George suffers under a curse.
|A Seasonal Thing
“Winter will be the death o’ ye.” So said the old gypsy woman as she turned away, rebuffed by George Winkler on his doorstep. He had no time for these dubious sellers of fortunes and badly made trinkets. Before she could speak, he had curtly informed her that he wasn’t interested and she should be on her way.
She looked into his eyes for just a moment before muttering the words and turning to go. George watched her go, shuffling down the path and then fumbling with the catch on the gate. Her words echoed in his mind, as though some form of litany or curse. “Winter will be the death o’ ye.”
George thought all superstition was nothing but nonsense, the invention of unscrupulous people for the exploitation of others. And this was clearly an excellent example, an attempt to pay him back for his rudeness by introducing a worry to torment him. He went back into the house and the comfort of the air conditioning.
But the words would not leave him. All through that fading summer and into the fall, the old crone’s face and her confident assertion stayed with him, coming to mind whenever he thought of the coming winter. It was such a strange thing to say, without apparent malice and almost as if she were merely speaking of the weather next week. It was prediction more than malediction.
And why the outdated phraseology? Where had she been hiding that she still spoke in the language of the 18th Century? Surely it was put on, an affectation to make him believe the devious patter of her trade. George pushed the thoughts away, determined not to let the words affect him.
Still the memory returned whenever he was alone. As the year slipped by and the leaves fell, leaving the trees bare skeletons of their former selves, a deep depression settled on George’s shoulders. The words seemed to have new power as the days shortened and the temperature dropped relentlessly. “Winter will be the death o’ ye.”
He had never looked forward to the cold of winter. The darkness of the long nights seemed to oppress him and he always longed for the return of the sunshine. But it was different now. When the first snowfall draped the world in white, George’s mood blackened as never before. It would be fitting, after all, to die with the last days of the old year.
He pushed the thought away and tried to remember bright days in spring when the sun shone and the world budded into new life. The vision refused to come to him. The cold was defeating the central heating and he turned up the thermostat, then curled himself into a huddle on the couch. The afternoon light was no defence against the gloom lurking in the corners. He turned on all the lights in the house.
Still the cold seemed to have him in its grip. His thoughts turned increasingly to the words of the gypsy woman. “Winter will be the death o’ ye.”
For several nights, he piled blankets on his bed and then lay, nearly suffocating under their weight, shivering uncontrollably. He doubled up on sweaters and pants, then wrapped himself in a robe. The sweat poured from him under the layers of clothing but he still felt the winter creeping into his bones.
Then there came a day when the sun dawned into a bright blue sky. The house filled with light reflected from the snow and George felt that he’d made it through the worst of it. He stripped off his layers of wool and donned shorts and a floral shirt. The new hope within his heart melted the frozen fingers of the cold and he turned down the heating. The lights still played on, unnoticed in the brightness streaming in from the outside.
He fired up YouTube, found some reggae and played it at full volume, while dancing a clumsy celebration of his release from the depression of winter. The song ended and still he needed to express his elation. Dressed only in his shorts and thin shirt, he opened the front door and stepped out into the snow. He began to walk, aimless but allowing the sunlight to fill his soul. George had beaten the old woman’s curse, taken it in the middle of winter and thrown the terrible words back in her face. Miles from home, he spoke out to the silence around him, mocking the notion of his death.
“Winter will be the death of me.”
They found him in the park the next day, frozen solid with a smile on his face, lying spreadeagled on a snowbank as though sunbathing, soaking up the power of the sun. The sun that now was no more than a glow behind the grey bank of cloud that had swallowed the sky. A light snowfall drifted down on the silent scene.
Word Count: 822
For SCREAMS!!!, August 24 2021 Pop-Up Contest