The Beast of Temple Sowerby

On a day when two young Scotsmen chose to take the southern road
(To call upon their kinsman in his southerly abode)
Basking in the glare of noon, they drove the motorway
Unknowing that fate drew them on to Temple Sowerby

Upon that road trip, laughter flowed like cider in the sun
For young men all are optimists, concerned with cheer and fun
They know not of the horrors which stalk nights as black as coal
Whose macabre touch might blight the very goodness of one’s soul

Although the journey offered service-station stops galore
To their youthful sensibility, each delay was but a chore
Instead, they opted every time to skip them and press on
And so arrive earlier at the hearth of kinsman, Jon

It seems a fitting juncture, now our scene is clearly set
Before their positivity turns to mournful regret
To look upon the journeyers who from the north set sail
And introduce the ‘heroes’ of this cautionary tale

David was the given name of our intrepid pair
Though ‘twas the only quality that both of them did share
While one was shaggy, bearded and unquestionably round
The other was of slighter build and tower’d ‘bove the ground

To spare the reader such confusion as may well arise
Let us append an alias to the Davids of each size
The hairy rotund, gentlemen shall henceforth be called ‘Shed’
While his willowy companion will be known as ‘Des’ instead

These details, though, are not the meat of what I must regale
And time demands I progress to the substance of our tale
Eventually, to needs of flesh all travellers must attend:
Des and Shed grew hungry as the sun did fast descend

The options were discussed at length across the car’s front seat
And wholesome pub food, ‘twas agreed, should be the evening’s treat
Where then, they mused, would constitute an ideal place to pause?
Where lies an alehouse suitable to fill our rav’nous jaws?

If I could wave the mists of time aside with wrinkled hand
If I could give them but some sense of danger close at hand
I’d warn those young men harshly not to let their journey stray
Within a league of that blighted town, named Temple Sowerby

All at once, in red dusk light, the hamlet’s cursed name loomed
The lads were cheered; they knew not yet how many it had doomed
This name-plate heralded the chance that they might find an inn
To give their weary engine rest – and let the feast begin

Sure enough, the next sight was a squeaking oaken sign
Which, upon reflection, hinted at a fate malign
“The Devil’s head” it did proclaim in weathered, peeling paint
But the boys were undeterred, for hunger had them feeling faint

With creaking hinges, did the inn’s door swing back to reveal
Just the kind of rustic spot they’d hoped to have their meal
The barman cleaning glasses at a gentle, steady pace;
A host of country ‘characters’ were scattered ‘round the place

Big Des approached the bar and in his softly-spoken style
Announced that they intended for to stop and eat awhile
The barman offered options from the blackboard ‘hind the taps
While Shed took to a stool beside one of the local chaps

The gentleman sat ‘pon his right and seemed the worse for wear
Slumped forward on his elbows, fingers buried in his hair
While others supped on brownish ale, ’twas whisky fill’d his glass
And Shed could see no movement as the minutes trickled past

But while a wiser man might have left sleeping dogs to lie
This bearded, chubby Scotsman was a gregarious guy
While Des perused the menu with a total dedication
Young Shed engaged this fellow in impromptu conversation

“Alright there? How’s it gaun, mate?” his gambit did begin
Words loosed with chirpy tone and an insufferable grin
It seemed in that first moment, they’d had the desired effect
As the silent, stony gentleman did slowly crane his neck

Within the eyes which turned on him, Shed saw but hopeless tombs
Or tapestries of agony, woven on devil’s looms
A plethora of torments lay within that icy stare
And fear lanced through our hero to his stool, pinning him there

Something about the cold which poured out from this man’s bleak eyes
Reached Des and made him start, then turn around in his surprise
So that both young and foolish Scots were caught within the chill
Helpless to move as he did speak; both sapped of all their will

“Alright? I haven’t been alright one day in these ten years
My life is but a prison, fenced by bars of frozen tears
I’m stranded on these winter moors, the endless, freezing wild
I wander like a ghost e’er since the day I lost my child.”

Realising that this chat was more than he had bargained for
Shed moved to hop down from his stool, to stand upon the floor
“Sorry to disturb ye, mate,” the words spilled from his lip
But as he turned to walk away, he felt the cold man’s grip

“Oh, stranger, sure I am disturbed, but the fault was never thine
The cause is that foul thing that stole away what once was mine.”
As Shed tried to pull free from where the hand had grasped his sleeve
Des noticed several local men set down their drinks and leave

Now Des was not a man who could be so easily spooked
But equally, he was not known to leap before he looked
The sight of others going did not at once hit him hard
But proved enough to put this measured Scotsman on his guard

A glance would put the cold man in his 50s, maybe older
And so, with youthful confidence, Des spoke over Shed’s shoulder
“Old man, we’re only here for food, we don’t mean any harm
But there might be trouble now if you don’t let go of his arm.”

A tension rose within the bar, but the cold man’s lips peeled back
Revealed a yellow, toothy smile, as he let his grip go slack
“Youngster, nothing that you could do would scare me in the least
My nightmares came true long ago; my son claimed by the beast.”

All at once, within the pub, a pin might be heard to drop
The Barman muttered urgently, “Angus, please. Please stop.”
Transformed from the relaxed man he had appeared from the start
‘twas clear now that the claws of fear had tightly gripped his heart

Both Davids gave a sideways glance; the other’s gaze was met
The message: we should leave right now, though we haven’t eaten yet
All at once, the polished wooden walls seem’d to draw in
And all the room was tenter-hooked by that dreadful yellow grin

“I’ve kept my silence long enough,” Angus calmly replied
“I see no reason to go on – my only boy has died.
These youngsters here deserve to know their mortal jeopardy
The fate which they might meet tonight at the rav’nous jaws of the -”

A wave of fright and unease ran through the assembled crowd
The barman cried out: “ANGUS, DO NOT SPEAK ITS NAME ALOUD!”
Then all at once fell silent, as they heard that eldritch sound:
The ichor-curdling howling of some rage-demented hound

The barman snatched out at a switch and killed the alehouse light
The regulars all scurried ‘neath the benches in their fright
In one eye-blink, someone had placed a stout bar o’er the door
The Scotsmen knew that they would be escaping nevermore

“Curse you Angus,” growled the barman in his lowest voice
“You think that we ignore its vile existence out of choice?
All of us know of your pain – lord knows we sympathise!
But we still have babes to hide from the gaze of its wicked, burning eyes!”

Of all those who were gathered, only Angus was unfazed
He stayed upright upon his stool and met the barman’s gaze
“So, you would have me quiet, every night drowning my loss?
Lest I bring doom upon you all, I wear an albatross?”

“Well, I defy you all!” he cried, then stood, both tall and proud
And from his shoulders, ‘twas as if had dropped some freezing shroud
For all at once, a younger man he seemed to all assembled
With hot rage burning in his heart, his fists grew white and trembled

His heightened voice provoked response, for outside from the moor
There came another dreadful call, a note of terror, pure
To which Angus hotly cried out: “I care not what the lore be:
Bring forth your worst, you demon-dog, YOU BEAST OF TEMPLE SOWERBY!”

Still standing frozen, on the floor, the Scotsmen clearly heard
The retort of the beast to these angry, defiant words
It roared with rage and grew yet closer to the tiny tavern
The cries echoing round the room like some giant, stony cavern

Now Angus turned to the Davids, two – and calmly, then, he swore:
“You both are blameless in this crime; so when opens the door
I’ll bring the beast upon myself and past me you must flee.
Do not look back, for there are things you’re not prepared to see.”

Before either could then react, the room visibly shuddered
As if in direct response to the words Angus had uttered
Blows rained down on the door, the walls, the panelled wood did splinter
The beast roared out in hatred colder than the deepest winter

Both Scotsmen looked to Angus who was forced by then to shout
To be heard o’er those dreadful roars, as men cowered roundabout:
“Behind me boys, it comes and no mere door can slow its advance
Prepare yourselves to run: both your lives depend on this one chance!”

“These cowards here have earned their deaths,” he snarled and gestured wide
And from his eyes, each local man did try their own to hide
“To stand by, while each night it stalked our children in their beds?
I say to you, they’re due the doom which hovers o’er their heads!”

With that, a mighty crash did split the bar-and-door asunder
And all within did hear its bellow like a peal of thunder
In flew the beast, a dark black form, all but merged with the night
But glimpses caught they of its shape, in its eyes’ own glowing light

Angus surged forth all at once toward its gaping maw
And struggled to hold wide apart the massive, bladed jaw
On instinct did the boys alone begin their desperate flight
Breaking fast, then running past on out into the night

As they fled they heard a dreadful, agonising cry
And knew that gallant Angus had become the first to die
Then as they fumbled desperately to get into the car
The beast, like a tornado, tore through all else in the bar

Barely was the engine revved before another sound
Came rumbling from behind them, so it shook the very ground
While pressing hard down on the gas, Shed made his grave mistake
And in the rear-view mirror, but a single glance did take

What danced before his eyes was illuminated by flame
A creature cast from horror which must never bear a name
A devil which upon his retina was thenceforth burned
An image with which sanity was mercilessly spurned

Regaining then but scant control o’er his unrav’lling mind
Shed with a squeal of tyres left the monstrous sight behind
And while his tall companion wept ‘pon the other seat
He managed, somewhat tearfully, to desperately entreat:

“Shed, mate, I am begging you, until the day we die
No matter how we have to duck and dodge, mislead and lie
Let’s never speak a word of this, to ourselves or other men
Let’s never tell what happened to us here, tonight, again.”

Shed could not, in good conscience, his beloved friend deny
And so he swore to speak no word ‘til one of them did die
While, to himself, he pledged that he would never visualise
Again the monstrous form which had been flashed before his eyes

But now that I am old and grey (and David long since lost)
I feel that I may speak the tale and my conscience pay no cost
So count ye warned by my account about that fateful day
When two young Scotsmen thought to stop in Temple Sowerby

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