The smell of stagnant water wafted from the muddy ground as a man swatted the flies swarming around him. He swore as he made his way through the mud-covered terrain searching for a wooden cabin that he was instructed to find by his wife.
Damien arrived on the island on the 19th of December 1897, the vessel he had sailed on had met a cruel fate smashing into the treacherous rocks off the north coast of the island. Everyone that had made it off of the ship alive was welcomed by the islanders and they soon settled into life on Black Mountain Island. He and his wife Maura were trying to have a baby but her womb was barren. She was told by someone in the village about a mysterious woman who had been cast out from the town. Many said she was a witch, a demon, a creature of the night. They banished her to Corvus Isle, which is north west of the main island, nine years ago and many had thought she had died there, while others told stories of her sneaking onto the island after midnight looking for babies to steal for her rituals.
While Damien searched the dense undergrowth, he heard ravens calling in the distance. He made his way up a narrow path and breathed a sigh of relief when his eyes cast upon a dilapidated cabin. It was erected on stilts, holding it up and out of the muddy waters below. As he approached the cabin he noticed bones lay scattered beneath the dwelling. He paused to examine them for a moment; the skull that peered through the mud was human. His palms began to sweat as he swallowed hard; he focused on the front door of the cabin as he cautiously made his way towards it.
He thought of his wife and how she ached for a child of her own, he felt less of a man because he couldn’t get her pregnant. So many things filled his mind as he found himself standing in front of the cabin door. There was a hole where a knot of wood once was and a large mystical emblem, a sigil of some kind, painted on the door in what looked like blood. Bravely, he lifted his arm to knock on the door it slowly creaked open.
“What are you doing here?” a woman shouted from behind him.
He turned around and caught a glimpse of dirty grey hair, as the rancid little old woman bombarded him with questions. Damien fell backwards and the diminutive woman towered over him.
“Who are you?” she demanded, as her colourless milky eyes widened.
“I’m Damien,” he answered, completely startled by her appearance.
“Oh,” she muttered, as pungent saliva from her decaying mouth drooled onto his face. She jumped backwards as he sat up and then got back onto his feet, wiping his face with his sleeve. He looked down at the old hag as she squinted up at him.
“You’re here because your whore can’t fall pregnant,” she stated, walking towards her cabin door.
“She is no whore, I assure you,” he retaliated. “She is my wife.”
The woman spun around, her matted hair was crawling with what looked like lice.
“Look into my eyes,” she commanded him.
His green eyes became fixated on hers and he was unable to look away. They must have stood there for an hour before she turned her back on him.
“Go home and satisfy your whore tonight,” she instructed him, as she turned revealing a dagger in her ashy hands. Damien put his hand out to take the dagger but the woman struck it into his palm. He shouted out as his rich dark blood spilled from his wounded hand. She ripped his shirt open as he stood there, muttering something in a language he had never heard as she drew a symbol using her bony blood soaked index finger on his sturdy chest. She took a step back and smirked.
“Be gone with you!” she shouted. “But when the whore is with child, you come and tell me,” she ordered him.
Damien nodded as he turned and walked away.
“You’d better come and tell me!” she warned, as he made his way through the nightmarish stench pit.
Damien got into his small boat and rowed back to the island.
“What am I doing?” he asked himself, as he reached Black Mountain’s shores. He threw the oar down between some rocks as anger and rage seemed to possess him. His body ached and his soul felt heavy; he began to make his way home eager to tell his wife of the ordeal he had endured.
As he walked the sunset soothed his angst, then suddenly he heard the thunderous stamp of hooves as a horse-drawn carriage approached. The horses neighed as they came to a halt; the coachman leaned forward wiping his shoe that was resting on the footboard before climbing down off the boot. He looked at Damien as he examined his box jacket and then preceded to the gilded Gala Coupe carriage door. He removed his top hat and straightened his rather long blonde hair before knocking on the carriage door three times. The door opened and out climbed a gentleman, his long black frock coat was perfectly tailored and his leather shoes were immaculate. He smiled at Damien as he removed his bowler hat.
“It’s not safe to be out here at night,” he cautioned Damien.
“I’m not far from home now Sir,” he replied.
The man laughed. “Please do not call me Sir, I must be younger than you,” he professed.
Damien had only called him Sir out of respect, due to the obvious grand status that he seemed to hold.
“Please come,” the man insisted, gesturing for Damien to climb into the carriage. “Let me take you home.”
The coachman looked down at Damien’s muddy shoes and tattered clothing and raised his eyebrow.
“I insist,” the man persisted, to which Damien gave in and graciously accepted the offer.
As soon as they had climbed into the carriage the coachman closed the door and resumed his place up on his boot. He shouted out as he cracked his whip beside the horse, they neighed as they began trotting.
“I’m sorry about the bloody mess,” Damien apologised.
The man shook his head. “Don’t worry about it,” he assured him. “How did you injure yourself?”
Damien lied, “I fell on the rocks.” He stared at the gentleman’s exquisite walking stick; it was made of Irish blackthorn and had a raven carved out of ivory for the handle. Breaking the uncomfortable silence, he hurriedly said, “My name is Damien.”
The man removed his hat and put it beside him, his dark brown hair did not move as if it were petrified.
“Something about you smells familiar,” he said to Damien as he pulled out a flask from beneath his cushion. “Would you like some sherry?” he offered Damien, to which he declined. “I say smell familiar because that stench comes only from Corvus Ilse,” he continued, as Damien began to become wary. “What were you doing there?” he questioned.
Damien, stared into his blue eyes, “I heard a story about a witch…”
The man interrupted Damien by laughing. “We have all heard that tale. Did you find what you were looking for?” he asked mockingly.
Damien shook his head, “No Sir.”
The man frowned slightly at Damien’s answer. At that time the carriage came to a halt.
“Take care Damien,” he said, opening the carriage door.
Damien climbed out and discovered he was outside his home. He thanked the man again and walked off.
The gentleman climbed out of the carriage and lit his pipe.
“He was with the witch,” the coachman said.
“I can’t wait to see how this turns out,” he replied.
They both laughed.
Damien turned to see the carriage take off as he made his way to his front door.
“What a peculiar day,” he said out loud as he entered his home. Damien was surrounded by darkness; he could smell the tallow wax but there was no flame nor light in sight.
“Maura,” he shouted out to his wife as he made his way through his home. He bent down in front of the fireplace and tried to save the struggling flame. “This hasn’t been tended to in a while,” he muttered to himself, as he searched for a tallow candle on the table nearby. “It’s still warm,” he thought as he grabbed hold of the candle. He lit the candle and made his way up the stairs towards the bedroom of the cottage.
“Maura,” he sighed, as he saw his wife standing by the window looking out. “I’ve been calling you.” He walked up to his wife, shadows danced on the wall from the light the candle cast.
“Maura!” he said firmly to which his wife turned around.
“I didn’t hear you come in,” she said, seeming disorientated.
He set the candle down on a walnut Victorian table and he clasped his wife’s face.
“You’re bleeding!” she cried, looking at her husband’s hand.
“I’m fine,” he assured her. He removed his shirt, moaning as his body ached.
“Did you find her?” she asked, desperately hoping the answer would be positive.
Damien nodded as she dipped a cloth into a basin of cold water. She wiped his forehead and worked her way down to his firm chest. He looked down, searching for the bloody sigil the witch had painted on him, but it was gone. He didn’t understand any of it.
“What did she say?” Maura asked, dipping the cloth again and rinsing it out before taking her husband’s hand and wiping the wound clean.
“She said she couldn’t help us,” he lied to her.
Maura whimpered as she threw the cloth into the basin and walked out of the room. Damien did not want to give his wife false hope as there was nothing crueller or more inhumane. The tallow candle flame began to flicker as he undressed; he looked towards the door as the flame died, blanketing him in blackness.
“Damien…” he heard a woman whisper in the darkness.
The woman’s voice was not his wife’s and he began to feel apprehensive. He jumped forward as he felt a hand brush over his naked back.
“What is going on?” he shouted. “Maura!” he called for his wife but she did not come.
In the corner of the room stood a figure in the darkness, it slurred in Latin repeatedly.
Damien cautiously began walking towards the figure, he reached his hand out to touch it but was horrified as it scurried up to the ceiling and began wailing. That is when he caught a glimpse of its face, her face, the hag from Corvus Isle. Damien’s body quivered as she dropped to the ground with a loud thud, he was completely frozen in fear. He began to sway and he lost his balance falling backwards; the floorboards tremored as his naked body crashed to the floor. His eyes widened as he turned his head to the side and found her lying beside him; the stench from her oozing septic mouth made the vomit disgorge from his. Damien’s eyes rolled back as he lost consciousness.
The faint sound of Maura moaning woke Damien. He sat up bewildered as he scanned his surroundings.
“Morning,” Maura said as she stretched her arm over his lap.
“Was it a dream?” he thought, as he slid the sheet off of his wife’s naked body.
“It’s cold,” she complained, pulling the sheet back over her.
Damien was so confused; he remembered the hag, he remembered succumbing to her. He looked at Maura and remembered making love to his wife. There was a sense of primal instinct that swirled in his soul as he ravaged her. Maura opened her blue eyes and smiled at her husband.
“You did not treat me like a lady last night,” she stated, as she sat up with a smile on her face. “You treated me like your whore,” she concluded, as she ruffled his dark brown hair.
“Whore?” he thought about what the hag had said. Damien pulled the sheets off of him and was stunned to find his feet were covered in mud, as well as the sheets. The same mud from Corvus Isle. His stomach knotted as he jumped up and ran over to the basin, yellow bile spewed from his mouth.
Maura ran over as she heard him retching. “You have a fever,” she explained, pressing her hand against his forehead. “Should I get the doctor?” she asked worriedly.
“No,” he replied, “I’m exhausted. I need to rest.”
Maura led him back to the bed, she opened the crisp white sheets for her husband to lay down. Damien looked at the sheets. They were spotless. Confusion ate at his brain like a ravenous animal.
Damien stayed in bed for the rest of the day and was only disturbed by his wife to be offered food or drink.
“Let’s hope tomorrow is better my darling,” she said to him as she sat by his side. But she would soon realise this would not be the case…
Over the next few days Damien became worse, the constant fevers made him hallucinate and speak of strange beasts and creatures visiting him in the night. The doctor that had come to examine him was convinced that he was suffering from a touch of delirium and wanted to move him into the Asylum, which was on the southeast isle off the main island known as Waldrom Isle.
Maura refused to believe her husband was going insane and stood by his side. A few weeks had past and Maura began to feel ill herself. Day in and day out the constant stress over Damien and trying to hide his irrational claims of creatures in the darkness had become too much for her to deal with alone.
“Yes Doctor,” Damien overheard his wife say. He heard her crying from another room and he sat up in his bed.
“Maura!” he tried to shout, but his voice was as weak as his legs. He slowly made his way over to the bedroom door before falling to his knees.
Maura came running in with the doctor by her side, they helped him up and back to the bed.
“I’m pregnant Damien,” she gushed as she cried.
He smiled as his body shook, the vomit seeping out of his mouth as his body began to convulse. The doctor hastily moved Damien onto his side as he shook violently and within seconds he stopped. A little blood trickled out of his mouth due to the fact that he had bit his tongue convulsing.
“He needs medical attention,” the doctor urged Maura. “The Asylum will look after him and he should be stable by the time you give birth.”
Maura looked at her husband. She blamed herself for putting pressure on him to have a baby, and the added pressure of finances now that he could not work was also on her mind.
Maura whimpered as she nodded to the doctor. She leant forward and kissed Damien on his forehead.,
“It won’t be for long,” she said, trying to reassure herself.
The doctor left while Maura cried silently by her husband’s side.
The following day Maura watched as her husband was removed from their home and taken to Rabanus Asylum. She dropped to the floor and she broke down. As he called her name over and over she clasped her hands over her ears so as not to hear him. Then there was silence, she could hear a raven’s gurgling croak in the distance and nothing more. Maura stood up and looked out the front door as the old hag began manifesting above her. Maura could smell something in the air, she turned around and looked up at the ceiling to find a damp muddy mark. She went to find something to stand on to examine it, unaware of the danger that lurked in her home. Maura was too short, even when using a tiny nesting table to stand on, so she decided to leave it and retire to her bedroom. She was exhausted from the happenings of the day. The following day the stain was gone. Maura secretly worried that she was losing her mind like her husband…
A few days passed, and then a few weeks; Maura got weekly updates about Damien’s health but unfortunately there was no good news. After a few months Maura had begun facing the reality that she may have to raise the child on her own. She carried heavily and the pregnancy was putting a lot of strain on her. She had a few people helping her as she was in essence a single woman, but Maura began slipping into depression as she yearned for her husband.
On the 11th of March 1901 Maura sat on her bed as her stomach began to cramp. She was expecting the doctor to come and examine her the following day, but wondered if she shouldn’t send for someone to call him. She lifted up her swollen feet and she rubbed her stomach trying to soothe the cramping.
On the south east isle off the main island lies Rabanus Asylum, a place feared by many on the main island. The towering beast of a structure was designed by Anthony Winston Ravencroft, the founder of the island itself. His designs could be seen throughout the entire Black Mountain Island. The Asylum had many staff roaming the pristine white corridors; they were almost invisible as their clothing was white from head to toe. From the Asylum’s games room to the patients’ sleeping quarters, everything was white and clinical, but the deeper you ventured into the bowels of the Aasylum things began to change. In the darkness of the lower level lay Damien in a bed, shivering from the cold as he heard patients screaming and begging for freedom. He looked at the filthy walls of his cell and wished for a fast death, for it was almost time for his shock therapy. They had diagnosed him with hysteria and were convinced they could cure him, they believed keeping him in the dark would show him that there was nothing in it calling his name. They were wrong….
He heard her voice whisper his name. Damien sat up. He was nothing but a shell of what he used to look like. His strapping body and good looks were destroyed; a gaunt broken soul sat in the dark while the voice began to call him.
“Maura is going to have her baby soon,” it taunted him. “For every second that baby grows, you deteriorate.”
He stood up and walked to the corner of the cell, he stood in his own faeces that had been festering there for days.
“Look at what you have become,” the voice continued. “All for a whore!”
Damien watched as the hag materialised before him. She rubbed her belly.
“You are with child!” he said astonished.
“Your child,” she grinned, showing her rotting teeth. “Every minute Maura’s son grows stronger, you grow weaker,” she continued. “You need to kill her unborn child, for if you don’t the minute he is born you will die.”
Damien shook his head, “If she is to have my son I would gladly die.”
The hag laughed, “You fool, do you honestly think that child is yours?”
Damien stood silently as her words sunk into his mind. He thought back to the many times Maura had acted strangely, or when he came home to find her behaving peculiarly.
“No,” he muttered as his eyes filled with tears.
“Yes!” she shouted spitting in his face as she shook him by the shoulders. “The spell was to have a child, but she was already pregnant,” the hag explained. “So I decided not to waste the opportunity and take it for myself.”
Damien’s body began to ache.
“The bastard child is close to coming.” The hag moved into the corner of the cell. “Come with me,” she urged him, stretching out her ashy hand.
He stretched his hand out and grabbed hers; he screamed out as pain struck his eyes. Damien felt a warm substance envelop him and then the cold air against his face. He opened his eyes to find he was standing outside his home, there was a candle burning in the window. He looked down to his right hand to see the bone dagger the hag used on him all those months back. He walked to the front door and slowly pushed it open. He crept inside and up the stairs to find his pregnant wife asleep on their bed. He looked at her for a while before turning around to leave.
“Damien?” she asked as he turned back towards her. “Damien!” she shouted. “Is that you?” she cried.
He walked over to her and noticed the bed sheets were full of blood.
“Something’s wrong with the baby,” she sobbed. “I’m so tired Damien.”
He looked at her skin, it was so pale, there was almost a blue tinge to her face, and she was shivering.
“Please help me deliver the baby Damien,” she pleaded.
He kissed her on her cold sweaty forehead.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered in her ear before driving the bone dagger up into her.
She let out a strangled cry as he ripped her open from cervix to sternum. Blood gushed out of her as he screamed and cried. He looked for a baby but found nothing.
“Where is it?” he yelled in a rage, as he heard someone coming in from downstairs.
He ran out the door to find two police men.
“We knew we would find you here,” they said, as they looked at the blood-drenched man.
“I need to find that baby!” he raved wildly.
“Stand back!” they cautioned, drawing their pistols.
“I need to find that baby!” he pleaded, ignoring them.
With a flash of light, the pistols fired twice as Damien ran towards the policemen. He dropped to his knees as he looked down at the blood pouring from his chest.
“Where is the baby?” he bawled, as blood ran from his mouth.
Behind the policeman he saw the hag stand with a baby in each arm.
“You!” he shouted as he pointed at her.
He gasped for air, falling on his side still pointing towards the woman. His hand dropped as she vanished into the darkness. He gave one last breath before blood flowed out of every orifice taking him off to his eternal slumber…
A few months after their savage ordeal, some new people finally moved into Damien and Maura’s empty home. The young couple lived happily in it for several years. That was until the wife wanted them to have a child of their own.
“I heard of a woman on Corvus isle,” she told her husband…