The Next couple of days were of much gloom, as the city collectively felt a heavy sadness over the loss of their mayor. Since the funeral was about to take place, Daniel strolled a scenic route through the town on the way to the cemetery. It’s been 10 years since his last visit, so he wanted to reacquaint himself with a town he used to know.
The roads were dusty and quiet. Most of the businesses in the square were closed for the day to mourn. What is usually a bustling area of galavanting and gossip, became a river of black. A parade of misery started from the church, toward the open pit where August will forever rest in piece.
It was hard for Daniel to feel sympathy on a level that would be appropriate, because death was never something he was accustomed to. It was more likely that people ‘left and were never coming back.’ as recalled by his mother, who usually told him the news with a bottle of brandy in hand. He always assumed that mother took it personally whenever someone moved away.
Seeing his uncle up close like that, underneath the heavy door, was a lot for him to process. Not just for his first sight of death, but to ponder that being the answer of many unanswered mail to friends and family.
So he waded into the personified river styx and stepped upstream, to see off his uncle one last time.
Hundreds of people gathered around the hole. A hymn was sung to celebrate the life he lived. Daniel wondered that his uncle must have been a phenomenal mayor to see so many people in such a small place.
The Priest began his passages, and with every sentence a collective ‘Amen’ from the crowd followed.
The dirt was thrown, the casket was lowered, a chapter was closed.
From the beginning of the ceremony to the moment the crowd dispersed, something caught Daniel’s eye and kept him curious throughout. A woman unlike any he’s ever seen. The dress, while black, was captivating. Brownish golden locks, that curled to her forearms. Porcelain skin and a face so clean that there was literally nothing there.
She was beautiful yet confusing. In a field of sadness, Daniel couldn’t help but feel attracted to something he suddenly needed to understand.
The person in question, who he couldn’t stop gawking at, was Agatha Park. A girl that helped out the local tailor, who often wore special designs of the store, and always worked at the front window. A girl with no special talents or skills, but the second person in the town’s recorded history to be born with a curse.
Mannequinaja is a curse that affects the body. Though it’s not to be confused with Manikinasia: A state of hysteria that new parents find themselves in when their child is born a dwarf. A rare condition that seems to only affect upper-class families that think of their lives as perfect and flawless.
Dwarfism is actually commonly accepted amongst every other social status.
The curse known as Mannequinaja only manipulates one’s outward appearance, and causes the muscles of the body to be very stiff. Though it may seem like a horrendous curse, the body can continue to develop quite healthily without the need to eat or breath. While the head looks like a completely blank slate of senses to other peers, those that have the curse can actually hear and see quite well. Although they are unable to speak, so they have to develop other means to communicate back (ie. sign-language, pad of paper with pencil).
What’s known about her is that she’s had the curse since birth. The story goes that her mother had a jealous brother that wanted her husband for himself. The jealously consumed him and turned into such terrible distaste for her beauty. So he consulted a book of witchcraft and chanted the words hoping to curse her. Unfortunately unknown to him, is that she was in the early stages of a pregnancy.
The brother was outraged when he saw his sister the next day, completely unchanged.
During a dinner party, the couple announced they were having a baby. On a fourth glass of wine to hold back his anger, the brother began to cry and grovel. He explained to them, about the night he performed the curse and that it was meant for his sister. Since nothing had happened to her, he feared the curse was put upon their child.
Stricken with the grief that he cursed something innocent and yet to be born, he fled the town and vowed to never return or talk with his sister again… At least until he found what he was looking for.
The father worried their daughter would be teased and shunned by the town due to the appearance of the curse, but the mother thought otherwise. She figured, as long as the town understood what happened to their child they’d be willing to accept her.
An announcement was made in the paper prior to birth, and due to ‘The Harbourmouth’s’ large readership, it made all the difference and granted Agatha a normal, average life.
And there Daniel stood staring at the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, and couldn’t understand what he was even looking at.
The Priest walked up to Daniel to offer condolences, “I’m sorry that you found your uncle in the state he was in. Best Mayor we ever had, he was..”
“Thank you father… definitely a strange happenstance that it happened the way it did.”
“Well, I trust that his name, and the estate is in good care with you.” The priest sensed that Daniel was not paying him attention, “may I ask what has your mind, my son?”
“I’m not too sure wha-,” Daniel didn’t want to come off as rude, “-who she is..”
The priest has heard that tone before. “The Park girl… I see. A cursed one she is, beauty that is deeper than skin.”
“Cursed?” Daniel Asked.
“Or so I’ve been told. Don’t know too much about it myself. Witchcraft is not a part of the bible’s vocabulary.” replies the priest, patting his book.
The priest shrugged and offered parting words before leaving Daniel to his own devices. As Daniel then stood alone above the six foot hole, there was a feeling in his gut that he had about his uncle. He felt that there is more to his death than just strange circumstance. Something more that needed to be explained and was being covered up.
At that moment the coffin rumbled.
“Uncle?” Daniel Whispered. Is this the answer he was looking for? The coffin shook a little more. In the excitement of the moment he wanted to leap into the hole himself and greet his uncle, but as his right foot hovered over his gaping destiny, the coffin started to fall. In that instant, the hole before him lead to nothing but complete darkness. Not even a sound of impact could be heard from below.
That familiar look of horror struck his face again.
He felt himself wanting to tear up, but there was no time for that. That hole was only the beginning. The rumble from where the coffin once lay became louder, more violent. The grass underneath began to shake. Daniel turned around and fled to the cemetary gates. With each step to safety the terrain was falling behind him. Trees and tombstones getting sucked into a vortex. Lives claimed once before, were being claimed again.
He ran faster and faster, the ground trying to catch up with him. A part of the cobblestone path shifted his footing and he slipped. With the last bit of momentum he had, Daniel launched himself forward through the gate and he rolled across the street.
The ground stopped shaking, and it’s havock ceased right in front of the entrance. What was once a small cemetery for the community was now a gigantic sink hole.
Screams of terror, and sobbing could be heard around him as he was trying to recollect himself. A small handful of people ran to him to see if he was alright. They helped him up, brushed him off–
–“I’m alright, I’m alright…” he said, adjusting his coat and scarf, “but this?”
He carefully made his way back toward the hole to peak a look. The deep chasm was seeming like nothing more than an invitation of curiosity. Daniel let out a large sigh as the crowd inched in to see the hole for themselves.
“I’m going to need a plan…”