The Bluebottle Boys – Bethany, Part 1 (Section 3 of 4)

The Bluebottle Boys – Chapter 11, Part 3 – Solihull, late March 1962: Bethany, Part 1 (Section 3 of 4)

Bethany[The featured picture is of a portion of the trail leading to/away from Ravenshaw Ford.] “But how now, where might Stan be?” Bethany said, anxious to change the subject. “Not permitted t’ be near me,” I said. I told Bethany the whole sad tale of our Holi/St. Patrick’s debacle and its woeful aftermath.

She laughed in places along the way, but held me reassuringly at its conclusion.

“‘Tis passing strange that thou didst do as the Hindoos do, but there was naught but fun in its intent, and no harm in it. Much has been made of trifles, and ‘tis unfair what hath befallen thou both. One canst but hope that time and Jove shalt grant thee grace and abate anon the harshness leveled upon thee.

“But word of another matter hath come to me, and urgently needs must I speak to thee of it. For I have heard as thou doth plan to enter upon another spirited, shadowy world, where the spirits be not like me, but dark, dangerous and soul-fearing. There, thou and thy federary hath challenge made to Scurvy Jack the swinge-buckler, his mome henchman and flirt-girl at Warstone Lane Cemetery abrook with thee Monday night anon, that whomsoever of thee abides longest amongst the spirits there palmy shalt be o’er the others. Be these pallabras ill-regulated, Reggie?”

“Ian’s my ‘federary’?” I asked, pretending not to understand what she was saying. “I hadn’t thought of him in such a way. And, ‘Scurvy Jack the swinge-buckler’ – I like it,” I added effusively. “Never thought of calling Rufus that before; I think I’ll use it next time I see him. And, I can’t wait to see Drusilla’s face when she blows a fuse after I call her a ‘flirt girl.’ Thanks, Bethany.”

Bethany’s words became slower, separated, insistent – and more modern. “Rightly. Have. I. Heard. Of this matter, Reggie?”

No way I could evade this time; I’d have to answer her.

“Yeh, sums it up fairly well. Howdja know?”

She sighed, shaking her head. “Schools venerable as thine do have a fair few spectral beings knocking about. Word doth travel in the spectral ether, tho usually by more circuitous routes than those to which one might be accustomed in the Temporal. Be assured, the spectres at Warstone Lane knoweth, as well – and shalt not disappoint. But the place be banned, Reggie, and one of wroth. My gain-giving be far too great, for I feareth as thou beshrewt there shalt be. Please, Reggie, wilt thou not forsake this folly and foreswear this venture?”

“Wot, back down? When by now half the school likely knows of it? I – I can’t do it, Bethany. I mean, I hear wot you’re saying, but… but to do that now… I’d rather face wotever’s there, no matter how bad it might be.”

“Then we must proceed most vigorously, with neither intermission nor indurance, to aid thee in addressing what be there.

For mark my words, tho spectres attend there, they by doors and walls shalt fleet, well from harm’s way. The gusts thou shalt feel no mere flaw shalt be, but swarth-ellinge creatures, which move with great spleen and owe allegiance to dyvellin beyond the direst of thy imaginings. Make haste, therefore, and come with me.”

We both stood, faced away from the bridge and walked towards greenery 15 meters or so in the opposite direction from which we’d gone that Christmas Eve day. To my surprise, it parted as we approached. I’d not thought it either as deep or as dense as it now appeared to be. It formed an archway over us, which became so dense that it became a virtual tunnel, lined with snow, as we proceeded.

A minute later, it thinned, becoming an archway again.

Twenty seconds after that, she and I exited the archway and stood in a tiny, vaguely trapezoid-shaped clearing, no more than three meters wide at the narrow end, perhaps twice that in length, and four meters at the wide end, culminating at the front end of a cottage. It was set into a new snow-crusted set of woods on the other side, and only the front side was visible. Other sides were completely surrounded by foliage.

The visible side was painted forest green with a crudely stained wooden door and had a single window, a quadrilateral that had tried hard to be a square and had failed miserably: none of its corners being anywhere near 90 degrees, and its sides being of four varying lengths that only roughly averaged a half-meter each.

“Your home?” I asked.

She shook her head. “Once again, we here but abide between walls, but mine own in the Spectral be much like it. For our purposes today, thou mayest well consider it to be mine – ours, in truth – whilst we here doth yet remain.”

We walked to the front door and entered.

© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

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The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) is available from Amazon books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is due out in September.

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G. H. McCallum

G. H. McCallum is author of the Reggie Stone series, the first of which, Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall, was released on 12 December 2014; look for the second, The Bluebottle Boys, in late spring of 2016. He blogs principally on the 1960s, Victoriana and magic realism.