Carrying on from my writing journey posts, here is another snippet from one of my short stories called “The Devil’s Own”. The only thing I can remember from writing this story is that I was going through a ‘Charlie Hunnam’ phase on Tumblr (I know, ridiculous, my phases and fandoms seem to change often) and this was written with him in mind as the main character David. I dunno if that makes it harder or easier for the reader but it certainly helped me to visualise what I was trying to convey in my writing.
To set the scene, this short story was written in a fictional town in the USA. And it’s set in and around the same time as my other short “Angel in the Bathtub” so around the early 1800s.
Chapter One – A LITTLE KILLIN’ BEFORE DINNER
“I did what you told me to. It’s Nathaniel again… he ain’t listenin’…”
David turned to James, his face void of all emotion. James knew the expression all too well. Like the calm before the storm, waiting for the moment when David would finally unleash his rage upon him.
David grinned, that childish, one-sided grin from the edge of his mouth. He put his hands on either side of James’ neck, reassuring him. Despite this, James felt his body tense up, preparing for what he was sure would come next.
A moment passed, maybe two.
David looked into James’ eyes and took a deep, uneasy breath.
“Just go and make sure Nathaniel hasn’t fallen down the pit or something. Would you do that for me, James?”
James nodded. He turned and ran as fast as he could across the field to where his younger brother Nathaniel was restraining the girl. He could hear her muffled cries. She was making a terrible noise, and James would have to put a stop to that before David could hear it.
Nathaniel was a mess. Sweat seeped from every pore. His suspenders had come off his shoulders, and he looked ridiculous, crawling helplessly all over the girl. Nathaniel was supposed to knock the girl out but had failed to do so.
Same old’ same old.
This would not please David, not one bit. It was now up to James to fix things… again.
“God damn it, Nathaniel!” James said, grabbing the shovel
“Ohhhh! Nooooo! You cussed James! You cussed… and took the Lord’s name in vain! David said that if you cussed again, he’d…”
“Just … shut up, Nathan!”
James hit the girl over the back of the head, knocking her unconscious.
Nathaniel let her limp body fall to the ground. He stared down at her expressionless face.
“You killed her …” Nathaniel murmured, drool running down one side of his lip
“No Nathaniel, she’s just … sleepin’ is all. Now come on over here so I can clean you up before David sees you …”
Nathaniel walked over to James with a goofy grin on his face. James just shook his head and pulled him close.
James took a handkerchief from out of his trouser pocket, wiping the drool from Nathaniel’s mouth and the sweat from his face. He pulled the suspenders back up over Nathaniel’s shoulders and brushed the dust off his shirt.
James and Nathaniel were twins, but Nathaniel was born with a disability that gave him the mental capacity of an eight-year-old. This was a burden upon James. James was now 27 years old, and he had been looking out for his brother most of his life.
David would never raise a hand to Nathaniel, but somehow James was fair game for whenever David felt like “letting off some steam” – which was almost all of the time.
“Help me pick up the girl, we need to get her to the pit and quickly!” said James
Nathaniel and James carried the girl across the field, and true to form, Nathaniel kept dropping the girl’s legs every few steps.
James and Nathaniel finally delivered the girl where they were supposed to, but James was now utterly exhausted. Nathaniel was bending down over the girl, swaying back and forth, his left hand twirling in his hair out of habit. He had done this ever since he was a baby and it bugged the crap outta James.
David finally arrived.
“David, David… David!” Nathaniel called out in an excited voice, jumping to his feet.
James glanced at Nathaniel with a pitiful expression before looking at David.
David’s black felt hat was pulled down low over his head, his long black coat buttoned right up to the neck. He looked like a preacher but not like any preacher James had seen. James thought if the devil ever did need a preacher, he would look exactly like his brother David.
James thanked the Lord that David couldn’t read his thoughts right now.
For all his faults, James found it hard not to admire his brother. To look at David, you could never guess how twisted and vile the person was underneath. All of the Schuster brothers were handsome, even Nathaniel – if you could look past his disability. But David was different. David managed to put some kind of spell on everyone he met.
David stood there looking down at the girl’s body lying in the dirt. He put his arm around Nathaniel and touched him gently on the face.
“You’re absolutely sure the girl isn’t pure?” David asked, his eyes moving down the girl’s body
“Sure as can be. The girl was already married and shunned within the order …” James replied
“She looks like a whore… a dirty, filthy whore…” Nathaniel said, singing the words to a tune that only he could know
The girl groaned.
“She’s wakin’ up!” James said, panic in his voice
“Get her ready” David murmured.
James and Nathaniel grabbed hold of the girl and dragged her to the edge of the pit in front of where David stood.
David took his hands out of his pockets, brandishing a bible in one hand and a butterfly knife in the other.
The knife was custom-made with ebony inlays that had a tiny mother of pearl crucifix embedded into the handle.
David carefully handed James his knife and placed his free hand on top of the girl’s head.
James and Nathaniel held the girl upright with her arms outstretched. The girl was slowly starting to open her eyes. She was groggy from the blow to the head, and it took her a while to realise what was going on.
David closed his eyes and lifted his other hand with the bible towards the sky.
He took in a deep breath and began to speak, his voice calm and clear;
“Lord, I give you this lost soul. Another of your wayward children, which I have delivered unto you cleansed of all the filth this world has set upon her. As your humble servant O’ Lord, I do your bidding and put an end to this child’s suffering by cleansing her in a river of life’s blood – Amen!”
David opened his eyes.
“Amen,” said James
Nathaniel was staring at David with his mouth open
James nudged him.
“Amen!” Nathaniel said, with a grin.
James envied Nathaniel so much at that moment. If only he could pretend this was all some silly little make-believe game the way that Nathaniel did, maybe he wouldn’t have so many nightmares about all the death and killing.
The girl started to struggle as James handed David the knife.
“Nooo, please… PLEASE! Noooooo!” the girl pleaded.
David handed James the bible. He looked down at the girl who was now crying and desperately trying to pull out of James’ and Nathaniel’s grip.
It was a fool’s errand.
David slowly lifted a finger to her face and wiped away her tears.
“Now now, child. Stop crying. You should rejoice for you’ve been saved…” David murmured, as he flicked open his knife. He put his other hand around the girl’s mouth, muffling her cries and swiftly cut the girl’s throat from ear to ear.
Gurgling sounds erupted from the girl’s throat as blood spurted out in various directions, splattering Nathaniel and James all over.
David stepped aside as his brothers let the girl’s body roll into the pit they had dug beforehand.
David took out his handkerchief and wiped away the small blood splatters from his face.
He shook his head and looked at James and Nathaniel.
“Sorry brothers, she was a little messier than the last one,” he said, playfully whacking James on the back.
Nathaniel started to giggle uncontrollably.
“Shut UP, Nathan – and dig!” James said, handing him a shovel
David looked down into the pit. He had his handkerchief against his mouth as if shielding his face from a putrid, phantom scent. He watched as the girl’s body disappeared under a mountain of dirt.
“Make sure you two clean up properly before dinner. And make somethin’ wholesome won’t cha? Killin’ for the Lord always builds up my appetite!” David said with a grin as he turned and sauntered back towards the horses.