This is a story about the human soul; that special something, which makes us what we are, yet we know nothing of what it is.
Our fleeting marriage to the flesh is only a momentary symbiosis along the winding road to enlightenment.
Oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths;
Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s
In deepest consequence.
Do you have a fear of the dark?
— You will —
A few days after the Summer Solstice 1277
His emotions were in turmoil and his once unremitting faith was leaking away like mead from a broken barrel as he stepped hesitantly through the wet grass towards the two new graves; their simple wooden crosses, side by side, barely visible through the low mist that shrouded the graveyard.
The unusually cold air penetrated through his garment, biting at his pallid, fatty flesh.
In his hand he grasped a polished metal crucifix which he raised it to his mouth. The cold metal felt raw on his lips. His squinting eyes scanned the scene; something wasn’t right, but what exactly was making his pulse race and his hands tremble, like a condemned man stepping up to the gallows.
You are alone, brother; there is nothing to fear, he thought.
‘You have God to protect you,’ he said to himself, but his words were caught up in the night air.
He was aware that the young sisters from the village were not the first to be murdered. Other young girls had been killed in the same gruesome way; their limp, mutilated bodies, unceremoniously dumped. He was all too aware of the hideous rumours spreading through the village, faster than a plague.
Insane, that’s what they are; ignorant fools. But in his heart he knew his resolve was weakening. Where was God? Had He abandoned him?
The mist caressed his woollen tunic as he walked, swirling and wavering like a restless sea before a storm and the wet blades of grass glistened in the waxy light of the Moon. Moments later, he stopped at two fresh mounds of earth. On the left grave was a wilting posey, on the other, a sodden rag doll.
‘Do not fear anymore, children, your terrible suffering is over and your souls are safe,’ he said serenely, reading their blackened names branded into the crosses.
‘Mary and Elizabeth, you are with Jesus now, your saviour, who loves you and cares for you.’ The priest made the sign of the cross and closed his eyes in quiet prayer.
The sound of snapping twigs broke the eerie silence.
‘Who’s there?’ he asked, peering into the darkness of the surrounding trees.
‘Who is it?’ He held the crucifix in front of him like a shield. ‘Do not fear, it is I, Father John. Show yourself,’ he said, in a nervous staccato.
‘You are wrong, priest…their souls are not with him,' an angry voice bellowed — 'they are with me!’
The Man-of-God stared, wide-eyed, frozen to the spot with fear; his steaming urine soaking into his tunic.
Frenzied, squawking crows were devouring the priest's entrails that were scattered on the ground. As the villagers cautiously approached, the birds took flight, screeching and flapping as they vanished into the black sky.
‘They’ve already pecked out his eyes,’ said the hunched man, picking up the priest’s severed head to show the others; an expression of horror extant on its waxy face.
‘What’s that in his hand?' the big blacksmith asked, pointing his flaming torch at the mutilated corpse.
The hunched man squinted, incredulously, 'Oh dear God...It's started again!’