The Price of Freedom


Matthew J Croutch

Copyright 2020 All Rights Reserved

            It was the winter after the execution of Marie-Antoinette when I lost my humanity.

            It started with what I thought were nightmares. In them I killed and ate five humans. I couldn’t help myself, something in me compelled me to do it. In this nightmare, I was chasing a woman down as she ran with her child in her arms. My goal was clear; to kill them both and devour them. I could remember my mouth watering at the thought of her flesh. At the same time, I tried to stop myself from continuing my rampage. My very soul screamed in protest.

            As I attacked the woman, I made sure to kill her and her child quickly so that they couldn’t scream for help. As I ate their flesh, my brain told me it was the best meal I had ever had but my soul begged me to stop. All I could remember about the incident was how much pleasure I had devouring this woman and her child. I am so disgusted with myself. However, this was only a start of my problems.

            When I awoke the next morning, I was in a cage. I looked at my hand to see if the claws I thought I had dreamed of were still there. To my delight my hands were back to normal. I took some time to contemplate what happened the night before. It was then the real horror sunk in. The mother and child I devoured was my own wife and son. I prayed that it was just a nightmare but something inside of me told me that it really happened. I felt my heart rend in two. My soul wept. I wanted to scream but I was numb. I am a monster.

            I was so deep in thought that I didn’t realize that a man in a robe had come down the stairs and was staring at me. I’m not sure how long he had been there.  As I looked at him, he smiled at me. From the look on his face, I gathered that this man was impressed at what I had done, but I didn’t know why or how he knew. Any other man would be disgusted by what I had done; as they should be.

            “Well done, Philippe.” The man just stood there, smiling. His voice reassured me how happy he was. Am I the monster? Or is he?

            “What is going on? What have you done to me?” I demanded, standing up in my cage and shaking the bars. I wanted answers!

            The man turned his back on me and moved towards a chair in the corner of the room. He stopped and pulled a book off the shelf before sitting down. The bastard was still smiling at me when he sat down! He sat there in silence for a while before he spoke again to me, leafing through the book.

            “You have freed yourself from your chains, Philippe. Before, you were a slave like everyone else but now you are more. You released your true self. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” I could not tell if the man was taunting me or genuinely impressed.  Before I could respond, I slipped back into unconsciousness.

            When I awoke, I was the beast once again. I knew what kind of beast I was: half man, half wolf, all anger. This time my prey would be the inhabitants of a small house in the countryside, near the village of Évreux. A family of five lived in the tiny house; there was a man, a woman, an elderly woman and two children. I knew four of my targets would be easy pickings. Oh, how I wish they were able to put up a good fight; and maybe even kill me.

            I climbed in the window of the children’s bedroom as they slept together in a small bed. They looked so innocent.  I knew if I killed them one at a time, one would alert the others. I had no choice but to strangle them both at the same time. Once I did that I went in search of the old woman. Unfortunately, she was still awake when I found her and her screams alerted the man and his wife. Before they arrived, I grabbed the old woman quickly snapping her neck. It was pleasurable hearing the crunching sound.

            I turned around quickly to see the man pointing a gun at me. His wife must have opened the door to the children’s bedroom; I heard her scream in terror at the sight of their corpses. Fortunately, the scream distracted the man before he could shoot and he glanced away. I took this opportunity to jump on him and tear out his throat with my teeth. My tongue told me the blood was delicious. I am a monster.

            The woman started to run away from me. I knew I had to catch my prey. As she burst out the door, I leaped on her back and dug my claws into her flesh. At this moment she started to scream and beg for a quick death. I tried to break free of the beast I had become in order to apologize but the words didn’t come out of my mouth. Instead I tore her up and dragged all the bodies to one location in order to feast on them. After I was done, I blacked out. God save me.

            Once again, I awoke in that basement; in that cage. Unlike the first time, this time I knew exactly what I had done and it was not a dream. The man was sitting in the corner waiting for me to wake up. As with the last time, he was smiling from ear to ear. My deeds were no secret to him. Somehow, he knew exactly what I had done. I could tell from his expression.  But how? Had he been there? Watching? Like he is now? More so, what did he have to gain from all this? Was I killing his enemies? If that was the case then why did he make me kill my wife and son?

            “How do you like true freedom, Philippe?” The man came and knelt down in front of the cage.

            My mind flashed back to the recently ended Revolution. I remember the guns, the cannons, the corpses littering the ground. The thought of taking another life was sickening. Yes, I had to take lives when the Revolution happened in Paris but I never took pleasure in any of it. And it was only other soldiers. This, on the other hand, was different. This felt surreal; for every life I took, my senses told me that I experienced some of the best pleasure I had ever felt. My soul was the only aspect of me that was repulsed by what I have been doing.

            “I hate this. No one should go through this ever!” I growled the words but they lacked the emphasis I felt inside. I was tired. So tired.

            “Good, good.” The man stood up and started to unlock my cage. “We humans cry out for freedom all the time but we don’t actually want it at all. The real freedom we cry out for is animalistic and primitive. Every time we overthrow one ruler, we put in a new one that we think will do better. But they are all the same. When we are faced with the choice to either be free or be controlled, we always choose the latter. Don’t you agree? Leaders provide the box for us to live in.”  

            What any of this had to do with my situation is beyond me. What’s more is I didn’t give a damn! All I wanted was my humanity back. Turning into a monster every night made my soul tired and weak. He beckoned me to follow. I was too weak to protest.

As we left the basement, I discovered that we were in a building close to a church. I knew for a fact that this man was anything but a priest. No priest would make someone go through what I did. Or I would hope not.

            We went upstairs to his study. I have never seen so many books in a personal collection that didn’t belong to the rich. He offered me a seat in a comfy looking chair. It was better than sitting in a cage. He even offered me a drink. If I am his prisoner then this is an odd way of treating me. As much as I wanted to refuse his offer of a drink, I needed it. I also wanted to hear what he had to say.

            “While I can’t change you back to a human, I can teach you how to control your new self.” The man used a different tone than when we were in the basement; a gentler tone. “Despite what you think, I wasn’t the one who turned you into that creature. I found you like that after your first rampage. With your skills, if you learn how to control the beast, you could be a valuable asset to humanity. All you need to do is obey my every command.”

            As I listened to what he had to say I had a feeling that he was just using me. And yet somehow, it was the truth. It was difficult for me to accept this. After fighting in the Revolution for years, I wanted nothing more than to be rid of the chains that bound me to a king who only cared about himself. And yet after we overthrew him, we put in another man to make decisions for us. The man in front of me may be right about everything but he was no better. Obey his every command?

Humans didn’t understand freedom. They want someone to set boundaries so that they don’t make mistakes. They want someone to bring order to the chaos that is life. But how much is too much?

            “If I submit to you, can you promise me that I will never hurt anyone again?” I asked the man. At this point I had no idea what I was expecting for an answer. Or what his plans were.

            The man stood up and put his hand on my shoulder. “As long as I live, I promise I will do whatever is in my power to help you keep your humanity.”

            That was better than nothing. I couldn’t do this alone. I put my drink down and stood up. After that, I got on my knees and swore an oath to the man. While I did not like this, I felt I had little choice. In the coming years the man would command me to kill for him. After a while, I stopped asking why and I no longer cared. My new ruler was worse than all the others. But I was free.

2 thoughts on “The Price of Freedom

  1. Shane Turner

    Excellent… an excellent commentary wrapped into a horror story. Nicely done! I look forward to reading “Together they Fall”.

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