Or, how little children should mind their elders.
The laughter of children echoed through the pastoral valley. Life here in a community too small to have it’s own name ran at a pace all it’s own. If it was not for the inhabitants growing old and the occasional birth of a baby one would swear life stood absolutely still. You could think that, but you would be wrong.
Days were spent tilling the soil, looking after animals and keeping house. There was but one road going both in and out of the valley. No crimes had ever been committed here, and though a few of its inhabitants had moved out, they were few in number. It was by all accounts a life of pleasant routine.
Not too many people had ever lived here, judging from the graveyard there were more than 300 souls gone to the afterlife from here. Roughly that’s one citizen for every year of the valley’s 300 year life. No-one remembered who founded the settlement or in what year but the first death was recorded in 1706 a Bryce Sand, no indication if it was a male or female Bryce Sand nor what this person did for a living. A life with as little to make it remarkable as each passing day here.
So it came as a great shock that grey October day that three little boys, two brothers and their friend, went missing. October days were slow and lazy, the harvest was already put away and shared with neighbours. The children were all home schooled together at Miss Miller’s house, all twelve of them, just as they had been since Miss Miller was about twenty and she’d be nearly eighty now. The great love of her life had died in one of the great wars and she was unable to commit herself to any other man. Instead she vowed to educate every child born in this valley to be upright and peaceful so there would be no more wars. She was bent over, heavy with the knowledge of all the wars that had come since making the great promise to herself. Still she should be proud of herself, for in the valley itself life had gone without any fights, without any incident whatever.
Her influence carried over into the everyday as all her students, three generations of them shaped life in the Valley. The citizen’s in the valley had counted themselves out of every census in living memory, no wars were funded by this valley and they had no need for federal services, they could look perfectly well after themselves. There was no police, no jail, no court.
They should have been in school that day, that John and Jack and their friend Luke. Somewhere between Miss Miller’s and home the boys had gone missing. Miss Miller had assumed the boys had taken ill with the cold or flue and since the valley had no telephone it was no immediately checked on. No one could have thought it would be anything else.
It was something else. That morning the three had met up as usual. Luke had shared some of his cake with the other two. They had chatted about the new foal at the Miller’s. White horses were born only very rarely in the valley. God seemed to favour brown for horses.
They were nearly halfway to the old schoolhouse when all three heard something. None of them knew what it was exactly, only that no one they knew had a voice anything like it. Still, whatever of whoever it was, was asking for help and the all three knew what needed to be done. They needed to go and see if they could help and if they could not they should fetch someone who could.
There was a small patch of forest where the voice emanated from. A little forests on the east side of the valley before the river. A small brook ran through it and the boys knew there were caves in this forest up against the hillside which were dangerous. The caves were from a long, long time ago, before the families had moved here, when other strange people had lived here. Inside the caves there were paintings of large cat life animals and lizards such as no one had seen ever in real life. Those were stories of course, in modern times no-one had dared go into the caves because they knew it was dangerous and everyone was quite happy without having any danger in their lives.
The boys ran into the forest, convinced that there was hero business to be done. They had long talked of being like super heroes, able to fly, to save the innocent from harm. Maybe this was their day to become heroes. That was a far as they had thought it out. They ran from one direction to the other as the voice seemed to change a great deal. At last they were exhausted and could not run any longer.
John had blisters on his feet and was complaining a lot. Luke was hungry and had started his lunch sitting on a large rock by what might have been an opening to a cave.. Jack had not quite run out of energy and paced up and down the path kicking stones. He kicked one rather hard and it went flying. They heard a small scream, it cam from right over Luke’s head. It was a very good thing that the three had used the bathroom before leaving home or all three would have been standing there in wet pants.
There sitting perched on an old stump, over the cave opening, was the strangest creature. It wasn’t very big but it was very odd looking. It had very large lizard-like eyes, and it’s skin was a little scaly like a fish. It’s hands or where one would have expected to see hands were talons like covered to the nails with small feathers. Feathers, I kid you not. They would have gasped or screamed for sure, but they had no breath at all, not for that moment. They scarcely caught one breath before the next fright.
Just behind the three, standing on another stump, stood another just like it. This one was a bit larger with a very round belly. They struggled to scream. They were starting to turn a little bluish from not breathing. Finally breath came and they let out a blood curdling scream which was met by another as the two strange looking creatures screamed too.
The earth shook a little and they were silent. “oh no.” said the sitting creature. “Oh no,” echoed the second creature. “What, what, WHAT?” screamed the three boys, no longer sure what they should fear more and their feet still frozen to the forest floor. They shot glances between the two creatures and each other. The booming continued, the earth shook and there was a thunderous sound coming form everywhere at once. The little grey creatures with the big eyes were no less frightened than the boys, actually they seemed more afraid and were turning strangely pale.
The sun seemed to appear and disappear and a twirling whooshing sound was overhead they dared look, they might as well, they were not able to run, and screaming had not made anything go away. What they saw was beyond belief. Meaning that if they told this story to anyone they would be laughed at for making up ridiculous lies. Still there it was, a large flying reptile with wings and eyes a fiery orange colour, it had a split long tongue which flitted before them, and talons with long brown nails.
One of the little grey creatures looked up clasping it’s hands, well whatever passed for hands, and pleaded, “let us go, we meant no harm”. A booming voice came from the great lizard, or it might have been a dragon if you don’t consider fire breathing important. “Get away from the humans, or you will have to deal with me. The two ran away into the cave. The dragon, to call it something. for the sake of argument. a dragon will do, perched above the cave opening, he shook his head and mumbled, “halloweenies.”
Now he gazed straight at the boys who had just found their feet and were bouncing around a bit trying to figure out where to run to. “Get out of my forest, the lot of you.” The boys ran and clamoured all the way up the hill to where the graveyard stood but the dragon followed them out. No matter where they ran the beast was not far behind. “Climb into this tree”, yelled Jack. That was where they were headed to, the biggest tree in the valley. Unfortunately, just as they were nearly there they were caught except for Jack as the dragon swooped down and caught them with his brow talon nails.
The dragon had miscalculated and a wing clipped into the old oak and all four of them tumbled down back to front and front to back and out they fell right in front of Miss Miller’s one room school house. Well. the boys thought they were safe. Miss Miller was not scared of anything. They knew that. and surely she would come out of the house running with her cane and thump the dragon on his scaly behind too.
Miss Miller did not. She stayed in and did not even open the door for them. The dragon righted himself and lumbered over them. His talon reached out and the boys cringed. Well they thought they were dragon kibble right about then. They were too tired to scream or cry.
“Never,” said the dragon poking Luke with his talon, “never go into the forest without an adult, those halloweenies play tricks on you, and since you’d eaten all your goodies already you’d have had nothing to pay your way out with. I am getting too old to keep saving lost children from halloweenies, sprained ankles and sick stomachs from eating the wrong mushrooms.” He stood up and looked his most fearsome. “If I see you in the forest again I will let the halloweenies have you.” With that he rose up, flapped his wings and flew off back to his forest.
“Did you see that miss Miller, did you see the dragon?”
“No, didn’t have my glasses on. No one else saw it because school is out and they are all gone home. Besides,” said Miss Miller, “there is no such thing as dragons and no-one will believe you. Next you’ll ask me to believe there are creatures called halloweenies in the forest who tricked you? No boys, you were loafing off in the forest where it is dangerous, now go home and stay on the path.”
They did stay on the path and never did they see the dragon or the halloweenies again. That was on October the 31st, coincidence?