August 12th, 2020
HaystacksWhoever had found the hangout spot had been forgotten as years later, the same gang (or similar) met up at the old haunt, to revel in the memories and nostalgia of the place, tell old stories and remember the good times with the bad. The bales were stacked next to an empty barn surrounded by piles of old car tires, that formed a sort of rubbery permeable boundary that encircled the area around the base of the hay block. It was here, surrounded on all sides that they sat huddled close together like old times, sitting mostly on tires pulled from the piles and rolled into a ring around a small dip in the ground which acted as a natural fire pit. In the past they had thrown sticks and logs gathered from the woods nearby to start a fire around which they would gossip and joke, push each other about and cook marshmallows and sausages. In later years the snacks were replaced by beers in quickly discarded bottles and crushed cans, then further into stranger substances that made the nights by the pit wilder and both more and less memorable. They had learnt about each other here, told things they would never usually say, open their hearts to each other on those special nights under the haystack that loomed like a great protecting wall over the fizzling logs. Let's tell stories, says one, and it goes down well, the memory of being so easily scared by the fear of the unknown, the slightly unusual, the voiceless body and the bodiless voice. The figure who cannot be touched, the invisible standing, now there in the dinning room, now at the fireside amongst them. I'll go first says one and tells a story about some young ones, like them of old, who had fled into a forest and upset a lone hermit, their punishment awaited them when they tried to return home, and found themselves turned into trees. Then another told a story which most of them knew but wanted to hear again about a man who stays in a mysterious hotel, and the strange red cloth they could see through the keyhole of the last door. Another went and told a terrible story, forgetting all the details, about a vampire which made no sense at all and was laughed down by all, including the confused storyteller. Another, I've got one. And told their tale... A girl was getting ready for bed and, as a last check, she reached down beside the bed where her faithful dog would lie, giving her hand a big lick to let her know he was by her side. As usual she then rolled over, feeling safe and cosy, when a sound from the bathroom caught her attention. Drip. Drip. Drip. She thought about getting out of bed to find the source but really didn't want to she was so warm and tucked up in bed. But the noise continued... Drip. Drip. Drip. She thought it was the tap, or maybe the toilet, or the shower perhaps. Drip. Drip. Drip. The sound seemed louder than a tap and kept on and on, until she felt she could ignore it no longer. She rolled out of bed, took her dressing gown from the door and went into the bathroom to find the leaking tap and shut it off. Turning on the light she found a horrible sight, her dog hanging by the tail from the shower, with blood dripping into the bath below where it collected in a sickly pool. Written on the wall, with what seemed to be the blood of the dead dog were the words... Humans can lick too. All around they shuddered and groaned at the story, which seemed to rattle some, while most shook it off with a laugh, thought they looked shiftily about over their shoulders, eyes darting into the dark beyond the fire's circle. Then they debated the better and the worse, arguing over who built tension better, who made the most of their poor material and all agreed that maybe they'd sleep with one eye open that night. One said they couldn't wait to tell them to their kids and that made them all feel old, but warm at the image of the expecting mother. A few of them had a beer or two, but most were driving, and all had homes to go to and work to organise for the week ahead so they didn't stay long. Just before they got up to leave though, one remembered the time they'd climbed the stack, all of them together to the top and jumped between the bales to another stack further back. They all sighed at the memory, the foolhardiness of it, the thrill and adrenaline of the jump, which must have only been a metre or so, but that high off the ground felt more like a circus act than hopping over a large puddle. Was it really that bad, asked one, and the others all nodded surely it was, how could we have been so stupid. One said, well I never went up and the others said didn't you? Not ever? No, I was too scared. Would you now? They all looked up at the stack above them and laughed, no way. No way, can you imagine? Well, why not? They all looked round, some laughing, some shocked because the question was very much sincere. What are you talking about? Let's go up, for old times sake. No way, don't. Can you imagine? Don't. That would be so stupid. It was so stupid. Then another, was it really that bad? What are you talking about? Don't be stupid. Then suddenly one was testing the twine, pulling back against it to test the weight. What are you doing? Then there were two, one helping the other and another laughing, encouraging, pointing out where to grab hold. Come down, this is ridiculous! But they were already heading for the top, and soon, they might be tempted to jump.
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