“Are you sure we can do this?” ten-year-old Brodie MacGregor said as he trailed after his best friend up the steepest hill beside the loch. The higher they got, the more nervous he became. It was a looooooooong way down.
“Aye.” Katya Savage grinned over her shoulder at him. “We’re going to be legends.”
“We’re going to die,” Brodie muttered, but he still kept following Katya. Just like he’d been doing since they were toddlers.
“I’m telling you, Brodie, this has never been done before. We’re setting a record. They’ll put it in that book and we’ll be famous. Oh! I almost forgot.” She pulled a phone out of the pocket of her red denim shorts.
“Where did you get that?” Neither of them had phones of their own.
Katya tucked her hair behind her ear to get it out of her eyes. Ever since she’d given herself a haircut, it seemed to aim for her eyes, but her mum said she couldn’t get it cut properly until it grew enough to be evened out. The haircut was another idea Brodie hadn’t been sure about and now the back of Katya’s hair was way shorter than the front. There was a bald patch too. Katya had been pretty mad when he’d tackled her and drawn a face in the gap—with permanent marker. If you looked hard, you could still see it smiling at you through her hair.
“I borrowed it from my mum.”
“Does she know?”
She shrugged. “Dunno, she was asleep when I asked if it was okay.” She waved him over. “Come here. We need a picture to send to the Guinness Book of Records for proof we did this.”
Brodie shook his head as he moved to her side. “A picture doesn’t prove we cycled down the hill—”
“Whatever. It just proves we were daft enough to walk our bikes up here. We should have brought one of my brothers to film us going down. Now that’s proof.”
“Don’t worry, I have a plan,” Katya said. The words that always made him worry. She put an arm around his shoulder and held the phone at arm’s length. “Smile,” she ordered.
She checked the photo and nodded. “That’s good.” Reaching into the neck of her T-shirt, she came out with a plastic ziplock bag attached to a cord. “I’m going to press the video button before I put the phone in here so we can film our ride. See? The record people will have proof. This is going to be so cool, Brodie. Your brothers are going to be way jealous.”
Brodie wasn’t sure about that. His brothers thought everything he did with Katya was nuts. Well, except for his older brother Bain, who was often impressed, but then he was crazier than Katya.
Just last month, Bain had blown up their shed while running some weird experiments. He’d told their Ma and Pa that the explosion was chemistry homework gone wrong. He’d told his brothers that he’d meant to blow something up, he just got the target wrong.
Bain was pretty pissed that the shed was gone and he’d been forced to take his experiments into the attic. Brodie spent a lot of time lying awake at night now, worried about what his brother might be doing up there—and whether they’d still have a roof come morning.
“Are you listening to me?” Katya shoved his shoulder.
“No, I was thinking about what Bain would blow up next.”
“I’d keep him away from the cat, just in case.”
That wasn’t a bad idea. The cat and his brother hated each other.
“Anyway,” Katya said. “I think we’re up far enough. What do you think?”
Brodie looked down the steep, heather-covered hill to the shimmering loch below. It was a long way down. Straight down. With not even a tree to block their path.
“Maybe we should start off lower and work our way up to here. You know, for practice.”
“Don’t be a wimp,” she said.
“I’m not being a wimp. I’m being smart. I’m too young to die.”
“We’re not going to die. Remember? We watched that TV programme, with the people who cycled over hills and mountains. None of them died.”
“They had proper helmets,” Brodie pointed out. “And their bikes didn’t look like ours.”
He eyed his hand-me-down bike, with its bald tyres, before pointedly staring at Katya’s bike. It had been really girly when she got it, but she’d stripped off the front basket and pink streamers on the wheels and added stickers of skulls to the handlebars. No amount of skull stickers could fix that bike. It was still pale blue and pretty. It didn’t even have gears.
“Maybe we should get better bikes first,” he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with my bike.” She patted the seat lovingly. “You’re just being a big chicken.” She made chicken noises and flapped her arms like they were wings.
“Whatever.” He climbed on his bike. “Are we going or what?”
With a grin that lit up her face, she got on her own bike and then dug into the pocket of her shorts. She came out with two chocolate bars and handed him one. “Rocket fuel,” she told him.
They contemplated the challenge in front of them while they ate. It seemed to Brodie that every time he looked down the hill it was steeper. And then there was the water…
“What if we land in the loch?”
“We swim and get out. But we won’t land in the water, because we have brakes.”
He tested his handbrakes. They were working.
“You ready?” Katya reached behind her and grabbed the helmet Brodie’s older brother Knox wore when he rode his motorbike. It was big and black and swallowed Katya’s head whole. She flipped up the visor and grinned at him as she fastened the strap under her chin.
With a sigh, Brodie retrieved his brother’s spare helmet, which was a replica of his other one only in white. “If we damage these, Knox will kill me.” Especially seeing as they were something else they’d borrowed without permission. At least he’d managed to convince Katya they needed helmets. Although, he’d done it by saying they’d look much cooler with them than without. Katya wouldn’t have been impressed with the safety argument.
“If we damage these,” she said, “it means we landed on our heads and they didn’t protect us. So, we’ll probably already be dead, which means nobody can kill us.” She looked really pleased about that.
Brodie adjusted his helmet. It was so big on him that it kept sliding to the side. “Visor up or down?” On the one hand, it would stop bugs getting in his face. On the other, it would probably shatter and take out an eye if he hit the ground face first.
“Up,” Katya said decisively. She put the phone into the plastic bag hanging around her neck. “You ready?”
“Good. I’m pressing record.” She fiddled with the phone before sealing it in the bag. “This is going to be awesome. First one to the bottom wins!” With a grin, she took off.
And there was nothing Brodie could do but follow. His heart beat so loudly he could hear it in his helmet and his palms were sweaty, making it difficult to get a good grip on the handlebars. But…the wind was in his face. Katya was whooping with glee. And they were going to be legends. Before long, he was grinning and whooping too.
And then they hit the heather.
“Lift your feet,” Katya shouted. “Lift your feet so it can’t get your legs.”
It was too late, but unlike Katya, he wasn’t wearing shorts and his jeans protected him from the worst of it.
“Blackberries!” Katya screeched. “Go left. Go left.”
She veered to the left. Brodie wasn’t so lucky. He rode right through the middle of the berry patch and this time nothing protected him.
“It’s got me,” he shouted as the bushes shredded his jeans and T-shirt, bit into his flesh and ripped him apart. At least, that’s how it felt. “I’m going to die!”
“Look out for the rocks,” Katya shouted back.
That’s when they went flying. One minute they were on their bikes, the next they were tumbling down the hill, head over heels, through heather, brambles and bushes. Hitting every rock in Scotland as they went.
They landed in a patch of soft, thick grass on the edge of the loch. Brodie vaguely wondered why the only soft patch of ground they’d seen since they started was right at the end. He was just grateful for it as he lay there, on his back, staring at blackness. Blackness?
“I can’t see,” he wailed. “I’m blind!”
Katya groaned near him. “You aren’t blind. Your helmet’s turned around. It’s on backwards. I lost mine. I think it’s in the loch.”
Brodie reached up to feel his face and sure enough all he felt was the smooth plastic helmet. It took effort to get it off and he tossed it to the side before lying back down. The blue sky appeared above him before Katya’s face came into view.
There was blood running down her cheek, and it looked like a bush was growing out of her hair.
“Are you broken?” she asked.
Cautiously, Brodie moved his arms and legs. They hurt, but they didn’t feel broken. “I don’t think so. Everything still moves. What about you?”
“No broken bones, but lots of cuts and bruises.” She looked down at herself. “I lost mum’s phone. She’s going to kill me.”
Brodie suspected the phone was the least of Katya’s worries. “Can you see the bikes?”
She scanned the hill. “They’re both up there. Mine is stuck in some brambles; yours is just lying beside a big rock.”
Brodie let out a long groan. “I’m not going back up there to get them.” Not even if she begged.
“We’ll come back another day. I don’t think anybody will steal them.”
No, because nobody else was daft enough to go up that hill.
“That means we need to walk home,” he said. They were pretty far around the loch, which meant it wasn’t a short walk back to town.
“Or we could swim?”
“We’re not swimming.”
“I think we could make it.”
“Okay then, you swim. I’ll walk.”
“Whatever. We can walk.” She heaved a sigh before grinning. “We nearly made it down the hill, Brodie. Next time we’ll know what to expect and we’ll make it to the bottom—with our bikes.”
Brodie ignored the “next time” comment as he struggled to sitting position and examined himself. One leg of his jeans had pretty much been ripped off. His knee was bleeding and there was a long gash on his shin. Not that it stood out. Wherever there was bare skin, it was scraped to bits. He looked at Katya to see the same scraped and bloody evidence of their escapade on her arms and legs. “The parents are going to kill us when they see us.”
Katya finger combed her hair. “We should probably wipe off some of the blood before we go home.” She picked something out of her hair, looked at it and then offered it to him. “Blackberry?”
He made puking noises when she popped it in her mouth.
“Come on,” he said, struggling to his feet. “We’d better start walking or we won’t get back before dark.”
“It’s not going to take us that long to get home.” Katya got to her feet, wincing as she did so. “It isn’t dark until late tonight.” She turned toward the loch and Brodie grimaced. There was a tear in her T-shirt and a gash running down her back. It looked bad.
With a sigh he took off his own battered and dirty shirt and limped toward the water. “Wait a minute. I need to wipe your back. You’ve got a bad cut.”
She tried to look over her shoulder and gasped with pain when her body twisted. “I can’t see it.”
“Because it’s on your back, numpty.”
Brodie knelt, wet his shirt and then took it back to Katya. He dabbed at her back, wishing he knew first aid. All he’d learned in school was that you had to keep wounds clean, stop bleeding, and give mouth-to-mouth if somebody wasn’t breathing. He couldn’t remember how you stopped the bleeding, and Katya was clearly breathing, so that left him with cleaning her up.
“We nearly made it,” she said again as he gently wiped her back. “Next time we should start over there.” She pointed. “That way we won’t hit the blackberry bushes.”
Brodie didn’t say anything. There was no point. When Katya got an idea in her head it was impossible to get it out—for him anyway. He planned to bring in the big guns. The first thing he was doing when they got back to town was telling Katya’s parents that she was already planning a second attempt at the hill. They would stop her. Of course, she’d probably go in a huff and ignore him for a while, but at least she wouldn’t try to kill them with another ride down the hill.
“There are too many cuts to clean,” he said grimly as he rinsed out his shirt. “It would be easier if we just jumped in the loch and cleaned them all at the same time.”
Katya nodded, equally grimly. “Take off your shoes first. Walking in wet shoes really sucks.”
They took off their shoes, held hands, and jumped in the water. The cold took the air from Brodie’s lungs. Even in summer, the loch was freezing.
“S-splash about,” he said through chattering teeth. “Help c-clean the cuts.”
They splashed around before climbing back onto the grass.
“Better,” Katya said. “Less blood and dirt.” She gave him a hopeful look. “Maybe nobody will notice?”
Considering they were both scratched from head to toe, Brodie figured that was just wishful thinking. “Come on. If we walk that way,”—he pointed to a less steep part of the hill—“we’ll eventually hit the road.”
They put on their shoes and started walking. Slowly. Because every step was painful.
“You know,” Katya said as they made their way up the hill, “I think if we’d gone faster down the hill, we wouldn’t have fallen off at the rocks. We would just have gone flying over them. Next time, we should get Bain to attach some rockets to our bikes. And maybe wear some thicker clothes, just in case. Or we could wear parachutes. That way, if the bikes get out of control, we can jump off and float away.”
“Or,” Brodie said, “we could get into the Guinness Book of Records by doing something else.”
Katya was silent for a long time. That meant she was thinking. And that wasn’t a good thing.
“You know, if we attached fireworks to our back, we could fly off the hill and down to the loch. I bet nobody’s ever done that before.”
Brodie just groaned and kept on walking.
If you haven’t read Brodie and Katya’s story in Come Fly With Me, you can get your copy here now. 🙂