Hollow Soundings – A Short Story
I fancy myself a writer from time-to-time so I thought I would post one of my short stories. Maybe somebody will read it and enjoy it… and maybe not. 🙂
Mary limped along the forest path, her cane tip sinking slightly into the hard packed earth. She muttered to herself as she hobbled along, “Be vewy vewy qwiet. I’m hunting wabbit.”
She didn’t say it very loud. Actually the statements came out as more of a grunt through her labored breath.
Her slow-gaited swing eventually brought her to an old log that lay across the path. Without hesitating, she took her cane and banged it against the rough bark three times in over handed blows. The instant she lifted the cane from the last strike, a rabbit jumped from the open end of the trunk. Mary had speed that belied her physical appearance and she used it to good measure. She caught the rabbit in mid hop right behind the ears. Just as quickly as she had caught the small animal, her nails dug into the loose skin that surrounded the rabbit’s neck and with a quick jerk, twist, and tear the head was loosed from the body.
Mary turned around and headed back the way she had come now whispering, “Cook, cook! I have my hasenfeffer.”
It was a five minute shuffle for her to travel the hundred yards that separated the slaying field from the tree that she decorated with the heads of the animals that she caught. There were hundreds of skulls in varying forms of species and decomposition. They hung from the lower branches of the tree like a bizarre display of holiday cheer. She slipped a wire through the rabbit’s ears and tossed it over the point of an open twig, adding another bulb to her menagerie.
Everybody that used the road or sidewalk that ran along Mary’s property could take in the gruesome scene but there wasn’t anything they could do but shake their heads and quickly move on. The city held no jurisdiction over the property as it had been grandfathered under an old homesteader law that gave Mary protection to leave her yard in any state she felt satisfying. There had been many citizens disappointed by the answers to appeals to have the tree undecorated. Most people had just taken to calling the lady of the lawn, Mindless Mary, thinking she was crazy.
There was a story on how she had lost her foot that circulated around the downtown diners and barber shops. Most people believed the story and felt it held the secret to when Mary had started slipping a few gears.
Supposedly, as a child, she and a group of friends had decided to play hide-and-seek on a farm that had been left to grow over when the family that owned it could no longer afford to continue the upkeep. Mary had lowered herself over the edge of a well using her legs and back to prop herself against the lip. She hadn’t counted on one side of the wall giving way and sending her falling thirty feet to the bottom of the well. She had been knocked unconscious by the fall. Needless to say, the other children were unable to find her and had simply concluded she had headed home weary of the game.
Mary’s parents had been the type not to notice her coming and going and it was several days before they realized she was missing. It was another ten days before anyone thought to look down the well of the old farmstead. Two days before she was found, Mary had grown so hungry that she had began gnawing on her right foot. By the time she was found, the foot was infected and mutilated beyond what medical care could reverse. The foot was taken in order to save the leg.
It was her playmates that first noticed Mary was a bit off after the episode. 6 months after having her foot removed, she returned to school using the same cane she used to this day. Kids being kids, they asked the obvious question:
“How did that happen?”
To which she answered, “Playing hide-and-seek. I won and the prize was this stick.”
“But what happened to your foot?”, they would inquire.
“A girl’s got to eat”, was the matter-of-fact answer given with a shrug of the shoulders. “I heard the hollow soundings.”
Now, thirty years later, the rabbit was going to fill the latest wave of hollow soundings.