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Christopher's Toil

his recent lack of human contact had done little to dispel the myth...

A gentle breeze rustled the leaves which had been scattered haphazardly around the secluded woodland cabin. The local druids knew that the spirits of the trees from which the leaves had been collected would wander the nearby environment to watch over their every fallen stipule and bract. Of course, the reason for enticing the tree spirits to this incidental vigil over the dwelling was to ward off unwanted creatures who may interrupt the delicate ritual the druids wished to perform. The druids, customarily, would be hesitant to form any kind of propinquity with such beings, were it not for their current undertaking which, in this case, meant that any interruption presented great danger to their work. That work being, of course, the summoning of the Cynocephalus known as St. Christopher.

Christopher was not actually, of course, a Cynocephalus, though his recent lack of human contact had done little to dispel the myth, and quite a lot to confirm it in the minds of those who had known him. As of late, he had been spending his time secluded in a shallow cave a little way along the coast from Tel Aviv-Yafo. From time to time, only a family of grey wolves or a flock of petrels would visit the area, curious about the hermit who shared their land. Christopher, though no longer a priest, continued to spend his days studying great tomes, of which he had many that he kept stored in a great chest in an alcove within the cave. When he tired of studying, he would often take long strolls along the coastline, often not returning until late dusk. He was, of course, quite well known in the surrounding area, not only for the time he spent in the priesthood, but more recently by those who lived nearer the sea who would watch him on his evening strolls. Due to his large stature and unruly appearance, which seemingly increased as the sun set, the mythos of Christopher spread first through the nearby lands, then beyond.

One particular evening, an unexpected storm had forced Christopher to return to his cave prematurely. Lighting a small fire, Christopher set himself to study a volume containing several of Livy’s older treatises. As the night drew on, a few of the local wolves approached Christopher’s cave and laid down by the fire. As Christopher began to tire of reading, he placed the volume he had been reading carefully back into the chest whence it had come. Sitting by the fire once again, Christopher pulled out some stale pita and began to toss small pieces onto the hot coals. He stared, as if in a trance, into the flames, and he saw what appeared to be the vision of a small cabin in the woods.

Back in the forest, the summoning had reached a critical juncture. The storm outside had been increasing in magnitude with the intensity of the druids resonant chanting. As the gale beat against the wall, the windows of the cabin shattered sending shards of glass flying over the floor like rain. The druids paid this no heed, keeping their attention on the task at hand. Every gust of wind sent branches and leaves flying into the cabin, but they did little to disturb the sharp focus of the druids, who continued to chant fiercely above the howling of the wind. However, in their unwavering focus, the druids had failed to safeguard the ritual area from the wandering of the fearsome tree spirits, who suddenly burst through the outer wall of the cabin, sending splinters across the room, disrupting at last the summoning. The druids turned in fear toward the ethereal beings which now stood before them. As the spirits approached, the druid’s bodies became limp with dread, and they started to howl like wolves as their mouths began to foam.  

As Christopher looked on enthralled at the scene unfolding before him in the flames, he failed to notice the growing restlessness of the wolves, which appeared to be responding the escalating storm. Like the druids, the now enraged wolves had begun to growl and foam at the mouth. Eyeing the inert Christopher, they began to circle and bark at him. The barking snapped Christopher out of the trance, and he turned wide eyed toward the now belligerent pack. The largest of the wolves bared his teeth and leapt ferociously at Christopher. Simultaneously with the scene ongoing in the flames, an intense light, like a supernova, engulfed them both.

                                  *

Christopher awoke a few hours later, his head ringing. Still dazed, he sat up and looked around for a few moments before it hit him; He was in the cabin he had seen in the flames. Taking in more details of his surroundings, he found himself amidst a circle of candles, although only a few of which remained alight, and beyond the circle lay the lifeless bodies of five robed men, seemingly having been thrust violently against the walls.  Clutching his head, Christopher got slowly to his feet. Shattered glass covered the floor like dust and the door hung barely on its hinges, creaking with the now calm breeze. Stepping carefully through the labyrinth of shards, he made his way outside.

The trees near to the cabin had been blown back and appeared charred and broken. Pathways of charred grass led in all direction away from the cabin. Stumbling forwards, Christopher ambled along one such scorched trail toward the nearby riverbed, beside which Christopher knelt down. Leaning over the surface of the water, he scooped up a palmful of water to wash his face, but as he brought his hands to his face, he felt not skin of his face, but the coat of a dog. Looking down at the water’s surface, he fell back in shock by what image appeared before him. Sitting atop his shoulders sat not the head of a man, but of a wolf.

It seemed that, though dead, the druids had realised their goal, the summoning of the Cynocephalus, St. Christopher. 

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