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The Serpent's Curse - Ashley Miller

3rd Place

The Serpent's Curse - Ashley Miller

Tyro

 

She wasn't sure how long she was staring before she realized something was staring back. Two reflections of an October moonlight, translucent saucers below the surface of an inky pond beyond her apartment window. Before she could react, they sank out of view. She shook it off and turned away from the window to observe her new found treasure.

 

Cora never took a second glance at the debris lining a runoff collection pond. Yet, she had grown obsessed ever since she found a muddied ivory inkwell on its shores, cradled by long grass. The smooth bone surface carved with elaborate detail depicting a serpent with over sized glass eyes and needle teeth. Her fingers glided over the rough surface with care. She imagined seeing the carving in full view, leaping out of the pond with its rotting features made worse by the filth of the city engrossing the last of its habitat. It’s teeth, narrow and sharp, awaiting its chance to feast. 

 

Her cat nudged against her hand, looking for a scratch behind the ears. “Do you think I should write with it tonight? Look at it. Isn’t it so beautiful? What’s the worst that could happen? I already bought the ink and the quill so...” she puffed out her chest and sat up “In the spirit of Halloween we should do some spooky calligraphy on live stream tonight, then I can show off my inkwell!” Ginger meowed, and after realizing she was getting scant ear scratches, retreated to her spot at the windowsill. 

 

Cora began to pour the ink into the bone reservoir. The quill she purchased had a long silver tip with an off-white bleached feather adorning the end. She dipped the tip of the quill into the small pool of ink. The black crawling up the grooves engraved into the metal, swirling and contrasting with its polished surface. She stacked the thin calligraphy books high to her right, one laying flat in front of her waiting in anticipation.

 

Before she started streaming she put on her headphones and caught up on the local news. She didn't get far before she noticed staring straight back at her were those haunting eyes from the pond. “Tonight marks the 100th anniversary of the Halloween murder of Agatha Pritchard by her husband, Arnold.” said a monotone anchor over the story headline.

 

The video showed a grainy picture of a rotting woman’s upper body. Her unnatural bulging eyes and sticky raven hair clutching her neck and shoulders. “Agatha Pritchard grew to loathe her husband. Scratching her misfortunes in manuscripts piled around her study. The documents stacked higher and higher, and with each day the husband’s hatred grew. One night in a fit of rage, Arnold stabbed his wife with an envelope opener and left her remains in the local park's pond.”

 

Cora held her tea close to her face, trying to calm herself with the smell of citrus and vanilla. Ginger's tail twitched, a sign that something absorbed her attention outside. The video continues with the anchor standing in front of a decrepit building. “In prison, Arnold kept in his possession an ivory inkwell.” Cora caught her breath at the next image, Arnold sitting on a tattered school desk in his cell and dipping his quill into the small white vial. She could see the shape matched the exact one she found near the pond, it's unmistakable curves muddled in the photograph. “Four months after his imprisonment, he hung himself. When the guards found his body, they said they were never able to recover the inkwell, which was later discovered in his crazed memoir to be made from a piece of Agatha’s spine. He believed that the curse of the inkwell would make him take his life once he had nothing more to write. Many believed that the owner of the inkwell was cursed to write till their death, Agatha’s serpent lying in wait to strike her next victim.” She could barely hear anything after “spine” and a wave of nausea came over her. She looked at the inkwell again, quill tip now encased with pitch black. It was as if the ink had grown a life of its own, tendrils slithering up the side to escape their captive well. Cora stood and shook her arms, “I’m just getting all worked up because I’m about to do my Halloween stream”. She tried to distract herself by adding even more festive decoration to her setup, but her arms stayed covered in goosebumps.

 

The stream was set to go off in two minutes, so she sat and looked around for any last minute adjustments. “I think I’ll include the story about the inkwell on the stream to add to the ambiance. What do you think Ginger?” But Ginger did not move a hair. She was staring at the pond below and made a low growl. “What’s wrong Ginger?” One minute till the stream starts. “Common Ginger, stop freaking me out.” She grabbed the quill and rested it onto the paper. Thirty seconds till the stream starts. Ginger's soft hackles raised and she hissed. Cora went to stand and see out the window herself, but her left hand stopped her. It stayed in its position, quill anchored firmly to the notebook. “No! Let me go!” She became frantic, hunched over her uncooperative hand and yanking with her other. Ten seconds. Her hand starts to write in a style that is not her own. She reads through hot tears:

 

Write today, write tomorrow. 

Write of your joys and your sorrows. 

Rest your quill or close your eyes, 

Agatha’s serpent will exact your demise.

 

Three... Two... One...

2 Comments

  • HAHA I loved this one a lot!

    Adi

    November 2, 2021

  • hi lofi girl what is your cat name?

    rubee

    November 1, 2021

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