Should this letter make it back to the land of the sane without me, I fear that means I have met some tragic fate. This record of the last few weeks – or months, time is senseless to me now – encapsulates my experience in this dreamscape in hopes that the news makes it back to my wife, Tracey Hope Rastthorn of Bedfordshire.

She was right. I never should have come here.

I heard rumours about strange happenings in a quaint village just outside of Yorkshire where the veil between real and surreal is all too thin; a village that doesn’t even appear on any official maps. I had to order one off the internet and it came with a warning so cryptic I was sure it had to be part of the experience: “DO NOT TREAD THESE WATERS UNTETHERED OR YOURSELF WILL BE DESERTED”. That didn’t scare me off though, it only enticed me further. So, I made my way through the winding roads leading up to the hill.

I arrived in the village hours later than I expected with nowhere to sleep and no idea where to go, but the locals seemed nice enough to ask for help, despite the invasive stares.

An elderly man pointed me to the nearest lodge. As I drove through, there was an unusual homogeny sprinkled all over town. Everyone was wearing bell-bottom jeans and walked the same.

The lodge was warm and welcoming with lots of brown wood, orange and yellow. I was happy to have a bed and not have to shelter in my car so I ended the night early. The following morning, my phone and laptop were gone.


I heard a knock at the door. It was a little girl – pie in hand – sent by her family to welcome me to the village. I was too frazzled over my stolen property to pay much mind to it, so I took the pie and thanked her before asking for directions to the police station.

You know, for a man that looked eerily like Father Christmas, the constable was of no help whatsoever. He reluctantly offered to drive me back to my lodge to check things out only after I began making a scene at the station. Still, there were no signs of a break-in. I should have fibbed and told him I did hear something. Maybe then he would have investigated further.

With no evidence of foul-play – and perhaps a disdain for visitors who come accusing locals of a crime their first day here – his tone shifted from dismissive to antagonistic, insisting that I must have left my things in my car.

I know I had them inside the lodge. I set my laptop to charge so I could get writing bright and early that morning, and Hope’s was the last voice I heard before I went to bed. I promised her daily check-ins. After all this time, she must be besides herself.

The constable left vexed and in a rush, but on his way out he said, “don’t let your imagination run you ragged, Mr Rastthorn”.



Those were the last words my wife said to me on the phone. How could he know to say that exact string of words to me?

Was I being watched?

On the left side of the kitchen, sitting on the pinewood counter, the pie I received from my neighbours caught my hungry eyes. Flakes of gold leaf shimmering like a disco ball as the sunrise came through the curtains and caught it. How odd I thought. I had never seen gold leaf used on a pie before and this village didn’t exactly scream decadence when I arrived. I went in for a closer look.

The geometric scores on the crust looked familiar and the blueberry filling that oozed out as I cut into it were not a shade you might expect from off-season frozen wild berries after an hour of baking. That would be more of a dark purple colour. This pie was actually blue.

Suddenly, it was like I saw it for the first time. A navy-blue body with Aztec patterns and decorative streaks of gold; just like my living room back home. The only way anyone here could possibly know that is if they were the gadget thieves. After my chat with the constable, I no longer had room for coincidences. That was proof!

Something strange was happening in this village and I was still ambitious and greedy enough to believe that I would be the one to uncover it. So I stayed. After all, what are some stolen gadgets with backed up files when I am staring down a Pulitzer?

black and white photo of Maxine Peake stood in front of a large tree

Over the next few days, I tried to experience the local culture to add more details to my book, but I found it increasingly difficult to keep my head. More and more of my interactions with the locals seemed to infuse information from my own life no stranger should know.

I drove by the book store to pick up some reading material now that my free time opened up, and laid out across the entire display window were all the Roald Dahl books I read and loved as a child. All the local eateries had nothing but my favourite dishes on the menu. Even the villagers began exchanging their 70s-inspired style for what my wife affectionately calls my “archaeologist-chic” look.

But it was the song I could not take.

Everywhere I went, I heard the song that played in my wedding video when my wife and I had our first dance.

My wedding song!

I was approaching my wits end. The police tried to convince me that I was losing my mind. Nothing seemed changed or out of the ordinary to them and when I insisted they investigate anyway, they did. They investigated me by carrying out a drug search on my lodge and my car.

To whomever is reading this, I want it clearly on record that I was NOT on drugs. I was here for work, for the story of my life and I would never compromise that for anything.

Maybe that was the problem from the start.

I quickly realised that I was not going to get anywhere investigating this on my own. I needed to reach my editor Richard “Dicky” Maynard, and without digital access to the outside world, I had to leave this village. Then I realised I was stuck.

Not stuck like a tyre in the sand or a car that’s out of petrol. I was stuck like a rat in a human-sized maze. For weeks, I tried to leave this house of horrors but every attempt, every road, every trek lead right back to the lodge. Day after day, journeying a different path each time, only to end up in the same place.

Maybe I am losing my mind.

I must be.

black and white photo of leaves

Two days ago – or what feels like two days ago – signs went up around town announcing the annual Founding Festival happening on August 3rd, my birthday… in three weeks!

That can’t be right, I thought,

I was supposed to be done with my trip and be home by Easter. It cannot be August 3rd in a few weeks.

Have I really been away from my family for five months?

What is this? A purgatory made just for me?

But for what sin?

Before I could chew on the implications of those questions, I woke up this morning to all my favourite tunes reverberating through the walls. When I went to investigate, I stepped out to the view of a large crowd forming in the Corncockle field down the road from me. A lady hurried past me as fast as a Bee whose buzz you hear without sighting the culprit, and all I made out from her screel was the word “Festival”.



The festival was in three weeks! What is happening to my mind!?

That was it. My final straw.

I rushed back in to grab my belongings and got into my car. As I drove past the festival, they had trailered my entire life before me. My favourite childhood games, the smell of grandmother’s fermented onion quiche, and that song on repeat. It was an ominous ode, more eulogy performance than tribute. I shudder to think what happens after curtain call.

So here I am, sitting in my car in the middle of a road that leads nowhere. Minutes ago, I felt hopeless until a primal scream ripped through my lungs eviscerating all the fear in its wake. Just then, a determination awoke in my bones like a bear out of hibernation. Today is my last day in this hellish place, even if I have to cut through the fabric of space to escape.

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