Authors: European P. Douglas
Mullins went to the door of the tavern and looked outside.
“It’s coming down like horse’s piss out there,” he laughed “have you got a cloak I can borrow?”
“There’s a large ladies one someone left here, but that’s all?” the barman offered also laughing.
“It’ll have to do,” Mullins said and he took it from him and threw it over his shoulders and pulled up the hood. “Must have been a fine sized woman who owned this?” he laughed when he was able to pull the hood up and close the cloak a little at the neck.
“Never saw her,” the barman said “Thank God!” and they both burst out laughing.
“Thanks,” Mullins said as he stepped outside.
“Look after yourself.”
When he was out in the rain it didn’t seem so bad, the cloak was actually quite thick, and he could get a faint smell of perfume inside its hood. He wondered what type of a woman who smelled so good would be in a tavern to leave a cloak like it behind her.
Something crashed to the ground not far away and took his attention. It had been a woman emptying a bucket out the window and onto the street a little from him. She was on the second floor, and he gave her a theatrical bow as she closed the window. He looked back at the streets around him he saw the street sign for Braithwaite Street, and it triggered a memory he’d had. He was on Pimlico road and just beyond him was the entrance to Greater Elbow Lane, which in turn housed Lesser Elbow Lane, the place where Thomas Olocher’s eaten body was found.
With the courage and curiosity of drink in him, he walked resolutely to this site, and he stood looking at the thin lane and trying to imagine what the soldiers had seen when they found him. There was another noise behind him, but he didn’t turn this time thinking it the woman emptying buckets again on Pimlico.
He grew tired of standing here, and he made his way towards Meath Street. It was quiet as he walked down that echoing street, and the rain was down to a light shower. He passed Cale Alley and Engine Alley and then Earl Street onto Meaths Row. He thought he heard something like a dog growling, but he couldn’t see any dog around.
As he passed the narrow entrance to Hanbury Lane something black and full of gleaming teeth launched at him from the darkness. It was powerful and with his inebriated state Mullins lost his balance and fell to the ground. The creature came up on top of him but Mullins had his strength still and he grabbed hold of it and pulled it towards him to stop any slashing motion of those wild teeth, to take away the opportunity for motion. As he held the struggling animal it felt strange, the muscles not reflecting the size of the frame. He lashed out a few times at it he felt that it was trying to get out of his grip, returning blows with hooves that seemed to be on its chin and upper lip. The blows came as though from punches from a man, and this didn’t make sense at all in Mullins’ frenzied mind. He lashed out with his knee at where he thought the groin might be and the creature doubled up and lashed somehow with the centre of his back at his face and he felt his nose break and his eyes watered as he let go of the monster.
It scrambled up from him and Mullins, though not seeing, swung his legs and tripped the animal as it tried to get away. It crashed down, and Mullins grappled on the ground with it as his sight came back a little. He pounded blows into the abdomen of the creature, and its skin and fur seemed to shift and soften his blows as though the creature was hollow in places. The teeth came at him, and it was then that Mullins knew he had seen this motion before. He had seen it when Lord Muc fought with the tusks as the Poddle that day. This was a man he was fighting, a man inside a costume with his arms inside a serrated gauntlet and the part of the back that had struck out at him was in fact the head covered by the fake animal skin.
With this new theory in mind, Mullins began to rain down blows through the ‘jaws’ and into the hard lump between them. His blows got harder and harder and he threw his head in there for good measure, the blades of the teeth catching him from time to time as he did, and slowly the creature began to lose strength and finally lay moaning the moan of a wounded man.
Mullins sat back against the wall exhausted and called out loudly.
“I have the Dolocher!” He could hear doors opening and running feet slap against the ground and people asking one another where the call had come from.
It wasn’t long before a crowd had gathered in the rain to see the spectacle of the blacksmith and the Dolocher both lying wounded on the ground, the creature moaning like a man and blood spread over both.
Mullins pulled himself up against the wall of the building behind him and got into a sitting position. As he did, he saw that the man in front of him was trying to get to his knees to crawl away. Panic spread in the people gathered,
“It’s getting up!” someone shouted.
“Relax people, he’s not going anywhere,” and he swung his large fist down on the back of the creature where he estimated the man’s head to be, and it slumped again to the sodden ground. “It’s a man in costume,” Mullins said as he tried to catch his breath, his eyes still streaming and his nose bloody and painful. The people huddled a little closer and soon they were jabbering in agreement,
“It is a man!” “Looks like boar skins all sewn together” “Let’s see who it is,” a soldier who had arrived said.
“Leave him until Alderman James gets here,” Mullins said. “Has he been sent for?” The soldier stopped and looked at him and then stood thinking for a second before issuing an order for the Alderman to be sent for.
As he lay there bleeding, Mullins was growing weak and sleepy. He could still hear the people all around as they chatted excitedly about the end of the Dolocher. Their numbers had swelled dramatically by now, and every window and door frame held as many faces as they could. He was entering that strange consciousness of near sleep when he heard Kate saying something to him but when he opened his eyes she was not there. He closed them again, and she was thanking him and she was wearing something cream that he had never seen her in before. He knew she was safe now, and he nodded at her thanks. He was warm now, and everything he heard sounded strange and echoed in his head.
Finally, he felt a pair of hands on his shoulders shaking him and he thought it was the Dolocher having awoken again but when he tried to raise his arms in defence he found they only went half way up before he felt a terrible pain, and he had to put them down again. He opened his eyes and he saw the smiling eyes of Alderman James.
“You did it!” he was saying over and over.
Mullins sat forward again and began to get a clearer picture as to what was going on around him.
“Who is he?” he asked the Alderman.
“Let’s find out,” he replied with a smile and he nodded to the soldier who was there already..
They both watched with great interest as the soldier took his knife and finding a hollow space he sliced into the front of the costume and then pulled it apart. As the hide skin ripped and pulled apart Mullins looked on with interest in his head he figured he was going to see Lord Muc or else Edwards and this was what he was hoping but as the top of the head was revealed he saw that it was not going to be him. This man was quite bald on top, a thin sheen that almost reminded him, with his hat off of course, of.....
And then he saw the bloodied face, and it was him! Without his cap on and Mullins pushed back against the wall in the horror and shock, and he looked to the Alderman, who glanced back at him in wonderment. There in front of Mullins being disrobed as the Dolocher was none other than Cleaves! The friend he had thought was so savagely killed that nothing was left of his face and not much of his body; the man who was so beloved by the children of the Liberties and who told ghost stories and was always ready for a laugh, who Mullins had sworn an oath to avenge! He was the Dolocher! He was alive! He was the one who tried to kill Mary Sommers and his beloved Kate and now tonight had even tried to kill him, a man he had called many times over their lives his best and only true friend.
“Cleaves!” he finally managed to say, and he saw the head bobble on the body of the half costumed Dolocher and he saw those placid peaceful and beautiful eyes gaze upon him and there was such sadness in them.
“I didn’t know it was you Tim,” he croaked and all Mullins could say at that moment was,
“And she wasn’t your lady friend at the time either.”
“I know,” Mullins was still in a daze, his nose aching and his mind unsure as to what was happening.
“Who is this man?” the Alderman asked looking at Mullins
“This is Cleaves, who everyone thought had been one of the victims of the Dolocher.”
“Cleaves! Then who is the man who was killed?” the Alderman shouted at Cleaves
“He was a man from the country who was unlucky enough to have the same build as me and be out on the streets with nowhere to stay that night,” Cleaves said after he rubbed blood from his mouth.
“Why, Cleaves?” Mullins asked, still in a state of disbelief, he wanted to hear that he’d had no choice somehow that there was some coercion behind that he could not fight back against, but he knew in his heart that this was not going to be what he was told.
“For Dublin” was all Cleaves said in reply to this.
“What the hell does that mean?” the Alderman shouted at him but Cleaves didn’t answer, and his sorrowful eyes were again on Mullins as though he were willing him to understand what he was saying.
And Mullins did understand what he was saying but not then and not for a long time afterwards when Cleaves was hanged, when the rebellion of 1798 failed, and the parliament was dissolved, and Dublin was ruled directly from London. In his own twisted way, Cleaves believed that a city, a people even, lived on only though the stories that were left behind when they were gone. Cleaves could see the writing on the wall for Ireland, knew that it was only a matter of time before it was no more than a province of England, and he wanted true Dublin to survive this.
He donned the mask of the Dolocher, his arms covered on the flanks with serrated steel shards that many thought were the teeth and jaws of the beast, and he killed and terrorised in the middle of the night in the name of history, the preservation of history. He wanted to invoke a Dublin that could never be forgotten by those who would live there for ever to come, a Dublin that was of Dublin and not of London. For that reason he made as sure he could that it was never an English person he killed, and he never attacked anyone from the army, he didn’t want the Dolocher to ever be associated with freedom fighting or nationalism. It had to be a myth that grew and grew and changed as the years went by into something intrinsic to the city, something that could never be separated from its narrative.
And that stands to this day. The Dolocher is still known in Dublin over two hundred years later but if you ask anyone today who Cleaves was they will look at you with a blank expression and tell you that they do not know.
A city lives and dies by its myths.
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About the Author
European P. Douglas was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1978. He always had an interest in writing but only began to take it seriously in his early thirties. As of December 2014, he has close to 6,000 readers, and he is happy to hear feedback from any of them.
He is married to Aisling, and together they have a son called Harrison and another baby due in Jan/Feb 2015. They also have a cat called Paris and a new Fish in currently being discussed.