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The Monkey's Paw Continuation
He heard the creaking of the bolt as it came slowly back, and at the same moment he found the monkey’s paw. He snatched it up and scrambled, as fast as his age would allow, to his feet and down the stairs.
“No!” The old man screamed. He jumped up and pressed himself against the door, blocking the old woman.
“What is wrong with you?” His wife screeched. She futilely tried to shove the old man away. “I’m coming Herbert, I’m coming!”
“I can’t let you,” Her husband breathed, his voice quavering. “I’m sorry.” He did not have enough time to think through his next move properly. He raised his right hand, still clenching the monkey’s paw.
“I wish my for wife to never know of what has happened to our son.”
“What are you-” Mrs. White howled, before tripping on her wooden stool. She fell to the floor with an unpleasant thunk. A trickle of red slithered down her pale forehead.
The old man choked back tears. He turned away from his unconscious wife and towards the door. The knocks grew louder still, more forceful with each strike. Trembling, Mr. White slammed down the metal bolt, though it was unclear how long it would hold.
What could he do? Whatever thing behind the door was certainly not Herbert. He had to be rid of it, before his wife came about consciousness. He could not bear for her to see what lay behind the door. And if the wish somehow made her incapable of seeing her son, Mr. White could never live with whatever horror lay beyond the door. But what would he do with Herbert? Surely no man could stomach killing his own son.
Mr. White looked around the dark room. In the corner he saw a cleaving axe, one used to cut firewood once upon a time. The old man reached for it tentatively. A flicker of reminiscence danced on his sad eyes.
He had brought the axe home on a chilly September afternoon, many years ago. Its polished newness reflected the swirl of Autumn beauty outside as he walked. A gift it was, and an expensive one for the White’s to afford at that.
He had stepped inside the house to the smells of supper and the sounds of laughter. Mrs. White sat on her favorite cushioned chair, her knitting things set on the side table. Herbert stood in front of her, performing a silly dance that flourished to an end as Mr. White walked over.
“Father, you’re home!” The boy ran up to the man. Mr. White gave him a one-handed hug, using the other to hide the gift behind his back.
“Well of course! I would never miss my son’s tenth birthday! It’s the gateway to manhood, after all,” Herbert’s father said. “Speaking of which…” Mr. White drew the gift from behind his back. Herbert’s eyes widened.
“Since you are the man of the house now,” The father said playfully. “You’re going to need this.”
He placed it in the boy’s hands. Herbert marveled at its magnificence; it was surely valuable, worth at least a month’s pay for his father.
He clutched it close and flung his arms around the man. “Thank you, thank you!”
Then, with permission, Herbert darted out the back door with a nimble youngness no longer possessed by his parents. They followed him outside and watched as he excitedly cut into fallen tree limbs.
“Look at our boy,” Mrs. White smiled, and rested her head on her husband’s shoulder. “He’s strong, like his father.”
Mr. White chuckled. “And I love him so, just like I love his mother.”
He now held the very same tool, its handle coarsened from years of use. He sighed.
The rhythmic beating against the door became unnaturally strong, and it was obvious time was running out.
Hold it up in your right hand and wish aloud, but I warn you of the consequences, the sergeant had told him, what seemed like a lifetime ago.
“Damn you, Morris!” The old man growled, as he gripped the axe’s handle. “What sort of consequences are these!”
Suddenly the door burst open, the wood near the hinges splintering uncomfortably. Standing in the doorway was a shape that resembled a human, though there was something unnatural about it. A foul stench intruded the old man’s nostrils; one that he had smelled ten days ago, when interring his deceased son. His face whitened.
The creature stood crouched, as if the weight of his own mangled figure was too much to hold. A swarm of cuts peppered every surface of his body. Muscle clung to exposed bones in several places.
Mr. White tried to fix his gaze upon the clock above the door frame, to avoid seeing his disfigured child. He suppressed his urge to vomit.
Herbert’s formerly pleasant face was hidden under peeling flesh and blood, making him nearly unrecognizable. He was missing a large portion of his left features-- his left ear, arm, and eye, had all been severed. His clothes had been reduced to shreds, his once beautiful hair now dotting his head in blood-matted clumps. A puddle of dripping red and rotting flesh formed at his feet, still growing as more of his corpse trickled away.
Mr. White dared a glance downward, and with horror saw the large tear in his son’s chest, which exposed his dreadful, yet, still beating, heart.
Herbert was indeed alive-- as alive as anyone could call such a thing.
“Herbert…” the words died in his throat. What could he say? His boy was living, but not in the way one would ever expect. His body had been mended just enough to live and breathe, but the result was nowhere near what the Whites’ son had once been.
Herbert opened his mouth, revealing a row of twisted and bloody teeth. He tried to say something, but the sounds emerged contorted, like he had been gargling honey while speaking.
Mr. White grimaced. Herbert's breathing was heavier than his own-- a painful, rattling sound it was-- and it made his heart ache.
“I’m so sorry…” The man whispered. He clenched the cleaving axe’s wood handle and exhaled sharply.
The figure began creeping closer to Mr. White, the stench of rotting flesh burning the man’s nostrils. It advanced further, each horrible step making it ever so clearer of what Mr. White would have to do.
Mr. White swallowed and raised his axe.
The next few moments passed in flashes. The old man hacking away at the monster. Blood drenching both. Squelches, screams, and a few tears. The creature lying lifeless.
The old man fell upon his knees, too stunned by what he had done. After a moment he saw his wife, still lying unconscious on the floor. He crawled over to his last comfort in the world.
Suddenly, the old woman’s eyes fluttered open.
“Where am I?” She asked. “And, who are you?” Her gaze met the blood-stained cheeks of her husband. Her curiosity was overtaken by fear.
She jumped out of his arms, and swung her head about, taking in the scene. She froze when her eyes fell upon the malformed corpse of Herbert. Slowly, she turned towards the bloodied man, still clenching the crimson-coated axe, and something dawned upon her, as if she was connecting points on some invisible map.
“Murderer!” The old woman shrieked. “Get away from me!” She grabbed an umbrella from the nearby stand and flung it wildly at Mr. White.
“Dear,” The old man said quietly, grabbing the woman’s arm. “It’s me.”
“I do not know you, nor what is going on. But you are murderer, I am sure of that!” She screeched and squirmed crazily, trying to escape Mr. White’s grasp.
“Look at me. I am your husband. And that, that was our son…” He said these words bitterly. “But I had to do it, for your own sake. If all was going wrong the least I wanted was for you to never know the horrors our boy endured. Though it seems the wish was for nothing. You’ve seen him now.” He paused. “Don’t you remember?”
“I have no husband, and I have no son!” She howled. “Let me go, let me go! You are a horrible, evil, murderer! I will not become your next victim!” She continued hissing insults and screaming frantically. Her eyes were that of a wild animal’s, far from the kind softness they had once held.
A thought grasped Mr. White; a terrible, sinking, thought, that wish had indeed come true. His wife could never know what happened to her son, because she no longer knew her son. Or anything at all.
Mr. White’s eyes brimmed with fresh tears, but his grip on the old woman’s arm lessened.
Mrs. White took this as her chance for escape. She ran out the open doorway and down the dirt road. The man did not follow. He knew there was no point. The woman he’d loved was gone.
Mr. White retreated to his living room, eyes sullen. He had noticed the monkey’s paw on his way, and picked it up almost subconsciously. While sitting, the shock of the evening's events seemed to wear away. Tears became sobs, and within a moment the old man was on his knees on the floor.
He could not grapple with the horrible mess that had occured. He released a terrible, guttural cry-- one only known by those broken by sorrow. His mind was now in shambles, looking for any kind of release of this pain. He looked down to the monkey’s paw, which he was still grasping. He held it up.
“I wish to be free from this twisted reality,” he wailed. He shook the paw wildly, as if doing so would revive its magic. “Kill me, you wretched thing, kill me!” Sobs intruded his voice
“I wish to die!” He stared at the object expectantly, hoping, beyond anything one could ever hope, that it would succeed.
But the paw had no wishes left to give.
Mr. White angrily threw the talisman against the floor, where it sat motionless, seemingly content at its work accomplished.