By Helen McClory

 

They killed the hare when the mist was on the early morning river. They had come upon her in an abutting field, while crossing it silently out on a hunt. She lay in her form, resting, eyebright and whiskers quivering. Dew on the long and parted grass. One man whistled through his teeth. She did not move. Her nose moved. Someone cocked their gun.

The youngest held her body by the ears. Long creature, with great elegant legs and feet, fur the colour of clay. They tied her to the grouse pole, and brought her back with a double brace. The house was empty of the womenfolk when they returned. Outside, the trumpets of daffodils blared bright against an encroaching bank of smoke-white fog. Most of them thought nothing of it. The women were away at town, having piled into the Ford. The weather could change on a penny-spin. They brought the bounty to the large pantry, and strung up the birds, and laid the hare down on the table, beside the grapes and bread.

It was only much later, evening time, when a voice from the garden began to call. The men sat smoking at the fire, talking little, drinking brandy. At first it was distant. The sound of the wind passing through a low hedge, or a radio muffled in static. But there was no wind at all, and theirs the only room lit up, and the country road ran around them in the dark.

My wife, came the voice, my wife is lost in the fog.

My husband, came the voice, my husband is lost in the fog.

I have licked the moonlight from her fur. I have combed his long black ears. But now I can’t find her. The men stood, smoking and slurping at their drinks. Not a one of them moved.

The voice came closer, louder.  My wife. My husband. Where are you?

Somewhere a door opened, great locks sliding back.

The sound of soft footsteps. Doors opening.

Oh, my love lies on a table, eyes gone dim. A hole in his side and the blood out of her.

The voice was larger, larger now. Steps echoed through the hall.

Which beasts have done this? Where will the moon go now the hare is dead?

Tell me.

Tell me.

The voice was just outside. It boomed like the Spring sea. A masculine voice, a feminine one, flowing between the two. Close at hand came the sound of door frames splintering under an immense pressure. Three stamped flagstones shattered with a bone-deep crack. The men leapt up and dragged the walnut table to bar the parlour door. Some held it steady, while others cringed against the wall, or behind the milk-white settee. It had come. The walls thuddered, pounded.

Tell me.

Tell me who has done this.

Hearts like shrivelled fruits. Fists ready. Guns held tight.

Outside, the garden sat at peace. Fog resting on it. Stars above, glimmering like the dew.

One long shriek and a crashing, tearing sound. Hush.

A puttering engine behind a curve in the lane. Lights bounced closer. The car came to a steaming, ticking stop, and the women got out and stood. The sounds of evening had fallen away. The house was utterly still and dark.

They unsnibbed the door and went in, going from room to room, calling callooh. At last one reached the billiards room. She opened it without knocking. The men, crumpled on the settee or propped in stiff backed chairs, all rose at once and turned their heads. Raised their hands in greeting, they showed their spotted gums and began, all at once, to speak.

**

Helen McClory is a writer from Scotland. Her first flash fiction collection, On the Edges of Vision, was published by Queen’s Ferry Press in August 2015 and won the Saltire First Book of the Year. Her debut novel, Flesh of the Peach, will be published by Freight in 2017. She can be found @HelenMcClory. There is a moor and a cold sea in her heart.