The boy ran down the cobble path barefoot. Blood streamed from this nose, mouth, and ears. A bruise was welling up over an eye. His bare arms were gashed and his clothes were shredded. He feet slapped the cobbles and the sound reverberated dully against the hillocks that path was cut into.
The group of men shouted and yelled behind him, running, slipping and sliding in their shoes on the cobbles slick with dew. They threw rocks towards him. They would pick them up again moments later, where the landed clattering, rearming. One finally hit the boy in the center of the back. He let out a quiet yelp and fell forward, breaking a wrist as he landed. The men caught up to him.
"Coward!" they yelled. "Coward!"
The boy, turned over, clutching his wrist, and spitting blood from his mouth. He tried to get up, but the men encircled him and held him down. The pulled on his feet, and he tried to kick them off, moaning.
"Speak boy, speak!" yelled an older man, his father. The boy moaned and grunted.
"It is not done yet," said a tall man with a long dark beard. "The demon still inhabits him."
The men bound the boy's wrists with rope, and he screamed when they touched his broken wrist. Another set of footsteps clattered down the path.
"Let him go!" yelled a woman, the boy's mother. She pushed through the crowd, her cheeks ruddy, her forehead lined with anger and fear.
"Get back woman!" said the man with the beard. "This is not your concern!"
"He's my son! He damn well is my concern!"
"He is not! This boy's body is possessed by a demon! You have seen how he cannot speak."
"He cannot speak because he cannot hear!"
"And it's because he's an imperfect vessel that the demon was able to slip in and take hold of him!"
"That's just profoundly silly! Get out of my way," she said, reaching towards her son. He reached back to her. She began to tug on his bindings, but the men ripped her away, flailing and screaming. They tossed her to the ground.
"We must protect the village from evil," said the man with the beard, leaning down towards her head. "You are clouded by a mother's love. This demon is deceptive, and we must root it out."
In the distraction, the boy was able to stand, and started running from the crowd once again. The men shouted after him, and started to chase. The boy descended the rest of the path towards the sea. He sunk into the sand dunes that lined the beach. He reached the crashing waves just when the men caught up with him again. The men surrounded him again, their swirling black robes lifted up in the surges of seawater.
The men submerged the boy in the white foam, which washed away the blood from his face. He re-emerged, gasping and spitting water. He blinked hard to clear the salt from his eyes, and he looked up into the eyes of his father, who stood over him, holding his neck.
"Drown it out!" screamed the bearded man. "Drown it out, and if the boy is worthy, he will live and he will speak!"
The father pushed his son's head back into the water. The boy writhed and kicked furiously.
"It is coming out! The demon is trying to escape it's mortal bondage. Hold it down! Keep it down!" yelled the bearded man triumphantly.
One of the men knelt into the boy's torso, pressing him against the sandy bottom, cracking ribs. Another stood on his legs. The father pressed his hands against the boy's face. After a few minutes, the boy went limp.
The waves crashed and crashed, as dawn slowly broke. Then men continued to hold the body underwater, watching his form distorted by the roiling water.
"Enough," said the father, looking towards the bearded man, who nodded. The men let go of the body. The boy floated up, just under the surface. Blood seeped into the water in ribbons from his nose and mouth.
"We are free of the demon," said the bearded man solemnly.
"What of the boy?" asked the father.
"It is...unfortunate," said the bearded man.
"But you said the boy would be able to speak once the demon left him!" yelled the father. His eyes searched the face of the bearded man, who remained impassive. The father looked to the face of his son. The dead eyes looked back.
"The demon chose to kill its host. I am sorry."
The father stepped back from the group, his mouth dropped agape.
"You're not sorry," whispered the father. He stumbled backward. "What have I done?" he said to himself. He slumped into the cold water, and let the waves carry him up and down, his knees bumping against the sea bottom.
The bearded man turned his back to the sea and waded back to the beach and towards the path. He stood and wrung out his robes, making a note to have his wife launder out the salt, as the sun broke over the horizon, bathing them all in golden light.