Let me start by saying, If I may, the following story is based upon my personal experiences. However some accounts may be fabricated, some may be true, some may as yet, be waiting to transpire.
I will leave it up to your generous imagination, Dear Reader, please Enjoy....
Have you ever had one of those days when you wake with a feeling of impending dread, that grips the bowels of your stomach, but you can't quite reason why?.
This was such a day.
Where are my manners? Please allow me to introduce myself, I am Philip L Fox, thirty something, born and raised in the sleepy village of Hope Baggot, set high amongst the emerald rolling hills of Shropshire. I am a farmer by trade, keeping a small holding of livestock, passed down to me through my father and his father before him. The manual work and rarefied air have given me a stout frame and countenance. I am the sole surviving member of my family.
I have farmed for many years but it has never been as difficult as it is recently to make a living, prices of feed have gone up, prices of livestock have gone down. I have never been one for material things, but a man's got to live.
I spent the summer renovating the barn and stables that immediately adjoin my farmhouse, with an eye to letting it out. Haven't done a bad job of it if I may say so, it is more luxurious than my own. I have lived by myself for some years now, with only my faithful dog, Brevit, for company, though excellent company he is, the conversation does get a bit one sided. Maybe renting the building out will bring a little extra cash and some friendship along with it.
Today I got a call from an interested gentleman, a father of four, wanting to check out the house to see if it's suitable. He sounded rather well to do, his London accent a far cry from my own country dialect. I gave him directions over the phone and we arranged to meet at two o'clock this afternoon. "Well, Brevit" I said laughingly "We better have a bath! Best behaviour now!"
Two o'clock almost to the second a black Volvo came making it's way slowly up the rutted and pot-holed driveway. I could just make out six silhouetted heads swaying their disapproval to and fro as the car found every bump and gulley.
As they drew closer I flashed a cheery smile and a wave to them, it was not returned.
Brevit, who had been sitting at my heals suddenly barked, turned and ran out of sight to the cowshed. "Come here Boy!" I shouted, my calls landing on deaf ears.
"Hello Mr. Fox" announced the gentleman "My name is Forsythe, Dr Alan Forsythe, Pleased to meet you" He held out his hand which I took enthusiastically.
I couldn't help noticing how frail and sullen he looked, and cold, icy cold. I relented my grip on his hand slightly for fear I would snap the delicate fingers like icicles.
He beckoned to the cars occupants who emerged and filed towards us. "This is my wife Mary, my children David, Mark, Amy and Sarah, say hello to Mr Fox"
His wife and children were a contrasting picture of health, Mary was in her early thirties and the kids ranged from thirteen to seven years I would say.
"Did you have far to come?" I asked. "You could say that!" laughed Alan.
"Well then you must come inside for a cup of tea and relax before I show you all around. I don't know where that dog has got to he's normally always around, he loves kids you know, though I'd doubt he'd eat a whole one!" The children weren't amused." This way" I beckoned.
We finished our tea hurriedly as the conversation seemed awkward, "Must be in a hurry" I thought "Right then, let's show you around next door, I've put the heating on already".
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"We'll take it Mr Fox.!"
"That's great, but I've hardly shown you around and you don't know the price yet!" I exclaimed.
"Everything seems in order I'm sure we are going to like it here. ". Mary nodded in accordance. The children were running around upstairs investigating their new home.
"I was asking a hundred and fifty pounds a week, does that seem fair?"
"More than fair" replied the doctor. "Right then, welcome neighbours" I said grinning and extending my hand. This time my hand was left hanging in the air. I immediately wondered if he had recognised my surprise on our first meeting.
"When do you think you will be moving in ?" I asked.
"We are already here" I was slightly taken back "We will have our belongings sent here directly"
My mind was on the obvious questions, Where are they going to sleep?, How are they going to eat?. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was questioning, What kind of Doctor was Mr Forsythe?, How could a Doctor of all people look so ill? Why would they want to come and live here?, Where's that dog of mine, Brevit?!
Yes, where was that dog?, I haven't seen him since the Forsythe's turned up. The thoughts in the back of my mind started to shout louder.
"We have provisions with us Mr Fox, we will be fine for tonight." The doctor turned to his wife and embraced her, "I think we have everything we need"
"It's just perfect Alan, perfect, the children will be so happy"
"As long as you are sure, I've got to go and check on the cattle, any problems, you know where I am, I hope you will be very happy here" , I cast them both a warm smile and left.
There was maybe a couple of hours of good sunlight left, I immediately made for the cowshed, calling all the time to Brevit.
The cows were all in, standing quietly. That's strange, Brevit must have brought them in, I thought. That dog is just getting too efficient, I smiled to myself.
It was then the awful, alarming, harrowing sight of Brevit's trampled body was revealed, between the cattle's hooves, covered in matted blood, manure and mud.
Instantly, I dove between the cattle's legs, stooping down to lift the poor lifeless body of my best friend, every bone in his body crushed.
The cattle looked on around me, with dark expressionless, doleful eyes.
How could this have happened ? Brevit was the best dog I ever had, for him to come to an end like that!. I just couldn't think. I stumbled across the courtyard with tears flooding my eyes distorting my view like a dream, with Brevit draped in my arms.
"I'll get the shotgun and shoot every one of those brainless creatures!" I hissed through my clenched teeth.
I laid Brevit by the back door, grabbed a bucket and filled it with warm water.
I washed the soil and blood from his fur. "I hope you didn't suffer my friend"
I must have sat and cried for an hour, finding no reason for my loss.
As the sun sank lower I collected myself to find my shovel.
I chose a resting spot, where he used to lay in the summer sunshine. I buried him in his blankets. When I had finished I crouched in contemplation at his graveside.
"Why ? You were too young, too agile, too quick for this to happen!" I buried my face in my hands.
Then all at once, my senses were heightened, I was being watched.
I turned around abruptly.
In the dusk, I could just make out the gaunt, pale features of the doctor staring through the upstairs window at me, before he stepped back into the shadow, by instinct I knew the other family members were also there, watching, hiding.
"They're going to have to go tomorrow!" I uttered under my breath as I slowly walked back to my empty house, "Along with the cows !"
The house was deathly still, my mind reeled, slowly absorbing the fact my friend was gone, slowly absorbing the whisky I was drinking. I eventually fell into a restless sleep.
I dreamt deeply and vividly. The Forsythe's were standing around me, looking down at me with vacant, devilish grins transfixed on each face.
The Doctor, his face, ever more so, resembling a skull, with paper thin skin exposing the muscle and bone beneath, folded into a hideous, contorted smile.
David, the eldest child, stood with both hands extended, as if taunting me, smeared with a mixture of soil and blood. Brevit's blood!? They erupted into a cacophony of cackling, barking and howling, with spit hanging from their jowls in sinuous strands.
I awoke, with a start, was I still dreaming ?. I could still hear the grotesque howling and barking! . No!, It cannot be! I rushed outside, toward the sound.
As my eyes adjusted to the moonlit night, six shadowy figures came into view, standing around Brevit's disinterred grave.
"What the hell is going on....?" I screamed, before I could finish, five of the six shadows launched towards me with tremendous speed. I felt unseen icy hands restrain my body.
Even the youngest child seemed to possess unnatural strength, so much so I feared I would be torn limb from limb.
"We are not going to hurt you, quite the contrary!"
With that, the doctor let out an unearthly cry and immediately fell backwards into the open grave in a crumpled heap.
At that instant, every nerve in my body screamed out in pain.
I slowly regained consciousness, and looked, with renewed love at my family.
"Daddy, Daddy !" exclaimed the children as they looked up from their work of interring the bodies.
I had once again passed through the skin deep veil of death, back to my family and loved one's.
"Please let me introduce myself, I am Forsythe, Dr Alan Forsythe, the manual work and rarefied air have given me a stout frame and countenance and this is my family, I think we will be very happy here........ for a time."
Thank you to those that have already posted a reply, Blackadder, Harley's Baby, Pirate Freak and True2blu4u. All Feedback, good or bad, gratefully accepted. Many Thanks. Phil.