Sandra felt detached, as if standing looking at herself from a few feet away. Somehow surprised at her imagined facial expression, it was certainly not how she felt. Inside she was smiling. The casket stood dark and aloof, the lid balanced on end. The face inside was ashen, smooth, parchment dry. Her mother, released from life, freeing Sandra from her years of denial. She had expected more emotion, probably not sadness, a feeling more akin to relief.
When the explorers finally broke through the dense, green, forest covering there was a collective sigh of relief. At last we’ve found it they exclaimed. No more digging a trench by torchlight away from the safety of the camp and squatting over it, vulnerable to any creature of the night.
”How did you find me?” The voice was nasal, high-pitched, whining and strangest of all, only in my mind. I had never before experienced the phenomenon commonly referred to as hearing voices. The only explanation I could tender for this occurrence was a sense of guilt and shame. The guilt I felt upon hearing my fears confirmed. I had just consumed a plate of pork chops. Chops obtained from the farm shop to which my home-reared pigs had recently been dispatched for slaughter and preparation for sale.
Checking his phone confirmed a problem with his screen orientation.
“Oh look at that. My luck must be in. She doesn’t know I’m here so if I just wait a while I’ll see if she’s alone. I can’t hear anyone else around. I wonder what she’s doing, shouldn’t she be in school, not sitting here all alone on the riverbank. That’s it, I’m going to sneak up behind her. If I stay really quiet she probably won’t notice until I’m right behind her. That will be a shock but so much fun when I see the reaction on her face and hear her gasp. I won’t hurt her but she doesn’t know that. Right here we go, slowly now, slowly, keep low and don’t make a noise. Oh no, she’s heard me, she’s turning round.”
“Ruffles, you naughty dog, what are you doing here? Did someone leave the gate open? Give me a hug and then I’ll take you home.”
The church was full today. The whole town had gathered to say a heart-felt goodbye to one of their oldest residents, Jan Prideaux. Eighty four years of age, old Jan had continued working until the day he died. Like his father and grandfather before him, masters of their trade. Now the village would no longer have a blacksmith. As a boy he had cut his teeth shoeing the horses from the farm, the big house and the local hunt stables. All had succumbed to changing times. Motor cars, tractors and the demise of hunting with dogs. No more would the smithy ring to the sound of hammer blows, the hiss of steam from drenched iron or the wheeze of the bellows keeping the raging fire aglow. It was fitting that Jan would be carried through the doors so beautifully decorated with the crafted ironwork of his last commission.
Graham inserted the key. Behind him Julie nibbled her upper lip and looked at the peeling paint on the once dark-blue door. He seemed to her to be taking a long time and it was cold standing out here on the dark doorstep. There was very little light from the street lamp on the opposite side of the road. At last he said, “That’s got it,” and pushed the door open before reaching for the light-switch. The hall stayed dull as if the lamp was operating on low power. “After you,” he reached behind her and stood to one side as she entered, “the first door on the right,”. She took a step forward and turning the handle indicated, pushed the door open. He reached past her and flicked another switch, this time the light was brighter. “Welcome in,” he smiled, “what do you think of it?”
Julie looked around, her first impression was she had entered a Victorian boudoir with two large armchairs, a dresser with a large mirror and old-fashioned china ornaments. A tall dark wood bookcase filled one wall. The top two shelves were crammed with very old looking books in leather binding. She realised that it was probably these which gave the room it’s distinctive, rather unpleasant smell. If she was going to visit him again she would have to do something about that. A strange thought occurred to her that it smelt like something long dead.
Graham looked at her nervously, he could sense something wrong. He hoped that she would not be another of his guests who got frightened and asked to leave before his fun began.
Look at these walls, a chocolate box cottage you may think. You may change your mind when I tell you a little of it’s history. A dwelling has stood on this site for at least four centuries and before that a dolmen from the bronze age. The stones themselves, taken to be used as gateposts on local fields. There are no records of the previous owners of the cottage but when the current owners moved in they wanted plain whitewashed walls in keeping with the other moorland cottages. The painter who they engaged for the task, a local man, shook his head when he agreed the price but completed the task. After less than a week the gleaming white walls began to adopt a pinkish hue. It always happened. The locals believed it was the blood of the ancients buried in the ground below seeping back up through the earth.
And God looked down from on high at the gathering below. She smiled in order to put them at their ease, for arrayed in a circle below was a representative from all the nations of the Earth. Chosen at random and summoned while in an enchanted state, none had a recollection of how they had come to be here or why they had been so chosen. God enfolded them in her arms and in soft tones began to speak. Speaking in tongues so that all the gathering were able to understand the message she imparted. To emphasise her imparted warning a loud rumbling began to emanate from the very bowels of the Earth and the earth opened giving all assembled a glimpse of the infernal future for the planet. A certainty if these messengers were unable to convince their fellow countrymen throughout the world of the necessity for change. God released the people from their spell to return and begin their work. It was now dependant upon the inhabitants of the planet if they wished to avoid the second great flood. A flood of fire of their own making.
“Tell me Bottom, which colour would you like to wear?”