'In the deep windings of the grove no more the hag obscene, and grisly phantom dwell; nor in the fall of mountain-stream, or roar of winds, is heard the angry spirit's yell'—James Beattie
In 1672, a God fearing Christian man by the name of Giure Grando of the village of Khring near Tinjan Croatia, had first encountered the lethiferous witch. Her incessant legend would then extend and endure centuries of folklore, throughout the unfamiliar region of Eastern Europe. Apprehension and evil had been associated to her, according to the distinct people, who had seen her in person and lived to tell the story of this unspeakable horror. But few of those individuals would be so bold to acclaim to have survived an encounter with her and the horrible, horrible shriek of the witch of the Borgo Pass—the immortal widow of the faithful Wallachians, Moldavians and Transylvanians.
I Mehmet Turan had seen much in this world of living, travelling abroad from the farthest edge of Europe to Asia. I had seen the growth of Africa and had ventured to those exotic lands of the Polynesia, but nothing had prepared me whatsoever, for the sheer terror of the witch I would witness, after my arrival to the Carpathian Mountains of Wallachia.
The year was 1848, and it was the year of tumultuary revolution that spread through Western and Central Europe. I was a mere conscript for the Turkish Ottoman Empire, as our ship was to dock within the Port of Constanţa that had belonged to the empire, now part of Romania. It was an unfortunate time that did not bode well for our busy commerce and transactions. Our final destination was Wallachia, but the unpredictable weather that was affecting the region caused us to drastically change our plans.
Thus, we were forced to take refuge in the port, till the fitful weather in the Black Sea had settled to some extent, allowing the other ships to reach Bulgaria and Moldova, as our troops would arrive to Wallachia safely. I had been through the Dardanelles, the Bosphorous, and the Black and Aegian Sea before, but Wallachia was an unknown land to me that was situated north of the Lower Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians.
The damaging consequences of the revolts in Western and Eastern Europe had extended to Wallachia with a passionate fervour. I had seen many distant lands as a soldier of the empire, but the terror of the ancient Carpathian Mountains would be forever stitched in the depth of my memory. The journey on ship was indeed weary, and our soldiers were sent to quell uncontrollable uprisings in Bucharest, within the province of Wallachia at once. We were truly unfortunate at that time, to encounter a menacing threat upon our arrival.
After a fortnight, I was able to smell the strange scent of a port and land afresh. There was no congenial reception for us upon docking, and instead we were greeted by suspicious onlookers, who did not fancy much Ottoman soldiers or any foreign troops on their shore. Shortly, there were gunshots and hostility that arose, between our soldiers and the mob that had besieged us quickly. With our imposing muskets at hand, we defended the ship and ourselves the best we could, under the developing circumstance. The rabble slowly began to disperse then with the Babeldom, as the local soldiers loyal to the empire had arrived on the scene. We had suffered several casualties, but I was not wounded in the end. The wounded men that had required hospitalisation were taken promptly, to the local hospital or inns to be carefully examined.
The next day we had left the port city of Constanţa at last, and headed towards Bucarest to reach Wallachia. The journey to Wallachia would be long and enervating, and we would have to reach as well, the eastern part of the Carpathian Mountains. Eventually, we arrived at the city and left the disturbance of Constanţa behind us. Unfortunately, the unfolding events happening within the region had spread to Bosnia, Slovenia, Serbia, and Croatia. There was chaos and less civility amongst the denizens, and the local hospital in Bucharest was full of many casualties also upon our arrival. Therefore for that reason, the men were taken to local inns as they were in Constanţa.
As a Turk, I was accustomed to the bluster of the ruffians of Istanbul, but the inn was not that distant from the encampment, and we were escorted by other Ottoman soldiers, and by the local soldiers who had orders to assist, any Ottoman or Russian soldiers. Once at the inn, I was forced to hear from my room, the awful moans and agony of a Russian soldier, whose wounds were harrowing and life threatening. But there was a queer backdrop that caught my eye along the way. It had transpired, as I passed then the bridge entering the centre of the town itself.
What befell, I shall not forget at all. As we crossed the bridge, the women were ululating as the body of dead men, were being carried to the graveyard. The graveyard was close to a vast forest of conspicuous shades of emerald green that stood, before the steep knolls of the Carpathian Mountains. What made me stared at the forest was a vibrant light that shone from the interstice. Since I did not speak the tongue of the locals much, I was forced to suppress my intrigue for the morrow.
Upon the following morning, I was abraided by the vivid shrills of the black kites that roamed the town and forest at leisure. I had found the bed I slept to be quite uncomfortable, and the pillow I laid my head was even more undesirable. However, I was more concerned with my health than the bustle of the birds that gathered. I rose from my bed slowly, from underneath the lone blanket, and then proceeded to get up from my bed, and wash my face. I got dressed and left my room at once, in search for my superior, and I had passed the corridor of the inn, heading towards the entrance. As I walked ahead, I saw and heard such uproar, as it seemed that the denizens had sought to make mischief. There were local soldiers guarding the front and back entrance to the inn. With their muskets at hand and pointing, they had threatened the mob that was incited. But luckily for us, the mob did not become too violent in their ruction. They shouted and remained for a while, until they were dispersed in the end. Tidings of the recent riots and insurrections throughout parts of Europe had reached the proximate shores of Turkey forthwith.
We were grateful for the local soldier’s protection, and our Sultan had thanked the authority in power and the Russian tsar in particular. We were promised by him safe passage back to the Black Sea afterwards, but even the great tsar himself could not truly guarantee that assurance. I had returned to the inn and my quarters also. But when I arrived there, I could see the presence of more local soldiers, along with our Ottoman soldiers. Bucharest was bustling, and the city was full of high anxiety and uncertainty. I was told that we would be patrolling the area, but a storm from the distance had ruined our plans. The storm that approached was a birr and had caused us to seek shelter within the city.
Once more, I was forced to seek the inn I had stayed at previously. Wallachia was becoming subsequently, an insoluble quagmire and conundrum for us. Henceforth, I returned to my former room at the inn, and waited anxiously, as I anticipated betterment in the weather. The storm soon faded after the hectic night, and we were finally set to begin our patrolling, in the following morning when it was possible. There was no mob waiting this time at the inn, and it was close to midnight and the curfew had increased it appeared. The night was cold and eerie it seemed to me. Then, my shutters began to sway twofold back and forth, till I rose up to close them. But as I closed the shutters, I felt someone whispering my name anonymously, and the sound began to increase by the second.
'Mehmet, Mehmet', the voiced had whispered softly.
I was baffled, and thought it was the murmurs of the denizens outside. But as I looked, there were no actual denizens present to be seen much in the city. The curfew imposed on the city, was the prime excuse I was led to believe. The voice drifted and disappeared, and there was a dark shadow looming behind me. But when I turned around, the gloomy shadow was gone. After ten minutes, the unusual voice had reappeared anew. And this time, it began to whisper my name loudly.
I was compelled indeed to investigate this abnormal occurrence. I had followed the nameless voice, until I had reached the edge of the mystic forest. Perhaps I was becoming mad in my conjuration, and I was dreaming or worse, walking in my sleep. But this was not to be the case, for I would discover a horrific nightmare that was worse than any Morphean dream of fright or cacoethes. As I began to walk, the unwist voice began to shift from one side to another. There, I stood before the clump of bushes of the observant forest, amidst the obscurity and the mystery of the night. What truly did compel me to enter the forest, I did not know. But whatever it was, it was strongly urging me to proceed.
Thus, I entered the dim area, as the bracing wind began to increase and stir the boughs of the trees nigh. It was seldom that I had walked into the mouth of an unnameable trepidation or walked into the rain that befell, upon my guise at that hour. I then continued ahead with my intrigue, staring at each side as I trodden fretfully. With every passing minute I thought to myself, where was I going? Quickly, I sensed a breath beside me, as the voice began to sound lesser, and become once more, a mere whisper into my ears. Gradually, the breath I had perceived was closer than before.
The boughs began to sprawl towards me, and the trees seemed to be larger in spissitude as I walked. The leaves began to rustle, and the full moon shone a resplendent glare upon me. A howling sound was heard from afar, but the fearful sound, was becoming more audible. I felt as if wolves were prying from every side, as I stood still for the nonce. My pulse beat eightfold, and my heart throbbed like a pounding hammer. Sweat began to cover my face, and pour down my eyebrows. I thought the best thing to do would be retreat back to my room at the inn, but yet, as I started to walk backwards, I felt the presence of an ambiguous being behind me.
Indeed, what was standing behind me was unbelievable and unsightly. There behind me stood the horrid guise of a decrepit witch, with a black hood. She stared into my eyes with disdain, and she bore whitish eyes that were void of mortal colour. Her hair was long and hoary flowing to the ground and her long dress ruffled with her every movement. She looked at me, with a devilish stare, as I was horrified and dumbfounded to react swiftly. She then called my name, like Lucifer called the Nazarene to entice him, with a wicked and riggish deception. Was it a facinorous witch I had been gazing at or was it something of a townsfolk's sleight upon the doltish foreigner?
She raised her right hand towards me, as if to grasp me, but I jerked back my body, and fell on the ground. I did not lose contact of her gruesome eyes that cast indelible fear. She grasped my arm so tautly, that I could not react toward her furtherance. Her cogent will had imposed on mine, and I was feckless to think clearly or rationally. She began to seek my bare neck with her huge jagged teeth, as if I was her next victim. Her insatiable hunger and thirst had not been quenched yet. The pressing thought of being stranded there in the middle of nowhere had overpowered my fear and despair.
Therewith, I rose to my feet fending off the teeth of the witch and struck her with my right hand. Her reaction was somewhat startling and befuddling. As I struck her face, she disappeared into the fold of the night. And suddenly, all that accompanied the developing situation in the beguiling forest had dissipated, with the disappearance of the old witch. The cold nights of this exotic and hidden part of the world were tainted within such exotic surroundings, and seemed to be a land of magic and superstition. Gone was, the howling wind that bustled mightily, and the murmuring whispers that drowned out in the discoverable forest.
I was still shocked and startled by the whole incident that I sought to return at once, to my room at the local inn. All that occurred before I prayed was nothing more than an inexplicable nightmare. I scurried back to the inn and to my room, where I washed my face and brushed off the specks of dirt and mire that covered my clothing, as I had fallen before the nefarious witch. I had attempted to calm my anxiety and stop fretting, but the memory of the old witch was yet fresh and too difficult to overcome my disjointed thoughts. However, as I cogitated from within, I began to hear the whispering murmurs again, and this time they were nigh.
Verily, the old witch was standing behind me, and when I turned around, I gazed into her hideous eyes of dread, as she shrieked forcefully into my ears. My face was gaunt, and my body became too listless, but something more unfathomable would happen next that would leave me lost in my addled thoughts. As I closed my eyes in consternation, I opened them to only see that I was no longer within the indefinite confines of the darkness, or in the company of the old witch but instead, the whole incident with her in the forest was an awful nightmare that had haunted my conscious profoundly. I was in unmitigated shock, as the gleam of the morning glint had shone upon my incomprehensible bewilderment. The sound of the noise of the city had awakened my senses then. What in heaven's name had occurred to me? Was I experimenting, a mere bad dream of mine? Nevertheless, I rose from the bed soon and dressed, and headed out of my room.
Incredibly, there was no dirt or mire upon my clothing for that matter. My clothing was spotless and almost as pristine as the clothing of my superiors. I grabbed my soldier's maroon fez and joined my regiment. I had been expected with the other Ottoman soldiers to patrol the city and adjacent areas upon that day, but we were assigned the task of heading to the Carpathian Mountains which were hours away. We took waggons and arrived there during the evening with our lassitude.
Along the way to the sinuate Borgo Pass heading to the mountains, we were hindered by the fact that the road of the Carpathians was closed, for some unknown reason. My duty was to assist the soldiers in destroying any remaining resistance hiding, within the lofty mountains. I was prepared for any sudden activity to arouse, and once we had reached the closed road of the Borgo Pass on foot, I asked one of the local soldiers who spoke the Turkish language, what was the justification for the obstruction of the road. His answer was that the uprisings in the region had caused the rebels to close the road.
I was becoming more prevalent to the chaos that was developing not only in the country, but withal, to the rest of these parts of Europe. It had unravelled before my very eyes, as I watched with instantaneous astonishment. I had asked him if there was another passage to the mountains and his reply was the same as before that the other main road to the mountains was totally blocked too. I pondered the question, what was going to happen next?
My need had compelled me as a soldier of the Ottoman Empire, to reach as soon as possible the mountains. My commander had insisted on taking another road to the mountains, but it was only futile, since the native guides helping us could not or would not take us any farther. Our commander was irked with their stubbornness and their evident fear to proceed to the mountains, but there was nothing we could do at that moment, except reconcile within our mind that we were not going to reach the mountains, unless by another mean if feasible.
The ordeal within the passage was becoming more and more unstable. Our options were few, either dare, to reach the mountains on foot and without the guides, or head back to the inn anew. The commander had decided in accord to our volition, to attempt to reach the mountains by foot; although the mountains was still kilometres away, we sought to reach it. We paid the guides for their cooperation and service, and quickly headed off to the forbidding mountains that seemed to be staring at us, with a macabre dare.
I can plainly recall the last words of one of the guides before he left that was chilling, 'Do not stray far from the road, for the passage is full of many unexpected dangers, such as bears, wolves and lynxes'.
I somewhat took heed to his warning, but I was too occupied with arriving at the mountains that I failed to heed in its entirety the warning given to me. Then, we headed through the forest, with no time to waste. However, I was soon to come upon, the old witch again. Except this time, it appeared to be no wretched nightmare.
I hurried along the way with my regiment as the boughs of the trees began to rustle, and the wind began to howl as well. It was all dubious to me, and I found myself cursing the environs I was emerged in. As I walked by the crisp and tawny leaves by the gossamers, I could hear the howling of the wind increase by the minute, and my heart began to throb from within. The thick trees had caused the regiment to be separated, and I soon found myself all alone. Shortly, I was to come across the inscrutable reality that my nightmare of before was real. I found myself not only lost within the ominous hold of the forest, but also, the inescapable madness of its bewitching nature.
The familiar voice of my nightmare had resurfaced, and there was nothing I could do to halt this endless dream of absolute horror. The voice aforementioned began to increase, as it had done in my horrendous nightmare. I was in a simultaneous quandary that I did not know in the end, how to confront prudently, as I called out the names of my fellow comrades.
Since the passage we had chosen was blocked off by the rebels I had no other choice, but to proceed ahead more into the forest hoping that I had reached the clearance as I had wished. I was not prepared, for an unpleasant surprise.
The voice persisted as I scurried along the path, and I tried to ignore the voice, by putting my hands upon my ears. It was pointless, because I failed to silence the voice in my attempt, and the leaves soughed as well, whilst I walked timorously and aimlessly it appeared. The voice was starting to make me question my sanity—for it repeated my name each and every time taunting me deviously. I started to panic, and I began to run through the forest, with an intense desperation. I felt the boughs grasping me, as I ran by them. The wind then bustled strongly, like a cold draught of bitter winter.
Afterwards, the nameless old hoary witch of my terrible bad dream stood before me formidable. Thoughts of an agonising death entered into my mind at that moment. I felt unable to move a muscle, and the mere sight of the wappened witch anon was sufficient to aghast me quickly. Was this reality I had discovered—or was this, the harsh truth of my maddening predicament? Her appearance was horrendous and perturbing that I could not bear looking into her rugose and naucified countenance.
Therefore, I sought to escape not only the forest, but also, the presence of the witch. As I ran, she opened her mouth and began to shriek her deafening voice. I ran and ran until my feet were fatigued, and could run no more. I did not glance back at all as I ran, and I headed forth into the mouth of the mountains. I soon found myself shortened of breath and was compelled to stop running away.
When I looked behind, the hoary witch was no longer nearby, and the daunting voice that haunted me in the forest had become silenced completely. I perceived that she was not gone, and I was correct in my assumption, as I heard the horrifying shriek once more. The vociferous sound had reverberated throughout the forest, and it was heard everywhere it would seem, except with my regiment.
I attempted to escape, but I could not. My feet were sluggish and unable to move much. She possessed a commanding control over me that was driving me mad, as blood was pouring from my ears and from my eyes also. I had never experienced in all my life, such an unbearable discomfort, as I did on that day with the abominable witch. Within a minute, I was deaf and on the ground.
When I awoke, I was in an obtenebrated cavern of impending doom, and my hearing had returned miraculously. The caliginosity of the cavern was noticeable and encompassed the surroundings entirely. It had resembled an unbelievable chasm of utter despair and desolation. There were citigrade spiders and traversing rats that were abundantly dispersed, as I was absorbently petrified by these abnormalities. There were discerpible remains of hundreds of dead Russian and Ottoman soldiers, along with Wallachian soldiers and peasants. Their brains had been consumed, by a Thyestian creature that was the old slavering witch.
When I began to search for an exit, the luminous eyes of the pruinose witch I saw, as she began to slike towards me, with a scelestic celerity. Her vapid constitution was imposing, as she then towered over me, with her intimidating presence. I ran until I reached the entrance of the cavern and saw through the crevices of the walls the pellucid light of the sun. It was an entrance that allowed me to escape, and escaped I did, as I never looked back once.
My adrenaline had surged, and the desperation I had felt overcame her powerful shriek. I ran through the labyrinthine forest, until I reached the edge of the solitary impeded passage again. I was saved, and local soldiers had located me dishevelled and maniacal. They put me into their waggon, but they did not recognise my accoutrements as an Ottoman soldier. At first, they thought I was Russian, but they heard my speech and knew I was a Turk conclusively. The waggon started to go, as I was in the back lying down. I tried to forget the haunting nightmare. Then I sensed as they spoke amongst themselves, when the waggon was going forth that something uncommon was occurring.
What was happening was that they were taking me back to the cavern, through another road. I did not realise that, until I noticed the familiar circumference of the terrifying cavern. I saw standing there in the entrance, the unnatural old witch, who then opened her mouth, and shrieked so loudly. They had sent me back to the dispiteous abode of hell that existed, on the road of the Borgo Pass.
Ten days after that memorable incident with the old witch, I was found off the road of the Borgo Pass that led to the Carpathian Mountains, by a lone Wallachian peasant, who had seen my body on the ground. He had found me lying on my stomach and motionless, and he was uncertain of what nationality I was, or who I was. But what would disturb and shock him was when he turned me around to speak to me afterwards.
As he had turned me around, he saw the visible tincture of my eyes was pure white, as if the colour of my eyes had been absorbed totally inexplicably. My mouth was very dry, and my skin was covered in a form of xerosis. My body began to quiver and quiver, as I realised—that I was alive, alive, and not dead! At first, I could not utter or mutter a single word, due to the ineffable horror I had suffered tremendously, at the hands of the old witch. The language of the peasant I did not fully comprehend, but I sensed he was trying to convey a message and help me. I was completely blind and could not see anything before or behind me. I began to scream the damnable words in Turkish of 'cadı, cadı', over and over, until he understood the word to mean in Wallachian, 'strigoi', a witch.