Torver Tales‎ > ‎

The Looming

It was a chilly Autumn night in Torver - dark and damp. A few of the more dedicated locals were gathered around the struggling embers of the log fire in the Kirk’us Inn. A mood of dank gloom pervaded the atmosphere leaving little room for cheer. The Shepherd held court from the stone seat closest to the fire, bewailing the weather, the woes of the sheep farmer and possibly the price of fish, and the others jostled to steal some warmth, ignoring him completely as was their habit. The Landlord, his own best customer, swayed gently on a bar stool, dividing his attention between a half-full glass of lager and the drooping tip of his cigarette. The Singer was shuffling dominoes on the corner table without much enthusiasm, and rest of the quartet sat watching her, waiting to continue the game… or for death, whichever came the sooner. The Captain partnered the Singer whilst the Viking was teamed with the Carpenter, not that it really mattered. The pairings were always decided by where the bums happened to fall on the seats. The Fitter was throwing darts at the board, dreaming of winning the World Championship, and the Sailor was propping up the bar and dreaming of blue skies far, far away. It was ever thus, and the best anyone could hope for on a dismal Thursday night in Autumn.

The Carver dragged his heavy booted feet across to the bar, placed his empty glass by the pumps and began fumbling in his pocket for some loose change. “I’ve only just sat down!” said the Landlord, slouching yet lower onto his stool as though his world was caving in around him. “I’ll do it.” the Carver replied, wandering round the bar and shifting his glass under the Murphy’s tap. The Landlord just nodded, returning to his dark thoughts.

“Whose lead is it?” “Mine, I think.” “Who led last time?” “Not me.” “I think it was me.” “It’ll be you then.” - the same weary conversation that had played out a thousand times before, preceding every round of doms in the Kirk’us Inn since back when God was a lad. The tiles began to fall and the scorer pegged the scores as in days of yore, and the fog swirled around the door like the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, summoning the drinkers to their graves with a the hooked finger of his bony hand.

Suddenly the peace was shattered as the door flew back against the wall. A blast of freezing, mist-laden air rushed in, provoking the dreary fire into a brief spasm of sparking activity. A large woman, draped in a cloak of the darkest hue, burst into the bar and stood shaking the rigours of the night from her spectral apparel. She blustered and blithered, clearly in a state of some distress, before blundering away to a side table, revealing as she did so the diminutive frame of an elderly gentleman whose entry had thus far gone unnoticed. The gentleman dallied by the bar until the Landlord, shaken from his reverie, staggered to his proper place to await his order. “A large brandy, if you please, and a glass of lemonade.”

“What’s doin’, then?” asked the Shepherd, addressing the large woman. “Tha seems a lal put out!

“Oh, it’s the most awful thing!” she replied, still very flustered and mopping her face with a small, inadequate square of tissue. “There we were, just walking down the road, weren’t we, George, and suddenly this awful… thing… came up behind us and just loomed out of the darkness, grunting and squeaking and… Oh, it was just awful!”

“Now don’t you go upsetting yourself, Ethel.” said George, pressing the brandy glass into her trembling hand. “You just sip that while I see about a room.”

“Don’t be silly, George. How can I not be upset with that thing looming up at me like that out of the fog? My poor heart’s still beating nineteen to the dozen. What on earth was it, George? And where did it go, that’s what I should like to know?”

“Well it’s gone now, Dear. That’s the thing.”

“That’s not the point, George. Whatever it was, it can’t just have disappeared. What on earth was it? It was certainly very large and I swear, George, it was glowing. It had these horrible green stripes and they definitely glowed. It was… oooh, horrible!”

“I expect it was just a sheep, Dear.”

“Of course it wasn’t a sheep, George. Don’t be so silly. It was as tall as I am, and it glowed, George, it definitely glowed. And those grunting noises… Urgh!”

The doms game was forgotten now as the assembled company, much cheered by this turn of events, sat spellbound by the lady’s frantic oration. Even the Landlord had sobered up a little and was joining in the general excitement, his face as foggy as the night as he struggled to grasp what was going on. “So, this… er… thing came out of the darkness, did it?”

“That’s exactly what it did. It just loomed up out of nowhere like… like… Oh, I don’t know what! I don’t know what sort of dreadful beasts you people keep around here, but whatever they are they should be kept locked away somewhere. Not let out on the road to frighten people half to death!”

“An’ tha says it grunted an’ squeaked?” the Shepherd put in.

“Well, yes it did. Yes. It was a sort of… mousy sound. Sort of regular… like… squeaking. And grunting.”

“Well,” says the Shepherd, warming to the theme and grinning like a fool, “pigs grunt an’ mice squeak, as ye pointed oot, but I do’ know nothin’ what does both o’ em at once.”

“Oh, well, I’m just glad you find it all so amusing, whoever you are. But whatever it was, I did not imagine it and somebody should be called to account for letting it out onto the road like that.”

“Sounds a bit like th’ole dobby come down out o’ t’woods. ‘T’aint ‘alloween, is it?

At this point matters were in grave danger of getting out of hand. The large woman snorted loudly and retired to a seat in the corner with her little husband hurrying after her. The Carver, his face reddening with the effort of suppressing the guffaw that strained at his cheekbones, rushed for the door and the distant privacy of the gents. The Singer was lying prone on the wall bench, hidden from view by the table and squeaking at least as loudly as the poor lady’s looming dobby, and the Shepherd was simply dissolving by the fire and spilling his beer liberally over his feet. The Landlord, still much confused, had clearly become infected by the general merriment and was uttering the strangest sounds through a spluttered cascade of beer.

At this point in the proceedings, the door once again flew open, introducing into the affray, the Engineer, who appeared no less flustered than the aforementioned lady. After colliding with the Carver, returning from the conveniences, he stood in the centre of the bar in his bicycle clips and luminous safety jacket, positively foaming at the mouth with rage. The Carver, believing their collision to have been the cause of his anger, nipped smartly round the doms table and huddled close to the Singer for protection.

“You buggers’ll never guess what just ‘appened to me,” the Engineer shouted. “I was riding my bike down yon road when this daft wassock of a woman loomed up out of the darkness and fair frit me to death. Screamed out like a damned banshee, she did. I was so shook up I rode clean off the road and landed arse-uppards in the ditch with the bike wrapped around me ‘ead. It’s taken me nigh on ten minutes to get meself out. And me front wheel’s so buckled I’ve ‘ad to carry the damned bike all the way ‘ere.

The house dissolved into a fit of unsuppressed laughter which continued until the Shepherd caught sufficient of his breath to speak. “Wi’ all that loomin’ goin’ on, you’n best get t’gether wi’ that woman in t’corner. ‘Appen you’ll ‘ave summat in common. An’ when you’ve got yer wheel sorted out, you’d best oil yer bike an’ all!”