The old man explained that more than fifty years ago, the horror I had just escaped used to be the main central business district of the town. There was once a man who lived near the factories on the other side of town with his pack of hunting dogs. At least once a week he would be seen walking through town, returning from a nearby forest where he would catch wild rabbits and other rodents to eat. One day the man returned with two large wolves following close behind.
The authorities became concerned at the presence of such wild animals in such close proximity to people and the health risks they may bring. But every time they tried to approach the old man and his pack, the wolves would immediately snarl and threaten to attack the officers.
About two weeks after the wolves were first seen in town, a child went missing near the old factories. All that was found was a bicycle covered in blood. The boy’s mother, filled with anguish, suspected the Wolf-man, as she referred to him. The people were whipped up into a frenzy and used the tragedy to finally take the law into their own hands.
They marched to the factories and surrounded the makeshift shack the man had erected nearby, at least as far as the wolves would let them get. They demanded answers and accused the old man and his wolves of murdering the child. The man, who had long accepted that he was treated worse than a leper, showed little to no reaction.
The mob mistook his lack of response as indifference and a sign of guilt. They started hurling stones at him and his dogs. When the dogs scattered, the wolves became agitated and attacked a member of the mob standing on the fringes and tore him from limb to limb. The mob was outraged and moved in towards the shack. When the wolves rushed to get in between the shack and the crowd, some in the crowd lit petrol bombs and hurled them towards the shack.
The Wolf-man, as he became known, his dogs and the wolves were burnt alive while the blood thirsty mob watched.
Weeks later, evidence revealed that at the time that the child went missing the Wolf-man wasn’t even in town. He had been away hunting with his pack and the wolves for several days, first sighted back in town at least three days after the child went missing.
Furthermore, after a thorough sweep of the shack and its surroundings, there was nothing found that even remotely suggested that the Wolf-man had anything to do with disappearance of the child. On the first anniversary of the Wolf-man’s death the town became shrouded by heavy dark sinister clouds. The community became frightful when every now and again dark shadows, presumably that of the dead Wolf-man and his entourage, would be spotted lurking the streets at dusk. Mothers would hastily gather their children and retreat to their homes in fear, and men would arm themselves.
When bodies started turning up, too ghastly to describe, people started to leave town.
Vigilantism, based on nothing more than a lack of empathy and false accusations, had cost an innocent man and his trusted companions their lives. And there was no way of reversing the consequences. Before long, the town was abandoned.
“It’s only occupants,” said the dishevelled old man, “is the ghosts of the Wolf-man and his entourage.”
Tell us: What are your views on what the author describes as ‘vigilantism’?