Outside of the tavern, all was quiet in the village save the occasional bray of a donkey. Smoke billowed from many a stone chimney and the streets were clear of their usual working class bustle.
Not so far away in the edge of the great wood, a frail auburn-haired girl of eleven years walked, trembling in her thin fraying coat and Mama’s too big leather boots, searching for twigs and branches to keep the stove fire alive. Since Papa died, it was even harder to keep the farm going and provisions stocked. Even all the extra hours in the day since leaving school did not afford her the time nor the strength to fill Papa’s shoes and with baby Tobias still in diapers, he contributed little except more work.
Had she not been so very tired or known any better, perhaps she would have been more sad about her life and agreed to marry the greasy old butcher with a fancy for pretty young girls. No doubt, this arrangement would improve her dire situation as neither she nor what was left of her family would ever go hungry again (he had promised as much), but thankfully, Mother would not consent to his repeated requests. Sometimes when she thought about it, her mouth watered at the mere thought of tasting meat again – a thick, juicy roast, chicken stew, or hearty sausages – she fought her food fantasies with ideas of having to sleep next to such a foul-smelling, repulsive man with bad breath and an evil grin. She did not know what exactly took place in a marriage bed under the covers, but she knew one thing for certain, it was something that she wanted no part of with the butcher. And if that didn’t make her forget about her hunger, the bitter cold did.
She stooped to pick up a small hickory limb once, twice, thrice, as it slipped again and again from her frozen fingers when suddenly a dark chill shot through her in a most eerie fashion. Not a cold chill this time, it was the feeling of impending danger, that she was being watched, or as Grandmama used to say, 'as though someone had just walked over her grave…'
She turned with a start and saw him – long, black cloak spilling about his wicked frame as his hypnotic gaze met hers. Time seemed to stop and he whispered her name,
She was not afraid. She was too tired to be afraid.
© Crystal J. De la Cruz, 2011
Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
"Where there is no imagination there is no horror."
...Sir Arthur Conan Doyle