I walked around the stones that were sticking out of the ground like monstrous teeth. No one else was about. Not many people knew this place existed; if they did once, they seem to have forgotten it now. I was alone as I explored the standing stones in the darkness.
It was Midsummer’s Eve, and the moon above was full and bright, bathing both stone and grass in silver light. As I looked about, I wondered why I came. It wasn’t to celebrate the solstice or anything like that; I was neither druid nor witch. I wasn’t a pagan.
Nevertheless, I was here, though I had no reason to be.
I went and sat on the horizontal stone in the centre of the circle. It looked like it had fallen over eons ago; patches of lichen dappled its surface, the moonlight making it stand out, luminous in the dark.
The air was warm; I wondered if it would rain. Of course, I would have gone home by then. I wasn’t planning on staying long, just long enough to…to what? Perplexed, I wrinkled my brow and rubbed my temples. At any rate, I would be home before it rained. I wouldn’t be here much longer. A few more minutes, and then I would be on my way…
I awoke to the sound of laughter. As I opened my eyes, something darted between the menhirs in front of me. I scrambled backwards in fright, only to fall heavily on to the damp grass beside my stone bed.
How I had managed to fall asleep, out here, on an ancient slab of stone, I couldn’t begin to understand. My mind was dizzy with confusion.
Slowly, I peered up over the edge of the fallen stone at the centre of the circle, and looked about. I saw nothing.
‘Of course,’ I said to myself, ‘I had imagined it. Waking up in a strange, unfamiliar place will do that to you.’ I shook my head. Why was I being so silly when I was usually so sensible?
I quietly laughed at myself in embarrassment. Didn’t I feel foolish, sitting there on the grass, hiding from some imaginary creature behind a huge lump of stone. I rolled on to my knees, stiff from sleeping on the hard slab of granite, and made to stand when –
‘Ow!’ I exclaimed, rubbing the back of my head furiously. A small stone lay on the ground by my feet.
Again I looked about, but saw nothing. But I heard them, giggling in delicate, high-pitched voices.
‘Excuse me!’ I called out, trying to get their attention. The laughing suddenly stopped. ‘Excuse me!’ I called again, only louder this time.
But the stone circle remained silent. I waited for a few moments, wondering what to do. Then I marched over to the standing stone from which I guessed the last lot of laughing came. Just as I reached it, two flashes of sparkly light whooshed past me.
I spun round to see where they went, amazed by what I was seeing. ‘Come back here!’ I shouted, rather belatedly, but they paid me no heed as they vanished behind one of the stones on the opposite side of the circle. I tried following them, but when I got too close, they fled to a different stone, laughing as they went.
Eventually, exhausted, I sat back down on the central stone to get my breath back. What was going on? My head was spinning as I tried to get a handle on the situation. The lights flitted past me again, moving back and forth, each time daring to come a little closer to me. I was starting to feel quite annoyed, but an idea was beginning to form in my mind.
I took off my cardigan, and judging my aim carefully, I threw it, stopping one of the creatures as they moved across the circle. The other one continued on, leaving the other one to struggle beneath the weight of the garment, huffing and puffing as it did so.
I approached warily. When I was close enough, I gathered up the edges of the fabric and scooped the creature up. I had to hold it at arms length, because it was angrily punching and kicking to try and break free.
‘Stop that at once!’ I said, in the most forceful, school-teacher voice I could muster.
‘Let me out! Let me out!’ the voice cried from within.
‘No, I won’t. You threw a stone at my head!’ I exclaimed, cross. ‘Now. Where is the other one?’ I said, turning round in a circle slowly. ‘Why don’t you come over here so we can have a little chat?’
‘No, don’t do it! Don’t do it!’ the voice from inside the cardigan shouted.
‘Be quiet!’ I snapped. ‘I am not going to hurt either of you. I am nice and kind and gentle, and nothing like you two, who were more than happy to throw a sharp stone at the back of my head and laugh about it, knowing that you had hurt me.’
The bundle went limp. The circle was very quiet. I let the stillness continue for a few minutes longer, before simply saying, ‘I just want to know what is going on.’
‘Will you let my brother go?’ a quiet voice whispered from behind the central stone. I could see the sparkly light coming from the other creature as it peered around its side.
‘Of course, I will. But first tell me what is going on.’
‘How do I know I can trust you?’ came the little voice.
‘I give you my word.’
‘How about you let my brother go and then we tell you?’
‘How do I know that you both won’t just disappear into the ether?’
‘You don’t trust us any more than we trust you, it seems.’
‘You threw a stone at my head – I have every right not to trust you. Now start explaining.’
‘It’s Midsummer’s Eve.’
‘Then why ask.’
‘I asked for an explanation. That wasn’t one.’
‘Yes it was. It’s Midsummer’s Eve.’
‘And? There must be more to say.’
‘We’re fairies. It’s Midsummer’s Eve. There isn’t anything more to say.’
‘Fairies!’ I exclaimed, feeling even more confused.
‘Yes, fairies. Haven’t you ever seen a fairy before?’
‘Of course, I haven’t,’ I snapped before taking a big deep breath in steady myself. Fairies. Fairies.
All of a sudden there was a flash of light. I fell to the floor, dropping my cardigan and what it contained. Instinctively, my hands flew in front of my face, to protect my eyes from the brightness.
When I opened them again, I was all alone and the stone circle was silent. Gingerly touching the back of my head, I felt a rather large bump forming.
Something had happened to me that night at the small stone circle, though I wasn’t sure exactly what. After all, I had taken a knock to the head, and the only explanation I had for it was the mischief of fairies. Who was going to believe that?