It had been a couple of days since the murders of Weeping Cross had reached the small town of Barlaston. The local Inn ‘The drunken huntsman’ had been open since noon and a lot busier than usual for a Monday. Mr Hamell, the proprietor of the establishment was all of a dither with the influx of the roaring trade and every seat in the place was occupied, as he went round re-filling all the goblets and glasses, he noticed all the locals seemed to be focusing on the same conversation. “Well, Rorlund” said a bespectacled, petite, thin faced elderly woman, “What do you think to the recent news from Dartmouth?”
“Awful Hulda, just awful” said Mr Hamell they still haven’t had any leads in the case have they?” he said with a cracked voice, “no” Hulda said drawlingly “I would have expected that we would have ways and means of catching the evil bastard that did this! It is 1952 for god sake not 1552!” she said slamming her glass down onto the table so hard the bottom fell out “oh I’m sorry Rorlund” she said as Mr Hamell rushed over to clean up the mess.
“now now Hulda” said a red cheeked, gaunt looking man from behind “it’s harder than it sounds, this is obviously the traits and acts of a mad man! Complete lunatic If you ask me” he said hiccupping “very hard to catch if they don’t want you to”
“Well be that as it may” Hulda continued “it doesn’t bode well for the constabulary now does it, I mean it was on the main street for fuck sake, right under their nose!
“it’s not exactly far from us either is it” said a woman from the back. “no” said Mr Hamell with a sigh “no its not, but I have full confidence that the perpetrator will be caught, and justice will be served” …… “your more of a fool than you look then Rorlund” said Hulda looking at him through squinted watery eyes “if you remember she continued it was only a few years ago when there was the brutal murder of that Knutton boy, just a mile or so down Hanging hill lane,” the place went quite “ripped apart the poor boy was, just can’t begin to think of what the mother was going through even! I mean a husband that deserted her, eldest son killed and a baby on the way. Just doesn’t bear thinking about” she said with a shaking voice, “but there was no trace of the killer! “Hulda continued with force “Suspicious don’t you think” she said aloud, the whole Inn by this point were hanging of her every word “they had to carry bits of him back in potato sacks” “Honestly Hulda” proclaimed a tall burly looking man with long, dark, knotted hair tied back “you seriously can’t be suggesting it’s the same person, the odds of it!”
“can you disprove otherwise Fletcher?” she said with a sharp tone “well I can officially prove that you’ve lost it” Said Fletcher sarcastically, as Hulda was going to come back at him with a retort Mr Hamell rang the last bell signalling closing time, Fletcher span round and shouted across Mr Hamell “What are you playing at, it’s not even sun down yet!” ….. “Yes Fletcher but unlike you I have been working since dawn and would like to close up early for the night!” got a busy day tomorrow you know!” this wasn’t strictly true as it was more to do with the vast quantities of alcohol they had all consumed in the space of just a few hours and it was all getting a little to heated for his liking so Mr Hamell told them to finish off their drinks and beckoned them all to leave. He walked to the door to show them out as they were all talking and muttering to themselves staggering out the thresh hold, he could see Hulda in the distance shouting obscenities and talking to herself indignantly in her drunken state, he smiled after her closed the door and locked up for the night.
The Drunken huntsman was the first sight you saw as you came up hanging hill lane which was the only real way in and out of Barlaston which in its self was in the middle of nowhere. Two paths, Abbott’s way and Hallows road separated the town from the dilapidated Methodist church, to the rows of Tudor houses and shops intercepted by un even cobbled streets on one side, to the other side lay the desolate old rectory the small town hall and the infamous Black forest that spread like a cancer for miles running adjacent to Hanging hill lane.
There has been stories and rumours of a long forgotten past from the towns people of bodies been buried beneath the dark tangle of birch, oak and low hanging willow that strewn the forest. According to the tales the Black forest long ago was home to murderers burying their victims, the but they have never been proven, found, nor will they be pursued, some say you can hear the screams and tortured cries echoing off the supposed souls buried beneath, most say however that’s it’s all a complete myth that needs to be eradicated. Nobody can deny however the spine numbing presence that you get when in close proximity to the forest, the unmistakable feeling that your being watched.
It was 1963 on warm September afternoon and a young boy named Daley Knutton was sat in his rather unkempt back garden in a complete state of contemplation, he was a rather tall, thin looking boy with very defined facial features and a completely shaven head, he did this in the hope he would stand out from crown amongst the toil of mundane people. He was classed as an oddity by most, this was even including his mother who people very rarely saw, Daley’s mother would keep herself to herself never bothered or interfered with anyone. She worked long tiresome shifts at Warmaidens the towns tailors, scurried home straight after not to emerge till work the next day.
The Knuttons were very poor, couldn’t rub two pennies together, they had the smallest run down house on the outskirts of town, right opposite the Monastery and its cemetery. Daley didn’t have it easy even from the kids around either, especially Donavan Gwyther who would take every opportunity to torment him at every chance “oh look, here comes poverty!” he’d say in his drawl voice “Careful he doesn’t touch you, no soap can wash that scum off!” in short Daley was profusely bullied and frowned upon by anyone he had ever come into contact with, this however didn’t bother him in the slightest, he wasn’t the biggest fan of people, and Daley sought refuge in his own imagination which to him was an escape.
His home life however was difficult for him however. He never knew his father growing up and was never spoken about! His mother Delphine a rather tall squinty faced woman with a long sharp nose, sunken eyes and short greasy, greying hair. She would on a regular basis remind Daley that he was a mistake, an embarrassment who brought shame to the Knutton name, when she drank however she would become very violent towards him and scream at the top of her lungs that it was all his fault that her life had ended up in such squalor, which he never understood how this could be his fault, to Daley she was just an alcoholic that disgusted the very sight him and whoever his father had the right idea in getting out when he did! “I mean” he thought to himself looking down on his mother who had passed out in the front room floor “who’d want to be with that!” he turned and made his way upstairs.
It was a bitterly harrowing night Daley thought as he walked into his room and was pulling off his clothes getting ready for bed, he threw his clothes into the corner of his room and sat on the end of his bed thinking aloud to himself “one of these days that bitch will get what’s coming to her!” pulling off his socks with force Daley sat in thought for a while with a pallid face and eventually got up traipsed off to the bathroom to brush his teeth. He wandered back into his room and closed the door too, as he was making his way to the bed he heard a soft rattling noise coming from behind him, he started and blinked stupidly, he turned round slowly scanning the room with his eyes which was difficult as it was only a solitary oil lamp that ignited a small corner of the room
his eyes eventually met the narrow window on the other side of his bedroom, the shutters were banging away as they hit the window pane due to the thunderous storm billowing outside. He hastily dashed over to the window and went to draw the curtains. As he went to pull them over Daley noticed looking down into the dark garden below a large figure stir then disappear, he squinted to get a better look, his eyes scanned the ground below darting from corner to corner…. bench, log pile the swing blowing fiercely in the wind, and then he saw it, a pair of large deep amber eyes with slits for pupils looking straight at him from beneath a large conifer, they looked menacing. Daley jumped as a bolt of lightning hit the sky’s and illuminated the whole garden and there he saw what the eyes belonged too, a huge bear like hound, much bigger than a man covered in matted course black hair, with incredibly sharp long claws with huge paws that to Daley’s horror looked covered in blood, he tried to let out a scream but no sound came out, almost as if he was strangled of air! The massive figure reared and pelted towards the back door, it was so fast Daley’s eyes couldn’t keep up…. BANG!! He spun round knocking over the oil lamp which was his only source of light in the room.
He stood there frozen to the spot, the house was deafeningly quite apart from the distant storm outside, his first though was of his mother down stairs passed out and let out a whimper, he walked slowly forwards to the top of the stairs and peered over the balcony and tried to see though the darkness. As his eyes became accustom to the gloom they fell upon Delphine sprawled out on the floor, she had in her drunken state fell off the chair and was slumped in a pile on the floor obviously making that loud noise. Daley let out a sigh of relief and straightened up, took a deep breath and muttered under his breath “pathetic” and made his way back to his room closing the door behind him. Legs still shaking he walked over to the window and not to his better judgement glanced outside for another look, he found nothing, “must have been a figment of my imagination” he said to himself, “a trick of the light maybe”. Unconvinced he finally drew the curtains over and with a flurry and jumped into bed. He pulled the bed sheets over his head and closed his eyes, heart still thumping and his hearing heightened, after a few minutes he eventually fell into a uneasy asleep.
Daley’s dream that night came alive in his head. He was stood in the middle of his front room completely alone, there was no light except from the moon beaming in through the window giving the room a weak glow. He started walking treading carefully peering into the kitchen where he could hear the clock ticking on the wall opposite it was definitely his home but it had the strangest feeling it was abandoned and had been left dormant years but nothing was out of place. As if time had stopped still, he turned and as he did so he heard soft thuds from upstairs, He gulped and with a dry mouth muttered in a feeble voice “Mum” the words seemed to re-vertebrate around the house like an echo, the thuds instantly stopped as he said this, the place was eerily still! He craned his neck up too see through the windy stair case to the floor above and saw nothing. Making his way forward as quietly as he could, placing each foot on the stairs with the softest of touches so’s not to disturb the silence.
As he walked up the stairs the banister spindles pasted by him slowly, his eyes sharpened looking through them. He got to the top stair and looked down the landing, to Daley’s surprise his bedroom door was a jar and a dim glow emanated from it, his heart was racing now, fear swept over him as he gazed down the dark landing to who or what was in there, a moment had passed, he heard movement then a low deep terrifying growl coming from the empty room to his left, it seemed to take him an age to turn his head and as the door way came into sight he glanced down and saw razor sharp claws glinting from the glow down the landing and again the two deep amber eyes from behind the door which was slightly open, Daley felt stunned he couldn’t move, goose bumps filled his body and his blood seem to drain out of him, it growled again and from out the shadows incredibly sharp teeth appeared. Daley whirled round and jumped the whole stair case fleeing for the front door, as he got the door he wheeled round and then….
BOY! He had awoken in a start, dazed he looked up to see his mother standing over him looking livid “BOY! How did this happen” she exclaimed thrusting parts of the lamp he had knocked over from the side table just a few hours before under his nose. “I just banged into it last night, it was an accident!” he said feebly, Delphine glared at him “so it was just going to pick it’s self-up then was it!” she bellowed “or were you just going to leave it for me to do?” …. “I actually thought about leaving it for you to do” Daley said with a sneer “don’t you be funny with me you little shit or I’ll, I’ll …. “you’ll do what?” he said with finality “the only thing you can do is get through two bottles of gin a night, you wanted to see yourself last night, sprawled on the floor un-conscious! No wonder the town thinks you’re a fucking joke, I mean look at you!” Delphine let out a gasp and swung for Daley but he was too fast for her, dodging her swinging fist darted for the door, showering Delphine with parts of the oil lamp as he flailed the bed sheets upwards, he grabbed his school clothes off the bedside table and pelted to the stairs throwing his school jumper over his head as he descended down the stairs hopping on one foot trying to pull his trousers on, he got to the front door wrenched it open and grabbed his shoes on the floor next to him. He could now hear his mother crying from upstairs, without a backwards glance he slammed the door so hard the led from between the window panes fell out. Daley stormed through town in a fit of rage with the dream from last night still ringing in his head.
He was getting a lot of side way glances off passers-by which wasn’t out or the ordinary for him, people often stared at Daley. He carried on walking trying to fathom out the dream completely blacking everyone around him when he overheard a couple of people muttering to themselves “those Knuttons are a strange lot aren’t they!” said tiny old women “well Gladice can you blame them!” said a weedy looking man Dayley knew to be Mr Hamell “I mean if it was your family it happened too wouldn’t you be?” …. Daley stopped dead in his tracks and stared at the man who had apparently just noticed Daley had overheard them and made a flourish movement with his hands and said “well Gladice I’ll see you later, got to go open up” and hastily sped down Hallows road to the Drunken Huntsman.
Daley stared after him “what did he mean if it was your family it happened too” he stood and pondered there for a minute, but eventually hoisted his bag over his shoulders and headed off to school. Daley’s school Kynesgrove was just outside the town, you could see it from his bedroom window it sat dominantly on Gallows hill. He made his way down the long narrow path called Ox Pasture which was the direct route from town to school.
Dawn seemed to break a lot later than usual and there was a thick mist at foot, he could see in the distance the Black Forest’s trees touching the shimmer of the sun’s rise. He kept saying to himself “keep walking, keep walking, and don’t stray from the path. Not far now” This was his ritual, he hated walking anywhere being anywhere near the black forest.
He’d been walking for about 10 minutes and Daley saw the trees in the forest stir as a flock of birds disperse, silence fell. Then a second later a blood curdling nose broke the air from within the tree line. A deep cry emanated, like a bear being ripped apart. Daley’s hair stood on end, then forgetting all reason and not bothering to work out what it could of been sprinted as fast as he could, he took a sideway glance at the forest and to his horror saw a monstrous figure hurtling along the tree line heading straight toward him, he turned away, fear and adrenalin was pouring though his body as he sped up.
Kynesgrove loomed into view within the murky dark horizon, he reached the front gates and started to pull at them screaming “LET ME IN, PLEASE LET ME IN!” a moment passed and the large old wooden front door of the school opened as someone he couldn’t make out started to walk toward him “BE QUIET for god sake!” they shouted toward Daley. Relief swept over him and he tried to catch his breath. Bent double, tears were rolling down his face Daley clutched at his chest…. then from right behind he heard a paralizingly deep, possessed, guttural snarl.