The Mystery of Webster’s Curse & The Heroism of Mitzy
A few years ago I had my year 7 Mathematics class for a music teacher who was away, sick. They had completed their music work, and like so many playful and bored, begged a story. The Mystery of Webster’s curse was born that period. Later came the resolution of the curse due to Mitzy’s heroism.
Many thanks to PFB and AB for inspiration, and RMMB for encouragement.
The Mystery of Webster’s Curse
The events that surround the horror at that lonely suburban house so long ago are well recounted. They are legend.
Every year I am given charge of many groups of students. The younger ones are not privy to the stories. They want to know.
The printed stories I will leave to my neighbours of that era. How a family moved into a haunted house, and the oldest boy killed all of his family. Later, when questioned by police, he told of a voice that instructed him to kill.
Or of the couple who bought the house on the cheap. They faced such horrors.
I knew the house from before. When I was growing up. Old Mrs Webster lived there.
There are old people and there are old people. Some people have this thing called dignity, and it has nothing to do with being dignified in company. Mrs Webster had something else. She was old and possibly crippled, but she was athletic and energetic. She would wait by the side of her house each school morning. Any child unfortunate enough to pass within earshot would endure her curses and quips. Wise boys and girls knew to stay away. Naughty ones had to discover for themselves.
Once, on the way to school, I strayed too close. She had been calling me fat, which simple justice and an enthusiastic father led me to accept without question or deviation from my route. I trudged through the ankle deep snow. She had noticed my bag was low on my shoulder. I ignored her as I'd been trained. The wind was cold and sharp. I ignored the sharp pain in my shoulder and cheek. The dull thud. The sudden exhale. I stood stunned and still, my mind registering the stone and a little blood. Then I felt my cheek cool rapidly and wetly. Felt the heat in the muscle as it responded to the tear in the flesh. I shouldered my bag high and sprinted on without further abuse. No one at school asked me about the injury, although my teacher didn't bat an eyelid when I asked to go to sickbay.
Mrs Webster brooked no visitors. The mailman never strayed closer than an arms length to her box. The house was decayed and breathtaking. Two stories if you don't count the attic. Magnificent arched windows stood high on the second floor. They could have been doors to a balcony if one were there. She would stare balefully through them on cold days. On cold evenings, her form could still be seen through these windows. Watching the street.
Two mighty Oaks stood guard either side of the stone path leading to the wooden steps to the front door. A rope dropped from the entry porch ceiling had a leather pouch with a ball that could be used as a knocker, although nobody new if it ever would. The kids at school argued that it was really the skull of a black cat, but no one knew what a cat would be doing there anyway. Even a black one. Even if the house did smell of the carrion attractive to such cats.
A gate enclosed the house. Wooden posts lay ranch style with a rusty metal latch and hinge. It didn't matter that Mrs Webster lived there. It was haunted.
Time passes and even the inimitable Mrs Webster passed away. The Mailman noticed, one day, that she failed to collect her letters. She stopped appearing at her windows and passers by noticed they weren't being harassed. Police knock on the door, with the wooden ball hanging from the drop string. No answer. Police HQ instruct them to break in, which they do with minimal force.
It is said that they found Mrs Webster in a chair, facing the fireplace. School legend has it that she wore her death mask as a child on Halloween, dared to visit her place. Her face a picture of horror, with eyes wide and mouth agape. Some have said that she sometimes can still be seen standing at her window, on a cold winter's eve. Watching the street.
We were friends, Chris, Arthur, Joff, Big and I. I guess you could say we were naughty boys. If you were to describe the dreams of another ten year old, I could show you how we were not so different. It was Arthur's dare. But then that is how it would happen. Arthur would dare. Chris would lead. Big would follow bravely and Joff would follow nervously. I would follow. I would always wonder why.
Big was enamoured by ants. He had a glass fronted thin cabinet that profiled a nest. He would feed the ants by opening the top of the cabinet and leaving titbits of sweets, including sugar or honey.
An older boy had seized Big's ants. At his mercy, the ants did what they normally do, hurrying and scurrying and attending to the nest of the queen. The soldiers soon mobilised. But they were helpless. No more tasty titbits for them. Soon, a few were relocated to an established home for Daddy Longlegs Spiders. Eventually to be consumed by the spiders, most were caught and held helpless in webs. The rest were drowned in an acid bath of urine.
When Big ran to Chris to tell him about this older bully, Chris had been playing a CD for Arthur. Arthur was attempting to copy the tune on a guitar. Joff was there too. I wanted to show Chris a story I'd read, and I was waiting for a natural break in the flow of his conversation with Arthur. I was dozing while waiting.
Chris looked up and visually examined Big, who stood breathless and despairing before him. Arthur stopped strumming. I woke.
Chris broke the silence. "Good of you to join us."
Arthur "What's wrong?"
I intervene "Chris, Big and I were discussing this story, you might want to see it."
"Not now David! Can't you see he's upset? What is it Big?"
"You're my friends." Big began. I was feeling like Chris would never show an interest in the horror story I'd read. It had a major character called Webster.
Big's issue distracted me. I never cared much for the ant farm. My younger sister liked those things. I had to admit, though, that he was really distressed. Joff was repeating everything that Big told Chris to both Chris and Arthur. They were despairing over ever getting revenge on the older boy. I asked aloud "What would Mrs Webster do?" and Arthur called out "That's it!"
"Chris, we could spend the night at Mrs Webster's house. Then we can really freak that boy out."
"Great Idea, Arthur."
"Yeah, Arthur." Joined in Joff. I wanted to say that I'd thought of it too.
Chris gave instructions for us to invite each other over to his place for the evening. He would tell his parents that he was going to Arthur's house. We'd take our sleeping things and meet at Webster's old house. It had never been sold or leased since she had passed away that summer. Now it was high winter. She even had an old fireplace. We could roast marshmallows.
The marshmallow image caught my imagination in ways that facing down an older boy didn't. My mum was happy for me to stay at Chris' place. His parents had a holiday place and she wanted access. She made sure I packed everything, like a toothbrush. I tried to explain to her that we weren't having that kind of party, but I didn't want to alert her to what her greed had hidden. I also threw in the bag a neat flashlight I used to read under the covers and a mirror I often used to examine myself. Sister helped me by distracting Mum with her helplessness. "Mom!" She cried. "I'm thirsty!"
We met outside the gate. I was beginning to think that Big would never show at all. But we waited for him, as friends do. We were all shivering when he reached the gate. Joff had been staring at the windows, routinely claiming to see something. We kept pointing out the birds of winter that flew among the trees. It hadn't occurred to any of us that birds don't stay around frozen houses in winter. But then we still had some growing up to do.
The gate creaked as it opened wide. In its disrepair, it had fallen forward slightly and that made it easier to open, as we didn't have to push back the newly laid, trackless snow. It was ankle high. The day's sun had left it crunchy on top, powdered below. So that the crunch of our steps and the creak of the gate announced our presence here to the world and made us jumpy.
Chris was first to the door. It was ajar. The lock that had been broken by the police had never been fixed. So the door remained in an almost closed position. Now snow spilled into the entranceway and held the door in place. Arthur dragged his foot through the snow, soaking his ankle. I tried to bend down and scoop it with my gloved hands, but Joff's feet leapt forward and soon he too had soaked his feet and ankles. Chris had a bemused expression on his face when he widened the door and stepped inside. I got out my flashlight, but Chris said "It's light!"
We went in and were awed by the appearance. Before us were wide steps leading to the upper level. They were thick with dust. A shadowy shape on the top of the steps looked like a ghost. On our right was a dining room. The long table was as Mrs Webster had left it; with (now) rotting fruit and places set two a side and one at the head. On our left was a lounge room. Two two-person lounges and a single chair faced a fireplace. Ash spread from the fireplace into the room. The poker was lying next to the place and a small fence protecting the place had been pushed aside.
Lighting was provided courtesy of the candles in the dining room. Two large wax candles were placed towards the middle ends of the table. In the living room were lit kerosene lamps placed along each wall. I said, "I don't like this. I want to go home."
"It seems quite strange," echoed Joff.
"We stay" Said Chris. "We don't want to have our lives run by an older bully boy."
I was thinking of saying that we weren't bullies, and so correcting his sentence, when Arthur said "I think I heard something upstairs." Arthur was up the steps in a shot. Chris followed. Joff was wondering aloud where Big had gone.
"C'mon" I said, brandishing my flashlight.
The steps were dusty, except where my friends had left their prints. At the top was a ghostly image. It was created by the outside lamplights on the street shining through the uncurtained windows. "Look!" I called, pointing at the image. It looked for a moment as if it had a mouth that moved. That was an effect created by a bird outside, flying between the window and street lamps. "Wow!" shot back Arthur. He was walking to the far side of the front room, which in its time might have been a ballroom. I think our plan, if we were to have had one, might have been to find the bedroom and hunker down for the evening, or take the bedclothes to a fireplace and light some wood.
It was a thin, reedy but loud and inhuman scream that came from the cat that Arthur had stepped on. Chris wanted to know if we had heard the noise in the attic. "Big and Joff seem to have left us." I say.
Chris and Arthur ignored me as Arthur pulled on the rope that lowered the ladder to the attic.
Soon I could hear their voices. "Look, we could place that mannequin in front of the window. It has her clothing."
I went up the steps to investigate.
It was dark. I turned on my flashlight. Chris was staring at the mannequin. It had make up on its face, and wore Her clothes. Movement above me came from bats. I'd never believed those old stories of bats and belfries, but now I was witness. I couldn't see Arthur, so I turned to Chris. "Everyone has gone, and I don't like this place." He smiled calmly, beatifically. "Lets go to my home." I said. "You won't have to get in trouble, I can sneak you in without my folks noticing."
Chris smiled at me calmly, and then he did something I'd swear I'd never seen anyone do. His elbows and knees kind of bent backwards. His shirt buttons popped on the front and four enormous spider legs pulled the fabric aside, exposing an abdomen. All the time he was smiling calmly. Behind me I began to hear laughter. It was coming from the mannequin. It was low and long and cruel, like "Ha ha ha," not a giggling "He he he." The laugh would start small and then crescendo, louder and louder each time.
Fear is not just a feeling. Fear is part of the body. Fear causes one to flinch. It's oppression causes thinking to freeze. I stared at the spider that had Chris' face. At first I was dumb. Then I began to babble. "Don't hurt me. Please. My parents are poor. They need me to get a good education and I can work in their old age."
Chris Spider was in attack range. A spider needs all eight legs to walk. When it is in attack range, it rears onto its back six legs. This exposes the mandibles, which are its teeth. I could see that Chris' rear spinnerets were silking the ladder. Doubting that I was doing the right thing, I leapt forward. Avoiding the mandibles, and pushing past the legs, I dove head first down the ladder, grabbing a rung on the way down. This caused me to swing, rather than fall, and my shins collected the entrance to the attic. Causing me to let go of the rung and hurtle headfirst to the floor.
My shoulder collected a rung and spun my body around, so that I landed on my feet. The thin reedy wail of sound came from the cat, which had softened my fall and now raced toward its hidey-hole. My leg was hurt and I scrambled towards the steps to the front porch, past the living and dining rooms. But the door was shut and locked.
The dining room had seemed different. I looked in. Four elderly men, with long beards, were seated at the dinner places. I recognised one. I known Arthur was Japanese. I had never noticed it, though, because Arthur was 'one of us.' This old man was Japanese, and he was Arthur! Now that I was alerted to this, I looked more closely at the head of the table. It was Chris. Chris was smiling gently, and invited me to join them for dinner. I backed away into the living room. Joff-man said. "Come join us. It is the only way to free us of the curse."
The body of a spider is soft and smooth. I felt this as I stepped back into the living room. Four spiders were seated in the five spaces. They had the faces of Chris, Arthur, Joff or Big. Big, the old man, said that it was the curse. The only way to remove the curse would be to have dinner with them. My head swam. My legs ached as I walked to the remaining dinner place. A curse. I could free 'Us.' I still thought I was one of 'Us.'
The dinner place was complete. A beautiful fruit bowl with polished and fresh fruit. Various roast meats. I was scared but hungry. But I finished my dinner. The bones by the side of the plate spelt a message, afterwards. Telling me that the flesh that fell so easily from the bone had been my friends. I felt sick. My friends. I felt sorry for myself. I felt sick. The spiders were gone. I might have felt relief. I felt sick.
That might have been the end of things. I would have preferred it if it had been. Instead I became restless. I wanted to go home. I wanted that I had never gone to that house. I went to the door. Its lock was broken. The door was now ajar. It swung open easily, the door skull, hanging from the rope knocking the door with a sharp report. Pausing to look at the space where my friends had so recently moved snow. As I opened the fence, the worst was to come. I became a spider.
Spiders move so quickly! I was at home, the back door was unlocked, and I went upstairs to my room. The upstairs level of our house is a collection of three bedrooms and two toilets along a small corridor. To get to my bedroom, I had to walk past my sisters'. I stopped at her doorway. She was playing, and she had her back to me.
She was seated on the ground. One leg outstretched and the other curled into a bundle she could rest her chin on. She was absorbed in putting some of her Cindy fashions on my He Man action figure. I think that was why I acted as I did. Because she was misusing my toy.
Spiders only require moisture and protein to live. I'd my fill of protein, but felt thirsty. My Sister just seemed so juicy. My Mandible broke her neck and I sucked out her blood. I don't think she felt a thing. I dragged her body to hang it from her wardrobe. Maybe I'd come back later.
The bathroom was closer to the steps, and when I heard my mother coming upstairs, I hid in the bathroom. For some reason I began to shrink. When she saw me, I was the size of a rather large spider, but not a monster anymore. She called out to my dad. Even joked about bringing the elephant gun, which we didn't own. Then, because she realised I'd not been long in the bathroom, or because of some other reason, she went to check on my sister's room.
Dad approached me with a rolled up newspaper. Before he got his shot in, I heard my Mother's screams. I guess she found Sister.
I might have been consolable if that were it. If my life had ended with the destruction of my Spider self. But therewas more to the curse. Although I held my life forfeit for my actions, I didn't die. I slept. I do not know for how long, but it was quite awhile.
I explored my world. To become a spider, it was necessary to step outside the gate. Inside the gate, I became an old man, just as my friends had become. I tried to warn people about the curse. They ignored me. I yelled at them and cast stones. They ignored me.
I watched the street from the upper story windows. It was easier to see the street at night, by streetlight. I could think then, plan to find a way out of the curse. A neighbour of mine, who also was a victim, came up with the clever idea of selling the house.
It is cold, night. The house is sold. A family of five. A successful businessman. Maybe now the curse will end. I am before the fireplace. Seated, I think of horror. My friends. Horror. My sister. Horror. I think of horror. Horror. Horror.
The Ballad of Mitzy the Puppy
She had spent the last few days at the school year camp with friends. But that had passed and now, after a dreary hot day, she was waiting for the bus home. Then he appeared. He saw her lounging on the brick wall, waiting for the school bus. None of her usual friends surrounded her.
"I've been toying with an idea. I think it is your fault." This school teacher was immensely fat. He had recently taken to writing. In a bid to encourage her to read what he had written, he gave her 'editorial status,' which roughly translated to listening to any opinion.
The possibility of repartee was irresistible. She was very bored. "And?" An almond eye glinted with mild interest.
He brought up some camp gossip and she spoke the truth of it disinterestedly. Then she challenged him to get to the point. "Have you found out what you wanted to know?"
He grinned. "I'm only making conversation." He grinned again. "I've been thinking. You know how I promised you that if you didn't like one of my characters I would kill them, but if you liked them I would give them a puppy? Well it started me thinking."
"In one of my stories, I kill my sister. I thought that harsh, but she had to die because of the story.. So I thought and decided to award her a puppy!"
"But then I realised what would have to happen. The puppy will be left alone without the mistress. The puppy will have to journey, perhaps exacting revenge or justice. It's a hard world for the very young on their own..."
The bus arrived and he began to walk away from her. "I wanted to thank you for the idea. But .. it seems a bit harsh. Couldn't you have given me a kinder thought?"
"Not my fault!" She was satisfied with the repartee, but she needed to correct him before he walked away. He flashed another grin before going home.
Puppies aren't taken immediately from their mother. The mother feeds them, but also instructs them in behaviour. Mitzy didn't remember her mother, but she would always follow those lessons. Mitzy's earliest memories were of the Mistress and Master. Both were young. Mistress liked dolls and to set scenes for play. Master liked rough play. It probably was unlucky that it turned out as it did, but then it might have been different and far less distressing and Mitzy might be less than what others now know.
Master never did everything that Mum and Dad asked. They would instruct him to 'play nicely' and one might not see all that 'nicely' meant to Master. Master would lie on his belly, facing Mitzy. A hand would stretch with fingers waving invitingly. Then, the hand would grasp Mitzy's head, above the snout. Mitzy's black ears would move from side to side as she struggled to free herself. She would snarl and nip cutely, and ineffectively. Her snout was black, with flecks of grey around the muzzle, giving the appearance of a permanent smile. Mitzy's paws were white on black limbs, looking a lot like clean socks. When Master grabbed Mitzy's muzzle, the paws would rise to fend, but all Mitzy could do would paw at Master's hand, cutely.
Mistress was a few years younger than Master. She loved to place Mitzy in among her dolls. Mitzy, with her white tipped black tale wagging, with her black coat and white belly expanding and contracting with each short pant, looked cute. It was as if Mitzy participated in the dreams of Mistress. Together, the dolls took on life. Together with Mistress, Mitzy had childhood play.
It happened one day, in high winter, when snow covered the world and Master had gone visiting friends and Mom and Dad were relaxing, He watching TV, She pottering around the kitchen. Mistress had Mitzy to herself in her room. It smelt of perfume and nails acrylic that accompany such as Mistress. She hummed as she played with the dolls. She hummed an old, sad, folk number.
"My Bonnie lies over the ocean
My Bonnie lies over the seas
My Bonnie lies over the ocean
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me!"
She had arranged a male and female doll as friends, waiting by the ocean. She needed another male doll and she knew where she would find it. Master was out visiting friends. He had this stupid, but rugged looking doll. It had a silly flashlight on its chest and various boys’ toys. Dressed appropriately, this doll could be perfect as Bonnie, stepping from water into a tea party. Mitzy would be perfect as the faithful guard for the tea party. Mitzy could warn of giant monsters bent on interrupting tea parties. Mitzy would also have to be dressed.
With everything present that Mistress needed, she started on her task of dress. She had tailored Mitzy with a tartan kilt and an open breasted long sleeve shirt. A wide brimmed hat with a secured string collar completed Mitzy’s uniform. She had stripped Master's doll, and was proceeding with the wet-ware when ‘IT’ happened.
Mitzy became aware of it first. Mistress seemed to Mitzy to be removing the scent of Master from his toy. Yet the scent was growing stronger and another, additional scent that just seemed wrong accompanied it. Mitzy whined and looked at the door. Mistress misinterpreted the action.
"The story will begin soon, Mitzy. We'll relax with biscuits and tea while Hero man apologises for being overseas."
It was Master. Master was outside the door, looking in. Only, he didn't look a lot like Master. All who saw it, later, died, and so it was never reported thus. A leg was the first thing Mitzy saw, but not a normal human leg. Rather it was a leg of a spider, if a six foot tall beast can in fact be called a spider. Two furry legs and then six more. The legs supported an enormous abdomen, upon which was the torso and head of Master. The same face and hair, but Master didn't normally have the body of a spider, or eight legs.
Master approached, eyes fixed on Mistress playing with his doll. The look he gave wasn’t of hatred, but it was un-natural, and focused. Mitzy was sure that Master was paying her no heed, but she feared for Mistress. Mitzy launched forward, constricted by the clothing Mistress had put on her. Then a spider's leg pinned the open shirt of Mitzy, so that Mitzy was momentarily trapped, and had to wriggle free of her clothing. Mitzy glimpsed the face of Mistress, before the hat obscured her view. Mistress seemed irritated and unaware of Master.
When Mitzy freed herself, Master had gone. Mom was coming up the stairs to investigate Mitzy's yelps. Mistress' body was swinging from where it had been casually hung, in the cupboard, lifeless.
Master's New House
Mitzy followed his tracks out the back door. She could smell where he had been. She could also smell so many other things. It would have been confusing if she weren't so focused on tracking down Master.
Then what? What would she do when she found him? What could she do? Mistress was gone. Mitzy chose not to focus on that.
Mitzy didn't know what she would do when she tracked down Master .. if she tracked down Master. Mistress was gone, now Mitzy would find Master. Where had Master gone? He had disappeared in the bathroom. Mom saw him as he began to change into a large spider .. that began to shrink. Mom called for Dad to kill the spider, then followed Mitzy's call to Mistress' room. When Dad went to strike Master's spider self with the newspaper, Mom's scream echoed in Mitzy's mind, Mom had found Mistress' body. Mitzy didn't know where Master had gone, but Mitzy could follow where Master had come from and she felt certain he wasn't dead.
The trail led out the back of the house and around to the front, the street. Mitzy had never been to the front of the house before. This evening, under the full moon, faced with the winter garden covered in snow, with cars on the bitumen road and the smell of the cursed Master, Mitzy forgot her confusion and focused on the task at hand.
The road had been sanded, and either side of the bitumen, the snow was black and iced. Occasionally, a car roared into view and out. Mitzy did not know what to make of these night animals with their bright, confusing eyes and felt it best not to get too near. However, Master had crossed the street, and so Mitzy quickly did the same. Those enormous bright-eyed beasts seemed to completely ignore her.
The house Mitzy came too was magnificent, old and apparently deserted. The rusty ranch style gate was open. Master and his friends had been this way. There was a bad smell here. Like that which had accompanied Master. Mitzy left the tracks and circled the house. Master had not gone this way, but there was THAT smell there.
Untrimmed bushes covered in white snow made a perimeter around Master's home. Mitzy followed this virgin path to the back door. She was unprepared for the sight or smell that greeted her. A black cat sat languidly on the cement stairway, which led to the back door. On one side was a long unused hose and tap. On Mitzy's side was a wooden door, which covered the entrance to a cellar. On that door was the horror scene of human bones .. Master's friends made part of the scent. The full horror lay with the cat. It sat preening. It was dead, but it sat, preening.
Finally, the black cat looked in Mitzy's direction. "I've met your Master."
Mitzy, cold, exhausted and scared didn't know how to respond to that. The cat spoke again. "Why are you here?"
"Master killed my Mistress!"
"So?" Cat stood, tail almost erect as it sought balance while sauntering down steps. "You want him to kill her back to life?" Cat's teeth were yellow and sharp.
"That can happen?" Mitzy had never heard a cat laugh before.
The fight was as quick as it was serious. Cat had struck Mitzy across the side with open claws. Suddenly, without warning. Bloodied, Mitzy quickly scampered back and away. Snow stained red. Mitzy scampered away, and Cat didn't follow.
Mitzy was blinded by pain. She felt herself moving through the bushes separating property. She heard those big animals with their bright eyes roaring on the road, indifferent to her pain. Bush and branch gave way to wood. Snow gave way to the foundation-less style dirt floors peculiar to barns and very old homes. This was a barn.
It was a very big sound, from a very large animal that had attracted Mitzy, in her fatigue and pain. Mitzy had seen toys of such a beast in Mistress' toy farm. It had an enormous rectangular body, supported by four legs. A large head and a little tail. Mistress would make 'moo' sounds, but these were inadequate to describe the despairing, sad call emanating from this beast.
"Why are you crying?" Mitzy was in pain, but remembered her manners. If she could help, she would.
"Why aren't you?" The reply startled Mitzy. Why wasn't Mitzy crying? Others might come to her aid against the dead cat. Mitzy realised she wasn't looking for a fight, but safety and crying wouldn't be safe.
"You feel safe, so you can cry?" It was a guess.
"I am safe because my keeper is hungry. He feeds me and will not notice you, so you are safe here for the moment. My name is Adora."
"Thank you Adora. I'm Mitzy. I'm very tired. I would help you if I could."
"Grief will not go away. Tomorrow you can help. Rest."
Mitzy didn't need a second invitation, or wonder at the cryptic offer. Mitzy slept. Badly. Adora chewing cud, refrained from mooing, for a time, and the neighbourhood seemed, if not peaceful, quiet.
Mitzy woke, stretched and instantly regretted it. The wounds had healed a little, on her side, and she nuzzled and licked them clean.
"It is near time" said Adora.
"You offered to help."
"If I can." Mitzy felt a little timid.
Adora laughed, gently. "You can do this. A few days ago, I calved, and my little one was taken from me. My keeper took him next door. I cannot go there. All I ask is that you take a little of my milk to him. Only a little."
Adora helped Mitzy get the milk. Mitzy had to drink some as well, apologising for not being able to carry much. "You only need a little, a reminder of me."
The milk was warm to Mitzy's tongue, and nourishing. The wound of yesterday now seemed less. Mitzy kept her mouth closed, breathing through her nostrils. She made her journey, but not before Adora thanked her, gravely and sadly.
"A mother's grief can be short, yet her duty is lifelong, and even then, she may be called to service. Give my love and my milk, and apologise for me, who wanted so much more."
Now, as Mitzy entered this other, smaller barn, her mouth closed and forced to breathe through her nose, she discovered the grief of Adora. The Barn's roof was 'A framed' and the frames supported a horizontal post. Adora's calf was here, hanging upside down. Skinned. Gutted. Ropes secured the calf to the horizontal pole through loops that went between the bones in the lower limbs and wrapped so the bones wouldn't separate.
Mitzy walked to the calf, and released the milk from her mouth, below him, onto the floor, to mix with his blood.
"She loves you." Mitzy spoke to the corpse. "She is sorry she couldn't give you more."
The smell of the drying corpse was unbearable. Mitzy left, but decided not to face Adora, who already knew the fate of her calf.
Mitzy retraced her steps to Masters new house. She was more cautious than before, yet Cat awaited her.
"Your still hurt. Why come back?"
"You wouldn't understand love." It was a game. They were sparring in much the same way Master would spar with Mitzy. There were no rules, and Mitzy new she had scored well when Cat feigning disinterest, began to groom.
"Why don't you leave that house?" Mitzy wanted to widen the score. "It isn't as if you live there." The delivery was mild.
Cat stopped grooming and hissed.
"You can't leave, can you?" Mitzy wasn't really enjoying this, but she was trying to learn what was happening. Master would often corner Mistress and gloat. Master would then learn, from Mistress, things. He would learn about what she enjoyed, so he could stop it. He would learn about what she liked, so he could break it. It was all about power, and having control.
"Only Master can leave. But if you come close enough, I can kill you."
"So Master keeps you as he would a faithful hound?" Mitzy was beginning to enjoy the sparring, and Cat knew it. Cat rose and, with a flick of the tail, walked away. This left Mitzy free to inspect the area around the house .. but the house itself was off limits, because although Cat didn't show it, Cat watched Mitzy intently.
The appearance of Master surprised Mitzy. He looked like an old man. Yet he smelled like Master and .. something else. Mitzy was horrified to realise part of the other smell was Mistress and his friends. What Master said also surprised Mitzy. He was warning people. Telling them to stay away, because of the curse. Yet people ignored him. Mitzy kept herself hidden from Master, watching.
She didn't have to wait too long. In the evening, Master left the house and provided a third surprise for Mitzy. As he passed the gate, he became an enormous Spider. Just like when he killed Mistress.
Without Cat to guard him, Mitzy got close to Master. This was how she learned the last, horrible truth. Master didn't enjoy killing. In fact he regretted it. But he was hungry.
Mitzy too, was hungry.
She didn’t wan’t to go back to Mistress’ house. As with Adora, she didn’t know how to face the grief. Master's house was near a restaurant. She discovered it when she heard a piano being played to the sad refrain
“Last night as I lay on my pillow
Last night as I lay on my bed
Last night as I lay on my pillow
I dreamed that my bonnie was dead”
Mitzy discovered this restaurant provided no protection for its scraps. Other pets from the neighbourhood were in on the secret. It was there, Mitzy learned how to fight. She resolved she would fight Master.
The Cow after two moons
Two moons had passed. Winter had gone, and amid the desolation, Mitzy had learned all that she could. She had watched Master as he energetically and despairingly warned others of the curse. She had watched Master as he stood at the window overlooking the entrance, and watched the street at night. She heard Master beg his victims for an end to his curse.
Three times, Mitzy had fought Cat. The wounds she earned were terrible. She hadn't meant to, but she had strayed near the house. Perhaps too near.
Now she decided to visit Adora.
The bushes that separated the farm from Master's house were beginning to green, but the summer insects had not yet arrived. The calf's barn looked disused, while Adora's seemed run down.
"Thank you." Said Adora, simply.
"You remember me?"
"Grief never forgets. Nor love. Can I help you?"
“I want to kill Master. I want to lift the curse.”
“So which is it?”
Mitzy didn’t understand Adora’s question.
“Do you want to kill the loser, or do you want to end the curse? You might not be able to do both.”
“I want to end the curse. What must I do?”
“The keepers like to repeat things. Find out what should happen, but doesn’t.”
Mitzy didn’t understand this either.
“The keepers repeat everything. Every day they take my milk. They open the door the same way. They feed me, stocking the same patch. They service me with a type of bull. They take my calves, selling the females. Everything they do they repeat. Look to the house, and see what they might do, but don’t. That should end the curse.”
Mitzy looked at the house of Master, wondering how it was different from others. The chimney was like all the other houses in the neighbourhood. There was a belfry at a nearby church. The windows and paint needed work, but so did other places. Cat had carrion in the back, but so did other places. Mitzy was stuck, but determined to follow Adora’s advice.
It was Master who provided the clue. He had discovered a real estate agent who wanted to live. The agent had suggested that selling the house might remove the curse. This sparked the interest of Mitzy, who’d become exhausted at her own powerlessness in the face of Master’s slayings.
“You only want to save your life! You would use your time to talk about me!”
“No! No! I have a client who would be interested in your place! The belfry is unusual .. but there is space they want! You don’t have to kill me! I will sell it for you.”
End of Master
The sale was arranged, and the agent’s life was spared until after the deal was closed. Master had apologised to the estate agent, but explained that it was essential no one knew the truth about him. Master didn’t think the sale would save him, but hoped the curse would be lifted.
It was night. Master sat downstairs, before a fireplace. Mitzy watched Master intently. Cat watched Mitzy uninterestedly. Mitzy thought she knew what she had to do, but didn’t know how she would achieve it. It involved getting past Cat, and she doubted she could do that without being very hurt, or killed.
“Master?” Cat seemed concerned. Cat left its perch, and went inside through a partially open front door. This was to be Mitzy’s chance, and she hesitated for a moment before seizing it.
Once inside, Mitzy saw some stairs directly ahead. On her left was a dining room with rotting food. On her right was the fireplace, Master and the dead Cat. Mitzy launched herself up the dusty stairs. Cat was trying to get Master’s attention. Master’s body had slumped in the chair. Drink spilled by his side.
Up the steps, a ladder led to the attic. Cat could be heard at the steps. Cat cried taunts. Mitzy climbed to the attic. Mitzy had this plan. Yet she had no idea what to do.
A belfry is many different things thrown together to achieve a result .. a bell in a tower. Pulling on a rope can ring the bell. Once a bell is pulled, it gets easier to pull with the bell’s swing. That first jolt is the hardest. Mitzy had grown, and was quite tough for her young age, but as she bounded to the belfry pull and pawed at it, she discovered she might be inadequate to the task.
Cat had entered the attic, yellow teeth bared, claws extended and hissing. Mitzy leapt and grabbed the bell-pull with her teeth. As Mitzy’s weight fell onto the pull, through her teeth, the bell moved, but not far enough to ring the bell.
Mitzy had leapt too high, and her feet weren’t near the ground for purchase. She had her full weight on the rope and the bell hadn’t rung. She had only guessed that ringing the bell would lift the curse. Evidently, the death of Master hadn’t. Cat sized up the situation.
“No one got as far as you. No one ever worked out what to do.” Cat shook its head, admiringly. Mitzy growled, but held fast to the rope.
It was supposed to be a coup de grace, Cat striking Mitzy across the exposed belly. Cat’s claws penetrated the fur and opened the gut, but got caught on Mitzy’s bone, and the weight of Mitzy, with the force of the strike, completed what Mitzy had set to achieve. The bell rung, once, twice, three times, clearly, echoingly. At the nearby farm, Adora’s grief broke, and she found forgiveness to her keepers. Nearby, a local restaurant manager found some strays, adopted them and began donating to the animal shelter.
Much of the house remained the same. The new owners moved in and had Master buried at the local church. The house was dusted and cleaned. It was some time before Mitzy was found, curled beneath the bell-pull. Wounded, but not beyond repair. Cat was nowhere to be found.
As this is about Mitzy, and not the curse of THAT house, it didn’t end there. A long time later, after Mitzy had become a hero for saving her adopted family from a fire, she rested at her new home, where she had played during the day. Mitzy awaited her evening walk.
He was very tired, yet looking forward to being home. He didn’t know it, but there was a medical reason for his tiredness and it went beyond the fact that he worked harder than most. Work was full, with a new job running an educational committee for television and an evaluative network for school leavers and editing a prestigious journal. It was enough to tire anyone. At home, his depressed wife and four kids, constantly fighting. His wife had recently burned down their house. Luckily their sweet natured dog turned hero and woke everyone, so that all lived without further injury from the fire. He suffered sleep apnoea, and his noisy children, led by his wife, used to laugh as he restlessly dozed after getting home. They told him he sounded like the coffee percolator.
Home was a quiet, well-placed house opposite a tree park that led to a golf course. An unusual boulder sided the front door. There was fighting inside.
The youngest was in trouble, and in bed. He had refused to stay with his older, sick, sister on her way home from school that day. He had been told to stay with her, as she was afraid of a dog on the path to school. However, when he had walked with her, she would pay no heed to him, but stand at corners, ready to run at any hint that the dog might appear.
The oldest was trouble. Once, he had gone to the community swimming pool, looking for her. He found her in the presence of numerous boys, playing cards. She had been the decision maker in keeping Kiddles, the sweet natured stray Dog that was actually named Mitzy, once, long ago. The cost, from the adventure, for her and the second oldest, a brother, was that they would care for Kiddles. Kiddles had saved them from fire, but those two fought for the right to not have to walk the dog or feed it.
Tired, he walked into the house. His wife was delighted that she could give a report card on the day’s shortfalls by the children. He was too tired to walk Kiddles, and the kids wouldn’t. So he let Kiddles out of the house to get some exercise. “She can walk herself, and if she gets hit it will be your fault.” The oldest thought that unfair, as the depressed mother had manipulated events to make things worse:
A five year old boy was never going to lead their seven year old sister from school. An eleven year old girl, left to her own devices, was always going to trade off tasks with her nine year old brother.
Mitzy left the home and crossed the street to her tree park. Some time later, returning home, her heart beating fast, tired but happy, Mitzy crossed the street again. Someone was playing a tune on their piano, old and sad.
“Oh blow ye the winds o'er the ocean
And blow ye the winds o'er the sea
Oh blow ye the winds o'er the ocean
And bring back my bonnie to me”
Crossing the street this time, a large beast with bright eyes appeared to Mitzy’s side. Those lights were confusing. Mitzy couldn’t see behind those eyes. She thought of moving back or forward, but those eyes seemed to follow.
The impact was loud. Everyone at home heard it. The eleven year old found Mitzy on the doorstep. Mitzy, in her confusion had gone home.
He was tired. The accident had stopped his dozing. He got the three oldest together, so that Mitzy might be buried that evening in the back yard. He asked the youngest if he wanted to be there, but the youngest feigned sleep, having been beaten earlier, and not wanting to be ‘responsible’ for anything else.
My bonnie lies over the ocean
My bonnie lies over the sea
My bonnie lies over the ocean
Oh bring back my bonnie to me
Last night as I lay on my pillow
Last night as I lay on my bed
Last night as I lay on my pillow
I dreamed that my bonnie was dead
Bring back, bring back
Bring back my Bonnie to me, to me
Bring back, bring back
Bring back my Bonnie to me
Oh blow ye the winds o'er the ocean
And blow ye the winds o'er the sea
Oh blow ye the winds o'er the ocean
And bring back my bonnie to me
The winds have blown over the ocean
The winds have blown over the sea
The winds have blown over the ocean
And brought back my bonnie to me
Bring back, bring back
Bring back my Bonnie to me, to me
Bring back, bring back
Bring back my Bonnie to me
A meeting reprised
Sometimes a conversation has to take place, but it isn't easy to wait to let it happen. He'd considered several different ways in which it would happen, even avoided a few. Then one day he found himself walking past the bus stop, after school. She was entertaining a few friends, but stopped as he approached and they stood facing each other a moment, awkwardly.
"I've been meaning to talk to you about that story." He started. He knew many different directions the conversation might go, but waited to allow her to direct.
"Wow! That was a really good story you wrote!" The compliment felt good for him, but he needed to clear air, and she wasn't the maudlin type.
".. Mitzy was special to me. I wrote her based on a puppy I once had, although Kiddles wasn't the type to chase monsters and bring them to justice. Unless she had to." That last was a joke.
"Mitzy came into being because of you. I wanted to thank you and I wanted to say that it isn't your fault, but something to have pride in. Mitzy was a remarkable puppy." He began to move off, promising her that he would sign her copy, if it became published.