Against this backdrop, a discordant child's voice - like a memory rising from the depths of my mind - murmours, 'Oranges and lemons says the bells of St. Clement's. You owe me five farthings, say the bells of St. Martin's. When will you pay me, say the bells of Old Bailey. When I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch. When will that be, say the bells of Stepney. I do not know, says the great bell of Bow. Here comes a candle to light you to bed. And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!'
It's a young girl's voice, best I can make out, maybe 7 or 8; her lament at once shrill, breathy, harshly off-key. I drag myself out of bed and walk outside to the balcony to see where the voice is coming from, but find nothing save the trees and the rain. As I stand there, the macabre nursery rhyme grows fainter, as if the girl is moving away from me, retreating backwards in time. And I am suddenly reminded of an old Black & White horror film I saw growing up in the UK, many moons ago. The only detail of which I remember being that of a family - circa 1946 perhaps - pulling into the long curved driveway of a stately English country manor, the rain falling heavily about them. This is their new home, one presumes, and as they alight from their sleek black Austin 16, they are greeted by a servant of the house standing in the driveway who proffers an apologetic smile and a black umbrella. Together they move towards the expansive front door of the manor house, while the camera cranes up and away to reveal several ghostly children, all aged ten or under, sitting high in the branches of the trees; their tattered clothes centuries out of date, their mouths moving in unison to the tune of a long forgotten nursery rhyme.
The son and daughter of the new lord of the manor, both under ten themselves, hear the nursery rhyme and turn and stare behind them, their eyes wide, the hackles rising on the backs of their necks. But there is nothing to be seen, save the rain, and the trees that bear witness to the endless clockwork of time that stretches out before them.
"Here comes a candle to light you to bed. And here comes a chopper to chop off your head.''
Copyright 2016 - Brian M Logan
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