For most homes, having someone banging on the front door at seven o’clock on a Sunday morning is, generally speaking, an unusual event. The Squid and Teapot is certainly no exception to this, and when the stout doors of the inn rattled to a sudden matutinal tattoo one sabbath, it almost caused Ariadne Middlestreet to spill her coffee.
“Good morning Mrs Middlestreet,” said a polite, but spotty, youth to Ariadne, when she answered the knock. He was accompanied by a carbon copy of himself, down to the last pimple. Ariadne immediately recognised them as being the Westonbirt twins, Winston and Wendell, from the orphanage.
“And what are you boys after at this hour of the day?”
Ariadne is not a particularly maternal woman, invariably regarding anyone on the island, who has the misfortune to be under the age of twenty-five, as being up to no good. In this she is rarely disappointed.
“Miss Calder sent us, ma’am,” said Winston – though it could well have been Wendell. “We were raided by spoonwalkers again last night. Miss Calder wants to know if there is any spare cutlery in your attic, please.”
“Dam’ spoonwalkers,” said Ariadne, with venom. “Tell Miss Calder I’ll bring some over later.”
“We need them now ma’am,” said Wendell or Winston, with some trepidation in his voice. “We can’t do breakfast without.”
“Okay. What do you need?”
“A dozen dessert spoons and two large ladles, please ma’am.”
“Ladles? Spoonwalkers have no use for ladles, they’re way too big.”
“Well, they definitely took two last night.”
Ariadne sighed again.
“Stay here, you two, and don’t touch nothing. I’ll go and find you some cutlery.”
Ten minutes later the Westonbirt twins were happily jangling back to the orphanage with a bulging bag of non-matching dessert spoons and two ladles.
It always amuses Philomena Bucket when Drury, the skeletal hound, picks up a scent. His bony tail immediately lifts before he circles around, sniffing the ground, oblivious to everything else around him. All Philomena can ever do is to follow, if she chooses to. For Drury’s part, he has no need of an audience. The chase is enough. On the day of our tale, however, she decided to keep the dog in sight and see what he might find.
It was not until they dropped from the headland to the beach that Philomena could see the cause of Drury’s excitement. Imprinted deep into the dark sand was a set of cup-shaped indentations, as though a large and quite heavy biped, with exceedingly strange feet, had walked along the shoreline. Philomena racked her brains as to what manner of creature might leave such tracks, but nothing came to mind. She knew that there was every chance that answer to the mystery might be totally unremarkable, but her curiosity was aroused. She decided to get someone else to take a look before the tide came in and washed the prints away forever.
“It’s beyond me,” admitted Norbert Gannicox. “Looking at the stride, whatever it is must be at least four and a half feet tall. We’ve had some rum things wandering around the island over the years, but I’ve not seen anything with feet like that.”
The talk in The Squid and Teapot that evening was of the strange tracks that Drury had discovered. Harvey Winstone said that he had spotted similar ones in the mud behind the orphanage.
“They were like small bowls. I’ve never seen anything with feet like that,” he added.
Ariadne, listening with half an ear from behind the bar, suddenly paled.
“Spoonwalkers stole a couple of ladles from the orphanage the other night,” she said. “I reckon it’s to do with that.”
“But they’re too small to use ladles as stilts,” protested Norbert. “Dessert spoons are more their size.”
“But what if there’s one that’s not so small anymore?” said Harvey, a note of menace in his voice. “What if one has mutated into something bigger?”
Harvey had recently found some comic books washed up in a crate. Much of it was literally pulp-fiction, as most of the comics had become little more than a salt-sea mush, but deep in the middle of the crate a few had survived the worst ravages of the ocean. These had titles such as ‘Weird Stories’, ‘Creepy’ and ‘Tales to Astonish’. Harvey, innocent of the ways of comic-book writers, believed every word he read.
An uncomfortable silence descended upon the bar. Regular sized spoonwalkers were bad enough – just a glance from one of them had been known to drive folks close to madness. If there was something bigger out there, who knew what havoc they might cause?
“I’ve no idea what mutated means,” admitted Norbert, “but it sounds quite nasty. What are we going to do?”
There was a sudden hubbub of voices, each one advocating violence of some degree.
“Hold on,” broke in Bartholomew Middlestreet, ever the voice of reason. “Before we get too carried away, has anyone actually seen whatever it is that’s making these tracks?”
“Then I think, until we know exactly what we’re up against, we do nothing except be vigilant.”
There was a general murmur of agreement, but that night, as each customer made their way home, they could not help but tread with trepidation.
It is widely thought that the name ‘Bigspoon’ was coined by Harvey Winstone, who’s recent exposure to ‘Tales to Astonish’ etc. had brought to his attention the possible existence of Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, arguably the North American cousin of the fabled Yeti of the Himalayas. Since delving into this newly discovered world of cryptozoology, Harvey harboured a secret hope that Bigfoot’s big feet would one day stalk Hopeless, but until then he had to be content with a home-grown version.
(As if the island doesn’t have more cryptozoological specimens than you can shake a spoon at!)
Once the creature had been given a name, it was not long before there were reports of Bigspoon being sighted all over the island. He was five feet tall, or sometimes eight feet tall. He was green and scaly or there again, brown and hairy. He roared, he squeaked, he spoke fluent English… and he was only ever seen in passing, from the corner of one eye, in a bad light, obscured by mist and behind trees. He was, in short, an enigma. There were as many varieties of Bigspoon as there were people who had claimed to have seen him. One thing that all agreed on, however; his round, ladle-shaped tracks were everywhere. Panic began to grip the island.
It was maybe a week or ten days following the robbery at the orphanage that Rhys Cranham, the Night Soil Man, managed to put a stop to Bigspoon’s ramblings for good.
It was not quite midnight when he stopped for his break. Philomena had, as ever, left a generous slice of Starry-Grabby pie and a bottle of ‘Old Colonel’ outside his front door. Settling down, with his back against a rock, Rhys was about to take the first bite of his meal when a sudden movement caught his attention. Well aware of the tales surrounding Bigspoon, he was at once wary, hoping that his trademark effluvium would be enough to keep the creature at bay. He sat stock still and waited.
The figure that emerged into the moonlight was neither green and scaly, nor brown and hairy. It was a small boy with a ladle lashed to each leg, who hobbled awkwardly across the ground, in search of suitably soft patches of earth into which he might imprint his strange footmarks. Rhys smiled to himself, appreciating the hoax. He had been an orphanage boy himself and had often played tricks on the adults in his life. Hopeless, in the middle of the night, however, was not a safe place for anyone except the Night Soil Man, much less scrawny, adolescent hoaxers, such as the one he now saw before him..
Wendell, or possibly Winston, stopped in his tracks as a blood-curdling, animal howl issued from the nearby hillside. It was followed by the noise of rocks being crashed together, to the accompaniment of an assortment of yelps, gibbers and screeches. It sounded as though all the denizens of Hell had decided to hold an improptu party on Hopeless. Wendell (we’ll agree that it’s Wendell) kicked off the ladles and sped back towards the orphanage and the safety of the open window where his brother waited. Rhys lingered a while then wandered down to the spot where that the would-be Bigspoon had recently vacated, picked up the ladles and dropped them into his backpack.
“Did you hear it last night?” asked Harvey Winstone, clutching a tankard of ale close to his chest.
A murmur of assenting voices confirmed that they had, indeed, heard the wrath of Bigspoon. One or two swore that they had watched him raging over the hills, howling at the moon before eventually disappearing into the mist.
Philomena Bucket deftly carried another tray of drinks to across the crowded room, before going outside for a breath of air. Standing in the pool of yellow light by the open front door, she smiled to herself as she strained to read again the note that she had found outside the Night Soil Man’s cottage, when delivering his supper earlier that evening. It had been secured to the ground beneath the weight of two large ladles.
The message was clear enough:
“They won’t be needing these at the orphanage any more. Neither will Bigspoon. Yours ever, Rhys xx”