Murder and Mystery in Epping Forest.
On the outskirts of London, there lies a huge forest. Many people walk there without any clue of its strange inhabitants. This forest belongs to the Centaurs and they guard and protect it fiercely. These beautiful creatures, with the upper body of handsome elven folk; and the lower body of larger powerful horses, take care of the forest and avoid humans at all times.
The Centaurs of Epping forest are believed to be the last of their kind in England, belonging to one huge tribe, but living in smaller groups throughout the forest. The forest itself is one of the last remaining untouched forests for miles around, it is protected land, and the Centaur population is safe there.
Life for them couldn't be more perfect but for one problem. On the furthest side of the land, there exists a place humans have never seen. They are stopped long before they reach it and turned back around, by strange creatures no-one has recognised.
The land here is hard and stony, and slopes upward toward the mouth of a long sleeping volcano. No human is even aware of its existence, slumbering quietly far away from their cities. Here in this harsh and unforgiving landscape, dwell the Giants.
This great race of people are the opposite of the gentle and caring Centaurs of the forest, and little by little they have pushed into their home, trying to take the lush forest for their own. They are cruel and cold, standing at a minimum of fifteen feet tall. Many of them are thousands of years old, and remembered when they were the dominant force on the earth.
Once, everyone had been giants, but after numerous wars and natural disasters, mankind had begun to shrink in stature, and their brains began to grow. Now there were only these left, and they were determined to expand their home into the forest. They only had to deal with the Centaurs first.
The centaurs had recruited the help of Banshees to help guard the edge of the forest closest to the home of the Giants, it was these that turn the humans away from the land of Giants to save them from discovering their world is not entirely their own. Any stray humans found in the land of Giants will most likely be eaten; and though the Centaurs do not care for humans and their limited intellect, they will protect them as best they can.
The war between the Centaurs of Epping forest and the Giants had been raging for many hundreds of years, with each side taking heavy losses. There was never a day of peace, always with one side attempting to end the war for good in some new way.
All of this goes on round the clock, and none of the humans that lived within the forest, or walked its many paths had any idea of the true inhabitants of their beloved Epping forest.
Sitting in the small dull space his nurses and guards called a room, but was really a cell, Barry Carroll began planning his escape. He had been here for fifteen long years, after he murdered his wife and her lover when he caught them in his bed together.
He had been locked away for life, but he had been able to maintain a plea of insanity and had avoided a traditional prison. This place was actually an asylum for the criminally insane, but no matter how they dressed it up, it was a prison.
There were guards on the doors, and the 'patients' had limited visiting hours. No one visiting was allowed to bring any gifts in, and they were locked in their 'rooms' for eighteen hours a day unless they had therapy, or group meetings to attend.
Usually the inhabitants of this institution were kept well medicated to avoid too much trouble when the doors were unlocked, but Barry had been lying about taking his pills for weeks. For the first time in years, he was able to think clearly and formulate a plan to get out. The next time his door was unlocked, he would put his plan into action.
The following day, his door was opened by his nurse and he was told he could use his free time as he pleased, provided he behaved properly and kept to the rules. He had been smart enough to show his guards he wasn't fighting the system, and was willing to conform to the rules so they gave him enough freedom to get his plan in action.
He made his way down to the laundry room and stole himself some kitchen whites. He hid behind a packed clothes horse and took off his thin, grey prison clothes. Both his old shirt, and the prison whites had a HM Prison stamp on the front to identify staff and inmates.
Barry hurried to the kitchen, hoping no one would notice he wasn't usual staff. He thought it would be alright, no one really looked at the patients, they noticed the grey attire and walked on avoiding looking. He guessed that's the advantage of being crazy, no one wants to look at you too much, in fear of setting you off.
Once he was safely in the kitchen, he quickly walked toward the back of the room, where he knew there was a loading bay, for delivering the asylum's food every morning. Hoping no-one would notice him, he pushed open the door and stepped outside.
It was a marvel he had gotten this far without a single person questioning him. The kitchen staff used that door to smoke, so it was no wonder it was left open. Someone would surely be in a lot of trouble when they realised what had happened.
He wasn't concerned with the punishment of others, and only had the guard at the gates of the institute to slip past now. He was so close to his freedom he started to get excited. He needed to stay calm if he hoped to get out without attracting any attention.
Casually, Barry approached the gate and caught the attention of the guard. He had hoped to just stroll through, but the gate was securely locked and only the guard could open it up.
'Hey there, can you let me out please?'
'I haven't seen your face before, who are you?' The guard asked, looking intently at Barry's face,
'New kitchen staff, I wash pots.' Barry indicated the white uniform.
The guard nodded, and released the gate.
'Welcome to Sunny Meadows sir.'
After fifteen years, Barry was free. He was careful enough to put some distance between himself and the prison before he started to run toward the town at the bottom of the hill. Once there, no one looked twice at him, they were used to seeing various staff members from the asylum, enjoying the air, and lunch away from the lunatics.
Raphael Chase was doing his best to escape the doom and gloom of the recession. The economy was fast going down hill, and he did not want to feel its bite nipping at his heels, no sir. To avoid having to tighten his belt, he had come up with a plan to work two jobs at once. His plan worked as well as it could, and he had found a way to work two jobs at the same time; meaning no extra time in the office.
He was first and foremost, a police detective. He had been doing his job for twenty years or more, and was good at it. When he was thinking about a second job, a stroke of inspiration got him setting up as a private eye as well. This mix of jobs means he gets his official wage from his police work, as well as a private fee for any jobs he took from the general public.
Working the two jobs side by side was easy, his private eye business card gave his mobile number, which he kept on him at all times, ready to take new jobs from concerned people. His police work was organised through the station, and he had his own office there. His access to police resources gave him an edge in the P.I. Business.
This morning, the phone on his desk rang and he was given information from his superior about a missing patient from Sunny Meadows Asylum, a well known institute for the criminally insane. He sighed and waited for his email to ping once more, with the email containing the details of the missing inmate, his crimes and his possible whereabouts.
He was still waiting when the mobile in his jacket pocket rang loudly. Obviously someone had lost another cat, or someone's husband or wife was suspected of cheating. He rolled his eyes as he answered the call.
'Detective Chase, Private Investigator, How can I help you today?' His telephone manner had improved over the months of this kind of call.
He listened patiently, taking notes and comforting the caller in all the right places. This was important when dealing with the people emotional enough to call in a private eye. Turns out, this case wouldn't be so boring after all. The caller was reporting her flatmate missing. Last seen walking by Epping forest.
He took the job, knowing he would have to visit the forest anyway, with some men to hunt down the missing patient from the hospital. He scratched the callers name, address and phone number on his notepad, along with the name and basic description of the missing flatmate.
She was nineteen blonde, blue eyed and slim, wearing black leggings and a long white customised t-shirt. Her name was Megan. His email finally sprang to life and he scanned the information on Barry Carroll. He would start over at Epping, as many escapees from Sunny Meadows tried to hide in there until the search was called off.
He quickly gathered a task force and together they headed to the forest to start the search. While the team were combing the woodland for clues or tracks of the wanted criminal, Raphael interviewed a few walkers. He struck lucky with the third interview.
'Hello, I am Detective Chase, we are here today in search of an escaped criminal from Sunny Meadows, and in a separate case, a missing young woman last seen in this area. Have you seen anything unusual today?'
'Actually, I am glad I ran into you. I just saw a middle aged man in what looked like white scrubs, dragging a young woman through the forest. You'll have to move quickly though, they were way on the other side, you know where all the weird animal sightings are reported?' The passer by looked truly relieved to have found an officer to pass this information to so soon after seeing this incident.
'Thank you sir, I'll get over there right away.' He moved off quickly to move his team on.
Raphael and his team crossed the forest as quickly as possible and soon found the tracks made by the convict and his captive. They followed them carefully and when the forest ended they stood in stunned silence.
The Banshees had been asked by the Centaurs to allow the police by, to catch the deranged man and his hostage. So the team had no issue getting to the opposite edge of the forest. They could never have been prepared for the scene that awaited them.
On the very edge of the tree line, was a stone wall, interrupted only by the heavy and ornate iron gates. The gates had been opened slightly and there was no doubt as to where the wanted man had run to. Raphael's team quickly moved through the open gates and what they found froze them to the spot.
Along one side of the walls, was an army of Centaurs. They held bows and were ready to rain arrows down on something on the other side of the enclosed space. The team's gaze followed the stares of the mighty creatures and saw Giant men pulling away chunks of the opposite wall.
In the middle, was Barry holding the girl in front of him, to protect his body from any police action. Nobody could believe their eyes, and as they stood there, the Centaurs with out bows, charged around Barry and his hostage toward the Giants as the ones with bows began raining arrows down upon the oblivious Giants.
Banshees screamed overhead deafening everyone and pushing Barry over the edge. Keeping the girl in front of him, he approached Raphael carefully. Raphael was having trouble concentrating on anything besides the rise and fall of the Banshee as they dove out of the sky at the Giants, seeming to attempt to force them back.
As Barry got close enough to be heard over the screams and roars of the battle raging around them, he looked at him.
'Barry, Give me the girl and let's all go back to Sunny Meadows. I'll help you personally.'
'Don't you see? I have to end it. It's the only way I'll get any peace. Ever since I stopped taking those pills... this girl is part of her... she has to die, so I can be free of this torment.' Barry rambled.
It was now that Raphael took in the rest of his surroundings. They were standing in a graveyard, but it was unlike any he had ever seen. Each tomb was covered by a large stone statue of a centaur. Each one was different, as if it had been created in the image of the creature laid to rest there. It truly was spectacular.
'This girl is the daughter of my wife. I have to end her line, you can't save her.' Barry spoke quickly.
Looking around at the police surrounding him, and the strange war around him, he slit the girls throat with a hidden blade he had stolen from town. The police team fell upon him at once as the girl fell to the ground coughing up the last of her breath.
Barry was quickly taken back to the asylum, and put back on his medication, which he happily accepted now. Meanwhile Raphael and his team were desperately trying to get the police chief to believe their story. They all knew what they had seen in Epping forest, but every time they brought it up people thought they were crazy.
Anyone who attempted to go and see for themselves the stage of the epic battle were misdirected and turned around by creatures they couldn't quite see, and never did identify. For the people of the surrounding towns, Epping forest and its inhabitants will forever be a mystery.
© Copyright 2016 R A B Bradbury. All rights reserved.
Book / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Flash Fiction
Short Story / Flash Fiction
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