Jola Fallach

And then, I was there, in the remote northerly corner of England, after my journey in the footsteps of young Arthur Kipps, from tremendously busy London's King's Cross station to slightly lethargic Crewe, and from Crewe to somewhat drowsy Homerby, where I found the branch line to rural, secluded and mystical Crythin Gifford.

I left London's November greyness, with inclement weather and short days; but yet vibrant with flashing neons, shop windows and cars’ lights, with Londoners preparing themselves for the Christmas Holiday, a festival of even more lights and fun; and I found myself in a picturesque tiny village, among houses tucked snugly back against the winds and rains, invading this village frequently from both the marshes and the sea.

Despite the isolated location, the rather cold inhabitants and fairly humble hotel - I decided to stay - I felt uplifted by the openness, wasteness and emptiness of the surroundings. It was something extremely comforting to be able to see the horizon around you; and moreover, the various shades of green and blue of the fields and of the sea, instead of the cement, glass and steel of the vast, vibrating and vigorous city.

Ready to continue my jaunt, I left Crythin Gifford and found the causeway heading towards the wildland. It was one of those mild autumnal days with the fresh air and the sun, amicably calling for a stroll in the sunshine. The sky was a delicate, azure colour with fluffy white clouds, sailing slowly, even lazily; certainly, they were enjoying that morning by themselves, as much as I did.

As I was following Nine Lives Causeway and advancing into the flatness of the marshes, pale grass interspersed with small, twisted and battered by the elements clumps of trees, displaced the green fields. The ground was wet, but not submerged yet. It was a low tide. Here and there, dykes and pitches with glittering patches of water were glancing toward the clouds, mirroring their dancing movements and attracting the birds that came to breakfast.

It was a kingdom of freedom and brotherhood, of freedom from any civilisation and of brotherhood of nature; a place where nature suppressed every human invasion; a place where only stony knoll that silhouetted the proud remains of the house in the far distance, evoked humanity. It was a place of luxurious nothingness, the solitude of joyfully singing birds and the infinite confusion between the sky and the water.

In front of me, slightly to the left from the old, greyish dwelling, stretched out the estuarine waters of the river Drablow that opened its arms for the shallow waters of the bay to reach the sea. The visibility was perfect and I could see the boats, small as children's toys passing by on their way to the safety of busy harbours.

I breathed in and out, as deeply as I could, appreciating the slightly salty air of the marshes; then, I turned back to rural emptiness extending to north, south and west that displayed dark brown rich soil, waiting for the next growing season. When I turned back again to face the marshes, something happened, there was a change, I failed to apprehend.

The birds, singing happily before, were now swooping into the ground with high-pitched sounds, crying as if in terror; and I could hear new noises, squalls and wails, shrieks and shrills, emitted in unison by something -- someone -- in the steel blue estuary or bay, as if a sea monster was about to wake up and take this land in its possession. There was something shifting, swirling, pushing up and down, hiding between emaciated, stunted trees, huddled together as in a sense of foreboding. The sinister hissing intruded onto the marshes. Something silky and dank was on its way.

Suddenly, the marshes lay silent. Silent, still and silver like an Antarctic ice lake in winter, reflecting only the vastness of alien terrain, utterly lacking any trace of life. And now, it struck, the iron-grey bleak sea-mist, expressionless and maliciously mysterious, rolling over the marshes to swallow everything in the eerie blackness. The world seemed to be an empty waiting tomb, and from its hollowness a dim figure emerged, pallid, wasted and gaunt. Was she real? Was it Jennet, a wicked and ominous portent of supernatural relentless revenge? She moved in my direction...I gave a cry, turned back to run, run, run screaming in panic...and I woke up yelling, cold and sweaty, in my own bed. My dog jumped into the bed, licked my face and we both fell asleep.
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