After an eventful weekend, (thanks Hurricane Nate) I'm happy to report that all are well here at Seven Sisters Farm. No hens, roosters, biddies, ducks, ducklings, goats or pigs were harmed. The Siberian Husky, Chihuahua and angry parakeet are doing well too. I won't lie, it was a frog-strangler and the winds were incredible but we've seen much worse. Nate was nothing compared to Irma and Harvey yet we feel incredibly blessed to have survived such an ordeal relatively unscathed. Thanks to everyone for the prayers and the well wishes.
As promised last week, I'm sharing a snippet from my new title, Halloween Horror: A Halloween Short Story Collection. In it there are nine original, new stories and one of my favorite but classic stories, Being With Beau. The excerpt below is from the story Maarta's Baby and it's a real scream.
Maarta had never actually seen a goblin but fancied she’d heard one near her mother’s house when she was a small child. Looking out the window now, into the darkness, she wondered if anything looked back. The moon illuminated the fresh blanket of snow that covered the ground around the cottage. It smelled cold and fresh. For a second, she believed she could see a shadow—yes, there! Just there at the edge of the wood! She stared hard and avoided speaking but didn’t see anything else.
“We must build up the fire, Enid.”
“I am warm, mother.”
“We need more light, daughter. We must build the fire.” An unmistakable chill swept over her soul. The urgency grew by the second.
“Mother, we need more wood, and it’s hot in here.” As if he agreed, the baby began to cry again.
“Can’t you stop crying for once, Kristof? If you don’t stop, I’m going to give you to the goblins!” Enid’s little mouth fell open, and as if he understood his mother, the boy quieted and cried softly. A shudder went through Maarta’s body, and her ears began to buzz.
“Mother, don’t say that. Come sit with me and tell me another story. A happy story—please!”
Another wolf howled, this one very near to the house. The hair on Maarta’s arms rose, and she clutched her daughter’s hand as they stepped away from the window. She didn’t want to go outside, especially if there were wolves about, but they needed the wood if they were to keep the light bright through the night. One basket was all she needed. She prayed that Conrad had cut and stacked it already. Maarta leaned over the crib and stared down into the face of her unhappy son. “Be quiet, now, Kristof. I will feed you when I return. I must go out and gather wood. Be good for your sister.”
“Mother, do not leave me here by myself. What if the goblins come?”
She smiled at the child, happy to see that she took the stories seriously. “Then give them what they want, Enid.” The girl whimpered at her answer, and Maarta squatted down in front of her and hugged her. “Hush now. Are you a baby like Kristof? I will be just outside. I will hear the goblins if they come, I promise you, and I have your father’s ax to protect us. Now go, care for your brother.”
The boy wailed loudly again as if he too protested. Maarta covered her thin body with a coat of furs, wrapped her boots and left the cabin.
Just a few minutes away, that’s all I need. Just a few minutes!
The snow crunched underfoot, but her feet were warm in her deerskin boots. She walked to the white clump of wood, which she recognized as the woodpile. Unfortunately, Conrad had not cut the wood, so she would have to do it.
So like him to think of nothing but himself.
If she ever doubted his unfaithfulness, she didn’t anymore. A man who loved his family would never leave them without wood on a cold night. He might as well have sentenced them to death.
The baby howled in the cabin behind her, but all else was silence. Maarta felt the sensation that she was being watched. There was no time to waste! As she chopped wood with her stiff fingers, tears rolled down her cheeks. She had done this—there was no one to blame but herself. Maarta had married a man who did not respect her or her people or her ways. That would change now. She would go home, home to her parents if need be, as soon as she could. She would have to prepare—in secret, of course—but she thought she would remember the way.
Then she heard rustling in the wood and heavy clumps of snow hitting the ground. Yes, there it was again! Rustling and a strange snorting sound! It didn’t sound like a wolf or a bear. Maarta listened carefully and imagined she heard talking, two men talking. No, it must have been three or more, talking in low tones in a language she did not recognize. Foreigners here! She hunkered behind the woodpile and waited, the ax in her hand. Wolves howled, their shrill calls piercing the chilly air. The sounds of breathing were all around her, and whispers—so many whispers! Their voices demanded something of Maarta, but all she could do was fall to her knees and whimper.
And she heard another sound. Kristof’s cries echoed through the woods, and she heard the voices getting louder. Oh no! Are they near the house? Enid will be terrified!
Grabbing her wood and stuffing it in the basket, she began to run toward the cottage with all her might. The cold stung her lungs and her legs felt like stones, but she pressed on. She had to get inside and latch the door. The thick latched wood would keep strangers out. And she had the ax. As she ran, Enid’s name on her lips, she tripped and landed on the ground with a loud thud. Pain shot through her head, and her eyes refused to open.
And then she slipped away, into blackness. As she moved in and out of consciousness, she heard the voices again, and the screams of a child. Was that Enid? The footsteps circled her, the wolves howled, and the deep grumbling of voices filled her ears.
Then she heard nothing.
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