The opening of a story in the CULTURE SHOCKS trilogy
This unlikely tale is about the clash of two opposing ways of life…with another apprehensive one in between.
Prologue – One over the nine
Old Mother Megan loved her cat. “My familiar,” she called it, having read more than a book or two about witchcraft. She, and the overweight and very ugly black creature, lived at the end of a tiny Welsh village in a scruffy, single level, cottage. There were several things about her that people disliked on sight. She never looked clean, she had an exaggerated limp and her left eyelid never seemed to blink properly, if at all. The children in the village thought she had a glass eye under it. Her evil eye they called it. Some days she could be seen inside her cottage gazing out of a window stroking the cat, which would be with her on the window ledge. That always made the villagers uneasy, and they would hurry past the cottage if the door was closed; even faster if it was not. They would go a different way altogether if she happened to be sitting outside.
Owen Pugh was a butcher, the only one in the village, but a very good one. His premises, which were situated opposite Mother Megan´s cottage, were always kept spotlessly clean and tidy. He was a medium sized man, a widower, middle-aged and weather wrinkled, but still good looking with a friendly smile reserved for all his village customers. Other than Old Mother Megan, that is. He assumed she was a vegetarian because, thankfully, she never came into his shop. Owen disliked everything about her. He felt that her presence in the village was bad for his business, but even more he utterly detested her cat. Its real name was Lucan, but Owen usually referred to it as Lucifer, he hated it that much. Some days, for the butcher, life became one long battle with his attempts to keep the unsavory creature out of his shop.
One warm summer evening, just after the shop was closed for the day, it managed to sneak through an open window while Owen was getting his next day orders ready. Unseen, it hid behind his big wooden chopping block, near the cellar door. When it saw its chance, it emerged and licked a small piece of meat that had fallen down from the counter and gone unnoticed. Owen eventually did look up and see it just as it was nearing the block, preparing to hide again. He saw red and aimed his right boot at the creature. It snarled and spitted at him and drew back just in time. Owen grabbed hold of his largest meat cleaver and snarled, “Get out, you filthy beast!”
The repulsive creature yowled at him, and began to stretch out with its front paws. It leaned its head right over the chopping block and began to snarl and spit at him again, even louder, its claws scratching away at the smooth scrubbed wooden surface. Owen reacted immediately, his patience exhausted. He swung his arm, and down came the cleaver with a satisfying thud. He heard something go bouncing down the steps of the cellar, as the twitching body of the cat slipped back from the chopping block on to the floor. Owen regarded it with disgust. He boiled some water, put on a pair of gloves, then picked up a garbage bag and began to clean away the mess.
Half an hour later he was done, and the shop was spotless again. He thought about what, he very well knew, had gone bouncing down into the cellar. It could be anywhere down there now. He decided to sort that situation out in the morning. It was getting dark and he needed to turn in for an early start.
He did not sleep too well that night. He kept waking up thinking he could hear some strange noises. Twice he got up and went downstairs, but looking around he could see nothing unusual. However, each time he carefully checked to see if the cellar door was properly shut. The first time it definitely was not.
Next morning he overslept by half an hour. Dressing hurriedly and abandoning the idea of any breakfast, he managed to get his deliveries completed on time. On returning to his shop, he decided to have a look in the cellar.
It was dark down there, but he had a lantern with him to shed some light around. After an hour he gave up. What he had expected to find was not down there. Somewhat puzzled he climbed the steps into the shop again. There waiting for him was Old Mother Megan, and he could see that she was not in a good mood.
“What have you done with my familiar?” she screeched. “My Lucan did not come home last night.”
Owen knew he had to brazen it out. “Nothing you old hag, I’ve done nothing. I haven’t seen the filthy animal.”
“You are lying, I know it. He came in here last night and never came out again.”
Owen ignored her and began to ready the shop for his morning customers. She raised a grubby fist and grabbed his arm. “Curse on you Owen Pugh. You will live to regret what you’ve done.”
The butcher became angry. He turned and pushed her out of his shop. She tripped and fell in a messy heap on the pavement.
She leered at him, lips quivering. “Help me, I’m a poor old woman, my legs are bad.”
Owen shrugged, but he leaned down and took her arm. He hauled her back on her feet, then turned and went back into his shop to scrub his hands.
Megan began cursing and muttering to herself, waving her arms. She turned and staggered along the path and into her cottage, raising a cloud of dust as she slammed its rickety door shut.
Owen put her out of his mind, and
spent the rest of the day working and chatting with his customers. In the
evening he entered his accounts for the day, made up a few orders and then
Later that night he awoke, with the feeling that something was wrong. Suddenly he felt something soft and furry moving up and onto his shoulder. He reached up to brush it away with his hand. Parts of it were sticky and not quite dry. With a gasp of horror, he realized what it must be. Then as several long, and foul smelling, teeth sank into his neck he gurgled in terror and began to scream.
Oooerr..? Read the rest of this droll, black, tale in the book now offered for free from www.screwpulp.com
The other two tales are quite different, but their themes are similar..!