39 – Flat Hunting

Briefly, in the late 1800s, Bay View Mansions were the most celebrated real estate in the silver and arsenic mining town of Pontyray. If tourists of that era thought naming somewhere in a landlocked valleys town “Bay View” was a bit cheeky they were either too Victorian to mention it or had been there when the tide came in.

The Mansions overlooked a rocky incline that led down to a large cove. A smattering of fisherman’s cottages dotted the slope, accessible by narrow cobbled lanes. They were clustered at the rock’s edge where, instead of dropping into the sea, a hillside rose abruptly, a heavy mass of bramble, bastard-grass and sticky-budded rhododendron.

There was a jetty that disappeared into a cave in the hill. Residents sometimes used it to fish for the blind cave eels which were a largely avoided local delicacy. The Cove itself was hard to find, lost as it was in the many folds of hillside upon which Ponty was built. Even the folk who lived there sometimes couldn’t get home if they strayed too far away and had to stay with friends or relatives until the paths returned to what they remembered.

On certain nights of the year, the lonely metallic sound of rigging striking masts echoed around the surrounding hills. During the subsequent days, the fishermen set out on their boats, returning strange catches and Bay View Mansions lived up to their name.

The Mansions could now only faintly recall the time when they had first crawled from the waters of The Cove. They had dragged themselves wetly up the stone gradient and settled exhausted upon the rocks. Gradually, they took on the appearance of a nearby structure, an abandoned driftwood hut. The evidence of their driftwood beginnings could still be seen in the exposed beams of their reception area.

For The Mansions, though there had been a before, it was now lost to the tides of memory, and the present was stifling. The Cove held them like an overflowing cup in a void; somehow there was nowhere to spill into. Each of the cottages and, to an extent, their inhabitants had long been part of The Mansions but they longed to grow into fresher places. It was their nature to grow, though into what they had yet to discover.

They were trapped. Residents of The Cove could not simply carry them out. The twisted geography of the region resisted their efforts to expand, becoming ever tighter and more convoluted the further The Mansions pushed. The waters, having once spit them out, now refused their return.

Cruelly contained, they pushed and pinched, scratched and fought. For half a century or so, The Mansions had been worrying at a flaw they had found in the landscape, part logic, part geology. It had been to little avail, but it was all they had.

Just recently however something had shifted, some change in the town nearby. Something had happened that should not have happened. Unexpectedly, The Mansions had found themselves suddenly through.

It was barely a tendril of themself, insufficient even to set up home on the underside of a rock, but it was something. And from here it could grow.

At first, they thought they had found themselves on a barren hillside under a blurred and bewildering sky full of slow rumbles and strange roars. It took them a minute to adjust their sense of scale.

They were a mote on a girl’s cheek.

She was walking and talking. Talking talking talking to another person who didn’t seem to be paying much attention.

“…and when we just landed back in the room,” she was saying. “I was all ‘this seems unlikely’ but there we were and then you just let that woman with that bat at him, and I couldn’t believe it….”

The Mansions breathed in the possibilities like cool, refreshing air.

Yes. Yes, this truly was the start of something new.

The Mansions purred.

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