Dreamdogs

Joint winner of the 2021 Bath Children’s Novel Award

“Scary and exciting and moving and highly original.”
– Sam Copeland, 2021 Bath Children’s Novel Award Judge, Director RCW Literary Agency

Dreamdogs is about five kids and their dogs who have 24 hours to save everyone in their villages from a sleeping sickness. It’s a pageturner with a sinister atmosphere, real sense of mystery and was thrilling to read.”
– 2021 Bath Children’s Novel Award Junior Judges’ summary

Dreamdogs is a contemporary technological thriller set in a rural moorland community.

Age Group: Middle Grade
Complete


“We were being watched, weren’t we? Fern said it herself – listener, tracking. They knew what we were dreaming about, they knew the minute we woke up. And we both felt it, didn’t we – they’ve done this before. You’re right. The dreams, the dogs, the men who are after us, these… powers we have. Someone did it to us, didn’t they? And they’re still doing it.”

There’s a plague of nightmares across the Moor and no-one knows why, five villages along one lonely road afflicted with nightly terrors – all except twelve-year-old Bell Haynes.  In Bell’s dreams a strange blood-red dog named Fern walks beside her, joined by four other dogs in equally alien colours.  Worried for her family and ostracised at school, Bell takes comfort in the bleakness and beauty of the Moor – until one fateful morning when she has her first nightmare and wakes to find Fern a real and tangible dog in her room, speaking in broken telepathic language.  Masked men break in to capture her and she strikes them down with inexplicable psychic force; but when she rushes to alert her family, she finds to her horror that she cannot wake them up.

Chased across the Moor by sinister armed men, stalked by a wild-eyed hooded vagabond, Bell finds four unexpected allies – four more children, each from another ‘nightmare village’, likewise immune to nightmares and companioned by a bright, ethereal dog.  Sharing experiences, they learn that all five villages are locked in unbreakable sleep; as they evade pursuit, hiding in moorland caves and ruins, they realise they have shared each others’ dreams for years and discover a unique and powerful mental bond.

When the hooded man confronts them at last, the children learn the nature of the nightmares and the schemes of the immoral Doctor Harrow.  With five villages’ lives at stake, Bell and her friends must pool their unasked-for abilities to brave Harrow’s surreal dreamscape and end his ruthless experiment.

That night, Bell’s dream was different.

It started as many had before – a strange quest, the dogs, the lurch of fear and daring as she ventured in darkness shot with dangerous light, always seeking the way out, the way up, the widest view.  But then the landscape was no longer alien, and soon she was on the Moor by moonlight, climbing with her back to Heathby as she’d wanted to that afternoon, the dogs slipping stained-glass-bright through the heather.  She reached the ridge below Kilmiredale and carried on, saw the stark finger of the radio mast, the cracked white ‘golf ball’ rising like a moon – then stopped dead, clutching the station’s broken fencing, as a terrible sound split the night.

Not Jess, not this time.  Thin as a blade, a wild chilling chorus, the never-before-heard sound of all five dreamdogs throwing up their long heads to howl.  They sat rigid at Kilmiredale’s fence-line, noses to the dark sky, keening like wolves.  The noise caught her bones like a drill’s vibration; it shook the ground, eddied the stars above, and for the first time Bell felt afraid.  She stumbled backwards, turned for home – then screamed in pain as something stabbed needle-sharp into her hand.  It was Fern; an unrecognisable savage Fern with back arched and lips pulled back, teeth clamped hard around her wrist, pulling her inch by inch towards the fence.

“Fern!  Fern, no, that hurts!”

The other dogs were gone.  There was only Bell and Fern and the horror of betrayal as she fought to free herself from the red dog’s slavering grip.  But no, no, they weren’t alone – as she twisted in pain she saw Fern doubling and feathering like something in a hall of mirrors, each limb haunted by reflections in green, yellow, silver, blue as if in her madness she was all the dogs, all five of them snarling as one… and Bell could feel it in herself as well, fourfold echoes of her own desperate movements, lending her weight and strength.  But it changed nothing.  Blood poured from her wrist, shockingly red, excruciating.  She might lose her fingers if Fern didn’t let go.  She might bleed to death.

All at once it came to her:  This is a nightmare.  I’m having one, at last.