If you could see what I have seen, it would make you question everything. By the time you read this – if you read this – I’ll probably be still alive, although I want you to know just in case I end up copping it that you are about to read about every single horror imaginable. Everyone thinks England is such a safe place, just because it has had all the venom sucked out of it. They must think again. Every single hamlet in the provinces houses a dark secret of some sort, and every village, and every settlement has one or two bad things happening in it. You may claim me to be mad, but if I am mad, then it is a gift. As a great writer once wrote, the gods pity the man who in his callousness can remain sane to the hideous end.
It all began many years ago, when I was a boy. I was eight years old, and my frame was quite emaciated. There was nothing especially notable about me, except for two freckles on either cheek. My hair was sandy back then, as opposed to the greying, silvery hair it is now. I was on the run. I wore a hooded raincoat in an effort to disguise my age. It was one that was slightly too large for me, but it would have to do. I had stolen my dad’s Cheque Guarantee Card and used it to book myself a train ticket from London’s Paddington Station. Where I was going, I had no idea, although one thing was certain and that was that I was never going back. Ever.
I looked out of the window of the train and thought back to the incident that made me run away from home, wondering if my life would ever get any better. Luckily, there were no train strikes that day, so one could consider me fortunate. I looked through the carriage. Mothers were there, with their children, the kids sitting on their laps holding balloons. There something about it that made me misty-eyed. There were men with silly long hair, which trailed down to their shoulders. There were businessmen in fancy suits with tiepins, who held briefcases on their laps. From the looks of things, they had more money than my family ever could.
“Tickets, please!” said the guard, as he walked down the aisles of the carriage. I rolled up my long sleeves and retrieved a gazetteer that I’d been keeping in my pocket. It was one of those books which is designed to be stored in someone’s pocket, like those editions of Shakespeare’s plays. I looked at the various settlements and villages in the Somerset-Dorset region. There were certain villages that I looked at. Sherborne, Wells, Blandford, but out of the corner of my eye, I spied one which I didn’t really know about. Cubbington was its name. What made this even more confusing was that there was both a Cubbington in Warwickshire and one in Somerset. I wondered why. I scratched my chin.
The reason I wanted to go to one of these villages was in the hope that they’d take me in. I’d been in the Public Library in Stratford, a very squalid building, and I’d flicked through one of the dictionaries they’d had there in the reference section – one of those big books that one’d think to be boring, and I’d flicked through and found a saying that interested me. “It takes a village to raise a child.” That was it, and the definition it had given me was “Those who are raising a child need many people’s help and support.” If Mum and Dad couldn’t take care of me in a loving way, maybe a village could. I needed to go somewhere far, far away where my parents couldn’t find me, where the Metropolitan Police wouldn’t stop me. Once I did that, who knows? I would go to the States, and hopefully find a way to make my fortune there, as some claimed I could.
I felt a finger poking my shoulder. “Tickets, please!” came a voice from above me. I raised my head to find the guard standing over me. I dug into my pocket, drew out my ticket and watched as the guard clipped it with his device. The guard had some light brown skin, one of the many lightly-brown-skinned people nowadays. He lent in and looked at me suspiciously. “What are you doing here, son?” he asked. “You’re too young to be on a train by yourself.”
“Shh!” I snapped, abrasively. “Keep the noise down. I don’t know what you’re getting at, but don’t go blathering about it in here. Other passengers aren’t supposed to know.” I sighed, and encouraged him to pretend that I was a mere hallucination, a figment of his imagination. I also told him to tell anyone in charge of the CCTV to divert that spotlight away from me. The guard sighed, and replied that he didn’t know if he had the power to do that, but he’d do his best.
“Also,” I whispered, “do you have any idea about a village called Cubbington in Somerset?”
“No,” he replied. “I never knew there even was such a village.”
He turned and continued taking people’s tickets. I turned back to my gazetteer, and wondered about whether I ought to ask other people about this village. I liked the name Cubbington. It had a nice ring to it. It brought feelings of warmth, safety, and hugs all around. Whatever anyone else may have thought, I knew that they would care for me down there.
Eventually, I was visited by an elderly gentleman in a trenchcoat. “So, you’re from London?” he asked.
I was unsure whether to trust him or not. But he gently chuckled.
“Don’t worry, boy. I’m not going to trouble you. I couldn’t help but notice that you’re trying to find a village called Cubbington, Somerset?”
I nodded. “You know about it?”
“I am one of the few who do, my boy. Other people don’t believe it exists, but it has quite a small following among conspiracy theorists such as myself. You’re from London, is that what you said? My best advice for you would be to get right back there as soon as possible.”
“You know I can’t do that, sir?”
“You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into, boy.”
“Doesn’t the saying go ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, sir?”
“You do not want to be raised by this village.” Something about the way he said it caught me off guard. To be more precise, he said it in a harsh whisper, as if he knew that it wasn’t something that should be openly said, even here. I leant in and asked him why, in that incessantly childish questioning tone which sounds more whiny than inquisitive.
He beckoned towards me and he whispered into my ear. “They say people go missing down there. Some blokes just vanish, never to be seen again.”
“No one knows. That is one of the great mysteries of the county of Somerset. But what is certain is that it is an area that reeks of evil. Even animals avoid the area. Birds don’t fly near it. Wolves, sparrows, and foxes have fled. They say that the surrounding forest is deserted of all life that isn’t human.”
As soon as the train reached Weston-super-Mare, he looked down at his watch. “Right, this should be my stop.” He got up from his seat and walked down the aisle, but not before looking back at me one last time. “I’m warning you,” he said. “There’s a village nearby. Stay there, but whatever you do, stay away from that village you’re planning to go to. Those people do not play nice.” Then he went down the aisle and out of sight, and I could barely look at him before he disappeared completely.