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In the darkness of a cold, murky night, a boy of about eighteen years old was standing in front of a tombstone of the cemetery of St. Francis in the small village of Ely. He was there, motionless, silently staring at the epitaph engraved in the tombstone. His clothes?black leathery coat and blue jeans –were stained with blood.
“Here lay Allan Macarthur
Son, brother and friend
He will never be forgotten
And his name, in our heart
Those were the lines engraved on the tombstone. The boy wickedly smiled as he closed his eyes. Time had finally come to get what he’d always longed for: revenge.
On a Sunday morning, Jonathan Grant, professor in literature at Cambridge University, woke up with a horrible migraine. He carefully left the bed, filling a little bit dizzy and headed up to the bathroom. His wife, Phoebe, was already awake and he could hear her melodious voice echoing from the kitchen, downstairs. Jonathan didn’t give it too much attention and simply locked himself in the bathroom to get a rejuvenated bath. After that, he felt a little bit better. With a relieved expression, he started shaving.
“John,” Phoebe suddenly called from downstairs, ‘you’ve got a mail.”
“Bring it up!” Jonathan yelled back. He waited for a moment but he knew better than to count on that. So, he dropped his razor and headed to the kitchen with his towel still around his waist.
Phoebe was there, wearing an apron and making pancakes for breakfast. When she saw him, she took the envelope than lay on the table and gave it to her husband.
“From Dr. Brice” she simply said with a smile before returning to her cooking.
“Good morning to you too honey’’ replied Jonathan with a smirk on his face. He then looked at the envelope. It had been a long time since the old professor had given news. Jonathan was quite happy to hear about him. He smiled as he opened the letter and started to read. But soon, perplexity replaced his delight. The letter was…bizarre.
“What’s wrong?” Phoebe asked as soon as she noticed her husband’s expression.
“I…I don’t really get what’s written here” Jonathan answered. “It’s really…weird. As I was reading it, it sounded like if he were scared.”
“What did he write about?”
Jonathan stayed silent for a moment and answered.
“It wasn’t clear…He kept saying how endangered his life was and said that soon, death would be running in the streets of Ely. Also, he mentioned…the cliff. He wants me to meet him there today. He kept writing the word ‘death’!”
To Jonathan’s astonishment, Phoebe laughed.
‘I’m sorry babe,’ she said smiling, ‘but I always thought the old guy had lost it a long time ago. I guess it’s some kind of experiment he’s running again on human’s mind. That would not be the first time he’d do it.”
“You think?” Jonathan asked with a worried voice. Phoebe patted her husband.
“Why don’t you go put some clothes on first…not that I don’t appreciate the view (Jonathan chuckled), and wake the kids up?”
Jonathan smiled and agreed. He kissed his wife and went back to their room. She was probably right about the professor: There was no need to worry.
The rest of the morning passed quite well. Thomas, Ashley and Geoffrey (Jonathan and Phoebe’s children) chattered on happily, telling jokes and teasing each other.
It was on a happy note that Jonathan left his house to go to his appointment with his mentor. They were supposed to meet at East End, a very dangerous part of the village because of its cliff. It had already caused death and Jonathan knew too well it had.
When he arrived at the rocky area, he noticed how the place hadn’t changed. It still looked so attractive and dangerous at the same time. He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t set a foot there for about thirteen years now.
“John, you came!” said suddenly a frantic voice he knew well.
“Brice!” Jonathan exclaimed as he saw his mentor, “how are you? It’s been a long time?” As he said those words, Jonathan noticed how bad his mentor looked. His clothes were all dirty and his white hair pointing up like if he’d been electrified. And above all, you could read fear in his eyes.
“What’s wrong Brice?” Jonathan asked with a concerned voice.
“He will make you suffer John” Brice said, “Revenge, John, it will kill…Ah!” Brice ran away from Jonathan, looking at something that was terrifying him. Jonathan turned around but saw nothing.
“Is this some kind of joke, Brice?” Jonathan asked with an unnerved smile. But Brice wasn’t listening and kept looking at something behind Jonathan.
“I wanted to warn you John!” Brice said, “He…He…Ah!” Brice started to get back, edging towards the cliff.
“What’s wrong Brice?” Jonathan almost yelled with a frightened voice. He looked back again but saw nothing unusual. When he looked back, his mentor was at the edge of the cliff and was still walking back.
“Stop there Brice!” Jonathan yelled dramatically. But the mentor, too terrified by an invisible force, made a last step back before falling. Jonathan yelled as he ran at the edge of the cliff, tears filling his eyes. It was too late; the old man was dead. That’s when he heard it: “Hickory, Dickory, Dock.” Jonathan’s heart skipped a beat. He looked around him and saw far away, someone looking at him. He seemed to be smiling. And suddenly, he wasn’t there anymore.
What happened after that went too fast for the young professor. First, he called his wife who called the police and the paramedics. After they arrived, they worked on retrieving the broken body of the old Theodore Bryce. Police officers bombarded Jonathan with questions. But he was too disturbed and kept answering in an incoherent way that made him suspicious to the officers. Even though, they allowed him to go home with his wife.
That night, Jonathan had the worst nightmare of his life. He dreamt about that night when Allan, his best friend, had died. They had been fooling around at the East End that night; they had been drunk. Meanwhile, their mentor, Theodore Brice, was watching them with a wry smile.
“Hickory Dickory Dock” Jonathan and Allan kept singing stupidly, staggering because of the excess of alcohol. Then, Allan had stopped and had worn a serious expression.
“I heard you’re going out with Phoebe?” Allan had asked. Jonathan smiled.
“I know she dumped you man, so sorry about that.” He said and laughed. Allan looked hurt.
“You’re my best friend, man” Allan had said, “You’re not supposed to do that.”
“Oh shut up,” Jonathan had replied, “She didn’t like you, she liked me more.” Allan had stayed quiet and had starting to edge towards the cliff, looking pained. Jonathan had followed him too.
“Careful guys” Brice had said, “They say that this cliff is likely to collapse easily.” But the two teenage boys hadn’t listened and before they’d known it, the ground under their feet had collapsed and they were struggling, their hands on the edge. Brice had quickly run towards them and tried to hoist them. But he was a weak man and as he hoisted Jonathan on the ground first, his hand slipped and Allan had just fell in the darkness…
Jonathan bolted up, his breath being spasmodic. He was sweating. He looked at his wife who was sleeping and started crying.
The funeral was appointed three days after the tragic event. People cried that day, especially Jonathan. Few days after that, things started to get worse in the village. Two more people died. One seemed to be flagellated to death and the other one strangled. The corpses were horrible to see and Jonathan became more interrogated by the police officers. But Jonathan believed that something was wrong. The three deaths were connected somehow.
Two weeks after the latest death, Jonathan was now scared to go outside.
“I know it is hard for you, honey” Phoebe said with a soothing voice, “but staying indoors isn’t going to solve anything.”
“Do you realize how many people died so far?” Jonathan asked with a quivering voice. Three more deaths had happened. “Those deaths are somehow related Phoebe! And Brice knew something about it! Remember the letter he sent me? He said death would be running in the streets of Ely!”
“Promise me Phoebe,” Jonathan said, becoming more and more hysteric, “promise me you would never leave me.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ll always make sure the children are okay you will NEVER LEAVE ME!” Jonathan leaped and started shaking his head frantically, muttering ‘never, never’. This situation had truly disturbed him.
“I know what would make you feel better” Phoebe said with a weak smile, “why don’t you go to get some books at the public library?” Jonathan looked at his wife as he considered. He then agreed, a bit grudgingly.
“But do not leave the house” he ordered.
When he got out of his house, he immediately thought that he was doing the biggest mistake of his life. But another part of him was telling him to be brave. So he didn’t go back. When he arrived in front of the library, he heard it again: “Hickory Dickory Dock” Jonathan turned around and saw a young man that looked eighteen. He was intensely looking at him with a wicked smile. Jonathan frowned as he thought that the boy was vaguely familiar.
“Who are you?” Jonathan asked. But the boy didn’t answer.
“Mr. Grant?” Someone called him. He turned around and saw an old woman who was saying hi. He smiled at her and when he turned back, the boy had vanished. Jonathan stayed in front of the library, motionless. That was when it hit him. Suddenly animated by a new strength, he ran back towards his house. He hastily fumbled with his keys and opened the door.
“Phoebe?” Jonathan called. No answer. “Thom? Ashley? Geoffrey?” Still, no answer came. Jonathan immediately panicked. He closed the door behind him and ran upstairs. Nobody was there. He checked every room but the house seemed to be empty. He went back to the living room, trying to calm down. Phoebe wasn’t the kind to respect orders. So, she’d probably gone out with the kind despite his order.
“Everything is going to be fine” he muttered to himself.
“Hickory Dickory Dock” said a voice in front of him. He raised his head and saw the same boy that had just vanished minutes ago. Jonathan rose.
“Who the hell are you?” He yelled. The boy laughed.
“C’mon John,” the boy said, “You know me.” Then, Jonathan remembered. He knew the boy too well.
“Al...Allan? You’re…You’re dead.”
“Basically” Allan replied with an amused voice.
“Then how come you’re here?”
Allan didn’t answer and simply wore a wicked smile. Jonathan’s breathing became spasmodic.
“This house is a bit quiet, don’t you think John?” Allan said with his evil rictus. Jonathan looked at Allan with wide eyes.
“Where is your family, John?” Allan asked with fake innocence. Tears came out of Jonathan’s eyes.
“What have you done to them?” He asked, struggling to stay calm.
“Why don’t you go upstairs?”
“I did and they weren’t…”
“Go check now.”
Like an automaton, Jonathan slowly climbed up the stairs and entered his room. What he saw just knocked him off. He fell on the ground, sobbing hardly. In front of him, lay four corpses: his wife and his three children.
‘Do not cry John,” Allan said, suddenly being in front of Jonathan. “Pain is part of life.”
“YOU KILLED THEM!” Jonathan yelled in agony. “Phoebe, NO! You promised…You promised…”
“Aw!” Allan said, amused.
“You kill them” Jonathan repeated, his eyes inundated with tears and his face contorted with pain and anger.
“Yes,” Allan replied as if nothing was wrong, “I killed them like I killed those five other people, including our lovely mentor.”
“Why?” Jonathan kept saying.
“To take my revenge of course” Allan said as if it were obvious. “That Millbury, the one I flagellated to death, remember how he used to whip my mother and me when he was my stepdad? And that Maria Duncan, she once almost strangled me because I had only said she was fat, which was simply true… They were all pathetic little scums and it served them right !” Allan wasn’t smiling anymore; his face was contorted by furor.
“But why ME? Why did you kill my wife and my kids? Why?”
“Take a close look at you dear wife John, look at her heart. I pierced it, with a cold-blade knife. You know why? Because that’s how I had felt when she left me. Yes John, remember when she dumped me to go out with you, you remember?”
Jonathan was speechless. He wasn’t listening anymore. His world was crumbling into pieces. He couldn’t feel himself anymore. He just started at the corpses with a blank expression.
“Did you see how the old Brice died?” Allan asked, “He fell John, he fell.” Allan started to laugh wickedly.
“Ah,” he said with a satisfied voice, “revenge is sweet.”