“My name is--” began Clifton.
“No, no! I know your names. I’ve been expecting you. Your names are Flavious and Octana!”
“Our names are Pip and Clifton,” corrected Clifton.
“Oh, well, if you wish to change your names, I also offer that service,” said Mrs. Somerset.
“We’re fine with our names,” said Clifton.
“I want to change my name to Mortimer Towelkeeper!” cried Pip, excitedly.
“No, you don’t,” said Clifton.
Pip laughed as though a clay pot had broken her femur and agreed.
“Do you remember me, Mrs. Somerset?” asked Pip.
“I remember only what the spirits tell me… Plus, the name of every James Bond film in order.”
“Why have you come to me?” asked Mrs. Somerset.
“We seek the Shadow Imp,” answered Clifton.
“Very well,” began the medium, “let the spirits guide us.”
Mrs. Somerset explained she would channel the spirits to Clifton’s hand. She gave him a biro and Clifton held its tip to a piece of paper. Mrs. Somerset closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. She placed her hands on Clifton’s upper thy. “Are you ready to begin?” she asked.
“Do you have to put your hands there?” asked Clifton.
“No,” said Mrs. Somerset, unmoving. “Close your eyes and let the spirits move your hand.”
Clifton concentrated and pictured the Shadow Imp. He felt his hand moving across the page.
“Let’s see what the spirits say,” said Mrs. Somerset.
Clifton opened his eyes and looked at the page. It said: You’re a prick.
“Is this the answer you sought?” she asked.
“No,” said Clifton.
“Let us try again.”
Clifton closed his eyes and the pen scribbled madly across the paper. He looked at what he had written. It said: You’re still a prick.
“This is fun!” said Pip.
“OK,” said Clifton, “that’s enough.”
“The spirits are testing you,” said Mrs. Somerset. “Concentrate harder.”
Clifton closed his eyes and focused his mind. His hand darted frenetically across the page for what seemed an eternity. The pen dropped from his fingers and Clifton's exhausted hand fell to his side. He opened his eyes to discover he’d penned The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens verbatim.
“This is bogus,” said Clifton.
As he pushed his chair back to stand, the pen flew into Clifton’s hand and guided it furiously over the paper. The heavy strokes shaded the paper. Images of shadowed shapes and a saddle slowly emerged. The pen disintegrated and the hut’s lights flickered you’re a prick in Morse code. The roof blew off the hut and the walls flew outwards, causing ice cream stick shrapnel to spray everywhere.
“What is happening?” cried Mrs. Somerset. “My hut!”
The tartan blanket swept off the table and Mrs. Somerset flew screaming into the tree tops. A wind blew over the table and horse hooves galloped around them. After a moment, the wind ceased and the sun set.
“How did it get so late?” said Clifton.
“You wrote out a complete work of Dickens,” said Pip. “I’m surprised it didn’t take you days.”
Darkness fell over the forest.
“I could use a black wine spritzer right now,” said Pip.
A candle floated out from behind a tree. The flame flickered and danced throwing shadows across the forest.
“Is the flame dancing the Charleston?” asked Pip.
“It’s the Macarena,” whispered a piercing, hissing voice.
The candle cast a long shadow over the clearing. A skeleton horse jumped out from behind a tree and reared-up.
“Run!” cried Clifton.
Clifton and Pip ran deeper into the forest with the skeleton horse in pursuit. Pip noticed the ice cream sticks were providing a soft, low impact surface for running and made a mental note to take some sticks with her next time she went jogging. Nearing exhaustion, Clifton and Pip finally lost the skeleton horse.
Clifton gasped to catch his breath.
“My knees feel great,” said Pip.
“Follow me,” said Clifton.
The pair could hardly see 2ft, 60.96cm or 609,600 microns in front of them. They edged carefully forward. Pip felt something brush past her ear.
“Jigg for me,” whispered a voice to Pip.
“Clifton,” said Pip, “I heard something.”
“Shh! It’s just the wind.”
They pushed on.
“Light my candle,” whispered the voice.
“Clifton, I heard something again!”
“It’s probably the phonogram you keep in your pocket.”
“I’m going to push you over into a patch of dirt that’s slightly muddy, then point and laugh for a bit,” whispered the voice.
“That’s not very threatening,” replied Pip.
“I know,” said the voice, “I left my knife at home. I was improvising.”
“Improvising? Are you part of a flashmob?” asked Pip. “Clifton, I think the Shadow Imp is talking to me.”
“Pip, it’s probably just reeds rubbing together creating a resonance that sounds like a person threatening you,” explained Clifton.
“My skeleton horse has found you!” cried the voice.
Clifton heard the voice this time. The skeleton horse galloped towards them from the darkness. As the horse neared, the forest lit up. Clifton shielded his eyes from the bright light, while Pip lay down a beach towel and tanned herself. Clifton squinted and his eyes adjusted. He and Pip were surrounded by the four missing guests from Spriggs’ Inn. They were contorting and jumping up and down rhythmically, emitting a brilliant light. Their room keys dangled from their mouths, each covered in the cream from a welcome chocolate mint. The guests stared blankly and rang a counter top bell every four bars.
A tree bent at the trunk and its foliage lowered. A shadow cast across the leaves. First the shape of a hand shadow puppet snail appeared, then a deer, followed by an Indonesian shadow puppet play about a prince’s quest for true love. The shadow crawled down the tree and as it hit the forest floor, morphed from a flat shape to a three dimensional object.
It took form of a cloaked figure and it sprung onto the back of the skeleton horse, completely blocking the rays Pip was catching. It was the Shadow Imp.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures with monsters & ghosts will continue with a new entry every week.
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