The following is a short story submitted by someone very dear to me who wishes to remain anonymous. I love it.
The Wall was perfect, flawless in every way. No one could convince Joe otherwise. The Wall circled the entire town of Bree in one long embrace, guarding it from the untold dangers lurking beyond. The Wall was blessed, quite literally, for at its birth a mysterious priest appeared and gave it the approval of the heavens.
This was why Joe had faith in it. “Thank you,” he whispered as he patted the warm stone. He was on his way home from a hard day of work, but couldn’t resist his small ritual of gratitude. “Thank you for your protection.”
And it seemed to him that The Wall grew warmer.
Whistling softly Joe continued his journey, arriving home to an unexpected state of chaos.
“Settle down!” He roared above the shrieking children and swooning neighbors. “Lily what’s the matter?”
Obviously shaken, Joe’s wife sat on a poorly carved wooden chair and began to moan.
“Oh Joe it’s terrible. Randolph Smithson from the East side of town was found dead this mornin’! The poor Mrs Smithson… Joe, he was ate by a wolf!”
Joe froze. Fear coursed through him in a shock. “Er, Julie, are you sure about that part?”
“Sure as dawn,” she snorted. “Everyone’s talking of it. Mayor’s called a town meetin’.”
Joe straightened up, a determined look on his face. “Then we’d best be on our way.”
Most of the people at the meeting seemed confused, with only those who had heard of the death showing alarm.
“Right!” Mayor Matthew called. “Sit down folks and let me explain. Old Smithson, who many of you knew and loved, has- er, passed away. Only, he hasn’t ‘passed away’, he was killed. By a werewolf.”
“Nonsense!” Someone called amidst the ensuing uproar. Many heads turned to look.
Of course it was only Brian Tanner, the local doubter. Rumor had it that he kept cats, and didn’t squash crickets when he found them.
“Nonsense,” he repeated. “Werewolves’re just a tale. What we really must be worryin’ about is how some wolf got through yonder wall.”
Tongues tsk’d ominously and heads wagged disapprovingly.
“Heh, sir, if I could venture to call you that,” the mayor panted, “Maybe I misheard but it sure seems to me as though you were questioning The Wall. And in doing so, questioning its blessing, and in doing so, questioning God. Am I mistaken?”
“Puh,” Tanner spat, saying nothing more. The mayor seemed satisfied.
“Well we shall leave you with your dubious ideas sir. Meanwhile, let those of us with sense figure out this werewolf problem.”
Through much bickering and side-taking it was at last decided that the local Friar should be consulted.
“Radishes and sheep’s milk will keep the monster at bay,” he sagely advised, “and don’t you forget to crush those crickets underfoot!”
With that the citizens went home happy, for radishes and goat’s milk were both common, as well as popular cures for many ailments.
Yet Joe still spent a restless night, dreaming that the terrors beyond The Wall seeped through the ground, poisoning his beloved town.
The next day terror struck again. “Peter the Butcher is missing!” The cry rang around town louder than the church bell on Sunday.
In a hurry another meeting was called, this time with the Friar in attendance. “W-well,” he sputtered, “It seems as though… Peter did not follow my advice.”
“My dear late husband had radish and milk soup for dinner last eve,” the butcher’s wife moaned.
“I-that is, you-no… The werewolf must not have done as I asked. One of us here (excluding me of course) is obviously the monster. We must find out who it is before any more lives are ended,” the Friar instructed.
“No!” Tongues tsk’d and heads wagged once again as old Tanner spoke up. “Respectfully Friar, we’d do better off lookin’ at the wall! T’ain’t some mystical creature eatin’ our kin, just a normal, savage wolf! We’d best search the wall for how it got in before any more do th’ same.”
No one bothered to grace his poor, mislead mind with an answer. The Friar went on. “Everyone must sleep here, in the town hall. I will give a sliver of silver to everyone. You must put it over your heart as you sleep. This way we will discover who has the beast within, but the silver will keep them bound. That includes you, Tanner,”
He finished as Tanner walked towards the door. Joe was hit by a sudden suspicion, and watched carefully as the faithless old man grumbled and sat down again.
Provisions were dispensed, hay was laid down, and chips of silver were given to all. But as the sun lied to rest Joe was kept awake. He did not trust Tanner to put the silver over his own heart.
Breathlessly he rose to his feet, searching for the Friar. But all he found was a closed door, the important sounding murmurs of Mayor Matthew and Friar Mark sounding through it.
Still ill at ease, Joe crept the storage area of the town hall and stretched out behind a crate of candles. The last thing he recalled was placing the silver on his chest and saying a prayer.
Silence. That was what Joe noticed first. Not a calm silence but one of dread, of words ripped from the air by something unseen. rising unusually refreshed from his hideout he walked swiftly to the main hall.
The smell was the second thing he noticed, a smell of animals and disease… and blood. For there was blood everywhere: staining the hay, trickling slowly down the walls, clumped in blisters on the ground.
Standing amidst it all was him. Old Tanner. Joe backed away, his fears confirmed. “Please,” he cried, “Spare me!”
Tanner looked at him oddly. “Who’re you? No, wait, you’re the woodcarver, aren’t ya. C’mere Joe.”
Quivering with fright, Joe plodded after Tanner, convinced that the critic was going to kill him. But he did something worse. Leading Joe to the edge of town, past the Tanner household which no one ever dared walk by, Tanner stopped by an unseen section of The Wall.
Joe gasped. Rubble poured from the base of The Wall; a chilling wind blew through the hole torn by time. The Wall was just a wall, and it had left its faithful town helpless. Through this gaping gap had streamed the pack of wolves each night, and as a gnarled furry head poked through it again Tanner turned to Joe.
Tsking his tongue and wagging his head, he gave Joe his final words before the horde descended.
“A perfect wall will bear scrutiny.”