|" 'The Sphinx of Dartmoor'. That looks like an interesting spot to visit," Chester said, retying his walking boots. They had stopped at the Dartmoor Inn for refreshments and to ask the locals for places to see. They were handed a leaflet by the landlord, who had a kind of smirk on his face.
"How far is it?" Sherie asked. This walking holiday was not really her idea of fun. A trip to England for her meant Carnaby Street, Buckingham Palace, the Cavern Club, the Edinburgh Festival, not open moorland, mud and miles of hiking.
"It's not that far," Chester assured, downing the last of his cider. "Fifteen, twenty minutes tops." He looked over at his wife's forlorn face. "Come on Honey, we'll do this then I promise tonight we'll go into Plymouth, stay at a good hotel and go see some of the night spots in the famous Union Street, you know, where Beryl Cook did those paintings of the fat ladies."
"That was the Barbican, idiot." Sherie was into all things arty. What she wasn't into was dressing like a commando and assaulting the Devon countryside. "Okay, let's go see your Sphinx thingy."
"Look out for Vixiana," the landlord shouted as they walked out the door.
"Vixi what, what?" Sherie asked.
"Don' worry 'bout it Hun. It's just some urban legend." They set off across the road to the lane the landlord had told them about. Farm tracks led off to left and right of them but Chester had been told to go straight on. The trees formed a dark corridor as they headed for the tor. "Now which way did he say? Oh ye, Woodtown." A slight break and then deep into the trees.
"I thought you said twenty minutes tops. We bin walkin' for hours. I'm pooped."
"Sorry hun, not much further now. Just round this corner." Around the corner was a steep hill. At the top of the hill stood an ancient church. "We could take a break and have a look at the church hun." The church, St Mary's, was your typical English country church. A grave yard surrounded the 13th century building. The door was firmly locked.
"I need a break," said Sherie, sitting down on someone's tomb. "Didn't I see a sign for a hotel. They gotta have a restaurant or something." They tramped around until they found Sampford Manor. "Jeez, no restaurant."
"Come on hun, you got water in your pack. We're nearly there now." Sherie drank from her water bottle and suffered in silence as they trudged up to the next crossroads. The tor appeared at the top of a steep incline. "There's a lane for the most part, hun. It's only a short walk over open moor." As they passed a large country house and took a track toward the tor Sherie gave up.
"I'm not going any further." She perched on a dry stone wall. "I've had it." She took another drink. "You wanna climb up there, you're on your own."
"Aw come on hun. The view from the top's gonna be amazing."
"A view of what? Rocks, scrub, the odd tree?" Sherie had dug her heels in.
"Okay, okay, I'll go on my own. You just sit there being miserable."
"Chester, it's four o'clock. It'll be dark soon. It's not safe."
"I got at least a couple of hours. If you get scared knock on that house there." Chester started up the track. Sherie took out her binoculars to follow his progress.
The track was steep and uneven. Chester was soon struggling. Sherie was right, the light was already fading. He looked up at the tor. "Gee, there's someone up there." A dark figure stood atop the rocks. Arms outstretched, her sleeves looked more like wings. She was certainly not dressed for a walk on the moors. "Hey!" Chester shouted and waved.
Sherie had seen her too, through the binoculars. She looked like she was ready for a halloween party. It looked like she was speaking.
Vixiana had her latest victim firmly in her sights. "Oh, mists of time obey my word, come cast your veil upon this place." The mist came out of nowhere. Chester felt its cold fingers embrace his lower limbs, slowing his progress. Its arms embraced him, chilling him to the bone. Soon the veil covered his eyes. He stumbled around, tripping over stones, then falling.
The landing was soft, too soft, far too soft. The mud was clawing at him, reaching out to encompass his legs, his torso. He fought to raise himself. His arms stretched up, grasping at air. His chin high, he took a deep breath as the air was pushed from his lungs by the enveloping mud. He tried to cry out but there was insufficient air to allow for sound.
Sherie watched as Chester disappeared behind the curtain. Two hours he said. Three had passed. Sherie hammered on the door of the house. No answer. Everything was in darkness. She tried her mobile; no signal. Then she started running, running towards the guest house. It took some time but finally she reached the door.
"Your husband went up to the tor you say. I guess Vixiana's claimed another victim."