Writing for Pleasure
Co-ordinator: Michael Goldman
Tel: 01565 651717
The writing for Pleasure group meets at 10.00 am on the third Wednesday of each month in members’ homes. Each month we write a short story on an agreed topic. We then share our stories with each other when we meet, in a friendly atmosphere. There may be some praise, but no criticism! We currently have room for 2 more members. If you are interested please contact Michael Goldman on 01565 651717.
The following is a short piece written by one of the members of the group:
‘I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.’
Those poetic words, composed long ago, filled my mind as I stood alone in the large field abutting the churchyard. The daylight was just beginning to fade and, as I was tired after my long walk, I decided to rest on the grass with my back to the stone wall. Sitting there I was able to look out towards the still waters of the lake and the hillside beyond. I heard a bird singing gloriously behind me, then another, and another, but in time all was peaceful.
I must have dozed for a while, but as darkness crept ever near I awoke with a shudder and decided I should start my journey home. I tried to get up but something seemed to be pulling me back. I turned to see if my clothes were caught in any way but they were not. I strained harder in an effort to rise but, try as I might; I was compelled to remain there, imprisoned by an unexplainable force.
Suddenly people started to appear from the sides and very quickly the once deserted field became crowded by many generations of village folk. Music and laughter filled the air as light replaced darkness. Stalls appeared from nowhere; minstrels and jugglers performed. Groups of children danced round a maypole or played skipping and hoopla games, and the whole field buzzed with activity. All these happenings should have been detached from reality yet they were clearly happening. I continued in my efforts to rise but to no avail. I called out for someone to help me but my cries went unheeded. I was an uninvolved compulsory spectator. I should have been frightened, or at least concerned, but I was not. How could I be frightened in that joyful place? What I was witnessing gave me great pleasure and I was determined to see how it would develop, and intrigued as to how it might end.
I had thought everyone was happy but as I looked towards the outer part of the field close to the lake it was apparent that this was not the case. There was a group of men, women and young children standing in the longer grass wearing ragged clothes. Did they not want to take part, or were they prevented from doing so? Their forlorn looks made me feel sad and I wanted to encourage them to join in the merriment but was unable to. They just stood there in silence: then, one by one, they began to fall down, totally ignored by everyone else. Very soon they had all disappeared from view as if swallowed up by the ground. Unaffected by this, the merriment increased as did the noise. I continued to watch it all totally mesmerised, and with no thought as to the passage of time.
I have no idea how long I watched but it must have been for several hours. During that time I tried to comprehend what was really happening. Could it be that I was looking at the spirits of people from a bygone age brought to life on this particular night for my benefit alone? After all I was in a field next to the graveyard of a village church.
After much time I found that I was able to stand and as I did so and looked around me I realised I was on my own again. It had suddenly become very dark, with no visible stars or moon above. Extreme cold now
enveloped me and I started to shiver uncontrollably. I felt very vulnerable and wondered if the villagers had been imaginary or if they were just out of sight, lurking behind trees or bushes? Now that I could no longer see them, those mainly happy people who had given me such pleasure, terrified me! Any form of light would have been of great comfort at that moment but there was none. I panicked and ran around the outside of the church wall as fast as I could until at last I came to a road where there was some intermittent lighting. I knew I was several miles from my home and it would be very difficult for me to make the journey in total darkness whilst in such a distressed state of mind. I had never been more frightened in my life.
Whilst pausing to gather my thoughts and regain my breath, I looked up and down the road at the various cottages and larger properties wondering if any of the inhabitants would be prepared to help me. I decided to enquire at what appeared to be the Manor House, and tugged the bell pull. After waiting patiently for what seemed an age the door creaked open. The old, frail looking man that opened it was dressed formally as if he was the butler. I seemed to be returning to a bygone age again and wished I had called at a different property.
“Good evening, Sir!”
The greeting delivered slowly and politely, was as formal as the dress. Clearly he must be the butler but, worryingly, his appearance and speech led me to believe that he was more likely to be a spirit than a real person.
“So sorry to disturb you;” I responded “I rang the bell by mistake.”
“Are you sure, Sir?” the butler enquired “My master is expecting you!”
The thought of entering that house and becoming trapped in there with spiritual beings filled me with horror so I turned away and ran down the road at great speed. After leaving the village into almost total darkness again, I looked over my shoulder to ensure I was alone. I wasn’t! I was being followed by a large number of ghostly images. It was those poor unfortunate outcasts I had witnessed earlier, but they were no longer silent; they groaned pitifully! I tried to run away but my feet were rooted to the ground, and as they got closer and closer the incessant groans became deafening.
My head started to spin making me fall to the ground after which I must have passed out. I don’t remember anything else!
When, eventually, I came to my senses I found I was sitting again in the large field, with my back to the stone wall. Dawn was breaking and on checking my watch I saw that it was half past five. It was a little misty and there was some dew on the grass. The sun somehow managed to peep through the mist and was giving some warmth to my chilled and aching bones. The birds were singing again. I started to rise and was grateful that no unexplainable force was holding me back. I picked up my belongings and slowly walked away. As I looked over the wall at the many gravestones I reflected again on those eloquent words of Emily Bronte at the conclusion of ‘Wuthering Heights’, and wondered had I been imagining things, or should I really have grave concerns of ‘unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth’?
Peter Willgoose – 2018