Legend Of Ethaniel Midnight

Ethaniel was not a normal boy. Of this, he was sure. He had rosy-red cheeks and his parents and teachers loved him well. Even girls liked him. However, at age twelve he led a nine year old friend down to his family’s dark basement, where he promptly bludgeoned the boy with a metal pipe and used his father’s clockmaker tools to dissect him.

“What have I done?” Ethaniel wondered aloud to the boy’s still body. Giddy with excitement but fearing discovery, he used the basement’s incinerator, which in time would become his most-familiar “friend.”

After this sudden and confusing day, Ethaniel realized he disliked many boys, perhaps most.

“I dislike those who are too loud, and you are too loud,” he explained to one tied-up boy whose eyes begged to know “why?” To another he would say, “I dislike bullies, and you bullied me, don’t you remember?”

“I swear I will never do it again,” a boy might say.

“What’s that? No, you won’t.”

He also disliked boys who spat at girls, or who were better than he was at sports. Ethaniel was neither strong, nor fast, nor well-coordinated. This physical lacking, an accident of birth—much like being a born killer—encouraged him to use his mind to develop routines and tools in order to lead uncouth boys to their doom. At first, he set a modest quota, no more than two a year, he thought. But with the ongoing war, mass civil confusion, and regular influx of refuges, he could afford to sequester many more.

“What’s going on down there?” this mother would yell.

“This is no good,” he said one day. “They will take me away if I’m found out. I will get into trouble.” Thus, his first invention was a muzzle that he had snatched and modified from the dog breeder’s shed next door.

Ethaniel was upright and patriotic, which meant that he volunteered at the poorhouse and at the offices of the local army camp.

“Good morning, Ethaniel,” the soldiers and coworkers would say with a smile as he passed into the camp each morning.

“How are your parents?” the general would even ask him.

The children, mainly the girls in the poorhouse would run to him, smiling and laughing, because they felt he cared about them.

It was at the army camp and poorhouse where Ethaniel found his talent as a butcher, a trade of great benefit to the whole town, with fine pay that made him an attractive bachelor. The local butcher was getting old, and sadly his son had recently disappeared. Some thought he might have run off to war.

“I too heard that,” Ethaniel said to the old butcher. “I am sorry to say.”

Now, Ethaniel had no quarrels with girls, and in those heady days, he found himself engaged. After all, who did not want the rich life of a butcher’s wife?

“But how to keep my hobby from my lovely Anna?” he wondered, “And gods forbid we have sons.”

Marriage was the first answer. His father had long since passed away, and in those days, a man gained his family’s estate when he married if his father were dead. He was fond of his childhood home’s incinerator; so he married, moved his ailing mother into a new cottage, and rented the old house to the army, who had quietly hired him as an interrogator.

“To think I can get paid for what I love to do most,” he explained to one captive youth, “in the name of our king no less.”

Ethaniel enjoyed this life, along with the daily visits and complements by all manner of townsfolk to his butcher shop. He enjoyed most of all those men who “visited” his old house. When the armistice came two years later, one might think he would have felt crushed. Instead, he rejoiced.

“Never mix work and pleasure,” as his eulogists would mention decades later, as a tidbit of his wisdom.

In his later years, Ethaniel’s greatest triumph was the incorporation of the healing arts. Do not just hack, Ethaniel, he would say to himself. Soon he had the chance to practice.

By happenstance, a soldier came to his door one night.

“I can’t stand the camp,” the soldier had explained, with not a few tears. “I miss my family. They have lost all my brothers. And the general is a cruel man.” Ethaniel felt the boy was a whiner, but comforted him.

“Here, I’ll hide you in my basement, and after a few days they’ll give up and forget all about you.” The soldier followed him, expressing gratitude.

This is my chance, Ethaniel thought, to try my new techniques. So he did. Over seven weeks he carefully removed the soldier’s limbs and other parts, one by one, using ointments and precise instruments to minimize damage and pain.

In the end, only a torso and head remained, which hung jabbering in his basement until a week before his own passing.

In his last few days of life, Ethaniel’s lovely granddaughters warmed him on all sides of his sickbed. Yet he fretted to himself, that surely his soul would burn in the Nine Hells. “Yet I was born this way,” he mumbled. “How unfair!”

Then for a few moments he might think that perhaps he deserved it. He might even be granted a throne in hell.

“Where does one go?” he asked his eldest granddaughter as she tidied his white sheets.

“Hush and sleep,” she said. Everyone knew she had a kind soul. “You are just delirious, Grandpa, having a bad dream.”

Death came. Fortunately or not for Ethaniel, even Hell turned him away at its door.

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