Thursday, 2 January 2014
There used to be a mud path going past Barnswyck in the old days. But when the people started using it more, the council widened it and decided to build a road. For a while there were machines and men going along the wider path and it was closed off. For three months the construction was a nuisance. It meant going the long way through the main streets of Barnswyck with all the distractions and people. But after the three months the new road was opened with a small ceremony. The mayor of Barnswyck cut a ribbon and the road was opened to new traffic. There was a path and a large culvert beneath the road where Hode's Bridge had been over the stream.
For a while all went very well and the road became popular. There was a pavement on both sides so people could walk as well as drive past Barnswyck. A text on the road had been painted that said Fullforde, which was irritating to the locals who knew where the road went.
I don't know when exactly it changed, but Martin and Pete were going along there when they noticed that the text had changed. It read, 'Empty Empty' and they joked that Fullforde had always seemed full when they'd been. But as they got nearer, Pete felt unaccounably uneasy and then actually frightened, though he could not tell Martin why. He was curious that Martin did not feel the terror that filled him. Still Martin teased him and pulled at his arm, but Pete pulled himself free and ran back along the road. He heard a deep rumbling short laugh, then a short scream and when he turned back to the road, Martin was gone.
As scared as he was, Pete thought Martin was playing a trick on him. He did not think anything terrible and carefully went back along the road towards Fullforde. He did not feel scared this time, indeed a deep sense of calm and peace filled him. He came to within sight of the writing on the road and saw that now it read; 'Full Full'. He frowned in puzzlement, the previous sign was not there and somewhere at the base of his mind the terror niggled at him, faintly. He turned and returned to our village.
Over the next few days, reports came in of people disappearing and even a few vehicles. An articulated lorry that was due in Fullforde was never seen again. The company set the police on the trail of the driver, but they found nothing. Traffic behaved strangely too. The driver in front would see the words 'Empty Empty' and joke about it. The drivers behind would stop with a panicky sense of terror that made them turn around and return to our village.
The old people met in the leisure centre for their weekly get-together and discussed the matter. Granny Holle, had come to our village from no-one knew where. She was a jolly soul who kept her little house clean with a besom broom, so the children wondered if she was a witch. She laughed at the thought and teased the children, but she was always kind to them.
She arrived at the meeting and said nothing, knitting away quietly as the other old people talked. Little Sam peered in at the door and catching his eye, Granny Holle winked and smiled at him. Sam tried to wink back but he was not quite as good at it and eventually he waved and went away.
A little later he saw Granny Holle go walking along the road to Barnswyck and he followed at a trot. Yet, to his surprise, he could not catch up to her. He saw at a little way behind her the sign on the road, 'Empty Empty' and felt the sense of terror gathering in him. He stopped and shouted out to Granny Holle, begging her with tears in his eyes to come back. But she only paused, turned and smiled at him, giving him a little wave of her hand. Or was it a wave? Perhaps it was more that she was waving him back. Through his tears, Sam was sure he saw a large creature, shaggy and with a big nose grab Granny Holle around her waist and disappear as if underground. Then he remembered the bridge and he ran forward until he saw the sign on the road that for some reason still read, 'Empty Empty'.
There was silence for a long time. Sam walked backwards, afraid to turn his back in case the huge creature grabbed him too. As he did so, he saw Granny Holle climb up the bank and onto the pavement again. She paused to push pin up a lock of her long white hair, patted it into place and strolled towards him.
"Well now Sam, come along. It's time for tea and then I'll take you home," she said.
"But Granny, what was that - thing?" Sam exclaimed.
"Thing? Oh that. That was only a troll, my dear. Nothing to worry about any more. If you like, I shall tell you a story about a troll and some goats. I know quite a few tales about trolls my dear," she said giving his hand a little squeeze and smiling at him.
"But it was going to eat you wasn't it?" Sam asked her in wonder.
"Well yes, but that sort of thing is really not very sociable, so I had to drive him away," she answered, adding with a wink, "After all, I am a witch, aren't I?"
Sam did not believe that for a minute, but he did not know what to say. He went home with Granny Holle to have tea and cake, before his mother picked him up and took him home. He told her about the troll and Granny Holle and his mother smiled and cuddled him.
"When you are a good deal older Sam, I will tell you all about Mother Holle. That's what some people call her," she said.
I went along the road recently. The words 'Empty Empty' were still there, but faded and worn now. I smiled to myself and went on to Fullforde singing.