Crankwood Chapter 2

Earlier, What had happened before.

It was always warm in those years and on the day that begins this tale. Insofar as any story can start. As if anything can simply begin with a knife cut across time.
Warmth associated in some strange way with texture. Warm and light.
There was dappled light on the dappled skin of the smaller than average boy standing under a tree, a willow, weeping, by a river.
Warmth from a summer sun. Light that in turn fell from tree to river before disassembling itself in tangled rotting root caverns. Disappearing down deep submerged pits and into inaccessible gothic recesses.
Or it was by direct contrast warm and light in the high air around and above, sparkling with golden mote insects.
The boy had thought at one time that all these particles were evidence of the Divinity. That all was God. The large and the ultimately unknowable. This is what they told him. That God was all around and everywhere. That He could see and feel everything and He was very easily upset. Omnipotent was the word that had been used when they had told him with switch and harshness. When they had beaten God’s love into him. It was, the boy peevishly thought, a particularly petty divinity that required such undivided and unquestioning attention.
These dust motes (that were God) then are the insects in his clothes and in his hair, falling bright and shining green gold up from the river.
This was air with texture and form, woven, in fact, as a carpet of the Orient. The kind of air that interrupts, becoming atmosphere with tangible textile complexity.
Green surrounded this boy as he hid from prying enemy eyes. He hid from searchers who could now be heard faintly moving, (he hoped away), from his hiding place down the riverbank.
He sleepily watched in the water itself a small whirlpool hypnotically spinning river detritus up into spiral innards.
There was a breeze, sparse, hot and restless, like a panting dog.
Cattle with splayed cloven hoof had recently come down to this place to drink; Large stinking, splattered brown had added further to the muddy embankment.
White and orange butterfly dipped and floated on invisible strings. Bees hummed and Damselflies copulated.
It was not silent.
Landing on the ears only, it seemed after a suitable lapse in time, the sounds of a morning farmyard. The faint crying of a farm dog chained and miserable, a cock crow answer, someone hammering and a blackbird calling frantic staccato alarm from between the hedges. A single lark, high and singing.
Unburdened and soft, the boy dreamed. Leaning lazily against the willow by the edge of the river.

A profusion of green surrounded. Green enclosed the clearing he had made for himself. This was something the boy did often in avoiding others. The children of the valley that came upon these called them his camps. They knew full well who had made them.
Except for the river edge the clearing was roofed and walled with green.
Overhead and to three sides spread willow. Mixed with the tree and almost as high stood strangely scented flowers with bright magenta and white blossom. This ‘balsam’ had strange exploding pods that tingled like an electric shock when touched.
In the hot, green space cleared out by the boy, hung various groups of luminous dust motes, sparkling golden.

The boy watched them intently.

We shall for the sake of expediency continue to call him the boy. He has a name of course. The name that his mother and family call him, usually with regret in their voices. The name that came with water and singing and his Mother’s belief. But a name has power and as this is not yet pertinent.

At the mid point of the valley, running parallel with the river for about half a mile was the street. A double row of houses incongruous in such a sylvan agrarian setting.
Two parallel lines of alternate terraced and detached in red brick with multi coloured doors. This was Crankwood.
One rutted and unrepaired road ran in, (or out) along the valley, crossed, one would think rather irritatingly, a bridge. This, although made of stone and carved, had seen better days.
The rutted road ran out, (or in) again along the valley bottom, although someway from the river this time on the opposite bank.
The inhabitants of our village were vague on the ultimate destination of these, as they understood it, two roads, calling them rather intelligently Eastbrow (pronounced brew) and Westbrow respectively. To say they were uninterested would be an understatement. To say they felt it not right to know would be nearer the mark.
Outside news filtered in occasionally via these conduits courtesy of peddlers, tinkers, vagabonds and the odd, unwelcome black preacher.
The only other building of note in the valley aside from street and sewage farm was an old, rather large and ornate farmhouse called ‘Leeshi’. This also was situated about the centre of the valley but this time on the ridge that everyone called Winter Hill. Leeshi or Lightshaw Hall had been built in 1610 as a combination, fortified manor and way station for the mule trains that came across the Pennines.
The industrial Revolution and the coming of the canals and railways put an end to all that with the remnants of a moat giving the only clue to the farms original use.

The farm was now derelict. The farmer, Smith had gone blind and hooligans had burned him out. These people came from the street and were the same who now searched for our hero, the boy. He decided it was time to move.

The boy moved off downstream. He could no longer hear voices. Once more he was alone.
This absence did not bother him. He preferred to be alone most of the time understanding the real difference between being alone and loneliness.
“They can all bugger off,” he thought peevishly. He was still in temper and the rather hectic journey through the undergrowth had not served to cool this by much.
His idea was to remain out of sight for as long as possible. He had not given much thought too much else. He knew that to return was to receive two possibly more beatings. One from his drunken Father, it was the weekend after all and one from his erstwhile ‘friends’. The characters that diligently searched even now. He wished only, as usual to be away from all and everything.
This would be peaceful if he could control himself. Lying down in the long grass of yet another clearing. Closing eyes may help. In his boyish fashion, he had begun to think of all others as grotesque. He was embarrassed to know them and ostrich fashion if he ignored them, perhaps they would eventually go away forever.
He was tired, suddenly, achingly very, very tired. And yet even this fatigue irritated.
The young boy lacked the intellect to rationalise, his anger was therefore unreasonable. Perhaps someone somewhere was concerned about him. But that very concern was contemptible. He would learn through his solitude. This childlike truth calmed somewhat. He would eventually return with enough secret and arcane knowledge to beat them, if not at their own game then at his own.

The boy knew instinctively that this thinking was clumsy, dreamy. Conscious thoughts became few. Like the river or the breeze through the trees, he crept into trance. Silent of intruders now in Ophelia’s private world. Contemplating strange archipelagos in murky water.

It was a ritual. Almost a legacy, almost, indeed, a summoning.

Jumping into an awareness that he was drifting into a sleep he could not afford heavy eyes where opened. And shut again quickly as a shaft of sunlight shot across the river.
Tears ran down dirty cheeks. A whirring sound, insectlike behind his eyes.

Through his misty vision the boy became aware of a shape pulling itself away from the shadow of one of the trees. It resolved itself into a manlike shape seeming to flow outwards and up from darkness. A mixture initially of solid and liquid, of fog and tree. Green and gold and quicksilver but with an unmistakable menace.

Crankwood Chapter 2


Joined January 2008

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Chapter 2

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