The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie


‘Delores felt her stomach fold in on itself. The threat of the Uncles had been looming dark on the horizon for some time, ever since their parents disappeared.’

Delores Mackenzie is a troubled, but gifted child, and her gift means she has to take on the biggest adventure of her life. Below is an extract from this magical tale.


The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie
By Yvonne Banham
Published by Firefly Press


Delores always left her escape from the island until the last possible minute. She loved the race along the causeway, competing against the rapidly rising tide, daring the waves to push her off her feet as she dashed through the first slithers of incoming seawater.

This particular afternoon was sharp and blustery, with March winds sending storm clouds scudding along the Firth. Even by her usual standards Delores had left it late, huddled against the wall of the old lookout as she fi nished one more chapter. She stuffed the book in her pack as fat, cold drops of rain burst on the back of her neck. As she turned towards the causeway that linked Cramond Island to the mainland, she saw a dark smudge at the edge of her vision.

‘Can’t be,’ she whispered.

The prickling on her arms told her different. A suggestion of a shadow, an echo of a person long dead, a Bòcan.

‘What are you doing here?’ she shouted. ‘You never come out here!’

The Bòcan darted to the side, almost impossible to track in the storm-soaked light.

Delores swung her pack over her shoulders, pulled up her hood and ran down the steep bank onto the shale. The water was already lapping the causeway. She walked quickly, shoulders hunched, hands thrust deep in her pockets. Faster. Then running. There was a disturbance in the space behind her. Her hood was yanked back, and the neck of her coat was pulled tight around her throat. Something grabbed at her hair, dragging her back but she kept her balance – just.

Delores tried to scream but what little voice she had left was drowned by the cries of the sea birds that hovered on the updraft. Her hood slackened and a dark figure, more solid now, slid behind one of the stone pylons that lined the causeway. A man once, she thought, from its shape, its movements. She waited, watching for the Bòcan to show itself again.


Delores turned again towards the shore, towards home. If she ran hard, she’d make it in a couple of minutes, but her feet were skittering along the stones that were slick with new seawater and the remnants of dead weed. She felt periwinkles crunching under her boots and the corvids that had been feeding on them rose in front of her, making nothing of the violent wind.

Delores sensed something reaching out for her as she raced towards the foreshore. Just a few more metres. She slipped as she hit the turn in the path and slammed down onto her right hip. There was no time to register the pain. Something tugged on her backpack and dragged her a few inches across the rough surface towards the water, scuffing her jeans and the skin beneath. The shock froze her for a moment.

‘What are you doing?’ she screamed into the wind.

‘Let me go!’

Delores flung her weight forward and scrambled back to her feet. The sky had darkened to an inky midnight-blue and the row of white cottages ahead became vivid against it. She took a deep breath and powered up the slipway, her feet sliding back on the sand that was blowing across its hard surface, her legs shaking with effort. She reached the foreshore and raced towards home, the sound of her own boots barely disguising the footsteps gaining on her with every metre. She prayed that her sister would be home, that the door wouldn’t be locked. The handle twisted and she fell in through the door. She reached back to catch it and slammed it shut behind her.

Delores slid down onto the cold stone floor.

‘Could do with some help here!’ she shouted.

Delilah rushed through from the kitchen and threw herself down next to Delores, adding her weight to the door as something pounded and rattled from the other side of the wood.

‘Bòcan?’ grunted Delilah, as the door banged the air out of her lungs.

Delores nodded. ‘Chased me from the island.’ The door thudded into their backs again.

‘Thought you said they never go out there?’ said Delilah, ‘“All that salt”, you said. Wow, Delores, this one’s strong!’ A single violent bang on the door, then silence for a few moments.

Delores put her hand on the back of her neck. When she pulled it away, there was blood on her fingers. ‘It grabbed me,’ she whispered.

‘Grabbed? Where?’ Delilah leaned in to check for damage.

Delores swerved away from her sister and wiped her hand on the underside of her jeans. ‘Probably just wanting to play. Like when I was little.’

‘Play?’ The door thudded into their backs again.

‘This one feels pretty substantial,’ said Delilah. ‘Not like your old imaginary friends.’

‘They were never imaginary… You had them too; I know you did.’ Delores pressed her back into the door, already feeling the bruises in the knobbly bones of her spine.

‘I did,’ said Delilah, ‘but I left mine behind when I grew up, and they never tried to hurt me. This is a bit different from your dolls’ tea parties. You must be sending out some powerful signals to attract this strength of manifestation.’ She took a breath. ‘You know it’s time, don’t you? For you to go to the Uncles?’

Delores felt her stomach fold in on itself. The threat of the Uncles had been looming dark on the horizon for some time, ever since their parents disappeared. Delilah had dropped hints here and there, the odd mention, but she’d known better than to broach the subject full on. Delores knew what was coming. ‘No way I’m going to those creeps,’ she said. ‘Forget it.’


The Dark and Dangerous Gifts of Delores Mackenzie by Yvonne Banham is published by Firefly Press, priced £7.99.

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