Hannah and Joey walked calmly down the path, laughing and chatting like little children.
“Hey, look,” Joey exclaimed suddenly, pointing a finger at a nearby farmhouse.
It stood just on the cusp of a woodland area, obscured by a cluster of willow trees. The windows were greasy with dirt and grime, and the house’s wooden exterior had been worn away by the elements, but there were fresh footsteps in the mud and a single light on in one of the bedrooms. A small field of sheep sat quietly in front of the property, seemingly undisturbed.
“That’s where Old Jimmy lives, the guy with the crooked eye,” Hannah replied. “Do you remember that group of kids that went missing around here? Well, I heard he ate them and buried their skeletons in that field. I wouldn’t be surprised. He’s a total creep.”
“I heard he set a whole flock of cattle on fire and let them loose across the countryside. He’s crazy like that, apparently.”
“I’ll give you five bucks if you go over there and knock on his door,” Hannah challenged with a sly grin.
Joey sniggered excitedly, considering the idea.
“Nah,” he responded with a dismissive wave. “He’s not worth the trouble. Let’s check out the field. Maybe we can find some skeletons of our own.”
“Are you crazy? That old coot would probably shoot us if we got close enough.”
“Nah, we’re fine. He never comes out of the house anymore. The worst he can do is yell at us.”
“Alright, if you’re sure,” Hannah concluded, still somewhat uncomfortable with the proposal. For a second, she swore she could have seen a pale silhouette in one of the farmhouse’s windows, but within a moment, it had vanished.
The pair shared another crude laugh at Jimmy’s expense, and they marched onwards towards the field. The smell of fresh soil grew slowly stronger the closer they walked. Just before Joey could place a hand on the gate's splintered surface, Hannah stopped, holding him back with the back of her hand.
“There’s something here,” she mentioned, gesturing to a worn signpost.
"WARNING: FOOT AND MOUTH. KEEP OUT." It read, written in bright, bold lettering. Hannah narrowed her eyes a little.
“Isn’t that some sort of disease? I don’t want to come down with something.”
Joey sighed, giving an exaggerated roll of his eyes.
“Humans can’t get Foot and Mouth, dummy, only animals. We’re fine.”
“Are you sure? Why would they-
Joey tutted mockingly and walked through the gate, cutting Hannah off.
The sheep awkwardly trotted away whenever Joey or Hannah got close, often backing up into a corner and baaing nervously. They seemed only to gather around the field’s edges, leaving a sizeable spot in the middle devoid of droppings and overgrown with uneaten grass.
“That’s funny,” Joey mumbled. “They don’t look infected with anything…”
Hannah paused suddenly, noticing a group of fissures in the ground. Thick, lengthy fractures were split straight through the dirt, like a broken window. A strange feeling washed over Hannah as she ran her fingers along the cracks. They felt almost…warm. As if they were alive.
“I don’t like this…something’s wrong. This place just feels off,” Hannah spoke nervously, glancing back and forth at the sheep. Was it just her imagination, or were they all just…staring? Not eating, not tending to their young. Just staring at her and Joey.
Joey looked over his shoulder, approaching Hannah with a smug expression.
“Stop being such a baby, they’re just sheep.”
“It’s not really the sheep I’m worried about…”
Joey noticed it too. Dead silence, completely out of the blue. Not even the tweet of a bird or the rustle of wind along the grass could be heard in the void of noise. It was like time had frozen. Joey’s face suddenly went deathly pale, and with buggy eyes, he pointed downwards at the grass. Hannah traced his finger, eventually spotting what it was he had been so mortified at.
A single human finger lay upturned on the soil, shrivelled up and covered in flies. The skin was flaky and bloodless, and the nail was hanging loosely by a small strip of tissue.
“Those m-missing… k-kids…” Joey finally spoke, frozen in horror.
Hannah saw a face in the corner of her eye and gasped. It was Old Jimmy, watching from the farmhouse window with his crooked eye and an anticipating smile on full display.
Without warning, a gargantuan foot fell from the sky, slamming into Joey from above and crushing him against the ground like a cockroach, before soaring back into the air out of sight.
Hannah screamed, only managing to turn back towards the gate before a huge mouth broke through the cracks in the soil, swallowing her whole and disappearing back down into the earth.
Jimmy stared from the farmhouse window, struggling to contain his laughter. With a mischievous smile, he added two more tally marks on the blackboard held in his hands.
“Number twenty-six...and number twenty-seven. Heh. Never gets old,” he remarked, leaning back in his frail rocking-chair.
“Never gets old.”
Written by Cornconic