The long grass bent and flowed, a green river through the meadow, a fingertip of wind pushing down the first spring flowers. A cat chased butterflies, pushed dancing, pirouetting before the breeze. Soft silence ruled that emptiness between the failing wings of the forest. The cat pounced on an invisible foe. The sound of an unimportant battle rang across the grass-sea, unimportant to all but the contenders.
Defleshed and deboned – the cat’s fur was stretched, tight before a cairn of stones, its tongue draped across them in ruby reminder, a warning sign.
Archibald strode through the ankle-deep green waves, ignoring the mud sucked at his boots. The talons of age had raked across him, leaving behind thick scars – the wrinkles that girt his eyes, the limp his walking stick could not hide. The stack of stones still stood. His son strode behind him, concerned for the old man’s sanity. “How much further then, Dad?” He was humouring his father, and he felt mildly guilty about it, too. Only mildly – the old man had quite the temper, and wasn’t afraid to unleash a string of strikes with his stick, not even on his now-adult son. And his accuracy with the stick had never faltered.
He did wonder about the macabre little collection his father had in the shed – pelts of rabbits dyed green, with twisted faces like crude imitations of men. He had flashed his Last Will and Testament at his boy, as he still called him, the green, scrawling ink of the document was barely legible. He must have used that odd-looking quill of his. Archibald’s son, the boy still at forty-two, staggered to a halt.
His father stopped, stooping. A haphazard arrangement of pebbles, another weird skin stretched out here, to dry in the sun. “I kills ’em and I stretch the skin tight, right here, boy. Nothing but vermin – they’re worse than foxes, tearing through the hen-houses, killin’ pets and scarin’ bairns. I’m gettin’ too old for this, boy; I need you to carry on with my work ‘ere.” He coughed, bringing black phlegm to the back of his throat, he spat it at the stones. As though warding off a curse.
“Now, I knew you wouldn’t believe me. So I set some tripwires and some cameras. You can’t argue with this…”