As this is the month of ghouls and ghost, I thought that I would share a scary story with you. This particular story is one of many in my book, The Age of Myths and Legends: Book One Monsters. I hope you guys enjoy.
The Ghost Witch
Once, in days long since passed, an old sorcerer of some note died of old age. In his long, unnatural life, he had been a vindictive and petty man. Any slight, real or imagined, was repaid ten-fold. In his day, he became feared by all throughout the Dawn Lands. When he passed away, there were no friends or colleagues to attend to his body. What few relatives he had finally wrapped him in blankets and placed his body in an old, gnarled, tree deep in the heart of a black forest. In time, the forest became a place of dread. People saw strange things flitting in and out of the trees on moonlit nights. Hunters heard terrible sounds echoing from the burial grove. Eventually, men and women came to shun the unwholesome place altogether.
Several years later, a Mi’kmaq man and his wife were traveling through Abenaki lands on their way to the east. They did not know many people in those parts, so, instead of asking for a night’s lodging, they decided to sleep under the stars. Looking for a good place to spend the night, they saw the old forest and set foot into that dark grove. When they entered, a chill took hold of the wife, and she questioned her husband about their night’s stay. He merely laughed away his wife’s fears and attributed them to superstition. The husband selected a large tree and built a small lean-to. He then prepared a fire and cooked their supper.
When their supper was over, the wife carefully studied their surroundings. It was winter, and most of the trees were bare. Dark and twisted branches seemed to stretch out and claw at the moon. Looking up, the wife saw dark shapes hanging amongst the trees. When she questioned her husband, he sleepily replied, "They’re only the bodies of the deceased, but you shouldn’t fear the dead. It’s the living out there in the real world that we have to be mindful of. Come; it is time to sleep."
"We shouldn’t be here. I think we had better leave now," replied the wife.
The husband merely laughed at his wife. He then rolled over onto his side and was soon fast asleep. The wife sat staring at the crackling fire and wished with all her might that she and her husband were anywhere but here. The night air had grown heavy, and it seemed to the wife that the eyes of the dark forest were upon her. At last, she, too, lay down beside the fire, but she could not sleep. As the night stretched on, the fire burned down to glowing embers. She gently prodded her husband, but he did not respond. She did not dare get up to gather more firewood in this dark place, so she wrapped herself in her blankets and shut her eyes.
It was not long after that she began to hear a gnawing sound. At first, she convinced herself that it was merely the old tree branches rubbing against each other in the wind- or maybe it was a small animal gnawing on the bones of one of the dead. The wife stayed awake the entire time and quietly listened to the strange grating sound that seemed to last for hours. Just when it seemed that she could take no more of the gnawing, it stopped. The wife breathed a sigh of relief and noted the brightening eastern sky as dawn slowly approached. The wife reached out to wake her husband, but he did not stir, so she let him be.
When the sun’s golden rays had finally banished the shadows of the old forest, the wife roughly shook her husband by his shoulder. To her horror, he rolled onto his back with a face frozen in terror. He was dead, and the left side of his chest was a ruined mass of blood and viscera. The wife screamed and screamed and screamed. Half mad with terror, she then ran with all of her might to a lodge of the Abenaki. She tried to tell her story, but her words were incoherent and jumbled.
The Abenaki at first thought her mad, but they were gentle and tried their best to calm her nerves. Eventually, the wife was able to tell the gathering her harrowing tale, yet many would not believe her. The story was just too fantastic for them to find credible. However, a few of the old hunters remembered strange stories about the dark forest. They also recalled a name that was almost lost to legend, Skudakumooch, which means "ghost witch." With weapons in hand, a number of men went with the Mi’kmaq wife to the haunted grove. There, the troop found her husband lying under a burial tree. All could see that his heart was gone. The shaken men then looked up and saw the body of the dead witch high above. The bravest men in their number climbed the burial tree and took the accursed body down. They then carefully removed the tattered blankets and robes that covered the body. To their shock and horror, they discovered that the mouth of the desiccated corpse was covered with fresh blood.
The men burned the witch’s body in a large bonfire and, for good measure, they burned down the burial tree as well. From that day forth, the old forest was a little bit brighter and cleaner. Shadows no longer held unseen menace, and wholesome animals once again returned to the grove. As for the poor wife, none really knew what became of her. Some said that she returned home to the lands of the Mi’kmaq and remarried. It was even said that she lived out the rest of her days in relative peace. However, most of the old people knew that this story was a fairy tale. The elders believed that any dealings with a witch, living or dead, would always result in a lifetime of nightmares.
What Reviewers are saying...
"The Age of Myths and Legends will take you on an exciting journey through Native American folklore. T.D. Hill artfully draws together characters from many indigenous traditions including his own, exposing both the uniqueness of each story and the commonalities across them. Hill’s beautiful paintings also give these fearsome creatures full visual effect. A valuable and thorough collection of the earliest folktales and teachings of Native American elders."
"Hill takes you on a mesmerizing journey through the tales of monsters and evil beings in Native American folklore. The similarities among the tales across peoples fascinated me and gave me goose bumps, especially when great distances separated the peoples! Hill's art masterfully adds a visual chill to the image his words paint, eliciting an extra shiver of delighted terror."
"Perfect for those who love mythology, and especially mythology of the First Americans. I’m definitely looking forward to the next in the series."