We never celebrated Easter in my home village.
When other parents hid Easter eggs for their kids, mine would lock our doors and made me stay inside for the duration of the holiday.
I never understood why. When school started again after the Easter holidays, all the other kids talked about their Easter presents and their hunter for Easter eggs. All I could do was to listen in abject jealousy.
The motive wasn’t religious, for all I knew. Our small community was a Christian one, always had been. Still, Easter was banned.
As a kid it felt strange to be stuck indoors during Easter. Worst of all though, everyone pretended the holiday didn’t exist.
When I asked my parents about it, I was treated with solemn silence. They told me that’s just how things were supposed to be and how they always had been.
I remember rushing to my grandma when I was five years old and Easter was just around the corner. I was crying and asked her why we could never celebrate Easter and told her how unfair I thought it was. She gave me a stern look and told me we couldn’t. There were things out there, she said, things that only came out once a year. They’d play tricks on people and hide away bad little boys who went outside and hid them away in Easter eggs.
I stopped crying and even laughed a little at her words. It was obvious, even to a five-year-old, that she was joking around and trying to get me to behave. Yet her face showed not an ounce of merriment.
This strange tradition was a big topic between me and the handful of other kids in our village. We were sure our parents just didn’t want to get us any Easter presents. It was nothing but a conspiracy by the adults. Looking back, I can only laugh at how silly we all were. I guess we were just trying to make sense of things.
I tried to sneak out of course, but only once. The front door was locked, but I discovered that a window in the living room wasn’t. To this day I remember my father’s face when he found me on the window sill, prepared to jump outside to uncover the mystery that haunted my childhood. I got in serious trouble that year and when I say serious; I mean it.
There was one other boy, though, who made it out during Easter. My friend Johannes.
He was the eldest of his single mother’s five children and the craftiest twelve-year-old I knew.
Each year he told me he’d make it outside and figure out what was going on. The year he did it was 1992, and it was the year he vanished without a trace. All they found of him was a single shoe, lying near the bushes at his home.
Even worse, no one made any effort at finding him. Sure, everyone talked about it, calling what had happened a tragedy, but no police were involved and no search was started. For all I knew, they simply abandoned him.
As I grew older, I accepted that this was how things were supposed to be. I didn’t care much about Easter anyway, and even less about leaving the house. I was happy enough to just sit in my room and play video games all day.
Once I was an adult, I simply went along with everyone else. I went about my life and accept that for two days the outside world didn’t exist.
At twenty-six I left my home village behind and moved to a nearby town. It was there that I met Cathleen. We started dating, got married a year into our relationship and before long our son Eric was born.
We lived in the same town for a couple of years, but neither of us enjoyed life there all too much. It was too loud, too crowded and too dirty.
By the time my thirtieth birthday came along, we decided that we had enough. When I suggested that we should move back to my tiny home village, Cathleen was all for it. During the few times we’d visited, she said, she’d grown to love the place.
I’d never told her about our Easter tradition though if you could call it that. When I fianlly did this February, she laughed, taking it as nothing but a silly joke. After a while, though, she realized that I was serious.
“All right, but why?” she asked, rolling her eyes.
I wanted to tell her why, but I didn’t know what to tell her. No one had ever told me the reason. I reiterated my grandma’s story, which only resulted in her laughing even more.
When I told her about my friend Johannes though, her laughter ebbed away.
“Did they ever find out what happened to him?”
I shook my head. “No, nothing. He was simply gone.”
“That’s terrible, why did no one search for him?”
I shrugged. “God if I know,” I said in a low voice.
With that, I thought, the issue was settled.
The problem was our son Eric. He was four by now, and his favorite time of the year was spring. In the town we’d lived in, there wasn’t much to it. But out here, the meadows were covered in early bloomers and you could almost taste the fresh air of spring. Even worse, though, his favorite animals were bunnies. So, of course, Easter was his favorite time of the year.
I’d trusted Cathleen to believe me, I trusted her to heed my warning and this should be the worst mistake of my life.
The moment I woke this morning, I knew something was wrong. It wasn’t unusual for Cathleen to be up already. This morning, though, the house was too quiet. Normally I’d hear Eric playing with his toys and Cathleen preparing breakfast. That day, I was greeted by nothing but silence.
I was up in an instant and rushed into the living room, then the kitchen, but there was no hint of them anywhere.
No, she couldn’t have, I told myself!
The moment I made it to the front door when I found hers and Eric’s shoes missing, I knew they’d gone outside.
I called myself stupid, screamed at myself for not locking the door. Oh, god, how could’ve been such an idiot. What was normal to me must’ve sounded like nothing but superstition to her.
Yet, what was I so worried about? What exactly was I afraid of?
I told myself this entire thing was just that, dumb superstition and nothing but a dumb urban legend. Hell, I’d probably find her in the garden and Erik happily searching for his little Easter eggs.
There was nothing to be afraid of, I told myself again and again as I put on my shoes and jacket and rushed outside.
“Cathleen? Eric? Where are you?” I called out but got no answer.
I rushed from the front door to our small garden behind the house.
The moment I’d made it around the corner, I saw it.
It was a giant… thing. At first, I thought it was a person in a costume, but it was way too big and too different to be a human. The thing was covered in filthy, gray fur, hunched over and busying itself with something. I saw a giant, clawed paw reaching up to his back, to a sort of leather pack. For a moment it rummaged through the contents before it took out something big and round and continued on his work.
“What the fuck,” I pressed out.
At this, the creature turned towards me. Its face was twisted and bloated, a disgusting caricature of a rabbit’s. It sniffed the air for a moment, its whiskers moved and then its deep red eyes focused on me. It opened its mouth, and I saw a pair of long, stained front teeth that had to be as long as my forearms. A long, high-pitched squeak escaped the creature’s mouth.
I was frozen, staring in utter disbelief at the absurd horror in front of me. There was another squeak, this one sounding much too human and almost like a giggle. For a while, the creature kept staring at me before it dropped what it had been holding and rushed off.
“Cathleen? Erik? Are you there?” I started in a shaky voice.
I stumbled into the garden and saw right away what the creature had dropped. A quick laugh escaped my mouth when I saw an old, wooden egg laying in the grass.
For a while, I just stared at it in bewilderment, but then I saw the blood on it. With shaky hands, I picked the thing up and after a bit of work the lid popped open.
When I saw what was inside, I screamed up and dropped the egg from my hands.
Stuffed into the egg were my wife’s head and her two hands.
I fell to the ground crying and screaming in despair.
“Eric? Oh my god, Eric, where are you?” I called out as I stumbled through the garden.
That’s when I saw them. There were more, more of the strange wooden Easter eggs. Some were out in the open, others were hidden between bushes and under the grass. All of them were covered in blood.
It’s the afternoon now. I still haven’t found all of them. There are still parts of my family that are missing.
I don’t know what this thing, this creature was. There was one thing I know though, the reason we’re never allowed to leave our homes during Easter.