The small town of Chattersworth was familiar with strange occurrences. In the spring of 1535, it was reported that all the pigs walked on their hind legs for one week. They marched in the mud, ate standing at the troth, and only laid down when it was time to sleep for the night. In the summer of 1735, a local priest stumbled across a pig and a rabbit copulating. That spring the pig gave birth to a pig rabbit hybrid that died before its first year was complete. The monstrous animal was said to have the silly, floppy years of a rabbit, and the nasty snout of a pig. Its skin was patched with clumps of fur and for a tail it had the puffball of a rabbit. In 1927 the entire town fell into a group psychosis. The only surviving documentation of the psychosis comes from the journal of a travelling hobo, who described the ordeal as “the most barbaric scene I have ever witnessed. Not even the savages of our colonies could have behaved with such impropriety. The townspeople wallowed in filthy pens that were not up to the standards of the most disgusting pig. They wadded through the mud and waste, eating scraps from the garbage and fornicating in broad daylight. Their actions so disgusted me that I fled the town before they came to their senses. Even now, as I write this years later, I am haunted by their mud covered faces and the guttural, perverse oinking. I pray to the lord that he has spared them memories from their sinful time as swine.”
In the year 1948, Chattersworth rejoiced with the rest of Europe. Rebuilding began. Money flowed in from the USA and flooded the war-torn towns of Great Britain. The townspeople began to live their lives again. It was during this year that Mary Ellen Townsend fell for the newly returned soldier, Chester Moorehead. Moorehead had served in North Africa and Cypress before finishing his tour in communist controlled Czechoslovakia. He came from a prominent family in the community. His father was a lawyer and member of the local government. His future was bright. Ellen herself was from a respectable family. Her father was never blessed with a son, so he made it his life’s mission to accumulate wealth and land that could be used as dowry to attract suitable mates for his six daughters, Ellen being the youngest. It was under these circumstances that Ellen and Chester fell in love. After a short courtship a date was set for their wedding in autumn.
As the wedding approached, Ellen became fixated on her desire for Chester. She had never been with a man, knew not what to expect. Her only reference was the hushed whispers that her older sisters had shared in her presence. Her fixation led to risky behavior for a soon to be married girl. She snuck off during the humid afternoons to meet Chester by the river, where she would dip her bare feet and ankles into the running water. In the evening she invented chores to excuse herself to the forest where Chester would be waiting to embrace her. With each secret meeting Ellen became bolder. At the end of the summer, not four weeks before the wedding, a dense fog descended on the town. An ordinance was put in place for no one to venture out at night, for fear that they would be lost in the fog. It was on this disorienting night that Ellen was overcome by her passions. She knew that Chester would be waiting for her behind the pig pens. She wandered through the fog, using her hands to guide her along wooden walls and fence posts. When he arrived at the pen, Chester, overcome by his own passions, took Ellen to the ground and mounted her. She braced herself on her forearms but his thrusts were too strong. Her face was smushed into the mud. Chester grunted to signal the finality of the deed. Ellen felt his weight lifted from her body. She laid still for a minute or two, listening to Chester huffing to catch his breath. When she stood up Chester was nowhere to be seen. She groped her way along the enclosure and left the pen. At home she put her dirty clothes in a pile, she would clean them first thing tomorrow.
In the following weeks Chester’s behavior to Ellen did not change. She did not notice that anything was different than before their sinful encounter. She decided that he must feel ashamed for what had happened, and that to bring it up to him would be to risk the harmony of their relationship. Ellen put that matter out of her mind and enthralled herself with the wedding preparations. It wasn’t until the week before her marriage that she began to worry. Her blood had not come on time. But, she reasoned, with the marriage so close, it could be assumed that the baby was born early, or perhaps she would go to an estate in the country for most of her pregnancy, in which case there would be nothing to worry about.
The Moorehead-Townsend wedding was a joyous day for the town of Chattersworth. The entire town was invited to the opulent wedding. It was said by many that Ellen was the most beautiful bride the town had ever seen, and that Chester was a one-in-a-million man. After the ceremony everyone was seated at giant banquet tables. In the background men rotated pigs on a spit and women prepared side dishes. The town gorged themselves on meat and beer. After the banquet the bride and groom retired to a cottage in the country. It was a joyous day for the town of Chattersworth.
Over the winter Ellen’s bump grew just ahead of schedule. She kept to herself and wore loose fitting dresses when she went out in public. In the second month of marriage, she told Chester that she was with child, but that she wished to keep the news private for as long as possible. Chester made every accommodation to help Ellen conceal her pregnancy, and during the winter of 1949 he sent her to an estate in the north. Ellen returned to Chattersworth in the spring. Her belly was big and round. She came with a portfolio of medical charts documenting her accelerated pregnancy. Proof that despite when the child was born, they were not conceived before the wedding.
On the last day of spring, Ellen went into labor. A doctor was called. Two midwives arrived at their home. Ellen’s sisters crowded into the room with her. Chester went to the stable with his father to clear his head. Word spread throughout town that the child was to arrive that day. The event brought back memories of the wedding for the town. It was a joyous day for the town of Chattersworth. The women trickled towards the home. And the men brought pints of beer to Chester in the stables. The townschildren ran around like little animals. Their parent’s attention directed somewhere else for the day.
It was a long and painful birth. Ellen’s cries could be heard at the far end of town. The town became anxious waiting to know that both child and mother were healthy. The atmosphere shifted from celebratory to pious and many of the townspeople joined in the church to pray to God. When the sun set the doctor expressed concern for the first time. He explained that the baby had not crowned, and that if the situation continued as is, he would be required to perform a C-section, which would put Ellen at risk. Chester and Ellen agreed that the child’s health was of the utmost importance. When the clock struck midnight, the doctor began the procedure.
The doctor made his incision along Ellen’s abdomen and began to remove the amniotic fluids. He repositioned the baby to remove it headfirst, and when he did so he noticed the strange shape of the child’s ears, and the pronounced snout. When the baby cried it sounded more like an animal than a child. The doctor continued to remove the unfortunate looking child, and when he removed the body, he was shocked into paralysis. He dropped the baby on Ellen and fell to the floor. Ellen, delirious with pain, looked at the horrific child, the child was nosing its snout toward her bosom. It was when he went to grab her that Ellen saw that the child’s hands were not hands but were in fact hooves. Ellen screamed and fainted. Ellen’s sisters heard the commotion from the other room and stormed in to see what the matter was. The first sister through the door cried out in fear, the baby suckling her sister had a tail, hooves and a pig snout. The two midwives were kneeling in a corner, clutching their crucifixes and praying to God. Ellen died in her delivery bed. She died with her child snuggled against her bosom.
— Ian Townsend lives in Montreal, Canada. His first book, Purgatory (2022), was published by tragickal books. He tweets about sports and his cat from @nightpainincorp and his work can be found at https://nightpainincorporated.wordpress.com/.