Upon the Hills of Far Darrig
Anna sawed at the soggy meat on her plate with a dull serrated knife. Red
juice leaked from the slice of liver on her plate as she poked at it
with her fork. “Eat it all.” said Ester from her spinning wheel.
“I don't like liver.” replied Anna “It oozes.” Her mother had gone
down to the town in the valley. It was a two day ride. Anna hated
when her mother had to go, and she hated Ester. She was old, and she
smelled bad. If that wasn't awful enough she was mean too.
“You will eat it.” Ester had stopped spinning. “You eat it, or you
don't eat until your mother returns, got it?”
The milky blue cataract in Ester's left eye scared Anna, and It was
looking right at her. Anna gulped down her fear hard. “Yes, ma'am.”
Anna put a thick piece of the bloody liver into her mouth. Greasy
blood gushed between her teeth as she chewed. It made her feel sick
to her stomach.
“When you're done,” Ester had gone back to spinning wool into thread, “I
need you to go into the cellar and fetch some herbs for my tea.”
Anna bit another piece of soggy meat. She could feel the dread building in
her already sour tummy. Anna hated the cellar. It was so dark and
there could be mice. Anna was terrified of mice, but Ester frightened
her worse. “Yes, ma'am.” she said before taking another bite of
When Anna had finally finished she got up to clear her plate. She raked
the juices and leftover bits of fat and onion into the hog's feeding
bucket. Flies rose up from where they had been feasting on the
remains from breakfast. The tiny black insects assaulted her. They
buzzed in and out of her face. Anna swatted at them, but still they
Ester looked up again from her spinning to say, “Be sure you take that
bucket of slop to the hog. I want it big and fat by the time the cold
comes down from the mountains.” She untwined some of the thread
where it had become too thick before continuing, “It's going to be
a hard winter. I can feel it in my bones.” She glared with her
demon's eye and snapped, “Get my herbs!”
Anna looked down to avoid looking at Ester's eye, but she could feel it
staring. “I-I'm just off to fetch the herbs, ma'am.”
“Well, hurry up! I'm too old to be waitin' for my tea.” She coughed and
hacked; yellow gunk hung from her lips. She wiped it away with a
square of linen from her pocket then smiled, exposing her rotted
teeth. She said, “If you make me wait too long I might be dead by
the time you get back with my herbs.” Her dead eye seemed to glow
eerie white as she laughed hysterically at Anna's terrified face.
Anna quickly grabbed the pig's pail and a lantern then ran out through the
kitchen's side door. The night was foggy. It gave the little garden
by the kitchen a creepy feeling. Somewhere an owl hooted in the dark.
She walked a little quicker down the path toward the pig pen. Anna
watched her feet kicking the mist as she went. It tumbled and rolled
out of the way of her steps. She blocked the light of the lamp to
look ahead of her. She could see the dark shape of the hog house
rising over the low hill. “Stupid pig. I don't even like ham.”
she thought. “Why can't Ester just feed the pig. She's the one who
Anna kicked the dirt in frustration. The mist writhed and retreated from
her as she marched up to the hog's trough. She dumped the contents of
the slop bucket into the trough. She yelled out into the darkness
beyond the wooden fence, “Here pig! Here piggy, pig! I brought you
supper.” No response. She waited a moment then tried to call again,
but still there was nothing. Anna shrugged and continued to the
cellar to fetch Ester's herbs.
The cellar was just a few yards from the pig pen. It was a deep recess
built into the hill with giant stones. Ester had told Anna's mother
that the stones and the hole in the hill had been here since before
anyone could remember, and at the beginning of summer the sun would
shine in through the rocks on the same day every year. They had to
put up a door and fill in holes with dirt to keep their dried meat
and goods from spoiling. Some of the rocks had strange letters that
no one could read. Anna found those rocks to be interesting, but
still the cellar had always frightened her.
She stood in front of the cellar entrance now. Oddly, the door to the
cellar was wide open. It had been closed earlier when she had been
playing in the adjacent field. “Had Ester come since then?”Anna
wondered. The dark hole gaped open like a mouth in the hill. It
threatened to gobble her up. “Maybe she won't mind if I don't get
the herbs.” she thought as she began to shiver standing there
holding the empty pail and her flickering lamp. “'You little
coward, go back and get my herbs before I whip your bottom red!'”
Anna heard Ester say in her mind. Anna cringed, her fear of Ester won
out, so on she walked into the dark of the cellar.
The lantern cast dancing shadows throughout the dark cavern. Anna tried
not to look up from her feet. When she did she would see black shapes
like monsters in the dark. Once, she swore she saw a face. She felt
like she was going to cry. The herbs were kept in the deepest part of
the cave to keep them from mold, so that's where she crept to in the
Behind Anna heard a loud bang. She turned fast, and that made the little
flame in her lamp flicker wildly. The door to the cellar had slammed
shut. Her heart raced with fear. Her breaths became shallow and
quickly turned to sobs. Anna turned back toward the direction of the
herbs. “It was just the wind. Get the herbs and leave,” she said
trying to reassure herself.
As Anna went deeper into the dark she heard an odd sound. “Chomp,
slurp, chomp,” it went.
“Hello? Is anyone there?” called Anna. She clung tight to the lamp. She
could feel her legs shaking beneath her. “Hello?” she said again.
The sound had ceased. Anna turned around and around with the lamp.
Everywhere she peered into the dark, but there was nothing except
dried meat and sausages hanging from the ceiling. She stopped. There
had been a scratching sound to her right. She turned toward the
direction of the noise. Out of the dark a large brown rat flew across
her shoes. Anna screamed and took flight. She ran all the way back to
the door. Anna shoved it open with a loud creak. She fell onto the
beaten path, panting.
Anna turned to look back into the darkness of the cavern. The wood door
wagged in the night's wind. Suddenly, she remembered, “I forgot the
herbs. Ester will be very cross with me.” Anna sighed into her arms
on the ground. She had to go back to fetch them. Surely, she was
being silly. “It's just a gross rat. Mama would tell me it is more
scared of me than I am of it.” Anne was starting to feel really
silly about being so scared of the cellar and a tiny rat.
She stood up to brush herself off, and resolved of her fear she decided
to go back to fetch the herbs. Anna stormed into the dark, lantern
raised high. “I'll get those herbs. I'm not afraid.” she told
As she reached the point where she had seen the rat she held her breath.
She repeated in her mind, “I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid, I'm not
afraid.” Though, truly, she was a little afraid.
She could see the herbs in the dim light from her lamp. She was almost
there, but then she heard that strange sound again, “Chomp, slurp,
chomp.” It echoed till it died off, but then she heard it anew,
“Chomp, slurp, chomp.” It was coming from behind her.
The shivering had returned to Anna's legs. Her heart raced wild like the
flickering flame of the lamp. Anna spoke in a weak voice, “Hello?
Is someone there?” Silence. She could hear her heart beating in her
ears. Again she tried, “Hello? Is anyone there?” Still there was
She turned to the herbs to grab them and leave. As her hand touched the
dry and withered stocks of the field herbs Anna felt a tap on her
shoulder. Fear shot like lightening up her spine. Anna turned slowly,
lantern raised. There before her was a half rat, half man grinning
with glowing yellow eyes. Greenish-white saliva slipped down it's
teeth to fall onto the dirt floor.
Anna screamed and ran. She ducked under its clawed arm as it grabbed for
her. She raced as fast as she could until she tripped. The lamp
rolled on the floor, but in the light Anna saw the hog. It looked
like it had been torn apart and eaten. Beside the hog's dismembered
head crouched another rat-man, smiling. Anna jumped up, forgetting
the lamp and ran toward the only exit. She could hear the scratching
of their claws as they followed after her.
Anna was sobbing and panting. She could see light coming through the door.
She was almost to it. Just a little further. Anna pounced for the
crack of an opening in the doorway. She scrambled through it. Anna
slammed the door shut, and she made sure to throw the wooden block
down to lock it from the outside. She could hear the rat-men clawing
and kicking the door. One of them growled through the bottom of the
door, “Little girl, we're going to make you squeal like your little
piggy did.” It laughed.
“I'm going to rip into your nice warm guts and eat'em.” put in the
other. “We're so hungry! Feed us!” Anna could see their wet black
noses sniffing under the door.
“I'm not going to feed you! You're not nice at all!” said Anna crossly.
Anna stomped on their noses before she turned to run back to the
house. She could hear them screaming at her and ramming the door as
she fled down the dark foggy path.
Anna was huffing and puffing when she reached the door to the kitchen. She
ran up the little stoop and flung the door wide open. She panted out
towards Ester, “There are monsters in the cellar!” She turned and
rammed the door shut with her body's weight. She jolted closed the
iron bolt that locked the door. She turned back around and said,
“Ester, did you hear me? There are monsters in the cellar! We're in
Ester turned around from where she had been sitting by the fire. “Where
are my herbs? Anna, I need those herbs.” said Ester, but only she
didn't look right. Dark black fur was growing on her cheeks. Her dead
eye had become enlarged and glowed an evil blue color. “I need my
tea, child.” she said with a mouth full of sharp fangs. She rose
from where she sat and began to limp toward Anna. She yelled across
the room, teeth glinting firelight, “Where are my herbs, Anna?”
Anna turned and flung open the bolt and door to flee into the night. She
ran out across the field. Once she crested the hill she saw green
eyes shining at her from off in the distance. She sprinted the only
way she could think to go. She retreated toward the dirt road heading
to the village over the mountain.
She ran for what seemed forever. Her heart was beating incredibly fast.
Anna was certain that her heart would explode from her chest if she
ran anymore, so she stopped running. She looked behind her. There
seemed to be no one pursuing her, so she just continued moving
forward into the dark night.
The dark fog swallowed her up as she walked down the old road. After a
little while she saw a yellow light coming from further down the
road. They had no neighbors, so that could only mean one thing.
“Mama!” called Anna. “Mama! You're back!” Anna ran smiling
toward her mother.
The old cart was slowly moseying along. The old yellow mare neighed at
her as she reached the cart. Her mother sat in the driver's seat
completely bundled up against the chill of the night. Gently she
said, “Anna, what are you doing by yourself out here?”
Panting and smiling Anna said, “Mama, I missed you.” Her expression
changed once she remembered the monsters. “There are monsters at
our house! They were in the cellar and then Ester was a monster, too.
Mama, we have to get out of here now!”
Her mother spoke softly, pulling back her hood, “Honey, that's silly.
There are no such things as monsters.” Anna lost all of the breath
from her lungs. Looking back at her was a large owl face. It's eyes
glowed bright orange. “Anna, what's wrong?” it said in her
mother's sweet voice. “Are you alright?”
Anna backed from the cart slowly then fled down the road to the village,
crying. Anna played over in her mind, “This isn't happening! It
isn't! What can I do?”
An evil voice screamed, “Got ya!” Anna's world was tumbling until
she was hanging upside down. Below her she saw big rat claws. She was
being carried back to the cart. She flailed and screamed. “Be
still! Don't make me have to eat you right here.” the rat man
It didn't take long before they reached the cart, yet all the blood had
rushed to Anna's head. She was very dizzy, and she felt sick to her
stomach. The rat man flung her into the back of the cart. He pinned
her hard against a sack of flour. Anna began to struggle against his
iron grip. “Be still.” he said as he bound her arms and legs with
“Is everything okay back there?” called the owl with her mother's
The rat bared its teeth at Anna then growled out, “I need help holding
her down. She's so squirmy.”
Another voice came from the dark, “I'll hold her for you.” The other
large rat came out of the fog, teeth gleaming with saliva.
The beastly rats held her limbs down hard against the sacks of flour. She
couldn't move at all as they tied her up. Hot tears crawled down her
cheeks. Both of the monster rats hopped into the cart and seated
themselves around Anna. They both eyed her, drooling, as the cart
continued down the dirt road toward the little farm on the hill.
It felt like Anna had been tied up forever. Her muscles ached from
struggling, and her throat was raw from shouting for help. None came
though. Anna saw the light from the house on the ground below the
wagon. They had made it to the farm. Anna's crying began again. “You
sure cry a lot, girl,” said one of the rat-men as he lifted her up.
“You're really heavy, too.” Drool poured over Anna's legs as he
carried her up the stoop into the house.
Anna smelled stew brewing as they came into the kitchen. She could hear
the lid of the pot rumbling as it boiled over. “Mmm, we're having
stew, Ester?” inquired the owl-woman. “Is it nearly ready? I'm so
A large badger in Ester's clothes loomed over Anna from on the floor
where the rat-man had sat her. The badger's blue glowing eye smiled
as she said through a mouth full of sharp fangs, “Almost, I just
need one more ingredient.” She reached towards Anna's direction.
Anna screamed, “Don't eat me, please!”
All of the beasts laughed at once. “Eat you?” inquired the big Badger
in Ester's leathery voice. “Why would we eat you?” The badger
grabbed a clump of flour from one of the sacks that were brought in
with Anna. “I need flour for the stew, silly girl. It's not thick
The owl stood over Anna now, “Dear, are you alright?”
Anna cried out, “You're all animals. You're monsters!”
Again they all laughed. The owl walked across the room and grabbed a large
sharp knife from the wall. Anna felt the fear rise from her stomach
to her throat. The owl stood over her now with the knife raised in a
feathery hand. Anna saw in the blade's reflective surface big shining
yellow eyes looking back at her. Anna looked at the owl as she
replied in a soft voice, “Honey, so are you.”
Anna screamed and screamed. Her pleas of disbelief could be heard well
into the dark of the night. They rolled over the tumbling fog until
there was only silence, but somewhere in the dark there came the low
baying cry of an owl.