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Up with Big John Hide
Wife—10, Interlude
© 2023 James LaFond
“Where closed the valley that had pierced my heart with dread,
I saw his shoulders there and up I sped.”
-Canto 1, JH
Lynn ran strong, strong as a man, she felt, but in her mind knew she was wrong. That thing behind her had a vital silence when it ran that filled her with fear of a deeper and less girlish sort than the terror inspired by his gurgling snort.
The black squirrel of hell chattered behind her, following her through the trees.
Up she ran on the hard-packed earth, and where the beasts obviously had long circled a dead fall, she ran across it, for the massive tree had lain perhaps since Darla was her age. It described a darling, soft on the feet path of wood chips up though which grew orange fluted Trumpet mushrooms of which Ted was so found of and apt to collect for Sunday dinner.
‘These are not just bison and elk ways, but Ted’s trod paths, I bet. He never would tell of his Trumpet spot,’ even when Kyle Plowbent offered him three silvers for the secret. Ted would not refuse, or he’d be whipped, but pretended not to recall.
Lynn had finally left the squirrel behind her as she broke out from the dark timber and into the great stand of aspen. Noting with a horror that the aspen followed a false shoulder in the mountain, that to run through them would take her down off the side of this mountain behind the front hills and back into the dread valley of her betrothal, Lynn ran left, back up to the crest, determined to go straight up that great rock slide that cut the evergreen clothed mountain like a scar, as if some sword from heaven had smote the mountain there.
Afraid there would be a deep draw straight ahead opposite that slide, maybe a short counter slide, that would enable her pursuer to leap down upon her, Lynn cut left into the dark timber as the last mists clung to the inner groove of Mount Tioga.
As she hit thick piney duff, scampering past king mushrooms and slippery jacks, inky nights and honeys sprouting from the base of one lightning splintered tree, she could hear the squirrel kick up its chatter again.
Peeking back through the trees, into the relative open of the aspen grove, she saw him there, mangled and shaven of face and head, a hatchet in one hand a section of her indigo dress in the other. Something was wrong with his eyes, which seemed confused. His arms were too long, his legs too short, too thin to be a healthy man but seemingly incapable of fatigue. He fell to all fours and sniffed the ground with a loud, almost iron snort. He then sniffed her path and crawled snorting until he was sure, then rose, howled and ran for her.
“God, no!” she peeped, and it seemed to hear and gurgled as he came running on, not 200 paces behind her.
Lynn trudged-ran up, spreading her legs a bit more, splitting her shift in so doing, but making her way up to the edge of the rock slide. Here the way was so steep that she had to climb and pull and claw with her hands while turning her feet side ways and duck waddling up the hill, the way ever turning her left and aside from the rock slide, away from that option to leap and die.
‘Lady in the Tower of Power!’
She caught a slight game trace, where the elk cut back and forth across this side hill and clawed her way along, running close-footed in spots, all thoughts on making race, keeping up her pace and not slipping on the trace and losing ground. This trail was a sharp switch back one that turned the corner always above a shrub, a stunted maple, an elderberry, or a scrub oak, holly grape too, the roots of such a thing forming the support for the turn.
Switching back right as the sun shown down over the mountain, above her shoulder, casting His rays through her mop of hair, she saw him down there, patiently following her, smoothing a way for his boss, sniffing her scent with one motion, then turning and howling back, as if making certain his boss could follow him. His movement rate and agility gave her an appreciation for the fact that he could overtake her easily at this distance, that he was making certain that his boss could safely follow in his wake. So much like a pointer hound compromised with a blood hound, he was.
Lynn made her way up the steep way by use of the trace that kept her a hundred and fifty paces to the right of the rock slide.
In another 500 feet of bent amble, sometimes looking back through the split in her shift, Lynn could see the whole valley again laid out behind her, over the green crowned heads of the twin front hills, as she switched back under a turret of stone she would bet was a lion den.
Halfway up Sniffy was raising his flat, marred face to her, sniffing and then turning and howling, below, at the base of the side hill with its grass, holly grape and scrub trees, between the tumbled rock slide and the darkness of the timber, along the way the elk certainly took to the clear crest. At the base of the side hill where Lynn had broken from the timber, the man with the black hooded mask, carrying her dress in a bundle about his ax, was taking up the ascent, in a serious, methodical way, absolutely trusting Sniffy to catch his prey.
Sniffy stopped and waved at Lynn, then turned and pointed at the trail he had improved and which the elk had laid out and Lynn had marked the clearer, letting his boss know to follow there.
Then, with a gurgling howl, Sniffy scrambled like a monkey that envied a dog, straight up the steep incline, at such a speed that Lynn knew she would not make it across to the rock slide before he was at her level. With a sinking realization that she could not escape Sniffy, who bounded upward like some apish greyhound, Lynn thought of the other side, hoped that she could reach the crest and hurl herself over like she had the paint and breed, before Sniffy was upon her. For she would with a certain now be caught.
Lynn was fifty paces from the crest when Sniffy reached the top of the rock slide and began running like a bent human down the crest.
She reached the crest when Sniffy was mere seconds from her, ambling oddly down the crest among the pines—how beautiful the dark timber was, an entire forest dark spread below her in the inner bowl of the upper mountain proper, no cliff to leap from, simply a gradual duffy expanse of open pine forest, the boughs clearing the ground high above, making a cathedral roof of greenery, grander she knew, than anything man could build, made as it was by God above.
“Oh, God, he is Big John Hide himself, I brought up the rock slide!”
Without cruelty or brute strength, yet with a light in his clouded eyes that told her she had not seen his proper rundown gait, and that he would beat her cold without hate, Lynn was standing beneath Sniffy. He was a man, or had been, a man of some six and a half feet before his back seemed to have been broke and bent somehow. Whip scars covered his chest and back, great weals forever raised in scar to mark him as punished once before a pillory post, for she saw it all as he turned to wave down to his boss.
He was missing his eye lids and each eye seemed clouded and half blind.
His both cheeks had been branded, one with a V for Vagabond and one with an R for Rogue, meaning slave for life.
His ears had been cut down to the skull and his hair tarred off so that he could grow none.
His throat was scarred from the hangman’s noose, the rope having burned deep. That he still drew breath was a mark of inhuman vitality. For a mere half of this creature’s reaped woe, visible in scar, would have killed her, tough peasant girl that she was.
His teeth had been filed to points most hideously. She would guess he had been fair and red headed with green eyes in youth, his skin tanned to a blotchy leather by sun, ice and wind. His age was a mystery.
His knees and elbows were knobby, his flesh spare but taught like a bow string, his ankles and wrists discolored from long years shackled in fetters and in locks.
He was naked except for a pair of canvas trousers, above which he wound his lasso like a girdle, and seemed to have never worn shoes, with great wide spread-toed feet, calloused like bear paws.
Most hideous about Sniffy, aside from the fact that he did not breathe hard or drip sweat after an exertion that was beyond many mountain men and all lowlanders, was his nose. Sniffy did not just have a slit nose, but a double slit nose. In these slits had been mounted some kind of wire screen like an alchemist of Bliss would use to filter molten stuff to find the golden mystery within. When he saw her look at his nose, he sniffed in, from a respectful two paces away, seeming to draw a great inhalation of her scent. This caused some kind of brassy whirling in the nose like tiny beads or brass discs and Lynn could tell with some horror, that Sniffy was enjoying her scent in a way beyond lust, romance or even erotic intent.
He looked into her eyes with his bleary, graying eyes and then puckered his wrinkled, chapped lips to her, in mimicry of a kiss and opened his mouth with its pointy yellow teeth and showed that his tongue had been taken, and he could not speak or even lick his lips, though that pink stump in there tried, seeming to reach out to her like a calf for a cow’s utter.
A dove cooed in her mind’s chapel and she somehow cried, not for being caught, but for this poor terribly maimed man, “I am so sorry for what they did to you! I wish I knew your name so I could send up a prayer—surely your mamma did not name you Sniffy!”
The worldly part of her was ashamed for weeping over her captor. But the stranger’s heart beating within her saw this pitiful monster as the hard-used prisoner of all the world, a world that held her in cruel gripes also.
The mangled man seemed to have been struck by a great blow, was stunned, and shivered, stiffened, rolled his eyes downward, unable as he was to close them, and tittered, averting his gaze from hers.
‘What a story he has not to tell, all alone in that prison of flesh and bone, shingled in scars.’
Lynn had not spoken. But he looked up as if he had heard her musing.
He stepped closer and reached out his empty hand, the one with the hatchet in it hanging by his side, unconcerned with the knife in Lynn’s hand.
Lynn instinctively extended her own empty hand to the bent and nearly faceless man standing over her. Her left hand was engulfed gently by that calloused, bony claw, twice again the span of her hand, with thick and even sharp fingernails rendered like talons by the dark dirt packed beneath them.
The Lady within was filled with anger over this man’s mutilation, more than the girl in her feared its monstrous aspect.
The thing called Sniffy kissed her hand, tenderly, and a rough voice intruded, rudely, “Aint’ dat a touch.”
The other man, as tall, less bent, wearing a hood of black canvas mask still to hide whatever they had done to him, holding his ax in one hand and laying out her dress in the other, rambled, matter of fact wise, about her crude doom, “I gibs ye privacy while I set up ole Casty fo’ me. Ye gets first rut, Sniff, ye earned it. Den, ole Casty en my gonna parday!”
This man, seeming to be an executioner by trade, then laid out her bloody dress that had the head of the man who had fallen, set to witness what was supposed to be her ritual rape.
They still held hands, both looking at the masked man in his stained black trousers and shirt and leather apron, who continued as he unwrapped the bundle. “We done fer. They’d believe Breed. But, Missy, wit yer doin’ fer ‘im, ye did fer us. I’ll end up like Sniffy ‘ere en you sold to a station house. A course, poor Casty ‘ere were done fer, so he aksed me ta post-mortal like, bein’ part of my executionarin’ office, to let ‘im love ya too affer we done.”
The man, more disgusting in mind and manner than Sniffy in matter, then produced a penis and scrotum and inserted a shin bone in the penis and laid it out before the bald, earless, branded head of lulling tongue.
‘Oh God!’ Lynn vomited at her feet, pulling away from Sniffy and falling to her knees, her hands coming together in prayer, to see a sight bizarre. Sniffy motioned angrily at his own groin with his open hand, the metal in his nose whirling.
“Oh, Bro, I didn’ know dat dey snipped ye down in Bliss!”
Sniffy responded with a metallic hiss and his hatchet flew from his arm at a range unlikely to miss, burying its heavy head into a chest that did not house enough of a heart to summon a more strident note of indignation from the executioner than, “Awes ‘ell, Bro!”
And the big man lie back to die.
Lynn looked up into the bleary eyes of the terrible mutilated man, wiped the vomit from her mouth with her left thumb and asked, “Can you write?”
“No,” shook the head.
“If I sound out each letter of your name, by guess, can you nod ‘no,’ or then again ‘yes’?”
The man nodded, “Yes.”
As the masked man lie dying, seemingly relieved of a great burden and quietly attentive to their doings, Lynn quizzed her captor, using her knife, which she had never dropped and had never even thought of sticking into this man who overtook her after seeing his condition, to write his name upon the base of the great yellow pine they were in grim congregation beneath. The name was a simple one, Billy. Billy was pleased that his mother had cared enough about him to put two of the same letters, the tall ones he pointed out with talon of a forefinger, in his name.
Lynn put away her knife, back into her apron, stood, and shook Billy’s hand, “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Billy. I am Lynn and will pray for your eternal soul every single day of my life that I draw breath.”
Billy hugged her, lightly, like he was afraid to do her harm. And then the dying man, the hatchet still buried in his broad leaking chest, whined, “Awes fawk, Missy, an angel you mus’ be—dis Mt. Tioga done kilt four bad men and done Jesussed up da worse on yer cute account. I’s sorry I hunted ye, en lusted on ye. But ye be fresh en fine en I neva knowt notin’ but lone misary.”
Lynn and Billy went over to the man. She knelt on his left side and took his hand. He squeezed her hand in his as his body shook in pain.
“Billy, take his mask off, please.”
Billy did so tenderly, lifting the neck coif with his talons of long fingers and ripping it away in his two beastly strong hands. The man beneath bore the same V and R brands, and had no nose at all, but a hole, missing all his front teeth and both ears as well, perhaps 40 years, she thought.
Her voice seemed softer than normal and further away, “I’m so sorry for what men have done to you and that you are killed on my behalf. Can I know your name, so I can put you in prayer?”
“Well, sure Missy Fair,” he began to bubble in his gizzard, “Name were Clyde, orphan kid fro’ Sain’ George. Prayer might not be fair, bein’ as I done earned da Devil ride. But bein’ in a song now, sung by one so fair, ‘bout Bad Clyde done fer up wit Big John Hide—dat be a might far en fair…”
And there the executioner, with a gurgling tide risen from a cleaved inside, died.
On that lonely divide, Billy the Mangled Man, buried Bad Clyde while a virgin in her white shift and black apron, under a poncho of black hair keeping her barely warm, prayed on her knees, for her hunters to at least get a berth in Purgatory’s stark root cellar.
On the base of the tree, above “Billy,” she inscribed:
“Bad Clyde here lies, up with Big John Hide.”
When she stood and looked up at the ferocious creature towering over her, she was amazed and blurted, “My, Billy, you look the very fright of night! A lucky girl I am that you’re a good man that does what’s right.”
Billy nodded and smiled, his pointy teeth making him look like a thing from nightmare. He then belted his hatchet and took up Clyde’s headsman’s ax, their burial work done, and took to one knee in knightly mimicry, smiling like a boy that made a joke, grinning through the wreckage of his socially modified face. She held his big bony hand in hers as he knelt. She bounced like a little girl on her bare feet, “The Good Knight Ax Right, how about that!”
Billy tilted back his big bony, bald, earless, head, rolled his cloudy eyes in their lidless pits above his branded cheeks, and snorted in an odd, pithy glee, his metal nose snoring brassily.
The remaining three chapters of Wife—, shall be posted on Lynn Lockhart’s substack channel, who I thank for permitting her first name, her silvery voice, and her paleolithic feminine mane to be used to round out the heroine, Half-Orphan Jamison. Lynn Jamison is not a patterned character, but a composite of Jamie [2.0], Deb [2.1], Leanna [2.2], Katie [2.3], Lucy [2.4] and Lynn.
-1. Upon the titling of this hymn, and the nature and character of Big John Hide, a creature mostly thought not to exist: called by some heathens Sasquatch, by Voodooists Stinkman, by New Ireland hill men Big Sam or Old Pete, by the men of Awes South Skunk Ape, by men of Awes North Bigfoot, and by Czarists Yeti, this thing in Awes West, is either named as in the north, or, is called Big John Hide, after the New Irish convention. Whether the beast is so named for his hairy hide, or because he is hardly ever, even by the best hunters and scouts, espied and hence is a master of how to hide away, is not known.
The Knights Sepulcher of Awes North, who do believe this creature to inhabit another realm and invade this our mortal earth upon certain devilish instigations, name the creature Grendel after the monster of their favored poem. The Knights Trace either follow the Sepulcher convention [as do most knights, squires, factors and deacons] or hold with heathen, northern New English or hill man conventions, as do the rangers and scouts who be drawn from these lower and outer obstinate orders of humanity.
Of old, heathen tradition told of this creature as seeking human female mates from among certain tribes and that there were never any female of these, but all male. Recent events have proved that these beast men seek human brides for infernal mating and that the issuance of these unions are what the heathen have long called Wendigo, are of monstrous aspect and are most of them, but for the dominant bull, unable to sire offspring, despite their salacious appetite.
Of recent occurrence, it has come to light that the frightful paragons of wicked might known as Stonish Giants, long ago told of in heathen legend, are in fact these ape men, acting in self-imitation of men, adopting tools and even making of their matted hair and foe bones armor and wards, and that their ultimate mission is as ushers to the Anti-Christ and the bringing forth of his wicked reign. Lynn has opined that Dante viewed cousins of Big John Hide when he described the Minotaurs harrying the damned in Hell, one of which did bear Dante on his back across a woesome river of Hell.
-2.0. Jamie’s fantasy of wanting to be a runaway from work and men in the woods, whose story idea this was.
-2.1. Deb’s work ethic and practical yet hopeful fatalism
-2.2. Leanna’s speech patterns, sweet disposition and alienist sense
-2.3. Katie’s piety, who once stopped on the trail with me next to another lady and said such a spontaneous prayer for me among alder, cedar and pitch pine trees.
-2.4. Super cute and precociously motherly higher bride, who I mightily try not to look at in church, such a doll she is.
Third Hymn
‘I Am So Sorry!’
into leviathan’s maw
when you're food
orphan nation
america the brutal
under the god of things
on combat
night city
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