Freitag, 20. April 2012
The men of the family had made a schedule, and since Sarah's father did not really like Andy, he was responsible for the time between three and nine in the morning. They all knew that Andy was afraid of the dark, and they kept making fun of him. Every morning when he finally returned to the house to grab some rushed belated breakfast, Sarah's father would grin and ask, "Seen any ghosts?"
And yet Andy was determined to do his part. He was the best slingshot shooter in town. If he hit one of the crows, they would croak and fly up, circling the air above the fields for a few minutes. And if that was not enough - some days the black plague was even more persistent than usual - he still had the gun, which he would fire up to twice per night. Of course this disturbed the other farm inhabitants' sleep, but it was better than having nothing to reap at the end of summer. And once Andy had even shot a fox intent on visiting the chicken coop, which had earned him a clap on the back from his future father-in-law and a smile from Sarah, who would have some fur to keep herself warm next winter.
The sky had only just started to light up, and between the trees where Andy was waiting it seemed to be even darker than during the night. He shivered. Dew had soaked through his jacket and pants. The birds were circling above the field, crawing nervously. This was not normal. What the heck was up with them? The young man looked around. Maybe another fox?
Behind him, to the right, something slithered through the bushes. Andy's head jerked around. For a moment he thought he saw something white, off in the direction where the family cemetary was located between the orchard and the fields, but whatever it was, it was gone in an instant.
"Geez, I'm gonna piss my pants if I start jumping at shadows", Andy muttered. His voice sounded too loud in the early morning stillness. He knew the stories, of Sarah's deceased great-grandfather, called "The Trickster". He had been famous for his practical jokes, and rumours had it he was still playing them from beyond the grave. Of course Sarah's father had only told him this to scare him. Everybody knew that ghosts didn't exist. Or at least everybody was pretty sure of this fact.
A branch snapped, and Andy flinched. He looked around, fingers clenched around the gun. The slingshot hung limp, loaded, from his other hand. Above him, the birds suddenly took leave, the whole flock flying towards the dark edges of the night sky as if commanded by a single thought. His heart started to race, and a tiny bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face.
Had he heard someone whispering his name?
Well, now that the birds where gone he might just as well go up to -
A cold hand touched his neck.
Andy swung around, shrieking, and fired. The slingshot sang, an angry note, and the pebble whooshed into the dark. Not too far, though, before it hid a pale figure right between the eyes. It dropped to the ground and disappeared between the branches.
His first instinct was, RUN! But he stopped himself, and thought about it. Ghosts were not supposed to be hit by stones, right? Carefully he inched forward to where he had seen the figure disappear.
Sarah's father lay in the wet grass, unconscious. He wore dark clothes, and his face was blackened out. Maybe he had tried to continue the family tradition of practical jokes. Well, tough luck. Andy bent over him, muttering, "I am sorry, you bloody fool!"
With a groan, the older man came back to life. "You're a dangerous shot", he muttered, and his hand went up to his forehead, massaging the red stain left by the pebble.
Andy was glad nothing worse had happened, and it did not come to mind for him to wonder what exactly he had seen between the bushes. He did not wonder how his future father-in-law could have touched him from several feet away. And since he did not look up, he did not see the pale beared face hovering between the leaves, grinning with satisfaction, before the first ray of morning sun sent the trickster back to the grave.