August 28

Sheridan Le Fanu (b. 1814)

 

Lara wondered why people hadn’t come to the farmhouse in a while.  She guessed that they’d visited mostly to see her father, who loved company and entertained them with colorful retellings of local legends.  He died several months back, and townfolk were quick to drop by with condolences for his surviving daughter…but not so quick to follow up, to see how she was getting on without him.

And the house had become so quiet.  Her father used to putter during the day, whistle his way from room to room.  Often he’d stand nearby as she tended to the animals, fixed meals or repaired worn sections of fence around their property…not silently observing, but full of commentary about Lara’s handiwork, alongside random musings about politics far and near.  She was his practice audience, too, for the stories he’d share with visitors — stories rich with hauntings and uncanny coincidence, painting a world where laws of nature did not apply.

The quiet had another source.  The radio and television no longer functioned.  For some reason, the paperboy had stopped cycling past to deliver an ill-tossed dose of printed news.  She couldn’t remember the last time she’d heard a car drive along the dirt road at the end of her property.  Airplanes no longer flew overhead.

Her father was gone, and it seemed like Lara was completely alone in the world.

The animals were some company, but they too had grown uncharacteristically silent of late.  Very few spells of bleating or lowing interrupted the day’s calm, and even bells around their necks seldom rang — as if the animals slept or stood still most of the day, too tired to move.

Although her farm was largely self-sufficient, there still came times when Lara would drive into town for supplies, or would walk over the hill to a neighboring farm to borrow a few supplemental items.  The Headleys were generous with trade, and their eldest son had some veterinary training.  He might be able to explain the odd silences, or offer some remedy to the strange swirls of blood that appeared in her dairy cows’ recent output.

She climbed the steep hill, a basket of breads and cheeses and jarred jam cradled like a baby in the crook of her arm.  When she crested the hill and sighted the Headley farm in the distant valley, she knew something was wrong…

 

[…continued tomorrow…]