It was once told, that when the whispers sing in the wind, a legend is born. A long time ago, the winter’s breeze shimmered through a parted window. Henry White, a teenage boy was sound asleep, or so it appeared that way. The warmth from his breath spewed plumes of quickly dissipated steam. And even though he appeared peaceful in bed, it was anything but. The past few months had not been kind to him, and sleep had become rather scarce. A few hours ago, and after a long night of battling with troubles in his head, fatigue had finally caught up––but the boy wasn’t a dream, nor was he resting: he was chasing after his father in a forest, and no matter how fast the boy strode, he could never get close enough to save him.
That nightmare was much like every other, a blistering snowstorm, the moon was partly visible through the thick clouds, and the sky was as dark as ever, it was a recipe of fear even for the boldest of men. In the midst of the snowstorm Henry was barefoot, sprinting much like a racehorse, and with each step he edged closer. But just before he was able to grasp his father, the snow sunk and swallowed his feet whole.
Henry struggled to lift his legs, except the snow turned into a mush of quicksand and shackled him. Bound in place he cried for father’s attention, yet each shout was vain and feeble, for he knew what was about to happen next. And in the midst of Henrys cry, a harrowing growl echoed from the depths of the forest, the sound was neither of man nor beast. The sound was so loud that it buckled Henry onto his knees. The boy painfully grabbed his ears, yet still maintained desperate screams for attention. But it was no use, with each failed attempt, his voice became broken and defeated. The ice cold weather made breathing a struggle until he could no longer take an ounce of breath. While the boy attempted to gasp for air in through his wheezing lugs, the creature revealed itself. Hidden in the tree was a red-eyed monster, its claws were deeply embedded onto the bark. The creature’s fangs were large and sharp; its wide pupils engaged at Henrys father.
Tears ran down his face, as time approached the inevitable. But the resilient boy still had fight left inside. He clawed through the slippery slime until his fingers bled, and he did not stop until he broke free.
As Henry sprinted to aid his father, the beast quickly snapped its head directly at him. With squinted eyes, it analyzed the boy––purring and grunting––until it noticed something so intriguing that it had peaked curiosity. The creature leaped on Henry, pinning him with claws to the ground. Face to face and just a couple of inches apart, the monster slowly spoke in a deep booming voice, “Orga’s’ha, I see you.” The beast snarled as slimed drool oozed down the boys face. “I see you, as you see me.”
Fright jolted right through Henry’s stomach; it quivered, shaking his body into a knot. He grunted as he awoke completely out of breath, gasping for air; and with each breath, he finally slowed down to normal. Covered by a thin bed sheet drenched in sweat, he looked at the ceiling wide eyed––attempting to compose himself. He sighed loudly while rubbing his face with shaky hands.
“Nothing more than a dream.”
With each passing day, the dreams had worsened, making sleep unbearable—a task to which he no longer looked forward to. Spaced out, he lingered in bed, trapped in recurring thoughts of recent subconscious. He reached below the mattress, pulled out a poorly hidden leather-bound journal, and opened it about halfway––revealing consecutive detailed dates and notes.
Sweat dripped down his face, he sat up against the wooden backboard and began to write: “May 24, 1726.” But upon writing the date, goose-bumps covered his left arm. The quill was rigid in hand and firmly pressed against paper; and for a moment, his thoughts went astray.
Is it because I am about to note these horrid cyclical dreams? Perhaps the random visiting voices, thoughts, and whispers are somehow trying to communicate with me. Or just mere illusions created within to accompany my isolated life.
Today marked seven months since the dreams started. It was ever since that horrible night when Henrys grandpa came home, covered in blood and a grim look. Even though Grandpa was a tough-natured man, he always tried to hide the pain, but it showed in his eyes—a shade of an enclosed sorrow.
Henry sensed that something was off, something Grandpa failed to mention. With every chance he tried to pry about that night, but grandpa never had the heart to respond. Much to Henry’s disappointment, the story remained a vague anomaly, a hunting accident that took them by surprise. Most times, the subject diverted to: “My dear child, in one year’s time, on your eighteenth birthday, we will journey to America.”
Maybe it was true; maybe it was what he intended to do; and maybe he just wanted to be rid of the walls that reminded him of his lost sons. Everything about that house was difficult to bear. The ghostly remnants of Henry’s father and uncle’s presence lingered as fading memories in hollow rooms. The permanent reality hadn’t hit him yet, but he knew it was coming.
Winter was really bad that year, and just like any other night it was pouring out. Although, it never seemed to bother Henry, in fact he adored it. Perhaps, because of the constant noise in the background, maybe the small missing musical notes temporarily distracted him from recent tragedy. Heavy, wet, footsteps split mud, and a whicker stabbed soil just outside: only one person walked that way. The creek of the door was the same as always—nothing when it opened, but loud and abrupt when closed. A deafening voice roared through the walls. “Henry, my boy, where are you, child?” A muddy trail of long strides was left on the hallway.
Even though he called for Henry, he always seemed to know exactly where the boy was. Grandpa was as tall as the ceiling, his face was covered with rough leather-like wrinkles––and a double chin. He was a man’s man––joke too much and he might just react with a punchline. He didn’t limp, but always held a piercing whicker. It resembled petrified wood aged beyond a century. A carved cobra enfolded all around it and a meticulous, articulate, wide head crowned the handle.
The floor always shook when he was home. At times, the shaking annoyed Henry; but lately it was the only feeling of comfort, like an appendage, filling the missing voids left by his father and uncle’s absence.
Grandpa walked in the room with open arms. “There you are, my child.” Even though he was gone for a few hours, he hugged Henry firmly, like they hadn’t seen one another for years. While firmly holding Henry’s cheeks with thick brick-like hands, he leaned over and kissed the top of his forehead. The wrinkles on his face pointed in all directions, expressing sadness for him––but he still managed to look at Henry with those warm blue eyes.
Yet, there was grief beneath that his body could not hide.
Grandpa sat in the usual sitting area by the fireplace, a fur rug from the recent hunt laid out before it. He never desired for contemporary fittings or explained why––that reason remained his own.
“Come, Henry, come, my boy.” Grandpa summoned Henry with an open palm, suggestively pointing beside him. A lone sound of popping wood in the fireplace as the backdrop, Henry waited impatiently. The flames mirrored in Grandpa’s eyes while he focused onto Henrys. This reflection made the loving man’s eyes appear sinister. With a succinct smile and soft tone, he slowly recited: “Random visiting voices, thoughts, and whispers are somehow trying to communicate with me.”
The very thought Henry had moments ago!
In fear, he thought: How did he? How could he?
Henry’s stomach twisted in uncertain fear, but Grandfather’s comforting eyes kept him composed. The direct look in the elder’s firm eyes appeared prepared; he usually got like that before they had their talk. Grandpa placed a round spectacle on his left eye––showing signs of discomfort. The glass was too small for his face, and looked ridiculous while the man attempted to squint just enough to press it in place. And even though he had perfect vision, he insisted it helped him read. His motive was purely because Henry could never hold a straight face. Grandpa randomly patted on the thick black fur coat, appearing to be looking for something.
An eager loud boom rattled through the wooden walls.
“Aha! There!” He licked an index finger and carefully reached in his side pocket; a subtle smile surfaced while he waited for a moment. “There you are,” he whispered as though conversing with an old friend. He carefully pulled out a foreign scroll. The texture of the paper had aged far beyond the ones in the library. Grandpa’s eyes showed a refined relationship in between the fingertips. He only had that interested look when he was really into something. With a smile, he looked at the boy. “Henry,” he paused as he spoke, while maintaining eye contact, “how old am I?”
Confused, the boy squinted without a single word, he was stirred up, reduced immobile while he read his grandfather.
Strange. Is he losing his mind? Maybe recent trauma has rendered his memory blank. The uncertainty spiked, Henry began to question his very own thoughts: But he knows that I know his age! While carefully looking into grandpas eyes, Henry spoke with hesitation.
“Grandpa, you’re eighty-three.”
Grandpa leaned back, taking a deep breath while looking up as countless thoughts appeared to be circulating. But after a long few moments, he exhaled and sighed loudly; and all the while, he slowly leaned close to Henry. Their eyes were just a couple of inches apart. Then, as though holding a giggle behind he said, “I think it’s time for you to know.” A different shade of blue masked Grandpa’s eyes, completely covering them.
The blue mist appeared magical.
Mesmerized, Henry thought: Is this a new magic trick he always tries to fool me with? But it looks so real.
Unhurriedly, Grandpa whispered: “What…if….” He paused with his mouth half open, appearing to gather thoughts. “What if I told you that I am older, much older?”
Henry was uncertain of what to expect.
Can this possibly be some sort of a riddle?
The same smile covered his face, and a glow that had been absent for a long time reappeared. “My boy, there was a time when everyone called me Pa. There was a time when I felt old and weak. There was a time when we were deprived of everything you see around you. It was the early fourteenth century in the distant outskirts of Britain. Your father, uncle, and I lived in a tiny rural village in Kielder, Northumberland––north of London.”
Whilst curiosity covered Henry’s face, the wide-eyed boy attacked with questions: “My father lived? You lived? Fourteenth Century?”
“Patience, my boy. In time, all will be revealed.”
He continued painting a story with words that Henry could relive. The village had only but a few families living there. Everyone knew one another by first and last names, and it was impossible not to recognize someone when passing by. This village was far from England’s dangers: those pesky taxes and its modern twisted society. Kielder’s surroundings were mostly uninhabited, but that’s just the reason why we lived there: it was peaceful and welcoming. The small town’s simplicity was a perfect fit for the simple folk. Dirt roads covered the streets, unattended chickens roamed freely––plucking away at crumbs left out on the street. Children joyfully tossed feed for the piglets; those giggles were always so pleasant. A few fairly recently built wooden structures made up the town’s business district. Hanging on top of each entrance were articulate wooden carved signs. Pigs Mead, the town’s tavern, was always packed and mostly with travelling bards––playing music, drinking, and singing. Ulriks General Goods: there was nothing you could not find at that old Ulriks’ shop. And how could anyone forget the finest blacksmith, Steel Toes. That piercing sound of hammer, striking against the anvil, woke the town up every morning––even before the roosters had a chance.
The usually mud-covered, holey, leather boots quickly rushed through the dirt street, making a mess. They made their way in front of Pigs Mead’s doorsteps. Cousin Harrod, bearer of the messy boots, was completely out of breath––but that didn’t stop him from calling out: “Oi, Cha-lie!”
He bent down, rested both arms on his knees and gasped for air. The out-of-shape anatomical condition enforced a lowered tone. “Is it ready?”
Harrod was about 5’7” with wide shoulders and a short, uneven, neck. Kids around town called him No Neck. The messy mop on his head could have used a wash; it was a rather disgusting straight-black mid-shoulder hanging mess. A deep voice from the back room placidly replied: “Just a moment, Harrod. There’s no need to shout.”
A thick-mustached man stomped inside from the backroom, both arms holding a freshly carved wooden barrel three feet tall and two feet wide. Each step vibrated through the wooden floor, hovering scattered grains.
“Here she is.” A dense thud rattled the wooden counter. He blew on top of the barrel, removing the recently carved sawdust––a perfectly engraved Pigs Mead in the center.
With an inquisitive smile, Charlie asked, “Why so small? You know, I could have made a bigger one for the same coin.”
Harrod’s wide eyes gazed at the miniature delicacy, firmly locked in on the barrel. Completely disregarded the question, he hugged the barrel, burying his nose on it. “Nothing like the aroma of freshly carved oak wood.”
“You two desire a minute alone?”
After a short moment of silence, Harrod excitedly whispered: “I’m ready, strap her on will ya Cha-lie.”
Several layers of old brown worn-out leather straps crossed the wooden barrel, loosely tied it down in all sorts of directions––none of which appeared to be neat, but still was just enough to hold the barrel on Harrod’s back. The mysterious liquid violently splashed in the barrel as he eagerly waddled out of the shop.
And as Grandpa relived the story, Henry’s focus did not stray––not even for a single second––while they sat together by the fireplace.