The Dark Ceremony
In 1980, beginning of November, I recall school holidays. School was closed for over the bonfire period and me and my middle brother Andrew and oldest brother Paul did what we always did. Went to stay at our grandma's as it was out in the countryside away from the urban built up areas.
We spent our school nights playing and swinging around a lamp post til the scream of my mother's voice would dull our shouts and laughter to come in. These fizzled out to groans of "awww" and "do we have to" as she reminded us of school in the morning.
Being the youngest of three brothers there were 3 years in between each of us. Myself at the time been 6 my middle brother been 9 and older brother being 12. We all shared a large double bed stacked with three mattress when we stayed at my gran's as I recall. To me at that time seemed so high off the floor that to call it a bunk bed wasn't out of place. Looking back now the fact my grandmother never throw a thing away and the accumulation over years of new mattresses being acquired just meant the height of the bed got bigger. Never bothered me. Ha, I just hope it was bigger the next time we stayed.
We made a decision to get up early and track out towards the old levy pit in order to build a dam and catch bull heads fish. We made a den along with the best thing - lighting a fire in order for us to roast the acquired spuds dug up as we trekked along the farmer's potato field on the 6 to 8 mile route which would fetch us in sight of the levy pit.
Andy and Paul like a commander plans his attack and had thought out our day's inventory. It was all done under the covers of a duva with the so called copper torch which was so named because it was made of rubber and had being acquired by Andrew in a quick thinking lift whilst a coppers car window had being slightly left open.
Paul who saw himself as the officer in command of our small unit (me being just a soldier and Andrew being Sargent) was to keep us in line with the tap from a stick which had been acquired along the way after a great deal of inspections of straightness of many a elderberry bush.
As I recall in them day kids could wounder off for the day and the ugly head of a potential kidnap very rarely was raised or was ever heard of. After the long trudge we reached our destination and after an eventful day of dam building and paddling and trying to dry our clothes the best we could over the fire and not smelling like a backwoods fire starter to our gran, we started the trek back. I recall the day light being with us as we started back but the dusk quickly came from nowhere and darkened the fields in front of us like a blanket had being thrown over us to slow us down.
My older brother had come up with the idea to short cut across old rocky wood in-order to skim a few miles off our homeward journey, despite my whaling and reluctance to follow to which my middle brother had agreed with and if I didn't, I was to go the long way round on my own. I followed reluctantly blubbering and sobbing as I walked but with the intention of not being so far behind that what ever lurked in my imagination would have time to grab me before my brothers could get to me.
We walked in the order that we always walk which was single file. Paul, Andrew, then me fetching up the rear. A shadow of large, medium,small flitted between the dulling light and the backdrop of the tree. Shadows as our unit of would-be small soldiers marched deeper into the wood.
Suddenly a hand single indicating stand quiet was raised by my older brother. This instant sign language which we adhered automatically to had been our communication system growing up - used a number of times when assaulting another gangs' dens and this we had perfected to an art. Paul then made the gesture of two fingers towards his eyes and then the motion of pointing away from himself in front of him. A motion of his hand for us to get low was indicated and me and Andrew scrambled on the fern covered floor to were Paul was crouched. His middle finger indicated us to hush and pointing towards a depression ahead of him in a clearing of the woods.
We could hear a chant of voices and could make out a circle of moving robes illuminated by the light of a large camp fire. "Witches!" our Andy whispered. Sacrificing something as he indicated his neck been slashed with his finger. My eyes strained to see what or who was being sacrificed. All the robed images seemed to be turned towards the person with what I could make out to be a large chain pentagram adorned around their neck. This obviously made them out to be the leader or in charge of the ceremony.
"If they catch us spying we're dead" whispered Paul as his hand gestured to us to back up the way we came fast. We back-stepped carefully trying not to put any of our weight on any twigs which could snap and alert the robes to our presence. I recall my small feet trying to hit dead center of the foot marks made previously in the muddy ground. What was a matter of mere yards took what seamed a life time to cover. Every noise seamed to increase in its volume. To me it really did seem that any noise would awaken the dead. The dead being them in the robes behind us.
I never recalled the 4 miles round-trip we made back home. All I remembered was the tightness of the grip both my brothers had on each of my arms as we fled up hound hill. That never ending reluctance of letting me go til we reached the safety of my grandmother's recognizable garden gate. As if each one of us were attached at the hip as though we were being born Siamese. No brothers could be so far apart the times we had argued and fought each other, as if we were different cubs from a different pack, yet felt so close as we did that night.
Now grown up if I ever get the need to think because I've not seen them for a number of years are they bothered? Then I think back to that particular night when 3 brothers became one, inseparable, and leaving one behind was not a option.
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