|John Bauer - 1915 - The Gold Key- "and she held up a key, a find key made of pure gold."|
Astrid has been sent to live by herself for the summer. She is to care for the small herd of sheep and cows in the lower pasture land, complete with a tiny sod-roofed summer cottage. Her family continues to live in the main house, far above her in the mountains. When no one comes for her at the appointed time, she treks up there on her own, to find that something horrible has happened. She can't live there anymore. She takes anything she might need back to the Summer Farm and prepares for a winter there. What she doesn't know is what happened to her family, who or what is terrorizing her, when or if someone will come help her, and if she can survive on her own. So...scary things that might happen to her:
creaking floorboards coupled with swaying, sputtering lanterns
From her garden, her eyes perceive the shape of someone who has hastily entered her cottage. She runs up to the door but she hesitates to enter. She hears nothing coming from inside, but she puts her ear to the door all the same. Someone behind the door, knocks. From inside. Right opposite her ear. When she swings the door wide to dissuade the intruder, she sees no one.
getting scared and dropping something outside upon her hasty exit, only to find it (perhaps neatly folded) on the end of her bed in the morning. Her doors and window are shut fast and locked.
strange things happening in bright daylight
stepping over a threshold and feeling instantly and acutely vulnerable
hazy shapes at dusk
creeping and shuffling, in a barn, at night
dead farm animals in the morning that at night were perfectly alive and healthy the night before
hands and fingers on legs in deep, murky water
tapping on windows, at night, with no moon
a cold, long shadow coming over her suddenly whilst sitting in the forest in a bright spot with the sun high overhead, turning to see what makes the shadow, only to have it, just as suddenly, disappear. nothing.
being stuck - anywhere - and not being able to get out
on a midnight pathway through a forest with only half a moon, she sees before her a night shadow - dense and deep as the maw of a cave - under a thick oak, and as she passes through it, she bumps her feet into something soft laying there in the middle of the path
deep loneliness in a strange new place
not being able to start a fire after pulling herself from a frozen lake
strangers being strange
partially submerged any-things
those she loves instantly being apathetic toward her
something that lures innocents to danger and death
writing quietly in the dead of night and hearing the squeaky wheels of a tiny wagon being pulled along under the window immediately to her right
having to choose between certain anguish or certain anguish
whispers in empty houses
no soft noises from the forest
fiddle music coming from a cave - that is empty
pool surfaces that do not ruffle in sudden breezes
ancient peeling wallpaper revealing chalked on hexes
coming suddenly upon nests of things - other than birds
finding body-width holes in the ground that drop more than 10 feet into cave systems that have no other way in or out, BUT those body-width holes - now 10 or more feet above her.
if she finds, one day, that every single thing about the life she has led and are leading now, is regretful.
getting tangled, head-to-toe, in a fishing net that is steadily being pulled into the ocean
The animals in the barn are in distress - loudly. She hops out of bed and bundles on her sweaters and shawl to run out and see what the matter is. As it gets louder and louder, she gets more frantic. She swings the barn door wide and leans in with the lantern. Utterly quiet. Not one peep. She inspects each animal. They all appear to be breathing softly and content. Confused, but glad, she steps back out of the barn and closes the door quietly. On her way back to the house, her lantern sputters out and there is extremely heavy breathing right behind her, warming her ear.
fingers poking at her back, under the covers in bed, when she sleeps (and lives) alone