THE MISSION’S A matter of life and death.
Of course, that means it’s not important enough for SB to grace us with her presence. Instead, we’ve got one of her helpers, some random fairy godmother who looks so old she probably can’t remember what day it is, let alone how to weave the tangled web of glamours we’ll need if we’re going to head out into the real world without being discovered.
‘Darlings.’ Her wings droop like dusty old curtains. ‘Remind me of your names again?’
‘Jack,’ says Jack. Blood seeps from beneath his bandage, his expression vacant. Unless we find ourselves needing some emergency pails of water fetched, he’s going to be no use whatsoever.
‘Goldliocks,’ purrs Goldie, making the grain at the back of my neck feel like it’s in need of a good sanding. ‘Goldilocks Jones.’
The fairy godmother turns to me, flashing a gummy smile. I hate giving people my real name. But if I don’t, the spell I hope she’s still got the power to cast won’t work.
‘Pinocchio,’ I say. Each syllable makes my teeth grind that little bit harder. ‘Pinocchio Collodi.’
‘Lovely!’ She claps her hands. A puff of dull green magic billows from between her palms. It smells like rotten eggs. ‘Jack, Goldilocks and Pincokeyho.’
I make to correct her, but it’s too late. The rancid cloud of magic plops down on us. I gag, watching as most of it slips off me. It’s enough to cover my head and shoulders, but I can tell the rest of me is unprotected. Jack and Goldie, on the other hand, are surrounded by a shimmering cloud of the stuff.
The godmother looks like she’s fallen asleep on her feet. Two Secrets melt from the shadows and guide her towards a door at the back of the briefing room. One comes back, wiping his hands as if he’s trying to get rid of a stain.
‘Right, you three.’ His face is hidden by his helmet, moulded into an androgynous golden mask identical to all the other Secrets. ‘Time to go.’
‘And where exactly are we going?’ My head feels like there’s a swarm of bees buzzing about inside it.
Goldie gasps theatrically, her hands clasped over her mouth. Jack falls down. I groan.
‘D-darkwood?’ Goldie’s voice is shaking. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Positive. Gretel was last sighted heading past the woodcutter’s cottage carring a basket. We have reason to believe it contained the Story Book.’
Even I’m stunned. If that’s true, all of us are at risk. Not only that, but the Normals will be in danger too. If the Wickeds get their hands on it and rewrite the Tales… well, let’s just say there won’t be many happy endings.
I haul Jack to his feet. Goldie’s hyperventilating.
‘How are we going to get there?’ I ask. ‘Darkwood’s behind The Wall.’
The Secret takes out a battered old lamp and starts rubbing it. I close my eyes. I hate this bit.
Travelling by genie always makes me want to puke.