The Call of the 55
It was a fresh bright morning as the Malcolm family set off from their Ayrshire home.
“How long till we get there Dad” asked young Scott Junior from the back of the dark blue SUV.
“About an hour or so Son. Enough time to read your Rangers magazine, wont be long” replied his Dad from up front.
“And will Big Sam and wee Rab be there before us Dad?” asked the excited lad in back.
“Naw son, I told you already, this is a new trip we are going on this year. This isnae a band camp this time, this is just us, going camping as a family. Its a special Halloween holiday home, Just wait and see” said the Dad smiling as he looked over at his wife in her cute orange cardigan sat to his left.
The wife laf-smiled back at Scott Senior and returned to reading her latest edition of ‘Hello, Hello’,the popular Ayrshire gossip magazine. The husband was relieved to see any semblance of a smile as smiles had been pretty scarce recently.
Mrs Malcolm hadnt been too happy when her man had came home from the Lodge one night with the surprise news that he had booked a family trip. He still couldn’t exactly recall how it had came about but all he could really remember was walking out into the main street after a Friday night meeting and almost falling over some sleeping homeless person.
As the man tripped, he began ranting and raving about “dirty beggar this” and “lazy tarrier that” and then suddenly the homeless person had sprung up and saved the man’s fall. All the man could then remember was the homeless person held him close, whispered something in his ear and then reached into his pocket before calmly ushering the man on his way.
Scott Malcolm didnt look back or dare reach into his pocket until he was home and in front of his wife. As his wife looked up at her husband, he excitedly went to show her whatever was in his pocket and tell her the story but as his hand delved deeper into the pocket to find the contents, it all seemed to get a little bit hazy. Then when he drew out his hand, he found a fully paid up receipt for “Jock N Steins Camp site Oct 31st” signed by the man himself. The idea of talking about the strange homeless person also fled from his mind.
The wife had gradually warmed to the idea of a break and now the family were all ready to enjoy it, even if it meant young Scott missing a week of drum practise. Scott senior continued steering on as the journey headed over towards the campsite in Lanarkshire, up and across the country to the camp site that they would call home for the rest of the holiday weekend.. Scott Junior sat in back reading about infamous Rangers heroes such as Kevin Kyle and Josh Windass whilst Mother continued her beloved Royal reading of the lovely Kate and William and that cheeky imp Harry and his latest squeeze.
The hour soon passed for the passengers when the driver said “Here we are” and the car pulled off the main road and slowly climbed the dirty road up towards the camp site entrance. An aged green and white sign read “Welcome to Jock-N-Steins, Lanarkshire” and below in italics read the words ‘Twinned with Hotel, California’.
Mrs Malcolm, stayed in the car while the two Scotts headed over to the Reception area housed within a strange building which looked like some old abandoned Mine from an episode of Scooby Doo. Inside the reception was a small area with a couch and desk. Scott junior jumped up and banged the small bell repeatedly.
It was on the final chime that the dim lights flickered and suddenly a large man was standing on the other side of the reception desk. “Welcome ” said the tall and large host and Scott Senior had a feeling of seeing the man before but couldnt quite place where. The host gestured for Scott to sign the Register. There was a name and arrival date column but no exit date which Scott Senior assumed would be updated in some other journal.
With Register signed, The Host then proceeded to highlight the Camps facilities and explain where the Malcolm family would be placed after handing over a map. Scott Senior looked at the map and smiled as he saw welcome areas like a childs play park, a swimming pool, a shop for provisions and even a pub.
“Wow Dad, it looks perfect” said the excited Scott Junior.
“Aye son” said Scot Senior who was warming to the place already, and not just because the reception room seemed to be very very warm indeed, something Scott hadnt quite noticed on initial entry.
“Not quite” softly said the Host.
“Sorry” asked Scott Senior as he watched the colour drain from the already pale receptionists face.
“The Park is not perfect Sir. There is one place that you must not go during your stay” replied the solemn host.
“Oh really?” asked the father as his impatient child clamoured to get to the facilities.
“Yes sir, you must not go near the Counting Bridge after dark” said the Host and he reached out a large hand and placed his finger on the map, lingering at a river crossing not far from where the Malcolm family would be positioned.
“Ah, Health and Safety precautions gone mad eh?” smiled the Ayrshireman before concluding “Never mind, wont be an issue” as he turned to leave the reception room with his son.
The lights then flickered three times. The Host sighed and said “Health and safety?, oh exactly Sir, exactly” as he shook his head and watched the latest arrivals exit and head back towards the car.
The rest of the Malcolm’s day was a fun filled adventure. The site looked busy enough with people here and there but Scott noticed there were never any queues or people causing any sort of issues. Everything was ideal from the warm swimming pool, the cool Ice Cream parlour, even the restaurant and Bar were available and best of all, no one ever asked for any money. “Could this get any better” wondered Scott Senior as he handed his wife a Kilwinning Slammer cocktail – a long drink of Kalua, White Russian and Grenadine whilst Scott Junior played in the nearby childrens playground with a few of the other kids. When an exhausted Scott Junior finally returned for a drink, his dad made a joke about not fancying his playmates tan.
“I know, hes pure peely wally dad, Do you know what too Dad?” asked the boy.
“Whats that son?” replied Scott Senior.
“My pal said hes 106 years of age, I told him he must mean 6 but he said it was 106 for sure, even said he had money to prove it” said the young son.
Mrs Malcolm sighed and dryly said “Probably one of those immigrants who hasnt mastered English yet”.
“Suppose” said Scott junior while Scott Senior nodded his head but he had already noticed for himself how many people in the site were in desperate need of a good tan. Everyone seemed to be a little whiter, grey even at times. “Maybe just been the bad summer” he said to himself and went away to order more free cocktails.
After a heavy, and hearty free meal, on which the family had feasted on 3 courses, then extra dessert and then some brandies for the adults and an extra large slushie for Scott Junior, it was time to head back to bed. The family walked away from the restaurant and soon found themselves in total darkness.
“Scott, turn on your torch” said Mrs Malcolm but the torches were still in the car.
“Its just along here, this way I think” said Scott Senior and he moved forward.
Within 2 minutes they were lost. There was no sign of their car, the bar or even the reception area. All that was around them was darkness and a low humming noise.
“Whats that noise Daddy?” asked Scott junior?
“Probably a generator, we’ve probably walked in a circle and have came to the back of the pub” said Scott Senior, “This way” he said as he headed towards the source of the noise.
As they moved forward, the path began to wind, down and around and before long they found the noise was not a generator. It was the raging torrent of the river that ran through the camp.
Suddenly Mrs Malcolm looked up and shouted “Oh look, I see a bridge, with someone on it”. Before Scott Senior could register, Mrs Malcolm had grabbed Scott Juniors hand and both began racing towards the Bridge with her shouting “Hello, Hello!” to the person who was barely visible in the strange pale greenish light which seemed to cover the bridge up ahead.
Mrs Malcolm and her son arrived at the bridge before Scott senior. Something tried to nag at the back of the mind of Scott Senior as he passed a sign that said “The Counting Bridge”, but he shrugged it off and raced forward and finally caught up with his wife and son who were now in the middle of the Bridge, but not alone under the pale greenish glow.
Aside the Malcolm family now stood a dark cloaked figure. The figure was speaking, no not speaking, they were chanting, in a low slow voice.
“You there, do you work here?” shouted Mrs Malcolm. “This sites lighting is a disgrace. We are lost and you need to take us back to our car” demanded Mrs Malcom.
The figure did not look up but simply continued chanting lowly.
“Do you hear me” shouted Mrs Malcolm and she stepped forward and prodded the dark figure with her stubby fat finger. The figure stood rock still but Scott Senior noticed that the chanting had began to grow louder.
“Whats that hes saying Mummy?” asked Scott junior but his father would be the one to reply.
“52”..”52.. Thats what he is saying” said Scott Senior.
“52?..oh yeah I hear it now” said Mrs Malcolm as the low chant continued to grow in volume.
Then young Scott said “Oh Look Daddy, its my pal from the play area” pointing beyond Mr Malcolm before spiralling round and saying “And look theres more people behind Mummy too”. The Parents looked on as the child pointed towards the opposite side of his mother and the hooded figure who simply continued to chant “52..52..52”. The chant was suddenly repeated by many many joining voices.
In the bright greenish moonlight, a terrified Mr and Mrs Malcom could see there they were suddenly now in the middle of everyone within the camp. The chant that had began so singularly and lowly was now a crowd loud shriek of “52!,52, 52!”. All the while the crowd of pale people on both sides of the Bridge kept edging ever so slowly forwards, inching over the Bridge towards the Malcolms and the hooded figure.
For the Malcolms, time seemed to stand still and the cold air was only broken with the rising battlecries of “52!” “52!!” “52!!!”
“Stop chanting” shrieked Mrs Malcolm but no one paid heed and the crowd edged forward.
“52!” “52!!” “52!!!”
“Get back” shouted Mr Malcolm but no one was listening.
“52!” “52!!” “52!!!”
The chants and advance continued and Scott Senior knew there was only one route to make an escape. “52!” “52!!” “52!!!”
In one large arm, arms big enough to carry the Large drum or move “The Big Chair” on their own, he scooped up his wife and with the other he scooped up his son, all the while the chants continued to grow louder and closer
“52!” “52!!” “52!!!
As his father lifted the boy and his wife up in the air, the boy’s playmate stepped forward and reached out his hand. The son reached out to meet his playmates and he said “Look Dad, it’s as if you can see through them when the moon shines on them” and Scott Seniors gaze paused for a microsecond on the figures opaque hand met with his sons, and then he and his family went over the bridge and down into the cold waiting torrent.
“55!” “55!!” “55!!!” was now the chant from the crowd.
Up above, clouds rushed in to cover the moon and the chanting stopped and the Bridge returned to darkness from its greenish glow.
The figure in the middle of the Bridge began shuffling away back into darkness and the crowd dispersed, seemingly disappearing into a sudden night fog.
Over the following days, the local newspaper in Hamlton reported the tragic tale of a family car that had seemingly apparently lost its way and ended up going down the banks of a local burn. The family had tried to escape the vehicle but the river had just been too strong to allow survival.
The inquest was over within a month. Citing a verdict of Accidental Death, the Coroner was satisfied enough to close the file, but he was still unable to explain why the son was found holding an old Victorian coin and the Dads pocket contained a washed out old map for a campsite that had been closed over 100 years ago.