The wheatfields at the bottom of our street were where we spent those long, warm, sunny summer days. It was a kid’s world, where adults didn’t exist, nor did their rules or watchful eyes. The worst thing that happened to us in those days was that we would be called to go to the shops, or in for our dinner, and that would mean leaving our little world, a world where kids ruled.
The summer our first great adventure happened, was two years after we had moved home from a grey, concrete jungle where people looked mean and unfriendly, to a place where people were much more laid back and relaxed. All except for one man… he lived straight across the road from our house. Our front door faced the side of his house; a house you had to pass to get to the wheat fields… and his name was Mr Mott. None of the kids liked him and most were afraid of him (we had heard that one kid had gone into his house and had never been heard of again). He would stand at the edge of his garden (which had no walls) most days during the summer and shout at everybody who went past. He was really scary looking with his big crazy eyes and messed up hair. Everyone gave him a wide berth. Especially me and my pals…
We had a great gang of friends; there was me Jess, my sister Ellie, my cousin and best friend , Molly and Emma. There were always others around too, but we were the core of the group. We were so close; it was like we were all related to each other. We played together at home; we played together at school, and stuck up for each other, even against boys when the need arose.
I was the one who always had the best idea for a great game, the more dangerous the better. I was absolutely fearless (reckless my father would say). One time my Dad actually caught me sitting on the back wall of our house with a pair of roller blades on getting ready to launch myself onto our trampoline as my ‘pals’ cheered me on...
”JESSICA!” he shouted, “WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING? GET DOWN FROM THERE BEFORE YOU BREAK YOUR NECK!”
“Sorry Dad” I replied sheepishly. Probably wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had, although the funny thing was, it really did seem to be at the time. Then again, seven year old kids probably weren’t the best people to be judging those things, which is why we have parents (I still would’ve liked to do that jump though).
My sister Ellie was four years of age and a little fireball. She wouldn’t do the crazy things that I was likely to do, but her strength laid in the fact that she would let nobody pick on her, or treat her unfairly, or her big sister for that matter. She was sturdy of mind and of body. She looked up to me and tried to follow me everywhere and I loved her dearly. My cousin Rebecca, whom I got to know when I moved out beside her, was my best friend, and even though we would fight occasionally nobody could come between us. Molly was a real tomboy and always doing boy stuff, and Emma was very sweet and kind and would do anything for you.
The wheat field was where we acted like grownups. At the entrance, which was a row of bushes at the end of a cul de sac, we had a base with a swing and we got the boys to build a bridge from the base into the field. We had to do this because the farmer had built up a wall of mud to try and stop us from getting in. Farmers don’t seem to realise that if kids want to get into a wheatfield, it will take more than a bit of mud to stop them. I would play the Mammy, Molly would be the Daddy and the rest of the gang would be the kids. My Dad would come over to check on us every once in a while especially if he saw bigger kids making their way over, but for the most part we would be left to our own devices. My Mom who I haven’t mentioned yet was, to my Dad’s joy, the most beautiful Mom around. She had hair the colour of sunshine and had a great sense of fun. She looked after us so well, we always felt so loved, (although she found my sense of adventure a little hard to deal with sometimes) my sister and I couldn’t have asked for better parents.
Sometimes, in the late evening, when it would be almost fully dark, from my bedroom window, you could see the farmer harvesting his crops in that great big harvesting machine of his. With the lights on and the engine growling, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was a huge beast with lights that shot out beams of white light devouring our precious field. Its iron teeth whirled round and round. But thankfully we would arrive over there the following morning and each time it would still be there.
My Dad would come in from work at the end of each week and proudly inform us that he had been talking to some fairies and as we had been good all week, (a bit of an exaggeration) in the morning, hidden somewhere in the house, would be treats for my sister and I. We would get up early the following morning and would go in search of our goodies, which sometimes turned out to be sweets and sometimes comics filled with all sorts of stuff like stickers, makeup for kids or little toys. We would tell all of our friends and make a lot of them very jealous. Some would even say that there were no such thing as fairies, but we, of course, knew better. One of them even went so far as to ring me one day on my Dad’s phone and tell me that they loved me and that I was a very good little girl. What an honour. I bet that there were very few kids that that ever happened to.
As it happened my first personal encounter with the fairy world was to happen during the summer I turned eight. In Ireland, the country I lived in, fairy legend was very well known amongst the Irish people, especially outside of the major cities where people were still quite superstitious. Fairy folk were well known and respected although rarely seen, only by a privileged few.
“JESS!” I turned quickly to see who had called me, it was my cousin Rebecca.
“There are boys in our base and they’re messing it up!”
It was late afternoon and Ellie, me, Molly and Emma were returning from the shop. We started to run and Ellie as usual was struggling to keep up.
“HEY!” I shouted, “Stop wrecking our base, we only just fixed it up after yesterday!”
It was one of the mean boys who lived across the road. Don’t get me wrong, there were boys on the road that we played with and they were nice boys, this just wasn’t one of them. His name was David and he lived only with his Mom, as his Dad had left them a long time ago and only came to visit once in a while.
“ELLIE! Call Dad, he’s breaking up our base!”
“DADDY! HELP!” cried Ellie.
“What’s up Ellie bean?” my Dad asked appearing at the door of our house. He called her that after a jelly bean.
“There’s a mean boy breaking up our base.” Ellie said, close to tears.
“C’mon and lets see what we can do about that.” said my Dad. He was like that. He loved nothing more than to see his kids having fun and he couldn’t stand bullies.
“It’s ruined!” Emma said. “That mean boy! Why does he have to be so mean?”
“It’s not so bad” my Dad said, arriving over. David had disappeared as soon as he had seen my Dad approaching. He was a big man my father. He had a shaved head and a couple of tattoos and was always working out, but, like the saying goes… you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. He was actually one of the friendliest, kindest people I have ever known. Anyone who knew my Dad liked him.
“I can fix this up in no time. Jess, run over to the house and grab my tools. This shouldn’t take too long!”
David had knocked the bridge down and for some reason had taken a hammer to our little hut. There were splinters of wood lying around the place and David in his hurry to get out of there had dropped his hammer and run.
“I don’t understand that kid, he has a large chip on his shoulder, how anybody could just destroy something on a whim is beyond me.” said Dad. “I’ll have to speak to his mother.” Ellie was standing there crying.
“Can you fix it Daddy?”
“Of course, Daddy can fix anything kid, you know that.” And true to his word, we were all standing there no more than an hour later looking at a brand new base and bridge. We had access to our precious wheat fields again.
“Thanks Dad!” Ellie and I were so proud.
“Thanks Charlie!” the other three chorused.
“No problem kids, it was my pleasure. Now if that other kid comes back you just let me know when I get back from work. I’m going now so I’ll see you later.”
And that was that, another crisis diverted. I don’t think David would be coming back any time soon, not having seen my Dad coming his way. That left us free to enjoy the rest of our day in peace.
“Thank goodness your Dad was around to help us.” said Molly.
“I agree” said Emma “That boy scares me, and I don’t like him very much.”
“Let’s not talk about him guys” I said
“I think we should just concentrate on having some fun, I have a great idea, let’s collect some blackberries from the blackberry bushes, we can collect loads and my mom will help us to make jam! We can put a whole bag of sugar into it this time. Ellie, you go and get some jars out of our shed.”
“Ok Jess, will I get a bag of sugar too?” she asked innocently.” “No Ellie, we don’t need the sugar until we’re making the jam at home.” I said throwing my eyes up to heaven. ’Little sisters!’
She ran off speedily, well maybe Ellie didn’t go too speedily, but she hurried as only a chubby little four year old could. Rebecca, Molly and I got looking for bushes with the biggest, juiciest berries on them. The farmer wasn’t around and we still had a good bit of the day left to have some fun. It was hot and the sun was a huge yellow ball in the sky; the perfect summer’s day. Or so I thought…
We had just found the perfect bush when we were interrupted by someone nearby shouting after which immediately followed a frightened cry. ’That sounds like Ellie.’ I jumped to my feet and raced to the entrance of the wheat field with Rebecca and Molly close behind. As I reached the edge and burst through the bushes, the first thing I saw was our neighbour Mr Mott acting crazy and wild and shouting in his front garden while Ellie stood against our front garden wall, frozen with fear, clutching her two large jars with white knuckles.
“REBECCA! MOLLY! COME QUICKLY! MR MOTT HAS ELLIE TRAPPED AND SHE NEEDS OUR HELP” I shouted.
We reached the bottom of the road, and with little thought for ourselves, we jumped around in front of him, in the hope that he would forget about Ellie and concentrate on us. As I looked into his eyes, I noticed for the first time that they were black and even though his face was shaven, his skin was a very dark shade of grey. Added to that, his burly figure, his wild unkempt hair and the maniacal look in his eyes, I thought that I would faint from fear at any minute. My heart was pounding in my chest.
“YOU IDIOT CHILDREN! YOUR DAY IS COMING! I’ll GET YOU, I’LL GET ALL OF YOU! YOU WAIT AND SEE!” he said as he tried to grab each one of us. But he was too slow and we avoided him easily. He couldn’t move very well at all. He was awkward and clumsy. And as I dodged another attempted swipe the scariest thing yet happened; his face started to change shape right in front of my eyes! First it became blurry and unfocused, and then I saw what was to haunt my dreams for a long time. I looked away, and looked back, and there it was….. I knew why Ellie looked so terrified.
His skin had taken on a slightly green hue, and with his hair being so messy, it should have been obvious, especially to me. His difficulty in movement and his malicious temper were also dead give-aways.
“ELLIE GET INTO THE HOUSE NOW!” I screamed. That seemed to shake her from the frozen state she was in as her little legs started to pump. They got faster and faster until she rounded the wall sped down our driveway and tumbled in our front door with the jars rolling out in front of her and came to a stop on her tummy half way down our hall. I landed right on top of her approximately one full second later. Rebecca and Molly were right behind me.
“DID YOU SEE WHAT I SAW?” I gasped.
“I DID! I DID!” they shouted in unison. “HIS FACE CHANGED RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!” said Molly.
“AND I SAW IT TOO!” said Rebecca. “I WAS SO SCARED!”
“Not me” lied Molly, her face ashen, just like the rest of us.
“UPSTAIRS!” I shouted. “WE CAN SEE HIM FROM MY BEDROOM WINDOW!”
We took the stairs two at a time, barged through my bedroom door nearly taking it from its hinges and got to the window just in time to see him disappearing in his front door and to hear the loud slam, as it was banged shut.
“WE HAVE TO TELL SOMEONE!” said Molly on the verge of panic. “Who knows what he’s going to do? He said he’d get us!”
“And who would believe us?” Rebecca responded. “I mean come on!”
“I know one person who would” I said
“Look guys I just really want to go home now.” Molly said.
“I’ll go with you.” said Rebecca “After that, I don’t fancy going anywhere on my own!”
“Ok look.” I said “We’ll meet in the base early in the morning and decide what we’re going to do. Tell Emma too, I haven’t seen her since she went to get her umbrella, she’s missed everything.”
“Ok Jess.” the two of them replied and quickly left to go home. I watched them as they exited the front door and scampered down the road to their houses.
“Jess, can I sleep in with you tonight? I’m afraid!” said Ellie.
“Of course you can Ellie bean; we’ll pull out the spare mattress. I’m sure Mom and Dad won’t mind as long as we’re not too noisy.”
“Are you going to tell Daddy about this when he comes home Jess?” asked Ellie.
“I think I will Ellie. If anyone can help us it’s Dad.”
“But what if he doesn’t believe us?” she asked
“I don’t believe that Dad will think we’re making this up Ellie, I mean, why would we? Anyway… he tells us about fairies all the time.”
“Ok Jess.” She paused… “Jess?”
“Yeah?” I answered.
“He scared me.”
“I know kid, he scared me too, but don’t worry, everything will be ok when Dad gets home, Dad will know what to do for sure. For now, lets go down and get some supper and don’t say anything to Mom about Mr Mott, I don’t want to worry her ok?”
We got to bed that night at about 9.30. Ellie had fallen asleep watching cartoons and Mammy had to carry her up to bed. Dad still hadn’t arrived home and I wanted to speak to him before I fell asleep.
“Where’s Dad tonight Mom, he’s kind of late?” I asked.
“He had to go over to your auntie Sarah’s. She has a hole in her roof and it’s supposed to rain heavily tomorrow and he wanted to get it fixed before the rain came down.”
“If I’m still awake when he comes in Mom, will you ask him to come up and say goodnight to me?”
“Of course I will Jessie, I love you sweetheart.”
“Love you too Mom, ’night.” I made my way up the stairs toward my bedroom.
“I’ll be up to turn your TV off in about thirty minutes sweetie, so try to go asleep.”
“Ok Mom, I will.” I said, whilst thinking; sleep! Chance would be a fine thing. I wasn’t expecting much sleep. I climbed onto my bed and sat looking out of my window at Motts house. I wondered what he was doing in there… probably hatching some evil plan to rid the whole street of all the children who live on it. I glanced at the streetlamp outside his house and saw that a spider had weaved a web on it from the pole to the edge of the light. As I sat looking at it my eyes started to feel heavy and I lay down and let my head sink into the soft pillow. I continued to watch as an insect became entangled in the web and shook it almost to breaking point to try to free itself. But it was out of luck. My eyes started to close just as the spider clambered across the web toward his victim. “Poor little guy…” I mumbled to myself. And just as he reached him my eyes closed and I fell into a deep sleep.
“Jessss, Jessss...” came an evil whisper. What was that? I turned over in bed, and looked at the clock on my bedside locker. 3:15 flashed the big red numbers. The room was dark except for the light from the streetlamp outside dimly shining through the curtains and Ellie was asleep on a mattress on the floor beside me. I didn’t know whether I’d dreamt it or it was real.
“Jessss...” “There it was again, and it was definitely real. My bed was directly under my bedroom window, so I sat up and pulled the curtains apart very slightly and there was Mr Mott standing at the edge of his garden looking up at me. He was 50 yards away from me and my window was closed, I didn’t understand how I could hear him, but hear him I could. I could see his mouth moving and could hear him say…
“Jessss, the beast is coming. He’s coming soooon!” I shrank back from the window, fear enveloping me and dived under the covers. I stayed there until the sun started to rise…