Mrs. Lewis lived with her husband far off from the rest of the town. The only connection they had to the rest of the town was a trail demarcated only by their footsteps, but they had each other, and so they were happy. They had inherited the house from Mr. Lewis’s grandfather, who had built the quaint house from the trees of the beech-maple forest that surrounded them upon landing in the new Connecticut colony. Mr. Lewis earned a respectable income working as an apothecarist and was able to afford a few servants. They loved each other very deeply, but knew that their lives would not be complete without a child. They had been trying for a son for ten years to no avail, and, after countless miscarriages and stillbirths, Mrs. Lewis could only feel so much more despair. So, she began looking into other options.
One Wednesday evening, after fixing herself up with her finest clothing, Mrs. Lewis invited her brother John over for supper. Mr. Lewis was busy working in his apothecary, so it was just the two of them in the house. After a few hours of pleasant conversation, John had gotten up to leave, but Mrs. Lewis convinced him to stay for dessert. A few hours later, he was even more tired than before and went to the door to leave a second time. This time, in a desperate fit, she revealed all that had been happening in her life, and begged John to help her. John, who couldn’t bear seeing his sister in such a state, reluctantly obliged. And so, he stayed over, and they spent that night together.
The next day, Mr. Lewis came home early from work. He was red in the face and looked as though he had run the whole way. He kissed his wife on the cheek and started talking straight away. “I have acquired a rare herb that is said to bring vitality to whoever consumes it,” he gushed. “Its name is ginseng. I was able to distill some of it; just enough for a few drops. Imagine what it can do for us!” Mr. Lewis smiled widely, and Mrs. Lewis was happy for him. That night, they tried for what would be their very last time.
Nine months later, under the assistance of one of the servants, Mrs. Lewis delivered two boys. One of them was healthy and strong, basically everything a mother could wish for in a baby. However, the other one was different. His fingers were stumpy and knotty like a piece of driftwood. His shoulders were slanted to the right so that it always looked like he was shrugging on one side, and he was so scrawny that he could barely lift his own vulture-like legs. But the most striking feature was his head. His skull was swollen like the throat of a croaking frog, ready to explode at any time. Veins jutted out of his paper-thin skin, and she swore that at some parts of the skull, she could see the wrinkles of his brain. Horrified, she hid the baby in a basket and, at the hour in which everybody was asleep, placed him far from the house. And, he was taken by the forest and would not be seen for years.
The healthy child would be named Thomas. Since birth, he had always been a cut above the other children. Healthy and strong, he was everything that a parent could dream for in a boy. Nourished by the love of his parents, he would eventually grow to be a handsome young man. On the evening of his 18th birthday, he had been asked by his father to go into the forest to retrieve some mushrooms to be sold in his shop. He took one of his father’s bags in which he sold his medicines and started on the trail leading away from the house. It was a walk that he had done a thousand times before. However, this time, it felt different.
As he walked through the trees, night arrived faster than he expected. Eventually, it became so dark that he could barely see his fingertips if he stretched his arms outwards. He decided it would be best to turn around early and come back to get the mushrooms. Stumbling his way through the uneven terrain, he had a strange feeling there was some creature watching him. Looking around him, he could see nothing there. A few steps later, he heard a shuffling noise in the shrub around him. Must be a squirrel, he thought. Still, he walked at an even brisker pace. It wasn’t long until he tripped on a root that he could not see. Picking himself up off the ground and muttering to himself, he looked up to see a pair of eyes looking at him, as if they were trying to figure him out. They looked eerily similar to his own, but wild and animalistic. The thing smelled like a wicked combination of spoiled meat and sweat, and softly growled like a hound inflicted with rabies. He felt nauseous and weak, like the trees were spinning around him.
As Thomas’s eyes adjusted to the dimness, he could see more and more of the creature. It was short, only coming to about Thomas’s waist, but it had a gargantuan head. He had never seen this thing in his life, but, oddly, it felt familiar to him, and he seemed familiar to it. He might have felt pity for it if he could get over his initial feelings of revulsion. Everything about the creature was wrong. The only item covering its body was a very old, thready cloth, though even that did not cover nearly enough skin.
This fabric looks familiar. It reminds me of something, he thought. He could hear both of their hearts thudding faster and faster, almost as if they were competing against each other. He felt as though each breath he took was not enough. Before he could say anything, though, it threw a pebble that hit him right in the forehead, and he folded into the ground. Furrowing its bushy eyebrows, the creature studied the beautiful face of the now inert man and tried to read his petrified expression, but it could not find what it was looking for. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, the creature dragged the body back into the woods and made use of him as its meal for the next two weeks. Neither Thomas or his half-brother were ever seen again by their mother. However, to this day, legend has it that a deformed human would throw rocks at those traveling down a dirt road in the forest at night.