I crouched inside the apple barrel, not daring to breathe. Hot, silent tears ran down my face as I listened to the terrible growling, crunching and ripping sounds coming from the kitchen. The screams of my family were worse- until they stopped. But then their silence tormented me even further. Mum had told me to pray when she’d put me in there. I did- I tried. But despite my silent pleading… they had died. All of them. Dad, mum, Idris and Soren. I was next.
Then voices cut over the ravening sounds, soft, as if trying to speak without waking something.
“Ugh, what a mess. We couldn’t just kidnap the boy quietly?”
“Y’know how Mason is, he wants him to come right from a tragedy- says it makes him weaker, more accepting of it. Besides this is the first time ol’ Marwole has shown any movement in years. He won’t last another month. Good for him to have one last outing.” I bit my lip, trying to keep my sobs silent.
“Still… it doesn’t seem right, and it’s all for naught anyway. The kid isn’t even here and it’s almost dawn.”
“Ehh, you’re right. Better lock him up again. We still have tomorrow night, I’ll round up the boys to put on their uniforms and search the place. We’ll find him.”
“Right. And clean this place up while you’re at it. Mason’ll be around later, so don’t provoke him.” A long sigh emanated from the other man, than the sound of something like a gun. The beast let out a yelp and fell silent. Stomping footsteps left the house then.... Nothing. The only sounds were my shallow breathing and thumping heart.
I’d been afraid of dying when it seemed inevitable, but I suddenly wished it had killed me so I could be with my family. I wouldn’t still be there, alone, afraid- weeping because they were gone. I knew it was a sin to wish anyone dead- even yourself, but I couldn’t help it. I knew it was also a sin to be bitter about your lot with God… but I couldn’t seem to help that either.
Mum used to say that sins are human and we can’t help them in this life, that we must simply confess and ask for forgiveness. She wasn’t there to tell me, all I could do was whimper sad remnants of scripture to myself, trying to take comfort and be happy that they weren’t dead… simply in a better place, waiting for me. I would join them in God’s own time, not mine.
I think it must have comforted me slightly at least, for I soon slept, but not for long. I can’t remember what woke me at first, then a sharp tapping on the barrel reminded me with a start. I remained perfectly still, barely breathing. Hoping whomever- whatever it was would go away. The tapping repeated again, followed by a deep sigh. I realized with a thrill of fear that someone was slowly prying open the already cracked seal.
Noon sunlight flooded in and I shielded my eyes blindly with my hands, squinting upward. Then a face blocked the sun. A face that couldn’t be described as anything but cruel. Immediately I knew I should be afraid of him as the heartless eyes like the eyes of a snake smiled down at me, making my blood run cold despite my racing heart.
“Well hello there little friend. My name is Mr. Mason.” His voice texture was calm but rasping, combined with an Irish accent and a vile smelling cigar clamped between his teeth made him just barely comprehensible. I stared up at him, hugging myself pitifully as if I could somehow squeeze myself into a tiny ball of nothing. “I must admit, you’re good at this hide and seek business, but I’m afraid the game is over. Come on out now…” I didn’t move. I was too petrified.
This was the one who set the beast on my family. And while I was afraid of it… I had some idea of what it might do to me- horrible as that idea was, I couldn’t imagine something worse. But it was mindless, hungry and instinctual. This man Mason was human. With a human soul. A creative soul that had willingly set the beast on my family. What that dreadful, corrupted soul was about to do to me… I could not guess. So after reason failed, imagination was unleashed. And hard as I try to block out the terrifying thoughts, they crept in on my mind like night slowly consuming day. “So little friend.” He showed his teeth in a cruel smile. “What is your name?” Fear seemed to have struck me dumb but now it required that I speak. I was compelled to obey.
“Henry.” I whispered, glancing around at the adults, all dressed in black, official looking uniforms and carrying large guns. He nodded to one of his aids before turning back to me.
“Good. It’s a good name. Perhaps, I’ll let you keep it if you can remember it.” Again I was grabbed by my arms and stood upright. A filthy bag was thrown over my head. I think I must’ve fainted then. My child mind simply couldn’t handle any more fear and sorrow. It was not prepared then for what was going to take place. Although, I doubt I would ever be truly ready, even if I were given a whole lifetime. But my narrative wanders and I have little time.