PART OF THE Tricks and Treats ISSUE
‘She leapt into the night sky, an arched silhouette against the white full moon.’
Extract taken from The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle
By Hannah Foley
Published by Kelpies
Her tail was the reason Avery always went to the school Halloween disco dressed as a cat. Halloween was the only time in the whole year when she could show her tail and no one would bat an eyelid. If you had asked her, she would have said it was just part of her, in the same way that Low wore glasses or some of the kids in her class spoke different languages. She would have said it was a ‘normal difference’.
But deep down Avery knew nobody else had a tail, and although it was great for helping her balance and climb where no one else could, it did make sitting neatly in class very tricky. And because no one else had one, Avery kept her tail hidden under her clothes, except on Halloween.
Inside the disco, Avery swept across the floor, an ink‑black silhouette against the dancing lights of red and gold and green. Witches and monsters, ghosts and devils wheeled around her. Avery’s tail flew out behind her, seeming to curl gently this way and that of its own accord. She felt a thrill of freedom. Tonight, for once, she could just be herself.
Low ran up to her, all feathers and beak, dressed as an owl. ‘So, what do you think?’ he asked, arms held out so she could fully admire his costume mastery.
‘Brilliant!’ she grinned. ‘It suits you.’
He grinned back. ‘Have you tried these wriggly worms? I don’t think we had them last year.’ He offered her a crumpled paper bag full of warm, sticky worm-shaped sweets.
She grimaced. ‘I think I’ll pass, thanks.’
Low shrugged. ‘Don’t you get bored of always coming as a cat?’ he asked between enthusiastic chews. ‘Your tail’s always cool, though ‒ will you let me try it on?’ Before Avery could stop him, he’d given it a hard pull.
‘OW!’ Avery yelped, glaring at him.
‘Avery!’ Low stared back, mouth open, a half-chewed gummy worm in danger of escaping. ‘Your tail, it’s… it’s a-attached. And it’s warm… like it’s… r-real!’
But Avery didn’t get the chance to reply. Suddenly, there was a high-pitched screeching sound and the music came to an abrupt halt.
The disco lights flickered and then went out, plunging the school hall into thick darkness. Then there was full‑scale panic; children screamed, and bodies bumped and bounced off each other in the chaos.
Something didn’t feel right. Something was far more not-right than a simple blackout at the school disco.
She had the creeping, uneasy feeling again; she could sense a dark, menacing presence.
Avery looked around the hall with dread. Her night vision (a handy benefit of being part cat) helped her to see movement through the pitch-black. She stared in horror as a dense shape began to grow out of the floor. Within it was a writhing, thrashing mass of shadowy creatures.
Avery’s heart pounded.
‘There was someone watching in the shadows!’ she whispered to herself in horror. ‘I didn’t imagine it. And now they’re here, and they’re after me!’
The thought hit her like a speeding train. She didn’t know how she knew this with so much certainty, she just did, deep down in her heart. She knew they were bad, and she had to get away. But where was Low?
Avery could feel the shadows slithering and snarling, hissing doom and destruction into the air. Above the shifting shapes she could make out teachers directing children to safety, but they couldn’t see the creatures in the darkness – the creatures that were coming for Avery.
She had to get out.
Swiftly and silently she dodged through the crowds, deftly winding her way until she found the exit. But out in the foyer more writhing shadows blocked her path, snatching out for her with long twisting arms. They had no real faces, no eyes or noses, but Avery could see rows of small sharp teeth in gaping mouths and black, flicking tongues. She backed away, groping with her hands against the wall, until she reached out into empty space.
The door to the kitchens.
She dived inside, knocking a stack of pans off a work surface with a clatter. The lights were out in here too, but Avery could make out her surroundings enough to be sure there was no way out.
Panic filled her, and she unconsciously put her hand in her pocket, wrapping her fingers around her collection of objects. She closed her eyes and felt her heart steady, her mind clear. Wasn’t there supposed to be some way up into the school attic from the kitchens?
She began opening doors, finding only cupboards, then, with a flood of relief, discovering a steep staircase behind a latched door. Avery leapt up the steps and heaved the cover of a wooden hatch out of the way, then pulled herself through and crouched on the edge of the hole.
The attic smelt musty, and it was littered with broken chairs. A square of moonlight at the furthest end illuminated the slanting space.
Heart pounding, she sprinted for it, not daring to look behind her. She imagined the shadowy figures filling the kitchens below her like smoke.
Bright stars pricked the night sky outside, but no matter how hard she pushed, the window wouldn’t budge.
‘No, no, no!’ Avery muttered desperately, feeling the nails holding the edges of the frame shut.
Suddenly, the fur on her tail stood up on end. She didn’t need to turn around to know that the shadows had found her. She was out of time.
Picking up a broken chair leg, she shielded her face as she swung it back and blindly began smashing at the glass. The cold night air rushed in just as she felt hot breath on her neck.
As a clawed tendril of dense shadow snaked towards her leg, Avery scrambled through the smashed window and jumped.
She leapt into the night sky, an arched silhouette against the white full moon. Momentarily she dropped, twisting in mid-air, then her legs swung up in front of her. Avery felt a sickening tightening of her costume as she lurched to a halt and was pulled upwards. She hung dejectedly, too weary to struggle. They’d got her.
‘Did we get away?’ a familiar voice panted from above.
Avery wriggled around in alarm, briefly in freefall again as strong talons lost their grip before gently regaining their hold.
‘Woah, you’re heavier than you look.’
‘Low? Is that you? You’re… an owl! A real one! And you’re flying!’
‘Yeah, though not for much longer if I have to keep carrying you.’
‘Right, right,’ said Avery, suspending disbelief for the sake of urgency. Peering round, she scanned the roof of the school hall but there was nothing there. The shadows had gone.
‘I’m actually not joking,’ wheezed Low. ‘You’re really heavy.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ve got a weird feeling something’ll come to me,’ replied Avery, feeling almost giddy with relief.
The story continues in The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle – the perfect read for spooky season, ideal for children aged 8–12! Available now from the Kelpies website and your local bookshop.
Want to know more? Check out this great conversation between Hannah Foley and Elizabeth Ezra, author of the spook-tacular Ruby McCracken: Tragic Without Magic!
The Spellbinding Secret of Avery Buckle by Hannah Foley is published by Kelpies, priced £7.99
Mary Paulson-Ellis was born in Glasgow and studied Politics and Sociology at Edinburgh University. She worked for several years in arts administration before giving it all up to become a writer. She began with an evening class as part of the Edinburgh …