Once many years ago, a resentful young boy terrorized his village. His mama loved him and tried to teach him the things mothers teach their children so that they will grow up to find love. He kicked his mama in the shins and a surge of joy at his power flowed through his veins. His papa saw him and swept the lad off of his feet with one arm. He turned his son upside down and gave him two swift swats on his behind and admonished him, “Never, ever hurt anybody--least of all a woman.”
The boy felt resentment and hot anger at his papa’s words. He remembered how glad he felt when he kicked his mama. When his papa set him on his feet the boy ran away into the woods behind his house. He ran deep into the darkest part of the forest where he was forbidden to go. Branches clawed at his clothes and tore them. He brushed aside great swaths of spider web and felt powerful that he’d destroyed the spider’s nests. He crawled under limbs and kicked at the leaves and branches on the forest floor. He stomped on sickly black toadstools and felt his lip curl as he killed the foul smelling things.
Finally, the boy realized that the sun no longer shone through the branches of the thick trees overhead. In the darkness the toadstools grew thicker giving off a rank dead odor. He felt movement in his hair and danced as he brushed a bloated spider from his head. Somewhere high overhead a bird screeched. The boy began to wonder if he was lost, but thoughts of home reminded him of how his papa scolded him and how his mama was so mean. He grew hot and angry again vowing to stay in the forest all night so his parents would be frightened and all the people in the village would come looking for him. His lip curled into a sneer and he plunged into a wall of hanging moss that caressed his cheeks like cold slippery fingers.
Eventually, the boy found himself descending a slight slope. The thorn bushes grew so thick that he couldn’t push through them so he got down on his belly and wiggled his way between their trunks like a snake. The ground felt cold under his hands and he felt the damp seeping through the knees of his trousers. He pushed himself through a mass of thick vines and found that he could stand. He looked around and discovered he was in a clearing where the trees met overhead blocking out the sunlight. In the middle of the clearing he found a pool of black oily water with a scum of green slime on the surface. He still felt angry and wanted to hurt someone so he threw a stick into the water as hard as he could. The water rippled and the stick floated away while the water rippled and gurgled faster and faster. The boy watched as the pond scum wavered and parted revealing a face floating just under the surface of the water. He thought he heard a gurgle that turned into a laugh
“Who are you?” He asked as he started to turn and flee into the woods
“I’m Kim Sach the necromancer of this pond. Indeed all this part of the forest is under my power. Why have you come to disturb my peace?”
“Papa spanked me because I kicked my mama, but she deserved it because she wouldn’t let me do as I wished.”
“What did you wish to do?” The face wavered under the water, while the rotten smell grew to a stench as the face spoke
The boy longed for a breath of fresh air, but Mama had forbidden him to talk to strangers so he stayed and answered the question. “I wanted the cake the old woman gave to her granddaughter. The granddaughter is sickly and crippled. She doesn’t deserve the cake, and I do because I’m strong.”
“But not as strong as your papa?”
Anger surged in the boy’s heart and coursed through his veins again because Kim Sach told the truth.
Kim Sach laughed, “I like you. Yes, you are a comely child. I will help you grow strong so that you can have whatever you want.” Kim Sach smiled a cold pale smile.
The boy liked the cold smile. It made his heart beat faster and the blood course through his veins.
“Come. Drink of the water from my pool then you will grow strong, and I will tell you how to get the cake you want. Come closer and drink.”
The boy crept nearer to the edge of the pool. The water looked foul and smelled of dead things, but he wanted to be strong. He looked at the green slime and his stomach recoiled. He thought of having all the cake he wanted. Finally, he crawled to the water’s edge and lay down on his belly to drink a handful of water. He cupped some water in his hand. It felt like quicksilver on his skin. He brought his hand to his mouth and drank quickly. The water seemed to parch his throat as it slid all the way to his stomach where it landed with a heavy thud.
Kim Sach smiled up at him out of the water. “Now, when you go home you must tell your papa that you are sorry you kicked your mama.”
The boy scowled. “I don’t want to. I’m not sorry.”
“Good. This is very good. Still, you must tell your papa that you are sorry. It will make you stronger. Then in the night you will know what you must do to have the little girl’s cake.” Kim Sach dismissed him telling him to go home.
The boy returned to his home to find his mama crying and the men of the village preparing to enter the woods with axes, ropes and lanterns. His heart sang when he saw his mama’s tears and the worried faces all around him. He hung his head in front of everybody and told his papa that he was sorry he’d been naughty. He felt power and joy sweep through his body. He knew that in the lie he was stronger than his papa.
He went to bed that night thinking about the cake he wanted. In his dreams he saw the face of Kim Sach again. This time the face spoke to him in tones that reminded him of honey. “Oh dearest boy. You have made my heart happy. See how strong you’ve become by telling your father what wasn’t true. You are a smart pupil. You shall be rewarded richly. Now, you are stronger than the girl. Push her down and take her cake. Tell her that if she tattles on you, you will throw acid on her grandmother.”
The next day the boy waited until he saw the little girl sitting alone with her cake. He went to her and demanded that she give him her cake. At first she refused, but when he threatened to throw acid on her grandmother the little girl gave him her cake.
The boy walked away with the cake and the thrill of his power again filled his heart and mind. Sweeter to him than the cake had been the girl’s tears. He looked at the other children with new eyes. All they possessed would be his. By the end of the day, he owned a slingshot, a pretty stone, a string of blue beads and a wooden whistle. His new possessions did not delight him as much as the tears and helplessness of the other children.
As the boy grew, he didn’t have any friends, but he had something better. He had power over the other children. When they played games, the children always allowed him to be the captain of their team and the other children always allowed his team to win. The boy found that he seldom needed to push someone down or hit them. He could make them cry with his words.
One day when he was ten, the priest took the boy aside and talked to him. “I see how you treat the other children. If you don’t learn to love them, you will surely perish in hell. I cannot let you torment the others. I will give you a week to change your ways. If you do not, I will talk to all the parents in the village and tell them to banish you to the forest.”
The boy now knew fear. He didn’t want to be banished to where he wouldn’t have power over others. He didn’t know how to deal with the priest. His fear of the priest ate at him day and night so that he didn’t find pleasure when he made the girl with the crippled foot cry. He hit her and felt better. He hit her again and made her lip bleed. He tasted her blood on his hand. He liked the taste of blood and felt strong again. He knew he must deal with the priest, but how.
On the third day after talking to the priest the boy finally remembered Kim Sach. He made his way into the forest and fought his way into the darkest woods. He broke limbs that were in his way. He stomped down the tender plants until, once again, he found the thicket of thorns. He hacked them back and ground the black toadstools into the ground beneath his feet. He rent the spider webs with his stick and beat at vines until he came to the black oily pool. Instead of waiting for the necromancer, he called in a loud voice. “Kim Sach!”
The water began to swirl and steam. The steam rose from the pool filling the clearing with a clinging wet fog that reeked of rotting flesh. The head and torso of a hideously deformed man rose up out of the water. The boy could see through the apparition to the trees on the other side of the clearing and felt fear course through his body.
Kim Sach spoke, “Do not be afraid. You have found great favor with me. I have long desired for you to come to visit me again. What do you wish?”
The boy told Kim Sach about the priest and his threats of hell and banishment from the village.
Kim Sach laughed. “Oh no my beloved. You are under my protection. Hell will never touch you. Come, drink the water of the pool.”
The boy crawled to the edge of the pool, cupped his hands and drank two hands full of water. This time the water made his stomach hurt and his head spin so that he fell back in the leaf mold in a sweat. He looked up at the apparition above him and asked, “What have you done? Why does it hurt?”
Kim Sach answered, “Do you feel pain? Knowing pain will make you stronger. You must suffer a little so that you learn never to let someone make you suffer. Go home and in the night you will know what to do about the priest.”
The boy walked home with his stomach in pain, but he told himself the pain would make him stronger. He went to bed and fell asleep. Later, Kim Sach came to him in his dreams and stood beside his bed in the full form of a hunchbacked man with pocked skin. “Get up. Go and watch the priest’s house. You will know what to do.”
The boy silently got up and went to the priest’s cottage. The boy thought, “I will watch to see if the priest goes out and where he goes. Perhaps I can catch him alone and kill him.” He hid behind a thorn bush and watched. He was rewarded by something better than getting the priest alone. The priest left his house within minutes after the boy hid. The boy silently followed the priest to the hut of an old man who lived at the very edge of the village. The hut had no windows, but the boy found a place where he could watch and listen through a large crack.
The old man lay on a palette on the floor with a candle beside him. His fingers were deformed and his body was covered in sores. “Did you bring it?” He rasped.
The priest nodded, “I wish you would not ask this of me. Reconsider what you want me to do.”
The old man answered. “I’ve thought long about this. The pain shows me no mercy. I now must ask mercy of you.”
The priest nodded again. “You were once my teacher. I will do as you ask, but I do not like this.” He reached inside his cloak and pulled out a small gourd such as he sometimes used for wine and with one hand lifted the old man’s head.
The old man cried out in pain so the priest made a move to lower him down again but the old man hissed. “Give me mercy.”
The priest held the gourd to the old man’s lips and tipped it up until it’s scarlet contents spilled out of the old man’s mouth.
The boy watched as the old man drew his last breath and the priest performed the office for the dead. When the priest left the hut, he walked doubled over as if in great pain.
The next day, the boy took his new power and sought out the priest. “Father, I have come to confess.” The boy hung his head to hide the triumph in his eyes. “Last night, I followed you. I saw where you went. I saw what you did. This morning I heard that the old man died in his sleep. I will make a deal with you. I will not tell others what I saw if you do not condemn me before others.” The priest pleaded with the boy to give up his bullying ways, but in the end he agreed not to condemn the boy before others.
The boy rejoiced in his new power. By day, he continued to torment the children. By night he crept around the village listening at windows and following those who went out. He learned that the candle maker cheated by putting tallow in his wax candles. The miller’s scales were unbalanced in his favor. The baker had mice in his kitchen. The clerk in the store shorted a woman on the fabric he sold her. With each new secret the boy grew stronger. He went to each person and demanded money or favors in order to keep their secrets. Years passed and he grew stronger.
One night, when the boy had hid himself in the loft of the livery stable to spy on the blacksmith, he watched as the blacksmith took a whip and hit a horse belonging to the rich man who lived in the manor.
The next day the boy confronted the blacksmith saying that he would tell the rich man how his horse had been treated. The blacksmith stood with his hands on his hips and looked at the youth. “The man gave me that horse to discipline because it is mean. I’ve watched how you treat the other children in the village. I see that some of the men are afraid of you because you are mean. Perhaps I should treat you the same as that horse.”
The boy laughed, “You cannot hurt me because all the people in the village will exile you to the forest if you so much as touch me.” Just as the boy said this, the blacksmith grabbed a leather strap and brought it down across the boy’s face. The boy remembered that pain would make him stronger so he laughed at the blacksmith and the lash fell again. Again and again, the blacksmith hit the boy with the strap. The boy stopped laughing. He tried to run away but the blacksmith used the strap like a whip. It snaked around the boy’s ankles and dragged him back into the stable. The boy began to cry then he begged the blacksmith to stop.
The blacksmith snarled back, “Did you ever stop tormenting the old woman’s crippled granddaughter? Did you ever stop stealing from the other children? Did you ever stop calling the baker’s son stupid or the miller’s daughter ugly?” With each question the lash fell and cut the boy’s skin.
Finally, the blacksmith let the boy go. “I gave you no more than you deserve for bullying the people of this village. You are a disgrace to your parents.”
The boy had long passed the point where he could recognize justice. He felt outrage that he had been caught. He wanted to scream that the blacksmith had been unfair. He wanted to get even. He knew how to get even. He made his way to the forest and sought out the darkest woods. The branches lashed at him as the blacksmith had done. Clumps of turf tripped him as he’d tripped the boys as school. Vines grabbed at his pants and hindered his passage as he’d blocked others going about their business. Thorns ripped at his skin and clothing. Spider webs clung to his hair and stuck to his face. Finally, covered in his own blood, he arrived at the pool.
He called out for Kim Sach to come, but the necromancer’s face did not arise from the black depths to disturb the scum on the pool. Finally, the boy thought that he didn’t need an apparition to tell him to drink the magic water. He crawled forward to the edge of the pool. He cupped his hands and scooped up the oily, putrid water bringing it to his mouth. As he drank the foul tasting liquid a booted foot kicked him rolling him into the pond. The cool, oily water slid over his face and filled his nose. He dared not breathe so he tried to push himself to the surface with his arms and legs, but he couldn’t feel them. He tried to flail against the water, but no movement from his body disturbed the glassy surface of the pool above him. His senses detected nothing more than cold creeping in his ears and numbing his brain. He became aware that the cold carried the sound of laughter into his diminished world so he looked up to see his body healed of its wounds standing beside the pool.
He heard the voice of Kim Sach laughing, “What was yours is now mine. I was conceived to drink the souls of mankind, but the angels cursed me and imprisoned me in this pool to exist without form. I’ve waited since the beginning of time for someone to bring me a body so that I would be free to wander the earth. Fool, you have served me well. You have fed me with the tears and weakness of the villagers. You have fought your way back to me each time you have been in danger of learning compassion. Oh you have been most obedient and helpful. Do not worry about your body. I shall take good care of it and it shall never grow weak or die.” Kim Sach seemed to think this was funny for he laughed a long time with the laugh the boy had nurtured in the presence of the helplessness of others. “But, I see that you are alone. Because you were such a useful tool, I shall send you company. For those who feast on the pain of others make the tastiest of delicacies for such as myself. I shall send you their essence.”
The boy once again tried to flail at the oily water. He thrashed his head back and forth and tried to cry out for his mama and papa to come save him, but no sound escaped the pool. He watched through the surface of the rippling water above him as the trees parted and bowed down toward their master, and Kim Sach strode off into the forest.
To this day, Kim Sach walks the earth looking for those who feast on the pain of others. He hides in the dark places and watches at windows. He is the shadow in the basement or under the front stoop. Like a spider, he hides behind his web of darkness in the alley and waits until his meal is ready. When the soul is ripe from teasing and cruelty, Kim Sach will cast his net around his victim drawing them to him and he dines on their flesh. What is left when the body and soul are devoured is sent to the oily pool in the forest to cry out for a papa and mama who will never come, because no sound or being escapes the pool in the forest.