The life force snaked its way to a little village near Tintagel. If you had been able to see it, it would have seemed as if rivers of pure magnificent power was flowing out of the cave at Tintagel, branching and snaking all over the land, very slowly saturating things. It passed through the village past an older woman who was sitting in the town square who was feeding pigeons. She did that every morning after breakfast, better not to waste the crumbs of toast she had spilled. She had slept through the events of the dark night, blissfully unaware. Her neighbors had told her about it and she had heard it on the news on her battery radio. She was still alive and except for the power being out of commission, things were largely the same, so she didn’t care much to guess explanations, whether the Russians did it or the Americans, it still beat a nuclear bomb falling on her house. She had lived through the cold war where talk of new weapons and threats were on the news daily. She had lived through the Irish bombings and the gulf war news coverage. There were worse things than darkness out there, how scary it might have been for those in it though. She just went on with her life, without electricity and heating in her house, which was a bother, but what else was there to do? The older woman sat a little bit straighter and the pigeons started to peck more energetic at the bread crumbs the old woman had scattered on the ground, as the life force passed through the town square.
The life force moved on and left the village again, pushing forward into the arid wasteland that lay ahead. It passed through a couple of oak trees, a collection that humans of today would call a forest, but in essence, was just a sad reminder of the fast forests that had covered the land years ago. There was a large circle of mushrooms hidden in the forest because they weren’t fruiting just now, but the life force got held captive in the mushroom circle, causing it to pool there and growing more intense in that spot. The steady incoming flow caused the area to become completely saturated, and the lifeforce finally burst free new arms out of the circle to snake forwards throughout the land, leaving a heavily saturated pool of life force behind that fed them steadily.
Sunlight hit the trees and found its way through the leafless branches drawing a lot of shadow paths on the forest floor between the brightly illuminated tiles of light. The concentrated life force started to pool into a few acorns that lay on the ground. These started to tremble slightly and grow. The acorns rolled around gathering up leaves and twigs growing larger and larger with accumulated forest debris as the life force infused it more, soaking each bit of debris with life, forcing it to change and become something new.
One of the rolling clumps of debris rolled outside of the mushroom circle and slowly came to a stop, the influx of lifeforce suddenly cut off, preventing it from finding a new path. As the sunlight shone on it the clump of debris slowly fell apart as the cohesion was lost, revealing small half grown limbs. The limbs quickly disintegrated into mush and earth and soon there was just a pile of leaves, twigs, and earth just lying here, indiscernible from the rest of the forest floor.
The other clumps rolled around growing in size and started to leave large trails behind them where they had gathered up all the free material that had been at hand on the forest floor. The clumps had now grown to the side of a human child came to a stop where the sun shone and they just lay there, with a wobble every now and then, as if something was moving around inside of it. Five large balls shared the sunlight, the sixth one having been lost by the eagerness to gather up too much.
One of the lumps started to break apart and a hand with thick fingers stabbed out of it. The hand wore a leather glove with holes where the fingers stuck out. The fingers bore thick broad nails. The arm flexed and started digging and tearing at the clump, grabbing pieces and tearing it loose, freeing more of what was held in it. After a second arm had broken out of the clump the clump started to lose mass fast, as what was inside it struggled to free itself, ripping and tearing the raw material away. The other clumps had started a similar process of freeing whatever was in it.
Not for long five creatures stood there appreciating each other. They looked largely the same with some minor differences between them. They all had fairly high bald heads, set with pitch black and dull large eyes you could mistake for sunglasses at a distance, but the eyes were pitch black, without an iris visible nor eye white. They had large bulbous noses and a square lower jaw that was much broader than their head and had a massive overbite. Their teeth seemed to be made from jagged grey rocks that stood haphazardly in their mouths that were set in a perpetual greedy grin.
They had small shoulders and large bellies giving them a distinct pear shape, with small but muscular legs under them. Their legs were covered by brown leather hoses that stopped above the ankles that seemed to fit their legs like a second skin, rippling with every movement of the muscles underneath it. Their feet were broad and stuck in sandals that seemed to be made from grass and twigs. Their feet had had coarse hairs sticking out between the laces of the sandals, and their toenails were as thick and broad as their fingernails were.
Their arms were short but muscular and carried scattered coarse hairs just as their feet did. They all wore the leather gloves that left their fingers exposed to the air. On their backs, they wore large woven baskets, affixed by crude hemp ropes around their shoulders and chest, that were lined with a brown cloth. Inside the baskets there was only darkness if one were to look into it, the brown cloth going over in darkness as the basket grew deeper until one couldn’t see the brown cloth anymore.
The attire they wore was entirely different between them. One of them had a green hat on with a wide brim, that was tipped towards the back, leaving his face widely exposed. He wore a green buttoned-up jacket, that was accentuated by a broad leather belt with a wooden clasp around the pudgy waist. Another wore a red band around its head and a brown tunic with many pockets all over it. A coarse cord tied together at the side of his waist held many leather pouches with flaps that could be opened quickly. One of the creatures that had no headwear was poking in its large nose with a broad finger. It wore a furry sleeveless jerkin that left its smooth chest without nipples and rotund belly without navel free. Another wore a purple cap with a black band and a tassel that hung from the middle of it on its head. It had a long-sleeved light purple coat that was embroidered with patterns of falling leaves. Its fingers seemed to be slightly more refined and agile than the fingers of the others gathered.
The last one had a wooden circlet on its head that was set with multiple acorns. His body covered by pelts of different animals that were stitched together. It leaned on a gnarly staff, that was almost as large as the creature, that had a big bulb at the top.
They stood there looking at each other, making sounds only they could understand.
“Mrrr mrrr mrrrrrmmm”
After having a good and long conversation with each other, they broke apart and each went their own way in the same direction, stepping out of the mushroom circle without issues. Spread out and moving forward, they bent over regularly to pick up an acorn, a twig, a pineapple to put it in their baskets.
Each time they threw something in their baskets they seemed to let out a grunt of happiness as if the collecting and gathering things was the sole thing that gave them happiness.
The sound of their satisfied grunts seemed to fill, except for the tweeting of birds, the silent forest.
They had reached the forest edge and stood near a road. The one with the green coat picked up a KitKat wrapper and made an excited dance with many happy grunts and turned it around in its hands admiring the shiny insides of the wrapper. It hugged the wrapper close to its chest and eyed its compatriots suspiciously before throwing it in its basket, letting out a very satisfied long grunt.
It then saw the one in the purple coat pick up a soda can and it let out an annoyed grunt and hobbled over quickly to the purple coated creature. The purple creature looked up from the can it was turning over in its hand to the green coated one, pressed the can tightly against its chest. The green coated one grabbed for it and punched the purple coated one in its jaw and made a reach for the can. A tug of war ensued between them both, with the can as a price. Many annoyed grunts exchanged between them and a kick or two trying to unbalance the other.
Suddenly they were hit over the head with a sturdy staff and they let go and grabbed for their heads that were hurting. The creature with the pelt coat bent over and picked up the can to admire the shiny underside, and then threw it in its basket with a satisfied grunt and moved further up the road. The other two looked at each other with a sad look and a disappointed grunt.
They reached the town that was not that far from the forest after a few hours because they stopped to pick up every little thing that grabbed their attention, whether it was an acorn or a shiny wrapper. Sometimes they were drawn to a spot and started to dig there together trying to reach something down there. Usually, a coin or earring or a necklace was buried under a small layer of dirt where they were drawn to. Usually, a scuffle would ensue about who got to claim the price, with the victor throwing it into its basket with a satisfied grunt and the losers looking angrily at the item in the victor's hand until it had vanished in the basket.
Even though they had picked up enough trash and trinkets from the side of the road to fill ten trash bags the baskets on their backs looked suspiciously empty as if all the things had fallen through a hole in the bottom of the baskets.
They made their way into the town and all were drawn to different spots due to where their senses lead them to interesting things to pick up. The more valuable an item was the more they were drawn to it. The one in the purple coat was drawn to a garden that was encircled by large conifers protecting it from curious people trying to look into the garden. It pushed the conifers aside only to be held back by chicken wire netting hidden within the conifers. It touched the netting gingerly and decided it couldn’t get through it that way.
It circled the conifers until it came to a wooden slatted door that was set between the conifers. It could feel that something valuable was behind there, it was strongly drawn there by its greed. It patted the door, but the door didn’t move or budge the slightest. It then tried to push against the door with all its weight, but except the slight buckling of the wood, the door didn’t budge. It sighed and scratched its head trying to solve how to get to the other side where the feeling was pulling him. Suddenly the door opened shoving him behind it, out of view of the woman getting out of the garden.
The woman stopped in her stride, holding the door in her hand and turned back to the garden.
“Ellen, I’m going to Misses Jones for a few minutes. Don’t leave the garden, okay dear?”
“Okay mom. See you later.”
The woman closed the door behind her and turned away from the door, not registering she was being stared at by a small strange creature with huge black eyes, and started on her way to Misses Jones, whom sure would be ready now from feeding the pigeons and her morning walk through town, and would need help preparing some food without electricity.
The purple robed creature had seen how the human had used that lever that poked from the door to open it. It reached up to the lever and pulled it down, just like the human had done, and the door opened a bit. He pulled at the door and the door swung open revealing a large garden. The garden had a small patio where a woven plastic table with chairs stood. In front of the patio, there was a grass lawn with a stepstone path leading through it to a small pond that held some koi carps that swam around lazily. The waterfall that it held had fallen dry as the power had disappeared.
In the corner, there was a sandbox with a wooden frame where a little girl with blonde pigtails was playing. She wore a felt red coat and pink fluffy earmuffs. She was busy digging in the sand with a shovel.
The creature ignored the girl and moved to a flowerless flower bed where a couple of plants stood that still bore browned leaves that sagged downwards. The creature started to dig in the garden where the feeling was strongest, and not for long its broad fingers had dug a deep hole, in the process uprooting some of the browned plants. It hands then closed over something hidden in the dirt and pulled its hand up.
It raised its hand to eye level and opened his hand, with his other hand he gingerly reached into the earth and pulled a golden wedding band from it and held it up so the sun could reflect off it.
“Hey, that's my mother's wedding ring she lost this spring! You found it!”
The girl named Ellen had moved up to the creature and eyed the wedding band it was holding up. The creature jumped back and pulled the wedding band close to its chest and let out an angry growl at the girl.
The eyes of the girl went large and she backed off her hands raised her hands apologetically.
“Sorry, sorry! I didn’t want to spook you!”
The creature relaxed and quickly threw the ring into its basket, the golden gleam swallowed by the darkness at the bottom of the basket. The girl eyed it with large eyes how the ring that had been found was thrown into the basket.
“Hey, you can’t keep that! That’s my moms!”
“Mrrrmmhh! Mrrr MRRR!”
“What? What does that mean?”
It walked around the girl and moved to leave the garden as the girl grabbed his coat and tugged it.
“You can’t leave with my mother's ring. Give it back!”
“Mrrr! GRR mrr MRRRUUMMM!”
“Whatever! Just give it back! I’ll trade you something for it that you can keep!”
The creature looked the girl into her face with a sort of expectant expression, its jaw protruding and its smile even more greedy than it had been. The girl patted her coat pockets and pulled something from it in a silvery wrapper. The creatures black eyes were glued to the silvery wrapper as the girl tore it open and pulled a plastic ring from it that had a candy diamond on it. Ellen held the wrapper in one hand hiding it from sight and the creature's eyes were then drawn to the ring in her other hand. It just stood there looking at the ring in the girl's hand. Ellen eyed the creature with curiosity in her eyes. She lifted the candy ring higher and the eyes of the creature followed it. The creature's eyes seemed to grow larger as the light of the sun was caught and sparkling in the sugary gem on top of it. Its grin seemed to grow broader, and its breathing grew eager at the sight of the shiny gem. The artifact didn’t exert the usual pull on the creature, but seeing as how beautiful it appeared, it wanted the shiny thing in its basket. It stretched its hand out towards the shining gem.
“What are you? You like something that walked out of a video game.”
Ellen moved the ring around a bit and the creature followed the ring everywhere it went, its eyes fixed at the sugary gem on top of it.
“You can’t talk can you?”
“Okay. Do you have a name?”
“Okay… I can’t call you hrmmmrrr. That’s just silly.”
Ellen tapped her chin with the ring as she thought for a moment for a proper name. The purple robed creature kept looking at the gem on the ring as it tapped against the chin of the girl, the hungry greed radiating from the pitch black eyes.
“I know, I’ll call you Grunty!”
“You like that name? Nice!”
Ellen lowered the ring and held it out in front of Grunty who took a step forward and stretched its hand out to take it. Ellen pulled it back a bit keeping it out of reach of Grunty’s extended hand.
“As I said, I’ll trade it for my mother’s ring, fair and square!”
Ellen put the ring in Grunty’s large hand, who eyed it and then threw it into its basket.
Grunty reached back into the basket on its back and moved its arm around. It pulled its arm out of the basket with its hand closed and stretched its arm with closed fist out to Ellen, palm facing the ground.
Ellen put her hands under Grunty’s large hand, making her hands seem frail and breakable in comparison, ready to catch her mothers' ring. Grunty opened his hand and a crumpled rusty soda can fell into her hand. Grunty turned around and started to move out of the garden without looking back, in search of new artifacts to collect.
A rusty soda can flew through the air and missed Grunty’s head, landing into the grass in front of him. Grunty bent over and picked it up and eyed it from all sides before throwing it into the basket on its back with a satisfied grunt. He then moved forward again to the garden door, only to be grabbed by his purple coat again by the girl.
“You have to give me back my mothers ring! We made a deal!”
“Mrrrhhmmm hrrr hrrr mrrrrmmmm.”
“I have no idea what you mean Grunty. What do I need to do for you to give me my mothers ring?”
She grabbed Grunty by his collar and pulled him close, which was in effect her stepping closer to him because she couldn’t move him.
“I want my mothers' ring back you black eyed… black eyed… THING!”
An irritated look had come over Grunty’s greedy face and he ground his rocky teeth together at this annoying human that held it back from more important things. Ellen let go of his collar and stepped back raising her hands apologetically, the wrapper showing in her hand she had hidden it in before.
“Sorry sorry! Don’t uh, eat me?”
Grunty’s eyes were glued to the wrapper in Ellen’s hand, the way the light bounced off the silvery wrapper and the bright blue lettering on it fascinated the creature.
“You want this wrapper?”
Ellen waved the silvery wrapper around, each movement causing a play of light off the silvery material that seemed to fascinate Grunty.
“Okay, how about a new trade. You give me my mothers ring and I’ll give you this wrapper. No cheating this time!”
“Nrrr grr mhhhrhhm.”
“Don’t sound so insulted! You cheated last time, you gave me a crummy rusty can for my ring!”
Grunty simply shrugged and resumed looking at the shiny wrapper in Ellen’s hand, ignoring her indignant stares trying to bore a hole in his skull.
“You give me my mothers ring first. Then you get the wrapper. How about that?”
“Mrrrmmm mrr hrrr.”
Grunty shook its head and extended his arm with coarse hand open, ready to receive the wrapper. Ellen sighed and placed the wrapper into Grunty’s leather-clad hand palm and took a step back. Grunty held up the wrapper and turned it around, eying it from all sides as it let out satisfied sigh grunts. It then threw the wrapper into its basket, where it vanished in the dark depths. A look of satisfaction came over Grunty’s face as he let out a satisfied grunt.
“Are you happy with that? Now give me my mother’s ring!”
Ellen had crossed her hands in front of her chest and looked with an annoyed frown at Grunty. Grunty reached back into his basket and moved his arm around in it, seemingly looking for something. He pulled it out with his fist closed and offered, in the same way he had done before, to Ellen.
Ellen stepped forward and held her hands under Grumpy’s hand again. This time a golden ring fell into her hands as Grunty opened his hand. Grunty nodded at her.
“Mrrrmmm rmmm! Grnnnnnn hrmnn hrrr.”
Grunty turned and finally exited the garden through the door, leaving the girl behind without looking back. He didn’t even look back as she shouted something towards him.
“Thank you Grunty, for finding my mothers ring!”
The door closed behind him, sealing off the garden once more. Grunty didn’t care. He bent over to pick up a lost mitten and eyed it. He poked the soft material once before throwing it in his basket.
This was not a usual day for Perkins. First of all, he was busy riding all around town on a bicycle, because his car had run out of fuel and the petrol station wouldn’t work without power. The owners were looking for ways to get the petrol out of the underground tanks in a controlled fashion with a manual pump but hadn’t been able to produce something workable yet. That and that the police station was at the other side of town, and Perkins didn’t feel like lugging petrol cans around on his bike caused his bicycle adventures of the last two days. Also having a car might not be the most useful at the moment because most of the roads were still blocked by cars that had crashed.
Volunteers were working to clear the roads together with city employees but progress was slow due to the lack of fuel. All cars had to be moved by hand, which would be a lot of work for the cars that couldn’t roll anymore because they had flipped or just lost their wheels in a crash.
His blonde short trimmed hair shone with a golden halo, catching the sun rays that bounced off with splendor. His square jaw was covered with a light stubble and sweat was building upon his low forehead despite the cold. His straight thin nose was accentuated by broad bushy eyebrows that covered stark blue eyes. His muscular arms were guiding the bicycle he was one up the hill as he swerved around crashed and abandoned vehicles.
A bicycle was, for now, the fastest way to get around town. His colleagues were all busy with the jobs around town. His had been the role to go around time and respond to reports of thievery or other activities. He stood in contact with the police station via the handheld transceiver, guiding him to points of activity in town since the cellular network had also broken down.
He stopped at the side of the road and talked into his transceiver after a moment to catch his breath. He had been going uphill on a slope and the wind was against him on this incline. It wasn’t too bad, but bad enough to make him breathe more deeply and to start sweating.
“Care to repeat that Harry? Over.”
“Like I said John, there are reports of creepy kids with sunglasses digging up gardens and putting stuff into said baskets. Over.”
“Sounds pretty harmless. Why should I go check that out? I assume there are more pressing matters than kids on a treasure hunt. Over.”
“These kids seem to freak people out. They don’t look normal and give creepy vibes off, or so I’m told. I’d like you to check them out and tell them to stay out of people gardens. Over.”
“Okay Harry. I’m on my way. Over.”
John put the transceiver back on his belt and started pedaling with frustrated vigor towards the neighborhood where the reports had come from. Weren’t there more important things than to go after a few kids today? He had to look out for people using the power outage to start looting, or cold people setting fires in dangerous areas, not to go scold a couple of brats.
“Alright then, here we are, now where are those brats.”
John Perkins put his bicycle against a lamppost and locked it up. He started walking around the neighborhood looking into gardens coming up empty. A man got out of a door at the other side of the road in a black felt coat and a dirty red scarf wrapped around his neck.
“Hey, did they send you because of those things?”
“I’m here to investigate some kids causing a disturbance.”
The man beckoned John. John looked to both sides of the street before crossing. He then approached man whilst taking his notebook and pen out of a jacket pocket.
The man extended his hand and John shook the man’s hand. The man had a good grip and left white impressions that faded to red after a few seconds on John’s hand.
“Officer John Perkins.”
“What can you tell me about the disturbance?”
“Well, Macy, that is my wife and I were sitting inside enjoying the warmth of the sun behind our patio door. It’s bloody cold since the power went out, will they restore it soon?”
John made some notes whilst just nodding at the story the man was spinning. He was used to this, people usually need a preamble to get into the flow. He ignored the question at the end, suspecting it wasn’t a serious question.
“And there we saw it. The childlike thing. It just entered our garden. It was as big as a six or seven year old I would say. I couldn’t see its face because of the large green hat it was wearing you see. We first thought it was a child.”
John nodded and wrote down the description Jack had given.
“I went and opened the door you see, to tell that little brat to get out of my garden. We’re not a playground and I don’t give a rats ass for the brats of others.”
The man let out an indignant huff. There was probably a little bit more backstory behind that resentment, but that was not of concern at this moment. John signaled the man to continue.
“Well then, I opened the door and shouted to the childlike thing to get lost out of my yard or I would call the coppers. The thing just ignored me, so I told Macy to call the cops. She replied that the telephone didn’t work, so I told her to walk to the police station then. She’s not the brightest you know, but I love her nonetheless.”
John rose an eyebrow as he noted the jumbled story of Jack down. He wondered why Jack would refer to the child as a thing. Maybe he resented children so much that he didn’t think of them as human anymore? John decided to get the story a bit on track by posing a question.
“Could you describe the child to me?”
“Pah, child, a demon is more like. It had a big green hat, was about as big as my hips, had a green coat with a broad leather belt around its fat belly. Brown pants that one of those fags would proudly wear to expose the goods if you know what I mean.”
“Alright. Now, what happened when the child didn’t respond to your command to leave the garden?”
“Hrmph. Macy got out of the front door to get to the police station. She isn’t the brightest but she follows orders well. She’s a good wife to me, knows her place and all.”
Jack threw his thumb over his shoulder at his house.
“Come on in, then I can show you.”
John followed Jack in his house. The house itself was unkempt, beer cans spread throughout the house in several corners, dust gathered everywhere. A shudder ran over Johns back as he crossed the house in the dark, following its inhabitant. The unwashed pile of dishes he saw in the kitchen, and the spots on the floor that could have been easily cleaned, gave him an impression of the household that was kept here.
They arrived in the living room that had a glass door to the patio. Small trails of fly poop decorated the white paint of the door and doorframe. Newspapers were spread around the living room gathered in clumps. Several had held fish and chips by the looks of it. Beer cans could be seen between the newspaper props in the clumps. The man opened the patio door and waved to the unkempt overgrown garden.
“It started tearing my garden apart over there. So I went out to stop the thing from making a mess of the garden. We try to keep things neat around here you know.”
John had his doubts about that neat statement but he kept it to himself and just nodded. They walked to a spot where the garden was clearly dug up and a hole was in the garden surrounded by large clumps of earth.
“I grabbed it by its shoulder, but even as I pulled with all my might, I couldn’t tear the bloody thing away from this hole it was digging. It just grunted at me with a deep MRUM if you know what I mean.”
John didn’t know what an “MRUM” was, but he nodded anyway. He bent through his knees and put his hand in the hole, it went down to his elbow. Impressive to dig such a deep hole when a homeowner was pulling at you.
“Did the child have a shovel?”
“No, it dug this hole in a minute with its bare hands.”
John eyed Jack suspiciously as he got up, rubbing the dirt off his hand on his coat, and thought back at the beer cans. Doubt was clearly displayed on his face.
“I’m telling the truth mate! As it had dug down it pulled up a silver necklace with a cross on it. I tried to grab it from the thing, it was in my garden after all and looked like it was worth a pretty penny, but it threw it in the basket on its back. It then faced me and I saw it was an ugly ass demon! It had big black eyes. I first had thought they were sunglasses, but it had big black eyes! like totally black, like tar. And I kid you not, it had a huge nose as big as an onion. And a jaw with an underbite it would make my granny proud, filled with dirty teeth.”
John had stopped scribbling and just looked at Jack with a skeptical look, who didn’t seem to notice, totally enraptured in his retelling.
“I tried to thrust my hand into the basket to get the necklace back, but the thing hit me in my stomach.”
Jack opened his coat and pulled his stained pullover up, to reveal a reddish spot on his stomach that was already turning dark blue. John noted the details of the spot down in his notebook and then got a disposable camera out of a pocket and started to turn the wheel to set the camera.
“They still make those things?”
John nodded and went through one knee and put the disposable camera with a bright blue motif to his eye. He pressed the shutter release button and an audible click clack could be heard through the garden. He turned the button on the back again and made a photo of the hole in the garden. He noted the numbers that had been on the little peephole in his notebook.
“Alright. After it punched you what happened then?”
Jack was busy buttoning his coat back up and thought for a moment before he replied.
“Well, I was doubled over and winded for a moment, it had knocked the air from my lungs the bastard. It had left my garden whilst I was trying to get back up. When I got to the garden entrance I couldn’t see it anywhere anymore. That’s when I decided to wait till you guys showed up.”
“Alright, I’ll have a look see in the neighborhood,to see if I can find a trace of the person that assaulted you. Did you use any substances this morning?”
“Nah mate, I don’t touch that stuff anymore. I just had two beers for breakfast to keep warm, but I’m sober as a clam mate.”
John noted it down, nodded and closed his notebook. He bode Jack farewell and exited the garden.
Jack let out a sigh as the algae covered wooden door closed behind him. This was not a usual day at all. He strongly disliked unusual days.
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I'm a coder at heart, but I also like other creative activities. Here on royal road I try my hand at writing. I'm not the best at it, but that's a hobby for you. I hope you will like my writings.
[participant in the Royal Road Writathon challenge]