From my research on will’o the wisps I realized that they can be found in all parts of the world, and go by many names. J.K.Rowling uses the name ‘hinkypunk’ in the Harry Potter series. I have been finding them most inspirational so I decided to write a fantasy piece using them.
There was a whisper in the darkness, a curious whisper. The voice was not filled with malice, but rather it welcomed the listener to come outside. Its sound could not be heard by all ears; only a select few had heard this voice.
The whisper was no louder than a mosquitoes wings, and both its sound a message were enticing. Behind the closed bedroom door, tossing and turning, this way and that, the listener, a boy, lay listening to the message.
The boy sat upright on his bed. Beyond the blinds a moonless, barely starry night seeped through into the house. The room around him would have been enveloped in total darkness, were it not for a tiny flashing light coming from his computer.
With his feet the boy searched for his slippers, and pushed his soles into them. With his right hand he grabbed for the robe behind his chair, and with it he gowned himself; tying a knot with the belt. The message was almost over, and he was still asleep.
His bedroom was at the very top of the house. The boys fingers flexed as his hands curled around the doorknob and pried open the door. He traced the edges of the banister with his fingertips as he slipped down the stairs. The master bedroom door was ajar, ever so slightly, which the boy rushed past. The adjacent room had no door, it was coloured bright, surrounded by plastic tarp, ladders and tools. Shooting down the second flight of steps, his hands barely grazed the tall, slatted sides. His eyes still closed.
The streetlights shone through the hallway window. It was dim and filtered through the net curtains, but the boy did not need the light. His eyelids were shut. He was still asleep.
He raised his hands and pushed down on the front door handle. It was locked.
His forehead furrowed as the voice in the message changed. His ears had become accustomed to the soft, melodic tones. The voice seemed angered.
The boy turned on his heel. He ignored the sounds of voices above stirring. He could smell the remains of last nights dinner wafting from the kitchen: a savory smell of lime, spice and coconut. He could make out the acrid smell of garbage from beyond the kitchen door, and another unfamiliar smell. The scent of burning wood greeted him, while the hint of decay tickled the back of his throat. He walked through the cluttered lounge, and twined through the city of sofas and futons into the kitchen.
The boy sniffed the air. He disregarded the smells from the fridge and honed in on the smokey burning smell from beyond the kitchen door. With agility he pressed down on the handle of the backdoor. It too was locked.
As far back as he could remember, the fox had been living in the back garden of 5 Mears Lane. He was not always alone. He had once lived there with mother fox and father fox, who, God rest their souls, had been run over by a car the previous year. After the unfortunate incident the fox had thought about moving away, but reminded himself that his family had been here for generations. There was no possible way he could leave, and after all, there never was such a house for comfort. By fox standards this was very high end, with bushes to hide in and tasty morsels of food in the trash. That night, when the fox began his usual routine of dinner before visiting his friend in the neighborhood, he had been startled by the smell of burning as he foraged through the trash. His nose had been deep in the black sack sniffing for meat. He had sniffed out crusted chicken bones, pieces of flat bread and shreds of salmon, when the burning grew more prominent behind him. He was surprised when he looked around, there was no fire in the garden. He didn’t cry out in fear, because this woke the people in the house; and when he cried, blinding lights would go on and they threw things at you and shouted. After seeing no threat he once more stepped closer to the trash. He managed to tear a hole in the last of the bags. It ripped ever so easily under in sharp teeth, as fluidly as cutting through butter. The contents inside poured out, now lose, and spread across the ground. It was nothing a fox could eat, vegetable peelings and scrunched up pieces of newspaper, but he was sure that he could take a few things to badger who lived at number 19 Mears Lane. He nuzzled further and deeper into the bag, in hopes of finding a rare treat. Seeing none he instead crunched on a chicken bone, that still had meat on it.
The last bag, with the peelings and newspaper, was unfurled across the floor. He piled peelings onto a stray leaf of paper and using his mouth secured it into a package. The fox stepped towards the fence with hesitation. The smell of burning encompassed the garden, and he noticed tiny balls of coloured light move swiftly around before dispersing. The ghost like lights seemed to whisper to one another, though he could not quite make out what the were saying. They encircled him playfully like loyal companions, and the fox was quite sure he heard them giggling at one another. They made there way towards the door of the house, hovering in the mist and shadow. Waiting.
The door was locked. It was always locked in the nighttime. The white door, with golden handle, that lopsided a little was firmly shut. The large, bay window next to it had its curtains drawn. The sliding panel, with locked key, stopped foxes getting through. It even stopped other humans getting through.
The lights had stopped whispering, and when all seemed quiet the fox saw the handle move. There was a rattling from inside, of a human trying to come out. The fox let out an involuntary yelp. Alarmed, he treaded cautiously around the garden, and began moving away from the heaps of garbage bags. He scurried to the outskirts of the large garden towards the large bush under which he often liked to rest. He dove in, nose first, onto a mound of plump soil. The soil had been newly placed to help the roses grow, but not liking the smell of roses the fox had dug them out from the root. He lay on a graveyard of unbosoming roses, manure and soft soil. Listening.
He could no longer make out the sound of the rattling door handle. The ghost like lights had too dissipated, and the garden was quiet once more.
“Durham!” Called a pasty looking man, in a voice akin to wheezy bagpipe. He pushed open the squeaking gate and stood in front of the white backdoor. The man was tall. He had no hair on his head, but there was a scar that ran from the top of his left ear to the nape of his neck.
“Hurry up, Durham!”
The man called Durham stepped into the garden behind him, while the first men crouched down and observed the spot from where the lights had been moments ago. He stood up, scratching his head and looked at Durham who was scanning the garden with beady eyes. The fox had seen him look in his direction, although he had not seemed disturbed by his presence, and instead turned back.
An icy breeze swept across the garden, sending bits of rubbish and peel flying. The first man had potato skins attached to his legs like leeches, but he was so engrossed he hadn’t even bothered to brush them off. The gate rattled, but the men did not close it.
“This it?” Durham absentmindedly scratched on his chin looking around the house. He didn’t seem impressed. “Dun’t look like nuffin special!”
“We aren’t here to look at the houses, you blithering idiot.” The first man looked positively livid. The fox was sure he would hit him over the head, but he didn’t. He simply continued to look in the corner where he had seen the ghost lights appear.
“Will you catch a wiff of that!” He said excitedly sniffing the walls. Must have been at least 10 of em’.” Durham who had been next to him crouched down to sniff the wall. The fox noticed how they both wore, shiny black shoes. Even on a night like tonight, with no moon they gleamed brightly.
“Lord ol’ mighty,” Durham said getting to his feet. “For there to be so many of the ghost lights … at this house.This is no coincidence.”
“That Durham, is precisely why we are here. This boy…” They both stood momentarily looking at the door. The first man had his hand so close to the handle that the fox was sure he was going to try and open it.
“Well…” Durham looked dumbly at the man. The fox thought he looked rather stupid for a grown human man. His large eyebrows were wrinkled in confusion.
“Well, what?” The first man could not hide the contempt from his voice, indeed he spoke back with such ferocity that there were drops of spit flying from his mouth.
“Ain’t you gonna open it?”
“An’ do what? Go in and have a nice cup of tea?”
“Thought she wanted us to bring the boy?” Durham said, once more looking confused.
“She … wanted us to scope out the premises.” The fox did not like the way the man pronounced the ‘she’. Truth be told, he did not particularly like the two men snooping around his garden. Both men wore dark clothes, dark boots and dark foreboding expressions. The fox noticed once they had mentioned this ‘she’ how they looked troubled. The first man stared around uncomfortably as though expecting her to appear out of thin air, incomprehensible fear etched on his face.
“So what do we tell ‘er?”
“We tell her that it’s as we suspected.” There was an ounce of wistfulness in the way he spoke. His voice was hoarse, even a little scared.
The sky was still dark, but a sweet bird cry could be heard above. Up in the house, a bright light turned on. The fox could hear the muffled sound of voices, which made him retreat further into the depths of the soil. The two men turned and left through the gate without a second word, or even look back. The garden looked just as it did before they appeared, almost as though they had never been there in the first place. Once he was sure they were truly gone, the fox creeped out from behind the bush, shaking the mud and foliage from its fur. What a night it had been, he thought. In all his years of living at number 5 he had never had a night quite as interesting as this. It was then that, as if he were there next to him, the fox recalled a piece of advise passed down by his father.
“Son,” This was the way he always began one of his long lectures. His eyes, filled with ancient wisdom and excited wakefulness would always gleam brightly in the dark, especially when they were discussing something serious. “If you are ever in a pickle, and your mother and I aren’t around, remember that we animals are a community. We look out for each other. Go to Grandma Magpie, she is very old and very wise.”
Now the fox, since the passing of his parents, had been very grateful for the animal community. They had often been a source of comfort and consolation when he felt particularly lost. Tonight he felt particularly confused and lost, so without hesitation he wriggled under the fence, and scurried off towards number 25 Mears Lane, to discuss everything he had seen with Grandma Magpie.
Before the sun rose, on what would be a drizzling grey morning, a boy was fast asleep on the kitchen floor. One hand was stretched up, and clasped firmly around the handle. His father was awake at his side, coaxing him awake. He spoke with a clear lucid voice, attempting to gently pull him out of his slumber.
“Gary. Wake up, Son.”
Gary, responding to the sound of his name, opened his eyes. He stared around the kitchen, taking in the sight of the fridge beside him, the cabinets in front and the dark that surrounded him. Then, he looked at his father, who was kneeling on the floor next to him. His face was grave.
“What happened, Son?” He asked.
“Dad…” Gary began weakly, but couldn’t find the words to finish the sentence. It was the fifth time in 2 weeks that he had woken up out of his bed. He looked up at his father, exhausted, and feeling very confused. His face screwed up, and he began to cry.
Embracing his son, he waited for Gary to stop. He rocked him gently.
Leading him upstairs, he did not tell his son, about the broken front door handle, or bite marks on his arms. Instead he tucked him under the covers and kissed him goodnight, praying that Gary would rest peacefully until the morning.