16 October 2004

The Pishogue

I heard of this from a traveller a long time ago. If you're squeamish it might be worth waiting for the next story...

The town of Caragrach was soulless and empty. The land was stuck in a deepening, endless night, where the world slept heavily and saw no sun.

On the edge of Caragrach there was a small plot of land. A towering stone wall surrounded its edges, and boxed in by the gateless boundary was a rickety shack. Rumours circled about its inhabitant: a hunched bulky figure who meandered around the town swaddled in a thick heavy cloak. No one knew how it left the walled home, and no one even knew for sure if it was a man or a woman. But one thing they did know was its name.

“Have you seen the Pishogue around?” people would mutter hesitantly. The mere mention of the word would make corpses turn in their graves, passers-by rush back to their homes, or even scare the children from the streets.

Caragrach lived with the Pishogue, and the Pishogue put up with Caragrach – but it was clear that the two didn’t get on. And in the end it took just a tiny thing to break the peace.

In the midst of a bellowing storm, the Pishogue was drifting through the winding cobbled streets, the rain driving over its cloak. The sky was blue-grey as always, and the menacing clouds scudded over the rooftops.
On its way to wherever it was heading, the Pishogue came across a mouse, shivering nervously on the floor. The rain battered down onto its head, and it desperately tried to blink in between each spot of water. The mouse’s delicate arm stretched out for help, its tiny paw clenched tight.

The Pishogue picked up the mouse and shielded it by its chest. It could feel the gentle pulse of its heart, and it knew it didn’t have long to live.
And then, from a house at the side of the street, a door burst open, and a group of men charged at the Pishogue from behind. They’d watched it from their windows, and saw that it was an ideal opportunity for the townsfolk to let the wandering outcast know how they felt. They laughed and cheered as it tumbled to the floor.

The Pishogue fell with full force onto its chest, landing awkwardly on the bumpy cobblestones. As it stirred, it started to lift itself up from the floor. Blood dripped from its hand: the mouse had been crushed within its care.

A great flash of lightning rocketed down to the street, and the black clouds started swirling overhead. The townsfolk tumbled to the ground and scrambled for cover.
The Pishogue clambered to its feet and stood breathing heavily in the pouring rain without saying a word. From the bleak and dripping houses, eyes crept around curtains once more to stare at the mysterious figure.

In an instant, the Pishogue had regained its composure, and was marching down the street once more – only this time with a purpose.

As it reached the high walls surrounding its home, the Pishogue waved its hand and then strode right through, Its shape and form making no impact on the rocks. The shack’s door remained open, and tatty curtains that dropped to the floor were bellowing in the wind as it rocketed around like a hurricane.

The Pishogue entered and grabbed hold of a painted black hessian sack, which was garnished with glistening ribbons. The sack sagged heavily to the floor, as though the weight of the world rested within.

The rain was now falling so heavily outside that the noise was deafening, but this didn’t bother the Pishogue. It took the sack out into the rain and walked slowly back into Caragrach. Wherever it trudged, the clouds frothed overhead, bringing the tempest.
Water was rushing down the deserted streets in torrents, and as the Pishogue reached the first set of houses, it stopped and stood like a rock diverting the flow of water around its feet. It lifted the bag with both arms locked tight, and pulled apart the opening.

A great rush of steaming air shot out like a meteor and joined the sky, fusing with the elements. An almighty crack of thunder blew out from the street, and frightened faces peered out from their quaking houses.

In a swirling action, the Pishogue twisted the sparkling sack, sending violent blasts of air shooting around the houses. People struggled to hold on to anything that was fixed to the floor. Buildings were shaking free from foundations, cobblestones were loosening from the street. Everything was being sucked up into a violent melee.

Meanwhile, the Pishogue stood firm, oblivious to the fury that was being spent all around. The town was vanishing into the storm, piece by piece, and in turn, the storm was being sucked into the Pishogue’s sack.

With a quick flurry of its wrists, the Pishogue closed the sack, and the storm vanished from the sky. For the first time in years, the sun burst out onto the ravaged land, now empty and free of streets and buildings. There were no more people to judge and jeer. There was no more everyday drudgery. The land was once again its own. The Pishogue had freed the land of its polluters and persecutors.

Trees rustled in the light breeze, birds took to the sky, and the Pishogue returned to its home.