Saturday, 16 February 2008

The First of our Tales From The Marshes

Shades of blue and green on the slowly revolving earth are blurred only by the veils of cloud that dance across its surface. There, below, you can distinguish landmass from ocean, mountain from sea. Across its habitable surface, many varieties of the creature known as human being dominate the lands and rule the water. There are enough variations to make an assortment box but they are all big and most of them are out to get each other although they'll say that they're not. They regularly have punch-ups managing to inflict severe damage upon their enemies whilst sustaining many casualties themselves. All this destruction is only ever halted to tend to those who've suffered some major natural catastrophe. It's a peculiar way to exist but then humans are peculiar beasts. They're constantly devising new and even more sinister ways of inflicting this pain on each other with the ultimate goal of finding the weapon that can blow the whole planet apart in one single shot. The planet, though, had its own way of getting even and every now and then it will teach them a hard lesson. Evolution too has its place in this ever-changing profile, but there is one simple race of creature that has found stability of existence that has remained unchanged - but for a few minor tweaks! Their human counterparts are so savage and violent and yet, in the animal kingdom, they are also the only creatures that cry - this causes much amusement to this alternative yet diminutive people.
Ask any Dyke Dweller - he'll tell you no lies. Across that same habitable surface, another human-like race has evolved, almost like miniature humans. Their teachings and philosophies however, preach peace and harmony and they do not strive to replace what they have already with something more sophisticated in the name of seeking perfection. Their efforts are devoted to protecting the life they have perfected. Even in death they're streets ahead of their bigger counterparts. Generations earlier, one gifted Dykie had come to realise that the eating of certain plant roots gave rise to the production of a particularly sinister kind of flatulence. The gas produced, if bottled, could then be administered in high dosage to an ailing Dykie who had no will to live. The end was swift and often very smelly but it had the desired result whilst the humans were still debating about the ethics of it all.
In the human world, there had been many legends throughout the ages about this smaller race of people. Ireland has its Leprecauns, Cornwall has its Piscies, Norfolk has its Dykies and there are many fables told around the world, such as those about the tiny people of Lilliput. There are simply too many such legends for them to be fictional. There has to be a certain credence given to them but the humans look down on such tales with scorn and leave the stories of their close encounters to be written in childrens books. Children though, have far greater vision before their minds become silted up with human education and, believing what they read, many a youngster has set off into the woods during their school holidays with the intention of finding them. Very often they have but who will believe them? The adults will put it down to a furtive imagination on the part of the child and so the fairy tale is perpetuated without the adults ever realising that it is all true.
Deryk is typical. At twelve inches tall in his wellied feet, he is sturdy in build with a rugged weatherbeaten face. Dykies tended not to grow facial hair although there have been exceptions, usually among the females. The hair on Deryks head is neatly cut in a straight line right around his skull. This makes him look rather like a miniature version of one of the three stooges, something that is also reinforced by his apparel. Dyke Dwellers are remarkable at recycling and they manufacture all of their needs from human cast offs. His rough warm jacket has been woven from sheeps wool plucked from the grazing marsh. It has big deep pockets for storing useful bits and finds. There's a secret bit too for the odd item that requires to be hidden from general view - contraceptives and such. The shirt is retailored from a human T-shirt. It was no longer possible to read what had been printed on it but one of his friends reckoned that it must have been very rude. They hadn't used the bit with the beer stains and that was the rudest bit of all!. His trousers are very fashionable and perfect for walking the marshes. They're in a fetching shade of green and had once been part of a wax jacket which means that the stiff fabric makes his legs crackle and whirr when he walks. The outfit is completed by Dykie wellies. They're always very distinctive and are regularly made from - well, we'll talk about that later.
Deryk looked up at the star that shone just above his head. As his gaze wandered, so did his head, the motion of which caused his little body to topple over backwards and he fell on the sodden grass.
"Sodden grass."
Muttered Deryk to himself. There was no-one to hear him.
Once the clouds had passed in front of the moon, he would be able to forage in safety. He was near to a human house and had to be careful. There were very few such dwellings on the marshes but they were a rich source of cast offs. The humans spent much of their working life amongst gadgets and things. In fact, they'd invented a thing called work which employed a vast amount of gadgets and enabled them to earn tokens with which to buy more gadgets that they could use at home. If work didn't provide them with enough stress, then the gadgets would, The humans relied totally on gadgets and they were always breaking down at the most inconvenient time. This gave employment to another army of workers who tried to repair the gadgets. Many more were employed in the manufacture of gadgets and there were some who even earned a living from taking away gadgets and dismantling gadgets. Without gadgets the humans would die of boredom.
Dyke Dwellers on the other hand, led the perfect life. They had every conceivable gadget and more to provide for their needs. They had already made many inventions that their human counterparts hadn't even dreamt of yet. Decoration was a major feature. The human philosophy was to make a thousand varieties of one item to cater for taste. Dykies made one item with a thousand different guises. Simple but effective.
So here was Halvergate marshes. A vast expanse of drained land nestling behind the historic sea port of Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, England. Deryks mind wandered back in time. It was a far cry from the distant land of his forefathers in Holland. Polygamy was permitted at one time there. It was a very similar habitat to Holland but the English humans weren't like their cousins from the Netherlands. They'd crossed the channel in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and settled on this vast expanse of marsh, woodland and meadow. The abundance of wildlife and vegetation had been the perfect landscape for the Dykies who could use the waterways to their advantage whilst those same cuttings made it difficult for humans to traverse too easily and so kept them at a distance. Mind you, humans too had discovered these same virtues but the vastness of the area meant that they could co-exist without too much risk of being discovered. Dyke dwellers had become masters of camouflage and their underground homes were always tucked well out of sight or fear of intrusion.
The old red traffic cone followed on obediently behind him. It's luminous white band glowed now and then as it caught a moonbeam. He marched on, his little wellies making determined footprints in the mossy carpet. The blue nylon rope from the cone pulled down on his shoulder. His rough hands gripped the knot that he'd tied in the other end. Soon he reached his boat and, with one mighty tug on the rope, the cone spun up in the air and landed in the empty hull with a clatter. In one athletic bound, Deryk followed it. Deftly he flicked the mooring rope which sent a curl towards the branch it was resting over. The rope obligingly lifted itself over the branch and came to rest back in the boat. Deryk smiled to himself. Clever sod he thought.
So, Deryk was on his way. Gliding through the still waters, his vessel leaving a glimmering ripple behind in the moonlight.
It was a perfect night. The wind danced through the cut of his hair lifting it like a dancing mop. His sleeves were rolled to the elbow now and his legs stood astride the cone planted firmly in their stiff red wellies. Manfully Deryk punted down the narrow waterway. He really did look a right little pillock.
The first signs of dawn were spreading across the distant horizon along the coast as he punted his tiny craft down the quivering waterway. Sometimes, on a still night such as this, his mind would recall the stories of his ancestors who'd done much the same for centuries in the dykes of Holland.
Suddenly, reality shocked him back to the present as he was sent stumbling forward. The boat had come to a dead stop without reason! Perhaps some submerged object had got in his passage.
to be continued soon.

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