The Cottage

It would be easier to capture the scent of a rose with my hands than explain to you the thin places of this earth. They appear and as easily disappear. They can last for centuries, millenia even or are as fleeting as a thought. They centre on a place or more readily a person or even a thing and yet cannot be defined by any of these. To give a definitive description would be like giving the same name to everyone on the planet, for they are unique as each one of us is completely individual. We can apportion some of the most beautiful and some of the most depraved, evil acts in humankind’s history to their effect. For we have to explain here that these thin places are where our dimension comes into contact with ‘Others’ – an otherness wholy different to our own, where humankind cannot stand under the force of good or ill that seeks to permeate through at these entranceways to our planet.

Where there are significant upheavals in world events these can be symptomatic of an active thin place. Any spiritual misalignment, cryptic mystery, mystical mayhem or a break out of the miraculous may be indicative that the Other is close. Any deformation of appearance, any appearing of strange beings, any tale of myth and fairy tale magic are beacon markers that a doorway is close. For these way markers litter the annals of literature, of history, of legend with their descriptions of other kind. The other is always hinted at in our stories, reported in our papers (and explained away), exalted by enthusiastic proponents. These thin places are ways through and they are dependent upon a powerful force in all mortals that break the bounds of time. For where there exist thin places to good, there are also those for bad. And belief is a catalyst and action upon belief the cauterising iron that punches through the dimensional divide. Many are or were geographical where events preceded an opening or an opening caused events? A battle, a murder, summary justice on a gibbet tree, a malevolent coven. Which did come first, the event or the doorway? What was a catalyst for what? For my mind the dark holes in our existence were created and these events helped cement an entryway forming a covenant with the forces that feast on such woebegone nature. And yet there were others where the sheer good done by one became a catalyst where it was said an open heaven fell.

Unguarded and unchecked, a chink in the dam and a doorway left open would see whole worlds pour through and sweep this dimension away.

These are the hidden things.

Moretonhampstead is one of those rich cross roads where so many ways have been opened, for on the edge of the moors was a rich proving ground of the darkest and brightest souls. The cottage stood on the outskirts of the village, picture postcard perfect, tucked down the lane that was no longer a main thoroughfare, and especially for motor vehicles. But in days of yore the sunken path was one of the many routes for travellers that crisscrossed the edge of the moors. Now these ancient trackways only hinted at bygone times, where phantom roads meet. The trees that lined the raised banks produced a tunnel of secrecy. Indeed walkers were prone to bypass this section of track due to the strangeness of atmosphere that would steal down upon airs that flowed as if from some other world. At the corner of byways stood the cottage, the thatch overarching the small windows with their reedy canopy that displayed the thickness of the bundles sparred into place. The doorway made one stoop and you had to wonder whether the builders had been from another place altogether. For to be perfect the dimensions of the doors and windows, the proportions of walls to thatch were so unlike any normal house as to be totally impractical for living. The rooms were low ceilinged, the staircases rickety, steep and narrow, the rooms small yet cosy and codling. It was a building from a different time, that is granted, but I would have to go further and point at an origin from a different race.

The old man who lived there had been old for generations. Certainly those that now had grandchildren of their own could swear he had been the archetypal venerable aged citizen of the parish in their own childhood. He had this habit of creeping into the villagers topics of speculation. He was the talk of the town and had been for the best part of a century. And yet none of this talk was directed to him. In fact, nobody ever talked to him and this had been a fact for far far longer than a paltry hundred years. You see, this old man lived across the years. He was the shepherd of the thin places in Moretonhampstead, the guardian that was there to stop the present from unravelling. And where he had succeeded no battles had engulfed his small piece of reality in the Devon countryside. No dark forces had coerced the minds of men to massacre his fellow man, no inhuman technology had been born to inflict untold misery on millions. For this old man had been a victor for his cause. Not so for every thin place, where the door keeper had been overthrown and a tide had risen that had engulfed the place, the area, the nation, the world. And then it had been up to the doorkeepers to redress the balance and in doing so thwart human’s propensity to sweep everything away.

The doorkeepers were those sent to pacify, to apprehend, to hold back the tide. Those who could traverse the echoes of history, the ethereal fogs of the past and emerge at any time where the threat was darkest.
And their reward?

To be ostracised and victimised for their role. And the young mum’s at the school gate would in time become old wives and their tattle fed upon the darkness that seeped through for the doorkeepers couldn’t hold everything at bay.

Jay McDonnell was a boy that couldn’t be kept at bay! He hid in the thicket alongside the main road. It had become habit and as his habits had become increasingly erratic he had begun to be dropped by his friends and openly shunned amongst his peer group to the point of dislike, aggression and hostility. The isolation he longed for cut him off from the company he craved. Life outside school while everyone was at school offered a wealth of opportunity but no company to exalt in the joys. On days like these he would reassure himself this was his own form of home schooling, for on these days he learnt to dream on oceans rather than being drip fed a concoction of limited intent. For he did dream and they were expansive and wide and long. The time he spent in classrooms made him feel imprisoned within the drawl of endless targets and words made up to explain other words. He craved life and tucked in his hedgerow he was surrounded by it.

He would spend the morning working through the fields towards the lane. He would be safe there, nobody ever ventured that far. Indeed the lane was a route to nowhere now, apart from the old cottage. The place compelled him, a coercion that inhaled him, drew him and held him captive. Not as a prisoner but captivated as a zealous disciple is drawn to their master. He had watched the old man who lived in the cottage many times from various vantage points atop trees or from beneath the skirts of bushes. Nobody ever came and it was clear from the old man’s content and happy demeanour nobody was ever desired.

On this day the man was nowhere to be seen and the cottage stood forlorn. No smoke wound from the chimney as it usually did, the door was closed, not left wide open as it usually was and the opalescent light that always emanated from the grimy windows was lacking. Instead of the warm eerie glow that filled the hollow where the cottage lay the place was still, shadowy and lifeless. What was noticeable though was the sizeable hole in the thatched roof as if some great explosion had punched through without a lick of flame. Here was learning, here was education – to know what to do? Jay sat quietly contemplating the scene and really didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know the man. It wasn’t his business or right to pry, but something felt wrong. And that’s when you risk. That’s how the world teaches you its mysteries.

To his knock there was just a hollow echo that disturbed the dust over the frame and it cascaded down over him in a slow motion avalanche. The door wasn’t locked and the closeted silence greeted him like a roar. It’s times like this that your heart beat, your breathing, every nervous movement is a resounding unsymphony, a discordant cacophony in your own ears. Nothing stirred. The room was a mess even before something huge had shouldered through a wall, collapsed the staircase and smashed through the first floor landing. Jay stared up at the blue sky above. A hole down to the cellar showed where the force had originated from. Jay peered over the edge of the thick oak timbers that had been splintered as if they were little more than matchsticks. Into the hole below he now stared and wondered.

The cellar should have been small and mouldering, but the chasm below delved down through smooth rock into the darkness. The darkness swirled and rose as Jay reached under the boards and he dipped his hand into the soup of blackness. There was a tingle of recognition and the blackness acquiesced and sank back which reminded Jay of calming a simmering brew after taking it off the boil. There was no sign of the old man amongst the devastation. What had he stepped into? It was then he spied the journal amongst the ruins of the desk. He snatched it up and opened the cover and read the disturbing preface on the inside cover.

The property of Jay McDonnell… Note to self… spoilers are an important method of self preservation…keep a diary…oh, and run… the thing that made the hole is coming back…

Jay looked up as a shadow fell across the hole in the roof. The blue sky had disappeared and he looked on in horror as the large scaly legs of some giant reptile landed heavily on the roof. Jay ran clutching the diary close to his chest. The diary in his name, the diary in his handwriting, THE diary, his diary? He stumbled over smashed wood in his rush, tried to right himself, caught his foot on another splintered beam and pitched over the edge of the hole into that first eternal fall into nothingness.

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