Below the Surface

A property in the country. What is the strange story attached to that place and the people who have successively called it their home? For that we have to go right back- to the distant past that connects it all.








  The ancient oaks, annually casting off their leaves which had been falling and coming anew longer than all in that place,had, amongst many things witnessed at least three local outbreaks of plague .The black death as it had been known was called so because of the way a victims skin began turning black.It was in fact,the blood decaying under the skin.The dark epidemic had begun stalking the island since the mid thirteen hundreds snuffing out entire communities. And Lynley, forever expectant lived from decade to decade until it appeared that the danger had finally passed. This particular village, it seemed, had been spared.


   Locals breathed a sigh of relief and at Holyrood church, Father Samuel Banks roared.  Devine judgement had been at work and lest they should forget it. Mercy,he explained,had been their reward for following a more Godly living unlike,he inferred, the unfortunate inhabitants of Bridgeford,whose prosperity that town had received,had been spent, erring from the path of righteousness.


   Following so many deaths, Bridgeford’s outlying pastures had all but been turned into isolated quarters for the infected and then more finally, mass graves.Graves which , (fatally), the townsfolk neglected to record clearly.Several years passed and the village of Lynly prospered,taking over some of the business that Bridgeford had lost. Not daring to disturb land that contained plague ridden corpses, Bridgeford people began to prefer land down river at Lynly. New cottages and farms were gradually seen about the place,adding to the landscape.


  Changes too took place at Holyrood Church.Its growing congregation needed accommodating. Father Samuel Banks,in the spirit of recent prosperity enlarged Holyrood church in order to accommodate his flock. And while he was at it, allowed himself some enlargements on his own accommodations at the back. A handsome two story accommodation.


  It was a new time.The monarchy was now in the hands of the Stuart family and memories of plague now only lingered with the old.But then, without warning plague returned,and this time Lynly fell under its shadow too.  Like a gluttonous dark ogre, the plague came and only departed after devouring too much of their life. A few miles upriver, Bridgeford suffered the same fate. Once again the  bell tolled there and its residents watched their dead carted away. Though this time, no one was sure which places were safe to dig up. Disturbing previous burial sites would surely release more death, they said. Five bridges passed over the two rivers which divided Bridgford. And it was here then, that an easier solution was often opted for. From those bridges, dead bodies were dumped in an effort to have the river take the diseased far from them. And the river duly carried them. The bodies found their way floating half putrified,half nibbled by fish  caught up in submerged tree roots or running aground in the shale of the shallows where the river could be forded at Lynly. Locals had for generations shown their sons the best fishing spots. The gladed and shady banks where the river bent and slowed. Another was in the shadows of the  Lynly bridge which  led to beggars cross.Here, glinting rainbow trout hung low in the olive depths

Unfortunately, those infected fish and the contaminated river water which the cattle drank at the ford all helped to bring sickness and death.The cows passed it on in their infected milk and flesh.The market places, on which people depended, innocently exchanged sickness along with their stock or woven cloth. The infected fleas which were in turn brought back to another’s  family home soon found new hosts. And thus, eventually, the near demise of those innocent inhabitants at Lynly. Even Holyrood's priest, Father Samuel Banks ,who taught mercy for the Godly, was shown none. He sickened on the Thursday, developing painful buboes in the groin and armpit by Friday night. Before Sunday's sermon he was dead.


   So,for a time in that place, nearly all was bereft of life, all laying still and dead quiet. Just the murmur and babble of the ever flowing stream while the creak and wave of branches came from above. Fields were left overgrown, vegetables rotted, crops were left unharvested and gone to seed while fences were left un-mended. Stabled horses starved to their deaths while cows wandered unattended through woods and lanes. Lanes whose hedges now grew to meet each other in the middle and became forgotten lanes. 


   And while houses lay empty, abandoned by their inhabitants, the crows could now be found, quickly learning where to venture in search of  perished flesh until nothing remained but the linger of profuse air around that place.


   Time passed, and  those farmhouses and cottages with windows and doors often left open to the elements, slowly deteriorated. No one was there to cut away the strangling vines and creepers which prized apart beams and mortar .Months became years and things would go on. The wheel had swung around and those surviving locals who had had no ownership of house or land tentatively made claim to those abandoned and dilapidated properties, becoming the new land owners of Lynly. They drove out those quarrelsome crows from rooms that they had made theirs with twiggy nests perched atop dirtied cupboards, shelves and dressers, scuttling them out window and door.


  And so life  in Lynly rose again. The reduced congregation was encouraged by the arrival of a new pastor and invigorated with people starting large families,new lives, new beginnings. A new air of hope began to blow. 









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