Haunted Tales Sample
Cursed Document by Samie Sands
* * *The 4th of July. The day that will change everything. The day America will finally be free of the oppression of the Kingdom of Great Britain. The day its residents will become in charge of all their own laws, finances and freedom. So, as Benjamin Franklin stood there, staring into the reflective surface, he couldn't work out why he was overshadowed by an impending sense of doom. He found himself wanting to stop being silly, to stop letting a crazy homeless, gypsy woman who is suspected of witchcraft, get inside his head, infecting his brain. All he wants is for her words to stop echoing round and round in his mind, haunting his nightmares, sending him to near insanity.
"As soon as your quill touches the cursed parchment, your life will be full of suffering. You’ll experience hell on Earth."
He’d wanted question her further, to find out what she meant by those words. To find out if she was talking about the exact event that is about to transpire. But of course, that would be accepting that she was telling the truth, and that she wasn't just an insane old fool. Suggesting that would have lost him a lot of support from the others, who dismissed her immediately and with no respect. It made him await the next stage of the day as nervous as if he were going to his own hanging.
This was supposed to be the greatest day ever. He had worked so hard to make it happen––to finally allow America to live up to its potential and become the greatest country of all time. This day will be celebrated forever more. The names of the men signing the document will go down in history; Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and of course himself, Benjamin Franklin.
Benjamin took a deep breath, struggling to get it down. He hated to admit it, even to himself, but his weight was really beginning to cause him issues. It was making many things difficult, things that he took for granted beforehand. He no longer enjoyed being in the public eye––feeling that every whisper and chuckle was about him, and that was also having an impact on his emotions this particular day.
He wondered why the other men were so jovial about what was going to happen, did they feel no concern at all? They’d heard what he had, why was he the only one bothered by the straggly haired woman? He’d wanted to back out of the whole thing more than once, but of course that wasn't possible. It was far too late in the day for second thoughts.
He staggered through the door, trying not to make eye contact with anyone. He just wanted the entire day to be over, so he could return to his private chambers to treat his gout and other ailments. As he reached the bench, he noticed that the other two men were already there, dressed in their finest clothing, just as he was. He looked deep into their eyes in turn, and was shocked to see fear, an emotion he was certain was mirrored in his own expression. Maybe the woman's words had had more of an effect on them, than either of the men cared to admit.
Thomas tentatively picked up the quill, trying to keep an unconcerned air about him. Only John and Benjamin could see his hand shaking, his whole body trembling. He made an inane comment, just to steady his nerves, but Benjamin didn’t even hear it. A buzzing in his ears, or possibly his brain, was making it impossible to focus on anything. The sensation that this whole thing was just wrong, would not go away. He was starting to feel nauseated and dizzy, could he really go through with this, or should he follow his instincts?
A voice arose from within him, replying to a comment someone on the sidelines had uttered. It was not him speaking, and he had no idea what the words even meant. They just...sort of rolled from his tongue, as a statement, or maybe a warning.
"Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."
He didn’t have the time to work out what had just happened to him, because before he could react, the quill had been placed in his hand. His whole body became consumed by a chill, like nothing he’d ever experienced before. His movements felt robotic, almost as if he had no control over them and before he knew it, a whirlwind passed him by and he was back at his home, alone, with just his swirling thoughts for company. Benjamin forced his weary, aching body into the bedroom and before he could remove any of his fancy clothing, he collapsed onto the bed, cold and lonely.
He rapidly stood up, unsure as to where he was and what he was doing. It was pitch black, so he could not grasp anything, to work out what was going on. Suddenly a face appeared, right in front of him, causing him to jump violently. Before he could get any questions out, the person screamed. A high pitched violent scream that scratched on his spine and burst his ear drums. The face then started to swirl and change into something recognisable. His heart stopped beating, for what felt like an entire minute. It was her, the woman, the one who’d made him feel this hideous way. His brain wanted him to scream profanities at her, to tell her what damage she had caused with her careless sentence, but his heart told him to be quiet, to just wait.
Soon, she began to speak.
"You knew, I told you. I warned you about the cursed document. Now you have pressed your signature on it. You have signed your soul away to the devil and can live no more than 50 years. Whatever you do with the rest of your human days will mean nothing, you will suffer pain and anguish for eternity."
The cackling laugh that followed continued for a long time. Benjamin's blood had run cold; his spine had turned frosty. What did this mean? What could he do? He had always been a religious man, but had he somehow turned to the dark side, without even realising it? He didn't want to burn in the fiery pits of hell––no one could ever wish for that! Why was this happening to him, he thought he was doing a good thing? Was making America independent really a bad thing? Or was he being punished for something else? This couldn't be simply a random act from the devil, could it?
Benjamin awoke, covered in sweat, his head pounding as if he’d consumed a lot of alcohol the night before. He quickly scanned the room, pulling the quilt up to his chin. He was truly afraid, more than he had ever been in his whole life. He could not bear to see that gypsy witch again.
To his immediate relief, he was alone. He quickly changed his clothes, John and Thomas in his mind. He needed to see them immediately, to tell them what had happened. He needed to know why, what they’d done wrong. On his way out of the door, he hurried down the street to where the homeless woman had always been sat. He had previously always ignored her, avoided her, but not today. Today he needed answers and he was going to get them if it killed him.
He turned the corner, dread filling his lungs, but she was not there. A strange emotion ran through his veins. It was almost as if he had expected this, but he wasn't sure why. She had always been here, as long as he could remember, and now she just…wasn't. He continued on his journey, trying not to let his brain accept the possible truth about all that had happened.
He found Thomas first. He was pale, drawn and his eyes full of dread. No words needed to pass between them to know that they had both experienced the same thing the night before. Benjamin's lungs filled with a dusty panic that made him cough and splutter. What did all of this mean? It was in this moment that it became clear; the world he had always lived in was filled with more witchcraft, paranormal and demonic presence than he could have ever allowed himself to believe. He didn’t have the slightest clue about what to do with this new found information.
All three men spent a lot of time researching this separately. In private of course, their public perception had to be upheld–– these men were extremely important. Something like this could destroy the foundation that America was being built upon. Benjamin struggled much more than the others, he couldn't stand being around people. He couldn't keep the secret inside, it felt like it wanted to burst out of him, so he made the conscious decision to blame poor health on his new nomadic state. He was, after all an 84 year old man suffering with severe gout, this was hardly unbelievable.
They covered every topic from demons from all the religions to gypsy curses. Nothing seemed to quite fit the description of what this woman had done to them. They couldn't find a single scripture on cursed documents or anything of a similar nature. Thomas and John were ready to give up on the nonsense. They were sure that they had just gone a bit stir crazy due to the enormity of what they had just achieved. They wanted to concentrate on the more pressing issues at hand. They wanted to get on with organising the country; they wanted to reap the benefits of all they had fought for.
Benjamin, however, would not be so easily swayed. He heard all of their arguments, but he knew that there was more to this than the others wanted to let themselves believe. They began to distance themselves from him, worried that he would have a negative impact on them and their work. But they didn't know what Benjamin did. After all, it wasn't them that were being trailed by a shadow.
They would eventually though, Benjamin knew that much, but the more he tried to warn them, the further away they pulled. The shadow was the woman. He didn't know how he knew that, he just did. What he didn't know, was what she was exactly, just that she followed him everywhere, sending cold shivers down his spine at every available opportunity. He knew that she whispered in his ears, when the lights had shut off. Enough terrifying sentences to ensure that he never slept. When he tried to answer her back, to tell her to leave him alone, to apologise for whatever he’d done to her to make her treat him this way, he would be overcome with a sudden shocking inability to breathe. His chest would constrict, his lungs shrivel up, as if two invisible hands were wrapped around his throat, closing his airwaves, sucking all of the life out of him, until he would accept that death was most certainly coming from him.
Then before he knew it, he would be fine again.
Of course, he saw medical professionals about all of this, wishing for a rational explanation. The doctor blamed it on everything from his weight, to the stress of his successful life leading him to panic attacks. This was all balderdash, of course. It was something benevolent, something evil. Benjamin began to regret the day his quill touched the Declaration of Independence––despite all the good that had come from it. He wondered why he was the only one the shadow had attached itself too, unless Thomas and John were keeping more secrets from him, but he couldn't imagine that. The shadow was petrifying, soul destroying; they would feel the need to discuss it, just as he did.
Days became weeks, weeks became months and soon the years began to collapse by. Things never improved for Benjamin, he just learned that he could not change what had become of him. There were times he would fight, he’d argue, scream and shout, but this would never do him any good. The shadow knew everything within his mind, and used it against him. The shadow could cause harm to his body in ways he didn't think possible. He would always be confined to his bed for a long while after one of these battles. He would never prevail; fighting simply caused him more suffering.
Everyone around him began to accept his behaviour, to simply take it as his elderly nature. No one wanted to hear about his everlasting nightmare that he could not escape. He started to consider taking his own life, something that is considered terrible in Christianity, but if he was going to burn in eternity anyway, would it make any difference? In the dream, he had been told he would live no longer than 50 years, they all had, but Benjamin didn’t think he could take another minute of this hell, never mind years. It was starting to reach a time when a decision would have to be made.
So the day came, April 17th, 1790. There was no specific reason for this day. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened; Benjamin had simply reached the end of his tether. He was going to take the shadow down once and for all. He would not allow this thing to be inflicted upon Thomas and John––they had very promising futures ahead of them, futures that didn’t need to be tainted with this personal hell, bringing them down just when they would come to the top of their game. He would murder himself, and the shadow of the evil woman with him.
He’d considered every option with a smile on his face; he couldn't wait to rid the Earth of this demon. He knew however, that he had to be careful with his final decision. He had to think about his life, his children, his achievements. He wanted a death that would not overshadow all of that. So after much deliberation, he decided to secrete rat poison in his nightly whiskey, certain that illness would be blamed for his death, and an autopsy would be deemed unnecessary. He wanted to go peacefully, into whatever was next for him. He had become certain that by doing it this way; the shadow would be stuck in between, in purgatory, unable to infect anyone else.
The shadow hissed violently as that thought passed through his brain, knowing he had decided to go through with his idle planning. She was angry now, furious. This was not how it was supposed to happen; she’d always known she would take Benjamin first, but through her own will, not his. She needed to be in control, she refused to let it happen. She would fight with this man until he was defeated. If that meant today had to be his last, then so be it.
She grabbed onto his throat as a gentle warning, the message clear with her grip, but he simply chuckled humourlessly. This enraged her further. Who did this man think he was? He was so full of his own self importance, as if signing that damn document made him invincible or something, she would soon see to that! She had warned him not to sign the cursed parchment; it was his own idiocy and ignorance that had got him in this position. She’d tried to tell him that the document was cursed. It was nothing to do with the Declaration; it was just the parchment that it was written upon that held an ancient gypsy curse. But men never like to listen to women they consider lower than themselves––well this time, ignoring her would be his undoing. Her talons gripped tighter, and she enjoyed the despair that started to cross his features. “No...no...n...n....”
He stuttered, sure that if he was murdered by the shadow, rather than via suicide, she would be free to do what she wanted. She smirked to herself as the concept went through his brain. She was sure he was correct––she knew she was far more powerful than him at any rate! She remembered the day when she’d taken human form to let the men know about the deep curse ran through the parchment they were about to sign, but they’d simply regarded her with the disdain she had begun to expect from human beings. The memory bought out a new strength in her and she used it against him. Humans knew nothing of the world; they thought they ruled it all. They didn't know that they were the least powerful beings out there, by a long shot.
She didn't realised how distracted she had become by her own rage, her internal thoughts, until she felt his body slump beneath her. She had done it, without even realising, she had ended the life of Benjamin Franklin, a long time before she was supposed to. Before panic could overtake her, another sensation shook to her core. A pulling sensation, ripping, tearing, shredding. Her entire shadowy being split into two and she drifted away.
Of course, Benjamin Franklin's death was blamed on a Pluerity attack. It was the most viable option. It was believed by everyone, except the two men, who now knew better. They should have believed his ramblings, should have taken his warnings more seriously, because they too, were now followed by the shadow woman. They should’ve read much deeper into the message sent to them by Dr. John Jones, than anyone else.
"When the pain and difficulty of breathing entirely left him, and his family were flattering themselves with the hopes of his recovery, when an imposthume, which had formed itself in his lungs, suddenly burst, and discharged a quantity of matter, which he continued to throw up while he had power; but, as that failed, the organs of respiration became gradually oppressed; a calm, lethargic state succeeded; and on the 17th instant (April 1790), about eleven o'clock at night, he quietly expired, closing a long and useful life of eighty-four years and three months."
If only they had read between the lines earlier, they would have seen the hidden message. Even the doctor wanted them to know that he was killed from within.
* * *
Decades passed, and many events transpired in both men's lives––outwardly good but terrible on a personal level. They’d learned to get by, they didn’t want to meet the same fate as Benjamin, so attempted to be more compliant with the shadow. It was Thomas who began to succumb to her first; he’d rebelled, just once, simply to find himself fed to some terrible illnesses. By early 1826, toxemia, uremia and pneumonia had him solely confined to his bed, where the shadow would preside over him all the time, whispering obscenities in his ear at every opportunity. He discussed it with John; they both knew that the end was coming. They knew they could live no longer than the 4th July that very year––exactly 50 years since they had signed the cursed document. They could not regret their decision; after all they had contributed to a new, beautiful America.
John Adams issued a statement in June, a moth before the end, unsure on whether he had come up with the ideas and words by himself, or if he had been fed them by the shadow. His uncertainty was apparent in every word.
"My best wishes, in the joys, and festivities, and the solemn services of that day on which will be completed the fiftieth year from its birth, of the independence of the United States: a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind."
Future generations would take this as some kind of warning for his fellow citizens. These assumptions were correct, but no one ever bothered to research into what he was warning about. If they had, what they discovered may have answered a lot of questions that have always faced humanity.
In his last few weeks, John became obsessed with the idea that either he or Thomas would be allowed to live. The shadow had given him the idea of course, desperate for a bit of fun, sensing that both men had become content with the idea of death, and bored by their indifference. She wanted John to sacrifice Thomas to save himself––just to be sent to hell anyway.
This backfired. John was more than willing to be the one who died. He never even told his great friend Thomas about the deal, certain that after the 4th July, his health would improve, and even at 83, he could go on to have a few more good years, confused but grateful to have been spared.
Thomas awoke, a fever ravaging his body, on July 3rd, and uttered the statement he wanted his family to take forth in his memory. He knew his time was drawing near.
"I have done for my country, and for all mankind, all that I could do, and I now resign my soul, without fear, to my God, ––my daughter to my country."
He fell back into a deep slumber, just to awaken a few hours later. He was sure the clock was ticking, certain it must be time. He questioned his doctor if it was yet the 4th. "It soon will be." he was told. A smile crossed his lips as his eyes closed again. Even his nightmares given to him by the shadow couldn't take away the knowledge he has made the full 50 years. At 12.50pm, his life was claimed and his soul dragged by her to an unknown, dark destination for eternity.
John jumped up at the same moment, dread filling his very being. "What's going on?" He yelled "What day is it?" When he was informed that it was in fact the 4th July, he grinned. "It is a great day. It is a good day." The shadow woman was tugging at him, trying to remove him from his body. John was happy to be the one to go, he was happy his great friend could survive. He hoped his sacrifice would be noticed, by his friend at least. "Thomas Jefferson survives." He stated, ensuring his last words were heard by everyone in the room.
He died, not knowing that in fact, Thomas had of course died five and a half hours earlier. What became of the souls of these unfortunate men is not known, we can only assume that the shadow woman still controls and tortures them for daring to ignore and dismiss her and, despite her warnings, put their signatures on the cursed document.