Hentan House – The Beat Around The Bush

They tore at my clothing from all directions. Pinching my skin and ripping the vest from my back. Before I could react, three hands were already gripping my arm. They pinned to the oak dining table as I heard scissors snip the air. I screamed as the cold metal ran up my ankles and down my back. My trousers slipped off with little effort. I shut my mouth in preparation for the searing pain of the blades they had sliced across my legs but I felt nothing. Rosemary twisted into vision and placed the scissors on the table like a doctor showing the child the needle before the prick. I clenched my legs together in one final protest at the hand curling into my pants. I bucked and pulled away as Rosemary watched the whole thing. I was not going to lay down and wait for this to be over. Rosemary picked the scissors up once more and snipped the sides of my underwear free as another’s hand pulled them away like a thread from between my legs.

‘Bring them in.’ Rosemary instructed as she threw my clothes to the side. Yarrow walked into the room holding two large wooden buckets. I could see what looked like handles sticking out from the large rim.

‘What did you do my sister and mum?’ I spat out and felt someone grab the roots of my hair and yank my head back. Rosemary knelt down and placed a white bundle of clothing at my feet.

‘Wear this.’She said as I attempted to wrench my arms and head free of the womens grip. Standing up she raised a white ski mask to my face. I twisted away in protest.

‘She still fighting you Rosemary? She is a survivor after all.’ Yarrow said and I heard the bucket drop down on the wooden floor heavy. ‘Look at this Aspen. Look over here.’ I couldn’t stop even if I wanted as the others twisted my head towards her. The buckets were filled with large black branches dripping red. Yarrow gripped one and pulled it out like a whip. It titled down from the heavy clusters of red berries still on it. I recognised them from the trees on the estate. Yarrow slashed it through the air and I felt my legs begin to give way.

‘Why are you doing this?’ I asked in some way to get them to stop what was about to come.

‘We have to protect you. The blood of the Rowan will be your ward against evil spirits. You need to live a long healthy life to look after the baby. As did Yvonne and her aunt before her. Let me place these on you or the whipping will be worse.’

I felt the hands loosen. I swung forward and slapped Rosemary across her ear. Scrambling past her I could feel the women behind reach out and miss me. Yarrow stepped between me and the door. With one strike I felt my legs slip out and I hit the floor. Instinctively I had raised my hands to protect my head but a foot lodged itself in my gut. Forcing the air out my body I retched and vomited across the floor.

‘Jesus wept. That’s pathetic.’

I heaved again as I crawled forward. Every single part of me burned from the inside out. I didn’t raise my head. I kept my focus low and on the floorboards.

‘Let her crawl around first. Get it out of her system.’ One of them jeered.

‘Don’t you forget she’s one of us. She will grow through this but we can’t have her despise us.’ Rosemary said standing over me. ‘Aspen…I’m going to cover you up.’

All I could do was breath as I felt her bony fingers lifted my hair from my face. The cotton mask dragged down my head. I kept my eyes clenched. My thoughts going to my mother. They had said she had gone through the same thing as me. How could she take me here with that knowledge. To know what they were going to do to me this whole time. Raising me to take the very same tortures. All for this family we she never mentioned. If it was me I wouldn’t spit on them even if they were burning. They had picked me up and slid the white thermals over my legs and breasts. They said it would be easier but those branches would still cut through the thin fabric.

One by one they took the branches from the berry filled buckets. Raising them in the air they circled and picked their spot. Yarrow held me in place while they each marked their spot to cover red. The first branch slipped over my bicep and smacked across my chest. I screamed out as the heavy blows began. The sodden berries burst with each thwack. Softening the blows at first, they smeared on the skin and fabric. Each spattering thinned and sharpened the branch. Twigs jabbed and stuck in my soft parts. Catching the skin with their hooks. Picking me apart like a hundred birds. The welts never softened the pain. They made quick work covering their patch of skin before whipping the next part. It wasn’t long before I felt the air cut across my face. Clenching tight I felt the branches start to be replaced by hands. The buckets sloshed as handfuls of the berries were now slapped onto my skin. Chopping at my neck and smearing across my lips. Yarrow laid me out as they stung the backs of my legs and ass. Nails scratching over my thighs. I raised my arms up again and again and felt them slapped away and knelt on. They never wavered, never stopped their work, until I felt the juices from the two buckets come pouring down over me.

Frozen in preparation for the next swift whip or beating I waited. The grunts and thwacks replaced by a choir of exhausted breath. I couldn’t remember the last time I breathed. Like a cricket on an open window I felt a presence behind the pain. It felt familiar. A hand to hold in the darkness.

Hentan House – Three Cheers To The Hunt

I picked at the last shreds of the meal almost numb to the flavour. After a day of drinking the preparation and delicacy taken in creating the banquet had been wasted on me. All I wanted to do was fill myself with as much bread and offerings in the vain chance it would soak up any alcohol that had been stewing. I was pickled and buzzed. I pressed my forehead down onto the dining table and closed my eyes. The wood was cool and refreshed me more than any glass of water could. I hadn’t seen one glass of water the entire afternoon. Every time I requested one or reached for a jug it was always the same aniseed alcohol. A few cheered in the background as I kept my eyes shut. They were playing some game and I needed to rest for a brief moment before it was my turn. A loud bang shook through the room and the women cheered. I couldn’t look, I had to stay in this brief moment of peace before I was yanked up to play more games.

‘Are you sleeping? If you are then we can’t have that.’Rosemary said as I felt her hand stroke my back.

‘No – I’m just resting… Eugh how are you all so fine? You should all be passed out.’

‘You can’t sleep here. You’re next.’

‘I don’t want to be anything.’ I knew my head was going to feel like a pumpkin carved out by a fork tomorrow but I was enjoying myself. I could smell the gin and spa salts on my skin.

‘She’s wasted look at her.’ Yarrow shouted from across the banquet room. I could feel the breeze from the glass doors leading to the outside graze the back of my ankles. A gunshot went off again.

‘Aren’t you afraid of the police?’

‘No, not at all. We are real far out from any neighbors to complain. Yarrow she’s just resting for a moment before we begin.’ Rosemary said as she got up from her chair.

‘Get up and play. It’s your turn to hunt.’ Yarrow was behind me now. I could practically feel her towering over me. ‘Water is for the weak.’

I rose up and heard clapping from afar. I was ready what ever stupid drinking game they had in mind. Yarrow gave a big beaming smile and placed the rifle in my hands. I moved past the table as myself and a few others followed Yarrow through the glass doors and into the night. I padded over the cool grass as I saw three others ahead.

‘When do I pull the trigger.’ I asked.

‘First we spin you round…’ All at once I felt them grip me by the shoulders and twits me round catching my whole body off guard.

‘Get the scent. Whiff it. Catch it. Kill it. Hunt hunt hunt.’ They span me harder as the crowd jeered and emptied their glasses on the floor.

‘Catch it. Kill it. Hunt hunt hunt.’

Like a divination rod the rifle began to lower and I worried I might already fire the blank.

‘Catch it.’

The others had fired theirs before me. Running out after the white rabbit.

‘Kill it.’

The rabbit masked lady would skip out and always come back through the other door.

‘Hunt’ My mind was whirring. Their hands all over me making sure I kept on spinning. I clenched my jaw and hoped I wouldn’t puke.

‘Hunt…’ I settled my gaze down to the grass. A white blur stepped out. The plastic ears flopped down. Another’s hand twisting their arm. Faces. Rifle. Hunt. Hunt.

‘Hunt!’

They shook me loose and my legs sprang to catch the ground. The rabbit was off. Darting from the light. I followed and fumbled but they were not quick. In the darkness we ran. I was lined up to them. Catching their scent amongst the cold air. Almost ready. I raised the gun but stumbled on a muddy patch. The rabbit increased the distance. I was losing sight of it now. The liquor was rising out from every place in my body. My lungs were burning. Legs shaking but still going. Never wavering. The rabbit twisted in the darkness and hit the ground. They had hit a low branch from the dotted trees. I slid forward and pressed the rifle down. Squeezed. Hunt hunt hunt. A crack ran through my arms. The rabbit flopped down and played dead. I had caught it.

I waited for the game to be over. I turned to hear screams for joy like a Guy Fawkes crowd finally hearing the bang from the rockets. I could see a few running over. Like a pack of dogs. Black eyes and smiling.

‘Come on now get up.’ I nudged the rabbit with my foot. It didn’t move. Kneeling down I looked at the still plastic face reflecting the moonlight. The seeping stain that was growing over the white shirt. The others bounded across the grass with abandon. Their feet drumming louder and louder. I placed my hand on the rabbit and felt the wet warm blood coat it. I brought it up close as I saw another rabbit broken against a tree. A few paces further another lied down face first with its mask blown off. The women were closer now but not slowing down. As if they had picked up the scent a new rabbit.

Fuck.