“Too dark...” he muttered to himself, forgetting the last time he’d experienced a night quite like this one. “Damn it, walk in this? Not a chance, end up in the river...” The prospect of a warming pint of ale was fading fast, as was his mood. The river continued its sluggish flow, making barely a sound, oozing stubbornly around the brown plants that persevered in its shallows; it was now impossible to see the water, ten feet away, and even the edge of the river bank was obscured by the dark, so the man made the decision not to move any more. He spread his cloak out on the dead grass, sat upon it, and stretched his aching legs. For a time he occupied himself by remembering all of the songs that would be sung at the party, imagining the dancing, drinking and flirting that he was now missing. He had been hoping to see Edith again tonight; perhaps have a dance. He hadn’t seen her for some months, but he was sure she would be game for some fun. The taste of the freshly brewed ales and meads hung heavy in his mouth – what he’d give for a nice reassuring pint! The food, cooked by all the women in the village, would have been excellent. There would be pies, steaks of aged beef and fresh veal, and venison taken from the woods over by Ewerby Fen. A roast pig would be crackling harshly over a fire with onlookers, expectant for apple sauce and roast pork. But his mind began to wander. The heavy darkness, empty as it seemed, made him feel very isolated. Up until this point his thoughts had been fixed on the possibilities of the evening; he had not considered the night-time, which had been creeping like the tide around him, cutting him off from security. This tide was high now, completely surrounding him. In response his ears strained, heard nothing, and strained again. The silence was swelling as quickly as the dark and he struggled to remember the last noise he’d heard. His own voice, muttering. Before this it had been a startled animal, he remembered with some comfort. Probably a rat or vole. But that had been some time ago. His mood faded entirely as he considered his position. He was safe enough where he was – the weather was mild, he was well above the water level and the area was deserted - but he felt uneasy. His heart made itself known, beating a little faster than it ought. Looking around, he looked for a visible point, something to latch onto. In the utter black, he felt a little drunk as his vision had nothing to hold onto. A whirl began behind his eyes and deep within his ears. There was nothing that could be seen, other than the ground he lay on. So he focused on that. Even so, the darkness began to change into a glaring, thumping mass that surrounded him. His mind began turning easily to childhood tales of demons who lived glumly in muddy water, swathed in thick grey weed, waiting for someone to make a fatal mistake and slide helplessly into their slimy clutches. He thought of the tiny folk who carved homes from the rocks near the church and harvested flowers and moss; folk who bewitched people with their music and dance and stole them away in the deepest parts of the night, never to be heard of again. Tales of iron-toothed beings lurking in dusty barn-lofts and the soft keening of the washer-at-the-ford bubbled up from his past, like marsh-gas. An ancient story that he hadn’t been told for thirty years, of the strange stones that littered an area around Ewerby church and their fairy origins, lodged in his mind. The story told of malicious boggarts that planted stones in the fields in punishment for the farmers’ hold over the land. The description that his mother created for the boggarts, in answer to his childish questions, was now stuck firmly in his imagination, after all these years. They were grey, hairless and ill-proportioned, with blank eyes and no teeth, and twelve fingers that were long, sharp and brittle. They had populated every dark corner and murky patch of forest in his youth.