Monday 4 January 2010

The Twelfth Dog of Christmas

The season for supernatural tales is not yet over at Hawker’s Pot. Last night, we drew our chairs up to the fire and the Reverend Hawker told us one of the most terrifying yet:

“It was on a winter’s night a few years ago. I was walking back from a lonely cottage to whose poor inmate I had been offering words of spiritual encouragement, and was profiting from a high full moon to walk across the moors. Suddenly, I found my way barred! In the moonlit strip of the track, hackles raised, growling vehemently, a mere few feet away from me, stood a dog! Shadowy its form was, certainly, horrible and uncanny, but I recognised the creature. It was none other than the dog of Farmer Hackpen, an old acquaintance of mine. And yet it could not be! For Farmer Hackpen lived twenty miles hence, and I had passed through his farmyard that very morning and seen the dog there! Thinking fast, I bent down, picked up a stick and threw it -- threw it with all my might! The dog bounded after it, of course, yelping and yipping as it careered headlong over the uneven moorland. And so I went quickly on my way.

“How did I know to throw a stick? you ask.

“Because I had recognised it was a fetch, of course.

“These apparitions bode ill, as I’m sure you know, and, seen in the evening, presage the death of the one whose form they take. It came as no surprise, therefore, when I saw Farmer Hackpen two days later and he told me his dog was dead. But worse was to come. The dog would not lie in its grave! The night it was buried, its re-animated corpse scratched its way out of its grave and spent the hours of darkness sniffing and scratching and howling around the farm house. “The wife an’ me were terrible afeared,” the farmer said. “‘She said to me, you should’n’t never have done shot that ol’ dog, no matter how bad ‘e was.” Taking spades and mattocks, the farmer and I dug a far deeper grave and laid the dog in it. After we had tamped the earth down solidly over the corpse, I performed a brief ceremony, and then showed the farmer the way to leave the grave of a dog to ensure that it remained buried. Walking backwards, we took five steps, stopped, commanded ‘Stay!’; took another five steps backwards, stopped, said ‘Stay!’; continued so, saying ‘Stay!’ at every five paces, backwards all the way to the farmhouse, which haven reached, we stepped inside and slammed the door.

“‘And will that do it?’ asked the farmer. ‘‘E never would lie still, ol’ Shambles.’
“I assured him that the ceremony would ensure that even the most dogged spirit, or spirited dog, would not return. ‘But why did you shoot him?’ I asked.
“‘‘E started worrying sheep, that’s why,’ the farmer said.
“‘He certainly worried me,’ I replied.”

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