The Village – Day 1
The landing stage was a desolate place in the middle of nowhere. A long wooden pier, and a small building at the far end, no better than a shed serving as a waiting room and that was that, except for the armed Huey helicopter which had been waiting patiently their arrival. The three men changed transport, embarking from the boat and loading into the helicopter.
Once airborne the Huey was soon flying over the mountains towards The Village, which was only a short flip away.
“How much further?” asked Blake into his radio mic.
“Its not far now sir” returned the pilot “according to the coordinates, it’s just the other side of those hills.”
The Huey began its descent, rather abruptly John Hyde thought.
“What’s the matter with you?” Blake asked.
“Trying not to be sick” returned Hyde.
Blake smiled and sat back, enjoying the ride.
Having cleared the mountains the helicopter was flying over green hills and pastures, ahead was a river and something on the other side, the pilot couldn’t quite make out what.
“I think that could be it” he said over the intercom.
Blake looked ahead out of the front windscreen “That’s the estuary and yes there it is, we’ve found it” he confirmed.
Grimsdyke opened the starboard sliding door and hung his head out to try and get his first view of The Village, as the pilot pushed the stick forward.
The helicopter was flown masterly by its pilot, leaving the hills behind and now across the estuary.
“Do a couple of circuits round The Village” Blake said “I want to see what we’re dealing with from the air before you leave us stranded here.”
“Roger” returned the pilot.
“Why bother, it’s just a deserted Village which has been long forgotten. No one’s been here for years” offered Grimsdyke into his mic.
“Then how would you account for those aerial photographs?”
The helicopter climbed violently, much to the disturbance of Hyde’s stomach.
“Come and look John” grinned Grimsdyke, turning his face back
out of the open door and into the wind.
Hyde shook his head “I can wait.”
The Huey slowly circled above the over grown, derelict Village. The roads and paths were indistinguishable. The Green Dome had a large hole in it, the bell tower completely over grown with ivy, like wise the Town Hall and many other structures. Somewhere behind the Green Dome would be the open mouth of the rocket silo, the scorched and burnt area cause by the flames of the rocket’s motors, now overgrown and indistinguishable from the rest of the woodlands which surrounded the village on three sides, but now had claimed The Village for its own. Two pillars of the Gloriette had collapsed onto the central piazza and glimpses of the black waters of the free sea could be seen. A tree close to the bell tower had also collapsed, through the roof of a nearby cottage and half demolishing it. The buildings on higher ground, one being the Green Dome had survived from being completely over grown, were easy to discern, not so easy were the bandstand, or the café. The Village green was a jungle all of its own and surrounding structures a mass of greenery hiding the stone work beneath.
“Not much of a place is it” commented the pilot.
“It was once’ returned Blake “an International community complete with Italianate architecture enjoying an almost holiday camp atmosphere. Take a wider circle this time I want to see the hospital, old peoples home and quayside.”
“Will do” retorted the pilot.
The pilot turned the helicopter into a wider circle to encompass the surrounding area around The Village, taking in the woodland and Hospital which stood in remarkably good shape, a solid structure of stone and granite. The surrounding area over grown with ivy climbing its walls, covering the doors and windows.
“Looks like a castle” remarked the pilot.
“Yes and built like one” replied Blake.
The old people’s home had not stood the test of time so well. Part of its roof had collapsed, windows had been blown in. The lawn was over grown, grass as tall as the once white balustrade which edged it above the quay. The lawn by the sea wall which had once served as a landing pad for The Village helicopter, was now so wild and over grown that there was no possibility of their helicopter landing there now. The stone triangular swimming pool open to bikini clad girls, now lay abandoned, it’s dark waters cold and uninviting. The quay was covered in growth.
“Is that a derelict boat down there?” observed the pilot.
Next to the quay there was indeed the outline of a boat, the Stone Boat! Her main mast had collapsed and lay rotting at an angle over her port side along with the jib.
“Where do we land?’ asked Grimsdyke “the tide’s in, so the beach is out and I can’t see anywhere close by.”
The helicopter hovered over the quayside.
“I’ll hover while you and your men jump…….. sir.”
Blake looked over his right shoulder at his two colleagues “You heard the man, drop out the two canisters and then jump.”
Grimsdyke grabbed hold of one end of the first canister “Come on John, jump to it.”
Hyde got slowly to his feet and grabbed the other end “Wish you would choose your words more carefully.”
“Don’t like flying eh John?” grinned Grimsdyke.
“Flying is fine, don’t like helicopters!”
The first canister was dropped out through the door, quickly followed by the second, both hitting the ground with a solid thud.
“Now jump, I’ll be right behind you” ordered Blake.
Hyde and Grimsdyke put on their back packs and took their positions at the open door at which Hyde hesitated, as he looked down.
Hyde nodded and the two men jumped out, falling the few feet to the ground, and rolling as they hit the ground.
“I’ll be back a little after dawn in three days time” said the pilot.
Blake took an envelope from the inside of his blue overalls “What’s your name?”
“J.T. Fredrickson” answered the pilot.
“Well J.T. Fredrickson, when you get back contact MI9 and see that this gets to the Colonel would you” handing the pilot an envelope.
“The Colonel?” quizzed the pilot.
“Whose Idea was the helicopter gun ship, the General’s?”
The pilot looked at Blake “No, the Colonel’s.”
“Then thank the Colonel for me. Tell me, is that Gatling gun loaded and armed?” asked Blake.
“No sir, this is only a reconnaissance mission, I mean we’re hardly in what they call the ‘badlands’ are we sir” returned the pilot.
“Do me a favour JT, when you return in three days time, make sure it’s loaded!”
“It’s just a feeling I have JT, we might be in the badlands after all, and two thousand rounds a second should be enough” returned Blake.
“For what sir?”
“Hope that you never have to find out” said Blake at the open door
and swinging his legs out ‘don’t forget to come back, be seeing you, as they say’.
“And you” returned the pilot.
Blake hit the ground hard, as the helicopter continued to hover, then backed off a little. Getting to his feet he was pleased to see that
his two colleagues had already started to get to work. The canisters were opened, Grimsdyke and Hyde had taken a machete apiece and were cutting away the undergrowth of the stone steps leading up to the grimy balustrade above them.
“Good luck, hope you find what it is you’re looking for” said the pilot, his voice booming out through the Huey’s loudhailer.
“Hope it doesn’t find us!” thought Blake.
All three men stood watching as the helicopter turned and flew fast and low across the estuary, then rising high over the hills towards the mountains leaving three men with the feeling of having been marooned. No-one said anything to the others, but all three heard the deafening silence of The Village!
“Come on we’ve got work to do” said Blake, helping himself to the third machete and closing the canister.
The next few moments were employed in clearing the steps leading up to the overgrown lawn of the old people’s home. Having manhandled the two canisters up the steps, a camp was set up inside the old people’s home itself. Hyde had tripped over something in the long grass of the once lawn, he dragged it clear of the long grass and stood it up on its base. A dingy looking black and white striped pole with an equally dingy plastic candy striped canopy beneath which was the sign that read ‘Old People’s Home.’ The two canisters were carried in through the French windows which hung off their hinges, equipment and provisions removed. Back packs were placed on the floor, each man choosing his corner of the room. Wood was collected and a fire made in the large fire place and smoke rose out through the chimney, something which had not occurred for a good many years, this along with the smell of freshly made coffee confirmed that life had returned to The Village. Time and the weather had not been kind to the Old People’s Home, but at least it did afford some shelter and possibly a place of safety.
“Cosy enough” commented Grimsdyke, sipping his coffee
“Bet there’ll be showers later” remarked Hyde.
“Showers later, how do you know that?” asked Grimsdyke.
“You studied the file, you should know there are always showers later, its due to the climate here” returned Hyde “even if it did hardly ever rain!”
Blake ferreted in his pack and produced two ‘Maps of Your Village’ and handed them to his colleagues. “We should stick together, but just in case, these will show you just about everything. So when you’re ready we’ll move out.”
Grimsdyke and Hyde began collecting equipment, camera, torches, knives, note book, pencil and binoculars. Two-way radios checked,
and they were ready to go.
“Okay Number 1, where do we start?” asked Hyde.
“Why call me Number 1?” asked Blake.
“He was the boss in The Village wasn’t he?” returned Hyde.
“Alright knock it off, we use first names, okay?” Blake suggested.
“Okay” returned John and Paul in unison.
“Paul you’re the photographer, we need photographic evidence of everything and don’t forget to take notes John, even measurements if necessary, and we collect anything which maybe of importance.”
Paul took his digital camera and commenced his work.
“There we are, Silas and John on vacation, we could send it to the General and sign it wish you were here!” Paul joked.
“Don’t play the fool” said Silas.
“Not foolish Silas, it will be used for verification of course. Photographs of The Village at ground level are all very well, but that is all they prove” Paul said grinning.
The team moved out and began to survey the immediate area, starting with the old people’s home, where the only things to find were damp and mouldy furniture, a library with shelves of damp and mouldy books. In a spacious drawing room paintings hung on the walls, in the dining room tables were set out with tea things. Upstairs rooms suffered damage from a collapsed roof. There were broken windows, and the usual debris of a building long fallen into dereliction. Down on the quayside a brief study of the stone boat was made, the main mast and jib lay across the port side. The wooden cabins worm eaten and rotten. Only the stone and concrete hull had with stood the test of time.
Paul busied himself with his camera “hold it.”
At hearing “hold it,” Silas and John would pose for the photographer, for the purpose of verification maybe, but three happier tourists you would never find as they began to relax and feel at ease.
“She’s like the government’s stationary office!” said Hyde as he sat on the prow of the boat, but quickly got to his feet again as the rotted wood gave way under his weight!
“What do you mean by that?” asked Paul making notes in a black notebook.
“She don’t go nowhere!”
Silas had become curious about an archway he had found close by, it was the entrance to a tunnel. Switching on his torch he entered with caution. To his left was daylight, to the right darkness, he turned right and walked slowly on into the darkness.
There came a turn in the short tunnel, fallen stones under his feet made him stumble for a moment, the light from his torch shone up to the ceiling. Then out of the darkness they came, having been
disturbed by the light, eyes shining, leather wings beating the air,
as more than a dozen tiny bats swept passed and over him. Silas ducked down as they flew over him and out into the daylight, this to the astonishment of John and Paul who raced to the archway calling out.
“Silas are you okay?”
“Fine” fine” he replied, shining his torch in their faces.
“See you’ve found the bat cave!” grinned John, making a note in his book.
“What else is down there?”
“Nothing, it’s a dead end, lets go this way” Silas said leading the way into the light.
It was only a short distance, and at the end of the tunnel there stood a flag pole, atop of which were the remnants of a flag, fluttering in the breeze. A white flag it must have been once, a white flag with the emblem of a black canopied Penny Farthing. From their position they could see a building at the far end of the sea wall, this being a cottage and the Camera Obscura. From inside you could see over the entire Village and surrounding area all without yourself being observed. The trio chopped there way through the undergrowth towards the buildings at the far end of the Quay. There stood on a low plinth the once colourful statue of Admiral Lord Nelson, complete with the once colourful French tricolour flag draped about him, but now showed its age with flaking paint. The door of the Camera Obscura was rotten and took little effort to kick in. There were wooden steps leading up the Obscura tower. At the top a grimy round table which the three men stood around. Hanging down from the ceiling were a pair of rusty rods, these to operate the Camera Obscura device.
“Close the trap door John” Silas asked.
John did as he was bid, leaving the three men in almost complete darkness, while Paul wiped the table’s grimy surface with a handkerchief.
Operating the pair of rods, Silas turned the lenses in the roof, a turn of the grimy table would focus the images projected onto its surface. A complete sweep of The Village was made from within the safe confines of the Camera Obscura. From this point, The Village seemed in a much worse state than indicated by the photographs they had seen.
“It’s a bloody jungle” said John “It’ll take ages to hack our way through that lot.”
“Got anything better to do?” Paul grinned.
Seeing all that they could, they left the Camera Obscura, in a body, pausing only to allow Paul to take his photographs.
Back towards the Old People’s Home they went, then hacking their way up the hill through the undergrowth with machete’s, up into The Village itself. Underfoot they discovered that it had once been a road
of tarmac, tarmac roads and cobbled paths, but you would never think it now.
Silas consulted his black and white ‘Map of Your Village’ “The Town Hall should be a little further on the left.”
The Town Hall, Ivy climbed its solid walls and covered the windows
but other than that the building looked to be in sound condition. Paul
busied himself taking photographs as John wrote observations in his
notebook, while Silas slashed at the ivy that covered the portico entrance of the Town Hall with his machete. John stepped bravely forward to be the first inside the town Hall for over five decades.
“Stop!” Silas suddenly cried out.
John stopped and turned to see what was wrong, as did Paul.
“Step back from there” Silas ordered, picking up a large stone.
“Where’s the fire?” asked John.
“Perhaps there isn’t one” Silas replied, as he hurled the stone at the portico entrance.
The stone was immediately repelled by an invisible force!
“How did you know about that?” asked John.
“We knew that the Town Hall had been protected by an electrical force field” Silas said “what we didn’t know was that it’s still active!”
Paul spun round in all directions “That
means someone is still here, or has been here. Because there’s still electrical
“And there shouldn’t be!”
“It would seem that someone still has something to protect! Mind you the Town Hall always was fussy about who it let in!”
“Which suggests The Town Hall is an entity
in its own right” Silas said.”
“Which is ridiculous” was Paul’s comment.
“We have to find the substation” Silas said “or at least another way in. Come on this way, we’ll see if we have better luck with the Green Dome.”
Through a pair of rusty wrought iron gates they hacked their way through the undergrowth. On the left was a cottage, broken windows, the front door ajar and hanging off one hinge. Its sign beneath its dingy candy striped canopy denoting 17 Private. To the right was a pink pavilion style structure and ahead a large stone plinth topped with the figure of Hercules with the world upon his shoulders and the head and skin of a lion draped about him. The Green Dome could be seen clearly ahead of them, the cobbled path beneath their feet not too badly over grown. In fact the going had been better than any of them had thought. The houses on the higher ground were less over grown, but the bell tower was a mass of ivy pointing up into the pale blue sky.
By The Village green was an over grown sign was cleared, it read …..Walk on the grass.
“Most amusing” said Paul taking yet another photograph for his
ever growing collection. Moving on passed an overgrown portico on the left, the statue of a lion on the right, its face peering through the weeds, its teeth bared. They came to the cottage which had been half demolished by a fallen tree, there being an archway between it and the building next door. They climbed the sloped steps through to the cobbled square beyond. The half demolished cottage turned out to be 6 Private. The building next door, The General Store, survived a little
better, at least it was intact. Through the grimy glass of the bay
window a faded yellow canopied Penny Farthing poster stuck to a pane of glass. In the window, two piles of rusty Village Food, and two other faded posters, just legible denoting that “music begins where words leave off,” “music makes for a quiet mind,” there was also an avian statuette. Inside its display of rusty tinned Village food, yellowed copies of The Tally Ho and magazines the Village Weekly and ‘Village Journal. Jars of Village sweets adorned the shelves, together with household good, while kitchen utensils hung from hooks in the walls. There was a set of weighing scales, a cash register, and loaves of bread which crumbled at the touch. There was a rack of records, a display of cuckoo clocks, and dust and cobwebs were everywhere. Next door the half demolished cottage denoted by a rusty old signpost, and rotted wooden sign of 6 Private, revealed little except for the long fallen tree in the lounge. Nothing much at all remained intact with the interior of 6 Private left open to the elements. Damp and mould was everywhere, and in some places fungi grew rampant.
“This was the cottage of The Village’s prize prisoner Number Six” Blake remarked, pushing the door open.
“In better days” quipped John.
Paul continued to work with his camera, as John wrote in his notebook.
“What ever happened to him?” Paul asked.
“Whatever happened to anyone who lived here?” Silas replied.
To the left of the square was the first of two large archways which covered the once road in and out of The Village. But Blake was looking for the steps leading up to the Green Dome.
“Come over here and help me chop the undergrowth away from these steps.”
Paul put away his camera and John his notebook. Together the three of them soon had the stone steps cleared enough and stood on the balcony of the Green Dome, a high advantage point from which they could look out over the square below and the surrounding Village buildings which were weather beaten, the paint flaking from the crumbling walls, warping of dark weatherboarding, tiles missing from the roofs, these together with rotting window frames and broken panes of glass making them far from habitable. He was busy standing at the balustrade of the balcony taking photographs of the square below and all buildings opposite, he took a photograph of his two comrades with the Bell Tower in the background. Silas and John turned their attention to the dingy white door of the Green Dome. The door was through a huge double arched porch, it stood ajar, and hung stiff on its hinges as they pushed it open. The foyer beyond was cold and damp and a musty odour pervaded the air. Paintings and prints adorned the walls together with a large fire place. A round oak table stood in the centre of the foyer, a glass vase upon it with the remains of petrified flowers. Ahead was a pair of French doors, either side of which were a pair of brown leathermatching armchairs, now green with mould. The French doors stood open, and leading up to a pair of closed steel doors was a small ramp. Silas and John worked together trying to ease their machetes in between the steel doors and forced them open, to reveal the gloom of the circular chamber which lay beyond. Much of the chamber lay in darkness, but a shaft of light cut through the gloom through a hole in the dome to give an idea of what lay in the circular chamber that had once been Number 2’s office.
They each turned on a torch.
“So this was Number 2’s residence, his office I presume?” said Paul peering inside.
The chamber walls were purple in colour and
there was a glint of a steel framework. To the left of the open door was a
large wall screen flanked on either side by black curtains and at the far side
of the chamber stood a Penny Farthing bicycle, and a tall lava lamp. Or rather
two Lava lamps, the one mounted on the other.
As the three men entered the chamber walking down a ramp, and in a body, they made for the curved desk in the centre, behind which was a black spherical chair set upon a round dais. John walked round the desk and nearly fell through an open hole in the floor. It was Paul who grabbed his arm and pulled him back just in time.
“Mind where your walking John boy, we don’t want to lose you just yet.”
The both of them got down on their knees beside the hole in the floor, Paul shone his torch down into the darkness.
“I think I can see the bottom, but it’s difficult to tell. This could lead down to the lower levels of The Village.”
On the desk, behind which Silas was now standing, were three ‘L’ shaped telephones, all cordless and of different colours. A fourth telephone was red and quite absurd, curved and oversized as it was. Silas was studying the control panel upon the desk “We shall come back tomorrow, with ropes, find out what’s down there.”
Paul and John got to their feet as Silas pressed several buttons on the control panel, but nothing happened.
“What did you expect?” John asked.
Suddenly the chamber was lit up with a series of flashes, flashes from Paul’s camera. In the desk were a series of black files, their plastic covers and pockets protecting the documents inside.
Two of these Silas took “Time to go. Complete the circuit of The Village and then back to camp.”
Paul took a last couple of photographs “Strange how The Village was in many ways ahead of its time, yet it had a Penny Farthing for its symbol.”
“A reflection of better bygone times maybe” replied Silas walking up the ramp to the open steel doors.
Paul appeared through the door of the Green Dome, taking a picture of them both with the buildings of the square behind them,this for verification. Walking round the back of the Green Dome, passed the Citizens Advice Bureau and through an arch, they found the open mouth of the rocket silo. Though overgrown, this could not hide the remaining telltale signs of burning caused by the flames of the rocket’s motors as it lifted off. As they shone their torches and peered down into the blackness of the silo, they could see that it provided one way down into the cavern beneath The Village.
In a body the three man stood at the bottom
of the steps wondering which way to go, then went left along what remained of a
road, undergrowth having long grown through the tarmac. A rock face on their
right, and the top of the bandstand. Paul cut away growth to reveal three
steps, he stepped up and stood on top of the Bandstand and looked out across
the centre of the village.
“There’s a lawn under those brambles” Silas said, having joined John.
“And that must be the Piazza.”
Paul took photographs “You can hardly make out the pool and fountain.”
There was a left hand bend at the bottom of
the road, they passed by the over grown Gloriette with its balcony which over looked
the piazza and ‘
Paul was busy taking photographs of just
about anything. He changed a memory card for his digital camera. John sat on a
rusty bench by a stone balustrade as he wrote up some notes and sketched a
couple of drawings.
Rot and decay were everywhere, and since its evacuation nature had moved in, climbing up the stone columns of the bandstand and
“John what’s up John, John where are you?” called Silas into his radio.
But in response all that could be heard was
a blood curdling roar, over John’s scream, that echoed, and re-echoed over The
Village. In an instant both realised what it meant
and were making their way back up the hill as fast as they could, as John
fought for his life. But how could he fight something which offered no
resistance? White membrane stretched over his nose and mouth, over his whole
face in fact. Lungs burned as they fought for air, fingers clawed to tear the
membrane from his face. But then blackness began to overtake him, as his arms
fell limp and his body fell back to the ground.
Blake drew his 45 semi-automatic pistol from inside his overalls, Paul looked at the weapon in surprise, but said nothing. They found John’s body lying unconscious on the ground. Paul began to administer mouth to mouth as Silas stayed on guard. Slowly John coughed and gasped for air as he slowly regained consciousness.
“What happened John?” asked Paul, still crouching by his friend and colleague.
John sat up in alarm “Has it gone? Did you see it?”
“Has what gone?” asked Silas, his eyes darting hither and thither, looking to detect any sign of movement……..there was none.
“See what John?”
“The Guardian, that white awful thing, it attacked me, suffocating me with its membrane. I tried to fight back but it was no good, it offered no resistance….. surely you saw it, you must have seen it?” John exclaimed in an excited and terrified state.
“We saw nothing, but we heard it” Paul told him.
Blake’s eyes were everywhere.
“You’re not thinking of going after it?” Paul asked, helping John to his feet.
“Do I look stupid?” returned Blake.
“No. You look frightened!”
So with the Guardian somewhere on the prowl, Silas and Paul helped John back through The Village and down the hill, back to the old people’s home. The fire was nearly out, but breaking up a chair for fire wood they soon had a roaring blaze in the fire place. Lanterns were lit and placed about the room which helped change the atmosphere a little, light and warmth can do much in the face of adversity. John was left to rest in a corner while Paul was volunteered to be cook. Blake tried the radio knowing full well that it had been sabotaged. But they didn’t know that he knew.
“The radio isn’t working” Silas reported, trying to hide his pre knowledge of the fact.
Paul stopped stirring the pot of stew on the
fire and stared at John, whose face was a picture of stark realisation,
realisation that they were cut off. Calling for help was out of the question,
thanks to their own crippling stupidity. Blake stood up and went outside to stand watch.
He hoped that by the work of their own hand which has cut them off from the
outside world, that Hyde and Grimsdyke would forget their own mission and pull
with him. The Village was suddenly a more dangerous place, he didn’t need to be
looking over his shoulder all the time.
After a hearty meal of stew and potatoes, washed down with cups of coffee Silas made up the fire, secured the pair of French windows as best he could. Things didn’t seem quite so bad, especially after a shot or two from a bottle of scotch which Pat had smuggled into his pack.
“Always look after my men.”
It was agreed that all three should take their turn to stand watch through the night, just in case. As Blake took position in one of the two bay windows, he pulled up a chair, sat down, and kept watch. Despite what lurked waiting in The Village, despite the possible danger of his two so termed colleagues, the still peaceful atmosphere of The Village began to have its soothing effect upon him, who began to feel at peace with himself. Something he had not felt for a very long time.