Ghost Kommando

My Father wrote this story , based on the very few times my Polish Grandfather talked about his time in Dachau Concentration Camp.

Both my parents love ghost stories and horror movies, so you can guess where I get my influences from. Please let me know what you think. My Dad is a brilliant writer and just doesn’t write enough. I could do with something to give him a bit more persuasion to put pen to paper in his retirement.

Dedicated to my Grandparents. Stola!

 

I sit and watch the sun rise over the city, sparking silver shards on the river, and
casting dancing shadows of tree tops on my walls.
Through the open window I can hear the rattle of trams as they pass down the street.
Car horns blare in a constant discordant chorus. From time to time I catch the patter
of footsteps and fragments of speech from people passing by hurrying off to their
business of the day. The cling of bottles sounds as a restaurant clears the empties
from the previous night, and a faint aroma of cooking drifts in on the breeze stirring
my curtains. I hear a hiss of water as a pavement is hosed down. Echoing in my
quiet room I hear all the sounds of a great city awakening. The great city where I live,
a place and a life so far away from where I lived not so long ago.
The morning sounds then were so very different; the sounds of people condemned
to another day on a slow agonising path of suffering and death. The shuffle of
hundreds of poorly shod feet. The coughs and the mumbles of those who had lost
reality. The angry shouts of an argument, the sounds of a scuffle; the bark of a
guard, the shot , the scream of another death. Probably welcome. Then there were
the sounds of the ‘Ghost Kommando’, the men who gathered the dead bodies from
the huts up each morning, grunting as they piled them on the cart. Then the squeak
of ungreased wheels as they pushed the cart towards the crematorium.
But it wasn’t the sounds of those days which stick strongest in the memory, it was
the stink. The rank, stupefying odour of filth, starvation, disease, dying and death. A
stink which seemed to thicken the air. Even the smoke from the chimneys couldn’t
mask it. It clung to everything, to buildings and clothes. It seemed to get into your
very skin, you became part of the stink.
Izaak and I were just 18 when they came to take us to the ghetto. Poppa, mama and
even grandma and grandad were taken. We came together, herded like cattle, struck
if we protested, shot if the protests were too strong. As we passed through familiar
streets, others joined, and we became part of a long column, heading for our new
home.
Izaak and I were twins, born just two minutes apart. Being older meant that Izaak
was often in my shadow. He was gentle, where I was not. He was, patient and polite,
I was often hot tempered and rude. But, we made a perfect team, me with my
scheming and grand plans, Izaak with his clear concise, logical thinking to bring me
back down to earth. We were smart boys, although Izaak was probably smarter.
We had thought we were a lucky family. Poppa had a successful business , and we
were moderately prosperous We were well thought of in our small town. We were
proud Poles until the war and the Ghetto and the camps, when we became just
Jews, and then worse.

Slowly everything we had had been taken from us. Izaak and I had to leave college.
The family business was taken, our home was requisitioned and we were taken to
live in one room in a wretched rat and flea infested hovel in the Ghetto.
The shock to Momma and Poppa and their parents was almost too much. They
drifted around our new home in an daze.’ Why, why ,why’ poppa would say time and
time again. They simply couldn’t comprehend what had happened, how we were to
cope with the new life we had been given.
Winters were particularly cruel to half starved and half freezing bodies, and neither of
our grandparents survived the first one. Momma and Poppa barely survived despite
the best efforts of Izaak and me.
With the strength and resilience of young bodies, and quick minds we were able to
adapt much more easily to our much changed circumstances. Between us we
managed to find food and even money at times. Me with my assertiveness and
cunning and Izaak with his brains and charm. We made a great team? It seemed we
could almost read each others thoughts , and it was uncanny how many times we
found ourselves thinking the same things at the same time. We schemed and
planned and acted. Not always honestly, we found food and fuel. Together we kept
was was left of our family alive through the coldest and darkest days.
We would sally out each morning wrapped in our rags, stepping over sleeping, or
dying forms in corridors and on stairs. Sometimes a plea for help would come from
some heap of rags, but we had our own to see to. We had nothing to spare for
others. We lived so that our family could live, we ourselves teetering on the brink of
starvation, and the constant risk of the diseases which frequently swept through the
ghetto.
And so we survived in the Ghetto . We worked hard to survive. We traded when we
could. We tried hard to get what we could and more if possible. We stole when we
had to, we cheated. Izaak always hated it when I stole. Others might die he would
say, because we took from them what little the already had. ‘It’s wrong,’ he would
say. ‘It’s forbidden in the Tora.’ But I would chivvy him into being my lookout, while I
stole a watch or a ring or a potatoe. Despite his conscience, he always did as I
asked. He would distract a victim whilst I did the business; one way or another.
Then they ‘closed ‘ the Ghetto. The came and rounded us up. Those who tarried
were shot on the spot. We were marched to the railway station and forced into
stinking cattle cars. We were pushed,and kicked until each car was crammed with
bodies. The journey to the camp was a nightmare. By the time the train juddered to a
halt at the camp each car had its share of the dying and dead. The fittest jumped
from the cars, the weaker were pushed from them, the dead and the dying dragged
to the ground to be carted off to the crematorium by blank face prisoners in striped
camp clothes.

We were lined up, men and older boys, women and children. Some younger women
were pulled from the women’s line to be led away. The rest were marched away for
‘showers’. It was the last time I saw Momma, as she left, she turned to look at me
Izaak and Poppa, her face picture of sadness.
The Ghetto was bad, but the camp was worse, far worse. In the Ghetto you had
opportunity. You had freedom of a kind. You were crowded,you risked death if you
were caught trading with people outside, or taking the food which some kind souls
would throw over the walls and fences, but you could move around. You could plot
and scheme and you had the space to carry put your plans, even in the middle of
crowded streets and buildings.
In the camp you were much more restricted, you were watched and counted, by
guards and by fellow prisoners. There was always someone ready to sell information
of some misdemeanour to the camp guards in return for some small favour. You
lived from day to day. You had to work or die. You were marched out each day to
labour in the surrounding forests, or made to dig trenches or foundations or carry out
pointless hard labour tasks designed to break body and spirit. On starvation rations,
and poorly clothed you were lucky to survive a few weeks. Poppa lasted a week. His
heart finally gave out and I am sure he was glad to go. No funeral. The creaking cart
and the crematorium for him like thousands of others.
The only goal was to survive, nothing else mattered. Izaak and I did what we could,
we did what we needed to do, legally and illegally , morally and immorally, you did it.
To eat, to preserve some strength to keep us away from the hospital, where those
who went in never came out, and the guards who spotting any weakness were quick
on the trigger and ever ready to split a skull with a rifle butt.. We did things which
even now I find difficult to think about but we carried on day by day, just scraping
through.
We were in the camp for two years. As time went on it became harder and harder to
survive. Food became even shorter and as it became clear that the war was being
lost, the camp guards more and more unpredictable . You could be beaten to death
or shot without reason. Being in the wrong place at the wrong moment could mean
instant extinction.
The crematorium, always busy now worked even harder. Black smoke belched from
the chimneys day and night. So busy at times that even flames were seen to shoot
from the stacks. Life began to be lived by the minute
Weeks before we were liberated, food supplies were almost none existent,
colourless soup, little more than water with tiny amounts of cabbage boiled up in it
was the order of the day. Bread became a luxury available to only a few. Despite our
animal cunning, Izaak and I grew weaker and more ill as the days passed. Better
than many thanks to our ‘activities’, we were still approaching deaths door.

Liberation came just in time for many of us. I was happy to help the American
soldiers identify those guards who had been particularly brutal, and some who
weren’t and I smiled as they were forced to their knees and shot out of hand. All
humanity had long since gone from my soul. When you are reduced to the level of an
animal, you became one. A stinking, starving, feral animal, like thousands of others
all over Europe.
And so it was over, the Ghetto, the camp, the daily struggle to survive. I found my
way through a displaced persons camp to France. I found myself in a large city, I
found a job and a small apartment not far from the river. Life was not easy, but after
the last few years it was not hard. Enough to eat and drink, a warm bed and a
pleasant environment, what more could a refugee from the camps ask for.?
A couple of years after I moved to the city, Izaak started to visit me. His visits began
after I recognised that the pain in my belly was more than the results of the poor diet
I had suffered for some years.
The doctors confirmed my worst fears. Day by day I became weaker, the pain worse.
I would often lie on my bed at night , the pain keeping me awake and that’s when
Izaak would come. He would just stand at the foot of my bed, and look at me, his big
brown eyes sad and full . He would not say anything, he just held out his hand,
asking, begging, without words.
I knew why, because that was the last thing I remember of him. Lying on his bunk,
his hand outstretched, begging me for the bread that was his as well, but which I had
eaten. In the last days of the camp, I knew that only one of us could survive. Only
the strongest survived didn’t they?, and I was stronger than Izaak, wasn’t I?
The night has drawn in, the sunset casting long shadows. My room dims in the
twilight. I see Izaak, he stands before me again. No outstretched hand this time. He
stands, waiting.
I hear the shuffle of feet, the grunt as the weight is taken up, then the squeaking of
the cart wheels. The Ghost Kommando is on its way to another appointment.

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Fowl

Everything stank of chicken shit and everything tasted of chicken shit. Tom needed the money and even though the pay rate was well below what it should be, he needed something to pay for his booze and weed. Plus , he couldn’t argue, with his police record, and what he was doing was illegal. But it’s a job, it’s money. When the guy came asking in the pub if i fancied a job, cash in hand, no references, they jumped at the chance.  transport there and back, cash at the end of everyday. No Job Centre interference, so still get the dole. Perfect. The six of them jumped at the chance. Funnily enough, though Tom, I haven’t seen John this morning. Probably got so stoned after the overtime he put in last night. Lucky bugger.

When they first turned up to farm, they thought it would be salad picking or some such. However they were all bundled into  a covered trailer, driven slowly by the tractor to god knows where. the farmer explained we were to feed and clean up, spray down the battery hens kept in the massive warehouse. apparently someone said it was illegal and he got told to fuck off then. He went back on the trailer, never saw him again. Tom couldn’t give a shit. Just fucking chickens, horrible beady eyed things  They don’t call em fowl for nothing, the farmer said.

Each of the warehouses had numbers, and Tom looked after number 9. This was his sixth or seventh week and even though he hated it, they paid him on the nose every week, no delays. He still had not got used to the smell and it seemed to take longer and longer to wash it off afterwards. He had a quick brew and started changing into his ‘ contamination suit’ as he called it. It always reminded him of a horror movie he’d seen. Every day the suits and wellingtons were ready for him, white, sparkling and shiny. And everyday they came back covered in mud, sawdust, blood and chicken shit. It seemed to stick worse as the day went on. Once the day was finished it all went in a big plastic bin to be taken away and washed, but tom thought, probably burnt. He was always surprised how clean the farm seemed. Most farms he seemed to visit had various piles of useless crap knocking about the yard, but not here.

He zipped the suit up, pulled the wellies on , then the gloves, making sure they were sealed at the wrist. He then put the breathing mask on. They had been told never to take it off in the chicken rooms. “ The air will shred your lungs and the parasites ‘i’ll eat what’s left if they get in there!!” The farmer had said when he first arrived. He was right. The rooms were thick with chicken dust, like a bird fog. He never wanted that stuff in his lungs. The spray pump was already prepared as usual. He pulled it onto his back, adjusting the harness to make it comfortable.  He pumped the  side handle, to build up pressure for the adjustable spray lance, and tried the trigger to test it. A fine spray of unknown chemicals  fired into the air.

He pulled back the plastic dividers and and gently opened the door to his allotted chicken house. The room was about 20 feet long and 10 foot wide. every single bit of floor space was filled with pale white chickens. He gently pushed some aside with his foot so he could enter and closed the door behind him. Bright , hot neon lights burned and hummed. Dust particles floated thick in the air and the noise of the chickens constant clucking and squawking was almost deafening. Because there was no natural light, everything seemed to have an orange glow , including the poor chickens. Some had feathers, some had hardly any, victims of the bigger birds attacks on the weakest, creating the pecking order”. Some limped, some just sat on the floor as the others scrambled over them. Ankle deep in chicken soup ben always thought, no sign of his feet as they seemed to swarm around him. he hated the way they all turned to look at him when he entered the room. 1000 plus red beady eyes all staring in his direction. Something about it really creeped him out.

He gave the side handle another few pumps to build pressure and started spraying the chickens liberally. The fine spray covered floated in the air , coating chickens . lights and ben. Feathers stuck to him as he started his walk from one side of the cabin to the other, trying as carefully as he could to push them out of his way as he walked around. Som jumped up at him and it always made him jump when they screeched so loudly. He turned round once he had reached on end of the room He started the spray gun again but nothing happened. He checked the nozzle with his free hand, momentarily losing concentration on his surroundings.

That’s when felt the crunch under his foot. Then the awful shriek.

Ben looked up to the roof. “Shit” he muttered under his breath. He then looked at his feet and slowly lifted his foot to see a broken, bloody body of a almost featherless chicken. It was one of the weak ones, and small bones punctured out of its body , small smeared drops of blood.on its pale prickly skin. It lay twitching and blinking, its head at a weird angle. It seemed to be trying to to cluck, but blood pooled out of its mouth onto the sawdust covered floor. It was still alive, barely and Ben knew what he had to do. “Sorry pal” he said as he raised his foot to stamp on its head.

Before he had chance, though, he realised, it had gone quiet apart from a couple of clicks here and there. The chicks all seemed to look at the dying body on the floor. Then, a couple of the chickens pecked at Ben’s raised wellington. The noise seemed to rise slowly, louder and louder. Then, without any warning masses of the feathered creatures launched themselves at the broken bird on the floor. Ben stood back,as they ripped into the corpse, shredding it as it screeched and they screeched . feather flew in the air, chickens jumped on top of each other , fighting to get to the fresh meat  in a feeding frenzy. Blood and bone and innards flew around , the sawdust underneath becoming soaked in the birds remains. It was all over in what seemed like seconds to Ben, as he looked on horrified. He remembered the former telling them that chickens were cannibals now. How they would eat any one of the other chickens if possible. They would pretty much eat anything they put in front of them, but the loved mice and worms and each other the best, the farmer had joked.

The chickens scratched and clawed at each other until the only evidence any animal had been on the ground was lumps of clotted , pink sawdust, crimson splattered feathers and small red chunks hanging off Ben’s wellington. The birds then settled down into the usual hum and clucking, as if nothing at happened.

Ben shivered to himself. “ fucking things” he said to himself, still not quite able to forget the noise of the screeching, dying chicken from his head. He continued on , spraying the birds , up and down the hangar, especially careful this time not to stand on any of the creatures. The occasional bird pecked at the remains stuck to his boot, excitedly clucking, but he half pushed , half kicked them out of the way with a series of “fuck offs” and extra dose of spray.

The spray pack was getting lighter and  Ben could tell he had been in the place too long now. His extra care had taken up time and spray solution . He found himself at the far end of the hangar, realising he would have to walk back now and fill up again. Normally, one session would do, but time had got away with him thanks to the chicken crushing incident. Not that the farmers gave a shit about dead chickens, but they would be pissed if he went back for another refill. Bollocks to it , he thought, I’ll get away with it today. He started walking back to the exit, chickens watching and moving like a feathered soup around his feet. He sprayed in small spurts as he walked back, feeling the air in the canister as he emptied it.

Losing concentration and just eager to get out, he managed to pump the gun a bit too much and got his rubber glove caught in the trigger.”Ow! Shit!” he yelped as it pinched the skin under the glove. He grabbed the trigger with his free hand and tried to get his hand released but the trigger jammed. He could feel it cutting into his hand. “Bloody thing!” He exclaimed through gritted teeth.

The chickens looked on. Quietly clucking.

In his temper to get the gun unstuck from his hand he didn’t see the sticky sawdust  remains from the previous chicken massacre. As he kicked some of the chickens away, concentrating on his hand , his boot stood on some slimey intestinal remains and he slipped, feet in the air and slamming into the ground with a bang. sawdust and feathers plumbed into the air, creating a gritty cloud.

The chickens turned heads and red eyes. Cluck. Cluck.

Ben sat up with a start, creating another cloud of feathery dust. His goggles were covered in a fine layer of sawdust and he pulled them up. His mask had come off and he had sawdust on one side of his face. “Urgh, oww, aggg” he coughed and spat the grime out of his mouth. He then realised that the gun had come free from his hand , tearing the glove and cutting a deep gouge into the bottom of his hand. Blood trickled down his sleeve, shocking him at first due to the contrast against the white suit.

The birds clucked. Moved. Heads twitching. Eyes blinking.

As Ben tried to get up. one of the birds pecked at his bloody hand. “ Fuck off” he shouted, and punched it away.

Another chicken went for his hand. Then a couple more. He started pushing them and kicking them out of the way. But more birds started pecking at his hands and his other hand. Then his legs. Then his arms. More beaks stated pinching at his suit. As he tried to get up, the white mass seemed to swarm towards him. Some jumped at him as he waved his arms about, suddenly the feathered soup started digging into the rubber of his boots hundreds of beaks pecking holes through the rubber. They stabbed at his bleeding hand. They stabbed at his other hand. The blood stirring them up now. As Ben tried in vain to reach the exit he slipped again, landing on his chest, crushing birds beneath him, they screeched and pecked furiously at him, his suit slowly turning pink from the hundreds of tiny pin pricks from razor sharp beaks and claws. The screeching filled Ben’s ears as the birds swarmed all over him , the thick white mass digging , clawing , screeching gouging deeper into his flesh. he tried to scream but his mouth was full of sawdust and feathers and he just choked as the bird’s weight crushed him to the ground. He could feel his back, cold for a moment as the birds ripped his clothes, then searing agonising pain as the dug deeper and deeper into his soft flesh. The the sawdust under him seemed to grow darker and darker as blood soaked up from his ripped up body. He tried in vain to lift his head and reach the door , opening his mouth to scream. But a chicken grabbed his tongue with its beak, pulling at it like a worm, inviting more birds to stab and scratch until it was a bloody pulp. They punched holes in his cheeks and ripped at his hair, pulling and twisting it around in a screaming, feeding frenzy.

His body in tatters as they dug to the bone, he watched them fight over red chunks, pain overcoming him, blood soaking his face. He lifted his head as the birds finally covered his pulped bloody body before he drowned in pink feathers and sticky sawdust. He looked at one of the birds, its red eyes blinking, head twitching from side to side. He finally succumbed as the pain became too much, just as the bird punctured his eyeballs in a furious repeated peck.

They don’t call them fowl for nothing was his last thought as everything went deep red.

 

The Field

The Field

Micheal Jones loved his wife. Loved his job. Loved the village he lived in. Loved his life. He often could not believe how lucky he was to find Mary. Or maybe she found him? After the death of his parents he had just lived in the big old house in Salford, commuting into Manchester everyday to his job as a manager in Asda. A boring life and boring existence. He only had a handful of friends, but no one close. He had always been a bit on an introvert, and was happy staying at home watching movies rather than going to the pub. Then Elizabeth came into his life like a ray of sunshine and everything changed for the better.

She shopped every Wednesday at his store and she always said hello. They chatted and laughed at how they always seemed to be in the same place at the same time ( although, it was really his boss John who decided that) One day he was on his break and saw her in the cafe and chanced an offer to buy her a coffee. To his amazement she had accepted. 3 months later he was driving with her to her village to meet her Parents , Tom and Mary and the rest of the family for Christmas ( she had 3 sisters and 2 brothers). Within a year, she moved into the big house with him. Then, he asked her to Marry him and to his shock she said yes. Then, her Father offered him a job running the small Sports Store he owned in the village, on a great wage and gave them a house to live in. They got married,he sold the big house and said good bye to his old life and moved to Billsbridge for good.

The village was a fantastic place to live . He made new friends and even drank in the local pub. Everybody knew him ( his father in law was on the local council, governor, best village committee and many more serving the community) and he loved it, becoming part of the community helping with all the village events including the fantastic Hobbs Field Festival they held every year near the summer solstice. All day parades with people in costume, old fairground games like coconut shies, culminating in the Crowning of the King and Queen of the field. This year was going to be better than most. He and Elizabeth where having a baby and had been chosen as the festival king and queen. He couldn’t believe his luck. He was in heaven.

The village was only a small place and not many tourists visited. It was tucked away off a b road that most people by passed on the way to the lake district, or stumbled upon by wrong sat nav directions ( which lost its signal as soon as they hit the village). A friendly local would always be able to point them in the right direction, something Micheal had done himself many a time. The festival was a fairly private affair as they closed the main road off for the day of the festival. A couple of the local police man where always on hand to pint lost travellers the diversion. Micheal loved the fact that it was just the people he knew and he had lost touch with his few old friends and never felt the need to invite them.

He did wish his Mum and Dad could see how happy and well he had done for himself. That was his only regret. These thoughts came to him as he put on the traditional green suit of a soon to be crowned king. It fitted perfect, he thought, as he looked in the bedroom mirror. There was a knock at the door. “Micheal?” said Elizabeth. “Come in , you daft thing “ he said opening the door. His beautiful wife stood in the doorway, resplendent in her flowing green dress, with embroidered flowers. The small bump of the baby making her look a little off balance. He smiled at her. “ My Queen, you look wonderful” he said, beaming and still not believing his luck. She smiled back, gently rubbing her tummy. “ and so do you my handsome King” she outstretched her hand, which took and pulled her towards him, embracing her, then leaning down to kiss the bump. “ You OK in there? Been a busy day!” Elizabeth laughed. “ Ha ha you daft bugger!, c’mon, the tractor is here and ready to take us the the field.”

Villagers didn’t seem to know when the festival had started, it was just something that had passed on from generation to generation. A tradition that everyone loved with all there hearts, it seemed. The festivities had been on all day. Pubs had been busy as normal, the weather had been glorious. Micheal and Elizabeth had been to the Local Pub, Hobbs Head, for the traditional King and Queen meal and then headed the children’s parade, animal parade and finally the fancy dress parade, which Micheal had always found the most fascinating. Some dressed as celebrities, some dressed as light hearted digs at local dignitaries ( always one of Tom, Elizabeth’s Father!) but the main ones where the thirteen field spirits, that apparently harked back to before medieval times. These chaps dressed with weird paper-mache gargoyles or green painted faces with costumes made of straw and leather. They span around as the two drummers beat at various rhythms. The villagers lining the streets shouted and cheered as they came by , sometimes throwing beer at them or water at them. Now Micheal and Elizabeth headed the Parade to the rock at Hobbs Field, to be crowned and the big party to begin. The tent had been set up ( which neither Micheal or Elizabeth had been allowed to enter yet!!) and Micheal could see the chairs had been placed on the rock in the middle of the field. The rock had been there forever, no doubt dropped by some glacier millions of years ago, Micheal often thought. At some point someone ( no one knew who)had roughly carved steps into the side, to make it easier for the king and queen to climb on to it.

As Micheal and his wife entered the field, heading towards the rock, he felt a feeling of such complete and utter happiness. He looked at his wife and there soon to be born child, he looked around at his family and friends. As the sun began to set , he felt so overcome he could feel his chest heave and his eyes begin to well up. His life had never felt so perfect and he still could not believe his luck after so many years of loneliness. Everything was perfect.

Micheal approached the rock, with his wife’s arm in his. They turned around to face the field full of people. People cheered and raised there pints as the sun began to set behind them and the sparkling lights ,that had been set around the field, flickered into life. Tom stood next to the couple, with his pint in hand . “ Let the king and queen ascend the rock to behold the people and the field!” He shouted and raised his glass and everybody cheered. Micheal looked at his wife and she smiled back at him, hand resting on her pregnat bump. He climbed the first steps up, people aplauding as he did, then held out a hand to his wife to let her follow. They reached the top, Micheal looked across the crowd of people, smiling. He noticed the that the entrance into the filed seemd to have been coverd with high branches and logs obscuring the steel gate. Bloody hell, he thought , I hope they have another way out for this lot later. The amount of flowing beer could cause some problems unless we are sleeping in the field!!! He chuckled to himself as he sat down on his chair to the roar of the crowd.

Now fetch the mead of the field so the king can drink of it , and we can all be well!!” shouted his father in law. From out of the tent, one of the 13 spirits ( a large one , with a giant head and bulbous eyes) carried a tray with a large metal tankard, which Micheal presumed had the( no doubt ) very strong, thick beer. Not what he would normally drink, but it was a special occasion.

The spirit handed the tankard to Tom, who walked up the stairs and handed it to Micheal with 2 hands. “ Down in one lad” he winked with a smile on his face “ it’ll taste better that way.” Micheal smiled back, taking the tankard and raising it to the crowd. They cheered and threw hands in the air. He looked back at his wife who was beaming at him. He started to tilt the drink back. It tasted bitter, thick and like soil. But he did not care. A tear fell from his eye. Never so happy.

He managed to swallow the bad taste ale in one take , stood from his seat, raised the tankard and shouted. The crowd had gone very quiet, eyes towards the ground. He noticed the 13 spirits now lined up in front of the crowd, looking at him. He turned to his father in law, who was also looking at the ground. The silence was deafening. He turned to his wife, his head feeling light from the mead. She was smiling at him. The edges of his vision started to blur. His stomach felt hot and everything stared to move around him. She looked wonderful. He noticed she had something in her hand. A staff? A rock?A knife? “Thank you Micheal, “ she said “ thank you for everything” as she brought down the object on his head.

Micheal woke feeling groggy, confused and sick. A copperish taste filled his watering mouth. Had he had a terrible nightmare. He could not see anything , something was covering his eyes? He tried to move but his arms and legs seemed to be tied down. He felt cold, a draught running over his body. Was he naked?? He felt as if he was lying on top of a rocky beach, small pebbles digging in his back. What the hell was going on? Had he been kidnapped??? Had he fallen ad was in hospital?? He tried shout but his mouth seemed numb , something swelled in his mouth. Something missing? His tongue!?? Where the hell was his tongue??? No, that cant be right he thought. He could here a faint singing . Like a choir , but low, deep and mournful. WHAT WAS GOING ON his brain screamed , body twisting and jerking to move , but each time painful.

He stiffened as he heard movement around him. Low humming voices filled the air. He felt hands on his body and he started to move, pushed along like a hospital trolley, bumping along. He tried to cry out, but his mouth had stopped working. A muffled noise emerging from the back of his throat. Cold fresh air hit his sweating body and he shivered . OHGOOHGODOHGOD. His brain could not fathom what was going on. He seemed to move for an eternity, in a circle?? In a corridor? Was he in a coma?? Oh God Help!! Someone Help!!

Suddenly he stopped. More hands on his body, he felt himself being lifted up , (on a stretcher??) and then lowered to the ground. The pain of his back cooled as he felt something cold and damp underneath him. The cut smell of grass and overturned soil filled his nostrils. They think I’m dead, he thought , they are burying me. No, I’m alive !!!I’M ALIVE he trued to shout to no avail.

He felt something then his eyes filled with on orange light, as whatever had been covering them was removed. His brain rattled with confusion, he saw his father in law, his work colleagues, Father Doyle, Jim Smith, Landlord of the Hobbs Inn, Pete the local bobby and all the other faces he knew so well from the village looking down on him. Plus John, his old boss?? They all seem to hold wooden spikes. He felt some hands on the side of his head and he looked up. My wife, my beautiful wife, he thought.

Thank you Micheal, she said, to Your sacrifice for the village will not go forgotten. I’m so sorry I couldn’t tell you, but you have to remember that I did love you for what you are going to do. But my true heart belongs to the village, and the lord of the field, as it has done for generations. I don’t expect you to understand, but we need the lost and lonely, who no one will miss, to fill there hearts with love and joy so that they can become one with the field and keep the gods happy and the crops bountiful. We send out the spirits, like John, and Every 10 years they find someone to fulfil the need. Your heart was so full, I cannot thank you enough. Be sure our child will continue the traditions. Thank you so much, your sacrifice will be wonderful. ALL HAIL THE KING OF THE FIELD!” The crowd roared its approval.

Micheal’s mind could not comprehend what was happening. It must be a nightmare, he’ll wake up soon. He must wake up soon. He tried to cry out to wake himself, but nothing happened. He looked frantically around himself, unable to move due to the straps binding him. His arms and legs had started to feel numb. His mouth seemed to be stuck together , his throat full of a bitter tasting fluid. His own blood? He was sure he could feel something scratching at his back, the cold dampness causing shivers as he sweated profusely. The sweat stung his eyes, mingling with his terrified tears as fear gripped him at the total uncomprehending horror he felt rising in his stomach.

He stated to feel sick and the bile started to rise . He could now taste the mead he had originally drunk and he wretched up whatever it was, chocking and coughing with pain as his throat seared with pain. The thick liquid filled his nose, burnt his eyes and splattered his heaving chest.

HE IS READY!” cried out Mary.

The scratching on his back seemed to intensify. Gentle at first then more painful, like little pins prodding at his skin, causing him to wince at the ever increasing discomfort his whole body was feeling.

Micheal watched as the crowd parted either side of him to reveal the 13 spirits holding a rope,that was tied to something at Micheal feet. Behind them there seemed to be a large mound of soil , with flame lanterns either side, and a shallow hole, about the size of a man. Behind this, an old gnarled tree with dead branches, twisted and bent. He had never seen this tree before, though Micheal, rather pointlessly. His mind seemed to snap. He tried to scream , but his voice had been torn away. His eyes bulged as he realised everyone was pointing the wooden spears towards him.

Let the Parade BEGIN!! shouted his father in law.

On the command , the spirits started to drag Micheal towards the tree. As he passed the crowd ,each person stabbed him with the spikes, short ,quick and with a twist. Blood pored from each wound. Micheal howled silently in pain, veins bulging on his neck and forehead. Each twist of the spike puncturing his soft , torn flesh becoming more painful than the last. His back felt like a thousand tiny razor-blades criss- crossing his damaged skin. Blood soaked the grass he was slowly being dragged across, thick life fluids oozing from the many open , gaping woods “ Hail the king, we are thankful” Micheal heard the people mutter as they plunged the spike into his tattered body. He could feel muscle rip, bones crack as the punctured and twisted, digging into his broken body.

Eventually the 13 spirits dragged Micheal past the crowd and the pain, mercifully stopped for a moment . Micheal was fading in and out of consciousness, as the loss of blood began to take its toll. He could not cry out, or move. Weakness enveloped his body. He felt himself dragged over something rough and sharp, voices shouted, but his ears were full of blood from the stabs to his face. He felt the soft loam under his body. This mus t be the hole , he thought, welcoming the end of his tortures. He turned his head to be faced with several , soil encrusted skulls, all with small wooden branches stuck in there eyes . His mind was to far gone to care now., though. He realised his fate and just wanted it to be over.

His wife stood over him. He could see the tree behind her. It looked almost alive. Like an fragile old mans unsteady movements. She knelt down with what seemed like two wooden sharpened sticks , like rough pencils in her hands. She whispered in his “ Thank you for everything now, and in the future” she said.

In a moment of clarity Micheal tried to scream again as he realised what he had just seen.

Mary pushed the sticks into Micheal’s eyes. His head jerked as she did, eyes popping like like a egg yolk, clear fluids mixed with black blood.

All Hail the Field!!! she stood up and shouted.

Micheal was in to much agonising pain to feel the thick branches moving under him. They slowly wrapped around his body in a jerky, stiff motion. Thick soil encrusted tentacles slowly reached and twisted around his neck. His body began to shudder and spasm as the sharp ends of the branches dug into the open wounds in his body, burrowing under his skin, entering his mouth, and eye sockets, wrapping and and squeezing at organs, tearing a popping them in an explosions of entrails and thick, dark blood. His body cracked and snapped as the ancient darkness of the land dragged him into the soil.

ALL HAIL THE FIELD! The crowd chanted as Micheal’s body was pulled slowly into the dark, moist earth.

The ancient tree moved slowly and gently, even though there was no breeze , The branches looked younger.