Saturday, September 18, 2010


This is part of a short story I'm writing. A stand-alone scene. Not a final draft, but good enough to stick on the internet. It will be in There Must be Something in the Water.

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On a farm backed by a wood, under the second full moon that month, with the wind holding a chill of winter, a man was tucking his farm in for the night. His dog, older and silvered around the ears much like the man, went rigid. Its nose pointed toward the wood. Normally a quiet dog, it rumbled a warning growl and stood.

“What is it, pup?”

The farmer turned, but could see nothing in those trees. He bent down to scratch the dog’s scruff.

“We’ll go in soon, pup. Then maybe I’ll have some of that Ford woman’s brew, eh? What is it?”

The dog had started another growl, but it had turned to a whine almost as soon as it began. The hairs along its back were all raised up. Its stare had never moved. It shook a little, and its white-tipped tail curled under its body.

The man read this, and his face turned grim. He walked back to the barn and, after a few moments, returned with a shovel. He watched the trees and the two stood there for a few minutes, waiting.

Then he heard, from a wood he knew had only game trails, the soft jingle of tiny bells and horses. His grip whitened on the shovel as he listened to the sounds of hooves and bells grow.

His dog, utterly quiet now, leaned against his leg.

Under the moon, the grass was suitably phantom like. Very clearly, he saw a number of riders break cover and spill, like different coloured beads, across his field. They rode ponies, and they moved in sync like a flight of sparrows. Most made for the gate, though some jumped the low stone wall that bordered the road. One broke from the group toward him and stopped, watching.

Quietly, slowly, the man laid down his shovel.

When all the group had passed into the next field, the remaining rider sheathed his sword and moved on. His dark pony crossed the road, trotted out of sight, and the night went back to being real again.

His dog made a noise, almost like a sigh. The man bent down to scratch its ears.

“I think it best we stay inside, old pup.”

He picked up the shovel and leaned it against his truck. The dog kept watch while the man finished his chores, but nothing else disturbed the field. When he was done, the dog was watching the place where the riders were last seen. He scratched the dog’s ears again. Then he looked, too, squatting next to the dog.

“You know pup, I think I’ll keep my head tonight,” said the man after a few minutes. He glanced at the moon, hovering beyond the world, out of reach.

“I think it better to leave that brew outside, anyway. Tonight.”


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