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The Well

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A man wages a war against the sinister presence in the woods, while remembering the times that led to this moment.

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The Well

It's out there again. Maybe It's always out there, but today he can see It. The gangly demonic frame, lurking in the bushes outside. The probing red eyes watching him, piercing his mind. What does It want? Why does It torment him so?

The farmhouse was once a place of such happiness. Gleaming stone walls with bright white paintwork, flowing lanes of flowers surrounding it. His mother tending the garden as he played in the soil as a young boy. His father arriving home, passing through the tree line path, happy to be back in the warm embrace of family.

He was fifteen when the trouble started. The old well in the woods behind the house had been an unexpected discovery for him. He had run back to the house and alerted his father excitedly to the find.

Beneath a sea of brambles and thick ferns, he had noticed a hint of stone and metal. With the use of a thick fallen branch he had uncovered it. When his father joined him he brought strong shears with him. Soon they had cut away the thick and thorny foliage to reveal a large, circular stone well, a heavy stone lid covering the opening.

It's moving again. He can see the bushes and trees shudder as the hunched bony figure creeps around the house, the burning red eyes glinting as It watches him, but worse than the eyes is the noise. Whenever It’s close it can be heard. A whispering chattering sound, soft and quiet, but deafening at the same time. Occasionally the moonlight illuminates the tree line enough to see the glint of the rows and rows of razor sharp teeth that fill Its grinning countenance.

His father had wanted to leave the well covered, there was no need for one since the farm had been fully plumbed for a long time, he insisted though. His father had given in to his sons excited request eventually. They had examined the cover stone; a worn word was carved into the centre of it. The name of the craftsman that prepared it long ago they presumed. Having retrieved thick gloves and a crowbar from the house they set about loosening it. Edging around it with the crowbar, years of encrusted dirt and wear cracking as the join slowly acquiesced to their requests.

It had stopped moving. Standing still now, Its long grey arms clinging to the nearby tree branches as It watched him. It could always see him, no matter how dark or how well hidden he thought he was, Its eyes were always accurate, always focused on him, always burning into his soul.

He and his father had heaved, lifted and pushed the slab of rock, it's small movements eventually yielding some of the dark emptiness from below, along with the foul smell of old air, dampness and something neither of them had ever smelled before. They paused in their work, the warm summer sun bringing them both out in a sweat. His fathers lightly graying hair pushed back over his head with his fingers, his own dark black hair clinging to his forehead with exertion. They looked at each other, a sense of unease passing between them. He had been the one to indicate to his father that they should continue.

He had tried many things to stop it over the years, he had tried shooting at it on many occasions, it ran, but soon returned, seemingly unhurt. He had laid traps, but in the morning had caught nothing. He hoped desperately that this new plan would have more success. He moved from window to window, resting his hands on the distressed windowsills, the cracked paint, long in need of refreshment, digging into his damp palms. It's red eyes following him as he moved. Hoping that it didn't know that it was being led.

With more sweat and a little blood, they finally got the cover to the edge of the well. It had fallen heavily, its aged weather worn substance causing it to crack into three large pieces. They had jumped a little as a flurry of dust burst from the depths: the effect of the new air filling the dank chasm no doubt. They had smiled at each other, both nervous, both not knowing why. He had picked a stone up, glanced at his father and dropped it into the gaping dark. After a momentary pause, the sound of stone on stone echoed upwards. It was deep, but it had a bottom. Part of him had expected the stone to fall forever, so black and infinite the dark in there looked.

Twenty years this creature, this thing of torment and torture, had haunted him. His life consumed by it. He watched as it grinned at him, it's long skin and bone arms twisting horribly as it swung from a branch, seemingly having fun as it chattered and stared into his heart. He moved again, bringing It ever closer to the start of what may be his last chance to stop It, before his mind finally broke, before he gave in to the scourge of this creature.

They had peered into the dark void for a while longer than either of them wanted to before fetching the lamp. Tethered to a piece of rope they had lowered it into the depths. The stone walls glistened with damp. Patches of mould and grime littered the shear walls of the subterranean chamber. The depth of the well made it hard to discern the bottom, even in the glow of the camping lantern. They could see only jagged shapes, rocks, they presumed, long ago cast down there. They could also see that the well contained no water. Slightly disappointed that no treasures of the past were contained within, they had covered the top with an old heavy iron gate as a makeshift lid, since the original stone was now unusable. They returned to the house, laughing at their nervousness and tired from their self-made adventure.

He wished his father were here now. Someone to give him support in his battle of wits with this elusive demon. Just looking at it's eyes staring back at him made him feel sick. Bile rising in his throat and forcing him to look away. Behind his closed eyes he saw the faces of his mother and father, not as they were in life, but twisted in dead hatred. Their eyes white and staring, mouths deformed in accusing screams. This was the demon's doing. Planting these images in his head to try to drive him mad. It was working. The years of torment and fear from this creature had almost broken him, almost stripped every ounce of sanity from him. Almost.

The next few days had been uneventful, he and his father had mostly forgotten about the old well, it's dark depths and foul smell, its uncomfortable feeling and inscribed stone lid. Their life had continued as usual from then, they had worked, played, talked and laughed. His mother had looked out of the window one evening, admiring the scene of the setting sun, she had left to take a walk around the edge of the woods, as she often did. He had watched her walk away, her reddish brown hair flowing in the light evening breeze, her hands in the pockets of her long red coat, her face to the sky as she watched the sunset. She had walked into the woods just as he had looked away from the window. She never returned.

He reached the kitchen. The eyes still watching him intently. The chattering louder now, the demons excitement growing, confident Its prey was almost ready. He stood at the kitchen door, his hands sweating, and heart pounding like a faulty engine in his chest. This would soon be it, the final showdown, the deciding move in this decades long stalemate. He looked out of the panel of glass in the door; It was there, in the tree line. The space between the door and the wood littered with untended bushes and shrubs. This space contained other things too, hidden things, things he hoped would finally end this.

After the first hour he and his father had started calling her name from the house, hoping she had simply lost track of time, or become lost in the fast descent of darkness. They had known that this was not true though. Something was wrong. He had remained at the house in case she returned while his father had set out armed with the powerful torch they brought out during power cuts. He watched the woods from the window, keeping track of his father’s torch beam as it flickered in the darkness. After thirty minutes or so his father had returned, alone, and called the police.

The police had made a quick search of the area that night but found nothing. They had agreed to return the next morning with more men to continue the search, if she still had not returned. His father had gone out again, searching and calling till the small hours of the morning, as he sat inside waiting and hoping she would return. Eventually his father had returned, red eyed from tears fallen, tired and afraid. He had watched his father walking back from the woods, as he had watched he thought he had seen something move in the trees, a symptom of tiredness he had thought.

He unlocked the top section of the stable style door. His trembling hand resting on the black iron bolt in fear of what he knew he must do. He pulled the upper half of the door open, resting his hands on the wooden lip of the lower section of the door, his muscles fighting against his instincts, pulling himself forward tentatively. Leaning onto the low door he breathed in the cool night air, memories of happy times past, flooding his mind, twisting quickly into nightmares as the demon showed its power. He looked into the dark night, and with red piercing eyes, the night looked back at him.

The police had returned early the next day, armed with more men, and suspicious minds. They had split into two groups; one searched the house, while the second group, accompanied by his father, had gone out to search the woods. He had sat watching the woods from the window, as the police ravaged his home around him. It didn’t take long for them to find his mother. She was in the well.

His father had checked it the previous night, but the gate had been in the same position as they had placed it days before, the small gaps in it not large enough for anyone to fall into, and in the darkness was unable to see into the depths of the well. Her broken body was brought out, and his father was taken in for questioning. Word spread quickly through the small village. The gossips worked hard, not stopping when his father was released due to lack of evidence. The case was left open, but since the police (and the village) believed his father was guilty, the investigation stopped.

He watched It. It knew he was there, knew he was close to leaving the house. Its brutal grin extending across its grizzly face, feeling Its victory close. He shut off the lights in the kitchen, knowing the darker it was, the braver this thing became. It still haunted him during the day, but he never saw it, just felt it. It was after dark that this hell formed thing felt happy to engage his prey directly. This was part of the basis for tonight’s trap. He would use light against this thing of darkness, and hopefully, the light would win.

His father had fallen into a depression after the death of his mother. He had lost his job, and was shunned as a murderer by the villagers. He had tried to help his father, but he could not. He himself was racked with emotions and grief and more. He also felt fear. Fear of the thing he had seen in the woods. He had seen it more and more often, never showing its self fully, just glimpses of movement in the darkness. He had tried to tell his father, but he got angry with him and screamed to not go near or even look into the woods. He had seen him slipping away further and further. The last few days his father had spent all night, every night, staring from the window into the dark woods. He had wondered if maybe he had seen the creature too. The fear in his father’s eyes seemed to confirm this, but he had never got chance to find out.

It was the middle of the night when he had heard the shots, one followed closely by another. He had looked out of the window, then run down the stairs and out into the night. His father’s body lay in the centre of the ground between the house and the woods. He had immediately seen that his father’s head was mostly missing, chunks of red and pink spread around the nearby grass, his shotgun lying beside his outstretched hand. Once again the police visited this place of terror to remove a body.

It was time. Time to end this one way or another. He opened the bottom of the door, standing in the dark portal to his terror. He could see It clearly in the strong moonlight. Bouncing slightly on Its twisted grey legs excitedly. He thought of his parents, fought to see them happy and loving, as they had been before all this, fought against the twisted visions this thing was trying to force into his mind. He walked out into the night, his legs trembling. He cautiously walked down the porch steps, onto the damp night grass. Positioning himself halfway between the house, and the trail of ragged bushes, he fell to his knees. Opening his arms, looking at the demon, offering himself to it.

The creature bounced harder, swaying back and forward in preparation for his strike. Suddenly It ran. Charging toward him with speed that should be impossible on such long thin legs.

He cautiously held the small black remote in his hand, and as the demon tore toward the halfway point between him and the woods, he pressed the first button. Briefly closing his eyes just before the explosion, the flash-bang grenades he had sourced from a survivalist friend burst in the face of the creature. He watched it as it stumbled away from the blinding light. Pressing the second button and igniting more of the powerful light to block its escape he heard it cry out, a black awful cracked noise that hurt his skull from within. The demon was being driven in the right direction, he pressed the third button, stunning the creature again, forcing it down the path he had made. Then he heard it, a loud snap and an unearthly cry, louder and stronger than before. Joined by a gnashing, growling noise. He had caught it at last.

Drawing an axe from the large red tool chest by the house he approached his tormentor. It was even more horrific up close. Its semi-transparent grey skin covered in a network of black veins, its eyes more painful and piercing than ever, its long toothed mouth pulled in a snarl of hatred. Its leg was caught firm in the bear trap, it tore at its own skin trying to free itself, yellow claws raking away the deathly skin from its leg, while clawing at him with its other hand. He raised the axe, swinging it powerfully into the demons arm, severing it, causing a flood of black, tar like blood to erupt from the wound. He repeated this on its other arm, the same gushing cascade appeared. Finally he brought the heavy axe down on its head, crushing its skull and bursting its terrifying face. He continued to chop at it until it was in at least fifteen small pieces. He gathered it into a large thick sack, and carried it into the woods.

He threw the creature into the pit of blackness that it had come from all those years ago. Spitting into the hole before covering and sealing it.

He had painted a word in bold red letters across the cover he had prepared.

Over the many years he had been victim to this thing he had researched and tried to discover what he could about it. One thing he had looked into was the carved word from the original stone cover. He had discovered that this was the name of the demon, not the name of some ancient stonemason. He walked away from the well, free and ready to start his life anew. This demon banished, the weight of decades lifted from him.

As he walked away he thought of the old cover. The carved word had read 'Culpa'. He had painted it onto this new cover not in Latin as that had been, but in English. The name of his foe was now written in his own language, in bold red letters, that read 'Guilt'.

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