Many years later Myrtle ran home along the lane, frightened in the dark. All she could hear was the thudding of her heart and the pound of blood, drubbing in her ears. She stopped, trying to catch her breath, trying to listen, to hear anything at all. But the night was still and quiet and Myrtle breathed slowly at last. She had recently become sport for the local boys. The vicar’s son spotted her once, when he could not sleep and Myrtle had been running through the water-meadows, still between the worlds, half-woman and half-hare. And so for the rest of that wretched summer, she pined indoors each evening, smelling the stink of boys from across the fields, still hunting her with their cider-apple mouths, stolen tobacco and the musky civet of young men, listening to their raucous jokes and high-pitched laughs.
Myrtle didn’t roam again until the next summer, carefully down to the brook under the shadow of Alder and Hawthorne, where she could still run as wild as she liked without being afraid. And so the story faded a little every year. But then the vicar’s boy, having married the Landlord’s daughter and grown stout, changed the name of the village pub to The Silver Hare and so the story was brought back to life, retold and embellished, in the way that tales told in the bar will be.
Myrtle was heartbroken. No more could she leave her woman-skin behind, all that flaccid, white flesh left idly on the foot-stool. But still the rumours spread far beyond the village, in thin streams as slippery as eels and so the hunters came seeking Myrtle. The vicar’s boy died and instead his son welcomed the rich strangers, taking them on night-hunts, sometimes finding an old or injured badger and shooting it for fun.
But one fine May evening, all gold and purple, with the songs of the blackbirds and robins ringing under the lilac, Myrtle had stolen out. Her fever was too much to be ignored, her longing for the green way and the dog-fox and all the other small creatures, whom she counted as her friends. Myrtle shrugged off her skin and slipped into the lovely, dewy fields, feeling the quickness of life in the spring earth and dancing with joy to be free. One of the hunters saw the beautiful, silver hare leaping through the high-powered sights of his rifle. The noise of the gun ricocheted through the valley and for a brief moment everything stopped. And then the agony roared in. The bullet had caught Myrtle’s thigh and pain caused her to limp, faster and faster, until finally she crouched, exhausted in the brambles and far from home, lost and afraid.
My Grandmother said that if she hadn’t found her, Myrtle would have died. The young girl had been dawdling to school, going the country way, delighting in the night-magic still lingering in the hollows and knolls, when she found the silver hare. So she went home again, with the injured animal cradled carefully in her arms.
‘Don’t die little one, I’ll look after you.’ My grandmother whispered to the creature, as she carefully fed water to the hare and made her a nest of cushions. And many miles away, the hunters broke into Myrtle’s house and the morning sunlight struck her woman-skin, lying loose on the foot-stool where she always left it. It shimmered a moment, for the briefest of seconds, before falling to the floor in a handful of silver fur.
And that was how Myrtle came to live with our family. She still loves to run wild and likes being brushed with the big, pewter hair-brush that was my Grandmother’s. Myrtle’s here now, a touch of grey around her muzzle, as I pour her some tea into the saucer. My own long-eared daughter lurches around in my stomach, conceived on All Hallow’s Eve when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Myrtle nestles down against my belly and they kick each other, gently and sweetly, like the oldest of friends. And in dreams, my daughter runs smiling towards me, half-woman and half-hare.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, stevieoconnorWrite a Review