I could smell smoke in the air, cloying and bitter. “Something’s up,” I told the chickens. They pretty much ignored me and continued to scratch at the grain I’d just flung at the ground.
A niggling headache had begun to softly pound behind my right eye and I knew that something was wrong, but what. Turning I check the garden. Everything seemed in its place. Even the cat was where he spent most of his time, half way up a tree.
Turning I trundle up the path and to the small farmhouse. Still, it is big enough for me. Opening the front door I am surprised by the smell of bacon. I’ve lived alone for the last five years, and I hadn’t cooked bacon in months. I just found it too salty, but the smell was as divine as I remembered it.
Still, I felt trepidation as I walked into the kitchen.
At first I thought there was no answer.
A muffled shout came from the pantry, a small room off the kitchen.
“Coming,” the person called. A woman if the pitch of the voice was anything to go by.
There on the table lay a plate with two slices of bread, buttered and ready for the bacon. The meat was in a pan on top of the Rayburn. The Rayburn that ought to have been stone cold, as it had been twenty minutes ago when I’d gone out to feed the chickens.
It was summer and just too hot to light the beast. She was solid fuel which meant it took at least an hour to get up to temperature, even for frying bacon.
I was about to call out again when a woman came out of the pantry holding a jar or red sauce. A jar I’d never seen before.
“Hello there,” she said. “Give me a minute. I do love homemade tomato sauce, don’t you?”
Before I could answer she place the jar on the table and turned back to the pantry.
“Back in a minute.”
But the door had swung shut after she’d passed. I was about to stop her when she walked through the door. She didn’t open it or hit it, but passed through it.
I stepped back and stared.
Slowly I edged forward, aware that I was copying every woman on a B-horror movie. The one you scream at to run away. But I had to check. I needed it to know if I’d seen her. Pushing the door it swung inward.
For a second I thought I saw something, but then it was as if my vision cleared and there was nothing. The pantry was empty.
How can that be, I thought. Then I remembered the bacon. Turning to the Rayburn I rushed over. It was gone. Not the frying pan, but the bacon. There was nothing in the pan, but it was out and not in the cupboard where I’d left it. Turning I saw that on the table the bread wasn’t there but the plate was gone.
Sitting in the middle was the jar of red sauce. What had the woman said? Homemade tomato sauce? I’d not realised that it could be homemade.
Reaching across I grasped the jar that couldn’t possibly exist. Popping it open I smelt the tomato and basil, a rich wonderful aroma that suggested a beautiful taste.
“Mine,” came the whisper.
I closed the jar.
I put it on the table.
The scream was all around me and as I stood there a wind blew through the kitchen. I crouched with my hands over my head as the cold swept my hair around my face. The chill was limb-numbingly cold.
Then as fast as it had arrived it was gone. Standing slowly I looked around the kitchen. Nothing had been moved. The frying pan was gone and so was the jar. Reaching forward I braced myself on the table, trying to stop myself from shaking.
Mine… The whisper echoed around the kitchen making me jerk upright and the breath stick in my throat.
This story was inspired by the daily prompt – unexpected guests.