HAGS IN AUTUMN
by Rosalyn Gingell
Deep in the heart of the forest, two hags harvested their prey. Practised fingers tore at metal as they emptied traps of their kill. Above them, crisp autumn leaves caught by the morning sun, bronzed the sky.
Birds huddled in groups, perched silently, motionless in branches. Frogs and toads peered from the safety of fallen leaves and dead wood. Rabbits braved the entrances to burrows. Forest eyes watched from behind every tree and from beneath every fern.
Along the narrow woodland path, worn sandy grey over the centuries, the hags had crept the evening before, destroying unfamiliar snares and setting their own. They had been watched then, as they were watched now.
For as long as the forest could remember, the hags had dwelt within it, were a part of it, carrying out their seasonal harvesting. It was expected, awaited.
The screams and agony that had ripped through the night had ceased. The terror and anguish that echoed through the forest was fading.
One hag, black eyes glazed, forced the jaws of a large snapping trap apart with ease and released its lifeless quarry. She drew her axe and hacked it into small enough pieces to fit her sack, funnelling the blood into a bucket.
A deer darted across the path.
The prey in the next trap was still alive. Gaping holes in its flesh from the jagged teeth oozed blood. Its eyes, pitiful, pathetic, pleaded release. It came as the butt of the axe split its head.
One by one the traps were emptied, the bodies mutilated: no pity shown, no mercy given. And the forest watched.
Harvesting completed, the hags disarmed the snares and buried them deep beneath the ground, covering the grave with the damp mush of fallen leaves. They would return to re-set them. The terror would begin again.
When the forest warned them, the hags would return. Their harvest would feed the forest. Poachers blood was potent.
Rosalyn says: "I am a Brit living in the Netherlands where I have taught English as a Foreign Language and Freelanced in Language and Translation. As a new, yet unpublished writer, I write Short Stories for adults and children and love the creativity of Flashes." Contact Rosalyn.