THE KEEPER

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Written by Ashly Damon

Edited by Bradley Bell

A man walked along the docks, a place which had become familiar for him when he was feeling lonely. He looked out at the docked fishing boats and the stilled quietness that hung under the moon made the moment almost comforting.

This man, in particular, had rarely felt the touch of one who loved him. Though tonight, his woman of the evening would pretend to love him for money. He often lamented the predicament, of which there were none to bear his children or share his home. So these women had to do. He would always tell himself afterwards that it was to be the last time…that is until the next night.

One could almost see the heavy fragrance of his woman’s perfume rise up into the air as the pair turned a street. A bead of sweat ran down the side of the man’s face as he passed a chapel. He felt dirty, sinful. “This is the last time.” He thought to himself.

The following evening was to be no different, that is, until he passed that chapel once more on the way to his woman. Shadows cast themselves from the tip of the chapel down to the fountain where they a statue cherub received it, posing angelically. This sight caught the man’s gaze. He stopped for a moment and caught his breath. He rubbed his forehead and leant against the rim of the fountain.

“What am I doing? I’m better than this.” He sighed.

He turned to face the chapel, the cherub looking down at him. He began to pray fervently, for cleaner morals, for joy and a sinless life. He was there for a while as he spilt out his words to his god. And, as he opened his eyes he found a pair staring back at him, eyes so white and blue it seemed unnatural coming from within such a hard frame. He blinked a few times to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.

The cherub statue’s eyes still stayed the same.

The man stood up and examined it. The eyes followed him from side to side as he paced. “I must be seeing things.” The moment he set foot outside the courtyard of that chapel a wave of depression swept over him, it felt like he was abandoning his child.

He looked back at the cherub statue to see it in a crying pose. He felt terrible, as thought he had let out some terrible secret to a child they aren’t meant to know yet. As the man petted the statue to try and calm it he began to feel extremely happy and the longer he touched it the more the emotion intensified. He didn’t know why.

He took the cherub home with him that night in place of a woman, lugging it all the way to his basement, where it rested near old paintings and furniture. The following days were pleasant for him; he was excited and eager for each new day. Each morning he would visit the cherub and feel renewed with energy and vigour and happiness. He often had dreams of it coming alive, dancing with him and singing some more. Those were the best dreams he ever had. He stopped frequenting his paid ladies.

It was with this newfound love of life that he attracted some friends and a young woman to be his wife. The lonely home hidden by the bushy oak trees soon became filled with energy and life. The man’s joys in these days were fixed for friends and his wife. The cherub statue which had brought about this change was quickly forgotten, left to the dust.

The cherub statue called to the married man, sending out that same familiar wave of bad feeling. His back stiffened as he talked to his wife, eyes continually flickering to the basement door. He excused himself claiming he was going to go clean the basement he told her.

He rediscovered the cherub, covered in dust and cobwebs. The statue stood in the centre of all the clutter, its finely crafted hands pressed against its eyes, weeping. “I did this to you, didn’t I?”

The feeling grew heavier and heavier in him, he sunk to his knees and tears started. In that moment he grew deaf, all outside stimulation faded away, his eyes focusing solely on the child he had abandoned.

“No don’t cry. You’re too beautiful, hush, don’t cry, please.” The child’s hand felt cold in his hands; still he held it and petted its hair. “I’m sorry I forgot about you.” He cried with the statue. “I won’t forget you.”

“Jonah? What is wrong with you? Why are you crying?” Jonah’s wife appeared by his side.

“I forgot about my child. I mistreated it…” He sobbed.

“What child?” She noticed the statue. “I haven’t seen this before…”

The statue was now smiling with its eyes wide open.

“What is with its eyes? Why paint only those parts, I wonder.” The eyes moved from the wife to Jonah. His wife screamed. “What on earth is that thing?”

“It’s something very precious to me, wife.” His eyes became blank.
“Did you see that? Or was it just me?”

Uncertain, she pressed a finger and a thumb to the statue’s cheek just to prove it was real and she wasn’t seeing things.

The statue came alive, holding her hand in an iron grip and not letting go.

She squealed. “What is this thing? Get it off me!”

The cherub drew blood with his mouth, taking large bites.

“Jonah help me!”

“I can’t. I can’t go against it. It is very precious to me, wife.” He replied blankly.

He could feel the cherub whispering into his ears to leave. Jonah stood up and left the basement.

The click of the door shut was followed by his wife’s cut short screams.

The cherub continually whispered into his ear, telling him to leave her body with it. It told Jonah to tell his friends that she had eloped with another man, even with his child on board. He had a padlock installed on the door to the basement, ensuring nobody could see it but him.

Eventually, Jonah regained himself after a nightmare. The images of his wife’s terrified face haunted the dream. He finally felt the weight of what he had done, his humanity having kicked in.

“What have I done? Am I a monster? No, no it is that statue, with the bright bewitching eyes.” Jonah tried to go back to his sleep, however he could not. There was a thumping from down below – in the basement.

He pressed his ear to the locked door to the basement. Thump, thump, ratta thump thump.

“Feed me Jonah.” It spoke with a young child’s voice.

“You make me do these things!” He cried, pulling at his hair.

“Feed me or I feed off you.” An inkling of the old bad feelings came back, and he knew he had to obey.

So Jonah was drawn back to that same old path, past the chapel courtyard where there was once one extra statue, and down to the docks he went. He brought home one of his old friends, a lady of pleasure, to whom he threw without notice into the basement and slammed shut the door.

Tearfully, he was forced to listen to the sudden halt to her protests. Alas, the bad feelings did not last, for as the child fed good feelings came over Jonah.

Jonah continued this for many months, having to go further and further into Marionette each night, as it was growing suspicious with the police women disappearing in the same area. On one night things did not go exactly as Jonah thought it would. He brought home a wandering traveller who wore strange clothes with a bow atop her head.

“Let me out of here! Please!” The lady banged on the door. “I beg of you!” Jonah stiffened and memories started rushing past his eyes.
Those words, he had heard them before too many times.

“No I can’t do this.” The woman stumbled out, crawling backwards from the open door.

Jonah caught sight of all of his sin at long last, the wrecked bodies and bones, the stink of the dead, and the hideous cherub child which had now grown into something else. The cherub angrily cried out to him, demanding its food back.

“I can’t let you do this. I’m done with you!” The cherub forced sadness on Jonah, which he crippled him.

Jonah fell backwards and the cherub started to glide up the stairs. Catching onto what was happening; the young traveller slammed the door shut and locked the door.

There was a moment of silence as they exchanged stares.

“W-what…” Was all she could say.

He shook his head and buried his face in his hands. “Leave…I’ll do what I must.” He wept.

The traveller escaped the house screaming for help, drawing attention as she ran up the street.

Jonah rose to his feet and locked the front door.

The cherub banged on the door, screaming.

“Enough of you! You’ve made me the monster!” Jonah grabbed cooking oil and led a trail of it away from his fireplace. He sprayed the oil on the walls and the carpet and on the door to the basement.

By this point Jonah knew he was going to die, if it wasn’t the fire, it would be from the emotions. He struggled to make each step around the house, lighting matches and igniting things, even the cot and blanket for his child that never made it.

“I am done with you.” He murmured.

Downstairs the door to the basement broke and the cherub was let out. As the fire touched it an enormous screech could be heard up the street and neighbouring area.

“I’ll eat you slowly Jonah!” The cherub yelled, making slow heavy steps up the stairs.

Jonah fell to his hands and knees.

His breathing grew heavier by the second.

The door to the child’s room opened.

***

That young traveller led the police to Jonah’s house, only to find it burned to a crisp. They found the decomposed and dismembered bodies in the basement and Jonah’s distant friends and family were horrified to bear the news that he was a murderer.

Strangely enough, one item survived the fire unscathed, a small statue of a little baby angel, who held its hands to its cheek in an open mouthed cry.

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