That Place, Part 9

Roger Lumkin and Judy Woodsmith were young and in love. You can add frustrated to that short list. Since things had become fearful in town, slipping away for some fun became downright impossible. A curfew had been established, all underaged persons were to be at home, specifically their parent’s home, before sundown.

This led to a larger than average volume of familial arguments, in both meanings of the word. Lines were drawn, feet put down and the desire to hear another word on the subject was nil.

Judy, who was Margery’s daughter in more ways than merely biological, had a plan. Her mother had insisted that she strictly adhere to the curfew, after all, it wouldn’t do for the leader of the town council’s daughter to be caught breaking curfew. No, that wouldn’t do at all. What would people think?

While her mother was obsessed with propriety, Judy was more interested in spending time with Roger. It’s understandable that as a teenager, love seems like the most potent thing in the world and no one could possibly understand what they were feeling! Of course everyone feels that way but it takes some perspective, which will come with time.

As I said, Judy had a plan. After arguing with her mum and losing, she broke down, shed a few tears and told her that she loved her and that she understood. Margery, who was keen eyed in spotting the weakness in others, had a blind spot for her daughter, who she assumed was just like her. She was, but instead of bullying people to get her way, and lets make no bones about it, Margery was a bully, Judy just told people what they wanted to hear and did what she wanted.

And so, after her mother left to make sure everyone else was obeying the curfew, and after telling her father that she was feeling ill, due to woman’s issues, which always resulted in no questions and a wide berth, Judy slipped out into the night.

Roger had needed little convincing to sneak out. He was sixteen and had what most teenagers have, a deep belief in their own immortality and a healthy libido. So the two young lovers met and snuck into the woods for a little private time.

There was an old stone building, one story with the roof long rotted away. It was perfect for two things, a restoration by historical academics or a hideaway for teenagers to drink and fool around. If it were not as close to “That Place,” it might have been used for the former, as it was, it was rarely used for the former.

While more adults seemed afraid of “That Place” than children, it didn’t mean that they were unaffected by it. Dares to approach it were taken and then lied about. Since everyone did the same thing, no one was ever called out for it.

The mood in the abandoned stone building was downright spooky. It might be chalked up to the fact that the darkness of the woods at night is perfectly terrifying. If you live in a city or a town, you might think you know what darkness is. Really. I’m not joking around.

Judy who was not about to let stygian darkness interfere with her romantic time had brought a dozen or so electrical tea lights to enhance the mood. Roger, who was less ambiance aware enjoyed them in so much as he got to see what they were up to. A blanket was spread and shenanigans were gotten up to. Things were heating up when a noise was heard.

“Hold on,” said Judy.

Roger, whose focus was understandably not outwards raised his head and looked around.

“Am I doin’ it-“ he began.

“Quiet baby,” she cooed, even as her eyes scanned the darkness.

They both waited for something, but the only sounds were the faint breeze and their own heartbeats. Judy took a deep breath and started up again.

Once again, a noise was heard, this time by both teens. Roger, who was actually quite brave, if not though fully pulled up his jeans and stood up.

“All right!” shouted Roger, “If you think you’re being funny, you ain’t! You’re the opposite of funny! You are totally serious!”

As an intimidation, this was perhaps not that effective but his heart was in the right place, for the moment. He looked out into the darkness with his most “don’t mess with me mate!” expression. The darkness was unaffected.

Judy knew that it was just bluster but it was done for her so it seemed so cute.

“I think you scared them off,” she purred.

“Damn right it did,” Roger replied with the smile that had first caught her attention.

“Come on then,” Judy beckoned.

Things were starting up again when the noise started up again. This time there was something accompanying the sound. Standing at the edge of the electrical tea lights was a… pony.

Judy could not help herself, she uttered, “Awwwww!”

You should not judge her too harshly, this was the most adorable creature she ever laid eyes on. That includes Roger. She crept up slowly and extended her hand. The pony nuzzled it gently.

Roger, who suddenly found himself the third wheel on his own date said, “Where in he-“

“Hush!” said Judy, “You’ll spook him.”

“But this-“ he tried to speak again but Judy, channeling her mother, shot him a glare that made it very clear he had best be silent and pretty.

Judy then turned to the pony. This creature was enchanting, his coat smooth and shiny, the mane as silky as the hair of a shampoo commercial and his eyes were big and soulful, giving the impression that he would understand anything said to him. Judy was entirely enchanted.

“I would so love to ride you,” she murmured.

At that, the pony looked deep into her eyes and Judy understood that he wanted to bear her. And with that look, she leapt onto his back.

“Wait! Where are you going?” shouted Roger.

“Just for a ride…” said Judy as they galloped off into the darkness.

As stated previously, Roger was brave. He followed as best as he could but he lost them almost immediately. Undaunted, he stumbled through the forest, getting lost. Finally, he sat down with his back to a tree and contemplated what he should do. Other than find Judy and get them both home before anyone knew they were out, he was stumped.

Soon, it began to get lighter and he knew dawn was approaching. Since he was on his own, it seemed prudent, though he would not have used that word, to just get home and hope that the pony got her home safely. It was a thin hope at best, but it was better than nothing.

By the time he snuck back into his own bedroom, he had almost forgot how the pony grinned and winked at him as it and Judy rode off into the dark. Almost.

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Posted in Short Stories

That Place, Part 8

The garden was odd. This didn’t come as a surprise to Margery, the land around “That Place” might be charitably described as untamed, though she would call it wild. She did not, as previously explained, care for wild or any thing like it.

To get to the center you had to follow a stone pathway. She followed the large woman who led her to the middle. It felt as though it was a particularly circuitous route, but it would be undignified to just step over the tall rows of wild flowers that were planted along the path and that was not Margery’s style at all.

Finally, afterwinding their way through the maze, they arrived at the center, where a Rachael stood by a stone table with wooden chairs.

“She just showed up,” grumbled Georgie, who nodded her head towards Margery.

“That’s all right, “ said Rachael as she extended her hand, “I’m Rachael Pegg, Please have a seat.”

Margery shook her hand and said, “Margery Woodsmith, as the leader of the Druwick town council, let me welcome you to the neighborhood! Please accept this gift hamper as gesture of a friendship!”

“Thank you! How very kind! Please, lets sit. Would you care for some tea?”

Margery, who thought the prospect of tea doubtful, given the labyrinth she had to navigate to get to the center of this odd garden, said, “That would be lovely.”

As soon as the words had left her mouth, Georgie placed a tea service on the table. They must have had it waiting, there was no way that giant woman could’ve dashed back to the house, prepared tea and returned in the blink of an eye. The tea would naturally, be cold.

It was not. It was the perfect temperature. Margery was slightly put off, she had hoped to have an opportunity to be kind about cold tea to make Rachael feel bad about herself. Now she resented this excellent tea, which was vexing given that she was truly enjoying it.

“Please,” said Rachael, “shall we share these excellent looking biscuits?”

“That would be lovely,” sneered Margery.

While Rachael placed the biscuits on a plate, the councilwoman watched her. This young woman didn’t seem odd. She seemed quite ordinary in fact. Which to Margery’s way of thinking made her even odder.

“So, what can I do for you?” asked Rachael.

“Well, as you can well imagine, you are the talk of the town,” said Margery.

“Really?”

“Oh my yes!”

“I can’t imagine why.”

So that’s how she’s going to play it, thought Margery.

“As I’m sure you know, no one has lived here for quite some time. In a village like Druwick, that will get some tongues wagging,” said Margery.

“I suppose so.”

A lull sauntered through the conversation.

“So, what are your plans?” asked Margery.

“Plans?”

“For your property and of course for yourself.”

Rachael knew this moment was imminent, she had hoped to push it back a bit further, but better be done with it.

“Well, I’m to host an event, here,” Rachael said in casual manner.

Margery pursed her lips, something she had mastered.

“An event?”

“Yes.”

“If I might inquire, what sort of event are you to host?”

“A gathering of friends and family.”

Margery, who smelled blood in the water, smirked again.

“Will it be a large gathering?

“It will, but it will be confined to-“

“I’m frightfully sorry,” Margery lied, “but that’s quite out of the question.”

“Excuse me?”

“The fact is, it’s illegal to host a large gathering on private property in Druwick. We take every effort to make this a clean, happy little community. So there are laws on the books to keep it that way,” said Margery who was delighted to have concluded this matter so rapidly.

“I’m afraid it isn’t,” said Rachael.

The councilwoman pursed her lips once more.

“I’m very sure that I know the rules and regulations of the village I was born and raised in better than an outsider, if you’ll forgive me!”

“I have no doubt that’s true, but we have a special dispensation-“ began Rachael.

“From whom?”

“-the Crown,” finished Rachael.

Margery blinked. The mention of royal dispensation threw her off her game. She was an avid royalist. As far as she knew, no member of the royal family had ever visited Druwik, though there was a rumor that Princess Anne had been driven through but that was never substantiated.

“That,” Margery said, “is quite absurd!”

“Being absurd, doesn’t make something untrue.”

“Our queen would NEVER make such a mistake!”

Rachael smiled and said, “It wasn’t made by the current queen. It was issued in 1563.”

“I came out here to welcome you, not to be mocked!” sputtered Margery who was extremely upset that she had not only lost the upper hand, but perhaps had never had it to begin with.

“I’m quite confident there is a copy of the edict in your town hall or perhaps it’s being held by a historical society,” said Rachael.

“Preposterous!”

“If you have any further queries, you can contact our solicitors,” added Rachael who handed her a card that read, Cuttlebuck & Dee, 17G Crutched Friars, London EC3N 2AE. It also bore the crest indicating a Royal Warrant of appointment.

Margery stood and said, “Good day miss! I will see myself out.”

“Georgie, please show Mrs. Woodsmith out. You wouldn’t want you to get lost in the garden.”

It sounded a bit sinister but that’s because it was.

Posted in Short Stories

That Place, Part 7

Margery, who was quite confident of her ability to get her own way, had agreed to the welcome the new neighbor, much to everyone’s relief. The day after the council meeting, with a basket of local jams, baked good, and other assorted treats, she drove out to “That Place.”

She was, perhaps the only person in town who appeared to be unafraid of “That Place.” When people mentioned it, usually in hushed tones, she would make a noise, which was cocktail of contempt and disappointment. In reality, it made her as uneasy as everyone else, but she’d be damned if she’d admit it.

So she focused herself and drove down that dark path towards the gates. It felt as though the trees resented her presence and that there were things watching, with ill intent. But her pride kept her from turning around, which anyone who ever read a myth or fairy tale, knows ends badly.

Arriving at the gates, she stopped and got out of the car with the basket. There appeared to be no buzzer, but there was a rope attached to a large, tarnished bell. Margery hadn’t seen it when she drove up, but there it was.

Making sure she had hand sanitizer in her purse, she pulled the rope. The bell rang loudly, much more so than she’d expected. Beyond the gate, she saw a figure approach. It grew larger as it got closer, as it should, but it got too large, in her opinion, as it arrived.

Looming over her, Georgie said, “Whatta want?”

Ignoring, but not forgetting, this rudeness, the councilwoman replied, “I’m Margery Woodsmith, and as the leader of the Druwick town council, I’m here to welcome you to the neighborhood!”

“Are ya now?”
“Indeed!” she replied with a smile dressed as a smirk.

There was a pause as Georgie regarded her.

“Well then, please come in.”

And with that, the gates opened.

Posted in Short Stories

That Place, Part 6

Sam saw something peculiar as he drove up the narrow country lane. Well, it wasn’t immediately peculiar, but it became so over time. It was in fact, a short, bewhiskered old man, dressed for hiking, rugged clothes, sturdy boots, walking stick and a bright yellow cap. These were not the odd parts, those would come later.

Sam pulled over to the side of the road and rolled down his window.

“Mornin’,” said Sam to the old gent.

“And a fine morn it is!” enthusiastically agreed the old man.

“If you don’t mind me askin’, where are you headed?” asked Sam.

“Just up the road a spell.”

“If you’d like, I can give you a lift,” suggested Sam.

It was at that point, that the click of the car door was heard and Sam turned to see that the old man was already in the passenger seat. Spry old chap, thought Sam.

“Thank you my boy, most kind of you!” said the old man extending his tiny hand, “Allow me to introduce myself, you may call me Rudiger!”

“Sam,” said Sam as he shook hands.

Introductions having been made, they continued on.

“Bit dangerous, isn’t it?” asked Sam.

“Pardon?”

“Hiking along the road like that, someone might’ve run you over.”

Rudiger reminded Sam of his granddad who had been run over at a crosswalk, so he felt a bit protective of him. Sam was a kindly soul and felt that it cost nothing to be kind, though some folk would take advantage of him. He had helped a lot of his mates move and had done quite a few airport pickups.

“Oh no! I’ve got excellent hearing! Sharp as serpent’s tongue!”

“That’s handy.”

With a chuckle, Rudiger agreed.

“Enjoying your retirement?” asked Sam.

“Oh, I’m not retired!” said Rudiger.

“Really?”

“Do you think I’m too old to still be in the game?” asked the old man.

“No, no!” said Sam, who didn’t wish to offend.

“Well, of course, business isn’t what it was,” mused Rudiger, “But when something important arises, I’m ready to do what I must!”

“Naturally,” said Sam.

They drove for a while in companionable silence, but Sam was wondering.

“If you don’t mind me askin’, what is it that you do?”

Rudiger’s eyes sparkled.

“My boy, I’m the seneschal!”

Sam knew he heard that word before, it felt old, maybe even medieval, but it’s meaning eluded him.

“That must be, interesting”,” said Sam.

“Quite!”

Another moment of silence came and went.

“What does a seneschal do, exactly?”

“Without going too deeply on the subject, which would be terribly easy,” said Rudigar, “as a seneschal, I organize large groups of folk for special occasions.”

“Like a party planner,” asked Sam.

“Yes! I think you hit it right on the head! A party planner is just right way to explain it in this day and age! Well done!”

“Thank you,” said Sam, who felt unexpectedly pleased with himself.

They passed a sign that read, “Druwick, One Mile.”

“Ah, if you don’t mind, please drop me off in Druwick, I have a bit of business there,” said Rudiger.

“Happy to,” said Sam.

Just before they parted ways, Rudiger turned to Sam and said, “You’ve been most kind to me sir, a quality that is both rarer and more precious than gold.”

“I enjoyed having some company, so it was no problem at all,” said Sam.

“Such kindness must be rewarded,” said Rudiger as he placed something in Sam’s hand.

Sam looked down and saw a small metal whistle, it felt cool to the touch but much lighter than it should.

“If you are ever in any trouble, I mean real trouble, when your back is up against the wall and all hope seems lost, just blow that and you’ll find that everything will sort itself out.”

Sam didn’t quite know how to respond to that, so he said what his mum taught him to say in such circumstances.

“Thank you very much.”

The door clicked again and Rudiger was outside. He touched his finger to the side of his nose, winked and walked off into Druwich.

Sam placed the whistle in his pocket and drove on. Will we see him again? Perhaps.

Posted in Short Stories

That Place, Part 5

The Town Council consisted of seven upstanding members of the community, including the Mayor, who, according to the town charter, met to discuss and deal with any problems that might arise.

In reality, it was Margery Woodsmith who ran the show. She loved order. From the cleanliness of the streets, to the arraignment of the holiday decorations and the colour that people could paint their houses. It might be more accurately said that she hated chaos more than she loved order.

She knew in her heart of hearts, that she was doing what was best for the little town for Druwick, sorry of not mentioning the name before. Margery did it with the passion of someone who had cooked you a huge meal of food you did not ask for, nor enjoyed, but would resent you for not savoring every bite.

She had been badgering Mayor Cooper to convene a meeting to deal with the strange goings on. Cooper, who felt he was doing as good a job as can be expected, resisted starting a war council. Of course, it was not a literal war council but Margery was famous for her declarations of war upon such foes, a littering and loud music. Hence, his reluctance.

Cooper felt that if they waited long enough, everything would work itself out. But his fear of Margery and perhaps losing the next election overcame his fear of “That Place.”

So the war council met, with biscuits and tea, as was the tradition. Margery felt very strongly that people inhabiting “That Place” would be disruptive to the Spring Fete, the annual flower festival, which was a source of much pride and income for the little town. It was pointed out that so far, the only thing that had happened was several shopkeepers had very good days.

There a bit of laughter at that, but not much, Margery’s steely gaze cut that short.

“It’s not as if we can just evict them,” pointed out Clive, representing the Police, “they’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Yet,” said Margery.
Mayor Cooper, who saw this getting heated, had a suggestion.
“Margery,” he said with a smile, “I think everyone here would agree that you’re the heart and soul of our community.”

This elicited a goodly share of “Here heres!” and “Couldn’t agree mores!” and “Well saids!”

Margery, like anyone with even a little bit of power, soaked it up like a biscuit dunked in tea.

“You’re too kind,” she said and smirked instead of smiling. She was incapable of smiling, only smirking, though she was completely unaware of it.

This gave Mayor Cooper the in he wanted.

“Given your high standing, perhaps you might turn on some of your charm. Welcome this Ms. Pegg to our town properly. Maybe you could go round with a basket of local treats and give her a proper welcome.”

Mayor Cooper thought this was a win-win scenario for him. Either Margery would be forced to make peace with this Ms. Pegg, and if she WAS some sort of monster, well then, two birds with one stone.

Posted in Short Stories

That Place, Part 4

“Ay brought a few things,” said Georgia as Rachael hugged her.
“You didn’t need to do that!”
“Me mum taught me never to show up empty handed.”
“How is Moria?” she asked.
“Feisty as ever,” she replied as she tousled Rachael’s hair.

Rachael slapped her hand, which was easily as big as her head.

“Look at my hair!”
“It suits ya. Windswept and all that,” Georgia said she as carried bundles of food inside.
“Windswept? I look like I just escaped from a madhouse!” she said she as attempted to finger comb her hair back to something less alarming.

“A little bout of madness enlivens things,” she replied.
“I suspect that we’ll have more madness than we can handle soon enough,” Rachael said, having pulled her hair into a ponytail, which at least was orderly, if not stylish.
“Suppose so.”

Having brought in the last of the food, Georgia took in the room.

“It’s changed,” she observed,.

The walls and floor were fitted grey stones, each piece irregular but they all fit together neatly. Polished, heavy, wooden furniture was arranged in circles, as if to encourage conversation. Soft, heavy carpets covered the floor and a large fireplace, currently unlit was flush with the back wall. A wide staircase rose upstairs and seven wooden doors led to other rooms. The whole effect was as if a modern designer wanted to give a rustic home a streamlined touch.

“Of course it changed,” said Rachael, “It always does.

Georgia hummed loudly and said, “Not sure the others will like it.”

Rachael rolled her eyes.

“When do they ever NOT complain?”
“Suppose so. Still…”
“Listen. This fell to me. I certainly didn’t ask for it. And if they don’t fancy the décor, well they can just leave!”

And with that Rachael pointed to the front door. It was a more dramatic gesture than she normally did, but given the circumstances, she felt entirely justified.

“True enough,” said Georgia. “If anyone gives you any trouble, I’ll-“
“That’s kind of you, but I’ll handle things. After all, it’s my turn.”
“I was sorry to hear ‘bout yer da.”

Rachael collapsed into one of chairs.

“My father worked harder at avoiding responsibility than anyone I ever met. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he got killed just to avoid having to deal with all this.”
“Ya miss’em then?” asked Georgia.

Getting up, Rachael said, “I miss the fact that he should be ringmaster of this circus. C’mon, let’s get some veg from the garden. Something tells me you didn’t pick up anything green on your way here.”

“I think some of the cheese is green,” said Georgia.

Posted in Short Stories

That Place, Part 3

For the next week, everyone in town was waiting for something terrible and tragic to happen. There was even talk of a mass evacuation but Mayor Ben Cooper, who had held the office for twelve years running, assuaged people’s fears by reminding them that this was the twenty-first century and of course there are no such things as monsters, witches or goblins. Said out loud, it sounded absurd and everyone smiled or laughed at the silliness.

This was particularly effective in the daylight hours, and in those times, spirits were high. Of course, once the sun set, it was a different story. Despite his outward lack of superstitions, the Mayor wore a cross around his neck, a bottle of holy water in his right pocket and a cold iron nail in the left. Just in case.

Folks now tended to cluster, either in their homes or at the pub. If you had to travel at night, people always went in groups. It felt safer and so far, nothing, except for the appearance of “That Woman,” had happened. Of course any dog barking or cat hissing was seen as a raised alarm. While it is true that animals are sensitive to things that humans are not, most dogs are inclined to bark with little provocation and cats hiss at even less.

A week passed and nothing happened, at least nothing out of the ordinary. Barry, who worked at the garage sprained his ankle while fleeing what he thought was a spectral figure but was in fact, a tarp hanging on a door frame that blew open from a gust of wind. Barry told everyone he slipped on some grease on the garage floor, which sounded foolish but less foolish than running from an imaginary phantom.

Since the town was whole and there were no supernatural crises, life went back to normal. The sun shined, children played and all was right with the world. Of course it didn’t last.

The harbinger of that was the deep baritone rumble of a motorcycle, roaring into town early one morning. It wasn’t the presence of this particular mode of transport, they were common enough, it was the rider. If Rachael’s appearance was the gold standard of innocuousness, this person was the height of ocuousness, which is clearly not a word but nothing else quite fits.

Over two meters tall, with long, shaggy red hair, dressed in worn biking leathers, adorned with a plethora of chrome chains and what looked like amulets and talismans, this lady, if we’re being polite and it would advisable to do so, pulled up in front of the butcher shop just as it was opening for the day.

Ernie, owner and proprietor of said shop was just about to turn the open for business sign when he spotted this new visitor. Understandably, he was overwhelmed, as I’m sure you would be. Please, you know you would.

A sharp rap brought Ernie back to the present, that and the looming figure in his doorway.

“Mornin,” said the looming figure.
With a start, Ernie replied, “Good morning!”
“Are you open?”
“Yes, yes! Of course!” Ernie turned the sign and leap back. “Please, what can I do for you?”

Opening the door, she entered. The butcher, who was not by anyone’s definition, dainty, felt like a small child next to this customer and hurried behind the counter.

“How’re the bangers?”
“Best in the county!” said Ernie in a higher pitch than normal, “Old family recipe!”
“Alright then. I’ll take’em,” replied the very large woman.
“How many did you want?”
“I said, I’ll take’em.”

Ernie paused.

“All of them,” said the looming figure, who seemed to be even bigger, but how could that even be possible.
“That’s going to be a bit expen-“

Ernie trailed away as his patron produces a large roll of cash from her pockets.

“Not a problem. Throw in three geese and some meat pies if they’re fresh.”
“Made them this morning!” squeaked Ernie.

Ernie’s butcher shop was not the only stop. She went to the cheesemongers, the bakery, and picked up a keg of stout and a case of wine. Afterwards, no one could say how she took so much food and drink out of town on just a motorcycle, even as large a one as she rode. The prevailing opinion was she had a cart of some sort, or maybe a large sidecar, even if no one could recall exactly which she had. All of that couldn’t fit in the large saddlebags on the back. On that everyone agreed.

No one asked where she was heading, or even her name, which was Georgia. But they knew where she was headed. Everyone was afraid that something terrible was looming. It was, but not in the way they feared.

Posted in Short Stories