The Demon Rift: From Chapter One

 

Rabbit Stew

New London, Connecticut

November 1895

“Well, luv, what do you think? Shall we tell him tomorrow?” 
Crispin enjoyed the rabbit stew. Sucking the delicate bones 
of the dead rabbit, he watched the woman as she finished 
cleaning the bar top.
It was late, past midnight on a Monday. The “Dancing Stag” 
was empty, save for the barmaid, her new suitor and Bernie, 
the suitor’s small son, who was sleeping peacefully under 
a corner table, a knitted blanket keeping him warm.    

Several carvings of Crispin’s, including an impressive 
Stag’s head, hung above a shelf behind the bar. The sales 
had afforded him and Bernie a room in a nearby boarding 
house. He regretted the fact that they would soon be 
leaving. He had enjoyed the bed and the occasional baths. 
Bernie said it must be tomorrow.
Crispin glanced at the corner where Bernie slept. Was he 
really sleeping? Doubtful. Willie said the boy made her 
uncomfortable. Crispin had reassured her. “He needs the 
love of a mother; it’s been hard on the boy.” 

She folded her apron, creasing the folds. Her brown eyes 
had the look of a dying fawn. He reached up and stroked 
her hair. Good to feel a woman again, he thought. He’d 
been too long without. Not a girl, though. She was older 
than the thirty-two she professed. More like forty-two 
and a bit too large for his taste, but still overripe 
for the plucking.
“Let’s go in the back,” he whispered, “just for a while . . . ”

She took a quick look in the corner. The boy seemed asleep. 
Crispin saw her shudder.“Such a little boy, I don’t know 
why I . . . ”

“What, luv?” he asked, knowing exactly what.
She shrugged. “Okay Crispin, but just for a few minutes.”
“That’s my girl.” He nuzzled her neck, then reached around 
and cupped her breast.

“A few minutes is all, then we must stop.”
“Of course dear girl, after the wedding there will be time. ”
Much later, when he thought about it, he was glad she came. 
It startled him. He was just finishing himself, when she let 
out a stream of moaning, like a cow wanting milking, he laughed 
to himself. They had but a few minutes in the crowded closet. 
“He might wake.” She was nervous.

“Don’t worry dear heart, he’ll be fine.” In a rare spirit of 
generosity, (he admitted it was rare) he saw it was fitting 
that she had a small bit of pleasure, considering what happened 
and all.

He puzzled over what happened that night for weeks, trying to 
make sense of it. Did they open a door? Is that what happened? 
“They’ll know it was us,” he worried. He had no objections to 
anything; however, he didn’t like the thought of hanging.

“Do what I tell you and you’ll be rewarded.” 
The child’s eyes threatened. Crispin nodded enthusiastically. 
Hanging was preferable to what Bernie might inflict. “Of 
course, lad, whatever you say, I’m completely on board.”
Tuesday night, her house smelled of onions and bread. Crispin 
sat on the settee, its rose velvet freshly brushed and looking 
crimson in the shadow of an ornate lamp. A few eventful moments 
in their brief courtship told him that there was nothing of 
value in the tidy white house. Still, he approved of her 
excellent housekeeping. Aunt Meg could have learned a thing or 
two. 

He was surprised to see Bernie eat everything, including 
the tapioca pudding. Unusual. He knew the boy was selective, 
despite their periods of hunger. 

Candles—how many were there? He had hidden them in the pull 
wagon near the house. Bernie had been collecting candles, 
taking them while Crispin distracted their owners with his 
wooden carvings. Won’t they see you? Bernie assured him they
would not. He wondered what purpose they served. 

That night he saw what happened when the candles burned.
He struck her with a wooden club he had carved the day before. 
Crispin made a show of announcing their “engagement” to his 
“son.” Willie sat at his right, her eyes downcast, unable to 
look at the boy. “Not too hard,” Bernie had warned, “she must 
wake before we finish.” Bernie spilled a glass of milk. 

As she reached to retrieve it, Crispin struck an expert blow. 
She was unconscious for an hour. When she woke, the 
satisfaction in Bernie’s yellow eyes made Crispin feel proud.
The star drawn in blood, whose blood was it? They were all 
naked. In the candlelight, pools of blood were like puddles 
after a cloudburst. Bernie’s hands dripped, adding to the 
puddles. Smears and streaks covered most of his frail child’s 
body. Did Bernie draw the star using his own blood? Bits of 
that night were a blank. He remembered the awful smell, 
wondering if he had soiled himself and fearing the 
consequences. Bernie seemed indifferent to it.
Bernie cut his palm, smearing the blood on the woman before 
she woke. He was afraid Bernie would want to cut him too, 
but Bernie turned his attention to the barmaid. When she woke, 
Willie screamed, and the boy grabbed her tongue, slicing it 
off. The screams soon became moans. Not as loud now, Crispin 
thought approvingly.
The moaning reminded him of when she came. Interesting, how 
similar the cries were, one of pleasure and the other . . . 
She was tied down (securely, Crispin was careful) and the 
candles were all around . . . and eyes, he saw eyes coming 
through a tunnel, watching. Why did he think of a door? He 
remembered a ripping sound, like fabric being torn and then 
a boom like a cannon that rattled the house. Crispin would 
have ducked for cover if he hadn’t been startled by the sight 
of black wings and the clicking sound from wings slapping or 
breaking through, what?
Bernie knelt near the woman . . . his little body rocking back
 and forth. Willie’s fawn eyes followed the sway. The child 
was whispering, while she kept trying to say (plead?), 
“Kill me.” She had no tongue, but he was sure that’s what 
she meant to say. He held her tethered hands to keep her 
steady as Bernie continued to slice her. Tears ran down the 
barmaid’s cheek and fell into the thick red puddles.
As he pressed his palms firmly down on her wrists, Crispin 
allowed himself to wonder what came next. He decided it was 
best to keep quiet, do as you’re told. Bernie’s hands, clots 
of the barmaid’s blood clinging to his fingers, rose abruptly 
as the light from the candles floated free, the flames 
dancing and spinning.
Fear clutched at Crispin’s throat. What if those flames, what 
if they mean to . . . Then there was a sudden sensation, 
indescribable, oh the pleasure! His “reward,” he thought with 
delight and wonder. It poured into him as if he were a wine 
glass, filling him to the brim.   Overwhelmed, he gazed at 
Willie. She looked back with supreme indifference.
As if she had found it all incredibly tiresome, her eyes 
turned away from him, her face relaxed and tilting her head 
slowly to her shoulder, she died.   The boy cooed as he stroked 
her hand, his strange face content. The candles dimmed. The 
floating eyes were gone. “We leave now,” the boy commanded. 
They cleaned the blood from their bodies and took the ropes 
from the dead woman. Crispin carried her to her bed. 

After dressing, they set fire to Willie, her bed, and her 
small neat house.
“Won’t they know it was us?” He was afraid.

“Stupid Crispin, I told you not to worry. They’ll think she 
killed herself because you left her. I suggested it already 
when the bar was full of people.” Bernie was losing patience 
with him. Crispin decided to keep his doubts to himself. They 
were on the road a few hours before the pleasure began to fade. 
He was depressed. He hated the cold.

 

 

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