The social worker adjusted her glasses and peered down at her clipboard, trying to deny her increasing unease.

The old woman sat in the rocking chair, slowly rocking, her bird-bright eyes fixed on her every movement. She looked…decrepit, frankly, not that she would ever put that on a report. She had tried to get her to make a cup of tea to assess her abilities there, but she had offered her a cup from the rather odd-smelling herbal pot sitting out on the table.

Still, the house, overcrowded as it was with odd knick-knacks, and even allowing for the odd, musty smell, looked clean enough. There was food in the cupboards. Maybe the daughter who had called was unaware that a neighbour helped out, or even another child – bad blood and family arguments didn’t stop people worrying, after all, and she was relieved not to have to add another to her already-overfull caseload.

“Well, Mrs Paddock, everything looks good here,” she said in her cheeriest voice. “Now, I’ll leave a number you can get in touch with me on, just in case, but I need to be off now.”

The old woman smiled.

“Oh, I don’t think so, dear.”

There was a soft movement behind her, as she had heard several times during her visit. She had put it down to a cat.

“It was very kind of you to offer to help out. I need blood for them, you see, and mine just isn’t doing it any more – the vital spark does go, as you get older. But they look after me so well, my little darlings…”

The social worker looked behind her. It was hard to see fully what they were like, the row of little knee-high creatures behind her, swaddled as they were in pretty little gowns and bonnets, but she could see little bright sharp eyes watching her from within the cute little hoods.

She took a step backwards, dropping her clipboard. The old lady tutted gently behind her as the little things swarmed forwards.