Mawgrim's Prompts - 5. PT# 27 - The Langthorpe Panther
Tell a story that begins at the same place as it ends.
I beat the creature across its face with a hardback copy of 'Margaret Thatcher; A Life and Legacy.' Not even the so-called ‘Langthorpe Panther’ was a match for the Iron Lady. It ran back down the length of my garden howling. Bill Foster’s latest post on the village Facebook page had so far garnered 124 likes and 56 comments.
The accounts were all so vague, Paul Burns reflected; the stories of a half-glimpsed and shadowy form in the winter darkness, mostly tales of overturned wheelie bins and shredded rubbish. A stray dog, most likely, or even local kids trying to add to the mystery. On Spotted: Langthorpe, he always felt as if there was an element of desperation in the way each subsequent post on any subject attempted to outdo the last. If one person reported a suspicious character lurking around the neighbourhood, you could be sure that the next day the story would escalate to include not one, but several sightings of the suspect (who usually turned out to be a hapless Yodel or DPD delivery driver). Lockdown had made it worse, he considered. With everyone stuck at home, only seeing work colleagues or friends on Zoom, imaginations churned feverishly. He was certain that there was an aspect of oneupmanship to the postings; a fervent desire to gain more likes and to scare other members of the community.
A noise out in the garden disturbed his reverie. He set the tablet down on the arm of his chair, pushed aside the heavy curtain across the patio doors and peered out. The grey winter afternoon was getting steadily gloomier. Something stirred the rhododendrons at the end of his garden. Birds, probably. Fuelled by the desires of the coming spring, they were already beginning to pair up and mate. He’d seen a pair of ring-necked doves the previous day. They were probably at it in the shrubbery right now. Lucky sods! Now, if he was one of those idiots, he’d probably log on and start tapping out a load of rubbish.
I caught a glimpse of it at the end of my garden. The creature must have been almost four foot in length, with huge fangs and glowing, yellow eyes.
He chuckled to himself and was about to return to his comfy chair when the bushes shuddered again, more vigorously this time. Ah, there it was. One of the doves emerged, looking ruffled and flapping its wings furiously. Definitely mating. But then, something unexpected happened. The bird abruptly disappeared back into the leafy undergrowth in an eruption of feathers, as if snatched away.
Now whose imagination is running amok, he chided himself. Still, it was intriguing. Maybe a cat - or even a fox - had taken it. He decided to go and have a look, so slipping his feet into a pair of wellies he kept by the kitchen door, he opened it and stepped out. The chill of a February evening met him and through the gathering darkness he heard a sickening crunching noise from the shrubbery, punctuated by what might be a low growl. All of a sudden, his familiar garden seemed a threatening place. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled. He almost stepped straight back inside. There was no need to be reckless, after all.
It might be anything out there, a small voice whispered, as his imagination began to conjure images of something lurking, waiting, stalking…
The bushes moved again. He found himself frozen to the spot, hardly daring to breathe. Then, suddenly, it burst out onto the lawn, bounding towards him. The creature was at least six foot long with fangs the length of a carving knife. As it bore down on him he stumbled back through the wide open door, casting about frantically for something to use as a weapon. His hand lit on a large, thick book; the latest Screwfix catalogue he’d left lying on the worktop. With a cry, he hurled it at the thing, slamming the door shut just as it pounced, its huge jaws closing with an audible snap. The distraction bought him enough time to close and lock the door before it slammed against the frame, claws scraping down the glass. He retreated into the house, heart pounding, not even daring to put on a light. There was a frustrated howl, then the sound of retreating steps padding down the path. Finally, silence.
He moved back into the sitting room, hardly daring to pull back the edge of the curtain. All that remained were a few ripped and scattered pages on the grass. Eyes still wide and fingers trembling slightly from the adrenalin rush, he reached for his tablet.
This evening, I fought bravely against the ‘Langthorpe Panther’, its fetid breath against my exposed jugular as I wrestled it down onto my lawn. The creature must have been at least eight foot long, with canines the length of my arm. I hit it repeatedly with a copy of… now what could be more weighty with gravitas than Maggie Thatcher …'Churchill: A Biography,' until at last it slunk away in defeat.
This was going to get him a lot more likes than Bill Foster had managed with his own puny account of ‘the beast.’
Story Discussion Topic
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