The finger of smoke lingered into an immense unblemished blue sky. It rose from beyond a small rise ahead, slowly transforming to grey ghost like smoke escaping a medium-sized cottage as Black Annis crested the rise. Thatched and white-walled, surrounded by a waist height stone wall, the wee farm home stood proud against the beautifully green paddocks surrounding it. To the left of the house, a gaggle of geese moved noisily around, wandering in an untidy mob toward a series of small sheds. Dairy cattle walking away out of the largest of them, milking apparently complete.
Strolling down the hill, Black Annis relished what lay before her, fantasizing about the sweet havoc that she hoped to create, and the carnage she would rain upon those she was likely to meet.
Three hundred yards out from the cottage an ancient black and white sheepdog, a Border Collie, walked half way out to meet her. Woofing twice in her general direction, the elderly hound turned and wobbled back to the cottage, a warning issued to all comers, his job now done. On arriving at the fence surrounding the house yard, Black Annis leaned over a fairly new looking wooden gate, lifting the steel tongue of the latch from its groove, allowing her access to the yard. A red-headed, green-eyed lad, roughly five years of age greeted her, stepping out from behind a small nondescript shrub behind the gate post, as she closed the gate.
“Good morning ma’am,” he chirped, “what brings you out here this perfect day?” Words obviously mimicking those of a parent.
“I’ve found myself lost boy,” she began, looking down at him with a bemused smile, “are your Ma or Da about?”
“Aye, Da’s milkin’, but Ma’s off visitin’ Grandma. She’ll no be back until this night.”
“And what of your brothers, and sisters then?”
“Well, Molly’s makin’ butter in the dairy, an’ Morag is bakin’ todays bread.” he said in answer. “Me useless prick of a brother Hamish come home late last night after puttin’ his nose into whisky all yesterday, so he ain’t fit to rise. An’ me other two brothers are out coursin’ hares. So, until Da returns, I’m the man o’ the house.” Puffing his chest out as he spoke.
“And quite the man you are too.” she said seriously.
His jade green eyes followed her small hand as she removed her wickedly sharp filleting knife from her belt, not comprehend the action for the danger it was. Turning and extending her arm in the same ridiculously fast fluid movement, Black Annis stabbed the lad straight into his left ear up to the hilt. Equally quickly she withdrew the blade from his brain. The old dog woofed loudly in her general direction, sensing something wrong rather than seeing it.
Leaving the lad in a crumpled surprisingly blood free mess on the ground, Black Annis skipped merrily down the front path of the wee farmhouse, rapping melodically on the old dark oak door.
“Angus!” came the angry reply of a sibling annoyed at having to lower herself to attend to another lesser mortal, that was coincidentally a five year old little brother. “Stop your playing, an’ open the bloody door y’self. I’m up to me elbows in dough you horrid scamp.”
Without hesitation Black Annis opened and stepped through the door.
Over the next three hours carnage was all that followed on the farm. By the time the two brothers, four hares between them, arrived home, everyone would be dead and well bled.
Unseen by anyone on the farm, man or beast, a domestic black and white cat disappeared around the side of the cottage. And then, oddly, vanished all together.
Bread burnt in the oven, cows went unmilked, and a battered Volkswagen beetle would arrive a day late.
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