– A short story | It had taken Millie months to find this green old bike. The last time it was seen it hung on the walls of a local bike shop, then it suddenly disappeared. Millie had spent months tracking it down and finally found it in some farmers old shed. He sold it to her for 10 quid which, considering its derelict state, she thought was a right rip-off.
The Green Bicycle is a short story based on a true, unsolved murder case that happened in Leicestershire in 1919.
Via Devana, 5th July 2007, Leicestershire, England
It had taken Millie months to find this green old bike. The last time it was seen it hung on the walls of a local bike shop, then it suddenly disappeared. Millie had spent months tracking it down and finally found it in some farmers old shed. He sold it to her for 10 quid which, considering its derelict state, she thought was a right rip-off.
Thankfully, she had the low sun in her back as Millie was cycling the squeaking green vintage bike along the Via Devana – an old Roman road nowadays known as Gartree Road – framed with fields that make up most of the typical English countryside.
Much to her relief it was a flat stretch of road, as the nearly 100 year old BSA bike had no gears at all and the main brake was applied by paddling backwards. Suddenly, she missed her battered old Raleigh mountain bike which, though with front shocks that didn’t work any more, at least had 21 gears.
Millie pulled over to the side of the single track road to change the song in her mp3 player. Dead as Yesterday by Zakk Wylde just wasn’t at all inspiring whilst cycling. She searched for Eddie Vedder’s Hard Sun before she got back into the saddle, forcing the stiff peddles, going forward one slow turn at a time.
Millie checked her indestructible black G-Shock, it was close to 8pm. It was still too warm and her T-shirt was sticking to her back now. The mild breeze that was usually brushing across the English Midlands turning the meadows into an ocean, suddenly was nowhere to be found and whereas before she had heard some cicada in the shrubs alongside the road it suddenly occurred to her that nature had gone very quiet. Too quiet.
She looked around but the road was empty, and no farmers were working in the fields. She couldn’t help but feel a cold shower tingle down her spine. She stopped again to take the water bottle out of her backpack, when suddenly a figure caught her attention. Very carefully Millie looked up holding her breath for a few heartbeats. A woman in her early 20s stood at the side of the road, an old bike leaning against a gate. It seemed to be from the same era as the green bike Millie was riding.
“Hi!” Millie said politely unplugging the earphones. “Lovely day, isn’t it?” there certainly was not a single cloud in the sky.
The girl at the side of the road didn’t reply and suddenly a black bird caught Millie’s attention. It was a crow and it circled above the silent girl’s head, before much to Millie’s surprise, settled down on the girl’s shoulder.
“Cool, I always wanted a raven bird for a pet!” she said truthfully as she pushed her bike a bit closer.
The girl looked at her with a sudden interest, then at the old bike and her expression changed.
“Do you have a spanner?” she asked in a curious manner.
“No, sorry, I don’t have any tools on me.” truthfully replied.
The strange girl seemed disappointed making the crow flutter on her shoulder, as if it wasn’t sure if it should take off or stay put.
“Are you from Leicester?” Millie asked curiously.
“I live up there.” the girl faintly pointed eastwards, towards a tiny village called Stretton.
“It’s nice around here. I took some archery lessons nearby in Great Glen few years ago.” Millie casually said, taking another sip from the bottle.
“Are you from Great Glen then?” the strange girl asked with hope in her eyes.
“No… no I am from much further away.”
“Oh.” the girl said, sounding disappointed now.
“Ok, look, I might as well cut this short. I know why you are here.”
The girl tilted her head to the left, the crow suddenly taking off croaking and flapping its wings angrily. “You do?”
“Yes, and I fully sympathize with you! I mean I would be pretty pee’d off if someone did that to me, you know. Why did he kill you out here?”
For a moment Millie was praying she hadn’t done the wrong thing, some ghosts could get pretty mad when confronted with the truth because they lived, well, they were in denial.
”He was such a gentle man. We rode our bikes alongside for a bit… then… I don’t remember” she said looking confused.
“Did he want something from you? Why did he shoot you?”
“I… I remember a crow… it was sitting on this gate and we had stopped to talk a bit. He was very polite but the crow kept croaking. He suddenly pulled out a gun and shot the poor bird!” she exclaimed and looked at Millie with sadness in her big eyes.
”He shot the bird for no reason and we got into an argument over it and… then…”
“Then he shot you?”
“And now you appear every year on this stretch of road and people have accidents because of you.” Millie pointed around, at the broken up shrub lines and the tire tracks going into the fields. “I wish there was something I could do to help you. I know he never got convicted for what he did to you, but look! I found his bike! It took me a bloody long while.”
Much to Millie’s disappointment the ghost in front of her didn’t really respond with song and dance over the fact.
“Okay. Look, I know how you must feel, but I think it is time for you to go home now, don’t you want to go home?”
”Yes, I do.” she replied.
Good. Millie liked compliant ghosts like her; they weren’t as much hard work as those stubborn bastards that just wouldn’t cross over into the light.
“I am glad to hear that.” Millie truthfully said, then pushing the green bike and letting it fall on its side next to the gate she took off her backpack to get some lighter fluid and a packet of rock salt from it.
“It soon will be over.” Millie promised as she sprinkled the salt over the bike followed by the lighter fluid. She then opened an oversized box of Original Cook’s Matches. She loved those. They never failed to work. The flames took and soon the old bike was nicely on fire, eating away the blistering old paint, melting the tires with crackling plops.
Suddenly the black smoke from the flames got a life of its own and formed a figure, a person to be precise.
“Oh crap!” Millie exhaled and took a step backwards as the ghost of Ronald Light pointed a revolver at her head looking pretty mad.
“I hate stubborn ghosts.” she mumbled, but before Ronald could fire a ghostly bullet her way the crow attacked him, screeching and croaking in fury. Over and over the bird went down on his head which he tried to cover with his arms while he was screaming in pain. But the crow was more powerful and much angrier than him. In a sudden burst that made Millie tumble backwards the ghost of Ronald exploded into pieces of flames, melting away like the green paint on his bike.
Millie turned towards the ghost of the girl who suddenly smiled at her. A strange light surrounded her now and as it got brighter and brighter it swallowed her up whole and disappeared like a white crow into the cloudless blue skies.
Millie tried to find her breath again as that had been quite intense. It was safe to say that this had been her first roadside ghost in connection with bicycles and somehow mountain biking would never feel the same again.
As the green bicycle of Roland Light was still slowly smouldering away, Millie shouldered her backpack and started walking back the Via Devana towards Stoughton. Plugging back the earphones as she walked, listening to Foreigner’s Blinded by the Light, she felt quite accomplished.
Her black 4×4 with German number plates was still parked on the grassy verge were Millie had left it, shaded by old trees from a nearby graveyard. Good to see you again, she said in her herself, as if her beloved car could read her mind.
She placed the backpack behind the passenger seat and got something else out before she locked the car up again. It was old enough not to have central locking and no air con, but it had heated car seats of all things unneeded in summer.
Millie walked over to the church graveyard nearby. It was still a lovely warm summers evening and the air smelled of fresh cut grass. She knew where she was going as she had been here before.
Millie hunkered down in front of a very small white marble headstone, almost overgrown by grass.
In Memory of
Annie Bella Wright
Died July 5th 1919
“I hope you can rest in peace now, Bella” she said placing a bunch of flowers at her grave.
When a black crow landed on the headstone Millie smiled.
“Make sure she’s okay on the other side.” and the bird croaked in response as if he had understood.