Mrs Cransky

Daylight slunk gingerly into the cabin.

Mornings were a careful affair, here, where things shuffled. Where dark held it’s silent, watchful, fold.

Outside, little living things close to the cabin shrilled their welcome to the sun as shadows were sucked back into the copse of trees around it.

And then Mrs Cransky would draw the curtains, her dishevelled hair and faded nightgown pale through the kitchen window. Some minutes later she’d emerge on the front step with a cup of steaming tea, and a saucer which she set gently on the floor.

It was then, that the cats came.

Living in semi-rural retirement suited Mrs Cransky. The cabin was a steal, really. Of course, it had been easier when Harold was there, to keep his hand on the things that men do. But three seasons of the year were easy, and she loved the palette of her surroundings.

Wildflowers grew in rampant abundance. Birds filled the air with song, insects whirred and clacked in the undergrowth.. there were plenty fish in the creek and increasingly regular sightings of wildlife that the sheltered city folk would shudder at, but which, as she felt the years weigh more steadily upon her body, she felt more and more drawn to.

“It’s why these cats are so spooked. City cats. You’d think they would adjust to critters. They’re just critters themselves,” she muttered to herself. Neighbours were a long way off, and conversation for widows in such settings were wishing-well dry.

The tea helped.

It would give her sustenance too, to clean up what she knew lay ahead. It was predictably the same thing, each time. Like they never tired of it.

“Damn kids. You’d think they would know better,” she thought. She pressed her lips into a furrowed line and heaved herself up to inspect the damage, wishing she didn’t sleep so heavily. It was easier to ask for that, rather than face what would happen if indeed she ever did stumble upon them out there.

Sure enough, the foilage was broken. There were even bicycle tyre marks on the muddy sliproad. Slippers snagging on the fine grasses, she drew her nightgown closer as she rounded the back of the cabin. Same method, but a different animal each time.

She blanched at the sight of a bloody jawbone, russet and pink, dotted black with flies. A fresh kill. Looked like it belonged to a dog. Maybe a stray, or a sort of wild dog. A hind leg lay nearby, too, also just beginning to buzz.

She fought back the revulsion and just plain hurt of being left, alone, to deal with this. Frustration and tears took her, shook her, momentarily.

And then, in the manner of all those left to care for themselves, she simply did what she had to.

“You’re LYING!”

The words were yelled with every ounce of fury that his ten year old frame allowed. Jackson Shaw’s blue eyes flashed from face to face in desperate, rising horror.

His outburst was met by a hyena roar of laughter from his antagonists, the pack of them encircling him, a fine, choking dust still falling from where their bicycles had skidded to standstill.

Just moments before, he’d been on the deserted road. They were like animals, appearing soundlessly except for the last few seconds when the air was ripped by their shrieks and the crunching of the sand beneath their tyres.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Jackson had the impression of them having lain in wait, watching for him to come past, and it made his skin prickle. They were gaptoothed, dirty.. ‘rough’ is the word his mother used. His father just called them ‘trouble’.

Jackson wanted no part of either, and the gangly boys sensed this and stalked his every move, mercilessly. They appeared, descended out of thin air it seemed to him, and shouted vulgar things at him.

They were disgusting, he thought. Living in Buck Downs would have been a dream come true, if not for these terrible – and terrifying – boys. Boys who told lies, and were jealous of what they didn’t have, and did shocking things.

“I swear to you, we all saw it, it was real disgusting. We went past early this morning, we saw it with our own eyes..”

A chorus of voices, all at once, all saying the unspeakable, and relishing it. Jackson felt a stone of cold fear in the pit of his stomach.

“We warned ya Whacky Jacky. We came specially to tell ya. She’s gonna git you next! My pa says what you kill with your own hands stays in ya, grows in ya.. she’s gonna have some great jaws for chomping ya now..”

And then, whooping and howling, they were gone.

He couldn’t be sure, but he imagined in the mirage of that moment that the last boy, a kid named Billy, looked back at him, and the expression on his face was more horrifying than anything the group of them had said.

Jackson fled with the raw surge of being released from a stranglehold. He ran for his life, blundering off the roads, peeling across the blurred fields until his lungs were as raw as his hammering heart.

There, the look on Billy’s face burning in his memory, he fumbled for the collar and leash in his pocket. He buried them, weeping where no-one could see him.

It appeared to be the way of old age. You’d wipe things down but they never seemed to come up as shiny as they used to. “Suppose it’s like bodies,” she said to a tabby stretched in the midday sun.

“Cooking for one’s just not the same is it?” She smiled at the saucer, licked clean.

She knew she was eating less, and Harold would have given her trouble for it. But she managed okay. And she liked the cats. She had no idea who they belonged to, but she was grateful for their company in the day. She diced the garden vegetables. Stew was always good to share. It would keep for a while too.

Mrs Cransky looked at her hands. “Just look what the years have done to me..” she sighed.

It was easy to dream a little wistfully on days like this, of times before she was Mrs Cransky. She’d had the pick of the boys, but Harold had won her hand. She laughed a little, thinking how couples grow to look like one another over the years. He was a rugged man, cut out for making a living from the earth. She was a slender city girl, charmed by this man who would do everything for her.

With no time owed to anyone else, Mrs Cransky could review any part of her life, and yet she still felt selfish for recalling best the things Harold did that she used to hate. The rat traps, for one. Absolutely necessary. It was the scaly tails they dragged about that she hated most. Getting rid of the spiders was another. She abhored the shiny bodied, spinning things. She hated that they looked cut in half, as though their two parts weren’t connected. She was always glad Harold killed them for her. They seemed endless these days, and she wondered briefly about the sheer numbers of them, their horrible little legs. It was easier when all she had needed to do was wipe away their webs.

She pictured Harold hard at work, skinning the meat, deftly cleaning up the fish. He had insisted all the years of his life that these were things that women’s dainty hands shouldn’t touch. “You’ll want to preserve those hands love,” he’d say to her. Something about how he said it revealed a root in some old country saying he must have grown up with. She never asked, preferring to enjoy the privilege of his graciousness.

“I certainly ain’t no princess now,” she whispered to herself. An unbidden, long hidden memory sifted to the surface, of the other woman. “Hell, she wasn’t much to go on either. I still don’t know how you could have, Harold..”

She pushed the offending thoughts away swiftly and stretched.

She preferred the afternoons now, just as twilight neared. “Must be because it’s cooler, frees my limbs a little huh Mogg?”
The cat had slipped away. Mrs Cransky looked around for it, then sighed. “Gone to your other home have you?” she said to the wind.

The shadows melted back onto the ground, and crept steadily closer to the cabin, and the bent old figure in the chair, on the front step.

The creak and snap of twigs breaking in the wood appeared unheard, but for a slight twitch of her ear. Darkness sucked hungrily at the last details of light.

A row of silent eyes watched as the day’s safety slipped away. Their bodies ached from being so still.

Mrs Cransky’s skin in the early moonlight was silver. Her cheeks looked wet.

Jackson, barely able to breathe, was just about to fiercely whisper “I knew you were lying,” through gritted teeth to the boy-gang who had wrestled him to the ground earlier and dragged him bodily over the hill. The whole pack of them were motionless now, transfixed while sitting on him to keep him silent and still.

Billy, a deep silhouette, slowly raised his finger to his lips.

Mrs Cransky heaved herself to her feet. There was a strange scent in the air, tremors on the wind she hadn’t noticed earlier. She pulled the belt of her gown tight in the middle, revealing the doubly bulbous shape she attributed to old age.

As she rose from her chair, the moonlight ran down the length of sinewy arms.

She shuffled forward, dragging behind her the dead weight of something carefully contained within that gown. As she did so, the watchers in the wood heard a thump, thump, thump on the wooden floor in rhythm with her cough.

She unhooked the rat traps with a thoughtful backward glance, and hesitated briefly in the doorway.

The last gasp of light caught the roughend skin on her great ham hands, offset by the length of cold claws, on oddly tapered fingers.

The rat traps fell with a muted jingle to the floor inside the cabin. The door stayed open. Silence, under the cover of absolute dark.

With lazy but suddenly shocking ease, Mrs Cransky bristled, turned back towards the petrified boughs.

“I know you’re out there,” she hissed under her breath. She knew there would be movement again, soon. Movement was inevitable.

The frozen witnesses watched her bulbous shape hunker down onto all fours. She was waiting.

And then, unseen to every strained eye, Mrs Cransky unhinged her jaws… yawning with a new, almost imperceptible whine..

Mrs Cransky


Cape Town, South Africa

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 7

Artist's Description

This is what insomnia unpicks…

Artwork Comments

  • PhotoFox
  • Karen01
  • KMorral
  • Karen01
  • mjiadski
  • Karen01
  • lacewren
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait
desktop tablet-landscape content-width tablet-portrait workstream-4-across phone-landscape phone-portrait

10% off

for joining the Redbubble mailing list

Receive exclusive deals and awesome artist news and content right to your inbox. Free for your convenience.