Chapter 1: Boy
Across a barren land of marsh, thickets that tear flesh from bone, and the yellow woodland of Forbidden Pass, lived a ganglion of a man who was cursed from birth to never be touched. As a boy, his own mother hated him and would often leave him in alleyways hoping he wouldn’t find his way home.
On one such trip attempting to find his way, the mother had been attacked by wolves and her partially eaten body laid in the marsh, covered in wolf saliva, earth, and blood so dark it looked like writers ink…Along came her son and as he looked upon her torn broken body he felt no pain, no remorse, and in fact a feeling of relief that she had been served her portion of karma for not loving her only son…no matter how disfigured he may be…She should have loved him.
Hearing the mothers screams for miles around, the local town dispatched its marshal to find out where the screams of death had come. Marshal Klap had indeed heard the screams and already had a bead on where its location was…He also knew who it might be…The search took him to a path he knew well and as the steed stepped casually through the marsh knowing every rut and spot to trod…Klap began to see the scene of death he knew he would find.
He jumped off his horse and his boots sank deep into the marsh mud trying to reach the body and the disfigured boy leaning over her. Klap felt an uneasiness that began to rise and press his heart into his lungs…Breathing deep he reached for the boy only to miss as the boy side-stepped his hand. No words were spoken…Klap looked into his eyes and saw an unexpected easiness that no child should see for the gruesome death laying before him.
Klap yelled at the boy to move away. He growled back like an animal hovering over its food…Klap yelled again and using his baton to motion the child away from his dead mother.
He gazed over what was left of her body. Her face was gone and so was most of the skin and muscle from the left side of her torso…her right breast exposed and untouched seemed oddly misshapen for a woman her age. Klap covered the body with a potato sack tarp and began to tie the cords around the corpse.
Because of the direction Klap left town the townsfolk began to speculate who the screams were from, and knowing the only people living in the yellow woods was Patrice and her son they felt the need to gossip. News spread quickly without any facts that Patrice had been killed by her distorted ugly boy. “He must have killed her with his looks” was overheard at the town inn to the tune of much laughter…What they had not realized was this rumor and fear of the boy would begin to build a kingdom of hate.
Klap was able to hoist the body onto the back of the horse. He looked at the boy and told him to go home. The boy just stood there motionless and with an eye of hatred beaming back at Klap that made him want to kill the boy and bury his body in the marsh…He did no such thing. Klap slowly turned and began to ride back to town.
With each uneven step the body would brush up against Klap’s back and he could feel the exposed bones from the woman’s ribs poke him in his side. He knew Patrice. At one time he even loved her, but their love was never meant to be after the night her father beat him mercilessly when she confessed that Klap had taken her virginity. Her father banished her to live in the woods in a shack he built by the marsh. After her father died, she began to appear in town searching for food and begging for money.
The townsfolk labeled her as “The Wretch from Yellow Wood”.
Chapter 2: Patrice
Everyone from the town-crier to the lonely preacher, loved Patrice. Her beauty was known to be just as beautiful on the inside. Patrice sang in church every Sunday which always brought the old ladies in pew #3 to tears…So did the preachers sermons, but it was to show they had had enough talking and were ready to partake in the Sunday church lunch.
When Patrice was 15 she met and instantly fell in love with Harmon Klap…And Harmon was the exact opposite of Patrice. He was homely and already pre-balding at the ripe age of 16. Patrice didn’t care that he was ugly, she looked past all the pimples, the scraggly pubescent beard, and that he was taller than everyone in town…freakishly so.
But love prevailed.
As their budding love advanced, her father Olan, began to see a part of Harmon he did not like…maybe similar to something he saw in himself. Olan worked in the local pub and was known to hold a secret better than most. Cheating husbands, the local church marms turning tricks, he has seen it all and never says a word. Old Olan, maybe he was quiet because he knew his word didn’t mean anything even if he did tell someone.
Weeks passed and the nights grew longer between Patrice and Harmon. Love bloomed under the harvest moon in the yellow wood and it was there Harmon confessed his love. He asked Patrice to marry him. Her pause and continued silence made Harmon start to sweat.
Harmon began to promise Patrice a good life and that he would always be only hers. As the promises flowed from Harmon’s mouth the tears began to flow from Patrice. She stated she could not love him and would never love him. Patrice admitted she worried their child would be ugly and the town gimp because of Harmon’s looks. She ran off through the marsh of yellow wood towards her house.
Harmon sat and cried for a while as he didn’t understand that all this time she had been loving him openly in town and everyone knew they would probably marry…He would definitely become the laughing stock of the town now…It would be grade school all over again. Patrice smashed his heart and at that moment he knew he would never love anyone…ever.
Sadly, Harmon rode his horse through the marsh of yellow wood to speak with Patrice’s father…a decision he would regret.
Harmon looked up through the trees and he could see the stars. He wondered if they could see him and his tears falling onto the back of his horse. He knew the stars were far away and just as lonely as the rest of his life would be without Patrice. The slow squishy sound of the hooves plodding through the marsh kept beat to the sound of his heart. With each step he could feel the anger brewing from Patrice’s father.
Harmon readied himself…
Through the thicket and yellow woods he saw the light from Patrice’s house billowing through and mixing with the late fog rolling in. How fitting he thought…This is just like one of my grandfather’s stories about this forest and its unmistakable eeriness before a travelers death by some unknown creature yet to be discovered.
Harmon saw the trail leading directly to the home…A sigh of pain eked through his parsed lips…reckoning was nigh.
As his horse cleared the woods and was fully on the path Harmon could see two figures now blackened with the brightness of the lamps behind them. Patrice was standing by the front door and Harmon could tell she was holding her cheeks in fear, while Olan was much closer to the front gate…waiting. It looked as though he had a large staff in his right hand.
Harmon thought of turning his horse around but he was a man and men don’t run…He had to take the beating.
Olan opened the gate and yelled for Patrice to go inside…He turned and looked as she remained frozen…He turned to her and yelled again that if she doesn’t go in this beating will be for you…She melted through the crack of the front door and left Harmon to face his punishment. Olan slammed the makeshift wooden gate behind him as he approached.
Harmon searched for his heartbeat and found nothing…he could feel every hair stand straight up on his head and from his boyish beard. Olan stepped closer not saying anything. The distance between them seemed to grow and slow down with every slow step his horse took. Olan stopped, raised his staff…
The swing from Olan was as quick as any knight in battle, poised and aimed for its target.
Harmon had blinked the moment Olan made his attack and when his eyes opened he was laying on the ground…but he was back at the stables in town. He tried to move but his entire body was beaten. He couldn’t remember anything. Gasping for air and looking to see that his foot had been caught in the stirrup and twisted his right ankle to where his foot was facing the opposite direction…now the pain rushed in.
Patrice was waiting to hear the screams from Harmon’s beating and heard nothing except the horse whinny and the gallops fading away. Patrice thought he may have lost his nerve and ran instead of facing her father…If that was true, her father was going to beat her just as he promised.
Patrice bundled herself under the table, pulling the chairs close and whimpering the tears of fear and regret. If she would have only said yes to Harmon, this day would have been a joyous affair…but her childish fear about her future children won the day.
Patrice hated herself for denying Harmon and lying about not loving him.
The front door creaked open.
Chapter 3: Harmon and the Preacher
Harmon rode into town on the back of a stiff white pony with black feet…he was barely 15 and alone. Harmon’s parents died in a barn fire in a small town due south of Kilkenny, and no one knew who he was or why he had come. Harmon had nothing and no one but he knew if he asked the church for help he might be able to spend a few nights off the cold ground and maybe eat something he hadn’t killed with a rock.
His speculation was correct, the church happily received the poor lad from his plight and did offer him what he needed, plus the opportunity to work at the local stables since the previous worker died after he spooked a horse and was kicked in the face. Seemed like fate to Harmon and he was more than happy to accept his new found life.
School was another matter altogether.
The ridicule and gossiping began the first day Harmon walked into school. Because of his looks and height he was teased, but the gossip of why he was alone with no parents and living at the church made him angry which only fueled the fire for his oppressors.
He tried his best to ignore it.
Harmon was smart and that in turn made him a threat to other boys. He read old books and sat on the school grounds after the bell just to read and take his mind away from his life, his past, and the horrible ingrates he had to go to school with. If it weren’t for the books, Harmon might have made a few of his tormentors disappear in the night. But he figured he would be blamed since he was the new face in town.
The church people and the preacher were always nice to Harmon and offered many meals, clothes and odd jobs outside of his work at the stables. He quickly became known as the young man who could get things done and would do jobs other boys would scoff at. The preacher always offered sage advice and became a father-figure to Harmon…He began to love the man behind the cloth.
After a year had passed and school was over. It was time to move on to manly things and try his hand at a manly job. Harmon asked the preacher to introduce him to the town marshal. Marshal Joseph Sims was a mean unapologetic man with a crooked back and an even more crooked hand…But the marshal was old and Harmon knew one day he would need to be replaced.
Walking along a particular less muddy path through town Harmon was aware of a girl watching his every move. She was sitting in the bakery and almost had her entire face smashed against the glass. He turned to face her and she ducked her head from view…This made him laugh. Was she looking at him because of his new deputy uniform or that his looks and height seemed to mimic the roaming circus parades that would come through town in the fall?
He decided it was the uniform and approached the bakery.
Before he could reach the door, this angel with hair so black it shined like a moonless midnight full of stars, ripped the door open and giggled a hello with an outstretched hand. Harmon did his best not to crush her dainty hand in his oafish boat-sized fingers. That first touch meant the world to Harmon…He had a good feeling about her.
I’m Patrice, she said, and you’re the new deputy? Harmon was instantly in love but tried his best to remain stone-faced. While still awkwardly shaking her hand several seconds longer than a handshake should last he said, yes, I’m the new deputy and uh I’m working a case for the marshal.
Patrice laughed and tried to pull her hand away…
Feeling a bit foolish, Harmon quickly tried to recover from his handshake faux pas by reaching into his pocket and giving Patrice a beautiful black rock he had found on the creek bank just outside of town.
Patrice looked at him with a smirk of forgiveness and held the black stone to her chest.
In the softest of voices he had ever heard from anyone in his entire life…She thanked him, blushed, and ran down the road leading to the Forbidden Pass of Yellow Wood. Harmon attempted to yell that she shouldn’t go that way but an elderly woman emerging from the bakery told him to not waste his time because she was too beautiful for him.
And once again he was reminded that indeed it was not the uniform Patrice was staring at.
That night Harmon asked the preacher about Patrice. Oh! She is a lovely lass isn’t she? She sings here every Sunday while you are at the stables, but not to worry son, she has her eyes on many possible suitors in town. This is not what Harmon wanted to hear.
Preacher had his way with people in telling them stories from the Bible in a manner that each felt they needed to hear. The ladies loved his baritone voice as it made the stories seem more real and of course being a single man of God didn’t hurt his standings with the women in town either. Harmon wished he looked and sounded more like him.
Preacher could see that Harmon was not happy with his answer and reassured him that if Patrice approached him…He might have a pretty good chance of being the one she wanted. He told Harmon he had never seen or heard her approach a young man first…It was always the boys chasing after her. This was a good sign and Harmon ate the words up…But he paused and thought…Did he just sell me the words I needed to hear like he sells people the Bible on Sunday?
He didn’t want to think on it too much…Harmon could still feel the soft touch of Patrice’s hand on his ogreish fingers.
Chapter 4: The Black Rock
This is where the story ends for now. I am writing the rest offline. I hope you have enjoyed this teaser and my first attempt at a novel.