THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF Part 5
They were never cruel, these Christ-men. Not kind, most of them, but not cruel. To my mind, cruelty involves an intention to do one harm, to cause suffering in another for suffering’s sake. If any among the Christians treated me in a harsh manner, which some did, the priest foremost among these, I know that their intent was not to do me wrong; or, if to harm me, with the end result that through my suffering I would achieve relief, and salvation. Though some among them hated me, or feared me, which amounts to the same thing, they took me under their care, and Demetrios took me into his home when my parents and sisters died during an outbreak of fever when I was ten years old. The sincerity of Demetrios I never doubted. I became a part of his family; he became my surrogate father, even when all attempts of the priest to cure me of my Lycanthropy—another word I learned from the Christians—had failed. But I must not get ahead of myself.
After I and my family had been baptized—this being a harmless enough ritual, I admit, amounting to having water poured over my head while the priest intoned some words in a language I did not understand—I began to spend much time with the Christians in their village, so as to benefit from their ministrations. They lived much as did we natives of the land. They tilled crops and raised chickens, goats, and sheep. Their homes were no more crude or fancier than ours, fashioned of stone or sometimes logs and wattle, with thatched roofs. They spoke our language as well as we did, flavored by their outlander accents. They married, one wife to a man, and raised children, as my people had always done. Even their religion, as we learned its practices, was not that much different from what we were used to. They made offerings each Sunday, but to one god instead of our several, and they neglected the worship of their ancestors altogether.
At my baptism, they had bequeathed me a new name. “You are a new creation in Christ!” Demetrios had proclaimed, embracing me. These, my new people, wanted to make sure I never forgot the new Lord to whom I swore fealty. They included His name as a part of my own. Christopher, they named me. Demetrios told me the name means Christ-bearer. “As our Lord bore upon His back the cross by which we are redeemed,” he said, “so shall you carry upon your back his holy Gospel.”
But being baptized and renamed did not cure me of transforming into a beast a few nights each month. No, for that I would have to suffer.
I fasted for days on end, once for an entire month. Almost dead from starvation, I transformed beneath the full moon, more ravenous than before, but no less a beast. I underwent exorcisms, deprivations. Again, I will not say that the priest was cruel; he would save my soul even if it meant killing the body. But I did not die. Nor was I cured. After a time, the priest admitted defeat. “God has chosen not to cleanse him,” the man proclaimed.
There were others in the village like myself, others whom God had elected not to cleanse, converts to the Faith who were also Cynocephali. As the time grew near each month, we were locked inside the Penance House, as the villagers called it, a large, windowless stone structure with one heavy door, this last fashioned of heavy timbers and bronze straps, suspended on metal hinges and locked by two crossbars, each as big around as a man’s neck. Days we spent in complete darkness, plagued by vermin, breathing in the filth of our sweat and our own waste, sweltering during the summers and shivering through the winters. When the transformation came upon us, we howled and pawed at the walls. The villagers, safe outside those walls, offered up prayers for us.
The Christians, even those who hated me, had my ultimate good at heart, I believe. Believing this did not stop me from hating them in return. At times I hated them all, I think for no other reason than that I suffered while they did not. At times I even hated Demetrios, who had taken me in as his son; I, the boy who had murdered his daughter and feasted on her flesh. Even Lydice, his wife, who had never failed to show me kindness or sympathy. I never hated Kethryn, though.
Again, I am getting ahead of myself.
My entire time among the Christians was not misery, you must understand, nor my entire childhood an ordeal. Three weeks of each month I walked amongst the rest in the village almost an equal. We were not discriminated against, we Dogheads, not out in the open, anyway. I enjoyed the regular activities of childhood. I had playmates, friends. I had Kethryn.
Demetrios and his wife had born two children, two daughters. Their youngest I had killed while undergoing my first transformation. Kethryn was their oldest, a year older than me, and from my first day among the Christians I had been drawn to her. Beautiful in the way few little girls are, save the ones destined to become the most beautiful of women, she had dark hair and light eyes that never failed to twinkle with mischief, laughter like the music of flutes. I think I would have loved her in any case, but all the more because she herself chose to lavish her affections on me. I was the brother to replace her lost sister, playmate, conspirator in games and silly fantasies. She loved me, and it made it impossible not to return the emotion.
I do not know, even now I do not, whether Kethryn ever knew that I had killed her sister. I do not know if her parents ever told her. She and I never spoke of it. If she knew, she had forgiven me, another reason why I loved her.
At what point I ceased to look at her as my sister and playmate I cannot say. Such things are gradual, too gradual to notice. A blooming flower, or the changing of seasons.
The waxing and waning of the moon.
Her body changed. Her breasts swelled, her hips became full and round. She became a woman. And my childish love became desire.
How could I have known in those days—the priest told us that desire was a sin, yes, but then he prattled on about sin so often, and everything seemed to constitute a sin to him, that we children paid him little mind. How could I have known that sexual desire becomes the food and drink of the beast imprisoned inside the flesh of a Doghead, the most consuming appetite? Of all the greater sins—gluttony; hate; revenge; lust—the greatest of these is lust.
I did not know. Nor did I know another tenet of the accursed. I would learn. All too well, I would learn: The beast always seeks to destroy that which it most loves.
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!