Summary: An Incubus preys upon the small village of Alkyd, whose people sacrifice a child every five years to pacify his temper. When the demon decides to rape the wife of the head instead of stealing the meagre sacrifice, he gets more than he bargained for. So does she.
A Tale of Invasion, Possession, and Destruction
Chapter 1: Divulgent
He was the most adorable when he was trying to blow out a birthday candle.
Aille hadn't been sure if the entire village would fit in a room this small, but somehow, they managed. Balloons and streamers had been fashioned from natural products like straw and homemade elastics, and Aille had spent an entire afternoon whipping up the three-layer birthday cake, the candles of which her four-year-old son was trying to blow out.
"Come on, little one," his grandmother said. "You can do it!"
His father stood behind him, looking apprehensive but still supportive. Aille wanted to beat him with the balloon she held. He always behaved like this – he always acted as if he would lose all respect if his son wasn't able to do something as simple as blow out a measly candle.
Lucas' cheeks puffed out in a predictable way as he strained to put out the last candle. His father urged him closer, but the little boy quickly drew back when the hot flame hit him straight in the face. With a gentle hand, Aille guided Luke closer and assisted him in the final candle.
While the rest of the village cheered, her husband Patrick only looked at Aille disapprovingly. She arched an eyebrow, giving him a what-could-I-do? look. He finally softened and gave them both a hug.
"Congratulations, Lucas," one raven-haired villager said to the little boy. He smiled his baby-toothed smile and shook the villager's hand, as he had been taught to do by his father, who had grown up respecting elders greatly. "And congratulations to the proud parents," he added. Aille and Patrick smiled.
"Thank you," Patrick said, on behalf of them both. The woman was never to speak, unless she had been addressed directly by a man or if she was a widow. Any other time, her father or husband would speak for her. It was one of the unspoken rules Aille had become used to, living in such a small village.
What was supposed to be a lovely, celebratory day was quelled hastily by the sudden shriek of a young boy.
"He's coming for his bounty once again!" the young boy screamed. He was undoubtedly from a neighbouring village, perhaps one that received more sun. His skin was badly sunburned. But his message was the most vivid thing about him.
Aille had no idea of what he was talking about, but it was apparent that the rest of the village did. Even Lucas, just turned four, seemed to pick up on the sudden shift in atmosphere.
The small house cleared out quickly as men, women and children left for the safety of their own homes. Only the three of them remained, with the addition of the messenger.
"He just passed through our village, Mr. Ederra, and took my cousin's daughter." Only now did Aille realize he was struggling to catch his breath. "After Yana, he will come here. Prepare yourselves."
And then he left.
"Aille, clear the table. I need the space to plan tonight's meeting." Patrick spoke in the authoritative voice he reserved for commanding the other villagers and for her.
Aille obeyed, cutting the cake into slices and wrapping them up individually; she would deliver them to her fellow villagers later. Then, she wiped down the table and draped it in a freshly woven cloth.
That night, she knew, each family's head would come to an emergency meeting, and they would discuss something very different compared to the mish-mash they usually did; they would be serious this time. There would be no alcohol, nothing to distract them from the important task at hand. And that, she would make sure she found out.
Dusk fell quickly that evening, and soon, the small cottage was crowded with dozens of men, each looking anxious and uncharacteristically worried. These were men who planned when to hunt wild and ferocious animals without batting an eye, who frequently swam across the turbulent Pacific Ocean to neighbouring islands. Aille couldn't understand why they were behaving this way.
When they sat down around the round table in the Ederra kitchen, Aille made sure to take extra time cooking and cleaning up, if not for a chance to listen in on the conversation.
"What are we going to do about the sacrifice this time, Patrick?" Martin Lucia, one of Patrick's chief informants, was clearly keen on coming to a decision on that particular matter.
"We have to decide, based on the contribution to the community, who would be best." While Patrick could be an irritating, male-chauvinistic-pig of a husband at times, he proved he was an excellent leader in tough and uncertain times such as these. "And then we should vote on it."
"Excellent suggestion, Patrick," one of the other men said. He looked confident that his family wouldn't be chosen for this supposed sacrifice. "Shall we nominate those we believe would be..." his gaze travelled to a redheaded man seated across from the sink. "unworthy of sparing?"
"If you'd like." Patrick nodded his assent.
"Well, then I believe Gregory's family should be the one to give sacrifice." The redheaded man sat up in his seat with a nervous expression on his face.
"And why would they be ideal?"
"They've done a few... questionable things over the past five years," the man said. "And with their abundance of young children, it seems most prudent to choose them."
"Indeed." Patrick stroked his chin and surveyed the redhead. "Gregory? Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
"I – I don't think Samuel's assumption is fair. We have only done the things we have for the sake of survival. We have many children, but it isn't by our own choice. We don't have access to the... contraception the rest of the village does. It doesn't seem fair to patronize us for our failings."
"Very well." Patrick didn't seem to agree with Gregory's rebuttal, but Aille was sure she could only tell because she knew him so well. "Shall we vote on it?"
"All those in favour of Gregory's sacrifice, say 'aye,'" Samuel said, looking smugly at Gregory.
The table chorused almost in unison with the word, and Gregory looked at each face, each presumably heartless and uncaring face, with hope and prayer to deliver him from evil, but no one relented.
"Gregory, tomorrow night, I expect to see one of your children put for sacrifice," Patrick said sternly. "If by nightfall you have not done so, I will go to your cottage myself and choose one of the children. Do you understand?"
Even through his visible anger and exasperation, Gregory nodded. Aille's heart ached for him. To have to give up one of your children for sacrifice, to have them die before you did must have been one of the worst things a parent could have happen to them. And now Gregory, who didn't look a day older than twenty-five, was being ordered to do so for the sole reason of his poverty.
Aille looked at her husband, who was supposed to be the protector and leader of their village, who was now ordering an innocent man to put his child out on the street to die. She had never felt so much disgust for one person as she did now, and as the crowd of men cleared out without so much as a backwards glance, she decided she would talk to him about his sudden and unexplained inhumanity.
"What was that about?" she demanded of him. "How could you just choose to sacrifice an innocent child to – to whatever this thing is? Do you not care about your people? About their well-being and sense of family?"
He was quiet, for once, throughout her entire rant. He calmly sat at the kitchen table and listened to her every word, her every accusation. It wasn't until the end did he finally speak.
"Would you rather I put our son out in the night, Aille? Would you rather sacrifice your own flesh and blood to prove that you have some sense of humanity?" he asked quietly.
She was taken aback. "That – that would mean I was less of a human than before, if I could do that to my own child."
He nodded bitterly. "Don't presume to know what you speak of, Aille. Especially not in this village."
"Then tell me, Patrick. I want to know what everyone's so afraid of." She put her hand on his, willing him to relinquish her curiosity and let her in on the secret.
Patrick took a deep breath, as if preparing to tell her something very difficult. Perhaps he was.
"Many, many years ago, before you came here, before my parents were born, even – there was a demon, an unspeakable evil that preyed upon this village. He came once a year, stealing children from their beds.
"One day, they decided to take a stand against him. They tried witchcraft, they tried exorcism, but he only laughed at their attempts. He said he was one of Satan's devils, that nothing could destroy him. And so, he continued his tireless rampage, destroying families with his wrath." He cleared his throat. "My grandfather, my mother's father, was the leader of the village at the time, and he was a very brave and intelligent man. He was the one who thought of striking a deal with the devil."
His mouth hitched in a little smile. "After hours of deliberation, the demon and him decided that once every five years, the village would choose one child for sacrifice. That ritual has been passed down to me, and every five years, I decide, along with the tribunal, which family will sacrifice their child to the devil."
"Wh-what does he do with them?"
Patrick shivered. "I don't know. No one has ever asked. We don't even know what the demon looks like. Only my grandfather knew, and he said it was the most terrifying thing he ever saw. That was all he would say about it."
They sat in silence for a moment, before Aille thought of something else.
"What about the people in those other villages? Have they also decided on things with the demon?" she asked, thinking of the sunburned boy who had visited them earlier.
Patrick seemed to be thinking of him, too. He shook his head. "The demon wouldn't hear of it. He continues his tirade on the other villages. There are five others on this island, and this is the only one he haunts. Some say he lives underneath it – in Hell."
Aille's mouth was an o of surprise. "In Hell? Why didn't you leave, then?"
Patrick shook his head. "He'd follow. He followed the Junipers when they tried to escape. He raped both Oliver's wife and daughter and then he took their newborn son. No one's left the village – for good – since then."
A shiver of fear went up her spine; she felt as if she was being watched.
"Do you understand now, Aille?"
"Mommy?" a little voice said. Both Aille and Patrick jumped. The sound was too unexpected for the moment.
"Yes, darling," Aille answered, turning to face her little boy.
"What's wrong? Where did everybody go?"
"Home." Aille glanced at Patrick, who nodded. "How about you sleep with Mommy and Daddy tonight?"
"Okay," Lucas replied. "Can I bring my blanket too?"
Aille nodded. "Anything you want."
As she watched Lucas bound off, presumably to retrieve his pillow and blankets from his bedroom, she could feel the evening air trickle into the room, its coldness seeming to grasp her tightly, never letting her go.
Patrick rubbed his hands together. "Perhaps you should go to bed, Aille," he said.
"What about you?"
"I have to go and – supervise Gregory's sacrifice. I'll be back soon." He kissed her forehead and left, closing the front door firmly behind him.
Aille was left in the kitchen alone, the single candlelight still burning.
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