Under the Rich Blue Sky

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A village that lives in the blue.

Submitted: September 06, 2015

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Submitted: September 06, 2015

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UNDER THE RICH BLUE SKY

The small village should have been called Blue Village, due to its having everything in it blue in some tone or other. The local pub was called ‘The Blue Bottle’, and at night when all was quiet and everyone was resting, the village was shrouded in a ghostly blue light. Anyone coming from afar wouldn’t see the blue light until they were actually entering it. Although it was blue it wasn’t cold, but the opposite, and had no temperature to it at all. It was just - blue. How it had happened, no one was privy to such information. Some said it was a curse, others said it was to keep out the bad spirits. To all intents and purposes it existed, and no one knew what to do about it, if anything. Every night when the publican, Stanley Lane, shut ‘The Blue Bottle’ he wondered what would happen if he changed the name of the pub. For example he could call it ‘The Green Bottle’, which was rather common, or he could change it altogether and leave out the word of colour and bottle.

He went up to his rooms, which were above the bars and the restaurant. Sandra, his wife of many years, would be carrying out one of her nightly rituals, which always included smothering her face with thick cream, which she followed up by wiping it off with tissues, and then applying tonic lotion. Sandra spent a lot of time on her face because, as she said, “The general public comes here for a meal, a drink, and a chat, and if I don’t look my best they won’t come back.”

Stanley would smile and often wondered what her reaction would be, if he told her the customers went there for the drinks, especially the beer, but not just to see a well made-up woman. Although it was a country pub, Stanley had a cocktail waitress, called Tina, also working behind the bar. It was rather unusual for a remote village to serve sophisticated drinks, but that was another part of the mystery or strangeness of the village.

 

The mayor Ward Browning and his wife Janet Browning were sitting in their elegant living-room waiting for their nineteen-year-old daughter, Cherish, to return home from a date with her boyfriend, Darren Carlton. They weren’t worried about the two young people being out at night, but there were rumours that odd things could happen at night when no one was expecting them to. The detective film they had been watching came to an end, and Ward said, “I’ll stay up to see the late night news, by then Cherish should be home.”

Darren stopped his car outside the mayor’s smart home, and said to Cherish, “See you tomorrow. OK?”

“Yes, that’s OK by me. I’d better go in now, as I’ve kept my parents up late enough. Has the late night news finished yet?”

Darren took a look at his expensive watch, which had been a Christmas present from the mayor and his wife. “The news is a few minutes away from ending, before the weather report comes on.”

Cherish got out of the car and walked rapidly up the garden path to the front door. She didn’t have to get out her door key, Janet had heard the car and recognized it as Darren’s, and had the front door open, “Did you have a nice time?”

“Yes, Mum, thanks. We went to a new disco in the village of Greenwood. It’s only been open a month, but all the local young people are filling it every evening. The music’s good and the DJ’s fantastic.”

“How nice for you, Dear,” Janet said, as she shut the door behind Cherish.

Neither of them watched as Darren in his car drove home in the blue light that was emanating from some unknown source around the village.

The electric-blue sky was caused by extremely small crystals that were forty-seven miles above the earth. That was the explanation for the sky, but what caused the whole village to appear blue? As far as any member of the village knew - nobody knew for sure. Darren parked his car in the garage, and went indoors and shed the blue look he had worn when outside. Some of the villagers were still alive, who remembered the village and the surrounding countryside before the blue light had existed. Then at night everything was bathed in blue, and came the dawn all the natural colours returned, and the only blue was the sky on a sunny day, and in the flowers. The blue had come slowly, only noticed by a few, who had nothing better to do than observe all the comings and goings of all the local activities.

 

Out of sight of the village and surrounded by ancient tall trees, there existed a hollow of great proportions. The villagers were not bothered by its existence, because the whole area was covered in dense foliage. The deep sides of the hollow had become a natural reserve, filled with streams, waterfalls, and woodland abundant with wild life. The area was the site of scientific interest and that was where the blue light had its beginning and its end. The local people were awed by the immensity of the hollow and held it in respect. The origin of the hollow being used as an underground facility for scientific research, went back quite a few years, even before the births of the mayor and the publican, and many of the older generation living nearby. But the hollow held an even older secret than the modern scientists or anyone else imagined. In mediaeval times, a group of alchemists had used it for carrying out their own experiments. They lived in small dwellings built amongst the undergrowth on the sides of the hollow, even though they spent their days inside the laboratory they had created under the protection of the foliage. The only give-away to their presence was the smoke that exited the hidden chimneys. The smoke had endless smells and colours, which were blown away by the strong winds that were ever present. In those times, if anyone wandered near enough to where the alchemists were busy carrying out their secret experiments, they were welcomed by sounds and aromas totally unknown and unpleasant to the stranger. When such a person was accompanied by a dog, the said animal would send up a horrendous barking, and drag its owner away from the hollow.

As a consequence, none of the men who lived in the small villages within walking distance, went poaching in the hollow, in spite of the birds and animals that inhabited it. Therefore it was ignored and then abandoned by all - even the alchemists - and Nature, who had its own resources, took over the area to protect the alchemists’ old laboratory.

 

Hundreds of years later, the local county authorities decided to construct a tunnel near the hollow. They said it was to avoid building a road and a bridge from having to pass over it. The entire population inhabiting the villages got together. They were up in arms, and voted against the tunnel being constructed, with no abstentions, and they proved to be so rough and tough in their dealings with the building contractors and the police, that the tunnel idea never saw the light of day. One of the engineers associated with the tunnel had seen the remains of the alchemists’ benches, clay mixing pots, weights, and he guessed what might have taken place in the hidden hollow.

 

Over the next weeks, Oliver, the engineer, spoke to people he already knew who might be interested in the hollow. He met up with quite a few who didn’t match up to what kind of people he had in mind. The search was tedious and boring, till one day he met a scruffy type called Barnaby in a pub as equally scruffy. The latter had been involved in many scientific capers, which appealed to Oliver. The two declared themselves a partnership, without knowing anything about each other. But what could two ambitious, but not over-gifted men do?

The first thing was to put an announcement on Facebook, which soon received many replies with the most extraordinary CVs any future employer could wish for. The advertisement said nothing about the alchemists’ presence once upon a time in the hollow.

Oliver and Barnaby travelled to the hollow, and checked out everything they found that had belonged to the alchemists.

“What are we going to do if nobody suitable replies?” Barnaby asked.

Oliver said, “We found each other, so we have to assume someone will find us.”

“Let’s hope they find us soon. How many extra men do you think we need here to help us?” Barnaby asked.

“Have you noticed all the coloured powders lying around here? I thought at first we could make fireworks.”

Barnaby stared and laughed, “Is there anything explosive available?”

“We’d better take a detailed look at what’s here. You never know what might be found in these abandoned sites.”

Barnaby and Oliver began mooching around the ancient laboratory. They had taken with them powerful torches and they played the beams of light from where they were actually standing, over the walls and the floor. Everywhere they looked had a sooty covering, and it was not to be surprised at, as the old occupiers had needed fire to get their inventions going. The smell of old smoke mixed with chemicals overcame them and, in the end, Oliver said, “I don’t know about you, but I need fresh air.”

Both men staggered out of the smoke-smelling room and cut their way through the undergrowth to the lowest point of the hollow.

“Oliver, what are we going to do up there?” Barnaby said, indicating the barely visible entrance and exit from where they had just left.

Oliver sat down and thought, and said to Barnaby, “The alchemists were capable of making silver and gold. I don’t think any of that has been left behind, but we could possibly invent something to make ourselves some decent money.”

“That sounds OK to me. As you know, I’m on my uppers and need somewhere to live and so do you, going back and forth to London isn’t my idea of a good time. I’d like to get away from the ‘big smoke’ as soon as I can.”

Oliver had already given quite a bit of time and thought to their situation in the hollow and said, “There are houses for rent in the surrounding villages and we could either rent one or live in a pub. What’s your opinion?”

“Do you remember where we met? The pub sounds fine to me. I suppose you’ll rent a house.” Barnaby finished.

 

The following weeks saw Oliver and Barnaby moving home. As Barnaby had predicted, he went to live in the pub ‘The Blue Bottle’ and Oliver rented a small cottage. Neither of them mentioned to the villagers why they had gone to live in that particular village.

The twosome became a foursome when Oliver employed Martin and Ryan, both said they were unemployed chemists with a fair bit of work experience.

 

One evening in the pub, when Barnaby, Martin and Ryan were imbibing, Barnaby asked Stanley, “Why is this pub called, ‘The Blue Bottle’?  It’s reminiscent of a large kind of fly.”

Stanley smiled, and said, “There’s a story that a blue glass bottle used to be on the mantelpiece in the original inn that was on this site.”

“Oh, really, what happened?” Martin asked.

“The inn burnt down years ago, before anyone hereabouts was born.”

“What happened to the blue bottle?” Ryan chipped in.

“It’s hidden away in a cupboard owned by the brewery, as it didn’t want the blue bottle to get stolen. It was the only thing that wasn’t destroyed in the fire. Everyone considers it as a talisman, something lucky, and they didn’t want to lose it.”

The trio of newcomers stayed in the pub and had a succulent dinner in the restaurant. Sandra was her usual glamorous self and enjoyed having new men around. That evening there was no more talk of the blue bottle. A few of the local men got up onto the small podium and began playing and singing old folk tunes. One of them was the story of the fire and the survival of the blue bottle. Barnaby and the other two thought it was a pity Oliver wasn’t present, as some of the words referred to the alchemists. Barnaby wondered whether the locals knew much about the old time scientists. Martin said, “Do either of you fancy a cocktail. Somehow or other I must have a chat with the cocktail waitress.”

Barnaby and Ryan laughed at Martin, “You don’t fancy a cocktail, you fancy the girl, don’t you?” Ryan said cheerfully.

“Never mind saying silly things. Do you or don’t you want a cocktail?” Martin asked them again.

“As long as you’re paying, I’ll have one,” Ryan said.

Barnaby said, “I second that.”

Tina finished serving her present customers, before responding to Martin’s calling her. “Hello, can I bring you anything?”

“Hello. Please get us three ‘Blue Moon’ cocktails,” Martin asked, as he gave Tina an upper and downer.

“I know it. I shan’t be long,” and she walked to her spot behind the bar to prepare the drinks.

When the drinks came, Martin said, “Let’s raise our glasses: Drink blue - taste orange!”

Ryan and Barnaby laughed and sipped their bright blue cocktails happily. Tina brought them a selection of nuts and olives to accompany their drinks. When she was standing at the bar, she sent them some inquisitive looks. She had worked in some very elegant cocktail bars on land and on cruise ships, but to find three men ordering ‘Blue Moon’ cocktails in a pub in a small village, gave her a great surprise.

 

That evening paved the way for the villagers to swill back ‘Blue Moon’ cocktails, and the pub displayed a notice which informed everyone who passed by:

 

‘COME IN AND DRINK ‘BLUE MOON’ COCKTAILS

 PREPARED BY OUR VERY OWN TINA’

 

Inside the hollow the four men got down to work. All of them were avid to become rich and famous. Barnaby still had the idea of making fireworks, everyone else doing what they could with the alchemists’ leftovers.

 

It wasn’t long before the blue haze began to appear over the village. It wasn’t so unusual, with the hollow being so near, and it was a heavily wooded area and natural emissions of chemicals made it possible, but with the quartet creating all kinds of new things inside the hollow, made the climate in the hollow and nearby villages much worse. Those who were working in the hollow were unaware of the blue haze and eventually the blue nights. During the day the haze wasn’t so bad, but at night the sky was the most brilliant blue, and the haze gave everything and everyone a blue look.

Investigators were sent down to try and find out the origin of the blue haze, but the local people were told that the plants and the leaves on the trees emitted gases through their leaves, and as the hollow had an overabundance of gases from the trees, it created a blue haze or aura. The mayor asked the government what could be done about it all. The government said that, as there had been such a protest about the tunnel near the hollow, nobody was willing to exasperate the villagers once more. In other words, they had to get on with it, and find a solution by themselves.

Meanwhile, the men who were making the blue haze and the blue light, were busy in an effort to put something different on the market. Strange powders that they didn’t know the names of, were mixed together, and some of them were turned into paste, with water from an unknown source that ran into the hollow, a small stream that was a continuous flow, and was a blessing to the men who spent long days in the dry atmosphere.

 

Martin’s arrival in the village had uplifted Tina’s morale. She had been through various romances in her life and in the end she had gone to the village for peace and quiet. ‘Too quiet,’ she used to think to herself. The blue haze and the blue light didn’t bother her at all, she saw them as something associated with the village. Martin never revealed to Tina where he went every morning or what he did, and she was too happy with him to want to upset things.

At night the sky was an even brighter shade of blue, which began to lighten up at the approach of dawn. Quite a number of villagers could be seen gathered in small groups, chatting and pointing skywards every morning. The mayor and his wife looked out at the sky as soon as they got up, “Janet, I’m going to ring the Environment Agency and let them know that something odd is happening in our village.”

Janet walked to the breakfast table, sat down, and poured coffee for the two. “What would you like for breakfast? There’s a good selection of breads, cakes, and fruit.”

“How can you eat at a time like this when we’re all turning blue?” The mayor said, irritated by his wife’s laid-back attitude.

Ward got no joy out of ringing the Agency, and so texted a message. ‘Hello, Ward Browning here. I’m the mayor of the village that opposed the tunnel being made near the hollow. This message is to let you know that the whole area is now blue from morning till night. In the mornings it’s a blue haze that seems to come up from the earth. So what are you going to do about it?’

Janet said nobody would take any notice, whatever her husband said. Cherish arrived at the table and sat quietly eating her breakfast, “Where’s Daddy?”

“He’s sending a message, demanding the Environment Agency do something about the blue haze and the blue light.”

Ward strode back into the breakfast room. “I don’t suppose for one minute we’ll be hearing from them,” and sat down and had his breakfast.

Cherish stood up, and said, “I’m going shopping with Darren and his mother. See you two later.” She kissed them both, and left.

 

In ‘The Blue Bottle’ Stanley and Sandra were getting the bars and the restaurant all cleaned up with the help of the waiting staff, so that they would be all shining, ready for opening time.

“I’m off upstairs to tart myself up for the first customers. I always like to look my best,” Sandra said, as she left the bars, leaving Stanley to check the temperature of the beers and ales.

 

The four men inside the alchemists’ old place had not a clue about what they were messing with. None of them knew anything about the measurements they should use in order to get the balance right. Barnaby was still into making fireworks. Martin and Ryan fancied creating gold and silver. Oliver didn’t mind what they turned out, as long as it was a money-maker. Barnaby was really endeavouring to make gigantic Roman candles, that would shower bright shiny stars as they rose into the air. He was dabbling with all the ingredients he thought would work. Martin said, “You need more gunpowder, or the fireworks won’t rise up high enough,” and poured into the mixture a lot of gunpowder.

Ryan said, “Can I be the one to set it off?”

He lit the base of the newly created firework, which then made a strange spluttering sound.

“The mix of new and old chemicals isn’t going to work. Take it outside,” Oliver said.

 

They took the experiment outside, where the fresh air became a decisive factor. There was a muffled explosion which sent a large white puff of smoke into the air, that hovered over the village and the hollow, the bright shiny stars showed up in the smoke just before it vanished. When the air was clear again, the four men stared around them, and the villagers who were out and about reacted in the same way.

 

All the blue had gone - for good.

 

Oliver, Barnaby, Martin, and Ryan stayed on, and in time formed part of the local legend.

 

The only blue things left in the village were the bottles of curaçao, and ‘The Blue Bottle’ pub. 


© Copyright 2018 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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