Dhalia is having a sad day, until his best friend, Diesel, comes over to visit. The pair embark on an adventure to reach Castell Coch, a journey that will see them having to escape the evil clutches of Wiwer and her squirrel army, the alien invasion during a meteorite shower, and a seemingly endless uphill struggle to their final destination in search for adventure.
Dhalia awoke early one morning to the sounds of the rain falling lightly upon his bedroom window. Lifting himself up from his mattress and scratching his head, he dons his newly purchased dressing gown, and goes down to the kitchen to boil water upon the stove. Dhalia’s house mate, Todd the Mac, blew up their kettle days earlier in a fit of adolescent rage.
The pot on the stove partly boiled, and Dhalia made himself a coffee with the lukewarm and stagnant water that had been resting in the open...for who knows how long. It tasted like regret. Picking his nose and reorganising his shorts, he clumsily made his way back upstairs to fall on his computer chair in a desperate attempt to look like he had plans that day.
After checking on his assorted social networking sites for any new revelations that may have occurred within the last five hours, and procrastinating through uninteresting Youtube videos, Dhalia decided to sit at the bottom of the stairs and stare longingly through the glass front door. He was sad.
‘I wish Diesel was here’ He sighed to himself as a single tear ran down his cheek and fell silently upon the dressing gowns soft cotton.
Diesel is an old and dear friend of Dhalia, a Staffordshire terrier who is the pet of Dhalia’s close friend ‘Myles’. Myles once lived with Dhalia but moved out with his wife, taking Diesel with him. It was a sad day for everyone involved.
As Dhalia began to drift away into his imaginary world of delusions and escapism, a suns ray shone through the front door. A glare warmed the face of Dhalia, bringing his mind back to reality. It was just in time to see a familiar and loveable character waiting for him on the other side of the door.
Diesel was here.
Dhalia jumped across the hallway and opened the door to allow the 'little puppy' back inside. Diesel was excited and wagged his tail furiously, before running through the lounge and into the kitchen to eat some biscuits that Dhalia put into a bowl after following him. You see, when Diesel gets really excited, he needs to eat, and to make it look even more comical, he turns his head to stare at you as he is taking breaks from the bowl to chew.
Dhalia didn’t care how much of a crack fiend he looked. His puppy was back home and he wanted to go on a little adventure. Where could Dhalia and Diesel go to enjoy, without the constant disruption of other dogs and people?
Then Diesel was younger, he was used as a bait dog in dog fighting. Ever since then he hasn’t really liked other dogs, he’s getting better, but as Dhalia is a misanthropist, Diesel is also...But with other dogs.
Dhalia stared at the wall into the haunting eyes of Wally, from the infamous annoying calendar range ‘Where’s Wally?’. Dhalia hated Wally, who was staring coldly back at him with his hollow, dead eyes. Dhalia saw red, he became angered. Just as his rage against Wally was about to boil over into physical violence, he had a thought.
‘In Welsh, Red is Coch...We could go to Castell Coch!’
He turned to Diesel with an excited grin on his face. Diesel returned the look of excitement as he continued to consume the dry dog biscuits.
‘We could go visit Castell Coch!’ Declared Dhalia
Diesel stopped chewing and looked back in wonder, his puppy dog eyes beginning to water as he seemed to whimper out the words ‘... I love Castell Coch.’
The pair hurriedly prepared what they would need. A back pack was filled with drinking water, a torch, a notebook and some spare warm clothes in case the weather changed. They were ready to begin their adventure.
Dhalia and Diesel lived in an urban residential area of Cardiff known as ‘The Colonies’. The streets were partially closed for cars, and provided a peaceful environment for those who lived there. It also had a small area of trees within the middle section where the four roads met.
They cautiously made their way across the vegetated area, as within the trees lived a particularly nasty pair of magpies, they had nicknamed ‘bubble’ and ‘Squeak’. History had taught them that it was much easier and safer to avoid the pair of flying talons, than to disturb them in any way. This days attempt was successful and there was no sign of Bubble and Squeak to be found. They continued onwards, and were soon running in the sunshine across the large open playing fields of Bute Park.
In front of them lay a seemingly endless blanket of bright green. The sunlight shone off the leaves as they began to run north, towards the quiet pace of the Welsh Valleys, and away from the busy and chaotic disorder now behind them within the city centre.
The sounds of car engines and industrial building equipment were replaced by the sounds of ducks splashing in the Taff River nearby, and squirrels scurrying along the trees surrounding them. It was an idyllic moment, picturesque in all meanings of the sense.
A squirrel walked closer towards Dhalia and Diesel, and stood upon its hind legs when noticed by the pair. Diesel sniffed the ground in an interested manner, whilst Dhalia got down and tried to offer the squirrel a twig he had found on the ground.
The squirrel returned Diesels introduction of respect, but became insulted by Dhalia’s petty offering of the squirrels own twig.
The squirrel scowled and returned his gaze towards Diesel and seemed to communicate;
‘Just so you know, this isn’t personal’
A loud screech pierced the air and forced Dhalia to cover his ears with the palm of his hands. Diesel dropped to the ground and placed his paws upon his head in a similar act of defence. The clatter of what sounded like wood hitting wood was heard, and the pair looked up in surprise as they saw an army of squirrels had appeared upon the many trees branches. The squirrels, some in custom rags used as clothing, were all carrying small spears, which they began to throw at the now disorientated pair.
Dhalia and Diesel ran for their lives, continuing northwards as they found it increasingly more difficult to outrun their furry attackers. Diesel was clearly becoming uncomfortable with the continuing attacks, and Dhalia searched frantically for a way to escape from the woodlands that seemed to want to stop their plans of reaching Castell Coch.
An Arriva train was growing nearer as they approached the train tracks ahead.
‘This is it’ thought Dhalia ‘We’ll take the train’
“Follow me Diesel!” Shouted Dhalia, as he darted to meet the train heading north, Caerphilly perhaps?
They ran as fast as they could, their lives seemingly depending on it. The broken branches and leaf matter on the ground turned into small rocks and large gravel that made running more awkward for the smaller pawed member of the pair. Dhalia picked Diesel up into his arms and leaped forward onto the moving train.
Landing through a previously broken window, that hadn’t yet been fixed, they looked around and realised they had escaped the army of attacking squirrels and were one step closer to the destination. Lucky that window hadn't been fixed yet ... Next stop, Tongwynlais!
The chief of the squirrels, Wiwer, ordered her army to continue the chase regardless of her follower’s safety. She was extremely angry at the insult Dhalia had bestowed upon her tribe, so they followed.
Whilst waiting for the train to arrive at their destination, a young man walks up to Dhalia and asks him if he is okay as the passenger is worried that he seems flustered and shaky.
“I’m fine’ replies Dhalia “to be honest, I’ve never felt better’
The passenger returns to his seat and decides to leave the pair to their adventure. Diesel seems to have disappeared temporarily. Dhalia wasn’t worried, he knew that he would be back shortly. He decided to take this time to catch his breath and enjoy the quietness of the train’s journey.
‘Did he really just get attacked by an army of squirrels?’ He thought to himself.
He began to think back on how he had ended up on a train heading into the valleys and the town of Tongwynlais. Just as he began to realise that he could not vision the clothing the squirrels had been wearing, Diesel returned sniffing at his jeans as he placed his front two paws onto Dhalia’s lap.
‘Are we here Diesel?’
Indeed, the train had arrived at their destination and they exited and made their way through the town of Tongwynlais itself, to its outer perimeter that bordered on the local golf course.
The pair stopped at the golf course’s fence and looked up the mountain, where they were able to see Castell Coch itself for the first time during their day out, embedded amongst the dense forests that surrounded it.
“We have to make it across there” Dhalia said whilst pointing across the golf course and towards the castle.
Diesel looks worryingly up at Dhalia, yet seemed to nod in agreement.
“Don’t worry bud...it’s not real” reassured Dhalia.
“...let’s go soldier”
They began to cross the golf course, slowly at first, but picking up the pace when golf balls begun to land nearby at a more frequent pace.
“Incoming!’ Diesel seemed to yell, as he pushed Dhalia out of the way of a rapidly nearing meteorite falling from the sky. Flaming projectiles were dropping all around them, as they jumped and dodged the dangers by hiding in an impact crater that had now filled with sand amongst the otherwise green grass.
Sitting in their shelter, Dhalia turns to Diesel and points out a road nearby that went straight up the mountain side and towards the Castle.
“If we take that path, I’m sure we’ll be at the castle in no time”
Diesel nods in agreement. They peek cautiously over the banks edge and see a number of meteorites nearing as a pair of aliens in some sort of moon rover drive angrily towards them, swinging their weapons as they did so.
Their eyes widened in unison. It was now or never. Dhalia pulled himself onto the grass bank as Diesel jumps up and runs towards the road with Dhalia in tow. Their hearts pounded in their chests as the hum of the rovers motor could be heard getting closer behind them.
Diesel barks. Dhalia knew what he meant. He could see a hole between the bushes they could escape through onto the road that would lead them to the top of the hill. They could hear the aliens shouting for them to return, but they knew better. They knew that they had to get to the castle to save the day.
The characters they had met since leaving the house had been unfriendly and vicious, and all they now wanted to do was escape into the castle and be alone. Away from all the dramas and conflict they found had surrounded them.
Diesel dived through the gap in the hedge row before turning around to ensure Dhalia managed to follow him unhurt. Brakes were heard on the alien’s side of the hedge as Dhalia and Diesel began to run up the road, escaping the projectiles and abuse being thrown at them from the aliens themselves.
The road was quiet and eerie, and seemed to climb endlessly uphill with no clear objection in sight. The ground was damp and the trees on either side seemed to drift back and forth silently in the breeze that brushed against the adventurer’s skin, as it continued its endless journey around the globe.
‘It’s a long struggle ahead Diesel, are you willing to stand beside me until the end?’ Dhalia thought to himself as he looked across at Diesel himself, who had been quiet since escaping the aliens. Dhalia didn’t actually ask, he already knew the answer, it had already taken place. He returned his gaze to the road ahead, grey and bleak. It’s hard to see the top when you’re always looking down at the ground.
Lost to deal with their own thoughts, they walked onwards, becoming more disillusioned with each step they took. They were becoming more fatigued and began to lose sight on the reason they had begun this trip in the first place. Dhalia’s breathing became heavy as he slowly began to hunch over further up the hill he went. He thought it was time to take a break, to sit down and relax somewhere, before deciding whether to go on or not. He knew he would become distracted, but he was tired. He wanted to rest, he wasn’t even sure if he wanted to finish his adventure anymore.
Diesel barked, alerting Dhalia away from his thoughts and towards the road ahead. Peering through the trees was a large castle that would look fitting within a fairytale story of Rapunzel or Sleeping Beauty. They had made it, they were finally arriving at Castell Coch!
The draw bridge was down and the doors were open, welcoming them into the extravagant interior. As they crossed the bridge, it raised, protecting them from what they had left behind. They found themselves climbing the towers stairs until they were upon the roof of the castle.
Looking out above the tree line and down the hill towards where they begun, Dhalia and Diesel felt as though they were the knights of their own castle. They were happy in the thought that they had finished their story in such a picturesque setting. They felt like they could just stay here forever.
Then, suddenly, a screech was heard from within the trees on the other side of the castle’s moat. Dhalia told Diesel to duck as he looked over the edge and was surprised to find that the squirrel chief, Wiwer, had found them with her army in tow.
The squirrel army threw their spears in an attempt to reach the pair upon the roof, but to no avail, and were becoming more agitated as the seconds began to pass by. Dhalia’s heart began to beat faster, as his breathing became heavy and frantic as anxiety began to set in. He lowered himself to the floor and sat down leaning against the towers side.
‘Don’t worry...It’s all a lie’
Dhalia heard a whisper in his ear, he turned and scanned the roof to see that Diesel was gone. He calmed down and looked over the edge of the castle, the squirrels were gone. They were all gone. He knew this would happen, yet he still felt his chest rise in his throat.
The day faded away and night began to fall over South Wales. Dhalia remained sitting in the same position until the cold began to set in, and he started the journey back home. He had work tomorrow, it was time to return to the life he was forced to live. He wanted to travel and use his imagination, instead those around him and himself were deemed more useful working phones and serving the fortunate.
As Dhalia walked back along the dark country road he wished Diesel was here beside him, his loyal companion, he missed him. Upon returning home, Dhalia went to bed and as he lay his head down on the pillows, he closed his eyes hoping that tonight he would be able to escape into his dreams.