Friday, July 15, 2011


The sheep bleated. It was midnight, and the moon lit up the pen. Far away in the fields, baby rabbits shuddered and huddled close to their mother for warmth. An owl refused to call, and a shadow crossed the path in front of the stone farmhouse.

The shadow seemed to be no more substance than that- perhaps a grey cloud, or the emptiness which fills the hole where the rotten roots of a storm-plucked tree used to be.

The shadow stopped moving, turned towards the window, and swayed. A rat skittered around the corner of the house, reconsidered and fled into the darkness.

The earthy smell in the air was overpowering, the freshness of it reeking of a newly prepared grave rather than the promise of a ploughed field.

The wood smoke curling out of the chimney thinned as the shadow watched, and the family dog sniffed and sneezed in its sleep.

Of course, there was no longer a family, just the old man and his photo albums. A runaway horse, a fire in the barn and an outbreak of smallpox had left him alone and haunted by memories.

The old man was curled uncomfortably into a chair, his chin resting on his jutting collarbones. Not asleep- it seemed as though he never really slept anymore, but waiting. He turned the scythe over in his hands, the blade curved and wicked-looking, but entirely blunt.

The old man rose and opened the door. Peering into the darkness, he let his eyes adjust and noted the presence of the shadow. Smiling, he moved forward, but was held back- pinned to the warm wooden frame by an odd sensation he couldn’t explain.

He thought then of dark things. Marmite. The pulpy hole in a mouth where a milk tooth used to be. The inside of a poor man’s pocket and the black wine gum.

He knew then who the shadow was, and why he’d come. As his knees gave way, and he tumbled down the steps where, a lifetime ago, he’d lifted his bride and then his children. The shadow drew closer, and gathered substance in the dim light which seeped out of the house.

As the old man lay, gasping, his mouth opening and closing in the manner of a surprised fish on a boat, he noticed something peculiar. The shadow appeared to have a logo on its shoes. Not hobnail boots, either, these were running shoes.

The thick cloak drifted apart, and a face smiled out at him. It was his wife. No, that was wrong. Perhaps his daughter, an adult the way an early death had meant she’d never be. And then, just as strangely, it was his son- no signs of the burns which had seared him out of the barn and his life.

The family-being took his hand and lifted him, steered him back onto his feet. He was unsure, then. It was the milkman, the postman. He couldn’t remember the word anymore. A… a… bark-bark. There were flashes of things he couldn’t name, and the deep fear that something was missing.

Come on, Grandpa, a voice said. Let’s get you back inside. It’s cold out tonight.



  1. that's some story, very well written--extremely good.

  2. Nice "rendezvous with Death" story — I like the way the Reaper appears as family members and friends here.

  3. Thanks for reading it- I screwed up, though. Thought the purpose was to write something very quickly- so I *flashed* through this in 45 minutes. Much like I do any writing :)

  4. His remembering, but not quite remembering it all gave this piece a eerie quality. Is it death or family that has come to take him away? I noted that one of your tags was Alzheimers and his lack of static thought made complete sense.


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