The Cursed Ones
The Cursed One: Volume One
- The Cursed Ones
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The Cursed Ones: Volume One
The young child screamed as the witch slid her bound body into a brick oven and stoked its fire. Softly, the old woman cackled to herself as the child’s screams turned to dying anguish mired by suffocation.
“Dinner will be ready soon,” the old witch mused to her black cat that seemed arrogant in its placid expression with half-shut eyes. “Of course, Black Moon…there will be plenty for you, as well”. The cat’s eyes feigned widening before returning to their normal, half-open state.
The witch walked from the tiny circular kitchen and into small living room sparsely decorated with a rocking chair, a small fireplace and cabinet on the opposite wall by the front door. With the moaning of old age pain, she collapsed into her rocking chair and began knitting by the fireplace that kept her uncomfortably warm to any who would dare visit her.
Black Moon leapt down from the top of the dusty black cabinet to the floor and proceeded to jump up in her lap. “Down, Black Moon,” she demanded of her cat who quickly spun around to catch himself. “I’ve got to get this sweater done for my sister,” she explained and add, “That’s why we’re having such a special dinner, tonight”.
Black Moon simply responded with a, “Meow,” and found a place by the fire to lie down, instead.
“I know you want attention but I’ve got work to do,” she argued. “Besides, I could have sworn I heard a mouse last night. Perhaps tonight will be the night you catch him…just don’t bring him to bed, okay,” the witch remarked. Her comment was a reflection of the last time he caught one and gave it to her as a gift, while she slept.
Black Moon simply yawned, as if she was boring him and she probably was. She sat there in her rocking chair quietly knitting while Black Moon drifted off to sleep when she noticed the smell of smoke in the air.
“Probably just the hair burning off,” she told herself.
She kept on knitting as the smell of smoke worsened in her little adobe hut. She tilted her head back as her crooked nose flared in and out. “No…that’s not hair,” she realized, as she dropped her knitting and hurried to her feet. “That smells like…”
A man’s strong voice yelled from beyond her door, “Come out witch”!
“Who in the world would be crazy enough…,” she grumbled to herself, as she jumped up out of the rocking chair and grabbed her staff adorned with a black crystal and thusly named, “The Staff of Darkness”.
She marched to her front door and flung it open where a farmer carrying a torch made of straw greeted her some twenty paces from the hut. His dark wild hair and long bushy beard made him look ominous against a backdrop of a swamp. The year was eighteen-eighty-six and the farmer wore the clothes of that time, a dress shirt with rolled up sleeves and pants held up with suspenders. His name is Jeremiah Hatfield and normally he was a hard-working farmer but at this moment, he was very angry…a very pissed off, father.
“You took my daughter, where is she,” he asked the old woman, with a look of sworn vengeance in his eyes.
“Yep, I took her and I’m cooking her, now! Would you care to stay for dinner,” she asked him, and laughed, as though she were insane.
Anger poured over the big man as tears raged in his eyes. “Curse you to hell, woman,” he yelled, with bitter anger, as he raised the torch above his head.
To her surprise, flaming arrows zipped through the brush, one catching her straight in her blackened heart. As she fell to her knees, her house began to burn from the other arrows.
“Nah-shay-kah,” she yelled out, casting the ancient curse of revenge, as she fell to the ground with the staff still, firmly grasped in her pale hand and slowly died.
The cat quickly fled from the burning house, only stopping to notice her, as though he were saying goodbye. At the same time, Jeremiah had approached the witch, when he saw the cat. Quickly, he snatched the cat from the ground, unsheathed his knife and gutted the cat dropping its bleeding body on top of the staff’s crystal and the woman.
“Go to hell with her,” he growled, as he spit on the cat.
Suddenly, the ground began to quiver and sink, causing the farmer to run backwards several paces. The other men that had ambushed her ran close to Jeremiah from the brush they were hiding, behind.
The first one to reach Jeremiah was a thin, young man in overalls by the name of Daniel McCoy. Jeremiah had helped him with his farm, a few years back, when he and his newly wedded wife, started their lives there in Childer’s Grove. It was loyalty, which brought Daniel there, that day.
A shorter man with wild blonde hair and beard joined them. His name is Roy Calhoun and Jeremiah’s best friend. They grew up together, worked together and helped each other through several droughts. Roy was there when Jeremiah’s wife had died. Indeed, Roy was a brother to Jeremiah and it was out of the spirit of brotherhood, which brought Roy to that swamp.
The oldest of the group, Barney Phillips was a farmer by trade but he always wore the front of his hat brim turned up as the old miner’s did in those days. Indeed, Barney was a character. His many years in the service after the civil war had left him rigid and strict but the townsfolk all know Barney has a great sense of humor. Therefore, they picked at him every chance they had, just to make him grumble which was funny to watch. Still, he was a good man and never backed down from a fight. His courage had brought him there, to the doorstep of evil.
The last man to join them was the town doctor. Doctor Bridgewater was a middle-aged man who often enjoyed Aunt Mae’s meals. Perhaps too often as he had become, somewhat portly. He always wore a black felt hat and matching suit with white dress shirt. When his coat was unbuttoned, you could see the watch chain running from one side of his vest to the other. He wanted to be there encase Sally needed medical attention. It was duty and honor had brought the doctor to the swamp.
Together, they watched the ground open and swallow up the witch, her cat and staff, and the house, as everything sunk slowly into the ground. Jeremiah listened intently for any sound of his daughter but the men kept him from trying to get to the house as it began to sink faster and faster while burning, until it was gone. Suddenly the earth rose up until there was no trace that the house had even been there.
“Good riddance, witch,” the farmer cursed as he spat on the ground. The men let him go and he turned to walk away with those that helped him hunt her down.
When they returned to town, many of the men celebrated their freedom from the evil shadow the witch had cast on their families for generations. But, the farmer of the child that died had no cause to celebrate. His daughter was dead at the hands of evil and he could offer her no proper burial.
Quietly, he sat in his dingy little farmhouse alone. His wife had died during childbirth and now his daughter was lost to him, too. For a while, he considered killing himself but his will to live far-outweighed his reasons to die.
At the end of two bottles of whiskey, the farmer could barely hold his head up when he heard the vague sound of the wind howling outside. Knowing he needed to fasten his shutters, he forced himself up from the old-wood table and staggered helplessly along the mantle of the fireplace as he tried to reach the window.
When he finally made it, he took a moment to look out in the pitch-blackness. Suddenly, he saw the apparition of a woman, glowing softly by a tree not too far from his barn.
He closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to clear his drunken stupor. When he opened them, she was staring right at him from the yard, only half the distance she as before. Quickly, he blinked once more and she was standing right outside his window. Scared to death, he went to jump backwards and hit the corner of the table, only to wake up where he had passed out in his chair.
“Damn,” he cursed, as his head pounded and his body ached. He did not feel as drunk as he had been but he was still feeling the effects of the alcohol. Slowly, he struggled to his feet while using the table to push himself up. “That’s not the answer,” he said, as he slapped the bottle over not caring that the scotch was pouring out on the table.
As he turned to head for his bedroom on the opposite side of the fireplace, he staggered and caught himself on the wall by the fireplace mantle. “Yea, bad idea,” he told himself, as though he just realized the mess he was and had facing him in the morning.
The next day, the farmer woke up with his head weighing considerably more than he was accustomed to. The size was the same but the hangover definitely, where the extra weight felt like it was coming from.
His feet had barely hit the floor when a furious knock came to the door for which, he felt every single pounding noise echo in his brain. “Dang it,” he grumbled, as he tried to hurry and stand up only to discover the stiffness in his body which gave him an ample dosage of pain.
Another hard pounding on the door and the farmer had to grab the doorway, as the brain jarring sound disoriented him for a second. While staggered into the dining room from the bedroom, he tried to focus his eyes better by rubbing them. As he looked again, he saw the mess on the kitchen table and exclaimed, “Oh, great!”
With a third, more impatient knock, Jeremiah yelled out, “I’m coming, already”!
Forcing himself, he hurried on to open the door only to find several of the men, from the day before, standing in his yard and glaring at him with eyes of bitter anger. He knew that something bad had happened and quickly sobered as best he could.
“What happened, Roy,” he asked his neighbor while leaning on the doorframe in his long johns.
“Jeremiah, we woke up and our children are gone,” Roy Calhoun replied in a monotone voice, as he ran his fingers through his blonde hair only to tug at it as he grabbed his head.
“Like my Sally,” Jeremiah Hatfield asked them.
“Yea, like your Sally,” Daniel McCoy agreed, as he hung his head down to cover the tears in his eyes while using his floppy straw hat to hind behind. Still, Jeremiah could hear the quiver in his voice.
“The witch is dead, ain’t she,” Jeremiah questioned, as he looked at Roy.
“Yea, we all saw her die,” Barney Phillips agreed, as he stood firmly staring at Jeremiah. Barney served in the ninth cavalry after the civil war and was a very, proud veteran.
“It gets worse, Jeremiah,” Roy told him and explained; “They took our entire families. Not just our children but our wives too…Even our parents…I mean, anyone that was kin to us that lives in this town is gone”!
“I don’t get it,” Jeremiah replied, as he rubbed his dark beard.
One of the men that were with them the day before was Doctor Bridgewater. He was not much help with the hunt for Jeremiah’s daughter but he did come in handy for wrapping up a few cuts and scrapes along the way. Everywhere the middle-aged doctor went; you would always see his handbag in his hand, as if it were growing off his fingers. “Looks like the witch had family,” he suggested to them, as he looked at everyone with his clear blue eyes and neatly trimmed black hair.
“Why do you say that,” Roy asked.
The doctor explained, “Since we’re the only ones who lost our families around here I’ll assume it was family-for-family thing. So, I believe…” the doctor started to continue but Roy interrupted him.
“Y’all…maybe we should meet at the church and talk about this. I can feel a chill in the air and I don’t like it at all,” Roy told them, as he rubbed his arms.
“Yea, I feel it too, Roy,” Jeremiah agreed.
Without saying another word, Jeremiah closed the door behind him, got dressed and rode with the others on horse-drawn wagons as they headed for town. The ride through the spring countryside would have been beautiful to anyone except these men. They were, cursed to no end and all of them knew it.
The town of Childer’s Grove was, built in the shape of the letter, ‘U.’ Approaching town from the east. Directly, on the left-hand side of town, sits the church-slash-school, facing east. The church was, run by a jolly older man with rosy cheeks by the name of John Wilkes. Reverend Wilkes doubled as the town preacher and local dentist. His story is a story in its own right. Still, the reason he did not go and help them was simple enough. Reverend Wilkes would have helped them but he had been bad off sick the past few days and was in no condition to get out of bed. Although he tried, Jeremiah would not let him.
To the left of the church was, the general store run by a man named, Mister Wilbur Godson. Mister Godson was a thin man with stringy blonde hair he parted to the side and combed back as best he could. As a nervous habit, he was constantly fixing his glasses by pushing them up on his nose whether, they need it or not. The doctor had checked the glasses on numerous occasions and never found anything loose or wrong with them. Mister Godson offered to help but he had lost a leg in the Civil War and Jeremiah knew they needed to hurry and save his daughter.
On the other side of the general store, sat the town bank ran by, Mister Jim Corbin. One of the greediest people they ever meet. To prove the fact of how greedy he truly is, it was, once said that he would not get married simply because he did not want a wife to have to support. Granted, what woman would want him? Because of his selfish nature, he was too busy to help find Jeremiah’s daughter.
At the end of the town, on the far western side, was a huge old oak as big around as any person had ever seen. On any given occasion, the townspeople would meet at the old oak and enjoy a church revival picnic, holidays and weddings. On the other side of the tree was Kerry Brook, a small stream that snaked through town and the rest of the valley.
Starting from the eastern side of town, the first building on the right is the blacksmith’s shop. Mister Barry Sherman ran his shop and the stables. Outside of taking care of the local animals, Mister Sherman also doubled as caretaker for the stagecoach that passed through there once a week, making an overnight stop. The burly, Viking like man would have surely helped Jeremiah find his daughter. However, the day before was, the day of the stagecoach. If he were not there to do his job, he would have lost his contract with the stagecoach company and hurt the whole town. Jeremiah understood that and told Mister Sherman he was not offended in any way.
Next to the blacksmith, sat an old, white house Doctor Bridgewater shared with Reverend Wilkes. The simple sign that swayed back and forth in a breeze simply read, ‘Doc and Dentist.’ The sign would have said Doctor and Dentist but the local who runs a, sawmill outside of town, Mister Ivan Shultz, could not spell English very well. Considering his thick German accent, most felt he could not really speak it either and often had to ask him to repeat something. Jeremiah would have asked him or his son, Conrad Shultz for help but they lived further away from town than most.
Next to the Doc and Dentist, was Aunt Mae’s Inn. Her business would have been hurt the worst if Mister Sherman had lost the contract. Having the only Inn in town in the middle of a sprawling valley, she relied heavily on the, once-a-week stagecoach, layover. As for Aunt Mae, she was an old woman, heavy-set and the best cook the town knew of. Truth, be known, it was her and her husband that had settled, Childer’s Grove along with Jeremiah’s grandfather and Roy’s grandfather, as well.
Several other farmers lived way outside of town headed south. Jeremiah knew he did not have time to gather everyone from the south side of the Childer’s Grove community. Therefore, when he rounded up a posse, he stuck to the north side of town where he lived.
A handful of the surviving families that were, spared of the disappearances looked on at the men, as they rode into town. Jeremiah and the men acted as though they were unaffected by the onlookers but they surely could feel the depth of each stare.
One young boy tugged at his middle-aged momma’s long dress and asked her, “What’s wrong with everyone”?
She quickly snapped her dark eyes to stare down at her son and replied, “Mind your tongue, Joshua”!
“Yes, ma’am,” the little boy replied, as he looked down at the ground and undoubtedly hoped he was not in trouble when they got home.
The men drove their wagons up beside the church where they parked and tethered the horses to the whitewash fence surrounding the old place. Reverend Wilkes ran out to greet them although, he still looked sick as a dog.
“Gentlemen, I’m truly sorry for your losses,” he told them as he sidestepped and gestured for them to go on inside the old whitewashed building.
As Jeremiah walked by the preacher, he told the man in a low voice, “This is business”.
Preacher Wilkes quickly turned his head to look Jeremiah in the face. He could see the hard look in the farmer’s face and did not dare ask why. Instead, he replied, “I’ll be down at my tooth shop if you need me.” With that said, the preacher-dentist headed on through the gate and hurried off to the left, across the street.
Jeremiah followed the others on inside, where they gathered in the pews closest to the pulpit. In a way, Jeremiah felt obligated to speak to them, as he stood where the preacher spent every Sunday morning and gave sermons.
“I owe all of you an apology. Had I not taken y’all with me to hunt her down, none of this would have happened to you,” he apologized, earnestly.
“You would have done the same for us and we know it,” Daniel told him from the front left pew as he still held onto his overall-straps. At least, he had taken the time to remove his hat upon entering the church and showed some form of respect.
“Still, I needed to say that, Daniel,” Jeremiah replied, firm in his belief that it was the right thing to say.
About that time, the door to the church swung open and a young cowboy armed to the teeth, steadily walked straight towards them as he took off his cowboy hat to reveal dark curly hair. “I’m Rick Anderson of Anders, Kentucky,” he said by way of introduction.
“How can we help you,” Jeremiah asked him, angered by the man’s lack of manners and poor timing.
“When you killed the witch yesterday…how did she die,” he asked bluntly.
“How do you know about that,” Jeremiah asked the young man.
“I was there yesterday. I couldn’t hear or see much with the witch’s hut burning and crackling. Now, back to my original question, how did she die?”
“With an arrow, straight through the heart,” Jeremiah told him. “You got a reason for being here”?
“Indeed, I do,” Rick, remarked. “I tracked her sister to this area and after hearing from one of the locals about certain recent events, I realized the danger all of you have put yourselves in”.
“Maybe there’s some truth to your thinking, doc,” Jeremiah said in regards to the doctor’s suggestion; the witch might have had family. He quickly shot a look at Doctor Bridgewater then, back at Rick.
“Back to my original question,” Rick interjected to regain Jeremiah’s attention. “How did she die”?
“I told you…” Jeremiah replied only to have Rick cut him off, again.
“I got that part…I need the details. I heard her yell something yesterday but I couldn’t quite make it out. So, how did she die?”
Roy looked at the young man and said, “After she hit the ground and Jeremiah killed her cat, the ground swallowed them up”.
Rick turned his head to look back at Jeremiah and asked him, “You killed her cat”?
“She took my Sally from me…I wanted to kill anything she had,” he replied angrily.
“I reckon so,” Rick agreed and told them, “I lost my wife to her sister. Ever since then, I’ve been tracking her all up and down the east coast,” Rick replied. “In those past four years, I’ve learned a lot about witches and a host of other things you don’t want to know about. So, work with me here and tell me everything,” Rick demanded.
Jeremiah felt Rick was on their side and recanted everything he could recall, along with the help of some of the others and finished by saying, “After the ground swallowed them up I figured it was over”.
“What about her staff? Did she have it with her,” Rick asked him as he sat down on the pew.
“After I threw the cat down, I saw it sticking out from underneath the dead animal,” Jeremiah replied as he leaned his elbows up on the altar.
“From what you’ve told me, the cat’s blood surely got on the staff,” Rick replied.
“Oh, I wouldn’t doubt it but why are you asking,” Jeremiah prodded the stranger.
“On several occasions, I’ve come close to catching up with Jeanne LaForge. On one such occasion, I found a diary she had kept on her sister, Marie LaForge, also known as your town witch. In the diary, she talks about the, Staff of Darkness...and the cat, Black Moon. According to her writings, Black Moon was once the husband of Marie. However, when Marie caught her husband cheating on her, she turned him into a cat and devoured the girl,” Rick explained to them, imparting some of what he had learned before Jeremiah stopped him to ask a question.
“So, she didn’t just eat children,” he asked as he shifted uncomfortably.
Rick shook his head and replied, “Children and enemies were a favorite dish to Marie and Jeanne LaForge. They believe that eating the flesh of their enemies only helps in making their souls even darker thereby giving them more power,” The he told them, “The point I’m getting to is that you didn’t spill the blood of a cat on the staff but the blood of a man. Worse than that, she’s put a Death Curse on you men. With her husband’s blood hitting the staff, his blood could have been the catalyst for the curse which means she could still be alive.”
“Her husband,” Jeremiah mused to himself.
“Exactly, and from something else I read in the diary, his blood upon the Staff of Darkness was payment enough for her Death Spell to become effective,” Rick told them.
“What’s a Death Spell,” Daniel asked as he leaned forward on the pew behind where Doctor Bridgewater was sitting quietly.
Rick explained to them that, “The Death Spell, according to the diary, is the dying curse of a witch. What it means is that everything you love will die but you never will. You are virtually immortal with a few exceptions.”
“Immortality…that’s hogwash,” Barney Phillips argued as he crossed his arms across his chest.
Rick looked straight at him and asked, “You saw the earth swallow them up, right,” as he tried to make his point.
“It could have been a fluke sinkhole. We’ve got a lot of them around here,” Barney replied, firm in his belief that he was anything, but immortal.
Rick asked all of them, “How could one woman take your entire family from all of you in a single night? I know this is hard for you to believe but you better start believing it, right now”!
“Okay, so let’s say that we are all cursed with immortality,” Jeremiah considered, “Why would she make us immortal? I mean, wouldn’t it have been better to kill us, instead”?
“Not at all,” Rick disagreed and added, “By making you men immortal, she’s cursed you to a suffering that will never end. Anyone you ever try to love will, long be, outlived by you. You will bury every child you have and every wife you marry,” he explained.
Jeremiah sighed heavily as the weight of what he was saying, hit him full on. “Is there a way to undo the curse,” he asked as he looked down at the Bible that lay open between his forearms and thought for a moment.
Rick looked down at the old church floor and replied, “The dying curse of a witch can never be undone…according to the diary. Although, I still think there is a chance the curse was, made on her husband’s blood.
Jeremiah rubbed his tired eyes as he forced himself to stand back up. “Rick, if you keep chasing after the sister, you’ll end up like us…is that what you want”?
“Yes…I want to spend the rest of my existence killing her and things like her,” Rick swore.
“No you don’t…go home,” Jeremiah told him, flatly.
“You don’t get it,” Rick said as he jumped to his feet. “I was begging my wife to get saved when she was taken from me. She’s not in Heaven waiting on me so, this is all I’ve got,” he went on to explain.
“So, you want to be immortal to spend all of eternity getting revenge,” the doctor asked him.
“This isn’t about revenge…this is all about protecting other folks to keep this from happening to them,” Rick argued. “That’s why I came to you men. I need your help catching Jeanne and others like her. We can’t ever let this happen to anyone else and after four years, my brother and I can’t do it alone.”
“What are you suggesting,” Daniel asked him.
Rick smiled at Daniel and replied, “I’m suggesting that we band together, find Jeanne LaForge and kill her. After that, I think we should start scouring every corner of the earth and wipe them all out”.
“You’re out of your mind,” Daniel replied as he stood up and started walking for the door.
Jeremiah quickly called to him and said, “Daniel…you can’t run from this”.
Daniel spun around on his heels and replied, “I ain’t running from anything, Jeremiah…I’m casually walking away from the bullshit, though”.
“Daniel, listen to me,” Doctor Bridgewater said, getting the young man’s attention. “For every sickness there is a cure waiting to be found. I believe that if we take this man’s proposal, we may one day find a cure to this curse. Until then, we should try to keep this from ever happening to any others”.
“So, you’ll join me,” Rick asked.
“I’m in,” the doctor replied.
“Me too,” Jeremiah agreed. Eventually, all of them agreed to band together in the hopes of one day reversing, The Death Spell. “So, how do we catch Jeanne LaForge,” he asked.
Rick told them, “Like I told you men earlier, I’ve been chasing her for four years now. I was going to set a trap at her sister’s yesterday evening but that plan obviously fell through.”
“Where is she now,” Roy asked him.
“She might be at her sister’s trying to recover the staff,” Rick replied.
“Why is the staff important,” Doctor Bridgewater asked.
Rick thought about it and suggested, “Had the witches enjoyed their dinner, Marie would have passed the Staff on to Jeanne at the death of her husband, turned cat. That staff gives them incredible power and is dangerous in their hands. I still believe Jeanne is at her sister’s place, looking for the staff right now.”
“Then that’s where we need to head,” Jeremiah told them. “Let’s go”!
The Cursed Ones
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