Chapter 11 - Good and Evil
"Good and evil are in constant battle, in an eternal battle over the superiority of the world, human kind and every living thing we know. Since recorded history began blood has been spilled on both sides and ever has the supremacy of one side or the other laid on the edge of a blade. At times, as history as shown us, the slightest push at the right moment can tip the scales and good or evil can reign for lengthy periods of time, at times years, maybe decades and sometimes even centuries. If we look at Hitler and his rise to power, there were so many circumstances that had to happen at the right time, at the right place, time and time again for him to rise to power. And then to fall from power by the whisper of a woman, Eva Brown, vying for his love, asking for Russia to be laid at the feet of the Volk of Germany, telling him that God is on his side and that none can now stop him. 'It was Gods will that you have come to such power so quickly and that you are to rule all Europe', a much purported rumor perhaps but not unlikely. It may have just been a whisper that had been the cause of the attack on Russia, it consumed Hitler's war machine such that it became his downfall.", the man perched on the stool, dressed in a dark brown robe that just exposes the ankles of his black shoed feet with a white shall draped across his shoulder and a jewel studded gold hilt of an aged dagger jutting from the leather belt at his waist, a somewhat weak attempt to mimic a Celtic shaman. "By the way, it was the wearing of masks that helped the Celts scare off those demonic spirits that might have tipped the scales in favor of evil thereby influencing that eternal battle for the good."
"Thank you Mister Carlton and Elissa. Your rendition to the theme 'Halloween' this year has added much to our understanding of how Halloween has come to be. We have time for maybe two more 'show and tells' and I would like to call Miranda and her father, Mr. Marlow to the front of the room." The teacher, a woman in the costume from Star Trek very nearly depicts herself as a clone of 'Seven of Nine" in every respect with her silver green tights stretched over ample breasts hugging her waist line as if painted on, flowing seamlessly over her mound to disappear between her thighs. She bows out to the side, her eye piece meant to mimic the electronic patch worn in the movie catching the bright light and sparkling, as a young lady of fourteen steps forward hand in hand with a middle aged man dressed all in black.
As the two pass by her the teacher whispers to them, "Please remember to keep the time to about five minutes so that we can get the next pair in before recess is called."
Mr. Marlow nods to the teacher but doesn't lose a stride as he heads for the front of the room, "Good afternoon everyone." His voice carries easily through the class.
Hi is in return greeted with a simultaneous reply from the class. "Good Afternoon Mr. Marlow". The chorus of young voices booming with sing song rhythm.
"Mr. Carlton's presentation was well done and I must say that I will be hard pressed to follow his well-rehearsed presentation." The man tilts his head toward Ellisa and her father peering over his reading glasses as though not completely accepting the details of what had been previously presented.
"Although I am not a father of the Catholic Church, I had majored in Theology and was required to study most of the religions found on Earth today. Much of our time was spent on researching the past of three of the world's most wide spread religions, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Since neither Islam nor Buddhism observes the "Halloween" tradition, we shall concentrate on Christianity and to be even more specific, the Catholic faith."
His eyes flow over the faces of the children and attending parents or relatives with the ease of someone that is often put in front of crowds. "The evolution of the Christian faith had gone through many changes over time. The more it spread over the world, the more customs from other faiths it assimilated into its own. One of these customs was the Samhain, an Irish Celtic ritual to celebrate the new year which entailed the wearing of masks to ward off spirits in search of a body to possess."
Mr. Marlow's eyes rest on Mr. Carlton at this time searching his face for approval and it comes in the form of a nod in his direction. "The term 'Halloween' had been derived from an old Catholic day observed to honor the saints, better known in the fifth century as 'All Hallows eve". 'Trick or treating' on the other hand is thought to have originated from the ninth century and belonged to a European custom called 'souling' which would take place on the second of November. On this day, Christians would wander from house to house begging for 'soul cake'. The more cakes they received the more they would pray for those of the deceased relatives of that particular family. Over time the two traditions merged into what we today celebrate, Halloween."
"Are there any questions?" He again searches the faces of those present. Much too soon the teacher in green tights and blond hair interrupts.
"Thank you so much Mr. Marlow!" The words are not quite blurted and not quite disrespectful as she returns to the head of the room. "Children, I hope that you are taking notes because all of this may be on next week's quiz!"
The teacher pulls a paper in front of her, a forefinger running down what was obviously a list, "Cheryll? Cheryll and her big brother Mark Otto, a former pupil of this school and police officer of our lovely city I might add, please step forward. We have just enough time for your addition to today's theme."
Somewhat on the nervous side, Mark and his sister hurriedly walk to the front of the room.
Clearing his throat and blushing a bit he begins, "I have never been really good at impromptus' and generally reserve my words for those that break the law, which is most times a one on one conversation. So, coming before you today is a bit awkward for me and I will apologize upfront for any stumbling that I may have during my speech."
A whisper could be heard from one of the students by most in the class, "Here goes with werewolves. He's a fanatic about them, least that's what my brother always told me. 'Something that could be real' he would always preach."
"Thanks for addition to my speech Tommy, I am sure that your brother Mitch never told you how scared that he would get when I would tell him the stories that have been recorded over the centuries." A sharp look from Mark and the muffled jeers of other children in the classroom put the boy in his place; he was quiet for the remainder of the class.
"Please proceed Mark, time is getting short" Miss Henderson looks at her watch to add some urgency to her remark.
"Okay, it all started in the time of King Louis XV around 1764 in and around Gevaudan France. There was a three year period where at least 113 recorded deaths occurred by what many had considered to be a wolf man." With a smile, Marks eyes shift to the rude boy and
he winks. "The records are not clear about the distribution of the deaths among the villagers as far as gender is concerned though it is known that the overwhelming majority was women and children, possibly six of the victims were men."
Mark looks at the teacher with a question written all over his face then continues, "I am not exactly sure if I should mention this but several of the female gender had apparently been raped before being killed. Sixteen of the victims had been decapitated, many were dismembered, and even as many as ninety eight of them had been partially eaten."
After several 'woos' from the audience accompanied by dire looks from the girls, the teacher adds, "That was quite descriptive Mark but you may carry on."
"The killings had become such an issue that the King had taken personal interest and as things worsened ordered his army to hold look out for the beast, he even went so far as to send professional hunters, Jean-Charles-Marc-Antoine Vaumesle d'Enneval and his son Jean-François, to kill the beast. After months of mistaking wolves as the killer and the continued murdering of villagers the king replaced the father and son team with his personal lieutenant of the Hunt, François Antoine."
Mark looked around the room to find everyone seemingly engrossed in his tale. Invigorated with a bit more confidence, his shoulders drew back a bit, his chest out and he continued with his story telling but with more of a poets touch, much to the liking of those present.
"François did in fact kill a large wolf in September of Seventeen Hundred Sixty Five and brought it back to the king declaring that this must be the beast as several survivors of the attacks attested to the scars on the animal's body, stating that they had seen those very marks on the beast that had attacked them and must surely have been caused by those previous victims while fighting for their lives. History tells us further that he, François, was handsomely rewarded and had received lots of recognition for his success. Unfortunately in December of that same year the killings began yet again."
An engrossed boy injects a quick question without asking permission, "Were all the killings during a full moon?"
Not bothered in the least, Mark replies "One would think so the way the movies would depict those stricken with Lycanthropy but in the olden days, a werewolf could change at will. At any time of month or day he could induce the change. One fact that has been scientifically confirmed is that animal attacks do increase by as much as fifty eight percent during a full moon though. Maybe a werewolf becomes stronger by the presence of a full moon? Some scary thoughts there, huh?"
Feeling a bit on the cocky side because of the attention he is receiving and being that it was the Halloween season, Mark decides to add more detail than he might have, just a little more so as to put a spook into those present. "The deaths that followed seemed to have increased in their brutality, most victims having their throats torn out or the entrails scattered over large areas. The description of the beast from the first few survivors was that of a bushy tailed creature of very large stature that walked mostly on all fours but as the killings progressed the descriptions were that of an animal that also walked often on its hind legs. The yellow red eyes that seemed to glow and very pointy ears stayed pretty much consistent over that three to four year period. It was around the time of that particular December that a local farmer decided to take things into his own hands. His name was Jean Chastel and though he did in the end shoot a beast that contained human remains in its stomach, it is still not know whether the animal that he shot was wild or one that he had trained to kill other people and in the end shot it himself. A large reward was put on the head of the beast and it would have been a motive to finally end the killings to not only be rich but also a hero."
There was complete silence for a moment and then a hand from one of the children is raised, "What 'beast' was it then Mr. Otto?"
"Up until recently we only had vague descriptions of the beast in the town records of Gevaudan but it was certainly not a wolf. If we would like to believe what was written, then its body was just too massive and the head not at all that of the dog species to have been a wolf. It wasn't a cat either and I mean a big cat, like a Jaguar which is known to have a massive jaw."
Just at this moment the bell signaling recess blasts out in the hall.
"Thank you Mark, I would let you go but it seems to me that since nobody is heading for the door that they are expecting you to make a quick finish of your story. Would you be so kind?" The question did not come from the teacher Miss Henderson but from Mr. Marlow the Theology professor.
"Yes! Please!" was yelled nearly simultaneously by not only the boys of the room but several of the ladies as well."
"Please Mark, continue." The go ahead coming from the teacher, Miss Henderson.
"Okay. A description of the breast had been recorded and believed by most to have been accurate would have the responsible animal being a Hyena though of course not with one hundred percent surety. Recently it was discovered that the beast Jean had shot had been stuffed and put on show by the king himself in his castle. A search for that stuffed animal at the Gavauda Museum was apparently successful and was confirmed to be the animal, the Hyena that was put on display at that time."
Miss Henderson begins clapping as does the rest of the class until speaking a bit louder than the clapping Mark adds, "Although the killing did finally stop after that beast was taken, it was rumored that the killings began again a few hundred miles away. So, was this Hyena the killer or was it still on the loose? By the way, I nearly forgot, Jean had according to his own words, killed the Hyena with a silver bullet which is most likely where we have our Hollywood version of the most efficient way to rid ourselves of these creatures."
"Thank you Mark for your remarkable addition to our Halloween theme. We appreciate all of the presentations given today! So, ladies and gentlemen, out with you or you will be late for your next class!" The teacher proceeds to rush the children out the door.
As the kids exit the room Mr. Marlow approaches Mark and pats him on the back. "That was truly interesting!"
"Ah, it wasn't even half of what I could have recounted. Even though the Europeans are the first to record these kinds of events, there are cultures all over the world in the most remote places that believe in shape shifting, it is quite a common belief much like the belief in an afterlife." Mark really feels appreciated and respected by this unexpected compliment.
"Well Mark, it was a pleasure to meet you." They both shake hands and are the last to leave the classroom.