May 20, 2010

Under the gables (9/10)

   Going through the forest was out of the question… For one thing I had only the vaguest idea of my orientation which I derived for the sun, for another, I had no idea how many of those things there might be lurking in there. Sure, I would hear the former Mrs. Nanaac coming, and the worst she could do was whistle at me… but I was also sure that there had been more than one of those creatures last night, and the memory of the hand sized bites in a deer’s corpse was uncomfortably fresh in my mind. No, the forest was out…

   I briefly toyed with idea of escaping over the lake, but lacked any means of conveyance that would permit such a manner of escape. I grinned grimly at the thought of myself on the water on top of an unhinged door, paddling with cast iron frying pan while being chased by floating heads trying to bite me. How utterly absurd! I had to fight the temptation to tell myself there had to be a rational explanation for all this. If there was, it was completely outside the sphere of my understanding. Perhaps this acceptance was my first willing step down the way to madness.

   No, it seemed at the time that the best path was for me to seek succor in one of the neighboring houses. I had learned a measure of caution from my recent misadventures and I gripped the fire poker’s handle for reassurance. I discretely walked towards the closest house… and spotted an old man doing something in front of it. I observed him from behind the trunk of pine tree. At first glance, he seemed like a nice enough old man, whistling a vaguely familiar tune while he worked, but two things struck me as odd.

   First of all, what was he doing? It looked like he was putting storm shutters up on his house… Something in the economy of movement and speed with which he did this conveyed a sense of regular practice. I hadn’t heard of any storms and it certainly didn’t feel like one was coming... And if there wasn’t, why bother? With the sweltering Georgia weather, the heat inside would be unbearable...

   And secondly, considering how hot it was, I wondered why he was wearing a kerchief around his neck. My skin prickled as I recalled the markings around the corpse’s neck. The whistling had stopped and the old man had paused in his work. He seemed to be peering myopically around him… I wondered what he was doing, and then I realized, with a shiver down my spine, that he was sniffing the air; somehow he had scented me! Perhaps not, I thought to myself, for he soon resumed his work… but he whistled no longer. He quickly finished and reentered his house. Once he had, I crept away as quickly and quietly as I could.

   I took a quick look at the other houses from as great a distance as I could manage and noticed that they had all been boarded up as if for a storm... I ran back to Mrs. Nanaac’s house and a quick search revealed what I was looking for. I got to work boarding up the house. I had decided I had no choice but to barricade myself in for the night. Through the trees the sun was a dying ember. I wasn’t sure what would happen when it finally set, but I felt certain that I shouldn’t be caught outside when it did. Finally, I had finished. I was inside and I had blocked all the entrances. I had readied the empty and dusty root cellar as fallback shelter should I need one. I had ransacked the kitchen and found a big rusty knife, which I put on the on the table in front of me next to the poker. I felt as ready as I could be and not second too soon!

   It started with the abnormal fluting music I had heard the night before, which was soon followed by the shrill cackling laughter. It seemed to coming from all sides of the house, and it was accompanied by thudding sounds, they were testing my fortifications... The banging got louder and I was suddenly not so sure of myself. Grabbing the knife and the poker I hastily retreated into the cellar, pulled the trap door above me and slotted in the heavy wooden cross bolt.

   The inhuman noises were muted in the cellar until I heard the sound of crashing wood and glass: they had made it in and nothing but several inches of sturdy oak and iron separated them from me!