THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF Part 4
For all the differences between us, the way the Christ-men spoke, their accents, they did not look much different from my people. The men were bearded and wore their hair no longer than their collars. They wore tunics and leather skirts. As it was springtime and the weather balmy they had no use for long cloaks and they had sandals on their feet as opposed to boots. One could tell from looking that they were far from wealthy; in this they were most like the people of my village, of Arcadia as a whole. Their clothing and their bodies they kept clean, though this dignity of bearing came not from any personal vanity but as the results of their introspective lifestyles and practicable social habits.
There were some twelve of them in all, those that came to our home, ranging from a youth of a few years senior to myself to an old man limping along with the aid of a stick. They carried no weapons that I could see, yet they frightened me all the same. I knew why they were there.
Father and my brothers had finished breakfast but had not yet gone off to work the fields, for which I gave thanks. Father met the group at the edge of our front yard. He stood inside the railed fence, they on the outside. In his hand—he leaned upon it—the hoe, the tool of his labor, tilling the soil, seemed nevertheless to me a weapon, if need be, this lending me a greater confidence. I knew Father could be a forceful man. Mother, my steadfast defender, must have seen the arrival of the strangers and she came out of the cottage to meet them, with my little sisters peering out from behind her skirts. With my two brothers, one on each side of Father with hoe and spade of their own, my family presented a united front in the face of the, I felt certain, coming attack. Still we were outnumbered.
“What can I do for you men?” Father said in greeting.
“I am afraid, brother, we bring you disturbing news,” one of the men, the apparent leader, answered. He stood as tall as Father, with thick, hairy arms and dark hair, dark eyes. The eyes were not unkind. The man’s voice, though deep, strong, carried no harshness. “I am Demetrios,” he said, “A father, like you; this morning, a father with one less child, a father with a daughter to bury.”
I felt a sickness churning in my gut. I felt tears behind my eyes, seeking to escape, but I fought to hold them in. I hoped my face did not betray me. I knew I had done wrong. I had committed the greatest of wrongs. Knowing this did not stop me from viewing these strangers as enemies, and ones to be fought, if need be, in order to preserve my life. I suppose I hated them. Strange, is it not, how our fears for ourselves, our instincts towards self-preservation, always prove stronger than moral constitution?
“I am sorry to hear of your loss,” Father said to the man.
“My little daughter was taken by a beast,” the man, Demetrios, said, “though no common beast, I fear.” And here he used a word I had never before heard. “She was killed by a werewolf.”
“A Doghead, you mean?” Father said. “Many of us in this land have lost sons and daughters to such beasts.”
“Lost in more ways than one, where you speak of sons,” Demetrios said.
“That is true,” Father admitted.
I stiffened. Was I then lost, I wondered?
“After we found my little one in the woods,” Demetrios said, “we tracked the beast. A smaller fiend, by the size of its prints. Yes, small, but large enough to have killed my child.”
The other men stood silent, allowing Demetrios to speak. It was he who’d born the loss, and bore the grievance.
“At times it ran on all fours like a true wolf. At others it moved about on two. After a while the tracks were no longer those of a wolf but those of a boy.”
I dreaded hearing what I knew must come next. I wanted to turn and run. Mother, standing behind me with her hands on my shoulders, squeezed them, whether to offer reassurance or from her own fear, I do not know.
“The tracks led us here, to your farm,” Demetrios said, and looked down at me. My face must have spoken aloud the words that I would have choked upon. My expression bespoke my guilt. “As easy to read as the signs of the seasons,” Demetrios would later tell me. He’d known from the first it had been me who killed his child.
“You will not take my son,” Father said.
I prepared to bolt. Even if it meant abandoning my family to the fight, I had to escape. I did not expect Demetrios’s answer.
We knew little of these Christ-men, we people of the countryside. They were said to be harmless enough; they did not steal or beg, nor offer any acts of violence. My people did not care to listen to their prayers or sermons. They could keep their Christ. We could not imagine him being any better than our own gods and, then again, we had known ours for much longer. True, ours could not, or had never chosen to, deliver us from the curse of Lycanon. We prayed to them for rain, for good harvests, for relief from sickness and protection from misery. At times it seemed they listened, at other times ignored us. The last thing we needed was another god to appease. We offered sacrifices enough already.
In the many years I have lived, I have found that most Christians are followers of our Lord in name alone; seldom do they manage to imitate His behavior. But on this single day, this single man, a professing Christian, did something that taught me the difference between his Christ and our native gods, or at least between this man and most men. He offered mercy.
“I do not want to harm the boy,” Demetrios said. “I want to save him.”
“What do you mean?” This time it was Mother who spoke.
“We know all too well the burden the Evil One has placed upon your sons here in Arcadia. We know that the victims of this scourge act not of their own free will. I do not seek a blood debt. I would not.”
“You don’t hate me?” I blurted out.
Despite the pain I saw in his eyes, Demetrios smiled at me. “I know it was not your fault,” he said.
I could not hold back the tears.
“What do you want, then?” Father asked.
“We believe God, the only true God, can deliver this boy from his sickness.”
“There is no cure,” Father said. “We have suffered for as long as any can remember. Since the time of Lycanon, some say. Some say it has always been this way, and it will always be so.”
“With God, nothing is impossible,” Demetrios said. “But even should God in His infinite ways, beyond any understanding of mortal men, choose not to remove the physical infirmity from the boy, even so can the child’s soul be preserved. We believe this. If you will believe it, too, the boy can be saved.”
Mother spoke first. “Yes! I believe it!” The words came not from her mind but from her heart. Father, looking at her, nodded.
“And do you believe, little one?” Demetrios said, looking down at me.
“I believe,” I said. And, right at that moment, I did.
“What do we have to do?” Father asked.
That is how I and my family became Christians.
For all the good it did us.
WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (www.evilcheezproductions.blogspot.com, www.facebook.com/evilcheezproductions), specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734763
MORTUI VELOCES SUNT!