The Reaper’s Wind by Barry McCann

At night, Grandem used to say “Listen to that wind. Listen carefully now for sound of ‘oofs trotting in distance of wind. It blow from Jinny Lane and the ‘oofs belong to the ‘eadless ‘orseman, out on ’is rounds, seeking naughty childer who don’t take to their cribs when told. Listen and beware, but don’t fancy peeking. ‘Cos if you peek, ‘e’ll know. And ‘e’ll come galloping for you. And you may ‘ide in your crib, but ‘e’ll find you, and ‘e’ll take your ‘ead. And ‘e’ll take it back to hang from ‘is tree along with others ‘e’s taken. And they all swing in the Reaper’s wind.So listen to the ‘oofs, Jenet.” Then she’d tap out time with her fist on top of my head. “And when clip clop turns clipity clop… clipity clop turns clipity, clipity clop, then be knowing that some wretched infant peeked and will forfeit ‘ead for its trouble.”

Queer turn of events that thirty years on, I’m in gaol for witchcraft. Why did I take it up after what it did for them? After what I did to them? I fancy Grandem steered me into it, even from ‘er grave. And getting caught is revenge for the words I gave away at Assizes. So wheel’s turned and I’m in spot they were. But wont enough for Grandem. Fancy she will send ‘orseman to do ‘angman’s job. ‘E’ll take my ‘ead, and hang it from tree. And there, in Reaper’s wind, it’ll swing … and swing … and swing.

First broadcast on BBC Radio Cumbria’s Kevin Fernihough show on 20 August 2012. Dedicated to the victims of the 1612 Lancashire Witch trials.

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