11 Mar The Caul
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"The Caul"Written by
Estimated reading time — 26 minutes
Content warning: this pasta contains some gore.
He was born with a caul. That was all we knew, and that was all we needed to know. It was a hideous deformity, an extra layer of skin that covered at birth his face at birth and marked him for what he was. I never even learned his name, and I am not sure he had one. He was simply the boy with the caul.
In some places it was seen as a sign of good luck. People would say it predestined wealth, or ensured long life. Old cowls were sold to sailors to protect from downing. They were a blessing, outsiders would say.
But we knew better.
It was the sign of the devil. It was a sign of a creature so hideous, God himself would cover his face. His eyes would be sharp and mesmerizing, they would draw you in like magnets and hypnotize you. They would peer into your soul to see your secrets and possess you. His speech would be luring and tantalizing, it would demand your attention then bend words to trick and control you. His mind was clever, not with the wisdom of man but with the cunning of a fox, designed to outwit and trap you. A thousand times people like him had come into the world, and a thousand times they had used these traits to kill and destroy the lives of innocent people. And for these reasons our God had chosen to hide him from us, and mark him as evil.
When he was born they said he should be killed. The Pastor demanded it, calling the town to arms to take him into the forest and bury him alive. This, he said, was the only way to ensure he’d be taken back to Hell. Many agreed, and surrounded his parent’s house. They lit torches and shouted for the child, demanding he be handed over. They chanted and chanted, calling for his blood. They would not allow such a creature into their village, and would kill anyone who tried to get in their way. If need be, they would burn down the house with him inside then bury the ashes. The mother cried and cried, but knew it was what was best. They all did, and accepted that it must happen. The boy had to die.
For me the story began on a hot Sunday in August. Church had just ended, and most of the families had gathered for a small festival in the center of the village. The several dozen houses and buildings in the town formed a circle around a large field, separating the forest from where we were standing. The Church with its high steeple stood at one end, and the only road in or out was directly opposite of it. Along the road were the farms and lumber mills where the people nearby made their living.
The day in question was an annual celebration. Its date wasn’t set in stone, it just needed good weather and was always on a Sunday when strawberries would be fresh. Piles and piles of them were brought into the central field and shared among anyone who came by.
I was eleven at the time, and was eager to celebrate. I dressed in my best, a brown coat and matching pants, and was lead around by my mother’s hand. I already had a bag full of the berries attached to my belt, and I ate them slowly with my free hand. The red juice dripping down my face and hands, as we walked through the gathered crowds. I suppose there weren’t really that many people there, but to me it seemed like a huge event. I thought anyone who was anyone would be there.
However, when I was there I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. By chance I had glanced toward a house at the edge of the village. It was a house I knew well, but had never gone in. It was the only one outside the circle, standing at the very edge of the forest and half consumed by it. Many times at night I had heard cries and moans coming from it, sounds that every child heard but every adult seemed to deny existed. I had never seen anyone enter or leave it in the eleven years I was alive.
Today was different. I looked at the highest window of the house. It was shuttered, but a crack in the shutter let me see into it. There I saw seen a face I had never seen before. It seemed to be the same age as me, with a thin face but thick, dark brown hair. It stared wishfully toward the celebration, a look of sadness and desire that comes from seeing something you desperately want but will never have.
I tugged on my mother’s hand. She was a pretty woman, with light brown hair, blue eyes and a face that was used to smiling.
“Momma,” I asked “who is that boy?”
She looked at me with a smile. “Who do you mean, John?”
“The young boy in that window over there.” I pointed towards the window I had seen him.
A look of dread came into my mother’s eyes, and she went pale. “That was… that was no one. Don’t ask about it.”
“But there was someone there! See…” I looked back, but the window was empty. “Well there was someone.”
“Well even if there is he’s gone. Forget about it.”
“But I was sure I…”
“No,” she said sternly. “No more of this. I don’t want to hear any more!” By the end she was almost shouting, and people had turned to look. Embarrassed, she took my by the hand and led my back to our house. I protested, wanting to get back to the party and not understanding what I had done wrong, but she dragged me into my room.
My father was right behind her. He was perhaps the largest man in the village, and was broad shouldered and muscular. His look of anger was enough to terrify anyone, especially me. He grabbed me by the shoulder and pointed a finger at my face. “Look boy,” he said “you better forget what you think you saw. Whether there was something there or not there was no person there. Get it out of your head.” He left and shut the door behind himself.
But I couldn’t get the face out of my mind. It was burned into it, etched into my thoughts. Every time I closed my eyes I saw his. My parents both told me there was nothing there, and ordered me to stay away. Sometimes I wish I had listened, or even could have listened. But I knew I had seen something. I wanted, needed to know what it was I was willing to do anything to see it.
That night I paced back and forth in my room. I had tried to sleep, but couldn’t get it out of my mind. The thought was possessing me, luring me toward the window and the boy who may or may not have been inside.
I made up my mind. Though I consciously decided against it, my unconscious mind that demanded I go, and after hours of fighting it I relented.
I opened the door to my room and stuck my head out, listening. I didn’t hear any movement, and assumed my parents were both asleep. I snuck out of the room, down the stairs and out the front door.
Once I was out I was running. It was dangerous to be out at night, especially near the forest. Wild animals filled it and could attack you at any moment, tear you to pieces and consume you before anyone could come to help. There were even rumours of things worse than animals, things that God could not look at, and we all knew to stay away. However, tonight I had to go through.
I ran outside the circle of houses and towards the edge of the forest. My heart raced faster and faster as I ran, warning me of the danger I could be in. The shadows of the trees blocked the moonlight, leaving me in near pitch darkness. The branches reached towards me like claws, waiting for any slip or trip to grab a hold of me and pull me inside. Every sound and movement seemed like a creature waiting for a chance to pounce on me.
I ran and ran, and finally reached the house. I looked up at it. There, at the top of the house, was the shuttered window. I knew I needed to find a way inside.
I looked around me. One of the branches of the nearest tree came very close to the window. I ran to the trunk and climbed it. I climbed along the branch and peered through the crack of the shutter. Inside it was pitch black. I tried the latch on the window. The metal on the latch was bent into place and wouldn’t budge, and the hinges were worn and rusted. I climbed down the tree again, grabbed a rock, and climbed back up.
Everything I knew warned against it. I had seen the fear in my mother’s face, and the anger in my father’s at the suggestion I may come here. Even the room itself seemed to scream danger. The darkness inside could conceal anything, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to see what it hid. My parents insisted I hadn’t seen another human, and I didn’t want to know what that implied.
However, I had seen something, and had to know what it truly was. I rammed the stone against the latch, bending it slightly back to how it should be. I rammed it again and again, until it was strait and I could open it. I did so, and yanked at the shutters, only to find they were tied with rope as well. I tore at the string, breaking it piece by piece until it fell down toward the ground. I paused a moment. It was clear that someone didn’t want the shutters open. They must truly have feared whatever was inside. I sat in the tree, shaking with fear for what seemed like an eternity. Every ounce of reason I had warned me against what I was doing, but the desire to see was overwhelming. While my dread pushed me away, the face and my curiosity of it drew me in. I looked back through the forest. The idea of going back was almost as terrifying as going forward. In the end, I simply couldn’t resist it. I pulled at the shutters, causing them to squeak and moan. I looked in.
The blackness inside was impenetrable. The only illumination was a small square of moonlight which came from the window, partially blocked by my own head. The rest of the room was impossible to see. With a gulp of fear, I stepped in.
Instantly I regretted the decision. I stumbled and feel as I stepped, my face landing on wooden floor boards covered in dust. The panic inside me rose dramatically, and I tried to gain my feet but tripped over an unseen object in the darkness. I hit my head against a wall, and remained on the floor for a moment, dizzy.
I became aware of another being inside the room. I could not see it, and had no idea what it was. At first there was only the indescribable sense of something being there, and the knowledge that it was watching me. Though I couldn’t identify it, I feared it, and everything inside me told it was dangerous. I didn’t know what, but there was something wrong with it.
I heard footsteps, light ones which were difficult to hear and impossible to place. My breath caught, and I looked around in the darkness, trying to find out where the footsteps where coming from. However, there was no sign of who, or what, made them. I was left immobile from fear.
“You shouldn’t have come here” a voice said. It was deep and low, with a hard edge that conveyed hate despite being little more than a whisper.
Instantly I scrambled toward the window of light. However, I heard the tell-tale creak of the rusted shutters. As I reached toward it in vain, the light was cut off from me, and I heard the latch go into place. I was left in complete darkness.
I squeezed my eyes shut, praying for something to save me. I begged for forgiveness for my sins, and desperately wished it was a dream. However, I knew nothing would come to save me from my mistakes.
A light flashed in front of me. For a second it was blinding, and my eyes stung from trying to look at it. Slowly it settled into the light of a single candle.
The light focused on the outline of a body holding a club, raised high in the air above me. The face was the one I had seen earlier, and it snarled at me. I cowered, holding my hands up and looking away.
“Please don’t hurt me!” I said “I only came to see who you were!”
“LIAR!” he said. “This is another trick! What were you planning to do while I slept? What would have happened if I didn’t get you first?”
“Nothing! I… I swear!”
“No! You’re a thief and a murderer! You were here for me, but I’ll get you first!” He kicked at my stomach, and I groaned from the impact.
“No, please! I swear I’m not! I’m a friend!” I cried desperately.
I lay still, waiting for the club to come down. I briefly wondered if I would even feel it, or if it would crack my skull on the first blow. I whimpered, wishing I hadn’t come.
But the club never came. I looked up to see him still standing above me holding the club, but he looked confused.
“Friend?” he asked. “Why?”
“I…. I don’t know. I just saw you earlier and wondered who you were.” I replied.
He lowered the club slightly, but still held onto it. As my eyes grew accustomed to the light I saw that it was really the broken leg of a chair. The object I had tripped over was the edge of a cot which was on the floor.
“How do I know this isn’t some kind of trick?” He asked.
“Why would I trick you?” I had suddenly remembered the bag of strawberries that was still at my belt. I took one out and handed it to him. “Here! Have a strawberry” I said.
He reached for it and looked at it curiously. Suddenly he snarled again. “Liar! This is a trick again!” He threw the strawberry at me, and raised the club.
“No! I swear! Here look.” I took one out of the bag and began eating it, then handed him another.
He looked at it for a moment, then took a tentative bite. His eyes went wide, and he said “It’s good!”
I nodded, and he kept eating. For a moment I saw the same look of sad wish fullness I had seen earlier, of longing for something beyond his reach.
We were interrupted by the opening of the door. A grey haired and old but still hard looking man stood in the doorway. He glared at us and pointed his finger toward the boy.
“YOU! What are you doing?” he started to walk towards us.
The other boy, clearly frightened, through away the club and the strawberry and tried to stammer a response. “I… I don’t kn-know! He j-j-just came in! I don’t know who he is!”
The man ignored his words and picked him up roughly by the shoulder.
“You stay right here. We are going to have some words with your little visitor.” With that, he grabbed me by the shoulder and pulled me out the door. I tried to protest, but stopped when I saw my father standing behind him. My father took me to another room as the man walked back into the boy’s. I heard more of the moans and cries I had heard before. He returned a minute later.
“What’s going on? I just wanted to talk to him!” I said.
“That’s not the sort of boy you should be talking to,” he said, sounding as much genuinely concerned as angry.
I looked around the room. The old and frail Pastor was there, as was my mother and a blond woman I had seen before but didn’t know.
“Who is he?” I asked.
“He’s… he’s my son,” the grey haired man said, sounding guilty.
“Yes he is! He is my baby boy and yours too!” the blond woman said, on the verge of tears. “And you should remember it! He doesn’t deserve this!”
“I do remember it! God I think about it every day! But there is nothing I can do about it, is there!?” the man replied in a hurt voice.
“Now now, calm down,” the Pastor said “There is no need to be upset, or to blame yourself. It could have happened to anyone, and you have done your best.” He put a hand on the man’s shoulder, calming him. “And ma’am, you know it is for the best in the end. It may be hard, but you have to be strong.” He repeated the gesture on the woman’s shoulder, and it seemed to have the same effect.
“Now, we have another problem. Little Johnny here decided to meet the… other boy… and caused a bit of mischief.”
“Yes, and after I distinctly told him not to,” my father said angrily. “Didn’t you know how dangerous that was? You’re lucky you didn’t get hurt!”
The grey haired man reacted as if he was visibly struck at the mention of my being hurt. “You could have been, and it just isn’t right that you would be. I’ve done everything I can to makes sure nothing would…”
The Pastor interrupted him. “Alright, its fine. We know you work hard to avoid this scenario, and nothing bad came of it.”
I was getting more and less patient. “Alright, I won’t do it again, but who is he!?”
They all looked at me, then exchanged glances. Then the Pastor spoke. “When he was born, he had a caul. That is an extra flap of skin that covers the face like a mask. Do you know what that means?”
“Yes, I do” I replied in quiet voice. I had heard the stories of what people who were born with cowls could do. “What happened?”
The Pastor continued. “Well…”
After he was born, the families had gathered to destroy him. It wasn’t something they wanted to do, but they knew it had to be done.
However, they were stopped. The child’s mother, a woman named Margaret, pleaded with her husband Tom to spare him. She knew of the legends, but could not bear to part with her son. She claimed they could keep him apart from others to contain his demented nature. She pleaded and pleaded.
And he relented.
Though he knew it would have been for the greater good, he was convinced by his wife. He gave in, and told the Pastor and gathered crowed of his decision. They agreed, on one condition. The parents must watch and control his every move. They could not forget, even for a second, what he truly was. Even acts of kindness and sweetness may only be to deceive them, and he should be met with coldness and harsh discipline. Only in this way could they ensure his true side doesn’t break out. If they fail, they would be to blame for what happens.
They agreed, and the child was allowed to live.
However, his life wouldn’t be much like any other.
It was fairly clear why I had never seen him before. He was kept apart from other children, both because of his own parents hiding him and other parents not wanting their children near him. He was never allowed to attend school, there is no telling what he would do with knowledge anyway, he was banned from Church and didn’t attend any village celebrations. When it came to work, he always worked alone. He wasn’t trusted with an axe for wood or a rifle for hunting, but he could carry heavy objects or smash boulders with a large double handed hammer when digging fields or basements. Other children were either told to avoid him or never saw him at all. When they did see him, they never allowed him to join their games, and would either ignore him completely or taunt him until he left.
Most of his life was spent in the top floor of the house he lived in. The windows were always shut and locked, and the door to his room could be locked from the outside. When he was allowed out, he was constantly watched by his father and others generally avoided him. It was by mutual consent his family moved to the outskirts of town. The parents rarely came out, as they knew they would be blamed for anything that happened if they didn’t watch him. Margaret became constantly depressed, wanting to comfort her son but knowing she couldn’t, and Tom seemed to blame himself, so they didn’t want to leave much anyway.
Discipline for him was always harsh. His parents knew that anything he said may be a trick, and behind his every action was ill will. His father kept a stick near his door at all times to use if he got too out of hand.
The Pastor was another main influence on his life. Though he took no pleasure in causing the boy harm, he saw it as his duty to keep his evil away from others. He often took part in his discipline, or came to pray over him.
After the first encounter, my father too began to see him more. He would volunteer to watch him while he worked, and would get angry at any sign of disobedience. Like the boy’s father, he carried a stick when he was near him, but it was much thicker. When I questioned him about it, he only explained that he would do what needed to be done to protect his family, and he thought he could do that by controlling the boy.
I saw him a few times after that year. I watched him on occasion, and always from a distance. Over the years he became muscular and strong, used to hard work and not much else. Every time I saw him I would pay attention to his face. We were warned against it and most people avoided looking right at him, as he may try to control or deceive you. However, I needed to see his expression. People would pass by him, glancing with nervousness or anger at him. Conversations would stop within his earshot. Every time this happened he would look hurt for a moment, then his pain would become anger, and he would glare back at them. This would confirm for whoever passed that they were right to hate him, and they would continue on.
Over time I saw his looks of anger get worse and worse, harder and harder. The hurt looks all but disappeared, and were replaced with a constant glare that he turned on anyone and everything that he saw. I saw more hate in his eyes then I had seen in every other person I ever met. By the time I was fifteen, I was sure there was nothing else inside of him.
It was that summer when I was fifteen that the worst part came. It was the anniversary of when I had first seen him, and once again we were having the celebration with strawberries.
At first the party was going well, just like any other year. The sun was warm, and people were happy.
However, I began to sense a strange feeling of unease among the people there. I saw more and more upset faces, and people glancing around each other nervously.
It took me a while to find the source of the discomfort. Walking among the crowd was a stranger. Despite the heat, he wore a long coat and had its collar turned up and a hat with a wide brim that he turned down over his eyes. The result was that it was impossible to make out his face.
People watched him suspiciously, muttering to themselves. He walked around without speaking or looking directly at anyone there. Eventually it became clear he realized people were nervous about him. His stride became awkward and unconfident, his shoulders slumped, and he kept his head down. This only made people more nervous, and a wide circle formed around him.
Finally, a black haired man I recognized as a farmer named Rick approached him.
“Excuse me, but who in the hell are you?” Rick asked.
The stranger stopped walking and began shaking, but didn’t respond.
“I said, who are you? And why the hell are you wearing that get up?” Rick asked again, more angrily.
The stranger still didn’t respond, and began to back away slowly.
“Answer me!” Rick shouted, and grabbed the stranger’s hat.
There was a gasp in the crowed as his face became clear. It was the boy, and most of the crowd recognized him. They began murmuring and backing away from him.
“YOU!” a loud, angry voice said. It was my father, and he was approaching quickly. “What they hell are you doing here?”
“I just wanted… I just wanted…” the boy’s explanation was interrupted by a loud SMACK as my father’s fist slammed into his jaw. The crowd gasped, and the boy fell down.
“I just wanted to try the strawberries! I swear I meant no harm!”
“Oh yeah? Then what was with that disguise? What were you trying to hide boy?”
He had no answer, and fumbled around with his words. “I uhhh… ummm…. I don’t…”
“I don’t care what lies you have to say. Get out, get out now!” My father shouted and pointed away from the celebration. The crowd began to shout their agreement.
“But I… I just wanted…” the boy began, but was constantly interrupted by the shouts and jeers from the crowed. As one the people of the village condemned him and demanded he leave.
Once again, his had a pained expression, but it quickly turned to one of anger. He stood up and pointed at the audience, his eyes cold with hate and a snarl on his face.
“You….. You bastards!” He shouted “Every last one of you! I’ve done nothing to any of you, and yet you condemn me every day.”
“Don’t give us that! We’ve all seen you glaring at everyone as if you’re going to kill us. Why do you think we don’t want you here?” A voice said, and most of the crowed shouted in agreement.
“You LIARS! It was all from you! I don’t just hate you all, I despise you with the depths of my heart. And how you deserve it… I will show you all! And especially you…” he swept his finger around the crowd, then settled on my own father.
He turned away and walked through the crowed which opened up in front of him. He began running, and was pelted with bad berries until he was away from the celebration. Soon he was back at the house near the forest. His parents and the pastor followed close behind him.
The celebration ended soon after. Everyone had a sour taste in their mouths from the events, and didn’t feel like celebrating. It ended early, and everyone went home for the night.
Later that night I was sitting at the wooden dinner table in my home. The room I was in served as our kitchen, dining room, and living room all at once. However, it was simple, with furniture consisting of a stove, the table, and a few chairs, along with a few shelves on the walls and plain wooden flooring. The front door was at one end, a staircase leading to the bedrooms was at the other, and a few pair of windows were on the other two side walls.
I was attempting to read by candle light, and my mother was sewing. My father was out at a meeting with other members of the village.
Suddenly he burst in the front door, and closed it quickly behind him and locked it. I could tell by the speed with which he moved and the rare fear in his eyes that something was wrong.
“Alright, listen up you two,” he said. “We’ve got to lock up the doors and windows.”
“What’s wrong?” my mother asked.
“That caul boy is gone.”
“What?! Where?!” she said. She ran to each window, closed the inner shutter, and locked them.
“We don’t know. The Pastor and his parents locked him in his room after he went down to the celebration. However, when his father checked tonight, he wasn’t there. We don’t know where he went, or what he is up to. The advice for now is to lock all doors and windows. Don’t leave for any circumstances, he may play tricks to get people out of their homes.”
“But what if he comes here?” I asked.
“If we lock the doors he won’t be able to do anything. Anyway, I have my rifle.” He pointed to the corner of the room where it was kept.
We sat for a moment in silence, looking at each other. A nervous pit formed in my stomach, making me feel almost nauseous. That boy was out there somewhere, and we didn’t know where. I kept thinking back to the celebration. He had threatened everyone, and pointed around the crowed. However, in the end it was my father he had settled on. I knew he had more hate for my father then for anyone else in town, I could see it in his eyes. All those years my father had been the roughest on him, believing it would protect his family. Now it may have condemned us.
Time passed slowly as we waited for what we all half knew was coming. Then I heard a click at the door. Not a knock, a click, like something metallic.
We glanced at each other again, wondering what it might have been. Finally I stood up and walked toward the door, put my hand on the handle, and pushed.
“Wait! Don’t open it! It may be a trap!” My mother said, panicking.
Not that it mattered if I did anyway. It took me a second to realize what it was exactly I was feeling. The nervousness I felt in my stomach was replaced with fear, then outright terror
The door had been locked from the outside.
I turned back toward my family, eyes wide and mouth hanging open. I saw my expression matched with in their faces as they realized what had happened.
“Help help help!” I screamed, but suddenly realized no one would be coming. We had all been told not to leave for anything, and that he may try to trick us out of our own homes. Any call for help, unless there was an obvious danger, would just be treated as a trick. Even if they were almost sure it was real, no one would want to risk it with him out there.
We heard footsteps running around the house. A dark shadow passed by one of the windows, and the footsteps came behind the building.
We heard scratching at the back of the house, behind the stairwell. We backed away from it, not knowing what it was he was doing, and not wanting to find out.
Soon his actions became clear. Smoke began to drift into the room, and a fire began to build until the back wall was in flame.
“GET OUT!” my father screamed, and tried to push against the door. He rammed his full body against it, but it wouldn’t budge. From the small bit we could see through the crack on the side, he had rammed a steel bar against it and wedged it in place.
We glanced around in panic. The windows were glass, but that could be broken. My father opened the shutters, grabbed a chair and threw it through one of the windows. He helped my mother through, then myself.
I turned around to help him from the outside. However, he wasn’t coming. I looked in and saw him staring toward the corner of the room where the rifle was. The entire area was covered with flame, and the rifle was invisible behind it.
“Don’t do it Dad!” I said. “You can’t!”
“I know,” he said “but I need too!”
“No! Come on!” I shouted back. The room was completely full of smoke, and it burned me to even be close to the house. The roof was creaking and could collapse at any moment.
He relented, and began climbing out the window. I helped him through, and began pulling. However, he was much larger than either of us, and struggled to fit. As he came out, his leg ran along a sharp blade of glass, cutting a long gouge on his calf and ankle. He screamed, and collapsed to the ground.
“GO! Run to the sheriff’s house and get help!” he said. My mother and I looked at each other. “GO!” He shouted.
I began to lift him up by the arm. “Run and get someone, I will help him” I said to my mother. She nodded, and began to run.
Despite his protests, I balanced his weight across my shoulders. He stumbled beside me, leaning for support whenever he used the injured leg.
We moved as quickly as we could. The darkness of the night was even starker when compared with the fire we were just in, and our eyes couldn’t adjust. Everywhere we heard more screaming and shouts for help, and people ran about us in panic. At least three other buildings that I could see were burning, one of them the church.
We walked into the center field of the field, heading toward the sheriff’s home which stood across from ours. It occurred to me he likely wasn’t even there anymore, as he would be the only one to respond to the cries for help, but my mother had run in that direction and I had nowhere else to go. I strode on, pulling half the weight of my father along with me.
“Going somewhere?” a voice asked.
I turned to see who had spoken, and screamed as loud as I could. I was instantly filled with terror. There, outlined by the moonlight, was the boy with the caul. He stood up strait and held his hammer in his hands. He raised it up into the air and came towards us.
We both began running way. Forgetting all plans of seeing the sheriff we ran and stumbled randomly into the darkness, calling for help from anyone who could give it. I turned back again and again to see him chasing us, each time getting closer and closer. The tip of his hammer seemed to be within inches of my head, and he had it raised, ready to swing the instant he could. Every door we passed was locked, and every cry for help we raised went unanswered. I kept calling, though I knew anyone who would be willing to leave the safety of their homes would already be fighting the fires. I was losing my breath from helping my father, and couldn’t run any more.
“Where are you going? No one is going to help you! You’re all mine!” he screamed.
Finally we came near a house, and found the door to be unlocked. I pushed inside and stumbled into a living room much like our own. We both slammed the door shut then locked it. Not satisfied with simply locking it we leaned against it and pressed to keep it shut. We looked around. There was no one in the room. It occurred to me that the family who lived here must have been one of the few to respond to a fire or a call for help and had left the door unlocked.
Suddenly I heard a loud banging noise and felt the entire door shudder. The noise came again, this time accompanied with a crack as some of the wood began to break. It was him, smashing the door with his hammer.
“I know you’re in there!” He shouted, almost tauntingly. He slammed the door again and again, and it cracked more and more. “I’m coming to get you! This won’t protect you for long”
Each swing of the hammer brought the door closer to breaking. I could feel the swing of the hammer get harder and harder as there was less between me and the assailant.
Finally the door gave way with a massive crack and burst into splinters. I was thrown back from the force and landed hard against the ground. My father held himself against the table and tried to charge him, but the boy swung his hammer hard against my father’s knee, splintering it like the door. I tried to get up and grab him. He saw me coming and jabbed the hammer into my gut, winding me and forcing me down. He grabbed a cabinet and pulled it down on me, pinning me to the ground.
As I lay on the ground trying desperately to breath, I saw him stand over my father, his eyes filled with hate.
“Oh how long I’ve waited,” he said “how long I’ve waited for this day.” He kicked at my father, who moaned helplessly at him and grasped his useless knee. “All those year you treated me like I was nothing… well look at us now. Now look who really is nothing.”
He began kicking my father in the gut. “You will pay for what you did to me.” He said, still kicking. He grabbed the unbroken leg, and pulled it strait. My father tried to kick him off, but was too injured to fight and overpowered. The boy took a rope and tied his foot down to a floorboard he loosened with the hammer, then repeated the process with each of his arms. This left him with one leg broken and the other three outstretched.
He raised the hammer up and brought it down on the outstretched knee. My father screamed in pain. It was an almost unnatural sound, coming from a pain beyond anything I had ever experienced.
“You wanted to fear me? I will give you a reason to fear me!” the boy said. He raised the hammer again and swung it at my father’s arm. There was a loud crack, and the bone jutted out from his skin. I watched in terror as my father’s screams turned into a horrid gurgling noise unlike any I had ever heard a human make.
“I want you to feel as I always felt. Helpless, useless, with nothing you can do to ease the pain.” The boy raised the hammer again and smashed my father’s second arm. He didn’t even scream this time, he only convulsed and made the same inhuman gurgling noise.
“And now, I am going to kill you. I will kill you for all you ever did to me,” the anger in the boy’s voice had peaked, and he stepped toward my father’s head. I tried to call out to him and beg him to stop, but I could barely breathe and he ignored everything I did.
He stood over my father for a moment, the anger in his face become a twisted, triumphant smile. He raised the hammer again. I saw my father’s eyes open, staring at the end of the hammer with fear. But there was nothing he could do. His body was ruined and he had no defence against the onslaught. He turned his head away.
The boy shouted and swung as hard as he could into the side of my father’s head. It smashed into it with a terrible gushing noise. The hammer went completely through his skull and slammed into the floor beneath. Blood splattered around the floor, along with bits of his face skull. When he lifted it again, there was nothing left recognizable as a head. The boy snarled, and swung the hammer again and again into the body, causing it to break and burst.
I was beyond tears, and tried to call for him to stop. Finally he looked over at me. The same twisted smile was on his face, mixed with an unending well of hate. He came toward me, lifting the hammer up. I tried to speak to him, beg him to stop, but I couldn’t raise my voice.
He stood over me, looking down at my face. He kicked me in the chest, and I grunted.
“I don’t know who you are” he said “but you were one of them. All those years you rejected me, hated me, abused me… You deserve to die like the rest.” He raised the hammer again, and I cowered beneath him, holding my hands up and looking away.
The hammer didn’t come down. I looked back up at him to see him standing in shock.
“It… I-It’s you!” he said. “From that one night…” For the third time he had the look of sad wishfulness, a desire for something and a knowledge he could never have it.
He dropped the hammer, and backed away slowly. Finally he ran out the door.
I was found the next day by the owner of the house I was in and helped up. It was then I found out the extent of what had happened.
In totally he had burned down four buildings. Aside from our house it was his own, the Pastor’s, and the Church. It seemed he was targeting people who had affected him the most. Along with my father, the Pastor had been killed in the fire, and he had killed one other man who had tried to stop him. His parents, however, had managed to escape unharmed except for a few burn marks.
However, that wouldn’t last long.
The boy with the caul was soon found hiding in the forest. He was grabbed, tied up, and dragged back to the town to be charged. Along with him went his parents. They had argued for his life and refused to kill him, and were trusted to keep him in check. When they failed, they were guilty. They brought the evil into the world and failed to contain it.
I wanted no part of the events that followed but they were almost unavoidable. The crowds gathered again in the center of the village, but this time for a much more sinister purpose.
The parents, for the crime of bringing evil into the world and not controlling it, were sentenced to be burned at the stake. That way, their souls could be cleansed. The screamed and begged as they were dragged out and hoisted onto the poles of wood, but they were ignored. Sticks were piled around them, and a torch was brought. Margaret screamed and wept in fright, Tom only stared with an empty look in his face, knowing full well what he had brought into the world. Even from where I was, far away and sitting in another house, I could smell the flesh burn and hear the screams. The smell of smoke remained for days, and the sound of their screams never left my mind.
The boy, however, could not be redeemed even with fire. He was evil from birth, and nothing could save his soul. Instead, he was to be returned to the hell he came from. The method of doing this was clear. He was tied up and wrapped in thick, white cloth. A hole was dug, far deeper than any grave the village had dug before. They lowered him in, careful to ensure he didn’t die from the fall and lived through his full punishment. They began to shovel dirt on him and buried him alive. He shouted and swore, cursing those around him with his last breathes, and screamed in terror the entire time. However, he didn’t beg for mercy, as he knew there was no one there who would give him any. And that was the end of the boy with the cowl.
Many times, people asked why it happened, and how anyone could commit such horrendous acts. The people from the village always give the same answer.
He was born with a caul. That is all we knew,and all, or so they’d tell you, we needed to know.
Credit To – EricAMBM