that things go well.
When you nod, you move your head up and down to say ‘yes’.
A chapel is a small church inside a school or prison.
A loser is someone who is bad at life and has no friends.
When you ignore someone, you act like you can’t see or hear them.
A librarian is someone who works at a library.
Police and other groups go on patrol, searching for bad people.
Weapons are things like guns, swords and knives that you can use to hurt other people.
When your stomach clenches, the muscles in your stomach go tight.
If you hit someone, you might leave a mark on them, a sign that you hit them.
If you try to hit someone but they move out of the way, they dodged your attack.
Stomp means to stand very hard on something.
A slingshot is a small weapon you can use to shoot rocks and other small things.
When you swear, you say very rude words.
A fantasy novel is a book about an imagined world, like Harry Potter.
When you don’t do something straight away, you hesitate, usually because you are nervous.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Shadow Club Chapter 9: Now We Know
We were all sure that the snake shadow would attack Sanjeet again. But we were there to protect him. Sure, we couldn’t do much about his home life, but as long as he was in school, he could stay with us.
The problem was, he didn’t seem to like us very much. Sometimes, we got him chatting, but most of the time, he just watched as I joked with Max and Larry, or we talked about football. I thought he might get on well with Bethany, but even she struggled to find something to talk about with him. Apart from that rabbit toy he always played with, and his crazy mother, we really didn’t know anything about him.
Trying to get him to talk about himself didn’t really work, either. Once or twice, we mentioned the shadows, but he couldn’t say anything about that. Seriously. It was like his throat stopped working. Finally, Larry told us to stop trying.
‘He doesn’t want to talk about himself, or the shadows. So he doesn’t have to.’
One lunchtime, after struggling to find a game or topic of conversation that would actually include him, Bethany asked, ‘Sanjeet, what do you normally do at lunchtime? I mean, what did you do before you started hanging out with us?’
Sanjeet gave a little jump. ‘Oh, I went to the library.’
‘Huh,’ said Larry. ‘I didn’t even know it was open at lunchtime.’
‘So let’s all go there,’ said Bethany. ‘It’ll make for a nice change.’
She looked at us hopefully, and I nodded, so we all went there.
Thank God he hadn’t said, ‘I went to chapel,’ because that would’ve been too much for me. The library? I could handle going to the library. It meant we could play on the computers.
To be honest, it felt a bit weird being there at lunchtime. We couldn’t talk loudly, and there was only one computer free, which Max got to before us. He wanted to read Heroes of Forever fansites. My sister, Willow, was also there. I hadn’t seen her with her usual friends for a while, and I had been wondering where she went at lunchtime. I went and said hello, and she was on a Fighting Cats fansite. I was surrounded by losers!
Anyway, Bethany went and looked for books for our project, while me and Larry sat in the corner with Sanjeet. Sanjeet took a book out of his bag and ignored us, while me and Larry whispered jokes to each other.
And then, of course, Mr Burne came over and said, ‘Shh!’
From the other side of the room, someone else shushed. Mr Burne turned around, but he couldn’t see where it had come from. Me and Larry tried to keep quiet, but of course we started talking again, so the poor librarian came to shush us once more.
And again, there was another ‘Shh!’ from the other side of the room. It clearly came from a group of year 11s, who were laughing behind Mr Burne’s back. Whenever he turned around, they put their heads back in their books and acted like they were just reading.
I almost felt bad for Mr Burne. Even pupils were bullying him. And we had read through his private notebook just the week before. I decided to be nicer to him the next time we had The Shadow Club. Not that it really mattered. He never talked to us there.
Lunch passed by incredibly slowly in the library. I hadn’t noticed it when we were there during lessons, because lessons always passed by slowly, but there was a weird energy in the place, and I didn’t like being there. I tried picking up a book from the shelves, but I realised most of them were rubbish. There were lots of serious books about history and science, but all the fiction books were old and boring. I struggled to even get through five pages.
Lunchtime finally ended, but my struggles did not. Since the library was the only place Sanjeet actually seemed comfortable with us, we continued to go there every day. By Friday, I was dead bored, but I reminded myself that we were doing this for a reason. We were The Shadow Club. We hadn’t seen any signs of shadows near Sanjeet, but we had to be careful.
Speaking of which, we had been spending The Shadow Club with Mr Burne watching us all week. It seemed Mrs Cowper was not coming back, so now we really were a board games club. When we wanted to talk about shadows, we wrote notes to each other, but we didn’t have much to talk about. We still patrolled every day, but we’d seen nothing.
On Friday afternoon, after just half an hour of playing Scrabble—I’d suggested it, because I wanted a game I could actually win—Mr Burne stood up and told us that club was ending early today.
‘I have some paperwork to do in the library,’ he said, sounding like a sad donkey.
‘Can’t we stay and play by ourselves?’ said Max.
Mr Burne looked at him as if he’d just suggested we throw all the tables out of the window and dance around like monkeys.
‘No,’ said Mr Burne. ‘I have to lock the door.’
So we headed home early. But just as we were leaving the school gates, Max snapped his fingers.
‘I forgot. There actually was a book I wanted to take out of the library. Wait for me while I go get it?’
‘Sure,’ I said.
We sat on the wall while we waited. It was good to have a moment to just rest. I felt like I had been tensing my muscles all week, waiting for something to go wrong. Larry also looked tense. He jumped off the wall and started kicking at the grass.
‘Is something up?’ I said.
‘I know we were gonna practise with our weapons this weekend, but we need to do football practice, too. We’ve got a match in a few weeks.’
My stomach clenched. It wasn’t that I’d forgotten about football. We still had our regular practice sessions at school, and we’d kicked the ball around a few times at lunchtime or after school. But we weren’t as focussed as before, and Coach Barrett was starting to notice.
‘We’ll be fine,’ I said. ‘If we can kill shadows, scoring a goal will be easy.’
Larry looked at me funny. ‘You’re the one who wants to be a professional footballer.’
‘And I will be!’ I said, putting my hands in the air. ‘But right now, we have other priorities.’
‘You really want to be a professional footballer?’ said Bethany. ‘You know how hard that is?’
‘Geez, you sound like my mum!’ I said. Why were they all attacking me suddenly? ‘Anyway, if you don’t wanna keep playing, why do you care so much now?’ I knew how much practice Bethany put in.
She stared at the grass where Larry was kicking it and sighed. ‘What do you think? Have you ever watched a game of women’s football?’
‘Well, uh… no. I guess not.’
‘Nobody does. It’s a man’s sport. When we go into sixth form, I won’t even be allowed to play in a team with boys anymore.’
‘What, really?’ said Larry. ‘But you’re one of our best players.’
Bethany smiled. ‘I know. But they say it’s “unfair” or something. Anyway, Ricky, you should really th—’
A scream came from the school, interrupting her. I jumped off the wall.
‘That was Max!’
We ran inside and up the stairs to the library. I threw my bag off my shoulder, pulling out my golf club. I saw Larry taking out his boxing gloves and Bethany getting her boots on as well. We all knew what was coming.
We ran through the doors to the library. In front of us, we found a horrible scene. Max was sat on the floor, shaking, as Mr Burne lay in front of him. The librarian looked unconscious, and all around him, shadows that looked like rats were attacking him. They were eating him, chewing on his skin like it was fresh meat, although just like before, they left no mark. They were all coming out of books which lay on the floor, open, in a circle around him.
‘Max, get your weapon!’ I shouted. ‘Shadow Club, let’s move!’
I brought my golf club down on the nearest book, breaking it in the middle. The shadow squealed and jumped back from Mr Burne, running to bite my leg. I dodged and attacked another book, trying to get them all away from Mr Burne as fast as possible.
Larry and Bethany moved, too. It looked crazy, Larry punching books and Bethany stomping on them, but this was no time to care about the written word. The rats were stronger than they looked, and they were fast, easily dodging a lot of our attacks. Three of them climbed onto my leg and bit it, and I had to put down my golf club to pull them off.
‘Get off my friends!’ cried Max from behind me.
He shot the slingshot at my leg and managed to knock two of them off me. He had shot a ball of paper, but apparently it was enough to hurt them.
Max continued to focus on attacking the shadows on us, while we kept them away from Mr Burne. But as we fought, more books started to fall off the shelves, and shadows ran out of them. Ten rats turned to twenty, and then thirty. It felt like we were going to have to fight the whole library, and my vision started to swim as I hit shadow after shadow with my golf club.
‘Mr Burne!’ I shouted. ‘Please, you need to wake up! We can’t keep fighting them! I’m sorry for how we behaved towards you. I’m sorry for reading your notebook. And I’m sorry for all the other students who were nasty to you. You deserve better than that!’
A small movement came from Mr Burne’s body, and the shadows started to run away. They still bit and chewed at us, but they slowly returned to their books, which closed themselves after each rat had run inside.
Finally, they were all gone, and there was just us in the library, panting like we had just run 1000 metres.
We put our weapons down and helped Mr Burne onto a chair. He was still breathing, but it took him a few minutes to become conscious again.
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘It’s you damn kids again.’
Actually, he swore and said a much worse word than ‘damn’, but I’m not going to repeat it here.
‘Yeah, sorry,’ said Larry. ‘It’s just us. But we saved your life.’
‘What a shame,’ said Mr Burne. ‘I was hoping they would kill me this time.’
‘How often do they attack you?’ said Bethany.
I went and got my water battle from my bag, giving it to the librarian. He took it out of my hand and drank it quickly.
‘Who?’ he said.
‘The shadows,’ I said. ‘The monsters, I mean.’
He pulled on his long, crazy hair. ‘Monsters aren’t real, Ricky Marshall. Although you probably think I’m a monster, don’t you? I’m sorry you had to come in and find me like this.’
He got up and started walking around the room, putting the books back on the shelves.
‘Everyone’s sorry they have to see me, aren’t they? Not even the other teachers want to talk to me.’
I opened my mouth to say something, but the words wouldn’t come out. I mean, what could we say?
‘I’m 32 and I sound like a bitter old woman. Tell me, Ricky Marshall!’
He turned around suddenly and pointed at me, making me jump.
‘Do you have dreams?’
‘I-I, yeah, I do.’
He laughed. ‘You shouldn’t. Throw them away. Find something useful to do with your life.’
‘But you have a dream, too, don’t you?’ said Bethany. She tried to sound confident, but her hands were shaking. ‘You want to write a book.’
Mr Burne laughed so hard he almost dropped the book he was holding.
‘Oh yes, my wonderful fantasy novel. You probably had a good laugh reading all my ideas, didn’t you, Bethany Wright?’ He pushed the book he was holding on the shelf like it had hurt him. ‘I have written novels. Many, many novels. And they’ve all been awful. Nobody wants to publish me. Nobody will even sit and eat lunch with me. My dream wasted years of my life when I could’ve been learning how to do a real job, so I wouldn’t end up as a sad librarian getting bullied by pupils and teachers all day long.’
It seemed like his energy had gone. He fell back into his chair at the front desk of the library, and waved his hand at the rest of the books on the floor.
‘Go home, children. There’s nothing to see here but a sad old man. I’ll clean up after you’re gone.’
We hesitated. We knew we should do something, but what? What could we do to help him?
So we didn’t do anything. We went home, walking in silence, and it felt like those rat shadows were chewing on our legs the whole way.
It was only when we reached Larry’s house that we broke the silence.
‘Now we know what happens when a shadow gets someone,’ said Max quietly.
I almost wished I hadn’t known.
END OF CHAPTER 9
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