“Now where did I keep the damn stick.” I muttered to myself as I trudged along my cottage, feeling the cold damp walls for a long wooden appendage that I needed to walk.
“cluck cluck cluck.” Mathilda walked with her tiny feet beside me, smelling of grains, dirt and fresh leaves. Her matchstick thin feet made slight scraping noises as they scuffed along the old creaky wooden floor.
“Yeah, I know. I kept it beside the fireplace.” I told Mathilda.
“Cluck Cluck.” She reprimanded me.
“What?! Okay okay I’ll go look again.” And just like that a minute later I found my stick, by the fireplace all thanks to Mathilda.
“It is tough, Mathilda. You know, our life in the mountains. Thank god I have you and the children to keep me company.” I told my faithful companion as a waft of cold breeze shook my tired, weary bones into cowering. The almost freezing wind indicated the onset of winter. I could almost smell the fresh pine trees, covered in a white blanket of icy love.
“Cluccccck” she almost purred in pleasure. Mathilda loved the onset of winter, it meant lying down and reading a good book by the cackling of a lit fireplace.
I fell to the chair, and tried to give my aching feet and back, some much needed rest. I never looked forward to winter, it was those aching bones, if anything they ached harder and cracked louder. Tonight was an important night for me and Mathilda. I hoped that my aching bones would be taken care of tonight.
“Cluck cluck.” Mathilda spoke.
“Oh is it time, Mathilda?” I asked. Anticipation creating deep pits in stomach.
“Cluck” she said yes.
I went to the kitchen and put my biggest cauldron on fire and filled it with water. I could hear the whimpers of the children from somewhere behind me. It bothered me to hear the children cry. My maternal instincts went on an overdrive.
“Poor kids Mathilda, they must be hungry.” I spoke, trying to make out their hazy shadows through my cataract infested eyes.
Mathilda walked up to them and clucked loudly. That shut them up for a while.
“What did you do that for, Mathilda?” I demanded. Even though Mathilda had been with me for the longest time, that still did not mean I would tolerate her talking to the children like that.
“cluck cluck cluck cluck cluck cluck cluck cluck.” Mathilda replied, perhaps even more furious than I was.
“No, Mathilda, their crying will not shift my focus from tonight. Why are you worried?”
The water in the cauldron had started boiling, it was time.
I went to the cage and put my hands inside, feeling in the dark for the children. I felt their bony legs, shivering and cowering in a corner. Their whimpers of “No…no please”, almost made me give up. But it was good for the children too. They had a purpose, and a role in this. I brought the children out, to the cauldron dragging them by their bony hands. The whole time Mathilda cluck clucked the kids into moving. There were two, a boy and girl of five.
Their pleas went to Mathilda’s deaf ears as she kept pecking their feet until they fell into the cauldron. I stood at a distance. Only Mathilda was capable of such ruthless violence. My old age had softened me to the world around.
As the children fell into the boiling water, their screams, which were loudest first, reduced to bare whimpers and then nothing.
“Cluck cluck cluck” Mathilda spoke.
“Ill miss you too, Mathilda” I spoke softly as a tear rolled down my eyes. Next minute, I made out flapping white wings high up, near the cauldron. When she jumped into the cauldron herself.
Five hours and three plates of baby chicken stew later, I stood opposite my mirror admiring my youthful looks and 6/6 vision.