The Cursed Ones (Chapter 4)
THE CURSED ONES
The news that Isabel had already been changed reached the rest of them quickly enough. Jenny though that last attack had been the most worrisome, since it had happen at plain daylight. It seemed like they were running out of time, and that the next of them could fall at any moment.
That meant she had to hurry finding more information about the haunted house and its curse. She thought about her only clue, the gardener living just across the street, so close but so far thanks to her parents’ security measures.
What she needed was someone who could provide a distraction that would give her enough time to reach Mr. Laverne’s place. Fortunately, she had that someone.
“Wait, you want me to get in trouble with Mom and Dad so that you can escape home?” asked her brother Kenneth.
“It’s for all of our sakes. You’re cursed too, and this can be our only chance at finding a way to beat that crone.”
“I don’t know, sis. There’s only three of us left. I’ve been talking to Sabrina. We reckon there’s no way to escape from this.”
“Maybe, but we’ve got to try. Do you want to die ten years earlier just because that ghost will steal a decade of your youth?”
So, of course, he agreed.
Jenny didn’t stop to find the details of the distraction her brother was providing, but when she heard a certain commotion coming from the other end of the house, she hastily climbed down from her room’s window.
Mr. Laverne’s place had his store up front, but most of his house was formed by a large greenhouse where he did his gardening. It wasn’t that late –the sun had just disappeared behind the mountains–, but the man was still surprised when the young girl called on his front door alone.
He was probably in his sixties, but Jenny thought he was still a handsome man. He received her genially, as he had been friends with her parents for years, thought it all changed when she revealed the reason of her visit.
“I found out that you were the gardener at the Hannigan House at the time of their murder, and I wondered if…” she began clumsily.
His friendly expression immediately transmuted into anger.
“I don’t know a thing beyond what I said to police at the time, girl. That is, nothing at all. I had just resigned my post when it happened. Now, don’t bother me again!”
Jenny was a bit taken aback by his reaction, but she didn’t desist. She wasn’t sure why she decided to trust him with the truth, but she did. After all, time was running out. She saw the large full moon rising behind the glass panels of the greenhouse, and wondered if Kenneth or Sabrina were having their youth sucked by the evil spirit at this very moment.
“It’s the curse, you see,” she said lowly. “Me and my friends entered the house a few nights ago. Now we’re being haunted by a hag.”
Mr. Laverne scoffed.
“You know how many kids have claimed to do that?”
“No. But we’re saying the truth. We did go in, and we saw a corpse… a fresh one. You know those five girls who’ve disappeared? They were some of the friends that were with me.”
Now she had his full attention, though he seemed a bit doubtful.
“Are you sure they just didn’t decide to run away?”
“No, they didn’t. They were cursed, and they’ve been changed,” said Jenny with conviction. “I’ve seen it. They’ve all turned into adult women. And that’s the truth.”
The old gardener collapsed over an armchair, his fingers on his forehead. He was trembling, but Jenny could tell it wasn’t out of anger any more.
“So you did enter,” he said weakly after a while.
“Yes. And we’re afraid. There’s three of us left. We need to know how to beat the curse.”
He swallowed hard, then he laughed nervously. He could see it wasn’t mockery, he was just sad he couldn’t help.
“If you’ve awakened that witch, then there’s nothing you can do. You should just go and buy some brassieres, because girl, you’re going to be a woman before long.”
Jenny had her hopes crushed so hard that she remained silent for several minutes after that. He did too, his head gazing down, until he suddenly looked up again.
“Unless…” he said. “Well, maybe there’s a slight chance. But you would need to do it before the last victim falls. Then you could defeat her and get back all the years she stole from all of you. And the rest of your friends would revert back to their original ages.”
“Really?” Jenny’s heart was beating fast. “How?”
“You’ve got to understand that I’m not an expert myself. I was just looking for answers like you are right now. But there’s a place where you can get some understanding about these matters… Black magic can’t touch you there, and they even have ways to defeat it.”
“You have to take me there right now!” said Jenny excitedly.
“I will. But not right now. Its doorway remains open only by day.”
Jenny doubted she could be that patient, but it seemed like her only choice.
“Why did you learn so much about this?” she asked. “Are you cursed too?”
“In a way. “But not like you and your friends. No, I really am this old!” he chuckled. “My curse was less of the magical kind and more… Well, just plain psychological scarring.”
“What happened?” asked Jenny curiously, and she was sure he wasn’t going to explain himself further.
But, after closing his eyes for a couple of seconds, he did.
“Thirty years ago, the Hannigans were the richest couple in town. Their house had a dozen servants, not only myself. But as powerful as they were, they were also the cruelest people this place has ever seen. And as hard as that was on their employees, nobody suffered as much as their little daughter, Agatha.”
He smiled briefly, then he seemed to repent.
“When I met her, Agatha was the sweetest child you can imagine. She was kind and respectful. But that could hardly last long with parents such as hers. She was treated ruthlessly and she looked for affection elsewhere. And that’s where her doom started: she fell untimely in love.”
“As a kid?” asked Jenny.
“Yes, it began when she was just 9. One of her father’s workers was a fine-looking young man, virile and charming, but almost twenty years her senior. At first she was looking for friendship. Then it became a childish infatuation. But not long after, it became a passionate obsession, the kind that a child should never know.”
“Yes. On her tenth birthday, she confessed her feelings to the man, and though he had always been a friend to her, he was dismayed to learn the truth. He rejected her rather harshly, further hurting her. And then, Agatha retorted to desperate measures. She turned to black magic.”
“This town is prowling with powerful forces, both good and evil. Her pure soul had darkened, so she made a deal with a wicked spirit, and Agatha willingly gave it a decade of her life.”
“In her estimation, adulthood was the only thing that she needed to gain both freedom from his parents and love from the one she desired. It was quite simple too, just a few drops of blood and her body started to blossom in a matter of minutes. She had been a pretty child, and she became a gorgeous woman. No man could resist her now, she though. For also gone with the transformation were the last remnants of innocence. Twenty-years-old Agatha had a black heart now, twisted by the forces of evil she had allowed to merge with her.”
“What happened then?” asked Jenny, transfixed by the tale. She wondered whether this was going where she thought it was.
“Then she reappeared in front of her beloved, showing him what she had done for him. She ran away from home and stole a car to get to him.”
“At first he didn’t believe that the siren was the sweet little girl he had befriended, but there was something about her that was still recognizable as Agatha. She explained that he had changed inside as well as out, and that there was nothing that would prevent them from being together now. But he still couldn’t bring himself to it, even though her beauty had already transfixed him. And despite his force of will, he eventually bent to her wishes, for the new Agatha was a powerful witch, whose desirable exterior was nothing compared to her control over the dark forces.”
“She mind-controlled him?” asked Jenny in fear,
“Not exactly, but her witchcraft had made her allure irresistible to men. He was very much in his right mind, but just being apart from her became unbearable. He wanted her, as much as he knew it was wrong. And though he tried to fight it, he discovered that, as twisted as their relationship was, he had also fallen in love with her before long. They eloped from her parent’s house and lived together on the woods, in a cabin he had erected. And in their own, perverse way, they were happy for a while.”
He looked melancholic, and Jenny had a certainty that had been building for a while.
“Mr. Laverne. Are you…?”
“I see there’s no deceiving you, Jenny. Yes, the man who Agatha had adored so, and who unwittingly caused her downfall, was the Hannigan’s gardener. Andy Laverne.”
Jenny felt a bit sick. She wasn’t sure what to think of him anymore. Yet, his smile had not faded.
“Go on, you can judge me,” he said. “I’m well aware of my sins. Maybe I’m just making excuses when I say she had a sway over me. Maybe other men could have resisted after all, and only I was weak. But I guess I’ll never know for sure, so it doesn’t matter.”
“Anyway, I did fight her influence eventually. I started to regain enough self-control to tell her I was disgusted by what she had done. I left her, even after she told me…”
“She was expectant. Our so called love had produced a child. A girl, she said, though she was only a few weeks into her pregnancy.”
“She returned to her parents and she showed them what she had done. Their cruelty had turned their sweet little girl into a gorgeous monster. They were appalled. What’s more, they seemed capable to resist her magical influence. They grounded her like the little girl they thought she still was. They locked her in the basement and had the fetus removed from her body.”
“Mr. Hannigan was a doctor, so he did it himself. They burned their mess in the fireplace. Of course, they weren’t able to revert Agatha back to her real age, so they were left with a 20-years-old woman locked as a prisoner.”
“How could they manage to do that?”
“To the rest of the world, Agatha was abroad at boarding school. They dismissed the entire staff; nobody else knew she was there. I believed their lie myself. Even though I had left her, even though she had turned into a beast… if I had known what had happened to her, I would have rescued her from her parent’s imprisonment.”
He said that with complete certainty.
“I only learned about this later on, of course. I thought she had really left town, and that maybe she had finally let me go. But no, she was at the House, trapped and nurturing her madness. And losing control. The pact she had made with the spirits went haywire. She had bargained for only ten years, but the pain of losing the baby set things ablaze. She found herself losing decade after decade. She was suddenly thirty, then forty. Conversely, as her body grew weaker, her dark magic got stronger.”
“Wait, so Agatha is the crone?”
Mr. Laverne ignored Jenny. He was transfixed as he continued.
“She broke free. And she killed her parents in a bloody affair. Of course, the police had no clue how it had happened. They brought me in for interrogation, along with every former employee. But they never solved it. They also discovered then that Agatha had never been to any school, and that she hadn’t been seen for months, so her disappearance was yet another mystery to the authorities.”
“I knew I was next, that she would kill me, but I was able to protect myself for a while, thanks to what I’m about to show you in the morning. Agatha, though, was still in trouble. She had kept aging, and in a matter of days, she was ninety. She knew she would be dead before long, so she decided to take her own life in the House’s living room in exchange for a second chance.”
“What do you mean?”
“She put a curse on the place. On the seventh night of each month, her corpse appears in front of the fireplace, dooming any trespassers to give her back her lost youth, so that she can carry out her revenge.”
“Her revenge means… you?”
“I guess… plus whatever she plans to do after that. But now, thanks to you, I’ve been warned of her return.”
“Actually, it’s our fault that you’re in danger. My friends and I should have never entered.”
Mr. Laverne shook his head.
“Kids will always be kids. You’re hardly the first to break in. It’s just that others never entered on the seventh day. I’m actually surprised it took this long. It was me who started creating fear around the House, spreading rumors about the curse. It kept a lot of people out… but it also attracted the curiosity of others.”
“I’m so sorry,” repeated Jenny, who just then realized that her face was covered in tears. She had unwittingly wept during the final parts of his tale.
“It’s quite late now,” he said looking at his watch and rubbing his eyes. “You should wash yourself a bit and then catch a bit of sleep. Then we’ll drive to the place I promised first thing in the morning. I’ll tell you all about it, then.”
Jenny nodded and walked slowly to the bathroom she was directed to, in the back of the greenhouse. It was a shabby little place with a very old sink and a small, stained mirror, but it had running water. She closed the door behind her and splashed her reddened eyes.
She wasn’t sure why the story of the curse had affected her so much, but maybe it was because there were no real heroes on it. In some ways, everyone had been a victim, but also a monster.
“Not Mr. Laverne,” she thought. “He was just beating himself. I’m sure he couldn’t help it, plus he actually fought her in the end.”
Jenny held her face up again and squealed in horror. Reflected behind her face on the mirror was another figure. She quickly glanced behind her back, but there was nobody standing on the bathroom.
Yet, when she looked ahead again, the thing on the mirror was still there, smiling with malevolence. Agatha Hannigan was much younger than when Jenny had seen her corpse, maybe around forty, and she was already starting to look like the beauty she had been in her past. Her hair was black now, with only a few gray strands, and her face was almost smooth. Yet, despite her good looks, she was truly horrifying.
“How did you like my life- story?” croaked the thing on the mirror.
Jenny screamed and turned around to escape the bathroom, but the door was firmly closed. She pushed and pulled, to no avail. She yelled with the full strength of her lungs, yet she knew Mr. Laverne wouldn’t hear. After all, Melissa and Barbara’s parents hadn’t noticed a thing during their daughters’ paranormal experiences.
The bathroom’s light dimmed and flickered, and the water coming from the sink became red as blood. Jenny knew there was nothing to do now, except to endure the painful transformation her friends had described. She tried to calm down and looked at the mirror closely, just as Agatha’s reflection vanished and Jenny’s started to age.
She shot up as she gained height on her limbs and torso. Indeed, the pain coming from her bones was quite sharp. Finally, her neck elongated elegantly. She didn’t become as tall as Daniela, or even Melissa, but she was still a bit taller than average.
Her skin boiled as her acne cleared, leaving her with smooth, milky, and gently freckled skin. Her facial features began shifting agonizingly. There was movement on the inside of her mouth, and she knew she had to remove her braces or risk a major injury. She did it with certain difficulty.
Though still in pain, Jenny was shocked by the lovely teenaged face that she saw in the mirror. Her mom had been right; she had been destined to turn into a swan. Her gorgeous visage wouldn’t be out of place in a beauty advertisement, with her high cheekbones, full lips and trim nose. Her skin looked like porcelain, and as her face kept maturing from adolescence into adulthood, it only got better. Even her unruly hair had improved into a perfectly styled mane of publicity-worthy locks.
Her thin body filled out, and in just a few seconds, she wasn’t gangly any more as she gained gentle muscle tone and curves. She clutched the basin with her long, slender fingers, moaning at the burning sensations coming from her expanding flesh. And though she never got as curvy as Barbara, Jenny’s breasts and rear swelled and rounded in an instant, giving her a model-like figure to match her face.
The pink glasses she was wearing fell with the potency of the shifting, but her sight had already been corrected a bit. She would still need lenses to read, but she was amazed by how much clearer her vision was.
In a blissful moment, all the pain subdued, leaving the 23-years-old Jenny panting and exhausted. She slowly regained her composure and looked at her reflection once again. She still was in shock not only at having transformed, but also at the dazzling appearance she had gotten as result.
Jenny had never touched such silky skin, let alone owned. She was tall enough so she had to hunch in order to see the top of her head in the mirror, and when she arched her back again, she could hear her top’s fabric straining underneath her new breasts.
Next, she inspected her hair. It was still chocolate-brown, but somehow it looked richer than before, beyond its texture change. She tripped when she took her first step with her new longer legs, but she managed to regain her balance.
After making herself sure that no inappropriate part of her body was showing underneath her tighter clothing, Jenny unlocked herself from the bathroom –the door opened without trouble this time– and stepped out into the greenhouse.
“Mr. Laverne!” she called, and just then she realized she was testing her adult voice for the first time. “Mr. Laverne!”
The gardener came running when he heard her. He stopped on his heels when he saw Jenny and looked at her in horror, yet wonder, from head to toe, obviously recognizing her despite her changed looks. He wasn’t that much taller than she was now, and she felt observed yet also smug. She blushed, and wondered if a smile had crept on her face. She hoped not.
“She got to you already,” Laverne said. “We’re running out of time. Is she still here?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Jenny. “I don’t think so. She just vani-“
With sudden violence, the gardener was thrown into midair. He remained suspended there, like a puppet with no strings, his arms extended to each side and a horrified expression in his face.
“You,” he muttered.
Jenny turned around. A few steps away from them, Agatha Hannigan was standing, not a reflection on a mirror any longer, but quite tangible. The ten years she had stolen from Jenny had a startling effect on the witch. She was now a woman of 30, and astonishingly beautiful at that.
“Me,” she said, her voice sounding young and seductive, but still dangerous.
Jenny didn’t care if she ended up looking like a chicken. She put as much distance between herself and the scene as her trembling legs were able to, and observed the scene cowering behind a plant ledge.
“It’s me you want, Agatha,” said Laverne. “Maybe I wronged you, I don’t know. Maybe after everything you did, I shouldn’t have left you. Take me. Do whatever you want with me. But leave these poor kids alone. Give them back their years. Their life is theirs to spend.”
She looked at him with fury.
“You didn’t wrong me,” she said. You wronged our child.”
Then, the flesh on Mr. Laverne face and chest was brutally slashed by an invisible force. He dropped into the floor with a sickening smash, and Jenny let out a weak yelp. Agatha was gone again, so the new young woman ran to where the man had fallen, putting her elbows against the floor next to where his bloody head was.
He wasn’t dead yet, but there was nothing to do for him.
“You have to find it,” he said, the effort too immense. “It’ll save you and your friends. But you have to hurry. If she gets to the two who are left first… Look for the mark in the… in the hill… beyond… beyond the…”
He never finished. Jenny crouched besides him weeping in horror. She had never seen someone dying before, much less in such a gory manner. There were red pools everywhere. She gagged.
She got up. She hated to leave Mr. Laverne there, but she was already in trouble, and she didn’t want to be a suspect in his murder. She checked her clothes to see if there were any stains. For a few horrible seconds, she realized her pants had some red on them, before understanding that it had occurred when she underwent her forced period during the transformation.
It was still late, but it wouldn’t be too long before morning started. She needed to hurry and use the cover of dark to get to the rest of her friends at the chalet.
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Well, that took a drastic turn. I had a feeling the hag might have been the Hannigan girl, though with a name like ‘Agatha’ it was pretty obvious. But clearly darker things are in store than just stealing the childhoods of seven kids.
Yes, a turn from my usual style, but I wanted this story to feel a bit like a horror one.
I know the Agatha name was a bit obvious, but I wanted to use it nevertheless.
I would like to know about when the next chapter will be released, please.
It’s up now!