Welcome to the sixth and final story in the Spring Horror Collection for 2022, where Haunted MTL’s writers craft original tales of terror with the fresh scent of grass. Enjoyed Sawn Asunder and want more? Stave off your Hay Fever, slip between the corn rows and leaf through the five previous amazing stories!
For more original stories, check out Haunted MTL’s Original Creations.
In a piddling village scoffed at by pedlars and highwaymen alike, a cockerel shrilled alarm at first light, awaking Dalibor from a restless sleep. The shuttered window stood ajar, breathing cool air, and the sawmill’s thatched roof opposite whistled with birdsong. Smoke puffed from the chimney, so Mr. Tesařík was already about business.
Yawning, Dalibor rolled onto his shoulder and discovered himself fastened knuckle-to-knuckle, every digit, with his twin brother Ludvík.
He batted his eyelids, washed the sleep smudging his vision, but couldn’t unsee the listless hands coupled there on the blanket.
And he could imagine nothing worse than being bound to Ludvík, who picked on smaller boys and hurled stones at scampering dogs; Ludvík who dangled little Gita Pecková over the village well, threatening to drop her into the abyss and bring the bucket down on her head, until Dalibor and Gita had cried themselves crimson.
He made a fist, as though to reel back and punch his brother–the attached palm leapt to his and clapped. At the sound, Ludvík’s eyelids whipped wide open.
A scream rose in Dalibor’s throat–they really were joined at the first knuckle, near the fingernail, like five arrows splitting as many dowels, skin encroaching like lichen on bark–and a matching terror reflected in his brother’s eyes.
Ludvík threw out his free hand and snagged Dalibor’s lip. “Get off me!”
Downstairs, Grandma Irma sprinkled more grain in the quern stone, her forehead moist despite the morning cool. Her turning arm bulged under her sleeve, dense as a rock. In another hour she’d have flour, and the boys, having slept through the daily grind, could celebrate their twelfth birthday by kneading dough and baking bread.
A bang on the ceiling. One of the twins screamed…
By the time Irma waddled upstairs and untangled them, the damage had been done. The twins had kicked, scratched and clawed themselves bloody with their free limbs. The bed was upturned, furniture broken, and enough feathers littered the floorboards from their pillows that she actually looked for a plucked goose. Panting, she stood over the boys, who lay exhausted, ugly and inseparable. A trickle of blood dribbled down her chin, the price of intervention.
“The devil taken you, boys?” She swooned, faint suddenly. “If your mother could see you… What sin? W-wh… What wicked sins of the flesh?”
It had been some fifty years since her heart had been disturbed into beating so fast. Her brother had tied two cats together by the tail, sacked them, and slung them under her sleeping blanket while she drowsed. The wailing cats, the cackling of her tormentor, sent her flying from the house. She wept behind the drinking well, raking the hair from her scalp until her mother swept her off the grass.
“Are you cursed?” Irma wiped the blood from her chin. “God’s punished you!”
The adults were whispering among themselves, but Dalibor didn’t have to strain to hear them. Their state of agitation didn’t permit them to speak below an emphatic hiss.
“Could be another month before the physician visits.” Mr. Tesařík tipped his cap and rushed his fingers through his fringe.
“If he visits,” said the seamstress, Ms. Irglová. She was the quietest of the three, and Dalibor didn’t like her tone, like he and his brother were already a lost cause.
“Then what do we do?” Irma blubbered. “Pray? I’ve prayed all morning, and now the boys are joint up to the wrist. Praying, I could hear the skin growing, like cloth tearing–where will it stop? At the elbow? Shoulder?”
“Mrs. Fibichová… Irma, if I may–” He glanced at the boys, then stepped closer to their grandmother. Ms. Irglová leaned in, and this time the talking was quiet but no less animated.
“I don’t like it,” Dalibor said.
Ludvík grinned. Grinned! “Afraid I’ll be the dominant hand?”
“How can you jape at a time like this? Don’t you see what they’re going to do to us?”
To the left of where they were seated lay a wooden bed of sorts. A small building stood at the foot of it, housing a series of cogs in different diameters; one the width of a stallion. The village stream sloshed behind the building. At the head of the bed, among the great beams and levers, menaced the vertical, serrated saw Mr. Tesařík used for cutting lumber.
“It’s for their own good,” Mr. Tesařík said, a lump in his throat. “D’you have your needle ready?”
Dalibor shut his eyes while the carpenter spoke. The seamstress said nothing, but Dalibor imagined a tremulous nod.
Ludvík pulled the joined arms. “No, you can’t do this to us.” A scrape on the ground ahead. “Come near me grandmother and I’ll bite you.”
The women grabbed Dalibor, and Mr. Tesařík seized a kicking, teeth gnashing, foaming at the lips Ludvík.
“We’ll be sawn asunder. Fight, Dailbor–we’ll bleed out.”
They tied the boys either side of the saw bed, the joined arms stretched across it, and Dalibor could but shiver.
Mr. Tesařík pulled a lever, bang. Behind the building, the water wheel started to life, and the saw began a languid bob.
“I’ll kill you,” Ludvík shrieked. “Send you all to hell!”
Irma glanced at the carpenter doubtfully. “Are you sure about this?”
The saw lurched.
The cockerel crowed at first light, and Dalibor awoke from a restless sleep. His grandmother snoozed in an armchair beside the bed, a bubble blowing from her lips. Last thing he remembered, he had fainted away, blood everywhere. Wailing.
But now he had two, fully-formed hands on his lap. Was it all a nightmare? He fancied he had heard the skin growing in his sleep–the tearing his grandmother described. Whatever, now he only wanted to embrace her.
But he couldn’t move, nor could he speak.
And then his fingers twitched, unprompted. His jaw hinged open below bulging, incredulous eyes. He heard a mean, weaselly little voice inside that turned his blood ice cold.
“Hey, Dalibor? Are you in there?”