A nice email arrived the other day saying that my latest story has been accepted for publication in an anthology called Looking Landwards, to be published (paperback + hardback signed edition, date to be announced) by NewCon Press.
To give you a little foretaste, here’s a very short extract of my contribution – I hope you like it:
Goosegirl broke the lamb’s legs by placing a foot on them one at a time, taking a firm handhold then pulling, sharply. One, two, three, four. The animal had stopped bleating so she figured it was probably dead. Four years after first being introduced to the necessity of such things, the work no longer made her sick.
A few well-practiced slices with the blade she always kept so sharp it could cut through butter – whatever that was; something the Olders talked about when they reminisced, along with chocolate, paraffin, and sugar. Goosegirl figured butter must have been really hard and tough to crack, even though Great Gramps said he used to eat it. She assumed he must have had really strong teeth.
Now the woolly coat was almost ready to be stripped from the flesh. One long, circular stroke to separate the body skin from the head skin and then…
Goosegirl looked up. Another lamb was standing pathetically in the straw, wondering where its mother was, where the next meal of warm milk would come from.
“She ain’t around no more,” Goosegirl said. “Storm done for her, just like for this one. But don’t you worry. You’ll soon be dressed extra warm for your new momma.”
Nearby, a ewe tethered to a stanchion started bleating, calling for her own lost newborn. Could she smell the blood, Goosegirl wondered? Did she recognize the scent of her offspring? Or was she unaware that her baby was close, dead, ready to be divested of its dermal layers?
“You need a lambkin to love,” Goosegirl told her as she ripped the fleece free of the raw carcass and quickly dressed the orphan.
“There. Maybe you ain’t so pretty with all those bloody smears, but your new momma will take to you, I promise.” She shepherded the lamb across the floor to where the prospective foster parent was waiting, then watched while the bond formed, the youngster beginning to suckle. Orphans didn’t survive long on their own out in the pastures, not in the harsh, late winter. This one was lucky that its own mother had been valuable prime stock, and had therefore been tracked by Manager, the Farm’s overseer, who’d directed the rescue.
After cleaning and sheathing the knife, Goosegirl collected up her bulky, one-piece fur-lined weatherproofs and clambered inside. She pulled the fresh meat in with her; that would help keep the smell of blood out of the wind – no sense in attracting hunters on the trek back to the house. A balaclava with attached snow-goggles was next, and then the hood and muffler. Moving around with all that gear on wasn’t easy, but this was essential preparation before stepping outside. With a final glance towards the new ‘family’ she opened the barn doors.
The blizzard howled in.