Authors: Henry P. Gravelle
Tags: #banshee, #monster, #horror, #paranormal, #Damnation Books, #Witchcraft, #Satan worship, #Good and evil, #angel of death, #keeper of the Book of Life, #ghosts, #spirits, #Limbo, #purgatory, #The Banshee, #Irish folklore, #Henry P. Gravelle, #Massachusetts horror, #supernatural
Damnation Books, LLC.
P.O. Box 3931
Santa Rosa, CA 95402-9998
by Henry P. Gravelle
Print ISBN: 978-1-61572-613-4
Cover art by:
Edited by: Naomi Clark
Copyright 2012 Henry P. Gravelle
Printed in the United States of America
Worldwide Electronic & Digital Rights
1st North American, Australian and UK Print Rights
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any form, including digital and electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the Publisher, except for brief quotes for use in reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
And they cried out in a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood upon them that dwell on the earth?
And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was saidi unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they
, should be fulfilled.
The Revelation to John
The Holy Bible
Containing the Old and New Testaments. Authorized King James Version
The unspoiled snow fell silently over the cold land, drifting deep against the timber and mud huts of the settlement. Occasionally a strong gust would drive the fine wet powder forcibly under a door or through a crevice, sending a chill into the very marrow of the occupants.
Everyone gathered at the hearth, like frozen mannequins seeking the fireplace's warmth. They huddled together through fierce winters, humid summers and wet, damp, springs, struggling bravely against relentless odds. Many had perished, many survived, so far.
Shabby huts, hastily erected upon their arrival three years prior, were scattered about the colony. Proper homes would have to wait until the soil was plowed, planted, and the harvested crops stored. For now the settlers waited in their thatched roof homes for the end of winter, full of dreams and frightened of the future.
A halo ringed the nimbus moon casting an icy illumination on the largest hut. Its three chimneys spurted flickering embers that rose into the clear cold night sky, then fell like black rain against the white snow. Billowing smoke from two mud chimneys informed all that abundant warmth was within.
The shelter filled quickly with the population shoulder-to-shoulder. They spoke in low tones of the terrible weather, the terrible harvest, and of the terrible business this night. Occasionally a few would stomp their feet to resume circulation or blow warmed breath onto chilled fingertips.
At each end of the structure, fires quickly consumed split wood stacked nearby. A smaller blaze burned evenly at the center of the hut, in front of which sat the Deacon. He was alone and silent behind a table with his hands folded under his chin. His robust figure sent a shadow along the dirt floor, over the women and children nearby. On the table before him were several pages of parchment, a quill, and ink.
As the Deacon scanned the cold faces of the villagers, he tried to understand why they would leave their beloved Ireland for this horrid land. As he pondered the question, the door opened with a rush of cold air. Three figures appearedâtwo men and a smaller figure, an elderly woman, enshrouded in tattered and torn garments. One of the men shoved her harshly away from the doorway onto the dirt floor in front of the Deacon.
For a few moments, he studied the woman tossed like an animal carcass before him. The glow surrounding him brightened as he stood to better his view of the wrinkled crone. Without removing his eyes from hers, he lifted the parchment causing the assembled citizens to become silent in anticipation of his words. He read with a strong, determined voice that filled the room for all to hear.
“In accordance with the laws governing the village of Wexford, let it be known and attested to on this date, February 12, 1674, within said village, meeting has convened to establish the truth and validity of allegations brought against one Isabel Shea, citizen of Wexford.”
A low murmur went through the room as those gathered nodded their heads verifying the Deacon's words. The old woman remained silently on her knees.
“It is stated in Allegation One,” continued the Deacon, “you have been witnessed spewing blasphemous oaths. Allegation Two: Having been witnessed placing a hex on William Cassidy of Wexford, thus placing his being into pain and discomfort causing convulsions.
“Allegation three...” The Deacon slowed his speech to insure all understood the dastardly deed charged against the woman. “You have been accused of stealing a calf from the stable of Jeremiah Fitzgerald, and, witnessed by same, devouring said calf.”
This allegation brought calls of “guilty” and “burn the witch” from the angry crowd who depended on their meager supply of livestock, a prized possession; theft was not tolerated.
“Silence!” called out the Deacon. “I will have order. I assure you that justice will be served this night, but it will be reached in an orderly manner.”
The Deacon was not sure but he thought he heard a quiet laugh emanate from the split lips of the hag before him.
“How do you answer, Isabel Shea?” the Deacon asked as their eyes met; hers dark, transfixing him in the polished coal-like darkness which appeared as windows to Hell. Her lips parted and spread into a mocking grin, frightening him.
Suddenly, a well-chewed apple core flew from the crowd and struck her hard across the face. A roar of laughter burst from the room as pieces of apple meat dripped from her chin. Turning quickly, she found the young boy who tossed the missile, slapping his knee with delight and laughing along with the crowd.
The Deacon watched Isabel for what seemed an eternity, yet was actually a matter of seconds. Her eyes glowed in their sockets while glaring at the lad. He stopped laughing and placed his hands to his stomach; his smiling face disappeared, replaced with the unmistakable mask of terror.
“My God!” the boy's mother screamed, watching her son buckle from the pain, his face contorting into unnatural shapes. The room went silent and stepped back from the afflicted youth, unable, or afraid, to offer assistance.
His face swelled, turning shades of blue and purple as if to explode any moment. Gripping his stomach tighter, he tried to tear from it the pain deep within. He opened his mouth to scream but fell instead to the ground, wrapped in a frenzy of convulsions. Then, without warning, the boy jumped into the center fire. His father and others driven back by the intense and hungry flames consuming the boy's clothing and distorted flesh.
He stood amid the flames like a human torch, screaming bitter oaths as body fluids and vile pumped from his mouth. Finally, he dashed from the blaze, past the stunned onlookers and out into the snowy night. Some quickly followed, closing the door abruptly behind, leaving the room tomb silent.
The Deacon starred at Isabel with such disdain that he had forgotten the mission of this night. But before he and the others could comprehend what happened in those frightening seconds, the door opened. The boy's father held the burnt and disfigured, smoldering remains of his son in his arms.
“He's dead,” he cried. “My son's dead!”
A tall man stepped from within the crowd, pushing aside a few villagers to near the Deacon.
“We have had enough of this witch,” he bellowed, bringing the others from their transfixed state of shock. He pointed to the woman. “Stealing a calf and devouring it is certainly a sin in the eyes of the Lord, and we have just witnessed her association with Satan. She murdered the boy. I say guilty!”
The crowd roared its approval, cheering and shaking their fists at Isabel. Some sat with tear filled eyes and thought of the dead boy. The Deacon felt he had no choice but to find her guilty. It was undeniable and there was no other recourse. He raised his arms to silence the crowd.
“Isabel Shea. In accordance with the power vested in me through the laws of the Village of Wexford and the holy teachings of the Lord our God, I hereby deny you privilege of answer to the before mentioned allegations, including the murder of young Daniel Silloway by means of witchcraft. I find you guilty as charged of all allegations.”
Another cheer arose from the crowd as they pressed forward, eager to destroy the witch. The women decided they and their children had enough horror for one night and hurriedly returned to their meager huts, leaving the men to carry out the expected sentence.
Two men reached down and lifted the hideous woman to her feet. Still grinning, she remained starring at the Deacon. He stood and leaned over the table, placing his face within inches of hers.
“You will burn at the stake at sunrise until your evil form has turned to ash. I will not ask the Lord to have mercy on your miserable soul for I pray he cast you into the fires of damnation for all eternity.”
Another cheer echoed throughout the room. Inwardly the Deacon felt relief for his subjects were pleased. A loud voice bellowed out bringing the cheers to a stop. It was the tall farmer who had spoken out before.
“We will have her death this night, Deacon.” He raised a rope above his head for all to see. “She has willed her body to Satan, it will not burn, but her neck will stretch from the rope.”
The Deacon was growing annoyed at this farmer but he feared Isabel Shea, who was obviously in concert with Satan himself. The Deacon wished her destroyed as the others. He agreed with the farmer.
“Remove her from the village, execute her swiftly, and be done with it.” He turned and faced the fire, not wishing to gaze upon Isabel again.
A mob of angry men dragged the hag from the building into the freezing night air and placed her upon a confused cow brought hurriedly from the stable. Isabel was beaten and spat upon as the mob led her to a large Oak at the ice-encrusted river.
As they knotted and secured a rope around her neck, Isabel spoke. Her raspy, chilling words caused many of the men to turn away.
“Least ye not forget me for against thee and thy offspring my vengeance will be swift and terrible. Thy souls shall be damned for eternity.”
The farmer who demanded her death slapped the cow's rump before she could say more. The rope tightened, snuffing out her life.
* * * *
The sleepy village awoke remembering the events of the evening as they prepared morning meals and built up the fires. Many prayed silently for the young Silloway boy, but all had thoughts of the body hanging in the frigid air along the edge of the river.
The Deacon sought volunteers to cut down the corpse and bury the remains of Isabel. No one responded, therefore he appointed two men to complete the task. The crusted snow snapped under their weight as they walked across a frozen field towards the tree and the attached body.
“Tha' witch says she'll return for what we did to her,” the older man remarked smiling, knowing his words were of no comfort to his younger companion, “and she's going to put us to the flame like tha' boy.”
“Quiet your thoughts, Tully,” the other man said, moving his spade to the opposite shoulder.
“Come, lad,” the confidant older man continued, “ya aren't afraid of a dead woman are ya?”
“It's not the old woman tha' riles me, old man,” he answered sneering at his partner for making fun of him. “It's the power she possesses. I don't take her curse lightly.”
“Back in Ireland I've come in contact with pookas, demons, leprechauns, and on more than one occasion I've heard tha' wailing of tha' banshee, clear as a spring day. I assure ya, Lad, this witch is of no consequence with tha' likes of me, just another spirit to be shown who's in command.”
“Go on, Tully,” Shaun grunted a small laugh. “Ya play me for a fool, ya old sot. I believe ya been at tha' grog you're guarding so closely; demons and leprechaunsâ¦the wail of a bansheeâ¦indeed, old man.”
“I only mean to put ya fears to rest, lad.”
“Thank ya, Tully, but I am still considerably frightened by tha' whole affair.”
The duo reached an area beside the tree and began removing the snow when Tully suddenly called out. “Wait.”
Shaun abruptly stopped his shovel from striking the cold ground halfway through its down swing. He looked to Tully for an explanation.
“She should be buried over tha' on the opposite bank,” the older man pointed across the narrow banks of the river.
“And why is tha'?” Shaun put aside his spade.
“Because tha' hag will be away from the blessed land of tha' village, âtis what the Deacon orderedâ¦away from tha' village.”
“If it will make your heart happier,” Shaun placed his spade across his shoulder.
Tully followed suit and they crossed the river, stepping carefully on the ice-coated boulders exposed from the slow moving current. On the opposite bank, they resumed their labor and shortly stood over a trench.
“Get tha' body,” Tully casually ordered as he sat on the mound of snow and turned-up earth, lighting his pipe.
“Bloody hell, why meâ¦?” Shaun anxiously eyed the corpse gently swinging in the cold morning breeze across the riverbank.
The witch's head arched to the right, away from the knot that snapped her neck. A smear of blood from her crushed larynx protruded from her nostril, frozen like a crimson icicle. Shaun squinted into the rising sun brightly illuminating the execution scene. He could not tell if her eyes were open or closed.
“âCause ya younger and stronger. I can't climb tha' tree but ya can so get to it, lad,” a tired Tully answered.
Shaun tossed his spade aside and removed his knife from its sheath. He tested its sharpness on a frozen brush as he walked toward the tree mumbling oaths against Tully's philosophy, yet knowing the old man was right. There was no way Tully could have climbed the tree or carried the dead weight of a human corpse back across the river.
The back of the corpse faced Shaun when he reached the tree, hiding from him the frozen face of death he knew was there. Carefully he climbed to the limb holding the body and slowly inched his way out to the rope. Isabel's arms hung limp by her side. Her hands were unbound, as were her feet. The crowd, anxious for justice, had placed the noose around the hag's throat and sent away the cow with no regard for flailing hands or kicking feet.
Shaun remembered. He was there and witnessed the execution. He even brought the cow back to the barn, but for the life of him could not recall the witch struggling against the hemp that bent her neck. He did remember the fearful grin of hatred she wore gazing at everyone present. Then the neck snapped. He winced remembering the sound.