Toben the Many

"Yes, I have met this grinning fiend. He has claimed my brother's wife. We didn't know what happened. At first it seemed a common disease. However the illness seemed to rapidly draw on the vigour of the poor woman. She was dead within 4 days.

I was there. My brother needed me. Resata lied there, pale, with her mouth locked in an unnatural mockery of a grin, drooling. She was unconscious but her eyes were wide open. Near her bed, my brother, their two sons and their four years old daughter Silenta waited the inevitable in silence. The kids eyes were red but almost dry; their tears have been exhausted. Only Silenta sobbed silently in her father's arms.

Resata weakly murmured something; her final moments were imminent. Wanting to protect his children from the trial, my brother asked them to leave the room. Silenta looked her mother and started sobbing more violently saying with a child's innocence "Mommy? Mommy?" A few tears seemed to finally find their way to the girl's eyes as her older brothers hugged her and took her outside. I moved to the door to join them but my brother grabbed my hand. Stay, his eyes pleaded silently.

He moved next to his wife. Resata was burning with fever. "I love you" He whispered. "I love you too" she tried to answer through that swollen grin that I came to loathe that much. Then a seizure overtook her. She grabbed my brother's hand spasmodically gasping for air. "It is coming! It is taking me!" She tried to say through that hellish grin. I thought that she was talking about the Grim Reaper or Death. What a naive fool I have been! Her final words came hard and raspy. I think it was something like "My eyes, my eyes are so dry!" And then all was over. She fell limply to the bed, dead.

My brother let out a cry then; no, not a cry, a howl. A deep, sorrowful loud howl, an incomprehensive sound beyond words that captured his feeling of loss at this time. He was a good man, loving his wife. He fell on the limp body of his dead wife and sobbed uncontrollably. Hearing the howl the children outside burst in tears themselves. After a couple of minutes I touched my crying brother's shoulder and whispered to him "You have three children yet. The disease … " He understood.

The next day we would have the funeral. All the village has come to the house to pay respects to the dead woman, now fully covered by the seeds in her bed. The priest and the undertaker would come in a few minutes. We were there in the night, near her for the last time.

We heard the cleric and the undertaker coming. My brother pulled the seeds to kiss his dead wife goodbye one last time. As he approached the pale dead flesh of his beloved wife, with his eyes closed … she kissed him back!

Her arms suddenly moved to hug him as her head, her leering head, moved in for a perversion of a kiss. I jumped up and screamed, the children watched with bulging eyes at this defilement, frozen. In an instance my brother was screaming as the undead hands were holding him with unnatural strength, pushing the breath out of his body.

"I love you" The undead mocked. Then it suddenly push him back and landed him two solid blows breaking his neck and a few ribs. He was dead before he hit the floor. The creature jumped out of the bed leering with malice like a madwoman. The children closed their eyes and started running blindly through the room, bumbing on furniture in their mad fright. I was lost, paralyzed with fear.

The door crashed open and the undertaker appeared, shovel in hand. The priest was right behind him chanting. The effect of the priest's chant and the screams of the children gave me a purpose and I grabbed a firepoker to defend myself and the children. We attacked the monster with the undertaker, crushing the head and the spine of my sister's in law body. She fell to the floor. Then suddenly my brother, the one that protected me the years of our childhood from the elder boys, that used to share even his last bite with me, raised grinning behind us and with a powerful blow snuffed the life out of the undertaker that had just destroyed the other abomination.

Such dread and horror overtook me at the moment, I cowered in the corner, the firepoker now seeming such a feeble weapon. The children have stopped screaming looking at their father's broken, grinning face. "Papa?" Silenta asked fearfully. As if that was not enough, the undertaker's body raised, grinning also. "I'm not your father" both undead said simultaneously, "I'm Toben the Many. And soon, you will be too." And he moved against us with both his bodies.

The priest thankfully broke in right then, splashing it with holy water, and shouting "Get out, NOW!" I grabbed Silenta and obliged, crushing through the back window. Both the bodies were destroyed in this fight, but at a terrible loss. As I was running like a madman, I heard the boys screaming. A minute later, the priest and a couple more villagers emerged from the house, pale, wounded and shaking. "It is done" The priest said. "The boys … won't come with you. Go to your village and take care of your niece". It was then that I discovered that my bowels were emptied sometime during these hellish moments.

Silenta has blocked out that moment thankfully. She didn't speak for a couple of weeks and we were afraid that she has become mad. I never returned to my brother's village. To the village I grew up. Another concern is that now that Silenta is ten years old, she asks what happened that night, as she has recently started seeing a leering madman in her nightmares.

I always see a grinning madman in my nightmares. Curse Toben the Many for the sorrow he has brought to me and to that child. Curse him as much as you can, because it is the only thing you can do."

I'm in many places at once. I'm Toben the Many. Each person I collect becomes a part of me, and I have collected many people. I have collected the young and the old, the healthy and the sick. Perhaps one day, I will collect you.

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