Entry # 25

by Bruce Hesselbach

Remembering how Emily had raved about her five brothers during her bouts of fever, Brian inquired of the elders of the town whether Emily had any living relatives at all. They took his inquiries as fear and reluctance to visit the witch’s cottage, and yet they honestly had to assure him that no, there were no relatives whatsoever.

And so, late one day in fall, Captain Brian Aille rode up to Dedman’s Mountain. The land was spectacular with all the trees in yellows, reds, and browns, with the air so light and fresh, and the sky so brilliantly blue. The trails on the mountain seemed somewhat overgrown. Bindweed flourished as a groundcover under the stately trees, as if to grasp the mountain in its grip and pull it underground. 

The clearing, once full of flowering magical herbs and plants, was being choked by weeds, and looked rather blighted. The house, once so like a tower, had the door ajar and two windows broken. Inside, the art and calligraphy had all been removed, either stolen or burned.

“This is terrible,” Brian thought. “It was once a beautiful place, and the old woman who lived here was a good person.”

It being late in the day, Brian decided to spend the night. He built a fire in the chimney and found some blankets. He decided to sleep on a couch on the first floor, not wanting to go in the bedroom upstairs where he had strong memories of the plague. Soon twilight came on, and Brian rested on the couch thinking about the lives of the herbalists. What fine people they were, devoting their lives to healing others. 

All the same, the octagonal house had an eerie feeling to it. One could hear the wind in the trees sighing like dead souls. The associations of the house with a reputed witch were somewhat unsettling. Creaking of the house in the wind seemed to give it a life of its own. 

Looted, gutted, the poor house itself seemed to have suffered as much as its owner did in the grip of fanatical and evil persecutors. Was there still some spirit left in this remote and darkened place? The sparks of the fire shed a faint dancing light on the old wooden walls and beams. 

Suddenly he heard a kind of coughing sound, like someone clearing his throat. Instinctively, he grabbed his snaphaunce pistol and tensed for a fight. Instead, he heard a deep, rather apologetic sound.

“Brian Aille, we mean you no harm. We are the five brothers of Emily Dwergma. We will show ourselves if you are prepared. We do not want to frighten you.”

“Where are you? Come out into the open.”

“Our appearance will resemble spirits, but we are not ghosts. Please understand that we are your friends.”

“Just come out where I can see you,” said Brian, and he laid his pistol on the bed.

Out from the wall across from him emerged a figure. It resembled the transparent outlines of a ghost of a handsome young man, except that nose looked like actual human flesh.

Next came a ghost of another young man, except that the ears looked like actual human flesh. 

After that came a ghost of a young man whose eyes looked like normal, non-ghostly eyes.

Next came a ghost of a young man with a normal human mouth.

Last of all came the ghost of a young man with feet and hands that looked like regular, tangible flesh. 

“Are you Emily’s five brothers? Are you ghosts? Was she really a witch after all? Am I just dreaming this?” Brian said, his head spinning.

“We are not ghosts or spirits but beings that have existed since the world began. We were created by the curators when this world was first formed. Our duty was to test the living things as they were first created. We reviewed their features by sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell and we discovered which ones were good and which were flawed. When our work was done we were buried under stones and a mountain stream was diverted to flow over us. We slept for centuries. 

“Then Emily came. She had great powers of second sight and she knew that we were sleeping below the stream coming off this mountain. She built a dam and moved the stream out of the way. Then she dug through our stony prison and let us see the light again.

“We thanked her and vowed ever to be the brothers that she never had. We helped her to find and grow magical plants and we taught her many things. However, no one can escape destiny, and we could not prevent her from being killed. 

“Before she died she asked us to look after you. She said we could help you in many ways.”

“Thank you, thank you,” said Brian, not knowing if he wanted to banish these spirits or befriend them. “What magical powers do you have?”

“We can only be seen or heard by our friends, and, at present, that means only you. We can travel anywhere in the world and back in the blink of an eye. We can walk through walls.”

Each being then introduced himself in turn by pointing to his fleshly part. The one who called himself Eyes said: “Eyes can see for hundreds of miles. Ears can hear for hundreds of miles. Touch can feel the vibrations from feet approaching hundreds of miles away. Taste can detect poison as well as superior food. Smell can tell who is present within hundreds of miles, can distinguish between people, and can even tell if people are related to one another.”

The one with the nose said: “But these are not magical powers to us; they are how we are made. To us these talents are no more magical than the operation of your own senses.”

Brian stroked his chin. “These talents, as you call them, could be very valuable to a military man. One would never need scouts or spies. You would be better than a whole regiment of scouts.”

“We are pleased to be of service, Brian,” Ears said. “When you need us, just pound your fists together. We will see and hear it, and we will be there.”

And, with that, the five brothers vanished.

“Well, wouldn’t you know it,” Brian thought, “I’ve got an inheritance after all, and me an orphan. Who would have thought.


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