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Shelter In The Storm

(c)Alison 2006

It was a dark and stormy night. The wind was howling through the trees. All of a sudden CRASH! The loud peel of thunder made Tim jump, as he was hurrying home from a night out. He cursed himself for having missed the last bus, and he didn’t have enough money for a taxi…. Not that he’d find one in this filthy weather anyway, he told himself.

The rain was lashing down harder than ever now, and the thunder came almost simultaneously with the lightning, the storm was directly overhead. CRASH! Another, even louder, peel of thunder and Tim nearly jumped out of his wits. He hurried along with his head down, trying to keep his face from too much lashing from the rain. There was nowhere to shelter, and before long Tim came to an awful conclusion. In his hurry, he’d taken a wrong turn, and he found himself in an unfamiliar part of town. There were no houses round here, no shops, and up ahead of him was a playing field.

He stood for a while, contemplating turning back, but he felt sure, if he crossed the playing field it would be a short cut to where he wanted to be, and hopefully close to his home. The field was sodden, and very muddy. Every step was an effort, but with what seemed like a thousand squelches, Tim had reached the fence at the other side.

Oh no! He thought to himself. A horrifying thought struck him… this didn’t lead anywhere near his home at all… ahead of him lay dense woodland, behind him the sodden playing field. The storm showed no signs of letting up, and Tim decided to follow the direction he THOUGHT his home should be, and carry on through the woods, at least the trees would give some little shelter from the driving rain.

On and on Tim trudged through the undergrowth. The thunder and lightning was more in the distance now, but the rain was still pelting down as hard as ever. He stumbled over a broken branch on the ground. Before he knew what was happening, he was lying, face down, in a pile of wet, muddy leaves. He’d hit his head hard, which dazed him for a few moments. Trying to get up, he swayed with dizziness from the searing pain in his head. He was wet, muddy, disorientated, and now his head was throbbing badly. Every movement was an effort. Finally, Tim was able to stand. He looked around him for a few moments. The fall had left him confused, and now he didn’t know which way to go.

Just then, up ahead, he saw a small clearing, and made his way towards it. As he got closer he could see a light coming from a small building. Shelter perhaps, he thought to himself, his heart racing with anticipation of getting out of this torrential rain, still pelting down hard, even through the dense trees. Seeing the light gave Tim an extra burst of energy, and he hurried on, towards it.

As he approached, Tim could see the small building was, in fact, a small, crumbling, cottage, and the light was coming from a small downstairs window. Taking all the courage he could muster, Tim gingerly knocked on the cottage door, and waited. A few moments later, the door was opened by an old man, with long grey hair, and wizened by age.

“Hello” said the man, “who are you, and what do you want?”

“Er… I’m Tim, and I was hoping perhaps you could give me shelter until the storm has passed, I’m wet, and my head hurts… maybe you have a phone, I could phone for help or something”.

The old man looked at Tim, then replied, slowly,

“Alright, you can come in. I’m sorry though, I don’t have a phone, but I think you are in need of some refreshment. My name is Igor…. Oh mind where you are putting your feet, you’ll get mud all over my floor.”

Tim noticed now, that the man spoke with a slight accent, although where he was from, it was impossible to tell. Igor instructed him to take off his shoes, and then showed him into a small sitting room.

“You’ll need a wash, my boy” Igor said, with the first signs of a smile across his thin mouth. “I will run you a bath, follow me, you can leave your clothes on the floor outside the bathroom.”

Tim thanked him, and did as he was told. The bath water was cold, but Tim was just glad to be getting clean again. After his bath, Tim found an old dressing gown, worn and tattered, waiting for him when he got out. He slipped it on and went downstairs. There was an inviting smell coming from the kitchen, and Tim seated himself in an old armchair in the sitting room.

For the first time, Tim was able to take a good look around the room. It was small, and very dimly lit, the only light coming from the last embers of a fire, glowing in the grate, and one flickering candle, on the windowsill. From what Tim could see of the room, there was an old wooden table in the corner, another old chair, near the window and a big dusty bookcase against a wall. The floor was mostly wood, with an old, tattered rug in front of the fire.

Presently, Igor came back in, carrying a tray with a bowl of steaming hot broth on it.

“Get this down you, lad” he instructed Tim. “I’ll just settle myself in this chair over here.”

The broth had an unusual taste, not unpleasant, but not like anything Tim had ever eaten before. It was very hot, and burned his mouth, but he hadn’t eaten in several hours, and was very glad of it. All the while, Igor was watching Tim carefully, from his vantage point near the flickering candle.

After his meal, Tim felt drowsy, and he leaned back into the chair and closed his eyes. When he awoke, several hours later, the first thing he noticed was a cold draught of air on his head. He opened his eyes and realized he was no longer in Igor’s sitting room. Instead, he seemed to be in a stone cellar, lying on a cold, damp floor.

“Igor!!” Tim shouted, “Igor, where are you?”. There was no reply. He tried to get up, but his head was hurting even more now. He put a hand to it, what was that sticky liquid? His hair felt matted. He smelled his fingers… yes, his suspicions were correct, it was blood. He groaned. He was cold, he ached, and he felt very groggy. He tried to look about him, but it was very dark. There were no windows, wherever he was.

The old dressing gown gave very little comfort, as he tried to pull it further round him against the cold. Finally, head still hurting, he managed to sit up, and lean against the cold stone wall. He called out to Igor several times, but received no answer.

The pain in his head showed no signs of easing, and for the next several hours, Tim drifted in and out of consciousness. Tim was eventually roused by a noise overhead. He tried to get to his feet. It was an effort, but Tim was able, at last, to stand. He wavered a little but leant his hand on the wall for stability. Just then, Tim heard a door opening, and footsteps coming down what sounded like stone steps, towards him. It wasn’t Igor though. It was a younger man, heavy set, and quite tall. The opening of the door had sent just enough light for Tim to make out the features of this man.

“Oh you’re awake then” the man growled.

“Who are you?” Tim asked, but the man said nothing more.

Thud! A fist sent Tim reeling against the wall. He staggered, then fell. By now, Tim was feeling very weak, and he hurt all over. He started to sob, and couldn’t stop. Eventually, he drifted into a fretful sleep.

“Ow!!” Tim felt a foot in his side. He was being kicked, repeatedly.

“Ow! Stop! Get off!” he shouted. He looked up, and saw it was the heavy set man. There was more light now, and Tim could see his face more clearly. He had very dark hair, thick bushy eyebrows, a wide nose, and a snarling mouth.

“Get up!!” the man growled.

“I can’t, you’re hurting me” wailed Tim, “Who are you, and why are you doing this to me?”

“Not that it’s any of your business”, the man’s voice was softer now, “but I’m Lug, and as to why I’m doing this… well, Igor told me to” he let out a loud, bellowing laugh “and it pays to do what Igor says”. With that, he stopped kicking Tim and dragged him to his feet. His body ached all over, and his head was pounding. He was dizzy and very weak.

Lug grabbed Tim’s arms, and put something metal around them…. He was being chained to the wall. Tim was horrified, and tried to struggle, but it was no use. Tim wasn’t the strongest of boys at the best of times, and Lug had the strength of ten men.

“Why does Igor want me hurt?” Tim sobbed, “All I wanted was shelter from the storm. He was kind to me, let me have a bath, and something to eat”.

“Oh yes” laughed Lug “a nice COLD bath, and a gruel to make you sleep”.

“But why?” pleaded Tim, “please, just tell me why?”

Lug finished chaining Tim to the wall, then he took a stick of chewing gum out of his pocket and seated himself on the bottom of the stone steps.

“Aye well,” be began, “no harm in telling you, I suppose….”

Tim waited for Lug to pop the chewing gum into his mouth, and he continued…

“Igor is a wizard. He’s been living in these woods for many years. He is the kindest, gentlest wizard anyone could ever hope to meet…. However, if there is one thing he cannot stand, and hates above anything else, is wickedness. Seeing as how he is a wizard, he is psychic, and it’s one of the law of wizards, to punish anyone who is wicked, cruel hearted, or in anyway not good of heart. He didn’t tell me what he sensed from you, but, I think I can guess it wasn’t something nice…. Or else I wouldn’t have been called for”. He laughed again.

“But I’m a nice person, I’m good” moaned Tim, in despair.

“Yeah right” laughed Lug, “Igor is NEVER wrong. Anyway, I’m off now, but rest assured, I WILL be back…. We must obey the wizards’ law.

With that, Lug went back up the stone steps and closed the heavy door behind him. Tim started sobbing again. He was in so much pain, and he couldn’t even sit down, he was chained to the wall, with his arms above him, and just his toes resting on the cold stone of the floor.

Lug, true to his word, did return, several hours later. Tim was becoming delirious. The blood from his head was dry now, and made his scalp itch. His sides hurt with every breath, he was very hungry and dizzy, and could barely focus properly when Lug came back to see him.

“S’alright” Lug told him “There’s one last thing I have to do, then my job’s done, and you won’t ever see me again”.

Tim was too weak to even reply, but he let out a cry of terror when he saw what Lug was carrying….. The pain from a branding iron is unimaginable, and the cry Tim let out as the white hot metal burned through his flesh was unimaginable too.

 

 

 

Many years later, when Igor became too old to live by himself, he sold the cottage and moved in with his nephew, Lug. Everyone who came to view it always decided against it, though, saying it had a ‘strange atmosphere’. Eventually, after several years of it lying empty, the bulldozers came to knock it down.

“Ere Tom” called Charlie “There’s a cellar here, looks like its been bricked up” Tom and Reg came to look. With the help of Doug, Gavin and Robbie, they knocked it down and took torches into the cellar… all they found was one cold, damp stone room, with a skeleton chained to the walls… remnants of an old tattered dressing gown still clinging to its bones!!!!

The End


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