Along the narrow bosom of the lofty escarpments and steep cliffs near the Douro River, I had passed the stony road in a Spanish carriage, to reach the town of Miranda do Douro. It was located in the Trás-os-Montes region of Portugal and was kilometres away, from the city of Bragança and neighbouring Zamora in Spain. It was a cold October in the year 1868, when I had departed Bragança, after I was informed of the incomprehensible disappearances of several children of the province.
I was a Mirandese by birth, and Portuguese by nationality, but I had since left the area as a child. I had studied and lived in England—London to be specific, and my name is Santiago Monteiro, a magistrate from the district of Bragança sent to resolve the mystery that was haunting the rustic townsfolk. The town of Miranda do Douro was a serene place of simplistic people and had small one-story houses, as their original composition. When I approached the centre, I descried a familiar building that had once witnessed my baptism. The immemorial 15th century parochial church that was constructed within the Romanesque style, with a façade flanked by two large towers that had merlons, whilst the middle Gothic portal had archivolts decorated by splendid sculptures. It had as well, a colorful nave, two narrow aisles, and added ancillary chapels. I soon arrived at the local municipality and was apprised by the mayor of the unusual disappearances that were terrifying the numerous townspeople.
I was told his name was Abelino Figueira, an elderly willowy man who knew my father very well.I had introduced myself, as the magistrate who was sent to investigate the disappearances of the children and resolve the mystery. Naturally, we spoke at length in the Mirandese language, since it was the native tongue of the townspeople. Oddly it had been some time since I spoke and heard the language, but I quickly assimilated my ears to the familiar words expressed of its usage. From what I understood of the general information provided, there were countless children of the town, who were missing and unaccountable. I was given their names and residences, but there was one peculiar detail that confounded me. According to Senhor Figueira, the witnesses had stated that the children did not disappear, but were instead taken.
However, there was no concrete evidence to prove or suggest that they were seized by force. Even if that contemplative thought was accurate, by whom? This was the mysterious conundrum that had remained definitely insoluble. What was more startling was the fact that no witness could truly describe the culprit if he was existential at all. There was not much information divulged, and the only relevance were the daily disappearances of the children. Therefore, I was compelled to start my investigation, from this limited proof offered.
From what I comprehended and had read of the initial reports, the first disappearance occurred in the ancient quarter, nearby the venerable cathedral. The second disappearance by the corner of a square and the others were within the vicinity of the adjacent area; although they were innumerable disappearances that occurred at the homes of some of the townsfolk. I had decided to rest in the inn, and begin the next morning the investigation with a serious circumspection.
During the night whilst I was sleeping, I was awakened by the obstreperous clamour of a woman nearby. I got dressed and immediately enquired, when I arrived at the area. There was a throng of people gathered, and I was anxious to know what had caused the woman to scream. It was transparent that she was visibly shaken still, despite our presence. I had identified myself as the magistrate, who was sent to resolve the recent disappearances in the town. The woman who was a young lady in her late twenties, and from the town had stated that her child had been taken abruptly. When I asked her directly, who had taken her child, she said with a haunting utterance the word of the 'Cuco Man’.
At first I was uncertain, if what I had heard her utter was what I had thought I heard her say. Therefore, I asked her again, who she saw abduct her boy, and she looked into my eyes with a definite stare of assertion. She had repeated the word again of the 'Cuco Man'. There was no doubt in my mind that she believed what she saw happened, but I perceived that she was too affected by the incident to be instantly believable. In no measure that was sufficient could this be attributed to a supernatural being of folklore, I had presumed logically. I insisted on a feasible description of the culprit, and she described the individual in the following manner.
He was a shadowy vapour of a towering Mephistophelian mass that emerged suddenly from nowhere. I needed more specific details that unfortunately, she was not able to reveal effectively. This was a troubling predicament I had not foreseen, but I had realised that if I was to solve the mysterious disappearances of the children, I would have to apply my intellectual prowess, within an exceptional degree of cognition. To those who are not fully aware of the 'Cuco Man', he is a mythical being that is equivalent to the boogeyman found in Europe and the Americas. He evoked such an exaggerated fear within people, in particular to the foolish minds of the local inhabitants. The myth of the 'Cuco Man', originated in Portugal and Spain, and the connotation 'Cuco' meant 'skull', in Portuguese and Spanish. It was cognate with the Cornish, Breton, and Irish meanings of the word 'skull'.
I was mindful of the superstitious traditions that existed in these parts of Europe, but I never expected that my prime suspect in this investigation would be a preternatural being that was basically terrorising the area at will. It was essential that I find more substantial evidence and pertinent witnesses to formulate a more plausible conclusion that surpassed the irrational fear of the 'Cuco Man'. I felt that the contingency of achieving that would have to be sought amongst the reasonable people of the town, who were more inclined to construe methods of inducement based, on solid and palpable credibility.
There were no traces of noticeable clues to infer any viable confirmation that was not a calculated presupposition on my part. I considered myself indeed a very knowledgeable man of the various subjects and current events that were evolving, but I was not prepared to confront a phanic opponent or foe that was mysterious, as much as austerulous in nature. I began to process studiously the unfolded sequence of the disappearances and the unnatural circumstances surrounding those disappearances. The lack of coherent evidence contributed to the obvious misunderstanding of the baffling occurrences, and I had to establish a correlation that could be afterwards corroborated, with irrefutable facts and not frivolous nonsense.
I began the thorough investigation with my pattern of thought that had served me efficiently in my previous experiences. I analysed the places where the peculiar disappearances were reported, and the circumjacent area, where the children's whereabouts were concluded. As far as I was concerned, the disappearances of the children were deliberate in the action undertaken, and after observing the landscape, I had not precluded the possibility of a villain being the veritable culprit. The likelihood of them being lost or astray, I could not dismiss with a casual denial. If only I was capable of knowing more details of the background of the children, then it would allow me to form a perceptible pattern of thought that could be linked, to an ultimate solution that was conventional. However, that was my pending dilemma to promptly effectuate, with a considerable regard to my involvement and obligation as a magistrate.
I spoke to the mayor Senhor Figueira once more at the municipality, since he was the most reliable person of the town, who I could attempt to reason with instinctively. He was a man with a placid disposition, and I needed his assistance and whatever new information he had to disclose to me that would facilitate my approach. He would not have much information to share with me regrettably, and all that he could offer me was a genuine map of the area.
Upon my return to the town, the view I had of it and its majestic surrounding had revived old memories once forgotten. Miranda do Douro was close to Mogodouro, Alfândega de fé and Vimioso, but I was not cognisant of the drear isolation of this distinctive part of the country. One who was practically a stranger as I was would feel a certain eeriness, amongst the isolated location of the town. There was something of the bucolic nature of its composition that exuded this pervasive mystique of the past. The entire day was spent observing the areas of the disappearances, and talking to the family members of the missing children.
I had perused their accounts before our conversations, and thought I was prepared for whatever they would acknowledge, but I was wrong. What I listened to attentively was the redundant mention of the 'Cuco Man', and this had complicated to a great degree the course of my investigation. The only important piece of evidence that could be surmised a potential clue was the fact that the children all knew each other. Perhaps that was not relevant, but that small detail enabled me to form a perimeter and idea of the relationship, between the families affected.
That night a curfew was imposed upon the townspeople, and I was determined to solve this mystery therewith. I was at the municipality speaking with the mayor, when a hysterical woman came running towards us screaming that the Cuco Man had taken her little boy. I tried to calm her hysteria and fear, so that we could know what had transpired. I had asked her to take us where the incident occurred, and the lad was abducted. I sensed her immediate fright and reluctance to comply completely. Thus, I told her to tell us the location, and we would hasten to find him. She assented and revealed the origin of the place.
We left the municipality and then reached the area, where the abduction occurred. It was too late, and when we arrived there neither, the boy or the villain were seen by us. The hypothesis that was opined was that there was indeed an individual, who was seizing the children. There were broken branches on the ground, as clear evidence that someone had passed by this vicinity recently. The question that urged us was who was that individual? Was he a stranger or the missing child? What perplexed me was that there were not any more clews that could be constructive evidence of either the presence of the child or the culprit. That was the incommoding dilemma that I was suddenly confronting, the grim truth of the intricacy of the unexplained disappearances. I pondered my next step, and I had attempted to sleep the rest of the night, and awake afterwards, with a stronger resolution.
The following morning, I awoke to the tidings that the townsfolk was growing more restless and apprehensive about the incidents, but they were unanimous in their suspicion of the fiend that was behind the disappearances. This veil of secrecy I was encountering had overshadowed the town, within an unbridled terror and convolution that I had never witnessed before in all my years of living. How could I equate ratiocination to the surrealism of a phantasmal entity of legend that could not be explained merely with facile words?
I had accomplished a telling thing, the period of time the disappearances had betided. I had conferred that valuable detail, with the mayor Senhor Figueira, and had established the perimeter of the disappearances. Of course, what needed to be established was the unknown cause of the innumerable disappearances. There was still the contemplative notion that the mystery had more of a human factor than a surreal unnatural phenomenon. I was forced to counterpoise then, and distinguish facts from myth; although at times it appeared almost impossible, considering the pervicaceous beliefs of the locals.
Thereafter, I headed to the municipality once more to speak to the mayor. I had the intention of sending a letter of petition to Lisbon, requesting more time and assistance. I did not want to misprise the local's traditions with any form of derision, but how could I justify in my letter these centurial beliefs so antiquated? I was a man of absolute practicality, and seldom swayed, by the persuasion of legendary myths and fables. I had thought I was wont to these people, since I was born in Miranda do Douro, but I had outgrown the retrograded customs of the rustic peasantry and had progressed.
As I was leaving the municipality, I listened to a child recite words that were long buried in my mind, but eerily revived by the nursery rhyme. It was sung by my mother when I was a small gullible child.
'Sleep child, sleep now...here comes the Cuco, and he will seize you.'
The coincidental moment had stirred a nostalgic memory of my childhood I had repressed. I approached the lad, and his eyes were possessed by a queer fixation that wanted to warn me. Warn me, but of what I wondered? I asked him, who had taught him that nursery rhyme, since it was no longer heard much nowadays? He simply smiled and said that his beloved grandmother had sung it to his mother. It was a rhyme handed down from generation to generation in this case. Nonetheless, the irony for me was a very poignant peculiarity.
The disappearances continued through the duration of the week, and every night there was another poor child who had disappeared, without a single trace. The insurmountable pressure of solving the mystery was intensifying by the day, and I realised that the mystery revolved, around the children. Thus, my task was to discover why these particular children were chosen if abducted, as I firmly believed? I had assembled several men from the town together to be able to join me on the search for the children, and the probable villain that was lurking. Some were hesitant, whilst others aflutter by the daunting aspect of the ghastly Cuco Man. The situation merited more incentive then my plain authority displayed.
Therefore, I awarded their participation and effort, with the one thing they understood the most, goods. This was determined with the power of my position accredited, by the law. The inopinate ordeal that was troubling me, I had not foreseen upon my arrival. Everything, I chronicled daily of the progress of the investigation, with a sedulous care, and every option afforded to me was considered, regardless of the strict legality of the concession made willingly. My precise assumption was we would soon uncover the inevitable truth, behind the mystery of the disappearing children. I had ordered that no one be outside, especially children, and all doors were to be totally sealed and shut, during the hours of the nocturnal curfew.
There were extra gas lamps put on the corners of the narrow streets to illuminate them. The men carried torches with them and rifles to protect us, as we waited for the appearance of the stranger, who I had assumed was abducting the children. A few hours had passed without much incident, until a vociferous scream was audible, and it was coming directly, from one of the homes of the townspeople. Apparently, I discovered that a stranger of the night had entered the home and abducted a young girl. The audacious abduction was done so rapidly that there was truly nothing the mother, or the father could have done to prevent it. She was fraught with sheer terror in her startled eyes that became bigger with her facial expression. When I enquired, who had taken her girl; the clamant woman had uttered a stammering reply. She muttered the name of the infandous Cuco Man.
I had to make sense of this interpretive action, and forego the name of the Cuco Man. I asked if she was positive that it was not a man, who she saw as the unannounced intruder. However, she categorically denied that it was a man, who committed the horrific act. When pressed on the description, she declared that he was not human, but the devil himself disguised in a large, towering mass of albedineity. Her vivid description of the nefarious villain was unsatisfactory and unacceptable, since it did not offer me any concrete evidence to formulate a serious semblance of a necessary intuitive introspection. It was indeed a foregone conclusion that whatever or whoever seized the children had successfully achieved in terrorising the fearful townspeople, but had as well made my task even more arduous to complete.
They were inflexible and uncompromising, when it dealt with the abductor of their children. I had to proceed judiciously, and in conformity with their vacuous beliefs or conviction, in order to accomplish my mission in earnest. There was a derivative conception of the incipient disillusionment seen in the townsfolk that had to be more profound than an elaborated dissimulation of a mythical figure inaccessible. The streets that were replete with slender pavements and hard cobblestones had complicated the matter and permitted the stealthy villain to flee perfectly into the night with little detection. What was evident was the urgent need for more men to be involved in the search for the children and culprit. Consequently, I had ordered the mayor to find adequate volunteers, whilst men from Bragança would arrive and converge with the paucity of the others.
That next day we had gathered together the added volunteers, the newcomers from Bragança, and the other townsmen of Miranda do Douro, who had been already assisting. A handful of Spaniards from Zamora arrived to help with the search. Since their native language Leonese was similar to Mirandese than Spanish to Portuguese, we had no difficulty in our verbal conversations exchanged. I had spent the remainder of the prior night devising an effective plan to trap and expose the villain. I took notice of the preliminary reports and details that had resulted, in such feckless conjectures and trivialities. My meditated plan required any impartial discovery that could not be misconstrued or manipulated so easily by the townspeople. If the villain was a mere madman as I had imagined, then his compulsory obsession for the children would compel him to act afterwards. Thus, without a doubt it would trigger suddenly, a premeditated calculation on his part. We were prepared to confront and apprehend the furtive villain forthwith. We had patrolled the nearly empty streets and adjacent areas of the town, including the homes of the residents.
I could not express with words of banality, the subsequent terror that would alter the successive events that ensued unexpectedly. The unfriendly draught from the lofty escarpments had begun to reach the town, and I was the first to endure its chilly effects. I had not fully acclimated myself to the cold weather in these parts of Portugal, and I would soon be reminded of its bitter capacity. October was gradually abating, and we were on the verge of November. The abductions had occurred during the late evening or night, when the children were kept secured, and there were hardly many persons outside of the area at those hours. This I had learnt was a crucial element in the abductions of the children. For some apparent reason unknown to me, the astute villain was particularly discreet in this selection and opportunity. Therefore, I concluded that this was the time to conduct our vigilance and search, with efficiency and manpower.
The entire day was spent on this strenuous effort, as we rotated men. At precisely eleven o'clock that night, the villain had abducted another helpless child. This time the unfortunate victim was a young boy, who was in his home, as was the last victim. When we reached the home, the overwrought mother of the young boy had mentioned the exact description of the villain that the other mother had attested before. The Cuco Man was the fiend and not a madman. I had feared that if the intrusive villain was bold enough to seize a child from his own home, then he was brazen enough to defy my authority and the brawn of the men.
This reality was a disturbing new pattern, with the disappearances. However, the testimony of the child's brother would offer our most important clue, and give me a horrendous reminder of my past. The sibling had scurried to the cellar, where he hid from the intruder. The intruder had followed him to the cellar, and perceived that he was in concealment. He found the boy, but the intruder did not take him, and instead he departed the house and disappeared into the soughing wind. It wasn't until I approached closer to the boy that I saw that he was wearing an especial trinket around his neck. I observed the amulet and remembered it was the same amulet my mother had given me before my parents were killed, and I had become an orphan.
The consequences of the deaths of my parents were not known to me in its entirety. The secret of that tragedy had not been disclosed to me, and I had unknowingly suppressed that grisly memory. The boy had described the Cuco Man, as a towering mass of white mist. I had recalled my deadly encounter with the nefandous being and how it occurred. There was a procession, and it was during the holy week celebrations, organised, by the devoted Catholic brotherhoods. The herald, a designated man dressed with a black hooded cloak that covered his countenance and had three holes for the eyes and mouth, led the faithful procession and announced the death of Christ.
We were heading towards the church afterwards, when the frightened pigeons suthered by on their wings subitaneously, and began to amass, as they tried to seek the comfort of the night inside the church. The child beside me had been carrying a hollow pumpkin with holes that were cut out pretending to be eyes, nose and mouth, as if it was an actual skull. It had a stump of a candle lit from within, to give it a more macabre appearance. Suddenly out of nowhere appeared the Cuco Man, who had come to snatch the child so devilishly, but I was able to escape it by running into the church. This incredible experience had occurred 40 years ago, when I was only ten years old. That dreadful encounter would soon be relived, when I came face to face with the phantasmagoric Cuco Man once more.
There was a chilling mist as I had left the home of the child abducted, when I witnessed the resemblance of the conformation of an unrestrained force of a shadowy bale that was the unfathomable guise of an intense horripilation known, as the Cuco Man. In the beginning he was imperceptible, but yet he emerged from the mist as a swift form of energy. The essence of the being was incomparable and of no presumable pretense. What I saw had defied the relativity of the reality of an inhuman presence that manifested before me. He attempted to take the boy from the house and was thwarted this time not by the trinket, but by the sparkling coruscation of the fire that was nearby the fireplace of the house. The being had simply vanished into thin air with impigrity. He did not return the rest of the night thankfully, and the child was spared—not by the trinket, but by the blazing fire.
I had acceded to the facts only, and the variable component of the fire was indeed revealing of the daemon's sudden vulnerability. I could not state with an accurate or a measurable assurance, who would be the next chosen victim; but the absolute certitude of the daemon's involvement, I no longer doubted as a deceptive tactic or phenakism employed, by a maniacal madman. There was one man who could undoubtedly discuss the issue of the inscrutable Cuco Man, and that was the mayor Senhor Figueira, who had lived in Miranda do Douro for many decades. When I went to the municipality the next morning to inform him of what happened the night before, in particular of the Cuco Man, he was overtly surprised by my enquiry.
It was not my intention to befuddle him with my curiosity, but I was exceedingly anxious to hear his response. What he had acknowledged was a story I had least expected. According to him the Cuco Man was a legendary being from the drear haunt of the deceased that was a mystical land located in the Iberian Peninsula known, as the Lebor Gabála Érenn. The other version of his origin that was well-nigh inconceivable was that he was once a French soldier of Napoleon's army, who was killed during the French occupation of the Iberian Peninsula in the early part of the 19th century. His name was Fabien Géroux and as the story was related, his skull was stolen from the local graveyard. His enraged ghost sought retribution, in the form of abducting the innocent children of Miranda do Douro. As a native of Portugal, I had heard of stories of the Cuco Man, but never really knew of the derivation of this supernatural wight. These original tales had been known throughout other places such as, Vinhais, Bragança, Darque, Barroselas, Viana do Castelo, and Pontevedra in Galicia, Spain for centuries.
The Cuco Man was a fallacy no more, and not for the faint-hearted invocation of the believers. Even though the tales were senseless ramblings of the locals invented, the one pressing question I had that was imperative to solving the mystery of the Cuco Man was understanding the reason, why he returned to the earth of the living who condemned him to an infernal hell. Something or someone had activated the facilitation of the Cuco Man's return to Miranda do Douro. It was my obligation to decipher that enigmatic connection to the town. The factuality of that preconception held a precedent that was utilised, by the awareness of a person of ingenuity.
The accurst abominableness of the Cuco Man had an inescapable eventuality that surpassed human logic. However, the aforementioned being had no real comparison to be made. After hearing these sundry accounts from the mayor, I undertook the final task of destroying, or sending the Cuco Man back to his solitary grave. The men were all gathered again at the municipality in their totality. They were ready to resume the search and I with my investigation diligently.
My erroneous oversight in my approach had then been sharpened, by the reaction of my sagacious proclivity. It would serve me efficaciously, and ultimately help me with resolving the mystery that had bound me to Miranda do Douro. The plan that I had originated involved a masterful deception and precision. I did not divulge all the details that were designed, and instead I merely disclosed the necessary parts of the plan to the others. The relevance that was told to them was that we would try to lure the Cuco Man to the church.
Perhaps this was naive of me, since I was not completely confident that he would come to the church at all. If he did, it would be because of the young boy whose name was Justino. I was not comfortable with using the lad as a pawn to attract the Cuco Man, but there was no other choice that was not involuntary. I prayed for his well-being, and for the return of the children. I knew that if I defeated the ghostly figure, there was a strong possibility that the children would be located and returned. The boy and the Medieval church were the key in this plan, but I could not dismiss the suspicion that something inusitate of the mystery of the Cuco Man was not answered.
There was a missing piece that remained insoluble. The heavy clouds soon brought a fog that started to cover the entire village around midnight, and the fluttering wings of the pigeons were heard, as they sought to enter the church therewith. It was then that the Cuco Man had appeared, as he stood dauntless in front of us. The mighty bells of the tower of the church rang and resounded, throughout the whole benighted area. Suddenly, the Cuco Man perceived our presence, whilst we remained inside the church. He knew we were in the interior of the church, but why did he not attempt to enter? I was mindful of the powerful effects of the trinket and the fire that detracted him, but I sensed there was another hidden reason for this queer behaviour.
As we stood at the front door and windows of the church observing, I then noticed that the mayor Senhor Figueira and the boy were absent. It seemed to me that I was the only person who took careful notice of this particularity, as the rest were busied in their thoughts of the Cuco Man. I looked to and fro, until I found them in the cellar. There Senhor Figueira had the boy clutched in his left arm, whilst he had the tediferous torch in his other hand. There was a sack he carried that had an object within. I said nothing and followed him through a murky passage of the cellar.
Thereafter, we reached the narrow egress that led to the local graveyard of the town. For what reason did he take the boy there, I did not know? However, I feared his intentions were malicious and not beneficial. I peeked through the patch of the accumulating fog and saw the harrowing appearance of the Cuco Man. He had remerged from the darkness to seize the young boy. Evidently, Senhor Figueira had brought the lad to hand him over to the Cuco Man. My initial reaction was that he was attempting to save the town, but I was incorrect in my assumption. Then, I was aware of his sinister intention and desire. The skull that he carried in his hand had belonged to the Cuco Man. However, I still was not certain what he was trying to accomplish. He began to speak to the Cuco Man, imploring him to spare the town his wrath, in exchange for the young boy.
I had intervened, and it was then that the missing part of the mystery of the story of the Cuco Man was explained to me, by Senhor Figueira. My mother and father were killed by the Cuco Man in attempting to save me. What I did not know before was the disturbing fact that the Cuco Man on that unforgettable night many years ago, when I was but a mere child had come for me. You see, Senhor Figueira required a competent cosignatory for a document to be valid and legal that pertained to a deed. That singular deed was the acquisition of the properties of several of the townsfolk of Miranda do Douro. Naturally, my father who was a man of loyalty to his brethren refused. Senhor Figueira could not relinquish his acquisitive urge and threatened my father with an egotistical impudence. He had heard of the preternatural tale of the horrid Cuco Man, who we all believed to be vapid superstition in Portugal.
I was unaware that the amulet given to me as a child worn around my neck had saved me from the Cuco Man, in all these years since. The Cuco Man's skull had been removed from his unburied grave, by Senhor Figueira in a clancular manner. His objective was to seize the lands of the townspeople, who possessed land, nearby a treasure that contained valuable coins of worth that belonged to Napoleon. There in that patulous area of land buried underneath was a great fortune. Senhor Figueira, who held no admirable philozoic trait had planned since decades, his devious purchases of these properties unscrupulously.
What was missing was my presence that was the causation of his arrangement. He had been told that I became a reputable magistrate, and I had moved from Lisbon to Bragança. He unburied the grave of the French soldier and took his skull to control the Cuco Man. Thus, he was informed of my immediate arrival and had waited for the exact moment to lure me into his lochetic trap. I was a central figure, in his perverse ultion for my family, who according to him had traduced him. I was speechless when I realised this dastard accommodation. He told me to choose me or the boy, and that was my only option as a requisition. The thought of the Cuco Man taking me instead of the faultless boy, I did not hesitate or prevaricate to choose. I looked at him, with an acquiescent look in my eyes and agreed. I removed my amulet, and I was willing to deliver my body and soul to the Cuco Man.
The evil one approached me, when a noctilucous sparkle of the torch I was about to lay down on the ground had created the erumpent aglow sparkle to blind the Cuco Man. The incident had allowed the boy to free himself and reach me. Senhor Figueira then endeavoured to reclaim the boy, but it was too late. Seeing that the boy was under my protection the Cuco Man, then redirected his sheer ire at the unreliable Senhor Figueira. Senhor Figueira fell to the ground, as he attempted to reason with his reaper. As that was transpiring, I quickly grabbed the skull of the Cuco Man and searched for the grave of the deceased French soldier.
The boy Justino had followed me closely, and when I located his grave, I began to dig as fast as I could the unwieldy soil with a shovel that was left, by the gravedigger of the cemetery. It was then that the evil one had seen our effort and came flying through the air towards us and shrieked. I was able to thwart him with the torch, but I knew there was something that he wanted from me that was more compelling and he coveted. That was his skull, and I had it in my hand ready to offer it to him in an exchange if necessary.
At first, there was an unresponsive gesture expressed, then, I distinguished in his darkled eyes, an obvious recognition of his desperate need to be at peace, and to have his verticordious soul freed and unbounded. I gave him his skull, and soon the phanic guise of the Cuco’s Man had heterised into a mortal man. He was once more, the French soldier Fabien Géroux. He stared at us both as we stood, and afterwards, he disappeared into the fog that escorted him to where, I do not know! He was gone and with him was the indign mayor Senhor Figueira.
The last visual thing I beheld of the Cuco Man was the illutible image of his incredible transformation. The terror of the Cuco Man had abated and brought closure to the town, but the legend had only begun. I had solved the centurial mystery of the Cuco Man, and when the boy and I returned to the church, all the missing children had returned as well. The grave of the French soldier had been mysteriously buried anew—but by whom? That was the inexplicable riddle to be solved. His headstone had been marked with the name of Fabien Géroux, as it was deserving and behoveful. The fog had dissipated, and the first snowflakes of the coming winter had fallen on the ground.
I cannot explain with the simplicity of mere words the abnormal phenomenon that occurred in the town of Miranda do Douro, except to acknowledge that what haunted that remote town was a tangible evil that exceeded any form of subjectivity that could be secerned, with a deducible explanation. In time the town would resume its normalcy, and I would leave Miranda do Douro, with some measure of satisfaction in my task and duty. The reminiscent days of my childhood there were rekindled, with a certain fondness and trepidation. However, my inability to escape the past completely was connected, to an actual repression of my childish days of yore.
Once I returned to Bragança, I was still aghast by my continuous nightmares of the Cuco Man. Slowly, the disconcerting episodes of dread had faded, and I was able to seek justice for my parents and store in the nook of the top shelf of my library, the account of the Cuco Man in my diary, and the history of my family. I always wore the amulet that averruncated the evil of the Cuco Man. There is a nursery rhyme that as a child in Portugal is sung to the children who misbehave, and it is heeded by those children, who choose to behave.
‘Vai-te Cuco. Vai-te Cuco
Para cima do telhado
Deixa o menino dormir
Um soninho descansado’.
'Leave Cuco. Leave Cuco
Go to the top of the roof
Let the child have
A quiet sleep'.