A pig passes in the slanted snowfall, its shape a funny pink cloud in that hazy destitute town. The huddled peasants watch it bitterly. Their eyes shifting in their sockets, their heads turning to follow its shape. Each has tried to get their hands on it before but this is one lucky piggy. Memories of chasing the pig, sliding in the snow and cursing and the pig getting away every time with hardly an effort, its breath little puffs of steam in front of its snout and its head bobbing up and down with its quick steps. The pig stopped among a group of other such lucky piggies of varying sizes and touched snouts and resumed its course. It trotted along with a dignified haste as if it had a job to go to. A personal affront to the jobless poor who aspire to eat it.
The pig is friends with a boy who has not found a gang of thieves yet. Who lives in the churches and clandestine places that his people travel through and live among. Mud-walled tunnels that lie beneath every city and connect all the parts of it that are accessible to but the destitute and the ugly and deformed and the savvy networks of thieves and all those shunned by society. That belong to the people who are illiterate and who have no history oral or otherwise and never will. The story of how he came to live in these circumstances not even he knows and doubtless it is populated by characters who did despicable things to one another. The boy standing there among trash heaps looking at you, stark madness leering through dark and narrow eyes. The capacity for evil. The cruelty with which he will be treated and the vengeance he will exact as an unreachable prodigy of killers.
The pig finds the boy sleeping in a pew and wakes him. It buries its snout in his shirt, pinning him in and standing on its hind legs for leverage. It searches for that which brought it here: the smell of food emanating from the boy’s rags of clothing. It finds the bread in his shirt, but he grabs it and gives half to the pig and eats the rest himself. It searches out his open shirt for crumbs and sniffs his face and licks his lips and chin. He pushed himself up and looked around for any belongings. The pig sniffing about the altar. He bundled up and tucked his rags and walked to the back of the church where there is a door. The burst of cold wind not the least bit startling. It was always winter for all he remembered. The cold froze his snot and dried his throat and burned his cheeks as he trudged to a crowd in the street.
A gallows set up in the street. It was built for six but there were only two. A tall man nearest to the boy. A woman between two older men standing arm in arm. Three young men on horses near the gallows. The boy tugged on the man’s shirt. He asked the man if he had anything to spare. It’s the man’s sons with the rope around their necks and he watched them closely. His shoulders were wide and so was his stance, his long legs braced hard against the ground behind him as if prepared to bare a heavy load. His face bespoke a career of meanness. A fat man in a fur-collared coat and a bow tie had read aloud their crimes and now asked if the boys had any last words to speak. They declined to do so. The fat man took his time to adjust the rope and put black sacks over their heads. He did one and then the other stopped him. He could be seen to breathe heavily. The man paused beside the boy with the sack in his hand. The other boy fidgeted in the already tightening noose and the stuffy burlap sack and the man tried again and the boy didn’t object this time. The executioner made his way to the far left end of the platform and the man closed his eyes and dropped his chin against his chest. The sound of the trap doors in the gallows falling open and the ropes snapping and the counterweights hitting the ground. The wooden frame straining under the sudden weight.
The man stayed like this for a long time. He didn’t heed nor see the boy who was tugging at his coat. He opened his eyes and lifted his head and turned to walk back to the hotel like a statue come to life to the boy, like a god compelled to awaken from a great slumber. He walked with a long gait. He did not change his course to accommodate others in the street. The pathetic inhabitants watched his pale figure through the falling snow- something wicked, something that was not like them. Their fear made them think foolish things as they scurried out of his way.
In a back room of the hotel a young woman in labor. Her screams were horrific. Her bare legs writhed in the stained sheets in a way that excited the doctor. Sweat dripping from his beard, his tired eyes. The nurses circling about them working in shifts. They covered her breasts when they shown through her torn blouse and gave her water to drink. They moved about her like diligent workers accustomed to scenes of horror and agony. Their unflinching eyes set upon the ground or on their task at hand, on you the horrified observer. In the thick of it the doctor and his dainty fingers carefully doing his grotesque and necessary duty. She was unreachable in her agony. Inconsolable to the world as if possessed, as if put in a trance by the black magic of an old world shaman. The young woman’s voice became hoarse and it was a relief to stop screaming. She was in labor from the morning of the day before to just before sunrise. It was a long time before they let her see the baby. She knew that something was wrong. The doctor presented it laying stiffly in a blanket in his arms. The infant’s color was a deep red unlike the color of a newborn. Two prominent ridges above his brow. A tail could be seen between his legs struggling to point upward like an earthworm in the sun. His mother was hysterical. She rejected him outright and wept hoarsely into the pillow.
The doctor stole away with the baby. The man passed the doctor in the lobby. His face did not reveal his intentions or the extent of his knowledge. He went to his horse to the bag of provisions behind the saddle with coffee in hand. He put a foot in the stirrup and drank the coffee and watched the doctor step into his carriage parked directly in front of the hotel. It was just light enough to ride. He could make out the driver’s silhouette against the bright western mountains stretching and yawning himself awake. He reached into a pocket on his saddle and took out the revolver and checked the cylinder and placed it in his belt and walked over to the carriage.
The doctor gawked at him through wide tired eyes and backed himself away to the other side with the infant in his arms. “I think I know you,” he said.
“We’ve never met.”
“But what are you doing here.”
“I’m here for the child.”
“I know that.”
The man stepped into the carriage and placed his knee in the doctor’s face and began to wrench the infant from his arms. The doctor struggled beneath him and made a noise like an animal being slaughtered. The man choked the doctor until he let go and took the baby up and left the doctor there exhausted and too defeated to move. He addressed the driver with baby in hand: “Are you gonna follow me?”
The driver only sat there, his face barely visible.
“But the doctor will.”
“I can’t say he wont be inclined to do so.”
The man produced a hunting knife from a sheath on his thigh. He walked to the horse farther from him and cut the reins and then walked back and did the same to the other. He glanced at the door of the carriage behind which the doctor would not make himself seen. He plunged the knife into the horse’s thigh until the wood of the handle stopped in the firm meat. It screamed and tried to rear but the left leg buckled and it fell over, tilting the carriage to that side and breaking the harness. The other horse took off with the carriage, pulling the wheels over the one that lay on the ground. It struggled to stand as if its legs and back were not completely broken. The other horse ran for a long time and broke from the carriage and left the driver sitting there. The broken horse stood there looking at the man’s back, held up by adrenalin alone before it collapsed like a statue of a horse suddenly bereft of its foundation.The man walked back to his horse with the chaos behind him. He mounted it with one hand and opened his jacket and cradled the infant in its warm plume and rode west. He rode away from the depraved doctor and the scene by the hotel the likes of which that town had never seen before and never would again. Of which the participants were alien to. Of which the people would gossip forever and none will in the telling of it reveal it truthfully. Because in such an insoluble story there is no such thing as fact, but only preexisting myths reaffirmed or dispelled. The notions that each possesses about the world dictating the moral derived by each. In a dreary town on a frozen morning the Devil was born to a young woman of questionable morals. He left behind him bloodshed and chaos and wreaked havoc wherever he rode.