Folly’s Drop - Part One

A short story

If anyone had a decent explanation as to what kept the castle in the air, they had not been forthcoming. It hung high above the ground below, an imposing structure sitting comfortably in the sky in the precise way that folks generally agreed it ought not. It had been there for generations and, given its impossibility, had been more or less ignored by the residents of what would come to be known as Folly’s Drop. It’s not that they denied it was there, but after a fashion there just wasn’t too much attention you could pay to something you couldn’t account for. And so life went on for years and years and the family who owned the property beneath which the castle hung - the Lockwoods -  got on with the business of trying to make a meagre living growing their crops in the shade. 

Everything changed when the first stone fell. Marvin Lockwood was only in his early 20s then, but as the eldest son of a father who was poorly and a mother who was dead, he already treated the property as though it was his. That clear morning, he stood for a long time in the middle of the southern pasture looking at the stone, then looking up at the castle, then back at the stone, until he had concluded three things.

First, the stone had come from the castle. That much was clear. There was no other way it could have gotten into the middle of the field. Maybe, he reckoned, a man with horse and cart could have dropped it here, but the only tracks leading to the stone were his own. The stone had fallen from the castle - the castle’s south-east corner if he was being precise about thing - and Marvin Lockwood was always precise about things.

The second thing Marvin decided was that the castle was a lot bigger and a lot further away than he or anyone else had previously assumed. Inspecting the stone closer, he realised it wasn’t a stone at all, but intricate brickwork from one of the parapets. By Marvin’s estimation, the crenelation through which you would peer or fire an arrow was around four times the size it should have been, and applying this scale to the rest of the structure left him in a kind of quiet awe. If Marvin Lockwood were the kind of man to swear under his breath, he may have. As it stood, he wasn’t, so he didn’t.

The third thing that Marvin decided that morning was that this castle was going to make his fortune, he just wasn’t yet sure how. 

Another part of the castle fell not soon after. Still from the southern side, but this time from a wall in the castle proper. This was a larger chunk - perhaps 20 feet across - and to Marvin’s straining eyes, it seemed to expose a sliver of the castle’s interior.  The next day, a stained glass window fell. This was the first piece of debris that Marvin actually witnessed plummet. He was out in the field inspecting the fall from the previous day, when the sound of iron scraping on stone made him look up in time to see the window dislodge from the wall and begin its tumble to earth. Marvin wasn’t someone typically given over to waxing poetical, but he felt in his heart a kind of pang as the beautiful glass caught in the sunlight before crashing into a lower paddock, shattering to pieces. 

It wasn’t until the nightgown fell the following week that Marvin realised how he would make his money. The fallen window must have been on the wall of a kind of dressing chamber, because a week later, while strong winds were blowing, the enormous garment was liberated from its confines, flew out the window, and fluttered down onto a paddock, draping itself softly over a small group of grazing cattle. 

The amount of silk from that single dress, once cleaned of dirt and cow dung, netted him more income than the farm’s output over three months. He took the money, bought himself a handsome new suit, and got to work on his plan. 

First, he divided the Lockwood estate into 400 lots of two acres each. In future, these boundaries would have to be demarcated on the property itself, but in the meantime, he was content to use maps from his father’s study. By now word had got around about the enormous windfall he’d enjoyed from the silk nightgown, and he made sure that the story had run in the town paper before taking out a full page ad. It read, in full:


Treasure seekers wanted! For years a trove of wealth has hung right above our very heads, which is only now revealing itself to us! The castle above the Lockwood estate has begun to fall to earth, and by claiming a lot, early, shrewd investors can take home the spoils!!! Anything that lands within the bounds of your lot is yours by the terms of the lease. No conditions! Don’t toil for your fortune in the ground - look to the sky!!!!/

All enquiries to Marvin Lockwood, of the Lockwood estate

Marvin was a little embarrassed by the florid language and exclamation points, but felt them necessary to capture the imagination of the public. He submitted his copy to Earl Higgins at the newspaper office and waited. 

He did not have to wait long. The first enquiry was from Higgins himself, who bought a lot on the two acres where the dress had fallen, supposing - Marvin felt correctly - that it was only a matter of time before more garments fell from that room.

Within one month, half of the 400 lots had been leased. Those on the perimeters went first, with late-comers having to satisfy themselves with lots beneath the base of the castle. It was not impossible, Marvin told these investors, that the floor could give way, and a floor that gave way would be far more lucrative, contents-wise, than a wall with a hole in it.

Soon, the remaining lots were leased and Marvin was a wealthy man. His father, who lapsed in and out of lucidity on a schedule entirely opaque to all who knew him, would die just a month after the stained glass window fell. As he lay on his deathbed, attended to by the finest doctors and clothed in soft linen, he had no notion of how his family had come into this new-found wealth.

Nor would the surrounding areas quite know how to deal with the sudden influxes people and money into Folly’s Drop. While prospectors waited for fortune to strike their lots, they needed places to sleep, and places to eat, and places to drink, and places to gamble. Folks began running saloons out of their homes, charging as much as they dared for a blanket rolled out on a porch, or a jug of watered down whiskey. But the newcomers would pay it, and pay it on time. The plots out at Folly’s Drop had changed everything. One year after he’d found the stone in the southern paddock, Marvin put on a festival in the middle of the town. Hundreds of people came and drank and danced and sang and the revelry lasted until the sun came up. Marvin Lockwood had never been so happy. 

A month later, the first bone fell from the castle.