Sunday, 4 November 2007

MACKENZIE'S COTTAGE (part two - scroll down for part one.)

Of course neither Johnny, Marty or me, believed in ghosts - but we still took the longer route round to Spindle's Creek...just in case. Even at fifteen our parents' threats echoed in our ears.

All of us village kids had been weaned on the threat of Old Man Mackenzie. He was the bogeyman of Parish. If we dared to stay out late: Old Man Mackenzie would get us. If we dared to bunk off school: Old Man Mackenzie would get us. If we dared to answer our mothers back...yep, you've got it...Old Man Mackenzie would get us. Never mind that he'd been dead and buried long before any of us were even so much as a twinkle in our fathers' eyes.

According to Mrs Rowbottom who worked in the Eight 'til Late grocery store (and if you wanted to know anything about anything, she was the one to ask), Algernon Mackenzie had been a loner who had kept himself to himself. He had never married and had built himself a log cabin in the very heart of the wood; the wood that had been in the Mackenzie's family for generations.

Algernon Mackenzie had been a crotchety old man (so sayeth Mrs Rowbottom), with a glass eye and a humped back. Madness was rife in his blood. In the summer of 1985 a passing backpacker had got lost in the woods and had stumbled upon Mackenzie's Cottage. He had knocked on the door to ask for directions. Getting no answer the young man had ventured inside. Old Man Mackenzie...or what was left of him...had been lying in a pool of his own congealing blood just across the threshold. A dense cloud of black flies buzzing possessively around his body.

"That hiker fella found his way out of those woods quick enough then," said Mrs Rowbottom, holding us youngsters with a steady gaze. "I was here, right behind this very counter, when he came charging into town. Rusty Gillespie, the chief constable at the time, later told me that Old Algernon looked as if he'd been eaten alive - by a bear or such like - great chunks of his body had been bitten clear away. Course there's no such creatures around here. Wasn't then...isn't now. Right to this very day nobody knows for sure what went on up in those woods. Death by misadventure was printed on Old Algernon's certificate." She paused. Fixed us with her pale grey eyes. "You keep out of those woods. It's no place for children."

We had all nodded solemnly. Our eyes big in our small faces.

And that's why we chose, every time without fail, to take the long way round to Spindle's Creek.

But today, even the shadow of Old Man Mackenzie seemed like nothing more than smoke on the breeze.