Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Quick Word... A Fairytale

It is a common misconception that all the witches of the world cast elaborate spells of grand design and complex undertaking, so that a child of their own dislking might fall into a deep sleep at the sound of their true name, or if they ever see their reflection without a ruby necklace on.

The old crone Finnigas for one, was certainly not one of these witches. She had the evil intent of course, but none of the stamina and study required for all those high-falutin' show-off spells. Instead she believed in the simple. The tried and true. She believed - quite simply - in pure evil.

Finnigas spent her days weaving thick patchwork quilts, which in sunlight shone with bright and delightful colours, but by night released powerful images into the purchasers head, ghostly apparitions and delusions that would wake them with a quaking fear. Finnigas got no personal reward from these dreams, except the one that she enjoyed most of all - the misery of others. That was until one day Miss Elizabeth Crutchill came storming into the marketplace, demanding that after buying a quilt last week she had slept fitfully for three nights in a row, the unborn baby in her belly kicking like a mule in chains, and that the nightmares had not ended until the quilt had been thrown on the fire. She called Finnigas a fraud and a sadist, and urged the others of the market to avoid her cursed bedspreads as if they were diseased to the touch. The townsfolk began to rally around, echoing complaints about their nights of sleep with the quilts, until the mayor himself demanded that they all be burnt in the town square (especially the one he had on his own bed), and that Finnigas be exiled.

Finnigas seemed not to respond to any of these accusations, and to merely grunt for most of the speech, but in actual fact she was muttering, her eyes closed and all her concentration focussed on Mrs. Crutchill as they chained the old hag up and dragged her to the woods. The further away she got the louder her voice became, until she finally cackled with wild laughter, and the woman's pregant belly began to glow with a violent red.

A nearby expert in lore advised Mrs. Crutchill that the curse that had been placed upon her was centuries old, and very simple. It was a sadness curse, not in that it made the bearer sad, but made it impossible for them to be happy. If her unborn child ever became gleeful, the wizened passer-by told her, he would most certainly die.

So as soon as he came kicking and screaming into this world, Mrs. Crutchill's son Jack was tapped and flicked and smacked and told-off constantly. He was put through rigorous chores and taxing tests. All holidays were forgotten or ignored, so that by the time we see him on his fourteenth birthday, he would be no wiser if you had told him he had just turned ten.

Jack Crutchill had lived fourteen years of misery thanks to the old witches curse, and any time a glimmer of hope had presented itself to him, it had soon been squashed by his overcontrolling mother. They ate only the most basic foods, so that he was alive but never fully satisfied. Friends were simply out of the question, and playing even more so. There were however, always chores to be done, and so for now Jack occupied his time with those.

Then on this day - his fourteenth birthday you will recall - he heard sobbing from his mother's study. She spent most of her time in there these days - though the room was out of bounds to Jack and he had no idea what on - but he had never heard her cry so miserably, and it made his heart ache with a shared sadness to hear her so upset. Passing the door he noticed that the reason he had heard her for the first time, was that she had neglected to lock it today, and so he pushed it softly open.

He found her poring over books. The volume she read now was entitled Miserabilis Vomicus and it was over this that she had been weeping. She had not noticed him enter and so he crept up behind her and read the book over her shoulder:

The curse is not easily broken, the book said, and without the co-operation of the original curser, the only real option is to help the individual lead a life of subtle but comfortable misery.

The boy read the words and something in his mind clicked. His head span and he took a step backwards, taking in the room around him. Wall to wall it was covered in presents and letters, cards and toys. Some read 'Happy 5th Birthday' or 'Congratulations To a Man of 12.' Others read 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Easter'. Everything his mother had denied him had been locked safely in this room, as if she could not bear to not buy gifts for her son, and yet then could not bear to give them. He looked around and soaked it all in, and then realised: she loves me.

There was the soft thump of a body falling to the floor, and the grieving mother turned from her tears and spun around to face the sound. The boy lay on the hard stone, dead. His eyes were open but unresponsive, his heart warm but not beating. And on his face, was a first - perfect - smile.

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