The Sallow Rabbit comes just before the dawn,
When the sun is rising and the sky looks torn.
She hunts around for the waste of her kin,
For in this little village there’s no greater sin.
A treaty long drawn from a time of great ravage,
When the Earth cowered and man remained savage.
You may take from the Earth but leave nothing wasted,
Lest, by the Sallow Rabbits teeth, your flesh will be tasted.
The music you’ll hear is claws and teeth sharp,
and she’ll use your veins to restring her harp.
In a cold remote place with all the hallmarks of a scary story is a village.
A village with thatched roofs, with mud walls and straw beds. A village stuck in a time before internet and telephones. A village hard to get to, cut off from the wider world. A village living in ignorant bliss and fear. A village with a curse upon it’s head. A village where The Sallow Rabbit preys.
It’s rare anyone leaves the village, rarer they come back and rarer still that they bring an outsider with them.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what Truefo, now known as Michael in the big city, had done.
His first mistake had probably been choosing Sharon as his mate. His second mistake was bringing her home.
“I’m not eating them I don’t like them.” Sharon said looking around the table.
“She has too, there can’t be anything left.” Michael’s older sister said on a whisper.
Compared to the dull browns of fur and mud around her Sharon was a cacophony of colour. Too loud and bright for the older generations at the opposite end of the table. Maybe that’s what had attracted Michael to her in the first place, she was bubblegum pinks and sky blues. She was bold children’s colours, that seemed too bright. She was flashy and shiny with diamante sayings on the bottom of her trousers and plastered across the breasts of her top.
Michael had never met a woman so caught up in her own world. So entirely obsessed with herself. She had been so shiny and attractive to him. Like a flame enticing a moth or the bright electric blue of the bug zappers in the big city. He had been drawn to her and into her. She had taught him things about being a person in his own right, not enough of course that he stopped following her around like a puppy though.
“I’ll eat them.” Michael said reaching out for the worn clay plate.
“You don’t like them either.” Sharon said lifting the plate away, her pink polished acrylic nails dipping into the left over pale sauce that coated the stems of broccoli. “Just put them in the bin.”
There was an audible gasp from Michael’s mother at the end of the table.
“Or put them in the compost.” She added looking around and realising now that actually she hadn’t seen any bins anywhere. Not even a big commercial dumpster like restaurants had outside.
“It’s fine.” Michael said quietly in a voice that suggested it wasn’t fine but he would do it to appease the family. Half of them were staring at Sharon like she’d announced there was a bomb, the other half were playing silently with their food as the air turned tense.
“Michael.” Sharon said raising a brow at him.
“You haven’t told her Truefo?” Michael’s fathers voice was filled with something close to but not quite disappointment.
“It’s fine.” Michael said gritting his teeth and reaching for the plate again.
“Told me what?” Sharon asked.
“She wouldn’t believe him anyway.” Michael’s sister scowled.
“She would if he showed her the barn.” Michaels younger brother chimed in.
“When did you see the barn?” Michaels mother’s head whipped around. Sharon hadn’t seen her move so fast in the three days she’d been here.
“What are you talking about?” Sharon raised her voice as loud as she could and silence fell across the room. Earthy air stilled as each member of the family over seven looked at each other.
“I’ll eat them!” Bryla, Michael’s younger sister said, a smile all teeth directed Sharon’s way.
As Sharon came to know Michael she began to appreciate the fact that he really hadn’t grown up around credit cards, VCR’s and the blossoming internet. When he’d first told her about his strange little village she’d thought he was exaggerating. Places like that just didn’t exist anymore, unless you were part of some strange religion or cult, of which Michael was neither. She’d thought his description, the mud walls, the straw rooves, the lack of anything approaching the bright American candy colours she rolled around in was all exaggeration.
Even now she was here Sharon could hardly believe what she was seeing.
She’d grown up on a farm so she was hardly unfamiliar with the idea of less waste more use. Familiar with the outdoors, familiar with animals and the smells that accompanied them. She was familiar with camping in the back of truck beds and trudging across boggy marshland. Familiar with the time and effort it took to put home grown produce on the table.
This was something else though. Of the four meals they’d eaten so far not a single plate had been left with anything on it. Michaels siblings had finished off her broccoli from the roasted pheasant, the crust from her pie and the bits of salad she’d left. His mother had drunk the milk in the bottom of the glass she’d left and his father had stopped her from pouring orange dreggs down the sink. There were no real bins, no places for garbage, everything was being reused. Even the tiny pieces of the modern world she glanced here and there had been repurposed. Sweet wrappers, hot dog packet, even the price sticker off a yoyo had been put to use elsewhere.
Sharon was trudging through the woods trying to get some kind of signal on her cell phone but there was nothing. Not a single bar amongst the trees. There was nothing but the silence of nature for miles, no bright neon, no horns honking, no music drifting on the wind, echoing from the street. Not the sound of a freeway, not the pull of a tractor. There was no sound of workmen getting ready to build something new.
There was nothing but the slight rustle of the trees in the breeze, the occasionally sound of something rooting around nearby and if she strained hard enough, the sound of insects going about their business.
Sharon pressed on, hoping higher ground would help. She took a bite into the apple she’d taken off the side and regretted it. The yellow green of the skin was bruised in places and the flesh was bitterer than anything she’d had before. She felt a twinkle of rebellion as she spat the bite on the ground, knowing that Michael’s Family would have probably grabbed at the bite and snaffled it up or buried it amongst the stems and roots that went unused but not forgotten.
Sharon threw the apple over her shoulder. It rolled down the hill as she groaned loudly. The last bit of civilization they’d passed had been at least 2 hours away, a McDonalds. If Sharon strained hard enough she could almost smell it’s distinct aroma. That was two hours in a car though, there was no way on foot she’d make it all that way.
Sharon paused, bracing her leg on a log and brushing debris from the forest floor off her converse.
A twig snapped somewhere behind her. Sharon took a cursory glance, just in case. There was nothing but the view from the hillside. The sun rising, the sky coloured in reds and pinks, looking like a child had made it from torn paper and cotton wool.
Then came the noise. A shrill, piercing screech like nails down a chalkboard. Like a knife and fork scraping the porcelain of plate as someone tucks in. The sound was a melody not quite in rhythm that made unease creep up her spine.
Sharon turned and the world became a blur of blood, teeth and fur.
Michael stared into the barn, his breathing laboured and bile rising fast inside him.
“She was found this morning, we put her here with the others.” Alick said as Michael vomited round the side of the door. “She’s unforgiving and unrelenting Truefo, you know that.” Alick said as guilt chased the vomit spewing from Michael as he heaved again.
The woman he’d thought of marrying. The woman who was so different from this world of curses and the earth. The woman who’d brought bold colours and neon lights into his life was contorted before him into the shape of a harp. Her skull forming the top most point. From her spine, now curved from her skull, were strung veins and sinew forming the strings of the harp with her other limbs and bones making up the rest of the frame and decoration.
The Sallow Rabbit had added to her orchestra of the dead once again.