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Behold the screams of a very young man. A very young man who has barely reached the cusps of adulthood. A very young man who at this very moment is having his intestines slowly pulled out of his body and swiftly burnt in front him. He wails in agony before the rest of his defeated physical frame convulses into a painful stupor. His eyes wide, mouth gaping, hands writhing into themselves under tightened ropes. The boy is dying, albeit slowly, while still witnessing and feeling every single moment. He tries to look away but his head is forced upon the viewing of his exited organs being roasted on a fire pit.
This is the fate of those who commit the atrocious act of high treason against the King. He is not the only young man who is facing this punishment; his two companions have also been sentenced and are in the process of being tortured as well. The ordeal goes as is – you are hung by rope via neck until near death, cut down and lain on a table where your privy members will be sliced off and bowels removed to be placed in a fire before your very eyes, then your body will be hacked and divided into many pieces before being boiled in hot water. The last step preserves the flesh longer as the parts will be displayed at various locations as a warning to others.
I am one of the executioners, working amongst a few of my other working cohorts and surrounded by chain-mailed guards with their scabbards. We are located on top of a wooden platform in the middle of a large square. Normally this was a place for markets and trade, but today it has become a show. Shops have closed, labourers have ceased working, people have left their homes to come and watch the gruesome spectacle. The crowds surrounding us portray a mix of cheering, jeering, silent disgust and sadness. I am long accustomed to it all after many years of this profession.
The boy suddenly glances up at me, eyes turning from panic to fury. I paid no heed to him at first, until he cries out suddenly in an echoing and blood curdling call. His gaze glares towards the sky.
“Cuuuurse you! CURSE YOU! I send the devil towards you! YOU SIRE! YOU!!!! You and your heir!”
He trembles and withers, blood dripping from his mouth. The spectators were so rambunctious his statements were barely heard. There was just I. His gaze shifts towards me.
“Whatever you say, boy,” I mumble. That must have been quite the effort, as well as a very daring statement. Is he affiliated with this being personally? Yet, it is far from being an unusual occurrence. You are already condemned; whatever you say no longer matters, might as well continue freely with your emotional constitution and words. After finishing up with his intestines, I pull out the knife from my organized collection, all placed carefully on a lean and tall bench. I turn towards his male member and begin to slice at his trousers.
The boy wearily gurgles and shakes, eyes rolling up towards his forehead. His mates are now crying out nearby as they face their next stages in this very public execution.
It takes a skilled hand to prolong their life. The objective is to have them survive well into the final coup de grace. I plunge the knife into his member and gradually begin to cut through it until it is completely removed. The boy barely reacts; he just arches his back suddenly before dropping downwards towards complete and utter stillness. I toss his maleness into the pit alongside his other remnants of cooking flesh. I hear some of the crowd members react with jubilance. I was not only doing my duties to entertain or to warn, but to assure the populace of certain justice in a difficult world where most of criminals escape retribution. Once again, I have long since realized this fact many years ago during my journeyman years.
Within the hour the rest of the doomed succumb to their fate. Their heads, arms, legs and torsos are placed in carts to be sent off at various locations. My comrades and I wash our tools and our hands, while servants clean the rest and remove the fire. The sun in the sky turns red and sleepy and the crowds soon disperse. The smell of old blood and cooked meat still lingers in the air. In due time, we are guided away from the ominous platform by the guards.
I have experience in many forms of torture and executions. Burning, piercing, ripping, beating, drowning and flaying have all played a role in the slow destruction of a human being. I have used contraptions such as The Scavenger’s Daughter and The Pear of Anguish. Tomorrow I must skin someone alive, using nothing more than a small rusted blade. It is a profession that invites different sentiments from the common and well born alike. I am either treated with honour or ostracized, with appreciation or silent revulsion. My wife and I have a child, and that child will be required to follow in my footsteps, as I have done through my own father.
Nightfall will soon be upon us, and I am released from duty. Not that I have never done work during the period of dusk and beyond, but I was no longer needed for the time being. My mind becomes lost in thought as I maneuver myself through the narrow streets towards my home. The air grows crisp and cool as the condition of the air gradually drops. Ah, the hints of the future autumn.
I hear chattering within the dwellings surrounding me, taverns and families mingling amongst themselves before their much needed rest. The waning crescent of the moon is slowly showing itself and the dusty streets are finally a little more settled. I feel a strange sense of peace in this engaging yet slowly silent evening. I do like the quiet, it is my rare moment of respite.
I perk up when I hear my name and look around, expecting to see a male somewhere. I don’t see anything.
No reply. How odd, mayhaps I simply misheard. It might have been a travelling sound from a nearby window.
I stop walking and look around once more. There is still nothing. I feel uneasy, knowing that my fear is overcoming my sense of logic. The town buildings that surround me suddenly feel much more silent, a disturbing silence that one would not naturally enjoy, with household lights slowly flickering away. The darkness of the impending night is enveloping me faster and faster. I rub my tense head and proceed to move forward at a much quicker pace. This is far too odd.
There it is once more! Someone is calling out to me, but I do not know where. With each passing call of my name, the tone is deeper and hoarse, though remains in a flat and humdrum manner. My eyes widen when I smell something terrible – a stench of rotting flesh and human waste blended into one. I reach my hand over top my nose to adapt to the smell, but it does not assist. No matter how far I go, the wretched fragrance follows me. There are only a few more moments until I reach my home, only a few more moments….I am certain. Granted, the walk feels oddly long now.
Then at the corner of my right eye, I see a mass of darkness. I jerk my head to the side in an attempt to spot the creature, but there was nothing. Then at the corner of my left eye, the mass returns. As I sprint my head to the opposite direction, once again, nothing was seen. I look ahead of myself towards a further collection of pathways and buildings and notice another dark frame, darting quickly away from my view into the remnants of old barrels.
Am I going mad? What is this, a trickery of the mind due to fatigue? A spiritual being? A hobgoblin out to consume me? I do know that I am seeing something!
I stop once again when I hear a low, deep and hoarse sound. A peculiar gurgling sound. I sense that it was right beside me and I turn swiftly to see. There was nothing but a wooden wall before me. And yet, there was not simply a wall there...
There was teeth. Only teeth. No face, no eyes, no frame of a body. Smiling teeth, slowly grinning wider and wider, completely coalesced into the wall as if an entirely normal occurrence. My stomach churns within itself and I cry out in fear. I run forward, finding a slender rock downward steps and sprinting down. I quickly realized that there were footsteps behind me, running after me.
I wanted to pray for mercy and protection, however my trembling physical horror overcomes my ability to think and speak. My mouth is crippled! Within a forthwith I hear a frightening and piercing cry, etching closer and closer behind my back. It is going to get me. Where is my house? I should be within reach of it by now! But wait, what if I lead the awful thing to my family and harm them?
I yelp in utter dismay as I trip and stumble forward on the ground, heaving heavily with sweat dripping from my brow. Any moment now, I was expecting the dark shapes to overwhelm me. I wait. After what appeared to be a few more moments I finally look upwards, eyes glazing my surroundings carefully, noticing the streets have returned to stillness and bareness. I slowly stand up, my knees rattling in their fervor. Despite the recent ordeal I feel a sensation of newfound calmness once more, as if one somehow knows that the threat has ceased. I cannot explain it well nor comprehend the logic of this sudden newfound relief, but it was there. The gentle lights from the towns’ windows have returned and the subtle moon reappears in kind.
However, I remained eager to move forward. I walk briskly and find myself in a cobblestone road, the incident still lingering in my sensibility. I halt myself when I am alerted by the call of voices and a boisterous horn in the distance. More cries followed before it becomes certain that a crowd was gathering somewhere. I trot forward until I reach a courtyard, seeing a group of people ahead of me forming and running towards the direction of the King’s castle. The castle? Why the noble lord’s castle? What is all this then?
I follow the crowd as they wind their way towards one of the towers, everyone seemingly rowdy and concerned. I hear another cry of a woman, calling out from somewhere in the distance beyond the crowd.
“It’s the Crown Prince! The Crown Prince!!!”
The crowd gasps and wails in fear and shock, crying out questions based on utter confusion. Who did this? How did the murderer have access to a tightly isolated prince? How was the deed done without anyone seeing or hearing? Are you certain it is him? I push myself through the horde of bodies until I reach near the front of the commotion. Guards and soldiers are present, surrounding near the wall of the tower and ordering the people to remain back. At first I did not see what the commotion was, until my vision travels near the top of the tower. And behold…there he was. Or, what remained of him.
It was indeed the prince, the heir to the throne. A rope that is attached to a pillar near the roof was hung around his neck, his body dangling casually against the thick stone wall. His arms and legs are missing, while his entrails are hung from his brutally opened gut. The vitals were stretched out so significantly it could almost reach the ground. His royal crest and fine clothing entirely soiled from blood and excrement. Strange markings scatter all over the wall beside him. Strange markings that looks similar to animal-like footprints.
I now recall the words of the tortured boy. What about the fate of the King? Is it…it is all…akin to one another? No, this cannot be!
The guards discuss with one another on how to cut down the royal down quickly and efficiently, as it was in an area that did not have windows nearby to reach properly. I suddenly hear more orders, demanding us to fully step aside as our monarch will arrive in due time to witness the matter for himself. So he has remained untouched after all, at least for tonight.
Another thought rushed through my head. Aye, what a foolish man I man. My family! I must return to them. I push back through the chaotically disbursing crowd. My knees no longer the only ones shaking as my hands have joined them. I want to vomit, I want to weep, and I want to leave this place forever. The being...the black thing. The dark thing. It is a guarantee that I would not be believed if I speak up.
After a few moments of wandering, I finally make it to the front steps of my humble home. As I was about to open the door, my body freezes. There is a horrid smell, a smell once again similar to rotting death and waste. I discover that there is something written on my door, words sketched sharply into the wood. I slowly step back to read it.
“How Goess Alldus. Wellkum haum. Wiffe and chyld insyde wayting for yvo”
Written by BlackPersephone