Wednesday, 16 June 2010
A Night on Brighthelmston Crag
As I wandered home one night I passed through woods like the columns of some antique building. Whispers I heard, strange music and bits of sung phrases that seemed to merge in the darkness and fade. I did not at that point feel threatened. Then faces, strange and frightening seemed to leer at me out of the dark and vanish. I had drunk only a glass of champagne before starting out, but I wished I had drunk more if only to excuse these sensory disturbances. My good friend Lennox would have laughed at these things and called them fancies of an over-stimulated imagination, but Lennox was not here.
At one point in the slowly darkening dusk, I thought I saw a strange figure riding something very like a unicorn among the trees. The animal's hooves made the dead leaves rustle and dry twigs crack. Still, I dismissed such medieval fancy. A unicorn - bah! I was no child to believe in such things! And yet I thought for sure I saw it pass among the trees, its pale and lovely tail swishing gently in the night. Its silvery body striped by dark shadows.
As I hurried on through the forest, the ground began to rise slow at first, then more steeply. I headed up the steep incline to the ruined castle of Brighthelmston upon the crag that overlooked the vale. From there I knew I would see my beloved county below and if necessary might spend the night among the mossy stones and light a fire to keep the beasts away.
Now the strange imaginings seemed to follow me, the music snaked about me like ivy, weaving as if to pull me back into the trees. Small hands seem to reach out and grab at the skirts of my coat, but I strode on, pulling my coat about me, feeling the firm earth beneath my boots. I wished I had taken Lennox's offer then of a horse, for even the companionship of an animal would have been steadying then. As it was, on foot I felt my vulnerability and loneliness.
Finally I reached the top of the crag and entered the ruin where, through a window I looked down to the ruined chapel of St Marks. The moon, casting aside her cloudy veil lit up the chapel with a pallid glow and a horseman rode past, eager to be home. I gathered what few twigs and branches I could and made a fire. Sitting in it's comforting glow, I could think only of that horseman and wished I was he.
Now fair Night, crowned with all her stars and clad in the velvet blackness of her sky strode across the land and in her hand I slept before my fire. My collar drawn up about my face, my hat drawn low. I believe I dreamed, tho' such had been my experiences earlier that I cannot be sure. What dreams may come - I dreamed of my long ago beloved and how she smiled. I dreamed of voices whispering in my ears to come away with them and dance and feast. I dreamed, oh how I dreamed!
Dawn comes with rosy fingers. When she came and bid cool Night adieu, she kissed me with the dew and I awoke. Tho' my stiff bones seemed made of the stones of Brighthelmston itself, splendid sunlight roamed across the ruin and the crag, traipsed down to the vale and the village below. I arose, my fire long dead and stamping out any possible smouldering embers, followed the sunlight down to the village.
The morning sunlight gilded the valley. In the distance I heard the bark of a dog and the cries of new-roused children. Then the bells of the church rang to call the faithful and in their joyful peals I felt all the dark imaginings of night fly into their hiding places. Morning had come again and the birds, with the bells celebrated it. I was alive and untouched by the faerie. Or so I thought. As I drew near I came upon an old woman, sad it seemed with her age. I bid her good morning and asked her name. It was my mother and as I spoke she turned to dust before me and with a howl of pain and fear I awoke to find myself - on Brighthelmston crag with the fire gone out and cold, dark night still about me.