Take a peek at Luke chapter 8 or Mark chapter 5 for the factual account on which this story is based.
Centus woke with a start. He did not know what awoke him at first, but fear coursed through his body. Then he heard it...a sort of unearthly shrieking howl that changed pitch as it echoed through the mountains.
It was not the first time he heard it. He first heard it as a very young child, perhaps four years old. Back then, he did not hestitate to run to his mother, but now he was eleven - too old to be a little boy, too young to be a man. He fought with his fear. His mother always told him it was just the wild animals shrieking and howling in the night and not to worry, because they had strong guards protecting their pigs. No animal would dare come near the pigs let alone the people. She told of Jared, the head man, who could cast a spear through a thick piece of wood with either hand, and Haman who could kill from fifty paces with either sling or bow. There were others. The owner's large herd afforded them good protection and a comfortable enough living.
But as time passed, Centus heard stories about a crazy man who lived in the lower part of the mountains among the tombs of their long dead ancestors. Sometimes, he would go up the mountain to kill one of the pigs and eat the raw flesh. Some of the men told of capturing him a couple times. At first they bound him with rope, but he snapped it like string and ran back to the mountains keening the whole day and night. Next, they shackled him with chains, but he broke them, and tossed men around like little children, and his ferocity struck terror in their hearts. They called the man rajaghet, which Centus heard meant "living dead". The stories frightened Centus much more than the idea of wild animals.
The eerie howl again floated on the evening breeze and raised the hair on the back of his neck. He decided he was not too old and walked quickly (he did not run) to his mother.
"Mother?" he whispered with a touch of urgency. She did not move, so he touched her on the shoulder and said, "Mother, I cannot sleep. It's the man again."
She awoke. "Centus, there is nothing to fear. The men will protect us."
"I know, but I...it still...makes me nervous. Can I sleep here tonight?"
She sighed and opened her arms. "Come."
He took his place beside her, and she hugged him tight.
"Mother, where did the crazy man come from?"
"Nobody knows. Some say he is descended from the old ones of our country, the ones who worshipped evil gods. Others say he is a local man who went crazy. Still others say he is not a man at all, but a demon. Some of our men have seen him though, and he is a man."
"Why is he crazy?"
"Again, nobody knows. Some say the gods were angry with him and sent spirits to torture him. Others say a witch cursed him. Others say he fell and wounded his head and has never been right since."
"Why does he cry out so?"
"Some say it is the spirits within him that cry out with his voice. Others say that the spirits torture him inside, and it is he himself who cries out."
Centus sighed. "I sure wish somehow he would stop."
She hugged him again. "Well, until he does, you have nothing to fear. Woe to the man or beast who even thinks of harming my Centus."
Centus smiled and was soon fast asleep.
In the morning, after Centus finished his chores, he looked out on the large lake beneath his mountain home and saw a ship approaching. Travelers always excited him. He never knew who might come off the ship and from what part of the world. His mother always allowed him to greet each ship with some of their men, and he would listen to the conversations and interesting stories.
"Mother, there's a ship coming! Can I go down and see it?"
"Are you finished with your chores?"
"Alright then...ask if some of the men are going, and if they are, you can go with them. But if nobody's going to meet the ship, then that's the end of it. I don't want you pestering people to go down there, understand?"
As luck would have it, three men planned to meet the ship and welcomed Centus to join their company. They trekked down the mountain trail and over to the shore in about a twenty minutes, just as the ship lowered the first boat of passengers to row to the shore. There were other people waiting for the boat too.
Centus waited as patiently as he could, but could not help but run out when the boat was near enough.
"Hello! Hello! Welcome to the country of the Gadarenes! Who are you? My name is Centus!"
A bearded man with curly black hair jumped out of the boat with a laughing smile and said, "Well, this is quite a welcome! Never met a Centus before. My name is John. Will you help pull us ashore?"
Centus eagerly grabbed the rope and pulled with the man, and other men soon joined the effort until the boat was grounded. The passengers disembarked.
"Who are you all? Where are you from?" asked Centus when they had all come ashore.
John laughed. "Such a curious boy! We come from Gallilee. That's James and Peter. The others can introduce themselves, but this..." and a Man stepped forward from between James and Peter, "...this is my Master, Jesus."
"How do you know my name?"
"I think you said it loud enough for the angels to hear when you came to the boat."
Everyone began to laugh, but the levity was soon cut short by an inhuman shriek from a naked man who ran toward the gathering, but stopped about forty feet away. He let loose a terrifying howl that ended in another shriek. The people froze in terror as the word rajaghet rippled through the group. Everyone cowered away from the man...everyone except one.
Jesus took a few steps toward the man.
The man was filthy and emaciated and covered with scars, sores, and wounds, some fresh, others old and infected. He held a sharp stone in his hand and gashed his forearm with it. As the blood flowed, he gnashed his teeth and spoke in mixture of squeals and roars, "Son of the Most High, leave me. What have I to do with you? Have you come to torment us before the appointed time?"
"Come out of him!" Jesus commanded.
The man spread his arms and wailed in sorrow and fear. "You would send me to the abyss...the abyss...the abyss. Have mercy! The abyss...abyss...do not send us away! Do not punish! No! No! NO!" He bellowed in agony as he fell to his knees.
Jesus came closer to the man and said, "What is your name?"
The man gashed his thigh and said, "I am Legion, for we are many. Do not send us to the abyss...the abyss. Do not punish..." He swayed from side to side, but then stopped suddenly and with crazed eyes and desperate screams said, "There are swine! Up there! Swine! Send us into them! The swine! I beg you! Have mercy! The swine...swine...swine."
Immediately, the man leapt to his feet, and his body weirdly convulsed and contorted as he screeched and howled. Then he was silent and collapsed in a heap. But not a moment later, faint shrieks echoed from the mountain swine, and the people gasped and murmured as the herd rushed headlong off the cliff and into the waters.
Now it was not the demoniac from whom the people cowered, but Jesus. And all of the frightened people ran away to their homes, including Centus.
But Jesus commanded his followers to bind up the man's wounds and give him food and drink and clothes. When he regained consciousness, he thanked Jesus and worshipped Him and sat at His feet to listen to His teaching.
It was in this condition that a contingent from the surrounding area found the man. They reasoned that the only thing that could master the rajaghet was something far worse. They begged Jesus to leave their country, and He agreed.
The healed man pleaded to go with Jesus, but He told the man to stay and tell everyone of the wonderful things God had done for him. So he stayed and spread the glory of God to all the ten cities in that area and even further.
Have a good and safe Halloween.