The shore of Gerasenes was not the lovely beach couples strolled upon in the cool of the evening, nor was it where children played in the afternoon sun.
The avoidance wasn’t due to the vehement waves that crashed against the jagged rocks jutting up along the sand. It wasn’t the ominous cliff that loomed above the shore, like a premonition, warning travelers not to linger. It wasn’t even the foreboding graveyard, high upon the cliff, whose white sepulchers stood up against the skyline as an omen of death.
It was what lurked in the graveyard.
A creature, described in farce, as so savage and so vile, that tourists assumed it was just a local myth. A legend concocted by fisherman in an attempt to haunt the townspeople’s dreams.
But it was neither myth nor legend.
As the shadows of dusk fell across the beach, as the moon cast its evanescent glow on the battered rocks, as the wind whipped through the graves, a forlorn shriek could be heard from among the tombstones. As though conjured by the powers of darkness, the shrieks rose to high-pitched wails. Screams of torment. Cries of anguish.
A streak of lightening lit up the graveyard and the creature, a man, could be seen from behind a sepulcher. Straggly hair hung past his shoulders in knotted clumps. Self inflicted wounds marred his naked body as blood from open gashes glistened in the moonlight. Mutilated and disfigured from burns, shackles, and rocks, the creature uttered another screech into the howling wind.
A torrent of rain burst from the black clouds above and thunder rattled the ground. The man half crawled, half staggered over to the cliff and looked down at the beach. Swirls of angry foam plunged onto the shore, smashing into the jagged rocks below. He looked out on the raging waters and saw a boat rocking perilously in the storm.
Lightening flashed again and the creature added another menacing shriek to the violence of nature around him. But this time he heard another voice beyond his own. Though unable to make out the words, the voice sounded hauntingly familiar and the man recoiled in horror.
The storm came to an abrupt halt. The wind died. The downpour stopped. The waves ceased their ravaging onslaught.
As terror reverberated through his soul, the creature watched the boat arrive safely to shore and its passengers clamber onto the beach.
“What do you want with me?” the man shrieked. But his voice was no longer his own. It was a deep, guttural sound that emanated from within him.
He scrambled down the rocky cliff, falling, sliding, scraping himself against the rocks. His calloused feet plunged into the wet sand as he stumbled along the beach.
“I know who you are!” he hissed. “Have you come to torture me before it is time?”
The man to whom he spoke looked through him, past the mutilated and disfigured body, past the eyes, and into the soul, into the red eyes of evil that stared back at him.
“What is your name?” the man asked.
“Legion,” the deep voice answered. “For we are many.”
“Leave him,” the man commanded.
The man fell to the ground in violent convulsions as the faint sounds of scraping talons and rustling wings echoed into the night.
Early morning dawn sent streaks of pink and gold across the beach as the man, now dressed, stood on the shore alone and watched the boat drift back across the waters. He locked eyes with the man who had spoken to him, who had given him the robe that now clothed him, who had rescued him from the demons which had tormented his soul for years.
Gentle waves lapped at his feet. A cool breeze kissed his face.
For the first time, the shore of Gerasenes was a beach where children could play, where couples could walk hand in hand, and one man would remember as the place his soul was set free.
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