The fire’s finally burning high enough. It’s so cold out that I didn’t think I’d get it to light at first, but the kindling soon took the spark and it’s burning nicely now.
Where did I leave that bag? Oh yes, there it is, by the door.
I’ve been saving the bones all month. Now it’s time for them to serve their purpose. I empty the bag onto the fire and can’t help but smile as I see them start to blacken quickly. At least you can rely on some things to stay the same.
The scattered nutshells and kernels lie on the table, mocking me. They know what is to come and have imparted their knowledge upon me. There are some questions you really shouldn’t ask. No matter how prepared you think you are for the answer, it’s never enough. They know, and now I know. Tonight is the night I’m going to die.
I start laying out the plates and cutlery. Two forks, two spoons, two knives, two plates. I pour two tots of potine into separate glasses – one for me and one for those that have passed on. Somehow it’s not enough. So many people died in that trench, and for what? To protect a piece of land smaller than my house…
I need another drink.
It was in that trench, huddled amongst the corpses of my friends, that I first encountered the beast. Even now, so many years later, I still wake screaming with the stench of it filling my nostrils.
It knew me back then. Knew I had survived where so many had fallen. It laughed as it sorted through the bodies until it found me. Why it didn’t kill me then I have no idea, maybe it just wanted to torment me for longer. And torment me it does.
Every year around Samhain it comes for me. I can feel it watching me for days. Then the scratching comes at the door. I’m paralysed by fear as it breaks through and starts to edge towards me.
I can’t take it anymore. Why doesn’t it just finish me off? Why must it take me piece by piece? Soon there’ll be nothing left to take. I can’t be afraid anymore. I wont let it have me tonight.
I put my old service revolver to my head and say a short prayer.
Outside the door I can hear it approaching.
I start to pull the trigger and it howls in fury. I’ve beaten it.
It’s dark, and I can feel the rain on my face. How long has it been? Ten, fifteen years? So long since I’ve felt the rain on my face. It stings slightly. I don’t mind. All I care about is that they’re finally taking me away from the dank tower I’ve called home for the past decade or so. How long has it been?
I was so young when they put me there. I can remember screaming as they tore me from my mother’s arms, but I can’t remember her face. Will I see her again? Will she remember me?
What? I can’t move. Why in hell can’t I move? The rain’s getting into my eyes now and I need to wipe it away. Have they stopped me from moving with their magicks? I’ll kill them all when I’m free. I’ll… I’m scared.
The sound of the rain changing lets me know that we’ve entered the forest. I’ve often looked out of the window of my prison and dreamed of getting into this forest. I knew that being here would spell freedom. Some freedom for a man that can’t even say it anymore, huh?
We’re stopping. I can see the sky easily now so I guess we’re in a clearing. I’m being carried off the wagon. What’s going on?
They’re laying me down on something cold and hard. Stone. An altar of some sort. Godless fiends! My wrists are being tied, as are my ankles. I’m never going to see my mother again. They’re going to feed me to the demons. I’m going to die here tonight. I can hear the screams of the damned.
Wait, that’s me screaming. I can move again. I strain my head around to see them. They’re passing round a gigantic stone knife, each kissing it as they receive it. Now they’re cutting their palms with it and dripping blood into a bowl. I can’t watch anymore.
A minute later and one of them is by my side tipping the contents of the bowl into my mouth. No! I turn away rapidly, spitting out the foul contents.
“Drink it. It’ll take away the pain.”
Mother! I know your voice still, even if that mask hides your face from me. I’ll do anything Mother, just don’t leave me again.
“I wont son. I’ll be with you always now you’ve come of age.”
She heard me? Or did I say it out loud? I don’t care anymore. I just want the pain and confusion to end.
“Drink it.”, she urges me again, and this time I do. It’s warm, spicy.
They pull me off the altar. Am I going to be freed? They kneel me down on the earth and before I can even register the knife it’s in my heart. Mother…?
I’m dying. I can feel my life running down my chest, mixing with the earth as so many of my ancestors blood has. Ancestors… What the…?
They put the knife in my hands and hold it their in a tight grip. Then suddenly my hand is plunged downwards and I stab the stone knife deep into the earth up to the hilt. And I am reborn!
The earth whispers it’s secrets to me as my flesh turns to liquid and washes over the wound leaving not a single blemish. This is my country and as long as one of my line is bound to the land it will prosper, never again suffering as I have up until now. I know the movements of every animal in my borders, the name of every person. In the distance I can feel a woman giving birth to the latest of my subjects.
I glance to the sky and the rain slows then stops. I could get used to this. Blood magick, the eldest of binding rituals. I understand now because I can remember, even back to when this began hundreds of years ago with my ancestor. I can see his face as he puts his son through this, binding him to the land completely. I can see my mother arranging to have me taken to the tower that my family has used for generations. And I know what has to be done.
They’re waiting for me now. They know what is to come and prostrate themselves before me on the earth. I make it swallow them whole then I carve their names into the stone altar. The words disappear as soon as I am done, yet I can see them amongst dozens of others. One day I’ll be there too.
The morning sun blazing through the windows gently wakes me. As I dress I can smell the breakfast cooking; bacon and eggs if I’m not mistaken.
She’s waiting for me as I come down the stairs, looking beautiful as ever. We make small talk as we enter the kitchen, discussing dreams, and I smile as I see a large fried breakfast waiting on the table for me.
As I sit down to eat she grabs a slice of toast and nibbles on it, watching me enjoy my breakfast. I know she’s already eaten but I still feel slightly guilty for tucking into such a large meal when all she’s eating is toast.
“Eliza darling, why do you not wait for me before eating your breakfast? I would love to eat with you.”
“I prefer to get it out of the way, Freddy.” She knows I hate that name, but she also knows that only she can get away with calling me it.
We continue eating, me the huge fried breakfast she’s laid out for me, her another slice of dry toast.
“Coffee darling?” I nod in agreement, mouth too full to reply and almost choke on my food, and she walks swiftly to the stove, picks up the kettle and makes me a coffee.
“Where is that damned newspaper?” I wonder half under my breath.
She smiles as she hands me my coffee. She knows I’m not myself until I’ve read my newspaper and had my coffee. Oh dearest Eliza, how you can be so cheerful in the morning I’ll never know.
I spend the rest of the morning going through my general Sunday routine. Something’s nagging at the back of my mind but I cannot for the life of me imagine what it is. Nor can I forget it, it seems. I find myself distracted repeatedly throughout the day and even start singing the wrong hymn in church, which is highly embarrassing.
Later, as the twilight stirs, Eliza and I summon my family demon. Well to be completely honest it doesn’t belong to my family, after all one can never truly own a demon. But it has always come when we’ve summoned it, granting wishes for the price of a virgin’s blood. We’ve gotten into the practise of hiring servant girls from out of town for that reason alone.
My family has always done this to guarantee our children’s health and our own future happiness. The ritual can only be performed on certain nights, so Eliza and I have had to hold off on certain marital pleasures for a while, but it will be worth it when we’re older and still have the stamina we have now. The ritual doesn’t take long and soon it stands before us. I raise the knife to the servant girl’s throat. I’ve taken to not learning their names as it is a waste.
“STOP!!!” I obey instantly. The demon has never spoken before a sacrifice until now. Have the terms changed? A million questions run through my panicking mind.
“WRONG!!!” is all it says as it scoops up my beautiful wife and devours her whole. She doesn’t even have time to scream.
I look at the maid before me with disgust, suddenly reminded of the time a month ago when I took my pleasure with her in return for a crisp ten pound note. She has lowered herself to the gutter and it has cost me my beautiful virgin wife. A tear runs down my cheek.
“There may still be a way…”
“WHAT IS YOUR WISH?” sneers the demon. I swear it sounds satisfied that it has cheated me of my bride, but I am smarter.
“Take me back in time. Take me back to this morning that I may save my beloved.”
And just like that, it’s done and I’m back in the middle of breakfast. The transition is so fast that I almost choke on my food.
I can stop it happening. All I have to do is confess my temptation by that trash maid, we’ll go out and find a girl of purer blood, and the ritual will go as planned. I open my mouth to tell her what went wrong.
“Where is that damned newspaper?” What??? I try again but cannot control myself. The demon has beaten me. It will enjoy it’s feast forever more while I am trapped, living out the same day constantly.
How many times have I been through this cycle now? How many times have I seen her die? How many times have I looked into that maid’s eyes and seen the demon staring back? All I pray for now is an end that will never come, or madness. Any oblivion is better than this.
It’s been so long since I’ve been out there, doing what I do best. I guess I just went a little crazy. The drink was flowing, the music was pumping and I just felt it, you know? I just needed to be a part of it again.
No-one in the club paid any notice to me at first, but once word got round that there was a guy buying drinks for people it didn’t take long for a small crowd to gather. It never ceases to amaze me what effect a free drink can have on perfect strangers. Suddenly all my jokes became hilarious, and I wasn’t short of a girl to dance with all night long, even for the rare slow numbers. For the first time in ages I felt like I did as a teenager.
Sooner than I would have liked, the club closed and my “friends” slowly split from me to go home. One or two hung around waiting for taxis and I found myself going in the same direction as a girl I’d shared a couple of raunchy dances with that night. We shared a taxi, as well as a few kisses in the back of it, and both got out at my house.
It didn’t take half an hour until things had moved into the bedroom. No change there then. And thankfully I found that I still had all my old bedroom skills from when I was a teenager and the stamina too. I’d worried for a while that I wouldn’t be able to perform as well, but I really shouldn’t have. She never even saw the knife.
It’s finally caught up to me, as it did the rest of my family. It stalked them one by one, leaving only death and madness in it’s wake. And, with no child to live on after me, I am the last of my family. Let it come I say. Let it end this once and for all.
Such bravado eh? It’s all an act of course, and it lasts me long enough to get me severely drunk at my local pub. Unfortunately I’m not feeling so brave now that I’m no longer surrounded by my friends. I can feel it creeping up on me. It’s in my bones and my blood. The pain tells me it’s there just beyond my vision.
I speed up, trying to get to the safety of my home, but it’s grip is in me now. It’s like walking through treacle and my energy is soon spent. It’s coming for me.
I can see my house. The light’s on and calling me home. Oh thank god. I reach into my pocket and grab my key, but the creature claws at me causing me to drop it. I fumble around on the floor as it ravages my back and grab the key. Crawling forward, I make it to the door and drag myself up, before turning to face it. A shadow passes by my window showing me it’s no longer out here with me, but inside my own home.
A rage enters me, so hot and terrible that nothing will stop me facing it now. It’s invaded my home? No, this ends now. I fling open the door and march into the front room where the light shines. The beasts rise suddenly, screaming their terrible cries. For a moment I stand resolute, like some modern day Canute screaming his defiance to the elements, and I am immovable. But the moment passes, and ultimately, like Canute before me, I crumble and am swept away.