The Adventures of the Happy Little Wattingers and the Bus Load of American Tourists

By Steven C Davis

Once upon a time, in the outlying lands of Kernow, where crocogators lived in fetid swamps and feral jackalopes hunted the wild moors, there dwelt the Wattinger clan.

The Wattinger clan was known throughout the land – cannibals and killers, moonshine-makers and skin-wearers – and they were feared aplenty. It was said on nights of the full moon they hunted,
stalking, tracking down and capturing anyone who happened to be abroad without adequate protection. It is said they hunted on nights that did not have a full moon as well, with less to see them
by and more to be afraid of. It was never said what was done with those they caught, for though they were never seen again, faces were seen where bodies were not.

Wise and sensible people kept to the highways and the thoroughfares and did not venture out at night, and for the most part, they were safe. But still there was always the dread, always the fear, always the warning to children – ‘be good, or a Wattinger will get you!’

There came to the ancient village of Chysauster, during the height of the midday sun, a bus load of American tourists. Their driver tried to warn them, but the tourists were loud and brash and paid the driver no heed. What need had they to be wary? It was an ancient site, far from anywhere. There were barrows in the ground and stone circles and monoliths and all kind of iron age mysteria they had never seen before. But it was the height of the noon-day sun, and they thought it a wife’s tale, and looked down on their parochial cousins. There was nothing to fear, and they had selfies to take, and some produced sandwiches, and some took their ease, and others looked for the gift shop.

They wandered and they chattered and a raucous sound arose from their chatterings, a sound unheard in the barrowlands or elsewhere for many an aeon. A sound that roused the slumbering creatures that dwelt in Chysauster. A sound that marked their doom.

The noon-day sun passed into the afternoon and the bus load of American tourists were happy to remain, although some complained about the lack of tea shop and some complained about the lack
of gift shop and some complained about the lack of stair lift.

Chysauster had many underground dwellings where shadows reigned even during the height of the noon-day sun, and it was no longer noon-day. Shadows stretched from the hedges and fences that
bounded the site and sometimes the shadows were longer than was natural.

The grass turned black. The arid ground became liquid. Squelched underfoot. The bus was found to have a fault, and then the bus driver could not be found. The shadows lengthened.

The bus load of American tourists became louder. Unhappy. Some of their number were missing. The driver had gone. The bus was obviously damaged. And then they noticed an old charabanc drawing
up. It had approached silently, not even the gravel spitting and clattering beneath its wheels. It was open topped, with a driver and two passengers and a large seated area to the rear. It was a most
unusual contrivance. There were skulls upon the bonnet, painted white and daubed red. The running board looked like it was edged with an inhumanely long skeletal arm. The rear portion of the
charabanc was swathed with black nets and lace, so that it was difficult to see into.

Figures descended from the charabanc, figures tall and deathly cold, carrying lit lanterns in their hands. An unnatural darkness had spread across Chysauster whilst the tourists had been staring at the charabanc. And now the light of the lanterns pierced the gloom and voices called to them, drawing them towards the unnatural contrivance and away from the shadows, away from no-longer slumbering creatures. The voices were unnatural, reassuring and menacing, but where the lights of their lanterns did not pierce the gloom it descended into darkness, a darkness stuffed with menace and intent. And so the bus load of tourists, now depleted, shuffled towards the charabanc.

The remnants of the bus load of American tourists drew themselves up into the large seated portion of the charabanc and found, to their dismay, that every seat was a seated skeleton, with arms raised, intended as arm rests. Awkwardly, for once bereft of their piercing, chattering, voices, they took seats, and had hardly taken seats than the vehicle was in motion.

It travelled roads not intended for human transportation at speeds not intended for mortal bodies to bear. The skeletal chairs gripped their occupants tighter and tighter, suffocating, squeezing, trapping their souls along with their voices.

The driver turned to face them whilst driving at speed, and they saw the face of their bus driver.

Several screamed. One fainted. The driver tore the face off and there was another beneath it, one of their former tourist-friends. They tore that off and there was another and another.

The tourists screamed, but the charabanc was closing around them, the lace and nets reaching down to fill their throats, skeletal hands gripping necks, holding ankles tight so they could not flee.

The skeletons they sat in, that formed the floor, the walls and the back of the charabanc carriage were all growing thicker, stronger, filling out as the tourists themselves fed them with blood, soul and voice.

At last, the charabanc reached its destination, but now it was different. Gone were the hiding, cloaking, nets of lace. The skulls on the bonnet had increased in size to those of mammoths, snarling
ferociously, blood still on their teeth and horns, fire in their eyes. The seats in the back were gone and instead there was a performance space, lined with skeletons holding horns of all styles and sizes to carry the music further. On the sides of the charabanc were reaper blades, poised and glittering with
hellish light in the dark night. Festering barrels of liquid simmered and spat into the night air, smelling of the finest roast pork known to man, woman or beast. A bass tone rumbled.

Electronics whined. The driver stepped forwards, raising a microphone.

The Wattingers had come to town. And they were happy.

The town was never heard of again.

Steven C Davis is an author of dark tales. See more of his work at