Blacker than the Night
It is at that point between daylight and the first nudging of night they appear. Their form like black ink spots on the purple haze.
Some say they will get fast in your hair if they fly too close. Others say ‘No. They would never do that. For they have magic in their wings.’
Some say that if they catch a girl alone in the dusk-light, corner her away from any other of the human race, then she is lost, forever. She wouldn’t stand a chance, and she would belong to them. She’d never know her own family again, nor they her. She would be lost.
And all this could happen within the blink of an eye, you wouldn’t see it. Your girl child would be gone, disappeared and nothing could save her. Even the knowledge of the wise woman, that would be no good. Hadn’t the wise woman lost her own daughter that very way?
It was just as her daughter would turn sixteen that she was taken. A girl of such beauty and innocence; and one that would have made any man a fine wife. And she was pleasant of manner too, and tidy and neat about her person. And she kept the house well for her parents, and she could cook and sew, and there was not a person round about that would say anything bad about her. Everyone liked her. And her name was Ruby. And her father had chosen that name for her, and she was as bright as a jewel and they loved her; her mother and father. But even so, she was lost.
Ruby’s father searched for her. But no one had seen her in the village or in the town. She had vanished.
There’s some say as it broke her father’s heart. And to be sure it did, for he died by his own hand not three months after.
And Ruby’s mother, the wise woman, her heart was broken too. And sixteen years on she is still full with the grief of her troubles. And the sixteen years have taken her to an old woman. An old woman whose hope is gone and all used up; the wise woman who couldn’t save her own daughter.
She has nothing now except her house and her dog. And the dog is her family. And the dog will not leave. Not to be taken like her daughter and her husband. The wise woman knows she will not be alone, that the dog will not leave her. And the dog is pleased because she is his family and feeds him well and cares for him. And bats do not take dogs. They fly away from dogs and that is the way it is and that is the way it will always be. Because that is how it was meant, and the wise woman knows this. So, even though her grief is no less and her heart is not happy, even so, she is content.
Margaret Holbrook grew up in Cheshire where she still lives. She writes poetry, plays and fiction. Her work has appeared in several anthologies and her poetry has appeared in magazines including Orbis, The Journal and The Dawntreader.