Thor was not happy. His servant and messenger, Thialfi, had just delivered some disturbing news which had caused him much distress and anger. He had reacted by throwing his magic hammer, Mjollnir, across the sky – rather like a child throwing its toys out of the pram in a sulk – causing a series of lightning flashes to pulse within the clouds.
“Tanngrisni! Tanngnost!” His goats appeared almost immediately pulling his chariot. Thor bent low to whisper gently into their ears, mounted his vehicle, then with a mighty roar took off into the red sky. Sif, his wife, watched from below as his chariot changed direction and curved south-west towards Thurrock. She sighed and hoped that he wouldn’t do anything silly.
Hugh Storry sat at his desk. Forty years old, of wiry build, his sandy coloured hair complemented his freckles. His eyes of mottled green, blue and hazel twinkled with humour. Ask him how he was and he would always reply “Fine and dandy!” To look at him one would think he was a gentleman’s tailor not the Heritage and Museums Officer at Thurrock Museum. Today he was poised at his desk typing his weekly local history column. Thurrock’s first ever writer’s festival was fast approaching so it had to be something with a literary bent. And Thurrock was not short of a well-known literary giant or two. The previous week he had focused on Joseph Conrad’s two years in Stanford-le Hope, Essex where he completed at least five of his acclaimed novels with Thurrock featuring in at least one of them, Heart of Darkness.
This week he was investigating Thurrock’s connection with Bram Stoker, of Dracula fame, and after exhausting himself with an intimate tour of Purfleet; pouring over Ordnance Survey maps; delving into local archives; examining prints and photographs downstairs in the museum and reading biographies on Stoker, Hugh was led to conclude that Mr Stoker had visited Purfleet which allowed him to blend elements of fact with fiction for probably his most famous Gothic classic. “Fangs a lot” Hugh smiled at his own witty title. He leaned back in his chair for a moment’s rest. As usual he had to file his copy to the Editor by midday Tuesday. He glanced at the red-rimmed clock smiling down on him from the opposite wall. The time now was 11.55, Tuesday. Hugh re-read his work, then, satisfied, pressed the ‘send’ button and sent it on its electronic way to the Gazette offices. His mind was already whirring with his next tribute piece: Alfred Russel Wallace in his centenary year; The Malay Archipelago awaited its turn on his desk. He relaxed into the ergonomic comfort of his office chair swivelling round to take in the view from his 5th floor window. As he gazed into the distance he saw a black speck – a bird maybe. Gradually, the speck grew until he saw a heavy black cloud rolling towards him. Yet, it was framed by blue sky. The cloud now hung outside his office window, rain lashing against the floor-to-ceiling pane. It was bizarre to say the least and Hugh curious stood fearless behind his shield of double-glazing marvelling at this swirling mass until, that is, a huge "Thwack!", followed by a horrendous "Crack!" and a flash of lightning sent him diving for cover under his desk.
Although it had gone quiet, Hugh became aware of a heavy presence in the room. He peeped cautiously over the top of his desk, and his eyes met with...a Viking? Hugh stood up, scanning the room for the hidden camera. Only the clock beamed down at him. A rugged giant of a man towered over him, his hair red and wild, his mouth topped with a thick moustache. A bushy beard added balance. He wore a winged helmet and in his hand he carried a fearsome looking hammer. The man glared at Hugh who in turn regarded him jovially. Keen to play along he spoke first: "Er, hello…and you are?"
"Thor!" he bellowed before pointing at Hugh, “Rotinn felagr. Rangr. Mistaka!”
Because of the Nordic accent, or rather, in spite of it, to Hugh’s ears this sounded like “Rotten fellow. Wrong. Mistake!”
Hugh repeated the last two words “Rangr? Mistaka?” raising his hands in a questioning gesture.
“Gefa Thor Rock!” Thor demanded shaking his hammer just a little too close to Hugh’s head.
“Gefa Thor Rock” Hugh repeated slowly. Then, "Give Thor rock. What rock? Thor rock?” Then it hit him - like a mallet to the head. He recalled an article of his about the origin of the name "Thurrock". 'Thor's Rock' had been one of several myths dispelled in his article. But how to make Thor understand? In a light bulb moment he showed Thor his computer screen and showed him how he could get pictures to appear. He then typed 'Turroc' and clicked on an image of a cross section of a boat pointing to the bottom where muddy water collected. Next he took out a huge map and pointed at the bend in the river where silt gathered. It was shaped like the bottom of a boat.
“Oh, taka dregg”, said Thor clearly understanding.
Hugh returning the favour nodded his heading enthusiastically “Yes! Taka dregg” “Turroc – Thurrock!” he exclaimed.
Thor’s face suddenly darkened and for one heart-stopping moment Hugh thought he might erupt. But no, he threw his head back and roared with laughter slapping Hugh on the back almost sending him sprawling on his desk. Then eyeing Hugh’s hair, he nodded approvingly,
“Thor same Hugh. Thor traust Hugh.”
Two goats appeared from nowhere pulling a chariot. Astonished, Hugh was keen to see how he would actually get out of that room. He came over all whoozy. When he re-focused again. Nothing. He looked through his window. The sky was blue. No hint of what had just occurred. Hugh looked at the clock. One o’clock. Hmmm. “That was surreal” he mused. “Like the feeling you get when pushing a trolley ‘round Tesco’s at midnight”.