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“This Beautiful Place”
by Lynn Gordon
It’s Christmas morning and the house is filled with everything this special day brings.
Squeals of delight come from the six-year-old twins, Felix and Titus, as they unwrap their gifts.
“OK boys, save some for after dinner when Gran and Pops are here,” I chastise.
The aroma in the kitchen lets me know the turkey is coming along nicely.
“Nothing to do for a couple of hours, time for a bit of fresh air. Who is up for a walk to the castle before dinner?” My tone is breezy as I help Dan tidy the detritus left behind after the frenzy of unwrapping.
Felix abandons his Leggo starship and runs towards the garage.
“I want to go on my bike!”
“Don’t forget your helmet,” I shout after his disappearing form.
“What about you two?” I ask the other boys in my life. Dan is helping Titus with the Leggo. They are both focusing their attention on their task and pay scant regard to my question.
“Mind if we stay here and play, luv?” Dan gives me a quick glance before returning to his task.
I sigh. I thought a walk to the clifftop with the family would be a perfect start to this lovely Christmas morning. We’ll probably not get another chance today once Mum and Dad arrive.
“Mum … Mum come on, I’m ready.” It’s Felix, itching to get going.
“Shouldn’t be too long.” I blow a kiss to Dan. Titus hardly registers my words, such is his focus on his Christmas present.
“Come on Loopy, you can come with us.” Our old chocolate Labrador needs no encouragement. He bolts out of the house and circles around Felix, desperate to get going.
Thirty minutes later the three of us approach the old ruin close to the headland. Loopy whines as I put his lead on. He’s never ventured too close to the cliff edge, but I’m not taking any chances. I ignore his protests and caution Felix to stay on the path as he pedals frantically — his little legs like pistons.
A shaft of sunlight struggles to make its presence felt through the dark grey clouds which are gathering momentum.
A flash of light catches my eye. As I do a double take and focus on the location of the glinting sunlight, I’m sure it is the sun reflecting off the only surviving window in the old ruin — except … there is no glass in the window.
I shake my head, convinced I have imagined the phenomena.
“Just my mind playing tricks on me.”
Loopy is jumping around my feet excitedly before he too seems to sense something that is just ‘not quite right.’
Loopy cowers and tugs at his lead, encouraging me away from the spot, and it is at this moment I realise Felix is nowhere in sight.
A shiver runs down my spine as the gathering clouds plunge the area into a gloomy darkness; a distant rumble of thunder shakes me out of my revery.
“Felix … Felix! Oh God, where are you?” I shout into the wind. Loopy whines as he nuzzles into my legs, sensing my anxiety.
I freeze with terror as I look towards the cliff edge; it’s thirty metres away from where I last saw Felix. He never, and I mean never, goes anywhere near the edge, but this thought offers little comfort as I look around in vain for my son.
“Felix, Felix,” I roar, and by now I’m convinced something dreadful is unfolding in this beautiful spot which I love so much.
I’m shaking uncontrollably. I drop Loopy’s lead and run around frantically searching for my boy.
My heart is pounding so hard I fear it will burst out of my chest. I curse as I rummage through my pockets and realise I don’t have my mobile.
I am alone … and I have never been so afraid in my life.
“Feeeliiix!” I wail as tears flow. Loopy has scampered off, but right now I cannot concern myself too much about my beloved pet.
“Is it my imagination or has it gotten really dark all of a sudden?”
What to do, what to do, I try to compose myself; I need to think clearly.
“I took my eyes off Felix for no more than a few seconds, so where the hell can he have gone?”
I need to think; I breathe deeply in an attempt to calm myself.
“He cannot possibly be too far away, he simply can’t be!”
It doesn’t matter how many words of reassurance I utter, my fear is mounting and I can barely think straight.
There is that damn flash of light again, and this time I am in no doubt that it is coming from the old ruin.
I run towards the cliff edge; the sense of dread all but incapacitates me, and I force myself to move. I do not want to look over the edge — the prospect of what I may see terrifies me but I have to know. I have to be sure Felix and his bike are not lying at the bottom of the cliff in a tangled mess.
“Dear God! How can I be entertaining such thoughts.”
One more scan of my surroundings before I reach the edge.
“There is that bloody light again!” I am angry now; I know I am being irrational, but that light is really infuriating me. The sky is almost black, so “What the hell is that light,” I utter through clenched teeth.
Something stops me in my tracks; I no longer feel the need to explore the cliff edge. Instead I am compelled to return to the old ruin and this damned light.
As I walk towards the new focus of my search, I am astonished to realise my panic and fear of moments ago have dissolved, and I am filled with an unexpected sense of calm.
The pounding in my chest subsides. I hold my breath as I’m transfixed in wonderment and joy at the sight in front of me. I just stare at the tableau.
A beaming smile on the face of Felix as he greets me.
“Hi Mum, are you alright?”
I can barely speak.
“Why are you crying?” he asks.
I still cannot speak. Felix turns to ‘his little friends’ as he will come to refer to the bizarre circle of ‘creatures’ sitting in a huddle on the grass close by.
I am no longer afraid. Instead I stare in wonderment, and my heart is filled with joy at this incredible spectacle.
“Come and say hello to my friends, Mum.”
It’s bonkers, I know, but I feel no sense of incredulity or disbelief; instead i just stand smiling in gratitude that my boy is safe. I find myself addressing one of the strangers who seems to be the leader of the odd little group.
They are surrounded in a halo-like glow which seems to sparkle and dance like fireflies on a balmy summer night. The hubbub of chatter and laughter cloaks me in a gentle tingling sensation, and I am warmed with the pleasure of this unexpected feeling.
Felix takes delight in showing off his newfound friends.
“This is Bitzy,” he proclaims proudly as he lays a hand on the shoulder of the little creature nearest to him.
“Bitzy, this is my mum.”
“Enchanted to meet you, Mum of Felix.” The little stranger addresses me with a beaming smile and a tiny outstretched hand at the end of a stick-thin arm. It is only now I fully take in the wondrous sight in front of me.
The tiny creatures, six in number, are like little humans dressed in brightly coloured suits with wizened faces and tiny flexible limbs. Each has a necklace of tiny sea shells which make for an enchanting melody with each movement of their animated little bodies.
I can barely contain myself, even though every fibre of my body tells me I am in some sort of fantastical dream or hallucination. I find myself returning Bitzy’s gesture as I take his outstretched hand.
A gleeful giggle escapes as I address the gathering.
“It’s very nice to meet you too — what brings you to this place?”
Before any response comes my way, the glistening halo begins to fade. I blink as the dancing light envelops Bitzy and his friends before dissolving away so that only Felix, me, and his bike are left at the old ruin.
In silence, we return home, retrieving Loopy on the way.
“Hi guys,” Dan greets me as we enter the hall, “did you have a good walk? You’ve been out for ages!”
I just smile down at Felix who returns my smile in silence … there is nothing to say.
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