Bertrand came to in the center; wild piping from one hundred unseen throats rending the air.
He’d been in Minions three weeks, studying echoes. The villagers eyed him with suspicion and amusement.
He holed up in his cheap Hotel with the peeling wallpaper at night, reading manuscripts about The Hurlers, the stone circle north of Liskeard. The stones were supposedly men punished by the Lord for throwing stones on the Sabbath. Bertrand thought they were a map, maybe leading to archaeological treasures.
He visited The Hurlers at night and was confronted by vague, hulking shadows, threatening to rip off his arms and shove his sextant up his ass, if ever caught a-hauntin’ again at night. It was then he knew he was on to something.
He followed villagers sneaking to the stones at night, caught them caressing the grooves and edges like lost children. Were they idols? Faerie stones?
He dodged hostile whispers and poisonous glances as he dined in The Willows. No one would meet his gaze in the village market, where he purchased tea and honey and bread to survive his research. There was a tension in the air, thick like ozone. The birds seemed frenzied. Something was coming ….
Shadowed shapes darted from tree to streetlight, one night, and B. knew the time had come. He grabbed his greatcoat, and rushed with stealth. Then the rocks, the ancient, ageless stones.
The whole town gathered in a circle around the circle, began a wordless atonal sing-song, an alien version of American Sacred Harp Singing, a lone drum and lonesome fife, the only accompaniment. He began to feel woozy in the shadows.
He came to, beneath the waning moon; The Hurlers his only companions. The strange singing made his head hurt, his ears pound. He wondered if he was to be a sacrifice. He wondered if he’d been drugged. He wondered what the fuck was going on.
The chanting raised to a feverous pitch, ascending and descending like basalt cliffs. the clouds began to funnel around the diseased orb of the gibbous moon
The sky turned a flat mother-of-pearl above his sodden bellbottoms, before igniting into rainbows.
Suddenly, it was daylight, illuminated by 3 suns. The air was scented with jasmine, clouds raced across the sky like pastel tracers. The stones were gone; a gay picnic, something out of the 1890’s, careened around his ringing ears. The hurler’s hurled, the pipers piped. The townsfolk emerged from the periphery for a tearful reunion with long lost loved ones. For the afternoon, the lovers and the stones rejoiced in a sylvan paradise.
Bertrand watched this congregation for hours, before finally succumbing to hunger, confusion and fatigue. He watched the triple suns set, then observed alien constellations racing across the sky, before surrendering to Oneiros’ claws. He fell asleep on the dewy fields.
In the ‘real’ world, a new stone stood in the exact center of the circle.
[J. Simpson is a freelance writer and musician, based out of Portland, Oregon. His background is in music journalism, where he writes extensively on every permutation of dark and mystical sounds, and he is an a lifelong horror fanatic, and has been known to write on that subject.]