Danny Clough hated to admit he had a bad sense of direction.
Unfortunately, it was true.
That's why he'd been hiking all over the same set of misty Welsh hills, going in circles, zig-zags, star formations, and getting nothing more out of it than a pair of very tired legs. And a pain in his side. And a headache. And there was also something not quite right going on in his left shoe.
And then it started to rain.
Danny Clough wouldn't have been Danny Clough, scientist, if he'd have given up, packed himself in his clear plastic rain slicker and squelched his way back down into the valley to take shelter in the pub he'd seen on the way up. No, that's wasn't Danny Clough's style at all. Perish the thought.
Stabbing the steel point of his hiking stick resolutely into the thick, verdant moss, Danny Clough started of in a direction he thought he hadn't been yet.
What he was galavanting through dripping countryside for was to find a group of standing stones called Y Dannedd, or in proper words,"The Teeth", which were said to be guarded by a particularly fierce demon. Or sprite. Or witch. Or vampiric sheep answering to the name of Gareth. He didn't know exactly; he wasn't Welsh, thank god. But, whatever the backwards locals thought it was, he was there to find it and debunk it.
Danny Clough was a fanatical debunker. Ever since he'd found out that Father Christmas was Mr Tarington from two doors down and the Easter Bunny sourced its sloppily-dyed eggs from Sainsbury's, he'd been out to break every silly myth and legend he could find. Crack! Right over his knee. He was an iconoclast, an Avenger of Truth, a sceptic, nay, an unbeliever!
He was also kind of lost.
Maybe that way?
Y Dannedd were a group of prehistoric megaliths. Or perhaps miniliths. Some short, stubby rocks outlining nothing more spectacular than a burial mound, most likely. He'd not been able to pull up any photos of the place -- none seemed to exist. He'd questioned the woman who ran the B&B in the village for more specific information, but she'd gone pale and dashed off to see to some toast in the kitchen without telling him anything.
Typical, closed-minded behaviour of those lost in the darkness of superstition. Sad really, but that wouldn't stop Danny Clough!
A half an hour and two hills later, Danny Clough was wondering if it wouldn't indeed stop Danny Clough. At least for that day. He'd return tomorrow. Hopefully with better weather.
Exactly at that moment, the soupy mist that had been following him on his left parted, and he spied two small half-circles of stubby, grey standing stones growing up from out of a bed of viney, rambling underbrush.
Y Dannedd! Good lord, they certainly looked like two rows of teeth, didn't they?
He pulled his camera out and started shooting wide shots from the left, then from the right, then all the way round and back again. The mechanic snap and whirr of the shutter didn't fade away into the distance oddly enough, but rather seemed to ricochet off the mist hanging quietly back, like an audience waiting for a performance to start.
Danny Clough shook his head. Where had that thought come from? Wasn't like him to think such fanciful stuff.
He stowed the camera, and took out a small pouch that held set of pruning shears and a trowel. Both tools were decorated with an embarrassing kitten-and-lilacs pattern. So? They'd been on sale at the garden centre and he'd have to clear away the vines to get a good look at the base of the stones, wouldn't he? Tools were tools. Stop sniggering.
But who'd been sniggering?
Danny Clough peered around, suddenly suspicious.
Hills, mist, rain now turned to drizzle, some bloody Welsh stones and a damp Englishman. That was all. He listened hard, hearing nothing but the distant sound of birds.
Danny Clough took a deep breath and then a few steps towards the stones. As he did, the undergrowth began to change colour.
At first, it had been the same tough, dark green as the rest of the foliage, but then it rapidly took on a blue cast that melted into an iridescent purple and then into a glaring, intense red the closer he came. No, the closer he was pulled.
He wanted to stop, reverse, go back, but his body kept moving forward towards the semi-circles. The colours began to pulse like disco lights then and -- even more unbelievably -- the vines untangled, slithering aside like technicolour snakes, to reveal a deep, dark pit behind. A pit that resembled nothing more than a throat.
The definition of a word he loathed flashed through Danny Clough's mind as the undergrowth arched round, whizzing at him from both sides like arms. Cryptid: flora or fauna yet to be documented by science.
Just before the vines wrapped around his ankles, dragging him feet-first towards the now sharp and sulphur-yellow stones, Danny Clough, myth-buster, added his own postscript to the definition: and never will be. This is such utter bollocks.
The mist floated gently forward to surround Y Dannedd like a curtain, obscuring what was happening inside. A sound like applause rustled through the bushes and grass.
After a while, a pair of shears and a trowel came spinning out of the white, tumbling down into a ravine where they joined a collection of picnic baskets, eyeglasses and pocketknives.
And then, there was only silence and the distant chirping of birds.
This is my entry to the AmbassdorsUK Historic Halloween prompt "Megaliths and Cryptids".
If you'd like to know how to say Y Dannedd, it's: uh dahn-eth (hard th, like in the)
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Tales from the Black Goat: Paranormal One ShotsShort Story
Short tales dealing with all manner of paranormal, esoteric and unexplained phenomenon. Not all the stories are creepy. In fact, a few are humorous.