For about five years now I’ve had this idea of writing a series of absurd and eccentric short stories based in the Welsh Valleys loosely inspired by the Arabian nights (which is a book I love, Read the Arabian nights it, its AMAZING). Anyway due to a mixture of self delaying, doubt and fear I haven’t done anything about it, until now that is, so I finally decided to write Forty and Two tales from the valley nights. There illogical, ridiculous and foolish and I just let my imagination go weird so the first one is here, if you like to read it thank you if you don’t then no worries.
Chapter 1. THE HOLE IN THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN.
Long, long ago when the coal consuming madness still lay as a black shadow over the land of Wales there lived a man in the village of Mountain Ash who they called the mad man of Mountain Ash. For he was a man, he did reside in Mountain Ash and he was quite utterly and completely mad, but for the purpose of this tale we shall call him Thomas.
Thomas lived in the great age of steam, when the black gold taken from the land of our fathers powered the engines and gave life to the steam engines that powered the ships, turned the togs and moved the wheels of the great Empire that covered the glob, but that’s another story. It was an age where anything through science and engineering seemed possible, even to the most humblest of folk.
Which could possible explain a great deal of the unusual circumstances behind the events surrounding this tale. It could also explain why a seemly ordinary man from a simple back ground with no apparent training or teaching in any major area of sciences, engineering or any real understanding of the laws of physics could ever hope to build a rocket that would fly more then 2 feet of the ground. But maybe such things are rather boring and tiresome, and are certainly not what makes for an interesting tales.
Thomas lived with a great rival, from the neighbouring village of Abercynon. This rival was named Morgan. Both men were great thinkers and engineers, although some did say Morgan was the better of the two. Both men were head strong and became taken with that mad rush that sometimes over takes the minds of men. Both men were determined to be the first man to fly to the moon and so their race began. It was the summer of 1903 and there was indeed a great fuss and gossip about the two men’s contest to design and build the first sky ship to reach the heavens, it was all anyone talked about for weeks on end, a great deal of money was also placed on the event with Morgan becoming the bookies favourite.
But Morgans tale is still to come, so no more shall be said about him until later. This story is about Thomas and the hole in the side of the mountain which he made. Thomas was a miner by trade, working for one of the many coal factories in the area. In the day he would work down the pit which was the lifeblood of the great industry of the day. During the night Thomas would read, think, plan, design and dream, he would dream of building a rocket. A rocket he hoped that would take him to the moon and back, beating Morgan and showing everyone that he, Thomas was the better engineer and not just a pretendgineer as some thought of him.
Thomas worked long and hard all that summer and at the end of September he announced to the local area he was ready to finally veil his sky ship and attempt his dream to fly to the moon (Which of course caused a great deal of excitement and interest in the local area I can assure you). Now it was a warm September’s evening when Thomas with much huffing and puffing pushed out of his shed a strange looking object under a large red sheet. People came far and wide to see it, even legend has it a man with a camera from the South Wales Eco newspaper international group came down to witness the event.
The crowd gathered around Thomas and his mysterious red sheet, people climbed roof tops and onto garden walls to get a better view. Now Thomas was never one for show man ship and as he stood in front of this ever growing crowded he decided it was time to put his plan into action and so with a little squeak of “alright, here it is” he pulled off the red sheet covering the sky ship with one quick movement. A loud gasp arose from the crowded, followed by a large collective “um” of confusion at the sight Thomas had veiled.
The sheet disclosed what appeared to be two large coal carts, one turned and stuck on top of the other, with the four tiny tram wheels still on the bottom cart and a small little hatch on the roof of the top cart. At the rear of this construction there seemed to be a large wooden beer barrel tired with ropes to the back with a small chimney flu sticking out the end.
To be honest, most of the watchers in the crowd that day were hoping for something …. well something a little more impressive. Something with massive feather wings like a bird, or something with a massive gas bag above it like a balloon, or even something cigar shaped with a pointy end the size of a chummy stack on a massive pole, anything would of been a bit more impressive. What Thomas had built looked like something that the annual miners Jazz band ride into battle in during the yearly battle rumble with the other profession jazz bands of the valley, to win the yearly title of hardest jazz band. It did not look like something which travels to the moon. But seemly not to notice this Thomas began to climb on top of the coal cars and with a great wave of his hand and a shout of “see you when I get back, yeah” he climbed into the strange looking contraption. There was then a few moments of clicking and crunching sounds coming from inside the strange looking ship. Then the hatch reopened and Thomas round face popped out again looking slightly embarrassed and shouted to the crowd “umm I don’t suppose anyone could push me could they? …”. At this point someone from the crowd thought to ask the question that everyone was wondering but no one had said “Thomas what are you actually planning mate?” Thomas, his head still sticking out of the hatch shouted back “to go to the moon, yeah”. “yes we know, the man from the South Wales Eco is here and everything” shouted the man back “but what are you actually planning in terms of right here right now, I mean what does this thing of yours do?”.
At this Thomas stood up in the strange sky ship so his waist was sticking out the top and began to explain “this here see? Is a sky cart, I’m going to use it to fly to the moon like the birds” “YES we know” shouted the crowd, who were keeping up with preceding rather well.
“What I’m planning is for the sky cart to be pulled to the top of the valley mountain, up by Ferndale yeah, then with a push it will go down the mountain side becoming faster and faster right, then at the bottom, at the little hump back bridge there, I’ll light the fire here and it will send a jet of steam out of the back and this along with the speed of the hill will send me into the sky and straight to the moon, now can someone push me to the top please?”. At this the crowd got together and began to push the cart to the top of the mountain, they said to them selves “well Thomas does work in the coal factory, he must of worked all this out scientifically. I mean he was always good at that, remember when he fixed little Gwen’s bike wheel with nothing but a bit of chewing gum and a news paper? he must of done the numbers and knows what he’s doing. We’ve sure he knows what he’s doing” said the crowd. Although of course he didn’t.
Darkness was just about to fall when Thomas and his strange machine got to the top of that mountain, the moon was just rising above the valleys. Just like it had done through out the great life of the world and just like it will for the rest of its days. The ever-lasting great ball of clear, pure light in the sky, that object of beauty and of dreams. A bright full moon hung across the valley from Thomas, it seemed to be waiting, beckoning Thomas onwards, tempting him on and on with its beauty and its mystery.
Now it was time, they had pulled the machine to the top of the mountain and with the famous last words from Thomas of “cheer-y-o then” he jumped into his machine and was off.
The large crowd watching was to be fair, quite disappointed with this, they were hoping for some sort of fare well speech, such as “once more into the breach dear friends” or “its one small step for man, one large leap for mankind” not “cheer-y-o then”. Cheer-y-o’s are not the sort of things that makes epic and good stories but there we are. Thomas once he had slammed shut the little iron hatch upon the roof of the machine had set into motion the first launch stages of his journey to the moon. With that the little sky cart began to move slowly forward, down the hill, quite slowly at first because the machine was heavily and took time to build up momentum on the long slop. But faster and faster it went, it began to pick up speed and by the time it was half way down the hill it was flying. The machine was going faster and faster, some later said they herd a tiny speaking noise coming from one of the wheels as it speed down the hill. Inside the machine it wasn’t until Thomas was three quarters of the way down the side of the mountain before the thought appeared in Thomas head. That thought was “I wonder if I should of doubled checked the calculations for the gradient of the bridge to send me into space. Nah I’m sure it be fine” but of course it wasn’t.
The watchers with much excitement, saw Thomas strange machine hit the hump back bridge, going at such a terrific rate of speed, it zoomed up the slop of the hump back bridge and then it took off, it really did take off, and it flew. All the crowd watching sore blind it flew, and it was such an amazing sight to see that strange borrowed shape cart flying through the air, the tiny little wheels still spinning like crazy, round and round they went, defying the laws and the very logic of gravity it flew. It flew, not gracefully but like a stone being thrown through the air, it flew. Then it stopped flying and began to drop. To be fair it only flew for about nine seconds, but still nine seconds is still nine seconds of flight.
It began with the front of the machine beginning to drop a tiny bit, then it levelled off, then quite quickly it began to noise drive into the side of the mountain.
Some said they heard Thomas voice from inside shouting something that sounded like “ugger me” as it crashed with such a massive bang into the side of the mountain. It should by all logic of the world stopped there and crumple up on the side of the valley like a scrupled up bit of news paper thrown at a wall. It would of too if it hadn’t been for the engine rockets at the back of the machine, that little beer battle tied to the rear. Suddenly picking that particular moment to kick in and fire off a cloud of powerful steam. Sending the machine hard into the side of the mountain, at first it just hit the mountain with no movement at all, then it was seen to begin to burry itself into the valley somehow, the engine steam coming out of the back pushing and hammering the little sky cart into the ground, digging through the mountain side like a stone falling through a bank of snow.
At this time in the tale the man who lives inside the mountain should be brought into the story because Thomas is about to drive through his front room. There is of course a man who lives inside the mountain, actually there’s not just a man but a very large community of many different people. They have lived there since the beginning of time and live there still, even today. In fact a popular supermarket chain are currently reopening certain mine shafts in the South Wales area in order to supply these under grown communities with cheap affordable fruit and veg. (As you can guess this is a tricky topic at the moment in the underground world of the valleys. Mostly because it’s the first time the underground world and its people have had to deal with the confusing issue of paying 5p for a plastic bag but that’s another tale and something the Welsh assemble government are much more qualified to tell.)
The man who lives inside the mountain has lived there for many years, he had once been a stone giant but after a bad turn of moss (stone giant version of sun burn) he decided to move inside the mountain and never see the sun again. At that moment in time he was entertaining his good friend the Dragon who lived near the Dare. They were just sitting down for after tea and coffee in the man who lives inside the mountain front room. The man was just finishing saying “I’m thinking of knocking all this through and adding a window so I can finally use that sundial aunty Pam gave me for Christmas last year, I don’t know why she gave me a sundial, I live inside a mountain for Drakes sake, anyway would you like an After eight mint, I know its not quite eight o clock yet but still I think we can get away with it, oh can you hear a digging noise?”.
Just then Thomas in his machine with a rumbling and a massive banging smashed through the man who lived inside the Mountain front room and carried on going strange through the room and into the rock side of the other side. Destroying most of the front room’s furniture and upsetting the coffee table and sending dust and dirt everywhere, leaving a long hole with light streaming through into the man who lives inside the mountain living room. A few moments after Thomas was gone and the shock had dyed down a bit, the dragon turned to the man who lives inside the mountain and said “that was quick, you’ll have to give me the number of your builder, I’m wanting someone to look at my guttering”.
Inside the strange machine Thomas was being shaken worse than a sock in a tumble dryer. Luckily tho, thinking he would be crash landing on the moon, he had padded the inside of the craft with his mattress so he was in effect being thrown around like a small child on a bouncy castle.
Now on the other side of the mountain there was the Merthyr vale valley and the village of Pont-y-gwaith and its world famous petrol station. At this time (the same time as it always was since and every time since, till the ending of days) it was the time of day for the local chapel gathering. The village local vicar was about to begin his mid week sermon. Now the Vicar of Pont-Y-Gwaith at this time was the right honourable Vicar Victor Edwards. Who was famous up and down the valley for teaching about the devil and the dangers of drink and drugs. He was considered to be a fire and brim stone preacher who frightened the hardest working men up and down the valleys. He was preaching at this time to a crowd of about two hundred, mostly they were miners waiting for the bus home, although there was a small band of generally interested people, mostly it is worth noting these were lady’s of an older age who seemed to find the Vicar Edwards attractive.
The Vicar Edwards was once again peaching about the devil of drink and had got to the point in his speech (his favourite part in his speech) where he spoke of the devil coming up from the ground to drag drinkers back to the fires of hell. As he spoke, his deep booming voice echoed around the valley hills “He from down below with thunder …….” As he said these words there was a very tiny sound of a rumbling. “shall arise, and the earth will shake” again a rumble, this time it was heard much louder and a slight tremble could be felt in the ground. People looked around at each other with the sort of look people give one and another when they weren’t sure that they felt something. “That shall be the sign that the devil has come and please stop who ever is banging that drum, I am speaking” shouted the Vicar Edwards. At which there was an all mighty band and the ground shook as Thomas and his machine came screaming through the side of the mountain bringing mug, dirt and earth with him in a showering explosion of steam.
“Flipping heck it’s the devil, quick tell Samuel Peeps” shouted the Vicar Edwards. Of course the vicar (being from the Merthyr valley) knew nothing about Thomas and his crazy adventure and dream. Thomas being from the Aberdare valley (where those in the Merthyr valley say are a bit strange, although those in the Aberdare valley say those in the Merthyr valley are a bit strange. So who knows maybe everyone is just a bit werid). The vicar seeing the strange machine burst out from the valley side, sending dirt, coal and rock flying in all directions. Hearing the bang’s and rumbles, like a dragon had just burst out from its dark black home, thought at once that he had been proven right and the devil had come to take the soul of the drinkers back to his awful land of fire.
No one knew this at the time, but the vicar Victor Edwards had a dark and terrible secret, the vicar Victor Edwards every night after his days work had been done. Quite enjoyed the occasional whiskey, well not just the occasional whiskey, more the hole bottle of whiskey and a pint of rum before bed. In fact he was the worse drunk in the hole valley but no one knew of course. Seeing the devil spring out from the side of the mountain, or to be more truthful Thomas and his machine pushing through the mountain. The vicar Victor Edwards at once thought the devil had come for him and before you could say “oh there goes the vicar Victor Edwards”. He was off, running as fast as he could down the green, green grassy slope of the side of the valley, running as fast as he could. He didn’t stop until he got to Merthyr it self, where upon he went straight to skypi Samuel Peeps for advice.
“There goes the victor Victor Edwards” said one innocent bystander, “what was that?” “oh Nothing” said the bystander. Now Thomas machine had finally run out of steam and was slowly coming to a halt on the grass about 50 meters beyond the hole which it had made in the side of the mountain. The valley people from the Merthyr vale valley, who had up to very recently been hearing a speech from the now vanished vicar Victor Edwards found them selves looking straight through the mountain through the hole Thomas had just made. On the other side the people from the Aberdare valley now found them selves looking straight through the hole at the people from the Merthyr vale valley. And the man who lives inside the mountain and his gust the Dragon who lives near the Dare were looking at the dragon’s holiday photographs from his trip to China on the man’s now rather dusty sofa.
“This is quite handy, no more climbing up that mountain every time we play the other valley in Rugby on a Sunday” said a women, “ow yeah, good point, Cheers Thomas, good job” said another man.
So ends the tale, the two valleys were now linked together thanks to a very long hole in the side of the mountain. Which was better for everyone, for trade, sport and for general life. Thomas after he had a good strong cup of tea and a lay down went onto change, patten and market his machine into a more comfortable tunnel builder. Which he become very famous and very rich for, travelling all over the great empire building tunnels for everyone. Until that is the faithful day when he dug the second channel tunnel and refused to pay the fish king’s council tax for the digging and was sadly attacked and in prisoned by a lot of very angry north sea cod. He’s still in jail to this day, refusing to pay the fine. But the hole inside the mountain still remains, the Man who lived inside the mountain has now moved to another mountain after a brief time of attempting to set up a toil booth in his front room charging people who wanted to use the tunnel. This how ever did work out so instead the man moved homes and is now quite happily living inside another mountain. The vicar Victor Edwards was never seen again until the murders began and the people of both the Aberdare and the Merthyr valleys both enjoyed the use of the tunnel to this day, even with the new hot air balloon bus service operating in the valleys.
Which we’ll hear more about later ……