Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Thirteenth Child



The Opprobrium of Mother Leeds—or The Umbilical Cord of the Jersey Devil (inspired by the legend of the Jersey Devil) – Vintage Depression glass candy jar; antique hand-forged fish hook; tissue paper; black thread; theatrical blood; red paint; white glue; floral wire; rotted burlap; hemp twine; dried leaf; dried pine branches and pine cones; sand

Come closer round the fire, kiddies—have I got a Halloween tale for you…

A long, long time ago—near on three-hundred years past—in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey – a lonely, desolate sweep of coarse sand and dense forest – there lived a woman known as Mother Leeds. She and her husband (a drunken lout if ever there was one) and their twelve children (guess there wasn’t much else to do in-between brewin’ up ‘em batches of moonshine) called a single, ramshackle cabin home. Life was hard enough scrounging up food sufficient to feed her current brood, then Mother Leeds once again discovered herself “with child”. Maddened at the forthcoming so-called blessed event, Mother Leeds railed at the heavens, shouting, “Let this one be a devil!”

And thus the child was cursed, even before its birth.

Fast-forward nine months.

It was a dark and stormy night when the babe arrived. Lightning crackled, illuminating Mother Leeds’ bed. A midwife scurried about in the candlelight, while the Leeds’ children huddled in the shadows near the fire anxiously awaiting their sibling’s delivery, while Father Leeds snored off the last of the alcohol. Thunder rolled, combining with Mother Leeds’ cries, a deafening din that continued until…

…there came another cry—the cry of the newborn.

The midwife cut the umbilical cord and held the infant up proudly, all smiles. “A boy, Mrs. Leeds—a beautiful boy!”

But no sooner had those words been said then the smiles withered. The midwife frowned, it seemed that the babe was all of sudden heavier, bigger—that the babe was growing! She dropped the little one to the filthy floorboards and backed away, hand to mouth, aghast. Mother Leeds, sweaty and exhausted, drew herself up on her elbows, trying to see, while her other offspring stared, whimpering.

Then those whimpers turned to screams.

Mother Leeds’ thirteenth child was changing, metamorphosing, mutating, right before their very eyes! A devil she’d wished for; a devil she’d received.

The babe uncurled. Pink skin turned dark and leathery. Wings, like those of a great bat, sprouted. Gnarled horns budded from either side of a lengthening skull. Little fingers elongated, lethal claws pushing their way from each tip. Feet became hoofs. Sharp teeth grew from bloody gums, filling in the animal-like muzzle the creature now possessed. Its eyes blinked, its irises glowing hellfire red, its pupils thin, black slits.

It stood.

It stretched.

It turned.

It took in its family, one by one, until those infernal eyes caught its mother in their sights.

There came an inhuman howl—and it leapt!

Carnage ensued.

Those bestial talons tore through flesh, snapped bones, decapitated, dismembered, and disemboweled.

Its work of familicide finished, the creature went to the fireplace. It spread its wings, and with a leap and a bound it flapped its way straight up the chimney and into the storm.

And ever since then, it’s called the Pine Barrens home.

Sightings are still reported.

For three centuries there are those unfortunate few who claim to have encountered it. For three centuries strange sounds have be heard in the Barrens at night—unnatural sounds—eerie wailings, uncanny cries. For three centuries weird hoof prints have been found, in mud, in snow. For three centuries dogs, horses, and cows in its territory, have vanished, or been found slaughtered, half-eaten. For three centuries it has never been caught, never been captured.

It.

Mother Leeds’ thirteenth child.

It.

The Jersey Devil.

Yup, it’s still out there…

…somewhere.

And if you listen real hard, maybe you’ll hear…

Wait!

What was that?

An inhuman howl?

A guttural growl?

A stomp of hoofs?

A flap of wings?

Silence.

Guess it was nothing.

But… then again…

So, be careful when you’re trick-or-treating this Halloween, kiddies…

…’cause the devil just might get you if you don’t watch out!



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