Edward Bright, Eater Of The Dead

Edward Bright, the last known Essex Eater

Throughout the history of these lands there have been many different methods employed to combat the threat of the dead, and one of the most unpleasant attempts at control was quite possibly the old Essex role of the Eater Of The Dead.

Originally, The Eater would usually be forced to live at the margins of society, subsisting on naught but the flesh of the dead. Bodies would be brought to him untouched and left outside the door of his cave to cook beneath the sun and he would consume them out of the sight of pious eyes.

But later, as ritualisation and supstition took hold of many communities in the county, lavish banquets would be prepared from the corpses’ flesh and the standing of Eaters within the community changed from that of outcast to lord (or, at the very least, mayor).

By the words of the sacred texts, it was known that only one Eater could ever be employed by a single parish council, and as the populations of Essex kept growing inexorably larger (both in number and in size), the growing number of Death Banquets and, quite crudely, the sheer amount of meat that had to be consumed, led not only to increasing health problems for the Eater but also imposed a significant bureaucratic overhead on the Parish councils. As such, the position began to be phased out.

The last know Essex Eater was Edward Bright (1721–1750), of the town of Maldon. Collequially known as The Fat Man Of Maldon, Edward inherited the role from his father. He began Eating at an early age, and soon surpassed even the prodigious feats of his father (John Bright, or The Big Man Of Maldon), eventually growing to gargantuan proportions scarcely believable to those of us of this more moderate age.

Edward Bright’s girth eventually became so great that it threatened to collapse the town, and in the early months of 1750 the terrified townsfolk lured him into the nearby Blackwater River by placing the dead body of his mother on a mudbank that lay at the centre of the river like the bloated corpse of a whale.

The stench of human putrefaction brought him from his lair and he stood at the river and stared across at the corpse of his mother. It was apparently low tide, and in his desperate lust for her flesh, he began to race across the mud. His huge legs cut trenches in that foul clay wide enough for boats as he dementedly fought his way through the mire, and when he reached her corpse he screamed so loudly in triumph he is said to have shattered the windows of each of the churches in the town.

But his triumph was short lived. What he thought was the muds of low-tide were actually a trap created by the denizens of Maldon, who had created a temporary dam across the river further inland, and, before Edward Bright could even take the first bite out of his mother’s succulent thighs, they broke it open and the rushing waters carried that The Eater away from the town and far out to sea.

It is said he lives on at the edges of the oceans, searching beaches for the hulks of dying whales. On finding them, he emerges from the depths and helps them on their way to their final destinations.