20 Sep The One Blind Eye
“The One Blind Eye”Written by Nick Goroff Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 33 minutes
Our story begins, as so many do, with the approach of an oncoming storm. In the port city of Trondheim, Norway, a city regarded as the nation’s capital of knowledge, a young married couple are sitting in their living room, watching television. Their love and bond would be obvious to any who looked upon them, as their consummate affection and displays thereof for one another were so routine and generally unabashed that many a friend and colleague would often quietly express mild exasperation regarding their overt and often public showings between each other. But only when the pair was out of earshot, of course.
They had met some years ago, quickly finding their connection deepening over their shared and most peculiar interests and passions. Both shamelessly adored talent shows and reality television, such as the program they watched just then. Likewise, they both held a deep love for the outdoors, often camping and hiking in the grand majesty of their country’s mountains and forests. And then there was another passion which they shared, but one that was so intimate, it is hardly appropriate to mention. For now, at least.
It was later in the afternoon and above their home and through their windows shown the pale light of the grey sky in which the clouds continually rolled and roiled with greater and greater intensity. Smatterings of rain would occasionally fall and tap upon the picture window at the front of their house as the oncoming storm drew closer. It was unseasonable weather; out of the ordinary. Yet in it rolled, promising high winds, heavy rain and thunder as the evening progressed.
As the singing showcase TV program drew to a close, the husband, Jakob rose from the couch and proceeded into the kitchen to begin preparing dinner. His wife, Nora, followed. From the refrigerator Jakob retrieved a slab of meat, wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. As he set to preparing it, cutting smaller filets and trimming excess fat from the steaks and salting and seasoning them to their mutual liking, Nora began chopping garlic, white mushroom caps, red and green peppers and a large white onion which would accompany the main dish.
The pair adored cooking with one another, always finding it a beautiful reminder of the domestic bliss they enjoyed, as well as something so closely related to their more unusual passions. As Jakob set the cast iron skillet upon the stovetop and lit the burner below, Nora fetched the olive oil and kissed him on the neck as she placed it beside him on the countertop. The two smiled broadly at one another and said nothing, before leaning into each other to share a deep and lingering kiss.
Before long, the skillet was ready and throwing a dash of olive oil and the finely chopped garlic, Jakob then proceeded to lay the filets upon the piping hot surface, listening as the flesh sizzled and popped in the pan. As the meat seared, he deftly flipped the pieces in the pan, ensuring perfectly even cooking and temperature, and then to either side and between the pieces, tossed in the remaining mushroom, pepper and onion. While these cooked, Nora prepared side salads, having recently insisted that the pair enjoy more roughage in their diets as they both saw the age of thirty just on the horizon. While it was true that no one could live forever, Nora in particular was dedicated to trying her very best.
Outside the winds continued to pick up, with the rain intensifying, falling harder and louder upon the windows. Soon dinner was ready and served and pairing their favorite red Italian wine with the rather well-balanced meal, they were ready to eat. Ready that is until an unexpected and altogether rare distraction caught their attention. There was a knock at the door.
Not expecting guests, as they only hosted such on very seldom occasions, they looked to each other quizzically.
“Were we expecting anyone tonight?” Jakob asked.
Nora shrugged. “No. And who would be out in this weather anyway?” she replied.
They paused another moment, looking to one another and then to the door. Another round of knocking came then. It was far from aggressive and while sounding like any ordinary knock at any ordinary door, the pair found something oddly compelling about it. Rising, Jakob motioned for Nora not to bother getting up.
“I’ll see who it is. Don’t worry. Probably just someone trying to sell something.” He said.
“In this storm though?” Nora asked, her face contorting with confusion and intrigue. She rose from her seat and accompanied her husband to the door.
Opening it, the couple were greeted by a sight that was generally quite rare throughout their country. It was a homeless man, dressed in dirty rags, wearing a round hat and leaning on a cane. He was soaked to the bone and shivering as the winds whipped about him, causing his ratty and tattered clothes to billow slightly. His face, old and weathered as it was, bore a look of misery and hunger. In his eyes an obvious suffering could be seen and in his left in particular, the ravages of age were apparent as the eye itself was hazy and covered with the white sheen of cataracts. His right eye however was curiously clear as it looked upon them from beneath a heavy unkempt brow and from below the brim of his hat.
“Yes, can we help you, sir?” Jakob asked.
“I do hope so,” the stranger began. “I’m afraid that while out for a walk I seem to have found myself far from the shelter I normally stay at and this storm seems likely to be an intense one. I’m very sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if I might impose upon you for a safe place to ride it out. I won’t be any bother, I promise. My name is Oskar.”
“Oh, well, I am Jakob, this is my wife Nora,” Jakob said. “What do you think, Nora? I’m sure we can spare some space to allow him to get out of the rain for a while, yes?”
“Of course!” Nora replied. “These are no conditions to be out and sleeping rough in. Please, come in.” And with that, Nora stepped back, beckoning the old man to enter.
Slowly and with some small trouble, Oskar hobbled through the doorway, leaning upon his cane as he did. His gait was irregular and labored. Once inside, Jakob shut the door and the couple bade him welcome.
“We were actually just sitting down to dinner. Are you hungry, Oskar?” Jakob asked, rounding about from behind him.
“Oh. Well, yes. Please. I am actually quite famished. You’re very kind to offer.” He replied, his voice somewhat hoarse and scratchy.
“Nora, would you mind fixing our guest something to eat?” Jakob asked of his wife.
“Of course. Would you care for a sandwich, Oskar? I’m afraid we only cooked enough for the two of us, but I’d be happy to throw one together for you. And we have a fresh tossed salad as well.” Nora replied, smiling warmly.
“Thank you. Yes. That would be wonderful.” Oskar replied, his own face splitting into a happy grin.
“Have a seat at the table and I’ll bring that right over to you. But first, please, take off your coat and try to warm up.” She said, turning and hurrying into the kitchen to prepare a plate for their guest.
Jakob helped the seemingly solid yet at the same time, feeble old man with his coat. Hanging it upon the coat rack, Jakob then stepped back to Oskar and walked him into the dining room, pulling out the chair at the head of the table and moving his own plates and glass of wine to the seat beside it opposite that where Nora’s meal sat waiting.
“Would you care for some wine, Oskar?” Jakob asked.
“I would absolutely love some. Thank you, young man. You are both too kind.” He replied, taking his seat.
“It’s no problem at all. It’s Chianti Classico. Our favorite.” Jakob said, fetching a glass and pouring a healthy drink for their unexpected dinner guest.
Oskar sat with the wine before him, but did not touch it right away. Instead, he thanked Jakob once more and waited until Nora had served him a plate with a sandwich of deli cutlets and cheese upon a piece of artisan bread. Next, she placed a salad beside the plate and sparing a quick and what some might call odd glance to her husband, sat down behind her own plate. Jakob did the same. It wasn’t until all were seated that the old man took up his glass and raised it in a toast.
“Well, at the risk of being presumptuous, allow me to raise a toast. To the kindness of strangers and the bounties of kinship with our fellow man…and, woman. May you both see long life and rich reward for the deeds you do in this world.” Said Oskar, his voice strangely stronger now, yet still filled with gratitude and mirth.
“I’ll drink to that,” said Nora as she and Jakob joined him, clinking their glasses together above the table.
Upon taking a sip of the deep red wine, a broad smile crossed Oskar’s face. “This is wonderful wine. I don’t believe I’ve had it’s like in…hrm…well, in a very long time.”
“So Oskar, do you live in Trondheim?” Jakob asked.
“For now, yes. I tend to wander a bit. I haven’t been here long, but it’s a lovely city. I like any place that values its libraries and museums. Naturally, they are excellent places to visit to get out of the sun or rain, but I’ve always thought such places are where the true value to a people reside the most.” Oskar replied.
He had, as before, waited for his hosts to sup before he touched his food. As Nora enjoyed a bite of her entrée, Oskar happily picked up his sandwich. Jakob cut eagerly into his own dish as he considered the old man’s answer. Again, he and Nora exchanged curious, knowing glances across the table.
“Do you have family in the area?” Jakob inquired, swallowing the rich and succulent cutting of his perfectly cooked meal.
“No, not really. Not much in the way of family these days. I had a brother, but we had a falling out long ago. My son still lives and works around here, somewhere, but I haven’t spoken to him for some time either. No, it’s really just me these days. Wandering around and…well, taking in the sights I suppose you could say.” Oskar said between bites of his sandwich.
From his glass he took a strong pull of wine and sighed with satisfaction as it went down. His glass nearly empty, Jakob happily offered him a refill, for which Oskar expressed his deepest thanks and accepted eagerly. Jakob smiled at his wife, who returned the expression in an oddly sly manner.
“So what did you do before you fell into your wandering?” Nora asked, looking back to Oskar.
He paused, as though unsure of just how to answer. “Hrm, I guess you could say I was a librarian. But that was a long, long time ago. When I was a…younger man. I’ve always had a love of books and the written word. It is what gives us and our time…immortality, sort of. These days I actually rather like being on the opposite side of the desk in that fashion though. So much more fulfilling to read books than to catalog and manage them, you know?”
“I can imagine,” replied Jakob, still ravenously tucking into his dinner.
Before long, all three had finished their plates. Jakob and Nora having devoured their steaks and side dishes in surprisingly short order. Oskar, lingering on the final bites of his sandwich and salad. Another round of wine was poured and another toast, to new friends and fine dining, was offered, this time by Jakob, who himself greedily drank down his cup, while Oskar this time sipped slowly.
The storm outside continued to rage, intensifying over the course of dinner. Now high winds battered the trees outside and caused the power lines to sway. Rain beat down mercilessly to where at times as it was picked up by the wind, the outside appearing through the front picture window to be but a slowly darkening grey blur of nature’s fury. Thunder growled and boomed above as flashes of powerful lightning flickered and illuminated the world in brilliant blinding white light outside. Jakob shot yet another curious glance to his wife, before rising from the table and approaching the window. Pulling the curtains closed, he turned then back to Oskar.
“It is getting really bad out there. Oskar, would you care to stay the night? I can make up the guest room for you and these are no conditions for anyone to be out in.” he offered with an eager sincerity in his voice.
“A delicious meal and a warm place to sleep? You are too kind, Jakob, and you, Nora. I wouldn’t want to impose any further though.” Oskar replied with appreciation and gratitude dripping from every syllable.
“Nonsense,” said Nora, placing her hand upon his. “We insist. It would be cruel to send anyone out into such a night.” Once more, the couple exchanged glances, speaking without words. “I will go and ready the room for you. Jakob, keep our guest company until it is done.”
“Of course, love,” Jakob replied as his wife rose from her seat and stepped out into the adjacent hallway.
Jakob stepped around behind Oskar who was just then finishing his wine. Reaching into a drawer at the top of a credenza sitting beside him, he withdrew from it a small metal pipe, roughly six or seven inches long and one to two in diameter. Oskar sighed with satisfaction over his belly now full of food and drink.
“You two are entirely too kind. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you’ve…” Oskar’s statement of gratitude was cut short and interrupted by the quick crack of the pipe against the back of his head. He slumped forward onto the table, his face landing in a mess of crumbs and a few remaining leafy greens upon the plate from which he had eaten. Blood trickled down the back of his scalp from the ghastly wound Jakob had caused him. He was not dead, but merely unconscious and to Oskar, the blackness of a dreamless sleep had overtaken him entirely.
Jakob looked briefly upon the unconscious beggar whose blood began to pool on the dinner plate below his face. A smile crept across his face. He watched as the otherwise motionless body heaved slightly with breath. He was still alive and this was good. As Nora reentered the room, her face betraying a sick delight at the sight before her, Jakob calmly strolled to the sink and as though it was simply a piece of silverware from their meal, proceeded to rinse and wash the small baton of his victim’s blood. It was only a small smattering, but one which would need to be cleaned nevertheless.
“This has been a very lucky day,” Nora said, beaming over the man at her table.
“Very lucky indeed. Is everything prepared in the guest room?” he asked, placing the now pristine pipe back into the drawer it had come from.
“It is all ready for our guest. I’m sure we’ll enjoy his company for dinner.” She replied. The two shared a dark laughter. Such opportunities to indulge in their strange passions so seldomly presented themselves in such short order. It had indeed been a very lucky day.
In the darkness, Oskar’s mind wandered, creeping closer and closer to consciousness once more. Emerging from the dead black silence of his dreamless sleep, a searing pain upon the back of his head began to radiate in his awareness, growing stronger and more painful with each passing moment as he approached his waking state. Before long, his eyes fluttered and cracked open as the pain grew even more intense. He could feel and smell the smear of dried blood upon his face. As his eyes came into focus, he realized he could not move his hands or feet as they seemed to be restrained by thick metal shackles that were pinned to the wall behind him.
He could feel the cold touch of concrete against his now naked body and as his eyes came into focus, he realized he was in a basement. To his left, beneath a stairway leading upwards, sat a large flat cooler and to his right, a workbench which was stained with dashes and patches of something dark and brown and wreaked pungently in the air lined the wall. Above the bench hung butchers implements, cleavers, knives and hooks. Along the far wall sat a rack of cruel and horrific-looking blades and other tools, all stained as the workbench was. From the center of the ceiling hung a single light bulb from a cord; the only light that Oskar could see.
He struggled a bit against his manacles, but it was no use. His hands were pinned to the wall with his arms outstretched and his ankles likewise were immobilized by the cold steel of their own cuffs. His feet were not even touching the ground, causing his joints and appendages to pull and ache with pain as his torso and head slumped slightly forward. This was, as he could tell almost right away, all by design so as to ensure the experience was as needlessly painful and uncomfortable as it could be. He likewise knew right in that moment, that he had fallen into a trap. One that those who fall into it never leave from alive.
He breathed deeply, or at least as deeply as his positioning and restraints would allow. He looked about with his one good eye some more, unsure of even what he might be looking for. There was but one entrance or exit to the room and that was by the stairs. No windows or other doors were to be seen that had not been sealed shut with concrete. Had there even been another means of egress it meant little however as his shackles were strong and unyielding. He sighed first and then groaned as he considered his predicament. It was at that moment that he heard a door atop the stairs open and a pair of footfalls announce the approach of his captors.
“Hello Oskar,” greeted Jakob upon reaching the base of the steps. “Nora and I were wondering when you might wake up. I cannot tell you how delighted we have been to have you arrive on our door tonight. Did you enjoy your dinner?”
“Why…why have you done…this?” Oskar found his throat dry and his voice creaked and cracked as he struggled to speak. He shifted nervously in his place as Jakob moved closer.
“Well you see, my wife and I, we share a love of a particular…indulgence. Something which is generally frowned upon by society, you might say.” Jakob responded, moving his face close to that of the old man who hung helpless before him.
“So you’re psychopaths, then? Serial killers or something?”
“Nothing so…basic, no. I mean, yes. You will die here. But that hopefully won’t be for some time. Allow me to give you a little taste of what you’re in for, please.” His tone was unnervingly calm and cordial. His whole demeanor was in point of fact, disturbingly casual as he strolled then over to the workbench and picked up a long serrated knife which, though cleaned and even sterilized, still possessed flecks of stained dried blood upon the handle. Donning a heavy leather apron, itself as equally stained and wretched as the tools and surfaces which surrounded them, Jakob then put on a pair of clear safety glasses and pulled on a set of stained rubber gloves.
“Is this some kind of…Satanic thing?” Oskar croaked. Had Jakob been paying closer attention, he may have noticed that the old man’s voice lacked any real terror, but instead possessed a tone of genuine inquiry.
“Oh no. Nora and I are not believers. This isn’t some sacrifice thing or any sort of ritual. Or well…” Jakob continued, sounding as though he’d had a second thought. “Well, I guess it is sort of a ritual, but it’s really just for us. My lovely wife and I.”
Jakob returned to his captive who was strewn up naked and shivering. Holding the knife up for Oskar to see for a moment, he placed it down upon a small table that sat beside him. Then, taking up a length of what appeared to be rubber tubing, he proceeded to tie it around Oskar’s upper thigh as a tourniquet. Once more taking up the blade, Jakob cut deep into Oskar’s leg, straight down the bone. He continued cutting, sawing lightly as the knife split and cut his femur cleanly. Soon, Jakob had cut his leg completely from his body, causing it to fall outward and bob a bit as the still shackled ankle remained bound to the wall. Blood gushed from the limb and poured dripping from the stump it had previously been attached at. Oskar howled in pain and shrieked as he felt his leg separate. His screaming continued as Jakob unfastened the cuff at the ankle and took the still gushing leg over to the workbench. Nora watched, eyes wide and wild and filled with a dark and twisted glee.
“You see, we love our dinner guests. In fact, we love them so much, we like to keep them around for a while. Our last guest we actually expended just tonight. She was absolutely delicious. To be honest, I miss her already.”
As he spoke, Jakob began methodically butchering the leg in front of its previous owner. He began by skinning it, then, deboning it, removing the blood-soaked flesh from its framework. Once done, he began to cut steaks from it with all the skill of a real and professional butcher.
Jakob continued. “You know, my father was a butcher. When I was a boy. I used to watch him clean the game animals the hunters in our little town would bring in. I remember one time…” his voice remained disturbingly calm and almost friendly as he continued cutting the meat into portions, “I remember one time a friend of his brought in the biggest moose I had ever seen. I honestly couldn’t believe how quickly and precisely he managed to turn such a massive beast into cutlets and filets and steaks. The man…he was…truly an artist.”
“You’re an artist too, my love!” Nora added in a disturbingly almost wholesome tone.
“Thank you, dear,” Jakob replied, glancing back to her over his shoulder. “You see Oskar, it was also my father who more or less taught me how to butcher a man as well. It was, oh…twenty years or so ago. This Slav, some Russian or maybe a Serbian, I can’t remember, found his way to our little town and thought it would be a good place to be a burglar. One night he came creeping in through my little sister’s window. She screamed, he tried to silence her, and well…she died while he struggled to control her. Broke her neck. My father managed to catch him before he could escape and rather than turn him over to the police, he decided to turn him into hamburger.”
“So…you come from a line of cannibals, eh?” Oskar croaked, trying to lift his head and gaze.
Suddenly a wrench smashed into the side of Oskars face and from his mouth flew a handful of shattered teeth and blood. Pain coursed through his head and neck. Nora gripped the wrench tightly in her hand and seethed as she looked on the butchered man.
“Don’t you dare attempt to insult my husband’s father. He was a great man!” she shrieked, a look of pure unhinged malevolence in her eyes.
“Now, now Nora. There is no need to defend the dead. Oskar was simply curious, I’m sure. Isn’t that right Oskar?” Jakob said with a smirk.
Oskar struggled to speak as his mouth filled with blood. “After…ugh, after a fashion, I suppose.” He murmured with a muted and pained voice.
“But no, he was merely using his skills to dispose of my sister’s murderer. Though I may have slipped a bit of his evidence away when he wasn’t looking. Just a curiosity, but once I supped upon it…well, it was a life-changing experience, to say the least.” Jakob explained. He had now moved on to wrapping his freshly cut steaks in brown butchers paper, skillfully tying the packages neatly with twine, almost without attention or effort.
“So why don’t you just kill me already?” Oskar asked. The words were garbled and laborious to get out, yet strangely his speech remained unfearful.
“Well, for one thing, a living body always provides the freshest cuts, you know? But beyond that, Nora takes pleasure in tenderizing it. Isn’t that right, dear?”
“Absolutely, my love,” Nora replied, swinging a short mop handle she had taken from the shelf firmly into Oskar’s abdomen. He coughed and sputtered as a mix of blood and vomit flew from his mouth. His bowels released as a flow of shit and blood left his body, adding to the stains and wretched smells of his captive location. She shrieked wildly as she hit him once more, causing him to grunt and his head to fall forward. The pain seemed almost worsened as his body attempted to double over but couldn’t. After a moment, Oskar slumped and hung loosely, his remaining strength leaving his body entirely.
“Now, now, my love. We don’t want to bruise his inners too much. We will have use for them as always.” Chimed Jakob.
Nora breathed deeply, catching her breath. “Of course darling. Of course.”
Jakob handed her two of the wrapped cuts of meat as she replaced the mop handle. “Here, would you take these upstairs so we can have them tomorrow? I’m going to put the rest in the freezer.”
Nodding with a wicked smile, Nora took the packages from him and shooting a quick glance to the bloodied and dismembered Oskar, trotted up the stairs. Jakob, after placing the small stack of packages in the lay-down cooler beneath the stairs, then removed his gloves and glasses. Before closing the cooler, he withdrew from it an IV bag, such as those used in hospitals and hung it from a small hook just above and beside Oskar’s hanging body. He spoke to his captive calmly and almost warmly as he placed the attached needle into Oskar’s neck.
“Here. This, Oskar, will help keep you alive for the time that you’re here. And though the tourniquet will keep you from bleeding out, I’m afraid I will need to cauterize your wound.” Taking up a handheld blow torch, Jakob struck the spark igniter and dialed the torch to a blue flame. “This will not be entirely pleasant for you. Here, bite down on this.”
Half offering and half forcing a small bit of wood wrapped in soiled cloth into Oskar’s mouth, Jakob then proceeded to take the flame to the still bleeding stump of his prey’s leg. Oskar reflexively bit down hard on the stick within his mouth with what few teeth remained. He screamed in muffled agony as the flames burned and sealed his wound. The smell of cooking flesh turned his stomach and though only taking a few moments, the process seemed to drag out for an eternity.
Finally, however, it was done. His body, which had seized and jerked slumped and hung limp once more. The bit in his mouth fell to the floor, stained in blood and speckled with chips of teeth. Jakob dialed down the flame until it was out and spoke once more to the barely conscious Oskar.
“You have a…curious resilience to you, Oskar. Most people would have passed out by now. And, well it’s strange. Usually they are terrified but you, you don’t seem scared at all. Why is that? Do you wish to die?”
Oskar struggled to bring his head up, but failed. Jakob, observing this effort, grabbed a tuft of his hair and lifted his gaze for him. He wasn’t sure but he could almost swear that through the bloody mess that was Oskar’s face, he was…smiling.
“I…” Oskar began, struggling with each syllable. “I would hate…to spoil…your dinner.”
Jakob was stunned and not the least bit amazed and intrigued by his captive’s fortitude. Unlike Nora who took her primary pleasure in the beating and battering and torture of whoever was so unfortunate to fall into their clutches, Jakob enjoyed the butchery. Whether his victims were scared or angry, whether they pleaded for their lives or lashed out with impotent rage with promises of retribution, he typically felt effectively nothing either way. They were just meat, after all. But this one he felt, was different. Strange. And for the briefest of moments, he thought he may even like the man. He offered Oskar a craven smile.
“Well, thank you for that. I’m going to get cleaned up. I would imagine Nora will visit you once more before we head to bed. But for my part, I’ll say…goodnight, Oskar. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Sweet…dreams…Jakob.” Oskar rasped before having his head again allowed to slump forward.
Jakob turned and left, heading back up the stairs and the whole while feeling intensely curious about their strange interaction. As he neared the top of the stairs, he was met by Nora, who seemed to positively vibrate with excitement. In her hands, she held a pair of gardening shears and a stun gun.
“Is he still awake?” she asked, like a child wanting to go out and play.
“He is. Have your fun my darling, but please remember not to damage any of the good meat or organs too badly.”
“Of course not, my love. Of course not.” Nora sweetly kissed her husband on the cheek before stepping down onto the first step of the stairway.
“There’s something strange about this one,” Jakob said, still reflecting on the oddness of his interaction.
“It’s as though he’s not even afraid. Not of death, or any of it. Yes, strange.”
Nora’s face split into a wicked smirk. “I’m sure I can change that.”
“Perhaps you will. Try not to stay up too late. I am headed to bed.”
“I won’t. Goodnight husband.”
“Goodnight, loving wife.”
Over the course of the following week, Jakob and Nora took their turns torturing and butchering Oskar. During the days, Nora would slip down the stairs to beat, burn and sometimes skin her captive. That first night she had taken his manhood. Over the following days, his fingers and the toes on his one remaining foot. She sliced his ears and nose off, and at one point gouged out his milky blind eye, stating that the sight of it sickened and offended her.
Jakob, in turn, would then follow her after Oskar had been given some time to linger with whatever fresh wounds were inflicted. He would talk, almost casually with him over trivial nothings as he methodically took and butchered his leg, then his arms the following days. He was consistently impressed with the endurance and emotional control Oskar exuded, even and especially once with his limbs now removed, he was strapped by his torso and neck to an adjacent workbench. He would of course scream in pain as the days and misery wore on, but never uttered a sound of fear or even anger. He merely endured and Jakob was quite impressed.
Soon, the end came for Oskar. Following a final round of Nora’s particularly aggressive savagery, Oskar was disemboweled, with his intestines, kidneys, gallbladder, lungs, liver, and heart all removed and turned into some variation of meat product. As he bled out and his vital systems finally failed, he exhaled one final sigh from the now toothless and tongueless mouth and passed on. The majority of his internal organs were put through a grinder and stuffed into his stomach, producing a form of human haggis. His heart was taken quite immediately up into the kitchen where it would be braised with wine and served with the same sautéed vegetables as had been supped the night of his arrival. Even his brain was removed and prepared a la Crème. Before long, only his remaining bones and some trace bits of unused offal remained.
For all but his skull, a small vat of hydrochloric acid was prepared and his few final bits were soon melted and poured into a sealed hole in the corner of the basement where Jakob would allow the liquefied remains to soak into the cold Earth beneath the foundation. Once done, Jakob set to work cleaning Oskar’s skull, observing the jagged marks upon the eye socket from where Nora had carved out his one blind eye. It was not meant to be a keepsake as such, but more a decoration that Jakob would like to leave as a calling card deep in the mountain forests where he and his wife would hike. He could never entirely explain why he liked to do this, wondering from time to time if it was some matter of deeper pathology that accompanied or accented his murderous and carnivorous tendencies, but all the same, some week later he and Nora would work up a healthy appetite by trekking for many many miles along one of their favorite routes and Jakob would place the skull within a patch of ferns along the forest floor.
And that, they believed, was the end of it. They believed. At least, they believed.
The ground was cold that morning. Oskar’s skull had sat undisturbed and unmolested by either man or beast for just over a week. On the tenth day, a gathering of ravens began circling and landing around it. An unkindness of ravens, as they are known. Though the birds flocked by the dozen to stand about the white and cleaned human skull on the forest floor, none approached. Nor did they call out or make any sound at all, aside from the occasional chirp or whistle. Then, once the last of them had come down from the sky and trees and did surround the skull of what was previously Oskar, two bold birds walked and hopped to meet it in the center of their circle. The first and closest squawked at the skull, followed then by the second, who took the additional step of even pecking slightly at the empty left eye socket, before hopping back and joining his friend in song.
Soon the whole of the birds squawked and trilled, flapping their wings and creating a choral cacophony that filled the forest and could be heard for miles. Their avian chirps sounded almost like maddening chants as all the other nearby creatures either hid or fled. As their song continued to grow in volume, the Earth below began to almost vibrate and shake, and all of the ravens, save for the two in the middle, stepped or hopped back, giving open ground around the skull to which they sang.
From the Earth below the skull, tendrils of vines and blooming flowers grew at impossible speeds around and within and through the skull itself. Stretching downward from the broken lower jaw bone, the flora sprung quickly from the ground, only to grow and blossom and die and then to be replaced almost immediately by even more. The unnaturally swift cycles of birth and growth and death and birth again soon began to form a mound the thickness and size and shape of a man, lending a floral body to the naked skull. Once this man-shaped mound had grown to the appropriate size, the same vines and flowers grew to encase the skull itself, creating a flesh of green and ruddy brown dirt about it.
The two ravens who had stepped forward to summon their master back from the realm of death remained by the man-shaped mound’s side, with one hopping up upon what would have been the chest of the Gollum and the other stood just beside its head. The bird upon the chest pecked and clawed at the dirt and vines beneath its feet as his comrade chirped and tittered into the side of its head. Suddenly the center mass of the thing heaved, as though taking in a deep breath and from beneath the mound sat up an old man with only one eye. Oskar somehow had returned.
He breathed deeply as the vines and rising flowers wrapped his naked body. Rising to his feet, they shifted and transmuted becoming trousers, a shirt, a long dusty coat, and a wide-brimmed hat. From the Earth then rose a stick which met his hand and separated the moment he grasped it. It grew slightly larger, becoming a fine walking stick upon which he leaned slightly as he regained his balance. The two ravens squawked with delight and flew up to perch upon his shoulders.
Oskar cleared his throat a moment before speaking to the birds with a kindly and affectionate tone. “Hrm…Thank you, boys. I…I didn’t expect things to go that way. I’m not sure that’s ever happened actually.”
The birds chirped and chittered.
“Yes. I suppose I shall.” Oskar turned his one good eye to the right, glancing as he could at the bird perched beside his face. “Muninn, find my son and inform him as to what has happened. Tell him to make the appropriate preparations and that we shall need another show tonight as we had last time. And tell him I said good work on the last one.”
The bird squawked once before taking flight off into the forest and out above the canopy. The remaining raven chirped as though asking a question. Oskar leaned his head to the side as he could not see the bird, but acknowledged it all the same.
“Yes, it’ll be tonight. I see no reason to delay. Any thoughts on what I might ought to do after, Huginn?” he asked. The bird squawked loudly twice and Oskar laughed in response. “A splendid idea. Come, let your brothers know we’re heading off and there will be a fine feast waiting for them soon.”
The bird squawked once more before taking flight. The old man, stick in hand, then set off through the forest. He had a dinner party to attend and another still to host. His guests didn’t even know they were invited.
As Jakob pulled a steaming rack of human ribs, glazed and perfectly cooked from his oven, he smiled at his wife who stood mashing potatoes at the counter. The pair had enjoyed several artisanal meals from the flesh of the old beggar and both found the meat to be unusually succulent and delicious. They found it genuinely surprising that such an old and tired and malnourished body would provide for them such an enjoyable series of suppers, but it had and they both watched the depleting stock of Oskar with dismay.
“Do you think we should find more homeless, like him?” Nora asked, adding some additional cream and roasted garlic to the potatoes she stirred.
“I guess we could try, though it is not as though there are all that many. Who knew we might go hungry due to a healthy economy?” Jakob joked.
“Who knew indeed?” Nora replied, laughing.
To see the two of them in such an ordinary state of domestic bliss was a stark and stunning contrast compared to the dark delights they indulged in so frequently. To an unknowing observer, they would appear to be perfectly normal and even infectiously happy. And perhaps, that might make their grim passions and hidden natures all the more disturbing, as beyond the absence of any semblance of guilt, the utter normality of the pair would make any suspicion of their bloodthirsty and murderous realities seem like utter nonsense. They were the picture of happiness, soon to be shadowed by the arrival of an oncoming storm.
The clouds and rain seemed to come seemingly out of nowhere and the weather forecast for that night had said nothing of any oncoming or expected storms. Yet above the city, lightning began to crack the skies, and throughout the streets, winds of incredible strength picked up and caused the trees and street signs and power lines to sway and blow about wildly. A crack of thunder rang out and pulled the couple’s attention to the front window of their house.
Jakob was still tending the freshly cooked ribs which he had set upon the counter and was startled by the unexpected boom which came from outside. It was a powerful sound. He and Nora looked to one another, slightly stunned, before Nora cracked a smile.
“Maybe we’ll get lucky with the weather a second time.” She said, before as though perfectly on cue, a knock came at the front door. She looked briefly to the door, an expression of almost giddy disbelief on her face, before returning her gaze to Jakob. He moved to answer, but Nora simply held up her hand. “You mind the ribs. I’ll see who’s…come to dinner.”
Jakob was strangely uneasy all of a sudden, but smiled at his wife all the same. There could be no way their luck could be this good, he thought to himself. And as he would see, he was right.
Nora approached the door with giddy anticipation. Without even asking who it might be or looking through the peephole to see, she opened the door excitedly to find a most impossible sight. There before her, stood Oskar, once again. Upon his shoulder was perched a large black raven who almost immediately leaped at her, grabbing the front of her shirt and chest with long, sharp talons and plunging its beak deep into her eye sockets, gouging from them the soft eyeballs, leaving her blinded and screaming as blood ran freely down her face. It all happened too quickly for Jakob to have any chance to do anything.
Upon the front step, Oskar gripped his walking stick. Lifting it, he brought its base down hard upon the concrete step and as he did, the stick nearly doubled in length. Where there had been a knotted and bending tree branch, Oskar now held a hefty, finely crafted spear with a large golden blade and tip upon it. As Nora shrieked in pain, Oskar took it up and drove the tip into and through her abdomen, driving it clean through her body and out through her back. Lifting it and her now kicking and flailing body into the air, he deftly and with apparent ease, swung the shaft and hurled her body from it, sending it careening into the mantle along the side of the room.
He fixed his one eye, now fiery and alight with an otherworldly power upon Jakob, who stood transfixed and dumbfounded at this most impossible sight. Jakob’s gaze shifted for a moment to the convulsing body of his wife who lay broken, eyeless, and covered in blood as the last of her life left her. Before he speak a word or make a motion, Oskar was upon him, driving the spear clean through his left shoulder just beside his collarbone, cracking bone and tearing through muscle tissue as though it was butter. Oskar drove forward, pushing the spear tip through Jakob’s back, shattering his shoulder blade before driving it into the wall behind him, pinning him to it.
Jakob howled in excruciating pain as his knees gave out and the full weight of his frame hung helplessly from his impossibly painful wound. He struggled to breathe through his panicked hyperventilation and struggled to see through the tears which welled up in his eyes. Nora’s body jerked upon the floor involuntarily a couple of more times before a gurgling final breath escaped her body in a chilling death rattle. Jakob tried to scream but found he couldn’t.
Wiping the tears from his eyes with his one free hand, he watched Oskar returned to the front door and gave a whistle out into howling winds and rain of the storm outside. No sooner had he done so than did that same group of ravens, that same unkindness from the forest before, flew and fluttered in to the home wildly, appearing like a black mass of squawks, caws and feathers. The birds quickly took up positions all around the house, covering nearly every available spot or perch there was to be claimed. Soon the entirety of the living room and connected dining room and kitchen were covered with them, like an inky black sheet of avian disdain. They paused then once they had massed in full and seemed to look to Oskar, who removed his hat and surveyed his flock.
“Feast!” he shouted and as one, the whole of the unkindness fell upon both the now dead Nora and the still suffering Jakob, pecking and rending their flesh mercilessly. Jakob screamed in pain only to find booms of thunder perfectly timed ringing out to muffle the sound of his agony. After his second scream rang out into the deafness of the world, two birds thrust their pointed beaks into his mouth, snatching out his tongue entirely. His screams became then gurgles as his blood filled his mouth and throat.
All about his body holes had been pecked open and an unrelenting throng of piercing beaks darted in and out of them, pulling from his ruined form muscle and sinew and veins and cartilage which the birds feasted upon greedily. As he felt the life begin to drain from him, his vision began to fade, for as they took so rapaciously to the whole of his body and face, the ravens left his eyes as a cruel mercy so that he might look upon the architect of his torment.
There before him, watching proudly from his one good eye, Oskar approached him and leaned in to whisper into what remained of his one remaining ear. His voice was not the weak creaking of his time before his death, nor the warm and humble voice he had first arrived with, but rather now Oskar spoke with an indescribable gravity. Even as his mostly pecked away ears could hear practically nothing, Oskar’s voice rang as true and as clear as any he had ever heard, if not more so.
“Hello again, Jakob,” he said, almost as though he were speaking directly into his mind. “Your hospitality, that of you and your wife was rather…lacking. Allow me to show you mine in kind.”
Oskar gripped the shaft of the spear which pinned Jakob to the wall and seemingly without much of any effort at all, twisted it, ripping the already large wound in his shoulder larger. The long, wide, flat blade of it began popping his ribs as it turned within him and yet Jakob now hadn’t even the throat or air with which to scream. After a moment in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the spear was pulled free from his now destroyed upper torso and before his body could even fall to hit the ground, he felt it plunged without mercy or hesitation in and through his chest. The sensation lasted but a moment and then, all was black and silent.
Time ceased to be anything he could process or understand. Being itself became incorporeal and alien, almost as though it was not being at all. Yet after a mere moment which stretched to a point of feeling infinite, the darkness lifted and the sight of a grand banquet hall materialized in his vision. He was seated at a small table upon which sat an empty golden plate, an empty golden chalice, and a golden fork and knife, all of which shimmered beneath the flickering light of the candle before him and the grand flaming candelabras which hung from the ceiling. Across from him at the table sat Nora, who though still covered in blood, appeared to have her eyes back. In point of fact, all of her wounds and his seemed to have been healed, though the blood and viscera of their prior taking remained clinging to their now naked bodies. Around both of their wrists were strong iron cuffs with chains that ran to the floor. The chains, it seemed had enough slack so that they might reach out and across to one another. Though from their table, they could clearly not escape.
Jakob reached out and touched his wife’s face, caressing it as the two exchanged looks of bewilderment and terror. Tears flowed freely from her eyes and she began to whimper in fear. Jakob sought to console his love then.
“Nora, Nora. It’s…it’s okay. I’m right here. We’re…alive.” He said, each word tinged with confusion and uncertainty.
“Not exactly!” boomed a voice from the far end of the hall. There, atop a dais and sitting upon a throne of ornate gold and iron, sat Oskar. He was however not dressed as the beggar they had met and consumed but rather in a long fine cloak embroidered with gold. His round, broad-brimmed hat, likewise ornate and embroidered with a craftsmanship unlike anything either of them had seem, hung upon the spire of the high back on the seat. In his hand, he held the great spear with which he had killed them and its golden blade and tip shone brightly against the fires from a grand brazier which burned below.
“Os…Oskar?” Jakob stammered, rising from his seat and finding just enough chain to stand beside the table.
“That is one name I have taken, yes. The man, himself. However, I think you know now that is not my true name!” Oskar boomed.
“Who…what are you?” Nora asked, her voice trembling in terror.
“I am known as Forni, the ancient one. Hovi, the high. I am Valgautr and Valkjosandi and Valtyr, the great slaughter, the chooser of the slain, the slain god. I am Yggr, the terrible. I am Alföðr, the all-father. I, as you can likely now see am Odin. And you have been found more than merely wanting, Nora and Jakob Riis, but to be vándr. Unclean and evil. I sought your hospitality as is my way and yet throughout all of my many centuries testing and judging man upon his treatment of his lesser, I have never come across two so wretched and so vile as you.
“And mind you, I am the lord and father of those who offer me praise and worship with tributes of blood and sacrifice and yet you who make ritual of death, who relish and revel in the taking of lives do so not even as tribute to your gods, but simply to feast upon the flesh of my children and make of yourselves gods in your own home. This cannot stand unaddressed.” He boomed from his throne.
“What will you do with us, oh All Father?” Jakob whimpered, bowing his head in hopes of supplicating the old god.
“In times of old, this place, Valhalla was a place of honor for those who died in battle. Here my warriors would feast and fight and rise again and enjoy the splendor of their ravages and contests for eternity by my side. And elsewhere in my realm here, they still do. However for you, I have decided to bring you here and invite you to a dinner unlike any you have ever known. Look upon your wife, Jakob Riis. Look upon her and feel that hunger again.” Odin said, his voice again carrying itself directly into Jakob’s mind, inspiring in him a sudden overwhelming sense of starvation.
As his eyes turned to his wife, she looked up to him from her seat, her own eyes wide and terrified. Looking upon her, he found her beautiful in the flickering candle light which surrounded them. Her lips and cheeks full and red, her eyes wide and gorgeous and her neckline then… Her neckline, so graceful and feminine and…utterly irresistible.
Jakob turned to her and leaned in, first gently kissing her upon the neck, growing more passionate and intense with every passing moment. Then the kiss became a nibble, gently dragging his teeth along her soft and supple skin. This nibble grew then to a bite, one which found his teeth sinking deep into her flesh and down into her muscle. She screamed in pain, yet Jakob did not stop. Not until his mouth was filled with the flesh and blood of her neck, loosed from her body, and tasting strangely bitter and wholly revolting.
She continued to scream as blood began to spurt from the gnashed and open wound below her ear. Jakob chewed greedily before swallowing the bite and then without will or intent went in for yet another. This time his teeth sank deep into her face, gnawing off the flesh from her cheek, again the taste more bitter and repulsive than any other he had experienced. And yet still, he bit and chewed and swallowed, all not only without will, but against a will he felt to be utterly powerless. No matter how wretched it was or how his beloved screamed in anguish, he simply could not stop.
“And you, Nora Riis, will you not sup this evening with your husband?” Odin boomed.
Without a word, just as Jakob had done, Nora complied, gripping her husband’s cock and biting it clean off with a single compelled snap of her jaw. Jakob let out a muffled howl of pain as Nora’s blood ran down from his chin, his mouth still filled with a portion of her face. She chewed and found the flavor vile and flatly sickening, yet like he, she could not stop feasting upon it. Soon, it was chewed and gone and as Jakob lunged in to snap a savage mouthful of her naked breast and rend it from her body, she too jumped at him and ripped a large and bloody piece of his shoulder off with her teeth. Odin smiled darkly from his throne as he watched the pair devour each other.
“This is now your eternity, transgressors. As my warriors fight and die and rise again, so too shall you feast endlessly upon one another, only to reconstitute and begin all over again. At no point, even once you have devoured the other, will you be remotely sated. In point of fact, for each bite you take from now until the end of all things and then, even after that, will your hunger grow deeper and more ravenous, never to be satisfied. When your muscles are all but gone, before you awaken again to feast once more, the draugar, the unliving, shall descend upon your remains to defile them further.
“You will watch your greatest love ravaged by creatures of unspeakable foulness and with each passing day of this you will both find your flesh more desiccated and foul and yet your hunger will never end. This is the toll you must pay for what you have done. And pay it you shall, endlessly now and forever. Enjoy your suppers,” Odin declared as he watched the pair continue to weep and moan and scream and gorge themselves on the flesh of the other.
Quickly skin gave way to muscle, which gave way to bone and all the foulness of their innards. Yet still they supped and bit and chewed and swallowed, only to go immediately in for another bite, until both had ripped and devoured the flesh from their limbs and torsos, unmasked and blinded the skeletal faces behind their own and crumpled to the floor a bloody mess of entrails and gore. Even still though, without means to even properly move, they tried their mightiest to continue to feed their deepening hunger. And then once all their strength or mobility was gone, the groans and hisses of creatures of unspeakable darkness began to creep in from the shadows, long sharp teeth bared and many possessed of fetid and erect members seeking out the warmth of their prey’s bodies.
Still awake and alert and aware of everything, the pair watched with what eyes they still had between them as their lover was then violated and further consumed by these undead creatures of the deep. Screams of physical pain rang out tinged with the suffering of heartbreak and unquenched appetites. All until nothing remained but pain and hunger and an impossible ongoing knowledge of the misery that was, that is and is still yet to come. In time, mere moments that stretched out forever, their flesh regrew agonizingly with stabs of unworldly pain coursing throughout their forms, until they were again whole and again alone and again, desperate for a bitter and vile taste of the other.
In the skies above the city of Haderslev, a storm began to churn. It looked to be a powerful one. And along a quiet street, looking for a home in which to seek some shelter and perhaps some food, Oskar strode slowly. His long dirty coat hanging down from his shoulders. His broad, round brimmed hat beginning to catch the first drops of rain. It was likely going to be one hell of a storm. His son had already seen to it.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableCraig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A