John sat down in the empty boardroom, and heaved a sigh of relief. Outside, birds flew by, skimming the rooftops of London. They Wheeled and arced, gracefully through a dismal grey sky. In the distance, he could see curtains of rain hanging from the low clouds. Up until now London had been all too depressingly grim. He was used to brilliant Florida sunshine, blue seas, scantily clad women gliding past on roller-skates... He stood up, and pulled his suit straight. Apparently Wales was worse than London for abysmal weather. Martin, his European counterpart, had taken great delight in telling him that it was the wettest part of the country. He walked over to the window and looked down at the streets below. He'd grown up in Texas, and eventually moved to Florida, but not once in his life had it rained for more than a week. He'd been in London for nearly two months and it hadn't stopped. From the day he landed at Heathrow, he had not seen even the palest patch of blue sky or a single sunbeam. All it had ever been was roiling clouds of black water, which God graciously moved around the sky for a bit of a change. He crossed his arms. Wales is worse than this, he thought. God, how can anything be worse than this? He shivered, and turned to leave. The reservoir was going to be built, and that rabble of eco-warriors couldn't stop them.
Standing, ankle deep in thick mud, John watched the vehicles arrive. Rain poured from his cape, splashing the ground in torrents. Overhead the clouds grumbled ominously, and the freezing cold wind lashed his reddened cheeks. Martin had been right, it was worse. What Martin hadn't mentioned though was the air. Los Angeles air had a particular piquancy, a thickness to it. Being accustomed to it, London air hadn't tasted that much different. London air had smelled more, grubby, than thick. This air, though, this was like a face full of ice water. It was clear, and laden with rich, earthy, smells. Cut grass, newly dug earth, a waterfall, rotting leaves from the autumn. The air here was complete, untarnished by machines pumping their filth into the atmosphere. There was also something else, he couldn't precisely put his finger on it but it was there, a presence. His mother would love that! She'd call all her, so-called, psychic friends around and have him prodded and poked at until one of them pronounced him psychic. She'd never been happy at him becoming a lawyer. She'd wanted him to become a teacher; fortunately he'd been strong enough to do what he had wanted to do, unlike his older brother Richard. He was doing very, very, well in his job. He'd made it, almost, to the top of the firm's legal department in three years. Sure, he'd made enemies, but that just came with the job. He was reaching the peak of his profession, and he had just completed a deal that would make sure he got to the top, and stay there for the foreseeable future. Absently, he wiped at the film of water that was clinging to his face and looked behind him. There was nothing there, other than the narrow street of granite grey Welsh cottages. For some weird reason they made his hair stand on end. Standing there, stark naked stone showing beneath thick slate roofs. Their tiny, puckered, doors and squinting windows. The little cluster had been abandoned for more than three hundred years. No road came here, there was no coal to mine here just these small buildings huddled at the bottom of a valley in the middle of the Welsh Brecon Beacons. He shivered again, and pulled one Wellington boot out of the mud. It came away with a thick, rude, schlurping noise. It squelched again as he planted firmly on the ground. He was going to take a week, no two, in Barbados after this. Screw what the VP said; he wasn't freezing his nuts off in the wilds of Wales. He squelched back to the decrepit Land Rover that the site manager had brought him here in, and sat down. He just could not believe he was this wet. He was wearing a thick plastic cape and a Gore-Tex jacket underneath, and he was still soaked. He sat there miserably, and waited while Derek directed the delivery of the bulldozers and trucks. The Dam was going to be built just down from the village. Once flooded, of course, the little cluster behind him would be under thirty metres of water.
damage started a month after he'd returned to his home in Los
Angeles. Windows on the trucks and diggers were smashed. Slashed
tires, and to top it off a group of eco-warriors had moved in a
little way up the valley side and were fervently digging themselves
in. John saw a return visit looming, ominously on the horizon.
The order to return arrived three months after construction started. The police had been called in to move the eco-warriors who had tunnelled into the side of the valley. Some had moved into the little village, but for some strange reason they only stayed there for one night before setting up camp near the others. Personally, John didn't care if they drowned when the lake was flooded but the company couldn't afford bad publicity. The British press were notorious bloodhounds, and wouldn't stop until they'd dug up every single, nasty, little secret the company had. So they had sent him over to deal with the legal proceedings before any of the newspapers starting sniffing around the place. Of course, if anything should go wrong, he also happened to be a perfect scapegoat.
The really weird stuff started a week after he'd managed to get the eco-warriors evicted and barred from entering the site. The Dam was partially built now, and the sluice gates were in place and ready for testing. That was when the first 'squashed' vehicle turned up. 'Squashed' was definitely the right word for it. The JCB, four ton, digger had been literally stamped into the ground as if someone had dropped a huge lump of concrete on it. They were prising it out of the ground, when he had arrived. He stood there with the site foreman, Derek, looking at the crumpled, yellow, corpse and wondering what in hells name could have done it. "This'll be one to put in the claims book." Said Derek in his thick Welsh accent. The rest of the crew were watching, as the other digger lifted its brethren into the air. "Jesus! What could have done something like that! It's, what, four, maybe five, inches thick?" Whispered John. Derek shook his head. "Don't know. But it was heavy, whatever it was." John looked out at the hills. The hair on the back of his neck was standing on end, and he glanced behind him at the little cluster of cottages. A shiver ran down his spine, and he turned back to the remains of the digger. It's hydraulic hoses were hanging limp from it, like it had been gutted.
Two days later it happened again. Except this time it was the guard hut. The whole thing had been pulverised, ground into the floor as if someone was putting out a cigarette. They found the guard in one of the cottages. He was dead. Curled up in a foetus position, eyes squeezed shut and his hands covering his face. "Probably warding something off." Said the coroner. "He died of a heart attack." John had to know what was going on, so that day he travelled to Brecon village and visited the large camping shop there. A few hours later, he was camped out a short distance above the cottages and a little way from the new Dam. The weather reports hadn't sounded too good for that night, and he was expecting the worst.
A blinding light, quickly followed by a roaring crash of thunder, woke John. His eyes snapped open at the sound, as huge raindrops started to batter at the roof of his tent. Around him, in pitch darkness and flashes of actinic light, the storm raged and screamed. Then, underneath the noise and fury of the storm outside, he felt the earth under his tent vibrate. It was as if something immense was moving, like dumping boulders onto the ground. Cautiously he unzipped his sleeping bag, and crept to the front of the tent. He pulled at the zip, and peered outside. The blackness was complete. Within seconds, his hair and face were soaked in freezing cold rain, and he had to splutter and spit the water from his mouth. Lightning lanced down from the abyssal darkness of the sky, lighting the valley in blue light. At first, he wasn't sure what he had seen. The dam was to his left, and the tiny huddle of cottages was to his right. He closed his eyes, and examined the fading picture that was burnt onto his retinas. Cottages on the right, dam on the left. Then it hit him with the force of an avalanche. One of the cottages had moved! Quickly, he scrambled into his waterproofs, and grabbed his high-powered lantern. Stumbling into the storm he stood up and looked around him, waving his lantern into the void-like darkness. Rain speckled and glittered in the path of the powerful beam. Another flash of lightning, and the scene burnt itself onto his eyes once more. One of the cottages had separated itself from the rest of the group, and was moving inexorably towards one of the JCB diggers parked a little way away from the base of the newly constructed dam. It was then, that he realized that he was standing in a stream of water running down into the base of the valley. He moved to step out just as the water gathered itself and came in a rush. Losing his footing in the fast moving stream, and mud, he crashed forward and slithered, uncontrollably, down the hill to the village. The water was rapidly rising now, and he realised that someone had obviously forgotten to make sure the sluice gates were open after the tests that afternoon. Soaked to the skin, he dragged himself upright in the muddied waters that were coming up around him. He had slid down next to one of the outer cottages, and leant against it to steady himself against the flood. That was when he felt it move. With a hideous sucking noise, the cottage pulled itself free of the earth and lurched backwards. Manoeuvring itself in the mud like the huge behemoth it was, it heaved its bulk towards the huge machines of the dam. Its base rippled and moved like a gigantic slug as it dragged its ponderous bulk over the land. John staggered away from the rushing water around its base, and fell backwards in astonishment. A wave of water splashed over his chest and he tried to crawl away on all fours, coughing and spluttering, gasping for breath in the rain sodden air. He turned around, just in time to see the front corner of the largest cottage roll over his right foot. The base of the building was still covered in chips, and flecks of yellow paint and it was now that he understood how they came to be there. The pressure on his foot was immense, but fortunately the thick mud underneath saved his foot from being crushed. Eyes wide with horror, he watched as the seemingly huge building, relentlessly inched its way up his leg. Its socket-like windows flickered wildly with flashes of lightning, and the hole where the front door had been completed the gruesome image of a grinning skull bearing down on his prone body. Screaming, and choking as the waves of mounting water splashed over him, he struggled desperately to pull his leg from underneath the hideously mobile building. His last memory was of something else pulling at him from behind and the face of the cottage lit by lightning as it loomed over him. He could feel the freezing cold water washing through his lungs as he struggled to take a final breath, and then everything went dark. A little like falling asleep.
Something rasped across his cheek, ripping the hair from his face. His eyes snapped open, just in time to hear a woman scream and something sharp nick his skin. Next to him, something was beeping quietly to itself, and from the corner of his eye he could just about make out the blurred outline of a tall thin pole with something hanging from it. He felt drained, weak and very tired, the ordeal of the previous night still fresh in his mind. Then he heard someone crying and felt the splash of a tear on his lips as his dear wife Lyssa came into view. She cried for almost an hour, before she told him that he had been in a coma for three months. He found that he couldn't talk, and managed to gather enough strength to reach out and hug her to him. All the while, the image of the cottage rolling slowly over him was fixed in his mind.
High in the Brecon beacons, a couple left their car and walked down to the lakeside. The man was holding a camera, and was taking photographs. "Harry! Come look! I wonder how long these have been here?" The woman was standing in the middle of a small huddle of cottages peering out over the lake. "I don't know darling. They look centuries old." She walked over to the largest and went inside. Her beaming face appeared at one of the windows. "It's got an amazing view of the lake! It's almost as if the people who built them, put them here intentionally." Harry joined his wife, and looked out over the tranquil waters. "It is beautiful isn't it? Maybe we should move in." He said jokingly.