Once upon a time there was a man who lived inside a box. It was not by choice, well, not on the part of the man anyway for who would choose to live within the tight and hard confines of a box? The man went mad, trapped, alive inside the box, its lid tightly nailed down over his screaming face, his hands and feet trapped by his sides (for his feet were removed with considerable brutality prior to his placement within the box). The feel of his putrefying feet may well have been some influence upon his waning sanity, as they slackened and oozed by his fingers and under him, where their lost juices soaked up through the meagre clothes he had been left before his incarceration.
Food and water were pressed down on him through a narrow tube which was slotted into a knot in the wood. If he refused them the water and food came anyway -a greasy layer of filth that accreted over his face and body. His hair rested in the muck and grew slimy and vile. His captor would not let him simply die; his crimes were too great for that. Instead he would suffer for as long as they could preserve his worthless life within the box. But it was not that that drove him mad.
Once upon a time there were three brothers who lived in a house by the river. By the house were huge, broad leafed trees that watched the river rush past, endlessly busy, endlessly alive. The three brothers were jolly, thoughtful men who spent their days tending to the animals, reading, and upon their arts. Many villagers came to them for aid, for their wisdom, their medicine and their company.
One day a man came to their door, desperate and sweating with fear and anger. His face told a tale of despair – his daughters, only eleven and seven, sweet children of golden hair and nature, had fallen into the river and he feared them drowned. The three brothers set out at once to scour the river for his lost daughters. The river was fast and wild that day and the already grieving man declared it hopeless. The brothers were not so hopeless. They forged into the river and set to work with their art, searching the river until the river told them where to look.
The currents had left the daughters cold and dead upon the bank not far from the brothers’ house. The man cried out that he would never more hear their gentle laughter but the brothers said “not so”. With hope and wisdom they carried the girls to their house and warned the man against despair. With medicine and art they revived the youngest girl, but the elder was beyond even their power.
The man’s face grew dark with anger and fear when he saw the girl alive once more. She shivered at the sight of him and cowered from his grasp. The brothers, wise, thoughtful and kind sought to calm the father, though they had now their suspicions. With a knife taken from the brothers’ medicine chest he killed all three. He found himself alone with just the dead elder girl, the younger had fled.
The villagers, to whom he turned listened to his story. When they heard the sad father’s tale of how he had lost his daughters to the river and turned to the brothers for their aid had found them with his oldest, performing unnatural acts of their art upon her frail dead form, they remembered their own dark suspicions, fears and jealousy of the brothers’ sinister charms. The three brothers bodies were hanged from the tree that guarded the gate to their house, in warning and memory. The little daughter was lost, presumed drowned, gone forever.
To be continued next week.