by Nick Johnson
Openning chapter of biblical mythology work with a contemporary setting. Book in portfolio
“The Nephilim were upon the Earth in those days and thereafter too. Those sons of the gods who cohabited with the daughters of the Adam, and they bore children into them. They were the Mighty Ones of Eternity, the People of the Shem.”
- Genesis 6:4
“There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they; bare children unto them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”
-Genesis 6:4 (New King James version)
Nephilim: (root nephel) Hebrew; untimely birth, abortion, miscarriage; lit. ‘those who have fallen’
The St. Mathew Orphanage and School for Lost Children
Upstate New York
October 17th, 1931
Sister Ann hated standing watch during the midday break. She hated the midday break. The children were set outside after the noon meal and they would run chaotic on the south end of the grounds. Their yelling and squealing were like fingernails across her black board. If she was not careful she would start the next hour with a head ache from clenching her jaw. Children must have discipline. She tried to instill that in all her classes, but letting them run free like this destroyed all her hard work. When they returned to lessons they would squirm in their seats. If there was anything she truly detested it was children that squirmed.
She looked to the clock tower. Twenty minutes to go. It wouldn’t come fast enough. A fall chill had come early and the bite on the wind made her want to place her hands in her pockets, but she knew that pockets were for carrying things. Walking around with your hands in your pockets was lazy and sloth is a deadly sin.
Sister Ann scanned over the mass of the unwanted. Most were bastards brought in the night. Unwed mothers, filthy harlots, that would place the child on the front stoop and clack the knocker before fleeing behind the front hedges and waiting to see the child is taken in. It wasn’t always like that, sometimes they stayed and passed the child the Sister on duty and sometimes they didn’t wait at all. On occasion, during the winter, a baby would be found frozen in the morning by a mother that didn’t bother knocking. That was fine by Sister Ann. God’s will that a mother’s sin be taken out of this world before they became another snot nosed hoodlum leaching off the church’s kindness.
There was a commotion across the common lawn near the row of old oak that marked the southern edge of the grounds. A number of children gathered in a circle looking into the center at something. They were up to no good. She knew this because there was no yelling or squealing from them. When children were quiet without a stern voice or a crack of the ruler, God help their retched unwanted souls, they were sinning and she knew in her gut who she would find at the center of that circle. Knew it as sure as she knew The Boy wasn’t a sinner, but sin itself.
She walked briskly across the brown grass with the black fabric of her habit snapping sharply she strode into the wind. The Boy has been born at the orphanage in the fall of 1924. Sister Ann hadn’t arrived until 1927 when she transferred from the diocese in Boston; too many Godless walking the streets. No one that was there at the time the Boy was born talked about it, apparently Father Thomas stated it was a matter best forgotten, but Sister Beth whom she shared a room with had a taste for scotch and after four fingers one evening she had let things slip. The mother had been brought in by two priests in the early hours of the morning. She had been far along, but not so much they expected the child would drop before a ten day. Sister Beth said they had to use one of the wheeled chairs to move her from the coach to the main hall. She had seen as much and they used the wheeled chair not because of child, but that the woman had lost her senses. Her eyes had rolled upon her brow and ribbons of drool ran the front of blouse. After that she knew only things whispered in the halls and rooms of the orphanage, but they were enough to convince Sister Ann there was nothing Godly about any of the business and especially that boy.
“What is this then?’ she asked as she began pulling small bodies away by their shoulders to let herself into the center. Although they moved enough for her to pass they still stretched their necks and craned from side to side hoping to catch a glance to the middle.
“Michael! Take your finger from your nose,” she snapped; slapping his hand as she passed by him. She marked him on the list in her mind of children that would be corrected once they returned inside. It was a rare day when Sister Ann’s list was less then ten. She would line them up with their noses touching the chalk board and she would take the hickory switch to them. Only then would they learn discipline, but Michael Francis’ name wouldn’t be on her list very long. Only moments as it turned out. Soon the whole list would be forgotten, never to make a list again and she would spend seven years before succumbing to a slow death of fasting and flagellation trying to forget what she saw that afternoon and praying it hadn’t marked her for hell.
Crispian Nicholas, The Boy, named for saints as was custom for abandoned bastards or those whose mothers died before a proper christening, was sitting upon his haunches which his hands upon his knees under the branches of an oak. The leaves missed by the grounds man scattered around him and his un-kept shock of blacker than black hair, that no comb could tame, pushed back from his eyes. He was seven, soon to be eight come a score of days give or take, but when he looked up at her she didn’t see a boy. The eyes were too deep. They held secrets. Secrets no child would have. He smiled up at her with white teeth unmarred by the cavities that plagued the other children and then looked back at what he had done.
On the ground in front of him was the nightingale that had flown into her classroom window two days before and broken it neck. It had flopped across the ground a few times in its death throws and the children had pointed and stared out the windows. She knew it was the same bird because she prided herself on her knowledge of avian species and had stamped the foot of it on a sheet of velum to show students and the black ink was still covering the left foot from dipping into the ink pot. After stamping the foot, she had wrapped it in a sheet of newspaper and given it to the grounds man with instructions to bury it. The Boy must have dug it up. He must have watched where it was buried and dug it up, but what had happened after could only be the devil’s work.
It was trying to walk. It was up on its feet with the head swinging at a sharp angle in front of it. The eyes had turned milky white and its beak opened and closed repeatedly like it was gasping or trying call. One wing must have broken also because it lay motionless along its side, but the other was outstretched and flapping up and down slowly like it had forgotten what it was used for. Its steps were slow and laborious and with the one wing dragging it pulled the rest of the body from a straight line into a crooked arc. Sister Ann’s tongue felt swollen and caked as she instinctually started a Hail Mary. If there was any doubt of The Boy’s involvement it was removed when he looked up from the dead thing to Sister Ann.
“I fixed it.” He smiled with pride.
Sister Ann screamed.