The Shrunken Head is a spooky kids story about a boy who is kidnapped and wakes up in a strange place with a very odd companion.
The 9 year old boy felt uneasy. He was traveling on his own for the first time and had to admit that he was a little scared. He was on the way to his grandmother’s house, taking a train.
The boy’s parents had reluctantly agreed to let him go on his own, and he set forth to visit his grandmother.
There was a man sitting beside him on the train. The man struck up a conversation with the boy and offered him some candy. Happily, the young boy accepted the stranger’s kind offer.
But when he started chewing the candy, it tasted bitter. Then he began to feel very strange. The train carriage began to swim before his eyes and he felt light-headed and sleepy. He couldn’t keep his eyes open and before long, he drifted off into a heavy slumber.
When the boy woke up, he found himself in a large room with stone walls. There were bookcases lined up against the walls and a large door at one end of the room.
He ran to the door and tried to open it. He tugged at the handle only to find that it was firmly locked from the outside. He pounded the door with his fists and called for help but no one answered.
Suddenly, he heard an eerie voice coming from somewhere inside the room.
“Get out of here while you still can,” it whispered.
The boy spun around and saw a sight so shocking that he almost fainted. On the other side of the room, sitting on a table, was a tiny shrunken head. It had been severed from its body and boiled until it shrunk down to the size of a baseball. The boy couldn’t believe that the shrunken head was speaking to him.
“Who are you?” cried Joseph.
“Four years ago, I was a young boy, just like you,” said the head. “I was happy and carefree until that man kidnapped me. He brought me to this place and trapped me in this room. He’s the reason I’m stuck here on this table. He’s the reason I’m a shrunken head. He’s an evil man and he practices black magic.”
The boy shuddered. “What happened?”
“For weeks, he left me here alone. Then on my tenth birthday, the man came back. First he cut off my head. Then he placed it in a pot of boiling water until it shrunk like a shrivelled prune. Then the man wrote a spell on a piece of parchment and placed it under my tongue. That evil black magic spell ensures that I know all and see all. All the secrets of the universe are revealed to me. But it also forces me to serve that evil man and reveal those secrets to him. But because I know all and see all, I know that a shrunken head has only a limited life span. Four years. My life span is almost up and now the man needs a new shrunken head.”
The boy felt like his heart had dropped into his stomach. “The man wants to kill me and turn me into a shrunken head,” he moaned. “That’s why he brought me to this terrible place.”
“Obviously”, said the head. “But it’s not too late for you to escape. See the bookcase behind you? Push hard on the third shelf and it will expose a secret passage.”
Joseph pushed on the shelf and was amazed to see the bookcase swing back, revealing a dark passage. He was about to rush in when the head called him back.
“Wait! If you don’t take me with you, I’ll be forced to tell him how you escaped and where you can be found. Take me with you and I can guide you to freedom.”
The boy went back to the table and gently lifted the horrible head. He tucked it under his arm, entered the dark passage, and pulled the bookcase shut behind him. As he stood trembling in the darkness, the head whispered to him.
“Count one hundred stairs,” the shrunken head told him. “Then feel for a door.”
Joseph felt like his feet were rooted to the floor until he heard terrible demonic voices crying out, searching for him. He frantically felt for the edge for the step with his foot and moved into the darkness below him. His fingers ached from clutching the shrunken head. The only thing worse than carrying it would be dropping it and letting it roll down the steps, leaving him alone in that terrible darkness.
He continued down, trying to shut out the demons’ voices, trying to remember to count. When he reached the hundreth step, his legs were quivering. His hand felt for a door and found it. Just as he turned the knob, he heard a demonic voice so close behind him that it made his ears ache. He jumped through the doorway and the door slammed shut behind him. he found himself lying in a sunlit meadow, outside the castle.
Then the shrunken head made one last request. It asked the boy to remove the parchment from his mouth, so he could finally die. The boy did as he was asked and the shrunken head breathed its last. Finally, it was out of its misery. The boy buried the head in the meadow and set off for his home town.
The boy tried to go on with his life. But for years afterwards, he was haunted by terrible nightmares. Every night, he dreamed that his head had been cut off, boiled in a big pot and left resting on a table in an empty castle. And every night, he woke up screaming.