*stretches arms, cracks neck, pops knuckles*
Alright, then. Let’s do this.
ONCE UPON A time, there was a small village in the middle of a large country. Some called it pastoral. Others called it bucolic. The people who lived there called it home.
Summers were hot and long. Winters were cold and dark. It was a pleasant, quiet place to live, even if the internet was spotty.
Not that people could afford internet. The village, while lovely, was also very, very poor.
One winter, not long ago, a blizzard the likes of which had never been seen before slammed into the village and surrounding towns. Temperatures dropped to forty below zero. Wind gusts were reported at over seventy miles per hour. And the snow… it fell like pieces of a broken sky, snowflake upon snowflake, climbing higher and higher.
“Will it stop?” the little boy asked his grandmother as they huddled in front of the space heater, wrapped in quilts and old blankets. “What if it doesn’t stop?”
His grandmother kissed the top of his head. The boy’s mother – her only child – overdosed, leaving her son alone in the world. This boy, this small, frightened boy, was all she had left in the world. “It will stop. It always does.”
“But what if it doesn’t?” He gazed up at her, his eyes full of fear and the resignation of hopelessness. “We’ll die, won’t we?”
“Don’t say that,” she chastised and held him closer.
He sighed. “It’s okay. If we die, I’ll see mommy again.”
His grandmother held him tighter and concentrated on breathing. “We should sing… let’s sing. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine – ”
A knock at the door interrupted her, “Who’s that?” the boy asked, eyes wide.
“Don’t know.” His grandmother struggled to her feet. “Who’s there?”
“Hey, there. It’s the sheriff. Doing a health and welfare.”
The voice was deep and familiar but tinged with a poorly concealed mockery. Don’t you want to let me in? Aren’t you cold and afraid? I’m the sheriff, after all. I’ll protect you. Let me in.
The grandmother took hold of her shotgun. “We’re fine here. Just fine.”
“Well… you mind if I do a visual? I need to report back, and they’ll ask me if I did a visual.”
“Grandma.” The boy worried a fingernail. “Don’t open the door.”
A trickle of fear coursed through her spine. Memories of the old stories, of tricksters and goblins, and old things that lived here long before her people were starved out of Ireland and forced into this brutal new land flooded her mind. She raised the firearm. “We’re fine, sheriff. All good.”
“Still, I should see – ”
“I will not open the door, Sheriff. If you are the sheriff, be assured, all is well here. If you are not, I’ve got a loaded firearm and plenty of bullets.”
Silence for a moment, followed by a laugh that chilled far worse than the storm. “Firearm, you say? As if a firearm could stop me – ”
“My bullets are iron.” His grandmother cocked the trigger. “Leave. I command you. Leave this house.”
The creature banged on the door. “Let me in… let me in… let me in – ” its voice began to fade ” – let me in… let me… let me… me… ”
Soon all that she heard was the howl of the wind. The grandmother uncocked the trigger and returned to her place next to her grandson. “Maybe we should play Go Fish?”