Monday, 6 May 2019

Fragment 2

Another unfinished fragment. It contains the germ of an idea, but I'm not entirely sure where it's going and what the pay off will be.

We do not talk about the people who live up the hill.

In the evenings we can see the lights glittering on, one by one. They burn softly in the twilight, only ever dimmed when the clouds hang low. They twinkle over us, unacknowledged stars in the night. None would trust them to guide us though.

We do not talk about the people who live up the hill.

Once when I was a small boy, I tried to climb the hill on a summer's day. I was not the only one with that idea. As I scrambled over loose slate and sedate boulders, I became aware of a shadow flitting alongside me, just at the edge of my vision.

I looked, but could not see. I looked away, and the shadow moved, always just beyond perception. I chased; it ran.

Across fissures and down valleys, I chased my playmate. Stop and start, up and down, hour after hour. There was a moment when I thought I might see them, as a careened around a sharp outcrop...

...I teetered over the sheer drop. Below, jagged rocks, dark streaks suggesting others had not been so lucky.

Soft, high-pitched giggling made me look up. I did not see, but I felt the presence. Backing away from the edge, never taking my eyes off the hill above. The giggling slowly changed into a hiss.

We do not talk about the people who live up the hill.

It was a harsh winter, and it followed hard on the heels of a wet summer. Crops, whilst not failing, did not bring plenty. But we still had the herds. We could replenish their numbers in the springtime.

The night of the storm was horrific. Rain lashed down so hard the only thing that could be heard above it was the thunder. At first.

Young Callum saw it first. Lights from up on the hill, shimmering even through the storm. Moving. Moving down the hill.

For an hour we watched the lights slowly meander down the hillside, until the gloom of evening and the storm obliterated detail, leaving only a murky void.

Then the screams. Inhuman, ghastly screaming; a hellish cacophony no human throat could reproduce.

No human throat did. A flash of lightning revealed to Callum that the barn door had been torn open. Callum to this day insists that he did not see what took place. But something changed in him that night, and in the years that followed he was near frantic during any storm.

In the morning, with brighter skies, we congregated around the barn. A quarter of the herd was gone. The remainder cowered and quivered. We followed the tracks that led from the barn, hooves and feet. The rain had almost washed them away.

But we could follow the trail easily. It was highlighted crimson, and punctuated, every so often, with a bloodied scrap of flesh.

All eyes followed the direction of the trail along the trail, and though we walked no further we knew it continued up, up, up.

We do not talk about the people who live up the hill.

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