The Golden Tears
by Neil Armstrong
part 1 of 2
Jacob Marsh opened his eyes and wondered if he had. All was black. Then the darkness started to swirl in front of him, shot through with greys and blues. His head spun and for a moment he felt he was falling. Sharp pains in his spine kicked in. He was on his back, looking at the sky. The shattered stone surface on which he lay pricked him like a bed of nails.
Jacob levered himself up and looked around. He seemed to be in the basin of a crater. His throat burned and his eyes streamed from the smoke that hung in the air. He forced himself to sit upright and, to one side, he caught a glimpse of a trainer, stark white against the gloom.
‘Elizabeth.’ he gasped. Then he remembered and slumped back to the ground, oblivious to the pain as tears flowed down his grime-streaked face.
An Unexpected Visitor; Canterbury, England, June 1942
The bishop cleared his throat before speaking. ‘Lloyd, your work in the time you have been with us has been exceptional.’
The man at the desk in front of him leaned back in surprise. ‘Thank you, my lord.’
‘Your research on the manuscripts from Northumberland has been most enlightening.’ The bishop paused and raised an eyebrow. ‘However, the dean has found it necessary to report to me your most recent findings.’
‘It is a most exciting discovery my Lord.’ Lloyd’s voice quivered with excitement.
‘Yes.’ The bishop paused. ‘But am I really to believe that—’
‘Yes, they existed in this land. Not just as an allegory of Satan, but as real living creatures.’ Lloyd stopped when he saw the bishop’s expression.
‘Do you have any idea what this type of speculation might mean for our faith?’
‘Not speculation, my Lord, fact. This is clearer evidence than we have for—’
‘I am more concerned with faith, Lloyd. You would do well to remember that. Pagans and any number of cranks would delight in this. At a time of crisis, the people need a strong and simple faith. We must exercise caution before undermining morale.’
‘But surely you cannot deny what you see before you.’
‘Do I really need to tell you that faith is not simply about what you see with your own eyes?’
‘But my work—’
The bishop’s tone was stern. ‘The results will be fully considered by the appropriate authorities and a decision taken on their further dissemination. Your work in this area will now cease. Your papers are, as we speak, being removed to a place of safekeeping in the city. Good day, Lloyd.’ The bishop turned on his heel and strode out of the room.
Lloyd was stunned. He heard the bishop’s footsteps echoing across the courtyard. He couldn’t let his work go. Seized by a new resolve he sprang from his chair and sped down the stairs in pursuit.
Lloyd had just reached the street when he was stopped in his tracks. The wail of an air raid siren pierced the still of the early evening air. It was soon followed by the menacing drone of the bombers that would destroy Lloyd’s work forever.
The Escape from Daniel Parker
Jacob was breathing hard. He struggled up the muddy slope as the heavy rain lashed down. He slipped and fell to his knees, but in desperation dug his fingers into the wet earth and clawed his way up to the top of the ridge. He threw himself against a tree, welcoming the shelter of its leaves. He wanted to sink to the floor to rest but didn’t dare.
‘You little creep, I’m going to kill you.’ The voice of Daniel Parker, playground bully, who had chosen Jacob as his victim for the day.
Jacob groaned. Perhaps he should have just stood there and taken the pounding that Parker had lined up for him at lunchtime. But Jacob had escaped his assailants and sped away to safety, the bell for afternoon lessons never sounding so sweet.
As Jacob had run from school at the end of the day across the playing fields, he had heard a yell and seen Parker pounding across the grass behind him. Almost on cue the sky had darkened and the downpour begun.
Jacob was on old wasteland, known locally as the Deeps, something to do with mining years ago. It was difficult ground, and the rain had made it more treacherous. He was now peering into a rock-strewn crater. The slope in front of him was steep and partly covered in shingle but with Parker close behind, he had no choice and launched himself down.
Jacob was light and agile and thought he had the measure of the slope. But as his speed increased, he lost control. As he fell he saw Parker framed against the brooding skyline at the top of the slope. Then, as his body flipped, his mouth opened in astonishment. A hole in the ground had opened below.
When he came round, Jacob found himself in a small tunnel. It was dry, at least. But his way back was blocked. Whatever gap he had fallen through had been filled by a torrent of debris. Although there was no apparent light source, Jacob was able to make out the faint outline of the passageway. As he edged forward the light took on an orange tinge. He passed a series of wooden props and saw score marks in the walls.
Something started to play at the back of Jacob’s mind. He was moving towards the light, but in doing so he was descending. The passageway took a sharp turn and he pulled up short. The way forward was piled high with earth, but what was more intriguing was the hole in the floor of the passage in front of him, which was the source of the amber glow.
Jacob peered down. The passage below was quite shallow. But he had no other way out. He eased himself down and crawled a short distance towards the light, which seemed to draw him on. After a few minutes, he emerged into a small chamber and with some relief was able to scramble to his feet.
In front of him was an uneven rock face of strange twisted shapes. It was shot through with pulsing colours that made the surface seem to rise and fall. He moved close to the rock, which was warm to the touch. The colours now looked like blood pumping through the veins of the earth.
It was then that the eye opened.
A bulbous section of rock flicked up in front of Jacob and he found himself looking into an enormous jet black pupil. The rocky eyelid blinked. He tried to turn back, but couldn’t. Within the pupil he saw swirling eddies of darkness and then, at the bottom of the eye, a red gold tear that threatened to burst forth.
Without knowing why, he felt that this liquid was precious and should not be spilled. He extended his hands and it poured into his palms like syrup. A voice seemed to whisper inside his head. It spoke of power. But most of all it spoke of retribution. He nodded. Knowing what he had to do. He put his hands to his mouth and began to drink.
Jacob woke with a start. In that moment of confusion he imagined himself falling into an inky black void. But then realised he was looking at storm clouds in the sky above. He was back at the bottom of the slope.
Then it came back to him: his fall, the tunnel, the eye — and Parker! He jerked around in alarm, but there was no-one to be seen.
He stood up, sweeping his arms against the loose stones which flew away from him in all directions. He didn’t seem to have any cuts or bruises, but his clothes were filthy and torn. He shook his head, quietly thanked whatever good fortune had saved him and strode easily back up the slope.
Jacob skirted the edge of the Deeps. He wanted to be able to head for cover if Parker appeared. But then his attention was caught by a faint crying sound.
The storm had brought down a tree, pinning a sheep underneath its fallen trunk. It was bleating faintly. Jacob felt sorry for it, but the nearer he got the more frantic it became. He braced himself against the trunk, hoping he might be able to roll it away, but as he slipped his hands underneath he felt a rush of energy and threw the tree up into the air. It spun like a tossed caber to land on the ground some ten feet away.
Jacob sat down heavily, jaw agape at what he had done. He looked back to the sheep. It was badly crushed and a branch had punctured its side. Blood was pouring from the wound, mingling with the falling rain in the animal’s sodden coat.
A string of images assailed Jacob’s mind. He saw the eye. The pulsing rock. A drop of golden liquid. The voice whispered. He fell forwards and crawled towards the sheep, which was now expending its last breaths in a desperate frenzy.
What Elizabeth Saw
‘I tell ya, Danny, I saw him. Clear as day.’
‘No way, Sis, not Jacob. He couldn’t get out of a wet paper bag.’
‘God’s honest. He was staggering through the Deeps looking like he’d been ten rounds in the ring and then he chucked that tree up in the air like a matchstick.’
‘All right Lizzie, even if I believe you, what did he do then?’
‘Dunno. He disappeared out of sight. I was outside the fence. I’ve got better things to do than get piss wet spying on your mates, you know. Perhaps he’s been working out?’
Danny snorted. Elizabeth shrugged her shoulders and wandered to her room. She quite liked Jacob, even if he was a year older and Danny’s best mate. He didn’t say much which, given the type of chat that Dan and his friends usually came out with, was no bad thing. His thoughts seemed to run deeper than those of your average 14-year old. Perhaps she ought to explore those depths a bit.
The next day dawned brighter. A stiffening breeze had driven away the iron-grey clouds. Elizabeth had hoped to tag along with Dan and Jacob on the way to school, but they found that Jacob had left early.
‘Up and out early, like the devil was on his heels,’ Jacob’s mum had said when they called for him.
Elizabeth finally caught sight of Jacob at lunchtime when she was out in the playground. He was perched on a banister rail gazing out through one of the high stairwell windows of the main school building. His head was flicking back and forth like a hawk looking for its prey. She waved but he didn’t respond. She was about to shout up to him when she was sent sprawling to the floor, her bag flying off to one side.
‘Watch where you’re going, you silly bitch.’
Elizabeth looked up into the grinning face of Daniel Parker. She scrambled to her feet as one of Parker’s friends scooped up her bag and dangled it upside down, scattering the contents. There was a crunch as Parker ground his heel into a mirror compact.
‘Whoops,’ he said, in a mocking tone.
There was a sudden rushing noise and Parker was sent crashing to the ground. He raised himself to his knees to see what had hit him. He shook his head, unable to believe that it was Jacob.
‘That’s seven years’ bad luck for you,’ spat Jacob kicking the remains of the mirror towards him. Parker opened his mouth but Jacob’s foot lashed out and caught him square on the jaw. Parker crumpled to the ground in a spray of blood and teeth.
Elizabeth screamed. Jacob staggered back. Parker’s two cronies who had been standing like statues grabbed Jacob, who had gone deathly pale. He flopped between them like a rag doll.
‘Let him go.’ Elizabeth launched herself forward.
‘Yes. Let him go.’ Mr Barton, the deputy head, had stepped into the fray. He looked down at the crumpled form on the floor. ‘Parker, get to the nurse. The rest of you, come with me.’
Copyright © 2013 by Neil Armstrong