This story is inspired by a friend of mine called Amy who went for a longer than planned walk in the Black Valley with a group of experienced hill walkers. Luckily, the real-life Amy came to no harm, except for sore calf muscles for a few days!
The Black Valley had always called to Amy. She’d been intrigued and frightened by it in equal measure since childhood. Childhood visits to the Black Valley had left her jittery, excited and slightly scared. She had never gone there alone without the buffer of protection from her parents.
When the regular hill walking group asked her yet again to join them on a walk, she conceded when she heard it was to the Black Valley. Once again she felt that jittery, half-scared excitement building within her.
One of the experienced walkers Oliver planned the route and Amy trusted that all would be fine. It was a 15 km walk maximum, she was well able for that. The only niggling little feeling of unease was the fact the others had gone on numerous walks and this was her first. They set out and for the first couple of hours Amy was keeping up and they were happily going along chatting. She looked at her Fit bit, she’d achieved her daily step goal and they must have half or even two thirds of the walk completed.
They stopped for a break after two and a half hours and Amy pulled out her sandwich and devoured it while enjoying the beautiful scenery surrounding them. As she got up to set off again she felt her calf muscles aching but said nothing to the others. As she stretched them out she stepped on something soft and squidgy. She lifted her foot and saw on the ground a small, limp, dead brown bird. She jumped and squealed and the group laughed at her. Feeling stupid, she picked up her little rucksack and they set off again, being led by the more experienced members of the group.
Another hour passed and Amy was struggling to keep up with the group.
Oliver noticed her starting lag behind and halted the group for a couple of minutes. She was holding up the rest of the group, they’d soon be frustrated and annoyed with her. They came to a very hilly part of the road. Amy looked up at it and knew she would never keep up with them if she had climb that. Oliver pointed at a flat shortcut route and the rest of the group took the high path while Amy trudged on alone. Ten minutes later the two paths merged and everyone was excited and happy. They’d seen beautiful wild deer and they had gotten amazing close up photographs. She felt really disappointed and was also in physical pain.
She asked Oliver how much longer the walk was. He answered maybe two hours more and Amy’s heart sank. One of the girls gave out to Oliver, “You always lie about the length of these walks! How long is it?” He sheepishly answered that it was 25 km. Amy struggled on but after just a couple of minutes her legs started to seize up. “I don’t think I can keep going. Is there any shortcut?” Oliver shook his head, “No shortcuts at this point Amy, I’m sorry. Just up the road there’s a church and not far from it there’s a road. We can finish the walk, get one of the cars and come back and get you?”
Amy desperately wanted to ask someone to stay with her, but no one offered and she said nothing. They walked on and reached the church, where Amy sat down on the grass exhausted. They said goodbye and without a backward glance the group all headed off, leaving her alone in the dying afternoon light.
She pulled out her phone but she had no coverage so she put it away. Animal sounds from the trees surrounding the church were amplified as evening drew in around her. There were no sounds of traffic or other life.
She pulled out her protein bar and washed it down with the last of the water. Anger erupted in her, why had Oliver lied about the length of the walk? She’d die of thirst because of him! What if they couldn’t find their way back to her? Saturday evening mass should be on soon, somebody would save her.
Her legs were still aching now so she stood up to stretch them out and walked around the little grey church. She looked in the holy water font, just in case she became really thirsty and might need to fill her bottle from there. The font was empty and covered with cobwebs.
In the distance she heard high-pitched giggles and little footsteps from the trees.
She looked around with delight – there must be families arriving for evening mass! Relief flooded through her. She stood waiting for them to appear but nobody did. She looked around confused, had she imagined that? Was it some weird hallucination? From the trees pebbles flew out at her. What the hell was going on? A larger stone flew out at her and hit her arm. She rubbed it and shouted at them to stop. “Come out and show yourselves, you little maggots!” She cursed and shouted threats; still nobody appeared. A heavy stone hit her in the face and knocked her to the ground.
Tiny but impossibly strong hands pinned her to the floor by her wrists and ankles.
Hooded little creatures ran around her while leaving out high-pitched giggles and shouts. She couldn’t see their faces and didn’t want to. They pierced her arms and legs with short quick jabs of a sharp knife or needle. Her screams and threats made the evil runts more excited. One of them bounced along her stomach and another licked her face. Tears rolled down her face. She was never going to leave the Black Valley.
In the distance she heard the sounds of a car nearby and flashes of light in the dusk. They had come back for her! The tiny hands released her and with frantic whispers the hooded creatures scattered and skipped off into the trees holding hands. Nervously standing up, she looked around her to make sure they were gone. Using the flashlight on her phone to examine herself for traces of the ordeal. There was some redness but no visible cuts or bruises.
“Amy, Amy? Are you there?” She managed to answer a weak yes. Hazel found her standing in front of the church, shaken and dazzled. “Are you okay?” Amy nodded. How could she describe what happened to her? For the entire journey home she closed her eyes and pretended to be asleep.
Hazel dropped her off at her house and she said she was never going walking with them again. They laughed, but they both knew that Amy meant it. Amy never told anyone what happened to her and never returned to the Black Valley again, except for in her darkest nightmares.