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Legend Has It

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Legend Has It

The Beguiler

When Chris and Simon stay over at the house, we tell each other horror stories. There are only two rules.

  1. The story must take place in our home town of Phalscam.
  2. The story must begin, 'Legend has it'.

Over the years, I heard a lot of good horror stories. Chris was the best at telling them.

There was the flesh-eating sea hag that found its way into the lake; the sand monster that still lurked in the bunker at our local golf course; the snaggle-toothed nymphs that crept into the bouquets of Phalscam hospital patients and bit them to death in their sleep.

These were all fantastic tales, but I suspect he only had the edge over Simon because he practiced. I know for a fact that Chris's brother got to hear them first and give his opinion. As for Si... well, his monsters were never very scary.

All except for one.

He didn't wait until the sleepover to tell me this one. Instead, he approached me in the school canteen and sat opposite me. His face was worryingly blank.

"Legend has it..." he began.

"Oh?" I said, putting down my sandwich.

"Legend has it that a woman can be seen wandering around in the Cockshutt in Phalscam."

The Cockshutt was a path through the woods, frequented by dog-walkers and kids taking a shortcut back from school. I sat up straighter in my chair.

"What's her name?" I asked.

Simon shook his head. "She doesn't have a name," he said. "It's not really a legend; I don't know if anyone else has even seen her. Paul and I did, though."

"Paul from the library?"

"Yeah." His glasses caught the light. "We were there last night looking for his cat. It was really dark, because there are no lights up there. But we could hear his cat moving around, so we went in after it. I think for a while, we realized we'd been following a bird and lost track of the cat. Paul said we should turn back, but..."

I nodded. "You got lost."

"Yeah. We got lost."

This was a good story. He'd put some thought into this one.

"We wandered around," he said. "I thought if we found that wooden set of stairs leading up the hill, we might see the lights from the houses, and then we could head in that direction. So, that's what we did. It took about half an hour, but we found the wooden stairs. We got to the top..." He pulled his fringe back and took a breath.

"Yeah? Then what?"

"And there was a woman standing at the top," said Simon. He looked me in the eyes. "She was... really tall, and really beautiful. I don't know how to describe her..."

"Well, have a go."

"I can't. I only looked at her a few seconds, and I felt stunned. Like, she was just so beautiful, and delicate, and..."

Simon put his head on the table and gave a sob. The girl sitting next to me gave us a strange look, and I nudged Simon.

"Hey," I said, "come on, Si..."

After a moment, he pulled himself together and looked at me again.

"Sorry," he said. "I was... Yeah. This woman. I looked at her for a few seconds, and then I got this pain in my chest, sort of here... and then everything started to blur."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, my vision started to go weird, but only what I was seeing through my glasses. Around my glasses, I was actually starting to see better. That's never happened to me. Never. And I just... I turned around and ran back down the stairs. When I got to the bottom, I could see again. But Paul was still up there. He was still watching this woman, and no matter how much I shouted, he wouldn't come with me. So I left. I left Paul there."

Then Simon lowered his head, and poked his thumb through the hole in his jumper cuff.

"That's the end of the story?" I asked.

He nodded.

"Have you seen Paul today?"

For a moment, I thought he was going to start sobbing again. But he didn't. He just shrugged at me and said, "He's not in the library."

Normally, I would never believe one of these 'Legend has it' stories. But something about it fascinated me. Simon seemed to believe in it. I didn't see Paul for the rest of the day. It was really good and I wanted to take it to the next level. Go to the top of the staircase and spook myself out a bit.

It's not the best story I've ever heard. For one thing, Simon didn't tell me what the woman's deal was. Did she have teeth? Claws? Did she attack Paul and decorate the trees with his guts? He wouldn't say.

So going up to the wooden hill in the Cockshutt would solve a few mysteries.

I'm starting up the path. It is dark, but there's still the streetlamp behind me, and I've got the light from this phone.

(Sent from my mobile)

OK, getting seriously dark, now. I'm having to lean against a tree to type this out. Could wait until I get home I suppose, but it's slightly more reassuring to do this. Who knows? I might never come back...

(Sent from my mobile)

I can hear rustling in the trees. Might be Paul's cat. Ha ha ha.

(Sent from my mobile)

Now I'm at the bottom of the stairs. For some reason I'm seeing Simon in my head, telling me the story. I can remember the glasses catching the light. Maybe it was a good thing he was wearing them. Maybe I should have asked to borrow them.

(Sent from my mobile)

I'm at the top of the wooden stairs. No sign of the woman but I'll stay for about half an hour. Any longer and my brother will come and get me.

(Sent from my mobile)

She's here. I think time is moving more slowly, or maybe I'm typing quicker than I've ever typed before. She is beautiful. She's wearing nothing but I'm looking at her face. Her eyes are deep blue. They're so deep. My chest hurts. It feels hollow. She's beautiful and pale and deep but I don't care. There's something behind me and it has claws. I don't care. It's taking over me. I don't care.

(Sent from my mobile)

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