Restricted Zone

The fencing had gone up overnight a whole building surrounded by the high steel  that surrounds construction sites. It annoyed me only because it barred my usual path to work. I was late and making a detour around the perimeter was going to make me late.

I enjoyed working at the university on a weekend. The campus was often quieter than normal and I could catch up on all the things I hadn’t done through the week. It looked like  they were relaying the lawns and pavement outside the physics laboratories. The  building was big lump of  cement. Seven storeys high made of grey concrete slabs. A fine example of 1960’s brutalist architecture.

Slowly I work my way around the edge, squeeze through this gap and I’m on my way. I can’t help noticing as I pass that no one is doing anything. Lazy sods, I know it’s Saturday morning but this is crazy. There’s seven of them standing, sitting, one on a digger, one on the phone. All with orange hi viz trousers and jackets.

The weird bit is, they are motionless. It must be one of those set ups for YouTube. There must be somebody nearby filming. That’s it they’re students, the whole thing is a prank.

“Excuse me mate, is everything alright?” I shout to the guy nearest me sitting in his digger.

Nothing, no response, not a flinch, zilch. As I work my way around the perimeter I find a gap in the fence and decide to go up to the guy in the digger and find out what’s going on. It’s then that the oddest thing that’s ever happened to me, well just sort of happens.

As I move the metal fence to get into the restricted area, my arm and then a leg crossed the threshold. They both went numb, no feeling in them whatsoever. I thought I must be having some kind of seizure until I looked around at the stiff staring faces of the guys who had come to fix the paths.

I forced myself backwards dragging the two useless limbs with me. On one leg, with one arm working I hopped backwards falling on the grass. as I sat looking at the strange scene in front of me it reminded me of group of children’s toys vehicles and action figures awaiting their human playmate to bring them to life, to give them life.

As I sat on the ground wondering what I should do next one of the university’s security guards came around the corner. He was a big burly chap who didn’t fit his uniform well and had broken into a sweat as he had clearly been rushing.

“What are you doing here this area is restricted, we saw you on the CCTV. Quickly come with me we need to get away it’s spreading,” said the guard.

He helped me up and I hobbled while he huffed and puffed as we moved away from the fenced off area. That was the last time I was ever at the university, in fact not long after was the last time I was in Leeds.

It seems the physics guys had been running experiments like physics guys do. The problem was they were experiments banned in every country around the world. The lure of making that big discovery or a lot of money. Something made them do it, we’ll never know as they were both in the lab when the problems started.

I’ve not really got much idea what they did, someone says they set an electromagnetic wave going and it’s heading out from the lab like ripples in a pond. The wave apparently travels at one hundred meters per day. They don’t know if or when it will end. The brightest and the best are working on ways to get back into the lab and switch the machine off. The main problem is that electro magnetic gizmo has its own nuclear power source.

For now though we just keep getting moved further from the epicentre. Parts of the UK are evacuating to Europe next week. Until they find a solution I suppose we shall just have to keep moving. Not everyone agrees, they’re the ones you can see from afar in the street or sat in their cars motionless. They say they don’t know whats happening to them, they don’t even know if they’re alive. I don’t want to keep on travelling further from home for the rest of my. If it’s not sorted soon I might just head back and find my way back into the restricted zone.

The Dyodedra

An ancient lowland wood full of life, yet not. A pool hidden, with secrets! A silent, secret pool in the deepest part of the woodland. An ordinary stretch of forest in a lowland plain in the north of England. The Vale of York, a huge flat expanse of land nestled between hills and moors forty miles apart.

The modern age is all around planes overhead, railways and roads dissect the land. Yet here in the heart of the forest is something  so bizarre, as old as time. In this pool there is nothing modern, nothing clean or fresh. As we are made of elements from nature, formed together so is she.

A creature so strange to us, yet when man was in his infancy it was we that were strange to her kind. Her type had at that time inhabited the earth, the dominant species. An earth that was a water world inhabited by creatures formed from the same molecules as man yet looking so different. A shape shifter, a carnivorous shape shifter made from water.

Life had been hard for the Dryodedra surviving in this pool. A stagnant pool within the forest-covered in a thick blanket of pond weed. The big river nearby regularly flooded the whole plain for miles around a hundred years ago. The floodwaters reached the forest a couple of times a year. She had come and gone for ten thousand years. Arriving on a flood tide and staying till the next flood would take her off in search of. A place to have her young. They had not survived since she became trapped in this pool. Modern farming and flood defences had stopped the river reaching the flood plain and so the forest.

She managed to eat frogs and rats, they were plentiful. Sometimes a deer or dog would stray too close to the pool. If they did a long invisible sliver of water would stretch upwards from the pool.  Her main form far below. Like an ant eaters tongue reaching out to grab its prey. Once wrapped around the prey there was such a force that could ever escape. The poor victim was dragged down deep and ingested by the sad creature. For she was sad, her kind had been in decline as humans had evolved and swarmed across the planet. As with many other creatures the Dyodedra were finding it hard to survive in the wake of man.

For now though a few still survived in the worlds rivers and oceans. She so wished the flood would come to enable her to float out of this dirty stinking pool on a spring flood tide. The next time she was sure she would not come back but find a new home. A home in cleaner, fresher water and nearer to a good supply of food.

At times she might rise up above the water, taking shapes of anything she chose. Beautiful shimmering shapes of water. Her home now made that impossible the pool was so dirty. Nowadays as the long watery tendril came out to see who or what was about, it appeared as a long wandering tube of green slimy weed.

On one particular morning not so long ago there was noise not far from the pools edge. A working man was putting up a post and signs. He had been working for a while and got closer to the pool. At last he reached the water’s edge. As he packed away his tools and put his bag on his back ready to leave. The poor man stopped transfixed.

The pool was bright green, almost circular covered as I have said in a thick layer of algae and weed.  A light shone from below and the worker saw what he thought was a pipe coming from the pool. The pipe dripping with water and pond weed extended ever closer towards him. He was baffled trying to work out what it must mean.

Today the Dyodera decided to show herself in a form he would recognise. She slowly rose from the pool taking the shape of a tall human woman. A tall human woman covered in green slime and made from water. The water dripped and flowed from her long hair, down her back and into the pool. It was like a waterfall cascading from her head.

One of her arms was longer than the other and getting long all the time. It reached out beyond the pools edge, long fingers stretching to touch the now raised hand of the worker. He too stretched out in friendship, curiosity, call it what you will. It was of course the wrong thing to do. He should have run, run as fast and far as he could.

The Dyodera whipped her hand around his wrist and quickly wrapped the long greasy tendril around his entire arm. He screamed and shouted, there was no one in the forest that morning to hear his cries. It mattered not, even if there had been he would never have been found. In seconds he was gone dragged into the pool, deep down and gone forever. His clothes and tools mingling with all the other debris in the mud.

The signs he had worked hard to put up were still there though for all to see. The enviroment department had realised that the flood defences on the nearby river were no longer working. Nearby towns were in danger of flooding because of rising water levels. From the next spring the river defences were to be breached at a point near the forest. The plain would flood alleviating the danger to the town. The sign was there to warn people who visited the area that it was liable to flood as it had done for thousand of years previously.

Outdoor Chess

There is a special time in the forest, a vague time. You might miss it, closing the gate as you leave the wood. Rushing to find your way home as darkness falls. You really need to stop, sit down. Relax and wait for the players to return.

 
In this place, it is chess in the forest. The game as always delayed till nightfall. In other places, there will be different forms of fun a swing, a stream a tree to climb. The players will return as they do each night. Unseen as they gather and play their ghostly game twixt dusk and dawn.

 
There is no malice amongst this motley crew. They simply meet in forest clearings and spend some time together. Enjoying the company of others. A troll and vampire, ghosts and zombies cavorting in the dell. Elves and phantoms, skeletons and werewolves play football in the meadow.

 
So, I wait watching this outdoor games board with its oversize pieces left in situ. Day becomes dusk, dusk becomes night and then a small crowd appears watching the thoughtful, patient players complete their game of chess.

Some Thoughts On Trees – August

Wonderful August! If you see me in a wood standing, staring, skywards. Leave me be I’m in a happy leafy world, my joyous perfect place. Each tree unique, working hard to save the planet. Right the wrongs brought on by man. Improving our poisoned air leaf by leaf. This ancient woodland is a dreamlike place, silent. Well, a kind of natural noisy silence? I wander aimless looking skywards, leaves rustle, wind, a distant train, a passing truck. For the briefest time I am alone drifting quietly, at peace through my wooded paradise. Trance like, detached in that special place. Stop, stare, breath. For an instant I am, safe, at peace out of reach. My spirits are lifted by this mellow magic month. Stillness fills this space, time drifts by at natures calm pace. Then, just as I knew it would my phone rings…

Order Is Restored

Sitting at the enquiry desk I feel a presence. I know it’s there. The building is old, a hundred years maybe more, with large cavernous rooms and stairways, The oldest part of the towns university and where the entrance to its main library is situated. I suppose it’s always quiet in libraries, Sunday mornings though are quieter than most days. High above me is a tall rather grand clock tower.

I can hear it chiming every fifteen minutes. That’s not the noise today I’m focussing on today. Thuds and bangs high above me. As if some massive creature were  gripping the tower. I know it’s there, I can feel it’s presence pounding on the old walls. Shouting, calling and whispering. Demanding all around know that today is its day.  The day of reckoning.

It is I am sure telling me that it will find me, seek me out. When it does I know that it will  touch me. Let me feel its presence, for no other reason than it can. 

I move away from this open space deep within the building. Doors above and behind me, banging and creaking. Many floors down the noise has gone. Have I escaped? Peace and silence surrounding me amongst old books, boxes and dust. Then finally it finds me. It’s cold breath hits me squarely in the fce. Its smooth strong arms envelop me.

Down, down through the tower, passed reception to the very bottom basement. It finds me. The wind rushes through an open door and spreads throughout the room. Outside the storm rages rumbling against the walls. Then once again inside calm settles amongst the myriad of words, order is restored.

Daz and His Dog

Daz sat motionless on the old park wall. Tired and cold he was wrapped up all of his layers on. It had been a cold night for early November. His old rucksack at his feet, not much in it. Just some plastic sheets, a sleeping bag and blanket.

The dog standing near him gave a long tired stretch reaching forwards. Arching, aching, willing the cold to leave its body.

“He’s not rushing I don’t think he can these days. Anyway why should he, he must be getting old. He’s been on the streets nearly as long as me. Ten years, is that old for a dog?

The dog turned and looked at Daz in mid-stretch.

“I know it’s time, they said we had to go today but I’m feeding you first.”

Daz and his dog had been sleeping in the park all summer. Sheltering against the thick old Victorian wall. Home had been a broken down tent that he was leaving behind. A succession of visitors had been round recently. The guy from the council, police, a couple of nice folk from the homeless charity. They brought food for him and the dog.

“They always say the same. A shelter, talk of a house, furniture, heating. Questions always questions, who am I, where am I from, why am I on the streets”.

Daz loved his dog, it never asked questions, never judged, just stayed with him. He knew the dog understood.

The guy from the council had arrived standing by the park gates, on the phone. Always on the phone. Probably waiting for the police.

Daz took a plastic bag from his rucksack, just enough food for one meal. Leftovers from the sandwiches the people from the charity had brought and bits of burger from the bins. The dog sat patiently watching as the food was piled into the small plastic bowl.

“Nearly time to go, here you are boy”.

The dog looked at Daz once more.

“Don’t worry I’ll get mine later, something will turn up. It always does”.

The Brooch

After weeks of wind and rain today was perfect, still and dry. The nearby turbines stood motionless, like bleached white skeletons against the dark sky. As ever the dog stood close by its owner panting softly.

Occasionally a bird spiralled skywards startled by something unseen. Standing by the edge of the wood at the corner of the field overlooking the valley, Bill expected one of two things would happen. He was a superstitious man, a believer in good and evil. Gods and ghosts. That type of thing.

It all made perfect sense to him. One month before he had found the trinket while out walking the dog. Right here in this ploughed field. A small brooch made of gold with half a dozen or so small jewels set within it. Hundreds maybe thousands of years old, lying in the earth just waiting to be found.

Bill knew when he had found it that he should tell someone. It was treasure and there were laws to deal with situations where you found things like he had.

How could he tell anyone? It was beautiful and he had decided immediately that he would keep it. Tucked away in his box of old coins and stamps. Nothing special just the things he had collected since childhood. The brooch though was his prize. Tucked away to be taken out and looked at once in a while.

The dreams had started that first night after he found the brooch. A child, a boy of about fourteen approached him across the field. Dressed in simple clothes of dark rough cloth. Fashioned into a top and type of kilt with simple leather sandals. The child moved swiftly and light-footed across the field straight towards Bill. The boy stopped just in front and talked wildly to Bill in a tongue he didn’t understand.

As each night passed Bill grew more tired. He tried in his dream to understand what the child was saying. In the morning he tried to make sense of his dream and current situation. One thing was clear to him. He took the dream as a sign that he had done something wrong. That the brooch should be returned. The child he felt was  visiting him from some distant time demanding their treasure be handed back.

This was how bill found himself back in the field. He made his way towards the centre.

“This is the right thing to do, I know it is,” Bill said talking to himself, the dog or anyone who happened to be listening.

In the distance something had disturbed a family of crows who scattered making such a noise. Round they circled high above the valley. Agitated and chattering, circling higher. More joining the throng as each minute passed.

“Here we go then, either nothing will happen or maybe something. Let’s see!”

Bill stretched back and threw the brooch as far into the field as he could. Bill had to take hold of his dog to stop from retrieving it again.

The brooch landed far away, digging in and sinking in the soft mud. By now there were hundreds of crows, circling wildly. The noise was so intense, getting louder as their flying became wilder and more erratic.

“Looks like something might be happening,” said Bill moving back towards the edge of the field. The dog had run ahead and already reached the gate. It looked back towards its master stumbling backwards through the grass and mud.

Bill suddenly stopped and the dog began barking for all it was worth. Bill stood motionless, the child from his dream was in front of him. The crows above and all around were screaming, twisting and turning like a black living vortex.

“What’s wrong, I’ve given the brooch back. What have I done?” said Bill.

“The wrong thing,” said the child.

“The brooch was sent to protect you, to save you from a darkness that has long been seeking you. I tried to tell you in the dream. The brooch was yours Bill. It would have kept you safe for the rest of your life. Now I am afraid it too late,” said the child.

The dog stood barking. The child retreated. Below the crows a huge dark spinning cauldron had formed.  Phantoms, wicked faces and evil creatures swirled, spinning and sinking deep within the vortex. Evil emanated from its heart dragging poor Bill within. In seconds he was gone, the child and vortex too. The crows settled and returned to their roost. The dog waited a while and wandered off confused, Maybe Bill was at home she knew the way, she’d look for him there.

A Cold Room

“OK stop there Frank. We don’t do surnames around here, your first name will do”, said the man in the black suit.

The unimposing room was cold and poorly lit. Two chairs, a table, a small electric heater working flat-out without making much difference.

Frank sat on his uncomfortable wooden seat facing the man who had introduced himself as Jake. A stern-faced young man. He just sat looking at frank, as if trying to work him out.

“Where am I? said Frank.

“The afterlife of course”, said Jake.

That was awkward, not least because it meant Frank was now dead. That on its own was bad enough. However, it also meant he had been wrong. Frank had never believed in the afterlife.

One life, live it to the full. That had always been his motto. It had served him well until now.

Things were vague, slowly though the course of events came back to him. Booze, way too much of it and a bad bend on his way home.

“I don’t believe in the afterlife, one’s all we get”, said Frank.

“Well now, that’s a little difficult. We have forms and need to go through a few things with you. Let you know what happens next”, said Jake.

Jake got up to leave the room, pausing at the door.

“Tell you what, give us a shout when you do believe in the afterlife”, Jake left locking the door behind him.

Frank? Well he tried shouting, banging, screaming, even pleading. He’s still there, sitting in that dreary, damp, badly heated room. No windows, two chairs and a broken heater. Waiting for the day someone comes back so he can tell them he now definitely believes in the afterlife.

Move Silent and Swift

The world had been dark for just one year. Morgan thought he was managing alright. He had though seen the population of his once busy home city dwindle to a fraction of its size. People just didn’t take enough care. Move silent and swift, that was now the key to survival.

At first when the darkness came life had carried on pretty much as normal. Scientists were working hard convinced there was a rational explanation. The religious were praying convinced their sins had caused it. Morgan wasn’t sure what to think, his main aim was now to get by.

As each day passed things were getting more difficult. Services were failing, with fuel for the first time being in short supply. For a reason so far unknown the sun’s light was failing to reach the earth’s surface leaving the planet in darkness. Beyond the atmosphere satellites and the ISS reported that everything was normal.

The shortage of fuel and food though was causing problems for Morgan. He had to travel further, Spending longer outside each day in order to find supplies. Moving quietly in the dark and quickly enough not to get noticed.

No one quite knew what happened. People were disappearing, swallowed up by the darkness. Morgan was determined to survive. Quietly, speedily he moved around the ever-increasing number of empty stores. Collecting just enough supplies to carry back to his apartment.

The journey back was uneventful. How long was it now since he had seen anyone? Weeks, months he was unsure. The well-lit apartment was his refuge. There had been no electricity for a while but candles and battery lamps were everywhere. The light such a contrast to the darkness enveloping the world outside.

How long exactly? He pondered this all the way through his meal of tinned beans and bottled water. A light in his apartment went out. He noticed it immediately, they were such an important part of his life. Then another candle flickered, one by one the lights in his apartment went out. He knew it was time to leave. Once this creeping darkness settled on a place no light would shine.

There was only one chance for Morgan to survive he needed to move silent and swiftly. He knew though he would have to stop eventually. That his days on this dark planet were numbered.

The Mystery of North Cote Mine

“It’s about time you changed this car Dan” said Amy as she clambered into the back seat of his pale blue 1962 Mk 1 Ford Cortina, “it’s a wreck, my feet were soaked when we got here yesterday. There’s a hole under the carpet that I can see the road through”. It was 7.30am and the rain that had poured continuously the previous day had stopped during the night and it looked like it would be a lovely August day. “Sorry Amy”, said Jack trying to start the car for the fourth time, “I can’t afford anything else just yet but it will be worth a fortune one day”.

On attempt five the old car sparked into life, Pete ran out of the pub eating toast and jumped in the passenger seat. “Morning pals. What a night. Did we really have to set off this early, I’ve got a shocking hangover”. The others just ignored him as he played with the radio trying to find a station. The three friends finally set off on the narrow dry stone walled valley road towards the head of Silverdale, with “Son of My Father” by Chicory Tip blaring from the old radio as loud as Pete could make it go.

The three friends had been looking forward to this trip for months, it was the culmination of a year’s work by students from Leeds Polytechnic Caving Club, surveying and mapping the old lead mines of Silverdale in the Yorkshire Dales. Small teams of club members had been given several mines each to explore; this was the third the friends had done that summer and the results would be published in early 1973.

North Cote mine had been closed since 1875 and was only accessible after a hot hours walk from the valley bottom. The walk wasn’t helped by the ex-coal board boiler suits and old work boots they had changed into in the car park at the head of the dale.  It was a beautiful summer’s day and despite their hangovers and heavy bags of equipment the three friends were in high spirits and made good progress.

The track soon took them out of the valley onto open moorland where they reached a small plateau. The area was a confused desert of broken rock and glinting minerals that resembled an alien planet.  It was still early yet the heat was rising and the world felt big to Jack with the vast blue sky above and miles of open moor all around. In the middle of this desert were the outlines of the old mine buildings and large pieces of rusting cast iron machinery; at the centre of all this was a heavy steel plate that covered the entrance to the mine. “Are you sure we have got the right place”, said Pete. “Of course” said Dan, “it’s never been surveyed and there’s no record of anyone going down there since it was closed”. The plate and rocks were soon moved aside revealing a shaft descending into darkness.

Pete took a few tentative steps onto the steel cable ladder that they had lowered 70 feet to the mine. He steadied his nerves and climbed down. The first person to enter the mine in nearly one hundred years. The difference was instant, as stark as leaving the earth’s atmosphere and entering space. Gone was the sun and blue sky, green landscape, the greys and white of the rock, the heat, the gentle breeze of a summer’s day. Here it was cool, damp and dark. Not just dark but sheer impenetrable blackness.

The three friends had soon adjusted o their new environment and one by one worked their way down the ladder to the main tunnel and on into the mine. They knew it was a fairly small mine that had closed due to regular flooding. This soon became apparent about a mile from the bottom of the entrance shaft. The group found the remainder of the mine flooded. While checking out an area of collapsed boulders nearby Pete felt a gentle breeze blowing from a crevice at roof level. On closer inspection it revealed a small passage that looked like a natural cave.

It was just big enough for Dan to crawl flat out, looking forward only by tilting his head sideways. This was why he loved caving, totally exhilarated but scared at the same time. He crawled, pushed and pulled himself through the dark, wet, muddy passage. Always aware he might have back out if his way forward became blocked. He was in luck, after only thirty feet or so the passage emerged into a much larger cave. The others soon joined him and three friends found themselves sitting in a vast cavern by a lake, their lights barely penetrating the blackness. It was hard to tell how long it was but they weren’t going back without a tentative swim out. Discovering a new cave like this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They were to go one at a time with Dan the most experienced of the three going first, he attached himself to the longest length of rope they had and waded out into the cold black pool. He wasn’t alone, he could hear his friends calling and encouraging him but could no longer see them. He had never before felt so alone or remote from the world, yet he was only half a mile from that lovely summer’s afternoon in Yorkshire.

It was hard going and he knew he would soon have to go back as the ninety feet of rope tied to his waist was running out, just a few more feet. He was about to turn and re-join his friends when he thought he could make out the far side of the cave. He was a strong swimmer but the cold water was starting to sap his strength. The water was still too deep for him to stand in and he had no more safety line.

What he saw made up his mind, there ahead was a stunning, pristine array of cave formations. They were everywhere. Pure white hanging from the ceiling and rising from the floor. Going on into the cave as far as he could see. On the shore was a skeleton sitting leaning against the wall of the cave looking in his direction, as white as the formations around and dressed in tattered tweed jacket, shirt, trousers and hobnail boots.

Dan was speechless, he couldn’t call to his friends but knew he must go forward. He untied his safety line determined to press on. He swam a few strokes then the cold, the fear and adrenalin all seemed to kick in at the same time. He passed out which very quickly turned to drowning. He soon came round and took a deep breath but was already three feet under water. As a child he had dreamt of sinking slowly to the bottom of a deep pool and coming to rest gently on the sandy bottom. The reality was not going to be like his dream. It was violent and terrifying. He choked and gagged trying to breathe once more. Instead he just inhaled cold water. Dan fought screaming, with his last ounce of strength he pulled towards the far shore. His foot hit a rock as he neared the shore and then something else. A hand, a strong firm grip holding his arm and then another on his shoulder. He was being dragged out of the water, he passed out again.

Dan came round and was aware he was still in the cave and not dead. He was on his back, exhausted, looking up into the vast cave, the thin beam of light from his helmet lamp merging with the darkness. “That was a close shave lad, I thought you were a goner. Sit up take a sip of this”. Dan struggled to sit up and saw a hip flask being passed to him. His eyes worked their way from the flask along the strong tweed clad arm to the body and face of a man in his 40’s, with a hard strained face. “Go on I think you need it; I know I do”.

“Who are you and what are you doing here”, said Dan, feeling a little better as the effect of the strong liquor kicked in. “I could ask you the same question”, said the stranger. “There was a skeleton I saw it from the water”, said Dan but looking round he could see only the pristine cavern and the man who had saved him sat opposite.  “There is only you and I, no skeleton. You are in a pretty bad way you must have imagined it”. “Who are you”, demanded Dan. “I am Detective Sergeant Charles Henderson from Skipton Police, lost and alone in this dammed cave. I am on the trail of ‘Spring Heeled Jack’ he has been the scourge of this nation for years now and in the past month there have been many sightings of him in Yorkshire, most recently in this vicinity. To the common man he is a fairy-tale, a devil, a bogey man but I know he is nothing but a common thief and murderer and I will see him hang”. “Hang” said Dan, “Yes Hang for the cruel deeds he has committed.

“Two days ago I got news that he had been seen entering a small crevice, in the limestone pavement above the village by a local farmer, he described it as the Devil running to ground. I was guided to the spot and equipped with only my side arm and paraffin lamp I set off after him. I cornered him by this lake and was ready to take him in when he fled across the lake into the blackness from which you appeared. My lamp ran dry and I was lost, certain I should die when I heard such a commotion coming from the lake. It was then I saw you clearly drowning sir, much against my better judgement I joined you in the lake and dragged you out. It seems that neither of us is ready to die on this day”.

Dan explained he was with friends and they had entered from the old mine, Charles looked perplexed. They looked but the lake was silent, Dan shouted and pleaded but there was no response from the empty blackness. He was sure he couldn’t make it back across the lake and it was clear Amy and Pete were not coming after him. He had no choice Charles had got in the cave with just a paraffin lamp and the two men although sceptical of each other, agreed to try and find a way out.

The way out of the cave was fairly straightforward with wide open passages and beautiful formations. The only tricky bit was at the end, with a tangled climb up through the cracks and crevices of the limestone pavement. They emerged into the warm late afternoon sunlight several hundred feet lower than the mine and about two miles away. Dan was still shaken from his experience and his only thought was to return to the mine entrance, Amy and Pete must have called out the cave rescue by now. He must let them know he was safe. The now thoroughly exhausted and somewhat disgruntled Detective grudgingly agreed so they turned and set off uphill.

The sun was warm on their backs and the two men began to dry out. Fortified by several more nips from the hip flask they were soon in the vicinity of the mine, the same plateau, the same carpet of broken rock and shattered minerals but it wasn’t the same. Dan was astounded for the second time that day. What he saw shook his world to the core. “We must have gone wrong” he said doubting his normally excellent sense of direction. “This is it, Northcote Mine the only lead mine for miles around”, said Charles Henderson.

Gone was the scene of desolation and ruin he had witnessed that morning. In its place were the stone buildings and machinery of a working lead mine. There were men and ponies, smoke and noise. It was a busy working environment. Thoughts were racing through Dan’s mind what did this all mean, what had happened in the short time he had been underground. The two men approached the buildings and could see inside the winding house. A hopper full of ore was being raised from the shaft that Dan and his two friends had earlier that day climbed down. He could think of no explanation for what he was seeing unless he was dreaming. “If this is Northcote Mine then what is the date”. Charles Henderson was tired and a little annoyed at how his day had turned out. He could see though that his new acquaintance was genuinely perplexed and seemed a little afraid. “What strange questions you ask my friend; it is of course Saturday 2nd August 1832”.

This was the first of many surprises in Dan’s life over the next few years, Charles was a man of honour and although he thought his new friend completely mad he knew he had brought him to safety from certain death. He never believed the wild stories that he was stranded from another time and suggested he keep these thoughts to himself. Dan even lived with Charles and his wife for a while until he had managed to establish himself in the community. ‘Spring Heeled Jack’ was never seen in those parts again nor did Charles see him Hang, although his exploits good and bad continued to be recounted through Victorian England for many years.

Eventually Dan gravitated back to a very different Bradford from the one he had left and made a life for himself as a foreman in one its many textile mills. He never married and kept himself to himself. He returned to his beloved Dales many times, sometimes calling in on his old friend Charles Henderson and his wife. Most times though he just walked in the hills or visited the cave and explored its many passages or would just sit at the edge of the lake staring in wonder at the breath-taking formations around him and the black murky water disappearing in the distance.

It had happened – he didn’t know how or why but it had, and he realised now he would never go back. He was seventy years of age and his end came quickly, with a sudden massive heart attack brought on by the exertions of the day, sitting by the edge of the lake looking in the direction from which he had once come.

%d bloggers like this: