Monday, March 31, 2008

Dreadful Company




Harold paused with his fork, half a roast potato clinging to the tines, halfway between plate and mouth. He couldn’t swallow. It felt as if there was a lump the size of his fist lodged in his throat. His breathing became shallow as the sense of dread overtook him.

Felicia looked up as his fork clattered to the plate. “Harold?” she said. “What’s wrong? What’s the matter?”

Julie stared, blank-eyed, across the table. “By the pricking of my thumbs,” she said in a child-like, sing-song voice, “something wicked this way comes.”

Gillian stood, her chair rocketing backwards from the speed of her rise. She reached to her belt, her fingers grasping at air until she remembered the house rule of ‘no weapons at the table.’ She reached instead for the carving knife, holding it handle upward so that the blade lay along the length of her forearm.

Felicia, reacting to the others, began to were, the coarse wolf-hair growing over her skin as fingernails sharpened into claws.

Harold stood scant moments before Julie pointed at the door to the stable yard. A shadow against the frosted glass announced the visitor as the knocker clanged once… twice… three times.

Harold rose almost mechanically, a puppet prince to answer the call of doom. The door swung open under his touch to reveal the one person who could strike more terror into his heart than his mother, a woman he hadn’t seen since his fourteenth birthday.

“Gr… Great Aunt Lydia,” he stammered. “What a lovely surprise.”

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