On January 2nd, 1996, the first and only child of Anton and Katrin Muller was born.
He was a healthy boy, with good lungs and excellent reflexes, not a single physical problem in sight, but it seemed as though he simply couldn’t cry. The boy, even when stuck with needles and moved from room to room, remained nearly silent, letting out no more than an occasional gurgle.
There was something else that caused his mother to gasp when she saw it, too, one other strange thing about this child. When she saw them, she realized that his irises were bright red, and try as the obstetrician might to see why, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with his vision.
More than anything else, the boy seemed to be curious, following everything that moved with his gaze, as if he had been born a thousand times over already. The obstetrician eventually gave up trying to get him to cry, shrugging and mumbling an at least your son’s breathing properly, then handing Katrin the birth certificate to sign.
This is to certify that Erhard Adalrik Muller, weighing 7 pounds and 12 ounces, was born on the second of January...
“[What do you think?]”
“[What do you mean, Katrin?]”
“[I don’t know. I just think...there is something strange about him, isn’t there?]”
“[You’ve said that six times. That may be, I don’t know. All I can say now is that I hope God blesses us with many happy years together.]” Anton slung his arm over his wife’s shoulder, feeling her soft black hair fall over his skin. She was anxious and he knew it, always an insecure and panic-stricken woman. “[That which we don’t know will become clear soon enough. Everything happens for a reason.]”
“[I suppose you’re right. You always are, Anton.]” Katrin smiled, nuzzling into his chest gently. “[We came to America for this child. He will make us proud, I’m sure of it.]”
“[He’ll certainly speak English better than either of us, won’t he?]” Anton chuckled, before reaching over and flicking off the light. “[Perhaps he’ll even help us with it. We certainly will need the assistance.]”
“Yes...this is right. Even to try to do it now, it is a little bad,” Katrin tried, breaking into a fit of laughter before she was done. “[That sounded terrible, I know.]”
“[We have all the time in the world to learn, meine Liebe.]”
As days, weeks, months passed, Erhard steadily grew, his temperament as quiet and gentle as ever. He didn’t seem to like most of the toys he was given, instead opting for spoons and a pen that his father had forgotten in his crib one night. Anton had no idea until he’d heard Katrin yell for him to come into the nursery.
It took several hours to wash the ink off his skin.
The redness of his eyes hadn’t faded, as Katrin had hoped it would eventually, and she began to feel more and more uneasy every time she looked straight at him. Despite the fact that Erhard could barely sit up by himself, his gaze was piercing, and his mother began to wonder what exactly went through this boy’s brain.
Was it something she wanted to know?
When Katrin opened the front door one day, she immediately knew that something was wrong. A strong, acrid scent wafted towards her from the direction of the kitchen. The smell of alcohol, and lots of it.
Thick, brown shards of broken glass littered the hallway, and Katrin nearly stepped on them, her eyes wide with fear, forcing herself to round the corner.
Anton sat, slumped over the kitchen table, with his eyes empty and blank. At least five or six empty beer bottles lay scattered across the table, with several more unopened ones sitting on the counter.
“[Anton, what-?!]” Katrin’s hands instinctively went to her mouth. “[What happened?! Where is Erhard? Anton, you need to watch him-]”
“[I don’t need to do any such thing,]” Anton slurred, hiccuping intermittently. “[I know what’s happening, Kat. I understand. That boy...]” He leaned over, his head falling into his hands, causing his current bottle to be knocked off the table, spilling all over the floor.
“[The floor! Anton, be careful, you’ll end up hurting someone…]”
“[I don’t care. That boy, that child...there’s something wrong with him. He’s not normal.]” With that, Anton threw his head into the table, slamming against it with a sickening cracking noise. “[He’s not of God, he’s not my son!!]”
“[Stop! Stop it!]” Katrin nearly flew over to his side, grabbing onto his shoulders and forcing him to sit up. “[Don’t do this, don’t hurt yourself like this! Please, stop.]”
The only sound in the room for a very long time was Anton’s shaky, ragged breaths. If not for that and the shaking of his shoulders, it would not be difficult to assume that he was dead. Eventually, after what seemed like forever, Anton looked up, pale as a ghost.
“[The boy is a sin. I see it, in his eyes, in his soul. He never laughs, he never smiles, he never plays. He simply stares and touches things...I can see that he is not a natural child.]”
“[How...what happened? This is so sudden, I just-]” One of Katrin’s hands moved to her breastbone, clenching into a fist before she even realized it was happening. Her heart began to beat so hard that she could feel it, adrenaline forcing its way into her veins, her body.
As much as she didn’t want to believe it, some part of Katrin knew that there was something wrong with her child. Perhaps it was the fact that he was her flesh and blood that distorted her view, made her irrational.
“[I saw him, Kat. I really, truly saw him for the first time. The devil was in him. Is in him.]” Anton chuckled, the same as he had those months ago, although there was something far darker, something sardonic behind it. “[I know how this sounds, but I finally realized it today. His face is so blank, he has no expressions. He is a child that God abandoned.]”
Erhard lay back in his crib, letting out a tiny hiccup. He simply stayed there, perfectly content to do just that. There were things happening outside the room that he didn’t understand, he was completely incapable of understanding.
At the age of four months, when his thoughts were still unclear and garbled, his actions without intention or care, his entire life was rapidly changing around him.