The owl and the butcher

I stood in the road, finally I had escaped. I took a deep breath and studied the road ahead. This was far to obvious a route I would be spotted. I looked to the left and the hills beyond, there was no time to waste, I had to make my exit from the road.

I jumped the ditch and clambered through the thick hedge row and gasped a sigh of relief. I knew I could no longer be spotted from that house, my prison for so long now. I found myself shaking with fear, like a fox with hounds in hot pursuit.

It began to get dark as I neared the foot of the hills, which now so close resembled much bigger mountains. I was cold and hungry and the driving rain cut into my face. I had to find shelter for the night but where would I go? I rubbed my eyes and looked around me, I saw what looked like an old cottage or at least the ruin of a cottage. As I walked through the cops towards the building it became clear it had long been vacated.

The construction was one room with an old green painted door to the front. Its paint was flaking and weather beaten, some of the wood was rotted away at the top and the bottom. The wind caught the door making it creek on the one remaining hinge. There was a small window to the side of the battered door with most of its glass still intact only a small crack to one of the four panes. God I must have walked miles. I took a glance at my watch it was 21:15, I had been walking for five and a half hours. I needed to rest and this was going to be my home for the night.

I walked inside the old building it could be no more than 10 x 12 foot. A gaping hole in the roof let the moon shine down on my face. There was debris all over the floor, old bottles an upended stool and best of all an old mattress, dirty damp and with stuffing coming out the sides. At that moment it was the most inviting mattress I had ever seen.

I pulled the mattress from the corner of the room and laid it flat. My new home was taking shape. I noticed an old handmade rug which looked like the best blanket ever, at least I would be warm. The old green door was getting on my nerves so I secured it tightly with wire I found lying on the cottage floor. When I was finished I felt secure with my four new found walls. A false sense of security I know but better than the fear when I stood in that road earlier in the day.

There were two old shutters to the window which I pushed shut with difficulty being rusted round the hinges. With a sense of contentment I lay down on the mattress in my new squat, miles from anyone. Civilisation would not be part of my world tonight. The wind rustled through the old door and window, rain lashed in through the hole in the roof, but my little corner of the cottage was dry and that’s all that mattered.

My wrists began to burn and my eyes throb. The wires from the shackles had cut deep into my wrists from the days before, my eyes throbbed from the occasional fist from my masked captor.

All I had wanted to do was go hiking in the countryside, how did I get myself into such a mess? How did I stumble on that house? Why me?

I drifted in and out of sleep, you know, the type that you can wake from at any moment should the need arise. I did hear a noise a rustle which was not the wind or the rain. I opened my eyes but remained very still as if this would prevent me from being seen. I heard the rustle again and turned my eye to the left. There sat on the protruding stonework high up on the wall was a beautiful white owl preening itself in the moonlight. What a spectacular sight, it almost made my journey worthwhile. He or she was magnificent to behold. In my pain and tiredness I made believe the owl was my guardian angel and somehow I drifted off into a deep sleep.

Morning came and my angel was gone.

I was cold and pulled the rug over me and revealed what looked like a trap door. It had rather ornate hinges like that of an expensive antique coffer. Opening the trap door revealed a steep stone staircase with a thick rope lashed to the descending wall for support as you descended the stairs. I took out my torch and began the decent to the room below. It was huge much bigger than the cottage above. It had an elaborate throne in one corner and a huge table that looked like something a butcher would use. Shuddering to think what the room was used for, I rationalised and decided this room was probably used to butcher the lambs and store the meat. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As I shone the torch I noted six sets of human shackles attached to the far wall set up for arms and legs to be locked inside. As I waved the torch to the end of the line I saw the skeleton of some poor person attached to the shackles. What horrors did they suffer before they died. I shone the torch to the other side of the room and gasped in horror at the sight. Dozens of skulls arms legs feet hands in a heap in the corner. What was this godforsaken place.

Just as I was about to take my leave the trap door slammed shut and I dropped the torch on the floor. I convinced myself the wind had blown the trap door shut. I crept up the long staircase to the trap door. I pushed with all my might but it was tight shut. I sat in the corner of the room for what seemed like hours frightened and scared of my fate that lay ahead.

I rummaged around the floor like a rat scrounging for scraps till I came upon my torch. I shone it around the room past the shackles, the butchers table and the grand chair. Nothing, then to my surprise I spotted a door on the opposite side of the large room. I scurried towards the door where I prayed for an escape. Lifting the latch was a mistake. The door opened and out fell skulls and bits of skeleton. I screamed in fear. I had to keep going I clambered into the hole behind the door and crawled into the tunnel that lay beyond full of bones from years gone by. I realised the tunnel was an old coal shoot. I pulled myself up fingers bleeding, but I had to keep going. As I reached the top I found one last bout of energy and pulled myself up. I cried in pain as a large boot stamped down on my finger. “Going somewhere?” said a familiar voice. I fell back down the shaft bringing bones and dust with me until I landed with a thump to the floor of the basement. It was dark, my torch long lost in the pile of corpses.

After a short while bruised and in a great deal of pain, I heard the trap door creek and the bolt being withdrawn. Light cascaded into the basement as the man opened the trap door. I could see his boots in the entrance to the staircase. He slowly descended towards me. As he came into full view I could see he was wearing his mask. I shook with fear as the brute stood in front of me. He spoke and said, “What do we have here?”. “Did you think you could escape?”, “I know every place in this valley and beyond”. He grabbed me by the wrist and shackled me to the wall, my heart was pounding with fear I thought it might burst. I was handed a drink and told to consume the heady liquid. I was thirsty and took it all. The room span round and my brain almost felt cold. Next I knew I was strapped to the butchers bench. I was unable to talk, the room span faster and faster. I still saw the cold steel raise high above the butchers head ready to kill me. Bang, I blacked out.

I woke up with a nurse next to me holding my hand. Was it a dream, what happened, why was I here?

In a few days Sergeant Downs visited me at my hospital bed. “A very lucky young man”, he said. I didn’t feel lucky, not lucky at all. Sergeant Downs explained that the force had been looking for the butcher for years. They shot him in the basement just in time.

That all happened 30 years ago, and I have never left the city since, I later learned from Sergeant Downs that the butcher had a collection of owls. I don't think they are guardian angels anymore!I did not tell you how I escaped the butcher the first time, when I found myself on the lonely road all those years ago. What do you think?


Tag der Veröffentlichung: 12.09.2010

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