Chapter 1

Written by: annetteconnor

Grandma Brown knelt at the old outdoor water pump, wailing as the water trickled into the metal bucket. The thatched roof of the cottage cackled as it smoldered and smoked. I wrestled the handle from her grip and pumped.

     “Find another bucket, Gran,” I shouted, running with the full bucket to the cottage, wishing for a modern hose and spigot. Tossing the contents onto the thatch, I turned back toward the pump. Grandma Brown was nowhere in sight as I repeated the process. As I pumped, I heard another cry – this time shrill and inhuman. I turned with the bucket, ready to throw once more and froze.

     A giant white hawk perched on the thatching just above the open front door. It cocked its head, focusing a great emerald eye on me, blinking once. It mouthed a great, silent cry in my direction, and then craned its mighty head toward the open door. The raptor looked with one eye and then angled its head around to look inside with the other. It lifted one terrifying talon to its beak and judiciously stripped imaginary detritus from it.

     A loud crack from the left of the bird shook me from my reverie. I threw the bucket’s contents toward the sound. The hawk reared up and spread its massive wings, beating furiously. It gave an ear-splitting cry and rose into the air. At the same time, lightning struck from a darkening sky – not twenty feet away from where I stood. The thunder was instantaneous. Clouds opened and poured in great sheets across Grandma Brown’s cottage. The hawk was gone. The rain stopped as quickly as it had begun.

     “Jack!” I heard Gran’s call from Thompson’s Thicket. She limped at a surprising pace, the vicar and a couple of townsfolk following – all carrying buckets. I saw a flicker of white passing through the thicket of birch trees. Not flying, but gliding along the ground as if it were a woman clothed in white wending her way through the dense wood.

     “Jack,” Gran repeated, throwing her arms around me. Her breath rasped against my chest and I put my arms around her to hold her up.

     “Saints preserve us,” the vicar whispered. “It’s a miracle, Jack. You’ve saved Grandma Brown’s cottage, singlehanded.”

    I glanced back, where only thin wispy swirls of white steam remained. Cal Thornton stepped into the open doorway. “Looks clear,” he called back. “There’s hardly any damage at all on the inside. Can’t tell what started the fire.”

     “Something like a miracle,” I agreed, knowing I’d say nothing about the hawk or the wisp passing through the thicket. I gave Grandma Brown a gentle hug before setting her free to check her home. “You don’t go in, Gran, till Cal’s sure it’s safe.” I turned to the vicar. “We’d best be getting to the setting up. Rose is expecting me back at the house before long.”

Annette Connor, USA

Comments

I love the way this serial swerves towards a new genre. This chapter gives it a completely different feel. Beautifully crafted and the characterisation was great. A most enjoyable read.
This is a good story to carry on with. Nice work on that chapter Annette.
Interesting, slightly quirky, shades of darkness, inroads into the unknown. Annette is one writer with a distinct style of her own. Who would have thought that such a quaint little village story could suddenly change like the weather into a tale of what- Sorcery? I can picture Vincent Price popping into this story. Lovely imagery, Annette. I felt a little shiver dancing up my back and am wondering what our next writer will produce from their ink pot. Edgar Allen-Poe would love to follow this.
Thanks for the positive comments, everyone! And I apologize for taking so long. There were a couple of other editions of this with completely different outcomes - and none of them the slice of life that you started with, Raymond. I admit to holding my breath, waiting to see if you were going to throw your hands up in disgust because I'd turned it into something completely different.
I think it's good. I don't think we should worry what the originator thinks as we create something that is ours alone and not something we feel we have to do to satisfy others. I thought this was well written. As there are no hard and fast rules on the point you raised and as the story follows on nicely - the plot has been developed for the next writer to follow in a clever way.