He gave a long weary sigh, then delicately slid the tip of his sewing needle through frayed fabric. The boy continued the careful motion, looping the thread in circles down its exposed side, watching as the fabric was forced together, holding all the stuffing perfectly in place. Tying a small knot completed his work, and he placed the doll down in-front of him.
Next to the figure rested another, with long threads of brown silk for hair and an untidy grey dress. The one he'd finished had brown hair also, but more light as the boy had forgotten to restock on wool, it had a sewn black shirt on.
The shrill cry rang through the house. The boy jumped up and ran into the main corridor. He found his mother, exhausted, leaning against the chippy wall. The boy sighed.
"Muoter, please, go back and lie down. The doctor said you cannot stand!"
The frail woman coughed. "Your father-_ach!_-your father is out gleaning. You...you will be late for shul. It is almost sundown!"
The boy sighed again, "Mouter, it is not sambaztag, we do not have to go to shul. Please, go back to bed. I will get father."
The woman limped into the other room and the boy galloped down the road. When he came to the field, he spotted his father in the stalks. He ran towards him and pulled him under, where no one could see them.
"Are you insane?!" the boy whispered, "if you get caught, they'll kill you! We are not allowed to enter the fields!"
The man sighed, and through a thick Germanic accent muttered, "You're right."
The boy continued, "The damage is done, quickly, we must get back home before anyone sees us."
The man slipped the grain under his shirt and the two ran. As they ran to their hut, they were stopped by a neighbor. He had always been friendly, he lived alone with his daughter, which the boy did not understand. Where was her mother? He had approached the two for casual conversation, but a stock of wheat slipped from under the older man's shirt.
The two stared in terror at the fallen crop, before the man chuckled and picked it up, and handed it to the boy. "You should be more careful. Do you know the penalty for stealing? Especially for Jews. Come in, if you're that desperate for food I can spare a few potatoes. It won't be much, but it's all I can give."
The boy's eyes glistened with hope, the thought of something other than the scraps of others enticed him. He blurted out a loud, "yes!" but was silenced. His father continued, "Thank you Charles, but it's not necessary. We must get home, Klara might be wandering again. Take care, say hello to Emily for us."
The two walked into their home, and fell against the door, as relief washed over them.
As the bread was prepared, the boy asked his father why he had refused the food.
"It is not right to take food from their own children, Alphonse. Emily has to eat too, and they are less fortunate than ever we are. They are the only ones who have been good to us."
As the meal was garnished, the family settled around the table - or more accuraetly the log they ate off of - and began to eat. There was a silence for a moment.
A knock on the door, unheard of at dinner time. Had they been caught?
The father, pale, slowly rose and opened the door. Just the neighbors, thank Gott.
"I'm so sorry to disturb you Rufus, but I had to." He brought up a small sack and removed three plump potatoes, handing them to the man. "It is not right that you go hungry. I must go."
"Charles, no. Please come in, we cannot take this food from you knowing you have nothing to return to."
"I cannot, Emily is alone…"
"No issue! Alphonse, please go get the neighbor girl and bring her over."
The boy sighed in compliance and strolled over to the next house.
He entered the small shack and called out the girl's name. Their house was much different than there's, not even a second floor. There was a small corridor leading to the opposite end of the house, and figured the girl would be in there. As he approached he heard her giggling. There was a quiet, "okay, okay." and the door flew open and the girl screamed. The boy was thrown back, he screamed as well. But there was nothing.
The girl left her room and helped the poor boy up. "I'm so sorry Alphonse, I thought you were my father. He doesn't scare easily."
The two returned to the house and the meal began.
As the boys mother coughed, Charles sighed. "Oh Klara, you are still ill? I'm so sorry."
She sighed, "I swear if times get any harder, God may just take me to His Glory."
The boy, desperate to seem profound in front of strangers, spat out, "Martin Luther is a bad one. He's giving all of us a bad name. The Church should just kill him."
"Alphonse! Do not say such things. The Church has been good to us." his father spat. Klara sneered, "Oh silence Rufus! They have condemned us! You have no obligation to respect that horrid institution!"
"Klara!" he screamed. "You're delirious, go to bed!"
She stood up, "No, I will NOT go to bed! You cannot order me around!"
"Klara, _I said go to bed!_"
The woman grumbled and left the room. The girl leaned over and said, "I want to show you something."
She asked the adults if she and the boy could adjourn to the outside, and they complied.
As the two wandered the road, the sun began to set.
She gasped, and seemed very excited. She grabbed the boy's hand and dragged him into the woods behind the village.
"What are we looking for?" Alphonse asked.
"My friend silly!" the girl giggled.
The trees shook, and the girl shrieked a happy yell.
The boy heard a heavy breathing, and the figure stepped forward.
It looked oddly familiar, from the stories father had said his grandparents told him, the strange bird-like masks adorned by figures trying to avoid the Death.
He wore a black cloak, a small hat, and the bird mask. He held a cane in his hand. Inscribed was a message the boy could barely decipher. He stared at it intensely.
The man craned his neck at the cane, and chuckled. In a deep, almost soothing, echoing voice, he asked the boy if he wanted to know what it said.
The boy nodded, still a bit dazed at the man's appearance, and the Beast spoke, "beyz itsr iz zis in di onheyb aun biter in di suf –– Evil inclination is sweet at the start and bitter at the end."
The girl giggled and ran to the Beast, and gave it a loving hug. The thing laid its hand on the girls fair-hair, and chuckled. "Sweet child...why have you brought this boy to me?"
"I wanted him to meet you, silly!"
"That's nice child, but you have to leave. Your father must be worried about you."
"Okay, see you tomorrow! Come on Alphonse!"
As the children walked through back from the clearing, the Beast called out, "Alphonse."
The girl skipped ahead, unaware, and the boy turned back towards him.
There was a moment of silence before he spoke.
"Wood and hay burn."
The boy was confused by it. What did it mean, 'wood and hay burn'?
Not much he could do. They returned to the house and said their goodnights.
The next day, Alphonse snuck over and met with Emily. Asking questions.
When did you meet him? Who is he? Why are you friends?
No answers, in all honesty. She tells me one moment she heard scraping at her window and the next it seemed like they'd known each other for a lifetime.
It bothered him. It bothered him a lot.
One day, he ventured into the woods alone, to meet with the thing she called her friend.
He found him sitting on a log, scribbling things into the dirt.
He looked at the boy, and slid over, leaving him a place to sit.
As he sat down with the Beast, the boy asked it what it was drawing.
"Nothing in particular...whatever comes to mind child."
"What do you want with Emily?"
"I need her," it spat, "I've earmarked her. She is mine."
It stopped drawing, and looked at the boy.
The boy stared into the cold, indifferent eyes of the mask.
He screamed, "I won't let you!"
The creature laughed, "You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware. Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the Earth. Worship Adonai with reverence; and rejoice with trembling."
"I won't let you!!" he screamed, more determined.
"You have no choice."
"I'll...I'll tell someone. I'll tell everyone!"
It laughed. "You can try. They belong to me. I am the God of this world."
The boy bolted from the log, as bellowing laughter followed him.
As the months went by Emily changed. The skin under her eyes got dark and saggy, she started whispering things at random. She said '6' under her breath a lot. No real explanations.
It all came to a head one day.
The early morning was filled with wails. "My daughter is gone!"
The whole town congregated around the home. "I don't know what happened. Last night she told me 'the angel' was here, and the next morning she was gone! God, why?!"
"Where has she gone?"
"Who could've taken her?"
"Who could've done this?"
All day, they searched. No one found a trace of her, except Alphonse. He found a piece of black cloth hanging from the trees behind our houses. Cotton-like, but softer.
He didn't tell anyone about it.
As they met back at the neighbor's house, they admitted defeat. The child spoke under his breath, "I failed you, and now your friend has you forever."
He shouldn't have spoke.
Because everyone heard him.
Suddenly, Charles sprang up and grabbed the child, "Her 'friend'? The...the one she kept talking about? In the woods?? What do you know?!"
The child's eyes held the undeniable look of guilt. He could tell, he could tell Charles knew he was holding back.
"It was you, wasn't it? You...you _people_ took her!"
He threw the child down, "Why?! Why did you take my daughter?! You needed blood for your damn matzo?!"
The boy's father pushed through the crowd and started yelling.
'We are good friends, stop acting like this.'
'We would never do anything to hurt you.'
Charles screamed, "You lie! You Jews took her! You killed her, didn't you?"
The crowd rose up in compliance. They were convinced: the kind Jewish family had killed the little girl.
Rufus grabbed his child and ran back into their house. Told him they needed to go.
That's when they smelled smoke.
The town had amassed around the house. Breaking windows, throwing rocks. Rufus screamed at Alphonse to run. He refused, and after arguing he finally conceited.
As he dashed into the woods, he turned back. He saw a bright light in the distance.
Wood and hay was burning.
Alphonse ran back to the house, the people cheered around the flames.
He screamed, "Father! Father!!"
But no answer.
He heard giggling from the woods, somehow louder than the crackling flames or the rompous cheering.
The boy whipped around and saw Emily standing in the brush. He screamed her name and rushed to her. She began running in the opposite direction. He chased her for what seemed like years, and the scenery began to change. The uniform hard oak tree trunks bent like rubber, swayed violently though there was no wind. Every step elicited a more purple hued environment. The dirt turned to cobblestone, mossy and cracked. He kept screaming her name but she would not stop.
Eventually they made it to a clearing. This clearing had a number of mounds arranged in columns and rows. It almost seemed like a cross. But in the very center of the formation was only a hole.
_Was_ a hole…until the thing swung from the trees, below its waist its cloak just became tattered strips, as if he was a ghost. It's shadow was long and uniform, extending far beyond what the boy could see. It bent and spun like a coil in the air, creating loops in its twisted form. Suddenly it snatched up the girl and held her in its horrid embrace, as she giggled.
That was the end of her.
Her body was stomped into the mound and hastily covered, the formation complete.
The thing flew towards the boy and stopped short, almost 'regrowing' its legs as it hopped before the closet mound and prostrated himself.
It seemed like an eternity before it stood up.
"It…didn't work. Of course it didn't."
The boy fell to his knees and wept, for all that he had was taken from him.
He felt a cold hand on his shoulder. "Do not weep child, I commend your perseverance. For that…you shall die braver than most."
The last thing the boy felt was wearing heat cut through cartilage and bone.
And there He was, alone again. He walked through his forest and exited on the smoldering remains of a civilization. It was too bad these people did not foresee this act of arson swallowing the whole, tightly packed village.
But hey, there was not much He could about that, people will do what people do.
Each step He took, anguished souls were sucked into his grubby hands. His victories, do to speak. After all, Satan is here to tempt us.