167. A Horsey Tale

I’m looking in all the secret places, the hidden places, places behind machines and electrical cabinets that hum with horrible energy, behind thundering generators and hissing pipes, behind the stink of hot metal and old grease, behind paper dust and dubious chemistry.
I’m looking for Fucking Amazing Dave.
He owes me a tenner but I couldn’t care less about that, I’m just in the mood to talk to someone who isn’t a complete cunt or a fuckwit or a drone or a bullying bastard. I’m not saying Fucking Amazing Dave is normal, far from it, but he’s a ray of light in what can be a very dark place at times.
The factory is quiet, in a lull, so it gives workers more time to slip a knife between the ribs of those they bear a grudge against. This suits the gaffers just fine – bored staff grassing on each other saves them the job of finding out all the petty misdemeanors the workforce are getting up to. They can chuck verbal and writtens about for fun, rapping knuckles and banging heads. Everyone’s happy when everyone’s unhappy.
It’s times like this to get out of the way.
I find Fucking Amazing Dave in a store room behind a store room, a forgotten place remembered only by those in the know and canny enough to have palmed a master key in the early days.
Rows of rusting steel shelves stacked with rusting steel spares for machines long dead, Imperial fittings in a Metric world.
Fucking Amazing Dave is sat crossed legged on a swarf-strewn workbench at the back of the room, reading a tatty magazine by the light of a mechanic’s inspection lamp. A battered travel kettle is coming to the boil beside him and there is a half empty packet of biscuits close to hand. He barely looks up when I come in.
He says, “Brew?”
I say, “Go on then.”
He pulls a greasy box labelled, ‘SHIMS’ from a shelf, takes out two mugs, tea bags, a crumpled bag of sugar and a tin of powdered milk.
“How you like it?”
“Black one sugar ta.”
Fucking Amazing Dave brews up.
I take my tea and say, “What you reading?”
Dave takes a cautious sip of scalding tea, winces, says, “Bat-winged baboon-faced Zanzibar sex dwarf.”
“Beg pardon?”
He shows me what he’s reading. It’s one of those magazines about hauntings, UFOs, strange sightings, yetis and lake monsters.
I make a non-committal sort of grunting noise. Fucking Amazing Dave looks at me.
He says, “What’s up? Not y’cup o’ tea, so to speak?”
I sigh. “Well, yes and no. I used to love that shit. Got all the magazines, books, even went up to Loch Ness one time. I’d have given my left knacker to have seen a ghost or a flying saucer. I’ve stayed in haunted pubs and walked across the moors at night. I’ve gone into abandoned railway tunnels and sat up all night, watching the sky. Guess what I saw.”
Dave shakes his head. “Yeah, I can guess what y’ saw.”
“Aye. Fuck all, that’s what I saw.” I shrug. “Bit by bit I stopped believing. It wasn’t an epiphany or anything, it just… drifted away. Nowadays I find it hard to believe in anything.”
Fucking Amazing Dave is still shaking his head. “Man, I feel sorry for you! When did yer get so cynical? It’s a world o’ wonder, Luci! There’s more shit goin’ down than our tiny narrow minds can tek in! Y’got to stay open to the strange! Weird shit can go down at any time, you just got t’ be ready when it ‘appens!”
He offers me a biscuit. Hob-Nobs. I’m not really a biscuit person but you’ve got to be a fucking robot to knock back a Hob-Nob.
I take one.
I say, “You seen anything then, Dave? Lights in the sky? Poltergeist activity? Got a bumming off a bat-winged baboon-faced Zanzibar sex dwarf?”
He says, “I seen plenty, mate, but not much that can’t be put down to dubious spliff or ACEEEED!!”
Dave throws some mid nineties rave moves with his arms. Hot tea splashes his knee and he hisses.
“Ooh, y’bastard!”
Then his face lights up. He snaps his fingers. “Y’know what? I was involved with somethin’,  a few year back! Really weird. It were in the papers and everythin’. Wanna hear about it?”
I say, “Of course I bloody do! Spill it, Dave.”
Fucking Amazing Dave shuffles on his bench, his face lit strange by the single bulb of the inspection lamp.
“Right. It were over Wakefield way, which can be a weird fucking hole without anything weird actually happening, but then this weird thing started happening so that made it DOUBLE weird, so to speak. So our lass Paula comes home one day an’ says that her mate Shelly had said that there were this field near her where they kept ‘orses, an’ these ‘orses had started screamin’.”
I say, “Screaming horses? What the fuck is that all about?”
Fucking Amazing Dave wafts his hands about mysteriously. “That’s what everyone were askin, Luci! ‘orses that were fine in other fields were put in that field an’ next thing you know they’re buckin’ about, screamin’ an’ carryin’ on! It’s like they’d gone mad or somethin’.”
I’m thinking. Trying to solve the mystery in my own mind. I say, “What time of year was it that this happened?”
“Late Spring, all the way through into mid Summer.”
I nibble my Hob-Nob, concentrating furiously. “Right. There’s a lot of plants poisonous to horses. Stuff in the nightshade family. Potatoes are in that family, tomatoes too. There’s ground growing weeds, they might get eaten and give horses pain, or maybe madness!”
Fucking Amazing Dave says, “Nope. They got an expert in. Nowt in the field except sweet grass. There were trees, but none that had nuts that were poisonous or nothin’. Besides, it were too early for stuff like that.”
I sip some tea. “Well… biting or stinging insects? Horse flies! I got bit by one of those once and it had a proboscis like a fucking epidural. Hurt like a bastard! Could have been an early swarm of those?”
Fucking Amazing Dave is shaking his head again, enjoying himself. “Not them neither. No wasps in late Spring n’all. The horses were all checked over – no marks on ‘em. It were a proper mystery. Got on news, local an’ national! There were talk o’ the field being haunted, cos there were an ‘anging field ‘bout half mile down t’road. Some reckoned it were t’ghost of a dead ‘ighwayman lookin’ for an ‘orse to go back out robbin’ on. They got a telly psychic in an’ everythin’. Dousers came onto t’field, wavin’ sticks about, tryin’ to find bad energy. They  came up wi’ nowt!”
Dave leans forward. “I seen it meself. Me an’ our lass Paula went down one Sunday an’ we seen one o’ them ‘orses leapin’ about an’ carryin’ on. Proper weird it were.”
I say, “Why didn’t they just keep the horses out of that field?”
“They did for a bit an’ the ‘orses all calmed down. They thought it were all fine, then they stuck ‘em back in the field an’ they were screamin’ again!”
I say, “That’s bloody strange, Dave. I must admit, I’m stumped. Did they ever get to the bottom of it?”
Fucking Amazing Dave says, “Oh aye. I got a phone call from me sister, Tina. She were well upset. She asks us to go down Wakefield nick cos her eldest Barry were bein’ ‘eld there. She couldn’t go ‘erself on account of ‘er youngest ‘avin’ Chicken Pox an’ besides, our lass Paula ‘ad a motor an’ our Tina’s fella Roy were a good for nowt sack o’ shit who couldn’t drive. So me an’ our lass Paula went down Wakey nick an’ this detective told the tale. Turns out, all the horses that were screaming were stallions, not mares. Nice warm days, those stallions were enjoying the breeze, so to speak…”
Dave pulls one hand along his arm and lets the arm flop.
“Airing their majestic lengths, Luci, y’know? So there they are, chewing grass, swingin’ their dicks in the warm breeze, an’ what happens?”
I’m flummoxed. “What happens then?”
“They get shot in the cock by Barry’s fuckin’ air rifle, that’s what. The little cunt spent each an’ every day sat up there in a tree, takin’ aim at Dobbin’s wanger when ‘e should o’ been in school.”
“Fucking Hell. I mean… Fucking Hell!”
Dave nods. “No wonder they were screamin’. I feel like screamin’ just thinkin’ about it. There were no obvious marks on the poor ‘orses because they drew their poor shot cocks back up inside as far as the fucker’d go!”
I say, “What happened to Barry? I’d have thought he’d still be locked up in some institution getting his sick bonce examined by half the shrinks in Yorkshire!”
Dave says, “Nope. The rozzers sent him straight round to the Army recruitment office. They were impressed that he avoided detection for weeks on end an’ that he could shoot a swingin’ cock at fifty meters wi’ a shitty little air rifle. They reckoned he were the perfect soldier material.”
Dave hopped off the bench and dusted swarf off his trousers.
“The little cunt ended up killin’ half of Afghanistan. It were like an ‘oliday for ‘im. Got a shit load of promotions an’ he earns twice what I do now, wi’ the promise of a fat pension at the end of it.”
Dave shakes his head. “That’s what you get for shootin’ ‘orses cocks, Luci. An’ here’s you sayin’ nowt weird ‘appens in the world.”
Fucking Amazing Dave goes to the door. “Don’t eat all me ‘ob-Nobs, Luci. When y’done turn off the light. I’m off for a dump.”
I’m left alone in the store room behind a store room, eating biscuits, thinking about shot cocks.

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