The Boy Who Haunted Himself
Key Stage: KS2/3 E; Age 10+
Lexile Measure: 630L
190 x 130mm
THE BOY WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF
The boy looked at the shabby green door, then back to the crumpled scrap of newspaper in his hand. A chilly gust of wind almost tugged it from his grasp, as he stepped from the shelter of the doorway to examine it in the last of the weak October daylight.
UNLEASH THE SECRET FORCES OF YOUR MIND, said the bold black letters at the top of the advert.
Underneath, in smaller print, it went on:
Improve your memory and amaze your friends!
Develop your willpower and become a success!!
Increase your confidence and impress
the people who matter!!!
Release the hidden power of your
mind through hypnosis.
Consult Doctor Black, 37b Market Street,
The boy strained his eyes to read the tiny print at the bottom…
Special rates for scientific subjects.
He thrust the paper into his pocket, then turned to look again at the green door. There was no number on it but it stood between a grimy greengrocer’s shop numbered 35 and an even grubbier newsagent’s numbered 39. He glanced at the dusty cabbages to his left. This wasn’t how he’d imagined Doctor Black’s surgery would be. He’d imagined a fine oak door with a gleaming brass plate.
The dingy, ordinary door gave him the courage to go ahead. He raised a hand to knock on it and felt a sudden fear. It was as if an icicle had been pressed to the back of his neck. Or as if cold eyes were watching him.
He swung round. The people in the street were hurrying home from the shops, but no one was taking any notice of him. He raised his eyes to the dark windows of the rooms above the shop fronts. If someone was watching from there, then they were well hidden. He shook his head, turned back to the door and rapped boldly on it.
He pulled up the collar of his blazer against the cold of the swirling wind and waited, head bent forward, listening for footsteps behind the door. There was no reply to his knock. He turned the handle gently and was surprised when the door swung open.
The door led onto a stairway. It was dimly lit by a weak, unshaded bulb. The stairs were covered by a worn, red carpet and they led up to a landing with three doors at the top. As he began to climb he noticed a musty smell – a mixture of stale tobacco and old leather, he thought. He guessed that flat “b” must be the one in the middle. He knocked.
“Enter!” a voice behind the door boomed.
The boy opened the door and was surprised by the rich warmth of the scene before him. It was very different from the squalid entrance. The room was warmed by a cheerful, crackling log fire and lit by a brass oil lamp that stood on a polished walnut table. In the flickering light he could see that one wall was lined with fine old books. Two high-backed chairs were covered in red velvet.
“Take a seat by the fire,” said the voice. It came from deep inside the chair that faced the door.
“Doctor Black?” the boy asked. He was tall for his age but shrank back into his blazer, shoulders rounded with worry and fear. He could see very little of the man, only a plume of white hair rising from a cloud of amber smoke.
“Come in! Come in, my friend!” The doctor rose to his feet, carefully marked his book before placing it on the table and turned to knock his pipe out on the hearth. “Excuse me,” he said. “Filthy habit. Don’t ever start, my boy.”
“No…I…er…” the boy stammered. The doctor was not very tall but his mane of hair made his head look large and powerful like a lion. His bright black eyes seemed to look right through the boy and made him feel small. Behind him he still felt invisible eyes chilling the back of his head.
“Take a seat! Take a seat!” the old man said, stepping forward to grip the boy’s hand in a firm and friendly shake. “Oh, but you’re cold!” he cried, with real concern. “Come along. Take this seat by the fire.”
“Thank you…Doctor Black.”
“Ah! So you know my name!” The doctor’s fluffy white eyebrows shot up to meet the untidy tangle of his hair. “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’d have remembered. I’ve a wonderful memory, you know.”
“We haven’t met. I’m Peter…Peter Stone.”
“Hah! That’s good!” The old man threw his head back and laughed loudly. “Peter is a name meaning ‘rock’. Peter Stone…rock-stone. That’s very good. Whoever gave you that name must have had a rare sense of humour.”