J.L. Navarro


They cut off his testicles and penis and threw them to the dogs. The crowd looked on as the ravenous pariahs fought among themselves and devoured the useless clumps of flesh. Some said they should have killed him. "He'll bleed to death," some said. "Let him die slowly. A pig like him has no reason to die swiftly."

By all accounts, he should have died. However, providence sometimes sees fit to let the unfortunate ones suffer, and then suffer some more. It soon became apparent to the people of the village that they had targeted an innocent man. He had been accused of rape. The young girl who pointed her finger at him later said she wasn't sure whether it had in fact been the man they had mutilated and left to die. She said it had been dark and she had kept her eyes shut during the assault, so she wasn't sure.

"Even if he didn't do it, he must have done something to have merited such a fate," some said. "Things happen for a reason. He is guilty of something."

For the first few weeks, they weren't sure what had happened to the unfortunate man. After the attack, they left him on the street and most people thought he would be dead by morning. The butcher had already promised to cut up his body and feed the pieces to the stray dogs that had already consumed his genitals. But the next day the body was gone and no one could account for its whereabouts.

People became fearful when the body failed to materialize. And then strange things began to happen in the village. First, the dogs that had consumed his penis and testicles showed up one morning dead in front of the church, their heads cut off and nowhere to be found. Then the man who had actually done the cutting was found hanged outside the village and both his tongue and his ears had been removed and, again, they were nowhere to be found. Whispers began to circulate about what all this might mean. No one spoke of it openly. The villagers began to distance themselves from the event, claiming they had nothing to do with it. They had simply witnessed what they felt to be justice and therefore had no reason to fear retaliation from whomever or whatever it was that was doing these strange things.

One night three barns were burnt to the ground, all at the same time and at different distances from each other. One of the barns belonged to the father of the girl who had made the accusation.

The next day the villagers confronted the girl and they wanted to know if she had anything to say regarding the gruesome events that had followed the castration. The girl denied any knowledge of what had transpired. The villagers wanted to know if the girl had lied about the rape.

She told them that she had not lied but that she wasn't sure if the man had been the one who had committed the crime.

It was then decided that the village had come under some diabolical curse because of the girl's false testimony, and that something should be done to remedy this wrong or further misfortune would continue to plague the village.

It was decided that the girl should be stoned to death to right this wrong. Naturally, her parents refused to let this happen, so it was decided that the entire family should be stoned to death to atone for this malady that had befallen their peaceful village.

The man who had been castrated was now being spoken of as a good man who had never harmed anyone, and that he should be elevated to the status of sainthood if only to honor his memory and to bring closure to this most tragic of events. The priest of course was opposed to this. This must be left to Rome's discretion, he argued. They could not take this matter into their own hands. It was a sacrilege. The villagers decided that the priest must be hanged as well. So, after the girl and her parents were stoned to death, the priest was taken from his sanctuary and hung from the tallest tree in the village square.

This, reasoned the villagers, would bring back the peace and tranquility the village had once known. But strange events continued to beset the village.

The graves of the priest, and the girl and her parents were dug up one night, and the bodies were found dismembered and scattered throughout the village streets the next morning. No one knew who might have been responsible.

The same night that this occurred, all the dogs in the village began to howl at the exact same time in the early morning hours, waking the villagers from their dreams. The howling continued unceasing. The villagers threw water on the dogs to shut them up, and they chased them through the streets, throwing stones at them, but the dogs howled the louder.

It was apparent that their attempts to bring tranquility to the village had not worked and now the villagers decided that they needed to do yet one more thing to make things right again. They would burn the entire village down and rebuild it in the valley where the castrated man had lived in a one-room shanty with his pet rabbits. This, reasoned the villagers, would bring peace to the man's restless spirit and they would once again find the peace that they all longed for.

So they proceeded to burn down their village and rebuild it where the man had lived with his rabbits.

The following year, they had settled into their new locale and went about their business with a sense of having done the right thing.

Feeling that there was yet something more to do, they erected a bronze statue of the castrated man and placed it at the center of their new village where people came and left flowers at the base of the monument, thinking what a good man he had been. The villagers now felt vindicated. Justice had prevailed.

When the rains came that year, a violent flood washed away the new village and everyone in it had drowned in the night. For the next two weeks, the bloated bodies of the villagers drew the attention of the scavengers in the area. They fed an assortment of creatures that feasted contentedly on their carrion.

During the hot season, their bleached bones lay like broken cages on the landscape. In the daylight, the bronze statue caught the glow of the sun, and the wind at night whistled through the stone structures they had built, and rabbits came and played among their ruins.


Due to his recently acquired computer skills, J. L. Navarro has recently returned to writing after nearly a decade of creative hibernation. His most current writing credits are stories published in Cafe Irreal, BIGnews magazine, with other stories scheduled to appear in Shadowkeep, The Murder Hole, and Strange Horizons. Additional work can be found on his web site.


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