Saturday, 30 April 2016
A Short Story for May Day
A Tale of Beltane.
After the picnic lunch, George said “Mabel, I've put your deckchair up over here in the sun, why don't you put your feet up and have a rest, I'll keep the children amused”.
Mabel was glad to take a break. The four grandchildren had been staying since Friday night and although she loved having them around, they did tend to wear her out! Today was the first of May, conveniently falling on a Sunday this year, so their parents would be picking them up tomorrow afternoon. Peace and quiet would reign once more and the house would have an empty echo for a while.
She settled down in her deckchair and looked around. The weather forecasters had been as good as their word and it was a beautiful day. They had taken a chance and bought the children out in the fresh air to burn off some surplus energy. They had made their way to the little circle of standing stones just outside the boundry of Huggems Farm. Not many tourists came this way, instead heading for the circle's much bigger sister just outside the old village, and the superstitious locals tended to keep well away.
Sitting there in the sunshine Mabel was reminded of her grandmother. The old lady was full of stories about the little standing stones; how folk once thought that fairies took healthy babies away and left dead or sickly changelings; how people from the village had mysteriously disappeared, sometimes just as mysteriously reappearing years later with no memory of where they had been. Granny said that it was possible to time travel through the stones, but only if you had “the way”. “The way” was inherited and could be traced back through generations. Granny believed that she had “the way” and so might her children and her grandchildren. Travel through the stones was made easier if you wore or carried pure gemstones and your journey would be completely random unless you concentrated hard on a time and a place or a person. Even then, nothing was guaranteed. Granny said that the stones were strongest on the ancient feast days and she warned the children to keep away especially at Beltane and Samhain.
She was a daft old woman, thought Mabel fondly, closing her eyes for “just a moment or two”.
When Mabel woke up, she was surprised to find herself sitting on the grass. The picnic things had been cleared away and there was no sign of George or the children. “George must have tidied up and taken the children off for a walk” she thought. It was perfectly quiet except for the calls of the birds and a slight stirring of the grass and leaves in the breeze. A haze of bluebells floated just above the ground beneath the beech trees in the copse.
“How lovely it is here” she looked around with real pleasure. There were daisies and speedwells in the grass and the buds of may blossom and blackthorn like handfuls of pearl beads among the still almost leafless branches.
Now the sound of distant voices broke the silence. “If there's a May Day Fair in the Village, that's where George and the children will be” she thought. Looking around she realised that she could not see the church steeple, or the roof of the village hall. “I can't hear any traffic either!” Mabel was beginning to feel just a little bit uneasy. She looked up into the cloudless blue sky. Although the airport was not far away, there were no planes overhead. She decided to walk down to the beginning of the lane, where the car was parked. It was not there. Surely George wouldn't have moved it. She quickened her pace, but where she had expected to see the car there was just a thick tangle of scrub and the beginnings of a bramble thicket.
She cried out for George and the children but there was no answer. Then she recalled thinking about her grandmother's stories before she fell asleep and she began to panic. She turned and ran back to the stone circle. Nothing had changed. It was still quiet and empty. There was no sign of the recent picnic. She cried out again for George, but again there was no reply. Mabel decided she had no option but to go through the circle. With clenched fists and tightly closed eyes she tried to remember what her grandmother had said. She was wearing her diamond ring and the garnet and emerald brooch. Would that be enough? What was the date? First of May, twenty ten. “Think Mabel, think hard, concentrate, George!” and she threw herself into the stones. She heard a humming, whining noise and felt herself shaking. It was horrible and made her feel quite ill. Then suddenly she was back in her deckchair.
“Mabel, wake up” George was shaking her gently. “I think it's about time we got going. It can get quite cool around teatime. I've packed everything up and started the car. I wasn't going to wake you yet. You looked so relaxed and peaceful, but the children said that suddenly you became quite agitated. They were worried. Are you OK?”
“Oh yes George, I'm fine. I must have been dreaming”.