The Little Lamb

The Little Lamb

Mary had a little lamb,

It’s fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went,

That lamb was sure to go.

That’s how the nursery rhyme starts, right? A cute, innocent recollection of a young girl and her fluffy, four-legged friend that parents recite to calm their crying babies, or to give their niece or nephew a pleasant image as they drift off to sleep.

Sounds nice? Yeah, it’s only lovely. We’d all like to think that Mary and her lamb lived happily ever after and had lots of fun-filled adventures and skipped around fields full of flowers all day until they ate a hearty supper and collapsed into bed, slipping into happy slumber until they woke to do it all again.

Sadly, that’s only the tip of this proverbial iceberg. Because while Mary and the aforementioned lamb did indeed get up to all kinds of hijinks on her family’s farm, there are parts of that story that were deliberately left out. Parts that would have sent kids to bed with pale faces and tearsstreaming down their cheeks while Mammy and Daddy tried to calm them down, all the while looking over their own shoulders out of caution….and the fear that they tried their hardest to hide.

Mary Wilson was the typical nine-year-old girl – perfectly innocent, with thick, bouncy blonde curls and a pretty, cherub-like face that held large blue eyes which sparkled when she was happy. She was the apple of her parent’s eyes, and wherever she went seemed to be brightened by her mere prescence. This illuminating happiness was most evident when she was skipping across the field directly behind the family home, one that was smaller than the others on the farm, and bordered by a fence that Mary was only just able to peep over is she stood on tip toe. It acted as a garden for the little family, where Mary’s mother Julia could tend to her flowerbeds, her father Derek could sit and smoke his pipe in the evenings, and where Mary herself could rush towards the pen that took up one corner of the garden, and the lamb that would trot up to meet her as she approached.

Mary was an only child, and as far as her parents were concerned, she was the perfect child. As such, they had decided not to have any more children. Aafter all, Mary was kind-hearted, polite, worked hard in school, and her mother made sure to say at least once a day that Mary was going to grow up to be the most beautiful girl around for miles.

Being from a farming background, and an only child, Mary was a little different to the other children at the school she attended – she lived the furthest away, and sometimes would help her parents with farm tasks at weekends, which meant it was difficult for her to attend any birthday parties. This meant that Mary didn’t have many friends, but it didn’t matter to her. As long as she had Snowy waiting for her every day after school, she was the happiest little girl in the world.

Snowy was a six-month old lamb whose mother had died giving birth to him. Derek had been unsure if the infant would survive, but at Mary’s pleading, the family had taken him in and begun to care for him. To Mary’s delight, Snowy had flourished and his health had rapidly improved, almost as if the love she gave the little animal had spurred his body into growing into a healthy young lamb. And what both of Mary’s parents noticed was that the lamb loved Mary right back, and they found a lot of comfort in the knowledge that Mary had finally found a friend for life.

“Mummy!” Mary called out as she entered the house through the back door, after her usual hour and a half of playing with Snowy in the back garden after school. Julia looked up from the carrots she was chopping for dinner that evening, raising her eyebrows in question.

“Yes, darling?” She asked, setting her knife down and giving Mary a smile. Her daughter was always happy, but at that moment, she was positively glowing.

“There’s a show and tell on at school tomorrow, Mum!” Mary squeaked out in happiness. “Miss Murphy told us that we can all bring in something extra special to show everyone in class and talk about it! And she said we could bring whatever we wanted in!”

Julia already had a feeling that she knew what was coming. “And what are you going to bring in?” She asked, a small smile on her face. It would mean she would have to drive Mary to school in the morning – a forty minute trip each way, but she didn’t mind. Mary never asked for anything, and took such good care of the lamb.

“I wanna bring Snowy in and show him to everyone and let them see how cute he is and tell them how much fun we have! Can I bring him Mum? Please? He’ll be so good and i’ll keep both my eyes on him all day!”

Julia briefly looked up, seeing Derek standing behind Mary. He thought for a moment, then nodded, smiling, and Julia looked back down at Mary, whose face was shining with hope and joy.

“Of course you can,” Julia smiled. “But you need to keep him on a lead and stay close to him,” she just managed to get out, before Mary’s excited squeal burst through the kitchen, and Derek had to cover his ears even as he laughed. He should have been a bit sterner, but Mary’s elation was proving to be infectious, seeming to fill the house for the entire night, all the way through dinner and even when all three of them went to bed, they had smiles on their faces that didn’t fade even as they drifted off into slumber.

Snowy sat on a small rug in the back seat of Julia’s car the next morning, his head turning from right to left, from Mary to the window, and back again. The little girl was practically vibrating in her seat, ecstatic at the prospect of introducing her best friend to her classmates and teacher, whom had heard about Snowy many times.

However, four of Mary’s classmates, in particular, were in fact just about sick of hearing about “Snooooowyyyyyyy,” as Mary so sickeningly professed her love for the animal. It was only a stupid lamb, and the disdain of Billy Ramsay, Jake Harding, Scott Farley and Isabelle Muntz, four children who all lived in the heart of the village where the school was located. They saw Mary as nothing more than that ‘silly farm girl’, and to listen to her innocent ramblings about playing with Snowy and helping her parents at weekends drove them all crazy, and when they tried to tell their own parents about it, they were told off and not to make fun of Mary because she lived a little differently than they did.

How was that fair? They often wondered during their classes (where Mary would often outshine them). She was just a stupid girl from the countryside, not even from their town! And all she did was talk about that stupid lamb all the time!

Had someone openly disliked the four children, they would have laughed at the disbelieving, almost crestfallen expressions on their faces when Mary walked into the classroom, leading Snowy to her desk by the window. She had brought it in for Show and Tell?? Everyone already knew everything about Snowy, because Mary NEVER STOPPED TALKING ABOUT HIM! It drove Billy and the others crazy, and to see that she had actually brought the thing to school, instead of something interesting (like Scott’s dad’s camera or Isabelle’s music box) really made them mad. And what was worse was that everyone, even their teacher Ms. Barnes, seemed to love the lamb!

“This is so dumb,” Billy muttered to Scott, who sat on his right. Scott nodded in agreement, as the class of twenty-five children finally began to settle down and fall silent – apart from the occasional bleat from Snowy and a chirp or two from Henry Davis’ pet budgie.

The ten minutes Mary spent standing at the front of the classroom with the lamb on its leash seemed to drag on for Billy, Jake and Scott. Isabelle didn’t mind so much. Sure, it got a little tiring to hear about Snowy all the time, but watching Mary made her realise that she really did love the little lamb, and it was kind of nice to watch her light up, even as she made her way back to her seat, Snowy trotting along beside her.

If only Billy, Jake and Scott could have seen that.

The bell rang for lunch time, and Jake let out a yawn he hadn’t even realised he had been holding, while Billy watch Mary leave the classroom with Snowy in tow. He shook his head, picking up his bag and leaving thr room. The other three followed a moment later.

“I’m glad that’s over,” Billy told his friends as they stopped at their lockers. “If I keep hearing about that stupid sheep I’ll go insane!” Jake laughed, and Scott nodded in agreement as he opened his locker. “It stinks, too,” he added, which drew a laugh from Billy as Mary walked past. She heard the laugh, saw the looks they gave her friend, then hurried on. She was a litle scared of the four of them, even though Isabelle was nice to her compared to the torment the boys gave her.

Mary stopped at her own locker, which wasn’t far from the others. “Just gotta get my English book and go to the bathroom before lunch, Snowy!” she said cheerfully, pointedly ignoring the derisive roll of Billy’s eyes….eyes which soon glinted with a mischievous, slightly malevolent light as they turned to his friends. They looked back,not as smart as he, and not as understanding of the opportunity they now had to show her that there was nothing special about that stupid, bleating fluffball. So Billy, his voice a hushed,almost menacing whisper, outlined his plan.

“Wait until she goes in,” Billy told Jake, as they slowly followed Mary to the bathrooms down the hall, under the pretense of heading to the playground. Jake nodded. He was part of an athletics club at weekends, so he was the fastest on his feet and would be able to get away without anyone catching him.

“Be right back!” Mary cooed over the lamb as she tied his leash to the drinking fountain beside the bathroom door. Billy grinned to himself and Jake, who in the split second the bathroom door closed behind Mary’s fat behind, bolted from behind the corner. It was a good job that he took those running classes of his, Billy thought, as he watched Jake swiftly bend down, untie Snowy’s lead, then quickly lead him out the door that led to the playground.

Isabelle watched quietly. Maybe this was a bit cruel…she thought to herself. Taking the lamb away from Mary was….it was unkind. She loved it, like a mother loved her own child….

Billy saw the look on her face, and he raised an eyebrow questioningly. “You’re not gonna back out, are you?” he asked, his voice, despite being on the cusp of breaking, taking on a threatening edge that suggested that ‘backing out’ was the last thing Isabelle should do. “Friends stick together, and do everything together, don’t they?”

Isabelle saw the look in Billy’s eyes, the look that aid quite plainly that she was in, and if she was out, she would regret it. She swallowed, inwardly forcing her apprehension down like a dog owner would push Sparky off the couch, and nodded.

A second later, Jake reappeared beside them with Snowy in his arms. The lamb was used to being carried around by Mary, so he made no sound and gave no reaction as he was carried outside, through the playground, and behind the bike sheds. Billy was a little surprised. He had expected Snowy to make enough noise to bring every teacher in the building down on them, but he wasn’t complaining, especially when he saw Scott waiting behind the sheds, having down his part and retrieved a scissors from the art classroom.

Jake set the lamb down, holding his leash tightly to make sure he couldn’t get away.

“We’re doing her a favour, really,” Billy sniggered as Scott handed him the scissors. “This way, she won’t have to shear it for a while!” Jake laughed, and so did Scott, but Isabelle had to force the smile onto her face. She didn’t really like this idea….it was cruel, and unusual, and neither Mary nor Snowy deserved it….but the boys were her friends….and friends stuck together.

Isabelle swallowed, and lowered her eyes a little, watching the blades of the scissors snip closed, and the first ball of wool pop off Snowy’s skin, almost like it was jumping free of him, aching to be released.

“Looks kinda like chicken skin,” Jake said, his voice a curious murmur, which was almost drowned out by the snip snip snip and the occasional bleat from Snowy, who had seemingly sensed that something was going wrong, as he could feel cold on his skin in odd, patchy places where his wool was falling to the ground in thick, soft balls.

The bleats drowned out the voice of his mistress as she searched for him, her worried voice resonating through the hallway at two octaves above its usual pitch. Where was he? Where was Snowy?? Who had taken him, where had he gone??

Each question thundered through Mary’s mind as her stomach twisted like a snake constructed from pure fear and worry. Her feet, clad in pink ballet flats, slapped against the floor as she ran through the hallways at a pace that would have made Olympic sprinters envious. Her small hands pushed open the doors to the playground so hard that they slammed against the wall, earning a reproachful remark from a teacher, who, at that moment, didn’t exist to Mary. All she cared about was finding Snowy, and holding him and tell him how sorry she was for leaving him….

There! That was his bleat! His little voice! Baaaa! Baaa! BaaaAAAAAAAA!! Oh, he sounded so scared…so lost….

“My Snowy!”Mary cried out, as she began to run again, ignoring the stich in her side that felt like a red-hot blade had slid in between her ribs. She could hear him still, the shrill, almost wailing bleats coming from the bike shed, mingled with laughter and the voices of her classmates. Oh, those little pigs! She was gonna hurt them, and hurt them good, nobody messed with Snowy on her watch!

BaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-aaackk

What were they doing to Snowy?!?!?! Thoughts of revenge ripped through Mary’s mind as she rounded the corner….and as her footsteps stopped, her body lurching forward slightly at the sudden deceleration, she felt as if her heart had stopped too.

Isabelle stood ten feet away from the others, tears streaming downher face behind her hands, which clutched at her face so hard it was turning white. Jake was clutching at his hair, yelling for help, his eyes wild, seemingly moving independently of each other as he looked around desperately. Scotty was taking a step backward, a green tinge creeping across his complexion as he fought down the bile that had risen in his throat.

And Billy stayed where he was, looking down, a blank expression on his face, as if he couldn’t quite believe what had just happened…but it had happened, so suddenly and so quickly that it seemed to have been over before it had happened at all.

He was looking down at the scissors in his hand, and at the deep crimson stain speading across his jeans, and at the dark,pulsing gash in the pale, milky pink skin that had once been warmly covered in soft white wool…wool that lay in tattered balls around where Billy crouched, droplets from where the scissors had torn open the skin staining them like abhorrent, twisted snowflakes.

“He…he moved….” Billy stammered, as Mary’s mouth quivered in disbelieving terror. “I just…w-we were sha-shaving….him….it-it..was…a p-prank….i did-didn’t….mean t-to…”

The sounds of his feeble excuses were drowned out by the scream that tore from Mary’s mouth, a scream that felt like her soul nd her sanity were leaving her body through it, a scream that everyone, including the teacher that rounded the corner and stopped dead at what he saw, would go to sleep hearing for the rest of their lives, and the sight of Mary’s little lamb, his throat gaping open and his blood pooling around the boy who had killed him, etched into their memories until their dying days.

Charges were pressed. Marys parents were furious that one of their livestock (albeit their daughter’s pet) had been kiled so needlessly, causing untold trauma to Mary, who remained in her room most of the time after Snowy’s death, shut away from the world and only leaving to attend school.

Billy and the others were charged as minors, and sentenced to community service. For two months they swept garbage out of the street, and attended a nursing home to assist carers with babysitting people who were older than their grandparents, and they hated every second of it. Jake and Scotty complained every day – they had only been witnesses, why did they have to join in the punishment? They hadn’t been the ones who had slit that lamb’s throat, or suggested shaving it in the first place!

Isabelle accepted herpunishment in meek silence, and as the day went by she barely said anything to the three boys. She felt they were reaping what they had sown, and deservedly so. They had taken the life of an absolutely innocent soul, and now God and the law were justly taking action for the crime they had committed.

Billy…well, Billy was angry. It had been an accident, for crying out loud! He hadn’t nmeant to do it! The lamb shouldn’t have squirmed like that, shouldn’t have bleated and kicked and wiggled ashe hacked off its wool.

“It was just a prank,” he muttered to himself, as he had done every day for the last two months, as his parents glowered at him when he came home stinking of garbage and old people and made his way up to his room. It felt like an eternity before his sentence was over and he was finally free to meet his friends again, on a rainy, cold November evening in Scott’s house.

“Well, at least it’s over now,” Isabelle said softly, which drew a nod from Scott as he changed the CD they were listening to, and adjusted the volume. His parents had only just started being civil to him again, so he didn’t want to anger them any further.

Jake sipped from his can of Coke, a withdrawn look on his face. Billy merely snorted, then flipped through to the next page of one of Scott’s comics. He didn’t care that it was over – they shouldn’t have even been punished in the first place!

“Hey,” Jake said a few moments later, his voice cautious – it was a sensitive subject that he was about to bring up. “Have you guys heard anything about Mary?”

“No,” Billy said bluntly. “Why?”

Jake shrugged. “My mom bumped into her mom at the supermarket. They got to talking. Apparently she stayed shut up in her room after….y’know…”

Isabelle shuddered. Try as she might, she could never block out the memory of Snowy’s scream when the blade opened his throat, or how his blood had formed a scarlet arc that splashed onto Billy’s jeans.

“Yeah,” Billy grunted. “So?”

“So,” Jake continued, his face looking slightly nervous as he spoke, “Apparently Mary got…weird….she never came out of her room and started acting really different. She never speaks to her parents anymore and if she’s not at home, she’s at the library, and when she comes home, she always has these weird books about spells and dark magic and rituals….” His voice trailed off, as Billy looked at him with an expression that said, quite plainly, he didn’t give a damn what Mary was reading and neither should the others.

The atmosphere in the room had become tense as a bowstring, and more than a few uneasy glances were exchanged between Jake, Scott and Isabelle before they looked back at Billy, who was still glowering at them.

“Hey,” Scott said after a moment, keeping his voice as cheerful as he could, “You guys want to hear seomthing one of the old bags in the home told me?”

“Sure,” Jake replied, grateful to have something to break the awward silence with.

Scott leaned forward as he sat back down, his face changing into an eager grin. He loved sharing macabre stories, especially when it creeped his friends out.

“Apparently,” he began, his voice hushed and soft, “there’s this ritual that’s supposed to summon the spirit of a woman who lost her baby in really violent circumstances. Nobody really knows what happened to the baby, but you can sure bet it was bloody.”

The other three looked at him, Jake’s head tilted slightly as it always was when he was paying attention.

“It goes like this,” Scott continued, his green eyes moving from Jake to Billy to Isabelle and back to Jake. “If you stand in front of a mirror, at midnight, with the lights off and a lit candle in your hand, and chant ‘Bloody Mary’, three times….well, she appears.”

“What happens then? When she comes?” Isabelle asked, her voice a little shaky. Se had always scared easily, but it had gotten worse since Snowy.

“Nobody knows exactly….” Scott told her, before looking her dead in the eyes, “…because no one has lived to tell the tale.”

Isabelle shuddered, Jake did his best to hide how creeped out he was, and Billy was silent for a moment before he burst out laughing.

“Oh, yeah right!” He hooted, looking at Scott’s slightly crestfallen face. “Like that makes any sense! Man, I think you spent so long listening to those old fogies that you actually started taking them seriously!”

“Hey, I never said it was true!” Scott snapped back defensively. “One of them told me a story, that’s all! It’s not like it could actually happen!

“No, of course not,” Billy replied, his laughter dying down. “Maybe you can ask the leprechaun who lives in the scool basment if he’s ever heard of Bloody Mary…hey, maybe she’s his girlfriend! Yeah, she appears in mirrors and kills people because he forgot their anniversary and now she’s royally pis-“

“Let’s do it.” Isabelle said suddenly.

Billy stopped talking, and three heads turned towards her.

“Huh?” Scott asked, as if he hadn’t heard.

“I said,” Isabelle murmured, “let’s do it. Let’s prove those fogies wrong, as you called them. You’re always putting us down, Billy, so for once, put your money where your mouth is. Unless you haven’t got the stones?”

Isabelle could feel the resentment that she had felt towards Billy since Snowy flowing out through her words, and it felt damn good to be able to release this pent-up anger and direct it at the idiot who had caused them this mess in the first place.

Billy swallowed, and then shrugged….more to mask the uneasy feeling he had at Isabelle’s outburst. “Okay. Sure.Whatever,” he muttered. What harm could it do? He would get to prove them all wrong, and rub it in their faces even more when it was proven to be nothing.

The next night, all four of them sneaked out, travelling to Jake’s house in the dead of night. They all wore dark clothing, so as to avoid being seen by any of the punters in the local pub who might have known them, and quickly climbed the trestle on the left side of Jake’s house that formed a sort of ladder to his bedroom.

Jake opened his window and quietly let the other three into his room, where the lights were off and four candles stood in front of his full-length wardrobe mirror. His bedside lamp was turned on, bathing the room in a dim glow that gave them just enough light to see their way inside by.

“Let’s do this, then,” Billy grunted quietly. He wanted to prove that stupid story wrong once and for all, and laugh at his idiot friends in the process.

The four picked up their candles, and carefuly brought them to flame using a lighter Jake had stolen from his mother, who had recently quit smoking.

And then they stood in front of the mirror, and Jake went to his bed, flicking the switch on his bedside light and plunging the room into a darkness that was total, save for the pale orange flicker of the candles in the hands of the four children, who stood in a row in front of the mirror, casting slightly uneasy glances in each other’s direction.

“One,” Billy said softly, his voice sounding almost unnaturally loud in the deathly silence of the room. Isabelle swallowed thickly, nerves rising in her gut like a cobra from long grass.

“Two,” he continued, his grip on his candle tightening as Scott shuffled his feet slightly.

“Three.”

They spoke as one, four voices mingling eerily in the darkness.

“Bloody Mary.”

“Bloody Mary.”

“Bloody Mary.”

The words left their mouths, and seemed to hang in the air like old clothes that had been left out to dry for too long. Limp, unmoving, unwanted and seemingly meant to drift on meaninglessly.

After almost a full minute of silence and nothing happening, Billy slowly exhaled, letting out the breath that he hadn’t even realised he had been holding. “Well, what did I tell you?” he said, a shaky laugh cracking his voice.

Nobody answered him, as he looked from each of his friends to the next, his brow furrowing as he saw the growing looks of fear on their faces, and the widening of Isabelle’s mouth as her face contorted in a scream that would have woken every soul in Heaven and Hell, and Billy turned back to the mirror to see the swirling, spectral outline of a human shape, slowly taking the form of a girl in a pink dress, which was splashed with ugly, dark red patches that could only have been blood, the blood of an innocent soul taken before its time, and the face that formed was all too familiar, even as it twisted and morphed into something demonic, inhuman, and evil…

It was just as Scott had said. They were found not long afterwards by Jake’s parents, who could only collapse to their knees in horror, wide eyes gazing over spilled candles that still burned onto the carpet, which slowly turned a deeper shade of red, almost black, as the blood poured from four throats that had dared to give rise to words which should never have been spoken, and would now never speak another word again, for none had lived to tell the tale.

“Mary had a little lamb,

It’s fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went,

That lamb was sure to go.

She brought her lamb to school one day,

The kids let out their jeers.

They took her little lamb away,

And Mary choked on tears.

Mary had a littlel amb,

Its fleece was red with blood.

She took his little body home,

And swore she’d hurt them good.

Mary knew that lamb’s blood called

Things ancient, hidden and deep.

As Mary spoke those evil words,

Never did she weep.

Mary had a little lamb,

It made her something scary.

Now, I dare you, look in a mirror.

And whisper,

Bloody Mary.”

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