Wyld FLASH July 30th 2021
Mr Wilson at Bank Lane Cottage howls at the moon.
Seeing this on the agenda his heart sank.
The Parish Council Secretary began to read the Apologies, but Taylor was not listening.
Mid-winter, dusk an hour away. The days, to Taylor, felt half-formed at this time of year. He had reached Bank Lane Cottage. It was a squat whitewashed building overlooking the river. Taylor knocked.
He felt his heart beating, a too rapid echo of his knuckles tapping on the door.
It cracked open an inch. Taylor recoiled at the smell that escaped: sweat, urine and decaying food.
A dishevelled old man stood inside, stony-faced.
“Good afternoon Mr Wilson.” Taylor hoped his voice sounded calm. “I’m Joshua Taylor, Community Officer for Hambleford Parish Council. May I come in?”
“Bugger off!” Mr Wilson spat the words out and began to close the door.
“Now you have been turned, you have certain rights. But you need to be registered. I have a form.” Taylor rushed the words out. But not quick enough.
The door slammed shut.
Though he was a man of influence Taylor did not regard himself as superior. Rather, he saw himself as a servant. Of the village, its people. And of the framework of rules which held together order.
As he made his way back from Wilson’s home, Taylor’s bleak mood worsened. Despite the rules to which he was dedicated, there were still incidents, difficulties. This hurt and saddened him.
He hesitated in his progress.
He should have been stronger. Should go back and insist Wilson comply. The rules must be followed.
He was steeling himself when a familiar figure hailed him.
Thomas Allender was the Reverend of Hambleford. A clergyman who saw the Lord in fertile soil and a hearty hymn on a Sunday morning.
“Joshua,” he called. “The bell sounds soon. We must hurry on our rounds.”
“I’m sorry I’m late,” Taylor replied. “I called on Wilson.”
Concern softened Allender’s countenance. “Do we know what happened? How he was turned?”
Taylor sighed. “We do not. Though it will all come out eventually. There will have to be a report.”
“It will have been an outsider, a stranger. One skulking in the woods.”
Taylor did not reply to the Reverend’s assertions, though he himself would pray that this was the case, this coming Sabbath. No doubt it would be woven into the sermon also.
For now, Taylor needed to put thoughts of Wilson to one side. The church bells were sounding curfew.
Taylor noted the three others already going from house to house. Smythe, Merrie and Crombie were as dedicated to the village as he and the Reverend.
Taylor halted first at the home of Mrs Greeenwold. She had been a widow this past year, left in poverty by a husband ruined by liquor.
Taylor checked the sturdy grills which covered her windows, new installed that summer, paid for by stalls at the village fete. The destitute were embraced here, not abandoned.
He checked the widow’s door. Locked firm. Satisfied, he moved on to the neighbouring house.
Between the five of them they had checked that he dwellings in the village were safely secured for the night before it fell fully dark.
They then gathered, as they always did when curfew was called, in the village square.
“All are indoors?” Taylor asked. “All windows and doors barred and bolted?”
Each of the others answered with a quiet, “Aye.”
“Then all is good,” Taylor stated.
Order would be upheld in the hours ahead, dawn would come and with it the routines of a new day.
Stars punctuated the night sky, and a quarter moon shone bright.
Taylor felt sweat dampen his brow. His skin begin to burn.
“We should take our leave,” the Reverend said.
Taylor could not see who said this. The moon was growing too bright, blinding him to all else.
Then a voice cried out. One of his companions was crying his name.
There was urgency in the voice, confusion.
Taylor rubbed at his face and for a moment the daze into which he was falling cleared, and he saw Wilson stumbling along the village green. He was naked. His pale skin was smeared with his own waste. He threw back his head, screamed. A madman’s howl.
“No!” Taylor shouted.
Wilson had not been turned. He was still just a man. One who was insane.
And a man who was not locked in his home where he would be safe as the others were, but out here, alone in the night. His flesh, warm and soft.
The Reverend was on him first, slashing at Wilson’s throat with freshly emerged claws. Then Merrie, Smythe, Crombie, fell on Wilson. Biting, tearing.
The scent of spilled blood filled the air.
Taylor wept, for what he had become many years before when, in a young man’s moment of madness, he had been tempted by a stranger’s smile to step off the path, to step into the woods.
He wept for the order that he so desperately needed. Even though a monster dwelt inside him, and each of his companions, they had sought to find a way to keep the others in the village safe.
He wept as he moved forwards, his arms and legs now sleek, pelted limbs. He bared his fangs, howled at the dazzling moon, and then he too began to feed.
Author Bio: Brian Maycock’s short stories have recently been published by Trembling With Fear, Flash Fiction Magazine and The Drabble. He is currently writing a novel. Brian lives in Scotland but is planning a move to the South Coast of the UK.
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