Chapter 3: The Old Farmhouse
On the first morning in his new home Sam crept down the stairs before the sun had risen. It was peaceful and quiet but dreadfully different. Unopened boxes lay on the kitchen floor. He sat there, a little boy lost as the early morning light began to drift lazily through the kitchen window.
‘What you up to today then?’ mum quizzed him when she finally came through the door.
Sam grunted ‘dunno.’ He was, though, determined to seek out that old farmhouse down the lane.
By half past ten, mum was ready to leave to get some groceries. Sam surveyed the scene from his new favourite vantage point, sitting in the treehouse, a pair of binoculars he’d found in the first box he’d unpacked pressed to his eyes.
He watched her drive off and five minutes later slapped his feet in muddy puddles as he scampered across the lane. Then he trod in some sheep droppings. He sniffed and turned up his nose. This was one hazard of country living he swore he’d never get used to. As he wiped the sole of his trainer on the grass verge, his binoculars slid out of his pocket, scraping on the hard laneway as they fell. He picked them up, wiped them on his trousers and swung them around his neck. He bent down and picked up a stick. No journey along a country lane was complete without a stick. There was a slug clinging to it so Sam scraped it off with an already filthy fingernail, promising to remember not to put that finger anywhere near his mouth for some considerable time. He flicked at the ground with his new weapon and submitted to a minute or two of poking around in a muddy puddle. Then he slashed at a nearby tree with his makeshift sword and the stick snapped in two. The crack echoed along the lane and a large black bird leapt from a branch just above Sam’s head with a ‘caw’ screaming out. Sam looked up just in time to take a light shower of dew from the shaken leaves in the face. He wiped his eyes and followed the path of the large bird onto the roof of the farmhouse ahead. It didn’t sit there for long before lifting off again, soaring over the farmhouse and out of sight. Another light shower of dew fell on the back of his neck. Sam looked up. A second huge black bird had taken the place of the first. He moved on quickly, turning into the front yard of the old stone farmhouse.
The building looked ready to fall down. An old wooden door hung limply open, barely hanging on by its hinges. There was a patch, right in the middle of it, where it looked like something had been removed. There the wood looked clean and preserved and stood out like a shining star from the grime and dirt surrounding it. Smoke was starting to rise slowly from the chimney and Sam could hear the faint crackle of a fire through the open door.
A couple of chickens strutted out of the front door pecking at the ground as they went. They noticed a small, grubby boy staring at them and squawked away. Sam ducked out of sight under the sill of the front window of the house as the noise of the chickens faded, his back tight to the moss covered wall, knees pulled up under his chin. He pulled his binoculars up again and scoured the trees for any sign of that bird. A moment or two of sweeping the branches and there it was. And it was looking right back at him. He was spooked. He dropped the binoculars on the dirty ground as he jumped up but seized a chance to peer in through the window. He quickly wiped the glass with his hand and put his eyes to the window, cupping his hands on either side of his face. Two more eyes, pale green like his own, were staring right back at him from the other side of the glass. He thought they were just a reflection, then the other pair of eyes blinked and his own popped open. He turned quickly, knocking an already cracked flowerpot off the windowsill. It shattered on the ground as he fled but he didn’t stop running until he was back in his own driveway, panting loudly, out of breath, mud on his trainers, his dark brown scruffy hair coated in sweat, scratches on the back of his hands and the slime of a slug under his fingernail. He smiled. Friday was edging closer towards Good than he’d expected.