A trip into the past - with beasties!
It was back in the reign of William the Second, him they call Rufus, when my tale commences. Since those are very distant times now, let me set the scene for you. It is night, for the days are filled with labour for those oppressed by the Norman yoke and only the rich have daily leisure to indulge in spine-chilling dalliance with the dark side of life. Just at night do the weary peasants have an hour or two to relax in the local inn and swap rumours of strange beings from other lands.
As we follow the rutted road to our chosen village, we should take note of how dark is the night, the lack of light allowing us to stumble into unexpected dips and bumps under our feet, making the journey a haphazard one. Up above, however, the sky is ablaze with a multitude of stars, a black curtain pierced with thousands of holes. As we watch, a glow on the horizon announces the imminent uprising of the moon and then, with a suddenness that surprises us, her noble face graces the sky to gaze down on the earth.
Now the road is quite visible and our journey comes swiftly to a close, the warm lights in the window of a wayside inn at the edge of the village being first to greet us. Lift the latch on the heavy, oaken door and let us enter.
Inside, the room is dim compared to others we are so used to but the sound of conversation is friendly and everywhere. The language is Old English, very much like that in Mr Chaucer’s book that is yet to be written, and I will have to translate to aid our comprehension of what follows. To preserve at least some of the atmosphere, I will attempt to render it in the country dialect of more isolated parts of the southwest of England.
We drift further into the room, smiling and nodding at the fulsome greetings of the happy and rough-clad peasantry at the tables. One fellow has caught the eye of the landlord and is ordering ales for us. We steer towards him and sit at his table.
“Arr, ye be travellers by thine attire,” he begins and then presses us for news of the places we’ve been. We smile and I try to satisfy him with a few tales. Then the ales arrive, served in stout mugs of simple design. The drink is unlike the stuff we call beer, being much darker and without a head, but it tastes well enough and is apparently potent, your smile broadening as you sip tentatively at the liquid.
Our new friend is also well advanced on the way to happiness and he leans in toward us and asks, “And what of yon dark spirits, yon elves and imps, do ye know of such things? Be there dragons out yonder and all manner of strange and loathsome beasties? I’ve heard tell of some daft things in my time, I can tell thee, and most of them come from travellers like unto thee. Be there things out there that ye have seen and how be it that ye be here to tell the tale?”
I thought of all the outlandish creatures that inhabit the world that this fellow could have no knowledge of. They might not be the dragons and demons that he wished to hear of but many of them would seem that way to him. So I tell him of a few that come to mind - the poisonous platypus with duck bill and feet but warm fur coat and tail like a beaver, the gangling giraffe with its long legs and neck able to graze on the thatch of his cottage, the vampire bat that sucks blood from the herds of cattle. He stops me at vampire.
“What’s that ye say? Vampyre?” He turns and yells at another table. “”Here, this feller’s seen vampyres, Alfred. I told thee they was real.”
A broad bull of a man stands up and approaches us. “Not meaning to be rude, mates, but thine say so don’t make a thing true. Are thee telling us thee have actual truck with these beasts? I mean, have thee seen them and touched them and, mayhap, even been bitten?”
I have to admit that I’ve not actually seen a vampire but have it on good authority that…
Alfred ignores me and turns to our friend. “There, see, it be just another tale some old wife’s been putting about. These fellers have heard it and now be telling those who’ll listen. Don’t be so ready to believe whatever finds its way into yon village. You be no more’n a fool for these lies, Hubert.”
That starts an argument and we take the opportunity to finish our drinks and prepare to go. Alfred looks up and asks, “You fellers on thy way already?”
We tell him it’s time for us to travel on but he is not deterred. “I’ll walk with ye, mates. ‘Tis a fair step to yon next village and my cottage be on that road. I could show thee the way.”
So we leave the inn, a chorus of good wishes forming our send off, as though these good people have known us all their lives. Alfred turns out to be useful, as the road divides and crosses others in a confusing pattern. There are no signposts but Alfred is sure in his directions and we are soon well out of the village and approaching the point where Alfred says he must leave us. We stop to say goodbye.
That is when I catch the gleam of fangs in his mouth, bright white in the moonlight. He looms even larger and seizes us both in a steel grip, hauling us to our toes and smiling into our faces.
“So ye be not schooled in the ways of vampyres, is it? Ah, my friends, it seems a happy chance that ye chose my inn to drink in tonight. Now ye’ll learn all about yon vampyres, all ye could ever wish to know and more. It be only a pity ye’ll not be able to tell of it.”
With that, he sinks his fangs into my neck.
Word Count: 1,060
For SCREAMS!!!, July 24 2020
Prompt: Write a story that has no mention of modern technology. No fridges, cars, phones or TVs…