Standing Stones – a gift from the Devil?

Standing stones, often believed to be the sites of ancient religious ceremonies, can be found in numerous formations all around our wondrous world. Fans of Kimi’s Secret know that the stones are merely twirly stations where balancers can jump from one point to another, or slip through dimensions to the otherworld of Heart.

Touching your fingertips to such a stone, erected by ancient hands, can have the imagination running away with itself. Especially on a misty morning where only the rabbits are watching, and maybe there’s a crow in a nearby tree. Is that a buzzing sound? A vibration from the stone itself? A connection to another time or another place? Or is it electricity humming through the pylons? Perhaps, if I close my eyes, I will feel a stronger connection; voices from the past, murmurs from the dead? And so, in the name of research for Kimi’s Secret, I visited the Devil’s Arrows and did just that.

Upon opening my eyes some thirty seconds later, there was a short story alive and kicking in my head, as if some ancient (evil?) fax machine had delivered it through my fingers. I smiled at that thought, told Wifey who was beginning to circle the stone widdershins. She paused her `ancient rite` and decided not to go any further.

Here’s the story…

The Devil’s Arrows

 

Rosie twists the wheel and we exit the A1 at the last possible second, tyres rattling over the chevrons.

            “Steady on,” I say, grasping the dash. “We stopping for lunch?”

            “No, sorry,” Rosie says. “It’s the stones, Tom. You must see them.”

            My dear wife claims a bond with the earth, an innate understanding that most would never have – and certainly not a stiff old geography teacher like me; though I do know of these stones at Boroughbridge… The Devil’s Arrows.

            As we curve off the overpass, Rosie stares ahead to where three enormous stones own the field. “Old Nick hurled them at some villager, once upon a time,” she says. “But he missed and they’ve been stuck in this field ever since. It’s easy to see how the myth came about isn‘t it. Look at them, Tom. Aren’t they magnificent?”

            “Nice, yes. But I think it’s going to rain. Should we find some pub grub?”

            “In a minute, Tom. In a minute.”

            Rosie stops the car and gets out. I reluctantly join her at the fence.

            “Came here as a kid,” she says. “Hours and hours. Playing.”

            My stomach groans and I really want us to find some food, but I can see Rosie is affected. She has to soak it up. I know that and huddle close to her side. The stones bring a dark, ominous feel to this barren field. I could be affected myself. Maybe.

            Rosie steps up onto the fence. “Perhaps it’s not -”

            “What?”

            “A myth,” she says, and before I know it, she’s over the fence and marching toward the central stone with an intent that fair punches at my heart.

            “Rosie!”

            She doesn’t stop and I duly follow.

            “Can you hear it?” she says, standing before the central stone.

            “Hear what? My stomach rumbling?” I stop ten feet behind her.

            “The vibration, Tom. Such amazing energy.”

            “The only vibe I’m feeling is the desire to get the hell out of here and into a warm pub.” I shudder and flip my collar up.

            “Twelve turns widdershins brings the devil,” she says, reaching for the stone.

            “Widder-what?”

            “Counterclockwise, professor. Circle the stone twelve times widdershins and the devil does your bidding.”

            “Like a waiter? Perhaps he can pull me a pint,” I laugh. Stupid really. Rosie glares at me hurt. “Look, I’m sorry -” She turns back to the enormous stone. Though enormous doesn’t cut it. This overbearing behemoth, this stern dark monster rises some twenty feet, its girth bigger than an old oak. Groove-like channels run from top to bottom giving a corrugated appearance. I recall reading about these `weathered` grooves, but to be honest they appear too uniform to be anything other than manmade.

            “Feel it!” Rosie splays her fingers – each finds a groove. “Powerful!” she says, and begins to sidestep. She vanishes behind the stone, reappears seconds later, fingers still trailing the grooves. “One!”

            My skin prickles. There’s a presence. Something. “Rosie – stop!”

            Rosie doesn’t stop. She vanishes again – widdershins.

            “Two!” as she reappears.

            “Rosie, please. Let’s go grab some lunch ay?”

            “Three!”

            “Nice carvery and a John Smith’s?”

            Rosie ignores me and keeps on circling the stone. Light fades to grey. Mist joins cloud. Cloud joins mist. I suddenly imagine the apocalypse horsemen and my heart is a-gallop. There’s a buzzing in the ground through my shoes. “Rosie, please -”

            “Seven!”

            Seven? Lucky seven? A murder of crows swoop by. A lone magpie tumbles to the ground and chatters before lifting away into the mist.

            “Ten!” Rosie reappears, fingers trembling over the grooves.

            She doesn’t see me. “Rosie?” Nor does she hear me.

            “Eleven!”

            “This is wrong!”

            No sound. No A1 traffic. Only my thudding heart. Or is it the horsemen I can hear? Rosie doesn’t reappear.

            “Rosie?”

            I try to move but suddenly there’s blood running down every groove in crimson rivers. The stone is red and pulsing. Cold sweat films my face.

            “Rosie?”

            Wind gusts, leaves swirl. Those hooves beating in the mist. Four horses. I know there are four.

            “Rosie!” My feet dislodge from the mud and I fall to my knees. “Rosie!” The bloodstone pulses faster.

            “Help me, Tom -” Rosie’s voice is faint. I stumble to my feet as thunderous hooves charge all around me, pounding, pressing blackness. I reach the stone, my hands connect like Rosie’s had. Warm blood flows over them, drenches my sleeves. I look up.          “ROSIE!”

            The ground rumbles as I move sideways. The horsemen are close.

            “One!” I yell. “Clockwise!”

            Hooves swing through the mist, brute hooves, scarred and thrashing. I keep going, hooves pounding all around me. “Two! Two, damn you!”

            That’s when I hear the roar. Not the roar of a lion or a bear. This is a monster from hell. This is the bellow of every dead and tortured soul, every evil mind that ever walked this earth. I close my eyes and continue round and round the stone.

            “Six!”

            But the horses are upon me, sweating hides, saliva spraying, rotten breath and the swish of unseen clubs cracking bones and rupturing vessels. I’m weakening. Need my Rosie. I stumble onwards round and round and round. “Eleven!”

            I’m on my knees now. The final lap.

             “Twelve!” Rosie’s voice. A sound so beautiful.

            “Twelve…” My voice a mere whisper. But there is no pain, only release to the soil, a sustenance, maybe. I feel drained, weak.

            Wind stills. A crow caws. A horn blares on the A1.

            “Tom. You all right?” Rosie steps into view and I’m back where I was stood. No blood on the stone. No horses. Just Rosie.

            “That was fun,” she says, smiling. “Ready for that pub lunch?”

            I shake my head, “Feeling a bit queasy.”

            “But Tom, you were starving a minute ago.”

            I turn and make for the fence.

            “Tom?”

            “We’re getting out of here, Rosie. Right now!”

            I’m in the car and slamming the door.

            “Tom? Tom? What the devil’s got into you?”

                             ~}~

When we got home, I wrote the story down and sent it off to Yorkshire Magazine’s ghost story competition where it bagged first prize. Do the Devil’s Arrows hold a vibe of their own, or am I just an old romantic?

 

 

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Alien Big Cat Sightings

Big Cats and Alien Encounters

Those familiar with Kimi’s Secret will know of the shuck: big black cats often spotted near corn circles, and who like hanging out with aliens. Well today I had my own close encounter.

I like it when there’s no wind at the lake. The Olster likes it that way, too, ears cocking at the slightest snap of twig or crumple of undergrowth. But today was not one of those days. Blustery would best describe it. Oh, and cold. By the time we reached the small copse of trees where Sir Robin would be waiting for his breakfast my hands and face were freezing, but I was about to get warmed up in a hurry.

Since the lake defrosted and liquefied once more, it seems my bread offerings aren’t needed so much. We had three Robins visiting at one point, and a blackbird and a few tits and even a woodpecker. But now it’s just one robin. Don’t know if it’s the original Sir Robin but something tells me it is. He always arrives seconds after we enter the copse, and meets us at the bread tree, waiting on the very branch where he knows the food will be placed. So there we were; Ollie sniffing around the tree, the wind gusting and swaying the copse as one, and me focusing on the detail in Sir Robin as he plucked a currant from a hot-cross bun. I believe I was speaking to this bird when the commotion made me spin round, and my heart gave a pounding leap as the beast came crashing towards me.

The animal was huge, shaggy-coated, an Alsatian the size of a small horse bounding through the thicket, snarling, barking in those short sharp barks that really mean business. Ollie, ever the fearless, and a mere toy to this dogzilla, went charging to greet the beast in a similar manner. Ollie might be handsome but he is a mutt – a cross Border Terrier/Jack Russell – he has no fear and would have a go at a grizzly bear without thought to the consequence.

Adrenaline focuses the detail, holds it, plays it seemingly slowly, and as my tiny mutt leapt to meet the oncoming behemoth, I almost dropped my buns. But then the Alsatian skidded to a halt, turned and fled and suddenly he was sitting next to a man who seemed to have appeared from nowhere.

`Ar’ ye fishing?` he asked in a slight West Country accent. `Jus’ wan’ lay me bait, see.`

He looked about sixty, wore a black padded jacket and scruffy jeans, had unruly white hair frizzing out from under a black beanie hat and an even frizzier white beard spread across his chest. Ollie was growling his little growls. The Alsatian panted merrily under the hand of his master.

`Go right ahead,` I said. `I’m just feeding the birds.` I looked for Sir Robin but he was gone.

`You sin the cat?`

`What?`

`Black cat. Biggun it is. First I thought it a dog, size of it.`

`Really?`

`Oh aye. Sin it move through the reeds. Slinking. Like I said, thought it a dog, looked for its owner. But nothing. Then it came in the open. Tail long and curved. Body black as coal. Watched it fer five minutes, I did.`

We talked some more. The cold wind no longer bothersome. He told of others who had reported seeing the same big black cat, not just at the lake but prowling the nearby gardens and roads. `Be aware!` he warned as we parted and I recalled that scene in American Werewolf where the two guys are warned by the pub yokels to beware the moon.

Once home I Googled big cat sightings in the area, and sure enough the reports are many, not only at the lake but in MY neighbourhood. This will surely put a wary slant on putting the bins out never mind our future visits to the lake.

Anyone had a big cat or alien encounter? I’d like to know.

Competition Crook

Competition Crook.

Competition Crook

 

 

Calling all poets and lovers of crows, it’s competition time and I’m after your prose… Competition Crook.

A Heart-felt Valentine’s for Kimi

Happy Valentine’s? It was for me and Kimi.

I was already stuffing my face with choccies from Wifey (note the capital W this time, Wifey x) when the postman brought me a huge envelope. It was decorated with crows. Very nice.

Open carefully it said, so I did, and almost cried at the contents.

From my young nephew, Edward, the most beautiful letter thanking me for his copy of Kimi’s Secret, along with a brilliant poster depicting his entire family now residing with Kimi on Heart.

What a fantastic surprise!

Edward, I loved your letter, and the fact that you took photos to remind you of what you created. I smiled at your “draft” for the Kimi picture, admiring the way you carefully planned what you wanted to achieve. Well you did a first class job and I’m very pleased and extremely proud of you.

Your poster and the letter and the draft are now on my wall above my computer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you, Edward. You are an absolute star.

Magical Times

Dropping wifey at the train station meant that me and the Olster got to visit the lake an hour earlier than normal. Unprepared, I did not take any food for my pal Sir Robin. Once at the lake, away from the lights and the rush hour hustle, the light changed to an enchanting moulin blue reflected, or perhaps glimmering, from the frozen surface of the lake. Snow crunched underfoot, the stark trees stood naked and still as stone. This was the stuff of Christmas cards and I’m sure if I’d listened hard enough I might have heard the tinkle of bells.

Ollie was first into the copse. He went straight to sniff at the bread tree. In seconds Sir Robin arrived, landing on a branch only three feet away. I said hello, and apologised for not bringing any food. Sir Robin took a spring forward then another until he was perched almost above my head and certainly within my reach. Sir Robin is small and fat with an orangey puff of breast and an intelligent face. Taking this opportunity to stare at the detail in this beautiful beast, something moved in my peripheral vision. Through the sticks of silhouetted trees and down the clumpy embankment to the frozen lake below, was a fox, a big ginger fox, and he was padding slowly over the ice, head swaying from side to side. The Olster was at my feet, too low to see the fox himself, but I knew if he heard or spotted it he would be off like a shot – and he would not stop. I had visions of him falling through the ice some twenty feet out, and me trying to save him. Now the fox was only three steps from the embankment, its breath puffing the air, and I knew it was coming to inspect the warren I was standing on intent on finding a nice bunny breakfast. One more step and the fox would touch snow, would start to climb the embankment – the Olster was still at my feet, Sir Robin threatening to poop on my head, and the amazing blue light brought magic to a scene which had to come to an end.

                So I coughed. Mr Fox halted, looked up in my direction. I coughed again and he lurched away, scampered across the frozen surface and I watched him go. Sir Robin had gone too, to another tree, watching me. I promised I would return with food.

                The walk back to the car takes us up a small rise where two old clay pits sit, each around twenty feet in diameter. As we passed the first pit, two smaller foxes – last year’s cubs I guess – were climbing from the second snow-covered pit. In the still half-light the Olster didn’t see them. The two foxes entered a shrub and I watched their little faces as they watched us go by. A truly magical start to the day.

                We returned at twilight armed with bread for Sir Robin, and he was there waiting. As soon as I stepped up to the bread tree he came and sat in it. I wondered if he’d take from my hand and so offered my pal some crumbs along with some encouraging words. He came closer, took a good long look but would not take the final leap. Instead he looked impatient. So I placed the bread around the branches as usual and stepped back. Sir Robin dropped down instantly and began to feed. All well and good, yes? No! Suddenly there was a commotion, a flash of brown dart, twits and twitters and whistles and shrieks as a second robin was now dive-bombing Sir Robin off his perch.

                That’s stupid, I said, there’s plenty room for both of you and enough bread to go around. So I went to the bread tree and the two robins scarpered. I took some bread, placed it in the next tree, and by the time I’d walked a few paces away the robins were back, each in its own tree, each scoffing heartily.

                Returning to the car I spotted one of the smaller foxes climbing from the crater. It slumped away, watching us, and once again the Olster never saw a thing. Magic moments, called so because they are rare, perhaps? Magic times – when those magic moments stretch to minutes – even rarer. Yes, a very magical time.

Sir Robin says hello

After a freezing weekend and five inches of snow, I went back to the lake armed with bread and camera. Sir Robin was there in an instant and seemed to enjoy posing for the camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ollie likes the snow, although I did have to stop him from venturing onto the frozen lake.

Sir Robin of the Lake

The lake is part frozen. Ice creeps from its sides towards the middle where the gulls, coots and swans, among other birds, are congregating. Over the past week I’ve continued to take food, not just for the birds, but others that might share. There’s squirrels, rabbits, voles and mice, and also deer have been seen wandering round these here parts, so any old veg leaves, carrots, will help when natural food is scarce.

I found a new place to leave my offerings, somewhere sheltered, an old hawthorn in the middle of a copse. Under my feet is a rabbit warren. It seems to run beneath the whole of the copse of trees because the earth is disrupted, lumpy and bumpy, where the rabbits have forced its shape to make their burrows and little bedrooms among the roots of the hawthorns.

Two old magpie nests, two pigeon nests, a smaller nest belonging to I don’t know what, and there’s a tiny nest box with the number 2 painted in orange only two foot off the ground. Strange.

Anyway, I’ve been taking food every morning and leaving it at the `bread tree`. I place the bread, fruit, nuts and seeds among the stumpy branches, and any veg goes on the floor. Returning in the late afternoon, the Olster will run to the bread tree to investigate, up on his hind legs sniffing at the traces of the beasts who have visited and vanished the offerings away. He seems to be amused by it all.

On the second day of dressing the bread tree I noticed the robin. He kept his distance, watching me. I love robins. Maybe it’s their red breast and quaint deportment. Or maybe it’s because the robin was always my mum’s favourite bird. She would watch from the kitchen window as the same robin visited the rose bushes every day. She would say hello, ask it how it was, and sometimes I think the robin knew what she was saying. My robin, the one in the copse, began to whistle. I know that robins are territorial, and can be vicious, killing other birds who try to muscle in on their patch AND they’re on record for attacking humans, too. So I kept a close eye on him, and wondered if he had his eye on the tiny nest box. Every day the robin would be there, watching from a safe distance.

This morning, while I dressed the bread tree, and Ollie dog inspected the rabbit holes, a movement out of the corner of my eye. The robin. This time he came real close and perched on a branch on the tree nearest the bread tree, only four or five feet away, watching my every move. I bid him good morning, asked if he had a name, but he didn’t answer. So as I dropped my last carrot I named him Sir Robin of the Lake and bade him good day. I moved to the other side of the copse, turned to look, and Sir Robin had already settled himself on a stumpy branch and was pecking away at the bread.

I guess Sir Robin must have been really hungry, and that I am his food source while the freezing weather is here. This is getting interesting. I’ll take a camera this next week, see if I can get some snaps of Sir Robin.

Love Books, Need books, Want books, Write books

Did you know…

… that today is the beginning of Library Lovers Month?
Celebrate your local library this month. Volunteer to help
your librarians!

~~~

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

— Marcus Tullius Cicero – Roman Philosopher