The residents of Lettaford are thin-lipped and watchful. Some put it down to the hamlet’s isolated position on the edge of Dartmoor. Others say that the place was borne from the people and that there’s nowt as queer as folk.
One thing everyone agrees on is that the moor is a dangerous place. Mists eddy and creep over the hillocks and streams and do strange things to people’s sense of direction. Rowan and Willow root wind underneath the peat and the heather.
When travellers stop by the low-slung inn, mauve smoke curling from the chimney, the villagers warn them not to set foot upon the moor, no matter how clear the path may seem. Some are foolhardy, though, sneering at the patrons with coaldust in their hair and dregs of ale in their beards.
There had been a time when a party of six young girls from the big town had set off from Lettaford, wicker picnic baskets in their hands and song of their lips. When they did not return, eight burly constables had taken their place in the small in, their maps spread over the rough-hewn tables. They looked askance at the locals for not participating in the search. The villagers shook their heads and looked out to where heather met sky. The bobbies had bustled and shouted and poked their nightsticks into bog and bush. As night had fallen the shouts became hoarse and shrill, the line of lanterns ragged before being doused altogether.
The reflections in the locals’ eyes had turned from azure to navy, and then to black as they watched from the thick, warped windows in the inn. They returned to the fire, where blue flame crept around the peat logs and the wind whistled in the chimney.
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Close to the Bone, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flashback Fiction, Cafelit, Best MicroFiction 2021, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father. He blogs at www.matthewjrichardson.com and tweets at https://twitter.com/mjrichardso0