AN EVIL WIND
Do you like an eerie story? with maybe a little wicked humour in? a little sex? some horror? - well you're in for a treat. I have written you a story, just right for Halloween, but first you need to know a little about where the story takes place...
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin...
Come with me to the village of Witchfordley, nestling deep in The Fens of England; an area of outstandingly stark beauty, with its black alluvial soil and huge skies. The Fens were once an inhospitable wilderness, which has been tamed to leave us today with a network of intricate waterways. In Anglo Saxon and Medieval times, the precious areas of dry land rising above the fens, attracted the attention of religious communities. In truly grand style, they founded great cathedrals and monasteries, dominating the skyline and life of the surrounding areas.
This story is set in a time, which is neither yesterday, today nor tomorrow and it's characters are drawn from a world of delight where the rainbow in the sky never fades and the stars are real diamonds poking through black silk.
Come and find out about The Fen Blow, a tricky, mischievous wind, which blows the black soil into a whirlwind of terror on a dark night in late October...
Come and meet the characters of Witchfordley. Here you will find Ted North, a champion pumpkin grower, and Pete South, his jealous rival but also his good friend. You will encounter their wives, Mary and Marjorie, with their somewhat eccentric ways. Mrs. Smithers and Mr. Singh live in the village of Woodend nearby and for those of you familiar with my work, you will remember that Mrs. Smithers is a very special person who keeps three black cats and a broomstick in a cupboard under the stairs.
There will be flashbacks to medieval times when a monastery was built in the area and where a monk called Robert lived and worked and fell in love! The monk's life ended tragically and he is said to return to Witchfordley, usually on the last day of October, in order to avenge his plight.
The story starts in April in the year of our Lord 2005, and ends in October, on the night we call Halloween.. During that time we follow the growth of the pumpkins, which are to be exhibited at the Pumpkin Club's annual Pumpkin Show on 8th October. The largest pumpkin will provide its grower with the title of "King Pumpkin". The title is to be held for one year; but is it a crown to be coveted or despised?
You will need to know what an Allotment is. In England an Allotment is a small area of land, hired from the local council on a yearly basis, and used for the cultivation of vegetables or flowers.
You will also need to know what a "Yob" is. A Yob is a youth who has nothing better to do than to go around the neighbourhood causing trouble, vandalising people's property and acting in a generally unacceptable manner. They are often drunk and incapable and without morals. No doubt you have a suitable word yourselves for these people.
Once a year in late August there is a Scarecrow Festival when people in the village dress up a scarecrow and compete for the best design. Money raised is donated to local charities. Sometimes people dress up as scarecrows and occasionally, a scarecrow man is seen, who cannot be recognised or identified as anyone from the village.
So, come with me to Witchfordley, come on, you know you want to...you want to know what is going to happen on Halloween night, don't you? But, like the best orgasms, it needs to build up slowly.
Come with me, come with me, come with me, come, come, come on...
The Fen Blow is coming; see the wind with its black cloak, covering the dark fields in suspicion and mystery. See the Fen Blow covering the fields like a lover covers his mistress.
On this night in late October, Witchfordley is caught up in a maelstrom of terror, which will affect each and every one of the inhabitants, the Pumpkin Club.
Intro: The pumpkin is more than an oversized vegetable or a jack-o-lantern. It has, in fact, a very long history – once considered a symbol of the whole world, a container of everything ever created. Early societies saw symbolism and spiritual significance in many natural objects, from rocks and trees to seeds and pumpkins. Today, as grown ups, we have forgotten a lot of the awe and magic, but not the children, who, in their innocence and unbridled imagination, see all kinds of suggestions and meaning (like ghosts) in even the most ordinary objects.
Witchfordley – April 2005.
“What happens if the Fen Blow comes at Halloween?” asked Mandy Tweedy, one of the younger members of the Wood End Pumpkin Club.
The older members looked at each other knowingly and then Major Waverley spoke.
“If the Fen Blow should occur at Halloween, it is said to release the spirit of the Pumpkin Man, the ghost of a monk who lived here in the Abbey hundreds of years ago. When his spirit is released, it returns to the Abbey Gardens, where our allotments are now, because that is where he found his lovely Alice lying dead. The next day he was himself found dead, lying amongst his pumpkins. The Devil walks in Witchfordley at Halloween but only when the Fen Blow brings him. When he walks, all the lives of the inhabitants are affected. He brings death and destruction. He brings revenge. Revenge for the death of his love, Alice and revenge for the loss of his own life…
Circa 1450 – The Abbey – Witchfordley
“Where are you going, Alice?” asked her husband.
“Only to gather herbs and to enjoy the air,” she replied.
Taking her basket, Alice walked away from her cottage and down the track, which led to the Abbey gardens. Her cheeks were flushed. The Abbot, looking across the gardens saw the beautiful young woman approaching, a red ribbon entangled in her dark hair. Then he saw Brother Robert kneeling in the herbs. The Abbot’s eyes watched Robert as he watched Alice and he understood…
“I must talk to that young man, and soon,” he told himself wisely.
Brother Robert looked at the spider webs hung with dew sparkling on the rosemary.
‘Would that my love’s dark eyelashes were spiders to spin and circle in these webs,’ he thought. ‘Would that I were the web to feel the touch of those eyelashes on my skin. If only these arms of mine could circle my lovely Alice and feel her close to my heart.’
Witchfordley, April 2005
In March, Mrs. Smithers bought a packet of pumpkin seeds and planted them in her garden. She watered them to make them grow and the sun sent his long warm rays to help the leaves to get bigger. By the middle of July, the plants were quite big and flowers were beginning to appear. But I go too fast. It is mid April in Wood End and Mrs. Smithers is getting ready to go to a meeting of the Wood End Pumpkin Club. The meeting is to be held in the Village Hall and it starts at 7.30 p.m. sharp.
While Mrs. Smithers was at the meeting, Mr. Singh stayed in her cottage and looked after her cats – Bast, Little Mo and Sparkle. Bast was a large, black, male cat and he wasn’t too keen on men, so he kept out of Mr. Singh’s way. Mr. Singh sat in a comfortable chair and watched the television and waited for Mrs. Smithers to return. Sparkle curled up on Mr. Singh’s lap and went to sleep.
The Pumpkin Club meeting commenced with the usual formalities. The Minutes of the last meeting were read out, signed and filed away and the new Agenda was handed round.
Chairman of the Pumpkin Club was Captain Waverley, who was also a Governor at Primrose Primary School in Langwitch. He was a little bit deaf so the other members of the committee had to speak quite loud so that he could hear them.
“I want to welcome you all to tonight’s meeting,” he began. “We are here tonight to discuss the Pumpkin Show, to be held in October, and to decide how we shall spend the funds we have raised over the last twelve months. Any suggestions?”
“Halloween is a very special time of the year,” stated Mrs. Smithers with a glint in her eye. She knew all about that night because it was THE night of the year for her and her group of twelve special friends. “I think we should celebrate it this year with a Barn Dance, like we had before a couple of years ago. It was so successful, I think we should repeat it?”
“Good idea,” said Ted North. “Barn Dances always go down well, and it will enable us to all be together, you know, in case anything scary wants to happen.” He wasn’t smiling when he said that. He was serious. “I think we should all keep together and support each other, don’t you?”
“Sure do,” agreed Pete. “We don’t want anything ghastly to happen, do we?” He coughed nervously.
Each and every one of them in the room that night was only too aware of the way things might turn out if they had a visitation from The Pumpkin Man.
“When did we last have a Fen Blow at Halloween?” asked Major Waverley.
“It must have been twenty years if it’s a day,” said Mrs. Smithers.
Ted North was a champion pumpkin grower. He and Pete South were in competition each year, to grow the largest pumpkin and nobody else had come near them with their efforts. This year might be different, however, because Mrs. Smithers was going to join in and she had green fingers. Her fingers were so green and luminous that they glowed in the dark and when she clicked her fingertips together, strange things began to happen.
On the wall in the hallway of the Village Hall was a wooden plaque, showing the role of honour. Never once in the history of the Pumpkin Club, had a woman won the title.
“Another thing I want to bring up,” Ted said…”is the subject of vandalism down on the allotments. Last year we had a lot of trouble with those yobs, you know the ones I mean, stealing our crops and vandalising the pumpkins. I don’t want anything to happen to my pumpkins this year, or anybody else’s!” he added, looking at Pete.
Last year Ted North was King Pumpkin and Pete South was very jealous. He determined in his mind that this year he was going to be King Pumpkin and nothing would stop him.
“Have you bought your seeds yet, Ted?” asked Pete.
“I don’t buy them. I keep them from the last year,” Ted replied.
“You don’t buy them fresh every year then?”
“They are fresh,” Ted retorted. He looked down on Pete, thinking him a bit inferior when it came to growing pumpkins.”
There was great skill in growing enormous pumpkins and much preparation needed to go into the preparation and cultivation. Ted North had an allotment. It was 250 metres square and he rented it from the Local Council. The rent was paid in advance every year. Ted was a bit of a miser when it came to money and he always put off paying his dues for as long as possible because he found it so hard to part with his money. Pete South was the opposite. He threw money about as if there was no tomorrow.
“While you’ve got it, spend it!” was Pete’s motto.
He bought the latest equipment for his allotment, using his credit card to do so. He had a new shed, a new greenhouse and a new rotivator but he hadn’t cleared his debt for any of them. Despite all these acquisitions, his produce was not as successful as Ted North’s. It drove him mad.
Ted North was a quiet man, Pete South was extrovert. In almost every way, the two men were the exact opposites of each other. They were both in their early sixties. They had one thing in common. They both wanted to be King Pumpkin, only Pete South wanted it just that little bit more. An idea formed in Pete’s mind that day. He decided to get into Ted’s shed and “take” a few pumpkin seeds to sow on his own pumpkin patch. He thought if he used Ted’s seeds his own pumpkins stood a better chance of being giants.
The three lads who caused the most bother down on the allotments were Rob, Bill and Charlie. Each year the vandalism got worse and there didn’t seem to be much that the allotment holders could do about it. They were good lads deep down but something got into them when the night became dark and the members of the Pumpkin Club, sitting round the table on that night in mid April, were extremely concerned that if the lads were out and about on Halloween, Hell may well be nearer than it should be.
“They don’t realise what they are playing with,” worried Capt. Waverley. “All the fires of Hell will surround them if they dare to interfere with the burial place of that lass Alice in the legend we are all familiar with.”
“They don’t believe the legend,” said Ted.
“That’s the problem. By the time they take it seriously, it will be too late. Too late for them, too late for us!”
The meeting finished at 9 pm that night.
By stealth, Pete entered the allotment that night, when everyone else had gone home and it was quite dark. He made his way to Ted’s shed and lifted the flower pot nearest the door, finding the key to the shed beneath it. He turned the key in the lock and let himself in and there, with the aid of his torch, he found the pumpkin seeds and put some in his pocket. He didn’t feel a bit guilty about doing it. In fact, he felt it served Ted right a bit, for hogging the championship pumpkin cup for so many years. On his way out, he locked the door and returned the key to its hiding place under the flower pot. All was going well until he tripped over a length of twine on his way down the path between the rows. He fell prone on the floor, ripping his trousers and gashing his knee rather badly. Involuntarily, he shouted out “ouch” in dismay and then looked around in the dark to see if anybody heard him. He didn’t see anybody, but he did hear something. He heard an owl hoot and the sound of somebody walking on crunchy earth.
‘Curses’ he told himself. ‘There is somebody here. I hope they didn’t see me.’
Nobody answered his call or came over to investigate so, after a little while, he picked himself up and started to hobble back home. He had been intending to visit the pub, The Jolly Gardener, but he couldn’t go in with his trousers torn, so he went back home. He let himself in through the kitchen and quickly up the stairs before his wife could see him in a state of disarray.
“Pete? Is that you?” she called out.
“And who else would it be?” he answered, crossly, annoyed to be called to account.
“I thought you were going to the pub tonight?”
“Change of plan, dear. I bumped into Gerald on the way and, as I had forgotten to bring a book I had borrowed from him, I decided to come back and get it.”
This was a lie, but it just popped into his mind, as a good way of getting out of his present trouble.
“Well, by the time you get back to the pub, dear, it will be almost time to come home again!” Insisted his wife. She was never one to let things go, always having to have the last word in every situation.
Circa 1450 - The Abbey of St. Etheldreda in Witchfordley.
Brother Robert could think of nothing else but Alice during all his waking hours. He spent moments in reflection when he should have been praying, imagining what it would be like to touch her white shoulders and kiss the nape of her neck where the dark tendrils of raven hair caressed her skin. He drowned in her dark eyes, which seemed to look right inside him. Sometimes he thought her eyes were more like those of a large black cat, so green were they and luminous. As she worked in the garden in front of him, he watched her bending down to tend the plants. Was it his imagination that she always had her back to him, the better to admire her curvy shape? He tried not to let her see him watching but sometimes, as if she knew, she would turn quickly and his face would flush red in embarrassment for daring to look. As she walked past him, he always caught the delicate smell of lavender, but there was something else, something mysterious, something he couldn't identify in its fragrance.
Alone in the night, he tossed and turned, tortured by his thoughts of her. His clothes were rough on his skin, but his skin was alive with passion for her and he knew no antidote. He watched the crucifix hanging on the wall of his room, the only adornment. He wanted to hurl it down. He could smell the lavender even when she was nowhere near. It seemed to drift into his very dreams until he didn't know if he was asleep or awake. He feared for his sanity, thinking he would go mad with the wanting of her.
Brother Robert wrote in his secret journal:-
As I wander among the fragrant scented herb garden's flowers,
My eyes blinded by the beauty seen, yet Sweet Lady Alice's love,
Is all my heart desires, yes will I brave purgatory's hot fires,
For just one tender kiss, from those lips, red as these poppies.
I know she sees me even now, over by yonder bough of tree,
That fair sweet lady, smile just for me, please set my heart to peace,
That face, those eyes, those heavenly tresses, I will devour all I see,
Those marriage vows taken, not so long ago are precious, yes yet.
When the husband found out about the monk's violation of his wife, he took revenge on him...
The black soil of the fens is ideal for growing celery and row upon row of it can be seen swaying in the wind in summertime. The landscape of the fens is very flat and liable to a mysterious wind called the fen blow, which comes from nowhere and whips up the soil into a veritable maelstrom, whirling and twirling across the fields like a mini whirlwind and covering everything with a black powdery dust by the next morning. The locals were in awe of the fen blow, according it a supernatural quality associated with witchcraft. In full flight, the fen blow looks like an enormous witch's cloak, covering the fields, which are trying to sleep in the moonlight. The clouds, which pass before the moon, cast shadows on the fields and swoon, as the witch's cloak sweeps across her beloved earth. It is said in the village that if a fen blow is seen, The Pumpkin Man will soon appear, materialising with the black wind and searching for his lost love. If anyone should cross his path, he will kill them mercilessly to pay for the loss of his own life and that of his beloved.
Inside the pub all was cosy and warm. A bright red fire burnt in the inglenook fireplace to keep the customers comfortable against the chill of the evening. The talk was of the forthcoming pumpkin show to be held in October. Most of the residents of Witchfordley belonged to the Pumpkin Club and competition to grow the largest pumpkin was fierce. Every year, in October, pumpkins were entered in the Annual Show and the largest, heaviest pumpkin awarded the owner the accolade of King Pumpkin for the year. There wasn't a man in the village who didn't want to become King Pumpkin, but the title had never been won by a woman.
For the last ten years, the title had gone to Ted North, who always managed to grow the prize pumpkin, beating everybody else easily.
"Want another pint, Ted?" Pete South asked.
"I don't mind if I do, Pete. I'll have a pint of bitter, please."
"Coming up, Ted. Is that pints all round? My round, ain't it?"
There was a general nodding as the men shuffled in their seats and got more comfortable.
"Been down the allotment today, Geoff?" asked Ted. "I didn't see you there this morning."
"I went this afternoon."
"Seen anything unusual, did you?" This was the question the old men always asked each other the week before Halloween. It was a direct reference to The Pumpkin Man.
"Well, I did, now you come to mention it. I saw a new wooden bench seat in the lane on the way to the allotments. No name on it or anything, just sat there against the hedge and no-one knows anything about it."
"That bench was there early this morning, too," said Ted. "Well, it will soon be that time of year, won't it? You know, Pumpkin Man time!"
At the mention of the dreaded Pumpkin Man, a hush went round the group. The old men put their pipes in their mouths and sucked away, not one of them wishing to elaborate in any way.
The wind rattled the old wooden windows of the pub and the old men looked at each other.
"The wind always sounds like that in the windows when a fen blow is coming," remarked Ted.
The Pumpkin Club had come about many years ago, as a result of a village show, which went wrong. One year, when all the produce was on show in the village hall, the judges came and made some bad decisions, which resulted in a lot of unrest amongst the contestants. When all the arguments and dissention were over, the committee started looking at ways of finding a product, which would be easy to judge. What could be grown that would hardly need a judge to decide what was best? Somebody suggested a pumpkin. The person who grew the heaviest pumpkin would be the winner and become King Pumpkin for the year. There would be no need for any idiot judges, just a set of scales to weigh the pumpkins. The money that was raised from the show would be divided and donated to a local charity, different each year and some of it would go towards an annual dinner dance, an autumn barn dance and a New Year's Eve Party for the young people at Witchfordley and Wood End.
Witchfordley - The Abbey - July 1450
From the diary of Brother Robert
'The Abbot is ill and must surely die soon. He is a good man, none better. His skin is yellowing and the breath from his mouth doth smell foul.
I will go soon and leave a message in the wall. Alice will find it when she comes.
"My dearest, you fill my every thought, waking and sleeping and I get no rest. I hardly know day from night for the love of you and your beautiful body. When I sing, I sing for you and my voice lifts to the heavens... when I lie abed at night, it is your hair that covers my worthless body. It is your tears that cleanse my skin and your perfume surpasses every perfume that god ever gave to the flowers. Only the mighty Jasmine comes close."
I will go soon to confession. There is much to ask forgiveness for.'
Witchfordley - July 2005.
By 18th July, the little pumpkins in Mrs. Smithers's garden were about the size of a golf ball. They were small and shiny and very green. The stalks were prickly to the touch.
Moves were afoot for the Local Authority at Langwitch to sell off the allotment site to a developer, who offered £7 million for the 25-acre site, containing 245 allotments. If the sale went ahead, it would mean a £28,000 windfall for the vast majority of allotment holders, but 25 of the holders were averse to the sale and they had put the deal in jeopardy. Some holders were waiting for a better offer but others said that the joy of growing vegetables was so rewarding that they would not sell under any circumstances. Ted North wanted to keep his allotment but Pete South was in favour of selling his.
Ted North and Pete South's allotments were quite close to each other and, one morning, while they were watering their pumpkins, they discussed the matter.
"Why don't you agree to sell, Ted?" asked Pete.
"Because, I want to stay here as long as I can. I have had an allotment on this site for thirty years and I don't want to give it up."
"You could retire very comfortably on the money, though! said Pete.
"I shall never retire from growing pumpkins. this allotment is my life."
"Well, when the sale goes through, which it surely will, I'm going to sell up and move to Spain and sit in the sunshine for the rest of my life," boasted Pete.
"I hope you enjoy it there then!" said Ted, huffily, adding sarcastically, "I suppose you can always start growing peppers!"
Pete walked back to his shed. He'd just seen his friend, Gerald, coming down the path, looking guilty, as usual. Gerald was the Caretaker at Primrose Primary School. Under his arm was a carrier bag full of magazines.
"Would you like some more of those saucy videos?" asked Pete.
"Saucy - more like X-rated," replied Gerald. "Yes, I could do with another bagful. Shall we do a swap?"
"When do you find the time to watch them?" asked Pete.
"Oh, I watch them in the school," said Gerald, "while the kids are on holiday. The T.V. is in the art cupboard. I watch it in there."
Just then a large, black cat came walking down the path towards them and started sniffling around amongst the pumpkins.
"Get off of there", shouted Pete, throwing a pebble at it.
"I've seen that cat before somewhere," said Gerald.
It was the same cat, which had caused havoc at the protest Meeting of minds at Primrose Primary School, back in March. It was Mrs. Smithers's cat, Bast, who was her familiar. Mrs. Smithers could communicate with the cat by looking deep into his eyes. She could even exchange places with Bast, when the need arose. This was one of those times when Mrs. Smithers did just that, in order to find out what was going on down at the allotments. She wanted to find out how big the pumpkins were growing.
"Has there been any vandalism on the allotments lately?" asked Gerald of his friend.
"Not that I know of," said Pete. "They'd better keep away from my pumpkin patch, if they know what's good for them.
"We get a lot of it, down at the school," said Gerald in disgust. "Back in March they set fire to the wheelie bins and they all meted into a globular mess and stuck to the tarmac on the playground."
Pete South had a plan to put paid to the vandalism down on the allotments. For now he intended to keep his plan a secret, but after doing some extensive searches on the internet, he felt confident that his plan would deter the youths, who regularly caused havoc amongst the peaceful vegetables growing in the earth.
Mrs. Smithers, in her shape as a large black cat, wandered in and out of the pumpkins, sniffing around the plants to try and smell any chemicals that may have been used to encourage their growth. She didn't detect any at that time. She noticed the pumpkin flowers, which were like large golden trumpets and she felt the warm sun on her back.
Pete continued to talk to Gerald until he noticed the large black cat, walking amongst his pumpkins. He shouted at it and it ran off.
When the cat got a few yards away, he stopped suddenly in his tracks, and started washing himself vigorously. To an onlooker, it appeared that the cat, Bast, had a severe skin irritation. he stretched his head around his back and licked the fur down his spine, shrinking his skin upwards so that he reached every last part of it. he licked the black fur until mouthfuls of it came away from his body, sticking to his tongue and making him cough a little. His purpose in the enthusiastic washing was to cover his embarrassment at being noticed. As quickly as the washing started, it was over and Bast was trotting down the path, dignity restored.
Witchfordley - August 2005.
"That man," grumbled Mrs. South, whose first name was Marjorie, "he's got a nerve, selling me the produce he's grown himself on his allotment. He's my husband, for goodness sake. I must be a mug to let him! I wish he wasn't so besotted with that allotment. He spends so much time down there, I feel suspicious of his motives. If he spent half of the time he spends there with me, I would be a happier woman."
However, the truth of it was that she would not have been a happier woman because Pete would get on her nerves if they were together too long.
By the beginning of August, the pumpkins in Mrs. Smithers's garden were growing prolifically. Two weeks later they had scrambled their way across the patio area, clinging on to anything in their path with their tendrils. The little pumpkins were the size of tennis balls. The leaves were yellow-edged and the hollow stalks were prickly and best avoided. "If they keep on growing like that, they will end up inside the house!" she thought. Her partner, Ranjit, walked into the garden to admire the pumpkins.
"They're doing really well. You must be pleased. Do you think you'll get a big one amongst them?"
"I hope so. I shall only keep the ones that do the best. That way I should end up with one or two that are worthy to be entered in the competition. So far, so good. I've seen the opposition, down on the allotments and I'm on course. My pumpkins are about the same size as theirs so far."
"Good luck then," said Ranjit, amiably. "Let me know if I can help."
Mrs. Smithers smiled and rubbed the peridot in her pocket. She had all the help that she needed for now.
One early evening in late August, the local youth, Rob, Bill and Charlie were messing about down at the old well at the crossroads. Bill's girlfriend Alison was leaning into the well, her dark hair hanging down past her shoulders. Rob went and stood beside her. Together they looked down at their reflections in the water below. Suddenly, Rob felt the hairs on the back of his head prickling and a cold shiver passed over his body. Looking up again, he caught Alison giving him a searching look and he felt his feelings stir.
"Alison," he began... but he couldn't finish the sentence.
"What is it?" Alison prompted.
"I dunno. I just got a feeling that I had been here before, you know, standing like this looking in the well with you beside me."
Alison laughed but didn't like to admit that she too had had the same feeling as they watched the dark water at the bottom of the well.
"Ere...what are you two fuckers talking about?" shouted Bill. "Get over 'ere, Alison. You're my girl, remember!"
"Let's go down the allotments," suggested Charlie.
"Yeah, let's go and see how big the pumpkins are getting."
They crossed the road, walked past the pub and then started running down the track towards the allotments. When they got as far as the church, it started raining.
"Shall we go in the church and shelter for a while?" asked Sally.
"Is it open?" said Bill.
"Let's see." Rob turned the handle of the enormous old oak door. The door gave way and he stepped down into the church, passing the stoup where the Holy water was kept. The others followed him in. As Bill walked past the stoup a sound like fizzing could be heard emanating from the stone receptacle holding the water.
"Bloody Hell, did you hear that?" called Charlie to Rob. "When Bill walked past that stoup, the water in it started fizzing."
Rob looked concerned. "That's Holy water Charlie and don't you swear when you're in this church. It ain't right."
"Oh, fuck off Rob. You're very Holy all of a sudden. What's come over you?"
Rob looked at Alison and saw her standing in the church. He felt something good stir deep within himself. He thought he could smell lavender but there was none growing near. It was all very strange...
Witchfordley - The
Abbey - 1450
It was very early morning in the Abbey and Brother Robert was taking part in the morning Office of Lauds. The service was taking place in the dark with only a candle for light, all the better for the monks to concentrate.
O God come to my aid.
O Lord, make haste to help me.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
The Lord reigns! He is robed in splendour,
clothed in glory and wrapped round in might.
He set the earth on its foundations:
it will not be shaken.
Your throne is secure from the beginning;
from the beginning of time, Lord you are.
The rivers have raised, O Lord,
the rivers have raised their voices.
The rivers have raised their clamour
Over the voices of many waters,
over the powerful swell of the sea.
You are the Lord, powerful on high.
All your promises are to be trusted:
and holy is your habitation,
O Lord, to the end of time.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
The singing was
hypnotic, allowing Brother Robert to focus his thoughts on his inner mind but
contained there was a perfect vision of Alice, his Madonna. His thoughts became
questions. He asked his God why he had been chosen for this austere life
and then given a love so powerful, but for a woman already claimed. He
was sorry to God, sorry that his thoughts wondered off so, but hadn't he been a
good monk, working tirelessly in the Abbey garden, growing plants and herbs for
medicinal purposes. Now he found himself a feared of Alice's husband.
He trod carefully and went about his business but the husband had seen the way
they looked at each other and noticed the number of times that his Alice had
gone to the Abbey gardens on unnecessary errands.
For a short while his thoughts returned to normal but as the candlelight flickered on the wall in front of him, it only served to remind him of Alice's long, dark hair as it cascaded down her back, held together with a red ribbon and smelling so sweetly of lavender. She always smelled of lavender. It was so strong and to cause him to hold his breath when he walked beside the lavender hedge in the herb garden. Holding his breath only served to make his heart beat even faster and there was no release from the wanting. He began to fantasize about releasing her hair ribbon, letting the hair find its natural course down her back. In his mind he felt the silky hair slipping through his fingers. With his fingers he would lift the ends of her hair to his lips and kiss them, drinking in the fragrance.
He began to wonder if he would be able to work in the garden that afternoon, in the hope to see Alice but he was so tired, not having slept for days.
"TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both."
by Robert Frost
Sometimes I feel that we travel two roads, one in the here and now and one from the past. There are times when the two roads converge and we get a glimpse into that past. The faces may be different and the roads may go in different directions, but nevertheless we have been there before... Ted North had one such moment when he leaned his aged elbows on the rough stones of the ancient well and allowed his thoughts to receive the past. Some say that ancient wells are magical places, where the veil between the worlds is thin and spirit voices can be seen and ghostly faces materialise...
now let's get on with the story:-
Witchfordley - September 3rd 2005
At the end of his busy day on the allotment, Ted took a walk for
relaxation. The early evening sky had turned a haunting pumpkin colour
and black night clouds began to move across. From the Chapel, Ted walked
briskly down the hill and past the old bake-house, turning left down St.
Etheldreda's Street to the crossroads at the bottom. Leaning on the
ancient well, he waited for a moment. He could hear the distant hoot of a
train leaving the station at Langwitch to journey back to Cambridge. He
allowed his thoughts to travel back through the day, the day of the Scarecrow
Festival. Suddenly a movement in the distance caught Ted's attention.
As he looked up and focussed his old eyes in the distance, he became
aware of a figure walking from the direction of Langwitch. It was the
tall figure of a man in a scruffy black suit. On his head he wore a black
hat with a velvet band. Straw poked out from under the hat and from the
sleeves of the jacket and the bottoms of his trousers. As the man got
closer, Ted could see that the stranger's face was a shade of green and his
eyes were orange. The nose on his face was huge and his mouth wore a
sneer. Over his arm he carried a black cloak.
Ted blinked twice and looked again. The stranger walked into the near distance and past Ted, without looking at him. It was as if he didn't see Ted at all. He continued walking and turned left past The Jolly Gardener Public House, down the track to the allotments. Ted's feet were rooted to the spot and he was unable to move until the stranger was out of sight...
The Scarecrow Festival was a popular annual event in the village of Witchfordley. Months before the festival, the villagers were busy planning and designing their scarecrows. The weather had been kind during the month of August but by 2nd September there was a chill in the air. Ted North consulted his barometer and remarked to his wife that the pointer had moved to the left, indicating that stormy weather was coming.
"I hope it holds fine for the Scarecrow Festival tomorrow," she said.
"Pete's scarecrow is very splendid, have you seen it?"
"Where's he stationing it, Ted. Do you know?"
"He's going to put it on his allotment, to scare the birds away from his pumpkins." Ted told her.
"Well, that's a good place for it."
"It will serve a dual purpose there. Do you think it will be a good idea though, to draw attention to the allotments?
"Well, it's only once a year, isn't it."
The festival started at 10 a.m. and finished at 6 p.m. The helpers assembled in the village hall and made ready for the visitors. They would be required to register in an ante-room and then, armed with a map and a voting form, they could walk around the village, observing the scarecrows and voting for their favourite. The main room in the village hall was filled with pretty little tables, covered in green and white checked gingham tablecloths. baskets of flowers sat colourfully on top and each table had a bowl of sugar with a spoon in it to sweeten the numerous cups of tea, which would soon be sipped.
Marjorie South and Mary North were leading figures on the organising committee. With military precision, they had lined up the plates of cakes, salads and bread rolls on a long trestle table in the kitchen ante-room, off the main room. They discussed the line-up together.
"Shall I put the salad cream on this table, or that one?" Marjorie asked. She always looked up to Mary, who she admired for her looks, her manners and most of all for her wide range of magnificent hats. The hats gave Mary the opportunity to wear a different one each week when she went to church. She seemed to own so many, Marjorie wondered how she had room for them all.
"Put the salad cream up on the shelf behind the plates, otherwise the children will be squirting it all over the place," Mary replied, sensibly.
As Mary watched Marjorie bending over and fussing about with the plates of food and cups and saucers, she smiled fondly to herself. 'What a good friend Marjorie is to me,' she thought and, 'what a lovely hourglass figure she has retained, even after all these years.' Privately she hoped that Marjorie and Pete would not move to Spain if the sale of the allotments went through.
As they worked to set the tables, one of the kitchen windows slammed shut with a bang, making the ladies jump and blowing a pile of paper doilies on to the floor, like a shower of large white snowflakes.
"The wind's getting up," said Marjorie. It certainly was and nowhere more so than over in the 100 acre field where wisps of the wind had begun to spiral round, picking up the black alluvial soil into trails that looked like smoke.
At 9.45 a.m. there was an eager queue of visitors waiting outside the village hall. the clock struck 10 o'clock and the queue of people began to move forward. Soon they were purchasing their maps and keen to view the scarecrows.
An hour later, Ted thought he'd take a walk round himself to see which scarecrow he was going to vote for. He walked up to the church first and chuckled at the wedding party of scarecrows lined up for their photographs to be taken, outside the church. The bride scarecrow had a beautiful long white dress on. The veil was blowing about her face like a mischievous cloud teasing her.
The church at Witchfordley was well maintained and well loved by the parishioners who visited it every Sunday. it was in good repair except for a vertical crack in the wall near the door. This was allegedly caused by a bad lightning strike in the middle of the 15th Century.
Ted was a churchwarden and as such, responsible for the building and well being of the incumbent. He took his duties seriously. He was also a bell ringer. The church boasted a ring of six light bells, hung in a metal frame installed in 1971 using metal from the old tenor bell, which was cast in 1717. There was no clock on the church. Time stood still in the church and the surrounding graveyard, which was very well maintained by the Parish. It was a true rural churchyard, a delight at all times of the year.
Charlie and Sally, Bill and Alison and Rob had nothing better to do in the evenings than to create annoyance. They would hang about outside the chip shop, cat calling at anyone who walked past, embarrassing old ladies. When that pastime lost its attraction, they would wander round the village opening gates which should remain closed, kicking over bins and shouting out loud to wake up babies and cause dogs to bark. They had often caused havoc down at the allotments and Ted North and Pete South were sick of them. Ted had thought of a way to get them back for the vandalism they had caused to his pumpkins in the past and he told Pete about it.
"I've had a good idea to dissuade those yobs tonight," he told him.
"Oh yes, and what's that then, may I ask?"
"I'm going to put up a sign in the pumpkin patch tonight."
"And what will that say, the - Keep off!" Pete sniggered, knowing that whatever the idea was, it would probably be futile.
"The sign says 'One of these pumpkins is injected with cyanide', that should do it."
Pete chuckled. "Yes, that should put them off, to be sure."
Ted: "We're coming up to Halloween and I don't want to lose any of my pumpkins."
"Nor me. I'm proud of my pumpkins this year. They're doing really well."
"I wouldn't be surprised if you get the crown this year, Pete if that Mrs. Smithers doesn't beat you!"
Pete smiled happily to himself. he had been thinking the same thing.
Ted smiled too. He had another idea for preventing the vandalism. The newest idea would be very permanent indeed and concerned some purchases he had recently made on the internet.
The next morning, the gardeners arrived at their plots as the sun was rising up above the trees.
Phil Potter took one look at his plot and shouted out:-
"The bastards, just look what they've done." ...
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Phil Potter took one look at his plot and shouted out:-
"The bastards, look what they've done. My vegetables have gone."
The vegetables, which had been growing since March, were due to be put on show at the Witchfordley Federation of Allotments Association display on September 10th. he had been growing as many vegetables as he could and the produce was going to be sold and the donations given to the local hospice in Langwitch. They had lost 300 beetroots, 60 carrots and nearly a sack's worth of potatoes. The vandals had indeed caused a lot of trouble. Ted and Pete were pleased to notice that their pumpkins were intact... so far. They felt sorry for their friend and decided to give him some of their own produce to make up the loss.
"Those kids, they really get up my nose," grumbled Phil, rubbing his big nose vigorously. "Every year it's the same. They watch us put all our efforts into growing the vegetables and then, as soon as they are ready to harvest, along they come and cause mayhem. They've never taken them away before though."
Ted North leaned on his spade and chewed his lips thoughtfully. "It's always at this time of year, ain't it. I think the legend has something to do with it. Them kids just ain't the same in October. It's as if the devil gets into 'em."
"I wish it'd get out of them, then," said Phil crossly. "I'm so sick of it, I could cry. I feel like putting a curse on 'em."
"Now don't do that Phil," coaxed Ted. "There's enough wickedness in this village already."
"W...e...l...l.." growled Phil, spitting on the ground.
Witchfordley - End of August 1450
Abbot Saunders rendered his soul to God on the fifteenth day of August and was laid to rest in the grounds of the Abbey. There was a new Abbot, received with due honour and ceremony. Brother Robert looked upon the new Abbot and saw a man who was not well favoured with a forgiving nature...
When Alice decided to take a walk down the track to the Abbey, her husband, William, decided to follow her. He had become suspicious of the number of walks she had been taking on her own lately...
That night Ted North found it hard to get to sleep. He felt feverish and couldn't get out of his mind the vision of that extraordinary scarecrow figure he had seen walking right past him, down at the well. He tossed and turned and finally gave up trying to sleep and went downstairs to make himself a cup of tea. He made one for Mary as well, feeling sure that he had disturbed her as well as himself. As he filled the teapot from the kettle, he noticed again that the wind was getting tricky. 'I think we're in for a windy spell,' he thought, 'and that is not good news in the run up to Halloween.'
Carefully, he carried the tray, with the two cups of tea on it, up the stairs and set it down on the table beside the bed.
He saw that his wife was opening her eyes.
"Are you all right, Ted?" asked Mary.
"Not really dear. I can't sleep and I don't feel very well. I feel feverish and there is a spot on my forehead that feels tingly. Would you have a look at it for me in the morning?"
Mary stirred herself and sat up. Her motherly instincts inclined her to look at Ted's forehead straight away, but there was nothing much to see.
"When did you notice it feeling strange?" she asked him.
"Earlier this evening. It feels just like I've been stung by an insect. There are quite a few mosquitoes around at the moment and you know how irritating their bites can be."
Mary knew only too well. She was very allergic to mosquito bites.
"Perhaps it will show up better in the morning Ted. Shall I get the Anthisan cream for you?"
"Yes please, if it's not too much trouble. You know how clumsy I am when I get into that medicine cabinet."
Mary went to fetch the cream and, while she was gone, Ted pondered on whether to tell her about the scarecrow man he had seen.
She soon returned with the cream and as she applied it gently tohis forehead, he decided to let her in on the occurrence.
"I don't want to scare you Mary, but I need to tell you something," he began.
"What is it dear?" What is the trouble?"
"This afternoon, when I went for a walk to wind down after the excitement of the scarecrow festival, I saw a stranger coming up the road from the direction of Langwitch. He looked very odd. He was tall and wore a black suit. He had a black hat on his head and straw was poking out from underneath it. There was straw poking out from his cuffs too."
Mary looked worried. She wondered to herself if the exertions of the day had been too much for Ted. She decided to make light of it...
"It was probably one of the scarecrow wardens."
"No, it wasn't. There was something very odd about this man. He had a very strange face, greenish in colour. He didn't look human."
"Now you're going too far, Ted. Whatever are you suggesting?"
"I know it sounds far- fetched, Mary, but I think it might be the Pumpkin Man, you know, the one from the legend. He walked past me without seeing me and Mary, I couldn't move. I was absolutely rooted to the spot until he had gone right past and down the track past the pub to the allotments and the church."
Bill and Charlie had dug up Phil's vegetables and dumped them in the well out of pure devilment. If they'd expended half the energy it took to dig up the vegetables into helping people instead, they would have done a lot of good and felt a lot better about themselves, but as it was they were only feeling tired and spent. Before digging up the vegetables, they had been in the Jolly Gardener public house, downing pints of lager and egging each other on to get into the allotments and cause havoc. Rob and Alison were not with them. They had decided to meet up together because, since staring into the dark waters of the well, they could think of nothing but each other. They had also been down at the allotments but sitting at the back of the church nearby on the mysterious seat that had appeared. Rob put his arm round Alison's shoulders.
"Are you feeling cold, Alison?" he asked gently.
"Not with you beside me, no," she replied.
"Your hair smells nice,"
"Thank you. It's that new lavender conditioner I bought. I love lavender, don't you?"
Rob had never noticed lavender until he stood beside Alison down at the well. Now he associated it with being near to her and yes, he did love it. In fact, he couldn't get enough of her.
Witchfordley - Friday 21st October 2005.
In the morning, Mary looked across at Ted and saw his face was flushed and he looked feverish. On his forehead, where last night he had felt tingling, some small, watery blisters had appeared.
"I feel awful, Mary. My head throbs and my forehead is prickling. I think I shall have to see the doctor this morning. As soon as it is 9 o'clock, would you please ring the surgery?"
"Of course I will. Let me get you some aspirin. That will help to reduce the fever."
I'm worried, Mary, about the pumpkins. Do you think you could ring Pete up and ask him to attend to them for me today?"
Mary smiled. "Of course, my love, don't you worry. I'm sure he will do it."
Ted lay back on the pillows. 'Why do I have to be ill now? Just when everything is so busy down on the allotments. I can't spare the time to be ill, I really can't.'
Mary wanted to discuss Ted's problem before she consulted the doctor and the first person she thought of was Mrs. Smithers. She rang her up...
"Estrella, is that you? I'm so sorry to ring you so early but I really need to talk to someone. It's ted, he's so ill, I'm really worried and I can't think what is wrong with him. He's very feverish and there is a watery, blistery rash on his forehead. What do you think it could be?"
"Hello, Mary. It's good to hear from you. Doesn't matter it's early. I get up early, as you know. It sounds like shingles. Has Ted had chickenpox?"
"Yes, when he was a child. I remember him mentioning it. Do you think, yes it could be that, couldn't it? Is it serious?"
"It can be, yes, if it goes in his eye. You need to see the doctor, but there is not a lot that they can do for it. It will have to take its course, I'm afraid."
"He's so worried about his pumpkins and especially the big one that he's going to enter in the show. He's getting quite stressed about it."
"Tell him not to worry. I'm sure Pete will help out. You ask him. He'll do it."
"Yes, I will. Thanks for your advice. By the way, how are your pumpkins doing? I've heard you are going in for the prize as well this year?"
"Oh, they're doing nicely, yes, quite nicely, thank you. Ranjit has also grown some. He's going to enter in the Adult Decorated Section."
"Good luck to the both of you then, but you'll have a job to beat Ted's," stated Mary with loyalty to her husband.
"I know. It is a challenge."
Mrs. Smithers woke up early each morning. She combed her long, dark hair and put the sparkle in her eye and then looked through the window of her cottage in Woodend. She watched the pumpkins growing. Every morning she enjoyed a cup of Indian Prince tea and some toast and marmalade for breakfast and then she wandered down to the end of her long garden to where the vegetables were growing. The pumpkins were wonderful, but when she cast her eye over the broad beans, she observed that they had succumbed to a fungal disease called "chocolate spot." Small, brown areas had appeared on the leaves and she knew that if she didn't do something about it quickly, then the crop would be lost. Mrs. Smithers was very partial to chocolate so, on this occasion only, she decided to take the easy option to solve the problem. Clicking her fingers with intent, she muttered:-
"Chocolate fungus turn and hide,
Chocolate drops will now reside."
Before her eyes the chocolate coloured patches turned into delicious chocolate drops and it was an easy matter just to shake the leaves over a brown paper bag and the chocolate drops fell into it. She would take them down to the allotment clubhouse later in the day and share them with her friends.
Mr. Singh, her partner, had also been growing pumpkins. Mrs. Smithers had encouraged him to grow the variety called Turks Turban, which was possibly the most exotic and closely resembled the turban, which Ranjit always wore.
"How are my pumpkins coming on?" he called down the garden.
"Oh, very well. They will make some lovely soup."
"It seems a shame to make them into soup when they are so attractive to look at."
"Oh you softy! You are going to enter them in the Show, aren't you?"
"Naturally. You try and stop me."
Ranjit always did everything as perfectly as he could. He put as much effort into growing his squashes as he did winding his turban in the mornings. The turban itself, when unravelled, stretched all the way down the long hall and beyond. It must have been 15 feet in length.
Witchfordley - Friday 21st October 2005, 10 p.m.
A group of young people, including the yobs, Bill and Alison, Charlie and Sally and Rob, were having a game of pool in the Jolly Gardener public house.
"What's this rubbish about the legend of the Fen Blow?" asked Bill, leaning his heavy, muscular body on his snooker cue.
Charlie explained: "Watch it Bill, you'll break the cue if you do that... If the Fen Blow comes at Halloween, it brings the spirit of a monk who used to live in the Abbey a long time ago. There will be trouble in the village if you believe the legend."
Bill scoffed at the idea. "What a load of cobblers! If you believe that, you'll believe anything. I don't believe it, do you?"
Charlie laughed. "I don't disbelieve it. I don't want to prove it, put it like that!"
Rob was quiet. He had been having dreams lately, dreams about the churchyard and the allotments next door. In his dreams he was always with Alison at his side, but he knew that could not happen because Alison was Bill's girlfriend. The day after he had the first dream, he had been embarrassed to look at Alison the next day. She seemed to pick up on his thoughts because she kept giving him searching looks.
In the second dream, Rob saw himself writing a poem and putting it in a crack in the wall of the church, near the door for Alison to find. It was all very strange.
Rob stretched his tall frame and his arms made contact with the heavy, oak beams transversing the ceiling. His long, black hair hung down his back. He looked every inch the rock star with his snake hips encased in tight, black jeans and his wrists bejewelled with bangles and studded leather.
Charlie looked up from his snooker and said: "What are we gonna do at Halloween? Are we going to the Barn Dance?"
"Course we are," answered Bill. "Good excuse to get drunk on some cheap cider."
The yobs had a job to do and after the pub closed, they went down the track to the allotments to do it. Charlie had a sign under his arm. "This'll put the frighteners on those old men," he chuckled.
They set the sign in the pumpkin patch next to the sign which Pete South had set up the day before.
"Who's that over there?" called Bill, looking across at Pete South's allotment, where a scarecrow stood tall, arms outstretched.
"It's a scarecrow, that's all," replied Rob.
"I thought I saw the bloody thing move..."
"I thought I saw the bloody thing move," called Bill, looking back at a tall scarecrow on Pete South's allotment.
"Nah, it's just a scarecrow, come on, let's get back...now"
They started walking away from the allotments but Bill couldn't resist turning round one last time to have another look.
The trees surrounding the allotments swayed creepily in the night but when Bill's eyes alighted on the scarecrow, he could tell that it stood in a different position. The arm was bent and raised so that the cuff of the jacket, where the hand would be, if it had one, was touching a large black hat. He thought he saw two red, glowing eyes beneath the hat.
"COME ON," he shouted, "LET'S GET OUT OF HERE."
Their feet made deep impressions on the track as they legged it as fast as they could go.
Witchfordley - The Abbey - 1450
Brother Robert was thinking about Abbot Saunders, recently departed this life. 'The abbot had died hard. Could it be that there were pigeon feathers in his pillow? The monk had watched over him for several hours and then went outside to breathe the fresh air of the garden. The bell tolled. Inside the monastery the abbot had passed from this world into the next. The thin veil, which to him and his monks of Witchfordley, hid the world to come from their vision, was parted and the supernatural life eternal was revealed to him in the most natural of ways. His spirit travelled in a holy cart to reside at the house of God forever. With him in the cart went the symbols of the labours of his life. All his good works were represented by some fishes and sheaves of corn, placed beside him.' Brother Robert had lost a good friend.
Alice walked along, swinging her hips and enjoying the smells of early Autumn. Blackberries were ripening all along the way and she stopped to pick a few. The juice, the colour of blood in the veins, stained her fingers. The air was heavy and close as if a thunderstorm was imminent and she began to feel her airways closing. She suffered from breathing difficulties. Her face turned as pale and translucent as a shell.
"I'll just sit a while on this bank," she murmured to herself as she began to gasp.
Over in the abbey gardens, Brother Robert saw Alice sitting with difficulty on the bank, holding her delicate hand to her throat. Instinctively he knew something was wrong. He knew he must allow Alice more air to breathe. He rushed across to the bank where she lay and glanced at her bosom, which appeared damp and heaving. Fear gripped his heart as he began to loosen her clothing to enable her to breathe more easily.
Sunday 30th October, 2005.
On Saturday night Rob had another dream, which caused him to sit upright in bed at 3 a.m. He was sweating and his heart was thumping loudly. The rock stars adorning his bedroom walls glared at him in disgust!
'Not again,' he thought. 'Those dreams are getting worse. I feel as if I'm going mad.'
In the pub the next day he found Alison waiting for Bill so he stayed with her and talked about the dream.
"You were in the dream Alli. We were "an item" but Bill was different. He was out of character. The fun loving, dare anything Bill was gone. He was so menacing. Do you remember when we were in the church, how the Holy Water fizzed when he was standing by it?"
"Yes, I do. It was scary. Bill has been a bit odd lately and he's become very jealous too. You're right, he's acting out of character. He used to be such fun, but he's not any more and there's another thing too. He keeps going down to the crossroads at night, like he's going to meet someone."
Rob frowned. He was concerned for Alison. She looked so
lovely today; he couldn't avert his eyes. Her black hair was just like
his, only with more red in it. It hung around her face like a curtain and
her long eyelashes framed her beautiful dark eyes. When she looked directly
at him, he just couldn't look away. She was fascinating to him.
"Do you go with him to the crossroads, Alli?"
"No, he always takes me home first but then I see him from my bedroom window walking towards the well."
"Bill goes there in my dream too. He does meet someone, but I can't see who it is. I always wake up before I can identify the stranger."
Alison reached into her handbag and took out her asthma inhaler. She took a deep puff and exhaled. As she returned the inhaler to her bag, she saw Bill coming into the pub accompanied by Charlie and Sally.
"Oy, what's up you two. What are you talking about?" called Bill.
"Nothing, Bill, nothing at all," said Rob.
Witchfordley - October 2005.
Ted's shingles were clearing up slowly. His face still looked as if he had been in a car accident, but it felt better. The swellings round the eyes were subsiding at last and he felt more like his old self.
Ted's mate Gerald went to visit him, taking with him a large bunch of grapes.
"Hello Mary, how is the invalid today?"
"Much better than last week Gerald, but he's enjoying the attention. Pete is looking after the pumpkins for him. Come in and cheer him up. I'm sure he will be pleased to see you."
Gerald shuffled down the hallway of Ted and Mary's neat little terraced house and sat down opposite Ted in the back room, which served as a dining room. He handed the grapes to Ted, scratching his balding head as he did so.
"Here you are mate and there's some more magazines in that bag for when you feel a bit more perky." He tapped his nose with his forefinger to let Ted know that the magazines were top shelf and best kept out of Mary's sight.
"Thanks a lot Gerald. I'm feeling really tired at the moment and I look like I've been in a car accident, don't I?"
"You never was a stunner, Ted."
"P'raps I should say a horror film extra?"
"Yeah, that's more like it."
The two friends enjoyed the tea, which Mary brought them and then Gerald left, leaving Ted a lot happier.
Mrs. Smithers's cottage at Woodend was a place of great tranquility. Her door was always open to receive visitors in need of rest and relaxation. When people came to the cottage for the first time she would ask them to stand quietly in the porch surrounded by the sight and smell of honeysuckle, while she said:
"Stand here for a moment in my porch. This is a crossing place, the threshold between the world outside and the place of sanctuary you see before you. Let's think about the people who cannot find the way into happiness and let's wish that they soon find the key that they are looking for."
Then she led them through into the warm, welcoming kitchen where she prepared a drink for them. A different drink for each visitor, depending on his or her need.
Today's visitor was Mary, tired out from looking after Ted and all his callers.
"Come in Mary. I'll make you a drink. Do you like Camomile tea? It is very soothing."
Mary nodded and sunk back into Estrella's large old armchair, resting her weary back against an Alpaca cushion. Mrs. Smithers left her there to enjoy the peace and quiet and to sip the Camomile tea.
October 31st 2005
Ted North made his way down the dirt track, which led to the allotments. It was windy. the wind was tricky again, whipping back and forth, full of mischief. Ted felt uneasy. He passed the seat which had arrived from nowhere. He gave it a cursory glance. 'Where did that come from?' he thought, for the umpteenth time that year.
He was delighted to see the allotment again and noticed that Pete South had done a very good job of looking after his pumpkins. It was time to get the pumpkins into a place of safety, ready for the judging that night. Together he and his friends lifted the enormous pumpkin onto the wheelbarrow in order to trundle it down to the judging bench. There it would be displayed until the moment of decision. Next they returned to collect Pete South's enormous pumpkin. When they got to the barn where the judging would take place later that night, there were other entries already in situ. Amongst them were the pumpkins belonging to Mrs. Smithers and her friend Mr. Singh. Looking around the barn, it was impossible to tell who had the largest pumpkin,without weighing them.
31st October 2005.
The yobs were planning what they were going to do that evening. First they were going to the barn dance in the barn belonging to Farmer Clifton. They had been asked to help set up the space for the dancers.
Marjorie South and her lady friends were busy baking pumpkin pies with the smaller pumpkins grown on the allotments.
Mrs. Smithers opened the door to a group of small children who, with the permission of their parents, had been allowed to go Trick or Treating.
"Trick or Treat, Mrs.?" They giggled, resplendent in their costumes and faces complete with face paints of many lurid colours.
"Oh, treat, every time," she answered, reaching for her box of wrapped sweets, to give them one.
"Oooh, lovely, thank you Mrs." They each took a sweet and popped it into their mouths. The sweets were delicious, tasting of wild strawberries and cream. They went down smoothly.
Just as they were leaving to go, Mrs. Smithers said to them:
"Did you enjoy those, children? Did they taste of raspberries and ice cream, or strawberries and cream, or cherry and orange sorbet?"
Ooooh yest, tasty, very tasty."
"Yes," replied Mrs. Smithers, her eyes glinting green in the afternoon sun. "What a shame they are POISONED!"
The children's mouths fell open and one pretty little girl started to cry. with that Mrs. Smithers shut the door and went back inside to get ready for the Barn Dance.
Even she was affected by the Evil Halloween Wind!
Witchfordley - The Abbey 1450
Brother Robert placed a bag of suitable herbs on Alice's chest to bring her out of her attack of bad breathing. He held her close until she felt better and his heart soared. Alice's husband, William, had followed her and saw from a distance what he took to be an embrace of his wife by the 'evil' monk. He was enraged and ran home to the cottage to drink himself to oblivion.
"When that Alice returns home, she will be sorry," he promised himself.
King Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou in 1445. Unfortunately, he suffered with fits of insanity and this gave rise to feelings of disquiet in the country. In 1454 the Duke of York would be made Protector but for now, the country was unsettled. brother Robert was also unsettled in his mind. He had confided in Abbot Saunders who had been very understanding, but the new Abbot was a different type of man and brother Robert would have to be more careful...
Witchfordley 2005 - The evening of October 31st
Every year at Halloween, a barn dance was held in Farmer Clifton’s large barn. It was one of those traditions that everyone looked forward to and planned for throughout the year. Each year the diligent village folk endeavoured to improve on the year before. Planning meetings went on throughout the year, all with the intention of making it a splendid evening for everyone to enjoy, but also as a fund raiser to enable the older members of the community to enjoy a Christmas party and a trip out in the summer months.
Always there was the worry that the evil wind would spring up and spoil the events of the night. Some years were better than others in that respect but the villagers were a stubborn lot and very determined to overcome all their difficulties.
The helpers had been busy all day moving hay bales into the barn for the guests to sit on. The barn looked wonderful, so alive with coloured lights in the rafters and balloons. It was magical! There was plenty of floor space for the dancing later and the atmosphere was just perfect.
Makeshift toilets were in another shed behind the barn and amounted to not much more than a hole in the ground so it was advisable for the ladies to dress without the encumbrance of underwear so that they need only stand astride the hole and, with legs apart, aim downwards. There would be plenty of drink available so trips to the toilet would be frequent. For weeks the ladies had been sewing and cutting and putting together the check skirts and faux leather tops to wear in their attempts to be proper cow girls. The cowboys would have an easier job of it since all they would need to do would be to wear jeans and pointed boots and buy a cowboy hat from the local line-dancing shop.
Just before the guests arrived, the gentlemen strew wheat husks on the floor, so that the long skirts of the ladies would flick up the dust during the dancing. A pig was roasting outside and would smell ever more wonderful as the hours went on. Dusk began to fall and cast an indigo light over the barn as villagers began to arrive.
All through the day the contestants had been bringing their exhibits to the barn in readiness for the judging.
At 6.30 p.m. the judging began.
Everyone stood to attention around the sides of the barn. All activity stopped.
The exhibits looked wonderful, set out on long trestle tables, labels on, bows tied, cards with names displayed to advantage.
There were enormous marrow, gigantic onions, potatoes as large as footballs (well almost), scrumptious beetroots and long, long straight beans.
The pumpkins were lined up at the front, ready to be weighed.
"Attention please, everyone, attention," shouted Phil above the chattering. "I want to announce a few winners..."
"First of all, thank you for turning up tonight. A big thank you goes out to everyone who took part in the competitions, especially the children. You only have to look around the displays to see how much work THEY put into it. I've never seen so many huge, black, hairy spiders in my life! Really, the standard is excellent again this year.
Thank you to Farmer Clifton for the use of his barn for tonight's festivities and thank to Pete South for arranging the barbecue for us all to enjoy...
Now I come to the part you have all been waiting for ... the club classes and the championship pumpkin prize...
The first prize tonight goes to The Black Family for the best decorated pumpkin - family effort ... and to Alexander Bayliss for the best decorated pumpkin in the children's section. Alexander's large cockerel pumpkin was truly splendid."
Pete South stood at the side of the barn chewing his lip. His thoughts went back to March when he had wanted so much to be King Pumpkin but now, as he looked at his old friend Ted, struggling to cope with his illness and yet enjoy the evening, he was overcome with emotion. "I actually WANT Ted to win the crown again this year,' he thought. 'His friendship means more to me than wearing the crown.'
Phil's voice went on announcing the winners. There were so many of them, so many entries, so many categories, showing how much the village was "in tune".
"...And the winner of the largest sunflower head goes to - Mrs. Smithers. Come on up Estrella and collect your prize ...
"And finally - the prize for the heaviest pumpkin... will be announced in half an hour when you've all had a chance to sample the food."
Witchfordley 2005 – 31st October
Farmer Clifton’s Barn
Excitement was in the air and the level of talking and laughing grew as people began to queue up for food.
Phil Potter was in charge of the food. A pig had been roasting on a spit for hours. It smelt delicious. Phil stood behind the pig, sharpening his carving knives with a look of evil intent. Mouths were drooling. The pig had a smile on its face. It looked as if, in its upside down state, it had always lived for this moment. Its legs were raised to heaven in supplication and smiling away happily, it submitted to Phil and his knives for its final task; to feed the multitude of happy dancers and take his place for ever more in trotter heaven.
Bursting with importance, Phil started to carve and share out the succulent portions.
The yobs were first in the queue for the meat.
“Be generous Phil, we’re fucking starving,” said Bill in his usual polite way!
Phil gave him a look of contempt.
“Would you like some crackling Sally? He asked.
Sally looked down, allowing her long blonde hair to cover her face. She always blushed when Phil spoke to her. “Yes, please,” she replied.
Sally belonged to the class of women who looked and acted younger than they were. They had boyish figures and small breasts and innocent looks on their faces. They appealed to older men who also liked young boys. Phil had the hope in his heart, or rather in his loins that he might be able to persuade Sally to come outside behind the barn before the end of the evening. Her blushing face told him that he might not be disappointed…
The ceilidh band began to tune up, ready to play again later on. They were a well-known band around the locality, known especially for their violin player, who thrilled everyone each time he took the stage. The lively violin always encouraged the guests to dance. A caller came along to help the dancers.
Bill looked at Alison. “I’ve got to pop out for half an hour Alli. I won’t be long. Don’t worry; I’ll be back in time for the fun later on…”
“Where are you going?”
“Just got to meet a friend. Won’t take long. See you.”
Allison went to find Rob. “Bill’s going out, he won’t say where. I think he’s going to the Crossroads again. I just get this feeling. He always acts evasive.”
Rob put his arm round Alli’s shoulders. “Don’t worry Alli. He’ll be OK.”
Secretly, Rob was concerned.
Witchfordley – The Abbey – Late October, circa 1450.
Brother Robert went out into the herb garden full of joy, for it was a sunny morning and warm for the time of the year. He moved along the rows of rosemary, taking in the fragrance, which was invigorating to his senses. Dropping his clippers, he stooped down to retrieve them and his foot made contact with something soft. Looking down he recognised the shoe, which his beloved Alice wore.
“Alice, oh no, Alice, dearest…!”
Witchfordley – 31st October,
2005 8 p.m.
The caller stepped forward for the dance, “Sir Roger de Coverley”.
Formation: Longways, set of six couples.
Top boy and bottom girl (Boys’ corners) meet and giving right hands, swing round and move back to place (right hand turn.) (6 steps).
Top girl and bottom boy (Girls’ corner) do the same. (6 steps).
Boys’ corners meet, left hand turn, and back to places (6 steps).
Girls’ corners do a two-hand turn. (6 steps).
Boys’ corners do a two-hand turn. (6 steps).
Girls’ corners do a two-hand turn. (6 steps).
Boys’ corner do a Do-si-do (6 steps).
Girls’ corners do a Do-si-do. (6 steps).
The dancers were flashes of red, white, blue and green, swirling in circles and moving up and down the line. The whole barn seemed to have a life of its own. Mr. Tall took the hands of Mrs. Small and spun her round, noting the swell of her large bosom as he did so. She in turn, felt the strength of his arms as he held her tight. Mr. Large felt the tightness of his trousers and the weight of his stomach, but he was very nimble of foot and danced lightly to the tunes.
Rob winked at Alison as they danced into the circle and out again.
The ladies all wore full petticoats and as they spun round in dance, the
petticoats swung up and down provocatively. For the women it was a joy to
see the broad shoulders of the men forcing forwards and back. With the
heat increasing, sleeves were rolled up and muscles were seen to be
rippling. By ten o’clock most guests were hot and tipsy. Faces were
red, feet were sore and nether regions were expectant.
Meanwhile, the pumpkins waited in their rows at the front. Which grower would be wearing the King Pumpkin crown?
Phil took to the stage and picked up the microphone. Again a silence fell.
“And now for the moment you have all been waiting for … can I have some helpers please, to lift up the massive pumpkins and put them on the weighing machine?”
Rob, Charlie and two other friends stepped forward. The massive pumpkins were set on blankets so that the men could each take a corner and heave them up onto the stage to be weighed. From the look of them all, there were three possible champions. One belonged to Ted North, one to Pete South and the third to Mrs. Smithers.
Phil turned to the stage. Something was missing. There were the cups and the pumpkin crown. There was the mace but where were the scales? The scales had been right there on the stage just a few minutes ago, but now they had disappeared…
Phil shouted across to the band, “Keep playing, we’ve lost the scales. They’ve gone missing. Does anybody know where they are?” Nobody did. “Can I have some helpers please, to look for the scales?” Phil was getting exasperated.
Outside the wind was moaning, blowing the outside lanterns about with a ferocity that had not been forecast.
Charlie looked at Rob. “Where’s Bill? he always goes missing when there is work to be done.”
While the search for the scales was going on, Phil suddenly noticed Sally leaving the hall to go to the toilet. He nipped out behind her and hovered about outside in the foyer until she came out. When he saw her coming out he went to her and said:-
“Fancy a little walk around the hall, Sally? It’s so hot in here, I could do with a breath of fresh air.”
“Oh, Phil, you are awful. What would everyone say if they saw us out there together?”
“Let them say what they like! Anyway, there’s no one around and I want to show you something.”
Sally looked curious. She was quite tiddly from the cider.
“And what might that be then?”
“Oh, just something I’ve been growing to give to you.”
“Where is it then?”
“Just out the back here. It won’t take a minute.”
Taking her hand in his, he guided her out through the doorway and round the back where it was dark and smelt of hay and straw.
“There, that’s better, isn’t it?” “Not so hot out here.”
The wind whipped at their clothes.
“What did you want to show me then?”
“That can wait. First a kiss, then I’ll show you.”
“Ooo Pete.” Sally shrank back a bit but Pete stepped forward and held Sally’s shoulders in his large hands.
“You are so pretty, Sally. Just one little kiss, go on. You know you want to.”
He pressed his mouth onto Sally’s delicious soft lips and to his surprise, she didn’t resist too much. While he was kissing her, he held her close so that she could feel his desire growing. His heart was beating faster. He knew that Sally would have had nothing to do with him unless she drunk the cider so he needed to work quickly. If he could just get a touch of those pert little breasts…
The wind was laughing and pushing against them.
“Found them!” shouted a voice from behind the stage. “Someone must have hidden them behind these hay bales!”
Phil appeared, wiping his hand across his brow. He looked flustered. “Thank goodness. I suppose that was someone’s idea of a prank to hide the scales there?.” He looked at the younger people in the crowd.
“Now, can we please get on with it. Helpers, the first pumpkin, please.”
One by one the pumpkins were weighed. Phil wrote the weights on the cards and then he turned to the waiting crowd.
He picked up the cards and read the results:
“Third prize goes to Mrs. Estrella Smithers, whose pumpkin weighed in at 250 lbs. Everybody clapped.
“And the runner up prize goes to Pete South. His pumpkin weighed in at 273 lbs.” Everyone clapped.
Pete looked at Ted. The shingles still looked quite savage on his brow.
“King Pumpkin for 2005,” continued Phil, “is, of course, our own Ted North, but it was very close this year. Ted’s pumpkin only beat Pete’s by 2lbs. Well done Ted, please come and receive the Pumpkin Crown and the mace.”
As Ted made his way to the front to collect his crown, everyone in the barn raised a cheer. He smiled as he collected the trophy and then turned to the gathering.
“Thank you everyone. I am proud to win this coveted prize again this year, but it would not have been possible without the help of my true friend, Pete South. Now I have something very important to say…”
Farmer Clifton’s Barn
October 31st – late evening
Ted cleared his throat, "I am truly grateful for Pete’s friendship and especially this year and so, I have made an important decision. I want Pete to make the circle of honour for me. Come on Pete, up you come.”
Pete looked surprised and delighted. It was a great honour to wear the crown and carry the mace whilst being wheeled three times around the hall in front of everybody. He went up to the podium and put on the crown. The crowd stepped back and made a road around the barn and then, Pete sat in the wheelbarrow and Phil wheeled him round the hall three times, each time a bit faster than the last. The crowd whooped with joy each time he passed them by.
Ted looked wistfully at Mary. “I’m getting too old to sit in the wheelbarrow, Mary. I think this will be the last time I win that crown. I think Pete will be taking my place next year.”
“Nonsense, Ted. You’ll be back again next year.” Mary squeezed his arm, but the knowing wind had other ideas.
The band struck up the tunes again and the revellers began to dance.
There was so much noise in the barn that no-body really noticed how bad the wind outside was getting…
Witchfordley – The Abbey – Circa 1450
As Brother Robert bent over the dead body of his beloved Alice, he heard a noise behind him.
“Who’s there?” he called, and then recognised William, the husband of Alice.
“Oh, it’s you,” he said, but before he could stand up, he felt a sharp blow on the back of his head and everything went black…
It was assumed amongst the brothers in the Abbey that William had killed Robert because he had killed Alice. No one knew about Robert’s love for Alice, except the old Abbot, who had died. With the death of Abbot Saunders, there was no one to speak up for Robert… the villagers thought that William killed himself because he couldn’t bear to live without Alice.
It was a humble wasp, which had taken the life of the pretty Alice. As usual in the mornings, Alice had walked along the path towards the Abbey, admiring the berries and watching the leaves on the trees turning from green to gold. She reached out to touch some berries and disturbed a sleepy wasp, which stung her. She, being allergic to wasps and bees, realised that she must seek help at once and ran towards the Abbey gardens to find Brother Robert. She died before she could find him and fell beneath the rosemary, that bush which henceforth would be known for remembrance.
As the perpetrator of a supposed terrible crime, Brother Robert was buried in an unconsecrated part of the graveyard, so that his soul would rot in Hell until the end of time. Only he knew he was not guilty and made a promise to his spiritual self that he would return to Witchfordley and take revenge on the place that did him such harm. He would come in the form of an evil wind – the locals called it The Fen Blow and when that wind should blow in Witchfordley at Halloween, then the characters of Witchfordley would become dark and hurt one another…
The next morning, the body of Alice’s husband, William, was found hanging from the crossbar in the well at the crossroads.
Brother Thomas and Brother Simon were talking together in the cloister. Puddles of uncertainty were collecting in the courtyard.
“William must have killed Robert, else why would he have hanged himself? Said Thomas
“He could have hanged himself because he was grieved at the death of Alice.”
“It’s hard to believe that Brother Robert would do such a thing as murder.”
“Yes, I know, but if he was obsessed? These confined dwellings turn a man’s mind sometimes. He was acting strange of late.”
“If Robert did kill Alice, there is no forgiveness for him.”
And so it was that the legend began. The curse could only be removed if Brother Robert could prove his innocence, but how could that happen? Perhaps if he could find a way to show someone the note he left for Alice in the crack of the wall at the church, then the curse would lift and his soul would be free to return whence it came.
Witchfordley – 31st October, 2005 – 10.30 p.m.
Bill approached the crossroads with caution. He was the first to arrive. He visited the crossroads regularly but, so far, he had managed to keep the meetings to himself. Nicholas Veldi was late. He must have been delayed. Bill leaned on the wall surrounding the well and stared down into the dark depths. The moon came out from behind a black cloud and shone in the water below. Bill was troubled.
“My life is going nowhere,’ he thought. ‘Alison doesn’t love me. She’s only going through the motions. I’ve seen the way she looks at Rob. It’s him she’s in love with, not me. I hate him for it. If I had his looks, I might stand a chance, but as it is, I might as well give up. Living in this dead hole of a place is doing my head in. There is nothing to do and nowhere to go and I need excitement. Thank God that Nick Veldi has come and given me some thrills.’
It was not God that Bill should be thanking, but his adversary in Heaven, the black Angel.
From his bedroom window, which faced the crossroads, the landlord of The Jolly Gardener public house watched and saw. He had just finished paying his monthly bills. The last one he paid was a bill for a garden seat, which he had, anonymously, placed in the track, which led to the allotments. He had bought the seat to remember his old dad, who was a fine gardener, only he hadn’t yet had the time to organise a plaque.
“Dear old dad,” he mused. “He would have loved a seat to sit on and watch the other gardeners, when he was too old to dig for himself. I hope this seat, which I bought, will bring pleasure to future gardeners who feel in need of a rest after a hard day’s digging.
There is something very unique about gardening on an allotment. It’s not just gardening, it has its own very special culture. It is a place to go and grow both vegetables, flowers and oneself. One grows friends and meets new neighbours. One learns new skills and gets to enjoy a story or a joke or two with people of different colours and creeds. Men and women who rent allotments and spend their time there whenever they can have something special.
The landlord’s father understood this. It wasn’t the misshapen carrots or the maggoty potatoes that brought him back time and time again, it was the magic of the soil.
In Farmer Clifton’s barn, the barn dance was coming to an end and the clearing up process was taking place. Mary and Estrella were filling black bin liners with all kinds of rubbish.
“Tell me, Estrella, how did you get your pumpkins to grow so big?” asked Mary.
Estrella smiled a wicked smile. “I used Viagra, Mary, but don’t tell Ted. Next year I want to wear that crown.”
Mary laughed. “Is that cheating?”
“Oh no. It doesn’t say anything about that in the rules.”
“It’s getting very stormy outside. I’m worried about the church. The lightning conductor needs replacing. We were warned about it in the last Quinquennial Inspection Report.”
“That’s not the only thing that needs repairing,” added Estrella. “There is a large crack in the wall at the foot of the turret stairs.”
“Yes, it costs so much these days to maintain these ancient buildings.”
Rob and Charlie and their friend, Sam, had drunk too much cider and were feeling the worse for wear. So it was in that condition that they took their leave of the party and, together with their girlfriends, left the barn and made their way to the allotments. They decided to go through the graveyard at the side of the church. While they were in the barn, dancing, they hadn’t noticed the Fen Blow, as it whipped up the dry soil. Nobody else had taken any notice of the weather forecast that morning either. The tail end of a hurricane, which started in the Gulf of Mexico, had arrived in England and was set to blow wild and create more mischief.
The old yew trees in the graveyard swayed in the wind, making gigantic, mournful, sweeping movements. Some of the branches bent so low that they touched the youths’ heads as they walked by. They wandered in to the part of the graveyard, which had been empty for hundreds of years. No-one had been buried there in the years following the Black Death, for fear of releasing that spectre again.
Full of cider and drugs, Bill was feeling randy…
“Let’s do it here in the graveyard before we go on further,” Bill suggested to Alison. What he meant was, he wanted it now and he wanted it immediately. He pulled his girlfriend over to one of the gravestones and started putting his hand up her skirt.
“Come on darlin’, you know you want it too,” he encouraged her.
They leaned against the gravestone and he began to open his zip.
“Get off Bill, what do you think you’re doing? This isn’t like you to be so aggressive.”
“I want to make you mine Alli. No-one else shall have you. You’re mine, all mine, do you her me?” His eyes became wild and his face contorted. He appeared like a wild animal to Alli and she was terrified of him in that moment.
Suddenly a flash of lightning tore the sky in two and the gravestone they were leaning on fell right over. Lying on its side, the name written on it was visible. It said:
“Here lieth the mortal remains of Brother Robert, departed this life, October 1450. His soul left to wander alone forever.”
“Wasn’t that the monk in the legend who is supposed to return at Halloween and terrorise everybody?” asked Charlie.
“I dunno,” answered Sam. “Why should I care?”
“It’s Halloween, mate. That old monk won’t like it if we’ve disturbed his grave.”
From Chap. 15
“Here lieth the mortal remains of Brother Robert, departed this life, October 1450. His soul left to wander alone forever.”
“Wasn’t that the monk in the legend who is supposed to return at Halloween and terrorise everybody?” asked Charlie.
“I dunno,” answered Sam. “Why should I care?”
“It’s Halloween, mate. That old monk won’t like it if we’ve disturbed his grave.”
With that, an enormous thunderbolt shook the sky, reverberating around the graveyard and causing the trees to quake. Rain started lashing at their faces, stinging their skin.
The group of youths stumbled out of the graveyard and down the track to the allotments. The wind was up to gale force by now, threatening to rip the shed roofs clean off.
“Bloody hell, this ain’t funny. Wish we hadn’t come,” said Rob.
In the allotments the vegetables slept. There were big ones and small ones, those that were left lay in the light of the moon. The sheds and greenhouses creaked in the wind and anything that hadn’t been tied down was flapping about and taking flight.
Bill floundered about, unable to open his eyes for the dust blowing directly into his face and as it got into his lungs, he found he was unable to breathe properly either. And so it was that he trod on the rake, which somebody had left standing against the shed door and had subsequently blown down onto the ground. Bill screamed in terror as the spokes of the rake pierced right through his foot and out the other side, finding no resistance in the light canvas shoes he was wearing. Blood oozed from the wound and he was unable to extricate his foot from the rake, as it appeared to attack him. The handle whacked him in the face, breaking his glasses. He put his hand up to his face and dislodged the side arm of his glasses. As it snapped off it pierced his eye, blinding him in the process. With the other eye he saw, in a moment’s relief from the wind, the figure of a cowled monk, looming towards him.
“AAGH, HELP ME, PLEASE HELP ME,” he shrieked. He rolled about on the floor in total agony, screaming like a baby.
His friend Charlie, hearing him call, made his way slowly towards him, following the voice for he could see very little in the dusty black storm.
“I’M COMING BILL,” he shouted, but just as he got near to him, a forceful gust of wind blew the roof off a nearby greenhouse causing a large pane of glass to hurtle through the air, decapitating Charlie in one slice. His head flew off and landed in Bill’s lap with a sickening thud.
“Aarrgh, Aarrrrghhh, oh God, NO, NO, Charlie… Bill was going mad with pain and shock.
Rob and the girls were cowering at the side of one of the sheds, watching the events between the gusts of wind. They were paralysed with fear and clinging to each other like a ball of rubber bands, so close you couldn’t tell whose arm belonged to whose body.
Bill picked himself up and started to run, his hand clamped over his injured eye. He stopped when he got to Pete South’s allotment and fished in his pocket for his cigarettes. Lighting one with difficulty, he held it to his lips, throwing the match on the ground. The match fell onto a touch paper that had been inserted into one of Pete South’s pumpkins. Pete’s online purchase of some gelignite was just about to prove a good investment.
The next flash of lightning was just in time to light the scene unfolding as an enormous explosion deafened the onlookers causing Bill to sail into the air in a thousand pieces.
Out of the shadows the figure of a tall monk appeared. He stood silhouetted against the sky as the moon came out from behind a cloud. He put his hands, which looked like bleached bones, on the place where his hips would be and threw back his cowled head to laugh. The laugh was high pitched and eerie. He started running towards the church and up the turret stairs. Rain lashed at him as he ran, but he took no heed.
A terrific flash of lightning struck the church, illuminating the tower and the ghostly monk. He saw the note, which he had written for Alice, poking out from the crack in the wall. He grabbed it and ran with it, a shower of masonry falling in behind him as he went. Once out of the church he pressed the note into the hands of Rob and Alison, who were quivering with fear at all the events they had seen. At last the monk smiled for he knew that they would read the note and know that, in his love of Alice, he would never have been her undoing and as they watched, he disintegrated into a pile of black dust on the ground in front of them. A massive gust of wind swept him away into the trees.
It truly was a glorious ending to the legend of the monk, wrongly accused of murder. It would make any future Halloween nights seem very dull indeed! (wink).
Happy Halloween everybody.