The Tale of Sawney Bean
A story by
Kevin J. Kennedy
Copyright 2015 by Kevin J. Kennedy
When I met Sarah I was only twelve years old and she was fourteen. I was playing deep in the woods. We were both pretty startled as it was rare to see anyone that deep in the woods. There was a moment of trepidation but I decided to approach her and see what she was doing. I didn’t speak a lot so I didn’t have a lot of friends and I had seen Sarah around and assumed she was in the same boat as me. As I got closer I could see what she was trying to do was cook a rat over a tiny fire that she had somehow managed to build. She would have struggled to heat anything over the tiny fire but what was more shocking was that she was trying to cook a rat that she had obviously skinned herself judging by the blood on her arms.
“What are you doing?” I asked her.
“They don’t feed me.” She answered in return.
“Who doesn’t feed you?”
“My aunt and uncle, they said when I can act like a woman I’ll get a woman’s meal.”
I didn’t really know what she meant. She had always been skinny and frail but I always just though she was a skinny girl but here she was in the woods trying to cook a rat, seemingly to eat.
She nodded for me to sit next to her. Before sitting I looked around and grabbed some kindling and twigs and set about getting the fire going a little better for her.
“What exactly do you mean by act like a woman and do you often eat rats?” I asked her trying not too sound judgemental.
“I eat what I can she said.” She offered no further comment.
With the fire now gong strong the rat started to cook. I have to admit the smell coming of it was not unpleasant and not having ate myself for a good few hours my mouth started to water. I didn’t really have a problem with the fact it was rat meat that was causing the smell. I knew from my grandfather that rats were supposed to be dirty animals but I didn’t quite see why. They seemed no different from any other animal to me and the meat certainly had a nice aroma to it.
We sat together while Sarah slowly turned the rat over the fire on a stick she had speared through it. She took her time and kept it far enough above the fire that it wouldn’t just cremate the outside of the meat. It was quiet in the woods and other than a very slight breeze rustling the tree’s there was no other sound. I realised that this was probably the first time I had sat with someone without feeling uncomfortable.
Although Sarah didn’t say much at all she didn’t seem uncomfortable at my being there either. Maybe she was just indifferent to me being there or maybe she felt comfortable around me too but didn’t know why either.
We sat in silence for a long time, the smell of the meat making my stomach growl. Sarah seemed to stare off into space a lot but I didn’t mind. It was just nice to sit with someone without being picked on for being poor or scrawny. I had always been poor. My dad had worked in a tavern but as his drinking had gotten worse no one would hire him as he drank more than he sold and my mum had worked in a brothel until one customer hadn’t had a good time with her and permanently disfigured her so she could never work again. Both of my parents had drank more and more as the years went on and now we barely even acknowledge each other.
Just as I was daydreaming about my life Sarah stuck the stick with the cooked rat in my face and nodded to it indicating I should take a bite. I could smell the cooked meat just under my nostrils and the meaty aroma smelled amazing. Without a second thought I leaned forward and sank my teeth in. As I bit down I could feel the moisture in my mouth. She had cooked it perfectly. This definitely wasn’t Sarah’s first time cooking meat outdoors and I wondered if her parents had taught her before they died or if it was self taught from a need for scavenging. As I chewed on the meat I looked over at Sarah and I’m sure I seen the slightest flicker of a smile touching the edges of her mouth. It was only there for a second and so faint I could have been mistaking but I’d still say now that sharing that first meal was the moment Sarah new she would be my life partner. I’m not quite sure I knew at that point but she did. I was just a silly boy and didn’t have a lot of thoughts about the future other than getting away from my parents but I think even now Sarah had been planning what she wanted out of life since her parents had died and she had been sent to live with her auntie and uncle who owned the local tavern. She had never liked it there but I wouldn’t find out much about this until later and even then she didn’t share a lot of the details.
Now although I met this skinny girl in the woods eating a rat obviously due to her lack of feeding at home she still shared it bite for bite with me until it was done. She may have had a cold exterior but she seemed to have a warm heart. I felt like I wanted to speak to her more, to ask her questions and tell her stuff about myself but I just sat there saying nothing which she seemed happy with. I kept steeling glances at her and although she was so frail there was intensity behind her eyes even when her mind seemed to be somewhere else.
Just as I was trying to look her over without being too obvious she jumped up from the fallen tree she was leaning against, jumped over it and started heading back towards the town.
“I have to be back now,” she said her face expressionless. “I’ll be here tomorrow” she added disappearing into the trees.
As I took my time walking home having no where I really needed to be and knowing my parents wouldn’t notice if I came home or not I thought about my meeting with Sarah. She was from memory the first girl I had ever spoken to. I had had girls call me names before and pick on me but never actually speak to me in a conversational manner. I suppose that’s why I don’t say much. Why try and talk to someone who hates you for no good reason at all.
Sarah was different from all those girls. She might not have said much to me but she wasn’t mean and seemed to need a friend as much as I did. She was probably prettier than any other girls in town too but because she often looked so worried and stressed all the time people didn’t pay her the same attention as some of the other girls.
Everyone though she was weird but I knew there was more too it than that. People who have an easier route in life often think everything is straight forward or as it seems on the surface but I knew better.
When I got home my mum was in the bedroom with one of dads friends. She couldn’t charge any more but her old trade certainly kept her and my father in alcohol. I went straight to my room as he mumbled something at me but it was rare at that point for him to get up from where he sat. I spent the night thinking about Sarah and caught myself a few times smiling. I fell asleep thinking about meeting her in the woods tomorrow and hoping she would show.
The next day I got up and knew I had a good few hours until it was time to go and meet Sarah. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself but thought I would like to do something nice to show her I liked her but had no idea what I should do. I wandered around town for a while lost for ideas when I suddenly remembered the caves my grandfather used to take me too. I had only been there a few times but it was my favourite place to go. He would always tell me not to tell my parents he had took me there or they would kill him but it was our place anyway so I never said a word.
The caves were secluded and pretty high up but when the high tide came in it reached the caves and filled the entrance. The caves went up into the cliff wall so you could just go deeper in but grandfather would always tell me the importance of never getting stuck there too late and getting trapped. Not that I was ever allowed to go on my own but I was older now, my grandfather was dead and my parents didn’t care what I got up to.
The reason I was thinking about going to the caves again was there was always the most amazing shells and rocks washed into the cave opening. Some of them looked like jewels and I couldn’t think of anywhere I could get her something so special with no money.
I didn’t have that long left until I met her and I didn’t want to be late so I ran all the way from town down passed the harbour and out to the beach. I made my way along the beach to the part where no one went as the sand wasn’t as nice and it was covered in seaweed. You had to climb from here along the rock face of the cliff but it wasn’t high up. The rocks were just massive and jaggy below you and I’m sure if you were to fall you’d be seriously injured if not dead. The foot holds were more than big enough to climb along but it just wasn’t somewhere people would ever think to go.
My uncle had been a seaman and had spotted the hole in the cliff wall one day when returning from sea. He spent a long time trying to find a way round to the front of the cliff and when he finally found his way in said that after all those years had never met another person while there or found any trace of anyone else in his secret place.
I managed to get up to the cave easier than I remembered but I was a good bit bigger than the last time I had been here and I had always been a good climber. I searched around the cave for a while not going too far in but knowing the water only brought the debris in so far and after a bit of searching I came across the smoothest stone you’ve ever felt. It was like marble and it was bright red. I had never seen anything like it before. After inspecting it for a while I slipped it into my pocket and made my way back down to the beach. It took me about twenty minutes and then I was headed towards the woods on the other side of town.
Upon my arrival at the clearing where we had sat the day before I found it empty. My heart sank a little as I climbed over the fallen tree into the clearing but just as the feeling of sadness sank into my chest I seen her emerge from the trees at the other side. She was again holding a rat. I wondered how you got so good at catching them but thought best not to ask. I set about starting us a fire while you watched me. There was no greeting between us, just a familiarity that shouldn’t have been there after only having met once.
Just before she sat I noticed a red stain between her knees on her dress. It was the same dress she had wore the day before. I again thought it would be better not to comment but did wonder if our new friendship would have any chance of growing or surviving if we didn’t speak. Was it even a friendship?
Sarah approached me and sat down opposite me. She quickly skinned the rat with a little knife she had in her pocket then skewered it on a stick and took to the process of slowly cooking it over our open fire. Similar to yesterday she stared into space while slowly turning the rat to make sure it was evenly cooked. I wanted to ask her what was on her mind so much but worried that might scare her off or make her decide never to talk to me again and I didn’t want that.
Remembering I had the red stone in my pocket I quickly pulled it out and thrust my hand toward her.
“Here” I mumbled not making eye contact with her.
Without saying a word she reached out her hand and took the stone from me and inspected it. She turned it over in her fingers and spent quite some time looking at every inch of it. Like yesterday I could have sworn that she had the slightest smile at the edges of her mouth but it was too quick to be sure.
She reached out with the stone to hand it back.
“No. I got it for you” I told her.
“Thanks” was the only word she uttered that day before we again shared the rat between us. As we ate this time I forgot it was even a rat we were eating but on my way home I did think I would take her some food from my house tomorrow. We rarely had much food at home but mum would still put something in the cupboards from time to time and I was always resourceful when there was nothing available.
When I got home tonight the living room had been smashed to pieces and dad was lying sprawled out on the floor. I went to their room to see if mum was there and she was lying passed out naked on the bed with a man in much the same state with blood covering his knuckles. I left them to it and went to my room. The sooner I could get away from this house the better.
The two nights since I had met Sarah felt much longer than normal and I knew it was the anticipation of seeing her again tomorrow that made me restless. I dreamed of us both running away together, where we would live, what we would work as, how many children we would have but it all seemed silly. We had met twice for short periods of time and barely spoken to each other. I wondered if it was really just because you were the first person who wasn’t mean to me but it was more than that. When we were just sitting quite it just felt comfortable. There was no real need to say anything. Part of me did want to get to know you more and get closer but another part of me told myself that just spending time by your side was enough.
The next morning I made some sandwiches. The bread was pretty stale and the jam was runny but there wasn’t a lot in the house. The man who had obviously beaten dad up was now cuddled up to him on the couch and mum was lying on the floor at their feet now rapped in a blanket. I left quickly deciding I’d just make my way to our clearing and wait for you.
I arrived to find you sitting where I’d left you yesterday. This time you weren’t staring into space. You were staring straight at me. You were wild eyed and looked fierce even though you were so little but you made no move to go for me so I approached slowly. As I got closer I could see red marks on your neck and arms.
When I got even closer I could see it was blood.
“Are you okay?” I asked, still approaching slowly.
“Yes” was her reply.
I stood there looking at her and nodded towards the marks on her arms. The silence seemed to last an eternity then she finally said “They hurt me.”
I knew what that meant and I had my suspicions upon seeing the blood on her dress yesterday but I was unprepared to have a conversation about it. I had heard stories about girls from town who had been seen or caught doing things with older men and there was more than a few stories about the old priest but I had never thought I would be sitting talking to a girl about it happening to her. All the other girls I had heard about were older but Sarah was so little. I looked her in the face and she still looked wild. She didn’t look scared or hurt/ She looked like she could take on the world on her own. I noticed she was sitting rubbing the red stone I had given her between her fingers.
“What are you going to do?” was the only thing I could think to ask.
“It’s done. They’re gone”
Okay so she wasn’t real big on speaking and neither was I but I was going to need a little more information than that.
“What do you mean they are gone?”
“I killed them. Last night. Well, this morning actually. I was only ever going to make my uncle stop hurting me but my aunt started helping him so when they went to sleep I lay in wait until I could hear they were settled and I creaped into their room and slit both their throats. It was easier than I thought it would be.”
I felt like the world paused, like it literally stopped moving. I realised I was holding my breath the whole time she was talking.
“You killed them? You’ll be hung” I gasped feeling dizzy and sick.
“No. I’m leaving. I only came here today to see if you wanted to come.”
I was a little taken aback. I knew how much I liked her but we had only met twice and here she was standing telling me she had murdered her aunt and uncle. I know they might have deserved it but the fact she came back here and risked getting caught just to ask me to come along was a massive thing. She must have felt the connection I felt too or did she just need someone to come along? She didn’t seem to be the ‘need anyone’ type.
“Where would we go?” I asked
“I don’t know.”
“What was your plan?”
“I didn’t have one, just to kill them then leave. I just didn’t want them to hurt me anymore”
I wondered at this point if Sarah was maybe a little slow but it was hard to tell as she said so little and I really didn’t know her. She seemed very capable though.
What could I say to that? I knew if I decided to go I wouldn’t be missed. My parents barely even knew I was there any more and no one was going to miss Sarah. People would probably be more worried about the tavern not opening so the bodies would be discovered pretty quickly but maybe everyone would assume whoever murdered the inn keepers had taken Sarah. I doubted anyone would expect her of committing the double murder when she was such a tiny frail creature. We would have a good chance at a head start but where would we go?
We sat in silence for a long time. I looked her over and the fire in her eyes didn’t die down. She was 12 years old and I kept expecting her to break down crying or fly into a panic but there was nothing. She was as calm as could be apart from the eyes. I could tell this was a girl who had lived in her head for a while now and I suspected she might stay there but I knew there was nothing left in this town for me and I knew whatever happened that I felt good anytime I was around Sarah so I knew I was going with her. Once again I thought to myself where could we possibly go and not be found?
We spent a long time that day just sitting in the woods saying nothing. I’m not too sure what Sarah was thinking about but all I could think about was where we would go and how we would survive. I kept going over it in my head and thinking that we both pretty much provided for ourselves anyway and the more I thought about it the less it seemed like we would be leaving behind but we were both only 12. I didn’t know how we would find somewhere to stay or how we would travel.
Sarah locked her eyes on mine and studied me for a long time. “So you’ll come?” She asked.
“Yes. I’ll go with you. Do you have no idea at all of where we will go or how we will live?” I asked her still feeling worried although my mind was already made up.
“Well I think we should hide out for a while. I don’t know where but I think it’s best if we aren’t seen around town.”
We went back to silence. As always at this time of year the woods were quiet. It felt like we were the only two people in the world but it didn’t feel the same as the last two days where I felt like I didn’t have a care in the world. Today I felt like I had the weight of the world weighing me down. There was still nowhere else I would have rather been than with Sarah but now I worried she might get caught and hung or that if I was found with her I might even get the blame.
I started thinking of places I had been that were quiet. I thought of various towns I had visited and all the places around our town that no one really goes then it came to me, the cave. We could hide out there for a bit and no one would ever find us but how long we could stay there I didn’t know.
I spent the next few minutes telling Sarah about the cave and how my grandfather would take me there. I explained how no one ever came there but that we would be trapped there over night when the tide came in but all she said was that meant no one could get in either. She seemed to think it was perfect.
I remembered I had some sandwiches I had made us but didn’t think that would do. I mentioned it to Sarah and she said we could get some water from a stream not far from where we were and that we would make do until tomorrow and that we could sort out more food then. Sarah had packed a little bag before leaving home having no plans to ever return there and I couldn’t think of one thing I might fetch from home so we made our way to the stream and filled a canteen Sarah had brought with her then we made our way around the edge of town and down to the beach.
When we reached the cave entrance we both had a seat and caught our breath. I watched Sarah looking around the cave, eyes wide and mouth slightly open. I could tell she was impressed by the size of it. The cave led away from the opening upwards and you could only see so far before the darkness took over. The breeze coming in from the sea cooled us both and I watched as Sarah lay back and took in a deep breath before releasing a sigh.
I thought to myself her day must have been so much more traumatic than mine and she seemed to be dealing with it so well. I had only to had to hear the tale of what happened and made the decision to go on the run with her which wasn’t really much of a decision at all for me. She had went through all the horror that lead her to commit such an act as murder then carried out the deed herself and here she was only a few hours later, her whole life changed forever and she was now finally getting a chance to rest and take a breath.
I sat looking out at the sea. The sun was going down and the view from the mouth of the cave was breathtaking. My mind was running a million miles an hour but never settling on any particular thought, it just felt jumbled but I can’t say I was surprised, my life had just changed forever. Obviously at this stage I still had time to change my mind and go back but I knew that wasn’t going to happen but what did my new future hold? Did this mean we were together? Were we just friends on the run? Did she only want someone to help her get away then she would ditch me? I just didn’t know but I also knew that the fact that Sarah had done so little planning that she probably wouldn’t have given any thought to my part in all this. Maybe she just thought that I would want to run away too or maybe she really did like me.
By the time I turned back round Sarah was snuggled up into a little ball on her side, the day haven taken its toll on her. I could here the sea already hitting off the bottom of the cliff and I knew the tide came in fast so I gently lifted her and slowly walked deeper into the cave.
I had only ever been a little further into the cave than the mouth on one occasion. I don’t think my grandfather ever cared too much about what was further in. “Just more cave, boy.” he had told me when I pestered him. After a lot of nagging he finally agreed to take me a little further in one time and we explored a little. He was right. It was just more cave. The entrance led uphill for a while and eventually opened out into a large cavern within the cliff. My grandfather never let us go down into the cavern and it was hard to see the other sides due to it’s vastness, even with our lanterns but it had looked to me like there may have been other openings along the walls. My grandfather wouldn’t let us go in that far to explore though. I knew all this meant nothing as it would be more of the same but it would allow for some exploring if we were stuck here for a few days at least and there was no one to stop me this time.
I stayed close to the entrance of the cavern as there was no light and found a patch of ground that didn’t have too much debris on it and cleared away what did lay there. I softly lowered Sarah to the floor and lay her back under her head as it had felt pretty soft. She curled straight back into a ball and wrapped her arms around herself. I built us a fire with some difficulty as my eyes only adjusted ever so slightly and I sat close to her, every so often turning and looking at her in the fire light. Her face looked troubled even in sleep and I worried what the future held for us.
I awoke with a start wondering where I was but quickly remembered. I turned to find you in the gloomy light created by the fire embers but I couldn’t see you in the soft glow.
“Sarah?” I asked but got no reply.
“Sarah” I said louder.
Still there was no reply. Where could you have gone to? I got up and searched around.
“Sarah” I said louder thinking there was no one else here but us anyway.
“Sawney” her reply came from one of the unexplored cave entrances along the wall. I couldn’t see her but I could hear her footsteps coming closer.
“Where did you go?” I asked.
“I had to pee.”
“Oh” I said feeling my face heat up and not knowing what else to say.
“I’m hungry.” She added.
“Yeh, me too, I had made us some sandwiches for earlier that I still have, they’ll be a little soggy but they should still be okay.”
I went to my bag and quickly found the sandwiches before returning to her. She had sat next to the fire that was barely lit and I wondered if she was cold or just trying to get some light. There was no real way to tell what time it was in the cave but I could still hear the sound of the waves washing in and out of the cave mouth so I knew the tide was still high meaning it was night time.
I passed her a sandwich and sat across from her and got the fire burning again. There was firewood everywhere in the cave. It must have been debris washed into the cave a long time ago when the tides were higher because it was all bone dry and I didn’t think the waves came up into the cavern these days but I didn’t know for sure. It was one of my concerns but I doubted it was likely to happen.
“I haven’t had jam since my parents were alive” Sarah said.
“Why did you end up living with your aunt and uncle?” I asked.
“My mum and dad were murdered coming back from Edinburgh. The highwaymen cut both their throats to steal the little belongings they had. I had already been staying with my aunt and uncle while my parents were away. They were always nice to me before my parents died.”
I didn’t know whether to continue asking questions while Sarah was talking or if that was enough for today but then she continued.
“My uncle, he did things to me.”
Sarah had said enough with that one statement. I had already suspected that’s what had happened but I think she just wanted to say it aloud. To justify her actions that morning and why we were here.
“Thankyou” she said quietly.
“For what?” I asked her.
“For coming with me, I don’t have any friends and I didn’t want to go by myself. I think being with you over the last two days somehow made up my mind of what I had to do but I hoped you would come with me.”
“But I barely said ten words to you” I added thinking how could I possibly have influenced your decision and wondering if this meant I was in someway guilty of your aunt and uncles death before deciding I wouldn’t much care if I was.
“I know you didn’t but there’s something between us. Can’t you feel it?”
I knew exactly what she meant but was surprised to hear the words coming out of her mouth. I still didn’t really know what this meant for us but knowing that she had felt something too made my heart swell.
“Yes.” Was all I could think to reply, there was so much I’d have liked to have said but I couldn’t find the words.
The fire was burning brighter now and I was sure I had seen her do one of those little almost smiles, where it just touches the edge of her lips but she said no more. She crawled over to my side, gave me the softest kiss on the cheek and lay down with her head on my lap. I could still feel that kiss lingering on my cheek long after she had drifted to sleep. I wasn’t sure what life had in store for us or how long we even had left but I knew right then that I would do my utmost to spend as much of that time with her as possible.
Over the next few days not an awful lot changed. Initially the plan was to move on but after Sarah seen that no one came near here she had decided we should stay for a while. The main problem we faced was finding food. Neither of us could fish and the part of the beach we were at would have probably been useless and not only that but we didn’t really want to be standing around in plain sight even if there was a minimal risk of being seen.
Sarah had told me her dad taught her how to hunt, trap and prepare meat but again we couldn’t just go back and forth to the woods. We didn’t even know if her aunt and uncles bodies had been found. Our tummies grumbled and we knew that food was our main priority.
Knowing no one was looking for me I had went out to collect some supplies after only one day in hiding but I couldn’t risk carrying too much in case I looked suspicious. I had gone home to grab some clothes for myself and no one had even noticed I hadn’t come home the night before. I filled a bag with the meagre supplies I could find from the cupboards. It wasn’t much but it would have to do. I found a few candles and packed some clothes. On the way back to the cave I managed to steal a few items of clothes from old Mrs Smiths house. I knew she worked in the bakery all day and her daughter although younger than Sarah was about the same size.
I arrived back at the cave and although I thought to myself it wasn’t much you seemed to be delighted by what I had brought. The blanket would mean we didn’t have to lie on the cold stone floor and at least we had a little food. We were both able to change out of our dirty clothes as well. Sarah went into one of the caves at the other end of the cavern and came back in one of the two dresses I had managed to get her. It was a light yellow summer dress that probably wasn’t ideal for sitting around in a cave but beggars can’t be choosers.
“I love it!” Sarah said doing a quick twirl.
I felt proud to be able to be the man to provide her with a new dress even if it was stolen. She approached me and gave me another light kiss on the cheek before going to the bag and looking through it. I noticed she had brushed her hair using Mrs Smith’s brush I had also stolen. She actually looked the best she had since I met her and that was after sleeping rough in a cave. It gave me some idea of the extent of torment she had been living through before this.
We sat that night at the cave entrance again looking out over the rocks below to the sea and watching the sun go down. Sarah snaked her arm around my back and snuggled in against me. I felt her warmth spread through my body and cuddled her into me.
“Don’t leave me” she whispered in my ear squeezing me tighter.
“I wont.” I whispered back, holding her tight.
The next morning when I woke Sarah was gone again. I doubted she would be far away or take long to return so I set about getting our fire going again. It was warm enough in the cavern through the day but there was no light so we still needed the fire. The tunnel to the cavern lead up the way from the cave wall so the light didn’t even shine down into it, without the fire it was total darkness.
I sat for a while waiting then decided after calling out a few times to walk down to the cave mouth. I found Sarah staring out to sea with her arms wrapped around her knees. As I approached her, before I had said a word she asked “Do you want babies?”
“What?“ I asked in return.
“Babies, do you want them?”
“I’ve never really thought about it” I had to admit.
“I do. I want a big family. I’ve always wanted a big family. I was an only child and always wished I had lots of brothers and sisters to play with but I always thought I would have lots of children and grandchildren. Do you think we will still be able to?”
We, I thought to myself. She meant us. She wanted us to have a family. I was a little taken aback. We hadn’t even known each other a few days ago. Sure, we were now on the run because Sarah had murdered her aunt and uncle and I had already decided to give up my old life for her but babies were a whole other thing. I couldn’t help but smile at the fact that she wanted us to have babies together though as crazy as it seemed.
Sarah was quiet after telling me her wants and I wasn’t sure if she was waiting for me to say something or had just finished speaking. I thought to myself about how we would raise a baby and where we would go.
“We would need to get somewhere to live first and I will need to find work.”
She turned her neck to look at me and for the first time I got to see her face with a smile on it.
“That means yes.” She said, sounding like a little girl, one side of her mouth turning into a grin. She jumped up and run over and hugged me.
I wasn’t sure that I had agreed and hoped she meant a few years into the future but seeing her this happy made me feel like I’d never felt before. Here was a girl who never smiled and I seemed to be able to bring some happiness to her life even if only briefly. I hoped with more time I could give her some kind of normality but everything had happened so fast and I was unprepared and for now thought I would just have to take everything a day at a time.
No one was likely to let two kids rent a house and I wouldn’t be able to get a job that paid enough to keeps us. I didn’t like the idea of being a thief but for the time being our cave seemed to be our only option but it posed problems. I could only really go out to steal whatever we needed after dark but this only gave us a brief window because we had to be back in before the sea level rose too high.
I had a lot to think about. But in the early days our survival and setting up a sustainable living arrangement had been our main priority.
The next few months got easier the longer we stayed. We learned the times of the sea closing us in and then going away again in the morning. We explored the caves together. They went on for miles, twisting and turning, some going up and some going down but my grandfather had been right, it was just more cave. We did find a few different sources of water though that came in useful and we still had Sarah’s canteen to fill up.
Outside the cave I learned a few more tricks on how to get food and clothes for us and as time passed by our home filled up like any other new couples with things we needed. Admittedly it was stuff we had stolen or mainly I had stolen as Sarah rarely left the cave but how else would we have survived. A man has to look after his family and Sarah was my family now.
Sarah’s mood changed a lot and it was hard to judge how she was going to be on any given day. Sometimes we would spend days together where we could have been any other happy couple on holiday together or at the funfair. We would laugh and joke and talk about the future and about what paths our life may take. Other days it was as if she wasn’t even in the cave with me. She would stare into space and be almost unresponsive to me. I’d try talking to her but she would give me one word answers. I knew these were the days when she was thinking about her past but I had never seen someone’s character change so completely. It was almost like living with two different people but I loved her no less. I just lived for the good days when we could talk and laugh and even kiss.
We had spoken about having babies and a family but we had never done more than a kiss on the lips. We were young and life had given us other things to think about but as time passed by I found myself wanting more and more to get even closer to you. We now had a pretty good set up where we rarely wanted for much but I did worry about if we would find life as easy having a young child to care for. I worried what would happen if the child got unwell and we couldn’t take it to the doctors and what would happen if I couldn’t deliver the baby when you went into labour. It wasn’t quite as easy as just having a baby but you were talking about it more and more.
Our thirteenth birthdays had came and gone with no celebration and Sarah had started to bleed. It was information she had shared with me on a good day with a smile on her face. It should have been embarrassing for her but it was her way of saying ‘I’m ready. We can try now’.
I still worried if it was the right thing to do but it did seem to be the only thing Sarah wanted or ever asked for on both her good and bad days. I didn’t know whether Sarah’s life would get easier with time, with the memories fading and the horrors being forgotten but I knew if we had a little baby that she would shower it with love. I knew I wanted to have a family with Sarah but our situation was far from perfect. The more I thought about the families in town though I wondered if anyone’s situation is really all that perfect.
The longer we were in the cave the more it started to feel more like home. We had both had better home lives when we were younger but they had been a long time ago. Sarah was always doing little things to make the cave feel more homely. We had candles everywhere now providing us with a good bit of light and a section of the cavern floor was now covered by shawls and other materials creating a comfy area for relaxing and sleeping. We had got into a little routine where I would go out to steal whatever we needed and she would keep our cave clean and tidy, getting rid of any food scraps and washing our pots n pans. I became adapt at sneaking around town unseen and Sarah didn’t even need to leave the cave. She had found one of the caves leading off from the far wall took her deeper into the cliff and eventually you came to a massive drop off. From the sound when you threw something off the end the drop was hundreds of feet so that’s where we had taking to discarding anything we didn’t need, knowing it was far enough down that we wouldn’t need to be worried about being surrounded by rotting food. She would wash everything in one of the little internal waterfalls.
Our new home really was everything we could have ever needed. Living of the out of town suited us both, neither of us having much time for other people. I had noticed Sarah went to the cave mouth less often and I knew she hadn’t left the cave since we got here. She felt safe and protected being up high, deep in the cliff face where no one knew. Some days I would ask her to come down to the entrance and sit with me for a while and sometimes she would and other days she didn’t want to leave the cavern.
Every time I started to get really worried about Sarah she would seem to snap back to her old self again as if she knew how much I needed to see her. I still loved her on the bad days but it just didn’t feel like she was there sometimes and it could get lonely. It was almost like her spirit had left the shell of her body behind some days.
I left one morning heading to a nearby town having decided that I would mix up my routine to lessen the chance of being caught. I hadn’t realised how long it would take me to get to there and get back. When I did everything would be changed forever.
I don’t know why but as I crawled into the cave mouth I had a feeling that something was wrong. I could hear Sarah’s singing coming down from the cavern, soft and sweet which was a good sign as she had been so withdrawn over the last few days but I just had a feeling in my stomach something was different.
I made my way up into the cavern, my mouth starting to water as my nostrils filled with the smell of whatever meat she was cooking us over the fire. I could see the light in the cavern flickering from the candles and the fire as I approached. I wondered to myself why I had this feeling of worry and then I heard it, a noise that could only have been one thing.
I rushed the rest of the distance into the cavern and came around the wall to see her sitting there. Sarah was sitting cross legged with a little baby in front of her. She had something cooking over the fire in the frying pan as she looked up at me with the biggest smile I’ve seen since I met her.
“I saved her.” She said smiling.
“Who’s baby is this?” was the only thing I could think to ask.
She nodded towards a body lying just into the shadows. I couldn’t make much out but he looked like he was lying at an awkward angle and I didn’t think he was likely to be getting up again. I could feel my heart starting to race as a million questions ran through my mind. Who was this guy? Why was he here and why did you have a baby? What had I missed in my few extra hours away after months without incident?
The next thirty minutes were spent with Sarah telling me how she had seen the man on the beach below and how he was hurting the baby and she just couldn’t watch any longer and how she had went to confront him and he attacked her. The story was obviously bullshit but I had no way of finding out what had actually happened or how she had managed to get a body probably more than twice her weight up the cliff side. All she would talk about though is how we would have to look after the baby because it would need us to survive. I never believed a word of her story but found it pointless to argue with her. I had no idea where the man and child had came from but had assumed they must have wandered onto the secluded beach and been seen by you. I was surprised you would have been close enough to the cave entrance to have seen them but she wasn’t going to give me answers and I had no way of finding out.
I had known you had wanted a baby so much but I had no idea you would have killed for it. I don’t know why I was surprised as you had killed your aunt and uncle but that had been in self defence. Had this man tried to harm her or had he been murdered for his baby? Had he maybe just scared her by being there and her mind being so fragile that she had felt she was protecting herself and now being left with a baby was just a happy or unhappy coincidence depending on how you look at it.
I had a lot to think about but after a long day an unwelcome surprise I could think about nothing else apart from food and sleep. I ate some of the meat you had cooked and fell asleep watching you rocking back and forward whispering to the baby.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I thought about where she had go the meat we had ate for dinner the night before. It took me a while to get her to tell me but when she did I couldn’t have been more shocked. It was him, the body, the guy she killed. She had cooked part of him. Even when I heard the words I still couldn’t register what she was saying to me. It was only after I checked the body and seen where she had cut away the meat that I knew she was telling me the truth. I couldn’t believe what she had done. When did it become okay to eat people? I can’t say that I vomited on the spot or my stomach was churning. It just felt wrong. I don’t think I could have eaten it if I had knew what it was but I had enjoyed it at the time and a whole night later it just didn’t make me feel sick. I just couldn’t believe she had done it.
Sarah was quiet most of the day but that evening when the baby had fell asleep she came to me and apologised for what she had done but explained that she couldn’t see why it was so wrong.
“He’s already dead and we haven’t had any meat for so long.” she said.
“What even made you think to cook him though?”
A shrug of the shoulders was all I got. Sarah could be like that often and that would be the end of the conversation. There would be no reasoning with her. She would just stop answering. I got rid of the body the next morning. I dropped it down the massive pit further into the caves knowing that way it would never be found without someone passing by us first and even then who would ever go down so far?
Over the next few weeks I split my time going out and stealing some things we would need to care for a baby and sitting watching her with the child when I was home. If anyone seen Sarah with the kid they would have thought it was hers, she couldn’t even have been two yet and seemed to have taken to Sarah as if she was the child’s own mother. Maybe the baby hadn’t had a mum. Maybe she had died during birth or something and we didn’t even know for sure the man with the baby was the father. Now he was gone too. The kid was better off with us anyway. At least it had two parents who would love and protect it. She would be better off here away from the evil of people.
Sarah who was a natural mother, even on days where she wasn’t herself she would just sit with the baby in her arms rocking back and forward and humming to it softly. We had went back to speaking less again but every night Sarah told me how much she loved our little family before snuggling into me for warmth. I knew nothing would take away my love for Sarah but I worried what would happen if she killed again.
I had heard people talking around town after her aunt and uncles death and the speculation was that another tavern owner or inn keeper might have murdered them in the hope that the closure would drum up more business for their own establishment but as far as I could tell no one had been arrested. I heard people make mention of the missing girl and commenting that she would turn up dead which led me to believe Sarah wasn’t a suspect.
The second time Sarah had taken life I was more worried. I knew nothing about this man and his child but it turned out neither did anyone else. He must have just arrived in town as no one was talking about his disappearance. I’m sure someone somewhere was missing him but no one was talking about it in town. We seemed to have gotten away with it.
Our lives started to settle down again and what had became our normality returned. I again started thinking how our cave wasn’t so different from a normal home and again began to believe we were just a typical family. Sarah had called the baby Lily which I wasn’t keen on at first but it had started to grow on me and strangely seemed to suit her although I knew it wasn’t her real name. Someone had given her a name at birth but that name was lost now.
Sarah never stopped being an amazing mother and would put the child before herself in any given situation but her mental health continued to deteriorate. She spoke very rarely, even to Lily but she would still often hum peaceful tunes or lullaby’s. I occasionally heard her ranting to herself but when I tried to speak to her she would fall silent again.
I still had to make trips into town but I would try to keep them as short as possible hating to leave Lily and Sarah alone. The longer we stayed at the cave the easier I found it managing our lives there but I wasn’t much of a hunter so it was rare we would have meat with our dinner. The rare times we did always brought a smile to Sarah’s face. I often wondered if it reminded her of the first time we met and shared the rat or if she just really enjoyed and missed eating meat. Never getting an answer in return to my questions meant I would never know.
For all the time Sarah and I had lived at the cave we had never once had sex. Sarah had wanted a baby but we were both young and scared and had no idea how we would survive in a cave then she had ended up with a baby anyway. I think that distracted her for a while but I was woken up one night with Sarah straddling me and thrusting up on down on me. I was shocked to say the least but the sensation quickly overtook any other feelings I was having and I just lay there and let her ride me. I didn’t last long I have to admit but it wasn’t a soft loving tender lovemaking session. Sarah had ridden up and down on me but it was perfunctory and all she had wanted was another baby. Not sex but none the less feeling myself slipping in and out of her soft flesh was the most amazing sensation I had ever experienced.
I’m not sure how many times it had taken but I was awoken by Sarah each night ridding me until she missed her next period and she knew she was pregnant. She never approached me once for sex or anything close while I was awake. To her it was how you got a baby but there was nothing loving about it even though I knew she still cared for me in her own way. We had a second child on the way and we hadn’t even been living in the cave for a year. I wondered to myself sometimes if I had made the right decision coming with Sarah but I never truly thought about leaving. Just where my life might have led but I doubted it would have been anywhere good.
Once Sarah was pregnant the sex stopped and when I tried to approach her she would just push me away and growl under her breath. I didn’t try for long before giving up as I didn’t want to hinder the relationship we had. I know you may be thinking we didn’t talk and we didn’t have sex but it wasn’t that kind of relationship. Sarah had taken herself away from a world she didn’t want to be a part of and to her I was her comfort, her protection, her provider. She loved me for that and I have never doubted that. She had dealt in her own way and I had made sure that I was everything else she needed and took care of the things she wasn’t capable of. All I ever wanted to do was protect and love her and I couldn’t hold it against her that she was fragile and the world had broken her so completely. I don’t think killing her aunt and uncle brought her the closure she needed. She was haunted by the memories of what had happened to her.
Sarah had always been a tiny girl ever since I met her and being pregnant didn’t change that, she just ended up all belly and the rest of her still tiny. We were already pretty well set up for a baby so it wasn’t too much trouble preparing for another.
The scariest thing about the second baby was the fact that I had to deliver it. In hindsight it wasn’t that difficult but it was terrifying at the time. I spent a lot of time watching Sarah with the babies and that was her happiness, her new life, they were all consuming for her. She could sit for hours and hours just looking at the babies and humming to them, sometimes just sitting quietly staring into space but never more than an arms length from the babies.
I named our second child and as Sarah hadn’t spoken in some time I named her Isla which Sarah seemed to be happy with. Isla couldn’t have been more than two months old when Sarah started having sex with me in the night again. I really didn’t think another baby was going to make our lives any easier but I could not bring myself to stop her one time. Ever since the first time it happened I craved sex with her. I wanted the closeness of it as well as the feeling. As I’ve said it wasn’t gentle caring sex but you can not have sex with the woman you love and not feel close to her no matter what and it’s not like I had a long list of sexual encounters to compare it to. Like the last time though as soon as she missed her period it stopped. Just like that. She had again gotten what she needed from me.
The next twelve years passed by like this. It would take a lifetime to tell you about my lifetime but the next twelve years, as abnormal as they may seem to you passed by relatively trouble free. To anyone living in a normal house, working a normal job and having a run of the mil life it may seem like a hardship what I put myself through but I have almost nothing but fond memories of the years.
We did run into a few problems over the period but who doesn’t. The gent I found in the cave when Sarah stole the baby wasn’t the last person she would kill, we suffered some really bad winters which made leaving and entering the cave almost impossible but after the first year I planned better. Our baby count constantly going up again meant there were many hardships along the way but from what I understand that is the case for most families.
By the time Sarah was twenty six and I was twenty four we had 9 children, 6 of our own and three Sarah had acquired by means unknown to me. What ever she had done we had never been caught or hunted but she still never wanted to leave the cave so I was at a loss to how she managed this.
We had seven girls and two boys. Sarah had really bad luck with boys having lost two at birth and the other two that were born almost killing her at delivery but she was a tough girl even for someone so small and she always bounced back. She spent every waking moment with the children and they loved her with every beat of their hearts. No matter how much I spoke to the children most of them never really picked up language the way normal children did. There was nothing wrong with their ability to learn but I think the lack of ever hearing a conversation was a major set back and part of me still believes that they wanted to be like mummy and probably never really tried. Why would they need to talk when mummy doesn’t? The only two that could put jumbled sentences together were the two boys Hawk and Wolf. I had named all the children apart from Lily and had decided the boys needed good strong names and the fact that they were far bigger than any of the girls when born I just felt it suited them.
Life had felt almost normal to me through everything we had been through but things really started to change when Lily was around thirteen or fourteen. We weren’t great at keeping dates so ages were always a little guesswork. Up until this point each year was almost a repeat of the previous year with the addition of an extra child. The thing that really changed everything for me was the night I was awoken once again being bounced up and down on which was nothing new by now but as my eyes adjusted I was aghast to see it was Lily who was on top of me. My sleepy mind was taking a few seconds to try and put together what was happening and then I noticed Sarah sitting just off to the side. She was kneeling watching with a smile on her face. I couldn’t believe it but again the feeling of being in that warm wet place was too much for me to show any level of restraint. When Lily was finished with me she eased herself off of me and went back to her mother.
I spent a lot of time questioning myself the next day over what had happened and I reasoned to myself Lily wasn’t technically my daughter but it still felt wrong, that very night though the same thing happened. It was exactly like it was with Sarah except it was Lily and she was a little more gentle and loving which did not make me want to put a stop to it. It also meant I was getting sex at a point of the year when Sarah wasn’t bothering with me. I never fully came to terms with what was happening but I knew the mother daughter bond between the two of them was extremely strong and Lily was just trying to be like her mummy and obviously wanted her own baby. The boys were still a little young so I was the only option but I knew Sarah was obviously happy with the situation although we couldn’t discuss it.
It didn’t take long before Lily was pregnant too meaning we had our first grandchild on the way who was also really my son but I kept thinking to myself that we had removed ourselves from society and everything was completely about family. There was no one to judge us and for all the niggling feelings life continued on.
The following year I was awoken in the same situation but this time it was my birth daughter Isla who was on top of me. This instantly felt wrong even in my sleepy state so I pushed her off with me. The result wasn’t good. Isla flew into a rage, growling and shouting and attempting to say something to me with no success. Sarah took Isla away and calmed her but over the next few days they both looked at me with hurt faces and took away the little communication I had with them.
The next few days were absolute turmoil. I knew what they both wanted from me was wrong but they were my life, my everything and no one else in the world knew we existed after all this time. Who would judge us? Who would even know? Was keeping my family happy more important than worrying about all these people I didn’t know? I could tell Isla just felt hurt and she couldn’t understand why it was okay for her sister Lily and not for her. I knew that deep down Sarah must understand but I had no way of judging how much of her old self was left in her head. She hadn’t spoken for so long and although she looked after a large family it wasn’t in the traditional way. There was a savagery about her and I often watched her wondering if she was more like an animal now than a person. I don’t mean this in a nasty way but animals can look after themselves and their children and other than that Sarah didn’t have a whole lot of other traits you would associate with human behaviours.
I think having the responsibility of having to still be able to blend in as best as possible if I was spotted in any of the towns I visited for supply’s was what kept me tied to the real world and ordinary society but the others didn’t have that, Sarah had left it behind and the kids had never even see it in the first place.
Our kids were growing up. As I said earlier, exact ages were hard to know for sure but we had a pretty good idea what ages they all were. Lily was about 15, Isla around 13, Hawk was 12, Annie 11, Wolf 10, Susie 8, Karry, 6, Moon 3 and Star 2. I had started getting a little more creative with the names of our children thinking that I was almost the only person that really cared as I was the only one who used them, even Hawk and Wolf never used names to communicate.
It was a large family Sarah and I had grown and for all that there was very little conversation that went on in the cave we were extremely close. The cave was the whole world for everyone apart from me. It’s amazing the ways humans can be close without words. We get caught up in what others say or how things are worded when it doesn’t really matter. Often intentions and actions don’t marry up with the words said. What we had together was honest. When anyone was angry with anyone else everyone knew, it didn’t take a rant or argument for a fall out and equally it didn’t take lengthy heart felt apologies to make up. We just managed. In truth a lot of what we did seemed so much easier that the way other people conducted themselves which was something that was never far from my mind. Was the way we had chosen to live wrong or did everyone else have it wrong?
The boys had grown much quicker than the girls and even at a young age you could see they were going to be strong men, they were naturally muscled and seemed to grow quickly in times of little food as much as when we had plenty to eat. The lifestyle seemed to work for them. They were boisterous and adventurous and were forever disappearing into the caves and climbing. I didn’t worry for them too much as they had done it from such a young age they were naturals at it. The girls were more homely spending time with mum and the younger children and always moving stuff around in the cave so I couldn’t find it. Our children all seemed to get on very well the majority of the time but the boys took an obvious lead. I never once in all my years seen them lay a hand on their sisters. It was just understood that they were in charge when I wasn’t there. I felt comfortable they could protect the family but knew that it would be too dangerous for them to leave the cave as they wouldn’t be able to blend into normal society but they were always more interested in going deeper into the caves rather than out the way.
Within a few days of pushing Isla off of me, we had started having sex and for all my issues with it she was more tender and loving than both her mother and sister. It was a different experience altogether. Like the others, after a few weeks she missed her period but unlike her Sarah and Lily she would still come to me when everyone else was sleeping. Sometimes we would have sex and sometimes she would just cuddle in. I don’t know if it was the whole being pregnant and looking for protection thing or what was different but Lily had sought her mother out and clung to her every move once pregnant but Isla had taken to me and our bond seemed to grow stronger the more time we spent together.
Another few years passed by with no real hardships, more children and grandchildren arrived but Sarah had never stolen another child which I was glad of. I don’t know if it was impatience at the start that had forced her to such an act but our family was ever expanding and the dynamics were starting to change. Our two boys were 13 and 15 now and both had impressive physiques. They had taken to going hunting for food and they were now the main providers for our little family. I was always worried and my worry proved to be right as after they had been doing it for a few months they had came back with a body. They had been caught but they had handled it. That came with its own worries about being caught but I knew my boys were strong and could handle anything that came up. I was never going to be able to make them stay in the cave anyway and didn’t all parents worry about their children going out into the big bad world.
The cave smelled a lot more than it did at the start too. Although Sara still washed herself on occasion most of the kids rarely ever washed. I had tried at the start taking them and forcing them but after many a fight about it, it just didn’t seem worth the hassle. I think I knew that our journey could only end badly as I watched over my devolved family and wondered where our future lay in a world like this but we had our own little part of it and I had lived like this longer than I had my old life by this point.
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The legend of Sawney Bean has long been discussed and adapted into other stories. There has been discussion on which parts of the tale are fact and which parts are fiction. This is the story from the mans mouth himself. Sawney Beans journey from a twelve year old lad into the leader of the most notorious cannibal family to ever live. He tells the tale of how he met his wife and how they ended up raising a massive inbred clan in a secluded cave not far from the very people they were killing for food. Here Sawney's side of the story and the true facts of what actually happened. Was he a cold blooded cannibal or just another man trying to do his best for his family? Follow the Bean clans rise from the very first meeting of the founding members in this fantastic series by Kevin Kennedy Read the first seventeen chapters in this combined edition of parts one through four.