This week we have a piece from John D Robinson; it is a piece that shifts time periods, settings and perspectives in a startling fashion to create a jarring, frightening atmosphere that compliments the heavy subject matter.
Right now imagine yourself in a previous century and in another country, one that is far away and where you have never been before. It is mid afternoon, it is warm and you can hear the various noises of the insects in the tall yellow grass that surrounds you. Slowly spinning around on your heels you can see that you are on a farming plot; to your left there is an orchard, row upon row of apple trees and beyond the fruit trees are endless fields of corn. The sky above is a beautiful purple blue with no traces of cloud, the sun is scorching and colours everything it touches with glints of gold.
As you turn away the dry and brittle earth crunches beneath your feet and frightens several birds that were hidden in the undergrowth, they scramble and cry out and then dart into the humid air and quickly disappear into the near distance; you are both startled and relived simultaneously and let go a soft quiet laugh. After walking for a few minutes you see something lying up ahead in the grass that looks kind of familiar, but you are not certain it is what you are think it is. You approach it with caution, as you near you can see it looks very old, perhaps eighty years old, but it is difficult to guess; it appears to be well looked after, touching the mud upon the blade you are surprised to feel that it is moist, it has been used very recently, perhaps earlier in the day. It is a small land plough; you have seen faded black and white photographs of such things.
Suddenly a dog begins barking, it sounds near by. You start to walk slowly in the direction of the barking, it is not too long before you see the dog. The dog is large and black and is tethered to a long thick rope that is attached to a wooden stake driven deep into the ground. A little way beyond the dog is a building. It is a small log cabin. Surrounding the cabin is a frail looking wooden fence that leans and sways in the gentle breeze and a gate lies forlorn upon the ground.
You begin to walk towards the cabin all the while watching the dog, it has stopped barking and as you pass by it looks up at you with blank and vacant eyes as if it does not see you. When you are only a few feet away from the log cabin a young girl, perhaps five or six years old suddenly runs from out of the log cabin. She begins skipping in circles and sings what you guess is a nursery rhyme. You are standing at the fence looking at the little girl. She is wearing a hand made dress, it is made of a harsh looking cloth and is a dull grey in colour; she wears no shoes and her feet are filthy and the skin looks hard. The little girl is completely unaware of your presence; she can not see or hear you.
At a window of the cabin you can see two figures within, a man and a woman. The man is sat at a wooden table, there is a large flagon in front of him upon the table and he frequently raises it to his mouth to drink. His clothing is made with the same harsh and uncomfortable looking material as that of his daughter, he also wears no footwear, his skin looks weathered and tough. The woman, his wife, is of a slight build, her hair is long and shiny and she is pretty, her dress is a replica of her daughter’s. She wears some hand stitched shoes. The woman is peeling some vegetables and then putting them into a small iron pot of boiling water. You turn around to see the little girl teasing the dog with a stick, the dog is barking again and the little girl is laughing.
It is a little after dusk now. All three of the strangers are inside the wooden cabin. They have just finished their meal and are sat around the table, the little girl is laughing as the two adults look on bemused. It is getting cold outside now, the sky is getting thick and the insects can no longer be heard and the dog is asleep.
The light from the oil lamps throw a strong light within the cabin, all three are engaged in conversation and every now and then the man will lift a flagon to his mouth. The man moves away from the table and upon a wooden shelf, he finds his pipe, he fills it with tobacco and lights it, plumes of blue white smoke rises and falls within the room. The woman says something to her daughter; the little girl moves away from the table and skips over to her father. He embraces her and kisses her upon her forehead, she runs over to her mother, they kiss and cuddle and then the little girl disappears into a small space that is segregated from the room by sheets of hanging cloth materials.
Behind you in the dark orchard something is moving, you can hear the snapping of dry twigs underfoot, the dog begins to bark furiously. Your heart begins galloping and a fear begins to creep into your blood. Inside the cabin the man rises from the table and opens the cabin door, he shouts out at the dog to stop barking, but the dog doesn’t stop. The man disappears into the cabin for a few moments and then reappears carrying a shot gun in his hands. He walks over to the dog and releases the rope from around its neck; the dog takes off at great speed towards the orchard; the man follows the dog as quickly as he can and as he passes by, you can smell the whisky upon his heavy breath.
A pitiful and desperate cry soars into the cold air, a young human cry that penetrates through into the darkness. You are just a few yards away from the man; on the floor before him is his dog that has the arm of a young boy gripped between its jaws, the dog is snarling and viciously moving its head from side to side. The young boy perhaps twelve years old yells in pain and begs the man to call the dog off. You look into the face of the young boy; you have never witnessed such terror in the face of another human being and you begin to feel sick. You want desperately to help and you shout and scream for the man to stop this, but he and the young boy, cannot hear or see you.
At last the man calls to the dog, the animal backs away but continues to bare its bloodied teeth and snarl. The young boy is sprawled upon the ground surrounded by fallen apples, his arms are bleeding and he is pleading and apologising and begging for forgiveness. The man stands silent staring at the crying boy. The boy reaches out for the legs of the man. The man steps back and kicks the outreaching hand. You want to rush in and pick this kid up and run away, but you can’t, you can do nothing. The man begins to shout at the boy, you can’t hear the words but you know they are hurtful and vicious words. The man levels the shotgun at the young boy. You turn away and scream. The man pulls the trigger, the explosion thunders deep into the night forever more.
The man turns away and walks back towards the log cabin, the dog at his side. You look over at the young dead boy, you quickly turn away and vomit and then a blackness suddenly envelopes you.
Hours later you are awoken by the sound of a shovel striking the dry and brittle earth.
Here, the use of the second person makes the author seem as though he is talking directly to the reader, taking him by the arm & dragging them through this harrowing experience, subjecting them to all it’s horrors.
Come back next week for another excellent piece!