by Virginia Carraway Stark
The events that I’m going to describe here really happened. I can’t verify the things that I wasn’t personally present for, but I can say that they were confirmed from several different sources. It would still classify as an urban legend except for the fact that it happened to me. I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent.
I like bookstores and coffee shops, especially the independent places that have a lot of personality. I started to hang out and work on my writing and research in a little place in Prince George, BC, Canada, but soon after I started to notice that I wasn’t unnoticed in the store. An old man started to lurk by me while I worked. He would stand behind me while I was working and even though I would pointedly change my spot at the table, he would blatantly reposition himself behind me again. He didn’t have a good idea of personal space and he would stand so he could breath on me.
He walked around the store with bread bags on his feet, I asked one of the girls who worked at the store why he did that and they told me that he was named *Stephen and that he was a magician who was trying to keep his footsteps from being stolen. The attention towards me intensified.
I realized that he was actively stalking me and I would see him frequently around town. After that the piano playing began. He would play songs on the piano in the cafe while staring at me. Often when he finished playing he would rise and bow to me.
Finally I asked a woman who knew Stephen for many years what was happening. She took me home and introduced me to her husband who looked at me agog in response to the introduction.
*Rhonda said, “Doesn’t she look just like her.”
Her husband looked at me and nodded, “She could be her, twenty years ago.”
I asked them what they were talking about with increasing nervousness. This is what they told me.
Stephen was a magican who owned an entire lake out past the eskers near Prince George. His land was a booby trapped place with no easy access in or out. Old trucks and cars littered the road and it was impossible to simply drive up to his house.
His house was a literal and figurative fortress. It was a miniature to scale version of a famous Apache fort. He had a reputation for picking up hitchhikers, particularly young men and bringing them back to his fortress on the lake. The young men were never seen again: or so says the legend.
Rhonda said that while the hitchhikers disappeared without a trace, there were other young men that Stephen paid to come out and do chores for him. Those men also vanished but reportedly, many of the vehicles on Stephen’s land. The police investigated the disappearances, but they couldn’t find the way in either and they didn’t stay long when they did make there way to the lake.
Nobody stayed long except for *Iris. Iris, who coincidently had as her first name my middle name and now I discovered the source of Stephen’s infatuation with me: I was the spitting image of the woman who had escaped him.
Iris had been drawn to the allure of the magician and had gone with Stephen as his wife to his Apache fort. Things were alright at first but she became pregnant and she quickly realized that she was trapped in the middle of nowhere with no one but the occasional hitchhiker who came for a brief stay. She gave birth to a little girl and her problems got worse. She might have braved going through the woods on her own, but what she might have once done to escape was impossible with an infant. Iris was Stephen’s prisoner and wasn’t allowed contact with her former life in any way. She wasn’t allowed to be near a phone and he never brought her into town. She just disappeared from everyone’s life and anyone who tried to see her and made the dangerous hike would be refused at the door by the obdurate wizard.
This went on for years. The baby became a little girl and she began to draw strange, disturbing pictures of herself and her mother in the woods being attacked by little men that Iris dubbed the ‘Tetley Tea’ men after an old ad campaign that the little people reminded her of. These Tetley Tea men were vicious psychos with pitchforks and the girl drew pictures of the herself dripping in blood with wounds all over her and little men tangling in her hair. Her mother asked her about them and the girl said that she saw them in the forest and that they kept people from coming out to see them. They also kept little girls and their moms from leaving.
Iris began to notice the little men in the woods as well. They weren’t just there to attack her and her daughter, they could also confound people and make them lose their way. The Tetley Tea men began to get bolder and come closer to the house and soon they were even attacking Iris and her daughter in their beds.
Iris decided to make her escape while Stephen was out of town for an extended hunting trip. She made a harrowing escape with her daughter to the highway and hitchhiked to town, she claimed she was hunted and nearly killed by the Tetley Tea men the entire way. She called her family collect and they bought her and her daughter a one way trip across the continent.
Iris never came back and it seemed that not even Stephen’s powers allowed him to track Iris and his daughter across the country. Nobody heard much from Iris after she left, although she had once been good friends with Rhonda and her husband and so they had heard the entire story from her.
Iris was gone but Stephen hadn’t forgotten his lost wife and now he had a new fixation to be attracted to: Me.