Mary Had a Little Lamb
The voices of the other children echoed behind her, “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow; and everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.” Mary shrugged and patted the Lamb gently as they strolled down the path to the school. The school-bell rang twice and Mary ran toward the sound before the school-door shut her out for the day’s lessons. The Lamb followed close behind her, Mary was comfortable in the Lamb’s presence, although its appearances confused most of the other school children it had never seemed odd to her before.
As long as she had been alive, the Lamb seemed to have been with her. Even her parents could not explain its presence or attachment to her. The Lamb was born shortly after Mary and had rarely left her side ever since. It had a beautiful white fleece coat and never seemed to become dirtied by mud or straw, although the Lamb and Mary spent most of their time in the forest together, away from the flock who grazed in the meadow. They were bigger now, but they were still the same in spirit, pure and innocent.
Mary sat down at an empty desk and the teacher closed the old door to the school-house behind her and strode to the front of the classroom. The teacher wiped her sticky forehead with a white handkerchief and began writing on the chalkboard. The day was already extraordinarily hot and heavy and teachers and students alike struggled to keep their minds on the lesson instead of the cool breeze that was slowly drifting in from under the door. A fat fly buzzed at the dusty window sill which had only a thin layer of chipped white paint. The fly knocked against the glass with a final clink! before clambering through an open slat at the bottom of the window, straight into a spider’s web. Mary watched it with a morbid fascination, detached from the maths lesson that the teacher was struggling to explain.
When the school-bell finally rang for recess Mary ran out to the school-yard to play with the other children. Her Sheep was grazing outside the door to the school-house, waiting for her to finish the day and return home to play in the clearing around her family’s cabin in the forest. Mary stomped about, muddying her boots in the puddles around the edge of the school-yard as the Sheep watched. The humid air pressed down on the earth itself, the flowers in the school-yard seemed weak and drooped towards the ground. Mary watched as the Sheep retreated to the shadows on the south side of the school-house to escape the worst of the heat. She lifted the corner of her dress to her face to wipe away the sweat from her face before turning towards the bench outside the door of the school-house. She sat down there, setting her lunch pail down and opening it eagerly. Her mother had put fruit in her lunch pail, along with meat and potatoes from last night’s dinner.
A pair of dark eyes watched Mary as she sat at recess and ate her lunch. The Wolf licked its lips and waited. School would be out before the sun even began to set in the sky. It was finally time.
Mary happily raced down the steps of the school-house but stopped when she realized that the Sheep was no longer outside waiting for her to leave. Her baby blue eyes searched all around the old school-house, the meadow dappled with freshly blooming wildflowers at the edge of the forest, the warm grassy hills beyond the school-yard. Her eyes searched everywhere for the speck of white fluff like cotton clinging to the ground, her Sheep was simply nowhere to be found.
With a heavy heart despite the beauty of the day she set forward alone down the forest path. The path was beautifully illuminated with soft light that trickled down from the canopies of oak and cedar trees and danced across the path in front of Mary’s gentle steps. The light pulsed and flickered across her face as she skipped along the path, hoping that when she returned to her family’s cabin deep in the forest, the Sheep would be there, waiting for her return.
Mary danced, oblivious, down the darkening path and far behind her, the Wolf paced forwards, twitching black nose pressed to the hard packed earth that it had walked the path every day behind her for as long as it could remember, waiting until the perfect day. Until the autumn breeze began to blow through the trees and threaten winter, until the girl could be caught unawares. Its thick dark fur rippled with excitement as it smelled the rest of the flock ahead in the meadow. Pacing forwards to the edge of the wood, it waited downwind as Mary ran through the flock, searching for her Sheep among the other lambs and the weaker sheep who grazed nestled together in the center of the flock. When it became clear that her perfect white Sheep was absolutely nowhere to be found she turned, pale, towards the cabin and slowly walked inside, fearing the worst had happened.
Mary’s father strode out of the cabin at sunset with his rifle over his shoulder and bedsack under his arm. If a wolf had gotten to one Lamb, the rest of the flock was certainly in danger. Where there is one wolf, there is a den, where there is a den, there are pups, and if the pups are fed, wolves will thrive. He combed his hair with a rough calloused hand and drew the burnt orange knit cap over his ears as he scanned the flock with cold grey eyes. The Wolf stared back from the edge of the meadow behind one of the ancient oak trees, its tail twitched as the Man’s hands tucked the rifle under his shoulder and leaned against the heavy wall of the cabin. The flock shifted uneasily as the autumn breeze shifted the scent of the Wolf and flung it over the meadow like a dark omen. They huddled together and drew closer and closer to the cabin.
The dark shape retreated into the forest and paced around the meadow, eyes fixated upon a different prize than the weak flock outside the house and their ignorant protector. Ears pricking up as metal scraped and carved away at the wood on the cabin porch the Wolf dragged its gaze from the shadows that danced at the window of the cabin to the oak door on the front step.
Mary opened the heavy door with great effort, her small hands pushed with the full weight of her body. The door swung open slowly as she pushed her way through pulling the heavy pails of bathwater to the edge of the porch to pour out. Her eyes flitted up towards the edge of the meadow and she exclaimed with happiness as a pure white Sheep ambled towards the cabin from the line of trees that marked the forest’s border. Her father raised his rifle but turned away relieved as the Sheep had returned to the cabin, he looked over the flock once more and leaned down to roll up his bedsack and return to the warmth of the cabin.
From within the heavy wool coat of the Lamb. the Wolf ripped and tore. The edges of skin split, and the disguise was finally shaken off; The beautiful coat of the Sheep slid to the ground in tatters. Jowls dripping with blood and saliva the Wolf continued pacing forwards towards the light of the cabin as Mary stood frozen on the front stoop.
Mary screamed in terror.
Her Father raised his rifle.
The Wolf pounced.