“When the ducks would trust us again; my father & I fed them fresh bread stolen from the inn he worked at.”
I write this with trembling hands and anxious heart. Tonight, we attempt our escape; I fear we shall not make it. Though our plan seems sound, desperation drives us. I pray we have done enough. I pray we survive.
Though I know any who may find this—if any soul remains in that wide world—would scarce believe the words, still I must confess my tale, lest I perish tonight and no one ever know my story.
My father and I have been held captive here, in the inn where he worked, this whole bitter winter. That fateful night, the rooms, all 12, were full of laughter, with friendly visitors and warm hearths.
There was Benny, the innkeeper, a stern man, but always finding a spare room for a lost soul; also, his wife, Suzanna. They were cursed to a life without children, but made room in their lives instead for lost souls. It was through their kindness that my father found labor and a place for us to stay, though the hours were long and the work hard. Still, it was honest, and that was more than generous enough.
A blizzard was brewing that night, so the inn was full. I was busy all day with the many horses seeking shelter in the stable, and the guest rooms filled with travelers seeking solace.
Alas, they are no longer with us. After these long months of cold, our number is only two.
The storm blew wild and furious for three days, and none dared leave for fear of suffocation in the fast-driven snow, so thick it was a wall from heaven to earth. Once did I run the 15 feet from inn to stable to replenish the horses; it took me an hour to find my way back, and I managed it by luck alone.
We did not know the storm would guard our last moments of joy (for though the blizzard was mighty, the company was jovial and beer flowed).
On the fourth day, there came a knock at the door. In wonderment at who could travel in such abysmal weather, I opened the door to greet the visitor.
There before me were ducks. I hesitate to even call them so, though that was what they appeared to be. Monstrous ducks unlike any imaginable, with wattles of blood red, wings of mottled grey like ash from hell, yellow eyes, and curved claws that could rip out a man’s throat. Think not poorly of me; I am no cowardly man—at least I did not think myself to be so—but these were waterfowl of nightmares, tall and vicious.
I fell back, afraid, but the innkeeper, always kind toward travelers, welcomed the creatures in, despite their gruesome visage.
There were 8 of the creatures, and their entrance occupied a quarter of the large tavern hall. Aside from their incredible size and unusual appearance, nothing seemed out of sorts. The drake–Captain Jack, as he came to be known—thanked Benny for the welcome, complaining of a broken wing caused by the storm. Jack announced he and his flock would be staying at the inn.
Oh! Had I known what was to come, I would have fled into the snow right then!
The first trouble came that night. Jack and his flock (they were Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack; I imagine their kind had difficulty with other names, due to their peculiar snouts) asked for dinner. My father and I brought out all the bread prepared, and still the fowl demanded more. I pleaded that we would bake more, if only they would have patience, and retired to the kitchen.
What happened next I only know from hearsay, but one of the guests, a traveler from the watery south, made a joke at the ducks’ expense. I know not what he said, and dared not ask, because in two shakes of a tail Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, Quack, and Captain Jack fell upon the ill-fated man and ripped him limb from limb.
Blood dripping from their wattles, the ducks declared they would winter here, and that we should serve them or meet the same terrible fate, and far be it for us to stop them; and so we lived in constant tyranny.
After several more days of this treatment—and two more guests consumed–my father and Suzanne and I, weary from toil over the stove baking bread, hatched a plan to escape. Saying we needed ingredients located in an imaginary storeroom, we crept out. We reached only the edge of the ice-covered pond, and were there discussing our next move, when Ouack, Pack, and Kack came outside. Suzanne panicked, and ran, sliding, out over the ice.
The ducks beat their terrible wings and caught her. As they stained the ice with her entrails, my father and I ran back to our cruel prison, the ducks never the wiser of our attempt.
Supplies are now running low. Benny took his own life after Suzanne’s horrible murder, and the ducks, growing monstrously hungrier day by day, gobbled up everyone else. The horses, too. My father and I survive only by baking bread, day in and day out; though whether you can call this substance made from the ground bones of the dead bread I do not know—my father and I do not eat of it, so we grow thinner and wearier every day, as the fierce ducks grow fat on the blood of our fellows.
It has been several weeks. We think perhaps the ducks trust us now, we being the last. Why else would they keep us so long?
Deep in the cabinet we found the carcass of a rat, long dead from poison and deeply decayed. We prepared tonight’s bread for the ducks with this macabre feature, in hope it will disrupt their systems and buy us time to escape.
We feed the ducks their bread in mortal terror. If we succeed this night, we shall be free; if not, heed my words, oh ill-fated traveler: Trust not when the ducks come a-knocking.