The Curse of Bortegrim
By R J Murray
I was born deep in the valleys of Bortegrim, in a small town which stood a thousand miles from any other. Within the town stood many a thatched cottage, stone bungalow and wooden barn, nestled between forestry and fields which stretched far into the wilderness. Due to its remote location, the occupants of the town had to be self-sufficient – harvesting and growing their own crops, vegetables, and rearing their own livestock.
To those who were unfamiliar with Bortegrim, the town appeared to be as pleasant as any could be, but as is the purpose of this story, I will show you that this was certainly not the case. For in these parts there existed a mighty curse which, since the beginning of time had infested us like a dark disease.
Such an existence had decidedly haunted our souls and ripped through the heart of our hopes and dreams. The adults of the town would forbid us from discussing it and indeed denied the very existence of the one who could not be named.
Most of us learned to forget or at least pretended to forget but as much as I tried I knew that it was not to be; I could not avoid the persistent burden of this dark curse. Day by day as I looked down upon the valley from my hill, the sight of the affected children struck a terror and a pain into my soul. Such innocent girls and boys, when just before Christmas had been happy and able, now struggled in vain, limping and stumbling, no longer fitting their shoes, but now forever deformed, forever tainted.
Having always being somewhat different to the people of Bortegrim, I spent most of my time alone, wandering the moors and studying quietly upon my hilltop. Of course, at times I would walk amongst the other children only to see them pointing their fingers or whispering accusations such as “Don’t go near Wichita, she dabbles in black magic,” or “Wichita roams with the wolves, she’s dangerous you know.” But despite feeling more detached from the others it never compelled me to change or to question my interests. In fact, it pushed me further towards the wolves and towards my magick.
From an early age, I had been drawn to the dark arts, pagan practices and performing rituals. I had no desire to fit in with the other children and was perfectly content with my given nature. I was a lone soul and desired the solitude of nature and the company of wolves.
But in spite of my singularity, I continued to be emotionally effected by the curse just as much as the others.
Every year, on Christmas eve, I witnessed the children of Bortegrim shivering and shaking under their blankets in fear of becoming one of the cursed. At precisely midnight, when the moon had hidden behind the black fog and an unmerciful frost had descended upon the rooftops, the hills would shriek with anticipation for the one who could not be named to descend.
The magpies would forewarn of the impending presence with deadly squawks. The townspeople would dash in all directions, slamming shutters, locking doors, some hiding in cupboards, some diving into underground bunkers. Within minutes, the smell of burning chestnuts would transform into choking gas and radiate the atmosphere with a putrid evil.
They tried as they could but not a million shiny padlocks could keep it out.
The carriage would arrive screeching into the valley, the stench of burning coach tyres and flames flying from the monstrous engine.
Some children would scream hail marys, some would leap around in nervous fits, crawling under beds, rattling off every prayer they could remember and swearing out godly oaths that they had been good children.
Neither man nor beast, the one who could not be named would unleash its terror, creeping unmercifully upon the chosen ones. Scarper, plead and wrestle as they tried, their feeble attempts fell into nothingness.
In through bedroom windows it would thud, bringing a stench of horrifying odour which travelled through every crevice to every room. Shrieks that almost shattered windows could be heard far into the valleys. One by one, each child would be grabbed by a claw of black matted hair and wet bulging palms, the fiery breath heaved upon their limbs, rusty fingernails of sharp cutters shredding shoes to pieces, grasping with hunger for what flesh lay inside.
Five toes sliced. Another five toes sliced. Tossed into the boiling bucket they would plummet. Girls blessed with a long mane would plead in vain, clutching onto their locks in terror as they were unmercifully shredded and sliced, then packed into a wicker basket, leaving the girls clutching their bare scalps in hopeless devastation.
Indeed it lay resolute that this supernatural force could not be haggled with.
Then one year, when it had fallen once again upon the eve of Christmas, I had been cowering up on the hill, listening to the familiar screeching tearing through the soul of the valleys when unexpectedly, at the strike of twelve past midnight, a feeling of doom crept over my senses. As I cowered upon my hill, I felt the presence of the one who could not be named as he forcefully blazed upward towards the mound, smoke trailing behind his every putrid step, unmercifully delighting in his conquest for devastation. I knew that it was time, after all the years of bearing witness to other victims, I was now to become one of them. A layer of black smoke blinded my vision and as the scent of horror immersed me, I felt the clutch of burning hair and dripping flesh, violently grabbing my face, my limbs. I screamed to the heavens, trying to struggle, trying to resist but my desperate pleas were in vain. As the tortuous pain struck through my every core, I soon felt myself become limp and helpless. I cried out in agony to the dark sky, desperately willing the moon to feel my sorrow.
Soon after my fate had been served, I found myself becoming hardened with scorn for the one who could not be named. As I now stumbled upon the moors, trying to adapt to my new deformity, I developed a force of vengeance in me. I became determined to defeat the curse which lay upon the valleys. I refused to become resolved to damnation and sought out with forceful vigour to seek revenge.
Realising that the demon could only be destroyed by an external force more powerful than it, I resolved with a mighty insight what I must do to challenge the curse.
Night after night, month after month, I continued to educate myself in the realms of the other-world. I learned to channel the unknown divine and I conjured the elements with such purity and strength of plight that it soon created in me the level of skill required for the operation I was to perform.
The next winter, as the town prepared for the inevitable terror to fall upon them, I began to conjure a powerful concoction under the black moon.
As the coach raced towards the terrified community, I positioned myself at my altar – upon the highest hilltop, where I began the potent chanting, echoing out with passion over the vast moors, penetrating the atmosphere with my own supernatural forces. As I chanted continuously with increasing levels of passionate conviction, a miracle force gradually began to manifest before my eyes. As the elements crashed below the electric clouds in a ferocious whirlwind, a great blaze of lightening struck the carriage and I watched as the one who cold not be named disappeared in a mist of black smoke.
A year went by and just as before, there had been much calm upon the town until the days leading to the upcoming Christmas eve, where a mighty panic once again ensued.
Then on the evening in question and to the bewilderment of the townspeople, there arrived to Bortegrim a portly man of a kind nature, dressed in red clothing, who brought about triumphant cheer as gifts were placed under fireplaces in every little house in the valley.
The people of Bortegrim wept with happiness and relief. The curse had been lifted! Such joyous elation filled the streets. Overcome with delight, they begged me down from my hill to join them as they danced a merry celebration for twenty one days and twenty one nights.
The following year, as the red man zipped up on his flying coach and departed through the clouds, a sudden storm blew and bubbled and the coach swayed violently in the strong wind.
The heavens had shifted.
As the man wrestled with the elements and I gazed silently from my hill, I could see that his white beard had given way to black matted hair and the smile which had once crossed his face had turned to a dark sneer.
And out of the flailing coach there rained upon the town a golden coat made from hair and a thousand buckets of bloody toes.
RJ Murray is a writer and musician based in Scotland. She is inspired by old gothic authors, weird tales and odd,dark fairy tales. She has recently published a number of short stories and is currently editing her first fantasy novel.
Visit her blog at: https://rebeccajmurray.wordpress.com/