Stele Valley and the Needle
As the car approached yet another field Brian took the opportunity to shift gears. The car was old and the gear box made a loud grinding sound, and as it clunked he passed wind. Mary sat up, and inhaled deeply as she snapped out of her doze. She turned to face her husband, analysing him with utter distain as the scent hit her nostrils. Brian shrugged his shoulders with the wryest of smiles and then pointed towards the field, and the oblivious cows that resided there. She shook her head, and threw him a look of repulsion. A look that would appear genuine to anyone else but Brian.
The happily married couple are driving the length of Cornwall to The Lizard, a peninsula in the south, where their beloved caravan is situated. This summer week away coincides with their twenty-sixth wedding anniversary, and for this reason and this reason alone Mary is happy to overlook a little flatulence.
Both older than half a century, they welcomed the sun as it beamed in through the windscreen, tanning their cracked skin and weathering it like leather. Aging them before their time but keeping them gloriously brown, the signature of the well travelled, middle-aged and middleclass alike. Both wore spectacles that magnified their pupils to comical effect and their leisurewear coordinated, both different outfits but similar colours running throughout. No doubt Mary’s efforts. People have said that owners begin to look like their dogs, on occasion Brian had made this comparison to friends and family. Regretting it immediately when noticing the look Mary would give him, and the retribution to follow.
It made Mary nervous every time Brian took one hand from the wheel to unwrap a boiled sweet from the bag on the dashboard, but she swore to herself that she would not let the little things bother her this week. When he begun to shuffle and squirm in his seat she kept her saintly patience, for as long as she could.
‘Not again!?’ Mary broke the silence.
‘Yes again, sorry love.’ He spoke through gritted teeth.
‘We stopped half an hour ago!’
‘I’m old, woman!’
‘Old!? You’re two years my junior, Maaaan!’ Her tone was mocking.
‘You haven’t got diabetes you idiot, you have a bladder full of Ribena. A fifty-three year old toddler, what’s a grown man doing drinking Ribena?’
Brian kept silent for a second.
‘No! That’s it, we have to stop…’ He pulled the car left, onto a country lane. ‘I have to find a pub, or a shop or something!
‘What are you doing? We could have waited for the next service station’ Brian kept on down the country lane, preoccupied ‘You shouldn’t have left the main road, you should have gone with the cows in the field… Where you belong!’
Mary would always worry, and as they entered this unknown lane and passed through an unknown wood, her anxiety became unbearable. The road was old and unkempt, there was width enough for one car but this didn’t seem to matter as the road was empty, not a car or tractor in sight.
‘Turn around Brian.’
‘I cant, there’s no room, I need to keep going.’
‘I’ve been driving for ten minutes, I cant wait another ten minutes! We should just keep going… There must be a clearing soon.’
‘You are an idiot Brian, a total idiot!’
‘I know love, I know.’ He was submissive, accepting that on this occasion, she was right.
The trees along the lane were tall and formed a canopy over the road, casting it in ominous shade. Small, occasional beams of light made it through, hitting motes and particles on the way down.
Brian took small reverence in the fact that for once he was right, the end was in sight. As the car approached daylight they both recoiled from the sudden brightness. Escaping the tunnel they felt their senses return to them; the glorious sun hitting their eyes, the unexpected sound of music hitting their ears and the delicious smell of roasting meats hitting their nostrils. As their eyes adjusted they noticed multicoloured bunting along the lanes sides, attached to rock walls either side, beyond the low walls were fields and crops. Further down the road as it dropped there was a small rustic village, thriving with life. White smoke rising from some of the buildings and colourful decorations strewn across the streets and alleys. There seemed to be a festival going on, and the joviality could be felt as far away as their car was. Beyond the village were high hills and rock faces, surrounding the hamlet and casting some of it in shade, imposing to say the least, but comforting nonetheless. The mounds of earth seemed to hug the village as if it were an overbearing mother. The highest point had something atop of it, a large needle like structure pointing towards the heavens, silhouetted against the sky.
‘What is this place?’ Mary asked.
‘I don’t know, but it seems nice, don’t you think?’
‘It’s like we’re driving into a postcard, but I didn’t see any signs for this place… Seems a little hidden does it not?’ She furrowed her brow.
‘Not every Cornish town is going to be in the guide book love, if I lived in a place like this I wouldn’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry filling it up either, would you?’ Brian kept his eyes forward as he spoke, scanning for possible amenities.
‘If they’re hiding away from tourists, how do you think they’ll feel about us pulling up and using all their toilet paper?’
‘We will blend in… Like ninjas… Anyway we don’t look like tourists, do we?’ He turned to inspect Mary, and in turn she inspected him. They both met at eye level as Mary raised her eyebrows and turned up one side of her mouth. ‘Ok so we look like tourists, but I’m sure they wont mind a couple of visitors. It looks like a festival or something anyway, they wont even notice us.’
‘Stele Valley’ Blurted Mary.
‘Stele Valley, Welcome to Stele Valley!’ She pointed to a sign with those words embossed on it.
‘You see… Welcome! We’re welcome, now stop your fussing wife.’ Brian entered the town through an elaborate stone archway decorated in bright colours, with a banner reading Stele Valley Harvest Celebrations 99.
Brian spotted a tavern. He pulled in and parked his custard yellow car near the entrance. Mary got out and stretched, realigning her bones, cracking and clicking as she did so. Brian’s vision was tunnelled as he ran into the building and then weaved past some tables to the bathroom, paying no mind to the crowd inside.
Mary stood by the car and shuffled the gravel by her feet. She begun to look around, firstly at the public house and the sign it had hanging outside. The Martyr and the Mound it read, with an amateurish painting of a hill and the strange needle they had noticed earlier on top of it. She turned her attention to what seemed to be the main street, and all the commotion that was taking place. There were families dancing and skipping about to the music, candy floss in hand. Older couples playing carnival games and wining goldfish. People dressed in colourful tunics and official looking garbs, performing some kind of musical play, clacking wooden swords together and batting foil shields.
Mary couldn’t help but smile, she found the whole atmosphere rousing and had at that moment decided that they would stay, Just a little longer. Long enough to explore the town some, and maybe sample some of the meat she could smell cooking. The ambrosial scent was enough to seduce the most idealistic of vegetarians.
As his bladder emptied like a water balloon full of holes he felt normality return. He sighed with comfort, smiling a little as he shook himself dry. Now relieved, Brian took the time to acknowledge his surroundings. He had never been in such a clean, untarnished bathroom. Usually he’d read the graffiti in public loos, to ease the process, but there was none to be found here, not a single etching or doodle. After washing his hands in the pristine sink and drying his hands on a sumptuous cotton towel he left the bathroom, confronted by the hoard of drunkards he’d been blinkered too previously.
Brian had always avoided unfamiliar pubs, due to some unpleasant experiences in his teens. He would occasionally visit his local, but this was only after years of establishing himself and Mary as regulars. He found that his appearance invited altercation; his geeky clothing, glasses and permanent cow lick cried out weakness. Thugs could smell it, like a dog smells fear. To his surprise he was greeted by smiles, kind faces and what seemed to be a complimentary pint of ale that the barmaid nudged toward him, gesturing at it with a nod while turning to serve her other customers. He hesitantly took a sip while looking at the clientele. They seemed like a rowdy bunch, but jocundly so. Probably due to the festival taking place, and the alcohol a distant second.
He took a gulp and lifted the glass to the barmaid, smiling in appreciation. He hadn’t tasted ale like this, it was delicious. The barmaid, a middle aged stocky woman with frizzy auburn hair, tied carelessly away from her face, smiled back at him.
‘Hello, who might you be then?’ She asked.
‘Oh I’m just visiting, making a pit stop.’
‘Visitor eh? It’s nice to have a new face, been staring at this bunch for much too long!’ She looked up and down the bar at the old faces. Brian chuckled politely.
‘Well, I can only apologise that the first new face you see in a while happens to be this ugly mug. The name is Brian by the way.’
‘Brian… I’m Gloria, and don’t be so hard on yourself. I wouldn’t say ugly, but then, I only have this bunch to compare ya’ too!’ She smiled a flirty smile before returning to her customers.
Brian watched Gloria float down the bar and found him self grinning unknowingly.
‘Brian!’ Mary’s raised voice knocked the grin from his face and some of the ale across the bar.
‘Love!’ He choked a little.
‘What are you doing? I’ve been out there for fifteen minutes! What the hell are you doing with that drink? You’re driving! And whose the floozy you’re moronically grinning at?’ She caught her breath.
‘Jeez woman, one question at a time!’ He took another gulp in protest. She grabbed the glass and prised it from his hand. ‘Oi! Look… I went to the toilet and when I came out this drink was here waiting for me, and as for fifteen minutes, I think that’s a slight exaggeration love.’
‘Exaggeration! When have you ever known me to exaggerate? And I suppose that barmaid left the drink for you? That floozy!’
‘You don’t know the woman!’
‘And I suppose you do?’
‘No, of course not, look I’m not going to argue with you here, in this place, can we at least wait till we get in the car… Like a normal couple?’ Brian moved towards the door.
‘No, I don’t want to… We’re gonna stay for a bit. I want to look around.’ She walked past Brian and into the car park.
‘Fine, if it’ll keep you happy oh light of my life!’ Brian’s sarcasm was obvious but she let it slide, leading him into the village.
Their tiff dissipated as they explored the village and all of its quaintness. A harvest festival it was and the harvest was certainly prodigious. Abnormally large fruit and vegetables proudly displayed; radiant pumpkins, vibrant watermelons, luscious grapes, mouth-watering tomatoes. Next were jams, marmalades, chutneys, and then wines, juices and ales. Finally meat, the scent that had lured Mary in, sizzling and spitting on large charcoal grills.
The smell was irresistible and thankfully a piece of honey roasted pork was handed to the pair by a large caricature of a butcher, dressed in a striped apron, white jacket and Hungarian moustache. The taste implausibly surpassed the smell, both Mary and Brian salivated as the meat masticated between their molars. Little did Brian know but Mary hadn’t been close to an orgasm in years, but this taste was as sensual and enjoyable as any intercourse she could remember enjoying. Giddiness washed over them and they practically threw their money at the butcher.
Retreating to a picnic table with their meat, they sat. Retaining what civility they could as they gorged like troglodytes. As their hunger was met they absorbed the atmosphere and the beauty of the place and the faces mingling about them. They didn’t speak, not for a while, they sat comfortably and felt envious of these people and the idealistic lives they seemed to lead. Their table was in the village centre, and at one end of the cobblestone square was a beautiful cathedral, ancient and grand. Not the kind of extravagant architecture one would expect to find in such a small hamlet.
Bellies full they climbed to their feet and continued to explore, this time hand in hand. Mary snapped away with her camera, asking Brian to pose uncomfortably in front of strangers, but he managed to force a toothy smile. Before either of them knew it they were happy, it had sneaked up on them unexpectedly. They didn’t often feel this close, not for a long time, but today in the sun, in this place, they felt rejuvenated. Their love rekindled. Not that they ever stopped loving each other, recently they had loved each other as if it was dutiful, because it was normal, stable or to be expected. However it was, they didn’t question this sudden rejuvenation.
The sun was warm today, though it moved from cloud to cloud. The happy couple found a spot, a perfect photo opportunity and Brian had agreed to pose for the final time he stressed. As he stood with the cathedral over his right shoulder and some postcard cottages to his left Mary pulled back to also capture the hill behind him, and the needle that stood atop it. The villagers (especially the young) giggled as Brian smiled gums and all. His eyes darted between each of them as he spoke the words hurry up through gritted teeth. Like a world class ventriloquist.
As the camera clicked her shot was spoiled, suddenly a shadow was cast on Brian. The sun had escaped the clouds and gloriously illuminated the village. All except for Brian. He was blotted out by the needles silhouette, the sun now strikingly aligned with it. Before Mary could take another shot the cathedral bells rang. They rang loudly. Much too loud for such a small village, the strikes reverberated throughout the entire valley. After three chimes it ceased and a tangible silence engulfed them. Mary saw Brian shiver in the shade, but he looked baffled, she turned her head to see what he was seeing. The village had stopped and the villagers now looked upon Brian. All perfectly still, even the children.
Mary moved to Brian, all the while examining the blank faces. She grabbed his hand and moved him into the sun. They didn’t know what to do, the sudden contrast of life and then lifelessness took them back. After what seemed minutes of stillness Mary pulled Brian, and they attempted to walk, instinctively to their car but the crowd became menacingly dense as they tried to weave past. Their way was denied and they were forced back. Now frightened they scanned the crowd and noticed a head of grey hair moving towards them. It was a man pushing his way to the couple, a man dressed in strange black garbs, he had approached from the cathedral and the villagers parted to let him through.
‘Which one was it?’ He asked the crowd.
The butcher pointed towards Brian, meat stained cleaver in hand.
‘The man… And what is your name visitor?’ The priest approached Brian and held out his hand, expecting Brian to meet it with his own.
‘What is going on?’ Brian asked.
‘What is your name visitor?’
‘Who are you?’
‘I am the way, I am this place… I am the be all, and the end all.’
‘Well Mr The Way I’m Brian, and my wife and I are leaving this way, if you don’t mind!’ Brian took charge and pulled Mary gently by her shoulder.
‘I’m afraid that isn’t possible Brian, not for you, your wife may leave if she so wishes?’ The Priest waved his hand and the crowd parted for Mary.
‘What the hell are you talking about? What do you want with my husband?’ Mary cut in.
‘We want everything. All that is Brian.’ The priest placed his hand on Brian’s shoulder, only to have it shrugged off.
‘Well he’s mine!’ Mary blurted as she waved her wedding ring at them all.
‘Lets go love.’ Brian blanked the Priest and head for the opening. It immediately closed.
‘You cant leave Brian. You have been chosen!’
‘Chosen for what you loon!? Brian’s patience now gone. The Priests smile left his face.
‘The needle chose you, for itself, and for us.’ The Priest gestured towards the needle. ‘It was prophesised that today of this year, and of this very moment the needle would select the one.’
‘You really are crazy… All of you!’ Brian looked at the crowd and spotted a familiar head of auburn hair bobbing in the sea of heads.
‘Gloria!’ He shouted.
The barmaid with which he had previously flirted came forward, hesitantly.
‘Gloria, please talk some sense into these people!’
She looked uncomfortable, turning her head to the others around her. Her eyes wide and innocent.
‘Look, mister, I don’t know you. I served you one drink is all.’ She pulled away from Brian, back into the safety of their number.
‘This is insane, we are going, and I hope you all rot here, in this…This twisted place!’ Exclaimed Mary. Now a force of her own, pushing the villagers aside and dragging Brian behind her.
‘Please!’ Spoke the priest.
It was little more than a whisper as a frightening thud took Brian clean off his feet. His spectacles sent flying and shattering on the cobblestones A farmer sporting bushy sideburns, cracked Brian in the jaw with the stock of his shotgun. Mary’s husband was out cold and immediately dragged back to the priest by the crowd. Mary cried out for him until her screams were stifled by the sudden gun barrel pressed against her forehead.
‘If you think that end of the gun did some damage, lady. You wanna see what I can do with this end!’ The farmer smirked, and the realisation of real danger hit Mary as hard as the gun butt hit her husband.
It was moments before the peaceful slumber of insentience left Brian. He suddenly felt the discomfort of hard, sharp edges pressing into his neck and back. He was laying on rocks, he knew this without opening his eyes. He opened them to blinding, blurred light and shook his head, hoping that focus would return. But it didn’t, not fully. He raised his hand to his face and felt for his glasses. They were gone. He then moved to feel his jaw, and the sudden pain caught up to him. His tongue felt for missing teeth, he counted them all but tasted blood. His face was dry, cooked in the sun and the sun was still high, he couldn’t have been out for long. He was suddenly pulled to his feet, as if he weighed nothing.
‘Up ya get!’ said an indistinct figure.
‘Wuuuurrr…’ Mumbled Brian, his brain not yet engaging his mouth.
‘You’re a li’l worse for ware my friend, can you stand?’
‘No Mary here, she’s back with the others. No place for her here!’ The figure placed a tangled bit of wire and one cracked lens onto Brian’s face. ‘Sorry ‘bout your specs.’
The man was somewhat in focus now, the butcher still garbed in his blood stained apron. Beside him stood the priest and the farmer (still smirking and brandishing the shotgun) and several other men unfamiliar to him. He turned to see a rock face, below the hill, and at its base was what appeared to be a cave. On closer inspection it was a mine shaft. With an iron cart rail leading into the darkness, and boulders piled either side. To his right was the village. Down hill and not more than stones throw away. He looked for the crowds he‘d seen before, but they were gone. Most of all he had hoped to see Mary. She was lost to him.
‘I want my wife now! I want Mary!’ Brian’s courage was unexpected, especially to him.
‘You can see her again, when the time is right.’ Said the priest, softly.
‘What do you people want from me!’
‘We want you to perform a single task. A gesture for the good of Stele Valley and its people.’
‘What!? What could I possibly do for this fucking place?’
‘You will offer yourself to the god in the rock.’ The Priest directed Brian’s gaze into the abyss that was once a working tin mine.
‘I don’t care anymore! You are crazy, you’re all crazy but if playing along with this insanity will get me and my wife a million miles away from this hell hole… I’ll do it… I’ll do anything!’ He breathed the words, defeated.
‘Good, I’m glad. We all thank you.’
‘Just tell me, what do you want me to do?’
‘Enter the rock, that is all. Follow it until you meet the end.’
‘I don’t understand? What is in there?’ Brian tried to pierce the black, tried to see all he could in the mine.
‘The god in the rock.’ Added the Butcher.
‘The god in the rock!’ Brian mimicked. ‘How did one village acquire so many nuts?’
‘You do as you’re told! I’m tired of this now!’ The farmer spoke up, prodding Brian’s ribs with the metal of his gun barrel. ‘You go now, or I go see your wife. Send some buck shot in that sour mug of hers!’
‘You do anything to harm her, and I’ll kill you… All of you!’ Brian’s face screwed up in ferocity, but he couldn’t even convince himself.
‘There’s no need for this, he’ll go.’ Said the Butcher. ‘No harm will come to her, friend. I promise. Take this, you‘ll need it.’ He handed Brian an oil lamp, already lit.
‘How will you know if I make it to the end? How could you?’
‘We will know. Now please, time is fleeting, the sun is high’ Explained the Priest as he begun to walk Brian to the entrance. He spoke closer to Brian’s ear. ‘Please pay no mind to my agrarian friend. His temper is short. But we all, the village and I, look upon you as a hero. This is truly an honourable act.’
‘What honour? I am a hostage, my wife and I are being held here against our will, and you speak to me of honour? If I had a choice we’d be dust! I would leave, and send every authority I could muster back here… This place isn’t right, this isn’t the real world and you all need reminding of that fact!’
The Priest backed off and bowed his head. Brian, after a shallow huff edged into the black, holding the lamp with an outstretched arm. He took one last glimpse at the village, praying for his beloveds safety before entering the hollow. The shadow swallowed him. The cave exhaled a chilled gust.
‘Are you hungry?’ asked Gloria while placing a plate under Mary’s upturned nose. She was a stubborn person, and without inhaling she blurted no. Eventually she had to breath, and as the smell of; sirloin steak, buttery mashed potato, red onions and rich beef gravy hit her nostrils, her stubbornness was matched.
‘Go on, eat it. It’ll go to waste otherwise.’ Explained the Barmaid as she moved to an adjacent table, wiping up ale and beer with a cloth in the now, empty public house
‘Where is my husband?’ Mary inquired, while eyeballing the meat at her chest.
‘Right now, I’d say, he’s probably half way into the rock.’ Gloria was nonchalant, slaving over the tables as she spoke.
‘I don’t understand, what rock? Why are you doing this?’ Mary’s finger brushed the fork by her hand.
‘Mary… That’s your name right? Mary? I haven’t been here as long as the others, but what I know, is that your husband is a hero. Now eat… Please!’ Gloria moved behind the bar.
‘A hero? My Brian? I’d laugh if I wasn’t so worried about him.’
‘Yep, a hero. You don’t have to worry… Trust me Mary, this will all be over soon enough. And everything will be fine.’
Strangely Mary found her words comforting, she had a way about her. An accent that could be considered simple, but when used to speak such gentle words it was doubly effective. As the Barmaid turned to examine the spoils of the festival (the empty spirit bottles) Mary clasped the cutlery and tore at the steak, shovelling it into her mouth. She sunk from her rigid upright position as the flavour alleviated her stress. She hummed as the warmth of comfort filled her, and almost, just for a second, she’d forgotten about her husband.
The relative warmth of outside was a already a distant memory to Brian. The tunnel was cold, it dripped wetness and the rocks seemed to resonate around him. He was terrified, but then he could count on one hand the times when he wasn’t afraid of something. He couldn’t see much, if anything. The flame of his torch licked the rocks occasionally, when they were close enough, but he kept his eyes on the floor. Hoping that the path was level and that he wouldn’t suddenly plummet to a lonely, broken death.
He questioned the point of all this, he became curious himself as he burrowed further into the rock. What was he to find? How would the Priest know? Was Mary safe? These questions cycled through his mind. Though petrified, the fear of losing Mary to the mob was greater than the oblivion ahead of him. What if he just pretended to reach the end, and then exited to meet the men. Would they know? And if so, would the Farmer take his gun in hand, and head straight for his wife. No doubt smiling his psychotic smile, while his steps acquire a certain spring in them. He couldn’t risk this. His wife was everything. His life was forfeit for her safety, without a shadow of a doubt.
For Mary, this was his mantra. For Mary, for Mary, for Mary. It was as regular as his footsteps, eventually it left his head and he spoke it out loud. This sent his heart into his gullet. To hear his voice in this desolate place was terrifying. The words echoed and immediately Brian prayed that another voice didn’t come back. If another voice spoke to him from the darkness right now his heart would give in and he would drop dead. He knew it. Luckily for him, it seemed he was still entirely alone, he told himself that he wasn’t going to do that again, he cursed his idiocy and continued his (private) mantra in his head.
As the metal of her spoon chinked the bottom of the china bowl, Mary was already missing the apple pie and clotted ice cream she’d just gorged.
’More?’ Asked Gloria, smiling.
Mary nodded, holding back as much as she could. She couldn’t explain the feeling, but this food warmed her soul. As her bowl was refilled, she let out the smallest of smiles, just enough to show her appreciation but not enough to show her lacking concern for Brian. But her concern wasn’t half what it was when her husband was taken from her. She didn’t understand, nor question the fact. She just tucked into her second helping.
‘You know Mary…’ Gloria pulled out a chair and sat beside the glutton. ‘We grow and breed everything there on your plate. Everything we eat is our own. I made that clotted ice cream myself. We rely on each other and the god in the rock for our harvest… Good isn’t it?’ She tilted her head to the half eaten pie.
Mary mumbled in agreement, licking a trail of cream that almost got away from her lips.
‘We look after our own, and in turn the god in the rock looks after us. I mentioned before that I hadn’t been here as long as some of the others. Well that’s true. Seven years now.’ Mary nodded in between slurping. ‘I arrived here with my partner… Ellie.’ This caught Mary’s attention, her eyes wide. ‘My beautiful Ellie.’
‘Yep Ellie, the love o’ my life.’ Her words were sad, but her smile still full.
‘And there I was, thinking you were after my husband?’ Mary chuckled softly, before clogging her mouth full again.
’No doubt your husband thought so too. But its my way, it comes with the pub. Part of the job description.’
The Barmaid sat silent in contemplation for a moment. Mary’s mastication was all that they could hear.
‘There is a place for you here.’
Mary’s ears pricked up.
‘What do you mean?’
‘There is a place, for you here. A beautiful cottage, freedom, a community that will love you…’ Gloria placed her hand on Mary’s.
‘I don’t understand?’
‘You could stay here, same as I did… Already you’re forgetting about him aren’t you?’
‘Brian? No I could never…’ She shook her head.
‘No of course you wont forget Brian, the man, the martyr. But the love you shared… its distant now, isn’t it.’
‘No.’ Mary lied. She couldn’t admit that this was true. Inexplicably true.
‘Ellie… She entered the rock seven years ago. And I sat here, where you are now… I know how it feels. There is no need for guilt.’
Mary’s eyes glazed over.
‘What’s wrong with me?’ She sobbed ‘What is happening?’
‘It’s okay Mary. I was the same. The god in the rock wills this. It wants us to be happy, and now it considers you one of its own.’
The last hundred feet or so Brian had felt a presence. It hummed his bones and grew with every step he took. His flesh became pimpled and his hairs electric. Curiosity was now his carrot, dangling so closely to his face, he moved now at some pace. Closer now his bones twitched, his nerve endings popped and snapped. A pleasant sensation, he felt all the symptoms of cold, but none of the discomfort that married it.
He was close now, instinctually he knew it. His mantra still looping in his mind for Mary, for Mary, for Mary. The iron cart rail had ending some time back, and the tunnel was awkward, unrefined. He had to climb through openings and sidle through gaps. He did this for minutes before tripping and shattering his only companion, the lamp, into pieces. Now he knew what darkness truly was. He crawled on hands and knees, feeling his way. This process was slow but he inched forward (assuming he was heading the way he had been all this time) like a mole, envious of the mammals capabilities.
What seemed like an hour had passed and Brian felt he’d travelled for miles on his knees. The warmth of the blood he felt sticking to the inside of his leisure trousers would have made statement to that fact. He still felt the air around him, dense and amniotic. It vitalised him. He must have turned a corner because he could see something, this whole time he wasn’t sure if his eyes were open or closed, but this appeared to be light. He crawled towards it, it was blue and pale, hardly any light at all, but maybe his senses had sharpened.
As he approached it, now on his feet, the glow was stronger. He turned one last corner and reached a cavern. His breath was cut short. The cavern was neon blue, luminous and vast. He felt the energy from this room, it buzzed like a room full of generators. In the centre was a solid four sided structure, polished and pristine. Not like the rocks he’d spent the last few hours clambering over. It was the base of the needle on the hill, it ran deep and this was its root. It throbbed, pulsed, as if it had a heart and arteries. It was alive, Brian knew this for a sure. Only someone who stood in this cavern, beholding the obelisk, would know or believe this to be true.
He felt drawn, invited in and his body obeyed. He moved forward, slowly though his organs remained static until pulled by Brian’s ribcage. Everything became clear to him, beyond words and he knew only two things; I must offer myself unto this god of the rock. And secondly his cherished wife Mary was going to be okay. His sacrifice was hers as well as the villagers of Stele Valley. He spoke the words I love you as he took one last step, making himself a memory, and nothing else.
The ground shook, the hills groaned and the village of Stele Valley rose from its slumber. The people took to the streets and gathered to marvel.
Gloria pulled Mary, gleefully giddy, like a child. She pulled her outside to the crowd. Mary witnessed the mass swaying and singing a song unknown to her, all linked arm in arm. The tune was humbling and exquisite. Every man woman and child looked up at the needle, some crying, some laughing, others smiling while some had the look of utter relief upon them. Gloria linked arms with Mary and another hooked her other arm. She looked towards the hill and then back to the gathering. A tear rolled down her face and before the salt reached her lips she felt the corner of her mouth turn. She was smiling, and she knew at that moment that everything was going to be alright.
© Copyright 2016 Daniel Mullaney. All rights reserved.
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