Brutality, cruelty & savagery, then vengeance. You'll need a strong stomach for this one.
The gentle splash of wavelets on the white sand shore formed a counterpoint to the boom of the surf outside the reef. The ship’s boat grounded on the shore, and the Reverend Malachi Threapleton disembarked with his wife Jane and their fourteen year old daughter, Mary. An enthusiastic crowd of islanders surged towards them, speaking a language entirely unknown to the newcomers, until a single young man moved forward. “Please be welcome to our island, Rev. Threapleton,” Malachi blanched slightly at the solecism but made no comment. “My name is Silas, and I am speaking some English. Please to come this way and we will make you happy.”
Silas led the way to a small village; encampment would have been more accurate. A dilapidated building masquerading as a chapel, tottered in the central clearing. Next to this an equally disreputable hut claimed, according to Silas, to be their living quarters.
Jane Threapleton sighed deeply. She knew, she told herself, this would be a disaster. Jane’s strong streak of realism had caused her to take stock of their likely situation in the islands, and her conclusions did not encourage her at all. She knew Malachi better than he knew himself, recognising his missionary zeal as his overwhelming passion. “We must bring knowledge of God and the Bible to these people, my dear,” he had told her when she had voiced uncertainty about this five year missionary positing. “They deserve to be exposed to the wonders of the gospels, and I am the right man to do it.”
Jane suppressed her scepticism, realising her husband’s mind was irrevocably made up, and nothing she said or did would make any difference. She persisted briefly, however, “What about Mary? It seems neither safe nor reasonable to expose a young girl to the rigours of this unknown island.” Again, her husband was adamant. “Not at all, my dear. It will be an excellent experience for her; it will help to train her for the life of a missionary’s wife.” Here, again, Jane Threapleton forced herself to keep silent.
Malachi reflected on his wife. She had been a farmer’s daughter and her father had a lay position at Nocester Cathedral. Her mother had died young, and Jane had to take control of the household. Fortunately, she had both a stubborn and a practical streak and managed very well. She met Malachi when he was a newly ordained clergyman; the church hierarchy thought highly of him, and he had been marked for higher things, a deanery or even a bishopric.
They married too young after which, Malachi showed no interest in rising through the ecclesiastical ranks but focussed entirely on missionary work to what he saw as “the heathens.” He was aware this had disappointed his wife, but his mind was set firmly on a missionary role.
Malachi was excited at the thought of spending five years converting his flock to his way of thinking. It was clear that, even though conditions were quite primitive, the people lived a simple, uncomplicated life with few worries. Serious disease was relatively uncommon, although accidents caused a number of islanders to have distorted limbs and noticeable scars.
The number of fair skinned islanders, of whom Silas was one, intrigued both Malachi and his wife. She asked him about this one day, and his answer surprised Jane. “Your husband’s predecessor, Reverend John Martin was a generous and friendly man,” grinned Silas. “He was on very good terms with some of the island women, and they loved him, too.” ‘Well, that won’t happen again,’ Jane reflected to herself drily.
The Threapleton family settled into island life. Malachi made great efforts to convert his flock to his brand of Christianity, but his impassioned sermons, attempting to dazzle his flock with heaven while damning them to to an eternity of hellfire and brimstone, had little effect. The essentially relaxed islanders treated him with a sort of carefree indifference, and on more than one occasion, their laughter at his high pitched, dcreeching delivery resulted in yet more threats of purgatory. On many occasions, he confided in his wife how difficult it was to persuade the people of the island to take his religious imperatives seriously and she counselled patience and persistence, neither of which featured strongly in his make-up.
As his tenure continued, it became obvious Malachi Threapleton possessed almost no practical abilities, with much of the physical labour shared between his wife and willing islanders. Malachi relied strongly on his wife’s streak of commonsense and foresight to assist the family to develop a real connection with the island community. She did, but the islanders, whilst they had been deprived of the exposure to western civilisation, recognised where the strength lay in their relationship and found it difficult to take Malachi Threapleton seriously.
Malachi realised, although he seldom acknowledged the fact, his wife played the major role in maintaining good relations with the island community. Her role as surrogate mother to her siblings, and her involvement on the farm provided the basis for valuable service to the islanders. She became an effective midwife and healer, and established close friendships with many of the community’s women, somewhat to Malachi’s disapproval. Malachi felt he and his family needed to maintain some distance from the island population, an opinion not shared by his wife.
More surprisingly, perhaps, Mary also found herself in demand. She was popular with the island children, played with them and taught them some basic skills, even starting simple classes, reading to them from the Bible. There was even a suggestion she might be spending a little too much time with Silas, and her parents were at pains to ensure no unacceptable relationship developed.
After two years, Malachi felt he had made some progress with conversion, but not nearly enough to justify full satisfaction. He had some thoughts of extending his tenure, but did not share them with his wife as he felt doing so might lead to conflict.
One fine spring morning, the Threapleton family were walking on the beach enjoying the sunshine when Silas came rushing up to them, his face contorted with terror.
“Run, you must run,” he screamed, “the savages have come to the island. They are cannibals and will kill us all and eat our bodies.”
“Oh, I'm sure they won't threaten us. We are Christians after all and English as well, I'm sure they will respect us.” Malachi believed overwhelmingly in his natural superiority and the impenetrable strength of his cultural and religious beliefs. This was completely unsupported by reality, but nevertheless he saw himself and his family as being divinely protected.
“Thank you, Silas; we shall not run from these heathens but parley with them. I'm sure they will recognise that we are no threat to them.”
Silas showed no intention of stopping to discuss the matter and dashed for the cover of the jungle.
Within a few minutes screaming and crashing could be heard and a band of islanders dashed towards the Threapletons, shouting angrily and waving clubs and spears.
Mary screamed in fear, but Malachi realised their leader was, in fact, a white man wearing what looked like the very worn clothing of an English sailor and carrying an old flintlock musket.
Malachi sighed with relief. “One of our own, my dear,” he commented to his wife. “Now, my good man, would you like to tell us your business here?”
The “seaman” laughed, a crude and threatening sound. “So what have we here? A reverend gentleman and his family? Well,my word, this is an unexpected ...pleasure.”
“I am pleased to meet you, sir. I am the Reverend Malachi Threapleton, this is my wife Jane and my daughter Mary. And who do I have the pleasure of addressing?”
“John Sutton, at your service,” the sailor replied with deep sarcasm, “but I doubt you'll find that service at all pleasant.” He than spoke a few words in a form of patois which the invaders evidently understood, and the family were seized and rapidly bound with ropes, with Malachi being tied to a tree.
“How dare you, you beast,” screeched Malachi but Sutton's sinister laughter did nothing to assuage the fear spreading through the Threapleton family.
“Well, now, this really is a turn up for the book. Fresh white meat for my companions; and for me, too, although my pleasures have nothing to do with food.” He laughed again, an ominous and spine chilling sound.
“Father, mother, what does he mean, what will happen to us?” sobbed Mary.
“Let me tell you just exactly what is in store for you, my pretty.” Sutton was clearly enjoying himself. “I haven't had a woman for months. Come to think of it, I haven't had a white woman for years, and now I get to enjoy two.”
“You devil, foul fiend, you spawn of Satan,” screamed Malachi.
“Listen, you rubbish pedlar. I had more than my fair share of false piety from officers who preached the so-called love of God and then had men flogged at the grating, killing some, crippling others. I was a well set young man before I was press-ganged into his majesty’s hell, otherwise known as the royal navy,” Sutton finished with deep sarcasm. “I was regularly abused by seamen who never saw a woman, and my lot was to run up and down rigging in howling gales and fight in the roaring hell of battle. I saw my shipmates slaughtered and dismembered until I could stand it no more. I was in His Majesty’s frigate Superior, chasing the Frogs in the South Seas when I saw my opportunity and escaped. I’m a wanted deserter, and if they ever catch me, I’ll hang.”
“And let me tell you, these people have a much closer relationship with their god than you do with your make-believe deity. That man over there,” Sutton pointed to a huge warrior with an ornate head-dress. “He’s their warrior priest, and the little girl with him is the keeper of the god vessel and they believe their god literally lives within it. She retains the role for one year, after which she is sacrificed to the god within and a new guardian is selected."
“Profanity, blasphemy, sacrilege,” screamed Malachi, but Sutton merely gave his unpleasant laugh.
“I make my life as I please; I’m well in with these savages and I don’t give a tinker’s damn about anyone else. Your women will serve my pleasure, and you, you stinking, crawling hypocrite can watch them get what they deserve.”
Malachi continued to scream his abuse until Sutton grabbed a piece of filthy cloth and jammed it into his mouth. “That should keep you quiet while you watch.”
Malachi could not imagine such evil in a human being but was powerless to do anything save watch in growing horror and disgust. At a signal from Sutton, he saw Mary dragged in front of him, shaking and crying. Malachi could hardly believe his eyes at what happened next.
“My, my, you are a delicious little whore, aren’t you. Let’s see what you are made of.” So saying, he produced a knife and slit her clothing from top to bottom. The rags fell off, and Mary made vain attempts to cover herself. Sutton slapped her hands away, grabbing her small breasts and mauling them brutally. Mary screamed in pain, begging him to stop and begging her father and mother and God for help. All her pleas were quite futile.
Worse was to come. Sutton forced the naked pleading child to her hands and knees and dropping his trousers moved up behind her. With one sadistic thrust, he entered the screaming virgin, mounting her like an animal in rut. Which, of course, he was. Blood flowed from her but Sutton continued until, with a shout of triumph, he emptied himself into her.
Malachi was rapidly losing all control. His mind could no longer cope with the barbarity handed out to his beloved daughter, and eventually little remained of his ordered, cautious, pious soul. A fire was ignited inside him, a fire of impotent rage, burning for revenge and he worked at his bonds to loosen them.
But then his horror mounted yet further. Sutton grabbed the howling Mary by the hair and threw her to a wizened female who seemed to have some special status among the invaders. A burly male grabbed Mary and held her upright while the female took a rusty knife from a pouch at her waist. With this, she sawed through the hysterical child’s carotid artery. Blood gushed into a ceremonial bowl held by the woman, and when it was full, Mary was cast aside as her screams turned to obscene gurgling on the blood fast draining away her life. The crone passed the bowl to the warrior priest who drank deeply before passing the remains to other members of the band.
Jane Threapleton had watched this performance with revulsion and disgust. Her pleas to Sutton to save her daughter had been wholly ignored, and as Mary died, her mother screamed vile imprecations at the murderer, finishing with a prayer for God to receive Mary’s soul. Sutton had merely sneered, but now turned his attention to Jane, his exposed and blood covered penis starting to rise again.
“A bit old, a bit fat, but you’ll serve a purpose.”
Jane was made of sterner stuff. “Go to hell where you belong, you fiend,” and spat in his face.
Sutton was not prepared for this and his fury rapidly became apparent. He seized Jane’ clothes and by main force, ripped them from her body. “You will pay for this, you filthy bitch,” he cursed.
What Malachi then saw caused him to lose his mind completely, although, paradoxically, it granted him physical strength he never realised he possessed. He watched through revenge fuelled flames as Sutton seized his flailing wife by the hair and in one move inserted his knife into her vagina. She howled in overwhelming agony, intensified, if any greater torture was possible, as he dragged it out, creating a shower as if she was urinating great volumes of blood.
With a scream of frustration, the crone dashed forward to catch the blood as it poured from Jane’s body, again presenting the bowl to the watching warriors. Jane collapsed to the ground writhing, her screams diminishing as her life drained away as Sutton kicked her savagely in the head. “Bye bye, mummy—say ‘Hallo’ to God for me.”
During all this appalling process, Malachi had found the strength and determination to loosen his bonds. He shook himself like a dog leaving water and, grabbing a fallen tree branch, leaped to where the keeper of the god vessel stood, watching the ceremony. With one huge blow he caved in her skull and, grabbing the idol, dashed off in the direction of the nearby sea cliff.
Alerted by this sudden burst of activity, the warrior priest shouted in alarm and, led by Sutton who had quickly realised the situation, they set off in pursuit of the now raving Malachi.
Malachi stumbled on, ignoring the stings and tears of brambles and vines, muttering and shouting to himself as he neared his goal. He scrabbled to the cliff-top, dragging the god vessel with him. In his dim and distorted mind, he heard Sutton’s harsh confidence reverberate across the clearing.
“I’ll stop ‘im.”
Against whatever judgement remained to Threapleton, he turned to see Sutton raise his musket and aim surely at him. A click was followed by an unexpectedly bright flash and an explosion as the musket blew back. Then a harsh, ululating howl as Sutton screamed, “My eyes, my eyes—I can’t see, oh God, I’m blind. Help me, someone help me. Please God, help me.” The absurdity of this last plea was lost on those surrounding him.
But not on the creature who had been the Rev. Malachi Threapleton. He heard this with an almost religious elation. “An eye for an eye,” he screamed as the mob led by the warrior priest ignored Sutton and charged towards him. Too late. With one step he was over the cliff edge which took him away from any earthly punishment. As the doorway to eternity opened, he screeched, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord” before he plunged into the jagged rocks at the base of the cliff, crushing himself and the god vessel into a shapeless mess.
But the drama was not yet over. Sutton remained scrabbling in the dirt in the clearing as the invaders returned to him. The warrior priest said gently, using the patois that enabled communication with the Englishman “Do not fear, old friend, we will help to ease your pain in a very short time.”
Sutton gabbled his thanks for this unexpected compassion, and at a sign from the priest, two burly invaders picked Sutton up by the shoulders and ankles and carried him slowly … to the edge of the cliff. At a nod from the priest, they hurled Sutton into the void, screaming as he realised his fate.
Only the eternals could truly appreciate the irony of Sutton’s broken body melding in death with the remains of what had once been Rev Malachi Threapleton.