Monday, November 16, 2009

Story of Autumn's Curse

I was asked to tell a story at a birthday party. The birthday girl was turning 9 and her party was Halloween themed, so she asked me to tell a scary story. I was in touch with her mom over email a few times, and asked if it was OK to tell a story about someone being cursed, and just what scary meant -- violence and blood and gore, or black cats watching from a fence. She assured me that whatever kind of scary story I wanted to tell would be just fine. When I started telling this story, one of the boys heckled me from the back, "This isn't going to be scary!" he said. I looked over at him near the end of it and he had a shocked look on his face. Some of the kids had their fingers in their ears, and some of the parents that were listening seemed as thought they were going to stop me... perhaps I went over the line. Let me know what you think.


Every time I close my eyes I see his face and I hear the last words he spoke, the words that have haunted me these past ten years, the words of the curse he put on me.

His name was Autumn, and we had been friends as children. He grew up in the house next door and we were the same age. We went to the same schools and played on the same sports teams. We built forts in the forest behind our parents' houses and had sleep-overs on the weekends. For many years we were best friends -- we cut our fingers and mixed our blood and swore and oath to be brothers, to be loyal and true.

But that was before... and the terrible story I tell you now is of how our friendship fell apart, how Autumn came to be the one person in the world I truly hated. This is the story of his cruelty towards me, and of the revenge I took against him, and of how a sinister course of events has led me to be a man who cannot sleep, someone who can scarcely blink his eyes for the terrifying sights that lurk behind my eyelids. This is the story of the curse Autumn cast on me with his dying breath.

It was in grade 6 that everything started to change. We had been best friends up until then. But in grade 6 Autumn began to be different. He started to hang out with the bad kids, with the kids who stole money from their mother's purse and who tortured cats and who beat up the younger children in the park after school. One day when we were riding the bus home I knew for sure that he had changed. Autumn was sitting in the seat behind me with one of his "cool" new friends. I turned around and asked him if he wanted to come over to my house and watch a movie.

"No way!" he said. "All the movies you have are for little kids!" and then he spit in my face.

His cool new friend laughed at me and said, "Who is this loser anyways?"

"He's nobody," Autumn said. "He's just my stupid neighbor who still wets his bed."

Then they both laughed to kill themselves, and I knew right then that he had become evil, that being blood brothers was all over.

It just got worse as the years went by. Autumn was always mean to me and was always saying nasty things behind my back. He told the kids at school that I had lice and scabies and still slept in the bed with my mom. He called me stupid and slow. He wrote my name on the walls of the bathroom with the F word next to it. He put glue inside my winter hat. He picked on me all the time... and one day after school in grade 8 he grabbed me and threw me down over the stairs. Then he broke my arm while I was lying on the floor and kicked me in the face. I've got two false teeth that the dentist put in to replace the ones that he broke. Autumn had become pure evil. There's no other way to put it. And after I had endured so much pain and humiliation I decided that enough was enough. I decided it was time for me to get revenge on the devil, the ultimate revenge.

And so I made my plans and I waited... I stewed over it and I obsessed. I got together all the things I would need and I carefully laid my trap. I wanted everything to go perfectly, and I didn't want to get caught. So I waited and I obsessed... and somewhere along the way I think that a part of me turned evil too.

It was late at night and everyone in my house was asleep. This was the night. This was when I was going to get my revenge. I quietly got up out of bed and crept out of my room. I moved slowly and softly so as not to make a sound that might wake up my parents. I went down the stairs and then out the back door. No lights turned on, and I knew that no one had heard me go outside. I went and got the book bag I had hidden in the woods, the one with my supplies inside. The moon was full and bright and the shadows of the tree branches moved with the wind and looked like hands, reaching out to stop me before I made a mistake.

I put the book bag on my back and crept through the trees, over towards Autumn's house. As I got closer a cloud moved in front of the moon and blocked out all the light. It was dark, but I could still see the window to the basement and I crawled up to it, careful not to make a sound. The latch on the window was open, and I ever so quietly lifted it up. I paused for just a moment, wondering if I'd gone too far and if it was me, not Autumn, who was the evil one, whether I could live with myself if I carried out my plot. Goosebumps broke out on my arms and neck... I could feel a cold breeze under my shirt... my body shivered and shook. But then, it passed, and I decided to go in the basement window.

It was pitch black inside, but I knew my way around Autumn's house. I made my way to the stairs and went slowly, quietly, careful-not-to-make-a-sound, crawled all the way to his bedroom door. My heart was beating like mad -- thump thump -- and I was sure that someone would hear the sound of it going -- thump thump, thump thump. But they didn't hear a thing... nothing stirred inside the house.

I slowly opened his bedroom door. The hinge creaked -- eeeccree!! Then I looked inside and saw Autumn, fast asleep, lying in his bed. I stepped in and closed the door behind me. I took the can of gasoline out of my book bag and ever so quietly poured it on the carpet around his bed in the shape of a horseshoe. I stepped back towards the door and took out a box of matches and as I struck one and its light illuminated the room I could see his face, softly sleeping. I knew then I had gone too far but I couldn't turn back... and so I let the lit match fall to the floor.

Flames shot up in a ring and the sheets on Autumn's bed started to catch fire and a cloud of smoke rose up in the room. I turned away and opened the door. I knew I had to run, knew I had to get out of there. But then the flames began to lick Autumn's body and he cried out in pain, "AAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!"

And then I looked back at him (oh, how I wish I had never looked back). Autumn was sitting up in his bed and the fire was raging all around. The flesh was melting away from his face, his hair sizzled and his face swelled up. A terrible smell reached my nostrils and I urged and almost puked. He was looking right at me and his eyes were bloated and blood red. Then he raised an arm and pointed at me and cried out the curse that has haunted me to this day:

Gods of the underworld
I summon you here to listen to my last words
I offer up my soul and all I have left if you will curse this boy
Let his food always taste like ash
May his water always taste like metal
May he for the rest of his days be haunted by my words
May he hear them and may he see my burning face whenever he closes his eyes
May he wander the world alone and may he never rest.
Grant my wish and curse his every day
And may his torture be never ending

Then he laughed a foul black stench and melted away into the burning mattress of his bed. I turned and ran for my life. I ran and I hid in the woods. I never was caught and this confession I tell to you is the first time I have told this story. I think I have very few days left. For every time I close my eyes I see Autumn's face on fire and I hear his words. I am a man cursed, and I can never rest.


Ganga Fondan said...

Now how are those little ones supposed to sleep for the rest of their lives??? Did you ever have a job as a camp counsellor? I see people looking for fireside stories for kids all the time. Maybe there is a calling for you. If you live that long, that is... :)

Harlequin said...

marvelous !
gory, vicious, nasty, cruel... perfect for kids this age :)
I was also put in mind of the goat killer terrible tales of campfire stories.
I imagine the little guy with the big eyes is taking a journey that he will never experience on Xbox!
the gothic, tragic feel of it is great as well; I'd be interested in the number of parents who call to book you for ongoing engagements....

the walking man said...

The party was well served Jon. The lessons hopefully well understood. It is the sharpest point that enters deepest.

christopher said...

Well crafted, feels like a modern Poe. Probably better not burn your hated neighbor kid up. Pretty serious stuff, hey?

Jon said...

Yeah, I've been having some trouble with the old circadian rhythms for a while now... though I imagine that's more to do with the late nights sitting in front of a keyboard than my cursed soul!

I'd be somehow surprised if I ever hear back from these parents after this... but you never know, eh? Maybe the kids are more acclimatized to violence and gore than their folks are willing to admit. And I like what you say about the imaginative process of listening to a story. There is something more to that than watching TV or playing a video game...

walking man,
I've been trying to think what the lesson in this story might be... been wondering since I penned it. Maybe something about being nice to the other kids at school and not hanging out with the baddies... but then, who's the real baddie in this little tale?

Nice to hear from you! I like how you pick up on the Poe influence here. I had something like the Cask of Amontillado in mind when I was plotting this out... "the many injuries of Fortuno" kind of thing, but no walling up in the cellar. Poe is the master of macabre!

Thanks to you all for stopping by and for your thoughts. I appreciate it!

Shubhajit said...

This story must be heard and a good storyteller can really give a cold shrill through bones. There is a definite lesson behind it and I agree with Walking Man. I guess the lesson is the law of return of your own work. Evil bestows evil and good bestows good and from the mouth of Autumn evil passes all his evil to You.

By the way, I accidentaly delete your comment from my blog. There are some spam comments keep coming and I deleted all in haste. Could you care to post once more? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Oh my! And I have a pretty short attention span, but this....your words kept me gripped in their hands...tight!I don't know about the 'little people' but for me, yes I was spooked and left thinking......does revenge really pay?

Anonymous said...

It is very interesting for me to read this article. Thank author for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read more soon.

the walking man said...

Definitions of good and evil do not work in this. the lesson is knowing when to walk away from the past and give it no more thought. that and fight the fight in the moment don't let it fester to escalation.

Z said...

Eek. Actually, excellent story that it was and well told, I think it was a bit strong for the average 8 or 9 year old.

Jon said...

Sure I'll drop by your site in a few mins now and see what you're up to... and yeah, I sympathize... those spammers... where do they get the nerve?!?

Well, I'm glad that it pulled you in... thanks! Hope you don't have any bad dreams though ;)

Welcome! Please stop back and read whenever you can and like. Glad you enjoyed the story.

Walking man,
I like the last point you make about not letting things fester. Maybe the narrator would have been better off just letting Autumn have it the first day on the bus, and that would have been all... but then, where would the story have gone?

Yeah, I know. I'm going to see the mom and daughter at a storytelling event this weekend, so I'll ask them about it then. But I have a suspicion that you're right. A friend of mine suggested that I might want to put together a book -- Scary Stories For Every Holiday to Scare the Crap out of your Kids and give them Bad Dreams. I'm considering it...


jadedj said...

Great, so now I won't be able to sleep tonight!

Seriously, fine tale...superbly crafted.

Jon said...

Thanks for dropping by... and welcome to my world of persistent insomnia. Does add to the cliche of the writer though!