(Set your story in a small town where everyone is suspicious of newcomers.)
(This story is edited and additional content has been added)
Ah yes, Monday! Monday’s are universally thought of with negative feelings as the weekend is over and a workweek begins. But here in Syndrig, everyday is a workday, if in fact you would define what we do as work.
Here in my village I’m known as Pipsey, that is short for Pip Squeek which is what me old father, rest his soul, used to call me. I am short in stature, but many of my countrymen are, so I’m not clear how I got singled out for the name.
But getting back to the story, yes today is Monday. I pulled me calendar down from the shelf as I ate my porridge to remind meself what my duties are for this day. So for this Monday, the wooden chair on the roadside next to the petrol station. That is the place I would spend my day. Me job? Me job was to point down the road to the north saying….”yes, really great fishing just down the road, fifteen minutes or so to the north, you will love it!” Or I might have to say…”A hotel? Yes a lovely clean place with rooms overlooking the ocean, fifteen minutes or so to the north, you will love it!” That’s it really, me job, just direct passing visitors out of town, to the north no matter what they are looking for, it is north out of town...not here, NEVER HERE!
Everyone of us, the villagers, has a job and our job is keeping strangers away. We want no one coming in and poking about for fishing or hiking or exploring. We are closed to the public except for those stationed along the highway that cuts through a tiny edge of our town and their job is to push the stoppers on to the north, or to the south but away from us.
Our village has been here as long as memory and legend allows. What we know of our village is not just simple stories, we have the iron work to prove it all. For millennia, ironworking has been the only activity in our village except for food production to feed us and working at the other necessities of life. The ironworking, the making of the objects that keep them out and us safe inside.
Tall metal frameworks of every sort that line the highway prevent anyone without keys to panels and gates to access the waterfront or the town proper. The panels have only one thing in common, they must be strong and tall. Some resemble trellises with profusely growing roses, while others are like fences or gates, some have arches with curved or rounded tops, some are extremely ornate while others are very plain but they are all meant to keep folks from going where we don’t want them to go. Once installed they are dedicated with a small ceremony by an elder that leaves a residual slight hum.
Along the highway, a few shops, petrol and sundries, and ALWAYS a few of our folks to point down the road to the next town or village. Stopping for their needs is acceptable, on the one road, but then keep moving, away from here.
From a high point at the edge of town one can look back and get a bird’s eye view of the village of Syndrig….(look that up, it is the essence of this story). The village is pie shaped, the widest part being the road along the coast and then from both north and south edges of the village it continually tapers inward to a vertex at the base of the mountains.
Is it peculiar or just an amazing and impressive sight to see the steel and iron work enclose the village in its entirety? Along all sides the lifelong labors of generations of us working to build or repair or reinforce the steel that keeps out strangers.
And so that is me job for today, another villager will be sitting somewhere down the line on the other side of the road keeping those going south, going south. We have strategically placed houses built into the steel wall panels on all sides of our village and the job of those folks is to monitor their section of wall for intruders. It is what we do! Nothing more, we repel the unwanted!
If you had been born here, you would have grown up with the stories, our oral history from the outset, so you would understand our deep need for privacy and seclusion. At each stage of a man’s development he is shown more and more of the mystery of our beginnings and by old age he is finally aware of the magnitude of our secret.
I would love to tell you what I know but as we have all seen on the telly, “If I told you I’d have to kill you!” And of course we don’t hold with killings here. We haven’t had to resort to that..yet, but as the general population of the area gets more bold, the future could be very different.
My actual home, my house, that I share with me best half, Rosie, is very near the vertex. I spend many hours in that area and am very aware of the humming of the earth, the glow at night, the shafts we have dug downward, the stuff we have extracted from the pit. Our understanding is minimal. Somewhere in our oral history, instructions have been given, what we can do AND what we must never do. Only a few here really know but each generation is instructed by the elders so we know only that we must keep this place safe and if you are worthy, you may know more but that almost never comes until old age. I’m not ready to “know” yet and I breathe a sigh of relief to understand I have years of pleasure before the weight of knowing.
If it sounds to you that I am telling a folkloric story that is generally wildly exaggerated for the amusement of the listener, then you are wholly and totally incorrect. This place exists and what comes out of “the pit” benefits mankind.
If Pipsey and the folks of Syndrig can keep the work pure and isolated from outside forces, mankind will benefit. This small place has been given special access, knowledge and understanding….from where you might ask? From the Gods, the old and the new! Or from Aliens? Or from? I am sure you have all heard of ogres and the tiny folk, gnomes and the English faerie, meaning "realm of the fays ". Those things too may be real or they could never have withstood the telling over time but this is different. This is somehow very important, bordering on crucial.
And being Monday, I must be getting along to the chair by the road. So I will say Ta Ta for now!
Pipsey was in his chair next to the petrol station on his job to move strangers north when the woman approached him, a woman stranger, a female outsider. Her car has misbehaved at the petrol station and they are making a repair. She is stranded for the day.
After she tells of her bad luck, of needing a repair, Pipsey seeks the guidance of an elder. Should someone drive her to the next town while the repair is accomplished? Or will they assign a local Syndrigian to keep her out of trouble for the day and what would that involve?
It was decided that since Pipsey was already conversing with her, he should find ways of keeping her busy along the road that goes through the town. Pipsey finds her devilishly attractive and interesting so it is with some nervousness that he offers her a stroll to a shop down the highway for a bit of lunch, while she waits.
Pipsey has a wife, it’s true, but it is tantalizing to imagine real time with any stranger and this female stranger seems to have a hypnotic effect on him.
During his day with the outsider, she awakened his curiosity about the outside world. They share questions he had never considered before. She asks him why they never venture out and what the community is really about, and then she makes him feel foolish for not really knowing anything, really, just that life is about faith, have faith and all will be revealed to you. And she thought it outrageous he would be willing to wait until old age to find out the things that only the old ones know and understand.
She is so very different from any of the community. The community is at peace with life and the parts they are all asked to play each day. But this outsider, this female stranger seems agitated or the unrest that surrounds her is almost visible, like a cloud.
Her name is Angelique, but friends call her Angel. He is about to tell her his name is Pipsey but at the last second, he knows he wants her to know his given name not the familiar used by family and community folk. My name is David, he says, slightly embarrassed. He has never said his real name out loud. He has seen it written but to hear it out loud and from his own mouth, it is very strange, but she has a strange effect on him, he knows this, he feels it.
They sit in the shade of a grove of trees near the edge of town. Angelique is so curious about every detail she can glean from Pipsey. Sometimes he feels she presses too hard or asks too much. He feels uncomfortable almost to the point of wondering if the elders would really approve.
It is getting late in the day, they will be walking back soon to retrieve her car and she will be on her way. The afternoon sun makes everything look warm and gives life a golden look. Pipsey closely watches Angelique almost as if trying to burn her into his memory, into his mind, a way to keep part of her after she has gone. He knows he has somehow lost a modicum of his peaceful existence. How can an afternoon with a stranger have such an effect on his whole being. He wonders if she were here for a longer time if he might be tempted to take her into the community, to show her where he lives, to let her see the happy peaceful community.
Pipsey feels deep sadness. It is an emotion he has never felt before. It is something he can never share with his wife or the community. Why would he? He would never want any of them to feel this sadness.
Arriving back to the petrol station, Angelique touches Pipsey’s arm and says, “David I am so grateful for this day we have spent together.”
A deep shiver passes through Pipsey to hear his given name spoken so softly, and yet aloud by this stranger. So much of him, his real thoughts or feelings have never been explored. This overwhelming feeling of peace. Is it a blessing? Is it a controlling factor why the community so tightly conforms and holds to the old ways?
In his own mind he will be David now, maybe he is moving to a new level of understanding, maybe this new questioning is part of the transition to becoming an elder but David is certain that it is more likely the Angelique influence.
As he walks away from the petrol station, the image of Angelique is strong in his mind, he will not soon forget her but also in his mind, new thoughts, new questions, a new thirst to know more. He wonders if he will miss the peaceful feelings that keeps the community humming along in harmony. He knows he is different now. He is David and David is full of questions and speculation.
Maybe the secret is that only the old ones know that what is in the pit and how to retrieve it is not the real secret.
Maybe the true secret is the small time of exposure to the pit, the time necessary to retrieve the element for mankind kills you!
So old Syndrigians are going to die anyway and they only need small amounts of the element to benefit mankind, so the elders are expendable and more importantly , they are willing participants.
The powers who revealed the pit are surprised and amazed, they have always been surprised and amazed, that this community had the control and discipline to go for the ages selflessly keeping the world safe.
David sits in the last light of this fateful day, he wonders if the powers know he has changed! Will he be punished? He knows he must not influence the community! In the midst of all of this soul searching he clearly sees Angelique in his mind.
Peace returns but somehow it is different.