I remember it like it was only yesterday, the images of the bodies, the strange symbols, the fear. The fear of thinking you were going to die. Going to die because of a curse. A curse you weren't even sure existed. My name is Joseph Taylor. I was born and raised in the small town of Hawksville. T'was a quiet little place, only had 'bout a hundred folks living there. They didn't know what was even going on back then; they just got up and left when we told them to. I was only twenty-nine when it all happened, one of the youngest souls there at the time but yet I managed to earn myself a strong position in keeping that town safe and sound.
There were four of us; Sheriff Jack Ford, Deputy Ben Austen, George Noble and myself. It being a small town and all. Hawksville never saw much crime, a couple of disturbances here and there but nothing major. Exactly the reason we didn't want those poor people knowing about what happened but we had to tell them to keep them safe, had to tell them about Steven Brody. Steven was the only doctor in that town. Everybody knew him, in fact everybody knew everybody in that town. You knew when somebody was acting strange and everybody noticed it about Brody. I've checked I am the only soul still alive today who was there at Hawksville. Everyone else is gone. I'm pretty sure everybody kept the secret. Everybody trusted each other so they believed us when we said we had to leave. But I don't wanna keep the secret no more. So here it is, this is the story of what happened to our little town of Hawksville.
Hawksville had a good bunch of families. There was the Glover family who had the only two children living there at the time, the Austen's, the Fords, the Nobles, the Burkes, the Brody's and a few more. There was also me, my parents died when I was twenty-five. After that I became best friends with George, he was two years older than me but we were both starting out life at the same time. We started working for the Sheriff station, running some errands for him and helping around with general jobs. Life was getting pretty good for me. I had a girlfriend named Eileen; she was beautiful with the nicest blue eyes you'd ever seen. I managed to get myself a nice little house right next to George and the Deputy Ben Austen. Ben was a good guy but he had his bad moments. He was the kinda guy who if you showed him respect, you'd get the same back but if you crossed him, well God help you.
Working for the sheriff wasn't too bad. He gave us fair wages and fair jobs to do. Like I said, Hawksville being the small town it was you really didn't see much crime, you only had a few disturbances like families arguing or hunting accidents. The biggest thing we ever had was that Randy Burke got into a fight with some guy from Jericho Mills over a hunting accident. Apparently both men had shot the same deer and they started fighting over who was gonna get it. Randy owned the general store in Hawksville, he was married to a sweet looking lady named Robin. She had come over around February in 1883 from Helmsley with her brother. Randy being the good guy he was, took her brother in too after they got married. Hawksville had two towns near it, Jericho Mills and Helmsley. A good part of Hawksville was the Riverside Woods; hunting was the main thing all the men did around here. Riverside Woods were ours but we didn't cause any fuss when guys from Jericho Mills used it from time to time. We had a great little river just on the edge of the woods that a few guys used for fishing. We never went hungry in Hawksville, that's for sure.
Hawksville was also like any other town really because we had our own urban legends. Silly really. Sheriff Jack told me one time that when he was a boy, some strange guy spoke about seeing a ghostly old woman in the woods, he thought he made it up but he never could tell for sure. That was the kinda story Desmond Glover, the carpenter told his kid's to get them to go to bed early otherwise 'the ghost would come and getcha'. At that time, it was just heading into the fall of 1885. Hawksville looked like paradise to some folk but as often happens, when things are going too well, that's when everything starts going wrong.
Our doctor, Steven Brody, his wife Colleen died of some sorta disease. Even the doctor himself couldn't do anything about it. He never got over it. We buried her in September. Poor Steve was in a dreadful state at the funeral. Over the next couple of months, he started drinking an awful lot then he'd start wandering out into Riverside. People were worried about him, not because he was our only doctor but the way he was acting wasn't quite right. He'd wander into the Riverside Woods and come out looking like he'd seen the devil himself. The town pretty much left Brody to do his grieving didn't wanna interfere. But then it all went wrong.
It was a Monday morning, the first Monday in that November, I got a knock on the door at five-am. It was George. "Joe! Get the hell up!"
I was too tired to know what was going on at that minute. "What in God's name is going on, George?"
"Glover's found old Brody lying in a pool of blood just outside Riverside." George's voice was shaking; I could tell he was scared.
"Jesus, is he alright? Is he hurt?" I asked. That was when the fear took over.
"It's not his blood."
"Give me a minute to get dressed." I replied. My heart was beating so fast. What did George mean? Not his blood? A deer's blood perhaps? I ran out the door. George had already begun walking.
"Where is he just now?"
"At the station, in a cell. Jack and Ben are out searching the woods as we speak."
I was terrified and as a thought struck my brain I stopped in my tracks. "Wait, why are they out in the woods?"
George paused and stared at me with a worried look. "The blood, it's not animal blood. It's human blood and there's a lot of it." George kept on walking. I followed on with my mind racing. They think Brody's hurt someone. My first thoughts were that he probably got into a stupid fight with one of the idiots from Jericho Mills but something darker scraped at the back of my mind.
When George and I reached the station, I saw Steven in the cell sitting, staring. George tried to talk to him but Steven didn't budge. George sat down just outside the cell. "We have no clue what's happened out there. We need to hope Jack and Ben return with answers. Good answers."
"He's probably gotten drunk and got into a fight with one of those idiots from Jericho," I blurted out.
"Well let's hope so," George said, sounding like he didn't believe his own words. At that minute Ben ran through the door. George quickly got to his feet. "What's happened?! What did you find?!" I then saw what George saw. Ben was covered in blood.
"Bodies. They're all decapitated. It's sick. They're all in pieces," Ben's voice was quivering.
"What?! Who? How many?" George shouted. I stayed quiet; I was too scared and worried.
"Fourteen. We think, but it's a whole big mess. Jack's out there right now gathering it all up. I don't recognize any of them but they're from out of town. Probably hunters. We can't let anyone else find out about this. We have to go out there and get the bodies then we'll figure out what we're doing."
"Was it him?" I said, pointing at Brody. We all looked at him. He never even glanced at us.
We all ran into the woods as quickly as we could. We knew we had to get all the bodies hidden quickly, didn't want anybody from the town knowing about it. Not until we knew what was going on anyway. As we got deeper into Riverside, I saw Jack's bulky figure in the distance. "Over there," I shouted. Jack had scarlet stains all over him. He was standing over four vast blood stained sheets. The sheets were covering the bodies or, according to Ben, what was left of them.
"Jack. What's happened? Did Brody do this?" George asked impatiently.
"I found his hat next to one of the bodies. I'm pretty sure it was him. He never said a word when I took him to the station. Sick bastard. You better have a strong stomach boys," Jack replied. I was terrified. I wasn't prepared for what I saw. Jack lifted up one of the sheets. I will never ever forget that sight. Never. Every single body part of this man was laid out to form a shape. It was a symbol, like a star but with more points. His head, arms, legs and parts of his torso were all placed in very definite shapes.
"Oh my god!" George said and then he threw up. I retched but managed to keep mine down.
"What the hell would drive a man to do this?" I cried a mix of sadness and anger in my voice.
"I have no clue; we need to get some answers from Brody. He may not have been the one who killed them. He may have been there while something happened to them," Jack said, puzzled.
"Well it's obviously a human caused all this damage. No animal could do this, not lay the bodies out like they have," Ben spat out.
"I have no idea what to do about this. If the townspeople find out about this, it'll ruin Hawksville and if Jericho Mills find out about this they'll want blood in exchange for blood. This is a lose-lose situation. There's nothing we can do," Jack said, feeling clueless.
"For now, we should leave all this here and find out what we can from Brody," George said.
"Good idea but we'll have to be quick about it. The quicker we find out who and why someone did this, the quicker we can decide what we're gonna do," Jack replied enthusiastically, already on the move. We all ran back as quickly as we could to the station. We had to be quiet when reaching town to make sure we never woke any of the families. I opened the door to the station and we headed to the back, which was occupied by a single lone cell. In the cell, Steven Brody was staring straight forward shaking and mumbling something in a strange language we had never heard before. It was too organised to be gibberish. He was in some sort of trance.
Jack approached him carefully and asked what happened out there. Brody started mumbling something about a witch. Even though his voice was quiet and jilted he heard him say "the witch told me to, she wants people to know. To know her symbol. The bodies. The bodies. They deserved what they got."
All of our eyes met, each man knew that the other was thinking the same thing.
"What the hell?!" Ben shouted out.
"Is he mentally ill or hallucinating or something?" George asked, trying to sound reasonable.
"Jesus, I don't know. What we do know now is that he did kill those hunters." Jack said. At that point, we all realised he was right. Steven Brody, our town's beloved doctor was claiming to have seen a witch who told him to murder in the worst possible way. It wasn't the most rational explanation but was all we had.
"What are we going to do? What can we do? We can't let this town go to waste because he's went crazy," I said. The only thing going through my head was that I didn't want this town, the town which I had come to believe was total paradise become total hell because one man had went insane.
"Let's look at this logically here. No one else knows about this. It's only us. We could do something to save our town. We could bury those bodies. Considering they're only body parts now, it wouldn't be too hard," Ben said, running his fingers through his hair. The four of us took a look at each other; all of us loved this town.
"You're right. Look boys, if we want to save this town, we're gonna have to get rid of the bodies. All in favour of Ben's idea to bury the bodies?" Jack said, raising his hand. My hand shot up, along with Ben's. George hesitated; trying to fight what he knew was reality before giving in. "Good. We better get going then."
"Wait. What about him?" I said, not having to point to Brody. "What's going to happen with him after all this?"
"Look, we all know him. We'll wait until he's himself then try and squeeze some answers out of him, okay?" Jack replied. I don't think he believed what he was saying. We all agreed and we left the station with shovels, all of us attempting to prepare our minds for the mad and macabre event we would be facing in minutes to come.
The bodies were just the way we left. Scraps of flesh, limbs torn from torsos, bones pulled from the meat of the body, white and shining. The odour of death floated up to meet us.
"We'll have to dig the hole deep enough so that no hunters will find them. In the off chance an animal were to dig them up..." Ben said.
"Yeah, we need to make sure no one ever finds any parts, for the sake of Hawksville. Agreed?" Jack said, raising his voice. Once again, we all agreed and gripping our fingers around the shovels we forcefully rammed them into the earth and started digging. We finished within the hour, the time reaching a little past six-fifteen. I know the thought is morbid but the fact that the bodies were only parts made the chore a whole lot simpler. "And that's that. No one has to know. This will all be over as soon as we can get answers from Brody."
We walked back to the town in silence. No matter what any of us would see in the future, the sights of that past hour were imprinted in our heads for all time. The sight of all the bodies laid out like that. We would never forget that symbol, the jagged pointed star. What Brody called 'the witches symbol.' When we reached the station, George, Ben and I sat down when moments later we heard Jack's voice break the long silence. "Oh my good god!" Seconds later, after jumping out of my chair, tipping it over in the process, we all saw that the cell door lay open. Steven Brody was gone.
"How the hell can he escape? We locked him in and we had the keys," Ben said, with a temper.
"Jesus. We just buried those bodies. We have to find him or everything we just did was for nothing," Jack shouted. "There's only one place he would go."
"Riverside," I said, realising that whoever had helped Brody out, something supernatural or not, it would lead him back to the woods. Once again, we ran to the woods, to where we buried the bodies. There was no sign of Brody. We searched all around but we couldn't see him.
"He must still be in town," George said. We decided to head back to town when I noticed something out the corner of my eye. In the direction of the River was a body lying in the water.
"Oh God. Look" I said, my eyes locked on the river. Jack ran over to the river with us following. When we got closer, we saw that the body was Steven Brody.
Jack felt his pulse and told us he was gone. He examined Steven's body. There was not a scratch on him.
"This is unreal. What are we gonna do now?" Ben asked. His voice sounded like he just wanted to give up.
"There's only one thing we can do, the same thing we did with the rest of the bodies. At least that way, this secret can never be revealed," George said. I realised he was right.
"You're right, we have to. Come on, help me carry him," said Jack, picking up Brody's body. We took him to the same place we took his victims. We must've buried him within a few minutes. "Right, what we have just done, we keep between ourselves till our grave. We did it to save this town from all the trouble. When folks come looking for those lost men, we don't give anything away! It was the easiest thing to do. We agree and we take this to our grave?" We all agreed, none of us showing any signs of hesitation.
"We did it for Hawksville," I said "but what are we gonna tell everyone about Brody?"
"We'll tell 'em that he couldn't take the death of Colleen and that he's moved to another state to live with his brother," Ben suggested. We all nodded, knowing that the townspeople would believe that. "We'll bring it up in the next town meeting."
"Yes. Now everyone swear that you'll take this to your grave. No one can know what we did out here." We all swore to take it to our graves, each reciting a near-oath. We couldn't let anyone know about Steven Brody, what he said and what he did. We all gathered our things and headed back to town. The darkness was almost all consuming and it was growing cold. Time to go.
As we walked thoughts started to blossom in my mind like poisonous flowers, "Didn't you say there was a guy from when you were a boy, who said something about a witch?" I asked him.
"Well yeah but that guy had obviously made it up or......Jesus," Jack looked like he'd just seen a ghost. He stopped suddenly and through the dim moonlight we could see that his eyes were wide.
"That guy...the one who spoke of the witch...that was Brody's father. I can't believe I forgot that. Brody's father was like Steven. He went a little strange after Steven's mother died. He wandered into the woods too and then one night, he put a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. I remember what happened but thought it was two different people."
"Wait, so Steven's mother dies and his father goes crazy, wanders into the woods, says he saw a witch then shoots himself?" George asked double-checking the story.
"Yeah. And now the same thing happened to Steven. Wife dies, wanders into woods and sees witch. Only now he was told to kill other people."
"Look, if this witch is real or not. How bout we let Steven Brody, his tale and his father's tale die here, agreed?" Ben said. He was right. Like we had done on so many occasions that morning, we all agreed. We wandered away in silence, back into town, all of us heading for our homes just in time to wake up with everyone else. It was that morning; we let Steven Brody and the witch die in the woods. It was all over.
Two Years Later.
Hawksville had a good few families moving into it all of a sudden. The Christmas of 1886 brought new people into Hawksville, most from Helmsley. Eileen and myself were now engaged. I was so happy. We all forgot about Brody. The memories were too difficult to dwell on so we put them at the back of our minds. Funny thing though, one week after we buried him, the sheriff of Jericho Mills came over here to talk to Jack. Asking him if he'd saw these men, said they'd gone missing. No one knows where they went. We recognised the men right away. It was the guys Brody killed. Of course, Jack told him we'd never seen any of their faces before. Also he made up a good excuse telling him that there wasn't much deer in our woods anymore and that no one had hunted in there for a couple months leaving Jericho Mills to believe their fourteen men disappeared into thin air. Everything worked out. We all forced ourselves to forget about Brody pretty sharpish.
Now 1887, heading into winter. Jack was still the sheriff, happily married. George got himself a girlfriend, turned out to be Eileen's cousin. Ben, still Deputy got divorced just after Christmas. Didn't take it too bad. He took two weeks off work but then came back as normal as ever. And then it happened once again. Once you think everything's going perfect, something comes along and destroys it.
It was a cold November afternoon, I remember a sprinkle of snow that day. A Sunday. I was sitting with Eileen. We were actually discussing having a baby, a conversation which evolved from baby names. Then there was a loud knock on the door. It was Jack. "Hi Joe. Listen got some bad news. I found George and his brother dead in the woods. Looks like a hunting accident." I burst into tears. Couldn't hold it in. I told Eileen to stay in the house while I followed on with Jack and Ben. We headed towards Riverside and then Jack stopped me. "Joe, it wasn't a hunting accident. I just couldn't tell you the truth in front of Eileen."
"What'd you mean? Not a hunting accident. What happened to them?" I asked, tears still streaming down my face.
"Just wait and see... I can't believe it," Ben blurted out, fighting back a tear. We walked for another ten minutes in silence until we reached a blood stained sheet. When I saw that sheet it brought back so many memories. Jack lifted the sheet up and there was George in pieces in the shape of that same symbol, the jagged star. I couldn't believe it. Someone or something had killed George. It was exactly the same way Brody had killed those men. We all stood over George's body parts. We all knew what was happening but didn't want to believe it. All of us stood in silence, privately grieving, not mentioning Brody. But we were all thinking it.
"How can this happen? No one knew what Brody did or how he killed those men," I said, breaking the ice on the subject.
"We know. Look Joe, we know how ridiculous this is gonna sound but Ben and I were talking about this. What if this is part of a curse? Like that witch getting revenge. Or Brody killing from beyond the grave. We know now. We can't say we don't. Something that isn't normal, something not of this...world is involved in this."
"But what can we do?" I asked, slightly intrigued.
"We have to leave Hawksville. If George died in these woods in the same way Brody killed because of this so-called witch then we know some supernatural force is involved. We are not safe." Ben said. He was shaking. As weird as it sounded, I knew Ben was right. Something strange was involved. We had to leave.
"You're right, we have to leave Hawksville," I agreed, that sentence alone killed me. I really did love the town. "But how are we going to get everyone to leave?"
"There's only one thing we can do," said Jack. "I'm gonna call a town meeting and tell them the truth. Everything about Brody and what he said. It's the only way we can get everyone safe from this curse. We'll bury George and his brother then call the meeting." Jack had already brought shovels. We buried George and his brother in our small cemetery just near Riverside. Ben then gathered everybody together and Jack prepared to tell the town the truth.
I sat in our town hall with Eileen, holding her hand, while Jack told the whole town about the dreadful secret that we had been hiding all those years. I heard people gasp from time to time and everybody looked at Ben and I. We didn't know what exactly ran through everybody's mind at that point but when Jack told them to gather their belongings and leave the town; they nodded their heads and agreed. Some asked a few questions and some didn't want to leave but when Jack explained they could die, they quickly agreed. Eileen and I went back to our house to gather our things. Eileen said to me, "So where do you want to get married and start a family." Despite what had just happened, there was a tone of happiness in her voice. That made me feel much better. She told me she was planning on asking me to move to a bigger town or state when we decided to start a family anyway. I smiled at her feeling even more love for her than before, my dear soon-to-be wife, always trying to look at the positive side of any situation. We put the conversation on hold and gathered speed in leaving our home. I quickly gathered our things and we met up with Ben and the whole town followed Jack and his wife through Riverside and into Jericho Mills. Some families decided to stay on in Jericho Mills and some went north to Helmsley. Jack and his wife, Eileen and myself and Ben and the Glovers decided to move further and go to Washington, D.C. We all felt that the further we could go, the better things would be for everyone. When we reached just outside D.C., Jack stopped us and swore us not to tell anyone about what happened in Hawksville. He told us if anyone asked where we were from, we should all say Helmsley so no one would raise suspicion. We all agreed and all decided to start a new life. The Glover family, Ben, Jack and his wife and Eileen and myself, all together with our secret.
Six Months Later
As soon as we arrived in Washington, we all managed to find a place to live and Ben, Jack and I bought a shop. Some old guy who owned a grocery store was looking to retire so we took over that business for him, all leaving the sheriff work behind. It was a lucky break and exactly what we needed. It was now summer 1888. Eileen and I were planning on marrying in December of that year. Eileen was so excited; I loved her so much.
One morning, I arrived at the grocery store and Jack was sitting behind the counter. He told me that Ben hadn't showed up for work. I remember the look of worry of his pale face. He told me to go over to his house to see if he was okay. I agreed and made my way to his home as quickly as I could. What awaited me was more terrible than I can begin to describe. I opened the door to Ben's house and went up to his bedroom. I saw Ben Austen lying on a bloody torn mattress, his decimated body lying in an identical pattern to the way George's was. I stood and stared at his body for what felt like a long time and then turned quickly and returned to the store, shaken to my very core. I told Jack and he reminded me about the oath we took in Hawksville. We thought it was best not to let Eileen and Catherine, Jack's wife, know about what had really happened. Jack told the sheriff there about what we had found and let him do the rest. We told Eileen and Catherine that Ben had a heart attack. Catherine wasn't allowed to return to the house until the mess that had been Ben was cleaned up and disposed of. The last thing we wanted to do was scare them so we thought it was for the best.
We buried Ben in a small cemetery two weeks later. There was only Jack and Catherine, myself and Eileen and The Glovers left. We never told the Glover's anything at all but then again they never asked, all they did was show up then leave. I think that death was becoming a second nature to them, which is a disturbing thought in itself. After a couple of weeks the Glovers upped and left, moved to the other side of the city. Jack and I spoke about what had happened. We knew there was nothing we could do. The curse it seemed had still found us. Jack said he just wanted to live out the rest of his life and whatever the future would hold, he would deal with. His words were "if it gets us, it gets us, just enjoy what we have left." I agreed. It was probably the easiest thing to do although I had to put on a smile and push the thought of impending death to the very furthest part of my brain.
Eileen and I got married that December. We had a small ceremony. Just Jack and Catherine and a few great customers from the store. The Glovers even came back for the day to celebrate our day. The years passed as they do. To be honest, Jack and I were quite surprised when nothing happened. Washington, D.C. life was good. The store kept Jack and I in the lifestyle in which we were accustomed. Life was fine for fourteen years and then Catherine suddenly died under mysterious circumstances. The doctor told Jack it was of natural causes but he never accepted it. I don't think any of us did.
Two years later in 1904, I was forty-eight and my dear sweet Eileen passed away. The doctor told me that she died of natural causes. Now I know how Jack felt. I never accepted it either. I was left in ruins without the love of my life but I knew that I had to be strong. Ten years later, we sold the store and retired. Neither of us thought we'd last that long. I was fifty-eight and Jack was sixty-three. Life had been hard on us and we were weaker than other men of our age, men who had led privileged lives without the threat of death in every shadow.
One morning I went to Jack's house for a visit, to catch up on the weeks events and take him some wine. When I entered the house there was an earthy smell and the rooms were in darkness. I ventured slowly upstairs and found my friend lying on the floor, his arms and legs splayed to the four corners of the room. His shirt had been ripped open and carved into his chest was the symbol, that symbol, the jagged pointed star imprinted into his flesh. I would be lying if I said I was truly surprised and shocked because I wasn't. Inside, there was a small part of me that had been waiting on something like this happening. I'm sure Jack felt the same about me. I buried him next to Catherine; I knew that's what he would have wanted.
Now I write this story in 1914. It's been four weeks since Jack's burial. I don't want to wait any more. For years I have waited for the curse to take me but it hasn't, not yet. The anticipation grows stronger every day. The thought embedded in my brain that I may die at any moment. I'm the only one left.
I write this so someone will know the true story of what happened in Hawksville and in Washington, D.C.. I have decided to go back to Hawksville and Riverside Woods. I'm determined to find out the truth. I'm going to find out the truth about what drove Steven Brody to kill those people and what killed Jack and Ben. I'm going to find out the truth about the symbol, the witch and the curse. I will make my way back to Hawksville and uncover the truth about my friends and the curse that has befallen them all. I will discover the meaning behind the symbol or die trying. I am ready.