“The caught one! They caught one!”
The cry rings out over the field, startling the boy from his work.
He runs back to town, more noise meeting his ears as he rushes through the streets, more people joining him as they leave their rude houses.
The day is a good one for it, the sun peaking out from behind the ever-present clouds, smiling down on their good fortune.
“He was out by the Mill,” another boy shouts to no-one in particular. “Caught in the trap, just like they said ‘e’d be!”
They can see him, now, as they pool into the centre of town. His body is bent double, clothed in rags. His face is like nothing the boy has seen before. It’s half-man, half monster. Hideous. His flesh is a mottled pink, with open sores and raw blisters.
“Look at ‘im! Must be from right in the middle of the Contamination!” a voice says.
The boy struggles to hear what the town grandee’s are saying over the hubbub of the crowd. “…the crime of…hereby sentenced…” The crowd erupts, shouting and hollering.
A gibbet is quickly erected, rope pulled taught. The creature is pushed up onto a chair after the noose is stretched around its neck. As the cries for blood reach a crescendo, the chair is kicked out from underneath it. There is a crunch and a snap, and the yard-arm breaks under the stress of the body. The mutant thrashes on the ground as the tightened noose chokes the life out of him.
The towns-people, silenced by the grisly sight, watch as the twitching body grows still, a small cloud of dust settling back onto the prone figure.
At first, people say they had done the right thing – days of unusually temperate weather, no acid rains.
But then, another freak was found, drowned in the town’s cistern. The whole tank was contaminated, and many grew sick. The clouds returned. The crop was ruined.
They caught more, after setting more traps around the grain silos. They are killed like the first.
“It is God’s will,” people cry. “They are the Unclean!” others say.
More are put to death. Still the rains come.
The boy wonders.
Then, a great mass of the sub-humans shambles to the town, rending the air with their piteous cries and gurgles. The people, those who are quick enough, rush to the town-hall, barricading themselves inside. The boy can hear the smashing of fists on the doors, and horribly screams. The assembled people cower, knowing that the screams are those of their neighbours who weren’t as lucky.
Two days pass.
They finally leave the safety of the hall. They see bones, gnawed clean, littering the square.
A woman faints.
“A curse of God! A curse of God is upon us!”